Tag Archives: vampires

Greyfriar by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith

Greyfriar by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith, a husband-and-wife writing team, is the first book in the Vampire Empire series. It is an alternate universe novel, set in a time when vampires banded together and essentially took over the world in the late 1800’s. Humanity, which now lives in the cities closest to the equator where there is the most heat and sun, has finally made enough technological advances that they are prepared to start fighting back. The main protagonist in the story is Adele, Princess and future Empress of Equatoria, and land that encompasses most of the former British Empire. While on a diplomatic mission, Adele’s airship is attacked by vampires. She is rescued by the legendary Greyfriar, a human known for his ability to fight vampires. As she travels through Northern Europe and falls in and out of the hands of the ruling vampire clan, her worldview is shattered, and she learns quite a bit about herself and the vampires she has grown up hating and wishing to destroy.

greyfriar coverA unique take on the vampire lore is presented in this novel. Vampires are creatures that a born, not made from humans. They have exceptional senses of sight, hearing, and smell but feel little pain and have a terrible sense of touch that makes it difficult for them to manipulate tools – which is fine, because they are arrogant and find manual labor beneath them, forcing their human “bloodmen” to do it for them. They have retractable claws which they use as a main weapon. They can also fly – sort of? They can change the density of their body, and therefore float and move around with the breeze.

 

On one hand, I had a bunch of issues with this novel. I’m not sure I ever completely bought into the vampire lore. I respect the authors for trying to do something different, but I think it was too different. I believed almost everything right up until the change their body density to float/fly thing. I also found it unusual that the vampires had no interest in any sort of knowledge – they couldn’t read or write, and didn’t care that they couldn’t. They ruled and conquered by physical strength. Perhaps it is just because I have read far too many vampire novels in which the vampires are brilliant, rich and well-read, using the knowledge they gain by living for centuries to their advantage. The fact that these long-lived vampires had no concept of that seemed strange to me. I wanted this new and different take on vampires to be refreshing, but instead it irked me and took away from the story.

 

 

I did enjoy the relationship between Greyfriar and Adele. I felt Greyfriar appeared a bit too vulnerable at points, and it took away from the believe-ability of his character. But I thought their relationship was believe-able and well-written, and that kept me interested in the story. I figured out Greyfriar’s real identity almost immediately, and at first I was annoyed, but then later decided the writers did it on purpose and it worked.

 

There were these few and far between moments that alluded to some sort of magic. Presumably this becomes more important to the plot in the next novel? Otherwise I can’t figure out why it was mentioned. So little information about it was offered, that I found it annoying and abrupt rather than mysterious. I just wanted to get back to the action with Adele and Greyfriar. The mystery-magic either needed to be more developed or removed completely, particularly the secret meetings. I think moving them to the beginning of the next novel would have been more effective and interesting, and just left the readers wondering why Adele’s prayers have an effect on the vampires. This paragraph was a bit vague, but I don’t want to give anything away.

 

Overall, this novel was OK and I do plan to read the next one eventually, being interested in Greyfriar and Adele, and how their relationship will grow and change. I give it 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it to fans of alternate history and steampunk vampire novels. I use the term steampunk loosely though – the novel has airships, but that’s about it for typical steampunk technology.

 

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Reap the Wind by Karen Chance

Reap the Wind is the seventh installment in the Cassandra Palmer series by Karen Chance. When I first got into this series, I devoured the books. Cassie was one of my favorite characters of all time, and the world building was right up there witreap the windh the Mercy Thompson series and the Kate Daniels series. I could not get enough…I actually BOUGHT the sixth book, Tempt the Stars (reviewed here). And I was disappointed. The series had reached the point where there was too much action and yet not enough action. Pages of action sequences, like running/fighting/shifting through the demon realms, without any advancing of the plot. I was getting tired of Cassie going round and round with Pritkin and Mircea as well. Reap the Wind was finally different.

**SPOILER ALERT!!** 

I’m not necessarily spoiling the plot here, but I am going to give away some of Cassie’s character development in this novel. Read on at your own risk.

In previous novels, Cassie spent her time being pushed around by various individuals. Whether it was Tony, the vampire who originally “owned” her; Pritkin, who bossed her around in the process of training; Mircea, who sure became her sort-of-husband but was also a high level Master vampire and bossing people around is what Master vampires DO; Jonas, leader of the Circle who believes he should control the Pythia; even Agnes, former Pythia who had a plan for how she wanted Cassie to follow in her footsteps. Cassie threw her power around and expressed some strong opinions, but never really stood up for herself – more so complained when people didn’t do what she thought was right or ethical. Not anymore. Cassie comes to the realization that while she may control the Pythia power, it hasn’t magically (pardon the pun) earned her the respect of all the people trying to boss her around. This major turning point finds Cassie taking charge of her life, making decisions for herself, and forcing the people around her to take her seriously. It was refreshing, and the Cassie I have been looking forward to for several books.

Now the bad news is: Chance leaves us with yet another cliffhanger. Not as bad as the last few books maybe, but a cliffhanger all the same. Worst is that her publishing company announces one date of publication for the next book, and then pushes it off at least 6 months, sometimes longer. It didn’t bother me as much as it may have since I was expecting it, I just sort of sighed and moved on with my life. Maybe someday Chance will actually resolve something in this series. I still love the characters and the world (more Kit Marlowe please!), and I’m going to keep reading them. From a library. I won’t be spending any money on them and I’m not in a hurry to get the next one.

Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost

After a tragic accident scarred her body and destroyed her dreams, Leila never imagined that the worst was still to come: terrifying powers that let her channel electricity and learn a person’s darkest secrets through a single touch. Leila is doomed to a life of solitude…until creatures of the night kidnap her, forcing her to reach out with a telepathic distress call to the world’s most infamous vampire…

Vlad Tepesh inspired the greatest vampire legend of all—but whatever you do, don’t call him Dracula. Vlad’s ability to control fire makes him one of the most feared vampires in existence, but his enemies have found a new weapon against him—a beautiful mortal with powers to match his own. When Vlad and Leila meet, however, passion ignites between them, threatening to consume them both. It will take everything that they are to stop an enemy intent on bringing them down in flames.

OnceBurnedI love the back-of-the-book summaries for paranormal romance novels. They are always so dramatic. Anyway, I read this book partly on the recommendation of Liza Barrett over at Classy Cat Books and partly because Vlad is one of my favorite characters from the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost and I desperately wanted to read more about him. I have to admit, this book was not what I expected.

The book was told from the POV of Leila. Leila is a young woman (I could never quite figure out how old she was, which bugged me. I thought she was like, 18, and then at other times she acted more like 26. I can’t explain why this was such a problem for me, but it was). After a gruesome accident when she was a teenager, Leila mysteriously gains the power to channel electricity and also read other people’s past and sometimes their future with a touch. Maybe someone can explain to me how touching a downed power line can imbue someone with psychic powers because I couldn’t figure it out. I was able to buy in the channeling electricity thing. But seeing the future AND also being able to “link minds” with other people was a huge stretch for me. This bummed me out, because she was a cool character with a no nonsense attitude that I appreciated and enjoyed. I did think her attitude and reactions to some things was a little stereotypical and I got a “it’s been done feeling” but otherwise she was decently written.

I wish parts of this book would have been told from Vlad’s perspective. We get a very few glimpses into his memories from Leila’s weird power, but that didn’t tell us much. All the descriptions from Leila were colored by her trying to figure out whether or not she was in love with him. It wasn’t very creatively done, and I didn’t feel like I got to know Vlad any better than I already knew him from the Night Huntress books. He didn’t seem like the same character as he did in those books either. I was expecting a bit more of a sense of humor and less evil-vampire type-casting. Seemed a little overdone to me.

The cameo by Cat, Bones and company was a nice touch but didn’t make much sense. It didn’t help me understand where in the Night Huntress timeline this book fit in (I guess after Night Huntress book 6? I don’t remember if Leila was mentioned in that book or not). Seemed like Frost just threw the cameo in because she felt like she had to. I would have liked more interaction between Leila and Cat. That would have been interesting.

I feel like I spent this entire review complaining haha, but I did like this book. It was action packed and I did like the way Frost added parts of the Dracula and Vlad the Impaler legends, including actual locations that exist in real life. I’m definitely going to read the next book in this series, because even though I didn’t love this book I still can’t get enough of Vlad. I just hope he’s a little more interesting in the next book Twice Tempted.

Happy reading,

-Branwen

Fury’s Kiss by Karen Chance

Dorina Basarab is a dhampir—half-human, half-vampire. Subject to uncontrollable rages, most dhampirs live very short, very violent lives. But so far, Dory has managed to maintain her sanity by unleashing her anger on those demons and vampires who deserve killing… 

furys-kiss-coverDory is used to fighting hard and nasty. So when she wakes up in a strange scientific lab with a strange man standing over her, her first instinct is to take his head off. Luckily, the man is actually the master vampire Louis-Cesare, so he’s not an easy kill.

It turns out that Dory had been working with a Vampire Senate task force on the smuggling of magical items and weaponry out of Faerie when she was captured and brought to the lab. But when Louis-Cesare rescues her, she has no memory of what happened to her.

To find out what was done to her—and who is behind it—Dory will have to face off with fallen angels, the maddest of mad scientists, and a new breed of vampires that are far worse than undead…

Fury’s Kiss is the third installment in the Dorina Basarab series by Karen Chance. I’ll be honest, I read these books because I am absolutely in love with the Cassandra Palmer series, and I like these extra visits with Mircea and Louis-Cesare. They keep me hanging on while I wait for the next Cassandra Palmer book to come out. Which, by the way, came out at the beginning of the month, Tempt the Stars, Cassandra Palmer #6. But since I am not a book buyer, more of a get-books-from-the-library-er, I haven’t been able to snag a copy yet. Hopefully soon! Anyways back to the current book. 

I stole the summary from Goodreads because after reading this book I’m still not entirely sure what happened. I mean, I know Dory was in it. And she was struggling with keeping her “vampire half” under control. And there were lots of portals involved–the kind that went to Faerie, and the kind that connected various places in the vampire world, including the ones in Dory’s house. The house she shared with her half-fey roommate Claire, who is some sort of royalty, and is in trouble because of her royal son and what he’s supposed to inherit. Or not inherit, I wasn’t really sure about that part. Dory’s father Mircea showed up every once in awhile too, to tell Dory to stay away from the vampire problem, and also to use his master vampire powers to read Dory’s mind and figure out what she knows that can help the vampires win their war. So, you can see, this book was a little confusing. There was just way too much happening. I couldn’t keep it all straight. On top of the 497 plot points, a new race of characters, the Irin who claim to be fall angels, was introduced. For no reason that I could discern. I’ll admit, I did read part of this book at night in bed when I was sleepy. But I certainly wasn’t sleepy enough to lose all powers of reading comprehension. There was just too much to comprehend!

There were some things I liked about this book. We did get to read about Louis-Cesare and Mircea, even though it wasn’t as much as I would have liked. More of Mircea and Dory’s past was revealed, and how hard Mircea worked to keep Dory safe and protected from those who thought all dhampirs should just be put down, and also from her own mind. We even saw Dory become closer to Mircea, despite her best intentions and efforts. There were some impression fight scenes in this book, too. Again, the problem was almost the entire book was fight scenes. Some of them rambled on a bit and didn’t make much sense. I was also sort of bored with them by the end, and just wanted to get to the point and find out who the bad guy was. 

This was not my favorite Karen Chance book, but it did get me excited for the next Cassandra Palmer book, which I hope to get my hands on soon. And while I’m excited to read more about Cassie and Pritkin, I have to say the Dorina books have made me love Mircea more. Can’t wait for Tempt the Stars!

Happy reading,

-Branwen

Assassin’s Code by Jonathan Maberry

Firstly, my apologies for not posting for almost an entire month. My job had the nerve to get in the way of my reading. I fell behind on my reading, my Doctor Who watching (I am on the third episode of season 6 on Netflix, and trying to get all caught up in time for the 50th anniversary event!) and just fun things in general. It’s possible things are calming down and I should be back and posting more regularly now.

That being said, onto the review!

assassin's code coverJoe Ledger and his DMS team thought their mission was a relatively routine rescue of three hikers taken hostage by the Iranian government. Then, while trying to get out of Dodge, Ledger is stopped by a government official, and after a very shady conversation, he tells Ledger and DMS about six nuclear bombs spread across the oil fields in the Middle East that, if detonated, would cause global chaos. Along the way to finding the nukes, Ledger encounters a beautiful and mysterious assassin named Violin (who saves his life more than once), a brotherhood of genetically engineered killers with a thirst for blood (yes, I stole that description from the back of the book; sorry, couldn’t think of a way to say it better) and the Book of Shadows, which contains terrifying information that could destroy peace throughout the world.

Bad news first: So far, this is probably my least favorite Joe Ledger book. Not because it was poorly written or didn’t contain any of the usual dark humor, interaction between characters, various POVs, etc. I mean, it was a little slow at times and felt like the middle went through some long periods of inaction. But I could have dealt with that. The part that I couldn’t wrap my head around–and I realize this is going to sound ridiculous with all the fantasy books I read full of supernatural creatures–was the “vampires.” The knights of the red order are genetically enhanced killers who have pointed teeth, inhuman strength and speed, and oh, by they way, they like to drink blood. Church and the rest of the DMS team try to find a scientific explanation for how these dudes can exist and while some things about evolution are implied, it’s never explained fully. And I’m sorry, if this makes me a hypocrite so be it, I couldn’t buy it. Maybe it was because most other things in these books are explained so scientifically and this wasn’t so it didn’t seem like it fit for me. I mean I realize these books are science fiction and call for some serious suspension of disbelief.  Something about this one just didn’t work for me.

The good news is there were other things I did really like about this book. Joe Ledger’s typical dark and sarcastic-in-the-face-of-certain-death was back. I also love the way he describes his dog’s facial expressions and attitudes. Because I am always too engrossed in reading to write down page numbers of quotes, when it comes time for reviewing I can never find the humorous lines to share with you. Someday I’m going to buy a notepad and rectify this problem. Until then, you’re going to have to take my word for it. Being a dog lover myself, some of the ways Ledger describes what his dog is thinking make me laugh out loud.

I also liked the interaction between Ledger and the mysterious Violin. The fact that Ledger has realistic emotions and is still struggling to get over Grace Courtland’s death makes his attraction to a new woman even more intriguing and makes me even more emotionally invested in his love life. Not to mention Violin was an interesting character all on her own, as was the Arklight organization she worked for. Arklight was a great twist, something I did not see coming at all.

I certainly didn’t dislike this book enough to stop reading Maberry. In fact, I am waiting for the next book to come in at my library. I’m just hoping the next one has science I can buy into.

Happy reading,

-Branwen

This Side of the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

this side of the grave coverCat and Bones are back in the fifth installment of the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost, and they and all their friends are getting into trouble once more. I had been ages since I read a Night Huntress novel…so long I hadn’t realized TWO new books had been published without my noticing. (Shame on me!) I enjoyed this one so much I’m sad I waited so long to read it.

Cat and Bones are drawn into a conflict that effects (affects? I think I was right the first time…) the entire undead portion of the supernatural community (which, now that I think about it, might be the entire supernatural community. At this moment, I can’t recall any mention of weres or shifters or any kind of witch or fae characters in this series, but I could be mis-remembering). Tension is mounting between vampires and ghouls as a far-too-over-zealous ghoul Apollyon riles up the rest of his race and tries to spark a species war. Knowing a war between vampires and ghouls would not only decimate both of those populations, but cause plenty of trouble for mortals as well, Bones and Cat vow to figure out what’s going on and stop Apollyon before its too late.

Not only was this an interesting story (most supernatural novels don’t deal with ghouls very often) but leading lady Cat grew as a character. She learned things about herself through the past four novels, and even tried to teach those things to others. She was a heroine who actually came out and said something to the effect of “Going off on your own is never the answer, even when it seems like you have really good reasons to do it.” I almost applauded. Main characters making the same mistakes and stupid decisions over and over gets extremely tedious (Rachel Morgan, anyone?) The supporting cast in these novels is excellent as well. I believe there are some companion novels I have missed, in addition to not realizing books 5 and 6 came out, since two of Bones’s vampire friends acquired girlfriends since the last book. Mencheres, two-thousand year old Egyptian vampire is a favorite of mine. Just being very very old and Egyptian would endear him to me, and he gets badass powers on top of that, and Cat likes him. I like Vlad too, who we find out is the reason for the Dracula legends. Somehow Frost manages to write him as scary in a very sexy way, which I love.

Speaking of which, Frost writes some really excellent sex scenes. Yes, they are gratuitous, but honestly, isn’t that why we’re reading them? I mean, even if it’s not the only reason, it’s definitely a perk.

I’m looking forward to reading more about Cat and Bones (and hopefully Vlad) in One Grave at a Time, Night Huntress #6!

Happy reading,

-Branwen

Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs

frost burns patricia briggs coverMercy knew Black Friday shopping at midnight was a bad idea. But she did it anyway, to take her new step-daughter Jesse–daughter of her mate and Alpha of the local werewolf pack Adan Hauptman–shopping. Mercy doesn’t expect shopping to be fun, but she certainly doesn’t expect it to be dangerous, which is exactly what it becomes when Mercy has a panic attack and gets into a car accident. But that’s not the dangerous part. The dangerous part is that afterwards, she can’t reach Adam or any of the pack members through her mate-bond. The entire werewolf pack has been abducted, and it’s up to Mercy and her small group of remaining allies to find them and rescue them, before it’s too late.

If I could switch bodies with one heroine in literature–any literature, not just fantasy–it would be Mercy Thompson. She can painlessly shift into a coyote. She is mated to the extremely sexy and formidable Alpha of one of the most powerful werewolf packs on the West Coast. She has an awesome step-daughter. She has fae and vampire friends. She can fix cars, and is not girly in any way. She thinks for herself, but isn’t afraid to depend on people when she needs to. She may not always make the smartest decisions, but who does? Frankly, she’s just awesome.

Additionally, Mercy lives in the best world. I love the dynamics between all the different supernatural creatures in Briggs’s Mercy Thompson world. The best part is, no one group is 100% “good” or “evil” which I think happens sometimes in other fantasy worlds. Werewolves are generally good, but some do occasionally go crazy and eat people. There are good witches and bad witches. Vampires are generally evil, but a few (like Mercy’s friend Stefan) aren’t so bad. The fae are in a league of their own, some being good and wanting to help humans (like Mercy’s friend Zee and his half-fae son Tad) and others are lunatics and hate humans. There’s balance, and yet drama. It’s great.

This was one of my most-excited-about-books-of-2013, and boy it didn’t disappoint! In this particular novel, we get to see Mercy solving problems while her werewolf friends are mostly absent. Instead of Adam and the wolves coming to her rescue, Mercy must work to rescue them. She enlists the help of Kyle, lawyer mate of a Mercy’s werewolf Warren (as mate to the Alpha, all the werewolves belong to Mercy as well as Adam, whether they like it or not), her friend Zee’s half-fae son Tad, and her vampire ally Stefan (he can’t really be called “friend” at this stage in the series, though he has been in the past). I really like Kyle, and I really enjoyed his presence in this book. He doesn’t always react to things the way you would expect a regular human to react (although Kyle would probably be offended if he heard me call him a “regular” human) and it makes things more interesting. Actually, Briggs managed to bring almost every character we ever knew from the series into this novel, which was cool. I did miss Sam and Bran, but after the last few books I wasn’t expecting to see much of Sam, and we get to see more of Bran in the Alpha and Omega series (same world, different main characters) so I didn’t mind his absence in this book so much either. Heck, I like all these characters so much I would read a book describing them eating breakfast, that’s how interesting and emotionally invested in them I am. I want them all as friends, even Ben the werewolf (well, I would like Ben as a friend now, not two books ago, haha).

Another really cool thing about this novel: We got to hear part of the story from Adam’s perspective! Being inside Adam’s head was not what I expected, but it really made sense, and really gave the reader an insight into Adam’s character. We learned more about his past, his struggles in dealing with his wolf, and how strong his feelings toward his pack and toward Mercy really are. I am almost certain (I can’t quite remember the previous book, I read it awhile ago) Briggs has never let us in Adam’s head before. It was a nice touch.

Briggs simply can’t write these Mercy Thompson books fast enough for me. I want the next one to be published, like, yesterday. If you haven’t started this series yet, start now!

Happy reading,

-Branwen

Undead and Uneasy by MaryJanice Davidson

undead and uneasy coverThings are just not going Betsy’s way. Her wedding is getting closer, and her groom-to-be Sinclair is not being the least bit helpful. This may sound rough, but Betsy figures it’s all normal pre-wedding jitters. Until things start being everything but normal. Betsy’s father and the Ant (her step-mother who she hates) die in a freak car accident, and give Betsy legal guardianship of her infant half-brother. Her best friend is dying of cancer, and stuck in the hospital getting chemo right when Betsy needs her most. Her mother and half-sister Laura–who, by the way, is the Devil’s daughter–are not being remotely helpful. Tina, vampire friend and assistant, is in France trying to solve the problems with the European delegation. And then, Sinclair and her other roommates Antonia, Garret the Fiend, and Marc all mysteriously disappear. Betsy is all alone, and of course her troubles are only getting worse.

I like these cute, fluffy vampire books. I’ll admit, Betsy is not my favorite vampire character ever. (I’m sorry, I’m just not one of those girls who understands the shoe obsession. I like shoes from Payless that are comfortable to walk in. The one pair of shoes I have ever spent more than $50 on was fancy running sneakers. But hey. What do I know?) BUT the stories are cute and the “supporting cast” and their interaction with Betsy is hilarious. I don’t have a whole lot to say about this book, most of the Undead books are the same general story line. They are relaxing and fun to read and I can read them in a little more than a day. Not my favorite stories ever, but good when I need a break from thinking.

Happy reading,

-Branwen

Industrial Magic by Kelley Armstrong

Industrial Magic is the fourth book in Kelley Armstrong’s “Women of the Otherworld” series, and continues the story of Paige Winterbourne, her partner Lucas, and ward Savannah from book 3, “Dime Store Magic.” This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS from “Dime Store Magic.” Consider yourself warned.

This is the first book in the Women of the Otherworld series that I have really enjoyed. The first three books were alright…obviously, or I would not have continued reading the series. The first two books followed a different character who I didn’t particularly like. Paige though, the star of this book and the one before it, I liked a lot.

Paige Winterbourne is a witch. Her mother was also a witch and leader of the witch’s Coven in Boston. When Paige’s mother dies a very early death, leadership of the Coven passes to Paige when she is just 22-years-old. After much drama, and making what she feels are  the best choices in a series of very bad situations, Paige is thrown out of the Coven, and her home in Boston. She moves to Portland, Oregon with her ward Savannah, daughter of a dark witch, and one of the reasons she was removed from the Coven, and her boyfriend Lucas, sorceror and son of the leader/CEO of the most powerful Cabal in the world, who wants nothing more than to destroy everything the Cabal stands for.

At the opening of “Industrial Magic,” Paige is trying to form a new Coven, one geared towards younger witches in the 21st-century. Due to her past and the company she keeps, she is having little success, and she and Lucas are struggling to survive. Enter Lucas’s father, who asks Lucas and Paige for help finding a killer who is hunting the children of Cabal members. Lucas and Paige would desperately prefer to avoid Lucas’s father at all costs, since he is the leader of the vicious and evil Cortez Cabal…but when Paige finds out the most recent victim was a witch, she can’t help but join in the investigation for the killer. It becomes much more difficult than simple detective work–eventually involving an eccentric necromancer who makes a living communicating with the dead on TV, a very old vampire who hates Paige, and a clairvoyant who has gone insane from working for the Cabal.

I really enjoyed this novel. It spent time developing the relationship between Paige and Lucas, which I found interesting. I also enjoyed learning more about Paige. She is a well-written heroine. While she knows how to stick up for herself, and often defies authority (like many female heroines in fantasy novels) she wasn’t annoying about it. She never really listens to directions, but she wasn’t bitchy and she does occasionally take advice from friends, and her boyfriend Lucas. I was able to connect with her and enjoyed seeing the novel from her point of view. We also got to learn more about Cabals, which we didn’t  get too much information about in the previous book. Elena, Clayton, and Jeremy (from the first two Women of the Otherworld books) also made appearances, and I discovered I liked Elena better when I wasn’t in her head. The new character, Jaime Vegas, was also great. She first appears like your typical tv-star-rich-blonde, but turns out to have a much deeper character and becomes more important to the story than you originally think. The plot moved quickly, but was easy to follow and made sense.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I am looking forward to reading more about Paige and Lucas in the next installments.

Happy reading,

-Branwen