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RFG Recommends: The Promise by Kristen Ashley

2 Jul

Blog Tour Graphic (1)

I used to HATE first person point of view, if it was written in first person I’d put the book down no questions asked. Reading Kristen Ashley books has made me do a 360 so fast I accidentally whipped my arm around and slapped myself silly for having such an unfounded prejudice.

I now thoroughly enjoy first person point of view when it is done well as it gets me so deep into a character’s head and way of thinking that I always feel the need to take a few deep breaths to return to reality when the book is done. I especially love being in the heads of KA’s female characters. I thoroughly enjoyed being in Frankie’s head – every single dramatic, kind, smart, passionate, hot-blooded part of it.

Here’s the blurb at the back of the book:

Since his brother’s death, Benny Bianchi has been nursing his grudge against the woman he thinks led to his brother’s downfall. He does this to bury the feelings he has for Francesca Concetti, his brother’s girl. But when Frankie takes a bullet while on the run with Benny’s cousin’s woman, Benny has to face those feelings.

The problem is Frankie has decided she’s paid her penance. Penance she didn’t deserve to pay. She’s done with Benny and the Bianchi family. She’s starting a new life away from Chicago and her heartbreaking history.

Benny has decided differently.

But Frankie has more demons she’s battling. Demons Benny wants to help her face. But life has landed so many hard knocks on Frankie she’s terrified of believing in the promise of Benny Bianchi and the good life he’s offering.

Frankie’s new life leads her to The ‘Burg, where Benny has ties, and she finds she not only hasn’t succeeded in getting away, she’s doesn’t want to.

As you can see from the blurb above, this is the story of Frankie and Benny (and doesn’t that sound like a movie title?). We first met Frankie and Bennie in the book “At Peace” which is the story of Violet and Cal and is one of my favourite KA books of all time. Frankie and Benny have a long and complicated history- Frankie is the former live in girlfriend of Benny’s dead brother. Did you get that? Frankie was the girlfriend of Vinnie Junior, Benny’s older brother. Now, Frankie loved Vinnie very much but Vinnie was one of those guys who always wanted MORE. A result of this wanting more was that he got himself tied up with the mob and a result of THAT is that he got himself killed.

Vinnie’s family, a close-knit, slightly eccentric Italian family, loved their son ( he was a bit of a douchebag but a very loveable one from all accounts), were grieving and somehow ended up blaming Frankie for Vinnie’s unfortunate choices. Poor Frankie was cast in their minds as the money hungry girlfriend pushing their son/brother to have more, do more, be more because it was easier than dealing with the fact that Vinnie was lovable but weak. Frankie, being Frankie loved them and took the blame for 7 years. SEVEN YEARS y’all! That is a very long time to be putting up with that kind of treatment and as this book opens Frankie is well and truly over it.

Unfortunately, she had to go and do something heroic- she saved Violet from a mad man and got shot for her efforts. I won’t go into the whole family history here because that’s part of “At Peace” and if you haven’t read it yet, you really should. This book reads so much sweeter if you did read the previous book as it ties in nicely, but if this is the first Kristen Ashley that you are reading then:

• You’re fine as the back story and all the other characters are explained really well anyway so you can start here
• You are one lucky duck as KA has a MASSIVE backlist that you can now go through. Hurrah!

As I’m sure you can guess from reading the background of the story, a lot of the conflict here is internal. It’s Benny and Frankie getting over their shared and respective pasts to try and be together. The fact that Frankie was dating one brother and then another was one of those issues and I’m really glad KA did not gloss over how awkward it was or what other people thought about it. Frankie in particular had a lot of old issues that she needs to deal with as her family life was extremely dysfunctional. Frankie for me was a quintessential KA heroine in that she may have been a little messed up and imperfect but underneath was a heart of pure gold.

But let’s talk about Benny for a moment. Benny was described in the book as having chocolate brown eyes, dark hair and a ripped body. Throw in close family ties and the ability to cook and I think I may have just found me my newest book boyfriend. If I had a complaint it would be that when I read the book the first time I found him to be almost a little TOO perfect in the beginning. But when I read the book the second time (yes, I have read it twice I enjoyed it that much) I realized that I was seeing Benny through Frankie’s eyes, Frankie who had her supremely narcissistic douchebag father and ex- kinda douchebag boyfriend as male role models. There’s a scene in the book where Benny’s looking for something for her and she freezes in place expecting him to blow up and get frustrated and angry with her when he can’t find it. Instead he finds it, hands it to her and goes off to work. It’s a small thing and most women would probably take that for granted, but Frankie having the history that she does, doesn’t.

Benny is terribly affectionate and understanding especially in the first part of the book where Frankie is still recovering from her gunshot wound and the whole Bianchi family is still feeling very guilty about their past treatment of Frankie. Don’t get me wrong, KA doesn’t write beta heroes. Benny is still 100 percent pure alpha who knows what he wants and is not afraid to demand it, but he doesn’t have any asshole moments as big as Joe Callahan for example. If you’ve read the Rock Chick series I would say he would be closest to Ren – not because they’re both Italian but because they both understand their women very well and work very hard to keep them.

What I love about Kristen Ashley books is the way she balances out realism and pure fantasy. On one hand you have serious emotional and psychological issues that each character has to work through. On the other, you have these larger than life characters that manage to run you through a gamut of intense emotions through some oftentimes improbable scenarios.

Along with the drama and fire and flash, there are little pockets of realism like Benny keeping Frankie’s lip gloss in his pocket because she didn’t want to bring a bag to their date or Frankie making sure that she had a lot of chips in her house because Benny has a fondness for them. The importance of calendars in Benny’s life is also something that I found very beautiful in its simplicity.

My biggest complaint about the book would be that I wasn’t sure that the external conflict at the end of the book was really needed. I really enjoyed seeing Frankie and Benny with each other without the bad guys being thrown in. That said; I did appreciate how the external conflict meant that I got to see some characters that I love from previous books. I won’t spoil the surprise and tell you who shows up but I have to admit that I squealed like a star struck teenage fan girl in the presence of her favourite boy band when I read some of the familiar names on the pages of my e-reader. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. This was another cracktastic KA book for me! The Promise will be published on July 8, 2014 and pre-order links are up at most e-book sellers.

Disclaimer: I received this book as an ARC in exchange for a review

RFG Recommends: Until We Touch by Susan Mallery

14 May

Until we Touch Susan Mallery

I received this ARC from the publisher via NetGalley

After a family tragedy, former football hero Jack McGarry keeps the world at arm’s length—a challenge now that his PR firm has moved to neighborly Fool’s Gold, California.

Larissa Owens knows where she stands—Jack sees her as just another one of the guys. No matter what her heart wishes, Jack’s her boss, not her boyfriend. But then Larissa’s big secret is revealed…by her mother!

When Jack discovers the truth about Larissa’s feelings, her touch suddenly becomes tantalizing, and he’s not sure he wants to resist. But if he gives in to desire, heartache is sure to follow. Friendship or true love—will Jack go for the ultimate play?

I am a big Susan Mallery fan girl. Her Fool’s Gold series in particular is a comfort read for me. I love small town contemporary romance. In one corner of my mind, Fool’s Gold is alive and well three hours out of San Francisco and next time I visit one of my favourite cities in the world I will simply take a weekend to drive out and visit some of my favourite characters. Her stories are warm, heart-felt, funny and make you feel like you had some really good champagne afterwards- all bubbly and effervescent.

This is the story of Larissa and Jack, who we met in the previous books in this series. It’s an interesting dynamic between the two of them as they are best friends and have an employer/employee relationship as well since Larissa is Jack’s personal assistant (PA). She is also a trained masseuse and provides massage services for all the management team at Score, the PR firm that Jack part owns and Larissa works for.

While I am talking about their work backgrounds let me get the stuff that I DIDN’T like out of the way as it is almost all related to the work part of the book. I was a PA for 2 years when I first moved to Australia so I found the fact that Jack was Larissa’s boss AND best friend interesting as the dynamic between a PA and her direct report is very different to that of say a junior marketing executive and the marketing director of the company. The job of a PA is ALL about making the life of your boss easier. Your entire existence at the company pretty much revolves around him or her. While I have been very friendly with my supervisors in the past, that line between employer/employee is a pretty firm one in that particular role and makes the balance of power in that relationship very uneven. It was interesting that it wasn’t more of an issue, but I was able to brush that aside as it is a small town and a small company so things may have been more informal.

I DID have a problem with her being their masseuse AND Jack’s PA. Seeing her boss naked on a regular basis? Seeing all the other partners naked and having her hands all over them? Having one regularly get erect when she massaged him? Don’t get me wrong it was actually fodder for a lot of very interesting and funny scenes but it took me out of the story a little bit as I found it very strange and something I NEVER would experience in normal corporate life. Again, this is just my opinion and I think it is largely due to the fact that I WAS a PA and couldn’t imagine seeing any of my previous employers naked (Ugh).

Now onto the things that I DID like- and there were quite a lot of them. The story of Jack and Larissa is a best friends to lovers story which is one of my all time favourite tropes. I LOVE the shared history, the friendship, the knowing all the bits (even the unattractive ones) about each other. I felt that there was a genuine affection between the two of them and could believe their happily ever after at the end because of the way they interacted before they fell in love.

The opening scene of the book where Larissa’s mom interferes and talks to Jack and then blithely announces that Larissa is in love with him made me laugh and cringe at the same time. It was also, I thought, a really good way to not only start the book with a good laugh, but also a great way to move the two of them from friends to a couple. It worked for me because really, while they both protesteth their love for each other too much it did get the two of them thinking about it ALL the time. I think of it as similar to telling yourself NO I don’t want that chocolate bar, I DON’T want that chocolate bar, I don’t NEED that chocolate bar and… mmm, DAMN that chocolate bar was GOOOOOOD  Except in this case it was all sexual tension and love and longing and it was a lot of fun to read. Oh, and some really sharp and funny dialogue. I loved how the two of them would talk to each other.

The conflict in this book was largely internal and had to do with both Larissa and Jack distancing themselves others and the different ways they do it. There were no explosions or hold ups or kidnappings just a lot of rescued animals and mixed dog breeds (chiweenies, who knew?). I liked that they both had to work on and realise things about themselves before they could be together.
Jack, was a very likeable hero all the way until he hit that wall of all his past issues and boy, when he started burning his bridges he did it in a BIG way. I winced through that whole section of the book, but it did make the ending all that much sweeter and heartfelt in the end.

I already recommend this series to everyone I know who loves contemporaries and this addition to it is another one I would wholeheartedly recommend.

Review: Tamed by Rebecca Zanetti

2 Apr

tamed-ebook

Caleb Donovan was never meant to be a prophet. At heart he’s a conqueror, his appetites far more carnal than spiritual. He’s not inclined to repress his passions and surrender to fate. After all, that’s what cost him Lily–three centuries ago. She married another, because it was ordained. Now that he’s in the same benighted calling–and forced into proximity with her–all the old desires are roaring back to life. . .

After widowhood and centuries of celibacy, Lily is eager to explore the wild side of life, except now she’s vulnerable to another forced relationship, with an enemy. But this time she’s determined to choose her own path. And if hot, furious Caleb comes charging to the rescue, it might just change both their destinies. . .

Rebecca Zanetti has become one of my autobuy authors and this novella reminds me of all the wonderfully wicked and funny reasons why. Even though I love all her books, I have a special fondness for her Dark Protector Series as they were the books that introduced me to her.

For those of you familiar with the series, Tamed is the story where we finally see Lily and Caleb get together after hundreds of years of unrequited love (squee!). For those of you who haven’t read the Dark Protector books, I strongly suggest you read the previous books first (start with Fated). This novella is not a good point to jump into the series as there is a LOT of back story that would be difficult to understand if you are not already a reader and besides, the previous books are seriously awesome and I highly recommend them.

I’m not a big fan of novellas as a lot of authors tend to go for the love at first sight or insta-love trope to try and fit the romance into a relatively small word count. One of the things I really liked about this novella was the way RZ seeded bits of their relationship through the other books. As a reader, I knew that Lily and Caleb have known each other for 300 years and were in love way back when but Lily felt she was forced to choose duty over love and married someone else. The reason why this is not a good book to start the series with is the reason this is such a good novella- the love story between Lily and Caleb was very believable because there is such a back story there.

The dialogue in this story was sharp and downright funny- two things I really enjoy. Lily, who I always pictured as somewhat overly proper and mousy comes into her own in this story. She learns to let go of her image and duty and lets herself just BE. I do think that Caleb forgave her marrying someone else a little too easily as that must have really hurt at the time. In spite of this, I was rooting for them to get back together and ended the novella believing that they could have a happily ever after -in spite of all the mayhem and war and destruction around them.

I found it interesting that the time in this world has moved forward considerably in the last two books. The overarching plot line is finally coming to a resolution and I CANNOT wait. I would highly recommend this book to those readers who love alpha men, strong women and dry humour.

Disclaimer: I received this book as an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley

Review: The Last Hour of Gann by R. Lee Smith

18 Mar

The Last Hour of Gann

Lizard people. Must read the book about Lizard People. I remember telling myself this over and over again when I first heard about this book. I mean really, lizard people, lizard people planet, lizard person hero who is also some sort of PRIEST, which of course leads to lizard people sex, crashing spaceships, and douchebag humans all trying to survive aforementioned crashing spaceship- it seemed really bad B movie in book form and had my inner sci-fi geek panting in excitement (also I wanted to see how many times I could write lizard people in one sentence and I think I did pretty well there, don’t you?). What I got was something so completely different I found myself sitting on this review for 2 weeks because I simply did not know how to write about this book. I hated and loved parts of it in equal measure. I would have to grade it both A and an F; which doesn’t make sense but completely describes how I feel about this book.

Quick summary of the plot: Amber is the heroine of the story. Being a down on her luck human in a dystopian future Earth she decides that she and her sister would take their chances on the very first ship to leave Earth in order to go colonise another planet. Things don’t go as planned and they crash onto another planet, Gann. Gann is a planet inhabited by, yup you guessed it, lizard people. They’re a pretty violent race and religion governs pretty much all aspects of their society. Meoraq is the hero of this book and is a Sheulak or warrior priest. This position is a really big deal in local society and Meoraq can pretty much do whatever he wants as long as it falls under the auspices of being Sheul’s (God’s) will. This is a very simple explanation that doesn’t completely encompass how complex the world building and plot of this book really is.

Before I go on though I feel that I have to warn people that this book is terribly, terribly violent. There’s rape, children being killed, more rape, murder of children, a little more rape… and no closed door stuff for R. Lee Smith. No sirree, she explains everything in graphic detail. I have to admit that I felt a little sick after finishing this book. So, if any of the above scenarios are hot triggers for you steer far, FAR away from this book.

I can’t recommend this book wholeheartedly because this book was SO freaking violent and the humans in this book were all people I wanted to burn at the stake- ALL of them, from Scott the head douchebag to Nikki the unbelievably annoying sister. They were so horrible and were basically portrayed as sheep following Scott the leader and totally mistreating Amber because Scott is threatened by her. It was a very exaggerated form of bullying and while you feel that the author is making a point here about human society, it was very difficult for me to read.

But here’s the thing, even with all of that, I HAD to finish the book. The world building was fascinating and there’s a twist at the end that’s really surprising. But strangely enough for such a rabidly violent book? The romance itself was really beautiful. Yes, it was a beautiful romance between a human girl (who by the way was initially portrayed as someone so obese they worried she wouldn’t fit into the space capsule thingy they travelled on) and her lizard man.

Unlike a lot of the insta-love, fated to be together romances out there nowadays, you actually saw the development of the love between Meoraq and Amber. They would have all these wonderful conversations about life and God and religion and you could see them falling in love with each other very slowly and very reluctantly. One of the more fascinating aspects of this book is how R. Lee portrays the characters as actually finding each other physically ugly in the beginning. Meoraq thinks Amber looks strange, soft and ugly and well, Amber thinks Meoraq looks like a lizard which in no culture here on Earth is a compliment. Because the love story was so thoughtfully developed and written, the sex, which I initially thought would squick me out the most actually became a very natural part of the story.

The best parts for me were when Meoraq, a warrior-priest and Amber, an atheist would get into debates about the existence of God. Those conversations were very thoughtful and interesting. I normally am not a fan of putting too much religion in romance novels (haven’t read a single love-inspired book and I can say that I’ve read pretty much everything) but I loved the way the hero and the heroine would talk about their beliefs.

So there you have it- my love-hate-love-hate relationship with The Last Hour of Gann. I am sitting here wondering if I will ever read another book from this author again. I am reluctant as this book was soooooo violent and the rape scenes and children dying… but the beautiful love story and the really compelling storytelling that went with it… Right now I have to say that my abhorrence of some of the more violent scenes in the book probably means I won’t be picking up a book by this author again anytime soon but I wouldn’t say never. Have you read other books by this author? Are they as violent as this one?

RFG Recommends: Uncommon Passion by Anne Calhoun

11 Mar

Uncommon Passion A Calhoun

I was listening to the DBSA (Dear Bitches Smart Authors) Podcast recently, going through all of their old podcasts hoping that I would find a book or books to break this reading slump that I’ve been on lately. One of the books that Sarah from Smart Bitches Trashy Books recommended was Uncommon Passion by Anne Calhoun.
The thing that made me want to read it was the description of the heroine. Her name is Rachel Hill and she is described in the summary as someone who has recently left a fundamentalist commune called Elysian Field. Having grown up in this very restrictive environment, she is a 25 year old virgin. Wanting to rid herself of her aforementioned virginity she buys the hero, Ben, at a bachelor auction thinking that he looks like the kind of guys who could do the job and walk away. Ben, at first, seems to be nothing more than a really hot adrenaline junkie police officer with too many notches on his bedpost.
One of the things that I really LOVED about this book was how thoughtful it was. There were no stereotypes to be found anywhere in the story. A lazier writer could have easily portrayed Rachel as an uber innocent (verging on too stupid to live) traumatised young thing and her father and everyone in the commune as evil and mean. What we do get is one of the strongest heroines I have read in a good long time.
Rachel’s strength is quite different from the outwardly tough, I will kick your ass to the moon and back strength of the urban fantasy/paranormal heroine, but by the end of the book I thought: wow that is one strong, self-aware woman. Anne Calhoun was able to write a character of such quiet inner strength and grace, I finished the book with an incredible amount of respect for the character and for AC as a writer for not turning Rachel into a caricature of what people think “escapees” from cults or communes should be like.
It also would have been easy to just vilify Rachel’s father as this oppressive man and in some ways, he was because of his beliefs. At the same time, he was also the man who baked cookies with her and read her stories and all these other things that show that he was a very loving father. There’s a scene where Ben and Rachel are talking about her life in Elysian Field and she says that people think she left because of the lack of fashion or long skirts but that’s not why she left at all. She left because she wanted to decide things for herself without her father or one of the elders telling her what to think or feel. I found it fascinating that she wasn’t even supposed to be mad or grumpy as this was being ungrateful to God so she had to be serene or cheerful all day.
Ben as a hero seems really simple in the beginning but is actually a really complicated character. I LOVE that he had to work through his issues and come to realizations about himself before he felt he had anything to give in terms of a relationship. I love how the romance developed slowly, completely apart from the steamy sex which would have been about an 8 or 9 in the steamy charts. I LOVE how the heroine , even being inexperienced knew to stand up for herself after a raunchy sex sesh and say you know what? You didn’t treat me right that time, buh-bye. I love how AC made Rachel brave enough to fully accept and experience all emotions even negative ones.
I know I may be repeating myself but it has to be said again; this was a very well-written and thoughtful romance that I will remember in the jumble of all the other meh books that I have read lately. My only criticism is that I didn’t get that ‘chest hurts oh my God this book is ripping my heart out’ feeling that I get with the some really good books. It’s a solid B+ for me though, hope you like it.

RFG Recommends: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Series

9 Feb

Magic Rises

I recently bought Magic Rises which is Book 6 in the Kate Daniels series and because of this I went back and re-read the 5 books in the series that came before (as you do). I am now totally kicking myself for not adding Ilona Andrews to my first autobuy authors list as I love their writing.
(Quick sidenote: for those who may not know, no the use of their instead of her wasn’t a massive grammatical error. Ilona Andrews is actually the pen name for a husband and wife writing team, how cool is that? )
The Kate Daniels series is the series that automatically springs to mind when talking about IA. It’s a fantastic urban fantasy about a mercenary named (you guessed it) Kate Daniels. I don’t want to put too much detail in as I don’t want to inadvertently spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t started the series yet, but I CAN tell you that Kate is a totally kick ass, strong female lead. What I love about her is that IA manages to make her strong and kick ass without crossing over into the mad at the world, ornery for the sake of being ornery stereotype. Kate is strong and has been through a hell of a lot, yet manages to be kind and well, likeable.
The Kate Daniels World is a post-apocalyptic type world with a twist. Technology in this world is no longer reliable due to “waves” of magic that suddenly come and go. People have to adapt to having tech one minute and then not having anything work in the next during a magic wave. This applies to everything including lights, cars, phones and even guns. Because of this folks in KD world Atlanta have two of everything to ensure that they have things that work during tech and during magic such as regular electric lights and magic lights, guns and swords, normal cars and cars that run on magic- the world building is fascinating and provides plenty of avenues for IA to stress out their poor hapless characters.
But what I love about this series is the writing. The stories and plot points just flow very naturally and nothing feels forced or contrived. All the characters, even the secondary ones are interesting and multi-dimensional. My favourite part though has to be the dialogue. I’m a big dialogue and character girl and this series (and the other series of this author) is GOLD when it comes to witty dialogue.
I love the romance between Kate and her man (who I will not specify as there may be a FEW people who may not know who it is). My only complaint as a romance reader is that in some of the books I would have liked a little more on the romance- but that’s really nitpicking.
Magic Rises is my favourite book so far of the series. It’s hard to get into too much of the storyline without massive spoilers but let’s just say there was plenty of magic and good old fashioned sword fighting and ass kicking by Kate and the cast of secondary characters who are just as big a presence in the book. It had that perfect blend of romance and action that great urban fantasy books have: the relationship stuff that made me tingle (and at one point I burst out laughing in my darkened bedroom surprising my poor baby girl in the cot next to me) and oh my goodness so much edge of your seat action I stayed up WAY past my bedtime finishing it. It’s an A for me for this book and this series generally. What’s your favourite Kate Daniels book?

Review: After the Storm (KGI Series) by Maya Banks

13 Jan

After the Storm MB

Okay, the title of this entry may also have to be disappointed fan girl as I wasn’t particularly enamored with this book. Aaack! That almost feels like I’m blaspheming as I love this author! That being said, Maya Banks is still an autobuy author for me and the KGI series in particular is a series that I love and pre-order. If you haven’t read this series yet, I highly recommend it… just don’t start with this book.

KGI stands for Kelly Group International and it was started by a group of brothers whose family name is, yup you guessed it, Kelly. There are 6 brothers who have all served in the armed forces in some form or another before joining the family company. KGI is made up of male and female badasses who go on righteous (their words not mine) missions such as rescuing kidnap victims, hostage extractions etc all over the world. This is book 8 in the series, with the previous books telling the stories of 4 of the other Kelly brothers and the other members of the team.

Although each book is a stand alone I really recommend that you read this series in order. This is because one, I am slightly obsessive compulsive about reading series in order (there was a reason they were written that way dammit), and two it is nice to see how the relationships between family and team members grow and develop as the series progresses.

The books are romantic suspense done well with a lot of exciting parts without the romantic elements getting lost in the mix or added as an afterthought. Action aside though, my favourite thing about these books are the relationships between the brothers. The dialogue between them is often funny and done very realistically with them teasing and joking each other in between moving heaven and earth to keep one another safe.

Donovan is the third eldest brother who features largely in all the previous books and is portrayed as the one with a soft spot for women and children. Hmmm, hot former Navy guy with a soft spot for kids and a brain like a computer? Excuse me for a moment while I check that my knickers haven’t spontaneously combusted… Could you tell that I was really looking forward to Donovan’s book?

I liked the premise of the book- Eve and her siblings are running away from her evil step father. Her half brother ends up working in the Kelly’s hardware store and through this connection, Donovan or Van ends up meeting Eve and her sibs and falling taut ass over head in love with all of them.

While the dialogue and relationship bits of the book do not disappoint there were several plot tropes that were used in this book that I don’t particularly like, and while I feel that this may fall under the heading of personal taste, I do think that they have to be discussed. First of all, this was the least action packed book in the series. The other books had kidnappings, drug lords, high powered weapons and bombs. This book was positively tame in comparison.

The next thing that I had a problem with is how quickly Van falls in love with both Eve and her siblings. While I know that romance novels are fiction, I still have a hard time with the love at first sight/over the span of hours trope- especially when this love extends to young children. Protectiveness towards and overwhelming attraction to I can understand but truly in love over a span of 3 days beggars belief. This was also an issue for me because the fact that Van loved women and children was stressed several times in the book and it did lead me to wonder whether or not he really loved them or the IDEA of them. MB gets around this problem by having one of the Kelly bros confronting Van about this specific issue but because everything happens so quickly there is that little niggle of doubt that remains- at least there was in my mind.

My biggest frustration though is the whole misunderstanding leading to awful things trope. This one drives me absolutely mad. I did at one point end up screaming at my IPAD “Just ASK him about it for GOD’S SAKE!”. This very strong dislike of painful experiences that could have been avoided if characters in a book would just TALK to each other is one of the reasons a lot Shakespeare’s plays drive me batty. I can’t really talk about it more without including some major spoilers so I’ll leave it there but let me just add a few more exclamation marks to convey my frustration one last time !!!!!

That being said, I cannot repeat how much I love this author and this series in particular. My expectations were very high for this book and I have to say even though I was a bit disappointed it’s still a better quality book than a lot of others out there.

December 2013 Reviews and Recommendations: Ilona Andrews, Kristen Ashley, Kristan Higgins, Suzanne Johnson and Anne Bishop

31 Dec

The Christmas season was crazy busy this year what with my other half being out of the country and with me being alone with my two toddlers. You would think I would be too busy to read and in a way I probably didn’t read as many books as I would have if hubby had been here as I had to do all the housework and Christmas shopping etc on my own. However, because I really felt the need to decompress at the end of the day, I found that no matter how tired I was I couldn’t NOT read. Television just didn’t cut it for me. The only thing that got my brain to slow down and take a breath was to read. Good, bad or ugly it didn’t matter, I had to get in a solid half hour of reading at night in order to fall asleep. That being said, the bad books probably were more helpful in the falling asleep part as the good ones would keep me awake all night because I just had to finish!
After a totally kick ass November in terms of new releases I found not as many books to get excited about in December. I re-read all my Ilona Andrew’s Kate Daniel books and fell in love with them all over again. This is a great urban fantasy series, with great dialogue, a seriously kick ass heroine and fascinating world building. I love the romance between Kate and Curran although I find the series more of an urban fantasy with a little romance thrown in rather than the other way around.
I also read the latest Kristen Ashley Fantasyland book, Broken Dove. I love this author and am constantly entertained by her books. This wasn’t one of my favourites of hers and I have to damn it with faint praise and say it was okay. I really loved the first three books though so I would still recommend the series. In direct contrast to the Ilona Andrews books, I find this series to be more of a romance with a fantasy element.
I started Suzanne Johnson’s Sentinels of New Orleans series with the first book, Royal Street. I was attracted to this book as it wasn’t about shapeshifters or vampires although they do make appearances in the books- this series is about wizards. The first book didn’t have much romance in it although to be fair there is a little triangle shaping up quite nicely. The world building and the premise were very interesting. It was good enough to have me buying the 2nd and 3rd books in the series so I can see how things turn out.
In terms of contemporary romances I also read a lot of Kristan Higgins’s back list. Although I found her older books to be borderline chick lit I find that I really enjoy the voice of this author. Her writing is consistently good and her characters likeable, self-deprecating and funny. I would recommend her to fans of Susan Mallery and Jill Shalvis.
My favourite book of the month has to be Anne Bishop’s Written in Red. Anne Bishop is best known for her Black Jewel books which are firmly in the fantasy romance category. Written in Red is an urban fantasy romance. She writes about the Terra Indigene or Others who are children of the earth or earth natives. This term refers to a whole raft of supernaturals such as the sanguinati, the shapechangers and the elementals (these are basically your vampires, shape changers and weather controllers but slightly different as all authors like to put their own spin on things). These Others are the superior race of the world and it is only because they allow humans to co-exist with them that humans are living on their land at all. The main character of the book is Meg, who is a human who is running away from other humans and ended up with the Others. I was a little uncomfortable in the beginning with how clear it was that the Others consider humans to be MEAT. Again, other authors touch on this but Anne Bishop really made it clear that humans are food to these Others down to human meat being sold at the local butcher! This book was one I could NOT put down and I cannot wait to read the next book in the series.

Review: Archangel’s Legion by Nalini Singh

25 Nov

Archangel's Legion

I’ve been on a good book roll these last couple of weeks and that has made me a VERY happy little fan girl. A lot of my favourite authors have released books this month but of all the books that I have read in November, the best one so far is Archangel’s Legion by Nalini Singh. I have made no secret of how much I love this author and her books but I have to say this book may be one of my favourites of hers.
This book is the 6th in NS’s Guild Hunter series. I strongly suggest to anyone who hasn’t read the previous books to please go back and do so as I think it would be difficult to pick up some elements of the story if you start on this book. Besides, the first book ROCKS and you really, really have to read it.
Here’s a quick background anyway for those not familiar with the series: The main characters in most of the books of the series are Raphael and Elena. Raphael is the archangel of New York and one of the biggest, baddest, scariest mo-fos out there by reputation. He has to be as the world they live in is kind of like ours except there are vampires and werewolves and angels (oh my!) walking the streets and each region is ruled by an archangel who has to have the scary control factor thing going or the supernaturals would just go around killing each other and poor hapless humans.
In this very interesting world, vampires are created by the angels. HOW and WHY this is done is one of the more interesting revelations in book 1. Once these vampires are created they have to go into the service of the angel who created them and are only considered free once that contract has expired. If vampires run out on their contracts or do something very naughty they are hunted by members of the Guild. Elena is a Guild Hunter. Not only is she trained by the Guild (I keep picturing a supernatural sort of police academy here. Helloooo Steve Guttenburg) she is a born hunter which means she can track vampires through scent. Anyway, Raphael and Elena meet when Raphael hires a very reluctant Elena to track a rogue archangel for him. In the way of these books, blood, gore, mayhem and near death experiences ensue and by the end of Angel’s Blood, which is book 1 in the series, Elena and Raphael are deeply and life changingly in love. Oh, and Elena becomes an angel. I’m telling you READ ANGEL’S BLOOD. It’s a totally kick ass, tres amaze book.
(Note: it was at this point where I got SO enthused about the first book that I went back and read it AGAIN for the 6th or so time! Then of course I had to keep going all the way again to book 6 so it’s basically taken me over a week just to write this review.)
Fast forward to book 6 and Raphael and Elena have gone through a really tumultuous period of unrest in the world. Elena in particular has grown a lot in terms of being a baby angel and in terms of being a consort to one of the most powerful beings in the world. There is a period of great change called the Cascade and it is signified by all things going wonky such as seas changing colour and unexplained storms etc. Through most of the book Raphael and Elena are dealing with the Cascade, changes with Raphael’s power and a coming war with another archangel/s.
I don’t want to give too much of the plot away but I do have to tell you that there IS a war in the book and it is EPIC. The battle scenes were so exciting and fast paced, and the story was told so descriptively, I could close my eyes and imagine it in my head. The images that were described were so beautiful such as skies full of wings or angels flying in formation that it was almost like having a reel of a really high budget fantasy movie playing in my head as I was reading.
What I really loved about the book though is that in spite of all the action and intrigue and plots, the love story between Raphael and Elena never got lost in the mix. Being really invested in these characters, I loved seeing how their relationship is continuing to evolve from the first book. One of the things that I feel NS is particularly good at is showing what a powerful, beautiful and intimidating creature Raphael is.
He laughed, her dangerous lover who wore his strength as a second skin and had a face of such violent masculine beauty that she was stunned anew each time she realized he belonged to her. Hair of darkest midnight and eyes of a painful blue found nowhere else on this earth, Raphael was a man blooded with power- no one would ever mistake him for anything but what he was: an archangel who had the capacity to snuff out a life as easily as she might crush an ant.
And again further along in the book:
It was a bone-jarring shock to be bluntly reminded that the man who was her lover was that man only for her. To the rest of the world he was-must be- the lethal, dangerous and sometimes cruel Archangel of New York.
And yet, NS saves him from being a cold, completely intimidating character by showing us the core of warmth and good in him through his people’s absolute loyalty to him and through all the wonderful interactions he has with Elena. I loved all the action and imagery of this book, but I adored the interplay between these two characters, especially their conversations mind to mind:
I’ll enter first. I’m the Hunter, Elena reminded him.
Of course you may go first. When I’m dead.
Scowling at that statement delivered in an eminently reasonable tone that fooled her into thinking he was going to agree, she pulled out her crossbow.
Go. We’ll argue about your autocratic tendencies later.
I look forward to it.
There was also a scene where another archangel and his consort were visiting that had to do with skimpy dresses and underwear that made me laugh out loud, and this little conversation about concubines:
Raphael, in case you’re getting ideas- I won’t be this civilized if you decide you need a concubine. In fact, it’s a good bet I’ll turn homicidal.
He didn’t look up from his conversation with Astaad as he said, A pity, in that cool “Archangel” tone of his. I will now have to ask the pilot to empty the hold of my chosen females.
We’re going to have to talk about this new sense of humor of yours.
The contrast between the powerful archangel and the tough as nails hunter and how sweet (because really that is the word for it) they are with each other is simply sigh inducing and is for me, one of the absolute best things about these books. The tender moments in between the action sequences were lovely:
“Eternity would mean nothing without you, For no power on Earth would I trade my Elena.”
Heart splintering at the tenderness of his words, she touched trembling fingers to his lips and hoped this choice wouldn’t doom him, this man whom she loved until she couldn’t breathe.

Just reading that made me sigh again. It’s an A ++ for me all around. I can’t wait for the next instalment in the series.

My Week in Books…

5 Nov

This week seems to be a week of new releases. I finished Nora Roberts’s Dark Witch and Nalini Singh’s Archangel’s Legion over the weekend. Two of my autobuy authors, one weekend- yay me! I also re-read Danielle Monsch’s Stone Guardian and am currently reading Shannon Stacey’s Snowbound with the CEO.

Of all the above books I have to really, really recommend Archangel’s Legion. It was EPIC. I’m still trying to get my thoughts together so I can write a proper review because really I’m still feeling all gushy and ridiculously in love with the book- it was that good. Unfortunately, writing SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE over and over again does not a good review make so that review is forthcoming once I have come back down to Earth.

Dark Witch by Nora Roberts and Danielle Monsch’s Stone Guardian were good books, but not great ones. I’ll write about them and Shannon Stacey’s Snowbound this week. After Archangel’s Legion I’m looking for a really good paranormal romance I can get into. Recommendations anyone?