Category: Paranormal Romance

The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose

the-secret-language-of-stones-by-m-j-rose

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Nestled within Paris’s historic Palais Royal is a jewelry store unlike any other. La Fantasie Russie is owned by Pavel Orloff, protégé to the famous Faberge, and is known by the city’s fashion elite as the place to find the rarest of gemstones and the most unique designs. But war has transformed Paris from a city of style and romance to a place of fear and mourning. In the summer of 1918, places where lovers used to walk, widows now wander alone.

So it is from La Fantasie Russie’s workshop that young, ambitious Opaline Duplessi now spends her time making trench watches for soldiers at the front, as well as mourning jewelry for the mothers, wives, and lovers of those who have fallen. People say that Opaline’s creations are magical. But magic is a word Opaline would rather not use. The concept is too closely associated with her mother Sandrine, who practices the dark arts passed down from their ancestor La Lune, one of sixteenth century Paris’s most famous courtesans.

But Opaline does have a rare gift even she can’t deny, a form of lithomancy that allows her to translate the energy emanating from stones. Certain gemstones, combined with a personal item, such as a lock of hair, enable her to receive messages from beyond the grave. In her mind, she is no mystic, but merely a messenger, giving voice to soldiers who died before they were able to properly express themselves to loved ones. Until one day, one of these fallen soldiers communicates a message—directly to her.

So begins a dangerous journey that will take Opaline into the darkest corners of wartime Paris and across the English Channel, where the exiled Romanov dowager empress is waiting to discover the fate of her family.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook in exchange for an honest review. It was supposed to be for a tour but I didn’t get it done in time.]

I’ve only read two other books by M.J. Rose but what always strikes me about her books is that she has such a beautiful writing style. It’s descriptive and yet fascinating. She can describe things like stones in minute detail and yet you never find yourself skipping over the descriptions to get to the action. She really just has a beautiful writing style that grabs your attention and holds it for the whole book. It’s what makes finishing the book so disappointing. It’s not that M.J. Rose’s endings are terrible or anything like that, but rather it’s that I hate coming back to the real world after such beautiful writing.

With that said, what I like about this book is that while Opaline is Sandrine’s daughter and thus the daughter of a woman who practices dark magic (and allowed the spirit of her ancestor to possess her in the first book) but she despises dark magic. She feels magic call to her from the stones but resists praticing magic for fear of turning out like her mother or, worse yet, La Lune herself. And yet she’s having trouble controlling her natural powers and they almost get out of hand and destroy her before Opaline realizes she has to embrace her heritage in order to save herself. She clearly struggles with ethical dilemmas and fears the call of the dead from the stones but in the end, Opaline really does want to do what’s right.

M.J. Rose handles both characters and descriptions well but what struck me about this second book in the series is the politics. More so than in The Witch of Painted Sorrows, the political situation is ever-present. She really captures the feel of World War I, the fact that life was both normal and not normal. Normal business went on as much as it could but the war touched everyone: jewellers made mourning jewellery instead of fancier necklaces and tiaras, certain foods were hard to find and almost an entire generation of young men was wiped out. And of course, things weren’t just bad in France. As Opaline finds out when she creates a necklace for the dowager empress of the Romanov family, even innocent children aren’t safe from the war and its effects.

I liked both The Witch of Painted Sorrows and The Secret Language of Stones. While the stories of Sandrine and Opaline are different, they do have some similarities that connect the two books together in a satisfying way. Although I’ll have to say goodbye to Opaline, I can’t wait for the next book, The Library of Light and Shadow, which is coming out in July 2017. The Daughters of La Lune series is fantastic and I can’t wait to spend more time in M.J. Rose’s beautiful, enchanting world.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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Flirting With Fire by Tara Quan

Flirting with Fire by Tara Quan(Cover picture courtesy of Tara Quan’s site.)

Apprentice witch Catalina Gato is prohibited from assuming her human form in front of her new employer without his express permission. Since he doesn’t know he’s a warlock, he can’t give it, leaving her in a familiar’s limbo. To make matters worse, she’s barred from leaving his house, and her attempts to enlighten him of his true nature results in burnt notes, charred walls, and exploding laptops.

On All Hallows’ Eve, she gets one night of freedom. Deciding some no-strings-attached sex might take the edge off the intense attraction she feels for her clueless boss, she signs up for Madame Eve’s service. When she meets her masked mystery date at the Castillo Capital, she realizes she might have gotten much more than she bargained for.

After being gifted a one-night stand from his annoying best friend, attorney Leo Difuoco reluctantly ventures to the Castillo Capital to celebrate Halloween. When he meets his oddly familiar green-eyed date in a Cat Woman costume, flames literally ignite, sparks magically fly, and life as he knows it changes forever.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook in conjunction with the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]

Having read Tara Quan’s Operation Owl, I expected Flirting with Fire to be a semi-serious romantic novel.  That’s pretty much just what I got with this second book of hers that I’ve read but for some reason I just liked it much more than Operation Owl.

Maybe it was the fact that both characters are much better fleshed out, even though the book seems shorter.  Leonardo is a kind of sloppy bachelor who can’t see things under his own nose, but you get the feeling that his heart’s in the right place.  Why else would he care for the cat his crazy grandmother left him?  Cat, on the other hand, is a much more vivid character in my mind.  She’s stuck in the form of (you guessed it) a cat because she was a familiar to Leonardo’s grandmother and now Leonardo, who doesn’t believe in magic, is in control of her contract without knowing it.  So she’s stuck as a cat when she goes out of the house on every night but one: Halloween.

Since this is kind of a romance, you can pretty much guess how the story goes from there when both Leonardo and Cat go out on the same night.  Still, Tara Quan does a good job of building up a reasonable amount of suspense by ratcheting up the tension within both characters as well as creating some tension between the two when they meet.  And of course, when the romance part finally seems to happen, there’s still the question of Cat’s contract and whether Leonardo is willing to open up his mind and believe her.

The best thing about this book is that it’s emotionally satisfying.  There’s no Insta-Love, but rather an instant connection of some sort that in some situations obviously can lead to a one-night stand.  So that’s more than believable given the circumstances both characters are in at the time.  And by the end, you get the feeling that not only has the main conflict been resolved satisfactorily but that you can guess at what happens next to some degree.  It makes for a much better ending than the usual drive off into the sunset with these sorts of things.

So if you’re looking for a good book that’s also fairly light reading with plenty of romance, Flirting With Fire would be a great place to start.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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Forbidden by Amy Miles

Forbidden by Amy Miles(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Roseline Enescue didn’t ask to become an Immortal, to have all of the guests at her wedding slaughtered, or be forced into marriage with a man whose lust for blood would one day ignite the vampire legend. Willing to risk everything for a chance at a normal life, Roseline escapes to America. Terrified her husband Vladimir will find her, Roseline enrolls as a senior in Chicago’s elite Rosewood Prep school. Mingling with humans is the last place he would look for her. But her transition into the human world isn’t easy. Mortal men flock after her while cutthroat girls plot her demise. Yet Roseline remains relatively unfazed by the petty hysteria until she falters into the arms of Gabriel Marston, reluctant MVP quarterback, unwilling ladies man, and sensitive artist in hiding. Troubled by the bond that pulls her towards the mortal boy, Roseline tries to ignore him, but Gabriel is persistent. As their lives entwine, Roseline begins to realize that Gabriel is much more than he appears. His ability to toss a football the entire length of the field and grind concrete into dust pales in comparison to the glowing blue cross tattoo that mysteriously appears on his forearms. Despite the forbidden bond between them, Roseline can’t help wondering what Gabriel is: He’s not human. He’s not Immortal. So just what is he?

[Full disclosure: I requested and received this ebook through NetGalley as part of the ‘Beautifully Unnatural’ four book package.]

I thought the premise of this book sounded a little dumb, to be honest.  An immortal who just wants to be a teenager?  Meh.

And yet, after all the effort Amy Miles went to in order to develop her characters, I kind of get it.  Roseline was never allowed to be a child.  She was raised for marriage into another wealthy family from birth and was a child bride on her wedding day.  Add to that the fact she watched her entire family die before her eyes and that the blood of dead younger sister made her immortal and you’ve got a basic recipe for stunted growth.  Not to mention all the myriad tortures Dracula inflicts on her.  I think anyone would turn out with a lack of trust, not to mention an odd mix of maturity (because she had to deal with torture and politics) and immaturity (a response to being forced into said torture and politics).

From all this, you can definitely guess that Roseline is a pretty memorable character.  I still don’t quite buy the whole 300-year-old immortal falling for a teenage boy, but I’m willing to give Amy Miles a little leeway here after she semi-justified Roseline’s immaturity.  Gabriel is not bad in the beginning and I like how he actually develops into a character rather than just your typical love interest.  He won’t abandon Roseline, no matter how much she pushes him away in order to protect him.  Compared to other love interests, he also knows how to act and lie, which make him a far more compelling character than your usual guileless but oddly heroic male.

Even if the characterization was iffy in spots, the plot was not.  Even when it was ‘slow’ (i.e. there were no major events happening), there was still an element of tension throughout the novel that kept your attention.  I generally liked Roseline as a character so I was very invested in what happened to her, especially when she got the word that Dracula was going to go on a killing spree unless she returned to him.  She has trouble adjusting to high school life in America but she does find a lot of things to be happy about at the same time: Gabriel, finally being allowed to be herself and (again) the whole not being tortured thing.  Anyone would act a little irrationally after being denied freedom for centuries and then being given it back.

So overall, Forbidden at least had a solid plot and generally well-developed characters.  The world-building was okay and I expect we’ll see a little bit more of an explanation in the other two books of the trilogy.  For something I picked up as guilty pleasure, I actually found myself enjoying it on a more intellectual level.  And that’s why I’ll be reading the next book to find out what happens.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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Black Moon by F. M. Sherrill & Becca C. Smith

Black Moon by Smith and Sherrill(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Shea Harper is forced to stay in boring, hot and dry Phoenix, Arizona for college. But once she meets the enigmatic yet positively egocentric Lucian, Shea’s life changes forever.

She finds out that she comes from a long line of descendants called Vessels. In her soul is the key to destroying an ancient prison protecting the world from darkness itself: Lucian’s father.

Up until now, Lucian has captured every descendant except Shea. With her powers awakening, all vampires want to drag her down to the pit. But Lucian is territorial. She’s the first female Vessel… and he’s convinced she belongs to him.

Saucy and tauntingly surprising, Black Moon captures the struggle between burning desire or denying the heart. This is a love story that will drain you dry.

[Full disclosure: I received a free print copy in conjunction with the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]

I really do love the characters in this novel.  Both Smith and Sherrill did excellent jobs with their respective characters, Shea and Lucian.  I felt like I really was in Shea’s and Lucian’s shoes during their chapters and I understood their motivations for their actions.  I’ll admit it: sometimes I’m a sucker for tales of forbidden love.  And boy, does Lucian ever fit the bill here.  Our dark vampire here used to be a slave in Egypt who loved the beautiful Nefertiti but was killed for it.  After all these centuries, he still loves her despite the tragedy that befell her because of him.  His guilt and his love are clear in many aspects of his life…until he meets Shea.

As an Egypt buff, I loved the infusion of some history into Black Moon, but it was rather disappointing that Smith and Sherrill played fast and loose with the facts.  No, Nefertiti was hardly captured in battle along with her father.  No, her father’s name was not Ur-Nammu.  And no, she was certainly not a slave at court with the name of ‘wife’; by all accounts she was greatly beloved of Akhenaten.  Now, I can definitely forgive some historical inaccuracies in the name of a good story.  But when Lucian passively mentions that Queen Hatshepsut constantly reeked of myrrh, I had to laugh.  Hatshepsut was far before Nefertiti’s time and therefore Lucian’s time (since he was human then).  There were three kings with extremely long reigns between the two women, so there’s no way Lucian actually would have met her.

My griping about historical accuracy aside, I really enjoyed Black Moon.  It has quite a fast plot and so many twists and turns that my head was spinning by the end.  Yes, in the beginning it seems to be mostly character-driven but by the end it seemed to be more plot-driven.  In reality, it’s actually the best of both worlds: it’s a fast-paced novel with extremely well developed and believable characters.  I thought it got a little melodramatic toward the end, but that’s a personal thing rather than an actual flaw with the novel.  The cliffhanger at the end was excruciating; I would have read the next book without it anyway, but with a cliffhanger like that I know I definitely have to read the next book now.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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Sins of the Lost by Linda Poitevin

Sins of the Lost by Linda Poitevin(Cover picture courtesy of the book tour a couple of months ago.)

From the author of Sins of the Angels and Sins of the Son comes the newest novel in the “electric, thrilling and extremely intelligent” (Ex Libris) Grigori Legacy series.

Heaven and Hell are on the brink of war as Lucifer builds his Nephilim army and waits for his new agenda to become a reality — that of having a Nephilimchild of his own bloodline to lead his forces to cataclysmic victory.

With rumors of the pending war rampant on Earth, Alex fights to save humanity from its own panic –­ leaving little time for her fledgling
relationship with Seth, the man with heavenly origins who has captured her heart. But when Nephilim children begin to disappear, along with Alex’s own vulnerable niece, the inevitable war between Heaven and Hell becomes as personal as sin.

Heaven has its own plans to fight the coming apocalypse, but first it needs Seth back. Asked to betray the man she loves, Alex must turn for help to the soulmate she thought she’d given up — the Archangel Aramael, who may be her last chance to save her family and humanity from the ashes of Lucifer’s Armageddon.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook copy through the blog tour a while back in exchange for an honest review.]

The phrase ‘action-packed’ is bandied about quite carelessly when it comes to describing books, but let me tell you I’m dead serious when I say that Sins of the Lost is action-packed.

Not only is poor Alex trying to stop the oncoming apocalypse, she’s lost her soulmate and is trying to love another (who just happens to be the possible catalyst for said apocalypse).  To say that there’s a lot of drama and tension in this third book in the Grigori Legacy is an understatement.  It never gets into soap opera ridiculous drama levels but it really is the kind of book that will keep you on the edge of your seat.  That’s why I ended up reading this book until four in the morning when I had to work at 8:00am; I just couldn’t stop no matter how much I tried to exercise my self-control.

Alex is of course my favourite character, just like in the previous two installments.  This time she’s dealing with even more psychological scars and although some readers may be frustrated with her I believe her reluctance to join in the fight between Heaven and Hell is more realistic than if she were gung-ho about the whole thing.  Let’s face it, she’s gone through a lot and it’s all because of their idiotic war that could have been prevented.  While Alex is my favourite character, Seth is the one with the most surprises up his sleeve.  His character arc, looking back, is very realistic but at the time you really don’t know where his character is going to go.  He’s wonderfully ambiguous which ratchets up the tension even more.  As for Aramael, I can’t really say much without giving away some major spoilers but let’s just say that his fans will be pleased.

As for the concept, I believe that some would call it ‘blasphemous’ or ‘heresy’ but I love how Linda Poitevin has arranged her versions of Heaven and Hell.  God being a woman doesn’t even touch some of the other unique spins on classic Christian theology.  I won’t go much further into it because I don’t want to bring my personal beliefs into things but if you’re reading this series, take it for what it is: fiction.  It’s not intended to offend or harm and Linda Poitevin does an amazing job at world-building.

I can’t believe it took me so long to finally get to Sins of the Lost but I’m really glad I did.  The only bad thing about it?  Because of that insane cliffhanger I’m now desperate for the fourth book to come out.  I guess that’s just the mark of a great book.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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The Legend of the Blue Eyes by B. Kristin McMichael

The Legend of the Blue Eyes by B. Kristin McMichael(Cover picture courtesy of My Book Addiction.)

Arianna Grace liked her boring, Midwestern, teenage life where she ignored the many unanswered questions of her childhood. Why were her parents dead? Why did she not have family? Where was she raised until she was five? When someone offers to explain it all, Arianna thinks she’s just getting answers. Instead, she is thrown into a world of night humans who drink blood.

On Arianna’s sixteenth birthday, her world is thrown upside down when she changes into a vampire. Night humans, or demons, as some call them, live in normal society. Learning all of the new rules of a world she didn’t know existed might be hard enough, but it’s further complicated by two former-friends that now want to help her take her role as the successor to her grandfather.

There is a war going on between the night humans. Sides have been taken and lines are not crossed. Four main clans of night humans are struggling for control of the night. Divided into two sides, clans Baku and Tengu have been at war for centuries with the clans Dearg-dul and Lycan. That is, until Arianna Grace finds out the truth; she’s the bridge of peace between the two sides. But not everyone wants peace. With the night humans divided, Arianna is now a pawn in the war between them. She must choose a side—her mother’s family or her father’s—and for once in her life, decide her own fate.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Unfortunately, The Legend of the Blue Eyes is an example of how a good premise can be ruined by mediocre writing.

The premise of B. Kristin McMichael’s world is not a new one but she puts such an unique spin on things that you can’t help but fall in love with it.  She goes back to the origins of vampires and incorporates some of the old myths into a modern, sophisticated type of vampire called a Dearg-dul.  The Baku and Tengu are sort of vampire/incubus/succubus combination while Lycans are quite obviously werewolves.  They aren’t the typical sort of creatures you find in urban fantasy, particularly YA, because McMichael actually took the time to make her creatures unique.  I honestly can’t fault any aspect of her world-building because it really is fantastic.

Her writing is not, however.  It’s by no means bad but it’s not up to the quality of her world-building.  She spends pages and pages on Arianna’s boy-craziness until it crosses the line from typical boy-crazy teenager to the realm of “make up your mind already!”.  I’m not a big fan of romance but when done right it’s great.  But it really was just not done right in The Legend of the Blue Eyes.  The male leads are kind of stereotypes, one dimensional people designed to exist for the gratification of the female protagonist.  While it’s sadly refreshing to see men objectified for once in fiction it doesn’t make it enjoyable or right.

I really couldn’t connect with Arianna.  She’s just such a walking cliché of pretty much every YA heroine in popular fiction.  Arianna can’t make up her mind about which boy she even likes, she’s a small town sort of girl thrust into the middle of a rich urban world, she’s special even amongst her own people, etc.  It would have been different had McMichael put some twists on these clichés but she really didn’t.

Instead, the wasted potential of this book makes me sad.  The world-building is absolutely fantastic and could be a model for pretty much every author out there, but the rest of the novel is lackluster at best.  If it sounds interesting to you I’d say go ahead but I’m not going to go out of my way to recommend this one.

I give this book 2.5/5 stars.

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Andromeda’s Fall by Abigail Owen

b1cc9-andromedasfall_ebooklg(Cover picture courtesy of Masquerade Tours.)

Mountain lion shifters have allied into ten groups called Dares which together form the Shadowcat Nation. A rocky alliance at best, its success is vital to their survival against other species of shifters who threaten their very existence.

Andie Reynolds is being hunted. After witnessing her mother’s violent death at the hands of a pack of wolf shifters, Andie has devoted her life to protecting her community of cougar shifters from a similar fate. But now, a greater threat lies within her own dare, and she must run. If she stays, Kyle Carstairs will try to force their Mating, seeking the added power their union would provide.

Andie would rather chew off her own foot than end up with Kyle. Though, knowing him, she won’t live long either way. Andie’s only hope of survival is to Mate the Alpha of the Keller Dare with which she is seeking asylum. But before she can get to him, Andie must first go through A.J., one of the Alpha’s Protectors. The incredibly frustrating shifter insists on challenging her story, her skills, her trust… and her heart.

Andie is running out of options and out of time. But risking the life of someone she loves – just to save herself – goes against every instinct she has.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook copy through the Andromeda’s Fall blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]

I was quite pleasantly surprised by Andromeda’s Fall.  It was my first real shapeshifter book so I didn’t quite know what to expect but I’m definitely pleased with how the book turned out.

First off, the characters are awesome.  Andie is probably one of my favourite heroines in paranormal romance because she’s just an incredible woman.  She’s a high-ranking female in a world where high-ranking females are few and far between.  At the same time, not many people recognize and/or respect her power.  They still see her as just a woman in her old dare, which is why I like how Andie is allowed to show her real self in the Keller Dare.  Her uncertainty of her position in the new dare as well as her growing feelings for A.J. certainly make things interesting plot-wise.  But the thing I liked most about Andromeda’s Fall is how she slowly comes to realize that the Keller Dare is her new home and that maybe, just maybe, she’s found where she really belongs.

The world-building in this book was excellent.  I like how Abigail Owen had the characters maintain some of their cat-like personalities while in human form.  Cougar shifters don’t like being cooped up and they certainly prefer their own company in human form, creating just that extra bit of tension for the novel.  Not a lot of authors do this, but I liked how there was just a brief one page introduction to the history of the formation of the cougar dares before the novel even started.  It wasn’t an info-dump, but rather it gave us important background information that was just enough to get the story started.  I don’t think an intro like that should be used often, but it definitely worked for this book.

The plot was incredibly fast-paced considering that this novel was largely character-driven.  Abigail Owen played A.J. and Andie off each other well, heightening the character tension while at the same time, having external forces try to keep them apart.  By the end you’re really wondering whether they’re going to end up together or not, but I won’t spoil the ending by telling you how it turns out.  I will tell you, however, that the ending is very satisfying.

In short, even if paranormal romances aren’t really your thing, you’ll probably like Andromeda’s Fall.  This was an excellent book and I can’t wait to see how the rest of the series plays out.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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As a bonus for the tour there’s a giveaway for a $40 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash!  It’s open internationally.  All you have to do is click the Rafflecopter link below to get started on entering.  But hurry!  The giveaway ends on April 7.

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