Oh, now that was a good, old-fashioned horror story. It definitely does live up the challenge of chilling my blood. It was very atmospheric, and writt...moreOh, now that was a good, old-fashioned horror story. It definitely does live up the challenge of chilling my blood. It was very atmospheric, and written to great affect. I could almost imagine how it must have been for poor Angelo each night when he was preyed upon by the creature, and I felt as though I could see the mound that the two gentlemen are discussing, and how creepy that must have been for them. I also felt sad at the injustice against poor Cristina, and how she wreaks her vengeance. Crawford doesn't explain how or why the creature rises to prey on Angelo, but I don't feel it was necessary. This story was completely successful in delivering an elegant scare. I read "The Upper Berth" by this author, and it was very scary. This one is quite fearsome as well, although very different. Mr. Crawford knows his way around a scary story. Yes, indeed. He's going on my list of the best classic horror writers.
Dragon Bound was an extremely hard act to follow, but I think Thea Harrison did a good job with her second book in the Elder Races series. I wondered...moreDragon Bound was an extremely hard act to follow, but I think Thea Harrison did a good job with her second book in the Elder Races series. I wondered how she could top Dragos, because he is so VERY! I am glad she didn't try to do that. She gave us a distinct hero with Tiago, and I like his differences, although he had the crazy/dangerous/possessive/jealous/fierce vibe of Dragos. Honestly, I would have missed that part...a lot. Tiago held his own as a hero, but not quite as compelling as Dragos. Having said that, how many heroes would be? Overall, I felt that he had some nice layers to his character. Lethal but also very caring and loving. The best kind of PNR hero! He reminded me of a mix of a Mack truck and a Golden Retriever.
Niniane, I liked her a lot. She was sort of the anti-urban fantasy heroine in all the best ways. She was soft and needy and vulnerable in a realistic way. But she was also very strong-minded, determined, in her force of will, which speaks to me more. Considering what happened with her family and her exile from the world of the Dark Fae, she definitely put on her big girl panties to go back to reclaim her throne. And that took some serious chutzpah. I liked that along the way, I was able to see an organic reaction to this process. Who wouldn't be scared to death, uncertain, and conflicted? I know I've felt that way even in much less dangerous situations. I could identify with her insecurities in that way, and it made her more lovable and admirable to me. I loved her warm, friendly way with people. I was glad that the betrayal she faced early in her life didn't destroy her capacity for that. I can see her being a very effective, beloved ruler.
Niniane and Tiago as a couple was something I couldn't quite get my mind around after I read Dragon Bound and knew they were next. But they worked together very well. Tiago is at heart a male who needs someone to fight for, someone to protect. Niniane has that softness to her personality that is a very good contrast to Tiago, and they complement each other very well. I would have enjoyed a bit longer book for their courtship in all honesty. But what I got was very enjoyable. Definitely some hot, sexy loving times for this couple! Talking about lightning striking, the earth moving, and seeing stars! I loved that they worked past the issues in their relationship and faced some serious obstacles as a united front.
The storyline was interesting, focused on Niniane's process of assuming the throne of the Dark Fae. A mix of fae politics, but a focus on the main characters and a few intriguing secondary characters. So far, I love me Aryal, the harpy sentinel. I know I said it in my Dragon Bound review, but she reminds me of Xhex from the Black Dagger Brotherhood books by JR Ward in the best ways. Looking forward to more of her. Some interesting chemistry between Rune and Carling, the Queen of the Vampyres.
Ms. Harrison is a very good writer. She provides a compelling story that kept me reading, with some sexy, swoonworthy romance that keeps a PNR fan more than happy. I feel her world-building is a star element in this series, so along with the aspects of PNR I can't resist, it makes her a safe bet for this fan. I do have to say I was a little disappointed at the very rapid climax and denouement, and not too happy about the fate of a character I liked and hoped to see more of. I wasn't as satisfied with the ending because of those issues. That's why I couldn't quite give this five stars, although it is very close.
Overall, a very satisfying follow up to Dragon Bound, and more validation that Thea Harrison is a PNR author to follow. 4.5/5.0 stars(less)
I had to place my faith in Ms. Cole that this premise of a ghost falling in love with a vampire would work. I just couldn't see how this would go well...moreI had to place my faith in Ms. Cole that this premise of a ghost falling in love with a vampire would work. I just couldn't see how this would go well at all. My faith was rewarded. I loved this book. It starts out so beautiful and even gothic. Neomi Laress is brutally murdered by a spurned lover in her house that she has just bought at a grand party she is throwing to celebrate her retirement from the ballet. She is a beautiful dancer in the early 20th century who has decided to leave her current beau. He stabs her in the heart and kills her. I was like, "Wow." This book already managed to stand out from the previous books, just with the prologue.
Things only get better. We meet Conrad, the long-lost Wroth brother. In the first few books you always hear that there are four brothers alive still (or undead rather), but that Conrad ran off, angry that his brothers had turned him into a vampire. Finally we get to see him, and things aren't pretty. He has become a mercenary/assassin and a vampire killer. He kills by taking their blood, thus having given himself over to Bloodlust. He vows to kill his other brothers for what they have made him. Kill them and anyone they love.
But fortunately, Nikolai, Murdoch, and Sebastian have not given up on their brother. They manage to capture him and have decided to keep him imprisoned until the Bloodlust wears off. Well, they end up keeping him prisoner in the property owned by the deceased Neomi. Unbeknownst to them, her disembodied spirit is still in her beloved home.
Neomi has been alone for so long. There have been people who came and went from her home, leaving her alone again. But none have captivated her like Conrad. Despite his blood-red eyes and his insanity, Neomi is very attracted to the brawny and beautiful vampire. Conrad sees her, which is very unusual, since most of the people who have come through her house cannot.
Thus begins the seduction of Conrad by Neomi. Neomi is a sensualist, she loves beautiful men and their bodies. It's the worst sort of torture to be around a beautiful male like Conrad and not be able to touch him. Conrad is a virgin, never having loved or made love to a woman. He sees the beautiful ghost and believes she is part of his raving insanity. With each person he killed by draining them, he absorbed their memories. This drives a vampire insane. Since Conrad killed the worst of all kinds of demons and vampire, he is violently insane. But somehow the beautiful spirit manages to calm his raving madness. He falls for her very quickly, and determines to find a way for them to be together.
There are problems with this relationship from the start. He wants to feel the same intense desire for her that she feels for him, but because he is a vampire, he cannot feel desire until he is blooded. He feels in his heart that Neomi must be his bride. However, she's a spirit, so she cannot truly 'blood' him. And even if she could 'blood' him, since she's a ghost, they really couldn't get physical anyway.
This story really captivated me. I was so sucked into it, that I remember sitting at dinner trying to eat with one hand and reading the book held in the other. My mother was so curious about my fixation with the book, she ended up reading it herself.
I liked the way Ms. Cole turned the tables, making Conrad the innocent (sexually) virgin, and Neomi the seducer. I loved the glimpses into other aspects of the Immortals After Dark universe, the Lore, inhabited by all sorts of immortal creatures. Ms. Cole has a way of making these books laugh-out loud funny, but also intense and poignant. Conrad is the type of hero that gets under your skin and you feel for him. Although Neomi had some hardened aspects to her that I typically don't care for in a heroine, I ended up loving her as well. I loved her intense feelings for Conrad, almost from the start. They weren't just lust, but a sense of ownership like he was dear to her. I also appreciated her passion for life and culture, and how much she loved her home. She had a good heart and was kind to the good people who stopped through her home. So it was easier than I thought to come to like her as heroine. Even though Conrad was insane and technically a murderer (really just of bad creatures), I loved him from the start. Seeing his madness and his loneliness really opened my heart to him. Despite the outer wrappings, you could see a deep sort of innocence in him that was more than just sexual.
Even with the obvious issues in their relationship, Conrad and Neomi really came across as soulmates, and very early in this book. I really rooted for this unlikely couple to be together, and the way in which this comes to pass was very well done. I must say, my respect for Ms. Cole as an author went up another notch at how she brought Conrad and Neomi's happy ever after together.
Despite my misgivings when I first heard the storyline for this story, I came to love Dark Needs at Night's Edge with the same passion that I loved the prior stories (and possibly more). Conrad was a new favorite hero, at least until Cadeon and Rydstrom came around. (less)
I wasn't crazy about this DH book like the other ones because, gasp, I think there is too much sex in this book. The sex scenes get to the point where...moreI wasn't crazy about this DH book like the other ones because, gasp, I think there is too much sex in this book. The sex scenes get to the point where you're skimming because you want to get back to the story. I realize that fundamentally, Sunshine and Talon are very sexual beings. No issue there. Some people are. But after a while I didn't really need to read more scenes with them being sexual. I just got old and distracting from the plot and Kenyon's phenomenal storytelling.
Talon's backstory was very interesting, and I wanted to read more about that than him and Sunshine shagging. He's half-pagan and half-Christian with a Celtic heritage. He lost his whole village, partly through some of his actions. His past is very tragic and sets the tone for his future. Now he's a Dark Hunter who kills Daemons and shags as many beautiful women as he can to while away his time. Okay. Some readers probably find that sexy. I really didn't. His backstory worked tremendously well, but I didn't love present aspects of Talon's character. As for Sunshine, I just didn't find her that interesting. She came off as kind of a sleazy, hippieish, biker groupie chick. I'm not saying that's bad, but she didn't really intrigue me. She was nice and sweet, but just not a heroine that I got involved with as a reader. But I do have to say, they were very much kindred souls, and I am very glad they found their happy ending together.
The best aspects of this book were the secondary characters and the intricate world that Sherrilyn Kenyon has created with her Dark Hunter books. I can never get enough of it. She's a marvelous writer, and does a great job at taking ancient history and the myths and building a modern storyline around this foundation. The standout character in this book for me is Zarek. He got my attention from the get-go. Probably because I really like the dark, conflicted, antiheroes. The guys who exist on the fringes because they have been rejected by society. I wanted to learn more about this bad boy who lives in the shadows and is more or less disliked by most of the Dark Hunters. As a matter of fact, I eagerly finished this book so I could move onto Zarek's story. All in all, not a bad book at all, but my least favorite in the Dark Hunter series.(less)
**spoiler alert** I thought this was a unique turn for the Dark Hunter series, but......the end was kind of depressing. A lot of the Dark Hunters died...more**spoiler alert** I thought this was a unique turn for the Dark Hunter series, but......the end was kind of depressing. A lot of the Dark Hunters died in this book, and what happened with Danger just wasn't the ending I wanted. I tried to convince myself that Danger and Alexion are happy where they are...but everyone thinks that Danger is dead. SOB!!!
I just think that Ms. Kenyon, who can pull happy endings out of nowhere, could have ended this book on a more upbeat note.
That's why I can only give this one 3 stars. Definitely not one of my favorite DH books, even though I really liked Alexion and Danger, both individually, and as a couple.(less)
This book was amazing in a lot of ways. Who would have thought I would go ga-ga over a bisexual, seriously dominant, kinda scary guy like Vishous? Wel...moreThis book was amazing in a lot of ways. Who would have thought I would go ga-ga over a bisexual, seriously dominant, kinda scary guy like Vishous? Well I fell, flat on my face. This guy is amazing. He is extremely attractive, imagine big, tall, ice blue eyes, black hair (I'm a sucker for blue eyes and black hair), and extremely intelligent also.
The way that JR Ward wrote this book did it. She put so much love and effort into telling this man's story that you couldn't help but love him. I love his selfless love for Butch. I love how he looked at Jane and saw his soulmate. I love that he fights for the Brothers and helps them out in manifold ways.
Also I cry for the torture and abuse he suffered at the hands of his so-called father. And what amounts to neglect from his mother. And then she wants him to step up as Primale and leave behind all that he loves.... Man. And not to mention having to give up Butch but always be there for him.
This book really ripped away at my heart. I couldn't put it down.
I really liked Jane. She was very down to earth and likable. But tough at the same time. Most people would have flipped out when they were exposed to a world that was so different from what they knew. She took it like a champ. And she never even blinked at the fact that Vishous was in love with another man and was seriously into bondage and stuff. She accepted him for who he was. Jane fits into the Brotherhood's life like a long-lost puzzle. She is the half to Vishous' whole that he was missing. She doesn't replace Butch but she still gives Vishous the love and acceptance he deserved for so long.
If I had one complaint, then it was how things were resolved with Jane. Don't worry. They end up together. I can't give it away because it will spoil it. I am still feeling a little uncertain about that. Otherwise, I loved this story. Even writing about it makes me get an ache in my chest.(less)
This was a great anthology. I enjoyed each story, and I breezed right through it.
My thoughts of each story:
Spellbound by LA Banks. This was a fun sto...moreThis was a great anthology. I enjoyed each story, and I breezed right through it.
My thoughts of each story:
Spellbound by LA Banks. This was a fun story about two star-crossed lovers who happen to be part of voodoo/root-practitioner families who hate each other. The Hatfields versus the McCoys, except they are Black. I laughed a lot, and some of the characters reminded me of some family members on both sides (minus the voodoo-practicing part). Both the hero and the heroine were virgins. This is probably my favorite story by Banks now, although I do love her other short stories that I've read. Five stars.
Something Borrowed by Jim Butcher. I just love Harry Dresden. In this story, he is helping his friend Billy the Werewolf get married. Too bad a miffed faerie stole his bride and decided to take her place. But Harry is on the case, with a little help from Detective Murphy. Five stars.
Dead Man's Chest by Rachel Caine. What a pleasant surprise. A bride gets talked into getting married on a pirate ship by her fiance. It turns out the pirates are all dead and under a curse. And her fiance had some nefarious motives. But, true love conquers all. Between the erstwhile bride and the pirate captain. Great fun. It helped that Captain Lockhart reminded me of an Anne Stuart hero. I'm so easy that way. Five stars.
All Shook Up by PN Elrod. This was an interesting story. I think Elvis fans would really love it. There is a wedding singer who has an uncannily perfect imitation of Elvis going on, and an ability to help the wedding couple along their course of true love. An ability shared by the caterer, who is the main protagonist. I'm not a big Elvis fan (although I like a lot of his songs), so it was weird how the hero was sort of possessed by the spirit of Elvis, but I still enjoyed it. Four Stars.
The Wedding of Wylda Serene by Esther M. Friesner. This story made me laugh. I enjoyed the whimsical feel, and the slyly ironic narration. A bastion of upper class entitlement is plagued by mythical creatures, in time to 'spoil' a sweet, young debutante's wedding. This is a must-read for Greek mythology enthusiasts. Four and 1/2 stars.
Charmed by the Moon by Lori Handeland. I haven't read any of the books in her Nightcreature series, and this is a follow-up story about Jessie and Will from Blue Moon. They are getting married, but Jessie is having cold feet, not sure if their feelings are true for each other. They go on a spirit journey to find that out when they find a love charm in Will's ceremonial wedding gear. I really liked this story. The magic and the mysticism hit the right note with me. It has a bittersweet feel as their HEA is not my ideal, but I can understand the choice they made for the dangerous world they live in. Four and 1/2 stars.
Tacky by Charlaine Harris. When I read Ms. Harris' stories, I usually teeter on the edge of sincere admiration for her imagination, amusement, and a bit of cheesy overload, all at the same time. I sort of like the goofy approach she has to the paranormal world, but sometimes it feels too goofy. I like the way she pokes fun at Southerners in a goodnatured way. I must say this was an unusual wedding, with the bride being a vampire, and the groom being a werewolf, and human fundamentalist assassins attacking the wedding party. For some reason, the main protagonist, Dahlia, kept making me think of Pam from the TrueBlood show, although she's hetero. Four stars.
A Hard Day's Night-Searcher by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Yay. A Black Dark-Hunter paired with a Black female Squire. Thank you, Ms. Kenyon. This is about Rafael Santiago, who was a pirate in his mortal life, and OCD Squire Celena, who's afraid to lose yet another Dark-Hunter to the ongoing battle with the Daimons. They end up crashing an Apollite wedding teeming with Daimons. This was a really good story, but it felt way too short to me. Sort of an abbreviated version of a full-length Dark-Hunter novel. Everything was resolved, but I felt like I wanted more. Four stars.
"...Or Forever Hold Your Peace" by Susan Krinard. I liked the Victorian paranormal feel of this story. This is a paranormal mystery in which Olivia and Kit, a crime-solving duo, work to find a bride who was kidnapped from her wedding, using their Talents. This is an alternate England called Albion, where most people have some sort of magical Talent. Olivia can see inside a person's body to see their anatomy, and Kit can change into a large Black Dog. It was fun and had the pulp fiction, neo-Victorian vibe I love. I felt the tone could have been a little more vibrant for maximum enjoyment, but I'd love to read more of Kit and Olivia's adventures. Four stars.
I really want to give this collection five stars, mainly based on the first three stories and the overall appealing vibe it holds, despite the preponderance of stories not reaching five stars. So I will. Recommended to fans of humorous paranormal/supernatural fiction, be it urban fantasy or paranormal, with a little gaslit Victorian mystery thrown in.(less)
I have mixed feelings about this book. It took me multiple attempts to finish it, but I'm glad I did. Someone compared this to Buffy and Angel as far...moreI have mixed feelings about this book. It took me multiple attempts to finish it, but I'm glad I did. Someone compared this to Buffy and Angel as far as the romance aspects. Do not believe that. This book has some romantic aspects, but it's more of a coming of age story (although Sunshine is an adult when it starts). She's coming into her powers that she never really understood.
The writing is very intricate and quite stream of consciousness. If you made it through The Sound and the Fury, this book shouldn't be a problem. But for genre fiction, I think you have to work too hard to get the enjoyment factor out of it. I'm no literary snob. In fact, I prefer genre fiction. I want to enjoy reading a story and get a message. This one makes it difficult. I am a foodie, so I was salivating at the descriptions of the baked goods that Sunshine makes (she's a talented baker). However, I wanted more of the supernatural aspects and certainly more of the intriguing Constantine. I could have done with about fifty pages more of him.
I think that a reader who enjoys seeing strong women come into their own in a fantasy novel setting would enjoy this, moreso than a fan of vampire romance. There were some geninuely scary moments that gave me a thrill as well. There are also a few gory moments (not too bad, but I feel the need to warn). I'd give Sunshine three stars because it was a good book, but I don't feel the need to reread it. Now if she writes a sequel with more Constantine, sign me up! (less)
I've been a fan of Nalini Singh for several years now. I started reading her with the Silhouette Desires she published, and I liked the way she wrote...moreI've been a fan of Nalini Singh for several years now. I started reading her with the Silhouette Desires she published, and I liked the way she wrote intense love stories with magnetic heroes and heroines I liked. I waffled for a year or so before deciding to try her book Slave to Sensation. I was just getting into paranormal, and I wasn't sure about the sci-fi elements. Finally, I read it, and I was hooked from that point on.
When I heard that Nalini Singh was venturing into urban fantasy, of course I was going to buy Angels' Blood. She's autobuy for me, and urban fantasy is one of my absolute favorite genres. It also helps that I have this unhealthy love for angels. I'll read most books with an angel theme. Let me tell you, I was so impressed with this book.
Nalini Singh took the theme of angels and made it her own. She captured the essential elements of angelhood (except for the messengers of God part), and gave it some dark and sinister aspects. In Singh's world, Angels are very carnal, sexual beings who involve themselves with the human world, exploit the fact that humans are drawn to, adore them, and sometimes worship them, and have put themselves at the top of the hierarchy. Basically, angels run things. They even Make vampires to be their servants. Of course, absolute power has a way of corrupting. In this case, there is an archangel (the most powerful type of angel) who has gone beserk and is on a killing spree. A scary thought there, an absolutely beautiful, pretty much invincible being on a killing spree. Who's going to stop him? Raphael, the Archangel of New York, has appointed himself to do that. But he needs the help of the best Hunter (vampires) in New York, Elena. And, he decides that he wants to have more than a business relationship with this powerful warrior woman (that's his type, you see).
Raphael was some kind of character. He defines the 'gamma' hero. Not gamma as in the mix of alpha and beta. Gamma in the sense of mad, bad, and dangerous to know. Raphael is utterly ruthless. He knows just how powerful he is, and he's not afraid to use that power to achieve his goals. He is not controlled by human morals. He follows a higher law, the laws set by himself and the Cadre, the group of ten archangels who pretty much rule the world. This guy was one of those heroes that sends a chill down your spine, but also has you gaga over him because he was so gorgeous and just had that masculine appeal that turns your bones into water. He thought about killing Elena several times, because human life has no value for beings that are essentially immortal. I was like, "Okay?" I admit, I like that dark/edgy hero, but I could see how that would be chilling for some readers. But, somehow, Elena found the small aspect of this scary dude that could love. He was drawn to her for the essence of who she was, the fierce hunter, the vulnerable woman beneath the tough facade. She made him more humanlike just by reaching that core of him that yearned to be truly loved and to love someone. Even more than a millenia of having whatever lovers he wanted didn't leave this archangel satisfied. But Elena had to power to give him what he yearned for.
Elena was a very likeable character. She was tough, a survivor, but also very humane. She had a great sense of humor, and didn't let anyone push her around. She takes her job very seriously, and is determined to find this archangel who is leaving a grisly pile of bodies in his wake. She has no idea how to react to Raphael. He's gorgeous, because all angels are. But he is moreso than any others to her. She's attracted to his strength, and the unearthly beauty and functionality of his wings, and the intrinsic deadly appeal of him, with his volcanic sex appeal. At the same time, she's not signing up to be anyone's toy, seeing the way angels manipulate vampires and people like puppets. She's got to get this job done and somehow try to keep Raphael from killing her or seducing her into his bed until he gets bored and casts her aside.
Ms. Singh managed to capture the razor edge of the attraction, the unfolding relationship between Elena and Raphael and pair it to a very dark, very noir murder mystery. I was actually surprised at how grisly the murders are in this book. It was well done, and Ms. Singh didn't flinch away from those aspects, so I couldn't either. Uram, the angel that went blood-thirsty, was one scary, despicable creature, all the more so for his unearthly angelic beauty.
I thought this story had such an appeal. I could see very vividly the physical loveliness and allure of the angels and the vampires, and how they could turn deadly in a split second. Ms. Singh captured the appeal of these beings so very well, along with the inherent menace and danger they represented to humans and hunters. In my estimation this story represented the underlying theme of how society is set up to favor the powerful and endowed, whether it's with money, sex-appeal, or beauty. And the rest of us have to struggle to keep our heads above water if we lack any of the above. But, we don't give up. We keep fighting. Elena represents the everyday person who is fighting that battle against the system and the 'big fishes'. I admired Elena for having the guts to immerse herself in this world, knowing that her hunter-born strength only gave her a slight edge over the average human.
Because this is the start of an urban fantasy series, Ms. Singh is somewhat stingy with some details. She tantalized me with the romance elements, giving me enough to be somewhat satiated, but knowing there was more to be told about Raphael and Elena's relationship. I wanted to know more and see more of this world she created, and all the fascinating characters she has introduced. I am already invested in this series, because I crave more of this world of alluring and lethal creatures. This was a book that grabbed me and did not let go. (less)
After more than a year away from reading Nightlife, I thought my love for this series would be a fluke. I'd read the second book, and the thrill would...moreAfter more than a year away from reading Nightlife, I thought my love for this series would be a fluke. I'd read the second book, and the thrill would be gone. Not even close. What a fantastic world Ms. Thurman has created. I don't know how she managed to bring two characters to life that I love so much.
Cal has really come into his own. He's still a major smart-aleck, with some self-hate issues, but he's even more lethal as a warrior, incredibly strong-minded, and fiendishly clever, although so self-deprecating you would think he was useless. I have found that he is starting to sneak up in my affections, although Niko has claimed my heart.
Ah, Niko, would you marry me? I just love this man. Too bad he's not real. He of the razor sharp sword that he wields with deadly precision. His exquisitely neat housekeeping skills. He cooks beautifully. His discipline and calm. The fact that he is more deadly than the Ebola virus. And then there's his love for his younger brother. Who could ask for anything more?
Just reading about these two guys doing, well nothing, is enough for me. But, thankfully, Ms. Thurman has created a whole new adventure for these fellows. It's a roller-coaster ride from the very beginning. There are moments where the pace slows down for a little bit, to allow the reader to catch her/his breath, but then it's off again. I lost count of the number of times that either Cal or Niko got injured and needed medical attention. Be assured that their adversaries fared worse.
I like what Ms. Thurman did with the werewolf lore, although her weres come off looking not-so-glamorous. And there are plenty of other mythical creatures in this story, adding to the pizazz and overall character of the New York and sundry that Cal and Niko live and fight to stay alive in. This book veers into horrific and dark fantasy territory, which is another thing I like about it. Who knew the modern world could be such a scary place full of beasties that made the fairy tales just that little bit macabre, that you didn't think were real? Well they are, at least in this series.
Niko's relationship with Promise, he and Cal's vampire co-partner in their detective business, has blossomed beautifully. It's pretty obvious how much this tenderhearted, elegant, but deadly when it's necessary vampiress cares for him. Who can blame her? Cal's love life would be looking good if he would let the fair Georgina into his heart. But his fear about what his auphe side would bring to life is causing him to keep her at a distance. But it's apparent to pretty much everyone just how much he cares for his little seer.
Robin Goodfellow, boon companion to the brothers, returns. He keeps things light when necessary, yet kicks butt like it's going out of style. He has connections like you wouldn't believe, aiding in getting very difficult things accomplished, fights at the brothers' side, while flirting with Niko (who he has the hots for, who can blame him?). It's impossible not to love him, morally flexible, pansexual flirt that he is.
Just like Nightlife, this lovely noirish urban fantasy story about Cal and Niko Leandros has established a place in my heart and on my keeper shelf. It makes me want to dive right into the next book in the series, Madhouse, to spend more time with these guys, who I love dearly. You probably noticed that.(less)
**spoiler alert** It's been a while since I last read a Hollows book, but it was good to be back. I like this world that Kim Harrison created. I like...more**spoiler alert** It's been a while since I last read a Hollows book, but it was good to be back. I like this world that Kim Harrison created. I like the mix of different species, and how complex their relationships are. I really like Rachel. She's down to earth, and flawed enough to be relatable. I like that she's self-conscious about her appearance, freckles and frizzy hair, and boyish figure. She seems like she'd be a nice person to know in real life. Although Rachel slips up in her inter-personal relationships with the people in her life, she is a good person who really does care about others, and that always shines through. I feel bad for her having been hurt by people she should be able to trust. It makes her gun-shy about committing to the new people who come into her life. Completely relatable. This aspect adds a realism to this urban fantasy novel that resonates with me.
I did have a big complaint: too much vampire storyline. The whole vamp pheromones and allure aspect gives me indigestion. In a way, it's pretty interesting. I really hate how these vamps try to control humans and others with their allure. It gets my goat. After all, there are plenty of willing victims, but they seem to prey on those who aren't interested, namely Rachel. I wish Ivy would get over her fixation with Rachel and being able to bite her and take her blood. She's way too predatory about Rachel. It gives me the creeps. It's not even mainly sexual. It's like it's killing her that Rachel won't share her blood. It's really too much for me. I'm not sure how I feel about Ivy. Sometimes I like her, sometimes I don't. She's not a comfortable character at all. But, I do give Ms. Harrison props for creating such a complex female character. Let me just say this...I do not want Rachel and Ivy being a couple. That would not work for me. There are some heavy sexual tension vibes between them, all tied up with the vampire bloodlust, and a deeper affection. It's just messy. I think they'd be a lousy couple. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the story doesn't go in that direction. A friend on here who's a big fan of this series told me the vamp storyline stops dominating. I hope so. This world is so intriguing with the mixes of fae and other species with witches, that I feel a lot more interesting plotlines could come to pass beyond the vamp thing. But that's just me.
I didn't like the 'resolution' with Nick. It seems like it sort of just faded away. I would prefer that they had it out and it was clear that it was over. Part of me thinks that this was done on purpose. Sometimes relationships ends like that. I guess I'm in the minority, but I liked Nick, although I don't like how he 'dumped' Rachel. I wanted to see what happened with his dabbling in black magic. That was a huge worry of mine. I've stayed mostly spoiler free, so I don't know if he will come back or not. If he does, I hope he doesn't end up turning bad. I'd rather he just be a jerky ex-boyfriend.
The whole Kisten storyline ended up winning me over. I didn't like him. He seemed sort of like a wannabe and a pretender. He still kind of has that aspect, but I see him deeper after this book. I started thawing at the scene in the dance club. I definitely started seeing his appeal, and he dances!!! I think that he was there for Rachel when she needed him, and they have good chemistry, so I think I'm okay with them being together. Kisten is okay--a nice beta with appeal that I ended up appreciating.
I love Ceri. I was so glad that Rachel was able to save her. She's very interesting, and I'm a sucker for fae/elvish storylines. I hope to see more of her. For some reason, when she was crying and Jenks' pixy daughters were trying to comfort her and were braiding her hair, I got all teary. Aww! It must be the faery fanatic in me. I perk up whenever that is a big part of a scene. Which leads me into another thing that makes this series stand out over a lot of other urban fantasy:
I love Jenks and his family. The pixies are such a rich aspect of this story. I want pixy roommates!!!! I'd happily allow them to plait my hair, and spread pixie dust all over the house. But, I guess I like my cold environment a little too much for them. I hope that Jenks gets over his anger at Rachel. I missed him and his family when he moved out.
The demon storyline...very twisted. Poor Rachel can't seem to stay out of trouble with those demons. Things got better, but possibly worse, since she owes two demons now. The images of the ever-after reminded me of the movie Constantine, when John would cross over to Hell, and it looked like Los Angeles, but much worse. Vivid, disturbing imagery there. Whenever the demons come around in this story, it gives me the shivers. But the Christian in me really feels uneasy with Rachel making deals with demons. It feels very wrong to me. However, it is fiction, so I leave it at that.
The bad guy and the story resolution. Ms. Harrison threw me for a loop here. I started getting this idea toward the end about who would end up being the Big Bad, and there you go. I liked how Rachel turned things around on him. Good for her. Rachel is interesting in her arrogance about her rep as a tracker, yet seems to doubt her confidence as a witch. I think she will come to realize how truly powerful she is as this series progresses.
Trent--I get this vibe that he has a thing for Rachel. That should be interesting. Rachel mostly hates him, but some part of her doesn't. As she said herself, she tends to go for the guys who tend to be bad. So who knows? He has an intriguing anti-hero vibe that appeals to me. What can I say? Maybe I'm like Rachel when it comes to characters???
To sum up my rambling: I liked this story, a lot. The progression toward the climax seemed to go kind of slowly, and I felt like it would take forever to get there. But it ended picking up. Some things I love about this book, some things, no so much. But, I'm in this series for the duration. It's too good to stop reading.
Overall rating: 4.25/5.0. The vamp aspects are like eating a really rich, spicy meal and getting a stomach ache, so it detracted from my enjoyment, and it was a bit slow in parts. Otherwise, solid entertainment.
I love reading anthologies, so I never really got why a lot of romance readers don't care much for anthologies. Well, I tend to read fantasy and horro...moreI love reading anthologies, so I never really got why a lot of romance readers don't care much for anthologies. Well, I tend to read fantasy and horror anthologies for the most part. This is probably one of the first bigger romance ones I've read. I get it now! It gets pretty dull to read sex scene after sex scene. The only thing that broke the monotony were the paranormal elements, and seeing how each author created a story out of that starting point. Some authors did a better job than others of engaging me. Overall, I would say I'm leaning towards being mildly disappointed with this anthology, but it's really for the reasons of what appeals to me. I love romance. I love the tension and the emotion of seeing a couple meet, fall in love, and decide they want to spend their lives together. It's kind of hard to do that in a very short story, especially the ones that are supposed to be very steamy. I either ended up feeling like the couples had some hot chemistry, but not really buying the true love, or wanting more because things ended too quickly. In general, the stories that leaned towards urban fantasy made more of an impression on me, because the focus was on the plot and the worldbuilding.
I'll give a basic recap of my feelings on the stories.
"Music Hath Charms" by Tanya Huff. Quite interesting. Not a romance. More of a sexy urban fantasy story. I wanted a different ending than the one I got, but I'd give it four stars because she used the Greek sirens myth to such good effect.
"Minotaur in Stone" by Marjorie Liu. I absolutely loved this story. It shows the potential of a well-done paranormal romantic short story. All the mythic aspects, the longing, the feeling of a couple falling for each other and striving for their happy ending. It was unique and really took a different spin on the Greek minotaur myth. What a joy to read. Five stars.
"Demon Lover" by Cheyenne McCray. I have mixed feelings about this story. I thought the use of incubus lore was well done. The language was too raunchy for me and it was too focused on the sex acts. However, I have to admit this was a romantic story at its heart. The theme of self-sacrifice moved me. More than anything, I don't go for this kind of steam level, I think. Readers who like more erotic fare would enjoy this one more than I did. 4 stars.
"Equinox" by LA Banks. I've found I tend to enjoy LA Banks' short stories very much. But, I think this is my least favorite. It didn't quite come together very well. I couldn't tell if she was going for a humorous tone or not. I liked the concept, Artemis coming to the modern world with her nymphs to punish those who destroyed the environment. She drew in the story of Artemis and Acteon, the human she changed into a stag for watching her bathe naked, and shot full of arrows as punishment. In this case, she changed executives of companies that were raping the environment into stags. It was a very good idea. I liked the hero, who was a special forces guy. It was great seeing black characters in this setting. Who said Artemis couldn't be Black? Kudos for that. This story had a lot going for it, but it just felt a little unpolished and hurried in the execution. All and all, I'd say this was a four star story.
"Ride a Dark Horse" by Susan Krinard. Being horse-mad, I did appreciate that aspect of this story. However, it felt kind of ho-hum, like a hundred other paranormal romances. The ending was a bit rushed as well. Three stars.
"To Die For" by Keri Arthur. I could see readers loving this story. I liked the horrific/dark fantasy elements. I didn't think it was romantic. It was more of a "we're hot for each other and have been for a while, so let's see where this is going" kind of execution. I don't like the whole HFN thing, so that left me cold. Plus the love scenes seemed disruptive in the sense that they were in the middle of finding their boss's missing nephew and hunting a very scary, evil killer. The sex interludes seemed unwise and disruptive. Ms. Arthur is a good writer, and it was a pretty scary story, so I'd give it a four stars on those terms, even though it failed as a romance for me.
"Curse of the Dragon's Tears" by Heidi Betts really left me with a blah feeling. I think her writing doesn't work for me. It was very standard paranormal romance story with cursed hero and heroine determined to save him with her love/lust. Let's have lots of hot sex and maybe we can figure out how to reverse the curse. It didn't do much for me. 3 stars.
"Brother's Keeper" by Lilith Saintcrow. This is my first story by this author, and I like her imagination. This story had very hot chemistry, and it was dark and kind of disturbing. The only thing that made the execution flawed was the internal monologue of the heroine. Selene would talk to herself in her head, and because it was 3rd person, it just seemed intrusive. I really think this should have been a 1st person story. I loved Nikolai. He was yummy! I'd like to read more of these characters. 4 stars.
"(Like a) Virgin of the Spring" by Susan Sizemore and Denise Little. Great premise muddied down by too much sex. Pretty cool how they worked time travelers into the King Arthur lore. I think if there was less sex and more story, this would have been close to five stars. As it was, more of a 3.5 star story.
"Life is the Teacher" by Carrie Vaughn. This woman can write. She took the paranormal premise and created a literary feel to this story that sucked me in. Emma's a fledgling vampire who is going on her first hunt. You feel all her sadness, the impasse she faces as she confronts her old life, where she doesn't belong anymore, and embarking on a new life as a creature of the night. It was poignant and also evocative. The sensuality was well-incorporated and fit the mood of this story about Emma's awakening to her life as a vampire. 4.5 stars.
"Moonlight Becomes You" by Linda Winstead Jones. This story had a humorous element, as a young woman investigates her neighbor, who she believes to be a vampire. It helps that he's sexy, and seems interested in her. I liked the twist in this story. 4 stars.
"Dirty Magic" by Kim Harrison was a beautiful, yet disturbing story. Mia the Banshee deals with her forbidden love for a young musician. His love is an irresistible lure to a creature who is drawn to and who feeds off the emotions of humans. I didn't really like the way this ended, but it was superbly-written. 4 stars.
I was tired after finishing this volume. I definitely needed a break from the paranormal sex motif. As I do with most anthologies, this would have worked better if I read it on and off. But, reading the stories back to back made some of the lesser-involving ones a chore to read.
Overall rating: 4 stars. Nothing truly bad, just some that didn't work for me. Marjorie Liu's story definitely was the shining star in this collection.
**spoiler alert** I highly recommend reading this to any fans of the vampire genre. It is a commitment and investment for the reader, but it is worthw...more**spoiler alert** I highly recommend reading this to any fans of the vampire genre. It is a commitment and investment for the reader, but it is worthwhile. While Dracula is not the 1st vampire novel/story, it has firmly established many of the conventions of the vampire genre. I must say that no movie version I have watched does this justice. Bram Stoker's Dracula might have been a somewhat faithful rendition, but it took unforgivable liberties with the relationship between Mina and Dracula, and downplayed the deep, abiding love between Mina and Jonathan. In addition, it portrayed Dracula as a seductive, lovelorn and sympathetic character. He is none of these. Dracula is a complete and utter fiend. He is unrelenting evil, and I spent this whole book waiting for him to get what he deserved.
I love the use of letters and correspondence to tell the story. It added an authenticity to this story by revealing the narrative through written details of events. One would think that this would create a distance between the reader and the story, but strangely it does not. Instead it infuses the story with a human element, as we see things unfold through the eyes of the humans who witnessed everything. In addition, the diary entries from Jonathan Harker, Mina Murray (soon to be Harker), Lucy Westenra, and John Seward show the emotional impact of the characters to the horror of Dracula.
Dracula is very much a Victorian work. It is clear what the mores were at that time in reading this story. It is also evident how society is changing as time speeds towards the 20th Century (this book was published in 1896). The attitudes towards women as sweet, beloved creatures who should be loved and adored is very much in evidence. However, Mr. Stoker took the time to show that Mina has a powerful role and usefulness beyond what was expected of her as a woman of her times. In fact, she plays a very pivotal role in this story. Because of the connection between Dracula and herself, she cannot be relegated to a second class citizen in this story. In addition, her view of the situation shows much about how Dracula managed to wreak his reign of terror over poor Lucy and how devastated Jonathan was from his early encounter with Dracula. Mina turns out to be a real heroine in this story. She is very resourceful, and her methods are a great help in the process of understanding what Dracula is, and tracking him down. I felt for her when she was under his thrall, because her love for Jonathan was true, as well as her abhorrence of the evil of Dracula and how it had affected her. Those scenes added a psychological component to the horror element in this book.
This book is not a thrill a minute book. It might be a horror story, but it's also a crime novel, in that the group composed of Drs. Van Helsing and Seward, Jonathan and Mina Harker, Quincy Morris, and Arthur Holmwood spend much time trying to track and defeat their prey, Dracula. Readers should approach this story with this in mind. There are some moments that are truly unnerving and scary, all the same, but they are used with good effect. I would be reading right along, and then something really scary would happen all of a sudden. When my heart rate went back to normal and I fell back into the procedural-type narrative, another creepy moment would occur. Thus, my investment of diligent reading paid off, for those scary moments were quite suspenseful.
Readers should also be aware that the characters tend to be along sentimental lines. They are good, decent people. They cry and feel sorrow. The men might be brave, but they are not afraid to break down and sob out their anguish. I admired each of the protagonists that I was supposed to admire: Mina, Jonathan, John/Jack Seward, Van Helsing, Arthur, Quincy, and the poor, unfortunate Lucy. Each of them invest their heart and life into tracking and destroying the beast. This might strike a modern reader as being too good to be true. But in the historical context, I didn't have trouble with it. I might expect different characterizations for a modern vampire novel.
I found that issues that I had with the recent movie adaptations of Dracula did not exist in this novel. Mina is not played as the good, innocent foil for the sexually adventurous and slightly wanton Lucy. Lucy is a sweet girl who was preyed on and destroyed by Dracula. Mina is not a fickle woman who would abandon her true love for the seductive wiles of the vampire Dracula. That always bothered me about the movies. I didn't see why poor Lucy was deserving of what happened to her. Even if she had been a wanton, I couldn't say she deserved her demise at Dracula's hands. Reading about her decline, death and resurgence as a vampire was extremely difficult, not to mention the effect it had on the loved ones she left behind. Additionally, I dislike how throwaway the love that Mina had for Jonathan is portrayed in the movies. I'm glad it was not this way in the book.
Renfield is a character who has been played for laughs in many of the Dracula adaptations and knockoffs. In the original novel, he is a character to be pitied. He was seduced by Dracula, subsequently losing his reason. There are glimpses of his formerly formidable intellect and sanity, as well as a sense of right and wrong that shone through, causing me to feel sorry for him. Particularly when he warns Seward not to keep him in the Asylum. If only Seward had listened.
Drs. Seward and Van Helsing are physicians and men of science with profound respect for each other, but who tend to look at situations differently. Dr. Seward is very much a rationalist. He tries to approach Lucy's strange illness from a completely scientific perspective, yet Dr. Van Helsing is a learned man who is trained in modern medical science (as well as a pioneer in medicine), but gives credence toward the ancient beliefs, and whose knowledge is shored up by his faith in God. The struggle that Seward faces in having to accept that Lucy's demise is due to a powerful supernatural entity is evident as we read his journal entries. Van Helsing is seen through the descriptions of the diary entries of Mina, Jonathan, and Seward. I found Van Helsing quite the character. Without a doubt, he's my favorite in this book, although I found some of his lines hard to read because of the fact that it is written as though English was his second language (which it was). He is a man of compassion, although with a tendency towards bluntness. I like that he's able to think his way out of difficult situations, but also relies on faith against his demonic enemy.
The movies tend to emasculate Jonathan, but he is a very strong character to have survived his imprisionment in Dracula's castle, with his body and his sanity intact. His conviction to protect Mina at all costs, despite knowing the depths of the power of his enemy speaks to me. He might not be a he-man, but he is definitely a worthy man mate for Mina.
Arthur Holmwood is a noble, yet he is not protrayed as a prig. He is very down to earth, and willing to do his part to destroy Dracula and to see justice done for his beloved Lucy. I admit I tended to picture Cary Elwes (an old crush of mine who played Holmwood in Bram Stoker's Dracula) about 50% of the time. He definitely rose to the occasion, despite the seemingly insane ravings of Van Helsing about Un-dead creatures, and the need to drive a stake through the heart and cut off the head of his beloved.
Quincy Morris embodies the Texan spirit in the very best of ways. His devotion to Lucy and later Mina causes him to risk his life in the struggle against Dracula.
Don't look for a sexy creature of the night in this book. Dracula is a horrid, evil beast. When he meets his demise, I didn't feel one iota of sympathy. I was cheering instead. It's refreshing to read about evil vamps without any charisma for once (and this from a paranormal romance fanatic).
This book is a delicious work to have read. I'm glad I attempted it when I could fully appreciate its genius. I freely admit when I read it in high school, I wasn't ready for it. It took me the better part of the week, but I found myself eager to keep reading, despite the somewhat antiquated language. I wanted to see how things would unfold. You might think, "Well Dracula is old hat. I've seen many vampire movies. It's all the same." I'd tell you, not so. You should read this book if you're a vampire fan. You will find a resonance that is lacking in most of the modern vampire fare, with its classic setting, genuine characters, and the tangible essence of the unearthly evil of the vampire. And to think that Stoker wasn't quite as glutted on the rich milk of the vampire legends as us modern vamp fans are. Maybe that's why this book felt so authentic to me.(less)