Author: Holly

Throwback Thursday Review: Fantasy in Death by J.D. Robb

Posted February 13, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 6 Comments

Throwback Thursday Review: Fantasy in Death by J.D. RobbReviewer: Holly
Fantasy in Death by J. D. Robb
Series: In Death #30
Also in this series: Creation in Death, Strangers in Death, Suite 606, Salvation in Death, Kindred In Death, Naked in Death, Glory in Death, The Lost, Rapture in Death, Immortal in Death, New York to Dallas, Celebrity in Death, Brotherhood in Death
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: February 23rd 2010
Genres: Fiction, Suspense
Pages: 368
Add It: Goodreads
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four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Bart Minnock, founder of the computer-gaming giant U-Play, enters his private playroom, and eagerly can't wait to lose himself in an imaginary world—to play the role of a sword-wielding warrior king—in his company’s latest top-secret project, Fantastical.
The next morning, he is found in the same locked room, in a pool of blood, his head separated from his body. It is the most puzzling case Eve Dallas has ever faced, and it is not a game...

NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas is having as much trouble figuring out how Bart Minnock was murdered as who did the murdering. The victim's girlfriend seems sincerely grief-stricken, and his quirky-but-brilliant partners at U-Play appear equally shocked. No one seemed to have a problem with the enthusiastic, high-spirited millionaire. Of course, success can attract jealousy, and gaming, like any business, has its fierce rivalries and dirty tricks—as Eve's husband, Roarke, one of U-Play's competitors, knows well. But Minnock was not naive, and quite capable of fighting back in the real world as well as the virtual one.

Eve and her team are about to enter the next level of police work, in a world where fantasy is the ultimate seduction-and the price of defeat is death...

*** Every Thursday, we’ll be posting throwback reviews of our favorite and not-so-favorite books. Enjoy! ***

This review was originally posted on February 22, 2010.

The last few In Death books have kind of been off for me. It isn’t that I didn’t enjoy them, it’s just that I didn’t enjoy them as much as I expected to given the previous 5 billion books in the series. I went into this book with some trepidation because of that.

I really enjoyed Eve’s case. A young entrepreneur is found decapitated inside his locked holo room. Security indicates he was the only one inside the room, and in fact his whole apartment. Investigation shows the weapon to be a broadsword. Eve knows it takes two to murder..one to do the killing and one to die. Since he didn’t cut his own head off, there hasn’t be a missing factor.

Some cases are better developed than others, and some are just more interesting to me personally. I’m not sure if this falls into the former, but it definitely falls into the latter. I was truly interested in seeing Eve puzzle her way through the case. It wasn’t long before I figured out who the killer was – it generally doesn’t take me long – but that wasn’t the appeal of this case anyway. It wasn’t the who, but the why and, more intriguing, the how.

As for Eve and Roarke’s relationship, I wasn’t as impressed. After taking a minute to reflect on the overall relationship arc, I’ve decided that’s to be expected. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m happy about it, but I am going to work on being more forgiving. They had a couple arguments, but they seemed kind of contrived.

The focus in this book was more on the case than the personal relationships, but most of our favorites made appearances or were mentioned. There is quite a bit of humor in this book. Eve is still battling it out with the Candy Thief, which always cracks me up. But Roarke is what killed me in this scene:

She took a tool from her desk, then squatted in front of her recycler. After a few twists, she removed the facing and pulled an evidence bag from the back.

“Your guile and wit contest causes you to keep candy in the recycler, with the trash?”

“It’s sealed.” She broke the seal with a little pop and whoosh to prove it, then took out one of the three chocolate bars. She tossed it to him, then bagged the remaining two with a fresh seal before hiding them again. She glanced back to see him studying the candy.

“If you’re going to be so dainty give it back.”

“There was a time I rooted through alley garbage for food, without a thought. Things change.” He unwrapped the candy, took a bite. “But apparently not that much.”

Not only is this particular quote hilarious, but the scene it comes from shows some vulnerability in Roarke, and Eve’s way of taking care of him. Relationships and how they work is one of the underlying themes of the book. Eve puzzles over the various relationships in her life throughout.

Another example is Eve’s relationship with Peabody. Peabody and McNab have to go to a gaming conference and Peabody brings a gift back for Eve. It just illustrates how well they know each other (and offered the added bonus of amusing me):

“What is it?”

“It’s a toy gun. A derringer – like cardshaprs and saloon girls carry in western vids. It’s like a clutch piece.”

“Hmmm.”

“And check it.” Peabody cocked it, and a sultry female voice purred out of the barrel. Put those hands where I can see them, cowboy.

“It has all sorts of audio streams- male, female. I figured you’d want the female. Plus -”

She aimed it at Eve, pulled the trigger even as Eve said: “Hey!”

The little gun let out a brave little bang. Next one goes lower, and you won’t be poking a woman with that stick of yours for the rest of your miserable life.

“Isn’t it cute? You could play saloon girl and Roarke could be high-stakes gambler, then…and that’s entirely none of my nevermind.” Peabody offered a big smile.

“Yeah, it’s cute, no, it’s none of your nevermind.” Eve took the derringer, recocked it. You’d better hightail it before that tail’s sporting another hole.

“It could use better dialogue, but it’s apt enough. Hightail it.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Peabody? Thanks.”

Eve studied the gun, shook her head. Unable to resist, she shot her computer, her AutoChef, amused by the lame insults that followed.

That was another thing about partners, she decided. They knew what would make you laugh, often before you did.

And just because I love Peabody’s crush on Roarke (this comes from later in the book):

“Roarke might be late. He’s working on something for me.”

“Wouldn’t mind if he worked on something for me.”

“Excuse me?”

“Hmm? Oh, just talking to myself,” Peabody sang. “You know how it is.”

Eve strolled over, clipped the back of Peabody’s head with the flat of her hand.

“Ow.”

“Oh, sorry, just an involuntary reflex. You know how it is.”

There is an inconsistency I found. Eve is telling Roarke about the first time she took a life as a police officer, as it segued into how she murdered her father. She’s talking about how she felt when she killed him (her father) and she says:

She let out a breath. “I’m the one who aimed and fired. Fifteen years between. It took me that long to be sure, absolutely sure, I wouldn’t feel that excitement, or that guilt, or that hardening when I had to take another life.”

But until Eve met Roarke, she didn’t remember having killed her father. So this didn’t ring true for me. There was also some inconsistency in the language. Some of the things sounded more modern-day and weren’t in keeping with the time period and the way Robb has written prior books. For example:

[…] She pushed in, slamming her fist in his face. Blood erupted from his nose.
“That’s how we do it in New York!”

Although a good line, this isn’t how Eve normally talks. It kind of pulled me out of the story, because I can’t imagine her saying it.

Still, I enjoyed the book. As Casee noted awhile back it seems like some books focus on the personal relationships and some focus on the cases. This book falls into the latter category.

3.75 out of 5

See a full list of the series here.

This book is available from Putnam. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

four-stars


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Review: The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

Posted February 3, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: The Governess Affair by Courtney MilanReviewer: Holly
The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan
Series: The Brothers Sinister #0.5
Also in this series: The Duchess War
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: April 21, 2012
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 152
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Historical Challenge, Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 Historical Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

She will not give up…
Three months ago, governess Serena Barton was let go from her position. Unable to find new work, she’s demanding compensation from the man who got her sacked: a petty, selfish, swinish duke. But it’s not the duke she fears. It’s his merciless man of business—the man known as the Wolf of Clermont. The formidable former pugilist has a black reputation for handling all the duke’s dirty business, and when the duke turns her case over to him, she doesn’t stand a chance. But she can’t stop trying—not with her entire future at stake.
He cannot give in…
Hugo Marshall is a man of ruthless ambition—a characteristic that has served him well, elevating the coal miner’s son to the right hand man of a duke. When his employer orders him to get rid of the pestering governess by fair means or foul, it’s just another day at the office. Unfortunately, fair means don’t work on Serena, and as he comes to know her, he discovers that he can’t bear to use foul ones. But everything he has worked for depends upon seeing her gone. He’ll have to choose between the life that he needs, and the woman he is coming to love…

The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan is a prequel novella to The Brothers Sinister series. After I finished The Duchess War, Tracy told me this novella was a prequel, so I knew I had to read it. I really enjoyed the story. It was interesting to see how Serena and Hugo came to be, and some of the events in real time I’d read about in TDW.

I liked Serena’s strength and her determination to stand up for herself. I also like Hugo and the way he came to care for her. Though the story is short, it packed quite a punch. I was fully wrapped up in their battle of wills and anxious to see how things would turn out.

Although this is a novella, it was fully fleshed out and felt like a full-length read. I came away from it very satisfied and even more anxious to read the rest of the series.

Rating: 4 out of 5

the Brothers Sinister

Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover

four-stars


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Sunday Spotlight: A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane

Posted February 2, 2020 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 4 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Alright, I’m going to be honest. When Milla Vane first announced she was going to write a Barbarian Fantasy Romance back in 2014, I had to take a minute. I mean, I love everything she writes, but Barbarian Fantasy Romance??? I ended up loving The Beast of Blackmoor (Found in the Night Shift Anthology), however, and I’ve been jonesing for more ever since. IT’S FINALLY HERE! I’m so ridiculously excited for this new series.

Sunday Spotlight: A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla VaneA Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane
Series: A Gathering of Dragons #1
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: February 4, 2020
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 560
Add It: Goodreads
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A generation past, the western realms were embroiled in endless war. Then the Destroyer came. From the blood and ashes he left behind, a tenuous alliance rose between the barbarian riders of Parsathe and the walled kingdoms of the south. That alliance is all that stands against the return of an ancient evil--until the barbarian king and queen are slain in an act of bloody betrayal.
Though forbidden by the alliance council to kill the corrupt king responsible for his parents' murders, Maddek vows to avenge them, even if it costs him the Parsathean crown. But when he learns it was the king's daughter who lured his parents to their deaths, the barbarian warrior is determined to make her pay.
Yet the woman Maddek captures is not what he expected. Though the last in a line of legendary warrior-queens, Yvenne is small and weak, and the sharpest weapons she wields are her mind and her tongue. Even more surprising is the marriage she proposes to unite them in their goals and to claim their thrones--because her desire for vengeance against her father burns even hotter than his own...

Excerpt

“Our queen and king and two Dragons murdered.” A dozen warriors, who were also mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. Maddek stopped pacing, his chest a ragged ache, his family’s silver crest burning around his thumb. “How can I let this remain unavenged? I cannot.”

“You must.”

“The alliance has run its course if this corruption and betrayal can stand and the council stands with it, because nothing will stand if our allies cut our legs out from beneath us.”

“And what would you put in the alliance’s place? Warriors are stronger when they stand together—and Parsathe is stronger if we stand with the southern realms. Even if one of those realms is rotten.”

“Only one? With Aezil on Rugus’s throne, Zhalen’s rot will not be contained within Syssia—and some say that Aezil is worse than his father.” Not only murdering his cousin to gain his throne, but also studying dark magics and seeking power through blood sacrifice. “These are the kings we stand with?”

“If we must,” Nayil replied. “Kings rise and fall. It is not for them that we fight, but for the people who live under their rule.”

That was truth. So was Maddek’s reply. “Then it would be better for all if I took Zhalen’s head.”

“And if your vengeance destroys the alliance—”

“Then we will remake it anew.”

For a long moment, only another heavy sigh was Nayil’s response. Then the older man said, “You will be my king, Maddek. I hear your words—and I hope you hear mine when I advise you not to make any decisions in grief and rage. If you must vow to avenge them, I advise that you also do not speak an oath in haste. Silver-fingered Rani has taken your parents, so nothing can change their course; only yours can be determined now.”

And his course might determine the course of every Parsathean. Maddek inclined his head. Though his heart yearned for blood, he could not deny the wisdom of the man’s words.

“Your journey home will pass through another full turn of the moon,” Nayil continued. “Use that time to reflect upon the path you will take. That is my advice to you: think hard and well upon your next steps.”

“I can promise that.” Another harsh laugh escaped him. “I know not how I will think of anything else.”

“Nor I. I have not these many days and nights.” A rueful smile curved Nayil’s thin mouth before a grave weariness flattened his expression again. “When you are Ran, you will speak for every Parsathean. Perhaps you should let every Parsathean guide your voice—for Ran Ashev and Ran Marek were not only your parents but also our queen and king. When we gather, we can tell our brothers and sisters what befell them. We can tell them of the council’s investigation and of the lies we suspect. We will tell them the consequences of vengeance and the threat of the Destroyer. If they demand blood, I will stand with you.”

That was also wise advice. “And if there is not a consensus?”

“Then it is your place as Ran to speak for us. We will abide by your decision. So think upon what it must be. Think upon it as a son and as a king.”

He would try. But he was not a king yet. Only a warrior.

Now his warrior’s heart grieved anew. His parents, too, had been warriors—and every warrior knew death would one day come. If not by steel, then by claw or plague, or the ravages of age. Countless dangers could have befallen his parents. Before Maddek had arrived in Ephorn, he hadn’t known what danger it had been, but he could have accepted any of them.

He could not accept treachery and dishonor.

And Maddek had believed that in the council’s haste to send word, they simply forgot to tell the cause of his parents’ deaths to the Tolehi captain who’d borne the message. But now Maddek understood.

If the queen and king had sickened, or been attacked by bandits, or become a meal for the fanged beasts that stalked the Burning Plains, such information would have been passed along, too. But the council had not told Maddek what Zhalen had done because they had not wanted him to charge north with the Parsathean army at his back and with vengeance burning in his heart.

Yet vengeance burned hot, anyway—and only one thought stoked the furnace of his mind.

Someone would pay.

A Gathering of Dragons

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: February 2020

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Milla Vane

Milla Vane suckled at the plump teat of 80s fantasy movies and was never properly weaned. Under a pen name, she is also an award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of steampunk and paranormal romance. Milla currently resides in Oregon.


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Review: The Duchess War by Courtney Milan

Posted January 24, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: The Duchess War by Courtney MilanReviewer: Holly
The Duchess War by Courtney Milan
Narrator: Rosalyn Landor
Series: The Brothers Sinister #1
Also in this series: The Governess Affair
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: December 8, 2012
Format: Audiobook, eBook
Source: Library, Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 270
Length: 11 hours and 3 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Historical Challenge, Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Sometimes love is an accident.

This time, it’s a strategy.

Miss Minerva Lane is a quiet, bespectacled wallflower, and she wants to keep it that way. After all, the last time she was the center of attention, it ended badly—so badly that she changed her name to escape her scandalous past. Wallflowers may not be the prettiest of blooms, but at least they don't get trampled. So when a handsome duke comes to town, the last thing she wants is his attention.

But that is precisely what she gets.

Because Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont, is not fooled. When Minnie figures out what he’s up to, he realizes there is more to her than her spectacles and her quiet ways. And he’s determined to lay her every secret bare before she can discover his. But this time, one shy miss may prove to be more than his match...

The Duchess War by Courtney Milan is the first book in The Brothers Sinister series. This started out a bit slow for me, and I didn’t love the narrator, but it picked up around the 25% mark and I fell right into it. I ended up buying the ebook so I could alternately read and listen, because I wasn’t ready to stop the story.

This book is filled with twists and turns. Every time Minnie stood up to Robert or called him out on his behavior, I cheered. I really loved how strong she was. Her strength wasn’t always out front or in your face, but she always persevered and I loved that about her. I was so wrapped up in this story my heart hurt for both of them at different times. I want to smack them, hug them, then smack them again in turn.

The relationship Robert had with his brother was strong and lovely. I really enjoyed all of his friends and how they slowly brought Minnie into their group. While parts of this were slow, I can’t deny I was wrapped up in it and couldn’t wait to see how things would turn out.

Filled of strong characters, witty dialogue and a heartwarming love story, The Duchess War is a book I’ll read again and again.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

the Brothers Sinister

Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover

four-half-stars


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DNF Review: The Beautiful Ashes by Jeaniene Frost

Posted January 20, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

DNF Review: The Beautiful Ashes by Jeaniene FrostReviewer: Holly
The Beautiful Ashes by Jeaniene Frost
Narrator: Tavia Gilbert
Series: Broken Destiny #1
Publisher: HQN
Publication Date: August 26, 2014
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible Escape
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 384
Length: 8 hours and 21 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
dnf

Sometimes, falling in love really is the end of the world... don’t miss this fan-favorite tale from
New York Times
bestselling author Jeaniene Frost.
Ivy has always seen things that she cannot explain. Strange things. Otherworldly things. But when her sister goes missing, Ivy discovers the truth is far worse--her hallucinations are real, and her sister is imprisoned in a realm beyond Ivy’s reach. The one person who can help her is the dangerously attractive rebel who’s bound by an ancient legacy to betray her.
The fate Adrian has fought to escape is here - but he never expected the burning need he feels for Ivy. With destiny on one side and desire on the other, Adrian must help Ivy search for the powerful relic that can save her sister. Yet he knows what Ivy doesn’t: the truth about her own destiny, and a war that could destroy the world. Sooner or later, it will be Ivy on one side, Adrian on the other, and nothing but ashes in between...
Originally published in 2014

The Beautiful Ashes is the first book in the Broken Destiny series by Jeaniene Frost. I’ve heard wonderful things about Frost, but I’d never read her before. When I saw this book in the Audible Escape package, I figured I’d give it a try. Unfortunately it didn’t work for me at all and I ended up DNF’ing it around the halfway point.

Ivy is searching for her missing sister when she ends up on a small town and almost gets murdered by a vampire. She gets rescued by a guy, Adrian, who may or may not be good, and gets drawn into a deeper plot. Filled with angels, demons and all other kind of supernaturals, this book sounded like it was right up my alley.

Ivy was really young and made a lot of dumb decisions. Blindly following strangers, not asking questions or demanding answers when she did, etc. I was semi-interested in her search for her missing family, but her constant bumbling around and insta-lust with a creepy stranger was just too much for me. Not to mention the constant game playing and secret keeping from Adrian and everyone else. I wanted to like the story, but I just couldn’t continue on with it.

Rating: DNF

Broken Destiny

dnf


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