Review: Wicked Abyss (Immortals After Dark, #18), by Kresley Cole

Wicked Abyss (Immortals After Dark, #18)Wicked Abyss by Kresley Cole
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The ‘Immortals After Dark’ series is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. The over-the-top Alphas that fill this supernatural world are perfect, in a very primal sort of way. Kresley Cole knows exactly how to hit the spot when creating this type of male. I know I should be appalled by their obsessive and controlling caveman antics, but I just can’t help myself.

I have listened to the Audible edition of all of the books in this series, except for ‘A Hunger Like No Other’. Despite the fact that I usually prefer to avoid explicit erotica selections in this format, it has always seemed to work for me with this series. Usually, I find it kind of creepy to have the narrators bringing intimate sexual acts to life as I’m sitting in traffic.

For some reason, that has never bothered me with this series. This probably has something to do with the fact that the series is already ridiculous in many ways, so having the narrator grunt and groan so animatedly doesn’t really detract from this series in any way. Just know that you will laugh out loud if you choose to listen to this series. Again, it definitely falls in the “guilty pleasure” category for me. You will get some strange, and amused, looks in traffic if you roll down your windows. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

That being said, I didn’t find myself enjoying this story as much as the others. I can’t really pinpoint why, but it just didn’t do it for me. I’m a moody reader, so maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind for this light-hearted, over-the-top smutty romance.

This book is the story of Abyssian “Sian” Infernas, the King of Hell, and Calliope “Lila” Barbot. Like other couples in this series, they have a very love/hate relationship. As expected there is plenty of sexual tension and rivalry in the beginning, which eventually gives way to some pretty passionate mating action. If you’ve followed this series, you know the drill.

Also like earlier books in the series, the meddling Valkyrie, Nix, is instrumental in the story. If you’re a fan of the super-crazy Nix, like I am, then you’ll enjoy her interference and manipulations. I can’t wait to read her story. One day soon, I hope we’ll get it.

Despite the fact that this couple wasn’t one of my favorites from this series, I did enjoy their story. The imagery was especially remarkable. I could picture the jade beaches like I was standing there, feeling the smooth green sand between my toes. I absolutely loved that part of the story.

I have to say that I don’t regret reading this one, even if the story wasn’t a big stand-out for me. I was definitely in the minority with this one among my friends. I still plan to continue the series and it remains one of my favorite guilty pleasure go-tos. In fact, I might even return to this one at a later date to see if it holds more appeal when I’m in a different frame of mind.

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Review: Mists of the Serengeti, by Leylah Attar

Mists of the SerengetiMists of the Serengeti by Leylah Attar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Telling the story of two people brought together by an unspeakable act of violence, ‘Mists of the Serengeti’ proves to be a heartfelt and emotional read. Listening to the Audible edition, I found it difficult to motivate myself to get out of my car once my commute was over. I lost myself in this story.

Rodel Emerson and Jack Warden meet in the wake of a terrorist attack. When a shopping mall in Africa is bombed, Jack’s young daughter and Rodel’s sister are among the dead. This prompts Rodel’s trip to Tanzania to collect her sister’s belongings and lay her to rest.

While going through her sister’s things, Rodel stumbles across unexpected information. Always one for an adventure, her sister had agreed to help transport children safely across the country. In honor of her sister’s memory, Rodel commits to complete the work that her sister started.

Soon she realizes that her sister was involved in a dangerous cat and mouse game. She was helping rescue albino children, who are highly sought after because it is believed that they possess special powers. They are often murdered and their body parts sold as key ingredients for witchcraft. These children are even sold by their own families because of the money that they can bring in. It was a horrifying reality that Rodel was not prepared for.

When Rodel ends up at Jack’s home with a young girl in tow, his grandmother offers them sanctuary until the weather clears up. Unbeknownst to them at the time, this is the beginning of a great adventure. Despite his gruff demeanor and all-consuming grief, Jack’s character won’t let him send Rodel and the girl out into the African wild without protection. He knows that this foreigner is in over her head and has no idea of the danger that she’s in.

Gradually, Jack and Rodel’s attraction grows. They help each other through their grief. Each has to face their feelings of survivor’s guilt and the what-ifs that haunt them. Meanwhile, they are on a life or death mission to try and save these hunted children, since they could not save their own loved ones on that tragic day.

‘Mists of the Serengeti’ was a touching and highly emotional story. I listened to the Audible version and it was well-narrated. The imagery was beautiful. I could envision the plains of Africa as if I were right there with Jack and Rodel.

Although there was plenty of tragedy, I was impressed with the author’s ability to address such subject matter without letting it affect the overall mood of the book. It is easy to imagine the dreary, depressing book that this easily could have been. Instead, it was inspiring and heartfelt.

With a slow-burn romance and plenty of action/adventure, this book kept me fully engaged. It was heartbreaking at times, but I fell in love with this story and it’s characters. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone looking for an heartfelt romance with mature characters.

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Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3), by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3)A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m not sure that I can say much about this book that hasn’t been said already, so I’ll keep this short and sweet. ‘A Court of Wings and Ruin’ was a great finale to the series. I have loved watching Feyre evolve over the course of this series and this book did a wonderful job of bringing everything full circle. If you’re a fan of the series, then this book is a must-read.

That being said, I honestly didn’t think that this book was as spectacular as the second book. This is probably a reflection of my personal tastes more than anything. I am primarily a romance reader. I like a little fantasy and adventure, but I need a healthy dose of romance thrown in.

While this third book definitely continued the love story, it wasn’t as smutty as I would’ve liked. There, I said it. I wanted more steamy, hot times with Feyre and Rhysand. The second book definitely provided more to work with in that regard, but I understand that this book is not marketed for adult romance readers, like me. Again, it is just a matter of personal preferences.

On the other hand, this book was action-packed. From start to finish, there was always something adventurous and deadly brewing. There was never a dull moment. It definitely kept me on the edge of my seat right to the very end.

I won’t say much about the storyline, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. There are a lot of changes that occur during this book. Some are heartbreaking, others will make you melt. I was left with a feeling of contentment, resolute that everything was “right” in this make believe world that I grew to love so much.

While this series has drawn to a close, I am left wondering if Ms. Maas has any plans to create a spin-off series. There were so many characters introduced in this series that have grown dear to me. I feel like their stories want to be told and she certainly planted the seeds to do this. I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

Overall, this was a fantastic book and series. I would definitely recommend this series to others. ‘A Court of Mist and Fury’ is still my favorite by far, but this one was great in and of it’s own right also.

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Review: The Iron Knight (The Iron Fey, #4), by Julie Kagawa

The Iron Knight (Iron Fey, #4)The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the time I started listening to this series, I have been unable to pull myself away from it. Over the course of a week or so, I have read the entire series from start to finish. I have enjoyed every minute. (Okay, maybe not all of the time spent discussing Ariella.) Gladly, I can say that this series did not fizzle out at the end like many series do. This story was action-packed and engaging right to the very end.

Picking up where ‘The Iron Queen’ and ‘Summer’s Crossing’ left off, Ash and Meghan are separated for most of this book. He’s working diligently to find a way to get back to Meghan’s side, even if it means becoming human so that he can survive the Iron Realm. He’ll stop at nothing to get back to her.

In some ways it was kind of fitting that now that Ash has finally figured out that he loves Meghan that he would be kept apart from her. After all, Meghan endured his cold shoulder treatment repeatedly. So, I kind of felt like most of this book was Ash’s dose of karma for how he rebuffed Meghan in ‘The Iron Daughter’. (I’m blood-thirsty that way.)

I don’t want to say too much, but I will say that there were some pretty big twists along the way. I can’t say I was completely surprised, but there were definitely some wrenches thrown in the plans. One of my biggest pet peeves – the perfect, dead ex-girlfriend – continued to be an issue in a huge way. (Why can’t this dead girl just GO AWAY???)

Maybe I should be more sensitive and try to like Ariella, but I just can’t. Ash’s wishy-washy feelings also got on my nerves where the dead ex was concerned. It made me question the genuineness of his feelings for Meghan.

Meanwhile, Puck started looking better and better. The poor guy’s loyalty was infallible, but he was destined to forever remain in the “friend-zone”. My heart broke for him.

As Ash endures multiple trials on his quest to gain a soul and become human, Puck, Grimalkin and the great Wolf hunter are right by his side. Like ‘Summer’s Crossing’, Meghan was absent for a large part of this book. However, the robust cast of characters in ‘The Iron Knight’ did not leave me wanting the way that the earlier novella did. There was never a dull moment.

More so than any of the books that preceded this one, ‘The Iron Knight’ provided insight into Ash’s character. I felt like I really got to know him in this book. I won’t lie, he definitely had some pretty big skeletons in his closet. However, in my opinion, he had a soul all along. He clearly had a conscience, even if he was taught to ignore it from the time he was young.

I really felt for Ash, especially as a child. His world was so cruel and cold. Never was he nurtured like a child should be. It is a wonder that he didn’t turn into a total psychopath.

At long last, things worked out the way that they should have. I was left feeling relieved and contented at the end of this book. A part of me was even a little sad that I had reached the end of this series.

Overall, this was a fantastic book. It was the perfect finale to this series. I’m glad that I read it and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a “clean” fantasy/adventure/paranormal type of story. It has romance, as well as plenty of action.

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Review: Summer’s Crossing (The Iron Fey, #3.5), by Julie Kagawa

Summer's Crossing (Iron Fey, #3.5)Summer’s Crossing by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Much like ‘Winter’s Passage’, ‘Summer’s Crossing’ left me wanting. Another short novella in ‘The Iron Fey’ series, it takes place following ‘The Iron Queen’ and before ‘The Iron Knight’. This was one of those stories that you want to love but don’t, no matter how hard you try.

‘Summer’s Crossing’ surrounds Puck and Ash’s adventures as they work together to repay a debt that Ash owes to Leanansidhe. Along the way, Puck is offered what might be considered the opportunity of a lifetime. He has the chance to eliminate Ash as a rival for Meghan’s affections, if only he betrays his one-time best friend. It is definitely a tempting proposition that Oberon offers.

As the two work together to complete the required task, I can’t say that I ever really questioned what Puck’s decision would be…until I did. There was a big twist that I didn’t see coming that kind of threw me for a loop. Suddenly, I found myself wondering about Puck’s true motives. How far would he go to obtain the object of his affections?

In addition to the quest that they set out on, Puck and Ash find unexpected adventures along the way. From bearing their souls to one another, to nearly killing one another in a final attempt to keep a decades-old oath, this novella shed a great deal of light on their strained relationship.

Since Meghan has grown into my favorite character in this series, it was disappointing to find her entirely absent in this novella. I understand why she wasn’t there… I just didn’t like it.

In my opinion, the narration was also less appealing in this novella. This was probably due to the fact that this one was told from male POVs vs. Meghan’s POV. I’m not sure if it was a different narrator, or if it was the same narrator and I just didn’t care for the voices as much this time around. Whatever the reason, the narration didn’t pull me into the story and hold my attention like it did for the other books.

All in all, ‘Summer’s Crossing’ ended up being an “okay” one for me. It wasn’t horrible, but I definitely had plenty of gripes this time around. That being said, I still read the next book in the series immediately. It wasn’t enough to turn me away from ‘The Iron Fey’ saga and I am still dying to know where the story leads.

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Review: The Iron Queen (The Iron Fey, #3), by Julie Kagawa

The Iron Queen (Iron Fey, #3)The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Of all the books in ‘The Iron Fey’ series, ‘The Iron Queen’ is my favorite. This book is pivotal and takes the story in an entirely new direction. Not only is this book filled with action and adventure, but I finally got to see the romance between Meghan and Ash evolve.

Not only does the relationship between Meghan and Ash grow, but Meghan undergoes a great deal of self-discovery and growth as an individual. ‘The Iron Queen’ really is Meghan’s “coming of age” book. She grows stronger, both physically and spiritually. She is faced with many painful truths and twists along the way, but she rises to the challenge.

To say the least, I felt that this book had a strong “girl power” vibe going on. In earlier books, Meghan was always cast as the damsel in distress, waiting for Ash or Puck to come to her rescue. While she still has a plethora of male protectors to do her bidding, Meghan also rises as a leader in and of her own right. She is only beginning to learn about the power within her and I cannot wait to see what she will be able to do once she is able to access it fully.

Meanwhile, this book proved to be emotionally engaging and, at times, heartbreaking. Mostly, my heart went out to Puck. He made some mistakes along the way, but none more serious than anything that Ash ever did, in my opinion. He loved Meghan so much, but it was evident that he had been “friend-zoned” and had no chance at ever becoming anything more. As much as I loved Ash and Meghan as a couple, I couldn’t help but feel bad for poor Puck.

King Oberon and Queen Mab take on unexpected roles, as the false Iron King continues to gain power. In order to save faerieland, Meghan will have to rise to the challenge. She is faced with many difficult choices and adversity along the way.

More so than other books in the series, ‘The Iron Queen’ ended with a huge upset. I was left reeling. It felt like my heart was ripped from my chest. Knowing that the story wasn’t over yet kept me pushing forward. I knew that things wouldn’t be left like that.

Like the other books in the series, the narration for this book was superb. I continue to be enthralled with this story and the magical world that Ms. Kagawa has created. After finishing this one it was on to the next on immediately. I had to know how things would work out for these characters.

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Review: Winter’s Passage (The Iron Fey, #1.5), by Julie Kagawa

Winter's Passage (Iron Fey, #1.5)Winter’s Passage by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

At around 50 pages, ‘Winter’s Passage’ is a nice bridge between ‘The Iron King’ and the second full-length book in the series. This novella picks up right where ‘The Iron King’ leaves off, with Meghan journeying back to the Winter Court with Ash to fulfill her end of their contract. Of course, there is plenty of adventure along the way and the introduction of a few new characters.

This ended up being a very sweet and heartfelt novella. Ash and Meghan are falling in love and their feelings are getting harder to deny. It was pervaded with the sweet, innocent feel of first love.

However, this short read also had a sense of impending doom that was always lurking in the background. Ash and Meghan know that their romance is strictly forbidden. More than Meghan, Ash knows the cruelty of the Winter Court. The closer the two become, the more Meghan’s fate in the Winter Court haunts them both. With each step, the sense of dread grows.

This novella was a nice lead-in for the second book. However, it wasn’t absolutely necessary to follow and understand the series. After finishing this novella, I jumped right into the second book only to find that much of the information provided in this novella was also provided in ‘The Iron Daughter’. So, while this was a nice, quick “extra”, it isn’t really required in my opinion. It was sweet and I liked it, but there isn’t anything revolutionary or critical here.

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Review: The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the NightingaleThe Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hmm… I’m at a loss with this one. I can’t say that I loved it, but I didn’t dislike it either. I feel like I’m missing something. This is a story that I should probably go back and re-read at a time when I can give it my full attention…but I didn’t feel a strong enough connection the first time around to make me want to do that.

When I listen to an audiobook, I’m usually doing something else that requires part of my attention (i.e. driving). For this reason, I try to keep my audiobook selections pretty straightforward. Unfortunately, this book proved to be too detailed for me to follow in that format. I ended up having to “rewind” several times to reorient myself because I’d find myself completely lost.

‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ ended up being a bit too complicated of a story for me to take in via audiobook. There were details and connections that I’m sure I missed. The fact that I didn’t understand some of the Russian words and wasn’t able to look them up at the time, certainly contributed to my bewilderment.

In a nutshell, the story dealt with religious persecution as the “old gods” and religions were being pushed out by Christianity. The story is set in medieval Russia and the imagery crafted by the author was beautiful. Even when I was admittedly lost, I greatly enjoyed the detailed descriptions provided.

The heroine, Vasya, had special abilities and represented “good” in this book. Her mother was determined to have her, even knowing that she would sacrifice her own life. As a result, Vasya grows up to be resented by her father in a way.

When her father decides to remarry, largely in an attempt to tame the spirited Vasya, a political marriage is arranged to Anna. Anna had planned to become a nun and religion is a very large part of her identity. To say the least, she ended up being a nightmare for Vasya.

When the self-righteous Anna teams up with the fear-mongering priest, Konstantin, nobody is safe. Let the witch hunts begin!

Meanwhile, Vasya is given a protective talisman. She is tied to “Frost”, the winter demon king. Through their abilities and old “magic” the two are interconnected. — I won’t lie. I am hazy on the details here.

In many ways, this story was intriguing. At some point, I might give it another try because I’m certain that I missed a great deal. I had a hard time staying focused on this story, not because it was bad, but because I was preoccupied. Nonetheless, it ended up being a “good but not great” read for me this time around. It just didn’t keep my attention.

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Review: Midnight Soul (Fantasyland, #5), by Kristen Ashley

Midnight Soul (Fantasyland, #5)Midnight Soul by Kristen Ashley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The fifth, and final (?), book in the ‘Fantasyland’ series, ‘Midnight Soul’ tells the story of Franka Drakkar and Noctorno “Noc” Hawthorne. Like earlier books in the series, this book features two characters that are from parallel worlds. There is plenty of magic and fantastical elements throughout. Yet, despite all of that, I found this to be just an “okay” read.

While Kristen Ashley worked hard to redeem Franka Drakkar in this book, for me the damage was done. I pitied her, but I never really grew to like her. As a result, I never really felt fully invested in her story.

Similarly, “Noc” was not a character that I ever really felt a strong connection with. After all, wasn’t he supposedly in love with Cora just a couple of books back? He was a nice guy, but to me, he came off as kind of desperate and lonely. Franka seemed to be the only option because all the “better” heroines had already been spoken for.

Even though I never felt bonded to these characters, I did appreciate having Franka’s history revealed. My heart went out to her and it explained a lot about her nasty behavior. She wasn’t a character that was easy to love, but at least I felt like I understood why she worked so hard to push people away.

This book also stood out from the others in that Franka goes to Noc’s world and not the other way around. I guess it is consistent in the sense that the woman always seems to follow the man to his world, but Noc was the first hero from this world. As a result, this book had a different “feel” to it.

While this book is supposed to be the last in the series, I wonder if that is “firm”. There were several teases and loose ends left over. Mainly, this book seemed to pave the way for another book centered on the other Circe and Dax.

If this is truly the last book, then I’m a little bummed. Theirs is a story that I’d love to read. If another book isn’t coming, it seems kind of cruel to tease us readers like that. Maybe we’ll get a novella or something at least.

Overall, this was a middle of the road type of story. I liked it, but nothing about it was particularly compelling. I listed to all of the audiobooks for this series back to back, so it could be that I was just on ‘Fantasyland’ overload by the time I got to ‘Midnight Soul’. Whatever the reason, this one ended up being my least favorite of all the books in the series. It was okay, but nothing that I couldn’t live without.

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Review: Broken Dove (Fantasyland, #4), by Kristen Ashley

Broken Dove (Fantasyland, #4)Broken Dove by Kristen Ashley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While ‘Broken Dove’ was much better than ‘Fantastical’ in my opinion, it was still a long way from reaching the greatness of ‘The Golden Dynasty’. More so than the other books in this series, ‘Broken Dove’ was tender and emotional. My heart broke so many times while listening to the story of Apollo and Ilsa. Yet, there was something so sweet and endearing about their story that I couldn’t pull myself away.

Apollo “Lo” Ulfr of the parallel world was happily married to Ilsa. They had two beautiful children together and Ilsa was loved by everyone – none more than Apollo. Tragically, her life ended too soon. Apollo has grieved the loss of his wife for years.

Ilsa of our world is also married to the Apollo of this world. Only, the Apollo of this world is an abusive, drug-dealing bastard. Ilsa has been on the run, hiding from “Pol” for years. She knows that he will kill her if he finds her and she lives in a constant state of fear.

When Lo discovers that his deceased wife has a twin in a parallel world, he is determined to bring her to his world. Despite being warned that the “twin” Ilsa is not, in fact, an exact replica of his wife, he is set on bringing her to his world. Only, upon her arrival he discovers that she is much different than his wife was.

While Ilsa is glad to be far away from the abusive “Pol”, she now finds herself dependent upon another man. It doesn’t help that this man is the exact physical replica of the man that grew to be her worst nightmare. To make matters worse, it is clear that she is a poor substitute for the woman that Lo really wants, his deceased wife.

From the start, my heart broke for Ilsa. She didn’t deserve any of the heartache that she was doled out, in this world or the other. She was such a sweet and fun-loving lady and it was so unfair that she had to endure so much cruelty.

Although Lo treated Ilsa poorly, I couldn’t help but pity him. I don’t think that he ever intended to be so thoughtless. He just wanted his wife back so desperately that he was willing to do anything to have her back.

Over time, Lo begins to fall for the Ilsa of this world. However, given his initial treatment of her, it was hard to believe that his feelings were genuine. It wasn’t fair to Ilsa to be placed in that position, constantly being compared to his first wife.

To make matters worse, when Lo’s feelings are put to the test he repeatedly fumbles. He pulls away from Ilsa time and time again, leaving her neglected. In many ways, she was like his dirty little secret.

Of course, things eventually work themselves out. It takes Lo nearly losing Ilsa to truly appreciate her. While everyone around them seemed to take notice of how great they were together, they seemed to be late to arrive at the same conclusion.

All in all, this was a great story. It was more emotional than the earlier books in the series, which was fine by me. Listening to these books back to back, I was glad that this one had a different “feel” to it than the others. Yet, it retained enough of Ms. Ashley’s signature traits as to not lose my interest.

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