Review: City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

city of glassReviewed by Jen

Finally.  In this finale to the original Mortal Instruments trilogy, Cassandra Clare rewards readers for suffering through three books of angst… by giving us everything we’ve been waiting for.  Is it perfect?  No.  Sometimes the foreshadowing is heavy-handed; the emotional drama is over the top; and the resolution predictable.  Did that make it any less satisfying? Not really. [Read more…]

Review: The Last Grave by Debbie Viguié

last graveReviewed by Jen

I actually got a copy of this book before reading The Thirteenth Sacrifice and I debated with myself about whether to jump into this series on the second book. The OCD in me forced me to start at the beginning and I am so glad I did.  You could read this book first, but you would miss out on so much that has shaped the main character. The events of The Thirteenth Sacrifice chewed her up and spit her out.  In many ways, this story is a reaction to what happened.  It has its own central mystery, but the Samantha we see here is one fashioned by her latest hardships. [Read more…]

Review: The Cursed

Reviewed by Jen
 

Alyssa Day introduces us to a engaging new world in this first installment of her League of the Black Swan series.  I had a bit of trouble engaging in the story in the first half… mostly because of the romance.  But I got more invested… especially in the final third of the book.

The story begins with Rio in deep trouble.  She witnessed a kidnapping at the hands of a powerful and Very Bad Man.  Thanks to her ability to read minds, she knows he is now coming after her… so she runs to the most powerful man in Bordertown for protection, a wizard PI named Luke.  Rio is messenger and has delivered to Luke before. In fact, she has quite the crush on him… and figures –if anyone can save her, he can.

It just so happens that Luke is investigating the very kidnapping Rio witnessed.  And he has a thing for her too.  When she fills him in on her situation, he quickly becomes her protector, her partner in solving the kidnapping, and later, her lover.  All this, as she tries to figure out the mysteries of her origins.  She grew up an orphan, knowing nothing of her past, but suddenly all kinds of powerful beings have an interest in her and her upcoming birthday.  Now, it seems like everyone knows who she is, except for her.

I had a really hard time buying into the relationship here. Luke and Rio are completely smitten with each other from the get-go.  A physical attraction, I get. But I never understood why –after centuries without love and near celibate conditions– Luke’s plan to avoid attachments is so utterly decimated by Rio.  WHY is she so special? WHY does he love her? And speaking of love… these two are tossing around the L-word in a couple of days.  All of this kept me from really connecting to the romance.  I didn’t feel deeply invested in either main character either. I didn’t dislike them or anything; I just did feel like I knew them beyond the superficial.  I didn’t feel for them

That’s not to say I didn’t end up enjoying the book.  The world building was good and once we started learning about the secrets of Rio’s parentage, the story really got interesting.  I liked how that all played out.  And I didn’t see it coming. For that reason, I’m glad I stuck with the book. But the first half was difficult to get through.

Rating: C+

*ARC Provided by Berkley

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Cursed
by Alyssa Day
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Berkley

 

Review: Embrace Me at Dawn

Reviewed by Jen
 

It’s been ages since I’ve read one of Shayla Black’s Doomsday Brethren books, but it all came rushing back as soon as I settled into the story.  This book has been a long time coming.  It was several books back that the evil Mathias kidnapped Anka from the home she shared with Lucan. He tortured her, raped her, and forced her to break her mate bond with the man she loved.  When she finally escaped him, she had no memory of Lucan or their life together. She ran to her childhood sweetheart Shock for comfort and protection.

Breaking the mate bond drove Lucan insane. Though Anka eventually remembered him and cast a spell to help him heal, he still is not himself.  He misses Anka but believes she has chosen Shock over him.  And in a way, she has, but I’ll get back to that in a minute.

As this book begins, Anka is on a quest for vengeance.  She wants to join the Doomsday Brethren to fight Mathias and repay him for all the things he took from her. The only way that the leader, Bram, will let her in, is if she agrees to train with Lucan.  That, of course, makes it even harder to fight her old feelings.

So if he loves her and she loves him… why fight it?  The short answer is that she thinks she is unworthy of him.  Not just for what happened when she was with Mathias, but also because the trauma brought out some submissive needs from her in the bedroom. Shock has no problem meeting her dark desires, but she fears Lucan will never understand.

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of BDSM, but I felt like (with the notable exception of one scene with a whip toward the end) Lucan approached the issue with care and respect for Anka. So it didn’t bother me the way the genre so often does.  What did bother me was Anka.  Yes, she has been through a horrible ordeal. And it is not her fault that Mathias forced her to break her bond or that she forgot Lucan as a result.  Yet I still felt like she jerked Shock and Lucan around in epic proportions.  She made an unbearable situation even worse with her selfish behavior.  This started long before her kidnapping. Poor Shock has been pulled around on a string for a century.  True, he’s no gentle flower, but what Anka has done to him is not ok. Her ridiculous hang-ups about social status made me want to shake the stupid out of her.  And as the story went on, she just made it worse and worse.

I actually did like the book in spite of Anka.  Both Lucan and Shock are great characters.  They held up the absurd triangle.  In the meantime, there is great movement on the ongoing Mathias and Morganna storyline –with a very big ending.

Reading this reminded me why I like these books. Now I’m pining away for my boy Shock to find a HEA.  And to let me in on some of his secrets. Like now.

Rating: B

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Embrace Me at Dawn
by Shayla Black
Release Date: May 29, 2012

Review: Midnight Pleasures

Midnight Pleasures isn’t the best anthology I’ve ever read, but it has stories from two series I enjoy, so it was worth a read.

The first story is Amanda Ashley’s “Darkfest.” I’ve never read anything from her before.  The title character is a dark wizard who has never known love.  He is very powerful and he is taken with Channa Leigh, a virginal blind village girl.  He visits her village in the form of a wolf and somehow, when she touches him, she can see.  But he knows he can’t stay with her as a wolf.  When Channa Leigh’s mother becomes ill, her father begs Darkfest for help and he agrees to heal the woman in exchange for a year with Channa Leigh in his fortress.  The story was sweet.  Not terribly strong, but not bad.  There were some things (like his taste for blood and problems with the sunlight) that were never really fleshed out.  And speaking of flesh, despite the fact there was much talk about them both being virgins… their relationship was never consummated.  Bummer.

The second story was Sherrilyn Kenyon’s “Phantom Lover.” This is part of her Dark/Dream Hunter universe.  V’Aiden is a Greek God of sleep (for lack of a more complex explanation.) He falls in love with Erin in her dreams. She’s been plagued by monsters in her sleep which are draining her for power. And he comes to her rescue.  Can they make it work even though he is not human and they live in two different worlds?  I’m a huge fan of the Dark/Dream Hunters, so I really enjoyed this one.  As always, Kenyon’s storytelling is sexy and enthralling. I can’t say if someone unfamiliar with the series would enjoy it as much as I did.  But I thought it was great.

Maggie Shayne’s ”Under Her Spell” is next.  It features Melissa, a white witch who has been hired by a tv show about the supernatural, to consult on its accuracy.  She is quickly drawn to her new boss, but she realizes he is surrounded by dark energy.  It turns out his father was a dark wizard who is reaching out to him beyond the grave and only Melissa can save his soul.  It was kind of… well, meh, for me. I didn’t hate it, but I wouldn’t have any interest in reading any more about these characters.

And the last novella is “A Wulf’s Curse,” part of Ronda Thompson’s Wild Wulfs of London series.  The story centers on Sterling, the youngest of the Wulf brothers. He ran away from his London home 10 years earlier when he father triggered the family curse. Dad turned into a wolf at the dinner table, then committed suicide. His mother killed herself shortly after. The curse is triggered by love, so Sterling has no interest in losing his heart.  But when the beautiful Elise stows away in the carnival where he works, he can’t help but fall for her innocent charms.  It was  sweet addition to the series.  Steamy love scenes and a great happy ending.  My only beef is, that unlike the resolutions that other Wulf stories had, we didn’t get to see Sterling beat his curse.  We just have to assume it all works out in the end.

Overall, the collection of stories was fair. I really enjoyed the Kenyon and Thompson offerings. The other two are just ok.   3 1/2 stars.

Review: Entice Me at Twilight

Entice Me at Twilight is book 4 in Shayla Black’s Doomsday Brethren story.  For those not familiar with the books, the Brethren are a group of good wizards who have banded together to fight off the evil sorcerer Matthias –and to keep a powerful book, called the Doomsday Diary, away from him.

Simon is a member of the Brethren.  As our story begins, he is preparing to attend his human half-brother’s wedding.  He is attracted to the bride, Felicia. But he doesn’t realize that she feels only deep friendship for Mason, her groom.  Quickly, it’s revealed that Felicia is “an Untouchable,” a special human born once every 1000 years who nullifies magic. She doesn’t know what she is or anything about magickind. The only thing she knows that makes her different is her ability to smell a lie.

Anyway, Matthias has his sights set on Felicia. He wants to use her to open the tomb of Morgan Le Fay and resurrect her. So, Simon whisks her away from the wedding to protect her.  They fight their attraction to each other, mostly because they both care about Mason’s feelings. But soon, even that is not enough to keep them apart.  What does serve as a barrier between them are Felicia’s serious emotional problems.  She is so afraid of letting someone in that she has cut herself off from love.  It’s frustrating to watch Simon put himself out there for her, over and over, while she continues to hold on to her insecurities.

We’re told Felicia’s problems stem from her sister’s suicide.  That just didn’t hold up for me. It would have been easier for me to accept loyalty to Mason as a stumbling block… but maybe that’s just me.  I liked the book, though not quite as much as Possess Me at Midnight. The teaser at the end makes it look like the next book will be Lucan’s, so I am looking forward to that.

Also in this book, (*spoilers*) we lost a member of the Brethren to a gruesome death. Not only was I upset by the loss, but I didn’t feel like it got nearly enough attention. I felt like this should have been made a much bigger deal than it was.

4 stars.

Review: Possess Me at Midnight

What is it about the tortured hero in a paranormal romance series? Those installments are always my favorites (ie. Demon from the Dark, Lover Awakened.) Possess Me at Midnight features the Doomsday Brethren’s very own tortured hero, Ice. And as a result, it is the best book in the series yet.
A little backstory: the Doomsday Brethren are a group of British wizards who have banded together to fight a very powerful and evil foe named Matthias. And they are protecting a powerful book called the Doomsday Diary that Matthias wants to use to further his agenda.  Ice hates Matthias more than most. 200 years ago, Matthias tortured and killed his little sister. It nearly drove him crazy.

Since joining the Brethren, Ice has fallen for Sabelle. She is the sister of the group’s leader, Bram.  And she is attracted to Ice too. But there is bad blood between Ice and Bram and she knows it.  Bram is badly injured in a fight with Matthias and as the enemy approaches, Ice is tasked to protect the unconscious Bram, Sabelle and the diary.  As much as he is in love with her, Ice doesn’t think he has a chance with the beautiful witch, nor does he think he deserves her.  But over and over, he protects her. He proves his worth. And they fall in love.

The sex scenes are hot and the action is great.   The side characters are interesting –and the drama surrounding Lucan, Anka and Shock continues.  I can’t wait to learn more about where Shock’s allegiance truly lies and whether Anka has a future with either man. I guess only time will tell.  4 1/2 stars.

Review: Seduce Me in Shadow

Shayla Black continues her Doomsday Brethren with the second full length novel, Seduce Me in Shadow.  This story picks up where Tempt Me With Darkness left off. We have a band of wizards who call themselves the Doomsday Brethren. Their mission is to defeat a powerful evil wizard named Matthias and keep him away from a powerful book called the Doomsday Diary.

Caden MacTavish is still human, but has reached the age of transitioning into a wizard. He rejects magic and wants no part of the wizard community. He has lived in the US for a dozen years and has served as a Marine. But his brother Lucan has gone mad, since Matthias kidnapped his mate Anka. So Caden came back to England to try to help.  Brethren leader Bram sends him undercover to a local Enquirer-type magazine, where a woman has been writing stories about magickind. She has an unnamed witch source that may be Anka.

This reporter, Sydney, is Caden’s mate. He fights it. But their attraction can’t be denied… especially when Sydney’s friend gives her the Doomsday Diary. She tells Sydney to write her sexual fantasies in the book and, of course, they come true.  Her articles quickly attract the attention of the bad guys too, so Caden is working to protect her, find Anka, and get his hands on the book… while keeping the truth about his magical knowledge and their potential as a mated couple, to himself.

I wanted to shake some sense into Caden more than once. And while I appreciate Sydney’s honor and directness, she was not always smart about her safety.  Their chemistry was great. But I found myself just as interested in the side stories surrounding Lucan. I was shocked with Sabelle’s sacrifice and even more blown away with what eventually happened with Anka.  And what the heck is really going on with Shock?

I can’t wait to read Ice & Sabelle’s story next.  4 stars.

Review: Fated

“Fated” is a novella in Shayla Black’s Doomsday Brethren series, available only in ebook form.  Based on my reading, it seems like the events here are happening in the same time frame as the second half of Seduce Me in Shadow.  And it introduces three men who will join the Brethren: Tynan, Ronan, and Raiden.  (In case you’re not up to speed on the series, the Brethren is a group of wizards in modern-day England who have banded together to fight off a super-powerful evil wizard, and his minions, and to keep him away from a powerful tome called the Doomsday Diary.)
Like all wizards, Ronan has to have frequent, er, relations with members of the opposite sex to maintain his powers.  But he has grown weary of bed hopping and has fixated on a human bartender named Kari.  Unfortunately, there is a curse on his family, which prevents the men from taking a mate.  So he’s afraid if he mates with her, she’ll die.

It’s a short little story (only 88 pages), but I enjoyed it. You can read about Ronan’s twin brother Raiden and his love in Haunted by Your Touch.  4 stars.

Review: Tempt Me With Darkness

Tempt Me With Darkness is the first book in Shayla Black’s Doomsday Brethren story.  It features Marrok, who was a knight for King Arthur when he slept with the witch Morganna. After he loved her, he left her. And in her rage, she cursed him to an immortality without the ability to ever find satisfaction.
15 centuries later, he sees a woman in a dream that reminds him of Morganna.  The very next day, he meets Olivia, the woman from that dream. He thinks she is Morganna in disguise, but she is actually a descendant of the le Fey line.  There is a strong attraction between Marrok and Olivia and they quickly consummate their relationship and become mated.  We learn that the book Morganna used to curse Marrok is very powerful. A really twisted and powerful wizard, Matthias, has been revived by his followers after a long absence. He wants the so-called Doomsday Book to use for his own ends.
A good wizard, Bram, takes it upon himself to form the so-called Doomsday Brethren, a group of wizards devoted to protecting the book and fighting Matthias.  The Brethren also take on the cause of protecting Olivia –as she may be the key to using the powerful book.
The dynamic between Marrok and Olivia is kind of sad as it plays out. Each is filled with fear that they are unloveable and that causes them to doubt each other’s feelings and motivations. But with part of the book’s mythology, witches and wizards gain energy from sex, so there is a built-in hot factor throughout. The love scenes were steamy and frequent… though not overwhelming in relation to the plot. It takes a long time for our couple to get past their baggage, but the story surrounding them was interesting and the sex was hot enough to keep me reading.

I liked the concept of the series and will definitely check out Seduce Me in Shadow. Almost 4 stars.