“Darkfever” by Karen Marie Moning

When I started working at the craft store, I bonded with one of the framers over books, so a few days later she came in with this entire series in hand. I remember seeing it when I worked in the book store, but it was in the romance section and I tended to shy away from those (let’s be real, I still mostly do).

But, this series had the magical mix: Ireland, and faeries. I can’t resist either of those, so together it’s impossible for me to say no.

MacKayla is your standard typical romance heroine who finds out her sister was murdered while over in Ireland. So, she takes a flight over to figure out what happened. Sex-addicted faeries, tall-dark-and-handsome figure in the shadows, and a plot that grows with every new character and every new thing Mac figures out.

It was a long time ago that I read this book so some details are a little fuzzy but I remember that as ANNOYING as Mac is, I actually enjoyed the story (I read the whole series, that has to count for something right?). It wasn’t anything spectacular, but I felt for Mac and the loss of a family member, and being in a new country with no one there to help her. She is put up against odds and learns what it means to be a ‘sidhe-seer’.

I was also shocked at the LACK or romance in this book. Sure, there is a handsome guy following Mac around, but it became an after thought, Mac’s search for her sisters murderer, and the Dark Book known as the Sinsar Dubh and it’s link to her sisters death was the forefront. I have read too many romance novels where the interesting plot is back-burnered for the lame ‘romance’ plot line. that did impress me with this book and kind of kept me interested.

If you’re looking for an easy read with a mix of fantasy, sex, and mystery, this is probably up your alley.

“Divine by Mistake” by P.C. Cast

As you all may know by now, I have a massive love-hate relationship with P.C. Cast. I read the first book in her House of Night series (which I only found out lately was spearheaded by her daughter) and absolutely HATED it. I got through the first book and just out of utter hatred I wrote a pretty nasty (I forgot I wrote it and when I found it later I actually shocked myself) review on GoodReads. I even abandoned the second book about 30 pages in. Then, my dear friend who always lends me her books gave me another P.C. Cast book to try and, shockingly, I loved it. I couldn’t put it down! (Moon Chosen, if you’re curious about my review!) So …when I was raiding her bookshelves and came across this, she told me to give it a try.

Well. This book fell smack dab in the middle, I didn’t hate it as venomously as House of Night, but I didn’t love it the way I did Moon Chosen. I am dead centre, and unfortunately that means I can’t really tell if I liked the book or not.

I do believe this book is an “adult” one, unlike her others that are YA, given they are at TINY bit darker. The book starts with English Teacher Shannon Parker (funny thing is I think Cast is an English teacher) on her summer break, and on her way to an auction to find something new and interesting. What she found was a clusterf*ck of cultures printed onto a vase that called to her. The woman on the vase looked identical to her, all the way down to the rippling burn scar on the back of her hand (which I promise will never be brought up in the book again). She forgoes the cool dragon painting and gets the vase. On her way home, there is a flash of light and ungodly burning and she wakes up in a strange world.

So, the premise of the story is Shannon is the alternate universe version of a Goddess Incarnate Priestess named Rhiannon, this world is a weird mash of Celtic and Greek mythology. Her clothing is Greek, her soon-to-be Husband is a Centaur, which is Greek, but everyone speaks with a slight Scottish accent. And the bad guys in the book are Irish. That kind of turned me off the book right away, her magical alternate world was basically just the UK. But it was olden times with no electricity, but they made modern references and had a grasp of modern medicine. They had toilet paper, knew about hand washing (which wasn’t implemented until 1847 – yet they knew nothing of vaccines and inoculations and the first one was in 1796), had shampoo in bottles …and a million other little nitpicky things. Like her overuse of the world “Zillions”. This stuff threw me off because it felt haphazard – a little bit of extra world-building would have ironed out all those wrinkles.

Shannon gets into this new world, meets the doppelgangers of her friends and family and decides to stay, even though Rhiannon is in HER world potentially ruining her life there. She meets ClanFintan, her husband-to-be, and falls in love instantly. But, one of the things no one warned her about were the dreams the Goddess (Celtic goddess of Horses, and the only Celtic Goddess worshiped by the Romans – so the mish-mash of cultures kind of makes sense, but it’s still jarring) can send her. She is lifted from her bed one night and sent flying over the land to a distant Castle where she sees the doppelganger of her Father. She is overcome with a sense of evil and suddenly white (like, corpse white), winged humanoids come rushing out of the trees and overrun the castle. The creatures kill everyone and kidnap the women. The Fomorians (Irish mythological baddies) are kind of like Vampires; can’t be out in daylight, feed on blood, and can’t cross moving water, but they have giant wings to help them glide and jump – not for flight. Shannon’s next dream shows her the women they are capturing and what they are doing with them. The lead Fomorian is impregnating the women, but it’s not a simple birthing …think Aliens, only not the chest.

When the plot revolves around Shannon and ClanFintan I’m bored out of my skull. Shannon is annoying and ClanFintan resembles a doting puppy (he is the typical romance novel male), Cast also has this habit of forgetting his size, apparently he’s gigantic but he always lounges casually on the chaise chairs. But when the Fomorians attack the story becomes much more fast paced and interesting.

And I will say, as much as I nitpick this book, there were a few parts that were amazing. First and foremost, no Girl-hate!! Every woman, doppelganger or not, was treated equally to Shannon, even the beautiful ones that most authors would have turned into a romantic rival, just become her friends. Her flares of jealousy are so small and slight they almost don’t exist, she rationalizes it away. There were so many scenes that could have gone down that path but she took the high road, and it made for a much better read. Girl-Hate is so easy to write because women are always portrayed as Catty Bitches, but most aren’t like that. It’s nice to see an author treating women like humans, not just caricatures of what the media tells us they are supposed to be. Rhiannon was a massive Bitch, so Shannon took it upon herself to basically undo all the cruel things Rhiannon had done (I forgot to mention only a few people know who she really is, but they all have to keep it a secret so their society doesn’t have a meltdown). These things may be small, but they mean so much to me. And as annoying as Shannon was, she at least has a personality. As slight as it was.

One of my BIGGEST issues with this book is the Sexy Lamp syndrome. Basically, you could replace Shannon with a sexy lamp and the story would proceed the same. Shannon was utterly useless, she just stood back and let everyone take care of things and do all the hard work, she just ate, drank, and fawned over her new Husband.

It’s a rather large series, there is Shannon’s story, and I think a few others with other characters. This is a good book for a mindless quick read, but don’t go into it expecting outstanding work. If you want a REALLY good book by Cast, get Moon Chosen.

“The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily” by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

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AsteriaIconThe second installment in the romance of Dash and Lily picks up roughly about a year after the previous book, and things are not all sunshine and rainbows between our title characters. Lily is very distracted, and does not seem to have time for Dash. Her grandfather had a heart attack and had taken a fall, and she has taken on the duty of taking care of him and volunteering at the resource centre he gets treatment at. They seem to be growing very distant, and just cannot seem to connect.

Lily just is not concerned with Christmas at all this year, which is of deep concern to her brother. She is forgetting all of the family traditions, like the tree lighting gathering, and when she puts it together quickly, she accidentally invites both of Dash’s divorced parents, which makes things very awkward. Dash just does not understand what is going on with Lily, and Lily seems to be misreading everything Dash does. Lily actually tries to break up with Dash, who refuses. Can they sort things out and fix their relationship, get their own version of a Christmas miracle, or are they doomed?

I found this cute, but not as good as Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares. I know Lily was to be going through a phase and dealing with real world bigger issues, and it is written for the reader to really feel her frustration, but she just came off more like a spoiled brat to me. Lily was whiny and irritating, and her behaviour had no consistency. If your 16 year old character can run away from home and fake her identity, I am pretty sure she can use the world “fuck” instead of “Fudge” when something doesn’t go her way. The book had a few cute moments, but it was just a meh book for me, and I am not sure if I would listen to another one of their stories given the opportunity. The characters overall just didn’t seem as true to themselves as they had in the previous book. Plus I think my favourite part of the Dares book was the Moleskin element, which this was lacking.

“Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares” by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

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asteriaiconI was browsing Overdrive for a book to read in their teen section, and came across this. I had never heard of it before, but had seen that they had also written “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” which I liked, and decided to give it a try.

Dash goes to the Strand bookstore in New York around Christmas time. While browsing the stacks he comes across a red Moleskin notebook between the books on a shelf. When he opens the notebook, he sees written: “I’ve left clues for you. If you want them, turn the page. If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf please.” Dash decides to accept the challenge, and so begins the whirlwind adventure of Dash meeting Lily.

The story alternates between Dash and Lily’s point of view as each leave little dares for the other in the notebook that lead them through the city. Through the book they become closer and closer to each other, being able to hide behind anonymity and telling each other things they wouldn’t normally tell anyone. They work well together on paper, but is this true love?

I really enjoyed the meet cute story of Dash and Lily, and for perhaps the first time I found myself reading for the romance. I have become such a sucker in my old age for a good Hallmark-esque story, especially a Christmas Hallmark-esque story. The story really reminded me of my relationship with my hubby. I am the one in the relationship who LOVES Christmas like Lily, while he is the Grinch like Dash.

I found myself really liking Dash’s character, but found Lily a little juvenile. She is 16, yet I felt like maybe the story was geared for a younger audience. I do remember first loves usually are a little juvenile, and you are a little more naïve, but I wished she acted a little more mature. But even that wasn’t enough for me to not smile my way through the book, and I cannot wait to see where Dash & Lily’s love goes in the sequel.

“Night Pleasures” by Sherrilyn Kenyon

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artemisiconI’m going to come across as a complete ass with this review, and I apologize.

I’ve been hearing so much about Kenyon for years, from men and women, but I kept putting it off because it was technically a romance. And as we know, I don’t like romance, at all. I bought the book about a year ago, finally, from a used book store, just in case I got worn down enough and decided to read it. Well, that day came. Curiosity overcame better judgement and I opened the well worn and yellowed pages.

I will say the book isn’t badly written. But it just wasn’t my thing. I have nothing against sex in books (hello, look at some of my past books), but I prefer sex scenes with a point. If the book has a good plot, sex scenes further the story and show more about the characters. This leads to my first issues with romance …and this book. The book is focused mainly on the sex and the plot is just that pesky thing that gets in the way of the sexual tension.

This book starts with our main character, Amanda, getting mistaken for her twin sister and kidnapped, only to wake up handcuffed to some strange man in a dungeon jail cell. Great start! How are they going to get out of this and how will this reveal each character? We don’t know much about Amanda, which is a given since it’s the beginning of the book (it says online that it’s the second in the series, but reads like a first, so I have no idea), but situations like this usually reveal how a character reacts to panic and tension, and shows who they TRULY are, not the mask they show the world.

They monologue about how sexually attracted they are to one another until the big bad shows up and lets them go.

What.

So it had a shaky start, with how much people rave about her stuff, it has to get better? Right?

Her main male is an immortal vampire hunter; your standard tall-dark-and-handsome walking phallus. Amanda is your standard romantic heroine, with little to no personality who makes “nerdy” references and sarcastic comments to seem “different” and “cool”. Within a few pages I already did not care about either character. Amanda is written like many YA female heroines, with no personality so the reader can place themselves in the shoes of the protagonist.

I think because I grew up reading books stereotypically aimed at boys, I don’t understand the need to place myself in the protagonists shoes. Instead of trying to see myself reflected in the character, I saw a role model, something to improve myself and aim for. If I read a boy going on a great adventure, or a girl ending up on a ship and deciding to work alongside the men to gain their acceptance, I decided that I could be adventurous, that I could work hard and be strong. Maybe that’s the same idea as a bland character being a place marker for a persons imagination, but those characters don’t seem to strive for greater. They’re just there for the male to fawn over.

The story was a great idea! With vampires and creatures trying to kill and maim. It has so much potential, but instead of fleshing out a good idea, it’s written in between the sexual tension.

I think the biggest irk I have about the characters is Kyrian and Amanda are both written very inconsistently. One moment Kyrian is strong and commanding, the next he’s blushing and buying baby toys. Instead of giving Amanda traits, the other characters just talk about how ‘strong’ and ‘intelligent’ she is …yet she never shows it. Or when she proudly announced “black belt in aikido”, yet her black belt never came up in any other situation, and she used her black belt to simply kick a guy in the balls. It seemed so out of place. This made me care even less about the characters because they were all over the place with their personalities (or lack there of).

And it seemed that every time the plot was getting interesting, the Daimons would go into a thing called a “bolt-hole” which was an astral projection between dimensions that only they could get into. It hid them away for several days, until it opened again and they had to leave. I was so frustrated with the book at this point that I started referring to the bolt-holes as “plot-holes” …a place where the plot goes to hide. When the interesting parts of the story went into the bolt-holes, it was chapters and chapters of sexual tension.

This series is raved about, and I see lots of people with the Dark Hunter tattoo. It’s just not for me. The plot isn’t interesting enough for me to look past the characters and just enjoy the story like I can with some books. I will not be going back for the rest of the series.

If you like romance, and vampires and the like, then this series is probably for you! I have heard glowing reviews on it from many people. So proceed with caution, but still check it out.

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“Dark Witch” by Nora Roberts

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artemisiconAs you may have noticed, this isn’t a standard book for me to read. I usually avoid romance like the plague, but my friend who is always loaning me books talked me into reading this one. I had really low standards, and was familiar with the standard romance ‘tropes’. I figured I could predict the book before I even read it.

Once again, I get bit in the ass for my hatred of romance. I actually really, REALLY enjoyed the book. It’s the first in a trilogy (I still need to read the third), known at the Cousins O’Dwyer trilogy.

The series starts out about Iona Sheehan (the second book is from her cousins point of view) as she decides to start her life anew in Ireland. She had done research on her family and found relatives in Ireland.She contacted them, saved up her money, and flew from America to Ireland with only a small idea of what to do.

Iona’s family is descended from a powerful witch named Sorcha and her three children. Each child was gifted like their mother, but had a bond with a certain animal. One to hounds, another to horses, and the third to hawks. Without the tacky telepathy link, they are still able to tell how the animal is feeling and when they’re hurt or in danger. The animals do everything they can to make sure their human stays safe, whether from themselves or from outside harm. Iona is descended from Sorcha’s youngest child, who was bound to horses, and as a horse trainer when Iona gets to Ireland she quickly finds a job as a trail guide.

I was really impressed because there was an actual plot to the book, and Iona didn’t fall head over heels with the first tall-dark-handsome she came across.

Sorcha had drawn the attention of a cruel warlock, Cabhan, and after spurning him, he murders her husband and plagues her children with horrific nightmares. She was unable to kill him and only managed to seriously hurt him. He sought revenge on all of her descendants, which is where the plot comes from. All Sorcha’s ancestors are together and one of each of her children is represented. They are stronger together, so Cabhan has to work harder to defeat them.

The magic used is rooted in Wiccan and old Irish. It’s very beautiful magic, instead of the Hollywood’s view of witches being ugly and cruel. I was really impressed with her representation of magic, it’s not as common to see. Most writers go with the throwing fireball type spells, and less the potions an talismans aspect.

Keeping in mind that this is still a romance, I can’t leave that out. When the ‘romance’ started, it wasn’t Iona falling instantly in love with him. She first checked with her co-worker, thinking the girl was in a relationship with him and making sure she wasn’t invading. Then, it became a simple caring for, making sure each other is safe, nothing about the irritating instant-love. It built naturally over a long period of time between the two. And because it neither took away from the plot, nor BECAME the plot, it was actually a nice addition.

I was honestly surprised at how much I enjoyed the book, I’m almost curious to check out more of Nora Roberts books.