Living Within the Pages – Book Review #15

31 01 2011

Title: Tempestuous

Author: Lesley Livingston

Series: Wondrous Strange trilogy (#3)

Amazon Rating: 4.5

Goodreads Rating: 4.10

Alex’s Rating: 3.75

Kelley Winslow did it. She, a Faerie princess, managed a lie…and the cruelest one at that. In her hopes of driving Sonny away while she searched for those who sought to do him and his hidden magick harm, Kelley made him believe she did not love him. In his upset daze, Sonny manages to be welcomed into a Lost Fae sanctuary where he finds the magic of the Fae world underground and unlikely allies in a battle that comes from the most unlikely of enemies.

The once trused Janus Guards Sonny so loyally fought with have gone rogue. The few that could be coerced and invited into the power hungry group. Mix these jaded fighters with corrupt monarchs and another being holding quite the grudge, and you get the stormy fight scenes and intense action that sets Tempestuous apart from its milder predecessors.

Kelley must not only fight for herself, Sonny, and their relationship. She must take on and harness all of her mother’s power and save her parents, the Lost Fae, and the mortal world from a Faerie infestation unlike all others. Paired with the gallantry of the Lost, the few Janus who hadn’t gone rogue, and her parents (yes, her biological mother and father), Kelley and Co. flit, fly, ride, stab, transform, and outrun their enemies in this final installment.

The action ante was upped and the stakes were much higher this time around, however I felt the ending was a bit too cookie cutter and everything fell into a place where I wasn’t quite looking (that could be a good and a bad thing).

The re-awakening of an ancient magic originally done out of misguided love, the power of the High Fae, and the corruptibility of one man with vengeance on his mind made this an interesting read, but not my favorite. The discovery of a betrayal at the end and the subsequent heroism of the character later seemed a bit unrealistic, but seemed like it had to be there for the ending to fall into place the way it did.

The first book, Wondrous Strange, still holds the most magick for me. While this is a wonderful series and the ending was as happily ever after as it could get with the losses endured along the way, I still didn’t connect with the sequence the way I did with the first book.

It is still a world woven with love, fantasy, and intrigue, and well worth the read. I love how Livingston weaves Shakespearean themes and lines into the spells and enchantments Kelley and the other magickal creatures in her world put to use. The words of Ariel and Prospero from The Tempest flow through this book just as seamlessly as the famous bard’s plays flow through the first two novels.

And by the end, we see Kelley grow into the princess she was born to be and her love flourish with Sonny the changeling that captured our hearts from the beginning. That in itself was magickal.


Living Within the Pages – Book Review #14

27 01 2011

Title: Darklight

Author: Lesley Livingston

Series: Wondrous Strange trilogy (#2)

Amazon Rating: 4

Goodreads Rating: 3.92

Alex’s Rating: 3.75

Darklight, the second of Lesley Livingston’s Wondrous Strange trilogy, continues with the story of Kelley Winslow, Sonny Flannery, and the menagerie of Fae in Livingston’s world.

Although Kelley managed to end the Wild Hunt, the repercussions are still being felt in the Otherworld. At the end of Wondrous Strange, Auberon commands Sonny to go back with him to the Faerie realm and displace all of the remaining Hunters.

Separated for over six months from Sonny, Kelley–deep in rehearsals for the Avalon Grande’s production of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet–begins to not heed the advice of the Janus Guard and walks through Central Park one night on her way home.

This encounter leaves her with a new fear and appreciation for the Fennrys Wolf, but it does not deter her from walking through the park again, albeit with the Wolf as her escort this time. Although she is flanked by this strong Janus Guard, trouble finds the two deep within the park and another fight for her life lands her in the Otherworld.

Going between the mortal and Faerie realms, Kelley discovers more of her own power and its constraints, a new and terrible power, and is forced to make several difficult choices. Aided by old friends and new, Kelley and company fight off a band of leprechauns and their twisted sisters in a battle for power, control, and a little lucky charm. But just when things seem like they can’t get any worse, Kelly is forced to make the most difficult decision she has ever made. A decision that will cost her the thing she loves most.

I enjoyed the second installment of Livingston’s trilogy, but it did not capture my attention as well as Wondrous Strange did. Perhaps I will chalk it up to “second book” syndrome and try not to think too hard about it when beginning the third and final book, Tempestuous.

I love the warring and complicated world Livingston has woven for her young readers. Even being in my early twenties, there is a special magic between the pages. One of innocence, change, acceptance, and hard decisions. All pertinent to the process of growing from a youth into an adult. Kelley, Sonny, and other friends make tough decisions that not only affect themselves, but everyone around them, and even those in other worlds. And it is that change that allows the reader to feel connected to the characters even in a world so fantastical we can barely fathom it exists within the book.

Livingston’s world is full of life, imagination, deadly wars, dangerous alliances, and lovely dalliances. It is a place to live, love, laugh, cry, and most importantly, grow. It is a place where Kelley learns the true meaning of coming into her own and we as readers get our fair share along the way.

Living Within the Pages – Book Review #13

27 01 2011

Title: Wondrous Strange

Author: Lesley Livingston

Series: Wondrous Strange trilogy (#1)

Amazon Rating: 4

Goodreads Rating: 3.75

Alex’s Rating: 4

Seventeen-year old Kelley Winslow moved out of the safe haven of her aunt’s home to pursue an acting career in the Big Apple. Paired with a diva/model of a roommate, Tyff, Kelley’s life is a far cry from the average teen.

The young teen heads off daily to her way-off Broadway production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as the understudy, hoping she will one day get to don the sparkly fairy wings in the costume closet of the Avalon Grande, her home away from home.

But a turn in Central Park one night leaves Kelley’s green eyes wide-open to a new world. A world where the impossible does exist and Faeries are much more than Shakespeare’s play minions with mischief on their minds and sparkly gossamer wings on their backs.

Kelley meets Sonny Flannery, a member of the Janus Guard. The Janus Guard was created by the Winter King, the true Auberon (and not the creature Gentleman Jack portrays on stage) to control the rifts in the Samhain Gate–a magical passageway where Lost Fae have slipped through into the mortal world and creatures of the Shadowy Queen Mabh try to come through and wreak havoc.

Enter the real Puck/Robin Goodfellow, the Queen of Air and Darkness, Herne the Hunter, the other Janus Guards, and a plethora of fantastical creatures that will take your imagination on a wild ride trying to put some portrait together of this magical world based in the heart of New York City. Throw in the dangers of the Black Shucks, the Wild Hunt, and a betrayal that will harm the very fabric of Kelley and Sonny’s world.

I fell in love with Kelley and Sonny and the twists and turns neither one of them, nor the reader, were expecting. The third-person narration works wonderfully to get in the minds and eyes of all of the characters and truly breathes life into the world Livingston created for the pleasure of young adult and adult readers alike.

What a great addition to my paranormal collection and the beginning of a wonderful series.

Living Within the Pages – Book Review #9

29 11 2010

Title: Eternal Kiss of Darkness

Author: Jeaniene Frost

Series: Night Huntress World (#2)

Amazon Rating: 4.5

Goodreads Rating: 4.13

Alex’s Rating: 4

Eternal Kiss of Darkness is the second book in Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress World series, a spin-off of her Night Huntress series featuring Cat and Bones. Eternal Kiss of Darkness is the story of Mencheres, a 4,500 year old master vampire readers were first introduced to in One Foot in the Grave, the second Night Huntress novel. From Cat’s point of view in the NH novels, we get the sense that Mencheres is a cold, chilled, calculating, and unemotional vampire. Cat has an unnamable sense of dislike towards Mencheres, so as a reader, at first, I did not know what to think of him. Could we really trust him as much as Bones seemed to? Why was he so guarded and unyielding? Well, Frost finally let us in to the head and world of Mencheres, and let me tell you, it was a nice change of pace.

The novel begins with Mencheres being surrounded by young ghouls seemingly about to attack him and kill him. What is odd right off the ba, is Mencheres seems to be allowing the torture even though with a small flex of his powers he could easily destroy each ghoul without even touching them. His attempt at suicide is interrupted when a human woman, Kira Graceling, enters the warehouse on her way home from work (back from a stakeout; she is a private investigator). She walks into a gruesome scene, not understanding what she sees, and the ghouls attack her. Before she got to the warehouse she had called the police and they were closing in. Not wanting the human to die as she was there in an attempt to save him, Mencheres kills the ghouls and flees the scene with Kira.

He takes her to one of his smaller homes outside of Chicago and essentially holds her captive for a week. She is immune to his mind control, so she cannot forget about the events and that is a danger he cannot afford, especially now as his millennia old feud between himself and a Law Guardian named Radjedef is coming to a head. For this one week, Mencheres observes Kira and is inexplicably drawn to her. There is obviously a pull on both sides, but neither wants to admit how deep their attraction is at first. Realizing that Kira needs to be back in her world with her sick sister, Mencheres releases her and asks that in return for helping her family she stay silent about the vampire world as she has learned several secrets over the past days of her captivity. She agrees, but there is sadness in their parting, and we know they will meet up once more.

The rest of the novel shows the development of Kira and Mencheres’ feelings for one another when they are apart, and due to some of her own private investigating on the side, Kira comes face to face with Mencheres once more in a battle for her life, but this time, Radjedef is in the mix. I don’t want to give too much more away as the book revolves around Kira and Mencheres’ budding relationship (sorry for the cliché) and Mencheres’ internal battle with losing his visions and guilt over his wife’s murder and of course Radjedef, the crooked Law Guardian out to steal Mencheres’ power and then kill him.

Although this was not my favorite of Frost’s books (I can’t help it, I’m biased towards Cat and Bones) it was nice to see a different side of Mencheres. In this novel we see how 4,500 years has made him a little numb and how suicide is tempting to such old and powerful vampires. We see that he is not cold and calculating in a menacing way, but in a way that a leader cares for his people. He avoids killing innocents, saved Kira and her sister, and has a great sense of compassion despite being jaded by all of the death and destruction he has seen over the past thousands of years.

What I enjoyed most was seeing Kira stand up to Mencheres. In the NH novels he is always a force to be reckoned with. His powers are immense and no one questions him, yet here is this 30-something human woman who isn’t afraid of him and is willing to love him despite all of the evil he believes he has had a hand in. I enjoyed Kira’s character even though she definitely had her stupid meddling moments. They both saved each other from their pasts, and that was what one takes away from the novel.

I can honestly say I like Mencheres now. I wasn’t sure before as Cat’s perspective didn’t really allow for that exploration of his character. Perhaps it wasn’t until we saw him care for a person outside of his current vampire world that we could get a true glimpse into the person he truly was beneath all of those years and power.

Like I stated in my earlier review of the first NHW novel, these heroes and heroines (although wonderful) are no Cat and Bones. I will still continue to read the NHW series (Vlad and Leila are up next), but there will never be another Cat and Bones. Frost writes so perfectly for both of those characters that her other attempts with Spade and Mencheres are good, but not great. But then again, I’m biased.

Living Within the Pages – Book Review #8

22 11 2010

Title: First Drop of Crimson

Author: Jeaniene Frost

Series: Night Huntress World (#1)

Amazon Rating: 4.5

Goodreads Rating: 4.11

Alex’s Rating: 4

First Drop of Crimson is Jeaniene Frost’s first book in her Night Huntress World series, a spin-off of her Night Huntress books starring Cat and Bones. The book follows events after the fourth NH book, Destined for an Early Grave. Cat’s best friend Denise, had lost her husband Randy over a year ago in a New Year’s Eve tragedy one can remember or reference in the third NH book, At Grave’s End. Denise’s husband lost his life in a fight against zombies, the most horrible creatures animated by black magic. Ever since his death, she has shunned the undead world, vampires, ghouls, and even her best friend, Cat.

That is until she discovers the undead are the only ones that can help her in a fight against a demon named Raum. Raum has been killing off Denise’s family members, aunts, cousins, in search of one of her ancestors, a man named Nathaniel. Over a century ago, Raum had agreed to give Nathaniel power, in exchange for something. In dealings with a demon, one can guess this bargain hinged on a soul. This soul was promised yet never delivered as Nathaniel tricked the demon and sent him back to the underworld after summoning him and receiving his power. Once Raum got out, he started to hunt everyone in Nathaniel’s line, searching for the man who betrayed him. Being a demon, he will stop at nothing, including blackmailing Denise into delving in the undead ranks in search of this slippery ancestor.

To do this, and protect the rest of her family from Raum’s evil, she must enlist the help of a vampire. She can’t reach Cat or Bones, so she settles on Spade, the vampire who killed a human right in front of her eyes, and who she is terribly fearful of because he reminds her of those fateful nights back a year ago. Spade reluctantly agrees to help Denise so that she doesn’t involve Cat and Bones, who are dealing with problems of their own. Through their hunt for Nathaniel, Denise starts to fall for Spade and Spade, who vowed to never love a human ever again for his own personal tragedies 150 years ago, begins to fall for Denise. Despite the odds and evil surrounding them, they realize their affections are mutual. Add in the help of Cat, Bones, Ian, and Mencheres, and you can guess what the ending entails.

I was nervous to start this series as I had just finished a second read of the four Night Huntress novels that have been released. I love Cat and Bones and wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this spin-off series. Even with all of my hesitancy, I began the book two days ago and finished it in less than three days. It was extremely good. I have always loved Spade’s character and for once we got to see him in a way that wasn’t through Cat’s eyes. We saw him of his own accord and saw how similar he was to Bones, yet still a different man (and I use that term loosely). Although Spade and Denise were similar to Cat and Bones, they still had their own personalities that were determined by their personal tragedies.

From the introduction of Denise’s character in the second NH book, One Foot in the Grave, we already know how similar her personality and speech patterns are to Cat. And that sarcasm and stubbornness that I love so much about Cat definitely translated to Denise. The same goes for Spade. He is so similar to Bones in his stories, that only the tragedies of their love lives seemed to be their differentiation. For some people, I can see how that might be frustrating. It seems Frost may have been writing lesser versions of Cat and Bones, slapping different names on them, and adding in a new tragedy or two. But for me, it worked. Call me a sucker, but I enjoyed the book also for that very reason. Although it was frustrating towards the end when Cat and Bones did appear and they weren’t written with their usual gusto; I take that as the author’s attempt to distance those characters from Spade and Denise, the two main protagonists in this particular book, but again, I see how that may not be sufficient for all readers.

Overall, I enjoyed this book very much. I will probably re-read it after I read Eternal Kiss of Darkness, featuring Mencheres and Kira. It was a great way to get a Frost fix in my anticipation for the release of the fifth NH novel in February, This Side of the Grave. I would recommend this to all Frost and NH fans, even though there are frustrations with character similarity. There are enough differences with the plot as the demon angle adds an entirely new dimension to Frost’s paranormal world. I enjoyed it thoroughly, though I can see where others may not. If you are a die-hard NH fan like I am and can look past the similarities that seem to make Spade and Denise a watered down and not as kick-ass combo as Cat and Bones, then you will not be “disappointed.” This may seem like a contradictory review, and that is exactly what it is. I liked the book, enjoyed every second of reading it, but there will never be another Cat and Bones.

Living Within the Pages – Book Review #6

9 11 2010

Title: Destined for an Early Grave

Author: Jeaniene Frost

Series: Night Huntress (#4)

Amazon Rating: 4.5

Goodreads Rating: 4.41

Alex’s Rating: 4.25

I have finished the last of the Night Huntress series, and there is no other way to put this, but I am devastated! I know some series get over-anxious readers and creepy fans, but I just can’t help but understand how they feel when it comes to this series. I know many people scoff at PNR (paranormal romance), but it is because they are either too embarrassed to read it, or they don’t appreciate the world and character building that some of these authors go through, and honestly succeed in creating.

Perhaps it is because I am a vampire fan or because I enjoy a love story, but this series delivers on both ends. It is fast-paced, kick-ass, sexy, thrilling, sad, heart-wrenching, and just plain fun. Yes, I said it, FUN.

Back to my review; this book had me on my toes, let me tell you. It also had me peeking ahead to make sure things turned out how I wanted them to because the tension build was excruciating. Cat and Bones are one of my favorite couples of all time. They are a power couple to the extreme and I love their chemistry and dynamic. I love everything about how Frost writes them together, their witty banter, and sexual tension. What I don’t like is when they fight, and wow, did this book have them at each other’s throats (pun intended). There was a large chunk of the book that has them fighting and essentially broken up, and like I said earlier, I had to look ahead to make sure things turned out because I was so upset by this. I realize why Frost did it, how it plays into the story, but I couldn’t help but be upset.

After things are resolved, a change happens that I’m sure not many of us thought to happen (if you know anything of Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse), yet I am glad it did. It will add an entirely new dimension and plot capabilities to the continued novels in the NH series.

On a more encompassing note, this book is again about how Cat is being targeted. But unlike the other three books, her pursuer doesn’t want her dead, well at least not undead. His name is Gregor—he is a tall, attractive, and brooding vampire from Cat’s past that she doesn’t remember. He visits her in her dreams, enticing her to come to him and leave Bones behind. This may not seem very threatening, but after reading, this dream entrapment has led to some of Cat’s most dangerous escape adventures and all-out brawls as Bones fights Cat’s former…(I’ll let you fill in the blank after you read for fear of revealing too much).

If you have read the first three books then you will know that this (of course!) is not the only plotline. There is another war brewing, disturbances within the ghoul community and how Cat plays or presumably plays into that as well. How will Cat and Bones get out of some of their messiest debacles? Read and find out! I sure enjoyed every word and every page!

Overall, this book was wonderful and I enjoyed every minute of it. I absolutely love this series and that is saying something. You will NOT be disappointed. And if you are, I would love to have a conversation about it!

Living Within the Pages – Book Review #5

9 11 2010

Title: At Grave’s End

Author: Jeaniene Frost

Series: Night Huntress (#3)

Amazon Rating: 4.5

Goodreads Rating: 4.35

Alex’s Rating: 4.5

In this third installment of the Night Huntress series, Cat and Bones are back together and back in action. Even though Bones has joined Cat’s team in fighting the rogue undead, he can’t help that she is being recognized before their jobs even have the chance at succeeding. Because of the ceremonies and instances in the last book, Cat is known to the undead world and it is no secret Bones’s lover has a target on her back.

This of course isn’t the only problem. Just when Cat and Bones try to discover who has called the hit on her pretty red head, they are both dragged into a war in which the target is now Bones. The entire book revolves around a plot involving a two thousand year old scorned lover named Patra, and she is out for more than blood. She wants Bones dead in order to stop her fate from coming to pass.

Like the two previous novels, this book packed quite a punch. So many twists, turns, fights, betrayals, “turncoats,” and action…this book will not disappoint the lovers of the genre. There are so many new character and plot introductions that turning each page is a true joy and pleasure. I was sad to end this book and it is with that sadness that I pay the highest compliment to the author.

Cat and Bones continue to be the best bad-ass couple out there, never failing to capture my attentions with their sarcasm, irony, and nasty little quips. They are two of my favorite characters, the one only being so great because of the other. And that my fellow readers, is how you character build.

I don’t want to continue on much longer because it is much more fun to turn each page and discover all of the new treats Jeaniene Frost laid out for yourselves. If you are a vampire fiction, paranormal, romance, or urban fantasy fan, then this book will entice, excite, and leave you wanting more than just a nibble. I recommend this for all fans of the Black Dagger Brotherhood and Midnight Breed series. Even those just entering the world of PNR (paranormal romance) should definitely add this series to their collection.