The Darkest Fire (Lords of the Underworld Prequel)

The Darkest Fire
Gena Showalter
Lords of the Underworld, prequel
ebook, 66 pages
Published 2008 by HQN Books
ISBN 9781426817540

He is the guardian of hell, more monster than man. She is the goddess of oppression, more angel than woman. Together they will enter the flames to battle a dangerous horde of demon lords -- and discover a passion unlike any other....

Don't miss this sizzling prequel to Gena Showalter's breathtaking new paranormal series, The Lords of the Underworld! Though they carry an eternal curse, the Lords of the Underworld are irresistibly seductive -- and unimaginably powerful..

How better to celebrate today's release of The Darkest Touch, book eleven of the Lords of the Underworld, than to start at the beginning. Because, until now, I've somehow managed to steer clear of the Gena Showalter bandwagon.

While this prequel doesn't necessarily set the stage for the world, the story of Kadence, the goddess of Oppression, and Geryon is one not to be missed if you're a fan of the series.

Geryon was once a typical, mortal man who chose to sell his soul in order to save the life of his sick wife. A wife that came to him in an arranged marriage and ultimately left him once she was cured. After, Geryon was transformed into a half man/half beast and was charged with guarding the gates of hell so that no demon could escape.

He's done so, faithfully, for centuries. Having lost care for himself long ago, Geryon is left confused by Kadence's kindness toward him but nonetheless agrees to aid her as she hunts the few demons that are so close to breaking through.

For Kadence is bonded to the wall in a way that means her death should it be destroyed. She feels every blow it takes. Every tear at its structure. As Geryon learns of her purchase of his soul, and therefore freeing him from his prison, he offers himself to take the place of the wall. To form with her a new bond.

This story takes a path that you will not expect. One that leads to an ending you will never have imagined on your own. I don't know what it was Ms Showalter's muse was smoking the day this story came to light, but it must have been something good.

3 out of 5 stars.


Mockingjay (Hunger Games #3)

Real or not real?

Suzanne Collins
Hunger Games, book three
ebook, 390 pages
Published August 24th 2010 by Scholastic Press
ISBN 9780439023511

My name is Katniss Everdeen.
Why am I not dead?
I should be dead.

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans--except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay--no matter what the personal cost.

So I watched the first two movies. Might as well read the third book, right?

Although, to be honest, I had a lot of problems with the first movie. Lesson learned: Read the book. Movies are trash. Too many questions arise from watching movies, watching actors on a screen. That problem doesn't exist when reading books. You know what the characters are doing, what they're thinking. Because you're in their heads.

Things I learned while reading this book... that escaped me while watching the movies:

1. Peeta was an artist.

I so missed that memo! Although, yes, when I rewatched Catching Fire to prepare myself for this book, I did notice the artwork Peeta did of Rue when he had to perform for the Capitol folk. First time around, that went right over my head. Did not realize he actually drew that.

2. How Peeta and Katniss met.

When I watched the scene in the first move where Peeta was throwing burnt bread into the pig pen... Well, for one, that was not how that was recounted here. Secondly, while I realized Katniss was very much going to take that bread, it wasn't entirely clear that Peeta was doing it on purpose. Again, books clear up so much confusion.

3. Peeta and Katniss had never spoken, until the Hunger Games.

Suspected it, but the book cemented it.

4. Gale isn't really competition for Peeta.

In the movie, Katniss comes across as being very manipulative. In truth, the girl's just lost. Ok, and yes, manipulative.

As far as Mockingjay is concerned... I liked the path that was taken with Peeta. Drugged and "hijacked" by the Capitol, Peeta is forced to see Katniss without the blinders of love and nearly takes her life more than once. Strangely enough, he and Katniss do end up together. By default, that is. Everyone else either abandoned her, died, or was Haymitch.

I was okay with this book for the most part. Until the epilogue. That first paragraph just went and pissed me off and ruined everything.

It took five, ten, fifteen years for me to agree. But Peeta wanted them so badly.

What a bitch.


Act of Defiance

Victors write the history books.
And in their eyes, even Saints can look like Devils.

Act of Defiance
Adrianne Brooks
ebook, 158 pages
Published June 3rd 2014
Free Read at Amazon.com

Defiance Gray has never had to worry about the Apocalypse. Mainly because it came and went years before she was born. Under the puritan rule of the Church everyone has their place and those unwilling to conform find out all too quickly just how swift punishment can be.

But nothing, not even Priests, frightens Defiance more than the thought of being caught outside after dark. Because when night falls and the bells start to ring, the stone Gargoyles scattered throughout the city come to life and begin their hunt for human souls.

When she starts seeing the Marks, symbols predicting the death of all who wear them, Defiance realizes that the Gargoyles aren’t the only things she has to fear. Which proves to be especially true after she meets Uriel, a winged demon classifying himself as an ‘archangel’.

Defiance Gray has never had to worry about the Apocalypse.
Demons lost the Great War.
The battle was over.

She’d known these things her whole life…but what if she’d been wrong?

I am the devil. But I'm not the only one.

From the very first page, and I'm referencing the Prologue here, I was hooked.

In a post-apocalyptic world where Satan is Lord God and the Four Horsemen are Saints, where women are either nuns or breeders, and the night is haunted by gargoyles seeking those to punish... Defiance Grey lives without a clue as to what the world once was, and what it has become.

A week shy of her eighteenth birthday, Defiance begins to have visions of death depicted through marks upon the heads of its victims just as the Church, the only source of protection, names a new head priest in Father Judas. As his reign begins with the deaths of innocents, including the blacksmith who was her long time friend and mentor, Defiance finds herself volunteering to survive outside the walls after being warned by the ghost of her friend/enemy whom they claim killed herself during the night.

Outside, among the tombstones, Defiance awakens an archangel, long imprisoned as a statue of marble. To her, in this world, he is a demon. One who suffers blindness because of all the iniquity and corruption in the world. His name is Uriel. And he becomes her Savior.

His quest is simple-to kill the Four Horsemen.

Her refusal is firm. To her, they are the long dead Saints of her people. So she seeks out to prove their demise to Uriel so that he may return to... wherever he was while being held captive by stone.

Little does Defiance know that three of the Four Horsemen are living and well, possessing Father Judas and two of the nuns that head her former church. The fourth seeks a new host. And Defiance has become their target.

There's something about demons that allow me to be pulled into this trending world of YA literature. I need a good villain. I need a freaking unbelievable world. Because, frankly, the characters just don't have it in them to hold my interest.

While there's not much accomplished in this first book of the series, the stage is well set. And Defiance is beginning to wonder what exactly it is she's believing in.

3 out of 5 stars.


Captured (Warriors of Hir #1)

Willow Danes
Warriors of Hir, book one
ebook, 218 pages
Published August 5th 2014 by Here Be Dragons
ISBN 9780692271810
Read for FREE with Kindle Unlimited

Jenna McNally is tending to the heartrending task of clearing out her grandfather’s cabin when she’s knocked off her feet by the impact of a nearby plane crash. She races into the snowy North Carolina woods to help and discovers that this is no plane that’s crashed.

Ra’kur’s people have been brought to the brink of extinction by war. After years spent searching for a compatible mate to bond with, an enemy attack lands him on a backward, primitive planet and right to the very female he has been seeking. And a Hir warrior’s first task in claiming a mate is to capture her.

Well, I've done it. I've officially read more books this year than I did in 2012 and 2013 combined. 73. How freaking sad is that?

Jenna is busy packing up her late grandfather's possessions when a sudden blast knocks her off her feet. Suspecting a plane crash, she grabs up her phone, dials 911, and proceeds to investigate. What she finds, however, is an alien being with a mighty roar.

Passing out, Jenna is left in Ra'kur's care as he brings her back to her cabin and proceeds to chain her to her bed. When she wakes, it's like being confronted by an animal. No communication. Just a lot of grunting, sniffing, and growling as he stalks her around the room after freeing her from the confinement of her cuffs.

Jenna's reaction was right in the middle of "WTF. Aliens exist?!" and "Take me, baby. Take me now!" And I'm honestly not sure how I felt about it.

Once Jenna is able to receive the language translation implant from Ra'kur's ship, she is able to learn more of him and his past. A past which includes a six year hunt for a mate after a deadly virus nearly decimated his race, killing off all but a few of their females. Although Jenna takes great pains to keep Ra'kur hidden, he is ultimately discovered by the local sheriff, a late friend of her grandfather's. He pulls his gun. Jenna takes the bullet.

All of which forces Ra'kur's hand to take her from Earth and back to Hir where she survives, only to be exposed to the deadly virus herself. Once she survives that battle, and discovers she's pregnant, Jenna becomes a symbol of hope to the rest of Ra'kur's people, those of which that aren't Purists that is, and Earth becomes the target for a mate hunting ground. Some rules do apply. ;)

The story does set a great foundation for the series and opens up an honest curiosity to see how other's stories will play out. All in all, it's a freebie worthy of your time.

3 out of 5 stars.


Yes, Captain

Yes, Captain
Rebecca Royce
ebook, 34 pages
Published August 7th 2010 by Liquid Silver Books
ISBN 9781595786548

Lizbeth is having a rough time. After her captain and best-friend Acton is kidnapped from their ship, she is forced to serve under the disgusting hand of one of her least favorite people, Troy. But things have improved because she has located Acton. Now, she just needs to convince Troy to turn the ship around so they can go and get him. Living on earth with no idea that he is actually the captain of a major space vessel, Acton will have to rediscover his past quickly because the Instigator and all of it’s crew are under attack from an enemy that will do anything to protect what it values most above other things: the sanctity of earth. But as Acton and Lizbeth become reacquainted, they will need their new love to help them defeat the traitor who hunts them and wants only their deaths to satisfy his desires.

I gotta say, I loved the premise of this book. Stolen captain goes missing for five years while his crew and best friend search every known galaxy to find him. And finally, they do. Living on Earth, his memory of who he truly is long buried, Acton lives as an attorney with no belief at all in life beyond the stars. Until they come for him.

The reunion was a good one. Not too much time spared on 'I'm not who you think I am' and with one good whack on the head, and a little de ja vu, Acton remembers everything that was once important to him. Even his long buried love for his best friend.

And they spare no time at all finally becoming lovers.

Loved it. Loved it all.

But that's where things got, ...for lack of a better word, let's just say stupid.

As it turns out, Acton left his ship willingly in a barter to save their lives. He agreed to spend one hundred years upon Earth with his, and his crew's memories, all wiped of the event. With his return, their enemy demands he complete his side of the agreement. To which Lizbeth volunteers to take his place.

Hold up. Take a breath. Surely if they would spare a minute to think this through, they could come up with a reasonable alternative. But no they don't. Not beyond Acton setting up a second agreement to send them both back to Earth together. Sweet, but yeah, stupid.

So I was stumped when it came to rating this. Foundation good. Follow through bad. Urgh.

2 out of 5 stars.


Shielder (Shielder #1)

Be afraid, Nessa.

Catherine Spangler
Shielder, book one
Kindle Edition, 358 pages
Published February 6th 2014
First published April 1999
ISBN 9780986060274

The Controllers have engineered a virus that is killing Shielders. In the hopes of finding a cure, the Shielders need a human host to get the deadly virus past Controller checkpoints and to a medical lab on the planet Santerra. With her people facing extinction, outcast Nessa dan Ranul volunteers to be the host and is injected with the virus. She has only four weeks to make it to Santerra before it kills her.

When her ship breaks down in deep space, she’s rescued by her most dangerous enemy—a shadower, a bounty hunter who tracks down Shielders. She can’t tell him the truth about her dilemma, or he will turn her in to the Controllers.

Shadower Chase McKnight has an agenda more pressing than claiming bounty rewards—vengeance. He doesn’t have time for a homeless waif who ignites emotions he buried long ago. He refuses to allow anything to deter him from his mission, which results in traveling away from Santerra—while the time bomb inside Nessa is ticking down. But she doesn’t dare trust this man who is an enemy of Shielders.

Their secrets and agendas don’t prevent the growing attraction between them, even as they fight their individual demons—even as time runs out for Nessa. Only love can bring them full circle, offering Chase redemption, and the chance to save Nessa—and ultimately, her people.

Ten years ago, still just a child, Nessa was all but abandoned by her parents due to her medical problems put on by severe seizures. Out of her entire village, only her brother has stayed by her. All others either ignore or curse her. Such is a harsh life for the Shielders, ever hunted by the Controllers.

As a deadly virus begins to annihilate her people, Nessa volunteers to do the one thing that would finally give her life meaning, infecting herself so that she might carry it to someone who could cure it. She has but a few weeks to make to Santerra. And she has great hope in her success, until her ship breaks down in the middle of space... right in the flight path of Chase McKnight, a bounty hunter working for the very souls out to destroy Nessa and her kind.

Chase is one tough pill to swallow. His attitude is rather reminiscent of a Mr. Han Solo, whom I have yet to comprehend why so many women fall all over themselves for such a character. The space cowboy act does not do it for one such as I. At least not outside of a Cowboy Bebop episode.

Back to where I was...

Chase begrudgingly agrees to take Nessa to her destination. Albeit at his own time, own pace, and around his very strict rules of conduct. But while he has Han's attitude, he's got Luke's heart. As he consoles Neesha through her seizures and feeds her foods beyond her imagination, Chase struggles with memories of his past. And, too, with the present as its forcing him back to the one place he doesn't want to return-his lab.

Nessa is, at first, bewildered by Chase. He looks at her. He touches her. He threatens to jettison her pet, her only friend, off his ship. Okay, so that last one more freaked her out than anything else. But even as she breaks his rules and pushes his patience, he remains gentle. And caring. For a while anyway.

While Nessa isn't that leading female who gives it back as good as or better than her male counterpart, she does equally invoke the reader to rise up in support of her. She's respectful. She's determined. But mostly, she's naive.

Chase, meanwhile, ... That man wanted me to hate him. I mean, he really wanted me to hate him. There aren't many characters I feel the need  to vent aloud about but Chase was one of them. It started with their first kiss. Which came out of freaking nowhere and was pushed on Nessa at that. The first *two* times they were intimate, he finished without getting her off. The poor girl had no idea what she was missing. Through it all, she holds strong with her lies and manages to hack the system of Chase's ship when he fails yet again to follow through on his word to get her to her destination.

She sneaks off the ship, buys two child slaves, and pockets his gold. All with good intentions.

And ever driving Chase to infuriating madness. So much so that he declares her his own slave, having indebted herself to him more than she could ever repay. And then sex becomes an obligation.

To which Chase drinks himself into a stupor when he finally realizes how much he's taken advantage of Nessa. First her virginity. Now this.

Amazingly enough, he does manage to make an acceptable marriage proposal once all of the lies come out and Nessa gets her vaccine. Despite the horrible frustration brought on by these two, the story does end rather well. If a bit mushy.

3.5 out of 5 stars.


Sword Bound (Tiger & Del #7)

The gods know we belong together.

Sword Bound
Jennifer Roberson
Tiger & Del, book seven
Kindle Edition, 353 pages
Published February 5th 2013 by DAW
ISBN 9780756407964

For the first time in years, life seems settled for Tiger and Del. They run a school for sword-dancers in the South. They're raising a two-year-old daughter. They collect income from their interest in a thriving cantina. Occasionally Tiger must dance against sword-dancers bent on killing him for forsaking the oaths and vows of the circle, but for the most part it's an idyllic life. Until Tiger's twenty-five-year-old son accuses him of being "domesticated."

Thus challenged by his own flesh-and-blood to reclaim his legendary status, Tiger, accompanied by Del and his son, embarks on a journey northwards that will test his sword skill and resolve, and lead him and Del into danger from an old enemy. Though Tiger had forsaken his magic years before, he now faces the choice to reclaim it, and to wield it, in order to save those he loves.

It's been over ten years since Tiger and Del's story seemingly concluded and yet, Roberson has added two more books (the second is planned) to the series that pick up two years after we last left the Sandtiger and his bascha.

Incredibly enough, I still remember their story.

While Sword Bound dives right into the next chapter of their saga, there are still some glimpses via memory of the adventures Tiger and Del alike have survived. At present day, Tiger is forty-two years old, living a peaceful, profitable life with a (I believe) twenty-six year old, Del, their two year old daughter, Sula, and Tiger's twenty-five year old son, Neesha. The last of which has just all but dared Tiger to go away with him and have an adventure. Del, too.

It doesn't seem, at first glance, very realistic that two would abandon their young toddler to go throw their lives in harm's way, but you've got to know Tiger and Del. More importantly, you've got to know this world in which they inhabit. Taking it all in, it's a completely viable situation. Especially now that Umir has once again placed a bounty on Tiger's head in order to get him to open the magical book he once traded for the life of his son.

Their destination is a simple one. A visit to the home of Neesha's mother, a woman Tiger has not seen since the one night they spent together over twenty-five years ago. Their travel, however, is not nearly as simple. Dance after dance, Tiger is forced to prove himself over and over against the many men seeking his death, his bounty, or the glory of having bettered him. And while Tiger is ever the warrior he always was, as is Del, he very nearly loses his life just before their arrival in Neesha's home village.

To a home set aflame by raiders.

His parents alive, although his mother was raped and his stepfather very badly beaten, Neesha is faced with the horror of learning his sister was taken. And Del relives the horror of her own past through his pain, having been a victim of raiders herself when she was fifteen. Her parents were left dead, her brother captured, and she was repeatedly raped by a man who would father a daughter that Del would have taken from her more than once.

And again Del loses a child.

After Neesha's sister is rescued and returned to her family, Tiger and Del leave Neesha behind to help rebuild their family home and business. It is on their own way home that Tiger and Del are capture by sword-dancers seeking the bounty for Tiger's deliverance to Umir. Whereupon they also learn of their daughter's abduction, being held prisoner by more of Umir's minions.

With Del at death's door from a sudden miscarriage, Tiger is forced to retrieve the magic he once surrendered to be able to live a full life in order to be able to open the book of magics that he cursed shut. He does so, remarkable easily at that--if one could call a two day race against the desert easy--and manages to save his family and reunite with Neesha back at their own home.

Leaving behind a very pissed off mage who now desires the powers Tiger has reclaimed.

This was an amazing addition to the Tiger and Del series and I find myself ever so eager for the next, and possibly last, book. Again, possibly last.

4 out of 5 stars.

Previously in the series:


Cursed (Brides of the Kindred #13)

Impersonal. Businesslike. Professional.
I'm so fucking sick of being professional with you.

Evangeline Anderson
Brides of the Kindred, book thirteen
ebook, 404 pages
Published October 31st 2014 by Smashwords Edition
ISBN 9781310215858

Commander Stavros Rii of the Kindred is a Sin Eater--thick black lines cover his back and neck causing him to feel the pain of others. It is a curse that threatens to shorten his life and makes him unable to bond with a female--not that he's ever found one he wants to bond with. Until he meets Charlie.

Charlie Sayers is an agent with the Earth Protection Bureau-- and anti Kindred agency dedicated to ridding the world of the big aliens. Charlie joined the EPB out of a sense of patriotism but she has her own reasons to hate the Kindred.

But she has bigger problems than the Kindred at the moment--the Enhanced Ones have come to Earth and they're planning to take over the planet, enslave the inhabitants and strip them of all emotion. Charlie can't have that so she agrees to go undercover with Stavros to find the Heart of Love--an artifact which can destroy their mutual enemy forever.

If you've read more than one of this Brides of the Kindred series, then you're likely familiar with a recurring theme. There does seem to be a... formula... to these books. And while the bones are the same, it's the small, imaginative details that manage to keep things interesting. That manage to give each story it's own life. And manage, quite remarkably, to not bore it's reader with it's repetition.

That said, it is book thirteen. Some sense of deja vu is to be expected.

With the Dark Kindred, led by a possessed Two, embarking to enslave Earth, Stavros is left trapped on our planet has war breaks out between our species and theirs. Soon enough, he's arrested by an Earth Protection Bureau agent, Charlie Sayers, as he rescues a young woman from her would-be rapist.

Being a Sin Eater, those Cursed to feel the physical pains of others due to a parasite infesting the body, Stavros and Charlie's first few hours together couldn't have been more entertaining. As Charlie suffers menstrual cramps from hell, Stavros is left convinced that she's dying. Once he escapes her confines, he in turn takes her prisoner, and up to the Kindred's Mothership for treatment and healing.

From there, it becomes their mission to steal the legendary Heart of Love from a couples' retreat known for it's strict rules and discipline in order to save Earth from destruction. As they feign being a married couple, Charlie and Stavros are forced to confront the pains of their pasts. His alienation. Her losses, and the resulting prejudice birthed from them.

The time of bonding seemed rushed to me. Although I did appreciate Charlie's determination and her mind made up in an instant way of going about things. Once the decision is made, this girl's all in.

And it appears we're in for yet another installment to the series. No preview this time, but we were, however, blessed with a prophecy spoken to Two:

No Kindred shall kill you
Though you spill rivers of their blood
The one who is your doom
Comes from desert and from flood.
A free-born male
Too proud to bend his knees
Enslaved of his own will
Against his will set free.

3 out of 5 stars.

Previously in the series: