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Danielle's Reading Adventures

Reading is my favorite hobby, hands down. Books are love to me.  I am an avid collector, and paper books will always edge out e-books with me.

Currently reading

Russian in 10 Minutes a Day
Marianna Ilyina, Kamal Bouranov, Kristine K. Kershul
Say It Right in Russian
Clyde Peters
The Blue Fairy Book
Andrew Lang
The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?
F. F. Bruce
Berlitz Russian Phrase Book & CD
Berlitz Publishing Company, Berlitz Publishing Company

Priate Seeks Bride by Christmas

A Pirate for Christmas - Anna Campbell
  Another book I am mega-late reviewing. I finished this the first of January of this year, although I started it in December. I am huge fan of Anna Campbell, and while I found this enjoyable, it's not nearly as memorable as my favorites by her. It's a good Christmas novella, and it has her distinctive and well developed chemistry between the characters. The hero is a ginger, which is definitely a plus for me as I love gingers. He's also a bit of a bad boy, but a good-hearted sort. He's spent most of his life at sea, so he's adapting to being back on solid ground and being an early. When he meets Bess, he knows she's the woman he's been waiting for, which was another thing I liked about him. He spends almost all of this story wooing her, which means going along with her holiday plans. This helps to get him rooted in the community since he never lived there, having grown up in Scotland. Rory definitely has the manly vibe going for him, and he's just a fundamentally good person. Sometimes you just got to be happy when you see that in a hero. I liked Bess. She was feisty and sweet. She was woman enough to handle Rory, and I liked how she responded to his flirting. She wasn't the type to just fall out of the hero, but gave him enough challenge to make the story interesting. The unfolding of the yearly Christmas Navitity play was fun, especially the spirited donkey who has a pivotal role.

In summary, this was an enjoyable short story to read for Christmas. I wish I had time to read it before Christmas. Hope I do better with that this year.

 

Love Spell

Crystal Cove - Lisa Kleypas

We started this on audio, but I finished it on kindle. I liked this one a lot more than many of Kleypas fans. In fact, I liked it quite a bit. I probably helped that I didn't have high expectations. I liked Justine from the other books, but I wasn't particularly attached to her character. She seemed a bit shallow but kind in the other books. I have the feeling that Kleypas didn't have Justine's character fleshed out initially. She must have spent some time with Justine in between Dream Lake and this book and came up with who we see in Crystal Cove.

As Kleypas continues the magical realism theme in this series, this one is very much "Practical Magic." I love the book and the movie, and Kleypas does it justice, with her own spin. Justine is a hereditary witch. She's not heavily into it, although she does at times do some minor spellwork. Justine realizes that the reason why she's hasn't had luck with love is because her mother cursed her to never fall in love. Justine does a spell of her own to remove the geas. This backfires. In the meantime, she meets Jason Black, a billionaire badboy tech genius who buys up Alex Nolan's land to build a retreat for his business. Jason stays at her inn and there is an instant attraction between them. Jason is the kind of man who is dangerous to a woman. He has no concept of love or commitment. And he has a good reason. He has no soul. I can't say that all of Jason's issues arise out of his souless status. It's moreso due to his abusive father and how he treated his mother. I liked that Jason is part Japanese and this culture is part of who he is. They both share some family trauma. Justine's mother is a horrible person. Jason's dad is a horrible person. Both have been shaped by their horrible parents.

What an interesting combination.

I didnt' really get the whole no soul thing. It was pretty darn real. It doesn't make sense for my own spiritual perspective. But okay, I just went along with it. The witchcraft thing is something that you can idea ignore or embrace, but if it's a hard limit, this isn't the book for that reader. Since Kleypas is going with "Practical Magic", it's hard to not have it in this book.

Like always, Kleypas' writing is beautiful and immersive. Jason has a bit of a kinky thing going on with the bedroom, but it's not out of my personal comfort zone. He has some control issues, and that thing he's into delves into this aspect of his personality. Out of the books in Friday Harbor series, this book is the most sexually explicit, but it makes sense with the characters in the book.

I have to admit, I really believed in the love that developed between Jason and Justine. They are both cynical about love, so it's so beautiful the way it develops between them, and it's a sacrificial love. The conclusion is both strange but also very beautiful.

I liked this book a lot more than I expected. I ended up falling for Justine and Jason. While witchy romance isn't my favorite kind of paranormal romance, I think that Kleypas served up a lovely one here. I definitely preferred this to Rainshadow Road. The character of Jason has so much more substance than Sam, in my opinion. I think I prefer Justine to Lucy as well.

My Friday Harbor Book Preference:

1. Dream Lake
2. Crystal Cove
3. Christmas at Friday Harbor
4. Rainshadow Road

Second Impressions

The Beauty Within - Savannah J. Frierson

I have been a fan of this author since Trolling Nights. I've had several of her books in my tbr pile and I decided to read this one on my Kindle. I really liked this book. It starts out in an unusual fashion. Tyler and Gunnar do not have good first impressions. In fact, Gunnar is actually a jerk to Tyler when they first meet. Gunnar is a gym owner and he has to take his personal trainer's new client and his current girlfriend had pissed him off and he's not happy about it. His behavior reminds Tyler of her insecurities with her weight.

Gunnar is man enough to admit when he's being a tool. He apologizes and finds that he's very attracted to Tyler. Truth be told, Gunnar never seemed to have an issue with Tyler's weight, but he's willing to help Tyler train to be more healthy since her weight was giving her back problems. As they spend time together, the attraction grows into something much more.

I've heard some of Savannah J. Frierson's readers don't like her insecure heroines. That doesn't bother me. I think that's realistic. Most women are insecure about something about themselves, be it external or internal. I think it makes her heroines relatable. I think that one could argue that her heroes are too perfect, but Gunnar definitely isn't that. He's a good guy and he makes up for being a jerk, but he did behave that way. And his past in LA showed that he was fallible and has made mistakes. I liked both of them. I enjoyed their romance. Their relationship was sexy and romantic. I also liked how the author integrated some real life issues into the story, from poor body image, the impact of broken relationships, drug abuse, and body abuse to fit an unrealistic ideal. It wasn't done in a preachy way, which I appreciated.

I also liked how Gunnar's Swedish heritage was integrated into the story. He would use words from his parents' native language, since he spoke it fluently. Also Tyler's culture as a black Southerner was integral. I liked how Tyler was really close to her sister and the fact that her sister's man worked for Gunnar and was friends with him. Their conversations felt authentic to me. Also, the characters have unique professions. Gunnar is an ex-model and gym owner and Tyler owns and runs a barber shop.

I went through a phase where I read a lot of BBW heroines (big, beautiful women) and I sort of fell out of it. I still like the sub-genre and the fact that a woman could be larger sized and still be appreciated by a man without losing weight. I think this was handled well in the book. Tyler focuses on getting healthy (although she does go in a more unhealthy direction with the weight loss and that is a huge trigger for Gunnar). I think that was good that Frierson factored this in, because it's important to be healthy in losing weight. What I loved the most was that Gunnar appreciated her before she lost weight, and my hope is that Tyler comes to embrace herself in the shape she comes and not focus on an unhealthy ideal.

This isn't my favorite by Frierson, because I love Trolling Nights and Being Plumville so much, but I did enjoy it a lot and would recommend this book to contemporary romance readers, and those interested in interracial romance.

Learning to Live

Dream Lake - Lisa Kleypas

Dream Lake Review (finally)

I was excited to read Alex’s story and I was not disappointed. Alex out of all the Nolans grabbed my heart and squeezed it, wouldn’t let it go. Alex has traits that make him my kryptonite. I adored him. He’s tortured and grumpy. He’s described as having a ruined beauty that women can’t resist, but he’s not a womanizer. While having a broken beau is nothing a woman should aspire to in life, broken heroes seem to appeal to me like no other. I loved seeing Alex’s damaged psyche be healed in a realistic way. Kleypas doesn’t take any shortcuts. She shows you all the dark spots on Alex’s soul, even his destructive, unhealthy relationship with his ex-wife, Darcy. While Zoe in herself doesn’t heal Alex, the functionality of their relationship is a sharp contrast to his failed marriage. While Darcy seemed to want to put Alex back on the rails with his drinking, Zoe wants Alex to be whole and healed, not for herself, but for him. When Alex and Zoe meet in Rainshadow Road, it felt like magic to me, and it turned out to be the case. Zoe and Alex are made for each other. Zoe is fairly well balanced. She does have some self-esteem issues due to her extreme beauty and voluptuous physique, and the trauma of being judged for it. To the extent that she marries a man who is gay because he doesn’t objectify her. While Alex is obviously completely blown away by Zoe, he doesn’t treat her like a sex object, and in actuality, tries to push her away because he knows he’s damaged goods. However, the connection between them cannot be ignored. I ate up their falling in love. Enjoyed every scene they had together. Zoe’s major issue is the failing health of her grandmother. Her grandmother has a form of dementia that escalates rapidly, and Zoe takes on the role as caregiver. Alex takes on the job of remodeling the cottage that Zoe’s cousin Justine lets her live in with her grandmother. Their proximity is an excellent opportunity for the powerful emotions between them to blossom. And in seeing each other under their worst situations, they realize that love isn’t about perfection but about loving perfectly.

Kleypas was going for a magical realism theme with this series, and this book reminded me of “Like Water for Chocolate” or “Simply Irresistible” with some “Ghost” thrown in. Zoe’s cooking seems to have healing properties, although I don’t think there was really any magic in it. It was merely a case of the fact that her food was what sustained Alex and tempted him to eat when he was at the lowest point in his alcoholism. The ghost angle comes in with the spirit that attaches himself to Alex, a spirit that lives in the house that Alex’s brother Sam owns and that Alex has taken on restoring. Alex seems driven to restore the house, and the spirit becomes attached to Alex in the process. It’s hate at first sight. The spirit can’t stand Alex, who comes off as a complete misanthrope if not nihilist. It’s Alex’s hero’s journey to heal spiritually and to rid himself of the dark cloud that has surrounded him since his traumatic childhood, being victimized by two violent, unrestrained drunks. I don’t know what Kleypas’ spiritual beliefs are but she see doesn’t shy away from adding a spiritual component to this novel, that make sense in that we’re dealing with a ghost and a hero who is having a major existential crisis. The ghost often functions as Alex’s conscience and in some ways, much like the ghosts that visit Ebeneezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.” This is another book in which Kleypas obvious love of literature is showcased and lovingly inscribed into her writing.

This book is my favorite out of the series, and it earns a resounding five stars. I think that it captures the tone and the notes of a beautiful contemporary romance only as Kleypas could deliver. She uses language so beautifully, from the well-developed characters, to the intentional and spot on dialogue. While the ghost story didn’t really add to this book for me, it’s integral to the story, and it would definitely appeal to readers who like a little paranormal in their romance. Not as excited about Justine’s book, but at the same time, looking forward to reading it.

Oh, I guess I should mention the audiobook narration. It was good. Serviceable.

My dream cast:

Kelli Garner as Zoe

Nicholas Hoult as Alex

Art is Life

Rainshadow Road - Lisa Kleypas

I read this book back in the summer, and I never got around to writing the review. If I had a word to describe it, it's charming. At the same time, I can't say either Lucy or Sam would be anywhere near the top of my list of favorite Lisa Kleypas characters or couples. In fact, I did have minor issues with both of them. Sam more than Lucy.

Lucy made me want to yell at her a few times. I didn't get why she let Alice get away with so much, although LK did a good job of explaining the complexities of the sister relationship and the fact that Alice getting away was stuff was doing business as normal. But I wanted Lucy to get Alice told, and she didn't quite do that. Alice is a mega-brat and she needed someone to hold her accountable for the crap she'd done and instigated in her short life, and Lucy wasn't willing to do it. I think Lucy will appeal to a lot of readers, because she does seem like a normal kind of woman (despite her magical abilities).

Sam, well he just comes off as selfish in that he is living his life and that's his thing. His family dysfunction is there, but he was able to escape from it in a way that his other siblings couldn't, I don't think. He had the neighbors to hide out with and they were like grandparents, giving him a sense of safety. Although I read Dream Lake after this, I started to think of these books as a group. Sam lives in the shadow of Alex for me. Sam managed to avoid most of the angst that hit Alex full in the face, so it’s not wonder that Alex is a trainwreck.

I know that a big issue that I have with Sam is his attitudes towards sex and relationships, or lack thereof. He had no desire for a meaningful relationship. Yes, as the child of two alcoholics, that makes sense. I think if he had shown more depth, I could have connected to him and his reasons. I did like that he finally realized how much Lucy meant to him and his gesture was so sweet and authentic.

As far as Sam and Lucy's relationship, it was pleasant. I did believe they loved each other, but it's hard to get too involved in their relationship considering that I didn't have strong feelings for either of them.

I liked the magical elements. It was different and unique. It's subtly done but integral to the storyline. Kleypas doesn't really explain why Lucy has this ability and no one else in her family does. I don't know if it's because of the fact that Alice always got all the attention and this was a gift that belonged her her alone.

I've read all the books in this series, and this is my least favorite. I think it lacks the punch that later books have, and with Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor, Holly pretty much cinches the story. Holly was in this book and I liked how Sam does connect with Holly, and that is an aspect of the story that gives Sam an added depth.

I have very high standards for Lisa Kleypas. She's been one of my favorite authors, well, for most of my life. I like her foray into something different, and she did it well, but this doesn't stand up well to her other books. Normally most of her heroes turn me into goo, but Sam left me very unmelted.

So, I gave this one 3.5/5.0 stars.

Never Game a Gamer

Never Trust a Pirate (Playful Brides) - Valerie Bowman

This is a definite win in a consistently good series. Valerie Bowman writes so charmingly, and I love that the heroine is as roguish as the hero. I like the surprises along the way and Danielle is probably going on my favorite heroines list, not because we share the name. But because she's awesome. I picture Eva Green as Danielle.

Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.

Reviewed for Affaire de Coeur Magazine http://affairedecoeurmagazine.com.

Shadowy Characters

Shadow Rider (The Shadow Series) - Christine Feehan

An interesting new series for Christine Feehan readers. With everything going on, it took me a long time to finish it. I read most of it on the way home from Illinois when we got back from my grandmother's funeral. I was really sucked in at that point. This one is about a family of people whose shadows are alive and they can manipulate and move the through the shadows/ dark spots around them. Cool idea. I'd give the idea definitely over a four star. The story overall is more like a three and a half. I think it's me. I am not into the mafia vibe. There was a pervasive mafia feel to this book I didn't enjoy. The lead character, Stefano seems like a mafia don, a man of infinite power and who is infinitely adored. But he's in a violent world and capable of extreme violence. I think if there was no paranormal elements, this simply would have been a crime romance about made men in Chicago. It was creepy who everyone bowed down to Stefano and his family and was constantly telling Francesca how lucky she was to be the apple of his eye. I think I would want to get the heck out of there. It could be what's going on right now in the country that has me sensitive to a lot of Kool-aid drinking, but that was a turnoff for me.

The other thing that bothered me was so controlling and rough Stefano was with Francesca. Now I can't say he was abusive. But he was very clearly always the one in control and expected Francesca to go along with this. I'm not into that whole aspect in which the hero is uber dominant and the heroine is submissive to him in every aspect of their relationship. Francesca did have a backbone and she was her own person, but I found her too compliant for my tastes.

I was kind of meh about Stefano. He was hot looking, with the black hair and dark blue eyes (which I really like). I dug how the Ferraros always wore three piece suits and look damned good in them. But being rich and hot isn't everything. I mean, he's a good guy and takes care of the family and the folks in his neighborhood. And he doesn't take crap. He puts his enemies down hard. He really lost me when he kept going on about how he needed sex and lots of it, but the women didn't mean anything to him. I can't stand when the hero's sexual past in rubbed in the heroine's face. Francesca kept running into Stefano's vindictive hookups and many excuses were made about how it was a nature of the Shadow Riders, but she was special to him and he adored her. Then the dude has the nerve to think about hunting down Francesca's first and only lover other than him and killing him. What. The. Frell? Nope. Yes, I like a possessive hero, but not when he's been there done that and gets irritated because he isn't the first for the heroine. Double Standard Alarm going off.

Another thing is how raunchy and rough the love scenes have gotten to be in Feehan's books. Very much over the line into erotic. I am not against sex scenes, I just get to the point where it's too much for me. Especially when it's about the hero making all the demands the heroine submitting to him sexually. It doesn't do a thing for me.

I guess there was a good love story. I didn't really connect to that aspect of the book. I was more intrigued with the shadow rider concept and the suspense storyline. Feehan knows how to write a good action and suspense story. I loved the climax. It was on point. When I was about to check out because of all the sex scenes that went on too long, the storyline twisted back to focus on the action and suspense, and I was hooked as before.

This was almost a four star, but the things I complained about above kept it in the 3.5 star range. I really wish Feehan would chill down some of the raunchy love scenes and the must have control in the bedroom aspect. That's getting old. I love a tender lover personally in my romances. If he gets a little wild every now and then, that's cool. But rough 24/7, no thanks. I love the family element and I grew fond of the Ferraro siblings. I'm looking forward to the sister's story with the guy who's in the rival family. My luck, it will probably be the last book in the series. Since it's Feehan and she's like my personal brand of crack, I will read them all.

Fifth Times a Charm

The Bad Luck Bride (The Cavensham Heiresses #1)The Bad Luck Bride by Janna MacGregor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This started out a little slow but I got very involved with this the story. Claire is one of the most tormented heroines I've read in a while, and even though Alex starts out wanting revenge, he's so caring, he won me over.

Historical romance readers should check this one out.

Reviewed for Affaire de Coeur Magazine. http://affairedecoeur.com.


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Kidnapped in the Highlands

My One True Highlander (No Ordinary Hero) - Suzanne Enoch

This was like a nice book vacation to the Scottish Highlands. I like that Marjorie is practical but dreamy and Graeme is a good guy who has dedicated his young life to taking care of family. I personally don't get tired of Scottish books, although I can get bored with Regencies, a little. Nice that this has plenty of the Scottish vibe to give it some pizazz. Plus the kids were a lot of fun.

Reviewed for Affaire de Coeur Magazine. http://affairedecoeur.com.

Ex-Super Hero and Current Misanthrope

Alias, Vol. 1 - Jeph Loeb, Michael Gaydos, Brian Michael Bendis

Basically, if you like the Jessica Jones show on Netflix, you will like this. It even has the same tone. Not much happens. Except the show has more wow, crazy moments than the graphic novel does. Heavy on prose and ironical humor. Jessica herself is impossible not to like, probably because of her flaws. She's cynical, drinks too much, and is a bit of a misanthrope. This is essentially a graphic novel about an ex-superhero turned private investigator who has turned her back on the superhero world, even though it keeps drawing her back in. So there is not a lot of epic battles and such. It's very grounded in everyday. Readers who are looking for a narrative/prose-driven graphic novel that deals with celebrity and the question of what happens afterwards, will appreciate this book.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

Secrets and Small-Town Lies

A Death in the Dales (Kate Shackleton Mysteries) - Frances Brody

The latest in this savvy historical mystery takes Kate to a small town full of dark secrets. A mystery that is also a character(s) study. Worth the read!

Reviewed for Affaire de Coeur Magazine: http://affairedecoeur.com.

Broken Strongman

Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Two Vol. 1 - Tom Taylor, Mike S. Miller, Tom Derenick

Riveting stuff. Superman's rampage continues. He's decided that he needs to rule over mankind so he can keep it safe. Not everyone is down for it, so things come to a head between him and Batman. Heartbreaking, really. Batman will not give up. He's not made that way. Even he will take on a madman with unlimited power. Superman has lost his grip and he's developed a cult of personality around him. Very timely subject matter. Some leaders can do that, and that's when people have to make the truth clear. Even at great cost. Meanwhile, some galactic protectors need to decide if they will get in involved.

Batman is not able to to watch over Gotham (let's leave it at that), so Jim Gordon and his crew take up the mantle, along with the Birds of Prey. They have an asset in their favor to even the odds a little.

I wish I had written this review sooner, but it's so intense and affecting, and I'm not describing it well. Let's just suffice it to say that you can't read these books and be okay afterwards. It's good to be able to say, it's only fiction, and not all the DC books reflect this reality. Let's take this fiction and learn some lessons so we don't repeat these mistakes in real life, okay?

Strange Little Girl

Hopeless, Maine Volume 1: Personal Demons - Tom Brown, Nimue Brown

The artwork in this book was gorgeous, but the storyline feels underdeveloped, probably due to the lack of prose. It's a stylistic choice for the artist, having the male and female characters look so similar. It gives the characters an otherworldly beauty that is rather feminine on the whole. Not a dealbreaker--just interesting to me. I loved the dark Gothic feel. I'll pick up the next volume at my library.

Harley Quinn Vol. 3: Kiss Kiss Bang Stab (New 52) - Chad Hardin, Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti

This is my favorite one in this series. I'm glad I didn't give up. The silliness is tempered out a bit with good storytelling. Harley is much more of a heroic antiheroine instead of a neutral character who has no concept of right and wrong. Also, we get to see her psychiatrist roots in this book. There is still some gross humor, but not as over the top. Loved the Batman/Bruce Wayne storyline and the lesson about you might not want what you thought you did when you actually get it. A lot of good moments and this one actually had a feel good vibe to it. Not helping my Harley Quinn obsession here, folks.

High Spirits

Baron (The Knickerbocker Club) - Joanna Shupe
 

 

This book was good stuff. Dynamic leads with sexy and intense romantic chemistry and vivid history combined into one tasty package. This series is on my radar and tbr list.

Reviewed for Affaire de Coeur Magazine: http://affairedecoeur.com.

Dante's Inferno Redux

Constantine: The Hellblazer Vol. 1: Going Down (John Constantine, Hellblazer) - Riley Rossmo, Ming Doyle

A new Constantine series that feels like old Constantine. Nice. Yeah, it's got the tone and the feel of the older series. By that I mean the cringy, it's the "that's not right" feeling I get when I read old Constantine. They haven't cleaned up this version and made him PC for a "kinder" generation. I didn't like the artwork so much. It's a little squiggly for my tastes. Okay, yes I'll keep reading. It's Constantine.