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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Review, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 1,549
1. The Marvel Rundown: Spider-Man Enters the 616 Stage Left

spider-man-1-variantMiles' has a fresh start in the 616 -- but is it any good?

4 Comments on The Marvel Rundown: Spider-Man Enters the 616 Stage Left, last added: 2/5/2016
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2. My Thoughts: Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

4 yummy ice cream sandwiches.

Cover Love:  I do love this cover!  I love that it celebrates the friendship that is a focus of the book rather than the romance.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
I have had this as an ebook for awhile, but hadn't taken the time to read it.  Then this week, this book was available during my library's book fair. Everyday I would pick it up and read a little bit.  Finally I just gave in and read it all!  Here's the synopsis from Good Reads:
It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list.

On it, thirteen Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try. But what if they could bring her best friend back?

Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a stranger? Um...

Emily now has this unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected), to check things off Sloane's list. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go skinny-dipping? Wait...what?
Romance?: Yes!

My Thoughts:
I liked the romance in this book, but the memories of Sloane and Emily's friendship is really what drives this book.  Emily is so sure she is lost without Sloane, but when she opens herself up to a world without Sloane she learns she is not lost, she is fun and worth knowing.

I liked how the author kept the story fast paced and moving forward, giving us new characters and giving Emily new experiences, yet slowly doling out information about Sloane.  Sloane was the catalyst for Emily's story, but she wasn't the focus.  The book really focused on friendship.

I didn't love the absent parent aspect, why do young adult books always have to invent a way for parents to not be present?  Although Emily's parents are around, they aren't available.  But, they don't sound like horrible parents, just really caught up in their work.  I think this story would have been fine if they had been present, just working normally.

The author did a great job of giving us a picture of the girl Emily was before she met Sloane and the girl she thought she became when she had Sloane with her.  Emily had no confidence or strength of character on her own, she thought she got it all from  Sloane.  She did a great job of taking steps to realize she was strong on her own and she was also different than Sloane.  She didn't need to be a copy of her.

I adored Frank!  Perfect book boyfriend and one that I was glad to see developed a friendship with Emily before it went anywhere.

To Sum Up:  A great summer novel about friendship and romance.  Fun read!

0 Comments on My Thoughts: Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson as of 2/1/2016 2:02:00 PM
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3. Review: Illicit Night with the Greek by Susanna Carr

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

This is going to be a rambling review.  The taboo aspects of this story didn’t bother me.   How everybody treated Jodie did. Her parents ignored her and shuttled her from one distant boarding school to the next, eager to rid themselves of her presence so they could selfishly pursue their lives without having a kid around. Stergios and his family treated her horribly, when all she wanted was some place to call home and someone to care for her. She was 15 years old when she first met them, and they couldn’t get rid of her fast enough, either! I’m just thinking what a crappy childhood that would have been, and what a strong person she must be to not be even more messed up than she was.  Jodie had zero positive role models while growing up.   ZERO.  The only reason her dad showed any interest in her at all was to ensure he received his massive child support checks from her mother.  How sad is that?

Jodie’s father is an admitted gold digger.  He married into the Antoniou family for their wealth.  Nobody seemed to have a problem with that.  Jodie, however, was a lonely, emotionally battered girl who acted out for attention.  Everybody had a problem with that.  Stergios’ mother treated her with contempt and distain, never welcoming the teenager into her home.  After an incident with her cousin, Jodie’s father banishes her from the family.  I would have considered that a stoke of good luck, but not Jodie.  She falls in and out of unwise relationships for the next few years, and then, after the sudden death of her mother, decides that she needs to make amends with her father.

Jodie’s determination to make her father love her drove me nuts and it really marred my enjoyment of the story.  Stergios wasn’t a teddy bear by any stretch of the imagination, but at least he came to realize that he was judging Jodie unfairly.  I found it kind of ironic that after taking advantage of her when she was 18, he continued to  hurl insults and judgment about her morality at her.  He also said some pretty hateful things to her during a huge argument at the midway point.  I really questioned what she saw in him, because whenever they were together, they brought out the worst in each other.  That did change later in the story, but Jodie was a lot more forgiving than I would have been.  And the kidnapping?  Just, no.  After what Stergios went through as a child, to even entertain this idea is inconceivable.  While Stergios’ behavior was driven by emotions, Jodie’s father never seemed to show any.  He was a spineless boy toy to the very end, and that infuriated me.

To say that Illicit Night with the Greek brought out lots of mixed emotions in me isn’t an exaggeration.  The supporting characters were vile and unlikable.  The hero was just barely tolerable for most of the story.  The step-sibling angle was kind of a moot point for me because Jodie was never a part of the Antoniou family, and Stergios treated her with contempt and distrust from the very first page.  This was mixed bag for me, one that did trigger several strong emotional responses, though the main response was rage at how everyone treated the heroine.  Because of how angry the Antoniou family made me, I found the backstory more compelling than the romance.  Do I believe in their HEA?  I think that Jodie and Stergios will remain blissfully happy – as long as they stay away from his unwelcoming, judgmental family. 

Grade:  C / C- because the supporting characters infuriated me so much!

Review copy provided by Author

The Greek’s unexpected parting gift…

Stergios Antoniou hasn’t seen his exiled, troublemaking stepsister, Jodie Little, since the night they finally gave in to their forbidden attraction. Learning she’s returned to Athens during a business deal too crucial to jeopardize, he holds her prisoner on his private island until it’s over. 

Jodie wants to rectify the past, but being so close to Stergios’s potent sensuality, she’s once again a slave to their destructive desire. One last illicit night should have put their affair behind them, but Jodie leaves the island with more than scorching-hot memories…

Publisher: Harlequin Presents
Publication Date: February 1
Romance sub-genre: contemporary romance
Book length: 192 pages
Goodreads link:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25897411-illicit-night-with-the-greek
Order links:
Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Illicit-Night-Greek-One-Consequences-ebook/dp/B0111OWG5U/
Barnes & Noble:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/illicit-night-with-the-greek-susanna-carr/1122252493?ean=9781488000621
Google Play:
https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Susanna_Carr_Illicit_Night_with_the_Greek?id=YNkaCgAAQBAJ
iBooks:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/illicit-night-with-the-greek/id1016372376?mt=11
Kobo:
https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/illicit-night-with-the-greek
Author links
Website: http://www.susannacarr.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Author.SusannaCarr
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SusannaCarr
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/22371
Bio:
Readers throughout the world find Susanna Carr’s award-winning contemporary romances a delightful escape that has often helped them through difficult times. Reviewers describe her award-winning stories as “fun”, “sexy” and “a must read”. When she isn’t writing or spending time with her family in the Pacific Northwest, Susanna enjoys reading romance and connecting with readers online.

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4. Big Snow – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Big Snow Author & Illustrator: Jonathan Bean Publisher: Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2013 Themes: Anticipation, excitement, first snowfall of season Awards: Charlotte Zolotow Award Nominee for Highly Commended Title, 2014 Ages: 3-5 Opening: “Mom,” said David, “when will it snow?”                                                                                                                  “I think soon,” said Mom. “Why don’t you help … Continue reading

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5. Review: Dreaming Death by J Kathleen Cheney

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I wanted to read Dreaming Death because it sounded different.  I was in a bit of a rut last year, sticking with the tried and true and reading a lot of series romance.  I decided that for this year, I would switch it up, and read a mix of genres.  I am loving the urban fantasy titles I’ve picked up, and was hoping for the same success with this fantasy.  While parts of it were fascinating, I had a huge problem with one of the characters, and it marred my enjoyment of the book.

This is an interesting premise.  Unfortunately, I found Mikael to be a spineless wimp, at least until he met Shironne, and Kai was a sullen turd. I shudder at the thought of grudge-holding Kai being the next king.  He is the favorite of the king to take control of the throne, and all I could think was, “That’s the best candidate you have?”  Ugh!  I didn’t buy the reasons for his behavior, and just thought he was being immature and petty.  I hated this guy, and it was a struggle to get through scenes he was part of.

This is a fantasy with mystery elements. Mikael keeps dreaming of other people’s deaths, and because he broadcasts his thoughts so loudly, all of the sensitives in town share his dreams. Shironne is a touch sensitive; she is able to read the thoughts and feelings of others with a touch. She can even read the thoughts of dead people, so she’s been helping the army solve murder cases. When a string of blood sacrifices leave a steadily growing number of corpses around the city, Shironne and Mikael are desperate to locate the killers. Mikael dreams of the deaths, and Shironne gathers clues from the bodies as they hunt the criminals before they kill again.

The magic system was interesting, but the world building was confusing. I still don’t really understand the difference between the Houses and the Families, but maybe that will be made more clear in the next book?  Mikael can project his dreams, and unfortunately, he dreams about people being murdered.  His disturbing, emotional visions are broadcast to the sensitives in town, leaving them frightened and unsettled.  They hate him for it, so he goes to a local tavern whenever he feels a dream coming on, and drinks himself senseless in an effort to dampen the intensity of his dreams.  That doesn’t really work, and because the dreams leave him injured and shaken, he’s not in the best shape to be alone, but he refuses to seek help, afraid he’ll be kicked out of the House he’s currently part of.

For me, Shironne was the saving grace.  She’s incredibly powerful, but she is mindful not to use her abilities recklessly.  She understands the importance of keeping the secrets and privacy of people around her.  Her powers have rendered her blind, but don’t think for an instant that she’s helpless or weak, because she’s not.  Shironne is the strongest character in the book, and it wasn’t all because of her abilities.  She is level-headed, intelligent, and able to think her way out of dangerous situations.  She deals with the grisly corpses with courage and determination, realizing that if she can’t unmask the identity of the murderer, more people will die painfully, and she’ll have to watch through Mikael’s dreams.

My opinion of Mikael improved immensely once he and Shironne meet.  Until then, I had a hard time liking him.  He seemed to be enjoying his pity party a little too much.  I never changed my opinion of Kai.  He remained obnoxious and immature to the very end of the book.  Unfortunately, he took away some of my enjoyment for the story.

Grade:  C+/B-

Review copy provided by publisher

ABOUT DREAMING DEATH

Shironne Anjir’s status as a sensitive is both a gift and a curse. Her augmented senses allow her to discover and feel things others can’t, but her talents come with a price: a constant assault of emotions and sensations has left her blind. Determined to use her abilities as best as she can, Shironne works tirelessly as an investigator for the Larossan army.

A member of the Royal Family’s Guard, Mikael Lee also possesses an overwhelming power—he dreams of the deaths of others, sometimes in vivid, shocking detail and sometimes in cryptic fragments and half-remembered images.

Then a killer brings a reign of terror to the city, snuffing out his victims with an arcane and deadly blood magic. Only Shironne can sense and interpret Mikael’s dim, dark dreams of the murders. And what they find together will lead them into a nightmare…

 

DREAMING DEATH: A Palace of Dreams Novel

J. Kathleen Cheney

Roc Trade Paperback

$16.00 | 432 pages

ISBN: 9780451472939

February 2, 2016

PRAISE FOR THE NOVELS OF J. KATHLEEN CHENEY

“[A] masterpiece of historical fantasy.”

Library Journal

“Intriguing and fun, the mystery unfolds like a socially conscious tour through a cabinet of curiosities.”

Kirkus Reviews

Mesmerizing.”

Publishers Weekly

“Pulls readers in right off the bat.”

RT Book Reviews

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

J. Kathleen Cheney is the author of the Novels of the Golden City, including The Shores of Spain, The Seat of Magic, and The Golden City. Her short fiction has been published in such venues as Fantasy Magazine and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and her novella “Iron Shoes” was a Nebula Finalist in 2010. She lives in Oklahoma, and you can visit her online at www.jkathleencheney.com.

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6. #Zombies Review: Waking Up Alive by Emma Shortt

 

Contains Spoilers!

Polly Parker has things good in deadly chaos after the zombie apocalypse.  She’s snug as a bug in a secure building in Chicago, just waiting for the wakers to die.  She occasionally ventures outside to give herself something to do, and when the mathematician runs into Tye LeBow, she turns her cushy life on end.  Letting Tye into her home, and her life, is a huge risk for Polly, one that she’s very careful about making.  The last time she tried to help someone, she was viciously assaulted, proving that the zombies aren’t the only monsters prowling the streets.

Tye is just looking for his partner, Jackson (you can read about her adventures in Waking Up Dead – highly recommended!) when he runs into Polly and almost gets himself blown to bits in the process.  The two form an uneasy alliance after escaping from a mob of zombies.  Impressed by Polly’s bravery, as well as how she’s been able to hide for the past two years, he is still apprehensive that her luck won’t hold out forever.  When her safe haven is overrun, the two head south to the refuge camp in Laredo, dodging danger and death every step of the way.

I really liked Polly.  She’s a nerd, but she’s a bomb-making, sharp-shooter kind of a nerd.  She has believable fears about being eaten by zombies, but when it comes time to save someone, she’s there with her gun and her grit.  She was a nice match for Tye, but I thought he was just a little too good to be true.  He’s ruthless with his ax, but he’s kind, gentle, and possesses a positive attitude that I would be hard pressed to match in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.

I really enjoyed this up until the point Polly was bitten, and then it didn’t hold my attention as well.  The secondary characters weren’t appealing either.  Seb’s character was inconsistent, and I didn’t buy into his mistake that allowed the zombies to escape from his lab.  Jackson just grated here, while I loved her in Waking Up Dead, and Luke was completely under-utilized here.  He was pretty much just Jackson’s arm candy, which was disappointing. 

The action up to Tye and Polly reaching Laredo was blistering, and what I enjoy best about zombie books.  They were constantly on the run, dodging from evermore cunning monsters that want nothing more than to eat them.  Their flight from Chicago is tense and nerve-wracking, and kept me turning the pages.

Then they get to Laredo and everything came to a screeching halt.  If you are more interested in the possible recovery from a devastating zombie virus, than this will be right up your alley.  Seb, a scientist, believes he finally has the key to manufacturing a cure for the plague that has brought a bloody and violent end to the world.  I found the lab time tedious and wasn’t as engaged in that aspect of the story.

Grade: B-

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book:

After surviving the zombie apocalypse for two years, Tye LeBow never expected to be saved from a hungry gang of zombies by a geek with a bad attitude and a penchant for explosives. Tye can’t quite work out why scientist Polly Parker saved him. She doesn’t want his protection, and she certainly doesn’t want his company. But Tye has no intention of leaving the beguiling geek behind.

Polly doesn’t want to leave her home, but when the wakers begin to show signs of a burgeoning intelligence, heading south is the only option. With a car packed full of homemade explosives, and Tye’s very large axe, they are ready for the road trip of their lives.

Bombs and blades aren’t the only keys to survival–they’ll need to rely on each other, in a way that neither could have imagined…

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7. Mini Review: Nightfall by Ellen Conner

May Contain Spoilers

I loved the action, but struggled with the protagonists. They aren’t particularly likable, or rational, which made me doubt they would, indeed, survive the end of the world.  Jenna, in particular, behaves with extreme immaturity, which both grated and made me wish, even for a moment, that she would be the next victim of the demon dogs.  She is more upset that Mason freezes her out emotionally than she’s mad that he kidnapped her, tying her up and tossing her in the trunk of her car before driving her to his isolated cabin in the woods.  He only does it to “save” her from the end of the world, but since she doesn’t believe that the end of the world is nigh, she should have been a lot more pissed at him than she was about that incident.

There’s a lot of sexual tension, but Mason and Jenna’s relationship never seemed to grow from sex and lust to love. Maybe in a scary new world that’s all you need, but as a reader, I was disappointed at their lack of emotional development. They both act like 10 year olds, sniping and even physically fighting with each other. I’m not sure that I’m ever going to buy into a relationship between them, should they ever start to actually communicate, which they really didn’t until the very end of the book.  It’s all mine, mine, mine, and I don’t consider feelings of possession to equate to feelings of love and tenderness, but maybe I’m weird that way.

This book rocked when the characters were hiding or running away from the monsters that relentlessly tried to eat them. The interactions between the protagonists, however, wasn’t exactly my cup of tea.  I did like Tru and Penny, two of the younger supporting characters, and I’m looking forward to  reading their story.

Grade: B/B-

Review copy purchased from Amazon

About the book:

First in a stunning new post-apocalyptic paranormal romance trilogy.

Growing up with an unstable, often absent father who preached about the end of the world, Jenna never thought in her wildest nightmares that his predictions would come true. Or that he would have a plan in place to save her-one that includes the strong, stoic man who kidnaps and takes her to a remote cabin in the Pacific Northwest.

The mysterious ex-Marine named Mason owes a life-debt to Jenna’s father. Skilled and steadfast, he’s ready for the prophesied Change, but Jenna proves tough to convince. Until the power grid collapses and mutant dogs attack-vicious things that reek of nature gone wrong.

When five strangers appear, desperate to escape the bloodthirsty packs, Jenna defies her protector and rescues them. As technology fails and the old world falls away, Jenna changes too, forever altered by supernatural forces. To fight for their future, she and Mason must learn to trust their instinctive passion-a flame that will see them through the bitter winter, the endless nights, and the violence of a new Dark Age.

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8. My Thoughts: Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski

4 frosted brownies.

Cover Love:
Yes.  This has such a creepy feel to it.  I love the font and I love the tagline at the top.  It all works!

Why I Wanted to Read This:
The synopsis caught my eye right away.  It seemed like such a weird and scary idea.  Here it is from GoodReads:
On Marin’s island, sunrise doesn’t come every twenty-four hours—it comes every twenty-eight years. Now the sun is just a sliver of light on the horizon. The weather is turning cold and the shadows are growing long.

Because sunset triggers the tide to roll out hundreds of miles, the islanders are frantically preparing to sail south, where they will wait out the long Night.

Marin and her twin brother, Kana, help their anxious parents ready the house for departure. Locks must be taken off doors. Furniture must be arranged. Tables must be set. The rituals are puzzling—bizarre, even—but none of the adults in town will discuss why it has to be done this way.

Just as the ships are about to sail, a teenage boy goes missing—the twins’ friend Line. Marin and  Kana are the only ones who know the truth about where Line’s gone, and the only way to rescue him is by doing it themselves. But Night is falling. Their island is changing.

And it may already be too late.
Romance?: We come in at the start of a possible romance between Line and Marin.

My Thoughts:
The world of YA and MG books has been so saturated with dystopian books that I forget there are straight up fantasy/sci-fi books that aren't dystopian.  This is a fantasy book, set in a world vastly different than ours.  It's not futuristic, it's just not our world.  And I loved that about this book!  I loved the setting and getting to know the rules right along with Line, Marin and Kana.  But I felt it moved a bit slowly in letting us learn anything.  It didn't dissuade me from wanting to know, though.  I just wish information would've come a little bit quicker.

I like the little added mystery, it was the kind that an experienced reader (adult) picked up on pretty quick, but a younger reader would be wowed with the twist!  I liked all three characters with Kana being my favorite.  The circumstances that lead up to them being left on the island were plausible.  The only thing that made me question is why they ever go back to the island.  They live 14 years away, why would they even both coming back after that time.

There was enough darkness and things that go bump in the constant night that I was having a few nightmares.  The ending was very satisfying for me and it wrapped everything up.  I would like another book in this world, but I don't have to have the same characters.  I would love to know why they feel the need to go back to the island after 14 years away!

To Sum Up:  This one is going to be a big hit in my library.  Creepy, but with some good twists, I think that middle schoolers will love reading this story!

Book from my personal and school library.

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9. Review and Giveaway: City of Light by Keri Arthur

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I am a big fan of Keri Arthur’s Souls of Fire series, so I was excited to check out City of Light.  This is the start of her Outcast series, which has a futuristic, post-apocalyptic feel.  The main character is a déchet, an artificially conceived super-solider with both shifter and vampire DNA, and she’s been trained to seduce enemy shifters to divulge their deepest secrets.  She can alter her image, she’s immune to poison, and she can talk to ghosts.  She’s also pretty kick ass in a fight, and can better than hold her own in most instances.  She has one major weakness, and it’s almost her downfall several times during the story.  Tiger was in charge of the nursery in one of the déchet bunkers, and after the shifters won the war and attempted to eradicate all traces of her kind, she was forced to watch all of her young charges, as well as every other individual in the bunker, die horrible deaths when toxins were pumped into the structure.  When she learns that a child is in danger, she drops everything to save her and ends up leaping from the frying pan into the fire.

It’s been over a hundred years since the end of the war, and Tiger has spent most of that time hiding in the bunker.  The shifters dumped cement into the bunker to permanently seal it off, but luckily for Tiger, it only filled the top levels, leaving the rest of the structure intact.  There are secret entrances that she makes use of to steal in and out of her home, which is populated with the ghosts of her young wards, as well as the deceased warriors that inhabited the lower levels.  This was one of the largest plot holes for me, because it make zero sense that the victors of the war would completely overlook the fact that the military bunker had more ways in than the ones they sealed.  Especially when it was so close to their city.  They were so confident that they killed everyone in the bunker that it was inconceivable to them that someone actually survived.  With all of the times Tiger entered and exited her home, it was inconceivable to me that nobody noticed.

After the shifters dropped bombs to end the war, their weapons tore rifts between this world and the next, letting in monsters more terrifying than those they fought during the war.  Now blood-thirsty monsters dominate the night, causing the city dwellers to live under perpetual artificial light. Not only do the humans and shifters have to worry about vampires, but the Others from beyond the rifts also hunt during the night.  It’s during a monster infested night that Tiger’s ghosts send her out into the darkness.  There is a child out there, unprotected, soon to be a snack for the vampires.  Without a second thought, Tiger races out to save her, and also finds an injured ranger, a shifter that specialized in the murder of déchets.  Tiger manages to save both of them, and turns her quiet life on its ear.

There’s a lot of action and near death episodes in City of Light, and that kept me engaged in the story.  Tiger can’t trust anyone – not her new acquaintances, not an old friend she’s been reunited with.  There’s something off about everyone, some darkness she can’t quite place her finger on.  When she learns that someone is kidnapping young children for unknown, but most assuredly nefarious purposes, she begins to suspect government ties to the crimes.  With time running our, she knows she only has herself and her ghosts to rely on.

I thought some of the world building was a little weak.  I didn’t think this post-war world was sufficiently fleshed out, especially when it came to the government structure and the ruling hierarchy.  Some of the supporting characters also felt flat and one-dimensional.  The lead up to a few of the action sequences seemed drawn out, leaving me to hope that the battles would soon begin.  These are typical gripes I have at the start of a new series, and I’m hoping some of my concerns will be expanded on later in the series.  I did enjoy the book, and I’m looking forward to the next title in the Outcast series. 

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by Publisher

The first in an all-new futuristic fantasy series from Keri Arthur—the New York Times bestselling author of the Souls of Fire novels.

When the bombs that stopped the species war tore holes in the veil between this world and the next, they allowed entry to the Others—demons, wraiths, and death spirits who turned the shadows into their hunting grounds. Now, a hundred years later, humans and shifters alike live in artificially lit cities designed to keep the darkness at bay….

As a déchet—a breed of humanoid super-soldiers almost eradicated by the war—Tiger has spent her life in hiding. But when she risks her life to save a little girl on the outskirts of Central City, she discovers that the child is one of many abducted in broad daylight by a wraith-like being—an impossibility with dangerous implications for everyone on earth.

Because if the light is no longer enough to protect them, nowhere is safe…

Win a copy of City of Light!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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10. Review: RED WOLF #1 Isn’t Offensive, Just Boring

55f07e35cb59eMarvel’s All-New All-Different Red Wolf #1, out today, has faced more scrutiny than most books slated for the publisher’s line-wide relaunch.  Written by Nathan Edmondson and drawn by Dalibor Talajic, the book was criticized upon announcement due to the titular character’s design as seen in an All-New All-Different promotional image.  In addition, following Marvel’s announcement of Edmondson […]

5 Comments on Review: RED WOLF #1 Isn’t Offensive, Just Boring, last added: 12/4/2015
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11. The All-New, All-Different Marvel Rundown #7: Still More Timely than SECRET WARS

The All-New, All-Different Marvel Universe is here, but the event that was supposed to kick off the brand new publishing line Secret Wars is still in production. We’re here to take a look at the brand new books in the line and tell you if they are worth the money. It’s week seven of the All-New, All-Different Marvel […]

4 Comments on The All-New, All-Different Marvel Rundown #7: Still More Timely than SECRET WARS, last added: 11/22/2015
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12. REVIEW: Why Batman: Europa #1 is a Gem, Despite Eleven Years of Development Hell

Sometimes great things are worth the wait.

2 Comments on REVIEW: Why Batman: Europa #1 is a Gem, Despite Eleven Years of Development Hell, last added: 11/22/2015
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13. Review: The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

 

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I am often reluctant to reread childhood faves, because as I’ve aged, my reading tastes have changed.  Since The Black Stallion was written almost 80 years ago, the age of the novel also gave me pause.  I impulsively checked it out of the library anyway (I do have an ancient hardcover copy somewhere in my own book collection, but it’s so much easier to read a digital copy).  I remember the first book in the series being one of my least favorites, but after finishing it again, a gazillion years after my first outing with the Black and Alec, I must have remembered incorrectly.  I can’t see how later books can top the excitement and adrenaline rush of this one.

The book starts with young Alec on a freighter, headed home from a summer in India visiting his uncle.  During the journey, two remarkable things happen; a wild black stallion is loaded during a stop in Arabia, and the violent storm breaks the ship apart.  Saved inadvertently by the Black, Alec and the stallion are marooned on a small, desolate island.  Alec struggles with all of the life skills he possesses to keep himself and the horse alive while awaiting rescue.  They form a close bond, and Alec even braves several unplanned dismounts (he is quickly and powerfully tossed from the Black’s back and thrown to the ground) to ride him.

They are rescued, and when Alec and the Black finally, finally arrive back home in New York, the boy convinces his parents to let him keep the horse.  In an incredible convenience, the Dailey’s, an older couple that live down the street, have a run-down barn and an acre pasture, and they agree to allow Alec to board the horse on their property.  Henry Dailey, a former jockey and horse trainer, sees the potential in the wild stallion, and decides to  help Alec train him. 

I could not put the book down, and I’ve read it a number of times in the past.  It’s been decades since my last reread, and I had forgotten many plot details.  I completely forgot about the match race between Cyclone and Sun Raider, and was wondering how the Black would be able to race without papers.  Now that I have horses of my own, I know how important registration papers are if you want to compete in breed events.  That small detail wouldn’t have meant much to me during my first visits with the Black and Alec, when I was, what, eight? 

Alec’s adventures are harrowing and leave you on the edge of your seat.  Even his rides on the Black are exciting.  Walter Farley makes the most of drama, giving the Black speed that blinds Alec, brings tears streaming down his face, and even weakens him to the point of losing consciousness.  The Black is a wild, violent animal, always a hair-trigger away from coming completely unglued.  Only the special bond he shares with his human keeps events from escalating into disasters.  Is it very believable?  No, but it makes for tense, hard to put down reading.

One thing I missed from this version of the story where the illustrations in my old hardcopy.  They gave the story more depth and were just plain fun to look at.  That’s the only knock I have for this edition.  I’m glad I reread this, and I’ll probably read more of the series, because I have completely forgotten most of the other books.

Grade:  A

Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book:

First published in 1941, Walter Farley’s best-selling novel for young readers is the triumphant tale of a boy and a wild horse. From Alec Ramsay and the Black’s first meeting on an ill-fated ship to their adventures on a desert island and their eventual rescue, this beloved story will hold the rapt attention of readers new and old.

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14. Review: The Black Hood #6 Introduces Howard Chaykin to the Dark Circle

Script: Duane Swierczynski Art: Howard Chaykin, Jesus Aburto, Rachel Deering THE ACCLAIMED DARK CIRCLE SERIES RETURNS! “Flor de Muerto” After the soul-crushing events of “Bullet’s Kiss,” disfigured cop Greg Hettinger leaves Philly and checks into a Southern California rehab clinic. But a plane ride can’t separate Greg from his troubles. A fellow patient believes her […]

2 Comments on Review: The Black Hood #6 Introduces Howard Chaykin to the Dark Circle, last added: 10/29/2015
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15. Elite Beat Roundtable: Is CBS’s new SUPERGIRL show hot or not?

The Supergirl pilot that debuted last night on CBS a lot of weight on its shoulders. The show tells the story of Kara Zor-El, played by Melissa Benoist, as she escapes Superman's shadow and comes into her own as National City's first superhero. It is the network's first major superhero endeavor, the first superhero show led be a solo female in more than 40 years and the pilot had a lot of ground to cover, attempting to endear characters to new viewers while also trying to re-envision elements of the mythos without alienating established comics fans. Does it succeed? The Beat is here to tell you with a hard hitting roundtable. We've always wanted to have one of those.

7 Comments on Elite Beat Roundtable: Is CBS’s new SUPERGIRL show hot or not?, last added: 10/29/2015
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16. Review: Axcend #1 Game On

Axcend from Image comics smashes two different story telling worlds together, but is it worth pushing start?

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17. Review: Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I’m so glad my local library received this book so soon after release date!  I actually had an eARC, but a Kindle version wasn’t available, and I could not get the ePUB file to load on my iPad.  Talk about frustrating!  Vengeance Road was probably my most anticipated summer read, and having that broken file on my tablet was driving me nuts.  Turns out the library saved the day!  This book is so good, I urge you to run to your own library and borrow it right away!

After Kate Thompson’s father is killed by the no good Rose Riders, she does what any brave frontier woman would do.  She vows to chase them to purgatory, dresses like a boy, and sets off after them.  She makes a short stop on the way, because she promised her father that if anything ever happened to him, she’d seek refuge with his friend Abe.  Only she learns that Abe’s dead, kicked in the head by a horse.  His sons give her a letter, written by her father, that they had been keeping in case she ever showed up.  Discovering that her parents had discovered a gold cache in the Superstition Mountains before her mother’s death, Kate, pretending to be Nate, loads her guns and heads off in search of the gold.  Where there’s gold, she figures, there will be a thieving, murderous band of outlaws.

Kate gets unexpected company when Abe’s sons, Jesse and Will, stubbornly join her.  They argue that three riders are safer than one, and they can keep an eye out for each other, since they are traveling in the same direction.  They’ll ride with her until they have to veer off for a cattle drive they’ve been hired for, and since she can’t get rid of them, Kate reluctantly agrees that some company won’t be too bad.  Will it?

Kate is one angry young woman.  Her rage consumes her.  All she can think of is riding down the Rose Riders and killing them, slaughtering them as callously as they murdered her pa.  She rebuffs Jesse and Will’s overtures of friendship, afraid that they’ll figure out she’s a girl, and that they’ll cause headaches for her that she doesn’t need.  When the three are ambushed by the Rose Riders, Kate reluctantly fills them in on her missions, and the thought of all of that gold gets Jesse’s attention.  He’s tired of scrabbling in the dry earth to feed his siblings, and some gold would help make improvements to their homestead.  Despite Kate’s reservations, they head off for the mountains, looking for the gold cache and the outlaws Kate wants dead.  What she doesn’t tell Jesse or Will is that she has no regard for her own life; as long as she achieves her revenge, she’ll die a content woman.

Kate is the type of heroine I love. She doesn’t sit back and wait for someone else to solve her problems; she fixes things herself. Even when she makes a muck of things, she still focuses on achieving her goals. Does she let her anger get the best of her? Heck, yes. Is her goal productive, or going to make her happy? Heck, no! But still she charges forward, convinced that her pa’s spirit can’t rest, that she can’t rest, until the Rose Riders are dead.

Vengeance Road is packed with lots of great action, features a vivid Western backdrop, and is full of challenges, challenges, challenges everywhere Kate goes. This immersive story is high octane reading at it’s best.  Highly recommended.

Grade:  A-

Review copy borrowed from my local library

When Kate Thompson’s father is killed by the notorious Rose Riders for a mysterious journal that reveals the secret location of a gold mine, the eighteen-year-old disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers and justice. What she finds are devious strangers, dust storms, and a pair of brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, she gets closer to the truth about herself and must decide if there’s room for love in a heart so full of hate. 

     In the spirit of True Grit, the cutthroat days of the Wild West come to life for a new generation.

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18. Review: Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

My Mercy Thompson obsession continues.   Blood Bound picks up shortly after the events in Moon Called.  Mercy receives a late night call from Stefan, asking for her help.  Since she indebted herself to him while searching for Adam’s kidnapped daughter, she doesn’t really have much choice than to accompany him on an errand.  One of the things I love about Mercy is that her word is her bond, and she won’t go back on a promise or a debt unless dire circumstances force her to.

Stefan is on a mission from his Mistress; he’s to confront a vampire that’s just arrived in town to discover why he hasn’t informed Marsillia that he’s in her territory.  Stefan wants Mercy to go with him because she is immune to most vampire powers.  The encounter quickly devolves, and Mercy, in her coyote form, is helpless to assist Stefan when he is overpowered or the human the vampire has kidnapped.  A narrow escape that leaves Mercy injured and with nightmares and many questions follows.  Sam is furious with Stefan for putting her in that position, and that’s when Stefan reveals that the vampire is a demon-ridden sorcerer.  There is an evil demon sharing his body, and if they don’t kill him soon, there will be many, many lives lost.  Stefan is a very powerful vampire, and he was quickly under the other vampire’s control, so Stefan is going to need help to subdue him.

The sorcerer is a powerful foe, and Mercy is warned to back off and let the vampires and werewolves handle him.  Unfortunately, the team sent after him gets their butts handed to them.  When Sam, Adam, and Stefan disappear, Mercy knows that she has to do something, on the off chance that they are still alive. This is another thing I like about Mercy – she knows that she’s hopelessly outmatched, but she still is driven to do the “right” thing.  She won’t be able to live with herself if she could have saved her friends, but didn’t act because she was too frightened.  Instead, she gathers up her courage and a few magical gifts from friends and heads off on a demon-possessed vampire hunt.

One difference in Blood Bound is that Mercy is forced to work with the vampires.  While they don’t like her kind, they realize that her powers may prove useful in tracking down the rogue vamp.  Mercy’s clear confusion when dealing with them gave her an added challenge.  While she could read the werewolves well and understood their pack structure, the vampires and their politics are a complete mystery to her.  Can she trust them? Will they use her and turn on her? The werewolves can be hard to like given their brutal behavior, but the vampires are so much worse because they are so alien and it’s so hard to understand their motivations.  Their blatant disregard for human life is alarming, but I guess that makes sense because they’re dead

I’m finding the series very entertaining, and I’m looking forward to the next book. 

Grade:  B+ / A-

Review copy borrow from my local library

Mechanic Mercy Thompson has friends in low places-and in dark ones. And now she owes one of them a favor. Since she can shapeshift at will, she agrees to act as some extra muscle when her vampire friend Stefan goes to deliver a message to another of his kind.

But this new vampire is hardly ordinary-and neither is the demon inside of him.

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19. Manga Review: Tokyo Ghoul V2 by Sui Ishida

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I am trying to get back into the swing of reading multi volume manga series again.  It has definitely gotten more difficult for me to maintain any level of enthusiasm when there is a wait of months, sometimes many, many months, between volumes.  When my favorite series go on hiatus, or get canceled by the US publisher, it breaks my heart.  I love comics, I get all caught up in the stories and the characters, and when all of that grinds to a premature halt, it stings.  I’m not a happy camper, and I’m reluctant to become invested in other series.  That’s one of the reasons I enjoy the Harlequin manga adaptations so much; it’s usually only volume and you’re done.  I was also burnt out on all of the series I had been following.  Now, though, I feel the urge to dip a toe back into the manga waters. I’d like to finish up some series that have concluded, and maybe test drive a few new ones.  Tokyo Ghoul looked interesting, so I decided to give it a spin.

This is the second volume that I’ve read.  The story is finally starting to pick up some momentum for me.  The world building is getting more complex, and Kaneki has more to worry about than how he’s going to keep himself fed.  The Ghoul Investigators are descending on the 20th Ward, searching for ghouls trying to blend into human society.  When Kaneki witnesses the brutal murder of a customer of the café he works at by the ghoul police, he is distraught over his sense of helplessness.  After Touka takes matters into her own hands, and fails to achieve the vengeance she sought, Kaneki asks her to show him how to use his kagune, or weapon.  While he still refuses to kill humans, at least he’ll be able to defend himself or his friends if they are attacked.

The investigators are a shady bunch, and Mado is one creepy dude.  It will be interesting to see how Kaneki and Touka keep from meeting an unpleasant end from them, because they are as ruthless as the ghouls.  The series is starting to click for me as Kaneki struggles to fit into both human and ghoul society.  He is so passive that I didn’t find him a compelling character at first, but now that he is determined to not be a doormat, I am hoping that he blossoms into a stronger individual.  I don’t have prior knowledge of this series, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it progresses.

I am not overly wild about the art, maybe because so many of the characters are so unpleasant to look at. It does have a dark vibe that is perfect for the story, but it isn’t a favorite of mine.

Grade:  B-

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book:

Ghouls live among us, the same as normal people in every way—except their craving for human flesh. Ken Kaneki is an ordinary college student until a violent encounter turns him into the first half-human half-ghoul hybrid. Trapped between two worlds, he must survive Ghoul turf wars, learn more about Ghoul society and master his new powers.

Unable to discard his humanity but equally unable to suppress his Ghoul hunger, Ken finds salvation in the kindness of friendly Ghouls who teach him how to pass as human and eat flesh humanely. But recent upheavals in Ghoul society attract the police like wolves to prey, and they don’t discriminate between conscientious and monstrous Ghouls.

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20. Manga Review: Limit V 3 by Keiko Suenobu

Contains Spoilers

Review:

It’s been a while since I read the first two volumes of LIMIT, but I didn’t have any problems jumping back into the series again.  This is a survival story; a bus of high schoolers is headed to the mountains for a camping trip.  There’s a terrible accident, and the bus plunges off the road and down the mountainside.  There’s only a handful of survivors, and they are all girls.  Bickering and power struggles begin at once, and Morishige, the only one with a weapon, quickly takes charge.  Morishige has issues.  She has grudges against the other girls, and establishes herself as the leader of her battered, hungry, and terrified classmates.  When Isui changes to power dynamic by running off with Morishige’s scythe, there’s a rebellion against Morishige’s cruel leadership.

Things are pretty grim for our tiny group of survivors.  Usui has run off into the fog and hasn’t been seen since.  There’s only a little food to share, and Morishige is still trying to keep herself in control through threats and violence.  Since she doesn’t have her weapon anymore, that is only getting her so far.  She and Ichinose fight, bickering about how misguided Morishige’s behavior has been.  In a fit of rage, Morishige storms off.

In the morning, Konno goes off in search of Isui.  Weak and cold, she falls into a lake and almost drowns.  At the last minute, she’s saved!  By Hinata, who everyone thought was dead.  And boy am I glad he’s not, because I really like Hinata!  If I was stranded on a mountain with bleak prospects for rescue, I’d want to see his cheerful face.  Hinata is a force of positive thoughts and good vibes, and if anyone can make the impossible come true, I firmly believe it’s him.  Of course, his sudden resurrection doesn’t sit well with Morishige, especially after he calls her out for her previous “leadership” skills.  Morishige, getting back to her issues, has a real problem with males.  After a flashback to her dreadful homelife, one can’t help but understand where her lack of people skills stems from.  The victim of abuse, she doesn’t know how else to deal with her problems other than to strike out against them.

LIMIT is a very fast read that will keep you on the edge of your seat.  It’s brutal, suspenseful, and creepy.  The dire situation isn’t bringing out the best in everyone, and in fact, the utter hopelessness is turning some of the cast into evil little monsters.  There’s very little one for all and all for one until Hinata shows up.  There’s a lot of self-destruction and back-stabbing, as well as resource hogging, because who wants to share when it means that you may not have enough to eat and starve to death?  Desperate times means really, really bad behavior! 

I love the art, which matches the tenor of the story perfectly.  It’s detailed and expressive, but also dark and brooding.  Moods change in an instant from hopeful to oh my gosh we are all going to die, and the art clearly reflects that.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

In the third volume of The Limit the survivors’ worst fears have come true. One of their members has fallen. And this death amongst them will test the limits of their unity. New fears will be born from this tragedy and instead of using their combined strength to search for a way home, their lack of trust will force them all to retreat into their own micro-cliques. The balance of power is now undone, and a new face-another survivor-will eventually turn things upside down!

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21. Review: Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I’m late to the Mercy Thompson band wagon.  I don’t know why I avoided the series, but I just didn’t find them appealing, despite the kickbutt covers.  Then I started reading the Alpha and Omega series, and I decided to give them a chance.  I think a big stumbling block for me was the 1st person POV, which isn’t my favorite (I am learning to appreciate it, though).  However, after listening to part of the audio book, I jumped to an ebook copy during last week’s marathon of pre-surgical appointments.  The audio book was very entertaining, but not practical to listen to in either the doctor’s office or the hospital, and that is the only reason I switched versions.  I highly recommend the audio book if that is your preferred reading method.

I loved Mercy.  She’s a a Walker, and she shapeshifts into a coyote.  Her ability to shift in not linked in any way to the cycle of the moon.  She was raised by Bran’s pack after her mother, scared and not quite sure what to do with a shapeshifting daughter, gave her to the werewolves with a plea for help.  Living with the wolves gave her a backbone, because they are constantly on the edge of violence and aggression, and it also gave her a very clear picture of how to behave when around them.  Though she was raised by the pack, she wasn’t part of the pack, and she wasn’t compelled to follow Bran’s orders.  So, to say that she’s a strong and independent, and certainly not a pushover, is somewhat of an understatement.

Mercy lives in Washington, where she runs an auto repair shop.  Her life takes a turn for the chaotic when Mac, a young werewolf, turns up at her door, looking for work.  Mercy senses that there’s something off about him, and her instincts prove correct.  When the alpha of the local pack is attacked and his daughter is kidnapped, Mercy suddenly has her hands full.  She fears a traitor in the pack, and with no other options, takes the grievously wounded alpha, Adam, to Bran to help heal him.  Then Mercy, Adam, and Samuel are in full out pursuit of Adam’s attackers.  Adam wants his daughter back, and he won’t let anyone stand in his way.

Having read the first two Alpha and Omega books, it was great fun to have someone else’s perspective of Bran and the other wolves.  Again, because Mercy isn’t part of the pack, she doesn’t necessarily jump at his every command.  She and Bran’s son, Samuel, also have a bittersweet history.  When Mercy was a teen, she loved Sam with all her heart.  Now that she’s an adult, she questions his motives for his interest in her.  When he gives indications that he wants to pick up where they left off, she’s not so eager to go along with him.  Adam adds to the tension between Mercy and Sam, because he thinks of her as his.  So, while these two tough, dominant wolves are posturing and trying to prove who’s the boss, Mercy doesn’t really have much time to spare for either of them.  One fear I have in future installments is that the love triangle will drag out, and I hate love triangles.  I think Adam is the wolf for her, and she needs to realize that sooner rather than later.

Part of the reason for the conflict in this book is Bran’s intention to make the existence of werewolves common knowledge.  As with in Hunting Ground, not everyone is on board with his decision.  This causes a lot of grief for Mercy.  Soon, not only are renegade wolves involved, but so is the local nest of vampires.  I love the world building in the series.  There are all kinds of paranormal creatures, some known to the general public, some still keeping a low profile and trying to blend in with the humans.  While Mercy is certainly a strong, powerful woman, many of the beings around her are doubly so.  I like that that Mercy is often outgunned, and that she has to rely on guts, brains, and pure old-fashioned luck to get herself out of some the messes she winds up in.  The world feels very believable, especially the pack politics and pecking order.  Even though Mercy is outside of that, it still affects her, and how she relates to other beings she encounters.

Now I am hooked on two Patricia Briggs’ series, and I’m looking forward to getting to know all of the characters better.  If you haven’t given them a try yet, I highly recommend both the Mercy Thompson and the Alpha and Omega series.

Grade:  B / B+

Review copy borrowed from my local library

Mercy Thompson’s life is not exactly normal. Her next-door neighbor is a werewolf. Her former boss is a gremlin. And she’s fixing a VW bus for a vampire. But then, Mercy isn’t exactly normal herself.

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22. Manga Review: The Desert Lord’s Bride by Sakumi Hanada and Olivia Gates

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

All of the sheikh stories I have been reading are starting to blend together. I think it’s time for a break, but there seem to be so many of them!  And I really did like the cover, so I jumped into The Desert Lord’s Bride with a great deal of anticipation.

Unfortunately, the plot was pretty forgettable.  I read this one night and I could barely remember any of the plot details the next morning! Shehab, the heir to the throne, is determined to con the newly discovered princess of a neighboring kingdom into marrying him.  That kind of makes her sound like a new species of flower or butterfly – unknown princess appears on the radar!  The whole marriage game is upended!  Which handsome prince can marry her and cement his place in the succession of his kingdom?  It wasn’t even as exciting as that.

Farah’s already turned down Shehab once, so he disguises himself and pretends to not be himself.  Farah is immediately drawn to him, then agrees to go out to dinner with him.  What she doesn’t realize when they hop on his private jet, is that they’ll actually be flying somewhere.  Uh, hello, what else would you do on a plane but fly it somewhere?  If I had been Farah, I would have put the brakes on when we pulled up in front of Shehab’s aircraft.  There would be no way I would get on a plane with a guy I had met an hour ago, but then again, I am to susceptible scary news stories about stranger danger, abductions, and murders.

To make things even more uncomfortable for me, Shehab whisks her away to his private island paradise, where they enjoy a multi-week vacation. I don’t have enough vacation days to miss that much time from work!  Apparently, princesses, whether they want to be royalty or not, don’t have to worry about mundane things like that. 

I thought Shehab was a bit creepy and stalkerish. He never seemed sincere in his pursuit of Farah, but then again, he wasn’t. He concealed his identity for almost the entire time and then ended up professing his undying love for her – I just didn’t buy it.  I liked the art, though, so the story wasn’t a total loss.

Grade:  C / C-

Review copy purchased from Amazon

“I promise to give you the best moment of your life,” whispers a beautiful, mysterious man after a passionate kiss. Those words make Farah throw all reason out the door. Career woman Farah is actually a desert princess, and had just found out that she is to be in an arranged marriage with a prince from a neighboring kingdom. Farah has always wanted to marry the man she falls in love with, and hoped that this man, who made her crazy, would be the one. Hot passion takes her over. Please, take me now! At that moment, the man’s eyes shine like a beast.

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23. Review: Ransom Canyon by Jodi Thomas

 

This morning I have a review of Jodi Thomas’ Ransom Canyon, but first, Jodi dropped by the virtual offices with a special greeting for all of you!

Greeting from Jodi:

The idea for RANSOM CANYON came from living in the Texas Panhandle.  I wanted to write about the real west of today.  I wanted my people to be like the men and women I grew up with, honest and true.  Not the cowboy on a book cover who has never been on a horse, but the cowboy who gets up at five to load his own horse and make it to the ranch before dawn.  He doesn’t work by the hour, but by the day.

As I began my first book in the series Staten Kirkland jumped off the page.  He’s strong and good, a rancher everyone looks up to, but he’s broken and only one woman can calm his heart. Shy Quinn asks nothing of him.  She offers understanding amid the storm of his life.

Their friendship develops into a gentle, loving affair that grows to rock both them with its depth.  Staten will have to learn to love again and Quinn will have to open up to someone.  The whole town watches the birth of passion and love as Staten stands beside her letting her be strong and quiet Quinn discovers one man’s love can wash away all the pain in her past.

Readers will feel, not like they came to visit, Crossroads, Texas, on the edge of Ransom Canyon, the town will start to feel like home.  My goal as a writer is to keep you up late reading because you have to know what happens next.

So come along with me on a series set in today’s West.  You’ll love it.

Jodi Thomas

www.jodithomas.com

www.facebook.com/jodithomasauthor

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

One of the aspects of a Jodi Thomas novel that I enjoy is getting to know all of the characters.  There are usually 5 or 6 major characters, and their personal stories are told from alternating points of view.  Because of the small town setting, their lives often intersect, so we get so see how others perceive them, too.  Ransom Canyon takes place in Crossroads, Texas, a tiny town that most people just pass through without a second glance.  Staten Kirkland’s family has lived there for generations, running a large cattle ranch and investing their time and money supporting the small, close-knit community.  The story is mainly Staten’s struggle to learn how to live again after the tragic deaths of his beloved wife and teenage son.

Staten wasn’t my favorite character.  He’s emotionally detached because of his heartbreaking past, and I thought he was just taking advantage of Quinn, a childhood friend who has become his buddy with benefits.  Quinn was his wife’s BFF.  After Staten’s wife succumbed to cancer, and his son died in an accident just a few years later, his world crumbled.  He found himself seeking comfort from Quinn, a reclusive woman he’s known all his life.  Whenever the weather turned dark and stormy, just like the night his son was taken from him, he visits Quinn.  She never turns him away, and more times than not, they end up in bed.  Then Staten steals quietly from her small house and heads back home, firmly putting any feelings or deeper meaning to their hookups out of his mind. 

Quinn has loved Staten since grade school.  She has kept it a secret, because her best friend and Staten had already formed an unbreakable bond.  After Staten loses his family, Quinn is content to give what comfort she can, knowing that Staten will never return her feelings.  When unplanned complications arise, their friendship is put to the test.  This is when I decided that I really didn’t like Staten all that much.  The guy is completely clueless. Quinn lives like a hermit, and she is uncomfortable around other people, so for him to voice his doubts like he did got him exactly what he deserved.  While he eventually manned up, I wasn’t completely won over by his contrite apology.

The other characters are Lucas and Lauren, high school students who both have their stuff together.  Lucas wants to make something of himself, so he works on ranches, moving the cattle from one pasture to another, riding fence lines, and saving every penny he earns.  He has big dreams, and he’s not going to let anything get in the way of them.  He has a crush on Lauren, the sheriff’s daughter, but because she’s younger than him, and because the timing isn’t right, he decides that their friendship is going to be more important, right now, than dating her.  Lauren’s also an intelligent, caring young woman, and she agrees with Lucas.  They both have things to accomplish before they can even consider a romantic relationship.  Sometimes you meet the right person at the wrong time, and that is the theme of their relationship.  Of all the couples in the story, though, I thought they have the soundest foundation for a lasting relationship, and I hope we see more of them in later installments.

Yancey rounds out the cast.  He’s a young ex-con, in town looking for an opportunity to score a little cash and move on.  His plans are interrupted when his backpack and all of his meager possessions are stolen, and if it weren’t for the kindness of the small local retirement community, he’d be up a creek without a paddle.  Yancey is a fun character because he has so few practical life experiences.  He’s spent most of life on the wrong side of the law, in and out of jail because he can’t catch a break.  When the seniors take him under their wing, he finally discovers a sense of belonging that had been missing in his life.  It helps to ground him, and finding steady employment and a group of people who care for him make all the different in the world.  He’s goofy, naïve despite his rough edges, and he was probably my favorite character.

If you are a fan of Jodi Thomas, Ransom Canyon won’t disappoint.  If you haven’t read her yet, give it a try.  I find her books fast, soothing reads.  Despite how messed up a character’s life may appear at first, you can be confident that they will find the right person to love them and give them their HEA.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book:

From New York Times bestselling author Jodi Thomas comes the first book in a compelling, emotionally resonant series set in a remote west Texas town—where family can be made by blood or by choice

Rancher Staten Kirkland, the last descendant of Ransom Canyon’s founding father, is rugged and practical to the last. No one knows that when his troubling memories threaten to overwhelm him, he runs to lovely, reclusive Quinn O’Grady…or that she has her own secret that no one living knows.

Young Lucas Reyes has his eye on the prize—college, and the chance to become something more than a ranch hand’s son. But one night, one wrong decision, will set his life on a course even he hadn’t imagined.

Yancy Grey is running hard from his troubled past. He doesn’t plan to stick around Ransom Canyon, just long enough to learn the town’s weaknesses and how to use them for personal gain. Only Yancy, a common criminal since he was old enough to reach a car’s pedals, isn’t prepared for what he encounters.

In this dramatic new series, the lives, loves and ambitions of four families will converge, set against a landscape that can be as unforgiving as it is beautiful, where passion, property and pride are worth fighting—and even dying—for.

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24. Review: Tempted by a Cowboy by Sarah M Anderson

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

This was an extremely challenging book for me.  I was drawn to the title because the heroine is a horse trainer, and I’ve had previous success with Sarah M Anderson’s books. Once I read “horse trainer” I didn’t read any further.  The plots of category romances can get pretty interchangeable. A prince here, a billionaire there, or a millionaire cowboy; sometimes it seems that the only thing that changes are the locations or the characters names.  Tempted by a Cowboy felt like a completely different read, and there were times I didn’t like it. 

I found Phillip a difficult man to like.  When he meets Jo, he’s three sheets to the wind, with a pair of bimbos plastered to his side.  She’s just arrived to the job that’s going to make or break her career.  Phillip just purchased a 7 million dollar stud that nobody can get near, let alone train.  With a reputation for “fixing” even the most foregone horses, Jo is counting on this job to give her a hefty deposit on some hand, as well as a killer reference.  When she meets Phillip, her sense of self-preservation goes into overdrive.  Phillip is everything that she has sworn off for the last ten years, and she’s afraid he’s going to drag her back down into the nightmare she only barely escaped.  Besides, she doesn’t save people, only horses.

Jo is a recovering alcoholic, and Phillip is denying that he has a drinking problem.  Jo gave up blackouts and anonymous hookups by turning her back on both men and liquor.   The thought of wallowing back into her addiction has her terrified, but when Phillip is sober, he’s sweet and irresistible.  It’s when he’s not that they have a problem.  Phillip, a second son, was largely ignored for his older brother, and then for his younger half-siblings.  He sought attention from a young age by acting out, and he’s never stopped.  To make matters worse, his family owns a brewery, and it’s his job to be entertaining at corporate events, ensuring that everyone is having a grand old time drinking the family’s beer.  Talk about a recipe for disaster.  Phillip won’t acknowledge that he has a problem, he shifts the blame for his mistakes on others, and his family isn’t there to support him.  Instead, they push all the wrong buttons to send him on another drinking binge.

I’ll be honest.  I don’t believe that Phillip was the right guy for Jo.  I don’t believe in their HEA.  I believe that they are happy for now, but geez, what’s going to happen when Phillip has another bump in his road?  He can’t stay on the ranch forever, and as he’s already learned, his plans for sobriety can shatter as easily as a dropped glass.

Still, this was an emotionally gripping read.  I couldn’t put it down.  Even when I thought Jo was making a mistake, I understood her reasons for it.  Phillip, I just couldn’t relate to at all.  He is easily the most unstable hero I’ve ever encountered, and it took a lot of work on my part to give him a break. 

Because this book was so unexpected, and it surprised me, as well as kept me glued to the pages, I highly recommend it.

Grade:  B / B+

Review copy borrowed from my local library

How can she resist the cowboy’s smile when it promises so much pleasure?

Phillip Beaumont likes his drinks strong and his women easy. So why is he flirting with his new horse trainer, Jo Spears, who challenges him at every turn? Phillip wants nothing but the chase…until the look in Jo’s haunted green eyes makes him yearn for more…

Sure, Jo’s boss is as jaded and stubborn as Sun, the multi-million-dollar stallion she was hired to train. But it isn’t long before she starts spending days and nights with the sexy cowboy. Maybe Sun isn’t the only male on the Beaumont ranch worth saving!

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25. Review: Dancing in the Moonlight by RaeAnne Thayne

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I enjoyed the first book in this series, so I decided to read more.  Dancing in the Moonlight is about Jake Dalton, the doctor (and the least interesting brother for me, at first glance, at least), and Maggie Cruz, a wounded vet returning home after being injured in Afghanistan.  Maggie is angry and wounded, pushing away the help offered to her by her concerned family and caring neighbors.  She is independent and wants to do everything for herself, even when it’s physically painful and not the smartest path to follow.  She’s determined to do everything on her own, but pesky Jake keeps interfering and getting under foot and on her nerves.  Maggie’s rage and her fears for the future are emotionally examined as she struggles to help her mother run their ranch.

Maggie was angry before her tour of duty.  She has blamed the Dalton’s for her father’s death for years and has avoided and snubbed them at every opportunity.  When she’s wounded in Afghanistan, she’s hurting again.  She doesn’t believe her life can ever be normal now that she’s not, and she’s quit the job she loves to return home to the family ranch.  Still in pain after spending months in the hospital, she is reeling from the rejection of her fiancé, a hot-shot doctor, when he’s confronted with her injuries.  Afraid of facing that look of revulsion ever again, she’s accepted that she’s going to spend the rest of her life alone, with the only person she can count on – herself.

A flat tire just a short distance from her mom’s home has her struggling to change the tire, in the dark.  Jake sees her vehicle at the side of the road and is surprised to see Maggie.  He didn’t know that she was coming home.  Maggie’s reception to him is less than friendly, but Jake insists on changing the tire for her.  That’s when he notices that she’s trying to hide how much pain she’s in.  Jake is a doctor, too, and he takes his job seriously.  The only doctor for miles and miles, he takes pride in the skillful care he gives to his rural patients.  Maggie isn’t having any of his doctoring, though, and storms off home to surprise her mom with her arrival.  At loose ends, Maggie didn’t even call her mom to let her know that she was moving back home.

What I liked best about this book was Jake’s patience.  He is a saint when it comes to Maggie’s brush offs.  All he wants is to ensure that her pain is manageable, but she doesn’t want to have anything to do with him or his doctoring.  What Maggie doesn’t know is that Jake has loved her since he was a teen, and he’s not about to give up on her, or let her give up on herself.  She survived a bombing and saved other people’s lives, all at a terrible cost to herself.  While everyone in their small ranching community looks at her as a hero, Maggie sees herself as broken and damaged beyond repair.  Jake slowly helps her to heal emotionally, so she can see that she does have a bright future waiting for her, instead of the bleak one she had resigned herself to.

Doctors are not my favorite heroes, but I’ll make an exception for Jake.  He’s caring, kind, and a part-time cowboy.  He’s also one of the most patient romance heroes I’ve run across.  Maggie is nothing but a black cloud of rage (justifiably), and she’s letting it diminish her plans for herself.  She no longer thinks she’s capable of continuing her own medical career, which she found fulfilling and satisfying.  With Jake’s help, she accepts that while she will never be how she was before her injury, that doesn’t mean that she can’t be whole and happy again.

Grade:  B+

Review copy borrowed from my local library

LIEUTENANT MAGDALENA CRUZ HAD COME HOME…

But it wasn’t the way she’d envisioned her return. And though all she wanted was to be alone, infuriatingly handsome Dr. Jake Dalton—of the enemy Daltons—wouldn’t cooperate. And she needed him to, because the walls around her heart were dangerously close to crumbling every time he came near…

Jake had spent most of his life trying to get closer to Maggie, with little to show for it. But she was the woman he’d always wanted, and no injury in the world could change that. Now if only he could convince her that the woman who stood before him was beautiful, desirable, whole…and meant to be his…

Previously Published.

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