Archive | January, 2012

Review: Kiss of the Vampire by Cynthia Garner

30 Jan

Kiss of the Vampire by Cynthia Garner
Grand Central Publishing (Feb. 1, 2012)
Mass Market: $7.99; ebook: $7.99
ISBN:  9780446585118

Favorite Lines: “Her hatred was a small price to pay for her sanity. For now, they had about a three-hour drive ahead of them. Three hours from him to collect his thoughts and steel his resolve to be around Nix as little as he needed to be.” (p. 80, egalley)

Once a generation, the rift between the paranormal world and the human world opens, allowing supernatural entities to cross. Vampire, demon, or shapeshifter, they can save the world-or send it spiraling into chaos.

Half-demon, half-human, Nix de la Fuente is accepted by neither and mistrusted by both. Determined to prove she’s more human than not, she devotes herself to solving crimes between the world’s mortals and its most unsavory undead. But her latest case brings her face to face with the one vampire she could never resist . . .

Called in to investigate a string of violent murders, special agent Tobias Caine isn’t interested in rekindling his relationship with Nix. Yet one look and the vampire knows his need for her is as strong as ever. Once, their all-consuming passion nearly cost Nix her fragile hold on her humanity. Now, as their hunger for one another intensifies, exposing them to an unimaginable danger, it could cost them both their lives.

Another new series in the paranormal romance market is Cynthia Garner’s Warrior’s of the Rift series. Book one, Kiss of the Vampire, introduces a world with a variety of paranormal creatures such as demons, werewolves, vampires and other shapeshifters. Most of the creatures were sent through a rift in space from another world and are bad guys being punished for some crime. Tobias is the exception. As with all societies there is a perceived “scum of the barrel” and in the paranormal community it is demons. Being a half-demon is even worse as they are know to “go over the deep end.”

Poor Nix is constantly battling herself and the supernatural community’s opinions of her. She is treated as a second class citizen and it is aggravating. I began to connect with her and want more for her, but the story took a dramatic turn and all connection disappeared. Part of the reason is because I was confused often.

Most of the relationships have already been established and the reader is thrown into the world with no warning. The preconceived opinions were trying. I dislike repetition. And boy did I get repetition when it came to Nix’s feelings about her mother and grandmother. The stories about horrible Nix’s grandmother and mother became monotonous  and irritating. I could have lived with all of that. My problem is the romance.

We meet Tobias and instantly learn about his past relationship with Nix. We are also bombasted with Nix’s anger toward him; Tobias walked out on her without telling her why he was leaving. After pages of anger and distance there is a sudden shift. By mid-book Nix and Tobias are “together.” They simply pick up where they ended years prior. For me, this was simply unbelievable and the romance didn’t work for me.

I like the direction Garner took the story: aliens from another planet taking over human bodies paired with the possibility of more aliens arriving on earth.  However, the story is a paranormal romance. I expected to read a love story with a supernatural tone or filled with supernatural creatures. I didn’t get that. I got a story with half a romance. I’m calling it that because I don’t feel like it was fully fleshed out.

Overall, the story was okay. I won’t be re-reading it, but I’m not angry that I read it. I’d rate it slightly lower than other books that were mid-road.

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I ♥ Covers: Into the Dreaming by Karen Moning

30 Jan

Review: Deliver Me From Darkness by Tess Hilaire

27 Jan

Deliver Me From Darkness by Tess Hilaire
Sourcebooks (February 2012)
Mass Market: $6.99 (2/7/12); ebook: $6.99 (2/1/12)
ISBN: 9781402264344

Favorite Lines: “Maybe you drink because at one point in time, many a many years ago, you were human. Maybe you still remember the sweet sting of the alcohol hitting the back of your mouth, the spreading warmth as it burned in your belly, and the lazy waves of indifference that rolled in with it, demolishing all cares or worries. Maybe you were an alcoholic, or had the propensity to be one at least, and now being what you are, and not being able to escape from it, you are instinctively succumbing to the addition. In short, you are weak.” (p. 68, egalley)

Roland once was a Paladin, a warrior gifted with special powers to protect mankind in its earliest days. For hundreds of years he fought alongside his kinsmen against underworld fiends until the unthinkable happened: he was turned by a vampire. Forsaken by his brothers and fighting new violent instincts, Roland believes his soul lost. But then his best friend Logan delivers a young woman for protection. She turns out to be a Lost Paladin — and the only female Paladin left alive. She’s also Roland’s bond-mate.

Karissa Donovan knows the difference between good and evil, and the sexy-as-hell vampire holding her prisoner is certainly not good. Sure, he might not have sucked her dry—yet,  but that doesn’t mean she trusts him. But circumstances force Karissa to put her life in Roland’s hands. With each new danger they face, and each subsequent sacrifice he makes for her, she realizes that the question was never a matter of her trusting him, but of convincing him to trust in the integrity of a soul that he’d never truly lost.

The newest series to hit the paranormal romance market is written by Tess Hilaire and book one is called Deliver Me From Darkness. The Paladin Warrior series features a world where angels, vampires and demons exist and where destiny mates men and women for life. It’s a good vs. evil world in which the light is always trying to burn out the dark.

What’s a Paladin you ask? Well, according to the book:

The other plane was a realm of possibility, the workshop of the One God. It was there He’d formed the likeness of Himself into His children. It was there He’d gathered together those volunteer angels, sculpted them into Paladin warriors, and delivered to them their mission–protect His children from His fallen son.–p. 25-26

But back to the world of Deliver Me From Darkness. In it lives a man who is despised by his brethren. He is a fallen Paladin who may find redemption with the only female Paladin alive. Talk about pressure. The hero is the more tortured of the two, but the heroine is a feisty, untrusting woman capable of knocking common sense into the most dimwitted of heroes, so you know it’ll all be good.

However, it’s not the main characters who interested me in this book. It’s a young woman who I craved to know more about. Was she good? Was she bad? What was she gonna do? Is she _____? Yep, all of that was running through my mind. I flipped pages faster hoping to read more about her. I figured out her connection to characters before the author spit it out, but that foreknowledge did nothing to diminish my curiosity about this secondary character. If for nothing else, I’ll read the heck out of this series just to follow the character who was given such a shitty role in life death.

Deliver Me From Darkness is not a light or fluffy book. It’s a paranormal romance which borders on the darkness usually seen in urban fantasy. It features a tormented hero, a sassy vampire in a teen body, hidden family lineage and the woman who can save them all. It gets a thumbs up from me despite the cheesy looking cover. I’m hoping the next book will be Gabby’s story, but regardless, I’ll be reading it as soon as it’s released.

Review: King of Darkness by Elisabeth Staab

26 Jan

King of Darkness by Elisabeth Staab
Sourcebooks (Feb. 2012)
Mass Market: $6.99 (2/7/2012); ebook: $6.99 (2/1/2012)
ISBN: 9781402263156

Favorite Line: “Though he had gotten an instant soft-on from the muscleman by the bar wearing  nothing but a leather thong and a dog collar, his dick woke up and took notice when his stare fixed on a pair of long, peaches-and-cream legs that disappeared under a plaid skirt that stopped just shy of broadcasting her preferred brand of underwear.” (p. 13, egalley)

ETERNAL COMMITMENT IS NOT ON HER AGENDA…

Scorned by the vampire community for her lack of power, Isabel Anthony lives a carefree existence masquerading as human—although drifting through the debauched human nightlife, she prefers the patrons’ blood to other indulgences. But when she meets the sexy, arrogant king of the vampires, this party-girl’s life turns dark and dangerous.

BUT TIME’S RUNNING OUT FOR THE KING OF THE VAMPIRES…

Dead-set on finding the prophesied mate who will unlock his fiery powers, Thad Morgan must find his queen before their race is destroyed. Their enemies are gaining ground, and Thad needs his powers to unite his subjects. But when his search leads him to the defiant Isabel, he wonders if fate had gotten it seriously wrong…

Elisabeth Staab‘s new paranormal romance series is called the Chronicles of Yavn. It introduces a new world filled with powerful, and not so powerful, vampires. Book one, King of Darkness, does just what the title hints. It tells the story of the king of darkness, the king of the vampires, Thad Morgan. Well, it tells the story of him finding the mate the oracles proclaimed existed and boy is it steamy.

Yep, it’s filled with hot sex and violence. What do you expect from vampires? It also has a great human secondary character whose story I can’t wait to read. King of Darkness has bad guys capable of kicking the good guys butts and even more sexy vampire men. The vampires have abilities related to the amount of power each wields and the vampire king has little power until he gets with his queen. His queen isn’t used to being around other vampires and brings a breath of fresh air to the staid world of old school vampires. Unfortunately, she’s also TSTL at times. When you read the book you’ll see what I mean.

While there is no question that the story was entertaining, it was also forgettable. I won’t be re-reading it, but I am looking forward to more from this author. I’m hoping to care about the hero/heroine of each book to come in this series as it would definitely improve my opinion of the series. The books sound as if they will be individual love stories with an overreaching arc which will involve a battle pitting wizards against vampires.

Review: Horizon by Sophie Littlefield

25 Jan

Horizon by Sophie Littlefield
Harlequin/LUNA (Jan. 24, 2012)
Trade: $14.95; ebook: $10.99 (ebook available 2/1/2012)
ISBN: 9780373803422

Favorite Lines: “She did not yet know the limits of her strength, but she was ready to be tested, and tested again. She would be tempted and discouraged and broken, but she would come back each time, into this world that had been bequeathed to them, into the dangers that threatened them and the joys that waited, buried but not impossible, for them to unearth and cherish.” (p. 400, egalley)

Of living things there were few….but they carried on.

Cass Dollar is a survivor. She’s overcome the meltdown of civilization, humans turned mindless cannibals,
and the many evils of man.

But from beneath the devastated California landscape emerges a tendril of hope. A mysterious traveler arrives at New Eden with knowledge of a passageway North—a final escape from the increasingly cunning Beaters. Clutching this dream, Cass and many others decamp and follow him into the unknown.

Journeying down valleys and over barren hills, Cass remains torn between two men. One—her beloved Smoke—is not so innocent as he once was. The other keeps a primal hold on her that feels like Fate itself. And beneath it all, Cass must confront the worst of what’s inside her—dark memories from when she was
a Beater herself. But she, and all of the other survivors, will fight to the death for the promise of a new horizon…

Horizon is the final book in Sophie Littlefield‘s dystopian Aftertime series. If you haven’t read books one and two (Aftertime and Rebirth) do NOT attempt to read Horizon. (Check out Littlefield’s comments on writing this gritty series here.)

I’m almost at a loss on how to write this review. If you’ve checked out my previous reviews of books one and two you know I REALLY liked them. They are dark and gritty and push the limits. I alternate between disgust, acceptance and wonder at all the recovering addict and single mother heroine does in order to survive in a world gone mad. I’ve followed her on her journey to recover her daughter and finding her self-worth. I’ve watched her risk it all to save a man. I’ve been sick in my stomach with worry about the depths Cass has fallen and rooted for her to make it just one more day sober. All of that comes to an end in Horizon, but not until the final page is written.

Horizon shows a Cass struggling to survive. The stress of “normal” living has knocked her out of sober living. She wants to be a better person so badly, but her need to escape the stresses of life have chased her into sneak meetings with Dor and alcohol. Meanwhile the man Cass risked it all for is struggling to survive the torture inflicted upon him during the events of book two. Littlefield has done an excellent job writing an indecisive character who has had nothing but bad heaped upon her for years. I felt Cass’s pain and revolt throughout the story. Emotionally this book wore me out. I wanted to rest when I finished it and that’s how you know it’s worth reading. I needed to think about it, not to decide if I liked it, but to ponder on everything that happened.

Watching Cass figure out if she wants to be in a relationship and with who, along with the way the men treated her, had me nervous that Cass would self-destruct. Watching her pull up her big girl panties and make hard decisions, made me proud of the woman she could be. Even better was the way all the plot lines were wrapped up. Sure one, was unexpected and almost too easy, but I’m so happy it was included. I don’t know of any better way that familial plot could have been addressed, so I’ll brush by it.

Horizon, like Aftertime and Rebirth, is a hard book to read. I don’t see myself re-reading it often, but I will revisit it. There is something about the trilogy that speaks to me. When the world is devastated, there will be good and bad people who survive. There may even be zombies. But the human will to survive is a powerful thing. Littlefield brings a glimpse of hope to a world beyond destruction. It’s not a feel good experience. However, it is keeper bookshelf material. It’s something to remind you that there is more than fluff in the urban fantasy/paranormal/dystopian field. It’s a trilogy written by a grown woman for adults. It’s not pretty, but it’s so worth reading. Off the top of my head, it’s the only zombie series that I consistently recommend.

Review: Next of Kin by Sharon Sala

24 Jan

Next of Kin by Sharon Sala
Harlequin/MIRA (Jan. 30, 2012)
Mass Market: $7.99; ebook: $6.99
ISBN: 9780778313120

Favorite Line: “But his voice was like warm whiskey on a cold night, and she kept remembering what his lips felt like on her skin when they made love.” (p. 87, egalley)

Beth Venable has seen too much. Witness to a major mob hit, she’s placed in protective custody until the trial. But after her third safe house is riddled with bullets, she goes off-grid to save herself. What the FBI can’t do, her kinfolk will.

The beautiful but forbidding Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky welcome Beth back, dirt roads and rustic shacks a world apart from L.A. But her homecoming—even her blissful reunion with strong, silent Ryal Walker—is made bittersweet by the fight she’s brought to the clan’s doorstep. Hidden in a remote cabin with the man she’s always wanted, Beth begins to dream of a new life: her old one. But after so long, with such dangers stalking her…impossible.

But love can distill life down to its essence: an elixir of pure hope, nerve—and the will to survive.

There was a time when everything Sharon Sala wrote was an instant buy for me. That’s changed over the years and now her works a collection of hits and misses for me. Next of Kin fell into the miss category.  I wasn’t surprised by anything and could have told you what was going to happen. My mother, who is in her late fifties, felt otherwise. She enjoyed the story and thought it provided a quick escape.

I wonder if the author watched the movie Next of Kin (1989) before she wrote the story. You know the movie with Patrick Swayze as a native of Appalachia righting a wrong done by the mob…In Sala’s version of Next of Kin the heroine Beth was raised in Rebel Ridge, Kentucky. It’s a small, poor area that isn’t even marked on a map. It’s also one of those areas by the Appalachian Mountains where everyone is some how related to one another. As a young girl Beth fell in love with her cousin, but before he could marry her, her parents packed and took her from Rebel Ridge in the middle of the night. Years have passed, but neither Beth or her former lover, Ryal, have forgotten the other or found new relationships. Both are convinced the other ended the budding relationship, but as with most close knit families nothing will stop Ryal from helping Beth when she needs him.

See right there is part of the squickyness of Next of Kin. I can’t imagine hooking up with a cousin. Not a third, fourth or fifth cousin or a cousin twice removed. It impacted my enjoyment of the book big time. Sala states:

“Up on the mountain, it wasn’t uncommon for distant cousins to marry. Her mother and his mother had been fourth cousins and not even close friends at that. And the difference in his and Beth’s ages wasn’t uncommon, either. He’d been twenty-five to her seventeen.”–p. 8

I’m sure many people won’t have an issue with all of this, but I do. It colored everything that happened in the book.

Similar to the movie, the mob is on the move and an Appalachian native gets wrapped up in it. In Sala’s version, Beth witnesses a woman being killed. The killer is in the mob and seems to find Beth no matter where the police or FBI send her. To protect herself she calls on her relatives and finds her way home to Rebel Ridge and by extension Ryal. Slowly the two work their way through the past. Beth discovers the reason she was taken from Rebel Ridge and the two lovers rekindle their passion for one another. Meanwhile, the suspense keeps building as the bad guys search for Beth. Eventually the story works up to the big obligatory battle between the backwoods men and the city slickers and yes, bows and arrows are involved.

Nothing was unexpected. I didn’t care for any of the characters and the romance was icky to me. I guess you can mark this one as a big fat I didn’t like it check mark. I seem to be in the minority though. Everywhere I look I see four and five star reviews of Next of Kin. Have you read it? What did you think? Do you feel age gaps and how character’s are related add or detract from a story? I know that I’m cool with 500-year-old vampires hooking up with 22-year-old women, so yeah, I’m aware I don’t make much sense. But I’d be calling the cops on a 20 something who thought he was getting with my teenager. I’m just sayin.

Review: Demon Does it Better by Linda Wisdom

23 Jan

Demon Does it Better by Linda Wisdom
Sourcebooks (Jan. 2012)
Mass Market: $7.99; ebook: $7.99
ISBN: 9781402236723

Favorite Lines: “She mentally rehearsed opening dialogue if they had just “happened” to bump into each other. Oh, hello. Do you happen to know where Rangel’s Harvest Foods might be? Excuse me, but don’t I know you from somewhere? Actually, I know I’d remember you if you had been a patient of mine. No forgetting a body like that.” (p. 11-12, egalley)

Lovely witch Lili Carter takes a job at a paranormal hospital where patients have been disappearing. There she encounters Jared, a dangerously sexy demon on a mission that gets Lili into a world of trouble. Lili can’t avoid Jared for long and soon they find themselves creating a whole new kind of magick…

Book two in Linda Wisdom’s series about demons was a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting much, but boy did she deliver a story unlike any I’ve read lately. Demon Does it Better is what I want from paranormal books: a good plot and great characters. There was some predictability, but the idea behind the story really worked quite well for me.

I don’t’ want to spoil the surprise (I’ll let someone else do that.), but the hero’s situation came out of the blue. At least it happened early. Early enough to make the entire story interesting. The bad guy was obvious, but figuring out how to save the hero took some doing and it was refreshing to read a story which revolved around a heroine saving her hero.

Don’t get me wrong. The hero is a man male demon capable of taking charge and solving problems. However, he is plagued by some major baggage. Baggage that often results in him getting the crap beat out of him. His salvation comes in the form of a witch who was expelled from “witch school” in the 1300s.

Lili is looking into the mysterious disappearances of nurses from Crying Souls Hospital. The hospital cares for the preternatural community and houses an asylum for those creatures in need of mental care. Lili’s duties take her into the dungeon to care for those with questionable mental issues. Throughout the story Lili is an advocate for all in need. Not just the preternatural, but humans too. She does not believe in turning her back on patients or reverting to the 16oos when Bedlam was considered the place to go to for medical aid. She’s strong and smart enough to ask for help when she needs it. In other words, she is a worthy heroine.

Demon Does it Better is a romance, but I was more interested in the action taking place. I wanted the heroine to solve the mystery and save her hero. I really didn’t care about their romance despite the attention given to it. The story revolves around the couple. They have a sizzling attraction for one another, yet I really didn’t care because the story as a whole was good. To be honest, I actually like this book better than book one (Demons are a Girl’s Best Friend). It was much darker than the introductory book in the series and had less fluff. A couple of characters from book one make an appearance in Demon Does it Better. It connects the stories without confusing those who have only read book two.

I’ll admit to being slightly confused for the first chapter of Demon Does it Better. I felt like I was dumped into a situation. The situation wasn’t explained until further in the story. As soon as I realized what was happening, I was cool. I wanted the heroine to succeed. No, I never made an emotional connection with the book. (So unlike me.) I still managed to enjoy the book more than the average story.

Have you read it? What did you think?