Review: The Dark Calling

Review: The Dark CallingThe Dark Calling (The Arcana Chronicles, #5) by Kresley Cole
Series: The Arcana Chronicles #5
Published by Valkyrie Press on February 13, 2018
Genres: Paranormal, Fantasy
Pages: 318
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: This book might be my favorite of the series so far. Mature and complex with the darkness of the story manifest. The penultimate book in the series sets the final conflict into motion. The relationship complexity of the triangle is well done here (and I’ve never liked triangles) and allowed me sympathy for all three characters, which I did not expect when starting this book.

THE STORY: The pace of the story picks up as THE DARK CALLING starts right where the previous book in the series, ARCANA RISING, ended (on a cliffhanger). Something sinister has arisen just as Evie is experiencing a life-changing event. Now alliances and relationships built throughout the series are threatened as more Arcana characters are eliminated from the game. (Considering the cliffhanger from the previous book, it is difficult to describe this book without spoilers).

OPINION: This is now my favorite book in the series because the characters have finally matured to the extent that I like them all. Even Evie, who has driven me crazy for most of the series. Even with the triangle, which really bothered me until this book worked for me.

In this book, the characters confront a new menace as secrets that have been kept since the beginning of the series are revealed. The book is nicely structured as well as many things are resolved and cleared out of the way, leaving the central conflict in the series left.

The time since the flash has impacted each of the characters in THE DARK CALLING, and they are more world-weary and have matured. Thus, their characters have become more complex and less teenage annoying. This book has some intriguing revelations as the story moves toward the conclusion in the next book.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is the penultimate book in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DARK CALLING is the fifth book in the Arcana Chronicles. This series should be read in order because it is one story.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: A Heart of Blood and Ashes

Review: A Heart of Blood and AshesA Heart of Blood and Ashes (A Gathering of Dragons, #1) by Milla Vane, Meljean Brook
Series: A Gathering of Dragons #1
Published by Berkley on February 4, 2020
Genres: Paranormal, Fantasy
Pages: 555
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: This book was amazing. The world-building supported the romance, which is the center of the story. This is the story of vengeance and passion. Vane (aka Meljean Brooks) knows how to weave romance, plot, and incredible overarching storylines and world-building in a way that this cohesive and compelling.

THE STORY: Forbidden from killing the king responsible for his parents’ murders, Maddek intends to find a way to get revenge. When he is told that the king’s secret daughter was instrumental in his parents’ deaths, Maddek intends to get revenge through her. Yvenne is not what Maddek expects. Although she comes from a line of warrior-queens, she is weak. But when she offers Maddek an opportunity for revenge through a marriage, allowing them to claim her family’s throne, Maddek is willing to take the chance to satisfy his desire for vengeance.

OPINION: This book has one of the most memorable introductions of a hero and heroine ever. Their first moments together signal to the reader that this book will be something new. Now some people might not be able to handle how different this book is, but for readers who persevere, the romance and the story are powerful and compelling.

Yvenne is a heroine that I just adored. She has suffered such trauma in her life, yet she has strength and gentleness. She is a queen, as she explains to Maddek. The progression in the story is that she learns to be a warrior as well. At the same time, Maddek begins the story as a warrior and he learns to be a king as the story progresses.

This book is certainly not for everyone. It is graphic and violent and deals with war and pain and abuse. At the same time, it has at its center a beautiful love story of two people who begin as enemies and have to reconsider themselves and their world view. There is a lot of plot in this book but what is done so well is that the relationship between Yvenne and Maddek is always centered. The book is about them. Sometimes these big fantasy books are about the world and the drama of the plot. While this book has all those elements, the relationship between these two characters drives the story.

Well-crafted, this book is filled with adventures, romance, memorable characters, drama. I didn’t love it as much as Brooks’ steampunk novels, but this one is a great start to a new series.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is an ongoing story that is not resolved in this book. The entire relationship between the main characters is done, but the series has a “big bad” who isn’t defeated in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A HEART OF BLOOD AND ASHES is the first book in the A Gathering of Dragons series. There is a novella prequel, but that only exists in the same world and doesn’t need to be read before this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: The Adversary

Review: The AdversaryThe Adversary (Chronicles of Rhyacia #2) by Thea Harrison
Published by Teddy Harrison LLC on July 26, 2021
Genres: Fantasy
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: For fans of the Elder Races series, this is another opportunity to get to see Pia and Dragos and their cast of characters again. Note that this is the conclusion of the book The Unseen and must be read after that book. DO NOT READ FURTHER if you plan on reading The Unseen as this review necessarily provides spoilers for that book.

THE STORY: The story begins where The Unseen ends. Dragos has been “possessed” by an adversary. Pia has discovered the deception and attempts to make contact with her husband who is hidden somewhere within his own body. Pia must find a way to help her husband. The defeat of this enemy, however, will take the help of many of those from the Elder Races world.

OPINION: The Adversary completes the story from The Unseen. Although the Unseen contemplated several sequels, Harrison completes the story here. The wonderful thing about this story is that Pia and Dragos feel right. Although the story is shorter, the characters are so familiar now that I fell into the world and their relationship so quickly.

Although I never doubted that Pia and Dragos would resolve the conflicts here and continue with their lives together, the conflict here felt substantial and dangerous. Admittedly, I cared more about the relationships between the characters than the particular plot, but the danger here did not feel contrived but rather a real threat to these characters.

Harrison has done several Pia and Dragos sequels or updates at this point, but this one seems like it is time to move on to other characters and stories. Not because this book isn’t good, but rather I think the two should enjoy some peace together rather than facing a new villain at every turn.

For fans of the Elder Races series, this book will give you yet another glimpse into the lives of not only Pia and Dragos but a number of the Elder Races series characters.

WORTH MENTIONING: Definitely for fans of the series because the book assumes a tremendous amount of knowledge about the characters. However, I loved seeing so many favorites again.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This book is the second part of the Chronicles of Rhyacia series but is also connected to the Elder Races series and is part 2 of book 9.9 in that series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book from the author in order to prepare this review prior to the release date. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

 

four-stars

Review: The Unseen

Review: The UnseenThe Unseen: A Novella of the Elder Races by Thea Harrison
Series: Elder Races #9.9
Published by Teddy Harrison LLC on July 13, 2020
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal
Pages: 95
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I’m so glad that Harrison decided to continue Dragos and Pia’s story. They are such compelling characters that I can read about their adventures any day. This novella introduces a new challenge for the couple as they leave New York and move to a new realm. It ends on quite a cliffhanger, and I want to know what happens next.

THE STORY: Dragos and Pia are sad to leave New York but anticipate starting a new, better world in the land of Rhyacia. Moving to a new land is complicated and while some friends are traveling with them, some things and people must be left behind. Arriving in Rhyacia, however, is even more complicated as there is something mysterious going on.

OPINION: This novella was great. Or more accurately, this first part of the story was great. In rating the story, I kept a half star because the story is not complete, and I have been burned by serialized stories before.

What I loved about this story: (1) Dragos and Pia: their interaction was as vibrant and interesting as ever. Dragos’ ancient attitudes and Pia’s thoroughly modern self. Their connection is still palpable and I loved seeing them deal with their relationship. Pia has matured and I loved how Dragos supports her in this story. (2) Stinkpot aka Dragos’ and Pia’s youngest son: is just adorable. (3) Appearances by other Elder Races characters: Other couples make appearances and have their own issues to be resolved. (4) Action: The book has a great hook by the end. I just want to read what is next.

What I didn’t love: That I have to wait to find out more of the story.

WORTH MENTIONING: This novella is part of a serialized story and this part ends on a cliffhanger.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE UNSEEN is the book 9.9 in the Elder Races series. It is part one of a four-part serialized story. The book follows Dragos and Pia as they build a new life away from New York. The story here is self-contained, but the characters appear in the Elder Races series and therefore it is better read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC from the author. 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: The Bridge Kingdom

Review: The Bridge KingdomThe Bridge Kingdom (The Bridge Kingdom, #1) by Danielle L. Jensen
Series: The Bridge Kingdom #1
Published by Context Literary Agency on August 13, 2019
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 354
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Great world building, political espionage, combined with a strong woman lead and romance, I enjoyed this book, but it is only part of the story, so I’m withholding final judgment until I see what happens next.

THE STORY: Lara is a princess trained from childhood to be a spy and ultimate destroyer of the Bridge Kingdom. Sent in marriage by her father to the King of the Bridge Kingdom under the pretense of a peace agreement, Lara is determined to complete her mission. In the Bridge Kingdom, however, Lara meets her new husband Aren. Her experiences eventually make her question what is the truth in the conflict and where her ultimate loyalty should reside.

OPINION: I read this book because it came as part of a book of the month package I get. I didn’t expect much, but ended up really enjoying it. I thought the strongest points were Lara’s character and the intrigue and mystery over what is happening with the Bridge Kingdom.

Lara is both devious and desperate. Her loyalties are unclear from the start and she is challenged by her experience with Aren in the Bridge Kingdom.  I liked her strength and her cleverness and her willingness to challenge her own views. She makes some mistakes but she also learns.

The book has great world building, but I thought the questions about who is lying in the story was the highlight. I wanted to know what the truth was.

The relationship of Lara and Aren was also quite good as the romance was more slow burn than I expected. The romance is a heavy element here which makes me happy, but might be unexpected for those looking for a pure fantasy novel.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book ends on a cliffhanger. I’m rating this book a little lower because of that because I’ve been burnt by bad sequels of fantastic good books quite a few times.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE BRIDGE KINGDOM is the first book in the Bridge Kingdom series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Planet Dragos

Review: Planet DragosPlanet Dragos (Elder Races, #9.8) by Thea Harrison
Series: Elder Races #9.8
Published by Teddy Harrison LLC on May 14, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Disasters were always a surprise.”

FINAL DECISION: Manages to pack a lot in this adventure including continuing bumps for Dragos and Pia as a married and parenting couple, a deadly enemy, some revelations about Dragos and even a possible future for the Elder Races. Essential for fans of the series.

THE STORY: Dragos and Pia travel to Las Vegas to attend the wedding of their friends Rune and Carling. It’s a difficult time for Dragos and Pia. Pia’s pregnancy is a challenge and her relationship has suffered as a result. But things get worse in Vegas. Death is doing a show in town and Pia is kidnapped by someone who wants revenge on Dragos. It will take the combined help of Dragos and Pia’s friends to save her.

OPINION: I found this story bittersweet because I have loved Dragos and Pia through the entire series and have always highly anticipated anything new about their lives. But after this story, they have earned their peace and happy ending.

While there is some small tension between Dragos and Pia while they anticipate the birth of the second and final child, the real danger to them is external. In this novella, the two are just slightly out of sync which allows the danger to arise. Things must be put right in order for them to have the peace they both desire.

Dragos’s past comes back to haunt the two again, but honestly, the heart is really Dragos and Pia. The villain is a danger, but pretty one dimensional. Instead, this is the story of Dragos and Pia figuring things out between them and getting a whole bunch of Elder Races alums to make appearances to save the day.

Fans of the series will enjoy this wrap-up of Dragos and Pia’s story. And there are some tasty possibilities as this story ends. I hold out hope that Harrison will pick up those threads and write more about the Elder Races based in New York.

WORTH MENTIONING: Harrison has stated that this will be the last story to feature the POV of Dragos and Pia.

CONNECTED BOOKS: PLANET DRAGOS is book 9.8 in the Elder Races series. This book is a culmination of the various stories about Dragos and Pia and should be read as part of the series.

STAR RATING: I give this novella 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via the author in order to prepare this 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: Heart on Fire

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: Heart on FireHeart on Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles, #3) by Amanda Bouchet
Series: Kingmaker Chronicles #3
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on January 2nd 2018
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 448
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A good ending to the trilogy. Although it didn’t quite hit the highs of the first two books as it wrapped up the story, I thought it was a worthy end.

THE STORY: Picking up after the events of BREATH OF FIRE, Cat and Griffin now take on their greatest challenge in unifying the three realms. Now Cat must go home and confront her murderous mother.

OPINION: I have loved the world building and complex relationships in this series. This book brings everything (at least regarding Cat and Griffin) to a close as Cat confronts her biggest fear — her mother.

As the story progresses, the relationship to the Greek Gods that has been present throughout the series becomes explicit as Cat’s destiny is fully revealed.  There is less tension and drama in this story as between Griffin and Cat and I think the book suffers somewhat from this. While the action and fantasy is good, I was not as interested in Cat and Griffin’s journey.

This book was necessary to finish everything up, but I missed the personal tension that made the first two books so good. Don’t get me wrong, this book was not disappointing but rather suffered just a tiny bit in comparison to the other books in the series.

That being said, I really enjoyed the revelations here and seeing Cat and Griffin’s relationship become more centered. Griffin is a wonderful partner for Cat and looking back on the series, all the qualities that make him so were obvious. They end up being such a grounded and complementary pair — and part of the reason is revealed in this book.

WORTH MENTIONING: I hope there are more books set in this world because there seem to be more stories to tell.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HEART OF FIRE is the third book in the Kingmaker Chronicles. This book is intended to be read as part of the trilogy as it follows one couple and their quest.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to prepare 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: 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