Archives for January 2011

Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Undead

Reviewed by Jen

A price put on your head?  Child’s play –and sooo last season for bounty hunter & witch Rachel Morgan.  In fact, Rachel has recovered quite nicely in the wake of leaving her old employer and surviving the hit the bosses put on her. She is happily dating Nick, a human who dabbles in magic. She is still living her with the partners in her business: Jenks the pixy and Ivy the vampire. And she is running independent jobs.

Things seem pretty great.  Until she gets pulled into a case involving a witch murderer. Of course, there are ties to the mysterious and dirty councilman Trent Kalamack.  Rachel still holds a grudge against him since he held her captive and nearly killed her in the city’s rat fights. (It’s a long story –and really, you should read Dead Witch Walking first anyway.)  So she starts investigating along with the human authorities. Ivy hates the idea of Rachel putting herself in danger and takes the news very poorly.  There is still something very uncomfortable and sexual going on between the women. And it’s made even more volatile in the wake of that demon/vampire attack Rachel survived in the last book.

Once again, Harrison’s complex world of the Hollows is fascinating and captivating. Even more interesting to follow are all the relationship threads Rachel is weaving.  Of course, with Ivy, as mentioned above… With Nick, who is clearly more than just an average guy. He seems to really care for Rachel. But he’s got some shady things going on… With Trent.  We finally find out what he is. But we still don’t know WHO he is.  There is an undefinable pull between him and Rachel, and a history we’re just learning about too.  We also have several other side characters who become more and more vital to the series with every book: Jenks, Kisten, Edden, Glenn, Piscary, and the glorious demon Al (who makes me laugh more than he should.)

Each book in the series draws me in a bit more, with love, betrayal, loyalty, honor, and danger.  And of course, Rachel, herself.  I love her as a heroine because she is good, but not perfect. She is impetuous and often short-sighted, but almost always motivated by friendship or honor.  4 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Good, the Bad, and the Undead
by Kim Harrison
Release Date: January 25, 2005
Publisher: Harper Torch

Review: Dead Witch Walking

Reviewed by Jen

Kim Harrison has constructed a rich, complex world for her Hollows series. And Rachel Morgan is a character who is easy to love. She is a tough, capable witch, with a strong sense of honor and loyalty. As our story begins, she is a runner, an officer of sorts, for a paranormal policing agency. But she is miserable. She’s been getting terrible assignments and she wants out. Unfortunately, Interlander Security is a bit like the mob –or Hotel California– you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. Rachel leaves anyway.  She never expects a vampire-agent named Ivy would opt to go with her. So would pixy Jenks.  They decide to form their own agency. And it’s a good thing Rachel has them standing with her: she’s going to need serious help to survive the hit her old boss has put on her.

Rachel gets the bright idea that if she can bring down a big fish on her own, the IS will have to back down. So she goes after Trent Kalamack, a high-profile councilman, long suspected of trafficking the drug, Brimstone.  Rachel spends the bulk of the book intermittently trying to nail Trent –and to simply survive.

I have to say, the best thing about this book (this whole series, really) is the richness of the characters. Trent is so very compelling and confusing. There are times he seems like a potential love interest for Rachel: a sexy, powerful, lonely enigma. Other times, he’s painted as a monster: someone who will kill or break another person at will.  Jenks is a wonderful, loyal and extremely dependable friend, who revels in Rachel’s respect and friendship. And Ivy… well, Ivy makes me a little uncomfortable. I assume that is because she makes Rachel so uncomfortable.  The blatant sexual vibe she throws off in concert with violence leads to a great deal of uncertainty and tension, but somehow there is affection mixed in there too.

This is not my favorite book in the series. For me it really gains emotional resonance in For a Few Demons More and beyond. But this is where it all begins, and it’s an important step you can’t miss in this phenomenal series.  A great Urban Fantasy world.

4 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon
Dead Witch Walking
by Kim Harrison
Release Date: April 27, 2004
Publisher: Harper Torch

Series Reading Order: The Hollows

Here is the author’s suggested reading order for The Hollows (Rachel Morgan) series by Kim Harrison:

* Denotes novella/short story published in an anthology or with a full length novel

For the chronological order of events, see below:

  • “The Bespelled”
  • “Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel”
  • “Undead in the Garden of Good & Evil”
  • Blood Work
  • Dead Witch Walking
  • The Good, the Bad & the Undead
  • Every Which Way but Dead
  • A Fistful of Charms
  • “Dirty Magic”
  • For a Few Demons More
  • “The Bridges of Eden Park”
  • The Outlaw Demon Wails
  • White Witch, Black Curse
  • “Ley Line Drifter”
  • Black Magic Sanction
  • Pale Demon
  • “Million Dollar Baby”
  • A Perfect Blood
  • The Undead Pool
  • The Witch With No Name

Review: Claiming the Highlander

When I first started Claiming the Highlander, I was afraid I had finally found a Sherrilyn Kenyon story that I didn’t like. But I’ve read so many of her books, I stayed with it, despite the slow start. And I am so glad I did. Not only did it improve, it actually turned out to be a pretty great book.

Braden MacAllister is the rogue playboy of his Highlander family. Women throw themselves at him. So when the women of his home village stage a revolt against the men, he is the perfect guy to try to talk them out of it. The fiery Maggie is behind the women’s cause. They have all locked themselves on holy ground, refusing to serve the men in any way, until they end a longstanding feud with a rival clan. Maggie has held a torch for Braden her whole life, but she is disheartened by his rakish reputation. And she knows it for what it is, when he tries to seduce her to manipulate her. For the first time, a women calls him on his load of bull.

It’s great fun to see Braden fall for Maggie as they work together to find another way to end the war. I liked learning that he was not all he seemed. And in the meantime, I found Maggie to be a tough and likeable heroine. It was easy to root for them to be together. I also found myself anxious to learn more about Braden’s brothers, especially the tortured Sin. (Thankfully, his story is next in the series.)

The romance is, in turn, sweet and very sexy. Kenyon (MacGregor) can write the heck out of a love scene. I really liked it. 4 stars.

Review: Dreams Dark Kiss

Reviewed by Jen

I’m a big fan of Urban Fantasy, a genre which for the most part features some combination of vampires, shapeshifters/werewolves, witches and/or Fae. It’s an unusual author that finds a new otherworldly focus. And even more unusual: to make it work.

Dreams’ Dark Kiss follows the world of dream guardians.  Our heroine,  Ciaran, has been ferrying souls through the Dreamscape to the Other Side, ever since she was a child. But suddenly, she finds herself in the unfamiliar and desolate Wastelands –an in-between place inside the Dreaming. She is attacked by a beast and nearly raped, but she calls out to others of her kind for help.  In doing so, she summons the man who will be her mate, a dream guardian named Keoni.  Through him, Ciaran learns that she is more powerful in the dream world than she knew.

Of course, the story has to have a villain.  The one here is trying to bring the stuff of nightmares into the waking world. Oh, and he wants to make Ciaran his broodmare to help with his cause. Ciaran must work with Keoni to discover why she is so special and to foil the bad guy’s evil plan.

There’s a reason so many authors go the vampire and werewolf route: people already understand the fundamentals of the mythology. As refreshing as a new story is, understanding the world building is a serious endeavor.  I didn’t always follow the what was happening in the dreamworld. The glossary of terms at the end was helpful. But I think, by the time I got to the end, I understood what was going on. And after reading this, I believe a sequel would be much easier for me to jump into.
Nearly 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by Net Galley

Review: Hunger Aroused

Reviewed by Jen

Wow. This book was hot.  Really. Really. Hot.

Jasmine is a nurse who is transitioning into a vampire.  She wasn’t turned in the traditional way, with biting and blood sucking. Rather, she was infected by a tainted needle and has no idea what is going on.  That is, until she has the (mis)fortune of running into Corin on the street. He is an executioner for the Vampire Council. It is his job to eradicate fledglings and punish their sires for unauthorized turnings.  He can smell the scent of transition all over Jasmine.

He follows her home, planning to kill her. But he is unexpectedly drawn to her.  He eases the torment of her changing body with sexual healing.  And before he knows what hit him, he feels more compelled to protect her than kill her.  The two go on the run from the council, growing more tied to each other with every passing minute.  Can they escape Jasmine’s death sentence? And beyond that, can Corin escape his brutal, tortured past?

Corin’s transition was centuries ago, following his life as a gladiator. He was subjected to torture and other atrocities to make him submit to his sire.  I understand why this is part of the story. It gives us insight into why Corin is so determined to defend rules for how humans are turned.  However, the flashbacks are stark and disturbing. They pulled me out of our couple’s erotic love story and their fight for their future. Of course, it also makes Corin very sympathetic –and you can’t help but want him to finally find happiness.

The story moves quickly and there are plenty of steamy sex scenes.  So if you are looking for a hot vampire story and you’re prepared to be a little disturbed in order to get to the HEA, this one is worth a read. 4 stars.

Review: Master of Desire

Draven of Ravenswood is a man hardened into a warrior by a cruel father.  His name is whispered; his reputation, that of a relentless demon on the battlefield.  He trusts no one, except for his brother Simon and cherishes nothing except his honor.

Someone has been pillaging his lands and he suspects his neighbor, Hugh. The same thing is happening to Hugh and he suspects Draven. So they take their grievances to the king. His majesty decides to send Hugh’s daughter to live with Draven for a year. That way, Hugh would never attack Draven’s land.  And Draven gives his word of honor to protect the woman from harm and from lust.

The only problem is…. the first time Emily sees Draven, she wants him for her husband.  She goes to work, trying to seduce him.  And he wants her too. But he also knows that if he breaks his oath, the king will kill him. And beyond that, he fears that he is not worthy of the lovely lady.  He is afraid he holds the same monstrosity inside himself, that once led his father to kill his mother.

This was a solid historical romance.  Despite her innocence in the bedroom, Emily is smart and tenacious.  And Draven is a wonderful wounded hero.  It was easy to root for them. And when they finally come together… well, let’s just say Sherrilyn Kenyon (Kinley MacGregor) can write the heck out of a love scene.  I really enjoyed it. 4 stars.

Review: Bonded by Blood

There are two kind of vampires in the world: those who accept the new ways and those who wish to bring back the ways of old.  The Darkbloods are vampires who believe human lives and blood are theirs for the taking.  Especially those known as “sweetbloods.”  Humans with that special quality in their blood are especially sought after, so much so that Darkbloods sell vials of the stuff on the street like it’s a drug.

Dominic is one of the vampires who embraces a life lived side by side with humanity. He rarely partakes in human blood and when he does –it’s never to kill. He works for a group known as the Agency. They are vampires who police the rest of their kind and fight the Darkbloods.

It’s just after he is gravely injured, that Mac stumbles across Dom’s path. She is a sweetblood –and though he tries to resist her, the pull is too strong and he takes her blood. He takes so much, in fact, that he must give her some of his own to save her life. The exchange activates a blood bond between the two, a rare and binding tie, which allows them to sense each others emotions and even share thoughts.

The story was easy to get into.  The world-building easy to follow. And perhaps most importantly, the building sexual tension between the two main characters was played to perfection.  However, there was a bit of predictability as the story arc played out.  I think some of the foreshadowing was a little heavy-handed and I would have liked to be surprised a little more.  Also, I found some of the scenes cut off a bit more abruptly than I’d like –and we’d see days or weeks gone as we went into another scene without seeing immediate repercussions of what happened immediately before.

All that being said, I did enjoy it.  It was an easy read, not too complex, with some hot sex.
Almost 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Review: Spell of the Highlander

Reviewed by Jen

We’re not done with the McKeltar Highlanders just yet. Karen Marie Moning introduces us to a new member of the sexy clan, Cian. He was born in the 9th century and was probably the most gifted and powerful of the Druid line. But he met a Dark Sorcerer named Lucian who tricked him into friendship and trapped him inside a Fae mirror for over 1000 years. Now the mirror has been stolen and sold to a college professor. Lucian sends his goons to retrieve it –but not before the professor’s assistant, the lovely Jessi, crosses paths with it. When her life is on the line, Cian tells her how to free him from the mirror to save his life.

Of course, enchanted mirrors and the Fae are a tough pill to swallow, but Jessi becomes a believer quickly as Lucian sends more threats to her life. And despite his dark edge and penchant for taking charge, she can’t help but being drawn to Cian. The two go on the run; Cian determined to protect Jessi. They only have to elude Lucian for three weeks, until Halloween. If Lucian doesn’t reclaim the mirror by then, the curse is broken. Unfortunately, Cian can only stay outside of the mirror for a few hours at a time before it reclaims him until the next day.

The couple decides to go to Scotland, to hide on MacKeltar land. And there, they run into Dageus and Drustan. Cian reluctantly seeks their help as Lucian closes in on him. In the meantime, the relationship between him and Jessi reaches a fever pitch. But he is holding a secret that will likely ruin any chance they have at a future.

The end of the book sets up the events that take place in Moning’s Fever series… which takes place five years after the conclusion of this story. We hear from the Fae Queen, an overview of what is to come in the dark days ahead.

I liked this book, though not quite so much as Kiss of the Highlander. It feels like every hero has to be more powerful than the last…. Enough already. The love scenes were very hot. And I was pleasantly surprised at the tenderness we see from our tortured Cian. One other little peeve: enough with the virgins already, sheesh! A heroine doesn’t HAVE to be a virgin in every book. Let’s change it up just a little every now and then m’kay?

Review: The Immortal Highlander

Reviewed by Jen

This a great book for many reasons. It’s a fun romance on its surface, but it’s also a treasure trove of Easter Eggs for fans of both the Highlander and Fever series.

Adam Black is our male lead.  As a member of the Seelie (Light) Fae Court, he’s got a tie in to just about every one of the previous Highlander books.  But in the last installment, The Dark Highlander, he pushed the Fae Queen too far, when he advocated for the life of Highlander Dageus MacKeltar.  As punishment for his insolence, she makes him human. Not only that, she makes him invisible to the humans around him and takes away his ability to see other Fae.  He is completely alone.. until he runs into Gabby. She is a sidhe-seer, someone who can see beyond Fae glamour. She can see and hear Adam… in all  his sexy glory.  She fights her attraction to him. But who could resist such a seduction?

As Adam works to regain his immortality, the two travel to Scotland and team up the MacKeltar clan.  At the same time, Darroc, another member of the Fae court, is plotting to kill Adam. He doesn’t want Adam to interfere with his plan to break the covenant between man and Fae.  So Darroc calls forth “Hunters,” from the dark Unseelie realm to find our couple and dispatch them.

If you are a fan of the Highlander series, you can’t miss this one. Adam finally gets to feel what it’s like to be one of the humans he is so enamoured with.  We get to see or hear about past heroes like Drustan, Dageus & Circenn… even Grimm’s family gets a shout out. And for fans of the Fever series… this book is essentially a primer for all that we see in those books.  We learn about the sidhe-seers and their relationship to the Fae, the Hunters, Darroc, and the series of events that lead almost directly to Darkfever.

I liked this book for the love story at face value –but LOVED it for its place in Karen Marie Moning’s rich and complex world.  5 stars.