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

TLDR recap:

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

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

Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

Memorable quotes:

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

When asked what type of music he preferred…

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


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

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

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

Final thoughts:

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

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

Rating:
4.25 fangs: BITE IT! 

Related links:

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

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

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

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

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Review: 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: 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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