Review: Shadow Rider by Christine Feehan

shadow riderReviewed by Joanna

Francesca is on the run and has moved to Little Italy, Chicago, to hide out and start life afresh in the company of her old friend Joanna (great name). On her way to get a job in Joanna’s uncle’s deli, she’s spotted by Stefano Ferrara, the sexy head of a local family who ‘keeps the neighborhood safe’. Think Mafia minus some of the bad and plus some supernatural skillz.

Stefano’s a very attractive and powerful man and very used to getting his own way. Something about Francesca stops him in his tracks and he forces her to take his coat (she’s shivering after giving hers to a homeless lady), a wad of cash and basically publicly claims her in front of the town. [Read more…]

WTF Review: Dark Blood by Christine Feehan

dark bloodReviewed by Jen

This is easily the very worst book I have read all year.  It is actually one of the worst books I have read, ever.  There are so many things wrong with it, I barely know where to start.  From the plot progression, to the relationship, to the sex, it was all just bad.  Even worse was the writing itself. [Read more…]

Review: Dark Wolf by Christine Feehan

dark wolfReviewed by Jen

Fans of Christine Feehan’s Dark series have been waiting a decade or so for this book. For some, there is no way anything she were to write would satisfy after a build like this.  Others will be so glad to get the story, that it will be an automatic 5 star read. I’ll be honest, I went into this one with my expectations at an all-time low. The past few books have been so disappointing that I was ready to quit the series.  Until I found out that Skyler and Dmitri were finally on the horizon.  I’m pleased to say that I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would. [Read more…]

Review: Dark Lycan

dark lycanReviewed by Jen

Every single time I tell myself I am done with this series, something ends up pulling me back to try just one more. And every time, I regret it.  In this case, Christine Feehan promised the beginning of a trilogy surrounding the long awaited Skylar and Dimitri pairing.  True, this is not technically their book, but their HEA arc begins here.  Feehan has been dropping little snippets of this couple for-ever.  I have no doubt the promise of their story will drive even reluctant readers to pick up this book.  And they will regret it too.

The Skylar – Dimitri promise is real. We do get to see them finally moving toward their romance.  At least, I can tell you that was not a tease.  [Read more…]

It’s Not Me — It’s You

Reflections from Jen

In any given year, I read somewhere between 350 and 400 books.  And every so often, I find a stand-alone that really rocks my world. But 9 times out of 10, the stories I love most are part of a series.  Over time, a series allows you to invest in characters. You learn their quirks and nuances.  You grow to love them, hate them, or lust after them… but whatever the emotion, they become yours.

I look forward to new installments in my favorite series like Star Trek fans count down the days to their conventions.  Like gadget-nerds camp out the night before an Apple product goes on sale.  Or like Harry Potter fans dress up for a movie premiere.  Hell, I reserved a vacation request months ago for the release of Lover At Last.

Unfortunately, every so often, one of my beloved series lets me down.   I’m not just talking about the random Phury book that stands out as an anomaly to an otherwise fabulous series.  I’m talking about multiple books that just make you ask yourself why the hell you just spent 10-bucks.  Books that make you decide once and for all to break up with a once beloved series.

I’ve got a few I’ve already said goodbye to, and others on a watch list.

Anita Blake.  This is kind of THE series that is almost everyone has asked at least once… what the hell happened here?  Granted, not everyone liked the series to start with and not everyone loathes it now, but no one can dispute that the Anita books of today are nothing like the first nine that came out.  It’s my understanding that LKH thinks that people who complain about the change in her books are uptight about sex or something to that effect, but… um… I really like reading about sex in books. A lot.  So if that’s not the issue, what is it?

It would be easy to say that my problem is that Anita has become a whore, but it’s not that simple.  My problem is that the books have changed on a fundamental level.  They started as urban fantasy with no sex in them at all. Anita didn’t believe in sex outside of marriage.  They then morphed into urban fantasy with a little sex, in the context of a love triangle. — I was still down with that. Anita still struggled with her values and her real feelings for two very different men.  Whether you liked Richard (my favorite) or Jean Claude, most people could see the attraction on either side of the coin.

Then came Narcissus in Chains and the books became erotica.  Granted, they are erotica with paranormal elements, but you can’t call a series “urban fantasy” when the main character has sex with 10 or more people in the book.  Orgies, BDSM, m/m, exhibitionism, you name it, Anita does it.   Or one of her harem does it.  And I kept reading for a long time, thinking “maybe it will change back.” “Maybe Hamilton will fix what she did to Richard.” “Maybe…” Hell, I don’t know.  But then, Anita adopted a 17 year-old into her sex family. And there was a line in the book about how they’d have sex and he’d want to cuddle before doing his homework or something, and suddenly, I was done.  I haven’t looked back.

Kitty Norville.  I really, really enjoyed the early books in this series.  If you’re unfamiliar with the series, Kitty is a werewolf DJ, trying to find her way in the supernatural world.  For a time, every single book in the series wow’ed me. Carrie Vaughn gave me an unqualified oh-shit moment in every book. She killed people. She kidnapped people. She shocked me and excited me.  But what she also did was string me along with a love interest that never came to be.

From book one, we’re introduced to Cormac, a werewolf killer who has a simmering mutual attraction with Kitty.  The author teases us with it for book after book.  Even after Kitty gets into a serious relationship with another man, we’re reminded of what almost-was with Cormac. He’s still around. There is still longing.  I’ve started wishing the other guy dead, even though I like him. Finally, after book nine, I realized, it’s never gonna happen.  I feel seriously dicked around.  I’m done.

Chicagoland Vampires.  How I freaking loved this series in the beginning.  It was smart and funny and full of great action. I loved Merit and her friendship with Mallory. I loved her reluctance to be a vamp, how she finally came to love and defend Cadogen House.  And, of course, Ethan.  There was such a great push and pull with Ethan. The highs were so high and then the lows….  (**spoilers ahead**) When Ethan died, I was heartbroken. I cried and cried.  Then Ethan came back to life.. And while there was some WTF-ery there, I thought, “Finally! They will be together.”  Only, the excuses continued.  They got more and more flimsy. Until I got to a point where I just didn’t care anymore.  The new one came by mail and I gave it to my girlfriend to read for me.  She’ll be guest reviewing it for the blog.

On the cusp:

Dark Hunter.  The early books in this series rocked my world. Sherrilyn Kenyon does tortured heroes like nobody’s business.  Even when the catch phrases started to get a little predictable.. Even when all the heroines looked at their downtrodden heroes “like they mattered,” I still swooned.  Probably all the way through Acheron’s book.  (And Lord knows, that book put me through the wringer!)  Then, Kenyon started to go in a new direction. She introduced Thorn and the Hellchasers… she got into Jaden and Azura and Noir.  And I’ll admit, I had a hard time following along. But I figured that was the next phase of the story… Then she started pulling in Native American mythology and sprinkling in some of the old characters and the Dream Hunters… with a pinch of the Hellchasers. And frankly, I’m not sure what the hell is going on anymore.

I liked Seth’s book. It was kind of a throwback to the familiar favorites.  Plus, Styxx is coming, and it’s taking us back into the Acheron world.  I will not miss that, folks.  But where will she go after that?  I’m a little concerned.  The series seems to have lost focus.  One more pantheon comes in, and I think I am out.

Carpathian/ Dark series.  Yes, I still read these. Don’t judge me!! They are my guilty pleasure.  Though lately, the pleasure part is fading.  I love the over-the-top love scenes and super-alpha-alpha males.  I love all the interconnectedness of the Carpathians and the reunion books was fantabulous.  (Yes, spellcheck, that IS a word.)  But I started pulling away when we got into the de la Cruz men, none of whom I liked.  Once we got to Zacharias, though, it went to a bad place.  He was such a dick. He abused his heroine. It was too much.  And we’ve traveled so far away from the characters I love that I feel disconnected.  Feehan needs to get us back to the Carpathian mountains.  She needs to give us that Skylar and Dimitri story.  Or maybe I need to quit reading.

So what about you guys? What series have you broken up with? What killed them for you?

Still in love with some of the series above?  What makes you keep reading?

Share your thoughts, then visit Rachel at Parajunkee and Jennifer at the Book Nympho to see their picks!

Review: Dark Storm

Reviewed by Jen
 

Alas, I may be coming to the end of my time with the Carpathian series.  For so long, it has been my guilty pleasure.  After all, you can’t get all that white lightning, feminine sheaths or velvet over steel just anywhere.  In these books, you are guaranteed to find the most alpha of the alpha-males and the most flowery euphemisms for sex, along with a familiar and predictable tone that’s like slipping on an old pair of shoes that you’ve had forever.

Unfortunately, I think these shoes are getting too old to remain comfortable.  The last book in the series was a tough read, because the hero was an enormous asshat to his heroine. He was downright mean to her at times –and who wants to read that?  Here, Feehan takes us in the complete opposite direction, with a hero who is simply too good to be true.  But I’ll get to that in a minute.

Let me set up the story.  Riley is a descendant of a Carpathian woman named Arabejila. Every five years, Riley and her mother venture to a volcano in the Andes to perform a ritual began by Arabejila centuries ago.  Riley has grown up hearing stories about her ancestor locking a great evil inside.  Of course, she thinks it’s all an old legend.  But the stories are true.  Arabejila trapped her lifemate Mitro because he has become vampire and she thought nothing else would hold him.

Mitro isn’t inside the volcano alone.  An ancient hunter named Dax is in there with him. The two are so evenly matched that neither has managed to kill the other in all this time.  But Arabejila’s bloodline has started growing weak and Mitro is about to break out.  Using his powerful influence, he lays trap after trap for Riley’s mother before she can strengthen his bindings and eventually, both he and Dax are freed.

Riley gets a crash course on Carpathians and vampires as she learns her own power of an affinity with the earth. She and Dax are lifemates, so they must work together to vanquish Mitro before his great, evil plans are realized.

There’s a dragon involved. A fertility flower. Gary Jansen. Jubal (remember Joie’s brother from Dark Descent?) A De La Cruz and his lifemate… but no big ties to our core Carpathian families. Unless you count Mitro. He is a Daratrazanoff, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out how he is related to Gregori, Lucan or Gabriel.  Which bothered me greatly.

Also bothering me greatly… it takes forever for the hero and the heroine to so much as lay eyes on each other. The first half of the book was painfully slow.  Frankly, the book was boring.  As angry as the last book made me at times, with this one, it was an effort to just keep turning the page.  The relationship had no conflict.  Dax is too perfect. Patient. Strong. Caring. Sensual. Blah, blah, blah.  And Riley loves him right away. No fear. No lies.  No hesitation.  No fire.

I kept waiting to care, but I never did.  The relationship was too easy.  The external conflict was exactly the same as in every other Carpathian book.  The only emotion I was left with was annoyance that I squandered $12.99 for the ebook.  If you’re on the fence about this one, I advise you to pass… or if you absolutely must read it, rent it from the library.

Velvet count: 10

Rating: D+

Click to purchase: Amazon
Dark Storm
by Christine Feehan
Release Date: October 2, 2012
Publisher: Berkley

5 for Friday – October 5

Happy Friday everyone! And a happy birthday shout-out to Jennifer at the Book Nympho. You’re almost as old as I am now, chica!

I survived the mini-vacation to Atlanta and I even got to read a little bit in the car. But this weekend, I have big plans to sit down and really catch up on the TBR.  No. Really. Please?

5. I have never read a Jaci Burton book.  You guys know I’m not big on contemporary romance. But her covers are to-freaking-die-for.  Every cover in the Play-by-Play series is drool worthy and the new one is no exception.

It’s because of this series I know who Jed Hill is.  (*sigh*) Thank you Jaci Burton (or the art department for your publisher.) You make my days a little brighter.  One Sweet Ride is out in June 2013.

4.  Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series may be over, but it’s not over-over.  In her newsletter this week, Kelley announced a new Jaime novella. Amityville Horrible will release through Subterranean Press later this year.  The Clay & Elena novella, Forbidden, releases in December.

In other Otherworld news (*giggle*) –remember that Bitten tv show I told you about earlier?

I wondered if the upcoming Canadian TV project would/ could make its way across the border to the US. Well, Kelley says the producers are working with a company to seek international distribution. Hooray!!

3. I love Kristen Callihan’s Darkest London books.  Love.  This week she announced tidbits on book 4 in the series.  It’s called Shadowdance. She said on her Facebook page that it will feature shifter Jack Talent and Ghost in the Machine Mary Chase. I saw this and was ready to pee my pants.  I am still anxiously awaiting Winterblaze, people.

I need this book now. Someone tell the calendar to jump ahead to February 13th.

2. Another cover reveal for you… this one for book three in Amanda Bonilla’s Shaede Assassin series.

Nothing comes easy for Darian. Her heightened powers make her indispensable to the Shaede Nation, but dangerous missions have driven her lover, Tyler, to his breaking point. Darian must salvage their bond, but a new assignment to protect Anya—a fellow Shaede and the first of their kind to become pregnant in centuries—stands in their way.

It doesn’t help that the two Shaedes are longtime rivals and share nothing besides mutual hatred. But when it becomes clear that someone—or something—is bent on destroying the expectant mother and her unborn child, Darian must put her feelings aside and track down Anya’s would-be assassin.

As she probes into Anya’s past, Darian digs up long-buried secrets—and a connection between Tyler and the mission that could destroy everything between them.

It’s gorgeous.  But Amanda Bonilla already knows there’s gonna be trouble if she breaks up Darian and Tyler.  Big, big trouble.

Crave the Darkness, which I will henceforth refer to as The Book Where Tyler and Darian Reconcile, will be out March 5th. (Don’t correct me if you know something I don’t. Let me keep my dreams.)

1. And finally… Christine Feehan’s Carpathian series is one of my great guilty pleasures. I can do no other but to keep reading them.  (Feehan fans will get that joke.)  Well, the book trailer came out for her new installment, Dark Storm.

This book released on Tuesday.  I must go buy.  (Anyone read it yet?)

That’s it for now. Hope you guys are enjoying the Favorites From My Favorites feature!

XOXO,
Jen

5 for Friday – July 20

Happy Friday!  Today’s the day I go down in history as either the Best Mother in the World or the Worst.  For an early 7th birthday present, I bought my son tickets to go see WWE Raw.  I only bought two, so he can go with the hubs but they allegedly have some autograph signings or something for the kids first, so I am tagging along for that.  Some of these dudes are built like shit-brick-houses, so I’ll let you know if I see anything worth reporting.

5. I am getting more and more excited about this upcoming Styxx book from Sherrilyn Kenyon.

Photo Source: Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Facebook Page

2013 is so far away!!

4. Which brings me to that other book I am waiting for with baited breath… Lover At Last.  JR Ward posted the following on her Facebook page:

What does this MEAN?? Is he losing his heart? His sock? His cherry as a bottom?? (I could be down with that, by the way.)  Ward is trying to keeel me!

3. Speaking of hot m/m action, Jennifer at The Book Nympho tipped me off to this fabulous article on straight girls and gay porn.

I know it doesn’t wet everyone’s whistle, but it’s nice to see I’m in such good company!

2. We’ve all got our guilty pleasure reads, and mine are Christine Feehan’s Carpathian books.  I can do no other than to keep reading them. (Only other Feehan readers will get that joke.)  Christine has posted the first chapter of Dark Storm on her website.  Here are the deets:

Return to the seductive world of Christine Feehan’s New York Times bestselling Carpathian novels as roiling passions collide in a perfect storm of dangerous desire that only a precious few can hope to outrun . . .Awakening after all this time in a world of absolute darkness and oppressive heat, Dax wonders in how many ways the world above must have changed. But it is how he has changed that fills him with dread and loathing. Buried alive for hundreds of years in a volcano in the Carpathian Mountains, Dax fears that he has become the full-fledged abomination that every Carpathian male fears, a victim of the insidious evil that has crept relentlessly into his mind and body over the centuries. But there are some things that never change.

His name is Mitro, the vampire Dax had hunted all these long centuries. Second in command to the prince of the Carpathian people he is the epitome of everything malevolent, and perpetrator of one of the most shocking killing sprees known to man – and beast. Even his friends and family weren’t safe from Mitro’s bloodlust. Neither was Mitro’s lifemate, Arabejila, an extraordinary woman with extraordinary gifts. But now that Dax has re-emerged, so too has Mitro. The ultimate battle between good and evil has been re-engaged. Between Dax and Mitro, a violent game has begun – one that has marked Riley Parker, the last descendent of Arabejila, as the reward.

Who the hell are these people?  I want Skylar and Dmitri. (*whine font*) Feehan jumped ahead 50 years between the first two books. She can jump another 5 years for this one!!  Patience is not my greatest strength.

1. And finally, Penguin is giving away a copy of Fury’s Kiss before you can buy it!

   Dorina Basarab is a dhampir—half-human, half-vampire. Subject to uncontrollable rages, most dhampirs live very short, very violent lives. But so far, Dory has managed to maintain her sanity by unleashing her anger on those demons and vampires who deserve killing… 
   Dory is used to fighting hard and nasty. So when she wakes up in a strange scientific lab with astrange man standing over her, her first instinct is to take his head off. Luckily, the man is actually the master vampire Louis-Cesare, so he’s not an easy kill.
   It turns out that Dory had been working with a Vampire Senate task force on the smuggling of magical items and weaponry out of Faerie when she was captured and brought to the lab. But when Louis-Cesare rescues her, she has no memory of what happened to her.
   To find out what was done to her—and who is behind it—Dory will have to face off with fallen angels, the maddest of mad scientists, and a new breed of vampires that are far worse than undead…

Fury’s Kiss is out October 2nd. The contest runs through August 3rd.

XOXO,
Jen

Review: Dark Predator

Reviewed by Jen

The Carpathian world has gotten a little more complicated lately.  What was once a series focused almost completely on an individual romance in each book, picked up broader, ongoing arcs in later installments.  Mages, jaguars, and dragons joined the mix.   Longtime mysteries were finally solved.  But Christine Feehan is taking a step back from all that in Dark Predator.

As the book begins, Zacharias de la Cruz is ready to end his own life. He is unable to fight the darkness within him any longer.  But he is undeniably drawn to one of his properties first.  There, he sees Marguarita, the young woman made mute and nearly killed by a vampire in the last book.  He considers her to be a fine choice for his last vision before death.   Marguarita isn’t having that, though. She realizes what he is doing and despite his mental protests, she saves his life.  And that is the beginning of their journey to becoming lifemates.

The romance in this book was slow in coming.  One third of the way through and our couple hadn’t even kissed… a bit unusual for a book in this series.  Even stranger, the word “velvet” didn’t make an appearance until page 101 in my ebook. Unheard of.  But just because the “velvet” count was low — Feehan kept up with her reputation for repetitive themes.  Zacharias is dangerous, dangerous, dangerous.  And “predator” was the word of hour, used in some form 54 times in the course of the book.  But I digress.

In what’s become the standard for the series, Zacharias is the darkest Carpathian ever. (Aren’t they all?)  But he is so close to the edge, that the whole lifemate business doesn’t work quite right for him.  In fact, it takes some time before he even realizes that Marguarita is his fated mate.  He is violent, cruel at times, and ridiculously overbearing… giving the Daratrazanoff men a run for their money in the domineering department.  And Marguarita just takes it.  She feels guilty for ruining his chance to meet the sun, at first.  Later, of course, she experiences those lifemate ties.  But it’s still alot to accept that she would essentially give up the reigns of her life to him so quickly.   I guess if you have a male lead who is that dominating, a relationship won’t work without a female willing to be submissive.

So like I said in the beginning, the story is kind of a throwback in the sense that it is all about the relationship and conflict directly surrounding our couple.  All the side stories of recent books are essentially ignored.  I kind of missed them.  The love story was ok, but at times Zacharias and his angst were just too much.  It was also really slow in the beginning, with more drawn out descriptions than I cared to read.  On the plus side, I finally got the answer as to why a bunch of brothers from the Carpathian Mountains ended up with Hispanic names.  (It’s been bugging me since this family has been introduced.)

I’m kind of curious who will be featured in the next book.  There is no obvious set-up that I can see.

3 stars.

Dark Predator
by Christine Feehan
Release Date: September 6, 2011
Publisher: Berkley

Review: Dark Guardian

Reviewed by Jen

The Carpathian men just keep getting older and more powerful.  Yes, I know I said that in my review of Dark Legend, but it’s still true. To be fair, Lucian is actually Gabriel’s twin, so they’re actually the same age, but it’s pretty clear that if push comes to shove, Lucian could kick his brother’s ass into next week.

Lucian was finally ready to meet the dawn when Gabriel’s lifemate told him that his fated female was out in the world, in need of him. Sure enough, he finds Jaxon has led a horrific life. As a child, her father’s friend developed an unhealthy obsession with her. He killed her dad, then became her stepfather. A few years later, he murdered her mother and brother, no longer hiding his true nature. Ever since then, he has been killing off everyone Jax has ever loved… he never found anyone worthy of her. And as a result, she has never allowed herself to get close to anyone again.

As Lucian enters her life, Jax is a cop, wounded on the job. He saves her life and slowly brings her into his world. Despite the hallmark repetative vocabulary of the series, this book had a distinctly different flavor. This is due in large part to Jaxon’s fortitude and growing need to protect Lucian. In almost all of these books, it’s only about the male protecting his woman. And while that is still happening her, Jax needs to take care of Lucian every bit as much as he needs to take care of her. What’s more, Lucian recognizes this in her and doesn’t try to sublimate it.

Lucian is so powerful, there is never a sense that a vampire could ever best him. Yes, there are vamps, but the real villian of the story is a human one; and he is no bumbling, ineffective zealot. He is skilled; he is calculating; and he is every bit of a monster as the undead. One of the best in the series. 4 1/2 stars.

Velvet count: 38

Dark Guardian
by Christine Feehan
Release Date: May 2002
Publisher: Leisure Books