Book Review: Year One, Chronicles of the One – Book #1

Author: Nora Roberts
Book Name: Year One
Release Date: December 5, 2017
Series: Chronicles of the One
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Romance/Science Fiction/Distopian
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed—and more than half of the world’s population was decimated.

And as the power of science and technology receded, magic rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she share with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river—or in the ones you know and love the most. As word spreads that neither the immune nor the gifted are safe from the authorities who patrol the ravaged streets, Lana and Max make their way out of a wrecked New York City. At the same time, other travelers are heading west too, into a new frontier.

In a world of survivors where every stranger encountered could be either a savage or a savior, none of them knows exactly where they are heading, or why. But a purpose awaits them that will shape their lives and the lives of all those who remain.

The end has come. The beginning comes next.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars

This book actually fell pretty far outside of my normal reading genres as I rarely ever read dystopian or science fiction (just not my thing). I had honestly expected a lot more of this to be on the fantasy/magical end of the spectrum and is why I picked it up, but at this point in the larger story arc of this series, you really haven’t gotten a whole lot of it.

When it comes to believability in a story, you can get away with a lot more when it is because of magic and this book’s main premise is based on that fact, otherwise there would be some issues with how so many of the world’s population died. The basis does work, but it stretches to get there. The magical aspects fall on the flimsy side of things for me because there is never much explanation behind it. I get that much of that is supposed to come later in the series storyline, but it leaves readers in this place where they are expected to believe in it just because they are told to without any kind of foundation to support it.

There were some characters I really liked, that came across as layered and interesting, but I struggled with Lana’s character. She just kind of came across as a bit… not flighty exactly, but the dreamy sighs attitude of “It was meant” seemed a bit repetitive and too much, as though she really wasn’t fully grounded in the horror of the world around her. Max wasn’t much better.

For the most part, I felt the story was interesting and I was invested in where it was going. Then you get this shift and things change. Suddenly every character that the reader has been introduced to gets dropped off the page. I kept expecting to get back to some of their perspectives, but it never happens. When I finally got to the end, I was kind of wondering what the point was of getting anything at all from their perspective in the first place. You get all these threads of their stories and then they are all just dropped.

The final piece that really kept this from being a really good story for me was how the last 1/4 or so of the book wraps up and the events in that wrap up. I’m not going to go into spoiler levels here, but lets just say it really did not work for me when it came to character relationships.

I have the next book on my TBR, but I have a feeling it is is going to be one that I keep setting aside in favor of other books I’d much rather read.

Book Review: The Marriage Lie – Kimberly Belle

Author: Kimberly Belle
Book Name: The Marriage Lie
Release Date: December 27, 2016
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Even the perfect marriage has its dark side… 

Iris and Will’s marriage is as close to perfect as it can be: a large house in a nice Atlanta neighborhood, rewarding careers and the excitement of trying for their first baby. But on the morning Will leaves for a business trip to Orlando, Iris’s happy world comes to an abrupt halt. Another plane headed for Seattle has crashed into a field, killing everyone on board, and according to the airline, Will was one of the passengers on this plane.

Grief-stricken and confused, Iris is convinced it all must be a huge misunderstanding. But as time passes and there is still no sign of Will, she reluctantly accepts that he is gone. Still, Iris needs answers. Why did Will lie about where he was going? What is in Seattle? And what else has he lied about? As Iris sets off on a desperate quest to find out what her husband was keeping from her, the answers she receives will shock her to her very core.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

I was really excited to read this after having read Dear Wife and loving it (yes, even though this one came out first) hoping it was just as intense. Instead, this was kind of an emotional roller coaster of a story for me. It really pricked some of my personal emotions with regards to flying, so those aspects of the story were pretty profound and I loved that it was able to do that. I felt the same with the intensely realistic expression of grief. Those aspects of this were amazingly written. But those were counteracted by an extremely drawn out issue dancing around the believability at the core of this story.

*Potential Spoilers Below*

If Will was alive, how did that work? How did he know that plane would crash so he could use it as his cover? Those bits never quite made sense and there were so many questions tied around this issue that I struggled with belief throughout this whole story. It kind of tainted pieces for me. One of the biggest questions is that if anyone truly believed he was alive, then why did not one single character ask or even bring up the possibility that Will caused the crash? This issue and all the potentials and questions surrounding it do get wrapped up at the very end of the story. But by then it felt more like a plot hole than an unresolved issue because it was left open and unaddressed for so long, even if it really wasn’t. Even the resolution you get feels flimsy at best.

I was torn in all directions on how Iris was reacting to everything  surrounding what she learns about Will and her choices about how to deal with that information. For the most part, it works for me because that confusion is understandable from a human emotion standpoint, but it was still difficult to take some of that extreme emotional chaos in when it lasted the entire length of the book.

The way the story wrapped up, with a sort of resolution with gaping holes because we are left in this single moment and nothing past that to fill those final holes, was really unsatisfying. Especially after an already emotionally tumultuous story. No, you don’t always have to wrap up every thread and answer every single question, but I really prefer cleaner endings than this one so I’m left with a story that only hits the good mark, rather than the really good or great mark.

Other areas of note (not included in the SPA rating):

Cover: 4/5 Stars

There is something about the stark simplicity of this cover that is just really appealing to me. It’s a great example in the form of cover art that sometimes, less is more.

 

Book Review: Demon Magic and A Martini, The Guild Codex: Spellbound – Book #4

Author: Annette Marie
Book Name: Demon Magic and A Martini
Release Date: April 12, 2019
Series: The Guild Codex: Spellbound
Order: #4
Genre: Paranormal Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: When I first landed a bartending job at the local guild, I didn’t know a thing about magic. These days, I’m practically an expert on the different magical classes, but there’s one nobody ever talks about: Demonica.

Turns out they have a good reason for that.

My guild is strictly hellion-free, but some people will risk life and soul to control the biggest bullies on the mythic playground. And now a demon has been loosed in the city.

My three best friends are determined to slay it, but even badass combat mages are critically out-magicked. And that’s not all. The monster they’re tracking–it’s not hiding. It’s not fleeing. It’s not leaving a trail of corpses everywhere it goes.

The demon is hunting too. And in a city full of mythics, it’s searching for deadlier prey.

If we can’t unravel the demon’s sinister motivations, more innocent people will die, but finding the answers means digging into dark secrets … and learning truths I never wanted to know.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Series Expectations: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

Wow. This one got way more intense and serious than the previous books. You still get doses of that fun, funny, snarkiness that has been something of a hallmark for all the books up to this point, but not nearly the amount as before.

If I had to say that any of the guys got a book, this one would be Ezra’s. You learn a lot about him, his powers and his history in this. And some of that is pretty intense in a way I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it in the series going forward.

I’m even more iffy on how there is now this jumping attraction thing going on from Tori with the guys. This isn’t a reverse harem story and isn’t classified as romance in any of the genre tags, but there is definitely attraction and flirting in the previous books. Now we are seeing the object of that attraction shifting onto another guy in the group, making Tori’s character start to seem a little flighty where she hasn’t been so far, which is a little disappointing as I’ve loved pretty much everything about her character up until now.

This is still a really good story, but I have my concerns about the direction it may take in future books. So far, this really hasn’t felt like a NA/YA book, even if the character ages fit the genre, but some of the ways I see this potentially going will bring some of my least favorite elements that genre into this series.

Book Review: Tethered to the World, Phantom Touched – Book 1

Author: Stacey Brutger
Book Name: Tethered to the World
Release Date: June 19, 2019
Series: Phantom Touched
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal Romance/Reverse Harem
Overall SPA: 3.5
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: ONE TOUCH CAN SAVE YOU FROM CERTAIN DEATH…OR SENTENCE YOU TO AN ETERNITY IN HELL.

Born with the ability to defy death, Annora has been warned to keep her gift secret, but her greedy uncle can’t resist exploiting her by any means necessary. Starvation, beatings, broken bones–she’s survived them all and emerged stronger. But it’s not enough for him. It will never be enough. When she discovers her uncle plans to sell her to the highest bidder, she risks everything to escape the prison that has become her life.

The last thing she expected was to land at a university for supernaturals…or be paired with a pack of men as broken as her. As students go missing, Annora can’t get over the suspicion that she’s being hunted. To protect her, the guys must set aside their personal troubles and begin working as a team. But as her past collides with her present, she must make the ultimate sacrifice and expose her secrets to save the guys who’ve become more than family to her…and hope she’s strong enough to live with the consequences.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Peeve Factor: 3/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

A couple of areas got dinged in this for me. One is the missing genre tags on Amazon. This was not marked as being a Reverse Harem. Yes, I really should have picked that up from the blurb, but didn’t. I also should have checked Goodreads as it does have that tag there, so this is only a small ding. The other missing tag is the new adult tag. I’m also not giving this a heavy ding with that because you don’t actually know the ages of the guys, but Annora is mentioned as being 20 and this has a college like setting, though that isn’t the bulk of the plot. This skirts the edges of that tag, but it still kind of applies.

The other one, and this one is a big one for me as it is a massive peeve of mine, is that this ends in a huge cliffhanger. More times than not, I will avoid books with a cliffhanger because they tick me off. Especially when it is a new book and the other books in the series haven’t even been written yet as is the case with this book. I have no problems with continuing story arcs across a series, but I need each book in that series to have an encapsulated story that gets wrapped up in each book. Or at least comes to a clean end. This is one great big cliff to hang on to, which really irritated me as I did really enjoy the rest of the book.

Even though I haven’t been a huge fan of reverse harem books in the past, this one was done pretty well so far. There aren’t a lot of games played within the group. None of the typical teeny-bopper-angsty drama. I did tend to get confused early on as to which one of the guys was which. There were a couple of times I was certain the wrong name was used in referring to one of the guys. The characters are decently mature, intelligent and likable (loved Mason) and I loved their different shifters and abilities.

I am a bit of a sucker for shifter type stories and even more so when they aren’t all the typical shifters. You absolutely get the not typical in this, which was a really refreshing take on that theme, with the exception of the wolves being on the stereotypical side as the mostly bad guys.

I’m not a huge fan of the college like setting as it isn’t something I typically enjoy and, so far, that setting hasn’t really been justified. There isn’t much of an actual purpose to it, which makes it even less appealing to me. Past that and the issues I mentioned above, I enjoyed the story and the interesting shifters and characters. I mostly enjoyed the world being built here, but there isn’t enough of it to really understand it yet.

Will I read the next book in the series? Probably, but depending on where it goes, it would be just as easy for me to drop it after that.

Other areas of note (not included in the SPA rating):

Cover: 4/5 Stars

I thought this cover was really pretty and I love the effect it creates. I probably like the cover way more than I like the book.

Book Review: The Road She Left Behind – Christine Nolfi

Author: Christine Nolfi
Book Name: The Road She Left Behind
Release Date: June 11, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Family Life
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Crushed by guilt over the car accident that killed her father and sister, and torn apart by her mother’s resentment, Darcy Goodridge fled her family estate eight years ago and hasn’t looked back. Now an unexpected phone call threatens to upend what little serenity she’s found. Her nephew, Emerson, who was just a baby when his mother died, has gone missing. Darcy must return home and face her past in order to save him.

Once back in Ohio, Darcy realizes there’s more to Emerson’s disappearance—and to the sudden retirement of her mother, Rosalind—than meets the eye. As she works to make inroads with Rosalind, Darcy begins to unravel a decades-old secret that devastated her family and forced a wedge between her and Michael Varano, the man she left heartbroken when she vanished after the funeral. After carrying the scars of that fateful night for almost a decade, Darcy is determined to find closure, healing, and maybe even love where she lost them all in the first place—right back home where she belongs.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This is an emotional book about family, which is one of my most enjoyed types of books. It is also the type that, for me, needs to have a really strong level of believability for those emotions to be evoked. There were bits and pieces that were a stretch for me to believe and is the only reason I didn’t rate this higher because it was a really good story otherwise.

One was the background behind Darcy leaving in the first place. It isn’t something that is really ever addressed. We know the events leading up to it, but you are never given the final match that lit the fuse that forced her to leave. The reader is lead to believe it was something specific that Darcy’s mother said that forced her away, but you aren’t ever shown that event in any way. It was only ever eluded to, so it left that piece feeling weak.

The other was the whiplash like change in attitudes and personality that come about when certain things are revealed. Yes, people can change, but they don’t do so overnight just because some long buried secret comes out, especially when it kind of isn’t much of a secret.

While those things didn’t play a huge part in how I felt about the story, they did lessen the overall emotional impact of the story, though it was still a good book.