Category Archives: paranormal romance

Fair Game (Alpha and Omega 3) by Patricia Briggs.

Stars: 3.5 out of 5

 

A lot of things happened in Fair Game. The werewolves have finally announced their existence to the world, much like the fae had done over 50 years ago. With the light of the media scrutiny trained on them, the werewolves have to be on their best behavior, so the offenses that ended up with just a trashing or verbal warning are now punishable by death. And it falls to Charles, the Marrok’s enforcer, to carry out the execution.

 

Charles has never been keen about killing, but at least before he agreed that the crimes were on par with the punishment. Now, they are not, but he still has to kill those werewolves for his father’s sake. So instead of being angry at his father for making him do this, his anger turns into self-loathing. Charles is spiraling down into depression and Anna doesn’t know how to help him. Thankfully, the Marroks sends them to Boston where a series of murders point to a serial killer. They will be part of a joint task force between FBI, werewolves and fae, because all the victims were half-fae, but the latest one was a werewolf.

 

There are many things that I liked about this book. First of all, we get a greater insight into this interesting world and about human interaction with the other species. It was interesting to see the contempt and indifference with which they treated the fae and how the justice system was designed to protect humans first and foremost. Which brought us to the conflict at the end of the book that I won’t talk about because major spoilers 🙂

 

Of course, the situation is in part the fae’s fault as well, since they chose to only show the least powerful and non-lethal of their kind making the humans believe that the fae were pathetic weaklings happy to live in their reservations that anyone could bully around. I’m interested to see how the next book will read now that the stakes are up and the fae are done playing nice.

I also loved the giant step forward in character development Anna took since book 1. She was a scared and broken girl in book one, beaten almost to the breaking point. She started dealing with some of her psychological problems in book 2, notably her fear of Alphas and other dominant werewolves, as well as discovering what it means to be an Omega. In this book, we see her finally into her own. I love the person Anna has become. I love that even though she is usually a mild and non-conflictual person, she never covers or bows down to other werewolves or humans or fae. I love that she has her agency and that she isn’t afraid to act upon it. She drives the story of this book, with Charles and the other characters just getting dragged in her wake.

 

So why did I give this book only 3.5 stars then? Because despite the awesome world development and character progress for Anna, there are some flaws that I simply couldn’t overlook. And the biggest one of them is Charles. He was an awesome character in the first 2 books, but I think that the whole angst over killing others was overdone and dragged for way too long. It had started in book 2 and got only exacerbated in book 3. I get it that he feels like a murderer now. I get it that he feels like some of the executions he was forced to carry out were unjust. But he’s been doing that for most of his life, so why break now all of a sudden? And especially, why try to sever all emotional ties with the person who acts as your anchor? I felt like we were rehashing problems that had already been discussed and solved between Charles and Anna in book 2. So while this book was a progress for Anna’s character, it was definitely a regression for Charles. I had to fight the urge to yell at him for the first 3/4 of the book.

 

The second thing that really rubbed me the wrong way is the fact that Anna gets kidnapped… again. Good God, how many times is it now? One or two per book? It’s really getting old. Why does she always have to be rescued by Charles? She is a big bad werewolf as well, please let her get out of a sticky situation on her own for once! I especially hated it in Fair Game because her kidnapping served no other purpose than to make Charles realize that he needs to screw his head back the right way. Really? This is such an old trope that I had to roll my eyes.

 

So all in all, it’s a solid new installment in a series that I still love, but it’s weaker than the first 2 books, in my opinion, even though I appreciated the new world developments. I just hope that the next book will be better and kidnapping-free.

Dead Witch Walking (The Hallows book 1) by Kim Harrison.

Stars: 4 out of 5.

Dead Witch Walking is a solid first novel in a brand new series. I loved the characters and the world Kim Harrison has created and I thoroughly enjoyed the story as well. I have only one gripe with this book, but it’s big enough to deduct a whole star out of the score.

Rachel Morgan is a witch and she has a big problem, because until she finds a way to pay off her contract with I.S., she is literally a dead witch walking.  Nobody has breached a contract with this organization and survived long enough to tell the tale. But she has a plan – with the help of Ivy, a living vampire bounty hunter and Jenks, a pixie bodyguard, she will track and shut down the biggest illegal Brimstone operation in Cincinnati.  That ought to get I.S. off her back, no? Either way, it’s not like she has much of a choice…

Welcome to a world where a virus hiding in genetically modified tomatoes wiped out 3/4 of the human population… which made things rather complicated for the supernatural races who turned out to be immune. With the population numbers shrinking, they cannot hide in the shadows anymore and had to make their presence known.

Thus Cincinnati has been split into two very distinct cities – on one side of the river is the “normal” town, where most of the human population lives, and the other side belongs to the Hallows, where everything supernatural gathers and thrives. Oh, humans can take a walk on the wild side and venture into the Hallows, but they are not guaranteed to come back in the same state as they entered, or come back at all.

It’s a rich and interesting world, even if the premise for the apocalypse is rather silly. A tomato responsible for the end of the world as we know it, really? But the new world in which Rachel lives is complex and fascinating, with real problems and engaging characters.

Speaking of characters, a series cannot be popular without a good protagonist, and I absolutely love Rachel Morgan. She is a kick-ass heroine. No matter how many times she is kicked down, she always finds the will to get up and keep going.

I loved Ivy and Jenks. They are just as complex and interesting as Rachel and both have their own sets of problems. I like how those 3 very different people chose to stick together and help each other get through this very difficult situation.

My only complaint is that I didn’t like Rachel’s love interest. I tried, I really did, but he just rubbed me the wrong way almost from the moment he was introduced. He is too nice, too good, too everything to be believable and likable. I kept thinking that he has just assumed this “nice guy” persona to get closer to Rachel and that he will turn out to be somebody awful in the end, because of how unbelievably nice he was. Nope, seems like that’s real. Works for some, I guess, but for me, his character definitely lacks depth, especially compared to the rest of the cast.

But other than that, Dead Witch Walking is an excellent read that I would definitely recommend. I already bought the second book in the series and I can’t wait to dive into it as well.

Hunting Ground (Alpha and Omega book 2) by Patricia Briggs.

Stars: 5 out of 5.

 

I was a bit apprehensive when I started Hunting Ground. I loved Cry Wolf, the first book in the series (and you can read my review here), as well as the short story that told us how Charles and Anna met. I was scared that the next book wouldn’t be as good, and that I would end up disappointed with the series. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. If anything, I loved Hunting Ground even more than Cry Wolf.

 

The events of Hunting Ground take place just a few weeks after the first book, and all the characters are still dealing with the aftermath of their confrontation with the witch that almost destroyed the Marrok and his pack. But they don’t have the luxury to lay low and lick their wounds because the Marrok has decided to make the existence of werewolves known to the general public, just like the fae have done a few decades ago. The advances in science, technology and medicine leave him no choice – it’s just a matter of time before they are discovered anyway, so the Marrok wants to do a preemptive strike and “come out” on his own terms.

 

Since he is the Alpha of the North American pack, his decision is law, but he decides to call a summit in Seattle as a courtesy to the European, African, Russian and British werewolves, because this decision will impact them as well. The werewolves are coming out of the closet and that is not up for discussion, but Bran is willing to offer terms and aid to the other packs to mitigate the backlash of this announcement.

 

Only the spirits tell Charles, in no uncertain terms, that if the Marrok attends the summit, he will die. So after a lot of werewolf-style discussions (aka lots of snarls, fighting and broken furniture) and a little help from Omega wolf Anna, Bran finally decides to send Charles and Anna in his stead…

 

The story itself is interesting enough, and we get to meet a lot of different werewolves, both dominant and submissive, as well as another Omega. It was interesting to learn more about the structure of werewolf packs and their society, as well as the interaction between different Alpha wolves. The author also reveals more details about what makes an Omega so special and why using Omega powers can be bad in some situations.

 

Oh, and the villain was not who I had expected, so that was a nice plot twist.

 

But what sucked me into this series and kept me reading book after book is the relationship between Charles and Anna. I love how wonderfully detailed those two characters are, and how their backgrounds impact their actions and their perception of the world. More importantly, I love how they grow and evolve in this series so far.

 

They are still pretty much newlyweds, and their past experiences don’t make married life easy. Anna had been raped and abused by her first pack and still has problems with intimacy. Charles has been a loner most of his life. He is used to being treated with fear and disgust because he is the Marrok’s enforcer, the cold-blooded killer who will hunt down and eliminate anyone his father orders him to. He has no friends, because he never knows when he would have to kill someone he’d called friend just a few days ago. So it’s easier for him to build a wall and not get attached to anyone.

 

Needless to say, they both struggle with everything that being a couple entrails. But what I love about this series is that they work on these problems. They don’t just go skulk in different corner after a fight or a misunderstanding. They sit down and talk it out until they uncover the underlying problem and agree on how to make things better. They are a couple, yes, but they are also equal partners, and their relationship is based on mutual respect as well as love.

 

I also love the fact that even though Charles is extremely dominant (he is only a little weaker than the Marrok himself, which makes him the second strongest wolf on the American continent) and has a protective streak a mile wide, he never tries to dominate Anna or to smother her with his care and protection “for her own good.”

 

Oh, the impulse is there, and his protective instincts scream at him a lot. He is just wise enough to stop and think about whether locking Anna in their hotel room or forbidding her from joining the hunt is really the best solution or if it’s just his fear talking. And in the end, he always choses to let Anna do whatever would help her become stronger, even if it means letting her participate in a hunt with a bunch of other Alphas.

 

Anna grows tremendously in this book as well. She finally comes to terms with being a werewolf and an Omega. She even starts using her powers to help Charles and her pack. She also faces her own fears and insecurities. Anna is a very calm and level-headed person, some might even call her passive, but she is no doormat. There is a steal core of resolve under that soft exterior. So it is perhaps symbolic that it’s not Charles, the Marrok’s enforcer, who defeats the antagonist in the end of this book, but shy and broken Anna. I loved the way she does it as well. In fact, I loved that whole scene.

 

My only complaint is how one-dimensional the character of the Beast of GĂ©vaudan, Jean Chastel, was. He is too much horrible bad wolf, maniacal murderer. All darkness and no light. He is so evil he reads like a caricature, especially compared to all the other well-developed characters in this book. I think that he would have been much more interesting if Mrs. Briggs had added a bit more ambiguity to his character.

 

All in all, I will definitely recommend Hunting Ground to my friends, and I can’t wait to start the next one in the series.

Cupcakes, Trinkets, and other Deadly Magic y Meghan Ciana Doidge.

Stars: 2 out of 5.

 

I was so excited when I picked up this book! For once, the protagonist is not an almighty witch, but just a half-witch who prefers making cupcakes and a trinket or two to conquering the world of magic! “How refreshing,” I thought. I like trinkets. I love cupcakes (maybe a little more than I should). And I was really looking forward to reading about a down to earth heroine for once.

 

Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed. Jade turned out to be one of those protagonists I don’t really want to read about: the special snowflake. She seems ordinary at first, but ends up being so unique that the author flirts dangerously close with the dreaded “Chosen One” trope.

 

Her father is unknown but it’s hinted throughout the book that he is definitely not human, which makes her half-witch, half-something else and this something seems to be powerful. Her family lied to her to keep her past and abilities hidden, supposedly for her own protection, but no justification for that is given in this book. She can sense and identify other people’s magic and that makes her extremely desirable for other magical beings for some reason? Once again, no justification is given as to why that would make her important. And there is a hidden portal in the basement of her bakery only she can open.

 

Oh, and I forgot to mention the plethora of extremely powerful, extremely magical, and extremely hot-looking guys that seem to fawn all over her throughout this book for no other reason than her magical uniqueness. Because the author makes sure to tell us that Jade is no great beauty.

 

Story-wise the book is pretty straight-forward as well. Magical beings are found murdered and Jade’s trinkets have been found on all the bodies, so naturally she is suspect number one. Queue a lot of running around with (or away from) some really hot really magical guys and poking at things that don’t need to be poked. I guess that’s supposed to be an investigation. Funny how Jade never things about looking closer to home for the culprit.

 

And that’s my other problem with this book. The ending is predictable and the antagonist is hinted upon with such heavy strokes that she might as well have been jumping up and down and holding a board saying, “I’m the villain.” Yet Jade is totally oblivious of this until the very end, which made me groan and wonder at her lack of brainpower and observation. It’s one thing to be trusting and another to be willingly obtuse.

 

This book gets 2 stars instead of 1 because it was well-written. I didn’t see any glaring grammatical errors and Jade actually has a voice, even if it’s an annoying one at times. And it is an easy read – I finished it in a little over a day. Unfortunately, it’s just as easily forgotten because of the little substance this book has.

I wouldn’t recommend it. There are plenty of better paranormal romance / urban fantasy books out there worth reading instead.

 

Wicked Misery (Miss Misery book 1) by Tracey Martin.

Stars: 2 out of 5.

I’m always apprehensive when I start a new series, because you never know if you will like the world and the characters. And I usually try to stick with the series for at least 3 books or so before I decide to drop it, because the first book has the difficult and thankless task of introducing the reader to a brand new world. So even if I am not particularly trilled with book 1, I am more than willing to discount some of my misgivings and give the series another chance by reading book 2… That is if I like the protagonist enough to stick with him / her for another book.

Unfortunately, that is not the case with Wicked Misery.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I loved the worldbuilding for this series. The fact that we have a different kind of supernatural beings than vampires or werewolves is rather refreshing. It’s also interesting to read about a world where the preds and other supernatural beings are known and more or less integrated into society.

My problem with this series is the protagonist, which is a deal breaker when you are stuck observing the whole story through her eyes. Jessica Moore is a classic case of how the character has to constantly do stupid sh@t to drive the story along. I mean, I understand that the protagonist has to make mistakes, get burned and rise to the challenge, but a good protagonist also has to LEARN from those mistakes and get better, or at least not repeat them over and over again.

In Jessica’s case, she doesn’t seem to learn. AT ALL. And while this might be endearing the first time or two, it gets extremely annoying by the end of the book. She is in deep trouble, framed for a series of gruesome murders, wanted by all sorts of powerful people because of that. Yet, she absolutely refuses to listen to the people who try to help her with this problem. People whom he ran for help in the first place, I might add. It’s like she landed this whole mess on the satyr’s lap, then can’t seem to manage to stay put and let them deal with it. They tell her to hide and lay low, but she runs off to meet with a goblin who might or might not have pertinent information for her instead… without telling anyone where she is going. Ok, that might work once as a plot device, but later on in the book she pulls the same trick again and goes barging into a Fury bar on her own without telling anyone about again, in the middle of a Griffon raid designed to find her btw.

That’s not endearing anymore, that’s called having a death wish. The fact that she seems to emerge from those encounters unscathed and with no consequences at all indicates poor planning on the author’s part. The fact that Jessica’s little escapades are the only thing that drives the story forward also makes me want to put the book down.

My other problem with this book is the romantic relationship between Jess and Lucen, or what will probably become a romantic relationship between them in later books. It doesn’t work, at least not how it’s written. He is a satyr, so a pred whose whole nature is to incite lust in humans. Jess feels that and despises him for it. In fact, even though she run to him for help, all she does during the whole book is belittle and denigrate him, at least in her head (and since we are in her head, we get to read all of it). Then by the end of the book, after a plot twist I won’t tell you about, her ability to sense preds is dampened and she realizes that she still lusts after Lucen. Light bulb moment for our protagonist – so that wasn’t entirely him, I really want him! So it’s okay to finally be with him. News flash, honey, the fact that you want to jump his bones does not a strong relationship make. Especially since you haven’t really changed your opinion on what he is and what he does.

I think that’s my biggest problem with this book – Jess hasn’t really evolved by the end of it. As a person, I mean. Sure, she learned a bit more about her powers and decided that she would use them for good rather than evil, but that’s as far as the character development went. And since she wasn’t a character I was particularly interested in following at the beginning, it doesn’t make me want to follow her into the next book.

So my verdict for Wicked Misery is – interesting world building, but the protagonist is not my cup of tea. I wouldn’t recommend this series to my friends. There are plenty of other excellent series to read instead.

Cry Wolf (Alpha and Omega book 1) by Patricia Briggs.

Stars: 4 out of 5.

While this book is the first in the Alpha and Omega series, it’s set in the same world as the Mercy Thompson books and has a prequel in the form of a short story that explains how Charles and Anna met. I haven’t read either of those. Cry Wolf was my first introduction to this world and these characters, and I was surprised at just how much I loved them.

I think it mostly has to do with the fact that their relationship is exactly the sort I like to read about. It’s a solid partnership between two mature, albeit damaged people who make actual efforts to work through their problems together and gain each other’s trust and acceptance. Amongst the sea of one-sided, often abusive relationships we see in the paranormal romance books nowadays, stories like that are a sip of fresh water on a parched throat.

It also has a lot to do with how wonderfully complex those two characters are.

So many things could have gone wrong with this relationship. Charles is his father’s Enforcer. He has the reputation of a ruthless killer, ready to put down anyone who threatens the Alpha’s rule and the safety of the pack and not lose sleep over it. He is feared and even covertly despised even by his own pack because of what he does and how seemingly remorseless and even emotionless he is about it.

He rescues Anna from a horrible situation, but at the same time, he yanks her out of a town where she had at least some kind of support system: a job, a few acquaintances that might have been friends, the familiarity of the big city. Now she has no job, no money and is in a werewolf village in the middle of nowhere with nobody to help her if things go wrong. In other words, she is absolutely and totally dependent on him.

When I first picked up the book, I was scared that this would turn into one of those toxic and abuse relationships with Charles being the typical “alpha male” – possessive and jealous, disregarding Anna’s wishes and opinions and depriving her of her own agency for her own protection. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case at all.

Charles might lead a violent life and be forced to do horrible things out of duty to his Alpha father, but he is always treats Anna with respect. She is his mate, but that doesn’t put her in a subservient position in his eyes. To him, she is an equal partner in this relationship. She has a voice and an opinion that he listens to.

Anna is also not your typical female protagonist. She doesn’t go through life kicking ass and taking names. In fact, she is not a fighter at all. And, surprise of all surprises, she actually thinks before she opens her mouth, can assess a situation and knows when saying nothing might be the best course of action. She is the slow and steady river current to Charles’ firestorm. A soothing presence that can ground him. She helps him remember that no matter what the rest of the pack thinks of him, he is not a monster. That all those glances of fear and barely veiled contempt are directed at the façade he has created, not the man that hides behind it.

It’s never a one-sided relationship, because they both give as much as they take. They complement each other and manage to build something beautiful out of the broken pieces of their lives.

… and this is the first review in which I managed to wax poetic about a love story while saying absolutely nothing about the actual plot! It’s not because the plot was lacking depth, I can assure you. It’s just that it paled in the face of those two wonderful characters, at least in my eyes.

So would I recommend his book? Definitely. But I would suggest reading Alpha and Omega short story in the On the Prowl anthology first, otherwise the beginning of the book might seem a bit confusing.

 

Magic Burns (Kate Daniels Book 2) by Ilona Andrews.

Stars: 5 out of 5.

I started reading this book with a lot of apprehension and even fear, because in my experience with other series, the second book is usually the weakest one of the lot. And since I had really loved Magic Bites (which I also reviewed), I really didn’t want to be disappointed by book 2 and stop reading what was promising to be an excellent series.

Well, I’m glad to say that Magic Burns is the exception to the rule. This book is just as good as Book 1, if not better.

Ilona Andrews continues to develop the wonderful world she has created and gives us a little bit more insight into Kate’s past along with a few explanations about how she came to be as kickass as she is. I’m happy that she isn’t one of those heroines that just wakes up with superpowers. No, Kate had to work, sweat and bleed for every single one of them. And this is also so very refreshing, after reading about some indestructible heroines who seem to acquire a new level of badass with every consequent book without seemingly lifting a finger.

So far, Kate is by far my favorite Urban Fantasy heroine, with October Daye just a little bit behind. She is smart, she is strong, she is badass, but she is also very human and vulnerable in some things. She really feels like a living breathing person.

The wonderful world she lives in has also been developed further. In an alternative Atlanta where magic comes in waves, people (both magical and normal) have learned to adapt to the changing nature of their environment. They have electricity as well as runes and magelights and use either one of the other depending which wave is upon them. And car rentals and garages have both normal as well as magically altered cars, and even horses. But every seven years or so, an exceptionally powerful magical wave rolls over the land, leaving destruction in its wake and often drastically changing both the physical and the metaphysical landscape. One such wave is coming, and Kate finds herself smack in the middle of its path, even if she doesn’t want to.

All of the characters from book 1 get further development in this book, and we are introduced to several new people as well. I love the fact that they aren’t there just to play second fiddle to Kate. They all have their own lives and agendas, and even though most of that happens outside of this story, you still can feel that.

And for the lovers of paranormal romance, the relationship between Kate and Curran develops even further. I love the fact that those two don’t go all love / lust at first sight like it so often happens in other books. I love the progression of their relationship from rivals to reluctant allies who come to respect each other and realize that they can count on the other to have their back in a fight. Trust is a very important aspect to any relationship and it’s not easily gained, especially  for people with difficult pasts like Kate and Curran.

I also like the fact that Kate finally decides to make herself vulnerable enough to actually connect with other people and acknowledge that she might consider some of them friends. And we are introduced to several other strong female characters that are not portrayed as rivals or complete b$#%es or anything else we often see in the paranormal romance books. Ilona Andrews shows us that having other strong women as the protagonist’s friends doesn’t bring the protagonist’s awesomeness down at all. In fact, it makes her even more awesome.

So, as you have probably gathered from all the praise in this review, I think Magic Burns is a must read. I love this series and I will definitely pick up book 3 very soon.