Review: The Hours Trilogy by Z.A. Maxfield

Notturno2VigilOther Reviewers: Goodreads, Goodreads

When you think of main characters, what do you prefer?  Do you want someone in which you can relate?  Do you want someone who is adventurous or risk-taking?

These questions intrigue me, but how about their morals and actions toward the other main character?  What if they betray someone important?  Are there things that you refuse to forgive in a Main Character?

I normally hate novels whose main characters do douchey things.  But for some reason, this series just hooked me from the beginning.

Z.A. Maxfield has always provided an entertaining story, and this is no exception.

**Basic Plot:

Book 1 (Notturno): Adin is a book collector for the university and discovered a highly valuable antique love journal.  The problem?  It belongs to Donte — a vampire.  Soon there individuals who want the book and not all of them are friendly.  Will Adin and Donte be able to put away the past to find love?  Will Adin survive the night?

Book 2 (Vigil): Adin and Donte have survived the traumas that brought them together.  But now there is a new danger entering their lives: Bran.  This young man, is something supernatural and Adin takes him under his wings.  But is this seemingly innocent  boy really more dangerous than anything Adin and Donte has faced?  Can they survive?

** Note that you MUST read the books in order.

Adin Tredeger:

Adin is our voice for this series, everything we see is from his perspective.  His voice is ironically humorous at times, his vision of how his peers view his job:

More than one of his peers thought of him as the shocking and unnatural Dr. Adin Tredeger, purveyor of exotic porn.

What I like most about Adin is at the beginning of the series with Notturno, we think he is a bit self-centered free spirit with little depth.  But we quickly learn that he more than his passion for sexy books.  There is much character development that wish I could go into, but it would greatly spoil the plot.

He is more than his work:  he is a loving brother, a devoted friend, and a valiant defender.  What Adin struggles most in this series is understanding how much danger his new life brings to his friends and family.

Donte (Nicolo Pietro di Sciarello):

Donte is an extremely complex character.  We must remember how it must feel to live hundreds of years, and his hundreds of years of existence influences him.  And yet, Adin’s perspective of Donte really illuminates the nature of their relationship:

For some reason I find him more human than the men I know who haven’t lost their humanity.  He… longs for it, when others take it for granted.”

Adin’s heart is so immense that it enable Donte to become more accepting of himself and Adin’s love.  There is much about Donte that I wish I could disclose and discuss here, but it would spoil much of the plot.  Simply understand that the man we see in the beginning of Notturno is not the same male we see at the close of Vigil.

Theme Summary:

To fully discuss the theme risks disclosing plot points from each book.  However, from book 2, Vigil we see a discussion between Adin and his father regarding Adin’s uncle who died of AIDS:

Second, I want to tell you how terribly disappointed I was in the way my parents handled my brother’s death, as if by shrouding his final year in mystery they were preserving his dignity,when in fact, they were robbing him of it with their failure to celebrate his life.  Whatever happened, whatever choices he made, even though tragedy struck, I still celebrate his life.  I wish my parents had.  I would have.

For Donte, he clutches his journal in a desperate attempt to retain the memory of his previous love alive.  It was the last time that he truly felt alive, in multiple ways.  Meanwhile, Adin is forever buried in work and meaningless sex.  His life has had a whole within it since the death of his parents, creating a new family with his friends and sister.

These men must put the past behind them before they can begin celebrating life again.

Strong Points:

The first strength I found in this series is Maxfield’s writing.  She has the ability to write such complex characters, but in a way that makes them endearing and not angst-ridden.  In fact, there is a third book on the horizon that will finish this series.  Maxfield says that it will come out sometime in 2013.

The second point is the humor.  Because of the complex secondary characters, they are often used as foils giving us much-needed humor.  This series has ups and downs, which at times needs some lighter moments.

What could be better?

There is very little that I would improve in this story.  Just read this!

However, I do think that I need to followup on the teaser that I mentioned at the beginning of this post.  One of our characters does something that some readers might be considered a “betrayal”.  So, if you are a reader who is overly sensitive to grey shades of morality, this book might be more of a challenge.  However, I can say that it was nothing that stopped me from reading it, in-fact, it allowed me to grow as a reader to try something “outside my comfort zone.”

Conclusions:

ZA Maxfield is one of my favorite authors in m/m romance.  Her characters are more than one-dimensional, and the conflicts are never simply solved.  This series is something new for me: flawed characters that do things I would never do.  There is typically a line in romance novels that neither character will cross: cheating, abandonment, or abuse.  Maxfield flirts with this line, creating characters who are “human”, but ultimately they created a solid bond that understands and accepts each other’s weaknesses and strengths.

I am incredibly anxious to read Maxfield’s next book in this series.  According to her webpage it is “coming soon.”  I cannot wait!

Bea

Review: Lover At Last — by J.R. Ward

LALOther Reviewers: Goodreads

By now, if you read the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, you know who Qhuinn and Blay are.  There have been numerous book reviews about what was good or what was disappointing about the storyline, and some of those complaints will be repeated here.

I will minimize spoilers, but know that this is a discussion of Qhuinn and Blay whose relationship has spanned a large portion of the series.  If you have never read the series, start with Wrath’s book Dark Lover.  Some links to my previous blog posts of the series:

Overview of the Black Dagger Brotherhood

Dark Lover (Book #1)

Lover Eternal (Book #2)

Lover Unleashed (Book #9)

There has been some discussion on the Goodreads forums about how the series has moved from a Paranormal Romance book (PNR) to a more Urban Romance (UR).  Some readers feel that J.R. Ward has been moving from a romance with a HEA to stories that are less focused on the romance.  There are some valid concerns here, certainly in Lover At Last, the main love story is only 1/2 of the book and a large spotlight was on Assail and Marisol and Trez and his fate.  There is also the primary story arch of the Band of Bastards.  There is a lot of threads going on here and there is no way to just say this book is a “romance book”.  This series has evolved.  The positive thing about this is that the writing style has matured and Ward has developed a highly complex method of interweaving a large number of storylines.  The downside is that I miss the focus we had in those early books with the romances.

Basic Plot:

This is book 11 in the series where Qhuinn and Blay finally accept their love for each other.  In the mean time, Layla struggles with her role as pregnant fallen Chosen, Xcor and his Band of Bastards plot with the glymera against Wrath, Assail finds sexy chic and increases his drug cartel while being badass, and Trez has lots of sex with random women while avoiding an unrelenting queen.

Qhuinn:

We began seeing Qhuinn and Blay when John was a pre-trans for fighter training in book three, Lover Awakened.  Their romance and friendship has evolved throughout the last 9 books.  Certainly as a character, Qhuinn has matured; we saw him in the earlier years denying his feelings for Blay by engaging in sex with everyone but him.

The biggest conflict in Qhuinn’s life is his alienation from his family, due to his physical deformity.  His mis-matched eyes make him a pariah to both the glymera and his family, his friendship with Blay is in ruins where he feels that he is not good enough for Blay.   In the past two books we have seen Qhuinn begin to accept who he is, striping the external armor he wore to divert his insecurities.  After all, if he rejects others before they can reject him the pain will be lessened.  Right?

But, with Layla he finds acceptance.  After all, both of them are orphans, both of them have been screwed over by life.  They decided in the last book to create a life and make a family of their own.  I love how Layla describes Qhuinn:

He was a great, fearsome protector, and that was precisely what a female needed when she was pregnant, nursing, or caring for a young.

That and his innate kindness made him noble to her.

No matter the color of his eyes.

That is what Qhuinn is, a man who is incredibly noble and worthy of being a Brother.

Blaylock:

Blay is a good guy.  Everyone likes him, everyone depends on him.  He has a safe and sexy relationship with Saxon, even if he does not love him.  But despite his acceptance by the fighters of the Brotherhood and his family, Blay still misses something that he has always wanted:  Qhuinn.

Blay was good with being relied on.  There was a kind of safety in it–a certainly, a control.  It was not the same as falling into the abyss.

However, Blay’s actions in Lover At Last is incredibly immature.  There are many points within this novel where the boys could have made up if Blay would have just stood still and let Qhuinn speak.  I know it was to help us prolong the romantic tension, but it just annoyed him.

Theme Summary:

For me, I found the theme is about family.  This is not a new theme, we see this in every book, as our Black Dagger Brotherhood has made a family, by sweat, tears, and their own spilt blood by defending each other and their race.  Qhuinn’s family always denied him their love and support.  Now Qhuinn has surrounded himself with a new family, but what he is missing is a partner, Blay to complete it.

Strong Points:

I like where Ward is taking Layla and at first I could not stand her.  One problem with the female characters in this series has been a shallow viewing of them.  Some of the more developed characters have been Xhex and Payne, and those are the fighting females.  The BDB series focuses on the males, when it comes to character development and the females, the stories usually focus on their status (like Marissa), their sex-life (like Bella), or their health (Mary).  Their roles are usually on how their place in the male’s life changes the male.  Really, I have only noticed difference in that with X and Payne, which I think has more to do with the fact that they are more independent and warriors in their own right.  Now we have Layla, who while is not a fighter, she is fighting to fit into this new world.  A fantastic quote:

In the Old Language, she hissed, “If any harm shall befall him, I will come after you, and find you where you sleep.  I do not care where you lay your head or who with, my vengeance shall rain upon you until you drown.

I have a love-hate with both Layla and the females of the series, but I am actually now looking forward to see how Layla matures.

The scene with the induction was just beautiful and kept in line with the rest of the series.

The Brotherhood action scenes are incredibly kick-ass.  And I think that the scene with Z and flying a plane.  It is perhaps, the single most exciting scene in the BDB series.  How Qhuinn handle it, the emotions that he gave us was breathtaking and probably my favorite part of the novel with the exception of the ending.

But most of all, I am so pleased that Ward had the courage to write a male/male romance focused BDB novel.  We saw hints of it with V and Butch earlier on in the series, but for whatever reason, we never saw it come to fruition.  But this is a fully blossomed romance between two male warriors.  We have been waiting for Qhuinn and Blay’s romance for years.

What could be better?

Sure, we got the sex between the boys, but I was left a little disappointed with their romance part of it.  There were so many parts of this story that could have been solved easier if they had just spoken to each other honestly.  I was a little disappointed at how the meat of their romance was not until the end of the book, although that is really  not that different from any other book in the series.

I want to clear up one of the complaints that others have regarding the male sex scenes.  Some people said that they were disappointed in the prep-work of the male body for sex and the lack of lube.  But, keep in mind that these males are vampires who have different physiology, including longer endurance and no recover-time.  So don’t worry about the lube, they didn’t need it and that’s just fine.

I was also disappointed with the lack of Brother activity.  This series is a Black Dagger Brotherhood series, not the Shadows series and not the Band of Bastard’s series.  I will be honest in saying that I skimmed a great deal of those side stories, they felt over emphasized and pointless.  But I felt the same way whenever I read about the Lessers in previous novels.  I did feel that we got too much face-time in compared with the Brothers.

Conclusions:

Overall, I am glad that I read the book and I really am thrilled that we finally got the Qhuinn and Blay story completed.  I was satisfied with their romance, the sex was masculine and hot.  The romance at the end of the story was heartfelt and romantic.

I was a bit disappointed in having to go through all of the other stories, but I know that Ward was just setting up the next books and it is expected.  My biggest issue is that I really dislike all of the people (Assail, Trez, Xcor, and the Bastards).  What stories I am looking forward to seeing is: Manny and Payne updates, Wrath and Beth baby updates, Rhage and Mary updates, and that ex-brother Mhurder.

In Ward’s Facebook posting on March 30th, we got the hint that the next book will focus on Wrath and Beth with creating a baby.  This is a relief to me, because I was afraid that we would be forced to read a romance with this non-brothers that had stories in this book.  The series is the Black Dagger Brotherhood, and the moment that we have to have a main storyline and HEA that does not focus on the BDB is the day that this reader will have to find another series.

But I am truly glad that I read Lover At Last, Qhuinn and Blay deserved their story.

Bea

Review: Acheron — by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Other Reviews: Goodreads

Intro:

Sherrilyn Kenyon’s world of “hunters” (Dark, Were, and Dream) is one full of magic, death, pain, hope, and love.  For an overlook of the series, check out my landing page of the Dark Hunters series.  Finding profound quotes from this book is extremely easy, characters like Tory, Ash, and Savitar speak philosophy as if Plato.  That being said, I tried to limit the quotes in this review.

Basic Plot:

Acheron “Ash” “Apostolos” as the leader of the Dark-hunters has sacrificed much blood and pain for his Dark-hunters.  Now he has found a Greek scholar, Soteria who is seeking the lost city of Atlantis.  But her discovery will be Ash’s downfall.  Will he help her to seek her destiny, by revealing his darkest secret?

Background:

This is book #15 of the series (not counting anthologies), and Acheron has been in most/all of them, as the hot but aloof leader of the Dark-hunters.  I have been looking forward to this book the entire series.  Ash was always the suffering leader, you knew he deserved more than the pain that he received from the twisted relationship with Artemis.

The novel Acheron is broken into two parts: Part I (9548 BC to 7382 BC) and Part II (Present).  Part I is Ash’s back-story, but beware it is horrific at times and you will have copious tears.  But knowing his past makes us understand how much he needs his salvation in Tory.

Female Lead:

Soteria (Tory) is a female that we can relate: average in appearance, committed to her work, and dedicated to her family.  She pursues the discovery of long-lost civilizations.  But most of all, she recognizes in Ash a man first, a leader second, and then the god.  She sees his value when others only see him as rubbish.  Tory speaking to Artemis:

“I love him.”

How can you say that?  You don’t even understand what love means.  Love isn’t being ashamed to be seen with the one you care about.  It isn’t about punishment or hurt.  Love is what gives you the strength you need to face anything no matter how brutal or frightening.  It’s what allowed Ash to be beaten rather than tell his father about you.  It’s what allowed him to be gutted on the floor at your feet rather than publicly shame you.  And you spat on him for that love and tore him apart.  For a goddess, you’re pathetic.”

What Ash needs is a strong female, who can stand by him and support him when he needs comfort and affection.  Ash has never had love and no one has ever really sacrificed for him.

Male Lead:

I believe that Ash is my favorite Alpha male: the strong, intelligent, and tortured fighter who keeps on in life when a weaker man would have given up.  He is deeper than his punker looks:

“It’s easy to look at people and make quick judgments about them, their present and their past, but you’d be amazed at the pain and tears a single smile hides.  What a person shows to the world is only one tiny facet of the iceberg hidden from sight.  And more often than not, it’s lined with cracks and scars that go all the way to the foundation of their soul.”

I love the personality of the biker philosopher; in Ash we see that appearances are not always true.  It is worth getting to know someone before you make assumptions.

Theme Summary:

One of my favorites is a quote by Ash’s Dark-hunters that seems to be his mantra: “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”  Often in this series our protagonists are asked to make difficult decisions that at first seem to take them away from their desires, but in reality it brings them closer.  For both Tory and Ash they need to discover what is really important, their past or their love?

Strong Points:

The world is amazing; we get to see past characters like Talon and others like Takeshi, Simi, and Savitar.  The strength of the storyline and the love story is #1.  The Part I portion of the book, while difficult to get through is important to the reader in understanding where Ash is in his life.  Kenyon does an excellent job of getting us to care about both of the protagonists.

The other strength is the dialogue, humor, and philosophy.  Ms. Kenyon has the ability to break down core philosophical statements and illustrate them throughout the story.   Example:

“How could one sentence uttered in anger cause so much damage?  But then words were the powerful thing in the universe.  Cuts and bruises always healed, but words spoken in anger were most often permanent.  They didn’t damage the body, they destroyed the spirit.”

Ms. Kenyon knows the power of the written word.

What could be better?

The problem with having such as a long series, in which Ash has participated, is that our expectations are so high they will never be met.  We have had years to create this perfect (imperfect) man, so once his book occurs, it almost feels anticlimactic.

Conclusions:

Overall, this is an excellent book and is my favorite in the series.  The problem being, after Acheron, I just lost interest in the series.  The series is often hit or miss for books, some characters are repetitive, but in this book Ash and Tory are 100% unique to me.

Bea

Review: Lover Unleashed — by J.R. Ward

Other Reviews: Goodreads

Intro:

This week I want to look at my favorite book series, Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward.  In March 2012, her 11th book of the series Lover Reborn was released, which I have only read once due to its intensity.   That particular book is rather dark, in fact, the darkest of the series.  However, today’s blog post is about Lover Unleashed (#10), probably one of my favorites, but to many it is considered the weakest.  This week’s post purpose will be to reflect on the book and see why I love it so much and yet BDB series lovers seem to hate it so.

Basic Plot:

Payne is the twin sister of Vishous and becomes paralyzed after a fighting exercises accident with Wrath.  Jane runs to get Dr. “Manny” Manuel Manello who is a specialist in the field.  Time is running out for Payne, will she be paralyzed for life and can Manny save her?  What happens when their attraction becomes too difficult to deny?  Can a human and a vampire live happily ever after?

Background:

For details on the Series, check out this landing page, BDB.  It is an automatic buy for me, meaning downloading at 12:00am on opening day.  J.R. Ward has the ability to meld in love stories, vampire lore, complex storylines, action, suspense, and gritty dialogue as no other author I have read.

I am not sure why this series seems superior than any of her other writing, I have tried very hard to get into the Fallen Angels series and just can not make it through a single book.

Female Lead:

Payne, Vishous’ twin sister is one kick-ass female vampire.  Payne reminds me of a ballerina.  On the surface, she is beautiful, her manners because of her imprisonment on the Other Side very graceful and courteous.  Unlike Xhex, Payne appears to be able to survive her life traumas and she still seems feminine and that does not diminish her strength.  With Xhex, you almost get the feeling she is ashamed of expressing love, as if it weakens her, whereas Payne balances being a woman and a warrior.  Yet, there is a core of strength that she unleashes during her fights with Wrath.  At Manny’s first meeting:

Manny stopped by her side and glanced at her body, which was covered with a sheet.  She was tall.  Had to be at least six feet.  And she was built with sleek power.

This was a solider, he thought, measuring the strength in her bare upper arms.  This was a fighter.

And, God, the loss of mobility in someone like her took his breath away.  Even if you were a couch potato, life in a wheelchair was a bitch and a half, but to somebody like this, it would be a death sentence.

We can see how this injury is almost unthinkable to a warrior like Payne.  This is a female who is not only physically strong, but is fragile over the possibility of this disability.  But once she begins to fight her illness, she is not someone who whines or simpers around half of the book.  There is vulnerability in her speech and action that leaves you wanting to know more about her.  There have been females in past novels that are just such whinny bitches that I want to say “suck it up Nancy!”

Male Lead:

Ok, I have to say, Manny is possibly one of my favorite males in the series.  I love his arrogance, which in the face of all of these aggressive vampires impresses me even more.  Here is the danger when you have a strong female vampire and a human who is not a warrior:  the human male just ends up looking like a weakling.  Take D.B. Reynolds’ book Sophia, and I think I like that one a little less because the main character is a human and he is just overshadowed.

Yet, Manny’s presence and his surgical skill seems to give him gravitas in a book that should have had him curled up in a corner in a fetal position.  There is a scene when he encourages Payne not to give up, that demonstrates that Manny is not just a pretty face, but has a gentle, caring heart underneath all of that wonderful arrogance:

“…and I want you to remember this.  Your legs are part of you, but not all of you or what you are.  So wherever we go after tonight, I need you to know that you are no less for the injury.  Even if you are in a chair, you still stand as tall as you ever did.  Height is just a vertical number—it doesn’t mean shit when it comes to your character or the kind of life you live.”

I also loved how Butch describes him as looking like the wrestler John Cena and I laughed my ass off.

Theme Summary:

The Manny quote above to me is the theme of the book.  Your problems, illnesses, and disabilities do not define you.  This can be seen both in the Manny/Payne storyline as well as the Vishous/Butch storyline.  We see in both how they overcome the fractures in the psyche by accepting the problem and working a solution around it.  They are not limited by these issues but in fact are made stronger in their relationships.

Strong Points:

So, one of the complaints about Lover Unleashed (#10) from readers is that it is so much more of a love story in the Payne/Manny and less about action and angst.  The book before of Lover Mine (#9) is John Mathew/Xhex story arc and it is full of pain, abuse, and tears.  The book after this one, Lover Reborn (#11), is even darker and grief filled.

I think that because J.R. Ward knew what her plan was with #11, she made this one a little lighter.

Lover Unleashed (#10) is probably one of the most erotic books in the series to me, and yet, we really do not see much “sex” between Manny and Payne until the end of the book.  However, scenes like the one below had me Jonesing:

 A growl came out of him and he moved so fast that the only thing that could have stopped him was her saying no.  And that word was evidently not in her vocabulary.

In a flash, he was between her thighs, his hands spreading her wider, her sex laid open and weeping in the face of his male urge to dominate and mate.

He gave in.  Fuck him, but he let himself go and kissed her core.  And there was nothing gradual or gentle about it; he dived in with his mouth, sucking at her and tonguing her as she cried out and scratched at his forearms.

I might need a moment here (fans herself).  Scenes like these are what make this book so hot and yet at the same time moving our plot forward (I will not go into this, as it might be a spoiler).  There is sweetness to their romance that is no less sexy than any other BDB installment.

I like the balance in this book, the sweeter romance of the main storyline of Manny/Payne, and the BDSM/pain aspect of the Jane/Payne/Butch secondary storyline, unlike the books before and after this one.

What could be better?

This is a problem that I have had with the series, not just this book.  J.R. Ward has a tendency to write “around” controversial romance issues like homosexuality.  For example, Qhuinn and Blaylock are meant to be (their book is slated next) and currently Blaylock and Saxton are together.  But whenever it is time for any homoerotic sexy fun time, we get them kissing and “then the door shuts”.  I understand that it is most likely because of the author’s fear of pushback by publishers/fans on gay romances in a straight paranormal romance, but it just leaves me frustrated.  Show it all, or do not include gay romance, do not slight the story arc because of fear.  I hope that we will get a full storyline with Qhuinn and Blay’s book next year.

And, the overarching storyline is not strong in this book, but this is more of a transition between the end of the previous main series story arc and introducing the Bastards for the next series story arc.

Conclusions:

I love this book.  The interactions between Manny and Payne are both emotionally intense and erotic.  We get the dark, gritty chapters with the Vishous/Jane/Butch sections.  Overall, it is a very balanced book and one of my favorites of the series.

 

Bea

Review: Dark Needs at Night’s Edge by Kresley Cole

 

 

Intro:

I found this series a few years ago and I was able to read the first 5 books in five consecutive days.  I was hooked after the first section of the first book.  This book is the 5th book and it is recommended to read the books in order. I think you would be fine, but it is a fuller read.  This book of the series I found particularly intense.

 

Basic Plot:

Conrad Wroth is a Fallen, vampire, one whose red eyes are an outward representation to his downward slide into evil and insanity.  He is currently being chased by a dream demon (Tarut) that taunts Conrad with “You have to have a dream to lose it”.  Now Conrad must finish his goal of revenge against his brothers.  Captured by his brothers (Nikolai, Murdoch, Sebastian), they try to redeem and “detoxify” him.  They confined him into a remote house to do this and it just happens to be haunted, by Noemi.  Noemi Laress is trapped in her house, 80 years after her murder. Now there is a violent interloper who both compels and repels her.

 

Background:

Details can be found about the world on the landing page.

 

Female Lead:

Neomi Laress is a ghost, having spent 80 years trapped within her house reliving her death monthly.  We get an understanding of how lonely she has been the only encounters with humans comes by these who live there.  But by her making that contact drives them away in fear.  What I like about her character is her acceptance of her needs as a woman and her understanding if the good male without the damaged outer shell of Conrad.  Her love and devotion was so honest, yet not too lovey-dovey that makes you sick.  She is courageous and logical as well, which I always find admirable:

 

“People think happiness will simply fall into their laps.  You have to aspire to it.  And sometimes you have to seize it when it’s kicking and screaming.”

 

This is a rather a good theme for this book.  You are not stuck in how you start in life.  It is never too late.

 

Male Lead:

Conrad Wroth was turned against his will into a vampire.  His bitterness against his brothers has tainted his view on all things.  Now he is captured as his brothers try to rehabilitate him.  A vampire must have blood to survive.  Not all vampires are evil; it is how a vampire feeds that determines it.  If he drinks straight from the vein (live blood) it allows the vampire to take their memories and through that their power.  As we can imagine, this can drive anyone crazy, century and century of drinking.

 

Forebearers on the other hand, drink from the bag rather than the vein.  One can tell the difference because their eyes are not red as well as other psychological symptoms like overly aggressive behaviors.  The Wroth brothers have learned that the only other drive that can compete against their thirst is the need to protect their Bride.

 

A Bride is a vampire’s mate.  They will know that by being “blooded” aka their heart is started again and it now beats for her.  In fact, drinking from your mate might help alleviate his madness.  But first he has to get sane enough to understand the problem.  A quote from beginning in the bar to illustrate his mindset when we first meet him:

 

Stay sane…need to dull the rage.  Until the endtime.

Inside.  “Whiskey.”  His voice is low, rough from disuse.

The bartender’s face falls.  Like last night.  Others grow skittish.  Can they sense that I ache to kill?  The whispers around him are like metal on slate to his ragged nerves.

 

The beginning of the book does an excellent job of setting the scene of his impending insanity (or even him in the midst).  After his kidnapping and housing in Neomi’s haunted house, Conrad begins to suspect that she is his Bride.  But how does he mate with a ghost?  He cannot touch her, certainly not feed from her.

 

Theme Summary:

To me, there are two: redemption and rebirth.  Both Neomi and Conrad are in search of a rebirth into one loves, so that they can be whole enough to be with each other.  For Conrad, he must overcome his bloodlust to become sane enough to be good enough for Neomi.  He must also come to terms with his brothers and what they did years ago.  Neomi on the other hand, must become corporal before she can be “whole” for Conrad.  She is tortured with reliving her death every month and this is draining to her. She cannot live like this forever.

 

Strong Points:

I would say that for me, the personality, and relationship development is unique in this book.  I love the character of Conrad, perhaps my second favorite behind Lothaire.  I love the complex male character.  Noemi is sassy and gentle, however, I would not consider her “typical”.

 

What could be better?

One of the “tricks” of this series is how things look hopeless and it usually has a “Romeo and Juliet” trope, where one will try to sacrifice.  It is both strength and a weakness.  The strength is how Ms. Cole imbues the story with emotions.  The weakness is in the same type of conflict in each book.  Boy meets girl, girl begins to trust boy, bad circumstances happen and girl/boy must sacrifice for the other.  If you read all of these books you get to expect something horrible will happen.

 

Conclusions:

What I like about this book is that it is mostly a relationship / character development novel.  Ms. Cole is amazing at how she portrays the emotions of both without touching.  I specifically loved the sweetness of their first physical sex scene.  It was one of the most emotionally charged scenes that I have ever read and it was nice to see an Alpha male that did not just do the “I am stud, hear my roar” when they first have sex.

Overall, a good book, not my favorite, but a solid read.

 

Bea

Review: Darkness Everlasting by Alexandra Ivy

Intro:

I mentioned on the landing page how there are various types of vampire lore, ranging from undead, demons, or just different species.  I also mentioned that this series does not just cover vampires, but other paranormal creatures as well.  I began this series from the beginning, but I believe it is possible to skip around.   There is enough reference in later books when another character enters the scene.

Basic Plot:

Styx the vampire Anasso (think King) kidnaps Darcy because he is suspicious of why the werewolf leader (Salvatore Giuliani) wants her.  Darcy awakens within Styx romantic and possessive feelings that he never knew he could feel.  Darcy finds this stoic male compelling and intriguing.  Danger comes close to Darcy from several levels and Styx must fight to protect her.

Background:

This world is enormous, and vampires are not the only powerful paranormal creatures.  Historically, vampires have been savage creatures, rarely working together but fighting for supremacy, but with Styx’s lead he hopes to advance the species.  Styx describes their history:

Of course, she had no notion of the endless years of barbaric hostilities they had endured.  Or the brutal slaughter of hapless demons caught in the fray.

But how is a human made a vampire?  Not every human bitten becomes ones; in fact it is a rare thing.  Humans can be converted and then become demons themselves:

“Most die, of course, but on rare occasions a human will share enough of the vampire’s essence to rise again.  There is no way to know which human will survive and which will perish.”

This series shares the concept that vampires are more animalistic than humans.  Demons, they are no longer humans, no longer recalling their lives as humans.  This makes their personalities completely different, their values and morals nothing like what humans would consider essential.

Female Lead:

So, understanding how the mindset that the vampire world has, we see Darcy enter, a human who has no experience with anything paranormal.  She has no idea that werewolves or vampires exists, so in many ways she represents the reader.  As we learn about this world so does she.

I loved Darcy!  She is emotional, practical, and funny.  I adore her sassy mouth and she would say things that I could utterly relate.  Early on we see her spunkiness:

“Look, I’ve tried not to become one of those hysterical women who flap their hands and faint on cue, but if you don’t start telling me who you are and why I’m here, I’m going to scream until I get some answers.”

Her irreverence and gentleness of spirit is what draws Styx to her, and watching him fight that attraction is what makes this book so wonderful to me.

Male Lead:

I must admit, that Styx is one of my favorite male vampires, no matter which series.  There is something about him, his loneliness, his anti-social behavior, his gentleness with Darcy, and his violent skills just compels me.  To me, he is the epitome of the demon vampire, fighting the normal vampire tendencies to be the man who Darcy wants.  Darcy describes him:

The beautiful bronzed features took on that aloof expression.  It was an expression she was beginning to suspect he used as an unconscious defensive mechanism.

His devotion to Darcy puts him on top of my list of favorite male vampires is illustrated toward the end of the novel.  I do not want to give it away, but you will know it when you read it.

Theme Summary:

The main theme within this book revolves around family.  Darcy has always been alone, never knowing whom her family is.  She discovers her true family and has to make a decision on if they are worth knowing.  Styx on the other hands has no family as he has been reborn as a demon.  He creates his family by his surrounding vampires and his Ravens.  However, truly, they both discover that together, they can make their own family.

Strong Points:

This vampire world is different from many, and I love the concept of the clan markings and the mark of a “true mating”.  I love the mystical aspect of the markings, giving Ivy’s world a uniqueness that we do not see in others.  I also loved the vampire culture, how principles are different and we see how it contrasts with humanity with the introduction of Darcy.  The intricacies of this world draw the reader in and each book adds texture to the tapestry.

What could be better?

There is very little that could be better in this book.  There was enough mystery that I turned the pages in eagerness until the end and the relationship development is compelling as they discover each other.

However, when I consider this series as a whole there are highs and lows. I have enjoyed every book, but there are only two books that I have read repeatedly (this one and Jagr’s).  I am not sure why the other books were not as compelling, whether it is the lead characters’ personalities or the lore.

Conclusions:

If you like paranormal romances, then this series is a must read.  If you find that other books (this is Book 3) in this series are not compelling, try this book.  I enjoyed the character development of both and the romance was hot and spicy.  Well worth the read!

Bea

Guardians of Eternity by Alexandra Ivy

I have reviewed several vampire series, so I will not go through what makes a good series to me.  Look at the Black Dagger Brotherhood Series, Breed Series, and the Vampires in America Series for my opinions.  Alexandra Ivy’s Guardians of Eternity series has both similarities and differences from each of these series.

Is this series a vampire series?

That’s a good question.  This world is an example of one that is “paranormal”, meaning there are many species represented in this world.  We have werewolves, vampires, gargoyles, goddesses, fey, water sprites, etc.  So yes, there are vampires (and my favorite books in this series focus on vampires) but you are not limited to one species.


World Lore

The lore within this series is multifaceted; the primary two are vampires and werewolves series.  There are many more, but I will focus on these two.

Different series handle vampires differently, for example, they can be either “undead” or an entirely separate species.  The vampires in this series are the typical “undead” types.  They are created by being bitten and then die to be reborn as vampires.  The lore is interesting because after they are turned, they have no memory of their past lives.  From Darkness Everlasting:

Of course, as a vampire Styx had no tangible memories of his life before rising as a demon.

The leader is called the Anasso (think King) and he is a leader by might, not by bloodline.

The werewolves on the other hand can be both “created” (called Curs) as well as be purebred.  The Curs are more animalistic and more controlled by their fury nature.  The purebreds rule the weres, but then are a small fraction of the population.  The purebreds seek for ways to allow purebred females to successfully give birth as they are dying out.

 

Conclusion:

I will be honest: while it is interesting how varied the species and lore is, it can be overwhelming.  You might like one book but you may not like the other.  For example, I really like the vampire books better than the rest of them.  Nothing against the writing quality or storyline, I suppose I like vampire stories better.

No matter what, you will enjoy this series.

 

The Books:  These should be read in order

  • [Book 1]  When Darkness Comes (2007) Main Characters: Dane [Vampire] and Abby Barlow [The Chalice]
  • [Book 2] Embrace the Darkness (2007) Main Characters: Viper [Vampire] and Shay [Shalott]
  • [Book 3] Darkness Everlasting (2008) Main Characters: Styx [Vampire] and Darcy Smith [Werewolf]
  • [Book 4] Darkness Revealed (2009) Main Characters: Conde Cezar [Vampire] and Anna Randal
  • [Book 5] Darkness Unleashed (2009) Main Characters: Jagr [Vampire] and Regan [Werewolf]
  • [Book 6] Beyond the Darkness (2010) Main Characters: Salvatore Giuliani [Werewolf] and Harley [Werewolf]
  • [Book 7] Devoured by Darkness (2010) Main Characters: Tane [Charon *Vampire] and Laylah [Jinn]
  • [Book 8] Bound by Darkness (2011) Main Characters: Ariyal and Jaelyn [Vampire]

Bea