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Category Archives: Horror-Romance

Donners of the Dead, by Karina Halle

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***A Standalone Horror Romance***

A note about this book: Donners of the Dead is set in 1851 – couples were often thrust into marriage together with short courtships, racism was widespread and not overly frowned upon, and women had little to no rights. What wouldn’t fly in today’s day and age was unfortunately the norm back then – it is worth keeping that in mind when reading this book.

Jake McGraw was unlike anyone I’d ever known. He was brash, rude, unapologetic and arrogant; chauvinistic, close-minded, and terribly stubborn. He was built like a tree, tall with a hard chest and wide shoulders and hands that looked like they could wrestle a bear. He was a cigar-chomping, scruffy-faced, beast of a man. I was pretty sure I hated him. And I know he hated me. But among the flesh-eating monsters in these snow-capped mountains, he was the only thing keeping me alive

The year is 1851 and pioneers in search of California gold are still afraid to travel on the same route as the tragic Donner party did years before. When the last wagon train to go into the Sierra Nevada mountains fails to arrive at their destination, Eve Smith, an 18-year old half-native girl with immense tracking skills is brought along with the search party, headed by an enigmatic former Texas Ranger, Jake McGraw.

What they find deep in the dangerous snow-covered terrain is a terrifying consequence of cannibalism, giving new meaning to the term “monster.” While the search party is slowly picked off, one by one, Eve must learn to trust Jake, who harbors more than a few secrets of his own, in order to survive and prevent the monstrosities from reaching civilization.

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I’m a sucker for Karina Halle’s books! Ever since I started reading the Experiment In Terror serie, I have been addicted to her stories, her characters and her writing style.

What I really like about her is that she isn’t afraid of mixing the genres. I hope for you that you’re not too hung up on the concept of genres because Karina Halle isn’t afraid to shake things up where genre boundaries are concerned. And that’s how you end up with a book like Donners of the Dead, a historical horror western romance where zombies are the bad guys. It’s the first book I read about sexy cowboys fighting flesh-eating creatures and I was not disappointed.

“Chills gripped my chest with an iron fist the moment Isaac turned his head and stared down at me. Half of his face was gone, his eyeball blasted into his face leaving a dark red and black hole of bone, brain and blood.” 

Donners of the Dead was beautifully written. I was sucked into the book the moment I started reading and did not put it down until it was finished.

I really liked that this story was inspired by real events that happened in 1851 (minus the zombies of course). I like when a story is grounded into reality to a certain extent. Here, Karina made a great job of setting the decor and ambiance of the time. As is mentioned in the blurb, women status was very different then and our main character Eve, has it even worse because she is mixed-race (her dad was Indian and her mother a white girl) which was something highly frowned upon at the time and didn’t help when it came to integration.

“There was a loud, solid thunk on the porch, followed by another. The house shook slightly. I kept my eyes trained on the outside but couldn’t see anything. But I could smell it. It was blood and sweat and hay and horse and something unfathomable. A severe chill threaded down my back.” 

The dark, creepy tone of the book is set from the start and from there, it only gets scarier. In the first few pages you’re already facing strange, blood-thirsty creatures, and from there, my mind was suspecting every little movement and noise described in the book to be a possible ambush. No need to say that my nerves where on edge. But then again, Karina knows how to creep you out and I wouldn’t be surprised if you kept the lights on when you read her books. She really has a talent when it comes to making you shiver with fear.

“You must draw strength from fear or fear will make you weak.”

“Men are the real monsters. They often are.”

Here Eve, because of her tracking skills, is sent on a party in the mountains with a bunch of strangers to help them find someone who has been missing for a year. Even though she does want to go, no one really asked her if she was okay with going and she probably won’t see the money she is due for her services. And on top of that, the men of the group, even though they need her, don’t show a lot of appreciation. 

“I tend to tune out when a woman’s speaking.” I leaned further into Sadie, as if that would help me escape his chauvinism. “That’s probably because a woman’s never said a good thing about you.” (…) “You’re damn right about that.” He cocked his head and looked me over. “Except where it counts, if you know where that is, and judging by what you’re wearing to bed, I reckon you don’t.”

I found Eve’s character very brave and likable. She is strong and knows how to stand her own even though she is still very young. Her life prior the expedition isn’t easy and nothing is given to her. Her father went missing a while back and her mother is the shell of the woman she once was, leaving Eve to fend for herself. Her uncle and aunt are supposed to take care of her but let’s just say that Mr. Smith isn’t exactly thrilled about that. I liked her and her voice a lot in the book. She was a very interesting character to read about.

And then, between the bad guys and the creepy monsters lurking in the dark, there’s Jake McGraw.

“My goodness he had large feet”

“If you asked someone to tell you what a “man” was, I was certain he’d be their description.”

To me, the cherry on top of the delicious cake that is this book is that even though we are surrounded by horror, there is still a whole lot of steamy romance happening.

Jake and Eve’s relationship was great to witness. I loved the nickname he gave her, even though it starts out of an act of douchery. He is far from a gentleman and openly shows to Eve that he doesn’t like or trust her because she is half-Indian. He’s been through a lot and that’s why he is so “rough” on the edges.

“He may have “saved” me, but it was still Indian-hating Jake McGraw, and we mixed about as well as oil and vinegar.”

Basically, if it wasn’t for this expedition, there was no change in hell for them to ever be together. She’s a small town girl, he has seen world (or at least most of the US). She’s half-native american, he is a broody cowboy. You get the picture. But as the story evolves and things get tough for them, they start to care for each other and find out that they need each other more than they realized in order to survive.

“We were a tribe of two but a tribe all the same. Two broken people looking for their place in the world and finding each other.”  

Their relationship grows steadily and naturally. What I really like about Karina’s characters, is that they are not perfect. They are flawed and out of the norm, just like us, and it makes you relate to them on some level. The make mistakes, they curse, they lie and they doubt but they are still very likable. And even though they might not be people you would normally like, she makes you like and care for them with all their flaws. That’s why I very easily have crushes on her characters and am always excited to see new book release from her.

“No matter his age though, he was a rude bastard”

“I couldn’t find the words. Jake McGraw just kissed me. Not Avery as I’d imagined, but Jake. A man. A Texan. A liar and a jackass.” 

This book was a great one that I really enjoyed reading even though it made me jump at every noise I can hear in my house. It was the right mix of fright and romance and I recommend it highly to anyone looking for a thrill!

“There are only monsters inside of angels and angels inside of monsters. Choose wisely.”

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Red Hill, by Jamie McGuire

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When the world ends, can love survive?

For Scarlet, raising her two daughters alone makes fighting for tomorrow an everyday battle. Nathan has a wife, but can’t remember what it’s like to be in love; only his young daughter Zoe makes coming home worthwhile. Miranda’s biggest concern is whether her new VW Bug is big enough to carry her sister and their boyfriends on a weekend escape from college finals.

When reports of a widespread, deadly “outbreak” begin to surface, these ordinary people face extraordinary circumstances and suddenly their fates are intertwined. Recognizing they can’t outrun the danger, Scarlet, Nathan, and Miranda desperately seek shelter at the same secluded ranch, Red Hill. Emotions run high while old and new relationships are tested in the face of a terrifying enemy—an enemy who no longer remembers what it’s like to be human.

Set against the backdrop of a brilliantly realized apocalyptic world, love somehow finds a way to survive. But what happens when the one you’d die for becomes the one who could destroy you?

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Wow! I think I’m at a loss for words. Which, all things considered, is not convenient right now since I’m gonna try to write a review that does justice to this book. But as is usually the case when I loved a book, it’s probably going to be more blabbering than anything else. So bear with me 😉

And to add to that, I am so book hangovered right now! I finished Red Hill at four in the morning because I couldn’t put it down.
I think it’s my first horror (romance?) fiction and I’m so glad I picked this one to be the first. Jamie McGuire wrote a fantastic story that had me scared, stressed, nervous, hoping ,smiling and on the brink of tears at times.

Here’s a kaleidoscope of how I felt while reading:

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I might have driven my roommates crazy while reading Red Hill. But this is the perfect example of how this book makes you feel, and if you’re a tiny bit like me, for your own sanity you’ll have to talk it out. But I digress.

The story will grab you from page one until the last and not once will you be bored or skip pages.

“I wasn’t sure how long we could survive, but I knew I wasn’t dying on day one of the fucking zombie apocalypse.”

I got so attached to the characters in such a short amount of time it’s scary. I was right there with every one of them and even though very creepy at times, it was a great feeling and I loved it. Everyone of them reveal themselves as the story goes and you discover great people full of wonders. You’ll feel like part of their family.
I was so sad when something tragic happened to them. And more than once I felt as frustrated, sad and/or angered as the characters were.

This book broke my heart and lifted it too. It was an emotional roller coaster but boy did I enjoy it. I was more than impressed by this book and its author’s talent. If you were hesitating about reading this book, I cannot tell you enough to give it a chance because you won’t be disappointed. That is if you don’t mind reading about the end of the world as we know it of course.

I could repeat myself over and over now to tell you to grab a copy and start reading but I won’t. Hopefully, this review will do it for me. 🙂

The Devil’s Reprise (Devils #2), by Karina Halle

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Given a second chance, music journalist Dawn Emerson and guitarist Sage Knightly are reunited, only to have their lives threatened again by a demonic bargain.

When Dawn Emerson got the chance to go on tour with her favorite metal band, Hybrid, she thought she landed the writing gig of the century. But what started off as a dream for the budding music journalist quickly turned into a nightmare that she and guitarist Sage Knightly barely escaped alive.

Now, months after they went their separate ways, Sage invites Dawn to accompany him on his first solo tour across Europe and write about it for Creem Magazine. But like the last tour, nothing is as easy as it seems. Sage is a broken man on the path to self-destruction and Dawn isn’t sure if she’s the right person to save him. And aside from having to pick up the pieces of their burgeoning relationship, they have to negotiate the mysterious new photographer assigned to Dawn’s story, as well as vindictive promoters and demonic groupies they thought they’d never see again.

Because this time, it’s Dawn who made a deal with the devil and the only thing worse than having to uphold a bargain with the prince of darkness is not remembering how you’re supposed to pay it back.

It may be with their souls.

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Okay, let’s hope this second review ends up not being too bad.

They say be careful what you wish for….Well isn’t that true!

I was happy to see that there was a sequel to The Devil’s Metal because I definitely didn’t have enough of Dawn and Sage stories with one book. Plus the cliffhanger at the end of The Devil’s Metal kind of had the intended effect on me.

I had a hard time believing what was said at the end if book #1 was true (I blame that on the stubborn romantic that I am) but it had to be. But it ended up being a bit of a problem in the burgeoning relationship between our two protagonists.

Here’s a quick recap from The Devil’s Metal:

“When it comes to life or love, I choose life. I’m here right now, ready to live and love another day. I could never regret that. I’m glad you didn’t love me. You gave me my life by doing so.” 

As it turns out, I ended up hating some of the characters from the moment we meet them in this book as well (after Graham the damn French girl with her stupid red lipstick was just as annoying and aggravating). Thankfully, there were a lot more good characters than annoying ones.

Sage was a little (more) lost in this book than I expected but he’s not a lost cause yet, which was great.

Because I’ve faced my demons. In the flesh. And I’ve won. But it’s the ones inside your head that don’t die.

I loved the moment when Dawn and Sage were able to spell out to each other what they felt and were able to turn a page in their relationship. I also loved Jacob even more in this book and what he did for Dawn and Sage throughout the whole book, but especially close to the end. My heart ached for him and you realize how great his character is and how much he loves Sage and Dawn.

I really liked the way the ending was written. It was original and it felt like you were reading the bio of the characters as if it had been written to honor their lives and the impact it had on other people, just as an actual bio.

Anyway, this story will stay with me for a very long time, as is the case with every good story I read. Thank you Karina for writing those books.

“I fucking love you. I. Love. You. You are my reprise, my encore, my finale. You’re every single note wrapped up in the world’s most beautiful package. My love for you sings, and it’s a song that will never stop playing. It will play through our deaths and beyond that. And this I know.” 

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AMAZON LINKS:

The Devil’s Metal (Devil’s #1), by Karina Halle

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It’s the summer of 1974 and 21-year old Dawn Emerson has only three things she wants to do: compete one last time in the Ellensburg Rodeo, win back her ex-boyfriend Ryan, and become the best damn music journalist at Central Washington University. But all her plans are left in the dust when she’s contacted by Creem magazine to go on the road with one of her favorite groups, the up-and-coming metal band, Hybrid. 

At first the assignment reads like a dream come true. Not only will Dawn land some much-needed credibility as a female music journalist, but she’ll finally get to experience life from the other side of the stage, and maybe crack the drunken, enigmatic code that is guitarist Sage Knightly. Instead, Dawn finds herself on an aging tour bus filled with ego-maniacs, band politics and a whole lot of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. When monsters start showing up in dressing rooms and some of Sage’s groupies become increasingly strange and dangerous, Dawn discovers the band is not only going places – they’re going straight to Hell. 

And Dawn has a backstage pass.

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I find myself having a hard time writing reviews for Karina Halle’s books. Which is a shame since I absolutely love them and am steadily becoming addicted to her writing.
So I’m going to try and write one for this serie. Here goes nothing:

I wasn’t expecting the Devils serie to be a prequel/continuity to The Experiment in Terror serie, so that was a (good) surprise since I absolutely love this serie as well.

I really liked Dawn’s character as well as Sage. They were a lot different from Perry and Dex’s characters and I think it has to do with the fact that Karina wrote The Devil’s Metal before the EIT and wrote from something she knew (not the paranormal part anyway…hopefully 😉 )

“It’s dangerous to meet your idols. You’ll always be disappointed.”

We met great characters in this book/serie such as Jacob The Cobb (which I absolutely adored) and we come across some old friends from the EIT as well. We also learn more about the Jacobs, Thin Veil and stuff like that which made the serie even more interesting in and of itself as well as in regard the the EIT.

What is great about Karina’s characters is that they are simply human (well most of them). They have doubts, insecurities, they are flawed and they make mistakes. Quite simply, you can relate to them as people.

“Have you wanted something so badly that you would have done anything to get it?” he mumbled, his muscly back still to me. “Like, the kind of want that leaves you on your knees and asking for someone, anyone, to answer your prayers?”

“I wanted to be someone, someone important. I wanted to be revered, I wanted to be respected, I wanted to be loved. I wanted it all so much that I remember thinking I would do anything for it. I would give anything for it.” 

I usually read books with a lot more smut in them but in her books it never bothers me that the smut is not as present as in other books (rest assured, there is plenty of it in the serie). And there is as well plenty of scary stuff, which is something you’ll like if you are into Karina’s books in general.

“Sage shifted beneath me. I put one of my hands back into his thick hair and left it there, pretending I needed to hold him. It took all my willpower not to start playing with it.

“I guess you don’t do this very often,” I told him, my voice cracking slightly.

I couldn’t see his face but I could feel him smile. “No. Usually my head’s turned the other way around.”

Also, there are connections between those books and the EIT books, those can be read separately without any risks for spoilers.

I loved the atmosphere of the book. All this music going on, the being on tour ambiance plus the 70’s area. So basically, I had a blast reading this book, and the second after that.

One thing that threw me off in the beginning (even though I liked it because it was unexpected and original) was a historical reference to a serial killer that was freaking creepy (I actually had goosebumps when I figured it out) but was brilliant at the same time.

So, in short, if you haven’t read this book yet, do it now. I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into when I picked and started this book and was beyond glad I did because it was totally worth it.

So once again, bravo Karina. Your books are awesome (for lack of a better word at the moment) and keep up the good work! 🙂 We love your style!

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