Monday, February 26, 2007

#19 Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

A sniper has been targeting the shape-shifting population of Bon Temps and the surrounding communities. As a new were-panther, Sookie's primary concern is for her brother Jason. But as it turns out, she's also a target, despite the fact that she's only a psychic, not a shifter.

This is the 5th book in Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire Mysteries, aka the Sookie Stackhouse books. I enjoyed coming back to this series after not having a chance to read them for the last year or so; it felt like revisiting an old friend. :D Fortunately, Ms. Harris is good at refreshing your memory about past characters and activities so the fact that I didn't have the earlier books here to review before picking this up was not a problem at all. She doesn't go overboard in describing past events, but it's enough to give you a feel for things if you haven't read them, or to bring everything back more clearly if you have.

Unlike Grave Sight, the first book in her newer Harper Connelly series, I was left uncertain all the way until the end of the book as to who the sniper was. And even then, she still managed to throw in an extra twist. I knew there's a good reason these books are part of my personal collection. :)

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

#18 Dates From Hell by Kim Harrison, Lynsay Sands, Kelley Armstrong, Lori Handeland

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

The last two stories in this anthology really made this book. Though I like Kim Harrison's writing, her first published short story included here was kind of dry, though Kelley Armstrong's story really rocked. I've included individual reviews for each story below.

Undead in the Garden of Good and Evil by Kim Harrison
Read 08-Jun – 09-Jun-2006
This is Ivy's story, before she meets Rachel and Jenks and starts Vampiric Charms. We learn a lot more about what makes Ivy tick, and how she comes to her decision to live blood-free as a living vampire. I don't think I enjoyed it quite as much as the full-length novels because I missed having Rachel and Jenks too, but still, I appreciate this story for what it is... a deeper look into Ivy's life pre-Rachel. :)
Rating: 6 stars

The Claire Switch Project by Lynsay Sands
Read 06-Feb-2007
Ugh, I should've known I wasn't going to like this one right from the first paragraph. The first sentence actually proclaimed, "A bunny," and I thought yay!! But then it turns out two of the main characters, Kyle and Claire, are running doing experiments and testing on the poor little bunny. And oh boy, I've got a wicked rant I can go on about animal testing, but since it's not really relevant to this review, sufficed to say that it's a wicked peeve of mine that hits a deep nerve.

From there, we just have more cutesy, stupid characters who think nothing of hiding the truth from their friends and people they care about. Another pet peeve, one I can usually live with, but when a huge premise of the story is based upon such deception and lying, it angers me even more!

I wonder why I kept on reading then... well, it was a short story and I was determined to finish it. And I did laugh at one or two parts. Had I not already read a full-length novel by this author, Single White Vampire, which I fairly enjoyed, I'd probably think twice about reading anything from this author if I were to base it only on this short story. I give it a few points not for the story, but because the author herself is a halfway decent writer, and that at least does come across here.
Rating: 4 stars

Chaotic by Kelley Armstrong
Read 18-Feb – 19-Feb-2007
Hope is a tabloid reporter and "supposed agent" for the Interracial Council. As a Half-Demon, she's got skills that enable her detect chaotic events, past or present. While attending a museum gala, she meets up with charming werewolf and jewel thief, Karl Marsten, whom we've met in previous novels. And chaos rules!!

This was an excellent story! Kelley really knows how to write a short story and make it as action-packed and exciting as her full-length novels. In this novella, we're introduced to a new character, Hope, a half-demon journalist, whom I'm hoping will appear again in future books or novellas. Since Karl Marsten seems to be romantically interested in her, this may be a good possibility.
Rating: 9 stars

Dead Man Dating by Lori Handeland
Read 23-Feb-2007
Kit has been saving herself for marriage and true love, so what could be better than a dating agency named, remarkably, Little did she realize that her "date" would actually be a demon from hell, and that her "knight in shining armor" would appear to save her mortal soul?

Kit is startled when the rogue demon hunter Chavez manages to extinguish her date in the alley right before her very eyes. But it turns out he's not really dead—or is already dead, I should say—and the demon, part incubus and part Rakshasas, continues to stalk her and attempt to seduce her. For only her virginity can save him. And finding a virgin in this day and age is so rare!

With the help of Chavez, they're able to exploit the demon's weakness and bring about his destruction. But as they're told by Satan himself, the end of the world is near, and these new demons that he's made and unleased on the world are here to bring about Armageddon. The story leaves off here, as Kit and Chavez have decided to work together, brain and brawn so to speak, to defeat this evil before it's too late.

This story was actually quite good. I hadn't yet read anything else by Handeland, though I've got the first 6 books of her Nightcreature series here waiting for me to find the right time to start on them. So now that I've whet my appetite with this short story, I'm quite looking forward to them.
Rating: 8 stars

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Friday, February 23, 2007

#17 Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Harper Connelly sees dead people.... Actually she doesn't see them so much as feel them... in her head and in her bones when they are near. Because of this special ability, she is called in to help various law enforcement officials across the South in locating missing bodies. When her and her step-brother Tolliver, who also acts as her business manager, are called in to help find a body in Sarne, Arkansas, they get a lot more than they bargain for.... And more than just a single dead body....

This was a fairly decent start to what looks to be another interesting mystery series by Charlaine Harris. I can't say I loved it, but I did like it a lot. :-) Ms. Harris is a good writer. She doesn't make stupid mistakes, and she is good at pulling the reader into her world and drawing the people and places so they feel they are there. She doesn't over-describe or bog you down with details either, so the dialogue is punchy and the action is swift.

I had a good idea who was behind what was going on in Sarne, so I only wish Ms. Harris had thrown in a red-herring or two to keep me off the trail, since I wasn't all that surprised at the end, having figured things out, even the clues left behind, before Harper and Tolliver did.

I'll be looking forward to reading Grave Surprise, the next book in the Harper Connelly mystery series.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

#16 Night Embrace: A Dark-Hunter Novel by Sherrilyn Kenyon

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

This is the 2nd 3rd book (after the renumbering) in Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series. Talon is a 1500 year old Celt who's cursed by the God Cumulus that anyone he loves will die. Therefore, he's lived the last millennium in solitude, doing his duty as a Dark-Hunter to save the human population from Daimons. Sunshine Runningwolf is an artist, with the soul of his long-dead wife, who just may be able to save Talon's soul, and break his thousand-year curse in the process.

I liked this book a bit better than Night Pleasures, the first in the series. Though some of the same things that bugged me about Night Pleasures still plagued me here as well. For instance, mostly towards the beginning of the book, Kenyon would drag on an on about how gorgeous Talon's body was, how sculpted his pecs, saying the same thing over and over and over.... Those parts read like some sappy romance novel to me and I find my mind wandering. I remember thinking, like I did with the first book, that if this didn't stop, I was putting down this book and not picking up any more in the series.

Fortunately, after the first 100 pages or so, the author must figure we've got the picture: Talon is a hottie! Okay, enough already! I guess you can't say that she doesn't develop her characters well... I just think it's a bit too well sometimes, and a bit too syrupy. But once all that has stopped, you can really get into the meat of the rest of the story, and the danger stalking Talon and Sunshine through the streets of New Orleans during Mardi Gras.

Unlike Night Pleasures, which left me unsure as to whether or not I want to continue reading this series, this one left me wanting more. :)

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

#15 Merilynn: The Sorority by Tamara Thorne

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Eight years after attending Applehead Lake Cheerleading Camp, Merilynn Morris has returned to Greenbriar University and is accepted into the Gamma Eta Pi sorority, where she meets up with her old friends Eve and Samantha, and meets the sorority's enigmatic leader, Malory Thomas. Merilynn is intrigued by the local legends of the Greenbriar Ghost and Holly Gayle of the Lake. Combined with her occult talents and psychic leanings, the camp horrors the girls experienced years ago, and the mysterious deaths recently, Merilynn she's now more intrigued than ever to figure out what's really going on!

I liked this second book in the trilogy slightly more than the first one, if only because I liked Merilynn's character more than Eve's, and in this installment, we get to find out a lot more about her. She's also very witchy and psychic, more like myself, thus easier to relate to.

Though pretty spooky overall, the supporting characters add a great deal as well. Like Malory, who in addition to her scary role as priestess and sorceress, enjoys using cheesy sexual innuendo to get a rise out of others and then siphon their sexual energy like a vampire.

At only 204 pages, it's a fairly quick read, and with a fast-paced story line, I got through this book in a single day. As the second book of a trilogy though, I doubt it would stand up well on it's own, so you'll definitely want to read Eve: The Sorority first. I plan to read the third and final installment of the trilogy, Samantha: The Sorority, very soon.

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#14 The Rest Falls Away: The Gardella Vampire Chronicles, Book 1 by Colleen Gleason

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

In every generation, a Gardella is called to accept the family legacy of vampire slaying, and this time, Victoria Gardella Grantworth is chosen, on the eve of her debut, to carry the stake. But as she moves between the crush of ballrooms and dangerous, moonlit streets, Victoria's heart is torn between London's most eligible bachelor, the Marquess of Rockley, and her enigmatic ally, Sebastian Vioget. And when she comes face to face with the most powerful vampire in history, Victoria must ultimately make the choice between duty and love.

Going in, I wasn't quite sure how I'd feel about the concept of vampires as completely evil creatures, without any redeeming qualities or social values. During the time this story takes place, in 19th century England, vampires are vicious creatures, killing their victims when feeding from them. This concept is unlike the contemporary vampire we read about today in so many other paranormals: able to live undetected among society, feed willingly from their victims by just taking small quantities of blood, and without killing. I guess you could say I've developed quite a liking for the little fellas ;-) so having to look at them in a negative light felt a little off to me at first. That said, I came to look at it as more of an evolution, and was convinced by the end of the story that the vampires of today have adapted their survival skills to be better able to escape the wrath of the vampire hunter!

So once over that, I totally loved the story. The time period and characters were very well drawn so I felt as if I were transported back in time. The life of a debutante, full of balls and all that frou-frou, would normally bore me to tears, but here, the author seems to use it more as a contrast to Victoria's secret life as a vampire hunter. Running around to balls and teas, while sneaking around hunting vampires after midnight—assuming they were polite enough to wait until then to be hunted. :-D Othertimes, they were rude enough to appear at various social functions and balls, attempting to mingle with society, until Victoria or Max would have to dash out after the "blood sucking creature" to bring them to justice before they took the life of their intended victim out on the patio or in the gardens away from other guests. You just never knew where they'd turn up next!

I also enjoyed how the author continued to surprise me throughout the story: hardly anything that happened was ever expected! Particularly the ending! I'm anxiously looking forward to the next book in The Gardella Vampire Chronicles, Rises the Night, due out in June 2007.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

#13 Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Sixteen-year-old Vivian Gandillon is trying to fit in to her new home in the suburbs. But trying to act "normal" isn't always easy, since Vivian and her family are werewolves. It's glorious to have the power to change, and Vivian is a beautiful loup-garou with all the young wolves howling for her. But she wants no part of her squabbling pack, left leaderless by her father's recent death.

Then Vivian falls in love with a human, a meat-boy. If she reveals herself, will he relish the magic of her dual nature? When a brutal murder threatens the pack's survival, Vivian's divided loyalties are further strained. What is she really—human or beast?

I really enjoyed this book and will agree with some of the other reviews I saw on Amazon that it doesn't really seem a teen book, which if anything only added to it's enjoyment for me. The characters were well drawn and the story line moved along swiftly.

Klause's take on werewolves, as a hidden sect living among humans, was fairly consistent with the way they're portrayed by most authors such as Kelley Armstrong. But one major difference with Klause's wolves is that, although they live among humans, they tend to prefer the company of their own kind in social circles. Though other werewolves from other authors might also display this pack-like behavior, it seemed more prominent in Klause's wolves because they looked down on humans as a weaker species, and prohibited any more than the casual acquaintances of the pack children with humans.

Overall, I really enjoyed it, and I would be looking forward to seeing the movie (out 1/26/07) if only it hadn't gotten such bad reviews, and I heard it deviated greatly from this book which it was based on. But I can't resist a vampire or werewolf flick, so I'll probably just wait for it to come out on DVD. More details on the movie can be found at The Unofficial Annette Curtis Klause Site, the director's site or the official MGM website.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

#12 Black Lipstick Kisses by Monica Belle

My Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Angela McKie, aka Dusk, lives her Goth lifestyle as caretaker at All Angels, living rent-free in exchange for looking after the historic old church in East London, complete with graveyard, tombs, and all manner of Victorian decadence. In a single day, she has attracted the attentions of two very different men: Stephen, a serious young politician threatening to convert All Angels into a modern recreation center, and Michael, a brooding young artist who draws for fantasy, Gothic and horror zines. What she plans to do with them is anyone's guess....

This was one of the best erotica novels I've ever read. Angela's character really resonated with me since I hold her same outlook towards sex. And though I think I've mellowed somewhat in my late 30's, it brought back a ton of fond memories. *evil grin*

The author is a great writer, and has the uncanny ability to elicit atmospheric response with her vivid descriptions, particularly the descriptions of the various pieces in the church. I loved how I felt as if I was right there viewing it all through my own eyes. And the sex scenes were oh so hot!! I'll definitely be keeping my eye open for more from this author in the future.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

#11 Touch the Dark by Karen Chance

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Like any sensible girl, Cassie tries to avoid vampires. But when the bloodsucking Mafioso she escaped three years ago finds Cassie again with revenge in mind, she's forced to turn to the vampire Senate for protection. The undead senators won't help her for nothing, and Cassie finds herself working with one of their most powerful members, a dangerously seductive master vampire—and the price he demands may be more than Cassie is willing to pay.

I liked the story itself, though the author's writing could use a little work. The chapters got kind of long at times, without the use of even any division breaks within. And at other times I found myself confused by what the author was saying, and trying to go back to reread didn't help. In these cases, I found that just continuing on, I'd usually figure out what she was getting at, but it was a bit disconcerting at times. This is her first novel though so I'll cut her a break, especially since I really enjoyed the story.

Besides a good story, the character development was done well. Cassie was an interesting character; her ability to communicate with ghosts, and handle Vampire politics as well, endeared her to me. I also really liked Mircea, one of the Senate Vampires, as well and look forward to seeing more of him in the sequel, Claimed By Shadow, coming out in April 2007.

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