Twice Tempted ~ Jeaniene Frost

  • Title: Twice Tempted
  • Author: Jeaniene Frost
  • Series: Night Prince #2
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewer: DarthVal
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Dating the Prince of Darkness has its challenges…

Leila’s psychic abilities have been failing her, and now she isn’t sure what the future holds. If that weren’t enough, her lover, Vlad, has been acting distant. Though Leila is a mere mortal, she’s also a modern woman who refuses to accept the cold shoulder treatment forever–especially from the darkly handsome vampire who still won’t admit that he loves her.

Like choosing between eternal love and a loveless eternity…

Soon circumstances send Leila back to the carnival circuit, where tragedy strikes. And when she finds herself in the crosshairs of a killer who may be closer than she realizes, Leila must decide who to trust– the fiery vampire who arouses her passions like no other or the tortured knight who longs to be more than a friend? With danger stalking her every step of the way, all it takes is one wrong move to damn her for eternity.

*Potential Spoilers*

Review:  I am a big fan of Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series. I especially appreciate the action-based plots that are liberally laced with humor. Twice Tempted is the second book Night Prince series, spun off from the Night Huntress Series. This series focuses on Vlad, the vampire of Dracula legend.

The Night Prince books skew much more heavily toward the paranormal romance genre, rather than the urban fantasy style that I prefer. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a good bit of action and I enjoy the stories. I just wish they would focus more on the adventure rather than the lover’s angst.

The book features a lot of high drama, Leila runs away from Vlad, who cannot admit to her, let alone himself, that he loves her. Vlad is determined to let her go, if it will make her happy, but then danger strikes and his alpha male kicks in to try to protect her. What follows is chaos, mystery, and danger – oh, and a crap ton of love fueled chemistry.

I will give Ms. Frost credit, she does a wonderful job of building romantic tension and serving it up piping hot. Paranormal romance fans will want to line up for seconds. For me, it is fun enough to tide me over until the next Night Huntress, but it did not earn a spot on the top shelf.

As for the cover, it is a pretty eye-catching, if cliché use of the muscle bound bare torso. I do have to say, the publisher chose a suitable tasty model to depict Vlad. The flames are a good visual representation of the story, in more ways than one.

Insurgent ~ Veronica Roth

  • Title: Insurgent
  • Author: Veronica Roth
  • Series: Divergent #2
  • Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopian, YA
  • Format: Audio book
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewer: Val
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  One choice can transform you, or destroy you.

Every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves, and herself, while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Review:   Insurgent, the second book of the Divergent series, picks right up where Divergent left off. The factions are at war, following the massacre of much of the Abnegation faction at the hands of the hypnotized Dauntless warriors. Having stopped the attack, Tris and Four find themselves outlaws on the run.

This book was just as much of a rush to read as the first, maybe even more so. There is plenty of action, as Tris and Four face danger trying to uncover the truth about what is going on. Roth takes the political undertones even deeper, creating a delicious tension throughout the story. It is a constant struggle to sift truth from lies, or more importantly, whose truth is more compelling.

As the plot thickens, the character also become more complex. It is no longer as simple as good versus bad. Roth reveals the good intentions behind some of the terrible actions of her “bad guys”, and that good misguided “good” characters have faltered onto dark paths. I am so tempted to mention some specifics here, but I think I will let you discover that for yourself.

Tris, herself, is very conflicted throughout the story. Her actions in the previous book have her questioning what kind of person she really is and erodes some of her recently won confidence. This internal struggle results in conflict and tension between Tris and Four. There is also continued tension among Tris and her new Dauntless friends.

I will say one thing for Roth, she didn’t really hold anything back. She is telling a dark and gritty tale and she’s not afraid for bad things to happen to pack the necessary emotional punch. Roth is by no means a George R.R. Martin (who seems to kill off characters just so the reader won’t get attached), but she does not shy away from the death of a likeable character.

While the first book focused primarily on the Abnegation and Dauntless factions, Insurgent gives a closer look at Amity and Candor. Herein lies the brilliance behind Roth’s unfolding saga. Each faction has its specific social mores, which are both a strength and a weakness when isolated without divergent thinking (um, yeah, guess that explains the series theme in a nutshell). Another theme throughout this book is how far people will go to avoid accepting a harsh reality out of fear, often failing to act and thus making them fall victim to that fear.

The cover for Insurgent is equally eye-catching as the Divergent cover. This time, it features the faction symbol for Amity with the Chicago skyline at the bottom. The color scheme and layout are complimentary to the Divergent cover, clearly identifying the series.

There is one bad thing about this book that I do not like so much . . . that I will have to wait until October for the third and final book of the series!

Divergent ~ Veronica Roth

  • Title: Divergent
  • Author: Veronica Roth
  • Series: Divergent #1
  • Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopian, YA
  • Format: Audio book
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewer: Val
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is–she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are–and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Review:   I was really torn on whether or not to read this book, even though I had heard good reviews. On one hand, I have been avoiding anything approaching YA lately, unsure if I can handle yet another teen-angst fest. On the other hand, I really like dystopian fiction. A good recommendation from a trusting source convinced me to give it a try. I am so glad that I did.

Divergent takes place in Chicago years after some society changing disaster. In order to survive, the isolated population has divided itself into five factions, each of which is characterized by specific personality traits that make them especially suited to serve the societal roles assigned to their faction. If someone fails to conform for some reason, they become ostracized and relegated to the lowest tier of society, the factionless.

The story follows Tris, who like others her age must make the difficult decision to choose her faction, an irrevocable decision. If the wrong faction is chosen, there is no going home, the only option available at that point is to become factionless. However, Tris isn’t like everyone else. She is Divergent, having aptitude for multiple factions. She is not sure what it means exactly, other than it puts in danger, so she must conceal it.

Tris is a complex character of a young girl trying to discover who she is within a world that seems to be crumbling around her. She is bold yet unsure of herself, selfless without being self-sacrificing, and clever, if at times slow on the uptake. There were definitely times that I felt a discrepancy between how clueless Tris could be and her portrayed intelligence.

Because of her very nature, Tris is portrayed as a bit of an underdog character. Despite being an outcast, the author created some great relationships with her among her underdog friends. The author also did a great job of creating chemistry between Tris and Four, capturing that spark of young love without the usual overdose of angst.

The world-building was really good in this book. The mental images evoked by the descriptions of dystopian remains of Chicago were fairly vivid. It was painted as a harsh world with limited options, yet the author was able to include a hopeful element.

It was easy to get swept away in the scenes depicting the dauntless actions. The author did a great job of capturing the heady combination of fear and freedom that Tris felt during these scenes.

The cover of this book is very eye-catching. It features a flaming rendition of the symbol for the dauntless faction. The rest of the cover is muted, in stormy shade of blue/grey, lending itself to the dark, cold tone of the story, depicting clouds and a distant Chicago skyline.

Divergent starts this trilogy off well. It does a great job of introducing the world and the main characters without sacrificing on plot or adventure. If felt like a complete book, capable of standing on its own, yet there was enough foreshadowing to make the reader want to continue the series.

Wolfsbane and Mistletoe ~ Charlaine Harris et al

  • Title: Wolfsbane and Mistletoe
  • Author: Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, Carrie Vaughn, Keri Arthur, Karen Chance, and more
  • Series: Sookie Stackhouse #8.1
  • Genre: Fantasy, Sci-fi, Short stories
  • Format: Audio book
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewer: Valerie
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Description:  The editors of “Many Bloody Returns” deliver the perfect howl-iday gift, with new tales from Patricia Briggs, Carrie Vaughn, and many more.

“New York Times” bestselling authors Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, Keri Arthur, and Carrie Vaughn—along with eleven other masters of the genre—offer all-new stories on werewolves and the holidays, a fresh variation on the concept that worked so well with birthdays and vampires in “Many Bloody Returns.”

The holidays can bring out the beast in anyone. They are particularly hard for lycanthropes. Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner have harvested the scariest, funniest and saddest werewolf tales by an outstanding pack of authors, best read by the light of a full moon with a silver bullet close at hand.

Whether wolfing down a holiday feast (use your imagination) or craving some hair of the dog on New Year’s morning, the werewolves in these frighteningly original stories will surprise, delight, amuse, and scare the pants off readers who love a little wolfsbane with their mistletoe.

Introduction by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner
Gift Wrap by Charlaine Harris
The Haire of the Beast by Donna Andrews
Lucy, at Christmastime by Simon R. Green
The Night Things Changed by Dana Cameron
The Werewolf before Christmas by Kat Richardson
Fresh Meat by Alan Gordon
Il est né by Carrie Vaughn
The Perfect Gift by Dana Stabenow
Christmas Past by Keri Arthur
SA by J.A. Konrath
The Star of David by Patricia Briggs
You’d Better Not Pyout by Nancy Pickard
Rogue Elements by Karen Chance
Milk and Cookies by Rob Thurman
Keeping Watch over His Flock by Toni L.P. Kelner

Review:  Everything about the way I approached Wolfsbane and Mistletoe was outside of my norm for anthologies. It is rare for me to read one cover to cover. Typically I will read a story here and there as it relates to a series that I am currently reading. In fact, I am sure my librarian thinks I am a bit of lunatic based on the number of times I have checked out, checked back in, and a couple months later checked out certain anthologies. (I follow a LOT of urban fantasy series, which seem to thrive on the between-book short stories published in anthologies).

I think what made the difference this time was that this particular anthology came available on audio book through the library. It got me thinking that it might be fun to just go ahead and listen to the entire volume, rather than just trying to hit a couple relevant stories. So began my journey through W&M.

As you would expect, some of the stories were better than others. Of course I enjoyed the familiarity of some of my favorite characters as they appeared in some of the shorts. I was delighted and surprised, however, to find my enjoyment in a couple of the tales for which I no experience with their authors. There were a couple of clunkers that I decided to fast forward through to the next story, but only two.

On the whole, the collection was a lot of fun, especially for fans for Urban Fantasy.

A Minor Indiscretion ~ Carole Matthews

  • Title: A Minor Indiscretion
  • Author: Carole Matthews
  • Genre: Chick-lit, Romance
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Erica, Guest Reviewer
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  For all those who have flirted just for fun, A Minor Indiscretion is the perfect read. In her wonderfully warm and witty style, the author describes how a chance meeting with a gorgeous stranger can totally change one woman’s life. This new novel has a simple yet effective recipe. Combine a bittersweet love story with some hilarious insights into family life. Stir thoroughly, add a generous helping of laughter and a splash of tears, and fully baked emerges the perfect read for anyone who’s wondered “What if?”

Review:  I’m not really sure where to start with this book. It centres on Alicia, a woman a little shy of forty with a husband and three children, who meets Christian, a gorgeous young man of twenty-three who charms the pants off her and pretty much lures her into an affair with him. Her husband Ed inevitably finds out and evicts her, and the remainder of the book centres on the aftermath of the minor indiscretion of the title, since Ed throws Ali out before anything more untoward than a kiss has actually happened.

Let me try and tackle its individual parts and start with the writing, which is absolutely excellent. The author’s style is witty, effortless, an absolute joy to read. Sometimes you read prose which feels a little stilted, sometimes you just follow the story and don’t notice the prose, and then occasionally you stumble on prose so good that it stands out, and this book falls into the latter category for me. I did find it a little strange that the book switched from first person present tense for Ali and third person past tense for everyone else, but that may be just me.

The characters are very interesting and recognisable. I found Ali a likeable character, despite the fact that she’s on the verge of throwing away a good – if somewhat jaded – marriage, and I could easily see how and why she fell for Christian and how confused her feelings got. Similarly Ed, who is no saint himself and does things which are equally stupid as what Ali did. Christian was a little harder, but overall I did quite like him, despite the fact that he doesn’t think anything through before he does it. You want to slap all three of them many times over, but I never got the feeling that anything any of them did was contrived. Things just happen, and before they know it they’re in so deep that they have no clue how to get themselves out again. Ali and Ed’s three children are perfectly characterized, and four-year-old Elliot is an absolute gem, which is saying a lot coming from someone like me who doesn’t do kids.

The plot – well, that’s where the shortfall of a star comes from. I bought it all the way up to the point where something major happens to Ali. I won’t give away spoilers, but I basically find it a little hard to believe that that event happens the way it does and is dealt with so easily. Apart from that I found the lack of closure for several of the secondary characters a bit annoying – they do one last thing and that’s it, but it doesn’t feel like an end for those characters.

On the whole a surprisingly entertaining read, even if you end up sighing and rolling your eyes a lot at the characters. I should probably also mention that this is a very British book, and I’m not sure how well it would translate to readers in the States.

The Great Book of Amber ~ Roger Zelazny

  • Title: The Great Book of Amber
  • Author: Roger Zelazny
  • Series: The Complete Amber Chronicles
  • Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction
  • Format: Large Paperback
  • Source: Own Copy
  • Reviewer: Soo
  • Rating: 5 out of 5

Review: When I bought this book, I had no idea who Roger Zelazny was or a clue about Amber. I only picked it up because I couldn’t find any new releases by Tad Williams, Michelle West, or Janny Wurts. The book was huge and the synopsis piqued my interest. I devoured the book in a handful of days and fell in love with Zelazny. I’ve read this series so often that I’m on my third copy of the book.

The story is about a powerful family who have the skills to travel between alternate realities. Of all worlds, Amber is the true world and in all things, Amber is the standard of beauty, honor and power. Begin the adventure with a man who has no memory of who he is or where he’s from and dive into a web of mysteries that will spawn more questions than answers. Normally, that would leave me angry but this series only leaves wanting for more. A must read for those who love adventure stories with a mix of Sci-Fi and fair share of mysteries. Engaging characters, beautiful worlds and a growing desire to understand why will dog your steps as you read this collection.