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Review: Dark Leopard Magic, by Sapphire Phelan

TLDR recap:

Orphaned a 16, Dev has lead a difficult and lonely life as a transient wereleopard shifter.  Montsho, alpha of his African wereleopard pard, has known only women and is uncomfortably surprised to find that the Dreaming has brought him news of a male as his mate.  While Dev helps Montsho learn to accept and become comfortable in their new relationship, he discovers a mystery that hits too close to home to ignore.  These two strong-willed men will face more than just social struggles on their journey together.  This story is erotic and sweet, but the writing is a little lacking in finesse.

    • Title: Dark Leopard Magic
    • Series: n/a
    • Author: Sapphire Phelan
    • Prominent Characters: Dev & Montsho
    • Recommended reader age: 18+
    • Sexual content level: heavy and explicit (vulgar language typical of erotica)
    • Classification: m/m erotica

***** CONTENT ALERT: This is a review of a male/male erotica book.  If anything about that statement offends you or if you have delicate sensibilities, you may consider skipping this review.  Nothing here is crude or explicit, but some of the visuals evoked might be disturbing to you.  Consider yourself warned.  =) *****

Thoughts:

The story starts out with a quick and dirty (and a little gruesome!) waltz through Dev’s past, told in jaded, sharp-tongued first-person.  The second chapter unexpectedly changes to the first-person perspective of Montsho (communicated only by the chapter title) after awakening from a disturbing erotic Dreaming of Dev.  I like the idea that one of the men in this relationship has to be willing to go way outside his comfort zone in order to find the happiness they’ve been promised.  That said, however, I don’t feel there was enough of a struggle for Montsho before he caves to the inevitable and starts declaring his love.  I found it fairly unrealistic that a seemingly-straight man would allow another strange guy he’s basically just met to do things to him that he’s never even thought about before… but hey, it’s erotica, right?  Isn’t that sort of the point?  Yeah, agreed, but I think there could have been a much stronger build-up of sexual tension between them before the first penetration happens, and (true to the romantic stereotype) there seems to be absolutely no physical repercussions of these new (and heavily repeated!) activities.  “But they’re shifters – they heal fast!” Sure, they heal fast, but they still feel pain and they still have at least a small recovery time.  Meh, who reads this stuff for realism?!  Not I… *wink*

For those who are adamantly opposed to sex scenes with humans and animals, know that there is some borderline beastiality in this book.  It feels carefully written, so that they’re never human/cat (not for very long anyway) but always human/human or cat/cat.  I didn’t really get much out of the cat/cat parts, but they aren’t that plentiful or as explicit and are always paired with the human scenes.  The human/human scenes are definitely explicit but not overly long.  There is a good mix of passion and tenderness, and a decent dominance tradeoff between the two “alpha” males.

The dual first-person perspective is an interesting writing technique that I haven’t seen much of, and Ms. Phelan uses it effectively to express the dichotomy of personality between our two heroes.  Dev most definitely identifies more with his leopard than with his human side, and he makes no apologies for it… wild, careless, and without roots is how he prefers to live.  Montsho is a respected pard leader and enforcer, cognizant of his impact on those around him, and takes comfort in the structure and familiarity of his pard.   However, the dialogue occasionally teeters between childish and preachy, sometimes resulting in a stuffy feel to the conversations.  The sexual vocabulary is also awkward and cheesy at times, taking me out of the moment to try to process what I’ve read and understand what context the author intended it in.  There was a fair amount of snickering over terms like “ambrosia” and “nectar”.

Memorable quotes:

But it sucks so good! (I know I know, I just couldn’t resist this one…)

We were a perfect, blazing circle of suck.


If you like Dark Leopard Magic

If you enjoyed Dark Leopard Magic for its shapeshifting and paranormal storyline, you may also like the books in the Psy/Changeling series (starting with Slave to Sensation) by Nalini Singh.  Ms. Singh has created a rich world of shifters, mentally-gifted Psy, humans, and all the passion and politics that comes with the mix.

If you liked Dark Leopard Magic for its male/male erotically explicit romance, you might enjoy The Vampire Queen series by Joey W. Hill, particular books 5 and 6 which star Gideon and Daegan.  Now if you’ve read those books, I know what you’re probably thinking… “but those books are really more about a F/M/M BDSM threesome than a M/M romance!” and yes, that’s absolutely true.  I haven’t read much M/M erotica yet, so I’ll probably have more appropriate recommendations for you in the next few months.  =)

Final thoughts:

The opening of the book is a story of survival, a young man’s acceptance of his beast and his struggle to live alone in a human world he knows little about.  It’s initially difficult to identify with Dev because of his cavalier and violent attitude toward humans, even with regards to sex.  There’s a pretty disturbing scene before he meets Montsho that involves a little dismembering – best not to let your guy friends read that bit.  The story feels a little loose but I can see where Ms. Phelan was going with it, and the relationship and chemistry between the characters, while accelerated a little too early in my opinion, was strong enough to overpower the plot.  As it should be, with erotica.  =)

I would have liked to give this a rating of 4, but there are just too many spelling and grammar mistakes that took me completely out of my headspace, and the dialogue turned awkward a little too often.  Some people may think this review and analysis is overkill for a story classified as “erotica”, so to all the unenlightened I say this: read the Vampire Queen series by Joey Hill and then tell me you don’t think a high standard has been set for the genre of paranormal erotica!

If male/male erotica is your thing, grammar and spelling don’t phase you, and you’re just in it for the smexy, you will probably enjoy this book.  Dev and Mont definitely have chemistry and there’s a little mystery and action to be had as well.

Rating:
3.5 fangs: Bite worthy! 

*Original review done for The Forbidden Bookshelf.  Go here to see it.

Related links:

http://www.sapphirephelan.com/ (Sapphire Phelan’s website)

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

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

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Review: Lover Mine (Black Dagger Brotherhood #8) by J. R. Ward

TLDR recap:

In this 8th installment in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, Ms. Ward drops us right back into the middle of the Brothers vs Lessers conflict and holds nothing back.  After his Xhex was taken during a raid at the end of book 7, John Matthew & the Brotherhood spend 4 weeks searching for her while she is hidden right under their noses.  Imprisoned and abused at the hands of Lash, John’s old enemy and the son of nasty big bad “the Omega”, Xhex is struggling to retain her sanity and her identity.   This book is smokin’ hot, viciously intense, and a roller coaster ride through the spectrum of emotions.

  • Title: Lover Mine
  • Series: The Black Dagger Brotherhood series – book #8
  • Author: J. R. Ward
  • Prominent Characters: John Matthew, Xhex, Quinn, Blaylock, & Tohrment
  • Recommended reader age: 17+
  • Sexual content level: Moderate

Premise:

John Matthew and the Brotherhood must find Xhex before Lash turns or kills her, or she dies from lack of male vampire blood.  The clock is ticking and, though her body is physically still strong, her fragile psyche is constantly teased with the knowledge that even if they found her, they wouldn’t be able to help her.  John is out of control, behaving like a bonded male and taking crazy risks to try to find his female.  Meanwhile, a new story arc is begun and an existing storyline is developed even more intensely.

Thoughts:

The long-awaited John Matthew book is a doozey.  It was one of those books I couldn’t stop reading, but didn’t want to finish.  I found myself constantly checking my progress (e-reader) to see how much more story I had left before the book was over!  All the Brotherhood books are intense and addicting, but this one in particular really had me all wrapped up in it.  Some of the scenes with Quinn and Blay were just heart-rending, and John’s personality is so intense yet self-sacrificing that it’s hard to not be fully invested in his situation.

This book wraps up a few story arcs that feature John Matthew, particularly the bitterness & regret between him and Tohr, the Lash conflict, and his eerie insta-connection with Xhex.  We also get to see some of the Darius history & character development.  Personally, I want him to remember and know and I was hoping that would happen in this novel, but that’s either not in the cards on purpose or is being held as an ace for a later book.  It’ll be fun to keep reading and see if Ms. Ward ever lets him in on the big secret.  😉

I will say that, initially, the new storyline taking place at the old manor bed and breakfast with the ghost of Elias Rathboone was an unwelcome intrusion, but after figuring out where it was heading I started to enjoy it.  That said, I’d probably have felt that way about any departure from the main storylines because they were SO INTENSE in this one.

On a separate note, I really love how Ms. Ward doesn’t play it safe with the homosexual undertones in this series.  First it was Butch & V, and now Quinn and Blay.  We know that nothing came of Butch & V, but I think we haven’t seen the last of Quinn & Blay, and we get a glimpse of that in this book.  Those scenes are really well done too – descriptive enough to portray the emotions but discreet enough to keep from turning away some sensitive readers.

You might also like…

It’s hard to think of anything right now that gives such a complete and satisfying escape into the story as this series does.  When I read the BDB books, I literally cannot put them down and become obsessively lost in the stories.  Using that as a gauge, there are a few other series that have a similar effect on me, although with slightly less intensity…

If you like the Black Dagger Brotherhood and Lover Mine, you might also like the Night Huntress Series (Cat & Bones) by Jeaniene Frost and the Cassandra Palmer series by Karen Chance.  Not to be too critical of Ms. Harris, but the Sookie Stackhouse (Southern Vampire Chronicles) series, while entertaining & enjoyable, don’t even come close to this level of intensity and vivid emotional commitment for me.  Since I really like SS/SVC, that’s saying a lot for the BDB!  I’m still looking for something that hits as hard as the BDB series does, so if you have a recommendation for me, post a comment and let me know!  I need my next fix.  *grin*

Memorable quotes:

Vampires have bromances too…

Chronologically speaking, Blaylocke son of Rocke had known John Matthew for just over a year.

But that was not a true reflection of the bromance.  There were two timelines to people’s lives: the absolute and the perceived.  The absolute was the universal day-and-night cycle that for them added to something like three hundred and sixty-five.  Then there was the way that time period had gone, the events, the deaths, the destruction, the training, the fighting.

He figured all told… that pegged the two of them at about four hundred thousand years.

On loving and losing…

The thing was, all mortals were going to lose the ones they loved.  It was the way life worked.  But for most of the time, that reality was so far off in the mind that it had no more weight than a mere hypothetical.  There were reminders, however, and the almost’s, the near-misses, the oh-God-please-no’s, snapped your chain and got you to stop and feel what was in your heart.


Final thoughts:

With each new book in this series (with the exception of maybe Phury’s book, which didn’t give me quite the same rush), Ms. Ward continues to masterfully interweave her vivid rainbow of story arcs while tying off some and threading in brand new ones.   Sometimes she brings in the new ones so subtly, over several books, that you don’t even realize where it’s going until suddenly, we have new major players that are already part of the fabric of the BDB universe.  The emotional spectrum she is able to evoke is so intense and hard-hitting that it is easy to lose hours at a time reading, and sleep fitfully dreaming of them.  I haven’t been so emotionally invested in a book series, and dedicated to overnight reading sessions, since the last half of the Harry Potter series was released.  When Payne’s book comes out next week, I think I’m going to need to schedule a 36-hour “do nothing but read” period, or I’m going to be so distracted and antsy I’ll be worthless for anything else!

If you have not started this series, OR if you read Dark Lover (the first book in the series) but weren’t bowled over, please please please give this series a chance!  Read at least through Rhage’s book (BDB#2 – Lover Eternal) and see how you feel.  If you can get through that one without breaking a sweat, then this probably isn’t the series for you.  However, this series isn’t one of the most well-known and -loved in the genre for nothing.  Where other series are starting to lose momentum in their later books (like the Sookie Stackhouse series), the Black Dagger Brotherhood is stronger than ever and as addicting as it was in the beginning (moreso, I say!).

Rating:
5 fangs: BITE IT!

I don’t give a 5-fang rating lightly.  Even as I was reading this I kept thinking “I think this might make the 5-fang mark!” and it definitely did not disappoint.  Ms. Ward is the master of anticipation and building the energy and momentum of a story, and John & Xhex’s story is a amazingly well written.  Do yourself a favor: take the weekend off, find a comfy chair, and READ THIS BOOK!  Of course, if you haven’t read the rest, you might want to get caught up first.  But don’t wait too long, because we only have one week left until #9 is released: Lover Unleashed!

Related links:

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

http://jeanienefrost.com/books/

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

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

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True Blood’s Lafayette recognized by Rolling Stone!

Our favorite Short-Order Cook/drug-dealer Lafayette (played by Nelsan Ellis) has been recognized by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 15 Most Groundbreaking Gay Roles on Television.  ***WARNING: Book 2 spoiler in the text below!***

Here’s what RS had to say about him…

Thanks to creator Alan Ball’s brilliant thinking, Bon Temps’ most flashy short-order cook/V dealer is alive and well instead of dead in the back of Andy Bellefleur’s car (his character’s fate in Book Two of the Sookie Stackhouse novels). Although Lafayette embodies certain gay stereotypes (eyeliner, lipstick, jewelry, he prefers the ladies’ room – “I is gorgeous”), he is easily one of the most trustworthy characters in a world filled with devious vampires, werewolves, maenads, shape-shifters and, most recently, a witch – the latter of whom just happens to be Lafayette’s new boyfriend. Hookah, please!

Usually I’m not a happy camper when a tv series alters the flow of a novel series with major character or plot changes, but in the case of True Blood (based on the Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire Chronicles by Charlaine Harris) I couldn’t be happier about the Lafayette extended-storylines.  He’s one of the few characters I actually like better in the tv series than in the books!  Way to go Nelsan!  Keep up the awesome.  *grin*

PS:  Kurt & Blaine from Glee were also recognized!  LOVE Glee!!!

❤ DVK



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