Sunday, December 29, 2013

Review: Forgotten Sins by Rebecca Zanetti

Title: Forgotten Sins
Author: Rebecca Zanetti
Series: Sin Brothers, Book 1
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: 2 July 2013

His Secrets Can Destroy Her

From the moment Josie laid eyes on sexy, mysterious Shane Dean, she was in love. Their desire ignited a passionate affair, and within weeks, Shane had slipped a ring on her finger. It seemed her every fantasy was coming true . . . until her new husband disappeared without a trace. Now, two years and one broken heart later, Josie is shocked by the hospital call: Shane has been found . . . at a crime scene with no memory of how he got there.

Her Love Can Save Him

Shane can't remember the blue-eyed angel at his bedside—or who he even is—but he knows something isn't right. His hearing is razor sharp, his physical strength incredible, and the urge to protect Josie overwhelming. For powerful enemies are hunting him, and Josie is the key to discovering why. As Shane struggles to unravel his past, dangerous new truths come to light. Can he protect the only woman he's ever loved? And can Josie trust a man she thought she knew—one who carries such a deadly secret?

I'm always a bit leery when authors choose to combine romance, suspense and paranormal elements into a single novel - all three plots generally require a lot more time and attention to detail than they tend to end up getting. In Forgotten Sins that both is, and isn't, the case. All three elements tend to suffer a bit from lack of attention.

I love me some reunited lovers - it's one of my favorite story-tropes, so I was excited to know that Josie and Shane were in love before he disappeared for two years. I wanted to know why he'd disappeared, and how they were going to make it work. Unfortunately the further we delved into the truth, the less sure I was they were going to be able to make things work.

Josie could have been a great heroine. She's strong, has a will of iron, and is able to take care of herself. She isn't afraid to go toe-to-toe with Shane, willing him to see that she's not as weak and vulnerable as he thinks she is. Unfortunately, even though I can understand her not quite trusting Shane, her dithering between wanting him and not got on my nerves. It's not the fact that she was taking her time to decide what was right for her, it's more the tone and the way she thinks about these things - which I recognize makes it really hard to truly criticize.

Shane irritated me too, not so much in the present because he was determined to not let Josie go again. He recognized that he loved her, and she deserved the best, and he was sure he would give her everything. But his past actions - which I won't spoil here - were never satisfactorily dealt with. When the truth did come out the whole thing was just sort of shrugged off and things moved on.

As the suspense storyline and the paranormal aspects are tied up together - essentially Shane and his brothers are super-soldiers - I was disappointed in both for pretty much the same reason. The 'villain' was cartoonish and I kept expecting them (the villain and his minions) to start twirling their black mustaches and breaking into evil laughs. By the time the doctor showed up I was rolling my eyes at the over-the-top evilness of the character.

However, all that being said, the writing was good and I'm totally interested in these brothers - and their mission. They've got high stakes, which are heightened near the end of the book, and can't fail. I want to see what happens with them, and how they resolve this situation.

I'll be picking up the second book in this series to see if it works better for me than this one did.

Grade: C

Amazon | BN | kobo | Sony | Goodreads

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Best of 2013

As I look through my books read in 2013, I realize I had a better year than I thought.

Here are the stats:
159 Books Read
68 Re-read Books
91 New-to-me Books

Of those 91 new-to-me books, there were:
15 Five-Star Books
33 Four-Star Books
21 Three-Star Books
4 Two-Star Books
18 One-Star Books (12 of which were DNFs)

Though re-reads made up the bulk of my true enjoyment this year, I still had 69 new-to-me books that I, at least, liked.

Some of these books stand out more at the end of this year than others - so regardless of their rating at the time I reviewed them, I'm going to highlight those that are most memorable to me for being fantastic. These are in no particular order.

The Emperor's Blades - Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne, Book 1 - by Brian Staveley

Perhaps it's cheating a bit to choose this book - which doesn't get released until January 14th - but I read it just a few weeks ago, and I absolutely fell in love with the world, the characters, and the story. I can't wait for more, and I can't neglect mentioning this excellent fantasy novel.

See my full review here.

Magic Rises - Kate Daniels, Book 6 - by Ilona Andrews

One of my most anticipated books of 2013, this book cemented the Kate Daniels series as my favorite. It's heart-wrenching, gripping, edge-of-your-seat action-filled, and I adored every moment back with Kate and company.

See my full review here.

Heart of Obsidian - Psy-Changeling, Book 12 - by Nalini Singh

This book. I still can't even really explain what this book is to me. It is, easily, my most anticipated book of the last five years (and one of my top 5 most anticipated books in the last decade - probably only being beaten out by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). It lived up to all my expectations and proved why Nalini Singh is my go-to author for paranormal romance.

Archangel's Legion - Guild Hunter, Book 6 - by Nalini Singh

While I'm fan-girling all over Nalini Singh's books, let's just talk about Elena and Raphael. Her worlds are fantastically realized, her characters so real I want to know them, and her plots keep me biting my nails in anticipation. I can't wait to read more about Elena, Raphael, his Seven, and this entire world.

See my full review here.

Frost Burned - Mercy Thompson, Book 7 - by Patricia Briggs

Since I'm already fan-girling all over the authors I love so much, I'll continue on for a bit. Patricia Briggs continues to be one of my top favorite authors in the urban-fantasy genre. Her Mercy Thompson series (and the for-now complete Alpha & Omega series) are ones I re-read every single year. I can't help it. I have to go back and re-visit these characters, and this world that I love so much. It's not always neat and pretty - in fact it's usually pretty messy, heart-breaking, and hard - but seeing these characters persevere through it all leaves me cheering.

This is another fantastic installment in the Mercy Thompson world. We even get a couple chapters from Adam's point-of-view!! I loved how we see the reality of Mercy integrating into the Pack, and what that means for everyone involved - especially Mercy. I'm already nearly dying for the next book in the series. Thankfully, I only have to wait until March.

Raven Flight - Shadowfell, Book 2 - by Juliet Marillier

Ever since I first read Shadowfall (review here) last year I was anxiously awaiting the release of Raven Flight. In a genre that I've increasingly become disillusioned with (there were a few surprising exceptions for me this year), Juliet Marillier is a breath of fresh air. Neryn is practical, smart, and doesn't lose her head over a guy. She learns her own powers (surprisingly with the guy off-screen most of the time), and struggles with how and when to use them. Neryn is one of my favorite heroines and if you're looking for a good young-adult fantasy novel, you can't go wrong here.

See my full review here.

Lover At Last - Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 11 - by J.R. Ward

Another book that I've been anticipating for years - apparently this is the year for pay-offs for me! Woot!! I've loved both Blay and Qhuinn since they first showed up in the Black Dagger Brotherhood novels - way back in Lover Awakened. And though, at times, I hated Qhuinn for his stubbornness and refusal to do what was right for both him and Blay, I still anxiously awaited the resolution of their story.

This book was ultimately polarizing between my friends, but for me, it delivered. Though I didn't initially love some of the secondary plots in this book, I warmed to them eventually. And ultimately it was all about Blay and Qhuinn. Their story was everything I was hoping for.

See my full review here.

Angelfall and World After - Penryn & the End of Days, Books 1 and 2 - by Susan Ee

Angelfall was such a surprise to me! I'd had it on my to-read list nearly since it was released two years ago, but I just finally got around to picking it up a week before the release of World After. I was instantly in love with Penryn - another young-adult heroine that's smart, kick-ass, capable, and brave. I loved seeing this new world, and all the dangers in store for Penryn, her family, and Raffe (who I seriously cannot get enough of!)

World After was a fabulous continuation of this series, even while it was breaking my heart. Now I'm just dying for the next book - I hope it's not another two year wait!!

See my full review for Angelfall here.

Beyond Shame - Beyond, Book 1 - by Kit Rocha

It's not been often that I've picked up an erotic romance and been blown away by the dystopian world it's set it, but I was here. While the reader isn't inundated with a ton of info-dumps about this world, and we definitely don't know everything we could about it from this first book, we learn exactly what we need to, when we need to know it. There's such potential in this world that I'm all in for this series - and that's without even talking about the truly excellent job Kit Rocha did developing the relationship between these two unexpected characters.

I enjoyed it so much that immediately upon finishing I went and bought the other available books in the series.

See my full review here.

Flirting with Disaster - Camelot, Book 3 - by Ruthie Knox

Ruthie Knox is one of my favorite author finds of 2013, and this is my favorite book of hers I've read so far. I was probably sold immediately when I found out the hero, Sean, is a geek and a hacker. I can't resist them. If you tell me the hero's a geek, I'm going to try every book there is out there. But the best part is that Sean and Katie are great together, the sex is scorching hot, and the story is fantastic!

I'm always happy when I have a new Ruthie Knox book to read, but I know I'll be coming back to re-read this one frequently.

See my full review here.

Suddenly Royal - Suddenly, Book 1 - by Nichole Chase

This is the perfect light, fluffy, sweet, and sexy read. I still occasionally wonder if the author read a list of what *not* to do in new-adult romances and made sure to avoid every single one. There's no angst, no asshole hero, no doormat heroine. There is respect, and care, humor and talking, and a sweet romance that made me sigh in happiness.

This is the first thing I've read by Nichole Chase, and I can guarantee it won't be the last.

See my full review here.

Unteachable by Leah Raeder

Looking back on this book it still makes me incredibly uncomfortable - the subject matter is not easy, and Leah Raeder definitely pushes boundaries with Unteachable. She took me well outside my comfort zone - and made me love it! Fantastic writing showcases to main characters that struggle with their desires, needs, and what is right. I'm not sure I'll ever re-read this book, but it had a profound effect on me. I still find myself thinking about it at odd times - and that, in addition to everything else, is enough to end up on this list.

See my full review here.

Stone Guardian - Entwined Realms, Book 1 - by Danielle Monsch

I went into this book thinking it was going to be a sexy paranormal romance with gargoyles. And I wasn't wrong, but I wasn't right either. I got SO much more than that. Worlds colliding, beings of fantasy, myth, magic and wonder, and a ton of trouble! I was enthralled, addicted, and couldn't stop reading this book. Plus there's a virgin hero! You heard right. The world building is fantastic and original, with a cast of characters that I can't wait to read more about in future books.

I'm counting the days until I have the next book in my grubby little hands!

See my full review here.

Viral Nation - Viral Nation, Book 1 - by Shaunta Grimes

Another young-adult that makes my list! Color me surprised. Who knew that I'd end up finding so many that I enjoyed so much. The two main characters pulled me through this book, even while I was left scratching my head with questions about the world or plot. While things definitely aren't crystal clear - especially in the beginning - these two, West and Clover, more than make up for any lack. Clover is on the autism spectrum, and West is her brother. I loved them both. They're not afraid to question and learn and grow, and that really endeared me to them. Even when things aren't easy - especially when things aren't easy - they don't give up on each other, or themselves.

Rebel Nation can't come soon enough.

Read my full review here.

So, that's my list - what were some of your favorites for 2013? What are you most looking forward to in 2014?

Happy Holidays, and Best Wishes for the New Year from Touch the Night!!

Friday, December 27, 2013

2013 DNF Round-Up Post

Just a few years ago, I never would have considered the possibility of not finishing a book. No matter how much it enraged me, how bored I was, how much I hated the characters, I read through to the last page to see if it could possibly redeem itself. All too frequently it didn't. Sometimes, some things made more sense than originally, but 99% of the time I was still too mad, disappointed and just didn't care anymore.

So I started trying to drop the books that weren't working for me. Maybe I'm missing out on some great revelation in some dropped book, but with so many books out there, and the possibility for so many good books, I just can't be bothered to worry about that anymore.

So here are the books that I dropped, and a quick (sometimes more raging than quick) bit of the reasoning on why I did.

Tempestuous Eden by Heather Graham

I made it, barely, through the prologue and a little over a page into Chapter 1.

My problems:
1. In the prologue you're reading a bunch of email exchanges back and forth between a military man and his CO (commanding officer)*. He's whining about his orders - to go to Central America - and protect a US citizen, bringing her home if necessary.

Um, excuse me? WTF? First of all, highly frowned upon (and I use that term as a insane understatement) in the military to argue with your CO in such a manner. Secondly, not very heroic. I was pretty much done with him then.

2. POV shifts. Sentence to sentence we were in someone else's head - with no real clues to tell us whose POV we were looking through. Three times it switched POV inone paragraph.

I was done.** As I only got about 2% in, I can't really recommend or discourage anyone from reading this.

*Disclaimer: I didn't get far enough to know for sure he was military, but by the lack of consultation, options, and general orders I figured there's no other option.

**Addendum: This was originally written in the '80s. It's pretty obvious. And I know things were generally more lax in some of my complaint areas (in books, that is) at that time.

Three - Legends of the Duskwalker, Book 1 - by Jay Posey

DNF at 21%.

I just can't anymore.

Some reasons I quit:

1. I have no idea what's going on. What kind of world this is, how it got this way; what kind of people these are, how they got this way. Where it is, when it is, how it is....I've got nothing. This is best as I can figure it.

We're in some vague science-fiction world; maybe earth, maybe some place else. Weirs populate the outside (and it took until 18%ish to get a name/idea of what they were). FYI: They're zombie like creatures with glowing blue eyes that track based on a multitude of things, including characters 'linking (I'll get to that). I have no idea how they came about though. Because of the weirs, humanity has closed themselves up in cities that are locked up tight after dark - apparently the weirs only come out at night? And it's got to be full dark, none of this partial-dusk, mostly dark crap. Also, they apparently communicate with screams and/or screeches.

The characters have some sort of 'link to a central 'net? They can link and find out their global positioning, have access to internal time, get information, and track based on use of this. I don't know why, or how this came about.

There are weird drugs (chems) that people can take to become super strong/fast/smart - but they become addictive to the point where you need them to function later.

2. Characters act in ways that are inconsistent with the world-building.

Enter Three. He's a mercenary? I guess. That was what I imagined him to be considering he was claiming a bounty on someone when we first meet him (unless that's him in the prologue - but I don't really know who that was to be honest). Then he randomly decides to save this woman and child. Next, he continues to help them for a really long time, protecting them despite the woman being an ungrateful person who berates and yells at him for not doing enough (apparently). Also, I have no idea why the mother was in the bar with her son when she first meets Three, and asks him for help. Obvious authorial hand here.

Additionally, Three can kick weir ass. Yet, the rest of humanity can't band together to find the weir and fight them or eliminate them. They're all weak cowards, I guess.

3. Characters that piss me off.

Enter Cass. Previously mentioned mother. She's a quint (the previously mentioned chem) addict with a special son (you know the type - the ONE). She alternates between helpless, bitchy, ungrateful and downright mean. Not to mention that she apparently can't really do anything for herself, and allowed herself AND HER SON to get into a very shady dealing. Though now she is on the run, so at least I can give her that for getting her kid out of it - though he is SEVEN so it took her long enough.

About the time she slapped her son because he wasn't able to find the way out to save them - yes, she needed her son to save himself and her - I lost all interest in her as a character and pretty much came to hate her.

And that pretty much ended my ability to read this. I was going to keep trying to go, but when my whole weekend went by without me picking up my Kindle because I just couldn't make myself. Time to just stop.

I do think this has potential, and that it's probably going to work great for others. It just isn't working for me.

Perhaps I'll come back to it at some point. Right now I doubt it, though.

Caged Warrior - Dragon Kings, Book 1 - by Lindsey Piper

DNF at 85%.

I dropped this book back in the beginning of August, 2013. I said I was going to write a short review/list as to why I didn't finish it, but I apparently never did. Going from memory here, which is admittedly not that great in regards to this book.

The heroine lusts after the hero while he's abusing her. He's been brainwashed by his captors to think, act, and be a certain way - and I thought the possibilities with this character were absolutely fascinating. Such room for growth and potential for twists and development. Unfortunately I couldn't get past a heroine that was attracted to a guy that was continuously being such an ass to her. I mean, he wasn't just mean, he was seriously injuring her at every other turn. Not okay. That was all in the first 20% of the book.

I'm not sure how I managed to keep reading, but I think it was plain and simple boredom that made me give up. The insta-love and implausible plot turns made me scoff and roll my eyes one too many times.

Crave - The Dining Club, Part 3 - by Marina Anderson

So, this is a serial, and I got the first four parts of it from Net Galley. After reading, and not really enjoying part 1 or part 2 I went into this one with some trepidations.

32% Done.

I just can't continue. I had one moment's hope for David when he turned down sleeping with Amber at the club behind Grace's back....but then he soon pulled out the emotional manipulation: "Darling, I hope you're not going to disappoint me." the moment that Grace shows some reservations, and hesitation to bare her body and soul to two other people that are !SURPRISE! going to be in the room with her during her next 'trial'.

Ugh. Done.

One Hot Winter's Night by Serenity Woods

DNF at 13%

Just can't get into the story, don't really like either of the characters - and then throw in DECEPTION*, and I'm done.

There were also nit-picky things (I studied archaeology and history quite a lot) that bugged me.
1. Archaeologists are not generally the ones selling artefacts from digs - most archaeologists don't fund their own digs, which means what they find isn't theirs.
2. The head of the National Museum of Rome is likely to know Latin, or have a few resources to ensure that his Latin is correct.

*Deception as in: she lies about who she is and seduces him under false pretenses because they have a professional rivalry going and she wants the necklace he'd gotten to first.

Not okay.

Together in Cyn by Jennifer Kacey

Okay, I admit it, I picked up this book thinking I wasn't going to like it - but I was trying to go outside my comfort zone. I thought I'd likely have a problem with the brothers being in a threesome with a girl, but that was the least of my issues.

First person erotica isn't my favorite and it really affects my reading here. There is getting to be more and more telling, instead of showing, and I've lost interest in the characters and where they may be going… Additionally, the writing style just doesn't mesh well with me - the descriptive terms literally make me cringe in sympathetic pain.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

DNF at page 133 (30%).

It's not you, it's me.

Meh. That pretty much sums up my overall feeling about this book. I'm just bored.

The writing is good, the characters are developed, the external plot is non-existent and I forced myself to read each and every one of those pages.

In truth the book is all about Cath's journey - While Cath is much more extreme than I ever was, I understood her. She's very introverted to the point where social interaction literally gives her anxiety and she chooses to be almost a hermit to avoid it; she prefers living and interacting in a fictional world to the real one, and she's incredibly giving to those she loves - even if they don't always appreciate it.

But nothing happens. At all. Cath goes from one encounter to the next, and I felt like I was told more about each one than shown anything. Additionally, I didn't love the fanfic portions that were written - I found myself skimming them and they took me out of the story every single time. And with Simon Snow obviously being a stand-in for Harry Potter, I'm not sure about the weird and random HP reference in the book. It doesn't make logical sense how there can be both of them in this world, and I figured where Simon Snow existed Harry Potter wouldn't - so that kind of threw me too.

I wanted to love this, I really did.

Onio by Linell Jeppsen

Monster-Pron Group-Read, Attempt 1: DNF at 17%. Bored out of my mind. Too many info-dumps, and I just couldn't get behind the sasquatch as beautiful.

Plus, the cover… What the hell kind of bait-and-switch is that??

From what I hear from friends that finished this, I was lucky to have given up as it got crazier and crazier the further into the story they went.

Deadly Game - Follow Me, Part 1 - by Cara Lockwood

With the huge influx of serial novels coming out this last year, I was bound to try more than a few. Unfortunately, most of them didn't end up working for me. This one is no exception - though to be fair, my problems here didn't have anything to do with the serialized format.

Meh. I just don't like the main characters - Cal and Daniel. They're childish, immature, self-centered and completely unsympathetic. They find their roommate dead, in their bed, between them, naked. They have no idea what happened. Do they mourn? Nope. They run - worried about their own skins. I do understand that, but I didn't even realize she was their ROOMMATE until later - when the police showed up there and found pictures/mentioned it. Seriously? How can you not even be concerned that your ROOMMATE, whom you've been living with and presumably know pretty well, is DEAD! Grief? Anything? Bueller?

Then they break into some house to apparently trying to get off the island and back to the US, but then they decide to have sex on the floor (where Daniel gets his choking fantasy on). Maybe it was an affirmation of life, I don't know. By this time I just didn't care. I read the entire sex scene with a look of disbelief on my face.

The other two, apparent, main characters - Nico and Thena - just bore me.

I give up. This might just be me. But I doubt it.

Raw - Torn Between Two Lovers, Book 1 - by Jo Davis

I admit, the unconventional idea of allowing the fans to choose who Anna got her HEA with drew me to request this book. I wanted to see how the author set this up and handled something where both characters would have an equal chance - something that often doesn't happen in love-triangles.

Unfortunately, I didn't make it more than 16% into Raw because of some pretty serious issues that are incredibly personal to me.

At about 9% Anna is walking home after a long night at her new restaurant; she's tired, but alert (supposedly) when she's suddenly grabbed and pulled into an alley and ... saved from being raped by a strong rescuer. Here's my first problem - why do authors feel the need to use rape and near-rape as a plot or character point? It's traumatizing, defeating, and can be so incredibly hard to come back from. Even a rape that you're saved from can have some devastating effects on a person. This portion of the series is only 80 pages, so I didn't have a lot of hope that her recovery from this traumatic experience would be at all realistic, but I pushed on.

So, Grayson turns out to be her rescuer and scares off the would-be rapist. Grayson then offers to walk her the rest of the way home...her response?

"On, that's not necessary."

Really? Not necessary? I don't care if it's just across the street, or down the block, or you're right outside your front door (in fact that all kind of makes it worse). This is independence to the point of idiocy. But fine. I keep going.

Next, Grayson mentions that they should file a report...

"I think that'll be a waste of time...

Look, I do kind of get it, but c'mon! I'm sure as Grayson was fighting him (especially as he's an FBI agent based on the book blurb) he got a decent look at him. It's just a good idea to file a report - it will likely never lead to anything (as most of them don't), it's still something that should be done. But okay, moving on...

Anna finally relents and lets Grayson walk her up to her apartment, and he starts crowding her space, and she starts getting turned on, disappointed when he doesn't kiss her. Look, I also get the whole reaffirmation of something that feels good, I get that not everyone reacts in a horrible way to such an attack, but it's now like it NEVER HAPPENED. In which case I'm left wondering why the hell was it included in the first place?

If this stuff isn't a hot-button issue for you, I freely admit it is for me, then the writing is good and I do think that the story has potential. I can't get past this though.

I quit.

Cum for Bigfoot - Cum for Bigfoot, Book 1 - by Virginia Wade

Monster-Pron Group Read, Attempt 2

I got about halfway through.

Starting with the underage (I got the impression high-schoolers) kids, one girl being screwed by her friend's father (who is married also) in the woods.

Then three of the girls being taken and straight up raped by Big Foot - I couldn't handle it anymore.*

I have a very bit hot-button about rape, I couldn't get past that. I get the rape-fantasy, I do. But this just…No.

*A few more details about the rape: he rapes her two friends - and while he's raping them, his MOTHER is using a vibrator on them and calling them dirty wh*res for enjoying themselves… and then he takes the main character and starts raping her, but, lo and behold! - she begins to enjoy it. She decides she's going to give him a blow job - and I that's where I quit.

My Favorite Mistake - My Favorite Mistake, Book 1 - by Chelsea M. Cameron

DNF at 3% (some quotes from further in the book are at the end - which makes me feel completely justified in stopping this hot mess.)

I just can't do it. I can't handle another 'strong woman' who is actually a bitch and abusive. I don't accept this behavior in men, I won't accept it in women.

The book starts by saying that the MC (Taylor) hits Hunter the first time she meets him...

The first time I met Hunter Zaccadelli, I punched him in the face. Granted, he completely and totally deserved it. He also asked for it, in so many ways.

I decided right then and there that when I saw what precipitated the punch in the face would be the thing that determined if I kept reading.

Taylor and 2 friends are moving into their dorm - which is coed. They're waiting on their fourth roommate, who is being assigned by housing. Hunter shows up. A guy.

Taylor, in her strong, bitchy ways, immediately goes on the defensive; telling Hunter he can't live there. She immediately categorized him as a 'douche' - all because he's good looking, has a tattoo, flirts, and is cocky.

I get she's uncomfortable, but she doesn't have to take it all out on him. Throwing her phone when she can't get ahold of housing. Throwing a fit in general.

Hunter, despite Taylor's insane 'welcome', seems determined to continue to be nice, try to start conversations, and flirty - shamelessly. He offers to buy them lunch even. Obviously he's attracted to bratty women.

Now, for the punch to the face. He invades her space. Purposefully, flirting, crowding her. She, in response, immediately punches him in the face and knees him in the groin.

I'm guessing there's some sort of assault in her past, and I get the instinct, but you can't go around hitting people just because they get in your space. Telling him to back off would be a good first option.

She then storms out of the apartment.

I was surprised no one chase after me, but Darah and Renee [her friends/roommates] knew about my freak outs. They knew to leave me alone and give me my space. It hadn't been the first time they'd seen me like that.

Healthy. You regularly freak out and hit people and no one thinks this is a problem? Just let her walk it off. This all just screams abusive personality to me. If it's not her way, then she's liable to freak out - and you should just get out of her path.

She calls her sister to talk it through, tells her that she punched Hunter.

"Aw, Kid, why did you do that?"

"He cornered me, what was I supposed to do?" My hand was red and starting to turn a lovely purple shade.

"You could have told him to back off. That would have been the logical thing to do."

"You know I'm not a logical person."

O-Kay then.

"Don't you think you should talk to someone again?"

"Because that worked so well before. No thank you."

It didn't work that one time, so we will never, ever again seek help for our issues. I'm done.

My friend Sarah managed to finish this book - so here are some quotes that she shared from further in...I'm so glad I quit this because these quotes put me straight into rage-territory.

"I’m not coping with it, according to my therapists. There have been many."

"Fuck them. If breaking things and punching people every now and then helps you, I’ll be your punching bag and we can get you some stuff to throw off the roof. Deal?"

Are you fucking kidding me? Imagine if we read about a girl offering this deal to a guy? Why is this in anyway acceptable??

"I’m still sorry I beat you," I said, touching his perfect face.

"How’s my face looking?"

I glanced up. He was going to look quite pretty tomorrow. "A little battered."

"That’s okay. I’ll just tell everyone I was in a bar fight."

"What, you’re ashamed to say you were hit by a girl?"

"No, but I’m worried you’ll get hauled in for domestic
violence," he said with a smile.

"Okay, fine."


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review: The Christmas He Loved Her by Juliana Stone

Title: The Christmas He Loved Her
Author: Juliana Stone
Series: Bad Boys of Crystal Lake, Book 2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 1 October 2013

All he wants this Christmas is her.

In the small town of Crystal Lake, Christmas is a time for sledding, hot chocolate, and cozying up to the fire with those you love. For Jake Edwards, it's also time to come home and face his past. He thought there would never be anything harder than losing his brother. Turns out there is: falling in love with his brother's widow, Raine.

Ever since they were little, Jesse was the Edwards brother who was always there for her, and Jake was the one who knew just how to push her buttons. Raine can't imagine a life without them, which is why it was doubly decimating when Jake left town after his brother's sudden death. Now he's back and she doesn't know whether to be mad or thrilled. Maybe both. Maybe it will be the perfect chance for both of them to finally find happiness again.

After reading The Summer He Came Home, where we first met Raine and Jake, I was anxious to read their story. I knew it was going to break my heart and had the potential to be incredibly satisfying at the same time - something I was perfectly in the mood for. From the first moment we meet them it's easy to see that Jake's in love with his brother's widow, and it's ripping him apart inside.

Jake is eaten up by guilt, on multiple fronts; he has survivor's guilt, guilt that he didn't bring his brother home alive, guilt for wanting his brother's wife...my heart was breaking for him. What also was clear was that Jake is suffering from PTSD from his experiences in the war, and the day his twin died. I thought the author did a great job portraying this, with a few quibbles that I'll get into later. I loved the small moments that shows the closeness between Jake and his twin, Jesse throughout their childhood and even into adulthood. It really helped to cement the kind of person that Jake is, and the family that surrounds him, that means so much to him.

Raine's been a part of this family for years now, always tagging along with Jake and Jesse and the other 'Bad Boys'. It's her love as much as anyone's that has been such a constant in Jake's life. Raine's suffering from losing her husband too, and her best friend when Jake walked away for over a year, the depression, the loss, is clear in everything she does - or rather doesn't do. I loved that her road back from this was gradual - and not entirely due to Jake. She realizes bit by bit that she's not living how she wants to, and she takes small steps to change that, incremental and momentous.

I didn't expect an easy story between these two, and I definitely didn't get one. With all the guilt and hurt to be worked through Jake and Raine had a hard road to travel. More than once my heart broke while reading and I wanted to just see them realize what they had with each other. They had a lot of healing to do, and I was so glad when I saw them on the road to that...together.

My one complaint is that I think love healed a bit too much. As soon as Jake gave in and started sleeping with Raine, his nightmares stopped. Just like that, he was sleeping through the night. Up until this point the guilt and PTSD was portrayed so well, and to see it just cured made me disappointed. It seems to me that it'd be so much more realistic if he continued to struggle, even if his acceptance and love did make things significantly better. But overall, I was able to overlook this and enjoy this story immensely!

Now that I've confirmed my suspicions about the heroine for the third book, The Day He Kissed Her, I'm so excited to finish out this series! Juliana Stone continues to get better in this series, and I can't wait to see where she takes us next.

Grade: B+

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Review: The Summer He Came Home by Juliana Stone

Title: The Summer He Came Home
Author: Juliana Stone
Series: Bad Boys of Crystal Lake, Book 1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 2 April 2013

Sometimes the best place to find love is right back where you started...

Falling asleep in a different bed every night has made it easy for Cain Black to forget his past. It’s been ten years since he packed his guitar and left Crystal Lake to chase his dreams. Now tragedy has forced him home again. And though Cain relishes the freedom of the road, one stolen moment with Maggie O’Rourke makes him wonder if he’s missing out on something bigger than fame.

For Maggie—single mother and newly settled in Crystal Lake—love is a luxury she just can’t afford. Sure, she appreciates the tall, dark and handsome looks of prodigal son Cain Black. But how long can she expect the notorious hellion to stay?

The last thing either of them wants is something complicated. But sometimes love has its own plans.

I picked this book up because I have the second in the series (The Christmas He Loved Her) for review and wanted to read them in order - I can't help it. I must read in order! So, even though I've been on a holiday romance reading kick lately I switched gears entirely and hit summer in Michigan.

The book starts as Cain comes back to his hometown for the funeral of one of his best friends. I don't mind saying I was nearly in tears reading this. Though...well, the grief didn't seem to last very long for the rest of the characters (except the twin brother). Anyway, Cain's just starting to make it big with his band - he's the lead singer and front guitarist - but finds that he can use the break when he gets back home.

I mostly liked Cain and Maggie, though I'm hard-pressed to come up with some characteristics of them that aren't related to their chemistry and smexy times with each other. Cain is nothing like one would expect a rock-star to be - he's down to earth, kind, and caring to the extreme. Maggie, and here's where the majority of my problems come from, is stand-offish (though that's understandable considering her history) and, well, passive. Things happen to her. I never got the feeling that she had any hand in what was going on and she just kind of went with the flow.

I did have a hard time understanding why they fell in love. Cain mentions a few reasons of why he's falling for Maggie, but I honestly saw none of that in her. I felt like they never talked - though I was told about them talking, I didn't get to see it. And I really have no idea how the hell they're going to make it work when Cain needs to go back to LA in the fall.

I'm not a fan of the 'grand gesture' proposal at the end - and I didn't think Maggie would be either, but she was apparently into it; which just seemed like a complete reversal of her personality.

The secondary characters definitely had me intrigued, especially Jake and Raine! I'm so glad that Jake's story is next, because I'm dying to see how Juliana Stone resolves this.

I feel like I'm complaining a lot, and I did have issues with this - in fact I could nit-pick a few other things that continue to bother me. However, I was enjoying the book, for the most part, while I was reading it. The closer I examine things, and feelings about it, the more issues I come up with. The Summer He Came Home was a fun, quick, light read. If you're looking for something easy and straightforward, this could definitely be a good one.

Grade: C

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Review: Season of Seduction by Jeffe Kennedy, Elise Logan, Emily Ryan-Davis, Christine D'Abo, Jodie Griffin

Title: Season of Seduction
Authors: Jeffe Kennedy, Elise Logan, Emily Ryan-Davis, Christine D'Abo, and Jodie Griffin
Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance
Release Date: 21 November 2013

What's on your wish list?

After indulging in twelve naughty nights in Mexico, a woman experiences an erotic epiphany. An adventurous elf has her eye on one very sexy Santa. A married couple hopes to find a very special marine under the mistletoe. And a holiday mitzvah leads a woman to submit to a man in uniform on Christmas Day. No matter your fantasies, this collection of four shorts will add spice and sizzle to cold winter nights.

Edited by Angela James, this anthology includes:

Five Golden Rings by Jeffe Kennedy
Naughty Nicks by Christine d'Abo
Ménage on 34th Street by Elise Logan and Emily Ryan-Davis
Matzoh and Mistletoe by Jodie Griffin

Stories also available for purchase separately.

Five Golden Rings by Jeffe Kennedy - 3.5 Stars

On the first day of Christmas, my lover gave to me...

Matilda Campbell's plans to spend Christmas solo in the sun take an erotic turn when she encounters the handsome and enigmatic Miguel D'Oro on the plane to Mexico. As the CEO of a major firm, Tilda's used to being the one in charge--but now she'll have to learn how to take orders instead.

In the spirit of the season, Miguel offers Tilda naughty gifts for each of the twelve days of Christmas. There's just one rule: she must accept them--and fulfill his commands--or face the sensual consequences. Intrigued and aroused, Tilda agrees to let Miguel take control of her pleasure.

What follows is a week unlike anything she's ever experienced. From choosing her sexy new wardrobe and naughty accessories, to pushing her boundaries with BDSM play, Miguel satisfies every forbidden craving. But as their time together runs out, she must decide if there's room in her real life for her holiday lover and her newly discovered kinky side.

This is my first time reading anything by Jeffe Kennedy, and I've got to say I was pleasantly surprised! Tilda and Miguel had some smoking hot chemistry and I enjoyed seeing them both explore it together.

Miguel was creative and fun in his "twelve gifts" for Tilda. Watching Tilda let herself experience and enjoy - letting go of that control she maintains all the time in her normal life - was fantastic. I liked seeing that she was able to. Miguel I didn't feel like I got to know as well, but that was a conscious decision on his part. He kept things very much physical and his life separate from what was happening between him and Tilda.

I admit, this irritated me. I get that he was looking for some fun, no-strings, tension-releasing sex....but it doesn't really allow me to see why they end up thinking a relationship of more will work. Because Tilda is not who she normally is when she's with Miguel in Mexico. As she says, she's on vacation - of course she's uncomplicated. With Miguel not sharing anything of himself but the sexual aspect, I didn't really buy into their desire to continue seeing each other when they got back home.

Still, I thought this was a fun, sexy, Christmas novella and I'll definitely be looking for more from Jeffe Kennedy.

Ménage on 34th Street by Elise Logan and Emily Ryan-Davis - 2.5 Stars

Katrina and Liam Holland have the perfect marriage, a home in the trendiest part of Baltimore, and a scorching sex life. As another Christmas approaches, there's only one thing still on Kat's wish list: Hunter Croft. But she made peace long ago with his decision to choose the marines over their relationship. Until seeing him again arouses feelings she thought were in the past…

Hunter has spent a decade outrunning his attraction to both Kat and Liam. But now that he's stateside, his self-control crumbles when he comes face-to-face with the two people who star in all his favorite fantasies. Their reunion is both erotic and emotional—and has Hunter wondering if three's really a crowd, after all.

Liam can't imagine his life without Kat. But he can imagine a future where the three of them live and love under one roof. Liam and Kat have shared their bed with other men, but Hunter is the only one who could ever have a place in their hearts. And this holiday season, Liam intends to make their dream a reality.

I have really mixed feelings about this story. On the one hand the sexy times were seriously HOT. On the other hand, I was frustrated with the relationship aspect of the book.

Ménage stories are always a hard sell for me in the first place, because I think they take a lot of work and most of the ones I've read seem to gloss over that work. I can safely say that Emily Ryan-Davis and Elise Logan don't gloss over the difficulties of making a permanent ménage relationship work. Unfortunately, they didn't convince me.

Hunter's been running from his desires for Kat and Liam for TEN years. He joined the Marines. He loves his career, has aspirations and goals of going further in the military; he has no plans to get out anytime soon. He visits his best friend while he's on leave and suddenly ends up in the middle of Liam and Kat - right where he's been avoiding.

I don't think it's a bad thing for Liam to push Hunter a bit, especially considering he wants them both so badly. Where my problem lay is that I felt like Hunter was pushed too far, too quickly. He denied his attraction to Liam, a guy, but suddenly an hour after seeing him again he's having sex with him? Then one thing after the other - he's not sure about it, but pretty soon they're doing it.

I liked how the three of them would get together and talk about things - that's important in any relationship - what I didn't love is that each time they finished talking I was less sure of their ability to make it work between them. Then they just went straight to some more boundary and limit-pushing sex which apparently was going to solve all their concerns and problems.

The other thing I wasn't sure of was the "I love you"s - I get that they all cared about each other, but honestly, they haven't even talked in TEN years. Hunter joined the Marines and is committed to his life as one - you can't tell me they didn't all change. But twenty minutes together and the love comes out again. I didn't buy it and it made me even less sure of how things were going to work long term.

All in all, I was incredibly uncomfortable during this read. Partly because the sex was hot as hell and I kind of wished that it had just been a straight erotica, but mostly because the relationship didn't seem workable to me - at least not as they'd begun.

There is a note from the editor, Angela James, at the end of this novella that there's going to be a sequel showing how this relationship works in every day ways and I admit I'm somewhat curious about that. I think this story needed more page time to make me buy into it.

Naughty Nicks by Christine D'Abo - 3.5 Stars

Kim has been the coordinator at Naughty Nicks, home of the sexiest Santa strippers, every Christmas for three years—and for just as long, she's lusted after her boss. She enjoys their flirty banter and heated looks, but she's getting tired of Blake being nice when she's feeling naughty. This year, there's only one kind of Christmas bonus she wants.

With each passing holiday season, Blake's attraction to Kim has grown. But after a bitter divorce, he's not sure he's ready to jump into a new relationship, especially with an employee. One passionate kiss under the mistletoe and he realizes he's had enough of looking and not touching. Fortunately, he knows the perfect way to seduce Kim—a private striptease to prove she's the only elf for his Naughty Nick.

Admittedly, Christine D'Abo is the only author that I've ever previously read in this anthology. I know she writes some great sexy times and I was looking forward to seeing what fun she had with Christmas in this one.

I loved Kim so much. She's outgoing, has an awesome sense of humor, finds life amusing, and knows what she wants. Blake was great as well, kind, smart, respectful - you wouldn't think that'd be such a sexy thing, but it so is - and able to laugh at himself and with Kim. The friendship between them was so gratifying to read about, and seeing them take the sizzling chemistry to the next level.

This was nearly a perfect Christmas story, because what I'm looking for generally is fun and happiness. Though there was the minor drama over Blake's concerns about the difference in his and Kim's age and the number his ex-wife did on him when she left him, overall it was all about how Kim and Blake could take things where they both wanted them to go.

I really loved that Blake valued her friendship so much that he was concerned about losing that. Friends-to-lovers is an especially fond story-line for me, so I appreciated how they made it work from the simmering (and sometimes not so simmering) attraction.

Matzoh and Mistletoe by Jodie Griffin - 4 Stars

Every December twenty-fifth, Rebeccah Rickman volunteers through her synagogue so that others can celebrate Christmas. Her usual mitzvah, or good deed, is assisting police officer Jeremy Kohler. But this year is different: this year, Becca is free to act on the attraction that has long simmered between her and the sexy cop.

Jeremy couldn’t have asked for a better gift than discovering the woman he’s fantasized about for five long years is single. But when he learns about the violence that broke up Becca’s marriage, he’s hesitant to pursue her. He fears his desires will scare her away—but can’t deny his own need for control in the bedroom. Or his longing to instruct her in the fine art of submission…

Becca is shocked to learn that Jeremy is a sexual dominant. And despite her past, she’s also aroused. But before she can explore what that means, she’s going to have to put her trust in Jeremy—and her own fledgling desires.

I'm not sure if I just missed reading the blurb for this one, or if I forgot it, but I had no idea what to expect when I opened this book up. Another friends-to-lovers story and I was instantly hooked.

Becca was a great character. Strong and vulnerable at the same time. I understood what drew Jeremy to her. She has a great sense of humor, a backbone, and a playful personality. What I really liked about Jeremy is that he was fun - he liked to laugh and tease, not something I see in a lot of the Doms I read about, so it was a really nice change.

Speaking of, I had no idea there was going to be BDSM in this book. I'm pretty picky about how the lifestyle is portrayed in the BDSM books I read, so it was a wonderful surprise to find another author I can trust. I loved how she portrayed the relationship building between Jeremy and Becca - especially with Becca coming out an emotionally, verbally, and physically abusive relationship.

Though I did feel like things rushed a bit quickly, I was happy to let that go and be swept away by the story and the happiness these two were building.

I'll definitely be looking for more from Jodie Griffin soon.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Review: Viral Nation with Shaunta Grimes

Title: Viral Nation
Author: Shaunta Grimes
Series: Viral Nation, Book 1
Genre: Post Apocalyptic/Dystopia Young Adult
Release Date: 2 July 2013

After a virus claimed nearly the entire global population, the world changed. The United States splintered into fifty walled cities where the surviving citizens clustered to start over. The Company, which ended the plague by bringing a life-saving vaccine back from the future, controls everything. They ration the scant food and supplies through a lottery system, mandate daily doses of virus suppressant, and even monitor future timelines to stop crimes before they can be committed.

Brilliant but autistic, sixteen-year-old Clover Donovan has always dreamed of studying at the Waverly-Stead Academy. Her brother and caretaker, West, has done everything in his power to make her dream a reality. But Clover’s refusal to part with her beloved service dog denies her entry into the school. Instead, she is drafted into the Time Mariners, a team of Company operatives who travel through time to gather news about the future.

When one of Clover’s missions reveals that West’s life is in danger, the Donovans are shattered. To change West’s fate, they’ll have to take on the mysterious Company. But as its secrets are revealed, they realize that the Company’s rule may not be as benevolent as it seems. In saving her brother, Clover will face a more powerful force than she ever imagined… and will team up with a band of fellow misfits and outsiders to incite a revolution that will change their destinies forever.

Somehow when I was reading the blurb for this book before I requested it, I totally missed that there was time travel in it. That wouldn't have affected my request, but it would have likely made me understand a bit better more quickly. Time travel is a difficult concept to include in nearly any medium and handling it well is even more so. Viral Nation does a pretty damn good job of it. And it acknowledges the inherent issues with time travel - namely the time-loops that get created by knowing what's going to happen and how that can create inconsistencies in the timeline. I appreciated that, and it made me buy into the concept even when I didn't completely follow what was going on or how people knew what they knew.

This is a fascinating world. A virus has decimated the world - or perhaps just the US, it's not entirely clear - and there is now only one city in each state in the USA. The Company controls everything, and they're tyrannical. People are convicted of crimes they haven't yet committed and executed. There's a nightly curfew; the Company decides who does what and when; everything is rationed in no fair way. And the kicker? No one rebels against this. Just 16 years after living in this United States and I have a hard time believing that people would so easily accept this kind of rule. At least I want to hope that people would have a hard time accepting this. Even from the Company that saved their lives.

West and Clover were fantastic main characters. Even while I was frustrated with not understanding what was going on, or why certain things were rules, these two kept me invested and pushing through the book to find out what happens to them. I love how the two of them care for each other, are able to question and learn, and grow as people. They may have believed certain things their entire lives, but they aren't afraid to start questioning the truths they've always known; not afraid to admit to themselves that they might have been wrong.

Viral Nation was a strong start to this series. I admit I still have quite a few questions, but I'm so beyond interested in where things are going that I'm going to continue reading just as soon as I can get my hands on Rebel Nation.

Grade: B+

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Review: All I Want for Christmas Is a Cowboy by Emma Cane, Jennifer Ryan, and Katie Lane

Title: All I Want for Christmas Is a Cowboy
Authors: Emma Cane, Jennifer Ryan, and Katie Lane
Series: Valentine Valley, Book 0.5; Hunted, Book 0.5
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 10 December 2013

From Emma Cane, Jennifer Ryan, and Katie Lane come three wildly romantic holiday stories featuring snowstorms, proposals, a sleigh ride ... and, yes, cowboys.

The Christmas Cabin by Emma Cane

Sandy and her young son, Nate, are Christmas tree–hunting when a snowstorm strikes and an old ranch hand points them to an abandoned cabin. Little does Sandy know he sent cowboy Doug Thalberg to the same place. It's a Christmas all of Valentine Valley will remember.

Can't Wait by Jennifer Ryan

Before The Hunted Series began...

Though she is the woman of his dreams, Caleb Bowden knows his best friend's sister, Summer Turner, is off limits. He won't cross that line, which means Summer will just have to take the reins if she wants her cowboy for Christmas.

Baby It's Cold Outside by Katie Lane

Alana Hale hits the internet dating jackpot when she finds Clint McCormick. He's sensitive and responsible—not to mention wealthy. When he invites her to spend the holidays on his family's ranch, she readily accepts. But on the way there, a blizzard strands her with a womanizing rodeo cowboy who could change everything...

The Christmas Cabin: Valentine Valley, Book 0.5 by Emma Cane - 3 Stars

Emma Cane penned a sweet, gentle, romance in The Christmas Cabin. I don't generally gravitate towards books with children in them - because they so often feel like plot-muppets - but I actually liked Nate, though he acted older than his 5 years.

I really enjoyed that this was a story the couple, Doug and Sandy, told to their family each year. The first chapter definitely made me curious to read about their children even if this story didn't completely wow me.

Can't Wait: Hunted, Book 0.5 by Jennifer Ryan - 3.5 Stars

This is probably my favorite story in this anthology. I'm a sucker for friends to lovers, and this was such an enjoyable one. Caleb and Summer were perfect for each other.

I loved how he didn't want to hurt her, or his friendship with her brother. He really struggled with how to handle the feelings he had for Summer and I particularly appreciated how he went all-in once he made up his mind. Summer, on the other hand, had no reservations about what she wanted. She made sure Caleb knew she wanted him and had no qualms about putting herself on the line.

But what I really appreciated here was that we got to see why Caleb and Summer are so great for each other. Lots of small moments and conversations, and I had no doubt that they'd be happy for the rest of their years.

Baby It's Cold Outside by Katie Lane - 3.5 Stars

This book started off on a great note for me! The heroine was funny, in a self-deprecating way and it immediately endeared her to me. Alana likes for everything to be planned and in it's place, but she's always been attracted to the wrong sort of man. When she meets someone on the internet that appeals to every part of her - and no good picture to go by - she decides to go for it. Except then things go wonky when she shows up at his ranch to meet him.

I can't say too much about the story here for spoiling it (though I think you'll probably guess the truth quickly enough). I will say that I really liked both the hero and heroine. They were smart, kind, and the chemistry between them was incredibly sexy.

I have one, kind of nitpicky thing about this story. Alana gets stuck in a blizzard and to keep warm she drinks alcohol. This is a common, incredibly dangerous, misconception. Drinking alcohol while stuck in a blizzard is deadly. Now I could have gotten past this if it had later been revealed that it was the wrong thing to do, but then she meets the hero and he gives her more alcohol to "warm her." NO! No, no, NO! Please do not drink alcohol or caffeine if you're in danger of hypothermia. Again, this is a common misconception though. So I don't hold it against the story, but I had to say something. I hate that this myth keeps getting spread.

Overall, I truly enjoyed this anthology and will be looking for more from these authors.

Grade: B

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Review: The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley

Title: The Emperor's Blades
Author: Brian Staveley
Series: Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, Book 1
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: 14 January 2014

When the emperor of Annur is murdered, his children must fight to uncover the conspiracy—and the ancient enemy—that effected his death.

Kaden, the heir apparent, was for eight years sequestered in a remote mountain monastery, where he learned the inscrutable discipline of monks devoted to the Blank God. Their rituals hold the key to an ancient power which Kaden must master before it’s too late. When an imperial delegation arrives to usher him back to the capital for his coronation, he has learned just enough to realize that they are not what they seem—and enough, perhaps, to successfully fight back.

Meanwhile, in the capital, his sister Adare, master politician and Minister of Finance, struggles against the religious conspiracy that seems to be responsible for the emperor’s murder. Amid murky politics, she’s determined to have justice—but she may be condemning the wrong man.

Their brother Valyn is struggling to stay alive. He knew his training to join the Kettral— deadly warriors who fly massive birds into battle—would be arduous. But after a number of strange apparent accidents, and the last desperate warning of a dying guard, he’s convinced his father’s murderers are trying to kill him, and then his brother. He must escape north to warn Kaden—if he can first survive the brutal final test of the Kettral.

I requested this book without even reading the book-blurb because a friend told me, while still in the middle of reading it, that it was the best fantasy book she'd read in a long time. Fantasy is my home in genre novels, I come back to it time and time again because it's comfortable, exciting, interesting, detailed and emotional. So I started The Emperor's Blades with incredibly high expectations and excitement.

I was absolutely and thoroughly Blown.Away. This book is amazing. I highlighted dozens of moments throughout this book, was on the edge of my seat for most of it, and was absolutely enthralled the entire journey.

The intricate, sweeping story that follows the Malkeenian royal line - two brothers and a sister maneuvering between, around and through plots to take the Unhewn Throne from them - is full of intrigue and twists, danger and valor, despair and determination. I can't even do this justice, but I will say it's only the second book to surprise me so completely and throw twists at me I didn't even see coming. After I spent a good portion of the book detailing theories in my head, only to be wrong most of the time, the final twist absolutely blew my mind.

Kaden, Valyn, and Adare are some of my favorite characters - I was utterly and completely on their side from the very first moments we met each of them. Though I admit Valyn, the warrior, is my favorite, I love all three of them. As I was reading I was eager to see them succeed, to beat the insurmountable odds stacked against them, and terrified that they wouldn't. They aren't infalliable. They aren't perfect. They are, however, absolutely loyal, strong, intelligent, and full of determination. Thank goodness, because this war is going to test the depths of their resolve. Additionally, there are more than a few other characters that I'm dying to know more about. Those for, and against, the emperor both.

I can't end this review without speaking of the writing itself in The Emperor's Blades. I primarily read for characters, then world, then plot. Prose is important, the way the words are strung together can make or break a story, but it's often the last thing I consider when I decide how much I like a story or not. And if the story here hadn't been so utterly fantastic, if the characters hadn't been so completely intriguing, the world so fascinating - then the words that formed it wouldn't have delighted me so much. But Brian Staveley did something amazing here. He weaved words together in beautiful sentences, gorgeous paragraphs, and painted me a picture that I couldn't look away from. As engrossed as I was in the story, as much as I had to know what was going to happen next, I still stopped and had to re-read a section that was so arresting, so gorgeous, that I couldn't go on without appreciating it for a second, or third, time.

Part of the journey is complete in The Emperor's Blades, but it's clear there's a lot left to be told. And I, for one, couldn't be happier.

Grade: A+

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