Todd’s Review of A Case of Redemption by Adam Mitzner

redemption-pressAs those of you who regularly read the blog know, I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Adam Mitzner’s debut novel, A Conflict of Interest, last year.  It was a great read, and I eagerly awaited his sophomore follow-up, A Case of Redemption.  Although we are leaving the law firm of Cromwell and Altman behind (apparently we revisit it in his third novel), we get to follow an equally interesting lawyer named Dan Sorensen as he tries the greatest case of his life.

Dan Sorensen thought that he had it all: the perfect wife, a beautiful young daughter, and a prestigious job as a partner at the law firm of Taylor Beckett.  All that stopped, however, when he learned that both his wife and daughter were killed by a drunk driver.  Having devoted most of his adult life to the pursuit of his profession, Dan is wracked by guilt over not having spent enough time with his family and begins a downward spiral of self-loathing and drinking.  He is abruptly and reluctantly pulled from this timeline by a woman named Nina Harrington, whom he met at a Christmas party and drunkenly promised to help handle a murder case against a rapper known as Legally Dead.  L.D., as he is known to his friends, is charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Roxanne.  Roxanne is famous in her own right as a pop superstar, and the case has made headlines for months as one of L.D.’s songs specifically references killing someone with a baseball bat, which is precisely the way in which Roxanne was killed.  Now, not only does Dan need to convince the jury that L.D. is innocent despite all the circumstantial evidence, he must also embark on a journey of self-discovery and healing.  The trial is much more than just a job, it’s as if Dan’s very sanity hangs on the outcome.  Will he and Nina (who is acting as co-counsel) be able to pull off the impossible?  What will happen to Dan now that he has a purpose?

As I stated in my review of Mitzner’s earlier work, I loved how he was able to make a court proceeding so exciting.  This also rang true for this work, although there was a lot more that went on “behind the scenes” so to speak that the reader became privy to.  We got to see much of the pretrial motions and meetings that Dan and Nina had to work on, as well as the scenes in which they built their defense.  This work had a similar plot structure as A Conflict of Interest, and it seems as if it works well for Mitzner, as it kept me coming back for sure!  His character development is quite good, as Dan’s grief seems palpable and his rebound is not quick or unbelievable.  His interactions with Nina seemed genuine, and I became fully invested in his character.  Of course, this made the plot twist at the end all that much more of a surprise!  I won’t tell you what happens, but suffice it to say that Mitzner has twice now blindsided me with great plot twists that I never see coming!  Additionally, Mitzner made it more than easy to hate the book’s antagonist, Matt Brooks, but then again all good books have a character that you love to hate.  So, when putting everything together, from the plot twist, character development, and exciting legal drama, you have a great recipe for a suspenseful and engaging book that is impossible to put down.  I can’t wait until Mitzner’s third book (tentatively called A Fall From Grace) is released!

5 out of 5 Stars

A Case of Redemption by Adam Mitzner
Gallery Books (2013)
Hardcover: 322 pages
ISBN: 9781451674798

Special thanks to Gallery Books for my review copy!

Todd’s Review of Resurrection Express by Stephen Romano

ResurrectionExpress_CoverAs you probably can tell from my review history on Reflections, I’m quite the fan of a good action novel.  If it involves the adjectives death-defying, pulse raising, nail-biting, etc, I’m in.  I understand that a lot of times I don’t turn to these books to satisfy a need for an in-depth analysis of complex topics or multi-dimensional themes, instead I just look for a solid story that will make me turn the pages and keep me hooked from the beginning to end.  Therefore, at least in the context of action/adventure books, my needs are simple.  And so, when I received a copy of Resurrection Express by Stephen Romano, I expected no different.  I opened the book and prepared for a good story that hopefully wouldn’t keep me up too late at night.  And boy, was I wrong.

Resurrection Express begins with a man, Elroy Coffin, in jail.  Although he doesn’t exactly look the part, he is a trained martial artist and hacker that has been involved with crime and an “alternate” lifestyle for as long as he can remember.  Growing up he worked with his father, Ringo Coffin, a legendary safe-cracker whom Elroy was eventually slated to replace and take over the “family business”.  However, this was before David Hartman happened.  Elroy and Ringo had worked for Hartman for a long time, but Hartman had become too obsessed with himself and his own empire to care about them any longer.  Now, Elroy is in jail after barely surviving a gunshot wound to the head, and his father and wife, Tori, are presumed dead all because of Hartman’s power-hungry attempts to destroy Elroy for good.  However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, when a “concerned citizen” visits Elroy in jail and gives him proof that his father and wife are in fact still alive.  She can coordinate his release from jail and protection in exchange for his full cooperation on her team.  Their goal is to recover something that she lost that is now owned by Hartman and his empire.  At the end of his rope, Elroy agrees, and enters into a whirlwind of action and adventure that is unrelenting to the very end.

Like I said before, I was expecting a pseudo-stereotypical plot to emerge from this novel.  From the beginning, Romano’s writing style reminded me of a gritty crime novel, short on verbiage but long on description and comparison.  He throws a lot of information at you, fast, and doesn’t allow much time for digestion.  I felt as if I was on the run along with Elroy, dodging bullets and only partially filled in on the overall plan by this “concerned citizen”.  One of my favorite passages was when Romano wrote, “a .375 Korth revolver, 38 caliber, the kind of gun that giants with big hands use when they wanna blow holes in nouns.  That’s people, places, and things.”  Slightly poetic, but very badass.  To be honest, I kept picturing Max Payne when reading this novel, as it had a similar feel and flow as the video game.  I loved the slightly disjointed nature of the plot at times, which made me think and connect the dots with little assistance.  Therefore, when it all came together in the end, it was even more eye-popping.

Perhaps it’s just because I’m a big fan of film noir and old crime movies like Double Indemnity, but I couldn’t get enough of Romano’s story.  It was a departure from the typical smash and grab crime novel, and there were few clichés to be found.  Overall, I thought it was an extremely strong offering from Romano that has definitely left me seeking his other novels.  This one is definitely worth a try!

5 out of 5 stars

Resurrection Express by Stephen Romano
Gallery Books (2012)
Hardcover: 437 pages
ISBN: 9781451668643

Special thanks to Gallery Books for my review copy!

Kim’s Review of Sapphire Blue (Edelstein Trilogie #2) by Kerstin Gier

sbAs you may remember from my review of Ruby Red, the first book in the Edelstein Trilogie (which can be found here), I can’t get enough of the covers on these books.  What’s more, not only are the covers stunning, but so is the writing.  Gier did a wonderful job at crafting a complex story that spans multiple time periods and included interesting characters.  The cliffhanger at the end of Ruby Red nearly did me in.  Luckily for me Sapphire Blue was already available to read, making my depression short lived.

Plot from Goodreads: Gwen’s life has been a rollercoaster since she discovered she was the Ruby, the final member of the secret time-traveling Circle of Twelve. In between searching through history for the other time-travelers and asking for a bit of their blood (gross!), she’s been trying to figure out what all the mysteries and prophecies surrounding the Circle really mean.

At least Gwen has plenty of help. Her best friend Lesley follows every lead diligently on the Internet. James the ghost teaches Gwen how to fit in at an eighteenth century party. And Xemerius, the gargoyle demon who has been following Gwen since he caught her kissing Gideon in a church, offers advice on everything. Oh, yes. And of course there is Gideon, the Diamond. One minute he’s very warm indeed; the next he’s freezing cold. Gwen’s not sure what’s going on there, but she’s pretty much destined to find out.

When I started reading Sapphire Blue I didn’t think this series could get any more epic,  but upon finishing this book I think it totally blew Ruby Red out of the water!  Gideon and Gwen are thrust into a dual-sided battle of words as they try to decipher who is telling them the truth about the power the chronograph will unleash.  Sapphire Blue gives a little more depth into each side’s reasoning behind their belief in what the power is, but left just enough mystery to make reading Emerald Green a no-brainer.

As I suspected, Sapphire Blue delved deeper into Gwen’s mind and her ever growing/changing feelings for Gideon.  The lack of over-the-top intricacies on the “how-to” of time traveling allows the reader to be impressed with other elements Gier presents.  The comedy of Gier’s writing truly shines in this second installment, as Gwen is given a crash course in Georgian history.  Her study of the culture and customs is rife with humorous moments, most especially her dance lessons.  I didn’t think it could get any funnier, but then she’s actually transported back to 1782 and winds up getting drunk on punch.  I became so endeared to Gwen as she struggled to do her best while dealing with the turmoil of discovering that she was a time traveler and confusion over her feelings for Gideon.

In all, if you’re still on the fence about reading the Edelstein Trilogie, take it from me that both of the books have been a delight, and it is definitely worth your while to pick up a copy of both.  Just like Ruby RedSapphire Blue left me on the edge of my seat, and it looks like I’ll have to wait until October, when Emerald Green, the third book in the trilogy, will come out.  Until then, we’ll have to find a way to occupy ourselves and not think of this incredible cliffhanger!  So, if you haven’t already, go out and read this book!

5 out of 5 Stars

This is my fifth completed review for the Color Coded Challenge

Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier
Henry Holt and Co (2012)
Hardcover: 368 pages
ISBN: 9780805092660

Kim’s Review of Ruby Red (Edelstein Trilogie #1) by Kerstin Gier

rrFriends. I have a confession to make. I totally judged a book by its cover.  I saw the cover for Ruby Red and immediately HAD to have it.   Turns out it was a great judgement, because the book was AWESOME.  Ruby Red is the first book in Kerstin Gier’s Edelstein Trilogie, which was originally published in Germany.  

As the plot is a bit complex (time traveling!!), I’ll let Goodreads guide you through it:

Gwyneth Shepherd’s sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!

Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon–the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.

I am honestly so surprised that I haven’t come across more people who have read this series.  This book hooked me from start to finish. It had time-traveling, secret societies, intrigue, visions of the dead, secret signet rings, mystery, sword fights and so much more.  There is an incredible amount of story packed into this book.  The time traveling element allowed for great variety of time periods to be visited, which helped set a fast pace.  Since Gwen was never prepared to be a time traveler, her quick lessons in how to time travel, as well as the history of The Guardians society (the secret society helping the time travelers), led to some great comedic moments.  There were times where I felt these moments felt stilted, which I think is mainly due to the translation (the books were originally published in German).  Other than that I think the translation is excellently done.  Gwen’s voice totally draws you in to the story and describes the woes of her life as a teenage time traveler perfectly.

Ruby Red definitely sets up what is sure to be a phenomenal trilogy.  I’m interested in seeing how Gwen and Gideon grow from here.  They’re both in their teens, yet thrust into extraordinary circumstances far beyond what 16 and 17 year-olds should have to deal with.  We’re not given too much depth with their characters, but I’d expect that to change as we travel through time with them in the second and third books.  I know that I keep talking about the future of the series and I’ll explain why.  Having already read book two, Sapphire Blue, I know it picks up quite literally after the last sentence of Ruby Red.  I think when Emerald Green (book three) comes out it’ll be more apparent that the story is one long story split up through three books.  The development of the characters will happen gradually throughout the three books since it’s one massive conflict that is trying to be resolved.  I’m usually not a fan of series’ written like this, but surprisingly the good outweighs the bad here.  Ruby Red was just too damn fun! Gwen and Gideon are, to put it simply, hilarious.

My goal before Emerald Green is released in October is to get the word out about this series.  It’s seriously one you don’t want to miss.  I hope that those of you who choose to read it out there decide to share it with your friends! This is a series that definitely needs to be shared more.

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my fourth completed review for the Color Coded Challenge

This is my second completed review for the Book to Movie Challenge

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
Henry Holt and Co (2011)
Hardcover: 336 pages
ISBN: 9780805092523

Kim’s Review of The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel by Diana Gabaldon, Illustrated by Hoang Nguyen

theexileSo 2013 has turned into the year of the Outlander series for me.  I’ve made it through three of the main novels (Outlander, Dragonfly in Amberand Voyagerand am moving on to Gabaldon’s Lord John spin-off series before starting book four in the series, Drums of Autumn.  With all that being said, imagine my surprise when Todd and I went into our local Barnes & Noble and found an Outlander graphic novel in the bargain bin!! For $4 I got to be the lucky new parent of The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel.  Never has a person been more excited about a bargain than this one right here. 

The Exile is the first 1/3 of Outlander but told from Jamie’s perspective.  I won’t regurgitate the plot of Outlander myself, I’ll let Goodreads do it for me!

After too long an absence, Jamie Fraser is coming home to Scotland—but not without great trepidation. Though his beloved godfather, Murtagh, promised Jamie’s late parents he’d watch over their brash son, making good on that vow will be no easy task. There’s already a fat bounty on the young exile’s head, courtesy of Captain Black Jack Randall, the sadistic British officer who’s crossed paths—and swords—with Jamie in the past. And in the court of the mighty MacKenzie clan, Jamie is a pawn in the power struggle between his uncles: aging chieftain Colum, who demands his nephew’s loyalty—or his life—and Dougal, war chieftain of Clan MacKenzie, who’d sooner see Jamie put to the sword than anointed Colum’s heir.

And then there is Claire Randall—mysterious, beautiful, and strong-willed, who appears in Jamie’s life to stir his  compassion . . . and arouse his desire. 
 
But even as Jamie’s heart draws him to Claire, Murtagh is certain she’s been sent by the Old Ones, and Captain Randall accuses her of being a spy. Claire clearly has something to hide, though Jamie can’t believe she could pose him any danger. Still, he knows she is torn between two choices—a life with him, and whatever it is that draws her thoughts so often elsewhere. 

So I knew going into this that I would already love the story Gabaldon was telling.  Jamie and Claire’s story is truly one of my favorites…..ever. Like Darcy and Elizabeth level love.  Therefore I was incredibly surprised to see how weakly their story translated over into a graphic novel.  As I sit here writing this I’m not sure where the graphic novel fell short.  The illustrations I thought were perfectly suited for the story.  Nguyen is a wonderful artist and captured the imagery of the story magnificently.  It’s possible that because the Outlander book is so detailed and long and the graphic novel so much shorter, that description and story embellishment went missing.  The eBook of Outlander I read was 800+ pages while this graphic novel was 224.  That’s a small amount of pages/illustrations to translate nearly 300 pages of text to.

While it’s not sharing anything new to us plot-wise as readers, it was fun to get inside Jamie’s head for a short period of time.  To get his perspective on the speed and depth in which he fell in love with Claire adds a new dimension to their love.   I’ll admit, it was also great to see how far Murtagh was willing to go with his fierce loyalty to Jamie.  I think fans of the Outlander series will ultimately have the same response that I’ve had to this graphic novel: it’s ok.

3 out of 5 stars

This is my eleventh completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge.

The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel by Diana Gabaldon, Illustrated by Hoang Nguyen
Random House (2010)
Hardcover: 224 pages
ISBN: 9780345505385

Kim’s Review of Voyager (Outlander #3) by Diana Gabaldon

10987As most of you know by now, I’ve been working my way through the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon and enjoying them thoroughly.   You can see my review of Outlander (book 1) here and Dragonfly In Amber (book two) here.  Actually, “enjoying thoroughly” is a bit of an understatement; I love this series!  As I mentioned in my review of Dragonfly In Amber, there is quite a cliffhanger ending, so I was excited to move on to the next book in the series, Voyager, to see what happens to Jamie and Claire!

I’ve been sticking with the Goodreads plot summaries for this series, as there is too much that I could let slip! Plus with all the time-traveling elements I’m pretty sure I’d just confuse you with all I wanted to tell you! SO, once again, from Goodreads:

Their passionate encounter happened long ago by whatever measurement Claire Randall took. Two decades before, she had traveled back in time and into the arms of a gallant eighteenth-century Scot named Jamie Fraser. Then she returned to her own century to bear his child, believing him dead in the tragic battle of Culloden. Yet his memory has never lessened its hold on her… and her body still cries out for him in her dreams.

Then Claire discovers that Jamie survived. Torn between returning to him and staying with their daughter in her own era, Claire must choose her destiny. And as time and space come full circle, she must find the courage to face the passion and pain awaiting her…the deadly intrigues raging in a divided Scotland… and the daring voyage into the dark unknown that can reunite or forever doom her timeless love.

After the cliffhanger that ended Dragonfly in Amber I wasn’t sure my heart could take any more.  I needed a period of emotional mourning, stability, and recovery before I could pick up my shattered heart, begin book three, and risk it shattering all over again.  I can honestly say that the Outlander Series has taken me on a deep and tumultuous emotional journey that I’ve never felt with any other book/series I’ve read.  Sure I’ve had emotional reactions to books before, but I’ve never reacted quite the way I have with this series.  Voyager was no less of a riotous journey, but it’s told with such beauty and passion that you gladly go back for the laughter, tears, heartache, and smiles that Gabaldon’s prose brings.

As much as I love Jamie and Claire and their timeless love story, much praise has to be reigned on Gabaldon for all of the other intriguing things she adds into her novels.  In Voyager we’re given a glimpse into slave plantations and slave markets of the Caribbean in the late 1700’s.  We’re also given a lesson in Chinese culture and the deep seeded racism that existed for the Chinese people in Scotland and the surrounding countries.  There is a great depth to her works; depth that is obviously and meticulously well researched and presented in a way that adds to the plot as well as opens the eyes of the readers to what life was like back in the day.  Gabaldon pulls no punches in presenting what she finds.  All of it is not pleasant and I love that she doesn’t try to sugarcoat it and make it pleasing to read.  She respects history and for that I bow down to her.

With all this being said, it’s no wonder I keep going back for more in this series.  Every time I think Gabaldon won’t get any better, she blows away my expectations.  I can’t wait to see what she’ll do next in the series with Drums of Autumn, the fourth installment, especially considering that it takes place in my home country, America.  Look out for my review coming soon!

5 out of 5 stars

This is my tenth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge.

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
Random House (2004)
eBook: 1044 pages
ISBN: 9780440335153

Kim’s Review of Sever (The Chemical Garden #3) by Lauren DeStefano

sldsAs I’ve said before, the third book in a trilogy is usually my least favorite.  This is mainly due to the fact that expectations become so high that it becomes extremely difficult to meet them, if not exceed them.  After reading the spectacular first two books in the Chemical Garden trilogy by Lauren DeStefano, Wither and Fever, I knew that the stakes would be just as high for her third and final book, Sever.

From Goodreads: With the clock ticking until the virus takes its toll, Rhine is desperate for answers. After enduring Vaughn’s worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, an eccentric inventor named Reed. She takes refuge in his dilapidated house, though the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine’s memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine’s side, even if Linden’s feelings are still caught between them.

Meanwhile, Rowan’s growing involvement in an underground resistance compels Rhine to reach him before he does something that cannot be undone. But what she discovers along the way has alarming implications for her future—and about the past her parents never had the chance to explain.

In this breathtaking conclusion to Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, everything Rhine knows to be true will be irrevocably shattered.

After reviewing many a suspense/thriller novel over the years, one of my favorite attributes of the genre is the plot twist.  I love a good plot twist.  There was no question that Sever fit in this category, as the plot twists came hard and fast.  When I thought I had a plot line figured out, DeStefano went in a whole new direction.  When I thought I knew what one character would do, a completely different character did it.  More than that, DeStefano was able to make these changes on the fly, making the plot seem like a jumbled puzzle that came together at the last second.  Even though the pace seemed frantic, the plot development was well-paced and the overarching storyline was moving along well, that is until I got to the end.  I felt as though there was enough time to bring the book to a great conclusion, but instead it felt rushed and abrupt.  Although it was the only fault I found with this book, it did put a damper on my feelings upon finishing.  Despite this, however, DeStefano should be lauded for her ability to create such a great ending piece for an amazing trilogy.  You can definitely count me in as a huge DeStefano groupie that will be eagerly awaiting her next series, The Internment Chronicles.  Book one is entitled Perfect Ruin.  Exciting!

4 out of 5 Stars

Sever by Lauren DeStefano
Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers (2013)
Hardcover 371 pages
ISBN: 9781442409095

Todd’s Review of Targets of Revenge (Jordan Sandor #2) by Jeffrey S. Stephens

9781451688726_p0_v1_s260x420After reading the first two books in Jeffrey S. Stephens’ Jordan Sandor series, Targets of Opportunity and its prequel Targets of Deception, I knew I was in for a great third addition to the series.  Some foreshadowing in Targets of Opportunity lead the reader to believe that there is a large showdown looming between Jordan and the man responsible for his plight.  I’ve always been interested in spy/thriller books in general, and I knew going in to this book that I’d enjoy it, but little did I know that I would be reading the best book in the series!

Targets of Revenge begins with Jordan crashing a glider into the jungle along the coast of Venezuela, hot on the trail of a man known as Rafel Cabello, who goes by the moniker Adina.  He was the mastermind of the deadly terrorist attacks from the previous two books, notably the downing of a jet in the Gulf of Mexico and the death of one of Jordan’s best friends, Kurt Zimmermann.  Now that Jordan finally was able to place a name behind all of the attacks that have caused him such pain over the last year, he finally sets out to kill him.  After landing the glider, Jordan discovers a small lab in the jungle that houses not only Adina’s hideaway, but a hastily constructed lab that contains a cocaine refinery operation as well as something much deadlier: anthrax.  Although this finding puts his original plan to exterminate Adina on hold, Jordan is able to escape with crucial information that hopefully will uncover Adina’s purpose for the manufacture of such a deadly toxin.  The trail then leads him to Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt, where he meets with a Russian drug lord who is involved in the operation.  After surviving a harrowing SCUBA related assassination attempt, Jordan then heads to Russia, and finally, New York City, where he discovers Adina’s deadly plan.  Now out of time and options, Jordan must stop Adina at all costs before it is too late.

As I’ve stated earlier in my reviews of Stephens’ works, I enjoy how much he plays up both sides of the spy/thriller coin when crafting his stories.  He gets into the geo-political aspects of the story, explaining the diplomatic relationships between the US and various other nations without getting too complex.  On the other hand, there is more than enough action to go around, balancing out the diplomatic aspects of the story.  In Targets of Revenge, it seems that Stephens has tipped the scales more towards the action side of things, as the pace escalated quickly from the beginning and didn’t let up until the end.  To be honest, I had a blast reading all the action and it was a great respite from everything I’ve been doing for work and school recently.  It was like taking a reading vacation, and Stephens did a great job at pulling me in at the beginning and keeping up the pressure.  Sandor is a great character, and he’s got a good combination of diplomacy and a good old-fashioned bravado that mixes well and makes him incredibly likable.  I’m happy to say that I have no regrets in giving all three of these books 5 stars each, they definitely deserved them.

5 out of 5 Stars

Targets of Revenge by Jeffrey S. Stephens
Gallery Books (2013)
Hardcover 441 pages
ISBN: 9781451688726

Special thanks to Gallery Books for my review copy!

Kim’s Review of Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2) by Diana Gabaldon

dragonfly2bin2bamber2bmodernAs I stated in my review of the first book in the Outlander series, I never thought someone would replace Darcy as the leading man in my life.  That was before I met Jamie Fraser.  Then everything changed.  After reading Outlander I finally found out what all the fuss was about.  I needed more.  Jamie has everything I could ever ask for, and the story of Jamie and Claire kept me captivated from the get go.  So, where do we go from here?  On to book two: Dragonfly in Amber.

As the plot is fairly complex and involves time travel, I’ll let Goodreads do the talking here:

For twenty years Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to Scotland’s majestic mist-shrouded hills. Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as stunning as the events that gave it birth: about the mystery of an ancient circle of standing stones … about a love that transcends the boundaries of time … and about James Fraser, a Scottish warrior whose gallantry once drew a young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his….

Now a legacy of blood and desire will test her beautiful copper-haired daughter, Brianna, as Claire’s spellbinding journey of self-discovery continues in the intrigue-ridden Paris court of Charles Stuart … in a race to thwart a doomed Highlands uprising … and in a desperate fight to save both the child and the man she loves….

I think the most important thing to say about this series is how multi-dimensional it is, not only on a genre level, but on an emotional level.  On a genre level, this is more than just a series about Jamie and Claire’s love, it’s about political upheaval in Scotland, witchcraft and women’s rights, honor, integrity, standing up for what you believe in, and accepting the repercussions of being/doing wrong.  This is a historical fiction novel at heart, but it’s also an adventure novel, a romance novel, and a science fiction novel.  There’s so much passion in Gabaldon’s writing and storytelling that it becomes difficult to find a place to begin speaking about why these books are so amazing.  I’ll admit, the book did move a bit slower than the first in the series, but there were a good number of surprises sprinkled throughout the plot that made the book seem fresh and intriguing.  That cliffhanger at the end?  Utter perfection.  Another integral part of this book (and this series in general) is how Gabaldon is able to manipulate the reader’s emotions.  It’s like an abusive relationship: she rips out your heart with amazingly heart-wrenching scenes and then puts it back together by restoring your faith in her characters, only to then repeat the cycle all over again!  Her ability to elicit such strong emotion in her readers is one of the reasons why she is such a phenomenal writer.  I strongly urge you to not only read this book, but the series as a whole.  I’ve heard amazing things about book three, Voyager, which I’ll be sure to finish in the coming weeks.  Look out for my review!

4 out of 5 stars

This is my fifth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

This is my third completed review for the Color Coded Challenge

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
Random House (2001)
Paperback 752 pages
ISBN: 9780385335973

 

Kim’s Review of The Warrior Trilogy by Lara Adrian

 

……….wllYesterday was Valentine’s Day. What better way to celebrate (a day late) than reviewing some romance novels?  Last year I became entranced by Lord of Vengeance by Lara Adrian.  How can you go wrong with medieval knights? Seriously, knights fighting with swords over a woman’s honor? What wouldn’t I give to be one of those ladies?  Anyway, I chose to read Adrian’s Warrior Trilogy after Lord of Vengeance because of how fantastic Adrian’s medieval world was.  It was gritty, real, and showcased both the good and bad of that time period. And if I’m being honest, I also wanted more hot knights.

Book one of the trilogy is White Lion’s Lady. Plot summary from Goodreads:

Abducted on the way to her wedding, heiress Isabel de Lamere is unaware that the scoundrel planning to use her for his own gain is the cherished champion of her childhood: Griffin, the White Lion. Yet even as she discovers his treachery, Isabel cannot deny that Griffin lingers in her dreams, awakening the passion in her steadfast heart.

Then a twist of fate puts a price on both their heads, embroiling them in a life-and-death chase that will force Griffin to choose between his own freedom and his fierce desire for the woman who would redeem his noble spirit. But to reclaim his lost honor, the White Lion could lose Isabel forever. . . .

Who doesn’t love a good redemption story?  Griffin was Isabel’s knight in shining armor as a child, saving her from a wild boar in the woods.  From that moment on Isabel believes Griffin will grow to be the most deserving, honorable, and cherished knight there is.  When he kidnaps her off the highway ten years later and holds her  for ransom she quickly wonders what happened to him during the years of their separation.  She wonders how a boy who dwelt so much on doing good turned into this passionless, dark, empty soul of a man.  As she is forced into his company on their long journey to her fiance, she begins to understand more of the hardships he underwent during  their separation and how becoming this calm, calculating man was his way to survive.

To watch Griffin’s transformation back to the man he used to be was in a word, breathtaking.  The way he strives to become a good and honorable man/knight not only for Isabel but for himself too is a journey you won’t want to miss.  I sometimes lose interest in books where characters just change to appease their partners. What is the point of that?  I believe change to be something that should come from your own heart and mind, not those of another.  Because Adrian had Griffin transform mostly for himself  I give this work high marks!

Isabelle, on the other hand, is one of those characters that is literally good down to her bones.  She tries to see positive traits in everyone and always tries to have an optimistic point of view.  At times, this led her into bad situations and it was interesting to see how Adrian portrayed this characteristic in a negative and positive light.  It felt like a realistic approach to the character, and I’m glad that Adrian was able to give us another wonderful character to flesh out her work.  In all, this is one you definitely don’t want to miss.

5 out of 5 Stars

White Lion’s Lady by Lara Adrian
Lara Adrian, LLC (2012)
eBook 795 pages
ISBN: 2940014447201

blbBook two of the trilogy is Black Lion’s Bride.  Plot summary from Goodreads:

Daughter of the King of the Assassins, Zahirah was trained to be as deadly as she is beautiful. When she steals into the desert camp of the English army, she has one goal: to banish the crusaders from her homeland by murdering King Richard the Lionheart. Her deceptive strategy delivers her into the hands of the enemy–and puts her at the mercy of the dashing Black Lion, Sebastian of Montborne.

Fighting for peace in a dangerous, exotic land, Sebastian never dreamed that the tides of war would bring him a mysterious beauty in need of his protection. Nor could he guess that the lady who ignites his heart is the very enemy he has sworn to destroy on behalf of his king. Caught in a deadly game of passion and deception, their unbidden love could cost Sebastian and Zahirah their lives. . . .

Black Lion’s Bride was definitely my least favorite of the three.  It went downhill for me from the start, mainly due to the problems I had with Zahirah’s character. Let’s go through what we know of her. She’s the ONLY female Assassin of her kind and is apparently one of the BEST.  Well of course she’s one of the best. Who else but the best would be given the massive responsibility of assassinating King Richard?  Yet she’s barely able to defend herself, help in an ambush, etc.  Every time the reader is given a chance to witness her abilities, she flails and fails.  While the words say she should be strong and lethal, she comes off as weak and defenseless.  Basically, this made me lose faith in her as a character, and it made my reading experience fall flat.

I found the whole ending of the book to be a bit far-fetched and unbelievable.  Between the outcome of the plot to kill the king and the big secret Zahirah’s been keeping, etc, I was asked to suspend too much disbelief as a reader.  While the details of the book fell flat for me, the writing at its base was still strong.

2 out of 5 Stars

Black Lion’s Bride by Lara Adrian
Lara Adrian, LLC (2012)
eBook 847 pages
ISBN: 2940014447447

lovBook three of the trilogy is Lady of Valor. Plot summary from Goodreads:

Left a widow by her cruel husband’s death, Lady Emmalyn of Fallonmour is determined to control her own destiny, until her hard-won vows of independence are threatened by the mysterious warrior sent to protect her castle on order of the king. Emmalyn is now at the mercy of Sir Cabal, a feared knight known as Blackheart.

Skilled at war and hiding a tormented past, Cabal swears allegiance to no one but himself and his country. But once he meets Emmalyn, he finds his strength tested by this proud beauty who stirs his blood with desire, tempting him to defy his king and surrender his heart. . . .

Who doesn’t love a good redemption story?  Cabal has the blackest of hearts and a soul that is as devoid of emotion as a cold winter’s night.  He is the best mercenary and soldier that the King has at his disposal, due to Cabal’s emotionless personality.  When I started reading this book, I had no idea how Adrian would make this character redeemable and worth my time.  As she slowly gives the reader glimpses into his past, he becomes less of a blackened personality and more of a mysterious puzzle.  Emmalyn’s past, on the other hand, is given to us in a rather straightforward way, and her life is an open book.  Her story, most specifically her marriage to her first husband, is devastatingly cruel.  She is a battered woman before the term was ever coined.  Years of psychological and physical abuse took a toll on her and as such, she’s hesitant to trust or reveal her heart to anyone.  These two shells of people battling to become whole once again while struggling to understand new feelings of the heart are wonderful foundations for this work.  This was a great way to end the trilogy, and I’m glad I stuck with it until the end!

4 out of 5 Stars

Lady of Valor by Lara Adrian
Lara Adrian, LLC (2012)
eBook 853 pages
ISBN: 2940014436823

This is my fourth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

This is my second completed review for the Color Coded Challenge