Countdown by Michelle Maddox:

Kira Jordan wakes up in a pitch-black room handcuffed to a metal wall. She has 60 seconds to escape. Thus begins a vicious game where to lose is to die. The man she’s been partnered with–her only ally in this nightmare–is a convicted mass murderer. But if he’s so violent, why does he protect her? And stranger still, what is behind those haunted sea-green eyes that makes her want to protect him? No one to trust. Nowhere to run. And the only hope of survival is working together to beat the Countdown.

Michelle Maddox (aka Michelle Rowan) weaved a very creative story about a post-Industrial world where people pay to watch others die. Very Saw meets Death Race (the remake) while including a believable love story.

Kira and Rogan are forced to join forces in order to get out of The Countdown, a game with six levels, each one forcing them to face a more difficult decision than the last until finally pitting them against each other. Cameras follow them everywhere, and no one is what they seem, including Rogan.

Okay, so Body Snatchers may need to be included in the list of “if you like…you’ll love…” movies I mentioned. There are some far-fetched action sequences and the outcome is typical, but it was a very enjoyable read. Never once did I mutter, “um, are you serious?” I’m actually kind of sad it’s a stand alone book, but I don’t think the story would stay as fresh if it was dragged across multiple books.

Slave to Sensation and Visions of Heat by Nalini Singh:

Slave to Sensation
In a world that denies emotions, where the ruling Psy punish any sign of desire, Sascha Duncan must conceal the feelings that brand her as flawed. To reveal them would be to sentence herself to the horror of “rehabilitation”–the complete psychic erasure of everything she ever was…

Both human and animal, Lucas Hunter is a changeling hungry for the very sensations the Psy disdain. After centuries of uneasy coexistence, these two races are now on the verge of war over the brutal murders of several changeling women. Lucas is determined to find the Psy killer who butchered his packmate, and Sascha is his ticket into their closely guarded society. But he soon discoveres that this ice-cold Psy is very capable of passion–and that the animal in him is fascinated by her. Caught between their conflicting worlds, Lucas and Sascha must remain bound to their identities–or sacrifice everything for a taste of darkest temptation…

Visions of Heat

Used to cold silence, Faith NightStar is suddenly being tormented by dark visions of blood and murder. A bad sign for anyone, but worse for Faith, an F-Psy with the highly sought after ability to predict the future. Then the visions show her something even more dangerous–aching need…exquisite pleasure. Bus so powerful is her sight, so fragile the state of her mind, that the very emotions she years to embrace could be the end of her.

Changeling Vaughn D’Angelo can take the form of either man or jaguar, but it is his animal side that is overwhelmingly drawn to Faith. The jaguar’s instinct it so to claim this woman it finds so utterly fascinating, and the man has no argument. But while Vaughn craves sensation and hungers to pleasure Faith in every way, desire is a danger that could snap the last threads of her sanity. And there are Psy who need Faith’s sight for their own purposes. They must keep her silenced–and keep her from Vaughn

WOW! I mean…WOW!! For a while now, I’ve had people tell me, “You have to check out Nalini Singh, her romances are SO good”…but I’ve been scared. Series from different points of view–skipping from one character to the next–tend to be the same book with different character names.

Not so with these books.

Each character is well-defined, each relationship unique. Both books have Psy females and Changeling males, but their struggles are so different that it relieves the “oh shit, not again” feeling and leaves you worrying for them and smiling when they finally break though and are able to be together.

Nalini’s writing style is bar none one of the greatest I’ve read. Both books I finished in one sitting. WOW!

All Together Dead by 
Charlaine Harris:

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 shape-shifter 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 is vulnerable to those hungry for a takeover. Soon, Sookie must decide what side she’ll stand with. And her choice may mean the difference between survival and all-out catastrophe…

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Sookie book. Oh, how I missed her! Unfortunately the book came with an annoying “Coming soon to HBO” sticker, but that’s neither here nor there.

Have I mentioned how much I love Eric? I don’t think so…but needless to say, he is my favorite Sookie love interest. Bill gets on my nerves and Quinn reminds me of an early Richard (from the Anita Blake series). But Eric…he’s the only consistent, witch curse not withstanding.

All Together Dead sees a lot of tragedy in the world I’ve grown to love. Old friends are lost, but so many opportunities are gained. Her new tie to Eric, difficulties in her relationship with Quinn, and even asshole Bill is trying to make amends.

I’ve yet to get the newest book in the series, but I can only hope that it focuses a little more on character development and a little less on wham bam thank you ma’am action. Yes, it’s a great book, but it seemed like every other page disaster struck and Sookie rolled with the punches, but didn’t really learn anything.

*wipes brow* Holy cow! And I still have one more book…but that’s for another day…

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