Monthly Archives: May 2011

Review: Darkfever (The Fever series #1), by Karen Marie Moning

TLDR recap:

After learning of her sister Alina’s mysterious murder, MacKayla Lane (better known as  just Mac) heads to Ireland determined to find out what happened and get her retribution.  At the tender age of 22, she doesn’t exactly have a plethora of survival skills but there just might be some fairly handly super-secret abilities that even she doesn’t know about.  On her quest to track down details of her sister’s sudden death, Mac teams up with an unlikely (and sometimes suspiciously nefarious) yet darkly appealing partner.  Chaos ensues as they begin the dangerous journey to finish Alina’s final task among the unsettling Unseelie fae.

    • Title: Darkfever
    • Series: The Fever series – book #1
    • Author: Karen Marie Moning
    • Prominent Characters: Mac Lane, Jericho Barrons
    • Recommended reader age: 15+
    • Sexual content level: Very light

Thoughts:

After reading several fast-and-furious style novels lately, the slower pace of this one was a pleasant change.  It’s a series starter, so I knew going in that it would be somewhat more leisurely getting to the point, but it turned out to be more of an adventurous journey than a romance or action-driven storyline.  Darkfever is the story of Mac Lane, who treks off to Ireland from her home in the states to solve her sister’s murder and get some retribution from the responsible parties.  To give some perspective on Mac, she is a 22-year-old Barbie doll of a bartender from a upper-middle-class American family who, according to her own narration, is beautiful and enviable, yet has no real life skills to speak of other than mixing drinks and schmoozing with patrons.  If you think you caught some snarkiness in that last comment, you did.  Mac comments WAY too frequently about how attractive she is… how soft and golden her skin, how long and lustrous her blond hair, how smooth and shapely her legs,  how stylish and cute her wardrobe & accessories… that she comes across as obsessively vain.  At first it didn’t bother me – I saw it as a vehicle for helping define her character in order to better develop and progress it later.  However, after about the 3rd reference to her youthly perfection, I wanted to punch her.  Maybe put some unsightly knots in that Barbie doll hair.  Replace her wardrobe with something gray and drab from a thrift store.  Seriously!  Ugh.

Anyway, back to the important stuff… Even with the slower pace, the story still progresses well and is entertaining to follow.  It doesn’t feel the need to rush through and pack in action scenes.   Instead, Ms. Moning gives the reader a plethora of clues and directional markers that allow us to form our own opinion of where Mac is headed and what might be in store for her.  Nothing is force-fed to us but important details are (generally) also not withheld for the sake of surprise and drama.  There is also a good amount of sarcasm and humor in the story, making me literally laugh out loud in a few parts.  The main supporting character, Jericho Barrons, is a successful mystery.  By that, I mean that the author does a respectable job of making him appealing and acceptable as an almost-lead character without giving away too much of his background… or really much of anything about him other than his vast financial wealth.  Usually by the end of a book, even the starter book in a series, the lead male character (or soon-to-be at least) will have been at least partially vetted and presented for reader approval.  Barrons is nearly as much of a mystery at the end of the story as he is when we first meet him.  Of course, some clues are inevitably dropped in the telling, but nothing that is too fast or too much… just enough to keep us speculating.

Darkfever, being a starter novel for the multi-book Fever series, is laid out well with good plot definition and pace, sporting an enjoyably motley cast of allies and baddies (ok, mostly baddies… of the fae variety).  It is entertaining and light enough for casual reading, with the promise of more intense and riveting developments in later installments.  I’m looking forward to getting started on number two in the series, Bloodfever.

Memorable quotes:

Hang on to your hats!  This book is infinitely quotable, so I pared it down to only eight.  *grin*

Tough crowd?

My philosophy is pretty simple – any day nobody’s trying to kill me is a good day in my book.

Oh, the bloom of immortal youth…

We were going to live forever.  Thirty was a million light-years away.  Forty wasn’t even in the same galaxy.  Death?  Ha.  Death happened to really old people.

Why books will always be better than the movies made from them…

I love books, by the way, way more than movies.  Movies tell you what to think.  A good book lets you choose a few thoughts for yourself.  Movies show you the pink house.  A good book tells you there’s a pink house and lets you paint some of the finishing touches, maybe choose the roof style, park your car out front.

In Gaellic, a rose is not just a rose…

“‘Dubh’ is ‘do’?”  I was incredulous.  It was no wonder I hadn’t been able to find the stupid word.  “Should I be calling all pubs ‘poos’?”

On the perils of philosophy…

I’m a bottom-line girl.  I barely managed Cs in my college philosophy courses.  When I tried to read Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, I developed an unshakable case of narcolepsy that attacked every two to three paragraphs, resulting in deep, coma-like fits of sleep.

Heroes are over-rated.

Peraonally, I’d never had any desire to save the world.  Decorate it? Yes.  Save it? No.

The sad reality of the “entitlement generation” (EG)…

The EG is made up of kids who believe they deserve the best of everything by mere virtue of having been born, and if parents don’t arm them with every possible advantage, they are condemning their own children to a life of ostracism and failure.  Raised by computer games, satellite TV, the Internet, and the latest greatest electronic device – while their parents are off slaving away to afford them all – most of the EG believe if there’s something wrong with them, it’s not their fault; their parents screwed them up, probably by being away too much.  It’s a vicious little catch-22 for the parents any way you look at it.

On the value of playing “hard to get”…

Distinguish yourself, my mom had told Alina and me, in an age where girls often make themselves too available to boys, by making him work a little for your attention.  He’ll think he’s won a prize when he gets it, and he’ll work that much harder to keep it.  Boys turn into men and men put a premium on what’s hardest to get.

If you like Darkfever of The Fever series…

If you enjoyed Darkfever, you may also like the the Cassandra Palmer series (starting with Touch the Dark) by Karen Chance. Cassie shares the same “it’s a good day when no one is trying to kill me” philosophy, and also frequently finds herself in amusing-yet-dangerous situations where she has to use her wits and still-developing special skills to prevail.  Both are more urban fantasy than paranormal romance, and both focus on a central young strong female character who is instrumentally necessary in solving some big world-wide crisis.

You may also enjoy A History of Witches, the first novel in the new All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness and the Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire Chronicles series (starting with Dead Until Dark) by Charlaine Harris.  Both of these are also first-person narratives from a female heroine’s perspective, and both are also somewhat slower paced stories.

Final thoughts:

This was a fun read.  It probably won’t ever be one of my go-to favorites for a rainy day or a nice cozy fireside read, but it was an entertaining and effective series starter.  The stage is set, the characters have been introduced, and all that remains is for the real action to begin.  Give this one and Bloodfever, the second book in the Fever series, a try and see what you think!

Rating:
4.25 fangs: BITE IT… 

Related links:

http://www.karenmoning.com/ (The Fever series website)

http://www.karenchance.com/ (The Cassie Palmer series website)

http://deborahharkness.com/ (A Discovery of Witches website)

http://www.charlaineharris.com/ (The Sookie Stackhouse series website)

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Bones vs Kate Daniels smacktalk & a Jeaniene Frost ARC charity auction

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks (and hey, I’m guilty of that occasionally *wink*), you know about the recent devastating tornadoes in our southern states.  With so many families affected and in need of aid, Night Huntress series author Jeaniene Frost has put up a triple book pack for auction on her blog, and will match any winning bid up to $500.  The lucky winning bidder will make their donation directly to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund and will then receive the following signed books in the mail…

Eagle-eyed Night Huntress fans will notice that One Grave at a Time is an ARC (advanced reader copy) since it will not be released until August 30th of this year.  Technically Magic Slays is also an ARC, but since it releases tomorrow (May 31st), the winning bidder won’t receive it until after it is publicly available.  Ms. Frost did state that there will be other opportunities to win an ARC of OGaaT on her blog, so don’t fret too much if you can’t beat the already-impressive high bid of $425.  If, however, you do have some extra cash to throw around or just REALLY want to get your hands on that new Cat & Bones book, head over to Jeaniene Frost’s blog and make your bid before 11:59 PM EST on Tuesday, May 31st (tomorrow!).  Be sure to read the rules before bidding.  Click here to check it out, and kudos to Jeaniene Frost, Ilona Andrews, and Meljean Brook for their generosity!

Speaking of Cat & Bones, if you’ve been following the Vampire Book Club’s 2011 Alpha Showdown, you know that poor Bones had to defeat the love of his life, Cat, in order to progress to the third tournament bracket… just to lose to Jace Wayland of the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare (note to self: must check out book 1 of that series and find out who Jace is – he must be pretty awesome to have beat Bones!).  Kate Daniels won her round against Raphael of the Guild series by Nalini Singh (uh, how?! He’s an ARCHANGEL!  Seriously people…) and will now be facing off against Jericho Barrons of the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning.  Speculation is dim for Kate to take that victory, and since Jeaniene and Ilona Andrews didn’t think their two characters would end up facing off, they engaged in a little smack talk instead.  From Ms. Frost’s blog, here’s the dialog between Bones and Kate. Enjoy!

Bones: I will beat you because am tough but inwardly vulnerable since I spent the last two hundred years whoring and killing to fill the emptiness inside.
Kate: I am tough but inwardly vulnerable, too! And I will kick your ass because I was born with a secret power that made me a loner, and don’t even get me started on my pent-up rage over my daddy issues.
Bones: Secret powers and daddy issues don’t scare me. You just described my wife.
Kate: Dude, I make spikes out of my blood.  Also I have a magic sword that eats vampire flesh.
Bones: So do I, and it’s in my pants. Haven’t you heard about Chapter 32?
Kate: What’s Chapter 32?
Bones: Ask Curran to show you.
Kate: What does any of this have to do with us fighting to the death?
Bones: It means I can launch a sneak attack from the front OR back!
Kate:  Oh, you want cheesy word play? Fine, I will defeat you with my overused phrases.  Why me, dear God, slabbed with muscle, Your Furriness, aha.
Bones: Bollocks, bloody hell,  luv, pet–
Kate: – You forgot Kitten.
Bones: –thrust deep, thrust deep, thrust deep –
Kate: More Chapter 32 again?
Bones: No, I have to do this in every book. Seems I shag as though I’m drilling for crude oil.
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Cover art released for Darker After Midnight (Midnight Breed series novel #10, by Lara Adrian)

Scheduled for release on January 24th of next year, Lara Adrian’s tenth offering in her Midnight Breed series officially now has a cover image (see above), and is it ever steamy!

If you’re unfamiliar with the Midnight Breed series, it’s about a group of vampire warriors who band together to protect their race from all threats, especially treachery from within.  This series is somewhat similar to the Black Dagger Brotherhood series in its purpose and mantra, but focuses more on single-story plotlines than multiple over-arching setups.   Darker After Midnight will feature Chase Sterling, a conflicted warrior bent on self-retribution who was introduced early in the series (see the review for Dante & Tess’ book, Kiss of Crimson).  Fans of the series have been waiting a long time for Chase’s story, so it should be exciting!

For more info on the Midnight Breed series, check out Ms. Adrian’s site.

To learn more about the brothers, visit J.R. Ward’s site.

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Here Comes the Viking! GQ interview with Alexander Skarsgård

“Out of the misty north there arrived in Hollywood a fair-haired stranger: Skarsgård the Younger, Alexander the Tall, son of Stellan the Comparatively Famous. With his totally convincing American accent and eyes deep as a glacial fjord, he won over fans of HBO’s True Blood. Now, with three major films opening soon, Alexander Skarsgård is poised to conquer the rest of us.”

Written by Brett Martin of GQ magazine, this interview with everyone’s favorite Viking is told as more of a narrative than a question-answer session.  On a whale-watching tour with Alex, during which they see no whales but “some great bird activity”, Martin quizzes Skarsgård about early life as the son of a famous Swedish actor, monkey business on the True Blood set, his upcoming film projects, and rumors of his involvement with Kate Bosworth.  In a quirky, sometimes self-deprecating, retelling of their uneventful jaunt at sea, Martin paints a picture of a man who, while on the fast track to Hollywood superstardom, is still surprisingly real and grounded.  Read on for snippets from the article, or go here to see it in its entirety! 

Every day they observe what is known as the Roll Out, in which Stellan and whichever children are around escort the clan’s 81-year-old matriarch, Gudrun, in her wheelchair to a hallowed old beer hall named Kvarnen that functions as fan headquarters for Hammarby, the local soccer team and one of Skarsgård’s obsessions. Gudrun will have one beer and two shots of Fernet-Branca. (“She’s over food,” Skarsgård says.) Later Stellan spends the rest of the afternoon cooking, his primary passion. The tribe gathers once again for dinner and wine.

Tongue-twister much? Hah!

Skarsgård is the first to poke fun at the notion of the Swedish military, which saw its last serious action around the time of the Northern War, 300 years ago, but it was an important challenge for him. “It was my way of going off into the unknown,” he says. “I didn’t want to just be somebody’s son.”

On playing Eric in True Blood…

In True Blood’s ever expanding ensemble of fairies, werewolves, shape-shifters, telepaths, werecats, telefairies, vamp-shifters, and God knows what else, his Eric has become a solid center—the only character to display that essential quality shared by great HBO antiheroes past (think Tony Soprano or Omar Little or Al Swearengen): genuine unpredictability. Skarsgård’s minutely calibrated deadpan somehow makes him the show’s funniest, most cerebral, and most ferally frightening personage. “He does this thing with his eyes,” says creator and show-runner Alan Ball. “It’s like they become slightly unfocused and all of a sudden they’re mirrors to this ancient, 1,000-year-old soul.” Indeed what Eric is, his relative humanity, may be the only moral mystery to be found amidst all the steamy, gothic froth.

Not that Skarsgård emerges suds-free. Those rooting for Eric in the increasingly explicit love-blood triangle he shares with Anna Paquin’s Sookie Stackhouse and Stephen Moyer’s Bill Compton are surely aware of the extra frisson provided by Paquin and Moyer’s real-life marriage. Does it also mean on-set awkwardness?

“It’s really clear to Steve and to everybody else what the deal is—which is that Anna is like a sister to me,” Skarsgård says. “Those love scenes take quite a bit of acting, actually. A lot of acting.”

On his role as Charlie Venner in the Straw Dogs remake…

…in which Venner rapes Amy, who is played in the remake by Kate Bosworth. Tabloid followers will be aware of the widely reported news that Skarsgård and Bosworth are romantically involved. (When asked about the relationship, he shuts down, smile disappearing, with a completeness and efficiency that could only come from growing up in the public eye. “My father always kept the family out of the press,” he says later, almost apologetic.)

It was, by all accounts, a brutal scene to film, taking place over two days.”In the beginning, Kate would be crying after every take and Alex would try to comfort her,” says Lurie. “By the end, everybody got really raw.”

When the film was in postproduction, Skarsgård brought his father for a visit to the editing room at Sony studios, and they watched the scene as it was being cut together. “They seemed more like best friends than father and son,” says Lurie. At the end, Stellan stood up and spoke those words every boy longs to hear. Says Lurie, “He proclaimed it ‘the best rape ever filmed.’ “

On acting, and the difference between the Swedish and Hollywood cultures…

“Hollywood can be like kids playing marbles on the schoolyard,” he says. “Everybody wants the shiny marble until one kid says he doesn’t. Then nobody will touch it. So it’s important that I make good decisions now. “

That doesn’t mean he has trouble ricocheting from the highbrow world of von Trier to the soapier True Blood; nor way beyond, to the green-screen-and-explosion bonanza that Battleship promises to be. (You were expecting Strindberg’s take on a board game?) “If you’re an actor in Sweden, you do drama, you do comedy, you do action, you do film and live theater. You do whatever there is,” Skarsgård says. “Vanity is death to an actor.” Ball describes him as “the least actorly actor I’ve ever met.”

Now for some eye candy!  Here are the photos published in GQ (and a couple that weren’t… in my copy at least!)

Oh, and as an extra juicy tidbit, fans of Fox’s hit show Glee will be excited to know that June’s issue of GQ also features a wedding fashion spread on Darren Criss, better known as mega-crooner Blaine Warbler. Click here to see him in GQ, or check out some of the photos below…

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Review: Covet (The Fallen Angels series #1), by J.R. Ward

TLDR recap:

The greater forces of good and evil have tired of the game, and it’s all come down to this: one player, 7 deadly sins, and 7 pawns at a crossroads.  Winner takes all and everything depends on Jim Heron and the choices he helps influence. His first task? Unravel the mysteries surrounding entrepreneur Vin diPietro and “dancer” Marie-Terese Boudreau before it’s too late and everything literally goes to hell.

    • Title: Covet
    • Series: The Fallen Angel series – book #1
    • Author: J.R. Ward
    • Prominent Characters: Jim Heron, Vin diPietro, Marie-Terese Boudreau, Eddie Blackhawk, Adrian Vogel
    • Recommended reader age: 16+
    • Sexual content level: Light-to-Moderate (explicit)

Thoughts:

Being a ginourmous fan of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series (by J.R. Ward), I expected a lot of this novel going in.  Probably not the smartest way to start off a book, but pretty unavoidable considering how larger-than-life the Brotherhood stories have become.  That said, I tried to keep in mind that this is a starter novel and, like Dark Lover, it’s probably going to be a little slower to allow for character/plot/setting development… and it was.  BDB fans will feel right at home in Caldwell, with locations like The Commodore and The Iron Mask.  There are also a few familiar faces, most notably Trez (one of Rev’s former Moor bodyguards), Marie-Terese (previously the head prostitute at Zero Sum), and Jose de la Cruz (Butch’s former homicide partner).

With part of the setup already done, Ms. Ward really only needed to introduce the new theme for the series and the players.  Here’s the deal: the big guy upstairs is apparently bored with the constant good vs. evil volley, and is ready to settle the score once and for all, literally.  Both sides will agree to a representative, then that person will help influence the decisions of 7 people at crossroads in their lives.  If the players choose the “good” path, the Angels score a point.  Likewise, if the players choose the “bad” path, the demons claim the point.  The score at the end of 7 turns decides the game.  I won’t go too much into who plays what roles or how things turn out, but I will admit I had a tough time getting into this one.

On the plus side, the somewhat extensive character development laid down in Covet helps set the scene for more of the closer-than-brother male friendships we’ve come to love so much in the BDB series.  Ms. Ward also holds back some details that readers will be eager to learn about, which I appreciate – why keep reading if all the secrets are spilled in the first one?!

The “primary couple” is really more secondary as a couple-unit than they are as individual characters on their own path to redemption.  Their relationship felt a little empty to me, and while I appreciated their connection to each other, I just couldn’t get into it like I’ve been able to with other pairings (kinda like how I felt so-so about Manny and Payne after all the ridiculously intense Brother pairings).  Yeah, there were a few steamy scenes and they were ok, but the book just didn’t hold that much of my attention.  I actually skipped through nearly an entire chapter near the end where the whole situation, which the reader learns at the start of the story, is re-explained to one of the main characters.

This book reminded me of The Devil’s Advocate (with Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves), from the characters not being who they first appeared to the creepy demonic overtones to some of the action/investigation sequences.  It’s part thriller, part crime drama, and part horror, with a little romance on the side.

Memorable quotes:

The light at the end of the tunnel… is just a pep talk?

Coaches had to stay on the sidelines, but they could put different complements of players on the field with the human to influence things – and also call time-outs for pep talks.

If you like Covet of The Fallen Angels series…

If you enjoyed Covet, you may also like the first half of the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton.  The first and second halves of that series are drastically different: the first half focuses on disturbingly explicit supernatural crime investigations and the second is a sex-fest with a little police work on the side.  Ms. Hamilton bases most of her crime scenes on true crimes, making the stories even more unnerving, and the first few books in the series should really be classified more as horror than as paranormal romance.

If you’re new to J.R. Ward’s work, then definitely check out the Black Dagger Brotherhood novels, starting with Dark Lover.

Final thoughts:

I won’t read this again, but it was a decent (if slow) starter novel.  I’ll check out the Crave before I decide whether or not to hop off the Fallen Angels train.

There’s something about the vampires in paranormal romance that makes them more romantic and less horrible.  They’re almost human and we can relate to them.  We know they probably won’t do unthinkable things… at least not without a reason.  That’s all out the window here: demons are capable of pure evil and the fright/creep factor is high.  There’s a reason I don’t watch horror movies or crime dramas like Criminal Minds.  Usually I have to force myself to stop reading at night in time to go to bed at a decent hour, but I willingly put this one aside for sleep and I was worried I’d have nightmares from it.  No, it wasn’t THAT rough, but I spook easily, so if you do too, either steer clear of this book or go into it knowing it’s going to get creepy.

Rating:
3.75 fangs: BITE IT… if you dare.

Related links:

http://www.jrward.com/ (Fallen Angel & Black Dagger Brotherhood sites)

http://www.laurellkhamilton.org/ (Anita Blake)

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Fangtastic Friday: The Alpha Showdown is ON! Bones & Cat go fang-to-fang!

I came across this great review blog last week via Facebook and LOVE the Alpha Showdown idea!  The Vampire Book Club has set up a tournament bracket, pitting some of our favorite heroes and heroines of paranormal romance & urban fantasy against each other.  The contest is billed as an “alpha” showdown, implying it’s about strength of leadership but it’s feeling more like a “who could kick whose ass in a fight” sort of thing.  Really either way is fun, so no complaint here!  In the first two showdowns, one of my personal favorite paranormal romance couples, the Night Huntress series’ Cat & Bones, won their respective matches and are moving on to the next round… to fight EACH OTHER!  *gasp*

Soooooo, this is either some really bad bracket seeding or a nice ironic jab at the power couple.  Now there’s a tough choice for voters: powerful, sexy, badass, dirty-fighting Bones or his one-of-a-kind vampire-blood-drinking mate, whom he trained personally.  My first instinct is “Bones, hands down”.  He’s got at least a century on Cat, extra strength and abilities, and knows all her weaknesses.  That said, she knows all of his weaknesses too, and she tops his list of “people I’d rather die for than sneeze at”.  She also could drain him of all his blood and absorb some of his powers… if she could hold him down long enough.  Mmmm, toss -up.

Now, that said, this is the showdown doesn’t necessarily have to involve fighting.  When it comes to straight leadership, it’s still a tight race, with both of them having headed up separate successful and powerful organizations, but I think the scales tip a little to Bones on that front.  She does allow him to dominate her though (well, moreso than the other way around at least), and that’s what being “alpha” is about – convincing others to accept you as their leader, whether through fighting, love,  loyalty, or manipulation.  Who will win?  You’ll have to check back and see!

Other notable match-ups are…

  • Anita Blake vs Eugenie Markham
  • Zsadist vs Curran (I’d have rather seen Vishous here! /pout)
  • Eric Northman vs Raphael (this one should be interesting)
To follow the action, check out The Vampire Book Club and cast your vote!  The competition bracket is below, if you want a sneak peek…
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Review: Born of Fire (The League series #2), by Sherrilyn Kenyon

TLDR recap:

The son of a psychotic murderer, Syn is one of the best filches in the galaxy and, thanks to his damning parentage, he’s been on the run for the last 20 years of his life.  Shahara Dagan is a notoriously feared tracker and a Seax who takes her responsibility to bring criminal scum to their rightful punishment seriously.  When political machinations and her dire financial situation lead Shahara into taking the million-credit contract to bring Syn in, neither could have predicted what their journey has in store.

    • Title: Born of Fire
    • Series: The League series – book #2
    • Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
    • Prominent Characters: C.I. Syn, Shahara Dagan
    • Recommended reader age: 16+
    • Sexual content level: Moderate

Thoughts:

This book could be the love child of The Fugitive and Star Wars: A New Hope (that’s Episode 4 for the unenlightened *wink*).  Lots of running and hiding, mixed with smuggling space freighters, crafty deceptions, & risky missions to find evidence to clear their names.  Oh, and let’s toss in a little betrayal as well, since that is the overwhelming theme of the story.

After reading Born of Night and following the nearly epic journey of Nykyrian and Kiara, I had high hopes for this one.  I’m not disappointed in it per se – I actually did enjoy the story, I’m just left feeling a little worn after all the constant near misses.  If you thought Born of Night had too many “run and hide” sort of sequences, you may want to opt out of this journey.  That said, the level of emotional intensity was good and believable, considering both of their pasts.

Syn was one of my favorite characters in Born of Night and his personality in BoF is consistent with the drunken, sarcastic, talented brainiac/thief/assassin we came to know in Nykyrian’s story.  One thing to note about this is that the time lines for BoN and BoF do not match.  If you’ve read my review for Born of Night, you’ll remember that this is due to how these early Sherrilyn Kenyon books were released by different publishing houses, so she had to change the character names and timelines in order to make it look like they weren’t related stories.  Once they were re-released in 2009, Ms. Kenyon was able to go back and correct some of those changes, but to keep from having to significantly alter key outcomes and action sequences, she accepted that some disparity in the timeline was necessary.  Honestly, it’s kind of refreshing.  In BoN, Nykyrian and Kiara get the ending they needed, and in BoF, Syn and Shahara get the ending they needed… and the reader gets to enjoy two versions of the tale!

I won’t spoil the surprise for those who haven’t read BoF yet, but there is one new character addition in this story that is really a standout.  After reading the next chapter in the series (Born of Ice), I was happy to see this character carried over and developed even more.  There were also a few amusing running jokes that kept the tone light in an otherwise extremely tense setup, especially Shahara’s constant guessing of what Syn’s first initials stand for (“C.I.”).

Memorable quotes:

Never tell me the odds. (Han Solo)

She ground her teeth. “I’m going to kill you.  Why are we even bothering?  Do you know what the odds are that it’s still there?”

“I don’t play the odds, love.  Never have.”

On keepsakes…

“Objects are the markers of our humanity.  Everything we hold onto has meaning for us.  Those things are a souvenir that can transport us to that exact moment in time and make us feel that emotion all over again.”

It’s a guy thing…

“Good lord, woman.  Didn’t anyone ever tell you that men have a specified word count set aside each day and if I don’t stop talking, my tongue will explode?”


If you like Born of Fire…

If you enjoyed Born of Night and Born of Fire by Sherrilyn Kenyon, you should check out the Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh.  Both series are futuristic and emotional, with very strong male leads and independant females.  The much-anticipated 10th novel in the series, Hawke & Sienna’s story “Kiss of Snow”, will hit bookshelves later this month.  If you’re a speedy reader and start now, you can finish books 1-9 in time to get caught up in the hype!

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you probably know what I’m going to say next.  *grin*  If what you liked about Born of Night was the emotional ride, then definitely check out the Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward.  Ms. Ward is a master of drawing in her audience emotionally and keeping us enthralled.  Her sex scenes are pretty hot too.  *wink*  The BDB is not futuristic, however, so if more of that is what you’re looking for…

This may sound silly, but even with the massive exposure of Star Wars across our culture, I STILL meet people who have not ever read or seen Star Wars!!  I know, craziness!  It’s almost unfathomable to me, who grew up memorizing and re-enacting “Return of the Jedi” weekly in my back yard!  If you are one of the Star Wars deprived, do yourself a favor and watch (not read, not yet – watch it first!!) Episodes 4 (A New Hope), 5 (The Empire Strikes Back), & 6 (The Return of the Jedi) of the original Star Wars trilogy.  Yes, I know it might sound like it makes more sense to start with Episode 1 (The Phantom Menace), but trust me on this… Ep.4 first, THEN Ep.1!  Star Wars is set in a galaxy far far away, is futuristic (ignore the “a long time ago” bit), and has space battles, smugglers, political intrigue, and romance.  So basically Born of Night, with less emphasis on the romance and more emphasis on the overall picture (and with Jedi & lightsabers, woo!!).  =)

Final thoughts:

After Born of Night, I expected a little more oomph to this story, but I’m not disappointed overall.  It was solid and enjoyable, even if it did make me a little weary at times.  I’m a city girl and I like my creature comforts, so maybe there was just a smidge too much slummin’ it and running from the law for my tastes.  I also was frequently annoyed by Shahara’s incredible determination not to stray from her mission, even after seeing Syn for who he really is.  It did turn out quite nicely, but she’s still a wee bit whiny for someone who is supposed to be so feared that hardened criminals wet their pants at the sight of her.  I probably won’t read this again, but I enjoyed it, so…

Rating:
4.0 fangs: BITE IT!

Related links:

http://www.sherrilynkenyon.com/ (The League)

http://www.nalinisingh.com/ (Psy-Changeling)

http://www.jrward.com/bdb/ (Black Dagger Brotherhood)

http://www.starwars.com/ (Star Wars)

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True Blood S4: Mmmm trouble (in Bon Temps)!


Which of our favorite characters will be causing trouble this season?  Oh, you can bet on just about all of them. *grin*

Click play below for a yummy “screen test” of the familiar faces.  

No spoilers this time, Scout’s honor!

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Review: Born of Night (The League series #1), by Sherrilyn Kenyon

TLDR recap:

An ex-League assassin with multiple contracts out on his life, Nykyrian Quiakides fears neither danger nor pain.  A reknowned dancer and daughter of a prominent political leader, Kiara Zamir is sheltered but strong after the torture and murder of her mother as a child.  When political schemes put Kiara in the sights of  some of the Ichidian universe’s most vicious hunters, Nykyrian and his crew are hired to protect her, and he gets way more than he bargained for in the process.

    • Title: Born of Night
    • Series: The League series – book #1
    • Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
    • Prominent Characters: Kiara Zamir, Nykyrian Quiakides, C.I. Syn & crew
    • Recommended reader age: 16+
    • Sexual content level: Moderate

Thoughts:

One of the pioneers of the futuristic and paranormal genres in the ’90s, Ms. Kenyon is well-published and -celebrated with over 40 novels across 6 different series.  It’s daunting, choosing a place to start, and I couldn’t be happier with The League series as my introduction to Ms. Kenyon’s style.  Born of Night was one of the first novels she wrote and was originally released through a different publishing house than she uses today.  If you’ve read BoN or #2 in the series, Born of Fire, you know that the timelines for these two stories are concurrent.  Because they were originally published by different houses, she had to change some of the names and timelines so that the two works appeared unrelated.  In 2009, Ms. Kenyon was able to re-release these two novels and begin telling the rest of the story, and she adjusted the timeline and character names to fit her original plan.  SO, if you read BoN (or BoF!) when it was first released in the ’90s, give it another go and get caught up on the current state of The Sentella’s affairs!

I haven’t previously read a futuristic romance before (no wizards, vampires, or demons!), so the first few chapters of this novel were somewhat difficult to immerse myself in.  It reminded me a lot of the Star Wars universe, with multiple habitable planetary systems, alien races (more than a few humanoid – does “Andarian” make anyone else think of annoying blue-skinned guys with antennae?  Yes yes, I know, Andorians are Star Trek not Star Wars!), and advanced tech (spaceships, blasters, etc).  The story also reminded me a little of Star Wars, with the disreputable (but skilled & crafty!) hero taking on a paid mission to protect a beautiful (yet strong & independant) heiress, then falling in love against their better judgement and running from any and all authorities in the galaxy as they both become hunted.

The emotional impact of this story is tremendous.  Neither Nykyrian nor Kiara has been spared hardship and suffering throughout their lives, but Nykyrian’s past is the gift that just keeps on giving… in bad ways and good.  I’ve already read through the next three League books and I’ve noticed that torture seems to be a theme for these poor guys.  In all three novels, the hero has suffered extreme torture of some sort, either in his past or during the story, and the heroines get a dose of  pain too.  Ms. Kenyon’s mastery of these characters makes it easy to get into their heads and to let them into your heart so you feel empathy for the ringer they are put through, both physically and emotionally.  That’s the hallmark of a good author, right?  To make you able to feel and understand, but Ms. Kenyon goes above and beyond to make experiencing this novel a real treat for the readers.  Spanning the gamut of emotional and physical developments, the novel Born of Night is very nearly an epic story… aaaalmost (using true epics such as Lord of the Rings as a standard)!  *wink*

Memorable quotes:

An assassin’s take on love…

And he was born of night.  His mother was the darkness, her cold embrace was all he had a right to crave.  Just as the sun destroyed the night, he was sure she would destroy him, provided their enemies didn’t kill her first.


If you like Born of Night…

If you enjoyed Born of Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon, you should check out the Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh.  Both series are futuristic and emotional, with very strong male leads and independant females.  The much-anticipated 10th novel in the series, Hawke & Sienna’s story “Kiss of Snow”, will hit bookshelves later this month.  If you’re a speedy reader and start now, you can finish books 1-9 in time to get caught up in the hype!

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you probably know what I’m going to say next.  *grin*  If what you liked about Born of Night was the emotional ride, then definitely check out the Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward.  Ms. Ward is a master of drawing in her audience emotionally and keeping us enthralled.  Her sex scenes are pretty hot too.  *wink*  The BDB is not futuristic, however, so if more of that is what you’re looking for…

This may sound silly, but even with the massive exposure of Star Wars across our culture, I STILL meet people who have not ever read or seen Star Wars!!  I know, craziness!  It’s almost unfathomable to me, who grew up memorizing and re-enacting “Return of the Jedi” weekly in my back yard!  If you are one of the Star Wars deprived, do yourself a favor and watch (not read, not yet – watch it first!!) Episodes 4 (A New Hope), 5 (The Empire Strikes Back), & 6 (The Return of the Jedi) of the original Star Wars trilogy.  Yes, I know it might sound like it makes more sense to start with Episode 1 (The Phantom Menace), but trust me on this… Ep.4 first, THEN Ep.1!  Star Wars is set in a galaxy far far away, is futuristic (ignore the “a long time ago” bit), and has space battles, smugglers, political intrigue, and romance.  So basically Born of Night, with less emphasis on the romance and more emphasis on the overall picture (and with Jedi & lightsabers, woo!!).  =)

Final thoughts:

If this is an example of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s early work, I am very excited to read some of her more recent series, considering all the time she’s had to hone and master her craft.  The publishing world is vicious to career authors, especially in the romance genres, and the sheer number of novels and series Ms. Kenyon has created speak volumes about her skill.  I would like to give this story a 5 fang rating, based on its nearly epic span of struggles and events and the depth of the emotions it portrays, but I had some trouble assimilating into the story at the start of the book.  4.75 fangs it is!  =)

Rating:
4.75 fangs: BITE IT!

Related links:

http://www.sherrilynkenyon.com/ (The League)

http://www.nalinisingh.com/ (Psy-Changeling)

http://www.jrward.com/bdb/ (Black Dagger Brotherhood)

http://www.starwars.com/ (Star Wars)

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Q&A with Deborah Harkness on ‘A Discovery of Witches’

A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness, is (in her own words) “a book about books, a love of reading, and what books can do”, and is still receiving all sorts of praise and accolades months after its debut.  After finishing the book, I wanted to know more about Ms. Harkness and her creative process.  I found a few interviews and wanted to share them with you all.  The first is from her own website and the second is from wordswithwriters.com.  Click on the links to see the full Q&A sessions…

From deborahharkness.com:

Q. Diana is an appealing heroine, determined, accomplished, and yet aware of her own weaknesses. In what ways, if any, does Diana reflect your own experience or personality?

There are some similarities—Diana is also a historian of science, also interested in the history of alchemy, and shares some of my passions (including television cooking programs, tea, and rowing). Really, all the characters have some element of me in them. I think that’s how authors create imaginary people who nevertheless feel real. The rest of Diana’s character comes from a combination of qualities I admire in others, wish fulfillment, and my completion of the following statement: “Wouldn’t it be great if a heroine in a book was…”

Q. How did you become interested in the intersection of alchemy, magic, and science? Historically, what do you see as the relationship between science and religion or mysticism?

In college, I had a wonderful professor who taught a class on these subjects. To kick off the class, he asked us, “How do you know what you think you know?” I’ve spent the last quarter century trying to answer that question. Because the world is a mysterious place and our relationship to it is not always clear, people have often turned to science, faith, and magic for answers. They help people find responses to the questions of Who am I and why am I here?

Q. You’ve written two well-received scholarly books. What inspired you to write a novel?

It’s pretty hard not to notice the popular preoccupation with witches, vampires, and things that go bump in the night. But we aren’t the first to be fascinated with these creatures. Today, we often imagine them into fantastic otherworlds, but the people I study believed that such magical beings were living alongside them in this world. So I started thinking, if there are vampires and witches, what do they do for a living—and what strange stories do humans tell to explain away the evidence of their presence? A Discovery of Witches began with the answers to those questions as I essentially reimagined our modern world through the eyes of medieval and Renaissance people.

Q. What prompted you to include both first-person and omniscient narration? What does each method of storytelling contribute to the book?

Early in the process of writing the book I realized that vampires must be secretive and protective creatures. For Matthew, this means he has both a strong instinct to hide from Diana’s questions and a need to protect her from threats. The only way to show that dynamic in Matthew (without making the reader very impatient with him) was to take Diana out of the picture temporarily and show him interacting with others who knew him in other ways. Since Diana is the first-person narrator, this caused some problems that omniscient narration solved. I think the combination of the two narratives works surprisingly well and gives the reader the immediacy of Diana’s experience along with some answers to their questions about Matthew.

Q. Elias Ashmole and Ashmole 782 are taken from real life. Who was Elias Ashmole? Why did you base your novel on this particular manuscript?

Elias Ashmole was a seventeenth-century English antiquarian and scholar. He gave major bequests to Oxford University, including the collection of books and objects that provided the foundation for the Ashmolean Museum (which is still in operation today). Ashmole’s books and manuscripts were first kept at the museum and then moved to the university’s Bodleian Library in the nineteenth century. The Ashmole manuscripts include numerous rare alchemical texts. One of the manuscripts, Ashmole 782, is currently missing. As a scholar, I’ve done a lot of research in the Ashmole alchemical manuscripts and always wondered what Ashmole 782 might contain.

Q. From the publication of Bram Stoker’s Dracula in the nineteenth century to the current Twilight series, vampires have always fascinated the reading public. What is the appeal of the occult novel? What kind of freedom from the ordinary does it provide, both for readers and writers?

Vampires are relative newcomers among the supernatural creatures who have fascinated readers. The word “vampire” wasn’t even used in English-speaking countries until the early eighteenth century. Before that, readers were far more interested in ghosts, devils, witches, daemons (and demons), and exotic hybrid creatures like dragons and the basilisk. The appeal of all these creatures—and vampires, too—is that they help to explain the inexplicable. Readers and writers are given the opportunity to suspend belief and wonder How do I know there aren’t witches? and even more important What if there are?

Q. Diana and Matthew’s story ends on a mysterious note. What do you see as the next step in their adventure?

Diana and Matthew have known each other only for forty days. That’s not much time to get to know someone and fall in love. Besides, falling in love is rather easy compared with staying in love and growing into a relationship. The next step of their adventure will begin just where their last step left off—and the adventure will involve all kinds of new discoveries about themselves, each other, and the creatures who share their world.

From wordswithwriters.com:

What are you working on at the moment?

While I’m on book tour, I’m working on a sequel to A Discovery of Witches. It will be a trilogy.

Where did the idea for A Discovery of Witches come from?

I was in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico during the rainy season, which I did not know in advance, and I was trapped inside my hotel because of the rain. It was the fall of 2008, and the world was very much obsessed with vampires. I started thinking to myself, “You know, if there really are vampires, what do they do for a living?” I didn’t believe they could all be private investigators. That’s what led me into the book, and I started building a world around the answering of that question.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

It’s really a book about accepting who you are and not living in a way that closes off options or that is safe. Living in way that takes risks—the power that is in daring to do what it is that you are uniquely meant to do.

How long was your playlist?

145 songs. Some of them are on my website. [On the page titled “The Characters”] There are links to YouTube playlists for songs on Diana’s iPod and songs on Matthew’s iPod. And, largehearted boy published a playlist for A Discovery of Witches.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

I know that a lot of advice says to read, but I would say to write. What I see as a teacher a lot is people preparing to write, people doing research to write, people finding the right chair to write in, people thinking of the right time of day to write. You really just have to actually write. It’s scary and it’s awful, there’s a blank screen or blank page, but you really just need to write.

Write about anything, write about everything, write blogs. At some point something will start clicking and snapping, and if you’re still trying to arrange your desk the way you want it, you’re going to waste it.

Is there a question that you wish people would ask you more often about your work?

I wish more people would ask, “Why did you choose to do blank?” People have an incredibly emotional response to fiction. You read it and think, “I don’t like this, I don’t like that, I don’t like him or her.” Usually, writers have a reason that they’ve decided to do something. If there’s something really bugging a reader about the book, it would be interesting to have a conversation about why I’d gone that way. Not because it may solve the problem for them, but they would know that it wasn’t a thoughtless decision. It would be fascinating to discuss the decision-making process for the book.

Can you talk about the different kinds of writing you do, and how you juggle those projects?

Well, I started my wine blog accidentally, like most things I do in life. When I got stuck on my nonfiction I would switch over and work on the wine blog. I was teaching, wine-blogging, and writing A Discovery of Witches at the same time. For me, I need escape hatches. I need to be able to move around and have little changes of scenery. I only had writer’s block working on A Discovery of Witches once and I think it’s because I was doing different things.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

I love to cook. I am slowly working my way through Melissa Clark’s In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite. When you cook something, immediately it’s there. It’s wonderful; you don’t edit it, you just eat it.

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