Archives for March 2011

Review: Lover Unleashed by JR Ward

Reviewed by Jen

I feel like I’ve been waiting ages for this latest installment and now that I’m finished reading it, I feel… dissatisfied. It wasn’t bad. It felt like it was a transition book. Like JR Ward ran out of stories linked to our core cast of characters and is setting up the characters for the next cluster of books.

Obviously, we’ve run out of Brothers, so we need new warriors. Enter Xcor and his five “bastards.” They’re hardcore killers, who fight dirty. They kill Lessers and live in the old-ways. Hey, look: There’s a pretty aristocratic one, a scarred one… Maybe we’ll hit the jackpot and one of them will go blind or develop a BDSM predeliction. But I digress.

This book is supposedly about V’s sister Payne. She was paralyzed at the end of Lover Mine and only Dr Manny, Jane’s old friend, can save her. Let me say, it takes freaking-forever before Manny and Payne even meet. It was nearly a quarter of the way into the book before they lay eyes on each other. The beginning of the book really dragged for me. When our couple finally did meet, there were hardly the fireworks I usually feel for a couple in this series. There was nothing particularly wrong with either character. Verily (snicker), I liked them both. But by the time they got together, their relationship (for lack of a better word) was rushed. And frankly, not much to speak of.

There is actually much more going on between V and Jane. Payne’s arrival and injury really tweaks her brother out. And he goes on a downward spiral that causes grave problems in his relationship. And he slips back into his S&M bag-o-tricks to help him deal. I was disturbed by his coping strategies. And saddened for Jane at how some of it played out.

If I’m being honest, I spent most of the book scooping up the crumbs Ward sprinkled in on my beloved Qhuinn and Blay storyline. Yes, our boys are in there. But not very much. Most of the soul-searching and pining about this relationship has been from Blay’s perspective. What we get here is almost all Qhuinn. And it’s just so sad. For everyone involved: Qhuinn, Blay, Saxton, and Layla. God, maybe I need some Lagavulin. It seems to work for everyone else.

I can see why there are such mixed reviews out on this one. I wasn’t thrilled with it, but it wasn’t bad. It was just missing some of the heart that the series usually has. Maybe it’s because John Matthew has provided such a consistent and emotionally resonant b-story in so many previous books –and that is noteably absent. Q & B’s scenes were too few and far between to fill the gap. The new warriors are too, well, new to care about. And I don’t know what the serial killer storyline was even doing in the book. So like I said earlier, it’s a transition book. Hopefully the next installment will have a little more heart. –Oh yeah, and some more sex.

3 1/2 stars.

Review: Lover Mine by JR Ward

Reviewed by Jen

I. Loved. This. Book.  And in no small part, that is because I love John Matthew.  I really had no choice in the matter. JR Ward introduced him to us back in Lover Eternal.  He was this sad, scrawny mute kid, who has never had a break in his life. Then he finds a family with the Brotherhood. Only to have the rug pulled out from under him with the tragic death of his adopted mother and the utter breakdown and disappearance of his adopted dad. We’ve gone through his transition with him. And watched him fall in love with Xhex.  Only to have her ripped away from him by his old enemy, Lash.

Now as this book begins, Xhex has been gone for weeks. And John is determined to find her.  Even though he thinks his love for her is one-sided, he refuses to give up.  Xhex, meanwhile, is being brutalized in ways I won’t get into here. But she does manage to escape and have her reunion with John.   It’s clear that no one has ever loved Xhex the way John Matthew does. And it is hard for her to accept what he wants to give. She has always depended on herself and fears the weakness that loving him could bring.  Their love story is absolutely amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better story for John. Romantic yet still very sexy.

I could have done without some of the cut-scenes.  Some of them are necessary, detailing Xhex’s conception and birth, as well as Lash’s slide into crazy-land.  I could have done without the whole Bed & Breakfast storyline.  The reveal on who the ghost was wasn’t worth the number of times Ward pulled me away from the parts of the book I was really interested.  And speaking of the parts I was really interested in, I have two words for you: Qhuinn and Blay.  I love watching their story unfold ever bit as much as I’ve loved John & Xhex’s. Blay is so incredibly vulnerable. And Qhuinn… well, it’s about time the guy starts to realize that the feelings his friend has are not entirely one-sided.  I want these two together so much. I’m dying to read the next installment for them alone.  As far as the real focus of the next book, Payne, is concerned, I don’t have strong feelings one way or another. I’ve never been a huge Vishous fan, and clearly her story will be related to his. So we’ll see.

As for Lover Mine, it’s my favorite in the series, second only to Lover Awakened. I don’t think anyone will ever replace Zsadist in my heart but this one came close. 5+ stars.

Review: Lover Avenged

Reviewed by Jen

I feel sorry for all those people who gave up on the Black Dagger Brotherhood after Phury’s book.  Because Rhev’s book was awesome.  In my opinion, the best book since Lover Awakened.

Rhevenge is not a typical hero. He’s a killer, a drug lord, and a pimp. He is sleeping with his half-sister.  And he was conceived when his sympath father raped his vampire mother.  Even half-sympaths are ostracized in the vampire world, so his wretched half-sister, the Princess of the people, holds the secret over his head.  If he doesn’t pay her off every month and have sex with her, she’ll tell everyone what he is.  He hates her, but he knows that if his secret is uncovered, it will destroy his mother and his sister.

To keep his evil side at bay, Rhev shoots himself up with dopamine.  It’s at the doctor’s office, he meets the lovely nurse Ehlena.  The relationship that develops between the two is actually pretty sweet… long talks on the phone and sweet dinners together. Of course, she has no idea what he is and knows nothing about the seedy side of his life. But the two of them have such a lovely connection.  Rhev wants to be the man Ehlena thinks he is, but he is trapped.

In the meantime, our sweet John Matthew has been broken. It’s really tough to witness.  He has always been this sweet, gentle soul. Now he has been hurt too many times and the boy we knew is gone… replaced with someone who has simply stopped caring.  What’s worse is that he was broken by those he loved most.

In the course of the book, we learn more about Xhex. And we watch Lash flex his muscles as the leader of the Lessers.  I’m ready for him to get his comeuppance.  (But having already read Lover Mine, I know he becomes even more despicable before that happens.)  There is also a lot of Wrath in this story. There are big changes in his life and it’s nice to know that our old favorites aren’t forgotten just because they found their loves in earlier installments.

Overall, this was a great book.  A solid love story. A great hero. If you gave up on the series, this one is worth coming back for. 5 stars.

Review: Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider’s Guide

Reviewed by Jen

I have to tell you, I never buy guides to books.  They always feel like a combination of rehash and filler.  And to be honest, I didn’t buy this one either. (A friend lent it to me.) But I did buy the ebook version of the “Father Mine” novella. Had it not been available, I would have bought the whole thing in a heartbeat. And it would have been worth it.

“Father Mine” is the story of how Zsadist becomes a father to his daughter. Yes, we saw how Nalla was conceived back in Lover Awakened. But the novella picks up shortly after her birth and shows the trouble Z is having in bonding with her.  He’s having nightmares that tie her in to his years of torture.  He feels unworthy of her.  And as a result, he doesn’t touch her; doesn’t even look at her; and it’s driving him and Bella apart.

This is a great story. Granted, I’d probably enjoy a story about Z & Bella having a dry-cleaning crisis. But in just 84 pages, Ward recaptures the heartbreak of Z’s past and the deep passion and devotion he has for his mate.  It is wrenching, sweet, and of course, sexy. The short story alone would get 5 stars.

The rest of the guide consists of odds and ends designed to give you a closer look at the previous books and characters.  There are mock interviews between the author and characters. (Kind of contrived for me.) But there was also a book by book breakdown, where Ward talks about her process and thoughts on each novel. That, I did enjoy.  She talked about what worked for her and what she was striving for. And she clarified a few finer points that I had some lingering confusion on: like the Butch & V relationship as well has how John Matthew managed to become the reincarnation of Darius. (That one always confused me a little because of the timeline.)

Hmm. What else? Some deleted scenes (including an earlier version of the break-up sex scene between Z & Bella that was better than the one that was published.) Some tips for aspiring authors; Ward’s initial proposal to her publisher about the series; Some silly internet postings from the perspectives of the characters; And a Q&A with the author.  Meh.  Other than the scene I mentioned above, none of that really did much for me.

So, when all is said and done, I still don’t plan to go out and buy this book, but only because I own the novella. If you haven’t read “Father Mine,” go out and get it now!  The rest mostly feels like extras from the author’s website.

4 stars.

Review: Lover Enshrined

Reviewed by Jen

This is my least favorite installment in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. And I know for some people, it was the point in which they stopped reading the series.  It’s definitely a turning point.  And I can tell you what the problem is in one word: Phury.  He is our male lead and quite frankly, he’s lame.

At the end of the last book, Phury agreed to take his brother V’s place as Primale of the race. He is essentially being put out to stud to repopulate the race. He’s not a very good choice for the job, though, seeing as how he is a drug addict and a virgin.  Cormia has been chosen as his “First Mate.” He’s supposed to sleep with her first, before boffing her 40 sisters of the faith. But he won’t seal the deal.  He’s too busy getting high and feeling sorry for himself.

Now I love a tortured hero, but Phury is just tortured… or maybe I’m the one tortured. By his whining.  Cormia is ok. She has lived a sequestered life and is just now learning to live in the outside world.  She’s not the best heroine, but she doesn’t stink like Phury.

Let me tell you why the book IS worth reading, though.  There’s a great secondary story surrounding John Matthew and BDB: The Next Generation. We see his arch-enemy Lash transform into something worse than he already was.  We getting the stunning revelation that opens to the door for a relationship between two beloved characters. And we watch JM’s feeling intensify for his future HEA, Xhex.   What’s more, we have a great set-up for Rhev’s story, which is next. And the return of TOHR!

The bottom line is that while it is the weakest book in the series, you shouldn’t skip it. Those great secondary storylines usher in the future of the Brotherhood. Just hold your nose and suck it up through the parts where Phury is whining and before you know it, you’ll be ready to read Lover Avenged.

3 1/2 stars.

Review: Lover Unbound

Reviewed by Jen

Vishous is one messed-up guy.  He had a tortured youth at the hands of his warped father.  He was nearly castrated and terribly scarred.  He can’t have a normal sexual relationship. And he thinks he’s in love with his best friend. Who is another guy.  And things are only getting more complicated in his life.

As the book begins, V is mooning over Butch and feeling kind of skeevy about it, since Butch is happily married and decidedly not gay.  Quickly, he is approached by the Scribe Virgin and told he’ll have no choice but to become the Primale of the race. Essentially, he is being put out to stud in order to breed new warriors.  But before he takes the job (which, by the way, he does NOT want) he gets shot. He would have died if he had not been taken to a human hospital and saved at the hands of Doc Jane.

By the time the Brotherhood finds him, V is already attached to her and demands she comes back to the compound to help him heal. That is what kicks off the relationship between them.  There are many twists and turns as well as big revelations in this book I won’t spoil.  I do want to touch on two things, though. One is the Butch issue.  V’s sexual fixation on him made me uncomfortable, largely because it makes him so uncomfortable.  But I found Butch’s explanation made perfect sense, when he explained that he was the first person that V ever loved in any way –and that he simply didn’t know what to do with those feelings.  Issue two: I’m not a big fan of BDSM.  Yeah, V is messed up and deals with his issues by being a Sadist and a Dom.  But it’s not my cup of tea… even if I’m only reading about it.  Thankfully, with love, V can also take a more tender path.

As with all Black Dagger Brotherhood books, there are also several side stories going on. John Matthew finally goes through his transition. It’s great watching him become the warrior he was destined to be, while he forges great friendships that extend into future books.. And we also have the set-up for Phury’s book. That one is, admittedly, my least favorite in the series, but I know I’m not the only one who feels that way.

Also of note, no Lesser POV in this one. I usually have to force myself not to skim over those parts, so it was a welcome change. 4 stars.

Review: Lover Revealed

Reviewed by Jen

The problem with reading a truly exceptional book is that you find yourself judging other books against it. And the other books always fall a little short. Lover Unleashed has the misfortune of coming after Lover Awakened. It’s not a bad book, but it doesn’t hold a candle to its predecessor.

We met Butch O’Neal back at the start of the series. He was a tough human cop, who ended up being drawn in the world of vampires. He ended up friends with the members of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, the warriors who defend their race. He is especially close to Vishous.  And he has an enormous crush on a the beautiful, virginal vampire Marissa.  But she doesn’t seem to return his feelings.

As our story begins, Butch is taken by vampire hunters, called Lessers, and infected with the essence of their leader, the Omega.  He nearly dies and is rushed to the vampire doctor Havers, who happens to be Marissa’s brother. Once she learns of his injuries, Marissa sticks to Butch like glue… and we learn she cared for him all along. This is just the first in a series of contrived stumbling blocks between the two of them. Time and time again, we see how deeply these two care for and need one another. Then something stupid gets in their way and it seems to be over. Then they come back together. Rinse & repeat.

Beyond that, there is something weird going on between V & Butch. Both guys are straight, but there is a definite sexual vibe there that feels… off.  I understand these guys are really close, but even they seemed icked out by the undertones.  Some of the “why’s” of their connection are revealed as the story progresses and I’m OK with V using his gift/curse to help Butch as he learns his powers.  But the sex-vibe I could do without.

And my last big peeve: they changed the rules for Butch.  I’m cool with what happened to him in the end. But it felt like Ward was cheating the rules of her own universe with his outcome.

With all that complaining, it might sound like I didn’t like the book. But I did.  Ward has created a sexy, dark, complex and satisfying world with this series.  The longing and the love scenes are fantastic. And as always, I found myself as invested in the stories surrounding the secondary characters as I did Butch & Marissa.  –I mean, how can you not love John Matthew?

4 stars.

Review: Lover Awakened

Reviewed by Jen

Zsadist is the benchmark I measure all my tortured heroes against.  He is a warrior vampire, who was kidnapped as a baby. He was sold into slavery and spent the first century of his life being used for blood and sex.  His twin, Phury, rescued him, but not before irreparable damage was done to his body and mind.

Our book begins with our heroine, Bella, in captivity. She has been kidnapped by a Lesser… a soulless vampire hunter.  She reminds him of a woman he once loved and he now thinks of Bella as “his.” Did I mention Mr. O is bat-shit crazy?  Yeah, completely coconuts. And he has become the Omega’s butt-buddy in order to rule the Lessening Society and protect his secret love for Bella.

Z, meanwhile, has been obsessing about the kidnapped woman and searching desperately for her.  A connection between the two of them had been established in the last book… and he can’t give up on her. Of course, he finds her and nurses her back to health.  She stays with Z and the other members of the Brotherhood as she heals. And she makes no secret of her feelings for Zsadist. Even though he feels the same way about her, he feels unworthy of her. So he pushes her away time and time again. When the two of them finally get together, though, their love scenes are some of the very best I have ever read. Anywhere. Zsadist is a man his own twin has proclaimed to be “ruined.” But it is mesmerizing and beautiful to watch Bella’s love put the broken man back together again.

I should probably warn you, there are some disturbing moments as Z’s experiences are recounted through his memories. But it’s necessary to see what he’s had to endure, to understand the shell of a man he became. And it makes it all the more poignant, as he finally realizes the happiness he never thought he would experience.

10 stars. Out of 5.

Follow Friday & Blog Hop

Happy Friday! Here’s our weekly opportunity for bloggers to come together and check out each others sites. Please remember to leave a comment below, along with your link so that I can check out your site, and return the favor.

If you want to participate, it’s easy. To learn more and to enter, check out: Parajunkee  and Crazy for Books!

Q. Inspired by the inane twitter trend of #100factsaboutme, give us five BOOK RELATED silly facts about you.

1. If left completely alone, I’d read a full length novel in 3-4 hours in one sitting.
2. I read in my car during my lunch break.
3. For a while after reading a series, I think in the speech patterns of the characters. (Right now, I keep thinking “Win!” thanks to Strider in the LotU.)
4. When one of my good friends arrives at work every day, we spend at least our first 10 minutes dishing on what we read the night before.
5. I get really bummed out when finishing a series and have to start something new right away. I call it “breaking up” with the last set of books.
6. *BONUS ANSWER* I absolutely hate it when the cover models don’t match the character descriptions in a book. It drives me nuts.
Book Blogger Hop

Q. If you could physically put yourself into a book or series…which one would it be and why?

That’s really hard. I’m going with the assumption that I can do whatever I want or be whoever I want in this instance. So I’d say either The Dark Hunter books, so I could completely pulverize Artemis OR The Lords of the Underworld so I could be Torin’s HEA. (Don’t tell my husband.)

Review: Lover Eternal by JR Ward

Reviewed by Jen

JR Ward continues her super-sexy Black Dagger Brotherhood series, with the love story of Rhage and Mary.  Rhage is warrior vampire, who has pledged his life to protect the civilians of his species from soulless hunters called Lessers.  He is suave and gorgeous, but carries a curse.  When he is overcome by emotion or excess, he turns into a raging beast. He can stave off the change with frequent fighting and sex. But that keeps him from making a real emotional connection with a woman.

Mary is human.  When she takes the young John Matthew under her wing, neither she nor he know that he is about to transition into a vampire. Neither knows such a thing exists.  But when Mary introduces John to her vampire neighbor Bella, the lovely civilian vamp calls the Brotherhood to take the young man under their wing.  John can’t speak, so Mary goes with him to meet the brothers and serves as in interpreter.  It there she meets Rhage –and he becomes entranced by the sound of her voice.

Rhage worms his way into Mary’s life and the two go on a few dates.  He is completely captivated by her but worries what his beast will do to her if he loses control.  Circumstances force Mary under Rhage’s protection, which draws the two of them closer and closer.  But there are serious obstacles in their way, like the beast, the Lessers, Mary’s ignorance of the vampire world, and the recurrence of the illness she is fighting.  It’s lovely to watch this obscenely beautiful man fall so completely in love with an ordinary woman.  (Though I must acknowledge, I don’t know if I could forgive him as she did for his one flagrant indiscretion. I felt kicked in the stomach just reading it. Not only did she not leave him, she stuck around and boffed him instead.)

As with all books in this series, Ward does a great job weaving the other brothers into the story. We have the set-up firmly in place for Z’s story, which is my absolute favorite in the series.  I love, love, love this series. And good gravy, Ward writes some steamy sex.

5 stars.