Review: The Awakening by Amanda Stevens

Reviewed by Jen

Amanda Stevens definitely knows how to draw readers into a story. Her writing creates such a sensory experience that I always feel like I am there, living the events with her characters.

This is the final book in her Graveyard Queen series, and it definitely feels like a finale. We are back home in Charleston with Amelia, where she is working on a grave restoration which introduces her to another dark mystery involving a ghost. This one is a child and somehow Amelia feels a personal connection to the little girl. Her new mission is to figure out how the child died and how to help her find peace. [Read more…]

Review: How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days by Kerrelyn Sparks

Reviewed by Jen

I was really excited about the premise for this book. I am a sucker for a tortured hero and Leo is described as the Beast of Benwick. He carries the power of lightning, but that means he is a danger to anyone around him. He cannot touch anyone. And no one can touch him. Except maybe the heroine. How delicious does that sound?

The leading lady is Luciana. She is one of the Embraced, people born on a specific day when the moons are aligned and as a result have special powers. Hers is the ability to see ghosts. Anyway, she has been raised in a convent away from her family thinking she was an orphan her whole life. Until her father shows up to let her know her twin sister is dead and she must now impersonate her and marry the beast or else her father’s life is forfeit. [Read more…]

Review: Emma’s Dance by Leslie Hachtel

emmas-danceReviewed by Ronelle

After his ardent pursuit of her, Emma of Ashford has allowed her heart to thaw and finally agreed to marry Lord Alan Fallsworth. What should be the happiest day of their lives is utterly ruined when a woman claiming to be Alan’s childhood betrothed appears to halt the ceremony. When she was six years old, Lady Carlyn was believed drowned in a horrific accident that killed her mother and left her father irrevocably damaged. But she is apparently alive and well and determined to claim her rights.

Is she truly the woman she claims to be? Emma and Alan think not and they are determined to prove her false before Alan’s father can force the union. Can they accomplish such a daunting feat in time and, more ominously, can they trust the spirit who makes itself known only to Emma?

***

This started out so strong; a wedding interrupted in a very dramatic fashion, the ghostly voice of a child accompanied by the smell of roses, and a heroine determined to get her man no matter the cost. I was hooked immediately and couldn’t turn the pages fast enough! I liked Alan—he was honorable and unwavering in his affections from the jump—and Bryce was sweet and supportive. And it never hurts to add a giant, lovable dog to the cast of characters.

Unfortunately, as the novel unraveled, it started to sag a bit under the weight of seemingly unnecessary exposition and repetitive phrasing. Continually reminding the reader of the same events—such as Emma disliking Bryce when first they met and Emma’s feelings about her father—felt like filler. I wish that page space had been devoted to some kind of action that moved the plot along. There were a few interesting threads that the author seemed to abandon and that was both disappointing and frustrating.

Strong characters are the make-or-break for me in a novel, and Emma’s Dance fell a bit short in this area. Emma herself started to grate on my nerves after awhile. She had the potential to be such a complex character, but overall, I found her less-than-bright and somewhat one-dimensional. She had no ideas of her own, all her plans were prompted by others (usually Bryce or the ghost), and she didn’t always have the most urgent sense of follow-through. I found that I didn’t really blame the child ghost for getting frustrated with her at times; she tended to be a little slow on the uptake and needed to have most things spelled out for her. She’s fickle, too. It didn’t take much to take her from pledging her devotion, patience, and faith in Alan to anger and disbelief in his feelings for her and his motivations. She was easily swayed from one extreme to another and, I’m guessing, the author was using the conflict her vacillating caused to try and ramp up the tension. It worked the first time or two, but the repetitiveness eventually sapped the effectiveness of that tactic.

I found the reveal of the villains to be a little… anticlimactic, and I was so mad when one of them succumbed to the Evil Gloating trope. Why must they reveal their plan to the hero/heroine before leaving them in some wet-paper-bag scenario with the plan to kill them later? (Just once, I’d love to see them keep their mouths shut prior to actually killing an adversary!) Every villain I’ve ever seen or read who does this is inevitably ousted by the escaped protagonist just in the nick of time and Emma’s Dance is no different. I almost put the book down in disgust at that point, but it was close enough to the end that I just went ahead and finished it. I’m glad I did. Although the resolution was predictable, the fake Carlyn was enough of a bitch that I didn’t mind seeing her get what was coming to her.

There are a handful of minor characters in Emma’s Dance that I initially shrugged off as tangential filler, but by the end, I began to suspect that they were being set up for their own stories. If so, I’m intrigued to see where Ms. Hachtel will go with them. As little as we saw of her, I still liked Margaret a great deal and the choices she makes to bring excitement to her life are intriguing. And Lord Seth sound almost edible!
On a more minor note: There are some editorial issues (occasionally inconsistent tense, missing articles, etc) that became more and more distracting as my interest started to wan. Emma’s Dance could use another quick run-through to weed those out.

Bottom line: I have mixed feelings on this one. It wasn’t as exhilarating as I’d hoped, but it was a pretty good read overall. The unique combination of historical romance and paranormal was interesting and I want to know what happens to Margaret and the Mcfarlanes!

Rating: B-/C+

Click to purchase: Amazon

Emma’s Dance
by Leslie Hachtel
Release Date: July 21, 2016

Review: Otherworld Chills by Kelly Armstrong

otherworld-chillsReviewed by Jen

Kelly Armstrong takes us back to the Otherworld for one more anthology featuring the characters we have grown to love. Many of these shorts have been previously published, but not all.  And several are set after the events of the final novel.

Brazen – This is a Nick novella set after 13. And I really enjoyed it. Here, Nick is on the hunt for Malcolm. He’s hired a team of supernatural mercenaries to help him with the job. But one of the agents gets too close and ends up on the wrong side of Malcolm’s muzzle. Nick has to team up with a member of merc unit to find the missing agent and continue the hunt for his former alpha. [Read more…]

Review: The Sinner by Amanda Stevens

sinnerReviewed by Jen

If you’re in the mood for a dark and lush gothic series, you need to try the Graveyard Queen book. Each one of these stories pulls you in deeper than the last, and I think this installment is the creepiest one yet.

It’s been an entire year since the events of the last book, which is a kick in the teeth to anyone hoping for some John and Amelia loving. He walked away from her at the end of The Visitor and apparently, he’s never looked back. Now, Amelia is working on a restoration out of town, trying to keep him out of her mind. She’s failing miserably. [Read more…]

Review: Rock N Soul by Lauren Sattersby

rock n soulReview by Janell

A while back, I reviewed an asexual male/male romance. What could possibly compete with that? A male/male bellboy plus a rock star GHOST! That’s right. A real, live — I mean dead — ghost. Unfortunately there was no Patrick Swayze-type ghostly possession, but the characters do their best with what they have. [Read more…]

Review: The Visitor by Amanda Stevens

visitorReviewed by Jen

They say good things come to those who wait. Well, it feels like I’ve been waiting forever for this fourth installment of the Graveyard Queen series. But it was worth it. This book was deliciously creepy. It had the same dark tone as the first three stories, but it felt like a new beginning. The characters I know and love are back, but their lives are turning a corner as a new series arc begins.

The mystery of Devlin’s haunting is put to bed, but only to make room for Amelia to become haunted herself. This ghost –who looks just like her– opens the door for Amelia to delve into her own past and family history. It uncovers more questions with every new answer she finds. And while this is a very Amelia-centric book, the drama with Devlin isn’t over. Only now, instead of the threat coming from his dead wife, it’s about his very-much alive grandfather and family legacy. [Read more…]

Guest Review: Spirit Legacy by E. E. Holmes

spirit legacyReviewed by Joanna

This is the first in a trilogy of supernatural novels about a young woman and her awakening to the ghostly world she had no idea she was a part of.

At the beginning of the book, our protagonist, Jess Ballard, is on her way to live with her aunt after losing her mother to apparent suicide. Jess’s life before that had been one of constant shift, with her alcoholic mother moving them from state to state with no real place they called home for long. Later in the book, much later, we learn why the mother had such little staying power and also the truth of why she died. [Read more…]

Review: City of Light by Keri Arthur

city of lightReviewed by Jen

Keri Arthur knows how to create an interesting world. Every series I have read from her has had a unique feel and this first installment of her Outcast books does not disappoint. It’s a fascinating blend of vampires, shifters, ghosts and magic in a world ravaged by war and temporal rifts.  The elements may not sound all that unusual, but this isn’t so much Urban Fantasy as a paranormal/sci-fi/ futuristic journey, led by an unlikely heroine, starved for contact with the living. [Read more…]

Review: Up From the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

up from the graveReviewed by Jen

I can’t imagine that any fan of the Night Huntress series is going to be disappointed by this series finale.  Up From the Grave is jam-packed with everything fans could want from a farewell.  All the main characters are back and have a hand in the story.  All the loose ends are tied up.  It’s a fast-paced, action packed story with at least one shocking twist.  The love between Cat and Bones is deep and abiding.  And the ending provides the kind of happily ever after that wraps up everything in a nice shiny bow. [Read more…]