3 of 5 stars to Craving by Stephanie Summers

Craving

Chemistry

Sabine knows that there’s a good chance she’ll be chosen as the next sacrifice to fulfill the infamous Willow creek vampire treaty. Still, she is devastated when she receives the notice on her eighteenth birthday and realizes that she will never be able to live out her dreams.
When Sabine meets the vampire she will be paired with, she is horrified. Remy may be the favorite progeny of Bastion, Lord of the Willow creek vampires, but he is arrogant, selfish, rude and uncaring. She knows that she will never be more to him that a food source, and yet she can’t help or understand the growing attraction she feels every time they are together.

Craving was a pleasant read. I’m a sucker for romance, so I enjoyed the storyline which focuses mainly on the conflict and chemistry between the two main characters, Sabine and Remy. The characters themselves are pretty standard, lacking in depth at times, but there was a nice chemistry between them, and I quite enjoyed Remy’s snarky comments. The supporting characters were few and really did not play much of a role in the story beyond some cliched scenes. I felt that the plot could have been tighter. It felt thin and rushed at times with large periods of times elapsing in the space of sentences. I personally would have preferred fewer, more intimate scenes. The witty dialogue made up for some of the novel’s shortfalls though and I still found ‘Craving’ an easy, fun read.

Must read tool for self-development

Emotional intelligence

A practical guide to improving your EQ

With 90% of top performers high in EQ this book is a must for any person looking to grow and develop the skills that account for more than 58% of performance in any role.

With practical examples and clear research, Bradberry and Greaves examine the four pillars of EQ:
1. Self awareness
2. Self management
3. Social awareness
4. Relationship management

For each pillar, Bradberry and Greaves explain the basic concepts and explore simple and effective strategies for improvement.

One of the highlights is that this book includes a code where you can complete your own Emotional intelligence appraisal. The test identifies which area you most need to work on, and also allows monitoring and reassessment to determine whether the strategies you’ve employed are working.

This is a business tool I’m sure I will refer back to many times as I undertake my own journey of self development.

4 of 5 stars to “Forbidden” by Amy Miles

Forbidden

Chemistry and danger

Roseline Enescue has spent most of her immortal existence wishing she could escape the cruelty and violence of her husband, the infamous Vladimir Enescue. When the opportunity presents, Roseline escapes and flees to America, where she tries to establish a semblance of a normal life by enrolling in High school.
Rose, as her new friends know her, falls in love with Gabriel Marston and soon discovers that, no matter how much she may try and no matter how far she may run, the past has a way of catching up.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The writing is unique and particularly gripping, written as it is in third person present tense. There is a lovely flow and intensity to the author’s story-telling, although my copy was an Audible version, so I’m unable to comment on grammar. Some of the scenes, most notably the action scenes, were a little stiff and perhaps just a little too detailed for the pace, but they were still effective.

The focus of the story is definitely the two characters, Rose and Gabriel, and any other storylines take a back-seat to this budding romance. There is such chemistry between the two main characters that one can overlook the cliched peripheral characters. The back story and premise leaves me intrigued to follow the rest of Rose’s story.

5 of 5 stars to ‘Siege and Storm’ by Leigh Bardugo

siege-and-storm

Magical and religious society

Alina may have escaped the Darkling, for now, but she’ll never outrun the memories of that night on the Shadowfold. Riddled with guilt, she tries to make a new life with Mal across the true sea. But the Darkling is never far behind, and his powers have grown to terrifying new depths. Can Alina keep ahead of him, can she protect the man she loves, and can she really turn her back on her country and the people who, even now, look to her to save Ravka?

Bardugo extends her fantasy world even further in this second installment of the Grisha series. Once again, her descriptions of the environment and the complicated workings of an integrated magical and normal society are fascinating, detailed and riddled with uncomfortable situations. I loved the underlying political games and the religious aspects because they are so radical and unlike anything in our own society. It’s easy to get immersed and lost in this wonderful world of mythology and magic.

Alina’s character evolves throughout the storyline and Mal’s own transformation makes for some interesting inter and intra personal conflicts, which contributes a much larger portion of the storyline than in the first installment. There’s a whole lot of adventure and some intriguing twists in this installment. I’m still hooked on this series!

4 of 5 stars to “Highland Shift” by Laura Harner

highland-shift

Hot Scot, romance and magic…

Elena MacFarland is on her way to Scotland, to take possession of a small farm due to her in a legal settlement with her ex-fiance, when she meets Faolan MacGailtry on the airplane. He’s attractive, dangerous and exceedingly arrogant, and Elena, thinking they will go their separate ways when they land, makes pleasant small talk on the flight.

Upon arrival in Scotland however, Elena finds herself at the receiving end of more than one murder and kidnapping attempt. Faolan, conveniently, happens to be present and manages to foil these attempts. He appoints himself protector and moves into Elena’s small farm house.

Soon, Elena finds herself drawn into Faolan’s dark world of ancient, magical secrets. How long can she stay alive and withstand his dangerous, magnetic attraction.

I quite enjoyed this novel. It has many draw-cards: a handsome, brawny Scot, an independent heroine, danger, romance, paranormal, ancient magic and plenty of hot attraction. The writer in me felt that it should possibly have been two separate books since there are two distinct segments to the novel. There’s the first part when Elena and Faolan meet. This part was wrought with hot tension and intrigue and was well-paced. Then there is the second part, after the two fall in love. This part felt very rushed, almost as though the author wanted to shove too many things into the last few chapters. The result was an ending that skipped over some important story-lines, but still had a darkly-magical feel to it.

The plot and characters were still interesting and there were some amazingly steamy sex scenes. Overall, it was a fun story.

5 of 5 stars to ‘Captured’ by Erica Stevens

Captured

Emotive writing

Aria sacrificed herself to save a child. Now, she has been taken as blood slave to none other than the Prince of darkness himself. Raised on tales of the cruelty of the vampires, Aria has first hand knowledge as daughter of the leader of the resistance. But The Prince is nothing like she expected…

As far as plot go, this one is relatively simple in structure. It’s a paranormal Beauty and the Beast story – and yet so much more. There is something so raw and poignant in this author’s writing. Not many authors have this kind of ability to rip into a reader’s emotions and turn a simple plot into a deep, passionate love story.

I loved the vulnerability of Aria’s character. She is strong without being perfect. She challenges the traditional mold of heroine because her beauty is much more of the soul than of the body. The world is which the characters live is a dark and well constructed one, without overly complicated details to leash the imagination.

Beautiful start to the series, can’t wait to read the next book!

4 of 5 stars to ‘Numbers ignite’ by Rebecca Rode

Numbers ignite

Deeper into dystopia

Treena has left NORA in the hands of the boy she once loved and set out across the war ravaged desert in search of the man she wants to spend her life with. But NORA is hot on her heels and this time, they’re not taking any prisoners.

Vance gave up everything to see the girl he loves on the throne of NORA, including his freedom. Returned to his people, he must face the consequences of his actions for the past years. He’s prepared to pay the price for his deeds, but draws the line when he is wrongfully accused of another heinous crime.

Separated by time and no-man’s land, ripped apart by political agendas and family duties, can Treena and Vance find their way back to one another and unravel the mysteries that threaten the lands they call home?

This second installment of the Numbers Game series takes part outside the carefully constructed world of NORA. We get to see how the other half live beyond the walls, and taste a bit of the old America that was destroyed by war. The individual societies Rode has created are intricate in every detail. Each has their own rules and norms to ensure survival and yet each is plagued in its own way by prejudices and personal political agendas.

As far as characters go, I felt that Vance’s development was the most pronounced. His “whatever’ attitude conceals a depth of character and strength of leadership that can bring nations together. The peripheral characters were interesting, but not particularly deep, with some falling into cliched status.

This installment wasn’t as neatly tied up as the first. There are some loose threads I would like to see tied up and this made the ending a tad vague and not as convincing as it could have been. But I still loved the story!

Numbers game

Dystopia at its best

Treena is a model citizen of NORA. She’s spent her whole life following the rules to get the highest possible rating because in NORA, your entire future depends on the number assigned to you on rating day.

When the much anticipated rating day arrives though, Treena, and everyone who knows her, are shocked at the number she receives. She’s determined that her number is wrong and when the leader of the land offers her a way to redeem herself, Treena jumps at the chance, even though it means putting herself on the front lines. There, she meets Vance and together, they uncover a plot to kill Treena and a conspiracy that extends to the throne itself. Can Treena survive long enough to unravel the mystery? Will she earn the number she’s been fighting for her whole life? When all’s said and done, will she want the number anyway?

This is young adult dystopia at its best! The world Rode has created is vast, steeped in history, conspiracy, politics and war. Book one focuses much on life within the NORA boundaries, but you get the sense that there is much more to the story beyond the walls. The perfectly paced plot unfolds from the point of view of two central characters. Treena’s character is superficial at first, but she matures nicely as the story progresses. She has an inner strength and intelligence, as well as softness of heart that allows her to see beyond the numbers to the real people around her. Vance is fiercely independent, flippant at times, but with a hidden depth of character that peeks out when the welfare of those he cares about is at stake. The mix of POV allows for the telling of a deeper story, with more history than would have been possible if it were told from the heroine’s point of view alone. I also get the sense that the POVs are going to be even more central to the storyline in the next book.

If you liked the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, you will love this novel. I can’t wait to find out what adventures lie beyond the walls of NORA!

5 of 5 stars to ‘Shadow and Bone’ by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and bone

Finest fantasy

Alina Starkov has never stood out. She’s always been pale, quiet Alina, struggling to make friends in the orphanage of the Duke and trailing along at the back of the regiment while her best friend Mal basks in the limelight.

When Mal and Alina’s regiment reaches the Shadow Fold, she is terrified. They must cross the dark, dead landscape, filled with horrific creatures waiting to devour their flesh, with only the magical Grisha as protection. As their ship makes it’s way across the sands, her worst nightmare is realized. The ship is attacked and her best friend Mal is injured and nearly killed by the evil creatures of the Fold. In a moment of panic, Alina reacts and unleashes a power inside she didn’t know was there, driving back the evil creatures and rescuing the ship’s passengers from certain death.

Alina’s actions draw the attention of the Grisha elite, and ultimately, the mysterious Darkling, who is right hand to the King himself. Alina is whisked away to the palace for training. Thrust from poverty into luxury, and hailed as the savior of Ravka, Alina must adjust to her change in status and learn to control the power she has been suppressing her entire life. But her heart still yearns for the friend she left behind and the Darkling is not who he appears to be…

This one’s been on my to read list for a while, but I’ve put it off because the blurb and the cover didn’t really hook me. After reading it, however, I wish I’d opened it much sooner! This is fantasy at it’s finest. Bardugo has created a fantastical world of hierarchical society, dark power and magic that is impossible not to be pulled into. Her descriptions of the Grisha world are done in such a masterful way, with just the right amount of description to get the reader’s imagination going, while still assuming a flattering level of intelligence and understanding on the reader’s part. As a reader, you feel as if you’ve lived in Ravka your entire life.

Alina’s character is complex, easy to love and believable. Her character development is clear and gripping to follow. Mal, and the Darkling are more mysterious characters, but equally intriguing. I loved this novel and can’t wait to find out what happens next!

4 of 5 stars to ‘Mr Impossible’ by Loretta Chase

Mr Impossible

Intriguing setting

Reckless, handsome Rupert Carsington has been relegated by his family to Egypt in an effort to keep him out of trouble. Widow and scholar Daphne Pembroke rescues Mr Carsington from the consequences of his troublesome actions and employs him to help find her kidnapped brother. As the two of them traipse across Egypt in search of Daphne’s brother, they find themselves thrown into many dangerous, exciting and adventurous situations that force them together.

Having visited Egypt, I found the descriptions and references to a pre-commercialised Egypt fascinating. The politics and total disregard for priceless artifacts by treasure and fame-seekers was both disturbing and intriguing to read about.

The characters were not my favorite. While Rupert did have a roguish streak, I found both him and Daphne a little too stuffy. That said, their behavior was very appropriate for the time and added to the authenticity of the historical setting. If you’re looking for a light historical romance, this is a wonderful choice.