What a difference a few weeks make…Omens may have introduced Olivia Taylor-Jones and Gabriel Walsh to the world, but Visions shows them in an entirely...moreWhat a difference a few weeks make…Omens may have introduced Olivia Taylor-Jones and Gabriel Walsh to the world, but Visions shows them in an entirely new light. Gone are the innocent socialite in the midst of discovering a crazy new world pulled from her own nightmares, and the cold-hearted, unfeeling thug of a lawyer who has attached himself to her side, intent on taking her for a ride. In their place we find a confident young woman who is more than ready to take the world by the balls and an “onion” of a man who gets even more complex as Olivia persistently begins to peel his layers back.
While working on her parents’ case in an effort to prove them innocent of a series of grizzly murders, Olivia begins to discover more about her past, her birth parents, and the people and community that she has become to think of as ‘home’. She discovers that she has a talent for investigation and the tenacity to unravel spider webs of lies, half-truths, and misdirection. In the process of focusing on others, she inadvertently discovers herself and realizes that she likes what she finds.
For his part, as Gabriel re-enters his quest to prove his client innocent, he does so with the single-mindedness of a thoroughbred race horse – head down, blinders on, eye on the prize. The funny thing about blinders however is the inability to see what is coming at your side. Working with Olivia on the case starts as a means-to-an-end for the defence lawyer with the dubious reputation. He never even considers the impact that one spoiled socialite could possibly have on his life until the new working arrangement becomes both a blessing and a curse for someone with so many dark secrets of his own.
The partnership gets off to a false start or two, but eventually they come to develop a tentative trust and respect for one another. Their relationship is a fragile thing that can either be irrevocably destroyed by mishandling or strengthened and grown over time to blossom into a beautiful new organism. Only time will tell if Gabriel will continue to be his own worst enemy.
While both characters work on their own issues other secondary characters begin to become fleshed out as well, adding depth and further complications to the mix. Every answer leads to a new question (or ten) as this first-class mystery series continues to grow and that is the true beauty of Cainsville. The suspense/mystery is the main storyline here, opening author Kelley Armstrong to an entirely new audience, while the paranormal elements are strong enough to keep current fans happily engaged at the same time.
As a series, Cainsville reminds me of the early Sookie Stackhouse books written by best selling author Charlaine Harris, but I believe that it may be even better. The ‘whodunit’ mystery of the serial killings is realistic enough to be a real-life case, while the paranormal elements add complexity without piling on the camp. The balance of mystery/paranormal/romance elements is just right – so right in fact that I can easily see Cainsville becoming Armstrong’s second series to be converted for the screen. While I wait for that to happen however I’ll happily keep reading. (less)
I turned back to the menial task requirements of my most recent pink- collar position and noticed a sticky note on the bar. The one he’d had in his han...moreI turned back to the menial task requirements of my most recent pink- collar position and noticed a sticky note on the bar. The one he’d had in his hands. That man loved Post-its. I read the note, thought about it, tired to absorb its true meaning, its deeper message, then read it again before turning the kitchen and shouting, “Marry you?”
Thus ends Fifth Grave Past the Light, the previous book in the Charley Davidson series. Charley may have been shouting at Reyes in disbelief, but I was shouting at author Darynda Jones from my bedroom, all the way up in Barrie, ON. She was probably in her own home at the time, all the way down in New Mexico, perhaps already working on this current novel, perhaps cuddling in her bed. I doubt that she heard me. I do like to think that she felt my agitation somehow and I’m certain that she’d smile, knowing that she hit just the button that she’d been aiming for… Witch. How dare she leave her devoted readers hanging like that?
Thankfully Sixth Grave From the Edge picks up a couple of weeks later. Charley hasn’t given son-of-Satan Reyes Farrow her answer yet but it’s very much on her mind. As it should be. Charley may have been mulling her future over for a few weeks but I’ve been waiting for her decision for the last eight months! Flighty and unpredictable as she is – come on, you all know that this grim reaper is a little cray-cray – her delayed response is keeping poor Reyes on edge. And that’s never a good thing.
Despite his centuries-long obsession with her and their obvious chemistry (smokin’ hot doesn’t even begin to describe), Charley is far from a sure thing. She is stubborn and likes to do things her own way, in her own time. She loves Reyes but that doesn’t mean that she’s going to do whatever he wants her to. And even though he is the cunning, über-attractive, gifted-in-every-way son of Lucifer, Charley is the one being who could crush him utterly. Poor Reyes!
Charley may be mulling over Reyes’ proposal, but it’s far from the only thing on her mind these days. She’s also investigating Reyes past. He’s an enigma that she just can’t stop turning around and poking at. Reyes wants her to leave his past alone, but who can blame her for her determination to learn more about the man whom she just might marry one day? He’s more than just a mystery to her. He holds the answers to her own past, present, and future. She may be the Grim Reaper, but Charley barely knows her own abilities. She has a destiny to fulfill and one can’t blame the woman for wanting every ounce of knowledge (a.k.a. tool/weapon) that she can get.
Charley also has her hands full with her extended family. Her father is acting strange and evasive, her step-monster suddenly wants to be her ally, her best friend is pinning away for her painfully romantically obtuse uncle, and the young people in her life are getting into trouble. She has also decided to finally find out more about her very dead roommate. Others around her have some insight into Mr. Wong’s possible identity but Charley just can’t see it. And let’s not forget about the rather well-endowed older gentleman ridding shotgun in Misery…
So we have romance and mystery, as usual. Throw in a little black-mail and kidnapping, along with yet another near-death experience for Charley, as well as the introduction of a hot new male character, and it’s easy to see how this is an incredibly difficult book to put down. In fact, I didn’t. I read it straight through in one sitting. The humour and action simply flow and I was carried away from the very first line to the end of the Reyes POV excerpt (yes – we get a glimpse of Charley as Reyes sees/experiences her!).
There is never a dull moment in Charley’s life, and never a dull moment in either this book or the series as a whole. Charley’s antics keep readers glued to the page and I can’t wait until October 2014 for Seventh Grave and No Body. Hell hasn’t forgotten about its escaped son and the mission set before him and neither has Heaven. If this wedding ever actually takes place it will be a miracle and it just may not be the only miracle that Charley and Reyes experience… (less)
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 e...moreI 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. (less)
I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of Gena Showalter’s Ecstasy in Darkness, the fifth book in her Alien Hun...moreA 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.(less)