Monday, 29 October 2012

Review: On Dublin Street by Samantha Young ★★★★★

On Dublin Street by Samantha Young
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: n/a
Publication Date: October 17, 2012
ISBN: 9781101623497
Page Count: 414
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Copy: ARC

Jocelyn Butler has been hiding from her past for years. But all her secrets are about to be laid bare…

Four years ago, Jocelyn left her tragic past behind in the States and started over in Scotland, burying her grief, ignoring her demons, and forging ahead without attachments. Her solitary life is working well—until she moves into a new apartment on Dublin Street where she meets a man who shakes her carefully guarded world to its core.

Braden Carmichael is used to getting what he wants, and he’s determined to get Jocelyn into his bed. Knowing how skittish she is about entering a relationship, Braden proposes an arrangement that will satisfy their intense attraction without any strings attached.

But after an intrigued Jocelyn accepts, she realizes that Braden won’t be satisfied with just mind-blowing passion. The stubborn Scotsman is intent on truly knowing her… down to the very soul.
A very sexy, very engaging read. Rawr!

I really enjoyed this. I think anyone who enjoys emotionally-charged contemporary romances featuring messed-up characters, such as Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, for example, will enjoy this book. (Although I must say this is a more polished, more grown-up, sexier and more realistic story than BD without quite so many WTF? moments.) I make the comparison only because of how this book made me feel, which was similar to my reaction to Beautiful Disaster, in that I connected easily and strongly to the characters' twisted relationship and felt like I got sucker-punched numerous times. And it made me cry, at least twice. Which, bizarrely, is something I rather like my books to do.

It's a character-driven story with some very minor subplots thrown in and a strong theme of 'fear of letting people in/getting hurt'. The main culprit of this particular character flaw being Joss (Jocelyn) Butler, the protagonist.

I liked Joss, I really did, but sometimes she infuriated me. She lost her family (mother, father and sister) in a car crash at age fourteen and went a little wild for a few years, then closed off and withdrew from people altogether. Cut to 8 years later and she's still mostly walled off from humanity, but has at least managed to acquire a few casual acquaintances. However, circumstances force a sharp change in her life when she moves into a new flat, with a new room-mate, on Dublin Street. And said room-mate has a very handsome, very charming, utterly egotistical brother called Braden, and this book is all about their tempestuous relationship.

It's an extremely sexually-charged relationship, with some absolutely scorching love scenes that were H.O.T. without ever crossing any of my personal boundaries of what I want to read about (like some other highly popular books floating about at the moment that you may have heard of...). Where the annoyance with Joss bit comes in, however—and really, it's not actually her fault at all—is that she has been so unhappy and alone for so long, that when the chance presents itself to become part of an adopted family of sorts, and a loving relationship, she's too scared to take it. And I just wanted to shake her at times and say "It's right there! What you are looking for is right in front of your damn face!". But then I also kinda wanted to cry for her as well, because she's clearly terrified of losing anyone again and thinks the answer is to not care about, ever.


The use of 1st person narrative through Joss works really well for this book, even though it's much more common to find romances written in 3rd. Every thought, feeling and sensation is brought to you with first-hand descriptors taking you along for the ride rather than just being a witness to it. The other plus, IMO, is that it causes Braden to be that much more of a mystery as we never have the privilege of his thoughts, so we experience Joss's worries, insecurities and emotions about him which really draws you in, and it also means we only get to see Braden through Joss's lust-filled gaze, making him seem extremely appealing!

Not that Braden needed much help to sound appealing... My, my, my. He has his caveman tendencies, sure, and I could have lived without the string of ex-Barbie doll girlfriends (as I'm sure Joss could have, too) but he was also very sweet and understanding, even when Joss was being a total basketcase. I liked his character a lot and might have a teensy weensy crush on him. Just don't tell anyone, 'kay?

To sum up, I lurved this book. I didn't want it to end. So if you're in need of a steamy, well-written contemporary read, this is the very fella for you. Enjoy!

5 Stars ★★★★★
ARC provided by the publisher for an honest review.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Joint Review: Heart Of The Tiger by Lynn Kerstan ★★★★

Heart Of The Tiger by Lynn Kerstan
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Big Cat Trilogy #2
Publication Date: October 5th 2012
ISBN: 9781611942064
Page Count: 274
Rating: ★★★★
Review Copy: ARC from Bell Bridge Books
Reviewed by Lynsey and Janice

Miranda "Mira" Holcombe has only one goal in life: To destroy the Duke of Tallant, Jermyn Keynes. Simply for the pleasure of it, he ruined her life, robbed her family of their land and valuables, and now threatens to destroy them entirely. How can a young woman caring for her disabled father bring down a powerful aristocrat? Only her father knows her deepest secrets, and he hopes that in London she will find a kind and gentle man to wed. But Mira is focused only on vengeance, whatever the cost. As she devises a plan to kill the duke, she discovers that Tallant's dark-souled younger brother, Michael, is bent on the same course. Can she believe he'll help her? Dare she trust him?

Michael Keynes once burned with dreams and goals, but all have been consumed by his determination to rid the earth of his tyrannical brother. After meeting the irresistible Mira, his mission changes. He resolves to protect her at any cost, and when the duke is found murdered, Michael deflects suspicion onto himself. But can he save Mira from her worst enemy . . . herself?

Neither can deny the electricity between them. Mira bewitches him with her sharp tongue and quick wit. Michael captivates her with his rakish brand of honor and his brilliant scheming on her behalf. Will she be able to escape the past and dare to reach for a better future? Will Michael see beyond the family's despicable heritage and make a new start in his own life? Can they redeem each other?
Lynsey's thoughts...
Fantastic characters - a break from the norm.

Now then, this was something a little bit different. I don't tend to read many Regency Romances but something about the blurb piqued my interest for this one so I gave it a whirl and I'm very glad that I did!

This book breaks all the rules of Regency Romance as I've come to know them. Doesn't it know that the hero and heroine are supposed to meet within the first 20 pages, and then the hero is meant to be transfixed by her heaving bosom, and she's meant to turn into a blob of simpering girl goo every time he comes near. Yada, yada, pithy dialogue, blah-di-blah, several sex scenes involving creamy thighs, quivering members and throbbing manhoods, some other stuff, fiddle-di-dee, happily ever after - the end.

That is how it is supposed to go! Those are The Rules! But that's not what happened here. Far from it.

Instead, what we got were two flawed but fascinating main characters. In particular, the heroine, Mira, had a lot going on internally. She has some stuff to work through before she can even consider members of the opposite sex. So for this reason the romance had to wait quite a while to get going (which made perfect sense in context) while she sorted through some of her problems and issues.

Mira and Micheal are two people who share the same goal—vengeance and the all-consuming need to kill Michael's older brother, the Duke of Tallant. And on the surface, that's all they have in common. But as we go deeper we see that they are more like kindred spirits than they could ever have guessed. Both characters are a dichotomy in and of themselves. Michael, at the start of the book, has just returned from India to England after a decade-long absence. He outwardly looks like a total barbarian compared to all the pomps of London, but underneath, much as he would deny it, he is a decent and good man. Whereas Mira looks like an angel on the outside; soft-spoken and altruistic, caring for her disabled father and turning down frequent offers of marriage to devote herself to her father's few remaining months of life. But underneath that fa├žade, she is a woman filled only with thoughts of revenge and calculating cold-blooded murder.

Neither character was wholly good or bad, but they were definitely interesting and engaging.

Obviously, to find out why they want to kill the duke so much you'll have to read the book, but it's quite harrowing and heartbreaking and I'm just glad that Michael and Mira found each other in time.

I have to say, I loved the setting and all the Indian fables and stories that were thrown in via Michael's Sikh friend Hari. They were used sparingly, but were a nice (and again, different) addition. I also really enjoyed the dialogue, I thought that was very well done. And it was really endearing to read Michael's hopes and dreams through his narration, even though he was adamant he didn't deserve any of what he secretly wished for. All that was just too cute!

If I could wish for anything, I would have loved a few more intimate scenes. However, I would not have brought them forward to earlier in the book, I would simply wish for it to have been longer or to have had a nice epilogue. Particularly after the way things went the first time they were together!

I definitely recommend this book. I may be no expert on this genre, but I know good characters when I meet them, and they certainly were that.

Lynsey's rating: 4 Stars ★★★★
 Janice's thoughts...

I don't read many historical romances anymore. I used to, constantly, but over the years my reading appetite has changed, and now, I'm lucky to read 5, maybe 10, a year - and I tend to be very picky about which ones I choose. I search for historicals that aren't afraid to color outside the usual lines, that dare to be different. Well, I am happy to say I found what I was looking for in Heart of the Tiger. In fact, I would say it's one of the best historical romances I've read in quite a while. The story flows with water-smoothness, the setting is well-drawn, and the lead characters, Michael and Mira, are deliciously layered and complex. Their relationship builds with satisfying slowness, and is, by far, the best aspect of the entire story. I loved all the little ways the author ramped up the tension between them, avoiding an all-out lust-fest in favor of a series of seemingly inconsequential moments, when they would do nothing more than watch each other move or talk. Michael, in particular, invested those moments with a surprising amount of sweetness, taking the simplest and quietest of joys in Mira's mere presence, without sacrificing any of his masculinity or, worse, coming across as a mooning suitor.

All in all, this was a lovely read and one I would definitely recommend to anyone who loves intelligent, slow-burning romances. 

Janice's rating: 4 Stars ★★★★ 

ARC provided by the publisher for an honest review

Review: House of Cards by C. E. Murphy ★★★★

House of Cards by C. E. Murphy
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Negotiator trilogy #2
Publication Date: March 1st 2008
ISBN: 9780373802630
Page Count: 408
Rating: ★★★★
 Review Copy: Audiobook  

Margrit is summoned to negotiate a peace treaty amongst rival factions in the Old Races, but even as she does so, her own mortal world threatens to fall apart. Caught between a ruthless vampire mobster, a dragonlord who won’t take no for an answer, a group of subversive selkies, she finds herself alone – because the gargoyle who brought her into their world won’t return her calls…
Nice sequel. Glad I continued with the trilogy.

I finished the first book in this series with slightly mixed feelings. I loved all the secondary characters (there really are some great multi-layered ones in here) as well as the love interest character, Alban, but felt little to nothing towards the protagonist, Margrit. I had nothing against her, exactly, but found her a bit dull overall. I think if she were stronger or I connected with her more, this series could move up from being really good, to great in an instant.

Still, I definitely enjoyed her more this time around. This book did everything a sequel should; it expanded on the word-building and history, it revealed a few secrets and answered some questions, and the characters progressed and became more interesting the more I found out about them. And there was progress on the romantic front too!

The audio narration is very good for this series if anyone is looking for a good Urban Fantasy to listen to. She handles all the different European accents very well.

4 Stars ★★★★

Review: Death's Mistress by Karen Chance ★★★★★

Death's Mistress by Karen Chance
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Dorina Basarab #2
Publication Date: 2010
ISBN: 9780451412768
Page Count: 422
Rating: ★★★★★
 Review Copy: Audiobook  

Dorina Basarab is a dhampir-half-human, half-vampire. Back home in Brooklyn after the demise of her insane Uncle Dracula, Dory's hoping her life is about to calm down. But soon Dory realizes someone is killing vampire Senate members, and if she can't stop the murderer, her friends may be next.. 

Dory's back and heads are gonna roll! Or, you know, get carried around in a really smelly gym bag but that doesn't have quite the same ring to it!

I'm still enjoying my revisit of this series although I do regret deciding to get the audio versions this time. I just don't like the narrator so I think that's lessening my enjoyment, but it was the only way to fit the re-reads into this month's schedule.

In this one there's a lot more humour and wacky shenanigans going on than in the first--mostly coming from Ray, a sneaky and shameless level five master vampire and club owner, who Dorina accidentally decapitates at the beginning of the book.

What do you mean there's no such thing as accidentally decapitating someone? There so is.

There's also a great deal of progress in the inter-character relationships right across the board; from Dory and Louis Cesare to Dory and her father and even with Radu to a certain extent (Although I think LC is still sulking a bit). I also loved the scenes with Stinky! Bless him.

I am now all caught up and looking forward to Fury's Kiss for some new content. I can't wait!

5 Stars ★★★★★

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Review: Onyx by Jennifer L. Armentrout ★★★★

Onyx by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Series: Lux series #2
Publication Date: 2007
ISBN: 0373802927
Page Count: 438
Rating: ★★★★
Review Copy: ebook, own purchase

Being connected to Daemon Black sucks…

Thanks to his alien mojo, Daemon’s determined to prove what he feels for me is more than a product of our bizarro connection. So I’ve sworn him off, even though he’s running more hot than cold these days. But we’ve got bigger problems.

Something worse than the Arum has come to town…

The Department of Defense are here. If they ever find out what Daemon can do and that we're linked, I’m a goner. So is he. And there's this new boy in school who’s got a secret of his own. He knows what’s happened to me and he can help, but to do so, I have to lie to Daemon and stay away from him. Like that's possible. Against all common sense, I'm falling for Daemon. Hard.

But then everything changes…

I’ve seen someone who shouldn’t be alive. And I have to tell Daemon, even though I know he’s never going to stop searching until he gets the truth. What happened to his brother? Who betrayed him? And what does the DOD want from them—from me?

No one is who they seem. And not everyone will survive the lies…
A great follow up.

You know what I love about Onyx? You know how sometimes when a series starts out really well, with a toe-curling, grin-inducing, squee-worthy budding romance that you're all jumpy-up-and-down excited about? But then the sequel comes, and for some reason or other (probably to eek out as many books for the series as possible) they often make the hero just... go away for a bit. Maybe by having the couple have a big bust up fight or something. And then he'll be absent for most of the book and your heroine will be moping about.... Which is okay, I guess, if you want to go down that sucky route, but it's always a bit of a let down after all the build up in the first book.

But oh ho ho ho nooo. Not in this case, my old sausage. This was so jam-packed full of  Daemon Black  I don't think he could have possibly been in it more if he tried! And my, my did he make good use of his page time. *grin*

If you want to know who to thank for the inordinate amount of Daemon worshipping we were allowed to do in this book, her name is Liz Pelletier, the editor, who demanded more of him (who wouldn't?) be put in. G'head and put her on your Christmas list.

I can't be bothered going over the plot in my review—and let's face it, I think I've told you all you really needed to know about it—but I'll just say that it was better and more elaborate than the first. Katy was a bit too indecisive and hypocritical at times, even when Daemon was trying really hard to be nice, but she's still a great protagonist and I still think she rocks. And he had a lot to make up for, I suppose...

Now why the heck did I read them so far before Opal comes out I ask you? WHY?

4 Stars ★★★★

Friday, 19 October 2012

Review: Heart of Stone by C. E. Murphy ★★★★

Heart of Stone by C. E. Murphy
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Negotiator trilogy #1
Publication Date: 2007
ISBN: 0373802927
Page Count: 438
Rating: ★★★1/2
Review Copy: Audiobook

WHAT SECRETS LIE SHROUDED IN DARKNESS? Okay, so jogging through Central Park after midnight wasn't a bright idea. But Margrit Knight never thought she'd encounter a dark new world filled with magical beings--not to mention a dying woman and a mysterious stranger with blood on his hands. Her logical, lawyer instincts told her it couldn't all be real-- but she could hardly deny what she'd seen?and touched.

The mystery man, Alban, was a gargoyle. One of the fabled Old Races who had hidden their existence for centuries. Now he was a murder suspect, and he needed Margrit's help to take the heat off him and find the real killer. And as the dead pile up, it's a race against the sunrise to clear Alban's name and keep them both alive.?
I wasn't really sure what to expect from this book as the Negotiator trilogy isn't one that I hear mentioned very often in my book reading circles in comparison to her more popular Walker Papers series. So I was a bit nervous about starting it; wondering if the reason there was no buzz was simply because it wasn't very good. But I have to say that while the book didn't blow my mind, I definitely did enjoy it for the most part. I particularly enjoyed the audiobook narration (so that may have earned it an extra half star) and I do plan to continue the trilogy.

However, it's not without few problems. Firstly, it starts out with one of our main characters, Alban, stalking our heroine through Central Park. Something he has done for the last three years! Immediately this made all sorts of warning bells go off in my head. But then I thought, hang on a tick, this is C. E. Murphy we're talking about, and it seemed unlikely from what I've read of her other work that she would go for anything as insipid as insta-love with some weird stalker dude. So I kept reading, and yes, Alban has been keeping a protective eye on our heroine, Margarit Knight, because she has a habit of being needlessly reckless—running through Central Park alone late at night. So it's done with the noblest of intentions, and I quickly forgave him his stalker-like tendencies. In fact, Alban ended up being my favourite character and the highlight of the whole thing.

It was quite a long book and somewhat slow-moving at times, without ever becoming completely uneventful. But there are long stretches in-between those events and scenes that I felt were unnecessarily long and, dare I say it, dull. Mostly, it was the times when we were left alone with just Margarit narrating for us with no Alban or any other interesting characters to play off, because unfortunately, out of the whole cast of characters, Margarit, the protagonist, was my least favourite. Not that I developed any kind of profound dislike for her or anything, but she was just very ordinary; 100% average Homosapien (and a lawyer to boot) and I could never fully accept how she managed to get herself so quickly enmeshed in the supernatural world and how no one just dealt with the problem of her discovery by snapping her like a twig. I realise she has a way of getting around people using her lawyerly skills, (this is where the negotiator bit comes in) but I'm just not sure I ever fully bought that idea. It seemed just a bit incongruous to me.

What I did love, however, (aside from Alban) was that Murphy, as in her other series, took the road less travelled when it came to which supernatural species' to focus on. Instead of vamps and werewolves we got Gargoyles, Selkies, Dragons, Djinn and...oh yeah there was a vampire. My bad. But he's not the focus of the book so it's okay!

So, to sum up, it was a good read, a really good audiobook experience, and with a few reservations I am heading on to the next book, because I want to finish Alban's story out and I'm hoping Margrit will grow on me.

3.5 Stars ★★★1/2

Feature and Follow Friday - 19th October 2012

Feature & Follow Friday is a weekly event hosted by Parajunkee & Alison Can Read.
The point of this hop is to follow other bloggers, to gain new followers yourself, and to make friends in the book blogging community.

If you follow me I will follow back. Just let me know in the comments that you are a new follower. Happy Friday!

Q: When you step out of your USUAL genre what do you like to read? Best books in that genre?

When I step out of my usual genre, which is Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, I like to read something totally different, and I've developed a real soft spot for Medieval Knights and Highlander Romances. There's just something about big, brave warriors and damsels in distress which is so far removed from kick-ass urban fantasy heroines that it provides the perfect palate cleanser before I move on.

My favourite read in this genre and the one I rated the highest, is:

The Sinner by Margaret Mallory

Thanks for visiting me! If you follow me just let me know so I can return the favour! That's what this here get together is all about, after all.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Review: Midnight's Daughter by Karen Chance ★★★★

Midnight's Daughter by Karen Chance
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Dorina Basarab #1
Publication Date: 2008
ISBN: 9780451412621
Page Count: 373 Rating: ★★★★
Review Copy: Audiobook

Dorina Basarab is a dhampir-half human, half vampire. Subject to uncontrollable rages, most dhampirs live very short, very violent lives. So far Dory has managed to maintain her sanity by unleashing her anger on those demons and vampires who deserve killing.

Now Dory's vampire father has come back into her life. Her Uncle Dracula (yes, the Dracula), infamous even among vampires for his cruelty and murderous ways, has escaped his prison. And her father wants Dory to work with gorgeous master vampire Louis-Cesare to put him back there.

Vampires and dhampirs are mortal enemies, and Dory prefers to work alone. But Dracula is the only thing on Earth that truly scares her, so when Dory has to go up against him, she'll take all the help she can get… ..

You know what's weird? Considering how many reviews I've written—especially this year after I set it as my New Year's Resolution to review every single book I read—what's weird is that most of my all-time favourite books don't even have a review at all because I read them waaaay before I discovered the joys of reviewing or having a virtual Goodreads/Shelfari bookshelf to keep a record of my books and ratings. So my favourites, like this one, just got slapped with an automatic 5-star rating based on hazy memories of awesomeness, and that was that.

So, it's a bit sad that I am, then, to find that after my recent re-read of this book, 3 years and around 600 books after my first go, I find I can't in all honesty still give it 5 stars, so I've dropped it down to 4. I still really enjoyed it, don't get me wrong. But I'd be blind not to see that, although I love Chance's writing for its fast pacing and action-filled plots, a lot of it can be too chaotic and confusing with too much going on from too many directions and not enough exposition. For much of the book I was just waiting and hoping that any minute now I'd be told why Dory was doing what she was doing, or going where she was going, and who the heck are those people firing stuff at her now and why are they doing it?

I imagine it all makes perfect sense in Karen Chance's head, but it doesn't always translate perfectly to her audience. It's kind of a double-edged sword, though, because the confusion is a side effect of having such intricate, complex, multi-layered, thought-provoking and detailed plots. She literally fits more plotting, world-building and characterisation into one page than some authors manage in three chapters (or whole books in the worst cases). But unless you're paying absolute, 100% focused attention (which admittedly I probably wasn't this time as I did the re-read as an audiobook) then you'll blink and miss something vital and be all "What the hell just happened?"

But that's enough negativity!

This is my favourite urban fantasy 'world' after all, (although I do prefer the main Cassandra Palmer series over this, the spin-off). So let's get on to what I still loved—The world, the setting, the magic, Dory, the real historical characters, Louis Cesare, the complex and strained relationships, Stinky, the sexual tension, the funny dialogue, Radu, the hot vamps, the hot smexy times, Dory's house that won't let her redecorate or move anything, the intelligent writing, Louis Cesare in a towel.

That's quite a lot still to love, eh?

Dory is a great main character. She has a bit of a bad attitude due to being a misfit and held in contempt by almost all supernatural factions AND humans, and she suffers rage episodes and has a dry, sarcastic sense of humour.

Louis Cesare on the other hand is cool, suave, laconic, honourable and protective. They make a great fighting team, as long as Louis Cesare can keep up, and I look forward to re-visiting them in the next book, which I believe, if memory serves, is slightly less hectic than this one.

Recommended to read after books 1&2 of the Cassandra Palmer series.
Click here for the series timeline.
4 Stars ★★★★

Review: Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout ★★★★

Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Series: Lux #1
Publication Date: December 6, 2011
ISBN: 9781937044237
Page Count: 266 Rating: ★★★★
Review Copy: eBook-own purchase

Starting over sucks.

When we moved to West Virginia right before my senior year, I'd pretty much resigned myself to thick accents, dodgy internet access, and a whole lot of boring.... until I spotted my hot neighbor, with his looming height and eerie green eyes. Things were looking up.

And then he opened his mouth.

Daemon is infuriating. Arrogant. Stab-worthy. We do not get along. At all. But when a stranger attacks me and Daemon literally freezes time with a wave of his hand, well, something...unexpected happens.

The hot alien living next door marks me.

You heard me. Alien. Turns out Daemon and his sister have a galaxy of enemies wanting to steal their abilities, and Daemon's touch has me lit up like the Vegas Strip. The only way I'm getting out of this alive is by sticking close to Daemon until my alien mojo fades.

If I don't kill him first, that is.


Now this is the story all about how
Katy's life got flipped, turned upside down
And I'd like to take a minute, just sit right there
I'll tell you how she became my new favourite YA protagonist. Oh yeah.

In sunny Florida, she was born and raised

On the beach(?) was where she spent most of her days
Chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool
And she didn't have to put up with her neighbour being a tool 

Okay, I'm just going to stop this right here before it gets any worse. That was terrible. I will never do that again, I promise.

So yes, this is the story of a new girl (Katy) arriving in a small town where everybody knows everybody; she has a single parent who is hardly ever there; she meets a gorgeous but extremely rude boy who seems all mysterious as well as being totally hot, and he has an adorably sweet sister who wants to be her new BFF but she's sure the family is hiding something...

Sound familiar? Of course it does, it been done several hundred times before. Twilight, of course, and The Vampire Diaries before that, and every other derivative spawn we've had to suffer through since then.

BUT! This one has something that they didn't have: a very likeable, very admirable, totally kick-ass protagonist called Katy Swartz! I loved Katy! She rescued this story for me from being just another one of those books.

Even though it's a formula we've seen many times before, with Armentrout's authentic-sounding 'teenage' voice for Katy, whom the story is told through first-person, it really, really worked. She's just so likeable, and so relateable. And more importantly, even though some of the plot devices used in this book will seem very familiar to you if you've read any of the above-mentioned series, Armentrout gets things right where those others failed miserably. Several times during the book I felt Katy was on a precipice and I was waiting breathlessly with both fingers crossed to see if she would pass the 'Stupid YA Heroine Test'. Is she going to prove to be yet another dumbass, TSTL, moron doormat? Or will we finally get a heroine where we can be all "Ha! You tell him, honey!"?

Guess which one she was. I bet you can't guess.

And of course, I would be neglectful if I didn't mention His Royal Hotness Daemon Black. He truly was just as much of a douche-bag as I'd expected him to be from reading other reviews, but I still liked him very much. I got the impression he was rude not to be malicious, but just because it amused him. He liked the back and forth bickering that happened every time he and Katy attempted to converse. And I think he liked it even more that she stood up to him, every time, without fail. He's a little tinker, but I like him anyway.

I went straight out and bought book two and will be reading it next because I hear the plot has more content than this one. Can't wait!

4 Stars ★★★★

Monday, 15 October 2012

Early Review: Heart of the Dragon's Realm by Karalynn Lee ★★★

Heart of the Dragon's Realm by
Genre: Historical Fantasy Romance
Series: n/a
Publication Date: October 29th 2012
ISBN: 9781426894558
Page Count: 142 Rating: ★★★
Review Copy: Advance Readers Copy

Princess Kimri is used to betrayal. Her brother sold her to a king in exchange for swords to defend his lands. King Tathan's reputation is as fierce as that of his mountain kingdom—where dragons are said to guard the castle walls—but the realms are unstable enough without angering the mountain-king, so Kimri reluctantly agrees to the union.

When she arrives in Helsmont, the king promises her a year of courtship before marrying—or parting ways. Before long, Kimri thinks she may find comfort, and perhaps eventually love, with the stoic king.

But the realms are more unsettled than Kimri realizes, and she soon finds herself caught in the middle of a war between the kingdoms. Can she count on her betrothed to take her side? Or will his loyalty to his kingdom come before his loyalty to her?

A brief but entertaining fantasy romance.

This was a short and sweet love story—only around 50,000 words or 142 pages on my eReader, but it was a really enjoyable read and would make a perfect palate cleanser in between books, or just when you want to read a historical fantasy romance but don't feel like starting a 600-page whopper. Although, like most novellas and short stories, it lacked in certain areas such as depth of characterisation and world-building.

I almost wish this had been longer even though I enjoyed it for the sweet morsel that it was. I found I really liked Lee's writing style—it was very readable, warm and engaging—but I would have loved more details on the setting and a few more intimate, romantic scenes would have been nice, too. It was very chaste for a romance. In fact, the H and h spent a lot of the book apart for one reason or another, and for that reason, I felt like I never really got to know Tathan, the hero, very well as it's told predominantly from the heroine, Kimri's, perspective.

It's set in a historical setting, but exactly where or when I couldn't tell you as those details aren't provided. I'd say it had a medieval feel to it. The fantasy element is minimal but added a nice flavour. It's the story of an arranged marriage between the stoic, gentle mountain-king of Helmsmont, and the feisty princess of neighbouring Anagard, who is, much to her dismay, sold to him in matrimony by her brother the King for the princely sum of 100 swords, 1000 arrows, and the promise of an alliance between the two lands.

The land of Helmsmont was a charming place to explore. From its customs (the Sword dancing!) to its people and the informal way they treat their sovereign, something so different to what Kimri is used to. And then there's the man himself, Tathan. He was a revelation, both to Kimri and to myself. Not your typical hero, he's described as a large-boned, slightly greying man with a "rugged" handsomeness. He may not sound like a totally hottie, but it makes such a refreshing change from endless descriptions of rippling abs and chiselled cheekbones blah, blah, blah. I really liked him. It's his gentleness and patience that make him a worthy hero, not just his looks, but as I said earlier I wish we'd seen more of him and that he'd taken a stronger stance where Kimri was concerned.

All together, a sweet, easy and enjoyable read. Recommended.

3 Stars ★★★
ARC provided for an honest review.