Thursday, March 31, 2011

Review: Lover Unleashed

Reviewed by Jen
I feel like I've been waiting ages for this latest installment and now that I'm finished reading it, I feel... dissatisfied. It wasn't bad. It felt like it was a transition book. Like JR Ward ran out of stories linked to our core cast of characters and is setting up the characters for the next cluster of books.

Obviously, we've run out of Brothers, so we need new warriors. Enter Xcor and his five "bastards." They're hardcore killers, who fight dirty. They kill Lessers and live in the old-ways. Hey, look: There's a pretty aristocratic one, a scarred one... Maybe we'll hit the jackpot and one of them will go blind or develop a BDSM predeliction. But I digress.

This book is supposedly about V's sister Payne. She was paralyzed at the end of Lover Mine and only Dr Manny, Jane's old friend, can save her. Let me say, it takes freaking-forever before Manny and Payne even meet. It was nearly a quarter of the way into the book before they lay eyes on each other. The beginning of the book really dragged for me. When our couple finally did meet, there were hardly the fireworks I usually feel for a couple in this series. There was nothing particularly wrong with either character. Verily (snicker), I liked them both. But by the time they got together, their relationship (for lack of a better word) was rushed. And frankly, not much to speak of.

There is actually much more going on between V and Jane. Payne's arrival and injury really tweaks her brother out. And he goes on a downward spiral that causes grave problems in his relationship. And he slips back into his S&M bag-o-tricks to help him deal. I was disturbed by his coping strategies. And saddened for Jane at how some of it played out.

If I'm being honest, I spent most of the book scooping up the crumbs Ward sprinkled in on my beloved Qhuinn and Blay storyline. Yes, our boys are in there. But not very much. Most of the soul-searching and pining about this relationship has been from Blay's perspective. What we get here is almost all Qhuinn. And it's just so sad. For everyone involved: Qhuinn, Blay, Saxton, and Layla. God, maybe I need some Lagavulin. It seems to work for everyone else.

I can see why there are such mixed reviews out on this one. I wasn't thrilled with it, but it wasn't bad. It was just missing some of the heart that the series usually has. Maybe it's because John Matthew has provided such a consistent and emotionally resonant b-story in so many previous books --and that is noteably absent. Q & B's scenes were too few and far between to fill the gap. The new warriors are too, well, new to care about. And I don't know what the serial killer storyline was even doing in the book. So like I said earlier, it's a transition book. Hopefully the next installment will have a little more heart. --Oh yeah, and some more sex.

3 1/2 stars.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review: Lover Mine

Reviewed by Jen
I. Loved. This. Book.  And in no small part, that is because I love John Matthew.  I really had no choice in the matter. JR Ward introduced him to us back in Lover Eternal.  He was this sad, scrawny mute kid, who has never had a break in his life. Then he finds a family with the Brotherhood. Only to have the rug pulled out from under him with the tragic death of his adopted mother and the utter breakdown and disappearance of his adopted dad. We've gone through his transition with him. And watched him fall in love with Xhex.  Only to have her ripped away from him by his old enemy, Lash.

Now as this book begins, Xhex has been gone for weeks. And John is determined to find her.  Even though he thinks his love for her is one-sided, he refuses to give up.  Xhex, meanwhile, is being brutalized in ways I won't get into here. But she does manage to escape and have her reunion with John.   It's clear that no one has ever loved Xhex the way John Matthew does. And it is hard for her to accept what he wants to give. She has always depended on herself and fears the weakness that loving him could bring.  Their love story is absolutely amazing. I couldn't have asked for a better story for John. Romantic yet still very sexy.

I could have done without some of the cut-scenes.  Some of them are necessary, detailing Xhex's conception and birth, as well as Lash's slide into crazy-land.  I could have done without the whole Bed & Breakfast storyline.  The reveal on who the ghost was wasn't worth the number of times Ward pulled me away from the parts of the book I was really interested.  And speaking of the parts I was really interested in, I have two words for you: Qhuinn and Blay.  I love watching their story unfold ever bit as much as I've loved John & Xhex's. Blay is so incredibly vulnerable. And Qhuinn... well, it's about time the guy starts to realize that the feelings his friend has are not entirely one-sided.  I want these two together so much. I'm dying to read the next installment for them alone.  As far as the real focus of the next book, Payne, is concerned, I don't have strong feelings one way or another. I've never been a huge Vishous fan, and clearly her story will be related to his. So we'll see.

As for Lover Mine, it's my favorite in the series, second only to Lover Awakened. I don't think anyone will ever replace Zsadist in my heart but this one came close. 5+ stars.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Review: Lover Avenged

Reviewed by Jen
I feel sorry for all those people who gave up on the Black Dagger Brotherhood after Phury's book.  Because Rhev's book was awesome.  In my opinion, the best book since Lover Awakened.

Rhevenge is not a typical hero. He's a killer, a drug lord, and a pimp. He is sleeping with his half-sister.  And he was conceived when his sympath father raped his vampire mother.  Even half-sympaths are ostracized in the vampire world, so his wretched half-sister, the Princess of the people, holds the secret over his head.  If he doesn't pay her off every month and have sex with her, she'll tell everyone what he is.  He hates her, but he knows that if his secret is uncovered, it will destroy his mother and his sister.

To keep his evil side at bay, Rhev shoots himself up with dopamine.  It's at the doctor's office, he meets the lovely nurse Ehlena.  The relationship that develops between the two is actually pretty sweet... long talks on the phone and sweet dinners together. Of course, she has no idea what he is and knows nothing about the seedy side of his life. But the two of them have such a lovely connection.  Rhev wants to be the man Ehlena thinks he is, but he is trapped. 

In the meantime, our sweet John Matthew has been broken. It's really tough to witness.  He has always been this sweet, gentle soul. Now he has been hurt too many times and the boy we knew is gone... replaced with someone who has simply stopped caring.  What's worse is that he was broken by those he loved most. 

In the course of the book, we learn more about Xhex. And we watch Lash flex his muscles as the leader of the Lessers.  I'm ready for him to get his comeuppance.  (But having already read Lover Mine, I know he becomes even more despicable before that happens.)  There is also a lot of Wrath in this story. There are big changes in his life and it's nice to know that our old favorites aren't forgotten just because they found their loves in earlier installments.

Overall, this was a great book.  A solid love story. A great hero. If you gave up on the series, this one is worth coming back for. 5 stars.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Review: Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider's Guide

Reviewed by Jen
I have to tell you, I never buy guides to books.  They always feel like a combination of rehash and filler.  And to be honest, I didn't buy this one either. (A friend lent it to me.) But I did buy the ebook version of the "Father Mine" novella. Had it not been available, I would have bought the whole thing in a heartbeat. And it would have been worth it.

"Father Mine" is the story of how Zsadist becomes a father to his daughter. Yes, we saw how Nalla was conceived back in Lover Awakened. But the novella picks up shortly after her birth and shows the trouble Z is having in bonding with her.  He's having nightmares that tie her in to his years of torture.  He feels unworthy of her.  And as a result, he doesn't touch her; doesn't even look at her; and it's driving him and Bella apart.

This is a great story. Granted, I'd probably enjoy a story about Z & Bella having a dry-cleaning crisis. But in just 84 pages, Ward recaptures the heartbreak of Z's past and the deep passion and devotion he has for his mate.  It is wrenching, sweet, and of course, sexy. The short story alone would get 5 stars.

The rest of the guide consists of odds and ends designed to give you a closer look at the previous books and characters.  There are mock interviews between the author and characters. (Kind of contrived for me.) But there was also a book by book breakdown, where Ward talks about her process and thoughts on each novel. That, I did enjoy.  She talked about what worked for her and what she was striving for. And she clarified a few finer points that I had some lingering confusion on: like the Butch & V relationship as well has how John Matthew managed to become the reincarnation of Darius. (That one always confused me a little because of the timeline.)

Hmm. What else? Some deleted scenes (including an earlier version of the break-up sex scene between Z & Bella that was better than the one that was published.) Some tips for aspiring authors; Ward's initial proposal to her publisher about the series; Some silly internet postings from the perspectives of the characters; And a Q&A with the author.  Meh.  Other than the scene I mentioned above, none of that really did much for me. 

So, when all is said and done, I still don't plan to go out and buy this book, but only because I own the novella. If you haven't read "Father Mine," go out and get it now!  The rest mostly feels like extras from the author's website.

4 stars.

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Review: Lover Enshrined

Reviewed by Jen
This is my least favorite installment in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. And I know for some people, it was the point in which they stopped reading the series.  It's definitely a turning point.  And I can tell you what the problem is in one word: Phury.  He is our male lead and quite frankly, he's lame.

At the end of the last book, Phury agreed to take his brother V's place as Primale of the race. He is essentially being put out to stud to repopulate the race. He's not a very good choice for the job, though, seeing as how he is a drug addict and a virgin.  Cormia has been chosen as his "First Mate." He's supposed to sleep with her first, before boffing her 40 sisters of the faith. But he won't seal the deal.  He's too busy getting high and feeling sorry for himself. 

Now I love a tortured hero, but Phury is just tortured... or maybe I'm the one tortured. By his whining.  Cormia is ok. She has lived a sequestered life and is just now learning to live in the outside world.  She's not the best heroine, but she doesn't stink like Phury.

Let me tell you why the book IS worth reading, though.  There's a great secondary story surrounding John Matthew and BDB: The Next Generation. We see his arch-enemy Lash transform into something worse than he already was.  We getting the stunning revelation that opens to the door for a relationship between two beloved characters. And we watch JM's feeling intensify for his future HEA, Xhex.   What's more, we have a great set-up for Rhev's story, which is next. And the return of TOHR

The bottom line is that while it is the weakest book in the series, you shouldn't skip it. Those great secondary storylines usher in the future of the Brotherhood. Just hold your nose and suck it up through the parts where Phury is whining and before you know it, you'll be ready to read Lover Avenged.

3 1/2 stars.

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Review: Lover Unbound

Reviewed by Jen
Vishous is one messed-up guy.  He had a tortured youth at the hands of his warped father.  He was nearly castrated and terribly scarred.  He can't have a normal sexual relationship. And he thinks he's in love with his best friend. Who is another guy.  And things are only getting more complicated in his life.

As the book begins, V is mooning over Butch and feeling kind of skeevy about it, since Butch is happily married and decidedly not gay.  Quickly, he is approached by the Scribe Virgin and told he'll have no choice but to become the Primale of the race. Essentially, he is being put out to stud in order to breed new warriors.  But before he takes the job (which, by the way, he does NOT want) he gets shot. He would have died if he had not been taken to a human hospital and saved at the hands of Doc Jane.

By the time the Brotherhood finds him, V is already attached to her and demands she comes back to the compound to help him heal. That is what kicks off the relationship between them.  There are many twists and turns as well as big revelations in this book I won't spoil.  I do want to touch on two things, though. One is the Butch issue.  V's sexual fixation on him made me uncomfortable, largely because it makes him so uncomfortable.  But I found Butch's explanation made perfect sense, when he explained that he was the first person that V ever loved in any way --and that he simply didn't know what to do with those feelings.  Issue two: I'm not a big fan of BDSM.  Yeah, V is messed up and deals with his issues by being a Sadist and a Dom.  But it's not my cup of tea... even if I'm only reading about it.  Thankfully, with love, V can also take a more tender path.

As with all Black Dagger Brotherhood books, there are also several side stories going on. John Matthew finally goes through his transition. It's great watching him become the warrior he was destined to be, while he forges great friendships that extend into future books.. And we also have the set-up for Phury's book. That one is, admittedly, my least favorite in the series, but I know I'm not the only one who feels that way. 

Also of note, no Lesser POV in this one. I usually have to force myself not to skim over those parts, so it was a welcome change. 4 stars.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Review: Lover Revealed

Reviewed by Jen
The problem with reading a truly exceptional book is that you find yourself judging other books against it. And the other books always fall a little short. Lover Unleashed has the misfortune of coming after Lover Awakened. It's not a bad book, but it doesn't hold a candle to its predecessor.

We met Butch O'Neal back at the start of the series. He was a tough human cop, who ended up being drawn in the world of vampires. He ended up friends with the members of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, the warriors who defend their race. He is especially close to Vishous.  And he has an enormous crush on a the beautiful, virginal vampire Marissa.  But she doesn't seem to return his feelings.

As our story begins, Butch is taken by vampire hunters, called Lessers, and infected with the essence of their leader, the Omega.  He nearly dies and is rushed to the vampire doctor Havers, who happens to be Marissa's brother. Once she learns of his injuries, Marissa sticks to Butch like glue... and we learn she cared for him all along. This is just the first in a series of contrived stumbling blocks between the two of them. Time and time again, we see how deeply these two care for and need one another. Then something stupid gets in their way and it seems to be over. Then they come back together. Rinse & repeat.

Beyond that, there is something weird going on between V & Butch. Both guys are straight, but there is a definite sexual vibe there that feels... off.  I understand these guys are really close, but even they seemed icked out by the undertones.  Some of the "why's" of their connection are revealed as the story progresses and I'm OK with V using his gift/curse to help Butch as he learns his powers.  But the sex-vibe I could do without.

And my last big peeve: they changed the rules for Butch.  I'm cool with what happened to him in the end. But it felt like Ward was cheating the rules of her own universe with his outcome.

With all that complaining, it might sound like I didn't like the book. But I did.  Ward has created a sexy, dark, complex and satisfying world with this series.  The longing and the love scenes are fantastic. And as always, I found myself as invested in the stories surrounding the secondary characters as I did Butch & Marissa.  --I mean, how can you not love John Matthew?

4 stars.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Review: Lover Awakened

Reviewed by Jen
Zsadist is the benchmark I measure all my tortured heroes against.  He is a warrior vampire, who was kidnapped as a baby. He was sold into slavery and spent the first century of his life being used for blood and sex.  His twin, Phury, rescued him, but not before irreparable damage was done to his body and mind.

Our book begins with our heroine, Bella, in captivity. She has been kidnapped by a Lesser... a soulless vampire hunter.  She reminds him of a woman he once loved and he now thinks of Bella as "his." Did I mention Mr. O is bat-shit crazy?  Yeah, completely coconuts. And he has become the Omega's butt-buddy in order to rule the Lessening Society and protect his secret love for Bella.

Z, meanwhile, has been obsessing about the kidnapped woman and searching desperately for her.  A connection between the two of them had been established in the last book... and he can't give up on her. Of course, he finds her and nurses her back to health.  She stays with Z and the other members of the Brotherhood as she heals. And she makes no secret of her feelings for Zsadist. Even though he feels the same way about her, he feels unworthy of her. So he pushes her away time and time again. When the two of them finally get together, though, their love scenes are some of the very best I have ever read. Anywhere. Zsadist is a man his own twin has proclaimed to be "ruined." But it is mesmerizing and beautiful to watch Bella's love put the broken man back together again.

I should probably warn you, there are some disturbing moments as Z's experiences are recounted through his memories. But it's necessary to see what he's had to endure, to understand the shell of a man he became. And it makes it all the more poignant, as he finally realizes the happiness he never thought he would experience. 10 stars. Out of 5.

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Follow Friday & Blog Hop

Happy Friday! Here's our weekly opportunity for bloggers to come together and check out each others sites. Please remember to leave a comment below, along with your link so that I can check out your site, and return the favor.

If you want to participate, it's easy. To learn more and to enter, check out: Parajunkee  and Crazy for Books!

Q. Inspired by the inane twitter trend of #100factsaboutme, give us five BOOK RELATED silly facts about you.

1. If left completely alone, I'd read a full length novel in 3-4 hours in one sitting.
2. I read in my car during my lunch break.
3. For a while after reading a series, I think in the speech patterns of the characters. (Right now, I keep thinking "Win!" thanks to Strider in the LotU.)
4. When one of my good friends arrives at work every day, we spend at least our first 10 minutes dishing on what we read the night before.
5. I get really bummed out when finishing a series and have to start something new right away. I call it "breaking up" with the last set of books.
6. *BONUS ANSWER* I absolutely hate it when the cover models don't match the character descriptions in a book. It drives me nuts.
Book Blogger Hop

Q. If you could physically put yourself into a book or series…which one would it be and why?

That's really hard. I'm going with the assumption that I can do whatever I want or be whoever I want in this instance. So I'd say either The Dark Hunter books, so I could completely pulverize Artemis OR The Lords of the Underworld so I could be Torin's HEA. (Don't tell my husband.)

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Review: Lover Eternal

Reviewed by Jen
JR Ward continues her super-sexy Black Dagger Brotherhood series, with the love story of Rhage and Mary.  Rhage is warrior vampire, who has pledged his life to protect the civilians of his species from soulless hunters called Lessers.  He is suave and gorgeous, but carries a curse.  When he is overcome by emotion or excess, he turns into a raging beast. He can stave off the change with frequent fighting and sex. But that keeps him from making a real emotional connection with a woman.

Mary is human.  When she takes the young John Matthew under her wing, neither she nor he know that he is about to transition into a vampire. Neither knows such a thing exists.  But when Mary introduces John to her vampire neighbor Bella, the lovely civilian vamp calls the Brotherhood to take the young man under their wing.  John can't speak, so Mary goes with him to meet the brothers and serves as in interpreter.  It there she meets Rhage --and he becomes entranced by the sound of her voice.

Rhage worms his way into Mary's life and the two go on a few dates.  He is completely captivated by her but worries what his beast will do to her if he loses control.  Circumstances force Mary under Rhage's protection, which draws the two of them closer and closer.  But there are serious obstacles in their way, like the beast, the Lessers, Mary's ignorance of the vampire world, and the recurrence of the illness she is fighting.  It's lovely to watch this obscenely beautiful man fall so completely in love with an ordinary woman.  (Though I must acknowledge, I don't know if I could forgive him as she did for his one flagrant indiscretion. I felt kicked in the stomach just reading it. Not only did she not leave him, she stuck around and boffed him instead.)

As with all books in this series, Ward does a great job weaving the other brothers into the story. We have the set-up firmly in place for Z's story, which is my absolute favorite in the series.  I love, love, love this series. And good gravy, Ward writes some steamy sex. 5 stars.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Giveaway: Eternal Prey

This giveaway is now closed. The winner is Holly from
 Full Moon Bites.

Welcome to my very first book giveaway at Red Hot Books. It's Eternal Prey by Nina Bangs.

A magnificent creature, Utah wants vengeance against the bloodsuckers who murdered his brother. Once the beast within him is unleashed, he won’t rest until every vampire is destroyed. But he never expected to encounter a leader of his immortal enemies who was so beautiful, bewitching and mortal.

It is Lia’s destiny and her duty to stop the renegade vampires who are intent on annihilating the human and non-human races alike. But she never dreamed that Utah, once a deadly foe, would now become her ally and protector, or that loving him would be more dangerous than anything she’s ever faced before. For when Utah frees his predator soul, there will be no end to the carnage.

Does it sound like something you would like?  To enter, leave a comment, telling me the title of your favorite Urban Fantasy book. And if you're not a fan of the genre, tell me why you don't like it.

The contest is open to all of my followers in the US and Canada... so make sure you're following before you leave your comment. I'll announce the winner on Monday, March 28th.  Please spread the word & thanks for visiting the site!

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Review: Dark Lover

Reviewed by Jen
I start this review with the acknowledgement that the characters have ridiculous names.  There. I said it. But I strongly encourage you to get past that. Because the Black Dagger Brotherhood is knock-your-socks-off-sexy.  And this is the book that started it all.

In this world JR Ward has created, there are vampires. They cannot go in the sun and they drink blood, but only the blood of an opposite-sex member of their own race.  The live under the radars of humans. And they are hunted by soulless killers, known as Lessers.  The defenders of their race are a group of warrior vampires known as the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

As our story begins, one of the Brothers (Darius) is killed in bomb set by a Lesser. It was his dying wish for his friend Wrath to take care of his half-human daughter Beth. She has no idea Darius was her dad and knows nothing of her vampire heritage. But soon, she will reach the age of transition, where she will become truly vampire. And for that she needs the blood of a male vamp. Enter Wrath.

When the two of them meet, it's instant fire. They jump in the sack in less time than it takes you to say "holy crap."  It. Is. So. Hot.  Of course, their path isn't easy.  Wrath is the leader of the Brotherhood and is the King of his people. He already has a wife, of sorts, but he has never had a sexual relationship with her. They have only met each other's blood needs. The vampire world is new and scary to Beth. But she is no simpering whiner; She is a great leading lady: strong, loyal and smart.  And because of that --and the unbreakable connection between her and Wrath-- their happy ending is a foregone conclusion.

There are several cut scenes to what is happening with the Lessers and, like many other people, I have trouble not skimming through their pages to get back to the main story.  (This is true for all the BDB books.)  Of course, this part of the story is necessary too, so try not skip it.

The book has a great band of supporting characters. Almost all are destined to have their own books.  Ward weaves all their stories together, so as a reader, I feel part of their family. And it IS a family.  If you haven't read this book yet, now is the time.  It is amazing. 5 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
Dark Lover
by JR Ward
Release Date: September 6, 2005
Publisher: Signet

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The League: Series Trailer

As you may know, I am in the midst of a re-read on the uber-awesome Black Dagger Brotherhood series by JR Ward, in anticipation of Tuesday's release of Lover Unleashed.  BUT after that, I am going to read the ARC of the new League book that is screaming at me from my Nook... begging to be read.  This is a cool trailer for the 1st three League books, if you're not familiar with the series. They are futuristic/ sci-fi/ romance books, with all the sexy you'd expect from the fabulous Sherrilyn Kenyon.  Enjoy!

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Series Reading Order: Black Dagger Brotherhood

This is the reading order for the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by JR Ward:

*Denotes short story/novella

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Review: The Darkest Secret

Reviewed by Jen
Before I started this book, I had some serious concerns about how Gena Showalter would pull this one off. I mean, the hero of the story essentially can't speak. And the leading lady is an old-arch enemy who killed a man that he loved like a brother. But there's a reason Gena Showalter is the best-selling author and I am the fan-girl. Not only did she pull it off, but she actually managed to give us great insight into our hero and made our heroine extremely sympathetic.

Amun shares his body with the demon Secrets. He can read minds and in extreme cases, steal memories. At the end of The Darkest Lie, his gift (curse?) opened the doorway for hundreds of crazed lower-demons to also take up residence in his head... and he has been driven to madness.  Meanwhile, Strider (a fellow Lord, possessed by Defeat) has captured Haidee. She is a Hunter, who has dedicated her life to slaying Lords. In fact, centuries ago, she managed to kill one.  But once she is in the fortress, Amun reaches out to her telepathically. It is quickly revealed that the two share some kind of bond that makes them warm and fuzzy, despite the fact that they should be enemies.  In her presence, the torment from the demons quiets inside Amun.  But the Angels who have allowed him to live while he regained his sanity, demand he return to Hell (with Haidee) to be rid of them for good.

I really enjoyed getting to know Amun. He's been around since the beginning, but like Kane, he was kind of like a piece of furniture. He was there in the background, utilized or referred to from time to time, but never given much of a personality.  And Haidee is fleshed out wonderfully. I couldn't imagine how her character could be redeemed, but she was... with a fantastic backstory.  Of course, we had our sexy-Showalter love scenes. They were good; though not quite as red-hot for me as in some of the previous installments.

This book also gives us some more inside into Strider. (Win!)   I find I like him more and more with each passing book. At the end of The Darkest Lie, I really thought he would be paired with Haidee, but it was interesting to see how his lust for her is dealt with.  It was resolved a little too neatly in the end. But I can get over it, now seeing who his love interest will be in The Darkest Surrender.  I can't wait to see how it plays out. 4 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by Harlequin Books

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Review: The Darkest Lie

Reviewed by Jen
I have some mixed feelings about this book.  Our hero is Gideon and as one of the Lords of the Underworld, he holds the soul of a demon inside him. His demon is Lies, which makes him incapable of telling the truth without experiencing debilitating pain.  This. Is. Utterly. Annoying. Every single bit of his dialogue is in this absurd reverse-speak, followed by a translation so we can grasp his meaning.  It bugged me to such a degree that it almost ruined the book for me. And that would have been a shame, because outside of that, the book was really good.

Scarlet is the daughter of a goddess, and also carries a demon. Hers is Nightmares.  When the Lords found her back in The Darkest Passion, they imprisoned her while they tried to learn about her. She calls out to Gideon in a dream and he comes to the dungeon to meet her. That's when she informs him that she is his long-lost wife.  Gideon feels a connection toward her and has flashes of her in his mind, but can't remember any history together.  So the book chronicles the couple as they try to sort out their own histories and what could have made their memories so different.

Scarlet is a wounded warrior. She is strong and fearsome, but her psyche is hanging on by a thread.  The realizations that she unveils are utterly heartbreaking. I found myself crying at her memories.  And her fear of her own feelings for Gideon is so poignant.  Their love story is beautiful.

We've also got two side arcs in play. One where Strider takes an unexpected enemy captive. The other follows Aeron, William and Amun into Hell, where they try to rescue Legion from Lucifer.  It's been tough to get to know Amun, since he doesn't speak. But it was nice to get a little insight into his character as we lead up to The Darkest Secret

So as I come to the end of the review, I'm struggling to give it a rating. The story itself was really, really good. But the Gideon-speak was really, really bad.  Grrr. 4 stars... I guess.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Book Chat With Faith Hunter

Just a reminder that TODAY Tricia, Stacy, Tori and I will all be getting together to discuss the fabulous Jane Yellowrock series! It hasn’t been that long since Mercy Blade was released and we can’t wait to chat about it with you!

Come join the fun over at Talk Shoe this Sunday, March 20th at 7pm CST (8EST)! The Discussion will last 2 hours, so if you can’t be there right from the start thats OK! Just stop on in any time you can and join us!

Phone Number: (724) 444-7444
Call ID: 94482


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Review: The Darkest Passion

Reviewed by Jen
I'm a sucker for a tortured hero.  It's one of the reasons I loved Lucien's book so much. But Aeron... poor, poor Aeron. He always puts the needs of his loved ones first. He rarely seeks happiness for himself, because he doesn't really think he deserves it.  But Olivia knows better. She is angel tasked with killing him. His crime: rescuing his beloved Legion from Hell.  Olivia is given a choice... kill Aeron or lose her status as an angel.  But in the weeks she has been secretly observing Aeron, she has fallen in love with him.  So she makes the sacrifice of becoming human to give him a reprieve and to allow her a chance to meet him.  Becoming a fallen angel is excruciating. She comes to Aeron bleeding and broken.  He fights the pull he feels toward her. (Don't they always?) But she is persistent in trying to win him.

There is a lot going on in this story. Aeron is trying to protect Olivia, the other Lords, and Legion, who he sees as the daughter he never had.  But Legion wants Aeron to love her in a very different way. It was creepy and disturbing to watch the lengths she goes to.  We've got great advancement of the series story arc and a solid set-up for Gideon's story.  There is also a fantastic surprise ending that I never saw coming.

But as great as all that was, the very best part of the book was the absolutely amazing romance between Aeron and Olivia. It was both sweet and scorching. All hail Gena Showalter. 5 stars.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Follow Friday & Blog Hop

Happy Friday! Here's our weekly opportunity for bloggers to come together and check out each others sites. Please remember to leave a comment below, along with your link so that I can check out your site, and return the favor.

If you want to participate, it's easy. To learn more and to enter, check out: Parajunkee  and Crazy for Books!

Q. How did you come up with your blog name?

That one is pretty easy. I love dirty romance books. The best ones burn up the page and leave me fanning myself from the heat.  Granted, I also really enjoy some Urban Fantasy books that are a bit spare on the smut-factor.  But at the end of the day, I know where my bread is buttered.

Book Blogger HopQ. Do you read only one book at a time, or do you have several going at once?

I read really quickly. Sometimes, I have to force myself to slow down. I usually go through about a book per day. (All of the reviews you find on my site are written by me and detail the book I read the day before.) With that in mind, I only read one book at a time.  I can't imagine doing otherwise.

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Short Story Review: The Darkest Angel

Reviewed by Jen
Gena Showalter seamlessly connects the dots between The Darkest Whisper and The Darkest Passion with this super sexy short story.  Our heroine is Bianka, sister to Gwen, and a fellow Harpy.  As our story begins, she is kidnapped by the angel Lysander. It turns out, she is his one true temptation and he thinks to neutralize the threat she poses. Ultimately, they each prove to be more temptation than the other can resist. But can they overcome their huge differences? 

The great thing about this short story is that it hyper-focuses on the romance. And by "romance,"  I mean spectacular sexual tension and payoff. --Yeah, you could skip this short story and still understand what is happening in the next book. But honestly, why would you want to? It was a great story. (I'm still fanning myself.) And unlike the other two short stories set in the LotU world, this one actually features the Lords, albeit in supporting roles. 5 stars.

*This short story can be found in the anthologies Dark Beginnings and Heart of Darkness

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Review: The Darkest Whisper

Reviewed by Jen
Whenever you have an ongoing series, you always run the risk that it will grow stale. Or even worse, jump the shark.  I'm happy to say that this fourth installment in the Lords of the Underworld series, does neither. In fact, I didn't just like Sabin's story, I loved it.

Sabin, like all the Lords, shares his body with a demon.  His demon is Doubt. And compared to some of the other guys, he got off easy. But Doubt has done its fair share of making Sabin's life difficult. The biggest problem is that Doubt manages to destroy every woman Sabin gets close to. Of course, our heroine is no ordinary woman.

Gwen is a Harpy. She and some other supernatural women were kidnapped by Hunters to become part of a breeding program. The Lords stumble across them one day while fighting Hunters and rescue the women.  Gwen and Sabin have an instant connection.

One of the things I love about this series, besides the uber-hot-sex, is that no two heroes or heroines are alike. Gwen manages to be both vulnerable and strong. I loved watching her grow into her Harpy-abilities as she falls harder and harder for Sabin. Perhaps even more captivating is watching him try to fight his feelings, and failing miserably.

The love story here is both sweet and sexy. And it develops as the ongoing story arc of the Lords' battle with Galen and the Hunters continue. I hope we end up with a book for each Lord. Poor Paris needs a happy ending. 5 stars.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Review: The Darkest Pleasure

Reviewed by Jen
There really is someone out there for everyone. Even an immortal warrior, who can only find pleasure in bone-wrenching pain.  Reyes is one of the Lords of the Underworld. Each immortal carries within him a demon which escaped from hell. Reyes carries Pain, and longs to hurt himself and others. He cuts himself, breaks his own bones, whatever it takes to cause pain and soothe the beast inside of him.

We knew Danika was the woman for him back in The Darkest Night.  But he resisted his feelings for her because he was afraid his demon would taint her.  Well, that and the fact that his best bud Aeron is fighting a Titan-induced compulsion to kill her.  But three books later, Reyes is finally giving in to his desires.  Danika's life has been turned upside down since she came under the Lords' radar.  She's been on the run, hiding from Lords and Hunters alike. She's been forced to harden herself, to live in poverty. And in the end, it's not enough. Hunters catch up with her and that leads Reyes back into her life, because he must save her.

The couple is thrown together, as Reyes vows to protect Danika and she works to find the rest of her missing family.  And even though they're both fighting it, their attraction is undeniable. Now, I know there are a lot of people out there who find pleasure in some degree of pain. And skirting that line can be a turn-on. It just isn't for me, which put a big damper on the book, because, obviously, Reyes IS Pain.  There is one particularly disturbing scene in the bathroom with Reyes and a knife... Suffice it to say, it icked me out.

And yet, despite this, it was a good book. Even with the pain thing, the book was rich in sexual tension, which Showalter plays like a violin.  The great world building continues. I felt so much anguish for Paris... sympathy for all the lonely Lords, each with such burdens to bear. These books are sexy romances, but they're also more. In short order, Showalter has helped us grow emotionally invested in this immortal family.  And the ongoing story arc is entertaining, exciting, and always surprising. 4 stars. 

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Review: The Darkest Kiss

Reviewed by Jen
As much as I loved, The Darkest Night, I think I may just love this one a bit more.  Why? Because I'm a sucker for a tortured hero, that's why. And Lucien fits the bill in a big way.  He is one of the Lords of the Underworld, immortal warriors cursed to each hold a demon's soul inside his body. Lucien's demon is Death itself.  He's lived a long, lonely existence.  He fell in love once, hundreds of years ago, but was forced to ferry his woman's soul to the Otherworld. It was just too much for him to take. He cut, burned and scarred himself... to turn women away... so he would never again know the pain love can bring.

Then, along comes Anya.  She is the minor goddess of Anarchy. And she's got it bad for Lucien. She practically throws herself at him, but he can't believe she could really want him because of his appearance.  The sexual tension was so thick, you could cut it with a knife.  Anya has a curse of her own to carry --she can't have sex. But that doesn't stop this book from being RED HOT SEXY.  Lucien spends the book fighting his very real attraction to Anya, while trying to reconcile his feelings with an order from the Titan king Cronus to kill her.  This --as the couple works together, trying to recover lost artifacts that will lead them to Pandora's Box.

There were only two things I didn't love about this books.  One: I hate it when Anya calls Lucien "Flowers." And two: it's sometimes hard to believe that even Anya would keep coming back as many times as Lucien rejects her. It helps, as a reader, to know he doesn't mean it. But he slaps her down so many times, it's a miracle she didn't give up on him.  Anya is a fantastic heroine: smart, capable, confident, and beautiful.

If you like Paranormal Romance, you must read this series. It is fantastic.  5 stars.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Review: The Darkest Night

Reviewed by Jen
If Paranormal Romance is your thing, you can't go wrong with The Lords of the Underworld.  The Darkest Night is the first in this steamy series and it has held up as one of my favorites.  The premise is this: Thousands of years ago, a group of demons escaped from hell. They were captured and their essence put in Pandora's Box.  A group of immortal soldiers were angry that they were not chosen to guard the box, so they rebelled --accidentally releasing the demons permanently from their prison. The box was lost. As a punishment, each warrior would have to house one of the demons within himself for the rest of time.

This story focuses on Maddox.  He holds the demon of Violence within him.  He can barely contain it. He's prone to lashing out; raging and hurting others.  He lives along with a handful of other warriors in a castle in Budapest. He rarely leaves, because he doesn't want to lose control and cause destruction among the humans.  But one day, he catches a woman trying to get to the castle.  Ashlyn is special in her own right. She can hear the voices of people who occupied the space before her. She had heard rumors about the Lords and hoped that somehow they could help her quiet the constant noise in her head.

When Ashlyn and Maddox meet, it's magic. He quiets the voices and she helps calm his beast.  But there are many obstacles the two must overcome to be together.  One, is the Hunters trying to kill Maddox and the other Lords.  The second is a curse that Maddox must die every night and suffer the fires of hell before each dawn.

I love this book. Gena Showalter is right up there with Kresley Cole in the, er, erotic literature department. Translation = she can write one hell of a sex scene.  The world building is clear and easy to understand... and original too.  I like my vampires and werewolves as much as the next girl, but it's fun to break the mold sometimes.  And this book is certainly fun. And sexy.  And engaging.  If you haven't read it, you're missing out. 5 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
The Darkest Night
by Gena Showalter
Release Date: September 18, 2009
Publisher: Harlequin

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Series Reading Order: Lords of the Underworld

This is the reading order for the Lords of the Underworld Series by Gena Showalter:
 *Denotes short story/novella.  Only “The Darkest Angel”  includes any characters from the full length novels.

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Review: Of Dukes & Deceptions

Reviewed by Jen
Nicholas is used to having women throw themselves at his feet. He is, after all, a Duke and all the ladies want to be Duchess.  All the ladies except Alicia.  She meets Nicholas when he comes to her family's stud farm to inspect the horses.  But he was really invited so that her cousin could get her hooks into him.

Right away, Nicholas realizes Alicia is different. She is far more interested in tending animals that snaring a husband. She is fiery and independent. And creates a challenge he can't ignore. So he makes it his mission to seduce her. But things really get interesting when someone tries to kill Alicia.  Nick decides he must protect her and find out who is trying to hurt her, while he continues to work at getting her in his bed.
OK, I tried to like Nick. I really tried, but I just couldn't.  He is beyond arrogant.  It was bad enough when he was just trying to get into Alicia's bed.  Honestly, I expected him to change once the two of them got together. But if anything, I liked him even less in the bedroom.  His "schooling" of Alicia was nearly smarmy. He's blindfolding her, spanking her, and talking about his mistress while they're in bed together.  And this is how he initiates an untried virgin?  Hmpf.

I liked Wendy Soliman's writing style. The plot was good... and I liked Alicia and the supporting characters.  But Nick and his sexual "punishments" were a real turnoff. 3 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Thoughts? Suggestions?

I love to read books and I love to write about them. But I know people like more than reviews on a book blog. What do you like to see? What makes you come back for more?  I'd love to hear your suggestions. I'm in the process of pulling over my reviews from my WordPress blog. So if you hit any links that take you to WordPress, that's because I'm still moving. Thanks for taking the time to visit!



Friday, March 11, 2011

Review: Aftertime

Sophie Littlefield gives the Apocalypse a new twist with the world she has created in Aftertime.  The big event didn't come with bombs or nuclear weapons. A biological agent destroyed most of the food supply on Earth, creating wide-spread famine.  In a last-ditch effort to feed the people, the government dispersed seeds for a special plant that would serve everyone's nutritional needs.   Seeds for a second plant got mixed in... but it was flawed and turned anyone who ate it into zombies, called Beaters. As with traditional zombie mythology, they hunger for human flesh --and as they feed, they turn their victims into zombies too.

Cass was attacked, but unlike anyone else, she recovered.  When she came to her senses, she was miles away from the camp where she was living --and she was separated from her young daughter. The book follows her quest to reunite with little Ruthie.  On her way, she meets up with Smoke, who becomes a love interest of sorts.  There are two main roadblocks to a relationship. One, Cass's fear that her saliva will infect him. And two, her warped past of promiscuity and addiction.

Littlefield's world is stark and bleak.  It shows us a myriad of ways people could react to a cataclysmic event and few of them are pretty.  And if that doesn't give you the heavy feel of a boulder on your chest, getting inside Cass's head will certainly do it.  She is a woman filled equally with purpose and self-loathing.  It takes a long time to get to the bottom of the self-destructive nature of her old life, but when we get the answers, they are exactly what you'd expect.  What you might NOT expect, is her refusal to give up on Ruthie. And let me tell you, it's a long and winding road to find her.

The story builds and builds to a huge crescendo, to end rather abruptly.  But I can forgive that, knowing the sequel, Rebirth, is coming this summer. I can only hope it will feature Cass & Smoke.  (His was a great character, and we barely scratched the surface.)

This was a really good book, which was constantly posing new questions as it answered old ones.  And it's a great study of humanity's greatest strengths and weaknesses all at once. 4 1/2 stars.

*ARC provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
by Sophie Littlefield
Release Date: February 15, 2011
Publisher: Luna

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