Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Paranormally Yours by Anne Gimpel, et al.

Seven of today’s hottest paranormal authors come together to bring you a boxed set guaranteed to keep you warm on a cold winter’s night. Do shifters make you howl? Or do you prefer the bite of a vampire? Perhaps the controlling hand of a demi-god is more your style. Paranormally Yours has a story—or seven—to set your pulse racing.

(See the Goodreads link at the bottom of the post for full blurbs of all included stories.)

Where to Buy

It's difficult to write an general review for a collection like this that is comprised of so many different stories, for it is nearly impossible to find descriptions that apply to all of them equally. Overall I enjoyed the collection, though my enjoyment of the individual stories varied of course. Some I loved, some I thought were just OK, others I didn't really care for much. None were "bad" in my estimation though, and the ones I didn't care for so much were mostly a matter of personal preferences, not any real faults with the stories themselves necessarily. It should be noted that the collection is very shifter-heavy even though a couple of the stories do include vampires or other paranormals, so if you don't care for shifters you probably won't care for this anthology. Likewise, if you're looking for stories about vampires or magic users you might do well to look elsewhere (though the one story here that's primarily about vampires is one of the better ones IMO). I'm giving this a 4 star rating overall since that is more or less the average of my ratings on the individual stories. Read on past the jump to see those individual ratings and reviews.

Note: I received a free copy of this collection from one of the authors in exchange for an honest review.

Red Dawn by Anne Gimpel

I have to say that I mostly thought this story was just "OK". This is due far more to personal preferences than to any real fault with the story itself though. I thought it was well written, and was intrigued by some of the concepts the author included in her world building, but the whole "save the oceans and the whales" thing just doesn't really do it for me. I did enjoy the characters, however. Llyr is a sexy and caring not-quite-alpha hero that is assertive and supportive without being overbearing. He usually defers to his mate Galatea on decisions, though always voices his opinion at least. Galatea herself is a strong female lead who has the best interests of her people at heart. Together they steam up the pages, and besides the super-hot sexy times you can really feel their love and devotion to one another. If the story were simply about them, or featured them with a different sort of plot/theme, I'd likely have rated this story much higher. However, since I was mostly just "meh" about the rest of the story besides them I'm settling on a 3 star rating, though I'd be willing to go to a 3½ because the writing was so good. Others may well like it better if the main theme is more to your liking, so certainly give this one a try if you think you might like it and don't just take my word for how good or not it is.

The Reluctant Gift by Sotia Lazu
I really enjoyed this story and was impressed at how the author managed to tell a much larger and longer story by way of strategic comments and brief flashbacks. By the end you almost feel as though you've read at least a short novel and not just a short story. Both of the main characters are quite vibrant personalities, Salina a bit more than Aherin perhaps simply because she gets more "screen time" but both make quite an impression. The heat is kept on a low simmer almost constantly, occasionally flaring up to a full boil, the net effect being that you feel as though you've read a very extended sex scene by the end. Most delicious. Would love to see more of these two and their world at some point; perhaps by way of learning more of the details of their immediate past and what they've been through.

For Heaven's Cakes by Diane Saxon
This was a sweet story (no pun intended). I loved the characters, though would have liked to have seen more about Beau's background and family than the few hints that we're given. From what we are told about him it sounds like his history alone would be an interesting story. As for Catherine, it's easy to admire her independence as well as her loyalty to her father. Her insecurities despite her independent attitude bear a poignant testament to the effects that bullying can have on the most confident of people, completely undermining their self-confidence and making them question their self worth. While she does a fairly good job on her own of keeping her chin up and doing her best to ignore the hurtful things her ex says to her when she sees him, it's obvious that she won't be able to fully overcome it alone.

Pursuing Grace by Anita Cox
I have to admit that in many ways this was probably my least favorite story of the bunch. The main characters were interesting and likeable, but the story itself often seemed rather scattered. After having her world turned upside down in the space of a few hours and being more or less kidnapped by Roman and Colin, Grace comes to accept the pack and what she is a bit too readily I think. Though it does waffle back and forth between her trying to deny it and then openly embracing it. For the most part, Roman is all you could ask for in a caring alpha male hero...only he's the pack's beta. And therein lies another point of confusion, for he comes off as being far more alpha than Colin who is supposedly the pack's alpha yet often seems very weak and wishy-washy. Yes, there is some explanation given for this, but it's not entirely satisfactory in my opinion, and the fact remains that having such a weak character as a pack alpha seems very strange. I did feel the story, and world, had a great deal of potential, however, and with a bit more editing to make things flow better, and perhaps a bit of expanding on some parts, this could be very good indeed. As it is here though, it falls short, at least for me.

Dreaming of a Wolf by Sofia Grey
I haven't read anything else in Ms. Grey's Snowdonia wolves series/universe, but I didn't find that to be any hindrance to understanding and enjoying what was going on in this story. True, I probably would have had more of a feel for some of the characters, but I didn't feel as though I were missing anything all that important by not having read the other stories first. I am familiar with the author's talent for creating eerie and surreal  atmospheres in her work, and that talent shines in this story. It's easy to feel the sort of dreamlike state of grief and denial that Livvy is living in after losing Alun. When events take an unexpected turn and Livvy finds herself acting out something out of a Murder She Wrote script, the sense of the surreal ratchets up even more. I don't want to say much more for fear of giving too much away, but I will say that this is one story well worth reading, for the story sucks you in and holds you spellbound and all but holding your breath as you read to find out how it will turn out.

Courting Mortality by Loralie Hall
Coming after several shifter stories in a row, however good most were, I found this story to be a refreshing break. Not only does it not involve shifters, it's also a wonderfully original and whimsical tale that makes slightly irreverent use of traditional mythology. I'm not well-versed enough in Norse mythology to know how much is true to the mythos and how much is the author's own spin on it, but I do know that the characters here were thoroughly enjoyable to read about. Eli is often too self-sacrificing and more than a bit melodramatic about the so-called prophecy (which is fairly easy to figure out what it really means right from the start), but he's still a totally likable and lust-afterable male lead. Marley is the typical independent and sassy heroine who is very practical minded. Together they're often a little too "want to, don't want to" about the attraction and desire they feel for each other, but it all works out in the end rather satisfyingly.

Uncaged by Christy Gissendaner
While technically this is another shifter story, it doesn't really feel like one since we mostly only see the elemental/demi-god characters in full action--i.e., the shifters don't shift for the most part so don't seem as much like shifters. On the surface, Gabe is the stereotypical man out to avenge his family by killing the one who murdered them. He quickly proves to be more than that, however, for he has approached his revenge in a very methodical and planned out fashion and not simply from hot-headed rage. Rain is a bit harder to get a real feel for, though for a supposedly ancient immortal she seems incredibly normal. Together they are a steamy pair, and while their story plays out as expected for the most part, there are a few unexpected twists thrown in along the way.

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