Wednesday, February 25, 2015

review: BORN OF NIGHT by Sherrilyn Kenyon

BORN OF NIGHT by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Series: The League #1
Macmillan: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Released: September 29, 2009
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 539

Rating: Really liked it!

In the Ichidian Universe, The League and their ruthless assassins rule all. Expertly trained and highly valued, the League Assassins are the backbone of the government. But not even the League is immune to corruption . . .

Command Assassin Nykyrian Quikiades once turned his back on the League - and has been hunted by them ever since. Though many have tried, none can kill him or stop him from completing his current mission: to protect Kiara Zamir, a woman whose father's political alliance has made her a target.

As her world becomes even deadlier, Kiara must entrust her life to the same kind of beast who once killed her mother and left her for dead. Old enemies and new threaten them both and the only way they can survive is to overcome their suspicions and learn to trust in the very ones who threaten them the most: each other.

My Thoughts

Science fiction books work best when they are long enough to show you the universe (without going overboard with info dumps, of course). Born of Night's length works to its advantage in worldbuilding as well as the development of the romance between Nykyrian and Kiara. I never felt confused about the rules of the Ichidian Universe.

In true Kenyon fashion, Nykyrian is has been tormented and abused his entire life. His backstory is not Acheron or Styxx level bleak, but it's still pretty dark. Kiara meets him while manacled on a spaceship after being kidnapped due to her father's political position. She is immediately afraid of him, which is not entirely unreasonable considering he's a gigantic ex-League assassin. Nykyrian is immediately attracted to Kiara, but she's a princess and therefore off limits romantically. They circle around each other for a good portion of the book. I liked seeing them get to know each other, even if they did screw up quite a bit along the way.

While I appreciated the amount of time spent on the romance and the characters getting to know each other (aka instalove is bad), you have to keep in mind that Born of Night was Kenyon's first book. Her writing style has gotten better since then, and the book was rewritten for republication, but there's only so much you can do with a rewrite vs. a rework. The general framework of the book was not going to change, and the too-stupid-to-live characters who contributed to the plot (I'm looking at you, Kiara's father) could not evolve. Here's the takeaway: it's not perfect, but it's still really good!

And remember: sometimes you just don't have a story if your characters actually talk to people or only deal with intelligent people.

Normally I don't mention much about the narrator for audiobooks, but in this case I really did NOT like the narration. The voices for most of the characters were oddly stylized, as though different stereotypical ethnic and socioeconomic groups were being represented rather than just different voices, and several random words stuck out when they were mispronounced. The narrator is listed as Kelly Fish, but this link says that it's actually Tavia Gilbert working under a pseudonym. If that's the case, I'm surprised by how much I didn't like the voices considering I have listen to several titles narrated by Gilbert and was mostly okay with them. The good news is that Fred Berman and Holter Graham take over narration for the rest of the series. They also did most of Kenyon's other books, and their voices are so sexy and gravelly. Yum.

There's a little part of me that still loves the original cover, pictured right. It was originally published sometime around 1996. Anyone who's seen my library knows that I have a bit of a collecting problem. It took ages, but I finally tracked it down in a little used bookstore near Saint Louis!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

review: PRIVATE PARTY by Jami Alden

PRIVATE PARTY by Jami Alden
Series: Private #1
Kensington: Aphrodisia Books
Released: November 1, 2007
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 248

TURN UP THE HEAT

Finding her brand-new husband in flagrante delicto with another woman wasn't part of Julie Driscoll's plan for her lavish wedding reception. Now she's a bride without a groom - but she's determined to have a wedding night with someone. Her cheating husband's gorgeous brother will do just fine. Chris Dennison is everything hsi brother isn't, and his hard body is the stuff the steamiest sexual fantasies are made of . . .

LET'S GET THIS PARTY STARTED

Chris isn't about to turn her down. After give years of dreaming about her, the chance to touch Julie's delectable luscious body is too tempting to resist. And when she follows him to the tropical resort he's built from the ground up, she insists hot, wet, skin-to-skin pleasure is all he wants. Now he just has to convince her that he wants more . . .

Rating: Really liked it!

My Thoughts

I've owned this book for ages, but somehow it got packed away in my old apartment, never saw the light of day at our old house, and was only just unearthed a few months ago while unpacking books at the new house. This was a happy turn of events, as I have been looking for light reads to help me ease back into reading physical books. (I've been reading mostly audiobooks or e-books lately, and not nearly as many as in years past.)

Private Party is a quick, light read with some very hot sex. Nothing kinky, just straight-up vanilla hot. There was a review on Goodreads that mentions size, which cracked me up but is also definitely worth mentioning. Hey, it's erotica, right? Chris is big without being laughably big. Every time I read about a 12-incher, I roll my eyes. 9 is nothing to scoff at, to be sure, but not unrealistic either.

Unlike some of the erotica that I have read recently - I'm lookin' at you, Fifty Shades! - this one actually has a decent story. Poor Julie discovers her brand-new husband banging his secretary at their wedding reception, and she decides to throw off the shackles of her old life and go after what she truly wants for once. This lands her in the hotel room of Chris, her husband's brother and an old crush. Needless to say, this get steamy fast. Chris leaves in the morning to get back to his regularly scheduled life, but Julie hasn't quite had enough. She follows him back to his resort on St. Thomas - not as stalkerish as it sounds, I promise - in hopes of enticing him back into her bed. Sexy hijinks ensue. Chris is a little macho but not IN YOUR FACE ALPHA DOUCHEBAG so it totally works.

I know a few people will have problems with how much Julie allows her family's expectations to rule her life, but let me just say this: When you come from a family that has traditionally made these decisions for everyone, high society or not, it's tough to realize that you are actually allowed to make your own decisions. So long as you can live with the consequences, of course. I was proud of her for finally taking her own path.

Quick plug for St. Thomas: it's absolutely beautiful! My family went there on a cruise back in 2002. Search for pictures of Magen's Bay for some beautiful beach photos. Go if you have the opportunity!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

review: DARKNESS RISING by Keri Arthur

DARKNESS RISING by Keri Arthur
Series: Dark Angels #2
Random House: Dell
Released: October 25, 2011
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 341

Rating: Liked it

SPOILER ALERT FOR DARKNESS UNBOUND!

Risa will go to any lengths to avenge her mother's murder - even if it means making a pact with the most evil vampire she's ever met. Lethal and powerful Madeline Hunter is leader of the vampire council, and will put her resources behind finding the killer - for a price. The venerable vampire requires the assistance of Risa's psychic powers. Quid pro quo.

Someone - or something - is cursing the elders of the local council, causing the immortal vampires to rapidly age, sink into madness, and die. Risa must track down the vengeful being responsible. But Risa's father, a rogue Aedh priest, also enlists her in a dangerous mission. And not even the great Madeline Hunter may be able to protect her from the shadowy forces that desire nothing less than Risa's destruction.

My Thoughts

Darkness Rising opens with Risa's father forcefully ordering her to find the keys that he created to open the gates to hell. Nice guy, yeah? Then Risa is essentially blackmailed by the head of the Directorate, Madeline Hunter, into doing Hunter's dirty work in exchange for help solving Dia's murder. Considering that's all crammed into the first chapter, you'd think that the action would be nonstop . . . and yet, not so much. At least it felt slow to me.

It may have been because I listened to this one in audio, but I found myself oddly unable to focus on the story and probably missed a good quarter of it from zoning out on the narration. The big things that I was worried about while reading the first book came to pass: (1) Risa continued to trust the wrong guy, Lucian. He reminds me of a certain snakelike character from the Riley Jensen, Guardian series, and I don't much like him. (2) Risa failed to see what her reaper, Azrael, was thinking. He clearly has a thing for her, but she is only seeing her own perception of his actions and beliefs and not understanding why he is perpetually frustrated with her. Come on, girl, get it together!

It's a little frustrating to see Risa repeating so many of Riley's mistakes, especially while she notes that Riley had spoken to her about these things. Risa trusts the wrong people, is ill-prepared because she lets people rush her and boss her around, and doesn't ask the right people for help because she is too worried about them getting hurt, even if their expertise means that they are more likely to not be hurt than she is. I wanted to shake her a few times.

You know what else is frustrating? The lack of sex. Heh. There are a couple of scenes, but I was really hoping that this series would be a bit hotter than it's turning out to be.

Here's what did work: Risa is clearly starting to come into her own. In Darkness Unbound, Risa is constantly turning to others for help because she doesn't have the skills or knowledge to do it on her own. That's not necessarily a bad idea, true, but it was nice to see her take a more prominent role in her investigation. The sword she acquires doesn't hurt her new badass image, either.

Given my love of the prequel series, it's fairly obvious that I'm not going to give up after one lackluster installment. Really, it's not bad, it's just not quite up to par with expectations. Here's hoping that the rest of the series takes us on a sexy, fast-paced ride!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

review: DARKNESS UNBOUND by Keri Arthur

DARKNESS UNBOUND by Keri Arthur
Series: Dark Angels #1
Random House: Dell
Released: September 27, 2011
Page Count: 364

Rating: Really liked it!

The fight against darkness rages on for the next generation - in New York Times bestselling author Keri Arthur's exciting new series set in the world of the Guardians.

Being half werewolf and half Aedh, Risa Jones can enter the twilight realms between life and death and see the reapers, supernatural beings that collect the souls of the dead. But she soon makes a terrifying discovery: some sinister force is stealing souls, preventing the dead from ever knowing the afterlife.

Reapers escort souls - not snatch them - but Risa is still unnerved when a reaper shadows her in search of someone Risa has never met: her own father, an Aedh, priest, who is rumored to be tampering with the gates of hell for a dark purpose. With the help of her "aunt" - half-werewolf, half-vampire Riley Jensen - and an Aedh named Lucian who may have lost his wings but none of his sex appeal, Risa must pursue whatever shadowy practitioner of blood magic is siezing souls, and somehow stop her father . . . before all hell breaks loose.

My Thoughts

I nabbed this on a whim on Audible, because it was on sale and HELLO IT'S KERI ARTHUR, started listening while driving to my friend's house for our annual sometime-around-Christmas gift exchange, and almost didn't get out of the car because I was already hooked. There was a mention of Riley Jensen being Risa's aunt sometime in the first chapter or so, and that would have been enough on its own had the writing not been up to par (which of course it was!). Also, I love an Aussie accent. This narrator is fabulous. But anyway . . .

Welcome (again) to Keri Arthur's Guardian-verse. Risa is the "niece" of Riley Jensen, main character of the Guardian series, and a badass in her own right. Being half-Aedh, she can walk the gray fields and see spirits. Her mother, a famous psychic, asks her to consult on a case, and Risa's discovery leads to the disturbing revelation that someone is stealing souls . . . and her unknown father may be responsible. Darkness Unbound is full of cameos from characters from the Guardian series, yet without it being overwhelming. Total fangirl moment here.

Of course, you can't talk about an Arthur book without mentioning the sex. There is your basic one-on-one, gettin' good and sweaty-type sex, and there's also a quasi-threesome at a club involving Risa, her partner, Lucian, taking her from behind, and an unnamed third party taking her mouth. I thought it was pretty hot, but if you're at all prudish then this world may not be for you. Sex in this world is fairly open, with no social constructs in place to make it - or any kinks involved - at all shameful. This was one of my favorite parts of the Guardian series, to be honest, and I am quite happy to see it continued here with the next generation.

Risa's love interest is Lucian, a disgraced Aedh. He's . . . just meh. I'm not a huge fan, and he's probably going to turn out to be a bad guy at some point. I do, however, have high hopes that Risa and her reaper stalker / protector, Azriel, will hook up. Azrial is SEXY, and I always dig a man with a sword.

The one thing that is driving me nuts is that I can't remember much of Risa's mother's backstory. I know that Dia and Riley were friends, at least eventually, in the Guardian series, and it's probably at least somewhat relevant here. But it has completely slipped out of my brain, and there's no telling where those books are packed right now! Bummer.

As I write this review, I am already listening to Darkness Rising. Hop to it, people! This series is flippin' fabulous! And if you haven't read the Riley Jensen, Guardian series, you should really read that first. Seriously. Go read it now.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Hello from ALA Midwinter!

I just wanted to leave a quick note here for anyone that received one of my business cards. Hello, and thanks for checking out my site! Please note that my second job did not leave me enough time to get all of my regular posts scheduled for last week and this week, so please excuse my dust! It will be remedied sometime this week, after I make the drive back to Detroit.

- Amanda