3 star review

Review- The Last Victim by Karen Robards

The Last Victim

The Last Victim

by Karen Robards
OK, I’d held off on this series because I am not a huge fan of serialized romantic suspense. I just get frustrated with it in a way I don’t with Urban Fantasy. That’s a personal failing of mine. But when I received a copy of the third, and presumably final book of the series, from Netgalley, I figured it was time to take the plunge. This book came out almost 2 years ago, so I am not going to do much summarizing, plenty of people have done much more thorough jobs already.
Basically what we have is Charlotte Stone, a criminal psychologist studying serial killers due to tragic events in her past. She is supposedly brilliant and the best in her field, which is how she lands a grant that has her working with serial killers on death row. Following one of her sessions with Michael Garland, a man convicted of killing 7 women, he’s shanked in the heart and dies under her hand. Which brings me to my next point, Dr. Charlotte Stone sees and can talk to the recently departed.
Now, upfront I want to say that I tend to adore Robards’ morally ambiguous or even ambivalent heroes and I have ever since One Summer, Night Magic, and Walking After Midnight. It is kind of catnip for me, that mysterious maybe he’s bad, maybe he isn’t thing. I also tend to enjoy a little crazy sauce in both my romantic suspense and my paranormal romance. So, I was somewhat predisposed to like this. But it turns out that pouring crazy sauce over a mash-up of romantic suspense and paranormal romance may just be a little too much. I can understand a bit better why Robards is dragging this out, because it is just too much ground to cover in one setting. Unfortunately, in this one, the suspense/mystery as well as the supporting characters really aren’t given justice. I’ll grant you, I didn’t figure out the villain situation until the heroine did, but frankly, I think that is mostly because hardly any time seemed to be spent on the subject. On the other hand, we spent an inordinate amount of time angsting over Michael Garland over both the ghost aspect and the serial killer aspect, how she feels about him, her confusion between her feelings between Tony the FBI agent and Garland the serial killer, her feelings about her past, her sex life with or without the ghost, the beyond and the rules about her interactions with ghosts. The living serial killer and the associated victims weren’t the story; they were the plot device for the love triangle shaping up here. And the three FBI agents, right now aren’t really characters, they are cardboard cutouts in place of characters, and I am actually hoping to get more insight into them, especially Lena.
I am giving this book 3 stars, because while I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it either (don’t judge, I already admitted my love of crazy sauce) and over time I think this could possibly be developed into something interesting and fun….that is if you like the strange and crazy on occasion.
3.5 star review

Review-To Marry a Scottish Laird

To Marry a Scottish Laird
by Lynsay Sands

This is the second book in her series “An English Bride in Scotland”. I gave the first book 3 stars because while I thoroughly enjoyed the light fluffy story line, the romance, and the mystery (despite the fact that Sands seems to be recycling plots like nobody’s business), but I didn’t like one very gratuitous aspect of the ending.

Joan meets Campbell Sinclair when he saves her, and then she saves him in turn, from some bandits. Joan is on a quest to fulfill her deathbed promise to take a scroll to Lady and Laird MacKay, and is dressed like a boy and brutally beaten, so Campbell initially doesn’t realize she is female. This is a common trope that I am not typically fond, but here Campbell’s confusion only lasts long enough for him to learn to like and respect Joan, and the secret only lasts long enough for a few humorous moments. From then on, it is all heaving uncontrollable lusts, with the one addition that BOTH of the characters think about contraception. (pro-tip, it turns out that wild carrot seeds actually are and were used as a natural form of contraception). However, they get to MacKay and all the secrets come out, so naturally they have to get married, despite the fact that neither of them thinks the other wants to. When they get to Sinclair’s, awkwardness and hi-jinks ensue until the mystery is finally solved.

This is a fun read full of pratfalls and misunderstandings and a bit of mystery. There were two twisty secrets, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t see either of them coming. I enjoyed both Joan and Campbell and I enjoyed getting to read about past characters. So, altogether I really did enjoy this book, and recommend to anyone who likes reading humorous and even slightly ridiculous historical romance, but it isn’t going to be making my re-read shelf so I am giving it 3.5 stars.

Also, while this is the second in a series, it should work well as a stand-alone as there is no overarching story arc.

4 star review

Review- Marked by the Vampire

Marked by the Vampire
by Cynthia Eden

This is the second in her Purgatory Series. I gave The Wolf Within 4 stars.

Dr. Olivia Madden has a history which includes werewolf attack and a Ph.D. in criminal psychology. She’s spent years working with the human serial killer population, but her motive for getting into Purgatory, the paranormal prison, is murky at best. Shane August is a vampire under cover working for the Para unit FBI to uncover the secrets on Purgatory, and his back-story and motives are even murkier.

Cynthia Eden has a few tropes she likes to go with, the insanely powerful heroine who doesn’t exactly know what she is and what she can do. The morally ambiguous hero who is absolutely and often without reason devoted beyond measure, and the fated/insta-mate.

What makes this work for me is that the characters are fun, the action is nonstop, and the plot and the characters themselves are usually twisty and devious in the extreme. This particular book is well paced, with a clever twist on old and not much used paranormal character, and there was some real chemistry between Olivia and Shane.

While this can be read as a stand-alone, I highly recommend reading the books in order because you will have a better sense of the characters as a whole. Solid 4 stars and I absolutely cannot wait for Connor’s book next!

4 star review

Review- One Sexy Ride

One Sexy Ride
by Vivian Arend

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

This is book 2 of the Thompson & Sons series, which is actually a spin-off from the Six Pack Ranch Series.

Janey has been chasing after quiet Len Thompson for years with no success, but when someone drops drugs into Janey’s drink at a bonfire party, Len ends up taking care of her while she’s stoned out of her mind. She doesn’t quite know what happened that night, but Len finally deigned to be caught. Since this is a friends to lovers story, you don’t have all the awkward getting to know you stuff, but it turns out that Len has some pretty big secrets that no one knows. One of them is absolutely adorable, and one of them is just very sad. But when one of Len’s secrets affects their relationship, it changes Janey’s view of their history, and the course of each of their futures.

I thought that their relationship was sweet, adorable, and somewhat filthy. They both felt like real, fairly comfortable in their skin kinds of people. They had relationships with friends and their families, they are 3 dimensional characters. And despite the awkwardness of changing their relationship (and the specific hurdles involved with this particular couple) they felt comfortable and happy with each other, which let me feel comfortable with them. But while Janey is mostly an open book, Len can be closed off in areas of his life. Which of course leads to Len doing something incredibly stupid and hurtful. There was no big misunderstanding. Len had just made certain choices based on his own history and emotions, and looking at it from a sideways testosterone poisoned perspective, his actions made sense…for him. I didn’t agree with it, and it didn’t make sense to me, but I could see where his actions were coming from. But when Len finally wises up, it is all lovely, because he has to chase Janey in a pretty major way, so it was a really sweet turn around.

I am really enjoying this series, just like I’ve been enjoying the Six Pack Ranch series, it is good and comfortable to have the frame of reference of the community and some of the characters so there doesn’t have to be a lot of info dumping about that. And it works well because Arend doesn’t over use the cameo. While you might see the main characters from other books, most of the time it is only to speak to, and when it is more, it is because they actually are integral to the current plot, not because it felt like she had something to say about the other characters. 4 stars and I am eagerly awaiting the rest of this series, which looks like the next 2 stories will be coming out and finishing the series before the end of the year.

4 star review

Review- Better Homes and Hauntings

Better Homes and Hauntings
by Molly Harper

Available 06/24/2014

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

The thing I always enjoy most about Molly Harper’s books are the voices of her characters, which are inevitably witty, snarky, and full of heart. The second thing I love most about her books are that the female protagonists actually have real, healthy relationships with the other women around them, and experiences outside of the male protagonists. So, despite what all the blurbs seem to say about this book being about Nina and Deacon, it’s equally about Jake and Cindy and Nina and Cindy and Dotty. And beyond that, the book is more about Crane’s Nest, Gerald, Catherine, and Jack. Better Homes is a paranormal mystery with ghosts and a curse, and people who have lives and friendships, and some of them fall in love. I can see where some people might be upset or not enjoy this, because it doesn’t neatly fall into the category of paranormal romance; however, I found it fresh and enjoyable to see and read a wider world than just inside the heads of one man and one woman. For me, I guessed pretty quickly, what the outcome would be and who the bad guy was, but Ms. Harper did make a good faith effort to keep the mystery mysterious. And guessing the mystery didn’t make me enjoy the ride any less. Solid 4 stars and I look forward to future stand-alone’s from Molly Harper.

4.5 star review

Review- Darksider

by Erin Kellison

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

This is the 3rd book in the Reveler series, reviews of the previous entries can be seen here:

Darkness Falls (Which I found in an anthology)
Lay Me Down

All the books are right around 100 pages, the first one you can still get for free on Amazon, but the other two are 2.99.

I am going to admit flat out here, I am getting a little frustrated with the novella thing. I flat out adored Darkness Falls, it got me hooked into this world, but I expected that to have been a teaser/taste of the world, and not to be the format for subsequent stories. I really want a meatier more involved story.

As far as reviewing, it’s hard to do with these because you give so much away of the previous books and the surprise of finding out about the world. So, if you haven’t read the previous stories and you don’t want to be spoiled, stop right here and go back and read at least the first story, which is FREE. Now, on to the meat of it. Serafina Rochan is a chef dealing with the stress of opening a second restaurant and what she initially thinks are just nightmares. She’s a type A aggressive personality who tries to deal with this on her own until she finds out her nightmares are a little more dangerous than she thought. She despises Reve and so she wants nothing to do with Chimera Agent Marshal Harlen Fawkes, her ex who was with her for her introduction to Reve. Marshall is having his own troubles with the Reve as his best friends, and heroes from the previous two stories, Malcom and Steve (along with Jordan and Maisie the heroines) are on the run from Chimera due to the events of the preceding book where they discover wide spread corruption in the organization. Since this is a second chance trope, it works slightly better in the novella format than I think Lay Me Down did. Darksider is just as action packed, mysterious and adventurous as Darkness Falls and it carried the story arc of the corruption in Chimera and the Reve well. However, there was definitely more of a cliff hanger ending on this one. I’m avidly waiting for the 4th book to come out 07/14/2014.

4 star review

OpenLibrary Review- All Through the Night

All Through the Night
by Connie Brockway

This book, published in 1997, is available to borrow from OpenLibrary. As always, borrow the PDF version using the read in browser function or using Adobe Digital Editions.

Goodreads Blurb:

A woman compelled. . .

In the glittering world of Regency England, Anne Wilder played a dangerous game. A widowed lady by day, by night she became a masked thief preying on society’s elite. She roved high above London’s black rooftops, compelled by phantoms from her past to take ever greater risks. Until her restless spirit led her into Colonel Jack Seward’s trap. . . where seduction was her only way out.

A man obsessed. . .

She’d played him for a fool, taking advantage of his hungry response to escape from his clutches. But as Jack hunted for his thief, his heart fell captive to a self-possessed widow. Torn between illicit passion and tender love, Jack is duty-bound to capture the audacious criminal, even if it means ripping society apart to do so. Now he stalked her through the ton, never realizing the lovely widow who captured his heart was the same woman who roused his most violent passions.

A love that defied king and country. . .

Alright, so I’ll kind of admit, I was expecting a historical version of Nora Robert’s Sweet Revenge, and that isn’t what I got. I was expecting a romp, and this wasn’t. I was expecting non-stop action, and really, except for the first couple of chapters, the first 2/3 of this book, it kind of dragged. I was all set to give this thing 2.5 stars, but then the last 100 pages or so of the book did a complete turn around for me. There’s politics, intrigue, murder, and thievery. And oddly enough the ending felt very Scarlet Pimpernel to me, which is for me very high praise and gets this book 4 stars from me, despite the relatively slow middle.
3 star review

Review- Falling for Owen

Falling for Owen
by Jennifer Ryan

Last month I read and reviewed The Return of Brody McBride, which I found deliciously soap opera-esque. In Falling for Owen, we have Brody’s long suffering brother who took care of Rain, Autumn, and Dawn all those years. When one of his client’s ex-husband flips his lid and attacks Owen’s neighbor, it puts Owen and and Claire together, which makes the villain furious.

So, I am going to get the bad out of the way first, it was sometimes a bit draggy, particularly some of the dialogue, and I found the mystery to not be so very mysterious, but then maybe I have a bit of a cynical mind. And frankly, I didn’t quite feel the connection to the characters or between the characters as well as I did with the previous book.

Still, I actually really enjoyed the book. Jennifer Ryan seems to write very soap opera type plots and characters. Her world is one where the good guys and gals are almost painfully good and the villains are irredeemable. They are a bit of a guilty indulgence for me, no real thinking required. For the most part Claire is a strong and feisty heroine and while the characters and situations, when all put together, are over the top ridiculous, individually they are relatively believable. I’ll likely continue reading this series with Dylan’s Redemption.

4 star review

Review-The Kraken King Serial Novel

The Kraken King
by Meljean Brook

This is book 4 in Brook’s Iron Seas Series, and the thing to know about this is that it was written in serial format, but the parts are all out now. Eventually it will all be bound into one book, but the parts are all available. I’ll admit, I waited to read it because I can’t handle serial novels, but the premise is clever, particularly considering who the heroine is. There are 8 parts, as follow:

The Kraken King and the Scribbling Spinster

The Kraken King and the Abominable Worm

The Kraken King and the Fox’s Den

The Kraken King and the Inevitable Abduction

The Kraken King and the Iron Heart

The Kraken King and the Crumbling Walls

The Kraken King and the Empress’s Eyes

The Kraken King and the Greatest Adventure

Zenobia Fox has been a character I have had my heart set on since the very beginning. We have had glimpses of her since the beginning with more information dribbled through the series. For The Kraken King Zenobia has decided to set out on her own (albeit rather tame) adventure. As might be expected, things don’t stay tame for very long, which is how she ends up in the clutches of Ariq, the Kraken King.

Because this is a serial, each of the 8 sections definitely have their own beginning, middle and ends, which makes it difficult for me to synopsis. So, I’ll just go with my thoughts and impressions. While I read it straight through, I can see how this would not be as irritating as I have found many serials to be, there aren’t any major hang ups at the end of each section, and each section flows rather neatly to the next. It’s a conundrum how she managed it, but it was nicely done. I love the covers, they are so gorgeous, the titles of each section are extremely clever and cute (but i wish there was some way to have that on the cover). And I adore both Zenobia and Ariq. Most of the plot resolves around the Big Misunderstandings, which normally I hate that trope, but it works well here, they each have legitimate reasons to keep their mouth shut, and with a lack of information of course there are misunderstandings. It works because it wasn’t just that they didn’t communicate, but that they couldn’t always communicate. Even so, their romance was lovely to read and you really got a good sense of these two characters and how their lives might mesh in the future. It was also a very interesting look into Brook’s alternate history, which I find fascinating.

4 stars for a solid Iron Seas Adventure, and while I can’t say this has changed my mind about serials, it may have made me just a teensy bit more open minded about them.

4 star review

Review- Shield of Winter

by Nalini Singh

The Psy-Changeling series is an alternate world where humanity has split into essentially three species, humans, Psy who are an icy and emotionless race and who have mind powers, and changelings who are essentially shifters.

Assassin. Soldier. Arrow. That is who Vasic is, who he will always be. His soul drenched in blood, his conscience heavy with the weight of all he’s done, he exists in the shadows, far from the hope his people can almost touch—if only they do not first drown in the murderous insanity of a lethal contagion. To stop the wave of death, Vasic must complete the simplest and most difficult mission of his life.

For if the Psy race is to survive, the empaths must wake…

Having rebuilt her life after medical “treatment” that violated her mind and sought to stifle her abilities, Ivy should have run from the black-clad Arrow with eyes of winter frost. But Ivy Jane has never done what she should. Now, she’ll fight for her people, and for this Arrow who stands as her living shield, yet believes he is beyond redemption. But as the world turns to screaming crimson, even Ivy’s fierce will may not be enough to save Vasic from the cold darkness… (from Goodreads Blurb)

This is book 13 in the Psy-Changeling series. This is NOT a standalone, so I wouldn’t encourage anyone who hasn’t read at least the first few books of the series to start with this one. Frankly if you haven’t read the entire series, the average reader is likely to be lost. Spoilers for previous books in this series may be contained in this review.

At the end of Heart of Obsidian, Silence has fallen but the infection is growing in the Net. However, the bond Sahara and Kaleb have formed is giving new hope to the most damaged of Arrows, except for Vasic who holds so much guilt and self-hatred and really has very little care for his own life.
Vasic seems to have been used by Ming more harshly than any other Arrow. He’s killed and erased for so long he feels he has very little worth as a human being. Even in previous books while he seemed so very Silent, he never seemed particularly heartless, just…tired. Ivy is an Empath who has been bent and shattered (but not truly broken) by life in a Silent net and brutal reconditioning.
There is fairly strong agreement for the theory they must wake the Empaths to save the net, so Kaleb surprises everyone by offering the E’s employment on this project rather than merely conscripting them, and the Arrows are enlisted to protect them.
So, first things, first. The romance between Ivy and Vasic was fairly straight forward and sweet. I bought Ivy’s relatively gentle awakening as well as her obstinacy, it seems characteristic of all we have learned of E’s so far. I even bought Vasic’s growing feelings for Ivy and how gently he stepped out of his depression, because it made sense for his character that having someone of his own to love and protect would make all the difference in his life. And their Psy sexting was adorable and sexy. Unfortunately, with this book, I wanted more of them. As much as I loved Kaleb and Sahara, there was a bit too much time being spent in their heads, I understand that they are integral to the plot-line, but all we needed was their actions not their feelings or thoughts. But the cameo from Judd was spot on and just what the story needed. He’s still my absolute favorite hero.
And on to the ending, for this book there were two serious conflicts that needed resolution, the disease in the net, and Vasic’s gauntlet. I won’t spoil too much but one was almost a deus ex machina and the other one, while it was a gentler and more straightforward resolution than we might have been led to expect, it also fit perfectly with everything we’ve learned bout the world and all the other actions that foreshadowed this same solution, so it made sense. I’ll let you decide which one is which.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book; it just didn’t reach the same level of enjoyment I received from Caressed by Ice or Heart of Obsidian, so 4 stars.
I am seriously wondering though, where is Nalini Singh going with this world next? We finally have a what appears to be the closed circle of the overarching conflict of this series, from Slave to Sensation with the very first awakened Empath, to now with the awakening of ALL the Empaths. I worry for the continuation. Hopefully the next book is Aden’s, I am hoping to see him hook up with either a human (maybe Alice?) or a Forgotten in order to close another circle.