As the final installment of a widely loved and thoroughly praised series, Mockingjay has proven to be a worthy conclusion. Not only does it meet the h...moreAs the final installment of a widely loved and thoroughly praised series, Mockingjay has proven to be a worthy conclusion. Not only does it meet the high expectations set by The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, but it's even more epic, bleak, suspenseful, heartbreaking and, ultimately, satisfying than its predecessors. In Mockingjay, the entire of Panem is the arena and Katniss finds that the true threats are more dangerous than any of the Capitol's manufactured muttations could ever be.
Collins is great at creating fully fleshed-out characters and putting them through their paces. This is especially true of Mockingjay, where no one is exempt from making mistakes and the realities of war have led characters to surprising choices and places. Collins portrayal of the Districts' uprising is excellent. Instead of turning the tale into one of good versus evil, the lines are blurred. The loyalties, agendas and intentions of everyone are often uncertain and the heroine's goals are usually the only constant.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the highly debated love triangle - involving Katniss's best friend, Gale Hawthorne, and pseudo-boyfriend, Peeta Mellark - which is an even larger part of the tale this time around (Collins even seems to poke fun at the issue once or twice). This is understandable given the dire circumstances that they find themselves in, the new and surprising complexities of the relationships, the repercussions that Katniss's choice will have and the much greater role that Gale plays compared to the previous books. However, this storyline is more important than any concerns about which boy Katniss is kissing next. Collins has made this particular drama about more than romance - its also about Katniss deciding who she wants to be and what she needs in life. While it takes almost the entire novel for her to reach a decision - Peeta, Gale or neither - she eventually does and, in my opinion, it's one that's in keeping with her character and the realities of her situation.
Mockingjay is a more reflective novel than the first two. Like Catching Fire, the energy and excitement take some building up and Katniss's inner struggle dominates the novel over the action. That's not to say that this story is lacking in any way but, due to the ravages of war and the many high personal stakes, it is more bleak and focused on Katniss's inner dialog. As for the ending, it manages to be somewhat ambiguous yet nicely wrapped-up and wholly appropriate. The rest is for you to find out.(less)
I have yet to meet a Sophie Kinsella novel that I don't like. Kinsella remains true to her lighthearted, hilarious style with Twenties Girl and I, for...moreI have yet to meet a Sophie Kinsella novel that I don't like. Kinsella remains true to her lighthearted, hilarious style with Twenties Girl and I, for one, am grateful for it. Lara is comparable to the rest of Kinsella's heroines: sweet, idealistic, and a bit ditzy (but not so much that you end up hating her). Of course the plot is rather far-fetched, but that's what you should expect and want when picking up a Kinsella book. It just makes the story that much more enjoyable.
Lara and the ghost of her great-aunt, Sadie, make such a fun and complementary duo. When Lara bumbles around, Sadie serves to just throw even more hurdles in her path. Like in her other novels, Kinsella isn't just all about the laughs here. The importance of family, friendship, loyalty and honesty are all major focuses throughout the plot. And, of course, there's the romantic subplot involving a hero who's more sweet than sexy, lending to the overall pleasant feeling about the novel...
Hands down, this is one of the best urban fantasy/paranormal romance novels that I've ever read. What makes this even more remarkable is that this is...moreHands down, this is one of the best urban fantasy/paranormal romance novels that I've ever read. What makes this even more remarkable is that this is not only the first in a series, and therefore has to spend more time on laying the groundwork, but it's also a debut novel for author Neill. As far as heroines go, Merit is very well-flushed out. She's intelligent, down-to-earth, emotionally and physically strong, as well as driven. Unlike too many females who befall similar circumstances in other novels, she realistically struggles with her new vampiric lifestyle without wasting too much time moaning about it. Instead she faces the decision that she must make between braving it alone or joining with her new vamp brothers and sisters by learning as much as she can and making the most of her new abilities.
Merit isn't the only draw, however. The plot is very nicely paced and well thought out. Neill has obvious put a lot of effort into world-building and the pacing of the story over the next few novels. She's created a unique vampire tale in a genre that's flush with look-a-likes. The house system and inclusion of other supernatural races promises future intrigue...
After reading Some Girls Bite and it's follow-up Friday Night Bites, I've come to adore Chloe Neill's new urban fantasy series. Not only does Twice...moreAfter reading Some Girls Bite and it's follow-up Friday Night Bites, I've come to adore Chloe Neill's new urban fantasy series. Not only does Twice Bitten continue the Chicagoland Vampires series's winning streak, it ups the ante.
Picking up directly where the second book left off, it's two months after Merit made the change from human to vampire and became the Sentinel of her new house, Cadogan. Although she still struggles - with lust as well as the fighting - during her physical training sessions with House Master Ethan Sullivan, we she her beginning to come into her own. Merit's learning to balance her duties, adjusting to her new life and forming solid relationships with her fellow novitiate (initiated) vampires. She's put her angst over her new-found vampirism aside and seems to be accepting her lot. Her growing level of comfort and her increasing loyalty to her house makes her even more likable - not only for us readers, but also for those novitiates other than her guard co-workers with whom her relations were formerly distant. Despite all of this, Merit still harbors some doubts - doubts that lead to a huge decision that she faces in this installment.
Neill does a great job of showing growth in Merit here. Her overall development as a character lends a dose of realism to this paranormal tale, particularly when it comes to her efforts at learning to fight. Urban fantasy series often provide us with heroines that come ready-made to kick ass. It's refreshing to see a heroine make the transition from normal post-grad student to vampire protector. Seeing her succeed is all the more of a reward because of this. In addition, we also witness a wealth of personal growth within Merit. She's more open and honest with herself and others about her feelings, especially those pertaining to Ethan and her unresolved issues with her best friend, Mallory.
Ethan too shows some significant growth. It appears as if Merit has tempered his ego and helped him be more forthright emotionally. I came to like Ethan a lot more this time around. Neill managed to make him more sympathetic without straying to far from what we've known of him as a character. I didn't always agree with his decisions or behavior in this book, but I gained a great deal more respect for him. The sexual tension that has simmered between him and Merit since the start jumps off the charts here. Neill takes their relationship in a new direction and I, for one, was surprised at where it went. It provides some lovely conflicts along the way too, and not just between Ethan and Merit. Their relationship issues inevitably spill over into business and are only compounded upon when certain new and returning characters are present in a scene...
I'm not big on short story collections (that aren't anthologies by authors that I'm familiar with). That said, I may have to revise my opinion. Taylor...moreI'm not big on short story collections (that aren't anthologies by authors that I'm familiar with). That said, I may have to revise my opinion. Taylor's writing is beautiful and captivating. Nothing I can say would do this justice, so go pick it up.(less)
I can't rave enough about this novel! Yes, it falls into the chick-lit genre, but it's completely devoid of the vapid, two-dimensional characters and...moreI can't rave enough about this novel! Yes, it falls into the chick-lit genre, but it's completely devoid of the vapid, two-dimensional characters and highly unlikely escapades that are all too common in women's fiction. And, If that wasn't enough of a reason to pick it up, it's hilarious too.
Charlie is a perfect heroine - smart, funny and flawed, she will remind you of, well, you. What pushes this novel to the top are the great secondary characters. Her friends and family were all pretty realistic and well drawn out. Each brought their own brand of humor to the story as well as added to it's depth. Not only was I able to see bits of my family and friends amongst them, but I also found myself identifying with Charlie's utter embarassment at their hands...
In Georgina's fourth outing Mead continues the heartrending tone that initiated by it's predecessor, Succubus Dreams. Our heroine is deep in a funk an...moreIn Georgina's fourth outing Mead continues the heartrending tone that initiated by it's predecessor, Succubus Dreams. Our heroine is deep in a funk and from page one it seems like the hits just keep coming for her. Don't take that as a negative though. This installment provides everything that readers have come to expect and love from Mead, and some. Heat doesn't lack for any of the love, passion, mystery and action that made the first three novels so gripping. But for each bit of those elements, the pain is ratcheted up about three times more.
With the brief reprieve from her soul-sucking abilities, Georgina is faced with the opportunity to partake of everything we've seen her long for - only it may be too little, too late. Bittersweet the novel may be, it's pervasive sadness only lends to make the story that much more beautiful...
Before I say anything about Friday Night Bites, I'd be remiss if I didn't dispense some advice first: If you haven't read Some Girls Bite (see my revi...moreBefore I say anything about Friday Night Bites, I'd be remiss if I didn't dispense some advice first: If you haven't read Some Girls Bite (see my review) yet, what are you waiting for? Seriously. Don't even think about picking this one up without having read book one. This isn't one of those series where the first book simply lays the groundwork and lacks action. You want to be able to completely appreciate the great story that Chloe Neill has put together in Friday Night Bites and, trust me, there's plenty to appreciate.
Sure this is an urban fantasy/paranormal romance novel - so there's all of the action, magic, and intrigue typical of the genre - but it's so much more than that. This series isn't just about a bad-ass vampiress and her beaus. It's a story about growth, change, betrayal, and loss. Merit's struggle to adapt to life as a vampire and all that entails continues realistically. While she's no longer railing against her Master, Ethan Sullivan, and the vampire world for her unjust turning, she's also still attempting to work through her feelings and find her place in the grand scheme.
As if that weren't enough, Merit finds pretty much every relationship of hers, no matter the nature, turned on it's head. The onslaught of changes left Merit unsure of almost everything that she held true, and me on the edge of my seat wondering when (or if) things would start looking up.
Despite her pile of issues, Merit remains a snarky, strong, and interesting character. All of the best friends and foes from the first book are back and even better this time around. The depth of character development and the complexity of the tale that Neill has woven in a mere two books is pretty amazing...
Until picking up Wicked Intentions, To Seduce A Sinner had been the only Elizabeth Hoyt novel that I had read. I remember being so impressed with the...moreUntil picking up Wicked Intentions, To Seduce A Sinner had been the only Elizabeth Hoyt novel that I had read. I remember being so impressed with the story, especially how real and raw it felt - suspense plot and all. The hero and heroine were so well-drawn and complex that they outshone the typical rake and spinster archetypes.
The same holds true for Temperance Dews and Lazarus Huntington, Lord Caire, who are so much more than the lonely widow and emotionally unavailable rogue. Lazarus could easily have been unlikable with his demanding and slightly self-absorbed personality. He has long ago given up on his ability to emotionally and physically connect with others. Upon meeting Temperance, he finds that maybe he was too hasty in his assumptions. I loved watching him exercise his curiosity and eagerness to understand and share her emotions. Temperance is likewise intrigued by this gentleman's inexplicable interest in her. She doesn't have a very high opinion of herself, due to a past mistake, and is dedicated to her self-imposed punishments. She faults herself for her very humanness, yet it's this humanity that captivates Lord Caire and leads him to discover his own.
As a couple, they are one of the best. They reached out, grabbed my heart, broke it and put it back together so that it was even better than before. These two broken individuals find themselves in dire circumstances that require them to rely on each other. Their unlikely romance is made believable by their dependency on the other to help them fix their desperate situations and, ultimately, heal themselves. All that plus the most instant, undeniable and extremely hot chemistry.
There are plenty of other interesting and well-constructed bits to the story apart from the romance. The King Lockedheart vignettes at the start of each chapter are fun to read and tie in nicely with some of the novels themes. While there's no explanation as to why the story is included, it does such a wonderful job of connecting to the tale - and echoing Lazarus's journey in particular - that it's randomness is easily forgiven.
The murder mystery at the heart of the plot is also engaging. This is mostly due to the atmospheric setting of St. Giles and the dangerous, desperate and depraved citizens that inhabit it. In fact, the depth and urgency added by St. Giles and it's gin-swilling denizens well-suits the serious nature of the romance and makes the coming together of Temperance and Lazarus that much more necessary.
I also enjoyed reading about the dynamics and background of the other members of the Makepeace clan, Temperance's family. Their issues, both personal and with each other, made for some great conflicts in Wicked Intentions and promise even more to come in future Maiden Lane novels. The subplot involving Silence, Temperance's younger sister, is an obvious set up for a future story with her as its heroine. I didn't care much for her naiveté or storyline for the first 2/3, but (once the climax came around for her) I ended up enthralled.
Enthralled - that's an apt adjective for how I feel about the novel and Hoyt. Even though I've only read two of her works so far, I think it's safe to say that she's my new favorite historical romance author.(less)
This is the first novel by Hunter that I've read, and it will not be the last. With Skinwalker, Hunter managed to captivate me with a story that feels...moreThis is the first novel by Hunter that I've read, and it will not be the last. With Skinwalker, Hunter managed to captivate me with a story that feels so complete, yet left me anxious more.
While Jane can be compared to other warrior woman characters, like Kate Daniels and Rachel Morgan, she's also a stand-out amongst the scores of Urban Fantasy heroines. Her strength lies in her utter uniqueness. Not only does she appear to be the last of her kind, but her origins are cloaked in mystery. Even she is clueless about her mysterious life before she surfaced amongst humans at age 12. Due to this, she remains close-mouthed throughout the novel about who, and what, she really is - which only ratchets up the already high level of tension created by Hunter's great plot.
Another great plot element is the fact that Jane's mission in New Orleans has her encountering what she calls "sane vamps". As a rogue hunter, all of her prior encounters with members of the vampire race have been less than pleasant. As a result, her interactions with the more civilized, society vamps that hire her are strained at best, adding to the overall feel of danger...
This really should be read before beginning her series, as it clarifies and sets up a lot. Overall, it's a very good novella - action packed and roman...moreThis really should be read before beginning her series, as it clarifies and sets up a lot. Overall, it's a very good novella - action packed and romantic.(less)
Loved it! I'm a fan of Rachel Vincent's Werecats series, so I'm glad to see that she has done such a great job translating to the YA genre.
Kaylee Cava...moreLoved it! I'm a fan of Rachel Vincent's Werecats series, so I'm glad to see that she has done such a great job translating to the YA genre.
Kaylee Cavanaugh, having been pawned off by her father following the death of her mother, lives with her Uncle Brendon, Aunt Val, and bratty cousin Sophie. Despite her unique home life, Kaylee is a great teen heroine: comfortable with who she is, yet not immune to typical teenage anxieties. She's the kind of girl that you could easily see as your best friend. Considering her family situation and the powers that she's only beginning to understand, she's pretty level-headed and well-adjusted too.
As an urban fantasy novel, this one fares well. Vincent uses classic mythology to shape the story of Kayle and her family and friends. Banshees, or bean sidhes as they are named in this novel, aren't as popular as vampires and shapshifters. When they are used, they always seem to be cast in the role of the dangerous or bad creatures. I enjoyed seeing Vincent handle them in a different light, as normal people with powers that can be used for good.
Kaylee deals with several issues throughout the course of the story. Whether adolescent in nature or supernatural, all of her problems ring true and are handled with aplomb by Vincent...
Annabel Winslow is in the midst of her debut in London and there couldn't be a better time for it. Since the death of her father, a country gentleman,...moreAnnabel Winslow is in the midst of her debut in London and there couldn't be a better time for it. Since the death of her father, a country gentleman, her large family has become increasingly less financially stable. Now her brothers are on the verge of having to leave school and her sisters have already lost their governess. However, her noble grandparents have deigned to take her under their wings, despite the fact that they had disowned her mother twenty years prior for marrying down. Lord and Lady Vickers, Annabel's grandparents, aren't a patient pair and they have pretty much zero faith in Annabel's ability to attract a suitor. They've decided to take the matter of her marriage into their own hands and have all but accepted a proposal from a desperate widower friend, the disgusting Lord Newbury. Annabel struggles with whether or not to go ahead with the marriage and, to add to the difficulty of her decision, she happens to meet and develop feelings for Newbury's handsome nephew and heir presumptive, Sebastian Grey. Of course, Sebastian has no idea who Annabel is. Hijinks ensue.
Going into this read, I definitely had high expectations. That has often proven to not be a good thing for me when picking up a book but, alas, it was unavoidable. I've read five books in Julia Quinn's Bridgerton series and, though I have my favorites, I have enjoyed them all. Don't get me wrong - Ten Things I love About You is a cute romantic comedy of a Regency. There are some great moments and memorable characters (unfortunately they happen to be the more detestable ones and not the hero and heroine). I even thought the whole "I count in tens too" bit was cute. The romance between Annabel and Sebastian was sweet, if a bit too condensed for my tastes. Still, I think this book had the potential to be better...
Never having read anything by author Marta Acosta, and this being her first foray under the pseudonym Grace Coopersmith, I had no idea what to expect...moreNever having read anything by author Marta Acosta, and this being her first foray under the pseudonym Grace Coopersmith, I had no idea what to expect from Nancy's Theory of Style. Since humor is a common hallmark of chick lit novels it wasn't the abundance of it here that caught me by surprise. What did, however, was the brand of funny put forth by the novel.
Nancy is an utterly unique and delightfully refreshing character. Her behavior and speech is often ridiculous and, the majority of the time, she's fully aware of that fact. Her way of viewing the world may be flawed as her story begins, but it's so much fun to watch her take on life. The development of her new relationships with her niece/cousin Eugenia and her new assistant/love interest Derek add touching notes to this captivating story of a women in transition...
Last fall I picked up The Season, by then newcomer Sarah MacLean, and was thoroughly pleased to find a story that bore the Regency flavor of some of...moreLast fall I picked up The Season, by then newcomer Sarah MacLean, and was thoroughly pleased to find a story that bore the Regency flavor of some of my favorite romance novels but managed to imbue it with a youthful spirit. Once I found out about Nine Rules I was anxious to read a more grown-up tale from MacLean and she didn't disappoint.
The tale revolves around Lady Calpurnia Hartwell, a well-behaved spinster aching to experience life, and Gabriel St. John, Marquess of Ralston, a notorious rake looking to improve his image for the sake of his newfound sister. Character types like Callie and Ralston pepper the genre, but MacLean manages to at least make Callie more original. Her dogged determination to step outside of her role is admirable and one can't help but root for her. The same can't be said for Ralston, however. While he is an attractive and sympathetic hero, he still comes across as a bit too much of the stereotypical rake at times.
I found myself intrigued by the secondary characters, especially Nick (Ralston's twin) and Juliana (their younger sister). They are both extremely likable characters with their own quirks and unique histories - Nick, with his mysterious scar and parent-less childhood with Gabriel, and Juliana, with her abandonment and marriage issues courtesy of their mother. My appetite is sufficiently whetted for their respective, upcoming stories.
Nine Rules has an intelligent humor and and a touching premise. MacLean beautifully renders a tale about two people, and their families, all growing and coming together out of love and respect. The romance between Callie and Ralston is simultaneously sweet and steamy and the love scenes are well-done...
I thoroughly enjoyed the entire novel. Not only was it hilarious (I laughed out loud a lot), but it also felt pretty real and, at times, touching even...moreI thoroughly enjoyed the entire novel. Not only was it hilarious (I laughed out loud a lot), but it also felt pretty real and, at times, touching even. Liza is a refreshing character - intelligent, witty and flawed. Thankfully, unlike most female protagonists of late, her insecurities did not revolve around her body image and general lack of self-esteem.(less)
I'm constantly extolling the virtues of Kristan Higgins's novels. I love her intelligent and current sense of humor and the great heroines through who...moreI'm constantly extolling the virtues of Kristan Higgins's novels. I love her intelligent and current sense of humor and the great heroines through whom she expresses it. Her characters, main and secondary, are always unique and utterly charming. The heroes she creates are subtly sexy and usually possess some quirk that simultaneously repels and draws the beloved heroine. And the romances are gradual, comfortable and completely realistic. All I Ever Wanted adheres to this formula while managing to feel fresh and fun.
Callie's perpetual cuteness and friendliness serves as a great foil to Ian's personality. He's a shy and formal man with a good heart who initially comes across as grumpy, rude and cold. Callie's need to make everyone like her, combined with her attraction to Ian's dangerous good-looks, make for a engaging friendship-turned-courtship. Callie is so lovable and, although she's one of those super-friendly, happy people, she never came across as annoying. Her loneliness and issues with rejection make her relate-able. Likewise, Ian's seemingly cool attitude is just a mask donned by a guy who's been hurt and doesn't know how to connect with others. His bluntness and dry wit make for some great dialog between him and the compulsively polite Callie.
The addition of Callie's ongoing work and family drama are great subplots and connect well with the development of her relationship with Ian. The diverse, well-drawn and hilarious secondary characters do their part too and are what makes the novel truly standout among fellow contemporary romances...
Something Borrowed is the story of Rachel, whose best friend since childhood, Darcy, is getting married. The trouble starts when Rachel sleeps with th...moreSomething Borrowed is the story of Rachel, whose best friend since childhood, Darcy, is getting married. The trouble starts when Rachel sleeps with the groom-to-be after her drunken birthday party. On the surface, Something Borrowed is set up to be yet another romp through Manhattan and its shallow lifestyle, with characters who know they shouldn't be engaging in distasteful behavior but do because hey, that's what chick lit is all about. Lucky for the reader, that's not the case here. Something Borrowed is a moving tale of what happens when best friends are no longer "best." It's a situation that is all too common, but one that makes women uncomfortable. After all, boys may come and go, but girl friends are forever...aren't they? When deep female friendships go wrong, it can cause just as much sadness, guilt and recriminations as breaking up with a lover - and sometimes more. Giffin handles this emotional landscape well. While the burgeoning relationship between Rachel and Dex, Darcy's fiancé, does get its share of print, it's the tangled, messy and complicated relationship between Rachel and Darcy that gives this book heart and resonance.
Giffin manages to hit the perfect balance between humor and pathos. Unlike other tales told in first person, narrator Rachel tells us just enough so that we fully empathize with her without turning the book into a showcase of neuroses. And Rachel has some easy to identify with problems; she's about to turn thirty, trapped in a job that pays too well to quit, and she doesn't even have a crush object, much less a boyfriend. Meanwhile, the always more popular and always more gorgeous Darcy won't turn thirty for a few more months, has a fabulous job as a PR exec, and is engaged to Dex, a friend of Rachel's from law school.
Yet this isn't a tale of jealousy. Rachel genuinely cares for Darcy. They've been friends since grade school. And while being Darcy's friend has its disadvantages - such as never having the spotlight while she's around - being Darcy's friend also has its benefits - such as the reflected glory. However, as Rachel discovers over the course of the novel, sometimes a shared past isn't enough to justify a shared future. And while both Rachel and Darcy have physically moved on from high school, emotionally it appears that only one of them has fully graduated to adulthood. Yet like all habits, her friendship with Darcy is hard to break - even though staying friends means saying goodbye to the love and life she deserves.(less)