Archives for April 2012

Giveaway: Born of Silence

The wait is almost over for the latest book in The League series by Sherrilyn Kenyon.  Born of Silence gives us Darling’s story and fans have been rumbling about this book for the past year.  If you’ve somehow missed the controversy, up until now, Darling has been presented as a gay character, but in the new book, his love interest is a woman.

I was one of the people complaining the loudest, but I thought the book was amazing. You can check out my spoiler-free review here and I’ve got the blurb below.

As the Resistance leader, Zarya Starska’s only goal is to topple the government that destroyed her entire family and left her penniless. Her biggest asset is a mysterious man known only as Kere.

But Kere has a dark secret. Born into a world that is as privileged as it is corrupt, his real name is Darling Cruel-and he is heir to the government Zarya wants to overthrow. No one has ever seen the real man behind the legend. No one except Zarya. But when she allows a weapon he designed to be used against his beloved sister, all bets are off.

Betrayed by the Resistance, Darling’s goal is not only to reign, but to kill every Resistance member he can find. Zarya must stop Darling’s reign of terror, but can she reach past his insanity to restore the hero who once fought by her side?

If you’ve been waiting to get your hands on this one, let me help you out.  I’m giving away one hardback copy of the book, courtesy of Grand Central Publishing.  To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below.  US entries only on this one.

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Review: Born of Silence

**Spoiler Free** I went into this book convinced I was not going to like it.  Darling has been a beloved character for me ever since the start of the League series.  And I was absolutely livid about the idea that after three books, Sherrilyn Kenyon was taking a character who had always been gay and making him straight.  From the moment I finished Born of Shadows, the idea festered in my head.  I complained about it for a year.  Then I started reading this book and it blew me away from the very beginning.

Obviously, Darling is not gay and in my heart of hearts, that may always bother me on some level.  But Kenyon makes it work. I’m not going to spoil how, because it’s part of the journey.  In fact, I’m going to try really hard to keep as much of the plot to myself as I can because I don’t want to rob you of the shocking twists and turns the story takes us on.

The bare bones are as follows:  Darling has been having a super-secret affair with a Resistance fighter named Zarya for two years, but he’s been doing it as his alter-ego Kere. She has never seen his face but their love is real and they plan to get married.   And then it all goes to hell.  Darling’s miserable past is slowly revealed over the course of the book and as horrible as it is, what he goes through in the present may actually be worse.  The depths of his misery are hard to bear.  I question whether anyone can go through what he does and emerge with a soul intact on the other side, no matter the depth of the love or friendship that surrounds him.

Kenyon is the queen of the tortured heroes and while Acheron may always reign supreme as the most tortured, Darling gives him a run for his money –and if you’ve read Acheron that should tell you a lot.  What Darling has, though, that Ash never did is an amazing friend in Maris.  I love Maris.  He is the glue that holds Darling together when he begins to crack, and I’m so glad this character existed to give our hero some shelter from the storm.

As for Zarya, she makes a mistake that has serious consequences.  But I believe she is a good person. And there is absolutely no doubt that she loves Darling with her whole heart.  The question becomes whether her love will be enough to help heal him.

The cast of the previous League books feature prominently and Kenyon does a fantastic job maintaining continuity. I loved learning how Darling became part of the Sentella and seeing how Nyk, Syn and the others became his real family.  It’s also great to see the old characters not just used as placeholders for a happy ending update, but as a real part of the story.

And the ending.  It was one heck of an ending.  A game changer for the series.

I’m not going to say any more, except that if you are a League fan and were on the fence about this book, I urge you to read it.  You’ll be moved… outraged… and amazed. Or at least, I was.

Rating: A-

*ARC Provided by Grand Central Publishing

Click to purchase: Amazon
Born of Silence
by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review: Scotsmen Prefer Blondes

Reviewed by Jen

When Prue is set up to marry a sexy Scottish laird, her friend Amelia comes along to make the road easier.  No one expects that Malcolm will truly fancy Amelia over the woman with whom he was expected to make a match.  Even more confounding is the fact that Amelia returns his feelings.  She would never betray her friend, but an unexpected kiss does just that. And before you know it, Amelia and Malcolm are married.

Malcolm never wanted a love match. He wanted a wife who would be politically advantageous, as he worked to champion Scotland in the House of Lords.  But instead of a biddable and traditional woman, Amelia is fiery and passionate.  He doesn’t know it, but she is a published writer with a hidden identity, one that could destroy her reputation –and his– if it ever comes to light.

The story follows Malcolm and Amelia as they try to balance their growing feelings for one another, with the futures they have always worked to cultivate for themselves.  This, while Amelia waits in fear that her jilted friend Prue will reveal her deepest secret out of spite.

I liked Amelia and her passion.  She refuses to wilt even under the constraints her new husband places on her.  I felt like she really loved Malcolm and her only real mistake was keeping her secret from him. I can’t be quite so charitable about Malcolm.  His autocratic and domineering behavior in the second half of the book really made me mad.  I think it was made worse by the fact we had already seen the kind of man he was capable of being, during the honeymoon phase of the relationship.  The fact that he loved Amelia made it even more damaging when he cast those feelings aside for his “greater purpose.”  Obviously, he realizes the error of his ways, but by the time he does, I would have been just as happy to see Amelia kick him in the shins as accept his apology.

The sex is good, but served too often as a crutch in their relationship.   I felt like Amelia let her passion for Malcolm override her self-respect a little.  I do love how Sara Ramsey keeps working the word “manroot” into her books.  And that she manages to create characters that keep me entertained and interested throughout the story.  I’ve got my fingers crosses for an Alex and Prue pairing in book 3.  Anyone with me?

Rating: C+

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Scotsmen Prefer Blondes
by Sara Ramsey
Release Date: March 29, 2012
Publisher: Spencerhill Associates

Review: Water Waltz

Reviewed by Jen

I am a fan of m/m romance and I enjoy the paranormal, so when I read this blurb on this story, I thought it might give me the best of both worlds.  The story takes place in a world filled with demons, angels, and other creatures who are at odds with humanity. The bulk of the book is set in the demon world, where the supernaturals like to kidnap humans and take them as slaves.  Not all the paranormals support this behavior.  In fact, the government has a covert agency to recover kidnapped humans and punish the offenders for their crimes.

Varun is a demon who works for the agency.  As the book begins, he rescues a human from bondage, and in the process uncovers a deeper schism between his people and the humans than he ever imagined.  But perhaps the bigger issue at the center of the story is his mysterious relationship with his butler, an angel named Triste.  The men were lovers for years, until Triste suddenly broke things off and took the job as Varun’s servant. Obviously, they still love each other, but won’t admit their feelings.

The why’s behind Triste’s decision to break up with Varun are revealed deep into the book. But until then, we have to watch both men engage in sexual relationships with other people.  This was a big turn off for me.  It’s hard to root for your main couple when they are both getting it on with other dudes for more than half the book.  In detail.  Speaking of the m/m action, I think everybody in the book is gay. There are maybe one or two females in the whole book –and all the guys are doing each other.  Even the humans.  I’m down with guy on guy, but it’s weird that no one likes the ladies.

The book is heavy into the political machinations of several entities, from the humans to the supes, to the factions fighting the slavers.  It got confusing at times and convoluted.  Some things were far too drawn out, while others were not given nearly enough time to play out.  One relationship in the second half of the book happens so fast, I nearly got whiplash.  The guy went from heartbroken, to sleeping with a new partner, to “growing his heart” in the other man’s chest (don’t ask) inside of 50 pages.

There is some pretty good action in the last 1/3 of the book; and I found Triste likeable and easy to root for. I just didn’t engage all that deeply.  It was definitely different, and it had some interesting parts.  But I’m not sure it was for me.

Rating: C-


*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Water Waltz
by Hayley B James
Release Date: February 13, 2012
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Review: The Werewolf’s Wife

Reviewed by Jen

As the new head of his werewolf pack, Ridge realizes that it’s time for him to find a mate and start a family.  But before he can do that, he needs to get a divorce from the woman he married in Vegas during a one-night stand 13 years ago.  As hot as their drunken roll in the hay was, it ended very badly when he started to shift in bed –and the fiery witch responded with a powerful zap to his gut.  He hasn’t seen her since.

Just as Ridge shows up on Abigail’s doorstep, her son is kidnapped.  The mysterious abductor demands that she track down a particular vampire to trade for the boy’s life.  Ridge agrees to help her get her son back.  And as they work together, all the old sparks start flying again.

My biggest complaint about this book is that it’s predictable.  Basic math skills tip off the possibility of the child’s paternity from the get-go.  We know that Ridge is starved for family and what better payoff could there be, other than one that’s ready made?  The identity of the kidnapper is pretty transparent as well.

My other beef?  The very idea that Abigail could reignite this relationship while her son’s in mortal danger.  Sure, I can see her leaning on this stalwart man and reaching out for his goodness and strength. But I just don’t buy any mom putting her terror on hold to get laid.  Nope.  Her son has been kidnapped; his life is in jeopardy and she’s going down on wolfman.  And then some.

The book is part of Michele Hauf’s Beautiful Creatures world and references events and characters in the Wicked Games series.  You don’t have to read those books to understand what’s going on, but as a new reader, I could definitely feel I had missed something, with the large amount of backstory we’re filled in on.  Also, as someone unfamiliar with the world-building, I got a little confused about what Ridge’s were-form was.  It was explained, but not until very far in the book, that it’s part-man, part-beast.  And then I got a little squicked out thinking about him having sex that way.

The book was ok reading in parts.  I liked Ridge and I wanted him to get his HEA.  But overall, it wasn’t great.

Rating: C-

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Werewolf’s Wife
by Michele Hauf
Release Date: March 20, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Nocturne

An F is an F. But what about a C?

The longer I write reviews, the more confounded I am by star ratings.  When I started rating books, it never occurred to me that different people would interpret them to mean different things.  It’s pretty universal that 5 star books are books we really love.  And 1 star books are the worst of the worst.  But the discrepancies come with the numbers in between, especially that intangible 3-star review. 

If I gave a book 3 stars, I thought it was meh… alright… fair… so-so… a “C.”  Yet other people have told me that for them, a 3-star rating means the book was good, that they liked it.  I guess it’s all semantics, but I’m seriously considering moving to a grade rating system for many reasons.  One, I’ll get more nuances in ratings with +/- options.  And two, maybe if I throw a “C” up on a book I thought was so-so, it will be clearer.  Or maybe not.  Undoubtedly, someone will pop up and say “I think C’s are good.” 

But I’d like to get your thoughts on it before I make a change. Are you guys down with letter grades to rate books?  Would it make things clearer?  Do you care?    

Review: The Wolf Who Loved Me

Weston Hadley has been in love with Lady Madeleine for as long as he can remember, but she is so far above his station, he never dreams they could be a match.  Not only is he strapped for funds and from a less noble family, he is also a werewolf –a closely guarded secret.  Unfortunately, Lady Madeleine stumbles into his path one night as he changes into his wolf form.  Fearful she will spill the family secret, he kidnaps her and heads to Gretna Green.

It doesn’t take long for Maddie to fall for her captor.  On the road to Scotland, real feelings surface between them, making their marriage more than one of convenience.  Wes is so smitten with her, it makes for some sweet moments. Sadly, it wasn’t enough to overcome the huge character flaws that nearly torpedoed the relationship.

Maddie is a spoiled princess. She isn’t mean or snobby, but she is utterly clueless to any way of life other than one of privilege.   She makes demands Wes can’t easily fulfill.  She obsesses over propriety and appearance.  And Wes just feeds into the nonsense.  He has her up on a pedestal.  He constantly ruminates that she is too good for him –that he is ruining her because he is getting her dirty. It got on my nerves.

Then, there is the Big Misunderstanding which drives them apart. But its exacerbated by Weston’s guilt and insistence on martyring himself to save Maddie from living beneath her means.  His self-flagellation grew tiresome.

There were parts of the book I enjoyed.  The scenes where Maddie and Wes allowed themselves to love one another were very satisfying.  There is a solid cast of supporting characters which are clearly setting up future installments of the book.

This is sort of a spin-off of the Westfield Wolves series, but can easily be read as a stand-alone.  I have to say, too, I was little surprised how small a part the whole wolf-thing played into the story.  It was the impetus to set the events in motion, but really served little purpose otherwise.

3 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Wolf Who Loved Me
by Lydia Dare
Release Date: April 3, 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks

 

Review: Darkest Caress

Reviewed by Jen

Liv never dreamed she was about to meet the man she would spend the rest of her life with while trying to sell a waterfront mansion. But that is exactly what happens. Daegan shows up to look at the property and right away, the heat sizzles between them. Liv recognizes the sexual attraction, but has no way of knowing that it so much more –that she had just met her mate.

Daegan is more than human. As an “Empowered,” he is destined to fight a malevolent force known as the Obsidian Lord and his Dark Army, in a battle for the future of the human race. An ancient prophecy foretold the battle centuries ago. It also promised mates for Daegan and the other two Empowered men he leads, Cade and Vaughn.

As much as he wants Liv, Daegan realizes she has no idea what he is or that she is special too. He wants to give her time to ease into his world and he wants to give her the choice about whether to bond with him. But every day that they wait is an exercise in torture. They become so sexually charged, their bodies can barely function for their want of each other.

The sexual tension is very good. In fact, I found myself growing agitated, waiting for these two to seal the deal. While I appreciated Daegan’s good intentions, his martyr-like behavior got on my nerves a bit. Their mating was not something either of them could control and by trying to do so, he made everyone even more miserable. I thought Liv took all of the revelations really well… almost too well for someone who had no clue such a supernatural world existed. But she was likable and the two of them were likable together.

Throughout the story, the Obsidian Lord is working to find Daegan and crush the Empowered. We have several scenes in his POV, which I did not enjoy at all. I don’t mind changing POVs as much as some readers do, but I wish we would have stuck more with Liv and Daegan. While I didn’t love the scenes from Cade and his future woman, I could deal with them since I knew we were setting the stage for their story. Every time we got into the villain scenes, however, I had to fight the urge to skim ahead and get back to our couple.

Things developed very fast in the romance department. But I am always more forgiving of this in destined-mate stories. And I appreciate that the factor was acknowledged. The sex was superhot; and there was a healthy dash of action thrown in at the end.

I thought the supporting cast was interesting. The pieces are all in place for Cade’s story. But it’s Vaughn who I really want to know about. I love a good scarred and tortured hero. I guess I’m just going to have to wait for that one. 3 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley 

Click to purchase: Amazon
Darkest Caress
by Kaylea Cross
Release Date: April 23, 2012
Publisher: Carina Press

Review: The Prophet

Reviewed by Jen

Amanda Stevens really put me through the wringer with this third installment of her Graveyard Queen series. When we last saw Amelia, she was on her way back to Charleston to answer a summons for help from John Devlin. It’s almost like The Kingdom was a “time-out” from the action of The Restorer in many ways.

But now Amelia is back in the thick of things. Back at the old cemetery where she was working before. Surrounded by the same ghosts. In love with the same man. With the same roadblocks. Only maybe it’s worse this time around.

My heart ached right along with Amelia’s when Devlin came back on the canvas. They’ve been apart for months and to call things tentative between them would be an understatement. There are even questions now about whether he has moved on with someone else. This, as the presence of his dead wife Mariama continues to hold onto him with both hands.

The ghost of former cop Robert Fremont is haunting Amelia, pushing her to solve his murder. It’s a tangled mystery, wrapped up in Devlin’s past, Mariama’s treachery, blackmail, betrayal, adultery, and the occult. It’s very, very creepy. Not just the ghosts, which are indeed scary, but the bugs and the zombie drugs really put it over the top.

The distance and deception between Devlin and Amelia kept me tense and unhappy for the first half of the book. I found myself cringing every time Amelia began another Q&A about Mariama. Everybody has something to say about her. Everyone either loved her or they hated her. And she’s been dead for years, but everyone still wants to talk about her. If I didn’t know Amelia was dealing with her ghost, I’d think she was the most lovesick, pathetic person on the planet to bring her up every five seconds.

But when things started to pick up, the book was off and running. I loved the way Stevens kept me guessing until the very end. About who the killer was. About the motive. About the real circumstances surrounding Mariama & Shani’s deaths. I loved the tie in to the African root magic. And the ending. Oh. My. God. I thought I was going to have a heart attack.

There will be a fourth book, thank goodness.  And I am anxious to find out what repercussions will come from the big climax here.  4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley 

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Prophet
by Amanda Stevens
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Mira

Review: Wicked Road to Hell

Reviewed by Jen

I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive in starting this book. I had problems with my only only other Juliana Stone novel, His Darkest Salvation. I got lost in the world-building –and the hero was a huge asshole to the heroine in that book. But I am so happy to say that not only were my fears unfounded, but I found myself really enjoying this one.

A few years back, the sorcerer Declan was sucked through a portal to hell. He was a prisoner there for six months, tortured and brutalized at the hands of the demon Lillith. Then he was rescued, making him beholden to an angelic being named Bill, and bound to fight for the forces of good. Shortly after his rescue, his great love, a vampire named Ana, was killed right in front of him. That was two years ago.

So imagine Declan’s surprise when he discovers that Bill secretly brought back Ana as well. She’s been working her own mission for Bill, protecting a teenager named Kaden. The boy is one of seven young people “Marked” for great power. If all of them were to come together, they would tip the scales entirely in favor of good or evil. So of course, everyone wants them. Everyone except the League of Guardians. They are a mishmash all types of beings who work to maintain a balance between the forces of light and dark. So if either side can assemble the marked seven, their objective will be toast.

Declan agrees to help Ana protect the boy. But things get infinitely more complicated when he finds out Lillith has gained possession of two more of the Marked. He knows that to save them, he’ll have to return to the same horrors he barely survived before Bill saved him.

In the midst of all the action, there is a love story. Declan and Ana have been crazy about each other for years, but for one reason or another, they never gave it a go. Ana always held back her feelings because the laws of her people forbid her to mate with anyone who is not a vampire. And she loves Declan so much, she knows that to be with him would lead to mating. And that would get him killed. Declan has no idea about any of this. He only knows that this is his second chance to be with the woman he loves and he is not going to waste it.

I liked both main characters. They are strong; they truly love one another and each does everything possible to protect the other. The sex is hot and the emotions, believable. As for the non-romance part of the book, there is a lot going on, but I didn’t find it too difficult to keep up with. It’s fast paced and interesting. And I found myself quite intrigued by some of the secondary characters like the demon Samael and the shifter Ransome. I hope they end up with stories of their own –and Nico too. I look forward to see where Stone takes the series next. 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
Wicked Road to Hell
by Juliana Stone
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Avon