Category Archives: Reviews by Rating

Review: Hunt the Moon (The Cassie Palmer series #5), by Karen Chance

TLDR recap:

With her coronation quickly approaching, Cassie Palmer would give anything short of the power of her office for a reprieve from the danger that perpetually dogs her, so she can sort out the many political and emotional complications in her life.  As usual, there’s to be no downtime for our spunky little Pythia, as a new Big Bad sets its sights on her, forcing her to push herself to her physical, emotional, and magical limits yet again, learning a few handy new tricks along the way.

    • Title: Hunt the Moon
    • Series: The Cassie Palmer series – book #5
    • Author: Karen Chance
    • Prominent Characters: Cassie, Pritkin, Mircea
    • Recommended reader age: 16+
    • Sexual content level: moderate

***** This review is spoiler-free.  However, if you are new to this series, I recommend skipping this review until you have read the first four books, to avoid inadvertently learning too much! *****

Thoughts:

For readers of the Cassie Palmer series, almost dying really does never get old…

My name is Cassie Palmer, and I’ve cheated death more times than anyone has a right to exect.  In the past two months, I’ve been shot, stabbed, beaten and blown up a few dozen times, and that doesnt count all the magical ways I’ve almost been killed.  I’d have been dead a long time ago if not for my friends, one of whom had just jumped off the cliff after me.

I’d have been more appreciative if he hadn’t pushed me first.

How can one woman get into so much trouble?  How can one woman get into so much trouble and still survive?  How can one woman get into so much trouble and STAY SANE?!  Heavy on the accidental slapstick with a healthy helping of sarcastic wit  and a side of genuine bleeding heart, Cassie Palmer stories are a whirlwind of hair-raising close calls fraught with near-constant mortal danger and comedic relief.

Hunt the Moon has a few giganto-sized action sequences, stuffed with the usual deadly peril and seemingly-unending frustration on Cassie’s part.  These sequences are a large part of what defines the series and makes it as incredible as it is, but they also seem to be growing in length and intensity as the series progresses.  One sequence in particular lasts for nearly a third of the book, and I thought ” OH MY GOD, JUST DIE ALREADY!!!” right as the bad guy turns around and says the same to Cassie.  That’s either an eerie coincidence, or further proof of Ms. Chance’s story-telling skills and ability to gauge and guide her audience (I vote for option #2!).

The relationships binding our three favorite characters all get a romantic boost, culminating in a conclusion no one expected… okay, a conclusion *I*didn’t expect! As usual, I can’t want for the next one, to see where all craziness this is headed.  Does anyone else have trouble deciding who they like more, Pritkin or Mircea?  Ugh, what a tough choice!!  Can’t a girl just keep both?  The answer to that, of course, is “no, not with these two!”

Memorable quotes:

The irony of escapism is that you can never truly escape…

I started to pull off my t-shirt.  It was far too flimsy for where I’d been, but the saying on the front fit my moond perfectly: “I keep hitting escape, but I’m still here.”

Stamina… needs more stamina!

Marco patted my shoulder.  “It’s okay.  You aren’t my type.”

“What is your type?”

“Someone who gets in less trouble… I decided I was wrong.  I don’t like the wild side. I ain’t got the master’s stamina.”

“I don’t require stamina.”

“Babe, you require a freaking tank.”

The great Brit-American beer debate…

“I thought you Brits liked it hot.”

“Hot beer?” Pritkin looked revolted.

“That’s the rumor.”

“Because we don’t drink it iced over, thereby leaching right out whatever flavor you Yanks accidentally left in?”

You know what they say about a man’s hands.  You know, about how refined they are…?

Pritkin’s hands were oddly refined compared to the rest of him: strong but long fingered, with elegant bones and short-clipped nails.  They always looked like they’d wandered off from some gentleman, one they’d probably like to get back to, because God knew they weren’t getting a manicure while attached to him.

A good life-philosophy…

“Tarot is an indicator, not an absolute.  Nothing about the future is decided until it happens.  We create it every day by the choices we make, good or bad.”

It’s good to have a plan…

“Do we have a plan?”

“I need to touch her.”

“That is not a plan, dulceata; it is an objective.”

Just to set the record straight…

“Candy is candy.  Chocolate is therapy.”

Home is where the… crazy… is?

This was Dante’s.  Crazy was what we had for breakfast when we ran out of Corn Flakes.

If you like Hunt the Moon of Cassandra Palmer series…

If you enjoyed Hunt the Moon and the rest of the Cassie Palmer series for its insane action sequences and over-the-top bad guys, check out the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning (beginning with Darkfever).  Mac may start off a little vain and princess-y, but she has as much spunk and spine as Cassie, and her two suitors are just as enthralling (mmmm, Barrons!!).  The Fever series is the only series I have read to date that actually matches the Cassie Palmer series in the scale of the action scenes, and the magnitude of the offensive potential of the Big Bads.  Addicting, addicting, addicting!!!

The Merry Gentry series by Laurell K. Hamilton (starting with A Kiss of Shadows) and the Southern Vampire Chronicles (Sookie Stackhouse) series by Charlaine Harris (see Dead Until Dark) are also similar to the Cassandra Palmer books.  The Merry Gentry series is set mostly in Faerie (and Meredith’s Fae are no less dangerous than Cassie’s version!) and involves significantly more sex, both in frequency of occurrence and graphic detail.  Sookie tends to deal more with politics than sex (although she has her share too, just not as graphic) and seems to get into trouble nearly as often as Cassie.  Both series are excellent reads and will keep you laughing, crying, and jonzing for more!

Final thoughts:

Ms. Chance has definitely found the magic formula for keeping readers engaged, enthralled, entertained, and eagerly coming back for more, book after book!

It is extremely tempting to give Hunt the Moon a perfect score, considering its wealth of action, adventure, humor, warmth, and quirkiness, but two of the major action sequences drag on just a little too long for my tastes.  I found myself skipping through a few pages to get to some sort of conclusion, in order to keep myself from stressing out over all the “almost”s and close-calls.  That, and the fact that Cassie STILL hasn’t learned better control over her powers… for the majority of the book at least.

I LOVE Cassie Palmer books.  LOVE LOVE LOVE them!!  However, they always leave me feeling exhausted, mentally and emotionally, and I feel like I need a break from books for a while after finishing one.

Rating:
4.75 fangs: SAVOR IT! 

Related links:

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

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

http://www.laurellkhamilton.org/ (The Merry Gentry series website)

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

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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: The Reluctant Vampire (The Argeneau Vampire series #15), by Lynsay Sands

TLDR recap:

Harper isn’t looking for a new life mate, having just lost his first one during her turn.  Drina knows who her life mate is, but she’s not willing to scare him away with any rash announcements or behavior.  They all have bigger problems anyway when someone starts attacking the vampires living in Port Henry.  Who is the intended target?  And has the dreaded no-fanger Leonius found them, or do they face a new threat?

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

    • Title: The Reluctant Vamire
    • Series: The Argeneau Vampire series – book #15
    • Author: Lynsay Sands
    • Prominent Characters: Harper, Drina, Stephanie
    • Recommended reader age: 17+
    • Sexual content level: Moderate-to-heavy, somewhat explicit

Thoughts:

The Argeneau Vampire series is one that runs hot and cold for me.  Some of the books I really like a lot and would read again.  One of them I dislike enough to give a rating of 1-Stake (which, to date, I’ve never done) and the rest I think are just so-so and only worth reading once.  This book, The Reluctant Vampire, falls into that last category: I have no plans to read it again.  However, the plot and characters did have their moments and at times it was amusing, tender, suspenseful, and shocking.  I think if the setting had been different, I’d have been less conflicted about it…

Usually, I like to save my quotes for the ‘Memorable Quotes’ section below, but I think this one nicely sums up why I’m disliking this book, and the few that have come before it in the series.  “I thought I lived in goddamned Mayberry with a bunch of Aunt Beas and Andies.  Who knew Port Henry had so many homicidal nutcases running around?”  The homicidal nutcases don’t bother me (because pretty much nothing in Lynsay Sands’ stories ever resembles a truly homicidal nutcase – they’re all too prissy), but the Mayberry-like town does.  Aside from excessive use of the word “peer”, I rather enjoy some of the European and American Argeneau books, but all the ones that have been set in Port Henry have rubbed me wrong.  I read about vampires to get lost in the exotic atmosphere and experience characters I wouldn’t normally meet in real life, but the sleepy little town of Port Henry really does resemble Mayberry.  As much as I enjoyed The Andy Griffith Show when I was growing up (in a small town, mind you), I do NOT want to re-experience it as an adult, especially not in my get-away-in-an-imaginary-world free time!

Something else I’d like to point out to new readers of this series is the author’s over-use of the word “peer”.  Do a word count on “peer” in The Reluctant Vampire.  This term is used more than seventy times- that’s 7-0!!  At least once in EVERY BOOK, all of the major characters (and most of the minors) “peer” at something.  Now, I don’t know about you, but when I think about big, bad, strong vampire men, one of the last things I envision them doing is curiously peering around corners and out of windows.  They level stares, they glare, they gaze and take in… but they do not do dainty things like peer all over the damned place!  UGH!  This really drives me batty.  After 15 books, I’ve come to associate the word “peer” with the Lynsay Sands stories, and I have to keep myself from rolling my eyes every time I see it.  Seriously.  *takes deep breath*

Ok, enough complaining about Ms. Sands’ writing quirks.  *wink*  On to the things I did enjoy!  One of the common complaints about this series  is that the later books have no driving, over-arcing plots to keep the reader invested.  This most recent binge of stories in Port Henry has come off a little flat, but looks like it might be rebounding now with the elevation of the recent threat of Leonius, and of possible new developments with edantates (vampires without fangs).  Stephanie, the immature young teenager who is viciously and forcibly turned in an earlier book, makes some definite progress in this story, and I was satisfied to see the direction Ms. Sands is taking it in.  Assuming they get the hell out of Port Henry (which probably won’t happen until after Teddy’s book, the next in the series), the Argeneau series might be able to recover some of its momentum and flash.  I reaaaally hope so.

As far as the chemistry between the primary couple, it’s intense and well-written.  At first I worried about how Harper would progress throughout the story, but he turned out to be a great character, with patience, forethought, passion, and courage.  Drina is also a satisfying character, with her fiery temper, do-anything attitude, and quirky misunderstanding of American wildlife and slang.

Memorable quotes:

On horror movies…

And while Drina had dipped into enough male mortal minds to know that the majority of them seemed to think about sex every fifth or sixth heartbeat, she was quite sure even they wouldn’t think it clever or exciting to drag a female away from the safety of the herd to indulge in a quicky when dismembered bodies of friends or partygoers were falling all around them like a Canadian winter.

Ah, the exuberance of mortal teens!

“Man oh man, that was – Man!” he yelled, reaching them, his eyes round holes of shock and awe as he eyed Harper.  He flew his hand through the air in an arc as if emulating the bottle’s trajectory.

“And you were like waaaaah.”  Mouth open, he mimicked Harper diving for the bottle, and then shook his head, and said, “Man, you kick ass.  That was freaking amazing!”

From Harper to Teddy (seriously, an elderly sherriff in the equivalent of Mayberry knows what “FM boots” are?  I don’t buy it!)…

“You know about FMs?” Harper asked with surprise over Drina’s head.


If you like The Reluctant Vampire of The Argeneau Vampire series…

If you enjoyed The Reluctant Vampire and the Argeneau Vampire series for the behavior quirks of its main characters, you might also like The Southern Vampire Chronicles (Sookie Stackhouse) series by Charlaine Harris.  Sookie has a tendency to be stuffy and prissy in her I’m-not-running-for-my-life morality moments, and there is a large cast of vampires to get to know.

If you like the Argeneau series for its large cast, you would probably also enjoy the Dark series by Christine Feehan.  The stories start to feel somewhat similar after a while (like with the Argeneau series), but they do move around and allow the reader to experience different cultures and areas of the world, and the passion between characters is generally satisfying.

Another series, with a more traditional type of vampire (the romantic kind, not the dracula-horror kind!) is Midnight Breed by Lara Adrian.  I recommend this series for lovers of the Argeneaus, because it has multiple stories dedicated to different couples, with many of them guest-starring in each others’ books, and a similar feel to the connection developed between the couples.

Final thoughts:

I Reluctantly give this book 4 Fangs.  It was a close thing, mind you, considering how much I really dislike reading about Port Henry.  If I’m going to have to suffer Mayberry personalities, at least give me the splendor of Europe or the excitement of a Romantic Times Convention.  That said, this book was a fun read and it did make me laugh at times.  It also has decent action scenes (but nothing really scintillating) and seems to be guiding the plot arc down a new, unexpected path.

If you are a fan of the Argeneau series, of course you should read this.  If you are not currently a reader of the series, then I wouldn’t start with this one (and AVOID AVOID AVOID the very first one too!!!  That’s my 1-Stake book).  If you don’t care about series and just want a fun read, crack this book and sit down for a cozy read.

Rating:
4.0 fangs: BITE IT, but beware peering villains!

Related links:

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

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

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

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

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Andy_Griffith_Show (The Andy Griffith Show <Mayberry> wiki page)

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Review: Kiss of Snow (The Psy/Changeling series #10), by Nalini Singh

TLDR recap:

The rising tensions between the changelings and the Psy Council finally reach a critical impasse.  After years of fighting his attraction for Psy-defector Sienna Lauren, Hawke, the mighty Snowdancer pack’s alpha, has to make some hard decisions… both about the safety of his people and the woman he so badly wants to claim for his own.

    • Title: Kiss of Snow
    • Series: The Psy/Changeling series – book #10
    • Author: Nalini Singh
    • Prominent Characters: Hawke, Sienna, Walker, Lara
    • Recommended reader age: 16+
    • Sexual content level: moderate

Thoughts:

Like the wolf alpha himself, this 10th offering in the Psy/Changeling series is raw, intense, and unpredictable.  It is the culmination of years of storytelling – everything that came before has led to this, and Ms. Singh does not disappoint!

This book mainly focuses on Snowdancer, but we do get to see a little of the Darkriver cats.  The conflict with the Psy Council continues to escalate, allowing us to see Hawke’s calculating leadership alongside his yet-unseen softer romantic side.  We also finally get to see and experience what Sienna’s mysterious “X” designation is all about.  After all the buildup, I’ll admit I expected something a little more crazy than what it turns out to be, but it is definitely still impressive… and deadly on a massive scale.  Sienna isn’t the teenager she once was, and it’s refreshing to see her finally maturing within the pack and respected as an adult.

Hawke and Sienna, despite their vast age difference and disparate pack ranks, are addictively combustible.  We also get the dual-treat of witnessing the birth of a new couple in the series, one that has been hinted at previously but which might not have been strong enough to warrant its own book without sacrificing plot time, plus share in an intimate momentous occasion that we’ve all been waiting for.

Memorable quotes:

Not really a lot of quotable one-liners in this one.  Hope you guys don’t mind me semi-spoiling this little gem…

*swoon*

“You’re in my every breath and every thought, intertwined so deep inside me that love’s not a strong enough word – you have my devotion, your name branded on my soul, my wolf yours to command.  A hundred years?  It’ll never be enough.  I want eternity.”


If you like Kiss of Snow of The Psy/Changeling series…

If you enjoyed Kiss of Snow and the rest of the Psy/Changeling series for its emotional impact and composite cast, you may also like the Black Dagger Brotherhood series (starting with Dark Lover) by J.R. Ward and the Midnight Breed series (starting with Kiss of Midnight) by Lara Adrian.  Although both series feature vampires rather than shapeshifters, they have additional powers, much like the Psy, and they work together to support each other against their enemies.  Like the Psy/Changeling series, both series generally follow the one-book-one-couple format, with some cross-weaving of plotlines throughout the entire story arc.  Highly recommended reads.

If you liked Kiss of Snow for its shapeshifting heroes, check out the Feral Warriors series (starting with Desire Untamed) by Pamela Palmer.  The Ferals are all that remain of the once-plentiful spirit warriors who defended their race against their mortal enemies, and their passions run high.  These men are dominant and demanding, much like Hawke (and most of the Psy/Changeling men), and each is powerful in his own right.  Their women are no push-overs either!  The Ferals work as a group as well, making it a nice ensemble series with a slightly different feel.

Final thoughts:

Some of the books in the Psy/Changeling series have been less than stellar.  Not really bad, just not excellent, and while for the most part the stories about prominent characters are good, there are a few that stray a little too far from the changeling dynamic.  Kiss of Snow does it right, from Hawke’s reluctant acceptance of their attraction, to the slow sensual buildup, to the searingly exciting conclusion.  This is definitely a DO NOT MISS book for readers of the Psy/Changeling series!

Rating:
5 fangs: DEVOUR IT! 

Related links:

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

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

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

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

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Review: Shadowfever (The Fever series #5), by Karen Marie Moning

TLDR recap:

Rainbow Mac 1.0 is long gone, leaving a more hardened, determined, black-leather-wearing Mac 5.0 to unravel the final mysteries surrounding the Sinsar Dubh and the King of all the Fae.

***** There are no outright spoilers in this review!  If you have not read the first four books in this series and want absolutely no information or hints about what will happen in them, then do not read this review.  While there are no actual spoilers, there are some vague hints that are intended for readers who have already finished up through Dreamfever.  *****

    • Title: Shadowfever
    • Series: The Fever series – book #5
    • Author: Karen Marie Moning
    • Prominent Characters: Mac Lane, Jericho Barrons, V’lane
    • Recommended reader age: 17+
    • Sexual content level: Moderate, somewhat explicit

Thoughts:

This series really grabs you and takes you along for a mysterious, dark, and sexy ride!  In my review of Darkfever (the first book in the Fever series), I complained about all the self-indulgent “I’m so pretty” commentaries the reader is forced to endure from Mac as she learns her way around Dublin and starts investigating her sister’s murder.  Thankfully, we see the last of that in the third book (and it is much less prominent after Darkfever anyway) when Mac is forced to deal with some very traumatic circumstances of her own.  By book 5, Mac is a weapon forged of diligence, suffering, and self-discovery and she is more determined than ever to get to the bottom of the chaos her world has become.

For a series with such a violently and sexually volatile male lead, there is a whole lotta sexual tension and buildup.  How does Mac keep her hands off Barrons for so long?!  Barrons is the ultimate alpha male, seemingly invincible and terrifyingly reliable at keeping Mac alive.  After the shocking events at the end of book 4 (Dreamfever), I raced online to download Shadowfever and find out what would happen next.  This book does not disappoint!  It successfully resolves multiple plot questions and hanging threads, while continuing to drive the main storylines and relationships.

There is OH so much more I’d like to say about this book and the characters in it, but I’m trying really hard not to post spoilers, so we’ll leave those discussions for the comments below.  Consider yourself warned!  *grin*

Memorable quotes:

Conversations with the Sinsar Dubh…

TIME IS THE ONLY TRUE GOD, AND I AM FOREVER.  THEREFORE, I AM GOD.

Your logic is flawed.  Time is not forever.  It is always.  Past, Present, and Future.  There was a time in the past when you did not exist.  Therefore, you are not God.

Arguing with Barrons is either sadism or foreplay…

I didn’t say I didn’t like you.  ‘Like’ is such a puerile word.  Mediocre people like things.  The only question of any significant emotive content is: Can you live without it?

On parental wisdom…

Daddy told me once that we believe others are capable of the worst we ourselves are capable of.


If you like Shadowfever of The Fever series…

If you enjoyed Shadowfever and the Fever Series, 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.

If you enjoy the intensity of Barrons and are looking for more male leads with his authority and style of presence, check out the Black Dagger Brotherhood stories by J.R. Ward, starting with Wrath’s book, Dark Lover.  The brothers typically each get a book, meaning less time with each couple, but their storylines arc throughout the entire series, making it a really compelling ensemble piece.

If you like Barrons for his cheeky wit and prowess in bed, definitely read the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost, starting with Halfway to the Grave.  Bones is sexy, smart, loyal, powerful, and has a British accent – just about everything you could ask for in a hero.

Final thoughts:

If you have not read this series, START IT NOW!  Barrons makes even the Black Dagger Brotherhood males pale in comparison to his intensity and authority.  Bold claims, I know… but true!  It probably helps that Barrons and Mac get a whole 5 books devoted to their journey, and the journey is not (like so many other series in this genre) based around their relationship, but rather world-changing catastrophic events and consequences.

The Fever series is an addicting coming of age story in a world where nothing is as it seems and secrets are the new currency.  From books 3-5, I literally could not stop reading!  I was on a two-week Pacific Northwest vacation getaway and all I could think about was finding out the next shocker in Mac’s journey.  I was initially drawn to the series when Barrons beat out some other major male players in the paranormal romance/urban fantasy genres in an online “alpha” competition.  The rabid loyalty of Barrons’ fans piqued my interest (he’s more popular than Bones!), and I am SO glad I chose to read this series.  Here’s what I recommend: find some down time, a week or so, and read the Fever Series start to finish.  Don’t get discouraged in the first one (which is still excellent, just annoyingly narcissistic) – read all the way to the end of book three (Faefever), then just TRY to put it down!  *wink*

Rating:
5.0 fangs: BITE IT! 

Related links:

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

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

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

http://jeanienefrost.com/ (Night Huntress 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: Covet (The Fallen Angels series #1), by J.R. Ward

TLDR recap:

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

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

Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

Memorable quotes:

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

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

If you like Covet of The Fallen Angels series…

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

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

Final thoughts:

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

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

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

Related links:

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

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

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