I am seriously in love with the Prakenskiis, and I have to say that Maxim is my favorite now. He's a mad, bad, dangerous man but he...moreI loved this book!
I am seriously in love with the Prakenskiis, and I have to say that Maxim is my favorite now. He's a mad, bad, dangerous man but he loves so good! I had no clue that this tough, lethal man that we met at the beginning of this book could be such a sweet, gentle, loving guy to Airiana. I think that is Feehan magic, how she creates this guys who are lethal and ruthless, but then they are so deeply in love with their heroines, that I end up sighing as I read the book. Now this won't work for some readers, but I am such a sucker for the mix of action and suspense and romance, and Feehan has delivered both in such a delicious combination in this book.
I will confess that she's autobuy for me and I didn't even read the synopsis. I was there because I knew it was a Prakenskii hero. I didn't read the blurb until I opened the book to read it, and I was like, 'cool.' So I didn't have much preconceived notions, but I was just in it for the ride, and what a fun, wonderful ride it was.
Most of the book takes place away from Airiana's sisters, but I didn't mind that. I think that the situation was crafted very well to the lead characters. While somethings will always be the same about Feehan's books (but those things are why I read her), the situation felt different in an appealing way. Maxim is in no way a carbon copy of his brothers. And Airiana is also distinctive from her 'sisters'. Despite her air element, she's actually quite cerebral and far from flighty and hippie-chick, like I was suspecting. I liked the backstory of her life and how it ties into Maxim's story. Airiana is a tough young woman. For such a small, delicate person, she can hold her own and she was quite the action heroine in this book. She's really a very cool, down to earth, mature for her age woman. She gets my seal of approval.
I feel that Feehan does a good job of plotting and tying her stories together. and this fits very cohesively into the series. She makes the idea of the 'Sisters of the Heart' all ending up with Prakenskiis a lot more plausible than one would expect. I'll admit that I am fine with it because I can't get enough of these guys.
I liked that the love scenes come later in the book. Considering how dangerous Airiana and Maxim's situation was, it made a lot more sense. I can't stand when they take an inappropriate 'sex break' in romantic suspense novels. When the the love scenes come, they are blisteringly sexy but also very romantic. Although both are wounded, the 'getting busy' part isn't implausible. the love scenes say so much about the love journey of these two characters. You can see how much Maxim cherishes Airiana and you can also see that Airiana truly trusts Max and gives her heart unreservedly. That makes me sigh happily.
There is a really cool twist in this book that I really liked, and it adds to the believability of Maxim settling into a normal life, which he never had because of his family and their tie to the Russian government. There was some horrible tragedy and wrongness in this book, but I think that Max and Airiana were in exactly the right place at the right time and they will make things right.
I really can't say enough good things about this book. I wanted to read it again right after I finished it. Lately, I've felt less sucked into books, and this book certainly breaks that trend for the better. I rejuvenates my romance novel juices and makes me want to go on a reading tear. I have a need for more high octane romance novel action books like this, with a yummy hero and heroine I really like for this long, hot summer I am facing! Please write the next book soon, Ms. Feehan!(less)
I think that reading this alone out of the whole series doesn't give you the entire picture. I feel like I have some holes in my understanding. I am h...moreI think that reading this alone out of the whole series doesn't give you the entire picture. I feel like I have some holes in my understanding. I am hoping my library has all or most of these. I like the idea of presenting the situation through the eyes of various characters in the Marvel world. Each one would have a different vantage point based on their worldview and life experiences.
It's not a big surprise that Captain America and Iron Man come out on different sides of the issue. However, Captain America stands against the Superhero Registration out of sheer belief that it is wrong and it goes against the principles of a free society. As a true patriot, he is willing to fight for the rights of others. Iron Man doesn't have a POV in this story, so it's hard to argue his viewpoint, but I believe in his own way, he thinks he's doing the right thing as well. That's the anguish of the situation, that there are good people on both sides, although the baddies like HYDRA and Dr. Doom are going to use the discord to advance their own agendas.
The Winter Soldier has a big role in this book, as well as some protegees of well known superheroes, such as the next Hawkeye, Kate Bishop. Even Namor, who fought with Cap back in WWII shows up. It was neat to read more about TWS after seeing the excellent movie a couple of months prior to this. I hadn't even heard of him until the movie came out and from watching Marvel's Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
The artwork is lovely and the writing touches on the emotional battlefield that Captain and others around him face. Civil War is an apt title for this series, because we are seeing the Marvel heroes well and truly divided. (less)
This was a lot darker than I expected. The portrayal of the dysfunctional and toxic relationship of Xavier with his mother adds a lot of depth to his...moreThis was a lot darker than I expected. The portrayal of the dysfunctional and toxic relationship of Xavier with his mother adds a lot of depth to his character and makes his rakish nature understandable. I wasn't happy with one huge aspect of the story, but it turned out well in the end. Almost a four star read, but I'd have to go with 3.5/5.0 stars.
Sarah Pendleton returns to her hometown of Mistletoe Valley, Oregon, to get her deceased grandmother's affairs in order, especially the sale o...moreSynopsis
Sarah Pendleton returns to her hometown of Mistletoe Valley, Oregon, to get her deceased grandmother's affairs in order, especially the sale of her grandmother's home. Her past memories of Mistletoe Valley are painful, including her rebellious behavior and earned reputation as a "Preacher's Kid," her subsequent failed marriage, and most of all, having to give her baby daughter up for adoption. Her first day back, she meets handsome and friendly real estate agent, Rich Stevens, who happens to have an adorable daughter named Carly (who coincidentally is the same age as her daughter). An instant spark and connection develops between them, but Sarah knows she doesn't intend to stay in Mistletoe Valley, where the past has eliminated her hope for a good future. Besides, Rich is also a part-time youth pastor and a grieving widower, not an ideal choice for a romance, considering Sarah's bad reputation as a rebellious "Preacher's Kid" when she was younger. Can they spend the short time they have together, knowing that they will have to walk away from any love developing between them?
The Heart Leads Home is a sweet contemporary romance that has a meaningful message about letting go of past mistakes and pain and being open to a future. Both leads have distinctive burdens to carry, and they clearly help each other through their pain, although each has to work through the bulk of their emotional issues themselves. I could feel Sarah's anguish over having to give up her daughter, failing her grandparents, and her regrets over her short-lived marriage. Her fears are reasonable, and her desire not to ‘go back' is completely understandable. She showed a lot of courage to face people who knew about her mistakes, so when she had occasional lapses in mettle in being open to a future romance and letting go of the past, it's forgivable.
Rich's issues seem to take a backseat in the story. The author does mention his pain about his wife's death, and there is a sense that he is grieving, but not as much page time is spent on processing his grief as is spent on Sarah's journey. Also the stress of his juggling his single father status with his full-time job as a realtor and his work as a youth pastor wasn't as well-described as I would have liked. I felt that his portrayal was lacking, as a result.
The romance is well done. I appreciated that even though this is a sweet/lightly inspirational romance, the author does establish romantic chemistry with some sexual attraction between Sarah and Rich. One of my pet peeves with Christian romances is the way that the characters are often sexually neutered by the author, perhaps out of the sense that any sexual content is inappropriate. While I respect that not all readers would feel comfortable with graphic sexual descriptions, I see nothing wrong with a passionate kiss between the characters or even an acknowledgement that they feel attraction to each other. Voeller achieved a good balance in her portrayal of Sarah and Rich's developing feelings for each other. How, yes, they initially feel physically attracted to each other, although their love is built on a foundation of friendship and respect.
I did feel that the secondary characters lacked definition and development. Because they seemed one-dimensional, some of the dialogue between the characters seemed disingenuous. Overall, Carly was well-done as a child character, although the scene where she behaves badly could have been more authentic.
For readers who enjoy sweeter contemporary romance with a light inspirational theme, The Heart Leads Home will probably be an enjoyable read. In some ways it seemed to have an identity crisis, because the Christian message felt a little sidelined/watered down. For readers who don't really identify with the faith message, this might appeal. But for Christian readers or those who read books to gain insight into the way believers live out their faith, this might be disappointing. Additionally, the crises faced by both leads were watered down in how they were described (another pet peeve of mine with Christian romance). Being a Christian is hard, and Christians face some serious challenges in life, and the tendency in Christian fiction novels is to sanitize the content to the point that the message lacks profundity. Despite the way the end dragged, leading to the loss of some of my emotional investment, this was a well-paced, well-written book overall.
While I wouldn't typically reach for an Amish romance novel, this was a pretty good read. I liked Adam a lot, and the fact that he breaks stereotypes...moreWhile I wouldn't typically reach for an Amish romance novel, this was a pretty good read. I liked Adam a lot, and the fact that he breaks stereotypes about the typical romance novel hero. The food descriptions were mouth-watering.
Maisey Yates takes the Beauty and the Beast story and twists it on its side with this book. Is the heroine the beast due to her unsightly scars, or is...moreMaisey Yates takes the Beauty and the Beast story and twists it on its side with this book. Is the heroine the beast due to her unsightly scars, or is the gorgeous prince with his decadent lifestyle really the beast?
Disclaimer: I didn't put this review in spoiler tags, although there might be some borderline spoilerish elements. I endeavored not to give too much away, that wasn't necessary to expressing my thoughts of the book.
As I read this novel, it struck me that this is a very serious book. I didn't feel much levity, not that I always expect it, but it was noticeably lacking. Layna and Xander have some serious hurts in their past and their present situations. Xander went off the rails big time and the author wasn't afraid to keep it real in describing Xander's depredations. No Xander did it all in his checkered past (recent and distant). He was notoriously promiscuous to the degree that he doesn't even know how many women he's slept with (and doesn't even remember some of them), abused drugs, and was a hard drinker. In my mind I couldn't help wonder how healthy his liver is. I have alcoholics in my family on both sides, and through them I have seen the effects of long-term alcohol abuse on a person. I was glad that Layna doesn't let him off the hook when she agrees to marry him. She demands fidelity from him, and I was so glad that she required that he get STD tested. It was judicious, considering the circumstances. As for Layna's scarring, it's not just confined to a thin line that barely disfigures her face. She has significant scarring and the tabloids/newspapers say some truly awful things about her. That part was heartbreaking. I could completely understand her fears about going back to the public life she escaped from ten years ago. Going from a shallow, spoiled socialite with impeccable looks to a scarred woman in her near to mid-thirties who is marrying a good-looking future king would be heart-wrenching for any woman. Even with her training that vanity has no place in her life from the convent, that was difficult to weather. Although Xander is clearly the worse bargain, they make it seem like Xander is being altruistic in honoring his promises and marrying Layna.
Yates definitely brings the reality to what seems like a storyline straight out of the fairy tales. I can't say I would be eager to marry Xander with his abuses on his body (and it's not out of judgmentalism, but because you can't just click a finger and erase the effects of such a lifestyle from his body). And I think that it's clear that Xander has a ways to go before he breaks fifteen years of bad habits. I think this is evident when they are first intimate. Xander's lovemaking style while accomplished, does show a certain degree of selfishness and callousness about sex. He doesn't understand why Layna is conflicted about the experience, even though she enjoyed it. This is telling and I think realistic for a man who has spent fifteen years sleeping around with random women he meets as he frequents the casinos where he parties and makes his living gambling. I also liked how Xander's perception of Layna changes. He never thinks she's ugly, but he sees the scars through a harsher lens initially. As he falls in love with her, the scars become a part of her, and he loves the character of her features, because that's who she is. They cease to stand out to him.
Layna isn't portrayed as a perfectly good, pure woman either (other than what she appears to be on the surface). While she retired to a convent for ten years, her actions did have a certain degree of self-motivation. The convent was an escape, although she does realize how much she loves helping others and that her faith in God is real to her, in the process. At the root, it is running away, from the exposure she suffered as Xander's rejected fiance who was horribly scarred by an angry protestor, and also from her own emotional breakdown.
Yes, as I wrote earlier, this is a very serious book. Despite the fact that one would consider this storyline fertile ground for a dramatic, glossy style Harlequin Presents, there is a deep emotional core to this book that refuses to allow the reader to dismiss this book as a light read.
I gave this four stars because it was a intense, layered, well-written, and emotional novel, and I think that Yates handled this dicey subject matter very well.(less)
Non-stop adventure and intrigue with very poignant human drama. Like a good spy/adventure novel with a healthy dose of weird/supernatural/sci-fi ficti...moreNon-stop adventure and intrigue with very poignant human drama. Like a good spy/adventure novel with a healthy dose of weird/supernatural/sci-fi fiction thrown in.
Confession takes the Astro City series to the next level with this story of a young man who comes to the big city to make his name and becomes the sid...moreConfession takes the Astro City series to the next level with this story of a young man who comes to the big city to make his name and becomes the sidekick of the mysterious superhero Confessor. The drawing and coloring was gorgeous and vivid. It seemed to almost leap off the page at me. I think this volume was more emotional and much darker than Life in the Big City.
This reminded me a lot of Batman, which may or may not be intentional. I felt like the young boy was both a Batman in the making and Robin at the same time. He has his share of anger at this father's passing and the way he feels that his dad failed him. And an anger at bullies and the unjust. While Bruce Wayne was more angry at the criminal who murdered his parents, I think he also resented his parents for leaving him, for putting their philanthropy before him. In the Robin parallel, he takes on a mentor who is mysterious and driven, who inspires his loyalty the hard way. And from whom, he takes on a mantle and continues his legacy.
Some aspects of this novel hit home very closely. It deals with suspicion and prejudice, and the injustice that seems so intrinsic to a society. How people use ridiculous reasons to hate each other, and that allows deep injustice to occur in the world, often right under their prejudiced noses. The fact that being a hero rarely pays off materially, but requires an unflinching commitment, often at the risk of personal endangerment, and dealing with the fact that your work is often goes uncongratulated and the public opinion can change in an instant.
While Life in the Big City is a more upbeat, bright view of superheroes, this is superheroes in the dark. There are moments that hit me hard, and I had to go back and double check that I had read the former panel right. And I was sad to see my understanding was correct.
I think this is a seminal graphic novel work for superhero fans. Maybe I don't get an opinion (because I haven't read as many GNs as others), but that's how I feel. It shows the truth of the nitty gritty of being a superhero, and the narrator (the young man) is like a stand-in for all of us readers who were in awe of the various superheroes growing up (and even now as grown up geeks). We can see that it's not all it's cracked up to be. The first volume also showed this, but I still think it was more of a 50s style, everything is bright version of that. This is the version in which all the illusions are ripped away and you see the unvarnished truth.
This is a strong graphic novel and it deserves a high rating. I think if I wasn't in such a persistent reading slump, it might have been a five star book. It caught me at a less than ideal time, so I'm going to give it a 4.25/5.0 stars. (less)
Readers who like their contemporary cowboy romance on the spicier side might enjoy this. For me, the book seemed to have an identity crisis as far as...moreReaders who like their contemporary cowboy romance on the spicier side might enjoy this. For me, the book seemed to have an identity crisis as far as its romance genre status. The characters are emotionally all over the place and that was wearing. Overall, pretty good.
Riding her horse one day, Laurel Smith meets a man who makes her want to open her closed world after many years living in the gray background....more Synopsis
Riding her horse one day, Laurel Smith meets a man who makes her want to open her closed world after many years living in the gray background. Tredway Lorent is not exactly a seasoned cowboy. Instead, he is a town-bred fellow with an eye for detail and organization, but he's interested in exploring his possible career options, including working on a horse ranch. She brings him back to Wells Double Bar, her brother and sister-in-law's ranch, and convinces her brother to give him a job, because she feels drawn to him and doesn't want him to walk out of her life just like he walked into it.
Tredway brings Laurel out of her shell, encouraging her art, and supporting her efforts to help others. In return, Laurel sparks this too-serious, too-thoughtful young man to enjoy life and accept that everything doesn't have to be so meticulously controlled, as well as going after his dreams. She finds her way into this heart, but fears of past failure still haunt him. Laurel knows that Tredway is the only man in her heart, but will she and her Perfect Tenderfoot ever make the move towards happily ever after as man and wife?
Perfect Tenderfoot is a sweet love story with two leads that are admirable and kind-hearted. Their interactions speak of deep friendship and admiration, with love growing slowly but surely. Beggs evokes images that take the reader back to life in in late 19th Century New Mexico. A strong sense of community is a highlight of this novel, as Laurel and Tredway continually help others in need, and expand their growing circle of friends and acquaintances.
I appreciated their good-heartedness, and their desire to live meaningful lives, as well as Laurel and Tredway's determination to conquer past fears and insecurities. However, the story was slow-moving at times, lacking sufficient romantic tension. While I could see that the love developing between Laurel and Tredway was genuine, I felt like it seemed to take a backseat to their continual efforts to help others and their personal emotional turmoil. Because of that lack of prominent romantic development, I didn't enjoy this novel quite as much as the first two in the series. However, the likable characters, the sense of community and the historical feel still make it more than an average read.
Perfect Tenderfoot is a novel for aficionados of sweet historical westerns who don't mind a lack of strong romantic tension. Laurel and Tredway are distinctive characters rendered with heartfelt sincerity by Beggs. That and the sense of strong community ties and a motivation to help others do make this book a worthwhile read, although not as successful on the romantic front.
Wow. I love this series. Miles has such a duality to his nature: sweet, loving teddybear, and steely, ruthless warrior. Definitely worked for me. Ador...moreWow. I love this series. Miles has such a duality to his nature: sweet, loving teddybear, and steely, ruthless warrior. Definitely worked for me. Adored Lara and the psychic storyline too.
This was more creepy than Baltimore: The Plague Ships, and that's saying something. Baltimore is still on the hunt for his one-eyed, scarred vampire n...moreThis was more creepy than Baltimore: The Plague Ships, and that's saying something. Baltimore is still on the hunt for his one-eyed, scarred vampire nemesis, but he comes across a cult of demented nuns who follow an occultist bent on rebirthing a powerful sorceress.
I think this series is for readers who loved the Monster of the Week type programs such as Night Gallery or Thriller, or even episodic television like The Incredible Hulk where our lone hero conquers a different situation each week. I could see this as a good television adaptation in the right hands.
The artwork is as beautiful as The Plague Ships, and the writing just as atmospheric. Although this was more scary. It delves deeper into the themes of diabolism and occult dealings with dark entities, and this town that Baltimore goes to is full of a sense of wrongness, death and murky secrets. I did read this at night and I didn't have nightmares, but that was because I read something else before I went to sleep.
Baltimore has to balance his selfish need for revenge against the greater good, and he teams up with an American journalist who is writing a book about vampires after discovering they were real in the Great War. I thought the reporter looked a lot like Edgar Allen Poe, and I wouldn't be surprised if that was a deliberate choice of the creators of this graphic novel. Part of the narrative even includes as passage from "The Bells" by Poe.
I think this was just as good as The Plague Ships if not better, but it's more disturbing and disarming than that prior book in the series. I know that's because it focuses on occultism, black magic, and people who trade the lives of others for ultimate power. Those subjects are inherently more affecting to me than, say zombies and vampires.
Baltimore is a very effective dark hero with an antiheroic bent. He is the dark hero that fights against the darkness, and strives to recover his own lost soul in the process. Those kinds of heroes always get me.
A good tertiary addition to the Baltimore graphic novel series. Readers who love classic horror fiction can't help but enjoy this series, and this one...moreA good tertiary addition to the Baltimore graphic novel series. Readers who love classic horror fiction can't help but enjoy this series, and this one just cements the classic horror sensibility of the work by Mignola and Golden. Forgive the pun, but they are a bit of a Golden Team for me. I think their writing is seamless where I can't figure out which part Mignola wrote and what was written by Golden. The artwork is sober and dark in color, matching the unrelenting darkness of the literary tone of the stories. Baltimore is a lone hunter who travels with one goal in mind: finding Haigus, the vampire who turned him and destroyed his family. Along the way, he will destroy evil he encounters. His relationship with God is complicated. He still calls him Lord, but he has a palpable anger towards Him. Baltimore seethes with it. He shakes his fists at God, but doesn't curse him. He only asks that he be left alone to seek his vengeance. To my mind, God manages for him to be in the right place at the right time, a fierce warrior against darkness and evil creatures of all kinds. I am not saying I like an invincible hero all the time, but I appreciate how Baltimore always ends up in tight spots where I would expect him to be a goner, but he manages to survive, even if he adds a few more scars to the landscape of his body and face.
It's hard to rate this as a good book, in the sense that it's not at all feel-good. It's very depressing in a lot of ways. The vampire plague has left destruction in every place, and all manner of foul creatures prey on the humans who manage to survive the plague and aren't turned into vampires. So, no, it's not an uplifting read. However, the writing and the artwork are beautiful and has a penetrating effect on me as I read. An excellent example of how successful the graphic novel medium can be for storytelling. And since I don't get to read much Gothic/classic horror, lately, it satisfies my palate for the stories in a quick reading format, and the art-lover/artist in me.
I'm ever so grateful that I am able to get this from my library. These volumes would cost a pretty penny to buy new.
So, yes, I do recommend it to readers who aren't averse to a dark read. It's violent and at times visceral, but not at all over the top or graphic. As I said earlier in the review, it has the Gothic and Classic horror sensibility that any fans of 18th-early 20th century horror will appreciate.
I am not overstating to say that the release of the new Black Dagger Brotherhood series book is a highlight of my spring, and I view it as JR Ward's p...moreI am not overstating to say that the release of the new Black Dagger Brotherhood series book is a highlight of my spring, and I view it as JR Ward's present to me for my birthday! That said, let's get to my review:
**Disclaimer: This review is as spoiler-free as I could make it!
Wrath, Son of Wrath and Beth Randall have come a long way since Dark Lover, and it's been my pleasure to accompany them on the ride!
When I first read Dark Lover (about eight years ago), I will be honest in saying that my biggest draw was not Wrath or Beth, but the world and the storyline of the Black Dagger Brotherhood and the strange world within a world of Caldwell, New York. While I enjoyed their relationship, it didn’t blow me away, and neither character is my favorite in this series. However, I knew I was going to keep reading the series, and boy am I glad.
With The King, I feel that an immensely important chapter has been closed in the Black Dagger Brotherhood, and it makes me happy because I feel that all the Brothers and their Shellans have found peace and the close bond of family, drawing close friends into their net. I also feel a sense of excitement in knowing that the storyline can continue and branch off in different ways and directions, and the waters seem uncharted. While there are tendrils that Ms. Ward has planted in this novel, I honestly don't feel I can predict too much about what is coming next. It's going to be fun to see where the story leads, and I am in no way ready for this series to end.
I feel we got to see some added depth to Wrath that was very good for expanding my view and appreciation of the King. He came to terms with some major hurts and issues he was facing, and I felt the flashbacks were a crucial aspect of the storyline. Wrath always regretted that he could not save his parents and he divorced himself from the concept of family and his legacy so long out of a sense of fear and guilt. In this book, he came to terms with his past and how his future did not have to be governed or hemmed in by fear. I loved his evolution as a King and what that responsibility came to mean for him. It was joyous for him to get everything he needed, but didn't even realize he wanted. Even though I know things didn't end well for his parents, their powerful love for each other and their son was still inspiring to me.
Beth's storyline was thought-provoking. She was all over the place emotionally, and I understand why. I feel that she was at some of her deepest lows and her highest highs both in this book. While the story is about her, as Wrath's shellen, I think that more of the story was about Wrath. Her role seems more peripheral, but in a pivotal way. I still enjoyed reading about her character journey in this book. Beth is the best Queen for the race, and I can think of no other shellan to stand at Wrath's side.
Beth and John Matthew
I think this book explored their relationship in a more satisfactory fashion than any of the proceeding books. They know they have each other's backs, and the readers as well. Also, it shows that although you may have your desired life partner, you also need the connection of family (blood and found). I almost thought the thing Ward said would never happen was going to happen, but it turns out that it wasn't necessary. I like the way the story unfolds instead. That John Matthew remains his own person, and his relationships with others aren’t hinged on his secret heritage.
Xcor remains a complicated male, not quite likable in many moments, and captivating and deeply sympathetic in others. Since I like my characters complex, he definitely has my interest, and he may turn out to be a new favorite of mine in this series. He remains a wild card in this new series arc, his behavior not the slightest bit predictable. To his great surprise, his feelings for a certain Chosen have opened closed off parts of his psyche, and this cannot be a bad thing at all. I think he will have a potential enemy in his own nest, but he’s not unaware of that.
Layla is on shaky ground, but she is making her own choices and defining herself as a female. In her own way, she may have helped to avert a war that wasn’t going to end well, and that’s a good thing. I’m happy about that. I’m very excited to see where the story leads her next.
Assail and Sola
Assail is probably the most amoral of the lead characters in this series to date. His behavior chilled me at times, but he was also very sweet in others to Sola and her grandmother. It’s hard to know what to make of him. I hope we see more of his viewpoint. I can’t believe their road ends here. Sola’s in a place where she has to deny the desires of the heart. How long will she be able to tune out the siren call of her unwise feelings for Assail, who logically seems like a ‘very bad man?'
The Shadows: Trez and iAm
I am jubilant at the expansion of their storyline. These two promise to be a gamechanger in the series. We will finally explore the world of the s’Hisbe, and what a fascinating world it is. Trez has been running from his past for a long, long time, dragging his brother iAm along for the bumpy ride, as iAm has ever been his self-appointed guardian. iAm will soon step out of his brother’s shadow and find his own destiny, since Trez must soon face the music. Trez’s character is both repellant and alluring. He breaks my heart in many ways, but I feel hope for his future. I am drawn into this exploration of the dark path he has walked. The Shadows, once merely loyal allies of the Sympath King, have their own grand tale to be told.
I didn’t expect her secret struggle at all. Another case of ‘keep reading’ to see how she will get her happy ending. And she had better!
The Usual Suspects
It's always a pleasure to see the various characters who have had their books, and at the same time, I want more of them. I don't think the WARDen could ever sate my desire for enough of each character, honestly.
JR Ward, like every other author, has her own distinctive voice. There are aspects to her storytelling that turn off some readers. While I can see where she can overdo some of her affectations (like the brand name dropping and the copious use of slang), I love reading her writing. I feel that her depiction of the ancient culture of the vampires and their various subspecies is very poetic and dramatic, like an epic in its own way. Her romantic exposition lushly romantic and deeply sensual. It wraps around me like the dark spices her bonded males exude for their mates. Her tendency to adapt an urban vibe doesn’t bother me, because I think it’s an interesting juxtaposition to the very antiquated rituals of the vampires. While I can’t deny that the Black Dagger Brotherhood is at its heart a soap opera (not a bad thing in itself), it’s an enthralling one that draws me in and doesn’t let go of me until I read the last page (although the stories and characters continue to linger deep in the recesses of my imagination long after I finish the books). I feel like the Brothers, their shellans, and their friends/associations are part of my family, and each book release is like a yearly family reunion that I don’t dare miss. If only I was as excited to go to my real life family reunions!
I’m sure that I could nitpick about the things I felt could have been better written, but I don’t want to. It won’t make me feel I wrote a better review, and I’m not sure it would change my rating at all. I just want to bask in the glow of a new release of one of my top three series. I don’t drink JR Ward Kool-Aid, but I certainly enjoy her fine literary comestibles.
**The countdown has begun until next year’s release.**
I'm not a big reader of mainstream fiction, so I am probably not the target audience, but Hart is a good writer. The emotional landscape is complex an...moreI'm not a big reader of mainstream fiction, so I am probably not the target audience, but Hart is a good writer. The emotional landscape is complex and gritty in this novel. Not light reading at all.
Jack Walker’s dream was to be a Navy SEAL. He was going to make it through BUD/S training, no matter how much it punished his body. Just four more wee...moreJack Walker’s dream was to be a Navy SEAL. He was going to make it through BUD/S training, no matter how much it punished his body. Just four more weeks. But he’s pulled out of training early, and drafted into an ultra-secret, elite SEAL team, one that has an unusual team number. This team fights threats against the free world that are supernatural in origin. And Jack is specially equipped to be a member. For the dark scars of his youth mark him with a special ability to sense evil.
I liked the idea of this book, a military special ops story with a supernatural twist. Ochse’s attention to detail as far as military ops lends credibility to the writing. I really appreciated the look at how a SEAL team operates and the whole involved procedure of keeping the world safe, top secret-style, with the ancillary support of various defense agency personnel. His focus seems to be more on this than the supernatural component, but he grafts together the two aspects of the story fairly well. Still this book seemed thin to me. Like it was serviceable, but merely scratching the surface of possibilities. Yes, I think that was the big issue I had with this book. It lacked depth.
I wanted more character exploration. While I felt I did get to know Jack fairly well, I didn’t get more than a surface portrayal of most of the others. I realize that the story occurs in a short period of time, but I had this feeling that the characters merely existed to move the story, or to get killed off. That saddened me. The death of a team member and the ritual associated with his passing, had more time spent on it than seeing that team member as a living, breathing human. Of course, death is an everyday experience for these men. They know they could die on any mission they undertake. But I needed to know them better, because knowing someone is part of the process of caring for them, that they live and die for a purpose. Otherwise, our mental health defenses build a wall between us and the suffering of others in the world, because to cry for every person who dies will destroy you. We just don’t have that capacity. But if you know someone, even a little, it breaks your heart to know they have died. To introduce a character only to kill them without much effort to infuse depth makes a mockery of that. I really dislike the tendency towards presenting characters as sacrificial lambs in a story. Just enough to introduce a character and then they get killed off. I felt this was a shortcoming of this novel.
The action is well done. The pace was intense and appropriate. I got the real sense that I was going on ops with these guys. In this case, all in relation to the supernatural threats in this book. If even possible, that brings a higher level of threat to the situation. There’s only so much a gun can do against an undead, immortal threat, or one from a world of strangeness that doesn’t follow the rules that govern this physical one.
The supernatural storyline was intriguing and definitely horrific. Ochse does build the sense of wrongness and weirdness that would disturb an average person. I like a weird supernatural story like nobody’s business, but I had some moments where I was thinking, “That’s just wrong!” Imagine being a SEAL, trained to eliminate lethal threats all around the world, but previously naïve to the supernatural darkness in this world. You have to keep moving and do your job, and you don’t have time for “WTFs”. So yes, that part was very well done. The particular threat they faced in this book felt novel and very intimidating, and the author ties it into things going on in the world arena. While the climax was too abrupt for my tastes, it definitely had impact, and as I said, I enjoyed the action moments.
With this book, I had that feeling that everything was scratching the surface when I wanted things to get deeper. With an intriguing storyline like this, I get excited to see what journey the author will take me on. Overall, this was a book that kept me reading. It was a pretty good book. A nice mélange of spec ops action and supernatural weirdness. I think the author could have given me more as far as characterization, which is the biggest shortcoming of this novel. However, I would keep reading this if it becomes a series.
Dead Things is serious magic noir. The name of this book tells it all. This book is about a man surrounded by dead and the consequences it has on his...moreDead Things is serious magic noir. The name of this book tells it all. This book is about a man surrounded by dead and the consequences it has on his life and his relationships with the living. The narrative is very cynical, with a main character who has a foul mouth and a dark point of view. Of course, anyone who has his necromantic abilities might tend to lose his faith in humanity and everything else. Despite that fact, I did like this book for the most part. Blackmoore lost me some near the end though. It was too abrupt and I didn't completely like the choice he made with the story. The end does make sense to some extent, and if this is a series, it will be interesting to see how Eric gets himself out of the mess he is currently in as of the end of this book.
I don't like to compare, but for male-lead UF readers, you could think of Eric as the darker counterpart to characters like Dresden and O'Sullivan, probably more like Connor Gray than the former. His gifts are part of him, and they taint his life in many ways. But in the case of Eric, his choices continue to alienate him from those who live and want connection with him. He fears tainting them or destroying them, but by walking away, he endangers them even more. Kind of a vicious cycle and a bound to bring on the existential crisis or dark night of the soul.
The imagery is what got me with this story. The world-building is suitably and necessarily dark for a story about a necromancer. His vantage point of life on the highways and backroads of America, seeing all the ghosts who either wander or who are anchored to their place of dying. In some ways a warrior for the light, but one who exists in the twilight and shadows. Eric sees and deals with many so-called deities and has little respect for them. Unfortunately, he makes a deal with one and will have to pay the piper very dearly.
I hadn't ever heard of Santa Muerte, the Patron Saint of the Narcos (Drug Traffickers) on the Mexican Border. A death goddess who started out in the Aztec pantheon, but found her way into the Narco-influenced border culture where she has plenty of followers. Blackmoore brings this mythology to vivid but disturbing life. A distinctive turn in urban fantasy that fits this very noir read.
I can't say Dead Things is for everyone. This is one is quite violent and kind of depressing in some ways. Lots of swear words and a great deal of irreverence on display, along with moments that border on being nauseating for the squeamish. Eric's choices aren't always admirable, but I did feel for him. He remains a sympathetic character despite his flaws. People around him tend to get hurt, and that's hard for me to read, especially since I can't 100% place that blame on his shoulders. I felt his loneliness and isolation, his front of apathy that doesn't quite hide a fear of being the screw-up that no can love, respect or stand up for. I wish his actions didn't turn this into a self-fulfilling prophecy. I want to continue this series to see what happens next to Eric, and to hope that he turns things around and stops walking away from life and deeper into the world of the dead, while there is still some part of him that has a connection to the living.
A nice old school Harlequin Presents. Jonas has a repressed/dark/seething vibe that I found intriguing. Jonas is intense! He and Cassandra apparently...moreA nice old school Harlequin Presents. Jonas has a repressed/dark/seething vibe that I found intriguing. Jonas is intense! He and Cassandra apparently couldn't stand each other. So why was he demanding marriage from her? This is one of those books that works better if you don't have the hero's POV. You have to use your imagination on what the hero is thinking and why he does what he does until the last few pages, and then you get the reveal and all is good.
It's a guilty pleasure of mine, but I love the blackmail marriage theme. It's harder to pull off in the newer books because most readers aren't going to go for a book with a heroine-limited POV, and it would almost surely spoil it if you know what the hero's thinking in this scenario. I think it can be done, but it would take some skills.
I liked that Cassandra decided to dive in and find out about the relationship between Jonas and his father. There is clearly something very wrong, and it very much affects her since she was married to his half-brother (she's his widow). Jonas's bitterness and lack of trust can be linked right back to his troubled relationship with his father, and secrets that come to be revealed about his father's marriage. It wasn't just selfish on her part, though. She correctly felt like it was destroying Jonas and he was missing out on a genuine relationship with his father, and she wanted to help, out of love for him.
I felt like Jonas was a "still waters run deep" guy when it came to his feelings for Cassandra (or at least I read them into his interactions with her). He is very fixated on her, and has been since they first met. I didn't think it was just about her having been married to his brother (and spillover resentment for his brother). I liked how the reveal wasn't just about their relationship, but how everything in Jonas' family's dysfunctional dynamic affected Jonas and his relationships as a grown man.
I liked his relationship with Cassandra's daughter, and it was an integral part of the story. You could see that he had a soft aspect to his personality in the way he bonded with her. He will definitely be a good father. He also did things for Cassandra that her first marriage didn't. She loved Charles, but Charles was kind of immature for his age, and she felt like the parent. With Jonas, he is able and willing to be the husband who is a protector and provider for his wife. While Cassandra is an independent woman, I think even self-sufficient women want a man who they feel will carry his weight as a partner/husband.
This book is a good read, not just a romance book, but a book about the way that family relationships can affect our ability to relate with others in our adult lives, and that we need to seek healing so we can move on and love others in a healthy way. I was glad that even though things worked out with Jonas and Cassandra, he also reestablished a relationship with his father and knew how much his father loved him. This one's worth seeking out, in my opinion.(less)
I have this feeling that Jennie Lucas always has fun writing her books. They are so dramatic! She doesn't seem fearful about going for it with story i...moreI have this feeling that Jennie Lucas always has fun writing her books. They are so dramatic! She doesn't seem fearful about going for it with story ideas. This book has some very iconic imagery, such as Callie sitting on the steps of her old apartment, in a too-big wedding dress hiding her pregnant belly. Her hand full of wilting flowers for her bridal bouquet. And Eduardo shows up and demands the truth about her pregnancy. Drags her off to his car and away from her best friend, who is about to marry Callie. That was powerful. Other moments, like Callie going into labor and the Judge hurriedly marrying them. The characters are very intense, particularly Eduardo. He has such a little boy lost feel to him. Confused by his powerful feelings for Callie. His fear of losing her, but holding back because he thinks that love will make that loss even more inevitable. What he does, in desperation to keep her to himself, in their nuclear family with their baby, is pretty ruthless. I didn't know how I felt about that. I mean, it was very wrong, but I felt bad for this guy that he was so desperate to go to those extremes. I wasn't exactly sure about Brandon. Was he a little bit calculated when it came to Callie? Maybe obsessive? I wish this part had been more clear. As it was, it felt like a mix of Eduardo's paranoia and some intentional behavior on Brandon's part.
I sort of didn't like the way things went towards the end. I felt that both of them weren't truly fighting for what they wanted. Yeah, it was angsty, but a romance buzz-kill. One part gave me an icky feeling. Kind of hard to describe. I didn't find it that romantic, is the best way to put it.
To Love, Honor and Betray overall, was an enjoyable read. Definitely a bit over the top in some ways. The love scenes were very sensual and kinda spicy. If you like your Harlequin Presents with lotsa drama, this one will work for you. If you don't like that 'out there' kind of HP drama, pass this one by. I admit that the soapy drama-loving gal inside of me definitely does. (less)
This book called to me because I love unrequited love stories. I also like the idea of the heroine working for the hero and having a buttoned up/no-no...moreThis book called to me because I love unrequited love stories. I also like the idea of the heroine working for the hero and having a buttoned up/no-nonsense demeanor but still getting under his skin. I have to say I was very satisfied by this book. Deb Marlowe is going on my reading list now for sure. Her sense of time and place is excellent, but so much life and feeling in her writing, her characters.
Chloe found her way into my heart. I liked everything about her. I can see a little of myself in her, that determination to fix herself so that she could handle anything that comes her way. Her situation in this book called to me deeply. Her fear and loneliness. Her loving heart, and her keen mind to match. Her struggle to face and defeat her fears and climb out of that box she had created for safety, but had grown too big for, so that it was just constricting her overall growth as a person. I really loved her, cheering her strengths and feeling for her vulnerabilities. I wanted her to get her man, and I love that her strategy did exactly that. Not only did she get her man, she let him realize for himself that she was the right woman for him. What a savvy, lovable heroine!
I found Braedon absolutely lickable, warts and all. Big, vital, strong-minded, wounded, afraid to love. What a complex mix that made for a hero I fell head over heels for. Even when he frustrated me with his stubborn determination to cling to old thought patterns that no longer would keep him safe and certainly didn't bring happiness. I felt for him and understood why. His family would make anyone afraid to love and open one's heart. Deep down though, he was a man truly worthy of loving. Even if he didn't think so. Like us all, he faced some real challenges that he had to overcome in his relationships with others, including a young boy who enters his life and raises some old demons. But like a well-made sword, he comes out of the fire even stronger as the impurities are burned away.
As I said earlier, I loved the main storylines, but also the plot threads about Braedon being a collecter of ancient weaponry. It made sense on a deep, symbolic level that a man with his emotional wounds would build himself a citadel of safety full of sharp, protective weapons. In the process, he realizes that when a man walls himself in, he builds a prison as well as a fortress. Whereas, if he allows himself to trust and to love those who prove worthy, he is much more safe in the long run, even if that requires a step of faith and going out into the danger zone of the unknown frontiers of emotion. What a beautiful, meaning-filled message. I am trying to be more strict about five star reviews, but when a book touches me this way, I have to give it the highest rating.
People regularly put down Harlequin books. To each their own. For myself, some of the best and most meaningful books I have read have been written by authors in the Harlequin imprints. They might not be long or have the dubious honor of freedom from the "Harlequin title stigma", but they are hidden treasures all the same. This is one of those books. Definitely recommend it!(less)
Holly Harrison meets kind, good-looking, if very overweight Jess Colton when they are stranded in the elevator in their apartment building. He helps h...moreHolly Harrison meets kind, good-looking, if very overweight Jess Colton when they are stranded in the elevator in their apartment building. He helps her to get through her attack of claustrophobia and fear by praying for her, and shows what a nice guy he is. Once they are rescued from the elevator, Jess invites her to go to church with him. Holly became a Christian years ago, but she listened to her sister's insistence that God wouldn't forgive her for the sins she had committed while in college, so she stopped going to church, praying and reading her Bible. Jess's encouragement and spiritual counseling helps Holly to get back in a close relationship with the Lord, and she starts to fall in love with the gentle, beautiful man. His weight doesn't matter to her. She sees the loving person inside, and is drawn to him for his love for God and the warm friendship he shows her. Even though she knows that he probably wouldn't want damaged goods like herself.
Jess falls in love at first sight with Holly, but more importantly, he reaches out to the lonely, unhappy young woman with the love of Christ. While others seem repelled and critical of his weight, she shows him loving friendship and support. He knows that no woman would want him with his large body and his addiction to food. All he can do is take comfort in their friendship, even if he wants more in his heart. But what can he offer to her when it turns out that with his weight issues, his health is a ticking clock getting closer to eternity?
Give Us This Day was a very touching novel about the relationship between two lonely people who felt deeply unworthy inside, despite their relationship with Christ. I appreciated that God brought them together so they could help each other through their mutual issues with feeling loved and accepted. Additionally, it was refreshing to read a book where the couple falling in love aren't drop dead gorgeous or without flaws, and they love each other for what they see inside, as well for their mutual love for Christ.
The story touched me deeply, both from a spiritual and emotional perspective. Jess was a very good man, and it was painful to see how people treated him because of his weight, as if he was disgusting and inferior and undeserving of respect. Foster ably conveys the message about God's love for all people, and that he accepts us as we are. Jess's struggles with an alcohol addiction that he substituted with food because of feeling a lack of acceptance from his hypercritical father resonated with me. His process of turning that addiction over to God and seeking his help to recover from it, was a powerful message to me of God's ability to heal all our wounds and to be our sufficiency in a fallen world. In the case of Holly, I was reminded that God's love is unconditional, that there is no sin he won't forgive and that we don't need to feel unworthy of his love and fellowship because of mistakes we make, past or future.
At times, I feel as though Christian fiction can be all about a message with no story to go with it. With Give Us This Day, I felt that the message was seamlessly intertwined with an involving story. I rooted for Jess and Holly to find their happy ending together, even as I appreciated the spiritual truths and insights given in this novella. I loved how in the midst of their struggles, these characters were able to find comfort in each other, and from the people in their lives (both Christian and non-Christian), but also to help those who didn't know and appreciate God's unconditional love as a gift available to all.
There are very few, if any romance books that feature an overweight hero or even a hero who struggles with weight issues, so this book serves as a very good trailblazer for a needed genre today. I found that I loved Jess for his whole being as I read this novella. While I felt pain for his emotional issues that led to his obesity and worried about his health, his weight didn't diminish his attractiveness to me as a person. It wasn't hard to see why Holly fell in love with him. I definitely see this as being realistic, because many people don't just look for the perfect physical specimen, either because they have gone down that path and been disappointed or because they know all along their soulmate won't come in that package. They look to the heart for a person who they feel safe and loved with. Give Us This Day is the book for those readers. And for readers who want a great romance with an effective and non-preachy Christian message. I recommend reading it.
Although rather gruesome, I think this would appeal to fans of classic horror, such as Dracula and The Were-Wolf. Quite dark and morose, so be warned....moreAlthough rather gruesome, I think this would appeal to fans of classic horror, such as Dracula and The Were-Wolf. Quite dark and morose, so be warned.
Hajar's Hidden Legacy is a book for fans of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale. It plays out a lot like that much-loved story, although that is not t...moreHajar's Hidden Legacy is a book for fans of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale. It plays out a lot like that much-loved story, although that is not to say there is no innovation or unique touch here. Maisey Yates careful touch with writing romance and the manner in which she builds a layered, emotional story is evident here. Her characters are real life, both struggling with emotional wounds from their past.
Zahir is a tough nut to crack. He doesn't want to be married to Katharine, and he definitely doesn't want to love her. He's afraid to let her in, and he is unable to let go of his guilt about surviving the attacks against his family. He hates himself, and that is very evident. He also fears his life is over. He exists because he must protect his country. But he is in a world of pain. At first, I wondered why if he thought his scars were so hideous, he didn't get plastic surgery. I came to realize that his disgust with his appearance was more about his disgust about how he survived when his parents and brother didn't. He felt like he was the unworthy one who lived. His truly believes he is unable to heal emotionally. He is like a lion with a thorn in his paw, and that requires some real nurturing and persistence from Katharine. Katharine was just the heroine to soothe his savage breast.
While Zahir has the bulk of torment, I liked that Katharine had her own angst to deal with. She was dismissed, sidelined, and marginalized by her father. He truly does not value her, and he shows it. But she craves his approval and moves mountains to get it. I loved how Zahir stood up for Katharine to her father. I also loved how Zahir helps to validate Katharine and build up her self-esteem, despite his own struggles.
Yates carefully builds the tension, both romantic and sensual. The love scenes are quite steamy, but it's very natural to the story. You can see that the connection between Zahir and Katharine has entwined itself between them on many levels. Before they both know it, their match is very much one of love and devotion, as well as a marriage of state. Their mutual fears of not being enough are assuaged by the fact that they are just what each other needs.
Hajar's Hidden Legacy is very much a novel about the healing of emotional wounds and the development of love between two hurting people. It lacks the drama of some book in this category series. Instead, it's more of an introspective novel about the development of a relationship that turns into a deep love between two people who weren't even looking for love, but needed it the whole time.(less)
Fated is a fantastic debut novel. This is what urban fantasy can accomplish, taking fantasy concepts and giving them a new spin in a modern setting. J...moreFated is a fantastic debut novel. This is what urban fantasy can accomplish, taking fantasy concepts and giving them a new spin in a modern setting. Jacka uses the concept of an age-old war between Dark and Light Mages and sets it in contemporary London. While many will think of Dresden and recommend this to fans of that great series, I don't even think it's fair to compare them outside of the fact that they are both male POV urban fantasy novels with magical protagonists. Jacka writes his own book here, and I loved him for it. Yes, it does have the somewhat smart-alecky, down on his luck magical protagonist, but actually Alex Verus and Harry Dresden couldn't be more different.
While I am not a big fan of witchcraft themes in urban fantasy, I love the idea of modern-day mages and magic-users. This book is for those who like to see the magical battles without all the spellwork and spellcasting along with it. And the one thing that felt so refreshing and delightfully distinct was the fact that Alex is a Diviner. His main ability is to see the future and shift through possible outcomes and choose the best one for his situation. This makes Alex more of a thinking man hero as opposed to a reactive/shoot first and ask questions last hero. His strength is his ability to assess the situation and choose wisely. He will be the first to admit that he's often out-numbered and our-powered by his adversaries, but that just makes me more loyal and root for him all the more. Because of the fact that he has been the punching bag, Alex has a lot of humility and grace for those who aren't strong. I respected his sense of right and wrong, even if he's not exactly what you'd call a Boy Scout.
Luna is an interesting secondary character. I felt for her situation, and I have a feeling that her relationship with Alex will continue to be pivotal in this series. In some ways, they aren't that different. Both isolated and ostracized for being different. They have a strong connection, even just on that level.
I found the storyline very interesting. Alex having to navigate through shark-infested waters of political and physically violent power struggles between Dark and Light Mages. Jacka endows his world with a lot of weight and texture. He takes the urban fantasy genre is a much needed different direction. Instead of treading on the overtrodden territory of vampires, werewolves and even faerie, he focuses on magic users and not the kind you usually see in urban fantasy novels. I found his insights into the social dynamics of Dark Mages quite enlightening and it felt very realistic. Although he doesn't dwell on it, there are some very disturbing and dark (no pun intended) aspects to their concept of power and how it's obtained and used.
This took a while to read because the print in my copy was tiny! But that doesn't mean I was bored. I was too sucked in to feel boredom. Urban fantasy is one of my favorite genres, so I do have high expectations, but this one exceeded those nicely. I was drawn into this world whenever I picked up the book to read, and I will definitely read more of this series.
I highly recommend this to fans of urban fantasy, especially those looking for something different!(less)