We've read about angels. We've read about demons. We've read about angels vs. demons. B...moreThis review and more can be viewed on my blog:The Muses Circle
We've read about angels. We've read about demons. We've read about angels vs. demons. But how about angels vs. demons and Motorcycle Clubs? The Devil's Flower by Lisa Collicutt is what I like to think of as a wildcard. The cover art is eye catching and sexy. The synopsis gives you the illusion that you are treading into familiar territory but you can't deny there is a sense of mysteriousness. You decide to give it a whirl out of sheer curiosity, albeit very skeptical and find yourself in a bit of shock by the time you come to the last page. These type of novels, these "wildcards", tend to be my favorite kind. On a side note and I'm not sure why, but The Devil's Flower reminds me of the cult classic movie The Lost Boys. Even though this book has nothing to do with vampires, I think it shares the concept of innocence and perception. Both have a young, naïve person in a unfamiliar town that is drawn to a group of strangers. Instincts scream for them to stay away, but there is one in the group that they can't seem to stay away from and will eventually risk their very own life for. Definitely an interesting connection between the two.
Here is what I liked. The Devil's Flower is a refreshingly original novel. I know that may be hard to believe, considering there are very familiar elements on the surface. But what makes this story unique is how the author blends all of these pieces together. In the beginning, the story reads like a contemporary romance. Then somewhere around the 100 page mark, the paranormal element is introduced. This is an absolutely brilliant technique and here's why. Before even adding in the paranormal component, readers that are fans of contemporary romance, New Adult, MC (motorcycle club), even Young Adult, will find The Devil's Flower appealing. Not a fan of paranormal romance or new to the genre? This is the perfect novel to start and try because the transition from contemporary to paranormal is smooth and natural as strange as that may sound. The only complaints I've read are from hardcore paranormal readers that felt there wasn't enough of that particular element in the story. But I am confident this novel will appeal to paranormal enthusiasts who grow weary of reading the same type of story over and over again and are looking for something fresh and different.
The story itself was well written; great description, distinct character voices (and names), and had no issues with the pacing-- all topics that sometimes writers struggle with when writing the first novel in a series. I liked the third person narration and the switch in perspectives. The formatting and paragraph breaks signaled that a change in POV was coming, therefore eliminating any kind of confusion which sometimes happens. Speaking of the format, the layout, font, and overall style of the book (including the chapter titles) created a very aesthetically pleasing reading experience.
I really enjoyed the romance between Rosalie and Steele. There definitely was an instant attraction, but a good portion of the novel was about Steele trying extremely hard to fight it. Part of it was to protect Rosalie from himself and the unsavory kind he surrounds himself with. He also feels that he is undeserving of her love and acceptance. The other part of his struggle to hide his growing feelings for her is to show no signs of weakness since he is the leader of the Fallen Paladins MC. There is also another reason he tries to hide his feelings, but I want to leave some mystery! There is some good sexual tension building between Steele and Rosalie, although the sex scenes themselves are more alluded to then explicitly shown which surprisingly works in this novel.
I found the angel/demon mythology in The Devil's Flower interesting and original. For example, in order for a half demon to become immortal, it would need 3 things: a) tear of an angel, b) blood of an angel, and c) death of an angel. Also, angels have souls but demons and half demons do not. If a half demon should mate with an angel, the angel would lose its soul to the demon. The use of the drug heroin plays a very creepy, yet important part in the story as well. These mythological elements add up to create some very tense, suspenseful moments in the novel.
Overall, Lisa Collicutt has spawned some very interesting characters, but I will admit, there were 2 that I struggled (won't reveal their names to avoid spoilers) with until I had a light bulb moment. These characters took Rosalie under their wing, taught her some survival tactics and how to fit within the MC. But then, out of nowhere, Steele starts thinking to himself that he has to protect Rose from them. At first I just didn't get the sudden wariness from Steele towards these particular characters when they did nothing to warrant his suspicious behavior. But then it dawned on me. The devil comes in many disguises and is a master of manipulation, seduction, and lies. It's this attention to detail that elicited my admiration for the author to grow even more.
I only had a few issues with The Devil's Flower, most of which were a bunch of small things that added up to annoyances rather than huge problems, so I will be going through them rather quickly.
First, I found Rose's statement here a bit startling: "...the fact that she was actually in a relationship with this person, a near stranger, hit her." She is obviously talking about her and Steele, but what bothered me is the fact that they have never talked about being together or being in a relationship. It's like the statement came out of nowhere. No declarations of love, other then Steele saying she can trust him and he wouldn't let anything happen to her as long as she is with him. And once you read that part, you will see why he says that. I'm also curious as to why Steele is so adamant about calling Rosalie "Rose" since the very beginning of the story. I get why Lithium calls her "Rosebud", but Steele is quick to correct people that she is to be called Rose instead of Rosalie, at least in the beginning. It's never revealed why and I am probably just looking too deeply into it, but it definitely left me pondering.
Second, I felt that Rosalie's stay with her grandmother was rushed and glossed over when in fact we learn the time she spends there plays a pivotal part in the story. This is where she discovers who and what she really is, what she is capable of and what is expected of her. When she meets back up with Steele, she is a wiser, stronger version of herself that apparently can now kick some ass. But we never get to see her training. We just hear about it in a sentence here and there when she is filling Steele in on her time away. I also didn't understand why she started college while at her grandmother's. I'm not sure if she was biding her time, waiting for divine intervention, but the college thing bothered me since she ended up leaving to go back to Nowhere, Colorado. It just felt like an unnecessary detail.
Lastly, while I enjoyed the assortment of characters as I stated above, I did find Rosalie to be quite infuriating at times. I get that she is innocent and naïve (for more reasons that one) but I can only take the damsel in distress syndrome so much. Don't get me wrong, I love a strong alpha hero that comes to his woman's rescue-- it's sexy and it shows that Steele loves her and feels fiercely protective of her. But Rosalie puts herself in some really stupid and dangerous situations, especially with the drinking. Even when she knows the drinking got her into trouble before and she swears she will never drink again-- she still drinks AGAIN. Yeah, that's when my eyes start to roll and irritation sets in.
The Devil's Flower is a unique blend of contemporary and paranormal romance that doesn't fit into one specific genre. For this reason, it broadens its allure and I can see just about anyone picking this novel up and finding it an enjoyable read. This may also appeal to the YA crowd, since the female main character is 18. However, I would caution and recommend The Devil's Flower to mature YA readers (16+) since there are some disturbing scenes including, drinking, drugs, and sexual situations (although not terribly explicit). Lisa Collicutt has given us a gem and I absolutely cannot wait to see the continuation of this story in book 2, The Demon's Wrath.
I'll make this short and sweet since this book was only 97 pages. Dead Sexy Dragon had a lot of potential but missed the mark because of its short len...moreI'll make this short and sweet since this book was only 97 pages. Dead Sexy Dragon had a lot of potential but missed the mark because of its short length. I can tell the author put some effort into creating the mythology of her dragon shifters and she clearly is a talented writer. A brotherhood of dragons with a sexy, scarred leader named Ignatius? The Knights of St. George, the sworn enemies of the dragon shifters that have spent centuries hunting down and killing them? I was loving where the story was going. But just when you start to sink into the story it's...over.
Sometimes this works for the first book in a series. Roxy Rivera's Her Russian Protector series comes to mind. The first book in her series, Ivan, was only 99 pages but every book in the series after Ivan was over 200 pages. It helped to develop her world building and gave her characters depth. So at first I thought maybe Lolita Lopez was going to do the same with her dragon series. But Red Hot Dragon, book 2 in her dragon series, is also going to be under 100 pages.
Dead Sexy Dragon is a hot, quick read. But if you are looking for depth and substance, you will be disappointed. The author really does have some great ideas and I will probably give book 2 a shot when it comes out now that I know what to expect.
My Review: I used to read paranormal romance all the time, but like most books these d...more*This review and more can be viewed on my blog:The Muses Circle
My Review: I used to read paranormal romance all the time, but like most books these days, it's hard to find novels that stand out in their respective genres. I was immediately intrigued when I read the synopsis for The Other Half by Elaina M. Roberts. A story centered around an annual Human-Other Summit? A budding romance between head Ambassador Michael Zakhara (I like that the blurb didn't give away what kind of "other" he was until you actually start to read) and Kristiana Latimer, a female security guard? It sounded like a whole lot of drama (in a good way) and a story premise that hinted at some originality. And you can imagine my surprise and relief that Roberts' debut novel did not disappoint.
Here is what I liked. The author wastes no time jumping into the story and I was hooked within the first few pages which is always a good sign. I liked the fact that Kristiana "aka" Kris is a take charge, no-nonsense kind of woman. She's not interested in the latest hairstyles, makeup, or spending hours in front of the mirror. She takes her job as a hotel security guard seriously, so leading a practical lifestyle is second nature to her. You find very quickly that Kris served in the army and it suits her character and her job choice, not that she had much of a choice in the matter (don't want to give away too many spoilers). Also, Kris is quite feisty which you get to see rather early on whenever she is around her boss, Andrews, and her explosive first meeting with Michael Zakhara.
I might as well get this out of the way now...OMFG! Michael is H.O.T. Figuratively and literally, but I will get to that last part in a minute. He is sexy with a capital S. If you've read any of my reviews before, than you may already know that I am a sucker for alpha male characters. I love the multifaceted sides we get to see in Michael throughout the story. First, he is this mysterious leader of the "others" that bates Kris any chance he can get in the beginning. What I mean is, instead of calling her Kris, he addresses her by her full name (Kristiana) to her irritation (at first). He gives her pet names, like "kitten". But then we see a completely different side of him, such as when he senses Kris' distress and appears in her apartment in nothing but flames. Yes, I said flames. More on that later. Anyway, this fiery, fearsome creature is nothing like the man in the expensive suit back at the Summit. This ancient being is Micipsa. I guess I forgot to mention Michael goes by several different names because of his very long life; in this century he is called Michael but in previous centuries he was known as Micipsa. I definitely like this attention to detail. It would make sense that someone that has lived as long as Michael would possibly have several different names, even if it is just to blend in with current society. As the story progresses and we learn that Kris is Michael's mate, we get to see him as the devoted lover, and experiences doubt and fear, which are very human qualities. What if Kris doesn't want to go through with the mating ritual once she finds out the danger involved? What if he somehow loses her after waiting centuries to find his mate? It's really nice to see a well rounded character and for whatever reason, I wasn't expecting that.
Since I'm on the topic of characters, I have to give credit where credit is due. Elaina M. Roberts has an amazing imagination when it comes to not only creating characters, but characters that you feel for, that you want to know more about. In any other debut author's hands, the sheer volume of characters and species that are introduced and woven into the story could have been a complete disaster. But somehow Roberts pulls it off without taking away from her main characters, Kris and Michael. She even sets up some potential/future love stories, such as the Elven King Uruvion (who also happens to be Michael's best friend) and his Royal Advisor Lysavar. And rough around the edges (but very sexy) vampire Blake Simons and the human girl that helped the "other" children escape. I've already mentioned elves and vampires, but there are also werewolves/shapeshifters, centaurs, and pixies. I absolutely loved Sapphire and Opal and enjoyed the verbal sparring between Sapphire and Blake Simons. Imagine a tiny, feisty pixie giving her piece of mind to a big, bad vampire. Hilarious. I also must mention the Magi. Ariael Rumwynsal, a Blood Magus, was probably one of my favorite characters.
I also enjoyed the political aspect of the novel. Many times you will get authors that set their stories around a specific topic but end up glossing over it. It could be lack of research or fear of delving too deep into topics that may offend readers. But this isn't the case with Elaina M. Roberts. The issues that were addressed at the Summit were interesting, such as the repercussions of the "Others" coming out in human society. "Others" being hired over humans because of their supernatural/preternatural abilities. How to punish an "Other" for a crime they committed against a human or human society. You get my point. Not to get too deep here, but I can definitely see similarities between "Others" and immigrants (or even illegal aliens). I don't know if the author even had that in mind, but we have a lot of bitter people in the US who blame immigrants for taking jobs, etc. Very interesting connection.
So here are some things that bothered me, some of which I have no doubt can be easily fixed as the author gains more experience and becomes more aware of her readers. First, why no chapters? Maybe it was just the format I was reading (paperback), but I think this story definitely could have benefited from chapters. There were some breaks in the writing which I assumed was her way of showing that a new section was coming, but why not just add the numbers?
My next issue is with Kris. I don't really have issues with insta-love like so many others do, especially if it is done right. While I totally get where Michael is coming from, I felt that Kris' transition from trying to fight the attraction to then being suddenly in love with him was a bit...awkward? Not sure if that is even the right word. Actually, no it isn't the word I am looking for. More like too rushed. It just felt like one minute she is telling Michael to back off, the next she is calling him "my love". I get that they are mates and she is supposed to have this instant attraction to him, but I guess I expected her to fight it a bit more. Don't get me wrong, I love Kris and Michael together. I just wish Kris stayed a bit truer to her character. I hope that makes sense.
Here are a few other things that I made note of as I read that sort of bothered me. I was a little surprised that hardly any "Others" were angry with Kris since she was the one who helped the Colonel get free the first time, on top of the fact that he did commit murder (I'm talking about stuff he did before the story actually starts). And to be quite honest, I'm not sure I completely agree/buy Kris' choice to help him (again, this pertains to events that happened before the initial story begins). I'm just surprised more people didn't question her decision, even Michael. After all, he is the Head Ambassador and I know she is his mate, but it doesn't mean he should be so blind as to not question her role.
Random thought. What was up with their coffee obsession??? They were either drinking it, or in the kitchen making it, or running to Ricardo's food stand to buy it. It was just a bit excessive.
Another random thought. Shae's (Kris' sister) children have been kidnapped and she is holding it together a little too well? I know everyone handles extreme situations differently and maybe she was in shock. It could just be me being extremely picky and other readers might not find it as unrealistic as I did. I just remember making note of it as I read along.
While the author does a good job at not info-dumping, sometimes she forgets that her readers are not in her head. We don't automatically know what certain things are like she does. Some examples I came across: the nickname "Kiki"? Apparently her ex-flame Brian and a few other people that are close to Kris occasionally call her "Kiki". Why? How do you get "Kiki" out of Kristiana? What is a "Circlet of Office"? I get it is some sort of crown that King Uruvion wears, but there were a few times when Roberts describes the jewels of the crown as flashing or "winking" as if they are...alive or could feel emotion? I have no idea. It's never explained. Roberts also does this with characters occasionally. In the beginning (around pg. 62), I had no idea who Jenna was until I went back and had to reread and realized it was Shae's sister-in-law. This also happened with Uruvion (around pg. 67). His name wasn't mentioned until the next page but it was assumed I was supposed to remember that Michael's best friend is Uruvion. Maybe later in the book, but not in the beginning when humans and creatures of all kind are being introduced.
I think my biggest issue is with her lack of really telling us exactly what Michael is. Yes, we know he is a Djinn(i) but he is also an "Ifrit"? The only reason I vaguely know what an "Ifrit" is is because I watch the show True Blood and there was an "Ifrit" during one of the story arcs. But obviously Michael is different than what I saw on True Blood. And I thought Djinn were like genies. Yes? No? Why is Michael also addressed as warlord? Maybe a flashback scene of him fighting in a war would have been more informative. We know he is one of the oldest, most powerful, and most likely last of his kind. But other than that and his fire ability, the author doesn't really give us anything else. But I have to say...when he sheds his "human" form and can literally become flames? Absolutely hot and terrifying at the same time. And when he burns her bra and panties off because he grows too impatient? So sexy. Again, I have to give Roberts credit for giving us such an original male lead character.
I'm not sure if this was an inconsistency or if distance factored into the equation, but I noticed in an early scene that Michael was able to feel Kris' distress when he was at the hotel and she was in her apartment. Later in the story, Kris is in danger at the hotel and Michael is in some warehouse yet he doesn't feel her distress until he is back at the hotel. Again, just something I made note of as I was reading.
For a 275 page book, The Other Half packs a lot of punch. I absolutely love the fact that it is not your typical paranormal romance. Roberts put just as much effort and thought into creating interesting characters as she did in the Summit debates. And that is why this book just has that little extra something special that sets itself apart. I will warn everyone that there is a bit of a cliff hanger ending, and at first I was unsure how I felt about it because it led me to believe Kris and Michael's story may continue. While I love the couple, I feel that their story has been told and they had their HEA. I am really hoping the next book will feature another couple, such as Uruvion and Lysavar or Blake and the human girl.
P.S. Some of the questions I asked in my review have been answered in the Author Q&A over on my blog. There is also an International Giveaway for this book going on until 8/17. To read the author Q&A and to enter the giveaway, go HERE.(less)
My Review: Christine Feehan. Sherrilyn Kenyon. J.R. Ward. Lara Adrian. What do these aut...moreThis review and more can be found on my blog, The Muses Circle
My Review: Christine Feehan. Sherrilyn Kenyon. J.R. Ward. Lara Adrian. What do these authors have in common? Quite a few things, actually. They have not only written some of the most memorable alpha male vampire heroes known in the romance genre, but also have successful, long running series. Christine Feehan and Sherrilyn Kenyon used to be on my top 5 favorite authors list. Feehan's Dark series and Kenyon's Dark Hunter series consisted of books that were so good that I would buy them automatically just because their names were on the front cover. But recently I've found myself not doing that so much anymore. Series that I once found so unique and exciting have become predictable while others have gone off the deep end due to authors trying to create new twists to keep the story lines fresh. Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series is up to 27 books so far with Feehan's Dark series trailing at 23-- and as much as I hate to say it, they both should have ended many books ago. I can only imagine the pressure that fans put on authors to keep a series going and there are just as many authors that rather stick with what they know then try something new.
Then there are those authors that surprise you, such as J.R. Ward and Lara Adrian. Since this review is about Lara Adrian's Midnight Breed series, I will save my comments about J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series for another time. What I love and respect about Lara Adrian is that her Midnight Breed series technically ended with Darker After Midnight, book 10. Of course I didn't realize this until a couple of months ago when I started reading it in preparation for Edge of Dawn, book 11. When it finally started dawning on me that she was wrapping things up the closer I got to the end, I remember thinking, wow, an author that knows it's time to pull the plug and end on a bang. After all, I don't think I am the only one that was getting tired of Draco (the SOB needed to die ages ago even though I get he was the main villian) and she was running out of Breed warriors to write about (at least those that fought under Lucan). So if the series ended with book #10, what is Edge of Dawn, book #11 about?
Edge of Dawn takes place 20 years after the end of Darker After Midnight. Vampires are now out of the closet to humans and Lucan and the rest of the Breed have been working diligently for 20 years to create a peaceful coexistence. Mira, the adopted daughter of Nikolai and Renata, is now fully grown and a captain of her own squad of Breed warriors. She is still suffering from the loss of the only man that she has ever loved, Kellan. But when she is sent on a personal mission and is taken captive by a mysterious rebel leader, she soon realizes that the man she thought she had lost to an explosion years ago may not be dead after all.
Even though Edge of Dawn lists as book 11 in the Midnight Breed series, technically it is the first in a new series that just so happens to be set in the world of the Breed. All of the children that were introduced towards the end of the series, such as Lucan and Gabrielle's son Dare, Nikolai and Renata's adopted daughter Mira, Chase and Tavia's twins, Aric and Carys, and the parentless Ethan and Kellan make an appearance. This is why Lara Adrian is brilliant. She was wise enough to know that any more then 10 books would be pushing her luck as far as trying to find a new hero and also stretching the plot out. But, who says the world of the Breed has to end? And what better way to continue on and to keep it fresh then to jump 20 years in the future, add a new villian/threat that must be destroyed, and use the kin of the previous main characters in past books as the new heros/heroines for future books. Absolutely brilliant!
There is not much more for me to say. Lara Adrian delivers. Even the shortened length of Edge of Dawn works. Normally her Midnight Breed novels run around 350 to over 400 pages. Edge of Dawn is only 288 pages which concerned me at first but it was perfect. You could read Edge of Dawn as a stand alone but if you are a fan of her previous 10 novels in the series then you will love how she revisits previous characters and also gives us glimpses of future ones to come. One secondary character that was introduced in Edge of Dawn that I absolutely became enamored with is the alpha Breed cage fighter Rune. HOLY SH*T is he H.O.T! Even his name is sexy! I'll probably have to wait another 10 books before his story gets told, but at least I have something to look forward to!
My Review: First, let it be known how much I love mermaid mythology. Yes, I started...moreThis review and more can be viewed on my blog at: The Muses Circle
My Review: First, let it be known how much I love mermaid mythology. Yes, I started out like most young girls, fascinated with Disney's The Little Mermaid and falling in love with Splash starring Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah. As an English major in college, I had the opportunity to take a Legends, Fairytales, & Folklore course and was exposed to all kinds of mer tales from around the world. Some tales were sweet while others showed a very dark side to these sea creatures. It is no secret that mermaids have recently become popular in Young Adult literature and it has been exciting to read different authors' perspectives. But just like the overabundance of vampire and werewolf novels out there, it's getting harder to find a mer story that stands out from the rest. Maybe that is why I was so psyched when I came across Lies Beneath. It's just a shame that the book didn't live up to my expectations.
Here's what I liked. If you've read any of my reviews before, then you already know how much I enjoy reading books from the male perspective and how hard they are to find. I give Anne Greenwood Brown kudos for writing Lies Beneath entirely in Calder's point-of-view. Not only that, she nailed it.
I also liked the author's writing style. The chapters were not overly long and I enjoyed the poetry that was weaved throughout. It was also nice to see each chapter labeled with a title. I find it kind of fun when authors do that because I like to see how a title connects within that chapter.
One of the biggest things that drew me to this book was knowing that the author was taking what we think we know about mermaids/mermen and giving us a completely different mythology. Mermaids that survive by absorbing human emotions and energy? Cool! Cold blooded killers? Intriguing! I really liked what the author brought to the table, such as Calder not being born a merman, but being turned into one. The silver ring that appears around their necks when they are in their mer form. The depths that they will go to exact revenge and the consequences of not keeping your word if you should break a mer promise. So much potential that somehow just gets...lost.
Here is where I had issues with Lies Beneath. The story absolutely starts off strong. Calder tells us from the very first couple of pages that he is a killer, that's how he survives, but he hasn't made a kill in several months (9 months I think, right?). His three sisters, Maris, Tallulah, and Pavati, lure him to Michigan to exact revenge on Jason Hancock, the man responsible for the death of their mother. I say lure because while Calder feels bonded to his sisters, he desperately wants to be free from them. Maris, the ring leader, reluctantly agrees to cut the ties that binds him to them if he helps finish what they have set out to do. So far so good, right?
But once Calder gets to Michigan, that is sort of where the story falls flat. They decide the best way to get Jason Handcock is through his daughters. They at first think it's best to go for the youngest girl but Calder becomes fascinated with Lily, the eldest daughter of Hancock...and the story becomes boring. Seriously! The majority of the book is Calder watching, following, and...stalking Lily Hancock. He sleeps in the hammock outside her house at night. He gets a job at the same place she does. I've seen the "stalker" technique used before (for lack of a better term or phrase) and while in some books it works (Twilight, for example), it fails epically in Lies Beneath. Why you ask? I wish I could give you a good reason why. I tried going back to find some examples as to what bothers me about Calder, why I didn't feel myself swooning for him like I have for many other male lead characters. Maybe it's because he just doesn't seem fully developed, which is odd considering the book is in his point-of-view.
This also leads me to my dislike for his love interest, Lily Hancock. It's really rare for me to dislike BOTH the male and female main lead characters of a story. Actually, this may be a first. I thought Lily was going to be this rebellious, no nonsense kind of girl by the way she was first described. She annoyed me with all of the mermaid poetry and the blatant disregard for the "killing" parts. I guess I have to give it to Calder since even he was a bit annoyed that she had this romantic image in her head and no matter how he tried to redirect her back to the truth, she refused to see it. I'm not stupid, I get that in order for us to have a happily ever after, she has to forgive and come to terms with the things he has done. But to completely IGNORE it? Yeah, I have major issues with that.
Here is also a major mistake I found that became distracting. It's revealed early that Calder was born human and was made into a merman. When he was a small child, he was on a boat with his parents. A mermaid, later to become his "adopted" mother, capsized the boat and killed his parents. She showed mercy by turning him. But later in the story Calder thinks to himself, "They were out there somewhere. They might have even loved me. Did they search for me still, all these years later?" (page 241). HUH? Didn't she kill his biological parents??? If anyone has read this book and is reading this review, please feel free to let me know if I am wrong. Maybe I didn't read it correctly, but I could have sworn Calder said early in the story that they were killed.
Another thing that bothered me is how Calder and his sisters' mermaid mother died. I know she was caught in a fisherman's net. And I am assuming the fishermen never saw her? Or did they? If they did, then mermaids would be out of the closet, right? This isn't exactly a mistake but this is the kind of thing that happened a lot throughout the story. The author throws out some great ideas but doesn't fully explore them or give us enough details.
While I absolutely loved the structure of the novel such as the male point-of-view, the edgy, dark mythology, and writing style, there really wasn't a whole lot of substance to hold it together. The story focused too much on Calder spying on Lily. The characters weren't fleshed out enough. I get there is going to be a sequel but there could have been way more character development without giving away too much story. In any case, I am thankful to NetGalley and Delacorte Books for Young Readers for giving me this opportunity to read and review Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown.
My Review: Overall, I think Hollyweird by Terri Clark was a super fun, quick read. If you fin...moreCheck out more of my reviews on my blog: The Muses Circle
My Review: Overall, I think Hollyweird by Terri Clark was a super fun, quick read. If you find yourself overwhelmed after reading books with heavy topics and you are looking for a story that is entertaining, will make you laugh, and doesn't require putting on your thinking caps, then this book is definitely worth picking up.
Hollyweird's premise is simple. Aly King wins a contest that was being promoted in EnterTEENment Magazine. What does she win? A once in a lifetime opportunity to meet Dakota Danvers, the hunky star of a popular CW show called Paranormal P.I. With her gothy, best friend Des and 21 year old sister/soap star wannabe Missy (who serves as their annoying, diva chaperone) in tow, they head to Hollywood. Never in their wildest dreams did they ever imagine their teen idol is actually a demon in disguise (the son of Satan to be exact) and that they would have to work closely with an undercover fallen angel named Jameson (who is trying to earn his halo back) in order to save the world from evil. Yes, it's as funny as it sounds!
If you haven't figured it out yet by my little summary, Terri Clark has created some memorable characters. By far my favorite has to be Des, Aly's best friend. I'm not sure if it's because she reminds me of my old goth days or if it's because Des doesn't fit the typical stereotypes that most goth characters fall under. There is this big misconception that goth kids wear all black because they are depressed, worship the devil, only listen to Marilyn Manson, and wouldn't be caught dead with "normal" looking teens. Des is proof that just because you have a few piercings and wear darker clothes doesn't mean you are an unhappy, Satanic worshiping outcast. Even though Aly and Des have completely different styles, they don't let outer appearances get in the way of who they are on the inside.
I love Des's sense of humor and her crazy words and phrases she comes up with, which Aly affectionately adds to her mental "Des Dictionary". A great example is in the beginning of the book when Aly and Des arrive in Hollywood. Des is so nervous that she pukes a little in her mouth which she calls "interna-hurl." "Guystraction" (being distracted by boys), "tattegory", and "pierconify" are just a few of the many other words she creates.
Let me not forget to mention how funny the text messages were from God to Jameson. When Aly and Des figure out the truth about Dakota, Jameson is torn as to whether he should reveal his own identity. Suddenly, a "Stairway to Heaven" ringtone goes off on his phone. When he checks to see who texted him, the message says:
From: God "Maybe Zeppelin was a little obvs?"
Sooo funny! Also, Jameson must check in with the archangel Michael from time to time. What cracks me up is how Jameson calls him "Mikey". Who knew that giving God a sense of humor would work so well? Then again, I am not sure why I'm so surprised. Maybe it's because the last few books I've read have been more serious in nature. It just came to me yesterday that Hollyweird's humor reminds me of the movie Little Nicky starring Adam Sandler. If you liked Little Nicky then you will love this book!
Here are a few things I had issues with. While I loved the alternating chapter perspectives between Aly and Jameson, I felt that about halfway through the book, the voices of the two merge together. What I mean is, in the beginning, I could easily tell which chapter was in Aly's POV and which was in Jameson's without the chapters even being labeled at the top. But somewhere in the middle of the book, their distinct voices as characters fade away. I would be reading and easily forget who's head I was in. I'm not sure what happened since the story and characters started off strong.
I also felt that the way the girls find out about Dakota's true identity was a bit rushed and sudden. I get that the book is only 240 pages, so things do have to move along. Also, this may sound strange, but I guess I didn't care for the revelation that other supernatural creatures like werewolves and witches also exist. Obviously this has a lot to do with how the story ends, so I won't go any further.
My last complaint is the romance and chemistry between the two main characters. While I loved Aly and Jameson as a couple, the whole "I-would-sacrifice-everything-for-you, even-risk-never getting-my-halo-back" formula doesn't work, especially since they have only known each other, oh like, FOUR DAYS! Don't get me wrong, I am not a complete "instant love" hater. I just feel that there wasn't much development between Aly and Jameson due to the craziness going on in the book. Maybe if there had been some more scenes between them, more tender moments, I could believe the "I-would-die-for-you" kind of love. But the romance is quite lacking, the heat factor is...well, cold. I can't even remember if they kissed. Isn't that sad?
Hollyweird's cover art and synopsis were spot on as to what I expected from this book! The story was light-hearted, hilarious, and never takes itself too seriously. If you keep these things in mind, you will enjoy this book immensely!
My Review: I am not sure what it was about the synopsis of Emerald City that caught my...moreCome check out more of my reviews on my blog at The Muses Circle
My Review: I am not sure what it was about the synopsis of Emerald City that caught my attention. Yes, I am a sucker for romance and "mysterious" heroes, so maybe it was that aspect of the summary that made me click the "request" button on netgalley. I definitely don't regret it, even though this debut novel by Alicia K. Leppert turned out to be quite different then what I expected it to be.
As the synopsis states, the story opens with a harrowing scene of attempted suicide. Olivia is a 20 year old shell of a young woman, broken down by losing everyone that has meant something to her. Abandoned by even her best friend, Olivia has attempted to eke out her own life by working and owning her own apartment. But she lives like a robot, going through the motions without truly seeing or feeling, barely eating or full-filling other social or physical needs. After a particularly bad day at work, swallowing a bottle of anxiety pills becomes her answer to her problems. One minute Olivia feels nothing and is greeted by white light, the next she is waking up in the hospital, told she has been saved by her mysterious neighbor named Jude. And so Olivia's journey begins, her fight back to mental and physical wellness, finding something worth living for... Sounds like a pretty straight forward, contemporary novel, right?
I battled back and forth on how much I should reveal about Emerald City in my review. But after some careful thinking and seeing that other reviewers have talked about what I wanted to reveal, I decided to go for it. If you haven't figured it out already, Emerald City is actually a paranormal romance and our mysterious hero, Jude, is an...angel! Now hold that thought.
Here is what I liked about the novel. I think the author did a great job with capturing the realistic nature of depression and suicide. I completely disagree with another reviewer in regards to how long it takes to heal after suffering a great loss. In the book, Olivia's mother killed herself a year before. Another reviewer felt that her depression lasting a year over the death of her mother felt unrealistic. They felt that after a couple of months, Olivia should have been able to start healing from her loss. Seriously?? Who puts a limit on the grieving process? Everyone deals with loss differently, so I thought the author dealt with the subject conscientiously.
Emerald City is filled with great characterization. The author really takes her time to build the relationships between her characters. While some other reviewers felt it may have taken too long for the relationship between Olivia and Jude to begin to really blossom, I thought it was a nice change from some of the typical "instant love" romances out there. I also like the fact that the author didn't bog the story down with tons of secondary characters. Not that I have issues with secondary characters, but Alicia K. Leppert does a great job making the characters she has three dimensional. One of my favorites is Hal, the mysterious homeless man that Jude always goes to when he needs to borrow materialistic things, like a truck, money, etc. I know, sounds weird, right? How can a homeless man have those kinds of connections? Read to find out :) Even though the paranormal element wasn't really evident until about halfway through the book, I liked the angel mythology that was introduced. In Alicia K. Leppert's world, her angels don't have any wings. Heaven is not located in the sky, but is hidden in some sort of alternate dimension. Spirits are kept separate from angels. There are also many different kinds of angels, like ones that comfort you before you pass on, those that guard you, etc.
Now to my issues with Emerald City. A few are minor and are just thoughts/questions I had while reading. Olivia owns her own apartment in Seattle, but only works at a cafe shop. Is that realistic? Olivia swallows a whole bottle of pills but somehow Jude convinces the hospital it was an "accident". Really?? Apparently he did not use any of his "heavenly" influences to convince the hospital staff that it was an accident. It doesn't sound plausible.
When Olivia is at one of her therapy sessions, she thinks to herself that she doesn't want to reveal that Jude is the one that saved her. She tells Dr. Robinson that she has been spending time with a guy and that he is her neighbor. Then later in the conversation, she mentions that her savior the night she tried killing herself was her neighbor. Wait, didn't she just give it away??? I think it was one of those unconscious errors the author made and the editor didn't catch it. A little proof reading and rewording would have solved that mistake.
Also, without giving away too much, there is a part where Olivia is able to "meet" Jude's mother on the other side. I thought this was a bit odd since I would have thought that if the author was going to go in that direction with the story, it would be Olivia's mother that she would be able to see. Considering the fact that she has regrets about her mother's death and wishing she had the chance to talk with her one last time, I'm not sure what purpose was gained by making it be Jude's mother whom she meets. Again, maybe it slipped the author's mind, but I thought adding Jude's mom to the mix was a bit of an odd angle.
Lastly-- and this is my biggest issues and sadly, I don't think this is the author's fault-- I think Emerald City was completely marketed wrong. Back to my earlier comment, I first went into this novel thinking it was going to be a contemporary YA novel. Then I started reading it, and with Olivia's age being revealed at 20 and the serious/grimness of the depression and suicide attempt, I thought wow, maybe this is more of an adult novel. Then the angel concept was intertwined and I came to the conclusion that this is a YA paranormal romance for older teens. On top of the genre confusion, throw in a completely ambiguous cover art and book title, and you have yourself a hot mess of confusion. Now, I have talked to enough authors to know cover art is usually completely out of their hands. But I am still stuck on the title. Sometimes authors have a say, sometimes they don't. Other then Jude's green eyes which are mentioned quite a bit throughout the novel, I can't figure out what "Emerald City" means. And it absolutely does not help market the book at all.
Emerald City was not a bad read. I think the author captures the realistic and ugly stages of grief, depression, and suicide. I liked that the paranormal elements were introduced a bit later in the book. It was a nice change to see the relationship between two characters take its time to develop rather then using the instant love formula that we see so much in YA novels. Great characterization, interesting angel mythology held the story together. But a few plot holes such as poor editing, combined with the terrible marketing of this book is why it only gets a 3 out of 5 star rating. I think paranormal romance fans will miss out on Emerald City because they won't know about it. Thank God I am open minded! Someone who picks up this novel thinking its a contemporary romance may leave a worse review simply because they felt misled.
I received this book through the Early Reviewers Giveaway for Library Things and I am glad I did. While this first in a new angel paranormal romance m...moreI received this book through the Early Reviewers Giveaway for Library Things and I am glad I did. While this first in a new angel paranormal romance may not be as good as Caris Roane's hot angel/vampire series, I think it was a solid start. If you like your male hero types like alphas-- strong, possessive, take charge-- then you will enjoy this new ride. I think what is most surprising is that even though Adrian was hot and convincing as the leader of the Sentinels, I was more interested in Elijah, the lycan alpha leader who befriended Adrian's mate, Lindsey. Yummy, yummy! I hate to keep comparing it to Caris Roane's Guardian of Ascension series, it's hard not to since both dabble with angel and vampire lore. Sylvia Day goes one step ahead and adds lycans into the pot so I give her credit for not only trying to give us a steamy romance, but for balancing that with world building since this is the first in her new series.
The only reason I didn't give it a complete 5 star rating is because some things didn't quite add up in the mythology of the book. I am not sure if that is because its the first book in a new series, therefore it will get explained later, or if it is just something that completely slipped the author's mind. I won't get into details since it was just a couple of minor things that may get explained in the next book. Either way, I am excited about this new series and patiently wait for book 2!(less)
1) I love the whole setting in New Orleans and the care with which author, Elle Jasper, describes th...more Afterlight was wickedly good for so many reasons:
1) I love the whole setting in New Orleans and the care with which author, Elle Jasper, describes the old cemeteries, architecture, etc.
2) You can tell the author did her research-- everything from gothic lifestyle & clothing, to running a tattoo parlor, to the musical selections she chose to give us readers a real connection with the main character Riley and the overall mood/tone of the novel.
3) I think what fascinated me the most about Afterlight is how Elle Jasper introduces us to the "Gullah" culture. I will be the first to admit that I never heard of the "Gullah" and I am half African American myself. At first I thought Jasper made up the term "Gullah" and that Riley's adopted family was just the author finding a unique way of putting a fresh spin on witch mythology. But as I continued to read and became swept away with the language of Riley's beloved Preacher man and his wife Estelle, it dawned on me that "Gullah" culture is real. Once I figured that out, I was pretty much hooked. I know this shouldn't be about race or skin color, but there is something fascinating about a gothic white girl who is basically adopted by the ebony skinned "Gullah" witch doctor Preacher man, and falls in love with a 19th century vampire named Eli. Anthropology has always been a love of mine, so the fusion of these different subcultures and culture were intriguing.
4) Now for the "strong female vs. the alpha male" situation I mentioned earlier. Many times you have either a submissive female with a completely dominate alpha male hero that takes control. Other times you have books that say the female heroine is strong and can completely take care of herself but once you start reading, you realize she is just as submissive as the others. I guess what I am trying to say is, it's hard to find an author that truly commits to making their female lead character strong and independent. Or maybe I should say they have a hard time finding the perfect balance. In my opinion, Jasper hit the nail on the head with Riley and Eli. It was easy to convince me that Riley was a strong willed, sassy, modern woman before Eli came into the picture. After all, this girl somehow found the strength to beat addiction, find her self-worth and confidence after being in abusive relationships, put herself through college, opened up her own business which became quite successful, and most importantly, is in the process of raising and providing for her younger brother. What completely sold me was Riley and Eli's interactions with each other. Instead of Riley folding under Eli's dominate personality, she continued to prove that she was smart, capable, and can really kick some ass. I understand Eli's issues and why he is such an alpha--he is a 19th century vampire after all. But more then that, while he respects and admires her fighting abilities when battling her own species, he has his doubts about her being able to defend herself against vampires. He knows that deep down she is just a fragile human that does not have the strength or speed to go up against such a threat. Completely understandable in my book. Overall, I think Jasper does a great job proving that Riley is a tough chick. While she has feelings for Eli, she doesn't just turn into a submissive partner. She constantly keeps Eli on his toes.
I wanted to quickly comment on 3 remarks that I found in negative reviews that I completely disagree with. One, a reviewer said that Afterlight was too Twilightish. Umm, did they read the same book I did??? Do I see a few similarities between Afterlight and Twilight? Yes. But not in a negative way. That particular reviewer acted like this book should have been for Young Adult readers, and trust me, this is not a book for kids.
Another critic complained that the love scenes were not fully developed (meaning they weren't explicit enough). I found this interesting because I normally like things ruanchy. However, that also depends on the story and how it is written. The scenes were very hot and Jasper didn't really leave anything to the imagination. I don't feel that she left us hanging and while they could have been more explicit such as in the way the author describes certain body parts (use your imagination), I don't think it was neccessary.
Lastly, the harshest remark was from a reviewer that said Eli is a "forgettable" vampire. I couldn't disagree more. Eli is a perfect blend of old world 19th century vampire and modern day, brooding, sexy maleness with fangs. He's got the accent, the sex appeal, the alpha male tendencies without being a complete prick, and most of all, the ability to control the urge to take Riley's highly addictive blood more than any other vampire, including his own family. While we learn all these things about Eli, he also remains somewhat of a mystery which is sexy as hell. I want to know why he was in seclusion and away from his family for so many years. It didn't get explained in Afterlight, so I can only guess that it will be revealed in the 2nd or 3rd book in the series.
My only criticism is that some parts do get very repetitive. Riley constantly tells us that she is a badass. Honey, we already know that! You've proven it many times over, so you don't have to keep telling us. I also thought the ending of the book was a little weak (the battle scene was a bit anti-climatic). But that tends to happen when stories are written in 1st person. If you read the book, you'll know what I mean.
Other then those minor things, Afterlight is a solid series starter for the Dark Ink Chronicles. I look forward to checking out book 2 called Everdark.
Bonded By Blood is the kind of book that starts off slow and just when you think it's not your cup of tea, something finally clicks. I started this bo...moreBonded By Blood is the kind of book that starts off slow and just when you think it's not your cup of tea, something finally clicks. I started this book months ago and was about 21 pages into it and ended up putting it down to start another novel. That rarely happens-- I guess you can say when I start something, I like to finish, at least when it comes to reading. In any case, a few days ago I saw Bonded By Blood sitting there on my shelf and thought, well, it's either now or never. Plus, while I was on amazon.com, I noticed that book 2 in the series, Embraced By Blood, will be coming out next month. No point in buying the next in the series if the first one sucked, right? Well I am glad I picked it back up because it turned out to be a decent read. Dom was definitely a hot alpha vampire. The only thing that annoyed me was the word "darling" as a pet name or term of endearment. Does darling aka darlin' work in a cowboy romance or down south? Yes. Does it work in a modern day vampire romance? Very rarely. Maybe I am wrong or being too picky. But for some reason it annoyed me.
Anyway, I look forward to book 2 next month!(less)
Ascension by Caris Roane is an original, kick ass start to a new vampire series. If you are a lover of JR Ward and Lara Adrian, then you will enjoy As...moreAscension by Caris Roane is an original, kick ass start to a new vampire series. If you are a lover of JR Ward and Lara Adrian, then you will enjoy Ascension. If you love possessive alpha males, then you will love the Warriors of the Blood-- Kerrick, Thorne, Marcus, Medichi, Jean-Pierre, Zacharias, etc. Vampire warriors that have wings, wear kilts, wield swords-- Caris Roane does a great job setting up this new mythology and you can't help but fall a little in love with these hunky new heroes.
The only thing that annoyed me about the book was the author's word choices. She is an excellent writer, don't get me wrong, but the one thing she used over and over is the word "cried". "Ger her out of here," he cried. "No!" he cried. "Let me go!" she cried. ARRGHHH! ENOUGH with that word! I just think the author needs to change up on that word, use a some synonyms like "shouted" or "yelled" or "exclaimed" etc.
Other then that, the book was amazing. I can't wait until May when the next book in the series comes out!(less)