I was a long-time fan of the Sookie Stackhouse series. I stuck with it though all thirteen books. That’s a long series, and over the course of the series my engagement was driven by the love of the characters and the desire for plot resolution. Normal stuff.
This May, though, there wasn’t my usual Sookie release. Instead there was a new novel in a new series set in Texas, and I had to decide if I was ready to dive back in. Was I game to make the commitment? I’m so glad I decided to make the leap.
Midnight Crossroad reminded me why I fell in love with Charlaine Harris’s writing originally. As I read this novel, I felt the same connection I had when I read Dead Until Dark all those years ago.
Midnight Crossroad could probably be labeled magic realism, but for our purposes I’m going to call it paranormal mystery. Honestly, though? It’s a the story of a tiny Southern—in this case Texas—town, the people within it, and how they deal with secrets, loss, and friendship. The paranormal elements—yes, there’s a vampire—are considered matter of fact by the residents of Midnight, Texas. There’s a psychic and witch. Everyone has a reason for living in the remote, one-stop-sign town, and they all know better than to pry into others’ lives. However, when one of them is accused of murder, hard truths are exposed and the community has to become stronger because of it.
Harris has a skill for portraying the small-town dynamic in a real, honest, and engaging way. It almost made me homesick for the small town I grew up in. The characters are fleshed out, and by the end I found myself craving more of their stories. I want to unearth more of the secrets in Midnight, and you can bet I’ll be reading Midnight Crossroad‘s sequel next May.
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)
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.
There are few books I enjoy more than the ones that do something fresh. Despite the blurb on th...moreThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
There are few books I enjoy more than the ones that do something fresh. Despite the blurb on the cover for The Hunt comparing it to The Hunger Games, Andrew Fukuda’s debut is remarkably creative and engaging.
The concept, when distilled sounds direct: Vampires are now the dominant species on Earth. Humans—called hepers—have been labeled extinct. They aren’t. The government has a few kept in secret to raise morale. They’ll employ a lottery system to see which lucky people get the honor of hunting down these kept hepers.
Make that more complicated by having the novel’s hero be human. He’s not one of the government’s hepers, but a human living in secret. He pretends to be a vampire (in the novel always just called “people”). He hides emotion. He shaves the hair from his arms, douses himself in hand sanitizer and the like. He takes on the tics of the vampires—neck cracking and wrist scratching. He fakes it. It’s worked, too. Only now there is going to be another heper hunt and he’s been picked to hunt down and kill his kind.
What elevates this novel for me is the brilliant way Fukuda makes his protagonist see himself and the world. He lives by these rules to fake being a vampire, to survive. He hates the vampires, but at the same time he’s been indoctrinated into their beliefs. Even when he sees the hepers kept in a secluded dome, he doesn’t feel immediate sympathy for them. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t equate them with himself at all. He’s free, a survivor. The vampires don’t use names, and we don’t learn the protagonist’s name until we’re far into the novel. There’s this slow, steady reveal of who the main character really is that drives the connection here.
Additionally, the plot throws enough curve balls to keep you surprised. I thought I had a couple key points and character motivations figured out. One of the few times I enjoy being wrong. While the start is a little slow plot-wise, the writing is spry and the story is an undeniable page-turner.
The only reason this book didn’t garner five stars from me is I found the romance angle weak. I didn’t really see any reason why the main character was infatuated with his love interest. That arc wasn’t as clear to me, and made me question some of his choices. However, I loved the writing and will make a point to start the sequel The Prey quickly.
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?
With its gothic tone and lush feel, Ironskin had me wrapped up in the story by the 50-page mark...moreThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
With its gothic tone and lush feel, Ironskin had me wrapped up in the story by the 50-page mark.
The novel merges and reworks two classics: Jane Eyre and Beauty and the Beast. There’s no question the base of the story is inspired by the Bronte work. In Tina Connolly’s version, Jane is scarred from the fae war. While her sister is able to seek a husband to care for her, Jane must work. She takes on a governess role under the employment of a reclusive and charming man. His daughter Dorie has fae skills—the kind that have scared off many of the staff—and he needs Jane to help the girl learn to do things the human way.
In the Beauty and the Beast element of the novel, both Jane and her Mr. Rochart are cursed, though in different ways. Not only is Jane’s face marked in a way that would scare of suitors, but within the injured flesh lies a fae curse. Rochart’s limitations are slowly revealed and part of the real enjoyment of this book comes in the last third when Jane begins to know him better and things switch from longing for an ideal into something tangible.
One of the quotes on the dustjacket suggests Ironskin is a steampunk tale. I don’t buy that. While heroine Jane uses bits of iron to block her fae curse from affecting those around her, it’s not exactly a cogs-and-steam element. Not to say those are the only defining traits of steampunk, but more that avid steampunk fans will not find it on a grand scale here.
That said, who wouldn’t want to read Jane Eyre meets Beauty and the Beast with wicked fae?
The latest installment of Meljean Brook’s steampunk romance Iron Seas series is heavier on the...moreThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
The latest installment of Meljean Brook’s steampunk romance Iron Seas series is heavier on the cultural elements and airship travel than the romance.
The first book The Iron Duke was dark, aggressive and sexy. In the second book Heart of Steel, Brook built on the world and gave us more adventure with lots of bedroom action. This third foray into the world of airships, steel body parts and nanoagents has a much slower build on the romance side. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but previous novels would likely give the expectation of kissing before one reaches the halfway point of the novel.
David and Annika are both held back from making advances in their relationship by emotional pasts and wariness of the other gender. David has mechanical body parts—a lens over one eye, an iron hand and metal legs and feet—and scars. His previous attempts with women have resulted in disgust over his body. So, he’s decided no one would really want to see him or kiss him or touch him.
Annika has a whole other problem. She’s not sure if she’ll ever be attracted to anyone. She thought she might like women (and, in fact, feels like she should due to plot points) but that hasn’t really panned out. David stirs her blood, but she’s not sure what to make of it. Any hint he gives her at being attracted she shuts down. Then communication complications ensue making for a long wait before romantic action really kicks in.
That said, when it does kick in, it’s wonderful. These two explore what it means to be in love. Once they’re honest with one another, a flame is lit and Riveted takes off in both romantic plot and super-charged action.
Riveted was a good read, but much more of an adventure novel with a strong romantic subplot than a straight-up romance. Like Brook’s other books, it brings robust characters and detailed world building. While not my favorite of the series, but still a thumbs-up read.