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Currently Browsing: paranormal
Jun
23

Review: Safe at Last by Maya Banks

Review: Safe at Last by Maya Banks Safe at Last Author: Maya Banks Reviewer: VampBard Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: Maya Banks’ Slow Burn series has been a wild rollercoaster of a ride. I had high hopes for Safe at Last, but I ended up being pretty meh about it. First, I read an ARC. I edit books, I know things change. However, I felt like the first 2/3 of the book was slow, rehashed a bazillion things we knew already without much purpose. Maybe this was looked at in the final version (and I hope so). I came VERY close to not finishing this title at about the 45% mark because I just couldn’t stomach the rehashing anymore. Dramatic eye-rolling may have ensued. And I may have groaned in disgust a few times. After about the 60% mark, the story picked up. Things fell in line parallel to how I’m used to Ms. Banks’ stories rolling. I’m not going to tell readers to skim-read chunks of a book, but it really was worth getting to this point for me. The last 40% of Safe at Last saved the title from a D rating from me. Gracie started out as a really timid, whiny character for me. I didn’t even really see her character growth until that last 40%, and it was BAM! There it was. I ended up liking her, because she turns pretty badass at the end. And she loves Zack, who definitely deserves it. She had dealt with an ultimate mind-fu*$ when she was merely a child, and the effects lasted through her adulthood. A long twelve years. Can’t really tell you much about Gracie, without spoilers, except her character growth was worth trudging through the first 60% of the book. It was really intriguing to get to know Zack. We haven’t learned much about him in previous titles of the Slow Burn series, but seeing this highly-trained, and dangerous in his own right dude completely flattened. His vow of vengeance is not taken lightly, and I’m not even sure how Ms. Banks wrote his character, having to bring him and his white-hot need for justice to heel. I clearly liked Zack better than Gracie. He felt so broken from the beginning of the book, and even though the beginning seemed to be just tormenting him more, we ended up seeing Zack’s true colors at the end. Definitely read the first two titles of the Slow Burn series before taking on Safe...
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Feb
5

Review: Master of Plagues by E.L. Tettensor

Review: Master of Plagues by E.L. Tettensor Master of Plagues Author: E.L. Tettensor Reviewer: Gikany & Una Rating: A- What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una have been on pins and needles, anxiously awaiting Master of Plagues.  Ms. Tettensor did not disappoint!  Though this mystery was a bit different from the first, we still enjoyed the mythology, the world, and the twists and turns of this tightly woven story. The novel opens as a plague is starting to decimate one of the outlying areas of Kennian.  Lenoir and Kody are called in to determine if the epidemic was intentionally caused and if so who might have orchestrated it.  As the clues are slowly uncovered, our heroes find themselves in the sights of the mastermind of it all. Without spoiling the novel, let us just say it was great.  Master of Plagues takes place in the wonderfully gray world of Darkwalker.  This alternate world fascinates us with its combination of different cultures and politics.  Although the paranormal aspect that we loved in the previous novel was absent in this one, we still found it engrossing.  The prejudices that exist between the Adali and Kennians were even more poignant in this story.  The Adali have the ability to cure the plague, but the physicians dismiss their treatment as witchdoctor rubbish.  Watching as Lenoir works to ease the prejudices enough that some cooperation can exist was fascinating. What truly sets off this gray world is the contrast we have between Kody and Zach.  Kody is one of the few people who still sees the world as black or white.  He is young and idealistic – reminding Lenoir of who he once was and will never truly be again.  Zach, on the other hand, can see all of the shades of gray.  His understanding of how the world works allows him to survive and yet still dream of being a hound.  Zach adds the bulk of humor and innocence to this story.  The contrast of Kody and Zach helps to highlight the changes in Lenoir. Upon the conclusion of Darkwalker, we wondered what character growth would manifest in Lenoir as Master of Plagues unraveled.  When Una mentioned to Gikany that Lenoir seemed almost just as he was, her response was, “you were looking for miracles?”  Despite Lenoir appearing almost unaffected by his experiences, there were minute changes that could be easily overlooked.  Without Lenoir’s inner monologue, we would have continued to believe, as those around him do, that he is...
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Jan
26

Review + Giveaway: In His Keeping by Maya Banks

Review + Giveaway: In His Keeping by Maya Banks In His Keeping Author: Maya Banks Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I ate up this book. Literally. I would have read it in one sitting, if I’d had the time. That’s usually the case with Maya Banks’s titles, though. Especially the Slow Burn series. In His Keeping was no exception. Take a little Alpha male, a damsel-in-distress, some paranormal abilities, a dash of kidnapping and you’ve got the wild roller coaster that was In His Keeping. The action kept me riveted to this title, and looking forward to the next title in the series. What drew me into the story was the love that Ginger and Gavin had for Ariana. The lengths that they would go to, in order to protect their daughter. I think that the exploration of how much Ari was wanted pulled at my mom-heartstrings, and kicked in my mom-instincts as I read. It was pretty cool that Ginger and Gavin played a pretty significant role in the story, too. Ariana is super naïve when the story starts. She knows she has telekinesis, but she’s had to hide this aspect of herself for her entire life. Only her parents knew. Her over-protective parents. She’d never used her ‘gift’ purposely. She’d always been careful, so she wouldn’t be discovered. With an event that happened to bring her powers into the public eye, Gavin and Ginger do what parents do best: protect their kids. Only, things don’t go quite as planned. In the end, Ari ends up being totally kick-ass. I want her on my team. Beau. Broody, Alpha, and in control. He comes into Ari’s life at a time when she needs a protector, and someone to help her make sense of all the chaos that surrounds her. Ultimately, what I liked most about Beau is that he wasn’t afraid to let his emotions show with regard to Ari. And it was totally out-of-character for him. This tough guy, the one who is all ‘protect and serve’, is brought to his knees by a slip of a woman that has wormed her way into his heart. His worry about her is intense, and made my own gut churn with concern. What I liked most about In His Keeping was that differences were celebrated. Ari wasn’t deemed as damaged and didn’t need ‘fixing’. She was believed in and not viewed as a ‘freak’ because of her gift. The fact that she eventually embraced her gift...
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Oct
13

DNF Review: Broken by Traci L. Slatton

DNF Review: Broken by Traci L. Slatton Broken Author: Traci Slatton Reviewer: Una Rating: DNF What I’m Talking About: Broken is the latest release by Traci Slatton. I was intrigued by the premise, but unfortunately I did not care for the book.  Between the contrast of flowery, romantic language and the atrocities of this time period, along with the overt sexual scenes and innuendoes side-by-side with political/historical discussions, I was never able to get into the story and ended up not finishing it. The novel is told from the point of view of the fallen angel Aria.  Since it is told in first person present, I felt as if I was being told what was going on rather than allowing me to experience the journey with the characters.  But what really made me uncomfortable was the flowery language.  Broken reads with a heavy romantic essence, which contrasts with the ugliness of the events. The novel was further stifled in its flow due to the characters discussions regarding the war, politics, and current events.  However these discussions were entwined with sexual non sequiturs taking form in either innuendoes or actions.  These sexual overtures added to my discomfort while the discussions left me disinterested and bored. I did not think that this story would be rainbows and roses.  The history and horrors of this time period are understood enough that I didn’t think I would be spared the ugly realities of war – especially considering the characters and their plight.  But I didn’t think I would the story would contain such graphic detail.  The rape that occurs at the 50% mark was not something I was expecting, and it was overly graphic.  My stomach was just as nauseated as the character’s.  This moment was awful enough, but knowing that these forced interludes continued throughout the book, and that the character tries to find respite in another, was distasteful to me.  Though it seems the ongoing rape affects the character, the fact that she tries to continue as if it did not happen, bothers me greatly.  Especially when a few pages later, it seems this character is most happily engaging in sexual intercourse and firmly in denial. At the 67% mark, my stomach turned so much, I could not continue reading.  There is yet another graphic scene; the torture of a man and the introduction of another rape.  Maybe others can read this without the disgust and horror I experienced, but I do not see how this can be...
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Feb
13

Review: Darkwalker by E.L. Tettensor

Review: Darkwalker by E.L. Tettensor Darkwalker Author: E. L. Tettensor  Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: Darkwalker is the debut novel in the Nicholas Lenoir series.  It seems the series will chronicle Nicholas Lenoir, a detective in a dark, historical fantasy world.  We were wary at first, but we found ourselves rooting for this anti-hero and really loved this first offering that left us hungry for more! Gikany and Una have a habit of diving into a book without much research (unless you count reading the book’s back blurb).  As we started Darkwalker, it started to dawn on us that not only is it historical, it is taking place in a fictional world.  Take Sherlock Holmes’s London, change the name and place it somewhere else, with another cultural group nearby that transects it, and take the dark, dreary factor way up.  This is where our story takes place…and it is mesmerizing.  We really enjoyed the landscapes that were created in our mind’s eye – the descriptions are rich and they greatly enhance the atmosphere of the novel.  The conflict and prejudice that exists between the “whites” and the Adali is compelling, reminiscent of those conflicts between Anglos and Africans as well as Anglos and Gypsies in our histories.  We found the tension between these two groups authentic, enriching the world and storytelling without any sign of preaching.  It truly added another element to the world-building, giving it a foundation as it alluded to our own historical pasts. However the most compelling element in Darkwalker is most assuredly Nicholas Lenoir.  This is the author’s take on the five things you need to know about Lenoir (taken from a guest post linked on her website): He’s the smartest person in the room. In his mind, at least. He doesn’t believe in redemption—least of all for him. Wherever you come from, Lenoir’s hometown is better. You’re just going to have to trust him on this. Words are weapons, but silence is power. We all have our demons, but his are darker. And in the room. Right now. We have read other novels where the main character is not well liked by others, but to the reader is captivating and enchanting.  That is not Lenoir.  As we started Darkwalker, we disliked him (we have some colorful pejoratives we could use, but we’re sure you get the gist).  In fact, we were so angry with him, we almost stopped reading.  But, this shows how well the...
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Dec
27

Review: Shatter by Joan Swan

Review: Shatter by Joan Swan Shatter Author: Joan Swan Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: I have enjoyed Joan Swan’s Phoenix Rising series since the first book, Fever. The series is a sublime mix of action/adventure and strong, palatable sex appeal. Each book chronicles the adventures of a close-knit group of friends who is being hunted by a power-hungry US senator. The long-awaited conclusion of their trials culminates in Shatter. Due to this fact, and that there is a complex back story, I do not suggest a new-to-the-series reader start with Shatter; however, if one really wanted, it could be read as a stand alone. The story opens just after the conclusion of the third book, Rush, when Mitch Foster discovered that the one woman he ever loved (who left him for her Russian husband seven years ago), was intimately involved with his nemesis, Senator Schaeffer, and the project that ruined his friends’ lives all those years ago. Now that he knows their past was a lie, he tracks down Halina to recover any information she has that will help him put away Schaeffer for good. I enjoyed the opening of the story. I laughed as Mitch spied on Halina and Halina spied on Mitch (not knowing who he was). There was some mistaken identity humor that made me smile. Much of the early part of the story is told from Mitch’s POV, so we know she is the only woman he’s ever loved and that her lies shaped the lonely man he is today. Mitch’s hurt and the feelings of betrayal are well documented, allowing me to feel sympathetic towards his situation. However, I did not feel the same of Halina’s plight. Although she left Mitch for his own protection, I honestly could not connect with her reasoning. She really did a number on Mitch, and although she may have “had the best intentions,” we all know the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Her actions were near unforgivable, and I found little sympathy for her. For me, her cold-hearted behavior damaged the relationship and made it difficult for me to connect with the pair as a romantic couple. While they did share some steamy sexual moments, I felt that their actions and behavior overshadowed the romance. In addition, there is a possible pregnancy subplot that didn’t sit well with me. The story is also a bit overwhelming to read at times. With so many characters and voices...
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Dec
24

Review: City of Lost Dreams by Magnus Flyte

Review: City of Lost Dreams by Magnus Flyte City of Lost Dreams Author: Magnus Flyte  Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I was excited to read City of Lost Dreams, sequel to City of Dark Magic, by Magnus Flyte. What I wasn’t counting on, however, was the time it would take me to savor this beautifully written novel that reaches my classical artistic and musical sides that are so frequently tucked into a tiny drawer, waiting to be let out to play. However, this title is so skillfully written, I fear that others will become as entranced with the music and art mentioned as I have been. Which means that the websites I usually visit to feed the art monster are going to load a bit slower. The story opens with a great summary of the previous title. I’m not  counting the Prologue – I’ve not figured out how that piece fits in quite yet. I like the way Flyte recaps Pollina and her delicate medical condition and her history with Sarah. How Nico is so old and little and about his gregarious attitude and demeanor (as well as his alcoholic tendencies). We also see Max again. And that familiar spark between Sarah and Max sparks. Helga? Helene…Harriet. Yes, It’s Harriet. “He was about a half step away from seeing Rudolph II on a piece of toast.” Sarah was talking about Max here. I laughed-out-loud remembering the GLEE episode where Finn has a grilled cheese sandwich that he believes has the face of Jesus on it. I thought this sentence totally captured the essence of Max. He’s a dreamer that is looking for his Holy Grail – one day, he’ll find it. I was a little sad that we didn’t see more of Max in this title. I surely hope that there’s a third book that will fill us in on what’s been going on with him! What I like most about Pollina – Pols – is how direct and honest she is. Her observations about a situation seem to be spot-on, and while she can’t see – due to her blindness – she seems to be quite intuitive. And she’s more self-aware than others realize. I cried at how beautiful her soul is. “…it’s not hard to make history come alive in Prague. The hard part is making history stay dead.” Sarah says this to Harriet, Max’s new girlfriend when she talks about writing a historical fiction novel about Elizabeth Weston, a contemporary poet...
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Nov
6

Review: Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

Review: Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield Bellman & Black Author: Diane Setterfield  Reviewer: Nima Rating: B, 3 stars What I’m Talking About: Having loved Diane Setterfield’s debut book, The Thirteenth Tale, I waited anxiously for her to give us a second offering.  During that lengthy six year wait, I recommended it to others, reviewed it for book club, and extolled the virtues of Setterfield’s craftsmanship with words.  Really, that book was an ode to the love of reading. With that as predecessor, Bellman & Black had a lot to live up to and the longer the wait, the higher the expectations.  Fair or not, for me, Bellman & Black did not quite rise to the occasion. What I did want most and got was Setterfield’s methodic way of observing and describing people, moving within the spheres of their influence.  In this book she highlights how they overlap now and again, exhibit strengths and weaknesses, and within a generation or two are all but forgotten. I especially loved this passage: Dora’s nights of remembering grew less profitable as time passed.  She still did it sometimes, but the practice gradually lost its ability to comfort.  In part, she told herself, it was because she had worn the memories thin from overuse.  Like some of the coins they used to clean, the relief had been worn away. It’s a book that whispers rather than yells, making the point, if none other: that what you do in life matters more than the pace at which you accomplish it.  Bellman works at frenetic pace, making sacrifices right and left that impact his health and relationships.  He doesn’t do it because it makes him happy per se, but rather as payment for the happiness he has previously enjoyed and the success which seems to follow him in everything he does.  If he pays enough, can he cheat death?  Can he so justify his own existence that he puts death at bay? His happiness and his success, which he had taken to be solid things, hewn out of his own effort and talent, had proved as fragile as a dandelion clock; all it took was for this unsuspecting competitor to release his breath and the seedhead disappeared. As much as I enjoyed chewing on her apt descriptions and felicitous characterizations, the story dragged slower and slower until its conclusion. Think Meet Joe Black, but without the love story—more Hitchcock, more cerebral.  Still, its worst crime is that it opens itself to multiple questions...
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Oct
11

Review: His Lordship Possessed by Lynn Viehl

Review: His Lordship Possessed by Lynn Viehl Disenchanted & Co., Part 2: His Lordship Possessed Author: Lynn Viehl Reviewer: Twimom Rating: A-, 4 Stars What I’m Talking About: Note: this review will contain spoilers from the first title, Her Ladyship’s Curse, which is actually the first part of the two part story making up the novel Disenchanted & Co. If you plan to read the novel in its entirety when it comes out in January – or – if you haven’t read Ladyship, please be warned! His Lordship Possessed truly is the second half of a larger story, and I do not recommend reading it as a stand alone story. His Lordship Possessed picks up immediately where Her Ladyship’s Curse ends. In the first half of the tale, the reader was introduced to Kit Kittredge, a sort of “private eye” who debunks magical curses and spells. Lucien Dredmore is her nemesis who is terribly attracted to Kit and wants her all to himself. After a brief weakness of spirit resulting in exciting sexual encounter between Kit and Lucien, Kit finds herself locked away in his estate. Relying on her mysterious grandfather, she makes a daring escape, only to find that Lord Walsh is attempting to ruin her. I completely devoured His Lordship Possessed in a matter of hours. I could NOT put this exciting story down for more than a moment. After doing a fabulous job laying the groundwork and creating an interesting and intriguing world in the first book, Ms. Viehl sends her characters on a non-stop adventure, full of unforeseen twists and amazing revelations. The purposeful actions and events are well-planned and masterfully written. One really doesn’t need more from a book, right? But wait… that’s not all! As I stated in my review of Her Ladyship’s Curse, the characters of this tale are an exciting aspect of the book that make it so much more than just an adventure. Each of the characters undergoes further development and adds heart to the story. However, it is Kit herself that truly makes this story a wonderful piece. Seeing everything from her point-of-view, I was heartbroken as Kit watches her life unravel due to the machinations of Lord Walsh. Her feelings and subsequent actions add complexity to the story and give readers a character to root for and admire. Add to this her complex feelings towards Lucien and their growing affections, and you have a beautiful romance as well. Meanwhile, we learn the true nature of...
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Oct
10

Review: Rogue on the Rollaway by Shannon MacLeod

Review: Rogue on the Rollaway by Shannon MacLeod Rogue on the Rollaway Author: Shannon MacLeod  Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+, 5 stars What I’m Talking About: I’m not quite sure exactly what draws me in about a hot Scot displaced in time.  Whatever it is, however, Shannon MacLeod has totally entranced me with Rogue on the Rollaway. With a strong hero and a believable heroine, I found that I was rooting for the couple and their star-crossed relationship throughout the title. I really enjoyed the fact that Faolan and Colleen built a relationship before jumping into bed.  Yes.  That means they’re not rolling in the sheets in the first 30 pages.  It’s still hot.  I was entranced at the way Ms. MacLeod showed the inner conflict of the characters – Does he like me?  Does she like me? – at the beginning of the title.  The fantasies, the descriptions of how the characters felt about the other, I found to be heartwarming and quite honest.  Yes.  I like a healthy dose of reality with my fantasy.  Thankyouverymuch. Colleen was a completely believable and realistic female lead character.  This. Was. Fabulous.  Many times, we have female leads that are either wishy-washy, or they’re so head-over-heels in love with the hero that they lose themselves.  Not so with Colleen.  She kept her job, she maintained her connections (at least superficially) with other people.  She actually taught Faolan about this new place in time where he’d landed.  Instead of him magically understanding everything, we watched her fret over the little things, like not burning down the house using appliances.  We watched her open-mouth, insert-foot a couple times and ultimately recover and reconnect with Faolan.  Making her a very relatable, honest and intense character for me.  Which I enjoyed. Faolan is really one of the most honest male characters I’ve read this year.  Sure, he’s cursed.  Sure, he’s too nice to just manipulate someone into ending his curse.  Sure, he’s hot as hell.  But in the grand scheme of things, Faolan trusts his heart, and damn all the nay-sayers.  He believes in true love, and with that belief, anything is possible.  He begins the story thinking he could finally end his curse but realizes rather quickly that there’s entirely too much going on with this woman for things to be simple.  Protecting her as much as possible, Faolan puts Colleen and her safety first at all times.  That’s one of the things I absolutely adore about him.  Even though he isn’t completely...
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