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.

Silver Thaw: Mystic Creek, Book 1

Silver ThawAuthor: Catherine Anderson
Book Name: Silver Thaw
Series: Mystic Creek
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb: After years of living in fear of her husband, Amanda Banning has left him and moved to Mystic Creek, Oregon, for a fresh start. But she’s having a tough time providing for herself and her six-year-old daughter. Writing her secret yearnings on slips of paper and sending them into the wind helps her cling to the hope that things will get better…and that she can find happiness again.

Jeb Sterling has no idea that the handwritten messages he finds scattered across his land are the first hints that his life is about to change. Nor does he understand why he feels so compelled to help Amanda Banning and her daughter when a cold snap leaves them temporarily homeless. Maybe he’s inspired by Amanda’s courage or perhaps by her beautiful brown eyes. Either way, the man who once renounced love suddenly finds himself willing to do anything for the pair. Amanda seems to have given up on her dreams, but Jeb refuses to quit until he makes her every wish come true….

Review:  I wasn’t all that sold on this one.  Within the first couple of chapters, I came close to putting it down and not finishing because there were a couple of things that just rubbed me wrong and that came across as soapbox preachy, which was kind of annoying.

I pushed beyond that and did finally get more into the story and was able to finish it.  I never really totally bought into the the whole story or the characters.  Just enough here and there felt off or just didn’t quite mesh for it to really click as totally believable.

The story itself is good and mostly on the sweet side even with some of the stuff with the abusive husband in the mix.  This is pretty heavy on the big, strong man to the rescue of the weak little woman theme, and that is kind of tired and wrung out to me, but it is still a sweet story.

All in all, it was just an okay book for me because there wasn’t much that really drew me in.

Back To You: Hurley Boys, Book 3

Back To YouAuthor: Lauren Dane
Book Name: Back To You
Series: Hurley Boys
Order: #3
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars

 

Blurb: What won’t he do for a second chance?

Former model Kelly Hurley has finally put the ashes of the past behind her. After a passionate but turbulent marriage to rock star Vaughan Hurley that ended in heartbreak and divorce, Kelly rebuilt her life in Portland, where she settled so their two young daughters could be close to their father. Just not so close Kelly couldn’t truly make her own way without interference from the man who shattered her heart. Now Kelly’s finally ready to move on, and she’s planning to marry another man.

But not if Vaughan has anything to say about it.

Vaughan knows he was a fool all those years ago. A young, selfish–and prideful–fool. Even as he buried himself in the fast, decadent rock-star lifestyle, he could never drown out the memory of Kelly’s beauty and love. Or the sweet, searing heat whenever they touched. For years, he’s had to deal with the pain of seeing her only because of their daughters, but it was never enough. Now Vaughan must prove that he’s the only man Kelly needs, before he loses her for good. And there’s only one way to do it….

Review: This was my least favorite book of the series.  Normally, I’m a pretty big Lauren Dane fan, but I really struggled with this one.

First, I really wasn’t a huge fan of how either character came across.  Vaughan came across as lacking in any real personality and character.  What little did show was kinda spineless and a following along without any real will of his own sort of feel.  Kelly came across really off.  Based on the storyline, she’d been divorced for 8 years, but still incredibly bitter about the whole thing and hanging on to all of that hurt, yet is totally okay with letting it all go after she was able to voice it.  I get where the author was wanting to go with this, but I just didn’t feel that the way this was written.  I also totally hated Sharon (Vaughan’s mom) in this, but thought she had been an awesome character in other books.

I think that part of the reason I struggled with the characters in this book was the dialog and how it was presented.  I honestly don’t remember if the dialog in other books came across the same, but I don’t remember feeling as annoyed by it before.  Here, it felt thrown out there and ranty in places with random bits tossed in without any context for it.  It didn’t seem to really flow well.  There were lots of times I had to stop and reread portions before to see if I missed something because there was suddenly a conversation going on and I wasn’t sure how it even came up.

I really wanted to love this book as I have most of the others, but I just couldn’t.  This wasn’t awful, not by a long shot, but it really wasn’t all that great either.

 

Total Surrender: Sin Brothers, Book 4

Total SurrenderAuthor: Rebecca Zanetti
Book Name: Total Surrender
Series: Sin Brothers
Order: #4
Genre: SciFi/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  A fight he must win . . .
Piper Oliver knows she can’t trust him. They warned her that the tall, dark, and sexy black-ops soldier Jory Dean would try to win her over with his steel-gray eyes and deadly charm, but she won’t be conned by this man they call a traitor. All she has to do is figure out the science necessary to save his life, and she’s done. Something isn’t adding up, though, and she won’t rest until she uncovers the truth-even if it’s buried in his deep, dangerous kiss.


A passion she can’t resist . . .
Jory will do anything to reunite with and save his brothers-even kidnap the gorgeous woman who’s working to deactivate the deadly chip in their spines. But the forces determined to destroy his family won’t let them go so easily. Keeping Piper alive is more than he bargained for-and so is his burning desire for her. But with every second bringing him closer to certain death, can he afford to lose himself in her hot and willing embrace?

Review:  This is the way an exciting, action and drama filled romance should be written.  Both of the main characters are amazingly wrought and full of personality.  Their chemistry on the page is really quite perfect.

As the 4th book in the series, it holds its own along with the ones that came before it and is just as good.  It was awesome to get to finally find out more about the last brother and to get his story.  I was not even remotely disappointed after finishing this.

When I read the author’s note at the beginning of the book, I was under the impression that this was the last book in the series.  They way it was finished, though, left a lot of potential for the author to come back and add to the series, but from another direction because there are still some unfinished strings just hanging out their ready to be pulled on.  Nothing frustrating, but definitely interesting.  While it would be awesome if we got to see more from this, it also wouldn’t be heartbreaking because we did get closure for all of the major characters that have been the focus of the books to this point.

Fire Kin: Half Light City, Book 4

Fire KinAuthor: M.J. Scott
Book Name: Fire Kin
Series: Half Light City
Order: #4
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

Blurb:  Imagine a city divided…a city readying itself for a war. The vampire Blood and the shape-shifting Beast Kind seek to seize control now that the treaty is broken. Only the humans stand in their way…but they stand without their Fae allies…and they desperately need help….

I chose to stay with the humans when the Fae withdrew from the City. I am a healer, and they need me. I know the odds are against them. I know they need reinforcements. But I never expected them to turn and seek aid from the depths of my past. Asharic is a powerful Fae, exiled by the Veiled Queen thirty years ago. Leaving me behind. But now the queen is dead and the throne is vacant, and Ash is returning to the City—my City—with his mercenary army.

It would be false to deny that there is still a spark between us, but I will not be taken in again. And I’m not the only one disturbed by his return. A Blood lord is poised to conquer the Half-Light City, and other enemies new and old are gathering to eliminate the threat Ash poses. To save the City, we will have to join forces. And pray we’re not the ones who burn…

Review: Fire Kin is book 4 and the final one in the Half Light City series.  This one covers Bryony’s story.  I was a bit surprised that this was the focus character for this book at first, because I just wasn’t expecting it.  I did really enjoy the direction it went, though.

As a final book, this closed out the series nicely.  All of the issues that were brought into play in all the previous books saw a clean and believable resolution without any major strings left hanging.  There are no plans to return to this series, though the author’s FAQs section does mention that she may be willing to return to this world at a later date.

While I did enjoy this book quite a bit, the characters were probably my least favorite of the series.  I just didn’t get quite as into them as I have the others.  I think part of that was because of the impressions I had formed of Bryony in previous books struggled to line up with how she came across in this book.  As for Ash, I didn’t feel like he was as interesting as the other male leads in the other books, either.  Something about the interaction between the two was just a tad off for me and that kept me from liking them as much.  I think I enjoyed the non-romantic part of this book the most.

As a series, I did really like this one as it was pretty different than the typical shifter or vampire or even fae book out there without stretching those differences completely out of whack.  This introduced me to a new author for me and I’ll be watching to see what else she has to bring to the table.

Imager: The Imager Portfolio, Book 1

ImagerAuthor: L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
Book Name: Imager
Series: The Imager Portfolio
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

Blurb:  Although Rhennthyl is the son of a leading wool merchant in L’Excelsis, the capital of Solidar, the most powerful nation on Terahnar, he has spent years becoming a journeyman artist and is skilled and diligent enough to be considered for the status of master artisan—in another two years. Then, in a single moment, his entire life is transformed when his master patron is killed in a flash fire, and Rhenn discovers he is an imager—one of the few in the entire world of Terahnar who can visualize things and make them real.

He must leave his family and join the Collegium of Imagisle. Imagers live separately from the rest of society because of their abilities (they can do accidental magic even while asleep), and because they are both feared and vulnerable. In this new life, Rhenn discovers that all too many of the “truths” he knew were nothing of the sort. Every day brings a new threat to his life. He makes a powerful enemy while righting a wrong, and begins to learn to do magic in secret.

Review:  I actually had enough time between waiting for paint to dry before I could do more and after I was done for the day to get another book in while working on my daughter’s room.

I must note, that my preferences tend to lean towards female authors.  This is most often because how they typically express the worldview of their characters and attitudes seems to be easier for me to connect with than most male authors.  This is not an absolute, but is generally the norm, so it isn’t often that I find a male author that I enjoy.  That made this a bit of a surprise for me as I did enjoy this book.

I really wasn’t sure that was going to be the case because there were pieces early on that felt a bit dry and a little on the archaic or old fashioned side with regards to the usage of language and phrases.  This is, again, not usually something that I would enjoy because writing like that is often tedious to plow through. This was really well written, though, and I quickly found myself deep into the story and not getting caught up in the language.

Both the world and the characters in this were well crafted.  I did have a few little quirks and issues that I wasn’t thrilled with.  One was the supposed level of secrecy of the imagers in serving the counsel.  No one was supposed to know, but there really weren’t any real precautions to prevent people from easily finding out.  The other was that I felt that there was quite a bit of extra “stuff” that was written that wasn’t in any way essential to the story and really kind of felt like filler in places.  There is a possibility that some of that may come into play in later books, but it wasn’t clear in this one.

With those few exceptions, this was a good book and I’m looking forward to the next one in the series.

Dragon Wytch: Otherworld, Book 4

Dragon WytchAuthor: Yasmine Galenorn
Book Name: Dragon Wytch
Series: Otherworld
Order: #4
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  We’re the D’Artigo sisters: savvy–and sexy–operatives for the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. But being half-human, half-Fae short-circuits our talents at all the wrong times. My sister Delilah shapeshifts into a tabby cat whenever she’s stressed. Menolly’s a vampire who’s still getting the hang of being undead. And me? I’m Camille, a wicked-good witch, trying to juggle faulty magic, gorgeous men, and the demonic war in which we’re embroiled. Sometimes, it’s hard to know just who we can trust…

The Equinox is coming, and mayhem rules. A crown-prince unicorn offers us a legendary gift, but it vanishes. Goblins and trolls swarm the streets of Seattle. And now Smoky, the sexiest dragon alive, decides to stake his claim–on me. Overshadowing it all, the third spirit seal surfaces and Shadow Wing’s after it. But I’ve discovered a secret that could change everything. A new power is rising–a dangerous force from the past–one that intends to restore balance to the worlds…whether we like it or not…

Review: This is another good story in the series, though I’m beginning to be a bit torn as to whether I should keep rating these as a 4.  The things that bothered me in previous books, seem to keep bothering me rather than getting better.  The books about Camille seem to bug me the most at this point.

The nature of her relationships just doesn’t seem to work all that well for me.  In this book, she begins a relationship with Smoky the dragon, but he comes across as some seriously creep stalker, especially if you look at how Camille seems to feel uncomfortable around him and some of the things he says and does.  This is on top of being in two other relationships that, apparently, are all good with the openness of it even though the reader is only told that everything is hunky dory and didn’t actually get to see the issues worked out.

I have no problem with multiple partner relationship stories, but I have to believe that they work the way the author is writing them.  I just can’t seem to get into this one.  If I could take out the relationship aspect of these books, I’d probably really love them.  As it is, I enjoy the action and plot parts of the story, but end up kind of skimming the relationship parts because they just don’t appeal to me.

Non-Reading Summer Projects

I probably wont’ have a whole lot of time over the next couple of weeks to get very many books read and reviews written because it is closing in on my summer project time.  I am in the middle of one book that I will, hopefully, have time to sit down and finish later today.  After that, it might be a bit hit or miss.

Summer seems to be major project time for me, especially since my kids are home for the summer.  The last couple of years, the focus was on my boys’ rooms.  This year it is Baby Girl’s turn.  I’m going to be doing a full on re-do of her room starting with getting all of her furniture either cleaned up enough to be good or even repainted in a few cases where there are too many scuffs and scratches or even just had the paint wear off.

The next part of the project is going to be to repaint the walls.  As usual, I’m feeling a bit ambitious and won’t be doing just a simple paint the walls a new color.  No, we are doing two different colors with a new piece of trim about 2/3 of the way up the wall and a tree silhouette in one corner with a couple of cat silhouettes (’cause we can’t do a project in her room without including at least one cat), 3D flowers and butterflies (which I think we are going to have to make) in and around the tree, new bedding and curtains and a whole lot of rearranging of the stuff that is already on the walls so that the pretty new design doesn’t get overwhelmed.

I’m kind of in a hold patter with starting as I can’t get the paint colors until her comforter comes in.  I’ll be starting on getting the furniture ready and painted first.  One piece I even have to take to my Dad to get him to repair a small crack.  Since he will be fixing it in his spare time and everyone in the family is always demanding to take up every bit of that time with their own projects, he may not be able to get to it right away.

Even though this is probably going to be my biggest painting project yet, it will be well worth it when I’m done.  I absolutely love how a room looks when it has a fresh coat of paint, even more so when it is is a new color.  When we moved into this house over 11 years ago, all the walls were a very bland beige for the express purpose of me getting to repaint them all.  It was my blank canvas.  It has taken a while, but Baby Girl’s room is the last major room to get painted.  The only rooms that will be left will be the part of the kitchen over the cabinets and the laundry room.  Since I could care less about the laundry room and I’m not thrilled with trying to crawl around on top of my cabinets, I’m not certain I’ll ever do those rooms.  More than likely, I’ll start back at the beginning with new colors.  Not any time soon though.  This project will be more than enough to run my creative juices low enough I won’t feel the need for another paint project for quite some time.

Sugar’s Twice As Sweet: Sugar, Georgia, Book 1

Sugar's Twice As SweetAuthor: Marina Adair
Book Name: Sugar’s Twice As Sweet
Series: Sugar, Georgia
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars

 

Blurb:  He’s trouble she doesn’t need . . .

Thanks to a cheating fiancé, Josephina Harrington’s perfect life just crashed and burned. Moving in with her overbearing parents is definitely not an option. No, she needs to prove she can make it on her own. And she will-by turning her great-aunt’s old plantation house into a destination getaway. She’s just not expecting her contractor to be so hands-on-and so totally irresistible.

. . . but everything she wants

Bad-boy golf champion Brett McGraw figured his hometown of Sugar, Georgia was the perfect place to lay low and get his life back up to par. The leggy blonde with a pint-sized pup is the kind of sweet ‘n sassy trouble he never saw coming. She doesn’t know a nut from a bolt and before long, he’s renovating her house . . . as she steals his heart. Can he convince Josephina that his womanizing ways are in the past and he’s ready for forever?

Review:  This was a cute, fun, lighthearted read.  The main characters were both pretty fun and believable and the chemistry between them definitely worked.  I liked the work up in how they managed to get together while still managing to keep things interesting.

I wasn’t a fan of the Old Lady Brigade.  Instead of them coming across as just ornery old biddies stirring up trouble, they really came across more of just down right nasty and mean.  The things they did weren’t funny little pranks, but really kind of hateful.  It was hard to believe that they were just doing that because they cared for Josephina’s Aunt and her memory.  That part of the story just didn’t quite work for me.  I’d like to say that it was easy enough to overlook as not being essential to the plot, but their behavior and attitudes were essential and knocked this down a notch for me.

The ending is pretty much predicable in standard romance novel fashion, but still fits into the overall feel of the book of keeping it on the lighter side of things.  Definitely a good one for when that is the mood you are looking for.