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JessHaines

Jess Haines

I'm an author, a dreamer, a paperback reader...

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Hunter's Moon (Tales of the Sazi, Book 1)
'C. T. Adams', 'Cathy Clamp'
Storm's Heart - Thea Harrison Unfortunately, I am very sorry to say that the sequel to the lovely DRAGON BOUND did not resonate with me. The chemistry between Niniane and Tiago didn’t feel as genuine as it did between Pia and Dragos. It frankly pains me to say anything negative about this book, both because Thea is a lovely person, and because I had such high hopes for this story.

My biggest peev with this is that Niniane became Niniane and was no longer Tricks. If you know Tricks from DRAGON BOUND, you know that she has a great sense of humor, is mischievous, playful, and cunning. You saw glimpses of that humor in the first few chapters, but once things delved into High Falutin Srs Biznez, that humor was almost nonexistent. What was there came across as childish rather than mischievous. She was understandably not in a cheerful frame of mind, but it soured my enjoyment of what I thought would be a more lighthearted book. It almost felt like I was reading about a totally different character, and the politics just didn’t interest me.

It was my personal feeling that too much time was spent on Niniane being injured, being babied by Tiago, or growing into her big girl panties, and not enough was spent on her taking proactive action and being the smart, sexy, capable woman we met in the first book. Also, the relationship between Tiago and Niniane felt too rushed or forced or something—I just didn’t buy into the relationship or the romance or even the sex the way I did with Pia and Dragos.

It’s possible—even probable—that my own expectations colored my feelings about this book, so don’t let my opinion deter you if you were a fan of the first. Despite my lukewarm feelings about STORM’S HEART, I will definitely be keeping an eye out for the third in this series, SERPENT’S KISS, coming October 4th.

Rating: 2.5/5
Dragon Bound - Thea Harrison Oh, people. OH, PEOPLE.

I have never read a more perfect paranormal romance.

This book does a fantastic job of balancing wit, charm, intrigue, and just plain H-O-T sex. It helps that I am a fanatic for anything involving dragons, and the hero is, in fact, a scaled, winged creature of lore. If it tells you anything, it opens with the heroine stealing a penny from his hoard—yes, a single penny—and Dragos then makes it a point to hunt Pia to the ends of the earth to get his property back.

These two snap and pop together. The lines and humor were hysterical. Dragos’s occasional lapse in recalling the names of modern amenities (Ziploc baggies? Really?) was thoroughly amusing, and perfectly illustrated the mindset and nature of this creature. True, the names occasionally got on my nerves, but I loved the buildup into Pia’s discovery of her heritage and how she and Dragos fell for each other.

Thus far, this is one of my favorite books of the year. If you haven’t read this one yet, do it. Do it now! Drop everything and read this book!
John Dies at the End  - David Wong Where to begin?

This book is crazysauce. CRAZYSAUCE, people. I mean that both literally and figuratively.

It is impossible for me to sum up the plot without spoilering to one degree or another–and this is a book best read without knowing what you’re getting into beforehand. I’ll do my best to keep those spoilers to a minimum but, before anything else, let me say this:

If you were to read only one book this year (other than mine!), let it be JOHN DIES AT THE END.

Funny, gross, scary, chilling, surreal—all of these words and more could be used to describe John and Dave’s story.

The book opens with a reporter meeting Dave to hear about some of the strange and unbelievable adventures that he and John had. From consuming an apparently sentient and self-propelling black liquid called Soy Sauce to levitating dogs to battling meat monsters (yes, a monster made out of deli meats), John and Dave have had some pretty goddamn weird stuff on their plate. Turns out they need to save the world, too. And, no, none of this is a figment of another one of John’s 3AM drunken or drug-fueled binges.

The book is broken down into three sections or stories. They aren’t independent of each other. Each one ties into the last, culminating in a shocking, disgusting, and bizarre ending, which, of course, is par for the course with this book. Their adventures take them from Undisclosed, a town in the Midwest, to the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, to other dimensions. I admit to giggling a little when they stepped through a tear in the fabric of space/time to play basketball in another dimension.

I seriously could not stop cackling like a madwoman over this book–when I wasn’t gripping the screen (as I read the ebook version) in sweaty palms, needing to know what was going on and what the heck was coming next. It’s one of the most irreverent and politically incorrect stories I’ve ever read, with a horror plot to do classic Stephen King proud, and a host of dick and poop jokes that will leave your jaw dropping wondering—“wait, did I read that right? Did they really say that?!” Oh yes, they went there. Oh, yes.

This novel is not for the faint of heart. While it is genuinely funny, it is also genuinely terrifying at times. It’s like Kevin Smith movies and Stephen King books got thrown together in a blender and were then left to ferment in some dark cellar somewhere to create a terrifying lovechild out of the heaping morass. The narration is so good, you can picture everything Dave is talking about, and then some. You’re right there with him, going “what the hell, man?!” and “OH SHIT OH NOES” and “Wait, wut. WUT.” And “Wat. No, really. Wat.”

Kudos to David Wong / Jason Pargin. You hit this one out of the park, sir. I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel, and the movie due out in 2012!
A Brush of Darkness - Allison Pang How much did I love this book? Let me count the ways…

This story has it all. A snarky heroine, a hot incubus, and a pervy, bacon-loving unicorn the size of a housecat, plus insider references to World of Warcraft and fabulous world building to top it off. The jabs at vampires made me snicker, and the “kitchen sink” inclusion of every kind of imaginable supernatural (elves, angels, daemons, unicorns, fae, werewolves, etc) was amusing in how they were all taken for granted—relatively speaking—and viewed with a kind of sarcastic nonchalance and unabashed depreciating wit by the heroine, Abby.

To be honest, Allison wrote something I usually make it a point to avoid. Confession time: I’m not a big fan of paranormal romance. I know, I know. I missed out on some great books by staying away. I’ve dabbled in the sub-genre now and again, but I usually prefer my paranormal hard and gritty with an edge of humor a la Jim Butcher. There are a few reasons for this—mostly because said romance usually involves either so much sex, the plot takes a back seat, or because there is some kind of love triangle, which I am usually not a fan of reading about. Gradually, I’m getting past that and, in this case, I was not disappointed in the least. The sex was hot and meaningful, and the plot most assuredly did not get shunted to the sidelines for the sake of the MCs having more time to bump uglies.

Though the terminology is a little confusing at first, your understanding of the OtherWorld and its folk will grow as you follow along Abby’s adventures. She and Brystion race to find out what has happened to Moira (Abby’s boss—who turns out to be more important than Abby really knew), and Brystion’s sister, a succubus. A number of the OtherFolk have gone missing, and somehow this is all tied together. It is up to Abby to figure out how and why. Oh, and she can’t ignore her duties or leave the city in the process.

The puzzle pieces gradually click together, one by one, as new threats and mysteries pop up along the way. In addition to these problems, Abby has to come to terms with her own inner demons when it comes to the loss of her mother and her capabilities as a dancer, as well as the addition of seizures brought on by a horrific accident she was involved in. To deal with all of those things on top of finding her boss and the missing OtherFolk while maintaining her sharp wit and personality stretches her to the limit, and it’s fascinating to see how she copes with it all. The cast of supporting characters is as rich and detailed as Abby’s personality, and I found myself snickering over the WoW references during a throwdown with some daemons and, later, when Phin the unicorn discovers the joys of MMORPGs. The humor made me feel right at home considering my nerdy background, which is just another reason I give this book a top notch rating.

Abby and Brystion’s relationship progressed very naturally, too. It wasn’t the forced “star-struck lovers who know each other at first sight” that I’ve come to expect from most paranormal romances. Allison handled their trust issues with a deft hand, and it was a true pleasure to watch them come to terms with each other. It grew into something meaningful, which is important to me as a reader.

In closing, this is a fantastic debut, and I’m very much looking forward to the (as of yet untitled) sequels.
Insatiable - Meg Cabot First: I cannot write this review without a measure of spoilers. Sorry.

Second: This book is one big cockblock.

Let me explain.

Meena Harper has a gift. She can tell when people are going to die. This power of hers makes her blood a hot commodity to vampires. For someone who really doesn’t like vampires, she manages to pull them into her life—as her neighbors, an attack on the street, her new boyfriend, even in the storyline of the TV show she writes for—and gets herself into an awful lot of vampire-related trouble.

The sexual tension in this book is fantastic. It has some incredibly funny moments. The story and world building was really quite clever, cute at times, the writing tight and gripping, and most of the characters are fleshed out very well.

But, oh my God, I have such a love-hate relationship with this book.

I tried very hard to like it. There were even times when I genuinely loved it—but I couldn’t get past the cockblocking (definition: to obstruct or prevent someone else from having sex and/or reaching a goal), the ridiculous plot, or the at times painfully inaccurate and even condescending pop culture references. The sexual tension, as I mentioned, was fantastic. And hot. Considering all I have heard about Meg Cabot’s books in the past, that factor surprised me quite a lot. After all, she penned THE PRINCESS DIARIES.

However, that leads to one of the major problems I had with this book. The writing style would vary between a very breezy, young adult feel to a very intense style that was more fitting of an adult novel. I had the feeling that Ms. Cabot was not comfortable in her writing skin in this case, because every sex scene was fade to black. This normally doesn’t bother me, but for this book, it didn’t fit the rest of the style of the book at all. Meena is dating Lucien Antonescu, the Dark Prince, heir to Dracula’s kingdom, enforcer of the vampire race, and one of the most powerful badasses around. Women throw themselves at his feet. He’s walking sex on a stick. Fade to black wasn’t tasteful in this instance, it was frustrating and annoying because there was so much painstaking detail as to the rest of the relationship and everything leading up to them moving things to the bedroom.

Later, when the vampire hunter subplot rears its ugly head, a completely unnecessary and fantastically irritating love triangle is introduced with the admittedly amusing Alaric. This could have been a neatly wrapped up package of a love story between Meena and Lucien overcoming the difficulties between human-wanting-to-stay-human and vampire-wanting-human-to-become-vampire-bride, but instead had to veer off into some god awful, TWILIGHT-esque, no contest love triangle territory. It’s like watching Edward and Jacob pound their chests over Bella all over again.

No, thank you, that’s quite enough of that nonsense. The vampire hunter is not going to get the girl in the end. I don’t need to read any sequels to know that much.

When Lucien has his temper tantrum and transforms later in the book, I very nearly threw it at the wall. When Meena declares her allegiance at the end of the book, I did throw it at the wall.

Then I picked it up and finished it, because I’m a glutton for punishment like that.

You know what? The open ended ending makes me want to find wherever I put the book so I can go throw it again. Meena’s waffling and then the decision she made at the end disappointed and angered me as a reader. It still bothers me, even though it has been about a month since I finished the book.

I will not be reading any other books in this series. However, I did appreciate Ms. Cabot’s writing enough that I will not write her off altogether, and will try some of her other books at some point in the future.
Adora (Istorio Barregarriak) - Bertrice Small This book made me very, very angry. If you don't mind swearing, spoilers, and a bit of ranting, you can read the full review here:

http://jesshaines.com/blog/2011/02/21/book-review-adora/
Under the Fang (The Horror Writers of America) - Robert R. McCammon, Nancy A. Collins, Richard Laymon, J.N. Williamson, Ed Gorman, Brian Hodge, David N. Meyer III, Thomas F. Monteleone, Clifford V. Brooks, Lisa W. Cantrell, Dan Perez, Clint Collins, Sidney Williams, Robert Petitt, Al Sarrantonio, Charles de Lint, Chet Nearly every story within this book is powerful and compelling in its own right. I’ll address each individual story, but overall this is one of my favorite anthologies. It’s dark, it’s gritty, and it doesn’t hold back on addressing some of the darker aspects of humanity. This book is not for those with a weak stomach, because there are descriptions and situations in it that could very well have you throwing up in your mouth a little. Think Stephen King’s THE BACHMAN BOOKS–particularly the story Rage. In other words, it’s well written, but dangerously inappropriate material.

I love it. It embodies everything I’d ever want in a collection of horror stories. Sometimes it isn’t just the vampires who are monsters, and the people who take part in the carnage can make them look positively kind in comparison. It makes your hair stand on end, it makes you cringe, it gives you chills—and several of the stories really make you think beyond the horror of the moment. Realize that this is a collection of horror stories, so there are some atrocities described in a few of them that may make more squeamish readers uncomfortable.

Now, a breakdown of each story with my thoughts and individual ratings:

THE MIRACLE MILE by Robert R. McCammon

The story of a man driven to desperation by the changes in his world. Easily the most fucked up of the lot. It’s gorgeously written and will drive you down into despair and madness right along with Kyle and his family as they search for one last miracle in his childhood playground.

Rating: 5/5

DANCING NITELY by Nancy A. Collins

This is possibly the most tongue in cheek (I’m using that description very loosely) of the lot. Night clubs have become a whole new breed of WTF. Human “pets” in cage matches fight each other to the death using weapons meant to wound so the vampires below can catch the falling blood in their mouths. There’s a whole sub-culture that has sprung up around these fights. Our hero, Mavrides, goes on the hunt at a match for a date. After reading this one, you’ll never think of vampires, sex, and one night stands the same way again.

Rating: 4/5

STOKER’S MISTRESS by Clint Collins

This story seemed to be much ado about nothing, as it was mostly centered around the politicking of vampires who are already in charge of everything. There’s something about deciding who will be the Big Bad for the next 300 years. Insert metaphors about how Bram Stoker’s work was all just one great big metaphor for the oncoming onslaught by vampires, more metaphors about how the dumb humans didn’t listen so now look what has become of them, all the while inserting (genteel) evil cackles and daintily keeping one’s pinky in the air as we sup from the throat of a supplicant, and, ohhhh, look how eeeeeeviiiiil we are since we’ll be killing them instead of turning them, etc, etc. It was all a little too pompous and political for my tastes. It wasn’t poorly written, but this one didn’t do it for me.

Rating: 2/5

DOES THE BLOOD LINE RUN ON TIME? by Sidney Williams and Robert Petitt

As the title implies, this one is about how “cattle” are shunted around the country via train. Members of the human resistance take exception to the treatment of their fellow man and fight back. This one had some awesome battle scenes with moments that remind me of Ash kicking ass in Army of Darkness, but the ending may shock and/or slightly disappoint you.

Rating: 3/5

RED EVE by Al Sarrantonio

This one is the most surreal of the bunch. Vampires observing the history of their kind, the fall of humanity, the rise of vampires as master. It has a more poetic feel to it than the rest, and I love the imagery used. I find it to be the most decadently evocative story of the anthology.

Rating: 4/5

WE ARE DEAD TOGETHER by Charles de Lint

I adore this story to pieces. Mostly because I love stories about the Romani (gypsies), and I find that this one really captured all the things I loved about gypsies as they appear in the World of Darkness (hey, I’m a gamer nerd, what can I say?). This was a beautifully rendered piece that shows that even a traitor to the human race can learn the folly of their ways and recant.

Rating: 5/5

CALM SEA AND PROSPEROUS VOYAGE by Chet Williamson

This story is one of the most heartbreaking, even discounting the first in the book. A couple have fled to a cabin deep in the woods to hide from all of the changes that have been made to their world, only going to the city on day trips for supplies when absolutely necessary. For the most part they live off the land. Fearing discovery by the rogue feral vampires (ones too starved and changed by government experiments to be controlled), they have built quite a cozy retreat for themselves, far away from any remaining humans or vampires who might kill or enslave them. But then the unthinkable happens, and one of the pair becomes desperately ill. While this one has some of the more graphic descriptions in it, none of it feels gratuitous. Expect to tear up (and gag a bit) during this one.

Rating: 5/5

ADVOCATES by Suzy McKee Charnas and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

What if the vampires encountered something that, to all appearances, was one of their own—but could walk in the day and fed upon the blood of both humans and vampires? One such creature is captured and experiences the new justice system that has been put into place by the vampire overlords. They don’t understand that, to this thing, they are human—and he is the only true vampire, here long before any of those who now vie for the same food source. A fascinating concept, but the story felt weighted down by a lot of bickering on the part of the vampires and a lack of activity. Not bad, but it didn’t really hold my interest as much as the other stories.

Rating: 3/5

SPECIAL by Richard Laymon

This one ranks up there on the Fucked-Up-O-Meter. Humans are being bred for food by certain vampire camps. The vampires enlist human men to be both foot soldiers to guard them during the day, and to hunt down fresh food and act as stud to captured women. One such soldier, Jim, finds a woman who strikes him as special. He does everything he can to make this valiant and defiant warrior-woman his. Don’t worry—the guy starts out as very despicable (warning: rape ahoy), but he definitely redeems himself in the end. If you look past the WTFery to the message beneath, this is a hell of a powerful story, and one of my favorites in the anthology.

Rating: 5/5

HERRENRASSE by J.N. Williamson

Harry knows that Edward is a vampire, and that the vampire killed his wife and daughter. He seeks revenge against this abomination against God—but finds himself trapped in the vampire’s lair, and then kept as a pet to keep Edward company. Though Edward is a soulless creature, he finds himself becoming attached to Harry, caring for him, reading with and debating various subjects (religion, philosophy, politics, etc) with him. What might Edward do once he realizes how much he truly needs and depends on Harry? Another favorite of mine. Utterly beautiful execution.

Rating: 5/5

DUTY by Ed Gorman

This is a sad and lonely story about a man who takes it upon himself to be the one to send infected townsfolk to their final rest. You see how utterly tragic it is for him when he has to put down one of his own, as well as how the other townsfolk view him. Poignant and beautifully written.

Rating: 5/5

MIDNIGHT SUN by Brian Hodge

A secret cadre of humans are hiding in the Arctic wastes, holed up and passing beneath the notice of the vampires—until now. A paramilitary unit is sent to both test a new scientific breakthrough that lets them walk in the day, and to subjugate the last remaining human resistance. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, but just like the previous story (DUTY), it’s surprisingly an emotionally painful read.

Rating: 4.5/5

A BLOODSUCKER by David N. Meyer, III

Take a walk in the shoes of an undead literary agent. Makes 15% look like a small price to pay now, doesn’t it?

Rating: 4/5

PRODIGAL SUN by Thomas F. Monteleone

This is one of the most moving stories in the anthology, and another personal favorite. Vandemeer, a vampire scientist, accepted the price of becoming a guinea pig for a new serum that may allow vampires to walk in the sun. The process is painful, but you can imagine the benefits. While walking outside of the lab and experiencing the surf and sand close to sunrise for the first time since his change, he encounters a lone human. She teaches him a new lesson about humanity and compassion. And he realizes that his real work may not lie in the lab, but in doing something greater.

Rating: 5/5

THERE ARE NO NIGHTCLUBS IN EAST PALO ALTO by Clifford V. Brooks

A first person narrative by a human hiding in an underground colony of vagrants composed of the few humans who remain free of–though they are occasionally hunted by–the vampire masters on the surface. You never learn his or her name, but you see the hopelessness, the way the world has changed, and the fear of losing their girlfriend, Gail. It all culminates in a shocking but fitting close.

Rating: 3.5/5

JUICE by Lisa W. Cantrell

Juice. It’s like moonshine. The government only allots a certain amount of blood to the vampires now, and all the humans have to come to government-run facilities to donate regularly so that the vampires don’t kill off or turn all of their supply. Sometimes, though—sometimes one of the vamps wants more. It’s all about supplying the juice. (Warning: this is another one that, while quite good, will set off your WTFery meter.)

Rating: 4/5

BEHIND ENEMY LINES by Dan Perez

A trio of vampires in the military out on patrol are caught by humans. The leader recognizes one of the humans as his lover from when he was alive, and that helps him remember who he was, and who he should be. Not quite as emotionally impactful as the other stories, but still a decent way to end the anthology.

Rating: 3/5

This isn’t the only book I’ve read that addresses a post-apocalyptic world where vampires have taken over everything, with humanity forced into servitude under their undead masters. However, it is the best. I cannot recommend it more highly to fans of vampire horror stories where the vampires are reveling in their darker nature instead of moping over the beautiful sadness of death (a la Louis from Anne Rice’s INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE). If you liked Stephen King’s SALEM’S LOT or David McAfee’s 33 A.D., chances are you will enjoy this book.

4.5/5
Happy Hour at Casa Dracula - Marta Acosta Oh, Marta, where have you been all my life?!

This book was fabulous. Absolutely fabulous. I have been following Marta Acosta’s blog for quite a while, but for some reason kept putting off buying her books. Let me be the first to say, “Bad Jess! BAD! No cookies for you!”

Well, I have seen the error of my ways. HAPPY HOUR AT CASA DRACULA was light, funny, and fabulous. Marta has given a fresh take on the vampire trope (but don’t call them vampires, they hate that) which had me at turns giggling and gasping over the plotting, the bitchery, and the fantabulosity that have her characters leaping off the page.

Our heroine, Milagro De Los Santos, isn’t having a good time. The story opens with this wonderful woman with a degree from a Fancy University and a crappy job history at a launch party for her ex’s new book. Considering she desperately wants her own novel to be published, what’s the harm in going to a party where there are sure to be editors and agents in attendance? As long as she steers clear of Sebastian Beckett-Witherspoon, everything should be fine. Right? …Right?

Yeah. Train wreck ahoy.

At the party she exchanges barbed remarks with said ex. Soon thereafter, she meets the deliciously mysterious Oswald, and then leaves the party to go to his hotel room to discuss literature.

Ahem.

Said discussion results in a rather violent lip-lock, which causes a bit of blood to be exchanged between the two. Then Sebastian shows up (*cough* COCKBLOCK *cough*) and Milagro decides it is in her best interests to GTFO. She runs home and, over the next few days, becomes terribly ill. She can’t keep food down. Once she finally gets some energy back, the first thing she does is runs to the grocery store, where nothing but the blood in the packages of ground beef looks appetizing. You can imagine how traumatizing this is for her.

I won’t go into much detail over what happens next, but she does cross paths with Oswald again, and soon finds herself seeking shelter from some wacked out psychos on his family’s estate. That’s when she learns about her new “condition” and why her diet needs to drastically change, as well as some of the new enemies she’s acquired by becoming one of denizens of Casa Dracula.

This story was just hilarious and fun and exactly what I needed at the time I read it. Fans of Mary Janice Davidson’s Queen Betsy series should adore this story. I, for one, am very much looking forward to delving into the rest of Milagro’s adventures. Kudos to Ms. Acosta for writing such a riotous and entertaining story!
the Strangely beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker - Leanna Renee Hieber Leanna Renee Hieber has created a fantastic and spellbinding adventure in THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE MISS PERCY PARKER. Her writing is positively captivating. She creates a lovely and believable glimpse into a genteel Victorian-era London plagued by ghosts.

The foggy streets of London are lit by gas lamps and the hope of the The Guard to find the missing piece of their group, Prophecy. Ghosts have always haunted the living, but in this world, they can be deadly. It is the responsibility of The Guard to turn these ghosts away, and make the city safe for those who cannot see the dangers of the specters.

When they were children, it was prophesized that another would join The Guard later, and she would be the one to complete their circle of power. Professor Alexi Rychman, the leader of The Guard, feels he will know who it is somehow, some way, but also knows that there will be traps and pitfalls along the way. When two extraordinary women—Miss Persephone Parker and Miss Lucille Linden—both become potential candidates for the part of Prophecy, The Guard must discover which of these ladies is truly the missing piece of their group, or risk the end of the world as we know it.

This is a truly lovely paranormal romance. Percy Parker bears resemblance to a ghost in that her skin is ashen pale, her hair snow white, and her eyes a strangely luminous blue. During this era, it was not uncommon for an outsider to be abhorred for looking or acting differently than society expected, and that is made quite clear in how Percy constantly covers herself up. Alexi is the first person who has ever demanded that she not cover up before him—and she adores him for that (amongst other things). Their growing admiration of and desire for each other is a joy to watch unfold.

This book is not about Boobs and Explosions™ so don’t go into it expecting it to be full of that type of action. Instead what you see are subtle power struggles, unrequited love, and a delicate, magical touch at world building that will leave you dreaming of a chance at finding your own Alexi someday. To be sure, there is drama and intrigue, magic and action, but it is not done with the flamboyantly heavy hand of most paranormal novels.

Overall, this book was beautifully done, and I’m very much looking forward to reading the next in the series!
Archangel - Sharon Shinn I will preface this review by stating that this is one of my “comfort” reads, an old favorite that I often pull out to reread again and again. There are other books in the Samaria series (ANGELICA, ANGEL-SEEKER, JOVAH’S ANGEL, THE ALLELUIA FILES) that I am aware of, but I have not read them all, and I am fairly certain they can all stand alone. ARCHANGEL was the first book of Ms. Shinn’s that I read, and it has remained dear to me over the years. Despite anything else I may say, it is a favorite of mine.

Now, since the paperback copy I own does not have anything but blurbs from Big Names In The Industry, I will give my own brief synopsis of this story:

In a world ruled by angels who can call upon the awesome powers of their god to bring changes of weather, cause seeds to rain from the sky to heal the sick or provide food, or channel thunderbolts to destroy the wicked where they stand, all is not well. Every twenty years, the power of the Archangel is passed down to the next generation, where the angel and his or her mate must lead all of the peoples of Samaria in the Gloria to sing praises to Jovah and show Him that they live in peace and harmony—otherwise, Jovah will cast down his wrath.

Archangel Raphael doesn’t care for that, yo. He likes being Large and In Charge. Not to mention that his soon-to-be replacement, Gabriel, thinks he’s a douche and can’t wait to oust him. Oh, and Gabriel’s angelica, Rachel, used to be a slave. What kind of lady is that to be leading the peoples of Samaria? Raphael ain’t havin’ none of that. When he plots to prove to Samaria that their god is false and to prevent Gabriel from replacing him, whatever shall the archangel-to-be and his wayward bride do?!

Okay. Kidding aside.

LOVE this book. SO MUCH LOVE.

The world-building is incredible. Having read a few of the other books in this series, I could spoiler the ever-living crap out of the angel/Jovah stuff, but I will not. I do believe you’ll get the most mileage from THE ALLELUIA FILES if you’re looking for the history behind them and how they came to Samaria. You’ll also have to delve into other books for a bit more explanation on how this falls into the science fiction category instead of paranormal. There are a great many hints about it scattered throughout ARCHANGEL, but the focus is more on the character interactions and a spattering of details about the world itself as opposed to its history.

So, let us examine the lead players in this book:

Rachel, who I have barely mentioned in my “back cover synopsis” above, is the main character. You get to follow Gabriel around a bit throughout the book, but I’d say the primary focus of the story is on her. When she was a child, her family was slaughtered and she was adopted into an Edori (gypsy) clan. When she got older, the Edori clan she was with was attacked and most killed—the remainder, including Rachel, sold into slavery by the Jansai.

Enter Gabriel, the leader of the Eyrie angels (one of three angel holds—the other two are Monteverde, run by the angel Ariel, and Windy Point, run by Archangel Raphael). Gabriel is soon to take the mantle of responsibility off Raphael’s shoulders by Jovah’s decree; he’s glad of it, because he feels that Raphael has allowed the rich to prosper and the weak to be preyed upon, which goes against the teachings of Jovah. Despite his progressive thinking, Gabriel does find it disconcerting when he waits until the last minute to visit the oracle Josiah only to be given the news that he is to be joined to a farm girl named Rachel, daughter of Seth and Elizabeth, who should be living somewhere near the hills of Jordana, instead of to one of the rich Manaadavi merchant’s daughters he was expecting.

Imagine his surprise (and chagrin) when the proud Archangel-to-be runs into his future wife and angelica in slave chains banking the fire in his room as he visits a wealthy merchant in Samoria during wedding festivities for the merchant’s son.

Despite her five years in servitude, Rachel is still a proud woman, and she cannot bear to be taken from her lowly cage to a new, gilded one in the Eyrie above the city of Jordana, no matter that she is to be the angelica. She hates that she has no choices, she hates that “everything” about her life is out of her control, and she hates that Gabriel does not consult her, simply shoves her along and comes to her when he needs her for something.

These two drive me batshit. I say that in the most loving way. They can and will not TALK to each other. Oh, they will snipe, they will fight, they will rage—but they do not COMMUNICATE. The whole story is about their unlikely romance, couched between end-of-the-world threats and politics and a great deal of flowery prose about the white, black, and gray areas of right and wrong. Throughout the entirety of the book, Rachel is one solid mass of “MY-LIFE-BLOWS-THEREFORE-I-MUST-ENSURE-YOURS-ALSO-BLOWS-HATE-YOU-ALL-SO-VERY-MUCH” and Gabriel is an equally solid “I-AM-RIGHT-AND-NO-OTHER-COULD-ALSO-POSSIBLY-BE-RIGHT-AND-I-WILL-STEAMROLL-ANYONE-WHO-SAYS-OTHERWISE-SO-THERE”. They snark at each other and disagree about most everything sometimes simply just to be disagreeable. It drives me batty.

Then again, if they didn’t act so contrary, this story would’ve likely have turned out a lot shorter than its respectable 390 pages and wouldn’t have been nearly so entertaining.

Despite that I get seriously annoyed by those two, I love this book. LOVE this book. Did I mention the world-building? The fascinating interplay of politics, religion, and art? The beautiful descriptions of cities-that-never-were? The careful architecture of an entire religion, down to splinter groups in the Edori and merchants, that spreads a lovely message of the potential for peace and harmony amongst all peoples? The plot is excellent, fabulous and tautly executed, enthralling to the very last page.

But I hate Gabriel and Rachel.

Mostly I hate Rachel. She is unreasonable to the point of being one of the most obstinate women I have ever run across in literature. In order to be right, to the very end…

**SPOILER ALERT**
**SPOILER ALERT**
**SPOILER ALERT**

**SERIOUSLY, DON’T READ THIS IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW SOME MAJOR PLOT STUFF THAT OCCURS LATE IN THE BOOK**

**SPOILER ALERT**
**SPOILER ALERT**
**SPOILER ALERT**

—she walks away from Gabriel after the Gloria is sung. I mean, WAT. Wait, WAT. You guys—HE SAVED YOUR LIFE. WTF. HE CAUGHT YOU IN MID-AIR AFTER YOU THREW YOURSELF OFF A CLIFF. HE SAVED YOU FROM RAPHAEL’S CLUTCHES AND TOLD YOU HE LOVED YOU. THIS FROM THE MAN WHO CANNOT POSSIBLY SAY THE “L” WORD TO ANYONE FOR FEAR THAT MIGHT LET SOME ESTROGEN PARTICLES INTO HIS TESTOSTERONE-LADEN ALPHA MALE AURA.

HATE. HATE YOU SO MUCH. PLS TO GROW UP, KTHXBAI.

**SPOILER OVER**
**SPOILER OVER**
**SPOILER OVER**

Ahem.

So. I highly recommend this book ‘cause, damn, the writing, the world-building, the characterization, it’s all good. And, for those who may be worried, yes, there is a HEA (“happily ever after”) for Rachel and Gabriel. It’s probably the saving grace of the entire book—those last five pages make the trials and tribulations they put each other through worthwhile.

Just bear in mind that you’ll have to get past the most mule-headed characters who have ever graced the pages of any book I have ever read. In fact, I will buy and mail a copy of a book of their choice to the first person who can find me a novel with a main character who is more mule-headed than Rachel.

Oh, also, if you’re expecting HAWT SMEXY ANGEL TYMEZ, none to be had here. This is a romance, yes, but it is not a typical bodice-ripper by any means. Fade to black, people. Very tasteful.

Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars, and only because the book is amazing despite my feelings about the main characters.
Kiss Me Forever - Rosemary Laurey I like Dixie. She’s strong, assertive, and doesn’t take flak from anyone. She heads to England to claim the home that her estranged aunts left to her when they passed. From the start, the attorney handling the turning over of the estate, a Mr. Sebastian Caughleigh, does everything he can to convince her to pack up, sell the lovely house, and go home to the US of A. When he’s not trying to drive her off, he’s trying to get in her pants. Dixie, of course, will have none of that.

Instead, she finds the dark and mysterious Christopher Marlowe to be more to her liking. Unlike the impression you get from the back cover, he doesn’t reveal his nature right away. She thinks he’s just an eccentric who has his eye on some books in her aunts’ library. In fact, the only reason Dixie finds out that he’s a vampire—and I don’t consider this spoilerish because it happens in the first third of the book and the whole “woo, he’s a vampire!” thing is spelled out on the back cover—is because someone (several someones) attempted to murder him and left him tied up to the large, phallic statues set at the four corners of the walled-in garden in Dixie’s backyard. Naked. Which would have been hot if he wasn’t frying in the sunlight when she found him. Oh well. C’est la vie.

I think this book is worth reading if only for that garden. God help me, but I can’t stop laughing every time I picture Dixie realizing what those huge ding-dongs poking out of the soil actually represent. Sadly, she doesn’t spend much time there—but I digress.

The story itself is very good. Murderous fiend and his fellow witches (did I mention the witches?) attempt to do in blood-sucking creature of the night and his girlfriend. Said murderous fiend wants to get his hands on some material left behind by Dixie’s aunts, and will do anything to get it. Meanwhile, Dixie and Christopher get their groove on.

My only complaint is that there are parts of the book that are just a little too jarring, disjointed, or confusing. Most of Ms. Laurey’s descriptions and dialogue are fantastic—there are just a few places where I scratched my head, had to stop, go back, reread, or places where I was like, “Oh, please, Dixie, you are NOT that dumb.” “Christopher, MAN THE F UP AND STAY WITH YOUR WOMAN.” “If you two would TALK you would not be having these PROBLEMS, mm’kay?!” Alas, you can yell at the book all you like, but it never quite seems to change what’s on the pages.

Fans of dry humor should appreciate this more than fans of slapstick or hot and heavy romance. It’s got a very British “flavor” to the writing style—I can’t say as I’ve read any authors to compare this book to, because I haven’t read anything quite like it before. It’s a mix of light romance and murder mystery with a bit of paranormal mixed in.

Overall? An entertaining story. I’m looking forward to reading the other two books in this series that I purchased.

3.5 / 5 stars
Warrior Soul: The Memoir of a Navy Seal - Chuck Pfarrer Funny story, but I never would have read this book if people at my second job hadn’t started calling each other “Chuck” around the office. It became a thing—“Hey, Chuck, I need _____!” “Chuck, can you get this for me?” “Chuck!”

Turns out that this book is behind that silly bit of office shennanigans. It’s the memoir of a Navy SEAL, and Chuck Pfarrer pulls no punches as he tells the tale of how he graduated from a surfer dude to one bad-ass mo-fo. It made the rounds at the office, and I finally got a chance to get my hands on it about a month ago.

It took me a while to get through this book. At times, it was a difficult read. I’m not familiar with a lot of the military jargon or abbreviations that were used throughout Mr. Pfarrer’s story. That didn’t make it any less compelling, it just meant that instead of devouring it in a week or two as I usually do with books these days, it took me over a month because I was side-checking definitions or looking things up on the internet.

Chuck talks about most everything as candidly as can be expected—though, of course, there are some points where he has to be vague because of state secrets. You can’t expect him to go into detail about what he learned about terrorist tactics, blowing up buildings and ships, etc. That in no way detracts from the action or flair for dramatic detail he goes into when he does specifically recall certain incidents, such as his last mission—jumping out of an in-flight Boeing 727 so military air traffic control can test if a free falling SEAL team can be detected on radar. By the end of the first chapter, your heart will be in your mouth and you’ll quickly find yourself sucked into the story of how Chuck worked his way from being a military brat who moved around the country with his family to arriving as a “surfer hippie dude” at the toughest military school in the country. He graduates the Staunton Military Academy only to go on to CSU Northridge to study psychology, of all things.

Then, the fateful moment. He decides that his life was boring and, to spice things up, he should join the Navy to become a SEAL.

You follow his story of how he worked up the ranks, the training he went through, and then, finally, to some of the missions he carried out during his time as a SEAL. Chuck is very blunt about his own personal faults, his observations of people and operations, and does a good job at expressing his opinions by for the most part showing his actions instead of telling you how he felt about what was going on. You get a real feel for some of the places he’s been, the people he met, and the conditions he had to endure. He makes no apologies for his mistakes, though he does recognize them and makes no effort to soften them when he reveals some of his infidelities.

I’ve never read anything quite like this before. It’s an excellent book, and a very heartfelt story. You find yourself caught up in the suspense and drama of the moment as shells fall around, the search is on for snipers, and would-be terrorists are caught before they can bomb a ship. You curse at the slow-turning wheels of diplomacy as terrorists get away with murder, grip the edge of your seat as you wait for a rescue that might not come, and possibly shed a tear as the last remaining mark of Chuck’s military service is taken away.

For someone who doesn’t read memoir, this book really hit a note with me. As I mentioned, I haven’t read anything like it before. Honestly? I think it is the first memoir I’ve ever read. Chuck’s story gave me a lot to think about, and really drove home what it must be like for some of our country’s finest to be enlisted. This is a fabulous story, and I highly recommend it.
Cry Sanctuary - Moira Rogers This was a quick, delightful slice of urban fantasy! Abigail has been turned into a werewolf against her will; worse, the pack that turned her is run by an abusive alpha. She escapes to the town of Red Rock, seeking sanctuary among the wolves there. Keith, one of the Red Rock wolves, comes to Abby's aid, and the two quickly find they have an undeniable attraction building between them.

Moira Rogers created an interesting and unique take on shifter lore and culture. The love story between Keith and Abby was sweet, though the conflict with the other alpha was a bit too quick, and just a tad forced. It could have been fleshed out further, but perhaps that occurs in the next book or the one following.

Regardless, fans of urban fantasy along the lines of Patricia Briggs' Alpha & Omega series should enjoy this story.
The Dark Half - Stephen King This is one of the more twisted of King's books that I've read. Thad Beaumont had an operation when he was a kid. In the course of the operation, the surgeon discovered remnants of a partially absorbed twin inside Thad's skull--a twin that was removed, before the internal pressure inside his head could kill him.

Years later, Thad is a successful writer. Except his most profitable series is written under the name George Stark, instead of his own. George is a mighty crafty, awfully psychotic fellow.

And he's come to get revenge on Thad for killing him.

This book is typically bloody and twisted, perhaps a little more than the usual fare, for King. It's a great book, and I can't say that I've read anything like it before. If you like novels with horror, murder, and mayhem, this is a book for you!
Blood Song - Cat Adams An intriguing new urban fantasy, BLOOD SONG is about Celia Graves, a security-guard-for-hire who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bitten by a vampire, she undergoes a partial transformation. Hovering somewhere between human and vampire, she gets sucked into a plot that involves vampires, demons, and even a little royalty. She needs to find out who set her up--before she becomes fully transformed, or ends up six feet under.

Cat Adams' style is clear and easy to read in the first person, though some of the assumptions that you would know what was being discussed (not so much the terminology as the systems for things like magic and supernatural creatures) were a little hard for me to get into at first. A lot is going on in those first few chapters, and answers to any questions you may have about meaning or world-building are peppered throughout the story. Some major plot points about Celia's background were neatly wrapped up at the end, but there were a couple of things about her past that were never answered. Judging by the ending, I'm assuming that you'll learn more about her checkered past in the next book.

This was a bit different from the work I've seen in the past from the dual authors who make up the Cat Adams team (C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp). I haven't read all of their previous books, but some of what I saw of Celia reminded me of a softer, gentler version of their hit-man with a heart in HUNTER'S MOON. The vampires in BLOOD SONG were nothing like the ones in TOUCH OF EVIL, save for that they were clearly evil, unholy creatures. Some of the details of how things work for the supernaturals in this book weren't completely clear, and I'm looking forward to exploring more about it in the next book.

Overall, this is a solid addition to the urban fantasy genre. Though there are a couple of one-liners, you'll find this story is more like Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series than Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. Fans of books like Kelly Meding's Dreg City series, Patricia Briggs' Alpha & Omega series, and Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series should enjoy this book.
Changes (Dresden Files, Book 12) - Jim Butcher I could not put this book down.

It's a problem. An issue. A disease.

The way it ends left me sleepless. Literally sleepless. I raged. I cried. I can't say more for fear of spoiling it for others. Fabulous and horrifying. Can't wait for GHOST STORIES!!