Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Hearts of Stone: Guardian Wings 1" by Inka Loreen Minden

Disclaimer: I purchased the copy I reviewed.

Setting: Paranormal in a contemporary setting.

Synopsis: Vincent is a half-breed gargoyle (half human/half gargoyle) assigned to protect a young witch who goes by the name of Noir.  Vincent is not fully accepted by the gargoyle clan to which is father used to belong, and he's forbidden from having any contact with the witch he's assigned to protect.  Noir's family was killed by demons when she was around 15.  Her brother may still be alive in the underworld, so she spends her days (or rather nights) hunting demons and trying to find her brother, as she refuses to believe he's dead.  
Characters: The story has two parallel love stories: that of Vincent and Noir and the second one involving a young angel by the name of Kara and the demon she falls for, Ash.  Ash was formerly an Archangel, but he broke the rules and the other Archangels decided to teach him a lesson.

Both male leads were very appealing.  Vincent as pretty much an outcast, rejected by the gargoyles, and the only reason why he was not outright shunning was because of Kara, who was the guardian angel of the gargoyles.  Ash was a demon and he did quite a number of horrible things as one, but he never completely turned evil.

Kara was a somewhat naive and very sexy angel.  Later on the reader finds out why she seems to so different from what an angel is supposed to be.  Noir is your standard kick-ass and take names type of heroine.  She's a demon hunter with magic powers, which make her a rather formidable opponent.

Impressions: "Hearts of Stone" is the first of Inka Loreen Minden's books that I've ever read.  She's a German author, with quite a number of books published.  Researching her name a bit, most of what I found is, understandably, in her native German.  I have to say that I hope she decides to issue more of her work in English, some of her other stories seem interesting, but I digress.

When I first started reading the book I wasn't expecting to find two romance stories.  Having two romances means that she did have to change perspective from one set of characters, to the other.  Though it was not badly done, it proved a bit distracting at times.  There were some grammar/vocabulary hiccups, but not enough to make those irritating or overly distracting (unless you are a grammar nerd).  

The characters were attractive and sympathetic.  Ash was a demon, but the reader couldn't but feel for him.  Vincent was just adorable and completely lovable in his insecurities.  Noir and Kara were more than just well-paired to these heroes.  I am the sort of reader that needs to like the characters and, thankfully, I liked all of them.
I am hoping that the author will continue the series and have it translated into English.  I am quite interested in reading more stories belonging to this universe she started.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

"Enhanced: Brides of the Kindred 12" by Evangeline Anderson

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided to me directly by Evangeline Anderson, the book's author.  The original review is posted in Amazon.  I have read some of Ms. Anderson's earlier work, though this is my first in the Kindred series.

Setting: Futuristic in a contemporary setting.

Synopsis:  Six and Mei-Li have been "visiting" each other in their dreams for a while now.  Six, a Dark Kindred from a planet in which emotions are outlawed and everyone is required to have physical "enhancements" of some sort, never planned to claim Mei-Li, but the leader of his Collective finds out about his dreams. His leader orders Six to go to Earth to claim Mei-Li, and to bring her back to their planet.  This order baffles Six, though he has no emotions since, as previously mentioned, all Dark Kindred have their emotions suppressed as emotions are outlawed in their planet.  Mei-Li, who is a social worker, is certain Six will never claim her, but she's in for a big surprise...

Characters: Six is a Dark Kindred living in planet Zeaga 4.  He's a pure blood Kindred, but he migrated there in his early teens, where he joined what is known as the planet's Collective.  Dark Kindred are mechanically "enhanced" as anyone living in Zeaga 4 is required to have implants or "enhancements."  He has two: one of his eyes and one of his arms.  Like all Kindred, he's a lot bigger than normal human males.

Mei-Li, Chinese born but raised in the United States by her affluent adoptive parents, is a social worker who takes her work very seriously.  Her mother passed away a few years back during a surgical procedure, which has given her a very strong aversion to anything having to do with surgeries. She has been dreaming of Six and knows what that means, however, she is certain he will never come to claim her, mostly because of what she believes to be her physical flaws.

Impressions: "Enhanced" is a well written futuristic erotic romance, with likeable characters, and an interesting plot line.  It can definitely be read on its own without the reader feeling lost.  The author incorporates enough world creation to make the aliens (Kindred) appealing, but not so much that it feels like there is too much detail.  Since this book is an erotic romance, sex is most definitely a vital part of the story and the relationship between the main characters.  This particular book involves a m/f relationship.

The relationship development is well done.  The reactions of Mei-Li are quite believable given her circumstances (being claimed by an alien with mechanical enhancements).  Six, as a Kindred adapted into a Collective from another planet which requires full suppression of his emotions, also reads believable in his reactions and the way he is caught of guard by emotions he was not supposed to be experiencing.

The story can definitely be read as a stand-alone, though characters from previous stories in the series appear briefly.  I also feel that for anyone interested in the Kindred universe, reading the previous books in this series is a must.

The book includes a couple of teaser chapters for the next title in this series.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Laurann Dohner & Lora Leigh

After much procrastination on my part, I finally got around to trying Laurann Dohner's very popular "New Species" series.  I am currently on book 3.  I will update this post accordingly.

First of all, my overall impression is that these books are an “okay” type of read.  Certainly nothing to write home about.  Each of the titles I’ve read so far had some good scenes, and I found the main characters to be mostly likeable.  That being said, the heroines seemed to be all cut using the same mold (and frankly, now that I think of it, so do the males), and yes, the word “Mary Sue” had popped into my head for that reason as I’ve been advancing on the series. 

Why do I say it is nothing to write home about?  Well, even though the author has her own voice (which is a very good thing) fact remains that she didn't really bring something truly new to the table, and her writing style needs a GOOD editor.  The characters are not particularly "special" either.  She has a penchant for “small” heroines even though her favored height for every single one of them has been 5'4" so far, which happens to be what is considered the average height for American women, that is not small in the slightest.  Of course, she’s trying to make the “small as compared to the Species males” point, but frankly, after book 3, it grew OLD. 

Regarding the writing style, mind you, I am an extraordinarily forgiving sort of reader.  However, after a while, the style grates on the nerves.  She writes everything in short sentences or phrases.  Including dialogue.  There is ZERO flow in her writing, and I’ve read at least three of her stories so far.  Her narrative and dialogue both read like “tatata dot tatata comma  tatata dot.   tatata...” etc., understand what I mean about flow?    Her stories (at least all of the ones I’ve read so far) seem to have been written at a 9th grade reading level, which is how I was taught how to write in business English classes in college, and how they used to teach people to write when studying journalism as well (I know because I had several friends who studied journalism while I was majoring in business administration).  It doesn’t work that well when writing fiction though.  I write like that, which is the main reason why I have never pursued nor intend to pursue becoming a published author.  This sort of writing style (to call it something) is most definitely not restricted to this author, I have to admit.    

All of the above being said, frankly, I do think that these stories in the right hands, would be really good.  I fully understand why they are so popular.  Even when I am mostly irritated as I go forward with each book, the author makes the reader care, and that means she does have what it takes to be a truly good author. 

Now what about "Lora Leigh" (as per the title of this post)?  Here's the deal.  Anyone that has read Lora Leigh, can't help but think that Laurann Dohner definitely got her inspiration from Lora Leigh's mega popular "Breeds" series.  I admit that I became an insta-fan of the “Breeds” series when Lora Leigh first introduced the series back in 2002 with a very short novella titled "Wolfe's Hope", published by Ellora's Cave.  After that came the first full length title (length by Ellora's Cave standards, which is shorter than mainstream publishing standards) titled "Tempting the Beast" which truly started the series with a bang and a boom.  If memory serves, this title came out in 2003.

I have been reading a number of reader criticisms regarding the editing of the New Species books.  Frankly, Lora Leigh's Breeds in their early days (before Penguin  picked up the series) was not much better on that department.  However, Lora Leigh instilled an intensity into her books that is not easy to imitate or emulate.  I don't think that the series, once picked up by Penguin, had the same sort of "feel" or "intensity" as it used to have when it was still at Ellora's Cave, either.  To be fair, I do have to say that this was to be expected, as the books were to go mainstream, so there were certain things that they had to improve, as well as "soften" in the process.  The books are now longer, more developed, is you may, yet a lot of the early fans feel just like I do: it just isn't the same any longer.

All this being said, I can see why Laurann Dohner's New Species seem to be so popular.  It's fairly easy for Lora Leigh's fans to cross-over when they want to get a "fix" on this sort of storyline.  Lora Leigh used to be a mega-prolific writer while at Ellora's Cave.  I would dare say she would have upwards of five new books per year, spanning different series (sadly, a number of those other series have been flat out "dumped", pity, really).  However, this has changed, and we may get 1 or 2 of her Breeds  per year, if we are lucky.  I am not really into her other series, which are popular as well, but not just my cup of tea.

I do need to mention that I stopped rushing to get Lora Leigh's new Breeds releases about four years ago.  They don't appeal to me as they used to, and one of her last few releases in the Breeds series, "Navarro's Promise", seemed to have major issues, so I admit I never got to read it and completely put me off from reading the following titles in the series.

I do plan on going back to the "Breeds," and try the latest installment in the "New Species", if only to see if I can update this post.  We'll see.