Saturday, August 31, 2013

ARC Review: The Returned by Jason Mott

Title: The Returned

Author: Jason Mott

Publication date: August 27th, 2013

ISBN: 9780778315339

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
Jacob was time out of sync, time more perfect than it had been. He was life the way it was supposed to be all those years ago. That's what all the Returned were.

Harold and Lucille Hargrave's lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they've settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds tempered through the grace of time... Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep--flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old.

All over the world people's loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it's a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he's their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.

With spare, elegant prose and searing emotional depth, award-winning poet Jason Mott explores timeless questions of faith and morality, love and responsibility. A spellbinding and stunning debut, The Returned is an unforgettable story that marks the arrival of an important new voice in contemporary fiction.

Review:
I received an e-copy of The Returned from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When scouring the listings on NetGalley for some books that were fresh and new and had gotten a lot of buzz, The Returned was at the top. I immediately requested it and waiting to hear if I had gotten it. Meanwhile, my boyfriend had entered a giveaway and won a paperback ARC of the book. I glared at him for his luck and was almost coming to the realization that I'd have to borrow his copy if I were going to read it when the approval e-mail came. I was so excited and dived right into the book.

This book opens on a world where dead loved ones are started to return. They are not digging out of their graves like mindless zombies, they are being placed in random areas all over the world and set to journey back to their families by any means necessary. The government, seeing the sudden rise of dead people being reported returning, set forth to start collecting the Returned and getting them to their families.

One such story of this occurrence is with the Hargrave family who suffered a loss nearly fifty years ago, of their one and only, eight-year-old son. Much to their shock, and in the case of Harold mistrust, Jacob is returned to them after being found wandering the shores of China. Lucille, like most other grieving mothers, takes Jacob in no questions asked. Harold is a bit more resistant and keeps their Returned son at arm's length.

Eventually, the government notices more and more Returned are coming back and the population is swelling. Unsure what this means for their world, they start forming concentration camps (essentially) for the Returned. Harold and his son wind up in just such a camp as their small town is slowly swallowed up by the imprisoned Returned camp.

It is only a matter of time before one side breaks. The living, sick of sharing their world with those who had died, or the Returned, who are mistreated out of fear and confusion. What will remain of the world once these two groups of people start to wage war between each other?

While reading this book, I made the mistake of skimming a fellow book blogger's review. I was curious what I was in store for while reading it and I found her statement that "this book is slow so if you like a lot of action quickly in a story, it may not be for you" to be emphatically true. I am the type who likes things to happen proto. The slow build just drives me insane and causes me to lose focus quickly. It is probably why it too me so long to read this book when normally it takes me no time at all to consume a fine work of literature.

While this book was not particularly to my liking, there are some fine points. The writing itself is an overwhelming example of the author being a poet. The environmental and emotional descriptions were lyrical and melodious. They made me want to close my eyes and see the world he created for his characters in vivid color. The plot overall was another fine attribute. Who would have even thought about this sort of premise without it evolving into something religious? Surely not me.

Jason Mott put his poetic skills to use in the heart-wrenching symphony of The Returned. It is meant to feel like a slow, deep breath that is held in the chest until the very end, where in a gust, it all spills out of one's body and we are left feeling the ache of our own loved ones who will never return.

Available at:
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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Review: Opal by Jennifer L. Armentrout @JLArmentrout

Title: Opal

Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout

Series: Lux #3

Publication date: December 11th, 2012

ISBN: 9781620610091

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
No one is like Daemon Black.

When he set out to prove his feelings for me, he wasn't fooling around. Doubting him isn't something I'll do again, and now that we've made it through the rough patches, well... There's a lot of spontaneous combustion going on.

But even he can't protect his family from the danger of trying to free those they love.

After everything, I'm no longer the same Katy. I'm different... And I'm not sure what that will mean in the end. When each step we take in discovering the truth puts us in the path of the secret organization responsible for torturing and testing hybrids, the more I realize there is no end to what I'm capable of. The death of someone close still lingers, help comes from the most unlikely source, and friends will become the deadliest of enemies, but we won't turn back. Even if the outcome will shatter our worlds forever.

Together we're stronger... and they know it.

Review:
Oh my goodness. How I have waiting to dig into this book. I requested it not long after I finished Onyx and have been waiting patiently for the library to fill my request so I could find out what happened with Katy and Daemon. As I also read Shadows around the same time that I read this book, it gave me a unique perspective on Dawson and his love for Beth. I was giddy with anticipation as I opened the book and started to read.

When we left off in Onyx, Dawson had just come home after a particularly fearful encounter with the splinter organization of the Department of Defense, Daedalus. Of course, there was to be expected some changes in Dawson's character. He was no longer the happy-go-lucky boy that he once was. He no longer mirrored Dee's thirst for interaction with humans. He was moody, morose, and uneasily quiet. The only time he did speak was in his declaration to free Beth from her captors. This idea was met with resistance, what with Katy's recent entrapment in their facility. Dawson was not to be swayed. The family had to make a choice. Follow and aid Dawson in is task or let him do it on his own and risk losing him again, this time permanently.

A couple of fiends from their past resurface and the Luxens and Katy must decide who they can trust and how to handle the delicate positions these people have in their lives. They can't just run around flashing people with their deadly beams of light without the possibility of consequences resurfacing, right?

As with all the books in the Lux series, there are always consequences for every single action they take. Mostly, their lives consist of trying to hammer out a normal life while keeping their less than human identities a secret and keeping themselves together. We always seem to lose someone important in one fashion or another in each of the Lux series books. Tragedy seems to follow Daemon and Katy no matter what they do.

I absolutely love this series. I have never read anything so unique and awe-inspiring. From the moment I read Obsidian, I knew I would be hooked. Now that I have completed Opal and have to await the release of Origin, I somewhat wish I had waited until the newest book was out before diving into the series. I hate the wait! I am a strong believer in instant gratification, so waiting for a book in one of my favorite alien romance series is sheer torture! What more can I say about Opal besides the obvious praises of it being yet another great installment in the series?

Opal continues the trials and tribulations of a charismatic alien and a introverted quasi-human. It breaks hearts with every page turn and addicts its reader to the a fictitious story that almost seems real. Opal is the third book in a series that everybody should read before the Department of Defense deems it classified material and banishes it to the bowels of Area 51. Hey... who says aliens are all that fictitious?

Available at:
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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Review: Shadows by Jennifer L. Armentrout @JLArmentrout

Title: Shadows

Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout

Series: Lux #0 (Prequel)

Publication date: February 21st, 2012

ISBN: 9781620610084

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
The last thing Dawson Black expected was Bethany Williams. As a Luxen, an alien life form on Earth, human girls are... well, fun. But since the Luxen have to keep their true identities a secret, falling for one would be insane.

Dangerous. Tempting. Undeniable.

Bethany can't deny the immediate connection between her and Dawson. And even though boys aren't a complication she wants, she can't stay away from him. Still, whenever they lock eyes, she's drawn in.

Captivated. Lured. Loved.

Dawson is keeping a secret that will change her existence... and put her life in jeopardy. But even he can't stop risking everything for one human girl. Or from a fate that is as unavoidable as love itself.

Review:
I read this book at the second most perfect time one could. Of course, the obvious best time is at the very beginning before diving into the other books of the series. I knew it was about Daemon's brother and I honestly didn't see Dawson playing more of a roll than just some back story. I figured I would just read it once I finished with the series as a fun side story. Well, Opal features a LOT about Dawson and I chose to read Shadows right before I jumped into Opal. Wise choice, really. A wiser choice would have been to stay with Shadows and go through the books in order but... I digress.

Shadows starts with Dawson and Bethany meeting and falling in love. Their relationship almost seems too easy when you compare it to the relationship between Kat and Daemon. I almost like the teasing insults between Kat and Daemon to the confessions of love and devotion from Dawson and Bethany. Bethany is the first human to form a relationship with the mysterious Luxen people. Her relationship with Dawson causes the Luxen to be completely up in arms and resentful of Dawson rocking the boat, so to speak. Why can't he just fall for a nice Luxen girl, they demand, instead of essentially mixed species dating?

I see Daemon's hatred of humans in Shadows and it really makes me want to go back through the first two books I have read and watch how his opinion slowly changes. How ALL the Luxen change due to Dawson's romance with Bethany. Do they become more accepting? More resentful? More cautious? I seem to remember some of these changes when they were made obvious but not with the same fine-toothed comb analysis that I could possibly do after reading this prequel.

Of course, I liked Shadows. Was there any doubt? While it didn't feature my favorite book blogger character, Kat, it still had some Daemon snippets and I got to acquaint myself with a new book boyfriend, Dawson. It was very similar to Obsidian but Kat and Daemon definitely have more fire between them that is irresistible. There were some sexual innuendo in the book that made me choke on my drink once or twice. All in all, another A+ for Jennifer L. Armentrout's witty and robust writing.

Shadows is the perfect beginning to a perfect series. It sheds light on situations in the sequential novels that the reader may not have gotten without it. It features a less than prominent character and shows how significant his appearance in the books truly was. Masterful.

Available at:
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Monday, August 19, 2013

Review: Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead @RichelleMead

Title: Gameboard of the Gods

Author: Richelle Mead

Series: Age of X #1

Publication date: June 4th, 2013

ISBN: 9780525953685

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
In a futuristic world nearly destroyed by religious extremists, Justin March lives in exile after failing in his job as an investigator of religious groups and supernatural claims. But Justin is given a second chance when Mae Koskinen comes to bring him back to the Republic of United North America (RUNA). Raised in an aristocratic caste, Mae is now a member of the military's most elite and terrifying tier, a soldier with enhanced reflexes and skills.

When Justin and Mae are assigned to work together to solve a string of ritualistic murders, they soon realize that their discoveries have exposed them to terrible danger. As their investigation races forward, unknown enemies and powers greater than they can imagine are gathering in the shadows, ready to reclaim the world in which humans are merely game pieces on their board.

Gameboard of the Gods, the first installment of Richelle Mead's Age of X series, will have all the elements that have made her YA Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series such megasuccesses; sexy, irresistible characters; romantic and mythological intrigue; and relentless action and suspense.

Review:
I picked up a copy of this book at my local library while perusing their new books section. I have read a few of Richelle Mead's young adult book series and found her writing to be inspiring. I was curious to see what one of her more adult books would read like. This book took me completely by surprise.

The book opens on a futuristic world in which religion is carefully monitored and, for the most part, almost entirely eradicated. Supernatural powers are believed to be false and those who talk about them are religious zealots who should be watched closely or done away with entirely.

Mae is a soldier of the toughest of the tough and the most feared branch of military known as prætorians. After a violent outburst, Mae is sentenced to the temporary loss of her most prized possession, her prætorian uniform, and a seemingly boring job to deliver a message to an unknown man. Little does she know but meeting Dr. Justin March would be anything but boring.

Justin March is a womanizing con-man who also has the fascinating ability to observe things most others would not be able to see. Especially when it came to human behavior. He often used his talent to garner favor from higher-ups and women alike. After his exile from RUNA (the Republic of United North America), he never thought he would be in that world again. Mae and her message come as a complete shock to him. The message lays out the fundamentals of a string of upper-crust aristocratic killings. His talents would be essential to finding out who is behind the gruesome, and strangely ritualistic, murders. Justin, in a rare unselfish moment, agrees but only on the stipulation that he can bring a 16-year old girl, Tessa, with him on a student visa.

One thing that Justin and Mae did not think would happen on their journeys together was that they would start to like each other and even consider romantic feelings for each other. The hard-as-nails prætorian and a womanizing manipulator? Not the most conventional of couples. But their feelings for each other may not just be sexual and physical. They may actually have been selected by the gods themselves to be together forever.

This book, like many with a LOT of detail to their worlds, was sometimes hard to follow. I still am not 100% certain what the difference is between Gemman, plebian, and castel are. I had to make some assumptions due to context clues throughout the book. Sometimes that can be a hindrance in books I read. I find a new term that only is significant to the book's fantasy world. I can't look it up in the dictionary. I just have to hope the author outlines it in the reading. I find that sometimes an author is so wrapped up in their fantasy world they have created that terms such as these are just second nature to them. They don't really describe them in detail because they already know in their mind what they mean by them. They forget to read their writing from an outsider's perspective. It's an honest mistake and one that happens often. Thankfully, in Mead's latest work, I was able to, for the most part, pick everything up rather easily.

The greatest addition to the alternative point of view of the writing between Justin and Mae was the added perspective of Tessa, the 16-year old that Justin bargained for in his return to his duties. Her outlook on the world of RUNA as an outsider, truly helped me as a reader, see and experience things the same way. Her struggle to understand her new world was exactly what helped me in several situations where I knew nothing about this new society and needed some enlightenment. It was a very good idea to have a character like that in this book.

Gameboard of the Gods is probably one of the most thorough dystopia worlds ever witnessed. It has it all from supernaturally driven crimes, the struggle over religion and how that effects society, and, also, a romance that can leave the reader breathless and rage-filled from one page to the next.

Available at:
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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Review: Demon by Kristina Douglas

Title: Demon

Author: Kristina Douglas

Series: The Fallen #2

Publication date: May 31st, 2011

ISBN: 9781439191934

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
Once the Fallen's fearless ruler, a grieving Azazel must find the legendary siren meant to take his lost lover's place... and kill her.

He's a devil of an angel.

Azazel should have extinguished the deadly Lilith when he had the chance. Now, faced with a prophecy that will force him to betray the memory of his one true love and wed the Demon Queen, he cannot end her life until she leads him to Lucifer. Finding the First is the Fallen's only hope for protecting mankind from Uriel's destruction, but Azazel knows that ignoring his simmering desire for the Lilith will be almost as impossible.

She's an angel of a demon.

Rachel Fitzpatrick wonders how Azazel could confuse her with an evil seductress. She's never even been interested in sex! At least not before she set eyes on her breathtaking captor. And now she can't think about anything else--besides escape.

Angels and demons don't mix.

Rachel stirs a carnal need in Azazel that he never thought he'd feel again. Falling for a demon--even if she has no idea she's the Lilith--means surrendering his very soul. But if he lets her go, he risks abandoning his heart, his dangerous lover, and possibly all of humanity, to Uriel's deadly wrath.

Review:
I read the first book in this series on a whim. I read the second book in this series out of desperation. I absolutely loved the first book in the series and had to get my hands on the second pronto. I submitted my request to my local library moments after closing the cover of the first book. I waited with bated breath for the website to tell me I had it waiting to be picked up. Apparently no one else had requested the book in some time because it had gotten lost in the stacks. Eventually it told me it was available for pick-up and I left the house moments after reading the status. I had to know what had happened to my fallen angels. I had to see how the tough-as-nails Azazel who had lost his love in the first book, handled falling for another.

The story opens on Azazel tracking Rachel/Lilith. Rachel has no idea why she has a sudden stalker since she is anything but extraordinary. She only knows that whenever he gets too close, she must run and run fast. She has done just that for seven years until finally Azazel grows tired of the cat and mouse game and takes her. Azazel plans to rid the world of the alluring Lilith and in doing so foil the prophecy that has him marrying the demon. At the last moment, Azazel can't kill her. He frees her and leaves once more.

Rachel starts over as she has done for years, until Azazel is given the order to take Rachel to a group of torturers to get the information about Lucifer's whereabouts out of her one way or another. This was supposed to be a simple task for Azazel. Grab Rachel, take her to the Truth Breakers, and find out what they needed to know even at the cost of the girl's life. Along the way, Azazel's frozen heart starts to thaw and he starts to wonder if the girl is truly the demon between the two of them.

This book was unfathomably amazing. While the entire time I wanted to reach through the pages and slap Azazel around or sob tears that Rachel was unable to shed, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think there are several books out there that you absolutely adore who have characters you absolutely loathe. Such is the case in this book. I am so not a fan of Azazel's. Wasn't in the first book, and definitely am not in the second. Rachel's character made up for it and kept me drawn into the story. Rachel, the demon, was the story's saving grace.

Demon is the sequel in a series that is just heavenly. It takes various members of the Fallen and shows their strength and passion for humanity. It gives us, lowly humans, faith in humanity, as well.

Available at:
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Friday, August 16, 2013

Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway for The Howling Heart by April Bostic


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Title: The Howling Heart

Author: April Bostic

Publication date: August 8th, 2013

ISBN: 9781629290195

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
Paige Donovan is an ambitious college graduate who aspires to reach the top of the corporate ladder. She's climbing fast when she's given the promotion of a lifetime at a prestigious fashion magazine in New York City. Her bright future comes to an unexpected halt after news of her father's death. She inherits his old cabin in the Colorado Rockies, and just when she thinks her luck couldn't get any worse, she has a car accident in the mountains and awakens in a small, remote community of Black River.

Soon, she's engulfed in the mystical world of the Varulv--wolves descended from 12th century Scandinavia and blessed by Norse gods with the ability to appear human. Paige is desperate to return home, but she never expects to fall for her rescuer, Riley Gray, a charming young werewolf from England who offers her an alternative future with his pack.

Now, she must choose between the career she's always wanted and the love she's always dreamed.

Review:
I received an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Out of all the paranormal and mythical creatures I have read about, werewolves always hold a special place in my heart. I think it's the whole shapeshifting thing. Being able to change from one thing to another seems like it could come in handy from time to time. Perhaps I just think humans are boring and am an animal lover. Who's to say.

This book opens on a girl having a dream about her past in which she encounters a wolf pup in the forest behind her house and immediately befriends it (this is very reminiscent of Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater). For some reason Paige, an assistant to the editor at a fashion magazine, remembered that time in her life, and that particular family vacation. Pushing the memory out of her mind, she makes it to work and receives the promotion she had been waiting for. Ecstatic she throws a party to celebrate. It seems though that Paige is not destined to enjoy her promotion because she gets the news that her father has passed away due to a heart attack. Wracked with grief, Paige, along with her self-centered mother, start making preparations for her father's future. Paige comes to find out that the cabin they stayed out during their family vacation was given to her in her father's will.

With the plaintive whines of her mother telling her to sell the cabin, Paige ventures back to the last place she was happy and her parents were still together. Her plan is to check it out and see if she wished to sell it or fix it up to keep. Once again, it seems Paige is not destined to feel the emotions she wishes to. She went to grieve her father's death and instead gets sucked into a world of wolves and a strange town of outsiders.

In her time there she does meet one of the most handsome men she could ever lay eyes on and so starts a whirlwind romance between Riley and Paige. Paige soon realizes there is more to Riley then just handsome features. He is also a wolf and he has set his sights on her from the moment he met her. He cares for her when she is injured and protects her from all that could or would harm her. He wants her to stay with him. He wants to be with her always.

But what of her career at home. Everything she had worked for was back there, but this hunk who wanted her and loved her was here and not willing or able to relocate. Career or love? What a dilemma.

This book snagged my interest from the very first page. I started reading it late at night, thinking I'd read a few chapters and then turn in for the night. I got sucked in and didn't put it down until the sun was out and the book was finished. There were some references to bestiality that were a bit, "uhhh... I don't know how I feel about that." But all-in-all, it was beautifully written and an original concept. It was a different spin on werewolves and used Norse gods instead of the traditional Greek gods most books do.

The Howling Heart will leave its reader "howling" for a sequel.

Available at:
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About the Author:
April Bostic is a New Jersey-based romance author who enjoys unleashing her creativity and letting her imagination run wild. Her love of romance books inspired her to become not just a reader, but also a writer. In December 2008, she self-published her first novel, a contemporary romance with a supernatural twist entitled "A Rose to the Fallen". Her first short story, "Right Here, Right Now", released in January 2012 is an erotic romance with a dash of S&M. The following year, she released two more short stories: a romantic urban fantasy inspired by the Greek myth of Eros and Psyche entitled "Eros, My Love", and a sexy romantic comedy entitled "Love Addiction". After five years, she will release her second novel "The Howling Heart" in August 2013, a paranormal romance that delves into the mystical world of werewolves and Norse gods.



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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Review: Half-Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Title: Half-Blood

Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout

Series: Covenant #1

Publication date: October 18th, 2011

ISBN: 9780983157205

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
The Hematoi descend from the unions of gods and mortals, and the children of two Hematoi pure bloods have godlike powers. Children of Hematoi and mortals--well, not so much. Half-bloods only have two options: become trained Sentinels who hunt and kill daimons or become servants in the homes of the pures. Seventeen-year-old Alexandria would rather risk her life fighting than waste it scrubbing toilets, but she may end up slumming it anyway. There are several rules that students at the Covenant must follow. Alex has problems with them all, but especially rule #1: Relationships between pures and halfs are forbidden. Unfortunately, she's crushing hard on the totally hot pure-blood Aiden. But falling for Aiden isn't the biggest problem--staying alive long enough to graduate the Covenant and become a Sentinel is. If she fails in her duty, she faces a future worse than death or slavery: being turned into a daimon, and being hunted by Aiden. And that would kind of suck.

Review:
I borrowed a copy of Half-Blood from my local library. I have read a couple of Jennifer L. Armentrout's books (mostly from her Lux series) and I loved them. I wanted to see how her other famous series mounted up against my favorite series. The story starts very similarly to another series I have read.

Alex's mother whisked her away from the Covenant 3 years ago for some unknown reason. Alex adjusted as best she could to the mortal world up until she found her mother murdered within her bedroom. Her mother had been drained of all her both and the mysterious aether that the daimons are addicted to. Alex runs from the daimons she still feels is hunting her and just before they close in on her to give her the same treatment as her mother, she is rescued by the gorgeous Aiden and his team of trained Sentinel killers. Alex is returned to the Covenant and is told the only way she can stay in training and out of servitude is to prove she can get caught up on 3 years of training in the matter of a few months.

Faced with the mystery of why her mother chose to leave the comfort of the Covenant, her growing attraction for her teacher, and the question of who she is and what makes her special are just a few trials and tribulations Alex faces in this story. She longs to be a Sentinel and put her fighting skills to use but her love for Aiden and her malicious stepfather could put a stop to that.

There are clear and obvious plans for Alex that the hierarchy of Hematoi's, The Council, do not seem to wish to divulge to Alex. I am sure these issues will be addressed in future books more thoroughly than this series debut.

This first book was so similar to Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead that I had to close the book and check to make sure I hadn't picked up a copy of that book instead. Let's hash out the similarities. Daimons can turn pure and half bloods into one of their one by draining their aether through drinking blood. Sounds very vampire-ish to me. Alex starts to have feelings with her teacher who she is forbidden to be involved with. Same as Rose and Dimitri in the Vampire Academy. Someone Alex loves gets turned into a daimon and she feels the responsibility to track them down herself and end their undead-ish life. Alright, something is just fishy. Are these two books the same book just with Greek demigods versus vampires?

Well, I absolutely loved The Vampire Academy, so it's no surprise that I loved this book too. To be fair the similarities between the two books was a little frustrating since I felt like I was re-reading a book I had just finished not long before. I liked the fact that in Half-Blood it was more about Greek gods than about vampires (which are pretty overdone), but the daimons are pretty vampire-like regardless.

Half-Blood is an a story of starcrossed lovers, forbidden romance, darkness, and the lengths one will go to to save a loved one from themselves.

Available at:
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