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Book Review – The Harlequin Doll by S. K. Munt

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We just finished our very first blog buddy read since Amy joined us. We were looking for something we could all read together and The Harlequin Doll sounded like it had a bit of everything we all love – mystery, hot men, romance and…a circus. Everyone loves a circus romance, right?! 

They’ll do anything to love her…

Elle Carey has never felt like she has ever truly belonged to anything; not her family, her body, her career as a journalist following in Editor-In-Chief father’s footsteps- none of it. By day she goes through the motions, reporting at her father’s side, playing nice with her over-achieving sister and pretending to be ashamed of her family’s heritage as her father is, but for Elle, it’s all a lie- she exists only to fly and has gone great lengths to keep her passion for the silks and trapeze a secret.

But when The Harlequin Bros spectacular comes to town, Elle gets the opportunity of a lifetime- one interview, one audition- one chance to live. She knows instantly that both of the beautiful Romani brothers, Archer and Jarrah Harlequin have the potential to steal her breath, but what she doesn’t know is that one is destined to do exactly that, and that the other will stop at nothing to make sure that the curse comes to pass as quickly as possible, yet again.

Elle expects to return to the paper afterwards with a few fond memories and maybe even an exclusive into the dark underbelly of the circus, but her destiny is not to see her name as a byline, but in the obituaries.

It is brother against brother, light against dark, demon against demon, temptation against love in this passionate and beautifully cruel story about the corruption of innocence and the illusions we weave to hide our true selves from one another

Kristal – Alright! Where do we start with this one….there was so much going on! The story starts off in the past where we learn about how it all began. We got to meet Archer and Jarrah and get some insight into who they were before certain ‘events’ happened. I gotta say, I loved these flashbacks and getting to know these character from the beginning. I also really enjoyed how it was done in a minimal way that didn’t overtake the story or make it feel drawn out, but it still gave us vital insight into who these characters are.

Charm – I agree with you Kristal, I loved the flashbacks. Not only did they provide the background that we needed on both the story and the characters but they were actually really interesting, integral snapshots of a past time in this world. I felt like there was a careful balance struck, which is not always a sure thing, we got enough insight without feeling like we were wading through the past every second chapter. This story was definitely not weighed down by its layout at all, the moments I had during the book of realizing that the puzzle pieces were slotting into place were due to the perfectly timed interspacing of past and present… I have to say though, while I loved those flashbacks, I was absolutely enthralled with the current day. Like, could not put it down enthralled.

Amy-This is one of the stories that you have to pay attention to and I mean that in the best way possible. There is so much going on. You will not want to skip a single word. This was my first book by this author and I was blown away. She created such an interesting world and I couldn’t help but want to know more. I think we’re all in agreement with the flashbacks. Sometimes for me, it can go either way. I either love them or don’t. But in this story, it worked so well. The flashbacks really gave me great insight to how things were in the past and how the characters ended up being the way that they were.

Kristal – I agree – you definitely need to pay attention to this story! There are so many twists and turns. I loved this world! It was very different to any other paranormal/fantasy type book I have read and it’s so refreshing when authors put a new twist on the paranormal world. And while there were plenty of WTF moments for me I didn’t feel at all like the story was losing me. I think a lot of my love for this world can be credited to the female characters in this story. I freakin loved them all but my faves were Elle, Ananya (especially Ananya) and Amelia; such strong and sassy characters!

Charm – I do agree, the world building was ridiculously intriguing. There was nothing formulaic or ‘been here done that’ about this story, which seems to be unfortunately a common let-down in paranormal. Now, character wise. I was ALL kinds of obsessed with these circus folk. I have a lot to say about this, so lets start with the females… Amelia, Ananya and Elle were fantastic strong female characters. I was especially loving Amelia, she is just such a complexity when you look at what she is and who she is vs. where she came from and who she came from. She was hard and sweet and really at the end of the day, everything that she needed to be when she needed to be it. These characters can often be overlooked in favour for more outrageous types but I really feel like she held her own here…

Amy- This was such a unique paranormal story, with so many fascinating characters. You had everything from Succubus’ to fae creatures to vampires to demons. I loved the variety.  One of my favorite parts about this book had to be all the twists and turns. For sure, there was never a dull moment. Just when you thought you had things worked out, you were proved wrong. I love nothing better than to be reading a book that has me on the edge of my seat, guessing what’s going to happen. And,  I have to agree that the ladies in this story stole the show. They were such strong leading characters and that’s not something you see a lot of. As far as favorite male character goes, I’m still sticking with Jarrah. He’s got that whole good/bad thing working for him and I can’t wait for Book 2 to come out, so I can know what his real motives are 😉

Kristal – Aaaah the male characters. This is a tough one for me because I’m not particularly sure I like either of them right now. Jarrah is definitely buttering my buns a little more than Archer though. For some reason I’m having a lot of difficulty connecting with Archer. He’s coming across as a little weak and feeble to me (maybe it’s because he uses so many exclamation marks in his speech?).  But it’s still early days so I’m keeping an open mind! I have my theories on how this will play out so I’m looking forward to finding out if I’m on the money or not.

Charm – Yes! The menfolk! I have to agree with you Kristal. I’m much more Jarrah than Archer… I can’t decide if this is smart or foolish of me. Jarrah seems much stronger as a character. I definitely don’t always agree with what he does or his motives but he’s true to himself and has a certain presence on the page… Where as Archer, he seems a little wishy washy. I think I understand what the author was going for with his character, but either it’s just not clicking quite right and what should make me love him is actually turning me off him OR this is actually exactly how it should be played and we are going to turn around further down the track in this series and think ‘Aha! I get it now’ I am personally really hoping for the latter as I would love nothing more than to be in Archers corner… but time will tell.

Amy-  The guys….I kinda have a love/hate relationship with them.  Archer was  so hard for me to connect with. He is a demon, the barro, the leader. And yet, I don’t feel that he really had a backbone. A leader is supposed to be strong, dominate, and be able to take charge and I just didn’t get that from him. Jarrah was more what I expected the leader to be, but his motives are questionable. Were his actions really to save his people or was it more selfish reasons- to get what he always wanted. I know I’ve stated this before but, it’s a  very interesting dynamic and I can’t wait to see if the guys prove me wrong in the next book!

Kristal – I know that three of us have talked about this, and we usually over-look these types of things in our reviews because we know that writers work their ASSES off and the stories are their babies, but there were quite a few grammatical errors in this book. At times it pulled us out of the story because we were having to re-read sentences. It not enough to be off-putting AT ALL, it’s just something to be aware of. 

I’m going to wrap up my part of this review by saying that I thought this was a fresh and intriguing world and I’m looking forward to reading the next installment in this series. S. K. Munt FTW!

Charm –  Ok, time to wrap up. I LOVED this book. It was intriguing and scene stealing and  I was completely enthralled from the start. However, I am in agreement with Kristal, although perhaps for me it was mostly the enthusiastic use of exclamation marks that was a little iffy. It really is amazing how such a small thing can alter the tone of a characters thoughts or speech so much. 

At the end of the day though I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone who will listen to my rambling. This is my first foray into the work of S. K. Munt and it absolutely won’t be my last, I can’t wait to find out what is coming next for these weird and wonderful circus performers!

Amy- I want to say a big Thank You to Charm and Kristal! This was our first buddy read since I joined OUaBB and It was such an exciting one! This was my first book by S.K. Munt and I’m excited to read more from her. Yes, there were some grammar issues, but I was able to overlook them. This story was so captivating and took me into a paranormal world that I have never experienced before. I think we are all in agreement that we can’t wait for Book 2 to come out!

 

Book Review – Sixth Grave on the Edge (Charley Davidson #6) by Darynda Jones

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If I were to hashtag that moment, my status would read something like #impressed

Ok, so here at OUBB we are big Charley Davidson fans. Huge Charley Davidson fans really. My BBH Kristal got me into this series and I’ve loved it since the first book. We’ve decided to buddy read this book (#6) since we both knew we were going to spend A LOT of time discussing it with each other anyway….probably at random times as well… AKA after our kids music class 2 days ago on the side of the road where I felt we had a very in-depth heart to heart about all things Charley and Reyes… Yes, we really do have that much to say about it! So lets get started…

Charm – Ok firstly I didn’t know what to expect after book 5… That book was SPOOKY and heavy. A hard act to follow I think. This book to me had a TOTALLY different feel. It still had it’s heavy spooky parts for sure, but it was generally a lot lighter I thought. Which in some ways was a good salve after the last one, heavens knows Charley probably needed a slight break. But also was not at all what I was expecting!

Kristal – I LOVED book five. It was my favourite of the series so far, so I was beyond excited for this one. I really liked the slightly darker tone of book five and loved that we were getting a bit of character development where Charley was concerned. But I agree, book six had a completely different feel! I absolutely devoured this book, just like all of the previous ones, but I felt a little disappointed with the way she seemed to have taken a step back. I think I was hoping for bigger and better things for her but instead it felt like we just skimmed along the top of her personality.

Charm – Oh yeah Charley was as friggen hilarious as always. I LOVE her one liners and general ridiculousness. She is one character I wish I could absorb a little bit into myself just so I could be a tad cooler. I do have to mention, as much as I was cracking up all over the show there were a few points in the story where I was thinking she could’ve been a bit more serious about the situation. I’m all for reckless abandon, but sometimes a bit of maturity is important. I feel like with everything shes been through there might’ve been more glimpses of that?

Kristal – Definitely. At the start of book six it did mention she had nightmares about her experiences in the previous books but then….nothing? It felt like quite a few random story-lines were started and not followed through with. I’m hoping that this is leading up to one big, awesome grand finale, where everything comes together and blows our minds! It IS a Darynda Jones book so I wouldn’t be surprised if this is what is happening. The one story-line that I’m keen to hear more about is the one involving her dad – what’s going on there???!!! Oh and her “other” family.

Charm – Yeah this is the one thing in the book I was slightly iffy about, in every other book Charley always has a few cases on the go plus whatever personal/Reaper stuff is going on… In this book she has A LOT going on. There were so many storylines! Some haven’t been wrapped up yet, quite a few were… I LOVED Angel’s storyline. So I totally agree with you Kristal… I’m thinking there is a higher purpose to everything that’s been going on. Also I am totally with you on the Dad story… I want MORE. What on earth is happening. Also, I’m not going to wreck the ending for any of you that haven’t read it but WHAT ON EARTH!!! I’m seriously wondering what is coming up in the next book after that happened?!

Kristal – Hmmmm yea. That ending. People seem to be either loving or hating it. I’m in the hating it group for now to be honest (or at least very, very dubious), but that could always change in the next book depending on how things go. I just can’t see her being able to be her full self with that going on! But I’m keeping an open mind, so we shall see! I”m really looking forward to October now so I can see how it’s all going to play out. Eeeeep!

Charm – Yeah I think I’ll reserve judgment on the ending in this book until after I’ve read #7. I can’t wait to see what direction Darynda Jones will take… because really it could go anywhere. Also before we end this… my final words are: Reyes = Yum.

Kristal – Oh Reyes…sigh. I love him too. Definitely on my top UF Book Boyfriend list. This story really COULD go anywhere at this point. There are so many unanswered questions. Luckily we don’t have long to wait for Seventh Grave and No Body! Love that we get two books this year. Can’t wait to see what comes next!

He took hold of my chin and lifted my face to his. “I have a feeling a machete and a spork can work very well together.”

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