Forbidden by Haru Ichiban

Summary

A promise of unbound carnal delights. That’s what her sultry, proud classmate Lei is to Sween. However, only known to her, much more than just lust binds her to this man.

Despite competing against a love rival which holds the upper hand, her carefree college days are full of laughter, but they hide a sinister reality: if Sween succeded in making his heart hers, being branded a criminal and relentlessly chased down by angels would only be the beginning of her problems. However, if only Lei loved her back, she would not mind breaking every law for him. No matter the consequences. Even if it meant living a forbidden love with a dubious future as she defied everyone and everything in Heaven… and everything she once stood for.

Forbidden is the first book in a long saga of romance full of sweetness and erotism, plots with substance, smart heroines, manly and sensitive heroes, morally ambiguous main characters, a mysterious supernatural world, detectives and lots of humor.

Amazon

Characters

This book is written like steaming consciousnesses every thought is on page. I could not for the life of me like Sween for most of the book. I found her over the top, obsessive, and obnoxious. I actually thought she was a very ugly person. Although later on I felt there was a clear issues with the contradiction/dichotomy between the virgin and the whore—a concept that could have been really powerful. Lei was a little easier to like because you understood he was ‘controlled’ by a demon. So his behavior, although ridiculous and cruel at times, was easier to swallow. I cannot say I liked Sween by the end of the book but I no longer disliked her as much either. There are a few supporting characters but they mostly seem to come and go.

Plot

Sween wants Lei. Wants to kill the demon controlling him and be with him. That much was easy to see. Think high school angst with mature content and a paranormal flare (interesting take on angels and demons). It felt like reading an over the top anime or manga. Sween and Lei are attending police academy and there were some very interesting facts there—almost felt out of place with the story at times, but well done there.

Overall

This book needs an editor—badly (just look at the two spelling errors in the summary above taken directly from Amazon). I rarely post this unless it is painfully apparent or detracts from the story and in this case it does. The first 20% of the book could be significantly reduced because I felt like I was stuck in a unexplained and unclear loop. Same information, actions, and no furtherance of a story. That being said—I noticed a significant shift after a scene were Lei drives her and a group (about 20% of the way in). It was the first crystal clear scene that actually sucked me in—like those bloody Buggypop were a hoot. Some of the nonsense was great and some of it was just…well nonsense. The sexy parts were decent but I had a hard time just because it felt like a fantasy (as in so far outside reality) so I ended up laughing instead.

The biggest redeeming factor for me was I could feel how much the author loves to write. I have a distinct feeling the author sees each character clearly in their mind and each scene is no doubt like a movie. There in lies an issue—the author assumes you can see what they can see. Which we, of course, cannot. It leaves a lot of context and description out. And just like that driving scene, there were some amazing concepts and ideas that really showed potential!

Rating

2 stars

Great concepts, specially on the paranormal side, so others may enjoy it but it was too unpolished for me.

Where did I get a copy?

Author provided me a copy. This review is voluntary.

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A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1) by Deborah Harkness

Summary

Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Characters

I was not very fond of Diana for most of the book. Her strong points seemed more like flaws most of the time. Made it really hard to connect and like her. Michael was another creature all together. I found his chapter very enjoyable…and then I was like, why aren’t there more? It is like it introduces him and his point of view and then abandons it for over half the book. I liked a lot of the supporting characters but some of them were a little bland. There were also a few times it felt like it left Diana’s point of view which was confusing.

Plot

Diana doesn’t want to be a witch. Her parents are dead because they were witches but her magic isn’t listening very well. Which is only made worse when she stumbles onto the Ashmore and then a vampire. A love story wrapped in a historical bow with a dash of magic and mayhem.

This plot winds around and constantly says it is going to do one thing and then does something else. It would be like going shopping for milk but getting distracted by bread and then the eggs because we might need those too. The story was never straight forward so be prepared.

Overall

For what this book was…it was way too long. I nearly quit reading this book multiple times, only sticking with it because I was so impressed by the research and the fact that it had been recommended to me. I enjoyed it overall but I won’t be reading any more of the series. Amazing amount of research was done to make the historical aspects seemingly flawless. It was punctuated by a romance that would have been more enjoyable if it had been more believable. I get being attracted quickly and even loving quickly but they jumped into the deep end super quickly and I just had a hard time jumping into the deep end with them.

Rating

3.5 Stars (round down)

If you love the writing of historical novels that have paranormal romantic plots, this is a must read. It just wasn’t for me.

Where I got a copy?

Purchased at a local bookstore—Fireside Books.

Limbo by Laura Koerber

Summary:

Alyse died and she isn’t happy about it. She finds herself stuck in a ghost town occupied by dead souls with whom she has nothing in common. Her reaction to her sense of loneliness and isolation is to throw a neighborhood block party for her little outpost in the afterlife. In the course of her party-planning, Alyse experiences a series of revelations about herself and other people—lessons she had failed to learn while alive—which leave her happier and wiser at the end of the story.

Overall

The unique characters are the strength of this story. Alyse appears to be the primary character but many other supporting characters (Lily, Trey, etc. – even a dog named Dean). Each character is very unique and has a story of their death worthy of attention. That is where it starts to break down for me.

Like the limbo they are stuck in – the plot takes a while to form and isn’t concrete. Instead it relies on the reader to draw their own conclusions. At least in part. After introducing so many characters, it feels incomplete to only resolve a part of the established character plots. If this was part of a series (addressing other characters trapped in limbo) I’d feel differently but this appears to be the only one, so the ending (or non-ending) left this book feeling incomplete. Which if was part of a series would be a good thing – because I was curious to read more.

A major draw back is the constant head hoping. Although it appears the story is meant to primarily follow Alyse, we get glimpses at other ghosts trapped in limbo and then we get Point of View (POV) switches that zigzag back and forth. These POV swaps confuse the narrative.

The major plus for me was the overarching theme. I liked its overall tone that we live in the worlds we make for ourselves. We can accept what we are handed or we can change it. A powerful message and a redeeming aspect because it makes one think!

Rating

3 stars

Thought provoking although slow novella with unique characters. Take a trip to limbo and see the world Alyse decides to build for herself.

Where did I get it?

The author provided a copy to me. This is a voluntary review.

Reader (Affinity Series, #2) by J.S. Lenore

Summary

After nearly dying at the hands of an uncontrollable ghost, Detective Kim Phillips is finally back to work with the Chicago Police Department. Sure, she’s shackled to a desk, sifting through cold cases, but it’s better than being stuck in her apartment. It lets her focus on something other than her unreliable powers, the sudden influx of Turned ghosts in the Windy City, and the continuing tension between her and her old partner, Detective Riley Cross.

That all changes when she finds the case file of a missing girl and is sucked into a vision from thirty years ago. Caught between the present and the past, Kim struggles to find answers about the case and herself. Can Kim solve the mystery of her changing powers and find the girl, or will her tenuous grasp on her powers and the investigation spiral out of control?

Characters

Gosh it was good to see Kim again. Plus I really loved Riley (Cross) in the first book. They made such a crazy good team, which was hard to see them working on different projects…in the beginning. Unlike the first book though, Kim is scarred and struggling. She is still recovering and at first her powers aren’t working well. She is terrified by all the changes, which is only made worse when she reads. The one thing I didn’t like is how reckless she can still be. That is why Riley is such a good balance for her, he is much more conservative. New character: Andrea Banks, sounds like a ball of fun and I so want Kim and her to be frenemies.

Plot

Like the first book there are a lot of moving parts, but this one was much less violent and action packed. Instead Kim is trying to solve a cold case and it doesn’t end the way I expected – huge kudos there. In addition to that Kim is finding all these ‘energy wells’ that have turned ghosts bound to them. She gets to show down with them and learns some terrifying things about herself. This book is much more character driven. Not to mention all the crazy things going on between her and Cross..and with Cross in general. I won’t ruin anything, but just wow! Can’t wait to see where that is headed.

Overall

This is a cold case and that sort of matches the quiet subdued force of this book. Unlike Burner (book 1) that was big flames and fast paced, this one was much slower with spurts of fire. It was sort of like Burner was the fire and Reader is the burning coals that the fire leaves behind, still powerful but in a different way. I feel like Reader addresses the fallout of Burner and all that happened there. Plus bringing in new complexities as it focuses more on the characters and their relationships then the action that was in Burner. Always a pleasure to read this author’s flowing style, mixed with their punchy dialogue.

My only frustration was this book opened more doors without closing old ones, and felt unnecessarily drawn out as a result. I know Kim has more growing to do, which I hope to see in the future books, but this slow burn left too much unresolved. If the other books were out and I could just pick it up, I probably wouldn’t have noticed it…but  now is the waiting game. In away multiple open doors are nearly as bad as cliffhangers, which I wouldn’t say this book has at all.  Though it does have an end that made me laugh out loud!

Rating

4.5 stars (rounded up)

A great second book in the Affinity Series. I’m looking forward to reading future books in this series and seeing where the author takes it. I just hope future books resolve more instead of creating just more questions.

Painted by Kirsten McKenzie

Summary

When art appraiser Anita Cassatt is sent to catalogue the extensive collection of reclusive artist Leo Kubin, it isn’t only the chilly atmosphere of the secluded house making her shiver.

Upon entering the house, Anita stands before a silent audience of portraits clustered on every wall. Every painted eye is watching her, including those of the unfinished portrait on the artist’s easel. A portrait with an eerie familiarity.

Kubin’s lawyer didn’t share the detailed instructions regarding the handling of the art, and Anita and her team start work in ignorance of the very instructions designed to keep them safe.

Disturbed, a man eases himself out of his portrait and stretches. Free at last from the confines of his canvas, he has no intention of ever returning. He has a painting to finish…

Characters

This was probably the biggest drawback to this book. When I started reading this Anita was a pretty well formed but blah character. After the rest of the group shows up I just couldn’t stand her! She kept making the same stupid choices but then so did all of them. I felt like they were all the typical horror movie characters. I was almost rooting for the villain! (The ghost not the other evil one). Almost none of them have any sense of self-preservation. Downside the author does a ridiculous amount of head hoping instead of going full narration. Also the lawyer is so over the top that it was a little painful to read at times—pretty sure he didn’t have a single good trait.

Plot

This is a horror based ghost story. It does an excellent job building the tension and is without a doubt super creepy. The ancient house, the moving portraits, and the hapless heroine. It had all the elements of a horror story and was super gripping. Downside it was such a cliche! I struggled through the idiotic characters and almost repetitive decision making.

I did appreciate two major points of this book. There was a plot within a plot and the author didn’t play it safe with the ending. Those were what took me from despising this book to sort of blinking in surprise at the last page. I don’t want to give anything away but it was refreshing!

Overall

I have a love hate relationship with this book. There were aspects of it I just loved and there were aspects I just hated! I liked the start of the book with Anita but after others arrive starting with the lawyer, all of the characters take a nose dive and never really recover. Mostly because of their completely illogical decision making that seemed only to exist to shock or drive the plot in a very specific direction. While the nail biting plot had me hooked and I just had to know the ending. Although I did see aspects of it coming, I was utterly surprised at the way the author ended it. That aspect is what really hit home as being a good book.

Rating

3.5 stars (one up and one down)

It doesn’t deserve 3 stars because it was better than that, but it wasn’t a solid 4 star book in my mind. A tense book that has all of the hallmarks of a good horror just not good characters!

This is a voluntary review.

Living Dead Girl by Chris Keaton

Sumamry:

Amanda Bock can see ghosts. She can communicate with the dead and has grown used to helping them move on. Amanda’s finally ready to take a shot at having a normal life like a regular sixteen-year-old. But when a mysterious stranger rips his way into her life and threatens Amanda’s loved ones, she’s propelled on a journey to discover the true strength of her own will and the power she has inherited.

Characters

Amanda is what I’d consider an average high school girl (angst and all) with extraordinary abilities. Her mother and aunt don’t seem like much of parents to her, but there are reasons for that (albeit shaky ones). Where the aunt and mother didn’t grow on me, or Adam (the shaky love interest), Amanda did. She grew a bit, but she was still true to her character – foolish and impulsive.

The villain by contrast was the shakiness character. Although vicious and going after revenge (that I get) his bigger game plan was completely lost on me. We do get to go into his head and see what he is doing, so getting some insight would have strengthened the character and their motives. The loose “world domination” is thrown around but undermined the characters villainy rather than building it up.

Plot

This is a Young Adult without question. It starts off painfully familiar without anything interesting: Girl with ability to see the dead is an outcast at school and at home. It isn’t until Amanda has a life and death situation that the book really started to shine. After that I was gripped, the author brought new aspects and revealed some clever twists that they had lulled you into with a familiar start to a paranormal novel. This was the turning point.

Overall

The writing was easy to follow and enjoyable. It was brief and to the point without any embellishments, which meant a fast tempo. It is a shorter story (novella) so you could theoretically read it in one sitting. For sure a young adult, so beware of teenage angst and impulsive decisions. I’d hope to see Amanda grow, but that’s for future novellas. In the end it was the subtle strings of unsolved pieces that really got its hooks in me. Like what’s up with Cass? If you pay attention you’ll know right away. There are more but I don’t want to give them away!

Rating

3.5 Stars (one up and one down)

‘I liked it’ accurately reflects how I feel about this book. Get past the all to familiar start, ignore the weak characterization of the villain, and this novella really rocks! If you like Young Adult Paranormal books, this novella is a good one!

I received this book for a free and voluntarily review.

Vermilion Tears by Tia Lee

Summary

Vermilion Tears is a gothic paranormal novel set in Victorian times. Lydia comes from humble beginnings living with her family in New Haven. Her life gets turned upside down when she is on a train to New York City to start her new life. Lydia is attacked by supernatural creatures she didn’t even realize existed. Now a supernatural being herself, she finds herself fleeing from a brutal captor and trying to keep her family intact. Will she be caught or will she succeed in escaping and restoring her family?

Characters

Lydia is a leaf caught on the wind of change. She seems to go with the flow…not always making the best of decisions. At first I wasn’t sure if I’d like her or not. What I can say is that after she turns and is a captive, I finally felt like I got to know Lydia’s character. Edgar and Ruben were interesting supporting characters. I’d also like to mention that I had a hard time with multiple chapters being in first person, which may have further contributed to some very confusing POV shifts. As a side note: I hated Edgar’s lengthy monologues and it really hampered my overall like of them.

Plot

I love Gothic novels, especially Victorian era with a paranormal twist. Penny Dreadful always comes to mind when I see this genre. This book is no different. There were aspects of the plot I just loved. The paranormal aspect was absolutely nailed – it had all of the fan favorites. Not to mention the witches! Loved them. I actually was really enjoying the novel despite its flaws…until the epilogue. It felt rushed, choppy, and I felt like I got whiplash at the sudden change. All of which would have been great earlier in the book. I love when books surprise me, but this felt like a last minute addition to set the stage for a second book.

Overall

There were some historical inaccuracies and some of the conversations were just a little too modern to be believable in the time. Such as they ordered a Bloody Mary in the mid-1800s. Since this is marked as a historical novel, I feel it is important to point this out. That being said if you can overlook the flaws historical aspects, you’ll enjoy the plot like I did. Still loving the paranormal aspects of the story the most! Honestly I wondered once to twice why this wasn’t written in a more recent time frame.

The setting was well developed, which was why I could picture many of the scenes in my head. That being said there were many parts of the plot that felt too convenient. I struggled with how the characters knew some of the information. For example, when Lydia is attacked she immediately knew it was a vampire. I thought this was alternative history where people are suspicious of the supernatural and believe in it, but not that it is a every day place. Perhaps I missed this but some of the leaps the characters make in figuring things out was a stretch more than once.

Rating

3 Stars

It was okay. Strong paranormal story with some needed work in plot and character development. Felt more like a paranormal thriller or suspense, rather than a historical novel.

I received a copy in exchange for an honest review.