Cut & Run: Ball & Chain

Ball & Chain

Ball & Chain

Home from their unexpected deployment, the former members of Marine Force Recon team Sidewinder rejoin their loved ones and try to pick up the pieces of the lives they were forced to leave behind. Ty Grady comes home to Zane Garrett, only to find that everything around him has changed–even the man he went to war with. He barely has time to adjust before his brother, Deuce, asks Ty to be his best man. But that isn’t all Deuce asks Ty to do, and Ty must call for backup to deal with the business issues of Deuce’s future father-in-law.

Nick O’Flaherty and Kelly Abbot join Ty and Zane at the wedding on an island in Scotland, thinking they’re there to assuage Deuce’s paranoia. But when bodies start dropping and boats start sinking, the four men get more involved with the festivities than they’d ever planned to.

With the clock ticking and the killer just as stuck on the isolated island as they are, Ty and Zane must navigate a veritable minefield of family, friends, and foes to stop the whole island from being destroyed.

I just want to start this review, or possibly rant, with the following: this is entirely my opinion. And if you haven’t read Ball & Chain yet, you should steer clear. There will be spoilers.

Right, so we basically start off six months or so after the heart wrenching end of Touch & Geaux. Zane and Kelly are waiting for their boys to get home. We have an emotional reunion between Ty and Zane, and the rest of the Sidewinder guys. It’s great. Everyone skips home and everything is dandy. Life goes on, until one day Deuce phones Ty asking him to be the best man at Deuce’s wedding, which is going to be held in Scotland. Also, would Ty mind bringing one of his Recon buddies to double up as security, too? This person can even bring a date. Enter Nick and Kelly. They head on over to Scotland, and there things start to go pear shaped as they inevitably tend to when the boys embark on the dreaded V-word.

I’m not going to go into a whole lot of detail, but that’s the gist of it. When I finished this book, I was confused. I didn’t really know how to feel about it. But the more I think about it, the more let down I feel. This book, for me, was indisputably the weakest book in the series. I don’t know what the effing hell happened. I really need to vent here, so I’m just going to go ahead and spill my guts. First thing that pissed me off? The reunion sex, or rather the glaring lack thereof. I know that sounds terribly superficial, but I felt cheated. Ty and Zane haven’t seen each other for months, and there’s no reunion sex??? And then, when we did get some sexy time, it was intruded upon by Nick and Kelly shouting through the walls. I’ll talk about those two in a minute. Secondly, when the shit started to fly, it did so in such a way that I just found myself shaking my head. I know that in most of the Cut & Run books, the guys run into situations that are a little out there. And that’s totally fine. But this time went a step too far. It was just so far-fetched. And chaotic. People were running around all over the place, but it didn’t really feel like anything was really happening. Now, on to Nick and Kelly. I just want it to be known that I like Nick and Kelly. I’m really looking forward to more of their story. In their books. Honest to God, it felt like I was reading a Sidewinder novel. I mean, this is Ty and Zane’s second last book. I needed them to have more page time than they did. As someone I was talking to on Twitter pointed out, it felt like they were supporting characters in their own bloody book. The huge issues that caused so much friggin’ angst in the last book were barely touched on. I mean, Ty asked Zane to marry him, for Pete’s sake. Surely before you take that much anticipated leap, you should talk some stuff out? And get to know each other again? You haven’t seen one another for nearly half a year! Related to those NOLA issues, and I swear to God I’ll stop after this, was Nick’s beef with Ty. I didn’t get it. It felt… a little forced. I understand why Nick was upset, but there didn’t seem to be any build up to it. One minute Nick was chilled, and the next Nick was all pissy.

I’m sorry that this turned into a rant. But I just needed to get it out there. This isn’t to say that there weren’t any good points because there were. I just probably won’t remember them in the long run…

Midnight Breeds: Veil of Midnight

Veil of Midnight

Veil of Midnight

Bound by blood, addicted to danger, they’ll enter the darkest-and most erotic-place of all…

A warrior trained in bullets and blades, Renata cannot be bested by any man-vampire or mortal. But her most powerful weapon is her extraordinary psychic ability-a gift both rare and deadly. Now a stranger threatens her hard-won independence, a golden-haired vampire who lures her into a realm of darkness… and pleasure beyond imagining.

A combat loving adrenaline-junkie, Nikolai dispenses his own justice to enemies of the Breed-and his latest quarry is a ruthless assassin. One woman stands in his way: the seductive, cool-as-ice bodyguard, Renata. But Renata’s powers are put to the test when a loved one, a child, is threatened and she’s forced to turn to Niko for help. As the two join forces, as desire fans the flames of a deeper hunger, Renata’s life is under siege by a man who offers the exquisite pleasure of a blood bond-and a passion that could save or doom them both forever…  

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this book. For the most part, it was a little predictable. I’ll admit, I was getting frustrated with this series and Ms Adrian. It was like, “Can we please have a little more ooomph here, please?” And then something happened towards the end that woke me up and got me a little more interested for the next book.

But before I get to the next book in this series, let me tell you about Veil of Midnight. Our leading lady, Renata, is quite a badass. She has the ability to make vampires heads hurt… bad. I imagine it to be sort of like a seizure. And, as a result of this neat little trick, she has earned the not-so-coveted position of body guard to Sergei Yakut, a Gen One vampire with a sadistic steak as wide as my butt. She’s also assigned herself the role as protector for Mira, a little girl with an amazing psychic ability. Sergei is of great interest to our hero, Nikolai. The Order has received word that someone is out killing all the remaining Gen One vampires. Nikolai has been sent to look for Sergei in Toronto to warn him of the impending danger and to protect him. That’s when he first catches a glimpse of the lovely Renata. Unfortunately, their first meeting does not go well and Renata puts him flat on his back, and not in the fun way. Nikolai’s face and ego are a little bruised, but he’s fascinated by the tough-as-nails Renata. There’s just one problem: Sergei Yakut. Nikolai sees how he treats the his staff and family, but as much as he’d like to kill the bastard, he can’t; it’s his responsibility to ensure Sergei keeps breathing.

The romance between Nikolai and Renata progresses pretty much as you’d expect with declarations of love and minor misunderstandings that are quickly cleared up with more “I love yous”. While that was fairly yawn-inducing, the interesting part came with Andreas Richen, the leader of the Berlin (as least, I think it’s Berlin) Darkhaven. This guy loses his shit in a big way and I’m interested in seeing what’s going to happen with him.

If you feel like giving this book a go, you can get it at Diesel’s ebook store.

Dark Dynasties: Dark Awakening

Dark Awakening

Dark Awakening

For centuries, shape-shifting vampire Tynan MacGillivray has prowled the night as an outcast, valued only for his ferocious hunting skills. When a feud among the immortals escalates into all-out war, he is ordered by his ruthless queen to locate a Seer-a human woman with a special gift-who can secure victory for their clan. Ty’s search leads him to a quiet New England town, but once he has the Seer in his grasp, her touch awakens within him a hunger like he’s never known…

Lily Quinn has always been different. Since childhood, she’s had vivid nightmares and an eerie sixth sense. When a sexy, silver-eyed stranger demands her help, Lily plunges into a new world of danger and sensuality. With Ty, she discovers sizzling passions she cannot deny and powers she cannot control. Soon, it is clear that Lily is much more than a Seer-she holds the key to ancient secrets and unthinkable destruction. But will a vampire’s vow of eternal protection stop these evil forces… or unleash her dark destiny?

Dark Awakening was something of a surprise for me. I’d never read anything by Kendra Leigh Castle, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. While I wasn’t overwhelmed by the actual romance between Ty and Lily, I was very interested in Castle’s world-building.

Let me start off with the basic premise: the vampire world is made up of different dynasties and is functions on a caste system. The top dogs are dynasties like the Ptolemy, the Dracul and the Grigori. The lowest of the low are the Cait Sith (pronounced “cat-she”). There are only three options available to the Cait Sith: death at the hands of the nobility, slavery or a life of abject poverty. Ty is a member of the Cait Sith and he serves the queen of the Ptolemy, Arsinoe. The Ptolemy have a bit of a situation on their hands: something is killing them. All evidence points towards the Dracul, led by the sexy Vlad Dracul, being behind the killings. But Arsinoe knows that she can’t just randomly start a war with the Dracul without evidence. So she orders Ty to go find a Seer, a human unfortunate enough to be psychic. Ty searches for months until, finally, he finds what he’s been looking for. Lily has tried really hard to have a normal life. She had a pretty rough childhood-having uber-creepy nightmares and spontaneous bouts of uncontrollable telekinesis will do that to you-and all she wants is to have the safe little place she’s managed to carve out for herself. Sadly, these aspirations are shot to shit when she meets Ty. Lily’s aspirations of being “normal” are then completely obliterated when she and Ty find out that she is far more than just a Seer.

The romance between Ty and Lily was… it wasn’t the sort of thing that I’m probably going to remember in the long run. They had their sweet moments but I wasn’t dying to find out how things were going to work out for them. I was far more interested in their respective backgrounds (in terms of their dynastic origins) and how that fitted in with the bigger picture. I also felt that the ending was quite abrupt. I think we needed a little more time to resolve everything properly.

So while the romance wasn’t the strongest aspect of this book, I’m quite looking forward to seeing what Castle has planned next.

If you feel like getting ahold of it, you can find them here at Sony or here at Barnes&Noble. The price is the same, I just thought I’d give you options…

Demonica: Sin Undone

Sin Undone

Sin Undone

Her touch is deadly

As the only female Seminus demon ever born, master assassin Sinead Donnelly is used to being treated like an outsider. She spent decades enslaved, and now she vows she’ll die before she’ll relinquish her freedom again. Then Sin’s innate ability to kill her enemies goes awry: She creates a lethal new werewolf virus that sparks a firestorm of panic and violence. 

His hunger can’t be denied 

Half-werewolf, half-vampire Conall Dearghul is charged with bringing in Sin to face punishment for the plague. And she’s no stranger: He’s bound to her by blood, and the one sexual encounter they shared has left him hungering for her raw sensuality. Worse, Sin is the underworld’s most wanted and Con soon learns he’s the only one who can help her… and that saving her life might mean sacrificing his own. 

I was really really really looking forward to Sin’s book. She’s one of those heroines who you just can’t help but root for. She’s been through so much but she still manages to be strong. And Con… well, Con is crazy hot so I was looking forward to seeing more of him. But it felt like something was missing. I can’t put my finger on what exactly that something was, but this book just didn’t have it.

Our story starts with all kinds of shit hitting the fan. On a hit gone wrong, Sin has managed to start an epidemic. Werewolves (aka wargs) are dropping like flies, Underworld General is being inundated with the dying, and the Warg Council wants Sin’s head on a plate. Sin’s always had a knack for landing herself in trouble but this is just ridiculous. Adding to Sin’s woes is the fact that now she has to deal with Con, the delicious dhampire she got freaky with in one of the hospital’s supply closets. Con isn’t exactly quivering with excitement at the prospect of being in Sin’s presence, either. Because of her, innocent werewolves are losing their lives. Unfortunately, neither actually has any choice and the two are forced into even closer quarters when it turns out that a hit has been put out on Sin. Con figures he owes the Sem brothers enough to help keep their wayward sister out of trouble, and Sin needs all the help she can get. The more time Sin and Con spend together, the more they realise that neither one is as they first appear. For all Sin’s tough as nails image, she’s vulnerable. And despite acting like a devil-may-care adrenaline junkie, Con is actually a good guy and a dedicated paramedic.

I’m actually pretty disappointed with Sin Undone. I think I hyped it up in my head and now it’s fallen a little short. But, on the plus side, this story did set things in motion for Ione’s spinoff series, The Lords of Deliverance, which I’m quite excited about.

Guild Hunters Series: Archangel’s Kiss

Archangel's Kiss

Archangel’s Kiss

Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux wakes from a year-long coma to find herself changed-an angel with wings the colors of midnight and dawn-but her fragile body needs time to heal  before she can take flight. Her lover, the stunningly dangerous archangel Raphael, is used  to being in control-even when it comes to the woman he considers his own.  But Elena has never done well with authority…

They’ve barely begun to understand  each other when Raphael receives an invitation to a ball from the archangel Lijuan. To refuse would be a sign of fatal weakness, so Raphael must ready Elena for the flight to Beijing-and to the nightmare that awaits them there. Ancient and without conscience, Lijuan holds a power that lies with the dead. And she has organized the most perfect and most vicious of welcomes for Elena…

Archangel’s Kiss is the second book in the Guild Hunter series, and it sees Elena dealing with her transition from human to angel. Unlike its predecessor, Archangel’s Kiss is a lot less action packed, focusing more on the burgeoning relationship between Raphael and Elena.

Archangel’s Kiss takes place roughly one year after Angel’s Blood. Things have changed a great deal since Uram, the evil archangel, was defeated. One of the most notable changes has taken place with Elena. She’s now more than simply a hunter: she’s an angel, albeit a weak one. After being out of commission for so long, it’s going to take Elena a while to get back on her feet again. The main issue weighing on Raphael and Elena in this book is the threat posed by Lijuan, the archangel of China. She is extremely old and extremely powerful. Unfortunately, she’s also stark raving mad. When Raphael receives the invitation to Lijuan’s little get together, his first instinct is to be all, “Hell, no!” But to do so would be to place both Raphael and Elena at a tactical disadvantage and betray weakness. The last thing anyone wants to do is to leave themselves open to attack from Lijuan. Sadly, though, there’s no arguing against the fact that Elena is a major weakness for Raphael. She’s nowhere near as strong as she should be, and this makes Raphael vulnerable in a way that he’s never been before. So, it’s decided that she needs to work on her strength and prepare as best as she’s able for the trip to Beijing. Unfortunately, things are made more difficult-and scary-by a string of murders taking place within the Haven (basically the place where angels go to chill). Many of these acts of violence seem to be directed at Elena.

While there is absolutely no question that this is a brilliant series, I did feel like something was missing. I missed the action. I know that Elena’s being in a coma severely hindered her ability to kick ass, but I just felt like more stuff should have been blown up, or something. The threat presented by Lijuan was… I hesitate to say hyped up, but there was a big ominous build up to the event and it felt a wee bit anticlimactic. Maybe that was just me. What I did love was that we finally met all of Raphael’s Seven, however briefly, and they were awesome. Some we’ve already met-like Illium, Dmitri, Jason and Venom. But the new boys are just as badass. They are Aodhan (haven’t the foggiest idea how to pronounce that), Naasir and Galen. Together they are the Seven and, quite honestly, I find them more interesting that their boss, which I think really says something for these guys.

Overall, I felt a teensy bit let down, but I think that’s mainly because the first book was out of this world awesome. The Guild Hunter’s series is still definitely one worth following, and I can’t wait to see what Ms Singh comes up with next.

Midnight Breeds: Kiss of Crimson

Kiss of Crimson

Kiss of Crimson

Bonded by blood and dark secrets, they enter a place of danger and infinite pleasure…

He comes to her more dead than alive, a towering black-clad stranger, riddled with bullets and rapidly losing blood. As she struggles to save him, veterinarian Tess Culver is unaware that the man calling himself Dante is no man at all, but one of the Breed, vampire warriors engaged in a desperate battle. In a single erotically charge moment Tess is plunged into his world-a shifting, shadowed place where bands of Rogue vampires stalk the night, cutting a swath of terror.

Haunted by visions of a dark future, Dante lives and fights like there is no tomorrow. Tess is a complication he does not need-but now, with his brethren under attack, he must shield Tess from a growing threat that includes Dante himself. For with one reckless, irresistible kiss, she has become an inextricable part of his underworld realm… and his touch awakens her to hidden gifts, desires and hungers she never knew she possessed. Bonded by blood, Dante and Tess must work together to thwart deadly enemies, even as they discover a passion that transcends the boundaries of life itself…

Kiss of Crimson is book two in the Midnight Breeds series by Lara Adrian, and our hero is the lovely Dante. I may have mentioned this before, but I feel the need to tell you again: Dante pushes my buttons. He reminded me a little bit of Rhage from BDB, in that while he may act like a devil-may-care playboy, he’s actually a sensitive soul. And what girl can resist that combo? I’ll tell you: none.

Dante has had visions of death since he was a kid, and he knows how he’s going to die. So, he’s been doing all he can to outrun his future by living hard and fast. He fights, he fucks and he doesn’t look back. One night, while he’s engaged in his second favourite activity, Dante is injured by a pack of Rogues, and it looks like Dante’s fate has come to meet him early. And it does, only not in the form of the Grim Reaper. He stumbles into the first available building he comes across, not realising that his life is about to be thrown topsy-turvy. Turns out, the building he’s just broken into is a veterinary clinic run by Tess Culver. Tess has a way with wounded animals, and her life revolves around her clinic. She’s got a Dark Past, so she avoids commitment like the plague. No romance for Tess; her first and only love is her clinic. Thus, like any self-respecting workaholic, Tess often works late. So you can imagine her surprise when she finds a humongous, bleeding, leather clad guy in her storeroom. Like, what the hell?

I liked that Tess was sensible about the whole situation. She wasn’t all, “Ooooh, you’re sexy, so therefore you can’t possibly hurt me!” She knows that sexy doesn’t mean jack-squat in the grand scheme of things, and she wants to call the police. But, like I said, Tess has a bit of a soft spot for wounded animals and Dante manages to convince her to keep mum about the whole incident. Sadly, though, that is where things start going downhill. Dante isn’t only in need of stitches at this point; he also needs blood. Badly. In his desperation, Dante bites the only human available. This wouldn’t be a problem under normal circumstances but, as luck would have it, Tess is a Breedmate and Dante has inadvertently claimed her as his mate. Given that the war between the Order and the Rogues is heating up, this is so not what Dante needs right now. I mean, he’s got Rogues to kill and he’s expecting death to crash into him any day now. A long-term relationship with a woman like Tess is the last thing on his mind.

While there was quite a bit of angst and romancing going on between Tess and Dante, the Order at large had their hands full with this creepy new drug called Crimson. It’s being sold to young vampires in clubs and, while it’s effect on humans are totally benign, it causes vampires who consume the drug to experience episodes of Bloodlust. This is a huge problem for the Order because it’s virtually impossible to determine which vampires are actually Rogue, and which ones have simply been exposed to Crimson.

What I also liked about Kiss of Crimson is that we meet some very interesting new characters. The first is Special Agent Sterling Chase. He appears to be as straight-laced as they come, but he’s determined to help the Order get Crimson off the streets. The Order guys aren’t too keen on him, but he eventually proves himself by turning out to be a surprisingly vicious fighter. Elise is Chase’s sister-in-law, and he’s got a gigantic torch burning for her. Not that Elise notices. She spends most of her time worrying about her son, Camden, and missing her lost husband (whose name escapes me). It honestly doesn’t occur to her to look at poor Chase as anything more than a brother.

Overall, I enjoyed Kiss of Crimson. Tess wasn’t annoying, Dante was hot, and the story was interesting. But I have two main issues. The first is superficial and relates to me being a wee bit of a fangirl: where the hell were Rio and Nikolai? While I loved Dante, a surplus of him does not mean that a deficit of those two hotties is acceptable. On a serious note, I felt that the ending was a little rushed. It was something that I’d noticed in Kiss of Midnight too, but I assumed it was a once-off. There were unresolved issues by the end both books that had nothing to do with the overall story line, but I still thought that they should have been addressed. Beyond those two complaints, I thoroughly enjoyed this story and would recommend it to those of you looking for a new paranormal series.

 

Midnight Breeds: Kiss of Midnight

Kiss of Midnight

Kiss of Midnight

Insatiable desire. Endless seduction. One touch is just the beginning.

He watches her across the crowded dance club, a sensual black-haired stranger who stirs Gabrielle’s deepest fantasies. But nothing about this night-or this man-is what it seems. For when Gabrielle witnesses a murder outside the club, reality shifts into something dark and deadly. In that shattering instant shis thrust into a realm she never knew existed-a realm where vampires stalk the shadows and a blood war is set to ignite.

Lucan Thorne despises the violence carried out by his lawless brethren. A vampire himself, Lucan is a Breed warrior, sworn to protect his kind-and the unwitting humans existing alongside them-from the mounting threat of the Rogues. Lucan cannot risk binding himself to a mortal woman, but when Gabrielle is targeted by his enemies, he has no choice but to bring her into the dark underworld he commands.

Here, in the arms of the Breed’s formidable leader, Gabrielle will confront the extraordinary destiny of danger, seduction, and the darkest pleasures of all…

Kiss of Crimson is the first book in the Midnight Breeds series by Lara Adrian. It is also the first time I’ve read anything of Ms Adrian’s. Having heard a lot of good things about this series, I was quite keen on getting started. And I was not disappointed because it was pretty damn good. It reminded me a little of J.R Ward’s BDB, and anything even vaguely resembling those boys is a-okay with me.

Let me give you a quick break down of the series. The Breed are vampires, and they’ve been living among humans in secret for centuries. Despite having to lay low, the Breed are pretty reliant on humanity. Not only do they need to feed off humans, but humans also play a pretty important role in terms of procreation. See, there’s this genetic anomaly within the Breed where only male offspring are produced. For obvious reasons, this is a gigantic problem. Thankfully, there are certain women-Breedmates-who are capable of mating with members of the Breed. These women are pretty rare and are hugely important to the survival of the species. Unlike vampires of myth, the Breed tend to coexist peaceably with humanity. But, as with anything, there are sometimes exceptions to the rule. The Rogues are vampires who have succumbed to Bloodlust. Unlike the rest of the Breed, these vampires do not play well with others and they kill indiscriminately. Their very existence threatens the Breed, and it’s up to the Order to stop these buttheads before they expose the entire race.

Kiss of Midnight is set in Boston (a welcome break from New York; everything always happens in New York), where the Order lives in their secret compound.The order is made up of a couple of people. First we have Rio. He is this super sexy Spaniard who lives with his mate, Eva, in the compound. He is uber-sophisticated and sounds like he just came in from a GQ photo shoot. Next, we have Dante. He’s a passionate Italian with a love for both fighting and fu… fornicating. Dante’s not too into fancy-schmancy suits. He likes his leather. Third is the divine Russian, Nikolai. He likes anything that goes BOOM. He adores weaponry of all kinds, be it guns, knives or bombs. The second happily mated member of the Order is Gideon. He’s the resident techno-geek, and he’s in charge of all the Order’s gadgetry. His mate’s name is Savannah, and they are nauseatingly happy together. The last two members of the Order are the Gen Ones. They are the oldest members of the Breed, and they are incredibly powerful. Tegan is not a people person. He’s cold, aloof and mysterious. We don’t learn too much about him in this book, but I will admit to being somewhat intrigued… Last, but not least, we have Lucan. He’s the leader of this motley bunch of warriors, and he is the living, breathing definition of the stoic leader.

Lucan is very, very serious. And who can blame the guy? He’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders. He doesn’t have time for things like fun or, God forbid, romance. But that is exactly what lands in his lap when he meets Gabrielle. He’s spent some time checking her out, but he doesn’t think that anything will actually happen. Boy, is he wrong. Gabrielle is a photographer and, like Lucan, isn’t exactly Susie Sunshine. She’s always felt very apart from others, and she isn’t looking for any kind of commitment. Having been abandoned by her crazy mother when she was a baby, Gabrielle’s biggest fear is that she’ll one day go down that same road, and end up in a padded white cell herself. And when she witnesses a murder that no one else saw, or can even find any evidence of, Gabrielle is convinced that she’s losing the plot. When Lucan learns that Gabrielle witnessed a murder committed by Rogues, and took photos of the scene, he knows that the time for simply admiring Gabrielle from a distance has passed. He needs to get rid of those pictures ASAP.

I really enjoyed this book. While I liked Lucan and Gabrielle well enough, I don’t think they’ll stand out for me in the long run. Lucan was just a teeny bit too serious for me. It was like, “Smile! I’ll pay for the stitches!” Gabrielle was okay. She wasn’t completely helpless, which was nice, and she didn’t hesitate to tell Lucan that she thought he was being full of shit. I have to admit, I was far more interested in the rest of the Order, so Lucan and Gabrielle’s romance was a secondary concern for me. All that being said, I think this whole series has enormous promise and I can’t wait to read the rest of the guys’ stories. They’re going to be epic.

Leaping Hearts

Leaping Hearts

Leaping Hearts

Everyone thinks A.J. Sutherland is crazy to buy a rogue stallion that no rider or trainer has been able to tame. But if anybody has the hustle to make something out of that hell-raiser, it’s A.J. She can’t do it alone, however, so she goes after the great Devlin McCloud, an equestrian legend with a bad leg-and worse attitude.

Devlin recognizes a fighter when he sees one-and that horse isn’t a wallflower, either. Before he knows it, he’s got a wild stallion in his empty stable and a hotheaded, heavenly-bodied rider sleeping on his couch. But can he get all three of them through the championship in one piece? The passion he’s found with his rider is compromising training-and at this level of competition, any distraction is not just unprofessional but downright deadly.

I really liked this book. It was just so… nice. I know, the word “nice” doesn’t usually inspire much enthusiasm, but after the ups and downs of the Fever series and the aggravation caused by Atlantis Rising, Leaping Hearts acted as a bit of a palate cleanser. It wasn’t too heavy, it didn’t have a complex story line, and it had a couple who knew they were into one another right off the bat. So yes, this book was nice. This book was written by the one and only spectacular, amazing J.R Ward. I trust that all of you know who she is, but for those of you who don’t (for shame!) I’ll fill you in: She is the author of one of my favourite series in the whole history of the world: the Black Dagger Brotherhood. If you haven’t read it yet, do yourself a favour and do so. Right now. But, bear in mind, that Leaping Hearts was nothing like any of the WARDen’s later books. This one had virtually no swearing, there is no crash-boom-bang action and the sex is of the fade-to-black variety. So it’s not typically my kind of thing but… I really enjoyed it. It was wholesome, you know? Simple and  uncomplicated.

Leaping Hearts is the story of A.J. Sutherland and Devlin McCloud. A.J. is a talented young equestrian who has just bought herself a horse named Sabbath, a beautiful stallion who looks like he was born to win championships. There’s just one little problem: this horse makes Charlie Sheen look well-behaved. Sabbath throws his riders, won’t let a blacksmith anywhere near him, and absolutely hates water. So, obviously, you do not want to take this horse to a competition. But A.J. sees potential in Sabbath. She’s convinced that with some TLC and the proper training, she can take Sabbath to the Qualifier in two months time and win. But then A.J. hits a bit of a speed bump. Not only does she have to deal with a stubborn horse, but now she has to deal with her impossible step-brother. A.J. lives at home and trains in the family-run stables. She runs the side of the business that deals with the actual horses, and her step-brother deals with the financial side of things. The pain in the butt step-brother sees exactly what everyone else sees when he looks at Sabbath: a wild, uncontrollable animal that’s more trouble than it’s worth. He throws his weight around and it’s decided that A.J. can’t keep the horse at the stables. A.J. knows that her family was hoping to get her to give up on her crazy plans, but she isn’t having any of it. Sabbath isn’t an impulse buy for A.J.; he’s her chance to prove herself. She decides that if her horse isn’t welcome, then she won’t stay there either. Except… now she’s gone from one big problem to three. She’s got a rebellious horse to train and nowhere to sleep or carry out said training.

Enter Devlin McCloud. Devlin is a hugely reclusive former equestrian champion. After an equestrian accident that saw his leg terribly injured and his horse having to be put down, he’s decided that he’s through with all things horse-related. He and A.J. had met at the auction where she’d bought Sabbath, so he knows she’s on embarking on her own version of Mission Impossible. But he never expected her to come to him for help. Devlin is so not keen. Bad enough that he would have to deal with a temperamental horse, but to have to train a woman who he is totally jonesing for? Nuh-uh. Way more than one man should have to deal with. And yet somehow, despite his protests, A.J. ends up living in his house and training in his stables.

The book carries on from there in a fairly predictable manner, with all the traditional ups and downs, but it was just… nice. I know I bitched about that word yesterday, but here it was a good thing. So if you’re looking for something light and fluffy to read, something sweet but not toothache-inducing, I would recommend Leaping Hearts.

Belador Series: Alterant

Alterant

Alterant

The way Evalle Kinkaid sees it, saving mankind from total destruction should have cleared her name. But when words uttered in the heat of combat are twisted against her, she’s blamed for the prison break of three dangerous Alterants. She has one chance to clear the cloud of suspicion hanging over her… for good. All she has to do is recapture the escapees. But deals with gods and goddesses are tricky at best, and now the lives of all Beladors, and the safety of innocent humans, rides on Evalle’s success. The only person she can ask for help wants to see her dead.

I was a teeny bit disappointed with this book. Just a little. The first book, Blood Trinity, was epic so I was expecting more of the same in Alterant. I can’t entirely put my finger on why Alterant fell short. It felt like a lot happened, but not much got resolved. I felt that there was maybe a little too much mystery… Maybe it’s not even that because I enjoy mysteries and surprises. It just felt like, as the reader, we were stumbling around in the dark. I would have liked just a little bit more information. Another issue I had was that we didn’t see enough of Evalle, Quinn and Tzader. A big part of why I enjoyed Blood Trinity so much was because there wasn’t any romantic tension between these three. Something that I’ve noticed with Urban Fantasy lately is that the romance tends to overshadow the rest of the story (Tori from Smexy books sums it up perfectly; if you haven’t read this post already, check it out here). As much as I adore romance, I find myself wondering, when I read Urban Fantasy, why can’t the chick just be friends with a guy? Why does it always have to devolve in a whirlwind of romantic angst or, God forbid, the dreaded Love Triangle.

But there were still good elements to this book. For example, Evalle’s little gargoyle, Feenix, is just to bloody cute. And Evalle is learning, slowly but surely, how to open up to Storm and trust him. I really like Storm. He’s solid, and he doesn’t rock that whole “reckless bad boy” thing that’s so popular. He’s a nice guy. Too few of those, in my humble opinion. But the good was overshadowed a bit by my frustration at the not knowing. I know it’s supposed to make you want to read the next book in the series, but I just ended up all mumbly-grumbly after reading it. I don’t like being kept in the dark. So here are a some of the questions in dire need of answering, that will hopefully be dealt with in The Curse:

  • What the hell happened to Storm, and where the blazes did he go?
  • What’s going on with Quinn?
  • Can we hope that something awful is going to happen to Sen, Evalle’s stick up the ass boss, and Kizira, the treacherous bitch that poor Quinn finds himself in love with?
  • Speaking of Sen, what’s his gripe with Evalle anyway?
  • What is the goddess, Macha’s, agenda? Is she just being a bitch or does she actually have a plan?
  • Will Isak ever find out that Evalle is an Alterant, and what’s he going to do when (not if) he does find out?

Lots of questions. Hopefully all will be revealed in the next book.

Chronicles of Nick: Invincible

invincible

Invincible

Just when he thought things couldn’t get any worse…

Nick Gautier’s day just keeps getting better and better. Yeah, he survived the zombie attacks, only to wake up and find himself enslaved to a world of shapeshifters and demons out to claim his soul.

His new principle thinks he’s even more of a hoodlum than the last one, his coach is trying to recruit him to things he can’t even mention and the girl he’s not seeing, but is, has secrets that terrify him.

But more than that, he’s being groomed by the darkest of powers and if he doesn’t learn how to raise the dead by the end of the week, he will become one of them…

I know that I had a good ol’ bitch session on Saturday about SK but, now that I’ve purged, I’m feeling more warmly towards her. Bygones are bygones now 🙂 … Mostly.

Invincible is book two in the Chronicles of Nick series. I read this book quite a while ago. All I remember is that I felt really sorry for Nick. SK tortured this poor boy relentlessly. His new football coach is a douche, his principle-Richard Head, subtle Sherri-is a petty bastard, and his sort of girlfriend has more secrets than the CIA.

As if that isn’t bad enough, he finds out that Kyrian, his boss, is an immortal warrior with fangs. Other than a quick freak out, Nick takes the whole thing pretty well. Once Kyrian reassures Nick that he has no intention of eating him, Nick takes things in stride. Nick’s having divination lessons with the Grim Reaper, who is actually pretty funny. Nick is physically incapable of biting his tongue, so several threats death (ha ha) threats are issued.  Nick learns who his “uncle” Ambrose really is to him. However, the most terrifying thing Nick faces in this book: his mother’s reaction when he gets her fired from her job as a stripper. Not because she likes being a stripper. It’s just that since she was a really young mom and she didn’t finish high school, so the stripping gig is all she’s got. Thankfully, Cherise gets a job working at Sanctuary, a bar owned by a family of were-bears.

Lots of excitement and smart arse commentary from our hero. It’s an entertaining read, I just wish I remember it better.    

The cheapest place that I could find was over at Foyles.

The Psy/Changeling Series: Slave to Sensation

Slave to Sensation

Slave to Sensation

 

In a world that denies emotions, where the ruling Psy punish any sign of desire, Sascha Duncan must conceal the feelings that brand her as flawed. To reveal them would be to sentence herself to the horror of “rehabilitation”-the complete psychic erasure of everything she ever was…

Both human and animal, Lucas Hunter is a Changling hungry for the very sensations the Psy disdain. After centuries of uneasy co-existence, these two races are now on the verge of war over the brutal murders of several Changling women. Lucas is determined to find the Psy killer who butchered his packmate, and Sascha is his ticket into their closely guarded society. But he soon discovers that this ice-cold Psy is very capable of passion-and that the animal in him is fascinated by her. Caught between their conflicting worlds, Lucas and Sascha must remain bound to their identities-or sacrifice everything for taste of darkest temptation.

Slave to Sensation is the first book in Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling series and I was quite keen on starting it. I loved Singh’s Guild Hunter series, so I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be disappointed. And, happily, I was right.

I love the premise of this book! It’s set in a sort of parallel universe in the year 2079. There are basically three races: humans, Changelings, and the Psy. The Changlings and the Psy are pretty interesting. They are the complete opposite of one another. The Psy are cold, calculated, and emotionless, while the Changlings are emotional, spontaneous and touchy feely. They’re no pushovers, mind you. Once upon a time, the Psy did have emotions. However, they didn’t appear to handle them too well and there were a crap load of violent crimes being committed by the Psy. So in an attempt to prevent this from happening, Psy leaders decided that the best thing to do would be to strip the Psy of their emotions. Thus began the programme of Silence. Children are systematically indoctrinated to feel nothing, until most Psy can no longer remember what it was like to feel.

Most of the Psy don’t feel. But, as with most things, there are exceptions. Those exceptions are sent to be rehabilitated, a process that basically strips them of their identities. Unsurprisingly, there are very few people who willingly ‘fess up that they’re “defective”. One such Psy is Sascha Duncan. Sascha has always known she was different from the other Psy, but with a mother on the ruling Psy Council she’s never dared to let even the smallest crack show through. That is until she meets the ridiculously yummy Lucas Hunter. I would just like to take a moment here to go W.O.W. Seriously, this guy was smokin’ hot. Whew! Moving on. Lucas is a shifter (he turns into a panther) and he’s an Alpha. And he’s on a mission: he’s out to find the evil SOB that killed a member of his pack. The Changlings are convinced that it’s a Psy committing the murders and that the Psy Council are covering it up. That’s where Sascha comes in. Lucas is hoping that he can use her to find out what the Council knows. But as these two get to know each other, Lucas realises that deep beneath that icy facade is a person capable of a whole lot of emotion. And Sascha realises that likes the feelings that Lucas stirs up in her, and she wants more. Things progress as normal from there…

I liked the world that Singh is building here more than I actually liked the main characters, Sascha and Lucas. Don’t get me wrong, they were fine. But the world building was better. I cannot wait to read the next book and find out what’s the what!

P.S: How hot is that guy on the cover? Holy smoke!

Cheapest place to get this book will be at Foyles.

Lords of the Underworld: The Darkest Kiss

The Darkest Kiss

The Darkest Kiss

She has tempted many men… but never found her equal.

Until now. 

Though she has lived for centuries, Anya, goddess of anarchy, has never known pleasure. Until Lucien, the incarnation of death – a warrior eternally doomed to take souls to the hereafter. He draws her like no other. And Anya will risk anything to have him.

But when the merciless Lord of the Underworld is ordered by the gods to claim Anya herself, their uncontrollable attraction becomes an anguished pursuit. Now they must defeat the unconquerable forces that control them, before their thirst for one another demands a sacrifice of love beyond imagining…

The Darkest Kiss is Lucien and Anya’s book. Lucien is the scarred (physically and mentally) keeper of Death. Anya is the beautiful goddess of Anarchy. Anya is a wild child. Lucien has no discernible sense of humour. So you’d think that these two would both be better off as far away from each other as humanly possible, right? Apparently not. We met Anya in The Darkest Night, after she helped the Lords out of a tight spot, and she’s been jonesing after Lucien ever since. She’s been following him around while invisible, hoping to see him do something… naughty. Lucien’s been aware that someone has been following him around, but he didn’t know who. When these two finally meet, the sparks fly. Just as things are starting to get interesting, the shit hits the fan when Cronus the Titan rocks up. He orders Lucien to kill Anya because she has something he wants, and she’s not willing to give it up.

Lucien accepts, not that he’s got much choice, and then the games begin. Lucien and Anya circle each other, both wanting to go there but knowing that it’s an impossible situation. Lucien has to kill Anya, or Cronus will hurt the other Lords. Anya isn’t willing to just lie down and die, so she’ll fight Lucien with her last breath. Also keeping the Lords busy is the fact that the hunters are out to kill them. If the slimy bastards get their hands on Pandora’s box, the Lords are history. So they’ve been searching for artefacts that will hopefully lead them to the box before the hunters get it.

I liked The Darkest Kiss a lot more than The Darkest Night, but I think that was mostly because of Anya. That chick was insane. She’s a klepto, she’s over the top, and she can never seem to find it in herself to put some real clothes on. She was just a really odd duck and she totally made this book for me. I also enjoyed the insight we got into the peripheral characters, especially Paris. I think we met his eventual HEA. I’ll admit, I didn’t like her. A little too self-righteous for my liking. I’m not entirely sure how Showalter is going to work their story out, but I trust her. The only real problem I had with this book was Lucien. I was a little disappointed in him. He was very hot and cold towards Anya, and spent about half the book convinced that Anya couldn’t possibly want him because of his scars. I understand he was conflicted, and that he was self-conscious. I get it. But, at one point, I was thinking, “FFS, man up!”

All in all, I enjoyed The Darkest Kiss. It’s gearing up to be an epic series.

Once again, the place to go will be the Diesel ebook store. At less than R40 (about $4), it’s a steal.