I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of Gena Showalter’s Ecstasy in Darkness, the fifth book in her Alien HunA perfect 10! Showalter at her best!
I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of Gena Showalter’s Ecstasy in Darkness, the fifth book in her Alien Huntress series. It is the first Alien Huntress book that I have read but it absolutely won’t be the last. It had me literally laughing out loud by the third paragraph and I was hooked. Any time that a book has me laughing on the very first page I just know that it is going to be good and Ecstasy didn’t disappoint.
At its heart it is a classic love story; you know the drill – Girl (Ava) goes looking for trouble in the woods and meets Boy, (well in this case vampire, Victor McKell). Said vampire just happens to be one of the most powerful of his kind, completely wild and untameable, much like the girl herself. Oh, and of course he’s smoking hot. They are immediately attracted to each other but there are complications in the way – he’s a vampire and she is an Alien Investigation and Removal trainee (a.k.a. hunter). She has a job to do and a deep seated need to prove herself. McKell just so happens to be one of her targets and may be the key to literally saving the world but he has his own agenda to attend to and has proven himself to be notoriously uncooperative with AIR agents in the past.
He’s been exiled by his own people and has a reputation as a ruthless torturer who views humans as little more than sustenance. It’s a reputation that he intends to keep. Ava has felt marginalized by society her entire life and has a chip on her shoulder as a result. She has developed her own well-earned reputation for kicking ass and taking names. She uses her wits to trick McKell and he is momentarily stunned before regaining the upper hand and putting her in her place. He escapes capture but allows her to escape as well and from then on it’s Game On for both of them.
Ava and her partner-in-crime Noelle regroup back at AIR headquarters the next day and are given a pep talk by their boss before being sent back in for round two with McKell. AIR needs a sample of the vampire’s blood to test as a possible cure for an alien disease that is turning humans into cannibals before ultimately killing them. Undaunted and determined to get her man, Ava returns to the woods with Noelle, much to McKell’s delight. The two engage in a round of playful banter before Ava gives into her slightly unstable (read – crazy) side and attacks McKell, stabbing him and thus obtaining her blood sample.
The following day McKell shows up on Ava’s doorstep, not healing from the stab wound and determined to find out why. Ava actually feels some remorse for her actions but as she doctors the wound she can’t stop herself from baiting McKell and starting a conversation that eventually leads McKell to agree to help AIR with their quest to cure the alien disease. In return Ava agrees to help McKell with a quest of his own and they seal the deal with a kiss that leads to one of the most smoking hot make-out scenes that I have ever read.
Once they manage to regain their self-control the pair embark on a multi-pronged adventure that left me loathe to lay the book down. I kept promising myself that I’d read just one more page, one more chapter before calling it quits for the night but instead found myself reading well into the early hours of the next morning. I looked and felt like hell that day but didn’t regret a single moment spent reading this book.
Despite not having read the previous books in the series I had absolutely no difficulty whatsoever emerging myself into the Alien Huntress world. Ecstasy in Darkness is a fast paced, action packed adventure that just happens to be filled with some of the most steamy sexual tension that I have ever read between two characters.
Both Ava and McKell are spirited, witty, entirely likeable individuals. He is exactly the kind of alpha character that I love – fierce, loyal, sexy and intelligent, and Ava is his spunky female counterpart. If they were real people I’d want to be Ava and if I couldn’t be her then I would want to be her best friend Noelle, just so I could hang out with her. And it absolutely goes without saying that I’d want to be Victor McKell’s lover! It’s difficult for me to even articulate how attracted I am to this character but he is definitely on par with Kresley Cole’s Malkom Slaine and in the running for Paranormal Bites’ Male of the Year 2010 award.
I am really looking forward to reading the rest of the Alien Huntress series and would highly recommend Ecstasy in Darkness to paranormal romance / urban fantasy fans. I give Ecstasy 5 1/2 out of 5 Bites....more
I finished reading Charlaine Harris’ Dead in the Family yesterday afternoon. And it didn’t suck. I have to state this up front because the couple of eI finished reading Charlaine Harris’ Dead in the Family yesterday afternoon. And it didn’t suck. I have to state this up front because the couple of early reviews that I read basically claimed that the story was slow-moving, boring and only worth reading for the bits with Eric in them. I believe that both reviews gave the book a rating of 2/5. Well, I disagree.
I also feel the need to state up front that Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire/Sookie Stackhouse book series is NOT Alan Ball’s True Blood television series. Even though True Blood is inspired by Charlaine’s characters and book series, the two are very different entities. If you are a huge fan of the HBO True Blood program this may not necessarily translate to Charlaine’s novels and vice versa.
It is worth pointing out as well that we all have genres that we enjoy reading more than others. Although Charlaine’s novels feature vampires, were-animals and other supernatural creatures as some of the main characters I doubt very much that a true horror aficionado would enjoy the series. The same can be said for a reader who prefers to read paranormal romance. The series may feature paranormal/supernatural elements but that doesn’t make it Horror or Romance. The Sookie novels are paranormal Mysteries and if you don’t like mysteries you will not like the series.
I have read the entire Sookie Stackhouse series to-date but the last book was read back in October 2009, when A Touch of Dead: Sookie Stackhouse, The Complete Short Stories was released. Having a more than six month break in between books (and a full year in between complete novels) was a bit of an impediment for me when I started reading Dead in the Family. It took me a couple of chapters to bring myself back up to speed and remember the events of the last novel, Dead and Gone (May 2009).
The other slight hitch that I had to overcome was the fact that I haven’t read a single mystery novel or story since A Touch of Dead. There was a time when mystery, horror and true crime novels were my vice. Not any more however. I’m a solid paranormal romance reader now and have been for quite some time. Once I reminded myself that I was reading a paranormal mystery vs. a paranormal romance I was able to get into the groove and into Dead in the Family.
One of the things about DiF that really stood out to me is the noticeable character development of three of Sookie-verse’s main players – Sookie herself, Eric and Bill, although it is also evident in minor characters Jason, Alcide and Claude as well. If you have read the series from the beginning the development is definitely notable. Sookie is no longer the self-conscious, butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-her-mouth girl that she once was. She has had several extraordinary, even gruesome, experiences since she first met Bill Compton and was awakened to the supernatural elements in the world. The Sookie that we see now is confident, tough and jaded. While still kind, she is an older, wiser woman who has learned the hard way to put herself first and her concern for others second.
In contrast, Eric is no longer the cocky, arrogant, mysterious vampire that he once was. His continued interactions and eventual relationship with Sookie have softened his hard edges, returning some of his long lost humanity to him. His relationships with various other characters have deepened and we can now see his vulnerabilities. Bill has similarly lost his vampire edge. Events have weakened him and he now suffers in very human ways.
Also transformed by events is Sookie’s brother, Jason. Once brash and self-absorbed, he has had most of his swagger knocked out of him. He has matured considerably and is finally a brother that Sookie can rely on and be proud of. For his part Alcide is no longer the charming, kind, would-be suitor that Sookie once knew. Hardened by his father’s death and his subsequent leadership role of the local werewolf pack, he is a much darker character than the man that we first met.
And this brings us to Sookie’s cousin, Claude. The events of the recent Fae War have altered him from being a fairy version of the old Jason. Having elected to remain in the human realm when Faery was locked down, he is making a sincere effort to embrace humanity and has stepped up as Sookie’s friend and protector to fill the void left by his sister Claudine’s death and his grandfather’s self-imposed exile. As so many other characters are lost, the remaining players in Sookie’s life are drawing closer and are developing into what can only be considered a family-of-choice unit and surely this will be a good thing for Sookie as the series continues.
Other than the character development, I was happy to note moments of humour in DiF that were absent in previous books, some of which can be contributed to Sookie’s new found cynicism. For example, when thinking about her new co-worker, Kennedy, who served time for manslaughter, Sookie reflects how she herself has no problem with the woman, even though some others are uncomfortable around her. Sookie explains, “It’s not that I approve of murder – but some people just beg to be killed, don’t they?” and she is most sincere about this sentiment.
Other lighter moments occur when Sookie is taking care of her five year old cousin, Hunter, who is telepathic like Sookie. As only children of that age do, Hunter delivers some cute lines such as “I’m the king of the ducks, Aunt Sookie” and “What about your ass, Aunt Sookie?” He also develops an easy friendship with their fae cousin Claude and I enjoyed the scene in which Hunter cheerfully informed Claude over breakfast, “There’s a vampire in the closet. He can’t come out in the daytime.” The delivery is so matter-of-fact that the reader can’t help but smile at Hunter’s sincerity and innocence.
Other favourite lines are delivered by Pam, Eric’s second in command, who is never one to mince words – “Fuck a zombie!” and “You’re my favourite breather.” I also enjoyed it when Sookie’s fae uncle told her “Dead things love you.”
So, in summary, I enjoyed Dead in the Family. It was a nice, quick read. There were no major surprises or jaw dropping moments but it wasn’t boring either, despite the lack of a cliff hanger ending. Sookie’s problems seem to be wrapped up, with the exception that she, Eric and Pam would like to see Eric’s immediate boss be taken out of the picture, preferably permanently, as he is a thorn in Eric’s side. It seems reasonable to expect this relatively minor conflict to escalate in future books and I anticipate some action to evolve as the Were community continues to pursue a legal status similar to the one currently enjoyed by the vampire community. ...more