Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Review: Blood Brothers by Nora Roberts

Title: Blood Brothers
Series: Sign of Seven
Author: Nora Roberts
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: November 27, 2007
Publisher: Jove
ISBN: 0515143804
ISBN-13: 9780515143805

In the small village of Hawkins Hollow, three best friends who share the same birthday sneak off into the woods for a sleepover the evening before turning 10. But a night of pre-pubescent celebration turns into a night of horror as their blood brother oath unleashes a three-hundred year curse.

Twenty-one years later, Cal Hawkins and his friends have seen their town plagued by a week of unexplainable evil events two more times - every seven years. With the clock winding down on the third set of seven years, someone else has taken an interest in the town's folklore. Quinn is a well known scholar of local legends, and despite Cal's protests, insists on delving in the mystery. But when the first signs of evil appear months early, it's not only the town Cal tries to protect, but also his heart.

My rating:

Three boys who shared their birthday, Caleb, Fox, and Gage, decided to celebrate their tenth birthday at the Pagan Stone, a strange, altar-like stone in the middle of the woods surrounding Hawkins Hollow, the village where the three grew up.

A simple vow to always be friends sealed with their blood, unleashed an entity that‘s been haunting them ever since.

Every seven years, for seven days in the seventh month, the small town of Hawkins Hollow descends into madness. Strange accidents happen; neighbors turn against neighbors, husbands against wives… When the Seven is over, no one remembers anything.

Except the three blood brothers.

Now, twenty-one years later, the three boys turned men know the time might have come to end it. It has grown stronger, but so have them. And they’re not alone anymore.

The first story in the Sign of Seven trilogy focuses on the oldest of the men born on the same day, Caleb Hawkins, the descendant of the founders of the village. He feels responsible for what is happening, because he was the one who suggested the blood bond between friends. He’s also the one with a mystical connection to the man who trapped the entity under the Pagan Stone.

Quinn Black is a writer, specialized in paranormal phenomena. She thinks she’s seen it all, heard it all. But when she arrives in Hawkins Hollow, this young woman will realize what she’s seen so far, what she’s researched so far, was only an appetizer for what’s to come.

These two people will form a strong bond, the first of the three that might eventually conquer the evil living in the woods.

This is Nora Robert’s first book for me and I must admit I wasn’t expecting much. Unlike many other out there, it does not start slow. The reader is immediately hip deep in battle between good and evil.

The details are sprinkled into the bigger picture slowly and leisurely, so we’re kept at the edge of our seats.

IMHO the romance had much to be desired. It wasn’t felt and a little unbelievable. Even if we take into consideration the dire circumstances, bonding in time of peril, it still seemed a little rushed.

The descriptions of the manifestations [the grinning boy] are goose-bump worthy, and I loved the interaction between the leads. The dialogues were smart, funny, and fast-paced, and there is just an appropriate hint of humor toward the end to let the reader have a breather before all hell breaks loose.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Review: Falling Awake by Jayne Ann Krentz

Title: Falling Awake
Author: Jayne Ann Krentz

Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: October 25, 2005
Publisher: Jove
ISBN: 0515139599
ISBN-13: 9780515139594

Passion, murder, and the mysteries of the unconscious are coiled tighter than a double helix in this romantic thriller from bestselling author Jayne Ann Krentz. Two highly trained loners -- Isabel Wright, a dream analyst, and Ellis Cutler, a top government agent -- meet professionally and anonymously. Isabel has a talent for analyzing even the most obscure symbols in dreams, though it seems to turn her social life into a wasteland. Cutler is one of Isabel's two anonymous clients, and his Level Five lucid dreams secretly capture her imagination. Then a mysterious death brings them face to face.

Isabel and Ellis team up to investigate the murder of Isabel's boss, Dr. Belvedere, and they soon begin a passionate affair. But when the clues begin to point to Isabel's other anonymous client, the already thin line between dreaming and reality becomes perilously blurred.

My rating:

The Belvedere Center for Sleep Research caters to the demands of two mysterious clients with the ability of lucid dreaming - the state where the dreamer knows he/she is dreaming and can alter the dreamscape to their own wishes.

Isabel Wright, herself a Level Five (the highest level of lucid dreaming) is the one in charge of interpreting their dreams. She is so intrigued by the Client Number Two that the man eventually starts appearing in her dreams. She dubs him Dream Man.

Enter Ellis Cutler, Client Number Two a.k.a. Dream Man. A Level Five lucid dreamer who uses his dreaming ability to solve crimes, and who‘s been having fantasies of his own regarding his dream analyst, Tango Dancer.

After so many books, with other authors I'd say "been there, done that, have the bookshelf to prove it", but that is never the case with Jayne Ann Krentz (or her alter ego Amanda Quick). Though the plots might be similar, there is always a different twist to the storyline to make it interesting. And believable.

Falling Awake is no exception. It's her usual cocktail of suspense, action, and romance that will keep you at the edge of your seat and turning page after page, because you have to know just what happens next. Though the "technical" descriptions did slow the pace down.

What I like most about her contemporaries is the fact she never gives a detailed visual description of the male lead, leaving the better part to the reader's imagination.

P.S. In this case, the dark sunglasses Ellis Cutler can't seem to take off just add to the mystery, intrigue, and his appeal.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Review: Dream Chaser by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Title: Dream Chaser
Series: Dark-Hunters, Dream-Hunters
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: February 5, 2008
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
ISBN: 0312938829
ISBN-13: 9780312938826

Hades doesn’t often give second chances...

Xypher has one month on Earth to redeem himself through one good deed or be condemned to eternal torture in Tartarus. But redemption means little to a demigod who only wants vengeance on the one who caused his downfall.

Until one day in a cemetery...

Simone Dubois is a medical examiner with a real knack for the job. Those who are wrongfully killed appear to her and help her find the evidence the police need to convict their killers. But when a man appears and tells her that she’s more than just a psychic, she’s convinced he’s insane.

Now the fate of the world hangs in her hands...

It was bad enough when just the dead relied on her. Now’s there’s the seductive Dream-Hunter Xypher who needs Simone’s help in opening a portal to the Atlantean hell realm to fight insatiable demons. The future of mankind is at stake—and so is her life. The only question now is: Who is the bigger threat: the demons out to kill her, or the man who has left her forever changed?

My rating:

Xypher, a fallen Skotos, has one month on Earth, thanks to Kat’s meddling in Devil May Cry, to redeem himself with one good deed—proof of humanity—or return to Tartarus and eternal torture.

Coroner, Simone Dubois, has one heck of an advantage. Usually the victims lie silently on examining tables, leaving the coroner to guess what might have happened, in Simone’s case, her “guests” talk to her, leading her to the right evidence to condemn their killer.

Now, apparently one of the victims rose from the examining table and went for a stroll. And yes, the woman was dead.

Hunting for the wayward corpse, Simone almost turns into Daimon snack, but Xypher arrives just in time to save her. Now the two must find the Dimme demon and prevent her from going on a rampage in New Orleans, find a way to keep Xypher alive, when there is someone who would gladly see him dead… and fight the explosive chemistry between them.

The first Dream-Hunter book I utterly enjoyed and (almost) read in one sitting.

We have a suffering hero once again (only this time he’s dead—literally) and one that doesn’t give a shit about anything but his vengeance. Enter his saving grace in the form of a feisty chick who talks to ghosts.

Granted, the story has been revised so many times it should be as old as Sin (pun intended!), but the chemistry between the leading characters has improved from the previous few books, and the plot keeps quite a constant pace, keeping the reader guessing just what might happen next.

Since I’m a huge DH fan, I can honestly say I know the back story (as revealed so far), the gods, the curses, the pantheons... But in the course of this book I suddenly got the urge to pull out a notepad and pencil and start taking notes. Beside Daimons we now have demons as well. Which I guess is a good intro into the second part of the series, with Jaden as the “leading man”.

This book also made me rethink my decision to ditch the series after Acheron. One glimpse at Jaden and I was hooked. Hopefully I won’t regret it.

Speaking of Acheron. I was glad to see the guy back to his (old) glory (read: not naked in Artemis’ bed). And that’s a good omen for his book. Also back was his mysterious leather backpack (Nick once wondered just what might be in there for Ash to never separate himself from it). I guess we’ll know more in a week.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Review: Upon The Midnight Clear by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Title: Upon The Midnight Clear
Series: Dark-Hunters, Dream-Hunters
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: October 30, 2007
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
ISBN: 0312947054
ISBN-13: 9780312947057

Ever think Scrooge had it right before the ghosts ruined his life? Meet Aidan O’Conner.

At one time he was a world-renowned celebrity who gave freely of himself and his money without wanting anything in return...until those around him took without asking. Now Aidan wants nothing of the world—or anyone who’s a part of it.

When a stranger appears at his doorstep, Aidan knows he’s seen her his dreams.

Born on Olympus as a goddess, Leta knows nothing of the human world. But a ruthless enemy has driven her from the world of dreams and into the home of the only man who can help her: Aidan. Her immortal powers are derived from human emotions—and his anger is just the fuel she needs to defend herself...

One cold winter’s night will change their lives forever...

Trapped together in a brutal winter storm, Aidan and Leta must turn to the only power capable of saving them—or destroying them both: trust.

My rating:

Deeply betrayed by the people he cared for, Aidan O’Conner, a huge celebrity turned mountain recluse, wants nothing to do with the world or the people inhabiting it.

A snowy night is about to change everything, when a gorgeous, stubborn woman appears on his doorstep.

Leta, a goddess of sleep, needs Aidan’s dark anger as fuel to defend them both from ancient and new enemies.

Trapped together, the emotionless goddess and a bitter celebrity must learn to trust. Only time would tell if it they will win or perish trying.

If you send your brain for coffee, this novella is cute and refreshing to read. Something to take with you on the beach. Short, sweet, with a happily-ever-after.

When your brain returns from its coffee break however...
I know it’s a novella and the time-span is supposed to be short and everything is supposed to resolve itself in said short time-span, but still.

For someone who’s been as betrayed as Aidan (claims to have been) by those who he thought loved him, he sure is quick to jump at the occasion to trust a complete stranger with his life and his heart. In just one day, mind you!

And for a dream goddess who has no emotions and at the very beginning doesn’t even blink at the thought of sacrificing Aidan for the greater good, Leta is even quicker to change her mind that Aidan was. Despite wanting to fuel his anger to fuel her own powers, she is desperate to make him trust her, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Aidan’s brother was a little too homicidal for my taste and in such a short book his obsession seemed more that of a madman and not something his jealousy might have provoked. There should have been more of a back story to explain how this obsession has degenerated. The short flashback at the end of the book just doesn’t do the trick. There are many brothers or sisters who steal their siblings’ toys and yet when they grow up they don’t want to kill them.

I think it’s the first time we really encountered Zeus in this long-winding saga and for the king of the gods, I found him a little lacking. Sure, he had no qualms in killing a human or Leta for that matter, but he resulted to be a little too naive for my taste, believing M’Adoc’s lie about Leta turning Skoti.

As for Hades. After two books I’m still waiting to see the god of death. All I’ve encountered so far was a "ripped" god gone soft because of a woman.

The only refreshing characters in this novella were the insane, rhyme-speaking Lyssa and Deimos who’s always a fun to read.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Review: Devil May Cry by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Title: Devil May Cry
Series: Dark-Hunters
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: April 1, 2008
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
ISBN: 0312946864
ISBN-13: 9780312946869

For millennia, the ex-god turned Dark-Hunter Sin has sought to regain his powers and take revenge on Artemis. But now he has bigger fish—or in this case, demons—to fry. The lethal gallu that were buried by his pantheon are stirring, and they are hungry for human flesh. Their goal: To destroy mankind. Sin is the only one who can stop them…if a certain woman doesn’t kill him first.

Enemies have always made strange bedfellows, but never more so than when the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Now a man who only knows betrayal must trust the one person most likely to hand him to the demons. Artemis may have stolen his godhood, but this one has stolen his heart. The only question is: Will she keep it…or feed it to those who want him dead?

My rating:

Sin, ex-Sumerian god turned Dark-Hunter, will do anything to regain his powers and make Artemis, the b-i-t-c-a, pay for neutering him – figuratively speaking.

Though his plans for revenge are temporarily detained. Ancient gallu demons are stirring and Sin knows exactly what the want. To release the Dimme and destroy the world.

What else is new?

Sin, last remaining of the Sumerian pantheon that trapped the gallu and the Dimme, is the only one who can prevent that from happening, and save the world… If he stays alive long enough that is.

For Artemis has dispatched an unlikely killer to end his miserable existence. But instead of killing Sin, Kat decides to stick around and lend a helping hand in the world salvation front.

Needless to say, mayhem is on the schedule.

After a couple of books that seemed thrown there on a whim, this one succeeded in restoring a little of my faith in the series, before the “big boss” is released on August 5 [2008].

Don’t get me wrong, there is still much to be desired by this one. The plot is a little weak at times, Sin’s grudge and his internal (and external) “I-want-my-revenge” rants grow old after the first ten times, Kat quickly and quite uncharacteristically (for her genetic makeup) turns into a moon-eyed teenager, and Acheron’s quick acceptance of him having sired a child and how quickly he and Kat fall into a loving father-daughter relationship is a little too rushed to be entirely believable.

The pace finally picks up in the last few action-filled chapters, that—I’m sorry to say—were the thing that kept me awake last night to finish reading.
In my opinion, Artemis is the only character that stays true to what we’ve seen in the series so far.

I understand that when Ash gives a word he cannot break it (namely: not killing Artemis over the news), but his relatively calm reaction to the news left me quite perplexed. Where has the mysterious, sometimes scary, sex-on-a-stick I came to know in the first few novels gone? In his place we have a fluffy bunny that’s still sex-on-a-stick (mostly because Artemis commands him so), but has lost a lot of the edge that made us (female) readers fall in love with him.

I sure hope he grows a pair in his book.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Review: Love at First Bite (anthology) by Sherrilyn kenyon, L.A. Banks, Susan Squires, Ronda Thompson

Title: Love at First Bite
Series: Dark-Hunters, Wild Wulfs of London, Companion, Vampire Huntress Legend
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon, L.A. Banks, Susan Squires, Ronda Thompson
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: October 3, 2006
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
ISBN: 0312349297
ISBN-13: 9780312349295

Until Death Do Us Part by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Over five hundred years ago, Esperetta’s soul was bound to her husband’s by dark magic, and when Velkan became a Dark-Hunter, to her horror, she became immortal as well. Now, they must come together to fight an old enemy…and the passion that threatens to consume them once more.

Ride the Night Wind by L.A. Banks
Dark dreams haunt Jose Ciponte, dreams of a woman so beautiful he aches for her-and a deadly enemy who stalks them in the night. And now those dreams have become a reality…

The Gift by Susan Squires
All Major Davis Ware wants to do is propose to the beautiful Emma Fairchild. Instead, he is called back into battle, and a desperate fate. And Emma will venture into hell itself to save him.

The Forgotten One by Ronda Thompson
Lady Anne Baldwin longs to break free from her proper bonds. When she meets the mysterious Merrick, whose eyes glow like a wolf’s, she may have found more than she bargained for.

My rating:

It's Sherrilyn Kenyon's contribution that shines in this anthology.
The hero loves the heroine, but she's a real bitch and doesn't want anything to do with him yet Retta quickly learns the error of her ways and in the end it's Velkan's turn to suffer from "cold feet". I wouldn't mind keeping him warm though. ;)
This is a love story for the ages, literally lasting through the ages. Loved the prologue and the two of them together. And I couldn't help but notice the separation did the two of them a world of good, especially Esperetta. It gave her the much needed opportunity to grow and mature to be able to take a man (and what a man!) like Velkan on.

The other three were "meh" at best, the middle two completely out there, while Ronda Thompson's contribution didn't vary much her story in the Midnight Pleasures anthology. Unfortunately. Also, the heroine really got on my nerves. I just wanted to slap her.

Review: The Dream-Hunter by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Title: The Dream Hunter
Series: Dark-Hunters, Dream-Hunters
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: February 6, 2007
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
ISBN: 0312938810
ISBN-13: 9780312938819

In the ethereal world of dreams, there are champions who fight to protect the dreamer and there are demons who prey on them...

Arik is such a predator. Condemned by the gods to live eternity without emotions, Arik can only feel when he’s in the dreams of others. For thousands of years, he’s drifted through the human unconscious, searching for sensation. Now he’s finally found a dreamer whose vivid mind can fill his emptiness.

Dr. Megeara Kafieri watched her father ruin himself and his reputation as he searched to prove Atlantis was real. Her deathbed promise to him to salvage his reputation has now brought her to Greece where she intends to prove once and for all that the fabled island is right where her father said it was. But frustration and bad luck dog her every step. Especially the day they find a stranger floating in the sea. His is a face she’s seen many times.... in her dreams.

What she doesn’t know is that Arik holds more than the ancient secrets that can help her find the mythical isle of Atlantis. He has made a pact with the god Hades: In exchange for two weeks as a mortal man, he must return to Olympus with a human soul. Megeara’s soul.

With a secret society out to ruin her expedition, and mysterious accidents that keep threatening her life, Megeara refuses to quit. She knows she’s getting closer to Atlantis and as she does, she stumbles onto the truth of what Arik really is.

For Arik his quest is no longer simple. No human can know of a Dream-Hunter’s existence. His dream of being mortal has quickly turned into his own nightmare and the only way to save himself will be to sacrifice the very thing he wanted to be human for. The only question is, will he?

My rating:

In the world of dreams there are champions who protect the dreamers from the demons that prey on tem.

Stripped of his emotions, Arikos is one of such demons. He can only feel what other people feel in their dreams. He’s spent eternity sifting through dreams on the hunt for sensations until he finally found a dreamer whose dreams fill his empty existence.

Dr. Megeara Kafieri comes from a family of crack pots. Or so the scholarly circles claim. Her father and her uncle have died on their quest to find Atlantis and though she wanted no part in the downfall of her family name, a deathbed promise to her father binds her to fulfill his dream.

Her mission to clean her father’s name brought her to Greece, but the authorities and deities (luckily she doesn’t know about those) are doing their best to keep her from poking around submerged ruins.

Her luck turns when she pulls a drowning stranger from the sea. She’s never seen him before. Awake, that is. But she’s seen his face in her dreams. Her dream man has made a pact with Hades, though. Arik has bargained her soul for two weeks in the human realm as a mortal man.

Though the premise is promising, this was a complete downer. I think it was Sherrilyn Kenyon's worst book I’ve read (and I read them all, at least in this series).

I was determined to read it from cover to cover and never in my life did it take so long to finish a book. In the end I found myself skimming the pages. The story just didn’t pull me in, it was like reading a manual or a text book.

The characters were dull, the dialogue plain, the story seemed stretched out, and a little too generic for my taste.

With the few scenes that shed a little light on the “bigger picture” strewn here and there in the plot, this book was nowhere near the books at the beginning of the series. If this is an indicator of what this spin-off series is all about, I most certainly shall think twice before venturing into the realm of the Dream-Hunters.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Review: Dark Side of the Moon by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Title: Dark Side of the Moon
Series: Dark-Hunters, Were-Hunters
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: November 28, 2006
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
ISBN: 0312934343
ISBN-13: 9780312934347

Susan Michaels was once the hottest reporter on the Beltway Beat until a major scandal ruined her life and left her writing stories about alien babies and Elvis sightings. Life as she once knew it is over, or so she thinks, but then she gets a lead on a story that could salvage her extinct career. She heads to the local animal shelter, expecting a hot news tip, which she gets in the form of a major police cover-up ... for a ring of soul-sucking vampires out to take over Seattle. So much for saving her credibility.

And if that isn't bad enough, she gets talked into adopting a cat and finds she's allergic to it. A cat that turns out to be a shapeshifter who claims to be an immortal vampire slayer on the prowl for the same corrupt cops. her first thought: seek professional help.

But as Susan's drawn into Ravyn's dark and dangerous world, she comes to realize that there's a lot more at stake than just her defunct career. Now it's no longer a question of bringing the truth to her readers; it's a matter of saving their very lives and souls.

Ravyn's life was shattered over four hundred years ago, when he mistakenly trusted the wrong human with the truth of his existence. He lost his family, his honor, and his life. Now, in order to save the people of Seattle, he's forced to confront that nightmare all over again, and to trust another woman with the secret that could destroy him.

In the world of the Dark-Hunters, life is always dangerous. But never more so than now, when a very human woman can shatter their entire world with just one story. The only question is ... will she?

My rating:

Susan Michaels, once hot reporter with a ruined reputation, is forced to work for a small Seattle trash-paper. Her latest scoop is an article about killer moths that certainly will not be running for Pulitzer.

Just when she thinks her life couldn't get worse, she's on an express train for Craptown: her friend practically forces her to adopt a stray cat, she actually does it (despite her allergies), her friend's husband warns her about an imminent vampire invasion on the town, and her new pet suddenly turns into a man in the middle of her living room.

Ryvan Kontis, half Dark-Hunter, half Were-Hunter, had been betrayed by his loved ones. His own brother was the one who killed him, leading to Ravyn's Act of Vengeance and (eternal) fealty to Artemis. Ravyn had spend the last couple of hundred years battling the Daimons and staying the hell away from his family.

When he meets Susan, everything he's tried to bury, comes bursting to the surface. She makes him feel again. Yet, with the ultimate battle underfoot, she could also be his eternal damnation.

I tried really hard to love this book, I really did. And I admit it had its bright points. There is no denying, Ravyn is another stellar example of Ms. Kenyon's ultimate suffering hero that redeems himself through the love he feels for a woman.

Cael and Amaranda's Romeo-and-Juliet-like romance was also one of the heights of this story that's also suffered Katrina's impact, obviously, since the setting has moved from the usual New Orleans are into Seattle.

Susan was the character that killed the fun for me. Her sarcastic remarks, though uttered as some sort of protection, lost their charm pretty soon, and crammed her character into a one-dimensional gumbo of one-liners, surprising (and partly unbelievable) sword-wielding skills, and allergy to her leading man.

Ash continued with his lap-dog attitude toward Artemis, Savitar made a dripping appearance to deliver a threat that fell short of scary, and hotheaded, arrogant Nick Gautier made another mistake in the already legendary string of bad decisions.