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Monday, March 28, 2011

Hunting Human by Amanda E. Alvarez

Hunting Human by Amanda E. Alvarez
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full (243 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 Books
Review by: Poppy

For two years, Beth Williams has run from the past, and the beast that dwells inside her. She is haunted by memories of being kidnapped and the savage attack that killed her best friend. Now Beth finally thinks she's ready to move on...with Braden Edwards, a charming, irresistibly sexy man who tempts Beth to embrace the present.

But the past lurks closer than Beth realizes. Markko Bolvek, one of the werewolves who kidnapped her, has tracked her to Portland, Oregon, his pursuit fueled by a hunger for vengeance. Only Braden, a werewolf himself, senses the danger shadowing her steps. The Edwards and Bolveks have been enemies for centuries—and despite the instant connection he feels with Beth, Braden isn't sure which side of the war she's on.

With suspicion at odds with their attraction, Beth and Braden must learn to trust one another to stop Markko for good. Can Beth accept the wolf within—and love a man who embodies everything she fears?

It takes a pretty special shifter book to hold my attention in a market that’s been glutted with shifter books. This one did ... to the point that I thought about it when I wasn’t reading it, and wanted to be reading instead of doing pretty much anything else.

That’s not to say the book was perfect, it wasn’t. But it was pretty darn close.

We start with a strong, independent heroine who’s clearly a nurturer and protector – in the beginning, she’s taking care of her less strong best friend in a situation that’s terrifying. Before we discover what the resolution to that is, we flash forward a couple years to our heroine today. Beth is in a seemingly mundane situation, working in a coffee shop, joking with her boss, and meeting a hunky guy that tempts her, for the first time in a long time, to think about dating.

It’s here that Ms. Alvarez well and truly hooked me. Not that the beginning wasn’t exciting, but I’m a fan of character driven stories, and her characters were amazingly real. Unique. Three dimensional. In only a few pages, she managed to populate her story with people I could care about and enjoy. From grouchy but caring Angie, to sexy and sweet Braden, and even Marianne, who’s barely more than a walk-on character. They’re all distinct, interesting and real.

Truly, it’s because we do care about all these people that the book is so stellar, because as the danger grows, and more people are pulling into it, we worry. The antagonist here is incredibly evil and terrifying, and he thrives on making the people he stalks afraid. So we are afraid.

The plot is full of conflict, angst and twists. And through it all, Beth acts in a way I understand. She struggles with trust issues, and a paranormal world she barely believes can exist. When it seems as though she is betrayed by the hero, Braden, she doesn’t forgive him immediately despite her attraction. While hormones certainly rage on through this book, and the heat between Braden and Beth constantly simmers on the pages, it doesn’t rule either one of them.

Braden is a fabulous hero. He has his flaws, thankfully, because who wants perfection? But he’s got a heart the size of Texas and is sexy and smart. It’s no wonder Beth can’t seem to stop how she feels for him, especially after she meets his family. And, I really loved his family. Kudos to Ms. Alvarez for her skill in characterizations. I know I said it before, but I’ll say it again. The only one of the main characters that felt a little hazy was Braden’s brother, Caleb. But this story is clearly meant to be one in a series, and I’m betting the author rectifies that in the future.

The only thing that kept this from being a “best book” for me was one thing, one TSTL thing that the hero does near the end. I understand that it was necessary to set up the climax, but I couldn’t help but think he was smarter than that. It’s a little thing, but it bugged me the more I thought about it, so I couldn’t give this story perfect marks. In the grand scheme of things, though, it won’t keep this book off my keeper shelf. And it won’t keep me from waiting anxiously for another book from the author. If she keeps up this level of writing, she’ll be an auto buy for me for sure.

Truthfully, this story had everything I enjoy: excitement, great characters, plenty of heat and lots of sweet romance that made my heart happy.