Book Review: Blind Wolf Box Set [1-4]

 

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Title: Blind Wolf Box Set (Books 1-4)

Author: Aubrey Rose

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance, Contemporary, Box Set (Anthology)

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Julia has never been on a date in her life. She’s a curvy girl with no money, no education, and no way out of the town she works in as a library assistant… until Damien shows up. He’s just like the prince charming Julia always imagined would sweep her off of her feet. There are just a few things standing in the way of true happiness: he’s blind, he’s dating someone, and he’s WAY out of her league.

Oh, and he’s a werewolf.

Damien lost his eyes two years ago in a wolf battle. Ever since then, the straggler pack of disabled wolves he leads has been searching for a place to call home. One house seems like the perfect choice, but Damien realizes too late that the person who lives there is the girl he met at the library. The human girl. Damien is torn between loyalty to his pack and raw lusting desire for the girl who haunts his dreams day and night.

She’s a human. How could she be his true mate?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I received a copy of this 4-book set on NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

It took me awhile to decide how I wanted to go about this review. My first inclination, as with all my reviews, was to split the box-set up into individual books and do separate reviews, as well as an all-encompassing review for the set itself. Unfortunately, after having read the series, I changed my mind. This set of books cannot be separated. They do not stand up on their own. It’s almost as if the author wrote all four books (and I use that term lightly because they’re closer to novellas) in one go as a single book, and then split it into four parts. Personally, I would categorize these books as Episodes of a greater whole. Literally from one book to the next the split between the stories occur sometimes in the middle of conversations that continue on as if there was never a break. If you happened to miss the previous book, any one of these books would be completely incomprehensible.

So let’s get down to the nitty gritty: Technically speaking, the writing in this series of books is well done. It’s clear, concise for the most part, and grammatically correct. There were no missing words, misspelled words, or incorrectly used phrases. The writing is strong and engaging, and that’s most of the reason why this set scored as high as it did. Regardless of what happened in the narrative, I was engaged by the writing, and that’s half the score of any book for me.

Plot-wise, I’ll admit, the books fell short. There were little incidences of conflict throughout the series—such as the introduction of  Trax’s pack, Mara’s possible betrayal, and the obscure leader that took over after Trax—but these bits of tension were just that, bits. There didn’t seem to be an overall arching plot to the series, or the individual books, and the points of tension seemed to be randomly thrown in to drive the stories without having any great outcome on the stories themselves. The conflicts were resolved quickly, and with little effort. There were no quests or motivations that seemed to drive the characters to develop any further than how we originally found them at the beginning of the first book (with the exception of Julia searching out her heritage). There were no great understandings reached about their morality or about other characters.

Now, if you look at Romance being the plot itself, then for the first book, I have no problem. It was your basic romance… boy meets girl, they struggle, and eventually sink into a favorable relationship. I’m okay with that, but for the next three book in the series, the romance seemed to be an ever-present point, but not strong enough to actually be considered a plot. Once the main characters sunk into their relationship, nothing really changed with the relationship. They bickered sometimes, but there was no real threat. So while I’d consider the romance theme an extension of the original book, I don’t think the books had a strong plot behind them once you removed that element.

As for the characters themselves, I had a few issues with them. When the main female lead, Julia, is first introduced, she is a weak, self-doubting character. She’s never had a real relationship, and she’s uncomfortable with her body, so going into a relationship with Damien seems like a pipe-dream to her. I liked this about her original character. However, as the books wore on, this didn’t seem to change much. Julia never seemed to get comfortable with her body image. She was continually doubting the validity of her relationship with Damien. As a character (and this is true of all the characters, not just Julia, but I’m making a point of her) she didn’t grow or gain any depth throughout the series. Julia in book 1 was remarkably like Julia in book 4 with the exception of finally learning her heritage. For all intents and purposes, she didn’t grow  as a character—and that’s something I think is necessary in any novel. As events and conversations happen to a character, they should change. These characters didn’t.

Damien in particular was a sore point for me as well. Like Julia, he didn’t change much throughout the series. Unfortunately, the person he was didn’t present a real clear picture. At times Damien was forceful and angry (even towards Julia), but for the most part, he was a rather weak character. He didn’t lead his pack of werewolves with any sense of real leadership. There was this vague notion that his pack members followed him out of loyalty, but it wasn’t loyalty earned through great deeds so much as circumstance. One wolf had a crush on him. One he’d happened upon as she was dying, another was acquired from another pack. None of them followed him because he seemed to have any real leadership quality, and throughout the books he continually steps away from pursuing the qualities that would make him a strong leader. He runs instead of fights. He doesn’t reprimand pack members when they need to be reprimanded. It’s no surprise to me that he had as much trouble leading them as he did. His control over his pack seemed almost lackadaisical.

Even when Damien got into fights with Julia, he didn’t stand up for himself. Most of the time he whined about the outcome or worried about his own inaction instead. I honestly had a hard time accepting him as an alpha male character because his character was presented for the most part, as being weak. Combine his overall presented character with the odd moments of forcefulness, and it seemed as if the author wasn’t really sure what kind of character she was trying to represent. I didn’t get a strong sense of his personality outside the fact that he reacted to each situation in the stories in a way that would bring the most drama—and this is true of almost any character within the book.

The other characters, mostly members of Damien’s pack, seemed rather 1-dimensional. The books never got far into their personalities, or even spent much time on them at all until Damien had a reason to order one of them to do something. Other than Jordan, Damien’s right hand wolf, I honestly came away from the series not knowing all that much about any of the characters. There was very little backstory given, and hardly any conversations that lead to a deeper understanding of the characters at all.

As for the sex…it was steamy. It was also a bit overblown. Julia was constantly shouting “Oh!” or “Ah!”, or talking about how big parts of Damien’s anatomy were, and there came a point where I just sat back and shook my head. Sex happened all the time in this series. Literally, and regardless of the actual storyline. It felt as if sex were being thrown into the book at regular intervals to fill space. It happened before arguments, after arguments, during arguments… even when certain individuals were injured and sex would have been ridiculously uncomfortable or inappropriate during the situation. These moments didn’t seem to serve to bring the characters together, and so it almost felt as if they were fan service in a way. With the exception of when sex actually served to cause pregnancy or cement their relationship in the first place, most of it could have been completely removed from the series with no impact on the story whatsoever.

I think out of the four books, the first was probably my favorite, and the fourth was probably the most irrelevant. Honestly, in the first several chapters of the fourth book, nothing happened. The characters sat around and discussed poetry, motherhood, and how much they didn’t enjoy college, but nothing actually happened. If I hadn’t already invested four hours into the series at that point, I’d probably have closed the book. In my opinion (and take that as you will) the main interest of the plot fell between book 1 and book 2. After that, it felt as if the series were dragging. Now, that’s not to say that all the points in the last two books weren’t good. I really enjoyed the mystery of the werewitch, the strengthening of the bond between Julia and Damien, and the pureblood werewolf subplot. I think those were excellent story points, and I really wish the author had spent more time developing them. Unfortunately, these incidences were barely explained. After four books, I still can’t explain to you who the werewitch was, why she was different than the other werewolves, or what her interest in Julia was.

I think this series had a lot of potential to be something bigger than it was, but for whatever reason, the way the overall story was split up and manipulated really hurt the series as a whole. I wish this had been one book, and that the tension points and plot points that were brought up had been delved into further. As it stands, it was a bit of a lack-luster read. Would I read it again? No, I probably wouldn’t. Would I recommend it? Honestly, probably not. It’s not that the series was horrible, but I walked away from it without any passionate feelings on it at all. It wasn’t bad enough for me to hate it, but it wasn’t good enough for me to want to continue either—and that’s why I gave this three stars (and that was rounding up). It fell right into the lower middle of the rating system for me with an “it was okay.” I think there are certainly people out there that will enjoy this series much more than I did, and I would like to take a moment to commend the author for having chosen to represent her characters the way she did. It’s not often you find a series where the main cast are as intrinsically flawed as these were. There was an overweight virgin, a blind werewolf, a gay werewolf, and some formerly-abused werewolves. I’m glad to see that not all, or even most, of the characters were perfect. It was a nice change.

Book Review: Searching For Dragons

 

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Title: Searching For Dragons [Enchanted Forest Chronicles 2]

Author: Patricia C. Wrede

Genre: Children’s, Juvenile, Fantasy, Adventure

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Cimorene, the princess who refuses to be proper, is back—but where is Kazul the dragon? That’s what Cimorene is determined to find out.

Luckily—or perhaps not-so-luckily—she’s got help: Mendanbar, the not-very-kingly King of the Enchanted Forest, has joined her in her quest. So with the aid of a broken-down magic carpet, a leaky magical sword, and a few buckets of soapy lemon water, they set off across the Enchanted Forest to tackle the dragon-napping and save the King of the Dragons.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I cannot get enough of this series. Like the previous book in the series, Dealing with Dragons, Searching for Dragons is a hilarious, witty romp of Juvenile Fantasy. The book follows Cimorene, a princess who doesn’t very much like the idea of being a princess, as she sets out on a mission to discover what has happened to Kazul, the King of the Dragons—her employer—who has gone mysteriously missing. She teams up with Mendanbar, the King of the Enchanted Forest, as well as Morwen the Witch and Telemain the Sorcerer in order to defeat the conniving wizards in their plot to steal the magic out of the Enchanted Forest.

I’ll admit, even as an adult, this is still one of my favorite tongue-in-cheek fantasy series of all time. The characters are hilariously witty and sometimes outright absurd. Patricia C. Wrede has managed to piece together a children’s fiction that is both clever in it’s storyline, and deliciously fun for any age of reader.

In this particular story, I enjoyed the new dynamic of having a love interest pop up for Cimorene. I wasn’t sure how Ms. Wrede was going to handle a decidedly adult topic in a children’s book, but I think she handled it spectacularly well. I’ve been sharing this particular series with a 10-year old in my family over the past few weeks and we both squealed like the girls we are when the romance sub-plot of this story started to unfold. I think the author did a great job of building up the romance in a way that wasn’t in-your-face, and remained comfortable for younger audiences, while still managing to reach the point where the romance felt satisfying between the characters with little more than a few stolen kisses.

Honestly, I don’t have anything I can criticize this book for. The series is great, the novel was brilliant. I can’t wait to read book 3! Overall, I really enjoyed this story—every bit as much as the first—and I’d be happy to read it again, and share it with others. I highly recommend it for anyone who may have a younger family member to share it with, but it’s equally as entertaining for any adult who enjoys silly fantasy. I think you’ll enjoy this one.

Book Review: Focus

 

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Title: Focus [The Crescent Chronicles 2]

Author: Alyssa Rose Ivy

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

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Freshman year of college is hard even when you’re not tied to the future king of a supernatural society.

Allie dives into college head first with Hailey as her roommate and the city of New Orleans as her backyard. As things within The Society heat up, Allie realizes that whether she’s with Levi or not, she’s in far too deep to turn back.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Like it’s predecessor, Focus fell into the iffy gray area between a 3 and a 4 star rating for me. While my overall impression is that I really liked the book, there were definitely some draw backs about this novel that made me cringe.

As far the the writing goes, like Flight (Book 1 of this series), this book was well written. Technically speaking there weren’t a lot of typos or grammatical mistakes, and the narrative moved along at a decent speed throughout. There was still a decided lack of overall detail, but it didn’t bother me as much in this book as it did the first, I think in part because the dynamics between the characters were so tense, that I got caught up in that aspect of the story.

Also like it’s predecessor, the depth of characterization in this novel really stood out to me. I genuinely like all of the characters—even the awful ones. It seemed that I got to see a different side of the main couple throughout this book, and it was nice to see their situation from the opposite stance it took in the first book.

At the end of the previous novel I was quite disturbed by Levi’s interactions with Allie. He came across as pushy, domineering, and a little skeazy to be honest. I was dead set at the end that if Allie was going to be a good female lead, she’d have to make the choice to leave Levi.

Going into this book however, my position changed. Levi came across (perhaps as he should have in the first book) as more endearing and sweet. He was nearly desperate to get back into Allie’s good graces (as well he should be after his glaring mistakes in handling their situation in the first place), and instead, Allie was the character who quickly fell out of my favor. I don’t know that it was a conscious effort on the author’s part to narrate this part of the couple’s relationship the way it came across, but I felt as if the situation Allie found herself in by the mid-point of this book was a very realistic, if imperfect position.

Whereas in the previous book Allie was completely justified in distancing herself from her relationship with Levi (and I fully supported her!), there eventually came a point in this novel where she surpassed the line of what should have been considered a reasonable punishment and ventured into being a bitch. (excuse my label). The longer she drew out this situation of ignoring Levi and denying him any sort of romantic or physical crumbs, the closer she came to pushing not only Levi, but me, too far. When she came to the point where she realized she loved Levi, was able to admit that to herself, and still denied him forgiveness, I grew angry. As a reader, I was ready to give in and have Levi back in my good graces, and Allie wasn’t.

On the one hand, that really irritated me, but on the other, I can understand the position she’s found herself in. There are times in relationships when things don’t go as perfectly scripted as we’d like them to. Allie hit that point, and she made the wrong decision because she was afraid. So although it made me angry at the time, I’m glad the author made these characters fallible. I think it added a layer of depth to the story that I’m not sure everyone will pick up on, and I’m glad that I was someone who could.

That aside, like Flight, I think to enjoy this book you’ll have to approach the story as a delve into the intricacies of relationships—those between friends, family, and lovers, and although there are some action and paranormal aspects, I don’t think think those are the main focus. If you go into this story expecting exceptional world building, cuddly romances and thrilling supernatural occurrences, you’re going to be disappointed.

Another thing that stuck out for me in this book (and maybe the whole series, I don’t know… there wasn’t that much of it in the first book, and I haven’t read the third) is the underwhelming sex scenes. I didn’t notice it so much in the first book because there was only one sex scene…but in the second book, Focus, it became blatantly obvious that sex scenes are not this author’s forte. I’ll put it out in the open: There were a lot of sex scenes in this book. Unfortunately, they were very short, not descriptive in the least, and for the most part, completely glossed over. This of course leads me to ask: why bother putting them in?

It’s not so much that they were glossed over that bugs me—if you don’t feel comfortable having sex scenes in a book, fine… leave them out—but if you’re going to have them, especially in a primarily romance book such as this, you should do them right. They should mean something for the couple, or at least show the audience an aspect of their relationship that helps build its believability. It shouldn’t be watered down to the point where I can skip a paragraph and completely miss it. In that case, what was the point of writing the scene in the first place other than to fill space?

Overall, this isn’t the best book of it’s kind that I’ve read, but it was enjoyable. I think if you can approach it from the angle of viewing it as a characterization of the relationships between several people, instead of a sexy fast-paced adventure into the supernatural, you’ll enjoy it more. This isn’t going to be for everyone. Would I read it again? Certainly. Would I recommend it? Yes. I’m planning to get into the third book and see how Allie and Levi’s story pans out shortly. Just be aware of what you’re going into when you read this series—it’s not going to come across as what most people are expecting from a series like this. Had I gone into this knowing that it was labeled a paranormal romance, I don’t think my rating of this novel would have been as high—but because I tend to ignore synopsis and genre’s, I am able to stand back and see the book for what it is, not what it should have been—and that is what I am basing my rating upon.

Book Review: Tranquility

 

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Title: Tranquility [Otherkin 2]

Author: Anya Bast

Genre: Novella, Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance, Were-Wolves, Erotica

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Roane leaves the Fury werewolf pack to make room for his brother, Merrick, and his new mate. A natural alpha, there’s nowhere Roane can go in wolf country and not stir up trouble. He settles in a town called Tranquility and immediately raises the hackles of the local pack leader.

Even worse, Roane gets one look at Scarlet, the pack leader’s sister, and will do anything to possess her. Scarlet tries to resist him, but his touch inflames desire she can barely control. And that means heaps of trouble for both of them.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I almost gave this 4 stars. For a novella, it’s a decent read—and if you’ve read my reviews before, you’ll realize how hard it is for me to say that. I don’t like novellas. They tend to be rushed as a whole, and because I like to sink into books and not come up for air, this makes it very hard for me to enjoy them. I did enjoy this story—but it certainly had some issues I need to point out.

First of all, the premise is a good one. This is a story of an alpha werewolf, Roane, who has no desire to be the alpha of a pack. Being an all around good guy, when it came down to leading his home pack or giving the pack over to his brother, he stepped aside. (A point which endeared him to me fairly quickly) From there the story tumbles along as Roane attempts to join a new pack, and quickly finds himself being pushed around by the pack’s leader, Marcus, who wants nothing to do with another alpha in his territory-even if Roane assures him that he’s not interested in taking over. The trouble begins when Roane finds himself attracted to Marcus’ sister, Scarlet. You can imagine how well that went over.

The storyline, though familiar, was done fairly well. I liked Roane as a character, and the world building was easy to sink into. Unfortunately, the execution left a little to be desired. This book was plagued with misspelled/missing words and incomplete sentences. It was sadly in need of a good editor, and coming from an author that reportedly has quite a few books under her belt, it was disappointing to see so little care taken in editing the book.

The narrative itself was quick-paced and an easy read. There was just the right balance of detail, action, and dialogue—which for a novella, is fairly rare. Unfortunately, the characters lacked consistency. One minute Roane and Scarlet were lusting after each other, and the next they were professing their undying love. The switch between the two was instantaneous and I couldn’t help but feel it wasn’t genuine.

Marcus too seemed to have a split personality. At the beginning of the story he seemed like a decent brother. He went looking for help from his sister, and being his sister, she agreed (against her better instincts). I thought to myself: this shows loyalty. They must be really close. A short while later, Marcus was abusing his sister physically and acting like a spiteful, nasty person. I was surprised at his sudden change of character, and again, I couldn’t help but feel that this aspect of the story no longer seemed believable. I can understand a brother getting frustrated and angry with his sister because of her betrayal. I can even understand that he’d want to, or even have to punish her… but this wasn’t just frustration and anger. It felt malicious and evil. I don’t think the author maintained the character’s integrity as she should have.

Another thing that stuck out to me was the cheesy, and downright crude dialogue. The story started out all right, but as things progressed into the romance aspect of the relationship between Roane and Scarlet, the dialogue became extremely crude, and Roane slipped into cheesy cliché lines, calling scarlet “baby” and “little one” and repeated all the things he wanted to do to her. It made me roll my eyes. Look, I know that this sort of thing is much more common in erotica where the goal of the sexy bits is to tickle the reader’s fancy (literally), and sometimes that’s accomplished through dirty talk in the sexy bits, but when the bedroom language is so vastly different than the normal dialogue, it just comes across as cheesy and trashy.

That being said, the sex scenes were steamy, but there was a slight undertone of aggression that wasn’t all together pleasant. I can deal with the growling, the biting, even the hair yanking, but generally you want to avoid scenes in a romance/erotica where a guy repeatedly “forces” a girl’s legs apart. I’m just saying: Nudging is a word that exists.

Overall? It wasn’t a bad read. I liked 80% of it. Some things, like the voice/personality of the narrative were done exceptionally well. Other things, like the abrupt changes in character personality and lack of editing, made it obvious that more time should have been spent ironing out this draft of the novella. Would I read it again? Sure. My overall feelings toward the story were that I liked it. Would I recommend it to others? Maybe. I think if the story were ironed out a little more it would be a better read, but it’s decent enough to waste half an hour on as is, and it’s free on Amazon.

P.S. There is an annoying lack of paragraph breaks when POV/Time/Location shifts occur. It’s still pretty easy to pick out when these shifts occur—I never felt lost—but they are somewhat irritating. You were forewarned.

Book Review: The Seventh Sister

 

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Title: The Seventh Sister [Parched 2]

Author: Z.L. Arkadie

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

Rating: 2 (I think?)

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Description/Synopsis:

Zillael, the seventh sister, finds herself falling for two very different supernatural beings, a Wek and a Selell (better known as a vampire). Plus she’s learning that she too is a supernatural creature. A complicated love triangle forms and threatens to turn deadly the day the fog rolls in.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

To be honest, I have no idea what I just read. I didn’t go into this book knowing a whole lot about it. Finding out it was a YA Paranormal Romance, didn’t really surprise me. However, the tense did. I will be the first person to argue the point that nothing should ever be written in present tense. It may be because of my days playing D&D, but I truly believe there is a time and place for present tense…but that time and place is not in a novel. In my own, personal opinion, it is an unnatural tense for storytelling (as stories are always told after the fact), and consequently, it can be not only distracting, but downright impossible to slog through sometimes. This was no exception.

This story is told in a first-person POV—that of Zillael, a teenage girl who is struggling through high school and suddenly finds her world upended by a batch of supernatural creatures. I’d love to tell you more of the story, but to be honest… there isn’t any. If there was a plot to The Seventh Sister, I couldn’t find it. Quite literally, the book is spent following around the main character as she tries to figure out what the heck is going on in her life when supernatural creatures start randomly popping up around her. There really weren’t any bad guys to defeat (unless you count the Vampires—excuse me—Selell, whose motives were never explained and only attacked twice). There were no quests, no climax to the story, even the romance plot was pretty weak.

There was this odd disjointed quality to the characters. At first I thought it was because of the awkward tense of the story, but the more I read (and was able to ignore the tense) the more I realized that it was actually the characters themselves that were disjointed. Zillael is a character who’s been aware for a very long time that she has some unusual abilities: super speed, super strength, unnatural beauty, etc. So it was a bit of a surprise to me when Zill seemed to be surprised that she was an actual supernatural being. (Not that they ever explain what kind.) On the other hand, despite her shock… she really didn’t seem all that, well… shocked. It’s hard to put words to it, but nothing seemed to phase Zillael in this book. I guess the best way to put it is a lack of drama. She didn’t get overly upset about –anything- not even when she saw people get murdered. She wasn’t upset to find out any of the seemingly amazing things she was being told by the other characters… she was like a brick wall. It vaguely reminded me of trying to talk to a person who’s got their mind on some other important task. They listen… but they aren’t really listening. It all seemed to go in one ear and out the other, and I was seriously starting to wonder if Zill was a pod-person.

The other characters were no different. The Wek (who’s real name I can’t be bothered to remember at this point) was so…. at odds with the world around him. At first he seemed like a normal person, but he very quickly degraded into this blank wall that seemed completely incapable of understanding the world around him. I don’t think Zill knew quite what to do with him either. It was impossible to tell what the character was thinking or feeling. He reminded me of a mental patient zoned out on too many tranquilizers.

The one redeemable character, the Vampire (I can’t be bothered with his name either, and I’m tired of pretending that naming him a Selell makes him anything other than a Vampire) was the only character that seemed to react in a normal way. He got upset, possessive, even vulnerable at times. Every other character either made only brief cameo’s, or seemed brain-dead. I just couldn’t connect with any of the characters on any fundamental level, and when you throw in the awkward tense and the complete lack of a plot… the whole thing was pretty unbelievable.

Did I like it? Well… I read it. I got to the end. So I guess it couldn’t have been all that bad. I was interested to see what would happen next—and it was certainly a quick read—but the story really didn’t go anywhere or explain anything. I came out of the book not knowing anything more than when I went into it. I honestly have no idea what this book was about or how the title relates. Would I recommend it? No… unless someone wants to go pick up a free copy and explain it to me. I certainly wouldn’t read it again. I can’t imagine trying to get any further into this series if the other books are anything like this one. It was an exercise in futility.

Book Review: Clockwork Prince [Infernal Devices 2]

 

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Title: Clockwork Prince [The Infernal Devices 2]

Author: Cassandra Clare

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical, Romance, Steampunk

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when it becomes clear that the mysterious Magister will stop at nothing to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.


With the help of the handsome, tortured Will and the devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal and fueled by revenge. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them.

Tessa is drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa answers about who she really is? As their search leads to deadly peril, Tessa learns that secrets and lies can corrupt even the purest heart.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I have fallen in love with this series. I genuinely liked The Mortal Instruments series by Ms. Clare, but it was only when I started the Infernal Devices series that I truly began to appreciate Ms. Clare’s ability to write convincing fiction.

In the Mortal Instruments series I was endlessly frustrated by the manufactured love triangle between Clary, Jace, and Simon. That may have something to do with my great dislike of Simon, but nonetheless, a love triangle is only convincing if all the parties involved are equally favored by the reader. In this series, that is clearly evident.

For once, I am torn. I really like Tessa as a heroine, and equally, I am drawn towards both Jem and Will. I honestly can’t tell you which one I favor more. They’re both such tragic characters, and both so good and loving in their own way that I can’t help but feel saddened by the situation Tessa has found herself in. On the one hand I think Will has much more passion than Jem, and despite his brooding, sometimes cruel personality, I do like him. I can understand that his standoffishness is a mechanism to keep people at arm’s length. Equally, Jem is a truly caring, kind boy who unfortunately, has a short lifespan ahead of him. Both are so desperately in love with Tessa, and unfortunately, Tessa loves them both as well (even if she’s not always willing to admit it). I have an inkling that perhaps Tessa is meant to be with Will in the end (and we’ll see if I’m correct) but the thought of her leaving Jem makes my heart break for them. I am so glad I am not in her shoes.

This second installment of the Infernal Devices trilogy was every bit as good as the first book. It’s been awhile since I’ve come across a group of characters that are so easily likeable and tragic–and none of them have come across as ridiculously over dramatic, two dimensional, or annoying. Though there are some characters I maybe don’t feel as close to (What’s the new cook’s name? I honestly can’t remember – though I love her tawdry murder-filled songs!), I can’t pick out a single character that really got under my skin as with Ms. Clare’s other series.

The characters are so full of depth and true human emotion, I find it hard not to fall head-first into the world building of this story. Maybe it’s the romance of the Victorian era, the stunning characters or the thrilling plot, but I can’t seem to put this series down.

This is a short review because I honestly don’t have anything negative to say about this book. I’d happily recommend it to anyone, and I’ll definitely be reading it again and again!

Book Review: High Stakes Bride

cover-highstakesbrideTitle: High Stakes Bride [Men of Stone Mountain 2]

Author: Caroline Clemmons

Genre: Historical, Western, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: Mary Alice Price is on the run from dangerous men. She had known that when her stepfather died, she would have to hurriedly escape her stepbrothers. Hadn’t she heard them promise her to the meanest man in Texas as payment for high stakes gambling losses?
One misfortune after another devils her until she links up with Zach Stone. He looks sturdy as his last name and invites her to his ranch where his two aunts will chaperone them. She figures life finally dealt her a winning hand.

Zach Stone has the sweetest ranch in all of Texas, at least he thinks he does. All he needs is a wife to build his family of boys and girls to carry on his ranch and name. He’s been jilted and vows he will never even speak to a woman again unless she’s a relative.
Then he comes across Alice Price and comes up with a crazy plan. He’s figured everything out, and is sure nothing can go wrong with his plan.
But life holds many surprises for Alice and Zach…

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

First off, let’s start with the cover: It’s not that the cover was bad–considering the multitude of really awful covers I’ve seen on self-published book this past year, this one was actually decent (other than the huge amount of text)… that is until I got to the back cover. Someone had the ingenious idea to copy and paste completely unrelated photos of a model and a little boy dressed up in a cowboy costume, and his little dog. I know that as a writer, we all need our little “headshots” of models to use as reference for our characters. I love the practice, but it’d be nice if those random photos weren’t used in lieu of an actual planned cover. It came across as cheap and home-made. I would have preferred a blank back cover with only a synopsis to what amounted to clipart.

As for the story…it was a mixed bag–and don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad book. Like the previous of the series that I read, the writing was clear, fast-flowing, and engaging. Unfortunately, it was also convenient. Things just seemed too easy for the characters, and it lacked a lot of tension that I loved about the first book in the series. Here’s this man who need a bride, and poof! There’s one available (though the author did try to make it seem as if the main male lead wasn’t ever going to consider her). He wants a family? Poof! There was a orphaned boy who needs a home and just happened to be living on his property. Do you see where I’m going with this? The characters didn’t seem to have to work hard to get to any of the main points of the story. Thing just fell into place around them, and while that was cute and endearing at times, it lacked the active punch and draw of having struggled to get those things. Also, the use of the term “forever home” really irritated me. It’s a very modern, fluffy way of saying “permanent home” that I’m 100% sure wasn’t used in historical times. To hear the characters use it… well, it stuck out as sloppy. If you’re going to write a historical story, I honestly believe the lingo of the day and age (however non-politically correct we find it now) should be used. It adds a level of depth to the storytelling that is sorely needed in this type of book – and was absent in this one.

The romance, at least, was much better in this book, I felt, than the previous book. There was a definite attraction to the main characters, and it was fun watching them struggle to fit together despite their circumstances. In the end, was it my favorite western historical romance? Not by a long shot, but it was a good one, and I’d still recommend it to anyone looking for a light afternoon read with loveable characters.