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review 2016-09-18 05:08
Magic Binds - Ilona Andrews

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PJV Quickie: There is a reason Ilona Andrews has a loyal following – this husband-and-wife team consistently writes action-packed books that hold the reader's attention until the very end. Twisting plot lines and detailed action scenes keep us on the edge of our seat right up to the last line. This is the ninth book in the series and it hasn’t gotten old; the story is still lively and exciting enough to re-read.

 

Review:

It’s finally happening! The event fans have been waiting for - Kate and Curran are getting married! Of course, it wouldn’t be a Kate Daniels book if there were no problems along the way…

 

Saiman has been kidnapped by Kate’s father, but she can’t go save him without starting a war. A Witch Oracle has predicted Curran will die in battle with her father if she marries him, but if she doesn’t go to war, their future child will die a horrible death at her father’s hands. Kate is going to need help with this one, but getting that help might kill her first.

 

As the wedding date draws closer and her quest seems to grow more hopeless, Kate must draw on her inner strength, her friends, and luck to triumph over her fate (and herself) in order to protect those she cares about and save her city.

 

 

~~~~~

 

So.

This book.

 

We knew it was coming – the wedding, the showdown with her father, and Kate getting comfortable in her own skin. It’s almost ironic that a book about Kate binding herself to Curran in matrimony is also a book about Kate discovering herself – both where she comes from and what she wants to be. But, it’s also her love for Curran that helps her stay true to herself. Magic Binds is not only about Kate binding herself to Curran, but also about Kate binding the things she cares about to herself: Curran, her friends (and…other things), and her city.

 

The highlights:

 

  • We get answers so many questions about Kate’s family history and how Roland came to be what/where he is today. Kate may have all other fictional characters beat when it comes to Daddy Issues – Roland’s bent on bringing Kate into the family business…or destroying her. But at the same time his behavior as the father of a bride is surprisingly funny.
  • We learn Christopher’s past and it’s a doozy!
  • Julie is coming into her own and is becoming so much more than just “Kate’s kid”. Her character is becoming more complex and I think there’s going to be a lot of action coming her way.
  • Ghastek and The People are making some big changes. ‘Nuff said.
  • The Pack suffers losses and friendships are damaged. This one hurt.

 

Magic Binds was the perfect title for this book – from being bound to your past, to being bound to those you love, to being bound by your word, the theme of binding ran through the entire story. There were a lot of dark threads in Magic Binds, but there was a lot of humor too – Roman’s comic relief and Kate’s snark kept things from getting too heavy and provided quite a few laughs.

 

I will end with this – if you’re one of those people who like to skip to the last line of the book before you’re finished, don’t. Just…don’t.

 

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review 2016-09-04 17:32
Roman Crazy by Alice Clayton and Nina Bocci
Roman Crazy - Nina Bocci,Alice Clayton

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PJV Quickie: Roman Crazy is going on my Top 10 list of favorite books this year. Relatable characters, funny dialogue, and descriptive writing made this a five-star read. As soon as I finished the last page I wanted to start reading it again.

 

Review:

Avery Bardot was going through the motions in her staid, predictable life, when she caught her husband cheating on her. Deciding things were not going to change unless she makes the changes herself, a spur-of-the-moment decision to join her friend Daisy in Rome should be just what she needs to pick herself up and get on with her life.  What she doesn't expect is to run into Marcello Bianchi, the "semester abroad" fling that she never forgot.

 

Now, as she takes time to discover the beautiful city of Rome, she rediscovers herself and her love of art. And maybe, she re-discovers how wonderful love can be.

 

~~~~~~

 

This is a wonderful second-chance romance but it's so much more than that. I can't say enough wonderful things about Roman Crazy - I really, really enjoyed being "in" this book.  And that's part of what made it so wonderful, I really felt like I was there, with Avery, walking the cobbled streets of Rome, I could almost taste the food and smell the delicious scents.  I've never been to Italy, so I can't say if they got everything right, but the descriptions were full and rich and it took no effort on my part to imagine the scenes.  Roman Crazy gave me an acute case of wanderlust.

 

A lot of times I like a book because of the hunky hero or love interest.  Marcello was a good character, but he wasn't my focus - it was Avery I was cheering for.  I love Avery - she's real, not perfect. She took the easy way out when she was younger and if she hadn't caught her husband cheating may have just kept on being alive, but not living. She jumped on this second chance and I was genuinely cheering on this fictional character.  She made a few missteps along the way but grew into a strong character  who knows what she wants and goes for it.  (Also, I seriously want to hug the authors for the choice she makes near the end).

 

Throughout, Roman Crazy has humor, introspection, passion (both physical and food-related), and holds a steady pace from start to finish.  I had a "book high" for days after reading Roman Crazy and I'm looking forward to reading more books by this author duo.  

 

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review 2016-08-21 21:20
Exiled by Jasinda Wilder
Exiled: A Madame X Novel - Jasinda Wilder

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PJV Quickie:  Madame X was a surprise hit for me last year, and the second book, Exposed, left me waiting excitedly for the final book in the trilogy, Exiled. I want to say it was everything I expected, and while parts of it did have what I'd been hoping for in a conclusion, overall it was predictable and I'm embarrassed to say I skimmed over quite a bit. I guess you could say that I have mixed feelings about Exiled, and as a result, the trilogy as a whole.

 

Review:

The Madame X series has been my guilty pleasure ever since I picked up the first book, Madame X: amnesia, kidnapping, billionaire alpha-hole, illicit goings-on, a potential love triangle,  a  secret past, I loved it all.  So when Exiled was offered for review, I jumped on it - I had to know what was going to happen to Isabel (Madame X) - could Caleb change? Would she pick freedom or the devil she knows?  I had to know!

 

Exiled answered a lot of questions about Caleb's past, and Isabel's past. And while I was grateful for that, I didn't like the way it was told - Caleb told Jakob's story to Isabel, while Isabel's past was in flashbacks. Unfortunately, I found I didn't care for the flashbacks - to the point where I kind of skimmed them.  Most of the interaction between Isabel and Caleb in Exiled is about the past, and that set the pace for their relationship.

 

Logan stayed true to his character from the previous books, wanting to get Isabel away from Caleb and secure her affections for himself.  Which, wow, when I write that it looks pretty shady, which was not the vibe I got from Logan. He was actually almost too good to be true, and maybe that's why I found myself a little frustrated with Logan.

 

While I was happy Isabel was finally getting some personal growth, I felt like she was still wishy-washy about Caleb and after all that had happened I wanted her to choose herself over both men. As the story progressed, I realized that she had switched the "You" from Caleb to Logan, and that made me feel like her character had no sense of herself as an individual person, which made me sad.

 

My main complaint with Exiled was the use of deus ex machina on several plot points: Logan's injury, a pregnancy (insert eyeroll here over THAT whole plot line), the death of Isabel's parents...so much of it was predictable but I knew there would be a great story behind it - but there wasn't. I almost feel like the trilogy could have been pared down to two longer books, because Exiled was too long and rambling.  I don't know how I feel about the trilogy after reading Exiled - I loved the first two books but can I recommend them knowing what happens in the last book? Or recommend that you read the first two and then imagine your own HEA?  I'm on the fence.

 

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review 2016-08-07 17:33
The Angels' Share by J.R. Ward
The Angels' Share: A Bourbon Kings Novel (The Bourbon Kings) - J.R. Ward

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PJV QUICKIE:

J.R. Ward can write the hell out of a story. Seriously. She's taken this awful, horrible family and turned them into tragically sympathetic characters. I didn't know at the end of the first book if she could pull it off, but she did it. And left me wanting more.  

 

Review:

Before I get started, I need to say that if you're new to the series and are expecting one of her Black Dagger Brotherhood stories, this isn’t it. The Bourbon Kings series is a fictional look at the lives of a wealthy Kentucky bourbon family, and this family makes daytime soap operas look like super-happy-fun-hour.  And I loved it.

 

In the first book, The Bourbon Kings, we learn about the Baldwine family and their dysfunctional lives and loves.  At the end of the book, the patriarch of the family has died, leaving everything in chaos - missing funds, illegitimate children, and shady deals topping the list.  We get a sense of the entitlement they've been born into, and they're really just horrible people.  But even as I closed the pages of The Bourbon Kings, I wanted more.  And The Angels' Share delivers exactly what I hoped it would.

 

You know there's a lot going on when an author includes a list of the main characters at the beginning of a book. And usually that's a problem with me because I can never keep everyone straight, but luckily, the story was so interesting and each character is so different that I had no trouble keeping up:

 

The mystery of William Baldwine's death hangs heavy over each character as the local law enforcement are investigating his possible murder.

 

Lane and Lizzie are still going strong and trying to muddle through the mess Lane's father left behind. And every time he thinks he might be getting a handle on things, something else happens.  I'm really enjoying Lane's growth from a spoiled rich kid avoiding reality into a man who is actively trying to save this failing company, but I'm also still frustrated that Lizzie is just a supporting character. I feel like if she was missing from the book it really would't affect anything.  I'm hoping her actions at the end of the book will give her a bigger part in the next installment.

 

Lane's brother Edward is back, and while he is more three-dimensional and interesting in The Angels' Share, I don't know if that's going to last. His romance with the competing Bourbon dynasty's daughter is sweet, but soooo frustrating because neither one seems to be capable of saying "let's do this" and his story has taken an interesting turn.

 

We get to meet the elusive, long-lost brother, Max, but again, we are left hanging because we learn absolutely nothing about where he's been or what he's been up to.

 

Gin, the only daughter in the Baldwine family, was very unlikable in The Bourbon Kings, but I think her character arc matches Lane's for most personal growth.   She is one of the characters I'm most looking forward to reading more - she's in a terrible relationship, has hit rock bottom, and she's starting to realize that she's responsible for her own actions.  Of course, you can't read Gin's story without Samuel T., Lane's attorney and best friend. Gin and Samuel have this antagonistic relationship that could be beautiful. But probably won't. But oh gawd I hope it will.

 

Mack, the master distiller, has a secret that could save Bradford Bourbon, but he's got to have the supplies available to make the bourbon, which is hard to do when the company is bankrupt.

 

And, some new characters are introduced that may or may not have a big part in the next book - I can't decide and Ward keeps me guessing, but I think I like them :)

 

If it sounds like The Angels' Share is all over the place, it's not really. The story line moves forward steadily but jumps around enough to keep the reader's attention throughout. Ward's signature over-the-top writing is unmistakable in The Angels' Share, and the salacious 80's nighttime soap opera feel is still present.  I know a lot of people thought that this would be "Edward's book" and that's not what happened here - Lane is still the main focus but Edward does get more page time in The Angels' Share, if that's any consolation.  I personally like the way the story is being told because I don't feel like Lane's story is done yet.  I'm looking forward to the next installment in this fantastically excessive series.

 

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review 2016-07-24 22:29
Cream of the Crop by Alice Clayton
Cream of the Crop (The Hudson Valley Series Book 2) - Alice Clayton

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PJV Quickie: I love Alice Clayton's funny, sexy writing style and that style shines in Cream of the Crop.  I really enjoyed this "city girl meets country boy" romance!  

 

Natalie Grayson lives and loves life in Manhattan - she's a city girl through and through. As an ad executive, she stays busy and in her off time she dates, eats, and enjoys life.  When she gets the chance to work on an ad campaign for a nearby town upstate, she jumps on it - her best friend lives there, and so does the hot brie guy at the local farmer's market.

 

Oscar Mendoza owns Bailey Falls Creamery, and he's definitely noticed the buxom beauty that sashays across the farmer's market every Saturday morning. The last thing he expects though, is to find her at his farm in Bailey Falls, terrifying his cows.

 

Sparks fly immediately, but can the heat survive their different lifestyles, an ever-present ex-wife, and hurts from past relationships?

 

~~~~~

 

Usually, when I read a romance novel, I fall in love with the hero and enjoy the heroine.  I think in this case, I've fallen in love with the heroine and enjoyed the hero.  In the character of Natalie, Alice Clayton has written someone that I really liked reading - her past as an overweight female, her feelings of not being good enough, are relatable. The fact that she was able to overcome a bad situation and turn it around to become as successful and confident as she is ranks her right up there with all the "kick ass" heroines in my book.  For me, Oscar wasn't really the focal point in the story, which is kind of a change for me.  I liked him, I was frustrated by him, but most of my attention was focused on Natalie.  I will say that Natalie and Oscar had a hot, sweaty, dirty sexy relationship, but the sweet didn't come in until near the end, and it was worth the wait.

 

This is the second book in the series but I think it works well as a stand-alone.  I was happy to see characters from the first book, Nuts, and I do recommend you read Nuts if you love funny sexy reads, but if you somehow obtained a copy of Cream of the Crop without reading Nuts you'll be fine.

 

Lastly...Darn you Alice Clayton - this is the second time you've made me want to pack up all my stuff and move to a small town in New York!  I'm afraid that after reading the next book I may actually rent a U-haul!  

 

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