Showing posts with label Paranormal Romance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paranormal Romance. Show all posts

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Frozen by Meljean Brook


I've felt the onslaught of arousal, the sudden tightening of my body, that delicious shudder when a man's tongue penetrates my lips and takes possession of my mouth.
I've never been kissed as if he needed it. As if he'd die without it. 
Frozen is a stand-alone paranormal romance novella initially developed by Meljean Brook as a free on-line read. [This story includes a premise that some readers might find problematic or triggering]

The setting is contemporary with both male and female protagonists initially meeting through their jobs as civil engineers working on the same project for different construction companies. Deep attraction leads to an all-consuming kiss, but afterwards Erik Gulbrandr walks away with an apology. For a year and a half as they work together, Olivia Martin believes that Erik's cold regard signals disinterest and tries to forget that for a moment she felt that Erik was "the one." But when Olivia is asked to stop at Erik's isolated home to deliver paperwork, they find themselves snowbound during the winter solstice and everything changes. Olivia discovers that Erik is living under a terrible curse that includes her and in the end may destroy them both.

As a paranormal romance Frozen is filled with heavy sexual tension and secret longing. It offers danger and violence to the protagonists from outside sources, triggering those protective responses we have come to expect from alpha males. However, although Erik is icy-cool and sexy, he is not the typical alpha male who allows his "other" side to take control without a fight, and Olivia is depicted as a smart woman. The romance is a different story altogether. For most of the story Olivia is guided by that first moment of rejection just as Erik is tormented by the curse's compulsion and can't see past it to Olivia's real feelings. They don't communicate and as a result misunderstandings cause unnecessary pain for them both.

Brook utilizes a spattering of Norse mythology -- descendants of Odin's sons, Fenrir the Wolf and the Ironwood Witch -- to create a cursed family with the oldest son inheriting the curse and carrying it down the line, skipping some generations, but never going away until Ragnarok. Exposition is over utilized to establish world-building in some sections, i.e., Olivia's over extended thought process after alone-time research and conversations with Erik. However, Olivia's first point of view narrative works well for most of the story particularly at first when back flashes first clue in the reader on the protagonists backstory and later as Brook uses it to show the depth of feelings between the characters, to keep the reader immersed in the action scenes, as well as in all those wonderful lusty scenes that we all expect from a Meljean Brook paranormal romance.

Without giving away too many spoilers, I believe that the focus behind this novella is to establish consent within the perimeters of a paranormal romance by giving the female a choice that is initially taken away from both protagonists through "magical" means. Meljean Brook's paranormal romance novels are well-known for complex world-building and steamy couples. My expectations of Frozen were of a hot, steamy romance and good world-building with a narrower focus due to length -- they were met.

Category: Paranormal Romance/Novella
Release date: September 20, 2014
Source: eARC received from Author for an honest review
Grade: B-

FROZEN will be available in your favorite bookstores now at a special introductory price of 99¢. It is anticipated that a print version will be available shortly afterward.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

… On Shield of Winter (Psy/Changeling #13) by Nalini Singh

Shield of Winter is a transitional book in this long series by Nalini Singh. A much needed one with many threads to follow. First we have the overall story arc which drives all the other sub-plots, including the romance.

Overall Story Arc Summary: Silence has fallen and the Psy world in the midst of chaos. Kaleb Krychek has his hands full trying to avoid total destruction as the dark virus in the PsyNet spreads and threatens the world with violent psychotic breaks from the Psy and ultimately mass death for his people. Many are relieved that Silence is gone, but Krychek also has to deal with those who still want Silence or don't know what to do without it.

Kaleb can't afford to sit on his hands. He knows the Net is in danger of collapsing and that designation E Psys may make the saving difference. He entrusts his Arrows with a list of mature empaths that with some quick training may be able to help. He brings in the Changelings as allies by asking them for safe training ground in their territory. Krycheck goes further by investigating other possibilities and bringing in other allies, including the Forgotten, as well as Nikita and Anthony. It's all very political but surprisingly humane as Krycheck, Arrows, empaths, and allies take desperate measures to contain what could become a disaster of massive proportions.

Empaths: Singh brings in a new group of Psy characters who either have been hiding their empathic abilities their whole lives or were not aware of them. Their mission is to explore and expand abilities they hardly understand to fight darkness, corruption and madness on a psychic level as quickly as possible. Singh begins to further explore designation E and gives depth to her characters by making them individuals, introducing background stories and going as far as sub-dividing psychic abilities within the designation. I believe that a deeper exploration of empaths, one where they finally come into their own, will come along with Alice's story.

Arrows: The mysterious world of Arrows as trained assassins and soldiers is also fully explored. The Arrows are assigned to guard Es with their lives on a one-on-one basis. Their collective coldness and personal isolation serves as a big contrast to the colorful and emotional world of the empaths. Singh deeply explores the brutal, violent, inhumane training, as well as the Arrows' history of survival after fighting those who used their abilities to gain power, through Vasic and Aden's characters. There's a thought provoking quality to this sub-plot that comes from the soldier at war perspective that I believe Singh may continue to explore through other story lines with Arrows as main characters, i.e., Aden, but that I believe was truly well done in Shield of Winter.

Zie Zen, Aiden, and Secondary Characters: Through the Zie Zen character/thread, Singh brings into the open the history and magnitude of the Psy rebellion, and through Aden, the immensity of the Arrows's loyalty to one another. These two characters, although different in the way they show love, provide some of the most touching, emotionally connected moments in this installment. Judd and Sascha are also quite influential -- Judd with his care and loyalty for the Arrows, and Sascha with hers for the empaths. And who can resist Ivy's dog Rabbit?

The Romance: I need to make this point first. Vasic and Ivy are not carbon copies of Judd (Arrow in Caressed by Ice) and Sascha(Empath in Slave to Sensation). Singh doesn't repeat herself and I am very happy that she didn't do that with Vasic and Ivy. Who wants to read about the same characters with the same conflicts over and over again? I don't! In that respect, I am not disappointed.

Ivy doesn't know she's an empath and has been through a form of rehabilitation to fix her. But she's not broken, instead Ivy is a joyful, hopeful woman who has benefitted from being loved by her parents throughout her life. Vasic's coldness and emotional isolation call to her empathic senses and it doesn't take long before she's longing to warm up the Arrow assigned as her personal guard. Vasic cant feel anything. He's on the edge and almost broken from guilt and despair. Ivy gets under his skin. He has never met anyone like her and doesn't know what to do when Ivy begins to push his boundaries. As the two battle the Net and the madness affecting the Psy, Vasic's cold walls begin to crumble in the face of Ivy's loving warmth. But can she walk with him in his personal darkness? Will she understand his past actions? Will she survive the onslaught of the Net's Dark Mind?

This romance is woven into the overall story arc and Vasic and Ivy spend a lot of their time in danger, battling and working on strategies to defeat the darkness. Their intimate time together is beautiful, and I like that as individuals they don't play games about how they feel about each other. I think that is because neither is capable of hiding. But those beautiful times are limited, and other, more significant sub-plots and characters, take the focus away from Vasic and Ivy. So in the end, although I love what there is of Vasic and Ivy together, the romance becomes another sub-plot in this installment, albeit, one where the two characters are an integral part of that all-important overall story arc.

Epilogue: Epilogues can be great or they can damage a great read. In this case I loved it. The Psys are evolving and the whole world will have to evolve with them. There have been changes in Singh's Psy/Changeling world and there are more changes to come -- dangerous enemies, chaos and instability to overcome, but there's hope and love too. Now we wait for the next book. :)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Review: Guardian Demon (Guardian Series #8) by Meljean Brook


After a terrifying encounter in Hell destroys her trust in Michael, the Guardian’s powerful leader, former detective Andromeda Taylor is ready to call it quits as one of the angelic warriors and resume her human life again. But when demonic forces threaten her closest friends and she uncovers a terrifying plot devised by Lucifer, Taylor is thrown straight into Michael’s path again…

To defeat Lucifer, Michael needs every Guardian by his side—and he needs Taylor more than any other. The detective is the key to keeping his own demonic side at bay, and Michael will do anything to protect her and keep her close. And when Taylor manifests a deadly power, her Gift might tip the scales in the endless war between Heaven and Hell…or it might destroy them both with a single touch.
Guardian Demon is the last book in Meljean Brook's excellent paranormal romance series. This is a great read and an excellent ending to the series as a whole.

The introduction to Guardian Demon hooks the reader for what is to come. It begins as Andromeda Taylor attempts to save Michael from Hell after he's released from the frozen fields. Michael has become a ravenous, raging dragon whose hunger for consuming demons is never-ending. Andy becomes bait while Khavi waits to trap him, but once Michael comes to her, he shifts into a two-legged, dragon-like monster with minimal humanity left. She saves him, but Khavi's plans backfire and the end result is damaging to both Andy and Michael in unforeseen and unexpected ways. Andy finally gets Michael out of her head, but she loses any trust she had left for Michael, and Michael, well. . . he loses more than Andromeda's trust.

During the beginning of Part I the action continues, however, there are sections that are heavy with narration and internal thoughts. Everything is highly relevant to the story, Andromeda's and Michael's feelings and the methodical description of individual powers used by the already introduced Guardians. The result is an uneven pacing that slows down the story in this section. Additionally, Brook takes her time setting up the building blocks to develop the rather controversial relationship between Andromeda and Michael. In this case, the slow buildup works because otherwise the romance would not have been believable.

But, why controversial? Well, Andromeda believes that Michael initially raped her mind by invading it without her permission and she resents the heck out of him for doing so. What happened down in Hell when she saved Michael sealed her fear and lack of trust. Andromeda has so many grievances against Michael, and rightly so, that for a long while I didn't see how he would talk his way into her good graces. Michael and Khavi both messed up rather badly. So yes, building a believable relationship is slow, so don't expect quick love, or the insta-hotness found in some of the other installments. At least I didn't find that to be the case here... it was redemption first, trust second, love and hotness last. And there is hotness! Michael is as sexy as I expected and Andromeda is his equal. There is building sexual tension and then they burn up the sheets, the walls, the... hmm...

But what about the overall storyarc? In my review of Demon Marked, I questioned why some Guardians were compromising their principals, and particularly Khavi's manipulative role. Well, Brook does not disappoint, reasons behind their actions are answered. The plot in Guardian Demon is almost like a crime mystery puzzle that must be solved before a deadline. Andromeda Taylor's detective skills come into play. She plays a big role with Michael assisting, the rest of the Guardians acting as backup, and Lillith directing the whole show. Andromeda's own powers are rather unique, and boy to they come in handy! That part of the book is excellent and well-woven in with the romance. It truly lives up to expectations.

Everyone plays a key role in the end. And just so you all know? Even characters introduced in novellas play a role in the end, so read those novellas, otherwise you may not know the characters, their powers or why they are there!

I couldn't think of how Brook would end this series, but the end to the romance in Guardian Demon is beautiful and just about perfect, and the end to the overall storyarc is excellent! I'm going to miss this complex and sexy paranormal romance series. It has been such an enormous pleasure gobbling up all the books. Now I look forward to rereading it again slowly and enjoying it all over again.

Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Guardian Series
Publisher/Release Date: Berkley/ August 6, 2013
Grade: B+

Visit Meljean Brook here.

Series:
The Guardians, Novella .5 (Hotspell Anthology)
Demon Angel, Book 1
Paradise, Novella 1.5 (Wild Thing Anthology)
Demon Moon, Book 2
Demon Night, Book 3
The Guardians, Novella 3.5 (First Blood Anthology)
Demon Bound, Book 4
Demon Forged, Book 5
Blind Spot, Novella 5.5 (Must Love Hellhounds)
Demon Blood, Book 6
Demon Marked, Book 7
The Guardians 7.5, Novella (The Angels of Darkness)
Guardian Demon, Book 8

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Review: Heart of Obsidian (Psy/Changeling #12) by Nalini Singh


Heart of Obsidian may well be Nalini Singh's best Psy/Changeling book yet. It was quite unexpected, but I actually fell in love with a sociopath.
"[. . .]the ugly irony of Silence: in creating a society that rewards lack of emotion, the Psy have created fertile ground for the rise of psychopathic personalities to the leadership of their race.

An individual who feels nothing is, after all, the perfect graduate of Silence.

Ruthless. Cold-blooded. Without mercy. . . without conscience."
Traditionally, Singh writes a brief prologue or introduction to each one of her stories. The above quote is from that prologue, titled "Darkest Part of Night," and as always it gets to the heart of the story that follows.

The Net mind is split and getting darker by the day, the PsyNet is corrupted and dying, the Psy Council has been disbanded, and the Psy as a people are about to engage in a civil war between those who want absolute Silence, the Pure Psy, and those who believe it is time for change. Caught in the middle, are the rest of the people who just want to be, including changelings and humans. Someone has to take charge, but is that someone trustworthy?

Well, no. Not really. The male protagonist in Heart of Obsidian is a sociopath getting ready to go full-blown psycho. His obsession with saving a woman has driven him throughout the years, and he is ready to end it all (and I'm not talking about his life, I'm talking about the world) if he cannot save her. This man has perpetrated horrible acts in his past. He is Silent, cold, and as it turns out, he's one of those "ruthless, cold-blooded Psys without mercy and conscience" that Singh refers to in the quote above. So of course I was flabbergasted at the beginning of the story that this was our "hero." Soon, however, Singh changed my mind as I found myself going along with the heroine and falling in love with this man. How did Singh do it? By peeling back the layers of his past which allowed me to feel empathy for a man who initially feels none for anyone except for his woman -- an impressive feat. Indeed.
"You have it." All his secrets, anything she wanted. Even his scarred, maimed heart. "I love you."

Eyes of deep, deep blue locking with his, a single tear rolling down her face. "I know," (She) said, her heart breaking that he's said the words for her. Hurt and brutalized beyond belief, shown not even an ounce of love until they met, it wouldn't have surprised her if he'd believed himself incapable of the emotion.
As always, that feat has a lot to do with the heroine of the piece. She is also Psy but not Silent, and the contrast of her emotions to his coldness and repression help carry this romance. She is the one whose warmth, love, and relentless belief redeem this man. By balancing the protagonists, (cold/warmth, protectiveness/trust, obsession/love, possessiveness/possessiveness), Singh makes this romance work in a deeply emotional and passionate way that I did not expect, particularly from two Psy protagonists! Additionally, the all-important balance of power between this couple is pretty well matched. Why? His Psy powers are immense, but hers are unique and tailor-made to counteract his. This is a key aspect to the relationship between this man and this woman. Again, balance.

Singh wraps up the Psy civil war with exciting action and minute care to detail. This section of the book is satisfying and then some. The Ghost's identity is finally revealed, and although it did not come as a real surprise, it more than makes sense. Popular secondary characters, both changelings and Psy, make appearances and contribute to the overall story arc, however, the focus is firmly kept on the romance as Singh builds her story around the main couple.

So yes, the male protagonist in Heart of Obsidian is a sociopath with psychopath tendencies. He falls in love and those tendencies are tamed, and yes, by the end I fell in love with him too. The happy ever after for our couple ended up being heartwarming, passionate, earth-shattering, and world-changing. This is an excellent SFF/R installment in Singh's Psy/Changeling series, people! If you don't know yet, read the book to find out the names of the main characters and the identity of the Ghost!

Category: Science Fiction Fantasy/Romance (or PNR)
Series: Psy/Changeling
Publisher/Release Date: Berkley/June 4, 2013
Grade: A

Visit Nalini Singh here.

My reviews of Psy/Changeling series:
Mine to Possess, Book 4
Branded by Fire, Book 6
Bonds of Justice, Book 8
Kiss of Snow, Book 10
Tangle of Need, Book 11

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Summer Releases: UF/PNR/SCI-FI/LGBT & More!

There are SO many books I'm looking forward to reading this summer! Here are just a few of the books I can't wait to get my hands on! I mean look at that list of books, authors/editor: Singh's latest Psy/Changeling novel which has everyone on pins and needles; the last book of Corey's thrilling Expanse trilogy; a couple of Berman's excellent anthologies (I'm highlighting one below, but I am also reading Best Gay Stories 2013, releasing June 1, 2013); Gaiman's Fairy Tale; Hart's latest addition to her contemporary fiction works; the last (?) book of the Kate Daniels series by the Andrews writing team (booo); the last (?) book of the Guardian Series by Brook (another booo); and the first book of a new series by Armstrong (yes!), plus a debut (magic realism) novel by a new author. I can't wait!

Heart of Obsidian (Psy/Changeling) by Nalini Singh
Release Date: June 4, 2013
A dangerous, volatile rebel, hands stained bloodred.

A woman whose very existence has been erased.

A love story so dark, it may shatter the world itself.

A deadly price that must be paid.

The day of reckoning is here.

From "the alpha author of paranormal romance" (Booklist) comes the most highly anticipated novel of her career--one that blurs the line between madness and genius, between subjugation and liberation, between the living and the dead.
Abaddon's Gate (The Expanse #3) by James S.A. Corey
Release Date: June 4, 2013
For generations, the solar system — Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt — was humanity's great frontier. Until now. The alien artifact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has appeared in Uranus's orbit, where it has built a massive gate that leads to a starless dark.

Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artifact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.

The House of Impossible Loves by Cristina Lopez Barrios
Release Date: June 4, 2013
An “exuberant” (El Mundo) debut novel of a family bound by searing passions, an earthy magic, and a very unusual curse

The Laguna women suffer from an odd affliction: each generation is condemned to tragic love affairs and to give birth only to girls who are unable to escape the cruel fate of their mothers. One fateful hunting season in their small Castilian town, a young landowner arrives and begins a passionate affair with Clara Laguna, the latest in the family line, daughter of a one-eyed woman known as “the Laguna witch.” He leaves her pregnant with yet another daughter, but the seeds of change are sown. Eventually the long-awaited son—Santiago, the great-great grandson of Clara—is born. A window of hope is opened, but is the curse truly over?

Introducing a cast of memorable, eccentric characters from a bearded, mute female cook to the local do-gooding priest and the indelible Laguna women themselves, The House of Impossible Loves is a feat of imaginative storytelling that marks the arrival of a talented new novelist.

Wilde Stories 2013: Best Gay Speculative Fiction ed. by Steve Berman
Release Date: June 15, 2013*
The solid latest volume in this annual collection of gay speculative fiction includes a dozen stories from 2012, chosen by editor and publisher Berman (Boys of Summer) from various sources. While the only criterion is that each story must have a gay character or theme, a seductive undercurrent involving the sea or water symbolically connects many of the stories. Quality and satisfaction vary, with a few true standouts. Alex Jeffers’s “Tattooed Love Boys” is a powerful, provocative look at fluid sexuality and gender identification, while Vincent Kovar’s “Wave Boys” conjures up a captivatingly strange, futuristic society populated by tribes of semi-feral young men, like so many ocean-dwelling Lost Boys. L Lark’s “Breakwater in the Summer Dark” has a haunting coming-of-age quality, set against the backdrop of a summer camp plagued by sea monsters, and Rahul Kanakia’s “Next Door” is a surprisingly optimistic dystopian piece. With many genres, tones, and styles represented, there’s a little something for everyone.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Release Date: June 18, 2013
A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home and is drawn to the farm at the end of the road where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl and her mother and grandmother. As he sits by the pond ­behind the ramshackle old house, the unremembered past comes flooding back—a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

A groundbreaking work as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out.

The Favor by Megan Hart
Release Date: June 25, 2013*
With characteristic compassion and searing honesty, MEGAN HART weaves a shattering small-town story about what can turn brother against brother, and the kinds of secrets that cannot remain untold.

Janelle Decker has happy childhood memories of her grandma's house, and even lived there through high school. Now she's back with her twelve-year-old son to look after her ailing Nan, and hardly anything seems to have changed, not even the Tierney boys next door.

Gabriel Tierney, local bad boy. The twins, Michael and Andrew. After everything that happened between the four of them, Janelle is shocked that Gabe still lives in St. Mary's. And he isn't trying very hard to convince Janelle he's changed from the moody teenage boy she once knew. If anything, he seems bent on making sure she has no intentions of rekindling their past.

To this day, though there might've been a lot of speculation about her relationship with Gabe, nobody else knows she was there in the woods that day, …the day a devastating accident tore the Tierney brothers apart and drove Janelle away. But there are things that even Janelle doesn't know, and as she and Gabe revisit their interrupted romance, she begins to uncover the truth denied to her when she ran away all those years ago.

Magic Rises (Kate Daniels) by Ilona Andrews
Release Date: July 30, 2013
Mercenary Kate Daniels and her mate, Curran, the Beast Lord, are struggling to solve a heartbreaking crisis. Unable to control their beasts, many of the Pack’s shape-shifting children fail to survive to adulthood. While there is a medicine that can help, the secret to its making is closely guarded by the European packs, and there’s little available in Atlanta.

Kate can’t bear to watch innocents suffer, but the solution she and Curran have found threatens to be even more painful. The European shape-shifters who once outmaneuvered the Beast Lord have asked him to arbitrate a dispute—and they’ll pay him in medicine. With the young people’s survival and the Pack’s future at stake, Kate and Curran know they must accept the offer—but they have little doubt that they’re heading straight into a trap.

Guardian Demon (Guardian Series) by Meljean Brooks
Release Date: August 6, 2013
After a terrifying encounter in Hell destroys her trust in Michael, the Guardians’ powerful leader, former detective Andromeda Taylor is ready to call it quits as one of the angelic warriors and resume her human life again. But when demonic forces threaten her closest friends and she uncovers a terrifying plot devised by Lucifer, Taylor is thrown straight into Michael’s path again…

To defeat Lucifer, Michael needs every Guardian by his side—and he needs Taylor more than any other. The detective is the key to keeping his own demonic side at bay, and Michael will do anything to protect her and keep her close. And when Taylor manifests a deadly power, her Gift might tip the scales in the endless war between Heaven and Hell… or it might destroy them both with a single touch.

Omens: A Cainsville Novel (Omens &Shadows) by Kelley Armstrong
Release Date: August 20, 2013
#1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong begins her new series with Omens, featuring a compelling new heroine thrust into a decades-old murder case and the dark mysteries surrounding her strange new home. Twenty-four-year-old Olivia Taylor Jones has the perfect life. The only daughter of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family, she has an Ivy League education, pursues volunteerism and philanthropy, and is engaged to a handsome young tech firm CEO with political ambitions.

But Olivia’s world is shattered when she learns that she’s adopted. Her real parents? Todd and Pamela Larsen, notorious serial killers serving a life sentence. When the news brings a maelstrom of unwanted publicity to her adopted family and fiancé, Olivia decides to find out the truth about the Larsens. Olivia ends up in the small town of Cainsville, Illinois, an old and cloistered community that takes a particular interest in both Olivia and her efforts to uncover her birth parents’ past.

Aided by her mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, Olivia focuses on the Larsens’ last crime, the one her birth mother swears will prove their innocence. But as she and Gabriel start investigating the case, Olivia finds herself drawing on abilities that have remained hidden since her childhood, gifts that make her both a valuable addition to Cainsville and deeply vulnerable to unknown enemies. Because there are darker secrets behind her new home and powers lurking in the shadows that have their own plans for her.
*NOTE: Books read, upcoming reviews.

I'm scheduled to go on vacation this upcoming Sunday for a little over a week. I'm taking books with me this time around and will be reading just so I can make room for all the books I want to read in June! How about you? Do you have a long list of books you want to read this summer?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Review: Hearts of Shadow (Deadglass Novel #2) by Kira Brady

Kira Brady created a memorable world-building for her Deadglass trilogy in the first book, Hearts of Darkness. I particularly enjoyed the fusion of paranormal romance and urban fantasy that I found there. In Hearts of Shadow, Brady maintains a fine balance between the gritty atmosphere and paranormal elements while focusing on the romance.

Grace Mercer walks on the dark side. She is an angry, traumatized woman who lost much in her life and is driven by that anger and loss. At age sixteen, Grace became Sven Norgard's blood slave and fell in love with the mad Dreki regent. It is clear that although Sven was a manipulative, lying monster, Grace, blinded by infatuation and thoughts of revenge initially became his willing blood slave and bed partner. Later when he abused that bond, she came to resent and hate both him and the bond, cementing Grace's hatred of the Dreki.

Grace needs to continue her work on the streets, keeping humans safe by wraiths by fighting and vanishing wraiths. Leif Asgard may say he's different and not at all like his brother Sven, but along with the regent's crown he also inherited the ring that keeps Grace a blood slave, now tied to him. She's not about to trust another Dreki. That lack of trust becomes a problem when she gets to know Leif and the attraction grows.

Indeed, Leif is not happy about inheriting the position, the blood slaves, or the war that looms in the horizon between humans, the Kivati and the Dreki caused by the Unraveling triggered by his power-mad brother. Now, wraiths, ghosts, and a power-hungry demi-god from the other side of the Gates roam the streets of Seattle possessing humans and causing further havoc. Leif is a scientist and prefers working in his lab developing new gasworks that will eventually light up Seattle. But between the attraction for Grace that drives him to keep her safe and the responsibilities that keep piling up, Leif has no choice but to take the much detested crown.

I didn't have a problem picking up the story where it left off after the first installment, or remembering the already established world. Additionally, Bradley's characters made enough of an impact during the first book that I remembered details about both Grace and Leif, making Hearts of Shadow a quick, easy read. I liked both Grace and Leif. Grace is a kickass human heroine with the training and ability to fight humans possessed by supernatural beings. This "acquired power" is well explained by Brady, it doesn't just happen. Grace is secretive but when revealed she is a determined and willful woman with a soft spot for the downtrodden and a weakness for the gorgeous Leif. She fights the attraction relentlessly and is blind to the differences between Leif and his brother Sven. As a matter of fact, Grace dwells on Sven a bit too long if you ask me! But eventually the romance between Grace and Leif works rather well...

Leif develops an insta-sexual attraction for Grace that begins through the blood slave bond, turns into curiosity about the woman and moves from there. He's younger than his brother and has not yet been affected by the darkness that the beautiful but soulless dragon-shifters are known for, so he's gentler and hopeful. But, Leif is contradictory in his actions (he ruminates about this throughout the story) -- one moment acting the gentleman, and the other playing the overbearing male. Grace pushes him to the edge, though. This back and forth play between the couple makes for good tension, and eventually some hot coupling scenes.

Of course the book is not just about Leif and Grace's conflicted romance. There is a whole complex story arc that began in the first book and ended there with the Unraveling but continues in this installment with the rise of a new evil demi-god. The Kivati and humans are involved in the fight as are the Dreki. Secondary characters abound, but the most notable are the Kivati, of which the Raven Lord Corbette and his intended Lucia make the most impact because of decisions they make that will affect the last book of the trilogy. Although I must admit that I really like Lord Kai.

There are many ins and outs in this story that I enjoyed, and others that were just a bit confusing. The climactic scene in particular is somewhat confusing or muddled. I'm not exactly sure what happened to Grace. I re-read that scene a few times and never came away with a clear answer. Additionally, I had questions about abusive behavior toward women when I reviewed Hearts of Darkness, and Grace's character was my main concern. Although it is made very clear that a blood slave can only become one by his/her own will, the past sexual relationship between Grace and Sven combined with the fact that it was manipulative in nature implies non-consent. In the present relationship, however, Brady clearly goes to great lengths to ensure that Grace maintains the upper hand when making decisions in regards to sexual matters.

Hearts of Shadow is a quick read full of action, paranormal details, and that gritty urban fantasy atmosphere I like so much. The romance is conflicted with a push and pull that creates both friction and sexual tension. Brady follows through quite well with the overall story arc, although I truly found the climactic scene confusing. Corbette and Lucia are not favorite characters so far, but the Kivati as a whole are fascinating to me. I'm hoping that the characters will grow on me as they are revealed in the last book of this trilogy.

Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Deadglass Novel
Publisher/Release Date: Zebra/May 7, 2013
Source: Kensington Books
Grade: B-

Visit Kira Brady here.

BONUS NOVELLA: Hearts of Fire
There is a bonus novella included with the mass market paperback copy, Hearts of Fire. In this prequel novella, Kira Brady goes back to the time when Norgard first settled in Seattle with a colony of dragon-shifters and Corbette's father was still the Kivati Chief. This is a short but very informative and emotional novella covering the romance between Corbette's sister, Alice, and newly arrived Dreki, Lord Brand. This little romance is quick with a passionate love at first sight developing on both sides, but Alice is an strong female character and Brand a lovely, lovely male, particularly for a dragon-shifter. Additionally, this novella sets the stage quite well for the series and for the next book. Grade C+
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Series:
Hearts of Darkness, #1
Hearts of Shadow, #2
Hearts of Fire, #0.5

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Reading: Hearts of Shadow (Deadglass #2) by Kira Brady

Grace Mercer’s unmatched wraith-killing ability made her the unofficial defender of a city shattered by supernatural catastrophe. So there’s no way she’ll allow the new regent of Seattle’s most powerful dragon shifter clan to “protect” her from a vicious evil stalking the ruined streets—and keep her from the freedom she’s risked everything to earn.

Leif’s science-honed instincts tell him Grace is the key to keeping shifters and humans safe. But helping this wary fighter channel her untapped power is burning away the dragon’s sensual self-control and putting a crucial alliance at risk. Soon the only chance Leif and Grace will have to save their world will be a dangerously fragile link that could forever unite their souls…or consume all in a storm of destruction.
I enjoyed the first book of this series last year, Hearts of Darkness: A Deadglass Novel, and was looking forward to reading this second installment. I'm enjoying it so far, here's a short peek at the beginning of the second chapter:

Excerpt:
Grace wiped volcanic ash off the thighbone with her sleeve and raised her hammer again. "Shine that closer, would you?"

Elsie obliged, moving the lantern so that it illuminated the cool ivory bone and Grace's silver needles. The little bells around her wrist jingled with the motion, warning off spirits. Above them, the sky was black with fifteen thousand crows returning to the roost on Queen Anne.

Grace concentrated on carving the rune --- Eihwaz for protection, Thurisaz for defense --- and not on the debacle of that morning. Her outburst in the council chamber in front of her new owner. he had forced her to speak. Even Norgard --- the bastard --- hadn't shamed her so publicly. She'd tried to stab Asgard. Antagonized him. Called him a liar. Was she trying to get herself killed? She was usually so much smarter than that, but the Regent had thrown her off. It wasn't his looks; they were just as unbearably handsome as all Drekar. Maybe it was his ridiculous manner, like she'd insulted his honor. Ha. Drekar didn't have honor.

Upcoming Release Date: May 7, 2013

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Review: Hearts of Darkness (Deadglass #1) by Kira Brady


In the first of a dazzling new romantic trilogy, one woman’s courageous search plunges her into a millennia-old supernatural war—and an irresistible passion…

Nurse Kayla Friday has dedicated her life to science and reason. But for her, Seattle is a place of eerie loss and fragmented, frightening memories. And now the only clue to her sister’s murder reveals a secret battle between two ancient mythologies…and puts Kayla in the sights of lethally-sexy werewolf mercenary Hart. He’ll do whatever it takes to obtain the key to the Gate of the Land of the Dead and free what’s left of his soul. But seducing the determined Kayla is putting them at the mercy of powerful desires neither can control. And as the clock ticks down to hellish catastrophe, the untested bond between Kayla and Hart may lead to the ultimate sacrifice.
Hearts of Darkness: A Deadglass Novel by Kira Brady is her debut novel, and the first in a planned trilogy. A fusion, it is an excellent blend of paranormal romance with the grittiness found in urban fantasy.

Kayla Friday arrives at a morgue in Seattle to identify the body of her murdered sister. Having just flown in from Philadelphia and unaware that she's in a city where magic reigns, ghosts and wraiths are loose, and an ancient battle is waged by supernatural beings, Kayla steps in the middle of it all as she tries to find clues to her sister's murder, and an ancient artifact that in the wrong hands might mean the end to civilization and hell on earth for all.

Her arrival at the morgue places her in Hart's path. A mercenary werewolf, Hart has been cast out by the Kivati and is blood slave to Lord Drekar. He only has two more jobs to perform to obtain his freedom, he has hope for a future. Unfortunately for Kayla, he is also searching for the key to the Gate of the Land of the Dead. Hart is willing to go along and help the trusting Kayla find her clues and the key, but knows that in the end he will do his job. He must. The cold hearted, sexy werewolf, however, never counted on the warmhearted Kayla to make such a long-lasting impression on his body or what is left of his hardened soul.

I really liked Kayla. She's a nurse with heart and warmth. Clueless as to the supernatural world, she learns about it from Hart, a man that she sees as dangerous but trustworthy and has no choice but to follow. Kayla is not necessarily a kickass heroine, instead she's more of a protective heroine who kicks ass without using physicality to do so. I liked that.  Hart is tough and rough. He's also truly angsty and torn in this story. I like the fact that he's not a black and white character in this story, but has flaws with redeemable qualities. He's sexy and protective with alpha qualities, but tender and oh so wounded and loving. Yes, I liked him. Together, Kayla and Hart make a really great couple.

The secondary characters are great. I loved both the Kivati and the Drekar characters introduced and developed in this story. I liked even more the fact that the reader really doesn't know who is good or evil, but that there are gray areas all over the place, maintaining a sense of anticipation throughout.

This paranormal romance turned out to be a good read for me. As a matter of fact I began reading it and after the first few pages, which I read slowly because the author initially throws the reader right into her world, couldn't put it down until the end. The world building is based on Native American mythology, however, later on Brady incorporates bits of Norse and Babylonian mythology into the mix. Although initially the reader is thrown into her world and this is the first book in a trilogy, fortunately this book does not suffer from "first in a series syndrome" where chunks of info dump are thrown at the reader, instead the rest of the world building is incorporated slowly as the story progresses and Kayla and Hart go on their hunt. There is enough revealed about this world to satisfy readers, however there should be more revelations in future books.

Hearts of Darkness has great atmosphere from the beginning. Brady uses Seattle as her setting, but it's a gritty, dark place where unbeknown to humans magic and a supernatural world filled with ghosts, shifters, dangerous and scary dark places exist. Between the mythology-based plot and the grittiness of the Seattle streets, Hearts of Darkness has an urban fantasy "feel" from the beginning. However, the romance between Kayla and Hart is absolutely central to this story, so definitely a paranormal romance with a happy ever after. It's a great fusion of both of these genres, as Brady almost effortlessly weaves them into one.

I did have a few problems throughout and at the end of the story where I was taken aback by the character used to solve a particular conflict. I didn't see that one coming! Thoroughout the story there's also a sense that the females in this story have either been or are about to be abused that made me uncomfortable more than once because it concerned more than one female and in more ways than one. However to be clear, there is no rape in this story.

Hearts of Darkness by Kira Brady is a paranormal romance with excellent atmosphere, interesting worldbuilding and great characters. It was a surprisingly fast read for me, the quick pace and intriguing plotting kept me glued to the pages. With some excellent Native American-based mythology, a few unusual shifters thrown in for good measure, and with a few problems that did not necessarily influence my ultimate enjoyment but that I will keep my eye on in future installments, this debut novel is a solid read.

Category: Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy
Series: Deadglass Novel
Publisher/Release Date: Zebra/August 7, 2012
Source: Kensington Books
Grade: B

Visit Kira Brady here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

New Releases: August 2012

Here are a few releases scheduled for early August. The first two releases highlighted have been on my "to be read" list for a while. Green Thumb is a gay speculative fiction (post-apocalyptic) novella from favorite writer Tom Cardamone. And, Wild Texas Rose, the 6th installment in the Whispering Mountain western romance series is from another favorite writer, Jodi Thomas. So, these two books are not only definite reads, but expect reviews soon!


Title: Green Thumb: A Novella by Tom Cardamone
Release Date: August 2, 2012 (Brazenhead)

Mutability blooms in the Florida Keys after the Red War and the genie boxes. King Pelicans with the brains of scientists and a single human hand in place of one webbed foot rule the ruins of half-drowned Miami. Slavers roam the deep waters offshore, taking captives to feed the voracious Kudzu Army and the human aqueduct bearing fresh water from Lake Okeechobee. On the last stretch of the Overseas Highway still standing, an albino seeress slowly becomes her name: White Flamingo. ''You,'' she says. ''You will reach for the sun while staying rooted to the ground. But I fear your shadow will be much too long.''

Transformed by his father's genie box in the late days of the Red War, Leaf has lived for decades or centuries alone in a collapsing Victorian house on a desolate sandy key, misunderstanding time, feeding on sunlight and dew. When at last he meets a boy like--but so unlike!--himself, Leaf understands he has met destiny and sets out on a long, strange journey. A post-apocalyptic, psychoactive, polymorphous-perverse pastorale, Green Thumb will startle you with its utter strangeness and break your heart with its fragile beauty.
❆❆❆


Title: Wild Texas Rose (Whispering Mountain #6) by Jodi Thomas
Release Date: August 7, 2012 (Berkeley)
Twenty-five-year-old Rose McMurray may be beautiful, smart, and capable of running her family's ranch at Whispering Mountain, but she's backed away from marriage three times without giving anyone reasons. Everyone thinks she is a coward, afraid of any adventure, including falling in love. She's never done a single wild or reckless thing in her life...until now.

Duncan McMurray, like Rose, was adopted into the family. As a Texas Ranger, he swears he'll never settle down and marry. He's been Rose's guardian angel since they were kids but for the first time in their lives he's the one who has caused her to be in danger. Somehow, he has to protect her from an outlaw gang determined to kill her without letting Rose know of the danger she's in. He's convinced that her heart can't take the stress if she knows...the only question is can his heart take the nearness of her.

When opposites collide the adventure begins...
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And from Kensington Books the following three books releasing on August 1st all look good to me. I'm going with Naked Games, a hot erotic romance from Anne Rainey; Demon Hunting in the Deep South, what looks to be a funny, Southern paranormal romance by Lexi George, and Don't Say a Word, a romance suspense from Beverly Barton, a well-known writer who passed away on April 2011 but who left behind a legacy in books.


Title: Naked Games (Hard to Get #3) by Anne Rainey (Aphrodesia)
Dean enjoys women of all varieties, but unless they’re naked and in his bed he doesn’t have much use for them. He trusted his heart and soul to a woman before and he won’t let it happen again.

Then Dean meets curvy Catherine Michaels, the mouthy woman claiming to be Gracie Baron’s long lost baby sister. He’s immediately suspicious of the pretty redhead, but he can’t seem to keep his distance.

He aches to strip her bare so he can sip at her satiny skin. But once Dean’s had a taste of her succulent body, he wants more. In fact, he wants her for his own.


Title: Demon Hunting in the Deep South by Lexi George (Brava)
Shy, self-conscious Evie Douglass tries to stay under the radar, especially when petite socialite Meredith Starr Peterson, aka The Death Starr, is anywhere around. Meredith and her bitch posse of skinny girlfriends have tormented Evie about her size since seventh grade. Unfortunately, it's hard for a plus-sized gal to stay invisible in a small town like Hannah, Alabama. And then Evie finds Meredith brutally murdered. Suddenly, she's the number one suspect in a sensational murder case. Worse, Hannah is infested with demons, and the only thing standing between them and Evie is a hunky blond demon slayer named Ansgar.

Evie could swear, though, that Ansgar is interested in more than demons. She could swear that he's interested in her...


Title: Don't Say a Word by Beverly Barton (Zebra)
Cross Your Heart…

One by one, they will die. He has waited patiently, planning their final moments. Their tortured screams, their pleas for mercy—all will be in vain...

And Hope…

Homicide detective Julia Cass has witnessed plenty of crime scenes. But the murder of a Chattanooga judge is shocking in its brutality. Teamed with FBI agent Will Brannock, Julia delves into an investigation that soon unearths more bodies—all mutilated in the same way, all left with a gruesome souvenir of a killer’s ruthless rage…

To Die…

The only way to stop the slaughter is to predict the next victim. But when you’re dealing with vengeance at its most ruthless, one wrong move can make you a target…and the next word you utter could be your last…
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For a change of pace, these are ALL early releases. Any books you're looking forward to reading in August?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Review: Tangle of Need (Psy/Changeling #11) by Nalini Singh

Adria, wolf changeling and resilient soldier, has made a break with the past--one as unpredictable in love as it was in war. Now comes a new territory, and a devastating new complication: Riaz, a SnowDancer lieutenant already sworn to a desperate woman who belongs to another.

For Riaz, the primal attraction he feels for Adria is a staggering betrayal. For Adria, his dangerous lone-wolf appeal is beyond sexual. It consumes her. It terrifies her. It threatens to undermine everything she has built of her new life. But fighting their wild compulsion toward one another proves a losing battle.

Their coming together is an inferno...and a melding of two wounded souls who promise each other no commitment, no ties, no bonds. Only pleasure. Too late, they realize that they have more to lose than they ever imagined. Drawn into a cataclysmic Psy war that may alter the fate of the world itself, they must make a decision that might just break them both.
Tangle of Need by Nalini Singh is the eleventh book of the Psy/Changling series. In this installment Ms. Singh includes the expected romance, tightens up her world building, and begins the slow process of closing open threads in preparation for the end of the series.

Riaz found his mate in a married human woman who can never belong to him because she is deeply in love with her husband. For a wolf who is supposed to mate for life, this is a soul-breaking experience and he returns to the pack hoping the warmth of the den will help him heal, even if no one knows his truth or agony. Although Riaz is a lone wolf and needs touch to survive, he cannot abide to be touched by females other than his intended mate, until he touches Adria and passion consumes him.

Adria can't even smell Riaz's scent without wanting him. After a long-term relationship with a non-dominant wolf for whom she subsumed her dominant side, an experience that almost broke her, she is not ready to give of herself again. Particularly to a dominant male who seems to dislike her even as he wants her. But Riaz and Adria desire each other too much and give in to a burning passion that quickly turns into deep friendship, seductive play and finally a soul searing love. As Riaz relentlessly fights for his soul and a future by trying to make Adria his own, for Adria it is torture knowing that Riaz can never be truly hers.

Initially, I was not invested in Riaz and Adria's romance. I think this has something to do with the fact that the focus was not entirely on them throughout the beginning of the story. However as the story moved along, I became involved with both characters and hoped that they would find a good resolution to their angsty, passionate relationship.

This romance goes against everything that has been established as to the changelings' mating culture: deep abiding love vs. the changeling's mating bond. Changelings mating for life has been the mantra so far, and once that mate is found, they can't have another. Nalini challenges her own world building by introducing the possibility that the love felt by the human side of a changeling can somehow be accepted by the changeling's animal side. She makes it work.

There are many secondary characters from the SnowDancer pack alone vying for attention and taking the focus away from the main romance in this installment. Hawke and Sienna take a lot of page time (not that I don't love them), with some of their appearances key to the story while others seem extraneous or unnecessary. They even have their own mating ceremony! Riley and Mercy also have a very special moment in this story, and there were appearances by other secondary characters. For a while there it seemed to me as if everyone who had a romance would make an appearance and take the focus away from Adria and Riaz.

Besides the romance, many events are happening at once and we see the beginning of what will ultimately be the Psy civil war. SnowDancer is in the center of the it all as they make new alliances with other changelings, and strengthen their bonds with the Human Alliance, the Psy, and old friends.

The Pure Psy organization is still limping along and causing problems, and the cracks and corruption in the PsyNet are growing. Political jockeying within the Psy is as deadly as ever, and although there are no huge battles, there are some great discoveries here. The Arrows' agenda is highlighted through Vasic and Aden's characters. Kaleb is very much in the forefront in this installment and by the end of the book turns out to be more fascinating and intriguing than ever. It seems as if he's ready to finally come out and play. Bowen of the Human Alliance plays a small key role, and both Nikita and Anthony make interesting and history-making choices.

Tangle of Need has the overall feel of a transitional book in this series -- the calm after the battle and before the war. For a change, there are some beautiful, playful, and tranquil moments to enjoy in this romance. I'm fascinated how, even when the romance is not a favorite for me personally, Singh continually manages to keep me on tether hooks waiting for the next book in this long series. Her world building has not faltered throughout, and I love the way Singh challenges her own world building with authority and makes it work. As she begins to close threads, for readers, it will become a matter of paying close attention to detail. I have a feeling we are all in for some great surprises!

Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Psy/Changeling
Publisher/Release Date: Berkley/May 29, 2012 - Kindle Ed.
Grade: B

Visit Nalini Singh here:

My reviews of Psy/Changeling series:
Mine to Possess, Book 4
Branded by Fire, Book 6
Bonds of Justice, Book 8
Kiss of Snow, Book 10


Friday, April 20, 2012

Impressions: Lover Reborn (BDB #10) by J.R. Ward

Yes I read this book, even though after reading Lover Enshrined I swore I would never read another BDB book again. But, yeah... I wanted to finish reading the stories about the "original" brothers and so I caved. Yeah.

Tohr and No'One's story/romance turns out to be about sex, sex,and more sex as a remedy to the brother's angst and refusal to get over the loss of his first shellan/wife Wells. Yeap. Tohr turns into a user and abuser (he abuses No'One verbally), until almost the end of the book, just so the poor schmuck can get over his 'owie.' Oh, and no romance for him either. Nope. No bonding, no bonding scent, nothing. Just an "I love you" at the end and an "she'll do" attitude. Meh...

Then there's No'One/Autumn who's a glutton for self-punishment with her "I'll take your abuse now, and some more later, yeah give me more" attitude. Just another female of "worth" who doesn't think she's worth anything in this series. And yeah... she settles for being 'less-than' at the end too. All that angst for Tohrment and Autumn and no real romance to speak of... just a wimpy little second best type of second chance at love for our beautiful Tohr.

The rest of the book is all about Xhex putting her foot down about being treated as a female of worth! Yeah... it's all about being "allowed" by her hellren/husband John Matthew and the Brotherhood to fight. She's given a crumb at the end when they assign an investigation to her (no fighting involved), but going by the past histories of the females in this series we have to wonder if that will last. 

There are no real "villains" in this story. The villains are obviously being slated to be future "heroes" at some point. The Band of Bastards are introduced as a whole bunch of rogue vampires looking to take down Wrath as king, with the idiots from the glymera as their backup, but already some of those characters are being developed for the future. The lessers don't really play a role in this story.

Layla, Quinn, Blay, and Saxton are all featured with Quinn and Layla going into the realm of the ridiculous, and Layla playing that usual servile female role that just grates. We all know she has been trained to be blood donnor to the whole of the BDB world, but in this book her lack of brains -- her portrayal as a brainless bimbo -- just floored me.

But this read wasn't all negative for me. No. Good funny/fun moments? Rhage doing his booty dance -- lord he brought back some great memories and made me laugh! Lassiter and his addiction to television and Real Housewives . Lassiter and Tohr at the movies. And yes, there's that certain 'something' (the crack factor) that is still there and that pulls at the reader -- particularly to an old addict like me.

Other good things I found after not having read this series for a while? Although the POVs change and the storylines abound, this book as a whole flows much better than the last few books I read from this series. It all meshed quite well and that's a huge improvement.

And as a side comment, for a series that is no longer paranormal romance, there was an awful lot of romancing and xhexing (yes, the x and the h are there on purpose) going on from the beginning to the end of this book.

I'm glad I read Lover Reborn, though. It has been a long time and it was good to revisit a series that provided me with many hours of enjoyment and that at one time enthralled me. Grade: C-

Monday, October 10, 2011

Review: Angels of Darkness with Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh, Meljean Brook and Sharon Shinn

The Angels of Darkness anthology was a must read for me, as it contains stories by three favorite authors, leaving only one new-to-me writer and series in the mix. It's a mixture of urban fantasy and paranormal romance with dark angels, guardians, vampires, and of course good and evil.

Nalini Singh's story Angel's Wolf fits in with her Hunter Guild series, and with its happily ever after it further solidifies my belief that this series is leaning more toward paranormal romance and moving away from urban fantasy. This is a romance between the vampire Noel who in an earlier installment was torn into a bloody pulp at the Refuge, and Nimra the Angel who rules the Louisiana territory.

Noel is assigned to Nimra's court to investigate an attempted assassination by someone close to her and while investigating her closest friends and allies the two fall in love. Noel falls rather quickly for this angel who begins the process of healing his deep psychological wounds, and Nimra is taken with the arrogant and rather forceful Noel. Although we are told that as an Angel Nimra is terrifying, there is really little proof to this claim. Instead Nimra is shown to be a rather sweet and quite human-like angel who needs love and gives love and tenderness to those who are under her care. Noel's character was more daunting in this story. The romance is enjoyable and engaging, but not terribly dark or exciting. Grade B-

Alphas: Origins by Ilona Andrews is an excellent beginning to a new series by this writing team. I love the world building in this novella with it's touch of science fiction, genetic experimentation and mutations, that allows for travel or ripping between the known universe and pieces of that universe. There's a war with humans unknowingly in the middle and in danger of extermination if the Ordinators win. This is the world that Karina and her daughter Emily are pulled into one sunny day on their way back from a school field trip -- a violent world of monsters, blood and war.

Karina is poisoned and dying when a monster and three men come to the rescue, she's given a choice: die or become a blood slave to the monster and she and her daughter Emily will live. She agrees. This story is full of interesting characters, including Karina whose rather violent and touching relationship with the monster that is Lucas develops as the story moves along. The world, characters and plot are all dark(ish) and rather violent. This is different from the Andrews writing team's two other series but I think it's just as great! I want more. Grade B+

Sharon Shinn's Nocturne, the story of an angel set in her religious-based world of angels, humans and the god Jovah focuses on two wounded souls. I enjoyed the interesting world building, which I think is explained well enough to pique the interest of a new reader like me. Moriah, the daughter of an angel and an angel-seeker is running and hiding from the angels and a powerful lord. She is working at a school tucked away from everything, out in the desert. She feels safe there even after her curiosity takes her to the head mistress house and Corban, a wounded angel. I really wish that the characters in this story had been as interesting as the world itself, but I'm afraid they just didn't work out for me. Corban pitied himself incessantly and I don't understand how Moriah could stand him after a while. And although there's actually a sex scene in this story, there's a sense of detachment to it and to the ending that left me cold. I do wonder, however, if other stories in this series are better. Grade C

Meljean Brook's novella Ascension is set in her Guardian world. I love the fact that Brook didn't waste the pages in this novella, as she develops a romance plus further explains the world building in this paranormal romance series. Marc Revoire is in charge of guarding the Midwest and senses that there's a demon at work in the small town of Riverbend. Radha comes to Riverbend to ensure that Marc is well after she last saw him alone and distraught as Caelum fell to pieces. Centuries ago, Radha and Marc shared a deep friendship but it all fell apart when they became lovers, and Radha hasn't spoken to Marc since. Now the two of them team up to find the demon and in the process work out their relationship.

I liked both characters in this novella and the way they talked through long standing issues that stood in the way of their passionate love for each other. More so, I'm quite happy about the fact that Brook finally explains the reason behind the Ascension that left the Guardians so vulnerable. In explaining his reasoning for staying behind, Marc also explains quite well some of the Rules and how they apply to Guardians -- it clarifies a few points in a simple and direct way. So, although I thought the demon hunting part of the story was a bit weak, this story as a whole worked for me. Grade B

Overall this is a good anthology with one story that really fits the title "Angels of Darkness" quite well, and three where the angels are not so dark. However, the excellent, creative world building found in all four stories makes this anthology worth the read. I enjoyed it.

Category: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Series: See below
Publisher/Release Date: Berkley/October 4, 2011 - Kindle Edition
Grade: B-

Series:
"Angel's Wolf" (Guild Hunters, #4.5) by Nalini Singh
"Alphas: Origins" (Alphas Series, #0.5) by Ilona Andrews
"Nocturne" (Samaria Series) by Sharon Shinn
"Ascension" (The Guardians, #7.5) by Meljean Brook 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review: Supernatural with Larissa Ione, Alexandra Ivy, Jacquelyn Frank, G.A. Aiken


Supernatural is a paranormal romance collection comprised of four stories written by well-known writers. Each story is connected to worlds they've created, where characters from those worlds find their happily ever afters.

In Larissa Ione's Vampire Fight Club (Lord of Deliverance, #1.5), Nurse Vladlena's and the sexy vampire Nathan's tale proves that sometimes revenge is a dish best served hot! This story stands well on its own for those who have not read this series, but it has some interesting tidbits for those who have. Shifters, sexy vamps, demons and plenty of action.

Alexandra Ivy's "Darkness Eternal" (Guardians of Eternity series) is also on the hot side with magic and vamps mixed together. In this novella witch Kata and vampire Uriel find paradise in hell. There is a bit too much of the sexin' going on while this couple is in dire danger, but I do think that the way their plight is resolved is quite creative.

With Kane ( Nightwalkers, # 5.5) by Jacqueline Frank we get more hotness, but this time with lots titillation and revved up sexual tension. Kane knows Corrine is meant for him, but to a demon she's an untouchable human. When he breaks the rules, punishment might just be worth it. I enjoyed the world building in this story, and although I think character development is somewhat short changed in this novella, the characters are both likable and interesting.

Last in the anthology, and easily my favorite story, is "Dragon on Top"(Dragon Kin, # 4.5) by G.A. Aiken. I loved the romance between "kickass" dragoness Ghleanna the Decimator and beta, slightly forgetful Bram the royal. Bram's crushing on Ghleanna from afar is really sweet, but once they get going he's also one of the hottest heroes in this anthology. This is the story with the most involved plot and best character development of the four, as well as the most entertaining with great dialog and secondary characters.

Some of the stories were more enjoyable for me than others, however as a whole all four of them fit quite well into this anthology. Overall Supernatural is a good, sexy collection involving four interesting and very different worlds, hot couples and quick, happily ever afters achieved in that paranormal romance style readers love.

Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Zebra/August 30, 2011
Source: Kensington Publishing
Grade: B

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review: Demon Marked (The Guardians, #7) by Meljean Brook

In this stunning and sexy addition to the world of the Guardians, a man seeks revenge against the half-demon he once loved...

Nicholas St. Croix is familiar with the evil of demons. After his father's death, he was raised by the demon who had taken over his mother's body. Six years ago, his "mother" was responsible for the disappearance of the woman he loved, and Nicholas swore he'd find her--even if he had to go to Hell and back. Except she finds him first--and with one tormented kiss, he knows that she, too, is a demon. Now he is determined to take his revenge.

Ash is a half-demon with no memory of her past or how she got to Hell. All she knows is that Nicholas St. Croix holds the key to her identity. And though he's clearly drawn to her, Nicholas makes no secret of his distrust of her. Yet one kiss at a time, he breaks down her defenses as they battle an array of demons and Guardians. But is Ash's greatest enemy the man at her side?
The Guardian series is a favorite paranormal series and Meljean Brook a favorite writer. I look forward to all her new releases and Demon Marked is no exception. Demon Marked is book number 7 in this series, so if you haven't read the previous books expect a few spoilers.

Nicholas St. Croix was introduced in the last installment Demon Blood as a human whose life became hell on earth after a demon took his mother's place and basically raised him. By the time she was done, Nick's father had committed suicide and Nick's lover Rachel had sacrificed her life to save Nick's. He lives only for revenge and in the hopes that Rachel had been turned into a Guardian because of her selfless sacrifice. When we meet Nick again, the only thing that has changed is that he has become even more ruthless and coldly focused in his search for revenge.

Ash wakes up in a mental institution with no memory of where or who she is. Eventually, after six months of not speaking, she remembers part of her name and slowly begins to exhibit strange behavior and powers that scare nurses, the psychiatrist and other patients. The one thing that's evident is that Ash is very different, exhibits no emotions and has a totally flat affect. Memories flicker on and off and when the psychiatrist won't help, she leaves the institution and ends up at Nick St. Croix's house. The two meet and although she looks like Rachel, both Nick and Ash know that's not who she is. They strike a bargain, Nick will use Ash to lure the demon who killed his mother, and Ash will use Nick to figure out her identity.

At the beginning of the story Nicholas and Ash were quite cold and it took me a while to warm up to both of them. Ash in many ways seemed lifeless and almost robotic, and Nicholas's obsession with revenge made him into a detached and ice cold man with little to no feelings but cold rage. I shouldn't have worried though, Meljean Brook certainly thawed them out nicely. Soon, there were enough human moments between them and surprisingly amusing dialogue to make Demon Marked worthy of this series.

Ash's character warmed up slowly and believably, and Nicholas' thawing personality changed with enough doubt intermixed with his growing feelings for Ash, that it was believable as love and passion grew between them. Although the fiery passion in this book is not as hot as in Demon Forged, as always, Brook revs up the sexual tension and there's a great payoff when the characters finally give in to passion.

The overall story arc worked out well for me with one exception. I found the outcome of Nicholas's revenge against the demon predictable. However, the way the story line is twisted to work in Michael's situation is rather well done. It's quite nice to see characters from the series make appearances as secondary characters, without them taking too much of the focus away from the central characters. It's always great when Lillith and Hugh make an appearance. However, Khavi is still a mystery, isn't she? I still believe that her methods are highly questionable.

I also have many questions as to what the Guardians are doing and how they compromise their principals to achieve their goals. In this particular story the sacrifice of good souls for the one. Thinking back to Lillith and Hugh's story (Demon Angel) at the very beginning of the series, it seems as if somehow the Guardians have been derailed from their true purpose and in many ways they've become as manipulative as the demons, even as it is understood that their whole structure needs change to survive. But how far are they willing to go? It says a lot about Meljean Brook that such gray areas have been building up slowly and are up for debate and about to climax at this point in this paranormal romance series.

I am especially looking forward to Michael's story, as by addressing the very nature of that character's duality the above questions should be answered. However, how Meljean Brook goes about doing so? Well... talk about high expectations!

Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: The Guardian Series
Publisher/Release Date: Penguin/September 6, 2011 - Kindle Edition
Grade: B

Visit Meljean Brook here.

Series to Date:
The Guardians, Novella .5 (Hotspell Anthology)
Demon Angel, Book 1
Paradise, Novella 1.5 (Wild Thing Anthology)
Demon Moon, Book 2
Demon Night, Book 3
The Guardians, Novella 3.5 (First Blood Anthology)
Demon Bound, Book 4
Demon Forged, Book 5
Blind Spot, Novella 5.5 (Must Love Hellhounds)
Demon Blood, Book 6
Demon Marked, Book 7
The Guardians 7.5, Novella (The Angels of Darkness) Releasing October 4, 2011

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mini-Impressions: Storm's Heart (The Elder Races, #2) by Thea Harrison

During the rule of her murderous Dark Fae uncle, Thistle "Tricks" Periwinkle found sanctuary among the Wyr in New York. Her ethereal beauty and sparkling personality won the hearts of the public, but after her uncle's death, there are those who don't want to see her ascend the throne...

Able to wield thunder and lightning, Wyr sentinel Tiago Black Eagle has ruled the skies for centuries. His massive build and thunderous power make him one of the Wyr's best weapons. And he's the one sent to protect Tricks when she's almost assassinated in Chicago.

Soon, both Tiago and Tricks will fall prey to the stormy hunger that engulfs them- a passion that will shake the very foundation of all the worlds.
In Storm's Heat by Thea Harrison, the second book in The Elder Races paranormal series, Tricks is on her way to claim the Dark Fae's throne. On her way there, one of her cousins attempts to assassinate her and Tricks winds up alone in a motel room where Tiago finds her wounded and drunk out her mind. After a few disagreements and another assassination attempt, Tiago and Tricks begin the journey that will place them in danger and lead them to the Dark Fae's realm. As the heat builds up between the two, they'll fight an unknown enemy, uncertainty, and their own desire.

I liked Tricks in the first book and was really looking forward to her story. I loved the humor in Dragon Bound, and toward the beginning of Storm's Heat I found some of those same amusing moments. I mean Tricks has some great lines. However, to be frank it didn't take long for this character to become a bit of an annoyance. I found her to be a bit too "pouty," needy and superficial. Her "voice" got on my nerves after a very short period of time and that was not good news!

Tiago is a rather forceful alpha character. He was considered a god in the ancient times... but, unlike Dragos, Tiago is quite the softy and once he falls for Tricks (which is rather fast), all he wants to do is please her. He caves in pretty easily to her charm. The one thing he keeps intact is the overprotective bit... and of course, he is relentless once they mate. I liked Tiago, but didn't fall in love with his character.

My biggest problem with this story, however, would be the romance itself. I don't understand why Tiago and Tricks become attracted to each other all of a sudden after 200 years of having on and off contact with each other. What set it off? Why now? There's nothing in the story that explains this. There's no previous attraction or a hint that there was sexual tension or even an awareness between them throughout those years. Again it's the "mating" device that it's so often used in paranormal romance, but without anything to back up the "romance." Unlike the romance in Dragon Bound, I didn't buy this love that sprouted like mushrooms after a hard rainfall.

Overall I found this to be an average paranormal romance read. This particular installment in the series didn't stand out for me like that first book. When it comes to the next book in the series, I'm not sure that I will be reading it right off the bat either. I wasn't enamored of the vampire Carling, and although Rune seems like an interesting character, I think I'll wait and see.  Grade: C

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Minis: Ilona Andrews, Gordon Andrews, Meljean Brook

Magic Dreams (Kate Daniels Series - Hexed Anthology) by Ilona Andrews

Jim and Dali's story... I've been waiting for this one. Tigress Dali, hear her roarrrrr.... lol! She was the best character in this short story... smart, sassy and determined to save the man she wants but thinks she can't have. Geeky Dali with her thick glasses and supposed lack of skills doesn't think she's beautiful enough to get a strong, hunky alpha beast like Jim. She doesn't know that he's half-way in the bag already before this adventure gets going.

This wonderful novella by Ilona Andrews features these two characters and weaves in some fascinating myths in the process. The action is just what you would expect of a Kate Daniels installment, exciting, full of dread and fun at the same time. The villain in this one is a disgusting spider woman and I loved her demise. The dialogue between Jim and Dali was snappy and sarcastic, and that combined with the action made this story a fast-paced read. Although Jim's character playing the "damsel in distress" didn't quite fit my view of him from the other books, Dali's rescue of him was worth it. The romance itself is on the mild side of the scale and I wish Jim's side of the equation had been portrayed with a bit more passion, but I did love the way it ended.

Overall Dali made this story for me and I really enjoyed it. I can't wait to read more about these two, even if it is between the lines, in future Kate Daniels installments. (Urban Fantasy) Grade B+

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Fathers and Sons: Companion to Magic Series (Curran POV Vol II) by Gordon Andrews

Well, I really enjoyed this short story where events that took place after Magic Bleeds and before Magic Slays are narrated by Curran. We all know that His Fussiness the Beast Lord was furious when he found out that the Pack challenged Kate while he was down for the count for a few weeks. He demands an explanation from his Alphas but is not quite satisfied. He is especially furious with Mahon, the Bear who became a father figure to him, for allowing it all to happen. Curran is going to teach them all a lesson they'll never forget.

This was such a wonderful story. It's free at the Ilona Andrews' website for those interested in reading it. I thought this novella was better than Vol I and loved the interaction between Kate and Curran, as well as Curran's viewpoint of his relationship with Mahon and his love for Kate. It was quite emotional at one point and I thought it a perfect little story to read for father's day. That's when I read it. :D  (Urban Fantasy) Grade: B

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Paradise (Wild Thing Anthology) by Meljean Brook

Okay, so Paradise is a re-read for me. I first read this whole anthology when it released back in May, 2007. However at that time I was not following the Guardian series and didn't relate this story to anything and let it stand on its own. As a stand-alone I remember that, along with Marjorie M. Liu's short story Hunter Kiss where she introduced her urban fantasy series, this was a favorite story. Once I began reading the Guardian series, however, I wanted to re-read it, except... I had given away the book! Well, I just recently got it back through Mariana and re-read it immediately.

Selah is a favorite Guardian character and I remember that I loved Lucas, a nosferatu-made vampire that falls in love with her while they're trying to save his Oregon-based vampire community from a demon. Lucas is an emo vampire and Selah is a no-nonsense Guardian who believes in doing what she has to do while on the job. Poor Lucas didn't have a chance once he met Selah. I totally enjoyed the fact that he fell in lust with her shoes! Ah... yeah. As part of the series, I would say that this is a good solid addition as it gives an in-depth look into Selah's character, while giving the reader a peek at some events that occur in between novels. I fell in love with Lucas and Selah all over again. (Paranormal Romance) Grade: B