Reading Challenge: Holly's 2021 Goodreads Challenge

Review: Waking the Dragon by Juliette Cross

Posted July 21, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Waking the Dragon by Juliette CrossReviewer: Holly
Waking the Dragon by Juliette Cross
Series: Vale of Stars #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: June 9, 2015
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: First Person
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 255
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two-half-stars
Series Rating: three-stars

The Gladium Province is on the verge of civil unrest as humans and Morgons, the dragon-hybrid race, clash once more. But amid disorder can also arise passion.

When the bodies of three human women are discovered in Morgon territory—with the DNA of several Morgon men on the victims—it’s just a matter of time before civil unrest hits the Province. But for ambitious reporter Moira Cade, it’s more than just a story, and it may mean risking her own life.

Descending into the dark underworld of Morgon society, Moira is paired with Kol Moonring, Captain of the Morgon Guard, for her protection. Fiercely independent, Moira bristles at his dominance, and defies his will at every turn. Yet resistance proves futile when passion flares between them, awakening powerful emotions within both, body and soul. But as the killings continue, can their fiery newfound bond survive an even greater evil—one that threatens all of humanity, Morgonkind, and Moira’s very soul?...

Waking the Dragon by Juliette Cross is the first book in the Vale of Stars series, a spinoff of the Nightwing series, which I have not read. I definitely felt like I was missing some key pieces of information by starting with this series.

Moira Cade is a college student studying investigative journalism. When several young women turn up dead over the course of several months, Moira knows there’s more to the story than the Morgon and Human Guards are saying. With the help of a friend who works at the precinct, she’s investigating on her own. When she realizes the victims are all disappearing from Morgon games, she enlists the help of her brother-in-law and his security team to help her infiltrate them. She’s partnered with Kol Moonring, the Captain of the Morgon Guard. He’s over-bearing and possessive, but Moira just wants to focus on building her career.

On the surface this was an okay story, but below the surface it was kind of a mess. Moira is only 20 and a human. Yet she is the only one who figures out what’s happening with the murdered girls? A bunch of over-protective dragons agree to let a human girl investigate and act as bait for a murderous cult? None of that made sense. Add to it the fact that Moira was all, “I don’t need no man” until all of a sudden she did need a man and it was over for me. I may have felt differently if I’d read the previous series, but mostly this book just annoyed me.

I am interested in some of the secondary characters, and I enjoy Cross’ writing, so I may try another book in the series before moving on.

2.75 out of 5

Vale of Stars

two-half-stars


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Review: Pause by Kylie Scott

Posted July 5, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Pause by Kylie ScottReviewer: Holly
Pause by Kylie Scott
Narrator: Andi Arndt
Publisher: Audible Originals
Publication Date: April 13, 2021
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible Plus
Point-of-View: First Person
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 6
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four-stars

An unpauseable new romance from New York Times bestselling, Audie Award winning author Kylie Scott!

When Anna wakes up from a coma after a car crash, she discovers life has gone on without her. Her husband has been unfaithful—with her best friend—and she’s been long since replaced at work. While her old life is a distant memory, her new life feels like an empty shell. Then she meets the stranger who saved her life during the crash, and he changes everything.

Leif Larsen—tattooist, joker, and player—has his own scars thanks to the crash that put Anna in a coma. Helping her move on from her failed marriage, and create a new life, sounds like a perfect distraction. So when he needs a new roommate, he invites Anna to begin her new life with him.

Although their lives may have been put on pause, together they just might find a way to heal.

Pause, an Audible first release, follows Kylie Scott’s hit novel, Repeat. This is the story of Leif, Ed’s brother. He was an engaging character in Repeat and I’m so glad we got a story for him. I was a little disappointed that this is told strictly in first person from Anna’s POV. I would have loved to see more of Leif and explored more of his trauma from the previous book. As it was, he felt like a totally different character than the one we met in Repeat. I was pretty bummed about that. That’s not to say I didn’t like him, because I did. He was funny and real. He didn’t hide from hard truths, or try to shy away from his friendship with Anna. He was also dealing with some trauma from

I was immediately pulled into the story. Anna’s issues and the betrayal she suffered had me all in, but as the story went on I became less enamored of her and her struggles. Especially since the focus of the story was her attraction to – and relationship with – Leif. I’d have liked to see her focus more on figuring herself out after all the major changes that came about in her life. I wanted to see her focus on dealing with being in a coma for 7 months and the demise of her marriage as a result more than I wanted to read about her waffling over her attraction to Leif.

Still, I loved their friendship and how open they were with each other. I also enjoyed the story as a whole. It’s just hard not to compare it to Repeat (a very rare 5 star read for me) and find it wanting.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

four-stars


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Review: Heart of Fire by Bec McMaster

Posted June 28, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Heart of Fire by Bec McMasterReviewer: Holly
Heart of Fire by Bec McMaster
Series: Legends of the Storm #1
Publisher: Lochaber Press
Publication Date: April 8, 2020
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third Person
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Pages: 278
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four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

The old eddas speak of dreki--fabled creatures who haunt the depths of Iceland's volcanoes and steal away fair maidens.

Freyja wants none of such myths. Dreki seducing young ladies? Ha. They probably eat such foolish girls. But when the local dreki steals her last ram--costing her any chance of feeding her ill father through the winter--Freyja intends to confront the fearsome myth.

Sentenced to a life of exile from his clan, Rurik is fascinated by the furious woman who comes to claim her ram. She reeks of mysterious magic and challenges him at every step. He intends to claim the passionate firebrand, but to do so he must take mortal form. It's the only time the dreki are vulnerable, and with a dragon-hunter arriving on the shores of Iceland, he can barely afford the risk--but lonely Freyja, with her elf-cursed eyes and pragmatic soul, tempts him in ways he's never felt before. Is she the key to reclaiming his heritage? Or will she be his downfall?

The Legends of the Storm series:- Fantasy Romance- Historical Fantasy- Paranormal Romance- Fated Mates- Shifter romance

At the time of this writing, this novel is free for Kindle users. I did not check other platforms.

Heart of Fire by Bec McMaster is the first book in the Legends of the Storm fantasy romance series. This came up as a suggested read in Kindle. I decided to give it a try since my friend recently read another book by Bec McMaster and enjoyed it. I really love that it’s sent in Iceland in the early 1800s.

Freyja lives on a small farm with her father, who is blind and in poor health. Because of rumors circulating in the local village – rumors spread by the local landowner’s son, who wants her for his mistress – no one will trade with her and she and her father are on the brink of starvation. For 30 years, the villagers have paid a weekly tithe to the Dreki (dragon) who lives under the volcano that sits above the village. They leave an animal once a week and in exchange, he leaves their village alone. When Rurik, the Dreki, steals her one and only ram, that’s the last straw for Freyja. She marches up the volcano to demand he return it.

Rurik has been exiled from his clan. He’s been alone under the volcano for far too long. When Freyja marches in demanding he return her ram, he’s both amused and intrigued. Since the villagers stopped paying the tithe, the ram was fair game, but she’s a puzzle he can’t wait to solve. He hasn’t been tempted to take on human flesh in ages, but Freyja is too much to resist. He’s determined to have her, and if that means changing shapes then so be it. The timing couldn’t be worse, however, since a dragon hunter with vengeance in his heart just landed on the shores of Iceland, and Rurik is his intended target.

I really enjoyed the mythology and the setting. Freyja frustrated me a bit, and I thought it dragged some in the middle, but overall it was a well-done fantasy novel. I loved Rurik. Dragons are one of my favorite shapeshifters, and he was everything I love in a dragon. I liked how Freyja challenged him and puzzled him all at once. I also loved his attempts to woo her.

Freyja has hidden her entire life, because she has powers her mother told her must be kept secret at all costs. Still, she isn’t without protection, so she has strong self-confidence, which I loved. I really connected with her early on in the novel, but as it wore on she began to frustrate me the way she constantly pulled back from Rurik. I understood why she wanted to pull back, but her constant hot and cold started to wear on me.

Still, I enjoyed their romance and watching them figure each other out. Rurik’s persistence and thoughtfulness were sweet, and I really did enjoy how independent Freyja was.

I also enjoyed the way the dragon hunter and his backstory were incorporated, as well as the hints of the Dreki court politics we saw. Based on the way things ended I believe the story of the court politics will carry over into future books and I’m here for it.

Although the heroine occasionally frustrated me and parts of the novel were slow, overall this was a really lovely fantasy romance. I loved the world and characters. I’m looking forward to continuing the series.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Legends of the Storm

four-stars


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Review: Coldest Fire by Juliette Cross

Posted June 25, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Coldest Fire by Juliette CrossReviewer: Holly
Coldest Fire by Juliette Cross
Series: Dominion #3
Also in this series: Darkest Heart, Hardest Fall
Publisher: Entangled, Entangled: Amara
Publication Date: November 14, 2019
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: No
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Pages: 234
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four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Archangel Uriel is hell bent on revenge on the demon prince Vladek. To get into the prince’s impenetrable fortress, he’ll have to fight in the pits of the underworld. And he’ll need the help of the last person he can trust––the demon witch Nadya.

There is no way Nadya, who spends her days taking care of others, expected to find Uriel on her doorstep. He seems no happier about being there than she does. But helping him means evening the scales against her backstabbing sister, and she’ll do whatever it takes to make that bitch pay.

Using the fight pit circuits in the demon underworld, Nadya helps Uriel combat his way to the arena at the castle in Russia. Only she isn’t what she seems. As a matter of fact, she may hold the key to his redemption...and to his heart.

Coldest Fire in the third book in the Dominion series by Juliette Cross. This was my favorite book of the series, which is surprising because I didn’t think anyone could top Dom and Anya from the first book. I really loved Uriel and Nadya. They were so perfect for each other.

Uriel spent months as a captive of the Demon Prince Vladek, under the control of his demon witch concubine, Lisabette. He suffered untold tortures at their hands, and he’s determined to get revenge. Someone must rid the world of that evil, and Uriel is just the archangel for the job. Even if it means working with another witch, Nadya. He and Nadya have history, and he both craves and hates her.

Nadya escaped her captivity under Vladek, but she bears the scars still, both physical and emotional. She agrees to help Uriel because she knows someone has to help, but she’s terrified of ending up back in Vladek’s clutches. As she and Uriel spend time together, she finds more of her own inner strength, and comes to realize there’s more the Uriel than she ever imagined.

Nadya and Uriel were both broken and scarred from their experiences, but they were strong enough to come out the other side wanting to do good. I loved that they were wary of each other at the start, but also drawn to one another. The way Uriel took care of Nadya made me melt. Their inner strength really came through, and I loved their romance.

The world-building is well-done. I loved how nothing was really black and white. Some of the most evil demons were true allies, while the most pious angels were betrayers.

This was a great series and I hope we see more in the world going forward.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

Dominion

four-stars


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Review: Hardest Fall by Juliette Cross

Posted June 23, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Hardest Fall by Juliette CrossReviewer: Holly
Hardest Fall by Juliette Cross
Series: Dominion #2
Also in this series: Darkest Heart, Coldest Fire
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Publication Date: February 25, 2019
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating First Person
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Pages: 270
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2021 Goodreads Challenge
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three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

The tattooed demoness, Bone, doesn’t like anything except the magical weapons she makes. But she has hidden talents few know about. When I was brought to her near death, she used her Seraph song to manipulate flesh and bone to heal me. But she wasn’t happy about it.

Now I must return the favor. Even though she refuses to take sides in the apocalypse, there’s one job she’s not willing to do for the demon prince Rook. If she doesn’t, her head will end up on a spike. Of course, there’s a good chance we’re all going to die anyway, but I will do anything to protect this fierce woman—and not just because she saved me.

So, we’re both off to kill a demon—or three—and possibly save the world.

Each book in the Dominion series is STANDALONE:* The Deepest Well (prequel)* Darkest Heart* Hardest Fall

Hardest Fall by Juliette Cross is the second book in the Dominion series. I was ridiculously excited to read this book since it features two of my favorite characters from the first book. Bone, the badass weapons maker and Xander, a demon hunter. Sadly, I didn’t end up loving this as much as I hoped I would. The second half was much better, but I spent the entire first half seriously pissed at Xander.

Bone was once a Seraph, an angel with a heavenly voice who used to sing to bring humans solace and peace. Now she’s a fallen angel – a demoness weapons maker – the best in the business. When her friend Dommiel shows up with a wounded Xander, she uses all her formidable power to save his life. She grafted him a metal heart, she had to imbue it with her essence. She expects a bit of gratitude, but Xander shows none.

Xander is equal parts amazed and horrified that Bone was able to save his life. He fully expected to die, and he’s awed by her power in keeping him alive, but having her essence inside of him makes him uncomfortable. Plus, he hates that she won’t choose a side. She claims to be neutral, but how can she supply weapons to demons and angels alike? He’s determined to show her that she needs to fight on the right side – his side.

I really wanted to like Bone. The way she was described in the first book, I thought she was such a badass character. Full of inner fire, a deep talent for weapon-making, and covered in tattoos, you’d think she’d be a hardass, but she was also compassionate and loyal to those she cared about. While I loved the darker aspects of her character, we didn’t see a lot of that in this book. She spent most of the book trading barbs with Xander – and losing every verbal exchange. She also seemed less confident in this book. I understand that she was still trying to atone for past mistakes, but she seemed so much more sure of herself in the first book. There wasn’t a lot of her creating weapons or fighting in this book, either, which I think worked against her character development. We saw her kickass abilities in the first novel, but we were only told about them here.

For the first half of the book, Xander was arrogant and smug, to the point of being insufferable. He knew better than Bone, in all things, forever. I think it was meant to be endearing, that he wanted her to choose a side and forgive herself, but the way he went about it just pissed me off. He did get better in the second half. He stopped being such a bastard about her, and she seemed to open up a bit more. But he never really recovered for me from the first half when he was such a jerk.

I do like the world, and I enjoyed the secondary plot. While the romance wasn’t my favorite and this wasn’t the kickass I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR book I expected, I did enjoy the world and the secondary characters. I am looking forward to the next book in the series. Bring on Uriel and Nadya!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Dominion

three-half-stars


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