Monday, August 31, 2009

Dark Destiny by Christine Feehan

Dark Destiny (Carpathians, #13) Dark Destiny by Christine Feehan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Dark Destiny has a very tormented heroine. She takes the Carpathian books in a different direction where we see the heroine needing the hero more in some ways than he needs her. There is a mutuality to their relationship, without any doubt. His finding her has kept Nicolae from turning into a vampire. And reaching out to Destiny, saved her. Poor Destiny fell into a vampire's trap as a very young girl, and was forced to watch him murder her parents and many others. Not only that, she was made to drink his tainted blood and violated. Nicolae allowed her to share his mind, and taught her how to kill the vampires, which allowed her to destroy the vampire who had enslaved her, and to get free.

Since then, Destiny has been on the run. She doesn't trust easily and doesn't seek companionship from others, but somehow becomes emotionally attached to the people in the neighborhood she watches over from vampires, particularly MaryAnn Delaney, whose life she saves.

When this book begins, she is evading the beautiful voice in her head, that she has heard for many years, since she was enslaved by the vampire. Although this voice has helped her through some truly horrible moments, she can't allow herself to believe in its goodness, because of falling for the lure that the vampire who destroyed her family set.

Nicolae has followed his lifemate from place to place, doing everything he can to help her, yet trying to keep his distance, knowing her issues with intimacy. But things soon come to a head, and he makes himself known to her in person.

From there, this story unfolds slightly different from the other Carpathian books. Nicolae is a very patient, gentle suitor. He doesn't rush Destiny or force her into their relationship, although he does make it clear that she is his Destiny and his future. Things are complicated, because Destiny is tainted by the vampire. She doesn't know that the Carpathians are not evil and are not vampires. Her whole existence has been hunting and killing vampires, using her ability to sense them because of the shared blood of the vampire who enslaved her. She believes she is wholly evil and cannot be a suitable mate for Nicolae. Nicolae has to convince her that she is wrong, but also get her healing for the vampire blood that damages her body and causes her terrible agony.

It goes without saying that I enjoyed this book. It has a lot of the things that make Feehan's Carpathian books what they are. But it also has some new elements that make it different to read. I like the mix of magic and science, how the tainted blood of the vampire turns out to have a malignant infective lifeform in it that destroys the host from the inside out. I love seeing the battle scenes and the healing moments. There is wonderful humor in these books. Destiny is a real smart aleck and says some outrageous things to Nicolae that he never lets get to him. He's very wry in his humor, and Virkinoff, his older brother, is the type to say what he thinks and let the cards fall where they may. So I had many moments when I was laughing to myself as I read this book.

I think Ms. Feehan really has an appreciation and a touch for showing human relations. She shows the good and the bad about people, and how they come together to form families that have nothing to do with blood. Such is the group of people in the neighborhood that Destiny has ending up adopting. It was hard to see how there were good people who were doing bad things to each other, and no one was sure why. And this ties into the fact that there are monsters in the world that are of the very human variety.

I had to take time to write a review, because I didn't want to say the same things I've said with the other books. I hope that I did a good job talking about this book as a separate entity from the other Carpathian books, because each one is different. I can see how some readers might get bored with the series, but I haven't. I look forward to reading each one, to continue exploring this very interesting and different vampire world.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Innocent's Dark Seduction by Jennie Lucas

The Innocent's Dark Seduction (Harlequin Presents) The Innocent's Dark Seduction by Jennie Lucas

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
This book is full of Harlequin Presents' most tried and true tropes, and I wanted to punch the hero Roark's lights out in the first page, and that only changed on a few of the pages in this book. But somehow, I ended up liking this book.

This book is not for a hardened cynic who cannot appreciate some of the silly aspects of Harlequuin Presents novels when used to good effect in a story. I don't feel that the approach was at all silly. This was a book that kept my interest and engaged my emotions. However, the book does have the ruthless hero who goes through women like Kleenex, who can afford to donate $21 million dollars just to get a woman, who feels no remorse about ruining a man's business because he's a bad businessman, and who thinks he can have any woman he wants by snapping his fingers. Not to mention a heroine who was married for ten years and is a virgin widow, has a baby in secret and keeps it from the hero because he said he didn't want a baby and because he ruined her family's life. Not to mention turns into Play-Doh because of his kisses, even though she cries "I hate you," when they come up for air. And lastly, there's the marriage and bedding for revenge.

At times I rolled my eyes at Roark's antics, and Lia's foolishness, but I ended up getting sucked into this world. They were human beings, not robotic automatons that don't make mistakes or act silly. The love scenes were very passionate and steamy, and the dialogue was interesting. I really do like the way Ms. Lucas writes dialogue.

Roark had a backstory that was a lot more intriguing than most of the HP heroes. His father was a Spanish-Canadian ice road truck-driver who married a New York heiress. That's kind of different. And although he pissed me off for most of this book with his arrogance and ruthless sense of entitlement, I did feel that the dumb lug came to his senses and went after what was important to him. Lia wasn't one of those heroines who never acknowledged the wrongness of what she did. She realized that it was wrong to hold the knowledge of baby Ruby from his father. And she had the courage to go after what was important to her also.

I think Ms. Lucas is fully cognizant that she is writing within a genre and series that has some established expectations, and she embraces it. She might have her checklist of what must be included, but she does a great job of writing a dramatic, engrossing romance that you can't quite dislike, despite some of the obvious patented story elements. Thus I have to give this book 3.5 stars.

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The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause

The Silver Kiss The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
The Silver Kiss was a beautiful book. Very atmospheric and compelling. It had a dark tone but also a beauty that was almost timeless. Simon is a compelling character that will make a reader fall in love with him, although the truth about what he is always lingers in the back of the reader's mind.

To call this a romance might be an overstatement. It has romantic elements that are very appealing and apparent, but it's really a story about coming to terms with death. Zoe is having to face the fact that her mother is dying. This painful realization is almost too much for her and her father, who is very much in love with his wife, to the degree that Zoe feels that she is in the back seat and forgotten.

Zoe is not a selfish character, but she does have some thoughts and desires that seem selfish. But don't we all? I lost my father as a grown woman, and it ripped a hole out of me, even though we weren't that close. I could sympathize with Zoe, and I can certainly understand her 'why me' thoughts about her mother's sickness and how it has affected her life.

Simon comes into Zoe's life during this crucial time. He is drawn to her, because she represents life, home, acceptance, joy to him, when he's been in the dark and so alone for so long. The beastly part of him wants to feed on her, there is no doubt about it. But his soul longs for her. Simon doesn't realize how much his arrival into her life will help Zoe to deal with her mother's eventual demise. Yet he does understand how losing a mother can hurt so badly. In his case, he exists merely to track and destroy the person who killed his mother.

Revealing who this person is would give away too much with this book. But suffice it to say that Simon has a very complicated relationship with his mother's murderer.

The Silver Kiss is in some ways a suspense story as Simon tracks the murderer who is preying on women in Zoe's hometown. This killer is a completely evil being, in a form that few would suspect. I thought this aspect of the story was very well-done, and although this book didn't scare me, that aspect was somewhat menacing and disturbing.

One of the things I liked about this story is that it doesn't sugar-coat vampires. They are creatures of the night, and yes, monsters. Not all of them have to be evil, but the compulsion to kill is an ingrained part of their nature. Some do fight it more than others, but generally the thirst for blood will win and cause most of them to kill their victims. Simon has a duality about him in that he is a good person, but there is evil and darkness within him because of his nature. He has killed some of his victims, although he feels regret that he has done so. I like to think that his enduring love for his mother has encouraged him to fight the beast within him. And meeting Zoe also gives him a peace that helps him to make the right decision when the time comes.

The relationship between Simon and Zoe is beautiful for all its brevity. You want something eternal to come out of it, but realize that that is not possible because of what Zoe is and what Simon is. However, I would definitely put this on my keeper shelf as a vampire romance for the very reason that I found their relationship very appealing. It had an innocence yet a sweet sensuality that I found irresistible.

The Silver Kiss is a book that will leave you with a lingering sadness, a longing for more. A wish that things could be different. By doing this, it really does succeed in being a memorable, poignant tale. Life is so like this, the desire for more, but always knowing that some dreams don't necessarily come true.

This is a young adult book, but has very serious themes and violence that some might find disturbing. However, I think that lovers of vampire fiction of all ages would enjoy this story.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Night Dance by Suzanne Weyn

The Night Dance: A Retelling of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" The Night Dance: A Retelling of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" by Suzanne Weyn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Night Dance is a wonderful combination of the fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and King Arthur legend. I was captivated at the first page, but at the same time wondering how the author could successfully tell this story and use the death of King Arthur and the sole remaining knight Bedivere's quest to return Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake. Well Ms. Weyn did an excellent job.

The Twelve Dancing Princesses has always been one of my favorite fairy tales. I was excited to read a fantasy story built around this tale. Ms. Weyn preserved the aspects of this story that I really liked, and gave them a different spin. I found I wanted to know more about the twelve princesses' dad, Sir Ethan Colchester, because we meet him and his wife, Vivienne, who happens to be the Lady of the Lake long before we meet the daughters. It was interesting seeing how the girls' parents met, and how this tied into the King Arthur myth. They are both shown as sympathetic characters who have reasons for why their actions have led to the princesses being motherless and locked away from the world. We also get to see the youngest daughter, Rowena find true love with the sole remaining knight, Bedivere. I don't want to tell you the whole story, and give too much away. It's short, but a rewarding read, especially if you like fairy retellings and King Arthur.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Lub-Dubs Interracial Romance Readers Awards

Don't miss your chance to vote on the Lub-Dubs Awards for 2009. Thanks for Dreamwild for putting this together.

Best Hero :
Tim Capshaw in “Trolling Nights” by Savannah J. Frierson
Dorian Christensen in “Hostage to Pleasure” by Nalini Singh
Tyson Kincade in “Kincade’s Rose” by Aliyah Burke
Adrian Redwolfe in “In Blood and Worth Loving” by Marilyn Lee

Best Heroine :
Ashaya Aleine in “Hostage to Pleasure” by Nalini Singh
Faith Wheeler in “Tempting Faith” by Crystal Hubbard
Tamara Holifield in “The Blacker the Berry” by Lena Matthews
Miki Kendrick in “Go Fetch” by Shelly Laurenston

Best Alpha Male :
Fenris in “A Guardian’s Desire” by Mya
Dorian Christensen in “Hostage to Pleasure” by Nalini Singh
Adrian Redwolfe in “In Blood and Worth Loving” by Marilyn Lee
Russell Crichton in “The Blacker the Berry” by Lena Matthews

Best Vampire/Warewolf/Shape-Shifter :
Jace Archane in “A Kiss of Ashen Twilight” by Rae Lori
Freya Daniels in “A Guardian’s Desire” by Mya
Adrian Redwolfe in “In Blood and Worth Loving” by Marilyn Lee
Dorian Christensen in “Hostage to Pleasure” by Nalini Singh
Dante Grimaldi in “Dante’s Wrath” by Eve Vaughn

Best Author of the Year :
Savannah J. Frierson
Eve Vaughn
LaVerne Thompson
Lena Matthews

Best Publisher :
Liquid Silver Books
Red Rose Publishing
Parker Publishing

Life Time Achievement Award :
Marilyn Lee
Sandra Kitt
Eve Vaughn

Best Website/Fan-Group/Blog :
The Official Marilyn Lee Fan Club
Fans of Interracial Romance on Goodreads
Fans of Interracial Romance on Yahoo!
Interracial/Multiracial Romance Readers Group

Best Fan :
Caylah Walters
Shawnette from Goodreads
Danielle Hill

Best BBW :
“Eye of the Beholder” by Marilyn Lee
“Trolling Nights” by Savannah J. Frierson
“In Blood and Worth Loving” by Marilyn Lee

Best Contemporary :
“Trolling Nights” by Savannah J. Frierson
“Tempting Faith” by Crystal Hubbard

Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Paranormal :
“A Kiss of Ashen Twilight” by Rae Lori
“Starstruck: Hunter” by Michelle Lauren
“Hostage to Pleasure” by Nalini Singh
“The Alpha Promise” by Hayat Ali
“In Blood and Worth Loving” by Marilyn Lee

Best Erotica :
“In Blood and Worth Loving” by Marilyn Lee
“Beg for It” by Minx Malone

Best Historical :
“Badazz Daddy Squad: Ragnar” by Jeanie Johnson & Jayha Leigh
“After the Lies” by Mandessa Selby

Best Fight Scene :
“A Guardian’s Desire” by Mya
“A Kiss of Ashen Twilight” by Rae Lori
“Go Fetch” by Shelly Laurenston
“Hold On” by LaVerne Thompson

Best Love Scene :
“Hostage to Pleasure” by Nalini Singh
“The Blacker the Berry” by Lena Matthews
“Tempting Faith” by Crystal Hubbard

Best Choice to Become A Movie :
“Tempting Faith” by Crystal Hubbard
“The Megalodon Team Series” by Aliyah Burke
“Starstruck: Hunter” by Michelle Lauren
“Trolling Nights” by Savannah J. Frierson

Best Cover Art :
“Rendezvous with Fate” by Jeanne Sumerix
“A Kiss of Ashen Twilight” by Rae Lori
“Beg for It” by Minx Malone
“Pursuing Zarah” by Jennifer Cole

Best Short Story :
“Tempting a Wolf” by Tressie Lockwood
“Promises” by LaVerne Thompson
“Tempting Neal” by Marilyn Lee
“Your Local Handyman” by Stephanie Williams

Best Novella :
“Starstruck: Hunter” by Michelle Lauren
“The Blacker the Berry” by Lena Matthews
“Boss Man” by Marie Rochelle
“Beg for It” by Minx Malone

Best Novel :
“Trolling Nights” by Savannah J. Frierson
“Tempting Faith” by Crystal Hubbard
“Dante’s Wrath” by Eve Vaughn
“In Blood and Worth Loving” by Marilyn Lee
“Eye of the Beholder” by Marilyn Lee

Best Series :
“The Undead Series” by Emma Petersen
“The Tycoon Club Series” by Marie Rochelle
“The Drace Brothers Series” by Marie Rochelle
“The Megalodon Team Series” by Aliyah Burke
“The Three Sisters Series” by LaVerne Thomspon & Stephanie Williams

Best Story of the Year :
“Trolling Nights” by Savannah J. Frierson
“Tempting Faith” by Crystal Hubbard
“In Blood and Worth Loving” by Marilyn Lee

(you can submit your votes via e-mail to

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Border Lord by Sophia James

The Border Lord (Harlequin Historical Series) The Border Lord by Sophia James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I couldn't stay away from this book any longer. It sat on my bed, calling my name, and I dived in. This is a good book for those who like the English-Scottish conflict romances. It's got a healthy dose of the politics of that situation, but not so much that it's boring. The focus stays on the growing romance between Grace and Lachlan. Their relationship doesn't start out ideal, either.

First of all, Grace has a skin condition (I think it was probably eczema), that she was self-conscious about. She also stutters, has really bright red hair, and limps. She's 26 yrs old, and firmly on the shelf. A big fan of Plain Jane stories, I was wondering where things would lead as I read this story. Would this be a 'makeover' story or the kind of plain jane tales I prefer where the hero sees the heroine as she is and loves her for the person she is. Luckily this fell into the second category. Grace's lack of looks wasn't really an issue for Lachlan. His issue was his weariness at all the fighting and intrigues, his distrust for his bride who may or may not have been his deceased brother's lover and murder. He is attracted to her voluptuous curves, her brown eyes, and her bright shiny hair. He also finds himself attracted to the courage she shows, despite the fear that she has.

Lachlan is one of those hard heroes that you have to warm up to. He fully intends to keep his mistress, although he will take full advantage of having a comely wife to get with child many times over. There is an almost adultery scene, but I was gratified that he couldn't do it in the end, because all he could think about was how it felt to be with his wife instead. Yay! But I was pretty annoyed when he was allowing his mistress to fondle him at the table with his wife. Grace was a cool customer about it. I probably would have brained him with a tankard. But all ended up well with that situation. Lachlan soon comes to realize that he doesn't want any other woman but his wife.

Grace is considered an outsider initially, but she slowly wins over her husband's people, first by saving a boy from a severe burning, and then by saving the son of a neighboring clan, who could be an enemy of the Kerr clan. However, there is sabotage trying to make it seem like Grace is trying to bring down the clan. I liked that Grace remained steadfast and true to herself the whole time. She didn't jump off the handle or do anything stupid. She showed the maturity of a woman of her age, and trusted that her integrity would shine through.

This book might not be to the taste of those romance readers who don't like a lot of history and politics in their romance. But I felt it was well intregrated into the story. Lachlan is in a dicey situation. He has loyalties to some of the English rulers but also the Scottish rulers. This book is set during the time when King David has returned, but also there is Robert the Bruce with his agendas, and some of the Scottish leaders want Scotland to be free of English rule, and some want Scotland under England. And right in the middle is Lachlan. He had been fighting his whole life according to pre-decided loyalties because of his French grandmother and his Scottish father who turned into a womanizing drunkard. Plus his brother wasn't the best man either, being a womanizer himself, and also very self-serving, going off and making politial alliances he shouldn't have. All Lochlan wants is a home and a family. Although he is not happy at the edict from King David to marry Grace, she turns out to be the key to having the home he always longed for.

At times I was frustrated at Lochlan's lack of faith in Grace, in the face of clear evidence that she had proven her loyalty. I tried to tell myself that it was reasonable for a man who had buried a faithless wife and was cuckolded by his brother, and who spent most of his life involved in court intrigues, to be distrustful. Thankfully, Grace shows her solidarity to Lochlan and her new home not by going through any changes, but by being herself and being steadfast in her loyalties to the husband she quickly falls in love with.

This was a beautiful story, and the writing is fairly artistic in some passages. I think that Ms. James really poured her heart into writing a story that would touch the reader and give them entertainment that engaged the mind and the senses. Highly recommended for fans of Scottish-English conflict romances, arranged marriage, and plain jane themes in romance.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Prospero's Daughter by Nancy Butler

Prospero's Daughter (Signet Regency Romance) Prospero's Daughter by Nancy Butler

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I had never read Nancy Butler before this book, although she is quite well-loved in traditional regency reading circles. I can see why she is admired. The stories of people who have suffered grievously both physically and mentally never fail to touch me when written well. This is one of those books.

Initially I didn't think I would care for Morgan Pearce. He is upset because he'll have to put off his affair with a very married woman and leave London for the country, out of a debt to a friend who supposedly saved his life on the battlefield. I was thinking, how honorable is that to be having an affair with a married woman? This is one of those books where you need to keep reading and put your robe and gavel away. For soon, it is clear that Morgan has many times more honor than most men.

He goes up to his friend's family home to help his friend's retired General father write his memoirs. At first he is quite impressed with the family of his friends, the Palfreys. They are very friendly, have a beautiful and perfect home, and seem to be a warm, affectionate family. Even helping with the memoirs of General Palfrey is going well. Then one day his eyes lay on a very sad figure out in the garden. A thin, broken woman who is clothed head to toe in heavy wool, and abandoned in a Bath chair.

Morgan can't look away. Having fought in the army for years, he has seen his share of wounded soldiers, and his best friend lost a leg in the war, and has yet to recover emotionally or physically. He knows he has to help her. This is not one of those love at first sight books. Miranda is a shadow of her former self. She is very debilitated from barely eating,and her muscles are atrophied from disuse. Not only that, her face has been slightly disfigured on one side, with scarring and flattening of her cheekbone. Morgan doesn't see her as the monstrous figure that she believes herself to be, or her neglectful cousin and his family have deemed her to be. He sees a woman that he can help to recover (and he feels the desire to do so because of what his own friend has been going through) and go on to lead a productive life. It becomes his mission to do so.

As this book progresses, we see Morgan pushing and goading Miranda on to care about herself and to want to get better. Initially Morgan uses the tools of somewhat harsh words and saying things designed to get a woman's goat. It works, as Miranda is so angry she is empowered to fight back, to push this meddlesome do-gooder away. Gradually a strong chemistry develops between the couple. Morgan sees the attractive woman that Miranda is despite her infirmitites. He admires her spirit and intelligence, and her beautiful blue-grey eyes that sparkle with anger towards him. Miranda falls in love with the man who has pushed and prodded her to get better. She doesn't think anything can come of it, but she loves him anyway, and will enjoy the time they have together before he leaves to go back to his life as a publisher in London.

Prospero's Daughter succeeds in being a sweet but passionate romance at the same time. The action never goes past kisses, but you don't doubt the desire and longing that Morgan and Miranda feel for each other. Morgan was a very masculine, vital hero, but he was also a gentleman. Although he was not without his flaws, he was a really good person. Although he had an affair with a married woman and availed himself of courtesans and prostitutes in the past (two of my pet peeves in a hero), I couldn't hold that against him, because he really showed with a good person he was. He was honorable and kind, and he was the kind of person who did the right thing, even though it might cost him something. He was perfect for Miranda.

I loved Miranda as well. My heart was breaking for her. Not only had she lost her mother and father, she lost the dreams for a normal life and a future. She was not quite at the point of suicide in this book, but it was clear that fairly soon, she might consider taking that option. Miranda wasn't that kind of person who would give up easily and take that way out, but she was such a vital, strong-minded person, trapped in a feeble body, and treated like a burden and a monstrosity by her family, even though she had her own means and property. It must have been awful to be in her situation and to be so neglected and abandoned by those who were supposed to love her.

I was very glad that Morgan called her family on their selfishness and their shallow natures. It was awful that they lived in the same house with her, but never took the time to visit her, and reassure her. She lived a separate life, and wasn't even included in Christmas celebrations or dinner with the family. That kind of neglect was beyond criminal, and it probably added to Miranda's feelings of despair.

Miranda had a very wise thing to say to Morgan that he needed to hear. He had pretty much given up on helping his friend who had lost a leg in the war. She told him that he needed to tell his friend that he was okay the way he was, even if he never walked or got out of bed again. Morgan had to struggle with that, because he was used to feeling like he had to fight to be the best and to strive for excellence due to his troubled relationship with his father, who felt he married beneath him by marrying a daughter of a publishing family. His mind interpreted that as failure. But it turned out to be excellent advice that does help Morgan to accept Miranda as she is and not fixate on improving her if it's not meant to be, and he and his sister to deal with Phillip's condition. His sister Kitty is in love with Phillip but has finally given up and decided to marry another man. Miranda helps to get the two lovebirds back together, showing the intelligence and strength of will that she never really lost. It was just locked away in a feeble body and a heart starved for love and the acceptance of others.

This book really touched me and kept me reading. It is a wonderful story of how caring about someone enough to put oneself out there in the emotional danger zone, basically putting your money where your mouth is. Being a person of principles means nothing if actions don't back it up. Miranda's family thought they were good people, but it was clear that it was just a facade when it was really obvious how much they had neglected Miranda (despite having people to care for her most basic needs and nothing much above that). It's about doing the right thing, and reaching out to others in need, and how you will be blessed when you do take the time to open your heart and care for others. Morgan stepped up to the plate and discovered a treasure in Miranda, and a great love that will continue to reward him for the rest of his life.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Naked in His Arms by Sandra Marton

Naked In His Arms (Harlequin Presents) Naked In His Arms by Sandra Marton

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This book was almost a wallbanger at certain parts. The hero and heroine were acting way too hormonal for me. They had some serious imbalances in their brain chemistry causing them to act like idiots. But then it would settle down and I'd like it again.

Alex is a jerk. He's very macho and tough, and judgmental. He has decided that Cara is a skanky ho because he believes she is the ex-mistress of a crime lord. Even though he says he doesn't have an issue with a woman being sexually experienced. Whatever dude. This from the guy who picks up women in bars for sex. I thought he treated Cara pretty bad for too much of the book, although he's caring in other parts. This is part of the hormonal imbalance issue.

Cara is typical for Sandra Marton. She's way too soft with the hero. She lets him get away with too much crap. She gets snarky a few times, but most of the time, he can kiss her into submission. That really gets on my nerves when the hero can kiss the heroine and she turns into a pile of jello. Sometimes it's okay, but it's overused, especially by this author.

Don't get me wrong. I really enjoy Sandra Marton's books. But I think she has borderline uber-alphas in some of her books. Uber-alpha means bad alpha to me. Not the tough, possessive loving type of hero. But the testosterone toxicity hero. Alex definitely falls into this category. He really didn't use his brain as much as he should have. I figured out pretty early just what Cara's connection was to the crime lord. I don't mean to stereotype, but it was fairly obvious that Cara wasn't mistress-material. All he could see was how hot she was, and that made her skanky, crimelord guy's ho in his mind.

I was disappointed with the adventure plot. It could have been a little better executed. He did some covert spy stuff, but mainly it consisted of breaking into Cara's apartment, accosting her in the shower, and sexually intimidating her. And then at the end, he and his two brothers break into the crime lord guy's mansion to get 'closure' with Cara. The Desert Virgin (the 1st book in this series that I read) had much better action. This one really wrapped up way to easily and it was very anti-climactic.

I have to say this is probably my least favorite Sandra Marton book although some parts were okay. I am keeping it because it's part of a series with The Desert Virgin, and I hate to break up a series in my collection.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lub-Dubs Interracial Romance Readers Awards

It's not too late to vote if you're a reader of Interracial Romance/Erotica.

CEREMONY: “The Lub-Dubs” (that’s right, the sound a heart makes) - an interracial romance fiction award ceremony for the fans, by the fans. I’ve picked the categories but all of you will pick the nominees and vote for the winners. I will tally the votes and host the award ceremony “live” on my blog at a date TBA (most likely end of September). I will do my best to notify every nominee and maybe we can even get the winners to post “acceptance speeches” the night of the ceremony. Depending on its success, the award ceremony might become an annual thing, but for now it’s just one time only, so let’s enjoy. C’mon, people, let’s have fun with this and create THE BEST “go-to” list for everything related to interracial romance books!

AWARD: The Heart (how does it sound? “and the heart goes to…” or “two time heart award winner” lol)

RULES: first and foremost, all stories submitted for nomination MUST be interracial romance. one nomination per category per person (meaning you can’t list three different books for each category, just one!) Yes, authors are allowed to vote as well - after all, they are fans too. MUY IMPORTANTE - everything submitted for nomination must have been published (or for free/non-published work, it must have been "posted") within a year of when voting ends. (basically the eligibility dates are: the month of august 2008 - the month of august 2009) i’m putting my total trust in you all, so NO cheating! (meaning you can’t nominate a contemporary book in the historical category and you can‘t nominate a book from 2007) and please be as detailed with your nominations as possible, so for example: in the best hero category, nominate Mr. so-and-so from the book such-and-such, written by miss ahuh - so that I know who you’re talking about)

WHERE TO SUBMIT: send your nomination picks to: with “lub-dub” written in the subject box.

DEADLINES: The deadline to submit nominations will be 11:59 PM eastern standard time on Friday, August 21. That gives everyone a little over six weeks to vote. I will tally all of the submissions and the ones with the most votes will make it onto the nomination board (most likely 4 or 5 per category). After all is counted, I will post the Nomination list (in multiple locations) that following Monday, August 24 and the voting will begin!!!

Best Hero
Best Heroine
Best Supporting Male Character
Best Supporting Female Character
Best Villian - (can be male or female)
Best Alpha Male
Best Vampire/Warewolf/Shape-Shifter - (can be male or female)
Best Author of the Year
Best New Author
Best Editor
Best Publisher
Life Time Achievement Award - (do you know of an author that has significantly advanced the interracial romance genre? submit their name!)
Best Lip-Lock - ( we all love a heartfelt kiss)
Best Love Scene - (only 2 person sex. for three ppl or more, check out the menage cateory)
Best Proposal - (we all love it when the couple says “I do”, pick your favorite down-on-one-knee moment)
Best Fight Scene - (love it when the protective hero, socks the a-hole ex in the face? I know I do!)
Best Ménage twa - (can be any combination of males and females)
Best Erotica
Best Inspirational
Best Historical
Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Paranormal
Best BBW
Best Mystery/Suspense-Thriller
Best Western
Best Contemporary
Best Comedy
Best Series - (can only nominate if one of the books from the series was published during this past year)
Best Website/Fan-Group/Blog
Best Fan - (know a steadfast fan of interracial romance books that maybe created a fan website or gives great reviews? nominate them!)
Best Choice to Become A Movie - (sure to be a favorite category, which book would you love to see become a movie?)
Best One-Liner - (that one line in a story that’s so f-ing awesome, you wanna share it with the world)
Best Cover Art
Best Short Story - (less than 20,000 words)
Best Novella - (between 20,000 - 40,000 words)
Best Novel - (more than 40,000 words)
Best Story of the Year - (any length story can be nominated… That’s right folks, short storys can go up against novels)

Let's show Interracial Romance some love!

Murder Game by Christine Feehan

Murder Game (GhostWalkers, #7) Murder Game by Christine Feehan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Here I was thinking that Kadan was going to be mellow compared to the Norton twins. NOT! That man is intense. I loved this book. It starts out with a bang and keeps going.

I think Christine Feehan is wonderful at pairing these characters. Tansy and Kadan are a great match for each other. She's strong but willing to be submissive with Kadan. He's very much a dominant kind of man. At times I vacillated between being completely in love with him and thinking he was way too dominant for my tastes. It was like a knife edge in the very hot and sensual scenes for me. I was thinking, "Is he being too rough?" But he really wasn't. He didn't do anything that Tansy didn't like or made her feel uncomfortable. But he was all about control. He would do and say things that showed he was in charge, and Tansy probably could have fought him on more things, but she really didn't seem to feel the need to do it. She was a very calm, composed person.

Kadan thinks of himself as an ice man. Very remote, and always in control. Because of a traumatic event as a child, he sees himself as a cold-blooded killer, almost a monster. He didn't think he could have a family or a woman. He felt all he had was his Ghostwalker family and the next mission. From the moment he sees Tansy, he feels like there is something more for him. It was very refreshing to read a book where the hero is in love from the first moment. He might not have said 'I love you,' but if this man wasn't in love, than I don't know what love is. He was completely crazy about Tansy. I don't know why, but these kinds of heroes that I call 'stalkerific' never fail to appeal to me. They are crazy possessive and obsessed with the heroine. And sometimes it's a little scary, but since it's romance and fiction, it's all good. Well Kadan might be the King of Stalkerific heroes.

I think that he would be more scary if it wasn't absolutely obvious how much he adores Tansy. This man is crazy about Tansy. He would always need to touch Tansy, even around the other Ghostwalkers. It wasn't anything over the top, but definitely PDAs. The thought of her suffering or being hurt or in pain drives him absolutely crazy. It makes him get even more dominant alpha. I have to give it to Tansy. She really understood that, and reassured him that he had her love and always would.

Tansy was a very mature person. She was quite Zen. Although not an alpha heroine, she had a formidable inner strength. She had weathered so much for young age, and she goes through even more during this book. Tansy had a way of accepting things and seeing them for what they were. But I believe that her near breakdown and getting through that gave her the strength to be able to deal with very bad things in a straightforward manner without going off on the deep end.

I really loved Tansy as a heroine (which I love all the Ghostwalker heroines but she's my favorite now). She has the phenomenal mental ability to track serial killers by touching the objects they handled, although it makes her physically and mentally ill when she does it. Initially that was the reason that Kadan finds Tansy, to track the rogue Ghostwalker team who is committing a series of murders. When Kadan sees how devastating it is for Tansy to use her ability, his protective instincts override the desire to use her talents. He sees that she has not been shown how to use filters to protect her mind. I liked how Kadan was so protective of Tansy, and how he didn't like her doing something that was so bad for her. Although Tansy submitted to Kadan in almost every way, she refused to stop using her talent if it could save lives. So he did everything to help her to be safe when she did use her talent. Those scenes were very well done. This showed that although Kadan was so dominant, it was clear that he was able to be gentle and caring. Also this was shown in the other moments when Tansy is hurt or suffering. He couldn't handle it.

Kadan and Tansy have their first sexual encounter very, very early in this book. It didn't feel wrong to me. It felt right because of a few factors: intense relationship, their being paired because of Mad Scientist Whitney, and the fact that Kadan has already realized that she is the woman for him and that he's not letting go of her. If Tansy hadn't been the kind of heroine that wasn't as level-headed and philosophical, it could have felt ugly and forced, but it didn't. She's a special person, and made for this man. He'd be way too scary for a lot of women. But she is fine with him, immense control issues and all.

The action in this book is very in your face. I love action as much as I love romance, so it was a great combination. It was so cool to see the original Ghostwalker team (especially Nico, Gator, Ryland, but also Tucker and Ian) in on the action. They are in this book a lot (I was in heaven because I love these guys). It was nice to see the joking and comraderie between the Ghostwalkers. The pretty much adopt Tansy into the family. Kadan gets teased a lot because of his obvious adoration of Tansy. The Ghostwalkers work so well together and love each other (although they are alpha males and don't get all mushy about it, this is very clear). We also get to see Ken, Jack, Jeff, and Mari. These guys are total, badass (pardon my French) warriors. I am in awe of them. I could hug Christine Feehan for writing these books, because they really meet my needs for a great romance novel with high octane action. Readers who are sensitive about violence should be warned about this book. It does have quite a bit of violent scenes. I didn't think they were gratuitous, but definitely might be too much for a sensitive person. The subject matter is quite dark. There are people who kill for money and for sport in this book. But Kadan's Ghostwalker team is going to shut them down with Tansy's help. The end was very intense and Tansy has her own battle to fight with the Ghostwalkers' help. I wasn't expecting the way things wrapped up. It was sort of like a one-two punch. At first I thought the storyline was wrapping up a little too tidily, but then wham, bang. All I can say is wow.

There was nothing I didn't like about this book. It is my favorite in the series now. Kadan is just an incredible hero (kind of crazy in a typically quiet and deadly fashion, but really in the best ways). Tansy is just the heroine to handle this intense guy, and give him the love, acceptance and home he craved. And he's just the man to love her within an inch or her life and keep her very, very happy at the same time.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Midnight Awakening by Lara Adrian

Midnight Awakening (Midnight Breed, #3) Midnight Awakening by Lara Adrian

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is one of those reviews where I have to eat my words. I have to say that I really grew to like Elise. I didn't think I would care for her as a heroine after the last book in the series, Kiss of Crimson. But I found that I liked and respected her. She has lost a lot, but rose like a phoenix from the ashes. She made herself strong, even though she was raised like a delicate flower in the Chase family, told what to think, how to act, and what she should do with her life.

Elise suffers terribly when she is around humans, because her inborn psychic ability makes her hear their most violent, ugly, and dark thoughts. Despite this, she goes out to hunt and kill Minions, which are the souless humans that have almost been bled dry by the vampires who have given themselves over to Bloodlust, called Rogues. Some might view this behavior as TSTL, but I felt that a woman who lost her son to the evils of vampires and their minions would want to wreak vengeance on her enemies. So she didn't come off that way to me.

I liked Tegan a lot. I hate to compare books, but I must say that I don't connect with him as a tortured hero as intensely that I have with some of the other heroes in various other paranormal series that I have read and loved. Having said that, he definitely held his own in this book as a formidable warrior with a tortured past, but capable of complete tenderness and gentleness with Elise. I think that is what made me like him, was the way the took care of Elise, and showed her respect. He did tell her she was risking her life, and had some things to say about that in a very non-political way, but I think he showed respect for her need to do something in the war against the rogue vampires. I also loved that he was celibate for several centuries after the loss of his breedmate. That's devotion! I read one book where a hero who was supposed to be so in love with his lost love that he couldn't even wait less than five years before sleeping with some other women.

I was curious why Ms. Adrian paired Tegan with Elise before I read this book, but it totally made sense when I read it. On the surface, they seem different, as Elise is a pampered, delicate Breedmate who is a society maven in the Darkhaven (communities in which the vampire civilians and their breedmates live), and Tegan is a fierce, rough warrior, seen as a conscienceless killer by many. Yet they have a connection and can understand each other because of the losses they have suffered and how those losses changed their lives and their personalities. There is a strong bond between Tegan and Elise that is emotional and sexual, that Ms. Adrian does a great job of building on. I liked that there wasn't the instant sex scene, but the tension builds between them until it explodes like C-4 in the love scenes that occur later in the book.

I feel this series is building very well. It has an interesting world, but, I admit I like a paranormal romance with more creatures in it a little more. This one just has the offspring of the alien vampires that came to earth millenia ago, went on a bloodthirsty rampage, and sired offspring on human women. Having said that, I think Ms. Adrian really does a good job with this storyline and reveals more layers with each book.

The battles in this book are intense and violent. There is always the chance that these warriors could die or get wounded. The stakes are very high and you hold your breath waiting to see what's going to happen next. The villain Marek is a completely despicable, morally bankrupt piece of work, and you want him taken down by the Breed.

This book kind of wraps up one storyline but leaves things open for the start of another one. I definitely need to keep reading to see what's going to happen after this book. Also because I am intrigued with the characters of Rio, Andreas Richen, Sterling Chase, Niko, and the new recruit brethren Kade and Brock, and I want to see who they get paired up with.

Another plus of this series is that there is some ethnic diversity. This is another big reason I keep reading these books. I will get off my soapbox in a moment. I promise. I just have to say it's nice to see people of different ethnicities in the paranormal romances. Just saying. (Climbing off the soapbox now).

If you are looking to read a well-written book with formidable warriors, intense action, and a great romance, and you're a fan of vampires, I'd recommend the Midnight Breed series to add to your to be read pile.

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The Desert King's Pregnant Bride by Annie West

The Desert King's Pregnant Bride (Presents Extra) The Desert King's Pregnant Bride by Annie West

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book made me cry a little bit. That doesn't happen a lot (in fact it's pretty rare). It really affected me how deeply unwanted Maggie felt, growing up with a cruel, withdrawn, bitter father who never even celebrated birthdays or Christmas. She went home one day and her mother had left, taking her sister with her. So she is a character who really does have good reason not to believe that the hero might love and desire her.

I could totally understand why it took so long for her to believe that Khalid loved her. It was pretty sad that she thought he only had sex with her the night they conceived their baby out of pity. She walks in on her beau having sex with his married lover. It turns out he was just using her to keep suspicion off his relationship with the married woman. Heartbroken, she is wandering down the road in the rain, and Khalid gives her her a ride. He takes her back to his suite to dry off, and she more or less seduces him (with him being completely willing). He makes her feel very good and appreciated, but the next morning she leaves, not wanting to subject Khalid to any morning after explanations.

Flash forward one month and she is in Shajehar working as a groom with the horses from the sheikh's stud farm in Australia. She sees Khalid (now the sheikh since since his brother died the night that they made love) again when he helps her get control of an unruly horse (although I like that this book showed that Maggie probably could have handled the situation herself). She doesn't know it, but Khalid has her brought there so he can continue the relationship with her. With her low self-esteem, she doesn't see how a sheikh could have feelings for a lowly tomboy groom. Because the horse knocks her down, Khalid insists on her having an exam by the doctor, who does a test since Maggie said she was feeling dizzy. It turns out she's pregnant although Khalid scrupulously used protection.

Khalid insists on marriage, although Maggie is very resistant at first. I liked that he did try to consider her feelings and give her time to make a decision instead of blackmailing her and threatening to take her baby as some HP heroes might have done. Maggie feels the responsibility to do what is right for her baby and give it a family, so she says yes.

The rest of the book shows the tug of war that Maggie has with her feelings. She falls deeply in love with Khalid, but doesn't believe he loves her. She even thinks he consummates the marriage out of duty instead of desire. Again, this might cause some readers to roll their eyes, but I could see that she viewed everything through the eyes of an unwanted, rejected child. It would make her doubt any genuine affection from others. She really enjoys his desire and lovemaking, but it breaks her heart because she doesn't think he loves her and she needs his love. She grows increasingly withdrawn as she tries to protect her heart.

Khalid feels intense attraction and desire for Maggie from the beginning. This is one of those books where the hero sees the heroine as beautiful although she doesn't feel attractive because of being raised like a boy. Khalid has a struggle ahead of him. He lost his childhood love and wife tragically, and subsequently doesn't want to fall in love. He has had no-string sexual relationships with women and no trouble walking away when they are done. What he feels for Maggie is much more intense and different (eventually he realizes it's even more profound than his love for his deceased wife). He feels he can compartmentalize his strong feelings for Maggie as affection and desire, and the possessive feelings a man has for his wife and the mother of his child. But love creeps into his heart very quickly, although he makes the mistake of not telling Maggie this until it's almost too late. She just thinks he desires her and feels an obligation towards her because she's pregnant with his child.

This theme may not work for some readers who don't like heroines who have low self-esteem. However, this book affected me because of the sadness that Maggie had endured as a child, and the fact that she has trouble believing that she is loved. I like heroines who have emotional struggles ahead of them and need to grow. I think it's unrealistic for every heroine to be strong and confident, and to have hearts that are emotionally whole. Life isn't like that for most women. And it's nice to see women who have struggles with self-esteem find happiness in romance novels.

I think Annie West is a really good author, teaming sensual love scenes with intense emotion between the characters. She's great at creating strong, masculine heroes who are never domineering and cruel to their heroine. This kind of hero is sorely needed in this line of romances, and I can say that as a longtime fan of Harlequin Presents, but one who doesn't really like how cruel and overly arrogant and macho the heroes can be.

I was glad that I got the chance to read this emotional, well-written book, and will be adding it to my keeper shelf.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Faery! Edited by Terri Windling

Faery! (Ace Science Fiction) Faery! by Terri Windling

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Overall, I was a bit disappointed with this collection. Some of the stories didn't work for me. Yet, there are some gems in here that make this book a keeper, just for those stories. The standout tales in this collection were:

A Troll and Two Roses by Patricia A. McKillip
The Thirteenth Fey by Jane Yolen
Lullaby for a Changeling by Nicholas Stuart Gray
Brat by Theodore Sturgeon (Simply hilarious look at changelings! Must read more Sturgeon!)
Wild Garlic by William F. Wu (Chinese-American protagonist, chilling ghost story with foxwomen)
The Stranger by Shulamith Oppenheim
The Box of All Possibility by Z. Greenstaff
Rhian and Garanhir by Grail Undwin
The Woodcutter's Daughter by Alison Uttley (my favorite. Very like some of my all-time beloved fairy tale reads).
Touk's House by Robin McKinley (another fairy tale-great read)
The Boy Who Dreamed of Tir Na N-Og by Michael M. McNamara

I did not like these at all:
Spirit Places by Keith Taylor (it was really boring)
The Five Black Swans by Sylvia Townsend Warner (it seemed pointless)

Sad And Confounding But Well-Written
The Erlking by Angela Carter

Bizarre Yet Interesting
Prince Shadowbow by Sheri S. Tepper

Good But Too Slow-Moving
The Snow Fairy by M. Lucie Chin (I loved the Chinese Folklore aspects)

Indifferent About
The Seekers of Dreams by Felix Marti-Ibanez
Bride by Steven R. Boyett
Crowley and the Leprechaun by Gregory Frost
The Antrim Hills by Mildred Downey Broxon (Rather bleak. It captured the cold nature of the Fae very well)

It also had poetry, but for some reason, the poetry didn't really mesh well with the prose to me.

I'm glad I read this collection but I hope that I find the next faery anthologies in my tbr pile to be more interesting and moving than this one.

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The Chosen Ones: Storm of Visions by Christina Dodd

Storm of Visions (The Chosen Ones, Book 1) Storm of Visions by Christina Dodd

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book has a really cool premise and takes things in a different direction from the other paranormal series right now. I really did like that about the book. However, I do feel the romance suffered because of the time that had to be spent on building the world and the lore for this new series. I really wish that Ms. Dodd had been able to preserve her excellent ability to write a great, sensual romance and still accomplish setting up this series. Normally her love scenes are fairly blistering. They were a little more on the tepid side. I felt as though I barely got access to the intense relationship between Jacqueline and Caleb. What I saw of it was so intriguing, yet I wanted more.

As for the action and suspense, that was excellent. Ms. Dodd introduced an interesting cast of characters that I'd like to see more of. She kept me guessing who the saboteur was until the very end, which can be difficult for an author to do. There were some thrilling moments that had me on the edge of my bed and the elliptical trainer (the predominant places where I read this book. Also while waiting for my clothes to dry in the laundry room). I liked the paranormal aspects, and as I said earlier in this review, they felt different and unique. There were times I didn't know what to think of this story and I was afraid for the first time I would dislike a Dodd book. She is one of my favorite authors, and rarely disappoints, so I was glad I didn't have to say that.

I like that she uses a more Judeo-Christian kind of lore in this book, fighting against the devil. I love most paranormal themes, but it's nice to see something in a paranormal romance that is relevant to my everyday existence as a Christian. Kudos to her for that.

Overall, I have to give this four stars because it was an enjoyable book that sucked me in. I took away a star because the romance seemed to be lacking somewhat in this story. I did feel like there was telling that Jacqueline and Caleb were deeply in love, instead of showing. Nevertheless, I look forward to reading the forthcoming books, and definitely will add this to my keeper shelf.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Taste for Blood by Various Authors

A Taste for Blood A Taste for Blood by Martin H. Greenberg

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Here is what I thought about each story in this volume:

Carmilla by Jospeph Sheridan Le Fanu: Three stars. I posted a review separately.

Murgunstrumm by Hugh B. Cave: Three stars. It was pretty good. Had some moments that inspired terror. I really felt for Paul and rooted for him to prevail. I also liked his sidekick Jeremy. The vampires were thoroughly evil and disgusting, and Murgunstrumm was a complete and utter ghoul.I won't even say what he was up to. I picked up a little bit of xenophobia in this story. Why is it that in the older stories, the bad guys are always described as having thick, disgusting lips? What's wrong with having thick lips. Seems a little bigoted to me. Pretty good if you like over the top vampire stories.

The next story was The Hills of the Dead by an author I admire a lot for his pioneer offerings in the sword and sorcery genre, Robert E. Howard. Okay it was really good, except for the racist leanings. I will try not to hold it against Howard. He lived in a time that was really not very enlightened when it came to equality and diversity. The fact that he does have a protagonist that is a Black man who has saved Kane's life numerous times and who is not protrayed as a stupid 'bestial' type does help me to feel he is not a total racist. Also knowing a little about his life, he had friends that were Black. But I really did not like this passage: "The girl was a much higher type than the thick-lipped, bestial West Coast Negroes to whom Kane had been used." Again with the lips: "...,her lips were not too thick." Argh!!!! That really turned my stomach. That is the problem with pulp fiction from this time in the United States. You do have to wade through a lot of racist, xenophobic, elitist, bullcrap. I still like Howard for his good storytelling abilities, but I will cringe everytime I read passages like this. Another issue I had with this story is the word 'black' was way overused. I think it must have been used at least thirty times. As a writer I know that it's hard to avoid using the same word, but I do wish that Howard had a thesaurus handy when he wrote this story. Other than the overuse of 'black' and the blatant racism, I'd give this story four stars.

Black Thirst by CL Moore is a different soft of vampire story set on Venus. The vampire is a creature older than any other life on the planet, who has bred a race of beautiful courtesans as his food source. Our hero is Northwest Smith, sort of a gunslinger in space. He might be a tasty snack for said vampire. But not if Northwest and his trusty raygun have something to say about this. This was a very good story. My first experience with CL Moore, I am happy to say I enjoyed reading it. How could I not? She writes very well, in a poetic and visual style. Plus it's a gunslinger in space fighting space vampires. Too good to resist. I'd give it four stars.

The Shunned House by HP Lovecraft is the next story. It was pretty good, 3.5 stars. Typical Lovecraft. He's a good writer, and he started out calmly telling his story, but slowly he builds up with fantastic terminology that you only read in a Lovecraft story. Lovecraft is no stranger to hyperbole and drama. I still don't know what the heck is going on. But it's probably some tentacled, blobby thing. Oh, could I be right? You have to read it to find out. No spoilers here. One interesting thing about this story is the pretty optimistic ending (I know it's sort of a spoiler, but in a good way). I think this is atypical for Lovecraft (or as much as I have read by him). I think that calling this one a vampire story is a bit of a stretch. I'm just saying.

The Feasting Dead by John Metcalfe follows Lovecraft. I must say this story was a waste of time. Meandering and going nowhere. Almost getting scary but wandering off course so that the thrill is denied. I am quite angry that I spent my time reading it. I think the author just wanted to show off his French-speaking skills. 1 star.

Pages From a Young Girl's Journal by Robert Aickman is the sixth story in this anthology. This is told in the form of journal entries. It isn't especially interesting. Perhaps the writer wanted to highlight the inane existence of this young girl, and contrast this against the transformation that is occuring to her as she is slowly being transformed into a vampire by her lover. I would give it three stars, because it is well-written, but rather dry for my tastes. I thought the story I read by Aickman in "New Terrors" was better.

If you like your vampire tales lurid, then you will love Beyond Any Measure by Karl Edward Wagner. It has sex, drugs, rock and roll, violence, reincarnation, lesbian love (ahem, sex), you name it. It's set in London in the late 70s or early 80s. This story even has a Freud-esque parapsychologist chap who hypnotizes people to get them in touch with their past lives. Wagner is a very good writer. He is great at transmitting detail and setting the scene. I am not that interested in reading about people who take drugs liberally and party like it's 1999 in all the ways possible. But you definitely have to hand it to him in his skill of writing this type of setting. I felt like I was right there (and I wanted to head for the door). I must say this is a unique type of vampire story. I've read it twice now. The first time was in The Vampire Hunter's Casebook a few years aog. However, I was still surprised at the ending. You are drawn in, feeling a sense of slowly escalating dread and fear for what awaits the young woman Lisette. Although I got a little bored with some of the scenes, I wanted to keep reading to see where Wagner would lead me. While some of the lurid elements (including lesbian love scenes) weren't to my taste, and the psychobabble and girl talk was a bit long-winded, I'd give it three stars for having an interesting premise with building tension and a climax/conclusion that was superbly executed.

Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons takes a different approach to the vampire legend. Well-written, sharp, suspenseful, and I hated this story. These creatures that appear to be humans are complete moral vacuums. You may laugh and say, "That's what a vampire is, chica." I beg to differ. I do believe that some vampires are completely evil. But some are basically more like predators. They prey on humans to live. These creatures in this novel have made a game out of 'using' humans to do horrible deeds to win bets against each other. They are psychic vampires, and derive energy from humans. But there is a cruelty that is callous and unnecessary in how they use and destroy humans. Human life has no value whatsoever. This story is full of collateral damage, which I absolutely abhor in novels and books. While it succeeds in unnerving the reader, it also feels this reader with a complete repugnance. Let me state the obvious: I won't be reading this story ever again. I'd give it two stars for the quality of writing. I cannot give it any more because of how awful it made me feel to read it.

The Yougoslaves by Robert Bloch takes place in Paris, and the city comes alive in Bloch's deft hands. The glamor of Paris is paired to seedy squalor of the underbelly. This story is like believing you're going to get hit with a right-cross and instead getting socked with the left instead. I was expecting one thing, and was excited to see what Block would do with the Yougoslaves. Boy was I wrong. I love those stories that manage to surprise me. This was an enjoyable story. Definitely a four star story.

Bite-Me-Not, of Fleur de Fur by Tanith Lee was a beautiful fairy tale. I read the last sentence and felt tears come to my eyes. It was a story about love in its most unlikely, but somehow destined form. This story had vampires in the sinister form, but also a sympathetic vampire. It had bad, cruel humans, and a good-hearted human. It was a story of self-sacrifice and how love can come of it. I rate this story five stars for its beauty and for the pure message in it.

The Lost Art of Twilight by Thomas Ligotti was lyrical, descriptive, and sad. I felt for the narrator, who lived a twilght existence, but passes over into something much worse. The best kind of vampire stories, I find as I get older, are the ones where you feel a sense of pity for the creature of the night. The ones what make you sad, and wonder, what if? Maybe he could change. This is one of those. I'd give it four stars. This is my first story by Ligotti, making me glad I have The Shadow at the End of the World in my tbr pile.

Blood Disease by Patrick McGrath was another good story. It was very well written, and I liked the narrative tone, kind of like a person who is relating a case (in the past tense, but also in present tense). It's set in the 1930s and has a very interesting premise, that seems to veer away from what is expected with the information given at the beginning of the tale. Small town people in England drain the blood of the rich people who come to stay at their hotel, out of psychosis induced by pernicious anemia. This story has one of those endings that's like a question mark. This is a four star read.

An excerpt from the novel Midnight Mass by F. Paul Wilson is the next story in this collection. This was a five star read. Wilson is an incredible writer. He has an ease with words and is a very good storytelling. This story was chilling down to the bone. But at the same time, it was uplifting, showing something I believe down to the bottom of my heart. That faith can save a person. You don't have to be perfect or without sin. As long as you have faith, you can be saved. The vampires in this story were awful. To think how they desecrated that church. I love how the unlikely heroes, Joe (a disgraced, alcoholic young priest), and Zev (an orthodox Jew who has seen most of his people destroyed by the vampire horde) take a stand and take back the church that was Joe's first parish. It might be one of my favorite stories, other than the Tanith Lee story.

My absolute least favorite story (even counting the awfully boring The Feasting Dead) is Son of Celluloid by Clive Barker. This was a one star story as far as I'm concerned. It turned my stomach. I hate stories, movies, and tv shows that are gross just to be gross. This story had that sort of vibe to it. The concept was interesting, and I can't go into it without spoiling the story, but a malevolent presence made the movies come to life and kill in an old movie house. This is my second story by Barker, the first being the story that was adapted into the Candyman movie. That was a good story but pretty dark and scary. This one was not to my taste at all. I just had a yucky feeling during the reading of this story that only intensified as I read the last sentence. I did like the heroine, Birdy. That was the only thing I liked about it. Sadly, this was the last story in the anthology, and I ended this book with a bad taste in my mouth.

To sum up, this was a fairly good anthology, but at the same time, this was probably the worst one I've read so far. I've had good luck with horror anthologies, and this one hurt my streak a little bit. There were too many stories that were dry or left me annoyed, indifferent, or in the case of Son of Celluloid and Carrion Comfort, disgusted. However, I have to give this anthology three stars because of the high quality stories in here by Ligotti, Moore, Howard (despite the racist elements), Lee, and Bloch. I was a bit disappointed with Carmilla because of the dry moments, although it was a solid tale. If asked by a vampire fan if they should read this story, I would say yes with reservations. I do think there are some stories in this volume that are unmissable, but there are also some that I could have lived without reading. If that person is a devoted vampire story fan, I'd say go for it.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Trolling Nights by Savannah J. Frierson

Trolling Nights Trolling Nights by Savannah J. Frierson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I have heard nothing but good things about Savannah J. Frierson's writing. I can see the praise was well-deserved. This is one of the best books I've ever read. I've read a lot of romances, and luckily I don't actively dislike most of them. But neither can I say I love many of them to death and would seriously consider taking on a desert island as the only book I would bring. I feel that way about this book. It's one of those books you want to read again right after you finish it, and will no doubt pull off the shelf again and again to reread, in parts or completely.

This book is a love story, pure and simple. Don't let the fact that Tim and Bevin met in a bar on a night where her friends go out to pick up guys fool you. When they met, an intense connection was there. One of those once in a lifetime kind of things. Tim saw this beautiful, dark-skinned, thick/abundant/luscious/far from thin woman and knew she was the one for him. He loved her body, loved her being a dark-skinned Black woman, loved her heart and her mind, loved everything about her. Bevin thought he'd see her only as the gateway to her thin, sexy White friend who has her eye on him. But he makes it very clear that he's interested in her, not her friend. It takes a little while for this to sink in for Bevin, but Tim is a very patient man, and very willing to express his feelings for Bevin as often as possible, giving her the reassurance she needs. Tim is a man who knows what he wants, even in a very short period of time. His instincts honed in dangerous, spur-of-the moment situations make it clear that Bevin is the woman he wants and he should go for it. Tim is a very appealing hero in pursuit!

I knew I was going to like Tim early on in this book. Tim is real. He's down to earth, raw-speaking, big muscles (he picks up Bevin all the time), lovely sea-green eyes, Southern charm, mind-melting intensity and all. He knows how to love a woman. That is rare, even in a lot of the so-called romance novels that get written now. I submit that a lot of modern heroes know how to sex up a heroine. Love just happens along after they've had a few orgasms together. That is not this book. Yes, there is a strong sexual connection between Tim and Bevin, and I loved that about the novel. But it was the intense love that he shows Bevin that makes this book a winner for me.

Bevin is not an easy sale. Tim even thinks at one point that he had never worked so hard to get a woman. He says this with a sense of awe and satisfaction, no frustration. She is completely skeptical of his attentions after being ignored for her thinner, livelier, and might I submit looser friends (well, they are). He sees her as the real deal, the one that he wanted and was willing to work for.

I liked that Bevin was a strong woman, but she was gentle and sweet also. Somewhere along the way, a very pervasive stereotype of black women as hardass buttkickers who don't cry and never allow themselves to be vulnerable has caught on. It's so untrue. Black women want to be cherished and loved just like any other women. Like many other real Black women, Bevin was vulnerable, in a way that was almost painful to observe. Bevin was very real. Bevin was infinitely worthy of being loved so intensely by Tim.

Tim didn't have a real family, other than his now-deceased grandmother. His father was a drunk abuser who ran off when he was three. His mother was a drunk who neglected him. He found his home and sense of purpose in the NAVY SEALs and his team. He comes to the conclusion that he wants forever with Bevin, a family. He wants to love and cherish her and treat her with respect. You never have a moment when you doubt this in how he treats Bevin. I loved how caring and possessive Tim was. He was pretty raunchy too, but at the same time, he showed her a lot of respect. I was actually surprised at how late the consummation came and the way it came (Sorry. No spoilers here).

The secondary characters were great in this story: Bevin's wonderful parents, Tim's best friend Ulrich, Bevin's friends (Rosita, Courtney, Patrice, and Tamara), who are also her co-workers at the coffehouse The Grind that they own, and co-members in the Femme Crew. I love how Bevin's mom and dad adopt Tim very early on as their future son-in-law despite the race difference. He not only got the woman he dearly loved, but a ready-made family to go with her.

This is one of those really hard reviews to write. I can't say how much I loved this book, because my writing is nowhere near as good as Savannah J. Frierson's. But I can and do recommend reading this book from the bottom of my heart. I think that anyone who wants to read an intensely good love story that will touch the heart and engage the emotions, and keep your interest riveted past the last page would enjoy this book. It doesn't mantter if it's a fan of interracial romance, plus-sized heroine romances, or just plain romance. Yes, the sex is spicy (but happens in the best way (in my opinion), and there is some raunchy language, but this story couldn't be sweeter. In fact, I think the intense sexual attraction was an integral part of this story, because a woman should be desired intensely by the man who deeply loves her, and vice versa. I was buying her books already, but after this wonderful book, without a doubt, Savannah J. Frierson goes on my autobuy list.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Crusader's Lady by Lynna Banning

Crusader's Lady Crusader's Lady by Lynna Banning

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a recommended book if you like a good, realistic medieval romance with a good dose of adventure, and have an interest in the Crusades. Soraya is a likeable, industrious, wise, and loving heroine. Although initially Soraya vows to kill Marc for killing her uncle, She didn't hang onto her vow to kill Marc so long that it was annoying. Instead she forgave him when she came to know him as a person. He accidentally killed her uncle, and he was sorry for it, and that was made clear. I was glad that the whole book didn't consister of Soraya hating Marc and trying to kill him the whole time.

Soraya is dressed as a boy, and initially Marc doesn't catch onto her being female. But when he grabs her to pull her out of the way during an attack, it becomes very clear that she's a woman. Marc is an honorable man, so he doesn't spend the whole book trying to seduce Soraya and discard her, knowing that he has a betrothed waiting at home. I have read books with heroes who have no such scruples. Their love grows stronger as they suffer through countless dangers on their long trek back to Scotland. It was nice to see that when they come together, it is out of true love on both sides.

Marc is a battle-hardened, war-weary soldier in the Crusades army. He has seen horrible massacre and taken part out of a vow to follow his King, Richard the Lionheart during the seige of Acre where 2000 hostages were killed (some were Jews and Christians, not just Muslims). But he saw that this honorable man had ordered some unspeakable acts that even their enemies the Saracens might not have done and it killed something in him. Luckily Soraya comes along and gives him a reason to hope and to live again.

I liked Marc as a hero, but I have to say that Soraya impressed me much more. She was a very strong, caring, and resourceful person. She kept her commitments and did not give her love or trust easily. But when she did, she was steadfast. She stayed with Marc long past the point of it being to her benefit, even knowing that he would be returning a betrothed in Scotland, to a land where she had no ties, and would likely be disliked as a foreigner. Thankfully her steadfast love is rewarded, with a little help from Queen Eleanor.

The descriptions of the medieval towns were well done and authentic. You could see, smell, and hear what went on there. Danger lurked around every corner on their arduous journey, as Saladin sends assassin's after Soraya if she fails to deliver the message he has entrusted her to give to King Richard. The book begins in the Middle East and ends in Scotland, as Marc has been tasked with escorting his wine-sodden, lecherous, but at the same time devout monarch, King Richard back to England. After seeing Richard safely back to England. Marc will return back to his lands to take up his role as the new laird of his people, since his brother has died.

The descriptions of King Richard speak to me as realistic. He was known to be a very blood-thirsty warrior, and had a reputation for being at least bisexual if not gay. In this novel Marc takes measures to protect the young boy Soray from his monarch's attentions. I appreciated that King Richard was shown as a real life person, not a historical figure who has been lionized to be completely absent of faults. King Richard doesn't make their journey easy at all, and a significant part of the time is spent rescuing the monarch from scrape after scrape.

Queen Eleanor also makes an appearance. With any other historical fiction I have read, she comes off as a powerful, intelligent, and magnetic figure. This book was no different. The use of Queen Eleanor and King Richard as characters adds depth to this love story.

Although Marc does not have a Scottish name, he is half-Scot, so this book would appeal to lovers of scottish historical romances, since it shows a Scottish slice of life, when the couple finally make it to Scotland.

I enjoyed this book very much as a medieval historical romance about the Crusades.

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Saxon Bride by Tamara Leigh

Saxon Bride Saxon Bride by Tamara Leigh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is my first time reading Tamara Leigh's historicals, and I was impressed. Although this is not a quick read, it's worth investing time into reading it. I felt the setting was very authentic (which I really like in a historical), the characters were intense and multi-dimensional, and the relationships complex.

The Norman conquest of England under Saxon rule was a defining point in English history. It affected the country profoundly and led to much bloodshed. One of the things I really love about historical romance is the duality of having a great history lesson with an engaging romantic story. I think that Ms. Leigh did a great job of doing both of these. You get to see the human element, and how the everyday person was affected by the Norman conquest in this story.

Another thing I liked about this book is that the heroine Rhiannyn is not a lady. She was the daughter of yeoman farmers. The Norman conquering lord, Thomas Pendry, sees her and takes her into his keep, makes her a lady, and decides to marry her. She doesn't want to marry him because he's a Norman, and she was promised to marry the true lord of the keep, Edwin. Edwin is a fugitive, who should have died with his overlord (as is the custom of Saxons), but was brought back to life by an old witch. Rhiannyn was treated kindly by Thomas, but never grew to love him. But when he is murdered by an unknown Saxon rebel, she is accused of the crime. She actually takes the blame because feels her actions of running away lead to the murder. Even though she could have ran away, she stays and holds Thomas while he dies. Thomas curses her because she doesn't love him, also because fleeing after her leads to his death. He calls to his brother for vengeance and curses Rhiannyn to never to know love and to never marry and have children unless she belongs to a Pendry.

The instrument of vengeance is Maxen, Thomas's brother who was called the Bloodlust Beast for his many kills on the battlefield of Hastings. He has retired to a monastery to repent of his sins. When he gets a message that his brother has been slain, he comes to wreak vengeance. I found Maxen to be a very complicated, and initially not very likable character. He was a very angry man and seemed to let his anger control him too much. Although he spent two years in the monastery, he still seethed with negative emotions, the root of which are revealed as the story continues. He wants to destroy all those culpable for his brother's murder, and Rhiannyn is at the top of his list. However, when he sees her, he finds himself drawn to her in ways he doesn't like. Initially, he perceives this as the trap she set for his brother.

Rhiannyn is a complex character as well. She is completely torn between her loyalties to the Saxons, and the desire to do what is right and fair. She doesn't care for the Normans, but she wants peace, and she realizes that peace will come when the Saxons accept Norman rule. She is also conflicted because she is very attracted to Maxen, despite his anger and perceived ruthlessness. She is treated terribly by her people because they think she is a traitor, but she does do what she can to help them, even though it makes trouble for her with Maxen.

Maxen wants to be cruel to Rhiannyn, but he finds himself incapable of doing so. First and foremost, I think deep down, he didn't have it in him to be a cruel person. He might have been afflicted by bloodlust while on the battlefield. Also, his father trained him from the time he could pick up a sword to be focused on being a warrior. That kind of training is hard to turn off, even for a person that despises killing. That war rages in him. The desire for peace against the violent nature that was fostered in him by his sire. But it is clear that he would never hurt someone more delicate and helpless. Even when the Saxon rebels are captured, he spares them out of the desire to see no more lives lost. Ultimately, Maxen won my respect although he could be a hard person capable of harsh words, and initially he doesn't have honest intentions towards Rhiannyn. He swore he wouldn't marry her because of what she does to his brother. But he does want her and has intentions to make her his leman (mistress). Maxen is shown to be a very tortured character, but you can see how he heals because of Rhiannyn's gentle regard and acceptance over the course of this book.

Rhiannyn feels desire for Maxen that is difficult to resist. She is drawn to Maxen in a way she never felt for Edwin or Thomas. She knows that Maxen won't marry her, but the needs of her heart tell her to yield to him. There is a tug of war inside of her, and Maxen tests her willpower, although he also forces himself to hold back until she is ready. There was good tension and dramatic emotion between Maxen and Rhiannyn in this book that kept me reading to see what was going to happen.

I liked Maxen's younger brother Christopher very much. He is fourteen in this book, yet very mature. He was physically disabled, with a bad leg, but with an incredible brain and heart. He was the healer for the keep, but also very wise. He saw much and managed to probe deep into the hearts of Maxen and Rhiannyn and to help them see the truth about themselves and each other. He was quite the matchmaker for the couple, in fact. I hope that Ms. Leigh wrote a book about him before she stopped writing historicals, because I'd like to see him find happiness when he gets a little older.

There were times I had to put the book down and read something else for a little bit. I think it's because this is a serious book. Sometimes you want to read something quicker and light. This won't fit the bill when you're looking for a light read. But it definitely will fulfill a historical romance fan who likes an intense story that shows history from a personal perspective. All the characters are shown as humans, with good and bad urges. Edwin is the enemy to the Normans, but he is merely a man who wants back what was stolen from him. He is a man of honor, and that is made clear. His honor is questioned on a personal level in a way that really adds another layer to this story.

I will add Saxon Bride to my keeper shelf as another very good historical romance, highlighting the Normal Conquest Era. I was glad to read this book, and I look forward to reading more by this author.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall by Bill Willingham

Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall by Bill Willingham

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
What I liked about this:

The artwork was beautiful. The stories were imaginative. It had some themes that were thought-provoking, such as how one ends up going down a dark path and evolves into the person one is. The nature of repentance, and the fact that anyone can be forgiven. The waste of war. The foolishness of prejudice. How zeal can spur some to horrific acts that make them just as wicked as their enemies. I liked the concept of Snow White taking the place of Scherezade. I love the Arabian Nights stories, so that made this a must buy. I admired Snow White for being able to get herself out of a tough situation, and to tell stories that made the flawed king Shahryar rethink his barbaric actions against women.

What I didn't like:

A fair number of the stories were very depressing. I know that a lot of the fairy tales had their grim moments, but most have happy endings along with a good moral lesson. Most of these ended abruptly or had really downbeat endings. Some of the stories were downright disturbing. There were a couple that ended so fast, I was left to wonder, what happened.

This is a keeper because of the quality of the artwork and the fact that I liked the Arabian Nights theme. I'm not sure how often I will reread it, though. It put me in a downer mood. I am still curious to read the other Fables volumes, but it's not a priority right now.

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Oceans of Fire by Christine Feehan

Oceans of Fire (Drake Sisters, #3) Oceans of Fire by Christine Feehan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There were things I loved about this book, but it was a bit of a slow read. I think it's because I started reading Feehan with her Ghostwalkers, and I got used to the near constant adrenaline rush of those stories. One good thing about this book and the Drake sister series is the focus is really on the heroine. So if you like strong, heroine-oriented romances, you should read these books.

I like the idea of a family of sisters who are bound together by intense love and loyalty. I loved the scenes where they are chatting and kidding around. But I have to admit, I found the slice of life stuff in Sea Harbor a bit tedious. I don't know. I guess the happenings in Sea Harbor don't grab my interest that much. I did like the bit about the rivalry between the Drake sisters and Sylvia. Aunt Carol is a hoot as well.

Alexsandr was very yummy. Can I get one of him? I wasn't expecting him to be on the dangerous side. That was so cool that he worked for Interpol. He was a guy I could like and respect although he was considered shady and morally flexible. I didn't think of him that way at all. Before I read this story, I thought he'd be really straight and narrow (and maybe a little boring compared to Ilya and the Ghostwalkers), but he had dark edge that I loved. I don't know why I thought that when it's clear that Ms. Feehan writes some pretty excellent heroes.

As much as I liked Alexsandr, I have to say that Ilya stole the show and is the star hero in the Drake series for me. I just love that man. He was in this book enough just to tease and torment me. They talked about him a lot and I was smiling goofily the whole time. I am almost at the point where I'm considering a reread of Turbulent Sea just to get some more Ilya time (big grin). But since this is Oceans of Fire we're talking about, I should get back on topic.

Abbey was a good heroine. She was strong, yet vulnerable. I could understand why she didn't want to trust Alexsandr and let him back into her heart, although I wanted her to. She didn't really understand what he had to go through and why he 'left' her in that situation. She drew away from him to save herself, because the pain of his betrayal almost killed her emotionally. I didn't feel like she was too stupid to live about that. I think there are times when you love someone so much that they can tear a hole in your heart and you cannot survive unless you get some distance away from that person.

On the other hand, I could see where Alexsandr is coming from. He was in a bad situation and had some conflicted loyalties. What he was trying to accomplish did require a sacrifice, and he made the best decision he could, and it cost him his relationship with Abbey. Four years is a long time to live with regrets and to have to face the loss of one's true love. It was clear how much he suffered. He didn't want to fall in love. He was all about his work in law enforcement, but love walked in and took his heart. So he was really in between a rock and a hard place. I feel that Alexsandr truly did show steadfast love for Abbey, and that spoke louder than what his actions appeared to show. Let's just say it was a very complicated situation.

As an animal lover, I was very entertained by the interactions with the dolphins. They are such intelligent, interesting animals. You could tell that Ms. Feehan did her research on dolphins, and this part of the story felt authentic without going into 'info-dump' territory. And the descriptions of the coast and the ocean made me miss living in San Diego really, really bad. The ocean has a beauty that goes into your soul and doesn't let go. Ms. Feehan really showed this well in Oceans of Fire.

I'm not a big fan of the witch storyline, but Feehan does it well. I'd be a complete idiot to complain about the witch parts, since I read this book knowing that it is about witches, so I won't. It's interesting in a way, but my paranormal interests really don't go in this direction. I do like how they use their power to help others and can heal and control animals and the wind. That's pretty cool. All the herbs (Sort of. I'm interested in herbs to be honest), candles and various witchy accoutrements and their rituals was a little boring for me at times. Nothing against that, just not my cup of tea. One thing I do like about this book is the way the descriptions of the witchy aspects of the Drake sisters sends a chill down my spine at certain times. I feel that the power of the Drake sisters comes off pretty eerie (And I'm all about eerie/scary/frightening stuff in fiction. Maybe too much at times. Ask my sister about that). I kind of feel sorry for the men in their lives, because that aspect is probably really weird to someone not used to it. That house kind of gives me the creeps. Yeah, a house that comes alive. Not for me. Poor Jonas has been around it most of his life, and he still hasn't gotten used to it.

I just love Jonas. He's so fun to read about. He says the most entertaining things and he is so in love with Hannah and totally in denial about it. I'd like to see more of Jackson. His dangerous, strong, silent character is calling my name.

I love the Drake sisters, and Ms. Feehan does such a good job of making them unique from each other. They all have interesting personalities, and seem to support and love each other as sisters and friends. Their girl talk is a lot of fun to read. Hannah is so sweet, I just want to hug her. Joley is outrageous and fun, reminding me of my aunt. Sarah is very mature and protective. Kate is nurturing, Libby would bend over backwards to help ease someone's pain, and Elle is calm and loving. What a great family.

So I'd give this a very solid four stars for the good things: Alexsandr, Abbey, the Drake Sisters, the sexy Russian hero aspects, the sexy, dangerous hero aspects, Ilya, Ilya (I wrote that twice on purpose), the descrptions of the ocean and coastal life, and the dolphins. It could have be a more interesting read, but it was definitely a good read.

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