Thursday, June 25, 2009

Blood Noir by Laurell K. Hamilton

Blood Noir is the umpteenth (okay, actually I think it's the 16th) book in the Anita Blake series. I've read and enjoyed every one, some more than others of course. I'd advise reading them in order so you can understand all the relationships.

I have seen a lot of criticism of the author, primarily because of her sex scenes. I happen to enjoy sex scenes as long as they are well written and I think Hamilton's usually are. I think most of the time she uses them to advance the plot and they can be quite creative. My criticism is not about the lovemaking, but more about the angst. Anita Blake can be whiny and annoying at times, but she did seem to be more accepting of herself in this book.

One of Hamilton's strengths, besides her fascinating characters, is the way she builds suspense and creates fascinating mysteries. In Blood Noir, the ongoing story lines about the powerful vampire Marmee Noir and Anita's developing powers continue, but the main story is about Anita and Jason going to North Carolina to see Jason's dying father. Boy, does Jason have one dysfunctional family. He is mistaken for his look-alike cousin which causes all sorts of complications. I enjoyed getting to know Jason more, but I did miss my favorite, Jean-Claude, who was in the book very little.

I'll rate this book 8.0 out of 10 and look forward to the next in the series, Skin Trade, which is out now in hardcover.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Passion Unleashed by Larissa Ione

Passion Unleashed is the third book in the Demonica series. I've reviewed the first two books, Pleasure Unbound and Desire Unchained. Although I enjoyed both very much, I was especially looking forward to this one because it features Wraith, my favorite of the Seminus Demon brothers. You could read the books in any order, but the first book does give a lot of info about the demon world that helps in understanding the setting.

Wraith is half vampire, and was terribly abused by his mother and other vampires which has given him an understandable vendetta against the race. He's just been poisoned and of course there is no antidote (that would be too easy.) The only way to save his life is for him to get a charm from Serena Kelley. The charm gives her protection and immortality (saving her from the fatal disease she has) as long as she remains a virgin.

I just adored Wraith--not only is he a sexy tortured hero, but he's half vampire and a demon to boot. I wanted so much to see him find happiness and peace at last after the horrors he'd been through. I liked Serena, too, and thought she was a fitting mate for Wraith. We get to see more of Gem and Kynan, also, which is a plus.

Much of the book is set in Egypt and on a train, which keeps the book original and quite different than the first two. There's a lot of action and a fast pace, climaxing in a big battle and very satisfying ending. The emphasis is definitely on Wraith and Serena, though, and their seemingly doomed relationship.

I loved this book, but if I had to pick my favorite of the three, I don't think I could. They are all excellent and all different. I can't wait to read the next in the series, which will be story of newly found brother Lore. I'll rate Passion Unleashed 9.0 out of 10.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Secret Life of a Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks

Secret Life of a Vampire is the 6th in Sparks' Love at Stake vampire series. They are in the "Vampire Lite" category and the funny vampire bachelor party scene that starts the book is a perfect example of why I enjoy these stories.

It's not all fun and games and fooling the humans, though. There's an interesting story line involving disappearing young college women that has some surprises. The heroine, Lara Boucher, is a police officer and she gets to show what she can do. She really shines in the last part of the book when she's sent undercover to solve the mystery. She's brave, smart and someone who would make a great friend.

The hero, Jack, is the son of Casanova (yes, THE Casanova), so you can imagine the problems that causes. He's your typical strong, protective vampire whose best quality is his devotion to Lara. Although I liked him a lot, I felt he didn't have as much personality as Lara.

This is not my favorite in the series, but it is a fun, fast read and I look forward to the next in the series. I'll rate it 7.5 out of 10.

Burning Wild by Christine Feehan

This is Christine Feehan at her best. There is an uber-alpha male with paranormal abilities (he's a leopard shape-shifter) and a fast-paced suspenseful plot. Burning Wild is a follow-up to Wild Rain, but they are only loosely connected and you don't need to read Wild Rain first to enjoy this book.

I enjoyed the hero, Jake Bannaconni, very much. He was such an alpha that he's the kind of guy you'd run from in real life, but his personality fit perfectly considering he is a leopard. Everything he did made sense in that context. I liked the heroine, Emma Reynolds, a lot, too. She is stronger than some of Feehan's female characters, and no pushover. My only complaint (and it's slight) is that she seemed a little too good to be true.

This is also a complaint I had about the villains of the story, in reverse. Instead of being too good to be true, they were too bad to be true. But I have to admit I thought they were deliciously evil and didn't have a problem with it while I was reading the book.

This is a long book at 443 pages and it gives Feehan plenty of time to gradually build the relationship between Jake and Emma. It also builds the sexual tension to amazing levels. They don't have sex until halfway through the book, which means we really know and care about them by then. The love scenes are intense and fit the nature of the characters.

I'll rate this book 8.5 out of 10 and I look forward to the next in the series.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Blood Ties Book One: The Turning by Jennifer Armintrout

This is perhaps the most "vampirey" of all the vampire books I've read. In many of them, the fact that one or more of the characters is a vampire is not absolutely essential to the story. In The Turning, the fact that the main characters are vampires IS the story.

This book follows Dr. Carrie Ames as she becomes a vampire after she's attacked in the morgue and learns what that means. It is NOT a romance, so don't expect a HEA ending. Do expect a lot of interesting and thought-provoking details about vampire life. These vampires are most definitely not "vampire lite."

The relationship between Carrie and Nathan, who serves as Carrie's reluctant teacher, and between Carrie and her sire, the evil vampire Cyrus, is the most fascinating part of the book. The author does a good job of getting us into the heads of the two men. We come to understand them both and the villain Cyrus turns out to be far from a stereotype.

I have one major problem with the book. One of my favorite characters is killed. I know, sometimes characters have to die, but I didn't see the reason for this death. Because of this, I'm giving the book a slightly lower rating than I would have otherwise.

I'll rate this book 7.0 out of 10 and I already have the second book in the series, Possession.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley

I had read some stellar reviews of this book which is why I picked it up but I was skeptical that it would be that good. I've read a few books by Jennifer Ashley and while I enjoyed them I was not blown away. Well, I WAS blown away by The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie. It's one of the three best historicals I've read so far this year.

There's so much to love about this novel, but for me the character of Ian Mackenzie was the highlight. How often do you see a hero who is actually mentally ill? Ian has Asperger's Syndrome, (which I didn't know until I read the reviews,) which causes him to be unable to meet people's eyes, have a photographic memory, be unable to lie, to take things literally, to be mesmerized by patterns, etc. Ian has spent time in an asylum where he was subjected to what we would consider torture but was considered treatment for his madness in the 19th century. The author does a marvelous job of taking us into Ian's world and showing us why he is a brave and worthy hero. I was so glad that there was no miraculous cure at the end of the book (a device that has ruined books for me before.)

The heroine is also wonderful and unusual, though not so unusual as Ian. Beth Ackerly is the daughter of a French con-man and spent time in a poorhouse as a child. She is also the widow of an impoverished vicar and it was refreshing to find that she actually had a very happy, if brief, marriage. First marriages in romances are so seldom happy, and an astonishing amount of the time they aren't even consummated. After she was widowed, she spent time as a companion to an elderly woman who left Beth her fortune. Beth is far from naive but her past has not hardened her and she shows an amazing amount of patience and understanding with Ian and his brothers (who all have their own problems.)

I haven't even mentioned the fascinating mystery of the book, the marvelous secondary characters (what a surprise Inspector Fellows turned out to be!) and the way Ashley brings the settings of London, Paris and Scotland to life. There is much to praise in the book and nothing I can think of to criticize. If you like historicals, you'll love this original and highly satifying novel.

Fortunately it is the first in a series of four books about the Mackenzie brothers. The next is Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage, which will be released next year.

I'll rate The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie 9.0 out of 10.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Books Bought

Books I received/bought for my birthday:

Demon Mistress by Yasmine Galenorn
Faeries Gone Wild (anthology)
Blood Noir by Laurell K. Hamilton
This Duchess of Mine by Eloisa James
Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells
Blue Diablo by Ann Aguirre
Ravenous by Sharon Ashwood
What Would Jane Austen Do? by Laurie Brown
Burning Alive by Shannon K. Butcher
Guardian by Angela Knight
Forbidden Nights With a Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks
Till There Was You by Lynn Kurland
The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance (anthology)
The Betrayal by Pati Nagle
Blood Magic by Jennifer Lyon
Nightwalker by Jocelynn Drake
Tails of Love (anthology)

Jaye Wells, Jennifer Lyon, Jocelynn Drake, Pati Nagle and Sharon Ashwood are new to me.

I have three books to review here by the computer and I'm almost done with 3 or 4 more so I'm going to try to do those before I start on the new ones. I said TRY. :)

Crouching Vampire, Hidden Fang by Katie MacAlister

I love the titles of MacAlister's books. If you don't get the titles, you probably won't get the books either. Crouching Vampire, Hidden Fang follows Zen and the Art of Vampires (which I reviewed) and you definitely need to read the first before you read this one. It is really one book divided into two volumes.

The first book did not have a happy ending, but I don't think it gives anything away to say this one does. Pia and Kristoff soon reunite and Pia finds out Kristoff has been framed for embezzlement and they are both suspected of foul play in Alec's disappearance. Pia is caught between the vampires and her duties as a Zorya and as if that wasn't enough she needs to find Alec who has an agenda of his own.

Pia is still a bit too insecure and that can be annoying, if understandable (at least by those of us who don't look like models.) It was fun to watch her gain confidence and develop her relationship with her Beloved. I really enjoyed their banter.

I loved the secondary characters, in particular poor Mattias, Esme the ghost and Magda, the perfect sidekick. The book had a fast pace and a lot of action. The details about the lore of the vampires and the reapers were fascinating, and I'd have liked to know even more about the Zoryas and Ilargi. My favorite things about the book were the humor and the characters.

I'll rate this book 8.0 out of 10.0 and I eagerly await Katie MacAlister's next book.

Kiss of Fury by Deborah Cooke

This is the second in the Dragonfire series. I reviewed the first book, Kiss of Fire, and rated it 8 out of 10.

Unfortunately, I did not enjoy Kiss of Fury as much as the earlier novel. It took me a long time to finish it because I kept getting bored and putting it aside. I think one reason I enjoyed Kiss of Fire much more is because I liked the hero and heroine better. Donovan Shea and Alexandra Madison just didn't come alive for me.

Yes, Donovan is sexy and brave, but other than that he doesn't seem to have much personality. Alexandra is smart and brave to the point of recklessness, but she was not very interesting to me. And together, they didn't seem to have much in common other than the lust driven by the Firestorm.

I do think the world that Cooke has built with the shape-shifting dragons is interesting, as is the rivalry between the good dragons and the evil ones, but the characters in this book didn't live up to the promise of the series. Some of the secondary characters, such as Rafferty and Sophie, were more interesting than the main ones.

I'll rate Kiss of Fury 6.0 out of 10.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Murder Game by Christine Feehan

This is the 7th in Feehan's GhostWalker series. I've enjoyed all of the books except for the first very much. They feature psychically and genetically enhanced soldiers paired with women who were experimented on as children by the evil Dr. Whitney. They all have different talents and abilities and how they use these is a lot of the fun of the series for me.

I thought Murder Game started a bit slow, but by the 2nd chapter the pace had picked up and it never slowed down after that. Although the author is a romance writer, and she certainly produces some amazingly intense sex scenes, I think her skill at suspense is her biggest strength. She had me on the edge of my seat numerous times.

I liked the hero, Kadan Montague, but felt that for once the heroine in a Feehan book really had the spotlight. Tansy Meadows has the ability to receive impressions by touching objects, which she has used in the past to help catch killers. After a breakdown she has retreated to the wilderness to take wildlife photos and Kaden has to convince her to help him solve a series of murders that seem to be committed by GhostWalkers. She was a fascinating character with a mix of strength and vulnerability.

It was great to see some of the characters from former books helping out their friend Kaden. The murderers and the man who was directing them were chilling.

My favorite GhostWalkers books are the two about the Norton twins, but this one was very good indeed. I'll rate this 8.0 out of 10.

Alpha Wolf by Linda O. Johnston

Alpha Wolf is part of Harlequin's paranormal Nocturne line. As you can guess, it features werewolves, and I enjoyed it more than I expected.

I thought this would be a run-of-the-mill werewolf story. Not only was Alpha Wolf very well written, but the werewolves were some of the most convincing that I've come across. It was easy to believe that if werewolves existed, this is exactly what would happen.

The hero, Major Drew Connell, is an uber-Alpha. He is not only a werewolf, but he's also a military officer and a doctor. In spite of this, he is very likable and not obnoxiously overprotective or domineering. The heroine, Dr. Melanie Harding, is a vet with some alpha tendencies of her own. She seemed very real to me, brave and intelligent, yet not perfect.

The Nocturnes are short in length and there wasn't much time to develop secondary characters. I wish there had been a bit more time spent on the villain, because when he was revealed I thought for a moment "Who?" I did think the big mystery of who had been shooting the dogs and people in the area with silver bullets, was interesting and full of action.

I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys werewolf tales and I'll rate it 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Secret to Seduction by Julie Anne Long

The Secret to Seduction is not my favorite Julie Anne Long novel. I have really enjoyed her other books but this one let me down. I think it was mostly because I didn't care for the heroine, Sabrina Fairleigh.

Sabrina is the adopted daughter of a clergyman and she is planning to marry a curate, Geoffrey, and be a missionary in a foreign land. She and Geoffrey go to visit the Earl of Rawden to ask for his funding of their mission (Geoffrey has other motives as we find out later.) Rhys, the Earl, is captivated by Sabrina's innocence and apparently feels that he has to live up to his nickname of The Libertine.

This is what I had trouble believing in. I thought Sabrina was totally prudish and boring at this point in the book and did not believe she would attract Rhys at all. She does improve in the second half of the book but doesn't really come into her own until the end. The ending was interesting, but didn't make up for the rest. Rhys was a more interesting character, but did a couple of things that were very unheroic that I had a hard time forgiving him for.

Although this book was a disappointment and I'll rate it 6.0 out of 10, I will continue to read Julie Anne Long's books because the others I've read have been very good.

Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead

This is the first book I've read by Richelle Mead and I can't wait to read more. Like Larissa Ione's Demonica series, Mead's Succubus series focuses on the darker side of the paranormal.

Georgina Kincaid is a succubus who hates her job. It also has the unfortunate side effect of preventing her from having sex with any man she really likes because she'll suck the life from him quite literally. So if you're expecting a book with "succubus" in the title to have lots of steamy bedroom scenes, you'll be disappointed.

Georgina has a group of very entertaining friends, including vampires, an imp, an angel and humans. I hope we get to see more of them in later books, because each one was interesting and unusual. The characters are probably the strongest part of the book, although the plot and the worldbuilding are excellent as well.

There were a lot of surprises in the story, including the identity of the person who had been attacking the local demons. I didn't know who was going to end up being her love interest until the very end. I thought their relationship was handled very well although I'm not sure how or if they will live happily ever after--guess I have to read the next book!

I'll rate Succubus Blues 9 out of 10 and will be reading Succubus on Top, the second book in the series, as soon as possible. The third book, Succubus Dreams, and fourth book, Succubus Heat, are also available now.