Review: Amid the Winter Snow

Review: Amid the Winter SnowAmid the Winter Snow by Elizabeth Hunter, Grace Draven, Jeffe Kennedy, Thea Harrison
Published by Jeffe Kennedy on December 12th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Paranormal
Goodreads
four-stars

This is an anthology of four separate novellas with the only connection being that each has a connection to the longest night of the year.

I liked all the stories in this anthology which is unusual. I thought each gave a glimpse into a different world and each had great characters.

IN THE DARKEST MIDNIGHT by Grace Draven: Jahna Ulfrida is bullied and made an outcast because of the birthmark on her face. While hiding from one of her tormentors, she meets her brother’s new swordmaster Sir Radimar Velus who promises to help her defend herself.

This was a sweet story that built from the beginning and takes place over quite a period of time so the characters get to know one another. I enjoyed how Jahna grows and changes through the years of the story and how these two find their way together in the face of overwhelming odds. Sometimes short novellas don’t work with complex stories, but this one was well developed and quite enjoyable. Rating: 4 stars.

THE CHOSEN by Thea Harrison: Lily has had visions where she has to choose between a wolf and a tiger. The man who she falls in love with has the possibility of saving her realm or destroying it. When a warrior comes to town, Lily has to decide which man he is.

This novella takes place in Harrison’s Elder Races universe although in a place apart from the characters and places in the novels. I very much enjoyed this story although the outcome seemed completely obvious from the start. The characters were so well drawn and interesting that I was disappointed that the story ended. (Maybe we will revisit them someday). Rating: 4 stars.

THE STORM by Elizabeth Hunter: Maxim of Riga has searched for Renata’s secrets for years. Renata lost her soul mate in a massacre that killed many of her people. Having annointed herself as a warrior to judgment, she has spent centuries getting revenge. Although Max and Renata have been acquainted for years, she will not allow herself to get any closer to him.

This was a painful story because Renata’s story shows the result of a dark war. This is not a story about two people falling in love, but rather a story of how someone goes on when all hope is lost for a future. The characters are the center of this story. There is a lot of information about the Irin Chronicles that I suspect that someone who has read that series would pick up on immediately, but even though I haven’t read the series, I could understand the conflicts involved and I enjoyed the story very much.  Rating: 4 stars.

THE SNOWS OF WINDROVEN by Jeffe Kennedy: Ash, the lover of Amelia the new Queen of the Twelve Kingdoms knows that his time with Ami is coming to an end. Ash knows that he is not worthy of being with Ami even though he loves her. Determined to escort her to safety and then leave, danger provides the opportunity for something else.

This is the story of a man who doesn’t think himself worthy and the woman who doesn’t want to let him go. Told in the first person, readers get to see Ash’s point of view throughout the entire story. It is clear that he is deeply in love but doesn’t know a way forward to what he wants. I thought this story was good because we see that Ash is such a good man who doesn’t see that in himself. I liked seeing how gentle and sweet he is but also with a good sexy strong man. Ami also is no prissy pushover herself. We don’t get to see these two get together here, but rather this book is at a critical point in their story. This is a Twelve Kingdoms/Uncharted Realms novella but I haven’t read anything from this series. Rating: 4 stars.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book from the author 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-stars

Review: Nathaniel

Review: NathanielNathaniel (Dragon Hearts #1) by Carole Mortimer
Published by Carole Mortimer on July 28th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A fun and very hot short novella about a dragon shifter and the woman who might be his mate.

THE STORY:  On a trip to Wales, journalist Chloe Evans discovers a mysterious castle that she suspects is a hub for illegal activities. Determined to investigate, Chloe ends up meeting Nathaniel who is an alpha alpha and who tempts Chloe in ways she never expected. The mystery of Pendragon castle involves centuries of secrets and, as one might expect from the title of the series, dragons.

OPINION: I enjoyed this novella which sets up the series which will be about a bunch of alpha dragon male shifters trying to find their mates before they become feral dragons.

This is a quick and dirty story meaning that there isn’t a tremendous amount of depth to these characters. Lots of insta-love/lust and not a lot of world building for the paranormal genre. That being said, I really liked the characters which are quirky and fun and I especially liked Chloe who is a smart mouthed woman who gives her alpha more grief that respect.

There is a lot to cover in this story as it sets up the mythology of the series, introduces a number of characters, reveals some of the past of the “brothers” and also has to squeeze a romance in for good measure.

A lingering, well constructed paranormal this isn’t, but an enjoyable short novella for those who would like a taste of the paranormal fantasy world without pages of mythology this is a good fun read.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a rawer, sexier book than many of Mortimer’s books.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  NATHANIEL is the first book in the Dragon Hearts series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Glamour

Review: GlamourGlamour: Contemporary Fairytale Retellings by A.L. Jackson, Aleatha Romig, Lili St. Germain, Nicola Rendell, Nora Flite, Sierra Simone, Skye Warren, Sophie Jordan
Series: Masterpiece Duet #1.5, Consequences #5.5,
on July 18th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica, Fantasy
Pages: 331
Goodreads
four-half-stars

This is an anthology of eight romance stories each based upon a fairy tale.  This is an excellent anthology.  Each of the stories is good and many of them were fascinating enough for me to read more of the author.  Highly recommend this if you are looking for hot and well written novellas.

MUSIC BOX GIRL by Sierra Simone (Twelve Dancing Princesses): An erotic story which involves a 39 year old private investigator who gets involved with the 19 year old subject of his surveillance. This is a super hot, super erotic fantasy story which means that one has to suspend disbelief. The story is hot and there is one orgy depicted and others suggested. I enjoyed the story but the story was more about the hot sexual situations than the characters. I wish there was more of this story because I think the characters could have been really been interesting with pages to flesh them out. Rating: 4 stars.

BEDTIME STORY by Skye Warren (Sleeping Beauty): This novella is apparently connected to THE KING (which I haven’t read).  Jessica who has a small child is on the run from a dangerous man.  She runs into Finn, who is sheriff in a small town. The novella depicts their encounter which is filled with tension both dangerous and sexual. The story ends up being a sweet one and this is a novella that I really liked but wished that there was much more to the story.  It did make me want to read more by this author.  Rating: 4.5 stars.

RIPPLES by Aleatha Romig (Prince and the Pauper): Natalie struggles against the expectations of her parents.  When she travels to visit them for Christmas an encounter with a stranger on the plane changes her life.  I don’t want to give too much away, but this is a spin-off of the Consequences series so readers of that series will know to expect a dark and twisted romance.  I was fascinated with the story but didn’t quite get it in the end.  I think it would have been better if I knew about the heroine’s parents’ story.  Rating: 4 stars.

ROYAL MATTRESS by Nicola Rendell (Princess and the Pea): Dave is a mattress millionaire who also happens to be a prince in a defunct country.  He also has terrible luck in love although he is looking for that magical connection with a woman.  On the night of an amazing storm, Lisa arrives at Dave’s home seeking shelter.  From the moment they meet, the connection between Lisa and Dave just sizzles. Although the length of this novella means that everything between these two happens almost instantly, I really liked Dave and Lisa and their connection.  Rating: 4.5 stars

IN A STRANGER’S BED by Sophie Jordan (Goldilocks): Thea is left behind in the Highlands of Scotland by her tour group.  Caught in a rainstorm, Thea finds a house which is lived in but the occupant is absent.  (It’s a Goldilocks story, you can guess what happens from there).  Thea ends up being found by a grumpy Scotsman Niall.  This story I really enjoyed.  Yes, there is insta-love, but the two are so sweet together along with some arguing and oh-so-sexy times.  I really appreciated the epilogue of this story because it gave the story a finished quality.  Rating: 4.5 stars.

BROKEN HARP by Nora Flite (Jack and the Beanstalk): As a young man, Jack is swindled by a club owner and almost killed.  Years later he is now back to get his revenge.  He meets again the woman who saved his life who is working as a stripper and raising her sister. This story is dark and exists in a seedy existence, but I really liked the characters and this was a very enjoyable story.  Rating 4 stars.

RED HOT PURSUIT by AL Jackson (Little Red Riding Hood):  Lili Redd is engaged in protecting her adopted grandmother from the Big Bad Wolf aka Brody Wolfe.  Brody, a real estate developer, wants to purchase the shop and Lili, as an attorney, is determined to do whatever she has to do in order to stop him.  Things heat up as the two correspond and when they meet, the temperature rises even higher.  I absolutely loved this story.  The characters were strong and independent and their conflict was hot, hot, hot.  I loved their conflict and banter as the two struggle with their business conflict and their personal attraction.  This is a prequel novella and introduction to the upcoming Fight for Me series.  I will definitely be checking that out.  My favorite of the anthology.  Rating: 5 stars.

KNOT by Lili St. Germain (Rapunzel):  A woman is kept captive in a tower by a Mexican crime lord before a mafia doctor comes to save her life and rescue her.  This is one dark story on so many levels.  I was creeped out by Seraphina’s Stockholm Syndrome attachment to her jailer and rapist, even as I understood her dependence upon him.  I liked that the story didn’t flinch from that complexity.  I also liked that the characters had an incredible amount of complexity in such a short novella.  I saw at the end of the story that there might be more of Seraphina and Xavier in the future and I would definitely read more.  Rating: 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Sight Unseen

Review: Sight UnseenSight Unseen: A Collection of Five Anonymous Novellas by Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran, Erin Satie, Emma Barry, J.A. Rock
Published by Open Ink Press on June 6th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, Historical
Pages: 386
Goodreads
four-stars

SIGHT UNSEEN is an anthology of five stories written by different authors.  Three months after the publication, the authors will be revealed.

LOST THAT FEELING:  Alma is being held in prison where she is told she is a thief and a murderer.  Having cast a spell on herself, Alma has lost her memories from the last seven  years.  When she is rescued by a man named Driss, he tells her he is a friend and that she is actually a hero helping to overthrow an oppressive leader. Alma, however, doesn’t know who to trust and also who she really is.  This story was a disappointment to me.  I really loved the setup and the relationship between Alma and Driss seemed to have much promise, but instead of focusing on the relationship, the story spends too much time on the reasons that Alma’s spell went wrong. I wish there was more relationship development.  Rating: 2 stars.

CLEAR VIEW OF YOU:  Kate was raised by her mother as a future witch, but Kate was a disappointment to her mother. As she grew, Kate realized that her mother was actually running a cult and that magic is fake.  Fleeing to the “real world” Kate finances her education by acting as a psychic.  When her new client, North, has a special request for Kate, she wonders if this is an offer of a lifetime or one too good to be true.  I really liked this story.  My complaint was that it was too short.  I would love to read more stories in this world with these characters.  For such a short story, there is a lot of development in the story with both discovery of self and also dramatic plot developments.  Fun and intriguing.  Rating: 4.5 stars.

FREE:  Brad White is in love with Wren Masters.  The complication is that Brad works for a criminal motorcycle club and Wren is the club’s president’s daughter.  When Wren discovers the truth about the club, she works with Brad to discover the truth about what is going on with her father’s club.  The truth may, however, threaten any future for Brad and Wren.  This story was uneven and parts of it were unsatisfying, but I loved Brad and his devotion to Wren even when she doesn’t respond to him.  There was something fresh and intriguing about the story even if it didn’t feel polished.  I wanted to know more about the future of these two.  Rating: 4 stars.

CHARIOT OF DESIRE:  CJ Crespo has always been interested in her bandmate Donny Times. After years of self-destructive behavior (it was the 1970s after all), Donny has joined a cultish religion which imposes a morality that threatens to tear the band and Donny and CJ apart.  This is more a vignette than a fully reconciled story.  I was unhappy because while the story tells something about these characters, it felt unfinished and I was left asking what would actually happen between these characters.  Rating: 2.5 stars.

THE HEART IS A UNIVERSE:  On the planet of Pax Cora a young woman is slated to be the sacrifice in order to save her planet.  Vitalis, however, has moved from acceptance of her fate to the decision to flee and save herself.  Her desperation leads her to accept an invitation to a courtship summit where she meets the heroic and handsome prince Eleian of Terra.  Immediately upon their meeting the stranger Eleian proposes marriage. What is unclear is what are Eleian’s motives in wanting to marry a woman who will die in sixteen days if she doesn’t escape.  Absolutely wonderful.  My favorite story in the anthology.  While all the threads didn’t come together for me in the end, I thought the journey and the relationship between these characters was compelling.  I couldn’t put it down and kept turning pages wanting to know what the secrets between these characters were, how the two would resolve the dilemmas facing them and just wanting to know what the end would be.  Rating: 4.5 stars.

four-stars

Review: Breath of Fire

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

Review: Breath of FireBreath of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #2) by Amanda Bouchet
Series: Kingmaker Chronicles #2
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on January 3rd 2017
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 448
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Harbinger of the end. Destroyer of realms.”

FINAL DECISION: Exciting and filled with adventure, BREATH OF FIRE represents the continued growth of Cat as she matures.  She and Griffith evolve both as a couple and in their dream of unifying the realms.  This book doesn’t conclude the story, but there is plenty new hear to keep readers more than satisfied.

THE STORY: In this second book of the Kingmaker Chronicles trilogy, Cat Fisa is running from her destiny. She has found the man she loves, a non-magical warlord, Griffith, who believes deeply in her, but the magical Cat has kept a secret.  She is subject to a prophecy that Cat believes means that she will destroy the world. As secrets are revealed, the characters begin their journey towards what might be the fulfillment of the prophecy.

OPINION: A world with magic and Gods that remains incredibly human, this second installment of the Kingmaker Chronicles finally reveals much of Cat’s past. Readers of the first book will know that Cat has gained the favor of the Gods and has incredible (if inconsistent) magic.  She falls in love with the non-magical Griffith who is immune from magic and conquered the realm of Sinta (one of the three realms).  Now the two have forged a partnership and Griffith sees the possibility of building a better world with Cat by his side.  As PROMISE OF FIRE ended, Cat still had secrets she was keeping.

Cat’s past and her secrets are revealed in this book.  Finally readers can understand her journey. Cat remains selfless, reckless and an amazing fighter. In this book, she matures with the support of Griffith.  I love their relationship because Griffith is entirely willing to be by Cat’s side and support her even if he struggles with his own need to protect her.  Even better, he is willing to stand by her while she learns to lead rather than taking the lead himself. Griffith is a rare and amazing alpha male character who is not threatened by a strong woman but rather is willing to be anything that she needs.

Cat remains her prickly, sarcastic, cynical self in this book even as the shell around her has broken as to Griffith.  Readers can be assured (mini-spoiler) that this book doesn’t do the expected by breaking these two apart during this book in order to create another romantic arc.  Instead, these characters go deeper into their connection with one another.  By the time this book ends, their relationship seems pretty unbreakable.

The development of the relationships in this book are more subtle than in the first book (although there are some pretty big and important moments that don’t disappoint) but there is also non-stop action.  From the very first page, this book thrusts readers into battles, and challenges and political struggles.  There is a lot of ground to cover here but by the time the book ends, the direction the characters will be taking is clear and much has been accomplished.  One of the things I really like about this series is that each of the first two books is a discrete adventure (with many sub-adventures) but there is still an overarching story that leaves much adventure to come in the concluding book in the series.

We also are treated to more information about the other characters in the series.  The members of Team Beta have their own journeys in this book (although Cat and Griffith remain the focus).  I am hoping that some of their stories will also be resolved in the concluding book because they are adorable as well.  By the time this book ends, the member of Team Beta are fleshed out and each has a unique romantic problem of their own.

A thrilling adventure from beginning to end, this book will definitely satisfy those who enjoyed the first book of the series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book is part of an interconnected trilogy with the same characters.  This book does not resolve the issues in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  BREATH OF FIRE is the second book in the Kingmaker Chronicles.  This book is meant to be read as part of the trilogy and should be read after the first book in the series PROMISE OF FIRE.

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 positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

 

four-half-stars

Review: A Promise of Fire

Review: A Promise of FireA Promise of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #1) by Amanda Bouchet
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on August 2nd 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 448
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Is this man my enemy?”

FINAL DECISION:  Fabulous first book in a series about Cat Fisa, the Kingmaker, and Griffith, the man who captures her and then captures her heart.  This book is successful at concentrating on the romance while building a fascinating and complex world along with a plot intricate and filled with adventure.

THE STORY:  Catalia “Cat” Fisa travels as a soothsayer in a circus, but she is actually the Kingmaker — with the legendary talent of being able to tell truth from lies. Unfortunately, Cat catches the attention of Griffith, a warlord whose family has taken control of Sinta.  Griffith wants Cat to use her as a weapon for the newly acquired realm.  Cat, however, has no intention of allowing herself to be used again.

OPINION:  This is a fantastic beginning for a series.  My only reservation on the book is that this story is not complete in and of itself and thus if the subsequent books are bad, this one will too.  (I might revisit my rating up or down after the other books in the series are published).

The best part of this book is that the worldbuilding is intricately intertwined with the romance.  No pages of descriptions or explanations.  Things are explained as needed through the story in a natural fashion.  It makes the story go faster and keeps interest throughout.

Cat is a heroine that centered this book and made me want to read more.  This is her journey.  More than a romance, it is the story of a woman coming into her own destiny.  Like many great heroes, Cat is hiding from her fate as the story begins. In danger because of her past and running from her future, Cat has made a place for herself in the circus.  When Griffith comes to upset her hideaway, Cat at first hates him and wants to escape, but he also begins to make her part of a team, a family, a place worth defending.

Cat has tremendous power. Her weaknesses become strengths, her powers become more enhanced and she is funny and flawed and a powerhouse.  Her cynicism is matched with a innocent heart that she denies but which leads her to care and love those around her.

Griffith is an interesting hero.  Great ambition matched with intelligence and a recognition of the necessity of limiting power. He is like water on stone with Cat. Determined, quietly himself. He is determined and incredibly honest and loyal.  He comes from a loving family — which is a mystery to Cat — which grounds him.  He does what he has to do, but tries to be his best self.

The mixture of magic, dragons, help by the Greek Gods gives this book a rich basis for its mythology. The story feels grounded and recognizable without being entirely derivative.  This book leaves readers with many questions which I hope will be teased out in the other books in the series.

This book shows such promise and I want to see that promise flower into something amazing.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This is only the beginning of the series. The story is not complete and readers should be aware that wanting to know the end of the story necessitates committing to more books.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  A PROMISE OF FIRE is the first book in the Kingmaker Chronicles.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars