The Dark Highlander (Highlander #5) by Karen Marie Moning

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The Dark Highlander (Highlander, #5)

“I love you! Okay? But I didn’t want to say it that way, I wanted to say it just right and you ruined it.” – Chloe Zanders

There’s something to be said about a series that has already captivated you, despite its rocky start, and still manages to happily surprise you with each new book. Especially when you expected a certain book to be awesome, and it was that and even more so!

Dageus MacKeltar is Drustan’s twin. The one who used the stones for his own personal gain, and thus was cursed for it. Now, centuries into the future, he’s trying to undo that wrong. But it’s really hard to travel back in time, and having a crowd of dark spirits in your head doesn’t exactly scream sanity and personal calmness. Thank God Chloe Zanders is here to stop him from his thieving ways – and that she plans to follow him in exchange for several Celtic artifacts…

What can I say? I loved Dageus! The minute I met him in the previous book, I knew he was going to be great in a story of his own. And I was right! The man was everything a woman dreams of having by her side. Hot, respectful, romantic, and a big softie – not to mention he values his family to the point of self-sacrifice!


Chloe was also an amazing female lead! She was witty and had guts for days, and she was quick to decide what she wanted – and demand it in the cutest, nerdiest way possible. She was a true spitfire, and she fits as Dageus’s partner perfectly!

I loved that we got to see more of the Keltar clan, too. I had missed Drustan and Gwen, and of course Sylvan is a pretty dope guy. The scene where he told Dageus about playing favorites had me tearing up!

The book was fast-paced, and full of adventure and danger, and of course magic. But let’s not forget the well-delivered dialogues and the scenery descriptions! Or the love scenes! Moning is a writer that knows how to give you a real good dose of everything that makes a good story, without making it repetitive, and make you thirst for more to come your way! The only downfall of all this is: I want a Scotsman of my own, damn it! And to move to Scotland permanently! GAH!!!

RATING:

5cupcakes

Captive Desire (Planet of Desire #2) by Robin Lovett

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Captive Desire (Planet of Desire #2)

All praise hot aliens and that freaking planet! Desidre is a god-send for us to enjoy this awesome series, and you can’t convince me otherwise! I’ll fight you, don’t try me!

So, remember Gahnin? The Ssedez who had lost his mate? Didn’t I tell ya guys he’d find another HEA?! Well, not easily, mind you. Because it seems that his instincts are trying to point him towards Assura, one of the humans that crashed on that lust-crazed planet, and of course he’s not too keen about it. Her, too. She’d rather die than sleep with him! But guess what, dearies? You can’t escape your hearts’ true desires for long!

Honestly, this series keeps getting better as it goes on. One would think that one book about a chemical in the atmosphere of a planet causing aliens and humans to sleep together unless they want to suffer would be enough, but really, it only escalated from there. The second book was even more complex, and had more action, and tension, and sooooo many twists! And the emotional heartbreak was out of this world!!! (also, let no one tell you that the sexy festival scenes are nothing short of a masterpiece!)

I simply cannot praise this book and the series enough! Assura’s past and all that inner turmoil she was going through, plus Gahnin and his own past and problems because of Ssedez traditions, it all added to the pressure! Plus, those bad guys that Nemona and her crew were talking about? Yeah, they’re here, people! Which means the humans, Ssedez, AND Fellamana are in danger! Time to buckle up!

I just love how this series works in a way that makes you thirst for the next book, without leaving you hanging or feeling unsatisfied! A total recommendation, all around!

Next up is Koviye, and let me tell you, I’ve been waiting for this blue boy for a looong time! His sarcasm and lack of restraint, plus the fact he’s clearly set on Jenie, will surely not disappoint!

***I was given an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinion stated in this review is solely mine, and no compensation was given or taken to alter it.***

RATING:

5cupcakes

Spellbound in Sleepy Hollow: A Von Tassel Sisters Anthology by Patricia Eimer, Rosalie Lario, Boone Brux

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Spellbound in Sleepy Hollow: A Von Tassel Sisters Anthology

While not a fan of anthologies, as I prefer to enjoy a book individually even if it’s part of a series, I have to say that this particular collection was quite fun to read through. Written by three different authors, the Von Tassel Sisters trilogy was unique in its own simplistic ways.

The main concept of the series is a curse on the Von Tassel family, the females of which are mostly witches. The three sisters who act as the main female leads have to break the curse before a certain deadline, to make up for the fact that their ancestors caused the curse to happen in the first place ages ago. To do so, they have to find their true loves. But their quite busy inn and the fact that the men Fate sends them are not exactly who they wish to settle down with do not make things as easy as they should be…

The couples in the three stories are not just those that are alive. In each sister’s personal journey, one of the aunts who is the one most similar to her also tries to fix the whole mess she and her sisters put the family in. So, while those who are alive have their own issues to deal with, the readers will be pleasantly surprised to see ghosts attempting to navigate the after-life, pass on, and forgive wrongs and slights and grudges that have kept them separate for generations, even after death.

To be honest, I preferred the aunties and their beaus to the current sisters. Well, except for Lexi – I feel that she was the most interesting of the three, and I was actually intrigued by where her crush on Tristan would take her and invested on her HEA. Stephanie and Brianna were not half bad themselves, but somehow it was hard for me to relate to them, I guess.
(By the way, total fan of #KatrinaBrom – ghosts flirting in a tsundere way was my jam in all this!)

Another thing I actually liked was the story’s general pace. While we get that sense of urgency for the curse to break, the storytelling didn’t feel rushed. And each book started right where the previous one had ended, so that was one of the factors why I didn’t cringe while reading the anthology. It felt more like one complete piece, and the authors managed to keep their individual voices, while still combining them in a way that felt… unified, if that makes sense. Remarkable, indeed.

If you’re looking for a modern, witchy read, with witty, meddlesome ghosts and hot scenes, this little gem is a perfect choice for you.

***I was given an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinion stated in this review is solely mine, and no compensation was given or taken to alter it.***

RATING:

4cupcakes

Dragon’s Shadow by Allison Morse

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Dragon's Shadow

A nice little read. Quite enjoyable, though I feel it could have been better when it came to character development. But that’s just my personal opinion… Read on!

Kylie has been miserable after the death of her mother. Her stepfather is not only mistreating her, but also makes her believe she might be clinically insane and is trying to keep her dormant. However, a series of events leads Kylie to get transported to another world. A world in which she comes from a royal bloodline. A world in which she has a twin brother – a brother prophesied to kill her. Because according to the prophecy, Kylie is the evil twin, and only her death will bring peace and safety to the world.

OK, let me just say, I liked the concept of twins that are so different from each other. Kylie is prickly, while Jarlon is calm and friendly. She’s quick to lash out, and he’s the epitome of altruism and kindness. Make no mistake, though, that only served to drive home the point of them growing up in extremely different environments. Each of them had been through different things, so they were bound to not be the same in personalities and reactions.

Speaking of environments, I so knew that Richard knew what and who Kylie was! And I was glad I was right!

The trope of this story is mainly the age-old one of “light twin VS dark twin”. And it worked out quite well in showcasing the plot. We have the Order, a group of people ADAMANT on having Jarlon kill Kylie. They’re so quick – and persistent – to burden the poor prince with the murder of his own sister, they couldn’t even bother with finding a way of saving her, instead. In their minds, Kylie had to die, and they didn’t care for any alternatives.

Thank God for Jarlon being so awesome! I loved him – practically my favorite character. (Tryffin was my second fave, obviously!) Even if everyone kept telling him to ignore the people’s troubles for the greater good, he was such a sweetheart that he still tried to fight over the smallest battle, if it just meant he would help a few others that way. Whether it was freeing slaves, showing kindness to a random thief in the woods, or protecting a sister he never even met, the guy was a true PRINCE, and bless him for that!

Kylie, on the other hand, was a bit too much for me to understand. I get she didn’t live a nice life, but there was not much development on her part, especially good growth, you know? She was just angry, and that… was sad, I suppose. not to mention how, unlike Jarlon, she felt some sort of contempt towards him, like it was his fault everything had gone poorly I guess she reminded me of a typical teenager, and sometimes I find it hard to associate with such people…

Still, I don’t think this deters from finding the author’s work admirable. I would certainly be down to read more of her work.

***I was given an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinion stated in this review is solely mine, and no compensation was given or taken to alter it.***

RATING:

3cupcakes

The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #5) by Rick Riordan

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The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #5)

“I am here because when all else fails, when all the other mighty gods have gone off to war, I am all that’s left. Home. Hearth. I am the last Olympian.”

Holly Ophiotaurus, what a ride!!! The final book of the first PJO universe series was a blast! Man, I’m so tempted to just start it all over again!!!

In this final installment of Percy’s personal journey, we see our beloved Half-Blood campers taking a stand against the Titan army. But they’re fighting a losing battle. The Titans are not alone – minor gods and their kids, as well as demigods who feel unwanted by their Olympian parents, have sided with them. And among the remaining few who are defending Olympus, a traitor still hides in plain sight… Will Percy be able to give an end to this once and for all? And if so… at what cost?

Rick Riordan has become one of my favorite authors these last few years. I love his style, and there’s not a single book of his that I find bad. But Percy’s books are arguably my most preferred ones among this man’s vast collection of brilliant pieces of work. So much wit, and sass (long live #Persassy), and a colorful plethora of characters, all unique and memorable in their own weird – yet so humane – ways. There is not a single character in these books that makes you indifferent towards them – even the villains, since they invoke extreme hatred and wrath in the readers.

It’s not just the characters, though. It’s also the story. The dialogues. The way everything is described, made more vibrant to our imagination’s eyes thanks to Riordan’s writing style. The man manages to make us feel EXACTLY what he wants with a few well-placed words. Happy moments? We’re celebrating! Dangerous ones? We’re biting our nails clean off. Sad ones? Sad ones…. Well, more and more of them as the series progressed, and each of them more dramatic and trauma-inducing than the last one. When this writer wants you to cry, expect the dam tears to run like a river!

I also enjoyed how, despite this big prophecy and whatever, and Percy being this awesome hero… not all of it was FOR him. He wasn’t the hero expected to be sacrificed. He wasn’t the Last Olympian as the title suggests and we foolishly thought. Percy was but a gear in a cosmic wheel of events, and while he played a major role in changing the tides, he was not the main savior – and that particular plot twist really floored me.

One more thing: I really enjoy mythology. I love all things ancient – especially legends. And my country’s mythology is one of the most ancient and the most intriguing – but it’s also the most misunderstood and misinterpreted. People keep using it in their books in a way that is… not accurate at all. But it’s fine, because it’s not like they’re writing real-history wrong, or whatever. Still, it takes me a bit of getting used to each time a book boggles facts that Greek children are taught from the moment they learn how to sit down and listen to a story (the stories about Greek gods and demigods and heroes all make for fascinating fairytales, after all). That being said, I think that’s another reason why I find Riordan’s storytelling easy to read and enjoy. The man GETS IT. He has his facts right – his books have to be some of the most accurate ones using the Olympian pantheon and legends. And he uses them in a way that is nothing short of entertaining!

Now I’m in a dilemma. Obviously, I want to read the next series – I mean, come on, LEO! – but I also need a break to focus on other books in my TBR list…. Aaaaah, what to dooooo?!

RATING:

5cupcakes

Shadow of the Exile (The Infernal Guardian #1) by Mitchell Hogan

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Shadow of the Exile (The Infernal Guardian #1)

I. Loved. This. Book! Loved it till there was no higher rating to show this, but only 5 cupcakes!!!

Holy cow, it has it all! Demons and magic and action! And so much suspense!!! There was even a past tragic romance in the plot! And the main hero was my all-time favorite kind, the anti-hero! What more could a girl ask for?! Though, keep in mind, it’s not a story for too young people…

So, in the first installment of this series, we have Tarrik, a demon who is also exiled, and is summoned by a sorcerer named Ren in order to help her with her hidden agenda. Throughout their shared journey and adventure, they will learn to coexist, understand each other – if only a little – and try to survive – possibly while succeeding this crazy plan the sorceress has come up with.

I freaking loved this story! The world that the writer has built is not exactly detailed, though he makes sure to give us enough lore and information for each place to make the canvas behind the characters more plausible and understandable. Still, I kinda dig the whole “an entire nation that practically worships demons” thing – put a nice twist to it.

I especially enjoyed Tarrik as the main character. He was very interesting, and he makes you fall in love with him instantly! His dry wit and his sassy way of taking care of things, while at the same time giving a big middle finger to his orders from Ren, came in a nice contrast with his hidden, sweet side. Tarrik became an exile because he fell in love, yet he still has feelings for his lost beloved, and his friend, and he can’t help but feel strongly for those under his care (willingly or not), either. If that doesn’t wake up the romantic in any of you, I don’t know what will! That part especially, about demons not being heartless, but actually feeling all emotions much more strongly than humans, made so much sense about the way we usually see such beings depicted in stories, and it seriously broke my heart, because it made everything he experienced in the book that much more intense for him, and it hurts to think what he had to go through under Ren’s orders and treatment.

Speaking of Ren, I really didn’t like her. At first I respected her, sort of. She was no innocent, and also a member of the dark cult, and didn’t care to hide it. But then her true colors started showing, and it just didn’t sit well with me. Especially the way she kept punishing Tarrik and treating him like garbage. She kept pushing him for info on his personal life, but refused to give any herself, and then she dared act like THE benevolent mistress of all times! And when the poor guy just got fed up with her attitude and didn’t try to probe further, she changed tactics and forced the info down his throat anyway! Not to mention she kept finding things that she disapproved of in Tarrik’s mere existence! His stance, his battle tactics, the way he fed, the way he clothed himself – it was one insulting and racist comment after another, disrespecting him and his culture, all the while demanding he shows respect to her own morals and customs! Jesus, woman, why summon the guy then in the first place?! He’s a demon, an entirely different species than you, you’d think someone worshiping the damn things would know there are major differences between them and humans! And when she was asleep and bleeding, she punished him for trying to treat her wound!

It should go without saying, I didn’t feel sad to see her go.

Now, the series obviously doesn’t end here, but the story in this particular book didn’t necessarily have a happy ending. Still, I can’t say I found it bad – I usually prefer HEAs, but this one served the purpose of the story just fine. Even though I cried because of the magnitude of feelings rushing through Tarrik, I felt that this leg of his personal journey was good to end, and I can’t wait to read the next book with him in it!

***I was given an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinion stated in this review is solely mine, and no compensation was given or taken to alter it.***

RATING:

5cupcakes

Sweet Carnival by Laura Westbrook – cover reveal

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Boy, oh, boy! It’s been a while since we’ve had a cover reveal! And this new one seems wonderful! Without further ado, let’s check it out, shall we?
Carnival Ride - cover
Title: Carnival Ride: A Sweet Romance
Author: Laura Westbrook
Genre: Sweet Romance
Length: Novella
Blurb:

How do you build a life around a moving target?

Chelsea finds living in Red Canyon rather dull. The guys who come into the bar she works at ask the same questions and order the same kind of beer. She could do with something different, and a mysterious customer wearing bright suspenders does just that.

The traveling carnival is in town, and she can’t wait to go. The attractions and food are nice, but the dark-haired man working one of the booths catches her eye more. All she has to do is knock down the wooden pins to get a stuffed animal, although the prize she really has in mind is more substantial.

But when Nate’s time in Red Canyon is up, she has a decision to make. That, and making the throwing game fair is making him unpopular with the carnival boss, bringing everything to a head. Life isn’t always bright lights and games, and Chelsea wants something more permanent after the group packs up and moves on.

If you enjoy sweet romance stories with happily ever afters, no cliffhangers, and no cheating, then you’ll love this second installment in Laura Westbrook’s touching series.

Big Trouble, Into the Jungle, Escape the Underdark (Dungeons & Dragons: Endless Quest) by Matt Forbeck (Goodreads Author)

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Big Trouble (Dungeons & Dragons: Endless Quest) Into the Jungle (Dungeons & Dragons: Endless Quest) Escape the Underdark (Dungeons & Dragons: Endless Quest)

Well, I’m not one to read interactive fiction, as I don’t like going back and forth in a book – especially if it’s an e-book. But I admit, these D&D (=Dungeons & Dragons) adventures were quite a joy to page through.

In each of these stories, you get to be a specific race and class, so there’s not much freedom there, but you do get to pick the way your story goes. It takes a bit of time to read all of the possible paths you get to take as a character of your own story, but it was time well-spent, as each of them was full of risks and dangers and the author  makes sure you get emotionally shaken by the end of all of them.

Still, I didn’t enjoy all of them equally. Big Trouble was fine and all, but I believe it doesn’t compare to the other two. Not only was the Chult adventure more breathtaking and the Underdark had me panting with each possibility chosen, they seemed a bit more dangerous – and let’s face it, danger is a great factor if you really want to have fun in a D&D game. (either that or my personal disdain towards elves and wizards when playing the game myself has migrated in my reading tastes, who knows?)

Even so, I had a great time reading these books, and I recommend them to anyone who has played or is thinking of playing the game. Especially if you are a DM (=Dungeon Master) – it provides tons of inspiration to put your players through hardships, along with detailed maps and NPCs (=non-player characters) and villains.

***I was given an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinion stated in this review is solely mine, and no compensation was given or taken to alter it.***

RATINGS:

Big Trouble: 3cupcakes

Into the Jungle: 5cupcakes

Escape the Underdark:  5cupcakes

 

Her Alpha Viking (Odin’s Bastards #1) by Sheryl Nantus

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Her Alpha Viking (Odin's Bastards #1)

Quite possibly one of the best starts to a series I encountered last year.

Brenna is a valkyrie, and as such, her duties lead her to reap the souls of brave warriors when they fall in battle. But Erik’s soul is one she finds herself making an exception for, and thus is punished. Stripped of her powers, she’s doomed to roam the Earth until she finds him again, and completes the task. And find him she does – but she still cannot do as she was ordered. Now it’s a race against her sisters who have also descended from Valhalla to do what she could not – only, this time, the man she’s come to care for and willing to protect is not the only target. She is, too.

Honestly, this was a fast-paced read and, while not on the small side, the book entertained me from page one. The writer took the term “valkyrie” and did it justice. Brenna was a battle-hardened woman, and so there were many battles in the story, and Erik was not left behind. Even when he knew he lacked his extraordinary pursuers’ supernatural abilities, he was determined to not go down without a fight – and he was hell bent on protecting Brenna, despite knowing what she was.

As I said, there was not much room to breathe with the book’s pace. Because Brenna’s sisters were in full possession and control of their powers, they were constantly on the couple’s tail, and some of them didn’t even care if they hurt innocent bystanders in the process, as long as the job was done. Almost every other chapter was filled with dread, the main couple frantically running and hiding, or fighting a losing battle.

Now, one might think that, with all this action, it would be hard for our leads to open up to each other and develop feelings properly. But Sheryl Nantus made it so for them to have small, brief reprieves. They weren’t much, but they were enough for them to talk things out and get closer. Plus, Erik was very open-minded and knew what he wanted, which was a good thing. That and the fact that he pretty much knew Brenna wasn’t normal and there was divine stuff at work around him almost from the start, so we didn’t have to lose time with the whole “unveiling” moment and aftermath that usually takes place in such cases.

The only part that sort of confused me was Freyja in the end – I didn’t really get what she was trying to say to Brenna, and I’m still not sure why she got punished in the first place if things were going to head that way. But as long as it all worked out, I guess I don’t mind.

Now it’s time for Kara to take the mantle. I didn’t really like her – and with good reason – but I kinda want to see how she’ll grow in her own story.

***I was given an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinion stated in this review is solely mine, and no compensation was given or taken to alter it.***

RATING:

4cupcakes

Blindsided (Men of Steele #3) by Gwen Hernandez

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Blindsided (Men of Steele, #3)

“Your calm is one of your greatest strengths. It’s one of the reasons I love you.” – Valerie Sanchez

OK, I gotta say, Gwen Hernandez is quickly becoming one of my favorites in the military romance genre. And how could she not? The third book of this series proves it and has managed to drive the point home – she’s here to stay in my top list!

Scott Kramer is tasked to follow former hacker Valerie Sanchez and confirm her guilty of aiding terrorists. But when he realizes the woman might actually be a pawn without her knowledge and a victim on top of that, he decides to protect her. Too bad he can’t protect his heart from the inevitable attraction he feels towards her…

This one was truly a work of art. The pace almost never slowed down once the bad guys got moving, and the suspense was off the charts! Danger was closing in on our main couple from everywhere, and it really kept me on the edge of my seat. Well, that, and the sexual tension. Boy, Scott and Valerie were easily compatible and could burn everything around them with all those smoldering looks and sinful thoughts – which only intensified the intimate moments even more than usual!

Both characters were realistic and quite relatable to me. Which only made me like them more. Valerie was a geek through and through, and her brains were really something else, not only on the technology part, but also when it came to being street smart. And poor Scott was not exactly your everyday tall military hottie – the man was on the short side, and was not only aware, but also insecure about it! Which was adorable, if you ask me – and I usually like my men to be tall, but man did Scott make me rethink my choices!

There was also the fact that they fit each other quite well as a couple. I’m not talking only about the sexual attraction. I’m talking about how, despite everyone and everything around him telling him not to trust Valerie, Scott knew it, deep in his gut, that she was innocent. And he was willing to risk everything to prove that. And Valerie stood up for him. She defended him, when no one had ever fought for him before (when Scott himself told her that, I swear I nearly cried!).

The only downside in this story was stupid Jay – god, what a traitorous prick!

I’ll soon review the next book in the series. I can’t wait to see what happens with the other guys in the Steele agency! Also, there’s Tara, people! I refuse to believe that woman’s HEA is the guy in prison, even if he redeemed himself in the end!

“No matter what happens, I love you. Nothing changes that.” – Scott Kramer

 

RATING:

4cupcakes