Review: Lover Reborn

Review: Lover RebornLover Reborn (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #10) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #10
Published by NAL on March 27th 2012
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 592
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“If I can live though the events” she said, “I can get through the memories.”

FINAL DECISION:  Ward takes a difficult romance and slowly draws readers into the heart of these characters.  A minor quibble about the rationale of an important element of the story keeps this from a higher rating, but I thought this was a great addition to the series.

THE STORY:  In the vampire world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, it has been over a year since Tohrment’s shellan and unborn child were murdered.  He is a shadow of himself unable to move forward.  Instead, he hopes for the day when he will be able to join his loved ones in the fade.  Then Tohr finds out that his beloved and child are trapped by his love and longing in the inbetween unable to find peace in the fade.  The only way to save her is to move on with another woman.  The woman who has caught his interest is No’One who is trapped in her own way.  She had been raped and gave birth to a daughter as a result.  Committing suicide immediately after the birth, No’One was given a second chance, which she has taken by serving others by cleaning and living a modest sacrificial life.  She agrees to help Tohr help release his loved ones by connecting with her in a sexual way.  But the two end up finding more than they expected with one another.

OPINION: This is a book about people who are trapped in one way or another. Tohr is trapped by his love of his shellan Wellsie and his unwillingness to let go of that past.  Wellsie and her child are trapped by Tohr’s love.  No’One is trapped by her rape, pregnancy and suicide.  For Tohr and No’One guilt (even though unwarranted) plays a strong role in trapping them.  While the plot centers around Tohr’s determination to save Wellsie, the central conflict is how Tohr and No’One free themselves and one another.

I commend Ward for writing a story about grief and the guilt that survivors feel.  It would have been infinitely easier to find a way of bringing Wellsie back. Many more fans would have been satisfied.  Instead, she wrote about moving on and the joy that can be found by those who are left behind.  I thought this story was complex and nuanced and the fact that it was a huge book where the events happened over a long period of time gave realism to the story.

My one complaint is that I don’t think there is any logic why No’One despite having committed suicide is allowed to return to the world why Wellsie is sent to the fade.  Ward, to her credit, addresses that controversy, but doesn’t really have a good explanation.  A reader thus has a choice — accept that things in life don’t have logical explanations or complain and fret about the illogical events. Perhaps, Wellsie’s work in the world was done and No’One still has a purpose.  Like so many tragedies in life, there is no answer.

I very much enjoyed this book and have acclimated to Ward’s multi-narrative approach to these books.  There are several secondary storylines.

John Matthew and Xhex are having problems adjusting to being mated.  John Matthew doesn’t find it as easy to accept Xhex risking her life as he had believed.

Qhuinn/Blay/Layla/Saxon continues to steam along.  It is clear from the end of the book, however, that Qhuinn and Blay’s book is next.

Xcor and his Band of Bastards continue to make themselves into the the opponents to the Black Dagger Brotherhood.  At the same time, the Lessers which have been the primary enemies to this point have begun to diminish in importance.  Xcor and his followers have some interesting developments in this book.

I greatly enjoyed this book.  After some initial problems when Ward changed her narrative focus in the series, I have again tremendously enjoyed this series (although they are better for me when I space out the reading rather than gorging on them).

WORTH MENTIONING:  Ah, I loved how this book ends with a nod towards the next book about Qhuinn and Blay.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  LOVER REBORN is the tenth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. This book, as is true with others in the series, has overlapping storylines which begin before this book and some which continue into subsequent books. I think it is almost impossible to understand what is happening in this book without having read the others in the series first.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Lover Unleashed

Review: Lover UnleashedLover Unleashed (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #9) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #9
Published by NAL on March 29th 2011
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 512
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  I enjoyed this book because the major stories were all ones I cared about.  The vast majority of the book is one of three stories: Payne and Manny, V, Jane and Butch, and Qhuinn and Blay.  For me, it felt more relationship focused and that pleased me.  I also really liked going deeper into V, Jane and Butch’s relationship.

THE STORY: Payne, the twin sister of V, has spent hundreds of years imprisoned by their mother, the Goddess Scribe Virgin because Payne killed their father.  During a training session with the King, Payne is seriously injured with a broken spine.  V and his mate Jane desperately need the help of the human surgeon, Dr. Manual Manello. And thus, Manny is dragged into the world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, a world of vampire warriors. The connection between Manny and Payne is intense and immediate, but there cannot be a future between them even if Payne recovers.

OPINION: LOVER UNLEASHED is a typical book in the recent Black Dagger Brotherhood series.  There are multiple stories most of which began in other books and many of which continue past this book. For me, the plus of this book is that the largest chunks of the book are about the twins Payne and Twin and those they love.

The main story, of course, is Payne and Manny.  I liked this story because of Manny himself. Ward does an exceptional job of quickly making Manny a character I want to root for. His brief interaction with the BDB a year ago (although wiped from his memory) has changed him.  Jane’s “death” has left him with a great deal of emptiness in his life.  When he is brought to heal Payne, it really is love at first sight for these two.  Payne’s character remains a little more opaque in the book and I didn’t feel as much connection to her, but I really did like the interaction between these two.

The secondary storyline about V’s spiral out of control after Payne’s injury is the angst filled storyline here. Learning about Payne and then almost losing her has unmoored V from all the progress he has made since meeting Jane.  His reaction threatens his relationship with his mate. I absolutely loved this storyline which I think is the highlight of the book.  I’m a sucker for these situations where a couple delves deeper into their relationship.  Some lingering threads of the series are resolved with V and Butch and I was happy that V and Jane grow even closer as their story resolves.

The minor story with Qhuinn and Blay continues here.  Qhuinn has hit rock bottom and it is time for him to start recreating himself.  Nothing is resolved here but it seems like the story is slowly inching towards these two’s story being resolved. With two others involved in the story, Ward does a good job of keeping everyone likeable and not going for the easy out of making villains out of the characters which serve a function of keeping Qhuinn and Blay apart.

The focus on the internal operations of the Lessers is missing here. Instead, a new group is introduced as foils against the BDB — the Band of Bastards.  It appears that this group of vampires will play an important role in upcoming books.

WORTH MENTIONING: I’ve had a much better reaction to these books now that I space out the reading of them.  I think my brain can only process so much before I get annoyed and frustrated.  Having read the disappointed reviews of this book, I also think I benefit from having some knowledge about where the series is going so that I don’t have unmet expectations.  I honestly don’t think that the world building in these books is consistent anymore.  Things feel less grounded, more fluid and there are well documented conflicts.  I read the books for the characters so giving myself a break between books makes the inconsistencies in the story lines less obvious.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LOVER UNLEASHED is the ninth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood.  At this point, I don’t think there is any way to understand this book without having read the others in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Lover Mine

Review: Lover MineLover Mine (Black Dagger Brotherhood #8) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #8
Published by Signet on April 1st 2010
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 512
Goodreads
four-stars

John Matthew’s Story at Last

FINAL DECISION: Mult-character driven book, this story is angst filled. I thought that the story between Blay and Qhuinn stole the show from the main “romance”. At the same time, I was happy for the conclusion of John Matthew’s story.

THE STORY: John Matthew, is a vampire who is also the reincarnation of Darius who was killed earlier in the series. As this story begins, John Matthew is struggling with the disappearance of Xhex, the half sympath, half vampire assassin. The two have had a difficult relationship as John Matthew has wanted her since they first met, but Xhex has turned him away believing herself unworthy of being cared for by a man of worth. John Matthew is grieving but at the same time determined to find out what happened to Xhex. In truth, Xhex has been abducted by John Matthew’s biggest enemy who will do anything to keep her.

OPINION: Longtime readers of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series know that John Matthew’s story has been going on in one form or another since the beginning. This book brings a great deal of closure to the story. I especially liked the use of Darius’ story which winds around and then gives a satisfying sense of completing the circle and bringing closure to the story.

This book, as is true with the last several books in the series, is really a set of stories being told simultaneously. The stories are each at different stages and while John Matthew and Xhex’s stories is largely resolved, others are just beginning or are continuing. The stories in this book (John Matthew/Xhex, Blay/Qhuinn, and Murhder) have a nice sense of connection that made this mullti-story telling work well here. (There is also the story of Payne but that one is only a small part here). The real issue is that the Blay Qhuinn story steals much of the emotional center of the story here. By breaking up the stories between multiple books, there is more interconnectedness and continuity in the overall story, but the emotional climax of each of the stories is somewhat muted.

This book benefits from the fact that both the John Matthew/Xhex and Blay Qhuinn stories are filled with angst and are so well written here. I loved how the stories progressed in both cases and that kept me reading through the many hundreds of pages. Both stories are so strong that they support the length of the book.

Even with that, this book is one of the better ones in the series for long time readers. There are a lot of significant appearances by the core Brotherhood characters which makes this book more enjoyable. I’ve determined that I need a break between these books because there is so much going on in all these books. They are long and intense and somewhat crazy and it helps me to not try too hard to put all the pieces of the stories together. There are a lot of holes in the overall story and some space helps me to take these books less seriously. These books are definitely not ones to binge to me beyond the first couple of books.

But this is one of the books in the series that I could see myself reading again.

WORTH MENTIONING: This series has abandoned its paranormal romance beginnings. There are still romances but there is less emotional connection between the characters and more plotline. That’s okay, just not what I think makes the early books so amazing.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LOVER MINE is the eighth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. It should not be read as a standalone as it is not a complete story on its own.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: The Story of Son

Review: The Story of SonThe Story of Son by J.R. Ward
Published by St. Martin's Press on April 14th 2015
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 80
Goodreads
four-stars

Sweet Sexy Vampire Story

THE STORY: Claire Stroughton is a high powered New York lawyer who ends up being kidnapped in order to provide food for a imprisoned vampire. The vampire she meets has been held prisoner for years and doesn’t even have a name. He is incredibly sweet and Claire finds herself wanting to help him escape.

OPINION: I really liked this story. It was focused and the vampire hero was incredibly sweet and sexy. He certainly shakes Claire’s world to its foundations. The story is sexy and uncomplicated (in contrast with the Black Dagger Brotherhood books) and is focused only on the couple in the story. Anyone looking for sexy vampire should be pleased with this story.

WORTH MENTIONING: This story first appeared in the anthology “Dead After Dark”.

FINAL DECISION: I really liked this story. The intense and sexy focus on the characters romance makes this uncomplicated and compelling.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE STORY OF SON takes place in the same place as the Black Dagger Brotherhood books, Caldwell NY, but doesn’t involve those books at all. Also, the rules of vampires seem similar but not identical to those detailed in the Black Dagger Brotherhood books.

STAR RATING: I give this story 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Lover Avenged

Review: Lover AvengedLover Avenged (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #7) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #7
Published by Signet on April 28th 2009
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 556
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Poignant Story of a Man Who Doesn’t Believe He Deserves Love

“Everyone deserves to be saved.”

THE STORY: Rehvenge is a half vampire and half symphath. Symphaths are to be confined to a colony because of their psychotic nature. Rehv has been in fear of being exposed for years. He has also been living a double life: as the leahdryre of the glymera (vampire aristocrats) and also a pimp and drug dealer. He meets Ehlena, who is a nurse, and has a sweet, loving nature. Rehv knows that he is not good enough for Ehlena but cannot resist her. The question is what will happen when Rehv’s secrets are revealed.

OPINION: I am a big fan of the hero who doesn’t believe that he deserves love. Rehv has had a life that is sad and painful. He has done very bad things and yet at the same time, he has done so much to protect those that he loves. This story is all about what those who love him will do for him. I especially liked the sin and vice of his life in contrast with the sweetness of the relationship that he begins to develop with Ehlena. The intense beauty of their connection and the deep yearning that Rehv has for peace and love was the highlight of their story.

Being a Black Dagger Brotherhood story, there are also significant stories with Wrath and Beth, John Matthew and Xhex, and, of course, the rise of Lash as the son of the Omega. I often find these meshing of stories to diminish all the stories because too much is going on. Here, however, I thought that the stories worked well together and complimented one another.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a good story about Wrath and Beth as well that moves their romance forward as well.

FINAL DECISION: I loved this book because the main overlapping stories are all about secrets that are kept. I am a fan of the tortured hero and Rehv has been tortured much in his life and doesn’t have any hope for himself.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LOVER AVENGED is the seventh book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. The various stories being intertwined make it difficult to read unless readers are familiar with the ongoing stories and characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider’s Guide

Review: The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider’s GuideThe Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider's Guide by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #6.5
Published by Nal Trade on October 7th 2008
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 496
Goodreads
five-stars

Insider Guide: Best Part Is The Short Story About Z and Bella

This Insider’s Guide is an in-depth view from Ward about the first six books of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. The guide talks about the origins of the series (it includes the original proposal) and an examination of the creation of each of the first six books. There are also original written pieces about the characters from Ward’s website. What I like best about it is that this guide is really an examination of Ward’s writing process with each of the books and Ward’s feelings towards each of the characters.

For me, the best part of the book is the short story FATHER MINE which is about the Z’s problems adjusting after the birth of their daughter Nalla. While Z makes a breakthrough in dealing with his past in LOVER AWAKENED, this short story really has him have to make an effort to resolve his past or lose his family. My favorite book of the series is LOVER AWAKENED and so it is special to have more about these two characters. There is some regression on the progress made in that book (which feels natural and normal) as Z has to figure out how he can be a father. For someone who was kidnapped and grew up without a father himself, he has not only that but also his own feelings of shame and inadequacy to deal with. I liked this story and it gives more time to Z having to deal with his lingering issues regarding his past. Loved the story and give it 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Lover Enshrined

Review: Lover EnshrinedLover Enshrined (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #6) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #6
Published by Signet on June 3rd 2008
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 561
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Not As Good As The Others

THE STORY: Vampire Warrior Phury is part of the Black Dagger Brotherhood fighting against the soulless humans who are trying to exterminate the vampires. Phury has been haunted by the abduction of his twin brother. Although he rescued his brother, Phury is tormented by his own perceived failures. He has a hero complex and sacrifices himself for others to his own detriment. In order to cope with his self-loathing, Phury has a drug addiction that threatens his standing with the Brotherhood and his life. Phury sacrificed his future to become the father of a new generation of vampires by mating with dozens of the Chosen. His first mate is Cormia. Cormia did not want to participate in the mating but knew that she had to. Cormia is a free thinker and not very good at the role of a Chosen. When she meets Phury, she begins to find herself and realizes that she wants him for herself. But they both have obligations.

OPINION: The Black Dagger Brotherhood books have always had multiple points of view and stories occurring at the same time. Unfortunately, however, this book just has too much in it. There are too many stories — none of which get a sufficient amount of time to make the book worthwhile. The series has become a serial and each individual book is less satisfying as a result. I still love the characters and I enjoy the relationships between the brothers especially, but I miss the strong central romance that drove the storyline of the prior books. Phury and Cormia are okay together but I don’t get the overwhelming passion between them that exist for the other Brotherhood couples. I am not a fan of stories where addicts immediately engage in a relationship. I think Phury’s story would have been better for me if he had gotten clean before becoming so involved in Cormia. Cormia at the same time is discovering who she is. For me, that makes the romance not as compelling because these two are struggling to discovery who they are.

WORTH MENTIONING: I really did love the tough love that the brothers give to Phury and I especially love the scene of their reconciliation at the end.

FINAL DECISION: I liked this book for the information it added to the Black Dagger Brotherhood world but felt that this was the weakest romance.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LOVER ENSHRINED is the sixth book of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. At this point, the story is pretty incomprehensible without reading the prior books of the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Lover Unbound

Review: Lover UnboundLover Unbound (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #5) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #5
Published by Signet on September 25th 2007
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 502
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Complex and Difficult Journey for These Characters

“Because love, after all, was eternal and not subject to the whims of death.”

THE STORY: Vishous is a warrior vampire and part of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. For hundreds of years he has been cursed with seeing the future and has other unique abilities (like having a hand that kills those who touch it). After an abusive childhood, he has spend his adult life seeking control and distance from others. V meets Dr. Jane Whitcomb, a trauma surgeon and thus starts a different relationship for V. He begins to care about the human and opens up to her because he knows that they have no future so it is safe. In the process they fall in love with one another even though they know things will end.

OPINION: Complex and powerful, LOVER UNBOUND, challenges the reader. Vishous has a difficult life. He has done very bad things to people and it takes quite a while for him to open up about the pain in his own life. Ultimately, however, this story of two people who are closed up and want control of their lives is beautiful. My biggest complaint is the ending.

HUGE SPOILERS!

To resolve the issue of Jane being human and thus aging, Ward has Jane killed and ultimately she comes back as a ghost. Many readers have highly objected to this resolution even though V and Jane seem to go forward in much the same way. My objection is not the resolution (although as described below, it stopped me from reading the book the first time) but rather the book is really missing a significant view of these two character being happy together after their misery.

WORTH MENTIONING: I began reading the Black Dagger Brotherhood series before and after finding out about the big resolution in this case, I just couldn’t finish this book and stop reading the series. Recently, I decided to give the series a chance again and knowing the couple has a history after this book where they are happy helped me get through this one and accept the ending.

FINAL DECISION: I liked this book a great deal but wish that we saw more of the couple when they were happy at the end. The resolution of the story was abrupt for such a complex solution.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LOVER UNBOUND is the fifth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood. These books are highly interconnected with stories that span several books. The books read more like an ongoing saga than individual novel. That makes it difficult to read this book without reference to the others in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Lover Revealed

Review: Lover RevealedLover Revealed (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #4) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #4
Published by Signet on March 6th 2007
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 471
Goodreads
four-stars

A Story of Transformation

THE STORY: Butch O’Neal is a human ex-cop who has spent much of the past year as a friend to the vampires of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is a group of warriors who protect the vampire society from the soulless humans known as Lessers. Butch has also been depressed because the female vampire that caught his interest, Marissa, doesn’t want to see him anymore. When Butch is captured by the Lessers, he begins to fear that he might be becoming one of them.

OPINION: I liked this book because I thought that Butch’s journey was interesting and added something new to the overarching story of the series. I also liked the romance between Butch and Marissa although I, at times, found Marissa somewhat annoying with her demands that Butch not involve himself in any danger. She ultimately redeems herself by recognizing her own faults. I also really liked the complexity of the relationships between Butch and the brotherhood, especially V. At times like brothers, at times like could be lovers, their relationship is nuanced and deep. I liked Ward’s ability to tackle those issues without being defensive or an advocate.

WORTH MENTIONING: Once again, this book has a great overlap and communion between the characters which makes it feel more like a saga.

FINAL DECISION: I liked this book for Butch’s evolution. Beyond the romance, I found Butch’s ability to find meaning and purpose in his life to be the best part of the story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LOVER REVEALED is the fourth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. A reader can read this book without the others in the series although the multiple storylines may be confusing as the book picks up without explanation some of those storylines.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Lover Awakened

Review: Lover AwakenedLover Awakened (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #3) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #3
Published by Signet on September 5th 2006
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 468
Goodreads
five-stars

Beautiful, angst filled, Heartbreaking

“I’m not normal.”
“I know. But you’re not dirty or contaminated or unworthy.”

THE STORY: The Black Dagger Brotherhood is a group of warrior vampires who are to protect the civilian vampires from threats. Zsadist is one of the brotherhood but goes his own way. Kidnapped as child and forced to become a blood slave (used to feed on by another vampire), Z was also raped and sexually abused by his master. As a result of his century of being a slave, Z is physically and emotionally scarred. As LOVER AWAKENED begins, Z has been searching for several weeks for a female vampire, Bella, who was kidnapped by one of the soulless humans that the Brotherhood is fighting. Bella’s loss has hit Z hard and he is obsessed with her. Bella was immediately attracted to Z when they met. Weeks of captivity have begun to make her question who she is. This is their story.

OPINION: I love this book. It is my favorite of the series. I am a sucker for those damaged men who are healed by the women who love them. Z is just an amazing character. He has been damaged both inside and out by his time as a blood slave. He begins to heal, however, from the first time he meets Bella. His determination to find her or to avenge her when he believes her dead allows him to care about her in a safe way. Z believes himself dirty and unworthy of love because of the abuse he suffered. His contempt for himself is so incredibly difficult to read at times. At the same time, his ability to care about those around him even as he claims he doesn’t shows the resilience of the spirit. I loved everything about Bella and Z’s story. They have a very difficult road, but this book is emotional and sexy and painful all at once.

WORTH MENTIONING: The stories in these books are multiplying. That means that there are stories that aren’t resolved here and there is less time for the main couple.

FINAL DECISION: This book is painful and heartbreaking and incredibly beautiful at the same time.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LOVER AWAKENED is the third book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. It can be read as a standalone although it is best read in the context of the others in the series since Bella and Z’s story actually begins in LOVER ETERNAL.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars