Thursday, May 31, 2012

Slammed by Colleen Hoover

(Slammed series, book 1)
After the unexpected death of her father forces eighteen-year-old Layken and her family to move across the country, away from everyone and everything she knows, her outlook on life is anything but hopeful.
Enter Will Cooper: the attractive twenty-one year old new neighbor with an intriguing passion for slam poetry. After a night tonight that turns out to be everything but expected, both Layken and Will are left with feelings they never knew they could have. Unfortunately in Layken’s life, things are never what they seem. Just as quickly as it develops, their relationship is derailed by a shocking revelation, sparking a tumultuous battle between their hearts and their ethics.
As if the dramatic turn of events in her life isn’t enough, Layken is slammed again when her mother reveals a secret of her own. A secret so intense, all of Layken’s current problems pale in comparison to her seemingly insurmountable future. Unable to confront the changes that lie ahead of her, Layken ignores her conscience as she turns to Will for solace. Struggles ensue as both Layken and Will search for a balance between that which keeps them apart and feelings that pull them together.

“I wish I could freeze this moment. I wish we could just carve pumpkins forever…” – Layken

WOW! This is one of the best books I have ever read and it is definitely one that I will read again in the future. I finished this book in one day because I was obsessed…just plain obsessed. I couldn’t put my Nook down and when I finished it, I had tears in my eyes. Okay, fine! I’ll be honest! I had tears streaming down my face. (Hey…I’m emotional!) Actually, I’m not even blaming the fact that I’m emotional for crying multiple times reading this book; it’s the writing. It is just brilliant. The storylines all flow together so well, and I absolutely fell in love with these characters.

First of all, Lake (yes, I’m on a nickname basis with her) is such a strong character. Oh, and how great is her name?! Layken. I LOVE IT! She has been dealt a hand that would cause most people to crumble, but with the exception of a couple bad days, she handles it all with maturity. The nurturing she provides to her younger brother Kel when her mother is busy working the night shift and sleeping during the day makes you forget that she’s only eighteen-years-old. I just adored her so much, and my heart ached for her throughout the book.

Ahhh, Will. I fell in love with him when he pulled out two grilled cheese sandwiches and sodas from a bag…in his car…for his and Lake’s first date. I don’t know why, but I just found that so freaking cute. What can I say? I’m a romantic ;) My emotions got toyed with reading this book more than they ever have in any of my relationships (I think that’s a good thing?) and it seemed like every time they would just maybe be working things out, I got slapped in the face with a big “AH HA, FOOLED YOU!” Colleen Hoover, you are a sneaky little trick…and I love you for it!

The last character I really loved was Lake’s best friend, Eddie. First of all, Eddie is a girl and you learn later on the actually meaning of her name. Without giving away too much, she has been bounced around foster homes because her mother was a crackhead who didn’t have time for her. Despite her upbringing, Eddie shines such a positive light on this book as a whole. She was the one picking up Lake when she needed it, she pushed her in the right direction; she was essentially her guiding light. The scene on Eddie’s birthday; I absolutely lost it. I was full on crying at my desk at work while I read that part. I just loved her character so much and to see her boyfriend do that for her was just too much for my emotions to handle!

I don’t want to say anything more, because I don’t want to give away any of the spoilers for this book. I feel like it would ruin the emotional ride if you had any hints as to what issues arise in Layken and Will’s relationship, as well as her mother’s secret. This is absolutely one of my all-time favorite books, and I can’t wait to start reading the sequel. The writing is brilliant, the characters are phenomenal, the relationships will give you hope, break your heart, make you smile, and make you cry. Slammed is just perfection. Absolute perfection.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dark Citadel by Cherise Sinclair

(Masters of the Shadowlands series, book 2)
After Kari breaks up with her date during Beginner’s Night at Club Shadowlands, she’s given the option to continue with an experienced dominant. Despite her steamy fantasies about BDSM, the inexperienced school teacher plans to simply observe. Yet under the unyielding hands of Master Dan, she not only participates, but gives him everything he asks for. There is nothing she can hide from him. Not her passion…or her love.

WARNING: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and a strong BDSM theme. It is not appropriate for young adults.

“Aside from your safe word, you have no say, no opinions, no control.” – Master Dan

After finishing the second book in this series, it’s official: I’m hooked! I was a little hesitant to read this series because it sounded a little intense, but I have found myself intrigued by the different Doms at Shadowlands. This book focuses on a different Dom and sub than the first book; Master Dan, whose wife died in a car accident and has a reputation for never taking a specific sub for more than one night, and the school teacher, Kari who is inexperienced in the world of BDSM.

She shows up at Club Shadowlands with her boyfriend, Buck, who is a huge douche. I guess in his defense he is inexperienced in the world of BDSM too, and takes the role of being a Dom to the extreme; he’s a complete and total ass to her. After ditching him, she assigned to Master Dan who immediately falls in lust with Kari. After fooling around a little on her first night of the beginner’s course, Kari has every intention of returning for the second night because she just can’t get enough of Master Dan. Regardless of her attraction to Master Dan, Kari constantly wrestles with her choices; she can’t understand why she enjoys this behavior and feels like she shouldn’t. Master Dan has an excellent quote to try and ease her mind: “Why they think everyone should be alike in making love when no one can even agree on what ice cream they like, I’ll never know.”  

Kari returns for the second night, has sex with Master Dan for the first time, and has her world freaking rocked. It’s not only a big night for Kari, who had sex for the first time while being restrained, but also for Dan; it was his first time taking the same sub twice. The third night, which requires some crafty work on Jessica’s part (she’s the Master Z’s sub from book 1) to get Dan to realize how much he wants to be with Kari, is the most intense. Dan’s punishment for Kari for back talking him and complaining about her outfit was pretty damn embarrassing! I would have probably started crying…then again, I’m a wimp. BUT, my favorite part was The Capture Gardens! OH. MY. GOSH! I’m not even going to try and pretend like the whole premise of the game didn’t intrigue me. It’s essentially hide-and-seek mixed with tag, only when a Dom catches his sub, he gets to decide what to do with her and as always, she must oblige or risk punishment. WHEW…I got a little hot and bothered after that!

I actually liked this book a little better than the first book. I didn’t really have a preference in regards to Jessica or Kari, I liked them both pretty much the same but I did like Master Dan a little better than Master Z. I really hope there is a book that focuses on Master Cullen though, because I think he’s my favorite so far and he hasn’t even been THAT involved! Overall, I really liked this book although it was slightly more intense than the first one. I loved Kari and Master Dan together, and as much as he helped her realize her passion and eagerness for BDSM, she helped him just as much with finally coming to terms with his wife’s death. I’m ready for book 3 and to learn about the horribly intimidating Master Nolan! 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Swallowing Stones by Joyce McDonald

It begins with a free and joyful act – but from then on, Michael finds it impossible event o remember what it felt like to be free and joyful. When he fires his new rifle into the air on his seventeenth birthday, he never imagines that the bullet will end up killing someone. But a mile away, a man is killed by that bullet as he innocently repairs his roof. And Michael keeps desperately silent while he watches his world crumble.
Meanwhile Jenna, the dead man’s daughter, copes with desperation of her own. Through her grief, she tries to understand why she no longer feels comfortable with her boyfriend and why a near stranger named Michael keeps appearing in her dreams.

While the book gets off to a pretty slow start, I ended up enjoying it. My expectations may have been a little too high, but once I got about half way through breezed through the second half. In the prologue we find out that Michael’s innocent act of firing his new rifle in the air ends up killing husband and father, Charlie Ward, while he works on his roof about a mile away. After Michael and his best friend Joe, who was with him when he shot the rifle, find out that the bullet took someone’s life, Michael goes into panic mode and Joe tries to convince Michael everything will be just fine. Michael ends up digging a hole in his backyard, placing the rifle in a PVC pipe, and burying it to hide any evidence. His whole life has been changed, and so has Michael; he’s distant, he avoids his family and his girlfriend, and he becomes increasingly more and more paranoid. With the police narrowing down the spot where the gun was fired to a four block radius and begin going door-to-door to question residents and inspect all firearms, Michael is faced with a huge decision. Does he come clean and clear his conscience but potentially ruin the rest of his life, or does he keep quiet and hope this whole nightmare blows over? Can he swallow the stone and move on, or will it get caught in his throat and cut off his air supply?

I actually really liked this book, although getting through the beginning was a little rough. I was so torn on my feelings for Michael; I felt so terrible for him because he never could have imagined that his bullet would kill someone, but I was also mad at him for being deceitful and trying to cover up what he did. I think the part that changed my opinion of him for good was when he started sitting on the church steps across from Jenna’s house every single night. He had so much remorse, but just couldn’t accept the fact that turning himself in would change his whole life. Instead of going to college, he could be going to prison. I was continually hoping that he would do the right thing, but I really did feel for him. I can’t even imagine being in that kind of situation.

One of my favorite aspects of this book was the relationship he formed with Amy, a girl who has a reputation for getting around. I absolutely loved her character, and my heart ached for her a little bit. She was a girl who was misunderstood and judged harshly on her actions before anyone really got a chance to know her. One of my favorite lines of the book was when Michael stood up for Amy to his girlfriend Darcy: “Amy Ruggerio is one of the most decent human beings I know. She’s been a good friend to me. A friend, period. You can believe whatever the hell you want. But nobody calls a friend of mine – and friend of mine – a pig.” She really was a great person, and what Darcy did to her broke my heart a little bit. After her and Michael started hanging out, I was really hoping they would end up together!

Overall, it was a touching story. I gave it 3 stars just because I wasn’t crazy about the first 40-50 or so pages. The relationship between the characters is moving, and the maturity transformation from Michael was admirable. I do wish we would have learned more about the repercussions of Michael’s final decision, and see if his relationship with Amy progressed at all. Ohhh, I really hope it did! This is a good book for anyone from teenagers to grown adults. You’ll fall in love with these characters; I know I did.  

Friday, May 25, 2012

Club Shadowlands by Cherise Sinclair

(Masters of the Shadowlands series, book 1)
Her car disabled during a tropical storm, Jessica Randall discovers the isolated house where she’s sheltering is a private bondage club. At first shocked, she soon becomes aroused watching the interactions between the Doms and their subs. But she’s a professional woman – an accountant – and surely isn’t a submissive…is she?

Master Z hasn’t been so attracted to a woman in years. But the little sub who has wandered into his club intrigues him. She’s intelligent. Reserved. Conservative. After he discovers her interest in BDSM, he can’t resist tying her up and unleashing the passion she hides within.

WARNING: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language and a strong BDSM theme.

After I finished the Shades of Grey trilogy, I decided I wanted to explore that genre a little more and stumbled upon this series on Goodreads. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect since I have never read anything by Cherise Sinclair before; I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed. I will just say this: if you have a strong aversion to BDSM, I would advise against this book. The scenes involving Doms and subs can get rather graphic and include but are not limited to: whipping, restraining, caning, bondage, spanking, and exhibitionism. If you think you can handle that, pull up a seat and we’ll get down to business.

I was surprisingly hooked on this book and since it was short, I was able to finish it in one day. Right off the bat, we are introduced to the two main characters: Jessica, the conservative account who stumbles upon this bondage club by accident, and Master Z, the owner of the club and eventually Jessica’s Dom.

Master Z introduces Jessica to the world of BDSM, and her first night at the club is one of my favorite parts of the book. Her reaction to the Dom/sub relationships, the various equipment, the different rooms, etc. was entertaining and pretty funny. I remember reading that part and thinking “That is exactly how I would be if I was in her situation!” I would probably be intrigued but I’d also be scared as hell! I’ve never been in that kind of atmosphere, and I haven’t gotten into BDSM personally. I actually felt kind of bad for her during her punishment for breaking up a scene, and I actually caught myself cringing a little bit when Jessica started crying and her punishment wasn’t over yet. OH MY GOSH, and I could not believe the punishment Master Z had given Adrienne for disobeying her Dom. I mean…WOW!

Now, onto Jessica and Master Z; I think I like them together but since the book was so short, I’m not 100% sold yet. They have only been together for two nights so we just kind of touch the surface of their Dom/sub relationship, as well as any romantic connection that may stem from this. That being said, their sex scenes together are freaking hot! I mean, I got a little hot and bothered just reading them, y’all! The part that really got me was when Master Z was doing a demonstration in the medical room, Jessica volunteered as the sub (her Dom isn’t touching anybody but her!), and unbeknownst to her, another Dom will also be pleasuring her. She’s blindfolded and restrained. There are toys involved. There is an audience. It’s intense and it’s HOT!

There were a couple things I found farfetched, which is why I am only giving it 3 stars. First of all, I find it hard to believe that someone as meticulous as Jessica would sign these documents without reading all the way through them. If a nightclub requires your signature, you MIGHT want to read through and figure out why! Secondly, I could not believe Jessica’s willingness to not only let Master Z watch her shower five minutes after meeting him, but letting him dry her off! I mean, really?! She is supposed to be reserved and conservative, and I feel like both of my “bugaboos” go against whom her character is.

We learn very little about any of the other Doms in this club but from reading the synopsis for the second book in this series, it will focus on a new sub and one of the other Doms, Master Dan. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, and I’m anxious to learn about some of the other Doms! Bring ‘em on, strap me down, whatever…I’m ready for the next book!

The Opportunist by Tarryn Fisher

(The Opportunist series, book 1)
Olivia Kaspen has just discovered that her ex-boyfriend, Caleb Drake, has lost his memory. With an already lousy reputation for taking advantage of situations, Olivia must decide how far she is willing to go to get Caleb back. Wrestling to keep her true identity and their sordid past under wraps, Olivia’s greatest obstacle is Caleb’s wicked, new girlfriend; Leah Smith. It is a race to the finish as these two vipers engage in a vicious tug of war to possess a man who no longer remembers them. But, soon enough Olivia must face the consequences of her lies, and in the process discover that sometimes love falls short of redemption.

“You can only give your heart away once, after that, everything else will chase your first love.” – The Opportunist

Holy. Fuck. I honestly don’t even know where to start or HOW to start reviewing this book. I finished it yesterday morning, and I can’t stop thinking about it! My emotions got thrown all over the place; I felt like a 25-year-old going through early menopause! I was pissed off, I was heartbroken, I was hopeful, I was devastated; I loved the main characters and I hated the main characters. I wanted Olivia and Caleb together but then I didn’t, and then I did; to say this book was an emotional rollercoaster is an understatement. This book freaking owned me emotionally. I honestly can’t remember a book I read where not only did I feel so many emotions throughout the book, but felt them all at once! It’s emotional overload.

I had a pretty severe love/hate relationship with Olivia and Caleb throughout the book. There were times I found myself smiling while reading about their dates, listening to their banter, and holding out hope that they just might be able to make things work…and then there were times I just wanted to smack both of them! I was heartbroken when I read the office scene and in that moment, I hated Caleb. I felt so terrible for Olivia until she has her brilliant idea to get back at him. As I was reading that part, I literally said out loud “NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!!!” I just wanted to shake some sense into her and yell “DON’T DO IT, HOMEGIRL!!” I was devastated at this point in the book, and true to form, it wasn’t over yet. I thought I couldn’t feel any more emotion for their relationship than I already had, and I was wrong. Their exchange in the hotel room broke me. The image of Caleb on his knees crying silently just absolutely killed me. It was at that moment that I just had to stop reading for a moment and take in the events that led up to this situation. These two people who loved each other so much have destroyed their relationship; they both let their selfishness, their pride, and their manipulations shatter any chance they had at being together.

I’m still a little torn on how I feel about the ending. I think the best word I can use to describe it, is bittersweet. I wasn’t necessarily happy about it, but it makes sense. This book has done a number on me emotionally, and yet I can’t wait until the next book is released. I will be recommending this book to everyone. It’s memorable, it’s heartbreaking, it’s addictive, and it made me hurt for these characters. It’s just a crazy good book! WHEW…I need a drink.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris

(Sookie Stackhouse series, book 11)
With her knack for being in trouble’s way, Sookie witnesses the firebombing of Merlotte’s, the bar where she works. Since Sam Merlotte is now known to be two-natured, suspicion falls immediately on the anti-shifters in the area. But Sookie suspects other, and she and Sam work together to uncover the culprit – and the twisted motive for the attack.
But her attention is divided. Though she can’t “read” vampires, Sookie knows her lover, Eric Northman, and his “child” Pam well – and she realizes that they are plotting to kill the vampire who is now their master. Gradually, she is drawn into the plot – which is much more complicated than she knows.
Caught up once again in the politics of the vampire world, Sookie will learn that she is as much of a pawn as any ordinary human – and that there is a new queen on the board…

Well, here we are eleven books into the series, and Sookie still can’t manage to just settle into a normal life. No matter where she goes, trouble seems to find her. She’s working a shift at Merlotte’s when the bar gets firebombed…and from what Sookie can tell, the bomber wasn’t fully human. It turns out an old enemy just might be out to seek revenge on Sookie.

Sookie also has her faerie cousin Claude and faerie uncle Dermot living with her, and call me crazy, but it seems to me that Claude is up to something. I have said before that I didn’t care for the faerie aspect of this series, but I like this new Claude. There’s just something about him…

Ohhh, and will Eric and Sookie ever just be happy together?? I’m starting to think that might be impossible…even if they are married. Well, the marriage is only legal in the vampire world; if you didn’t already know that, you probably should read the previous books before jumping to this review. Just sayin’! It seems as though Sookie is starting to consider the real costs of having a long-term relationship with him. How would he feel about her when she starts aging and he doesn’t? How much more violence can she really take in her life? I think all these feelings point to the conclusion that Sookie really has no desire to be changed into a vampire to make her life with Eric “easier.” I never really thought she would turn, because she had never said she wanted to, never asked questions about it; she only thought about it once. She’s too independent to change her life like that for a guy…she’s no Bella Swan (THANK. GOD.) As if all that wasn’t enough to complicate their relationship, we find out Eric has been keeping a pretty big secret.

Bill has more of a role in this book than the previous one, and true to form, I found myself rooting for him just a little bit. I’m a bigger flip-flopper than presidential candidates, I tell ya! I am still on Team Eric, but this is the first time in a while that I actually liked Bill and wasn’t just feeling sorry for him. There are also a lot of other characters that make a very welcome appearance in this book: Amelia, Bob, Alcide, Hunter, Bubba, and Mr. Cataliades, just to name my favorites. I don’t know that I’ve ever mentioned Bubba in my previous reviews, but anytime he’s involved I always find myself with a smile on my face. I get all shook up ;)

The end creates more questions than answers. Is Sookie really done with supes? What is Sookie going to do with her grandfather’s gift? What IS Claude really up to? What lies in store for Sookie’s relationship with Eric…and Pam for that matter? SWEET SASSY MOLASSY, I NEED SOME ANSWERS!! I can’t wait to see how Harris wraps up this series with the final two books. 

Dead In The Family by Charlaine Harris

(Sookie Stackhouse series, book 10)
After enduring torture and the loss of loved ones during the brief but deadly Fae War, Sookie Stackhouse is hurt and she’s mad. Just about the only bright spot in her life is the love she thinks she feels for vampire Eric Northman. But he’s under scrutiny by the new vampire king because of their relationship. And as the political implications of the shifters’ coming out are beginning to be felt, Sookie’s connection to one particular Were draws her in to the dangerous debate. Also, unknown to her, though the doors to Faery have been closed, there are still some fae on the human side – and one of them is angry at Sookie. Very, very angry.

Well, this book wasn’t all I expected it to be but I suppose it was slightly better than the previous two books in the series. I still find myself less than impressed with the majority of the plotlines in the most recent books, unfortunately. We come into this story with Sookie recovering from the torture she received from Lochlan and Neave, the demented fairies from the previous book. She seems okay physically, but it’s very apparent that emotionally she’s still a mess.

Eric has cemented himself in her life and is now officially her boyfriend. YAY! I have loved Sookie and Eric together ever since Dead To The World, and I am so happy that they are finally together when they are both in their right mind, and one isn’t in a state of amnesia. Oh! Oh! Oh! For the first time in the series, Sookie FINALLY imagines what it would be like if she were turned into a vampire. I have been waiting for her to at least consider the idea since she got serious with Bill; it only took ten books to get there. I still don’t think she will go through the change, mainly because her relationships with vampires have never been horribly solid.

We get to meet Eric’s maker, Appius Livius Ocella, who comes to Eric for help in returning his brother to sanity. I’m not really sure what to think of Appius; I think it’s just the fact that he’s having sex with Eric’s “brother” Alexei, who is an adolescent. I just could never really get past that whole relationship enough to make an opinion of him.

Sookie contacts Bill’s “sister” (she was created by the same maker as Bill) in an attempt to save Bill’s life. He is still recovering from the silver poisoning he got from one of the demented fairies’ teeth in the Fae War. His “sister” Judith agrees to come stay with Bill, and uses her blood to nurse him back to health. I’m anxious to see where their relationship goes since Judith resembles Bill’s late wife so much. I think this put a nice end to the drama between Bill and Sookie, I really liked it.

Oh, and Sookie also has to deal with her angry half-fae uncle Dermot who managed to stay in the human world since the Fae world was sealed up at the end of the last book. There’s a twist that will make it more difficult to catch this little sneakster though because he just might look exactly like someone else; someone Sookie would never be afraid of. Once again, I’m not horribly interested in any of the faeries (except Sookie) that have been in these books.

There’s a lot of buildup around Sookie’s plan to kill Victor because she sees him as a threat not only to her, but also Eric, Bill, and Pam. As I expected, she doesn’t want to kill him in cold blood; they try to devise a plan that will invoke a battle of some sort so she can use self-defense as her excuse for killing him. Understandable, I guess…but the dude has made it clear he wants to kill you. Just stake him, homegirl!

Overall, there wasn’t a whole lot of action in this book which was quite the change of pace from the previous two books. I still didn’t love this book, but it was a pretty good read. Even so, I’m eager to read the next book just to see if they carry out their plan on Victor and to see if Sookie and Eric are in it for the long haul… (please say yes, please say yes, pleeeease say yes!)

Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris

(Sookie Stackhouse series, book 9)
Except for Sookie Stackhouse, folks in Bon Temps, Louisiana, knew little about vamps – and nothing about Weres. Until now. The Weres and shifters have finally revealed their existence to the ordinary world, and the backlash may have claimed the life of someone Sookie knew. But her determination to find out who is responsible for the murder is put aside in the face of a far greater danger. A race of unhuman beings – older, more powerful and more secretive than vampires or werewolves – is preparing for war. And Sookie will find herself an all-too-human pawn in their battle…

After the clusterfuck that was From Dead To Worse, I was really hoping for something good from this book. Sadly, I wasn’t that impressed. I really hope things turn around with the next book because I’m starting to almost lose interest. There are just too many plotlines jammed into each book that it’s a mess to keep up. I could barely wrap my head around one “HOLY CRAP!” moment, and then I’m smacked in the face with another “WHAT THE HELL?!” twist. It’s almost exhausting.

The one major storyline that I did like was the Weres and shifters finally revealed their existence to the public. The reaction over the vampire reveal was mixed, so I knew there would be some people wigging out after the big reveal of another mythological creature. Of course, I was right. Someone close to Sookie is brutally murdered and left in the Merlotte’s bar parking lot, but were they killed simply because they were a shifter? I’m always honest in my reviews, so I don’t see any reason to start holding back now. I wasn’t upset about who got killed. There! I said it! That being said, I was very surprised when it was revealed who actually committed the murder and I did enjoy the mystery of that storyline.

I honestly don’t even know what to say about the Fae War. I have found myself often disinterested in the whole Faery world and all that comes along with it. Sookie’s great-grandfather bothers me, and her Fae cousins are boring to me. I can’t really say too much without giving away spoilers, but several people are killed during the war, and after it’s finally over, the Faery world will never quite be the same…and neither will Sookie’s.

I was hoping the blood bond created between Eric and Sookie would be explained in more detail: how long does it last, can it be broken, can either one of them end it, etc. No dice. Not only that, but I got so tired of Sookie constantly questioning whether her feelings for Eric were real or a result of the blood bond. It just made their whole relationship feel contrived, and I loved them together! Oh, and Eric’s sneaky little trick to make sure Felipe de Castro can’t acquire Sookie to use her telepathic talents for his use is super scandalous. I loved it!

This book was alright but after two somewhat sketchy books in a row, I’m getting a little frustrated. I was so enthralled with this series for the first six or seven books, and now I feel like I’ve read the past two books just to get through them; I didn’t really enjoy them all that much. I know I’m going to finish the series regardless, but I really with the next book Harris returns to the stories and structure that made me fall in love with this series to begin with. 

From Dead To Worse by Charlaine Harris

(Sookie Stackhouse series, book 8)
After the natural disaster of Hurricane Katrina and the man-made horror of the explosion at the vampire summit, Sookie Stackhouse is safe but dazed, yearning for things to get back to normal. But her boyfriend, Quinn, is among the missing. And things are changing, whether the Weres and the vamps in her corner of Louisiana like it or not. In the ensuing battles, Sookie faces danger, death…and, once more, betrayal by someone she loves. And when the fur has finished flying and the cold blood has ceased flowing, her world will be forever altered…

Holy biscuits. This book is jammed packed full of storylines, which I can only assume are all leading up to the following books. I understand the need for a transition book in a series, but this one was almost a little too much. There is a war between the vamps for control of Louisiana, the Weres of Shreveport go to war against rogue Weres seeking to overtake their pack, Sookie learns where her telepathic powers come from and discovers a long lost relative, Quinn reveals information about his family that could jeopardize his relationship with Sookie, Sookie stops all communication with her brother, Jason…whew. I need a breather. None of the storylines flowed together, and I actually found myself annoyed for the first time during this book.

Alright, grab some popcorn and take seat. In a nutshell, Felipe de Castro, the vampire King of Nevada, begins a campaign to gain control of Louisiana and Arkansas. In the aftermath of the explosion at the summit, Sophie-Anne, vamp Queen of Louisiana, is unable to protect her land due to injuries.

Sookie witnesses the war between Were packs, where Alcide is named pack leader. Um…the ritual after someone is promoted to pack leader is so strange, and after seeing it I can understand why Sookie feels differently about Alcide. She also finds herself drawn to Eric, mostly due to the blood exchange that took place in the previous book. Nevertheless, she has to decide if she wants to stay with Quinn after learning about his family problems, or tell the weretiger to kick rocks and act on her feelings for Eric.

Some messy stuff goes down in the werepanther community between Jason and his wife, Crystal, that puts Sookie in a terrible situation which forces her to stop all communication to her brother. I never understood her rage towards Jason in this situation; he wasn’t the problem, Crystal was.

I can’t go into too much detail regarding the information on why Sookie has telepathic powers, but I’ll just say I wasn’t really surprised. It seemed to make sense considering some of the other characters we have been introduced to in the past books.

 This was my least favorite book so far. There were just too many storylines packed into this one book that it felt like the second I was getting into one plotline, Harris killed it and started another plotline. Sookie also seemed irritated throughout this whole book, which is very unlike her character. I get that she has a lot on her plate, but that has been the case since the beginning of the series and she has never reacted like this; she usually takes it with a grain of salt and maintains her sweet self. I don’t care for the new Sookie attitude. Here’s to hoping the next book gets my excitement about this series back on track. 

All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris

(Sookie Stackhouse series, book 7)
Betrayed by her longtime vampire love, Louisiana cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse must now not only deal with a possible new man in her life – the oh-so-handsome shapeshifter Quinn – but also contend with a long-planned vampire summit. With her power base weakened by hurricane damage to New Orleans, the local vampire queen in vulnerable to those hungry for a take-over. Sookie must decide what side she’ll stand with. And her choice may mean the difference between survival and all-out catastrophe…

I stated in a review of one of the previous Sookie Stackhouse books that there would be a bit of an avalanche of characters in the upcoming books. This was the first book of the series where I caught myself saying, “wait…who is that again?” That being said, let’s get the wheels turning on this review.

Sophie-Anne, vampire Queen of Louisiana, has been accused of murdering her husband, the King of Arkansas, and is set to stand trial at the annual vampire summit. She has summoned Sookie to accompany her and use her abilities as a telepath to read the minds of any humans wandering throughout the summit, as well as employees of the hotel. Without delving too deep into vampire politics, Sophie-Anne needs to know if there is any talk of allegiances, or alliances to overtake Louisiana since her powerbase has been weakened by Hurricane Katrina.

Bill and Eric are of course on hand at the summit, as well as Sookie’s boyfriend, weretiger Quinn. (She’s still with him. Ugh.) It’s a no brainer that this will undoubtedly cause rifts between them, as they all want Sookie to themselves. Sookie and Quinn’s relationship heats up until she finds out a shocking revelation about him involving his teen years. I don’t want to spoil it, but I will say this; as much as I dislike Sookie and Quinn together, I can’t understand why she gets so upset with him after finding out this information. Personally, I think it gave him a likable quality…loyalty. So I guess I’ll give him a point for that. Her relationship with Eric could be forever changed after in an attempt to save her, Eric forces her into a third and major blood exchange. I dug this plot twist and I’m anxious to see how it affects her feelings for Eric, if at all.

Relationship storyline aside, Sookie and Barry (the hotel bellboy and fellow telepath) find clues that lead them to believe the Fellowship of the Sun may be up to something big and start to realize there may be something odd going on in the pyramid-like hotel where not only is the summit being held, but is also where all the vampires are shacking up.

I wasn’t as impressed with this book as I was with some of the others, but it was a good read overall. It was a little hard to keep track of all the new character additions, and I did find myself going back to re-read certain parts just to remember why or how certain characters were relevant. Other than that, I’m ready for the next book and hoping for a reconciliation between Sookie and Eric. *Fingers Crossed* 

Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris

(Sookie Stackhouse series, book 6)
Since Louisiana cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse has so few living relatives, she hates to lose one – even her cousin Hadley, undead consort of the vampire Queen of Louisiana. Hadley’s left everything she has to Sookie, but claiming that inheritance has a high risk factor. Some people don’t want her looking too deeply into Hadley’s past, or Hadley’s possessions. And they’re prepared to do anything in their power to stop her. Whoever it is, they’re definitely dangerous – and Sookie’s life is definitely on the line…

It’s no mystery that I love magic considering my obsession with Harry Potter, and this book has plenty of it! Alright, let’s take it from the top. First of all, Sookie has officially kicked her vamps to the curb and started dating weretiger and over-user of the word “babe”, Quinn. Ugh. Don’t get me started on this relationship. I’ll just say you won’t see me jumping on the Team Quinn bandwagon anytime soon.

Meanwhile, Sookie loses one of the few relatives she has left: her vamp cousin, Hadley…who also happens to be the Queen of Louisiana’s lover. When Sookie finds out Hadley has left all of her possessions to her, she takes a trip down to New Orleans (or Nawlins, as I like to call it) to settle her affairs. It’s here she meets Hadley’s landlord, a young witch named Amelia who has put Hadley’s apartment under a stasis spell. I absolutely adore Amelia! She is such a breath of fresh air to this series, and adds some welcomed comedic relief. After Amelia lifts the spell, she and Sookie find that Hadley had bitten a werewolf in order to turn him vamp, and hid him the closet. You can probably guess what happens next: new vampire craves blood, Sookie and Amelia have said blood, attack ensues, and Sookie winds up in the hospital. It’s here that we find out a shocking detail about why Bill moved to Bon Temps in the first place. I don’t want to say it was a welcome twist, but to be honest I’ve kind of cooled on my love of Bill. I really didn’t see this coming, and I have to wonder if it’s maybe Harris’s attempt to put a stake in the Bill/Sookie relationship.  See what I did there? Just a little vampire humor for you; you’re welcome.

My favorite part of the book is when Amelia and her witch buddies cast an ectoplasmic reconstruction spell; it’s a spell that reconstructs the events of a specified event. They cast the spell in order to see what events led to Hadley biting Jake Purifoy, the werewolf turned vampire hidden in her closet. It’s pretty damn awesome. After being introduced to Amelia, I was praying that Harris would find a way to keep her character around for the remainder of the series. We don’t really get to see Sookie in a female friendship, aside from Tara and her character is rarely a factor in the books.

I really enjoyed this book, with the exception of the Quinn and Sookie romance. Oh! I forgot to mention one little nugget of information that made me roll my eyes and literally say “oh my god…” out loud. Quinn and Sookie dry hump in the kitchen and he enjoys it a little too much if you get my drift. I mean, really? That is something that would happen to a 14 year old boy who got dry humped by a girl for the first time. I was over Quinn before he and Sookie even became an actual couple, so the only thing I’m hoping is that in the next book she decides she wants a man/vampire/were-something that doesn’t get off just from dry humping with clothes on. With that being said…bring on book 7!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dead As A Doornail by Charlaine Harris

(Sookie Stackhouse series, book 5)
Small-town cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse has had more than her share of experience with the supernatural – but now it’s really hitting close to home. When Sookie sees her brother Jason’s eyes start to change, she knows he’s about to turn into a werepanther for the first time – a transformation he embraces more readily than most shapeshifters she knows. But her concern becomes cold fear when a sniper sets his deadly sights on the local changeling populations, and Jason’s new panther brethren suspect he may be the shooter. Now Sookie has until the next full moon to find out who’s behind the attacks – unless the killer decides to find her first…

The first line of the book sets the whole storyline for Jason: “I knew my brother turn into a panther before he did.” As we learned in the last book, Jason was kidnapped and bitten repeatedly by werepanther, Felton Norris. As a result, Jason will now shift into half man/half panther on each full moon. Meanwhile, Sam and Calvin Norris are both shot and Sookie finds out that there have been several Were shootings throughout Louisiana. Unfortunately, Calvin immediately suspects Jason is the shooter taking out his anger for being kidnapped and turned into a werepanther. Poor Jason; he’s consistently getting blamed for stuff he didn’t do. His saving grace is unfortunately when Sookie gets shot while leaving the library. Seeing as she is Jason’s only family left, it seems implausible that he would try to gun down his own sister. When Sookie is released from the hospital and she and Sam continue their investigation, they find themselves face to face with one of the “bad guys” in an alley while Sam is in dog form. I was actually incredibly surprised when this shooter was revealed, because I absolutely did not see it coming! As far as the other antagonist in this book, I actually did have an idea who it was from the beginning. I just had a strange feeling about this character and their mannerisms. Something just wasn’t right with this yahoo. Even though one of the villains didn’t come as a surprise to me, I did love being blindsided when the identity of the shooter Sookie and Sam ran into was revealed.

The big news in the Long Tooth pack is that their pack leader is hit and killed by a car, so they need a replacement and Alcide’s father decides to throw his name in the hat. In an attempt to help out his father, Alcide convinces Sookie to read the minds of the other pack leaders and while at the competition for pack leader Sookie meets another potential love interest; a weretiger named Quinn. I actually really liked that we learned more about the werewolf community and their politics. The past four books have pretty well provided us with how vampire politics work, so it was nice to see how werewolf politics differ. I’ll also just come right out and say it; I didn’t like the Sookie and Quinn relationship from the very beginning! I have been swayed between her love interests in the past, but he was one that I never wanted her to end up with. It may sound trivial, but it drove me crazy that he ALWAYS called her Babe. It was never Sookie…always Babe. I’m all for cute pet names, but at least change it up every once in a while, homeboy!

Now, onto the vampires; Eric got his memory back at the end of the last book and has been grilling Sookie for information on what exactly happened between them while he was in his amnesia state. Sookie finally agrees to tell him…everything…from their sexual escapades to him hiding Debbie Pelt’s body. I feel for Sookie during this moment, because she really fell for him while he had amnesia, and you can tell that she knows they will never have that same relationship. I was actually really disappointed about this too, because I loved Sookie and Eric’s relationship…while he had amnesia. He was so sweet and wonderful to her, and it made me firmly plant myself on Team Eric. I want them together! But now that Sookie’s list of possible love interests has grown by a couple more (Calvin Norris and Quinn) maybe she’ll decide to stray away from the vamps for a while and take a walk on the wild side.

This maintained the same level of writing as the previous books, although this was probably my least favorite book so far. Harris maintains to add more mystery and keep me wanting to read more about Sookie Stackhouse’s crazy world full of mythological creatures.

Confetti Covered Quicksand by Amy Asbury

(The Sunset Strip Diaries series, book 2)
Fresh from the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, Amy Asbury is at a crossroads. The grunge scene took over and left her hair band crowd in the dust. Where to go? What to do? It was as if a three year long party had just been broken up and no one remembered where they lived. Everyone was left with an identity crisis. Those who turned to drugs found themselves spinning out of control, especially Amy’s friend Birdie.
The Sunset Strip girls migrated into the mainstream LA club scene and took over the VIP rooms. Read about lots of run-ins with 1990’s stars like Anna Nicole Smith, Pamela Anderson, and many others. What happened inside the clubs? Read about the insane nights of young twenty-somethings on the loose in Los Angeles.
When Amy became overwhelmed by LA, she headed for Aspen, Colorado. Read about the total chaos inside the closed doors of Aspen ski lodges, where cocaine was king. The death of a close friend caused her to sink into an ugly depression. Will she turn to drugs to comfort herself?
This is a true story of a girl in Los Angeles, trying to survive on her looks and struggling with her identity. It is about using drugs and alcohol to cover up pain and humiliation. Can she find happiness in the emptiest, numbest city in the world?

A quote from page 146: “Los Angeles makes me sad. It’s like confetti covered quicksand. You don’t notice you are sinking, because there is always a party going on around you, so sensationally slick and fun.”

Amy finds herself lost, not sure where to turn now that her party scene on the Sunset Strip has officially been taken over by the grunge movement. Does she stick around and become a washed up has-been, does she move? No. She does the only thing that she can think of to keep the party going; she redefines herself and makes new friends who are tuned into the new LA club scene. She manages to make herself an “it-girl” in the club scene, and continues the constant party that her life has become over the past three years. Her life is just as chaotic now as it was during the glam rock scene, which actually surprised me. She’s still hanging out with dancers, getting blackout drunk, obsessing about her looks, and having frequent celebrity run-ins with people such as Tommy Lee, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt LeBlanc, and Anna Nicole Smith.

She finally moves to Aspen, Colorado after having a breakdown, losing a number of her close friends, and trying to distance herself from her friend Birdie, who is now a full blown heroin junkie. As she takes in Aspen, she quotes “I half expected some yodeling son of a bitch to zoom by me on a bobsled or the Von Trapps from The Sound of Music to come frolicking over the mountaintops.” That made me giggle : ) She quickly finds the party scene in Aspen, at which time she finds out the drug of choice that everyone seems to be doing there is cocaine. One guy actually deals coke to his own parents! His own parents! Is this real life?! I was continually shocked reading this book, and I really thought after reading The Sunset Strip Diaries that nothing in this book would wow me the way the stories in that book did; I was wrong.

The stories in this book are just as ridiculous, which just goes to show you that even though the glam rock scene on the Sunset Strip died, Amy still found a way to keep her party alive. It was kind of mindboggling just how much energy she put into completely revamping her look, attitude, and trying not to look “white trash” just so she could keep partying with the “in-crowd.” When one of her close friends died, I was a little bit heartbroken. I kind of had an inkling it was coming, but I just didn’t want to believe it.

Like I said in my review of The Sunset Strip Diaries, Amy’s writing style makes you feel like you’re right there with her experiencing all of this craziness first hand. It’s captivating, scandalous, and incredibly delicious.  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dead To The World by Charlaine Harris

(Sookie Stackhouse series, book 4)
It’s not every day that you come across a naked man on the side of the road. That’s why cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse doesn’t just drive on by. Turns out the poor thing hasn’t a clue who he is, but Sookie does. It’s Eric the vampire – but now he’s a kinder, gentler Eric. And a scared Eric, because whoever took his memory now wants his life. Sookie’s investigation into who and why leads straight into a dangerous battle among witches, vampires, and werewolves. But a greater danger could be to Sookie’s heart – because this version of Eric is very difficult to resist…

WOW! There is so much going on in the fourth book of the series that I’m not even sure where to start! Okay, here it goes. At the very beginning of the book Bill informs Sookie that he will be going to Peru to collect information for the vampire Queen of Louisiana. I have to admit, I was kind of glad that he would be out of the picture for a while. I know, I know…I was such an advocate for Team Bill during the first two books, but I have to say I’m almost positive I’ve been swayed to a different team. You’ll find out what team I’ve parked myself on for now very soon.

I knew there would be a new or reignited love interest for Sookie since Bill wasn’t going to be around at all, and I couldn’t have been happier with the storyline. As Sookie is driving home from work one night, she sees a naked man running alongside the road. She can’t just drive by, so she stops and attempts to help the man. He has no idea who he is, where he is, nothing. Luckily, Sookie knows exactly who he is. It’s Eric, the vampire Sheriff of Area 5. A coven of witches have completely erased his memory; he doesn’t remember anything about himself and his domineering, controlling personality has been washed away as well. He is a scared, helpless, dependent Eric. He reveals his feelings for Sookie and I have to admit…Eric with amnesia is HOT! I liked his old personality, but there’s just something about him being so vulnerable and raw that makes him so damn delicious. With Eric staying at her house and Bill out of the country, Sookie begins to think about exploring her feelings for Eric, mentally and physically. Y-E-S! It’s about damn time! Sookie finds herself falling hard for Eric, but in the back of her mind she keeps wondering just how long it will be before he starts to piece back together his memories and turn back into the old Eric. Can you guess what team I’m on now? :)

The witches who erased Eric’s memory and now want him dead are no ordinary witches. This is a coven of witches who also happen to be shapeshifters and vampire blood addicts. Needless to say, they’re crazy powerful and extremely scary for the vampires, werewolves, and humans in the Louisiana area. As Sookie delves deeper into finding out why the witches want Eric’s life, a fatal battle occurs between Sookie, the witches, vampires, and werewolves that results in lives lost from all sides of the war. After the battle, Sookie is confronted by Alcide’s ex, Debbie, who is also a Were and they have a blood-filled, faceoff in Sookie’s kitchen. I have hated Debbie from the very beginning, and I just can’t imagine sweet Alcide ever being with such an awful person like her. Yuck.

In one final twist, Sookie’s brother Jason has come up missing. Oh boy…whatever is going to come of Jason?? As I stated in my review of Dead Until Dark, I watched the first season of True Blood before reading this series and I fell in love with Jason. He is just gorgeous and I think that’s why I’ve rooted so hard for Jason throughout the series, even though his role is minimized in the books as opposed to the show. As I was reading the book for the first time, I had an idea of what would happen to him and it’s not exactly what I had in mind. FYI: If you watch True Blood, this particular storyline with Jason in the show DOES NOT follow the storyline exactly as in the books. I don’t want to give away the spoiler for his situation, because it’s a big one! I just felt so bad for him, and the mental picture I got in my mind of what he looked like during this time period just made me so sad. Poor Jason.

Whew. I told you there was a lot going on in this book, and not only that, but you’ll be introduced to a whole slew of new characters. (I told you in my review of the third book to brace yourself for a crazy amount of new characters.) Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining but at times it can get slightly confusing with this many characters and storylines to keep up with. That being said, I loved this book! The relationship between Eric and Sookie was so adorable and yet so sexy. Is Bill out of the picture now? Will Sookie still want Eric if he regains his memory…or better yet, will he still want Sookie? What happened to Jason? There are a ton of questions to be answered, so go out and sink your teeth into the fifth book, Dead As A Doornail!