Thursday, December 29, 2011

Noah by Jacquelyn Frank

Noah (Nightwalkers, #5)Noah by Jacquelyn Frank

My rating: 5 of 5 stars







description



This is an apt image. Noah, the Demon King, a Fire Demon over 700 years old, has watched those around him fall under the spell of the Imprinting. He's happy for them but also longs for his own mate.

In this book, he finally gets what he's been wishing for.

Of course, it can't all be flowers and chocolates, and Jacquelyn Frank delivers yet another riveting example of her masterful story telling. Noah's mate is much like the other women in this series - strong, powerful and perfectly matched to their destined mate. And yet, Kestra, who is unbeknownst to herself a Druid, is also very broken on the inside, hiding her fears and pain behind a mask of confidence and overt sexuality.

He's been dreaming of her for six months, just as she has been dreaming of him. He longs for her, yearns for her, and by the time he mans up and decides to find her, she's in a situation that she can't escape.

Of course, Noah is now desperate and uses his Enforcers' child (who just happens to be the first Time Demon) to return to the moment right before Kestra's demise. He rescues her and brings her back to his castle. When she wakes, she recognizes him as the man from her dreams. He's a bit reluctant to tell her what's going on and she's all 'yeah, whatever, where's the door'.

He doesn't quite know how to approach the situation with Kestra other than immediately consummating the relationship. Passionately. Consumingly. Irrationally.

I suppose a Demon who's waited over 700 years for his mate could possibly be excused for losing his cool upon finally having her in his arms.

*fans self*

Ms. Frank continues to amaze me with the vivid descriptions of lovemaking she employs without ever veering into crude or crass expressions.

So they get along swimmingly she leaves the castle but doesn't go very far. Noah thinks it's best to let her go and let her experience the energy drain but gets thumped on the head by his sister before spurring into action and going after her.

Eventually, after some false starts and major misunderstandings, they figure it out, although Kestra remains rigid in her refusal to let herself love him. It was painful to see Noah struggle with his emotions and the typical behavior of a man in love for the first time, but I also smiled happily when he finally got what he wanted all along.

While I understand her reasons, after her history comes to light, and while the time between start and finish of this book is less than two months (and I applaud Ms. Frank for NOT writing a heroine who swoons over her destined mate and thus forgets all principles she's held dear until now), it felt a tiny bit formulaic that Kestra didn't realize or admit to herself that she's in love with Noah until he was dead. Well, mostly dead.

Suddenly, she gets it. Needless to say, Noah lives to tell the tale.

The main plot (see above) is broken up by revisits with characters from previous books as well as a subplot of rogue bloodsuckers who have thanks to Damien and the Nightwalker library figured out how to absorb the powers of other Nightwalkers. This clearly spells trouble and the anticipation builds until the Rogues strike at a most inopportune moment with an attack on Damien's wife and Noah's mate.

Bad move. Big mistake. HUGE!

We don't hear from Ruth and her vampy friend in this book but I'm sure she will raise her ugly head again in the next one.






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Review of Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent (Divergent #1)Divergent by Veronica Roth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was the first YA novel I've read in a while.


The story takes place in the future in what's left of Chicago after whatever wars/famine/disasters destroyed life as we know it. There are 5 factions in the city that live together somewhat peacefully. The year children turn 16, they take an aptitude test that will tell them what faction they are best suited for. Soon after, they get to choose which faction they want to belong to. In most cases, each teenager has aptitude for only one faction. Very few are Divergent, like Beatrice. These kids are feared by all the factions because they are hard to control - and in the end, it's all about control.

The story is well written, descriptive yet not too much, and told solely in the first person singular, in Beatrice's POV. It keeps the suspense up because we only get to see her impressions of the events that unfold after she chooses to switch factions and go through the initiation process of the Dauntless, the faction that prides itself on bravery and strength to fight. They are the border patrols, the military of this dystopian world, if you will.

The book made me think - a lot. Think about factions and how clinging to a certain belief without acknowledging the possibility of other options makes for a narrow world. How dismissing the value of others outside of your specific belief does more harm than good and fosters discontent and suspicion.

Factions described here are almost like the world religions, or like political parties.

A sinister plan is set in motion while Beatrice goes through the initiation process with her new faction. Behind closed doors, people are plotting and planning the downfall of the current government by spreading lies and sowing suspicion. Hmmm - does that sound familiar at all?

We also get glimpses into the mind of teenagers who are basically fighting for survival. We see good and we see evil. Other than the setting of the novel being in the future, there really isn't that much different about the world the author created and our world today.

The biggest take-away for me is that we all need to be divergent like Beatrice and that the factions have it all wrong. Being completely selfless is not the answer, neither is being only fearless or only smart. We need to be a bit of every faction. Selfless when the situation demands is, fearless and brave when we should stand up for others weaker than us, smart and studious, honest but compassionate in that honesty, and loving and peaceful.

The developing love story in the book is almost a by-line until the final showdown when that love, combined with the love of parents for their children, is what ultimately brings about the exposure and subsequent fall of evil. Dystopian? Or Utopian?

It's rated YA. Here's my beef about that. In a YA novel, it's apparently okay for characters to kill and/or maim, describe in great detail how a bullet enters someone and blows their head off, spewing forth blood and brains, yet the characters can't cuss or have sex. The brutality described in this novel, stabbing someone in the eye with a knife, choking, dangling someone over a chasm is all acceptable, but two teenagers can't go beyond kissing and touching over clothes? Or use a cuss word when the situation warrants it?

That's just a little messed up.




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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nightwalker Series - DAMIEN - by Jacquelyn Frank

Damien (Nightwalkers, #4)Damien by Jacquelyn Frank

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


From the blurb:

They are the Nightwalkers, mysterious beings who dwell in the shadows of our world, and Damien, the Vampire Prince, is among the most powerful of them all. But one woman will tempt him with a desire unlike anything he has known, and together they will face a terrifying and relentless foe...

HE'D NEVER LOVED. BUT SHE WAS IRRESISTIBLE.

As reigning Vampire Prince, Damien has tasted every pleasure the world has to offer--consorting with kings and queens and delighting in sensual adventure. Now, tired of such pursuits, he devotes his energies to protecting his people. The war between human necromancers and Nightwalkers has escalated, and when the enemy makes a daring move, kidnapping Syreena, a Lycanthrope Princess, Damien boldly follows. He succeeds in rescuing her, but is unprepared for the erotic longing her lush sensuality awakens in him.

Gifted with rare abilities, Syreena grew up in a cloistered setting and was forbidden to form attachments to others, yet the connection Damien feels with her is immediate, intoxicating, and impossible for either to resist. But claiming Syreena as his mate could have shattering repercussions for every Nightwalker--and leave their enemies more dangerous than ever before...

Temptation tastes sweetest at night.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As the title indicates, this book is about Damien, the Vampire Prince, who finds himself strangely attracted to Syreena, the Lycan Princess. When he follows her from the hidden Nightwalker Library and finds her nearly dead after an attack by Ruth, he takes an unusual and forbidden step to save her life. And for the first time in his very long life he's in love. Syreena isn't easily swayed but the pain and need she experiences after going home, coupled with Damien's honest questions and convictions, gets her quickly to the point where she accepts him as her destined mate.



The relationship permeates the book and Ms. Frank again draws richly complex characters against an action-packed and dangerous background. Damien is not used to answering to anyone but himself and this leads him to make some decisions that his mate fiercely objects to. Syreena on the other hand has spent her whole life doing what was best for other, following directions and doing as she was told, without ever considering what SHE wants. She can be feisty and certainly gives Damien a run for his money. Then there is Jasmine, who has been with Damien as his primary adviser for 5 centuries and who reacts with volatility and disdain at his choice of mate (as if that was truly a choice). She hatches a plot that takes Damien away from Syreena and nearly costs all three of them their lives.



The world Ms. Frank has created is rich with mysticism, mythical creatures and extraordinarily complex, passionate characters. The plot runs smoothly, secrets are revealed at appropriate times and the action scenes are richly described. The dialogue feels realistic, never stilted, and I found myself unable to put this book down unless I absolutely had to.



Each book of the series not only furthers the overall plot, but also the connection between the various Nightwalker species, forcing them into cooperation with one another and making this an extraordinary journey for all of them.



I must take a moment to thank my friend Michelle for alerting me to this series. Without her, I wouldn't have picked up the first book and would have missed out on something very unique and amazing.



On to the next one...



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Friday, December 16, 2011

Gideon by Jacquelyn Frank

Gideon (Nightwalkers, #2)Gideon by Jacquelyn Frank

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


From the blurb:
They're called the Nightwalkers--proud, ancient beings who live in the shadows, existing just beyond the human world. But there are also dangerous humans who hunt them--necromancers who use the blackest magic to manipulate them. And for a Demon named Gideon, the battle against these evil forces will soon be all too personal... 

AS A HEALER, HE KNOWS HER BODY. BUT IT'S HER HEART HE WANTS. 

For a thousand years, Gideon has healed his people. And as the oldest surviving male of his race, his wisdom has always been respected without question. But Gideon knows that even he is vulnerable to the powerful, primitive desires that befall his kind during Hallowed moons--and nine years ago that truth was hammered home when he found himself claiming Magdalegna, the Demon King's sister, in a wild embrace. Horrified by his lack of control, he left her wanting and furious--and then exiled himself for the better part of a decade. Now, with necromancers threatening his people--and Magdalegna nearly their victim--Gideon must face another truth. He and the beautiful, stubborn Magdalegna are destined to be together, to share a love as deep and old as time itself. But first he needs to regain her trust. Then he'll have to save her life... 

Every night holds secrets.


The 2nd installment of Jacquelyn Frank's Nightwalker series deals primarily with the contemptuous relationship between Gideon and Legna. There's some acrimonious history there and the two of them don't get along all that well, hiding their emotions from the other.

We begin with another info dump, this time about Damien, the Vampire Prince, with whom Gideon meets, as well as a view into Legna's psyche who is feeling unlike herself lately.

I was a little bored.

And then Isabella, mated to Jacob (Book 1) is viciously attacked and left for nearly dead. Legna finds her and calls to Gideon just in time to save her, weakening herself and him in the process. Gideon takes Legna to his place to let her rest and heal, finding himself oddly craving her at all times. He, the oldest Demon in existence, the most powerful healer of them all, is struck dumb by this delicate female. He's confused, confounded and just a little bit worried.

Legna doesn't quite know what to think either. One moment, they're fighting and the next moment, they find themselves in the midst of this wondrous thing called imprinting.

And thus begins a delicate dance of romance between the two of them. Gideon is all "you are too good for me and I have this horrible secret you must never know and I carry all this guilt from the Druid Wars and I'm much too old for you and I want you anyway." and Legna is hung up on "You think me a child and you look down on me and I don't know what to do with all this newfound power and these feelings I have for you scare me and I want you anyway."

Imprinting is fabulous and scary and confusing, for both of them.

Of course, her big brother Noah (the Demon King) is not too happy about the fact that Gideon and Legna are imprinted and there's some discussion around that before the real action starts. Bella's attack is dissected and analyzed and we hear more about Ruth, the female Mind Demon Council member who will play a pivotal role later on.

Gideon and Legna, imprinted as they are, cannot stay away from each other. There's a lot of back and forth, and Gideon sounds a bit condescending on occasion, but I was struck dumb by how beautifully the author describes the growing connection between them, their honest conversations, the humorous banter and the culmination of their desires in a scene of lovemaking that left me simply stunned.

And fanning myself.

This author doesn't need coarse language so often found in contemporary romance. This author doesn't need crude words to describe the love scenes - instead she does so with emotion and you feel as if you're a fly on the wall, sucked into the whirlwind of those feelings of love and passion and power.

The plot thickens when Corinne, Bella's sister, is abducted from her home and we are thrown headlong into a conspiracy that is headed by someone with profound knowledge of the Demon world. And that's all I'm going to say because I don't want to spoil it.

The versatility of this author is what impressed me the most - she is just as capable of describing an emotional love scene as she is capable of providing literary visuals of the fight scenes towards the end of the book.

And then she calms us down again by inserting humor and joy at the ending and hope for the future.

I am salivating for the next one.





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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Jacob (Nightwalkers #1) by Jaqueline Frank

Jacob (Nightwalkers, #1)Jacob by Jacquelyn Frank

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I was recommended this series by a very dear friend who seemingly devoured them and told me I simply HAD to read them. First off, the names used in the first book for the H/h threw me for a loop - Jacob and Isabella? That combination brings to mind something very different than a powerful Demon and his little flower.

The blurb sounded interesting enough:

Since time began, there have been Nightwalkers - the races of the night who live in the shadows of the moonlight. Love with humans is absolutely forbidden, and one man makes certain to uphold this ancient law: Jacob, the Enforcer...

For 700 Years, He has resisted temptation. But not tonight...


Jacob knows the excuses his people give when the madness overtakes them and they fall prey to their lust for humans. He's heard every one and still brought the trespassers to justice. Immune to forbidden desires, uncontrollable hungers, or the curse of the moon, his control is total...until the moment he sees Isabella on a shadowy New York City street. Saving her life wasn't in his plans. Nor were the overwhelming feelings she arouses in him. But the moment he holds her in his arms and feels the soft explosion of her body against his, everything changes. Their attraction is undeniable, volatile, and completely against the law. Suddenly everything Jacob has ever believed is inflamed by the heat of desire...
Bring on the night.


So I started this book being a little wary but soon found myself enthralled by the story. Jacob is the kind of hero you want for yourself - strong, moral, upstanding, and oh so hot. (Isa)bella is the kind of heroine I enjoy reading about - feisty, strong-willed, argumentative and not easily cowered.

There were some oddities at first, since this is the first book in the series and the author has to do a massive info dump to introduce all the major players and this particular world, yet it never felt as if the information was forced down my throat.

Demons, it turns out, drink milk for kicks. The more exotic the milk, the better. So, homogenized cow's milk is the equivalent to, say, grape juice. Milk from a giraffe could be compared to a fine cognac. I snickered for a bit at that, but then Jacob meets Isabella who literally falls into his arms and we're off into a romantic love story that is interspersed with humorous moments as Bella learns to handle her powers, as well as the more intimate moments where Jacob and Bella grow closer, both being pulled to the other by unseen and inexplicable forces. Well, inexplicable for a while, until Bella finds an old manuscript in the Demon library that foretells of an Enforcer pair that will bring about change for the better of all Demonkind. Initially, Jacob seemed a bit obsessed with Bella's long black hair (to the point where I was yawning) but then he dropped that fascination and focused on the other things his little flower has to offer. I liked their relationship because Bella is no shrinking violet and she doesn't take crap from anyone, not even the Demon King, yet she is gentle and kind, and very intelligent, using her brain more than any heroine in any romance I've ever read.

The consummation of their relationship? Yeah, fasten your seatbelts, ladies, and have the Shamwows at the ready. Just sayin', just sayin'.

We are also introduced along the way to some of the characters that will play larger roles in future books. There is Noah, the Demon King, his sister Legna, Elijah the Warrior, Gideon the healer and Kane, Jacob's brother who, lo-and-behold, is destined for Bella's sister. And this revelation was a moment where I had to ask myself if all the players in this book had momentarily turned in their brainpowers at the door. It was reminiscent of another, very popular, book I read where all the intelligent people suddenly became horribly stupid for a while.

And then there are the Necromancers, humans with magic powers, who can summon a demon and torture it to do their bidding. This reminded me of religious fanatics to an extent who will demonize a kind and peaceful culture simply for their being different. Necromancers are evil, to say the least, and I can see how they will play large roles of discontent and disturbance in future books.

Overall, I am giving this 4 stars out of 5 - primarily due to the writing that kept me interested and entertained as well as the primary couple who have actual intelligent and honest conversations and an insurmountable love for each other that gives them strength to face their various adversaries.

I look forward to reading more from this author.



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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Review of Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia

Poughkeepsie




Read from November 28 to December 11, 2011

I have shelved this as rewritten fanfiction. I read the original fic online when it was Edward and Bella, and Jasper and Alice, and Emmett and Rosalie.

I loved it back then.

When the author pulled it, I felt as if I had lost someone near and dear to my heart.

When she announced that it was being reworked to be published, I waited patiently until that day came.

And then I read it again.

I love it now.

This is essentially the same story, with a
lot of editing and tightening up and giving new names to the characters, but the parts that captured my heart back then are all still within.

At its heart, it's a love story between a homeless man and a strong, brave woman, a love story between a man lost in his delusion and invisible to the world and the woman who
sees him.

At its soul, it is way more than that. It's about friendship, redemption, loyalty, trust, family (be it blood-related or not) and, above all, the saving grace of love.

Love never fails. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians tells us that, and I loved how the author used that well-known tidbit from the bible in her story. It may sound cliched to someone who hasn't read this story, but it feels to me as if the author took that letter from Paul, transferred it into modern times and wrote her story around it.

Upon first opening the book, we are introduced to Livia McHugh, a college student who rides the train every morning from Poughkeepsie to the big city to attend her studies in psychology. She has a long-time boyfriend, and a smile for everyone who's waiting with her at the station, including the young, homeless man that everyone ignores and who lingers in the shadows by the station's platform.

Blake Hartt watches Livia from afar and counts her smiles every day, knowing that he'll never be with a girl like her since he has nothing to offer. He's too proud to accept charity and too broken from the mistreatment by his late mother to find his way out of homelessness into a 'normal' life. It is enough for him to know that Livia truly
sees him - and he is rewarded with her smile every morning, and every night when she returns home.

Then one morning, a group of teenage boys accosts Blake with taunts and threats of violence. Livia is compelled to step between them, and getting them to leave Blake alone. He in turn is shocked but grateful that this young woman would come to his defense, and thus begins a friendship and then a love story that will make you laugh and cry and hug these characters to your chest, just to keep them safe. And at the end of the book, when you've followed their story all the way to its culmination, you feel as if you've been part of something amazing.

Blake Hartt is a very interesting character. He was abused and mistreated by his alcoholic mother and entered the foster care system at age 12 due to an incident that leaves him feeling guilty and thinking that his skin is made of glass and would repel anyone who'd see him in the sun. After he aged out of the system, he has no place to go. He lives in the shadows until Livia's love gives him the strength to move into the sunlight and become the man he was always meant to be. He has impeccable manners, keeps himself clean with the help of his foster brother Cole's shower, but refuses to accept anything he deems unearned, including food and shelter. You cannot help but fall in love with this man and his quiet, proud and thoughtful demeanor.

We meet Cole and Beckett along the way, who lived in the same foster home as Blake, and upon aging out of the system, they remain brothers and do what they can to help each other. The way they go about it is as different as night and day.

Beckett becomes a criminal, doing all the wrongs things for all the right reasons, all out of love for his brothers. Cole seeks the grace of God and is working as an assistant in a small, local church.

We meet Kyle, Livia's younger sister, who took their mother's leaving them and turned it against herself, believing that she wasn't enough, that she isn't worth anything if her own mother can't love her. She is promiscuous, loud and can cuss up a storm.

We meet Eve, who has lost her fiance and her baby due to a drive-by shooting and the resulting car accident. Eve is fueled by a need for revenge against the man who ordered the shooting until she is face-to-face with him and finds that she can't kill him.

We meet John McHugh, father to Livia and Kyle, a cop, who loves his girls and only wants what's best for them.

We meet a slew of minor characters, including Dr. Ted Hartt (yes, he shares a last name with Blake though I'll leave you to read to find out why) and Mouse aka Jimmy who serves as Beckett's bodyguard and whose role in this book is pivotal to the outcome.

There are trials, misunderstandings, tribulations and setbacks, false starts and triumphs, there are moments when you want to reach into the book and shake a character into common sense, there are moments when your fist will form in your pocket because you want to hit someone who deserves it, there are moments when you fear and hold your breath, and there are moments when you cry and smile at the same time.

Debra Anastasia takes you on a wild ride, have no doubt about it.

A couple of things that might be construed as criticism:

- the past tense of speed is sped. Not speeded. The proofreader in me cringed at that.
- the cursing. It's excessive when it comes to Beckett and a little innovative when it comes to Kyle. There were a few things that she uttered that sounded...weird, for lack of a better term. I don't know anyone who talks like that, but that's just me. Kyle's curses are something else.

I particularly commend the author for really editing this story, really taking out the parts that weren't needed and thus tightening the narration and the story overall.

Other than that, I must congratulate Ms. Anastasia for delivering a book that will stay with me for a long time, and one that I will re-read again and again. It's full of her own personal quirks, infused with laughter and tears, humor and seriousness, and above all overflows with the strength of pure love.

I am honored and privileged to have been a part of this journey with you.

You can find the author on her Goodreads Page
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