Tag: paranormal

October 12, 2017

Review | Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey

Review | Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin DickeyGhostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey
Publisher: Viking, October 2016
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
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An intellectual feast for fans of offbeat history, Ghostland takes readers on a road trip through some of the country's most infamously haunted places--and deep into the dark side of our history.

Colin Dickey is on the trail of America's ghosts. Crammed into old houses and hotels, abandoned prisons and empty hospitals, the spirits that linger continue to capture our collective imagination, but why? His own fascination piqued by a house hunt in Los Angeles that revealed derelict foreclosures and "zombie homes," Dickey embarks on a journey across the continental United States to decode and unpack the American history repressed in our most famous haunted places. Some have established reputations as "the most haunted mansion in America," or "the most haunted prison"; others, like the haunted Indian burial grounds in West Virginia, evoke memories from the past our collective nation tries to forget.

With boundless curiosity, Dickey conjures the dead by focusing on questions of the living--how do we, the living, deal with stories about ghosts, and how do we inhabit and move through spaces that have been deemed, for whatever reason, haunted? Paying attention not only to the true facts behind a ghost story, but also to the ways in which changes to those facts are made--and why those changes are made--Dickey paints a version of American history left out of the textbooks, one of things left undone, crimes left unsolved. Spellbinding, scary, and wickedly insightful, Ghostland discovers the past we're most afraid to speak of aloud in the bright light of day is the same past that tends to linger in the ghost stories we whisper in the dark.

Even if the paranormal isn’t your cup of tea, there’s no denying a certain mystical element to American history. From the haunted streets of Salem to the plains of the Native American nations, there’s a piercing awareness that we’re not alone. Colin Dickey’s Ghostland was meant to tell this story.

I say “meant” intentionally. Dickey divvied up his book first into different types of ghost stories (graveyards, cities, etc.), then into various locations within each category. I was thrilled. Usually, I’m not a big paranormal fan, but the prospect of combining my recent love for true crime (thanks to My Favorite Murder) and our newfound desire to travel America, I was hooked. The chapter that sealed the deal? New Orleans. I went to the Big Easy a year ago for work, so I can’t wait to go back with M.

But I digress…

I was hoping Ghostland would tell me the ghost stories of America, paired with the unique history of each, and leave me marking my travel map with must-sees. Instead, Dickey dissects each tale with a faintly condescending academia, implying how people are crazy for not looking at these stories in a coherent light.

Sure, finding out the truth about the secret staircase in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s home, House of Seven Gables, was fascinating. Unique. Defined America’s perception of not only the house but the author. But I wanted the story, not the analytics.

Chapter after chapter, story after story, Dickey analyzed each tale to death (no pun intended) so that I began skipping his critiques and read the short paragraph telling the story, then researching it on Wikipedia.

So why three stars? Because Dickey was honest about the book’s focus. I had built it up in my mind to be more than it was. His versions of the stories were engaging and fascinating, inspiring me to search them out for myself.

If you’re looking for tales about haunted America, I’d suggest looking elsewhere. But if you are hoping for a realistic perception and critical analysis of America’s ghost stories, Ghostland is for you.

3 Stars

Posted October 12, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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March 24, 2017

Review | Dream Lake by Lisa Kleypas

Review | Dream Lake by Lisa KleypasDream Lake by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Friday Harbor, #3
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin, August 2012
Pages: 374
Format: Paperback
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They say that opposites attract. But what happens when one of them has been devastated by betrayal and the other is so damaged and jaded that his heart is made of stone? In New York Times bestselling author Lisa Kleypas's Dream Lake, readers well enter the world of Friday Harbor, an enchanting town in the Pacific Northwest where things are not quite as they seem and where true love might just have a ghost of a chance. . . .
Alex Nolan is about as bitter and cynical as they come. One of three Nolan brothers who call Friday Harbor home, he's nothing like Sam or Mark. They actually believe in love; they think the risk of pain is worth the chance of happiness. But Alex battles his demons with the help of a whiskey bottle, and he lives in his own private hell. And then, a ghost shows up. Only Alex can see him. Has Alex finally crossed over the threshold to insanity?
Zoë Hoffman is as gentle and romantic as they come. When she meets the startlingly gorgeous Alex Nolan, all her instincts tell her to run. Even Alex tells her to run. But something in him calls to Zoë, and she forces him to take a look at his life with a clear eye and to open his mind to the possibility that love isn't for the foolish.
The ghost has been existing in the half-light of this world for decades. He doesn't know who he is, or why he is stuck in the Nolans' Victorian house. All he knows is that he loved a girl once. And Alex and Zoë hold the key to unlocking a mystery that keeps him trapped here.
Zoë and Alex are oil and water, fire and ice, sunshine and shadow. But sometimes it takes only a glimmer of light to chase away the dark, and sometimes love can reach beyond time, space, and reason to take hold of hearts that yearn for it. . . .

Dream Lake’s Alex Nolan is having a bad day.

Or rather, more like a bad couple months.

Okay, a bad year. His wife has left him and is kicking him out the house to put it up for sale. His construction business is floundering because rumors of his drinking are spreading. He can’t get his mind off the beautiful chef at the B&B and, oh yeah: he’s being haunted.

On the surface, Dream Lake‘s romantic plotline is fairly predictable. Broken man finds loving woman to heal his wounds. I’m okay with that. In fact, I’ve even a fan of the cookie cutter plot because it allows so much room for creativity. And Kleypas has plenty of creativity, namely the ghost.

The ghost is a unique plot twist. He has no idea who is he, why he seems to be tied to the house (then Alex), or if he can move on to the next life. In short, he’s the perfect foil for grumpy, defensive Alex, who would probably throw a hammer at your head if you looked at him funny.

Yet the ghost isn’t enough to make Dream Lake memorable. His story alone? Fabulous. Intertwined with the fairly mundane and – dare I say it? – predictable romance between Alex and Zoe (aforementioned loving woman)? It’s not enough.

The thing about Zoe and Alex is that they weren’t exciting. There wasn’t a new tweak to the stereotypical characters, aside from Alex being haunted. Alex is mean to Zoe, Alex kisses Zoe, Zoe cooks for Alex, and here we are.

From Kleypas’ past books, I expected more. More zing, more banter, deeper characters. With that, Dream Lake could have been great. As is, it’s okay.

3 Stars

Posted March 24, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 10, 2016

Review | Armageddeon Rules by J.C. Nelson

Review | Armageddeon Rules by J.C. NelsonArmageddon Rules by J.C. Nelson
Series: Grimm Agency, #2
Publisher: Ace, February 2015
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
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Marissa Locks, newly appointed partner of the Grimm Agency, has a reputation for making a mess of magical matters—although causing Armageddon is a new low, even for her…
Marissa is due for a little happily ever after. After all, she did kill the evil Fairy Godmother, end a war, and snag a sweet promotion within the Fairy Godfather's magical-problem-solving Agency. But between maintaining a relationship with someone whose amorous advances can cause third-degree burns, dealing with a killer-poodle infestation, and helping her best friend, Princess Ari, learn to wield spells more powerful than curing a hangover, she’s not getting as much peace and quiet as she hoped.
When an enemy from her past appears to exact a terrible revenge, Marissa’s life goes from hectic to hell on earth. With Grimm inexplicably gone and Ari trapped by a sleeping spell, Marissa decides to fight fire with hellfire—and accidentally begins a countdown to the apocalypse.
With the end of days extremely nigh, Marissa will have to master royal politics, demonic law, and biblical plagues in a hurry—because even the end of the world can’t keep the Agency from opening for business…

I was stunned to discover a light-hearted book about Armageddon, yet Nelson’s Armageddon Rules is exactly that. It’s light, silly, a little fluffy, and just fun.

In her mind, Marissa Locks has paid her due. She saved the day in Free Agent and is looking forward to a little relaxation – well, as much relaxation as a partner in Grimm’s agency can get. Loaded down with evil poodles, lost princesses, and lusty princes, Marissa has her hands full. Then the world erupts in chaos.

Grimm is unreachable, and soon, Marissa finds herself trapped into organizing the beginning of Armageddon.

Normally, I wouldn’t find Armageddon funny, but I loved the hilarity that Nelson brought to it. Everything, from the demons orchestrating it to Marissa’s take on the dreaded plagues, was just funny. It also brought out a deeper side of not only Marissa but Grimm, the all-knowing fairy godfather. I loved the depth that the lighthearted nature of the book brought to their relationship and how it intensified the characterizations. Instead of simply being the man in the mirror (hah), Grimm became a person of emotions and history.

I didn’t like how quickly Marissa’s relationship had progressed with Liam, her cursed boyfriend (no, the girl does nothing halfway). When we left them at the end of Free Agent, they were just starting a relationship. In Armageddeon Rules, their relationship has moved up multiple levels, leaving me feeling like I had to rush to catch up. I felt like I had missed out on crucial parts of their relationship, parts that I would have loved to read.

Armageddeon Rules is first and foremost a humorous urban fantasy. I love the world that Nelson has created: the magic hiding in plain sight only empowers the storyline. There’s one final book in the Grimm series, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

4 Stars

Posted October 10, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 3, 2016

Review | The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Review | The Raven Boys by Maggie StiefvaterThe Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle, #1
Publisher: Scholastic Press, September 2012
Pages: 409
Format: Hardcover
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Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them--until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.
His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.
But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can't entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.
For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn't believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore.

Blue Sargent wants nothing to do the raven boys, the prized students of the local rich-kid academy who run through Henrietta, Virginia like it’s their playground. But when her amplifier gift (to improve the psychic gifts of those around her) brings her face-to-face with the spirit of a raven boy, Blue is hooked. Who is he? How can she save him? Despite herself, Blue is soon caught up in a world of intrigue, long-lost kings, mystical favors, and hidden magic.

The thing about Blue is she seems pretty normal for living in a house full of psychics. She may not bat an eye at the tarot card readings, the random mumblings of her mother’s best friend (who also lives there), or think to gather the names of the soon-to-be-dead weird, but at heart, she’s a typical teenage girl. One who wants to find her place, something we can all understand.

Except Blue has a secret or, rather a curse. If she kisses her true love, he’ll die, but the spirits don’t share how. To take precautions, she’s just not kissing anyone. It’s this combination of pragmatic and mysticism that makes Blue so enchanting. But don’t get me wrong – The Raven Boys isn’t about her.

The stars of the novel are, without a doubt, the four Raven Boys: Gansey, the get-along guy driven to discover the secret of Glendower; Ronan Lynch, the brawler haunted by a horrible secret; Adam Parrish, the local scholarship student trying to find a way to fit in; and Noah, the quiet, unassuming one. Their internal relationship dynamics are fascinating reading; add in Blue’s sensibility, and you’ve got quite the story.

The paranormal aspect brings The Raven Boys to a whole new level. When Blue sees Gansey’s spirit on the corpse road, she can’t stop thinking about him. And when she meets him in real life, her determination to protect him solidifies. The complexity of teenage angst and romance set against the paranormal history and the mystical quest to discover Glendower creates a world that I just didn’t want to leave.

4 Stars

Posted October 3, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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September 8, 2016

Review | Bay of Sighs by Nora Roberts

Review | Bay of Sighs by Nora RobertsBay of Sighs by Nora Roberts
Series: The Guardians Trilogy, #2
Publisher: Berkley, June 2016
Pages: 319
Format: Paperback
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The new Guardians Trilogy novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Stars of Fortune. 
To celebrate the rise of their new queen, three goddesses of the moon created three stars, one of fire, one of ice, one of water. But then they fell from the sky, putting the fate of all worlds in danger. And now three women and three men join forces to pick up the pieces…   Mermaid Annika is from the sea, and it is there she must return after her quest to find the stars. New to this world, her purity and beauty are nothing less than breathtaking, along with her graceful athleticism, as her five new friends discovered when they retrieved the fire star.   Now, through space and time, traveler Sawyer King has brought the guardians to the island of Capri, where the water star is hidden. And as he watches Annika in her element, he finds himself drawn to her joyful spirit. But Sawyer knows that if he allows her into his heart, no compass could ever guide him back to solid ground...   And in the darkness, their enemy broods. She lost one star to the guardians, but there is still time for blood to be spilled—the mermaid’s in the water and the traveler’s on the land. For she has forged a dangerous new weapon. Something deadly and unpredictable. Something human.

In the second installment of her Guardians Trilogy, Roberts returns to her defenders of the stars, the Guardians. Six people from different walks of life and corners of the earth converge to save the world in the ultimate battle of good against evil.

If you asked me to describe Annika, I could only come up with one word: helpful. Or, more that she wants to be helpful. Her intrinsic instinct to reach out and help any and every one she can should be endearing, and for a while, it was. Yet, when it became her standby action, it got a little annoying. Coupled with her endless optimism, it made it hard to get to know her, a mermaid who, in a deal with the sea witch, gave up her tail temporarily for legs.

There’s a huge story there, right? I would think the struggle to adapt would at least show through every once in a while, but instead, there’s the always helpful Annika, putting out flowers and setting the table. Instead of endearing her to me, it created this vast abyss that neither of us could cover.

I got along a little better with Sawyer, the man with the ability to bend time. Him, I understood – his motives, background, all of it were the more traditional character development, and made him a little more believable.

While Bay of Sighs had a little more oomph to it than Stars of Fortune, I still found myself wanting more character development, for everybody. All six of them. You got that right – there’s six main characters. And since each had such large, trademark personalities, it was hard to develop any of them. It was frustrating; like I was taking the journey, and they were there just to provide commentary.

That all said, the drama and action was much better in this installment. The villains were appropriately evil and (strangely) had more development than the heroes, but there you go. It was the battle scenes that saved Bay of Sighs from a lower rating.

3 Stars

Posted September 8, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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August 31, 2016

Review | Remembrance by Meg Cabot

Review | Remembrance by Meg CabotRemembrance by Meg Cabot
Series: The Mediator, #7
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks, February 2016
Pages: 388
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You can take the boy out of the darkness.But you can’t take the darkness out of the boy.
All Susannah Simon wants is to make a good impression at her first job since graduating from college (and since becoming engaged to Dr. Jesse de Silva). But when she’s hired as a guidance counselor at her alma mater, she stumbles across a decade-old murder, and soon ancient history isn’t all that’s coming back to haunt her. Old ghosts as well as new ones are coming out of the woodwork, some to test her, some to vex her, and it isn’t only because she’s a mediator, gifted with second sight. 
What happens when old ghosts come back to haunt you?If you’re a mediator, you might have to kick a little ass.
From a sophomore haunted by the murderous specter of a child to ghosts of a very different kind—including Paul Slater, Suze’s ex, who shows up to make a bargain Suze is certain must have come from the Devil himself—Suze isn’t sure she’ll make it through the semester, let alone to her wedding night. Suze is used to striking first and asking questions later. But what happens when ghosts from her past—including one she found nearly impossible to resist—strike first?

Suze Simon’s life is just about perfect. She’s finally engaged to Jesse de Silva, her longtime (once ghostly) love, she’s working towards her dream career as a school counselor, and everything is finally at peace. Well, until a young girl with a bleeding arm and a ghost attached to her comes into the school office. As Suze tries to convince the ghost to let go and head into the next life, a ghost from her past shows up and her perfect life will be just a memory if she can’t save it.

I haven’t read all of the books in the Mediator series, and definitely not in order. Cabot’s easy introduction to the characters and where they are in the story made it easy to jump back in.

I had mixed feelings about Suze. I loved her character and stubborn, sarcastic streak. It gave a great vibrancy to the novel that I’ve come to expect from Cabot’s work. Yet her decision to hide creepy Paul’s advances from Jesse, her fiance, was simply stupid.

You see, Paul has something Suze loves: her old family home, coincidentally the place where Jesse died in his previous life and where they met (he haunted it). His company now holds the deed to the house, and he threatens to tear it down, possibly destroying Jesse’s chance at a second life, unless she goes out with him.

Now here’s where I lost the thread of Suze. Paul is all the bad words you can string together, and then some. He’s arrogant, misogynistic, sexist, despicable, rude, condescending and generally over the top. His blantant disregard for Suze and Jesse’s relationship (let’s ignore the engagement part of it) was so disgusting I had trouble believing this was a Cabot character. And he thought that this attitude…would work?

Instead of telling him to hit the road, Suze goes (grudgingly) along with it while she tries to figure out a backup move. I didn’t get this. I didn’t understand her logic. It was the one true element that completely threw me over, that left me befuddled. What the hell, Suze?

The rest of the story was stellar, but unfortunately was overshadowed by…whatever that was. While I loved the resolution and ending, the Paul storyline just felt…weird.

3 Stars

Posted August 31, 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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January 18, 2016

Review | The Highlander’s Touch by Karen Marie Moning

Review | The Highlander’s Touch by Karen Marie MoningThe Highlander's Touch by Karen Marie Moning
Publisher: Dell Publishing Company, May 2007
Pages: 356
Format: Ebook
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He was a mighty Scottish warrior who lived in a world bound by ancient laws and timeless magic. But no immortal powers could prepare the laird of Castle Brodie for the lovely accursed lass who stood before him. A terrible trick of fate had sent her 700 years back in time and into his private chamber to tempt him with her beauty—and seduce him with a desire he could never fulfill. For this woman he burned to possess was alsothe woman he had foresworn to destroy.

When Lisa felt the earth move under her feet, the fiercely independent 21st-century woman never dreamed she was falling...into another century. But the powerful, naked warrior who stood glaring down at her was only too real...and too dangerously arousing. Irresistibly handsome he might be, but Lisa had no intention of remaining in this savage land torn by treachery and war. How could she know that her seductive captor had other plans for her...plans that would save her from a tragic fate? Or that this man who had long ago forsaken love would defy time itself to claim her for his own....

I had to go on a work trip recently. so I loaded up my Kindle with library ebooks. (I’m on a packing light kick ever since I had to pay an outrageous amount of money for my baggage when I headed to the east coast last year. Safe to say, lesson learned.) I’m not a huge fan of ebooks in general – there’s something magical about holding a paper book in my hand that I’m not quite ready to let go of – but when it comes to hauling books on a plane, I’m all for it. I loaded up The Highlander’s Touch along with a few other historical romances, a mystery or two, and a nonfiction for good measure. I started two books before I started reading The Highlander’s Touch. By then, I was hooked.

Moning has a magic touch when it comes to setting scenes. I feel like I fall into her worlds and the spells, fairy magic, and time travel all make sense. I saw the dark, flickering shadows cast by the candlelight and fire as Adam Black (the Puckish fairy from Beyond the Highland Mist) and Castle Brodie, the man he immortalized. I was on the commute with Lisa, heading to the dark peace of the closed museum, under the desk with her as she hid in fright. It’s that kind of setting, that kind of immersion, that keeps me coming back to Moning’s writing again and again. 
I liked the twists she pulled in this time. Although The Highlander’s Touch follows in the same path as her other Highlander novels, she adds a twist of fate, a change-up, to keep the reader guessing. 
Lisa is down on her luck. Her mom is fatally ill, her father passed away in a horrible car crash, and she’s working two jobs to make ends barely meet. Her story is sad, but she doesn’t let herself dwell on the bad fortune – at least, not too much. She has a persistence and a mind to make it, to survive whatever curse this is, that makes her a bit of Everygirl. 
Brodie’s not quite as likeable off the bat, but once his story reveals itself, it’s hard not to feel for the guy. His actions occasionally bordered on the little extreme, but the sweet streak and the inside glimpses into his mindset build a character that’s hard not to fall in love with. 
Moning’s become one of my go-to happily-ever-after authors, and sometimes, we just need to know it’s going to be okay. The Highlander’s Touch, with it’s magic, spells and tales of true love, hits the spot.
4 Stars

Posted January 18, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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January 8, 2016

Review | Stars of Fortune by Nora Roberts

Review | Stars of Fortune by Nora RobertsStars of Fortune by Nora Roberts
Series: The Guardians Trilogy #1
Publisher: Berkley, November 2015
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
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To celebrate the rise of their new queen, three goddesses of the moon created three stars, one of fire, one of ice, one of water. But then they fell from the sky, putting the fate of all worlds in danger. And now three women and three men join forces to pick up the pieces…
Sasha Riggs is a reclusive artist, haunted by dreams and nightmares that she turns into extraordinary paintings. Her visions lead her to the Greek island of Corfu, where five others have been lured to seek the fire star. Sasha recognizes them, because she has drawn them: a magician, an archaeologist, a wanderer, a fighter, a loner. All on a quest. All with secrets.
Sasha is the one who holds them together—the seer. And in the magician, Bran Killian, she sees a man of immense power and compassion. As Sasha struggles with her rare ability, Bran is there to support her, challenge her, and believe in her.
But Sasha and Bran are just two of the six. And they all must all work together as a team to find the fire star in a cradle of land beneath the sea. Over their every attempt at trust, unity, and love, a dark threat looms. And it seeks to corrupt everything that stands in its way of possessing the stars…

I feel like every time I don’t LOVE one of Roberts’ works, I need to justify it. I’ve been such a huge fan of hers for years, but her last few paranormal/fantasy releases just leave me feeling unsatisfied.

Stars of Fortune started out well enough: Sasha Riggs is happy as a somewhat reclusive painter, working and living in her little home in the Blue Ridge mountains, but she can’t shake this images of other people. They haunt her, especially a dark-haired man with a small lightning scar through one eyebrow (aside: instantly made me think of Harry Potter). She finally gives in to the urge to find them, packs up, and heads to Greece. 
What that brief explanation doesn’t tell is Sasha is incredibly insecure. Strangers make her vaguely nervous in general (she has to convince herself to go downstairs to the bar to at the hotel in Greece), and heaven help us if anyone looks her in the eye. As an introduction to the character, it was a bit endearing, but as the story progressed and she remained this slightly malleable, insecure character, my patience waned. 

My biggest complaint with Stars of Fortune is how Roberts introduced her six characters. All six arrive in the book and honestly, it’s too jumbled. None of them can expand and grow as characters because the next one needs airtime to tell his story. They all have distinct characteristics but remained, distressingly, as one dimensional characters. 

Due to the massive amount of people floating around in this book, Sasha and Bran’s relationship couldn’t develop into what it could be; instead the romance is flat and almost forgotten. That was possibly the biggest disappointment of all. 
2 Stars

Posted January 8, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 19, 2015

Mini Monday | “Tacky” by Charlaine Harris

Mini Monday | “Tacky” by Charlaine Harris"Tacky" by Charlaine Harris
Publisher: St. Martin's Press, October 2006
Pages: 320
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Werewolves, vampires, witches, voodoo, Elvis---and weddings
An "ordinary" wedding can get crazy enough, so can you imagine what happens when otherworldly creatures are involved? Nine of the hottest authors of paranormal fiction answer that question in this delightful collection of supernatural wedding stories. What's the seating plan when rival clans of werewolves and vampires meet under the same roof? How can a couple in the throes of love overcome traps set by feuding relatives---who are experts at voodoo? Will you have a good marriage if your high-seas wedding is held on a cursed ship? How do you deal with a wedding singer who's just a little too good at impersonating Elvis?
· L. A. Banks· Jim Butcher· Rachel Caine· P. N. Elrod· Esther M. Friesner· Lori Handeland· Charlaine Harris· Sherrilyn Kenyon· Susan Krinard
Shape-shifters, wizards, and magic, oh my!

I read this while I was in the zone of the anthology, reading the stories back-to-back. I didn’t look at the title, the author – anything. Jumped straight into the story of the vampire Dahlia trying to make her fellow nest mate’s wedding to a werewolf (a vampire’s natural enemy) successful while (it seemed) every other creature on the planet, paranormal or otherwise, was doing their best to keep the wedding from going forward.

The first pages were funny, you know, the kind where you chuckle every now and again as you read. Dahlia is a stubborn character, one that half wants to adapt to these new ways, and half wants to just forget it all. It’s her friendship with Taffy, the bride, that keeps her moving forward. Her determination to make the wedding happen was endearing and built her character out a bit.
The romantic tension was intriguing, and I was excited to see how the world would be built out. With so many different types of creatures cohabiting (somewhat) peacefully, there had to be a great story or myth behind it all…right?

Then, slowly, “Tacky,” became, well, tacky. Aside from the ridiculous, stilted dialogue, the plot a bit far-fetched and not well developed (I know it’s a novella/short story, but a little more info would have supported the world-building), and the final scene was just silly. The lack of direction in the plot created no consequences for the characters, and therefore, they just ran wild throughout the story.

If you love Harris’ work, “Tacky” might be up your alley. It’s a quick read, perfect for sneaking in on the daily commute or waiting in line. For me, it was kind of strange. The multiple characters and their poorly-explained motives didn’t click with me and made the story into a mess. I wanted world-building, explanations, and strong motives to support the many characters, their beliefs, and their world, but Harris didn’t deliver.
2 Stars

Posted October 19, 2015 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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