Sunday, August 31, 2014

Review: No Hero by Mallory Kane

Title: No Hero
Author: Mallory Kane

Read copy: eBook
Published: August 20, 2014
Publisher: Tule Publishing
ISBN: 1940296773
ISBN-13: 9781940296777

Police Detective Devereux Gautier knows he's no hero. He's seen too much and failed too many times. Now the homeless kids he mentors are dying and the only person who can help him find the killer is the one woman who dug up his past to destroy him. Dev knows he can’t solve the case alone, but how can he work with a woman he can’t trust, and one who’s so intelligent and sexy, he can’t ignore?

Journalist Reghan Connor knows there are no heroes, and she's out to prove it on the air for all of New Orleans. Her latest debunked hero is Detective Dev Gautier, who hates her for exposing his mistakes. Now Reghan has been given the key to the murders of Dev's homeless teens, but how can she convince him she's not setting him up for another fall? As they work together to solve the murders, Reghan learns that being a hero is complicated and loving a hero can be downright deadly.

My rating:

***ARC provided by publisher through NetGalley***

She almost ruined his life by being a journalist with her the-public-has-the-right-to-know crap and poking her nose where it didn't belong, rousing up old pain and ghosts, and now she's back in his life with a story of how a man he put behind bars could possibly be the one behind the murders of the teenagers he's provided shelter for.

He knows he should tell her to take her story and stuff it up where the sun don't shine, but there's just something convincing about the whole spiel. Plus, there's the fact he still has the hots for her.

So the heroic detective decides to listen to the vulture journalist and let her help him in his investigation. But in pairing up with her he might've just signed her death certificate, because there's someone in New Orleans who doesn't want them working together.

I'm pretty sure the why of that last part was supposed to be a secret until the end, the surprise twist, if you will, but the reason became glaringly obvious after the message painted on Reghan's porch. Hello! Couldn't have been more transparent if it were trying to be. And the fact I realized who the killer was on page 99 (out of 246 showing on my eReader) didn't help matters much.

But I kept at it, because the story wasn't boring. The plot was good (albeit predictable), the characters solid (even the heroine didn't fall completely in the 'bitchslappable department'), the suspense nice and tight, and the flow of the story constant.

It was a good romantic suspense specimen with the requisite brooding, I-don't-deserve-happiness hero, a spunky heroine (that actually acted like someone untrained is supposed to in circumstances she was thrown in and didn't turn into a warrior princess like rom-suspense heroines often do), a psychotic killer, and the right kind of atmosphere. Unfortunately it was too predictable for my taste, hence the rating.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Review: Shield of Winter by Nalini Singh

Title: Shield of Winter
Series: Psy-Changeling
Author: Nalini Singh
Read copy: eBook
Published: June 3, 2014
Publisher: Berkley
ISBN: 1101605200
ISBN-13: 9781101605202

Assassin. Soldier. Arrow. That is who Vasic is, who he will always be. His soul drenched in blood, his conscience heavy with the weight of all he’s done, he exists in the shadows, far from the hope his people can almost touch—if only they do not first drown in the murderous insanity of a lethal contagion. To stop the wave of death, Vasic must complete the simplest and most difficult mission of his life.

For if the Psy race is to survive, the empaths must wake...

Having rebuilt her life after medical “treatment” that violated her mind and sought to stifle her abilities, Ivy should have run from the black-clad Arrow with eyes of winter frost. But Ivy Jane has never done what she should. Now, she'll fight for her people, and for this Arrow who stands as her living shield, yet believes he is beyond redemption. But as the world turns to screaming crimson, even Ivy’s fierce will may not be enough to save Vasic from the cold darkness...

My rating:

Well...this was unexpected.

After reading about Vasic in the last few books of the series, I expected his book to be something...More than it was. Because while it wasn't bad, it wasn't great either. Which irks. I simply couldn't connect to either the characters, the story, the plot, the continuing arc of the anything, really.

I was expecting Vasic to be more like Kaleb. Not in the psychotic, kinda-crazy sort of way, but dark, dangerous, and brooding. And while at the beginning of the book it looked like I just might get my wish, it didn't really happen. Because he went mellow a little too soon for my liking. I know he's been living with this constant guilt gnawing at him for a decade (if not more), I know he had a death wish, but after a few chapters I didn't see it anymore. He simply got sucked up in the goodie-goodiness of his empath, Ivy Jane.

Who, unlike Sascha Duncan (a cardinal empath, which should've amplified the goodie-goodiness), got on my nerves from the beginning. She wasn't a bitchslappable heroine, quite the contrary, I never got the urge to hope for a character to come up to her and slap her silly for being annoying, an idiot, a diva or anything else. She just didn't click with me, rubbed my fur the wrong way, because she was too...cheerful, goodie-goodie, too optimistic despite everything that went around her.
I know that was the point in creating her, in writing her that way—she was optimistic, she was light, she saw the good in everything despite the darkness, ugliness, and death surrounding her. But it was too much a contrast for me to really appreciate her. And accept her and Vasic's bond, romance, whateveryouwannacallit.

They were complete opposites, and while I agree that opposites sometimes do attract, just look and Kaleb and Sahara, it wasn't the case in this book. Not for me. Kaleb and Sahara worked because there was a sliver of darkness in her as well, with everything she's been through, with everything that had happened, yet there was no darkness in Ivy (not that I could see) and it made the difference between her and Vasic all the more glaring. And everything regarding the two of them together suffered for it.

Even the plot itself somehow didn't click with me. The resolution to the problem was a bit too easy in the end, too simple, if you will, with everything we've learned so far in the series or read about in this book. The infection spreading ominously through the PsyNet, the madness leaking into vulnerable minds, the murders, the riots, the psychosis...And it took a mere book to resolve?
Yet another mismatch in this book—the resolution didn't live up to the buildup. I kept thinking the series should've ended with Heart of Obsidian, with the 'hope' in the end.

This book didn't match that spark of hope, didn't match the series at all with everything falling into place too easily, too neatly, no square pegs in round holes. Meh.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Review: Heart of Obsidian by Nalini Singh

Title: Heart of Obsidian
Series: Psy-Changeling
Author: Nalini Singh
Read copy: eBook
Published: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Berkley
ISBN: 1101605197
ISBN-13: 9781101605196

A dangerous, volatile rebel, hands stained bloodred.

A woman whose very existence has been erased.

A love story so dark, it may shatter the world itself.

A deadly price that must be paid.

The day of reckoning is here.

My rating:

There’s no way in all that’s holy or non that I’d be able to write an adequate review for Kaleb’s book, but I’ll give it a shot.

This was the darkest book in the series so far, a metaphor, perhaps, of the darkness that the Psy as a race reached adhering so strictly to the Silence protocol. But in the end we glimpsed that light at the end of the tunnel (the Dawn) both for Kaleb and the Psy.

Now, concentrating on Kaleb, the driving force of the story and one that’s pretty much had a hand in everything that’s happened so far, I glimpsed that possibility of a light to his darkness almost from the get-go, when there was the first mention of him searching for someone. It was either a mortal enemy or a woman, and I prayed for the latter. Needless to say, my wish has been granted.

Yet, at the beginning of this story and thanks to the darkness that’s enveloped Kaleb ever since he’s become an important character in the series, I also had no doubt that that ‘light’ would need to be a fearsome blaze, a million-watt beacon, to be able to bring him back from the brink, redeem him in a way. And, obviously since he’s her creation, Ms. Singh knew that as well, and acted accordingly in creating Sahara.

Though with Kaleb as the ‘hero’ of the book, everybody else had no choice but take the backseat to the guy—he’s a force of Nature, bursting with energy (and not in a fluffy commercial bunny sort of way, but in a murderous tidal wave kind of way), cool, aloof, icy, his power vast and unfathomable, his determination an entity of its own, Silent on the surface, but what’s underneath is anything but Silent. Rage, thirst for vengeance, disgust at himself...and the most powerful emotion of them all—love. Love for one woman that’s keeping him leashed, trembling at the edge of the precipice, preventing him from turning into a monster.
Kaleb is only the second Psy that featured as the ‘hero’ in this series (coincidence that they were both Tks?), and even though I’d love one of those ‘I heart Judd’ pins, I’m currently in the ‘I heart Kaleb’ camp. Sure, the guy was a (borderline) sociopath, a (budding) psychopath, and I don’t know how many –paths more, but there’s just something about a guy that’s willing to destroy his entire race, maybe the entire world, for one woman. Yes, those are the rules of Romancelandia, and I love those rules. I mean, wouldn’t you melt if I guy told you he only needed a word from you and everything could go kaboom? Okay, how about a guy that makes the earth move, literally, when he has you in his arms?

I thought reading about Judd and Brenna’s intimate skin-privileges was hot, with Judd having to be beyond exhausted (psychically) to be able to mattress dance with his mate without destroying everything around them. Kaleb cannot get psychically exhausted. There are just those obsidian shields of his and even those don’t offer full protection. His control over his abilities is beyond tight, but it cracks like china with that one woman.
The power she wields over him is enormous, even she has (or has she?) no clue as to how much power she has where he's concerned, but Sahara, with her compassion, her empathy, her big heart, and soft soul, would never abuse that power, because it would mean using Kaleb, hurting Kaleb, and she would never do something like that. She’d exact her own kind of revenge on anyone who dared hurt him. As mentioned, Sahara wasn’t exactly a match to Kaleb’s overpowering presence in this book, but she didn’t need to be. She was, she existed, and that was enough. She was his only love, his soul-mate, his bonded, his conscience, his moral compass, his guiding light in the darkness that was his existence.

And she would continue being that and that’s what matters. Two halves of the same whole, two Psy, one ‘Silent’, the other’s Silence fractured beyond repair, bonded together for the rest of their lives, one light, the other dark, one comforting and empathetic, the other martial and protective. A bright bond against the backdrop of the stark darkness that is the PsyNet.

As I mentioned before, it’s the characters that make these books and this series come startlingly alive in my mind’s eye, but the rest of the story (though it pretty much all revolved around Kaleb and Sahara) should not be neglected. The action scenes of the PurePsy attacks were intense and gripping, poignant where the three races combined to help one another, the flashbacks on Sahara and Kaleb’s interactions before her abduction sweet and tender with a slightly ominous undertone, coming as they were, in the middle of the story, the initial stiltedness of the renewed relationship heartbreaking, yet hopeful, the final flashback where we finally got the truth of that horrible, ‘blood-drenched’ night chilling, but completely meshing with the Kaleb and Sahara we got to know throughout their story.
It was also great seeing the DarkRiver leopards getting a bit more page-time after the last few installments concentrating on the wolves...And we finally discovered the identity of the Ghost (I knew it!) and everything made sense as this book brought (almost) everything full-circle.

I know this attempt at a coherent review doesn’t do the book justice, so let’s just say this book was an amazing installment in this series that keeps getting better and better and Ms. Singh didn’t disappoint the fans with turning Kaleb into something he’s not for his story (he’s still badass, he’s still dark, he’s still deadly, despite having that bright flame inside him). This was a heart-breaking yet beautiful (love) story to conclude the first arc in this series and bring us into the next. And I can’t wait.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Review: Tangle of Need by Nalini Singh

Title: Tangle of Need
Series: Psy-Changeling
Author: Nalini Singh
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: December 4, 2012
Publisher: Berkley
ISBN: 0425251098
ISBN-13: 9780425251096

Adria, wolf changeling and resilient soldier, has made a break with her past—to face a devastating new challenge: Riaz, a SnowDancer lieutenant already sworn to another. For Riaz, the primal attraction he feels for Adria is a staggering betrayal. For Adria, his lone-wolf appeal is beyond sexual. It consumes her. It terrifies her. It threatens to undermines everything she has built of her new life. But fighting their wild compulsion is a losing battle.

Their coming together is an inferno…and a melding of two wounded souls who promise each other no commitment, no ties, no bonds. Only pleasure. Too late, they realize that they have more to lose than they ever imagined. Drawn into a cataclysmic Psy war that may alter the fate of the world itself, they must make a decision that might just break them both.

My rating:

Yes, another good installment in this, one of my favorite, series currently being published.

I admit at being a little apprehensive after reading a few of not so favorable reviews, and I must confess at first I thought that Adria and Riaz’s story would’ve worked better as a short—there was too much ‘angst’ between them, too much anger, too much frustration, too much drama, too much, well, heartbreak. And there was too much Hawke and Sienna in this story to actually be categorized as a one-couple-romance.

But once Riaz pulled his head out of his heiny and Adria defrosted a little, it all started clicking for me. They were good together despite the hindrance of the non-mating and the final resolution, though one of the reviewers stated that it didn’t mesh with everything we’ve read so far, was quite well explained toward the end (what happened during and after the Territorial Wars, the ‘disappearance’ of Libraries and texts) and on the finish line made perfect sense. The mating is a reality, but not a definitive. At least that’s how I see it, and how I understand the explanation given in this book. The mating must be accepted from both sides (male and female) and on both sides of the changeling (human and animal). I sure hope (and am confident will happen eventually) the mating bond between Adria and Riaz will develop, because they do match. There are mutual feelings that weren’t present between Riaz and his ‘intended’, their wolves are comfortable with each other, they’re friends, confidants and lovers, and they trust each other. And let’s look at Drew and Indigo. Even Hawke said it took years of them to know each other before the mating dance and mating bond emerged. So yes, there is hope.

Hawke also had two mates. Sure, one died as a child, but she would’ve become his mate once she grew up. She died and he got a second chance. And what a chance. Him and Sienna were so cute together in this story, a somewhat continuation of their book. Some reviewers mentioned something along the lines of Hawke losing his alpha edge in this one with all the cuddling, and baking he did in this book, but I don’t agree. To me, having Sienna with him, alongside him, doing domestic stuff, having her friends come over sometimes (despite having always to be their alpha), is something like him experiencing the life of a teenager he never got to have. He became alpha at 15, so he didn’t actually have a normal ‘childhood’. He had to grow up fast, but now, with Sienna (only 20), he gets to experience everything he’s missed. With her, alongside her, seeing it all through her eyes. To me, that’s a perfect mix. He keeps her grounded (though she doesn’t need it that much), and she keeps him ‘young’, so to speak. I don’t think ‘letting his hair down’ when he’s with her, baking, getting drunk etc. means he’s lost his edge, become gelded. That edge, the dangerous alpha is still there, ready to jump into action whenever needed, he’s just found someone who lets him relax, lets him be something other than the leader of the pack, the alpha, lets him be just a man in love, just a husband, a friend, and a lover. *sigh*

Okay, back to Adria and Riaz. I, personally, loved them both. They were rather similar in spirit at the beginning, both damaged, both carrying internal scars that still seeped blood sometimes. Is there any wonder they were so drawn to each other even as they resisted that pull? They needed each other to heal, they needed one another for comfort, they needed a confidante. One of the reviewers scoffed at Adria’s ‘inner turmoil’ after the end of her relationship with Martin, that she acted like she was the only one exiting a bad relationship and it wasn’t as he beat her up or raped her on a daily basis. Sometimes psychological scars (even those not purposefully inflicted) are as painful (or more) than the physical ones. And Adria was psychologically scarred. And she was mostly to blame for those scars (and deep down she knew it). She’s spent years being something she was not, downplaying herself, she changed who she was for the man she was in a relationship with, and that wasn’t enough. Is there any wonder she kept pushing Riaz away? Because this time she knew that even if she was herself, it wouldn’t be enough. That she would always be just second best.

Those fears were unfounded in the end, because her golden-eyed black wolf was stubborn, obstinate and determined to never let her get away. And who wouldn’t love such a guy? I sure wouldn’t kick him out of my bed. ;)
What I love most about this series is that single-minded determination displayed in both the DarkRiver and SnowDancer males. I love the leopards, but the wolves are my poison as far as this series is concerned (beside Judd Lauren and Kaleb Krychek, that is) and I can safely say that Riaz Delgado (I just loved the Spanish endearments and confession of feelings he started using toward the end of the book) is in the second spot on my favorite wolves list (Hawke holding the top spot safely and securely).
There was just something about Riaz that drew me in, held me, enticed me. Seems to me it was that blend of lone-wolf, stubbornness, danger, even anger, determination, tenderness, endless capability of love, and, yes, playfulness he displayed throughout the story. I adored the courtship toward the end, the gifts, the humor in them (the silly carvings, the personalized hammer—how adorable was that?!). Who could resist?

See, this is what I love most about Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series. The characters. Don’t get me wrong, the stories and main arc are great as well, keeping us guessing, introducing new characters, new packs, new dangers, new intrigue. But the heart of it all, the heart of each separate book and the main storyline, are the characters. Their personalities, their interaction, their inner workings. There are so many books out there, entire series in fact, that focus on the action, the ‘story’, without really fleshing out the characters—but if the characters are bland, the story is bland, too.
Nalini Singh accomplished and continues to accomplish the exact opposite. She starts with the characters and builds the story around them, leaving the characters, their actions, reactions and interactions drive the plot, propel the story forward. And that’s what keeps this series ‘alive and kicking’, interesting and intriguing for me. I want to know what happens next to a certain character (and I’m so glad Ms. Singh keeps bringing the previous heroes and heroines back, continuing their separate stories merging them with the main one), what the consequences and ramifications of a certain action, certain word, certain though will be in the broader and (final) picture. And I keep craving more.
(Just take Kaleb Krychek as example. He’s started off as an ambiguous character, secretive, Silent, foreboding, but slowly, throughout the series we got glimpses of unknown depths within him, seeing him as something more as another Psy, wanting to know more about him, wanting to read his story. And we got it. Yay!)

Anyway, as I mentioned, the characters in this book were the focal point for me, but the entire story, the plot was well-executed as well. There was enough romance to satisfy the romance-lovers, there was enough suspense to keep those suspense-lovers happy, there was enough action for a book that was mainly focused on the romance aspect. And there were multiple new hooks dangled to keep us interested in what happens next. The new ‘sea’ pack, the Pure Psy flexing their puny muscles, Vasic and his torment (I sure hope he gets a book in the future and a HEA he deserved while being alive!), and of course the last ‘chapter’, the last two pages focusing entirely on Kaleb Krychek and the prey he’s been hunting pretty much since he’s become a Councilor (and even before).
I can't wait to read his book.

Okay, this review looks more like a rant of a raving lunatic, but I'm not really sorry about that.

What I meant to write, before everything got a little out of hand, was that I absolutely loved this book—the characters (even secondary ones), the story, the ‘contribution’ to the main arc. No wonder Ms. Singh is one of my favorite authors and the Psy/Changeling one of my favorite series. I never get bored.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Review: Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh

Title: Kiss of Snow
Series: Psy-Changeling
Author: Nalini Singh
Read copy: eBook
Published: May 31, 2011
Publisher: Jove
ISBN: 1101528729
ISBN-13: 9781101528723

Since the moment of her defection from the PsyNet and into the SnowDancer wolf pack, Sienna Lauren has had one weakness. Hawke. Alpha and dangerous, he compels her to madness.

Hawke is used to walking alone, having lost the woman who would've been his mate long ago. But Sienna fascinates the primal heart of him, even as he tells himself she is far too young to handle the wild fury of the wolf.

Then Sienna changes the rules-and suddenly, there is no more distance, only the most intimate of battles between two people who were never meant to meet. Yet as they strip away each other's secrets in a storm of raw emotion, they must also ready themselves for a far more vicious fight...

A deadly enemy is out to destroy SnowDancer, striking at everything they hold dear, but it is Sienna's darkest secret that may yet savage the pack that is her home-and the alpha who is its heartbeat.

My rating:

Sienna Lauren tumbled head over heels in love with Hawke, the SnowDancers alpha, at first sight. (Who wouldn't? Who didn't?) But she had two huge obstacles in front of her, one more (seemingly) insurmountable than the next.
One: He made her lose her cool, shattered her control. And she needed that steely control to suppress her deadly, martial psychic ability.
Two: She competed against a ghost. The ghost of a young girl who died long ago, but would’ve become Hawke’s mate if she lived. A bond he knew would never share with anyone, least of all Sienna. And he refused to hurt someone by not giving them that bond, Sienna most of all.

Now she’s grown, going on twenty, she isn’t a child anymore and she refuses to let him see her that way. She wants him to see her as a woman, and she’s determined to win at all costs. After all, she has nothing left to lose. Her time is running out.

In my reading history there were a few books like Kiss of Snow. The most expected book in a series. The one you’ve been waiting for for what seems like forever, the one you know will knock you off your feet, ruin you for every other book in the series.
And all of those highly-expected books were big letdowns for me.
So you can understand my apprehension before picking this one up. Would it meet at least a few of my expectations? Would I recognize the character I loved (Hawke)? Would he stay true to himself or would he suffer a personality transplant? Would I be disappointed as I finally put the book down?

I received the answers to all those questions yesterday in the course of six-and-a-half hours of reading. (Was I going too slow? Yes, since I kept re-reading parts of it.)
Did it meet my expectations? Yes. Did I recognize the character I loved? Yes. Did he stay true to himself? Yes. Was I disappointed as I finally put the book down? As Hawke would say, f*** no!

The prologue chilled me to the bone, but it was just an appetizer. With the first few words of the first chapter I was in, immersed into Ms. Singh’s fantastic world, giddy with excitement as the story unfolded before my eyes.

As it happened with the above-mentioned disappointing highly-expected books before, the heroine never met my expectations and I feared Sienna would be the same. What I saw of her in the previous books didn’t give me much enticement to be hopeful. Mostly she acted like a brat, pushing all the buttons that could be pushed and when she ran out of buttons she created new ones. So yeah, I was apprehensive.
But Ms. Singh made her excellence at writing known in presenting me with the other side of Sienna. The mature, strong, resilient young woman, fiercely protective of those she cared about, with scars on her soul so deep that would’ve killed a lesser person, but that shaped her into a heroine worthy of the name. And worthy of the man who would stand beside her.
What we saw of the bratty Sienna was merely a mask for the woman inside. A woman scared of her power, of hurting those around her, of the man who made her lose the control over the deadly force inside her. The bratty Sienna was something the woman inside used to make the man she cared about notice her, give her the attention she so craved for. Maybe she went overboard a few times, but it worked. Boy, did it work. He noticed her, all right. He paid attention. What other choice did he have?

None. Hawke was a goner the moment he laid eyes on the young Psy. Too young in his opinion. But that didn’t prevent him from seeing her, noticing her, wanting to touch her, claim her in the most primal way of his kind. But, noble creature that he was, he kept his distance, snarling, growling, keeping his wolf on a short leash, all because she was too young.
Then she grew up, matured before his eyes, and still he kept his distance, despite his wolf protesting loudly inside him, wanting to claim her, roll around in her scent, mix it with its own.
Poor guy. He didn’t stand a chance, yet he stubbornly resisted until she stopped playing nice, until Sienna decided to get her man, no holds bared, guns blazing. And still Hawke was stubborn, unable unwilling to give her everything, while demanding everything in return. They fought, they made up, they touched, they played, they claimed (almost) the most intimate skin privileges time and time again, yet his dead would-be-mate stood between them, an impenetrable barrier.
(Reader’s note: For a guy who was so in tune with his inner beastie, the wolf closer to the surface than with any other wolf-changeling out there, he stubbornly refused to listen to that friendly inner beastie.)

I loved the constant push-and-pull between Hawke and Sienna. Some fellow reviewers think it went on for too long, creating sexual frustration instead of emotional tension, but I disagree. The emotional tension and sexual frustration between these two were entwined, inseparable, part of what made them who they are, part of what made them a great leading couple.
I also disagree with the statements that they took too long to claim the most intimate of skin privileges. I found it refreshing they didn’t start burning the sheets so quickly, and I felt that “abstinence” was an integral part of their relationship. They needed to get to know each other, learn to coexist, this alpha and one of his novice soldiers, they needed to find that balance between them, they needed to build a relationship before they consummated it, and all those delays, the thwarted attempts, only strengthened the bond between them, letting them fall in love with each other because of the fact they knew each other (they discovered they weren’t so different deep down, each of them carrying thick scars from their childhood), not because they were great in bed (which also happened to be the case).
Not to mention that their courtship was a real treat to read. Sweet and tender, passionately smoldering, romantic (dancing in the moonlight, awww), playful...Everything a courtship should be in my book.

The rest of the story somehow paled in comparison to the Sienna-Hawke dance, but it was still a great addition to the series as a whole. It gave us quite a few answers to the questions that’ve been plaguing us for so long, while it added a few more burning questions to those that remained unanswered. The Ghost is even more mysterious, though I still hope it will turn out to be Kaleb.
And we had a few precious and delicious glimpses into the lives of heroes and heroines past. The DarkRiver alpha pair’s happy occasion, the scorching encounter between Judd and Brenna. The friendship and camaraderie between the packs, in the wolf den, the determination of the SnowDancers lieutenants to make their alpha see reason, Kit’s helping hand...
But a dark cloud hung over the story. The war of the Psy against the Changeling race is fully under way, but the Changelings now have a new and powerful weapon at their disposal, though that weapon has lost its anonymity. There was a load of info about the X-Psy, a new character made a rather spooky appearance, there was a lot of talk about self-sacrifice, and there was a battle.

And what a battle it was. Ms. Singh really outdid herself with that final stand. Intense, gripping, goose-bumps-and-nail-biting-inducing, chilling, blood-curdling, heart-stopping...There are quite a lot of adjectives I could use to describe the final action scene, but it was the second half that really blew me away, had my eyes glued to every word on the page. The descriptions were so intense, the imagery so vivid, I could see that cold fire blazing in those mountains, the flames engulfing everything, gobbling up all that was in their way. And I, musically freakish that I am, could hear the initial part of the third movement in Mozart’s Requiem “Dies Irae” (Day of Wrath). And day of wrath it was. Hell hath no fury and all that jazz.
I really wish it was all real and I could witness it all in person. I’ll just have to witness it all in my head.

And it was at the end of that hellish wrath that I started leaking (again). Because I knew what would happen next. The decision has been made, there was no turning back...Or was there. Nope. *huge grin* Ms. Singh pulled out her trump card and I was leaking even more (happy tears). I’m not telling, you’ll just have to read it for yourself, but it was beautiful, magical, drop to your knees in sweet pain, blah blah blibbity blah.

But then the OMFG!-Yes!-Yes! moment ended and the true pain started. What to do next? How to protect everybody from the hellish wrath burning like an inferno on the psychic plane, threatening to destroy them all? Seclusion wouldn’t help, linked as they were. Was there any hope at all?
Yes, there was. Plenty. Because there was more than one trump card to be pulled out in the course of this book. The last one was a winner, and a complete plot-twist surprise, even though I knew there would be something to save the day. Was it predictable? No. Was it an easy fix to a big problem? Maybe, but it worked. And it worked beautifully. Providing both a respite from the intensity of the conflagration and a source for humor (Drew, you bad boy, you).

That ends my rant review. It wasn’t perfect, but I wasn’t looking for perfection. It met my expectations, delivered on its promises...And then some. It could’ve been shorter, or it could’ve concentrated more on Hawke and Sienna instead of the secondary romance (albeit sweet and tender), especially toward the end, but I loved every minute of it, and I cannot wait to re-read it. Again and again.

Kiss of Snow restored my faith (that has been vacillating a little due to the last few books) in the series and in the highly-expected books in general.

I loved it. I adored it. I smiled with it. I laughed with it. I cried with it. I went “awww” with it. If that ain’t a keeper I don’t know what is.


P.S. I re-read it (even slower this time, due to all the leakage *hangs her head in shame*) listening to Karl Jenkins' Benedictus. Damn. It went beautifully with the story (beginning to end), but if you're prone to leakage, maybe you shouldn't use the chant(?) as background music while reading. I've learned my lesson.

Review: Play of Passion by Nalini Singh

Title: Play of Passion
Series: Psy-Changeling
Author: Nalini Singh
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: November 2, 2010
Publisher: Berkley
ISBN: 0425237796
ISBN-13: 9780425237793

In his position as tracker for the SnowDancer pack, it’s up to Drew Kincaid to rein in rogue changelings who have lost control of their animal halves—even if it means killing those who have gone too far. But nothing in his life has prepared him for the battle he must now wage to win the heart of a woman who makes his body ignite…and who threatens to enslave his wolf.

Lieutenant Indigo Riviere doesn’t easily allow skin privileges, especially of the sensual kind—and the last person she expects to find herself craving is the most wickedly playful male in the den. Everything she knows tells her to pull back before the flames burn them both to ash…but she hasn’t counted on Drew’s will.

Now, two of SnowDancer’s most stubborn wolves find themselves playing a hot, sexy game even as lethal danger stalks the very place they call home…

My rating:

Reading the Psy-Changeling series is like visiting old friends and talking about the good old days. Some of the friends are great, some not so much, you get new ones, some great, some not so much, but you inexorably spend a few pleasurable hours in their company.

This book was exactly like that. I got so see Judd and Brenna again, got a glimpse of Riley and Mercy, Sasha and Lucas, got to drool over Hawke once more (I can’t wait for his book, yet I’m terrified of being disappointed), and became better acquainted with Andrew and Indigo.
While the first one made me fall head over heels in love (though he cannot compare to Hawke...ooh, the tension between him and Sienna) with his big heart and a protective streak a mile wide hidden behind his playful façade—tell me, who wouldn’t want such a man in real life, with or without his inner beastie—the second one made me grit my teeth in exasperation.

I’m all for strong, stubborn, independent women, as long as that strength, stubbornness and independence don’t blind them to that which could be good for them. And though she mellowed toward the end, I resented Indigo for taking so long to finally make up her mind. It was obvious Drew was different from her “uncle”, she noticed that many times in the course of the book, yet she stubbornly refused to give him any leeway. He bent and bent and bent for her, was ready to compromise, was willing to apologize profusely for any slight he made (which is almost unheard of in the male population ;)), yet she (almost) never did the same.
And it (once again) took a life-or-death experience for Indigo to finally grow a pair and jump off the proverbial cliff.

I loved the tension, the push and pull between them, the frustration, if I can use that word, but I felt it dragged for a tad too long for my liking.
And it also affected my perception of their “relationship” for the better part of the book. Because, while I was told it was courtship, they were tentatively starting a romance, I didn’t see it. I didn’t feel the connection (not even from Andrew’s point of view), it was more like two friend scratching an occasional itch. I read it as mere sex, going through the motions, instead of the sensual skin privileges of the changelings, so much present in the first few novels.
It was only toward the end, that everything somehow clicked. I don’t know if it was meant to be that way, or if I just grew used to the “lack of feeling”.

Being done with the “relationship rant”, I can focus on the rest—beside Hawke, who, if you ask me, had the most beautiful scene in the entire book, as he (in beastie form) accompanied Sienna on her trek to DarkRiver. Can I have an “awwww”, folks?
Everything else aside (namely my issues with Indigo), this was a great little installment in the series, adding to the main arc, building the plot, tension, and drama toward the big finale. Which we don’t know when it will happen, but we got a little glimpse from the joint F-Psy prediction. It won’t be pretty, it won’t be nice, but I sure hope it will knock my socks off.
We got some information on the Psy big plan, though vague enough to keep us interested, the Ghost made his mandatory appearance, and we were offered yet another sliver of info on the mysterious “creature” (I sincerely hope it turns out he’s Kaleb, because that tidbit could be another cherry on the cake that is the dangerous, young Councilor—and it would make great fiction as well). There’s yet another pack on the horizon beside the cats, wolves, and rats, I’m itching to see how that will work out, because I’m sure Ms. Singh didn’t just put them in there not to be mentioned again...

Anyway, it wasn’t as good as the first couple of books in this series, but it wasn’t bad either, and I sure hope Hawke’s story will deliver (and then some).

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Review: Whisper of Sin by Nalini Singh

Title: Whisper of Sin
Series: Psy-Changeling
Author: Nalini Singh
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: February 25, 2014
Publisher: Jove
ISBN: 0698155076
ISBN-13: 9780698155077

San Francisco is under threat from a violent gang…a gang that has no idea who they’re challenging. The DarkRiver pack of leopard changelings has already claimed the city as their territory, and they will fight with wild fury to protect its residents. Emmett, a lethally trained leopard soldier, isn’t about to let outsiders muscle in on his home ground—especially when they target a human named Ria.

Emmett has one word for the smart stranger with her curvy body and tough spirit: mine.

Possessive, dominant, unyielding in his demands and desires, Emmett is unlike anyone Ria has ever before met. But while the sexy leopard changeling makes her body ignite, his kisses molten and his touch addicting, she’s no pushover and she has a few demands of her own. This leopard has met his match...

My rating:

This is the series prequel...Before Lucas met Sascha (and all hell broke loose), Emmett met Ria (Lucas' human executive assistant in later books) and fell—hard—like changelings do.

It was sort of weird reading this prequel when other stories (later stories) were published before it, but it was like a nice, quick, funny, and sexy blast from the past with a bigger focus on the human woman, suddenly finding herself in the sights of a hungry leopard, and her quirky family, instead of on the DarkRiver pack and the changelings.

I loved Ria, I adored her grandmother, and I even loved Ria's (sometimes) overbearing parents once they got over the fixation of getting her married to the 'perfect suitor'. And while Emmett was adorable, despite Hawke being my all-time favorite changeling (sorry, Lucas), I do have a preference to the leopards, I still found myself enjoying scenes with Ria and her family more.

I guess the story was just too short (being a novella) to convey everything Emmett had to offer—beside the obvious—and really push the romance through, because I felt kind of cheated we didn't get more. But I know it's tough to cram everything needed—character introduction, attraction, romance, suspense, and just a pinch of drama—into a story less than 100 pages long.

So, despite the lack of 'story' (in lack of a better word), I'm giving this 4 stars. Because I can. And because I liked it.

Review: Bonds of Justice by Nalini Singh

Title: Bonds of Justice
Series: Psy-Changeling
Author: Nalini Singh
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: July 6, 2010
Publisher: Berkley
ISBN: 0425235440
ISBN-13: 9780425235447

Max Shannon is a good cop, one of the best in New York Enforcement. Born with a natural shield that protects him against Psy mental invasions, he knows he has little chance of advancement within the Psy-dominated power structure. The last case he expects to be assigned is that of a murderer targeting a Psy Councilor’s closest advisors. And the last woman he expects to compel him in the most sensual of ways is a Psy on the verge of a catastrophic mental fracture…

Sophia Russo is a Justice-Psy, cursed with the ability to retrieve memories from men and women so twisted even veteran cops keep their distance. Appointed as Max’s liaison with the Psy, she finds herself fascinated by this human, her frozen heart threatening to thaw with forbidden emotion. But, her mind filled with other people’s nightmares, other people’s evil, she’s standing on the border between sanity and a silken darkness that urges her to take justice into her own hands, to become judge, jury…and executioner...

My rating:

Well, this was yet another great installment in the Psy-Changeling (shouldn't we add human as well?) series, just not as "good" as the previous books.

The main series arc is progressing nicely, whenever we think we know what's going on, Ms. Singh surprises us, creating yet more questions, more intrigue, more suspense...But it isn't the main arc that's a problem here. It was this particular story that didn't "do it" for me. I simply couldn't relate to the characters, the romance fell rather flat, and though I love me a slightly possessive, straight-to-the-point, you're-mine-and-I'll-die-before-losing-you kind of hero, I thought there was something off with Max. I cannot put my finger on it, but we just didn't click. And Sophia was no better. I missed Ms. Singh's usually spot-on characterization in this one, sorry to say.

But we did get a few glimpses of secondary characters that warmed my heart. It's always great seeing previous heroes and heroines living their HEA, especially Sasha and Lucas. There was a nice little development on the Nikita front, a little tidbit about Hawke, but it was Councilor Kaleb Krychek's rather significant little role in this book that made me squeal. Darn, but I'm curious about him and can't wait to read his story. He's just full of surprises and this little searching mission he's on, intrigues me a great deal. *giddy clap*

Anyway, as I wrote at the beginning, it was good, but not par with Ms. Singh's previous work. I expected more.

Review: Blaze of Memory by Nalini Singh

Title: Blaze of Memory
Series: Psy-Changeling
Author: Nalini Singh
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: November 3, 2009
Publisher: Berkley
ISBN: 0425231119
ISBN-13: 9780425231111

Dev Santos discovers her unconscious and battered, with no memory of who she is. All she knows is that she’s dangerous. Charged with protecting his people’s most vulnerable secrets, Dev is duty-bound to eliminate all threats. It’s a task he’s never hesitated to complete…until he finds himself drawn to a woman who might yet prove the enemy’s most insidious weapon.

Stripped of her memories by a shadowy oppressor, and programmed to carry out cold-blooded murder, Katya Haas is fighting desperately for her sanity itself. Her only hope is Dev. But how can she expect to gain the trust of a man who could very well be her next target? For in this game, one must die…

My rating:

While this is not the best book in the series, it's the most heartbreaking to date.


After the slightly iffy sixth installation in this series, we have yet another winner with Dev and Katya's story. I admit at my slight reluctance at reading this one - Dev wasn't on my list of heroes who immediately needed their story told in this series, but I'm more than happy with how things turned out. For him and for Katya.

She might've appeared weak and fragile, but she truly had a wall of steel inside her (maybe that's what drew Dev to her *wink wink*), but luckily she didn't have a bitchy streak like her predecessor, and was also quite happy to be dominated (once in a while) and a little boxed in with Dev's sensuality. And boy, did the guy have that in spades.

Dev has intrigued me since he first appeared in this series, this steely, determined man whose past is shrouded in mystery and I immediately wanted to know more about him, what made him tick, how he would react when push came to shove, and how could his resolve and determination fare in the face of romance.

I got my wish. I saw it all, understood it all, and suffered through it all with both of them. This is what I call a romance, when you can't help what you feel, despite what your brain and gut is trying to tell you. And this is Dev in a nutshell. He knows there's something off with Katya, he knows he shouldn't trust her, he knows he should keep her at arm's length, yet he just can't help himself. She burrows deep under his skin, and he just can't get her out...And after a while, he doesn't want to.

I loved seeing that domineering streak in him, so reminiscent of the Changelings, so at odds with his Psy heritage, and I loved Katya even more for not putting up with it. Much.

I liked the fact this story didn't delve much into all the intrigue that's going on in the Psy-Changeling-Human world, but focused primarily on the romance between the two leading characters. It offered a nice respite from having to follow too many story-lines at once, and try to keep all the facts straight.

And the ending completely broke me, I had me a nice little cry-athon this (very, very early!) morning as I got to the truly heart-breaking part of this story, and I kept hoping something would happen to make it all right again, but knowing it was impossible. Yet, the fictional world proved me wrong once again, and all was well in Romancelandia and the ShadowNet.

To sum up my thoughts about this book in three words...I.Loved.It.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Review: Branded by Fire by Nalini Singh

Title: Branded by Fire
Series: Psy-Changeling
Author: Nalini Singh
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: July 7, 2009
Publisher: Berkley
ISBN: 042522673
ISBN-13: 9780425226735

Though DarkRiver sentinel Mercy is feeling the pressure to mate, she savagely resists when Riley Kincaid, a lieutenant from the SnowDancer pack, tries to possess her. The problem is not simply that he pushes her buttons; the problem is that he’s a wolf, she’s a cat, and they’re both used to being on top.

But when a brilliant changeling researcher is kidnapped from DarkRiver territory, Mercy and Riley must work together to track the young man—before his shadowy captors decide he’s no longer useful. Along the way, the two dominants may find that submitting to one another uncovers not just a deadly conspiracy, but a passion so raw that it’ll leave them both branded by fire…

My rating:

This book was a bit of a disappointment for me.

I loved the nicely forward moving plot, each book uncovers a little bit more about the whole Psy-Changeling-Human universe, the intricacies of their history, the intrigues, the mysteries, what makes each "race" tick, and I absolutely adored Riley "The Wall" Kincaid, the gorgeous wolf, hero of this story.

The disappointment came with the heroine, Mercy, a leopard. I liked her in the first five books (and one novella), but I disliked her with a passion in this one. She came through as a haughty, snotty, arrogant, slightly racist bitch who though a wolf was beneath her. I felt she was just using Riley to scratch her itches, and even in the end I couldn't quite believe she actually gave in and fell for him.

I just didn't feel the love vibes, while he walked, talked, and breathed his love for her. Sadly, this pairing didn't convince me at all. I felt Riley deserved more.

On a better note, I'm more and more intrigued by Kaleb and the Ghost. Could this two really be one and the same? It is said the Net would break with the Ghost breached his Silence, and Kaleb is pretty "cozy" with the Net. Makes you wonder.

And who is this mysterious Psy or whatever pulling the strings from the background? And what about the Human Alliance? So many questions, so few answers.

I'm so happy for Lucas and Sasha, not so happy about the whole Hawke-thing, though. It's Lora Leigh's Mercury's War all over again, with the only exception, Mercury went after what he wanted, instead of moping around. Because that's what Hawke's doing. He's moping, feeling sorry for himself, because the wolf that was supposedly his mate died a long time ago. They were kids, how could he have known? His wolf knows better, it's the man that's slow on the uptake. And that irritates me to no end. I hope you-know-who makes him suffer, though I didn't read much in the holding-hands-and-going-into-the-woods scene.

This story was a fifty-fifty deal for me, half of it was great, half of it (thanks to high-and-mighty Mercy) not so much. 3 stars, hoping Dev's story turns out better.