Review: Blood Fury

Review: Blood FuryBlood Fury (Black Dagger Legacy, #3) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Legacy #3
Published by Ballantine Books on January 9th 2018
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 432
Goodreads
four-stars

“You couldn’t soar it you didn’t leap.”

FINAL DECISION: Two romances that feel like romances rather than an add on to an ongoing story. Although very sexy, both of these romances were sweeter emotionally than I expected with less angst and drama.

THE STORY: This book has two stories.  First, the story of Peyton and Novo. Peyton is an aristocratic vampire who expected to find a worthy female of his class to marry and carry on his family legacy. The female, he wanted, however, rejected him in favor of another male. Instead, he is intrigued by Novo who is definitely not what he expected to want. A fellow trainee, Novo is brash, very sexual and not at all aristocratic. But she has secrets that keep her from opening up. Second, is the story of Saxon and Ruhn. Saxon was rejected by the male he chose for himself. But when Ruhn comes into the Black Dagger household, Saxon finds himself attracted. Ruhn, however, may not want to explore the possible connection between himself and Saxon.

OPINION: This was a book that was evenly split between the two couples and didn’t have any extraneous stories to take away from those two romances. There is also common threads between the two romances: both have one person who has a tragic past and suffers from feelings of lack of worth; and both have some crummy father figures.

I enjoyed these stories because although there are dark aspects of the pasts of these characters, the stories themselves are less dark than many of the Black Dagger Brotherhood books. The stories were lighter in many ways and happier. The couples get together quicker than I expected and have to work through their problems together.

Although I enjoyed the recruits’ romance story, I was most satisfied with Saxon finally getting his happy ending. We get the chance not only to know more about him and see him getting the opportunity to be more than just a plot device. Ruhn is an interesting pairing for him and I enjoyed the sweetness of their interaction (and the hotness). The weakness of that story for me is that there is almost too fast a connection between them (especially because Ruhn has not had a relationship with a male before).

Peyton and Novo have a more traditional romance (well as traditional as could be expected in the Black Dagger universe. Like the other trainee stories, their romance has a bit of a new adult feel to it as opposed to the Black Dagger Brotherhood couples. Their problems seem smaller and more manageable but no less important. I thought they were funny at times, but intense and sweet at others. (And seriously hot).

I enjoyed this book very much, it feels like a relief from the intense drama of the main series and has a more romance feel to it.

WORTH MENTIONING: The book contains a couple of public sex scenes.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BLOOD FURY is the third book in the Black Dagger Legacy series which is a spinoff of Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I think the Black Dagger Legacy books at least should be read in order because of the developing relationships. With the cross-over with the Black Dagger Brotherhood, however, a reader is better served by reading the entire two series in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

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: 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: 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: 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

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: Rainshadow Road

Review: Rainshadow RoadRainshadow Road (Friday Harbor, #2) by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Friday Harbor #2
Published by Piatkus Books on February 28th 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal
Pages: 308
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: This was a fine story and parts were really good, but I thought the first half was better than the conclusion and nothing about it was really memorable.

THE STORY: Lucy Marinn discovers that her live-in boyfriend of two years has dumped her for her younger sister. Lucy asks herself why she keeps getting involved with the wrong kind of man. When she meets Sam Nolan, owner of a local vineyard, she knows she bad man streak continues. Sam is a nice man but he is upfront that he never intends to marry and any relationship with him can only be physical. The two cannot seem to avoid one another, however, as accidents, matchmaking and coincidences keep bringing them together.

OPINION: I wanted to really love this book, but I only ended up liking it and that was primarily because of the characters. In some ways this felt like a book made up of jumbled genres. Contemporary romance, women’s fiction, and paranormal just didn’t work together in this book.

I loved the characters and wish this was more like a true contemporary romance. Instead, this book has a women’s fiction feel where the story is more about Lucy’s personal growth than the romance. We don’t get enough about Sam and Lucy together. In fact, much of their story ends up taking place in the space of a couple of paragraphs noting that they spent months together as a couple.

I liked the characters and the story, but I thought the romance ended up a bit disconnected even though it had great potential.

The book also has paranormal elements that seemed to have no real purpose in the story. They were weirdly placed and didn’t really contribute to the story. They were neither fully integrated into the characters nor significant enough to the story to make their placement worth breaking the contemporary romance rules.

Parts of the book were really good. I loved the parts where the deep emotions between Lucy and Sam are allowed to be the focus, but those moments were only enough to make the overall book likable.

The book feels like an experiment that I didn’t find entirely successful.

WORTH MENTIONING: I think the blurb for this book doesn’t really describe the story in this book as it suggests that Sam and Lucy get together because of her ex’s interference. That is just not true.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RAINSHADOW ROAD is the second book in the Friday Harbor series. It can be read as a standalone although there are overlapping characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: A Discovery of Witches

Review: A Discovery of WitchesA Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1) by Deborah Harkness
Series: All Souls Trilogy
Published by Viking Penguin on February 1, 2011
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 579
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Romance, supernatural, science and history combined in an adventure story that makes the 600 pages just race by. I loved the relationship between Diana and Matthew and look forward to what happens next.

THE STORY: Dr. Diana Bishop has come to Oxford. When a request for a manuscript from the library brings her in contact with a magical manuscript, she finds herself surrounded by witches, vampires and demons. For years Diana has tried to ignore her magical roots but her abilities as a witch seem to be demanding their due. An encounter with Professor Matthew Clairmont (who happens to be a vampire) changes something. Witches and vampires should repel one another, but Diana and Matthew seem to be drawn to one another. When Diana’s connection to the manuscript brings danger from all sides, she turns to Matthew. But the question is what is his agenda.

OPINION: This is a long and nicely paced book with a romance at the center (although the main story is Diana’s abilities and the magical manuscript). I began this book with a question to myself of whether I wanted to commit to this almost 600 page book and two more, but by chapter 3, I was completely engrossed.

The book is not a traditional romance but rather feels like a cross between an adult Harry Potter and Twilight (without all the annoying and whiny internal monologues). The story marries the supernatural and scientific as the story is based on Matthew’s investigation of the scientific origins and perhaps extinction of the supernatural “species”. All the scientific investigations are combined with Diana’s interest in the historical so this is really a thinking person’s book — and there is a lot of adventure as well. I explained this book to my mom as a more sophisticated “Mummy” story.

Diana is a woman discovering herself. Having been cut off from her powers and the supernatural world, she is the reader’s window into the world that this trilogy introduces. She is smart and active with a nimble mind and a tragic past. Scholarly and athletic and determined to make her own way. But she is no fool. Eventually she realizes that she cannot hide from her inherent talents. I especially liked her strength and her insistence on her autonomy.

Matthew is a vampire with secrets. But he is also a scientist with an old fashioned manner. The combination of the modern with the ancient makes him an interesting character. Of course, he is also frustrating (both to Diana and the reader) because he knows much that he won’t reveal. The complexity of his character make him a good foil for Diana.

As this book sets up the series, there is plenty going on in this book. Danger and mystery and discovery.  This book sets the table for the series. Nothing is resolved and there are still plenty of mysteries to be revealed. That is one weakness of this book. It requires that the reader continue with the series to have a complete story.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is the first in a continuing trilogy so readers should know that things are not resolved in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES is the first book in the All Souls Trilogy.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars