"Our thoughts shape our world" pretty much sums up this book. The Secret Garden reminded me strongly of Heidi, The Little Princess, and -- to some extent -- Anne of Green Gables. It's an uplifting children's classic, set in Yorkshire, 1910. Good character development, inspirational and motivational messages, credible kid dialogue, and a few mysteries. Granted, the author pushes the power of positive thinking, fresh air, exercise, and Mother Nature a lot, but no harm done. At least she avoids pious judgmentalism. Plus, I adored Dickon, the young animal whisperer.
Good performance by Victoria McGee. She made it easy to differentiate between characters, and her voice is pleasant.
Some parts got repetitive and slow, but not too bad, and being a word nerd, I enjoyed the strong Yorkshire accent and the archaic vocabulary, including "wick" (alive), etc. This book inspired me to work in my garden and to nurture my soul.
My only strong quibble is with Archibald Craven. His happy ending was too pat, too sudden, and -- well -- undeserved. Out of self-pity at the death of his beloved wife, for ten years he abandoned his poor little infant son. Collin knew fear, loneliness, and dreadful misery. Excerpt:
"He was a man who for ten years had kept his mind full of dark and heartbroken thinking. He had not been courageous. He had never tried to put any other thoughts in the place of the dark ones. He had wandered by blue lakes, and thought them. He had lain on mountainsides with sheets of deep blue gentians blooming all around him, and thought them. A terrible sorrow had fallen upon him...and he had let his soul fill itself with blackness and had refused obstinately to allow any rift of light to pierce through. He had forgotten and deserted his home and his duties."
I needed to see Archie work for it a little.
Excellent narration notwithstanding, I'm a disgruntled reader. Even though some scenes were wonderfully vivid and quite suspenseful (especially in the Shivering Fens), as a whole, I felt mildly impatient with the pedantic writing style, annoyed at the romantic developments, and irritated at the ending. Ends on a major cliff. Hanging on for dear life.
"Leave-no-thought-unwritten" writing style: Infernal internal dialogue. The author uses a character's thoughts to reiterate things gleaned from the actual events and dialogue, to be totally sure we totally know what's going on. Totally. As if we can't catch the nuance from the story itself. Chima's mental asides occur within conversations even, interrupting the flow. These thoughts offer nothing new — they are usually obvious and/or repeated info. Sometimes they restate previous passages, italicized. Emergent plot twists are hinted at too strongly, making the twist obvious even before the reader could possibly play the prediction game. Boo! Nuff said. Forgive the rant, but I felt cheated of the joys of puzzling out the plot.
This one reminded me too much of Hogwarts, complete with a Snape doppelgänger and a nasty trio to replace Malfoy and friends. I don't mind reading that same trope again, if it's well written and engrossing.
Frustrating love triangles. I totally hated what the author did to Amon and Raisa.
Foolish and obtuse hero and heroine. At times too stupid to live. The letter she wrote!! His lack of caution re Crow.
All that said, I liked some scenes and some secondary characters really caught my attention. I might read the sequel. I want to know how it all pans out.
Okay for kids? Probably. The contents are fairly harmless. No swearing. Lots of sexual innuendo (no actual sex, but occasional kissing and necking).
Great narration by Carol Monda, but I mostly read this book, alternating occasionally with audio. 3.75 stars for the story itself, the last book in the series and the best, despite some quibbles (noted last, below).
This series is YA with some allusions to sex but no explicit sex scenes. It's high fantasy in some sense, but no dragons, pixies, or gnomes. Lots of magic, though. Green earth magic used by the mountain clans (copperheads) and wizardly mumbo-jumbo used by the "gifted" (jinxflingers). And there are portentous visions of Gray Wolves (the spirits of ancestors, ancient queens). Pretty cool, but maybe the wolves appeared too frequently and lost a little of their pizzazz.
Compared to books 1 and 2, characterization is fairly consistent here in book 4. Characters didn't act counter to their upbringing or intelligence just to steer the plot. I didn't find myself rolling my eyes at stupidity, either. So, all good.
Several romances are going on. Primarily, there is Hans and Raisa, newly crowned queen. They earn this HEA and it felt solid. Dancer and Cat continue to develop their unlikely and yet heartwarming bond and --- SURPRISE! --- a secret relationship is revealed, one that began in book 2.
Villains are many and varied, but not cardboard. Sometimes they surprised me. Mostly they didn't.
Embraceable secondary characters. Fire Dancer develops a splendid new power yet stays true to his heart. And what a big heart it is! Crow is just a wonderfully vivid character -- no easy feat, considering he's only spirit. I loved his quirky brilliant personality, and wanted a happy ending for him. Lucius the blind immortal is textured, layered, and has a compelling backstory. The new captain of the Highland Army is a woman; she's weathered, sensible, and textured. I got a solid read on her. Cat played in some key scenes -- and not always on her basilka harp. Also, Dimitri and his Waterwalkers (from book 2) played in a brief but fun little scene. I did wish for children to get a pivotal role in this series, but even though they are occasionally present, they are minor players.
The plot includes a fair amount of political posturing as a new high wizard is elected, but it's easy to follow and necessary to the plot. I liked the scene when the wizards voted and various surprising event occurred.
Still miffed about what happened to Amon. He went from a burning hunk of love in books 1-2 to some flat and colorless character. The least Chima could have done was portray him with his fiancée in some tender and loving scenes.
Pace bogs down in too much internal dialogue, used by the author to ensure her readers remember important events, make key connections, and perceive her characters in the light she wants. I dislike this style of writing. Authors should trust readers to do their part. No need to spoon-feed us. Take out all the mental asides, reflection, rumination, guilt-tripping, etc. and the book would be better. And much shorter.
It's a bit predictable.
I alternated between reading and listening to this series opener. Excellent narration by Carol Monda. This is YA high fantasy with castles, queens, clans, dark wizards, and a whisper of romance. At the author's website, there's a map and a list of characters, etc.
The story is told in 3rd person POV, hopping from Han to Raisa. I think the POV changed at the beginning of each chapter.
Despite some vivid scenes, I found this story fairly predictable and frequently frustrating — but eventually promising. I will read the sequel. People say the books get better and better.
Some vivid imagery, some witty dialogue, several suspenseful scenes, brief but tight battles, bloody murder, a little humor, and some heartrendingly poignant moments balanced by heartwarmingly loyal friendship. There's court intrigue, dangerous enchantments, ancient amulets of great power, and a deep dark secret spanning a thousand years.
What's not to like? Info dumping — too much boring expositional narrative, especially in the beginning — and too much internal dialogue for me. This slowed the pace for far too long.
Also, I couldn't get a handle on the characters! They breach. Several supposedly clever characters were unbelievably slow to catch on. Furthermore, a supposedly benevolent character caused a lifetime of family distrust and cruel suffering. Then there's the Demonai warriors. A good warrior is INTELLIGENT, not a biased bigot with a blade. Chima describes them as a LEGENDARY warrior clan -- yet she depicts them as murderous race-haters -- yet she clearly wants me to like Averill the Demonai Lord, and Elena, the matriarch of the clan? Also, the part about the twin babies? Who would handle that situation and its aftermath with such blinded bias, yet be described as wise? Ugh.
That said, the story caught my attention enough to read the sequel. I want to find out how the characters come together at this academy for wizards and warriors. I want to watch them bond together in a common goal (assuming they do). I am fairly interested in Han, Fire Dancer, Princess Raisa, and Amon, her guardian. I want to hear more about Amon's cadet pack of Gray Wolves. I want to see all these young adults come into their own power and set the corrupt kingdom to rights.
Entertaining whodunit, and Kellgren's narration is crisp yet easy on the ears — except for a few abrasive tones assigned to a few male characters. For example, the hero always sounds fine (easy on the ears), but I disliked Mr. Digby's querulous, angry tones (thank goodness, he's just a bit part). With the buds in my ears, caustic tones hurt.
This is a stand-alone novel, not part of the Arcane Series, and not paranormal. A romantic suspense, THE RIVER KNOWS is set in London towards the end of the Victorian era. One recurring theme is women's clothing:
"But she and Emma were both staunch advocates of the rational dress movement, which held that ladies should wear no more than seven pounds of underwear. As for corsets, the movement had wisely declared them to be injurious to women’s health."
In the prologue, the heroine kills an English lord in self-defense. A year later, she is living under an assumed name, disguised as a drab, and working as an undercover reporter. I like that kind of set-up -- a fairly common trope in Quick's historicals.
A decent whodunit (but nothing special), with snappy dialogue, suspense, humor, and some heartwarming loyalty scenes. A few secondary characters added to the fun, especially Louisa's dear friend Emma and Anthony's delightful, intrepid family. A few psychopathic villains kept the momentum moving, and Inspector Fowler made another welcome appearance.
Quick went with her formula, but it's a good one, and at least you know what you're getting.
Contents include three sex scenes (one is a fade-to-black scene). Minimal cursing or profanity, but there is some. No pejorative terms for female anatomy. Some violence, including bloody murder.
Holy smokes! I've been through the fire with this one. A classic, published in 1947. It's realistic historical fiction with some sense of a love story but also a good deal of personal tragedy, including some truly grisly scenes.
I alternately read the e-book and listened to the audio, narrated superbly by the talented Kirsten Potter. It was also made into a movie, starring Dick Powell and Evelyn Keyes, but I haven't seen it.
This fast-paced narrative is told in 1st person POV in the perspective of "Mrs. Mike" (the name the Cree and Beaver natives use for the heroine, Katherine Mary O'Fallon Flannigan, of Boston).
The story begins in March 1907, on a train bound for Calgary, in the midst of a historic snowstorm. It continues in Alberta and British Columbia, Western Canada (Calgary, Hudson's Hope, Peace River Crossing, and Grouard, near Lower Slave Lake).
Descriptive. Vivid imagery. Educational. Sometimes funny. Sometimes profound. A few sweet loving scenes, with hugs and kisses. And terribly horribly grim at times. Very sad.
Realistic look at life in the Canadian wilderness, the serenity, the majesty, and the horror (forest fires, diphtheria, horrible deaths -- even of beloved characters -- whiskey smuggling, insanity, murder, wonderful natives, missions, mosquitos, bears, wolves, prairie chickens (rabbits), dogsleds (huskies), etc.
The authors credibly portray three women of tremendous emotional courage and resiliency, especially Sarah and Constance, but also Katherine Mary (Mrs. Mike) herself.
Loved the hero of the tale, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sergeant Mike Flannigan. His love for life, for the wilderness, for the natives, and for his girl Kathy was transparent. When they marry in 1907, Mike is 27 years old and Katherine is 16. When the story ends, they are each about 12 years older. They've suffered great loss and experienced great joy in only 12 years. Katherine has grown up.
The book suddenly ends after almost 12 years of marriage, so we just have to assume they live a good life together with their children. I wish there were more closure. My other quibble is that some scenes and characters were glossed over or forgotten. But that's minor. Also, the chapter about the Chinese emperors did not seem to fit at all, never mind how silly it was.
I enjoyed this stand-alone romantic suspense, set in contemporary Seattle. I first read it years ago. Now I've listened to it, narrated by Kate Fleming (aka Anna Fields). She's got a broad vocal range and portrays men well. Sadly, she passed on in 2006.
The POV is 3rd person, switching from hero to heroine, and occasionally to some mysterious chess player. Contents include a few sex scenes, a little violence, minimal swearing, minimal religious profanity, and no crude terms for female anatomy. Suspense includes murder, blackmail, etc.
Why do I read books by JAK?? It's typically not for the suspense, even though that is usually fairly interesting. The main reason I come back to this formulaic author is this: She writes about honorable men who are deeply alone. Misunderstood, misjudged, unwanted, and/or taken for granted. Whatever. I feel for these guys, even though they are tough, shrewd, sexy, and rich. I like them because -- true heroes -- they keep on doing the right thing, without fanfare, despite public opinion. I like the heroines, too. Krentz sells me on their HEA. It's heartwarming and satisfying, knowing the couple is going to take care of each other and contribute to the well-being of others.
Quibbles with this story: Some trivial dialogue did get a little wordy at times in audio format, where I cannot skim. The chess player's POV was sporadic and felt like a poor fit. Also, the big bad villain is a stretch.
The story begins with two prologues, running along parallel lines. In the first prologue, set 8 years in the past, the hero (Jasper Sloan) is burning some mysterious documents while tending to his newly adopted nephews, Kirby (age 10) and Paul (age12). Jasper's wife left him a year ago, when the boys moved in, after their father died. Their father was named Fletcher Sloan, Jasper's step-brother.
In the second prologue, set 3 years in the past, Olivia Chantry is also burning mysterious documents. Her artistic husband Logan Dane just died (gored, running with the bulls, haha! ). Olivia's cousin Nina and Logan's family blames her for driving him to it, by starting divorce proceedings. (His family includes Sean Dane, etc.).
Chapter One: Fast forward to the present, in Seattle, where young Kirby and Paul (now in college) think that Uncle Jasper is off his venture-capitalist game, and fast approaching a midlife crisis. "Take a vacation!" they insist.
Meanwhile, Olivia runs an event company called Light Fantastic. Using special lighting effects, she stages parties, conventions, trade-shows, etc. Her Uncle Rolly owns a lighting company called Glow. She uses his lighting equipment at her events, so it's a partnership. Jasper -- a venture capitalist -- is the money man, funding Glow.
Then Uncle Rolly dies (at the beginning of the book) and everything changes at Glow and Light Fantastic, because Jasper owns 51%, controlling interest.
Jasper is orderly, organized, and logical. Conservative. Reserved. Olivia is his polar opposite. He's fascinated and bedazzled, but can they work together at Glow? Jasper makes it clear that he's in charge, but Olivia resists. She worries that Jasper will be hard on her Chantry relatives who work at Glow (Aunt Rose, etc).
Jasper's father is Harry Sloan, a businessman. Harry has an adolescent daughter (cannot recall her name). Jasper's nephews are Kirby and Paul.
Andy Andrews is a journalist for the financial paper.
Eleanor Lancaster is a candidate for Governor. Olivia's brother Todd is Lancaster's policy consultant and speechwriter. Dixon Haggard is her campaign manager.
Aunt Zara works for Olivia at Light Fantastic. Aunt Rose works for Jasper at Glow.
Olivia's Uncle, Rolly Chantry, and his friend Wilbur Holmes were involved in a longterm intimate relationship.
I read the ebook and listened to audiobook. Rebecca Cook is an excellent narrator. I will look for more of her work.
The only other book in this series I've read is #2, The Perfect Prince, but the plot was easy enough to follow.
Contents: About six sex scenes (most scenes are quickies or fade-outs). A little bloody violence. Minimal or no swearing or profanity. Only a few typos.
Setting: In the future, on an alien and somewhat primitive planet.
As for the story, what a delightful surprise! I totally enjoyed this "dragon-shifter meets empath" erotic romance. It's got a solid story, not just sex scenes, which can get so boring.
An intriguing story. Fairly light. Laughed aloud several times. It's opposites attract, with a playful, sexy prince falling for a hands-off noble lady (but be warned, he feels a mating call towards her). It's heartwarming, seeing the rigidly straight-laced Lady Clara -- terrified in the beginning -- learn to enjoy life on an alien and primitive planet (poor child -- decked out in that horrendously heavy get-up).
Pillow penned a coherent and engaging plot, complete with an environmental pitch against fracking that fit neatly into the narrative (I could imagine her soapbox). Vivid scenes in the mine shaft. Good fight scene with nasty aliens, the Troe. Adorable (and funny) scenes with great horned herds of ceffyls. Solarflowers!
And tongue-in-cheek — I roared when the gift from Clara's family was revealed.
This book's got danger, passion, humor, and friendship. It's also poignant and sometimes sweet. Secondary characters added to the fun, especially in the mining village. Moving scene at the end, with Clara's esteemed mother, Great Lady of the Redding.
I played this audio on slightly faster speed. MacLeod Andrews is a fine narrator, but he reads slightly slowly. That's fine with complex text, but there's nothing convoluted or challenging about this text, nor is the prose lyrical enough to linger over.
The setting is a small historic town in Maryland. The BoonsBoro Inn is a real place, owned by Nora Roberts (author) and her husband(?) Bruce Wilder. That's the problem. The author needed to stand back from this book. It's too personal to her, so she spends too much time describing the details of her inn, undergoing reconstruction. We hear about the new picket railing, the details of the ceilings, the furniture, the window treatments, the naming of the guest rooms (named after famous lovers, including some of her own characters). It started to feel like one big advertisement. Boring. The bookstore where the heroine works, Turn the Page, is also owned by Bruce and possibly Nora.
A ghost. The inn is haunted. The specter plays a bit part, but some readers don't like even a whiff of the paranormal. Fine with me, though.
Montgomery characters: Beckett Montgomery is the architect and hero of this tale. His brothers Ryder is the construction manager. His brother Owen is the general manager and master cabinetmaker. These three brothers, with their widowed mother, run the Montgomery family business.
Clare Brewster (née Murphy), a war widow with three sons under 10 years old: Murphy, Liam, Harry. (I love books with authentic-feeling kids playing solid roles, so I may come back to this.) Her best friend is Avery. Clare was a cheerleader in high school (ugh) and Beckett has loved her from afar since he was 16.
To quote from another review: "There was some foul language, which tends to turn me off anyway, but this felt sprinkled in kind of randomly, like she had to put it in to make her male characters seem masculine. And I guess I get it, because they "sounded" like men being written by a woman." (including token gratuitous religious profanity, which bugs me)
4.5 stars. This erotic Highlander romance series is set in Scotland about 1215. This is book 1 -- a wonderful story about a deaf "lassie" who must marry into the enemy clan, by the king's decree. I've read / heard a handful of historical romances by this author and this is my favorite, by far. Tis true. ツ
Kirsten Potter did a great job narrating. Her Scottish brogue goes over easily enough and she even manages a natural-sounding male voice. I'd listen to her again.
The main characters, Graeme and Eveline, stole my heart. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Solid characterization. Consistent. These "actors" didn't suddenly behave out of character. With some dialogue exception (long academic words) the H and h spoke and acted in accordance with their presumed upbringing, past experiences, values, and prior behaviors. Their characters were textured and interesting. Compared to some books, there's relatively little internalization (rethinking, worrying, guilt-tripping, etc.) so we get to know these characters by what they do, not what they think, and the pace doesn't bog down in thought-life.
I loved watching Eveline learn to communicate with her husband and her clan, despite her hearing impairment. My heart broke for her when the women in her new clan wouldn't accept her. They were vicious.
Banks really hit one out of the park. It's much better than her other books. More story. Less sex.
Two quibbles: 1) The scholarly-sounding words this Scottish laird used when alone with his wife sounded absurd. Not credible or authentic. 2) The disobedience the Scots showed to their laird. He commanded them to welcome his new wife. They may not have liked her, but they wouldn't have been so overtly cruel. Seems unlikely.
Fantabulous narration by Antony Ferguson. Superb performance.
The illustration shows a chess board. This excerpt explains the image: "The 13 Kings are destined to meet thirteen very special women,” Damon said. “These women will become our queens. And just as they are on a chess board, each queen will become even more powerful than her husband."
So, there will be 13 queens, more powerful than their kings, banding together to fight the emerging dark power that only obscure in this book. Apparently, more sequels will be forthcoming. The author better get her story said soon; this is already book 4 and the big bad is too elusive.
I jumped into the middle of the series, because I have a thing for goblins. This plot isn't as suspenseful, nor as grim-dark, nor as engrossing as Dunkle created in her goblin king romantic adventure for young adults, The Hollow Kingdom. (I loved that book!) But this book is still fairly engrossing -- some parts are quite captivating -- and maybe a cut above.
Contents: One explicit sex scene (not a tender scene), some violence, a handful of religious swear words and other curse words (could do without that). I didn't notice any typos in the e-book that went along with my audiobook.
The writing style is fairly well developed. The dialogue is credible and at times witty. (My Little Pony, etc.) Thankfully, no guilt-tripping, and minimal mental reflection (down time). Nothing special in the romance itself. I didn't feel the love. But still, an entertaining listen, and some parts are engrossing. I liked the fire spirit. The death scene. The healing.
Quibbles: The 3rd person POV bops around far too much. The scene hopping is the biggest problem. It cost the book a full star. Also, I was a little lost in the first few chapters, because of a prequel-related scene (I didn't read the sequel).
I felt that Ramon the good vampire king and his queen Evie got too much press. The scene with vampire Rafael (Raphael ?) seemed out of context.
The ending wasted my time with a teaser for the next book's queen, as if I had not already guessed. I wanted the epilogue to be set some time in the future -- if only a week ahead -- showing Damon and Diana. These two main characters needed more press.
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