Garrett: Cold Fury, Book 2

GarrettAuthor: Sawyer Bennett
Book Name: Garrett
Series: Cold Fury
Order: #2
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:   Carolina Cold Fury star Garrett Samuelson never wants to miss out on a single minute of fun. Whether he’s playing hockey, hanging out with friends, or walking the red carpet with a new date on his arm, he lives every day to the fullest. When he meets Olivia Case, he sees someone who’s exactly his type—confident, sexy, smart . . . his next fling. But the more he pursues her, the more Garrett shares a side of himself that other women don’t normally get to see.

Olivia has been keeping a secret. While Garrett lives for the next thrill, Olivia’s not sure she’ll live to see the next day. She’s undergoing treatment for some serious medical issues, and she doesn’t have time for a relationship with no guarantees—especially one with a hot-as-sin womanizer who won’t take no for an answer. But as she gets to know the real Garrett, Olivia can’t help falling for him . . . hard. To reveal the truth would mean risking everything—but you can’t score without taking the tough shots.

Review:  This came across as a pretty new and fresh take on a romance story from the start.  I definitely got into it and believed the connection between the characters.  It absolutely tugged at me from an emotional standpoint.

But…  and I hate that there is a but because I did love the story… I felt a little let down at what ended up being a pretty standard break up/get back together ending.  I felt that since this had such a different vibe from the standard that it should have a non-standard ending.  The characters we see towards the end just don’t feel like the same amazing characters that I saw through the rest of the book.  All the emotional momentum that was built up through the rest of the story kind of popped like a balloon and was just gone at the very end.  There were so many possibilities for a unique ending with this story and we get the standard instead. *sigh*

Again, the story was really good until that point.  Even though it was standard, it was still good, but I had really expected more.

Cover Your Eyes: Mary Burton

Cover Your EyesAuthor: Mary Burton
Book Name: Cover Your Eyes
Series: Morgans of Nashville
Order: #1
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  Don’t Look

At first, they struggle to escape. Then a torrent of blows rains down upon their bodies until their eyes cloud over in final agony. The killer shows no remorse–just a twisted need to witness each victim’s last terrified moments.

Don’t Speak

Public defender Rachel Wainwright is struggling to reopen a decades-old case, convinced that the wrong man is in prison. Homicide detective Deke Morgan doesn’t want to agree. But if Rachel’s hunch is correct, whoever fatally bludgeoned young, beautiful Annie Dawson thirty years ago could be the source of a new string of brutal slayings.

Just Prepare To Die

Rachel’s investigation is about to reveal answers–but at a price she never thought to pay. Now she’s become the target of a rage honed by years of jealousy and madness. And a murderer is ready to show her just how vicious the truth can be. . .

Review:  This was a seriously intense read with lots of twisty and unexpected turns that left me constantly trying to guess where it was going to go next.  There were lots of different characters and it got confusing a couple of times, but there really weren’t any that didn’t end up being important in one way or another to the story.

Both Rachel and Deke were very well written characters.  Both having their own issues, neither being perfect, but they were both solid in the characters that were created for them.  While the romance between the two was far from the focus, it was given just the right amount of attention without taking shortcuts and giving it the quick, perfect, hearts and flowers ending in the last couple of pages.  It deals with their interest in each other and their willingness to explore that, but doesn’t force the idea that it was a romance story perfect relationship.  It showed the potential for a great relationship that was different and special, but it was also very real.

In the end, we do get a lot of the bad guy giving it all up kind of a situation, but not every last crumb of the mystery was resolved in those moments.  Some came earlier from good old fashioned observation and smarts, some came in the big reveal and some was shown to be discovered by connecting some of those loose strings after the fact, so it makes the revelation scenario a bit more believable.

Just really enjoyed this one all around.

Forbidden Highlander: Dark Sword, Book 2

Forbidden HighlanderAuthor: Donna Grant
Book Name: Forbidden Highlander
Series: Dark Sword
Order: #2
Genre: Fantasy/Historical Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Fallon McLeod has gifts any warrior would covet—fierce strength, unmatched skill, even immortality. But those gifts have come at a price that puts everyone he loves at risk. Only when his brother, Quinn, is taken captive does Fallon leave the seclusion of his Highland home to seek the king’s aid. And though every woman at court would gladly be his for the asking, one alone causes desire to roar to life within him: beautiful, mysterious Larena Monroe.

Rumors swirl around the castle about “The McLeod” but Larena knows the truth. Like Fallon, Larena is searching for a way to vanquish the evil Druid who wants to wreak havoc on earth. Drawn to Fallon in spite of her fear, she surrenders to a passion that shocks them both with its raw intensity. But Larena dares not hope for more—not when she holds a secret that could turn her fiery Highland love against her forever…

Review:  As with the first book, it came across as a pretty decent story, but honestly?  Nothing that was all that special or knocked my socks off.  The characters in this book seemed a bit wishy washy and not that solid, so I didn’t get that into them.  For me, this really was just an okay read.  I am planning on reading the next one because this one left a whole lot open, but after that I’m not sure I’ll read more.

 

Never More: Gray Court, Book 6

Never MoreAuthor: Dana Marie Bell
Book Name: Never More
Series: Gray Court
Order: #6
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  Amanda Pierson’s long-overdue holiday at the Dunne farm unexpectedly turns into a working vacation when she’s roped into throwing together a last-minute dream wedding for Michaela Exton and Robin Goodfellow. No biggie for one of the best party planners at Fantasy Events, Inc., right?

Right.

A monkey wrench lands with a thud when the groom’s son—who’s been watching her every move—declares they were meant to be together. Raven Goodfellow is everything she doesn’t want in a lover. Brash, bold and goth. Yet there’s something almost…magical about their attraction.

The moment Raven saw Amanda’s picture, he had suspicions. Now that he’s seen her in person, he’s certain. She is his truebond, though it will take a delicate, feather-light touch to bring her into his world.

Love takes wing faster than a bird in flight. But when the Dark Queen sends agents to destroy him, Raven finds himself in a desperate fight to protect all he holds dear…or the Dark Queen may succeed where so many others have failed.

Review:  Never More is another fun, sexy addition to the Gray Court series.  Both Raven and Amanda are quirky and playful and you can’t help but grin at their punny banter.

As with other Gray Court books in the series, we still get time with some of our other favorite characters, though I think I would have liked a little more time with Raven and Amanda rather than quite so much focus on the other characters.

This one also left me feeling as though it was really kind of unfinished.  The major dramatic parts, especially towards the end, felt a little flat, especially when compared to some of the other books.  By the time I got to the epilogue, I was thinking “That’s it?” because there were some major plot pieces that were totally left open.

So, while I did enjoy this book, it isn’t my favorite of the series so far.

 

Night Huntress: Otherworld, Book 5

Night HuntressAuthor: Yasmine Galenorn
Book Name: Night Huntress
Series: Otherworld
Order: #5
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  We’re the D’Artigo sisters: sexy, savvy operatives for the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. But being half-human, half-Fae means our supernatural talents always go haywire at the wrong time. My sister Camille is a wicked good witch who attracts men like honey attracts flies. Menolly’s a vampire who’s still getting the hang of being undead. And me? I’m Delilah, a werecat who’s been marked by the Autumn Lord as one of his Death Maidens. And wouldn’t you know it, Karvanak–the demon general who stole the third Spirit Seal–is back.  And this time, he’s out for blood…

The Hags of Fate enjoy seeing me squirm.  First, my boyfriend, Chase, mutters another woman’s name in his sleep.  Then I discover the Autumn Lord has a very special plan for me.  But things go from bad to deadly when Karvanak–the Rāksasa–returns.  In order to get his greedy hands on both the fourth Spirit Seal and his former associate, Vanzir, he kidnaps Chase. Now, we have to find a way to rescue the man I love without risking the safety of both Otherworld and Earth…

Review:  I finally had to drop my rating for one of the books in this series because all the things that bothered me in the first few books are still there and absolutely aren’t improving.  Mainly, the utter lack of ability to connect to the characters with regards to their romantic relationships.

It just isn’t all that entertaining to read a story that is supposed to have a romantic aspect to it and have that romance entail the main connection not only cheat, but lie about it completely, then admit that he just felt like it (and for no other reason than that he is a pig), then have the woman pretty much shrug and say “Okay, I forgive you”.  No matter if the “culture” is all about open relationships.

I have no problems what-so-ever with stories about poly or multi-partner relationships.  I don’t even have problems with stories about casual relationships.  But I’m just not buying the openness that is supposed to be a part of the fae culture that the main characters are from.  Not the way it is being written.  It just does not come of as genuine.  I haven’t felt it in the other stories, but this one was the absolute worst.  Openness does not equate a lack of respect for the parties involved in the relationship and that that lack of respect is okay.

Really, the whole relationship part of this book kind of killed what I liked about the rest of it because it was just so incredibly off for me I couldn’t get past it.  Honestly, it was enough that I really should probably even give it a lower review than I did.

I don’t know if I will bother with any of the other books in the series if this is what I have to look forward to.  Yes, I want to read about all the mystical parts of the story as well, but if I dislike so much of the rest of the book, then it becomes a chore rather than a pleasure to read.

 

I’ll Find You: Nancy Bush

I'll Find YouAuthor: Nancy Bush
Book Name: I’ll Find You
Series: **
Order: **
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars

 

Blurb: Only Killing Stops The Pain. . .

Callie Cantrell has only fragmented memories of the car accident that killed her husband and son. One year later, she’s still trying to start over, yet she can’t shake her unease. Especially when former LA cop West Laughlin barges into her life, searching for his young nephew. At first he thinks Callie’s lying about who she is and what she knows. But soon it’s clear that Callie and West are linked by a killer who has bent others to his twisted will. The worst night of Callie’s life was just the beginning of his vengeance. And when her turn comes again there will be no escape. . .

Review:  For the most part, this was a pretty good book.  The balance between the suspense and the romance was well done and the storyline itself was interesting enough to keep the pages turning.

That said, there were a couple of things that were irritating enough that it dragged me out of what I was reading long enough for me to lose the flow a few times.

The first one wasn’t huge, but considering it got my brain going along that path rather than where the story was supposed to take me was enough to mention it.  That is the huge number of personal connections between the various different characters and the possibility that things could have actually played out the way they did.  In most cases, the meetings that happened between characters, while hugely coincidental, were mostly justified, even if we didn’t figure out that justification right away.  I was able to get my brain past thinking, “Well, that was convenient” most of the time, but the final straw came at the very end.  No matter how well explained all the other potential meets came out, the last connection was so not realistic, especially with all the other connections in the story that it kind of killed it for me at that point.

Also, not a huge fan of the bad guy(s) spilling their guts at the end to explain everything in the last 15% of the book.  No matter how inventive or creative you get in the rest of the story, I tend to lose a bit of respect for the creativity if that is how things get wrapped up, no matter how you get those character’s to spill.  It is taking the easy way out.

Finally, this book hit on one of my peeves in writing.  It had a huge, glaring, neon sign contradictory back story for one of the big baddies.  I knew I’d read one thing early on and then read something totally different later.  At first, I thought maybe what I’d read actually applied to another character, then decided to go dig to make sure I wasn’t completely losing my mind (thank goodness I was reading on my Nexus and could search out terms to find what I was looking for).  Sure enough, early on in the book, the bad guy supposedly whacked his abusive dad on the head with a rock and then drown him when he was 9, followed by the mom pretty much wasting away after the death.  Then, towards the end, the same character supposedly had that same dad, who was apparently loved by lots and lots of women along with the mother (so not the image of a vicious abusive ass) die of cancer when he was 16 and then kept in contact with the mother until her own death much more recently.

No, neither back story was really critical to the plot of the story, but it was supposed to help explain a bit of the crazy for this particular bad guy, which in the end didn’t actually matter at all and could have been left out entirely.  The fact that it was not only not cut, but not caught was seriously annoying as it totally pulled me out of the story to go fact checking.  After that, little things bugged me even more, like the personal connections, and I ended up not liking the book as well as I could have, because other than those things, it was a good book.

Trailer Park Fae: Gallow and Ragged , Book 1

Trailer Park FaeAuthor: Lilith St. Crow
Book Name: Trailer Park Fae
Series: Gallow and Ragged
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Didn’t Like/DNF
2+stars

 

Blurb: Jeremiah Gallow is just another construction worker, and that’s the way he likes it. He’s left his past behind, but some things cannot be erased. Like the tattoos on his arms that transform into a weapon, or that he was once closer to the Queen of Summer than any half-human should be. Now the half-sidhe all in Summer once feared is dragged back into the world of enchantment, danger, and fickle fae – by a woman who looks uncannily like his dead wife. Her name is Robin, and her secrets are more than enough to get them both killed. A plague has come, the fullborn-fae are dying, and the dark answer to Summer’s Court is breaking loose.
Be afraid, for Unwinter is riding…

Review:  I could not force myself to finish this.  The writing style came across as someone with grandiose plans of writing high literary fiction.  Considering that is not at all what is expected when reading the blurb, it was incredibly disappointing.  Most people pick books like this up to read for entertainment, not a reminder of high school English and the Shakespeare unit they had to plow through.

The vague and archaic style that this book was entirely written in made reading it a chore rather than a joy.  If I have to spend tons of time while reading a few sentences to try and decipher the meaning, and even then it is only a guess, then it is a complete waste of that time.  Again, I’m reading for entertainment, not a class credit.

Whiskey and Wry: Sinners , Book 2

Whiskey and WryAuthor: Rhys Ford
Book Name: Whiskey and Wry
Series: Sinners
Order: #2
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb: He was dead. And it was murder most foul. If erasing a man’s existence could even be called murder.

When Damien Mitchell wakes, he finds himself without a life or a name. The Montana asylum’s doctors tell him he’s delusional and his memories are all lies: he’s really Stephen Thompson, and he’d gone over the edge, obsessing about a rock star who died in a fiery crash. His chance to escape back to his own life comes when his prison burns, but a gunman is waiting for him, determined that neither Stephen Thompson nor Damien Mitchell will escape.

With the assassin on his tail, Damien flees to the City by the Bay, but keeping a low profile is the only way he’ll survive as he searches San Francisco for his best friend, Miki St. John. Falling back on what kept him fed before he made it big, Damien sings for his supper outside Finnegan’s, an Irish pub on the pier, and he soon falls in with the owner, Sionn Murphy. Damien doesn’t need a complication like Sionn, and to make matters worse, the gunman—who doesn’t mind going through Sionn or anyone else if that’s what it takes kill Damien—shows up to finish what he started.

Review:  This is actually the first book in the series that I read (silly me didn’t realize there was one before this… sheesh!), but I didn’t end up feeling lost.  There were a few bits that it probably would have helped to have already read, but it wasn’t enough to take away from me being able to sink down deep into the story.

I really enjoyed this one quite a bit.  It was a tad crazy on the… well… crazy that was coming after our main character, Damien.  That dude was just seriously sick.  I probably could have done with a little less of that brand of crazy, but it still fit into the storyline pretty well.  I do think a bit more focus on the romantic aspects rather than the crazy might have fixed a couple of issues I had later in the story.

Both Damien and Sionn started out as really intriguing characters and I was drawn to them both right away.  I kind of lost that connection with Damien later in the story for some reason, though.  I totally got Sionn and felt his emotional connection to Damien, but lost something of that connection on Damien’s side.  It felt a little lacking.  It wasn’t a lot and it didn’t keep me from still enjoying the characters, I just think I needed to see more from Damien.

This was definitely a read that kept me really involved in the story the whole way through.

 

Where Secrets Sleep: Marta Perry

Where Secrets SleepAuthor: Marta Perry
Book Name: Where Secrets Sleep
Series: **
Order: **
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb: In small town Laurel Ridge, not everything is as simple as it appears

After a terrible betrayal, Allison Standish flees Philadelphia for the small Amish village of Laurel Ridge to claim an unexpected inheritance. Allison intends to sell the mansion housing various shops on Main Street–until she meets Nick Whiting, a single father and tenant of Blackburn House, who challenges everything she believes about her estranged grandmother and the Amish community.

Strange stipulations in her grandmother’s will soon bring distant relatives and seething townsfolk to Allison’s door. As anonymous threats escalate, Nick grows protective of Allison, and she finds herself falling for the handsome carpenter… But then she discovers her grandmother’s death may not have been accidental, and someone wants Allison gone. Permanently.

Review: I really wasn’t jazzed by this book.  While the basic story with regards to the mystery/suspense part of the book was pretty well done, it totally lacked the support of the romance aspect of it.  That came across as something of an afterthought on the author’s part.  You would be reading along and getting into the story and then it was as if the author remembered that this was also supposed to be a romance and threw those characters together for a brief moment before getting back to business.

I don’t need a book to have loads of steamy for me to classify it as a romance, but you absolutely need more personal interaction than a few tiny kisses here and there for me to believe the emotion behind a relationship.  You definitely need more than a few hours together over a few weeks for me to believe that your characters are deeply, emotionally connected to each other no matter what else may be going on in the story.  Heck, even if those personal interactions are just conversations and time spent doing anything together, it works way better than the effort that was put into this.

I used to really love the mystery genre, but I haven’t been all that interested lately.  I picked this up because I  wanted something different for a change.  The potential for a good mystery romance seemed to be just want I was looking for.  Since the romance totally fell flat for me, I hoped I’d get a lot more out of the mystery aspect of the story.  While it was decent, it wasn’t awesome and definitely didn’t make up for the missing romance.  Besides, there are only so many times when the bad guy spills his guts at the end to wrap everything up nicely in a bow before it becomes a cookie cutter ending to a mystery and leaves the reader half expecting to here “… darn meddling kids!”

 

The Magpie Lord: A Charm of Magpies , Book 1

The Magpie LordAuthor: KJ Charles
Book Name: The Magpie Lord
Series: A Charm of Magpies
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Historical Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars

 

Blurb: Exiled to China for twenty years, Lucien Vaudrey never planned to return to England. But with the mysterious deaths of his father and brother, it seems the new Lord Crane has inherited an earldom. He’s also inherited his family’s enemies. He needs magical assistance, fast. He doesn’t expect it to turn up angry.

Magician Stephen Day has good reason to hate Crane’s family. Unfortunately, it’s his job to deal with supernatural threats. Besides, the earl is unlike any aristocrat he’s ever met, with the tattoos, the attitude…and the way Crane seems determined to get him into bed. That’s definitely unusual.

Soon Stephen is falling hard for the worst possible man, at the worst possible time. But Crane’s dangerous appeal isn’t the only thing rendering Stephen powerless. Evil pervades the house, a web of plots is closing round Crane, and if Stephen can’t find a way through it—they’re both going to die.

Warning: Contains hot m/m sex between a deeply inappropriate earl and a very confused magician, dark plots in a magical version of Victorian England, family values (not the good kind), and a lot of swearing.

Review:  The irreverence in the attitude of the characters in this book charmed me from the very beginning.  I couldn’t help but love them.  Toss in a really fun magical twist and I was sold.

I loved how the story and plot were a huge focus in this with the flirting and romance being twisted in elegantly along the way.  It wasn’t too heavy or too light on either side, both being well crafted and executed.

This was an incredibly entertaining read and I’m hooked in to grab the next book as soon as possible.

 

 

 

The Cake Therapist: Judith Fertig

The Cake TherapistAuthor: Judith Fertig
Book Name: The Cake Therapist
Series: **
Order: **
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Claire “Neely” O’Neil is a pastry chef of extraordinary talent. Every great chef can taste shimmering, elusive flavors that most of us miss, but Neely can “taste” feelings—cinnamon makes you remember; plum is pleased with itself; orange is a wake-up call. When flavor and feeling give Neely a glimpse of someone’s inner self, she can customize her creations to help that person celebrate love, overcome fear, even mourn a devastating loss.

Maybe that’s why she feels the need to go home to Millcreek Valley at a time when her life seems about to fall apart. The bakery she opens in her hometown is perfect, intimate, just what she’s always dreamed of—and yet, as she meets her new customers, Neely has a sense of secrets, some dark, some perhaps with tempting possibilities. A recurring flavor of alarming intensity signals to her perfect palate a long-ago story that must be told.

Neely has always been able to help everyone else. Getting to the end of this story may be just what she needs to help herself.

Review:  When I read the blurb for this I was intrigued.  The concept sounded like something new and incredibly interesting.  Come on, cake!  How can that not be interesting!  Sadly, the cake descriptions were probably the best parts of the book.

It felt like I was constantly waiting for something to happen.  When is the romance going to come into the story?  It IS marked as a romance (double checked other places than my library to be sure).  I was also constantly looking for a little bit more detail on Neely’s talent or what was actually going on with her life and why she moved back home or… on anything that WASN’T about cake.

By the end of the book, I was still waiting.  We did finally learn the reason for her to move and start up her business, but that issue wasn’t actually resolved.  There was a brief conversation that makes you think you know but no actual action taken towards that end.  We got a few more details about the talent that is really just the fact that she has a psychic ability that is apparently tied to flavors (which I still think is a really awesome concept, it just wasn’t fully fleshed out), but… isn’t always apparently.  Again, still not totally clear as there just wasn’t any background at all on it.

I was also still waiting for what classified this book as a romance.  If you want to call very, very brief hints and a small reveal of a bad marriage and a light interest in another person a romance, then I think it is time to rethink that because this just wasn’t a romance.

This book had so much potential, but I don’t think it lived up to it.  I probably could have given it a 4 star for creativity, but there was very little substance.  If you want a food analogy to go along with the cake, it was kind of like eating cotton candy.  Heavy on the sweet, gone in a second and left wondering what happened, and not very satisfied.

Dangerous Highlander: Dark Sword, Book 1

Dangerous HighlanderAuthor: Donna Grant
Book Name: Dangerous Highlander
Series: Dark Sword
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Historical Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars

 

Blurb: The bold and passionate Lucan MacLeod—one of three brothers cursed by dark magic for eternity—is driven by desire for the one woman he dare not let himself possess…

He is magnificently strong—and dangerously seductive. One of the fiercest of his clan, Lucan MacLeod is a legend among warriors, inspiring fear in man and woman alike. For three hundred years, he has locked himself away from the world, hiding the vengeful god imprisoned in his soul. But then, a young lass caught in a raging storm awakens his deepest impulses…and darkest desires.

Cara doesn’t believe the rumors about the MacLeod castle—until the majestic Highland warrior appears like a fiery vision in the storm, pulling her into his powerful arms, and into his world of magic and Druids. An epic war between good and evil is brewing. And Lucan must battle his all-consuming attraction for Cara—or surrender to the flames of a reckless, impossible love that threatens to destroy them both…

Review: This has the look and feel of the standard historical romance with the slight paranormal twist.  Sadly, that twist is, at its base, so very similar to another series that I read a few years ago.  For me, because I read that other series first, and liked it, it was hard to get over feeling like it was that same thing with some basic differences.

I did enjoy the story on its own and the characters were very well done.  Cara pushes the helpless boundaries, but doesn’t cross them as she does end up learning to fight for herself.

I wasn’t all that jazzed about the fact that it was glossed over about the fact that Cara was mortal and Lucan wasn’t.  It was definitely discussed, but in the end, while they get their HEA, there is no explanation as to if or how that issue is overcome.  It is possible that it will be addressed in later books, but I just didn’t really like that it was an issue that was left hanging.

This was a good story that probably could have gotten a 4 star rating if I wasn’t so stuck on similarities to another series.

Song of Midnight Embers: Maggie’s Grove, Book 4

Song of Midnight EmbersAuthor: Dana Marie Bell
Book Name: Song of Midnight Embers
Series: Maggie’s Grove
Order: #4
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb: Fire elemental Mollie Ferguson is on the wrong side of a group of enraged shifter wolves. She’s been secretly investigating a plot that could destroy the small-town supernatural haven of Maggie’s Grove. But when a beloved pack member is killed, everyone thinks she’s the murderer. In desperation, she turns to the one person who will help her–the true mate she rejected. His presence rekindles an old, irresistible desire, and makes her wish she’d chosen differently.

Without Mollie as his lover, the dryad Greer Berkley is dying, the leaves of his birch turning to autumn shades. But he will not allow himself to fade until he has ensured Mollie’s safety. All know Greer as a healer, but few know the true depth of his power as a defender.

Greer and Mollie must complete her investigation and clear her name before the pack demands vengeance. And if they are to know each other’s touch at last, the only chance is now, before it’s too late for Greer.

Review:  Another really good one for this series.  One of the things I like about these books is that the characters are seriously quirky and fun even in the midst of all the crazy that goes on around them.  This book is no exception.

It is possible that Greer is my favorite character in this series.  His sense of humor and play is endearing and contagious.  I wasn’t as big of a fan of the back and forth doubts between him and Mollie, but that didn’t seem to last too long so it didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the book.

I’d definitely like to see an end to the demon involvement and have something a bit new for the characters of Maggie’s Grove to deal with for a change, but it looks like it is something that may be there for the long haul of the series.

 

Peeves: Unlabeled Genres

There isn’t much that is more frustrating when reading a book, and about a 1/3 of the way into it, you realize the book isn’t what you expected because it was missing genre labels.  This is something that has happened quite a lot recently, though, after a tiny bit of research, I think I have to lay this particular peeve squarely on my library’s shoulders.

My library tends to omit genre labels on an awful lot of their books.  At first, I thought that was because for some reason, the publishers or those marketing the books left those labels off in an effort to gain a larger readership as some labels will keep someone from picking the book up in the first place.  But after looking at a few specific books that were missing labels at the library, Amazon had them notated correctly, so it probably isn’t anyone’s fault but the library.  The three biggest labels they tend to leave off are Young Adult, LGBT and Christian.

The LGBT label missing is frustrating because that is a genre I read and I may miss a book that I might want to read because that label isn’t there.  Honestly, if someone isn’t going to pick up a book with the LGBT tag, then they are probably the type that is going to be pretty ticked to get into the book and realize what the subject actually is.  Leaving it off is just as likely to keep readers away from it as they are to bring them in.

Both the missing labels for Young Adult and Christian tick me off because I’m just not interested in either of those genres.  The only YA books that I enjoy are those by authors that I already love, and even then it is a stretch, so I generally don’t want to pick up a YA book unless I’ve specifically looked for it.  The Christian books are much the same, but more so because I honestly don’t enjoy any book preaching to me, no matter the subject.  Since there is a specific genre for this, it should be labeled as such.  And yes, my library does have this as one of their labels, they just don’t always use it.  Same as all the others.

It gets frustrating when I feel like I’ve wasted time reading a part of a book that I picked up based on the information I had from both the genre labels and the blurbs only to find out it so wasn’t what I was expecting.  It isn’t often that I will finish books that weren’t properly labeled.  Even the times that I’ve forced myself to plow through them, I normally don’t even like what I’ve read by the time I’ve finished.

I like it even less that I now feel like I need to look up a book in multiple places to ensure that what I think the book is, actually is.  Maybe by taking the time to do this I’ll read less books that I don’t like and more that I do.

Lord of the Fading Lands: Tairen Soul, Book 1

Lord of the Fading LandsAuthor: C. L. Wilson
Book Name: Lord of the Fading Lands
Series: Tairen Soul
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars

 

Blurb: Once he had scorched the world.

Once he had driven back overwhelming darkness.

Once he had loved with such passion, his name was legend. . .

Long ago, in the magical holocaust known as the Mage Wars, the immortal Fey and their allies fought to defeat the grasping evil of the Elden Mages and their dark-gifted supporters. During those wars, in a fit of grief-induced madness caused by the death of his mate, Fey shapeshifter Rain Tairen Soul nearly destroyed the world in a blaze of tairen fire.

Now, a thousand years later, the fierce Fey king must fight to save his race from the brink of extinction and once again stop the evil rising in the homeland of his enemies, the Eld. The key to his success lies in the mortal city of Celieria, where the Mage Wars began, and with a young woman whose soul sings to him in ways no woman’s ever has, whose presence reawakens the primal fury of the tairen within his soul, and whose vast, untapped power can either save or destroy him and his people.

Review:  This is the first book that was new to me that I’ve been willing to give a full 5 star rating to in a very long time.  I was completely stuck from the very beginning.

The characters were all excellent with lots of depth and intricacies in their personalities to make them the kinds of characters you just want more from, not just the main characters.

Ellysetta is very much on the innocent side and doesn’t fall into the stereotypes that end up feeling simpering, because while she may lack world experience, she does not lack a backbone.  We don’t see lots of it here, but enough to know that it is just going to get better as she becomes more of how she needs to be.  She is so not a Cinderella character.  She could have been, but she was written so much better than that.

Rain, is definitely your tortured soul who has suffered more than his fair share, but it is great to see how that begins to open back up as the story goes along.  There isn’t any one magical moment that fixes him.  He has to grow and relearn what it means to care again.

I even really loved most of Ellysetta’s guards and their very different personalities.  Heck, even the bad guys are really well done.

No, not totally thrilled that this is one of those stories that does not, in any way, end at the end of the book.  It does carry on to the next.  But… this was so incredibly well written it didn’t even put a dent in the 5 star placement this so well deserves.

 

Acrobat, Mary Calmes

AcrobatAuthor: Mary Calmes
Book Name: Acrobat
Series: **
Order: **
Genre: LGBT/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb: Forty-five-year-old English professor Nathan Qells is very good at making people feel important. What he’s not very good at is sticking around afterward. He’s a nice guy; he just doesn’t feel things the way other people do. So even after all the time he’s spent taking care of Michael, the kid across the hall, he doesn’t realize that Michael’s mob muscle uncle and guardian, Andreo Fiore, has slowly been falling in love with him.

 

Dreo has bigger problems than getting Nate to see him as a potential partner. He’s raising his nephew, trying to leave his unsavory job, and starting his own business, a process made infinitely more difficult when a series of hits takes out some key underworld players. Still, Dreo is determined to build a life he can be proud of—a life with Nate as a cornerstone. A life that is starting to look like exactly what Nate has been seeking. Unfortunately for Dreo—and for Nate—the last hits were just part of a major reorganization, and Dreo’s obvious love for Nate has made him a target too.

Review:  Totally enjoyed this one.  Of all the various LGBT romance books I’ve read, especially in the MM genre, this has got to be one of the better ones.  The author took the time to focus on all aspects of the story, plot, characters, dialog, scenes… everything.  And it shows.

I was so completely engrossed in this story that, while reading late into the night, hours has passed before I realized how late it had gotten.  This is not something that happens to me very often, and while reading a romance of any kind, even less often.

While Nate is kind of too perfect, he is still such an awesome character that you can’t help but love him.  I was a little iffy on Dreo at first, but really got hooked on him before too long as well.

I also really like that while this was a pretty warm and sweet story, it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine perfection.  It was close, but had just enough of the tough stuff to make it more real.

I will absolutely be picking up other books from this same author in the future.

 

The Shadow Revolution: Crown & Key, Book 1

The Shadow RevolutionAuthor: Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith
Book Name: The Shadow Revolution
Series: Crown & Key
Order: #1
Genre: SciFi/Fantasy/Historical/Steampunk
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb: They are the realm’s last, best defense against supernatural evil. But they’re going to need a lot more silver.

As fog descends, obscuring the gas lamps of Victorian London, werewolves prowl the shadows of back alleys. But they have infiltrated the inner circles of upper-crust society as well. Only a handful of specially gifted practitioners are equipped to battle the beasts. Among them are the roguish Simon Archer, who conceals his powers as a spell-casting scribe behind the smooth veneer of a dashing playboy; his layabout mentor, Nick Barker, who prefers a good pub to thrilling heroics; and the self-possessed alchemist Kate Anstruther, who is equally at home in a ballroom as she is on a battlefield.

After a lycanthrope targets Kate’s vulnerable younger sister, the three join forces with fierce Scottish monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane–but quickly discover they’re dealing with a threat far greater than anything they ever imagined.

Review: Loved this!  It was a really cool, fun, inventive book with lots of incredibly interesting and spunky characters.  Kind of a newer concept for me, but it really worked.

This was yet another book that was mostly focused on a male main character, but was a bit more balanced as we got to see perspectives from several of the characters, not just the one.  The magic system in this was different than what I’ve seen in other books, with the idea that there are different types of practitioners and how they access magic along with those that are more alchemists rather than just magic users.  How those differences were blended worked really well together.

I got a huge kick out of Kate’s snarky attitude and Simon’s rather debonair persona played together nicely with that.  Each of the other supporting characters were really unique.  I would have loved to have had Penny in more of the story.

While this does have a touch of the Steampunk vibe, we didn’t see an overwhelming amount of it, but it was well balanced.  Some of what we did see were really awesome concepts, but a few pushed the boundaries of believability because of the practical application of the apparent technology of the time didn’t seem to fit.  Even then, it works well because they are amazing anyway.

I’m hoping like crazy that the next book in the series is as good as this one.

Angel’s Ink: Asylum Tales, Book 1

Angel's InkAuthor: Jocelynn Drake
Book Name: Angel’s Ink
Series: Asylum Tales
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb: BUYER BEWARE…

Looking for a tattoo — and maybe a little something extra: a burst of good luck, a dollop of love, or even a hex on an ex?  Head to the quiet and mysterious Gage, the best skin artist in town.  Using his unique potions — a blend of extraordinary ingredients and special inks — to etch the right symbol, he can fulfill any heart’s desire.  But in a place like Low Town, where elves, faeries, trolls, werewolves, and vampires happily walk among humanity, everything has a price.

No one knows that better than Gage.  Turning his back on his own kind, he left the magical Ivory Towers where cruel witches and warlocks rule, a decision that cost him his right to practice magic.  If he disobeys, his punishment — execution — will be swift.

Though he’s tried to fly under the radar, Gage can’t hide from powerful warlocks who want him dead — or the secrets of his own past.  But with the help of his friends, Trixie, a gorgeous elf who hides her true identity, and a hulking troll named Bronx, Gage just might make it through this enchanted world alive.

Review:  I really liked the concept of the magic combined with tattoos.  I’ve read several stories where there is a mention of magical tattoos, but that concept is never dealt with as to how it is accomplished.  This book actually addresses that and puts a twist on it that makes it even more intriguing.

It was pretty cool to have the main character and focus of the story be a guy.  This was another new one for me coming from a female author.  That just isn’t something that happens often.  Gage is a really awesome mix of badass, with hints of imperfections and bad decisions, thrown in with someone really wanting to be a good guy, but constantly having to fight for it.

By the end of the story, there is still lots left hanging that will apparently be addressed in the next book(s).  Not a huge fan of that, but am willing to put up with it.  We did see a resolution to the immediate issue and that helped as well.

This is definitely one of those books where the main character is in an almost constant state of struggle/always having stuff thrown at them/forever having to battle with very little downtime for much else.  Again, not always a fan of this kind of book and won’t make them my primary reads, but this one was still a really good book and worth the time.

Soul Sucker: Soul Justice, Book 1

Soul SuckerAuthor: Kate Pearce
Book Name: Soul Sucker
Series: Soul Justice
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb: Supernatural Branch of Law Enforcement empath Ella Walsh sucks memories from people’s heads. The job fills her mind with others’ nightmares and leaves her with little time for love, but if she doesn’t pair off with a mate of the government’s choosing soon, the psychic blowback will destroy her powers and her sanity.

The last time shapeshifting SBLE superstar Vadim Morosov worked with an empath, he got her killed and himself assigned to a desk. He worries about taking on another partner, but helping Ella track down an empath killer might be his only chance to save his career.

Naturally, the government decides to throw them together.

They resist at first, but they can’t deny the simmering heat between them. As the killer’s strikes grow closer to home, their bond gets tighter. And when the murderer finally traps Ella, her developing link with Vadim might be the only thing that can save her.

Review: I liked this one quite a bit.  The concept that you have this amazing ability, but it comes with a horrible drawback that makes you a walking, ticking personal time bomb and is practically guaranteed was a twist on the typical fantasy/paranormal type of story.

Both of the main characters had interesting personalities and they worked really well together.  I enjoyed how they both struggled with their connection to each other and didn’t just take it as fact.  Besides the main characters, we also got to meet some other interesting people and types of people, and even more were just sort of hinted at.

At first, I thought that it was taking the author a while to truly get her main characters together, but then I realized that their story didn’t end with just this book.  That part was probably my least favorite of the book, because we learned very little about Vadim and I really wanted more.  It is obvious that we will get that in the next book, but I wish I knew that going in.

Other than the fact that this left a lot open at the end and I wanted more out of the relationship aspect of the story, the part of the story that is outside of that aspect was very well done.  It felt like something new and different and it definitely kept me engrossed.  While a lot of the relationship and its potential is set up for the next book, you still get a great story out of it.

 

Peeves: Undeveloped/Unsupported Dialog

This is one that seems to have been bombarding me quite a bit lately, because apparently a lot of authors, even some that are generally well rated, do this.

What I mean by undeveloped or unsupported dialog is when you have characters having a conversation, but the only thing that conversation contains is the text involved in the dialog.  There is little to nothing that is added to that to help the reader connect with what is being said.  Little to no actions by the characters, almost no scene continuation or descriptions, and very little thoughts or emotions expressed by the characters during the dialog segment.

Yes, readers connect to the words written on the page, but part of being able to do that is by allowing them to feel immersed in the scene.  When you throw only the words the characters are speaking at them without adding color, texture, emotion or dimension to those words, they kind of feel like they are just floating out there unanchored.  You can kind of compare it to having a conversation on the internet.  It is really easy to mistake what a person is saying without any real context to back it up.  You can take it the wrong way or add your own emotional emphasis to the conversation that may not actually be there and that gives it a whole other meaning.

In books, readers need that extra information to connect better to the characters and what is actually meant and going on.  Often, if an author didn’t support their conversations, it is easy to feel that the characters lack emotion or that the emotion the writer is trying to convey isn’t genuine.  Sometimes a reader can totally miss out on subtle clues that the author is trying to impart as well.

An example of a bad conversation set up I read set the scene of the two main characters sitting down on a couch with drinks to talk.  After that little detail of what was going on outside of the conversation, there were about 3 pages of nothing but talking.  Not once was there a pause in the dialog to note that either character took a drink, shifted positions on the couch, neither touched the other character in any way (it was something of a romantic scene, or was supposed to be, there should have been small caresses and touches here and there).  There also weren’t any thoughts mentioned from either character’s perspective as to how they were taking the conversation, not even mentions of facial expression changes, something as simple as smiles or frowns or how something was said.  Because it was missing all of those things, what should have been a kind of deep and important conversation came across as dry and lackluster and I felt like I’d missed something.

There are so many places in a typical written conversation to add depth and context to a scene.  In a lot of cases, it doesn’t even need a whole lot, but just enough to give the conversation a fuller feel.  Without those things, it is so much harder for readers to connect to characters in an emotional sense.  Absolutely, dialog is integral to a good book.  But because we do not get to actually see the characters in front of us like we do in a movie, we cannot see the body language and the environment, the emotional impact the words are having on the participants.  We need to be told about those things by the author.  The ones that don’t take the time to even put bits of that into their conversations are lazy in my opinion.

For me, if the dialog is presented without those critical supporting features, it can nearly kill a book no matter how well the author writes everything else.  I can think of a few authors that tend to write this way and, even though I often like their books, those books tend to get pushed to the bottom of my To Read list until I’ve already read the better books on that list.  It is surprising to me how many professionally published authors just don’t do really good dialog.  If they would take that little bit of extra effort, those books could easily go from good to excellent.

Ride Steady: Chaos, Book 3

Ride SteadyAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: Ride Steady
Series: Chaos
Order: #3
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Excellent/Favorite
5+stars

 

Blurb: Once upon a time, Carissa Teodoro believed in happy endings. Money, marriage, motherhood: everything came easy–until she woke up to the ugly truth about her Prince Charming. Now a struggling single mom stranded by flat tire, Carissa’s pondering her mistake when a vaguely familiar knight rides to her rescue on a ton of horsepower.

In high school, Carson Steele was a bad boy loner who put Carissa on a pedestal where she stayed far beyond his reach. Today, he’s the hard-bodied biker known only as Joker, and from the way Carissa’s acting, it’s clear she’s falling fast. While catching her is irresistible, knowing what to do with her is a different story. A good girl like Carissa is the least likely fit with the Chaos Motorcycle Club. Too bad holding back is so damned hard. Now, as Joker’s secrets are revealed and an outside threat endangers the club, Joker must decide whether to ride steady with Carissa–or ride away forever…

Review: Kristen Ashley does badass like no other.  Most, if not all, of my favorite characters were written by her.  This is one of my favorite series by her and this book was just as awesome as the rest.

I love both Joker and Carissa.  I wasn’t sure at first how much I’d like her because she seemed pretty much the Cinderella type that needs the man to take care of and rescue her, but she ended up totally not being that person.  I love how she found her backbone yet still stayed a sweet and caring person.

I also loved that we get to see so many other characters that we love, even bits from their perspective.  That is one of the coolest things about how Ms. Ashley writes in that she allows her different series to intermingle the characters.  We even got to hear from Knight in this one.

I would have loved to have seen Carissa’s lawyer take down the jackwad ex-father-in-law, but a book just cannot contain all that goodness without severe addiction concerns.

Absolutely loved this one and it will be getting added to my favorites list.