5 of 5 stars to “The Barrier Between” by Stacey Marie Brown

The barrier between

 

Tension, danger, betrayal, and romance

Zoey’s life has been irrevocably changed by the unnatural storm that has devastated Seattle and taken the lives of the only two people in the world she loved. Zoey discovers that Daniel, her DMG partner and the man she has loved for years, has left behind a devastating message for her, unraveling the truth behind the DMG and the experiments they have been conducting, not only on the Fae they hunt but even on their own hunters. Zoey discovers that as a result of one such experiment, she is dying. Now, it is a race against time to find someone who can help transfer the Wanders Fae powers back to Ryker before Zoe takes them with her to the grave forever.

Stacey Mari Brown takes her fantasy world to another level in this installment of the Collector series. The workings of the Fae world and the back stories are nicely fleshed out. The focus of the story remains the relationship between Ryker and Zoey. Brown has a definite talent for hiking up the tension as the attraction between them grows. Then, to the already boiling pot, Brown throws in the third point of a love triangle, creating a delicious conflict.

The story arches are neat, with some danger, intrigue and betrayal brought in with various supporting characters. The changes in setting and location also add some variation to the story and broaden the scope of possibilities. I’m thoroughly enjoying my immersion in this wonderful world of Fae.

5 of 5 stars to ‘Legacy of Kings’ by Eleanor Herman

Legacy of Kings

Great start to an epic series

Sixteen year old Alexander may be the heir to the throne, but he knows all too well where the true power lies. In this world of Aesarian Lords, dark magic and betrayal, he has a lot to prove. Then he meets Kat, from Erissa. The two share a deep, inexplicable connection that supersedes romance. But Kat has her own secrets and her own mission to accomplish.

There are a few truly unique aspects to this book that make it stand out. The first, is the history. Clearly, great effort has gone into researching and writing scenes that are historically accurate, right down to the textures and smells. This was perhaps also the one downfall for me. At times, I felt that there was just a little too much detail in some of the scenes, and this affected the pacing. There were also times, in the beginning of the story, when I wondered what the end game or goal of some of the characters were (most noticeably Alexander) and this left me feeling somewhat lost.

The second ‘stand-out’ feature, was the POV and tense. I think this is the first book I’ve read that is written in a third person, present tense. At first, I found it a tad disconcerting, but really, it works for this story. The tense drives the action forward and the POV allows the author to delve into the motives and emotions of the pivotal characters. The alternating POVs also works well in this story as there is clearly more than one person’s story to tell here, and the various POV’s helped me to connect to the characters.

Thirdly, the writing style of the author is poetic and beautiful, with a decidedly dark edge to it. I love reading every sentence and relished each description. Herman has managed to create a world of darkness, magic and death, injected with fierce pride and intrigue. This is a fantastic start to what promises to be an epic series.

5 of 5 stars to ‘Written in my own heart’s blood’ by Diana Gabaldon

WIMOHB

So invested

James Fraser has come back, presumably from the dead, to find that his wife has married his best friend. William has discovered that he is really the illegitimate son of General James Fraser. Oh, and did I forget to mention that they’re in the middle of the American revolution? But at least they know their only daughter is safe, back in the twentieth century…or is she?

If there was ever a cliffhanger in the Outlander series, ‘An echo in the bone’ was it. I’ve been dying to find out what happens to Jamie and Claire. The story picks up right in the thick of the action, and the blunders, misunderstandings and consequences make for entertaining reading. Once again, I found the war and camp scenes tedious at times, but that really just made it more authentic.

The storyline with Roger was fun, but I’m not sure it really added much to the story. The plot with Brianna was understated. I was a little surprised by this, as Gabaldon is not one to shy away from what could have been a seriously thrilling encounter. It was a little too vague for my liking.

I enjoyed seeing a more ‘human’ side to Claire in this installment. She’s been through so much and always appears so strong and put together. Sometimes she can come across as hard because of her efficiency, so this softer side was endearing.

I’ve never before stuck with a series for so long. Usually by book four, I find the story begins to repeat and the characters start to annoy me, but I can honestly say that I’ve never been more invested in a set of characters as I have been – and continue to be – with the Frasers. Another pearl from Gabaldon!

4 of 5 stars to ‘Bloodlines’ by Richelle Mead

Bloodlines

Great characters

After the drama with Rose Hathaway, Sydney knows she’s skating on thin ice. Her fellow Alchemists have accused her of being a ‘vampire lover’ and she’s living under the very real threat of being sent away to a ‘re-education centre’. Worse yet, her actions may cause her sister to be dragged into the unsafe work of alchemy.

So when Sydney is apprised of a new assignment, she fights tooth and nail to be the one sent in place of her young and inexperienced sister, even though it means she’ll have to live with one of the ‘unnatural monsters’ she’s trying to protect the human world from. Secretly, Sydney knows that the gap between the Moroi and humans is smaller than she’s been led to believe. Living with Jill, the royal Moroi she’s been assigned to hide won’t be as bad as she thinks. It might even be fun, going to school and making friends. And nothing really happens in Palm Springs anyway…

After the Vampire Academy series, I think I expected Sydney to be similar in character to Rose, but I was pleasantly surprised. Don’t get me wrong, Rose is one of my favorite young adult characters, but a new series needs to have something fresh and exciting. Sydney is all that. She’s not your expected heroine. She doesn’t fight, she wears suits and she’s altogether quite lady-like. Some would say, she’s a ‘good-girl’, perhaps even a ‘walk-over’…Yet there is a hidden strength in her blood. Sydney is the girl who can get her own back without breaking a nail or lowering herself to her opponents level. She’s all business on the outside. On the opposite end of the scale is Adrian: bad boy and party animal. United by their concern for their young charge, the two opposites team up, to make a surprisingly great team. The character development on the part of both characters is definite and heart-warming. It’s probably my highlight in this novel.

I enjoyed this story, and would like to find out what happens next, but I have to admit that it didn’t enthrall me the way the Vampire Academy series did. Perhaps it was the lack of chemistry (excuse the pun!), the slower pace or the cliched feel of some of the interactions. Still a great read!

5 of 5 stars to ‘An echo in the bone’ by Diana Gabaldon

Echo in the bone

What a cliffhanger!

James Fraser knows what the outcome of the American rebellion will be, and yet his knowledge may not be enough to get him and Claire through the raw realities of daily life in a country at war. Then, there is the fact that he may end up on opposite sides of the battlefield to his illegitimate son.

Claire and Jamie have been separated from their children and grand-children across the wide expanse of time. Can they, and can Bree and Rodger start afresh in this messy time?

I’ll be honest – I’ve been seriously contemplating giving this series up, but Gabaldon keeps throwing in new reasons to keep me reading. This installment was all about new beginnings. There was a point in the novel where I began to feel that the story was lagging with its descriptions of life in the war camps of the American revolution. Yet that sense of ‘lagging’ really added to the stark reality of the depressing conditions under which the Americans fought for their independence so many years ago.

The trip back to Scotland inserted some nostalgia into the story and heightened the emotional impact. It made me realize how amazing Gabaldon’s writing is. I haven’t read many books that cover entire lifetimes of characters, and those I have read were pretty boring. Gabaldon, however, consistently adds new, daring, frightening and exciting adventures to keep the lives of her characters tumultuous and interesting.

With the cliffhanger in this one (or should I say cliffhangers) there’s no question as to whether I will continue this series. I simply MUST find out what happens to Claire and Lord John after the bomb he dropped on Jamie at the end and I NEED to know what Bree is going to do about her son.

5 of 5 stars to ‘A breath of snow and ashes’ by Diana Gabaldon

A breath of snow and ashes

An uncertain future

The American revolution looms before the Frasers. Jamie walks the tight-rope between the crown and freedom, but will soon have to jump, plunging his entire family into war. Many decisions will have to be made, and consequences faced as Jamie’s time-travelling family adjust to life in these harsh times and make the ultimate decision – stay or go?

Every time I close an Outlander novel, I think: what more could these people live through? I am astounded at the extent of Gabaldon’s imagination. Claire and Jamie have lived through every possible adventure, tragedy and joy – and yet I know that Ms Gabaldon will find even more amazing adventures for them in the next book. Never have I felt as invested in the lives of character as I do with the Frasers.

The first part of this installment was charming in it’s descriptions of life in the times. I thoroughly enjoyed the politics and ebb and flow of life on Frasers Ridge. Just when I thought I’d reached a point where the story was starting to slow, Gabaldon threw Claire into a new adventure that Jamie had to rescue her from, and the rest, was a tumultuous race to the end.

There was a wonderful sense of family and the purity of a simple life on Fraser’s ridge. The Mackenzies added depth, variety and freshness to the story, without detracting from Claire and Jamie’s stories. Gabaldon very cleverly played with the questions of morality and predestination once again, with particular use of Roger’s character.

The end was quite a shocker, unravelling the carefully laid foundations of the last few novels. I feel as though I’ve been thrown back into the beginning with Claire and Jamie – and I’m excited to find out what they are going to make of their new and uncertain future.

5 of 5 stars to ‘Voyager’ by Diana Gabaldon

Voyager

Beyond the shores of Scotland

Twenty years after Claire left Jamie Fraser at the standing stones, she returns to Scotland to share the truth with her grown daughter Brianna. In divulging her history, she discovers that her true love did not, in fact, die on the battlefield at Culloden. Now she must choose between a future with the daughter she loves dearly, or one with the man she has pined for all these years apart.

There are very few writers who can carry off a series of more than three books and still keep the reader begging for more. I must admit to being skeptical after ‘Dragonfly in Amber’ – I mean, Jamie and Claire have lived through it all already, haven’t they? Yet Ms Gabaldon has managed to once again create a heart-breaking, riveting, dangerous adventure.

In this installment of the Outlander series, Gabaldon takes us beyond the shores of Scotland in the seventeenth century. We get a taste of the trade routes, colonies and dangers of overseas travel, contrasted starkly with the amenities and ease of travel of the nineteen sixties.

The real hardships of Jamie’s life seem that much greater against the comforts of Brianna and Claire’s time and yet their emotional distance and turmoils appear equal. These are two souls that have truly become one. I was concerned that the time apart and separate experiences would have created an irreconcilable rift between Claire and Jamie. But their love is true enough to span centuries. In fact, the time apart made their reunion that much sweeter. I loved getting to see Jamie and Claire fall in love all over again and get to know the new people that they have become.

Rich history, offset by sweeping descriptions of the natural beauty of the new colonies and heart-wrenching emotional dilemmas, interspersed with century-spanning romance and heart pounding action, makes ‘Voyager’ a must-read for any self-respecting Scot-lover, historian or book addict.