Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday No. 186: Flame In The Mist, by Renee Ahdieh

Welcome to "Waiting On Wednesday"!!
This is a weekly event that 
used to be hosted by
Jill @ Breaking the Spine, until 
very recently.
I have continued to publish these
posts on my own, as I reall
like this meme, which
showcases future releases which we book  bloggers are eagerly anticipating!!

Here's my choice for this week!

 Flame In The Mist
(Flame In The Mist, Book 1)   
 Renee Ahdieh
Hardcover, 384 pages 
Tor Teen
January 10, 2017
Fantasy, Historical Riction,
Young Adult Fiction

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, whom she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known.

Why I'm waiting on this one!

That GORGEOUS cover immediately caught my eye! I had not heard of this novel before, so it was pure visual delight that pulled me in! Bu then....ah, then I read the synopsis, and OMG!! I was hooked!! Nothing makes me want to read a book more than a kick-butt female protagonist. And hey, Mariko is the daughter of a samurai!! AWESOMENESS in one book!! This baby's mine as soon as it releases!! Lol.

What do you think of my choice?
Leave your link below, so I can
come check out your pick(s)!

Book Review: The Christmas Wish, by Nora Roberts

The Christmas Wish
Nora Roberts
Trade Paperback, 384 pages
Silhouette Books
October 18, 2016
Christmas Romance, Contemporary Romance
Source: Barnes & Noble bookstore

Synopsis: Fall for romance this holiday season…

All I Want For Christmas
Identical twin boys Zeke and Zack! only want one gift from Santa this year: a new wife for their lonely single dad, Mac Taylor, a builder who fixes things up in their small town. But convincing their love-wary dad that their music teacher, Nell Davis, is not only part of Santa's plan, but Mac's soul mate, isn't quite as easy as they'd hoped…

First Impressions
When Vance Banning moves to rural Maryland, all he wants is peace, quiet and to keep away from women. The last thing he needs is his outspoken—yet infuriatingly sexy—neighbor, Shane Abbott, getting into his business. But he has no idea how determined Shane is when it comes to giving a helping hand—or a loving heart.

This is actually a re-issue of two Roberts Christmas romances, collected in one volume. One was first published in 1984, and the other in 1994.

The first book, All I Want for Christmas, is a very cute story. Some readers might consider it cheesy, but I LOVED it!! The twin boys are very realistically portrayed, and are not 'overly adorable'. The whole setup is just perfectly 'Christmasy' and totally heartwarming! It's true that this adjective has been overdone in reviews of Christmas-themed novels, but I honestly can't think of another that fits this novel more perfectly. Besides, isn't that what Christmas romances are supposed to do -- give you those warm, fuzzy feelings? These boys just stole my heart!

The adults in the story were just as perfectly portrayed. Mac Taylor, the boys' father, still carries the emotional burden of a failed first marriage, and, thus, is not eager to open his heart to another woman. Nell Davis, their town's new music teacher, has issues of her own, although she proves to be more willing than Mac to trust that love will bring her happiness. 

I loved reading about how Nell motivated the kids at her school to get involved in the choir, even encouraging some of them to enter the state championship. Her enthusiasm was so contagious! Of course, their Christmas concert that year was a great success!

As for Mac, I was totally enchanted by him! His love and concern for his twin boys is so wonderful! Far from considering them an annoyance -- as some parents unfortunately consider their kids to be -- he was always involved in their lives, and was a very loving father. 

Luckily, Nell loved children, too. She and the boys soon became friends, and from there, she grew to love them. The feeling was definitely mutual!

This story is about what Christmas represents -- love, family closeness, and the spirit of giving. Also important is living every minute of Life with gusto! 

I wholeheartedly give this book FIVE stars!!

As for the second book, First Impressions, the story is definitely for adults. There are no children involved. After reading the first book, I did miss them, as I love children. But I was soon drawn into this second story, which I loved just as much! 

Shane Abbott is the sort of wonderful heroine that makes me wish I could change places with her! She hasn't exactly had a wonderful life, though, as her mother is a narcissistic actress who has never been interested in her daughter. Thus, Shane was brought up by her grandmother, whom she dearly loves. Although she's a very feisty, independent-minded woman, Shane is also a very loving, giving, outgoing person. This becomes very evident at several points in the story.

Vance Banning, as described by Roberts, is every red-blooded woman's picture of the sexy, brooding romantic hero who nevertheless has a kind heart. Because underneath the thick armor that makes him come across like a misanthrope, Vance does indeed operate from sincerity and a willingness to give. It's just that he, like Mac, has been burned, so he's not exactly open to any new romantic relationships. Until he meets Shane, that is! 

I love the way Roberts handled the gradual buildup of this relationship. The pace was just right -- not too fast, not too slow. The fact that both protagonists also had goals for themselves beyond the relationship not only helped the whole plot to be more realistic, but also established each of these characters as persons in their own right, without leaning too much on each other. 

I am only too happy to give First Impressions FIVE stars, as well!

Although I recently finished reading both of these books, they left such a warm glow inside, I feel like going back and reading them all over again! And I really don't care if other reviewers have criticized these novels as being too predictable. Heck, ALL romance novels are predictable, because we know that the all-important HEA is coming! What makes all of these books such wonderful, page-turning reads is the road the lovers take to that happily-ever-after, with all its twists and turns!

Both of these novels, brought together in this special edition, are the sort of thing that will make any Christmas romance fan just bubble over with happiness! These stories are sure to bring you moments of delight and the need to keep reading until you finish the very last page, even if you do know how everything will end!!


Nora Roberts was born in Silver Spring, Maryland. She began writing when a blizzard in February 1979 kept her in her hilltop home with a three and six-year-old for nearly a week of canceled kindergarten and dwindling chocolate supplies.

During the now-famous blizzard, she pulled out a pencil and notebook and began to write a story for her own entertainment. From the first page, she knew it was what she was meant to do. Several manuscripts and rejections later, Irish Thoroughbred was published by Silhouette in 1981.

The Liar, published in April, 2015 by Putnam, is her 214th book. She hit the NY Times Bestseller list in 1991. Every book since 1999 has made that list.

Recently The New Yorker called her “America’s favorite novelist."

In 1995, she began writing a police procedural series featuring Eve Dallas, a NYC homicide cop, and set in the near future, under the J.D. Robb pseudonym. Devoted in Death, out in September 2015, is the 41st entry in the series.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Book Review/Giveaway!! Belle Chasse, by Suzanne Johnson (Bewitching Book Tours)

Welcome to the Belle Chasse blog tour, 
sponsored by
Bewitching Book Tours!!

For my stop, I'm featuring a review!
There's also a tour-wide giveaway!!

Belle Chasse
(Sentinels of New Orleans, Book 5)
Suzanne Johnson
Hardcover, 336 pages
Tor Books
November 8, 2016
Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy

With the wizard-elven treaty on the verge of collapse, the preternatural world stands on the brink of war. Unless former wizard sentinel DJ Jaco manages to keep the elven leader, Quince Randolph, focused on peace and not personal matters.

With no one on the throne, Faerie is in chaos, with rival princes battling for power. The still-undead pirate, Jean Lafitte, is building his own army of misfits, and DJ—stripped of her job and hiding in the Beyond to avoid the death sentence handed down by the wizard Council of Elders—can’t get anywhere near her beloved New Orleans or her significant something-or-other, Alex.

It's time to choose sides. Friends will become enemies, enemies will become allies, and not everyone will survive. DJ and her friends will learn a hard lesson: sometimes, even the ultimate sacrifice isn’t enough.

(Note: I purchased my own printed copy of this novel, even though an e-ARC was available free for review from the author. I just prefer printed books, and LOVE this series!!)

I was very recently and pleasantly surprised to find out that Suzanne Johnson had penned another installment in the Sentinels of New Orleans series. Needless to say, I immediately signed up for the book tour!

Drusilla Jaco, now former Sentinel of New Orleans, has been a favorite character of mine since I first encountered her in Pirate's Alley, Book 4 in this series. I need to get the first book, Royal Street, as well as the sequels, so I can complete the whole series!

This latest installment brings back all the great characters I first met and loved in Pirate's Alley, and contains a lot of preternatural political intrigue. I greatly enjoyed every single minute!

DJ, as she is known among her friends, is, as always, a very funny narrator, as well as a very sharp one. She doesn't miss a beat, managing to stay one step ahead of those who are intent on bringing her down, in this particular novel. She's also busy keeping her best friend, Eugenie, out of the clutches of those who want to hand her over to the Elf leader, Quince Randolph, for political reasons. I can't say enough great things about DJ! She's definitely one of the BEST female protagonists I've ever encountered in urban fantasy!

Another great character in this series is the undead pirate, Jean Laffite, who happens to be a real historical figure. In fact, he has until very recently been the representative for the historical undead at the Interspecies Council. Jean is charming, sexy, and very much interested in DJ, whom he affectionately calls "Jolie", much to her chagrin. This French word means "pretty" in English. The novel contains quite a few French words and phrases, much to my delight, as I studied the language in high school and college. (If you don't understand any of the words and phrases you will encounter in this novel, just look up their translation on Google.)

Aside from his charm and sex appeal, Jean is also unintentionally funny. This is because, since he is actually 230 years old, he tends to interpret modern English slang and idioms literally. And, of course, since DJ is always using those, she then has to explain them to him. The results make for some hilarious reading!

As with Pirate's Alley, I found myself wishing that DJ would break up with Alex, her canine shapeshifter boyfriend, and start dating Jean. Yes, this is a bit creepy, but it's just that I think she and Jean are much more compatible, in spite of the different centuries they're from. Alex, in contrast, is more of a stuffed shirt. He and DJ argue quite a lot, although they both do love each other. However, their relationship has a lot of ups and downs. In contrast, Jean remains funny even when he and DJ disagree. I'm sure that, in spite of his old-fashioned views of women, he and DJ would have a smoother relationship. 

Quince Randolph is his usual insufferable elf self in this novel. He wants Eugenie to be transported to Elfheim at all costs, and has even threatened to scramble her brains if this doesn't happen. The remarkably resourceful DJ manages to get him to compromise on this issue, which makes me admire her all the more!

In this novel, I actually came to HATE Willem Zrakovi, the wizards's Chief Elder. How he could be so insensitive to DJ's unique predicament as reluctant bondmate to Quince (known as "Rand" in the book) is beyond me. Thankfully, DJ is as slippery as an eel, and always manages to outsmart Zrakovi. I LOVE how embarrassingly incompetent she makes him look!

In this novel, we get to see more of Christof, the Fae Prince of Winter, and his arrogant, sociopathic brother, Florian, the Prince of Summer. What a contrast between these two! Where Christof is kind and reasonable, Florian is evil and devious. Florian is also a murderer, and dangerous in the extreme. And poor DJ certainly has her hands full!

Rene the merman is another favorite character of mine. His unquestioning loyalty to DJ made me love him in the previous book! That's also the case in this novel. He's funny in his own way, as well. He calls DJ "babe", but does not mean this in a condescending way at all. It's just an affectionate name he has for her. And I love how he always has her back, too.

The world-building in this series is nothing short of outstanding! It's very meticulously detailed, and totally believable. The different fictional worlds are all seamlessly tied together. There's the human New Orleans, as well as the realms of the Beyond -- Old Barataria, Elfheim, Old Orleans, and Faery. There are references to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans several years ago. Throughout the book, it's also very evident that Johnson loves her hometown.

This author's imagination knows no bounds, as she deftly tosses in wonderful magical details that all serve to drive her plot forward. There are numerous twists and turns, as well as several surprises. The plot is pretty complex, and there were times when I was a bit lost, but then was able to get right back on track. 

DJ is able to connect with Alex at some point in the story, in spite of having Zrakovi practically breathing down her neck, hoping to capture her. And I was impressed with Alex. He risked his position and current political office in order to cover for DJ. I must admit that definitely shows he cares a lot about her.

This novel is so much fun! There's great action, truly memorable characters, snarky humor, very imaginative world-building, and just all-around awesomeness! Although the paranormal romance is not really emphasized, the other elements of the story more than make up for this. In short, this is prize-winning urban fantasy, and I highly recommend it to all lovers of the genre!   


Purchase Links

Suzanne Johnson is the author of the award-winning Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series, but perhaps is best known for her romantic suspense and paranormal romance books written as Susannah Sandlin, including the Penton Vampire Legacy paranormal romance series, the Wilds of the Bayou suspense series, and The Collectors romantic thriller series. Her awards include two Holt Medallions in 2013 and 2015, a 2015 Booksellers Best Award in romantic suspense, and nominations in 2014 and 2015 for the RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Award. A displaced New Orleanian, she currently lives in Auburn, Alabama. Suzanne loves SEC football, fried gator on a stick, all things Cajun, and redneck reality TV.

To access the complete tour schedule, just click on the button below!