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.
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’m going to admit to setting crazy high expectations for The Indigo Spell,...moreThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
So. This is awkward.
I’m going to admit to setting crazy high expectations for The Indigo Spell, and then being a little disappointed it didn’t hit that mark. Yes, there’s that bold four-star rating just a few lines up. This book is definitely worthy of those stars. No question. It’s well written and the character arcs progress in ways that I think are smart.
Here’s the thing, though, I’m a bit of a Richelle Mead fangirl. I love her novels because they take big emotional risks. That’s the trademark of her third books. In each series the third novel is the one that gives great hope, then takes it away and then teases better things to come. Shadow Kiss from her Vampire Academy series has a jaw-dropping twist. Succubus Dreams from her Georgina Kincaid series made me want to throw the book because my emotions were so tangled in the plot. I may have contemplated ways to climb inside a novel just to beat up Kiyo after reading Iron Crowned, the third book in the Dark Swan series.
As such, I went into The Indigo Spell expecting a good, solid angry cry. Awful things had to happen, right? Only they didn’t.
I devoured this book. It was a delightful read. The banter between Syndey and Adrian sparks and is incredibly engaging. This book gave us all the things we wanted as readers including some Adrian/Sydney kisses and subsequent Sydney freak-outs. It was fun. It progressed the series, but there wasn’t the kind of obstacle in their path that I’ve come to expect from Mead.
Maybe she’s changing her M.O. The ending of The Indigo Spell—no, I won’t spoil it—is a game-changer. Perhaps book four, The Fiery Heart, will bring the emotional one-two punch we’ve come to expect in book three. Regardless, I continue to love her well-crafted characters and snappy dialogue.
And, really, despite my confusion over not crying while reading The Indigo Spell, I can’t wait for the next book. I’ll adjust my expectations, though, so I can glom all over it properly.
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.
One of the reasons I recommend Stacia Kane's Downside Ghosts books so often is the remarkable c...moreThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
One of the reasons I recommend Stacia Kane's Downside Ghosts books so often is the remarkable character development. Heroine Chess has hard edges, deep-seated issues and a big problem with seeing herself as valuable. While Kane provided more insight into Chess' past in Sacrificial Magic, this new prequel novella lets us to see what Chess was like before.
Not before the damage that pushed her to chemical dependency. But before the pills. Before the autonomy of living in Downside. Before love. Eighteen year old Chess is still working hard to prove herself worthy of being a part of the Church of Real Truth. She agrees to do a week of job shadowing with the Black Squad not because she wants to be one of their elitist club, but because she's frightened saying no will land her ass back in foster care. That she could lose it all.
The pressure of the job and the case she works to help solve -- while earning her dirty looks and nasty comments from the Black Squad team -- pushes her toward familiar coping mechanisms. Kane manages to help fans of the Downside series understand Chess a bit more by giving us this vulnerable view into her youth.
Also, there are ghosts, bitches getting in her way, reference to old religions and sex magic. Expect a trip or two to the City of Eternity in this one. (And, yes, it still skeeves me out.)
This quick read is great way to get insight into Chess before diving into Chasing Magic on June 26.(less)
Readers of the Rhiannon’s Law series know J.A. Saare never pulls punches. Rhiannon makes massiv...moreThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
Readers of the Rhiannon’s Law series know J.A. Saare never pulls punches. Rhiannon makes massive mistakes, awful things happen to her, the world spins out of control, everyone makes poor choices and the characters just have to deal. It’s what I like so much about the series. Nothing is easy in these books, and you can never take a sweet moment between characters for granted, because it all could change in the next chapter.
We come into The Ripple Effect a few weeks after the horrible misunderstanding (a.k.a. The Awfulness) between Disco and Rhiannon from the end of The Renfield Syndrome. He wants to apologize, wants to make things right and our girl Rhiannon isn’t having it. Their mutual friends are trying to make them get past this. Again, Rhiannon isn’t ready to forgive him.(I wouldn’t be ready either.)
The Ripple Effect is a book about consequences. And that’s a good thing. Every action has meaning, and everyone must endure as the results trickle in. First, turns out our boy Disco was sheltering Rhiannon from the real vampire world. That means his master is coming to visit and expects to see things a bit more violent and the humans much more subjugated. Imagine Rhiannon’s reaction to this. We find a link between demons and vampires and have to spend quality time at their place, which results in scenes horror fans will love and others will cringe at — but you’ll know who the bad guys are immediately.
As a result of the master vampire visiting, Rhiannon has to play dutiful girlfriend while in private still giving Disco the cold shoulder. This forces them — and Paine — to work out their issues, and to accept one another’s faults as best they can in a stressful situation.
Unrelenting and honest. Dark, deep and a touch dirty. If you like your vampires sexy and scary, The Ripple Effect is a must. Since it’s a Saare book, expect big changes in love, death and a heavy dose of violence — the kind that will captivate you early on.
Reading Shadow Bound is an experience. A heady, dark journey that causes one to dip into both e...moreThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
Reading Shadow Bound is an experience. A heady, dark journey that causes one to dip into both ends of the emotional spectrum, often in rapid succession.
I had to read this book in smaller chunks over 10 days because the material is very heavy and emotional. That didn’t diminish Rachel Vincent’s brilliance here. Heroine Kori’s journey strips her raw and forces her to second guess everything — kindness from others, promises, the future, the past and even her own reactions.
Hero Ian doesn’t even understand the game he’s playing. And there’s a game here. When he finally understands why Kori refused to trust his genuine interest in her, his world — and what he knew about her, her sister and the syndicate — changes. Significantly.
Shadow Bound plays with your emotions. It’s twisted. And dark. And heartbreaking. And, really, a complete mindfuck. In the most glorious way.
I was horrified and hopeful reading Shadow Bound because the characters’ emotions are so strong you can’t help but take them into yourself. Reading Shadow Bound is an intense journey — maybe even painful — but it’s worth every agonizing moment.
Richelle Mead lays some beautiful groundwork in The Golden Lily that left me dying to read the...moreThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
Richelle Mead lays some beautiful groundwork in The Golden Lily that left me dying to read the next novel in her Bloodlines series. Big changes are coming for Sydney and we start to see her change and evolve in The Golden Lily.
Sydney now is the head Alchemist in the Palm Springs area, which means she doesn’t have someone nearby watching her. Her superiors are impressed by the way she’s able to keep a professional relationship with the Moroi vampires she must work with. They impress upon her the importance of seeing them as unnatural, evil things nonetheless. It’s important to work with them to keep the evil Strigoi at bay, but she isn’t to be friends with them. And that’s the problem. She now cares about them.
Adrian, particularly. She still avoids touching the other vampires, but when it comes to Adrian, she sees him as a person. She’s starting to see the others as caring, innocent people — not blood drinkers. And this conflict — trying to remember not to question the teachings of the Alchemists — is what makes Sydney’s journey interesting. She beginning to question her beliefs and that can be agonizing.
Plus, everyone pushes her to date. There’s a very smart boy who is an on-paper good match for her. They have a nice time, but kissing him doesn’t evoke fireworks.
The mystery element in The Golden Lily isn’t as strong as in other Richelle Mead novels, but Sydney and Adrian’s character growth makes up for it. I love that Mead has made it so that I don’t care about Dmitri from the Vampire Academy series being on page as much as I want to see what Adrian is doing or feeling. She’s given him the depth we all knew was there, and someone to really inspire him.
While it wasn’t a single-sitting read, like many of her other novels are, I still really enjoyed The Golden Lily and based on the hints dropped in this book, I am eager to get my hands on book three The Indigo Spell.
As a long-time fan of Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series, I can’t believe I’m about to say...moreThis review was originally posted at Vampire Book Club.
As a long-time fan of Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series, I can’t believe I’m about to say this. Vlad, the hero of Once Burned, gives Bones a run for his money.
Readers of the Night Huntress series (first book: Halfway to the Grave) have met Vlad — as in the basis for Dracula, but please don’t mention it to him. We’ve seen him flex his master vampire skills — pyrokinesis and mindreading. But he’d never been one to make my knees go all gooey. Apparently that was just because we hadn’t had any time alone together.
Vlad is ruthless and incredibly loyal. These traits assure safety to those under his protection, and that means Leila. She’s clever and engaging as a heroine. I quickly liked her, and liked even more that she pushes Vlad’s buttons. A childhood accident has left her with preternatural abilities. First, anyone who touches her gets shocked with electricity. (Vlad can’t burn, so she can touch him. And she does.) Second, if she touches that person with her right hand, she’ll get a glimpse of his or her past/present/future. She can force these premonitions by touching objects as well.
Vlad understands just how valuable Leila would be to the vampire community. He protects her and encourages her to help him find others hunting her. The plot is twisty enough to keep you curious with a nice mystery element, but the core of Once Burned is Vlad and Leila.
The chemistry between Vlad and Leila is overwhelming and heart-stopping and real. He’s an incredibly protective alpha type. She’s a strong woman used to being on the run. She forces him to listen. He makes her quit running. And there is plenty of “mine” and blood and sexytimes.
If you want a can’t-put-it-down-even-to-eat paranormal romance, pick up Once Burned. Even if you haven’t read the Night Huntress books — which, really, you should — you will get wrapped up in Vlad and Leila’s story. Promise.
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)