Review: The Unleashing by Shelly Laurenston

unleashingReviewed by Carrie

I was looking for something a bit lighter with, hopefully, a bit of humor. This is the first book in a new PNR series based on Norse mythology. I’ve been looking for Norse-type books since I’m addicted to the TV series, Vikings.   I’ve enjoyed a few of Laurenston’s Dragon Kin books so when a trusted fellow blogger posted her glowing review, I went ahead and one-clicked. I am so glad I did! [Read more…]

Review: Night Shift by Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Lisa Shearin & Milla Vane

night shiftReviewed by Jen

Usually, any given anthology I come across will have just one or two stories I am interested in. But with this one, I hit the motherload, with stories from three of my very favorite authors: Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, and Meljean Brook (writing as Milla Vane).  I didn’t love every story equally, but overall, I think UF/ PNR readers will get enough bang for their buck.

Secrets at Midnight: I am such a fan of Nalini Singh and her Psy-Changeling world, but this novella was not a hit for me. It had some good things going on, but there were some parts that really fell flat. [Read more…]

Review: Shades of Midnight by Lara Adrian

shades of midnightReviewed by Jen

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this book. After all, Lara Adrian didn’t really set up a story for Kade the way she has for most of the other Breed males, and I didn’t have much of an opinion about him one way or the other. But this booked hooked me with its unusual beginning and kept me interested all the way until the last page.  It wasn’t my favorite in the series, but I definitely enjoyed it. [Read more…]

Review: Dark Frost

Reviewed by Jen

I have yet to meet a Jennifer Estep book I didn’t like.  And this one is no exception. In fact, I think it’s the strongest installment in the Mythos Academy series so far.

Only weeks have passed since the events of the last book.  Winter break is just wrapping up and Gwen is unsure where she stands with the sexy Spartan, Logan. They haven’t seen each other or spoken during the break.  Just as they reunite at a museum for a school project, the building is overrun with Reapers.  They’re searching for the ancient dagger to free the god Loki.  And leading the charge, is the masked woman who killed Gwen’s mother.

The battle is bloody, but Gwen and her friends survive and the head Reaper gets away.  The whole thing really drives home for Gwen how important it is that she find the dagger first, to keep Loki locked away.  The story follows her efforts to uncover the weapon her mother hid all those years ago, while struggling with her fragile relationship with Logan.

Once again, Logan manages to piss me off with how he treats Gwen and I was really about to write him off for good this time.  That is, until we learn his Big Secret.  Granted, the secret wasn’t so big that we all hadn’t figured it out already, but through his willingness to eventually share his vulnerability, we finally see him grow.

There are some engaging subplots, surrounding Gwen’s friend Daphne and the return of that Frenrir wolf we met in the last book. But the main theme of the story is really Gwen’s journey of self-discovery.  It’s painfully clear at times how young she still is.  It’s frustrating to watch her blame herself for things she can’t control –and make everything all about her.  But that is the way of a 17 year-old, I guess.  The important thing is that she is growing… not just as a person, but as a powerful being.  What she learns to do with her powers here is pretty bad ass.

Estep’s writing style is always a win for me. It’s such easy reading, the books always fly by. There’s a lot of action and some major developments in the overall series arc.  Stuff I did not see coming.  I’m looking forward to see how Gwen will manage to live up to her potential in the next book.

Rating: B

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Dark Frost
by Jennifer Estep
Release Date: May 29, 2012
Publisher: Kensington

Review: Lothaire by Kresley Cole

One of the things I love most about Kresley Cole books is the way that she weaves her stories together. It’s really quite amazing how she takes all these little pieces over a dozen books and makes them all feel like they are part of this fantastic master plan that she’s had all along. Lothaire has been this mysterious and enigmatic character ever since A Hunger Like No Other. We’ve seen him scheme and manipulate; go on quests and gather debts; and we’ve had little hints: a feud with Nix… a plan to rule the vampires. And now it all makes sense.

Lothaire is the bastard son of the old Horde vampire king. His mother was a princess of the lost Diacan vamps. He should have been royalty. But his father cast him and his mother out. And they were forsaken by her family. As she died, he swore his revenge –to one day rule both the Horde and the Diacans– and it’s all he has lived for ever since.

Now he has finally found his Bride, the woman fated to be his Queen. Elizabeth is a human whose body is being possessed by an evil deity. Lothaire thinks the deity is his destined mate (though obviously it’s Elizabeth) and he makes it his mission to find a way to permanently expel Elizabeth’s soul from her body to give Soroya the reigns. He holds her captive as he tries to track down that powerful wish-granting ring he stole from the mummy back in Pleasure of a Dark Prince.  And as much as they outwardly disdain each other, there is an undeniable attraction between Elizabeth and Lothaire… one they can only fight so long, before they give in.

Here’s the thing: Lothaire is sexy and ruthless. But he is also a complete asshole. He imprisons Ellie. He is cruel to her. He inflicts his will on her over and over again –and continues to do so even after he realizes she is really the one for him. He’s completely self-absorbed and I felt like it took too long before he could stop seeing Ellie as beneath him. He did, however, make some powerful sacrifices and the sex was really hot… so there was some good stuff going on the romance department too. I just wish he had treated her better than he did for 90% of the book.

For me, where the book shines, are in the moments Cole lets us see the history and connections among the characters. I loved getting the backstory on Lothaire and Nix. I loved that she worked-in Hag, the Oracle from Kiss of a Demon King, and gave a shout-out to Lanthe. I loved Thaddeus, from Dreams of a Dark Warrior, with a capital-L. And the last sentence of the book really knocked my socks off.

Cole sets up her spinoff Diacan series nicely –and leaves me hoping that we’ll get a Kristoff and Furie book very soon. 4 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon

by Kresley Cole
Release Date: January 19, 2012
Publisher: Gallery Books

Review: Dreams of a Dark Warrior by Kresley Cole

I’ll admit, I am a Kresley Cole fan-girl. But I have a very good reason for that: her books are simply the best in the Paranormal Romance genre.  And this latest installment in the Immortals After Dark series features Regin the Radiant, one of the raucous Val-Hall Valkyrie we’ve grown to know and love.  Hundreds of years ago, she fell in love with a Berserker warrior named Aidan and they planned to marry. But he was killed by a vampire before he could realize his plans to become immortal.  Now his love for Regin prompts him to reincarnate over and over.  But each time, as he remembers their love, he is killed more brutally than the time before.

In this incarnation, he is Declan Chase… a man who has devoted his life to the destruction of Lorekind.  He is running an island facility that tests and tortures members of each species, hoping to exploit their weaknesses and harness their strengths to use against them.  This is the same camp where Carrow was taken in Demon from the Dark.  Of course, Regin is one of those abducted.  Declan doesn’t remember her, but he feels a pull towards her that he can’t explain.  He’s lived a tortured life and has good reason to hate the Lore, but despite that, and despite the drugs he takes to suppress his berserker strength, he can’t ignore the attraction.  At the same time, Regin struggles with a terrible choice: sacrifice herself or help Declan remember his life as Aidan and hasten the death of the only man she has ever loved.

As always, Cole fleshes out her characters so much that I can’t help but care for them deeply.  And each book is a symphony of sexual tension and payoff.  She always finds such a great balance between the love and the sex.

Just like the group of books that take place simultaneously surrounding the Hie, we see the storyline converge from this book  in the same time frame as Lucia’s and Carrow’s before it. We’re also seeing the set-up for the next book in the series, which can’t come soon enough in my opinion.  And that is Lothaire’s story. (I’m also dying to get Lanthe’s story… which is a suprise, considering how much I hated Sabine.)

It can’t be ignored that Declan is not the best hero. He does some pretty crappy stuff and it’s hard to forgive him for it.  His issues are also pretty substantial and he is what keeps this one from rating as high for me as some of Cole’s other books. I kind of wish that the hero would have been Aidan instead. B-.

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: Demon from the Dark by Kresley Cole

Kresley Cole’s Demon from the Dark is the 8th book in her totally amazing Immortals After Dark series.  The heroine in this book is the witch, Carrow, who we were briefly introduced to as Mariketa’s best friend in Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night. I have to say, I was not excited about reading her story. Her character never stood out to me, and the hero, Malkom, is an entirely new character.

Why did I ever doubt Kresley Cole? She rocks my socks off.

Carrow was one of the supernaturals kidnapped at the end of Pleasure of a Dark Prince. We find out that a group of humans is collecting samples from all the otherworldly species.  But they don’t have a dempire (demon/vampire hybrid.) They kidnap Carrow’s little witch niece, after killing the child’s mother, and blackmail Carrow into helping them catch Malkom.  Carrow is sent to Malkom’s demon realm and quickly discovers she is his destined mate.  Problems abound. He has lived a solitary and harsh life for centuries. He doesn’t speak English. And sadly, he has known nothing but cruelty and betrayal. They manage to fall for each other despite the language barrier, but Carrow can’t make him understand what she is doing and why she has to lead him into a trap.

WHAT IS SO GOOD ABOUT THIS BOOK: In a word: Malkom. I cared so much about his fragile heart, I wanted to beat down everyone who had ever hurt him. I ached for his sadness.  I hated what Carrow had to do.  It was masterful writing. Kresley Cole at her very best. And of course, you know that means there was some great sex in here too.

I’d give it more than 5 stars if I could.

Hell, it’s my blog. I give it 10 stars. Out of 5.  My favorite in the series.

Review: Pleasure of a Dark Prince by Kresley Cole

Kresley Cole’s Pleasure of a Dark Prince is the long-awaited story of Lucia and Garreth in the Immortals After Dark series.  And when I say long-awaited… I mean ever since A Hunger Like No Other, when we first saw their connection and Lucia’s unexplained reluctance to accept their destiny together.

One of the things that amazes me about Kresley Cole is how she lays the foundation for future stories inside her books.  We get to look back now and revisit all the clues she has dropped along the way and see what’s been happening with our couple.

Garreth the Lykae met Lucia the Valkyrie before the events of AHLNO. In fact, the book starts before Lachlain MacRieve has pulled himself from the bowels of hell.  Garreth knew right away, of course, that Lucia was his mate. What he didn’t know, was that centuries ago she made a vow to stay chaste… a vow tied to her abilities as a master archer.  If she gives in to her feelings, she will lose her aim. This is especially bad since she is required to use her skills during every Ascension to put down Cromm Crauch (a really big bad guy) who she had the bad judgment to marry as a teenager.

So Lucia goes on the run and Garreth follows. She is on the hunt to find a weapon that can finally kill CC. The search leads her and Garreth deep into the Amazon. They face one obstacle after, not the least of which is their undeniable attraction to each other.

I love that so many questions were answered here. And by the end of the story, Cole has already set up the next major story arc.

I never really warmed up to Lucia. I never really felt like she deserved Garreth, which took away from the story a little bit. Perhaps my anticipation of this book prevented it from totally reaching my expectation.  Don’t get me wrong, it was an excellent book. But I surprised myself by liking the next book, Demon from the Dark, even better. 5 stars.

Review: Kiss of a Demon King by Kresley Cole

Kresley Cole’s Kiss of a Demon King is book 6 in her Immortals After Dark series. Here we finally learn what happened to King Rydstrom when he disappeared in Dark Desires After Dusk. We had a glimpse then of how Sabine tricked him into her prison cell.

Now we see from Rydstrom’s perspective how important his crown is to him. How guilty he feels that he couldn’t be there for his people. And how much he wants to find his fated female. Of course, he had no idea that both of those goals would be tied up with Sabine. She is the Queen of Illusions, a sorceress with loyalty only to her sister Lanthe. She is tied to her evil half-brother Omort, and wants to have a child with Rydstrom only to free herself from Omort and rule in his place.  She tortures Rydstrom with seduction, wanting to become his wife. Omort is behind the seduction because he wants to take Rydstrom’s heir and sacrifice him.

Rydstrom manages to escape and takes Sabine with him… working through the demon realm, trying to get back to his brother, to get to the sword foretold to defeat Omort.

Of all the IAD books, this one was my least favorite.  I like Rydstrom, but Sabine is awful. I’m sure she’s supposed to be, but perhaps it’s too much so. I also didn’t like that we are cut off from all that’s familiar for most of the book. The previous installments were all so intertwined and while there is a link to the last book… it’s just not the same.

I’d never suggest skipping this one if you are reading the IAD series, but for me, it wasn’t nearly as good as A Hunger Like No Other.  Cole set the bar too high early in the series. I look forward to getting back to our Valkyries.

4 stars.