Synopsis from Goodreads: As Charlotte steps through the gate, she has a strong feeling that nothing will ever be the same again.
Moving back to South Carolina after three years away, Charlotte knows she’s going to have to face people from her past and adjust to a new high school, but she’s completely unprepared for what else waits for her in Charleston.
Drawn through an old garden gate, Charlotte discovers a hidden world where she meets Calvin, a boy to whom she is inexplicably attracted. As Charlotte is pulled deeper into this hidden world, it’s up to her older brother Kevin to rescue her. No matter how hard Kevin tries, the rescue depends upon Charlotte fighting her intense feelings for Calvin while mastering a set of abilities that she has only just discovered she possesses.
Source: Author for a fair and honest review
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: After three years in Alaska, Charlotte Calloway and her older brother Kevin are moving back to their ancestral home in Charleston. As usual, Kevin is relaxed and ready for the adventure while Charlotte, ever the social recluse, is anxious and uncertain. You see, despite her brother’s best efforts and intentions Charlotte has never quite felt that she belongs anywhere. Things are about to change in Charlotte and Kevin’s world. And so, the real story begins . . . .
While Kevin begins to fall seamlessly back into life in Charleston with school, basketball, and friends, Charlotte struggles. Being back in Charleston brings back a flood of memories for Charlotte especially those related to her dead mother. Solace is found in the one place her mother loved beyond all others, the lush and verdant garden behind the family home. Growing up, Charlotte loved the garden as much as her mother but was always warned to never, ever go through the iron gate at the back of property. Mother’s warning had always been headed until one night Charlotte notices a bright light near the gate and in an instant Charlotte’s decision is made and her life is irrevocably changed forever.
Beyond the boundary of the gate is Energo, quite literally a whole new world that Charlotte neither understands nor completely believes. That is, until she meets Calvin, her one true mate and the man destined to walk by her side for all eternity. What?? Let’s add to this the fact that while in Energo Charlotte also discovers she is a very precious and powerful entity that is coveted by all. Holy cats! In a heartbeat, Charlotte goes from being a socially awkward teenager to finding her soul mate and discovering some immensely powerful (and nifty) new talents. Whew! No wonder her mother warned her never to go through that gate! For a short time, the secret of Calvin and Energo is all Charlotte’s and she is blissfully happy with this arrangement. And then she is kidnapped.
Well crap! From this moment on the family secrets begin to spill out all over the place and Charlotte’s safety and rescue becomes the ultimate priority for Kevin, his best friend Liam, and the kid’s uncle, Monty. The rescue party launches itself into Energo with the sole purpose of rescuing Charlotte. The problems? 1) How do you separate a young girl from her soul mate? 2) How do a handful of people breach the walls of a virtually impenetrable castle? and 3) What if Charlotte doesn’t want to leave? From the moment the rescuers enter Energo the story unfolds at a lightning pace. Action is mixed beautifully with background information, each major character really begins to develop, and the ride is worth it! Ivy’s writing style is smooth and easy, the plot flows, and the action and limited romance are absolutely appropriate.
The bottom line: this first part of the Afterglow Trilogy is a fantastic young adult read. The story is gripping, the characters are relatable, and the cliff hanger is tantalizing. I am certain I will be diving into book two, Perilous Light, at the earliest available moment!
Synopsis from Goodreads: To protect those she loves from herself, Jax will leave them all behind. She’ll risk everything in a desperate search for answers.
Jax Pherson fled the darkest of covens and from her own father’s evil. For a brief moment, her courage was rewarded. She found everything she’d ever wanted. A normal life. An amazing boyfriend. An envy-worthy best friend .
But her past put them all in danger, forcing a confrontation with the dark covens. In a life-and-death battle to save those she loved from the covens, Jax gained staggering power. Power so intense, so dangerous, she fears the darkness that now dwells inside her like a living thing.
If she can’t control the power, she may yet become as evil as the witches she conquered.
With her friend Egan, Jax leaves all she’s built and heads for the one place that might hold the answers she desperately needs to hold back the darkness-Salem, Massachusetts. Her research unearths a shocking discovery: the Bane, a secret group of witches dedicated to thwarting the covens.
Jax desperately needs their help in her fight against the covens, but finding the Bane is easier said than done and takes all her skills and courage. As Jax gets closer, her dark powers begin to rise and control her actions. If she succumbs to the darkness, Jax may have as much to fear from the Bane as the evil covens and the determined hunter on her trail.
My Rating: 4½/5 stars
My Review: Holy crap, Batman! Bane is the second book in Trish Milburn’s Coven series and just like book one, my socks have been rocked! Bane picks up precisely where White Witch ended with Jax and Egan having arrived in Salem after skipping out on Keller and Toni in Baker Gap, North Carolina. Yes, it’s as craptastic as it sounds L
Jax and Egan have landed in Salem with a highly specific and rather terrifying agenda: find out what got into Jax at Shiprock, research the possibility of white witches actually existing and, find the key to taking down the covens. Mind you, the dynamic duo has to accomplish all of this without using any of their own powers and being completely separated from the two people they love most.
Jax and Egan seem to think they are completely under the radar that is, until they discover how odd a town Salem actually is. Jax keeps shaking off the feeling she and Egan are being watched because she can’t actually sense the presence of any witches. That is until she encounters Rule Latimer and his grandmother, Fiona Day. After a rather rocky introduction everyone begins to understand they are all on the same side and have frighteningly similar goals. Once Jax and Egan join forces with Fiona and Rule the real research and work gets started.
Here’s the short list of precisely what rocked my socks:
*the relationship between Jax and Fiona: Fiona is such a strong, wise and no-nonsense woman with a lot of experience and knowledge where witches and witch history is concerned. Fiona is good for Jax and helps her understand her powers and her place within the context of the coming fight
*Keller and Toni’s return: You know they had to show up; stop snorting like I just unloaded a spoiler on you! The reappearance of these two is absolutely necessary to the development of the plot and Jax and Egan’s sanity but their reappearance also creates a whole host of new problems.
*The backstory: I am a big, big, big fan of backstories and histories and this book is full of both. The research the group is doing is how Milburn weaves the backstory and histories of Salem, the original families, the covens, and the Bane (the who?) into the contemporary plot. The information is not only really interesting but it also infuses each of the characters and the plot with a greater sense of depth and dimension.
*The fan-crappin’-tastic cliffhanger!! Even with all the backstory and history Milburn still finds time to squeeze in plenty of heart-pounding action. Believe me when I tell you she has cooked up one hell of an ending that will leave you wondering where the hell that came from. So. Totally. Worth. It.
Synopsis from Goodreads: On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art today worth over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It remains the largest unsolved art heist in history, and Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye.
Making a living reproducing famous artworks for a popular online retailer and desperate to improve her situation, Claire is lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting—a Degas masterpiece stolen from the Gardner Museum—in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when that very same long-missing Degas painting is delivered to Claire’s studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery.
Her desperate search for the truth leads Claire into a labyrinth of deceit where secrets hidden since the late nineteenth century may be the only evidence that can now save her life
My Rating: 5/5 stars
My Review: It takes a rich imagination indeed to make a story like the real-life and still unsolved theft of $500 million worth of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston more interesting. Congratulations B.A. Shapiro, you have done just that and what a fantastic imagination you have!
Claire Roth was, just three short years ago a graduate student with a promising career as a painter in her future. Thanks to one significant and utterly disastrous decision Claire’s bright future and budding reputation are derailed simultaneously leaving her known in the art world as The Great Pretender and her former professor (and lover) dead. Claire now spends her days diligently and expertly copying famous works of art for an on-line retailer and having little to no hope of making a new name for herself on the strength of her own paintings. And then one day the strikingly handsome and incredibly prominent art dealer and gallery owner, Aiden Markel shows up on Claire’s doorstep with a proposition. The proposition is both elegant and simple: copy one of the paintings long-thought lost in the Gardner Museum heist, make a ton of money, and earn yourself a one-woman show in Markel’s gallery. Markel’s delivery is so smooth and confident and Claire is, quite frankly so desperate, that she makes yet another significant and disastrous decision. The money is just too good to pass up, the one-woman show is an unexpected and once unfathomable opportunity and, according to Markel there is no way the dirty deed can be traced back to either one of them.
From the moment the painting Claire is to copy arrives in her apartment she has some serious doubts about its authenticity. Given the sketchy nature of her job Claire chooses to keep those doubts to herself and sets to work copying the work of the great 19th century Impressionist master, Degas. This section of the book is one of its great strengths with fascinating background information about known and very successful forgers, the process by which one forges or copies a great master, and how the “original” work Claire is copying came be a part of Belle Gardner’s private collection. Shapiro flawlessly mixes fact and fiction to create a wonderfully detailed backstory involving Belle Gardner, Degas, and the building of one of the U.S.’s most important collections of art. Shapiro is very careful not to overdue the technical elements of the forging process so the story will appeal to a wide range of readers and not just those with a background in art and art history.
As Claire works we learn more about her past and how she came to be known as the Great Pretender. Claire’s sad past elicits sympathy from the reader but also feeling of frustration as you see her walking into the same trap she found herself in previously. Again, Claire stupidly falls for the charms of an older man who has promised her things he just can’t deliver. And this, dear reader is where the story really, really gets good. Of course you know the entire scheme unravels and Claire’s only hope of saving herself and Aiden is to prove, beyond all doubt, that the “original” Degas she copied was in fact a forgery as well. Claire’s quest to prove the “original” Degas is a forgery leads to her having to reveal her role in the scheme as well as proving she copied to work by doing the whole thing again in front of a group of experts. This is by far the fastest-paced section of the novel and it brings the past and present together in a delightfully interesting way. All of the secrets, all of the schemes, and all of the plots come to light and not all is well in the end.
The bottom line: this is a fantastically well-written bit of art historical fiction that I had a very, very hard time putting down once I got into the story. Getting into the story took about four pages, by the way. Both Claire and Belle’s respective pasts are intriguing and certainly inform the plot, the real forging information is fascinating and the drama of the plot will keep you from putting the book down. I love that Shapiro is willing to sacrifice the happiness of some her characters in favor of the overall plot and how her writing style is reminiscent of one of my favorite authors, Susan Vreeland. Shapiro is in no way a forgery (HA!) of Vreeland but a fine contemporary writing in the same vein. This novel will certainly appeal to lovers of mystery (the heist), art and art history as well as those interested in finely crafted and fast-paced reads.
Synopsis from Amazon: An ancient and malevolent female immortal is rising in Manhattan to reclaim her son, the archangel Raphael. Only one thing stands in her way: Elena Deveraux, a vampire-hunter-and Raphael’s lover.
My Rating: 5/5 stars
My Review: Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series is one that I truly wish I had not discovered until the entire thing was complete and there was no hope of more new books being added, ever! I WANT MORE, NOW!!! Archangel’s Consort is the third installment of this on-going series and after finishing it in record time, I have discovered that my natural lack of patience has become even more pronounced. The major plot line in Archangel’s Consort is Singh’s version of Mommy Dearest. Reports of foul weather and acts of extreme aggression among members of the Cadre lead Raphael and Elena to believe that an ancient is waking. Turns out, that ancient is Raphael’s ridiculously old and viciously cruel mother, Caliane. Major plot line number two: Raphael and Elena have returned to New York from the Refuge and are immediately bombarded with reports of vampires breaking their contracts and committing heinous crimes. As archangel of New York, Raphael must contain and control this situation before it gets out of hand. With the help of his consort and the usual cast of minor characters, Raphael begins to restore order to his territory.
Generally speaking a reader keeps returning to a series because of the main characters. That is not the case with this book or this series. Raphael and Elena are certainly intriguing figures and Singh has continued to develop those characters but the real beauty of the book lies in the cast of minor characters. There is not a single minor and/or supporting character in Archangel’s Consort that I do not want to know more about, NOW!! Singh cleverly ensnares us (and ensures we will come back for more) by dumping chunks of information about these characters on us. Not tidbits, not small nuggets of information but huge honking chunks of information! However, and this is where Singh’s evil genius comes into play, she never tells us the whole story about any of the supporting cast. Now my lack of patience makes more sense, right? Here’s what I want to know: why is Illium (aka Bluebell) so nervous about the presence of his mother; will Elena’s half-sister really be allowed to develop her burgeoning hunter skills; what happened to Dmitri to make him so fiercely loyal to Raphael; why doesn’t Aodhan liked to be touched and why is his move to New York such a big deal; and finally, why is Venom so creepy yet disturbingly likeable?
The way Singh presents information to the reader is remarkably clever and opens up so many possibilities for future novels. Archangel’s Consort clearly establishes one thing: Singh is in no way close to being done with these characters.
She has developed so many characters and potential plot lines that the Guild Hunter series could realistically continue for years and years to come. Thank goodness for that because I am apparently going to continue to be sweetly addicted to this series and this author.
Synopsis from Goodreads: The severed head marked by a distinctive tattoo on its cheek should have been a Guild case, but dark instincts honed over hundreds of years of life compel the vampire Dmitri to take control. There is something twisted about this death, something that whispers of centuries long past…but Dmitri’s need to discover the truth is nothing to the vicious strength of his response to the hunter assigned to decipher the tattoo.
Savaged in a brutal attack that almost killed her, Honor is nowhere near ready to come face to face with the seductive vampire who is an archangel’s right hand, and who wears his cruelty as boldly as his lethal sensuality…the same vampire who has been her secret obsession since the day she was old enough to understand the inexplicable, violent emotions he aroused in her.
As desire turns into a dangerous compulsion that might destroy them both, it becomes clear the past will not stay buried. Something is hunting…and it will not stop until it brings a blood-soaked nightmare to life once more…
My Rating: 5/5 stars
My Review: Bloody Hell! Nalini Singh’s Archangel series just keeps getting better and better with each addition. Archangel’s Blade is the fourth full-length novel in this series and is the first that doesn’t focus almost exclusively on Elena and Raphael. Archangel’s Blade is the story of Dmitri, and man is it a good one.
I feel pretty safe in saying that most readers have, to this point, likely found Dmitri to be totally creepy, seriously lethal, absolutely intriguing, and disturbingly sexy. None of these qualities change in this novel but we are given a glimpse into Dmitri’s world and particularly his past that helps the reader better understand his personality. Dmitri’s past spans a bit more than a thousand years and to say that that past is bloody is putting it mildly. We learn that Dmitri honed his skills as a warrior as a result of his abuse at the hands of Isis; he carries a torch for his long-dead wife, Ingrede; and his loyalty to Raphael runs deeper than anyone ever suspected.
And then there is Honor St. Nicholas, the totally damaged Guild Hunter whose first mission following her abduction and abuse at the hands of a gang of demented vampires is with Dmitri. Man, did she draw the short straw, or what? The problem however is much more complicated than simply dealing with Dmitri’s vampirism. The larger issues are: 1) Honor is still flashing back to her time in captivity which makes her a bit twitchy and somewhat lethal; 2) she and Dmitri are trying to track down a sadistic killer who is taunting Dmitri with memories from his past and; 3) that both Dmitri and Honor are ridiculously attracted to one another.
Here’s what I liked about this book: freakin’ everything!! Once again, the plot not only unfolds but deepens leaving the reader with a ton of questions about what’s going to come next. And we know there is going to be a next. The characters, all of them not just Dmitri and Honor, evolve as the story goes on but remain true to their basic natures – an absolute strength for this series. As for the secondary characters, well, Singh once again manages to dangle just enough information to make the reader crave more. For example, there’s Venom who is still remarkably creepy but evidently has a soft spot for Sorrow (nee Holly), Illium is still dangerously far too interested in humans, and Ashwini has become a more prominent player. With all this being said, Singh doesn’t ignore the older more established characters like Elena and Raphael; they are still very much a part of this series even when they are not center stage. Singh’s willingness to move established and beloved characters like Elena and Raphael to a secondary position is a risk but one that she makes work each and every time. As a dedicated reader of this series I find the risk to be worth it as it allows more time and pages for the development of other characters.
Bottom line: Singh changed my mind about Dmitri; I always thought he was a dangerously sexy but didn’t really care for his attitude. After this book, I’m good with Dmitri and looking forward to seeing how his character will further evolve in future novels. As for Honor, she has nowhere to go but up and with Dmitri at her side, they may be damn near unstoppable as a team. The long-term plot line has far-reaching possibilities and has yet to become even remotely close to stale. I have yet to feel frustrated or cranky over an Archangel novel’s ending because I know, without doubt, that Singh is going to trot out something equally as good within the next year.
Synopsis from Goodreads: Northumberland, 1815
At long last, Britain is at peace, and General Jack Armstrong is coming home to the wife he barely knows. Wed for mutual convenience, their union unconsummated, the couple has exchanged only cold, dutiful letters. With no more wars to fight, Jack is ready to attempt a peace treaty of his own.
Elizabeth Armstrong is on the warpath. She never expected fidelity from the husband she knew for only a week, but his scandalous exploits have made her the object of pity for years. Now that he’s back, she has no intention of sharing her bed with him—or providing him with an heir—unless he can earn her forgiveness. No matter what feelings he ignites within her…
Jack is not expecting a spirited, confident woman in place of the meek girl he left behind. As his desire intensifies, he wants much more than a marriage in name only. But winning his wife’s love may be the greatest battle he’s faced yet.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: General Jack Armstrong’s life is planned; he will live and die as a member of the military and there will be no one to get in his way. If only the universe had been aware of Jack’s plans then he wouldn’t find himself returning home to a woman he hasn’t seen in five years and only married as a means of fulfilling a death-bed promise made to his best friend. Elizabeth Armstrong never thought she would find herself married, widowed, married again, and the mistress of a large farm all within two weeks’ time. Yet here she is the widow of a man she dearly loved, the new wife of a man who not only doesn’t want her or the marriage but is leaving for a long campaign in Canada at the behest of the British military. Oh, and she knows virtually nothing about running a farm that specializes in fine horses. Though Elizabeth is not happy with her situation she is bound and determined to make the most of her lot and life.
For five years Jack and Elizabeth exchange polite letters all the while living totally separate lives – a fact which will most assuredly come back to bite Jack quite firmly on the butt and absolutely enrage Elizabeth. Despite his feelings about marriage and Elizabeth, when Jack returns to England he finds Elizabeth to be strong, confident, capable, and attractive – the complete opposite of the woman he left behind. Elizabeth’s appearance and attitude are more than enough to entice Jack and he finds himself more than eager to finally consummate his marriage. As Jack quickly discovers, his wife not only knows about his extracurricular activities but is quite prepared to kick his ass to the curb if he can’t find a way to make matters right.
The bottom line: I truly enjoyed this novel and reading about the path Jack and Elizabeth travel to find one another. As you might expect the path is neither smooth nor easy but it is one the two must travel in order to find one another and make a go of their marriage. While there are no great surprises as far as the plot is concerned, the novel is full of interesting characters, good dialogue, richly described environments, and a fair amount of naughty bits which certainly spice up the read. I found An Infamous Marriage quite easy to become absorbed in and easy to get through. I would certainly recommend this adult read to lovers of period pieces and romances.
Synopsis from Goodreads: Abigail Shelton is dead.
Spring Valley’s golden girl is found floating face-down in her boyfriend’s pool, hands bound behind her back, head bleeding, drugs and alcohol in her system. Her friends are the only suspects – and they all have reasons to want her dead. Everyone has an alibi, but no one is innocent.
ALIBI is a 4-part young adult e-book series. Each one-hundred page installment reveals the perspective of a different character: the secret love, the nemesis, the boyfriend, the best friend. As their tales unfold, we learn that Abby is not as perfect as everyone believes, but she’s not the only one with secrets to hide. This page-turning tale of suspense, betrayal, murder, and lust will keep fans of Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars up and reading well past curfew.
Source: Authors for a fair and honest review
My Rating: 4½ stars/5 stars
My Review: When I read the synopsis for Alibi (a four novellas into a single novel) I, quite frankly, just wanted to see if multiple authors could synthesize their unique voices into a cohesive story. Not only have the authors brought their voices together they have also pulled together a fantastic story full of lust, betrayal and murder, and all while navigating the treacherous waters of high school.
Each of Alibi’s four novellas tells the same story from a different character’s point of view and while this may sound repetitious, and in some places it is, it actually gives the reader a new and different look at the plot as well as more information about the character telling the story. Each novella is the same story but enhanced and more fully developed by the particular character’s backstory and how he or she came to be involved in the overall plot. The entire plot is quite the doosy as it revolves around the death of Abby, a bitch I can’t drum up even a little bit of sympathy for even when she is found dead! Abby has two distinct sides. There is the public persona who is emotional, lovingly devoted to her boyfriend, and a good student with a bright future ahead of her. Then, there is the other Abby, the one who is manipulative, deceptive, and only ever out for herself and her own gain. Despite her wretchedness, Abby is a sort of magnet who attracts nearly everyone to her and that is exactly how the other major characters have come to be so intimately involved in her death.
Here’s the breakdown:
Charles: ah, a hot boy with an accent; does it get any better? Charles lives with his cousin’s family after having been forced to leave his home following an unfortunate event involving his beloved sister. Charles is friendly and kind and though a bit of a man-whore, you still like him and hope he can come through all of the madness surrounding him unscathed.
Palmer: tall, beautiful, smart, and bound and determined not to turn out like her mother. Palmer is driven by her desire to get out of her hometown and graduate from an Ivy League school. While Palmer is generally very focused on her goals she doesn’t count on her strong attraction to Charles and the newly revealed secret regarding the identity of her biological father. The secret and the attraction to Charles cause the usually intelligent Palmer to make some stupid decisions that impact nearly everyone in this twisted little tale.
Ace: Charles’ cousin and Abby’s boyfriend who has always sought yet never achieved the respect of his father. This may be because this poor, pathetic kid takes dumb and pretty to a whole new level. Ace’s insecurities where his body, mind and talents are concerned cause him to make even more stupid decisions than any other character in the novel. Between the drugs, the alcohol, and the general stupidity I’m not quite sure how this boy’s last four brain cells make it through each and every day. Add to all of this is random hook-ups with someone other than Abby and you have a recipe for disaster far too stupid to figure out what he has gotten himself into.
Rowan: Holy balls this chick is serial-killer-in-the-making scary!! Rowan is a scrawny, completely unattractive, generally unnoticed super-nerd who is somehow best friends with Abby. Rowan counts on everyone not noticing her because it allows her to plot, scheme, and manipulate both people and events. Rowan is so detached from all emotion that she actually sees everyone around her as pieces on a chess board rather than human beings. Sadly, this detachment extends to Rowan’s own body which, to her, is merely another tool in her arsenal to be used as a manipulation device. As far as Rowan is concerned each and every one of the other characters has wronged her in some ways and her plots and plans are her vengeance as well as her vindication.
The bottom line: The one thing keeping me from adding the last half star to my review is the very adult nature of this book; these are teenagers acting like adults and in many instances their actions were more than a bit disturbing when you consider their age. Overall, I liked this book alot (disturbing moments excluded J) and found it very difficult to put down once I started reading. The plot becomes more fully developed and complicated as each character tells his or her story. I really enjoyed each character’s perspective, backstory, and how he/she acted and reacted to the others around them. These actions and interactions amp up the drama and the suspense as you hurtle toward Abby’s inevitable death. Despite knowing who “did it” pretty early on I was ridiculously surprised by how the story actually ends. There is no discernable difference between each of the author’s voices so each novella feels like another chapter in a book rather than a completely new section written by a different person. This is a distinct advantage causing the four novellas to feel like a harmonious whole.