I would call this a book of change for Merit and the Chicagoland vampires. After three hot hot hot Chicagoland Vampires novels, I feel like Chloe NeilI would call this a book of change for Merit and the Chicagoland vampires. After three hot hot hot Chicagoland Vampires novels, I feel like Chloe Neill is allowing her audience to breathe a bit with this installment. While it is arguably as action-packed as the previous books, it is very light on the romance side, a bit of a let-down for those of us who’ve grown accustomed to the steamy suspense between Ethan and Merit. Of course, Merit still kicks ass while supporting her House and the well-being of the vampire community as a whole, and there may be some stirrings of a relationship with Jonah around the corner, but one can’t help but feel a little lost without the heat.
As far as the rest of the plot is concerned, old villains haven’t quite disappeared and new villains are seemingly minor. Merit’s best friend Mallory and her boyfriend Catcher only have ancillary roles. The leader of the North American Central werewolf pack Gabriel only shows up once in the entire novel.
All this being said, the ending of the novel packs enough punch to carry the rest of the book on its coattails.
Spoiler Alert!!! (Continue reading only if you don’t mind spoilers!)
So, yeah…. BIG changes erupt at the end of the book. Such big changes that I didn’t see them coming at all. The first huge plot twist is when Merit is told that her father had commissioned Ethan to assault her and turn her into a vampire as a political ploy. Of course, this throws everything that has happened between Merit and Ethan in the previous books into question and dashes hopes that they will ever be happily in love. Even though Ethan is exonerated in the end for not accepting the proposal from Merit’s father, we still experience the heartache with Merit and it stings. This is also just further evidence that nothing is ever as it seems and calls into question just who in Merit’s life is actually trustworthy.
The second showstopper? Ethan dies! Holy shit, this completely floored me. Whhhyyyy!?!?! I really liked Ethan as a character and was truly hopeful that we would get to see further romancing between him and Merit, but it is just not to be. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I started thinking about this twist from the author’s perspective and see that it was probably a necessary move in order to keep the plot moving forward in the series and avoid becoming stale. I mean, the push and pull of Merit and Ethan couldn’t go on forever, right? Plus, this now opens the door for many potential plot developments in future books: a real possibility for Merit and the Red Guard, a possible future for Merit and Jonah, the evolution of Cadogan under Malik’s lead… who knows?
Regardless, Neill still has a great story on her hands and I’m looking forward to seeing in what direction she decides to take it. The next installment of the Chicagoland Vampires series, Drink Deep, is due out in November 2011!...more
The Plot: In the third Chicagoland Vampires book, Merit is still trying to juggle the complications in her new vamp“Beautiful Hot Release, with Bite!”
The Plot: In the third Chicagoland Vampires book, Merit is still trying to juggle the complications in her new vampire life. Her boss, Ethan, is still maddeningly difficult, her best friend, Mallory, is maintaining her distance, and she’s been approached to join a super-secret vampire guard unit to spy on the House Masters and keep them in line. Not to mention that she now also has a tenuous shifter alliance to negotiate.
Zelda’s Take: So much happens in this book that my head is spinning! First, the sexual tension between Merit and Ethan comes to a mind-blowing head. There’s a fantastic scene where they are training in the pitch darkness in front of other House members — Ethan’s lesson in sensory awareness — and Merit becomes aware of a lot more than just how to avoid swords. HOT! Ironically, it sets the stage for her to throw herself at Ethan’s metaphorical sword. Woot! The pairing of Merit and Ethan is beautiful and wonderful and exciting and definitely steamy.
What’s not hot is Ethan’s almost immediate cop-out the next day and the painful extrication Merit was forced to use to douse the flames. She goes back to being his employee — I could have screamed. After all that?!?! Ugh. Moving on.
Oh, the torturous power play that ensues! To make matters worse, Ethan’s former flame turned House Master, Lacey Sheridan, makes a surprise, and conveniently timed, visit just to drag Merit through a fit of jealousy. And there are other things at stake, too. Such as the strange relationship that Merit now has with the leader of the shifters, Gabriel, and the alliance Ethan’s attempting to forge with the shifters. And then there’s Merit decision on whether to accept a position in the Red Guard and become a spy, without loyalty to any one House of Master.
Merit has some serious thinking to do. She told Ethan that she wouldn’t take him back. You’d like to think she meant it — that she’s strong enough to resist him. You’d think that her independence would be cathartic — the perfect excuse for her to join the Red Guard and become truly free. But in the end, you long to see them get back together, which kind of tweaks my inner-feminist a bit. Why does Merit have to be so hyperbolic? It’s almost dooming her to fail, to go back on her word — to show weakness to a man who doesn’t treat her very well. And here I’m rooting for it. And he only treats her that way because he loves her, right? Eek… Ok. Packing up my inner-feminist and sending her to Fiji. Back to super-hot sexual tension.
I do love how the rift between Ethan and Merit brings Merit closer to the remainder of Cadogan House. Merit had always thought that suspicions of inpropriety between Sentinel and Master had alienated her from the rest of the House — but when it becomes clear that she wasn’t his whore and that Ethan has turned away from Merit in spite of himself, the House comes clean and admits that maybe their Master does need someone to love… and that Merit might have just the right mixture of spitfire and strength with which to control him.
To be continued in the next installment of Chicagoland Vampires, which isn’t due out until July 2011 (oh, what a cruel, cruel world)! ...more
The Plot: In the first Chicagoland Vampires book, we meet Merit, a doctoral student at the University of Chicago and the“I love vampires in Chicago!”
The Plot: In the first Chicagoland Vampires book, we meet Merit, a doctoral student at the University of Chicago and the daughter of an influential Chicago real estate magnate. Despite Merit’s priveleged upbringing, she has lived her life an outcast of her family and Chicago’s elite social sphere. When she is attacked on campus by a vampire and unwittingly saved from certain death and turned by the leader of one of Chicago’s ruling vampire Houses, Merit is sucked into Chicago’s supernatural underworld — of magic, vampires, shifters and nymphs — to find her way through a whole new kind of political society.
In addition to having to come to terms with her new genetic identity and drinking blood, Merit must also adjust to her new magical friends, the advances of one oh-so-dreamy Second in a rival vampire house, and her inexplicable and ill-advised attraction to her egotistical and calculating maker.
Zelda’s Take: Merit could be my best friend. She is strong, resilient, open-minded, and much more comfortable with a book in hand than at a social gathering.
I love that Merit is thrown into vampire life without a choice. I love that, unlike other books that draw out the actual point of being turned ad infinitum, this book is about vampires from the perspective of a vampire. Forget the allegorical sexual tension of an unchanged, virginal female. Chloe Neill pops that cherry right away. And with aplomb.
I love the strained relationship that Merit has with her maker, Ethan. She hates him for turning her without her consent. Yet she can’t deny the reaction her vampire has to him. He looks down on her as a naive new vampire and nothing special. Yet he is inexplicably attracted to her.
But Merit is special. She is stronger than most vampires, both physically and psychically. She can resist the glamour of centuries-old vampires and hold her own when battling said ancient vampires. She is confident, despite the foreign supernatural world into which she’s thrown, and is not going to just sit around and let anyone — vampire leader or otherwise — rule her life.
Ethan quickly realizes he has his hands full with Merit and desperately tries to control her and keep her under his thumb — even going so far as trying to make her his consort! — all the while denying and fighting the attraction he feels for her. Who needs the sexual tension of an unchanged vampire when you’ve got this kind of romantic interplay!
But Merit fights back with “bite.” Forced into vampirehood, Merit recognizes that she must leave her old life behind and embrace her new strength and position in the Cadogan House. And be damned if will she embrace her new life and strength as the leader’s whore. Despite her distaste for Ethan, she is fiercely loyal to the oath she takes to serve and protect her “Liege” and House, and jumps headfirst into her role as protector and guardian.
Also great in this book is Merit’s best friend, Mallory. After Merit is turned and becomes part of the supernatural world, it becomes quickly evident that Mallory is more than human herself. And who better to introduce Mallory to her magical skills than Merit’s hot new trainer, Catcher, a former sorcerer. Mallory and Catcher’s relationship can be likened to that of magical bunnies on speed. They fall for each other fast and hard — adjectives that could also accurately describe their exuberant love life.
While I loved this book and the characters dearly and would pick it up again in a heartbeat — hence the rating — I found I had to suspend disbelief over one great big, looming inconsistency. Merit is turned and initiated into Cadogan House, the “House that drinks.” Meaning, they drink real blood… from the source. Cadogan House is frowned upon by some of the other Houses — especially Navarre — for its heathen-ish ways and willingness to subject humans to this cruel practice. If there was such an organization in Merit’s world, Cadogan would be the supreme target of VETH, Vampires for the Ethical Treatment of Humans. But, in the whole book, not once do we see Cadogan vampires drinking from humans!!! We see them drink bagged blood and boxed blood… but, really, where is the requisite vein piercing?!?
Also, while I wholly appreciate the Chicago locale, as a Chicago resident myself, I couldn’t help but feel that most of the Chicago references were pretty generic and straight out of the “TimeOut Guide to Chicago” — Lincoln Park, Wicker Park, Hyde Park, Oak Park, the Cubs and Bears, deep-dish pizza, etc. etc. Kind of a bummer for a long-time Chicago resident who prefers thin-crust pizza, avoids Wrigley Field and Michigan Avenue like the plague (along with other similar tourist traps). Fortunately, after setting the scene, a lot of these references fall off, but I would love to see some more “real” Chicago references!
All in all, this book completely stole my heart and I am so excited to have found another series to devour! ...more
The Plot: The second Chicagoland Vampires book brings the awkward relationship between Merit and Ethan to a h“Love the Build-Up with Ethan and Merit!”
The Plot: The second Chicagoland Vampires book brings the awkward relationship between Merit and Ethan to a head. Now that the evil leader of Navarre House, Celina Desaulniers, has been dethroned and replaced by Merit’s on-again-off-again beau, Morgan, political unrest begins to spread from the vampires to the rest of the supernatural world and beyond.
When the paparazzi set up shop outside Cadogan House to try to get the scoop on anything and everything supe, Merit is forced to rekindle old relationships from her human past. And Ethan is more than happy to use Merit’s social clout to their political advantage, even if it means that they are forced to spend some Friday nights together.
Zelda’s Take: Book 2 and I am still loving this series — so much that I am becoming distressed at the fact that there are only three books in it so far and I’m almost finished with them! There’s just something about the series that gets me all excited and dreamy.
It could possibly be the tension between Merit and Ethan, which I adore. I love how Ethan seems so calculating and tries to use his authority over Merit to force her to spend more time with him under the guise of it being “required work” — yet he still rebukes her in his internal struggle with his own feelings. I love how Merit seems to know exactly what Ethan is up to and hates it, yet she still can’t resist him. She remains loyal to her oath above all else, despite the fact that she is subconsiously sabotaging her relationship with Morgan. This, and the heat between the two of them is palpable. When Ethan’s eyes silver over and he starts to open up to Merit… I just can’t help but get all giggly
This is a book full of build-ups and breakdowns. From the build-up of the relationship between Merit and Ethan, to the build-up of the discord between Merit and Mallory and the eventual breakdown of their friendship, to the build-up and breakdown of Merit’s broken vampire problem… although I was glad to finally see resolution between Merit and her vampire. It was painful to see her struggle to keep control over both of her sides, and to keep it hidden from the world. And, that the resolution was brought about by her kicking Ethan’s ass and then concluded with the most intimate interaction between Ethan and Merit yet… just left me begging for more.
I must say, though, that I can’t handle too much more tension, sexual or otherwise, here, so I am hopeful to see more resolution, particularly in the form of one Master vampire and his Sentinel getting it on, in Book 3 of the series… ...more
The Plot: Fantasy Lover, the first book in the Dark-Hunters series (almost a prequel, really, since it“Sexy Contemporary Mythology, Over-the-Top HEA”
The Plot: Fantasy Lover, the first book in the Dark-Hunters series (almost a prequel, really, since it does not actually feature any of the Dark-Hunters), is the story of Grace Alexander, a psychiatrist who just can’t seem to find a boyfriend. When her best friend, the unflappable psychic Selena, sets out to try to change that, Grace finds herself chanting incantations into an ancient book in hopes that her “fantasy lover” will come to life and fulfill her desires. Lo and behold, Grace soon finds herself with an ancient Macedonian houseguest!
Julian of Macedon is the son of Aphrodite and a heartless and unforgiving warrior who is imprisoned inside a book after having put a spell on a woman to make her fall in love with and marry him instead of her lover. Julian’s only temporary escape from his prison is when lustful females magically call him forth for single months at a time to grant them their every sexual pleasure. He is used and abused, and then cast back into his abhorred blind and motionless existence inside the book.
Even in the 21st century, Julian finds himself at the mercy of the immortal gods and goddesses that are his family as he tries to bargain and fight his way to his freedom and a return to his previous life. But, despite the call of the old world, the siren call of the gentle and caring Grace may just be enough to keep him in modern times.
Zelda’s Take: Well, I must say that I picked up this book with high hopes of vampire romance, given all the Dark-Hunters chatter that I’d been hearing. I am a sucker for hot vampires. Period.
But I was SOOOOOO disappointed with this one! There were NO vampires. Not one! And, to boot, there were a bunch of mythological characters that I just couldn’t get into. It’s funny, I’ve never been a huge fan of mythological gods and goddesses, but I love supernatural creatures — go figure. Anyways.
So Fantasy Lover, unfortunately, never got off the ground for me. In addition to the vampire withdrawal I was experiencing, I felt that the relationships and backstory were a bit weak throughout — the plot contrived. I personally had a hard time relating to Grace and Selena; their lives seem a bit too “exotic suburbia” for my tastes. Not to mention the random, crazy-stalker subplot that is thrown in to create a sense of danger and need for Julian’s protectiveness. Of all things, I think what irritated me the most was the ridiculous HEA ending — they’re free and together… ooh, now they’re rich, too! Gag me.
At this point in the review I’m supposed to turn to what I did like about the book. Well, I can say that I finished it. It was captivating enough that continued reading it to the end. Despite the fact that I’m so not interested in mythological characters, tired quickly of the sexual tease, got irritated by the fact that Julian felt sorry for himself too often (not that I wouldn’t if I’d been stuck in a book for centruries!), and hated the HEA, mommy-comes-to-the-rescue ending, I did make it to the end. Phew.
I’m told that the second book in the series is the true introduction of the Dark-Hunters, and that I will fall in love with them at that point. But, my dislike of this first book may have been enough to turn me off the entire series. I mean, my TBR pile is loaded as it is with books that I’m stoked to read — why bother torturing myself? Only time will tell whether I pick up the second. In the meantime, I think I’ll find my own fantasy lover, thank you very much. ...more
“Hot illustration… I fell in love with Anita all over again!”
Zelda’s Take: The first volume of the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter graphic novel series ha“Hot illustration… I fell in love with Anita all over again!”
Zelda’s Take: The first volume of the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter graphic novel series has me drooling for more. I was a huge fan of Guilty Pleasures in book form and the graphic novel makes it that much better.
The graphic depiction of Anita is spot-on. She is oh so sexy, with giant eyes, voluptuous lips, curves out to here and the most unruly, long, jet-black hair that just makes me want to run my hands through it. Okay… I admit, I’d make out with her in a heartbeat.
Jean-Claude is pretty dreamy, too, with his slender, chiseled physique. Although, I must that my mind’s eye had always given JC’s hair a more sleek look, and not the curly black tresses depicted here, which I feel feminize him a bit too much. No matter, he makes up for it in sex appeal.
Reliving Guilty Pleasures is fun, too; especially the super-sexy moment when Anita and Jean-Claude are eluding the cops and have to pretend to be lovers—the tension is the scene is palpable as they embrace, enshrouded in rain, glowing with the moisture in the air and in the reflection of the streetlights. It is really beautiful.
The Freak Party is great, too. I had totally forgotten about Phillip (which kind of made me sad), but I loved seeing Edward in action.
Anita fans should definitely check this out. It’s just as great as the book, but gives you a chance to enjoy things from a whole new perspective! ...more
The Plot: In this, the 19th book in the Anita Blake series, Anita and her many men discover that their arch-enemy“Lots of Sex, But the Plot Struggled”
The Plot: In this, the 19th book in the Anita Blake series, Anita and her many men discover that their arch-enemy, the Mother of Darkness, may not be quite as dead as they once thought. And, of course, she’s out to take down the most powerful vampires in the U.S. The St. Louis triumvirates, both the Jean-Claude/Anita/Richard triumvirate and the Anita/Nathaniel/Damian triumvirate, are the country’s only hope to escape the Mother of Darkness’s advances. On top of this, Anita has to finally face her lions and tigers (oh my!).
Zelda’s Take: It’s hard to believe that this is the 19th Anita Blake book, and interesting to think of how she’s progressed over the course of these 19 books from a hard-ass vampire killer and animator/necromancer to a sex-craving lover of many. As a loyal Anita follower, it saddens me a bit to say that I am finally myself wondering how much further she can continue down her current path.
In Bullet, gone are the gun-wielding, stress-inducing, physically trying, emotion-rending days of Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter. In their place is a lot of sex, relationship issues, and some seemingly gratuitous fighting. I think back and find it especially hard to believe that Anita didn’t even have sex until at least the sixth book in the series! I remember being SO excited when she and Jean-Claude finally did the naughty. What on earth did she do with all of her time?
To me, the relationships have taken over the meat of the Anita story and I am tiring of Anita’s men whining for one reason or another (there are so many at this point, at least one of them seems to be whining at all times). If it isn’t Richard, it’s Nathaniel, or Haven, or Asher, or Wicked, or Graham, or… oh, I give up. It makes me really miss tough-ass Edward who wouldn’t whine or complain about anything. It makes me miss Anita’s career, her police friends, her penguins and zombie threats. I miss the suspense of a vampire bite, the sexual tension and believable threats.
The sex in Bullet is good. It involves some light BDSM and m/m/f all the way to m/m/m/m/f and an ardeur-induced orgy. Richard even comes around a bit finally in this book and beds down with the rest of Anita’s boys, which is monumental, if a bit out of character. Throughout Bullet, some of Anita’s previously passive men start to take charge and call her out on her irrational behavior. That, and it becomes very clear in this book that Jean-Claude has been essentially castrated of his power, which is a bit of a disappointment to me since a huge part of Jean-Claude’s allure was his utter domination. Anita’s running the show now, which becomes especially painful when you add in that Anita has an emotional crisis through much of the book. You cannot lead the country and take over the world if you can’t get out of the bedroom or out of emotional shock. At the risk of being derogatory… Anita really just needs to “man up.”
I still liked this book merely for the fact that it is about my beloved Anita, but my patience is waning and I am skeptical that she will ever regain that spark that made her so very enjoyable to follow so many books ago....more
The Plot: Magic Bleeds commences with Kate waiting for Curran… and waiting… and waiting… When he stands her up, she decides“Kate Daniels is My Hero!”
The Plot: Magic Bleeds commences with Kate waiting for Curran… and waiting… and waiting… When he stands her up, she decides that perhaps their HEA just wasn’t meant to be. Who needs the Beast Lord anyway? Especially when your blood spells trouble with a capital T. No matter, Kate has enough on her hands in trying to investigate the plagues infesting cities from Miami to Atlanta — plagues that seem to be blasting a trail straight to her doorstep…
Zelda’s Take: This book ranks up there as being one of the best, if not the best, books that I’ve read all year. Ilona Andrews has again woven a complex and intelligent story full of action, suspense, romance, wit and humor. I admit to laughing aloud (my hubs thinks I’ve permanently cracked) through a majority of this book and experienced a number of chill- and heart-flip-inducing scenes to rival any.
I LOVE Kate’s dystopic world and mythos — it’s unusual, dark, dangerous and well-developed — and just begging for a tough-ass heroine on duty to keep things in order. Kate fits the bill like no other. She is an expert at what she does and has extraordinary abilities, yet she remains personable and self-deprecating. She is a tough-as-nails, take-no-prisoners fighter, yet she still has human insecurities and wants a little love like the rest of us. Not to mention she’s funny as hell and has the best straight-faced comeback for pretty much anything that is thrown at her.
I LOVE the addition of attack poodle to the cast of characters, references to whom practically had me rolling on the floor every time. Attack poodle gives Kate a chance to be more human and fills an emotional deficit for her. He gives her a chance to love something that loves her back unconditionally (and won’t play games with her like a certain someone).
I LOVE the jousting between Kate and Curran. I love that she’s not a sappy pushover and plays hard to get (the “bimbo-room” and catnip had me ROFLMAO!). I love that she’s a fighter, and that their first time together (finally — yes!!!) began with a wild chase and a serious beat-down. Most of all, I love the relationship that blooms between them — a relationship of equals and major compromise and dedication from them both.
Ilona Andrews did not disappoint with this installment in the Kate Daniels series. I can’t wait for the next book to see how Kate and Curran’s relationship develops from here, and just how Kate is going to come to terms with her new role, her new job and her birth-right — oh, and to see just how many times attack poodle really can puke at someone’s feet! LOL! ...more
“A Long-Awaited Release For Which I Still Feel Like I’m Waiting”
The Plot: After making it through the last faerie battle alive, Sookie is now regroupi“A Long-Awaited Release For Which I Still Feel Like I’m Waiting”
The Plot: After making it through the last faerie battle alive, Sookie is now regrouping with her family, her friends and her life. Amelia has returned to New Orleans to pay penance for the Bob situation and must deal with Trey’s death, Jason is moving on after the death of his wife, Claude is coping with the death of his sister, the faeries have gone back to their world, and life must go on with the vamps and the weres. Claude becomes Sookie’s houseguest, and, as if that doesn’t strain Sookie and Eric’s relationship enough, more trouble shows up in Bon Temps in the firm of Eric’s maker, who brings along a mysterious Russian boy-vamp, Alexei, with serious “issues” (um, you would, too, if you and your family were murdered execution-style in the Russian Revolution). Oh, and some mysterious things have been going on in Sookie’s woods.
Zelda’s Take: As the plot suggests, Dead in the Family deals with a lot of moving on after death. And, yeah, that’s about it. I’m not even sure what to say about this book! I was so excited for it to come out, and I just felt like the entire book was just blah.
Sure there’s some more death, some suspense, some fighting, some treachery and deceit, some drug-induced visions, some sex, some evil master plans… but this is all so evenly balanced by babysitting adventures, courteous police visits, drawn-out discussions over food, etc. etc. etc., that I was almost screaming at the end for something to happen already. Eric’s maker is only sort of frightening. Alexei is to be feared, but we never really understand what it is he’s doing that’s fearful. Big bad Victor never makes an appearance. Bill pleases the dying Mrs. Bellefleur with the family Bible. Claude plays hide-and-seek with a 4-year-old telepath. Alcide must deal with pack infidelity. Yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah. Sookie and Eric don’t even have a chance to really get it on!
What ever happened to the suspense of the burning pyramid in Rhodes? Or the plotting and scheming in Dallas? The tragedy of Bill’s deceit? The untimate hotness and intensity of Sookie and Eric’s bonding? Ugh.
This series has done much better, and I must say that I am so thankful that the True Blood series exists for me to re-live the glory days. Not to mention that HBO has added some great story-lines to the plot with not killing off Lafayette (and his HOT new beau) and the intricacies of Tara’s and Franklin’s fucked-up relationship.
I did enjoy reading from Sookie’s perspective once again — she has a voice and persona that is just so fun and light-hearted. But unfortunately her quippiness couldn’t save this novel from being a bore. Until next time… I guess I’ll just keep on waiting. ...more