Wednesday, December 17, 2014

TBR Challenge: Snowflakes and Stetsons anthology

The Cowboy's Christmas Miracle by Jillian Hart
Wrongly imprisoned, Caleb McGraw is finally free—but the bitterness he holds still makes him feel trapped. Until he sees the beautiful Caroline holding a little boy with eyes just like his own. Discovering his long-lost son is just the start of Caleb's Christmas miracles!
Christmas at Cahill Crossing by Carol Finch
One Christmas night, outcast Lucas Burnett finds a silver-haired angel buried in the snow. But Rosalie Greer is no pale spirit—she's a fiery, independent woman, as wild as the mustangs Lucas breeds. Can she be the one to finally thaw Lucas's frozen heart?
A Magical Gift at Christmas by Cheryl St.John
Meredith has always dreamed of a grand life but, stranded on a train in heavy snowfall with two young stowaways, she unexpectedly finds she has everything she needs with just one strong man to protect her..

Comment: I have had this book for a bit more than a year. I got it after Hilcia suggested it to me for the holidays and I immediately thought about it for this challenge. But last year I already had a book picked, so I saved this one precisely for this month's reading, as it fits the theme, holidays.
I was quite eager to read the three stories after seeing how Hilcia liked it, and I dived in right away. Sadly, I don't know if it was me or the way the stories felt like to me, but I wasn't dazzled by any of them...

The Cowboy's Christmas Miracle is a very cute story about a man who paid a price for a crime he didn't commit and when he finds out that caused problems to the women he had feelings for, he is miserable. Even more so when he discovers a child he never knew he had. The plot revolves around his helping the woman who is taking care of his son and how they come to terms with what he done and the fact they are falling in love with each other.
This was my least favorite story. I got the idea and it was interesting, redemption is always a good theme for Christmas, but I think this story sinned for it's small page count. I think a better and lengthier development would have suited the type of story much better. It's not that is badly written but I think the theme, the way the characters had so many things in their past to work out was done so fast and without the proper time to deal with their issues. My opinion. I'm glad things worked out well but the conflict because Caleb was in prison had to be taken care off differently to be better done, I think. The idea was there but for me the execution wasn't the most appealing one.

Christmas at Cahill Crossing is the story of Rose Greer an how she got to be stuck in a snow storm and was about to be buried beneath the snow when Lucas Burnett, a loner, saved her. After he saved her, she does everything she can to make him attend Christmas at Cahill Crossing instead of just being alone. He starts to like her and to be with her, so they start a relationship and despite the social differences between then«m, their feelings are stronger than anything.
I liked this story better but I admit I thought the physical intimacy started a bit too soon, considering the time they knew each other. Knowing each other from a distance doesn't count, I think. The stage was set though, for them to get closer. A snow storm and a savior are potent attractions to someone who already felt something for him, even if they had never talked before, but overall, I liked the story and the idea behind Rose's actions and feelings. She is a good heroine and perfect to do some saving too. In a way, this couple felt balanced and that helped a lot to make the story feel stronger. I'm curious about other characters as well. This wasn't perfect but I liked it more than the other.

A Magical Gift at Christmas tells the story of a US Marshall who is guarding a shipment of gold in a train and after trying to save it by leaving one of the train's carriages behind finds out a young woman and two children were left behind too without his knowledge. Now they have to work together to keep the gold saved from possible robbers and to keep the cold away. 
This was my favorite story, the main couple bonded well and worked together to reach an aim. I think this was where we better saw the character development, despite the limited page count. Jonah is serious but he isn't made of iron and by the end I believed his feelings changed and were shaped by what he felt and saw during the time he had to trust Meredith and have her help to take care of the children and to keep the bandits away. I think the author is talented to write short stories and it showed. The end was sweet and I even would have liked an epilogue, but overall, the story was well structured and stronger than the others. This was was really intriguing to read and made me eager to know more whereas the others weren't as addictive.

-> All in all, a satisfying collection of short stories, but it wasn't an amazing read. Despite one being better than the others, I still think this wasn't as powerful as I imagined. Maybe it was just my state of mind, but I didn't feel the pull other readers have talked about. Still, I plan to keep on reading Christmas anthologies that are usually well done and the ones I appreciate the best.
This had an author I've read before so I was glad I liked her story better. The other authors didn't win me over although I respect their goal with their stories here.
I have hopes next year my pick will be more exciting.
Grade: 6/10

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Steve Kluger - Almost Like Being in Love

A high school jock and nerd fall in love senior year, only to part after an amazing summer of discovery to attend their respective colleges. They keep in touch at first, but then slowly drift apart. Flash forward twenty years. Travis and Craig both have great lives, careers, and loves. But something is missing .... 
Travis is the first to figure it out. He's still in love with Craig, and come what may, he's going after the boy who captured his heart, even if it means forsaking his job, making a fool of himself, and entering the great unknown. 
Told in narrative, letters, checklists, and more, this is the must-read novel for anyone who's wondered what ever happened to that first great love. 

Comment: This book has been on the pile for a long time. Most of them are, but still. I got it because I saw some friends liked it a lot and being myself a fan of m/m romance and epistolary plots, I added the book to the pile. Then time went by....and know, the usual fate of so many books, it got "lost" in the pile but last month I remembered I had it and voilá, this month I decided to finally get to it and it's one of those I feel sorry I didn't pick earlier.

This is Travis' and Craig's story. They meet in senior year at high school and slowly fall in love although they don't understand it at first. When they finally do, it's almost time for them to go separate ways into different colleges. They spend a memorable summer together but distance eventually makes it mark.
20 years pass until Travis realizes he can't fall in love with someone else - despite his trying - because he still loves Craig. Then Travis decides to go after Craig and win him back and get his HEA at last. But will Craig be willing - and available - when he is found?

I had such a good time reading this story. I tell you, I was in a state of anxiety you can't know if you haven't read this because I really wanted to know how this would end. 
It's difficult to explain certain things about this book without spoilers, even more so why this wasn't a perfect read for me, especially when I thought so right until the last 20 pages or so. Let's just say there's a certain knowledge we are aware of during the book, but the characters aren't. Then when everything happens and the characters act on the new found information, I admit I can't point out why I'm bothered exactly, but I am. I liked there's an HEA but some actions took place for that to happen and in a way, I think I didn't like how that was accomplished. Because things weren't simple to solve. This sounds so mysterious and enigmatic but really, it's all very obvious, but...I'm trying not to spoil the secret that makes this book so intriguing.

The story is told through notes, emails, phone conversations, checklists, thing other characters see and tell, and sometimes from the main characters' notebooks. I love this style of showing a story, we still get an idea of how everyone is and what makes them worthy of having a story to tell, but it's full of imagination and we have to make an effort to read between the lines, I like the challenge. 
The author also shows off his immense knowledge about politics, history, sports and human traits and creates here a very special but well structured novel about falling in love, about honoring and looking for your first love and what it means to hope and to do the right thing.

The romance is very cute. Usually I don't like the "going down the memory lane" plots but in this case, not only by the unique narrative style but mainly because these characters come alive beautifully, I enjoyed seeing their lives, how hey met and started hanging out, there's really an almost sort of magical vibe in the story that drives the reader crazy in trying to know what happens. I know some readers found the story boring and I understand how the way things are told can be a challenge but really, if one tries, this story is fresh and cute and full or irony and comic situations and sweet's very worth the time it takes to read.

I liked this story a lot and it's one of those I'll try to re-read when I can. The main characters are special and wonderful, the secondary characters offer a huge range of possibilities and allow this to be amazing instead of just plain, and apart from my issue with how things were solved at the end, the reading was an absolutely amazing experience, I recommend it. And I'm definitively trying more books by the author.
Grade: 8/10

Camilla Lackberg / Dorothy Love

Sophie has spent a lifetime guarding her heart and a long-held secret. It will take all of her courage to speak the truth and embrace the future God has planned for her.
The year is 1886, and Sophie Robillard returns to Hickory Ridge, Tennessee, after living in Texas for 15 years as the ward of Ada and Wyatt Caldwell. Now that the town's population has exploded, her intention is to reopen the long-defunct newspaper office that so captivated her when she was still an orphan. The rejection she experienced as a child because of her mixed parentage has left deep scars that she hopes can be healed by succeeding in this new venture.
Ethan Heyward was uprooted from his home as a boy following an unspeakable tragedy. Horace Blakely, a millionaire businessman, took Ethan under his wing and eventually put him in charge of the construction and opening of Blue Smoke resort in Hickory Ridge.
They meet when Sophie arrives at Blue Smoke to interview Ethan for her newspaper. As their attraction deepens, each hides a secret that, if revealed, could end their relationship.

Easter 1974. A family vanishes from their home on an idyllic island off the Swedish coast. They have left everything behind – including their one-year-old daughter, Ebba.
Now, years later, Ebba has returned to the island. She and her husband have suffered the loss of their only child and are looking to make a fresh start. But within days, their house is the target of an arson attack.
Detective Patrik Hedstrom takes on the investigation, aided by his wife, crime writer Erica Falck, who has always been fascinated by the mystery of Ebba’s abandonment and the family’s tragic history.
When dried blood is found under the floorboards of the old house, it seems that the cold case involving the missing family is about to be brought back to life. And soon, Patrik and Erica are consumed by the hunt for a killer who will stop at nothing to keep the past buried…

Comment: Time is short and I've been busy, so these two books, which I liked, are only going to have a small comment. 
I liked Lackberg' book better, but it's an author that always comes to the level I expect of her. As usual her book was well constructed, mysterious and with enough domestic drama to sustain the other side of horror.
I also liked Love's story, so much better than the previous book in this Hickory Ridge series, and this time, there was a different feel to the plot, with a lesser "martyr" feel to it and less negative too. I think the author really tried to balance this one better.

Buried Angels is the story of a a young woman who returns with her husband to an island where she lived as a child, after they lost their baby boy. However, someone doesn't want her there because of the secrets that might come out of it. The plot follows the secrets of the island, of the people who lived there and the family story of the young woman. We also see ot protagonists, how their lives are at and someone makes a decision that will have consequences...
I liked the story, as usual the feel of things, the way things are presented is really well done and makes the reader feel immersed in such a state one can't just disconnect from the story. I love the domestic side of things too, I think it's what makes these books so good for me and both sides are amazing. The mystery is surprising as usual although not as imaginative as some of the previous ones. Still, a winner for me and I like the constant good work the author presents.
Grade: 8/10

Every Perfect Gift is the story of a young woman also returning to her hometown, but in her case the memories aren't all good because she is an orphan and wasn't treated well by everyone. She was kind of adapted and found happiness but now she's back where it all begun to keep up the local paper tradition. In the mean time she meets Ethan, the responsible for the hotel that is attracting so many people to Hickory Ridge and they start seeing each other socially and because of work. But not everyone is happy with Sophie's work at the paper and less so of what she writes about. But good friends and a good heart will carry Sophie to her goals.
I liked this one, it had a more positive feel to it than the previous story. I think the author addressed well most of the issues of the book, although Sophie's parentage was a bit too loose dealt, I mean, I don't think the way things happened and were "solved" was the most successful one. I, for one, didn't feel happy with how things were done, but well...apart from that, most things happened at the right pace and there's a HEA so...all things considered, a good enough story.
Grade: 7/10

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Anthology Night Shift

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh delivers a smoldering story with Secrets at
Midnight , as the scent of Bastien Smith’s elusive lover ignites a possessiveness in him that’s as feral as it is ecstatic. And now that he’s found his mate, he’ll do anything to keep her.
In #1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews’ novella, Magic Steals , when people start going missing, shapeshifting tigress Dali Harimau and jaguar shifter Jim Shrapshire must uncover the truth about the mysterious creatures responsible.
From Milla Vane—a warrior princess must tame The Beast of Blackmoor to earn a place among her people. But she quickly discovers that the beast isn't a monster, but a barbarian warrior who intends to do some taming himself.
It’s seer Makenna Frazier's first day on the job at Supernatural Protection and Investigations, and her first assignment is more than she bargained for when bodyguard duty for a leprechaun prince’s bachelor party goes every which way but right in national bestselling author Lisa Shearin’s Lucky Charms

Comment: As soon as I realized this anthology would have stories by to of my favorite authors, I pre ordered right away. The book arrived and I started reading it that same day. I know most readers only read and review the two stories I also liked best, the ones by Nalini Singh and Ilona Andrews, because the other two aren't as fascinating, for several reasons. 
Personally, I read them all, this is an anthology after all and my grade is according to it. It's one of those things if we knew, then we could have waited for our favorite stories to be released alone, which they will surely be someday. If the stories by the author I've read were amazing for me, the same can't be said for the other two, which bored me a lot and it took a real dose of patience to go through, although thankfully they were short.
Here's a small comment about each one:

Secrets at Midnight is a wonderful story about one of Mercy's brothers, Bastian. He senses his mate one day and can't let go but of course finding her isn't as easy. When he meets her at last he knows who she is for him but she doesn't seem to feel the same and the story is mostly about they finding out why Kirby acts and smells weird something. I liked the story, it has all the usual ingredients in a Singh's story, with several references to beloved characters. It's like meeting new friends through old friends and the plot, despite short, was still well paced. 

Magic Steals is a short story focusing on Jim and Dali, while Curran and Kate are in Europe. This story is pretty much in the same level as another one featuring them, we see their relationship develop slowly, we get the idea they have been seeing each other, not as much as that, but still, and now they unite forces to fight someone/something that is targeting innocent people. I liked this story not only for the personal development of both Jim and Dali, as they grow to admit things for each other and between them, which is refreshing, but also because Dali recognizes she is worthy of him and together they are stronger than she would think. Loved reading this one, it was actually the one I've read first.

Lucky Charms is hard to explain, honestly. Ive recently tried my first book by the author and wasn't impressed. I'm afraid this author just isn't for because despite the interesting plot and world building, I can't seem to go past the narrative style, which I don't like. This story focus on Makenna's first day on a new job and we get a description of several beings that populate the world, goblins, vampires, ogres, nymphs, etc, which tells me there would be diversity, but the way the story is told, how Makenna is involved with a job and characters that didn't strike me as intriguing, then I wonder why bother. Not close to be enjoyable for me.

The Beast of Blackmoor is a weird story which I still haven't really understood. It's about a man who mocked a god and was punished, then years later he is doing a sort of penitence? and the heroine, a warrior of some sort is doing a god's quest to earn her place at court or something so she has to defeat the warrior they call beast but when she finds him, he lives in a very deplorable place, where everyone is prey to a wealthy and powerful man and the beast is actually the one who helps. Anyway, interesting idea, but the execution felt rushed and sincerely, the world described was boring and too harsh for such a story, I think. I wasn't really focused on it and struggled to finish.

-> So, after having read the 4 stories, I must say two were great, combining both limited page count and rich story telling, and the other two were weird and not that interesting, but like everything in life, it's all about one's taste.
The anthology offered a good time, despite the less appreciated stories so I don't think this was totally a waste of time, but in the future I'll take a better look at all the titles before buying anthologies.
Grade: 6/10

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Juliet Marillier - The Well of Shades

Juliet Marillier continues the epic fantasy begun with The Dark Mirror, which Interzone called: "A fascinating evocation of life in Pictish England and an emotional roller coaster of a story."
King Bridei is a man with a mission. His wish to unite his kingdom seems almost within his grasp but there are forces working to undo his dream. He sends Faolan, his most trusted advisor (who is also a master assassin and spymaster) out into the world to ferret out the truth of who is friend and who is foe.
Along the way Faolan will uncover many truths. Some may hold the key to Bridei's future. But more important, they may unlock the secrets that Faolan has held deep within his soul for decades.
And offer him the chance of redemption.
Comment: I was really eager to start this book after the end of the previous one where we saw how one of the characters was left with so many emotions and still miserable. I think this trilogy has its bigger strength in this final installment because we see a lot of thinking done and there's place to redemption which is always something we want to see for our beloved characters.

This is the story of Faolan, King Bridei's bodyguard and often assassin, who is sent on both personal and professional missions to his home country. Faolan goes through a lot of emotions and challenges while at home. He seeks forgiveness and he also wants to pay off a debt, while looking for clues about something Bridei is involved with. Faolan wasn't counting on being the one who had to save someone but after all things considered, he was saves as well...

The amount of research the author works on before a book is published is clear to see in every page of this book - and the others. I think this must be one of the most careful writers out there that, despite writing fantasy novels, inserts her worlds in historical places and traditions. I had such a good time reading this book and looking for each new chapter and to see what would happen.

This story is focused on Faolan. We've met him better in the previous book but the way things ended and what we learned about his past made any reader certainly conscious of the hardships he must face every day just by breathing.
Faolan is doing a mission for King Bridei for which he needs all his focus, but he also plans on meeting his family again after a long absence. He also wants to respect the wishes of a dead man and he goes to check on that man's family, something he thought would be the easiest task of them all. However, nothing happens easily and Faolon makes an impression even if he isn't aware of it. There's a lot for Faolan to come to terms with and that will ask a lot of him.

While this world is heavily based on historical facts from the beginning of Scotland even before it was the Scotland we know about, and considering all the political elements in the story, I can't help but being most impressed with the fiction side of things and how each character has a part to play, a role to interpret. Eile is a wonderful character and I liked her a lot. I was very happy to see how her future is set on the dreams she always wanted.
We see Bridei e his wife, with both personal and political issues to solve but still in love and willing to do their best for their people. We see the solution to some beloved character's future which we haven't seen in the previous books.
But the best part is indeed, Faolan's evolution from someone cold and even to be pitied at the end of the previous book, to someone who went to a personal hell, struggled and in this book was a hero, a friend, a son and the man everyone knows he was capable of. I loved how he got such a deserved HEA because his path in this story faced so many unexpected emotions and situations we wouldn't think of but he never lost his honor, something that bothered him for so long. He is a worthy character and I like him a lot.

There are some issues with this book, but nothing major and nothing that ruined the overall story for me. I cherish this story a lot and I'm sure I'll re-read my favorite scenes often.
I'm definitely returning to this author's work next year.
Grade: 8/10

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Courtney Milan - The Suffragette Scandal

Miss Frederica "Free" Marshall has put her heart and soul into her newspaper, known for its outspoken support of women's rights. Naturally, her enemies are intent on destroying her business and silencing her for good. Free refuses to be at the end of her rope...but she needs more rope, and she needs it now.
Edward Clark's aristocratic family abandoned him to die in a war-torn land, so he survived the only way he could: by becoming a rogue and a first-class forger. When the same family that left him for dead vows to ruin Miss Marshall, he offers his help. So what if he has to lie to her? She's only a pawn to use in his revenge.
But the irrepressible Miss Marshall soon enchants Edward. By the time he realizes that his cynical heart is hers, it's too late. The only way to thwart her enemies is to reveal his scandalous past...and once the woman he loves realizes how much he's lied to her, he'll lose her forever.

Comment: This hasn't been long in the pile. Since the first book in this series was one of my favorites of last year, I went and bought all the ones following in hopes of reliving the same experience. Although the other stories weren't as wonderful, I had a good time with them and this book wasn't the exception.

This is the story of Frederica Marshall, she's the younger sister of Oliver, from book #2. Free is an independent young woman always looking to defend woman's rights and to denounce the wrongs of a society which doesn't protect those who need. However, someone is trying to sabotage Free and her newspaper for women and she isn't aware of the danger waiting.
Edward Clarke knows all about it, though. He is the rightful heir of a peerage title but he was presumed dead and the things he did to survive make him want to stay away from responsibilities but after meeting Free and wanting to help her will make Edward's life a real challenge again...

Like I said, I had a good time with this book. It wasn't the gem the fist book was, but it has a solid storyline and character development balanced enough to be special and precise and enjoyable.

The main plot is Free's work and how someone is trying to make her look bad. Throughout the book we find out the reasons for that are pure spite and a wrong sense of payback. I think this was built well enough to make it reasonable and credible for the reader. I think there was some easiness in how some things were solved but overall, I think the author did a good job in creating that feeling of how things were going bad if nothing would stop them from happening.

Also good were the interactions between the characters. We have a sub plot developing, related to Edward's past and also a secondary hint at romance through Free's friend Amanda. Although the story isn't long, it still conveyed all the necessary responses at the correct places, which makes this a job well done in my opinion. The author has a certain voice I appreciate, although I admit that if sometimes the inner doubts and thoughts in some characters were a bit less it would help to enjoy the story better. But it's not such a bad thing in the general scheme of things.

The romance was cute, I think Edward's character had the longest path to redemption whereas Free was more solid in her life, her position of life and of her own strength and feelings. In a way, maybe the romance could have been a bit more balanced because I had the feeling Edward made all the concessions and Free kind of kept her wishes and in that I expected a better compromise than the one achieved. Nevertheless, apart from this, their interactions, the little things about the other they enjoyed and the way they behaved with the other was proof that their feelings were getting more deep and true. I liked how they got their HEA but yes, I'd change a thing here and there.

The bad guy is intrinsically connected to Edward's past and the way that aspect was used seemed clever to me, although there were a couple of times I think the solutions found were too easy. 
I liked the way the characters joined forces to battle someone bent on revenge for such silly reasons, but the tension was obvious and in that the author also did a good job.

All in all, this was a good book, wonderful to read, I wanted to keep reading to see what they would do so a success for me. Sadly the series is over but if one thinks properly, maybe it's better to finish high than to keep going lower, right?
Grade: 8/10

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Norah Hess - Raven

When Raven's two-bit gambler husband ordered her to entertain a handsome cowboy at dinner, she didn't dare refuse, not even when she learned that he had promised the good-looking stranger a night in her bed for $1,000.
After their night of passion, Chance McGruder couldn't get the dark-haired little beauty out of his mind. So he was both tantalized and tormented when she showed up at the neighboring ranch, newly widowed but no less desirable. What kind of a wife would agree to sell herself to another man? What kind of a widow could make him burn to possess her? And what kind of man was he to ignore his doubts and gamble his heart that when she gave her body this time, it would be for love.

Comment: I don't exactly when or why I got books by this author. But the truth is, I had this one (and still have two others) in the pile to read someday. I decided to give it a go in November, thus my comment of this one. My pick was random, it could have been any of the three I had to chose from. I didn't have much expectations about it, but I still wanted to read a good story.

This is the story of Raven, a young woman recently widowed whose marriage wasn't the bed of roses she thought it would be. Before dying, her husband sold her for one night to another man for a thousand dollars. Raven went but she didn't think she would like the man who bought her. In the morning she left to be with her brother in his new ranch.
Chance wasn't happy to see that the woman who fascinated so much had left before he was ready to say goodbye. He looked for her but she was gone and he kept thinking she still owned him the rest of the night. So, what a surprise both of them get wen they realize they are neighbors for Raven's brother's ranch is right beside Chance's propriety...

This book was released in 1999. A long time ago in terms of books. At the time, the writing was more focused on certain themes and styles, the trend was still about the legacy of bodice rippers and this book shows the inspiration of those years. Of course, many authors showed their skill went beyond tendencies, but in this case, I think the author really wrote according to her taste and time. The book feels very set on the old ways, I think. Not just the theme, but the way it develops, the plot tactics and character's personalities.

The story has several elements that suggest old ways. Today, even in historical books we see a new way of showing characters, of developing the author's style seems dated and although this doesn't have to be bad, in this case I think it was just too noticeable for me. From the way Raven feels about her life, one moment she feels attracted to Chance, to despise him, to want him, to have sex with him, to hate him again, all without any coherent mind process. All characters weren't worked on much, in my opinion. All were set in a place to fulfill their roles but I never felt any of them were that strong, there were many hints about their characterization, but no one seemed more alive than what was described. 

Raven is supposed to be a strong heroine but her attitudes and change of ways weren't reliable. Chance apparently is more thoughtful but like most younger men in the story, he pretty much only thought lustful thoughts about a woman, Raven in his case.
Raven's brother Tory also had a certain love interest but he was portrayed as a playboy for the most part, I never had he feeling his behavior was more than just appearances.
Chance's stepsister, sort of, was one of the villain's and really promiscuous. We never know why only that other characters make fun of her for that.
This was the main problem in he book for me. The lack of depth in the characters, we see them act and we have an idea why but we never get into their heads for more than the basics. It was hard to create empathy with them and honestly I ended up not caring about them.

As for the plot, it was all pretty simple, but the writing wasn't engrossing or addictive. I think the author had an idea, she put it on paper and that was it. A sign of times but along with her own style, things didn't seem to mesh in the most effective way. Just my opinion. I guess I'll try to read one of the others one day to compare and see if this author will just not be for me. Despite all the things I couldn't help but notice, I still think it was a good effort to write and try to come up with an historical focused on romance.
All in all, good effort, but the result wasn't the best it could have been.
Grade: 4/10

Monday, December 1, 2014

Sherrilyn Kenyon - Illusion

Nick Gautier is tired of his destiny. He doesn’t want to be the son of a demon who’s fated to end the world. Nor does he want to see another demon or other preternatural creature who wants to kill or enslave him. He just wants to be normal and have normal problems like everyone else.
But normality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When he gets sucked into an alternate reality where his mother has married his mentor and his Atlantean god best friend has become a human geek, he begins to understand that no life is free of pain, and that every person has a specific place in the universe… Even the son of a hated demon.
Most of all, he sees that his powers aren’t the curse he thought they were, and that the world needs a champion, especially one its enemies can’t imagine rising up to defend the ones he should destroy.
Old enemies and new friends square off for a major battle that will either restore Nick to his real world, or end him forever.

Comment: This is the most recent book in the Chronicles of Nick series. This series is a sort of spin of/alternate reality/mass confusion of the original Dark-Hunter series by the author. In this series, for a more juvenile public, we see Nick as a teenager dealing with several things in an attempt to change the course of what happens in the original story line. 

In this book, Nick is living in a different time from his own and the people he meets are acting weird and not as he remembers them. His friends Kody and Caleb have to help him but in the end it's his own mind and heart that will have to prove being worthy of salvation.

I guess the purpose of this whole series spin off is to "explain" why some things in the original series will happen in a certain way from here on; after all, Nick is playing with the time lines. 
Still, I can't help but being repetitive when I say this is almost like trying to appease the readers instead of just getting on with the writing. I understand the need and maybe the requests for a more juvenile oriented books but did it have to be about this series? Apparently there are 7 more books to be released in these Chronicles, meaning more 7 years until Nick's book as an adult. Considering the amount of series the author is involved with, the time it takes her to actually write and the fact books can't come out every month, I believe I can say the author may have taken on too much. 
I would have preferred her to stick with what she had before new adventures. Just my opinion.

Rants apart, this book was actually entertaining because new things are found out about several characters. I really hope all the knowledge we're getting infused with will be important for the future plots in both series. Right now everything seems so confusing and the time between releases doesn't help, I really think a time line would help readers.
The main characters here all have information to share or their participation is meant to give hints or clues about their importance on the whole general scheme of things. I confess I liked the appearance of so many people, many acting in a way that is already a proof things are changing.

The main point in this series to me is, Nick is a teenager an he is put in a position where he has to deal with choices and  situations not always easy. The moral lesson of these books is how people with easy and hard paths and obvious fears and hesitations should always trust themselves and chose what's best not only for one's peace of mind but for the ones we love. It's quite the lesson and hopefully it is reaching its goal, but from Dark-Hunter fan point of view, this is all just a mess of story lines and plots and characters and I hope things don't get too unbelievable to be appreciated in the end of everything.

Like I said, I liked the fact we see and get to learn many new things, I also admit there are several scenes where I was very surprised by what I was reading and I hope this won't stop. Still, I hope things get a move on because waiting and waiting isn't easy, especially after so many faithful years.
Grade: 7/10