Quick Book Review: The Shadow (The Florentine #2) by Sylvain Reynard

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Sylvain Reynard has another incredible novel in The Shadow.

This is the sequel to The Raven, and it doesn’t disappoint. While this novel doesn’t seem to move as fast as the first one, it is still delicious and intriguing.

I liked this novel, but I didn’t exactly love it. Yes, I was obsessed with knowing what would happen with the characters but I felt like it was missing something. There was a good amount of romance in it, and the action lacked a little. I felt like this book was more of a set up, since it explained a lot of the vampire politics involved in the story.

This series does have at least one more book (I heard a rumour it was two) so this book ended at the perfect little cliffhanger. It wasn’t a cliffhanger that left me angry at Sylvain for making me wait, but it was just enough – leaving me desperate for the next book but willing to wait.

Overall, I did enjoy this book! The first book was so incredible (and so was the Gabriel’s series) that I had really high expectations for this book, perhaps too high.

Four out of five stars. I can’t wait for the next book, I want it now!

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Quick Book Reviews: Menagerie by Rachel Vincent

 

 

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Rachel Vincent has done it again with Menagerie!

This book was perfection in just over 400 pages! I wasn’t sure what to expect going in with such an odd idea behind the book, but it was incredible! Rachel Vincent never lets me down!

The book follows Delilah, a human who is forced to perform in the Metzger’s Menagerie of strange creatures. When she is pulled away from her normal, everyday life to suddenly becoming a circus animal, how will she take it? Rachel Vincent helps you find out!

Overall, I loved this book. I found the first half of the book very slow to get through, but the second half was a breeze. While it did take me a while to get through the first half of the novel, it’s still worth it. The first half isn’t boring, it’s just a little slow with introductions, character development and shocking plot devices. The second half has a lot more action and intrigue in it.

I loved this novel! I would recommend it to everyone and anyone! People who love fantasy, supernatural, shapeshifter, and story’s that open your eyes to touchy subjects will love this story!!

Five out of five stars!

Quick Book Review: The Darby Shaw Chronicles (Books 1-3) by Liberty Speidel

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The Darby Shaw Chronicles was a great mystery read with just a pinch of fantasy/supernatural!

At first I wasn’t super hooked into this book – I didn’t really know what I was getting into. It was a detective/crime story, but then suddenly the main character had supernatural powers. In the beginning it seems like some cheesey plot line just to get more people to the book, but once you actually get into the novel (about half way through the first book) you realize how genius the idea actually is.

As cheesey as it seems when the supernatural reveal happens in the beginning, Liberty Speidel then does an excellent job expanding the story and eventually series.

I did love these books. Each book got better, and they left me wanting a fourth one! Liberty builds her characters so you feel for them, but are also very cautious. With all the politics involved in both crime and supernatural possibilities, I felt very informed and not confused at any time during the books.

I would definitely suggest this book to anyone looking for a crime or supernatural novel. It’s the perfect mix of both, with the tiniest splash of romance in there.

If there is anything Liberty Speidel could have worked on, it would be the supernatural reveal. I did find it cheesey compared to the rest of the book, which seems to be siding on serious half the time and light hearted the other. But, this wasn’t a major issue, it just seemed like a change in tone compared to the rest of the books.

Four out of five stars. I can’t wait for the next book!

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

Book Review: School Ties by Tamsen Parker

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Just when you think Tamsen Parker has reached her peak, she introduces a new forbidden fruit that left me breathless.

Title: School Ties
Author: Tamsen Parker
Date Read: August 21st-September 6th, 2016
Date Reviewed: September 11th, 2016
Spoilers Ahead?: Yes!

Introduction: I love Tamsen Parker (and that’s no secret) and every time she writes another book I am grasping desperately to try to get a hold of it. So when I was able to get my hands on School Ties (since Tamsen is totally amazing!!) I almost fangirled myself to death. And then I read the book, and I was silently begging Tamsen to stop (and by stop, I mean stop giving me a heart attack with her super sexy stories!). She stepped her game up with this novel! A pinch of BDSM and sexy time, a few splashes of ex drama, a handful of strong characters and then she added dump truck of forbidden romance.

Quick Summary: Erin Brewster begins to teach at a boys boarding school – Hawthorn Hill. She notices a certain student, Zach Shepard, and instantly sparks flash. Their eyes linger over the school year, and feelings flutter. Flash forward three years after Zach’s grad, and here is he back to tempt Erin. They haven’t forgotten each other, and soon enough they’ll be begging for each other’s company…

Evaluations: I had no words when I first finished this novel. I had to wait a few days to even write this because my brain couldn’t wrap around how Tamsen stepped her game up. Not only did she include her typical, hot, sexy BDSM time, but she added a flicker of forbidden romance as well? Tamsen is doing what most writers don’t – she’s growing!! And that makes my inner fangirl super happy and desperate to get her writing more! Or at least get her books more recognition!!

The book was told in both Erin and Zach’s point of view. This gave an added umph to the story since we got to see both of their thoughts and not just one. It opened up the readers to the thoughts of the characters, and we understood what was going on inside of their head. I typically don’t like multiple POVs in past books, but in this story it fit perfectly!

I also enjoyed the realistic aspects of the story – Erin starts a new job and actually feels self conscious! I can’t list enough books where the characters are glowing and perfect the first day on the job. Every time I’ve done something new (new job, new school, etc) I am definitely not glowing with self confidence! Tamsen does a beautiful job showing this, and this makes Erin so much more relatable!

The angst, drama and love in this story is just overall fantastic. Tamsen opens up more and explores! While there isn’t as much crazy BDSM/sexy time like some of her past books, it’s still great! Erin deals with drama before she meets Shep and that makes her grow as a character, so when the story finally progresses and we see more of adult Shep, we understand the struggles our main woman has dealt with.

Overall, I loved it! It’s a step up in the plot and character building department!

Plot: Tamsen’s plot building skills have definitely improved. While I love all of her old books (and their plots are uber sexy) there seemed to be more plot than sexy time in this novel! While I do love some great sex scenes, I love a wicked plot as well!

Erin Brewster’s troubles before Shep are a bit drawn out and I wanted more Zach in those scenes, but it gave a beautiful insight into the character. We saw her struggles and into her mind. I liked understanding her instead of just sex scene after sex scene. To me, it made her more relatable than Tamsen’s past characters. I felt for Erin and I understood how she saw the world.

When we got to Zach’s scenes, I felt like it was a little to late. I kept yearning and yearning for Zach and Erin to have some kind of fling or flirty scene before he left, but it didn’t happen. Yet Tamsen didn’t disappoint! When Zach was brought back, the sex scenes were super sexy and hot. The long, drawn out wait made those scenes even better.

When Zach explains his life in a sex club (and how he’s a virgin? That was a strange twist) I wanted to read more about it. I wanted to see maybe a flash back chapter or an insight into that part of his memory. His explanations were so interesting, and I felt like his back story could have been a novel all on it’s own!! If anything, his back story felt out of place without the chapters to back it up, but Tamsen still made it work! I would love for Tamsen to make an ebook or side story explaining that, similar to how she made more books in India’s series to see other aspects of that world.

Characters:
Erin Brewster – She’s a realistic and relatable character, which is great for a sexy, BDSM book. She gets nervous and has second thoughts and deals with real issues. I loved that! She wasn’t just some sex toy in the book for the man. The woman tries her best when dealing with her issues in the first half of the book. While I’ve seen other reviewers put down this aspect of the story, I felt like it fit her character. She married a man to keep her job, because she’s young and wants her job. I know many people who are in new jobs and let themselves get pushed around because they need their job. She then stays with the man she marries so she can keep the job. While in real life I would have kicked that guy to the curb, she’s young and she’s really trying.

Zach Shepard – Zach was an interesting character, and for a romance and BDSM book it was odd to read his POV, but that also made this book stand above the others. I didn’t expect to see his side of the story, but we did! As stated earlier I would have loved some more chapters relating to his back story. Him being a changed man was interesting, and makes sense since he went away to another school, but I would have liked to see more of it. He was definitely a hot character, and I could place his personality on a few guys I know, so relatable-ness was met on this character! Seeing Erin and Zach both work through forming a relationship was also nice, so I thoroughly enjoyed his character development.

Themes/Creativity: I wouldn’t say there were any distinct themes in this novel (it’s a romance, BDSM type book) but there was creativity for days in this book! Seeing Erin’s issues before she meets Zach is definitely creative compared to other books. I’ve read many romance novels where the main character complains about her past issues, but I’ve never seen the book actually display them. I also really enjoyed seeing both Zach and Erin’s POV in this novel. I liked seeing Tamsen step up her game with adding forbidden romance with BDSM in this novel and I would love to see her experiment more with these different topics in future books!

Uniqueness: I’ll combine the uniqueness with creativity together. Most of the unique aspects of this novel were also the most creative aspects.

Strengths: Character growth, the plot, the realism of the situations in the story – these are all wonderful strengths in my eyes. I enjoyed Tamsen’s growth in writing, and I can’t wait to see more!
Weaknesses: The lack of Shep’s background story felt like the biggest weakness. I would have liked to read more on that! It wouldn’t have added anything crazy to the novel and it wasn’t a necessity, but I would still like to read it!

Score: 5 out of 5. Despite the little issues here and there, I loved the book. I didn’t really see any weaknesses while reading the book, it was only after when I thought about it and compared it to other novels that are somewhat similar that I started coming up with “problems”. Tamsen did a fantastic job, and I’ll be reading this book over and over again! Tamsen stepped her game up and did a wonderful job with this book! It’s an addicting read that I read in one sitting, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s rare for me to literally sit down and finish a book all in one sitting, I can name only two other books I’ve done that with – Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell and Hamlet by Shakespeare. That definitely puts Tamsen high in my books, when I literally restart the book on one day and finish it in that same sitting.

Book Review: Happy Ever After in Christmas by Debbie Mason

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Title: Happy Ever After in Christmas
Author: Debbie Mason
Date Read: July 27th-September 10th, 2016
Date Reviewed: September 11th, 2016
Spoilers Ahead?: Yes!

Introduction: I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. I love a good romance, and Debbie Mason did not let me down! It took me a while to really get into this book since I haven’t read the rest of the series, but once I was in I was hooked and couldn’t get out!

Quick Summary: Jill Flaherty is almost thirty, and won’t admit to herself that she is hopelessly in love with her brother’s best friend Sawyer Anderson. Deputy Jill has to hop through some hoops to finally admit her feelings for the bar tender. Jill will have to be quick, because other women’s eyes are looking to woo Sawyer…

Evaluations: For a romance novel, this book was incredible! There’s no cheesy love triangles, there’s nothing that seems out of place or unrealistic. The book focuses on friendships, family, and love. It is definitely worthy of high marks, and I want to read the rest of the books.
Is it cheesy and a total Nora Roberts sort of romance? Yup. Did it say it was anything but that? Nope. The book is exactly what you expect from it, and that’s great! Debbie Mason knows how to make a good, realistic romance with a bit of drama, tensions and tiny twists!

Plot: The plot is pretty straight forward – Deputy Jill has to do her job, and admit her feelings for bar tender Sawyer. They find it hard to admit their feelings for each other, but over time they grow and grow. There are some minor hiccups at first, and then a few major ones. These major hiccups make the two grow as a couple, and eventually we get the happily ever after that these characters deserve! Each aspect of the plot are realistic, you can see them happening in real life: issues at a nursing home, custody issues, pregnancy issues, etc. Nothing seems out of place!

Characters: Jill is a strong character who sometimes has her issues as a character, but for a romance novel she fits the trope. She is headstrong and does not let people tell her what to do, but she keeps putting the possible relationship off so many times it’s pathetic. In real life, a guy would probably have given up on her by the time her and Sawyer actually get together. But, this is a romance novel and every woman wants a man falling all over her. This might be unrealistic, but it makes for a good book!
Sawyer also seems to not be your typical, everyday guy. He falls for Jill hard, he chases after her, and he even seems to have a bit to close of a relationship with Brandi. I can’t place his personality on any of the guys I know, so he isn’t totally realistic. But, again, this is a romance novel and he fits the role perfectly.

Themes/Creativity: Family and friendship is a strong theme in this book and you can tell. Family sticks together and friends help each other. Friendship and family always comes first! I like this theme, seeming as there are rarely themes in romance novels. But, this theme is very easy to see!! A+ on theming in a romance novel Debbie! Great job!

Uniqueness: It’s not totally unique for a romance novel. There’s your typical love story, headstrong female, man chasing after her, possible love triangle, big issue that sets the couple apart, they get back together, happily ever after. The only uniqueness I can point out is the theming. Other than that, typical romance!

Strengths: Themes. Themes. Themes. Again themes. Have I mentioned the themes enough?
Weaknesses: It’s your typical romance. While it’s written beautifully, it can easily be compared to other romances.

Score: 5 out of 5. While it is a common romance novel, it was well written and wow-ed me! I was hooked and couldn’t put it down, and many romance novels get put down in my household. I love Debbie Mason and I’ll be reading the rest of her books as soon as I can get my hands on them!

Recommendations: I would love Debbie Mason to try to write an out of the box romance novel. Her writing is fantastic and clearly she is the expert on the common romance, but I would love to see her try something different!!

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

Book Review: The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory

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Title: The Other Boleyn Girl
Author: Philippa Gregory
Date Read: February-September 2016
Date Reviewed: September 11th, 2016
Spoilers Ahead?: Yes

Introduction: A long time ago I wanted to watch the movie adaption (with Natalie Portman) of this book, but once I rented it and noticed there was a book I decided to not watch the film and try to find the novel. That was way back when the film came out, so it’s been a long time trying to find the book (and forgetting about the book the minute I got to the book store…whoops!). When I finally got to reading it, the book took me months (literally months, look at the date read…) to finish this book. Why? Because it starts off slow and explains every detail you can imagine! But overall, it was a good book and I want to read the rest of them!

A lot of my criticism is based on the historical accuracy, but it is also in how the writer displayed these characters. For example, Anne is said to have been a strong and not evil woman in real life, yet she seemed to be quite spineless and conniving in the novel. I would have loved to see a stronger character, since the one we got doesn’t appear to be as fleshed out as Philippa might have liked.

Quick Summary: Mary and Anne Boleyn are sisters during Henry the VIII’s reign. Mary falls in love with Henry, and begins to enjoy the life of royalty. But what happens when Anne decides to take her place? With both the girls being pawns in their family’s  game, drama sorts to ensue on all levels.

This book was (loosely) based on historical facts – Henry VIII did reign, and both of the women were his lovers. But (obviously) the conversations and exact events that happen in the novel did not happen in real life.

Evaluations: I enjoyed this book once I got closer to the end. I won’t lie and say it was all sunshine and roses all the way through, in fact it started off rather boring for me. All the explaining and slow introduction of the characters made me want to put the book down. But, I was determined to finish this book because I want to watch the movie. Once I got through the first 3/4s of the book, I became totally obsessed. The drama, love triangles, the arguments, the sex scenes, all of it combined made the book suddenly pick up speed and become almost like a historical soap opera.

I did enjoy learning a bit about history through this book. While not all the history is accurate and I fact checked after I read, it gave me an interesting insight (despite the fictional aspects of the story). After reading this, it made me want to research Henry the VIII and all of his wives and children.

Overall, while it was a slow starter, it was very insightful. Philippa Gregory did an incredible job of getting me interested in history!

Plot: The plot was a slow start, as I’ve said numerous times already. It takes a while to get into the book, but once you do you don’t regret it (well, you might. It’s a long book).  The plot follows Mary and Anne Boleyn, with Mary being the first courting the King. This part was not as interesting as Anne’s courting which occurs later in the book. I would have loved Philippa to expand on Mary’s relationship with the King to give the reader a bit more passion and love towards their relationship. Even later in the novel the King acts as if almost nothing happened with Mary, and that left me feeling cheated. The King really threw his women away like that? He never treated his wife Katherine like Mary, just treating her like some commoner. He at least talked to her…
Anne’s courting was far more interesting, and dramatic. The involvement of her brother George also made the reader question what was going on (did they actually sleep together? Was this just comments?).
I found I did not totally like the ending. Suddenly the entire court thought George and Anne had slept together, but the reader never really saw these rumors flying around. I understand that Philippa probably had to finish her book at a certain word count, but the sudden change in plot to the sad ending made me feel cheated as well.

Characters: There were many characters within in novel, but I’m only going to focus on a few.
Mary Boleyn – I liked her better than Anne, but she was definitely not my favourite character in literature. She wasn’t relatable in any sense, even if I was cheering for her over her sister. She reminded me of a “Bella Swan” sort of character (with more emotion and depth). She was there, and you rooted for her, but she could have been a lot better. Throughout the story I felt bad for her constantly – the loss of her relationship with her lover Henry, then the King Henry, then her first husband William, and up until her final marriage to William Stafford, I just felt like the entire story was stacked against her. It was like we were made to feel bad for her, and it wasn’t exactly a choice.

Anne Boleyn – Philippa Gregory must hate Anne Boleyn, because she was the main character and the villain in this novel. She was constantly trying to one up Mary. The woman was conniving, mischievous, she stabbed anyone and everyone in the back to get what she wanted, and it was impossible to like her. After researching, I discovered that most historians say Anne was quite sweet, much like Mary was for the novel. It was disappointing to see a character who I wanted to like to be so evil, but there needed to be a villain in this book. I also found that the book described Anne as being cheerful and witty, yet she never portrayed that. She was often very nasty to her sister and was always expecting to get everything she wanted. Her seduction of the King also seemed very lame in the long run. She had never known a man that she loved like the King? Never even a school girl’s crush? And suddenly she was asking everyone and their Mother how to woo, and seemed to be totally innocent. I doubt the total ignorance on her part. This also made her seem like an odd character – so manipulative and nasty, but a sweet and innocent girl? That didn’t connect well with me.
When you read up about Anne and how she gave birth to the Queen of England (Queen Elizabeth the First) you see how strong she actually was. I would have loved to see her be a stronger character. Her daughter became the Queen! This woman must have an incredible back story, and she does. This book doesn’t show this, and that lets my English heritage down.

Henry VIII – I felt like Henry was a total throwaway character. He was essentially just a means to an end, and not the character he could have been. He was some toy for both the women to sleep with to gain power and he seemed to have less strength than the women. I was always under the impression that the King’s ruled over all and were very strong, but Henry seemed very wimpy. His wife Katherine seemed to have more strength than he did, and that made him quite pathetic.

Themes/Creativity:
Witchcraft was a part of this novel, and it appears out of nowhere (like a lot of things in this novel). It appears to be a way to get rid of George and Anne since they die in real life, so they obviously have to die in the fictional novelization of their lives as well. If this would have been introduced earlier in the novel, even if just in stories and tales told to children, I would have liked this aspect of the book more. It seemed like a cop out.
The incest was also very strange. I understand it was a theory in their live’s made in historical books, but George and Anne suddenly becoming incestuous also seemed weird. It was hinted at, with a bit of foreshadowing earlier in the novel, but it could have been portrayed so much better.
The family issues also could have been made so much better. Anne and Mary constantly fight and try to one up each other, yet Mary does what Anne says and Anne still wants Mary’s help. Two sisters who hate each other as much as these women do wouldn’t help each other out, in my opinion. If they had little spats here and there it would be understandable, but the loyalty and changed in personalities when they need to like each other was incredibly strange.

Uniqueness: Compared to more historical accurate novels, this book is unique! Anne is evil, Mary isn’t strong, there’s incest and witchcraft and drama! It’s unique! It gives a very different spin on this story, which makes Philippa a great novelist. If so many people read this, despite the historical inaccuracy and enjoyed it, she has done a great job! I applaud her for this novel despite it’s troubles. It truly is a beautiful read! Don’t discount the issues I found within it anything other than constructive criticism! Philippa Gregory did a fantastic job making this novel and I want to read more of her books to see how she grew (since this was the first book written in the series).

Strengths: The love stories were a great strength. Philippa should write Harlequin romance novels! This book is almost like a historical Pretty Little Liars or Desperate Housewives! Which seems fitting, since there is a Tudors series on television….

Weaknesses: Character growth. I found these characters stale and their descriptions in accurate. A conniving, evil woman is sweet and virginal? That’s definitely two sets of traits I wouldn’t necessarily put together. A witty and caring woman suddenly becomes wicked towards her sister every time she sees her? Hmm, that doesn’t make much sense either…

Score: 3 out of 5 stars.
I enjoyed this book and I will read the rest of the series (it will probably take me a decade, but I’ll get there), but it had it’s issues.

Quick Book Review: Perfectly Flawed by Shakeerah Oatis

Perfectly Flawed was an interesting take on a soap-opera like family.

I enjoyed Perfectly Flawed for it’s story, but it definitely had it’s “flaws” (sorry, the puns are to hard to hold back on this one) that left me feeling cheated as a reader.

The story itself focuses on the African American Community and some of the stereotypes and flaws within these stereotypes – teenage mothers, mental illness, etc. It’s taboo to discuss these topics, so children grow up and end up repeating the same mistakes. We follow Adrian and her daughter Aaliyah, and discover where secrets can lead a family.

The story is realistic – a teenage mother who didn’t want a child but ended up in a bad situation. It opens my eyes to a world I don’t know about, and the plot was a great idea!

But – there is a but – my print version of this had many grammatical errors. These errors had words missing, the wrong word choice/spelling, and run-on sentences. The errors made it super hard to read, and it made me feel like this book hadn’t gone through the editing process. I may have an ARC, which means the final version of the book would have all of this fixed, but I honestly don’t know if it’s the ARC or a real copy. If these errors were fixed, the book would be perfect and flawless. I love the idea of this story, but it just feels like it wasn’t well written in word choice.

Overall, I’m not totally impressed with my copy of the book. It could have been a spectacular story!

Three out of five stars.

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.