Category Archives: 4.5 Fangs

Dual Review: Vampire Mistress and Vampire Trinity (The Vampire Queen series #5 and #6), by Joey W. Hill

TLDR recap:

Renegade vampire hunter Gideon Green is a wandering soul, lashing out at everyone who tries to help him in his search to find peace and a place to belong.  Anywn Naime, owner of the successful BDSM club Atlantis, is a natural dominant and has the ability to reach into the hearts of her clients to bring them face-to-face with dangerous and frightening truths.  Vampire Daegan Rei is a mystery, a chillingly effective killer with unswerving loyalty to Anwyn and an unsettling interest in the wayward vampire hunter.  Gideon’s struggle with what his rough life has made of him, and who he subconsciously wants to become, is vulnerably gut-wrenching and will touch even the most cynical readers.

    • Title: Vampire Mistress, Vampire Trinity
    • Series: The Vampire Queen series – books #5 & #6
    • Author: Joey W. Hill
    • Prominent Characters: Gideon Green, Anwyn Naime, Daegan Rei
    • Recommended reader age: 18+
    • Sexual content level: heavy and explicit (vulgar language typical of erotica)

Thoughts:

The first book in the Gideon duet, Vampire Mistress, centers around the renowned troubled vampire hunter Gideon Green and the consummate BDSM club mistress Anwyn Naime, and his path to becoming a marked servant.  The second book, Vampire Trinity, focuses on the relationship between Gideon and Daegan Rei and the ties that bind the three of them together.   As with books #1 and #2 in this series, I’m reviewing these as a set – they were written with the intention of being read as one story, so one feels incomplete without the other.

Gideon’s path to accepting and becoming part of his vampire trinity is sometimes uncomfortably arousing in its poignant brutality.  The vampire hunter’s reluctant regard for Daegan offends his staunchly hetero sensibilities and leads him on a harrowing journey of self-discovery and acceptance.  The psychological impact of his fight, acceptance, and submission is masterfully crafted.  Gideon’s journey is as physically traumatic as his brother Jacob’s, and even more so psychologically.

Ms. Hill definitely understands how to tame an alpha male without breaking him or taking away what makes him special.  If Jacob’s journey was heartbreaking and scintillating, Gideon’s is excruciatingly personal and explosively erotic.

I’m no expert in the psychology of domination and submission, but the dichotomy between Gideon’s heart’s desire and what his soul demands is intriguing and immersive.  The art of domination, of looking into someone’s soul, understanding what they need and knowing how to help them realize it, walks a very fine line between compassion and abuse, and for someone as emotionally scarred as Gideon, it is a razor edge.

On a geekier note, there are two separate references to World of Warcraft in Vampire Mistress.  Think Ms. Hill actually plays?  For the Horde!

Memorable quotes:

I’m quoting for two books, so get comfy!  =D

The psychology of dog (people?) whispering…

“In order to understand a creature’s pain, ,you have to step inside him, see through his eyes.  And be strong enough not to feel sorry for him, in order to teach him how to be a dog again.  Live in the moment, because this moment is all there is.”

Dangerously conflicted…

“Your problem is your mind came here looking for what you want, rather than what you need.  Your soul is the battleground between those two forces.”

Nothing a good titanium pair of handcuffs can’t solve…

Goddess save her from alpha males, and their irritating habit of switching from emotionally closed, dysfunctional pains in the ass to knights in shining armor in a heartbeat, sweeping a woman’s legs right out from under her.

It’s never too late to apologize… 

“Well, me and Don Juan, we don’t hang out as much as we used to.”

Trusting your own emotions?  Pffft, overrated.

Oh yeah, ego stroking.  His subconscious was working this angle hard.  Freaking little internal hustler.

Gotta draw the line somewhere!

He definitely had rules about bathing with naked male vampires he didn’t know.  Hell, with naked men he didn’t know.

Parental supervision not required…

“Maybe, Dad.  They’re having karaoke night at Floyd’s down the street.  I’ve been itching to give them my rendition of ‘Back in Black’.”

Real strength comes from within…

“Nothing outside of you destroys who you are, what you want to be.  If you’re strong enough, you can put it back together, no matter who or what shatters you.”

The quandary of leadership…

“A true leader does want to lead, because he or she believes the goal is important.  The more appropriate adage is that a person takes a leadership role, not because he or she wants to be important, but because the job itself is important.”

Ah, the sophisticate wine connoisseur…

Jesus, how many bottles of wine did anyone need?  He chose one at length, mainly because he liked the dog printed on it.

If you like Vampire Mistress and Vampire Trinity of The Vampire Queen series…

If you enjoyed Vampire MistressVampire Trinity, and the rest of the Vampire Queen series for its paranormal ties (vampire society with humans who serve as blood hosts), check out the Night Huntress series (Cat & Bones, starting with Halfway to the Grave) by Jeaniene Frost.  The NH books are not erotica but they feature strong ties between a central couple and they definitely have their share of steamy scenes.

If you enjoyed Vampire Mistress and Vampire Trinity for its acceptance of alternative sexuality but you don’t want to read full erotica, try the Black Dagger Brotherhood (starting with Dark Lover) by J.R. Ward.  The BDB books are tamer but still have emotional and sensual impact, and Ms. Ward is not afraid to consider the reality of men who love men.

Final thoughts:

Vampire Mistress and Vampire Trinity are raw and revealing, especially on the part of Gideon, but for the two vampires as well.  Ms. Hill leads us straight into their souls and lets us experience firsthand their anguish, uncertainty, passion, and triumph.  This entire series is an emotionally supercharged freight train that will blow your mind and leave you begging for more!

Rating: Vampire Mistress Rating: Vampire Trinity
4.5 fangs: BITE IT!  5 fangs: DEVOUR IT! 

Related links:

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

http://jeanienefrost.com/ (The Night Huntress series website)

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

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Dual Review: The Vampire Queen’s Servant and The Mark of the Vampire Queen (The Vampire Queen series #1 and #2), by Joey W. Hill

TLDR recap:

The oldest living vampire and the last queen of the Far East Clan, Lady Elyssa Amaterasu Yamato Wentworth, still suffers from the pain of losing her human servant and her husband.  Jacob Green is, among other things, a vampire hunter trained to hunt and kill her kind but is strangely drawn to Lyssa in ways he does not yet understand.  Even a perfect match takes a little breaking in, and Lady Lyssa excels at control.  Struggling for dominance and honesty, Jacob and Lyssa’s unusual relationship takes them far beyond the bounds accepted by both their societies and challenges the very core of their souls.

    • Title: The Vampire Queen’s Servant, The Mark of the Vampire Queen
    • Series: The Vampire Queen series – books #1 & #2
    • Author: Joey W. Hill
    • Prominent Characters: Lady Elyssa Amaterasu Yamato Wentworth, Jacob Green
    • Recommended reader age: 18+
    • Sexual content level: heavy and explicit (vulgar language typical of erotica)

Thoughts:

Jacob’s journey toward full human servant is both tender and traumatic.  During the first novel, it is difficult to comprehend why Lyssa treats him as she does, but when all is finally revealed, it makes your heart break just a little for the both of them.  Of course, that’s when you’re not taking cold showers or jumping your significant other from the sheer HEAT of their chemistry.  If those book covers at the top of this post make you raise your eyebrows, well hang on to your granny panties sister cuz you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!  The Mark of the Vampire Queen has one of the hands-down-hottest scenes in a book I have ever read, eclipsing even One Foot in the Grave‘s infamous Chapter 32.  The scenes in The Vampire Queen’s Servant are no slouch either.  Ms. Hill delivers such beautiful imagery, heart-touching tenderness and discovery, amidst the visceral, intense sexual spectacles.

These books read like one novel.  The first feels almost incomplete at the ending, knowing there is more in store for them and the battle is far from over.  To give the most honest review possible, I’m reviewing them together.  Hope you don’t mind.  🙂

Now, it did take me a little while to get into the first book, but I’m so glad I stuck with it because it was well worth the effort.  Lyssa’s attitude really annoyed me at first, and Jacob came across as a little one-dimensional.  Why would this random guy just turn his life over to this seemingly-cruel vampire he’s never met?  Not knowing all the details up front makes the journey that much better as the full story unfolds.  So if you find yourself stuck, keep reading.  Get to book #2.  I promise it is worth it.

For readers with a history of abuse, parts of this story, especially the first book, will be difficult to read.  As I continued reading, I went from apathetic about the characters to being deeply moved by them.  I think the journey will be different for each reader, based on each person’s individual life experiences.  Personally, I found it complicated and not without conflict, but intensely touching.

These stories are the perfect blend of erotica and paranormal romance, tying together a soul-deep love story and a physical connection with more sparks than a ribbon of Black Cats on the 4th.  These books pack some serious punch, so this is not for the sheltered or for readers easily offended by creative public sexual displays designed around group & bondage situations!  Sound interesting yet?  It’s positively scandalous and I DARE you to read this series!!

Memorable quotes:

I’m quoting for two books, so get comfy!  =D

Jacob, on tattoos…

“It’s rare to see a completely unmarked man your age.  Why is that?”

He pulled his attention away from the thing she was treating as jewelry and he was viewing as  potential torture device.  From the slight smile on her lips, he suspected she recognized his struggle to focus.

“My brother always said if you mark your body with a symbol, it means you stand by it forever.  Only things branded on the soul can be branded on the body.  So far I’ve found the only constant is that everything changes.”

All work and no play…

“Yes, wicked stepmother.  I’ll have everything planned to the last detail while the mice sew my dress together.”  He tapped the top of the legal pad with the menu.  “You’ll have the full proposal with all the details by tomorrow when you rise.”

A servant’s musing of his Mistress…

“She has the mindless courage of a predator, the broken heart of an angel, and a woman’s unconquerable soul.”

Life is…

“Life is never as dramatic as we pretend it is in a normal life.  But we can be intensely amazing, or quietly desperate, as Thoreau said.  If you woke each day with a genuine awareness which allowed you to appreciate everything as if you were seeing it for the very first time… or the last.”

Sex: sin or devotion?

In fact, there was a spiritual power to it so overwhelming, Lyssa thought the religions that used it as a form of worship made more sense than those that called it a sin.

A jack of all trades…

Such was a human servant’s life.  Dry cleaning, home repair, gardening.  Arranging a table centerpiece and then replacing that centerpiece to perform as a sex slave in front of dinner guests.  All in a day’s work.

More money than God…

“That’s such a ridiculous saying.   What use would God have for money?  Hence, a pauper has  more money than God.”


If you like The Vampire Queen’s Servavnt and The Mark of the Vampire Queen of Vampire Queen series…

If you enjoyed The Vampire Queen’s ServantThe Mark of the Vampire Queen, and the rest of the Vampire Queen series for its paranormal ties (vampire society with humans who serve as blood hosts), check out the Night Huntress series (Cat & Bones, starting with Halfway to the Grave) by Jeaniene Frost.  The NH books are not erotica but they feature strong ties between a central couple and they definitely have their share of steamy scenes.

Final thoughts:

This series, The Mark of the Vampire Queen in particular, is seriously carnally addicting.  If I bookmarked every memorable, steamy scene, my poor book would double in size from all the squished corner pages.  The bond between Jacob and Lyssa is something truly special… for even a “normal” romance.  This is erotica with heart.  An achingly scintillating path travelled in a world of heavy dominance and submission, where sex could all-too-easily eclipse the more vulnerable and tender moments.  Even before I read the books that follow, this series was an instant favorite of mine.

Yes, this is erotica.  Those with serious aversions to the vulgar language typically used in that genre may be uncomfortable at first.  BUT!!  Don’t let that scare you!  If you’re new to erotica or even new to BDSM, this is an excellent series to get you started and I highly recommend reading it.

Sometimes a pixie sprinkles fairy dust and glitter to tempt you onto a new path, and sometimes she flits over and just drags you away with her.  You know who you are.  Thanks for convincing me to read this fantastic series!

Rating: The Vampire Queen’s Servant Rating: The Mark of the Vampire Queen
4.5 fangs: BITE IT!  5 fangs: DEVOUR IT! 

Related links:

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

http://jeanienefrost.com/ (The Night Huntress series website)

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Review: A Discovery of Witches (All Souls trilogy novel #1), by Deborah Harkness

TLDR recap:

Diana Bishop doesn’t want to be a witch and she tries very hard to avoid using her magic, but after she accidentally breaks a powerful protection spell and uncovers an ancient manuscript, her life will never be the same.  This is a smart, classy, heart-warming tale of witches, daemons, and vampires, and the ties that bind them.

    • Title: A Discovery of Witches
    • Series: The All Souls Trilogy – book #1
    • Author: Deborah Harkness
    • Prominent Characters: Diana Bishop, Matthew Clairmont
    • Recommended reader age: 15+
    • Sexual content level: Very light, nearly none

Thoughts:

Starting out, I expected not to like this book.  I’m not sure why – I just had a “bleh” feeling about reading it.  Maybe it was the length.  Maybe it was my fondness for smutty novels (which this absolutely is NOT).  Maybe because it was assigned to me as part of a book club (and I generally dislike authority *grin*).  Whatever the reason, I am SO GLAD I stuck this out and committed myself to reading it!  I was told this before I started, and I’m verifying it now by passing it on: unless you are the scholarly type who enjoys hanging out in libraries, the first quarter of the book is slow.  Very methodical.  Very Diana Bishop, actually, who is the first-person voice for the story.  I skimmed much of the pre-Matthew chapters, which I wouldn’t actually recommend because I missed out on some critical information and had to go back and re-read.  That said, once I realized there was a relationship blooming between Diana and Matthew (I went into this with as little information as possible), it was  much easier reading.  What can I say?  I’m a sucker for romances!  =)

‘A Discovery of Witches’ (ADoW) is The Da Vinci Code meets The Fellowship of the Ring (complete with three subnovels, albeit unlabelled as such), The Pillars of the Earth meets Angels and Demons.  If the Twilight Saga (TTS) weren’t obviously written and released first, I’d think *it* was a teenage adaptation of *this* book, minus the witches and daemons.  I know, *GASP!!*, but hear me out and think about it.  There are many similarities between ADoW and TTS: the forbidden relationship between a vampire and his human love & the war that ensues, the families closing ranks to protect them and wage that war, the evil council determined to pry them apart (for political gain & maneuvering) by any means possible, the slow pace of the sexuality in the relationship and the prospect of a child who is like neither and both parents, the frail heroine who grows into her own strength and power so she can protect her mate and family.

ADoW has a fairly deep cast of characters, in both the sheer number of them and the level of development given to some of the secondaries.  Many romance-centric novels focus on the hero and heroine to the detriment of most of the other players.  Ms. Harkness skillfully weaves in enough personality and details about many of the secondary characters to help the reader accept them as an integral part of the story.  As the book goes on, it becomes more of an ensemble cast (including the house itself!), providing a nice warm fuzzy family base for the primary couple.

Aside from the strange mix of first-person and omniscient narration (which is ideal for the characters’ individual personalities), the scientific talk of DNA and such was just understandable enough to be interesting without being offputting.  There were some thought-provoking passages during the DNA discussions and explanations, alluding to things like how our lifestyles and choices throughout our evolution directly affect our DNA mutations as a species across time.  That’s some high-brow stuff and should be discouraging to many people who aren’t schooled in that science, but I found Ms. Harkness expressed these ideas clearly & simply enough so that I could both follow along and still make my own leaps of thought.

Memorable quotes:

I love the allegory in this… on so many levels!

“There’s more to the game than protecting your queen,” Hamish said.  “Why do you find it so difficult to remember that it’s the king who’s not expendable?”

“The king just sits there, moving one square at a time.  The queen can move so freely.  I supposed I’d rather lose the game than forfeit her freedom.”

Aww, humans are special too!

“<Vampires> have strength and long life, you have supernatural abilities, daemons have awe-inspiring creativity.  Humans can convince themselves up is down and black is white.  It’s their special gift.”

Imagination, the spark of life…

Remember, Diana: ‘The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious.  It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and science.  Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed.”


If you like A Discovery of Witches…

Ok, this is a tough one.  Most of the books I review really aren’t anything like this one.  It would be easy to fall back on my standard “Read Cassie Palmer!” (because she time travels and people are trying to kill her too), or mention one of my other traditional favorites (Cat & Bones, Black Dagger Brotherhood), but honestly, ADoW is not nearly as similar to those series as it is to others that are outside the genres of paranormal romance and urban fantasy.  I mentioned a few above, and since I thought of them while reading, I’m going to recommend those instead.  Now I know some purists may be offended at my comparing this book to any work of Tolkien.  Yes, I know, Tolkien is something special and rare and making offhand references to Fellowship is sacrilege… yeah yeah, whatever!  The truth (as I see it) is, if you liked Tolkien’s ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’, then you will appreciate the level of detail and thought that went into building the universe and storyline of this novel, and that is a pretty high compliment to Ms. Harkness.  Personally, I prefer the narrative style of ADoW to the  excruciatingly-specific-and-flowery Fellowship passages since it makes it easier to read.  Yep, I’m a blasphemer!  *grin*

ADoW also reminded me a little bit of the Dan Brown novels ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and ‘Angels and Demons’.  Again, that’s probably a controversial comparison, but think about the depth of the mystery here and how rooted it is in existing history, science, art, and lore.  Ms. Harkness is a decorated scholar and historian, and that really shines through in this novel.

Finally, I referenced The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.  This is another work of fiction (which does NOT focus on a primary couple romantically) that is rich in history and intrigue.  It is set in the middle ages, during the age of the great cathedral builders, and is a stimulating journey through the life struggles, politics, and construction of the majestic structures of the period.

Final thoughts:

‘A Discovery of Witches’ is cleverly compelling and affectionately engrossing.  It is a rediscovery of the senses and the intellect, a celebration of indulgence through science.  This is the kind of story that can inspire a new generation of aspiring scholars or speculative conspiracy theorists.  It tugs at the heart strings with a cast of characters and plotline that is rich in such diversity of race, nationality, sexuality, and culture that it’s nearly impossible not to enjoy.

I would like to give this novel 4.75 or 5 fangs, but the first quarter put me to sleep a few times until I finally got into it.  In light of that, I’ll give it a solid 4.5 fangs and two enthusiastic thumbs up.  With all the curveballs Ms. Harkness sent our way and with all the new possibilities that opened up in the final chapters, I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Rating:
4.5 fangs: BITE IT!

Related links:

http://deborahharkness.com/

http://www.tolkien-online.com/

http://danbrown.com/

http://ken-follett.com/

http://www.karenchance.com/ (Cassie Palmer)

http://jeanienefrost.com/ (Cat & Bones)

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

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Review: Narcissus in Chains (Anita Blake series novel #10), by Laurell K. Hamilton

TLDR recap:

Anita reconnects with Jean-Claude and Richard to finally “marry” the vampire marks that bind them as a triumvirate.  Meanwhile, a brand new sweetie and a nasty new big bad hit town, as Anita fights her way from one crisis to the next in true ABVH style.

    • Title: Narcissus in Chains
    • Series: The Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series – book #10
    • Author: Laurell K. Hamilton
    • Prominent Characters: Anita, Jean-Claude, Richard, Nathaniel, Micah
    • Recommended reader age: 17+
    • Sexual content level: Moderate, but fairly explicit

*** Spoiler alert! ***

If you have not read the first 9 books of the ABVH series and still plan to, OR if you do not want to know ANYTHING about the major events that will happen in Narcissus in Chains, stop reading now and come back once you’ve read it.  If you want some insight into the happenings of the novel, read on!  =) 

Premise & overview:

Anita, Richard, and Jean Claude finally marry their vampire marks, resulting in increased powers and new, although not necessarily desirable, abilities for each of them.  Anita & Richard are on-again off-again before Anita meets a new main squeeze and has to deal with the possibility of being Nimir-Ra of the leopards for real.  Furry politics takes a nasty turn when a new mystery alpha comes to town.

Thoughts:

It’s been a while since I read an Anita Blake book, but since I’ve never reviewed one and I really enjoyed this re-read, I figured it was a good time to put this one out there.  Narcissus in Chains is the book where Anita becomes “one of the monsters” and the series turns from being a mostly horror/thriller crime-solving drama to focusing on Anita’s new arduous power & burgeoning bevy of lovers and vamp/furry politics.

I’m a big fan of the Anita Blake series.  There are definitely things that annoy me, and the pace seems to spontaneously switch from super-slow to super-speed, but somehow I keep coming back for more even though I’ve read all the later books at least a few times.  The first 9 books mostly focus on Anita’s work as a necromancer (raising zombies for a living) and her side-job as a licensed vampire executioner and police correspondent, while developing the foundations of her relationships with Jean-Claude and Richard.  Because these early books were written nearly 20 years ago, there are a lot of references to now-antiquated technology and fashions that make it difficult to stay immersed in the story.  For example, any talk of shoulderpads automatically gives me visions of the 80s and 90s and really, to be completely honest, puts me off.  Let’s face it: shoulderpads are just NOT that attractive in normal clothes and I don’t want to read about them on my supposedly cute & kick-ass heroine!  Also, not having access to a cell phone, or having any references to cell phones, makes me think “why doesn’t she just get a cell phone?!” because mobile phones are one of the most, if not the absolute most, common personal accessory in our society today.  The early books also make a lot of references to Anita’s Nike shoes: what color they are, how many pairs she has, how often she wears them.  I don’t know why, I just find that really annoying.  It’s almost like Ms. Hamilton had some sort of advertising deal with Nike.  Of course, it could just be that she likes to thoroughly describe people, items, and events in her novels…

That is actually one of the things that annoys me most yet I like the most about Anita – she has a tendency to chat up little details regardless of their significance to the plot.  It’s sort of how people notice the things happening around them in real-time and the thoughts that pass through our heads – sometimes these thoughts are pertinent to the situation at hand and sometimes they’re superfluous, but including these little blurbs definitely helps the readers immerse themselves in the story and feel a closer connection to the main character.  The down-side to this is that there’s apparently no limit to what Ms. Hamilton is willing to talk circles around, including her sex scenes.  LKH writes some of the most steamy & gutsy sex scenes of all the authors I read, but sometimes it takes her forever to get down to it.  Sometimes, the characters actually talk themselves OUT of having sex during chapters-long dialogues that end in arguments (usually involving Richard – shocker, I know).  This is less of an issue in the later books, once Anita and Richard come more to grips with what they have become.

Narcissus in Chains marks the turning point in the series, where the books go from being widely classified as “thrillers” or “horror/crime drama” to “erotica” and “paranormal romance”.  The further into the series you get, the more appropriate the erotica label becomes.  I imagine bookstores have a tough time classifying this series – what section do you shelve it in when it’s pretty much split in two?

Memorable quotes:

Finally one of the monsters…

I’d tried not to be one of the monsters for so long, and now, in one fell swoop I was them, both of them.  You couldn’t be a bloodsucking vampire and be a lycanthrope at the same time.  They cancelled each other out as a disease or a curse… I’d always thought I’d have to drink blood to be one of them.  But I had been wrong about so many things.

Direct?  Who, me?

“You are simultaneously one of the most direct women I know, and one of the most self-deluding.”

“I am really not liking where this conversation is going.”

A lesson in BDSM…

I kept equating submissiveness with being inferior, and that wasn’t really the case.  Some people choose to be bottoms, to serve; it doesn’t make them less, just different.

Is there such a thing as too much firepower?

The doorbell rang again.  I didn’t jump this time.  I hung the Uzi over my shoulder by its strap and settled the Browning more comfortably in my hand.  The Uzi was really an emergency weapon.  The fact that I’d even thought about answering my door with it on my person was probably a bad sign.  If I needed more than a 9mm to answer my own front door, I should just leave town.

If you like…

If you like Narcissus in Chains and the Anita Blake series, you will almost certainly like the Meredith Gentry series, also written by Laurell K. Hamilton.  Unlike the ABVH series, which takes 10 books to really get into the steamy stuff, Merry Gentry focuses on sex as a central plot device starting with the first book.  MG also has some crime-solving elements in its plots, making it pretty damn near the fae version of an Anita Blake clone series, harem of hunky men included.

You might also like the Sookie Stackhouse (South Vampire Chronicles) series by Charlaine Harris and the Night Huntress (Cat & Bones) series by Jeaniene Frost.  Both of these are told from the same first person heroine perspective and involve plenty of vamps and other supes.  The Night Huntress series is probably closer to ABVH than Sookie Stackhouse since the main character is also a fighter, but be aware that while both these series have some excellent steamy moments, they are not nearly as close to being classified as erotica as ABVH is.

Final thoughts:

LKH has created a world where the heroine is kick-ass, attractive, intelligent, capable, and gains power constantly.  Anita attracts men and trouble like flies to honey, and since the stories are all told in first person, the reader really gets to feel immersed in the crazy happenings and goings on.  We also get to see the plots of the entire series unfold through the eyes of one person (Anita), instead of from a third person view of whatever the marquee couple is for a particular book.  To have a successful series dedicated to one main voice that has lasted for this long is a fairly rare accomplishment in the Paranormal Romance genre, and I’m excited to see a few new series coming along a similar path.

I personally found the first few books, and a few of the non-St. Louis books (featuring Edward), very difficult to read.  I’m not into excessive gore or horror or thrillers, and some of the crime scene content in the first half of the series really left me troubled (especially considering LKH has stated that she gets her ideas from actual crimes!).  For readers with more sensitive psyches I’d like to recommend just skipping those first 9 books and starting with Narcissus in Chains.  However, if you do that, you’re going to miss out on all the groundwork for the Anita/Jean-Claude/Richard relationships and a lot of the events that shape Anita into who she becomes.  If you decide to start the series with NiC, find a good wiki and read cliff-note versions of the stories so you at least have an idea of what happened.  Read the entire series if you can, and stick it out through all the horror content if that’s not your bag, until at least NiC… skip through parts if you need to!  I’ve included some helpful wiki links below.  Be very careful what you click on with these, as you could inadvertently spoil some of the book 11+ storylines.   *wink*

Maybe I just really identify with Anita’s personality, or maybe it’s just that engrossing (I think the frequent random details and descriptions probably help with that more than they hurt) , but this series definitely has a permanent place on my bookshelf.

Rating:

4.5 fangs: BITE IT!

Rating:

Related links:

http://www.laurellkhamilton.org/

http://jeanienefrost.com/

http://www.charlaineharris.com/

http://www.anitablakewiki.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anita_Blake

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Review: Midnight Awakening (Midnight Breed novel #3), by Lara Adrian

TLDR recap:

On a mission to track down a dangerous continuing threat to the Breed, Tegan must face his centuries-old demons and open his heart if he’s to complete the hunt.  Elise, widowed and having recently lost her only son to the killer vampire drug Crimson, is slowly dying to the side-effects of her Breedmate talent.  With her connections in the Agency’s politics, Elise can open doors for Tegan and the order, but she’ll have to surrender some of herself to survive long enough to avenge her son’s death.

    • Title: Midnight Awakening
    • Series: The Midnight Breed – book #3
    • Author: Lara Adrian
    • Prominent Characters: Tegan & Elise, Andreas Reichen
    • Recommended reader age: 17+
    • Sexual content level: Moderate

Premise:

In pursuit of Lucan’s warmongering Gen One brother, Tegan, the coldest of the Order’s warriors, teams up with Elise, the widow of a high-ranking Agency director, who is on a quest for vengeance after her only son goes Rogue and must be killed.  Tegan & Elise are a fairly unlikely couple at first glance, but their chemistry is strong and their gifts complement one another well.

Thoughts:

This third installment is my favorite to date, having read through the first 6 novels in the series now.  Tegan is ice cold and calculating, and I’ve never really liked him until this novel.  We get to see his background and understand what happened that’s made him the way he is.  Elise is a character that I initially (before this story) did not like.  I prefer strong female leads and her whiny, clingy society-wife persona grated on my nerves in the second book (Dante’s book, Kiss of Crimson).  However, luckily for us (and unluckily for Elise), losing her husband and her son changed her outlook on life, and she grew a nice strong spine in the months between the 2nd and 3rd novels in the Midnight Breed series.

Tegan and Elise’s chemistry is surprisingly steamy, and I like Tegan best of all the romantic male leads in this series.  Somehow he’s just more raw, yet complicated… but not so complicated that he can’t be affected by Elise.  Watching her break down his hard outer shell is one of the most enjoyable aspects of this book.  I also like his domineering romantic style and the fact that he’s so verbal during their steamy scenes together.  Ms. Adrian did a great job making him appear both vulnerable and tender, while still keeping up his cocky, hard-ass warrior facade.  Elise also, is a good character – strong and determined, but also smart and physically capable.  She’s not a warrior,  but she’s no wilting wallflower either.

The other aspect of this story that I really enjoyed was the puzzle.  This story arc has a definite Dan Brown vibe to it, reminiscent of Angels & Demons or The Da Vinci Code.

Memorable quotes:

Move over Arnold…

As the three of them watched in awe, the front door of the place banged open, tearing clean off its hinges.  Not by the force of the blast, but by the will of a single individual.

Rolling orange fire silhouetted him from behind, backlighting the warrior’s broad shoulders and casual, long-legged stride.  As he strolled away from the inferno, the ends of his loose black coat winged out behind him like a cape befitting the prince of darkness himself.

Help me Obi Wan Kenobi…

“I can learn.  I want to learn.  Please, Tegan.  I need to learn.”

“And you think I’m the one to help you?”

“I think you’re my only hope.”

If you like…

If you like Midnight Awakening, 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*

I know these aren’t Paranormal Romance, but you might also enjoy Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons.

Final thoughts:

This story is intensely everything: heart-breaking, action-filled, mysterious, steamy and romantic.  It’s also the novel I’d recommend reading to if you’re trying out the series and deciding whether to keep on going.  IMO, Tegan & Elise’s story is the strongest one of the first 6 books, with Nicolai’s (surprisingly) coming in a close second.  If you liked Midnight Awakening, you’ll probably enjoy the rest of the series.  If you’re still not that into it after finishing this book, skip the rest and try the Black Dagger Brotherhood or take a chance on something completely new, because it doesn’t get a whole lot better than this one (I mean that in a nice tingly good way)!

Rating:
4.5 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: Lover Eternal (Black Dagger Brotherhood series novel #2) by J. R. Ward

TLDR recap:

Rhage, the Black Dagger Brother who is known across the species for his many and frequent female conquests, is in a bind.  He’s found “the one”, but she’s a mortal and she’s terminally ill.  She also knows far too much about his species and he’s been ordered by Wrath, the king, to either wipe her memories or kill her.  If that weren’t enough trouble, Rhage possesses a literal beast within him that forces him to change shapes when he becomes angry or stressed, and that beast will kill anything and everything around it… even his fellow brothers and, he fears, Mary.  Will Rhage and Mary be able to make their strange relationship work, or will the Black Dagger Brotherhood lose yet another warrior?  An excellent book – put this on your “must read” list!

  • Title: Lover Eternal
  • Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood – book #2
  • Author: J. R. Ward
  • Prominent Characters: Rhage & Mary
  • Recommended reader age: 16+
  • Sexual content level: Moderate

Premise:

Rhage is the Brotherhood’s strongest fighter, a drop-dead-gorgeous playboy knockout with a short fuse who has earns his reputation (both for fighting and with the ladies) nightly.  Don’t be deceived by appearances – he hates having to be with so many females like that and he’d stop if he could, but it’s the only thing (other than fighting) that keeps his beast in check (and you REALLY won’t like him when he’s angry!).  Mary Luce is a cancer survivor who thinks she may be sick again.  She knows this is it – if her tests come back positive, she probably won’t make it through the treatments a second time.  Rhage bonds with her but she can’t accept that someone as perfect as he is could ever want to be with someone as plain and damaged as she is.  Rhage has to choose whether to go against Wrath, and by extension the Brotherhood itself – the only friends he’s really ever known, or let go the only woman who has ever made him feel.

Thoughts:

One of the things that really stood out for me with this book was the prominence of Mary’s cancer;  it’s a defining theme throughout the story.  Where most writers, of this genre at least, stay away from hard-hitting issues like this (especially concerning their central characters), Ms. Robb uses it to give us a glimpse into the life and struggle of someone not only afflicted by cancer, but dealing with it for a second time.

Something else I really like about Ms. Robb is that she doesn’t telegraph what’s coming next in these stories.   Of course some of it is predictable – that’s just the nature of this type of novel – but some of it is the opposite of what you think the scene is setting up for.  The emotion and suspense will build up and up until you’re sure something terrible is about to happen, then BAM! normalcy… things ending up just as they should, instead of some new catastrophe plaguing the characters.  Then other times, things will be moving along happily, the story unfolding as it should and POW! something life-(and story-)changing happens.  It really keeps you on your toes as a reader and it helps you enjoy even the “down” time between large action or romance sequences.  Using this technique, Ms. Robb is able to bring emotion to scenes that would normally be filler fluff, and that is very refreshing.

You might also like…

There are not really any other series LIKE this one, but when I read it and feel a connection to the characters, I’m reminded of how I feel when I read Jeaniene Frost’s Cat & Bones or Karen Chance’s Cassie & crew or Nalini Singh’s Archangel/Guild Hunter cast.  The characters become part of your “family”, and the plots are earthy and hard-hitting… no partnership is spared sudden and unexpected (and sometimes brutal) hardships!  This series has the potential to make you laugh, cry, and swear, and I loved every minute of it!

Memorable quotes:

First impressions…

He wanted to give her another word to say, something like luscious or whisper or strawberry.  Hell,antidisestablishmentarianism would do it.

The effect she had on him was druglike, a tantalizing combination of sexual need and profound ease.  Like he was having an orgasm and falling asleep at the same time.  It was like nothing he’d ever felt before.

After watching Rhage order 4 entrees and 4 sides at dinner, just for himself…

The waitress looked a little awkward.  “Is all that for both you and your sister?”  As if family obligation was the only reason a man like him would be out with a woman like her.  Oh, man…

“No, that’s for me.  And she’s my date, not my sister.  Mary?”

“I… ah, I’ll just have a Caesar salad, whenever his” – feeding trough?- “dinner comes.”

Rhage on “manipulation”…

She smiled a little.  “You’re a manipulator.”

“I like to think of myself more as an outcome engineer.”

Final thoughts:

All of the Brothers are physically flawed (and sometimes emotionally as well) in some way.  I really like this – it makes them more real and believable (aside from the whole I’m-a-vampire thing) and easier to connect with.  They are all attractive, but in different ways, and not all of them are drop-dead gorgeous like Rhage is.  I also really like that.  A collection of super-sexy-ridiculously-beautiful warrior-type men is just not believable or relate-able.  These guys are physically attractive in individual ways, and their personalities are all unique and commanding.

In each book, there are characters other than the primary couple that get a decent amount of face time.  Ms. Robb is very skilled at giving these other characters depth and developing their characters without fixating on them or taking away from the title characters.  The result is that, since she is building her character backgrounds and multiple story lines through out each successive novel, when the characters finally have their own book, they’ve already got a good base and she can start right in on the relationships and book-specific plot lines.  It’s chaotic and crazy and I love it!  This way, I get MANY characters to fall in love with, and I get to see them more often!

BDB books are definitely emotionally charged!  I think it’s a sign of a good author if, as a reader, you really *feel* something even when you know it’s coming.

As a final thought, if you’re just starting this series, READ THE GLOSSARY BEFORE YOU START!! Ms. Ward uses an entire new vocabulary of terms in the vampire language, and if you don’t at least look at them first, you might find yourself a little confused. =)  Even if this is your second BDB novel, look over it again.  There are a few new words (like wahlker) in this one.

Rating:
4.5 fangs: BITE IT!

READ READ READ this novel!  If you didn’t read Dark Lover first, you’ll probably be ok starting with this one, but you’ll spoil a few of the plot points for DL… and you’ll be confused about the strange new vampire vocabulary!  Still, I think Rhage’s story is even more powerful than Wrath’s, and he got a “must read!” recommedation from me too.  *grin*

Related links:

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

http://jeanienefrost.com/books/

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

http://www.nalinisingh.com/books.html#guild


Review: Divine Misdemeanors (Meredith Gentry series novel #8) by Laurell K. Hamilton

TLDR recap:

The princess is back to her L.A. private eye roots in this 8th installment in the Meredith Gentry series.  Less faerie politics and more detective horror mystery is what you’ll find in Divine Misdemeanors.  Merry has finally settled down in L.A. (sort of) with her 6 baby daddies… and assorted other guards and entourage… to await the birth of their twins and to take a few detective consults on the side.  The band is back together and the inter-personal drama is as rich as the crime mystery.  This is a great read and a good return to the Merry Gentry detective series after its recent departure into deep faerie politics and the pregnancy race.

  • Title: Divine Misdemeanors
  • Series: Meredith Gentry – book #8
  • Author: Laurell K. Hamilton
  • Recommended reader age: 18+
  • Sexual content level: Heavy
  • Related authors: Karen Chance, Charlaine Harris, Jeaniene Frost
  • Similar series: Cassie Palmer, Dorina Basarab, Sookie Stackhouse, Anita Blake

Premise:

Meredith Gentry, recently crowned queen of the slaugh and of the Unseelie Court by faerie itself, has sacrificed her crown to bring back her lost love Frost and to settle down in Los Angeles with her men to await the birth of their twins.  With 6 fathers for the 2 babies, the inter-personal drama is lively and definitely has potential for exciting future scuffles, while Merry’s entourage continues to grow (even her list of lovers, if you can believe it!) to over 100 fey living with her in exile!  No, they aren’t ALL lovers (although it is easy to lose count at times) and luckily LKH does not try to juggle all 100+ of these personalities in the story, but we do get to see some past characters brought more into the spotlight and we get some updates on some of our old friends.

A nasty string of fey murders is the central plotline for this book, while some personal drama and some political maneuvering are starting to brew in the background.  It’s back to her horror & detective roots for Laurell K. Hamilton with this one, with less emphasis on sex and more (respective to the past 3 novels in this series) on solving the crimes.

Thoughts:

You might be thinking… ‘Hey, you missed some books!’.  I skipped reviewing books 5-7 in this series because they all felt like one massive story split into 3 covers.  I don’t want to give away too much of the story in these reviews, so it was safer to just skip them.  They’re good, so if you were debating on finishing the series and you’ve made it happily through book 4, the next 3 are a quick & fun read.

This book, #8, reminds me a lot of the early Anita Blake novels.  Actually, the first half reminds me of those and the second half reminds me of the later Anita Blake novels.  It’s all crime-solving, crime-solving, crime-solving, then sex, sex, sex, then the book wraps up neatly (and predictably).  Considering the extremely heavy sexual content of the past several novels in this series, this one is a breath of fresh air and a fun read all around.  I would not recommend reading this unless you’ve read the rest of the series though… way too much history and too many characters to keep you confused!

You might also like…

If you’ve read the rest of the books in the Meredith Gentry series and liked them, you should check out the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton.  The Cassandra Palmer series by Karen Chance is similar in adventure style (and by the fact that someone is ALWAYS trying to kill the main character!), but the charged sexual atmosphere now resembles Anita Blake more than Cassie Palmer.

Memorable quotes:

The first crime scene…

The spicy smell of Eucalyptus could almost hide the scent of blood.  If it had been this many adult human-sized bodies the Eucalyptus wouldn’t have had a chance, but they weren’t adult-sized.  They were tiny by human standards, so tiny, the size of dolls; none of the corpses were even a foot tall, and some were less than five inches.  They lay on the ground with their bright butterfly wings frozen as if in mid-movement.  Their dead hands were wrapped around wilted flowers like a cheerful game gone horribly wrong.  They looked like so many broken Barbie dolls, except Barbie dolls never lay so lifelike, or so perfectly poised.  No matter how hard I’d tried as a little girl, their limbs remained stiff and unyielding.  The bodies on the ground were stiff with rigor mortis, but they’d been laid out carefully, so they had stiffened in strangely graceful, almost dancing poses.

Final thoughts:

LKH has stated that the crime scenes she writes about are all based on true crime.  That made it tough for me to read some of the early Anita Blake novels, due not just to the level of violence and gore, but to the mental knowlege that somewhere these terrible things (or something similar to them) actually happened to someone.  There are scenes in this book that are serial killer spooky, but luckily the gore is toned WAY down.  Maybe I’m desensitized from the ABVH books, but these scenes really didn’t bother me much at all.

Rating:
4.5 fangs: BITE IT!

Related links:

http://www.laurellkhamilton.org/

http://www.karenchance.com/

http://www.charlaineharris.com/


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