Tag Archives: vampire

Shame On You!

Are you ashamed of what you read?

One day in a bookstore, I overheard a man berating his wife for browsing through the Paranormal Romances. She apologized and promised not to read such “filth”, and of course she knew vampires weren’t real. I started to wonder how many readers of Paranormal Romance novels faced the same sort of criticism from family and friends.

By paying closer attention to what people said when discussing books, I learned that many regard PNR as either “Fluff” or “Trash”. Fluff apparently refers to books that show only idealized events and characters. The unbelievably romantic vampire with the tortured soul who hates what he is but suddenly his existence is given meaning when he meets the innocent and perfect heroine. The Trash label seems to be assigned to the grittier PNRs with their truly evil villains, heroes that don’t mind getting a little blood on their hands, and heroines who are perfectly capable of, and willing to, kick ass – and the hero and heroine enjoy an active and inventive sex life.

I found few people willing to admit to reading PNR, and those who did sort of laughed it off, giving the impression they were either embarrassed about it, or didn’t read it seriously. The covers often seem to cause discomfort in readers, too, even though many are gorgeous. But people have a certain expectation from a book with a man’s beautifully sculpted pecs and washboard abs enhanced by a mysterious tattoo – good literature isn’t it.

Almost all Romance, including all the sub-genres, takes more than its fair share of belittlement. But Paranormal seems to receive an extra helping of negativity. I’ve talked with many readers who hide what they read – a cover to conceal the cover, an e-reader, reading only when there’s no chance of anyone seeing what their book is, and on and on. Many authors, myself included, use pen names – you wouldn’t want your teen-age son taking flak from everyone at school because his mother writes about vampires having sex either.

It took me a long time to get past being ashamed of some of my choices in reading material. I only recently admitted to extended family and friends what I write. I don’t care what strangers think, and if my friends and family can’t accept the work I love doing, then they might not care for me as much as I thought.

The truth is, I have nothing to be ashamed of – at least in relation to my reading and writing.<G> And neither do you.

Of course we know vampires and werewolves, and those other creatures aren’t real. Neither are space aliens or elves or zombies, and on and on. They’re fiction, meant to entertain, no matter the genre. Good Paranormal Romance is as well written as any other genre. Good writing is good writing, no matter the subject matter. As for the accusation of having no plot, much to the contrary, Paranormal Romance plots are often intricate, full of twists and turns, and many are more complex than those from any other genre. That’s what happens when you combine two or more genres into one book, and do it well.

Those sex scenes – nothing to be ashamed of. Mainstream fiction, literary, and other genres have sex scenes as well. Granted, not as many, or as well written, but they’re there. And maybe that’s the problem. Romance writers in general have made an art and a science of writing sex scenes, but the sex in Paranormal Romance is often… more. The very nature of our paranormal beings turns ordinary sex into something exceptional. Perhaps the detractors are jealous, either of the ability to have that incredible sex all the time, or of the ability to write it in such a way that the reader almost experiences it.

Because I have immediate family members who could be negatively impacted by the public perception of the genre I choose to write, I will continue to use my pen name. I wouldn’t want them to be hurt by the comments of those who consider Paranormal Romance to be porn with vampires. But hell will freeze over before I hide what I read again.

Do other peoples’ opinions about your choice of reading material cause you discomfort or shame? What do you do about it? Is there a way for you to “take back your books”, even in a small way?


Fangtastic Friday: Twilight-inspired artwork & comic by Mangled Stare

This month, Austin comic artist Will Rodriguez celebrates the 10-year anniversary of his quirky web comic Mangled Stare, a dedicated accomplishment in today’s fickle entertainment market.  The Mighty Mangler may be the brain and brush behind MS, but he’s quick to give credit to his family for the handy supply of situational humor and for the occasional coloring assistance of his junior-graphic-artists-in-training.  When asked about awards and honors earned by Mangled Stare, Will said…

Aside from the praise and admiration of my family, no other awards really carry the same priority or worth. ^_^ (Though, I don’t mind mentioning that I have held the Chipotle Chowdown Champion title at each convention I’ve attended in the last 6 years.)

Aww.  And, congratulations… I think?  *wink*  Earlier this month, MS published a comic that Twilight fans everywhere, especially the significant others of TwiFans, will appreciate…

Psst – click to make it bigger and open in a new window!

Q&A with the Mighty Mangler!

From the comic, it’s clear that your honey is staunchly Team Jacob.  How do you feel about all the Twilight hype?

You’d never know if not for  her “Team Jacob” tshirt, keychain, posters, or bumper stickers, huh? Yes, my wife is extremely Team Jacob. I think Stephanie Meyers took a genre and turned it on its ear. She spun a story that built a very strong and dedicated fan-base and I applaud her for that.

So you visited Forks on your Spring Break… how exactly did she talk you into that? (hopeful TwiFans everywhere are holding their breath…)

She smiled and asked me in her sweetest girlie voice. >_< We were planning a road-trip and since I’d never seen the Pacific Ocean, I agreed that a drive to the west coast would be fun for the whole family. Besides, my wife supports my artistic endeavors and other geeky obsessions so it’s only fair that I support hers.

Did you enjoy the trip?  What did you like best about it?

Well, we all had a fantastic time. The drive from Texas to Washington is a beautiful one. Utah was just breath-taking and the Quileute Reservation was humbling to visit. The best part of the trip, though, was when we surprised my wife by telling her that we were staying in the “Jacob Cabin” right on the treaty line, from the books. The entire cabin was Twilight-themed and each of the rooms was named after a member of the Black clan. We had the entire cabin to ourselves and made use of that fact with all of our children.

Do you have any advice for fellow TwiFan significant others?

Unless you have a significant other who enjoys a battle, fake it! Even if you think vampires should be fanged, stone-cold murderers, pretend to like it or, if nothing else, don’t bad-mouth a Twihard or their stories. Play your cards right and you’ll reap all the benefits of his or her Twilight addiction. ^_-

Can we look forward to any other Twilight-inspired comics in the near future?  (Breaking Dawn is coming!  *nudge nudge*)

My wife is counting down the minutes until the first part of Breaking Dawn releases! If she has any say in the matter (and she nearly always does), I can guarantee plenty more Twilight humor from Mangled Stare.

How did you get started in comics and what have you done to keep yourself motivated all these years?

When my wife told me she was pregnant with our first child, I knew that my childhood dream of becoming a cartoonist had no better springboard than the milestone of parenthood. I wanted to be able to leave a legacy for my children and show them that any of their dreams were achievable. Their praise and the continued support of my wife and readers, in addition to my love of cartooning and making folks laugh, make motivation easy. Ten years-easy, as a matter of fact!

Do you have any goals or plans (besides world domination, of course) for Mangled Stare that you’re excited about?

World domination comes with WAY too much responsibility! Keeping my three kiddos in line is enough for me, thanks. I am working on a graphic novel with a great friend of mine which will serve as a sort of precursor to Mangled Stare. I’m also working on some other stories I’ve been dying to tell since high school through animated cartoons as well as future graphic novels.

What advice would you give to young artists just starting out in the industry?

Be true to your craft. Never “settle” or compromise your passions for creativity in the attempt to “succeed.” Hone your craft and never stop learning. Art is organic and dynamic, so you should never stagnate your style. Draw something every day; anything! Just keep drawing. Accept constructive critisism and avoid being defensive; art is subjective.

And finally (no, you can’t skip this one!), declare your Twilight “Team”!

Well, if I have to choose, I guess I’m team Alice, though I’ve always had an affinity for werewolves over vampires, just because shapeshifting is cooler than drinking blood…

Pfft, blasphemy (from the GT Team Edward corner)!  Thanks to Will Rodriguez from Mangled Stare for allowing GT to pepper him with Twilight fangirl-type questions and feature his work.  =)  Best of luck and we hope to see many future Twilight-inspired MS comic strips!

Related links:

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

TLDR recap:

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

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

Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

Memorable quotes:

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

The psychology of dog (people?) whispering…

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

Dangerously conflicted…

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

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

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

It’s never too late to apologize… 

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

Trusting your own emotions?  Pffft, overrated.

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

Gotta draw the line somewhere!

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

Parental supervision not required…

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

Real strength comes from within…

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

The quandary of leadership…

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

Ah, the sophisticate wine connoisseur…

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

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

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

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

Final thoughts:

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

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

Related links:

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

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

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

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Release day: Night Walker (The Night series #1) by Lisa Kessler


Related links:

Lisa Kessler’s Night Walker, the first novel in the new Night Series from Entangled Publishing, is now available at your favorite bookseller!  If you missed my review of Night Walker, check it out here and then go pick up your own copy and get to know Calisto and Kate.  If you need to stop for a few, to ogle the cover eye candy, that’s perfectly acceptable.  *grin*

Here are some online purchase links…

Enjoy!

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Q&A with Karen Chance: Cassie & Pritkin & demons, oh my!

Karen Chance, author of the infectiously fun fantasy Cassie Palmer series, posted a new Q&A about the books and characters on her “The Cassandra Palmer Series by Karen Chance” page on Facebook, and in it she answers some burning questions fans had about characters and events in the books.

*** Spoiler note: If you have not read the Cassie Palmer series but plan to, and want absolutely no knowledge of any goings-on before reading, skip down the the “It’s all in the shorts…” section of this post. ***

Fan Q&A with Karen Chance

What exactly is a warlock? 

 Charley Sheen. It can also be a term for a mage who specializes in demonology, can summon demons and can put some of them in thrall.

In Claimed by Shadow, Pritkin confronts Cassie and Casanova in Casanova’s monitoring room, Billy comes in and starts making wisecracks, and Casanova takes a swat at him. Cassie explains that Casanova is able to hear Billy due to “his demon senses.” Pritkin is also in the room, though, and he cannot hear Billy.

They’re both Incubi. I would put it down to Casanova being in a vampire host while Pritkin’s other half is human, but other vampires cannot hear Billy either. Does this have something to do with Casanova being an Incubi possessing a vampire (thus being a spirit, sort of) while Pritkin is a half-Incubi, half-human physically living in this world?

Firstly, Casanova isn’t in a vampire host.  The vampire who calls himself by that name does so because his incubus (or succubus, if you prefer, since he thinks of it as female) used to possess the real Casanova.  But the incubus isn’t Casanova and the guy who calls himself that isn’t either.  Basically, he’s being pretentious.

Secondly, Pritkin isn’t a demon.  He isn’t even possessed by a demon.  He’s a human-demon hybrid, and like all hybrids, he received some of each parent’s abilities while missing out on others.  Some of the incorporeal demon races can interact with non-demon spirits, but Pritkin didn’t inherit that particular talent.

As for Casanova, when his demon is in residence, so to speak, he gains a good deal from it, including extended senses that other vampires do not have.  It’s one of the reasons he made the deal in the first place.  Hope that helps.

What did Pritkin think Mircea thought he was? If this question is a little confusing, I’m talking about Cassie and Pritkin’s conversation in the restaurant. When Cassie tells him Mircea thinks he’s a warlock, Pritkin seems to feel that there was something Mircea wasn’t telling her. What did Pritkin think Mircea actually thought?

Pritkin and Cassie were having two very different conversations in that instance.  Cassie thought they were talking about the recent attacks on her life.  Pritkin thought they were having a discussion about the few times they had…gotten close.  So he wasn’t thinking about Mircea’s claim that he was a warlock, but rather the motivation behind it—namely a reasonable sounding excuse for keeping Pritkin away from Cassie.

In Touch the Dark, when Pritkin and Cassie first make eye contact in the Senate’s chamber, “something that looked almost like fear crossed” Pritkin’s eyes.  What was it he saw that shook him up?

You need to recall why Pritkin was actually there.  He said it was to claim Cassie on behalf of the Circle (since she was a human magic worker, the vampires had no real right to her).  But in reality, that wasn’t his mission at all.  Of course, the Circle would have been happy to have the vamps merely hand her over, but they didn’t really expect it. And Pritkin was hardly the man they would have sent for a diplomatic mission in any case.  He was there to investigate Cassie, and if she was determined to be a serious threat, to eliminate her.  In other words, he was there in his usual role as an assassin.

The Circle thought it was being clever.  It would kill two birds with one stone—get rid of a pythia who was outside its control and remove one of Jonas’s chief supporters at the same time.  Because the vamps would almost certainly kill Pritkin after he took out Cassie.  It never entered their minds that Pritkin might have a problem going through with the assignment.  He was, after all, a well-known demon hunter.  But killing dangerous rogue demons is a little different from killing A) a human being, B) a woman and C) someone who was about the same age his late wife had been when she died.

Of course, Pritkin hadn’t really thought about it, either.  He was focused on the logistics of the mission and the fact that he was going to have to deal with the Senate, which never made anybody’s day.  But then he came face-to-face with the reality of his situation.  Which was a young, unarmed human female with big blue eyes, tumbled blond curls and a happy face t-shirt.  Who was staring down Jack the Ripper despite having absolutely no way to defend herself.  She was tiny and delicate and courageous and vulnerable and obviously mental for not cowering in a corner and…

And he was appalled.

He was also afraid, because he’d never had a target like this.  And because, to protect the Circle, he might be called upon to kill another young woman, this time on purpose.  And because, for the first time in his career, he wasn’t sure he could do it.  So, since he was Pritkin, he proceeded to act like a dick to hide his fear and to steel himself against her.

Are demons that are incorporeal on Earth (like incubi) corporeal in their own realms in Hell?

First of all, it depends on which realm you mean, because in my universe, “Hell” is a human catch-all name for many, many different areas.  Are you familiar with Buddhist cosmology?  Because if so, the Cassie Palmer universe is structured something like that.  Basically, lots and lots of hells, each one different from the others.  And some of them can support corporeal life (because some demons are born with bodies), but others would be toxic for anything other than a spirit.

Second, it depends on which demon.  Some of the usually incorporeal types can save up enough power to form themselves a body (like Saleh).  Others are spirits wherever they are (like the incubi, except for Rosier, who’s special like that).  And still others are what is called two-natured and can take either form (like Sid).  See “A Family Affair” for an explanation of how it all works.

Pritkin got a pretty nasty wound from a Fey weapon while he was in Faerie. Will it leave a scar?

No.

In HTM, Mircea told Cassie that he borrowed the limo from a friend during their date in London? Who did he contact?

A member of the European Senate who lives there.  Her name—and you knew it was going to be a woman, didn’t you?—is Marsilia.

It’s all in the shorts…

If that wasn’t enough Cassie Palmer goodness, there are three  new “coming soon” shorts listed on Ms. Chance’s “Freebies” page on her site.  The cover art for all three is there, and we get to see two delectably smoldering cover images of everyone’s favorite dirty sexy war mage, John Pritkin, and one of the inimitable master vampire Mircea Basarab.  Check ’em out below and drool to your heart’s content (tip: click to open the full-size image in a new window for optimal ogling)

Not yet a fan of the Cassie Palmer series by Karen Chance?

You’re missing out on some seriously hair-raising, skin-of-your-teeth, preposterously droll fast-paced action and a witty, charming, steamy, riot of a good time!  Want to learn more?  Check out Ms. Chance’s Cassie Palmer website and meet all your soon-to-be-favorite new characters.  Or you could just pick up Touch the Dark and get started RIGHT MEOW!  You should probably do yourself a favor and just go ahead and get all 5 books while you’re there, and save yourself an impatiently harrowing trip back out after you finish the first one in record time.  Seriously, good luck putting these down to do something so annoying as, oh, sleep or eat!

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ARC Review: Night Walker (The Night series #1), by Lisa Kessler

TLDR recap:

Separated from his beloved by a cruel and ironic twist of fate, Calisto sacrificed everything to gain immortality and await her return.  Now, over 200 years  later, she’s back…  and she doesn’t remember him at all.  Although Kate is inexplicably drawn to him, misguided zealots are determined to keep them apart at any cost and Calisto must somehow keep Kate safe while helping her reclaim her memories and the bond that has persevered through so much.

    • Publication date: August 2, 2011
    • Title: Night Walker
    • Series: The Night series – book #1
    • Author: Lisa Kessler
    • Prominent Characters: Calisto, Kate
    • Recommended reader age: 16+
    • Sexual content level: light-to-moderate

Thoughts:

Calisto and Kate are old souls, separated in a past life and still searching for forever with one another.  His entire reason for existing is the chance that he might get to see her again, even though she may not be the same woman he fell in love with.  Hello, über romantic!  Of course, Kate doesn’t realize she isn’t ‘brand new’* so the intensity of her feelings for Calisto are frightening and are ultimately the defining factor for the pace of the story.

It starts off as a leisurely stroll through character introductions and laying out the rules of the universe.  Frequent flashbacks help keep the reader engaged until the plot starts to unfold. Initially, it’s a little difficult to really become engrossed in, but the flow of the story is pleasantly unhurried and, as we learn more about the characters and the circumstances that bring them together, segues nicely into the juicy parts and action scenes.  Oh, you know you want to hear more about the juicy!

The intimate scenes in Night Walker are solidly in the “romance” category, without the vulgar language or extended physicality typical of erotica.  Calisto’s touch is knowing but oh-so-tender, and Kate is passionately generous, letting him sweep her away and protect her from her fears while still participating as an equal.  Their spiritual bond with one another really amps up the intensity of these scenes and gives you that little clench in the chest that tells you you’re experiencing something special.

Ok, so he’s a vampire right?  Yes and no.  Vampires exist in this universe but, while they seem to be technically the same species, Calisto and the one who made him consider themselves to be Night Walkers.  The difference isn’t yet well-defined, but the gist of it is that while Night Walkers can exist mostly peacefully in human society, vampires are inherently evil and are governed largely by their bloodlust and craving for power over weaker beings.  Calisto’s transition into a Night Walker is shadowy and not explicitly depicted, but is definitely not your typical romantic sip-trading, where the new vampire gets to be blissfully dined upon before rising immaculately from the grave.  This transition feels more visceral, but without the horror and gore.

Calisto’s spanish accent and the cadence of his speech are some of my favorite things about him.  I’m a Southern girl.  It is nigh impossible for me to talk without excessively using contractions and employing other rampant word mangling, so seeing a character speak with NO contractions really gets my attention, and it makes it easier to hear his voice.  Now that I have Antonio Banderas on the brain, I would REALLY like to see (erm, hear?) Calisto say “Feed me… if you dare!”  *grin*  When it comes to protecting Kate, Calisto has no inhibitions and is not afraid to embrace what he is. It’s refreshing to see a hero who accepts who and what he is while still keeping that awareness of humanity and respect for life that usually defines the “good guys”.

Ms. Kessler’s musical background (she’s a professional vocalist) really shines in her depiction of the piano scenes. The notes fairly dance and soar off the page and make me wish I could step into the moment to experience it for myself.

With a surprising reveal at the end, the path of the rest of the series is left open to question.  Who is really the villain?  Will Calisto and Kate face more of the same or will there be a new, unexpected, more powerful Big Bad?  Do the events of the story mean more than just to serve their purpose as a plot device?  Luckily, we won’t have long to wait, as the next book in the series is tentatively slated for a December release.  Woo for not having to wait a year or more!

*A cookie to the first commenter who can identify that reference!  Ok, maybe a virtual cookie… no?  Bragging rights will have to suffice.  *grin*

Memorable quotes:

Who needs to learn to drive when you know how to fly?

“Where are you parked?” Kate asked.
“I am not.”
“You’re not? Did you take a cab or something?”
“Something…”

If you like Night Walker of The Night series…

If you enjoyed Night Walker check out the Dark series (starting with Dark Prince) by Christine Feehan.  Her Carpathians are similar to the more vampire-traditional feel of the Night Walkers, and the flow of the stories and relationships between the characters have a comparable sentimentally impassioned ambiance.

You might also enjoy A Discovery of Witches (the first book in the All Souls trilogy) by Deborah Harkness.  Discovery is a little more epic, but the chivalrous undertones and the unexpected quick emotional bonding of the main couple is similar.  The pace of Discovery is also slower at the start, taking time to let the reader get to know the players before plunging into the mystery and action.

Final thoughts:

If you like your romance with strong bonds and heartfelt emotion, with tenderness and a sedate pace, with a strong, determined hero and a heroine who isn’t afraid to take chances, put Night Walker on your “to read” list.  I’m looking forward to watching this series develop, especially as the characters learn more about their abilities and we (hopefully) get to meet more Night Walkers… and maybe a few vampires too?  *wink*  The great thing about Night Walker being the start of a continuing series is that no matter if the upcoming stories focus on Calisto and Kate or on other characters, we’ll still get a peek into their continuing journey as a couple and as immortals, and that’s a happy thought!  =)

*Thank you to Entangled Publishing for allowing me to preview this book!

Rating:
4.0 fangs: BITE IT!

Related links:

http://lisaslair.com/ (Night Series website)

http://lisakessler.wordpress.com/ (Author blog)

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

http://deborahharkness.com/ (A Discovery of Witches website)

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Comic Con 2011: True Blood S4 shower scene confirmed, season preview clip!

Fans attending this years Comic Con True Blood panel were treated to a generous gathering of the stars of everyone’s favorite vampire soap opera.  Traditionally, True Blood is  one of the few panels that routinely offers up such a large number of its cast for the Q&A session and this year was no different, with Alexander Skarsgard and Anna Paquin in attendance to spark questions about the possibility of fans finally getting to see the infamous “shower scene”.  To our collective overwhelmingly-excited-anticipation, the answer to that is (from Alan Ball)…

“There will be a moment in the show when Sookie and Eric are together in a shower,” he said. “It may not exactly be what happens in the books. It may be weirder… and dirtier. Maybe.”

When asked if Sookie has multiple personalities, referring to her upcoming change of attitude toward Eric and the show’s other vampires, Anna Paquin quipped…

“Part of her has really dirty vampire sex on a regular basis — with possibly multiple vampires.”

Eagle-eyed viewers noticed some wardrobe inconsistencies for Eric in the first episode of the season.  Not too many complains about the shirtless & shoeless hunk wandering the roadside near Sookie’s house (why missing just the shirt and shoes?  Eh, who cares!), but how does Sookie just happen to have a warm-up suit that will fit a 6’4″ Viking vampire?  Alexander Skarsgard suggested maybe it’s somehow one of Hoyt’s via Jason, but Alan Ball cleared the air on this one…

“I believe that if you took the Latin of the spell that was cast on Eric and were to translate it,” Ball explained, “there would be a part that said, ‘And by the way, you will lose your shirt, and then you will find a really dorky outfit that you will wear for several episodes in a row … and still be insanely hot in.'”

Of course, one of the best things about Comic Con is getting to see the preview clips of the upcoming films and television seasons.  Here’s the teaser trailer for what’s coming up in Season 4!

Wanna see the panel Q&A?  Check out the videos below!  (Courtesy of magicinthenumbers’s YouTube channel)

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

TLDR recap:

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

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

Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

Memorable quotes:

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

Jacob, on tattoos…

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

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

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

All work and no play…

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

A servant’s musing of his Mistress…

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

Life is…

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

Sex: sin or devotion?

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

A jack of all trades…

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

More money than God…

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


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

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

Final thoughts:

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

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

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

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

Related links:

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

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

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Review: 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: A Vampire’s Claim (The Vampire Queen series #3), by Joey W. Hill

TLDR recap:

A drifter haunted by a brutal past, Devlin is a bushman who lives a lonely life on the edge in the Australian Outback.  At the tender young age of 200 years old, Lady Daniela, a rare “born” vampire who is heiress to her own province in Oz, is sought after by scheming male vampires trying to increase their own standing who are willing to kill or viciously torture her to achieve their goals.  Danny has never had a fully-marked human servant and Dev willingly submits to no one, but their unlikely emergency partnership could take them on an emotional journey neither is prepared for.

    • Title: A Vampire’s Claim
    • Series: The Vampire Queen series – book #3
    • Author: Joey W. Hill
    • Prominent Characters: Lady Daniela, Devlin
    • Recommended reader age: 18+
    • Sexual content level: heavy and explicit (vulgar language typical of erotica, includes group scenes and alternate sexual partnerings)

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

Thoughts:

This book is number three in the series, but it could actually be read before the first two novels (The Vampire Queen’s Servant and The Mark of the Vampire Queen).  It’s set in the 1950s, a good 5 decades before Lyssa and Jacob’s books, and tells the story of Dev and Lady D, both of whom we met in the second book, The Mark of the Vampire Queen.

Dev’s backstory is violent and haunting, and his journey through the emotional minefield of becoming a fully-marked and willing human servant to Danny is uneasy at best.  This book delves into the psychology of war and loss, and doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the uncomfortably adventurous potential of the sex scenes.  At his lady’s insistence, Dev uses their tenuous connection as his emotional outlet, while she fights her own battle against dealing with her feelings for Dev and his proper place in her life.

I thoroughly enjoyed the second book (and the second half of the first), but I had a tough time getting into this one due to its intense gravity.  This is no flighty love story!  It is raw and intense, gratifying and punishing, violent and seductive.  While Dev is pushed past some of his natural straight-male sexual boundaries, I feel that some readers will be right there with him, part enthralled and part horrified at the dark places Danny takes him.

I really enjoyed getting to see Thomas and his interaction with Lyssa, as well as Alistair and Nina, the parents of born vampire Brian from the first two books.  Personally, I’m not into survival stories or rugged treks across dangerous wild territories, so the setting in this novel was a little off-putting for me.  While I loved Dev’s personality and the way he competently handles so many diverse situations, I just did not like reading about the Australian Outback and the woes of never-ending mosquitoes and other nasty creepy crawlies.  The sex scenes are hot, so no complaint there (although it’s going to be pretty hard to surpass the awesomeness that is the Council gathering in The Mark of the Vampire Queen!), but they are explicit and vulgarly worded, so readers who are new to erotica will have a shock or two in store until they get used to the cadence of the writing.

Memorable quotes:

So complex, the relationship between vampire and servant…

“We’re not pets.  We’re human servants to vampires, and it’s a relationship like nothing you’ve ever had in your life.  Tell yourself you love her or don’t love her.  It doesn’t matter.  If you are meant to be her full servant, you are bound together in a a way that would tear out your heart and half the things in your gut if you decided to walk away from it.”


If you like A Vampire’s Claim of The Vampire Queen series…

If you enjoyed A Vampire’s Claim and the rest of the Vampire Queen series for its hard-hitting emotional impact, you may also like the Black Dagger Brotherhood series (starting with Dark Lover) by J.R. Ward and the Psy/Changeling series (starting with Slave to Sensation) by Nalini Singh.  Although the Psy/Changeling series features shapeshifters and psychics rather than vampires, the relationships between the characters are intense and the bonds extremely strong.  Both of these series will make you laugh, cry, and just about everything in between!  Highly recommended reads.

If you liked A Vampire’s Claim for its heavy sexual content and explicivity, check out the Meredith Gentry series (starting with A Kiss of Shadows) and the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton.  The Anita Blake series starts with Guilty Pleasures, but the erotica aspect doesn’t become the dominant component of the stories until Narcissus in Chains (book #10).  You can’t really safely start halfway through the series, but there are a few wikis and fansites out there that will give you an overview if you choose to skip the horror-focused first half.

Final thoughts:

Overall excellent character development and plotlines, and seriously intense relationships both between the characters and growth within themselves.  If not for my city girl aversion to all-things-unsophisticated, I would probably have scored this one much higher.  As it is, I enjoyed it but have no plans to read it again from start to finish… maybe just some snippets here and there.  *grin*

Rating:
4.25 fangs: Bite it! 

Related links:

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

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

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

http://www.laurellkhamilton.org/ (The Merry Gentry & Anita Blake series websites)

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