Friday, December 28, 2012

Review of THE NYMPH'S LABYRINTH by Danica Winters

The Nymph's Labyrinth

(The Nymph Series, #1)
by Danica Winters

Cover: The Nymph's Labyrinth by Danica Winters
Rating: 3.5♥s Good/Suggested Reading
Sensuality: Hot
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Audience: Adult

Release Date: December 31, 2012
Length: 300 pages
Editions:
Kindle Edition
NOOK Book
Paperback, Spring 2013







From the publisher:

A world shrouded in mystery and intrigue, the Sisterhood of Epione must not be exposed.

Shape-shifting nymph Ariadne Papadakis is tasked with keeping the truth of the group’s existence and their ancient mysteries far out of reach of the American archeologist, Beau Morris and his troublemaking son, Kaden. When forgotten and forbidden passions are awakened, Ariadne is forced make a choice - fall in line and continue to be overrun and pushed down by the sisterhood, or follow her heart and put Beau and Kaden’s lives in danger.

Can she have the man she loves or will the pressure and secrets of her past keep her from her heart’s desire?

My recap:

Long ago, the nymph goddess Epione denied Zeus her bed. In retaliation, he cursed all nymphs. If they fell in love with a human, then that man would die a tragic death.

Fast-forward to present day Crete. Archeologist Dr. Beau Morris believes that he has found the site of a mythical Labyrinth. His colleagues think that he is a crackpot, but he is determined to prove them wrong. Ariadne Papadakis, a millennia-old nymph and member of a sisterhood of nymphs, is tasked with sabotaging and shutting down his dig. Unfortunately, she is drawn to Beau. But she can't fall in love with him, or she will be the death of him.

Beau's ex-wife drops off his surly, estranged son, Kaden. Kaden meets and falls in love with a nymph, and soon becomes mortally ill. The only way to save him is for Ariadne to stand up to the sisterhood and betray its secrets. Should she save Kaden's life and gain her own chance at love? Or should she keep the sisterhood's secrets?

My analysis:

Danica Winters has written a book that stands out from the crowd due to her imaginative use of Greek mythology and snake-shifting nymphs. (Snake-phobics, fear not. Not too much is made of the snake-shifting.) The Nymph's Labyrinth is like no other.

Beau and Ariadne are both likable characters that you'll pull for. You'll want Beau to save his reputation and reconcile with his son. You'll want Ariadne to kick some ass and stand up for herself, and that's her journey. You'll want them to circumvent the curse and find their HEA. They both have much to lose, but they belong together.

There is much suspense as Beau and Ariadne face jealousy, grief, and danger together. You'll find yourself reading "just one more chapter" again and again.

The Nymph's Labyrinth is an original, strong start to The Nymph Series. The next book is Montana Musings, followed by Winter Swans.

See the beautiful trailer for The Nymph's Labyrinth.

Happy reading!





ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Review of GATES OF RAPTURE by Caris Roane

Gates of Rapture

(The World of Ascension, #6)
by Caris Roane


The Gates of Rapture cover, by Caris Roane
Rating: 4.5♥s Excellent/Highly Recommended
Sensuality: Hot
Cover: 4.0♥s

Release Date: December 24, 2012
Editions:
Mass Market Paperback
Kindle Edition
NOOK Book








From the publisher:

As a vampire and a warrior, Leto Distra is deadly. But after years of being forced to drink dying blood, he is now part beast—a wild savage thing lurking beneath the surface.  With war on the horizon, Leto is determined to help the Guardians of Ascension destroy the enemy who turned him into a monster. And there’s only one woman who can help him.

Grace Albion is certain that she’s meant to be with Leto, but their future may be cut short by the impending battle. Now Grace must embrace her obsidian flame powers—and bind her powers with Leto’s—if they’re ever going to survive.  With the fate of the world at stake, they must tap into powers they never knew they had…and unlock their deepest passions.

My take on Gates of Rapture:

Leto was thought to be a traitor to the Warriors of the Blood, but it was revealed that he'd been a spy in the enemy's army—Darian Greaves' army—for 100 years. Previously, Grace rescued Leto from Greaves and Leto and Grace discovered that they were brehs, fated mates. Unfortunately, Grace also discovered that she was the breh of the hedonistic enemy, Casimir. She sees in a vision that she must leave Leto and be with Casimir in order for Leto to survive in the future. And so she hurts Leto and leaves with Casimir.

Early in Gates of Rapture, Grace returns to Leto. At the time, Leto is in a form that he calls his "beast." He morphs into a larger, more deadly version of himself that he can't control. He despises the form. He blames it on having to partake of dying blood while he was under Greaves' command. But is his beast form what he believes it to be?

The war between Greaves' army and the good guys—Endelle's army—has reached its peak. Leto, the ultimate general among the Warriors of the Blood, has used his skills to build up Endelle's army. And used his knowledge of Greaves and his army against him.  For her part, Grace is a powerful member of a trio of woman known as obsidian flame. To unlock her powers fully she must complete her mating with Leto. But are they ready for that step? What will happen if they're not? And even if they unlock the full strength of her powers, will they be enough to defeat the army that Leto built for Greaves and his death vampires?


Gates of Rapture is about the culmination of the war between Greaves' and Endelle's forces, which the entire series has been leading up to. It's a Christmas present that loyal fans will enjoy unwrapping.

Leto is a hero to die for—and Grace just might. He's a sexy, commanding, powerful, alpha male who nonetheless is tender and understanding with Grace. Leto's journey is one of forgiveness, acceptance of himself, and redemption for his years as a spy. The truth of his beast form is significant, but I don't want to wreck the revelation.

Grace is on her own journey, one of learning to live life out of the cocoon that she has wrapped around herself. She has her name down pat—she is full of grace. But she must learn to trust in herself, be brave, and be bold. The fates of Mortal Earth and Second Earth rest upon her shoulders. She is the pivotal member of obsidian flame. Both she and Leto play crucial roles in the showdown with Greaves.

Although Grace and Leto have had their eyes on each other for two thousand years, and Grace even wrote erotic poetry about Leto while in the convent, they aren't sure they can make their relationship work now that they are finally together. They have both been through too much to let down their guards. 


Casimir returns a changed man in a surprising new role. No spoilers here. The relationship between Casimir and Leto is complicated, and they have much to work out between them.

The plot is fast-paced and suspenseful. The war with Greaves becomes personal and deadly for Grace and Leto. As the key to obsidian flame, Greaves wants to eliminate Grace. And he has a score to settle with his traitorous former general.

Fan-favorite Thorne plays a large role in Gates of Rapture, as do Alison, Fiona, and Marguerite, of course. All of the Warriors of the Blood have their parts to play. Endelle is surprised with a revelation that I loved! 

Many story lines seem to be wrapped up ("seem" being the operative word), and we catch up with all the Warriors and their brehs. The books is a satisfying end to the series. But is it the end? Not really. St. Martin's Press will no longer be publishing The Warriors of Ascension series, but Caris Roane will be self-publishing the stories of Luken, Zacharius, and Santiago. And she'll be taking us to Third Earth. Luken's book will be released in the summer of 2013, and I'm looking forward to his story! 

In the meantime, enjoy reading Gates of Rapture!




ARC provided by NetGalley


Don't miss The World of Ascension series:
Book 1
Ascension
4.5♥s
Book 2
Burning Skies
4.0♥s
Novella 2.5
Brink of Eternity
Not Rated
Book 3
Wings of Fire
4.5♥s
Book 4
Born of Ashes
4.0♥s
Book 5
Obsidian Flame
4.0♥s
Book 6
Gates of Rapture
4.5♥s

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Review of HEART OF ATLANTIS by Alyssa Day

Heart of Atlantis

(Warriors of Poseidon, #8)
by Alyssa Day

Cover, Heart of Atlantis by Alyssa Day
Rating: 4.5♥s Excellent/Highly Recommended
Sensuality: Hot
Cover: 4.5♥s

Release Date: December 4, 2012
Editions:
Mass Market Paperback
Kindle Edition
NOOK Book
iBook
Kobo eBook
Sony eBook





From the publisher:

As a war wages between the immortals of Atlantis and those of the vampire realm, a Poseidon warrior fights to save his world—and the woman he loves. And no risk is too great.

The desires of a high priest. 


Alaric, Poseidon’s High Priest, has made a vow to Quinn, the woman he loves and the leader of the Resistance: to save her friend Jack before his last bit of humanity has been drained. Should Alaric succeed, there’s one intimate danger: he may lose Quinn to the love of the man whose life he saved. But damn Atlantis to the nine hells, he’s willing to put Quinn’s wishes first, regardless of the consequences. 

The warning of a threat reborn. 


The final jewel of Poseidon’s trident has turned up in the hands of mysterious Ptolemy Reborn, who claims to be descended from Atlantean royalty. He’s about to reveal to the world that Atlantis is real, positioning himself as king. But this magical terrorist is bent on chaos. The only warrior who can stop him is following his own path, driven by the even more powerful force of love. Atlantean powers over the sea could prove just as cataclysmic—for Quinn’s love, Alaric might drown the entire world.




As Heart of Atlantis opens, Quinn and Alaric are sequestered with tiger-shifter Jack, in the hope that Jack will regain his humanity. Alaric has distanced himself from the search for Poseidon’s jewels in favor of concentrating on Quinn, the forbidden love of his life. Too bad that Alaric, as Poseidon's High Priest, must remain celibate.

It's not long before trouble finds Quinn and Alaric, in the form of a powerful impostor named Ptolemy. Ptolemy outs Atlantis and claims to be its rightful king. He also blows Quinn's cover by showing her photo on international television. He asks her to contact him. And, oh yeah, Ptolemy has the final gem for Poseidon's Trident, the one jewel necessary to control the Trident and raise Atlantis.

Never one to stand idly by when the fate of the world hangs in the balance, Quinn soon puts herself in mortal danger. And Alaric will do anything—anything—to save her. At the same time, Atlantis is in dire straits, and is a drain on his power.

There is shaky evidence that Alaric's power will increase if he soul-melds with Quinn, and ends his celibacy. If it's true, he can save Atlantis and get the girl. If it's not, well, everyone dies. Do Quinn and Alaric dare take the chance for love?



Heart of Atlantis is a real treat for fans of the Warriors of Poseidon series. Most readers have probably been in love with Alaric and sympathetic to his plight throughout the series. He's been all-powerful, broodingly lovesick, and achingly celibate. And he's gorgeous and built like a warrior. What's not to love? 

Although I haven't always been fond of Quinn, she is appealing, touching, sassy, brave, and kick-butt in Heart of AtlantisAlyssa Day won me over with her character: 

"[Quinn] wanted to do what she'd never done before—surrender. To Alaric's strength and protection. A purely feminine impulse that was so shocking to her, she who'd lived her life as a fighter. He made her want to love and protect and be cherished in return."

The plot is packed with action, powerful magic, suspense, and mortal danger to Quinn and Atlantis. Both new and old enemies show up for the final showdown. 

As Heart of Atlantis is the end of the series, many loose ends are tied up. Fans will be delighted with the events, but sorry to see The End.

Take heart, however. Alyssa has announced that there will still be a few Atlantis novellas to wrap up some important characters' story lines. Denal's story is one of them. Jack will not only get his own book, but his own series. An announcement will be made in 2013 about that. Her new series, The League of the Black Swan, debuts May 7, 2013, with The Cursed.

Enjoy Heart of Atlantis!




The Warriors of Poseidon series:
Book 1
Atlantis Rising
4.5♥s
Novella 1.5
"Wild Hearts in Atlantis"
in Wild Things 4.0♥s
Book 2
Atlantis Awakening
4.5♥s
Novella 2.5
"Shifter's Lady"
in Shifter 4.0♥s
Book 3
Atlantis Unleashed
4.5♥s
Book 4
Atlantis Unmasked
4.0♥s
Book 5
Atlantis Redeemed
4.5♥s
Book 6
Atlantis Betrayed
4.0♥s
Book 7
Vampire in Atlantis
4.0♥s
Book 8
Heart of Atlantis
4.5♥s



Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Review of SHADOW'S CLAIM by Kresley Cole

Shadow's Claim

(Immortals After Dark: The Dacians, #1)
by Kresley Cole

Shadow's Claim by Kresley Cole, cover image
Rating: 4.5♥s Excellent/Highly Recommended
Sensuality: HOT!
Humor: Subtle
Hankies: One
Cover: 4.5♥s

Release date: November 27, 2012
Editions: 
Mass Market Paperback
Kindle Edition
NOOK Book
ePub
Audio Book





From the Publisher:

Shadow’s Claim features Prince Trehan, a ruthless master assassin who will do anything to possess Bettina, his beautiful sorceress mate, even compete for her hand in a blood-sport tournament— to the death.

HE WON’T BE DENIED
Trehan Daciano, known as the Prince of Shadows, has spent his life serving his people—striking in the night, quietly executing any threat to their realm. The coldly disciplined swordsman has never desired anything for himself—until he beholds Bettina, the sheltered ward of two of the Lore’s most fearsome villains.

SHE’S BOUND TO ANOTHER
Desperate to earn her guardians’ approval after a life-shattering mistake, young Bettina has no choice but to marry whichever suitor prevails—even though she’s lost her heart to another. Yet one lethal competitor, a mysterious cloaked swordsman, invades her dreams, tempting her with forbidden pleasure.

A BATTLE FOR HER BODY AND SOUL
Even if Trehan can survive the punishing contests to claim her as his wife, the true battle for Bettina’s heart is yet to come. And unleashing a millennium’s worth of savage need will either frighten his Bride away—or stoke Bettina’s own desires to a fever pitch. . . .


That's the spiel from the publisher, but what really happens in the story? I'll try to give you the set-up without spoilers.

Bettina, the future queen of the plane of Abaddon, survives a vicious attack by enemies. To appease her godparents, she agrees to marry the winner of a blood-sport tournament of suitors--an elimination match to the death. But her heart really belongs to Caspion, her childhood friend.

Trehan Daciano, the "Prince of Shadows" and a vampire, is a merciless assassin from the Realm of Blood and Shadows. Anyone who enters the secretive Realm is forbidden to leave. Trehan's task is to assassinate those who escape. Caspion entered the Realm and sneaked out, and Daciano is after him. Daciano himself is allowed to leave and return--unless he is seen.

After tracking Caspion to Abaddon, he gets mysteriously drawn to Bettina. He discovers that she is his Bride. She "bloods" him, which means that his heart starts beating, his lungs start breathing, and his … manly bits start working again. Although he lusts after Bettina (it's been one thousand years, after all), she also fascinates him. He brings her to life in more ways than one. He wants to win her over and claim her as his Bride, but Caspion and Trehan's need to assassinate him stand between them.

Trehan leaves his entire life--and his chance at the crown of the Realm of Blood and Mist--behind by showing himself at the tournament and entering the contest for Bettina's hand. But Caspion does, too. And only one can survive.


Kresley Cole has done it again. She's written a sexy, suspenseful, action-packed page-turner with characters you'll love, subtle humor that will have you snickering, and dark moments that will kick you in the gut. You'll be sorry to read "The End" (so to speak).

What I love about Trehan is that he truly appreciated Bettina as a person, and not just as his fated Bride. I also love that he isn't perfect--at times he is even unsure of himself in spite of being a strong, decisive Alpha male. Bettina turns his world upside-down, and he doesn't know how to handle it.

Bettina has the best humorous inner dialog and lines. Watch for the subtle humor and inside jokes. Bettina doesn't have it easy, however. She has a long, difficult journey as she learns a number of lessons about life and the nature of love.

Shadow's Claim takes place in the Immortals After Dark universe. In the timeline, it runs roughly parallel to Lothaire (Lothaire gets 4.5♥s, and 5.0♥s for its sexy cover!). The events in Lothaire affect Trehan, as the Dacians affected events in Lothaire. We also see behind the scenes of those events. And why Trehan was so brooding in Lothaire.

As a nod to fans, Cole includes cameo appearances in Shadow's Claim from some favorite Immortals After Dark characters. It would be a spoiler to name them. You'll just have to enjoy finding out for yourself.

MacRieve (Immortals After Dark, #13) has a brief set-up in Shadow's Claim. Judging by the topics of conversation, I believe that Immortals After Dark #14 does also. As of this writing, The Dacians #2 hasn't been announced. But I look forward to it!

Happy reading!





Read a USA Today interview with Kresley Cole in which she discusses Lothaire, Shadow's Claim and MacRieve here.

Read the entire Immortals After Dark series:
Novella 1
The Warlord
Wants Forever

Not Reviewed
Book 2
A Hunger Like
No Other

4.0♥s
Book 3
No Rest For
The Wicked

4.0♥s
Book 4
Wicked Deeds on
a Winter's Night

4.0♥s
Book 5
Dark Needs at
Night's Edge

4.0♥s
Book 6
Dark Desires
After Dusk

4.5♥s
Book 7
Kiss of a
Demon King

4.0♥s
Novella 8
"Untouchables"
in Deep Kiss of Winter

Not Reviewed
Book 9
Pleasure of a
Dark Prince

4.0♥s
Book 9
Demon from the Dark

4.5♥s
Book 11
Dreams of a Dark
Warrior
 4.5♥s
Book 12
Lothaire

4.5♥s

Book 12.5
The Dacians, #1
Shadow's Claim

4.5♥s
Book 13
MacRieve