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Read any good books lately? I have! Grab a cup of coffee or a beverage of your choice and sit back, relax, and have a peek at the books I've loved, the books I didn't, and the reasons why. Enjoy, and happy reading!

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~Tracy

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The Winter King by C.L. Wilson

Genre: Fantasy Romance
Series: Weathermages of Mystral, Book 1
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 608 Pages
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me through the Amazon Vine program. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.





Enchanting Fantasy Romance

Reviled and ignored by her father, punished for her very existence, Khamsin Coruscate, Princess of Summerlea, hasn't had an idyllic life. Up until Summerlea lost the war with Wintercraig, though, Khamsin thought there were some lines that her father would never cross, despite his loathing of her. Tragically, she was wrong.

The Winter King, Wynter Atrialan, is in Summerlea to dictate the terms of surrender and peace following the three year war he'd waged on the kingdom. In recompense for the murder of his brother and heir, Wynter intends to take to wife one of the three beloved and revered Summerlea princess.

Instead of marrying one of those favored daughters, however, Wynter finds himself wed to a princess he hadn't even known existed.

Perhaps Wynter should have taken umbrage with the Summer King for the double cross, but he can't help but be pleased with the switch. There's something about Khamsin Coruscate that stirs his blood and brings a heat that Wynter has long since given up on feeling. Perhaps the fiery Khamsin is the key to breaking the hold that an evil god has on his soul before that evil is unleashed on them all.

~*~

I usually prefer more urban in my fantasy romance, but every once in a great while I get a yen for the swords and horses variety. Wilson's The Winter King satisfied that yen nicely. It's exactly the sort of tale I most favor in the genre, a story that focuses heavily on or revolves around the trials and tribulations of a heroine who, through whatever circumstance, is forced to endure terrible things, but in so doing is forged into a strong, independent women who more than holds her own.

Toss in a tormented hero as an alpha-male love interest and at least one loveable sidekick to add a touch of comic relief and I'm a happy reader. Call it formula, but it's one that works for me every time.

Between Khamsin's wretched life with her family and the devastating magic she can't control, Khamsin was a sympathetic heroine from the start. She was also stubborn and willful, and there were a couple of times I wanted to give her a good shake, but she was genuinely honorable, noble and kind, with a quick wit and intrinsically fun nature that kept her likable, even when her behavior got a bit frustrating.

And I loved how Khamsin matures and her character evolves over the course of the book's events.

I can't say I was as fond of Wynter. I liked him most of the time, thought he had some excellent alpha-male moments, and the chemistry between him and Khamsin was off the charts, but his personal losses goaded him into taking some severely questionable actions to give him the power to wage a brutal war that lasted three years and caused the lives of many. And the magic he wields as a result has the sort of consequences that kill entire kingdoms. All of them.

Then again, if he wasn't trying to prevent those consequences, he wouldn't have had any cause to meet Khamsin, so I can at least appreciate the plot-driving of it all.

It would have been a true shame, too, because the two of them together was my favorite thing about the story. Beyond their excellent chemistry and all the yummy sexy times that led to, I loved almost everything about how their relationship starts, then develops and grows as they get to know one another a bit better. Their relationship is fraught with trust issues, which is not normally something I enjoy, but when it comes to Wynter and Khamsin, the absence of trust issues would have been far more glaring. Their romance was much more believable and realistic with them.

There's a flip side to that, though, and it caused the only significant disconnect I had with the book.

This is a very, very long book. I don't want to spoil anything about the climax, so I'll just say that I was disappointed that the trust issues I had loved so much throughout most of the book became such a serious impediment and source of intense aggravation for me during the climax. The misplaced trust just ended up feeling out of character for those concerned and it made the subsequent events doubly frustrating to read.

It sort of took the bloom off the rose for me at the worst possible time, and the end of the book came too quickly after that for me to gain back some of the enjoyment I had lost. Honestly, though, that was my only significant issue with the whole book. I did have a minor issue with the too-linear and simplistic world building, what with the king of the wintery kingdom of Wintercraig being named Wynter and all, but that's strictly a personal preference thing. I would have appreciated a more sophisticated backdrop for what was, truly, an enchanting read when all was said and done.

Wicked Nights by Gena Showalter

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Angels of the Dark, Book 1
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Length: 416 Pages
Formats: Paperback, Kindle



Almost Wicked Enough

Turning eighteen wasn't quite the awesome good time Annabelle Miller thought it would be. She woke on that special day to searing, blinding pain, and before she could think straight, saw her parents slaughtered, cut down by a monster out of a nightmare. A creature spewed from the pits of hell.

Happy birthday to her.

Convicted of their murders, Annabelle has spent four years in a nuthouse for the criminally insane, fighting off pervert doctors, bullying orderlies, and a never-ending wave of monsters that, despite heavy narcotics or maybe because of them, only Annabelle can see. She is alone, desperate, and afraid she's just as insane as everyone thinks she is.

Seeing the huge guy with the gorgeous wings pop up in her room one night after a particularly bad attack doesn't exactly disabuse her of that notion, either.

Zacharel has once again drawn his boss's displeasure. In his zeal to dispatch demons, he's been less than conscientious about the safety of the human race. Humans have died. Zacharel doesn't much care about collateral damage. His boss, however, does. In punishment...and as a last chance to keep his wings...Zacharel has been given command of a squad of warriors just as close to their final fall as he is and is ordered to deal with a demon infestation at an institution for the criminally insane.

Investigation leads him to the room of a desperate human woman who is clearly the focus of the demons' interest. Not that Zacharel cares. In fact, he has no conscience, no feelings, no passions or desires. He's unmoved by her plight. So he really has no idea why rescuing her becomes so important to him. Or why he would ever, in a million years, entertain the ridiculous notion that she could somehow rescue him right back.

~*~

I'm a Showalter fan from way back, and consider myself a LotU fan even though the last couple of them didn't quite rock my world. Still, I was happy to hear about this spinoff series, and think there's much in this kick-starter to like. The world is comfortingly familiar, and the sometimes conflicted relationship between Zacharel and Annabelle had moments that were rife with humor and a lot of fun to read.

But there were rough spots for me, too.

As much as I love winged romance heroes, those that are angelic in nature are either loved or hated based on the level of Christianity-based mythology included in the story. I try to keep religion as far away from my reading entertainment as possible, and I'm leery of having those lines crossed whenever angels are included. Doesn't make for the most relaxing read, even when my lines aren't crossed.

I was fine with the angel warriors as seen in LotU, but here they're the main characters, so their mythos will get a much broader focus with greater detail in this series. Thankfully, in this book things were mostly okay, but it could go still go either way. There were a couple of things that didn't thrill me, especially the Zacharel-touted concept that faith defines reality, but I didn't feel like I was being proselytized at the whole time, or hit over the head with the religion stick.

I'm going with tentative acceptance at this point.

I was slightly...not disappointed, really, so much as underwhelmed by the plot of the book, though. I've been alternately amused and intrigued by the emotionally bereft Zacharel since his introduction in LotU, so I was hoping for a bit more depth of character and story than the plot provided. It wasn't bad, but it was a bit two dimensional, and I found myself paying more attention to some of Zacharel's warriors and their backstory than I was to his emotional thaw and the demon trouble with Annabelle.

I liked Annabelle as a character. She was a fighter, a survivor. I liked that about her very much. I just wasn't crazy about her as the romantic heroine for Zacharel. Anabelle was only eighteen when her world exploded, just twenty-two when Zacharel gets her out of the institution, and that seemed painfully young and inexperienced compared to Zacharel's long life and jaded demeanor. It sort of messed with my comfort level with the romance in places.

The conflict with the demon who killed Anabelle's parents was, again, not horrible but didn't really wow me, either. It did provide plenty of action in the story, which I liked, but I thought the Bad Guy's identity was painfully obvious from the very beginning. That robbed the big reveal in the climax of the book of a lot of the impact it could have had, and it completely stripped one pivotal scene of the intended emotional angst, making what should have been a gut-wrenching choice feel more like a dull no-brainer.

As a spinoff series debut, this book got the job done thanks to the continuity with the LotU world and some of its characters. My favorite parts of the read, though, introduced and featured the angels serving (grudgingly as that may be) under Zacharel. They are so fabulously flawed and deeply disturbed. I look forward to catching up with them again soon.

Ratings Guide

Here is a rundown of what the star ratings mean to me! It's not a perfect system, so you may see me add in a .5 star here and there if my impression of the book falls somewhere between these:

5 Stars - Loved it
4 Stars - Liked it
3 Stars - It's okay
2 Stars - Didn't like it
1 Star - Hated it

2014 Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Tracy has read 22 books toward her goal of 175 books.
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Tracy's bookshelf: read

Zero at the BoneHead Over HeelsLord of the WolfynIn Total SurrenderA Win-Win PropositionNorth of Need

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