Summer Breeze (Keegan-Paxton #3)

Summer Breeze by Catherine Anderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A skillfully written, slow, sweet, and simple story of a young woman who has spent last 5 years unable to leave 4 walls because of a trauma-induced panic disorder and a ‘reluctant temporary caretaker’ who is of course a dashing gentleman who will change her world.
It follows very traditional story arc, with romance so thick and sweet you could spread it on a toast, but then have hard time chewing through it. With sprinkles of stetsons, sheriffs, horses, gold, and bullets.
Perfect fit for people who are looking for a quality pure romance.
Though it is also likely simple enough that those of us not too open-minded to transparent romance will have to fight through some skepticism.


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Storm's Heart (Elder Races #2)

Storm’s Heart by Thea Harrison

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


There is this something about Thea Harrison’s characters and style of writing…when, even if usually I would’ve found this ‘teeny-tiny girly woman that likes pink lipstick and stiletto heels’ and ‘very big and very scary power man’ pair of main characters too cheesy and stereotypical, there’s something about the insight into them and their interactions that makes me ignore the voice of cynicism and actually enjoy the story.
I did feel a little put off at first at how much sexual undertone there was in this, in descriptions on both sides from the very beginning. But the plot was also there and not actually lost behind it. I have a feeling the first book was tamer, with more focus on fantasy setting, but I might be not remembering correctly. Also, the floating POV…
This is very much a female ‘comfort book’ through and through. Tricks was about to leave the safety of her found family out of necessity and begin a new life all alone surrounded by people she couldn’t trust, and this is about having a person who not only came to save her from danger, but decided to stay forever and trade a whole old life for a new one with her, and take it all in a stride. I might not understand high heels and lipstick, but I understand ‘tell me when are you going to leave me, because I need to know what will happen’ and the dream of someone saying ‘never’ and meaning it. And also actually enjoying it.



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Mr. Perfect

Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


50% ‘Criminal Minds’-style thriller, 50% insta-romance explosion

This is a skillfully-written story, with some subtle twists that keep you guessing, and enough humor and romance to keep you distracted from the gruesome reality of the thriller portion. Other that the clear introduction to the where this is going to go in the Prologue, the story actually starts pretty slow, taking plenty of time to introduce all the characters and relationships. To be honest, I have my doubts about believability of the main concept—the one where the list becomes the nation-wide news feature and where so many people feel offended by it—but I know close to nothing about US society so I can’t really judge. The romance may feel a bit too fluffy and instantaneous, but then again, isn’t that the dream. I did also appreciate the fact that the culprit wasn’t a generic ‘his mother treated him bad so he grew up a woman-hating psychopath’ kind of deal, but then again, the twist I imagined in my head for the later part of the book might have been a little twistier that the actual one, which led to me feeling that this was after all a 4-star read, rather that a 5-star.



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Magic Burns (Kate Daniels, #2)

Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


On one hand, I can’t help but feel that these novels (especially this one) are too short, on the other hand, they are so packed with non-stop action that I also believe if it was any longer I would actually get tired reading it. The main character hardly has any any time to rest, she spends more time passed out after almost dying again than sleeping, she hardly eats, she goes from one deadly battle to another, ‘almost dies’ multiple times, and the whole book hardly covers more than a couple of days.
I enjoyed this book more mostly because there weren’t really any unreasonable blunders like in the first one, but I do think I would enjoy it even more if there was more ‘room to breathe’ between all the action.



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Dragon Actually

Dragon Actually by G.A. Aiken

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fun, unexpected, and explicit in more ways than one.


The way this book started, I thought I’d give it 5 stars. The tone, the humor, the characters and interactions, everything seemed great. Even thought this book is plenty bloody and violent. Unfortunately, later on the ‘rapid POV switching’ style, while fresh and enjoyable in the beginning, seemed to turn the story a progression bit too abrupt. Puff! Enemies are about to attack this specific village. Puff! We’re in the middle of the battle. Puff! It’s all over. Puff! A year has passed. (And I do feel like making it a year was neither realistic nor reasonable).
It also progressively turned a bit too porny, and when we reached “Chains & Flames” also too S&M-y for my tastes. It’s probably because, once again, I thought I was getting a ‘fantasy novel featuring some romance’, while it actually picking up ‘erotica in fantasy setting’. While it still could be the former if it tried just a little bit harder, it definitely is much more closer to the latter.



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Moonshadow (Moonshadow, #1)

Moonshadow by Thea Harrison

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This might be the closest I felt to a female protagonist. Which is probably over-sharing.
And yet, I did find a few too many things I found myself empathizing with.
Other than that:
Yes to the banter, yes to the setting (though I do wish we would explore it a little more), yes to emphasizing thinking for yourself, yes to keeping your promises, and yes to men in black with swords.
I don’t know how much we will come back in the other 2 books of these series, if at all, but it does feel like some of the concepts and ideas were left a little underdeveloped. Like the forms and identities of the remaining knights not being addressed after the beginning, or Dark court relationships in general. I think the ending could be expanded a bit more, instead of saying ‘in next few weeks things like these happened’… But oh well, this is more like asking for more, than real complains.
Also, I had about 4-5 scenarios in my head of how this book could go horribly wrong all the time while reading, and I couldn’t be happier that it didn’t touch any of them.
One more book like this and Thea Harrison might become a name a on my ‘automatic buy’ list.

The only real complain I can give is the cover…



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Clean Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #1)

Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Imaginative, original, addictive. It’s actually sad that it is so short (and that I can’t get the compilation edition in this side of the world). I feel like there could have a been a bit more meat to this.
Loved the idea, even with the vampires (who are a bit like carnivorous violent elves), loved all the references, loved Sean and Beast bonding.
It’a bit like a mix of good urban fantasy with old classic comedic sci-fi, but where where everything can be explained by magic. Can’t wait to get my hands on the next part.
Out of Ilona Andrews’s worlds (and I haven’t read them all yet, but I’ve read the descriptions) this idea might actually be my favorite.




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Dragon Bound (Elder Races #1)

Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


After all the disappointing book surprises I had recently, this book was such a pleasant surprise I think I added one extra star just for that. I also have just read the whole book in two sittings in a couple of hours, so my judgment maybe clouded.
I’d also like to point out that the pleasantness of the surprise might have been enhanced by rather low expectations, and the low expectations came from the fact that there was something about the cover and the short description of this book that turned me away a couple of times when I considered this book previously. (In fact, I also decided to go and buy the UK edition with a different cover separately after I finished reading this.)
The best thing about this book is the humor. I do feel like the I had to turn off a part of my mind that would question the solidity of the setting, because if I questioned if Dragos is really believable in his role of a being who has been around since the beginning of time, I don’t think I would like the answer. But then, I feel like it doesn’t even matter. The humor makes this story just un-serious enough to accept these things and flow with it. It still has a solid urban fantasy world and a story. It’s not heavy, it’s not angsty, it’s has just enough thrill in places, but what it does best is the lovable sarcastic characters and dialogs that just kept me turning pages until I got through the whole book in less than 6 hours.
While it’s still an adult ‘romance’ book with its bedroom scenes, there was something about its mood that reminded me of good old fantasy worlds I loved reading so much in my childhood, and I’m very grateful to it for that.



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A Strange Hymn (The Bargainer, #2)

A Strange Hymn by Laura Thalassa

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Book 2, and my verdict remains mostly the same.
The world is interesting and well-developed, the hero is all what you’d want from a comfort book, plenty of elements that speak of a book made for mental self-satisfaction (dream-like landscapes, too-convenient magic, overprotective mate, etc), but the problem is that we are forced to experience it through the prism of a just barely tolerable heroine.
On first pages I almost believed that together with the wings and scales the heroine might finally start growing some brains. As in, being in the place where her manipulative powers don’t work, and after suffering through a pretty terrible ordeal, I hoped it would shake some sense into her.
Alas, the main character and her manner remains the single most annoying feature of this book, which is hard to ignore when the book is in the 1st-person pov. And still inspires a lot of pity towards the Bargainer who saddled himself with her.
She still refuses to be pulled down from her high horse, bristling on everything and everyone. She still calls the ‘love of her life’ bastards, asshole, creep; they are having a ‘romantic moment’ and she calls him ‘slippery f**ker’ in her head, and finds a reason to be angry and hateful towards him at least 3 times every chapter. Even when essentially every thing he does is for her.
She bitches at him when he tries to make her like her new appearance, she bitches at him when he teaches her to use her wings and fly, she bitches when he wakes her up with coffee in bed and makes her breakfast, she bitches when he tries to teach her to defend herself so she wouldn’t feel like a victim anymore (something she should have been begging him to do, and jump at every opportunity… and don’t even get me started on the shockingly naive and simplistic essence of the said ‘training’ where they just take swords and swing at each other), she finds a reason to bitch at every second word he says to her (or do little mean things like cover his painting with black paint because she’s a little shit who doesn’t care about anything but her darling self). She bitches, and bitches, and bitches non-stop about almost everything, and it makes reading this book unfortunately tiring, where it could have actually been pleasant.
Another issue is the writing that tends to go okay-bad-okay-bad again sometimes 3-4 times on a single page. It is also mostly tied to the manner in which the main character expresses herself, ranging from ‘I might hate the process, but I kind of dig the results. I also am coming to love the sweet pair of blades strapped to my hips. … I feel like a bad bitch tonight, which I totally dig.’ to her dialogs with her best friend which mostly made me want to wash their mouths with a toilet brush.
She sounds immature, uncultured, and often disgusting.
I’m not saying she should be a gentle damsel in distress. But some respect, culture, and dignity would be nice.
…. But then, about a dozen or so of chapters before the end, something suddenly changes, and the book snaps 90 degrees: the presence of super-powerful constantly-swearing best friend almost gets forgotten, while the main character suddenly actually begins to act selfless and uncharacteristically brave. Which would be a welcome change, if the whole story also didn’t suddenly change into a constant anxiety dump, with enemies hiding at every corner and main characters remaining completely blind to them even though everything that is about to happen is a bit too clear to the reader (which, again, is a difficult dissonance to wrap your head about when you read from a 1st-person pov, but see and understand more than the said protagonists deigns to).
This book is made up from two very different parts. Unfortunately, both of them have some elements I dislike quite a lot, also entirely different. But I also still like enough about this story to continue reading anyway… The question is how much angst will we have to deal with in book 3, and will I feel like it is worth it or not.



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Wicked Intentions (Maiden Lane, #1)

Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


When I first started reading this, I was genuinely impressed.
And my impression was that I have picked up a well-written ‘hunting Jack the Ripper’ type novel sprinkled with some romance as a bonus.
When the balance of “Georgian era mystery/porny content” shifted from 70/30 that I imagined it would be, to about 20/80, I felt genuine disappointment.
Still, I think this is a very well-written book. The writing and world-building are extensive, detailed, and both real and imaginative. The writing is very very solid. I just could do without a few of the bedroom scenes. Especially the ‘I will heal you with my touch’ kind.
As someone who actually found herself empathizing with the character of Caire because of some shared characteristics, the turn of ‘he felt the pain because he wasn’t loved and it will be all healed by love’ turn felt disappointing.
I’m interested in continuing to read these series, at least for a while, but I feel like I’ll have to do so fighting against the disgust towards covers and titles… I feel like these novels were done a big disservice with these choices.



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Bodyguard (Shifters Unbound, #2.5)

Bodyguard by Jennifer Ashley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Now here we have an actual comfort book of romance variety.
Although, admittedly, rather short and swift. Problems in this book get solved swiftly, main characters fall in love very swiftly, bad guys get dead very swiftly, and so on. Which, likely, is what this book needs. It’s a romance focused on themes of protection, saving people, and especially children, from shitty circumstance, unconditional care, trust. There’s a Papa Bear and a heroine who can think for herself, take care of herself, and doesn’t take shit from anyone. The writing is on the simpler side, but not cringy (with the exception for the head-hopping… it’s bad), and the romance-related scenes don’t actually feel ridiculous.



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Laird of the Mist (MacGregors, #1)

Laird of the Mist by Paula Quinn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Would be a good comfort book of romance variety if it wasn’t for rather unfortunate quality of writing, at times bordering on cringy, and undeveloped/missed story opportunities that stand out like thorns. Also, very unfortunate cover design that is likely scare people off. If you can ignore the writing and cover problems, then you might discover some interesting side characters and a heroine who seems to know what she wants and listens to people around her for a change. I think the main thing about this book is that it avoids a lot of angst by featuring people who are actually willing to think for themselves and change their mind about things, without remaining stubbornly blind for too long.



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Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling, #1)

Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Another one of my ‘I needed more books and wasn’t really paying attention to what I was buying’ episodes. When I skimmed the description, I ended up under impression that, despite of its title, this would be more of a contemporary fantasy thriller set in universe divided onto three major races–humans, shifters, and psy; and involve unusual alliances and hunting serial killers. With some romance as a bonus.
However, the first impression I got when I started reading is that this was going to be a book where characters think about sex 98% of time, and then somehow maybe find time to do something else in between…like hunt a serial killer, or build a housing project (which everyone seemed to completely forget about less than half way through), or hack the psy network. I don’t know if it got better or I just got used to it, but it did stop bothering me eventually.
What didn’t stop bothering me is the less than stellar quality of writing… Constant head-hopping, poor wording choices, same thoughts repeated over and over again, and unfortunate ‘romance’ related narratives that mostly enticed a lot of eye rolling. After first 6 or so chapters I felt that if I had to see words ‘sensual’ or ‘predator’ one more time my eyes would bleed.
Also, the rather disgusting habit of the main male character (and some other characters) to call the main female character pet names. ‘Kitten’ I can live with, but all the ‘darlings’ and ‘sweetcheecks’ or whatever it was… More than a bit disturbing, really.
All of the ‘mysteries’ were a bit too obvious. The main characters identity, the serial killer’s identity, the answers to many of their problems, all of it was amazingly easy to predict half way through the book. Though, to be honest, right now I appreciate the simple answers and non-angst happy ending more than I would have things being more complicated.
All in all, this book has a lot of flaws you could pick up on. But there are also some interesting ideas and story elements that maybe just enough to ignore the other uncomfortable stuff, and I personally am currently grateful to any book that actually deals with its angst and puts emphasis on such ideas as loyalty, honor, love.
P.S. No Russian would ever call their daughter Nikita, only western people do. Some research before assuming would be nice.



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Me: Buys a tone of books that have ‘romance’ as one of the genres every time there’s an anxiety attack (seeking ‘comfort books’ like cheeseburgers).

Also me: Gets genuinely surprised and disappointed when plot/romance balance exceeds(on the romance side) 70/30 and characters can’t stop thinking about sex… (like I thought I was buying something else).

I also complain about cheesy covers and titles. But then keep buying fantasy, sci-fi, and historical romance books anyway. And stuff them into my brain like gauze into bleeding wound.

Magic Stars (Kate Daniels, #8.5, Grey Wolf, #1)

Magic Stars by Ilona Andrews

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I’m that person who clicks ‘buy’ on bunch of books without really checking too much details (because I also don’t like spoilers) while she is heaving an anxiety attack and needs to grab all the books, and then gets a surprise of 1) receiving a 70 page booky when she expected a full-length novel; 2) realizing that even though it says ‘Book 1 of ‘Grey Wolf’ series’) the ‘series’ have nothing but this 70 page booky released in 2015.

What can you do.

All I can say is ‘too bad’, because I would’ve actually enjoy reading a series with this character as the protagonist. This was a nice short story.



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