Monday, February 28, 2011

Review: Blood Bound

There are some sequels that can’t measure up to the potential of a good series.  Blood Bound is not one of those sequels. In fact, I enjoyed it even more than the first installment in the Mercy Thompson books.

A little backstory: Mery is a shapeshifter (a walker) who can transform herself into a coyote. She was raised by werewolves and is tight with their leader, Bran. She is living with Bran’s son, Samuel, who was her first love. Things ended badly between them years ago when she found out he only wanted her, so she could bear his kids.  They only became reacquainted about 6 months ago, and now Sam is Mercy’s roommate… though he wants to be more. Adam is the local werewolf alpha and he lives next door to Mercy. And there is something between them.. but it hasn’t gone far. –Mercy is a mechanic by trade, and that explains her ties to Zee, the fae who used to be her boss, and Stefan, the vampire whose van she is working on.

As our book begins, Stefan comes to Mercy to collect on a favor.  There is a demon possessing vampire and Stefan believes Mercy will be immune to his mind control.  He’s right, but the demon-vamp poses a much greater risk.  He is crazed with bloodlust –and once everyone figures out his true nature, Stefan is tasked with bringing him down.  Mercy’s wolf-friends get pulled into the search, which threatens their very lives. And of course, when all is said and done, they need Mercy to finish the job.

This was a great book.  I love the world-building in this series; And while Moon Called focused mainly on the wolf-world, this one gives us an inside look at the vampires. It’s heavy on the action and light on romance; but it’s very character driven. Would definitely recommend this series to any Urban Fantasy reader. 4 1/2 stars.

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Review: Moon Called

Mercy Thompson is a shapeshifter, a walker.  She can transform herself into a coyote at will. Mercy was raised by werewolves, though her kind of shifter magic is different.

She has connections with several factions of the supernatural community.  She works as a mechanic at a shop that used to belong to the gremlin Zee.  She lives next door to alpha werewolf Adam.  And she has friendly relationships with a human cop and a vampire.

Our story kicks off when a young werewolf named Mac wanders into Mercy’s shop. She gives him some work and gets pulled into his problems.  Mac was turned against his will and experimented on by other wolves. Now, they’re after him. So Mercy reaches out to Adam, hoping to help Mac.  But things go bad quickly, when the bad guys raid Adam’s home. They hurt the alpha badly, kidnap his daughter Jesse and kill Mac.  Mercy has to take Adam back to Bran, the werewolf leader who helped raise her… and it forces her to come to terms with a past and a man she left behind.  Samuel is Bran’s son and his unresolved relationship with Mercy makes things even more complicated.  Samuel joins Mercy and Adam as they work to unravel the plot of the nefarious wolves and try to rescue Jesse.

I love the world-building here.  It’s richly layered, without being too complicated to understand.  There is a broad cast of characters, but they are so clearly defined, they are easy to keep straight.  The author has set the foundation for a great love triangle between Mercy, Adam, and Samuel. But don’t expect a romance novel.  While it is character driven, this book is all about the action.  There is solid resolution, but it’s easy to see how more books could follow –and exciting to see how all the relationships will progress.  Mercy is a great lead character. She has many gifts associated with her shifting. But what is really special about her is her ability to use her head.  She thinks things through more than most UF heroines –and she is willing to look weak to be strong.

4 1/2 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon
Moon Called
by Patricia Briggs
Release Date: January 31, 2006
Publisher: Ace

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Series Reading Order: Mercy Thompson (& Alpha and Omega)

This is the reading order for the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs:

The Alpha & Omega series runs concurrent, in the same world. The first story in the series coincides with events in the 1st Mercy Thompson book:

*Denotes novella/short story

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Review: Kiss of Darkness

Loribelle Hunt puts a new spin on supernatural species in the Paranormal Romance, Kiss of Darkness.  Winter was a human woman who lost her husband to a demon attack about 60 years ago. In her rage and vengeance, she joined a group of demon hunters who draw their strength from merging with demon souls.  She has fought the good fight ever since. But now the demon inside her is growing stronger and soon she won’t be able to control it –until she becomes bonded to a mate.

Lucky for Winter, she meets Marcus in her time of need.  He’s a nightwalker… a vamp who feeds on energy instead of blood.  And he is her destined mate.  He lends her his strength and the support of his people as a demon uprising begins killing off members of her organization.  The romance between them is pretty solid and develops at a good pace.  I was happy with the love scenes, though I could do with a little less of Marcus pushing for dominance.

I really enjoyed the secondary characters, Gia and Dupree.  Each had their own love story brewing and I found myself interested in seeing where their stories would lead.  While the book had resolution, there were big threads left unresolved… screaming for a sequel. If this book continues in a series, I would definitely read to find out what happens next. If not, shame on the  author for leaving us hanging.  4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Kiss of Darkness
by Loribelle Hunt
Release Date: January 24, 2011
Publisher: Carina Press

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Review: Moonlight Warrior

Reviewed by Jen
It’s always such a pleasure to discover a new author. Yes, yes, I know Janet Chapman isn’t a new author; but she’s new to me –and I really like what I see.  Kenzie Gregor is a Highlander from centuries past. He has spent years in the form of animals, most recently a panther, but he’s now a man with a mission. He is a soul warrior: destined to help other souls find their true path. He has recently moved to Midnight Bay with an old Druid priest and a dragon named William (one of the aforementioned lost souls.) He quickly crosses paths with Eve, a divorce’ who is down on her luck and living with her mother Mabel.  Kenzie has unwittingly bought their home out from under them. But he feels a connection to the women and allows them to stay in the house.

He fights his attraction to Eve, fearing his fight against dark magics could put her in danger. But he’s fighting a losing battle. Meantime, William develops an unlikely friendship that might help him find the man buried within him.

I really liked this book, which I’ve learned is a spinoff of Chapman’s Highlander series.  But speaking from experience, I can tell you that it stands strong on its own, even if you’ve never read them.  The sex scenes are steamy without being raunchy. And I most certainly enjoyed seeing a heroine in her early 30s instead of her early 20s.  I’d definitely recommend this one. 4 1/2 stars.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Review: Midnight Caller

Wow. This book isn’t as all what I thought it would be. From the summary of the story, I expected an urban fantasy. Instead, I got a mystery/thriller. It was pretty good, just nothing like I expected.
Trevor is an FBI agent with a traumatic childhood. He has tracked a serial killer back to his hometown of New Orleans.  Once home, he not only works to find the killer, dubbed the Vampire, but also to reconcile with the brother and sister he’s been away from for so long.  The hunt for the Vampire turns into a game of cat-and-mouse, as the killer targets Trevor with carefully laid clues and taunts. 

The Vampire also has a marked interest in Rain, a psychologist and radio talk show host. He targets her on the air, making sick sexual references and talking about her mother, a long dead rock singer.  The Vampire’s calls put Rain on Trevor’s radar and the two grow close, quickly.

All at once, we see Trevor & Rain come together, as the mysteries of Trevor’s past unfold; the tragic history of Rain’s mom comes to life; and twisted machinations of the Vampire come to a head.  I liked the romance. The love scenes were pretty good. And I never suspected who the Vampire was before it was revealed.  My only nitpick was the whole supernatural thing.  Is the Vampire really supposed to be a real vampire or a deranged sicko?  The doubt was especially annoying to me since I thought this was supposed to be a paranormal off the bat.  I never got a satisfying resolution, even as the book came to an end.  Overall, a pretty good romantic suspense. 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Review: The Devil's Temptress

Life is complicated for Lady Alienore. She had big dreams of running her family’s estate after her father’s death. But her brother had other plans. When he tried to marry her off to an old, nasty scoundrel, she ran for the royal court.  She took refuge with her godmother, the queen, and become her grace’s counsellor.  She hopes to gather royal favor to get her lands back and escape the claims of her would-be husband.
At court, she meets a dark man, known only as the Raven. He has a terrible reputation, especially compared to Alienore’s virtuous one.  But circumstances throw them together. And their attraction quickly proves too powerful to ignore.  Alienore has to navigate royal intrigue and work to regain her lands, while at the same time, try to figure out if Raven is really the dastardly blackheart his reputation suggests.

I had high hopes for this book. Whoever wrote the back cover summary needs a raise, because it sold me 100%.  Once I got to reading, it was ok.  There were a lot of characters to digest and for the first 1/3 of the book,  I struggled to keep all the men straight.  The sexual tension was pretty good between our lead characters but it took a long time before anything happened between them. And when it did, I felt like we scrimped a little on the details. (If I’m going to wait that long, I want a good payoff!)

The ending was happy, albeit a bit predictable. Overall, it was a fairly good historical romance that was a little light on the steam. 3 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Review: This Side of the Grave

Reviewed by Jen
It’s been a long wait for a new Cat & Bones book.  And though I was glad to be back with two of my favorite characters, it didn’t quite enthrall me as much as the previous installments. Don’t get me wrong, the Night Huntress series on a bad day, is still leaps and bounds ahead of most books on their best days.  Some of the dialogue was laugh-out-loud funny.  I love our characters and great world Jeaniene Frost has built around them.  But noticeably absent in this installment is any tension between Cat and Bones.  Of course, at a certain point it is laughable to think anything can come between these two. But the tension present in every book before this one helped make them explosive.  Here, we had one memorable sex scene, which frankly had me more distracted by the practicality of the abundant use of hot wax, than allowing me to really get into the moment.

The premise for this story is that the ghouls are still pushing the idea of war against the vampires. And Cat is their rallying point, with the unusual talents she has manifested. She and Bones go back to New Orleans to consult with Marie Laveau who boosts Cat with some black magic mojo.  In the meantime, Cat reaches out to her network of friends to try to stop the war from happening.

To me, the threat just didn’t seem as in-your-face as in times past. I never felt real danger.  I was only really moved with the surprising storyline surrounding Don.   And other than with him, I didn’t feel the same connection I usually do with the supporting characters.

I don’t want to sound like I’m disparaging the book, because I did enjoy it…. just not as much as the ones that came before. 4 stars.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Review: Eternal Kiss of Darkness

Reviewed by Jen
Jeaniene Frost knocks another one out of the park, with her second Night Huntress World book. This one features the ancient Egyptian vampire Mencheres.  He is essentially the uber-vampire, with powers beyond measure. But ever since he had to help kill his wife Petra, he has lost his ability to see into the future. And he fears that it’s a portent of his death.  Not only that, he feels like he has nothing really left to live for –and he’s ready to commit suicide-by-ghoul, when a human named Kira intervenes.  She witnesses the ghouls attacking Mencheres and steps in to stop them and nearly dies in the process.  Once the danger has passed, Mencheres tries to wipe her memories of the supernatural from her mind, but he can’t.  So he brings her home, while he tries to figure out a way to erase her knowledge.

Of course, our couple is attracted to each other off the bat.  But keeping their hands off each other is the least of their problems. An old enemy of Mencheres is after him, trying to usurp his powers. And he sees Kira as a golden opportunity to break Mencheres’ spirit and force him to transfer his ancient gifts.

I loved this book. I didn’t think I’d care for Mencheres, but I did.  Frost can write sexual tension like nobody’s business.  And when our couple finally got around to doing the deed… W.O.W. In addition to the great romance and action, we also get the treat of time spent with Vlad, Cat & Bones.  I can’t wait for the next book; this series never lets me down.   5 stars.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Review: First Drop of Crimson

Reviewed by Jen
Jeaniene Frost has created such memorable characters beyond Cat & Bones in her Night Huntress books that I felt like I already knew Charles and Denise before their spinoff story even began. Charles is a vampire, who also goes by the name Spade. He is best friend to Bones, while Denise is Cat’s human best friend.  She lost her husband Randy in that zombie attack at the end of At Grave’s End. It’s been a year, but she still suffers from PTSD and wants nothing to do with the supernatural world.  But the demon targeting members of her family missed that memo.  Raum (the demon) is searching for one of Denise’s ancestors who welched on a deal with him decades ago. Vampires are hiding him. And if Denise doesn’t produce him, she and the rest of her family are toast.

When she can’t reach Cat & Bones, she calls Charles. He agrees to help her on her mission. And from the get-go he is fighting a serious attraction toward her. It goes against everything he stands for to have feelings for a human, since his last love was a human who died horribly. Now, he only dates other vampires.  Adding a little more urgency to the search, Raum has infected Denise with part of his demon essence, which taints her blood and is changing her physiology.

I loved this book.  The relationship build between Charles & Denise was great; the sexual tension and eventual payoff, off the charts. We got to see some old favorites like Mencheres & Ian — and even got a little face time with Cat & Bones.  At first, I was annoyed that Jeanienne Frost was going the way of the spinoff, when I love Cat & Bones so much, but if they’re all this good, I’m happy to stand corrected. 5 stars.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Review: Destined for an Early Grave

Reviewed by Jen
It occurred to me as I finished the last Cat & Bones book, with a love like theirs, how can Jeaniene Frost create any measurable tension between our beloved main characters? I mean, we’ve already had our “Bones is dead” grief –and we’ve established Cat would never stray. So what could possibly come between them?  The answer: Cat’s first husband.

It seems that a vamp named Gregor has a little bit of Mencheres’ ability to see in the future. He caught a glimpse of the power Cat will wield and decided to take her for himself, before she ever met Bones.  She was only 16 and she has no memory of their time together, because Mencheres erased it from her mind. The only reason she knows Gregor even exists now, is because he has been using his powers at the “Dreamsnatcher” to come to her in dreams.  Now, Gregor is demanding Cat to return to him.

This story is full of twists and turns that take us from New Orleans (to visit Marie Laveau) to Bavaria to wherever the heck Vlad lives.  We get more angst in the relationship between Cat and Bones than we have had in any other book.  And for the first time, I questioned whether they really could be driven apart.  We see a major change in Cat; one with serious, unexpected fallout. And we lose a beloved character.

It was another great installment in the Night Huntress series. And I’m again left wondering, what the heck will happen next? 5 stars.

P.S. I love Vlad and his relationship with Cat.  I can’t wait for his spinoff story!

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Review: At Grave's End

Reviewed by Jen
With her first two Night Huntress books, Jeaniene Frost showed she could make me laugh and she could write one heck of a sex scene. Now she proves she can make me cry too.   I loved this third installment of the Cat & Bones books every bit as much as the ones that came before it, only this one added a deeper emotional resonance.  

As our story begins, half vampire Cat and her full-vampire husband Bones are working together to lead a government team, targeting dangerous supernaturals.  Work is good; their relationship is strong. But happiness quickly goes in the toilet when Cat’s evil vampire father Max comes back into the picture, bent on killing his daughter. Of course, he doesn’t succeed, but he does major damage, and heralds the latest master-plot to kill Cat. The main storyline surrounds this latest big bad, a Master named Petra.

But there is a lot going on in the background too: Tate’s infatuation with Cat and the lengths he’ll go to in order to win her love; Bones’ relationships with other vamps and their political wrangling; Mencheres’ tortured history; and the growing “family” that Cat has created for herself in her new life.
There are two points in the book where Cat faces immeasurable tragedy. One works itself out happily. One does not. Both brought me to tears. 

I love Cat & Bones. It’s amazing that one relationship can sustain an entire series of romance books, but I can’t imagine growing bored with them.  This series is fast paced, fun, sexy and easy to read. Two big thumbs up. 5 stars.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Review: One Foot in the Grave

Reviewed by Jen
Move over Mommy Dearest, Justina Crawfield may have just stolen your title as the worst mom in the history of the world. Because of her, and her undying hatred for vampires, her daughter Cat has spent the past four years without the love her life. At the end of Halfway to the Grave, a military organization came to Cat and asked her to join their special unit, designed to fight vampires. That, or they would kill her vampire-lover, Bones. Cat would have just run off with Bones, but she knew Justina would never accept him and she would become a target for all of Cat’s enemies. So Cat accepted the job and disappeared, leaving Bones with only a goodbye note.

In the past four years, Cat has used her skills as a half-vampire to train a team.  And they’re as close as family. But now, a new threat is on the scene. He wants Cat dead.. and only Bones can keep her safe. Of course, when they come together again, all the old magic is there, but with years of longing fueling their desires.  They make an explosive couple.  The sex is even more amazing this time around… My Goodness, Jeaniene Frost, you could make a reader blush.

What’s different about the first book in the series, is that now we are fleshing out some great secondary characters which become pivotal to the series: humans like Denise, Tate, Juan, & Don; our ghoul Rodney is back; and we’ve got vamps like Charles, Annette, & Ian. And let’s not forget Cat’s parents. Yes, parents with an “s.” You already know what I think of Justina; but dad Max is even worse. It’s really a wonder that Cat turned out as well as she did.

This was a great book. Most Paranormal Romances have a new couple with each edition, but Cat & Bones are strong enough to keep me glued to the page for as many books as Frost can churn out. This is a fabulous, fun, easy read –and a series I would recommend without reservation. 5 stars.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Review: Halfway to the Grave

Reviewed by Jen
This is absolutely one of my favorite series of all time.  It’s a fast paced mix of action, urban fantasy, & paranormal romance.  A fun, smart, sexy story with two fantastic main characters.

Cat is a woman on a mission to rid the world of vampires and she is trying to do it herself, one bloodsucker at a time.  She visits bars, entices them out, and when they go for her neck, they get a pointy surprise to the heart.  Cat isn’t what you might expect for a vampire hunter, because she is a half-vampire herself.  Her mother has told her since she was a teen that she was the product of rape at the hands of a vamp… and her mom has encouraged her to use her own vampire-like abilities against the undead.  And she was making quite a go of it, until she met Bones.  He is a vampire like no other Cat has met before. He is strong; he’s fast; and sexy.  And he’s taking on Cat as a protegé.  He kills vampires too, but only certain ones for certain reasons.  And Cat makes great bait.

This book works on so many levels.  Yes, Cat is young, but she is no trembling virgin. She is tough and brave (even if she uses both attributes to hide her inner hurts.)  Bones is hot! And despite how quickly his feelings develop, I believe them 100%.  The sex is perfect.  Descriptive but not creepy.  And as great as the romance is –and it is pretty great– it doesn’t overshadow the story arc, which is action-packed.

This isn’t a story that’s going to make you think. It’s not complicated or terribly complex.  But that’s not what it’s designed to be. It’s a great, sexy escape from reality –that will have you coming back for more.  5 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
Halfway to the Grave
by Jeaniene Frost
Release Date: November 1, 2007
Publisher: Avon

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Series Reading Order: Night Huntress

This is the reading order for the Night Huntress (Cat & Bones) series by Jeaniene Frost:

*Denotes Night Huntress world book
**Denotes short story/ novella

The short story Reckoning is a prequel which features Bones before he met Cat.  Happily Never After and Devil to Pay are Night Huntress world novellas that do not feature Cat & Bones.

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Review: Dreams of a Dark Warrior

I’ll admit, I am a Kresley Cole fan-girl. But I have a very good reason for that: her books are simply the best in the Paranormal Romance genre.  And this latest installment in the Immortals After Dark series features Regin the Radiant, one of the raucous Val-Hall Valkyrie we’ve grown to know and love.  Hundreds of years ago, she fell in love with a Berserker warrior named Aidan and they planned to marry. But he was killed by a vampire before he could realize his plans to become immortal.  Now his love for Regin prompts him to reincarnate over and over.  But each time, as he remembers their love, he is killed more brutally than the time before.

In this incarnation, he is Declan Chase… a man who has devoted his life to the destruction of Lorekind.  He is running an island facility that tests and tortures members of each species, hoping to exploit their weaknesses and harness their strengths to use against them.  This is the same camp where Carrow was taken in Demon from the Dark.  Of course, Regin is one of those abducted.  Declan doesn’t remember her, but he feels a pull towards her that he can’t explain.  He’s lived a tortured life and has good reason to hate the Lore, but despite that, and despite the drugs he takes to suppress his berserker strength, he can’t ignore the attraction.  At the same time, Regin struggles with a terrible choice: sacrifice herself or help Declan remember his life as Aidan and hasten the death of the only man she has ever loved.

As always, Cole fleshes out her characters so much that I can’t help but care for them deeply.  And each book is a symphony of sexual tension and payoff.  She always finds such a great balance between the love and the sex. 
Just like the group of books that take place simultaneously surrounding the Hie, we see the storyline converge from this book  in the same time frame as Lucia’s and Carrow’s before it. We’re also seeing the set-up for the next book in the series, which can’t come soon enough in my opinion.  And that is Lothaire’s story. (I’m also dying to get Lanthe’s story… which is a suprise, considering how much I hated Sabine.)
It can't be ignored that Declan is not the best hero. He does some pretty crappy stuff and it's hard to forgive him for it.  His issues are also pretty substantial and he is what keeps this one from rating as high for me as some of Cole's other books. I kind of wish that the hero would have been Aidan instead. 4 stars.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Review: Dragon Warrior

Reviewed by Jen
I try to make it a point never to jump into the middle of an existing series, but I didn’t realize that’s what I was doing when I started this book.  Our hero, William, is a 9th century Irishman who was once trapped in the body of a dragon. It seems he came forward in time to find a man named Kenzie, who used to be a panther, but somehow had the power to make William a man again. I say “it seems” because this all happened in Moonlight Warrior, a book I haven’t read… and one that clearly set up the events in this story.

Anyway, William has it bad for Maddy, a nurse at a retirement home. She is leery of love because of her failed first marriage. But William is determined. He makes allies of the men and women in the nursing home. And it doesn’t hurt that his buddy Kenzie is married to Maddy’s best friend. Maddy’s reticence is not the only obstacle our couple is facing. There are also evil forces… showing up as killer wolves out to get them. I never did understand what/who the wolves were, other than that they were evil. But maybe that was something explained in the first book too. (It’s a fine line an author has to walk, to bring new readers up to speed but spare redundancy for those who have read earlier installments.)

The love story was actually quite good. And the sex scenes were very hot. Unlike many PR books, our heroine is no trembling virgin. She’s a grown woman with a child and a romantic history of her own. It made her very relatable. And William.. Yeow. Chapman paints quite a sexy mental picture!

The bottom line: I really liked this book. But I have no doubt I would have liked it better if I had read Moonlight Warrior first. I’ll be sure to do that before the final book in the trilogy is released, because I do plan on reading Trace & Fiona’s story. 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by Simon & Schuster

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Series Reading Order: Midnight Bay Trilogy

This is the reading order for the Midnight Bay trilogy by Janet Chapman:

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Review: Night Betrayed

Reviewed by Jen
Imagine living 78 years; surviving a near apocalypse; seeing your world fall prey to zombies; watching your twin age… all while remaining an attractive version of your 30 year-old self.  That’s what happened to Theo. He’s a computer genius, one of the leaders of the Resistance against those responsible for ravaging Earth. And while surrounded by friends, he’s still alone, isolated by what makes him different.

But things change when he meets Selena. She is a strong and special woman, who doesn’t look her 50 years of age. But she is very aware that she is (or rather, appears to be) much older than Theo.  He is delivered to her, nearly dead from a gunshot wound. But instead of leading him to the other side, as she has done for so many, she manages to bring him back to life.  Selena can see death coming and guide souls to the beyond, but what most people don’t know is that she also feels she needs to save the souls of the zombies now roaming the land… even at great risk to herself.

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about an older heroine. Frankly, it’s unusual enough to have a female lead that’s my age, much less one only a few years younger than my mom. But for Theo, it makes sense. He’s 78 for crying out loud.  And Selena is a great fit for him. Their sex scenes are steamy… and we manage to continue with the series arc detailing the planet’s “Change” and the orgins of the zombie gangas.

There are some upsetting parts of the book that I didn’t see coming… (*spoiler*) namely, an unexpected death, which made me cry. And the rape of a female character, which was (thankfully) wasn’t too graphically detailed, but disturbing all the same.

A solid installment, one I enjoyed more than I expected. Check out the earlier books in the Envy Chronicles if you haven’t already.  4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Review: Evangeline

Reviewed by Jen
This was an unusal story. Kind of fairy tale meets Rebecca with a dash of Showtime After Dark.  Our title character is a young farm girl who dreams of a bigger life.  So when an older man ventures into the village and seeks her attentions, she agrees to marry him, despite the gossip that surrounds him. You see, Paul is a widower, three times over. All of his former wives, dead at a young age.  But Evangeline brushes her fears aside and moves to his giant mansion. Waiting there is the creepy maid, Matilda. How anyone could miss the “psycho” sign blinking over her head is beyond me… yet she ran the household.  Evangeline gets pregnant right away, and fights feelings of fear and dread throughout the pregnancy, as Paul works to protect his heart in the event he loses another young wife.

There were some spicy scenes that pushed up the heat. But there were a few word choices here and there that made me run cold… most often when making reference to, er, lady bits.  There were some mystical elements that didn’t quite fit (at least for me.) The story was loosely based on the Snow White/Rose Red Grimm fairy tale, but hearing the sisters talk about the “black bear” that stayed with them was disconcerting. At first, I thought the bear was a metaphor for a man, but it was really a bear –and it just didn’t work for me –that part of the story felt completely unrelated to what was happening with Evangeline and its inclusion felt forced.  Also, I never did understand the part with the talking statues.

On the plus side, I never felt compelled to put this story down. It was definitely unique. For the most part, the love scenes were good and Evangeline a likeable character. 3 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Review: Abandon the Night

Reviewed by Jen
The post-apocalyptic drama of the Envy Chronicles continues in this third installment, featuring Quent & Zoe.  Quent is on a mission to find his father, who was one of the men responsible for the near-destruction of the Earth.  Quent and four other men are living 50 years in the future.  They had been trapped in some AZ caves in 2010 when the “Change” happened and spent five decades in stasis. When they emerged from the caves, they had not aged at all, but each of the men had developed a special ability. Quent’s skill is pyschometry,  the ability to be able to see the history of an object by touching it.

Zoe is on a mission of her own: to kill the bounty hunter responsible for the death of her family –and to take down as many zombies as possible while she does it. She’s lived a solitary existence for 10 years, but Quent brings her humanity back to life.  The pair teams up as their goals converge. And while the physical part of their relationship sparked from the beginning, the emotional connection was the payoff in this book. 

While their romance progresses, we learn more about what led to the “Change.” And we get a better look some of the peripheral characters… here’s hoping for an Ian/Remy story in the future.  Overall, I enjoyed this one… maybe not quite as much as Simon’s story, but definitely worth the read. 4 stars.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Review: Embrace the Night Eternal

Reviewed by Jen
What a difference one book can make! After lukewarm feelings for Beyond the Night, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read this book… especially since the lead character, Simon, didn’t really spark much interest for me. But I’m really glad I did. Unlike the first installment in the Envy Chronicles, I felt real emotion for the characters –a connection I just didn’t have the first time around.

The concept for the series: the world is 50 years past a near-apocalypse. Many of the survivors are living in what was once Las Vegas, NV, which is now called N-V or Envy.  Creeping around at night are killer zombies called gangas… and pulling their strings are the nefarious Strangers, people who were once human, now made immortal by implanting special crystals in their bodies.  It is likely they were behind the “Change” that sent the Earth into near ruin.  Five men from 2010 now find themselves in this new world. They had gone exploring in an AZ cave and went into a kind of stasis for 50 years, awaking only 6 months before the events of the story. They had not aged, but instead came out stronger, each with a unique ability.

Simon was a crime lord’s bodyguard in his old life.  But he sees the Change as a chance to become a new man.  He is attracted to Sage, a quiet computer whiz and member of the Resistance, trying to bring down the Strangers. But he thinks she is in a relationship with another man, so he refuses to pursue his feelings. Sage is something of an outcast in Envy, because she comes from a settlement that’s like a breeding camp. She and Simon end up teaming up to infiltrate her old town to learn more about one of the leaders of the Strangers. While they’re there, it gets harder and harder to fight their growing attraction.

I really liked Simon. He’s one of those men with a dark past and hopelessness about the future –but deep down he is a really good guy, worthy of love.  I loved watching him fall in love with Sage and each time they get closer to acting on their feelings, the story gets hotter and hotter.  This was a huge improvement over the last book and I’m sorry to see it end.  Here’s hoping the next book will be as good! 4 1/2 stars.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Review: Beyond the Night

Reviewed by Jen
It’s 50 years in the future. And Earth has undergone a near-apocalypse.  Humanity’s numbers have dwindled –and there are killer zombies. OK, maybe not exactly zombies, but close enough; they’re called gangas.  And there are also sort-of immortal people called Strangers.  Thrust into this strange new world are five men from the past.  They were exploring an Arizona cave when the “Change” happened. And they went into some kind of stasis for five decades, waking only about 6 months before our story begins.  Now, they’re trying to find some kind of civilization and answers about what happened to the world.

One of the five men is Elliot. He is a doctor. And ever since the cave-thing, now he has some medical superpowers, where he can scan people like an MRI or something and heal them with his touch. Only problem is that he takes the illness onto himself or passes it on to the next person he touches.  Anyway, on their travels, the men run into a group of teens at the mercy of some gangas and they attempt to rescue them. But a mysterious woman also comes to their aid.  That woman is Jade. She has a tortured history that includes years of imprisonment and brutality at the hands of the Strangers.  Now she is part of the Resistance, fighting the mysterious immortals, that may or may not be to blame for Earth’s near destruction.

Of course, Elliot and Jade are our star-crossed lovers. It takes awhile for them to get over their skittishness and seal the deal.  Their romance was ok. I’m not sure why, but it didn’t hit the mark entirely for me.  Frankly, I was more interested in what was happening with side-character Quent and a mysterious archer woman.  I’m sure they’ll get their own book down the line.

The premise of the story is interesting and unique.  But I felt like we spent a lot of time with pop culture references back to “our time” and angst from our cave-guys that didn’t completely resonate for me.  I liked it enough that I’ll check out the next installment.  Maybe once we’re past the set-up,  I’ll be able to make a deeper connection to the characters. 3 1/2 stars.

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Series Reading Order: Envy Chronicles

This is the reading order for The Envy Chronicles series by Joss Ware (Colleen Gleason):

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Review: Silver Bound

Reviewed by Jen
About 50 pages into this book, I was pretty sure I didn’t like it.  The story centered on a woman named Jewel who was turned into a sex slave. She had been trying to escape her crime lord husband with their son, but he caught her. He had her memory erased –and had nanobots inserted into her, er, erogenous zones. Then the scientists were supposed to synch his DNA with the technology on her body to force her to respond to his urges.  But Jewel’s real true love, Guy, gets to her first. She’s halfway through the procedure (called silvering), so he can’t stop it, but he has her matched to his DNA first… because he knows he’ll never abuse her. So now she’s his sex slave until he finds a way to free her from the chains of the technology.

I’m glad I didn’t give up on the book, because it did get better. My biggest complaints initially were that I couldn’t make myself care about Jewel and the plot device of the silvering seemed heavy-handed.  Well, as the book progressed and Jewel began to regain her personality, that helped me with my first issue.  And once we got to the first real love scene, frankly nothing else mattered, because it was HOT.  All the love scenes were hot. Big thumbs up there.

The setting was kind of futuristic-western… kind of reminiscent of Joss Whedon’s “Firefly,” but with hot sex.  There was some terminology it took me a little while to completely assimilate, but it wasn’t insurmountable. Overall, a short and fairly good read, though it took me a little while to make a connection.  3 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Review: Pale Demon

Reviewed by Jen
I loved this book. Loved. Loved. Loved this book. I read somewhere that this has been Kim Harrison’s favorite book in the Hollows series so far and I can see why.I left feeling exhilarated –like absolutely anything could happen next. That is no small feat for the 9th book in a series; it would be so easy to let things to get stale.

Where do I begin? Well, begrudgingly, I can say I wasn’t in love with the beginning of the book. As advertised, Rachel is taking a road trip from Cincinnati to San Francisco. She is going to the annual witches council meeting to get her shunning removed. Instead of her planned flight with Jenks… She ends up driving, in a car that’s getting increasingly crowded… with an elf, a pixy, a vampire and two other witches. Rachel is struggling to stay alive as the council tries to get her before she reaches her destination. To complicate matters more, she is babysitting Trent, who is on a mysterious elf quest. And along the way, we meet a genetically engineered day-walking demon, who likes to eat souls and wreak havoc. Nothing Rachel can’t handle, right?

For me, the story hit its stride once Rachel faced off with the coven in San Francisco. And frankly, that was sooner than I expected. (I thought the road trip would last the whole book, but it was really more like 1/3 of it.) Her time in the ever-after is captivating. I loved having a peek inside the demon culture. I was enthralled getting to really know Al and Newt. And holy-freaking-cow, there was one scene at Al’s place that blew me away. I think I read it four times before I could move on. I won’t spoil it, but if you’ve read the book, you know the part I’m talking about.

We have huge, huge developments surrounding what Rachel is and how she sees herself. We have (yet another) major shift in the relationship between Ivy and Rachel… one that leaves me wondering about their future. We see possibilities and (what appears to be) resolution surrounding Rachel’s relationship with Pierce. And there are colossal changes in Rachel’s feelings for Al and Trent.

So much happens over the course of this book, when I look back to the beginning it’s hard to believe it was all part of the same story. And even though we’ve “known” some of these characters since Dead Witch Walking, I feel like we’re really getting to see inside a few of them for the first time. And I love it. And I absolutely can not wait to see what happens next. I’d give it more than 5 stars if I could.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Pale Demon
by Kim Harrison
Release Date: February 22, 2011
Publisher: Harper Voyager

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Monday, February 7, 2011

Review: Black Magic Sanction

Reviewed by Jen
As powerful as Rachel Morgan has become over the course of this series, it is easy to forget that she is not the most talented witch out there.  But now that she is shunned and the witches’ council is after her, it’s a truth that cannot be ignored.  The council kidnaps Rachel in retaliation for her dealings with demons.  Some just want her imprisoned; some want her stripped of her magic; and some want to steal her eggs to make more witches who can kindle demon magic.  Fortunately, Rachel still has Al’s summoning name and makes it back home to mount her defense.

Rachel’s ties to Al are closer than ever. In fact, it looks like our resident demon is developing quite a fondness for her.  And while I don’t think Rachel considers him a BFF, the tide may be turning on how she thinks about him too.  The whole teacher-student thing is giving them something of a bond. 

Pierce is back and moving with great swiftness into the boyfriend category.  We still get some reminders of Kisten (and they still tug on my heartstrings) but Rachel seems to be ready to move on. Of course, as our hearts begin to mend from his wrenching death, Kim Harrison is standing by, ready to crush us again with another beloved character death.  It’s not a big surprise, but it packs a big emotional punch.

All of this happens as Rachel struggles to come to terms with what she is. A demon? A witch? It really doesn’t matter, as she looks inside herself and starts to judge right and wrongs without the labels and preconceptions she’s had all her life.  Another great Hollows installment. 5 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon
Black Magic Sanction
by Kim Harrison
Release Date: February 23, 2010
Publisher: Harper Voyager

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Review: White Witch, Black Curse

Reviewed by Jen
Tell the truth. Did you take the time to read all of those Hollows short stories scattered in anthologies over the past few years?  If the answer is yes, you’re finally getting your payoff.  Just about every short story associated with the series comes into play here. And while you didn’t HAVE to read them all to understand, they certainly give the reveals here something-extra for the fans who went beyond the novels.

We pick up with Rachel accepting her deal with the demon, Al, to become his student.  Her friendship with fellow witch, Marshall, is deepening and looks like it may just develop into something more.  Things seems to be evening out a bit, until someone attacks Glenn, a human officer and good friend to Rachel. It’s quickly revealed that a banshee named Mia and her husband Remus are to blame.  We met Mia back in “Undead in the Garden of Good & Evil.” She was the person who convinced Ivy that she could change her life, be more than the monster Piscary crafted her to be.  In return, Ivy gave her the wish Rachel granted her in Dead Witch Walking. And Mia used that wish to fashion herself a family.

In the meantime, Rachel finds out someone is haunting her church. Do you remember any ghosts in her past? Think back to “Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel.” Yep, good old Pierce is back. And he is a welcomed sight.  Especially as we see Rachel struggle to remember bits and pieces of the night Kisten died.  The last book gave me a small break from the heartbreak I felt in For a Few Demons More. But it is back with a vengeance as Rachel finally remembers his sacrifice with heart-breaking clarity. And his killer? Another familiar face with a grudge set up in (you guessed it) another short story.

Rachel suffers even more hard knocks in this book. While nothing will ever touch the loss of Kisten (and believe me, she is still suffering that), the indignities and loss just keep piling on. Thank goodness for Ivy and Jenks. They are her anchors and her true family.  Another great Hollows installment. But please, Kim Harrison, do you have to make me cry so much? 5 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon
White Witch, Black Curse
by Kim Harrison
Release Date: February 24, 2009
Publisher: Harper Voyager

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Review: The Outlaw Demon Wails

Reviewed by Jen
I still haven’t recovered from what happened to Kisten… and even though three months have passed for Rachel since the events of the last book, she hasn’t either. But she is trying.  Of course, even when she is trying to piece her life together, more circumstances beyond her control arise to make it all fall apart again.  In this case, it’s Al. He’s back and he is royally ticked off.  The demon blames Rachel for the fact that he is in trouble in the ever-after and he plans on punishing her every time someone summons him out. And that has been happening with increasing frequency. 

In the meantime, Trent is back in her orbit. He wants her help to get a genetic sample from the elves in the ever-after.  He believes if he gets an old enough sample, he can use it to genetically alter and save the future of his race… and Ceri’s unborn child.

This book is a lot more action oriented than most Hollows books. Usually, the character development puts the happenings of the story firmly in the backseat. That’s not so here.  Sure, we have some residual heartache over Kisten, some angst about Rachel’s family history, and the ever-present will-they-or-won’t-they with Ivy. But I was actually more wrapped up with the momentum of the action this time –and frankly, I was glad for it. After the emotional wringer Kim Harrison put me through last time, it was nice not to read the book through tears.

We take a fantastic trip to the much-anticipated ever-after. We meet more demons and get an unexpected look inside their world.  Plus a pretty big reveal as to why Rachel is so special and what that means for demon-kind.

A great book that really moved the overall story forward and opens the doors for many new possibilities in the next installment. 5 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Outlaw Demon Wails
by Kim Harrison
Release Date: February 26, 2008
Publisher: Harper Voyager

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Review: For a Few Demons More

Reviewed by Jen
This book shredded me. I cried for the last 50 pages or so. And not just a silent tear or two, but out-loud crying… messy with used Kleenex all over the sofa. I will not spoil the why’s of it, but I can’t possibly talk about this book without acknowledging its enormous emotional impact.  I don’t know if I can ever forgive Kim Harrison.

With the ending weighing on me so heavily, it’s hard to look back to the rest of the book.  It starts out strong, addressing the repercussions of Rachel’s interaction with the demon Newt.  And as the story goes on, the focal point becomes a string of suspicious werewolf deaths. They turn out to be linked to the “focus,” that statue Rachel got from Nick in A Fistful of Charms. It has the power to create new werewolves from humans –and now everyone wants it. And Rachel becomes everyone’s target as they fight to get it. –I also have to mention… just when I though that maybe Trent wasn’t a total slimeball, I’ve changed my mind again. He is.

I always reread a series before a new installment comes out, but this is the book that made me dread re-reading the Hollows. Not because it’s a bad book. On the contrary, it is incredibly powerful. I just remembered the ache it put in my chest the first time around –and even knowing what would happen, didn’t ease the hurt the second time.  If you’re a fan of the series, you can’t skip this one. Just have your Kleenex ready. 5 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon
For a Few Demons More
by Kim Harrison
Release Date: March 20, 2007
Publisher: Harper Voyager

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Review: The Heiress

I really liked The Countess.  But I can’t say I liked it so much that I wanted to read huge chunks of it a second time.  It pains me to speak poorly of The Heiress, because I really did enjoy the parts that were new. Unfortunately, I can’t ignore how much of this book was a rehash of its predecessor.
The events in the first 2/3 of the book covered the same story as The Countess, only from the perspective of a different couple.  Daniel is best friend to Richard, who in the last book was trying to confront the twin brother who had tried to have him killed and assumed his identity.  That same twin had married Chrissy in Richard’s name, treated her like trash, then was killed.  Suzette is Chrissy’s sister and sets her sights on Daniel as a relationship develops between Chrissy and Richard.

The entire first book is recapped. And frankly, it is done in a way that I think would be confusing for people who have not read The Countess and excruciatingly redundant for those of us who have.  And it’s a shame because the new scenes we see between Suzette and Daniel are fantastic. And the last third of the book is entirely new.  Those parts shine.  I love Suzette, her frankness and her boldness.  I love the way Daniel can appreciate her, despite her differences from the norms of propriety. Their love scenes are very sexy –and I think I would have been bowled over by a book of all new material about the two of them.  Unfortunately, that isn’t what we got.

I’ve been looking forward to a book on Lisa and Robert, but I swear, if I have to go through the events of Dicky’s death and the “mystery” behind it one more time, I might just scream. I’m crossing my fingers that any book we see on them, picks up AFTER this one has left off. 3 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

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