Category Archives: 4.25 Fangs

Review: Deeper Than Midnight (The Midnight Breed series #9), by Lara Adrian

TLDR recap:

The war with Dragos is in full force now and the warriors of the Order are feeling the stress even in their secure underground command complex.  Hunter, still adapting to an independent existence after living his entire life as an enslaved assassin for Dragos, volunteers to escort the traumatized breedmate Corinne home to her Boston Darkhaven… but all is not as it seems, for Corinne and Hunter, for the warriors of the Order, or for the unsuspecting humans surrounding them.

    • Title: Deeper Than Midnight
    • Series: The Midnight Breed series – book #9
    • Author: Lara Adrian
    • Prominent Characters: Hunter, Corinne, Chase Sterling
    • Recommended reader age: 16+
    • Sexual content level: light-to-moderate

Thoughts:

Hunter is an enigma.  We know very little of him, and what we do know is that he’s strictly bound to his military training and upbringing… seemingly more machine than man.  Corinne is, at first, a fragile flower of a breedmate who you expect to crack at just the slightest provocation, but she definitely has backbone and determination.  Their relationship is one of mutual discovery, trust, and tenderness, and is a pleasure to be able to experience with them as it blooms and develops.

This book has more intermingling of other story plots (besides Hunter and Corinne) than previous novels have, but I think that’s actually a boon considering a) how little we actually know of Hunter going into this one, and b) how all the subplots are starting to come to fruition at about the same time.  I don’t know that Hunter and Corinne could have pulled off a solo story, but mixed with the rest of the Order’s continuing developments, we get a more complete and satisfying collective piece, much like the later Black Dagger Brotherhood novels.

The interaction (including the sex) between Hunter and Corinne in this book is tender and explosive, written so that the reader experiences every nuance of their strong but fledgling bond.  Like the other Midnight Breed novels, it’s steamy without being vulgar and the sexual content does not eclipse the story.

The ending is a hell of a cliffhanger!  Normally I wouldn’t say something like that for fear of accidentally spoiling the experience, but I know some readers avoid cliffhangers, so if you’re one of those give-it-to-me-all-at-once kind of peeps, I recommend you put off reading this one until Chase’s book is released.  The tenth book in the Midnight Breed series featuring Chase Sterling will be called Darker After Midnight and is slated for a January 2012 release, so you’re in for a bit of a wait if you choose to read them back-to-back for the first time.

Memorable quotes:

Not really a lot of quotable one-liners in this one.  Here’s some insight into Hunter’s upbringing…

When asked what type of music he preferred…

He’d never thought about music one way or the other, never paused to consider if any of it appealed to him.  What would be the point in that?


If you like Deeper Than Midnight of The Midnight Breed series…

If you enjoyed Deeper Than Midnight and the rest of the Midnight Breed series for its arcing storylines and composite cast, you may also like the Black Dagger Brotherhood series (starting with Dark Lover) by J.R. Ward.  Both series generally follow the one-book-one-couple format, with some cross-weaving of plotlines throughout the entire story arc, and the BDB stories are rich in emotional conflicts and physical confrontations.  Highly recommended read!

If you liked Deeper Than Midnight and the Midnight Breed series for its urban setting mixed with the allure of modern romantic vampires and their more fragile female counterparts, you might enjoy the Argeneau Vampire series by Lynsay Sands and the Dark Series (starting with Dark Prince) by Christine Feehan.  Both series are less intense and have more singular-plot style stories than linked ones, but appeal to readers who enjoy the more traditional romantic vampire mythology.  The Argeneau series does have some plot-mingling amongst its later novels, but there is so much history in the first half that I recommend starting in the early books.  NOTE that I personally advise you to SKIP the first Argeneau novel (A Quick Bite)!  In my opinion, it is badly edited, repetitive, and overall just annoying to read.  I can now no longer look at a cucumber the same way…  >.<

Final thoughts:

When I first heard that Hunter’s book would be the next in the series, I was a little skeptical.  Here’s a guy who has spend his entire life being subjugated into being a killing machine controlled and trained in the most heinous ways by a psychotic madman.  Doesn’t really sound all that emotionally stable, right?  Realistically, someone who has successfully endured that kind of treatment is more broken than whole, and definitely not a good candidate for a romantic relationship.  However, Ms. Adrian gives us just enough forecasting and insight into who he is in the earlier novels that it plays out nicely.  It comes across as Corinne being his emotional savior, and that’s a pleasant perspective to contemplate as a reader.  Still not 100% believable, but hey… this is vampire lit and I read it to escape, so who cares!  =)

I like Hunter.  He’s a good strong-dominant-stalwart-male personality, and mixed with his upbringing he’s also a sympathetic hero.  I like Corinne less.  From her initial introduction in Brock & Jenna’s book (Taken By Midnight), Corinne comes off as immature and a little selfish.  That said, most of what we see of her is from Brock’s memories where she’s a very young and sheltered 20-something.  Her role in Deeper than Midnight is after a grueling half-century in the bowels of Dragos’s labs, so she has more substance and relatability as a character.  She’s still not one of my favorite heroines, as I prefer the chicks who kick butt, but she’s a good match for Hunter.  If you’re a fan of the Midnight Breed series, Deeper Than Midnight will not let you down – it definitely delivers!

Rating:
4.25 fangs: BITE IT! 

Related links:

http://www.laraadrian.com/ (The Midnight Breed series website)

http://www.jrward.com/ (The Black Dagger Brotherhood series website)

http://www.lynsaysands.net/ (The Argeneau Vampires series website)

http://www.christinefeehan.com/ (The Dark Series website)

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Review: A Vampire’s Claim (The Vampire Queen series #3), by Joey W. Hill

TLDR recap:

A drifter haunted by a brutal past, Devlin is a bushman who lives a lonely life on the edge in the Australian Outback.  At the tender young age of 200 years old, Lady Daniela, a rare “born” vampire who is heiress to her own province in Oz, is sought after by scheming male vampires trying to increase their own standing who are willing to kill or viciously torture her to achieve their goals.  Danny has never had a fully-marked human servant and Dev willingly submits to no one, but their unlikely emergency partnership could take them on an emotional journey neither is prepared for.

    • Title: A Vampire’s Claim
    • Series: The Vampire Queen series – book #3
    • Author: Joey W. Hill
    • Prominent Characters: Lady Daniela, Devlin
    • Recommended reader age: 18+
    • Sexual content level: heavy and explicit (vulgar language typical of erotica, includes group scenes and alternate sexual partnerings)

*** This review is spoiler-free!  Read on with confidence.  =) ***

Thoughts:

This book is number three in the series, but it could actually be read before the first two novels (The Vampire Queen’s Servant and The Mark of the Vampire Queen).  It’s set in the 1950s, a good 5 decades before Lyssa and Jacob’s books, and tells the story of Dev and Lady D, both of whom we met in the second book, The Mark of the Vampire Queen.

Dev’s backstory is violent and haunting, and his journey through the emotional minefield of becoming a fully-marked and willing human servant to Danny is uneasy at best.  This book delves into the psychology of war and loss, and doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the uncomfortably adventurous potential of the sex scenes.  At his lady’s insistence, Dev uses their tenuous connection as his emotional outlet, while she fights her own battle against dealing with her feelings for Dev and his proper place in her life.

I thoroughly enjoyed the second book (and the second half of the first), but I had a tough time getting into this one due to its intense gravity.  This is no flighty love story!  It is raw and intense, gratifying and punishing, violent and seductive.  While Dev is pushed past some of his natural straight-male sexual boundaries, I feel that some readers will be right there with him, part enthralled and part horrified at the dark places Danny takes him.

I really enjoyed getting to see Thomas and his interaction with Lyssa, as well as Alistair and Nina, the parents of born vampire Brian from the first two books.  Personally, I’m not into survival stories or rugged treks across dangerous wild territories, so the setting in this novel was a little off-putting for me.  While I loved Dev’s personality and the way he competently handles so many diverse situations, I just did not like reading about the Australian Outback and the woes of never-ending mosquitoes and other nasty creepy crawlies.  The sex scenes are hot, so no complaint there (although it’s going to be pretty hard to surpass the awesomeness that is the Council gathering in The Mark of the Vampire Queen!), but they are explicit and vulgarly worded, so readers who are new to erotica will have a shock or two in store until they get used to the cadence of the writing.

Memorable quotes:

So complex, the relationship between vampire and servant…

“We’re not pets.  We’re human servants to vampires, and it’s a relationship like nothing you’ve ever had in your life.  Tell yourself you love her or don’t love her.  It doesn’t matter.  If you are meant to be her full servant, you are bound together in a a way that would tear out your heart and half the things in your gut if you decided to walk away from it.”


If you like A Vampire’s Claim of The Vampire Queen series…

If you enjoyed A Vampire’s Claim and the rest of the Vampire Queen series for its hard-hitting emotional impact, you may also like the Black Dagger Brotherhood series (starting with Dark Lover) by J.R. Ward and the Psy/Changeling series (starting with Slave to Sensation) by Nalini Singh.  Although the Psy/Changeling series features shapeshifters and psychics rather than vampires, the relationships between the characters are intense and the bonds extremely strong.  Both of these series will make you laugh, cry, and just about everything in between!  Highly recommended reads.

If you liked A Vampire’s Claim for its heavy sexual content and explicivity, check out the Meredith Gentry series (starting with A Kiss of Shadows) and the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton.  The Anita Blake series starts with Guilty Pleasures, but the erotica aspect doesn’t become the dominant component of the stories until Narcissus in Chains (book #10).  You can’t really safely start halfway through the series, but there are a few wikis and fansites out there that will give you an overview if you choose to skip the horror-focused first half.

Final thoughts:

Overall excellent character development and plotlines, and seriously intense relationships both between the characters and growth within themselves.  If not for my city girl aversion to all-things-unsophisticated, I would probably have scored this one much higher.  As it is, I enjoyed it but have no plans to read it again from start to finish… maybe just some snippets here and there.  *grin*

Rating:
4.25 fangs: Bite it! 

Related links:

http://www.storywitch.com/ (The Vampire Queen series website)

http://www.jrward.com/ (The Black Dagger Brotherhood series website)

http://www.nalinisingh.com/ (The Psy/Changeling series website)

http://www.laurellkhamilton.org/ (The Merry Gentry & Anita Blake series websites)

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Review: Hit List (The Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series #20), by Laurell K. Hamilton

TLDR recap:

The mother of all darkness may have been destroyed in body, but her spirit still lives and has taken control of the Harlequin, the most feared, respected, and skilled group of spies and assassins ever trained.  With assistance from these vampire boogeymen, Mommy Dearest is gunning for Anita, to possess her body and control her abilities.  The Harlequin have laid a clever trap for Anita, separated from her support animals and sweeties, and will stop at nothing to acquire her for their master.  With only Edward and her own preternatural skills to protect her, will Anita survive Seattle or will Mommy Dearest win at long last?

    • Title: Hit List
    • Series: The Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series – book #20
    • Author: Laurell K. Hamilton
    • Prominent Characters: Anita, Edward, Bernardo, Ethan, Nicki
    • Recommended reader age: 18+
    • Sexual content level: light-to-moderate (explicit)

***** Slight spoilers ahead.  Read at your own risk.  =) *****

Thoughts:

This book has gotten a lot of negative reviews, for various reasons, so I fully expected to be disappointed and not enjoy reading it.  So let me just say first that I DID enjoy it and I’m glad I didn’t let the disgruntled reviewers scare me off!  I’m a fan of the ABVH series, but it’s not really enough to say “I like the series” because the series changes so drastically over the course of the impressive 20-book run.  Considering Ms. Hamilton (LKH) started work on the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter (ABVH) series in the early 1990s and has managed to successfully continue it through today, some changes in the characters and the plots should be expected.  Just like people change in real life, book characters should change as well, especially when they face as much trauma, violence, and loss in their lives as Anita and crew do.  If you’re not familiar with the series, the first 10 or so books are “one of the humans” stories for Anita, while the remaining books are “one of the monster” tales.  Anita is extremely verbose and is a master of talking circles around just about any other character I’ve seen in any book or series.  That’s not always a good thing, as the books tend to be dialogue-heavy, and the later books tend to be sex-dialogue-heavy (sometimes you feel like “OMG just get to it already!”), but it does give her character a more personal feel, as if she’s a girlfriend who’s relaying a story and walking you through her thought process.  It’s the way I tend to think, so I like it.

So… Hit List.  Part of the reason for explaining all that above is to say this…

Fans of the ABVH series for its explicit sexual content (let’s be honest with ourselves – she has a harem) and Anita’s acquisition of superhero-like powers, are the fans who enjoy the second half of the series.  Readers who enjoyed the crime-solving and horror elements of the beginning half of the series are less impressed with all the solve-everything-with-sex attitude that is so prevalent in the later books.  Given that, I’d expect that this novel would satisfy both camps, a) because there’s noticeably less sex in Hit List, and b) because she’s going back to her crime-solving roots.  This is an “Edward” book.  If you’re a reader of the series, then that alone should tell you whether or not you’re going to like this one.  Almost none of her harem of men are present in this adventure, leaving the story open for more focus on crime-solving.  However, something different between this and the previous “Edward” books is that he’s not nearly as I-could-kill-you-anytime and more I-think-I-want-you-to-stick-around, which is very un-Edward-like.  I chalk it up to part of her charm and maybe some of the metaphysics.  Men just like Anita, so it’s a natural progression to me.  Still, the crime-solving in this story is less about the horrendous gory crime scenes (thankfully!) and more about the hunt for the Harlequin, our newest big-bad since Mommy Dearest awoke.

Also, is it just me, or is LKH’s grammar improving noticably?  In the start of the book, I noticed several paragraphs with normal sentence structure, places where she’d usually run-on or fragment.  I wonder if the lack of sex in this book is indicative of LKH moving past her obsession with it (not that I’m complaining about said obsession – I find it entertaining), or if it is a vehicle for coming back to it stronger in the next one as she reunites with her many sweeties.  Of course, she could just skip that return-to-St-Louis period all together now that the next big bad seems like it will be Olaf, and if so, all bets are off.  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.  =)

Memorable quotes:

When does Anita have time to read Harry Potter?

“We settled this, Anita.  The… ones who can’t be named-” He glared at me.  “I really hate that we can’t even say their names out loud.  It feels like we’re in a Harry Potter book talking about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”

Anger management, Jack… get some.

I resisted a terrible urge to say, “You can’t handle the truth,” but the thought helped kill some of the anger.  I gave him calmer eyes and said, “The truth about what exactly?”

Hearts broken, lessons learned…

I learned a long time ago that being physically intimidating didn’t keep you from getting your feelings hurt.  Everyone’s heart is the same size.

Home is where your sweeties are.

It wasn’t about being the prettiest, or the best, it was about enjoying it.  It was about loving the men who were with you, while they were with you, and valuing every last one of them.  The love of a lover, of friends, and of partners, of people that I never wanted to lose, and wanted to wake up beside every damn day.  It was about home.  Home wasn’t a place, or a building, or a tropical night full of flowers and rain.  Love made home not out of boards and walls and furniture, but of hands to hold, and smiles to share, and the warmth of that body cuddled around you in the dark.

If you like Hit List of the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series…

If you enjoyed Hit List for the paranormal aspect of it, check out the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning and the Feral Warriors series by Pamela Palmer.  The Fever series is a 5-book set of consecutive stories, told from female first-perspective, about the Fae and the epic consequences of their civil war on our world.  There’s also the side benefit of experiencing Barrons, the male lead in the Fever series, whom you will ever want more of once you meet him! The Feral Warriors are a (so far) 5 book series about a group of shape-shifters who are spirit warriors protecting their race from their mortal enemies.  The stories are all told from the 3rd person, focusing mostly on the primary couple for each story.  These books are pretty steamy.  *grin*

If you liked Hit List (and the last half of the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series) for the intimate connections between Anita and her harem of sweeties, you’ll probably also enjoy The Meredith Gentry series, also by Laurell K. Hamilton.  Told from Merry’s perspective, it’s a series of stories full of love, sex, magic, fae, and battles.  Many fans of the ABVH series have reviewed positively about the Merry Gentry series, and it is one of my personal favorites.

Final thoughts:

As far as ABVH books go, Hit List is pretty tame, but I think it stays true to the story path and style that LKH has precedented in the previous few books.  I found it an enjoyable (and quick!) read and, while I probably won’t read it again for a while, may come back to it sometime in the future when I re-read the entire series again.

Rating:
4.25 fangs: Bite it!

Related links:

http://www.laurellkhamilton.org/ (The Anita Blake and Merry Gentry series website – finally updated and easier to use!)

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

http://www.pamelapalmer.net/ (The Feral Warriors series website)

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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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Review: Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse series novel #11), by Charlaine Harris

TLDR recap:

Sookie’s fairy kin are secretive and devious.  Sookie’s vampire friends are secretive and edgy.  Sookie’s old enemies are secretly still gunning for her.  Sookie’s family secrets finally see the light of day.  Secrets, secrets, everywhere, in Dead Reckoning, the 11th offering in Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Chronicles.

    • Title: Dead Reckoning
    • Series: The Southern Vampire Chronicles (Sookie Stackhouse) series – book #11
    • Author: Charlaine Harris
    • Prominent Characters: Sookie, Eric, Pam, & co.
    • Recommended reader age: 16+
    • Sexual content level: Fairly light

I am going to try very hard to keep spoilers out of this review!  I know not everyone reads at the speed of light and I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone who hasn’t finished it, so if you read on, expect to see hints of the overall tone of the story but no real specifics (other than a few unrevealing quotes). 

Thoughts:

This is going to be a very difficult review to write and it’s tempting to just put it off for another time, but the truth is I’ll probably only read this book again once, maybe twice ever, so I should get my thoughts written down while they’re still fresh.  Did I like the book?  Yeah, it was ok.  Did I enjoy the story?  I enjoyed the last half of the story, until the (yet again) unresolved ending.  Did I get the usual feeling of fulfillment and completion upon finishing it?  Ugh, no.  I really wanted to love this one; I wanted Charlaine to hit it out of the park!  The last Sookie Stackhouse novel left me feeling similarly disjointed and unsatisfied and I’d hoped it was just a case of middle-movie syndrome (you know, the important 2nd movie in a trilogy that has the meat of the story but doesn’t pack the cinematic punch and resolution of the beginning and end).  I’m going to try to do this without spoilers, so I’ll break it down by character…

Sookie: Nothing really new here, same old Sook (although a little less “christian”, by her own definition, and a little more ruthless).  Our Sookie is learning to survive in a world where she is perpetually fragile and she’s not too sure she’s happy with the “new” her.  She does, of course, have no objections to still being alive.  *wink*  And you know it wouldn’t be a Sookie Stackhouse novel if people (plural) weren’t trying to kill her pretty much constantly…

Eric: Also more of the same: secretive, domineering, oddly charming at times (“my lover” /swoon), and utterly ruthless and centered.  It’s becoming more apparent that Eric actually does love Sookie for more than just her value as a political tool, but does he love her enough to endanger his own precarious position?  More on this later…

Pam: Pam is her usual visciously effective self, with a dash of vulnerability that we haven’t seen in her to date.  This was a nice change!  It’s also nice to see Sookie actually thinking of Pam as a “good friend” rather than a vampire who’s just impartial about her and helps her out when it suits the situation.

Bill: Another reviewer made a pretty witty statement about Bill’s role in this novel (“everyone’s favourite killjoy crawls out of his sickhole”), and before reading Dead Reckoning, I agreed and thought it was fairly entertaining & appropriate.  I mean, honestly, Bill has become a bore, hasn’t he?  After finishing the novel, however, I felt that Bill’s presence lent some of the only straightforward love and support that Sookie received throughout the entire book.  After being staunchly Team Eric since the early novels, I’m now starting to wonder why I’m still holding out…

Sam: Oh Sam, a perpetual friend art thee.  First let me say that I do NOT like Jannalyn, Sam’s newest honey, and her role in this novel doesn’t win her as many brownie points as it loses her, putting her slightly down in the count at the close.  She doesn’t care though – she’s a badass pack enforcer and everyone else who isn’t Alcide are just peons, right?  I’m thinking maybe Sam should rethink just what it is he’s getting out of this relationship with Ms. Testosterone.

Alcide: Ugh.  Seriously.  UGH!  I want this guy to go away.  How many more ways can he possibly abuse Sookie’s one-time friendship and trust?  Admittedly, his part in this story does lend some much-needed levity to an otherwise overly serious & sometimes slightly boring progression.  Ironically, I’d actually forgotten how much I disliked Alcide until I read his scene – Joe Manganiello sure does do a sweet, sexy portrayal of him and it’s damn hard not to like Alcide in the HBO series True Blood!  Psst Charlaine, if you’re going to put in guest appearances, toss us some Quinn next time! 

Jason:  Sookie’s annoying and self-centered brother makes only a brief appearance in this one, and he doesn’t even get a line to speak.  I guess having a fairy in residence who looks just like him is a good enough substitute, and I am most definitely NOT complaining about the lack of Jason-time!

Memorable quotes:

Oh fair tradition!

I could imagine my grandmother’s opinion about Holly’s white wedding dress, since Holly had a little boy in school – but hey, whatever made the bride happy.  White used to symbolize the virgin purity of the wearer.  Now it just meant the bride had acquired an expensive and unusable dress to hang in her closet after the big day.

Those fairies, always playing hard to get!

They didn’t really care a whole hell of a bunch about what happened to humans they didn’t know.  If they’d ever read John Donne, they would have disagreed with his idea that no man is an island.  Most humans were on one big island, to the fairies, and that island was adrift on a sea called I Totally Don’t Care.

Well, Bill certainly isn’t playing hard to get…

“I think just knocking on your door and looking lonesome would probably get me where I wanted to be, if that was my goal.  Or I could just say, ‘How ’bout it big boy?’  I don’t think I need to be naked and in danger to get you lusty.  Right?”

Buy now and get a special bonus!

Go on the Sookie Stackhouse Narrow Avoidance of Death Diet!  Run for your life, and miss meals, too!  Excercise plus starvation.

Never a dull moment at Sookie’s house…

I wondered if she’d see Bubba in the woods.  Or Bill.  Or maybe there’d be fairies.  Or some more kidnappers.  A homicidal maniac!  You never knew what you’d find in my woods.


If you like…

If you like Dead Reckoning and the Sookie Stackhouse (Southern Vampire Chronicles) series, you might enjoy the Cassandra Palmer series.  They have a surprisingly lot in common: innate psychic powers they’d rather not have, people constantly trying to kill or control them, multiple powerful men trying to maneuver them into bed, and a strong backbone and sense of right vs. wrong.  The Cassie Palmer series, by Karen Chance, is currently 4 novels long, with the 5th releasing early next month.

If you find yourself frustrated by the sometimes slow pace in the Sookie Stackhouse series and want a little more bang for your buck, check out the Black Dagger Brotherhood by J. R. Ward. Having recently released its 9th novel (10th, if you count the Insider’s Guide, and you totally should!), the series is packed with love, sex, violence, drama, unexpected twists, and some of the most well-written romantic entanglements I’ve ever read.  Read it for the couples or read it for the politics and action… just read it!  =)

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Cat & Bones, my favorite paranormal couple from a series, in the “if you like this, then read this” list.  The Night Huntress series, by Jeaniene Frost, is still going strong after recently releasing its 6th most excellent novel (8 counting the 2 “world” spinoffs) and more is on the way later this year!

Final thoughts:

A lot goes down in this book and several long-running mysteries and plotlines are neatly tied off.  Some of the action feels almost TOO easy after the looooong draaaaawn out story arcs of perpetual assassination attempts and political intrigue.  I was definitely very happy with two particular outcomes, and I found myself laughing out loud at a few scenes that, for anyone but Sookie, shouldn’t have been amusing at all.  Long-time readers will be satisfied with some of the resolutions and spontaneous little gifts of information Ms. Harris delivers.  I’m already starting to speculate about where things will head next, but I’ll leave that for the comments below to keep from spoiling key plot points.  *wink*

My review probably comes across a little harsh for a 4+ rating.  I think the deal here is that we’ve all loved and lived Sookie’s life for years now, and waited so long in between very short-feeling installments (most of these books take place within a week of time or less!), that we’re impatient for big happenings.  Sookie’s love life has been tumultuous from the start, and I keep thinking “ok, it’s got to settle down some time!” but Ms. Harris obviously has other plans.  Personally, I read these novels partially for the Sookie/Eric developments and it feels like each new novel just delays their progression by filling the space with yet more political angst, assassination attempts, and battles.

So, bottom line, if you’re a long-time reader who doesn’t mind the incremental progress and can focus on the bigger picture of the series as a whole, you’re probably going to really enjoy this book!  If you, like me, need a little more romantic closure and less what-chores-Sookie-is-doing-today, you might leave this one feeling a little frustrated and wrung out.

Rating:
4.25 fangs: BITE IT!

Related links:

http://www.charlaineharris.com/

http://www.karenchance.com/

http://jeanienefrost.com/

http://www.jrward.com/bdb/

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Review: Kiss of Crimson (Midnight Breed series novel #2), by Lara Adrian

TLDR recap:

Destined to be together, yet both cursed with “gifts” they do not want, Dante and Tess enjoy a steamy chemistry but struggle with seemingly incompatible lives.  Tess’ healing touch for her veterinary patients is immediately at odds with Dante’s violent calling, but just as the Breed war stops for no one, the couple’s intense bond leaves no room for negotiation.  This second novel in the Midnight Breed series is more fast-paced than the first, and brings in new characters and starts new story arcs.

    • Title: Kiss of Crimson
    • Series: The Midnight Breed – book #2
    • Author: Lara Adrian
    • Prominent Characters: Dante & Tess, Sterling Chase
    • Recommended reader age: 17+
    • Sexual content level: Moderate

Note: This review may contain some very small spoilers, mostly involving new characters and the abilities used by the marquee couple: no major plot devices are given away in this post.

Premise:

Dante and Tess both have personal challenges to overcome, not the least of which being that Tess is now pursued by Rogues & Minions (if those terms don’t make sense to you, go back and read Kiss of Midnight first!) that she doesn’t even know exist and Dante is haunted by his own impending death.  Having unwittingly bonded them together, Dante must keep Tess alive & safe without pushing her away by what he is, and Tess must overcome her fear of her extraordinary Breedmate talent.

Thoughts:

I enjoyed this one more than the first in the series, Kiss of Midnight.  That’s probably partly because I liked Dante’s personality better than Lucan’s, Dante being the good-natured younger kick-ass warrior with a sense of humor.   I also liked Tess a lot.  As a vet running a clinic in a low-rent part of town, with clientelle who can’t always pay, Tess’s financial woes and dedication struggling to keep the clinic open were genuine, and there are so many unsung heroes like that in our own society that I was glad to see it get face time, even if it’s just in a fictional story.  Wow, that sentence was loooooong.

Tess’s Breedmate talent of healing is not really a revelation (nor very much of a spoiler, given how early in the book it’s implied) since it makes sense that the Order would need a “doctor” of some sort going forward in the series.  I am honestly trying not to make comparisons with the BDB (Black Dagger Brotherhood) as I read through these Midnight Breed novels, but there are so many parallels that it’s really tough!  For example, Tess’s healing reminds me of Doc Jane and Dante’s visions obviously bring the brain around to Vishous… and since Doc Jane and V are also paired up, it really cinches the comparison.   It’s sort of like reading Harry Potter for the first time and seeing all the references to other literary works that are woven into it – still enjoyable, just more comfortably familiar for the similiarities.

This novel brings in a new story arc with the character Sterling Chase.  I really liked him throughout the entire book, through all his stress and troubles, and I liked the possibilities that he brings to the overall flow of the series.  There was one part that seemed a little inconsistent to me though… In the first book, Gabrielle showed signs of Lucan’s bite long enough for her captors to see and recognize it, but when Dante first bites Tess, the mark disappears before she has a chance to even see it in the mirror.  In no other part of the book does Tess seem to have any extra self-healing powers, but maybe it’s just implied?  In any case, the chemistry between Dante and Tess is strong and their scenes together were enjoyable and had a lot of character to them.

Memorable quotes:

I’m the world’s perfect predator.  Wait, does this mean you sparkle? 

“Your kind?” she asked, growing very weary of his game.  “Okay, I give up.  Just what is your kind?”

“I am a warrior.  One of the Breed.”

“Right, a warrior.  And breed, as in… what kind of breed?”

For a long moment, he just looked at her, like he was weighting his answer.  “As in vampire, Tess.”

Holy Moses on a pogo stick.  He was beyond crazy.

If you like…

If you like Kiss of Crimson, you will very likely enjoy the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J. R. Ward.  The similarities are many, but there are enough differences to keep the stories from feeling like carbon copies.  I tend to recommend the same series over and over, so I’m not going to say “read Cat & Bones” (although you should) or “Cassie Palmer is great” (even though it is), so I’ll just sneak in some links at the bottom for you if you want to check out any additional reviewer-recommended series.  *grin*

Final thoughts:

So far, this series is off to a good, strong start.  I still feel it could be a little stronger, but having just finished #3 (Midnight Awakening)… arg, I’m seriously behind on the reviews!… I know it’s about to get even better, so I’m excited to keep reading.   For the BDB I always tell new readers to stick it out past the second book (Rhage & Mary’s story, Lover Eternal) before they decide to keep reading or quit.  For the Midnight Breed series, I’m going to recommend reading all the way through the end of Midnight Awakening (#3, Tegan’s story) before deciding.  I think that’s really where the series is going to pick up momentum and come into its own.

Rating:
4.25 fangs: BITE IT!

Related links:

http://www.laraadrian.com/

http://www.jrward.com/bdb/index.htm

http://jeanienefrost.com/

http://www.karenchance.com/

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Review: This Side of the Grave (Night Huntress series #5) by Jeaniene Frost

TLDR recap:

Jeaniene Frost’s latest offering in the Night Huntress paranormal romance series (more affectionately known as Cat & Bones) gets the whole gang back together as they try to defuse some very nasty political violence & insidious rumormongoring, and prevent an all-out  vamps vs. ghouls undead civil war.  This novel has everything fans of the Night Huntress world have come to love and expect from the series: quick wit, explosive action, a spunky kick-ass heroine (Cat), a strong sexy & deadly leading man (Bones), and Ms. Frost’s trademark unique & inventive passionate Cat & Bones moments.

  • Title: This Side of the Grave
  • Series: The Night Huntress (Cat & Bones) series – book #5 (Night Huntress World-inclusive book #7)
  • Author: Jeaniene Frost
  • Prominent Characters: Cat, Bones, Vlad, Mencheres, Fabian
  • Recommended reader age: 17+
  • Sexual content level: Moderate

Premise:

Even though Cat has been a full vampire for a few months now, Apollyon is still trying to use her as a figurehead to start a bloody war between the vampire and ghoul nations.  Cat, Bones, & crew have to find a way to take out Apollyon without inciting the very war they’re trying to prevent.  Cat also has to deal with her Uncle’s devastating terminal illness and her mother’s newfound aspirations, in addition to leaning to use and perfect some very advanced new powers she’s recently acquired.  With threats coming from all sides, and the passion between Cat & Bones as combustible as ever, our favorite paranormal couple is in for a wild ride.

Thoughts:

One of the things I like most about Cat, aside from being a strong, kick-ass chic with fangs, is that after 5 books (7 if you count the NHWorld books) and 8 years of battles, political standoffs, and hanging around some of the oldest, most powerful creatures on earth, she’s still a little socially awkward.  Her irreverent modern slang dialogue and off-the-cuff reactions make for some unforgettably fun scenes!  I mean, honestly, who can identify with a gal who’s got an unlimited lifespan, a battle-honed figure, frequently gains ridiculously awesome new powers, AND has a gorgeous, talented lover?  She’s got to have something to make her a little more human… ok, maybe not “human” so much as vulnerable… and Ms. Frost has done an excellent job keepin’ it real.  =)

Mencheres, however, isn’t really real… if you know what I mean.  😉  Aside from possessing enough power to support a small nation and having one of the most stoic countenances of any of the NH crew, he’s a freaking ex-Egyptian pharoah!  Cat has been uncomfortable around Mencheres since she first met him, and I have to agree that he’s a little creepy sometimes… in a lovable kind of way, of course.  *wink*  It was really nice to see Mencheres acting a little more loose and normal, and there are a couple of delightful scenes between him and Kira.

Something that did annoy me a little with this book was the frequent repetition of past story details.  Now granted, most readers probably aren’t as intent on story details or focused on (read: obsessed with) re-reading a series before the newest book is released as I am, but still I didn’t feel that the dialogue put in to catch up new readers was really believable from a conversational viewpoint.  If you’ve been through so much with someone over such a long period of time, you generally don’t need to tell each other how you met or how this event or that went down.   It just felt awkward to me.  Instead of having this as dialogue between the characters, I’d have preferred it to be explained as a narration in Cat’s first-person sections.

That said, pretty much everything else about this book was AWESOME!  And Chapter 21… OOOOOOOH MMMMYYYYYYY!!  I’d heard about Chapter 21 before I read this book, so I was expecting it to be memorable (and boy, is it!).  It’s been compared to Chapter 32 of One Foot In the Grave (NH #2), which I’m not going to spoil for those of you who haven’t read it yet, and I have to say that it’s definitely in the same category of did-they-really-just-do-that.  I still think Ch. 32 of OFitG was more fleshed out (no pun intended =D) and extensive, but I really enjoyed Ch. 21 of this one as well.   Ms. Frost has a real talent for writing gripping, passionate love scenes for all sorts of encounters- from the standard steamy stuff, venturing into a little BDSM.

OH!  Did anyone else catch the little by-play with Ian and Veritas?!  I suspect a new Night Huntress World pairing in the making… *grin*  Still no new mentions of Timothy or Cain though.  Oh Jeaniene, you are such a TEASE!

You might also like…

If you like Cat & Bones (Night Huntress series), you might also like the Cassandra Palmer Pythia series by Karen Chance or the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward.  The Southern Vampire (Sookie Stackhouse) series by Charlaine Harris is also somewhat similar in its early books, but becomes too politically mired in the later ones to keep up the fast pace that the Night Huntress series is known for.  The Cassie Palmer books are a crazy-fun trip through chaos, danger, time-travel, & vamp/mage politics, with a little romance on the side.  If Cat & Bones are your favorite couple, you’ll probably also like Cassie/Mircea/Pritkin (yeah I know that sounds weird- read it and you’ll see what I mean!) and several of the Black Dagger Brotherhood pairings.

Memorable quotes:

Note: I didn’t put ALL of the fun one-liners in here.  I wanted you guys to have a few things to discover on your own.  Twilight fans, be on the lookout for an easter egg that is NOT mentioned below (although other reviewers have spoiled the goods already, so don’t go reading reviews if you don’t want to know what it is)…

A day in the life of a half-breed vampire dictator…

“But if Apollyon is behind these attacks, we need a way to get to him without looking like we’re being mindlessly antagonistic.  Otherwise…”

Bones didn’t have to finish the sentence.  Otherwise, Apollyon will have more fuel for the rumors that I’m seeking to be some sort of vampiric Stalin, I mentally finished.  Right, because that’s what I put on my To Do list every morning.  Brush teeth.  Wash hair.  Rule undead world with an iron fist.

How not to party-crash a graveyard…

Most people didn’t visit cemetaries for cheery reasons, so it wasn’t a place where striking up impromptu conversations was the norm.  Not to mention it would take a really ballsy person to go up to a group gathered around a gravesite with the opening line of “So what are we talking about, anyway?”

Vlad, on learning new skills…

“Less bitching… more learning,” Vlad grated.  Then he closed his eyes as if dismissing me.  “I know, I’m delicious.  Nummy… nummy,” he muttered to the remnants feasting on him.

Bones, on the Cat’s reunion with a former ghostly acquaintance <altered to avoid spoilers>…

“This is the sod?” Bones started down the porch stairs even as <the ghost> began to edge away.  “Come back here, you scurvy little-”

“Bones, don’t!” I interrupted, not wanting him to start using slurs that might offend the other living-impaireds gathered here.

He stopped, giving a last glare to <the ghost> while mouthing, You. Me. Exorcist, before returning to my side.

Explaining modern weaponry to a 19th century ghost…

“Machine guns?” I asked, miming holding one and making a series of rapid staccato noises.

Bones’s mouth twitched, but he dipped his head so I wouldn’t see his clear amusement over my “GI Jane does Pictionary” imitation.

Final thoughts:

Cat has finally come to terms with who and what she is, and has publicly accepted it.  She’s come full circle from the girl we first met in Halfway to the Grave… from hating & killing vampires, to eating them and marrying one.  This time around it’s her turn to listen to her friends and family spout the same excuses and “human” rhetoric that she used to shove at Bones.  She’s finally starting to understand the frustration she’s put him through and the deep well of patience and faith in her that he’s always had.  I do love a heroine who can be sensitive and vulnerable while still kicking ass and taking names!

With the threat of Apollyon gone, having been the looming Big Bad for the last few books, it will be interesting to see what Ms. Frost throws at our favorite paranormal couple next.  I hope she takes the track of “new and different” as opposed to “bigger and badder”… the former will keep the series fresh and fun while the latter would, I fear, hasten it to an early grave.

Cat & Bones are a powerhouse… as a couple, as a fighting team, and as leaders of their extensive undead “family” line.  Oh, and don’t miss the preview excerpt from the next Cat & Bones book (One Grave at a Time) at the end of this one.  “Fall 2011” is a long time to wait for the next installment, and I can’t wait!

Rating:
4.25 fangs: BITE IT!

This novel was almost all I wanted it to be, and that’s some pretty high expectations to live up to!  The action is a little slow in parts, but still enjoyable.  If you haven’t read the first 4 (plus 2 World books, Spade and Mencheres), I’d recommend reading them first, as there’s a ton of history and a fairly large cast of characters brought in at the climax of this story.  Even without reading the other novels, though, this will still be a good read, and you’ll get to see what all the “Cat & Bones” fuss is about.  =)

Related links:

http://jeanienefrost.com/books/

http://www.jrward.com/bdb/index.html

http://www.karenchance.com/books.html

http://www.charlaineharris.com/bibliography/bibliog-sookie.html


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