Monday, January 31, 2011

Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Undead

Reviewed by Jen
A price put on your head?  Child’s play –and sooo last season for bounty hunter & witch Rachel Morgan.  In fact, Rachel has recovered quite nicely in the wake of leaving her old employer and surviving the hit the bosses put on her. She is happily dating Nick, a human who dabbles in magic. She is still living her with the partners in her business: Jenks the pixy and Ivy the vampire. And she is running independent jobs.

Things seem pretty great.  Until she gets pulled into a case involving a witch murderer. Of course, there are ties to the mysterious and dirty councilman Trent Kalamack.  Rachel still holds a grudge against him since he held her captive and nearly killed her in the city’s rat fights. (It’s a long story –and really, you should read Dead Witch Walking first anyway.)  So she starts investigating along with the human authorities. Ivy hates the idea of Rachel putting herself in danger and takes the news very poorly.  There is still something very uncomfortable and sexual going on between the women. And it’s made even more volatile in the wake of that demon/vampire attack Rachel survived in the last book.

Once again, Harrison’s complex world of the Hollows is fascinating and captivating. Even more interesting to follow are all the relationship threads Rachel is weaving.  Of course, with Ivy, as mentioned above… With Nick, who is clearly more than just an average guy. He seems to really care for Rachel. But he’s got some shady things going on… With Trent.  We finally find out what he is. But we still don’t know WHO he is.  There is an undefinable pull between him and Rachel, and a history we’re just learning about too.  We also have several other side characters who become more and more vital to the series with every book: Jenks, Kisten, Edden, Glenn, Piscary, and the glorious demon Al (who makes me laugh more than he should.)

Each book in the series draws me in a bit more, with love, betrayal, loyalty, honor, and danger.  And of course, Rachel, herself.  I love her as a heroine because she is good, but not perfect. She is impetuous and often short-sighted, but almost always motivated by friendship or honor.  4 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Good, the Bad, and the Undead
by Kim Harrison
Release Date: January 25, 2005
Publisher: Harper Torch

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Review: Dead Witch Walking

Reviewed by Jen
Kim Harrison has constructed a rich, complex world for her Hollows series. And Rachel Morgan is a character who is easy to love. She is a tough, capable witch, with a strong sense of honor and loyalty. As our story begins, she is a runner, an officer of sorts, for a paranormal policing agency. But she is miserable. She’s been getting terrible assignments and she wants out. Unfortunately, Interlander Security is a bit like the mob –or Hotel California– you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. Rachel leaves anyway.  She never expects a vampire-agent named Ivy would opt to go with her. So would pixy Jenks.  They decide to form their own agency. And it’s a good thing Rachel has them standing with her: she’s going to need serious help to survive the hit her old boss has put on her.

Rachel gets the bright idea that if she can bring down a big fish on her own, the IS will have to back down. So she goes after Trent Kalamack, a high-profile councilman, long suspected of trafficking the drug, Brimstone.  Rachel spends the bulk of the book intermittently trying to nail Trent –and to simply survive. 

I have to say, the best thing about this book (this whole series, really) is the richness of the characters. Trent is so very compelling and confusing. There are times he seems like a potential love interest for Rachel: a sexy, powerful, lonely enigma. Other times, he’s painted as a monster: someone who will kill or break another person at will.  Jenks is a wonderful, loyal and extremely dependable friend, who revels in Rachel’s respect and friendship. And Ivy… well, Ivy makes me a little uncomfortable. I assume that is because she makes Rachel so uncomfortable.  The blatant sexual vibe she throws off in concert with violence leads to a great deal of uncertainty and tension, but somehow there is affection mixed in there too.

This is not my favorite book in the series. For me it really gains emotional resonance in For a Few Demons More and beyond. But this is where it all begins, and it’s an important step you can’t miss in this phenomenal series.  A great Urban Fantasy world –4 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon
Dead Witch Walking
by Kim Harrison
Release Date: April 27, 2004
Publisher: Harper Torch

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Series Reading Order: The Hollows

Here is the author's suggested reading order for The Hollows (Rachel Morgan) series by Kim Harrison:

* Denotes novella/short story published in an anthology or with a full length novel

For the chronological order of events, see below:
  • "The Bespelled"
  • "Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel"
  • "Undead in the Garden of Good & Evil"
  • Blood Work
  • Dead Witch Walking
  • The Good, the Bad & the Undead
  • Every Which Way but Dead
  • A Fistful of Charms
  • "Dirty Magic"
  • For a Few Demons More
  • "The Bridges of Eden Park"
  • The Outlaw Demon Wails
  • White Witch, Black Curse
  • "Ley Line Drifter"
  • Black Magic Sanction
  • Pale Demon
  • "Million Dollar Baby"
  • A Perfect Blood

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Review: Claiming the Highlander

When I first started Claiming the Highlander, I was afraid I had finally found a Sherrilyn Kenyon story that I didn’t like. But I’ve read so many of her books, I stayed with it, despite the slow start. And I am so glad I did. Not only did it improve, it actually turned out to be a pretty great book.

Braden MacAllister is the rogue playboy of his Highlander family. Women throw themselves at him. So when the women of his home village stage a revolt against the men, he is the perfect guy to try to talk them out of it. The fiery Maggie is behind the women’s cause. They have all locked themselves on holy ground, refusing to serve the men in any way, until they end a longstanding feud with a rival clan. Maggie has held a torch for Braden her whole life, but she is disheartened by his rakish reputation. And she knows it for what it is, when he tries to seduce her to manipulate her. For the first time, a women calls him on his load of bull.

It’s great fun to see Braden fall for Maggie as they work together to find another way to end the war. I liked learning that he was not all he seemed. And in the meantime, I found Maggie to be a tough and likeable heroine. It was easy to root for them to be together. I also found myself anxious to learn more about Braden’s brothers, especially the tortured Sin. (Thankfully, his story is next in the series.)
The romance is, in turn, sweet and very sexy. Kenyon (MacGregor) can write the heck out of a love scene. I really liked it. 4 stars.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: Dreams Dark Kiss

I’m a big fan of Urban Fantasy, a genre which for the most part features some combination of vampires, shapeshifters/werewolves, witches and/or Fae. It’s an unusual author that finds a new otherworldly focus. And even more unusual: to make it work.

Dreams’ Dark Kiss follows the world of dream guardians.  Our heroine,  Ciaran, has been ferrying souls through the Dreamscape to the Other Side, ever since she was a child. But suddenly, she finds herself in the unfamiliar and desolate Wastelands –an in-between place inside the Dreaming. She is attacked by a beast and nearly raped, but she calls out to others of her kind for help.  In doing so, she summons the man who will be her mate, a dream guardian named Keoni.  Through him, Ciaran learns that she is more powerful in the dream world than she knew.   

Of course, the story has to have a villain.  The one here is trying to bring the stuff of nightmares into the waking world. Oh, and he wants to make Ciaran his broodmare to help with his cause. Ciaran must work with Keoni to discover why she is so special and to foil the bad guy’s evil plan.

There’s a reason so many authors go the vampire and werewolf route: people already understand the fundamentals of the mythology. As refreshing as a new story is, understanding the world building is a serious endeavor.  I didn’t always follow the what was happening in the dreamworld. The glossary of terms at the end was helpful. But I think, by the time I got to the end, I understood what was going on. And after reading this, I believe a sequel would be much easier for me to jump into.
Nearly 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by Net Galley

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Review: Hunger Aroused

Reviewed by Jen
Wow. This book was hot.  Really. Really. Hot.

Jasmine is a nurse who is transitioning into a vampire.  She wasn’t turned in the traditional way, with biting and blood sucking. Rather, she was infected by a tainted needle and has no idea what is going on.  That is, until she has the (mis)fortune of running into Corin on the street. He is an executioner for the Vampire Council. It is his job to eradicate fledglings and punish their sires for unauthorized turnings.  He can smell the scent of transition all over Jasmine.

He follows her home, planning to kill her. But he is unexpectedly drawn to her.  He eases the torment of her changing body with sexual healing.  And before he knows what hit him, he feels more compelled to protect her than kill her.  The two go on the run from the council, growing more tied to each other with every passing minute.  Can they escape Jasmine’s death sentence? And beyond that, can Corin escape his brutal, tortured past?

Corin’s transition was centuries ago, following his life as a gladiator. He was subjected to torture and other atrocities to make him submit to his sire.  I understand why this is part of the story. It gives us insight into why Corin is so determined to defend rules for how humans are turned.  However, the flashbacks are stark and disturbing. They pulled me out of our couple’s erotic love story and their fight for their future. Of course, it also makes Corin very sympathetic –and you can’t help but want him to finally find happiness.

The story moves quickly and there are plenty of steamy sex scenes.  So if you are looking for a hot vampire story and you’re prepared to be a little disturbed in order to get to the HEA, this one is worth a read. 4 stars.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Review: Master of Desire

Draven of Ravenswood is a man hardened into a warrior by a cruel father.  His name is whispered; his reputation, that of a relentless demon on the battlefield.  He trusts no one, except for his brother Simon and cherishes nothing except his honor.

Someone has been pillaging his lands and he suspects his neighbor, Hugh. The same thing is happening to Hugh and he suspects Draven. So they take their grievances to the king. His majesty decides to send Hugh’s daughter to live with Draven for a year. That way, Hugh would never attack Draven’s land.  And Draven gives his word of honor to protect the woman from harm and from lust.

The only problem is…. the first time Emily sees Draven, she wants him for her husband.  She goes to work, trying to seduce him.  And he wants her too. But he also knows that if he breaks his oath, the king will kill him. And beyond that, he fears that he is not worthy of the lovely lady.  He is afraid he holds the same monstrosity inside himself, that once led his father to kill his mother.

This was a solid historical romance.  Despite her innocence in the bedroom, Emily is smart and tenacious.  And Draven is a wonderful wounded hero.  It was easy to root for them. And when they finally come together… well, let’s just say Sherrilyn Kenyon (Kinley MacGregor) can write the heck out of a love scene.  I really enjoyed it. 4 stars.

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Review: Bonded by Blood

There are two kind of vampires in the world: those who accept the new ways and those who wish to bring back the ways of old.  The Darkbloods are vampires who believe human lives and blood are theirs for the taking.  Especially those known as “sweetbloods.”  Humans with that special quality in their blood are especially sought after, so much so that Darkbloods sell vials of the stuff on the street like it’s a drug. 

Dominic is one of the vampires who embraces a life lived side by side with humanity. He rarely partakes in human blood and when he does –it’s never to kill. He works for a group known as the Agency. They are vampires who police the rest of their kind and fight the Darkbloods.

It’s just after he is gravely injured, that Mac stumbles across Dom’s path. She is a sweetblood –and though he tries to resist her, the pull is too strong and he takes her blood. He takes so much, in fact, that he must give her some of his own to save her life. The exchange activates a blood bond between the two, a rare and binding tie, which allows them to sense each others emotions and even share thoughts.

The story was easy to get into.  The world-building easy to follow. And perhaps most importantly, the building sexual tension between the two main characters was played to perfection.  However, there was a bit of predictability as the story arc played out.  I think some of the foreshadowing was a little heavy handed and I would have liked to be surprised a little more.  Also, I found some of the scenes cut off a bit more abruptly than I’d like –and we’d see days or weeks gone as we went into another scene without seeing immediate repurcussions of what happened immediately before.

All that being said, I did enjoy it.  It was an easy read, not too complex, with some hot sex. Almost 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Review: Spell of the Highlander

Reviewed by Jen
We’re not done with the McKeltar Highlanders just yet. Karen Marie Moning introduces us to a new member of the sexy clan, Cian. He was born in the 9th century and was probably the most gifted and powerful of the Druid line. But he met a Dark Sorcerer named Lucian who tricked him into friendship and trapped him inside a Fae mirror for over 1000 years. Now the mirror has been stolen and sold to a college professor. Lucian sends his goons to retrieve it –but not before the professor’s assistant, the lovely Jessi, crosses paths with it. When her life is on the line, Cian tells her how to free him from the mirror to save his life.

Of course, enchanted mirrors and the Fae are a tough pill to swallow, but Jessi becomes a believer quickly as Lucian sends more threats to her life. And despite his dark edge and penchant for taking charge, she can’t help but being drawn to Cian. The two go on the run; Cian determined to protect Jessi. They only have to elude Lucian for three weeks, until Halloween. If Lucian doesn’t reclaim the mirror by then, the curse is broken. Unfortunately, Cian can only stay outside of the mirror for a few hours at a time before it reclaims him until the next day.

The couple decides to go to Scotland, to hide on MacKeltar land. And there, they run into Dageus and Drustan. Cian reluctantly seeks their help as Lucian closes in on him. In the meantime, the relationship between him and Jessi reaches a fever pitch. But he is holding a secret that will likely ruin any chance they have at a future.

The end of the book sets up the events that take place in Moning’s Fever series… which takes place five years after the conclusion of this story. We hear from the Fae Queen, an overview of what is to come in the dark days ahead.

I liked this book, though not quite so much as Kiss of the Highlander. It feels like every hero has to be more powerful than the last…. Enough already. The love scenes were very hot. And I was pleasantly surprised at the tenderness we see from our tortured Cian. One other little peeve: enough with the virgins already, sheesh! A heroine doesn’t HAVE to be a virgin in every book. Let’s change it up just a little every now and then m’kay?

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Review: The Immortal Highlander

Reviewed by Jen
This a great book for many reasons. It’s a fun romance on its surface, but it’s also a treasure trove of Easter Eggs for fans of both the Highlander and Fever series.

Adam Black is our male lead.  As a member of the Seelie (Light) Fae Court, he’s got a tie in to just about every one of the previous Highlander books.  But in the last installment, The Dark Highlander, he pushed the Fae Queen too far, when he advocated for the life of Highlander Dageus MacKeltar.  As punishment for his insolence, she makes him human. Not only that, she makes him invisible to the humans around him and takes away his ability to see other Fae.  He is completely alone.. until he runs into Gabby. She is a sidhe-seer, someone who can see beyond Fae glamour. She can see and hear Adam… in all  his sexy glory.  She fights her attraction to him. But who could resist such a seduction?

As Adam works to regain his immortality, the two travel to Scotland and team up the MacKeltar clan.  At the same time, Darroc, another member of the Fae court, is plotting to kill Adam. He doesn’t want Adam to interfere with his plan to break the covenant between man and Fae.  So Darroc calls forth “Hunters,” from the dark Unseelie realm to find our couple and dispatch them.

If you are a fan of the Highlander series, you can’t miss this one. Adam finally gets to feel what it’s like to be one of the humans he is so enamoured with.  We get to see or hear about past heroes like Drustan, Dageus & Circenn… even Grimm’s family gets a shout out. And for fans of the Fever series… this book is essentially a primer for all that we see in those books.  We learn about the sidhe-seers and their relationship to the Fae, the Hunters, Darroc, and the series of events that lead almost directly to Darkfever.

I liked this book for the love story at face value –but LOVED it for its place in Karen Marie Moning’s rich and complex world.  5 stars.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Review: The Dark Highlander

Reviewed by Jen
The MacKeltars are back.  The sexy 16th century Highlander twins are now living in present day.  Drustan, our hero from Kiss of the Highlander, is happily married to Gwen in Scotland, awaiting the birth of their twins.  But Dageus is having a rough time. 

Just three years after the gypsies put his brother in an enchanted sleep, a fire in the castle killed him. Dageus couldn’t live with that, so he used his Druid powers to go back in time and save Drustan.  Using time-travel for personal gain broke the vows of the family’s covenant with the Fae and as a result, Dageus is cursed.  Inside of him, he carries the souls of 13 evil and powerful Druids who want to take over his body. His father is so upset with what has happened, Dageus leaves his home and travels ahead to the time his brother would awaken.

The only thing that keeps the demon spirits at bay inside Dageus is… you guessed it… sex.  So he has alot of it.  But he never gives his heart. Until he meets Chloe. When the young lover of antiquities finds out he’s been stealing ancient texts, he takes her prisoner in his home.  But she isn’t a prisoner for long. They quickly fall for each other, despite their differences.  Dageus is working to find a cure for his curse –which leads them to Scotland and eventually back in time.  All the while, their passion is growing and so is their love.

I didn’t love this one quite as much as Kiss of the Highlander. To be honest, I think I was a little put off by Dageus rejecting women like Katherine in the beginning: 30-something year-old women with world experience… good enough for a tumble, but the 20-something year old virgin is the kind for marrying.  Not that I have a problem with Chloe as our heroine.  It just rubbed me wrong.  Maybe because I am a 30-something year old woman with world experience.

I also like my Highlander books set in the past better than the ones in present day.  But the love scenes were solid and Dageus was verra sexy. It was also great to spend time with all of our familiar characters from the last book.  4 1/2 stars.

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Review: Kiss of the Highlander

Reviewed by Jen
After finishing up Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series, I decided to give a re-read to MacKeltar Highlander books –and I had almost forgotten how much I love them.  And Drustan’s story has got to be one of my favorites.

Back in the 16th century Scotland, an old woman gets a vision that links her son’s death to the laird of the MacKeltar clan. So she pays off some gypsies to enchant him in a deep sleep.  In the present day, American Gwen Cassidy stumbles upon his body during her Scottish vacation and inadvertently wakens him from his long sleep. When he realizes that he is centuries ahead of his time, he convinces the virginal Gwen to help him get back to the site of his family’s castle.  During their journey, sparks fly. And when Drustan realizes his family line has died off, he decides that he will use his Druid powers to take him and Gwen back in time to avert the attack on him.  Unfortunately, he sends them too far back, to a time before he was enchanted. He can’t share space with the former version of himself, so the Drustan that Gwen knows, disappears, leaving her to convince a Drustan she has never met, that are supposed to be together.

Moning is a fantastic urban fantasy writer, but before that, she was a master at romance.  The love scenes between Drustan and Gwen are sooo hot.  Goodness gracious… hot enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if they inspired mass bookings of “vacations” in Scotland, on the off-chance another MacKeltar is somewhere in the Highlands, waiting to be found. Och!

And for a little bit of lagniappe, know that the MacKeltar story continues with Dageus’ book The Dark Highlander. And the MacKeltar clan is back, making cameos throughout the Fever series, with their biggest impact in Shadowfever.

Yum. 5 stars.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Review: The Highlander's Touch

Reviewed by Jen
The mischievous Fae, Adam Black, is wreaking havoc in Scotland again.  He has made Circenn Brodie immortal against his will… and tasked the Highlander with protecting the holy items of the Fae.  While under his care, a flask holding an immortality elixir goes missing. So Circenn curses the flask to be returned to him when it’s found.  It takes hundreds of years… but when the item shows up in the museum where Lisa is working, she becomes the first person to touch it.  And she and the flask go back to the 1300′s.

Circenn never dreamed that his curse would involve time travel or a woman. In fact, Adam had forced him to vow to kill the man who returned with the flask. But when faced with Lisa, he just can’t do it.  The normally stalwart and honest warrior, resorts to lie upon lie to hide who Lisa is and hide the fact that he has broken his oath.  Meanwhile, Lisa is desperate to return home, to care for her dying mother.  But a string of unlikely events leave the couple engaged and they begin to fall for each other. They both fight it, though… Lisa because of her guilt over leaving her mom and Circenn, because he fears the heartbreak of Lisa’s eventual death as he lives on in immortality.

Each one of the Highlander books in this series is better than the one before.  Both Circenn and Lisa have every reason be hesitant but their obstacles make it even sweeter when they finally come together.  (And as with all of Moning’s books, the love scenes are very, very hot.) It’s also a fun and unexpected reveal when we find out WHY Adam has taken such an interest in Circenn’s life.  4 stars.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Review: To Tame a Highland Warrior

Reviewed by Jen
Grimm Roderick isn’t your average Highlander. He is a warrior of legend — a Berserker.  He first called the beast within him when he was just 14 years old. He had seen his mother killed and his village raided.  He embraced the Berserkergang and slaughtered the enemy. But then he ran away from home, convinced everyone saw him as a monster and that his father was responsible for his mother’s death. After wandering in the forest for two years, he was adopted by another family and quickly became enamoured of their young daughter Jillian.  He believed, though, that she’d be better off without him and left when he realized they had feelings for each other.

Now, seven years later, Jillian’s dad has summoned him back to their land.  Grimm and two other men will vie for Jillian’s hand in marriage. Of course, Jillian has eyes only for Grimm… as she has since she was a child.  Grimm is determined to see her wed to a better man than himself, but she is determined to have him for her own. 

It was a good story.  Grimm is a solid tortured hero.  He believes he is damaged goods and he has Jillian so high on a pedestal, he can never measure up.  Jillian, meanwhile, is so true to Grimm in her heart that she refuses to even consider a life with anyone else.  It takes a little while for the two of them to seal the deal, but it’s a not a boring wait.  There is great angst and romance. Almost 4 stars.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: Beyond the Highland Mist

Reviewed by Jen
I am a big fan of Karen Marie Moning. I love her Highlander books and her Fever series.  But Beyond the Highland Mist was written before she hit that sweet spot in her writing that made me a fan for life.  It’s not that it’s a bad book –it’s not. It’s just a little better than a standard OK-romance novel. 

Hawk Douglas is the sexiest and hottest lover to ever grace the Highlands.  And when the Fairy Queen wishes to make her consorts jealous, she sings his praises.  It works. They decide to punish him by pairing him with a woman who will deny him.  The Court Fool, Adam Black, plucks Adrienne out of the present day and drops her into the lap of Hawk's fiance's father.  Janet, the woman Hawk is supposed to marry –though he has never met, is actually dead. So her father forces Adrienne to impersonate his daughter and marry Hawk.

Adrienne has been badly betrayed by her former fiance and she has sworn off “beautiful men.” When you couple that with Hawk’s reputation as a womanizer, she vows never to give in to his advances. Of course that makes him want her all the more.  To complicate matters further, Adam Black has insinuated himself into the picture, posing as an uber-sexy blacksmith, also vying for Adrienne’s attentions.

What I think I liked least about this book is that when seduction seemed to fail, Hawk turns to other methods to force Adrienne’s affections.  The story compares it to “seeling” a falcon and, yes, by that point, Adrienne was secretly in love with him.  But it still did not sit well with me.

Of course, Adrienne has her flaws too. She is downright cruel to Hawk, even when we get to a point where he clearly is in love with her. We all have our hang-ups and fears but there were times I found myself yelling at her to just get over it already.

Otherwise, the story was alright. It doesn’t measure up to Kiss of the Highlander, but it is in this book we meet the illustrious Adam, who plays a role in almost every Highlander story and even makes a cameo in the last Fever book. He’s a very different “man” than he becomes over time, but it’s interesting to see his evolution through the books. 3 1/2 stars.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Review: Shadowfever

Reviewed by Jen
Before I started this book, there was a big part of me that believed there was no way I could be satisfied when I was done. There were simply too many questions to be answered, too many loose ends to ever tie up in a way that both made sense and appeased my need for a happily ever after. I was wrong.

There is so much packed into these pages that when I think back to the question, “Who is the beast?” it seems like a lifetime ago. It’s no wonder you don’t get much information from the summary regarding what this book is about (it mostly recaps the series as a whole.) I find that even trying to talk about it in generalities reveals fantastic developments in the plot. So if you haven’t read Shadowfever yet, I urge you to avoid the spoilers below, with my reassurance that it’s a fantastic book that left me wholly satisfied and warm inside.

The first chapter of this book shredded me. (*spoilers*) When Mac thought she had killed Barrons, I cried for her. I ached. Then I watched her put herself together; to take the hard lessons Barrons taught her and live, so that his death was not in vain. This is not the Mac of Darkfever. She is powerful, but hollow. She finally gets her showdown with the Lord Master, but his death is decidedly anticlimactic. I felt cheated. But I guess that was the point.

Mac seemed to learn so much about herself and her feelings with Barrons’ death. It was disappointing to see so much of it go out of the window when they were finally reunited. She was ready to end the world for him, yet suddenly, overhearing a phone call makes her regress utterly? It was one of the few parts of the book that left me frustrated. It was hard to see the roles reverse between Barrons and Mac… to see him so vulnerable… And when she finally looked inside his mind and learned what he was feeling while she was Pri-ya… Sigh.

Without spoiling the details, I can tell you some of the questions that are finally answered: What is Mac? Who killed Alina and why? Who is the Unseelie King? Who is the King’s consort? Who is the Dreamy-Eyed Guy? Who is Cruce? Who was the dying boy in Barrons’ memory? What is under the garage? And perhaps the best question of all… who is the real villain in the story? The answer to that last one blew me away.

Karen Marie Moning has created a tale of twists and turns that kept me guessing until the very end. NO ONE should read this book without reading the other books in the series first. And after reading this fifth installment, I’m sure many fans will go back to the previous books and read the stories from a new perspective, knowing truths we never dreamed of when it all began. There are enough threads that I can easily see more books in this Fever world, but I promise there is no cliffhanger here. Just a fantastic ending to a creative and enthralling story.

I’d give it more than 5 stars if I could.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Review: Dreamfever

Reviewed by Jen
Back in Bloodfever, Karen Marie Moning wrote, “Your joy can only fill you as deeply as your sorrow has carved you.” And as this latest chapter in the Fever series shows, the author is not shy about just how deeply our heroine can know loss.  If you haven’t read Faefever, read the spoilers ahead at your own risk.

At the end of the last book, Mac was (*spoiler*)raped by three Unseelie Princes. She has become the Priya (Fae sex addict) we have heard about throughout the series.  Her conscious mind is gone. All that is left is the desire for sex.Seeing Mac at her lowest is very difficult. But the first section of this book teaches us a lot about the people who come to her rescue.  We learn that Dani, fellow sidhe-seer is a real and true friend. And we learn that Mac’s mentor, Jericho Barrons, has real, vested feelings toward her.  (*spoiler*)

The consummation of their relationship lacked everything I’d hoped for. But I think that was the point.  Mac says in this book that she wishes she could so much as kiss a man because it was her choice to do so.  Her rape has ripped away her ability to choose. And not only does she lose out –so do we. We miss the big moment where their relationship changes, because Mac isn’t even really there. 
It’s tough stuff.

As the story continues and Mac recovers, we see how she has truly transformed from the flighty girl we met in Darkfever. We see more and more, through his gruff words, how much of an impact she has made on Barrons.  And despite the fact that (*spoiler*) they've crossed a physical threshold, they are still struggling as much as ever to come together in a real way.

There is a lot of story development surrounding what’s happening with the Fae’s infiltration into our world; what’s happening with the Light Fae Prince V’Lane; and Mac’s lineage.  But I’d be loath to end this review without a mention of the HUGE cliffhanger at the end of the book.  As big of a cliffhanger as our last book had, I think this one was even bigger.  I finished this book 6 months before Shadowfever came out and it was pure torture waiting to find out what really happened.  Who is the beast? Is he really dead? Is it Christian? Is it Barrons? Is Ryodan a good guy or a bad guy?  A person could tie themselves in knots waiting for answers.  So don’t read this book without Shadowfever standing by.  I can’t wait to see if the conclusion of this series can hold on to the high standards set by its predecessors.  5 stars.

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Review: Faefever

Reviewed by Jen
The Fever series plunges to new levels of darkness in its third installment, Faefever.  It’s not until second (and third) readings of these books that I came to appreciate the masterful way Karen Marie Moning sets up each one with a present-day Mac looking back on events that have already occurred.  This book begins with the line, “I’d die for him.” And as innocuous as it may seem before the events unfold, by the time you get to the end, the meaning is both wrenching and shocking.

In this book we really see the emergence of the other sidhe-seers as players in the game between humans and the Fae.  Like Mac, they can see the Fae, but unlike her, they cannot sense their holy objects. They need Mac to help them find the powerful dark book that it seems everyone is looking for.  Their leader distrusts Mac and influences most of the other women to feel the same. But Mac finds a friend in the young Dani. The teen becomes an important force in this story and the next –and a surrogate sister for the one Mac lost.

V’Lane, the Light Fae Prince, is back. And we see now, more than ever, that the animosity between him and Mac’s mentor, Barrons, runs deep.  V’Lane is fascinating, but the real sex appeal continues to lie with the mysterious Barrons.  After he and Mac (*spoiler*) nearly did the deed in the last book, you can cut the tension between them with a knife.  He barely bothers to mask his attraction for her, his jealousy of V’Lane.  It’s all coming to a head and I found myself holding my breath, turning the pages, to see what would happen between them next.

This book is a crossroads for the series –and a major event takes place that changes everything from here on out.   And what happens at the end, makes Mac’s time with Malluce in Bloodfever feel like a blip on the radar in comparison.  It’s a shocking cliffhanger –the biggest yet– and I urge you to have Dreamfever waiting nearby when you’re done. 5 stars.

P.S. Loved, loved, loved the mentions of more MacKeltars from the Highlander books. And the reveal of the Lord Master’s identity was an exciting twist (*spoiler*) for anyone who has read The Immortal Highlander. –If you haven’t read it.. you can check it out for his backstory. It’s not necessary for the Fever books, but it adds another rich  layer for Moning fans.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Review: Bloodfever

Reviewed by Jen
The Fever series continues with this second installment of Karen Marie Moning’s masterful urban fantasy.  And it picks up in the aftermath of where Darkfever left off.  MacKayla Lane is still searching for her sister Alina’s killer.  But now she believes she knows who it is: the man who dubs himself “The Lord Master;” the man who is helping to usher the Dark Fae into our world; the man who was Alina’s lover. After her last conflict with him, she barely escaped with her life.  Now he seems to be lying low.

That doesn’t mean Mac doesn’t have a full plate.  She is still searching for the Dark book of the Fae, as was her sister’s dying wish. And her partner in the search, the enigmatic and sexy Jericho Barrons is pushing her limits as a sidhe-seer (someone who can see the Fae beyond their glamour and sense their objects of power.)  Something is brewing between Mac and Barrons. And his former lover Fiona sees it, creating new unforseen dangers for Mac.

And walking the line between danger and pleasure, is the Fae prince V’laine.  He is almost as much of a mystery as Barrons; and with even more sex appeal. He wants the book too and isn’t above using his obvious talents to get them. V’laine and Barrons clearly have a history and neither wants Mac to trust the other. But how can she trust either of them when no one will be truly honest with her?

This is a dark book.  We see cruelty, evil, betrayal and torture.  We see Mac begin to evolve (or de-evolve) into something stronger, more primal.  The heat between her and Barrons is scorching. But make no mistake, this is no romance. It’s hot and sexual and it had me re-reading one particular scene in a cave about 10 times before moving on.

Each one of the Fever books builds on the one before it. Each one is stronger; the world building more intricate.  Granted, that means we have a lot of characters to keep up with.  Some are holdovers from Darkfever.  And one (Christian MacKelter) is a surprising cross-over character from Kiss of the Highlander.  (You don’t have to read Moning’s Highlander books to enjoy the Fever series. The ties in this book and the others are very slight and are really more like Easter Eggs for those of us who did read them.)

Every book ends with a cliffhanger and this one is no different.  So I hope you have Faefever ready. You’ll want it when you are done with this one.  4 1/2 stars.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Review: Darkfever

Reviewed by Jen
I’ve heard more than one person say they can tell whether they will like a book if it hooks them from the beginning. I can tell you that if I subscribed to that notion, I would have missed out on one of the best series I’ve ever read. Darkfever didn’t hook me from the start. In fact, I thought about putting it down a couple of times at the beginning. The story is about a 22 year-old blonde Georgia peach, who lives with her mom and dad. She likes pink and happy music. She grates on me. But having read the entire book and the three after it, I see that we had to meet Mac when she is this way. We had to see who she was before we can truly appreciate the metamorphosis she undergoes.

Mac’s sister, Alina, was an exchange student in Ireland, when she was brutally killed. The police give up on her case quickly, prompting Mac to fly across the ocean. She only intends to push the cops to keep investigating. But she is drawn into the intrigue that was responsible for her sister’s death. Mac’s only clue about what happened to Alina is a voicemail she left hours before she died. She tells Mac that she has to find the Sinsar Dubh… and that sets Mac on a quest to find out what that is and how to find it.

On the streets of Ireland, Mac begins to see things she can’t believe are real… hideous monsters in the guise of human beings.  And one night she finds herself in an abandoned neighborhood, surrounded by a sense of dread. She barely makes it out, to a well-lit bookstore, called Barrons Books & Baubles. The man inside, Jericho Barrons, is a sexy, enigmatic man who is larger than life and somewhat foreboding. When she asks him about the Sinsar Dubh, which turns out to be a powerful book, it sets off a series of interactions that lead them into a partnership.  Barrons explains to Mac that she is a Sidhe-Seer… someone who can see the Fae and sense their sacred objects, the book being one of them.  Barrons has been looking for the book too, for reasons he doesn’t explain. They team up to find it.

Barrons is very hard to read. Mac’s descriptions of him show they are clearly attracted to each other. But there is something about him that is not entirely human.  He’s somehow more.  He’s also very tight-lipped about who/what he is and what his ultimate plans are.   There is way too much going on to plot it all out, but I can say Mac learns things about herself that change her entire view of her life; she learns what her sister was doing in Ireland and who she was doing it with; she learns that all Fae do not wear the face of a monster.

This is not a romance, despite Karen Marie Moning’s great work with her Highlander books. There is no sex to be found. But you could definitely make a case that there is something brewing between Barrons and Mac. Their interactions are complex and confusing (to Mac and to the readers.)  And they become even more so as the books progress.

It took me awhile to get into this book. But as the series continues… you fall deeper and deeper into this dark world.  The most important thing I can tell you is this: if you plan to read this series, do not begin without having all 5 books in front of you.  Start with Darkfever and read them one after another. Each book ends with a cliffhanger, and you’ll kick yourself if you don’t have the next book ready and waiting.  The wait between Dreamfever and Shadowfever nearly killed me.

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Series Reading Order: Fever

This is the reading order for the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning:

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review: Midnight Pleasures

Midnight Pleasures isn’t the best anthology I’ve ever read, but it has stories from two series I enjoy, so it was worth a read.

The first story is Amanda Ashley’s “Darkfest.” I’ve never read anything from her before.  The title character is a dark wizard who has never known love.  He is very powerful and he is taken with Channa Leigh, a virginal blind village girl.  He visits her village in the form of a wolf and somehow, when she touches him, she can see.  But he knows he can’t stay with her as a wolf.  When Channa Leigh’s mother becomes ill, her father begs Darkfest for help and he agrees to heal the woman in exchange for a year with Channa Leigh in his fortress.  The story was sweet.  Not terribly strong, but not bad.  There were some things (like his taste for blood and problems with the sunlight) that were never really fleshed out.  And speaking of flesh, despite the fact there was much talk about them both being virgins… their relationship was never consummated.  Bummer.

The second story was Sherrilyn Kenyon’s “Phantom Lover.” This is part of her Dark/Dream Hunter universe.  V’Aiden is a Greek God of sleep (for lack of a more complex explanation.) He falls in love with Erin in her dreams. She’s been plagued by monsters in her sleep which are draining her for power. And he comes to her rescue.  Can they make it work even though he is not human and they live in two different worlds?  I’m a huge fan of the Dark/Dream Hunters, so I really enjoyed this one.  As always, Kenyon’s storytelling is sexy and enthralling. I can’t say if someone unfamiliar with the series would enjoy it as much as I did.  But I thought it was great.

Maggie Shayne’s ”Under Her Spell” is next.  It features Melissa, a white witch who has been hired by a tv show about the supernatural, to consult on its accuracy.  She is quickly drawn to her new boss, but she realizes he is surrounded by dark energy.  It turns out his father was a dark wizard who is reaching out to him beyond the grave and only Melissa can save his soul.  It was kind of… well, meh, for me. I didn’t hate it, but I wouldn’t have any interest in reading any more about these characters.

And the last novella is “A Wulf’s Curse,” part of Ronda Thompson’s Wild Wulfs of London series.  The story centers on Sterling, the youngest of the Wulf brothers. He ran away from his London home 10 years earlier when he father triggered the family curse. Dad turned into a wolf at the dinner table, then committed suicide. His mother killed herself shortly after. The curse is triggered by love, so Sterling has no interest in losing his heart.  But when the beautiful Elise stows away in the carnival where he works, he can’t help but fall for her innocent charms.  It was  sweet addition to the series.  Steamy love scenes and a great happy ending.  My only beef is, that unlike the resolutions that other Wulf stories had, we didn’t get to see Sterling beat his curse.  We just have to assume it all works out in the end.

Overall, the collection of stories was fair. I really enjoyed the Kenyon and Thompson offerings. The other two are just ok.   3 1/2 stars.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Review: The Cursed One

We first saw the connection between Gabriel Wolf and Lady Amelia, in The Dark One, the first in the Wild Wulfs of London series.  Now, we’ve finally gotten the payoff. Lady Amelia has married Roger Collingsworth and is about to start her honeymoon at his country estate when she is attacked in the bedroom. At first she thinks it is her groom, but the voice is a growl and the hands violent, so she fights back.  It just so happens, Gabriel stops by on his way to Wulfglen. Despite injuries he is nursing from an earlier conflict, he steps in to save Amelia. The two have never met, but had caught a glimpse of each other on a London street, months earlier. Each left a lasting impression on the other. 

It turns out the man attacking Amelia wasn’t Roger, but some kind of shapeshifter.  It seems the woods are teeming with them.  All the staff at Collingsworth’s estate have fled except for one  young maid named Mora.  When Gabriel finds Roger’s body in the stables, he realizes that he, Amelia, & Mora are the only ones at the home to fight off the monsters (which Mora calls Wargs.)

If you compare this book to The Dark One, this one has much more in the way of supernatural.  That first book was romance with a touch of paranormal, where this one is the other way around.  There is romance, but I feel like it got a little overshadowed by the action as Gabriel tries to get the two women through the woods to his home for safety.  As they sidestep danger, the two fall in love… which Gabriel tries valiantly to fight because he is cursed to turn into (essentially) a werewolf on the full moon once he gives his heart to woman.  He’s a fairly good hero, but I’ve never been a fan of Amelia.  She is trying so hard to be ahead of her time…tough, smart, shocking. But it was too much. She still came across as soft and spoiled to me, despite her eventual realization that (gasp!) servants are people too.

I did like the very end.  (*spoilers*) It was great to see all the brothers and their families together.  And the Epilogue lets us learn about all the babies.  4 stars.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review: The Untamed One

Let me start out by saying this book was my favorite installment in the Wild Wulfs of London series.  This story features Jackson Wulf.  He has a weakness for women and booze… he’s the playboy of the family. Like his brothers, he carries a curse and it has already been activated.  He fell in love months ago with a woman who did not return his feelings. And even though the love was one sided, it was enough to propel him into his first change into a wolf. Now that change takes him every full moon.

The family curse originated generations ago and was cast by a witch. Jackson hopes by killing a witch now, he can get rid of the curse for himself and his brothers. He tracks one down, but as he finds her, she is in the middle of giving birth. She is alone in an old cottage and instead of killing her, he helps her deliver the baby. Shortly after, he changes into a wolf and angry villagers burn down the cottage.  The witch, Lucinda, gets away with the infant, but thinks Jackson is killed.  So she goes to his family home, announcing she is his widow and the baby, his child.

Obviously, Jackson survives and returns to his home to find the witch he had planned to kill. They strike a bargain. She’ll work to help him reverse the curse, if he promises to adopt the baby and raise it as his own. She is too poor and the child’s father (who raped her) is looking for the baby to kill.

Of course, Jackson and Lucinda are fated to fall in love. And honestly, it’s the best love story of all the brothers.  Perhaps, I liked it so much because Lucinda is a great heroine… and a mother willing to do anything to protect her child… even sacrificing her own happiness.  Jackson is the bad boy, finally driven to become a better man by his love for a woman and a child.  It also doesn’t hurt that there is great sexual tension between Jackson and Lucinda. And when they finally give in to their passions, it is hot, hot, hot.

4 1/2 stars.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Review: The Dark One

Armond Wolf isn’t looking for love.  In fact, he and his brothers have sworn never to marry. Their reputations only help their plans.  The men are considered dangerous and a little crazy. They have been shunned by London society since their parents committed suicide.  With his poor reputation, Lady Rosiland thinks he will be the ideal man to help ruin her reputation.  She is new to the city.  Since her father’s death, she has moved from the country to come live with her cruel step-brother and her very ill step-mother.  Her brother plans to marry her off to a man she doesn’t love to pay off gambling debts, so she hopes to make herself an unsuitable mate.

She sets out to seduce Armond. But it’s not as easy as she’d hoped.  And while she doesn’t seal the deal right away, her actions set off a powerful attraction between the two of them.  Armond and his brothers are cursed with a beast inside them.  It’s the same curse that drove his father to suicide.  And he’s afraid to expose Rosiland to that.  Making matters more complicated are a series of murders that keep happening mysteriously close to Armond –and there is still the pesky problem of Rosiland’s brother and his plans for her.

This a solid historical romance with a pinch of paranormal thrown in.  Armond shows that despite his beast, he is a far better man than those who surround him. Will the growing love between him and Rosiland be enough to break the curse? (*spoilers*) Of course it will.  But I have to say that as much as I enjoyed this story, I was a little confused. It seems like love both triggered the curse and ended it.  Or maybe love only triggered it, but giving up fear ended it.  I’m not sure. But I don’t care all that much.  The love story was good; The sex scenes were steamy; And the end was happy.  4 stars. 

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Series Reading Order: Wild Wulfs of London

Ronda Thompson's pictureThis is the reading order for the Wild Wulfs of London series by Ronda Thompson:
*Denotes short story/novella
**Features a descendant of the Wulf family.  Stands alone from the other stories in the series.

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Review: Angelic

Reviewed by Jen
“Angelic” is like the Holy Grail for fans of Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series. It was released in January of 2010 as a limited release novella. If you didn’t order one of these in advance, you were out of luck. They were sold out before the release day.  But now, it’s available on ebook,  so most of us are getting our first look at the story.

It focuses on Eve, the ghost/angel who narrated Haunted. She is just coming off of a six month stint on angel duty, and expected to spend the next 6 months on the ghostly plane with her man, Kristof.  But the Fates tell her she needs to do one more job, tracking down a djinn problem. Eve is tired of getting jerked around by the powers-that-be. She’s always been a rebel, but she does a good job and she wants her due.  So she decides to do the job her own way –and even hopes to get “fired” from her job as an angel while she is at it.

I like Eve. She is tough and irreverent. We also get appearances from Kristof and several of the lesser characters we met in Haunted. I enjoyed the story and I’m so glad I got the chance to read it. I’m just as glad I’m not one of the folks who spent an exorbitant amount of money to get a copy on ebay.  4 stars.

by Kelley Armstrong
Release Date: January 8, 2010
Publisher: Subterranean Press

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Friday, January 7, 2011

Review: Venom

Reviewed by Jen
The action just keeps building in this latest installment of the Elemental Assassin series, Venom.  Demoralizing boy scout Donovan Caine has left town and has taken a piece of retired-assassin Gin’s heart along with him.  (I’m sticking pins into his voo-doo doll likeness as I write this review.)  But Gin soldiers on, despite the toll his rejection has taken upon her.  And it’s a good thing she can stay on her toes, because retired or not, someone else is in need her special brand of justice.

This time, it’s vampire-madam Rosyln Phillips. It seems crime-lord Mab Monroe’s muscle man, Elliot Slater, has been stalking her. More specifically, he is forcing her to be in a sick parody of a relationship with him, under the threat of violence.   Slater is already on Gin’s radar, since he beat the stuffing out of her for Mab’s lawyer, Jonah McAllister. The attorney was trying to figure out if Gin knew anything about his son’s death. (Of course, we know she killed him and stuffed him in Mab’s bathtub in Web of Lies, but our bad-guys don’t figure it out.) Anyway, Gin vows to kill Slater, more to protect Roslyn than anything. But it won’t be easy. Slater is a giant. He is strong and fast and is surrounded by guards of his own.

There are several other big points I can’t ignore. Bria, the little sister Gin thought was dead, shows up in Ashland… as the replacement for Caine. That’s right, she’s a detective and one who is not corrupt.  Should Gin tell her who she is? What she does?

And we’ve got Owen Grayson, Gin’s new love interest.  Finally, a man who sees her for her strengths. But will he still feel the same when he finds out she is a killer? All this, plus the added intrigue surrounding the murder of Gin’s mother and sister. She now knows who killed them, but can she do anything about it?

I love this series. I love Gin.  And I will be waiting with bells on when Tangled Threads comes out in April.  5 stars.

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Review: Web of Lies

Reviewed by Jen
Let me begin by saying, Donovan Caine is a weenie-toad.  Now that I have that off my chest…

Web of Lies picks up about 2 months after Spider’s Bite left off. Gin has retired from her life as an assassin and is now running the BBQ restaurant her foster-father Fletcher had left her in his will.  Things are going smoothly (maybe a little too smoothly) when a punk kid, wielding fire magic, and one of his friends tries to hold up the Pork Pit. He threatens a young co-ed customer and Gin can see murder in his eyes. She subdues him. When the police comes she finds out that he is the son of a prominent lawyer and right-hand to Mab Monroe, the woman who rules the city.  Despite the trouble that could mean for Gin, she presses charges.

In the meantime, a young woman named Violet comes to the restaurant looking for Fletcher. It turns out, Violet’s grandfather and Fletcher had been old friends. Now the head of a powerful mining company, Tobias Dawson, is trying to bully her grandfather for his land & is targeting Violet to get to him.  Gin decides to help, by going after Tobias herself.

While all this drama is going on, Gin is dealing with her feelings for Detective Caine. They hooked up briefly in the last book and are thrown together by the events in this story. But he still can’t over Gin’s past. I really rooted for these two all through Spider’s Bite, but he has hurt Gin too much.  He doesn’t deserve her. And now I find myself rooting for Owen Grayson, the powerful brother to the co-ed Gin saved at the beginning of the book. He doesn’t look down on Gin and seems to see her worth.  Caine can take a long walk off a short pier.

I really enjoyed this book and I really love this series. There is plenty of action and character development. Not to mention the undercurrent storyline of what happened to Gin’s family and the mystery of her missing sister. Can’t wait to jump into the next installment. 5 stars.

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