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Brutally Honest Reviews

Review: The Darkest Night

The Darkest Night - Gena Showalter

Title: The Darkest Night [Lords of the Underworld 1]

Author: Gena Showalter

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Rating: 4 Stars




Description/Synopsis: All her life, Ashlyn Darrow has been tormented by voices from the past. To end the nightmare, she has come to Budapest seeking help from men rumored to have supernatural abilities, not knowing she'll be swept into the arms of Maddox, their most dangerous member -- a man trapped in a hell of his own.


Neither can resist the instant hunger than calms their torments... and ignites an irresistible passion. But every heated touch and burning kiss will edge them closer to destruction -- and a soul-shattering test of love...

Though they carry an eternal curse, the Lords of the Underworld are irresistibly seductive -- and unimaginably powerful...




First of all: The cover. I think it was well done. It's seductive in a way that isn't super-flashy, and the color scheme works well. *thumbs up*. It's one of those few romance covers that wouldn't embarrass you too much out in public. As for the book itself, I'm not sure where to begin. Gena Showalter is an author who's popped in and out of my periphery for awhile now, but I hadn't picked up any of her books until just recently. I went on a bit of a paranormal romance kick last week and shoved a bunch of random titles onto my Kindle, and this was one of them. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed The Darkest Night.


The story revolves around Ashlyn Darrow, a young woman with an extraordinary gift that allows her to hear conversations--ALL conversations-- that have ever happened in a specific location. Because of this gift she's stayed isolated most of her life, working for a scientific group that works to find supernatural creatures, help them flourish, and also at the same time, use their abilities to help the world at large. Unfortunately, Ashlyn doesn't appreciate her gift as much as you may expect. To her, it's more of a curse. People, even those at the institute, treat her badly because she's privy to everything they've ever said... and that includes a lot of secrets. Desperate to remove this curse, she seeks out a group of supernatural beings that have been rumored to be Angels near Budapest. She's heard all sorts of information about how they seem to help the town, supporting it with charity and keeping outside forces from hurting the townspeople. There's also a few rumors that maybe the men living in the secluded compound are demons, but that can't be true. Right? She desperately hopes that these supernatural men will know more about her ability, and possibly help her rid herself of this so called "gift".


From there the story stems into an action-packed, supernatural gore-fest as Ashlyn learns the truth behind the so called "angels" of Budapest, and is taken hostage by the wary group of demon-possessed warriors. She even begins to fall for one of them, despite trying her best not to. The story is dotted with mythology of titans and greek gods, immortal warriors and demons from the deepest, darkest regions of hell. I found the world building compelling without being so over the top that I felt I was watching a history lesson in mythology. There was just enough to build up the world and set the stage without overshadowing the romance of the plot or the struggles of the characters, and I certainly appreciated the way it was done. The writing itself from a technical stand point was clear, engaging, and well written. The only thing that really drew me away from truly adoring it was that the author's voice tended to be a bit... sugary. I guess is the best way to put it. This was a dark story, but the writing wasn't always dark. In fact, one character in particular, a child of the gods, was downright vivacious. I think I would have preferred the silliness to be toned down a bit considering the plot of the story, but I'm willing to let it slide, because it didn't keep the story from being believable.


As for the characters: I loved them. Even the evil demon-possessed warriors at their worst were loveable. Ms. Showalter did an excellent job of balancing the proud, honor-bound personalities of the demon-possessed men with the darker sides of their nature. I had no trouble believing that they were good men, and by the same token, didn't have a problem believing that they were capable of horrendous things. It's often so hard to reach that sort of balance in a character and have them remain believable, but the author did it effortlessly.


There were a few things that weird-ed me out about this story, mainly having to do with the outside help of the Greek god's daughter (I still have no idea what her name was) and her sassy attitude. Her personality seemed so out of place next to all the very serious characters of the book. Another issue for me was the way Ashlyn basically clung to Maddox from the very beginning. On the one hand, I understand that she was desperate for his help and the silence he provided just being around her. (though I should remark that it was never explained why she couldn't hear anything when she was around the demon-warriors). It seemed like she was a kid clinging to a stuffed rabbit. Despite the obvious danger she was in and the very real situation of being held captive (and even starved in a dungeon for a night), she was almost... loyal... to Maddox. She wanted to be around him all the time. I can see the appeal of the silence, like I said, but I have a hard time believing she'd throw personal safety out the window so eagerly.


Another (small) issue I had was that I really wish more time had been spent on the overthrowing of the Greek Gods. It was mentioned and there were certainly some things that cropped up in the story because of it, but there just wasn't a lot of time spent on the upheaval or the consequences as they trickled down to the warriors. I was expecting more to happen (and that's one of the big reasons this is only four stars). Maybe the series will get more into that with subsequent books, but I certainly felt the absence in this one.


Those points aside, I really have nothing else to complain about. I really liked this book despite it's few flaws, and I'm mostly willing to let them go. Overall, I'd certainly recommend the book to anyone who likes Paranormal Romance. (specially if you're like me and like brooding domineering men in your romance novels). It was different than I'd expected the story to be, but I ended up liking it because of that rather than despite the fact. I'll certainly be looking into the rest  of the series, and more titles from this author.


Review: Alone

Alone - Marissa Farrar

Title: Alone [Serenity 1]

Author: Marissa Farrar

Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Suspense

Rating: 2 Stars



Description/Synopsis: Caught in a violent and abusive relationship, Serenity thinks there is no escape. Then she meets a stranger, Sebastian, who shows her the possibility of a different future.

Only Sebastian has a dark secret; he is a vampire.


As Serenity’s life takes a terrifying turn, she finds herself drawn into a world she never knew existed; one of murder, love, and immortality. She is forced to confront her own weaknesses to save both her own life and that of the vampire she has come to love. But in the end all that matters is; can she find the strength to be Alone ?




So let's start with the cover: It was done quite well. The text isn't obtrusive, the images are relevant to the story. *thumbs up* The lighting may be a bit off, making it obvious that it was a cut-and-paste job, but even considering that, it was pretty well done. Someone knew what they were doing when they pieced it together.


As for the plot... I have deep seated issues with it. I think a story about a girl who's abused who gets help from outside forces, even a love interest, isn't a bad idea. In fact, done well, it would make an excellent story. By the same token, a Vampire falling in love with someone who clearly needs help in their life... not a bad idea--but a vampire trying to rescue a girl from an abusive relationship? That's where we're getting a little too far over the border for me. I guess it's the basic idea behind it that bothers me. Someone who's in an abusive relationship is going to find it very hard to leave, that's just how these things work (whether it makes sense to the rest of us or not). I'm not an expert (though I have been in an abusive situation before) but I think for the most part this trickles down to three explanations:


1) Fear. They're afraid they won't get away, and what will happen if they fail and are caught.

2) Love. For whatever reason, they really do love the person abusing them, and despite what is happening to them, they don't want to leave. There is still hope that the person will change and things will go back to how they used to be.

3) Dependency. For some people it's nearly impossible to leave because they have no way to get away. They may not have a job, or a home to go to if they leave. Bank accounts are tangled, they may have a disability, or there may be children involved... for whatever reason, this can make someone unwilling to leave.


This boils down to a very difficult decision when someone does choose to leave an abusive relationship. It's a scary prospect. Even if the rest of us say "i'd never stay if someone did that to me" the reality of the situation is that it isn't so clear cut.


Oddly, in this story, Serenity doesn't seem to have a good reason to stay. She doesn't particularly love her husband. She is the independent party of the couple (she has a job, he doesn't), and her husband already lets her leave the house to go to work/shopping etc.  Getting away wouldn't be that difficult. I honestly don't know what the author was thinking when she made Serenity as independent as she did, and that's part of why I found her situation so unbelievable. It didn't feel like she was in a difficult position... just that she was too stupid to do anything about it, and that made me angry. If you're going to write about abuse, at least write it convincingly, to do otherwise is almost an insult; it seems as if you're throwing in an abusive relationship just for drama purposes, and the misuse of such a touchy subject is bound to make some readers (like me) very angry.


The abuse aside, I had a difficult time believing in the romance between Serenity and Sebastian. I think Serenity was drawn to him mostly because she was desperate (though the author tried to pawn it off as sexual attraction). Sebastian on the other hand spent most of the story narrating how he couldn't ever have a relationship with Serenity because he was a vampire and he didn't want her to be one... yet he was super attracted to her. Why? I don't know. She was helpless and none too bright if you ask me. I really didn't see anything about her that made her stand out from the crowd to a supernatural being. It gave the story this vibe of "I want you to wonder if they're going to get together... but you really know it's never going to happen." There wasn't enough between the couple to make me earnestly feel they were headed towards a relationship, and so the few scenes there were between them felt misplaced and fake. In the end, I didn't want them to get together, and as a consequence, the whole thing seemed forced. I really didn't see anything about her that made her stand out from the crowd to a supernatural being. It gave the story this vibe of "I want you to wonder if they're going to get together... but you really know it's never going to happen." There wasn't enough between the couple to make me earnestly feel they were headed towards a relationship, and so the few scenes there were between them felt misplaced and fake. In the end, I didn't want them to get together, and as a consequence, the whole thing seemed forced.


Unfortunately, there were also -other- love interests involved: A police officer that seemed mostly irrelevant to the story who was obviously in puppy-love with serenity (and spoiler: she ends up dating him in the end despite the fact she wasn't all that attracted to him), and also,  the vampire who made Sebastian into what he is,  and is jealous of Serenity and wants him to herself. Again, she seemed mostly irrelevant to the story other than to provide yet another reason the two couldn't be together.


In the end I couldn't like the characters because I didn't feel a connection to them. I didn't understand their wishy-washy relationship or the ill-plotted reasons behind why they were together. It just didn't make sense to me. This book made me angry because it wasn't convincing. It was a story--a story that seemed to use dramatic quirks (vampires, abuse, the random and irrelevant sire-vampire, and goody-two-shoes cop in puppy love) to try and raise the tension, but instead, it just made it a jumbled mess of tropes. I didn't enjoy it, and though I did finish the book, I don't think I'd recommend it. It's free right now on Amazon, so feel free to go give it a look, but honestly, it just wasn't a good story.

Review: The Awakening

The Awakening - L.J. Smith

Title: The Awakening [The Vampire Diaries 1]

Author: L.J. Smith

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance, Horror, Suspense

Rating: 2 Stars




Description/Synopsis: A deadly love triangle

Elena: beautiful and popular, the girl who can have any guy she wants.

Stefan: brooding and mysterious, desperately trying to resist his desire for Elena . . . for her own good.


Damon: sexy, dangerous, and driven by an urge for revenge against Stefan, the brother who betrayed him.


Elena finds herself drawn to both brothers . . .


who will she choose?




So, before we get down to the nitty-gritty, let's talk about the cover. There's actually several covers for this book, but take it from me, most of them are very dated. I had no idea how old these book was until I saw the original cover. Wow. Time warp back to my childhood! The one I've picked to show here is the prettiest, but also the most inaccurate. Why? Because Elena, the main female lead, is blonde. Woops! It also has that annoying CW brand marketing across the top, but I won't hold it against them. They want people to watch the show, and they should... because it's so much better than the book.


I'm one of those people that 9 times out of 10 will tell you that reading the book is better than watching the movie/show. It's one of those things that Hollywood has ingrained in my head for years. The books are cannon--nay, gospel--and I tend to view the movie/show attached to them as annoying attempts to remake something that didn't need to be remade. Details are always changed, and it feels like sacrilege. It makes me angry.  Now, in a strange twist of things, if the movie/show comes first and the book second, my opinion usually falls more along the line of "Yay! More content!" It doesn't bother me that the book is different than the movie, because it's just more of the thing I already loved. I'm not sure why there's a double standard, but that's how it is. Unfortunately, in this case all that gets thrown out the window.


The show is better than the book. Hands down.


The book centers around Elena Gilbert, a popular, blonde-haired, blue-eyed high-school student that always gets her way. (Gag) Her parents have just died in a car accident 3 months prior to the story's start, and she's not particularly looking forward to the new year. Her endearing, boy-next-door boyfriend gives her feelings of "meh" in general, but he's the cute jock, and she's the pretty cheerleader, and they've been friends forever. The perfect couple, right? Introduce Elena's shallow and ditzy friends, stir in a hot new boy, and suddenly Elena's dumping her boyfriend and scheming up ways to get in good with the new kid, manipulating her friends and the student body in order to finagle herself onto his radar.


Go ahead. Soak that in.


What Elena doesn't know yet is that the new hot boy, Stefan Salvatore, is a vampire, and Elena is a dead-ringer for his ex-girlfriend. Throw in a few deaths, Stefan's hotter older brother (Damon), who just wants to make Stefan's life a nightmare in any way possible, and you have... well... a really shallow plot.


The writing was good.  The grammar was clean, the style was engaging and clear. From a technical standpoint, there wasn't anything wrong with the story. I did manage to read it all the way to the end (though that may have to do more with loving the show than enjoying the book). The problem, for the most part, was the characters. They weren't likeable. Elena was manipulative, shallow,and selfish. Bonnie was a ditz. Matt was cute in a lost puppy sort of way, but mostly just let Elena walk all over him.  Tyler was a rapist. Caroline seemed to only be present to be snotty and jealous of Elena... though the reasoning was never really explained. I can barely be bothered to even remember who Meredith was. Damon was evil for the sake of needing someone for the rest of the characters to hate. Stefan... Stefan was surprisingly juvenile given his age, and a little bit of a lost puppy when it came to Elena.Tanner (the teacher) hated all his students for no particular reason. He just wanted to be an ass.


Overall, I honestly didn't like any of the characters, and spent most of the book with this feeling that nothing was actually happening. There didn't seem to be a real motive behind anyone's actions except for the immediate "I want this. Now. Right now. Why? Because I do."  This kind of barely-there plot works with the TV show because it's serialized. The first episode introduces the world (which equated to this book by the way) but no major plot issues came up... those were saved for later in the season. This book worked the same way. It was an introduction to the characters and the world... but nothing really happened. Unfortunately, the characters just couldn't hold it up on their own.


The romance was laughable. Honestly. Elena wasn't particularly drawn to Stefan, she spotted a hot guy and said "dibs!" She wanted him because he was the hot new guy, not because there was sexual chemistry or his personality was endearing. Stefan was intrigued by Elena, mostly because she looked like his ex-girlfriend. I didn't feel the chemistry. They were your basic teen couple that "fell in love" based on the premise that they could. It was maddening to see how flimsy the whole thing was. In fact, the most interesting part of the story was when people started getting murdered. Thank god for the irrelevant deaths of teens and a teacher, or I would have closed the book.


Overall, did I like the book? Surprisingly, no. I say surprisingly because I AM an avid watcher of the show. I've seen every episode of the past four seasons. I honestly thought I'd love the books. Instead, I finally understand why the show is so different from the novels. It had to change--that was the only way they could make it into half-way decent entertainment. I don't recommend the book. Seriously. Go watch the show instead. It may be your typical YA Paranormal Romance full of vampires and angsty love, but at least there's a plot.


Review: Breathless

Breathless - Scott Prussing

Title: Breathless [Blue Fire Saga 1]

Author: Scott Prussing

Genre: New Adult, Paranormal, Romance

Rating: 2 Stars




Description/Synopsis: College freshman Leesa Nyland has been fascinated by vampires since she was three years old. That’s when her mom started acting weird, refusing to go outside during the day and insisting the sunlight hurt her skin because she had been bitten by a one-fanged vampire…


But fascinated doesn’t mean Leesa believes—any more than she believes in blue fire, people who live for centuries, and kisses that can kill. When her beloved older brother suddenly disappears, she is forced to confront all these and more.




I really wanted to like this book. The cover was gorgeous, the writing was clear, and easy to follow... and the author obviously took their time to really explore the lore and world-building behind this series.  It had a down-to-earth but intriguing plot. Unfortunately, the characters had the depth of a half-mopped spill. Their actions in this story were so utterly unbelievable that I was actually angry by the time I finished the book.


It's not that I didn't like the characters. I found Leesa's shyness endearing. Stefan and Rave were a gorgeous mix of masculinity, kindness, and brooding predator. Even Leesa's almost-non-existent friends had great personalities... but that's pretty much as far as they went. There was no back-story to any of the characters except to mention Leesa's part-vampire mother, and we rarely even saw her in the story. Most of the narrative consisted of Leesa going to class, hanging out in her dorm room with friends, or awkwardly wandering around campus.  It was mostly mundane tasks and conversations and very little action, intrigue, or suspense... which... given the plot, should have been present.


The most infuriating part of this story, however, was the wishy-washy nature of all the characters... and complete lack of common sense.  Vampires, Volkaane... all the immortal beings were perfectly fine divulging all of their secrets to the human populace despite the fact they frequently talked about how they wanted to stay under the radar.  It was a good thing though - because Leesa couldn't keep her mouth shut. She told all of her friends, her family, even the enemy of her "boyfriend" everything there was to know about everyone else's business. She couldn't keep a secret to save her life--not that anyone seemed to mind. Also, despite the fact that Rave and Stefan were supposedly mortal enemies (though it was never explained why), Leesa was magically able to tell them to quit fighting... and they listened. Suddenly everyone was behaving as though they had no choice. Hello? These two immortal beings are centuries older than this shy little mouse of a college student, but they were both willing to do whatever she asked.  In fact, by the time I was half-way through the story, the two men were so completely smitten with her they were more than willing to marry her.


W. T. F.


Between her selfishness, stupidity, and inability to keep her mouth shut... I just couldn't understand the appeal.


Another oddity was that despite the fact that these two immortal species were supposed to be "secret", the minute Leesa informed everyone (and I do mean everyone) that they existed... no one questioned her. Everyone took it at face value and went "oh.. okay. cool!"  and we're not just talking about her close friends; I'm talking friends, family, even her teacher. No one questioned it. No one thought she was crazy, no one seemed to be frightened either. How does this happen? I'm still trying to understand.  There was a complete lack of any sort of tension or mystery to this story. Everyone... got along in a sort-of saturday morning cartoon way, and the one or two "fights" that were presented were easily dissolved away once Leesa stepped into the middle of them. She's like a magic tranquilizer in human form.


The frustrating part of it was that there were so many instances where tension and conflict could have been introduced. I would have killed to have Edwina show up and harass Leesa, or to have seen the Volkaane lead an assault against the Vampire coven. They never did. Rave wouldn't even fight to keep Leesa. At the final moment when Leesa revealed her plan to sacrifice herself for her brother, he pretty much stepped aside and agreed with her. He didn't try to stop her or rescue her... there were no daring plans to steal her brother back.  The ending was wrapped up in a shiny little perfect bow, and no one got hurt, or angry, or swore retaliation. Nothing.


I am completely baffled.


The one truly redeeming feature of the story was the lore/world building. It was obvious the author had taken a lot of time to research vampire lore and adapt it to their own unique version. The concept of the Volkaane was interesting and unique (though now that I think about it, the moodus noises never were explained...), and a bit of a neat twist on the usual immortal beings we find in these kinds of stories. The only area that lacked in their development was an explanation of WHY the Volkaane fought the Vampires at all. I knew they hunted the vamps, but never why. The vampires didn't seem all that evil to me. A total of.. what... 3 people were murdered during the entire book? Considering their food source and the circumstances they were in... I'd consider that pretty damn nice of them.


In the end, I just couldn't enjoy the story. It wasn't a bad idea for a novel, and there were certain aspects of it that were done very well, but in the end the execution was more of a "limp rag" than a "taunt bowstring". It lacked any sense of immediacy, action, tension, or suspense. The pieces fell into place easily and without effort... to the point that the narrative became mundane and unfulfilling. Would I recommend it? No. I don't think I would. If I had one way to sum up how ill-written this book was, it would be to quote the first line of chapter 33:


"It was a dark and stormy night."

Review: Across The Universe

Across the Universe - Beth Revis

Title: Across the Universe

Author: Beth Revis

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars




Description/Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.


Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.


Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.




I have to admit, posting a 3-star review for this book, I feel a bit like I'm going against the grain. Everywhere I look I see rave reviews for Across the Universe, even from my fellow bloggers... but I stand by 3 stars. The book was okay, but it wasn't anything special. From the very beginning the plot (teenager wakes up from cryo-sleep early, on board a spaceship overrun by the managerial crew who've taken over) was a familiar one. In fact, one of my favorite science fiction books from when I was still in grade-school started off the same way (wayyy back in the 80's)... kid wakes up from cryo-sleep early.  I wasn't surprised or enthralled.


For the most part, the story kept me reading, partly due to the fun of reminiscing over a familiar plot from my childhood, but despite the many assurances I had from other reviewers... the book wasn't thrilling or suspenseful. I had the bad-guy picked out the first time they mentioned him. This wasn't a great mystery. The characters had an inkling of depth, but I feel as though more could have been done with them. It almost felt as if something were missing. I'd have liked to hear more about Kaleigh and what happened to her, or even the full story behind why the Eldest tried to have Orion killed, but neither were fully explained. The author spent more time on The Season than the back-stories of the characters, which was a shame. I inwardly cringed when the season came up.  Now, understand that I'm not some great prude.  I read a LOT of romance novels and erotica--it's somewhat my forte--but in a book labeled as YA, I couldn't help but think "and how old do these YA need to be?" while the characters proceeded to join ship-wide orgies, and the main character nearly being raped.


I honestly don't think the season had any direct relationship to the plot in any way... other than being a moment where the author tried to say "Look here! I'm so clever! Look at my world building!" Some of the world building was interesting. I really liked the beginning when Amy was being put into cryo-sleep. It was nice to see a book where the realities of how embarrassing and uncomfortable the whole situation was wasn't glossed over. I also liked the (cliche) idea of how the crew took over the ship... but that's where the fun ends. It's all been done before, and in some cases, better. Even the romance was lackluster... if you can even call it a romance. Elder had a teenage crush on Amy even before he met her, but Amy never seemed to respond to his affections (or anyone else's) and then it just... faded away. The author stopped talking about the romance at some point, and it became background noise.


In the end, I did enjoy the book, but I wish the author had spent more time developing the story. It's a fun read, but it lacks depth... to the characters, the plot, the romance... everything.


Review: Poison Princess

Poison Princess - Kresley Cole

Title: Poison Princess [The Arcana Chronicles]

Author: Kresley Cole

Genre: Dystopian, Apocalyptic, Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal

Rating: 4 Stars




Description/Synopsis: Sixteen year old Evangeline “Evie” Greene leads a charmed life, until she begins experiencing horrifying hallucinations. When an apocalyptic event decimates her Louisiana hometown, Evie realizes her hallucinations were actually visions of the future—and they’re still happening. Fighting for her life and desperate for answers, she must turn to her wrong-side-of-the-bayou classmate: Jack Deveaux.

But she can’t do either alone.


With his mile-long rap sheet, wicked grin, and bad attitude, Jack is like no boy Evie has ever known. Even though he once scorned her and everything she represented, he agrees to protect Evie on her quest. She knows she can’t totally depend on Jack. If he ever cast that wicked grin her way, could she possibly resist him?

Who can Evie trust?


As Jack and Evie race to find the source of her visions, they meet others who have gotten the same call. An ancient prophesy is being played out, and Evie is not the only one with special powers. A group of twenty-two teens has been chosen to reenact the ultimate battle between good and evil. But it’s not always clear who is on which side….




Last month for my Romance Book-Club, we had two books we were asked to read, and Poison Princess by Kresley Cole was the second of them. To be honest, I was so busy that I didn't get to it, so this month the first thing I did was read the two books we'd been asked to. Out of the two, I think Poison Princess certainly had the best world building. The book starts with a girl, Evangeline, who has recently  returned to school after spending the summer in a mental institution. For as long as she can remember she's had visions and hallucinations of the end of the world, and other terrifying images of death and destruction. What she doesn't realize, is that all of her visions are true. The world is about to end, and Evangeline may be the only person who can save the remnants of what's left. So starts the journey of Evangeline, her mother, a cajun boy from the wrong side of town, and two wayward teens from another part of the country as the seek out the truth of Evie's visions, what truly happened when the great flash scorched the Earth to cinders, and what their purpose is in the upcoming battle of the Arcana.


I actually really enjoyed the world building in this book. A great flash that scorches the crust of the Earth in a manner of minutes isn't an entirely new concept to the end of the world, but it's certainly a lesser used one. Scientists have been saying for years that if a very large sunflare (which we're due for in the next 5 years) were to happen, one of two outcomes would become reality. The first, is that all electronic equipment on the face of the Earth would be fried... leaving us back in the stone-age (yes, we are currently preparing for this situation in the US. It's going to happen.) The second, is that if the sunflare were large enough, it could very well burn up the Earth and make it nearly uninhabitable (This should happen in the next 10,000 years). Kresley Cole went with the second option. It's a terrifying reality where plants, animals, and water are nearly non-existent, and humans aren't destined to survive long. Once the few non-perishable supplies are gone, that's the end of humanity. We can't live without an ecosystem or sufficient water. I thought Ms. Cole did an excellent job of showing the true desperation of such a situation through her characters and the brutality of how they lived their lives.


As for the characters, well, they irked me a bit. Evangeline was your typical clueless, snobby, teen. It's almost unfortunate that she was one of the popular kids. She seemed to have a very shallow personality for the majority, if not all, of the book. Generally I like my main characters to be a bit less air-headed, and a lot more determined. Evangeline seemed ready to give up at every turn, and let her teenage angst get in the way of some really critical decisions. She worried more about boys than her own survival, and I found that really irritating.


Jack, on the other hand, was extremely determined, practical, and had a no-nonsense attitude when it came to survival. I really enjoyed him as a character for the most part, except one major character flaw: he was totally in love with Evie... I couldn't understand it.  He even said at one point that he found her snobbish and useless, and yet he refused to leave her behind. I would have.  I guess overall, I did enjoy the other characters, and they each seemed unique and consistent. Mainly, it was Evie I couldn't stand.


That aside, The narrative moved fast, was clearly written, and had a fun dark undertone to the story. The use of tarot cards as a basis for the main characters of the story was a unique and interesting way of setting things up that I did like, but I'm not sure I fully understood. Why did the tarot cards have superhero/villain counterparts? I don't know. Why did they feel the need to battle it out at the end of the world? No idea. Either way, it was still fun, and I really enjoyed it.


I do have to admit though, that I greatly disliked the ending of the story.




It seemed like, the entire story I was rooting for Evie to not turn into the red witch. She tried so hard to be good and avoid killing people... and then at the end.. she turned wholly evil. What? How did this happen? Why did this happen? Jack was terrified of her, and it just seems to me that she threw everything she'd been working towards during the course of the book out the window. I was NOT happy.


(End of spoilers)


Overall, I really liked the story. It was engaging, well written, and a unique take on the apocalypse. It wasn't what I was expecting (I don't know why I was expecting an actual princess to be in a book called Poison Princess!) but it was fun all the same. I'd certainly recommend it to anyone who likes Dystopian, Fantasy, or angsty teen novels.

Review: Shadow's Claim

Shadow's Claim - Kresley Cole

Title: Shadow's Claim [The Dacians 1]

Author: Kresley Cole

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars





Shadow's Claim features Prince Trehan, a ruthless master assassin who will do anything to possess Bettina, his beautiful sorceress mate, even compete for her hand in a blood-sport tournament—to the death.


He won't be denied...


Trehan Daciano, known as the Prince of Shadows, has spent his life serving his people, striking in the night, quietly executing any threat to their realm. The coldly disciplined swordsman has never desired anything for himself—until he beholds Bettina, the sheltered ward of two of the Lore's most fearsome villains.


She's bound to another...


Desperate to earn her guardians' approval after a life-shattering mistake, young Bettina has no choice but to marry whichever suitor prevails—even though she's lost her heart to another. Yet one lethal competitor, a mysterious cloaked swordsman, invades her dreams, tempting her with forbidden pleasure.


A battle for her body and soul...


Even if Trehan can survive the punishing contests to claim her as his wife, the true battle for Bettina's heart is yet to come. And unleashing a millennium's worth of savage need will either frighten his Bride away—or stoke Bettina's own desires to a fever-pitch...




This book was not entirely what I was expecting. Just this past month, Vaginal Fantasy, the romance book club I belong to, put Shadow's Claim on it's reading list. I didn't have time to get around to it, so I watched the group hangout, read some reviews by my fellow book club members, and then picked this book up to give it a read. I'm glad in a way that I heard other people's reviews about the book before I actually read it, because it gave me the opportunity to look out for some of the things people mentioned had bothered them, and I think it gave me a bit of a different perspective on the book. Every time I came to an issue someone else had, I paused, looked at it, and tried to decide if it bothered me as much as it had them. In some cases, they did, and in others, I was left scratching my head wondering if they were off their rocker.


When I first started reading the book, I'll admit, I was really thrown. I was greeted with a glossary of terms and histories of all the different clans and planes within the elaborate world of Lore (yes, that is what it's called), and it was a bit intimidating. Frankly, I'm glad I read it. The author really didn't take the time to explain any of the world building or terms in this book, so if I hadn't read the glossary, I probably wouldn't have understood the story. Odd terms and names of places and people in the culture were constantly been thrown at the reader, and not once did the narrative explain them. The first time the word "Trace" came up, I had to look back to the glossary to remind myself what they were talking about. As a reader, I'm somewhat disgruntled about it. I'm one of those people that demands two things from a story:


  • All unfamiliar but crucial terms must be explained to the reader within the story.
  • All books in a series should be strong enough to stand up alone outside the series.

I think this book failed the first of those bullet points. Without the glossary, I would have been dead in the water, and probably set the book aside. The first chapter was an exercise in flipping back and forth between the story and the glossary, and even having read the book, I'm not entirely sure I fully comprehend how the world works.


That aside, I really enjoyed the story. Once I could get past all the weird terms that I didn't understand, the plot was fast-paced, interesting, and full of steamy sex scenes. I've only read a few books where the main character was a demon, and I like looking at the different way certain authors handle the lore. It was nice to see a demon character that wasn't wholly evil, but didn't blink at doing morally questionable things.  When it came to the world building, unlike most of my fellow book club members, I really didn't care for it much. Maybe it's because I'm not a huge fan of books that try to smash a lot of fantastical creatures into one story... it always comes across as silly to me. I'd rather have a selective array of well-fleshed out species than dozens of species that were barely touched upon. That's just a "me" thing. I think for the most part, the books strength lay in the romance between Trehan and Bettina.


Honestly, I didn't like most of the characters. Raum and Bettina's sylph (I can't bother to remember his name) as far as I could tell, were completely needless in the story. Neither one did anything in the book that couldn't have been perpetrated by another character. In fact, Raum was barely present in the story at all. The sylph's main purposed seem to be raunchy dialogue and making Bettina uncomfortable. Bettina's aunt, on the other hand (again, can't seem to bother with her name) seemed to be present only to give snarky comments and threaten people. She was an odd bird, as they say, and I really didn't like her, which is funny, because most readers seemed to. She was manipulative and childish, and I really couldn't stand her. As for Caspion... I never really understood the attraction, or even the friendship between him and Bettina. He wasn't a good guy. Sure, he was good looking... but he was a man-whore. Everyone knew it. She knew it... and still she was madly in love with him. The woman was out of her mind I tell you. Caspion was skeazy. He was interested in only one thing: himself--and it showed with every action.Sure, he was good looking... but he was a man-whore. Everyone knew it. She knew it... and still she was madly in love with him. The woman was out of her mind I tell you. Caspion was skeazy. He was interested in only one thing: himself--and it showed with every action.Sure, he was good looking... but he was a man-whore. Everyone knew it. She knew it... and still she was madly in love with him. The woman was out of her mind I tell you.



In contrast, Trehan was loving, attentive, manly, sexy, and deadly. I was amazed at how long it took Bettina to really consider him as a love interest. If you don't want him Bett, I'll take him. Thanks. As for the (many) sex scenes... they were steamy. A big deal was made over the amount of "manly fluid" throughout the book in a lot of reviews I went through, but really, if you read through it, it was only mentioned three -maybe- four times, and not egregiously so. I'm kind of baffled by the overwhelming mention of it. Since most of the steamy scenes were written from Trehan's viewpoint, the mention of "manly fluids" seemed appropriate and not overwhelmingly mentioned.


As for Bettina... she was annoyingly stupid considering how brilliant she was supposed to be. She let everyone walk all over her, spent the better part of her life fawning over a man-whore, and was afraid to even go outside alone. Her only redeeming qualities were her weapon/jewelry work, and her relationship with Trehan (who is my favorite character). Overall, I think if the romance hadn't been as strong as it was, the book would have slipped to a solid 3 on my rating scale. Luckily, it was there, and it was H-O-T.


In the end, I really did enjoy the book despite it's many flaws. There was action, passion, and gore.. which are three of my favorite things, and the lack of character depth and confusing world-building took a back burner to those portions of the story for me.Would I recommend it? Yes. I liked it, and I think many others would too, possibly for different reasons than me. It's one of those books where the different elements of the story will draw an array of readers who may not all agree on which are the best portions of the story, and that's okay. It works.

Review: The Reason Is You

The Reason is You - Sharla Lovelace

Title: The Reason is You

Author: Sharla Lovelace

Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars


Description/Synopsis: Anything but Normal... Dani Shane just wants her daughter to have what she never did--a normal life. But "normal" leaves the equation when sixteen-year-old Riley is found talking to Dani's only friend, Alex--who's been dead for forty years. In the small river town of Bethany, Dani never fits in. Being different pushed her to the fringes of society, and even leaving town for two decades didn't stop the talk. Now that she's back, so is Alex. Mischievous and sexy and still hot enough to melt her shoes.


Between his popping in at inopportune moments and having to hide her daughter's new talent, Dani fears that her plans for staying under the radar may be short lived. As Dani scrambles to get solid footing under her family, secrets buried for forty years begin to unearth themselves. She and Alex have always been connected, but he is hiding something. The computer is making her hear things. Weird memories that she doesn't recognize keep popping up in her mind. Then there's that little thing she's not telling her daughter yet. Like that some of the people she sees aren't breathing...




I've been on a roll lately picking up some really great books. I picked up this one in a Goodreads Giveaway back in April, and just now got around to reading it at the end of May... but already wish I'd picked it up sooner. I really enjoyed this book. The Reason is You is a Contemporary/Paranormal/Romance book about a 40-yr old woman named Dani. She's reached a point in her life where all her best-laid plans to have a professional career and live in a big city have fallen to pieces, and out of options, she moves back home to her father's house in-the-middle-of-nowhere with her teenage daughter, Riley.


 Unfortunately, this is a bit of a traumatizing experience for the mother. She has a bit of a reputation in her hometown for being crazy--and going back, she's terrified that she'll be reliving the nightmare of her youth, as well as dragging her daughter into this fresh hell.


What Dani hasn't told her daughter, hasn't told anyone, is that she can see ghosts--all the time--and back home there's one in particular she's both eager, and terrified to see. What ensues is a deliciously funny and romantic story about a girl who fell in love with two people at the same time... unfortunately, one of them is dead. 


The writing itself is clear, well written, and flows nicely. I never felt like it was a chore to read or that the writing quality had dipped down into pre-teen dribble as sometimes happens in romance novels. In fact, I have to hand it to Ms. Lovelace. Her characters were extremely well written. They each had their own unique personality and goals, and it didn't feel like they were being railroaded into any situations like so often happens. Riley, the teenage daughter, felt like a real 16 yr old, and the banter between mother and daughter sometimes had me grinning. There was this very real connection between the two that left me no doubt in my mind that Dani and Riley were meant to be mother and daughter. They felt like family.


As for the male love interests, I'm not entirely sure what was up with Jason. I liked him as a character. He was brooding, but excited to be in a relationship with Dani, and he seemed to really love her... but his constant mood switches from robot to man were confusing, not only to me, but to Dani as well. It was never really explained why he seemed so bipolar, maybe that was just his personality, but it was nice to see that as the female lead, Dani didn't understand it either. She didn't try to make excuses for his weird behavior, she stopped and went "WTF?" too. 


On the other side of the male interest duo, Alex made me want to squeal. He was the quintessential teenage dream... an older guy, sexy as hell, who was not only Dani's best friend, but basically only seemed to care about her. She was the only one who could see him for most of her life, and it gave her a sense of claim over him. The dream sequence over Alex as just... yum. In the end when it came down to a decision between Alex and Jason, I have to admit I was riding Alex's side of the fence. It was a bittersweet situation when it came down to Dani having to choose one of the males in her life, and letting the other go.


Overall, I found the romance of the book endearing, funny, and steamy at times. There weren't a lot of sex scenes in this particular book, but the few that there were, were H-O-T and won't disappoint. I highly recommend this book if you're looking for a good ole romantic ghost story. It's full of twists and turns, hilarious dialog, and endearing moments between the many characters. Give it a try.


Review: The Tempted Soul

The Tempted Soul - Adina Senft

Title: The Tempted Soul [An Amish Quilt Novel 3]

Author: Adina Senft

Genre: Religious (Amish), Romance

Rating: 5 Stars


Description/Synopsis: Carrie Miller longs for children, but after ten years of marriage, that blessing eludes her. So she fills her days with caring for her home, making artistic gifts and fancy cakes, and caring for her flock of chickens, every one of whom has a name and who under no circumstances will go in the soup pot. Carrie also finds support in the friendship she shares with her two best friends Amelia and Emma, and relishes the weekly afternoons they share working on their quilts.


Carrie and her husband Melvin love each other, and together have survived many lean years. If not for the kindness of their church community, they would have had to miss more than one meal a day. But now, Melvin has found work that finally provides a good living. Carrie hopes that having more to eat will finally allow them to start a family. Yet month after month, they remain childless. So when Carrie overhears two English women talking in the fabric store one day about medical options available to non-Amish women in her situation, she takes it as a sign from God. Melvin and the bishop see it differently, however. Is it really God's will that she pursue this, or is her longing to be a mother tempting her to stray from her Amish beliefs?




This book was one of those books that I  really picked up on a whim. I don't generally read religious fiction, and I'd certainly never read an Amish novel. I'm not religious. However, I've always liked to learn about new ideas and about different cultures, so when I was given the chance to try something new, I jumped at it... and was pleasantly surprised. The Tempted Soul is a book about Carrie Miller. She's a young, good, Amish woman that's struggled for years to try and get pregnant. Alas, it was not to be, and despite all their struggles and many attempts, Carrie and her husband find themselves childless.  This book is really about Carrie's struggles to understand God's plan for her to be childless, and dealing with the views of her Amish community while trying to balance her own need to have children. She doesn't want to give up on the idea, and when presented with news of a life-altering procedure called IVF, her world cascades into an uncertain view of what is morally right and wrong in the pursuit of having children.


This book was fascinating to me. Not being a religious person by any stretch of the word, it was a good experience to see the world from a different viewpoint (Carrie's) and get to try and understand how her religious beliefs altered her perception of the world, and her actions. This wasn't one of those books that actively tried to shove scripture and beliefs at the reader, instead it set it out on display and said "it is what is. this is what she believes, and this is how she struggles to understand it." It was a very open way of explaining the Amish faith and the ideals behind their actions.


It was interesting to see not one, but all of the characters really struggle with this governing set of "laws" of behavior.  Before I read this book, it was easy to assume that anyone in such a strict religious setting was going to be fanatical... but what I found instead was a very real group of individuals with faults and individual beliefs that worked every day to try and understand their own religion. Some days they struggled. Hard. Some days their faith was a comfort. It wasn't easy... they were human, and often made mistakes. I think it was good to see a different take on a religious belief I would normally have steered clear of, and it helped to open my eyes to how people of other beliefs may view the world. Carrie was certainly a lot less cynical than I.


As for the romance; it was more of a struggle for me in this book. At the beginning of the story, Carrie is happily married to her husband Melvin--who she loves dearly. Unfortunately, Melvin was often busy (man those Amish work hard! I have to hand it to them... and it's something I wish the rest of society mimicked) and in his place, he sends Joshua to help Carrie out while he's away. Joshua is sort of a relative/friend who's got a bad rap. There are rumors flying about that Joshua had gotten a girl pregnant out of wedlock, and in his day, he'd been known to flirt around with a lot of girls. Despite the rumors, Carrie does her best to not judge Joshua by everyone else's opinions of him... but he doesn't make that easy. He's constantly antagonizing Carrie. He seems to come over all the time, and constantly put himself in her way. He teases her, and offers to do women's chores with her... he even flirts a little. As a non-Amish reader, I was desperately hoping Carrie would break Amish laws and run away with him... because despite the rumors, Joshua seemed to be a really nice guy--just a bit of a bad boy. I also wasn't a huge fan of Melvin. Sure, he was a good guy... He obviously loved Carrie and treated her with respect... until she introduces the idea of IVF and he  starts telling her he fears for her soul. Ouch Melvin. Ouch. Not to mention, he's kind of off and away most of the book... so I really couldn't seem to like him. (I luff you Joshua!)


There are some more twists and turns to this story: Rumors, Adoption, Teen Pregnancy, ETC, but I don't want to spoil too much. The point is, I really loved this book. I'm glad I read it, and I think you should too. Ms. Senft did a spectacular job creating a real sense of depth to her characters and the world they lived in. It was not only a good story, but I learned things... and I can't ask for more than that.


Review: Bluebonnet Bride

Bluebonnet Bride - Caroline Clemmons

Title: Bluebonnet Bride [Men of Stone Mountain Book 3]

Author: Caroline Clemmons

Genre: Historical, Western, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars


Description/Synopsis: He’s a by-the-book Texas sheriff; she’s on the run from a murder conviction...


When a tornado provides Rosalyn with the opportunity to escape the gallows, she collects her daughter Lucy and flees. They travel far enough West that Rosalyn believes she’s gone to the ends of the earth. She hopes she and Lucy will be safe in this remote North Texas town where she embarks on a new life as a dressmaker. If only she could avoid contact with people, especially the handsome sheriff who pops up every time she turns around. She fears either she or her chatterbox daughter may slip and reveal too much.


Joel Stone has been content with his life, even if it’s not the one he’d dreamed. His younger brothers are married and living nearby, his aunts have moved to Radford Springs, and he is respected for the efficient job he does as sheriff. When he meets the new widow in town, his instant attraction staggers him. She appears uninterested, but he is determined to win her hand in marriage.


But life doesn’t turn out the way either Rosalyn or Joel plan. They overcome temporary obstacles, but what of the secret she protects? Can he save her from the gallows?




Once again, let's start with the cover:  it's another cut and paste job, only this time it's super-obvious. The white background behind the model can still be found like a halo around her head. Unfortunately, she's also a completely different model (and much older) than the one represented on the back cover.... and despite the fact that they're supposed to be living in historical times, they both have massive amounts of makeup on. Sigh.


That being said, like the book before it, I found this one to be a bit of a mixed bag. It's clear, easy to follow, and interesting... the plot is a good one: woman escapes from nearly being hung for a crime she didn't commit, and finds herself fleeing to the middle of nowhere and falling in love with a member of the law who at any moment may discover her deep dark secret. It's a good premise. Unfortunately, like the other books in the series, the characters lacked a sense of depth, and the events in the book were a little too convenient to be believable.


I think my least favorite character was probably Joel. Here's this guy who's a Texas sheriff, seems to have his life pretty much well in order - he takes care of his brothers, he's good in the community, and he has a big ole house he's working on renovating. He obviously had all his ducks in a row and was a responsible, level-headed guy. Right? Except nearly the moment he meets Rosalyn and her daughter Lucy, he's smitten. We're talking full-out puppy-love where he practically invites himself into her company and goes all gooey-eyed. He acted like a 40-yr-old virgin, desperate for affection. It wasn't endearing, and it wasn't sweet, it was roll-your-eyes "are you serious?".


Rosalyn, on the other hand, was probably one of my favorite characters, because she looked at Joel pretty much the same way I did "Really? Back off dude." All she wanted to do was raise her daughter in anonymity, and run her struggling dress-shop. She was a hard worker, practical, and cautious. It fit her situation, and I loved her for it.  Unfortunately, circumstances were against her, and it seemed that at every turn, something drastically awful was happening to her. It started with a hurricane that leveled the jail she was waiting in (though didn't harm her), then the fire... that burned her dress shop and endangered her daughter's room, but didn't harm anyone in the family, and she was able to salvage some of her shop-equipment/materials, thereby forcing her to move in with the sheriff. Like I said, it all seemed just a little too convenient.


Also, I think the secondary characters were a bit too much like props and too little like actual people. They all either seemed to love Rosalyn and Lucy or they hated their guts and wanted them crushed. They showed up for brief mentions here and there, but really didn't have much impact on the story (even when it was obvious the author was using them to drive the plot... like the angry school teacher that burned down Rosalyn's house). I found their hatred of her to be very manufactured.  It was a convenient way to make events happen, but the attempt at tension fell flat for me.


So did I like the story? Yah. I did. It was a fun afternoon read, and while it wasn't "great writing", it did hold my interest, and there's something to be said for that. Would I recommend it to other people? Maybe if they needed a book to read at the doctor's office... but I don't think I'd be shoving the book in their hands shouting "READ THIS!". If you like sweet, happy ending historical romances, then give this a try. It's cute, and it's a great afternoon read.

Review: High Stakes Bride

High Stakes Bride - Caroline Clemmons

Title: High Stakes Bride [Men of Stone Mountain 2]

Author: Caroline Clemmons

Genre: Historical, Western, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars


Description/Synopsis: Mary Alice Price is on the run from dangerous men. She had known that when her stepfather died, she would have to hurriedly escape her stepbrothers. Hadn’t she heard them promise her to the meanest man in Texas as payment for high stakes gambling losses?

One misfortune after another devils her until she links up with Zach Stone. He looks sturdy as his last name and invites her to his ranch where his two aunts will chaperone them. She figures life finally dealt her a winning hand.


Zach Stone has the sweetest ranch in all of Texas, at least he thinks he does. All he needs is a wife to build his family of boys and girls to carry on his ranch and name. He’s been jilted and vows he will never even speak to a woman again unless she's a relative.

Then he comes across Alice Price and comes up with a crazy plan. He’s figured everything out, and is sure nothing can go wrong with his plan.

But life holds many surprises for Alice and Zach...




First off, let's start with the cover: It's not that the cover was bad--considering the multitude of really awful covers I've seen on self-published book this past year, this one was actually decent (other than the huge amount of text)... that is until I got to the back cover. Someone had the ingenious idea to copy and paste completely unrelated photos of a model and a little boy dressed up in a cowboy costume, and his little dog. I know that as a writer, we all need our little "headshots" of models to use as reference for our characters. I love the practice, but it'd be nice if those random photos weren't used in lieu of an actually planned cover. It came across as cheap and home-made. I would have preferred a blank back cover with only a synopsis to what amounted to clipart.


As for the was a mixed bag--and don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad book. Like the previous of the series that I read, the writing was clear, fast-flowing, and engaging. Unfortunately, it was also convenient.


 Things just seemed too easy for the characters, and it lacked a lot of the tension that I loved about the first book in the series. Here's this man who need a bride, and poof! There's one available (though the author did try to make it seem as if the main male lead wasn't ever going to consider her). He wants a family? Poof! There was a orphaned boy who needs a home and just happened to be living on his property. 


Do you see where I'm going with this? The characters didn't seem to have to work hard to get to any of the main points of the story. Things just fell into place around them, and while that was cute and endearing at times, it lacked the active punch and draw of having struggled to get those things. Also, the use of the term "forever home" really irritated me. It's a very modern, fluffy way of saying "permanent home" that I'm 100% sure wasn't used in historical times. To hear the characters use it... well, it stuck out as sloppy. If you're going to write a historical story, I honestly believe the lingo of the day and age (however non-politically correct we find it now) should be used. It adds a level of depth to the storytelling that is sorely needed in this type of book and was absent in this one.


The romance, at least, was much better in this book, I felt than the previous book. There was a definite attraction to the main characters, and it was fun watching them struggle to fit together despite their circumstances. In the end, was it my favorite western historical romance? Not by a long shot, but it was a good one, and I'd still recommend it to anyone looking for a light afternoon read with loveable characters.

Review: Visions of Heat

Visions of Heat - Nalini Singh

Title: Visions of Heat [Psy-Changeling 2]

Author: Nalini Singh

Genre: Paranormal, Dystopian, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars


Description/Synopsis: Used to cold silence, Faith NightStar is suddenly being tormented by dark visions of blood and murder. A bad sign for anyone, but worse for Faith, an F-Psy with the highly sought after ability to predict the future. Then the visions show her something even more dangerous - aching need... exquisite pleasure. But so powerful is her sight, so fragile the state of her mind, that the very emotions she yearns to embrace could be the end of her.


Changeling Vaughn D'Angelo can take either man or jaguar form, but it is his animal side that is overwhelmingly drawn to Faith. The jaguar's instinct is to claim this woman it finds so utterly fascinating, and the man has no argument. But while Vaughn craves sensation and hungers to pleasure Faith in every way, desire is a danger that could snap the last threads of her sanity. And there are Psy who need Faith's sight for their own purposes. They must keep her silenced - and keep her from Vaughn...




Go buy it. Now. Honestly, if you love Paranormal or Dystopian Romance, you're going to love this. Hands down. I was completely blown away by this book. The writing was exceptional. It was clear, perfectly paced, and never lost my interest. I ended up reading it cover to cover in a few hours and didn't even take the time to stop and eat a meal. The world building in this story was so intriguing: A society of people with psychic-related powers (telepathy, seers, empaths, etc) who live every day connected to massive NetMind, and have been stripped of human emotion. They were basically brainwashed into believing whatever the "council" of their society chose to tell them, and all of it was lies.


The characters were unique and felt like they were real people, not 2D concepts. Faith NightStar and Vaughn D'Angelo may have been the cutest, and most challenging couple ever, but the way the author portrayed their strange dynamic.... absolutely amazing! Faith is an F-Psy, she sees the future, and her society isolated her at the young age of 3, keeping her from all physical contact for her entire life. She's been taught to have no emotions and spends her days making business predictions. That is, until one day, she has a question... and the only way to answer it, is to leave her secluded compound and tromp off into the middle of changeling territory in search of the only person who's ever left the NetMind.


What happens next is a journey fraught with discovery, betrayal, murder, passion, and Faith's only chance for freedom. I really enjoyed the way the author put together the romance in this story. The characters began the story in such a way that it wasn't even a possibility for Vaughn or Faith to ever be in a relationship.... the thought didn't even cross their minds... but as the story slowly goes on, they really push each other's boundaries until inevitably, there's no other logical way for them to survive. They needed each other. It was sizzling and endearing, and possibly one of the most entertaining and convincing romances I've come across in one of these types of books. Well done Ms. Singh, well done.


I'm a fan from this point on, and will buy every single book in this series. I'm hooked. So, if you like dystopian stories with complicated world building, sizzling romances, or stories about shape-shifters and Psy's... go grab this book and give it a try. You'll love it.

Review: Brazos Bride

Brazos Bride - Caroline Clemmons

Title: Brazos Bride [Men of Stone Mountain 1]

Author: Caroline Clemmons

Genre: Historical, Romance, Suspense

Rating: 4 Stars (rounded up from a 3.7)


Description/Synopsis: Hope Montoya knows someone is poisoning her, but who? She suspects her mother was also poisoned and knows her father was murdered. Who wants her family eliminated? She vows to fight! She realizes she won’t last the eight months until she turns twenty-five and her uncle no longer controls her or her estate. Never will she be dominated by a man as she was by her father, as she has seen her mother and grandmothers dominated. If she marries, she gains control now, but only if she weds a man she can trust. Only one man meets her requirements. Can she trust him to protect her and capture the killer...but then to leave?


Micah Stone has been in love with Hope since the first time he saw her. But he was accused of her father’s murder and surely would have hung if not for his two brothers’ aid. Most in the community still believe him guilty. But the drought has him too worried about water for his dying cattle to care about his neighbors’ opinions. When Hope proposes a paper marriage in exchange for land on the Brazos River and much-needed cash, her offer rubs his pride raw. His name may be Stone, but he’s not made of it. He can’t refuse her for long, and so their adventure begins.




I was lucky enough to get a chance to read three books of this series all in a row, and I have to say that out of the group, this one was my favorite. The story is a romantic, western, suspense story about Hope Montoya, a woman who's been poisoned, and fears for her life. In an attempt to escape the person who's trying to murder her, and may have already murdered her mother and father, she propositions a neighboring rancher (Micah Stone) into marrying her. Marriage signs over the entirety of her family's estate to herself - and is the only way she can think of to gain control of a situation that is quickly spiraling downward.


Now, I'm a huge romance fan and a mediocre suspense fan. It's not that I don't like mysteries, thrillers, or suspense novels, they just aren't my favorite genre's. However, I actually preferred the suspense portion of this book to the romance. It was fun trying to guess who was really poisoning Hope, and right up until the very end, I really didn't have a clue. It was a nice change of pace to go into a story where I couldn't guess the outcome. On the other side of the coin though, the romance was rather lack-luster. The kindest way to describe Micah Stone is "lost puppy syndrome". He was completely smitten by Hope, and had been for years when the story started- but that was all about her beauty. He wasn't in love with her for her personality, he hardly even knew her. I can understand someone being in lust with a beautiful woman... but to really truly love her without really knowing her? I found it hard to believe, and it made him come across as a bit of a weak character.


Hope, sadly, was also a weak character. She was literally too weak to take care of herself when the story started, which was understandable considering she'd been poisoned for months, but on top of that, her personality didn't balance out the weakness like I'd expected. She was your typical historical heroine that was doe-eyed and naive. Frankly, as a couple, Hope and Micah were meant for each other, in a sappy, almost too sweet to stand it sort of way.


So why did I give it four stars? Because other than the romantic bits, the writing was good. I felt engaged with the story. It read through quickly, and I didn't feel the need to skim or re-read passages. That's not to say that the writing didn't have its faults (I'll get to that), but it was clear and interesting, and those are qualities that I always look for in good books. The plot itself was also well done. I liked the mystery and murder, and I liked the concept of the two main characters joining in a marriage of convenience. These sorts of romances are usually highly entertaining - mostly because the characters usually don't want to be married, and this creates all kind of tension and conflict. At the core, this was a good book. I enjoyed reading it.


Unfortunately, for being categorized as a Romance above all else, the Romance fell flat. It was odd, but every time a romantic scene came up, the dialog suddenly became very forced and unnatural--it was almost comical. It felt as if the author was almost embarrassed to write the romantic bits. The story would go from strong, clear narrative to stiff and unnatural the moment the main characters started getting romantic. Here's an example for you:

"Are you sure? I want what we shared once before. I won't be able to hold you and not ask for more."

"I want more, too." She extinguished the lamp and slid her arms around his waist.

"I've needed you more than you can imagine. I can't rein in my desire much longer." He wrapped her in his embrace.

"Whatever control I had, it is gone." Hope pressed her face against his bare chest.

It doesn't sound natural. He says something, she mimics him. He says something else, she mimics him again. It's not romantic, and it's not convincing. This is the main reason I marked this down from 5 stars. Overall, I liked the story. I was entertained, and I enjoyed the characters as individuals. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a light afternoon read and enjoys murder mysteries. I just don't know that I'd recommend it for the romance.

Review: Waiting For Morning

Waiting for Morning - Margaret Brownley

Title: Waiting For Morning [The Brides of Last Chance Ranch 1896]

Author: Margaret Brownley

Genre: Christian, Historical, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars


Description/Synopsis: Molly Hatfield comes to Arizona Territory seeking stability and security. But living in Cactus Patch provides her with more than she ever dreamed of.


There is nothing Molly wouldn’t do for her teenaged brother, Donny. Blaming herself for the accident that left him wheel-chair bound, Molly has dedicated her life to his care. But in 1896, gainful employment for a woman is hard to come by. So when Molly learns that an eccentric rancher in Cactus Patch, Arizona, is looking for an heiress--someone to take over management of the ranch in exchange for future ownership--she jumps at the chance to provide a real home for her brother.


If she proves to have a knack for ranching and agrees to remain single for life, the ranch can be hers. Neither stipulation worries Molly. She’s resourceful and hardworking. And she gave up dreams of marriage long ago when she dedicated her life to her brother’s well-being.


However, Molly didn’t bank on meeting Dr. Caleb Fairbanks, the town’s handsome and charismatic young doctor. Caleb has a way with Molly that makes her nervous. But it’s how he is with her brother that really alarms her. Caleb sees past the wheelchair and genuinely likes Donny, but Molly fears he’s putting unrealistic ideas into her brother’s head. Falling in love with Caleb would threaten everything she’s worked for, even her brother’s future happiness.


But it could be the very reason God brought her to Last Chance Ranch.




Let me start off by saying, this book was phenomenal. The writing was clear and easy to follow, the story was engaging, and I was utterly astounded by the knowledge of the author pertaining to the time period. 1896 was very nearly the turn of the century and things like light bulbs, the telegraph, and the first cars were just making their way into existence. It's not a time I've seen a lot of historical writers delve into, and I found it fascinating. It was really great to see the character's reactions to the new technology of the day, and the way everyone stared at the very first car like it was the most absurd thing they'd ever heard of. I couldn't get enough.


The characters in this story were very believable. They had different motivations and ways of handling things that really added a sense of depth to each of them. I laughed at the cowboy's nicknames, but at the same time I saw them as real people. So rarely do I see a book who's characters were written so well. Donny and Molly had to be my favorite out of the bunch, but mostly, Donny. It's strange to come across a story where my favorite character is not one of the main characters, but I think the author did a great job of building Donny as a character. Here was this 14 yr old kid stuck in a wheelchair in a time where being crippled pretty much made you an invalid. He was angry and demanding, and helpless, but as the story went along, he grew as a character and really pushed forward to overcome the limits he'd been given. I was cheering him on the whole story.


The romance also seemed to be handled in a really appropriate way, I thought. There seems to be this running trend in historical romance that the romances always have to be passionate and rule-breaking... but rather than go that direction, Ms. Brownley made Molly and Caleb's romance what it should be. It was endearing, slow, and sweet. That's how romance was in those days for the most part for propriety's sake, and I think the author did a fantastic job on showing that, but at the same time, not shoving it off in a corner.


What struck me the most about this story, however, was the amazing detail. The author had a way of painting a scene with little bits of hidden information that you hardly noticed, but put together, made me feel like I was in the book. I felt the heat of the Arizona desert and the dust in the air. I could smell the cowhide warming in the sun. The narrative was so fluid and seamless - just as any great narrative should be - that it virtually disappeared.


Another thing that stuck out at me was the religious portion of this book. This was a Christian historical romance, and, of course, the character's faith was constantly mentioned. Not being a religious person, these kinds of things often stick out at me more than most, and sometimes, outright bother me. I've read some Christian romances where the author practically shoved their religious beliefs down my throat with page after page of quoting the bible. That didn't happen here. The author did exactly what she should have done: she let the character's beliefs and discovery of their spirituality speak for itself. Through the telling of the story, you got a firm, but not pushy understanding of how these characters were learning about their own beliefs, and I think it was an appropriate and beautiful way to tell that part of the story. It honestly didn't bother me in the least, and I wouldn't have any problem picking up another one of Ms. Brownley's books.


Overall, I really liked the book. The only thing that bothered me even a little was the fact that Molly had to give up her place on the ranch in the end. I really would have liked to see the contract amended, but I guess in the end I understand. Molly wasn't much of a cattle-lover, and it wouldn't have been the best choice. I was just cheering for her anyway.  I'd really recommend this book to anyone who's looking for a good historical romance. Doesn't matter if you're religious at all or not. It was really well written, and an endearing romantic read.

Review: Superb and Sexy

Superb and Sexy - Jill Shalvis

Title: Superb and Sexy [Sky High Series 3]

Author: Jill Shalvis

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Suspense

Rating: 4 Stars


Description/Synopsis: Despite his brooding bad-boy attitude, Brody knows life has treated him pretty well. His luxury charter airline, Sky High, has given him financial security and the means to take to the skies whenever things on the ground get complicated. And lately, things have become very complicated, thanks to the insanely passionate, or perhaps just insane, kiss he shared with Sky High’s gorgeous, wisecracking concierge, Maddie. He’s tried to keep his distance, but now Maddie desperately needs help, and it’s triggering protective alpha-male urges Brody didn’t even know he had…


For months, Maddie hid her crush on sexy, exasperating Brody behind a cool, kick-ass exterior…and then blew that to smithereens by jumping him in the lobby. Yeah, real smooth. She’s tried to break her ties with Sky High, but Brody won’t let her walk away—especially now that he knows that Maddie and her twin sister Leena are in big-time trouble. To save Leena, Maddie and Brody must pose as husband and wife, and Maddie is amazed that the man she thought was oblivious to her existence knows her very well indeed. But that’s nothing compared to the way she’s about to get to know him—intimately, in depth, and over and over again…




So let's start with the cover and title: They don't really have much to do with the actual book. It's marketing for the most part, so try not to take it too heavily in your book buying decisions. Once I'd actually gotten into the book, I was a little disappointed to realize that the cover did not reflect Maddie's appearance/personality. Sure, at one point she does have short, auburn hair... but she's one of those characters who changes her hair color almost daily. We're talking, blues, purples, weird colors. It would have been cool to see some of that spunk in the models.


That aside, this was a very good book. The narrative and dialog were extremely well written and the story flowed easily from page to page. I never felt like I was being rushed or jolted out of the story, and the story kept me turning the page.


The characters, particularly Maddie, were spunky, unique, and entertaining. I really liked Maddie and Brody. They were a cute couple, and you could definitely feel the attraction between the characters. The sex scenes were sizzling. Really, there isn't much I can say that isn't positive about them, except that perhaps Maddie's personality seemed a bit off to me.


From the very beginning of the book, we're told that she's kind of the duct-tape that holds Sky High Airlines together. She's tough, quirky, and confident - and definitely unique in her appearance. Unfortunately, I don't think I saw as much of that as I'd like to. There was very little interaction with the Airline or the other members of the crew at all. From nearly the beginning, she's been toned down into a normal-looking girl and spending all her time panicking about things from her past and present concerning her family (that apparently no one knew she had). What I saw, was a fairly normal-in-appearance girl who was stubborn, but afraid. Very afraid. Of her relationship with Brody, as well as her past experiences with her family. I didn't see the confident quirky girl I kept being told about.


Now as a little aside, I also had some trouble being convinced she was a twin. I can't blame the author much for this - because unless you are a twin, you wouldn't know these things. I happen to be an identical twin, so I know the shoes that Maddie is trying to fill. I honestly don't think an identical twin (who obviously still very dearly cared for her sister) would have left her in that situation with her uncle.. even to protect herself. Writers don't seem to get that the bond between twins is extremely strong - I know people always describe it as "being the other half of a person" but they aren't far off. Twins are together every second of the day from the time they're born to the time they're an adult for the most part. They have all the same memories, have been through the same experiences and conversations... They're almost the same person, just viewing the world through a slightly different viewpoint. It was odd to see Maddie leave her sister Leena behind. It was also really weird to see that no one she knew had any idea she had a twin. Take it from me, even if you leave your twin (like I did to move half-way across the country), you will still refer to yourself as "we" in conversation. It's a byproduct of always being together all the time. It's very hard to separate the "I" from experiences shared. Even to this day, 10 years after leaving my twin, when I refer to my childhood I say "we". I had a hard time believing Maddie was really a twin... but like I said, maybe that's because some of these points just aren't known to anyone who isn't already a twin.


Also, another sore point I had, was that it was never really explained why Maddie's uncle Rick hated her so much. He seemed to want to kill her on sight, but other than having left when she was 16... there doesn't seem to be a reason for him to hate her to that extent. Sadly, most of the tension in the book was based around the fact that he wanted to kill her.


Overall, it was a great book. It was a fun, steamy read. The things I found wrong with it were minor, and only detracted from the story a little bit. I'd definitely still recommend it to anyone looking for a slightly unconventional romance.


Review: Fate

Fate - Tallulah Grace

Title: Fate [Timeless Trilogy 1]

Author: Tallulah Grace

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery

Rating: (2.5 rounded up to) 3 Stars


Description/Synopsis: Is precognition a prescription for happiness or disaster?

The good things in life are coming together for Kristina Collins. She’s found her ideal home, her career is on track for mega success and the man of her dreams has finally come back into her life.


In Fate, the first installment of the Timeless Trilogy, Kris Collins discovers the benefits and risks of having precognitive visions while being stalked by a serial killer. Her friends can’t help her, the FBI can’t save her; she must save herself.




There were some parts of this book that I found well done, and some that obviously could have been done better. To begin with, I found the writing clear and engaging (minus the several instances where a word was left out of a sentence and it made no sense, or the wrong word was used):

  • "Since when are so religious minded?"
  • That's lets out Charleston.
  • "have a lot to be desired."

I was able to put the book down at multiple points, and pick it right back up again with little problem. The story kept me turning the pages, which is an awfully hard thing to do sometimes, but there were certain aspects of the story that were amazingly cliche, and I found they detracted a bit from my immersion. Fate is a romance/mystery about a girl who's being stalked by a serial killer and has just found herself living next door to the love of her life from years past.


Unfortunately, the "bad guy" Damien, was one of the most cliche bad guys ever. I have a supreme hatred of serial-killer characters that have the depth of a puddle, and Damien was no exception. The author never explained why he was killing women, how he picked them, or what he did with them afterward. None of his back-story was explained, or even why he was drawn to this particular character. In fact, as the story starts, he's already been stalking the main female lead, Kris, for quite a while. Every time the story skipped over into Damien's head, I found his actions creepy (as they should be) but his voice was almost comical. He was silly. I didn't get that vibe of "menacing" from him that I was expecting.


The other characters, like Damien, held little depth. In fact, some of the secondary characters (Kris' friends) only showed up once or twice and were never seen from again, despite the fact that her life was in danger.


As far as the plot was concerned, I honestly think the story would have been better had the entire romance been dropped out of it. Kris has been living in her beach home for several months when her former boyfriend from years ago suddenly moves in next door. It's a little convenient, but I'd have let it slide--except this is also the boyfriend that she broke up with because (and here's the cliche part) a female friend of theirs was jealous and broke them apart by telling them both lies. Of course, like every other cliche-romance couple, instead of talking to each other, they both skipped out on the relationship. It took them about a day to figure out they were both lied to and to suddenly fall back in love despite years of being separated. At this point, with the stalking becoming an ever-present danger, the main male lead, practically moves in with Kris, and together they work to thwart her stalker. It certainly wasn't anything original.

t's a little convenient, but I'd have let it slide--except this is also the boyfriend that she broke up with because (and here's the cliche part) a female friend of theirs was jealous and broke them apart by telling them both lies. Of course, like every other cliche-romance couple, instead of talking to each other, they both skipped out on the relationship. It took them about a day to figure out they were both lied to and to suddenly fall back in love despite years of being separated. At this point, with the stalking becoming an ever-present danger, the main male lead, practically moves in with Kris, and together they work to thwart her stalker. It certainly wasn't anything original.


In the end, both of them get kidnapped by the stalker (despite the police help... who were amazingly unprofessional in all of this and started coming over for dinner daily rather than doing their jobs) and Kris ends up shooting the stalker with a gun he somehow didn't notice she had with her.


The whole thing was one predictable plot device after another. Not to mention (and I almost forgot to!) the main character was a precog and had frequent visions of the future. Her visions had absolutely no bearing on the story what so ever except to give us spoilers about what we had already guessed was about to happen - effectively becoming redundant. If there had been any surprises in store, they would have been ruined by her constant visions. Needless to say, there were no surprises in this book.


Honestly, the whole story was a mess. There were so many ways this could have been tightened up into a really engaging thriller/mystery, but it seemed like the author was always going for the convenient plot devices that we've already seen done hundreds of times before instead. The story could have stood on its own as just a thriller/mystery if the romance had been dropped out. It could have stood alone as a romance had the thriller/mystery been dropped out--and the entire thing could have stood without the precognition tidbit, but together, all of those aspects combined to make a needless mess of information. What could have been a solid story, turned out weak. Was it still a fun little read? Yes. I did find it entertaining despite it's flaws, and it read fast enough that I could have taken it on a bus or to a doctor's office. Would I recommend it to anyone else? No, not really. It was an okay story, but it wasn't anything special.