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

Review: Shadow Reaper

Review: Shadow ReaperShadow Reaper (Shadow, #2) by Christine Feehan
Series: Shadow, #2
Published by Jove on May 30th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal
Pages: 480
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: This was really enjoyable — perhaps more for the suspense and action part of the story than the romance. Nevertheless, I think this is a fun (not funny) action story with an intense “fated” romance.

THE STORY: Ricco Ferraro is a shadow rider. The shadow riders are assassins who do justice by using their ability to travel via shadows to do their work. Ricco has been becoming more reckless and that worries his family. When he meets Mariko Majo, Ricco instantly knows that she is a woman who is special because she is one of the few women who can mate with a shadow rider and produce children. Mariko’s mysterious background intrigues Ricco, but the question is why has Mariko come to Ricco and what danger has she brought to the Ferraro family?

OPINION: This was an adventurous story as the Ferraro family is under attack and the question is why and who is behind it. I thought the pacing and depictions of the family was a highlight of the story. The story is suspenseful and also a bit graphic at times because this family is not sitting around doing knitting. The story is gritty and dark at times with a lot of violence.

Ricco is a playboy who has gotten bored with his own life: fast women and fast cars. When he meet Mariko, things begin to change for him. I do like that Ricco is certainly a family man who loves and cares for his family. That quality is important especially because the family verges on being an organized crime family (or at least that is the way they are viewed by outsiders).

Mariko is a woman who has been ground down by everyone around her for most of her life. Yet she is a woman of integrity. Like many of Feehan’s heroines, she is sexually inexperienced and sometimes quite a bit naive about her sexuality. There is quite a bit of dominant alpha male and submissive woman in this book although the book acknowledges a sense where the roles are reversed — even though Ricco is ostensibly in charge, he is only responding to Mariko’s wishes. This is most clearly expressed in the Japanese rope bondage that the two engage in. This was a kink that I haven’t read about before in romance books and I thought it was well explained and used through the book especially because it is clear that there is an artistic side and a sexual side and the book explores the characters moving from one vision to another.

WORTH MENTIONING: I’m still waiting for the Romeo and Juliet story that has to be coming later in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SHADOW REAPER is the second book in the Shadow series. This book can be read as a standalone although the world building descriptions are in the first book so a reader would have to figure that part out.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Wicked Abyss

Review: Wicked AbyssWicked Abyss (Immortals After Dark, #18) by Kresley Cole
Series: Immortals After Dark #18
Published by Gallery Books on April 25th 2017
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: A adventurous, angst filled, humorous entry in the Immortals world, this book expands the scope of the Immortals world but also gives us a beauty and the beast retelling with a twist.

THE STORY: Ten thousand years ago, Abyssian Infernas was betrayed by his fey mate. He has never forgotten and has waited for her resurrection in order to get his revenge. Now the demon king of hell, Sian has his opportunity. Princess Calliope Bardot is brought by bounty hunters to Sian’s domain where he keeps her prisoner. She has her own purpose as well: to gather information against Sian and his alliance in order to protect her people.

OPINION: I immediately got sucked into this book although I haven’t read an Immortals book in a while. The humor and drama and just great storytelling keeps me returning book after book.

This book is an Immortals retelling of Beauty and the Beast including a curse, an enchanted castle and an incredible library. Of course, the castle is in hell and the beast is a demon who is slowly devolving into his demonic form. The beauty is an exiled fey princess who wants to return to her realm.

Although this story has fated mates (who already had one bad lifetime experience), the development of their relationship is given a tremendous amount of time to develop and grow. I loved the interaction between Sian and Lila as the two of them fall in love. But there are secrets that each is keeping and a past that torments Sian and makes him wary of trusting Lila again.

My favorite part is that Lila is a badass in this story. She is not going to sit around and allow Sian to dominate her or destroy her. By the end of the book, she clearly has evolved to his perfect mate.

This book is nicely paired with SWEET RUIN and keeps on the “dark side” of the coming battle. A small but significant appearance by Nix keeps the overarching storyline going.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are appearances from Rune and Jo from SWEET RUIN. And if you don’t recall Sian, he’s in that book as well.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WICKED ABYSS is the eighteenth book in the Immortals After Dark series. This series is much better if read in order, but this book can be read as a standalone if character appearances from prior books and references to the overarching story line of the series don’t both you.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Island of Glass

Review: Island of GlassIsland of Glass (The Guardians Trilogy, #3) by Nora Roberts
Series: The Guardians Trilogy #3
Published by Berkley on December 6th 2016
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 352
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: The trilogy ends on a decent but unexceptional book. Focused more on the plot than the romance (which feels like an afterthought), the “big bad” is just not compelling enough to compete with the first book in the trilogy.

THE STORY: This book continues the story of the six guardians who are searching for the three stars that will help them defeat the evil goddess. The final romance is between Doyle, a man cursed with immortality over three hundred years ago, and Riley, an archaeologist who also happens to be a shapeshifting wolf.

OPINION: I waited almost a year to read this book. Unfortunately after book two I didn’t have any real compulsion to finish up the trilogy. This book ended the series better than book 2 left me, but the romance was flat in this story.

The highlight of this series was book one and I still loved seeing Sasha and Bran. They were the best fleshed out couple in the series and they still seem the most interesting. While the pairing of Doyle and Riley was expected, this book didn’t really develop their characters any further. Doyle has some backstory dealing with his past with people dying, but Riley is not developed at all which was disappointing. These two seem to fall together more from being the only ones in the house not having sex rather than any real connection. The romance here felt like an afterthought that the story could have done without.

The strength of this story was the formed family connection between all six characters. Their pursuit of their quest felt purposeful and interesting. Even though the final confrontation with the “big bad” was lacking somewhat, I enjoyed the journey these characters went on.

What I really did not like was the epilogue which magically solved all the problems. As a spoiler, I can say that Sasha and Bran didn’t need anything — which just goes to demonstrate what a great couple they are.

I liked this book more than book 2 (although the “fixing” of the problems in book 2 done here mitigates many of my complaints), but this trilogy isn’t one that I’m putting on my keeper shelf.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book fixes the serious problem with the ending for the couple in book 2.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ISLAND OF GLASS is the third and final book in the Guardians Trilogy. The series has a continuing storyline and characters with relationships which overlap. A reader should start with book one and read the series in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Misadventures with a Super Hero

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: Misadventures with a Super HeroMisadventures with a Super Hero (Misadventures, #3) by Angel Payne
Series: Misadventures #3
Published by Waterhouse Press on October 10th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica, Paranormal
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: Great premise. uneven execution. Parts of this story I really enjoyed, but parts were a bit confusing and uneven. Overall, I enjoyed the story because it was a fun ride.

THE STORY: Emmalina Crist needs her job working at a hotel because she is trying to make something of herself. Her new boss, Reece Richards, is a longtime playboy, and Emma knows that he is bad news, but can’t resist him anyway. But Emma is also intrigued by Bolt, LA’s newest superhero. Of course, Reece is actually Bolt and he has issues because he was given “super powers” against his will. The two have to navigate Reece finding out who and what he is.

OPINION: I really liked the premise of this story and it is really hot with Emma and Reece circling around one another in various locations in his hotel. I liked the characters and I really believed Reece’s improving his life because of his “changes”. I thought parts of the story were really funny and really sweet. This story is really an erotic journey as for the relationship between Emma and Reece (lots of insta-love/lust) with some superhero danger tossed in.

I did think that the writing was a bit uneven at times and the alternating points of view meant some confusion in the voice of the story. (There were not enough differences in the voices of the two characters to justify the different points of view).

This was a fun story and I would love to read more about these characters, but I think that a reader has to make a commitment to the story to really enjoy it.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a novella that is told in alternating points of view.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  MISADVENTURES WITH A SUPER HERO is the third book in the Misadventures series. This series, however, are completely separate standalone books with no connections at all.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

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

three-stars

Review: Deryk

Review: DerykDeryk (Dragon Hearts #2) by Carole Mortimer
Series: Dragon Hearts #2
Published by Carole Mortimer on September 29th 2017
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 185
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Enjoyable continuation of Mortimer’s series about men who turn into dragons searching for their mates. Not a deep story, but fun.

THE STORY: Deryk Pendragon is the closest of the brothers of being in danger of “going dragon” and having to be executed unless he finds his mate. Now that one of his brothers has found his mate, Deryk is determined to find his own. Traveling to Russia to visit with another dragon family, Deryk immediately senses his own mate. Determined to claim her immediately, Deryk has no patience for Izabella Mikhailova wanting a normal life — or really just not wanting to be his mate.

OPINION: I enjoyed this book although it wasn’t particularly deep. There is instant lust because of the “mating” aspect to the story. I don’t mind that because I knew what I was getting. I really did like that each brother’s story is a little different as they have their own problems and hang ups. I had hoped that we would delve a little more into Deryk being close to losing control of his dragon, but that storyline seemed to be resolved very quickly. This book is a little fun and I like how Izabella quickly takes control of the domineering Deryk.

WORTH MENTIONING: We get to see a little more of Bryn who is next up in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DERYK is the second book in the Dragon Hearts series. This book doesn’t require reading the first book, but that book sets up the storyline for the whole series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Archangel’s Viper

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: Archangel’s ViperArchangel's Viper (Guild Hunter, #10) by Nalini Singh
Published by Berkley on September 26th 2017
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 400
Goodreads
five-stars

“They let you drive now?” he said in a wondering tone of voice calibrated to get under her skin. “I leave for a couple of years and miss kitty’s first steps. Did anyone take photos for the baby album I sent you?”

“It’s full of pretty pictures.” Holly bared her teeth at him in a caricature of a smile. “Honor is a little concerned about how I keep drawing you with your head cut off,” she said in a deliberately thoughtful tone, “but an artist must follow her instincts.”

FINAL DECISION: Awesome, I loved this book in a way I never expected. Feeling fresh and young and yes, even a little weird, this book’s tone matched the strange, unique, and fun that make up Holly and Venom.

THE STORY: Four years ago, Holly Chang’s world was fundamentally altered when she and her friends were kidnapped by a blood mad archangel. Her friends were all murdered; Holly survived but ended up changed when the archangel put “something” of himself into Holly. She gained some qualities of vampires but she is neither fully vampire nor human. In the years since her abduction, Holly has been under the observation by various members of Raphael’s Seven.  Now the one who irks Holly the most, Venom, has returned to annoy her some more. Venom is a unique vampire who also possesses viper qualities and eyes. While Venom and Holly have much in common as to their abilities, they seem to rub one another the wrong way — until someone puts a bounty on Holly to kidnap her and the “otherness” inside her seems to be asserting itself. Venom and Holly must work together to discover what actually happened to Holly four years ago.

OPINION: The problem with loving a series is that sometimes a new book doesn’t live up to the hype and excitement. Having just completed a re-read of the Guild Hunter series, I had a worry in my stomach that I was too excited about Venom and Holly’s story (which has its origins in the very first book). I’m so happy to report that this book exceeded all of my excited anticipation. It was so different in its voice and tone and the characters lived up to the strange and mysterious origins. Their funky, weird and quirky natures bored into my heart (ha, ha) and they are definitely one of my favorite couples in the series.

Can I admit something? I often tend to take glances at the end of books as I get distracted during the story. (It’s a way of urging myself forward). This book I read cover to cover without even being tempted to read the ending. If you have similar tendencies or like to read spoilers, I urge you to let this book flow out in front of you instead. The story and relationship builds in such a wonderful fashion that I think that knowing the secrets in the ending will diminish the first-time reader experience.

Story feels young and fresh in a manner that I didn’t expect. One of my all time favorite books is FIRE AND ICE by Anne Stuart. This book has a similar feel in the characters and pacing (although there is really little similarity). The characters are younger than others in the series.

Although Venom is over 350 years old, he is the youngest of the Seven and the one character who has been the most mysterious in the series. This book peels back his layers and gives us his backstory.  He’s got a secret (not a deep dark one but an interesting one) that makes him adorable and perfect for Holly. Sexy and raw in a way that no one else in the Seven is, he has a different personality than I expected once his “gameface” is off.

Holly (who for a time called herself Sorrow) is quirky and funny and incredibly strong. We haven’t seen her progression for a while, and it was especially satisfying to see how she has grown and struggled and managed to reinvent herself after the horror of her “Making”. (I’ll also confess to having a total love for Dmitri and Honor and just adored seeing them with Holly). Holly makes this book for me. Her needling of Venom as the two find the rhythm of a relationship between them. Her strength in facing the reality of what her “making” might actually mean. And her determination to keep true to herself and her humanity put me on her side from the start. Of all the characters in this series, she was the only one from the present day who was 100 percent human and normal until she was forcibly dragged into the immortal world.

The funniest part for me is that I expected the quips and arguments and the humor, but I didn’t expect how heartwarming I would find their relationship. The observation that these two will grow together hit me with so many warm fuzzies. Their story is one of acceptance and appreciation and love for a person “because” of who they are rather than “despite”.

The story is more focused on Holly and Venom than in normal in this series (in many ways this book and ARCHANGEL’S HEART are part of the same story) and as a result, I was simply gutted as the book reached its conclusion as no part of this series has since the very first book.  The romance between these two is uniquely their own. The two seem to find joy in annoying one another, testing one another. There is a similarity to the relationship between Ash and Janvier, but this is no repeat of that romance. Venom and Holly have an acidic sweetness that matches their natures.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book overlaps with the events in ARCHANGEL’S HEART.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ARCHANGEL’S VIPER is the tenth book in the Guild Hunter series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

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

five-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