Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!



Happy Halloween, everyone!

I can't think of a better time to read something a with a spooky twist, so I thought I'd make some Halloween themed recommendations, but really what I'm aiming for is the 'creepy' factor:

Yes, we have vampires, but have you read the original? Dracula is creepy, gothic horror at its best.

While not exactly scary, Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, about a young boy who is raised by ghosts in a graveyard, became an instant classic for me. Ghosts, ghouls, graveyards, vampires and werewolves. What more could you wish for?

Rosemary Clement-Moore's The Splendor Falls, a more modern ghost story surprised me with how darn good it is, where two young people discover secrets about themselves, and that the past maybe isn't what it seems. The town this takes place in is constantly replaying events of an alarming past secret.

I don't know about you, but Hush, Hush, by Becca Fitzpatrick scared the willies out of me when I decided a good time to read it would be home alone one night, with all the windows open. After Nora starts thinking she's losing the plot, and has imagined a break-in, I ran around my house closing all the windows and pulling all the blinds. Not really a halloween themed book, but plenty of sinister scares and creepiness.

Happy reading, folks! Are you reading anything spooky to celebrate?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Her Christmas Pleasure, Karen Erikson (ARC Review)

1 star2 star3 star
Damien has been desperately in love with his best friend's widow, Celia, for years, but doesn't believe he's worthy of her. Celia, grieving her departed husband, never before saw Damien as a man. Unable to stand to be around Celia, but not with Celia, Damien is leaving the country on the first of the year, but a shared kiss beneath the mistletoe will change things for both of them...

If you want electric tension, heat, and a smoking-hot sex scene, well, Her Christmas Pleasure might just be your bag, baby.

The Good:

From page one, the tension between Celia and Damien is palpable. Their mutual yearning for each other is the driving force behind the story, and he two clearly adore each other. The scenes between Damien and Celia's five year old matchmaking son are adorable.

Also, I don't know about you, but I love a good novella. It's the romance novel stripped back to its bones. The tension is condensed and concentrated, the interactions more succinct, no dragged out 'will they, won't they' (it's a romance novel! Of course they will!). At 20,000 words (that's about 80 pages), Her Christmas Pleasure delivered everything I need and want when a romance craving hits me. It's a nice little Sunday afternoon 'me-time' read.

The Hmmmm...

The book gave me a couple of unintentional giggles. Given the Regency/Victorian (I'm not sure which, read: eighteen-hundreds England) setting, the sometimes colorful language and actions of the leads seemed incongruous to the time setting. But hey, it's Christmas! Live and let live.

Want It?

Her Christmas Pleasure at Amazon

This book was provided to me as ARC, free of charge, from the publisher. No money/favours/miracles/back-door deals or illicit activities changed hands/occured/etc. This doesn't effect how I rate a book: I believe you're here for an honest review, and I'll give it, or, as I've mentioned before, say nothing at all. If I say I liked a book? I really did :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Twice Bitten, Chloe Neill (Chicagoland Vampires #3) ****

1 star 2 star 3 star 4 star
Inter-species crisis narrowly avoided, and villanous Celina Desaulniers back of the radar, Merit's back, and thrown straight in the deep end. This time, she's been drafted as security for a shapeshifter convention, and the gal just seems to attract trouble. Expect plenty of Ethan/Merit interaction, and kick-ass fight scenes.

It's another solid installment, and what I'm liking about the Chicagoland Vampire series is that it's consistent. Each book moves the overall story forward, and (so far) each book has been as fun, entertaining and utterly-readable as the others.

I do miss the Merit/Mallory banter, which is sadly lacking after the events of Friday Night Bites. However, the two work through their issues in Twice Bitten. FINALLY, fans of the series will see some movement in the Ethan/Merit relationship, but that doesn't mean they'll be satisfied ;)

The Books:

Want It?

Twice Bitten (Chicagoland Vampires, Book 3) at Booktopia
Twice Bitten (Chicagoland Vampires, Book 3) at Amazon

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Friday Night Bites, Chloe Neill (Chicagoland Vampires #2) ****

1 star2 star1 star2 star
Friday Night Bites is the very fun second installment in the Chicagoland Vampire series.

Merit's life is changing. She's accepted she's a vampire, whether she wanted to be or not, and is trying to adapt to her new life, and be the best vampire she can be. A condescending, and smoking hot, boss isn't making her life any easier, though. Nor are the whispers of trouble and vampire 'raves' (read: blood orgies) running through Chicago. Vampires are 'in', sure. But for how long? When Merit and Ethan are pulled into a plot involving death threats against the son of an influential chicagoan, there's more at stake than giving vampires a bad name...

We get a larger dose of Merit's dad in this book, and the guy's just... inhuman. I thought Merit and Ethan were meant to be the vampires? He's despicable, and there is absolutely nothing redeeming about him. Not so fun to read, but fun to watch Ethan react to.

What I didn't love about bk.2 is the tension between Merit and BFF Mallory. Mallory was my favourite part of the first book, and I love books with strong female friendships. I don't want to see this one crumble, and it was left on an ambiguous note in FNB. I hope it's resolved (happily), soon.

Books in This Series:

  1. Some Girls Bite ****
  2. Friday Night Bites
  3. Twice Bitten
  4. Hard Bitten
  5. Drink Deep (Nov. 2011)

Want It?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Some Girls Bite, Chloe Neill (Chicagoland Vampires #1)

1 star2 star3 star4 star
Sure, the life of a graduate student wasn't exactly glamorous, but it was Merit's. She was doing fine until a rogue vampire attacked her. But he only got a sip before he was scared away by another bloodsucker-and this one decided the best way to save her life was to make her the walking undead.

Turns out her savior was the master vampire of Cadogan House. Now she's traded sweating over her thesis for learning to fit in at a Hyde Park mansion full of vamps loyal to Ethan "Lord o' the Manor" Sullivan. Of course, as a tall, green-eyed, four-hundred- year-old vampire, he has centuries' worth of charm, but unfortunately he expects her gratitude- and servitude. But an inconvenient sunlight allergy and Ethan's attitude are the least of her concerns. Someone's still out to get her. Her initiation into Chicago's nightlife may be the first skirmish in a war-and there will be blood

 
I thoroughly enjoyed/... loved... love love LOVED Some Girls Bite. I was immediately sucked in by Merit's friendly, chatty voice, and the book has a lot of things going for it. I was expecting the usual UF/PNR book, but Some Girls Bite reads like chic-lit with vampires. It is, quite simply, a hell of a lot of fun.

Interestingly enough, the book didn't seem super-tightly plotted... more like the author started off with an idea (girl becomes vampire), and decided what was happening as she went along. There's a murder-mystery happening in the background, but the book is really about Merit's transition to vampiredom, and her journey to to come to terms with her stolen humanity.

What the book *does* have is stellar characters, and fantastic, snappy dialogue. I especially appreciated Merit's BFF, Mallory (HIGHLIGHT FOR SPOILER: a nascent sorcerer). She's trying to come to terms with the change to her life, too. It's the relationship, giggling, and in-jokes between these two that I adored (more than the relationship between Merit and her potential love interest(s)!

On an aside: I have a slight objection to this being labelled 'Paranormal Romance'. There's definitely a romantic subplot, but for me, a requisite for a book to be considered 'romance' is some sort of relationship resolution, and you'll be left unsatisfied if you want anything aside from chemistry and suspense (though it's very satisfying chemistry and suspense). The romance is obviously a subplot that will play out across this series.

The book gets bonus points for hilarious chapter titles--something that's missing from way too many books these days!

Books in This Series:

  1. Some Girls Bite
  2. Friday Night Bites
  3. Twice Bitten
  4. Hard Bitten
  5. Drink Deep (US: 1st Nov. 2011/AU: 10th November 2011)

Want It?

Some Girls Bite at Booktopia
Some Girls Bite at Amazon

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Venom, Jennifer Estep (Elemental Assassin #3)

1 star2 star3 star
It’s hard to be a badass assassin when a giant is beating the crap out of you. Luckily, I never let pride get in the way of my work. My current mission is personal: annihilate Mab Monroe, the Fire elemental who murdered my family. Which means protecting my identity, even if I have to conceal my powerful Stone and Ice magic when I need it most.  

In Venom, book 3 in the Elemental Assassin series, Gin goes after one of the big targets: Mab Monroe's number 2 - giant, Elliot Slater

I was pleasantly surprised by Venom: it seems a real step forwards in terms of quality and style (if not story, which is really much the same formula) from the first two in this series.

While still not perfect, the issues which frustrated me in the first two books (mainly constant repetition of previous events), while still there, are toned down to a reasonable level, rather than every few pages. It allowed me to get involved in the story without having to force myself not to skim ahead in frustration.

Venom also benefits from the absence of a certain, rather unlikeable, detective, who's been replaced with a new, and far more interesting love-interest.

My only serious gripe is that Estep risks Gin becoming a bleeding heart if she continues on the road she's following, and the silly flaws I find in the story. Gin's a super-secret, highly-skilled assassin, right? But she's so flip, and rarely takes any precautions to protect her identity, and those of the people around her. She risks exposing Jo-Jo and Sophia to discovery, and from there, she's only one (rather simple) step of logic away from being discovered. She leaves files on targets and various people lying around, along with all her weapons, and she'd be caught in her own web. I wish she'd be more careful, because it creates a more believable, and more immersive, story.

Neverthless, for the issues I have with this book, and its predecessors, it seems like the Elemental Assassin series is improving, and I enjoyed this installment.

Books in This Series:

  1. Spider's Bite
  2. Web Of Lies
  3. Venom
  4. Tangled Threads
  5. Spider's Revenge

Want It?

Venom (Elemental Assassin, Book 3) at Booktopia
Venom (Elemental Assassin, Book 3) at Amazon

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Archangel's Blade (Guild Hunter #4), Nalini Singh

This cover FREAKS me out. NOT in a good
way. I can't stop staring at his abs o_O
Title: Archangel's Kiss
Author: Nalini Singh (author website)
Release Date: September 6, 2011
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
My Rating: 1 star2 star3 star

From Amazon:
The severed head marked by a distinctive tattoo on its cheek should have been a Guild case, but dark instincts honed over hundreds of years of life compel the vampire Dmitri to take control. There is something twisted about this death, something that whispers of centuries long past...but Dmitri's need to discover the truth is nothing to the vicious strength of his response to the hunter assigned to decipher the tattoo.

Savaged in a brutal attack that almost killed her, Honor is nowhere near ready to come face to face with the seductive vampire who is an archangel's right hand, and who wears his cruelty as boldly as his lethal sensuality...the same vampire who has been her secret obsession since the day she was old enough to understand the inexplicable, violent emotions he aroused in her.

As desire turns into a dangerous compulsion that might destroy them both, it becomes clear the past will not stay buried. Something is hunting...and it will not stop until it brings a blood-soaked nightmare to life once more...

I was putting off starting this book... and after starting, I can't for the life of me figure out why. I really enjoyed it. It left me grinning and happy. That's a good sign.

I was unsure of this book after I finished Archangel's Consort. Dmitri? Really? But what about Elena and Raphael? And did I mention Dmitri? Millennia old asshole extraordinaire, Dmitri? You know, the one who tried to kill Elena, chased her through NY, tied her to a chair, tortures her with the scent mojo, and continually reminds her and anyone who'll listen that Elena's not good enough for Raphael? The one who sort of hates anyone with boobies? Yeah. That one.

Well, after reading a few pages, it didn't matter. It furthers the story in the first 3 books, and builds on one of its major side characters. Dmitri is still Dmitri, but he gets some backstory, some motivations, and new a girlfriend. He's not neccessarily a good guy, but he's interesting, and has his appeal when viewed through Honour's lens.
Honour is another kickass heroine with major issues (like Elena), and she's just sort of awesome. Other side characters fans of the series know and love make substantial appearances, including Illium (Illium! Illium!), Ashwini, Ransom, Venom, Raphael and Elena (of course). We also get to see some more of the elusive Jason, and find out what happened to poor Holly Chang.

I have a slight issue with Dmitri as a romance hero: Women Dmitri isn't interested in sexually are fine. He's perfectly capable of being gallant and kind, but his apparent view of women he *has* an interest in bedding (other than his dearly departed wife) is as pieces of meat, and it makes him slightly unappealing. He'll never love anyone besides his dead wife, and in the end, he stays true to that, and he keeps on loving her (which is awesome. here's a man who takes his vows seriously). It's just the tendency towards the objectifying women, and the sexual cruelty... but maybe if I really have a problem with that, I'm reading the wrong book.

Archangel's Blade. It's cheesy, yes, and it has its faults, but its fun to read. And ultimately, that's why I read romance and urban fantasy and PNR. For the fun and the escapism. Archangel's Blade delivers.

Note:

This is the fourth book in Singh's Guild Hunter series, and you may be a little lost if you don't read the three preceding prior to this. Plus, they're awesome :D

The Books:

  1. Angel's Blood
  2. Archangel's Kiss
  3. Archangel's Consort
  4. Archangel's Blade

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Better Off Undead, D.D. Barant ****

1 star 2 star 3 star 4 star
Jace Valchek returns, and is back to form! Hopefully, if you're reading Better Off Undead (the fourth installment in the Bloodhound Files series), you're familiar with the story: FBI Profiler Jace Valchek is sucked into a parallel universe where the paranormal is normal. She needs to catch an insane human serial killer to get her ticket home. Here, as a human, she's an endangered species, but Valchek might just be getting her wolf on. Oh, and she needs to catch an insane werewolf mob boss, too.

What I thunked:

After a somewhat shaky third installment, Jace is back to kicking butt. She's settled into a life in this world. The Jace/Charlie banter that is the lifeblood of this series is back (it was sorely lacking, for obvious reasons, in Killing Rocks [obvious if you've read it, that is]); Jace is again learning more about Thropirelem, but seeming more at home; Cassius is manouvering. It's GOOD. The best since Dying Bites. In fact, I genuinely think this may be the best in the series so far. Some of my favourite parts of this book were Jace's interactions with her shape-shifting St Bernard, Galahad, and there was another scene involving a very new Lem, Billy Beta, that got me a bit sniffly. The [very obvious] parallels with our own universe's civil rights movements work here, and add depth, realism, and soul to this series.
Readers will also get some satisfaction as the ever-enigmatic Cassius gets even more backstory (there's a LOT of backstory when you're two thousand years old), and his relationship with Jace develops further. This is also an interesting aside: Cassius is fascinating, and I would have thought I'd enjoy seeing more of him--which is exactly what we got in Killing Rocks. While Cassius is (very) present in this installment, he's not half as ubiquitous as he was in the previous, and I enjoy his scenes all the more for the waiting.

So Basically:

These books are brilliantly plotted. They have tight episodic storylines, but the overarching story arc throughout the series is also splendid, and Barant doesn't seem to lose site of it. They books constantly reminding me of a TV series (Fringe!). Individual episodes, but a much larger story arc. You can tell DD Barant is a TV Writer, and it works. I haven't enjoyed a series so much, without reservations, in a long time.
If you've not seen these books before, I can't recommend them strongly enough. So entertaining, so fun, and breath of fresh air when so many urban fantasy's seem so similar.

The Series:

  1. Dying Bites ****
  2. Death Blows ***
  3. Killing Rocks **
  4. Better Off Undead ****
  5. Back From The Undead (2012)

Get It:

Better Off Undead at Booktopia
Better Off Undead at Amazon

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