Review: ** 2 Stars Gwen Sparks is a witch living in the otherworldly town of Flora, an enclave of witches, vampires, faeries, and werewolves where no h...moreReview: ** 2 Stars Gwen Sparks is a witch living in the otherworldly town of Flora, an enclave of witches, vampires, faeries, and werewolves where no humans are allowed to visit except on one weekend a year. She reads in the paper that a witch was found dead in a ditch, drained of blood, but the local police are encouraging people not to assume that it’s a serial killer. Gwen, unable to stand by while witches die, decides to offer her unique ability to learn the last thoughts of the dead to aid in the investigation, thrusting herself into a dangerous police case where she must work with her ex-boyfriend (a werewolf), appease her new boyfriend (a vampire), and avoid being next on the killer’s hitlist.
Reading the description, I had high hopes for this book and this author. Unfortunately, the reality did not meet up with my expectations.
The premise of the story was unbelievable. Gwen is an untrained civilian with no offensive magical capabilities. Yes, she’s helped the police in the past using her abilities, but I have to assume it was at their request and on a limited basis. It is completely unreasonable to expect cops to welcome a civilian as a full partner in an investigation, yet on this case Gwen manages to insert herself into the center of the action, not only reading the victim’s last thoughts, but going out with the cops to interview suspects and research leads. Beyond the initial setup, the story also suffered from bad formatting, stiff and immature dialogue, repetitive and unnecessary descriptions of character motives or behaviors, and a lack of a magical system that leads me to believe this was a first effort by an otherwise unpublished author. I would certainly encourage Ms. Nelson to keep trying, but unfortunately, CRAVED could have used more work before hitting the virtual shelves.
Characters: ** 2 Stars Gwen is naive and somehow uneducated in her magic, despite living in a community surrounded by other witches. I’ll grant that she’s young at twenty-six, but I would have thought that she would have been better trained at the school she apparently attended at the age of sixteen. In the beginning, she is consumed by bitterness and grief over the breakup with her ex, avoiding the vampire that has essentially stalked her for two years, Aiden. Then without warning, she suddenly falls head over heels in love and can’t stop drooling over him. Meanwhile, Aiden does very little to deserve her sudden change of heart. He’s nice enough, but mostly serves as a pretty face and generic alpha male. The secondary characters are equally terrible. Fiona is a selfish, spoiled brat that acts like a teenager even though she’s supposed to be Gwen’s best friend. Micah is Gwen’s ex, but with the exception of the obvious tension in their relationship, I never got a good feel for him. And the villain might have been crafty, but Gwen suspected him immediately, so there was little suspense to the story.
Plot: *** 3 Stars The plot had promise, but it was overwhelmed by poor execution. The first several chapters could have been condensed to provide a more concise introduction to the instigating event. The magic system also needed to be further developed: there were no rules as to what could or could not be done. In some cases the witches would use magic to change clothes or put makeup on their face, all with just a thought, and then they had to order a dress from the local tailor. Finally, the ending was both predictable and far too open-ended for my taste, leaving me wanting (but not in a good way).
Setting: ** 2 Stars I never got a good feel for the setting throughout the book. For one thing, the town being segregated from humans threw me for a loop. Supposedly it’s the humans that want separation, but then only a select few, chosen by the town, are able to visit during an annual festival, while the otherworldly residents can apparently come and go as they please. I was also never clear on the boundaries of the investigation. How does the Flora police department have rights to go into other towns to do its investigation? Were the other towns also otherworld towns? It was confusing to say the least.
Romance: * 1 Star Gwen and Aiden were completely unbelievable together. First, Gwen wants nothing to do with Aiden. He’s an annoyance. Then with a flip of a switch, she adores him. They have sex at the most inappropriate times, like when they’re supposed to be on a stakeout and Gwen’s ex (a werewolf with supernatural hearing) is nearby. The romance was forced and almost entirely about the sex rather than their relationship.
Genre - Urban Fantasy: ** 2 Stars The author hits on a few of the urban fantasy tropes, but none are particularly well executed. There are a couple of deaths and some action, but the horror and gore isn’t well described. Gwen is on an investigation, but most of the facts just fall into her lap, or are dropped there by ghosts. It’s sort of in an urban setting, but I couldn’t tell if Flora was really a city or just a large town. Overall, I was underwhelmed.(less)
The Goodreads description does not do this book justice!
Zoe Merrick is an average Jane. She lives with her cat, just got out of a bad relationship, an...moreThe Goodreads description does not do this book justice!
Zoe Merrick is an average Jane. She lives with her cat, just got out of a bad relationship, and her best friend is gorgeous, leaving her feeling slightly less than perky. But on her way home from a girls night out, Zoe’s average life ends with a brutal attack and she’s thrust into a new and confusing existence.
It begins when she wakes up in a body bag covered in blood. Then she goes through physical changes: she grows taller, her eyes turn green, and her copper hair turns black and glossy. Luckily her rescuer, Adam, has a protective instinct and a strong stomach as he takes it all in stride and helps her without question...until Justus arrives and reveals the truth: Zoe has been transformed into a Mage, a Breed that can control energy and manipulate it based on individual gifts. Usually, a Mage is made by special selection and it is an honor to be chosen, but Zoe is unique in that she did not choose to be Mage. Her Creator attacked and left her for dead. Without a Creator, Zoe is left vulnerable to other Mage until she has enough power and control to protect herself. Justus takes her under his wing, becoming her Ghaurdian until her Creator comes to claim her, a Creator’s right by Mage law, and he can do whatever he wants with her.
I didn’t have high expectations for STERLING based on the original description, but I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed every minute of it. I can’t wait for the sequel!
Characters: **** 4 Stars The beginning of the novel was a little rough in the character development arena. After being attacked, Zoe is rescued by Adam, a handsome former soldier who watches over her while she sleeps and her body physically transforms. The problem I had was how quickly Adam takes it all in stride and Zoe feels comfortable around him. I’m sure, had it been me, I would have been terrified, not knowing how who this strange man was, whether he might be connected to the attack, or how I got to his apartment. Yet as soon as she’s fed they’re best friends. Similarly, when Justus arrives on scene, he’s antagonistic and angry, yet Zoe manages to trust him really quickly.
That being said, as the novel progressed, the characters really grew on me and I ended up loving them all. Zoe is strong and resilient, indomitable yet also vulnerable. Adam is protective and has a truly generous heart. Justus is also protective, but more chivalrous and old-fashioned. Simon, introduced later in the story, is sexy and funny, using his rockstar appearance to hide a kind soul. I did think it was a little much to have three protective men guarding over her (and no other women), but they all had distinct personalities and served different roles in Zoe’s new life.
Plot: **** 4 Stars The pacing of STERLING was perfect, the plot complex enough to be interesting, and the world-building nicely done. I’ve knocked off a star because the beginning of the novel suffered from some abrupt time shifts that skipped too much potential character development. However, I could not have asked for a better ending! It was climactic and action packed, building the danger to a perfect pitch before resolving with a happy conclusion. The story was complete in itself, but the real “Big Bad” was left for Zoe to deal with in later installments. I only wish the second book in the series was already available!
Setting: ***** 5 Stars I was able to visualize Zoe’s surroundings in almost every scene, but the description wasn’t overly heavy or obnoxious. I lost myself in her world, never skipping a paragraph to move onto the next bit of dialogue or action.
Romance: *** 3 Stars With three male protectors, all of whom seem interested in her, it was hard to know who to root for, and apparently Zoe didn’t know either. Adam is fantastic in the beginning, and I was drawn to him, hoping that he would somehow manage to overcome the obstacle of her new abilities (unable to safely interact with him when she’s in a...ahem...high emotional state). But then Justus turns out to be a really great guy, just awkward and unsure of how to behave around Zoe, particularly since she’s his student. And Simon was a lot of fun, but I felt like he managed to wiggle his way into her life too quickly. There’s a lot of potential for a love...pyramid? square?...anyway, there’s a lot of potential with any of the three men, but nothing was accomplished and I felt like I was left hanging in the wind, waiting for one of them to make a move (one that wouldn’t involve anyone getting physically hurt, anyway).
Genre - Contemporary Fantasy: ***** 5 Stars STERLING is a unique take on a current trend, and I loved it. The fact that Mage aren’t sorcerers and don’t perform magic, but manipulate energy was interesting and a fun twist (I haven’t seen too many elementals recently). Plus the modern day setting with some centuries-old protectors, with dark action and high stakes, made this a fantastically fun story. It was worth every penny, and then some!
(In fact, with a few revisions to the first few chapters, and a better description on Amazon, I would have gladly forked over a few extra dollars!)(less)
THE SHADOW READER is an inspiring interpretation of the fae in contemporary fantasy. Thoroughly enjoyable, the tale follows McKenzie Lewis as she is k...moreTHE SHADOW READER is an inspiring interpretation of the fae in contemporary fantasy. Thoroughly enjoyable, the tale follows McKenzie Lewis as she is kidnapped from her college final exam and thrust into the middle of a fae war. She’s always been on the side of the fae King Atroth, but as she learns more about the rebels around her, she comes to discover that all may not be what it seems.
There were a couple of relatively minor world-building issues that stretched the limits of my ability to suspend disbelief, but despite that, I was carried away by this book and enjoyed every minute of the read.
Characters: ***** 5 Stars I loved all of the characters in THE SHADOW READER. Each had a unique voice and brought together a deep, well-developed cast. Even the secondary characters enhanced the story, moving beyond mere placeholders to full characters in their own right.
Don’t let the girl on the cover deceive you, McKenzie Lewis is an average human college student, except for the fact that she can see fae magic and read the path of their fissures - portals from one world to another. Most notably, she does not carry a sword. However, that doesn’t mean she isn’t kick-ass in her own right, stubborn and brave, trying to do the right thing without being deceived by the devious fae around her. She is the best shadow reader in the world, able to track the fae to within yards of their location after they jump through a fissure, making her a valuable asset to the King and a high-value target to the rebels.
Kyol is King Atroth’s sword-master, a cold warrior that softens only around McKenzie and loves her despite the King’s restriction that fae and humans cannot have a relationship. He does everything in his power to protect McKenzie, keeping her as far from the front lines of the war as possible and hiding her from the rebels, but eventually they catch up to her.
Aren is the rebel leader who finally manages to capture the shadow reader, but instead of killing her as he should in this brutal war, Aren tries to persuade her to see their side and learn the truth of the King and Kyol’s actions.
Plot: ***** 5 Stars The plot was really well developed, with several twists and turns as McKenzie discovers more about the war, its origins, and her place in it. I especially enjoyed McKenzie’s internal conflict as she finds herself both sympathizing with the rebel cause (and its charismatic leader) and loyal to Kyol and the King. I couldn’t put the book down!
Setting: **** 4 Stars Some of the world building threw me for a loop, sending me slightly out of the story to consider whether I could really believe the set-up. For example, when on Earth, the fae visibly show “chaos lusters”, bright lightning bolts of magic that dance across their skin. Only humans with the sight can see this magic, but the magic can jump from fae to human and back, a pleasurable sensation, apparently. The chaos lusters move faster when the fae is agitated or in pain, but why would the environmental magic be affected by mood? Similarly, human technology hurts the fae and drains their magic, regardless of what it’s made of, but I never understood why that would happen. I guess I like an explanation, even for the unexplainable.
However, the worlds themselves were really well developed, with great detail in the political situation, the atmosphere, and the scenery. I was drawn in and captivated by the world, not wanting to put the book down despite the few moments of distraction.
Romance: ***** 5 Stars The love triangle between McKenzie, Kyol, and Aren is fantastic, despite Kyol not actually being present for most of the story. McKenzie is rightfully hesitant to trust Aren, her kidnapper. But Aren is immediately attracted to her and wants to keep her alive and safe. He works hard to make her see the rebel point of view, and change her opinion of him in the process. Kyol, on the other hand, has secretly held McKenzie’s heart for ten years and does everything in his power to bring her back to safety. McKenzie can’t help but think about him and struggles against her growing attraction to Aren in part due to loyalty to Kyol. There’s plenty of sexual tension between McKenzie and her two suitors, as well as plain old regular tension, but even though McKenzie eventually does make a choice, the novel is kept PG and the window is left open for further tension in future books.
Genre - Contemporary Fantasy: ***** 5 Stars A great combination of action, suspense, and adventure, with strong character development, makes this a great contemporary fantasy. For those that like a lot of heavy romance in their fantasy, this might not be a great pick for you, but the author brought something new and interesting to the genre with THE SHADOW READER. I look forward to the next installment!(less)
FATE’S EDGE was exactly what I’ve come to expect from the author team of Ilona Andrews, a perfectly paced adventure with unique characters and a roman...moreFATE’S EDGE was exactly what I’ve come to expect from the author team of Ilona Andrews, a perfectly paced adventure with unique characters and a romance that leaves you breathless for more. I’ve read all three of the edge books at this point, and look forward to the continuation of the series. Each book is a stand-alone novel following one of the secondary characters from the other books. Ilona Andrews does a great job of weaving backstory where needed without ruining the other stories, meaning that you can actually read these out of order.
Characters: **** 4 Stars Audrey and Kaldar are an unbeatable team. Both grifters with specialized skills, the duo quickly realizes that the attraction is more than professional. Audrey has brains and beauty, using both to her advantage to achieve her goals. It also doesn’t hurt that she has a magical ability to pick any lock ever designed. Kaldar has good looks and charm, plus an ability to change personalities at the drop of a hat. Magically, Fate shines on Kaldar and he will win just about any bet he makes. The secondary characters were the charming young brothers, George and Jack, from ON THE EDGE, showing how they’ve both grown up a bit since we last saw them. I particularly love Jack, the lynx changeling that has issues understanding the rest of humanity and controlling his temper.
Then there were the villains, which, unfortunately, lived up to my expectations of being rather one dimensional with no redeeming qualities. They’re simply evil monsters, with an outrageous lust for blood and lack of humanity. The Hand (the spy organization that they work for) trains them that way, but I’d like to see one of them surprise me by showing a little compassion, or something above a desire to maim and kill. However, they do each have their own motivations for their work, and skill sets that make them interesting within the story.
Plot: **** 4 Stars Perfectly paced, the story kept my butt glued to the seat of my chair but still allowed for character development and a realistic romantic relationship. Without giving anything away, I loved that Audrey came the the rescue at the end, using her wit to outfox the enemy and win, although I would have liked the final climactic scene to have progressed from her perspective rather than Kaldar’s so that we could have gotten a better picture of what actually happened.
Setting: **** 4 Stars I’ve knocked a star off on the setting not because of anything in particular that was bad, but because it was 100% expected as compared to the other novels in the series. The Edge is a deep dark wilderness, the Broken is our earth, and the Weird is a medieval magical realm. I would have liked a new climate or something completely out of expectation to create some interest in the setting.
Romance: ***** 5 Stars Ilona Andrews excels at developing realistic romances that make sense to the story. Audrey and Kaldar are a wonderful match, but Audrey has reservations for good cause. As a result, they don’t jump into bed too quickly and the plot isn’t entirely centered around the sex scenes. Instead, Kaldar has to work to win Audrey’s acceptance, building to an intense moment together that had my heart pounding.
Genre - Contemporary Fantasy Romance: ***** 5 Stars FATE’S EDGE has it all, an action packed story with a fantastic romance and well-developed characters. Ilona Andrews is a master of the genre. I highly recommend The Edge series and FATE’S EDGE in particular.(less)
Dannika Dark does it again! TWIST was just as good as STERLING (Mageri Series: Book 1), with a new hero and love interest, ramped up action, and great...moreDannika Dark does it again! TWIST was just as good as STERLING (Mageri Series: Book 1), with a new hero and love interest, ramped up action, and great plot advancement for the series arc.
WARNING: SOME MINOR SPOILERS. THEY WON’T RUIN THE STORY, BUT YOU’LL GET SOME INSIDE INFORMATION ALL THE SAME...
Characters: ***** 5 Stars Once again, I fell in love with Silver and her entourage of protectors, but the new addition of Logan Cross was brilliant. First of all, he’s a Breed called a Chitah, and as you can imagine, he has some Cheetah-like qualities, including faint spots on his skin, a highly developed sense of smell, and a hunting instinct. His introduction as Silver’s kidnapper and a killer of Mage made for an interesting dynamic in their relationship, but Silver’s reliance on him felt more organic than her introductions to the men in STERLING. Logan is a bit of a wild-man, clearly not as civilized as the Mage, having never been human. He lives by his own set of rules, but his word, once given, will not be broken.
I was also glad to be reintroduced to Sunny, Silver’s best friend from her human life, and Knox, Adam’s friend and former mercenary. Together they add a nice side-plot to the story, and help round out Silver’s network of friends and supporters.
Plot: **** 4 Stars As with STERLING, I felt the plot was complex and interesting, keeping me on my toes. However, there were a couple of plot points that felt forced, as if the author had to get from A to C, but didn’t quite know how to do it. For example, Silver was left alone at Justus’ house without any kind of protection while he and Simon traipse off on secret business. Given that there’s still a bad guy out there after Silver, I wouldn’t have expected him to just leave her all alone, and sure enough, something bad happens, and we’re introduced to Logan.
Setting: *** 3 Stars Cognito doesn’t feel real to me, perhaps because Silver doesn’t get to spend a whole lot of time outside of Justus’ home, but I wanted more from the city. If it’s a Breed city, it should somehow be different and unique to the human cities. I needed more description and more integration of the city into the action when Silver was out and about.
Romance: **** 4 Stars I really loved the introduction of Logan Cross into Silver’s life. He was a fantastic counterpoint to the other men; he’s more dangerous, yet he is also more considerate (in his way). I love the tension and heat between them, particularly since Logan comes into the story as an adversary, not a friend, and Silver fights with herself as she’s drawn to him. That being said, I was sad that Adam gave up so easily, and Simon simply didn’t do anything but flirt and give way. I wanted more tension between the men as they vied for Silver’s affection.
Genre - Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance: ***** 5 Stars This story has a bit of everything, and it was nicely done. There’s club-hopping, detective work, chase scenes, kidnapping, violence, and even some mild S&M. There’s not a lot of sex, but in my opinion, that really worked as the tension built and relationships changed. I enjoyed every minute!(less)
Dashael is fae, and a thief. A double whammy against him, as far as Mara is concerned. Not that it matters what she thinks, since she has to kidnap an...moreDashael is fae, and a thief. A double whammy against him, as far as Mara is concerned. Not that it matters what she thinks, since she has to kidnap and bring him back to Queen Nalia in order to rescue her brother from the fairy prison. Thus begins an adventure across two countries, with bounty hunters, long-lost brothers, poisonous toads, and see-thru dresses aplenty.
Characters: ***** 5 Stars Mara is refreshingly normal. A human with no special powers, she still manages to use her assets to their best advantage and come out ahead. She’s quick on her feet and witty, more than up to the task of handling Dashael and his ego. But Dashael grew on me throughout the story. More than just a pretty face, he’s a man with a past and a story of his own. You can’t help but root for the two of them to overcome the obstacles to be together. The supporting characters are equally entertaining: a sprite named Piper who always says or does the wrong thing at the wrong time and irritates Mara to no end, a rival thief named Jerrick who’s not quite what he seems, a boutique owner who provides the missing pieces to the story and gives Mara some extra support right when she needs it, and several brainless thugs to keep things moving along.
Plot: ***** 5 Stars While LOVER ENSLAVED follows the standard romance outline to some extent, there are enough plot twists to keep the reader from guessing too much in advance. The pacing was fantastic, neither too slow nor too fast, and the overall story length was perfect.
Setting: **** 4 Stars The author did a great job developing the world of the story, but I would have liked a little bit more background on the various races and their roles in the world. The fae are clearly on top, but they aren’t all royalty, and humans are apparently at the bottom, but what exactly is the role of the sprites, except to irritate Mara? I liked the level of description, however, as it was enough to provide a distinct vision of the world without bogging down the plot.
Romance: ***** 5 Stars HOT! Lust leads to sexual tension leads to love in this fantasy, and it’s perfect. Dashael can’t resist Mara and does everything he can to seduce her, yet she manages to hold him off until neither can stand it any longer, despite the risks to their lives.
Genre - Romantic Fantasy: ***** 5 Stars This was a perfect romantic fantasy. I couldn’t have asked for anything more!(less)
Kate Policani delivers an interesting twist on the “vampire”, but fails to deliver an interesting story. Told entirely from an external point of view,...moreKate Policani delivers an interesting twist on the “vampire”, but fails to deliver an interesting story. Told entirely from an external point of view, in passive voice, the characters and plot never resonated with me. I wanted to hear from Angelina, the actual protagonist, not just the secondary characters. The method of delivery detracted from the story itself, to the point that there almost wasn’t a story. It was like being in a conversation where the subject is sitting right next to you, and everyone is talking about her, around her, and over her, but no one is talking to her. Awkward.
Characters: ** 2 Stars Angelina has the Lustre, an ability to not only take away negative human emotions, but to take away physical pain and replace it with orgasmic pleasure. Interesting to say the least. Yet somehow Angelina is vacant, almost empty of emotion herself. She just sails along, not really taking an active part in her own life. Instead, the men in her life are the active participants, likely due to the fact that they’re the ones telling her story, and they make her out to be a perfect angel, innocent and pure...boring.
Her husband, Luciano, seems nice enough, adopting her as his ward when she’s a preteen, and making sure that she doesn’t feel obligated to marry him when she comes of age (though that was the intention all along). However he’s as naive as a teenager despite being more than a hundred years old.
The villain, Jacque Trace, is greedy and selfish, but hardly evil. His actions are despicable, but he also tries to make Angelina happy, in his selfish way. I didn’t like the man, but neither did I hate him, and he wasn’t scary, malicious, or dangerous enough to engage me emotionally. Overall, he was...meh.
Plot: ** 2 Stars The plot is unfortunately as vacant as Angelina herself. It was just one event after another, without a story arc that slowly builds to an exciting climax and then resolves to satisfying conclusion. There were a few exciting events, such as a killing and a kidnapping, but they fell flat because they were told in a passive voice.
Setting: ** 2 Stars Like everything else, I wanted more from the setting. I needed a year or an era, a full five-sense description, just something more.
Romance: * 1 Stars A twelve year old girl is taken from her parents to be a ward of a much older man, with the expectation that when she’s of age, she will marry him. While the author tried to make the match seem like love, it never felt right to me. There were verbal declarations of love, and Luciano was good to Angelina, but I never felt the fire, and with the initial set-up of their relationship, it always felt too easy, and a little bit wrong.
Genre - Paranormal Romance: * 1 Stars I’m actually not really sure how to classify The Lustre. It’s not traditional paranormal romance by any means, but there is romance, and it's in a contemporary setting. The concept of the Akataromai was interesting and unique, but the story was bland, like saltine crackers. I want more action, more romance, more passion, and more pain in my fantasy.
Note: This review was requested by the author. The only compensation received was a free copy of the book.(less)
Dr. Diana Bishop is a young professor studying the history of science, particularly alchemy. It’s an ironic career choice, since the human alchemists...moreDr. Diana Bishop is a young professor studying the history of science, particularly alchemy. It’s an ironic career choice, since the human alchemists of the past hoped to transform lead into gold and discover the elixir of life, arguably magical goals, and Diana is a witch who knows magic is real, but refuses to accept her heritage.
During a brief leave of absence from her position at Yale, Diana is researching the illuminated alchemical manuscripts in Oxford’s Bodleian library when she accidentally calls a bewitched manuscript from the stacks. Still trying to avoid using magic in her scholarly efforts, Diana quickly studies the manuscript, then sends it back to the recesses of the library. Unfortunately, calling the manuscript also calls the attention of the otherworld races. As Diana is followed by daemons, threatened by witches, and watched by vampires, there’s only one creature that she feels she can trust, a 1,500 year-old vampire.
Matthew Clairmont, a scientist and fellow at Oxford, is also interested in the manuscript, but rather than making Diana feel uncomfortable or threatened, he protects and comforts her. Unfortunately, as their friendship blooms, the other witches become increasingly angry, going so far as to call Diana a traitor and attempting to invade her mind to discover her secrets. What began as a simple research project morphs into a race to save Diana’s life and discover the truth of the manuscript, the history of the otherworldly creatures, and the path of the future.
A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES is a fantastic debut novel by an actual historian of science. The depth of knowledge is evident throughout the novel, and the craft is beautifully executed. This was one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read in years!
Characters: ***** 5 Stars The characters in A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES are fully developed and well-rounded. They all have strengths and weaknesses, make occasional bad decisions, and generally act like real people. Diana Bishop struggles between her heritage and her desire to succeed based on her academic merits. She’s not a kick-ass heroine, she’s real. She’s strong, loyal, and dedicated to her family and her career. Matthew Clairmont is a 1,500 year-old vampire, something that should make him unbelievable in the real world, but somehow he works. Slowly, over the course of the novel, Matthew’s extensive history is revealed along with the structure of the vampire world. For once, the hero and heroine are not orphaned or abandoned or ostracised from their families. Both Diana and Matthew have loving families that do their best to support and protect each other. They have their struggles and conflicts, but again, they’re real characters with real problems, despite the fact that they’re witches and vampires.
Plot: **** 4 Stars This is a long book, and it’s paced more like an epic fantasy rather than an urban or contemporary fantasy, which was delightfully unexpected when I first picked up the book. The plot unfolds gradually, beginning with a single character and setting, and leading into the more complex themes of the novel. My only complaint is that it’s a little too slow to get started. It took a few chapters for me to become invested in the characters and the story, but once I was sucked in, there was no turning back.
Setting: ***** 5 Stars Deborah Harkness must have spent a lot of time in the Bodleian, Oxford, and France. It’s the only way to explain the depth she’s imbued into the setting of the novel. The only setting I felt was a little lacking was the Bishop house, but that might have been because it kept magically adding rooms!
Romance: ***** 5 Stars Diana and Matthew become involved slowly over the course of the novel, but their love seems to run deeper than the average fantasy couple. They’re not perfect, and they each have to learn to accept the others faults and choose to be together, much like a real marriage. There’s no sex in this story, at least not in the traditional American sense of the word, but the passion between them smolders all the same.
Genre - Contemporary Fantasy: ***** 5 Stars I loved A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES through and through. As noted, the pacing is slower, more epic fantasy than contemporary, but it fit the story and allowed the author to create a depth that isn’t always present in urban or contemporary fantasy. I would highly recommend this as a starter novel for newbies in the fantasy genre, as well as the long-time readers that enjoy taking their time with a book.(less)
The description pretty well sums up the book. Valerie Dearborn wants a simple human life, but she keeps getting sucked into the dark underworld of the...moreThe description pretty well sums up the book. Valerie Dearborn wants a simple human life, but she keeps getting sucked into the dark underworld of the Others...well, the vampires anyway.
Overall, this was a good book, but not a great one. The characters were reasonably believable, the plot was fast enough to keep me entertained, but there were also quite a few problems that were distracting during the read, including grammar and spelling errors, and problematic point of view switches (one paragraph from one character followed immediately by another paragraph from a different character, and back again). At $.99, it’s a fun distraction and a quick romp in urban fantasy, but don’t expect anything extraordinary.
Characters: *** 3 Stars Nearly every character in this novel was a contradiction of themselves. Valerie wants to have a “normal” life, but she loves men who can’t give her that normalcy. In fact, the only man that could, Ian, is a non-character that was present for a couple of chapters and unnecessary for the plot. I actually would have preferred her just focusing on her grad school studies rather than getting involved with a stand-in. Meanwhile, Jack is the bad boy from her past that simultaneously wants to protect her by keeping her away from the action, but gets jealous when she actually tries to have a life outside of his world. Lucas is the vampire king that has been emotionless for centuries, but on finding out that Valerie is an empath, wants to take her as his own while using her as a tool to find more of the Others (empaths, werewolves, and fae). None of the characters really grew through the story or resolved their issues, although at least Valerie realized she was probably never going to have her white picket dream.
Plot: *** 3 Stars Beyond the basic spelling and grammar issues (which automatically subtract a star), the story concept was strong but the execution of the plot was forgettable. The intro flashback chapters could have been incorporated into the rest of the story better, providing integrated background and adding some suspense instead of being front-loaded on the novel. Once we finally get into the meat of the story, Valerie does a lot of complaining while being whooshed around by Lucas or ordered around by Jack. Some of the action sequences toward the end were good, and the verbal repartee was fun, but there were huge plot holes that needed to be filled. For example, a whole section of the story is devoted to Valerie doing research on the Others. Lucas whisks her off to the British Library, sneaking her into the stacks using his ability to dematerialize. However, in subsequent chapters, Valerie is going to the library on her own. How does she get to the books she needs without Lucas? Similarly, she finally discovers some information, but never has a chance to report it to Lucas, yet somehow he magically knows about it. It left me with a lot of unanswered questions.
The ending also left me hanging. It was too open-ended and too abrupt, like a cliff-hanger at the end of your favorite TV series before they go on break for the holidays. LOVE IS DARKNESS clearly wasn’t intended to be a stand-alone novel, but I shouldn’t have turned the last virtual page thinking there were still several chapters to go.
Setting: **** 4 Stars I love London, so the setting worked for me, but probably because I’ve been there. The description was somewhat limited, and I never fully felt sucked into the world, but I was still able to enjoy it.
Romance: *** 3 Stars The love triangle was set up nicely, but failed due to an overabundance of jealousy, lack of willpower, and inability to make a decision. I loved the tension between Valerie and her two interests, but I never felt emotionally involved in either relationship. I wanted to her to have some kind of epiphany, even a small one, that would start her down the path toward one of the men.
Genre - Urban Fantasy: **** 4 Stars LOVE IS DARKNESS fit right in to the urban fantasy genre. It’s dark enough to please, with a couple of kinky twists and lots of vampire action. That being said, I didn’t feel the story offered anything new to the genre, so I can’t give it a full 5 stars. (less)
Overall Rating: ***** 5 Stars After surviving a brutal kidnapping and torture for months at the hands of a group of depraved vampires, Honor finds hers...moreOverall Rating: ***** 5 Stars After surviving a brutal kidnapping and torture for months at the hands of a group of depraved vampires, Honor finds herself a changed woman. No longer the confident hunter she was, Honor is forced to leave the safety of the Guild Academy and face a case requiring her unique skills, as well as the man that has drawn her attention, and obsession, for years. Meanwhile, Dmitri finds himself drawn to Honor, unable to resist her strength of will and courage in the face of her fears.
Together, Honor and Dmitri investigate two cases, the person responsible for the severed head and tattoos, as well as the identities of Honor’s torturers. As they work, Dmitri slowly rebuilds Honor’s confidence, while Honor protects Dmitri from himself, ensuring that he doesn’t cross the line into darkness after a thousand years as the Archangel’s Blade.
This is the fourth book in the Guild Hunter series, but you can almost get away without reading the others first. The first three followed the Archangel Raphael and Guild Hunter Elena, introducing most of the side characters in ARCHANGEL’S BLADE. However, since it stays pretty tightly focused on Dmitri and Honor, the background stories are less necessary. I’ve read the other three books as well, and would highly recommend going back to read them first, but you could start here without missing too much.
This was a fantastic story, building a beautiful relationship through danger and overcoming deep emotional pain. I loved every minute of it!
Characters: **** 4 Stars Dmitri and Honor are perfect together. Both broken, both in pain, yet able to come together to remind each other of the good in the world and in each other. I loved them! However, the side characters and villains are slightly less developed, detracting a bit from the mystery and action of the story. The side characters appear in previous Guild Hunter novels, so you can learn more about them if you read the series in order, but I would have liked a little more depth from the villains.
Plot: **** 4 Stars ARCHANGEL’S BLADE had a strong plot with two mysteries for the characters to solve. It was really well paced, keeping the action high while the characters explored their relationship. The only thing I would have asked for was a bit more danger toward the end, particularly for Honor. While she overcomes a ton of emotional baggage, and plays an integral role in the climax, I wanted Dmitri to have to rescue her or save her at least a little, so that he could truly realize what it would cost him to lose her.
Setting: ***** 5 Stars The author does a great job with the setting of the story, bringing to life each location in detail.
“The gates, tall and ornate and covered with dark green ivy, swung open with stately grace the instant the guard saw the car. The drive was dappled in sun and shadow from the oak tress that lined it, and the house, when it came into view, spoke of another century – a heavy and ostentatious one.”
“A minute later, she ducked under the police tape to find herself looking at a scene more suited to a slaughterhouse than the chaotic, vivid center of one of the most well-known cities in the world. A thousand scents surrounded her – the sweet, sweet taste of sugar from the chocolatier across the street; coffee, bitter and rich, from the place on the corner; tobacco smoke and car exhaust mixed with the sour tang of human sweat – but none of it could overwhelm the ripe, wet smell of rotting flesh.”
Romance: ***** 5 Stars Dmitri and Honor are perfect together. Oh, wait, I already said that! But they really are! Dmitri is careful with Honor, pushing her to heal, but still respecting the damage that resulted from her torture. There’s one scene in particular (which I won’t ruin for you) that nearly made my cry, when strong, proud Dmitri finds himself making amends to the woman he can’t live without. The sex isn’t overdone, instead the author builds a foundation that naturally leads to a physical relationship.
Genre – Urban Fantasy: ***** 5 Stars ARCHANGEL’S BLADE was the epitome of good urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Plenty of action and danger, vampires and angels, mystical relationships, and of course an urban setting. If you love urban fantasy and paranormal romance, you’ll love this book.(less)
Sophie is the somewhat unwilling owner of Palmetto Private Investigations, having taken over the business after her father’s death. It’s not that she...moreSophie is the somewhat unwilling owner of Palmetto Private Investigations, having taken over the business after her father’s death. It’s not that she doesn’t like her job, in fact she seems to thrive in it, but she was forced to give up college to run the business and keep her family afloat. Her business partner, Caleb, is a vampire who lives in her attic. He’s also her ex-fiance, who left her standing alone at the alter after he was changed into a vampire the night before their wedding. Oh, and he now has a girlfriend, a vampire who occasionally stays over. Can anyone say “awkward”?
As you can imagine, all of this makes life a bit tough for Sophie, who’s left bitter and confused by her feelings for Caleb. Somehow, she manages to keep her sense of humor as she’s thrust into the middle of a missing person case that points her directly at Rayne (the leader of the the local vampire council, called the Conclave) and the Church of Redeeming Sacrifice (an anti-vampire religious sect).
I’ve read the first two books in Sherry Ficklin’s Gods of Fate trilogy (the third to be released sometime next year), and I loved them. Unfortunately, I didn’t think BORN OF BLOOD lived up to their standard, or its own potential. While it was fun to read, it somehow felt like this was still an early draft of what could be a great novel. It just wasn’t quite there yet. That being said, if she comes out with a second in the series, I’d probably still read it, if only to find out whether Sophie chooses Caleb or Rayne.
Characters: *** 3 Stars Sophie was a strong lead, but some of her actions and attitudes seemed contradictory. On the one hand, she seemed tough, keeping her head in the middle of any crisis she faces. On the other, she’s bitter that she can’t have her ‘dream life’ with Caleb, but she not only let’s him live with her, she let’s him bring his girlfriend around and supports his decision to join the Conclave.
Meanwhile, Caleb irritated me. He’s supposed to be her business partner and helping her with the case, but he spends more time with his girlfriend than anything else, and Sophie lets him get away with it. I didn’t understand how she could just let him walk all over her, when she’s strong in so many other areas.
Rayne was also introduced as a potential love interest…at least, he’s interested in Sophie. I liked Rayne. He seemed a little awkward, not knowing how to romance a human and clearly still living in another era, but also very domineering, not used to being refused. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a very large role in the novel, and I would have liked to see much more from him.
Plot: *** 3 Stars The beginning of the story was great, shoving us right into the action…and a burning building. But while the concept of the story was solid, the ending was lacking. It felt like the author was rushed, or didn’t know how to end the story. In fact the last chapter was all summary ‘telling’, when I personally would have preferred more ‘showing’. For example (without giving anything away), there’s a really nice twist at the end, but Sophie tells us her reaction in the final summary, leaving us, the readers, emotionally hanging. I wanted to be there with her, not listening to a narrative.
Setting: **** 4 Stars I could tell the author had visited Charleston, SC. Some of the scenes really breathed, bringing me into the story, but others needed a little more punch to tie it all together. The setting was solid, but I could have used a bit more description overall.
Romance: *** 3 Stars The romance in BORN OF BLOOD was limited, at best. There was a lot of emotion, don’t get me wrong, but with Caleb it was all bitter loss, and I never felt like Rayne was any kind of possibility for a romantic interest, even as he declared his intention to “woo” Sophie. In my opinion, the sexual interest and intensity could have been beefed up between Rayne and Sophie, or Caleb could have done more to try to win her back. Either way, the romance would have been improved and it would have added another dimension to engage the reader.
Genre – Urban Fantasy: **** 4 Stars This was a good novel for a debut urban fantasy. The heroine gets a little beat up, but ultimately wins the day, and there’s plenty of blood throughout. It’s dark, gritty, and a fun, fast read.
**Note: this review was made at the request of the author. The only compensation received was a free copy of the novel.(less)