Tag Archives: J. R. Ward

Fangtastic Friday: Hot summer reads, Romantic Times awards, & Mr. Romance 2011

When the heat of summer hits (especially in the south!) and all you can think of as you pour yourself out of your car is how fast you can get into an air-conditioned building, relax & chill out with a steamy little story or four.  *grin*  Yeah yeah, I know there are TONS of great books that are probably releasing this summer that I’m not mentioning here.  Hey, I can’t read all the time – I gotta eat and sleep and work too!  =P  These are the upcoming sequels to the stories I’ve reviewed (and intend to continue reading) on this site:

  • May 3: Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse #11) by Charlaine Harris – read an excerpt here
  • May 31: The Reluctant Vampire (Argeneau Vampires #15) by Lynsay Sands – read an excerpt here
  • May 31: Kiss of Snow (Changeling/Psy #10) by Nalini Singh – read an exerpt here
  • June 7: Hunt the Moon (Cassie Palmer #5) by Karen Chance – read an excerpt here
  • June 7: Hit List (Anita Blake #20) by Laurell K. Hamilton – read an excerpt here
  • June 28th: Deeper than Midnight (Midnight Breed #9) by Lara Adrian – read an excerpt here

The famous Romantic Times Booklover’s Convention was held earlier this month, and a few of my favorite authors were honored.  Here are some of the award nominees and winners:

Career Achievement Best Author Awards (winner in bold):
  • Urban Fantasy: Laurell K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison, Rachel Caine, P.N. Elrod, Simon R. Green
  • Paranormal: Amanda Ashley, Rebecca York, Maggie Shayne, MaryJanice Davidson, L.A. Banks
Reviewer’s Choice Best Book Awards (winner in bold):
  • Vampire Romance: Blood Born (Linda Howard, Linda Jones), Lover Mine (J.R. Ward), Eternal Kiss of Darkness (Jeaniene Frost), Cross Your Heart (Michele Bardsley), Devoured by Darkness (Alexandra Ivy)
  • Shapeshifter Romance: Serpent Moon (C.T. Adams, Cathy Clamp), Touch of Seduction (Rhyannon Byrd), Whisper Kiss (Deborah Cooke), Play of Passion (Nalini Singh), In the Dark of Dreams (Marjorie M. Liu), Day of the Dragon (Rebecca York)
  • Paranormal Romance: Lion’s Heat (Lora Leigh), Bonds of Justice (Nalini Singh), Water Bound (Christine Feehan), Bayou Moon (Ilona Andrews), The Iron Duke (Meljean Brook), Living Nightmare (Shannon K. Butcher)
  • Paranormal Fiction: Nice Girls Don’t Live Forever (Molly Harper), Truly, Madly (Heather Webber), Undead and Unfinished (MaryJanice Davidson), My Way to Hell (Dakota Cassidy), Something Wicked (Michelle Rowen), Haunted Honeymoon (Marta Acosta)
  • Urban Fantasy Novel: Magic Bleeds (Ilona Andrews), Total Eclipse (Rachel Caine), Chosen (Jeanne C. Stein), Dust (Joan Frances Turner), Mob Rules (Cameron Haley), Double Cross (Carolyn Crane)
  • Urban Fantasy Protaganist: Archangel’s Kiss (Nalini Singh), Spider’s Bite (Jennifer Estep), Battle of the Network Zombies (Mark Henry), Death Blows (DD Barant), Stormwalker (Allyson James), Red Hot Fury (Kasey Mackenzie)
  • Scotland-Set Historical Romance: Seduced by a Rogue (Amanda Scott), Taming the Highland Bride (Lynsay Sands), The Chief (Monica McCarty), Seduced by a Highlander (Paula Quinn), The Devil Wears Plaid (Teresa Medeiros), One Night in Scotland (Karen Hawkins)

And of course, it wouldn’t be a RT convention without the annual crowning of Mr. Romance.

Here’s this year’s winner, Len Gunn…

And the rest of the hotties…

Hope you enjoyed the eye candy… see you next week!

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Fangtastic Friday: Why vampires?

When I find a new series that interests me, I like to hit up the author’s website and troll around for juicy tidbits to blog about for all of you guys.  Sometimes I come across things that are humorous, educational, and even profound, which some people might be surprised to hear, considering most of these websites are dedicated to celebrating series about vampires, and hating on vampires is a fairly prevalent new trend.

While writing my review for the first Midnight Breed series novel (Kiss of Midnight), I came across something on Lara Adrian’s website that gave me an “AH HA!” moment.  Ever since I found Twilight and delved into the world of paranormal romance and urban fantasy, I’ve been at a loss to explain just exactly why it is that I enjoy this genre so much.  This passage, from Ms. Adrian’s homepage, sums it up quite nicely…!

Why vampires? Two of the most powerful human emotions are fear and desire. They rule many of our actions when we’re awake, and they inspire the most vivid dreams when we’re asleep. The intrigue of the vampire through the ages has been the twining of these two emotions–we fear him, yet his darkness is the very thing that makes him so compelling, so incredibly desirable. We can never be sure if we’re completely safe with him, yet we can’t stay away. Vampires as heroes in romantic fiction speak to the most basic instincts we know. They are the ultimate bad boy, and who can resist that kind of allure?

Have a fangtastic weekend!  *grin*

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Review: Lover Unleashed (Black Dagger Brotherhood #9), by J.R. Ward

TLDR recap:

With her life in jeopardy and her mobility possibly permanently impaired, Payne faces some difficult decisions.  Her healer Manny, a world class surgeon and head of surgery at the local hospital faces some difficult circumstances himself when his efforts to save Payne begin to impact his career.  Payne’s twin brother Vishous and his mate Jane have a rough ride in store for them as well, as they work through V’s frustration & anger at the decisions made by his and Payne’s unconventional parents.  A good read – not as spectacular as some of the previous BDB novels, but definitely worth picking up!

  • Title: Lover Unleashed
  • Series: The Black Dagger Brotherhood – book #9
  • Author: J. R. Ward
  • Prominent Characters: Payne, Manny, Vischous, Jane
  • Recommended reader age: 17+
  • Sexual content level: Moderate

Premise:

After suffering a paralyzing injury, Payne’s life (as well as her mobility) is in jeopardy.  When Doc Jane realizes the damage is too great for her to repair, she goes on a hunt for the one man she knows has a chance of saving Payne: Head of Surgery, Dr. Manuel Manello.  Manny and Payne share an instant connection, but will she ever walk again and how will he deal with the news that Jane really isn’t gone and vampires actually do walk among us?

Thoughts:

WARNING: This review will include some spoilers, most minor or mid-range but some possibly large ones involving the plot’s turning points. If you already know you want to read this book, WAIT til after you finish it to read my review, then see if we agree!  If you have not read the BDB series and are looking for a review to decide if you should, then look at either Dark Lover (BDB #1) or Lover Eternal (BDB #2) as this newest one is good, but by no means the highlight of the series.

The title of this book is a little misleading, assuming it is supposed to describe the featured couple or “warrior”.  Payne is more “unleashed” in her sparring sessions with Wrath in the previous books than she is throughout this entire novel.  “Lover unleashed” is more more applicable to V, as he learns to relinquish his vicious self-control… literally, un-leashed from the “predilections” that trapped him in his previous destructive BDSM spiral.  Payne’s personality is nearly unrecognizable compared to the tenacious & serious, almost savage, amazon she was introduced as in a previous novel.  Some of this is understandable, considering how crushing it would be to be faced with permanent paralysis as a warrior, but far too much time is spent on this period of weakness and inactivity for Payne to really grow as a character.  Then, when she does finally become mobile and has a chance to be “normal” again, she acts more like a giddy young girl than a 300-year old fighter.  Sure, being in love makes you do silly things, makes you giggle and skip and spin in place, but I felt it was too harsh a departure from the personality we (the readers) had already been introduced to and accepted throughout Wrath’s sparring sessions and her interactions with Layla.

Too much of this book feels transitory for it to be strong enough to stand on its own.  For a reader new to the series, I would say absolutely do NOT read this novel first!  Obviously, starting at the beginning is best, but most of the other books are strong enough that a new reader could pick them up and enjoy the stories even with the multiple story arcs and ever-growing roster of characters.  Lover Unleashed reads as if its the middle film in a trilogy (hello, The Two Towers and Empire Strikes Back!) – it’s more a way to get there from here, and to wrap up plotlines while introducing yet another.  I don’t mind the sideline plots, because sometimes they turn into fantastic drama, but at least give us a little more of the one we all REALLY want to see: Blay & Quinn!  How many books is she going to stretch that one out before it comes to some kind of conclusion (oh, and please be the outcome I think we all want!)?  What about Muhrder from book 8 (Lover Mine)?  A substantial amount of book-time went to setting up that whole “ghost” scenario at his mansion, then revealing who he is on TV, then there’s not even a reference to it in this one.  I think this is the first time a developing plotline like that has been dropped completely from one book to another.  What about Lassiter?

“When John and Xhex came down with Blay and Saxton, the only people not in attendance were Quinn and Tohrment, who were likely in the gym, and Marissa, who was at Safe Place.”

So now that John Matthew’s story is wrapped up and Tohr doesn’t need the angel’s constant supervision, will we be seeing him again?  I’ll be sad if the answer to that is “no”, because, honestly, who can resist a cocky, arrogant, asshole angel with a big squishy (yet well-armored) heart?  Maybe the cast of characters is just becoming too large to fit them all into each novel.

A couple things really bothered me about Payne’s abduction toward the end…

1) Her abduction was fishy and too convenient (read: predictable).  Considering how well previous story lines have worked out after some of the leading ladies were abducted, Ms. Ward could have made an abduction like this work, but this just had no heat to it… no drive.  It felt flat.  A warrior like Payne so easily apprehended?  Dozens of lessers showing up just as Xcor and his guys do – that’s more than coincidence; it’s a forced plot device.  Sadly, I was actually glad to see her abducted.  Payne spends so much of the book struggling and weak, then girly and flighty, putting her in a situation like this was really the only way to quickly give her back some of the spine she had before the accident.

2) Payne was able to resolve the entire abduction situation by just standing there and talking.  Really?  The big bad glowy she-warrior doesn’t even get to fight for herself?   Part of the reason the abduction portion of the story feels so flat is because it’s not believeable.  We know she can burn with her touch – that’s how she killed her father in the Prologue of the book – so would we really believe she’d be successfully restrained and tortured using just steel or iron manacles?  Then she just talks her captor out of something he’s believed & fought for all of his life, after which he proceeds to protect her from his own men at his own peril?  Uh… no.  And B-O-R-I-N-G!

Memorable quotes:

If only there were a 12-step program on how to be the Scribe Virgin’s son…

Hi, I’m Vishous.  I’m her son, and I’ve been her son for 300 years.

Hi, Vishous.

She’s done a head job on me again, ad I’m trying not to go to the Other Side and scream bloody murder at her.

We understand, Vishous.

And on that bloody note, I’d like to dig up my father and kill him all over again, but I can’t.  So I’m just going to try to keep my sister alive even though she’s paralyzed, and attempt to find some pain so I can deal with this Payne.

You’re a straight-up pussy, Vishous, but we support your sorry ass.

The word “boot” is mentioned THREE times within 2 chapters!  Oh noes, invashun of teh BOOTS!

“I’m going to work on you,” Manny said.  “You got a problem with that?”

“Not if you can keep me from bleeding out.”

“Consider it done.”  Manny grabbed a pair of scissors.  “I’m going to cut off your pant leg first and ditch the boot.”

“Shitkicker,” the guy groaned.

“Fine.  Whatever you call it, it’s coming off.”

The new & improved, sensitive V? Nah…

Next thing he knew he was going to be on TV, staring into a camera and saying, “All it takes is a little dab of Self-awareness… and then I rinse with the patented Defining Yourself Wash, and my mind and emotions are clean and glowing – “.

Ok, now he was really losing his damn marbles, true.

Oh, the bromance!

“One other thing.”

“What.”

“I think we’re dating now.”  As V barked out a laugh, the cop shrugged.  “Come on… I got you naked.  You wore a damn corset.  And don’t get me started about the sponge bath afterward.”

“Fucker.”

“To the end.”

If you like…

If you like Lover Unleashed and the Black Dagger Brotherhood and haven’t yet been introduced to Cat & Bones, I highly encourage you to invest some quality time with them – there’s a duo that will knock your socks off and take you on an emotional rollercoaster comparable to some of the BDB novels!  Cat & Bones are the featured couple in the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost, which (at the time of this posting) has 5 core books and 2 Night Huntress World novels (as well as a few short stories and novellas featured in genre compilations).

You might also enjoy the Meredith Gentry series by Laurel K. Hamilton.  Yes, that Laurel K. Hamilton – the one who writes the infamous Anita Blake books.  The Merry Gentry series is a little less smutty (although honestly, not by too much) and has stronger plotlines, and her relationships with her “merry band of men” can get pretty intense, much like some of the BDB relationships.  If you have an aversion to sexual exhibitionism and three(plus)-somes, Meredith Gentry may not be your bag, but if you can get through that (or if that’s what you’re looking for!), give her a try – it’s a little more tame than Anita Blake, and a lot more emotional.

Final thoughts:

As much as this was a tough book for Payne, with her paralysis & uncertain future, it was an even rougher story for Vishous.  The emotional breakdown scenes were skillfully written and you can tell Ms. Ward really enjoys writing these characters (even though V seems to have a strange animosity toward her in his interviews and comments on the BDB forums).

This book is really more about V & Jane than it is about Payne & Manny.   Payne & Manny almost feel more like side characters than the featured couple, to the point that this is easily Lover Unbound 2.0.  Now I’m not complaining – V is one of my favorite characters in the series, so more face (and body!) time with him is A-okay with me.  Of course, his penthouse scenes in this book feature more B&M than D&S, but getting to see the Butch/V bond again was totally worth it.  I also enjoyed the references to the iconic “bathroom sink” scene from Lover Unbound (oh la la!).

Overall, even with all my b*tching and moaning above, I did enjoy this book and I will probably read (parts of) it again.  V’s story arc is strong enough to carry the weaker Payne/Manny story, and the emotional complexity of Xcor and Throe will make for an interesting new plotline.  John Matthew is hands-down my favorite character in this series, with Quinn and Blay close seconds, so obviously Lover Mine was going to be a super-tough act to follow.  I’m really curious who the next couple will be.  Ms. Ward didn’t set one up in this novel, so unless she plans on bringing in another brand new character (which would be out of place, considering how, with the exception of Mary, the rest of the characters are interwoven and developed before being cast as part of a featured couple), could it actually be Quinn’s and Blay’s turn?

Rating:

 

 

4.25 fangs: BITE IT, but try not to think about how ridiculously awesome Lover Mine was, and just enjoy the ride!

Related links:

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

http://jeanienefrost.com/books/

http://www.laurellkhamilton.org/


Get a personalized autographed copy of the new Black Dagger Brotherhood novel, Lover Unleashed!

If you, like the rest of Ms. Wards legions of impatiently loyal fans, are fiending for the next chapter in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, rejoice, because it’s only a week away!  Then rejoice some more because you can get a personalized, autographed hardback copy of the book signed by J. R. Ward herself!

Now personally, I read everything in ebook format, but this is very tempting even for me.  To order your personalized autographed copy, go here and carefully read all the instructions before making your purchase.  The cost is the list price of $27.95 + (possibly) shipping.  If you order online at Barnes & Noble, you can get the hardback for $15.35 but you don’t get the autograph or personalization.  This offer ends at the close of the business day this Thursday, March 24th… so if you want it, jump on it!

No matter which way you choose though, you’ll still come out ahead because the wait is almost over!!


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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