Thursday, May 18, 2017

Review: A Sorceress of His Own by Dianne Duvall

Title: A Sorceress of His Own
Series: The Gifted Ones
Author: Dianne Duvall
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: June 2, 2015
Publisher: Dianne Duvall
ASIN: B00UL2G5K6


Since the day Lord Dillon earned his spurs, rumors of his savagery on the battlefield have preceded him into every room, stilling tongues and sparking fear. Weary of battle, he wishes only to find a woman he can wed who will approach him not with fear, but with the tenderness that has been absent from his life for so long. Yet only the wisewoman seems invariably at ease in his presence. Perhaps because she garners the same fear in others that he does himself.

For seven years, Alyssa has been by Lord Dillon's side, counseling him from the shadows, healing him with her hands, and staving off the worst of his loneliness while his fearsome reputation keeps others at bay. Blessed—or cursed—with gifts that label her a sorceress, she is forced to conceal her youth and the love she harbors for him beneath umbral robes that lead Dillon and his people to believe she is the same aged wisewoman who served his father.

All is revealed, however, and passions flare when an enemy threatens Dillon's life and Alyssa sacrifices everything to save him. When Dillon discovers that the wisewoman is far from elderly, he is instantly entranced. And, as he and Alyssa work together to defeat an enemy bent on destroying them both, Dillon will risk anything—even the wrath of his king—to be with her.


My rating:

For the past seven years, since she was but sixteen, Alyssa has served Lord Dillon, the Earl of Westcott, as his wisewoman and healer without the man being aware that 'tis not the wisewoman that had served his father and his father before him that hides under the umbral robes...Then, acting out of love for the man, Alyssa makes the ultimate sacrifice, healing his mortal wounds, ending at Death's door herself. In order for him to save her, Dillon removes her robes and discovers her deception...

But instead of taking offense, he gains much, much more.


Ms Duvall was a new-to-me author, and I must say my first foray into her "world" didn't disappoint. That's not to say the story was perfect—far from it, but the flaws didn't completely overshadow the strengths. The premise, despite this particular plot device being rehashed over and over throughout the history of literature, was solid, and the initial few chapters (before the big reveal) offered some great character development, and good, steady pacing.

Unfortunately the pacing slowed down drastically after Alyssa's robes came off, and the story started suffering from "overstuffing". A redundant scene here and there, a dialogue or inner monologue (mostly about how to overcome the many obstacles on the road to happiness) too many and you quickly end up with a bogged down story that reads like you're trying to waddle through thick mud...
And there was definitely too much angst in the second half of the book. Legitimate angst (to a degree) about a problem that ended up being solved too easily. I felt a little cheated when everything ended up nicely tied in a bow. After all the angst and drama, it felt too sweet and rather sugary the way it ended.

But still, the story was solid, the writing and narrative style was good, the use of "Old English" wasn't much of an issue once I passed chapter one, and the characters were well-developed, incorporated nicely into the story and working very well together as an ensemble.

It could've done with a little more editing to weed out the unnecessary stuff, but overall, it was a very enjoyable read.



Sunday, May 14, 2017

Review: The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick

Title: The Girl Who Knew Too Much
Author: Amanda Quick

Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: May 9, 2017
Publisher: Berkley
ASIN: B01KGZVR32


When Hollywood moguls and stars want privacy, they head to an idyllic small town on the coast, where the exclusive Burning Cove Hotel caters to their every need. It’s where reporter Irene Glasson finds herself staring down at a beautiful actress at the bottom of a pool...

The dead woman had a red-hot secret about up-and-coming leading man Nick Tremayne, a scoop that Irene couldn’t resist—especially since she’s just a rookie at a third-rate gossip rag. But now Irene’s investigation into the drowning threatens to tear down the wall of illusion that is so deftly built around the famous actor, and there are powerful men willing to do anything to protect their investment.

Seeking the truth, Irene finds herself drawn to a master of deception. Oliver Ward was once a world-famous magician—until he was mysteriously injured during his last performance. Now the owner of the Burning Cove Hotel, he can’t let scandal threaten his livelihood, even if it means trusting Irene, a woman who seems to have appeared in Los Angeles out of nowhere four months ago...

With Oliver’s help, Irene soon learns that the glamorous paradise of Burning Cove hides dark and dangerous secrets. And that the past—always just out of sight—could drag them both under...


My rating:

Four months ago, Anna Harris fled her previous life after finding her employer murdered and herself suddenly in possession of a dead scientist's notebook. Now, she's once more looking at a dead woman's body, drowned in the spa pool of an exclusive, elite California hotel.

The dead woman had a connection to a rising star in Hollywood, the same actor who's also a guest at the hotel...And this is the third dead woman connected to the same actor; all of them died the same "accidental" death. The woman who now calls herself Irene Glasson knows the connection is there, even though no one else wants to acknowledge it, and she's willing to risk everything to prove it.


There was a good story in there, pity it got bogged down by all the "sideplots", red-herrings, misdirections, a secondary suspense plot (that was resolved too easily), a mediocre heroine more or less skirting the TSTL territory, and a lukewarm-at-best romance that felt both rushed and forced.
Also, the period didn't work for me, too close to "contemporary" to actually sound overly "historical", while sounding weirdly outdated.

A rather large disappointment from one of my favorite authors whose "voice" I barely recognize.



Thursday, May 11, 2017

Review: Pet Sematary by Stephen King

Title: Pet Sematary
Author: Stephen King

Read copy: Paperback
Published: November 10, 2011
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
ISBN: 1444708139
ISBN-13: 9781444708134

The house looked right, felt right to Dr Louis Creed.

Rambling, old, unsmart and comfortable. A place where the family could settle; the children grow and play and explore. The rolling hills and meadows of Maine seemed a world away from the fume-choked dangers of Chicago.

Only the occasional big truck out on the two-lane highway, grinding up through the gears, hammering down the long gradients, growled out an intrusive threat.

But behind the house and far away from the road: that was safe. Just a carefully cleared path up into the woods where generations of local children have processed with the solemn innocence of the young, taking with them their dear departed pets for burial.

A sad place maybe, but safe. Surely a safe place. Not a place to seep into your dreams, to wake you, sweating with fear and foreboding


My rating:

Pet Sematary...Or as I first heard about it (saw it in movie form); Mačje pokopališče. Saw the movie, read the book, enjoyed the book more.

Interesting characters, gripping storyline exploring the (often) hidden depths of human grief and what it can turn a person in or make a person do, yet intensely creepy and gripping, keeping my interest.

Well-written...Well done.



Thursday, May 4, 2017

Review: The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

Title: The Notebook
Author: Nicholas Sparks

Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: February 1, 1998
Publisher: Warner Vision
ISBN: 0446605239
ISBN-13: 9780446605236

How far can love endure? Noah Calhoun has just returned from World War Two. Attempting to escape the ghosts of battle, he tries to concentrate on restoring an old plantation home to its former glory. And yet he is haunted by images of the beautiful girl he met there fourteen years before, a girl who captured his heart like no other. But when these distant memories begin to slide into reality, the passion that had lain still is ignited once more. Though so much is in their way, the miraculous force of their love refuses to fade.

My rating:

I have to agree with (some) other reviewers about this book...I actually enjoyed the movie more. Noah and Allie in the movie had a very passionate chemistry, and an almost palpable connection that was somehow absent in the book...And I’m also one of those who prefer the movie’s ending to the book.

Also the constant jumps back-and-forth in the timeline, and switches in narrative POV were rather bothersome and slightly distracting at times.

Still, a nice book, well-written, rather cheesy and sappy, and...Yeah, I figured out that’s what a Sparks novel (or movie) is all about.



Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Review: The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks

Title: The Lucky One
Author: Nicholas Sparks

Read copy: Paperback
Published: December, 2008
Publisher: Sphere
ISBN: 1847441130
ISBN-13: 9781847441133

When U.S. Marine Logan Thibault finds a photograph of a smiling young woman half-buried in the dirt during his third tour of duty in Iraq, his first instinct is to toss it aside. Instead, he brings it back to the base for someone to claim, but when no one does, he finds himself always carrying the photo in his pocket. Soon Thibault experiences a sudden streak of luck—winning poker games and even surviving deadly combat that kills two of his closest buddies. Only his best friend, Victor, seems to have an explanation for his good fortune: the photograph—his lucky charm.

Back home in Colorado, Thibault can’t seem to get the photo—and the woman in it—out of his mind. Believing that she somehow holds the key to his destiny, he sets out on a journey across the country to find her, never expecting the strong but vulnerable woman he encounters in Hampton, North Carolina—Elizabeth, a divorced mother with a young son—to be the girl he’s been waiting his whole life to meet. Caught off guard by the attraction he feels, Thibault keeps the story of the photo, and his luck, a secret.

As he and Elizabeth embark upon a passionate and all-consuming love affair, the secret he is keeping will soon threaten to tear them apart—destroying not only their love, but also their lives.


My rating:

Having seen the movie, and actually liked it despite its cheesiness, I decided to read the book the movie was based on. Turned out the movie creators took a few liberties, but still…

It was an enjoyable book. Well-written, rather well-paced despite its many points of view, and with nicely-plotted, fleshed-out characters.
I actually ended up liking the book more than the movie, with its suspense plot much more prominent, and rather gripping, even though I knew, having seen the movie, how it all ended. And yeah, although this is supposed to be a romance, it was rather light on that particular subject, which actually worked quite well for me.

I liked how the story was fleshed-out, “existing” outside of the requisite romance.



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Review: It by Stephen King

Title: It
Author: Stephen King

Read copy: Paperback
Published: August 7, 1987
Publisher: Signet
ISBN: 0451169514
ISBN-13: 9780451169518

The story follows the exploits of seven children as they are terrorized by an eponymous being, which exploits the fears and phobias of its victims in order to disguise itself while hunting its prey. "It" primarily appears in the form of a clown in order to attract its preferred prey of young children. The novel is told through narratives alternating between two time periods, and is largely told in the third-person omniscient mode. It deals with themes which would eventually become King staples: the power of memory, childhood trauma, and the ugliness lurking behind a façade of traditional small-town values.

My rating:

I was among those who watched this when it came out as a miniseries. I was definitely too young to watch the miniseries, which proved itself when I kept inspecting out bathroom sink for any signs of blood for months afterwards.

Anyway, with the movie coming out (which I probably won’t go see), I became interested again, and after reading about the books having a much more developed Pennywise storyline, I decided to give it a go. After more than a week, I must say, the book proved to be quite a disappointment.

It started off great and the creepy factor was high, but then it sort of fizzled out and should’ve become a DNF, but somehow my stubborn streak kicked in. It was too long with too many things crammed into it going from creepy and gory into rather disgusting territory (with the animal torture and the “orgy” in the sewers) to downright bizarre with the whole alien and the Ritual of Chüd thing.

Somehow it all felt overblown, bloated and overburdened with all these different elements while most of it could’ve been cut creating a leaner, meatier tome.



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Review: The Shining by Stephen King

Title: The Shining
Author: Stephen King

Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Anchor
ISBN: 0307743659
ISBN-13: 9780307743657

Jack Torrance's new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he'll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote...and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.

My rating:

The Torrance family moves to the Overlook Hotel in order for the recovering alcoholic patriarch, Jack, to start his new job as caretaker. But bringing his family with him proves to be a huge mistake for Jack, since his psychic son seems to bring out the worst in the old hotel.


Nicely plotted and well developed with realistic and believable, somewhat heart breakable (Jack in this instance) characters and plausible actions and reactions, this books flows more along the lines of psychological thriller than straightforward horror.
The suspense builds up so slowly that the true horror and evil creeps up suddenly and (almost) unexpectedly, although it also has its silly moments that break the flow of the story and the slow, inexorable progress of the creeping evil.

What also breaks the stride of the story is the length. It felt overblown, overdrawn, and was slowly getting very boring indeed. Fact is, it took me ages to finish. But maybe it was just me having an adverse reaction to King’s narrative style.



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Review: Motor City Alien Mail Order Brides Series by Ellis Leigh

Title: Cutlass
Series: Intergalactic Dating Agency, Motor City Alien Mail Order Brides
Author: Ellis Leigh
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: September 23, 2016
Publisher: Kinship Press
ASIN: B01L35X8RC

These aliens are looking for love in all the wrong solar systems

Cutlass never thought he’d be stuck on some backward planet in a solar system with only one sun. Earth wasn’t his home, but he’d find a way to survive there if it meant finding a mate. He could put up with their ancient mechanical devices and a name that wasn’t his own for the right woman.


Chloe never imagined she’d sign up to be some sort of modern-day mail order bride. But too much wine and an internet connection were a bad combination, especially when the life she imagined seemed so much greater than the life she was living. Everyone stretches the truth on those dating websites, right?


One ad in a space station, one night of too much drinking, and one hotel room that will never be the same. What would you do if you found out the man from your fantasies was actually the man from your science fiction?


My rating:

Earth is the new addition to the Intergalactic Dating Agency's list. The planet it apparently filled with single women waiting for that special guy, that Mr Right. Women who apparently aren't that picky about Mr Right not being human. So the powers that be at the IGDA are starting to accept applications of aliens of male sex from around the universe to be matched with human women.

Cutlass or whatever the hell his true (long) name is, is the first, and he's matched with Chloe who managed to beat "the rush", since female applications have also started pouring in. They have two weeks to make it work, and then it's mate or bust.


I simply adored this story. Adored it to bits. The MCs were wonderful, and funny (especially with the whole culture and language barrier thingy), Cutlass was just perfect (oh, my), Chloe and her inner monologues quirky as heck, the story was super cute, and super hot (oh, my), and the length spot on.

Loved it and looking forward to more.



Title: Hudson
Series: Intergalactic Dating Agency, Motor City Alien Mail Order Brides
Author: Ellis Leigh
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: October 11, 2016
Publisher: Kinship Press
ASIN: B01L378TKG

Hudson knew from the moment he saw the flyer in a space station bathroom that a mail order bride from Earth was for him. He wanted a mate, someone to cherish, someone to spoil, and finding her in another species wasn’t a big deal in his mind. Convincing his two shipmates to go along was the hardest part, and even then, he knew everything would work out for them.


Macy had a plan. Go to school, become a doctor, and keep her twin sister healthy. If men fell to the side along the way, she could catch up on the whole dating thing later. But when said twin sister decided to apply for a mail order bride program as Macy, things got a little complicated. Suddenly there was a hot guy with rock-star charm looking at her as if she was the greatest thing on Earth, and she had no idea how to deal with that.


My rating:

Hudson finally gets the news he's been waiting for for so long—he's been matched. When he meets her, he finds out he's been matched to a beautiful little woman who smells of dead things. A veritable perfume for a hunter.

Macy's been pimped by her own sister. Her twin, Stacy, had applied her for a mail-order-bride deal posing as her, and now that she's been matched, Macy cannot find it in herself to renege on the "deal". Especially when the deal comes in a package like Hudson.


After the first story in this little trilogy, Cutlass, that was cute, sweet, sexy, and funny, this came as a disappointment. I liked the hero, although he lacked the humorous cultural-gab moments of his predecessor, but I disliked the heroine with her codependence with her manipulative sister, and her complete inability to send the aforementioned sister to hell.
I understand the whole cancer-scare thing, but it was a long time ago, and letting her twin walk all over her, making everything about herself, literally cockblocking her on the date Stacy herself helped put in motion, was a bit too much.

Also, the story lacked the ease and fun of its predecessor, sounding rather forced.



Title: Hudson
Series: Intergalactic Dating Agency, Motor City Alien Mail Order Brides
Author: Ellis Leigh
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: November 1, 2016
Publisher: Kinship Press
ASIN: B01L378WQ2

No one puts Stacy in a corner...

Maverick wasn’t a fan of the planet Earth. He also wasn’t particularly fond of being matched to a human mail order bride. She was too bossy, too fake, too…everything he didn’t want. Until he did.

Stacy spent a year of her life isolated from her friends and family, so she refused to spend another minute that way. That was why she signed up to be matched as a mail order bride. It worked for her sister; it’d work for her, too. As soon as she got past her match’s broody ways.


My rating:

I was looking forward to Maverick's story since the beginning of this trilogy, because the grumpiest usually fall the hardest, but I couldn't have been more disappointed if I tried.

I hated his heroine with a passion. Bossy, brash, self-centered, egotistical and bitchy Stacy couldn't have been redeemed no matter what happened. I felt a sliver of empathy somewhere around the half mark, but she ruined it all soon afterward when she couldn't have been bothered with actually sticking around and listening, preferring to wallow in self-pity.

It was always and all about her. Maverick sure deserved better.



Monday, March 13, 2017

Review: The Princess Series by Alexa Riley

Title: His Princess
Series: The Princess Series
Author: Alexa Riley
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: February 22, 2017
Publisher: Alexa Riley
ASIN: B06WGYPXNQ

Alena is a princess, and with that comes responsibility. Like marrying the giant caveman King Roman, who looks more like a warrior than a ruler. Everything about him is intense. Especially the way he looks at her. But she's been promised to him, and there's no way out.

Roman took one look and made up his mind. Princess Alena will be his and no one will stop him from taking her. Everything about her belongs to him now, and waiting one week for a wedding isn't going to happen.

This beast of a man might just claim his princess before she has a chance to say "I do."


My rating:

It was cute and sweet, with a nice (albeit predictable) plot and rather solid characters. The insta-love was bothersome (unbelievable and unrealistic), and the story reminded me slightly of a Barbara Cartland plot.

The flowery prose was kept to a minimum, and everything went along rather nicely, but then in the second part (@ 67%) the hero's inner monologue about his queen's particular position being optimal for breeding ruined it.

Sheesh. Talk about overkill.

Still, it was better than the daddy-debt crap.



Title: Stolen Princess
Series: The Princess Series
Author: Alexa Riley
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: February 27, 2017
Publisher: Alexa Riley
ASIN: B06XCPCX96

Karim is past the time when he should have chosen a bride, but he never met anyone who caught his eye. Forced to choose, he holds a ball and invites all eligible princesses to attend. And that’s when everything changes.

Giselle’s been tucked away on her father’s land and doesn’t know how the royal world works. It’s her first party, and it’s going terribly until she finds herself alone in a room with a man. A man who wants to make her his.

When Giselle gives him everything and then discovers who he is…well, how good do you think she’ll be at hide and seek?


My rating:

Worse (if possible) than the first story in this series, but still better than the daddy-debt crap.

The usual template applies...The hero getting all down and dirty while spouting flowery prose to the virginal, inexperienced, but incredibly beautiful heroine who's also a very quick learner when it comes to sex. They fall instantly in love and do it (repeatedly) without a condom.

The end.

Now you'll ask me, why I keep reading these stories if I don't like them. I call'em palate cleansers. A nice, quick, sometimes even cute, respite from "meatier" story-lines.



Title: Claimed Princess
Series: The Princess Series
Author: Alexa Riley
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: March 6, 2017
Publisher: Alexa Riley
ASIN: B06XGLSNTR

Heavenly and Carlos have been best friends their whole lives. But it’s almost time for Heavenly’s birthday, which means she’ll be married off to a king.

Carlos has been King for a few years now and is being pressured to choose a bride. But he’s only ever had eyes for one princess, and he’s had to wait for her to turn twenty-one.

Heavenly doesn’t have any idea the plans Carlos has made for her, so when she offers to marry his brother, things don’t go so well. Girl, they don’t go well at all… Carlos isn’t having that. She gets a dose of alpha when Carlos lays down the law. But when she runs…how far will she actually get?


My rating:

Definitely the worst so far. Slow, boring, with a childish heroine (she sounded more like eleven than twenty-one), and a virgin hero to boot.

My standards aren't that high, but come on!



Title: Forbidden Princess
Series: The Princess Series
Author: Alexa Riley
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: March 12, 2017
Publisher: Alexa Riley
ASIN: B06XK8RBPM

Tabitha is destined to marry a king and unite her powerful family with another. But she’s never been one to do what she’s told, and she’s decided to make her own destiny.

Vlad has devoted his life to guarding his king and never thought about taking a wife. But all bets are off when a sassy, dark-haired princess appears.

These two are hot and fast, but when Tabby’s parents step in, things get messy. Can they forgo tradition and make their own way, or will the divide break them?


My rating:

Okay, this is officially ridiculous. Although I don't know which is more. This series (which went from bad to worse) or me for reading it.

I cannot claim these type of stories to be palate-cleansers anymore, they're just shyte. Over-the-top, unbelievable, fantastical, ridiculous crap. The heroes spout flowery prose a real-life man wouldn't be caught dead saying, and let's not speak of their oral fixations—talk about unrealistic. And the heroines are all perfectly happy to spend the rest of their lives alongside a sexually-obsessed maniac who bangs them without a condom to make as many babies as possible with a complete disregard to the woman's health.

I only read this one because I liked Tabby and Vlad in the first book, but I should've known that their story would ruin all good feelings from that little short scene. And I was right. Does that make me a glutton for punishment?