Archives for December 2010

Review: Shadow Game

Reviewed by Jen

Shadow Game is book 1 in Christine Feehan’s Ghostwalker series.  Here’s the premise: an elite group of military men have signed up to be human guinea pigs for an experiment designed to expand their psychic powers. Some have telepathy; others can communicate with animals; some have telekinesis; and the list goes on. Unfortunately for our team (who have dubbed themselves Ghostwalkers), problems develop: seizures, brain bleeds, even death.  So the men in charge of the project put them on lock down. Separate them. Study them.  For the past year, they’ve been like rats in cages.

The leader of the Ghostwalkers is Captain Ryland Miller. At the beginning of the story, he is squaring off with Dr Peter Whitney (the scientific mastermind behind the experiment) and Col Higgins (high ranking military dude who hates Ryland’s guts.) In walks Whitney’s daughter, Lily. She is also a brilliant scientist and her father has called her in to consult on the project. She is telepathic too and has an instant connection with Ryland.

As the story progresses, Peter Whitney is murdered.  Although in later books we discover he faked his own death.  He reaches out to Lily telepathically at the last moment telling her to help the Ghostwalkers and to right the wrongs of his experiments.  Lily finds her father’s secret lab and discovers she is not really his daughter after all. She, too, had been an experiment… one of several young girls with psychic abilities, studied and manipulated by Whitney.  When that experiment failed, he adopted out all the other girls and kept Lily for himself to raise.

Lily helps the Ghostwalkers break out and hides them in her uber-mansion. She helps them learn to control their powers. And she continues developing a scorching hot relationship with Ryland. She works with the Ghostwalkers to figure out who is behind her father’s death and who was trying to manipulate the Ghostwalker program for their own gain.

I didn’t love this book the first time I read it. But I find, I liked it a little better on my second read.  One of my initial problems with it was the lightning fast relationship between Ryland and Lily. We find out in later books that Whitney’s experiments created matches between his young girls and military men. So that explains it in hindsight.  Another problem: there are ALOT of characters to keep straight. You’ve got several Ghostwalkers to remember, plus all the men involved on the experiment who may or may not be bad guys. I found myself flipping back in the book for reminders of who was who… even as I got close to the end.

I can promise hot and frequent love scenes.  And I’m happy to say that the language is less flowery and metaphoric than Feehan uses in her Carpathian books.

If this book doesn’t float your boat, don’t give up on the series. In my opinion it really hits its stride with Conspiracy Game. The books featuring the Ghostwalker SEALs are my favorites.

3 1/2 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon

Series Reading Order: Ghostwalkers

This is the reading order for the Ghostwalkers series by Christine Feehan:

Review: Blood Trinity

Reviewed by Jen

When I found out Sherrilyn Kenyon was starting a new series, I’ll admit, I was not happy. I am a huge fan of her Dark Hunter books, and I didn’t like the idea of a new project taking away time she could be spending on more books in that series. But, after reading Blood Trinity, I have changed my mind.

First off, I acknowledge that the world building is a little complicated, but I’ll do my best to summarize. Our story centers on a woman named Evalle. She is what’s known as an Alterant, which is a half breed of the Belador race. I can’t explain entirely what the Beladors are, except to say they are something more than human. They have an array of powers granted by a Goddess. Evalle has some of those powers, but as a half breed, she also has limitations: she can’t be in the sun and when seized with intense pain or emotion, she may shift into a beast form. All other Alterants are imprisoned, because they are said not to be able to control their beast form. The very fact that Evalle can shift at all is something she keeps a closely guarded secret.

Evalle has only a handful of people she trusts. Two of the three are fellow agents for the supernatural-police-type organization she works for, VIPER. Her boss, Sen, hates her for what she is and would love to have her locked up too. It comes to the attention of VIPER that a powerful stone is about to come into the possession of a powerful female. It can bring great change or destruction if left unchecked, so agents (including Evalle) are sent out to find it.

Evalle is paired with a mysterious man named Storm. She believes he is a plant, sent in by Sen to find a reason to lock her up. But there is more to Storm than meets the eye and there is definitely attraction there. There is also a spark between Evalle and a sexy human, Isak. I found myself rooting for both guys at different points throughout the book. (But if you are looking for the love scenes featured in the Dark Hunter books, you won’t find them here.)

 

The book was fascinating and hard to put down. Though I have to admit, there were times in the story I felt like I was getting a recap from a previous book. A few internet searches revealed a link to anthology Dead After Dark. I’ll have to go read the short story there to see if it fills in a few of the gaps.

I can’t wait to read the next book in this series.  I don’t know if the plan is to have it continue to follow Evalle or to pick up a story from a secondary character. But I hope we stick with her. I really want to see where her story goes from here, as it seems to be left open.

4 1/2 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository

Blood Trinity
by Sherrilyn Kenyon & Dianna Love
Release Date: October 19, 2010
Publisher: Pocket Books

Review: Playing Easy to Get by Kresley Cole

With two of my favorite authors involved, I knew I would enjoy the anthology Playing Easy to Get.

The first of three novellas was Sherrilyn Kenyon’s “Turn Up the Heat.” This offering is loosely tied in to her BAD Agency series, but only just-barely. The story focuses on Allison, an average woman from Georgia, who works in a dead end job and has no prospects for love.  She spent the last several years caring for a dying mother. She just just broke up with her two timing boyfriend. And her favorite escape is found in her steamy romance novels.

An old friend helps Allison win a contest designed to let a romance reader live out her fantasy on an island for a week. It’s there she meets Vince.  He’s on the run from the Mafia and hiding out among the actors. Sparks fly between them and things heat up quickly.  Of course, the bad guys are on Vince’s tail. But the island is also a training station for some members of the BAD Agency. So, in the end, familiar faces Joe & Tee help save the day.

The second story was “Hunter’s Oath” by Jaid Black. I did not enjoy it.  Our leading lady, Sofia, has been kidnapped from Alaska and dragged to an underground Viking world to be auctioned off as a Viking’s bride. She is stripped nude, put on an auction block, and purchased.  And in the end, she falls for her new husband and comes to accept their way of life. I’m sorry. I just can’t get past the premise.

The final novella was “The Warlord Wants Forever,” the story that kicks off Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series. The book is worth it for this story alone. It features Niklolai Wroth, a vampire warlord, who meets his fated Bride, Myst the Valkyrie.  Myst is a prisoner in the castle Wroth has conquered. He hopes to use her to learn more about the creatures of the supernatural community, but he can’t resist his attraction to her. The feeling is mutual, but Myst’s Valkyrie sisters rescue her before they can consummate their relationship.  So Wroth spends five painful years searching for his missing Bride. When he finally finds her, he finds out he can control her by wielding the chain he pulls from around her waist.  Only, it’s not the power of the chain that makes Myst fall for her warlord.  It happens all on its own.  As with all IAD stories, this one is hot and super sexy. And we get to read the foundation for the main storylines in several books to come.

Alone, I’d give the Sherrilyn Kenyon story 4 stars, the Jaid Black story 2 stars, and the Kresley Cole story 5 stars.  An anthology worth the time and the money.

Click to purchase: Amazon

Review: Dark Dream

Reviewed by Jen

“Dark Dream” is one of a handful of novellas in Christine Feehan’s Carpathian series.  And this is one that fans shouldn’t miss. This one short story sets up several arcs for future books.

As the story begins, we learn that long ago, Mikail’s father sent out several warriors of the Carpathian race to journey around the world and fight the vampire threat. No one knew about these men or their mission. Falcon was one of those warriors. He’s been alive for more than a millenium and never thought he would find a lifemate, so far from his people. He feels like he is unable to fight the growing darkness within him for much longer, so he decides to return to the Carpathian Mountains one last time to see his homeland before he takes his life.

Just before that happens, he meets Sara. And suddenly, his world is in color again. Sara is on the run from the vampire who killed her family 15 years ago. She has the psychic ability to touch objects and see their history. So when she found a journal Falcon wrote hundreds of years ago, she saw his face, his struggle and his loneliness. And she knew he was destined to be her love.  She’s carried him in her heart for more than a decade, as she’s worked to elude the vampire stalking her.  Once she comes face to face with Falcon, there is no doubt for either of them that their destinies are entwined.

In addition to learning about the ancient Carpathians like Falcon, we learn more about lycanthropes and the jaguar people. (Females of both species eventually come into play as potential lifemates.) And for the first time we hear about the wizards and the existence of an ancient book hidden in the caves. This is a huge story arc in later books… and it all started here.

I like Falcon more than most Carpathian males. He is much less overbearing and pushy than a lot of the other heroes in this series.  The words “dark dream” give “velvet” a run for its money, with both appearing six times in the 70 pages. (Christine Feehan finds a phrase she likes and sticks with it.) One of the better stories in the series. 4 stars.

 

Dark Dream
by Christine Feehan
First Published in After Twilight Anthology
Release Date: September 2001
Publisher: Love Spell

Review: Dark Fire

Reviewed by Jen

I am a longtime fan of Christine Feehan. I’ve read almost everything she has ever written and I’ve always loved the Carpathian series.  But I found myself frequently annoyed throughout the course of this book. I don’t remember if I felt this way the first time I read it. But this time around, the book made me very frustrated.

Darius is a Carpathian male who grew up apart from his homeland. When he was only six years old, he lead a group of children away from a massacre in their village and he raised them on his own. Now, hundreds of years later, they are traveling the United States as part of a band.  He lives without color or emotion, and he feels himself nearing the point where he must either face the sun or turn into a vampire. (If you’re not up on the Carpathian mythology, check out my review on Dark Prince.)  But everything changes when his sister hires Tempest as the band’s mechanic.

Tempest has led a hard life. She grew up in foster care and on the streets. She has been abused and now lives as a loner.  She can communicate psychically with animals.  And she has no idea that Carpathians or vampires exist until she meets Darius.  Of course, he knows she is his lifemate right away, which makes it kind of creepy when he keeps talking about how young she looks and how child-like she appears.  But what is so irritating about the book is the way he completely takes over her life.

Yeah, yeah, that’s the Carpathian way. The men always think they know best and have to protect the women. But Darius is like a turbo-Alpha.  Over and over and over, he dismisses her feelings; he overrides her decisions; he forces her to his will.  And then she is mad for a nano-second and forgives him.  He thinks it’s all ok because he knows best.  And frankly, it pisses me off.  It’s not sexy. It’s not romantic.  One time in particular, he brings her into a volcano (don’t ask) to stay the night. She is scared and uncomfortable and tells him clearly and unequivocably that she wants to leave.  So he renders her unconscious and takes away her choices.  Then wakes her up in the morning, or I guess I should say evening, with a stiffy.  And then after their tumble, she realizes what he did, gets mad and then instantly gets over it.

I know it’s not all that different from some of the other installments, but it’s really sticking in my craw. Add to that, the flowery language that’s the hallmark of the series.  Feehan uses the word ”velvet” 49 times in this book and not once is she referring to fabric.  In fact, from now on, I think I’ll end every Carpathian review with a “velvet” word count… and if I’m feeling extra creative, I’ll break it down to include the subcategories of “velvet sheath,” “velvet tip,” and “velvet over iron.”

All this complaining may sound like I hated the book, but perversely, I didn’t.  I actually like the series. I enjoy the world-building, the destined soul-mates and most of the characters.  Clearly it holds some attraction because I keep coming back for more.  4 stars.

Dark Fire
by Christine Feehan
Release Date: October 2001
Publisher: Love Spell

Review: Dark Magic

Reviewed by Jen

At last, we get Gregori’s book. Most readers who started the Carpathian series at the beginning with Dark Prince, have been waiting for our ancient warrior to get his happily ever after –and with Dark Magic, the wait is over. We only had to wait four books. And for me, the wait was worth it.

Gregori is one of the oldest and the deadliest of Carpathian men.  As with all the men of his kind, he lost the ability to feel emotions and see in color when he turned 200. He’s nearly a thousand now.  And he is dangerously close to losing his honor and becoming the evil vampire he hunts.  All vampires were Carpathians to begin with: they all drink blood; can use telepathy; shapeshift; and must avoid the sun. But Carpathian men who give up hope of salvation, of finding their lifemate, embrace evil and become the beast that is the vampire.

Gregori has found his lifemate.  She is Savannah, daughter to his best friend, Mikhail.  She is a magician who has left the Carpathian Mountains of Romania to seek her independence. Gregori had come to her when she was 18, but she was not ready to be with him. She begged him for time and he gave her 5 years. These years have been very difficult for him. So difficult, that when they are finally reunited, he is almost more beast than man.  He spirits her away to his lair and “claims” her.  Savannah is very attracted to Gregori, but the act between them is far from gentle. She thinks him a monster, until she allows herself to use the telepathy of her people and see inside his mind.

Gregori is a tortured soul. He believes himself to be the monster she has branded him. But he loves her; he needs her. He doesn’t think he deserves her; especially because he thinks he tampered with nature and somehow forced her to become his lifemate while her mother carried her in the womb.  Savannah begins to soften toward Gregori as she sees the ways he is fragile. And she realizes that despite his strengths and dominating ways, she has much power, simply because of his feelings for her.

The pair leave San Fransisco and head to New Orleans, where they take up residence. They quickly run into trouble with a ring of vampire hunters who are, ironically, led by a vampire.  While raiding a safe house for our hunters, they find Gary Jansen, a scientist and true-believer, who they quickly befriend. He becomes Gregori’s first human friend, and goes on to become a reoccurring character in the series.

Gregori is very old and has some old ideas. He is stubborn and overbearing. But he is also very sympathetic.  He loves Savannah so completely. And their love scenes are very, very hot.

Like all of these books, there is a little repetition with the language. We get several reminders that Gregori is “the Dark One.” And our standard reminder that he is “sensual with a hint of cruelty.” But it’s just a tiny annoyance in what is a really good book. It’s one of my favorite in the series and one that Carpathian fans cannot miss. 4 1/2 stars.

Dark Magic
by Christine Feehan
Release Date: July 2000
Publisher: Love Spell

Review: Dark Challenge

Reviewed by Jen

Dark Challenge is the 5th book in Christine Feehan’s Carpathian series. This story focuses on Julian Savage, an ancient Carpathian, and twin to Aidan, who was featured in Dark Gold. Like all Carpathians, Julian drinks blood; he can shapeshift; he is telepathic; and he can not go out in the sun. The males of the species lose their ability to see in color and can no longer feel emotion after their 200th year. Julian is around 800 and is ready to end his existence. If a Carpathian man goes too long without emotion, he can turn vampire, an evil beast who kills without discretion. The only way to avoid that (or suicide) is to find his lifemate, the other half to his soul.

At the end of Dark Magic, we discover that a group of fanatical human vampire hunters have targeted some humans and Carpathians for destruction. A beautiful, mysterious singer named Desari is on their hit list. Ancient Carpathian Gregori has asked Julian to seek her out, warn her of the danger, and protect her. Once he finds her, Julian realizes she is his lifemate.

Moments later, Desari is shot during her performance. Julian saves her life, but is attacked by a strange leopard who is also trying to protect her. We later find out that the leopard is Darius, Desari’s brother. The two of them, and the other three members of their band are all Carpathians. But they grew up separated from the rest of their people. Hundreds of years ago, when humans were attacking their kind, they escaped. They were all children, but Darius took care of them… and has done so all these years.

The relationship between Desari and Julian develops quickly. It’s nice to see the heroine as a grown, secure woman. Someone who is already Carpathian. So many of the female leads in the series are mere babies compared to the age of their lifemates. Desari is an ancient in her own right. And Julian isn’t nearly as obnoxious as some of the Carpathian men we have encountered before. They have great chemistry and sexy love scenes.

Of course, where Carpathian women go, so goes the vampires. So Julian must band together with Darius to help protect Desari and the other female in the group. The task is even more monumental since Julian, himself, suffers from the taint of a vampire who forced a blood exchange when he was just a young boy.

This is one of my favorite books in the series. We get to meet a wealth of new characters and we get backstories on so many characters that will be featured in the future: not just the band members (some of whom we find out are long lost relatives to Gregori), but also the ancients Gabriel and Lucian. My only disappointment here is the missed opportunity for the reunions between Julian and Adian –and the members of the Daratrazanoff family (yes, that’s last name of Gregori’s people… although we don’t learn it in print until several books later.)

4 1/2 stars.

Dark Challenge
by Christine Feehan
Release Date: November 2000
Publisher: Love Spell

Review: Dark Gold

Reviewed by Jen
 

Dark Gold is the 3rd book in Christine Feehan’s Carpathian series. This book centers on Aidan Savage. He is born of the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. He is 800 years old. Like others of his race, he drinks blood; he can shapeshift; he has telepathic abilities; and he can not go in the sun. Like all Carpathian men, he lost his emotions and his ability to see in color after he turned 200. Those gifts will not return unless he finds his lifemate, the other half of his soul. If he does not find her, he will lead a barren existence, until he chooses to end his life or become vampire, an evil being who kills and inflicts misery on others.

Aidan finds his lifemate, Alexandria, in the clutches of a true vampire. The beast is trying to take her for his own mate. And he has tortured Alex to a point where, when Aidan first sees her, he thinks she is a deranged vampiress and attacks her. Once he realizes his mistake, he gives her his blood to save her life. After his brutal attack, Alex does not see the difference between Aidan and a vampire.

Aidan brings Alex and her young brother (who she is raising) back to his home. He realizes that the vampire had two blood exchanges with her –and his own blood exchange was the third necessary to convert a human woman to Carpathian. The conversion is hard on Alex and she doesn’t want it. She fights her attraction to Aidan. She fights becoming Carpathian. It’s hard to see her stripped of her choices; her independence ripped away.

Even though Aidan killed the vampire who first kidnapped Alex, another is searching for her, which puts her life in danger. And there is drama in that, but the real issue at the center of the book is her fight against what she has become and her fight against her feelings for Aidan. It takes a long time for her to get past the idea that he is using his telepathic abilities to make her want him, as he pushes his will on her in so many ways. I found I got angry for her many times in the book. As with all the other Carpathian men, Aiden believes his way is always the right way… and with the strength of his abilities, that’s a tough pill for Alex (and me) to swallow.

Of course, the sex scenes are pretty hot. That’s one thing you can always count on in a Carpathian book. But I think we can start a fairly good drinking game, where you take a shot every time Feehan uses the word “velvet.” Everyone will be tanked before we get halfway through the book. Between the velvet sheath, the velvet fist, the velvet tip, the velvet over marble, and velvet voices, we could open a fabric store courtesy of Dark Gold. If you can overlook that, the love scenes alone make the book a great read.

Despite my issues with bossy Aidan (and of course my rant on “velvet”), I enjoyed this book.  It was fun to see the heroine running away from our hero, despite the fact that he is gorgeous, rich and head over heels for her.  4 stars.

Dark Gold
by Christine Feehan
Release Date: April 2000
Publisher: Love Spell

Review: Dark Desire

Reviewed by Jen

Dark Desire is the 2nd book in Christine Feehan’s Carpathian series.  It picks up roughly 20-25 years after the events of Dark Prince. And this installment centers on Mikhail’s brother Jacques.

A quick review of the mythology of the series: There’s an ancient race of people who hail from the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. They drink blood; they can shapeshift and speak telepathically; they can’t go in the sun. And after about 200 years, their men lose their emotions and their ability to see in color. That is, until they find the other  half of their souls… their lifemates. Over time, living without a lifemate leaves a Carpathian man with two choices: ending his life or turning into a vampire, an evil being who lives to torment and kills his victims.

So, at the beginning of our story, poor Jacques has been kidnapped and tortured by some vampire hunters. Ironically, their strings are being pulled by a real vampire, and they are targeting the good Carpathians. Anyway, Jacques is tortured within an inch of his life, and is then buried alive in a coffin, where he suffers for seven years. During that time, his mind reaches out to Shea, the lifemate he has never met.

By the time seven years are done, Jacques is just about crazy. He doesn’t remember who he is. And Shea is the only thing he knows, beyond his hate and quest for vengeance. He lures Shea from the US to Romania to free him. In all the years he had been making contact with her, Shea didn’t even believe he was real… until she found him.

Once she comes to his gravesite, Shea frees Jacques and tries to heal him. (She is a doctor.) But he ravages her and takes her blood. In fact, he goes on to perform the requisite 3 blood transfers required to turn a human into a Carpathian. Despite his brutality and his serious mental and physical problems, Shea feels connected with Jacques. She reveals that even before the conversion, she was different from most humans. It turns out her father, Rand, was Carpathian. She never knew him. In fact, he left her mother before she was ever born and the loss of him drove her mom crazy. Shea grew up basically alone and had to deal with her physical differences on her own.

Jacques’ madness is very sad, since we knew him as a sweet and easygoing guy in Dark Prince. And it’s wonderful to see Mikhail, Gregori, and others as they find the man they thought long dead. I could do without some of that Carpathian he-man pushiness, but I’ve learned that is par for the course with heroes in this series.

There’s plenty of action as the vampire hunters search for Shea and the other Carpathians. The love scenes are hot, and fortunately, not quite so flowery as in the previous book. And it’s high drama when the identity of the vampire is finally revealed.

A great chapter in the Carpathian series. 4 1/2 stars.

Dark Desire
by Christine Feehan
Release Date: December 1999
Publisher: Love Spell