Review: Enslaved by the Others by Jess Haines

enslaved by the othersReviewed by Jen

I really wanted to love this book. I have enjoyed previous installments in the series and some of the things I liked about those books, work in this one as well. Specifically, I enjoy the voice of the heroine, Shiarra.  She is a good person, trying to make the best of a volatile world that constantly puts her in danger. In book after book, she faces monsters with many different faces, while trying to come to terms with the changes inside of her.  Shia and the latest danger she faces with the Others take center stage in an even more intense way, but there were some elements of the book that didn’t hit the mark for me the way I had hoped. I’ll get back to that in a minute. [Read more…]

Review: Forsaken By the Others

Reviewed by Jen

I’ll admit it. I was really worried that Royce was going to abandon Shiarra after the way the last book ended.  Things were a little too good to be true there. Add that to the title of the book (I was expecting some forsaking to go down.) Add that to the fact that Jess Haines has sucker punched me before, and well, it seemed like a lot of heartbreak would be inevitable.  Shows what I know.

The story picks up right where the last one left off… with Shiarra in Royce’s bed.  Buyer’s remorse is kicking in, but the sexy mojo he had the night before is still there too and he is not willing to let her off the hook.  Unfortunately, two problems take precedence over her love life. One: that weird almost-Other transformation she has percolating –didn’t quite leave with the belt.  And two: she’s no longer safe at Royce’s place.  So before she has a chance to shag him more than one bonus round, she and Sara are flying the friendly skies to Los Angeles.

Royce has sent them to go stay with another master vamp who owes him a favor. But it’s not like anything can ever be easy for Shia. Clyde is… eccentric… and has his own agenda.  Not to mention, there is a zombie infestation targeting his vampires, and he essentially forces Shiarra and Sara to search for the magi responsible.  No small task without her PI connections at home.

The book is high on action, violence, and gore.  But you’ll also find introspection, political machinations and maneuvering. In short, it’s a wild ride; one made even better with the reappearance of Tiny and Devon. As with any road trip book, we miss out on a lot of characters left behind on the home turf. There’s no time with Chaz… the Sunchasers… Arnold or Jack.  And frankly, very little Royce.  I was ok with that, though. I would be happy never to see Chaz or his pack again, and I’d rather take a vacation from Royce than see him somehow break Shia’s heart –or her spirit.

The time we spend with Shia and Sara is satisfying. I like seeing their bond of sisterhood, a f/f friendship is too often lacking or trampled in UF series.  It’s nice to see Shiarra return to more of her normal voice. I like her –I enjoy reading from her POV.  Meanwhile, I’m intrigued by Shiarra’s Other-ness and very curious to see what’s behind her Hulk-Smash vibe.  But beyond all that, I am biting my nails over the gnarly cliffhanger we’re left with.  The action at the end felt a little rushed and the ending bit me right in the rear. I definitely did not see it coming.  It’s going to be a tough wait to see how it all plays out.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Zebra

Click to purchase: Amazon
Forsaken By the Others
by Jess Haines
Release Date: July 2, 2013
Publisher: Zebra

Review: Stalking the Others

Reviewed by Jen

Well, I’ll give you this. Jess Haines knows how to go for a big ending. Wow.

This installment of H&W Investigations picks up right where the last one left off.  Shiarra is out for blood. Chaz and his pack nearly destroyed her in the last book. She is livid over his betrayal and terrified that she may be turning were.  So she decides to take matters into her own hands and seek revenge.

Unfortunately, the Sunchasers don’t make it easy for her. They go into hiding at the same time she knows she is a walking target. She can’t stay home; she won’t stay under Royce’s thumb, so she goes to find sanctuary and back-up with the White Hats.  Just like we got an intimate look at the weres in the last book, here we are getting even deeper with the renegade humans here, especially Jack.

But the real meat of the story was inside Shiarra head.  One of the things I have consistently liked about these books is Shia’s voice. I have always found her easy to relate to; I could always understand her thoughts and motivations.  Here… not so much.  She really goes off the deep end. I found myself questioning her bloodlust and her need for vengeance which seemed totally out of proportion and, honestly, out of character.  I mean, yeah, Chaz is a dick. He deserved to be dumped –humiliated, even– but does he deserve to die for being a cheater?  It was a tough read at times to see Shiarra fall so far.

But Haines has a plan.  I won’t tell you what it is, but I will say I started to suspect about 40 pages before it was revealed.  It was enough to make me feel a little smart, but also a little dumb for not figuring it out sooner.  I still hate Chaz.  And Royce… well… I have mixed feelings there.  He is sexy to be sure. And I believe he feels something for Shiarra.  But I don’t know what. I don’t entirely trust him, and his power over Shiarra makes me nervous.

All in all, I’d say the book is a pretty good ride.  Kind of a roller coaster.  I’m still kind of high on the ending. But I am scared to pick of up the next book. It’s called FORSAKEN By the Others. Who is going to betray her next? I don’t know if my heart can take it.

Rating: B+

P.S. Huge improvement on the cover!

*Book provided by author

Click to purchase: Amazon

Stalking the Others
by Jess Haines
Release Date: July 3, 2012
Publisher: Kensington

Series Reading Order: H&W Investigations

This is the reading order for the H&W Investigations series by Jess Haines:

*Denotes short story/ novella

Review: Deceived by the Others

Reviewed by Jen

Jess Haines throws the H&W series on its ear with this installment.  Just when things seem like they are going in a clear direction for Shiarra and her life, Haines takes her on a screeching detour filled with danger and a shocking betrayal.  In short, she blindsides Shiarra (and me) with a sucker punch I never saw coming… and I’m still reeling.

Let me back up. The story starts with Shia making plans for a getaway vacation with Chaz. The idea is to get a closer look at his pack and cement her relationship with Chaz after their struggles in the last book. She’s even thinking of signing a contract with him, to show him how much he means to her.  Unfortunately, their romantic trip is quickly upended by threats from inside the pack and from outside sources as well.

I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t read, so only click through to the spoilers if you have already know what happens.  I know not everyone loved Chaz, but I actually empathized with his character. He always seemed so loyal and loving to Shiarra. When his betrayal was revealed, I felt sick.  I always figured Royce was the endgame, and I had wondered how Haines was going to get Chaz out of the picture. But I never dreamed it would be this way.  I don’t know how I feel about the choice, but I am heartbroken for Shiarra.

The pacing of the book is very different in the first half and the second. The first is slower, but in hindsight, I can see what a setup that is for the back half –which just flies by.  As with the first two books, I enjoyed the world-building and the voice of the main character. Haines does a great job of making me experience her range of emotions… the yearning, the hurt, the fear, and anger.  I believed it all, which makes me feel so invested in her story.

Then there’s the ending. Which managed to sneak up on me out of nowhere. We’re left with many lingering questions and I can only say thank goodness I have book 4 waiting in the wings. This would have been tough if I had to wait for the next installment.

Rating: B+

Click to purchase: Amazon
Deceived by the Others
by Jess Haines
Release Date: July 1, 2011
Publisher: Zebra

Review: Taken By the Others

Reviewed by Jen

I am really enjoying this series! Taken By the Others picks up a few months after the events of book one, but despite the passage of time, the transition is a smooth one. Private investigator and reluctant badass Shiarra is doing her best to avoid the vampire she never wanted in her life. She is happy solving her small cases and spending time with her were-boyfriend. But it’s only a matter of time before Royce is back –with a vengeance.

It seems an old frenemy of the ancient vamp is targeting Shiarra as a way to get to Royce.  A long time ago, Royce killed a woman he loved. Now Max wants to return the favor.  This was a little perplexing for me, since I don’t entirely understand the depth of Royce’s feelings for Shiarra. The interaction between Royce and Shia in the first book didn’t seem enough for me to extend beyond attraction, but I can compartmentalize this and move on.

Shiarra has to decide who she can turn to in order to protect herself from Max’s evil plans. Royce?  Her boyfriend Chaz? The White Hats?  She is definitely not strong enough to take him on herself… even with all the mojo she gets from her fancy belt.  Much of the story is spent revealing different facets of all the players in her life.  I liked going behind the scenes of the White Hats and meeting some of them.  Seeing the members as individuals instead of as a rabid, racist whole helped give that part of the world-building more depth. We’re also seeing behind the curtain on some of Royce’s vampire family.  I am intrigued my some of his peeps, especially Mouse.

But the real show is in the main characters. Shiarra is growing and questioning her own ideas and prejudices.  She is evolving into a better heroine. I like Chaz. It’s hard not to root for him with his unwavering devotion to Shia…. though her feelings for him are a little murky to me as a reader.  Maybe that’s the only way to keep that door firmly cracked open for something to happen with Royce.  I’ve got mixed feelings about him. But I like that he is sort of an enigma because it keeps things interesting.

I think my favorite thing about the book is Shia’s voice. Jess Haines does such a great job of making me understand her; of making her so easy to relate to.  Between that and the great world building, it’s just so easy to fall into these books! Can’t wait to keep reading.

Rating: B+

Click to purchase: Amazon
Taken By the Others
by Jess Haines
Release Date: January 1, 2011
Publisher: Zebra

Review: Hunted by the Others

Reviewed by Jen

What took me so long to try this series? OK, I know the answer to that. I’ve seen mixed reviews. Some people really, really liked it, while others took issue with a few particular elements that essentially ruined the book for them.  I came out on the side of those who enjoyed it.  I found it a fun and entertaining ride.

Shiarra is a private investigator who works in a world where the supernatural exists.  The “Others” came out after September 11th, making awareness of them relatively new, but the knowledge has been out there long enough that there isn’t mass hysteria.  Shiarra doesn’t work with the Others as a rule (mostly because they scare the pants off her.)  But her business is in dire financial trouble and a magi offers her a job too lucrative to refuse.

Her mission is to recover a powerful device from an ancient vamp. Royce is sexy, scary and older than dirt. And it takes him no time at all to realize what Shia is after.  So she basically gets stuck between two supernatural factions –and somehow ends up more powerful than anyone could have predicted.

I won’t spoil the details of the plot, but I will say that I found the progression of Shiarra’s character interesting. When I said she was afraid, that was a huge understatement.  She was terrified, but over the course of the book, she became pretty bad ass. I know some readers didn’t like the Shiarra at the beginning of the book: the quivering bundle of nerves who broke up with her boyfriend because he was a were. But I think the reason we meet Shiarra this way is to be able to appreciate the contrast when we see what she becomes… and the struggles she continues to have as she works to overcome her fears.

I like the cast of characters… the supportive best friend, the nerdy Magi, the earnest ex and the sexy vamp.  Yes, some of the names are unfortunate (ie. Shiarra and Chaz,)  but Jess Haines made me feel like I had a vested interest in them all. I loved Arnold and Chaz –and I was intrigued by Royce. And I believed in each role that they played in Shiarra’s mission.  I liked the world-building. It’s simple and easy to understand.  It has a similar feel to Kim Harrison’s The Hollows world, but it’s not a copycat by any stretch. It has mostly traditional UF elements with its own little quirks.

There’s not quite a romance, but there’s a hint of one (or two) –enough to satisfy my need for a love interest.  There is no sex, though.  I would have liked to see more of Royce –there was lot of build up there– but I feel like it’s more of a setup on him for future books.

I’m definitely going to keep reading to see what happens next.

Rating: B+

Click to purchase: Amazon
Hunted by the Others
by Jess Haines
Release Date: May 1, 2010
Publisher: Zebra