Format: Ebook

June 21, 2017

Wrap Up! The Latest Romance

Format: Ebook, Paperback
Wrap Up! The Latest RomanceThe Billionaire and the Virgin (Billionaires and Bridesmaids, #1) by Jessica Clare
Pages: 250

The Billionaire and the Virgin appeals to a very select group of people. But for me, the excessive sex scenes overwhelmed the romance of the Beauty and the Beast retelling that I was so looking forward to. Clare’s treatment of her hero, a man scarred physically and emotionally, was the only saving grace.



Wrap Up! The Latest RomanceLove in the Afternoon (The Hathaways, #5) by Lisa Kleypas

Kleypas’ wacky Hathaway family holds a special place in my heart and, luckily, Beatrix’s story is up to that standard. Genuinely sweet and funny, Love in the Afternoon is a great romance for a long summer afternoon. The only drawback? Beatrix’s childlike nature didn’t always lend well to romantic situations.




Wrap Up! The Latest RomanceThe Boy Is Back (Boy, #4) by Meg Cabot
Pages: 400

The queen of contemporary romance is back! Cabot’s unique narrative – created from IMs, text messages and emails – fits the hilariously sweet story of Becky and the one-that-got-away, pro golfer Reed Stewart.




Wrap Up! The Latest RomanceIrresistibly Yours (Oxford, #1) by Lauren Layne
Pages: 236

This spicy contemporary romance blurs the line between workplace friendships and irresistable chemistry. Loved the complex characters and the plot’s determination to keep throwing them together.



Wrap Up! The Latest RomanceSeven Minutes in Heaven (Desperate Duchesses by the Numbers, #3; Desperate Duchesses, #9) by Eloisa James
Pages: 404

Ranks among the most stilted, obvious historical romances I’ve read. So much potential in the master of the house/strict governess dynamic, but the borderline predictability and the dull characters drained all the passion.



Wrap Up! The Latest RomanceThe Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata

I’ve been on a sports romance kick lately, but The Wall of Winnepeg had one major fault: the narration. A potentially fun story (a football player opens his eyes to finally see what’s always been in front of him) is ruined by the dragging narrative.




Wrap Up! The Latest RomanceSustained (The Legal Briefs, #2) by Emma Chase
Pages: 267

LOVED this! Cold, rough and tough lawyer Jake gets caught up with a gorgeous woman who has adopted her suddenly orphaned nieces and nephews. Sustained spins together a heartwarming family story, a heroic journey, and a fabulous romance into one neat package.



Wrap Up! The Latest RomanceBecause of Miss Bridgerton (Rokesbys, #1) by Julia Quinn
Pages: 375

Cute historical romance with a flaw: Billie Bridgerton was practically perfect in every way. All joking aside, the constant fawning over the heroine made her unrealistic and caused the rest of the story to fall apart.



Wrap Up! The Latest RomanceRun to You (Military Men #2) by Rachel Gibson
Pages: 384

An interesting premise – Florida bartender gets caught up in the mob’s crosshairs and is reluctantly saved by a former Marine – can’t get off the ground. Why? Stella’s constant whining drove me insane. I was tempted to knock her out myself if she said “I’m going to pass out,” one more time.

Posted June 21, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 17, 2016

Review | The Game Plan by Kristin Callihan

Review | The Game Plan by Kristin CallihanThe Game Plan by Kristen Callihan
Series: Game On
Publisher: NLA Digital LLC, November 2015
Pages: 331
Format: Ebook
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A beard-related dare and one hot-as-hell kiss changes everything.
NFL center Ethan Dexter’s focus has always been on playing football and little else. Except when it comes to one particular woman. The lovely Fiona Mackenzie might not care about his fame, but she’s also never looked at him as anything more than one of her brother-in-law’s best friend. That ends now.
Fi doesn’t know what to make of Dex. The bearded, tattooed, mountain of man-muscle looks more like a biker than a football player. Rumor has it he’s a virgin, but she finds that hard to believe. Because from the moment he decides to turn his quiet intensity on her she’s left weak at the knees and aching to see his famous control fully unleashed.
Dex is looking for a forever girl, but they live vastly different lives in separate cities. Fi ought to guard her heart and walk away. But Dex has upped his game and is using all his considerable charm to convince Fi he's her forever man.
Game On

I forget how much I love sports-centered romances until I get my hands on one. Ever since Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Lady Be Good, I’ve been hooked on them. There’s an intensity about professional athletes, a passion that fits in perfectly with the plots of today’s contemporary romances. Kristen Callihan’s The Game Plan is no exception.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to think about Dex, but the more time we spent in his head, the more I loved him. Despite the aggression required for his job, he has a quiet intensity about him that draws you. He’s a man of secrets, rare smiles, and an incredibly gentle heart. The contrast was borderline hypnotizing. I loved the quiet (and sometimes not-so-quiet) passion that ruled him, whether it was about Fiona or football. He was the fairy tale prince we all hope will arrive on our doorstep one day, but with enough flaws that he wasn’t unreachable.

In contrast to Dex’s romantic nature, Fiona is a pragmatist. She’s honest (except when it comes to her job) and doesn’t have a problem saying what’s on her mind (again…that job). I liked her realism and how her heart warred with it: despite knowing a long distance relationship with a famous football player might not work out, she never entirely gives up.

My only issue with Fiona was how she acted in – you guessed it – her job. See, Dex falls in love with her for her almost brutal honesty, but when it doesn’t transfer to her professional life, it felt off. How would a girl, so vocal about everything else, roll over in her particular situation?

The plot’s tension was tangible. I found myself running back to the office from my lunch break after getting hooked into the story. The Game Plan had this sweet yearning, born first of secret love, then a long-distance relationship. Even after it evolves from that (sorry, no spoilers), the yearning is still there, the search to find an authentic connection. That’s the magic of Callihan’s story: even when the characters should have everything finally go right, someone throws a monkey wrench, messing it up in the best way possible.

4 Stars

Posted October 17, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 14, 2016

Review | Roses by Rose Mannering

Review | Roses by Rose ManneringRoses by G.R. Mannering, Rose Mannering
Series: The Tales Trilogy, #1
Publisher: Sky Pony Press, June 2016
Pages: 328
Format: Ebook
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She bears no name. Her silvery appearance is freakish to the numerous inhabitants of Sago, the cosmopolitan capital of Pevorocco in the Western Realm. With her mother vanishing at the instance of her birth, she is sent to live with the cruel, rich Ma Dane, where she is punished daily for something, though she knows not what. Tauntingly named Beauty, she flees Sago in a violent uprising that sets out to massacre all Magics and journeys to the farthest point of the country.
But Beauty cannot hide in the grassy Hillands forever. Before long, the State officials find her and threaten to take her back to war-torn Sago where death surely awaits. In a midnight blizzard she escapes them, running into a deep, enchanted forest to a great and terrible beast who will bargain for her life.
But can Beauty accept Beast? Eternity is a long time. Now for the first time in paperback, Roses is sure to capture your heart as you fall in love with Beauty and her Beast all over again.
For readers 12+, this is a very imaginative, fantasy retelling of a classic fairy tale, which is still popular to the YA genre. With lessons about bullying others and falling in love, this is not only a light, fun read but also engages kids to think about their relationship to others in the real world.

Roses isn’t quite what I expected it to be.

First, when I read it was a Beauty and the Beast retelling, I expected it to be the story of Beauty and the Beast. While that element is in Roses, it isn’t the main story. Instead, it tells how Beauty became Beauty, starting back with her mysterious birth, subsequent abandonment, and sad childhood at the hands of her aunt (more on this later). Parts I loved, parts I didn’t, but it wasn’t the story I chose.

Other reviewers have pointed out Roses‘ confused story lines, and I have to agree. The novel splits into two distinct plots: Beauty’s mysterious past/family and the more familiar fairy tale story. Mannering tries to combine the story lines to create a cohesive novel, but they didn’t mesh. Instead, it felt like two distinct novels.

I found the same lack of consistency when it came to Beauty’s aunt, a woman who isn’t comfortable with Magic and spurns it in her apparently Magical niece. Instead of a Harry Potter situation (Harry knew his relationship to the Dursleys), Beauty’s aunt doesn’t disclose her relationship. Instead, she varies in her treatment of Beauty, giving her the cold shoulder at times, trotting her out to show her friends, and occasionally letting a little warmth shine through. Her ambivalence and occasional cruelty were never really explained or tied back to the fairy tale retelling.

I wish there was more explanation to the worldbuilding in Roses. It was unusual: Magical beings were persecuted after a civil war spreads throughout the continent. It added to the Beauty’s past storyline but didn’t make much sense in the fairy tale retelling. I would have loved a further connection to this worldbuilding in the novel.

The saving grace? When the narration turned over to the fairy tale retelling. It was stunning. I loved the outlines, the little descriptions that referenced the Disney movie, and the Beast himself. It was easy to believe the story’s magic, to fall into their world.

3 Stars

Posted October 14, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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July 28, 2016

Review | Not Your Average Fairy Tale by Chantele Sedgwick

Review | Not Your Average Fairy Tale by Chantele SedgwickNot Your Average Fairy Tale by Chantele Sedgwick
Series: Not Your Average Fairy Tale, #1
Publisher: Crescent Moon Press, August 2012
Pages: 224
Format: Ebook
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Ash Summerland has it all-good looks, popularity, and the best grades at The Academy of Magical Beings. Ready to complete his last assignment in order to graduate, Ash is confident he will get the apprenticeship he wants. but when he opens the letter from the Council, he is shocked to discover he has been assigned to apprentice Lady Shenelle, Keeper of Happy Endings- aka the head fairy godmother. Ash is forced to grant three wishes to a troubled human girl named Kendall, and ultimately give her a "happy ever after." But Kendall turns out to be more than he bargained for. Still grieving over her father's death, she doesn't want anything to do with Ash. And worst of all, she doesn't believe in happy endings.

All Ash Summerland wants is to learn to be a sandman. But when the apprenticeships at the Academy for Magical Beings are announced, he discovers he’s assigned to a…fairy godmother? Dutifully (and grumpily) donning his wings, Ash takes on his first assignment: grant three wishes to Kendall, a teenage girl left shattered by a car accident. Kendall, first stunned to find her fairy godmother is a (rather good looking) boy, is apprehensive about the whole thing. But after her first wish comes true, Kendall starts to depend on Ash.

I knew Not Your Average Fairy Tale was YA, but I didn’t expect this level of YA. From the dialogue to the narrative, I couldn’t escape the YA cliches, from repeated “awesome’ (used entirely too many times) to stereotypical character responses. To be honest, the dialogue is really what drove me batty: the overuse of “awesome” and other slang yanked me from the book, making the reading jagged and awkward. Even the older characters suffered from poor dialogue, yet their use of “awesome” was mildly restrained.

I enjoyed the story: a teenage girl struggling to recover from the horrible car accident that scarred her and claimed her father, paired with the misfit magic being assigned to help her. The Prince Charming element of it was adorable (really, no other word). Ash, once he got over the wings/wand, was a great knight in shining armor.

I didn’t quite buy his story though – it would have been nice to have more background at his family history instead of leaving it all in suspense (I think to get us to read the next book). Without the background, his struggle to understand his enemy, Dax, and his own yearning to find himself didn’t really fit in with the rest of the book.

Not Your Average Fairy Tale isn’t an in-depth read. It’s light, fluffy, and is exactly what it presents itself as. With a good storyline, it could be a great book with just a little bit stronger dialogue.

2 Stars

Posted July 28, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments

May 20, 2016

Review | Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks

Review | Never Seduce a Scot by Maya BanksNever Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks
Series: The Montgomerys and Armstrongs, #1
Publisher: Ballantine Books, September 2012
Pages: 372
Format: Ebook
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Eveline Armstrong is fiercely loved and protected by her powerful clan, but outsiders consider her “touched.” Beautiful, fey, with a level, intent gaze, she doesn’t speak. No one, not even her family, knows that she cannot hear. Content with her life of seclusion, Eveline has taught herself to read lips and allows the outside world to view her as daft. But when an arranged marriage into a rival clan makes Graeme Montgomery her husband, Eveline accepts her duty—unprepared for the delights to come. Graeme is a rugged warrior with a voice so deep and powerful that his new bride can hear it, and hands and kisses so tender and skilled that he stirs her deepest passions.
Graeme is intrigued by the mysterious Eveline, whose silent lips are ripe with temptation and whose bright, intelligent eyes can see into his soul. As intimacy deepens, he learns her secret. But when clan rivalries and dark deeds threaten the wife he has only begun to cherish, the Scottish warrior will move heaven and earth to save the woman who has awakened his heart to the beautiful song of a rare and magical love.

Graeme Montgomery doesn’t want a bride, especially not one from the rival clan Armstrong rumored to be “touched”. Yet when he first meets Eveline Armstrong, he’s struck by her beauty and is soon intrigued by her kindness. What he doesn’t know is Eveline has a secret – she’s not “touched” at all. As their relationship grows, so does the clan’s anger at their laird’s marriage to an Armstrong. The rivalry soon starts to threaten their relationship and the safety of their clans, and it’s up to Graeme and Eveline to set things right.

Never Seduce a Scot was a surprisingly pleasant read. The clash of the rival clans, the drama of Eveline’s life and others’ perception of her, and the slow-simmering romance was created an interesting take on the traditional Scottish historical romance. With a little more punch and a stronger emotional pull, this would have been easily four stars.

Yet I missed the connection to the characters and their emotions. It felt like Eveline immediately adopted Graeme as her protector when he came to marry her, which didn’t quite fit the jolts of fear she experienced over marriage just a few pages before. Eveline isn’t the only one – so many characters’ emotions seemed to turn on a dime without rhyme or reason. A little support for those changes, and Never Seduce a Scot would have been in business.

The winner of this book? Eveline herself, without a doubt. I loved the depiction of a deaf heroine, and one that didn’t let others’ perception of her run her life. This kind of heroine is inspiring in any kind of story.

Even with Eveline’s powerful emotions, Never Seduce a Scot was borderline predictable. With historical romance novels, there’s a kind of pleasure in the traditional storyline, yet I wanted more from Banks. Her characters felt like they wanted to go further, push outside of the traditional cookie-cutter romance.

3 Stars

Posted May 20, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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May 19, 2016

Review | The Good, the Bad, and the Undead by Kim Harrison

Review | The Good, the Bad, and the Undead by Kim HarrisonThe Good, the Bad, and the Undead by Kim Harrison
Series: The Hollows, #2
Publisher: HarperTorch, January 2005
Pages: 453
Format: Ebook
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Rachel Morgan, sexy witch, independent bounty hunter, prowls the downtown Cincinnati for criminal creatures of the night. She can handle leather-clad vamps and a cunning demon or two. But a serial killer who feeds on the experts in the most dangerous kind of black magic is an ancient, implacable evil that threatens her very soul.

Rachel Morgan is finally getting used to life as an independent bounty hunter (even though The Good, the Bad, and the Undead begins with what one could charitably call an unsuccessful run) when life throws her a curveball: the case of the missing warlock. As she starts digging, a new plot comes to light, complete with a serial killer stalking witches. What’s a girl to do?

Safe to say, I had mixed reactions to the characters in The Good, the Bad, and the Undead. I loved Rachel’s development from the first book in the series. She’s finally becoming comfortable in her own skin and being on her own. Her dependencies on others (specifically Ivy) are lessening, and her somewhat snarky true nature (which I love) is shining through.

Yet I had major issues with the two characters closest to Rachel, her boyfriend and her roommate.

I WANT NICK TO GROW A BACKBONE. (Yes, it needed all caps.) He feels like such a pushover, like there’s no motivation or thought process of his own. He makes some of the most ridiculous decisions View Spoiler » that drove me bananas. Ivy, in turn, has plenty of backbone, but needs to learn how to use it in the right way. The push and pull between Rachel and her is interesting, but when Ivy’s breakdown makes her MIA for a good section of the book, it’s too much.

I can’t get a read on these two characters. They’re entirely out of my realm, and without the connection to their motives, they feel more like flotsam than supporting characters.

However, I loved every other character. Trent’s revelation kept The Good, the Bad, and the Undead moving at a fantastic pace and made him my favorite character of the series. Jenks’ personality offsets Rachel’s perfectly and he’s easy to identify with. The family dynamics between Edden and Glenn (the two cops Rachel works with) cracked me up and wove into the story well.

Despite the ups and downs with the characters, I’m intrigued to see what Harrison will pull out next. Rachel’s stories are fun, a little wacky, and make for great reads. I just hope I can find a connection with the supporting characters to keep me invested.

3 Stars

Posted May 19, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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May 13, 2016

Review | The Immortal Highlander by Karen Marie Moning

Review | The Immortal Highlander by Karen Marie MoningThe Immortal Highlander by Karen Marie Moning
Series: Highlander, #6
Publisher: Delacorte Press, August 2004
Pages: 255
Format: Ebook
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Enter a world of timeless seduction, of ancient intrigue and modern-day passion. Enter the dazzling world of Karen Marie Moning, whose acclaimed Highlander novels have captivated readers, spanning the continents and the centuries, bringing ancient Scotland vividly to life. In a new novel brimming with time-travel adventure and sensual heat, the nationally bestselling author of The Dark Highlander delivers a love story that will hold you in thrall—and a hero you will most certainly never forget.
BEWARE: lethally seductive alpha male of immense strength and dark eroticism, do not look at him. Do not touch him. Do not be tempted. Do not be seduced.
With his long, black hair and dark, mesmerizing eyes, Adam Black is Trouble with a capital T. Immortal, arrogant, and intensely sensual, he is the consummate seducer, free to roam across time and continents in pursuit of his insatiable desires. That is, until a curse strips him of his immortality and makes him invisible, a cruel fate for so irresistible a man. With his very life at stake, Adam’s only hope for survival is in the hands of the one woman who can actually see him.
Enter law student Gabrielle O’Callaghan, who is cursed with the ability to see both worlds: Mortal and Faery. From the moment she lays eyes on this stunning male, Gabby is certain of one thing: He could be her undoing. Thus begins a long, dangerous seduction. Because despite his powerful strength and unquenchable hungers, Adam refuses to take a woman by force. Instead, he will tease his way into Gabby’s bed and make her want him just as he wants her.
Now, no matter how hard Gabby tries to avoid him, Adam is everywhere, invisible to all but her—perched atop her office cubicle in too-tight jeans, whispering softly from behind the stacks of the law library, stealing her breath away with his knowing smile…all the while tempting her with the promise of unimaginable pleasure in his arms. But soon danger will intrude on this sensual dance. For as Adam’s quest to regain his immortality plunges them into a world of timeless magic and the deadly politics of the Faery queen’s court, the price of surrender could be their very lives. Unless they can thwart the conspiracy that threatens both mortal and Faery realms…and give them a shot at a destiny few mortals ever know: glorious, wondrous, endless love.
From the Hardcover edition.

Adam Black is a mischievous fairy, one that thrives on trickery and confusion. Throughout Moning’s Highlander series, he’s caused his own special brand of mischief, but never expects that his fairy queen will actually make good on her threat to ban him to the mortal world. Yet when he finds himself stuck in the shadows between the fairy and human world, Adam is at a loss, for the first time in his immortal life.

I’ll admit it: I didn’t like Adam in the previous books, simply because he was so good at being Puck. He wreaked havoc in relationships of characters that I desperately wanted to get together, and I couldn’t wait for him to get out of the way. So when I found out The Immortal Highlander was his story…well, I was apprehensive.

Yet Moning lives up to her reputation – Adam’s story has the fascinating characters and steamy romance that I’ve come to expect from her. It took me a while to get into the groove of Gabrielle’s powers (ability to see fairies) and how it meshed with our contemporary world, but once I did, I was hooked.

Gabrielle’s nature is very Everygirl. Not to say she’s boring, but that there’s an element in her everyone can connect with. Adam, on the other hand, operates on pure testosterone, and only becomes more relatable when the narrative is in his perspective. Yet I loved their story. I loved how Gabrielle softens him up, how he teaches her to be more assertive. It wasn’t just a romance – it was a relationship.

The evil fairy bit occasionally got a little strange. Some of their actions didn’t quite make sense, but then again, we are talking about fairies. I wish there was a little more time spent on building out Adam’s world, but as they lingered in it so briefly, it didn’t make a huge impact on the story.

I’m amazed how much I’ve fallen in love with Moning’s Highlander series, and how she turned my perspective of Adam from bad to sigh speaks to her powerful writing. The Immortal Highlander was definitely a win for me.

4 Stars

Posted May 13, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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May 12, 2016

Review | Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich

Review | Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet EvanovichTricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich
Series: Stephanie Plum, #22
Publisher: Bantam, November 2015
Pages: 292
Format: Ebook
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Something big is brewing in Trenton, N.J., and it could blow at any minute.
Stephanie Plum might not be the world's greatest bounty hunter, but she knows when she's being played. Ken Globovic (aka Gobbles), hailed as the Supreme Exalted Zookeeper of the animal house known as Zeta fraternity, has been arrested for beating up the dean of students at Kiltman College. Gobbles has missed his court date and gone into hiding. People have seen him on campus, but no one will talk. Things just aren't adding up, and Stephanie can't shake the feeling that something funny is going on at the college - and it's not just Zeta fraternity pranks.
As much as people love Gobbles, they hate Doug Linken. When Linken is gunned down in his backyard it's good riddance, and the list of possible murder suspects is long. The only people who care about finding Linken's killer are Trenton cop Joe Morelli, who has been assigned the case, security expert Ranger, who was hired to protect Linken, and Stephanie, who has her eye on a cash prize and hopefully has some tricks up her sleeve.

Stephanie Plum knows her own weaknesses, but when a frat brother called Gobbles skips bail, she thinks this one will be a piece of cake. What she doesn’t know is that Gobbles’ fraternity, Zeta (reminiscent of Animal House) will do anything to keep her from nabbing him. As the case unravels, so does her personal like, making it a definitely Tricky Twenty-two.

Evanovich’s 22nd installment has all the hallmarks of the series – humor, a little slapstick, and a light-hearted atmosphere that betrays some of the deeper topics – but what I loved about Tricky was her emphasis on Stephanie.

Usually, Stephanie’s personal development goes by the wayside as she chases after whatever crackpot is wreaking havoc in Trenton, but when, barely after the story opens, Joe Morelli breaks things off with Stephanie, Evanovich gets real with her trademark character. Stunned by Morelli’s decision, Stephanie is forced to reconsider just what she wants out of life and, to be blunt, grow up.

Don’t get me wrong – I have a serious soft spot for Stephanie, especially since we share crazy curly brown hair and a love of cake. It’s refreshing to see her character get a chance to grow and move out of the phase she was in for a majority of the series.

Besides Steph, Tricky Twenty-two has all the hilarity I’ve come to expect from Evanovich. The references to Animal House and scenes with her family added an extra bit of humor that kept me laughing the entire plane ride. Lula, as always, shines through the book and keeps the atmosphere from getting too serious.

Light, fun, and fluffy as always, Tricky Twenty-two is must read and is definitely heading to my reread shelf! I can’t wait to see where Steph heads next.

4 Stars

Posted May 12, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments

April 14, 2016

Review | To Tame a Highland Warrior by Karen Marie Moning

Review | To Tame a Highland Warrior by Karen Marie MoningTo Tame a Highland Warrior by Karen Marie Moning
Series: Highlander, #2
Publisher: Dell, November 2009
Pages: 316
Format: Ebook
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Only her love could gentle his savage soul—

He was born to a clan of warriors of supernatural strength, but Gavrael McIllioch abandoned his name and his Highland castle, determined to escape the dark fate of his ancestors. Hiding his identity from the relentless rival clan that hunted him, he called himself Grimm to protect the people he cared for, vowing never to acknowledge his love for ravishing Jillian St. Clair. Yet even from afar he watched over her, and when her father sent an urgent summons, "Come for Jillian," he raced to her side—into a competition to win her hand in marriage.

Why had he run from her so many years before? And why return now to see her offered as a prize in her father's manipulative game? Furious, Jillian vowed never to wed. But Grimm was the man she loved, the one who urged her to marry another. He tried to pretend indifference as she tempted him, but he could not deny the fierce desires that compelled him to abduct her from the altar. She was the only woman who could tame the beast that raged within him—even as deadly enemies plotted to destroy them both....

All Grimm wants to do is put his past behind him. He left his clan, changed his name, and became a different person…but he can’t outrun what he is. But when it comes to Jillian, he can’t quite leave her behind.

When Jillian’s father sends out the note, calling for Grimm to come to his daughter’s side, I was a little apprehensive. The plot of the competition for the daughter’s hand in marriage is one I’ve seen before in historical romances and frankly rarely hooks me in. Too often the men sabotage each other and act generally nasty, making it difficult for a champion to arise. When they all arrived and acted like gentlemen (for the most part), I was in.

Although it was clear that the romance of To Tame a Highland Warrior was between Grimm and Jillian, the two other men in the competition added a great bit of color to the story and pulled different emotions out of both of the main characters. I loved that Moning weaved their own endings into the main plot of the story.

Grimm is, well, a bit grim. He has a secret that has been hounding him for years: he is a supernatural warrior, one that can invoke the rage and fierce nature in battle that leaves armies destroyed. It’s a fate he didn’t ask for and certainly doesn’t want. His struggle to contain what he thought of as a vile nature created a fascinating character: one not quite sympathetic because of his nature, but how he handled it.

Jillian is simply stubborn as hell. Her irritation at her father mixes with her own irritation at her attraction to Grimm, but as much as she tries to bury it, the attraction wins out. I found a kinship in her stubborn nature and her prideful refusal to not fall for the same man who broke her heart all those years ago when he left without a word.

When you put the two of them together, well, you can only imagine what happens:

There’s a kind of magic that’s created when Grimm and Jillian refuse to acknowledge their feelings aloud, one that forces their actions to betray them. Without saying a word to do so, they create a support system that allows for Grimm to deal with his own demons.

While Kiss of the Highlander holds a special place in my heart, To Tame a Highland Warrior definitely knocked my socks off.

4 Stars

Posted April 14, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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April 11, 2016

Review | Drown by Esther Dalseno

Review | Drown by Esther DalsenoDrown: A Twisted Take on the Classic Fairy Tale by Esther Dalseno
Publisher: 3 Little Birds Books, October 2015
Pages: 260
Format: Ebook
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Seven emotionless princesses.

Three ghostly sirens.

A beautiful, malicious witch haunted by memories.

A handsome, self-mutilating prince.

Belonging to a race that is mostly animal with little humanity, a world obsessed with beauty where morality holds no sway, a little mermaid escapes to the ocean’s surface. Discovering music, a magnificent palace of glass and limestone, and a troubled human prince, she is driven by love to consult the elusive sea-witch who secretly dominates the entire species of merfolk.

Upon paying an enormous price for her humanity, the little mermaid begins a new life, uncovering secrets of sexuality and the Immortal Soul. As a deadly virus threatens to contaminate the bloodstreams of the whole merfolk race, the little mermaid must choose between the lives of her people, the man she loves, or herself.

A complete reinvention of Hans Christian Andersen's classic fairy tale, this is a magical-realist fable that captures the essence of sacrifice and the price of humanity.

The merfolk are an unfeeling, gruesome sort of people. In a world of black and white, love is nonexistent, emotion is frowned upon, and committing horrible acts to feed one’s family is an everyday way of life. But there’s one who doesn’t fit in: the little mermaid.

Unlike her sisters and her father, the king of the sea, she has questions, curiosity, and a deep longing to learn about everything, including souls and what merfolk call humanity’s “Great Condition”. She doesn’t tell anyone about that weird flutter she feels in her chest, the one that no one else does. When she takes her first trip to the surface on her birthday and spies the gorgeous castle perched by the sea and the equally handsome prince inside, she’s willing to give up any and everything to go to land.

This isn’t your typical fairy tale.

Drown was definitely an unexpected retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid. Dalseno’s creative decisions to differentiate her retelling from others yet keep elements from Anderson and the Grimm Brothers fascinated me, but nothing more so than her narrative.

It was simply spectacular. Dalseno created an unexpected narrator to tell the little mermaid’s story, empowering the narration itself to be entirely unique. It was a slow, lyrical prose that painted scenes and emotions in beautiful watercolors: a slow creation of each scene that gave me enough detail to imagine myself there, but transparent enough to remind me it’s a third person narrator.

I was enchanted that Dalseno never gave her characters a name. They were the little mermaid, the prince, the sea king, and so on. It built up the narration and gave my imagination a little more free rein.

The mermaid’s determination to reach shore cost her many things: her tongue (she couldn’t speak), her pride (although she isn’t a prideful person by nature) since she arrived on land without a stitch of clothing, and her ability to walk without pain. Each step felt like knives cutting into her feet, but her optimism and determination to make the prince fall for her was so great that she overlooked all of this. Seeing the human world through her young, somewhat naive, eyes was both at once fascinating and heartbreaking.

Her pursuit of the prince, once romantic in my eyes, changed in Dalseno’s Drown. It reminded me of watching others go through the pangs of first/unrequited love after I had, seeing the signs and wishing I could warn them for what was to come.

The most potent scene was near the end when Dalseno described what could be and what happened. The emphasis on her choices and the path they took her down was so emotionally charged.

Drown isn’t a fairy tale to share with kids or to read in hopes of a Disney version, but it’s beautifully written, incredibly emotional, and simply a good story.

4 Stars

Posted April 11, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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