Review: Hearts of Stone by Inka Loreen Minden

hearts of stoneReviewed by Jen

I had a very difficult time pushing through the first quarter of this book. I almost put it down a few times, but I powered through, hoping it would deliver on the promise of its premise.  The book is about a gargoyle who serves as a secret guardian to a witch on a mission to fight demons and save her brother.  Noir has no idea that Vincent exists, and even if she did, he is forbidden to ever touch her. So he worships her from a distance and has devoted himself to serving as her protector.  I loved the sound of this, so I at least wanted to give the story a chance to get to the good stuff. I’m glad I did, because it definitely got better. [Read more…]

Review: Magic at the Gate by Devon Monk

magic at the gateReviewed by Jen

This is probably the first time I have finished a book in this series without the burning desire to rip into the next one. Not that it was a bad book. It wasn’t. But I didn’t connect with it as much as with some previous installments. And I think that had a lot to do with the gaping hole in the story where Zayvion Jones usually lives. [Read more…]

Review: Magic on the Storm by Devon Monk

magicon the storm mech.inddReviewed by Jen

These endings are killing me. Just when I thought this series couldn’t turn on its ear any more than it already has, Devon Monk manages to pull the rug out from under me yet again. This book has something of a slow build at the beginning, but wow does it explode in the second half. And it ends with a cliffhanger that made want to throw my real-life responsibilities out of the window and dive right in to the next installment. [Read more…]

Review: It’s a Vampire Christmas by Lia Davis

its a vampire christmasReviewed by Shelly

This is my first read from this author and I’m eager to see the direction that this ‘Vampire Lords’ series is going. I don’t usually see too many vampire Christmas stories that include ménage and it was a pleasant surprise to see this one. Living in Florida, Alasdair Morgan is the vampire lord of the South Atlantic region. He lives a moderately solitary life because of the restricted exposure to humans and his responsibilities to protect the people under his watch. One of the joys of his existence is that he lives with Gideon, one of his mates. I say one because both men know that there’s a special woman out there for them, they just haven’t found her as yet, but things are going to start looking up pretty soon. [Read more…]

Review: Blood From a Stone

blood from a stoneReviewed by Jen

This book did not do it for me. I liked the premise well enough, but the execution had me rolling my eyes over and over again. It just didn’t have any emotional resonance. The words were there; the author told me what the characters were supposed to be feeling… it just didn’t ring true.

The story centers on Samson, a wealthy young Welshman who lives a life of leisure and debauchery. He flits from woman to woman, enjoying them for the moment, before dumping them and moving on to the next conquest. Unfortunately for him, he broke the wrong girl’s heart, prompting her mother to curse him for his actions. [Read more…]

Review: Ever After

Reviewed by Jen

This is my absolute favorite installment of the Hollows series to date.  The best book I have read in months.  I loved it. Loved it. Loved it. Loved it.  It’s as though Kim Harrison made this book to order, handpicking all of my favorite elements of the series and letting them shine.  Tons of Trent.  Al.  Jenks. And, of course, the ever after.  It’s light on Ivy, the vampire culture, witches and werewolves.  And we actually see real growth in Rachel.  It’s like Christmas and my birthday all at once.

The story feels more like a follow up to Pale Demon than A Perfect Blood.  We’re experiencing a lot of repercussions from that book.  The ley line Rachel accidentally made is leaking –and slowly destroying the ever after.  Of course, she is blamed, but it’s really Ku’Sox who is setting her up. He exacerbated the problems with the lines to put Rachel in the crosshairs –and he’ll only fix the problem if she takes the curse off of him that keeps him away from her reality.

Ku’Sox is also gunning for Trent. He’s been kidnapping Rosewood babies and he wants Trent to manipulate their genes to make more day-walking demons like Rachel. Ku’Sox wants control of the babies to boost his power among the demons.  Trent won’t budge, so Ku’Sox takes desperate action.  Trent and Rachel must work together to best Ku’Sox, as the demon endangers those near and dear to both of their hearts… and all of demonkind.

There is a ton of action in this book. I was pulled in from the very beginning and I did not want to put it down until the last page.  It is unpredictable.  Remember the kind of shockers Kim Harrison delivered in some of the earlier books in the series?  Oh yeah, those are back.  At right about the halfway mark, she kicked me in the gut –hard.  No punches are pulled. No easy roads are taken.  It had me by the seat of my pants the whole time.

One of the things I love about these books is the continuity. Harrison never tries to ignore past events. Instead, she weaves them into current stories, reminding us of those things that built the characters into who they are.  From the rat fights to the doctor Trent killed –from Rachel’s failed romances to Denon’s death and the boat explosion.  It’s all there and then some… all kinds of little Easter Eggs for longtime fans.

We continue to learn more about the demons –and their history.  We meet more gargoyles. Learn more about the ever after. Plot Ellsbeth’s death (wait… maybe that last part was just me.)  And we get movement on the whole Rachel and Trent will-they or won’t-they dance.  I won’t spoil it.  But it’s a pretty big story thread, or at least, a major current throughout the book.

I am forcing myself to stop gushing now, before I tell you everything that happened.  Just know that if you were on the fence about continuing this series after A Perfect Blood, please take my advice and read this book. If it doesn’t make you fall in love with The Hollows again, I don’t know what will.

Rating: A

*ARC Provided by Harper Collins 

Click to purchase: Amazon
Ever After
by Kim Harrison
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Publisher: Harper Collins

Review: Darkest Knight

Reviewed by Jen

Since I finished this book, I’ve been wracking my brain, trying to put my finger on what keeps this series from reaching its potential for me. And I think I’ve finally come up with the answer. It feels like a YA book. Yes, I know the heroine is 28, but I stand by this and I’ll tell you why. She doesn’t really act her age. Chalice has lived most of her life enslaved to an organization of dark magic. She only became free at the end of the last book and really, this series is her journey of self-discovery. She is learning about who and what she is. She is learning about her parents and how her family fits into her world. She is falling in love for the first time. And she is surrounded by a bunch of young women, also just coming into their powers and learning their place in the world.

As the story begins, Chalice is planning to meet her “sisters” in the Order of the Hatchet. But just as she is on her way, many of them are mysteriously slaughtered. She travels to her grandmother’s home to meet the woman and some of her surviving sisters in training. Though she is looking for connections, she finds a lot of jealousy and immature cattiness from the other girls. (It was unnecessary and felt like high school, by the way.) Chalice quickly solves the mystery of who is behind the murders and spends the rest of the book trying to save the day.

In the meantime, she is also working to turn her love interest, Aydin, back into his human form. (He became a gargoyle at the end of the last book.) While she had affection for him before, that has now morphed into love. The growing relationship between Chalice and Aydin was very subtle in the last book and I was happy that it looked like it was going to take a bigger role here. Until I got to the first love scene, which was so vague, I had to read it three times to determine whether they actually had sex. I’m pretty sure they did. But you can be the judge. At this point in the story, Aydin is still a gargoyle and can only visit Chalice in dream form:

His body appeared hazy, like a blurred rendition of his former self, yet I could sense every part of him, smell his skin, taste his lips as he kissed me.  I pressed against him and felt the hardness of his body as sensations thrilled my every cell.  Dream or not, my body was consumed by passion that melted into me like hot lava.

Aydin filled my mind, which enabled me to get inside his.  I found love there, and concern, and hesitation. His need overwhelmed me, yet knowing his feelings were as strong as mine put me at peace.

His arms held me close, his chin pressed against my neck as we lay spooned on the bed. I snuggled against his naked chest and his hold on me tightened as he gently nibbled my ear.

“I wish this was real,” I told him. He kissed my hair.

“It is real.”

I smiled. “I know, but I mean physically real.”

“Felt pretty real to me.” He rolled me over onto my back and ran a finger from the hollow of my throat down to my navel. “I still need to get some sleep.”

“You are asleep.”

I sighed. “You know what I mean. Dream sex is confusing.”

“But you enjoyed it.”

I reached up to pull his head down close so I could kiss him. “Yes I did. Very much.”

Wha?? That was the whole scene.  I can’t begin to tell you how cheated I felt here. There is one other sex scene in the book, and while it’s not very long, at least that one acknowledges the necessary body parts to complete the act. But again, a first love scene like the one above reinforces my whole YA theory. Not what I’m looking for when my hero and heroine finally get together. (I should also point out, there’s a minor secondary love interest, as well, but there is no way to take him seriously.)

The world-building is interesting and it’s different from a lot of what’s out there, so I must give the book credit for that. I can also say it wasn’t predictable and I enjoyed the direction that the author took the story. It just didn’t strike a great chord with me overall. Maybe it would be a better fit for someone with different expectations. 3 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Darkest Knight
by Karen Duvall
Release Date: March 20, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin

Review: Within the Flames

Reviewed by Jen

Lyssa is a dragon shifter who has been targeted for death by a super-evil and powerful witch, who can absorb the life energy of others. Eddie has been dispatched by Dirk & Steele (an agency designed to help supernaturals in need) –to find her and protect her.

Eddie is human, but he generates fire. He has trouble controlling himself –and when you pair that with his difficult past, he hasn’t allowed anyone to get close. Lyssa is in the same boat. She’s been hiding from that witch her entire life and she’s mourned the traumatic deaths of her parents on her own. When Eddie and Lyssa meet, they connect instantly. It’s difficult for them to let each other in, but it’s also inevitable. As the story progresses, we see them come together –while facing off with the witch and her evil minions.

There’s a lot of action and several revelations unveiled over the course of the book. Lyssa has some pretty grim secrets and she has good reasons to withhold her trust. The romance that develops between her and Eddie is sweet and gentle. There’s sex eventually, but theirs isn’t a blinding and passionate joining. They are each the salve to the other’s soul.

This is book 11 in the Dirk & Steele series, but as someone new to these books, I can tell you it was easy to jump right in. The world building was easy to understand and I felt like we knew everything we needed to about the secondary characters.

It was good. I think I would have enjoyed a bit more passion in the relationship between Eddie and Lyssa, but it just wasn’t that kind of romance. I found myself very interested in the fierce gargoyle Lannes, and tempted to go dig up his book. I didn’t love it, but I liked it enough that I’ll check out other installments in the series. Almost 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Within the Flames
by Marjorie Liu
Release Date: November 29, 2011
Publisher: Avon

Review: Knight’s Curse

Reviewed by Jen

Let me start out with a warning that this is not a romance. I thought it might be from the blurb… but it’s really an Urban Fantasy with a hint of a vague promise of a wispy tendril of a romance.

Chalice is something more than human. She has extremely sharp senses and she knows that whatever she is, her mother was the same. Unfortunately, the woman died moments after Chalice was born, so she never really understood her heritage. She was raised by monks in her early childhood, but then kidnapped and forced into slavery by a nefarious group of magic manipulators, called the Vyantara. Her handler is Gavin, a cruel and powerful man who has tied her life to a gargoyle… and through that tie, he forces her to steal magical artifacts. If she refuses or runs away, she’ll turn into a gargoyle herself.

Her latest assignment puts her in the path of Aydin, another supernaturally enhanced being forced into servitude by the Vyantara. But he knows so much more about magic… even about Chalice herself. He helps her break through some of barriers she has built and the prejudices indoctrinated in her by Gavin and his cohorts. With his help, she learns about her heritage and her destiny and allows herself to finally hope for a better future.

The world-building was interesting here. It definitely felt fresh and unique. But I found myself always waiting for more. More resolution. More satisfaction. More between Chalice and Aydin. And I didn’t get it. By the time I got to the end of the book, I felt more like I had just read a long a set-up than a complete novel. Don’t get me wrong, it was entertaining, but it was equally frustrating. All the build, build, build and then it’s over. It didn’t even feel like a cliffhanger so much as that it just stopped midway through the story. Grr.

I guess it’s telling that I want to find out what happens to Chalice. I want to find out the deal with her dad… whether that disembodied head will ever be reunited with its body… and what’s up with the guardian angel. And of course, whether Chalice and Aydin will ever get PAST FIRST BASE. Maybe in the next installment. 3 1/2 stars.

P.S. (Click here if you have already read the book.) I was very disappointed in Chalice that she would suggest that Aydin should kill his gargoyle to save himself.  He made it very clear that he cared for the beast –that it was once a man and had a good heart. No way would he kill it to recapture his humanity. Fail.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Knight’s Curse
by Karen Duvall
Release Date: August 23, 2011
Publisher: Luna