Review: Midnight Wolf

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: Midnight WolfMidnight Wolf (Shifters Unbound, #11) by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Shifters Unbound #11
Published by Berkley on April 24, 2018
Genres: Paranormal
Goodreads
four-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this couple a great deal. Tamsin’s personality perfectly fits her shifter animal and I loved how nimble and cute and sneaky she is. Angus is a wonderful father. I felt the romance was not as intense as I might have liked, but I felt these two found a comfortable relationship with one another.

THE STORY: Angus Murray is forced to hunt for a collarless shifter woman when his son is captured and held hostage. Angus is out to find Tamsin Calloway, a mysterious shifter who ran with Angus’s crazy (and deceased brother) for a while. While Angus tries to be focused only on capturing and turning over Tamsin in order to get his son returned, the slippery and smart Tamsin wins Angus’s admiration. Angus can’t risk his son, but he doesn’t want to sacrifice Tamsin either.

OPINION: I enjoyed this book because of the strength of the connection between Angus, Tamsin and Angus’s son. Their relationship was sweet and I liked that. There was also a lot of humor in their interactions. Tamsin’s zesty personality was a nice contrast with the often grumpy Angus. Tamsin seems irresponsible as the story begins, but we soon learn that while she is unattached, she is also serious about responsibilities.

The overarching story line here seemed somewhat insignificant and merely an excuse for Angus and Tamsin to go on the run together which leads to amusing adventures in a circus.

Tamsin is one of my favorite characters in the series now. She is amusing and clever and definitely feels like her shifter animal. She just made me smile especially as she brings Angus out of his shell.

I appreciated that Ashley made Angus’s son a big part of the story since Tamsin will be a part of their family. The relationship between them felt natural and I could see Tamsin acting as mother without betraying all her fun personality.

My only complaint is that the relationship between Angus and Tamsin felt more comfortable than passionate attraction. I totally bought these two together, but I just wanted to feel a bit more in their romance.

WORTH MENTIONING: I was so excited that we get to see more of Tiger!

CONNECTED BOOKS: MIDNIGHT WOLF is the eleventh book in the Shifters Unbound series. The romance in this book is self-contained but there are overarching storylines for the series.

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: The Thief

Review: The ThiefThe Thief (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #16) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #16
Published by Ballantine Books on April 10th 2018
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 480
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Destiny was such a thief.”

FINAL DECISION: Loved, loved this one and would have been a 5 star but the resolution was just a bit too quick for me. I’ve been anticipating Sola and Assail’s story for years and this one did not disappoint. Plus V and Jane tossed in, new threats and some advancement of the overarching storylines.

THE STORY: Sola Morte, was a thief until an attempt on her life led to her promise to leave Caldwell and make a new and honest life. Hiding in Miami with her dear grandmother, Sola still cannot forget the man she left behind. Assail was who she left behind but unknown to Sola, he is not a man at all but rather a vampire. Assail lies near death after trying to recover from a cocaine addiction. His cousins make a desperate attempt to save Assail by asking Sola to visit Assail.

OPINION: I really enjoyed this book. I’ve been looking forward to Sola and Assail’s story because I enjoy these two complex characters. They are both damaged characters who shift between doing good and doing bad. This book takes place already significantly into their story. Readers of the series will know that they have already begun their romance and cut it off when Sola leaves for Miami. This book recaps, but of course the character development of those earlier encounters is lost in this book.

But having read those early encounters, I love this story. The emotional drama is high from the beginning. Sola comes to Assail at the moment of his rebirth in many ways. The two of them always had a strong connection, and I really feel it in this book where the crisis makes these two people who are closed and secretive open up to one another.

The book is hot because not only do we have Sola and Assail as a couple, but also the continuing story of V and Jane. The two have had some problems recently (which has been shown in prior books). This book brings their lingering problems to a crisis moment.

And that is what brings these two stories together in a thematic way. Here are two couples facing a crisis where their secrets and their separateness threaten to tear them apart.

Although the two stories cross one another, they are separate and distinct narratives. The overlapping themes, however, give this book a wholeness that I don’t always feel in the BDB books with the overlapping and multiple narratives.

My only negative in the book is that Sola and Assail’s story is resolved too quickly in the end. After building the conflicts and drama and bring it to a head, things get fixed and then the book is over. I think the build up needed some additional space. In this book, I missed that.

WORTH MENTIONING: Murhder!

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE THIEF is the sixteenth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I think these books should be read as part of the series. Perhaps a better reader than I could appreciate them as standalones.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

 

four-half-stars

Review: Dearest Ivie

Review: Dearest IvieDearest Ivie (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #15.5) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #15.5
Published by Ballantine on March 13th 2018
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 145
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: Loved this one. Pretty much self-contained, this is a romance without a doubt. The emphasis is on the couple and despite the short length, it manages to be sexy and sweet and deeply emotional.

THE STORY: Ivie is a vampire and a nurse at Haven’s clinic. She is out at a bar with her cousin when a vampire walks into her life. Silas is immediately attracted to Ivie, but Ivie is reluctant to get involved with the aristocratic Silas. When the two end up spending time together, their attraction and relationship grows. Silas, however, tells Ivie that their relationship can only be temporary as he is returning to the Old Country. Ivie has to decide whether to enjoy the present or protect herself from hurt.

OPINION: I loved the story of Ivie and Silas. The story was sweet and romantic and incredibly emotional at times.

Ivie is a woman who is strong and fierce. I loved her perseverance, her intelligence and her compassion.  I also was quite amused by her family, and I liked that we got to see a different group of vampires in the BDB world. Ivie is the active participant in the story and in fact is the central hub of what happens. She isn’t passive, but rather makes the world change.

Silas is a gentleman. His manner and his personality is kind. (But he’s definitely no wimpy hero, but he needs Ivie’s persistence). I enjoyed the essential kindness and goodness of these characters.

There was something I really enjoyed about this story because while there are some dark moments (a few that made me shed tears) I thought the story as a whole was lighter and more positive and focused on the romance than many of the BDB books.

While I love many of the BDB books, they are dense and complicated and edged in darkness. This book, while it has its dark moments, is lightened by characters who are brighter and less dark than many of the BDB characters.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are a few appearances by BDB characters (enough to show that this story takes place in that universe), but the emphasis here is on the personal story between Ivie and Silas.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DEAREST IVIE is a novella which is book 15.5 in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. This book can be read apart from the series with just some basic knowledge about vampires, however, it falls nicely in the series for fans.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Hold Back the Dark

Review: Hold Back the DarkHold Back the Dark by Kay Hooper
Series: Bishop/Special Crimes Unit #18
Published by Berkley Books on April 3rd 2018
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 352
Goodreads
two-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I ended up tremendously disappointed in this book which began as an amazing story with a whole bunch of characters I was interested in, but ended up being resolved (mostly offscreen) in the space of only a couple of pages. In fact, the book felt like a half book with the author’s synopsis at the end. I’m hoping there will be more with this group in the future.

THE STORY: Something is happening in the town of Prosperity. A call has gone out from a mysterious source calling psychics from all over to the town. A series of vicious murders with unlikely killers takes over the town. The SCU along with a rag tag group of people who have rejected joining the SCU must join together to keep the evil contained in Prosperity and find the source before the evil expands.

OPINION: Until the last chapter of this book, I really loved it. It might have been a 5 star book, but definitely a 4 star one. Then the entire book just abruptly ended with a summary resolution that read more like a synopsis than an actual ending for the book.

This book was disappointing and perhaps one of the worst of the series because it completely abandoned the actual storytelling of the paranormal events. The book felt like it should have had another 100 pages instead of just ending the entire plot in a couple of pages with events that were told in a summary fashion.

I was let down because I believed that the beginning of this book showed incredible promise. The book introduces a whole new cast of characters that are intriguing and their interactions show great possibilities. I loved the return of Galen who is now a more reflective, damaged and dark character. And I loved seeing Hollis and Reese (though disappointed that significant events have occurred offstage once again). All the new possibilities raised my interest in the story and I expected that after all the introductions that there would be some real exploration of what is happening in Prosperity. But this book really feels like it is missing its third act. Instead of the well thought out and plotted ending, we only get a cursory explanation of events without any drama or suspense.

This book might be a gateway to more stories (I hope so because I loved the characters), but this book as a whole was a letdown.

WORTH MENTIONING: The blurb of this book is misleading as it focuses on Katie Cole who is merely a bit character and doesn’t really have much to do with the book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HOLD BACK THE DARK is the eighteenth book in the Bishop/Special Crimes Unit series. I don’t believe these books can operate as standalones because there are numerous overlapping characters, references to prior cases and (especially in this case) some overarching storyline.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2.5 stars.

two-half-stars

Review: My Lady’s Choosing

Review: My Lady’s ChoosingMy Lady's Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel by Kitty Curran, Larissa Zageris
on April 3rd 2018
Genres: Historical, Paranormal
Goodreads
four-stars

MY LADY’S CHOOSING is a novelty book where the reader gets to make choices as the story goes on changing the outcomes of the story depending on the choices.

In the early 1980s, Choose Your Own Adventure stories were a popular series with children. This book updates that concept for today’s romance books. The book is a novelty so a reader should not approach the book expecting amazing stories. Instead, the stories are funny and a loving parody of the romance genre. The book takes a series of romance book tropes and characters (the brooding aristocrat, the sexy Scotsman, the governess, supernatural characters, sexy garden times, exotic locations) and gives the reader a choice of what to do at critical and not so critical times.

I found the book amusing and tried several variations by coming back to a juncture and trying different options. The stories were lovingly amusing. They didn’t mock the romance genre, but rather made the reader part of an inside joke.

I really enjoyed this book, but a reader must approach it with a sense of humor and a willingness to participate in the fun.

I want to note that I thought it was especially nice that the heroine (the reader) is active in the story and one of the options includes a ff romance which was and unexpected and welcome option.

Rating: 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon

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: Eight Simple Rules for Dating a DragonEight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon (The Embraced, #3) by Kerrelyn Sparks
Series: The Embraced #3
Published by St Martins Pr on March 27th 2018
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 448
Goodreads
four-stars

Rule Number One: When a dragon takes you for a ride, hold on tight and never let go.

FINAL DECISION: Romance, political intrigue and a big dose of humor make this book particularly enjoyable to read. The focus here is more on the mystery of what is going on, but I really enjoyed the humor combined with the romance with Silas and Gwen.

THE STORY: As one of the Embraced (those born with magical powers), Gwenmore becomes enmeshed in political intrigue and curses when she is abducted by a dragon when protecting a young girl. An elf, Gwen has the curious ability to hear the dragons. That talent, plus another one, makes her valuable to General Silas Dravenko, who is trying to prove that misdeeds and not curses are what threaten his people. He intends to use Gwen to find the danger, but he is slowly seduced by the elf — who should be an enemy but shatters all his walls.

OPINION: I really enjoyed the tone of this book. The book isn’t a comedy, but it has a lighthearted and fun tone and made me smile.

A great portion of the book is about the mystery and political intrigue going on. i thought that story was really strong. Readers of the series will see that the stakes are rising and what is going on in the shadows is becoming more dangerous and blatant. But the end game still remains a mystery.

While I ultimately enjoyed the romance, I did think the beginning was too instant love, but thankfully the relationship is given some time to develop. Still things happen quickly. But the humor between Silas and Gwen make it all worth it. I loved their interactions which were sexy and funny at the same time.

There is a refreshing vulnerability for each of these characters. Silas has a tender heart even with his strength and cleverness. I also liked how Gwen grows during the story as she gains confidence and takes on a more active role in her own life.

The book has a similar basic storyline as the others in the series, but the individual flourishes mean that this book is not repetitive.  Also — dragons.

Even three books into the series, I still want to see more of these characters. There are  still a bunch of mysteries left to be revealed.

WORTH MENTIONING: The ongoing story about the Chameleon is picked up and continued in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: EIGHT SIMPLE RULES FOR DATING A DRAGON is the third book in the Embraced series. While the romance in this book is self contained, there are overarching relationships that make this book better read as part of the series.

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: 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