Archives for December 2010

Review: Tapestry

Reviewed by Jen

As a huge Sherrilyn Kenyon fan, I couldn’t wait to read Tapestry for her contribution. But I was surprised to find, I enjoyed all four novellas in the anthology.

The first, “To Kiss in the Shadows,” by Lynn Kurland, was a historical romance.  Lianna was once beautiful, but her face was marred by pox. Her family is dead but she is living as a ward of the king.  She holds great lands that will one day go to her husband.

The women of the court are not kind to her; they merely tolerate her and sometimes taunt her about her appearance. They are all clucking about the arrival of eligible bachelor Kendrick of Artane. But it’s Lianne who catches his attention and they become fast friends. And when his brother, Jason de Piaget, arrives –there are definite sparks.  The cruel women go so far as to poison Lianna in their jealousy. But they can’t stand in the way of her happily ever after.

The second novella was “An Interrupted Tapestry,” by Madeline Hunter.  This is also historical.  In this story, Lady Giselle goes to an old friend, Andreas, to ask for a loan. They have not seen each other in many years, but were close in their youth. Giselle’s brother has put the family in poverty with his bad deals. And it isn’t until he goes missing that she realizes just how bad things are.  Giselle and Andreas are instantly attracted to each other, but think their life circumstances prevent them from being together.  Andreas decides to help Giselle find her brother and in the course of the search, they find their feelings for each other too difficult to ignore.

The third novella is Kenyon’s “Dragonswan.” It is set in the Dark Hunter universe and features an Arcadian Dragon named Sebastian. He is in present day America to recover a tapestry made by his sister. He needs it as a ransom to free his kidnapped brother. He meets Channon, a historian, and they are instantly attracted to each other. They sleep together and become mated by the Fates.  Sebastian brings her back to his time and their feelings for each other grow as she learns more about what he is and the problems he is facing with his own people and his enemies.

Finally, our last story is Karen Marie Moning’s ”Into the Dreaming.” This was my favorite story in the book.  We meet Jane, who has dreamed of her Highlander love Aeden for her entire life.  What she doesn’t know is that Aeden has been a prisoner of the Unseelie King for 500 years and has become the king’s hand of Vengeance.  Aeden has a month to fall in love in the mortal plane and be loved in return. If that happens, he can live a normal life again. Only, he has belonged to the king for so long, he doesn’t even know who he is anymore, much less the terms of the deal. He doesn’t remember Jane either.  She goes back in time to try to save him. It sounds complicated,  but it is an easy and very enjoyable read.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this anthologies. Most short story collections have at least one stinker, but I really liked them all.

4 stars.

Series Reading Order: Highlanders

This is the reading order for the Highlander series by Karen Marie Moning:

*Denotes short story

Review: Ruthless Game

Reviewed by Jen

Christine Feehan continues her Ghostwalkers series with book 9, Ruthless Game. This story features Kane, a member of the 3rd Ghostwalker unit, introduced in Street Game. Ghostwalkers are soldiers, who volunteered for psychic enhancements. But they all got more than they bargained for when Dr Whitney (the mastermind behind the project) also altered their genes. To make matters more complicated, Whitney has started breeding programs, where he pairs his Ghostwalkers with enhanced women, in the hopes of creating super-babies.

Kane was a soldier at one of Whitney’s breeding facilities and it was there he met Rose. In Deadly Game, we learned that Kane had gotten Rose pregnant and helped her escape. In that book, the men involved with the breeding program were portrayed as nothing short of monstrous rapists, so I was curious to see how Kane would be redeemed. Well, it seems Rose chose him to be her partner. She had seen him at the compound and felt attracted to him; sensed his integrity, and asked for him. Because he didn’t want her to have to be with one of the other men, who were hardly a step above rutting beasts, Kane agreed. And they had one night together before she escaped.

Eight months later, our couple is brought together when Kane is on a rescue mission in Mexico.Rose has tipped off the government about the hostages and he senses her nearby when he gets on the scene. After the Ghostwalker team saves the hostages, Kane goes on the run with Rose and hides out with her until she has the baby. The hideout is under surveillance by Whitney’s men and they are quickly on the run again. It doesn’t take long before they are back in the fold with Kane’s team. But Kane was injured during their escape –and Rose saves his life with her secret healing ability.

They all make it back to San Francisco, but Whitney’s men and members of a Mexican cartel are still on the hunt for Rose. Kane needs to ensure her safety and help her learn to trust the team that is essentially his family.

I liked this book. But it was different from the previous ones in the series. Primarily because our couple didn’t have sex until about 200 pages into the book. And their love scenes just didn’t have the same spark that the other books had. (My guess is that the pregnancy/post-delivery issues are to blame here. I could live without hearing about Rose’s breast milk when they’re getting hot and heavy.) That aside, the actual love story was nice. Kane’s love and devotion to Rose and the baby are tangible. And it is nice to see her finally have someone in her life she can trust.

I missed our old Ghostwalker friends, especially the SEAL team, but I’m starting to like our new unit better. (The last book left me kind of cold toward them.) I hope we can find away to bring them into the fold with our old familiar friends. 4 stars.

Ruthless Game
by Christine Feehan
Release Date: December 28, 2010
Publisher: Jove

Review: Street Game

Reviewed by Jen

As a rule, I’m not good with change. But when Christine Feehan jumped from her original group of Ghostwalkers to focus on the SEAL team, I was surprisingly pleased with the new direction of the series.  I’m not nearly so jazzed now that we are moving on to Ghostwalker team 3.

Our male lead is Mack, the leader of the crew, who specializes in Urban Warfare.  The men and women of the team grew up together on the streets of Chicago. And they all went on to join the military and sign up for psychic enhancement. It turned out there was more to being a Ghostwalker than they expected. They were also physically enhanced and many were paired with Ghostwalkers of the opposite sex with the hopes they would one day create superbabies.

As we begin our story, Mack is leading a mission to take down some gun runners. But instead of catching the bad guys, Mack and the team find themselves in a warehouse owned by Jaimie. She was once part of their team and the love of Mack’s life. Unfortunately, she wasn’t cut out for the violence of the military. And beyond that, when she pushed Mack about their future years ago, he blew her off. So she left to make a new life for herself. But when face to face with Mack, all their feelings come rushing back.

Since she has been away, Jaimie has used her amazing computer skills to research Dr Whitney, the evil mastermind behind the Ghostwalker program. But she is getting too close and now she is a target. So Mack and the rest of the team band together to protect her.

Even though the team is new to us, there are a couple of familiar names. Kane was mentioned in Deadly Game as the Ghostwalker who got a woman pregnant at one of Whitney’s breeding facilities and helped her escape. And we met Brian in Predatory Game –he worked with Saber at the radio station. But those slightly familiar threads weren’t quite enough to enthrall me with the team.

As for the love story…. It’s not hard to see why Jaime left Mack. He keeps repeating to himself how preposterous it was that she left him, but frankly, who wouldn’t have left him? He was a self-centered domineering jerk who took her for granted. Obviously, he learns to see the error of his ways. And like all Christine Feehan books, there is great sexual tension and steamy love scenes.

Hopefully, I’ll grow more invested in these guys as we get to know them better in later books. 3 1/2 stars.

Street Game
by Christine Feehan
Release Date: December 29, 2009
Publisher: Jove

Review: Murder Game

Reviewed by Jen

Christine Feehan is going back to her Ghostwalker roots in her 7th book in the series, Murder Game. Our hero is Kadan Montague (or Kaden Bishop, as he introduced himself in Mind Game. Now, he says Bishop is just a nickname. And we need to ignore the fact that the spelling of his first name has changed over time. But I digress.) Kadan is Special Forces soldier who has been psychically and physically enhanced by evil genius scientist Dr Whitney. He is part of the first team of these soldiers, who call themselves Ghostwalkers that were featured in the first three books.

He has been tasked to find solve a string of murders, which appear to have been committed by fellow Ghostwalkers. So he seeks out a former serial killer profiler, Tansy. He realizes immediately that –1– she is one of the female Ghostwalkers enhanced by Whitney in her childhood; and –2– Whitney has chemically altered the two of them to be undeniably attracted to each other. Think turbo-pheromones.

Anyway, Tansy doesn’t want to help. The way her talent works is that she touches an object and can see into the souls of those who handled it before her. But handling that energy takes a serious toll, especially if the soul she encounters his evil or violent. The voices of the victims linger in her mind; at one point she even had a breakdown –and that’s why she quit helping the authorities. And why she doesn’t want to help Kadan. She is in no hurry to get away from him, though. He is an anchor, which helps calm the constant barrage of energy that is always flittering around her. She can even touch him without discomfort. And touch him she does.

Kadan doesn’t realize the real impact that tracking killers has on Tansy. Until he tricks her into touching an object from one of the murder scenes. Once he sees the toll it takes, he tries to release her from the case, but she decides the killers need to be stopped. Turns out, there is a game going on that pits two teams of Ghostwalkers against each other. They committing murders with specific targets to gain points for their team in a macabre competition. As the story progresses, Tansy works to uncover the members of the teams, and the elusive “puppet master” organizing the games.

The chemistry between Kadan and Tansy is great. But like many of Feehan’s alpha males, Kadan is a bit too much. He insists on taking charge of every situation and making all the decisions. And it irks me that he insists Tansy allow him to touch her whenever and however he wants. Despite that, their scenes are sexy and he clearly needs her like he’s never needed anyone.

I liked Kadan’s story better than the other stories featuring his group. But I prefered the SEAL stories. This one didn’t touch the intensity of the Norton books, despite a solid and interesting plot. 4 stars.

Murder Game
by Christine Feehan
Release Date: December 30, 2008
Publisher: Jove

Review: Predatory Game

Reviewed by Jen

Predatory Game is book 6 in Christine Feehan’s Ghostwalker series. And here we continue with our trend of Ghostwalker SEALs with Jesse Calhoun. You may remember Jesse as Dahlia’s NCIS handler in Mind Game. He was beaten within an inch of his life trying to protect his team-mate and his legs were destroyed below the knee. Since we saw him last, it’s been mentioned that he is back to working with his old team, but is doing so from a wheelchair.

Jesse is living in Wyoming. Though he still consults with the Ghostwalkers (physically and psychically enhanced soldiers), he is now also a songwriter and owns a radio station. Living in his home, is the mysterious Saber Wynter. Saber works as a DJ at Jesse’s radio station. And since she began renting a room in his home, they have become very close friends.  Actually, both have feelings beyond friendship, but they have never acted on those feelings. Each is trying to hide the fact that s/he is enhanced. Saber was also part of the Ghostwalker project; only she had been taken as a young child by mad-scientist Peter Whitney and trained as an assassin. She made her first kill at age 9. But she escaped last year and is now in hiding.

But now Saber is being stalked. The man works for Whitney but has gone off the deep-end. He’s obsessed with Saber and wants her for his own.  Jesse and Saber continue to grow closer and eventually reveal themselves to each other. They realize that Dr Whitney wants them to get together, to create a super-baby who has powers from both parents.  While their relationship develops and they fight the growing danger to Saber, they must also contend with Jesse’s disability and bionics he is trying to master, so that he can walk again.

I really enjoyed this one. (I have a soft spot for the SEAL guys, it seems.) It’s different in that our couple actually had a chance to get to know each other and develop believable feelings –as opposed to previous books where the couples were “in love” in a matter of days. Saber is undoubtably the most lethal Ghostwalker yet, but she is understandably vulnerable after all she has endured.  Meanwhile, Jesse is strong emotionally, while he struggles with the limitations his body is dealing with.  The love scenes are solid, though not quite as super-hot as in the last two books.

A solid contribution to the series. 4 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon

Predatory Game
by Christine Feehan
Release Date: Februrary 26, 2008
Publisher: Jove

Review: Deadly Game

Reviewed by Jen

Deadly Game is book 5 in Christine Feehan’s Ghostwalker series. And it’s one of my favorites. Our hero is Ken Norton, Navy SEAL. He, like his twin Jack, is a Ghostwalker, a soldier who volunteered to be physically and psychically enhanced. Ken has endured a great deal. He was kidnapped and tortured at the hands of an evil general in the Congo. He is terribly scarred all over his body and he thinks he is dead inside. He only cares for Jack and his sister-in-law Briony.

He is on a mission to protect the very senator who he had been sent to rescue in the Congo, when a second Ghostwalker team approaches. Ken thinks they are trying to kill the senator, so he opens fire on their sniper.  Fortunately, she was wearing a bullet proof vest. When he gets to her, he realizes she is Mari, Briony’s long-lost twin sister.  Ken figures out instantly that mad-scientist and super-genius Dr Whitney had used some pheromone mojo to make him and Mari attracted to each other.  So much so, that while Ken’s team holds Mari in captivity, they succumb to their desires. This is a really big deal for Ken, because during his torture, his man parts had been cut up –and he wasn’t even sure he could have a sexual relationship again. Turns out he can, but “normal” sex is out –due to the scarring, he needs any coupling to be rough.  I mention this because it’s a huge issue for Ken and one he struggles with throughout the book. He thinks himself a monster on so many levels and believe Mari deserves better.

She has spent her whole life in training to be one of Whitney’s supersoldiers. She has never known a home –or love. She has only the camaraderie she shares with the other women in her program. Woman, like her, who are now being forced to have sex with men they don’t want –in order to have babies with two enhanced parents. Mari has been raped countless times and she will not leave her sisters abandoned at the lab. So she goes back, with Ken right behind her, planning to break them all out.

This is a dark book all around. But in my opinion, it’s one of Feehan’s best. Ken is so starkly broken in just about every way. But he has held on to his humanity despite everything he has endured.  The same is true for Mari.  I wanted them both to be happy and finally have someone love them the way each has yearned for.  Ken’s sex issues were a big deal for him, but I thought the love scenes were very steamy despite that (or even perhaps because of it.)   5 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon

Review: Conspiracy Game

Reviewed by Jen

Conspiracy Game is the book that, for me, changed the Ghostwalker series from an occasional library rental, to a must-own set of books.  In this fourth installment, we shift gears away from our original Ghostwalker unit, to focus on one of the SEAL Ghostwalkers, Jack Norton.  We met him very briefly in Night Game, but here his story is fleshed out.

The book opens with Jack held prisoner in the Congo. He was taken captive during a rescue mission for his twin brother Ken. Jack has been tortured but manages to escape.  Enter our heroine, Briony. She is in the area doing a circus/highwire show with her brothers.  She is one of the orphan girls that Dr Whitney did psychic experiments on –and she was adopted out around age 5.  Anyway, she stumbles across Jack and realizes they are both “enhanced.” She longs to learn more about what/who she is and because Jack is a psychic “anchor,” he mutes the loud blasting energy that always surrounds her. She gets him back to her room and nurses him back to health.

Despite his serious injuries, Jack and Briony’s attraction for each other cannot be denied and they sleep together.  Before his extraction, Jack breaks things off with her. He is harsh, believing she deserves better than him and he should sever all ties.  The thing is, he got her pregnant.  And once her doctor (who is also Whitney’s spy) finds out, she has to go on the run. She goes to Jack for protection.

In the course of the book, we confirm that Whitney has manipulated the Ghostwalker soldiers to match up with his former-orphan girls. Even worse, he has started breeding programs, where he didn’t bother to manipulate the women to feel the same attraction the men feel.

This book puts the first three in the series to shame. This one and the next one, Deadly Game are my very favorites. The Norton brothers are just the right blend of strength and tortured vulnerability.  The story is interesting. And the relationship building is masterful.  The sex scenes are way hot too.

I loved it. 5 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon

Review: Night Game

Reviewed by Jen

Dr. Peter Whitney is a bad, bad man. We already knew he was an evil genius when the series began. After all, he was the mastermind behind the Ghostwalker project.  He devised the experiment where select military men volunteered for psychic enhancement. Even worse, he experimented on young orphan girls with a predisposition for psychic gifts.  But we could see him through the color of love his daughter Lily had for him.  Plus, he seemed to have paid for his sins with his death.  Only, his sins were worse than we knew. And he’s not really dead.

Flame was one of the young orphans Whitney experimented on. But in addition to psychic manipulation, he made her genetically advanced. And gave her cancer. Then cured it; and repeated the process.  She didn’t escape him until she was 19. Now Lily is trying to find all the women who were part of that experiment as children. She gets a lead on Flame and sends a Ghostwalker named Gator to find her.

Flame is hiding out in the Louisiana bayous, Gator’s home turf.  He was going home anyway to investigate the disappearance of a local girl, Joy.  It takes about a month for him to track down Flame.  It turns out, they have the same powers: they can influence animals and manipulate sound.  Of course, there is a major attraction.  But Flame doesn’t trust Gator and his easy charm. In fact, she trusts no one.  Flame is very smart. She is the only person who realizes A) Whitney is still alive and B) He somehow genetically manipulated the men of the Ghostwalker program to match up with the women from his older experiments. Each half would compliment the other and let’s not get started on the uber-babies they could make.

Most of the book, beyond the big Whitney revelations, focuses on the search for Joy; the questions about who can be trusted; and the developing relationship between Gator and Flame.  It takes them longer to hook up than we have to wait in most Feehan books.  And for me, they weren’t quite as hot as some of the others.  It felt like Whitney being alive is revisionist history; It seems the two sides of the man Lily could see in the beginning of the series didn’t even exist. He was just a monster.

This wasn’t my favorite book in the series, but the ongoing story developments make it one you shouldn’t skip. 3 1/2 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon

Review: Mind Game

Reviewed by Jen

Nicolas Trevane is an ice-cold sniper for the military. And he is part of a group of soldiers who took part in an experiment to enhance their psychic abilities. Many years ago, the man who conducted the experiment, Dr. Peter Whitney, did the same thing with a group of young orphan girls. But there were major complications and he found homes for all the girls except one. That girl, Lily, he adopted himself.

Since Whitney’s (supposed) death, Lily has been searching for the other women who were part of that long ago experiment. She found out that one, Dahlia, is living in the bayous of Louisiana. She has been working as some kind of agent. But she is isolated, due to her “abilities.” Nicolas volunteers to go find her and help bring her back to reconnect with Lily.

When Nicolas gets to her home, it’s under attack. He is unable to save the two nurses who lived there and helped raise Dahlia. And her military handler, Jesse, has been tortured and is dragged away. Fortunately, Dahlia had not been home when her home was targeted –and Nicolas intercepts her as she approaches, saving her from the danger.

Dahlia has series problems associated with her abilities. Energy surrounds her like a magnet. And when emotions, violence, or something similar, surrounds her, she becomes violently ill; she has seizures; and when it’s really bad, she starts fires. Fortunately, Nico is an “anchor.” He can help calm the minds of other psychics. And he becomes the first man, really the first person, Dahlia is able to spend any significant amount of time with. Their attraction is fast and fierce. But she fears it, because she has never known any person she could ever trust to stay in her life. She does care about Jesse, though, and she works with Nico to find and rescue him.

As the book progresses, we learn that our original band of soldiers from Shadow Game aren’t the only Ghostwalkers that Whitney made from military recruits. Jesse is also one –and there are several others we are introduced to (like the Norton twins) –some of which will later have their own books.

There’s a-whole-lot of sex in this book. And it is very steamy. I like Nicolas as a male lead. He’s the strong, silent type. But beneath still waters, something runs deep in him. Not the least of which is a molten heat that sets pages on fire.

There’s also some intrigue. Something about military plans for a stealth something or other. But to me, all that is just backdrop for the character development and love (ok, lust) story. 3 1/2 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon