Book Reviews

The Rogue King [1/?] Review

image1Title: The Rogue King (Inferno Rising Series)
Author: Abigail Owen
Genre: fantasy; romance; paranormal; adventure
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Kasia Amon is a master at hiding. Who—and what—she is makes her a mark for the entire supernatural world. Especially dragon shifters. To them, she’s treasure to be taken and claimed. A golden ticket to their highest throne. But she can’t stop bursting into flames, and there’s a sexy dragon shifter in town hunting for her…

As a rogue dragon, Brand Astarot has spent his life in the dark, shunned by his own kind, concealing his true identity. Only his dangerous reputation ensures his survival. Delivering a phoenix to the feared Blood King will bring him one step closer to the revenge he’s waited centuries to take. No way is he letting the feisty beauty get away.

But when Kasia sparks a white-hot need in him that’s impossible to ignore, Brand begins to form a new plan: claim her for himself…and take back his birthright.

Review: The Rogue King was an adventurous read. It felt both medieval and modern all at once. While the story was definitely a romance novel, it didn’t feel like a paranormal bodice ripping romance that are a dime a dozen right now. There was meat and substance. The backstory built into this first story in the series was well done in my opinion.

There wasn’t too much so that it felt overwhelming, and it wasn’t all at once either. It was in pieces, where it fit in with Brand’s mysterious development. His hatred of Uther felt justified throughout, and when he takes on this phoenix quest, it makes sense in all the ways his story develops.

Let’s talk about Brand for a second. He’s everything romance readers want: brooding, strong, caring (behind closed doors of course), and sexy. He’s cocky and rough around the edges and has this rogue thing that doesn’t quite get explained when you want it to, but Kasia and her visions, intrinsically trusts him to do the right thing by her.

What I really like is that, as a reader, I wasn’t sure if I could trust Brand to do the right thing. I wanted him to, sure, but was he going to? Not sure. There was always something guarded and rough about him that made me question his motives and gave me pause. I like that in a story like this. Like I said, it wasn’t just a romance— it was very much a quest story too. If it had been a pure romance, I think this might have annoyed me a bit, but as it was more like, deliver a princess to a castle-esque, it felt well-written and well-paced.

Onto the princess now, yeah? Kasia is no defenseless princess. She’s kind of badass. She keeps her own secrets, she develops her own talents and her own powers, and she fights her own battles. She demands to be part of her own storyline and I love that. She goes against her own self interest a few times, but that’s to save people she loves, or to do the right thing. She doesn’t always do it for male characters either. Which — wooohoo, go strong female leads in romance/adventure stories!— is pretty rare in my romance reading experience.  Most romance female leads tend to sacrifice (or attempt to sacrifice) themselves for their love interests, but Kasia does it for the people she wants to protect, people who protect the ones she loves.

Kasia is the phoenix and she is only just learning her skill set, so learning it along side her is pretty cool. I like stories where we see the powerful ones struggle with their duty or responsibilities. She isn’t perfect. She makes mistakes, she fights with herself and her decisions. I enjoy that about this story. Will she make the right deicision or the selfish one? Is the selfish one the right one? She has a personality with dimension. She has a little bit of grit to her too. Where Brand is too rough around the edges, she shows she can be too, when the occasion calls for it.

The side characters had substance and were given enough oomph that I wanted more. In particular, I’m really looking forward to more from Hershel. He was very interesting. I can imagine that the rest of the series will bring back all of these named characters and give them even more developed plot lines — I’m looking at Arden and Ladon and Reid and Angelika and Skylar in particular.

Overall, this is an intriguing first book in a series and I would definitely pick up book 2.

** Thanks to Netgalley for this free download in exchange for an honest review.

Outrun the Wind

outrunTitle: Outrun the Wind

Author: Elizabeth Tammi

Genre: fantasy; ya; retelling; lgbt

Summary: (from Goodreads) The Huntresses of Artemis must obey two rules: never disobey the goddess, and never fall in love. After being rescued from a harrowing life as an Oracle of Delphi, Kahina is glad to be a part of the Hunt; living among a group of female warriors gives her a chance to reclaim her strength, even while her prophetic powers linger. But when a routine mission goes awry, Kahina breaks the first rule in order to save the legendary huntress Atalanta.

To earn back Artemis’s favor, Kahina must complete a dangerous task in the kingdom of Arkadia— where the king’s daughter is revealed to be none other than Atalanta. Still reeling from her disastrous quest and her father’s insistence on marriage, Atalanta isn’t sure what to make of Kahina. As her connection to Atalanta deepens, Kahina finds herself in danger of breaking Artemis’ second rule.

She helps Atalanta devise a dangerous game to avoid marriage, and word spreads throughout Greece, attracting suitors willing to tempt fate to go up against Atalanta in a race for her hand. But when the men responsible for both the girls’ dark pasts arrive, the game turns deadly.

Review: This novel was a compelling and fun read! Tammi writes with conviction with two distinct narrators. Each of the two entwined storylines are interesting to follow.

You cheer for both Atalanta and Kahina individually as their lives unfold, especially since the story switches from each woman’s point of view chapter to chapter. Later in the story, you begin to cheer for the two of them together… but it does take a really long time for the main storyline to actually get going. I tend to enjoy stories like this, but I know they aren’t for everyone.

I quite enjoyed the portrayal of the gods. Artemis and Apollo are given villainous but just character arcs. I like how they’re written. Things are the way they are with them because that’s how they’re meant to be with the gods, but that doesn’t mean the other characters should just blindly follow.

I love Ancient Greek retellings. When I downloaded this, I was fresh off of Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles, and it was hard not to compare the two titles. In that regard, Tammi’s narrative storytelling takes longer to get into, so if you are anything like me, and riding the wave of Greek love, watch out for that.

Overall, if you’re into Retellings where characters that deserved better than their ancient myth get better, this is a story for you!

**Thanks to Netgalley for this free download in exchange for an honest review.

Sea Witch [1/2]

Title: Sea Witch [1/2]

Author: Sarah Henning

Genre: ya; fantasy; retelling

Synopsis: (from Amazon) Ever since her best friend Anna died, Evie has been an outcast in her small fishing town. Hiding her talents, mourning her loss, drowning in her guilt.

Then a girl with an uncanny resemblance to Anna appears on the shore, and the two girls catch the eyes of two charming princes. Suddenly Evie feels like she might finally have a chance at her own happily ever after.

But magic isn’t kind, and her new friend harbors secrets of her own. She can’t stay in Havnestad—or on two legs—without Evie’s help. And when Evie reaches deep into the power of her magic to save her friend’s humanity—and her prince’s heart—she discovers, too late, what she’s bargained away.

Review: I enjoyed this book. Sarah Henning does a great job of great a new version of a classic tale. She puts a new spin on this classic tale and makes it her own. Her twist makes it unique and while I might have been able to predict it, it didn’t stop me from enjoying every minute of it. Evie was a fun and engaging heroine and Nik, as a male lead, did his job– he looked good and kept things interesting.

Evie was spunky and rebellious and loyal to a fault. She wasn’t perfect. But infallible heroes are boring, so I liked that about her. She had flaws and we fell down right along side her through her journey. I felt the loss of Anna just as Evie did and wanted more than anything for Evie to save the day at the end.

This story felt like an epic tale, following the classic fairy tale and a hero’s journey all at once.

I wish there was a little more depth to Annemette’s development, as her twist felt contrived, but overall, I liked this book a lot.

Spotlight: Policy of Truth

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Synopsis: (from Amazon) Five years ago, Tamra “Durty” Simon’s life was falling apart, and she had a one-way ticket to six-feet under. And if it hadn’t been for the Death’s Angels Motorcycle Club swooping in, dusting her off, and transforming her into the badass biker she is today, she’d be taking a dirt nap. Now, she has everything she ever wanted–or so she thought.

Brett “Sting” Jackson is on a mission, and nothing is going to stop him–not even the sexy, enticing female biker who makes him hard with a single look. Too bad he’s lying and keeping secrets from her. But the alternative could get her killed, and that’s not a risk he’s willing to take.

It took Sting crashing into her life to make Durty realize there’s something else in this world she wants to ride as hard as her bike–too bad fate has other plans for them. When a rival club makes a move against the Angels, all hell breaks loose. Lives will be lost, secrets will be revealed, and lies will be exposed. Because in the motorcycle world, lies may get you hurt, but the truth can get you killed.

Available on February 22, 2019

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Don’t want to wait? Check out a Rafflecopter giveaway for Policy of Truth.

You can connect with author, Scarlett Holloway, via social media here:

 

Don’t miss the last stop on the Blog Tour:
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Stripped

Title: Stripped

Author: Zoey Castile

Genre: Romance

Synopsis: (from Goodreads) The day Robyn Flores meets Zac Fallon is one of those days. You know, when you’re already late for work. Mostly because you haven’t really slept since your best friend abandoned you for her fiancé and her exponentially better life. The kind of day you drag yourself to the cleaners to pick up your laundry, only to discover you’ve got the wrong bag—Star Spangled sequined thong, anyone? So Robyn is definitely not ready for the ridiculously gorgeous guy at her front door, except that they have each other’s clothes. But then, is any woman ever ready to meet the love of her life?

There’s just one problem: Zac Fallon is not the love of Robyn’s life. Zac knows, despite the 
all-too-intimate dinner they share, he doesn’t have a shot at her. Because the next time Zac sees Robyn, he’s front and center of the male revue headlining her best friend’s bachelorette party. So much for wooing the pretty schoolteacher, much less impressing her old-fashioned family, with his upstanding lifestyle. Now he’s only got one way to win his dream girl. It’s gonna be the steamiest, most irresistible seduction she’s ever seen. And this time it will be no act …

Review: Stripped was the best book I’ve read this year so far. It was full of heart, steam, and character. The leads were real and relatable. The storyline was too. It wasn’t overdramatized or unacceptable. It felt natural and just GOOD to read.

Zoey Castile writes two remarkable lead characters that you want to cheer for through the duration of the text. You want them to find themselves, their passions. As you read, you want them to find their way to each other.

Robyn and Zac are funny, sweet, and supportive of each other as friends, lovers, and partners, which make this HEA novel a fun and engaging read. loved everything about it. I definitely recommend it.

*Special thanks to Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Saved by the Cowboy

51zulZ0TBCL.SX316.SY316.jpgTitle: Saved by the Cowboy
Author: A.J. Pine
Genre: romance; family
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Once upon a time, Sheriff Cash Hawkins left his simple life for something bigger—and came home with a broken heart. Now he has everything he needs right here in Oak Bluff, California—his job, his dog, and a quiet ranching town best explored on the back of a horse.  Olivia Belle believes in fairy tales—just not for herself. So when her boyfriend drops to one knee at his sister’s wedding with a proposal that is more business than romance, she hightails it out of San Francisco in search of the only evidence she knows that true love exists—her grandparents’ lost love letters from fifty years ago. When Olivia speeds into his town like a modern-day Cinderella in her ball gown and glass slippers, Cash’s careful existence is finally thrown for a loop. Maybe the answer Olivia’s looking for is in Oak Bluff, but the life she ran from is more than 200 miles away. As for Cash . . . he knows a thing or two about being left on bended knee. Olivia Belle could be his happily ever after . . . if this runaway bridesmaid doesn’t run off with his heart.

Review: This novella was a quick fling. I was intrigued by the description, but it took me a few chapters to actually get into it. I didn’t realize going in that this was part of a series, and perhaps that’s why it felt like there was too little development in the beginning. Oak Bluff seems to be this special place, but it never really gets the drawn out detail it deserves, especially since it’s Olivia’s first time there. Cash seems to be a feature character, but even he and his dog don’t get that much description. I couldn’t actually picture what he looked like, which for a romance novel, seemed a tragedy indeed.

While I thought generally, the descriptions could have been much, much better, more detailed, and given more time to grow, what I did like was the love story. Cash didn’t expect Olivia to change for him, and she didn’t expect him to change for her. There wasn’t this idea that one had to give anything up for the other. In many romances, the woman (more generally) is asked to give up something to be with the man of her dreams, or, more recently, has had to give up something in order to find the man of her dreams. That wasn’t the case in Saved by the Cowboy. Although the title suggests that Olivia was this woman who needed saving, I would argue that both characters save each other in the end.

I would imagine that someone who’d read the other texts in this series would enjoy this more than I did, but it was sweet and quick, and overall, a fun journey.

*Special thanks to Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Kiss Quotient

81TaR7kzn7L.jpgTitle: The Kiss Quotient
Author: Helen Hoang
Genre: romance; contemporary
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases–a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old. It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice–with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan–from foreplay to more-than-missionary position… Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…

Review: If you’re a Pretty Woman fan and ever wondered what a gender bent version would look like — then this book is for you. Instead of pompous millionaire Richard Gere, we get sweet and naive Stella who thinks that practicing with a professional will make sex less of a chore. As a woman with high functioning autism, she looks at the issue of her sexual inexperience logically and comes to this conclusion rationally and does her research where she finds sexy Michael. Now, if you’ve seen Pretty Woman, you might have some idea of what to expect from The Kiss Quotient, but don’t write it off!

In Pretty Woman, none of the characters really get the chance to develop or change like they do in Hoang’s novel. In fact, while there are corresponding characters for each character in Pretty Woman, Hoang makes her story original and poignant because of the depth she gives to each character – including the side characters. Stella isn’t just a rich woman who needs a dating partner for a while, she’s a woman who needs to learn how to navigate the world of intimacy but doesn’t know how, so she enlists the help of a professional. Rational. Michael is devoted. He’s holding the strings of his life together. He’s doing what he has to for the family he loves. But ALL OF THEM EVOLVE. They don’t just take their shoes off and walk on grass and then fly off into the sunset.

One thing I really liked about this is that there wasn’t any judgment from Stella about Michael’s sex work. She wasn’t condescending or worried about how it might look to her at all. She saw him as a human being who was deserving of respect and of a voice. Michael is given way more depth than his Julia Roberts counterpart. He’s got a family unit to support him, and while I was reading it, what I loved about it was that Hoang really settled us as readers into his family. His family base was strong.

Read this book people. You won’t regret it.

A Snowbound Scandal

America's+Sweetheart+LG.jpgTitle: A Snowbound Scandal
Author: Jessica Lemmon
Genre: romance; harlequin;
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) As the snow falls, her touch sets him aflame… “I don’t want you to leave.” Texas billionaire Chase Ferguson has one regret: leaving Miriam Andrix to protect her from his public life. When a snowstorm strands her in his mountain mansion, their passion reignites, and it’s too hot to resist! But reality–and scandal–arrives with the thaw. Chase turned his back on happiness once. Will he fight for what he truly wants this time?

 

Review: When you pick up a Harlequin Romance you have a few guarantees — something sweet and something that builds. A Snowbound Scandal is one of those books that delivers both. Miriam “Mimi” Andrix and Chase Ferguson are perfect paramours in this love story. They’re perfectly matched in wit and banter. The build for their romance is slow and sweet, like the heat of a fire in the middle of an icy winter. Lemmon plays with one of my favorite romance tropes – trapped proximity. Because the two are trapped together to “weather the storm” they have to interact and when they do, the love they thought as lost begins to rekindle right along with the fire Chase’s city slicker self almost smothers.

Because both of them are stubborn and can’t say what they really mean, it takes the better half of the book to get more than a steamy kiss out of them, but once they do that, the book’s slow build picks up a rapid pace. They only have until the snow melts, after all. I really liked how the author used the setting to both introduce the characters’ pasts and reignite the spark between them.

Overall, this book was a quick and engaging summer read.

*Special thanks to Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Cade

pro_pbid_1190099Title: Cade
Author: V.A. Dold
Genre: fantasy; romance; paranormal; series; shifter
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Anna James is single again, finally. In her opinion, men are self-centered and will never love her for who she is, a beautiful, plus sized woman. All except the fantasy man that she’s been meeting in her dreams for five years. She just never expected her fantasy to be a real live alpha shifter… Cade Le Beau isn’t what he seems. He’s a billionaire wolf. A Shifter. He laments his missed chance six months ago to meet his fantasy woman in the flesh. Just as his second chance presents itself, his fantasy woman, his mate, is threatened by the local mob boss and her ex-husband. Now, he has forty eight hours to deal with this threat once and for all or chance losing her again. Is it Anna who’s in danger, or the humans who unwittingly threaten her? The heat is on the moment they lay eyes on each other. Neither, age, children, horrid ex-husbands, nor mob bosses will stop this love affair.
Review: Thanks to a weekly BookBub email, this was recommended to me as a free Kindle download. I loved the pace of this read. I read it in one sitting. I liked the story overall, but in terms of development, there wasn’t much, that’s why I’ve given it a 3/5. That being said, here are my general thoughts on Cade: Le Beau Brothers #1:
As far as paranormal romance novels go, this one ticks all the boxes of things I’m looking for in them. It had a strong family unit, which I’ve come to associate with wolf/shifter novels in the paranormal realm of writing. I liked the family unit as a whole, although I would have enjoyed more development of these secondary characters — there were many openings for Dold to give Stefan more than just charm, or for the more and father to be more than static, but, I guess as this is just book one of the Le Beau Brothers, perhaps their development comes later.

Cade as a male lead was everything you expect from a romance novel. Strong, built, emotionally open, protective. Couple that with his wolf instincts, and you’ve got yourself a bonafide prince, right? Well, exactly. Anna gets her dream man, literally. I enjoy that. In some romance novels — too many, if we’re being honest — the dream man has some skeleton in his closet that brings the whole relationship into question. This, thankfully, was not the case here. Cade’s devotion to Anna was well written, and although I did find him to be a bit overprotective, Anna’s ability to be more than a wilting flower helped me get past it.

Pacing — At some points in the story it felt like too much was being revealed too soon, and then repeated later, almost like an editing error. Like, when Cade begins to reveal parts of the mating process, some of these aspects come back later, where they seem more natural.

While I’m not sure I’ll pick up the rest of the series, this first book was a fun, fast summer read.

Vampire Academy

Title: Vampire Academy
Author: Richelle Mead
Genre: fantasy; young adult; paranormal romance; urban fiction
Synopsis: (from Amazon) St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger. . . . Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever.
Review: I picked this up for $1 at a used book store in Northampton, MA, and am kinda glad I didn’t pay much more than that. For a vacation read, it was entertaining, but it was predictable and the characters felt flat to me. I would definitely recommend this to the girls I teach who still think Team Alice / Team Bella is fun. Rose and Lissa are much stronger women than anyone In the Twilight franchise.

Here are my general thoughts.

1. It was okay. I liked that it had a definitive end, because I don’t think I’ll continue with it. But, I can see where a sequel and subsequent series will pick up.

2. Rose was too juvenile for me. But I think she’s just not what I’m looking for in a protagonist anymore. She’s reckless and snarky in a way that seems foolish, not necessary, if that makes sense.

3. Mead’s dealing with depression was delicate and sensitive in my opinion. I think she wrote in two teenagers who were going through some heavy stuff and didn’t know how to deal, and then handled it well.

The predictability of the book is what really got me. I mean, it’s gotta have some tropes to be YA paranormal romance, but does it have to have ALL of them? The forbidden love, the love triangle, the scandal, the social classes, the miscommunications, the rebellion, the snarky loser reject, the Miss Frizzle, the mean teacher that reads all the notes. If you made a list of all the high school / paranormal tropes, they’d be in this book.

I like a good trope. We all like a good trope. But having them all, I just felt like I was checking boxes rather than reading a story. At the end of the day though, I picked it up knowing what I was getting myself into, and bought it anyway. Like I said up top… it was okay.