Review: Firelight

Review: FirelightFirelight (Darkest London, #1) by Kristen Callihan
Series: Darkest London #1
Published by Forever on January 31st 2012
Genres: Historical, Paranormal
Pages: 372
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A book that starts out as a historical romance with a twist that turns into something more. The book is a bit disjointed in tone because it doesn’t fully commit to its paranormal elements, but the romance is wonderful.

THE STORY: Miranda Ellis is forced by her father to wed the mysterious masked Lord Archer. Miranda’s own guilt about her role in the ruin of her family has kept her tethered to her corrupt father. When she meets Lord Archer, there is something between them that makes her agree to go forward with the marriage. While Miranda gets to know her mysterious husband, someone is haunting London killing people and it appears that Lord Archer is the primary suspect.

OPINION: This book is a cross genre story that combines a typical historical romance with mystery and paranormal elements.

The historical romance is quite wonderful. Archer especially is a sweet man with a lot of secrets. I loved that he doesn’t judge Miranda for her secrets and only wants her. What I didn’t like was that he keeps so many secrets, but I admire Miranda’s agency in being determined to uncover Archer’s secrets. (And because Archer keeps her in the dark, some of these attempts are dangerous).

The mystery elements of this story were pretty interesting and there are plenty of clues throughout the book as to what the big secrets are. But the secrets are unconventional and thus while the book has a mystery vibe, it isn’t a Sherlock Holmes type mystery to be solved.

The paranormal elements of the book are slowly revealed as the book progresses. Indeed, the book has a world building part to it as the rules of the paranormal world are slowly revealed. The weakness of this book is that the elements do not smoothly mix with the historical romance elements. The big reveal of what seems like a historical romance with some small paranormal parts turns into a paranormal book set in historical times and that doesn’t become obvious until the last 50 pages or so. Thus, the combination felt a bit clunky to me even as I enjoyed the story.

I suspect, however, that having made the big reveal of the paranormal world in this book, there will be more fluidity in the other books in the series because there is nothing to hide.

WORTH MENTIONING: FIRELIGHT has a sexy Beauty and the Beast feel to it with suppressed passion and desire.

CONNECTED BOOKS: FIRELIGHT is the first book in the Darkest London series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: More Than Need You

Review: More Than Need YouMore Than Need You (More Than Words Book 2) by Shayla Black
Series: More Than Words #2
Published by Shelley Bradley, LLC on June 13th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 477
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A second chance at love with an messed up jerk of a hero who has to reveal everything about himself to reclaim the woman that he loves and hurt.

THE STORY: Griffin Reed has just learned that he has a son. Three years ago, he made a mistake in thinking that his brother had betrayed him and that Griffin’s girlfriend was complicit. He tossed her away. Now he wants a second chance but Britta Stone has moved on and just gotten engaged to a reliable man. Griffin has only a few short weeks to convince Britta that he is a changed man who loves her and wants her and their son to be a family.

OPINION: I overall enjoyed this book and I really like the trope of the jerk hero who has to chance everything to win back the woman he loves. I just felt, however, that the book went on too long without much changing in Britta and Griffin’s relationship. In the first half of the book, I got tired of pages and pages of him desperately wanting her and her not responding. I think I would have liked the book better if I got Britta’s point of view as well (We do get a glimpse at the end).

Once the two move in together, however, and they really started to develop their relationship, the book got much better for me. I liked that Griffin has to accept responsibility for his behavior. By the end of the book, I was totally on their side.

As the two begin to communicate, the book gets much better because Britta’s feeling are more transparent. I also really liked how Griffin is determined to make grand gestures for Britta to show his love.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book’s timeline overlaps slightly with the first book in the series MORE THAN WANT YOU.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MORE THAN NEED YOU is the second book in the More Than Words series. These books are connected by overlapping characters but can be read as standalones.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: The Book of Life

Review: The Book of LifeThe Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy, #3) by Deborah Harkness
Series: All Souls Trilogy #3
Published by Viking Adult on July 15th 2014
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 561
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: Satisfying end to the trilogy which wraps up all the storylines (some more satisfyingly than others) and gives a happy ending.

THE STORY: Having returned from the past, witch and historian Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont have to face both new and old dangers as they try to discover the importance of the Book of Life. Their lives and the lives of their unborn children are at stake as Diana and Matthew have to face old enemies and rely on old friends.

OPINION: I enjoyed this ending to the trilogy and Diana and Matthew’s story even when I didn’t necessarily like all the answers. The book suffers somewhat from expectations which were built over two very long and detailed books. Perhaps the answers could never truly satisfy the expectations, but I loved seeing how these two characters grew and changed and made a family for themselves.

THE BOOK OF LIFE finally answers the question that began in the first book: what is the Book of Life and its connection to Diana. In this book, the entirety of what Diana and Matthew have been building in the prior two book finally come to fruition. This story is is one about tolerance and building a family and being open to change.

I enjoyed the progression of the relationship between Diana and Matthew and how both of them accept and love all the parts of one another. There are few easy answers in this book which was good.

I certainly enjoyed seeing many of the characters in the series come together in the solution. The book ends with peace and joy and hope in the future.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book returns to the interesting combination of magic and science that was the hallmark of the first book in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE BOOK OF LIFE is the final book in the All Souls Trilogy. This book is meant to be read as part of the trilogy.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: When the Marquess Falls

Review: When the Marquess FallsWhen the Marquess Falls (Hellions of Havisham, #3.5) by Lorraine Heath
Series: The Hellions of Havisham #3.5
Published by Avon Impulse on March 14th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 128
Goodreads
four-stars

This review contains a serious spoiler if you haven’t read the other books in the series.

FINAL DECISION: Know the secret of this book, grieve with every word, and read it anyway.

THE STORY: George, the Marquess of Marsden has been friends with the baker’s daughter, Linnie Connor, since they were children. Although he knows he loves her, George knows that there cannot be any future between them because of the difference in their stations. With their friendship on a deadline (Linnie plans to move to London to open her own shop and George knows he must marry) the two cannot stop the deep and forbidden passion that flares between them.

OPINION: I have had this book for months and just couldn’t bring myself to read it. This book has a horrible middle that readers of the series will know about — the heroine dies young in childbirth. Yet, it is a beautiful romance even if it doesn’t fit the standard confines of the genre.

The story between George and Linnie is more beautiful knowing that it is both such a short story and a long romance. While this won’t be a book that I will pick up again and again to read, I greatly admire Heath for writing this book. Most writers would have left readers with — the romance is not a HEA and thus there is nothing more to write. Heath instead rises to the challenge and gives readers a book that has a happy ever even if it is not in this life.

WORTH MENTIONING: I cried and cried and cried.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WHEN THE MARQUESS FALLS is book 3.5 in the Hellions of Havisham series. In some ways it is both a prequel and a sequel for the series. I think this book is better read after the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Shadow of Night

Review: Shadow of NightShadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy, #2) by Deborah Harkness
Series: All Souls Trilogy #2
Published by Viking Adult on July 10th 2012
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 584
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: A fine continuation of the story of a witch, a vampire and their search which takes them back in time. I loved how this book developed their relationship and challenged their characters through resurrection of their pasts.

THE STORY: Diana Bishop, a witch, and Matthew Clairmont, a vampire, have broken the law of creatures by having a romantic relationship. Jumping off from the events in book one, Diana and Matthew have traveled back in time to Elizabethan England in order to find a teacher to help Diana learn about and control her powers. Although the two seek safety in the past, they find that a whole new host of dangers threatens them and their relationship.

OPINION: A long and meandering journey through Elizabeth’s England where the fictional characters mix with real historical figures, this book develops both the mythology of the trilogy and also the relationship between Diana and Matthew.

I enjoyed seeing these characters approach the challenges that face them. The book, which like the others in the series is over 550 pages, asks for a commitment from its readers. Everything is slow and deliberate — not boring, not pointless — and takes its time developing both the characters and the plot. At times during the book, I wondered whether the destination would be worth it. While the conclusion excited me about the finale book in the series, the entirety of the development of the relationship between Diana and Matthew and their own working out of their own challenges from their past snagged me for every page.

The book doesn’t always go in the way that I expected it to and it is certainly an epic read. It does suffer somewhat from being part of the trilogy and the middle book at that. At the end of the book there is no real conclusion — because there is one more book. Thus, this book doesn’t truly stand on its own and requires reading both the first and third books in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: The historical expertise of the author is put to good use here. The past feels authentic and I enjoyed using this book as a springboard to learn more about the real historical figures depicted in the book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SHADOW OF NIGHT is the second book in the All Souls Trilogy. The book should be read as part of the trilogy.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: A Distant Heart

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: A Distant HeartA Distant Heart by Sonali Dev
Series: Bollywood #4
Published by Kensington Publishing Corp. on December 26th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: A challenging and beautiful story of love and loss and living life. Kimi and Rahul are destined for one another but life is complicated and sometimes the fear of loss prevents one from living.

THE STORY: Kimi and Rahul meet as children. Kimi, the only of eight children to survive birth has medical issues which require her to be isolated. Rahul comes to Kimi house when his father in murdered while protecting Kimi’s father. In order to pay the debt of his and his siblings education, Rahul insists on working. While cleaning the mansion’s windows, fourteen year old Rahul meets Kimi. The two begin a friendship that lasts to adulthood. Then things get complicated.

OPINION: This is a beautiful book that takes place in India but centers on the universal human themes of loss and love and living. A companion to A CHANGE OF HEART, this book tells the story that readers of that book got glimpses of. The book is told in varying points of view and also takes place over time and asks for some commitment from the reader. In return, the reader gets a book that is part romance, part suspense, part life drama.

Kimi and Rahul are a classic friends to lovers story mixed in with impending loss at every turn. The characters are strong and vivid. The story has a strong sense of time and place detailing the complexities of the cross-class romance in India.

I knew where the story was headed on the mystery front early on (there are quite a few clues in A CHANGE OF HEART) but I was enthralled by the intense connection between Kimi and Rahul and how their past is slowly revealed.

The depth of the story comes from how the characters deal with the possibility of loss and about letting go and when not to let go. This is not a fairy tale HEA, but rather a HEA about living ones life no matter what the outcome might be.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is told in varying points of view over a period of years.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A DISTANT HEART is the fourth book in the Bollywood series. The books generally are loosely connected and can be read as standalones, but this book is closely connected with A CHANGE OF HEART and I recommend reading that book first (it is fabulous) because they are almost companion books.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: Now That You Mention It

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Now That You Mention ItNow That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins
Published by Graydon House on December 26th 2017
Genres: Commentary
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: This was a good book and I enjoyed reading Nora’s story. The romance, however, was slim in this book (not surprising because this is NOT a romance genre book) and I couldn’t help but wish for more romance less personal drama.

THE STORY: Doctor Nora Stuart has a personal crisis when she is hit by a car, ends up in the emergency room and has her boyfriend flirt with another doctor over her unconscious body. Deciding that her “near death” experience was a sign, Nora returns to her hometown to recover. Nora has to confront her bad relationship with her mother, her non-relationship with her niece, bad memories from high school that just won’t let her go. Confronting the pain from her past, Nora tries to build a new future.

OPINION: This is Nora’s story. A success by all external measures, she still lives with incidents from her past that have left her scarred and which she has never gotten past. She has trouble with personal and when she goes home, so many people blame her for “ruining” the chances of the town’s golden boy. Her personal “time out” gives her time to deal with and put in perspective events in her past.

While there is a romance here, it isn’t the focus of the story and honestly, while it was a sweet a romance at times, it also left me unsatisfied. Although at times I have enjoyed greatly the romances in Higgins women fiction books, I wouldn’t read this one again for the romance.

There is a lot of self-reflection and dealing with high school stuff. At times, I got annoyed with Nora because honestly a lot of people have drama in their lives and at some point you have to stop whining about high school and people being mean to you. Also, her self-flagellation about her getting a scholarship in high school was pretty ridiculous at times.

But I did enjoy watching her build a relationship with her mother and niece. It was her growing up and understanding the past and accepting people for who they are. Even though I only reluctantly read these women fiction books at times, I thought this was pretty good as a story.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a chick lit or women’s fiction book not a romance, but there is a romance involved although it is a side story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

three-half-stars

Review: Bryn

Review: BrynBryn (Dragon Hearts #3) by Carole Mortimer
Series: Dragon Hearts #3
Published by Carole Mortimer on December 22nd 2017
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 205
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: Enjoyable simple book that is an easy read with an uncomplicated plot, fun characters. A book that doesn’t take much mind energy but can be used to pass the time.

THE STORY: Bryn Pendragon reluctantly agrees to pose as the boyfriend of, and secretly serve as the bodyguard of, his future sister-in-law’s best friend Tegan. Tegan has a creepy secret admirer who she believes is an ex. What Tegan doesn’t know is that Bryn is a shapeshifting dragon and when he first sees her, he realizes she is his fated mate. The one he is determined never to claim.

OPINION: This book typifies what I might call a one off read. A book that is enjoyable for what it is — a simple book with a fun storyline that doesn’t really stand up over time, but makes for a fun couple of hours.

I enjoyed this book about Bryn and Tegan although it pretty much follows the exact storyline of the prior two books in the series. The highlight of the story was the characters which don’t really have much depth but nonetheless are an interesting match. I enjoyed seeing how these two manage the same ground that the other characters have traveled. Bryn is a real sweetheart even if he is gruff and solitary.

These books are superficial, but sometimes that is exactly what i want to read…something that I can enjoy without being dragged too deeply into an emotional storyline.

WORTH MENTIONING: The eldest dragon brother appears to be up next.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BRYN is the third book in the Dragon Hearts series. This book can be read as a standalone although it doesn’t clearly set up the world and history of the dragon brothers as well as reading the books in order will.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: Crystal Cove

Review: Crystal CoveCrystal Cove by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Friday Harbor #4
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on February 5th 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal
Pages: 336
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: My favorite book of the series because it works as a complete story and the magical elements blend perfectly with the romance. The intense focus on the couple made me really enjoy this one.

THE STORY: Justine Hoffman, the owner of a successful Bed and Breakfast hotel in Friday Harbor, has known that her life is missing love. What she never understood is why she can’t feel love. Then she discovers that someone cast a spell upon her to stop her from loving. When she breaks the enchantment, she doesn’t realize that something more dangerous might be in the offing. Jason Black, a successful video game creator has come to Friday Harbor to build a retreat complex — and also for his own mysterious purposes related to Justine.

OPINION: This book avoids the main issue I had with the other books in the series (apart from the first novella): this book manages to marry the personal journey of the heroine, the romance and the magical elements.

The magical elements work because the series goes full-blown into the paranormal without apology. Jason is a man without a soul and Justine is a hereditary witch. There are no conflicts between the straight contemporary story and the magic. This book goes for the magical elements with a whole heart and the book is better for it.

This book also focuses primarily on the romance between Justine and Jason and takes part in the personal journey of Justine only as a part of that story. So there are not chapters and chapters about her personal problems that have no impact on the romance. Here everything is well integrated and connected. Justine’s drama comes from her relationship with her mother and while this story is a part of this book, the focus remains on the romance.

And I loved the romance. The story was so different than what I expected when I read that Justine was going to be involved with a man without a soul. The story was well worked out and things fit in nicely that I got to focus on the characters relationship which was the highlight here. Jason had depth and humor and a sweetness that I didn’t expect.

The book goes a little stronger into the bedroom habits of the couple (and I never expected to end up reading two book about Japanese rope art in the same year) than I usually read with Kleypas’s books, but it works because there is less internal drama with the characters, so things are kept a little more spicy with the external parts of their relationship.

I had only a few small complaints about the story. First, I really thought that Justine would have made Jason pay more for his actions in the book. Or maybe, I wanted her to be more angry and make him grovel a little more. Second, this book and the series really needed something to conclude it. An epilogue or another book. I believe that there was intended to be more of the series, but since there isn’t I really missed seeing how everything worked out for all the couples.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book seemed to set up another book in the series that was not written.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CRYSTAL COVE is the fourth book in the Friday Harbor series. While there are overlapping characters, this book can be read as a complete standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Dream Lake

Review: Dream LakeDream Lake (Friday Harbor, #3) by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Friday Harbor #3
Published by Piatkus Books on August 7th 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal
Pages: 336
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I struggled and struggled with how to rate this book because I loved the couple, but ultimately felt that the story didn’t do them justice. I would read parts of it again because some interactions were amazing, but it didn’t work for me as well as a whole.

THE STORY: Alex Nolan is the youngest son of a pair of alcoholic parents and that has made him cynical and jaded and on his way to following in his parents’ footsteps. After his divorce, Alex recognizes that he will be alone. And then he is not alone when he finds that a ghost searching for his identity and his past attaches himself to Alex. Zoe Hoffman is gentle and sweet and everything that Alex knows he will destroy if the two get involved. Zoe, however, sees something good in Alex that calls to her even as her own life has challenges dealing with her elderly grandmother.

OPINION: Some books are challenging to read and some are challenging to decide what I think of them. This book started out really slow for me and I thought it might be worse than the second book in the series which was okay but not fantastic.

But when we got into Alex’s struggle with his drinking and his relationship with Zoe begins to develop, I just fell in love with these characters and their relationship. The gentle way that Zoe overcomes Alex (who doesn’t recognize or want to acknowledge that he longs for commitment and love) was just magical. I loved their interactions which felt real and frank and some really amazing character development.

That middle third to half of the book was amazing.

But the resolution was too quick and too contrived for me. Zoe and Alex deserved something better. I just didn’t buy it. And that might have something to do with the ghost story which didn’t work that well for me.

This book was a mixed bag for me, but the characters are ones that I will continue to think about and those middle pages are ones that I will re-read. But ultimately, the whole of the book meant that I couldn’t give it more stars. I liked the book, but while the characters were amazing, the overall story was only okay.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book takes place at the same time as the second book in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DREAM LAKE is the third book in the Friday Harbor series. It is not really necessary to read the other books in the series to enjoy this one although the overlapping characters and timeline make this book better after reading the other two.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars