Book Review: Legacy of Lies

review-cover-legacy of liesTitle: Legacy of Lies [Hell’s Valley 1]

Author: Jillian David

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Thriller, Paranormal

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Garrison Taggart doesn’t have time to deal with touchy-feely junk like “trust issues” or “feelings.” His dad’s health is waning and the family’s Wyoming ranch is being sabotaged. Too bad his supernatural ability to tell when someone is lying has been exactly zero help in ferreting out the betrayer so far. So, when sweet schoolteacher Sara Lopez raises concerns about his son being bullied, who can blame a guy for getting a little testy?

The last thing Sara needs is any more attention or gossip after her recent breakup with big-shot rancher Hank Brand. So her attraction to surly but sexy Garrison, Hank’s rival, is entirely unwanted. When she uncovers an insane plot to kidnap the Taggart boy and throws herself in harm’s way to protect him, Garrison must risk his deepest secret and his own life to save the people he cares for the most. But will his heroics cost him everything?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I really enjoyed Legacy of Lies by Jillian David. It was a strange and fresh new concept of a contemporary rancher-romance juxtaposed with elements of paranormal and thriller, which isn’t something I’ve run across in the past.

Technically speaking, the book was well written. There were no obvious or jarring typos. The narrative was clean, flowed easily, and for the most part, the dialogue was believable and natural.

The main characters were flawed, interesting, and adorable in their strained romance—but I also think they were possibly the weakest point of the story. I liked them—I did, but there was this weird back and forth with the two main characters where they loved each other, but kept self-doubting their way out of the relationship. The way they kept backing out of the romance was irritating, frustrating, and honestly, didn’t make a lot of sense at times. It came across as a bit contrived.

That aside, I still greatly enjoyed the book. The plot was new and interesting, I liked the characters and their development. Had it not been for the constant self-doubt of the main characters, this easily would have gotten 5 stars. I was entertained, and I got sucked into the book. There’s not much more I can ask for. If you enjoy rancher-romances or enjoy contemporary paranormal or romantic thrillers, you’ll probably really enjoy this story. I’d suggest giving it a try.

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Book Review: Depths of Lake

review-cover-depths of lakeTitle: Depths of Lake [The McCain Saga #3]

Author: Keary Taylor

Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

It was another day at the ranch, training horses and working fifteen hour days. And then the last person I ever expected showed up. Lake McCain: a Marine, tall, ripped—and the best friend of my dead fiancé. Cal died to save Lake, and now Lake claims that he carries a debt to me that he can never repay.

I wanted to brush him off. But then my mom, the manager of the ranch, went and hired him. We spend hours working together with the horses. Lake doesn’t say much. He’s layered and dark and he tries to seem shallow and simple. But he isn’t. There are things under his surface that matter. He works, quiet and strong, and never once lets me down.

Until he confesses that he may be falling in love with me. I can’t deny that there is something between us. But a relationship? I just can’t. I’ve used up all my chances at love. My past relationships have ended in death or disaster, and now I have to live with all of that.

I’m Riley James, and there are depths to Lake—depths to myself—that I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Although this was an endearing, sweet romance, the style in which it was written made it a less than engaging read for me.

Technically speaking, the book was well written. It was grammatically correct, well punctuated, and with the exception of one glaring typo where a word was omitted, it was generally well edited overall. The problem for me lay in the flow of the narrative.

Riley’s voice was written in a very detached, often abruptly structured way that felt almost robotic at times. She lacked warmth and it made it hard to follow her point of view at times. I didn’t have a problem with her personality—on the contrary, I quite liked her—but still, it wasn’t always easy to follow her narrative, especially near the beginning and ending of the book.

Despite this flaw, I enjoyed the book for the most part. The characters, though not overly deep, were sweet and likeable. The setting was strong, and the romance seemed natural. I liked it. It wasn’t perfect—it lacked some of the engaging quality I’d expected, but it wasn’t a bad book. I’d recommend it as a light weekend read for anyone who might enjoy a contemporary romance between two broken protagonists.

Book Review: Witch Hunter

review-cover-witch hunterTitle: Witch Hunter [Witches of the Woods 1]

Author: Steffanie Holmes

Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Historical

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Europe – 1351. Centuries ago a curse was placed on Ada’s family; every seven days a woman from her line must sleep with a man – any man – or the entire coven will lose their powers forever. As a fledgling witch, it is Ada’s turn to continue the seven-day cycle, but with the plague wiping out more men every day, who will she find to take into her bed? BBW Ada goes to a sacred grove to perform a ritual to bring a man to her, and a man appears. But he is as dangerous as he is handsome …

Ulrich of Donau-Ries is a battle-scarred witch hunter, tired of the stranglehold the church has over his destiny. His heart hardened by violence and the woman who betrayed him, Ulrich is determined to never again fall in love. But that all changes when he finds Ada, naked and waiting for him. She is the first woman to loosen the chains around his black heart.

When Ada is accused of witchcraft, Ulrich seizes his chance to be close to her once more. In Ulrich’s dungeon, they find solace in each other, and innocent Ada learns to embrace her lover’s dark fantasies. But will Ulrich’s heart thaw in time to save Ada from being burned alive at the stake?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’m actually a little surprised to say that I really enjoyed this book. I’m not huge on BDSM or dungeon play in my romance. I don’t particularly have a problem with it, but I don’t actively seek it out, and it’s always left me feeling a little uncomfortable when it pops up in my romance reading, so when I went into Witch Hunter by Steffanie Holmes, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about that aspect of the plot. Surprisingly, I was completely fine with it—though I know there will be some people out there that won’t. So before I get much further into this review and waste your time, let me say that there are quite a few scenes held within this book where the main female lead is strapped into or onto torture devices. She was in pain… BUT she was also consenting and enjoyed herself. If that isn’t your thing, then feel free to move on.

That being said, even though there was a fair bit of somewhat torturous BDSM involved, I never felt like Ulrich was being intentionally cruel or harmful to Ada, even when she was in genuine pain. I never questioned that she was happy to be put in the situation she was in and she enjoyed it. The situation was tricky, though. She was, after all, in a real dungeon dealing with a man who “tortured and burned witches at the stake” for a living, and I can understand how some more sensitive readers may find this book a little much to handle. To each his own, right?

Personally, I thought the story was fabulous. I loved Ulrich as the dark and brooding anti-hero and Ada as the sadly naïve newbie witch. The characters were colorful and distinct, and though I didn’t like all of them (I’m looking at you Bernadine), I felt they were necessary to the plot and well written.

Now, I was holding onto an ARC copy, so there were a few typos here and there (all of which I turned into the author/publisher), but none of them were distracting or particularly detrimental to the story. For the most part, the writing was clean, easy to follow, and well paced.

My only nitpick was one particular scene where Ada had been held in a dungeon for days on end before she was ravished by Ulrich, and I just kept thinking “omg… I bet she smells so bad right now.” She’d had rotten food thrown at her, she’d been locked in a damp cell with little food or water, and she certainly hadn’t had a bath… and I’m sure the guy loved her dearly…but… ew.

Overall? I really enjoyed the book. It was a great romp into medieval paranormal fantasy. If you’re a fan of Dark Romance, give it a try. You may really enjoy this book! If BDSM/Dark Romances are your thing,  you may want to look for something a little fluffier…but you’ll be missing out. Personally, I can’t wait to read further into this series, and I look forward to the next book!

Book Review: City of Fallen Angels [Mortal Instruments 4]

 

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Title: City of Fallen Angels [Mortal Instruments 4]

Author: Cassandra Clare

Genre: Urban, Paranormal, Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult, Romance, Action & Adventure

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

The Mortal War is over, and sixteen-year-old Clary Fray is back home in New York, excited about all the possibilities before her. She’s training to become a Shadowhunter and to use her unique power. Her mother is getting married to the love of her life. Downworlders and Shadowhunters are at peace at last. And—most importantly of all—she can finally call Jace her boyfriend.

But nothing comes without a price.

Someone is murdering Shadowhunters, provoking tensions between Downworlders and Shadowhunters that could lead to a second, bloody war. Clary’s best friend, Simon, can’t help her—his mother just found out that he’s a vampire, and now he’s homeless. When Jace begins to pull away from her without explaining why, Clary is forced to delve into the heart of a mystery whose solution reveals her worst nightmare: she herself has set in motion a terrible chain of events that could lead to her losing everything she loves. Even Jace.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Meh. That’s how I feel about this book. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t god-awful. Technically speaking, the writing was clean and grammatically correct. However, the plot this time around left something to be desired. Unlike the previous book (and this may be part of the problem), City of Fallen Angels wasn’t crammed full of tension and action. The first half of the book was a little more like the calm before a storm. Everyone seemed happy. Clary and Jace were downright silly around each other. It was a nice change of pace, but I’ll admit that I did miss the tension.

The book stalled out a bit in the middle half of the book. A lot of new elements were introduced with new characters, new backstory, and an exceedingly weak drawn-out plot. It almost felt as if every character introduced had some sort of secret they were hiding, and it made it very difficult to pin down anyone’s intensions. I get the need to be secretive—really I do—but when there’s so many secrets in such a slow part of the book… I ended up just getting frustrated.

A lot of time was spent around some of the not-so-important characters, including Simon (whom I hate), his family, his girlfriend problems… Maia, Jordan, and their relationship problems and backstory… and Jocelyn and Luke’s upcoming wedding. Other lesser characters like Alec, Magnus, Raphael, the Seelie Queen, and the newly introduced Camille, took up most of the narrative—leaving Clary and Jace (the main interest in this series!) by the wayside.

And as if that weren’t bad enough, every time the story switched to Clary and Jace they were either whining over each other, ignoring each other all together, or getting their make-out sessions interrupted. Talk about fan-girl frustration!

After the first 2/3rds of the book things became a little more tense—dark even, and it was a good change from the previous boring interludes of not-knowing-what-the-heck-was-going-on, but the whole thing left me with an increasing sense of unease. Everything was too perfect… then mysterious, then downright creepy.

In the end I found I just couldn’t enjoy the story as much as I did with the previous books. Not a lot seemed to happen with most of the time in the book being spent dealing with relationship issues. It didn’t seem to go anywhere, and even in the end, the drama was pointless. The one shining redeemer was the tragic ending (that I won’t spoil) which hopefully will lead into the next book and a much more interesting plotline.

Would I recommend this to anyone? Not if you haven’t read the previous books. It doesn’t stand on it’s own, and it certainly wasn’t the best of the series. If you’ve read the previous three, then I’d recommending at least sifting through this one in the hopes you’ll be caught up for the next in the series. This book was so-so. Readable, but lukewarm.

Book Review: City of Glass [Mortal Instruments 3]

cover-cityofglass

Title: City of Glass [Mortal Instruments 3]

Author: Cassandra Clare

Genre: Urban, Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance, YA, Teen, Action & Adventure

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

To save her mother’s life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters – never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight.

As Clary uncovers more about her family’s past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadowhunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadowhunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he’s willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her newfound powers to help save the Glass City – whatever the cost?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I loved this book. I may be giving it more credit than I should because I fan-girled over certain aspects of the plot, but I’ll hold by my 5 star rating. Let’s face it, this series has it’s issues. Clary is notorious for making bad, childish, and impulsive decisions. Jace whines about –everything- and pouts in the corner over Clary every chance he gets. Don’t even get me started on Simon. I swear I hate him. Despite all that, however, the series, this book even, is great.

With each book as I get farther and farther into the series, it seems that the world building is only getting richer, and the characters, are getting, if not smarter, at least more adaptable. There are some great kick-ass scenes in this book that are going to make you squeal if you’re as much of a fan of this series as I am (but I’ll be nice and not tell you what they are).

Unfortunately it wasn’t all rainbows and puppies, and there were definitely some drawbacks this time around. There was a lot going on in this book – in fact, it seemed to have more action and tension than the previous two books combined. There’s a lot going in the world of the mortal instruments. Unfortunately, that means that not all of the characters introduced are going to get a significant amount of face time.

Alina was one of those characters. To be honest, When I read the book, and even later when I went back over it for notes and context I’d written myself as reminders… I didn’t remember Alina all that well. I’m still not sure if there was any significance at all to her being in the story. Quite frankly, if the author had left her out entirely, I don’t feel the story would have changed that much. She had a piss-poor attitude, and really didn’t seem to be around for any reason other than to piss off Clary.

The same can be said for several of the other minor characters, and really it’s a shame… BUT on the flip-side of that coin, I think there’s a good reason why those characters got so little face time. This book was jam-packed with backstory and histories of the various characters. I felt like I got a significant amount of information out of this book (as opposed to the previous two), and while at times that did make things a little dry, I was glad to have the information so I could start sorting out the events of the previous books in my head. So let’s take a moment to talk about some of the characters:

Spoilers: I am sad to report that in this installment of the story, Max dies. He was a cute character, and it’s always awful when a child dies in a story—but I’m glad the author chose to make the decision. Though he was adorable, Max wasn’t an important character. I think by killing off Max, the author made a real point about the war at hand in this book and the tragedy of what happened that day.

I will admit, despite my ongoing hatred for the character of Simon (I swear, he annoys the crap out of me with his passive-aggressive puppy love issues with Clary), I did like him a bit more in this book, particularly towards the end. It was nice to see him stand up as a character and start to really become an individual rather than a side character that was around to play off Clary and Jace. I still hate him though, and his angst-y attitude. Let’s be clear.

I also didn’t like the new Inquisitor…but there’s no surprise there. If anything, this one was almost (I said almost) worse than the previous one. I don’t know what it is with the Clave, but I can feel Clary’s frustration with them. There doesn’t seem to be many members who are even decent human beings. It seems to consist entirely of lemmings and Harry Potter villains.

Clary and Jace this time around both frustrated me and made me squeal with joy. I adore their relationship, even if it is taboo, but there comes a point where even the fan-girling isn’t enough. Jace through this book was even more whiny that usual. He was angry and outright mean through most of it – though I can understand why. Clary spent most of the story being selfish and acting childish (as per her usual character), running into danger without a thought to anyone or anything other than her whim of the moment. It was frustrating, but I can also understand where the two characters were coming from. There was so much tension and frustration between the couple from the outset of this book and through the previous two books that they just weren’t thinking clearly anymore. In the same situation I’m afraid to admit that I probably wouldn’t be much more mature than they were.

As for the dark and seriously creepy Sebastian… he was a character I loved to hate. He was charming, but in a way that seriously creeped me out from the very beginning of his appearance in the story. Seeing where his story ended up… I’m not surprised. I think it’s a testament to Ms. Clare’s writing that Sebastian’s character came across with such an amazingly dark vibe. You could practically smell the evil on him, and it gave me the shivers.

Overall? I really liked this book – maybe even more than the first two books of the series (though it still isn’t my favorite. We’ll get to those.) I’d be happy to recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA fiction, and certainly to anyone who even remotely liked the movie or either of the previous books. This series seems to get better and better as it goes a long, and it feels like the world of the mortal instruments is becoming more filled out and intricate as the series goes on. This is going on my keeper shelf.

Book Review: City of Ashes [Mortal Instruments 2]

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Title: City of Ashes [Mortal Instruments 2]

Author: Cassandra Clare

Genre: YA/Teen, Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Action & Adventure, Urban

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what’s normal when you’re a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who’s becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn’t ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary’s only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father.

To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, possibly even more so than the first book – though it wasn’t my favorite in the series. Like the first book, it had it’s ups and downs and characters I really didn’t care for. I still hate Simon with a passion, and sometimes Clary makes really stupid mistakes… but the writing itself was excellent. Ms. Clare has a very easy-to-follow style of writing; both clear, and well-paced that makes reading this book and the others in the series, enjoyable. I never felt I was being pushed or dragged along as with some books, and there weren’t an abundance of technical issues with grammar, formatting, or word choice that made me want to pull my hair out.

My biggest frustrations came down to Simon and Clary’s relationship. I don’t like Simon. I can’t really put my finger on why I don’t like him… he didn’t particularly bother me in the movie series (okay maybe he did a little) but there’s something about him in the book series that really irks me. Maybe it’s because I’m routing so deeply for Clary and Jace that Simon’s presence grinds a nerve… or maybe it’s the almost pushy-quality there is to his character when he’s with Clary. Look, I understand that he’s been in love with Clary for like… forever, but it’s obvious to anyone with a brain that Clary really isn’t that interested in him. You’d think he’d have some self respect and step away from that situation.

On the flip side, I’m equally annoyed with Clary in this particular case. The fact that she was willingly dating Simon (and even making out with him) gave me the heebie jeebies. There’s a certain ick factor that comes a long with their relationship that finally made me realize what a genius the author was. Let me explain: I don’t have that ick factor when it comes to Clary and Jace, who are supposed to be siblings at this point in the series. Something that should be totally taboo and bring about feelings of ickyness instead has me cheering on their forbidden relationship. I think it’s a testament to Ms. Clare’s writing that I am so thoroughly engrossed in their love that I’m completely willing to ignore the fact that.. let’s face it… it’s gross. Instead, I get the feeling I should have about Clary’s relationship with Jace, with Clary and Simon instead. It feels like they’re siblings, and so it bothers me greatly when they’re together. I think it’s fantastic that the author was able to switch the roles of the relationships like that so clearly as to completely change how I see them.

Another character I absolutely hated (even more than Simon, and that’s saying something) was the Inquisitor from the Clave. She had a very distinct personality that reminded me a lot of Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter series. I could swear they were sisters. Imogen has that sense of trying to do what she perceives as correct and lawful by her understanding of her job, but takes it that extra step too far and breaks the moral code that the rest of us live by. Much like Umbridge tortures Harry by making him carve sentences into the back of his hand, Imogen tortures and wrongfully imprisons Jace. She’s a character you love to hate, and it was almost tragic the way the story closed out on her character (I’ll leave the spoilers out this time).

I think one of my biggest sticking points in this whole story was Maryse. I spent 99% of the book trying to figure out how to pronounce her name (despite the fact that at one point Clary very clearly pronounced it as “May-ris” to Simon. There’s something about the spelling that made it impossible for my brain to fathom. I really wish the author had named her ANYTHING different. Instead, I spent the entirety of the story waffling between Mary-suh and a strange pronunciation of Maurice. I just can’t handle the name.

That aside, there were some really great moments in this book. It was nice to watch Jace struggle with his personal and familial identity throughout the book, as well as Clary’s discovery of her true power. She really came into her own in this novel, and she had some really kick-ass moments as I sunk further into the book. There were some great scenes in the later half of the book involving the Silent Brothers, Valentine, and Clary (not all at once)—and it was nice to see a little more of the Fey. Let me tell you – they both fascinate and creep me out at the same time. The Queen of the Seelie freaks me out.

Overall, I have to say that I really enjoyed the book. I’d happily recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA fiction, and I certainly think anyone who even remotely enjoyed the movie or the first book should certainly check it out. The series only gets better as it goes on. This is definitely going on my Keeper Shelf.

Getting Back Into The Swing of Things

 

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Hello ladies and gentlemen of blogland! It’s good to be back. After quite a long, rather shaky absence due to illness and the holidays, I’m happy to report that I am getting back into my workload. I promised myself that I’d get back to work, and so here I am. Now that I’ve gotten my schedule worked out, it goes something like this:

Monday –> Thursday: Book Reviews & Random Writing/Book-Related Articles

Friday: Free Fiction Fridays! (YAY)

Saturday –> Sunday: I take the weekend off. I have a life too. Dishes/Laundry need to be done. So does grocery shopping.

So starting Monday you guys should be getting a lot more articles headed your way. I’ve got Reviews/FFF’s booked up till the 10th of February right now, so there should be plenty to keep your WordPress Reader’s busy in the upcoming weeks. I’m slowly peeling through my TBR (to-be-read) list a book or two at a time. I’ve probably tore through at least 4-6 books just in the past two days, and I’m itching to get some reviews out shortly—so stay tuned!

P.S. Most annoying thing ever: Trying to get books read so you can post reviews… only to discover that one of your books doesn’t release till April… so you can’t post the review. Seriously. Ow.