Tag: five stars

July 25, 2017

Review | Echoes in Death by J.D. Robb

Review | Echoes in Death by J.D. RobbEchoes in Death by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death, #44
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks, February 2017
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
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Lieutenant Eve Dallas encounters her toughest case yet when New York's wealthiest couples are the targets of a calculated killer in Echoes in Death, a crime thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author J.D. Robb.
When the young woman--dazed, naked, and bloody--wanders in front of their car, Roarke slams on the brakes just in time, and Eve--still in glittering gown and heels--springs into action. It's been a long night for the tired homicide cop, and it's far from over.
Daphne Strazza is rushed to the ER, but it's too late for Dr. Anthony Strazza. A brilliant orthopedic surgeon, he now lies dead amid the wreckage of his obsessively organized town house, his three safes opened and emptied. Daphne would be a valuable witness, but in her terror and shock, the only description of the perp she can offer is repeatedly calling him "the devil."
While it emerges that Dr. Strazza was cold, controlling, and widely disliked--and that he treated Daphne like a trophy wife--this is one case where the evidence doesn't point to the spouse as the first suspect. So Eve and her team must get started on the legwork, interviewing everyone from dinner-party guests to professional colleagues to caterers, in a desperate race to answer some crucial questions:
What does the devil look like? And where will he show up next?

Home is a safe place. It’s where we go to relax, to unwind, to feel safe after dealing with whatever we’ve faced that day. But in J.D. Robb’s latest novel, Echoes in Death, that safety is violated when a killer destroys that santicty. Even worse? He’s dressed as our deepest fears.

There’s always a psychological element in Robb’s work, but Echoes in Death brings it to the forefront. She delves not only the psychology of the criminal, but into their many victims, their lives, and in turn, our own. It took me on a more personal thrill ride through my own fears (you can bet your doughnuts I got up to check the doors and windows were locked after finishing this book) that was pleasantly unexpected.

Each victim represents something we recognize in ourselves or in our lives. The first victim is struggling with an overpowering husband and an unhappy marriage. The second victims (a couple) feel more like the pinnacle relationship we all wish for. On and on, each brings something new to the table, something that will strike a chord in each individual reader. I loved it.

Eve, as always, kicks ass as the main protagonist. Her personality shines through even more while she’s helping the victims of the Echoes in Death criminal, creating the image of an avenging angel…that is, if angels wore magic leather coats and had short shaggy hair. In this installment, she reminded me most of Murphy, that sometimes love-interest/foil to Jim Butcher’s Dresden. Both have a great resemblance to the avenging angel stereotype, take absolutely no shit, and have no problem going after what they want. They are the type of female characters that I love to read.

From the theatrical, terrifying nature of this criminal to the dark psychological underbelly of society that they reveal, Echoes in Death is a winner for J.D. Robb’s fans and mystery lovers alike.

5 Stars

Posted July 25, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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July 2, 2017

Review | Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Review | Caraval by Stephanie GarberCaraval by Stephanie Garber
Series: Caraval #1
Publisher: Flatiron Books, January 2017
Pages: 407
Format: Hardcover
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Remember, it’s only a game…
Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

I didn’t expect to love Caraval, but it quickly became one of those books I couldn’t put down. Why?

The focus on color.

Color was everywhere in Caraval. It described the unique beauty of the seas, the setting sun, the lights settling over the game. The turquoises, pinks, greens painted Garber’s world in vibrancy, and I loved it.

The atmosphere.

From The Night Circus to Outlander, the atmosphere makes any story. In Caraval, it stole the show. While I loved everything about this story, it was the setting that made the characters and created their path. It reflected Scarlett’s mood, her worries, her joys. Combined with the sense of magic that hung over the game, it created an unforgettable read.

The family dynamics.

Honestly, the family dynamics were nutty, with a side of crazy. I liked the sisters’ relationship, but I felt like the father’s actions were just extreme. One of his many horrible actions would have been enough, but combined drowned out his character and made him borderline ludicrous. He wasn’t real; he was this giant, bumbling, angry clown. While Scarlett needed a villain, her father was just a little too much.

The romance.

Scarlett and Julian wasn’t the romance I expected, but little about Caraval was. I loved it’s slow-burning nature, the evolution from acquaintances to friends to more. Most of all, I loved that there wasn’t a love triangle….yet anyway. It was a sweet, twisty YA romance that I can’t help but love.

5 Stars

Posted July 2, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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March 23, 2017

Review | First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Review | First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth PhillipsFirst Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Series: Chicago Stars, #8
Publisher: William Morrow, August 2016
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
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Piper Dove is a woman with a dream—to become the best detective in the city of Chicago. First job? Trail former Chicago Stars quarterback, Cooper Graham. Problem? Graham’s spotted her, and he’s not happy.
Which is why a good detective needs to think on her feet. “The fact is...I’m your stalker. Not full-out barmy. Just...mildly unhinged.”

Piper soon finds herself working for Graham himself, although not as the bodyguard he refuses to admit he so desperately needs. Instead, he’s hired her to keep an eye on the employees at his exclusive new nightclub. But Coop’s life might be in danger, and Piper’s determined to protect him, whether he wants it or not. (Hint: Not!) If only she weren’t also dealing with a bevy of Middle Eastern princesses, a Pakistani servant girl yearning for freedom, a teenager who just wants to fit in, and an elderly neighbor demanding Piper find her very dead husband.

And then there’s Cooper Graham himself, a legendary sports hero who always gets what he wants—even if what he wants is a feisty detective hell bent on proving she’s as tough as he is.

From the bustling streets of Chicago to a windswept lighthouse on Lake Superior to the glistening waters of Biscayne Bay, two people who can’t stand to lose will test themselves and each other to discover what matters most.

Don’t judge this book by it’s cover…or rather, it’s title. I’ll be the first to admit that I was a little put off by the nursery rhyme title (even M raised his eyebrows at me when he saw the cover), but First Star is one of SEP’s best.

Why? Her characters.

Like each of her novels, First Star is entirely character-driven. I loved Piper Dove, struggling private investigator with a soft heart but stubborn nature. Cooper Graham, retired star quarterback who is trying to break into the nightclub business, appears to be her exact opposite, but they are essentially two peas in a pod: soft on the inside, hard on the outside. And believe me, that made for some intense tension.

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But Phillips didn’t rely on that tension to carry the novel. It’s the wacky characters, from Piper to her elderly neighbor Berni, to Cooper and Jada, the teenage “assassain” who befriends Piper when she moves in. There’s an element of reality in the wackiness, one that both brings the characters and story alive.

I loved how both Piper and Coop go through separate heroic journeys, yet use each other as support. Piper’s initial friendship with Coop allows her to slowly let down her defenses she’s held up for so long, and Piper’s instinct to protect him lets Coop realize it’s okay to rely on someone else (well, someone who’s not in football pads).

The cameos from other characters in the Chicago Stars series cracked me up, especially Heath‘s role in Piper and Coop’s relationship. It created a kind of closure in the series, and since I think SEP originally intended this to be the final Chicago Stars novel, it fit.

Whether you are kinda into contemporary romance or a major fan (*raises hand*) First Star is simply a must read. From the hilariously relatable characters and original plotlines to the breathtaking romance, SEP’s latest is a must.

5 Stars

Posted March 23, 2017 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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September 29, 2016

Review | Apprentice in Death by J.D. Robb

Review | Apprentice in Death by J.D. RobbApprentice in Death by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death, #43
Publisher: Berkley, September 2016
Pages: 375
Format: Hardcover
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The shots came quickly, silently, and with deadly accuracy. Within seconds, three people were dead at Central Park’s ice skating rink. The victims: a talented young skater, a doctor, and a teacher. As random as random can be.
Eve Dallas has seen a lot of killers during her time with the NYPSD, but never one like this. After reviewing security videos, it becomes clear that the victims were killed by a sniper firing a tactical laser rifle, who could have been miles away when the trigger was pulled. And though the locations where the shooter could have set up seem endless, the list of people with that particular skill set is finite: police, military, professional killer.
Eve’s husband, Roarke, has unlimited resources—and genius—at his disposal. And when his computer program leads Eve to the location of the sniper, she learns a shocking fact: There were two—one older, one younger. Someone is being trained by an expert in the science of killing, and they have an agenda. Central Park was just a warm-up. And as another sniper attack shakes the city to its core, Eve realizes that though we’re all shaped by the people around us, there are those who are just born evil...

Master and apprentice in death. It’s a new take for Lieutenant Eve Dallas, Homicide. She faced down lovers, loners, psychopaths and worse. But when a long distance serial killer (think sniper) starts killing in New York City, Eve has a feeling she may be out of her depth.

I couldn’t get into this book at first. After waiting (im)patiently for the latest book in the In Death series, I expected a grand opening scene. The initial murder scene at the ice skating rink didn’t catch me at first. The connection, the viciousness that I’d come to expect from Robb’s villains didn’t stand out. Instead, it was cold, impersonal, and almost clinical.

As Apprentice in Death began to play out, the implications began to sink in. I realized that these villains, the master and apprentice, were unlike anything Eve has faced before. I was hooked into the massive manhunt for the serial killers for one reason: the psychological profiles.

The depth and variation in both the master and apprentice’s mindsets, motives, and rationale were intense, emotional, and entirely engaging. In other words, I loved it. The dueling narration of Eve’s hunt and the snipers’ thought processes fascinated me, pulling me deeper into the story than I ever imagined.

Most of Robb’s installments are what I would consider thrilling, but the gritty nature of this manhunt made it downright heart-stopping. Although it took a while for it to get started, Apprentice in Death lives up to Robb’s standards.

As thrilling as the new characters were, it was the returning cast that made me fall in love with this book. The dynamics between Peabody and Eve in Interview always add a thrill, and Roarke…well, Roarke is an entity unto himself. Their perfectly imperfect marriage is one of my favorite relationships in literature today.

I don’t know why I doubt it; Robb’s In Death series has won me over time and time again. Apprentice in Death was no different.

4 Stars

Posted September 29, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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September 23, 2016

Review | Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

Review | Empire of Storms by Sarah J. MaasEmpire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass, #5
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens, September 2016
Pages: 693
Format: Hardcover
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The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don't.
As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.
Aelin's journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?

One day, I will learn how to adequately express my feelings about Maas’ work. But after reading Empire of Storms, I can tell you honestly it won’t be today.

Empire of Storms picks up shortly after Queen of Shadows. Aelin Galathynius has shed Celaena Sardothien, taking up the role as the true Queen of Terrasen. As her court comes together, however, her world shatters around her. Broken apart by old feuds, a terrifying Valg prince, and a furious Faerie, Aelin has the cards stacked against her. Still, she begins to gather an army of misfits through blood debts and favors to build a force that will save her world.

Aelin is not your typical nice person. She’s blunt, a little manical, borderline obsessive, and definitely bossy. And I couldn’t love her more. All of these hid the heart of gold and strong sense of duty that push her forward. I love how Maas creates this push-pull in her protagonist, using the worst parts of Aelin to highlight the best.

Surprisingly, for me anyway, was how much I loved Manon. She and I haven’t always been on the best of terms, but Maas gives her character the same treatment as Aelin, Aedion, Rowan, Dorian…and, well, everybody. She pushes Manon into a corner, makes her worst nightmare come to life, and sees what happens. And I love her for it.

There was an addictive quality in Empire of Storms, an intense need to know what happens next, and a deep fear that the characters I’ve come to know and love wouldn’t make it through the many heart-stopping battle scenes. (I actually had to check the back before I read on. Sorry.)

It’s this intense drive to know what happens, to feel enveloped in her world, that makes Maas’ works so consistently amazing. Empire of Storms may be her crowning achievement of the Throne of Glass series…which makes me only yearn for the final, yet untitled, installment of the series.

5 Stars

Posted September 23, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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July 25, 2016

Review | A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

Review | A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. SchwabA Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
Series: Shades of Magic, #2
Publisher: Tor Books, February 2016
Pages: 512
Format: Hardcover

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell's possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland's dying body through the rift – back into Black London.
Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games – an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries – a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.
And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

Four months. Four months since Lila and Kell fought and defeated the rulers of White London. After parting ways, neither can completely forget the other: Lila hears Kell’s voice in her head while she sails free among the seas, and Kell’s every other thought is of her. Yet with the Element Games approaching, their entire world is going to change…again.

I thought I loved A Darker Shade of Magic. After reading A Gathering of Shadows, it’s pretty obvious: I had no idea what love was.

Schwab has always pushed Kell and Lila, forcing them out of their comfort zones, but her skillful character movement and development in this second installment is mind-blowing. I was hooked to Lila’s story, I felt Kell’s struggle, and their mutual surprise when they realized who was under the mask. Both Kell and Lila felt so much more alive to me in A Gathering – their emotions, motives, and reactions were so vivid that I felt myself pulled along with them.

The story itself was extraordinary. Set in a world where the three dimensions were connected by Londons (white, red and grey), the family and relationship dynamics stood as the highlight. Kell’s struggle to repair his relationship with Rhy, his yearning to see Lila again, and desire to just disappear are all feelings we can relate to (although maybe not the circumstances). Lila’s inner voice tells her to run, to move on, but she searches for a way to stay. The dynamics alone between the royal family are emotionally wrenching.

I almost wish I hadn’t read A Gathering. Knowing I have to wait until next February for A Conjuring of Light feels cruel…but the developments in Lila and Kell’s story is worth the torture.

Without a doubt, A Gathering of Shadows is a must read for any fantasy fan, but I would recommend starting with A Darker Shade of Magic – the story line will make much more sense from there.

Posted July 25, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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July 2, 2016

Through Diagon Alley | Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Through Diagon Alley | Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Series: Harry Potter, #7
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books, July 2007
Pages: 759
Format: Hardcover
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Harry is waiting in Privet Drive. The Order of the Phoenix is coming to escort him safely away without Voldemort and his supporters knowing - if they can. But what will Harry do then? How can he fulfil the momentous and seemingly impossible task that Professor Dumbledore has left him?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The magical world has fallen. Despite the best efforts of the Order of the Phoenix, Voldemort has regained power and the world is falling into chaos. It’s up to Harry, Ron, and Hermione to finish the task Dumbledore left them: find and destroy the Deathly Hallows.

Out of the Harry Potter books, Deathly Hallows is by far the hardest book to read. It’s bittersweet, really. Rowling makes good on her promises and brings the ultimate battle of good and evil to life, but it’s still hard to say goodbye to a world I’ve grown up with.

Harry’s evolution from a teenager to a man is especially symbolic in the beginning. His flight from Privet Drive is the last moment of his childhood, torn away from him rather abruptly View Spoiler ». It’s a startling rip, an abrupt jolt into adulthood that leaves me surprised even when I know it’s coming.

I loved how Rowling tampers down the dark nature of The Deathly Hallows with light moments, especially with Ron and Hermione’s relationship. FINALLY! I loved the tension, the brief romantic moments that offset the terror that thrives throughout the book. The other highlight is Luna Lovegood, a character that’s quickly become one of my favorites. Her determinedly positive outlook on life brings light into the narrative.

The long-awaited final battle of good and evil was everything Rowling foretold. The battle of Hogwarts gives me goosebumps each time I read it, from McGonagall’s courage to the bravery of the students who join Harry to fight. It’s more than a great fight scene though – it’s the final battle of love versus hate, love versus obsession, love versus everything. Love is seen in every action the defenders of Hogwarts take, from Molly Weasley to (surprisingly) Narcissa Malfoy.

From the inside look to Dumbledore’s life to the evolution of the true natures of much-loved characters, The Deathly Hallows is a winner, through and through. As hard as it is to leave Harry’s world, it makes me excited to start his story all over again.

5 Stars

Posted July 2, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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June 12, 2016

Review | My American Duchess by Eloisa James

Review | My American Duchess by Eloisa JamesMy American Duchess by Eloisa James
Publisher: Avon, January 2016
Pages: 432
Format: Paperback
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The arrogant Duke of Trent intends to marry a well-bred Englishwoman. The last woman he would ever consider marrying is the adventuresome Merry Pelford - an American heiress who has infamously jilted two fiancés.
But after one provocative encounter with the captivating Merry, Trent desires her more than any woman he has ever met. He is determined to have her as his wife, no matter what it takes. And Trent is a man who always gets what he wants.
The problem is, Merry is already betrothed, and the former runaway bride has vowed to make it all the way to the altar. As honor clashes with irresistible passion, Trent realizes the stakes are higher than anyone could have imagined. In his battle to save Merry and win her heart, one thing becomes clear: All is fair in love and war.

An accidental clandestine meeting with a dark stranger on a balcony. Twins caught up in a mix of rivalry and family drama. An American heiress who just can’t play by the ton‘s societal rules as much as she tries. When the Duke of Trent falls heads over heels for the mysterious American woman at the ball, he has no idea he’s just fallen in love with his twin brother’s new fiancee. But Merry isn’t just any heiress – she’s the one that could save them all.

For some novels to work, the reader must be willing to suspend a reality a little and believe what the rational mind wouldn’t. My American Duchess is not one of the stories. Sure, the chance meeting in the darkness of the balcony may have been a little contrived, but it’s James’ characters that brought it to life. Throughout the story each character transformation is made more real because of how her characters perceive and react to it.

I didn’t expect to like Merry, but after she determinedly frees a puppy in the park, I knew we were kindred spirits. Her stubborn, direct nature and blunt observations made me laugh and contrasted to the other fluffy ladies in the story. It’s the two brothers of the story that provide the most intriguing character journeys. Cedric, the younger twin, is what I would call a dandy. He’s all too interested in his own looks, appearances of others, and extremely judgmental, but charming. His brother, Trent, is his opposite. Broody, aloof, and slightly arrogant, Trent does his best to stay away from Merry, but he can’t shake his attraction to her. Watching how the two different men dealt with their relationship with the American heiress was fascinating.

I loved how the romance, while incredibly steamy, didn’t consist of just sex scenes. It had a mixture of anger, lust, and getting to truly know the other person as a whole, not just “wife” and “husband.” The dive into the dynamics of their marriage caught me much more than the initial courtship.

My American Duchess is a winner, both historical romance and otherwise. I loved everything about this book.

5 Stars

Posted June 12, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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June 4, 2016

Through Diagon Alley | Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

Through Diagon Alley | Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré
Series: Harry Potter, #6
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books, July 2005
Pages: 652
Format: Hardcover
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The war against Voldemort is not going well; even Muggle governments are noticing. Ron scans the obituary pages of the Daily Prophet, looking for familiar names. Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses.
And yet... As in all wars, life goes on. Sixth-year students learn to Apparate — and lose a few eyebrows in the process. The Weasley twins expand their business. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Classes are never straightforward, though Harry receives some extraordinary help from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince.
So it's the home front that takes center stage in the multilayered sixth installment of the story of Harry Potter. Here are Hogwarts, Harry will search for the full and complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort — and thereby find what may be his only vulnerability.

half blood prince

He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is back.

It’s the Wizarding world’s worst nightmare. Cornelius Fudge, disgraced and ashamed, has stepped down from his post as Minister of Magic as the magical world struggles to come to terms that the most evil Dark wizard of all time has seemingly returned from the dead.

With Voldemort’s return, Harry knows life will never be the same, even at Privet Drive. Yet he doesn’t know what to expect when he embarks from the Dursleys’ house with Dumbledore late that summer, especially when he finds a mysterious Potions book full of the writings of the Half-Blood Prince.

Without a doubt, Rowling’s world has gotten vastly darker compared to the relatively light story of Quirrell and his secret. The opening night scenes in the Muggle Prime Minister’s office sets the tone for Half Blood Prince, an atmosphere that lasts throughout the book, even to the sunny afternoon the narrative leaves off on. With the extra element of foreshadowing, the desire to get to the bottom of what’s going on drives Harry (and me) forward.

I loved how Rowling drops us right into the middle of the story. With five books behind us, there’s no need to recap the events; even so, the abrupt start to the story was jarring and captivating all at once.

As Harry and Dumbledore explore Voldemort’s history to learn more about his truth, I realized that Rowling was painting Voldemort as, for all intents and purposes, born evil. It made me wonder: Is he the only character that’s painted so black and white, or is this a depiction of humanity? Either you’re good or bad – no grey area available.

If we’re following that theory, then just how does Snape fit in? Throughout the books, Dumbledore has made an effort to show us and Harry that Snape is actually on the side of the angels. Is he truly a double agent (good cloaked in evil) or is he the only shade of grey?

On the lighter side of Half Blood Prince, I loved the romance between Lavendar and Ron (I choked on my tea when I came to the “Won-Won” part – you know what I mean). The drama between Ron and Hermione over Ron’s new relationship was just so…teenagey that it grounded the story down and gave a little relief from the great “good v evil” battle we all know is coming.

For years, I thought Order of the Phoenix was my favorite Harry Potter book, but after this read, I think Half Blood Prince takes the cake. The complexity of the search for Voldemort’s motives and means combined with the everyday teenage drama happening at high schools across the world is a subtle mixture, but one just right for setting up the grand final installment of the series.

5 Stars

Posted June 4, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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