Book Review: The Haunted Manor

review-cover-the haunted manorTitle: The Haunted Manor [Power and Love 1]

Author: Emilia Hartley

Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Historical

Rating: 2 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Luck has not been on Lord Michael Baird’s side. After losing yet another large sum of money, he is relieved to discover that he has been left an estate in Scotland. With the ownership of this new estate he decides he will do his best to make it profitable. Upon arrival to the town he notices how unfriendly everyone seems to be. Finally when he reaches his estate he is met with not only a less-than-pleasant manor, but also household staff who refuse to even stay in the estate overnight. They try to explain about the ghostly goings-on in the home but he ignores their warnings completely. However it isn’t long before Michael is thoroughly convinced! He learns that there is only one person who might be able to help him rid his new estate of the malevolent spirits that haunt it: Rebecca.

Rebecca is the village’s wise woman who is only too willing to help. Ignoring her growing attraction to Michael, she works hard to find out more about the spirits and how she can banish them forever using her magic. Michael is surprised to discover that the wise woman is both young and beautiful, and a desire for her grows the moment he first sets eyes on her. Realizing that nothing can happen between them, he tries to put his attraction aside, knowing that he will need to marry well if he is to set the estate to rights.

Will they be able to rid the estate of its ghosts and pursue their love for each other, or will Michael’s pursuit for money push her away for good?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

This is the second book from Emilia Hartley that I’ve read in the past week, and honestly, I’m underwhelmed. I wanted to like this book—it has everything I enjoy: it’s a historical romance that deals with the paranormal. What’s not to love? Apparently… quite a bit.

Here’s the thing: In the past year I read a book that was almost identical to this one in plot. Guy takes over a dilapidated manor, finds out it’s haunted, asks the local wise woman/town witch to help him out in getting rid of the haunting…they fall in love, things are resolved… and they live happily ever after. The one big difference is the other book was written better. Judging solely on the two books I’ve read from this author, she has a tendency to rush through her narrative. The pace in The Haunted Manor was quick to the point of making the events absurd. Despite societal rules and barely knowing each other, the main couple falls in love almost instantly, and within a handful of days, are ready to change their entire lives for each other. It’s a bit much to believe.

Another problem was the characters. They were all pretty 1-dimensional. The main male lead, Lord Michael Baird, was snobbish, entitled, arrogant, and weak-willed. The entire reason he decided he couldn’t be with the woman he loved… is because he thought it beneath his station to get his hands dirty. I did not like him as a character, and I found his attitude towards the other characters condescending. His voice came off as feminine—but trying not to be. The funny thing is… other than Michael not wanting to step below his station, almost all other historical societal conventions of the time period were completely ignored.

As for the technical aspect of the book—it wasn’t bad. It was relatively clean and easy to read, although I did find a misused word, some doubled words and a few punctuation problems. It wasn’t what I’d consider egregious.

Overall, I was underwhelmed. I expected more out of this book, and I was disappointed by the rushed, lackluster manner in which it was written. I think it could have been better with a bit of polishing and some critical beta readers. In the end, I just didn’t like it.  If you like fluffy, short reads, you may enjoy this book, it just wasn’t for me.

Book Review: Cloud Cuckoo

review-cover-cloud cuckooTitle: Cloud Cuckoo [The Never Dawn 2]

Author: R.E. Palmer

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Following their shock discovery, Noah and Rebekah reluctantly return to the lower levels of The Ark. Isolated and apart once more, Noah struggles to remember what happened at the surface and suspects Mother has altered his memory.

But Noah’s attempts to unite the workers to rebel are halted when Mother begins The Purge. Her cruel, relentless trials bring Noah to breaking point as he fights to survive when faced by his worst fears. Forced to accept Mother’s terms after a month in Re-Education, Noah finally learns the truth about his people’s past that leave him determined to defeat her once and for all.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Cloud Cuckoo by R. E. Palmer was a great addition to the Never Dawn trilogy. Often after a good book, subsequent books in the series don’t always live up to the quality or the hype of the first book, but in this case, that definitely wasn’t true. My daughter and I read this book together and often found ourselves reading for several hours at a time, often into the wee hours of the morning. We were sucked into Noah’s world.

Technically speaking, much like the first book, I was given a copy that had quite a few typos/errors in it, but again, these didn’t bother me. None of the errors were jarring or subtracted from the story in any way. The writing was clean, concise, and easy to follow, and the story moved at a good pace. It was constructed in such a way that by the end of every chapter, I couldn’t keep myself from continuing on into the next chapter. I was drawn in.

Much like the previous book, the characters were a delight and the world building was expansive and well constructed. One of my favorite parts of this particular book, however, was the change in scenery for Noah. We got to see new parts of the ship. We got to spend more time with characters we hadn’t previously gotten to. There were the same old mysteries, but also a lot of new ones as Noah found out more and more about his world and the people in it.

Overall, I loved this book. I love this series, and my daughter would easily say the same. R.E. Palmer has become one of my new favorite authors. If you enjoy YA or dystopian stories, I would highly recommend you pick up this series and give it a try. You will not regret it. I am so excited to see what the third book has in store for us when it’s released!

Book Review: Aftermath

review-cover-aftermathTitle: Aftermath [After The Fall 1]

Author: Tom Lewis

Genre: Science Fiction, Apocalyptic, Alien Invasion, Young Adult

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

The end of the world came fast. Between the time the warning had sounded on the TV, till when 16-year-old Paige O’Connor awakened sometime later, civilization had been crushed.

The attacks had come by “them” – those things in the ships in the sky that had appeared suddenly, and without warning.

And as Paige would soon discover, the attacks had only been the beginning.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I tried to like this book. I did. I picked it up multiple times, read a little bit, put it down, re-read it again—but I just couldn’t get past the writing. The story itself was interesting at first look. It followed a girl, her friends, and family, as aliens invade earth and her hometown is wiped off the map. There was action, mystery, and from what I saw of the story, the characters were well fleshed out.

But all was not hugs and puppies. I had a serious problem with not only the logic of the character’s decisions but also the way the story itself was written. There was an obvious moment in the first four chapters of the book where the main character and her best friend witness an electrical surge, and the traffic lights and other electrical systems start to fail all over town…I mean, power poles fell. Then, she gets home to where her brother and his friends are having trouble getting the TV to work, and instead of mentioning that something weird is going on with the electrical grid – something that was still very fresh in her and her friend’s mind and should have stuck out as odd – she basically tells them “did you try unplugging it and plugging it back in?” I was mystified that the main character would completely skim over the fact that something was so obviously wrong and not mention it to anyone.

The writing itself, though, was my largest complaint. It started off okay. The characters were a little cliché, but nothing stood out too much. Then, I noticed moments where the author messed up the POV. The fourth wall was broken. Things that should have been said in dialogue, were stated in the narrative. Words were left out of sentences. At points, the narrative said one thing, and then the characters showed me something contradictory. Exclamation points were used in abundance! Everywhere!

It got to the point where the writing style just devolved into an overdramatic mess of exclamation points and declarations, and when I got to a sentence that read “It was punishing, pushing beyond any level of tolerance, and blasting their sanity.” I was just done.

The style of the narrative just wasn’t something I enjoyed, and though I tried to push past it and into the story, every time I picked the book back up to give it another chance, I’d run into another narrative problem that made me roll my eyes and kept me from wanting to read any further. I have no doubt that there is someone out there that will love this story… but they’re the type of person who’s going to have to be okay looking past the  inadequacies of the writing, and that’s just not something I’m able to do.

Book Review: Shadows

review-cover-shadowsTitle: Shadows [The Rephaim 1]

Author: Paula Weston

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Urban

Rating: 4 stars

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Description/Synopsis:

It’s almost a year since Gaby Winters was in the car crash that killed her twin brother, Jude. Her body has healed in the sunshine of Pandanus Beach, but her grief is raw and constant. It doesn’t help that every night in her dreams she kills demons and other hell-spawn.

And then Rafa comes to town. Not only does he look exactly like the guy who’s been appearing in Gaby’s dreams—he claims a history with her brother that makes no sense. Gaby is forced to accept that what she thought she knew about herself and her life is only a shadow of the truth—and that the truth is more likely to be found in the shadows of her nightmares.

Who is Rafa? Who are the Rephaim? And most importantly, who can she trust?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

To be honest, when I first picked up Shadows by Paula Weston, I wasn’t sure I liked it. It’s hard to put my finger on the exact problem, but I think some of it had to do with the slow start and the author’s penchant for over description. I’m not saying the description is bad, but there comes a point when it can be distracting, and I feel like the story hovered right on the border of having too much when I first delved into the story.

Luckily, things improved.

From a technical standpoint, and other than the over-description, the book was pretty flawlessly written. There were one or two typos (an incorrect word, a missing space), but nothing too jarring, and certainly nothing distracting enough to pull me from the story for more than a split second. Though the book started off a little slow, the narrative hit a nice pace after the first few chapters and stayed steady throughout. I didn’t feel rushed or bogged down. I did have some difficulty with the language, but that could be attributed to the book taking place in Australia, rather than America like I’m used to. There were times I didn’t understand the slang, and it took me a little while to catch on that the book was taking place in another country, but once I figured it out, things went smoothly. Most of the time I could guess, or skip over the slang that I didn’t understand, and it didn’t cause me any problems with the story—though I did get to learn a few new words!

As for the characters and the plot? I loved them. The story was interesting, the characters were dynamic and well fleshed out, and the questions the author presented for both the main character, Gaby, and the reader, kept me reading. I desperately wanted to understand what was happening, just as Gaby was, and I was equally wary and stunned as she figured out the answers. I loved every minute of it!

Now, other than the over-describing of the beginning, there was one other aspect that did give me pause: the story is familiar. Nephilim, demon hunters.. sanctuary in churches—excuse me, monastery… this isn’t a fresh story. There’re a million and one YA Paranormal Fantasy books with the same theme, which is fine, but it was a bit uncomfortably similar to a particular series that was noted in the book’s synopsis across the internet (I’ve left it out here) in several ways—including sharing an enamored, but somewhat geeky kid named Simon. I’m not saying this was a clone. It wasn’t—at all, believe me… there were so many differences that made this clearly unique!—but these details and the author’s note in the description recommending it to fans of that particular series didn’t go unnoticed.

That being said, I honestly loved the book. Had it not been the niggling little details about the familiarity and the slow beginning, this would have gotten a resounding five stars. I truly enjoyed the book, and I’m very excited to read on in the series (I’ve already purchased the second and third books!)

If you love YA paranormal urban fantasy that deals heavily with angels, demons, Nephilim, and super-power-like abilities, you’re probably going to love this book, and I’d be happy to recommend it. If you’re a fan of similar series, try to keep an open mind, though similar, this is definitely something new, and you’ll probably enjoy it every bit as much as I did.

Book Review: The Wrong Bride

review-cover-the wrong brideTitle: The Wrong Bride [Highland Weddings 1]

Author: Gayle Callen

Genre: Historical, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Shaken from sleep during the night and bundled off to the Highlands by a burly Scot, Riona is at first terrified, then livid. Hugh McCallum insists they were promised to each other as children to ensure peace between their clans. The stubborn laird refuses to believe he’s kidnapped the wrong Catriona Duff. Instead, he embarks on a campaign of slow-burning seduction.

At first, Hugh cares only what their marriage can do for his people. Now he’s starting to crave Riona for her own sake, but her true identity jeopardizes his clan’s contract. And unless she chooses to risk all to be his bride, he’ll lose the only thing he prizes more than the lands he’s fought so hard to save—the passionate marriage they could have together.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I received The Wrong Bride by Gayle Callen via a Goodreads Giveaway, and as someone who adores historical romance as a genre, I was excited to delve into the book right away. Luckily, I wasn’t disappointed. Though the book was what some might consider a formulaic romance, where a love-hate relationship between the main couple spurs on the majority of the story, and everything, of course, ends with a happy ending—that didn’t diminish my appreciation for the book.

Technically speaking, the book was well written. I ran into one typo (a missed word) somewhere near the end of the book, but other than that, the editing was flawless. The characters made reasonable decisions, had believable dialogue, and the narrative flowed smoothly. I was engaged in the story from the very first paragraph. Enraptured by the sometimes hilarious and tension-filled relationship of Riona and Hugh, I quickly fell in love with the characters and was pulled back into the book time and time again each time I set it down to do something else (like laundry. A girl’s gotta live!)

Ultimately, I don’t have anything to complain about. I enjoyed the book, and though formulaic romance isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone out there that does enjoy the genre.

Book Review: The Raven’s Wish

cover-review-the raven's wishTitle: The Raven’s Wish [Scottish Clans 3]

Author: Susan King

Genre: Romance, Historical

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

When Elspeth Fraser, a beautiful Highland seer, has a sudden vision of a handsome stranger’s death, she is stunned to see that same man ride into her life soon after. Duncan Macrae is not only the queen’s lawyer–he has been sent north to stop the feud between Elspeth’s wild Highland cousins and a neighboring clan. Determined to send him away to save his life, Elspeth soon resists a strong attraction to the queen’s handsome, mysterious lawyer. Duncan ignores her warnings, intent on finishing his mission for the queen, yet he never expects to feel such passion for this stormy, vibrant Highland lass. When a dangerous enemy threatens all they hold dear, they must face their shared destiny–for if the prediction holds true, they will lose all… including the powerful love that could save them both.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I enjoyed The Raven’s Wish by Susan King, though not for the reasons I enjoy most formulaic historical romances.

Technically speaking, the book was exceedingly well written. Though there were a handful of small typos, including missing spaces, missing words, and a mistake in tense, most of them were small and easily navigated around. I never felt bogged down or confused with what I was reading—they were only small hiccups. The pace, though slow at times due to the language the characters were forced to use (historical books often have flowery, drawn out language), most of the time I didn’t mind. I enjoyed the beautiful and often clever descriptions in the narrative. The only time it became a problem was during the sex scenes, where the flowery language and vague language sucked the steam right out of the bedroom and seemed to make the sex drag on for ages. It was pretty—but didn’t convey the amount of lust/steam I was expecting. Most of the time, I opted to skim over the sex scenes.

The characters themselves were a delight—I loved Elspeth and Duncan, both as individual people and as a couple, though Elspeth was definitely my favorite of the two. I love characters with a spark of stubborn defiance and joy in them. That isn’t to say that the characters were perfect, however. Other than Elspeth and Duncan, the characters honestly didn’t seem that fleshed out. Despite having 80 or so ‘cousins’, a lot of time wasn’t spent on the other characters in the book outside the main character, and most of them could have been used interchangeably. I wish they had been more complex, that there had been more depth… but I also recognize that this is a romance book, and it’s pretty par for the course to keep the focus on the main couple (as it should be), and that often means that the minor characters aren’t as well fleshed out.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. For a romance, it was better written for most—the language and the descriptions were beautiful, but again, it was a formulaic romance. The book didn’t break any molds, and it was fairly predictable. Still, I liked it, and I’m glad to have read it. If you’re looking for a strong, well written historical romance full of beautiful descriptions and fun characters, I’d suggest you give this a try. If you aren’t a fan of formulaic romance with happy endings, this may not be for you.

Book Review: Beyond The Fortune Teller’s Tent

review-cover-beyond the fortune teller's tentTitle: Beyond The Fortune Teller’s Tent [Beyond 1]

Author: Kristy Tate

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult, Time Travel, Historical

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

When Petra Baron goes into the fortuneteller’s tent at a Renaissance fair, she expects to leave with a date to prom. Instead, she walks out into Elizabethan England, where she meets gypsies, a demon dog and a kindred spirit in Emory Ravenswood.

Emory must thwart the plans of religious zealots. His mission is dangerous, his enemies are fanatical, and Petra Baron is a complication that Heaven only knows he does not need. Or does he? Although Emory is on Heaven’s errand, he learned long ago that Heaven does not always play fair.

As Petra slowly falls for Emory, she wonders if he really is who he seems, or if he is just as lost as she is. How can they have a future while trapped in the past? Or is anything possible Beyond the Fortuneteller’s Tent?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

What a strange, but entertaining book. I picked up Beyond the Fortune Teller’s Tent by Kristy Tate on a whim after spotting it on Amazon for FREE. I’m a huge fan of time travel, and the book seemed to be right up my alley. I wasn’t wrong.

As far as the technical side of things goes, the book was well written. There were one or two typos, but nothing that distracted me from the story for more than a split second. The writing was clear and easy to follow, and I was engaged with the story from the very first page until the very last.

I adored the characters—particularly Emory, but also Mary, Anne, and Garret. I’ll admit I had my doubts about Petra—no offense to the teen, but there were times when she made really stupid comments/decisions that made me want to roll my eyes. I understood why she made them, though. She was definitely a fish out of water in the 1600’s.

My biggest complaints were the loopholes and tiny unfinished bits throughout the book. They weren’t enough to make me not enjoy the story as a whole, but they were distracting from time to time. One minute Petra was convinced she was dreaming, the next she knew exactly what year she was in without ever having to ask. She went from not knowing what to do in her relationship with Emory, to suddenly being in a genuine relationship with very little transition. I sometimes just had to step back, take a breath, and say “okay, so, that’s a thing now.” and move on.

Overall, it was a good book. Was it the best time travel romance I’ve read? No. I wish there had been a little more world building—but it was still a decent read, and it fit the YA genre well. It was a fun little adventure, a sweet romance, and I’m happy to have read it. If you like YA fantasy Romances, particularly delving into time travel, I recommend you give this a try.