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)
I’ve been waiting for a new series to fangirl over. I needed a book to crawl under my skin,...moreThis review was originally published at Vampire Book Club.
I’ve been waiting for a new series to fangirl over. I needed a book to crawl under my skin, to pull me in with remarkable world building. Tom Pollock does that and more with The City’s Son.
The lush descriptions of The City’s Son will immerse you into its world. So much so that you’ll see beauty of concrete, oil and urban refuse. The natural state of the urban environment sustains Fil. He’s the son of the city’s goddess Mater Viae. She disappeared 15 years ago, and left Fil with the duty of protecting the city of her enemy Reach.
The skyscraper god Reach destroys the city, killing the beings that sustain it. And it’s these beings that add to the rich world created by Pollock. There are beautiful glass creatures that light gas lamps, communicating through dance and brilliant flashes of light. Pylon spiders who live off the voices of others. There there is Fil’s guide is Gutterglas, a being that must form a new body every day out of the city’s garbage and scavenging animals. He’s often a blend of rats, eggshells, chewed-on pen caps and deflated footballs. Sometimes Gutterglas is male, other times female. But Glas is always determined to keep Fil going, to keep him focused on rallying an army to stop Reach from killing the city. The City’s Son is full of new creatures that feel so organic. You never question their existence or get grossed out by their composition, because of the way Pollock paints them.
Fil wouldn’t stay the course on this journey without meeting Beth. She’s faked bravery long enough that it’s easy for her to get Fil to do the same. She’s human, but determined to help Fil and the city. She’s found a home in them — not as a street kid, but as a graffiti tagger. Her drawings mark the city, as a visual diary embedded into the urban landscape surrounding her. She already has such a connection, it’s not a leap to see her join up with this boy to save the city, and, eventually, her friend.
The City’s Son will leave dirt under your nails, make you question what you’re told and leave you with a new appreciation for the city surrounding you. Brilliant visuals make this one a must read, and every urban fantasy fan will adore seeing the city truly come to life in the novel.
Side note: Fil never wears a shirt in this book. How many times have you read a YA and wished the guy was shirtless more?
Karina Cooper has taken the primary world building conflict of her Dark Mission series to a new...moreThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
Karina Cooper has taken the primary world building conflict of her Dark Mission series to a new level. What was once witches versus witch hunters, now boils with conspiracy within the Mission. We know witches were being made a la super soldiers for the Mission. We know that many of these manufactured witches have died. And we learned some of our key players in the earlier novels are products of GeneCorp.
This time we spend time with Mission Director Parker Adams. She’s still trying to figure out what the hell went on at the old GeneCorp building at the end of All Things Wicked. She’s trying to investigate Operation Wayward Rose, but Sector Three isn’t having it. She knows witches have infiltrated her mission and is trying to figure out which people are truly hers. It’s quite infuriating for her. She is a dedicated and fiercely loyal woman. Her determination—or stubbornness, depending on who you ask—is a defining trait and one that amplifies the chemistry between her and Missionary-slash-Project-Salem-agent Simon Wells.
Simon can’t help but push Parker’s buttons. It’s too fun for him, and he’s running out of time for fun. He works for Sector Three, but is embedded in Parker’s Mission. He isn’t exactly hiding this from her. He can’t hide his feelings, either. As Sector Three turns up the heat, he has to choose between orders and the woman he loves. (Guess which way he goes there.)
Simon and Parker have a dynamic push-and-pull relationship with power plays and smoking-hot sex. Hard not to love that, right? What impressed me even more is somehow Cooper wrote her best hero yet. I thought I was head-over-heels for Silas. Then I was charmed by Phin. In the last book, I was surprised how quickly Caleb became my new favorite. Now bossy, protective, snarky, possessive Simon is my favorite of the Dark Mission heroes. Not kidding, folks. If you enjoy alphas, you’ll swoon for Simon.
Sacrifice the Wicked is heavy on the action and the sexual tension. If you love antagonistic relationships, clandestine meetings and conspiracies mixed in with heart-string-tugging romance, pick it up.
If you love an angst-y read, Blood Before Sunrise is for you.
Get wrapped up in yelling at the heroine making infuriating and dangerous decisions? You’ll love Blood Before Sunrise.
Enjoy seeing a heroine handing big tough men their asses in fights? Oh, you need Blood Before Sunrise.
In the Shaedes of Gray, heroine Darian discovered she wasn’t the only one of her kind. She started to learn not only who she is but also what she is. Just as she began to understand her new role as a Shaede — she can fade into shadow, nothingness in the dark — an ancient prophecy changed things.
Now Darian is something else, more. She can disappear in the light and the dark, feel the passage of time. And she’s powerful. She still trains with Raif, but he can’t keep up with her. She’s powerful and gets accustomed to the idea she’s the biggest, baddest thing on the block.
Not only does her ego put her in danger when trying to find Raif’s daughter and while she tries to determine what her new-found obsession with the passage of time means, but it wreaks havoc on her relationship with Tyler. He isn’t just her boyfriend, remember. Tyler is a jinn, and his job is to protect Darian. The only hitch is he has to obey her wishes. She’s worried about protecting him, and though she doesn’t recognize it, she behaves in a way that illustrates she doesn’t need his protection or want it. Expect big relationship drama on this front.
I love books that are an emotional challenge. Ones where by the end of the book the main character has truly grown. There’s no question we get that with Blood Before Sunrise. There are moments when you’ll grip your book and pretend to be shaking some sense into Darian. Don’t expect easy answers in this novel, but I can promise one hell of a journey with lush descriptions. Even when Darian is making poor decisions, I want to be her friend.
Chess Putnam has always struggled with feeling unworthy. Having someone genuinely love her and...moreThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
Chess Putnam has always struggled with feeling unworthy. Having someone genuinely love her and tell her she matters is altering. She’s sure she’s living a lie with Terrible. A beautiful lie. He makes her feel something real, something True and she would do anything to keep him happy — and that means staying with him.
Before when faced with the possibility of losing him, Chess did the unthinkable and marked him with magic and killed the creature sent to ferry his soul to the City of Eternity. Now dark magic is sweeping Downside, turning dealers and street men into zombies set on murderous tasks. Terrible, as an enforcer, has to intervene, but the dark magic takes him over. Chess needs to find a way to correct what she’s done to him. To protect him, the way he protects her.
Because he matters. And maybe she matters a little bit, too, because Terrible says so.
For those who love delving into Chess’ anxieties, her difficulty accepting love and just how our Churchwitch’s mind works, Chasing Magic is a win. While Chess still is every bit the flawed heroine we’ve come to love — drugs and all — she’s also growing. She won’t always do the absolute worst thing imaginable (she’ll consider it), but she’ll still dig a deep hole that will have you muttering “Chess. Oh, Chess. No. No. No.”
And, really, would you have her any other way?
Expect epic relationship growth with Terrible, Lex causing problems, zombies, dark magic and Elder Griffin getting married.
Sexual content: Dirty sex — but she makes you work for it(less)
The more I read the Dark Mission series, the more apparent is is: Karina Cooper does paranor...moreThis review was originally published at Vampire Book Club.
The more I read the Dark Mission series, the more apparent is is: Karina Cooper does paranormal romance/urban fantasy crossover right. In the third book All Things Wicked we’re brought back into the bowels of Old Seattle. The dilapidated and crumbling buildings. The damp and the cold. The dark secrets buried amid the earthquake ruins a city just built over.
It’s dirty, violent and cut-throat for Caleb. He suffers the scars from burning the majority of the Coven of the Unbinding back in Blood of the Wicked. It’s been a year, he’s avoided the other witches. A year since he lost his gift. A year with Juliet’s sister’s memories. And then the one girl he promised to save — Juliet — shows up wanting to kill him, to turn him in to as a traitor. This is a man who wants to be punished. He’s aware of the horrible acts he’s committed and promises keep him from telling anyone his real motivations. He thinks it better that others hate him, than be allowed to bring destruction to more lives.
Basically, he’s an egotistical asshole who wants to take care of everyone but does it in the most asinine ways purposefully making others angry. He’s that guy. I’m sure if you remember Caleb from the earlier book, you’re thinking: “This guy is the hero? WTH, Karina?” Within 50 pages I was sold. Tortured soul types work for me, and honestly Juliet needs it. She’s lost, too.
Both want to feel in control and purposefully push the other’s buttons just to get the emotional reaction. Their relationship isn’t built on trust, but mutual prodding. And that’s the big hurdle for the two to cross in order to reach a happily ever after. Getting inside your significant other’s head is difficult if they won’t communicate. Imagine if that person flat-out lied. Caleb has no problem saying he just wants Juliet’s body. Telling her this even when his mind is calling her his Juliet. Life-and-death stakes force these two to move forward and forge a real relationship instead of one built on how others perceive them.
The hero/heroine character development in this one gutted me. I flitted from “I will punch you, Caleb” to “kiss him! Kiss him!” to “You asshole” to “Really, Juliet? You’re the smart one.” back to “Kiss him! Kiss him!” It’s not a straight line to love. It’s painful and complicated and oh so worth it. (And angry sex is hot. We all know it.)
Big secrets including details on the Coven of the Unbinding, Jessie, Juliet, the Mission, even Matilda are revealed in this one. Not everything can stay buried in that trench.
I give credit to any author who can make a murderer into a hero. Cooper does this beautifully in All Things Wicked while staying true to her characters. It’s certainly my favorite of the three Dark Mission novels, and a must-buy.
Sexual content: Sex scenes, including a borderline dubious consent scene(less)
Simply put: The Immortal Rules is Julie Kagawa’s best novel to date. She merges a strong her...moreThis review was originally published at Vampire Book Club.
Simply put: The Immortal Rules is Julie Kagawa’s best novel to date. She merges a strong heroine, two kinds of vampires (one dark and complex, the other zombie-esque), a fight for humanity and anti-authoritarian overtones in a masterful way.
Protagonist Allison begins this story as a human living in on the fringe of a vampire-run society. Humans can register with the vampires and in exchange for required blood donations, they get access to food. However, that means the vampires own you. Allison isn’t having that. As an unregistered, she needs to scavenge for food and fight to maintain her home. She live with three others and they work together to keep the group safe. But as things get tense, she’s willing to sneak outside the city walls into the ruins of suburbs to find food. That means dealing with the rabids. The rabids are mindless vampires attacking on sight. They’re quick and dangerous.
I don’t want to give Allison’s journey away, but as it’s included in the back cover copy, I’m going to tell you something that happens a quarter of the way in: Allison gets turned into a vampire. The one thing she hates. The thing she fights. The thing she wants to kill.
And the emotional journey of a young woman accepting her new reality as a monster and fighting to retain her humanity is done with power, care and blinding honesty. Kagawa writes Allie’s journey in such a way, you’ll imagine yourself fighting to keep the Hunger at bay and longing for someone human to still trust you.
This isn’t just any vampire story. Or just another YA dystopian novel. The Immortal Rules is a book that will gut you, warm you and keep you up until 4 a.m. just to get more of Allison’s story. (The hot boy doesn’t hurt either.)
If you like your books dark with young women worthy of admiration, The Immortal Rules will strike a chord with you. And even if you haven’t dived into the post-apocalyptic and dystopian trend, you need to read this one.
Chess needed to grow for the Downside Ghosts series to truly move forward, and Stacia Kane d...moreThis review was originally published at Vampire Book Club.
Chess needed to grow for the Downside Ghosts series to truly move forward, and Stacia Kane didn’t disappoint. Sacrificial Magic pushes on Chess from all sides. She needs to evaluate her position at the Church of Real Truth and what the trust she’s earned there means. She fights her own nature to attempt a relationship with Terrible.
At the crux of Sacrificial Magic is Chess rebelling against her self-imposed isolation and self-hatred. She’s still the Chess who sees little value in herself, but she’s trying to reconcile that with the realization people might care for her as more than a means to an end.
As one of the Church’s debunkers, it’s not surprising when they ask Chess to take up a sensitive case. It’s not even all that surprising they’ve passed a case on to her that another debunker failed with – actually, he went missing after the case. But nothing is ever simple for her. Three books have proved that. The case has Chess spending a lot of time in Slobag’s territory among less-than-helpful witnesses who hate the Church for prohibiting their culture.
At the same time, Bump has his favorite Churchwitch looking into arson on his side of Downside – and it looks like ritual sacrifice is part of the problem. When more ritual murders pop up in Downside – on both sides of the drug territory – Chess has to solve things quickly. She doesn’t want Terrible thinking she’s spending time with Lex when she’s really working a case.
That’s just the tip of the Chess and Terrible drama. Kane gives us more insight into Chess’ trust issues and a much more expansive examples of her neuroses. Chess is someone who has never been truly loved. She’s never had a relationship where her partner wasn’t using her for something. Terrible caring for her simply for the strength of her being confounds Chess, and at the same time the possibility of losing it terrifies her. And, because she’s Chess, that means she does idiotic things to try and prove herself. This isn’t an easy relationship, but one that’s worth the trouble and necessary pain.
Chess will infuriate you. She will break your heart. She will surprise you. And by the end you’ll be both exhausted and sated. Sacrificial Magic is dark, and brings the requisite Downside craziness of sex, drugs and magic, but it’s also the most introspective of the novels to date. Clever plot twists, character surprises and brutally honest writing make Sacrificial Magic a must read.
And, because I know several of you want to know, “Chessiebomb” makes a return and Elder Griffin dispenses dating advice. No, really. It’s awesome.
Sexual content: Sex, sensual scenes and Chess contemplating the relationship of sex and trust.(less)
I did not want Body of Sin to end. I was actually sad when I hit page 378, because I wanted...moreThis review was originally published at Vampire Book Club.
I did not want Body of Sin to end. I was actually sad when I hit page 378, because I wanted more — more Lokan, more Bryn, more of the Underworld. Body of Sin was just that good.
Our hero and heroine are forced to come clean about who they truly are, what they mean to one another as they journey through the Land of the Dead together. Lokan awakes in purgatory alone. He’s given a guide to help him navigate the 12 Gates, and it’s his daughter’s mother Brynja. The two had fallen into a casual comfort while raising their daughter Dana, but when the immortal Lokan was murdered (using the term loosely, go with it) both are shocked to realize how it’s not just Dana that brings them together, but one another. Unfortunately, the person who killed Lokan will go after his daughter. As he’s the only one who can protect her, Bryn entrusts Dana to her brothers and enters the Underworld to guide Lokan back to the Topworld.
They have to work together, to strip away the lies, to be tested repeatedly in order to get back and keep Dana safe.
It’s a harrowing journey of self-sacrifice, transformation and love set to the backdrop of Egyptian mythology. The plot is gripping, the characters are endearing and the writing offers powerful visuals. Those who have read the earlier Otherkin novels may think they’ve picked a favorite character. You’re wrong. It is impossible not to be drawn to Lokan. Even in his confusion about who and what he is, he always has his priorities straight with Dana and Bryn at the top.
Brilliant use of Egyptian mythology, soul-exposing honesty and love as only Eve Silver can do it. Also, expect sizzling and plot-driven sex scenes and (unrelated) a ridiculous amount of snakes.
You could read Body of Sin without having read the earlier Otherkin novels. It will work on its own. However, the book does tell you who “killed” Lokan and how he ended up in Purgatory. That was all revealed in Sins of the Flesh, the third Otherkin novel. Please know that going in. The other books are remarkable reads, as well, and I highly suggest reading them.
There are a handful of books that I go on a recommendation binge with as soon as I read the...moreThis review was originally published at Vampire Book Club.
There are a handful of books that I go on a recommendation binge with as soon as I read the last page. It happened with Unholy Ghosts. It happened with Nightshade. It happened with Blood of the Wicked. And, there’s no question about it: Kristen Painter’s Blood Rights is the latest book that I will be pushing on every reader friend. And this means you, too, VBC readers.
Painter has taken the familiar — vampires, crazy nobility, outcast mentality — and has given us something entirely new.
The Comarré, a special type of human, are similar to geisha in many ways. Their presence is a sign of wealth and status. Comarré are bred to feed vampires, never knowing their mothers and fathers, and trained to be polite and subservient to their future patrons. (There’s quite a bit more to them than this, but to say more would spoil some great twists.) Vampire nobility pay the Comarré’s house for the right to exclusively drink his or her blood. Chrysabelle was the most coveted Comarré, the one with the purest, most powerful blood. And she wanted out. Finding her patron dead, she fled.
A cruel vampire named Tatiana has her sights set on more power and Chrysabelle plays a role. She just needs to find her. We stop in on her point-of-view periodically, and the more you learn about her, the more you hate her. A true villain, worthy of the fear we see in those running from her.
Fleeing from the creatures Tatiana sics on her, Chrysabelle finds herself trying to adjust to the mortal world. She must work with a cursed vampire and his ragtag team for a chance at saving not only herself, but also her aunt. And while she wishes for true freedom, hard truths and dirty secrets keep getting in the way.
The tension between Chrysabelle and vampire Malkolm is gripping and intense. Their interactions brought to mind the strain of Ethan and Merit from the Chicagoland Vampires series. However, when it comes to Chrysabelle and Mal, both think they aren’t deserving of the situation. They both believe the other is rejecting them out of repulsion. There is a strong sense of duty, and both keep coming back together while internalizing a fear of disgusting the other. Given their respective backgrounds, anything else wouldn’t ring true.
Those who love heroines who surprise everyone, will love Chrysabelle. She’s supposed to be this demure thing, to be protected. Woman’s got blades on her at all times and the kind of power in a kick that will take out a steel door. She’s cunning and knows to hide her skills. It’s only through a bout of delirium that she first exposes her real fighting skills to Mal, taunting and taking the man out. She’s a woman who is used to being underestimated, and is reveling in the freedom to speak her mind and throw a blade or two.
Polarizing characters, murder, magic and the need for independence bring Blood Rights to another level. Expect this one to grab hold, pull you to the edge of your seat and leave you, jaw agape, begging for book 2, Flesh and Blood.
Note: While this review is spoiler-free for At Grave’s End, it will give away key points from...moreThis review was originally published at Vampire Book Club
Note: While this review is spoiler-free for At Grave’s End, it will give away key points from earlier Night Huntress novels. If you haven’t entered the great world of Cat and Bones, please read my review of the first novel Halfway to the Grave instead.
Jeaniene Frost has never been one to give her characters a break. One might think after ill-advised sacrifices for love, being kidnapped by one’s own father, impromptu vampire marriage and, well, having to deal with Cat’s mom in general, it’d be hard to find Cat and her husband Bones in worse situations. But, of course, it just gets worse — and I ate up every little bit of it.
I won’t give away the big double-take, freak-out moment. But, in other events, Cat’s mom does admit she wasn’t raped by a vampire, but it doesn’t make her any nicer to her half-vampire daughter. Dear ol’ dad is back in action and thinks taking out his daughter will make the other vampires quit teasing him about siring the half-breed Red Reaper.
In At Grave’s End, Cat and Bones’ relationship is solid and the focus shifts more to their interactions with others — and how those around them deal with C&B as a team. Tate refuses to give up on Cat, and her internal conflict over her good friend making blatant moves on her — in front of her husband — showcases the character depth of this series.
This third book in the Night Huntress series is when the door is opened to more of the supporting characters. We meet additional vampires that will make frequent appearances later including Vlad (yep, that one). The robust characters in this book help keep the reader grounded as the plot takes us to emotional highs and lows.
Dealing with the potentiality and reality of death, what happens when love is one-sided and the importance of knowing who truly has your back are heavy themes, but At Grave’s End handles them with humor and honesty.
You’ll still get Cat and Bones in love, but At Grave’s End is when you get to meet more Night Huntress characters worthy of your love.
Remember how you fell in love with Brystion in A Brush of Darkness? I didn’t think anyone wo...moreThis review was originally published at Vampire Book Club.
Remember how you fell in love with Brystion in A Brush of Darkness? I didn’t think anyone would be more appealing to me in Abby’s world.
I. Was. Wrong.
So very wrong. We come back into Abby’s world eight months after the end of the first book. Brystion broke up with Abby because it “just wouldn’t work” with him being an immortal succubus and her being a human, albeit one with serious fae ties. Moira placed her brother Talivar as Abby’s bodyguard. And they fell into a complementary friendship — both caring for Moira’s son.
Talivar is emotionally wounded, an outcast and recognizes Abby’s strength. And, honestly, after spending more than 350 pages with him — I just want to climb the guy like a tree. I love the way he interacts with Abby and the obvious burdens that come with being the unwanted royal.
A Sliver of Shadow isn’t about Talivar, though. It’s about a struggle for power. (Isn’t it always with the fae?) Once again, Abby’s found herself mixed up in the Fairy Court’s troubles. In order to help, she has to challenge her past. She’s given access to missing memories and reconciling the truth and the implications on her life forces her into a more mature role.
All the characters are dealing with regret in A Sliver of Shadow. Many want to wish away past deals, others past hurts and most of all those past actions that read like betrayal in hindsight. There’s a beautiful story arc of Abby — and others — making the move to make peace with her life, without foregoing the snort-induing one-liners.
After you’ve finished, you’ll love Abby even more. You’ll care about Taliver and Ion. You’ll be enraptured in the drama of the Crossroads. And you may be tempted to immediately re-read.
Snarky, sexy and action-packed, A Sliver of Shadow is a must-read.
Sexual content: Sex and plenty of sexual references (Phineas is around, after all.)(less)
Feed will stick with you. After you’ve re-shelved it and moved on to another title, you’ll stil...moreThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
Feed will stick with you. After you’ve re-shelved it and moved on to another title, you’ll still be thinking about Georgia Mason, her brother Shaun, the lives of post-apocalyptic news bloggers, government conspiracies and just how a zombie apocalypse might go down.
It’s a lot to digest, and it is all given fair time in the 571-page Feed. Georgia was born after the Rising. She and her brother were adopted after two miracle cures mingled to create a virus which reanimates the dead. Their generation is accustomed to taking a blood test to enter the neighborhood, vehicle and home. They understood why people didn’t have pets more than 40 lbs., as those animals could had the virus amplify and transmit it to humans.
Georgia and Shaun shouldn’t have been used to open spaces, to small crowds or to spending time outside of safe zones. But they both were. The two are part of a team of news bloggers. Georgia is all facts, she discovers the truth and reports on it. She’s the post-apocalyptic version of a gumshoe. (I’m pretty sure my favorite college professor would love Georgia Mason. She’d run most beat reporters into the ground.) Shaun is more of the Gonzo type. He’s the one who goes out in the field to poke zombies so you don’t have to; leads the dangerous life for you.
And these two, with their friend and partner Buffy, manage to snag the prime placement on the campaign trail of a presidential hopeful. Senator Ryman is young enough to know bloggers are the trusted media these days, and by granting them full access to his campaign he’ll earn the trust of the voters. It doesn’t take long before it’s clear someone has it in for Ryman and his press corps of bloggers. Just who is behind the attacks is the big surprise.
Grant managed to fake me out plenty in this one. Some of my predictions were right, some of them were so very wrong and while I was guessing who was behind the attacks on Ryman, his campaign and the blog team, I never saw some of the big twists coming. Shocking and sad moments are peppered throughout this novel, and both are handled with grace, honesty and a realism that can be a bit haunting.
The landscape presented in Feed feels real. While zombies are a catalyst for much of the plot, really Feed is about fear and what happens if you let it take away your choices. We always have options. They may not be good ones, and may not lead to a happy ending, but we always have a choice.
Also, a word of warning for your time-management, once you hit about page 250 prepare to run the gauntlet. It’s the point of no return; the shift when you realize you will not be stopping for more than a bathroom break for the next few hours. It’s masterful work.
I was really nervous to read The Renfield Syndrome. The ending of the first Rhiannon’s Law b...moreThis review was originally published at Vampire Book Club.
I was really nervous to read The Renfield Syndrome. The ending of the first Rhiannon’s Law book, Dead, Undead or Somewhere in Between, was a jaw-dropper and a huge game-changer. I was scared about how I’d react to Rhiannon being zipped 101 years into the future. Would she have to lose all the progress she made at opening up to people? She’d just found love, and now she was going to be screwed over, right?
Totally. The demon who sent her into the future to deliver a message screwed her over royally. Rhiannon arrives to find that the city is near destroyed. The vampires, led by a half-demon, run everything. Humans are near extinct and those who do live are more like blood slaves than anything else. The world is dark and cruel. And she just wants to find Disco, her lover. Once she delivers him the demon’s message, the deal is complete and they’ll both be free of him.
But it’s not that simple. Lots of things have changed in the world, turning it into a hellish nightmare that Rhiannon can’t escape until she’s solved a few big problems. The plot takes one crushing turn after another, each more surprising than the last. I never knew what was coming next, but continued to get my hopes up on Rhiannon’s behalf. The plot was clever and new. I can’t call it refreshing, because it’s very dark, but The Renfield Syndrome took me over. Captured by a heroine I love forced to grow amid terrible circumstances, I found myself increasingly involved with the plot.
Now an important note. While I liked Dead, Undead or Somewhere in Between, for me Rhiannon was the star of that book. She’s what I liked most. Disco is great and all, but he wasn’t nearly as remarkable a character as Rhiannon. And maybe that’s part of why I adored The Renfield Syndrome so much. This is Rhiannon’s story. This is her life not on the context of interactions with a hunky hero, but the emotional end. It’s still about love, don’t get me wrong, but the shift is all heroine. The romance angle gets complicated as well, and come time for The Ripple Effect (Rhiannon’s Law #3) there will be some big decisions to be made. I say all this because if you loved the first book only for the delicious Disco, he’s not the focus of The Renfield Syndrome. The tradeoff is worth it, though.
I suggest clearing a weekend to read The Renfield Syndrome, though. Once you’re knee-deep, there’s no stopping.
If I Die is emotionally brutal — heartbreak, impending death, love — and I want to thank Rachel...moreThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
If I Die is emotionally brutal — heartbreak, impending death, love — and I want to thank Rachel Vincent for every painful moment of it. Like with so many of her books, Vincent is able to conjure such character connections as to force readers to experience the highs and lows alongside.
The main element in the fifth Soul Screamer book is Kaylee dealing with Tod seeing her name on the Reaper’s list. (It’s not a spoiler, it happens at the VERY beginning of the book.) Kaylee is told she’s going to die and when. She has six days of knowing it’s almost over, and she does exactly what I’d do: goes into denial. Everyone wants her to cry, to rage, and the like, but she’s trying very hard not to think about the fact she’s supposed to die. She has to try and keep her dad from doing something stupid and noble in an attempt to save her. She wants to spend important moments with Nash, because they’re almost gone. But, mostly, she wants to know everyone she loves will be safe after she’s gone.
Which brings us to a new teacher at Kaylee’s school. Girls all around the area are dying from miscarriages, including one Kaylee knows, and well it just happens that Mr. Beck is their teacher. Sabine is the first to point out he’s not human, and while they aren’t sure what he is they’re convinced he’s trying to make some babies. When Mr. Beck turns his attention toward Kaylee’s best friend Emma, oh it’s on. Kaylee throws herself completely into the distraction of finding out what Mr. Beck is and stopping him.
This means a return visit the mental health facility Kaylee was placed in before she knew she was a bean sidhe. (Did I mention this book brings the emotional heavy?) It also means working with Tod and Sabine more than usual, especially the former which riles Nash something fierce.
The girl is told she has six days to live and, yet, you can’t stop relationship drama when it’s destined to come. I won’t tell you what happens on this front, but it’s perfect. It’s not easy for Kaylee to get there, but the end result feels so right.
If I Die is the heaviest book to date in the Soul Screamers series; it’s also the best. Vincent kept me on edge and constantly muttering “no way” as she threw twist after twist at me. She’s pushed the series in a new direction that will certainly breath life into future books. I’m so ready for more.
When I read the first Dark Ink Chronicles book, Afterlight, I knew Elle Jasper was going to take us someplace awesome. And, oh man, does she. I also considered the first book an urban fantasy with a heavy romantic element. This time out, though, Eli and Riley’s relationship is clearly the crux of the story. We get serious action sequences — we’re talking training, free running, vampire fight club, throwin’ knives, etc. — but at the heart of Everdark is the bond between these two, and the pressures put on it.
And I was fine with the shift. In the first book I was swept away by vampire Eli. His protective, all-or-nothing nature is even stronger this time out, because Riley is his. Unfortunately, after the actions of the Arcos brothers at the end of the first book (remember, they were the evil Romanian strigoi vampires), Riley now has tendencies, and they’re strigoi tendencies. She’s fast and strong, and Eli isn’t complaining about a boost in her sex drive. However, her new mental connection to Victorian Arcos is less than appealing. He comes into her dreams, telling her how they’ll be together. It creeps Riley out, but Eli hates it even more as he doesn’t like sharing.
Oh, and Victorian isn’t the only one slipping into Riley’s mind. There is another murderer out there, a vampire, who is killing one woman after another while Riley is forced to watch. Expect the Dupré vampires, Preacher’s Gullah magic folk and another vampire family to band together to take out a slew of new vampires and hunt down the one tormenting Riley. And, of course, Eli takes particular interest in stopping Victorian from getting all mentally sexy with his girlfriend.
You would all hate me if I didn’t mention this, but Jasper brings the Riley/Eli heat early and often in Everdark. We’re talking on the beach, in the ocean, in a tent, then back home, etc. And it’s awesome, because you love these two so much. And now Riley’s strength can challenge Eli’s, they’re on a more physically even playing field. Also, I just really love them. It made me happy to so quickly see them happy together.
I will warn you Everdark ends on a “damn it” cliffhanger, and you’ll be happy they slipped the first bit of Eventide (Dark Ink Chronicles #3) into the back of the book. I don’t usually read those excerpts, but I did this time. It made me feel much better.
If you were drawn to the relationship between Riley and Eli in the first book, you will love Everdark. Additionally, Jasper keeps her setting vibrant and we can always feel the brine in the air whenever Riley is outside.
Note: This review is spoiler-free for this title, but mentions key plot points from the end...moreThis review was originally published at Vampire Book Club.
Note: This review is spoiler-free for this title, but mentions key plot points from the end of One Foot in the Grave. If you haven’t read the first book, please check out this review.
One Foot in the Grave is one of my favorite reads, and the reason goes back to something I said when reviewing the first Night Huntress book: Jeaniene Frost creates a real romance and relationship for her hero and heroine. In Halfway to the Grave she made them work for it. Bones refused to let Cat relegate him to something shameful, to let herself hate the part of her that was like him (vampire). And — I really am going to tell you what happens at the end of the first book, so really, you should have read that warning above — she makes a stupid choice to cut him out of her life out of nobility and love. The smart, tough-girl thing might have been to take a stand, but she just wanted him safe. So she took on the heartache and pretended Bones was killed, then disappeared with the federal supernatural hit squad.
And this is why we love Cat. She makes those stupid choices that we’d make. She may be stronger, faster and generally more badass than you or I, but she makes real mistakes. And when we meet her in One Foot in the Grave it’s been four years since that big mistake. Oh, you read that right. YEARS. And she’s ached and longed and missed Bones, because she truly loved him. She likes her new job, and she’s very good at it, but it’s not the same.
But fate couldn’t keep these two apart. Bones has spent four years searching for her. We all know he’s not really one to let things go. And when they reconnect, there’s no going back. But vampire slayer back with her master vampire boyfriend doesn’t exactly bode ease for anyone. There’s a hit out on Cat (but really, we’re not all that surprised). Expect to see the hit squad in action, get a glimpse at just how powerful Bones is and be reminded why they call Cat the Red Reaper.
To those who have yet to read One Foot in the Grave, you may often see Night Huntress fans making reference to Chapter 32. That infamous segment is from One Foot in the Grave. You may be thinking, “I don’t remember chapter numbers of events.” But this is different. Frost knows how to write action and conflict. And she put them both in the bedroom. Chapter 32 is one of the most scorchingly hot, well-written vampire sex scenes. There are strategically placed bites. (Insert wistful sigh.) It’s unforgettable, and serves a plot purpose.
In short, One Foot in the Grave amps up the action, the love story and even the vampire abilities. Plus, there are always new twists and some of the revelations at the end will have you shaking your heard.(less)
Those who read this blog regularly know I flit back-and-forth between obsessions with urban...moreThis review was originally published at Vampire Book Club.
Those who read this blog regularly know I flit back-and-forth between obsessions with urban fantasy titles and paranormal romances. I like darkness and grit. I love sizzling chemistry. And, above all else, I love seeing realistic characters, especially realistic relationships. And — damn — Karina Cooper hits all of the above and more with her first Dark Mission novel, Blood of the Wicked.
In the strictest sense, Blood of the Wicked is a paranormal romance novel, but I was impressed by the urban fantasy elements. The novel is set in New Seattle. Magic caused a great chasm to take much of the original city into the ocean. Instead of moving in-land, they’ve build on top of the ruins (again). What has been created is a physical manifestation of the social class structure. A layer cake where the poor and seedy elements live far underground where light can’t reach, middle class have the center levels (high enough to get a greyish natural light), and the most wealthy live topside in a world of glass and metal. She’s also maintained the ruins of Old Seattle, and diving into that catacomb is dark, nasty and dangerous.
Because witches’ magic is blamed for collapses all over the world, The Mission hunters seek out and kill all witches. Their belief is the magic always corrupts, always leads to evil. And magic is in the blood, so as soon as anyone — man, woman or child — is identified by blood he or she is executed. So, it’s not surprising that Jessie has been on the run her whole life. She does her best to keep the magic locked in, and skips from one strip club bartender gig to another. Her main goal is avoiding attention, but she also has spent years trying to find her little brother Caleb. While Jessie’s gift is to see the present, her brother inherited her mother’s ability to see the future. He gave her premonitions about her death, then left telling her to never look for him.
That was until Silas finds her. He’s a member of the Mission sent to New Seattle to find Caleb. The witch and his coven are killing people. Lots of people, and Silas knows for sure Caleb has killed five already in torturous rituals. His goal is to find Jessie and get her to help him bring in Caleb. He has no idea Jessie is a witch, too. She’ll come along, but only so she can save her brother before the missionaries take him in.
Silas and Jessie have instant attraction to one another, but they both know just how bad of an idea it would be to get together. Jessie knows what he is and that Silas would kill her if he found out she was a witch. She hates his kind and, hell, the bastard wants to kill her brother. Silas, on the other hand, sees Jessie as an innocent girl. He doesn’t want her involved in this and doesn’t want to be putting her in danger. He also doesn’t particularly like lying to her. He knows he’s going to kill Caleb, but paints on the lies to try and keep her help.
These two give into each other physically while still tangled in all the lies. When feelings start to arise they have to make some big decisions. Should they admit the truth? When the truth comes out about them both, will they be able to overcome it? Will Silas kill her if he finds out she’s a witch?
Oddly, the relationship built on lies feels real to me. It’s easy to go into something assuming it’s frivolous. Neither one thought they’d have feelings. Sex wasn’t supposed to matter between them. Just a little fun and then moving on to another city. But once that spark is lit, one has to decide if they want to back up and give themselves fully — including admitting early lies — or cut their losses. Choosing to make yourself vulernable to rejection is hard enough, what happens when that rejection will come with a death sentence?
A beautiful blend of darkness, love and acceptance, Blood of the Wicked goes to the top of my paranormal romance recommendations list. The writing is bone-deep with honesty and the action scenes crackle with tension and fury. Urban fantasy fans, if you’ve been avoiding paranormal romance, now’s the time to put a toe in. You will love this book.
Things were already tense for Rachel Morgan at the end of Black Magic Sanction (The Hollows #8)...moreThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
Things were already tense for Rachel Morgan at the end of Black Magic Sanction (The Hollows #8). Now she’s got the chance to be absolved for using black magic. All she has to do is get to California in one piece and hope that the necessary people keep their words. Things are never that easy, though, and the Coven would really like it if she just didn’t make it.
She sure can’t get through security at the airport, so the only option is to take her mom’s Buick cross country. And going solo? Hardly. Our favorite pixy Jenks, vampire BFF Ivy and even that scheming elf Trent come along for the otherworld version of the Great American Road Trip.
Kim Harrison has a great way of using mundane situations to propel her characters and the humor. We all know spending days cooped up in the car with your family — and there’s no doubt Jenks and Ivy count as family here — can make tension percolate. Add in being hunted, fire, ancient evil and tons of running for our lives and you have so many of the pieces that make this series so strong.
We’re keeping this review spoiler-free, but we promise there are several moments that will have you shaking your head, muttering “oh no” and begging for a bit more. In other words, we promise Pale Demon is freaking amazing.
Overall, Pale Demon is impressive in that nine books in Rachel Morgan has grown a crazy amount and we love her all the more. The plot twists were perfectly placed and the darkness always balanced with just the right amount of pixy swearing to lighten the mood. Sometimes longer series lose their relevance and core connection, but Pale Demon does just the opposite. If nothing else, it further invigorates the series and characters. We have no clue where Harrison will take the series next but we’re already dying for more.
Sexual content: Allusions to rape and a few sexual scenes(less)
**This review will reference events at the end of the second BDB book, Lover Eternal, and does...moreThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
**This review will reference events at the end of the second BDB book, Lover Eternal, and does not recap the world built in book one, Dark Lover. If you haven't read the earlier books, please check out the reviews of Dark Lover and Lover Eternal.**
Zsadist is the brother everyone avoids in the early Black Dagger Brotherhood novels. He can be cruel and downright scary. The jagged scar crossing his face, coupled with the tattoos and piercings, make him look the part. He only feeds from humans, and the rumor mill says he tortures and maybe kills them. The Brotherhood, who are known for their loyalty to one another, purposely keeps females away from Zsadist.
But, as we learned in Lover Eternal, Bella seeks out the "scarred brother." She wants him, to be with him. But after he kicks her out, she's captured by the leader of the lessers (vampire slayers). Early in Lover Awakened, we learn Mr. O wants to pretend Bella is his dead lover. While he doesn't have sex with her, he wants to physically fight with her, hold her and pretend she's his wife. (It's even creepier than it sounds.)
Zsadist makes it his personal mission to find Bella and make those who took her pay. His brothers don't understand, but he spends time at her home, protecting it and feeding her fish.
Zsadist is sure Bella shouldn't be around him. He's convinced he'll taint her and repeatedly pushes her toward his twin Phury. She refuses and makes it clear she only wants to be taken care of by Zsadist, and no matter how callous he wants to be, he's unable to say no to her. (Or to stop from bonding with her.)
Your heart will go out to Zsadist, and when he opens up to Bella -- telling her the true horrors of his past -- you will melt. Giant puddle just wanting to help. Bella is perfect for him. He can't scare her away and, after the events of her abduction, she understands him more than any of his brothers can.
It'd be wrong to give any more details than that, but you'll quickly understand why so many fans of the BDB series say Zsadist is their favorite brother. In Lover Awakened, J.R. Ward has found a perfect blend of action, edge-of-your-seat pacing and character development that leaves you aching for these people. Bonus: Ward always brings the bedroom heat.
Oh, and it'd be wrong not to warn you: There will be another cliffhanger to build up to the next storyline. (less)
Damn you, Karen Marie Moning. I know you like cliffhangers. I know you like to torture your cha...moreThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
Damn you, Karen Marie Moning. I know you like cliffhangers. I know you like to torture your characters, but that ending? C’mon! (No, readers, I won’t spoil it for you. That would be mean. I’ll just say the ending reminded me of how everyone thought their DVR had cut off the finale of the Sopranos. It was that kind of ending.)
Frustration at the ending aside — and I am frustrated — I loved Dreamfever. If you haven’t read the earlier books, I’m going to reference events at the end of Faefever here in a second. You’ve been warned.
At the end of Faefever, Mac was attacked by Unseelie princes. Raped. And, as we all feared, she was turned Pri-ya. She was hollowed out and seeked only physical attention. She had been saved by Dani and the sidhe seers, but Rowena doesn’t trust her. Barrons saves her. Again.
Early on, things are a bit different because we have Dani narrating. MacKayla isn’t really up to it. I wasn’t much for it at first, but the kid grows on you. Eventually, Mac comes back stronger, but now the walls between the mortal world and Faery have come crashing down and we’re all left wondering if there is any way to save the world.
Expect unexpected alliances, breaking through wards, surprise trips to Faery realms without a fae in tow and evil at every turn. (We’re purposely avoiding details, because the plot is a constant surprise in Dreamfever and we’re not about to ruin it.)
Brutal, deep and leaving us with heaps and heaps of questions, Dreamfever is an undeniably great urban fantasy. Mac gets tiny answers, but gets even bigger questions in exchange. Is she destined to save the world or destroy it?
Now, we sit on the edge of our seat dying for answers to questions. The fifth and final Fever book, Shadowfever, comes out this January. We’re thinking pre-ordering it may be necessary.(less)
Just go ahead and put Cynthia Hand on your auto-buy list now. Hit up Amazon and order Unearthly...moreThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
Just go ahead and put Cynthia Hand on your auto-buy list now. Hit up Amazon and order Unearthly now, because — and we’ll put our rep on this one — the book is top-notch.
Unearthly by Cynthia HandClara is part angel. She’s still new to the whole thing, but when she begins having visions of a boy amid burning trees she knows something is up. Her mom (also part angel) is so excited, because her daughter is receiving her purpose. While Clara’s mom won’t reveal what her purpose is or was, she’ll work with her daughter to figure out what Clara is meant to do. First step: figure out where the vision is taking place.
It’s the second step that makes thing complicated for Clara and her family: move. Any teenager is going to hate picking up and moving away from their friends, but Clara has been assigned a task by God. You can’t really shirk that resposibility.
Clara quickly runs into the boy from her dreams, and he’s stunning. In addition to being gorgeous, Christian is also kind …and off limits. He has a girlfriend, and, you know, she’s an angel sent to probably save his life. Imagine meeting the boy of your dreams — to feel an amazing connection to him — only to continually be told there’s no hope and you should focus on your job. Frustrating doesn’t being to describe it.
Even as she begins to get closer to Christian, she finds another “not her type” guy grabbing her attention. What if her purpose is to be with Christian? Can can even want to be with someone else?
Add in a couple polar-opposite friends (one who knows way more about angels than Clara does), a resentful little brother, sometimes secretive mom and a popular girl who wants to rain hell down upon the girl catching Christian’s eye and you can see why being a part-angel teenager is complicated.
The beauty in Unearthly comes from choosing your destiny, learning to make the hard choices and knowing when your heart should rule those decisions.
I love an emotional ride. Good novels evoke genuine emotion in their readers. Great novels more often surprise readers by cultivating the unexpected response. Unearthly appears straightforward, but Hand’s writing so enamors the reader that one is confused, anxious and exhilarated as the plot coils tighter. At the end you’ll wonder how this delightful journey brought you here, and start begging for more. (less)
This review is also posted, along with other Downside Ghosts reviews, at Vampire Book Club.
After we finished Unholy Magic, the second Downside Ghosts...moreThis review is also posted, along with other Downside Ghosts reviews, at Vampire Book Club.
After we finished Unholy Magic, the second Downside Ghosts book, we said how it was even better than the series opener Unholy Ghosts (review). Stacia Kane has again taken her dark urban fantasy series to new depths with City of Ghosts.
Chess still has a crime to solve, this time working with the police wing of The Church of Truth, a team called The Black Squad. But City of Ghosts is more about our flawed heroine growing as a person, accepting that needing to connect and rely on another person isn’t inherently bad. She’s striving for that redemption. She wants to prove herself. She’s a talented witch and she sure as hell isn’t going to let some bitch from the Black Squad otherwise. More than that, though, she wants to prove herself trustworthy to Terrible.
Those who have caught Terrible Fever from the earlier Downside books know he feels betrayed by Chess. He isn’t going to make things easy for her. He’ll avoid her. Say hurtful things. She wallows in it. In fact, you don’t get much Chess-Terrible interaction for the first two-thirds of the novel. He’s there with her out of duty to Bump, but make no mistake he’s hurting. But when he becomes prominent in the book again, it’s worth the wait. (Really, really worth it.)
It’s Chess’ desire to fix things with him, to protect him, to keep Downside safe and the emotional growth she experiences through that process that truly elevates City of Ghosts.
We don’t want to give anything away, so, here are 3 reasons you must read this book as soon as you can get your hands on it:
You’ll get more than one intense, amazing Terrible fix. The ‘big bad’ Kane introduces this time out is complex and will keep you trying to piece things together until the end. You’ll see why Chess never works with other people. Entertaining. The emotional heavy that is City of Ghosts is worth experiencing. Kane can craft such heady situations, you’ll feel like you’re with Chess pleading with Terrible, trying to escape a burning building, being attacked by ghosts, etc.
We wouldn’t dare call Downside Ghosts an escapist series, but these books will bring you into Downside. We promise, you’ll spend the next several days thinking about scenes from the books, thinking about why something happened the way it did or just blushing remembering things that happen in the tunnels.