Book Review: Blood and Ember

review-blood and emberTitle: Blood and Ember [Stormbringer 3]

Author: Isabel Cooper

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

A century ago, the Traitor God’s fury left the world broken by violent storms and twisted monsters born of darkness and death. Now those storms are sweeping across the continent again and it will take everything the armies of man can muster to survive. As a sworn knight, Olvir is prepared to do his part–even if that means journeying deep into the magic-tainted Battlefield to face the enemy alone.

Sentinel Vivian Bathari has lost too much to allow her closest friend to make such a sacrifice alone. Besides, there are whispers that Olvir’s strange new powers are somehow connected to the Traitor God, and she’d rather be by his side should the worst occur. But as they travel deep into the heart of danger, their growing attraction burns into mutual desire, and the true depth of Olvir’s connection to the evil haunting their world is made clear. In the end, Vivian will have to decide what she’s willing to sacrifice to save their world…and the man she loves.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I gave Blood and Ember 1 Star, not because it’s an awful book, but because I couldn’t finish it. I hadn’t read the previous books in the series, so I can’t attest to whether that would have made this book easier to read or not, but I suspect it might have in some sense.

So, let’s talk about what I liked. The writing was clean and well-edited. The lore and worldbuilding were rich and complex, and I think the author did a spectacular job of creating a vivid atmosphere with which to submerge the plot. If you’re a fan of high fantasy in any sense, you’ll probably love this aspect of the story, and though high-fantasy isn’t my favorite, I could at least appreciate the craft that went into this story because of these things.

So where did it fail? The narrative and its characters lacked soul. The characters didn’t engage me or even seem different from one another. I had no sense of who they were as people, and it made it very hard to get sucked into the story – because I love character-driven stories… and that isn’t what this was. I only got to about chapter 8 before I set the book aside, and I can’t imagine how the romance in this book will even develop given how the characters were written.

I think this is one of those stories that would excel if put to screen – where the visual aspects push the story forward…. But I didn’t enjoy how it was written. It didn’t help that the author kept head-hopping between what I can only assume were the two main characters (they didn’t stick out, so I can’t be sure). It felt as if the characters were there only as a vehicle to the plot, rather than a part of it.

Although this book wasn’t for me, I don’t think it was a bad book – simply not what I was looking for. If you like high fantasy with complicated world-building, I think you’d enjoy this book, regardless of how I felt about it.

Free Fiction Friday #246

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Free Fiction Friday! For those of you who are new to this blog, or who may have missed out on the previous Free Fiction Fridays—every Friday I post an article containing 10 fiction e-books that are 100% FREE on Amazon at the time of posting and an additional 5 that are roughly of the same genre, and on sale for less than $5.

I try my best to make sure they are all 4+ stars, have over 40+ reviews, and are 100 pages minimum—so you can have a hand-picked list of the best-of-the-best to choose from and enjoy over the long weekend (while I do more important things, like laundry). I try to switch up the genres every week, and this week our theme is: Young Adult Romance!

THE FREE

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THE BARGAINS

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Book Review: The Viscount Made Me Do It

review-the viscount made me do itTitle: The Viscount Made Me Do It [Clandestine Affairs 2]

Author: Diana Quincy

Genre: Historical, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

A seduction that could ruin everything…

Hanna Zaydan has fought to become London’s finest bonesetter, but her darkly appealing new patient threatens to destroy everything she’s worked so hard for. With each appointment, the daughter of foreign merchants is slowly seduced by the mysterious former soldier. She’s smart enough to know Griff is after more than he’ll reveal, but whatever it is, the bonesetter’s growing desire for the man just might tempt her to give it to him.

An attraction that cannot be denied…

Rumors that he killed his own parents have followed Thomas Ellis, Viscount Griffin, practically since he was a boy. More than a decade after the tragedy, Griff receives a tip about his parents’ killer… one that takes him straight to a beautiful bonesetter. Griff is convinced Hanna is a fraud, but she stirs genuine feelings in him that he thought had perished along with his family.

Hanna has a gift for fixing fractured people, but can she also mend a broken heart? More importantly, will Griff let her?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I debated with myself for a bit on what to rate this book – it wasn’t an easy answer. I read an early review copy, so there were a few rather unremarkable editing errors – but nothing too obtrusive. For the most part, the writing was easy to follow and flowed well. I liked the characters and the overall plot, and the romance was steamy.

So why 4 stars rather than 5?

There were some bits to this story that were written… oddly, I guess that is the way to put it. It’s rather hard to explain, but one example would be how the 26-year-old main female lead had no idea what sex entailed or what orgasms were. I mean, I understand that she was an untouched spinster at that point… but she was also a medical professional… and let’s be honest, at 26, you know things, even if you have no first-hand experience. It was weird how the author showcased this.

In addition to this, the romance between the two main characters waffled quite a bit. One second they hated each other, then they couldn’t keep their hands off each other.. Then they were denying their passion, then they were all over each other again – which is all well and good, except the switches sometimes seemed to come out of nowhere.

Overall, I liked the book. I enjoyed reading it, and I think if you like Historical Romance, this is a pretty good one.

Book Review: Avoiding Alpha

review-avoiding alphaTitle: Avoiding Alpha [Alpha Girl 2]

Author: Aileen Erin

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Tessa McCaide has come a long way since her abrupt entrance into the world of werewolves, but she still has just as far to go before she’s comfortable with turning full wolf. In the meantime, she’s avoiding the topic of shifting to four legs any way she can. Thankfully her mate, Dastien Laurent, is quite the distraction.

When she finds her best friend, Meredith, getting sick in the bathroom, Tessa knows something’s majorly wrong. Meredith was cursed years ago, and the dark magic kept her wolf dormant—only now the wolf is awake, and that same spell is killing her.

Tessa has no intention of sitting around while Meredith wastes away. Even if it means playing with magic she doesn’t understand, she’ll do anything to save Meredith’s life. Including bargaining with the local coven of witches and its crazed leader, whose only goal is getting Tessa to join the witchy ranks.

Can Tessa save her friend without losing herself?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I thoroughly enjoyed this continuation of Tess and Dastien’s story. Like the first book in the series, this book was well written – the narrative flowed easily, it was engaging, and there weren’t any obvious technical errors. I loved the characters just as much as the first book, and they seemed more at ease with each other. I particularly liked the inclusion of more of the Bruja side of Tessa’s lineage.

So why 4 stars instead of 5?

The book felt significantly shorter than the first. I sped through it so quickly that by chapter 8 I was more than halfway through. It almost felt like an episode of a TV show – there was one main story arc, which they solved pretty quickly, and then the story was done. I think it would have benefited the book to have a few more subplots woven in.

That aside, the book was great. It’s definitely an easy read, meant for Young Adults, but it didn’t feel as angsty as the first book.

Book Review: Becoming Alpha

review-becoming alphaTitle: Becoming Alpha [Alpha Girl 1]

Author: Aileen Erin

Genre: Paranormal, Young Adult, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Tessa McCaide has a unique talent for getting into trouble. Then again, it isn’t easy for a girl with psychic visions to ignore what she sees. Luckily Tessa and her family are leaving California and moving halfway across the country, giving her the perfect opportunity to leave her reputation as “Freaky Tessa” behind.

But Tessa doesn’t realize that kissing the wrong guy in her new Texas town could land her in far more trouble than she ever imagined. Like being forced to attend St. Ailbe’s Academy, a secret boarding school for werewolves.

Even if the wrong guy did accidentally turn her into a shapeshifter and doom her to attending the weirdest high school ever, Tessa can’t help her growing attraction to the mysterious Dastien Laurent.

When vampires attack St. Ailbe’s and her visions pinpoint an enemy in their midst, Tessa realizes that boy drama and her newfound canine tendencies might just be the least of her problems.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I liked Becoming Alpha by Aileen Erin more than I thought I would. I don’t know what I expected – I picked it up as an easy book, a bit of a break from my current TBR, so I wasn’t expecting much… but as it turned out, I liked it quite a bit. It wasn’t a perfect book, I won’t lie. It’s a Young Adult Paranormal Romance, and as most books in that genre can sometimes be, there was a lot of drama and angst and misunderstandings, but that’s kind of par for the course.

Regardless, the book was easy to sink into. It was well written – I only found one typo – and the narrative flowed easily. I loved the characters, even Imogen. Okay, maybe not Imogen. The lore was slightly different than what I’ve read in similar books – especially when it came to the vampires, and it was a bit of a fun twist to see it handled in a new way. I enjoyed the tug and pull of Tess and Dastien’s relationship especially.

Overall, I think if you like YA Paranormal Romance reads, you’re most likely going to enjoy this one. I’m excited to read more from this author in the near future.

Book Review: The Princess Stakes

reviewcover- the princess stakesTitle: The Princess Stakes

Author: Amalie Howard

Genre: Historical Romance

Rating: 4 Stars

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Synopsis/Description:

Born to an Indian maharaja and a British noblewoman, Princess Sarani Rao has it all: beauty, riches, and a crown. But when Sarani’s father is murdered, her only hope is the next ship out—captained by the boy she once loved…and spurned.

Captain Rhystan Huntley, the reluctant Duke of Embry, is loath to give up his life at sea. But duty is calling him home, and this is his final voyage. Leave it to fate that the one woman he’s ever loved must escape to England on his ship.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I enjoyed The Princess Stakes by Amalie Howard, though it could be a little outlandish at times with how different situations were handled from a historical standpoint.

I loved the characters and the romance – especially Sarani. The minor characters like Tej felt a little left out at times, but it wasn’t enough to truly bother me. I thought the plot was interesting, and the sparks between Sarani and the duke made up for a lot of the characterization inadequacies. If you are a fan of historical accuracy, the characters, once again, complaining about corsets will probably get to you – because it was certainly an old and inaccurate trope that I’m definitely over hearing about.

I do think the story was wrapped up a little too easily a little too quickly, but other than that, I still really enjoyed the book, and if you are a fan of formulaic historical romance books, you’ll most likely enjoy this one. It made a nice weekend read.

Free Fiction Friday #242

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Free Fiction Friday! For those of you who are new to this blog, or who may have missed out on the previous Free Fiction Fridays—every Friday I post an article containing 10 fiction e-books that are 100% FREE on Amazon at the time of posting and an additional 5 that are roughly of the same genre, and on sale for less than $5.

I try my best to make sure they are all 4+ stars, have over 40+ reviews, and are 100 pages minimum—so you can have a hand-picked list of the best-of-the-best to choose from and enjoy over the long weekend (while I do more important things, like laundry). I try to switch up the genres every week, and this week our theme is: Romance!

THE FREE

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THE BARGAINS

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Book Review: His Improper Lady

review-his improper ladyTitle: His Improper Lady [The Mad Morelands 8]

Author: Candace Camp

Genre: Historical Romance, Mystery, Thriller

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

It’s been a year since Tom Quick became a partner at the detective agency Moreland & Quick, which he operates with his lifelong friend Constantine Moreland. When he catches an intruder breaking in to the agency, obviously looking for something, it’s clear that a new case is afoot. But this intruder wears an alluring scent, moves like a trained acrobat…and is an attractive woman.

After a hardscrabble childhood, Desiree Sullivan grew up to be a talented performer, and now she wants to find her real rather. All she knows is that he was an aristocrat, and he abandoned her and her brothers when they were small. When she finds something at Moreland & Quick that gives her a lead, she must follow it.

Tom wants to help Desiree, but he’s still a little suspicious of her, even though he can’t help but be drawn to her. But as Desiree and Tom dig deeper into Desiree’s roots, they stumble on a mystery larger than either of them imagined—a mystery that threatens both their lives.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I didn’t have high hopes for this book when I first picked it up – the beginning sequence was slow and not at all what I expected, and I had very little understanding of what was going on. I hadn’t read any of the previous books in the series, so I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.

And to be honest, I didn’t love everything about the book. The characters had a penchant for going on long monologues when they weren’t necessary, and I could have done without that bit. The romance, while steamy, didn’t stand out from the romance in any other historical romance. It wasn’t what drew me to the book.

But put all that aside, and it was a solid book regardless.

I loved the characters, the fierce main female lead, and her slightly less sure male lead. I enjoyed the quirky Morelands and their supernatural powers. My favorite part by far though was the mystery and thriller aspect of the plot. It took me a good long while to hone in on what had happened to Desiree’s parents and how it was connected to the shenanigans going on around them during the majority of the plot. It was this aspect of the plot that kept me enthralled with the book until the very end – and that’s saying something. I don’t read a lot of mysteries.

If you’re looking for a solid historical romance, this will certainly pass in that department… but if you’re looking for something a little unusual wrapped in a good historical romance, I would definitely recommend you pick this up.

Book Review: The Wrong Marquess

review-the wrong marquessTitle: The Wrong Marquess [The Mating Habits of Scoundrels 3]

Author: Vivienne Lorret

Genre: Historical Romance

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

The wrong place…

Elodie Parrish can feel spinsterhood breathing down her neck. That’s the trouble with waiting for the marquess next door her entire life. But Ellie knows if she gives him one last Season, he’ll finally propose. The only problem is, her path keeps crossing with the arrogant Lord Hullworth, who is convinced she has designs on him.

The wrong time…

Brandon, Marquess of Hullworth, never wanted to be “London’s Most Elusive Bachelor,” or have a horde of hopeful debutantes and their scheming mamas follow him around. His past has left him too jaded to consider marrying any of them. At least, that’s what he thinks… until he meets Ellie. She’s quirky, opinionated, blushes easily, and drives him absolutely wild. The only problem is, she believes she’s in love with someone else.

Ellie never imagined that one sultry summer could change everything. But the more time she spends with Brandon researching her book on the mating habits of scoundrels, the more she starts to fall for…

The Wrong Marquess

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about The Wrong Marquess by Vivienne Lorret, but I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt because regardless of what I found wrong with it, I still greatly enjoyed the book.

So let’s talk about what I liked – the romance between Elodie and Brandon was wrought with sexual tension. The couple was so sweet at times, other times they were reluctant, or even scathing with each other. The two were caught in this tension-filled tug of war between their heads, their hearts, and society as a whole, and it led to an engaging dynamic.

The characters were well defined, and for the most part, I liked them. Mostly.

What bothered me, was the way Elodie was written. I’ve never seen a character in a historical romance come across as so …. Dumb. Elodie was clumsy, scared of everything, hopelessly naïve, and just generally air-headed. I found her completely insufferable, and the only reason I was able to continue with the book is that the romantic dynamic between her and Brandon was so engaging.

There were a few other minor tidbits that bothered me – a lapse in tense, and the author’s strange penchant for using thesaurus words that even my dictionary had never heard of, but for the most part, I was able to skim over those issues and enjoy the story as a whole.

Overall, I’d say that if you like historical romances, this is worth a read – just don’t expect a strong witty heroine in this one.

Book Review: Notorious

review-notoriousTitle: Notorious

Author: Diana Palmer

Genre: Romance

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Gaby Dupont knows some men shouldn’t be trusted. Ever. Especially not high-profile lawyer Nicholas Chandler. How can she trust the man who might be helping her greedy relatives steal her family fortune? To get the inside scoop on Nicholas’s dealings—and protect herself and her beloved grandmère—Gaby must take a job with the devil himself. Of course, she can’t tell him who she really is…

Nicholas Chandler knows there’s more to Gaby Dupont than delicate beauty. She’s sweet and clever—but just too young and secretive. Yet even as they clash, Gaby gets under his skin as no other woman ever has. When Gaby comes under fire, Nicholas risks his career and reputation to keep her safe. But can he protect Gaby without losing his heart?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’m going to be honest here, even though it pains me to do so. I hate leaving negative reviews – even when I must.

This book was terrible. I’ve read 32 books thus far this year, not all of them great, but Notorious by Diana Palmer may very well be one of the worst.

I will give this the caveat that I read an advanced review copy – which is subject to editing before release, so keep that in mind… but the writing felt juvenile. The narrative went through multiple pages of back-telling the heroine’s past only to end when she then chose to slut-shame a teenager, equating her appearance to that of an escort. Not okay. I instantly disliked the main female lead – but that isn’t where it ended.

Gaby then proceeded to lie about her identity… to a lawyer… invading his home, and began to re-organize his library. Under other circumstances, this misunderstanding would have fallen squarely into the usual romance tropes, but Gaby showed up at the lawyer’s house uninvited to sway him into dropping a court case. She willfully lied about her identity instead of clearing up the misunderstanding, to gain access to his home, after slut-shaming a teenager. I loathe her as a person. What she did was not okay. It wasn’t cute. It wasn’t funny. She came across as the rudest, snobbiest person.

This book made me angry. The writing style was lackluster, even if I could manage to stomach the disastrous beginning. I quit this book before the end of the first chapter because I could feel my blood pressure rising over how much I hated Gaby. If you endeavor to read it… good luck, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.