Friday, June 24, 2016

The Beast by JR Ward

The Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #14)The Beast by J.R. Ward
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am so late reading this for me. I usually read these when they first come out. I couldn't afford the hardcover, so I was glad that it was at the library and available. I still plan to pick up my copy when I can afford it, but at least I had the trusty loner copy to read. God bless you, Round Rock Public Library!

This book was fantastic. I am an unashamed Black Dagger Brotherhood fan, I would never dissemble about that. I truly enjoy each book in the series. The last book didn't make five stars for me, but this one does. I felt like this book was almost like a status update for the Brotherhood, as odd as that sounds. And when I say that, I don't mean that the book was phoned in. I just mean that Ward doesn't go overboard with trying to introduce major plotlines, but instead explores threads that have been ongoing in the series. She does introduce a few intriguing new characters, but it's not done invasively where you get annoyed because she isn't following up with the ones you are so assiduously following.

I recently reread Lover Eternal, and that was a good move. I first read Lover Eternal many years ago, probably like eight, and it was so nice to revisit the early books and go back to the basics of the storyline. Unlike some of the BDB fans, I do really love the later books (including the much maligned Lover Enshrined. But one of the things I really appreciated about rereading Lover Eternal was the more pared down storyline before so many characters got introduced and the world became so complex. In the process, I realized what a sweet guy Rhage really is. He's drop dead gorgeous, and he's been with a whole lot of women. My guards go up with that kind of hero because life seems so easy for them. But that's the really interesting thing about Rhage. His life is so not easy. Some parts of his life frankly suck. So when he and Mary got their happy ending, that was very satisfying. I worried that Ward would go for the drama and do something to make trouble for this couple, but thankfully she doesn't do that at all. instead, their relationship is cemented in the most vital of ways. They deal with the issue that neither has wanted to focus on, knowing they got their very own miracle in being together. That is dealt with beautifully. One might argue that things come together a bit too conveniently, but I don't think so. I loved it. The Beast plays a major role is a very satisfying way. I think of him like a very big, rowdy pet. Is that wrong of me? Anyway, I think Mary/Rhage fans will be very satisfied with this book. They are one of the most unqualified romantic couples in this series, and I say that sincerely, since everyone knows my favorite couple is Xhex and JM.

When I look at other aspects of this book, I felt they were also well done, although Xcor and the BoB storyline is rather sidelined. Assail has a very forward plotline in this book, and I wasn't sure where it was going. I'm still not sure, but it promises to be interesting. While Assail is quite the anti-hero, I can't help liking him. But then, I do like my antiheroes. :)

Layla's storyline is very focused on two aspects of her current situation. I still hope that she will somehow gain the opportunity to be more developed in other ways. While her complex relationship with Qhuinn and Blay did grow on me, we don't really get to see her interact with Xcor, which I was disappointed about. Now that a major source of angst for her is resolved, I hope to see something else with her narrative. I like Layla a lot.

Vishous seemed to have a very prominent role in this book. I'm convinced that Ward is very partial to him. I was talking to my sister about Vishous and I really nailed his character in a way that surprised me. I feel that his relationship with Jane is disappointing to many readers, but while they blame Jane for not being the right person, I think the reality is, Vishous is just not an easy guy to be in a relationship or be mated to. I don't think that he would do any better with Butch, although I know there are some hardcore Vutch fans out there. Don't get me wrong, I love him, his big hairy warts and all. But he's not an easy guy to be around. I liked the developing friendship shall we say, with Assail. That was different and kind of unexpected. His relationship (or not) with the Scribe Virgin was explored and I am ambivalent about that. I wonder where Ward is going with it.

I have to say that I can't get enough of these characters. I always feel like I want more of of them than what Ward gives me in each book. In my secret heart of hearts, I hope that HBO does a show for the Black Dagger Brotherhood, just so I can look forward to weekly episodes with the Brotherhood and Co. instead of having to wait a year to read more about them. I trust HBO to do a good job after how wonderful they have done with the Game of Thrones series. Maybe one day....

This is probably one of my shortest BDB reviews in a long time. I think it's a combination of my reviewing just becoming more concise because of life and also because this book is really back to basics. Even though it was as long as her other books, I feel that Ward trimmed a lot of the fat and she keeps her focus on the main storylines that need exploration. She does drop some breadcrumbs to intrigue the fans to keep reading, but it's not as audacious as typical. I am intrigued with the new female character and what role she will play in the series. And I am still wondering where the heck is Murdher? I'm having a Murdher deficiency here.

This was a great book. It helped me through a difficult situation I had to face this week and kept my mind off some of the ramifications of that. That's the power of great fiction. Thanks for that!

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Girl Nobody Wanted by Lynn Raye Harris

The Girl Nobody WantedThe Girl Nobody Wanted by Lynn Raye Harris
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My review is a bit spoilery, but it's nothing you couldn't predict if you tend to read romance novels.

I didn't like the hero in this much at all. Leo was a very selfish person. I get that he was raised with a poor moral compass in may ways, but his attitude towards women and sex was objectionable to me. I can't stand heroes who use women for sex and don't even care about them emotionally. He actually bragged to the heroine Anna about having a foursome with some models! Ugh. This is one instance where I wish the heroine was repulsed by the hero. He started out just mainly wanting to have sex with Anna because she was prissy and he wanted to take her down a peg. When he found out she was a virgin, he got an attack of conscience. They are stranded on an island (the hero's fault) and Anna decides she's tired of being a good girl. One thing leads to another. Anna hands out some of Leo's own medicine back, saying they are over once they get off the island. Of course, she finds out she's pregnant, and when she looks him up, he treats her very poorly indeed.

Leo's not all bad, but he's got a lot of traits that are deal-breakers for me in a hero. He makes it seem like it's a big deal that he's celibate for a few months. Yes, that's pretty unusual for him, since apparently woman regularly drop trousers for him. But the man acts like he's God's gift to the world, and makes it seem like marrying Anna is a huge sacrifice. I for one believe that a woman should feel like she's the only woman in the world to a man she's going to marry. I especially expect that in a romance novel hero. Anne is very insecure, and while that's not Leo's fault, he definitely doesn't help build her confidence any, even knowing she was essentially jilted by the man she was supposed to marry, who married his sister instead. When Anna lets him off the hook, then he decides that maybe he's in love with her after all. No thanks. I wouldn't marry this guy either. Of course, you know they end up together, since this is a romance novel. I hope Leo grows up and becomes a man, in ways other than being able to have sex with many woman.

I like Lynn Raye Harris as an author. I think she's a good writer. I just have high standards that this hero did not meet.

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Blackthorne's Bride by Shana Galen

Blackthorne's Bride (Misadventures in Matrimony, #3)Blackthorne's Bride by Shana Galen
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I'm torn about this one. I loved the first two books, but I felt this one wasn't as well-plotted and and some of the events were a bit tangled. I did like the chemistry between Jack and Madeleine and I just plain love the camaraderie between Madeleine and her cousins. I've definitely read better historical romances, even by this author, but it was an entertaining read, and I did love how they both come to realize their feelings for each other and don't look back. The love scenes were nicely steamy. The mistaken wedding part was hilarious. What do you do when that happens? Hope for the best. I think it worked out the way it was supposed to, after all.

The suspense part was good. Jack truly had a wicked enemy and he shows up often enough to cause mega trouble. The conclusion is very satisfying, and I'm left to wonder if we'll ever see Ashley's book.

I'd have to give this 3.5/5.0 stars because it just doesn't measure up to the first two books in the series, No Man's Bride and Good Groom Hunting.

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Forgotten Mistress, Secret Love-Child by Annie West

Forgotten Mistress, Secret Love-Child (Regally Wed #2)Forgotten Mistress, Secret Love-Child by Annie West
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I'm estimating on the date I read this. Sometime in early June. It took me this long to get around to writing my review. This was well-written, I just wasn't that fond of Alessandro. He's a bit of the poor little rich boy type. Raised by uncaring parents, his mother left him when he was young and so he thinks every woman is a good digger. A lack of trust between Alessandro and Carys lead to the downfall of their relationship, that and his growing emotional remoteness from her. Carys is somewhat insecure, due to her learning disability and not fitting in with her overachieving parents and siblings. She was almost too easy for a man like Alessandro to seduce to fall into a relationship with him because she craved being loved by someone. That's part of why I didn't care for the way Alessandro treated her. The amnesia aspect was a bit of a twist, but it didn't really make me more sympathetic to him. I wish that he had to work harder to gain Carys' love than he did. Ultimately, he does show how much she means to him, but I would have liked more demonstrativeness from him. I did see a lot of sexual chemistry between them, but the emotional connection is more important I think. I did love how he supported Carys in what she does, in light of her dyslexia. The baby was cute as well.

Not a favorite of mine by the author, but pretty good.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Justice League, Vol. 6: Injustice League by Geoff Johns, et al

Justice League, Vol. 6: Injustice LeagueJustice League, Vol. 6: Injustice League by Geoff Johns
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is set in the aftermath of discovering that there is a parallel earth where the Justice League is bad. The JL has Superman's arch-nemesis Lex Luthor clamoring to join, and doing good deeds (for his own intentions), and a young woman is claimed by the Dark Green Lantern Power Ring (one that feeds on fear instead of will). The JL steps in to help her before the ring destroys her and those around her, and a virus is released from Lex's lab that causes humans to manifest metahuman power. It also attacks members of the League with disastrous consequences. Obviously, the League has their hands full.

I didn't find much to dislike about this volume. Plenty of action and suspense, and some nice twists.

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Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb (writer), Jim Lee (illustrator), et al

Batman: HushBatman: Hush by Jeph Loeb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a good graphic novel. There were a lot of twists and turns in the storyline as Batman followed Breadcrumbs and realized that a particular character wasn't the one pulling strings, and everything is leading to a puppet master behind everything. A parallel storyline is Bruce's relationship with Thomas Elliot, a childhood friend who has suffered losses just as Bruce did, but went in a different direction. What I didn't like so much is that the main character who is behind everything really isn't revealed in this volume, even though you can easily surmise who it is. I'm glad my library has Batman: Hush Returns. I liked the artwork and the storytelling is good, just too abrupt an ending.

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Control Point (Shadow Ops, #1)Control Point by Myke Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What if people suddenly manifested magical powers and those powers were either deemed illegal or only could be used under the jurisdiction of the government and military? What if you're in the military and all of a sudden, you manifest powers that are considered forbidden? That's Oscar Britton's journey.

Oscar is a very conflicted character. Everything he thought he knew has been challenged, and his deeply held sense of right and wrong is continually tested as he goes from being on one side of the equation to the other, and back. He's a loyal Army soldier, until he realizes that his handlers might be the bad guys in some aspects.

It's interesting that I read this around the time I saw the movie Captain America: Civil War, because they both deal with similar issues. Does being right mean that you're always on the 'right' side? And how your vantage point can definitely affect how you view the morality of a situation.

The magic was really interesting, and I liked seeing Oscar develop and learn to use his powers. He matures emotionally as this book unfolds, and that isn't always comfortable reading. Some of the scenes were really hard to read, and some characters were downright creepy as heck in their powerful abilities. Also the examination of bigotry and racism (not necessarily skin color, but identity and being other than the norm). It looks hard at the military and how that all works being a grunt and having to follow orders, even if they aren't morally right, according to you.

This is the first book in this series, and I'm curious to see where the story goes next. I think that science fiction and fantasy have the ability to look hard at issues and get a reader thinking about things. This book definitely did that for me. The action was well done and had me on the edge of my seat, and I liked Oscar. I felt sympathy for him, because he was in a very rough situation and he was continually forced to make some difficult choices in this book.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Love in the Afternoon (The Hathaways, #5)Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I took a multiple year break between this and the rest of the series. It was intentional. This was the last book before Ms. Kleypas started her hiatus from historical romance. I didn't want to not have one if I needed an LK fix. Even after all those years, I fell back into the world of the Hathaways, like a worn in pair of shoes. They feel like real people to me, just as quirky as real relatives. Beatrix earns a special place in my heart as heroine. She is such a wonderful, sweet person, but has a very thoughtful and wise beyond her years core. Many times I didn't feel like Christopher deserved her in the least. I love animals much in the same way as Beatrix, so I really connected to her in her animal and nature love.

The romance seduced me, even when I didn't really like Christopher. I felt bad for his experiences, but his superior and somewhat shallow behavior initially was a turnoff. I like that he did evolve as a character. I was sorry for the way he suffered in the war, and it took that to help mature him. I am sure it didn't help that his mother was so mean to him and made no mistake about favoring John (his brother).

As always, the Hathaways charm the socks off me. It was lovely to see how the years have evolved the various siblings and their spouses. I did miss seeing Harry and Poppy. It was awesome to see the next generation of Hathaways.

Lisa Kleypas has such a wonderful voice and her historical romances are sensual in a way that goes beyond sexuality. Her descriptions of the setting stimulate all the senses in a delightful way. And the letters that Beatrix and Christopher exchange are heartfelt and deep.

Other than Christopher starting out as a jerk, I can't say I disliked anything about this book. I love that he realizes before it's too late what a treasure he has in Beatrix, and he truly is like many of her charges, wounded and striking out in anger, but deep down in need of love and care.

Another wonderful Hathaway novel by Ms. Kleypas. A treasure to read.

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Fire Bound by Christine Feehan

Fire BoundFire Bound by Christine Feehan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved the different direction that Feehan took with Lissa's story. Instead of the story taking place in Sea Haven at the farm, this one is set primarily in Italy, and Lissa is not the hunted, but the huntress. I am always satisfied when Feehan introduces another Prakenskii brother. While I adore the GhostWalker men (flaws included), the Prakenskiis have a special place in my heart. Each brother gets near to my favorite. I am pretty sure that it's a bit of a four way tie between Maxim, Gavril, Ilya and Casimir now. I do dearly love Ilya, and I never thought Feehan could top him, but she has, boy howdy. I have a bizarre fondness for assassin leads, and I got two for the price of one with Lissa and Casimir. Lissa is the real deal, and I wish for more heroines like her.

Casimir is perfect for Lissa. He's her match and he respects her for the woman she is, that she's been fashioned into. It takes a strong man to acknowledge that a woman is his equal. While Casimir was protective of Lissa, he didn't try to get in the way of her mission, but is her helpmate. I like that they work together to fulfill their mutual goals, and that their passion burns hot and their love is true.

This book had more of a semi-overt BDSM tone than the other books. I am the first to admit I am not a fan of BDSM. Fortunately, it wasn't over the top, although there was one device that was definitely a little weird for my tastes. I did like that Casimir wasn't about subjugation or domination but mutual pleasure. There is a welcome contrast between their love play and what is going on unbeknownst to Lissa. I didn't like the scene in which certain men abuse a certain woman. It made me sick and I felt really bad for that poor woman. I was glad that Casimir had such a visceral and righteously angry reaction to that situation.

I felt for Lissa in that she was raised with so much betrayal. Despite that, she was incredibly strong and self-actualized. I just hate that she was used that way. When the people you trust and love do that to you, it's even worse. Even though she had her Sisters of the Heart, she had to hide that part of her from them, and that made her feel lonely and isolated. I was glad that she doesn't have to be lonely anymore.

The wedding scene was so touching, and I loved the surprise guest. those Prakenskiis are so romantic! All I have to say is that the next book is going to be something else. The pigeons are really coming home to roost. I am officially giving my seal of approval if Feehan has books for the other guys from the worst of the Russian spy schools. :)

This is my second favorite book series by Feehan for a reason. It's really hard to top the GhostWalkers for me. I freaking love that series like a house on fire. But this series is a close second . I think the Prakensii/Sisters of the Heart books have such great heroes and heroines. Strong men who aren't jerks, who appreciate their heroines for who they are and are willing to make sacrifices to be with them. I'm sad to see that it will end soon! All I can say to Ms. Feehan is, keep the Russians coming, please.

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