Playing with Fire (Magical Romantic Comedies, #1)

Playing with Fire by R.J. Blain

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This was such a pleasant surprise.
This book is fun, thought admittingly sometimes to a chaotic degree, very detailed, very well-developed, and very unique.
I really can’t help but admire the author’s imagination and humor.
I gave it 4 and not 5 stars because I feel that sometimes it might have been just a bit too chaotic and crazy (and sadistic towards the main character, with whole decontamination business), and a bit too abrupt, but I still would recommend it to any lowers of fantasy who enjoy having books sweep them up and away somewhere else. Definitely a book to come back to from time to time.



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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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Pride Mates (Shifters Unbound, #1)

Pride Mates by Jennifer Ashley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


To be honest, I first, after reading the description, was actually planning to avoid these series… The whole ‘Shifters are Collared and controlled, outcast from humanity’ concept doesn’t appeal to me at all. Not that I’d have hard time imagining humans being discriminating asses trying to degrade, insult, and control others on every step, but just because I don’t really like to be reminded of these disgusting human traits. I only picked this up because I have read Bodyguard by chance first and thought maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all.
It’s not a bad story. The plot is there, not dissolved behind the romance, and the characters are interesting and mostly well-developed. And yet, too much of this book talks about these issues of control, power over others, dominance and submission… even if the main character says she is not ‘into it’, everything in this book rotates around these concepts. Which honestly kind of puts me off.
Also, the insta-love and thick-headed main female character did seem clichéd, even if not enough to be annoying.



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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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One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles, #3)

One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I’m still a little sad that this series has traded a big portion of humor for angst, but I did enjoy this book much more than the second one. I think we could do with fewer ‘almost deaths’ per novel. But the Hiru story was very good.
It’s too bad that it looks like it’s going to be a while before we get any continuation with the story with Dina, if ever.



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Sweep in Peace (Innkeeper Chronicles #2)

Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Unfortunately, this series didn’t manage to escape the ‘curse of the second novel’. It was so much drier, heavier, and compressed, I can’t even really say I enjoyed it. It made me rush to finish it not because I couldn’t look away, but I wanted it to be over quickly so I could see if the next one is any better. Most of the good content that was in this was practically suffocated from two sides by too extensive dry recapping of the events of the first book in the beginning, and a wave of angst in the end; the humor and flavor of the first novel didn’t really have any space to breathe here.
Also, the twist with Sean was too obvious. I really hate it when I get this ‘well wouldn’t it suck if this happened’ feeling in the middle of the book and it just comes true.
I’m giving this 4 stars because it’s not a bad book (even if I can’t help but feel like there should have been a better way to write it.) But it is also is a book that didn’t really leave me feeling good.



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Night Play (Dark-Hunter, #6; Were-Hunter, #2)

Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Unbearably clichéd and cheesy work that is focused on female self-image issues more than on anything else.
DNFed. I actually almost DNFed it after the very first chapter. But then I decided to make myself see if I’d get to any actual plot, made it about 40% in, and gave up.
After reading the Prologue, I thought it might actually be good. With the weres introduced and the dark back-story. But then in the chapter 1 we get introduced to the heroine…who is crying over an email where an abusive boyfriend who used her and treated her like shit all the time and broke up with her, and she ‘though she would marry him’. This alone could be enough to close this book forever for me. But there’s more.
Now I’m going to rant.
I’ve picked up a lot of ridiculous ‘romance’ novels by mistake recently, but nothing quite like this. I can even forgive the constant ‘insta-love’, because it often comes with the werewolf territory, but… They meet, he buys her a necklace, she cries, they have sex. (The end.) …He ‘doesn’t have an ounce of fat of his body’, she’s ‘solid size 18’; he keeps thinking how all other females he knew were aggressive and demanding bitches (literally) and how she is all so soft and kind, she keeps thinking about her ‘boyfriend’ who couldn’t stand looking at her with lights on while the main character is all over her; he is supposed to be a wolf-born shifter, who had lived his all life in a pack until 18 months ago and doesn’t even know how to date humans, and a hunted outcast without his own home and taking care of a comatose brother, but he also has a bank manager on speed dial who apparently his personal account manager, and he has his own table in the ‘super expensive’ restaurant where everyone knows him and he is ‘human enough’ to have that status in the society and throw money around; she is supposed to be spirited and independent and not take shit from anyone…while she let an abusive size-shaming shithead walk all over her for years and wanted to marry him. The 40% of this book that I did read, were so full of the worst kinds of ridiculous clichés I thought my eyes were going to pop out. These characters just don’t work. They contradict themselves constantly. And more importantly, there is something very disturbing about how both men and women are treated in this.

A shame, since I thought some ideas of the series were interesting, but this is going to be a very big NOPE for me.



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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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Dark Days: Semester 1

Dark Days: Semester 1 by Liz Meldon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


While I thought that the book begun strongly, it soon switched to a format of jumping from one short encounter to another, most of them turning sexual. It was very easy to forget that the main characters were supposed to be supernaturals. Or that there was supposed to be something else going on besides two adults behaving like hormonal teenagers around each other, unable to express their thoughts and feelings. And the ‘mysterious disappearances’ were hardly mentioned until the very end of the book. While some of the writing and dialogs were fun, the ‘they’re going to speak or have sex once a month and that’s all the story we’ll get’ format made me feel increasingly detached half way through, especially from the heroine (who mostly bit the insides of her cheeks at least once each chapter, if not page).
I don’t know, I feel that there were some very good elements, but they are not really tied together in an engaging way. Maybe timeline-hopping kind of stories is just generally not my thing. I also generally don’t like characters (and people) who can’t be honest to themselves, it’s tiring.



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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 Werewolf in Manhattan (Wild About You, #1)

A Werewolf in Manhattan by Vicki Lewis Thompson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


What can be more self-indulgent than a werewolf romance writer writing about a werewolf romance writer getting it on with a (hot, rich, super smart, practically a prince) werewolf?
Normally, I have a giant soft spot for self-indulgent novels.
I can even live (though not for long) with the whole ‘(reluctant) cinderella’ concept (as old and stupid as it is), where a woman suddenly needs to be introduced to all the riches and luxuries by some kind of protective prince charming, but she’s also going to bitch about it on every step. And with the overly-fantastical romance scenes. They do give me a toothache, but I can live with them as long as the book doesn’t take itself too seriously and there’s enough humor to cover it up.
So normally I would’ve given this kind of book a higher rating, if there wasn’t one substantial problem… of the main character turning from ‘egoistically stubborn’ to ‘utterly idiotic’ towards the end of the book. The whole ‘Werewolves are very much against being discovered by public. But I’m a writer so I’m going to remember every detail about their lives and write about it’ and ‘Now that I saw the real thing I will only want to write exactly how it is and you can’t censor me!’ <- is one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever read. She’s a fantasy romance writer for fluff’s sake, not a documentary journalist. The ‘I will write the reality and present is as fiction’ attitude is no better than plagiarism, it’s like saying ‘I don’t want to use my imagination anymore if I can just observe and describe you and then tell people I made it up’ and as a representation of a fantasy writer is frankly nothing but insulting. And then there’s also ‘oh, they took my laptop so I’m going to snoop around people’s private offices until I find it because I’m the most important one here!’ Seriously though, I know how it is to be hysterically protective of your writing laptop, but unless there was a valid possibility that people were going to go through it or destroy it before they could be stopped (which was not the case in the book), there’s no way any human being with a brain would’ve handled the situation the way the main character did.
Nothing turns me off and away from a book as characters who make me scream ‘why in hell do you need to be so stupid??!!’ in my head…
Also, on my quest of combing through all sorts of ‘comfort literature’, I’m getting increasingly sick and tired of the representation of heroines that makes you pity the heroes for having to put up with all the selfishness and blindness to everything but themselves…




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Magic Bites (Kate Daniels, #1)

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Writing style of Ilona Andrews sometimes makes me envious. It is in the attention to details and imagination with the environments and world-building. One that makes me sometimes feel like I’d walk through the same place they did and my mind would be too chaotic to notice even half of things they would.
I enjoyed this book quite a lot. I like that the heroine is both very strong and independent, but also can show vulnerability, question things, and admit it when she screws up. I like that this is an urban fantasy first and foremost. Even though I do feel that a number of innocent victims and number of times main characters try to die is a bit too much…
The minus points are for that and for the part where the main character actually looks right at the culprit, realizes who it is, … and then gets distracted and forgets about it completely, even when they sit down and discuss who it might be she doesn’t say anything, and then we need to go on the whole loop of them not knowing whom to blame, and people not working together and not looking in right places. I feel like it wouldn’t be natural for her not to listen to her gut like that and the whole loop felt a bit overplayed and unnecessarily complicated.
Looking forwards to getting into the rest of the series though.



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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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Blood Bound (Mercy Thompson, #2)

Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


If I wanted put my opinion about this sequel in a single word it would be ‘frustrating’.
It feels like this book follows practically the same arc as the first one did, and ended also in practically the same place. In fact, they were so similar that it actually made me wonder if every ‘Mercy Thompson’ book is going to follow this pattern of ‘An enemy appears-> Mercy gets involved (reluctantly) -> all her (few lifetimes older, more powerful, more experienced, supernatural) male friends tell her to stay out it, and then get hurt or likely captured by the evil guy -> Mercy, being the special cookie she is, rides in to save the day and all the powerful men in her life.’
I am also finding myself liking the main character less and less, which is unfortunate because I thought there was no way I wouldn’t like a headstrong independent heroine.
But the more I read the less I believe that Mercy is what we are supposed to believe she is. Here are the facts that bother me:
1) Powerful men of all races like her and care about her. Good human cop is her friend, one of the most powerful vampires (who are supposed to be evil) cares about her, very powerful fae (who are supposed to be uninvolved) like her and help her, the nicest alpha werewolf around is supposed to be in love with her, the very dominating son (and a doctor) of the most powerful werewolf (who also acts like her father figure) also wants her. Literally everywhere you look there will be a very powerful male ready to act all caring and protective towards her. Including powerful gay friends.
2) Every female character either acts like a bitch towards her, or openly submissive, or is a daughter of a man she is trying to date and is going to look up to her. I literally can’t remember a single positive female character in these two books, unless they are dead or Jesse.
3) She ‘cannot possibly choose between these two sexy men(her exact description)’, so she is going to live with one, and kiss and cuddle occasionally, and sometimes date and cuddle with the other one, but also act like she doesn’t want either <-the behavior I absolutely despise. If she at least owned it, it would be a choice, but she simply does it because she doesn’t know what she wants and just strings everyone along.
She is increasingly manipulative, wants to stay out of any pack power structures but enjoys showing off power over others every time she gets a chance a bit too much, and acts like she wants to be ‘one leg in one leg out as long as it’s convenient to her’ with everything, not only her love life.
Which looks less and less to me like a ‘strong and independent female protagonist’.
Also, author’s insistence on describing men as domineering assholes, even the good ones, over and over is getting tiring.
And I hate hate hate love triangles (especially ones that last for multiple books).



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