Full review to come, but in short: Cover-to-cover amazing. Definitely will end up on my Best of 2013 list. Love in dark places. Angst. Complications....moreFull review to come, but in short: Cover-to-cover amazing. Definitely will end up on my Best of 2013 list. Love in dark places. Angst. Complications. Sympathy for characters you didn't originally want to love. Just... stunning.(less)
Richelle Mead’s new adult series Age of X had significant potential, but unfortunately Gameboar...moreThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
Richelle Mead’s new adult series Age of X had significant potential, but unfortunately Gameboard of the Gods tries to do too much and the reader connection is lost along the way.
Gameboard features a future version of our current world, one where a government is focused on genetic perfection and regulates procreation to that end. Tied in with their control over having kids is their anti-religion policies. They allow some religions to exist with permits, though require their believers to say they worship a “fictitious entity.” It was never clear to me why some religions were allowed and others weren’t, but the existence of the supernatural and ancient gods (think Greek, Roman, Norse, Egyptian mythology) is core to what is happening in the book. Outside of the government-run area, in the provinces (part of the novel is set in Panama) people are free to worship their gods, have babies without authoritarian say so, but they also have guns and drugs and the like. It took me a good portion of the book to sort out what exactly the rules were and how that effected everything else. The idea is clever, but there is so much to cover that the first half of the novel gets bogged down in the interplay of government vs. provincial life.
Part of the disconnect for me was the multiple viewpoints in Gameboard. Readers get to be inside the heads of three characters, and I only ever felt connected with one. First we have Mae, who is by far the most fleshed out of the three characters and the one that I was able to make an emotional investment with. She’s a military warrior and general badass. She’s assigned to help Dr. Justin March investigate a series of murders. Okay, she’s there mostly to protect him while he investigates. She has trouble expressing her emotions, had a dark past and a whole lot of confusion about her feelings regarding Justin.
Justin is kind of a dick, if we’re being honest here. He was kicked out of the country and now is invited back to help solve these murders. If he succeeds, he may get to stay. He’s excellent at reading people and incredibly cocky about it. He has ties to the supernatural that make him a bit crazy. He’s got substance abuse issues and a penchant for gambling. At times he’s incredibly sincere, others you want to smash a bottle on his head. Generally both those things happen when he’s around Mae.
The third POV comes from a sixteen-year-old girl named Tessa. She’s from Panama and Justin brings her back to his home country to give her a better life and education. Tessa acts as our eyes for how weird everything is in this new world. The clothes, the technology, the travel—all of it fascinates and bothers her, not always in equal measure. Her presence softens Justin’s persona for us and helps make him more likeable. (I didn’t dislike Justin, but I never felt connected with him.)
The last quarter of the book really picked up the pace and as the mystery was solved I found myself engaged, however it took me hundreds of pages before I felt that way. Mead’s prose is top-notch as usual. However, between the disconnected POV and too much world building, too fast, I couldn’t get into Gameboard of the Gods the way I’d hoped to.(less)
Throughout the Dark Mission series Karina Cooper has thrown together enemies and made them into...moreThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
Throughout the Dark Mission series Karina Cooper has thrown together enemies and made them into lovers. It’s part of what always appeals to me about these books. Each novel has a constant push and pull: lies versus truth, love versus hate, pain versus ecstasy. The final book One for the Wicked gathers all these elements and exhales them in a miasma of hidden truths, long-desired revenge and unbidden attraction.
Basically, One for the Wicked is an explosion of emotional sexytimes and characters fighting for their lives. Both things I love.
We’ve heard plenty about Dr. Kayleigh Lauderdale in previous novels. We’ve heard about her role in the Salem Project. We know she’s been working to find a way to stop the degeneration of its subjects (like super delicious Simon). What we don’t know is what’s really going on inside Kayleigh’s head. In One for the Wicked we discover Kayleigh’s motivations and realize she takes the lies of her father at face value.
Shawn doesn’t buy Kayleigh’s innocent routine. The other Lauderdale killed his parents and if he has to use Kayleigh to exact his revenge, he will. He just didn’t plan on finding her so damn attractive or her stirring real, non-violent feelings within.
Both Kayleigh and Shawn betray one another repeatedly. You’ll be shocked at the way he pulls the rug out from under her. Then even more blindsided when she ignores her feelings and turns on him. And again. And again. This book is about how hard it is to accept the truth. Both Kayleigh and Shawn have to learn to trust each other, believe the new truths they’re faced with and find a way to live with the results. Not an easy task.
This isn’t like Simon and Parker’s story in Sacrifice the Wicked where they hated each other but knew one another beforehand. Kayleigh and Shawn haven’t met before the start of this book, and there is no foundation for trust. The answers they find not only bring them together, but give readers many of the answers we’ve longed for throughout the series. You’ll know more about the earthquakes. You’ll know more about Kayleigh’s mom and the Eve Sequence. You’ll understand what links the Salem Project team and you’ll better understand the senior Lauderdale’s motivations much better.
As this is the final Dark Mission novel, Cooper made sure you get to revisit every couple from previous books. Silas even gives relationship advice. (I know, right?) The ending is a nice reward for readers who have stuck with the series.
Every time I finish one of Richelle Mead’s Bloodlines novels, I clamor for the next one. The Fie...moreThis review was originally posted on Vampire Book Club
Every time I finish one of Richelle Mead’s Bloodlines novels, I clamor for the next one. The Fiery Heart isn’t an exception. No, for those who read the Vampire Academy series, I say: Remember when you finished Shadow Kiss and you needed Blood Promise in your hands with every fiber of your being? Yeah, that’s the end of The Fiery Heart.
The Fiery Heart indulges in the connection between in Adrian and Sydney. Hell, it relishes in it. As a reader, I found myself damn-near languid after their interactions and yearning for their stolen moments. They finally admitted their feelings for one another in The Indigo Spell. But with Sydney’s little sister moving in and bringing along piles of Sage and Alchemist baggage, it’s difficult for the two to enjoy their relationship. Their meetings are stolen moments. They text on special cell phones. And they are so in love it hurts.
Why am I harping on the romance angle? Other than the fact it’s smoking hot and just—gah—so good? Fine. This is the first time I’ve read a book by Mead (and I’ve read them all) that read like a romance novel. The main focus of The Fiery Heart is Adrian and Sydney’s relationship and the goal of them being together. To make this even clearer, we spend half the novel in Adrian’s head. His points of view were brilliant and insightful. He continue to struggle with the consequences his spirit use, but wants to be a better man for Sydney. Look, the short story here is you’re going to swoon. And maybe cry. Mostly swoon, though.
The book isn’t all steaminess between these two. We also have big progress on the magical front, on working to break the tattoos that force Alchemists to behave and even on the spirit use against Strigoi. Pretty big strides there, but I just can’t spoil that for you.
I would be remiss if I didn’t admit the ending is wicked. Good wicked. It’s what needs to happen for this journey to move forward correctly. There are so many possibilities as to what might happen next and I need answers. In the meantime, I’ll be happy I devoured The Fiery Heart. It was by far my favorite book in the Bloodlines series and Vampire Academy fans will probably put it in the same league as Shadow Kiss, which is definitely an epic compliment.
I am in perpetual awe of Julie Kagawa. Every book I’ve read of hers is better than the last and...moreThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
I am in perpetual awe of Julie Kagawa. Every book I’ve read of hers is better than the last and The Eternity Cure is no exception. She takes heroine Allie to some dark places in this latest book, but anything else would have cheapened the experience.
Allie’s character arc continues to develop beautifully as she truly understands what it means for her to be a vampire and fights to balance that with maintaining her humanity. Zeke continues to be her source of good here, and it isn’t just that he’s human, but that he sees the good in her. There’s a great juxtaposition between the way Allie behaves in reaction to Stick and her emotions when Zeke is with her. I’m not just talking about romance here, but about the way another’s faith in you can make you into a better person.
Characters are in real peril in this one, and as a reader I was never certain anyone would make it. The plot twists were devious enough to catch me off guard and the staging done well enough to make think, “Oh, God, she’s actually going to do…”
I adored The Immortal Rules, but I promise you The Eternity Cure is even more brilliant. It gave me what I really needed in this journey: huge emotional development, answers about the world Allie grew up in, down-and-dirty fight scenes and some of the most gorgeous prose I’ve read in some time.
I’ve been stingy with the five-star ratings of late (picky, picky, I know), but The Eternity Cure deserves a perfect score from me. Expect this one on my Best of 2013 list.(less)
A Low Down Dirty Shane is set in the same, wild world of Sierra Dean’s Secret McQueen series. M...moreThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
A Low Down Dirty Shane is set in the same, wild world of Sierra Dean’s Secret McQueen series. Main character Shane works for the namesake of the urban fantasy series. While fans of Secret will get a kick out of it, you do not need to have read those books in order to enjoy this novella.
You read that right. A Low Down Dirty Shane is a standalone urban fantasy novella. Snappy, snarky and sexy—it completes the trifecta of what makes a shorter story work for me. If you regularly read this blog, you know I’m picky. Or maybe greedy is a better word. When it comes to novellas, I typically find myself wanting more. With A Low Down Dirty Shane, sure, I want more of Shane because nom, but the plot left me sated. I flew through the pages and reached the end content. I love when that happens.
The novella features Dean’s signature no-holds gross monsters and fight scenes (yay!) and the kind of steamy scene you expect from her. The story focuses on druids and fae in the forefront and the “holy crap, I actually like you” romance of Shane and Siobhan right alongside.
Sexytimes and ass-kicking, people. What more do you want?
I don’t mean that in the obvious there’s-a-new-book way. I mean the energy of the series is back. Remember how OMG amazing Twice Bitten was? The eighth installment of the series Biting Bad throws back to that kind of gripping read. It’s Merit being awesome, and sometimes failing. It’s Merit and Ethan together. It’s vampire politics. It’s Chicago.
In other words: Biting Bad is damn good.
When we left the Cadogan House vampires at the end of House Rules, they’d broken with the GP and Merit and Ethan we’re officially together. If you’ll recall, those two spent quite a bit of the last book having some sort of communications standoff, making everyone wonder if their relationship would last. I’m happy to report Merit and Ethan are solid in Biting Bad. It was one of my favorite parts. There’s still sizzling chemistry between the two. Merit lives in the Master apartments with Ethan, and we get to see them as a truly united force. I delighted in their witty conversations and found myself falling for Ethan all over again. We see more of him, and there aren’t many reasons to call him Darth Sullivan anymore. I’m good with that.
The mystery in this one focuses on anti-vampire riots targeting odd places. John McKetrick continues to be an epic thorn in vampire sides everywhere, and you will get a resolution on that plot, which was timed right and left me satisfied.
Actually, everything about Biting Bad sated my hunger for Chicagoland. There’s the right doses of other supes, tons of Ethan/Merit time, a kickass fight scene and enough tension to keep me flying through the pages. This is the Chicagoland Vampires book that you will be unable to put down. Chloe Neill brought her A game, and I can’t wait to see where she goes from here.
Only 10 pages into To Hell and Back I wondered how I had never read a Juliana Stone book. Her v...moreThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
Only 10 pages into To Hell and Back I wondered how I had never read a Juliana Stone book. Her voice and characters are the types I enjoy so much. (Wondering about that 3.5 up there? It’s probably more my fault for starting with a shorter novel that featured already-established characters.)
Logan, a hell hound, saved Kira from purgatory. (This is from previous books, I gather.) Now they’re on the run as underworld denizens are less than thrilled about him absconding her and, you know, falling in love. They’re fiercely protective of one another and it’s clear from the beginning these two have a strong connection. This isn’t a novella about characters falling in love. It’s a book about a couple fighting to stay together when everyone wants to pull them apart.
Logan is ripped away from his lady’s side. She’s forced to run without him. He’s tortured. They’re able to meet in a dream world where dirty, sexy things happen. If you want a taste of Stone’s ultra alpha characters—Logan does crazy things to get back to Kira—and her engaging writing, To Hell and Back is a quick way to do so. Though, I wish I had started with Wrong Side of Hell or, better yet, the first full-length in the League of Guardians series Wicked Road to Hell.
Fans of Pamela Palmer and Jeaniene Frost will find a kindred spirit in Stone’s writing. I plan to read more. Soon.