Magic in the Wind (Drake Sisters #1)

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“Sarah’s coming home.” Ever since Damon Wilder sought refuge in Sea Haven, he’s heard the same breathless rumor pass the lips of nearly every local in the sleepy coastal town. Even the wind seems to whisper her name – a reverie so powerfully suggestive that it carries the curious Damon to Sarah’s clifftop home, and seeks to shelter him there.

But Damon has not arrived alone. Two men have tracked him to Sea Haven, and into the shadows of Drake House, where Sarah hides her own secrets. And danger- as well as a desire more urgent than either has ever known- is just a whisper away…

—                         —                         —

The Drake Sisters series is one that I have read many, many times in the past. It is one of my favourite series ever but I have never shared my love for these books on this blog. I have started re-reading the books this summer to try and get out of this book slump I feel stuck in, and now I remember just why I loved these books so much. They are so FUNNY!

I literally LOL when reading the Drakes. The interactions between them and Jonas are hilarious. 

Sarah is the oldest sister. Her story is told in the book Magic in the Wind. It is a novella, something I have always regretted. Her story is also included at the start of Sea Storm, which contains book four in this series as well.

I never really liked Sarah all that much, nor did I warm to her fiance, Damon. Sarah is the oldest of the seven magical Drake sisters and as such, is bossy, a bit self-righteous and seemed like a stick in the mud. In re-reading her story though, I rediscovered her generosity, kindness, patience and sense of humour. She is also hugely protective of her family!

We don’t get too much of Damon in this novella – probably due to the word count – but fans of the series learn more in other books.

I think that the reason I never warmed to Sarah is because her book was such a short introduction to the series. It is less than half the word count of Abbey’s book! Poor Sarah really drew the short straw. In addition, I am nothing like Sarah, whereas I can relate much more easily to some of her sisters.

I enjoyed rereading this book and am excited to keep moving through this series. Now the dilemma though – do I keep going right away because I am in the mood to read them, or do I wait until Christmastime, (the second novel in the series is set at Christmas) to continue???

* * * *    (it would have been 5 if it was novel-length!)

xx

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Hostage (Criminals and Captives #2)

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I NEVER KNEW WHEN HE’D COME TO ME. ONLY THAT HE WOULD.

I’d never even kissed a boy the night I met Stone. The night I saw him kill. The night he spared my life. That was only the beginning.

He turns up in my car again and again, dangerous and full of raw power. “Drive,” he tells me, and I have no choice. He’s a criminal with burning green eyes, invading my life and my dreams.

The police say he’s dangerously obsessed with me, but I’m the one who can’t stop thinking about him. Maybe it’s wrong to let him touch me. Maybe it’s wrong to touch him back. Maybe these twisted dates need to stop. Except he feels like the only real thing in my world of designer labels and mansions.

So I drive us under threat, until it’s hard to remember I don’t want to be there.

Until it’s too late to turn back.

—                         —                         —

Hostage is a loose sequel to the first Criminals & Captives book, Prisoner. However, each can be read independently of one another.

Stone is darker than Grayson (from book 1) but I found that the book was actually a bit lighter. There was more mystery and intrigue in it than in the previous one, as the gang is trying to identify a couple of the key men who ran the human trafficking ring they were trapped in as children. There is none of the on-the-run shenanigans that our first couple went through.

Hostage is a very slow burn romance. When the hero and heroine first meet, she is 16 and he is a decade older. Although intrigued in (and attracted to) each other, the physical aspect of their relationship is not explored until Brooke is an adult. During this period, they only meet a few times, months apart, as Grayson keeps track of her.

There are also a few scenes of struggle and physical restraint that made the story hawt!

There are three main points that have caused me to rate this book as four stars instead of five.

Potential Spoilers ahead!

Firstly, the idea that Brooke’s parents were able to so well hide their destitution while still living the high roller lifestyle publicly is pretty flimsy. At one point it states her mother is working double shifts in a bakery in the next town to keep up appearances in their social circle, but this would never escape notice for long, though it apparently does in the book. The family is on the edge of ruin for years while hiding it from everyone.

It is entirely possible I suppose, but I found that the level of disbelief I was asked to suspend was too much.

Secondly, the identity of Keeper was obvious to me early on.

Thirdly, and most importantly, the ending was way too easy and “light”. Everything just fell together perfectly for the characters. I wish Stone and his boys had roughed Brooke up a little bit in order to get the identity of Keeper out of her. There are tons of dark romance novels out there with interrogation scenes (my favourite is reviewed here!) and it would have been something much more real for the couple to have to work through. As it was, the ending was kinda wah-wah for me. Certainly not dark.

* * * *

xx

The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine

Note: I read this book for the “debut novel” category of Book Riots’ 2017 Reading Harder Challenge. Also, this review is shocking devoid of spoilers.

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An atmospheric debut novel about a woman who discovers the century-old remains of a murder victim on her family’s Scottish estate, plunging her into an investigation of its mysterious former occupants.

Following the death of her last living relative, Hetty Deveraux leaves London and her strained relationship behind for Muirlan, her ancestral home in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. She intends to renovate the ruinous house into a hotel, but the shocking discovery of human remains brings her ambitious restoration plans to an abrupt halt before they even begin. Few physical clues are left to identify the body, but one thing is certain: this person did not die a natural death.

Hungry for answers, Hetty discovers that Muirlan was once the refuge of her distant relative Theo Blake, the acclaimed painter and naturalist who brought his new bride, Beatrice, there in 1910. Yet ancient gossip and a handful of leads reveal that their marriage was far from perfect; Beatrice eventually vanished from the island, never to return, and Theo withdrew from society, his paintings becoming increasingly dark and disturbing.

What happened between them has remained a mystery, but as Hetty listens to the locals and studies the masterful paintings produced by Theo during his short-lived marriage, she uncovers secrets that still reverberate through the small island community—and will lead her to the identity of the long-hidden body.

—                          —                           —

The House Between Tides is Sarah Maine’s debut novel. It is set in the Outer Hebrides, islands off Scotland’s Atlantic Coast. After reading the book, I looked up some tourism sites and discovered that the islands are not exactly what I was expecting! I imagined that they were extremely rugged and isolated (which they are) but somehow I was mostly expecting a continuation of the Highlands, which isn’t entirely accurate.

So to help set you in the right mood, here are some pictures borrowed from Visit Scotland.

Ready to move here yet? I sure as heck am!

I am in love with The House Between Tides. I’ve already pimped it out to my flatmate and mother, and have been talking it up among my coworkers … speaking of, if any of you are reading this blog, want to plan a trip? 🙂

But in all seriousness, I am awed that this is along the first of Maine’s novels. It is detailed and layered, a perfect composition of intrigue, mystery, romance and adventure, with a bit of the mysterious mixed in. Selkie legends anyone?

I was kept guessing all the way through as to whom the bones belonged. It is clear to the reader that it must be one of a handful of characters, but I was surprised at who they actually belonged to. This individual would have been my second or third guess. I detest predictable novels, so I was perfectly content with the outcome not being what I expected.

The House Between Tides is aptly named, as most of the story develops on the estate or adjoining island, which is accessible only by land during low tide. The story flashes back and forth between 1910/1911 and 2010, although the vast majority of pages are devoted to the past. Every once in a while you will surface for a few chapters to catch the modern-day characters up on the mysteries surrounding Muirlan and to allow the reader to appreciate the impact past events still have on the village today. I haven’t read a multi-generational book like this in a while and it was a great reminder of how touching it can be to read about the ancestor and the descendent. There is certainly added depth to the tale.

The pacing of the writing carries on at a reasonable rate, keeping the book moving forward without the loss of details. I was drawn into Maine’s story and couldn’t put her book down, pushing forward to the end so I could discover the truth behind the mystery of the bones and what happened to all these beloved characters you have just spent a year and a half falling in love with.

The ending is tragic, which you might expect from the description. Clearly someone has died for bones to be found. And yet, I still was surprised by the emotions that overtook me as I read the final pages. Definitely one of those books where I was bawling my eyes out at 3am as I finished the story! There were far more layers put into the outcome than I had anticipated.

I am eagerly awaiting the second novel of Maine’s, to be published in 2017, called Beyond the Wild River. It is based closer to home, in 19th century Thunder Bay, Ontario area, and features a new cast of characters.

* * * * *

xx

 

A Feast for Crows – a review

This is the fourth book in mega-franchise Song of Ice and Fire … aka Game of Thrones.

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Blurb:

It seems too good to be true. After centuries of bitter strife and fatal treachery, the seven powers dividing the land have decimated one another into an uneasy truce. Or so it appears… With the death of the monstrous King Joffrey, Cersei is ruling as regent in King’s Landing. Robb Stark’s demise has broken the back of the Northern rebels, and his siblings are scattered throughout the kingdom like seeds on barren soil. Few legitimate claims to the once desperately sought Iron Throne still exist–or they are held in hands too weak or too distant to wield them effectively. The war, which raged out of control for so long, has burned itself out.

But as in the aftermath of any climactic struggle, it is not long before the survivors, outlaws, renegades, and carrion eaters start to gather, picking over the bones of the dead and fighting for the spoils of the soon-to-be dead. Now in the Seven Kingdoms, as the human crows assemble over a banquet of ashes, daring new plots and dangerous new alliances are formed, while surprising faces–some familiar, others only just appearing–are seen emerging from an ominous twilight of past struggles and chaos to take up the challenges ahead.

It is a time when the wise and the ambitious, the deceitful and the strong will acquire the skills, the power, and the magic to survive the stark and terrible times that lie before them. It is a time for nobles and commoners, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and sages to come together and stake their fortunes…and their lives. For at a feast for crows, many are the guests–but only a few are the survivors.

—                           —                           —

NB: This review will contain spoilers from books 1-3.

Firstly, can I just say that I understand why everyone wants to be Ruler of the Seven Kingdoms? This is a pretty fabulous hometown, I would want it too.

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A Feast for Crows marks a departure from the previous books in this series in a number of ways. Firstly, you don’t see the perspectives of all the key players in the Game of Thrones. Only half of the characters will have their stories told. The other half have their stories told in the subsequent novel, A Dance of Dragons. As such, the novels take place simultaneously, whereas the series was previously told chronologically.

I do not like this new style. After finishing Crows and (at the point) getting about halfway through Dragons, I certainly feel that the pace of the story is much slower. And in an intricate and highly detailed story, it can be difficult to go back and think to yourself while reading Dragons, ‘ok, this happens when blankedy-blank happens in Crows’.

There are a few websites out there run by what I can only assume to be dedicated superfans, who have stitched the timeline of the two books together for other readers. If you are willing to read Crows and Dragons simultaneously, these sites outline the sequence of chapters from the books to give you a chronological timeline.

I thought about using this to read the books (I’d been forewarned) but I worried it would be too much of the world, and I wouldn’t make it through. I have to have a good break between books of a least a few months, or I find that I can’t get through the second novel.

So with that having been said, here are my thoughts on A Feast for Crows!

 

petyr baelish

Petyr Baelish aka ‘Littlefinger’   I found Petyr be less fun and a whole heck of a lot creepier than he was in the previous books. He comes across as a real ‘come get candy out of the back of my van, little girl” kind of guy. I definitely like his portrayal better in the show, where he is deliciously creepy but in Crows, he has an “ick-                                                                                        factor”.

 

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Jaime Lannister aka ‘Kingslayer’     Jaime is much more clever, serious and responsible in this one. He reads less as a spoiled (though talented) courtier of the most powerful noble family in Westeros and more as a ‘man’. It is too bad that he and Ned Stark were enemies … if they had of spent a lot of time with each other, I think that each would have improved the other.

I foresee Jaime becoming more of a heavy hitter as the series continues and think he and Cersei will be less of a dynamic duo. (okay, very minor spoiler in this sentence) I really loved that Jaime tried his best to keep his promise to Catelynn Stark and to protect Sansa. It will be fun to see if they ever cross paths, or if he finds out that Arya is still alive.

 

cersei lannister

Cersei Lannister aka ‘The Queen’   Cersei. Ugh. She was deliciously evil in the previous books and starts out that way in Crows. As much as she is the antagonist, there were things you had to admire in her and at times I even pitied her in the past. Not so much now. I wonder if Cersei is losing her grip on reality since Joff’s death. She is certainly a worse ruler and cannot keep up with the changing hands of power in King’s Landing. The Kingdom is on the brink of collapse  and for once it has nothing to do with usurpers to the throne.

Cersei is nowhere near as clever as she thinks she is and is so terrified of losing another child, that she acts blindly. Pride goeth before a downfall and that is most certainly going to be the case for her. She has received fantastic advice from Jaime and her Uncle but doesn’t trust them, just as she had no respect and grace in receiving Tyrion’s assistance during Stannis’ invasion. I’m going to foretell her demise in the forthcoming sixth book.

 

Game-of-Thrones-game-of-thrones-21613125-500-281Samwell Tarley                                     I think that Sam should get the “most improved character” reward. His story-line went from mainly whining about how cowardly he was and ‘just leave me here to die’ melodrama to interesting and exciting. His plot has finally divested from The Watch and the reader gets to see more mysticism entering the series in The Citadel. This hasn’t shown up yet on the show; it will be interesting to see the new sets and meet new characters when it does.

 

Brienneoftarth

Brienne of Tarth

Brienne’s journey was pretty boring until the very end of the book when things got serious right quick.

Her’s is one of the stories I am most looking forward to exploring in the future. She meets Lady Stoneheart. If you don’t understand who this as you read the books, google it. Very important, but too spoilery to post here.

 

sansaSansa Stark aka ‘Alayne’

Sansa is just beginning to make her transition from young, feeble-minded girl to confident woman. She isn’t playing the Game of Thrones yet, as portrayed on television, but she is heading in that direction.

I enjoyed A Feast for Crows but not nearly as much as I enjoyed A Storm of Swords. Then again, how could you top a book that contained both the Red and the Purple Weddings?!

A lot of new, seemingly unimportant characters are introduced in this one, from The Prophet, and The Captain of the Guards to The Reaver, The Iron Captain, The Drowned Man and the Queenmaker. While I’m sure they will contribute to the breadth of the story later on, as I was reading, it felt like filler. It was difficult to keep track of everyone and I missed the heavyhitters who were saved for Dragons, like Dany.

If, like me, you struggle a bit with this book, give into the internet and do some quick googling. Especially if you have seen the HBO series or are unafraid of spoilers. At this point, you probably won’t find too many major spoilers because you are almost up to date and it really increases the experience by having all these random bits explained … like the real identity of Lady Stoneheart. The tower of the hand website was my favourite information guide.

* * * *

xx

Crow’s Row – a review

Crow’s Row, by Julie Hockley, is a coming of age story told from the perspective of its heroine, second year university student Emily Sheppard. The series takes its name from the first book, with the second called Scare Crow.

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Emily is living in the ghetto, near to where the older brother she idolized died several years earlier, and is completely cut off from any real emotional connection to friends, family or a significant other. Abandoned by her room-mates for the summer, she witnesses a murder in the cemetery during one of her daily runs, is kidnapped by said thugs, and taken to a remote farm out of state while they decide what to do with her.

Ultimately, this series is about Emily coming to understand the various connections she unknowingly has to her kidnappers and to the city she has moved to for school.

I found this series by googling for NA (new adult) books related to the bratva or mafia, and this came up. It isn’t exactly what I was looking for that day (deets below) but I read it anyway. It is still an excellent start by rookie author Hockley.

These books are a blend of the young adult and new adult categories in my opinion. The characters’ ages and some subject matter are certainly more appropriate for the new adult tag, but there is very little sex in the series, none of it explicit, which is far more commonly found in young adult novels. If you are starting to read up as a young person, or are just uncomfortable reading erotic scenes, this would be a great recommendation for you, certainly far safer than my usual review material.

During her months spent with her kidnappers, Emily gets to know them on a more personal level and the reader discovers that there is more going on than initially presented. Although these men – and woman – are certainly very dangerous people, you don’t see much of that side of them, because they treat Emily well after her initial kidnapping, and everything is written in her perspective.

My main criticism of these books draws from this. Cameron, the leader of this motley crew, turns out to be a Big Bad, the sole leader of an organized crime syndicate for the North Eastern United States, presiding over a council comprised of mafia types, outlaw bikers, gangs, etc.

I had two problems with this: firstly, as I stated, we get Emily’s perspective and even though she is scared of him at times, they are sweet on each other and have a longer connection than she realizes. Plus, he is a dog lover. When the reader only gets glimpses of his darker side, it is hard to imagine him being powerful enough or dark enough to control all those other criminal groups. Secondly, he wasn’t born into this life – he made his own way from highschool drug dealer up – and late twenties seems way too young to be in that powerful of a position, able to strong-arm the mafia and established 1% biker clubs into submission.

I hope that Hockley adds a lot darker material into the third novel, to validate her characters’ claims. So far the violence is restrained to kidnapping (and treating their “guest” very well) and murder (of very bad dudes who were trying to kill our protagonists). I need Spider et al (and maybe even Emily) to do some seriously evil shit in the next book because right now, it feels like Hockley is on the edge, trying to write R-rated characters in a PG-13 novel.

Oddly enough, the main criticism I saw online of this book was that Emily fell in love with Cameron. But I had no trouble with that plot-line at all. She does fall for the guy responsible for her kidnapping true, but other than that initial confrontation, Cameron does nothing at all to hurt her and actually protects her. There isn’t any Stockholm Syndrome at play here. It doesn’t take long for Emily to decide that the farm isn’t a bad place to stay, and she doesn’t seem particularly anxious to leave. In fact, I think she would have quite happily stayed forever if she wasn’t nervous about why there were so many armed guards protecting the property. (Minor spoilers ahead)

Once she realizes that Cameron and her brother had been good friends and business partners, she wants to get as close as possible to the group and find out what she can. She never believed the reports of how her brother Bill died via an overdose and has been seeking a connection to him since his death six years previously. After realizing that Cameron has been looking out for her from afar for so long, in honour of Bill, the connection between them just deepens.

I can’t speak too much to the plot-line in the sequel without completing spoiling the ending of the first, but I highly encourage anyone here to keep reading.

After reading Crow’s Row, pick up Scare Crow, and eventually the untitled third book which has already been announced.

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* * * * (for both books)

xx