Review: Shadow’s Seduction

Review: Shadow’s SeductionShadow's Seduction (Immortals After Dark, #17; The Dacians, #2) by Kresley Cole
Series: Immortals After Dark #17, Dacians #2
Published by Valkyrie Press on February 28th 2017
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 248
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  I loved this book which is funny, angsty in the Immortals After Dark fashion, and so intensely focused on the couple that I could forget that this is part of a series.  Loved these two and their path to their HEA.

THE STORY:  Prince Mirceo Daciano, a vampire from the semi-mythical Dacia, meets Caspion the Tracker, a demon.  Mirceo wants to be more than friends with the demon, but instead settles for friendship until the two are dared to kiss by the three nymphs they had brought to their bed.  The kiss opens up a whole new problem for the two.  Caspion is determined to deny their attraction — especially because he knows what a fickle creature Mirceo is.  The possibility that the two are fated mates thrills Mirceo but he has to convince Caspion to give him a chance.

OPINION:  The romance between Caspion and Mirceo takes so many twists and turns and has as much drama as I expect from an Immortals After Dark book.

Mirceo starts the book looking to score with Caspion. He is charming and funny and irreverent.  He drives Caspion crazy with his determination, his humor and his willingness to do anything to prove the two belong together.  Mirceo, however, has his own troubles that he hides under his charming facade.

Caspion is darker and more troubled on the surface than Mirceo.  As he begins the book, he is entirely resistant to the possibility of having a sexual relationship with Mirceo insisting that he is only interested in females — even though he is attracted to Mirceo from the beginning.

These two begin with friendship that bonds them (even though Mirceo wants more) and the two begin with very sexy encounters that draw them both into more emotional and deeper connections than either expects.  This is the story of confounding expectations.  The two are truly more together — both as friends and partners — than either expects.

I especially liked the intense focus on the relationship between these two.  There is a nice dynamic of Mirceo being so open and insistent and Caspion being so resistant.  When the two finally reach and accord, it really feels that the two have journeyed together, arguing and debating and considering.

I would have given this book 5 stars, but I thought the resolution of the story was a little rushed at the end.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This is a m/m romance.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SHADOW’S SEDUCTION is the seventeenth book in the Immortals After Dark series and the second book in the sub-series The Dacians.  This book is closest to a standalone as you will find in this series.  It is completely possible to enjoy this book without reading other books or you can read the first in the Dacians SHADOW’S CLAIM.  Of course, readers of the Immortals After Dark series

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Arcana Rising

Review: Arcana RisingArcana Rising (The Arcana Chronicles, #4) by Kresley Cole
Published by Valkyrie Press on August 15th 2016
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“All you have to do is surrender…draw on your hatred and pain. Become her: the Empress you were meant to be.”

FINAL DECISION:  Sad and powerful and a game changer for the series, this great adventure also has significant things to say about love and pain and grief and survival.  And what a cliffhanger!

THE STORY:  Beginning immediately after the events of DEAD OF WINTER, Evie is almost killed by the attack of the Emperor and the counter attack by Circe.  After witnessing the death of her beloved Jack, Evie is separated from her other love Aric.  Now Evie travels along to discover what happened to the two men in her lives.  Separated from friends and allies, Evie turns toward darkness as she meets new Arcana players.

OPINION:  I have started and rewritten this part of my review several times.  This is a difficult book to write about without spoilers and yet this is a book where spoilers can truly spoil the experience of the book.  Part of the beauty of this book and indeed the entire series is the surprising journey which always ends on a cliffhanger and leaves readers begging for the next book in the series.

So I’m now begging.  Luckily the next book is scheduled for next spring rather than next summer.

As this book begins Evie has lost everything. Throughout this series, just when Evie appears to have reached bottom, more is stripped from her.  Evie has been struggling for a while between herself and her red witch side (which Evie sometimes perceives as dark and evil).  Having been separated from everything that has meaning for you, Evie once again struggles against the darkness.

At this moment, she meets some new Arcana (so that most of the players are now revealed to to Evie and the reader).  I really enjoy the complexity of the characters and their continuing mysteries.  The motivations and the question of friends, allies and enemies remain a enduring complication in this book.  Friends might be ready to betray; enemies might be doing you a favor.

Something is going on with Evie.  She is not herself and it isn’t clear why.  One of the strengths of this series is that so much remains unrevealed.  As I read each book, I can’t help but ask how many more books are there…and yet, that mystery in itself gives an extra amount of anxiety which deepens the dissonance of the story.  After all, Evie doesn’t know where this story is going either.

This book while having all the secrets and action and surprises of an Arcana Chronicles book also has a lot to say about love and grief and surviving.  Evie has evolved from the high school student who appeared in the first book.

This book saddened me for several reasons dealing with the plot and relationships.  I don’t want to give anything away, but there are going to be some unhappy fans — and some very happy ones.  I can only say, despite the cliffhanger, I think things are more complicated than they appear.

I can’t wait until THE DARK CALLING to see if I am right.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Without giving spoilers, I want to note that this book made me sad and unhappy at the direction the story went in. Despite that I have great faith that Kresley Cole can make it all work out in the end even if it doesn’t follow what I expected.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ARCANA RISING is the fourth book in the Arcana Chronicles.  It is dependent upon the prior books in the series and should not be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: The Player

Review: The PlayerThe Player (The Game Maker, #3) by Kresley Cole
Series: The Game Maker #3
on April 12, 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 334
Goodreads
five-stars

“When you’ve been in the dark as long as I have, moy angel, there is no mistaking the light.”

FINAL DECISION:  Oh, how I ended up loving this book. The book was good until the last portion of the book which made me rethink the entire book.  I then found the book to be amazing because I was surprised and completely satisfied.  Plus, the book is really hot and sweet!

THE STORY: Victoria “Vice” Valentine comes from a long line of con-artists.  Desperate to help her family satisfy a deadly debt, Vice approaches the reclusive billionaire Dimitri Sevastyan. She intends on bilking him out of the money her family needs.  But there is something about the sexy Russian that tempts the “cold as ice” Vice to burn in ways she never suspected. Soon she is pulled between her loyalty to her family and the sweet man who seems to want only her and claims love at first sight.

OPINION:  This book didn’t end up where i expected.  I really appreciate a book that can surprise me in a good way.  This book was a 4.25 or 4.5 until the ending.  That pushed the book to a definite 5 for me!

Dimitri was a hero that I really liked.  Damaged and secretive, sexy and domineering but completely dedicated to doing anything for Vice, I loved him more than the either of the other men of the series (and they weren’t slouches). I loved how his painful past slowly was revealed. Who wouldn’t fall in love with a man who will do anything for you?  Vice, despite her best intentions, just can’t help herself.

Vice is a heroine who is herself imperfect and in fact might be more shady than the hero.  She is a con artist from a family legacy of the same. Even more, she is not repentant about her actions or those of her family.  Surprisingly, as a reader, I was rooting for these “bad guys”.  Her conscience begins to bother he as she realizes that Dimitri is a damaged but kind and caring man.  Her feelings for him begin to threaten her loyalty to her family.  The tension and conflict there works very well in this story.

Indeed, this book has beautiful pacing.  The relationship between Vice and Dimitri plays out in a winding and revealing manner.  Vice believes that she has the secrets, but Dimitri has a past filled with secrets.  As the story goes on, Dimitri’s secrets are slowly revealed to Vice and to the readers (although readers of the series will know some of the story).  I especially liked how the structure of the book reveals Dimitri’s secrets while forcing Vice to feel that she cannot reveal her own without risking the joy she is finding with Dimitri.  When the end of the book arrives, I was shocked and thrilled with the entire book.

And, oh this book is hot, hot, hot!  Vice and Dimitri just sizzle off the pages.  There is plenty of sex, but even better, it is all intertwined with deep emotional intensity which makes the book even sexier in my estimation.

This book ended up being my favorite of the series and definitely made me want to read the entire series over again.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Don’t read the spoilers for this book!  The payoff is amazing when read in context.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE PLAYER is the third book in the Game Maker series.  It can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Day Zero

Review: Day ZeroDay Zero (The Arcana Chronicles, #3.5) by Kresley Cole
Published by Valkyrie Press on August 1st 2016
Genres: Paranormal
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Fabulous companion to the Arcana series. This collection of vignettes about the Arcana characters’ experiences on Day Zero provide insight into the major characters and some reveals before the next book comes out.

THE STORY:  This novella is a collection of the stories of the Arcana characters as to what happened to them on Day 0.  Some of the already defeated villains accounts are excluded but there is also the best accounting of each the different Arcana’s attributes.  These vignette include several characters which have only barely been introduced to the series so there are spoilers and reveals as well.

OPINION: I loved this companion to the series because it gives some insights into the characters apart from the ongoing narrative of the books. This book is for fans of the series as it assumes knowledge of the characters and action. It provides fascinating views of these characters and their motivations and states of mind as the game begins.  Clearly meant for those who already are invested in the series, this novella is more than a summary of known facts.  It makes me anticipate the next book even more.

WORTH MENTIONING:  All the Arcana are accounted for with revealed identities except the Hanged Man.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  DAY ZERO is a novella in the Arcana series.  It should be read after book 3 of the series because it contains spoilers for the books before that.

STAR RATING:  I give this novella 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Dead of Winter

Review: Dead of WinterDead of Winter (The Arcana Chronicles, #3) by Kresley Cole
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on January 6th 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 303
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION:  My favorite of the series and it made me accept a well written love triangle as much as I dislike them. A perfect blend of emotion, drama and action, this book grabbed me and never let go.

THE STORY:  This book begins right after the events of ENDLESS KNIGHT.  Evie, one of the powerful Arcana is involved a game to the death with the other Arcana characters.  Now seventeen, Evie lives in a post-apocalyptic world without plants and only a few animals. The world is lawless and filled with danger and death.  Evie is on her way to rescue her mortal lover Jack while being emotionally torn between Jack and the Arcana Death himself.  Now Evie has to confront the devious Lovers to save Jack.

OPINION:  I really dislike love triangles. The fact that Cole made me believe and enjoy this one is a testament to how good this book is. (I have no idea how this is going to work out in the end).

A book about love and hate and the mistakes we make in the past coming back to haunt us. I found this book the most complex and sophisticated of the series.  Evie is torn between two men. I absolutely loved the interaction between the three characters as they traveled and worked together.  Evie’s choice is not obvious and I like the ambiguity as to which choice is the best.

The characters of this series are growing and changing and the relationships are complex and dangerous and the motivations of these people are not clear.  I am impressed by how deep and complex the mythology is in this series.  I hope that Cole has a great resolution because this series is raising my expectations with every book.

This book is not a traditional romance but very enjoyable nonetheless.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book ends on a cliffhanger.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  DEAD OF WINTER is the third book in the Arcana Chronicles. This series should be read in order.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Endless Knight

Review: Endless KnightEndless Knight (The Arcana Chronicles, #2) by Kresley Cole
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on September 2nd 2014
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  This book introduces the love triangle of the series, and I hate love triangles.  At the same time, the story is getting more complex and the motivations of the characters more murky.

THE STORY:  Evie has come into her powers as the Empress — who controls plants and uses poison as one of her weapons. She and the other Arcana characters are engaged in a battle to the death for immortality.  Evie is determined to thwart the game by forming alliances and then not killing her allies.  But before she can do that she must destroy Death who is after her.  When Evie and Death meet, Evie discovers that Death might be more complicated and attractive than she expected.

OPINION:  This book is about the murky and often hidden motivations of characters.  Things are not simple in this world and Evie is learning that things are not black and white for any of the characters.  Friends betray and enemies have justifications. Evie herself realizes that her own history is far more complicated than she imagined.

This book also introduces the love triangle between Evie, Jack and Death. It is a testament to the book that it is difficult to choose between Jack and Death both for the reader and Evie.  Death is a significant character in this book as some of his history and motivations are exposed.

I felt that the characters are developing well.  I don’t want to give away too much of the plot but things get more complicated and Evie has more allies, more enemies and more complications in her life.

There is significant action in this book and more Arcana characters meet their ends.  I believe this book was more consistent in its flow, and the reason I gave it a 4 is because I really dislike love triangles. Your mileage may vary.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book ends on a cliffhanger.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ENDLESS KNIGHT is the second book in the Arcana Chronicles series.  It should be read after the first book in order to understand whati s going on.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Poison Princess

Review: Poison PrincessPoison Princess (The Arcana Chronicles, #1) by Kresley Cole
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on August 19th 2014
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 369
Goodreads
four-stars

“The beginning is nigh….”

FINAL DECISION: The book has a great prologue, then a little bit of a slow part while the story begins to spin out, but the ending is fantastic.

THE STORY: Sixteen year old Evie Greene seems to have a charmed life. She’s popular, has a handsome and nice boyfriend and is smart.  But she has been having frightening nightmares and has so many delusions that her mother had her committed to a mental institution. She meets Jackson Deveaux, a Cajun boy from the wrong side of town and the two argue and strike sparks off of one another.  When it becomes obvious the Evie is not having delusions but rather visions. When the world is hit with an apocalypse, Evie and Jack must find out the meaning of Evie’s visions.

OPINION:  This is not my normal reading material.  Although there are romantic elements, there is not a straightforward romance in this book. There is no resolution, no HEA — at least not in this book.  But I am always looking for good books regardless of format or genre.

This book begins with a rocking suspense angle.  I was dragged immediately into the drama of the story.  Then the story goes back to the time before the apocalyptic Flash that begins the Arcana battle.  I thought the worldbuilding and concept was amazing.  I haven’t read a similar concept so I was captivated and my brain was engaged in trying to sort out the players. The agendas and motivations of the various characters remain opaque throughout this book.

I liked Evie as a character.  She discovers that she is one of the Arcana which are depicted on the Tarot cards. She is naive, immature and spoiled as the book begins, but her experiences begin to change her.  By the time the book ends, she has had an epiphany that makes me want to jump into the next book of the series.  I liked how Evie develops.  I like that she doesn’t start out as a 16 year old with a 30 year old’s mind. I believed her development.

Jack, the romantic interest as this book begins, is cocky and annoying and oh so attractive to Evie. A definite bad boy who has secrets of his own, he and Evie spend much of the book arguing and fighting with one another.  As two very different young people in a horrendous situation and forced together, they are merely developing their working relationship.  He is funny and annoying and I ended up liking him very much as well.

Once the prologue of the book ends, the book is a little slow for a while as the past is recalled and then the terms for this new world are defined and new characters are introduced. Then the book really takes off in action. The final third of the book was just extraordinary and the ending made me want to immediately turn to the next book in the series.  I’d give 4 stars for the beginning, a 3 for the middle and 5 stars for the end. I’ve averaged all that to give the book 4 stars.

This book is not complete in itself as it is clearly intended to be only the beginning of a long journey.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a young adult novel, but it has plenty to interest adults and in fact, I think it skews toward older teens rather than younger based on content.

CONNECTED BOOKS: POISON PRINCESS is the first book in the Arcana Chronicles.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: The Master

Review: The MasterThe Master (The Game Maker, #2) by Kresley Cole
Series: The Game Maker #2
Published by Gallery Books on February 17th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 448
Goodreads
five-stars

Wow! A Hot Book With a Hot Russian

“Never, never, never trust another man.”

THE STORY: Catarina Marin is desperate. She has been on the run for years from her murderous husband. She needs to flee Miami and needs money to do it. She decides to agree to be a substitute escort for one night in order to make enough money to leave. Her client is Maksim Sevastyan. Maksim is a rich Russian politician and also Mafiya. Cat is nothing like the woman that Maksim ordered but she is appealing to him in ways he doesn’t expect. Their experience is more explosive than either expects and both are drawn to one another in ways that two solitary people never expected.

OPINION: I loved this book. It is hot and full of angst. Cat is a great heroine who takes control of her own life even while it is a mess. Maksim is sexy and filled with his painful past. Cat and Maksim are wonderful together as these two people who have no trust to give one anyone find something special together. This book works so well together. This book is definite erotica, but even though sex is an important and central part of this book, the relationship is never overshadowed by the graphic sexual depictions. This book worked much better as a whole than the first in the series. After finishing this book, the reader is left with the strong characters as the focus rather than the erotica. The book was filled with witty conversations and sweet emotions for two people who don’t expect it. This was a book that grabbed me from the beginning and I loved just about everything about it.

WORTH MENTIONING: Fans of THE PROFESSIONAL will get to attend the wedding of Aleks and Natalie.

FINAL DECISION: I loved this book and found Cat and Maksim to be a great match in every way. There was enough drama and angst and hot sex to keep the story interesting without overwhelming the romance.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE MASTER is the second book in The Game Maker series. It can be read as a standalone although characters from the first book make significant appearances here.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

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five-stars

Review: The Professional

Review: The ProfessionalThe Professional (The Game Maker, #1) by Kresley Cole
Series: The Game Maker #1
Published by Simon & Schuster UK on May 6th 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-stars

Conflicted About This One

THE STORY: Natalie Porter is a grad student in Nebraska when the search for her birth parents leads her to discover that she is the long lost daughter of a Russian Mafia leader. She discovers this when her father”s enforcer, Aleksandr Sevastyan drags her out of her ordinary life and forces her on a plane to Russia. Natalie and Sevastyan are immediately combustible together in every way. Sevastyan was sent to protect Natalie but becomes obsessed with her while fighting his attraction to her. The two are quickly engaged in a sexual BDSM relationship while Sevastyan fights the emotional connection.

OPINION: I am conflicted about this book. I wonder if the original format (being split into three ebooks) interfered somewhat with the development of the story. I loved portions of this book. The beginning was incredibly strong. I am a complete sucker for the emotionally damaged alpha hero, but the continued conflict between Natalie and Sevastyan just went on too long in a too repetitive manner for me to find this a great book. It was on the edge of that, but at about the two-thirds mark, I found myself saying “not again!” The couple would have a break through and then her hero would back away once again — over and over again. I think the story could have been pared back somewhat. At the same time, I did love the rough alpha hero who doesn’t completely reform at the end and I liked how the heroine demands to be treated as a woman with her own sexual desires and wants even when the hero wants to treat her as fragile.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is erotic romance with extensive and explicit sexual exploits including public sex so readers should be warned.

FINAL DECISION: Parts of this book I really loved and some of it was just okay for me. I ultimately recommend it because I think it is interesting.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This is the first book of the Game Maker series. The second book will feature the brother of the hero of this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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four-stars

Review: Dark Skye

Dark Skye
Dark Skye by Kresley Cole
My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

Friends to Enemies to Lovers Story Shines

“Unfortunately, Lanthe had her own stalker — Thronos, a crazed, winged warlord who’d been obsessed with capturing her for the last five hundred years.”

FINAL DECISION: Powerful and painful, the journey of Lanthe and Thronos to find peace and love is tortured and twisted and yet these two both want to recapture their childhood idyll which can only come through understanding, acceptance and williness to change.

THE STORY: Melanthe “Lanthe” of the Deie Sorceri is the Queen of Persuasion and has spent years trying to reclaim her powers. She has been running and hiding from Thronos Talos, a Vrekener, who believes she is his mate. For four short and wonderful months, the two had been best friends as children. When Thronos betrayed her, causing the death of her parents, Lanthe made him jump from a high point, causing him to almost die. Now scarred and constantly in pain, Thronos has finally hunted down and captured Lanthe and intends on forcing her to accompanying him to his home at Skye Hall so that she can provide him heirs.

OPINION: This book is a journey into the relationship between Thronos and Lanthe. The two have a lot of baggage. Their journey entails an adventure through different realms each posing challenges to the two. The best part of the book is how the two learn to compromise with one another — learning that only through acceptance and compromise do they two stand any chance of building a life together. Their journey is difficult because the two have years of personal emnity, the longstanding hatred between Vrekeners and Sorceri, and the desire of Thronos for Lanthe to be different than she is. This book goes deep into working out the relationship between Thronos and Lanthe because they have a lot to get through.

The other good part of this book is how this book pulls together some threads from prior books. For me, I love how Cole shows the IAD story from different perspectives — moving the story back and then forward with more insight.

There are also some new insights as to what is going on with Nix. As readers of IAD know, Nix, the Valkyrie Soothsayer, has been working on some play dealing with the Accession. Here, more of her machinations are revealed.

WORTH MENTIONING: This story has a very sexually experienced heroine and a virgin hero. I liked how the two dealt with her sexual past — her being unwilling to regret her past and him coming to accept her rather than wanting to change her.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DARK SKYE is the fifteenth book in the Immortals After Dark series. The story in here is complete and can be read on its own, but there is a lot of intertwining with recent books concerning events and characters. I think this book is better if a reader is aware of the IAD mythology.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.25 stars