S.J. Collins

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Smashwords book reviews by S.J. Collins

  • Forsaken By Shadow on June 09, 2010

    Embry Hollister is a woman with a mission. A mission that involves Ultimate Fighter Cade Shepherd, or, as she once knew him, Gage Dempsey. I shouldn’t really be surprised by how three-dimensional she seemed. Her author does have a degree in clinical psychology after all. Embry’s not just any one thing. There’s real depth there. In fact, there isn’t any character in Forsaken by Shadow that struck me as flat. Kait brings quite a few side characters into the fray that I could definitely see myself wanting to get to know better. Even Matthias, a character that I suspect we were supposed to see as an asshole. I couldn’t help myself. I have Fall In Love With Side Character Syndrome. I’m hoping one day Kait might give him an HEA of his very own, if he doesn’t already have one. Not to mention Orrin, who’s tentatively been set as the next hero in Relevations, the second novella in the Mirus series. Kait dabbled in Romantic Suspense for awhile and I think it shows in her work. In a good way. A very good way. There’s quite a number of nail-biting scenarios the couple finds themselves in. And Kait sure as hell doesn’t make it easy for them to get out of. She doesn’t pull punches. Ever. There’s no fluff, no sugar-coating what so ever. That grit, the inner brutal streak in a writer, is what keeps me comming back to their work. And Kait’s got it. There’s also a fair amount of intrigue in FBS. A lot of the Mirus world is teased into the story. Dashes of it, like spice. Just enough to seduce potential readers for later books while still keeping them grounded in the story, the situation at hand. And as if that wasn’t enough. The sex scene is scorching. (Literally.) And the fight scenes are absolute WIN. They were concise, I could follow them easily and, if my admittedly short time in Karate serves me well, very realistic. I was pumped any time Gage got into the ring. This novella was better written than a lot of full length Paranormal Romance novels I’ve read lately. I frickin’ kid you not. I cannot wait for Revelations and any other work she has in the pipeline because what ever it is? I. am. SO. there.
  • Mated (Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy: Blood Lust, Novella 3) on June 09, 2010

    We first meet Jane in Claimed, where Charlee, the protagonst, views her (Jane) as a helpless, if spunky, vampire groupie. Goth clothes, make up and pink hair to boot. As Claimed heats up though, Jane's true nature as a hardened survivalist seeps out of her little by little. Totally won me over. And she was only a side character then. In what I'm affectionately calling "true Zoe Winters' fashion" Mated kicks off right where Claimed ends. Only, some things have definately changed since Anthony, the hero from Claimed, took over as King. Paul, Anthony's underling from Claimed, lets his true nature shine too. And it's pretty damn ugly. I was thrown for a loop. I knew when I'd first read the synopsis that something must have happened to Paul for Jane to have been "sold off" as it were. After all, he'd (paul) been so affectionate with her (jane) in Claimed and seemingly protective of her that I didn't even think he'd been the one to do it. But I've already established that Zoe Winters is a dark writer. Or maybe just a realist. But stuff happens. Stuff happens to Jane a lot. So, Paul, the little DB, gets more than a little indulgent. Not because Anthony, his main man, is now Vampire King, but because he feels neglected by said King. And whenever something doesn't go Paul's way, there's Jane. To be smacked around at his convenience. You may have noticed I'm not a fan of abuse, but I love a writer who doesn't shy away from it. And I love a heroine who overcomes it even more. Of course, she has help. Cole is the big sexy alpha of the local pack and Paul's lost one two many poker games to him. Not usually one to be led around by his neither regions, he can't deny the fierce need to protect Jane when he witnesses Paul's latest beating. I think Dayne and Anthony had a few things in common while still remaining separate entities but Cole is ...different. Gentler. But not a Beta by any means. He's the Alpha wolf after all. You'd think after what I said about Anthony that Cole wouldn't do anything for me. WRONG. Hello? Multi-dimensional here. I don't have a "type". Not in real life and not in my fictional one. And in case you missed my last review: Werewolves top Vampires for me. Blasphemy you say? You'll get over it. Of all of Zoe's heroes, Cole was definitely my favorite. (Claimed is still my favorite book though.) And as always, Zoe totally delivers on the sex scenes. ..I may have panted a few times. *g* Another thing I like about this author is that she always brings a new twist on the mythos of the creatures that go bump in the night. She laid out one DOOZIE of a new twist in Mated, that I'm totally not spoiling. But I'll give you a hint as to what it entails. Ever wonder why Vampires and Werewolves really hate eachother? And of course, I have to gush over the world building. The werewolves in Mated were tech savvy and I digged it. It was a nice departure from the norm. They still had reclusive ways, but on an upgraded scale. Zoe has a knack for ending her stories on an almost perfect note. I always smile at the charm of the last line. Or the wit. She does both rather well. I'm looking forward to the next book. Zoe's proven that she'll always deliver an entertaining and enjoyable romance...with a little blood on the side. Just the way I like it.
  • Save My Soul (Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy: Preternaturals Book 2) on Jan. 29, 2011

    I’m more than a little stunned. Not because I didn’t expect the book to be so good. Hell, I’ve read Kept, Claimed, and Mated. I know Zoe Winters has some mad story-telling skills. Having mad story-telling skills, however, isn’t the same as having the skills to make me believe a romance is possible between an Incubus and a human. This is why you should NEVER. EVER. tell a writer what they can and cannot do because they will do it out of spite and it will blow your mind every time. In the hands of a capable writer, anything is possible. Zoe’s proving to be much more than a capable writer. I have only one criticism, and you know? I’m not even really sure it counts as one. I think Zoe’s style has matured a lot since Kept, and it shows because for most of the story, this book didn’t feel like it was even written for the same universe as the Book 1. Except, it’s not supposed to. Totally different setting. And we expect to have other places feel different right? The world of the Preternaturals is expanding, branching out. I can appreciate that, especially when we found out about-but no, that’s a spoiler. I did see the HUGE TWISTY PLOT TWIST, that I also absolutely WON’T be sharing with any of you, coming but I did so with a gleeful chuckle and lots of evil palm rubbing. It made the whole story come full-circle in a spectacular way, in my humble opinion. So it makes me feel smart when I could say ahead of time “Oooooh! I see what you’re doing here.” There were other things that I didn’t see coming though. Things that I D’ohed for not even thinking about. I’m going to warn you though. After reading this book, you’re going to wish you had a significant other around. Sufficed to say, Save my Soul reeks of sexual tension, and what a delicious reek it is. Luc definitely has a spot on my Favorite Heroes list. One that I have to get around to re-writing one of these days. Anna too (Heroines, obviously). Ms. Winter’s writes brilliant snark. Her heroines might get tossed around, betrayed, and have their lives do a complete 360 but they always have a sense of humor about it. Probably to keep from going insane like the rest of us probably would if we were faced with the same events. Maybe. Something I wanted to mention also was how much I loved how Winters wrote the friendship between Anna and Tam, one of the supporting cast. It was refreshing for once to read about a female friendship that didn’t involve lots of backstabbing and BS similar in office politics. They weren’t friends just because girls aren’t supposed to be mean so anyone you have even the vaguest familiarity with counts as a ‘friend’. They gave a damn about one another, and didn’t secretly wish to be anywhere but in the others presence. They enjoyed one another’s company. Like the way it should be. Their banter made me chuckle, more often than not because it reminded me of the way I am with my friends, and thank you Zoe for portraying what a healthy female friendship is like. I’m hoping Tam might show up again, since there seems to be a running trend for Zoe to give supporting characters their own books. But either way? I don’t think I’ll be disappointed by a Zoe Winters read.
  • Devil's Eye on Jan. 29, 2011

    Frickin’ Sweet. That’s what I think any time Kait Nolan’s work is involved. Sure, this is only my second Nolan read, Forsaken by Shadow being the first, but I’ve learned to trust my gut when it comes to certain authors. And the Mirus books are turning into one hell of an awesome series. Devil’s Eye is just as good as it’s predecessor. Though, since the author saw fit to mention it herself, Devil’s Eye is more of an Urban Fantasy with Romantic elements than ParaRom (which FBS definitely was). Given the constraints of the novella (Devil’s Eye takes place in little over a few hours) I didn’t think twice about it, but then I’m not fussy about Romance. I thought the development between Mick (whom I absolutely LOVE, not that it has anything to do with him being a wolf-shifter, of course not) and Sophie was sufficient and while I’d definitely love to read the rest of their story, I don’t feel let down by the lack of an HEA. I did not want to stop reading Devil’s Eye. Kait has a great skill for fast-paced action and a well-thought out plot. She doesn’t seem to mind getting a little gore-ie in her fight scenes too, not a bad thing in my book. I was often floored by her ability to use as few words as possible to create the greatest impact on the reader (well, this reader anyway). I’m fascinated by the Mirus world and my curiosity was just that much more piqued with Devil’s Eye. After a long long time of reading a lot of UF and ParaRom, I don’t expect to be surprised much.Yet, I found myself surprised by some of the turns Kait seems to be taking the Mirus series down, and very excited to see further possibilities.
  • Monster Story on March 21, 2011

    I. Love. Werewolves. And not just the sexy ones that hail from Urban Fantasy (although I’m even more fond of those than UF Vampires). Oh No. I love the ones that go bump in the night for blood and unchecked rage. So I was only too eager to dive right into McCarty Griffin’s Monster Story. I made the mistake of reading a few pages one night when I couldn’t sleep and only ended up giving myself the wiggins. (“Wiggins?” Who the fuck says “Wiggin’s” anymore SJ?” Sorry, been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer lately. I’m on Season 3! Right, none of you care, back to reviewing). In the end I had to turn on the TV and watch the Food Network to lull my very aware subconscious into believing that nothing was going to appear out of the shadows to attack and or make a meal of me. Because I’m 12, apparently. Having said that, I liked that McCarty went the route not often taken. Because this isn’t a werewolf story to me, it is exactly as the title states: a monster story. The “were” is just as feral and horrifying as the “wolf”. In some ways more, because as humans, I think we have a hard time seeing anything that looks like “us” as monsters and Christy and friends spend a lot of time wondering about the moral ramifications of dealing with what they are dealing with because of that. There are a few scenes I would suggest investing in a night light for. And this is definitely not your book if you are in anyway squicked out by even the slightest suggestion of gore. Oddly, I’m not as bothered by it in books as I am in movies, even though my imagination has sent me on some doozies of a fear trip. Make of that what you will. Other things I liked….well, there is a sweet little romance subplot that I wasn’t expecting and found charming in it’s understated way. Graeme stole most of the scenes he was in and became my favorite character of the piece. (Next to Jabba. *g*) Christy and Graeme’s bickering nicely toned down the tension. And, without spoiling anything, I had an uncontrollable gigglefest when the author pulled a Han Solo moment. Objectively, it worked well in the scene, I was just tickled by it. There were times when I felt the dialogue and exposition to be unnecessarily repetitive but nothing that can’t be overlooked.
  • Half-Inch on March 21, 2011

    At 67 pages, Half-Inch is a great little afternoon read filled with murderous plots and spouses! Now you would think the page length would make it difficult to give an in-depth review but actually, I have a lot I want to discuss. My only real criticism is that I don’t feel that the book cover meshes with the over all tone of the book. The cover impresses upon me that I should expect to be afraid but…actually I found myself gleefully chuckling right along as Pammy plots out her husbands demise. Huh. I’m not sure if that says something entirely inappropriate about me as a person, like having an incredibly bleak and warped sense of humor. Since I’m not yet ready to admit I’m insane, I’ll chalk it up to the author’s skill at making Pammy both a sympathetic protagonist and fun- if slightly insane-villain.Pammy’s transformation from cowering waif to murder mastermind was dealt with a subtle and frighteningly realistic hand. (Or maybe I just watched too many Snapped episodes?) I feel McCarthy was very thorough in making Pammy sympathetic on a basic human level, while also not giving justification for her actions. What brought the story home for me- without spoiling anything- is that Pammy never really escapes being a victim, even in deciding to take things into her own hands. I fount it a very intriguing character study, one that I think can be interpreted multiple ways. While I never really agreed with the character’s decisions on a moral level, there was one part of her plan involving a character you’ll come to know as “Miss Big Tits” that didn’t sit well with me at first. After careful consideration though, I realize Pammy did what she thought was necessary in order to ensure she’d get away Scott-free. Which she may or may not have done. Why are you still here? Go read the book.
  • The Unfinished Song: Initiate on Jan. 25, 2012

    Initiate is the first book of a new series, The Unfinished Song, by Tara Maya. As such, there are a few things I feel that you should know up front. First, if cliffhangers piss you off, be sure you have the second book, Taboo (which was just recently released), ready to dive into once you're finished Initiate. I wasn't bothered because I pretty much knew what I was getting into right off the bat but the Amazon description doesn't much give the cliffhanger impression to potential readers so I'm just giving you all a heads up. Also, this is VERY much an Epic Fantasy. While I feel one of the book's strong points is Tara's exceptional dedication to the World Building, I do know that some readers would find it off putting if their not huge culture fanatics. Some people have complained that they were disoriented/confused by the various names and political systems, but I found the seven tribes utterly fascinating and I felt Tara explained them all well enough without ever going into a huge, long, drawn out info dump. Tara also manages to be very lyrical with her prose without it becoming meandering. I always felt rooted in the story. I liked that Dindi, our heroine, is not only conscious of her differences but embraces them despite insurmountable criticism from her clan. She beats to the tune of her own drums and doesn't give up on her dreams no matter how others might view them. I'm looking forward to seeing how she'll change as a person in the light of the events at the end of Book 1. I have to give it to Tara for being gutsy with her ending. That's all I'll say about that. While I never got to the point where I "liked" Gwenika, Dindi's friend, I found her relate-able. Her self-sabotage was very interesting in a tragic way. Kavio, thus far, has the makings of a good hero. I love "lone wolf" heroes. Vindicated, honorable, but rough around the edges. And yet...I feel my "side-character love" creeping up. Meira, my favorite character (which is to say, the one I found most intriguing) , is the one I can reveal the least about. She almost got my "favorite quote" vote but the one above was simply too deliciously bitter for me to pass up on. I would recommend this book to Fantasy lovers and lovers of Fairy Tales. And by Fairy Tales, I don't mean those of the watered down Disney variety.