Friday, October 20, 2017
Best Laid Plans - Book One
I'm of two minds about this book. There were parts I really loved, but there were also parts that I really disliked. Most of it was an enjoyable read if you're able to get your head around characters that really aren't one bit heroic - even the likable ones are rather horrible at times.
Where Loyalties Lie is a very apt title for this first book in the series. We meet a bunch of pirates, mostly captains, some more wicked than others. Most of the book, in fact, sets up whole over-arcing plot, I assume, since the pirates we meet don't do much of substance other than cross into each others' orbits and on some occasions work together and others... not so much. I know this is in the same universe as some of Rob's earlier books, but I don't think one needs to read them first.
So I'm reading a book about pirates, there's going to be lots of violence and blood and gore - I'm aware of this. Maybe it's the atmosphere of the week with all the Weinstein stuff, but I find I have little patience or tolerance for the violence against women in this book. There's not a lot on the page, but there is some, including one awful scene were the Big Bad Pirate Captain feels he must teach his daughter a lesson. I think I understand why the author chose to include this, but I question the need of it really.
Another problem I had was a couple of times, the author made a point of showing (as opposed to not telling) something - how awful a character is for instance - and then a little later on in the book having a need to tell (as opposed to show) us again. In case we missed it probably. *eyeroll*
In the end, as I said, there were parts I loved, parts I hated and many readable parts in between. :) Will I continue in the series? Most probably. I like Hayes' way of writing.
Thursday, October 12, 2017
Dance Off - Book 1
Ballroom dancing, reality shows, a sexy, talented Latina dancer, a handsome, rugged, Alaskan outdoorsman, a secret or two... put them all together, shake 'em up and what do you get? A fun, sexy romance that owes everything to Dancing with the Stars. :)
Gina is a ballroom dancer, one of the best of the best. She refuses to play the showmance games her producers propose with her new partner, Stone. Drop dead, gorgeous, reality star Stone. The only problem is, as they get to know each other, they start to like each other and of course there's no denying the sexy sparks that flare between them.
Take the Lead is sexy and fun, especially for fans of Dancing with the Stars. They'll recognise some familiar.... um... types, shall we say. I got a special kick of out Kevin, the golden boy of the show who gets the best partners and seems to win more than his fair share of the competitions. Oh, does THAT sound familiar! *LOL* There's also a J-Lo type secondary character.
Both of the lead characters have their flaws and their obstacles to overcome. Gina doesn't want fall into the stereotypical characterisation of Latina women in entertainment, nor to present a questionable role model for her nieces. Stone needs to protect his family with well-meaning lies. Reality TV is a bitch. *LOL*
The development of the romance may seem a little rushed, but you know.. I kept thinking of Kym and Robert on DWTS and how we watched them fall in love on the show, so it all works for me.
The sex was steamy and the banter fun. Are you a fan of DWTS and a romance reader? Read this book. You'll have fun.
Saturday, October 7, 2017
Sins of the Cities - Book 3
This book was amazing. I loved the first 2 books of the trilogy and this final one lives up to every expectation.
KJ Charles is a masterful writer. Her books always leave me searching for a way to do these review things with some sort of coherence and intelligence, but I'm constantly blown away by the characters, the storytelling, the depth, the authenticity and the atmosphere.
The main characters... Mark and Pen. Another wonderful couple who take a hold of your heart and refuse to let go. Straightforward Mark, the enquiry agent (P.I.) who one of his friends terms a "plain penny" is the very picture of stalwart dependability. He has the challenge of having only one arm, and I'll be honest, I forgot all about it until the few times it was focused on by Pen. There is one scene, early on in the book, where Pen explores the arm that was so touching and honest to God, so sexy that again, I tip my hat to KJ. I liked Mark a whole lot. I liked his sensibility, I liked his fumbling to get the right words out when he didn't want to hurt anyone, I liked his sense of humour and I loved the way he treated Pen.
Pen. Pen is gender fluid and this is not the first time I've come across gender fluid characters, but it's one of the best times. All Pen wants, really, is for people to see him as Pen - and I say him, because he says him - he's not a man, he's not a woman, he's Pen. And I liked him SO much. He's funny, he's sensitive, he's smart, he's not let the shit of his early years make him sad and bitter. And he gave me an insight into understanding gender fluid a little better and that's without KJ having to turn her book into a lecture. And Mark is perfect for him. :) I've seen some say that they felt they needed more about how Pen felt about Mark, but honestly? For me, it was all laid out right there on the page, obvious by their actions and reactions. I didn't need any deep pages long introspection or long drawn-out speeches.
The secondary characters are wonderful as well. Phyllis at the Jack and Knave pub, the servants at the estate, the members of the Taillefer family and of course our old friends, Nathanial, Justin and Clem. (Rowley was very busy with his work, I guess.) And Clem. Damn, I love Clem, he's just so calm and soothing, I was glad to see him again.
And then there's the mystery that has been woven through the trilogy finally coming to a conclusion. And it WORKED! It worked well! I had no idea who the real culprit was until near the end. That's some masterful plotting! And all the while, the Victorian atmosphere of the setting is accurately and interestingly portrayed.
While there wasn't as much of the sexytimes in this book, I felt there was more than enough romance. There was a wealth of feeling and desire in the simplest of touches so I didn't feel short-changed at all. It worked for these characters and it worked for me.
Read the trilogy, it's really fabulous!
Thursday, October 5, 2017
The Gunpowder Chronicles - Book 1
This book had been unavailable for a good while (rights reverting to author etc...) but at last it's been republished by the author. And it's good! Worth the wait. :) I'm pretty sure I was guided to this by something one of my fave authors, KJ Charles said on Twitter, so thank you KJ!
What we have is ... I guess it's best termed as a steampunk adventure, set in the mid-1800's in the midst of The Opium War, with a lovely undercurrent of romance.
Soling is the heroine and while she's young - 18 years old - she's not annoyingly young. The daughter of a brilliant engineer executed by the emperor when she was but a child, she's had a hard and hardscrabble life over the past eight years. She takes care of her opium-addicted mother and her younger brother and is a very smart cookie in her own right. She heads from her small village into the city to sell the last keepsake she has of her beloved father to feed her family and the adventure begins.
She meets a bunch of different people from her and her father's past. Men that worked with her father. The man she was once betrothed to. The Crown Prince too. And not only are there the devil English foreigners, there's an army of rebels to contend with. And through it all, she refuses to panic, refuses to give in to her fears, refuses to give up on getting back to her family and getting them to safety. The girl has gumption, dammit! *LOL* And she has flaws as well which makes her likable and not obnoxious.
And there is some romance. There's a spark between Soling and one of her father's protegés as well as tons of chemistry between her and he one-time betrothed. In fact, there's a scene between the two of them where he's measuring her foot for a mechanical boot type thing that is SO damned sexy while being so simple. AMAZING!
I had one small problem while reading and that was that in my epub copy, Chapter 29 ended up as being Chapter 31. So things that were referenced in the following two chapters I hadn't read yet! Most annoying, but shit happens.
Anyway... great book! VERY enjoyable and I will be looking forward to the next part of Soling's adventure!
Friday, September 29, 2017
Tour Dates Book One
Sadly, I'm disappointed again. I saw a couple of good comments about this book and in reading the blurb it seemed to have some of the things I love. Rock bands, musicians, song writers, a pair of heroines who didn't sound like angsty belly-button watchers. Maybe I had found that very rare things for me, a good f/f romance. I should have known it was too good to be true. Seriously, these books are not meant for me and I will learn to spot them at some point.
The first 3rd of the book was fine. Yes, the girls were younger than I'd been hoping - 21 and 25 years of age - but they seemed to have a good grasp of things - like life. *LOL* They weren't vapid, they made sense, they had dreams and they had flaws and quirks. They were real, fully formed people and I was hopeful.
Then they got together. And I was in the dreaded NA territory. See, there's a difference between a book/romance with young protagonists and one that's New Adult. The girls began to feel for each other and at the same time they began to focus on their own 'perceived' flaws which made them begin to hide things from each other and avoid talking about things that might edge too close to those feelings of less-than-worthiness. And there was so much over and over accusing of one wanting 'dick' because she was bisexual and the other gal didn't do guys... I don't know, it just seemed that if they'd stop being so sensitive and prickly and actually talked to each other a lot of these hurts could have been avoided. And this basically went on until just about the end when they finally got their shit together - mostly because of come-to-Jesus talks with one of the other members of the band - a man. An older man (maybe 30-ish?). It all felt less than empowering to me.
I had other, smaller problems too. Yay for diversity! I'm all for that. But really, do we need to have the labels of almost every character in the book proclaimed? Does it matter to the story of Sawyer and Vix if this one is gay, that one a lesbian, those 3 bisexuals, and that one over there straight... and so on? I don't think so. The diversity felt forced, not natural and I think that's because it was being pointed out over and over again.
Another problem I had was the 'ew, boys' stuff. Boys aren't always disgusting, unfeeling, shallow sots... well not all the time anyway. *LOL* That felt kind of juvenile to me. But what do I know, maybe young lesbians all talk this way? (And then the author totally dissed Nickleback, which did not endear her to me because I really like Nickleback!) Another small thing... is it a new young girl uniform to wear tank tops... all the time tank tops. Day in and day out?
So once again, caveat being given... I'm not the best person for NA romances. They annoy me and I have no patience for these angsty kids. The book was well written and would probably be loved by someone who gets NA. I'm not her. So the hunt continues for some enjoyable (for me) f/f romances.
Oh, but... the cover absolutely ROCKS!
Quarters Book Three
I really enjoy reading Tanya Huff's Quarters books. They're great fantasy fun, filled with engaging and diverse characters who go on adventures and end up saving countries and kingdoms. :) There are bards and assassins and nobles and the common man, someone for everyone. And there is romance woven into the adventures and scheming.
No Quarter is filled with all of those things. It's really very much of a continuation of book 2, Fifth Quarter, as opposed to just taking place in the same universe with the focus on different characters. We find out what happened to the twin assassins, Vree and Bannon, Karlene the bard, and Gyhard, the man who is looking for a body of his own. It's also the story of Magda and Garrett, children of the main characters of book 1, Sing the Four Quarters. We even spend some time with Prince Otavas (I may have that spelling wrong), another of the characters from #2. Their paths intertwine to give us a wonderful solution to the simple problem of a man without a body.
As I said to an author buddy of mine as I was reading, even though I enjoyed my read, I found myself wishing that maybe I had read these books when I was a teenager. I'm pretty sure all the sexual identity diversity and openness would have left a positive mark on an impressionable me. As it is now, at 60 years old, well, I sit and nod and think that these kids have the right idea. *LOL*
I'm looking forward to reading the 4th book, The Quartered Sea, at some point and seeing which of my friends from the first three books come along for the ride. :)
Monday, September 25, 2017
Desert Rising Book 2
This little series - 2 books so far - is one of my favourite fantasy reads EVER. (Blair's other full-length novel, Sword and Chant, which I think is set in the same universe at a far different time is really good too!) It's smart, non-formulaic, adult, thoughtful, fun, action-packed and dilemma-filled. But not the kinds of dilemmas that are huge and bombastically dramatic, but more personal, character-driven and complicated in their effects. It's darkish, but never grim. Serious, real shit is happening, but there's always a wee bit of hope. :)
Blair writes beautifully. Her prose is simple, yet filled with impact. You FEEL the desert and the heat and the cold. And her characters! OMG, they are so rich and well-rounded, filled with wonderful qualities and all too human flaws. Even the bad guys of the tale have multiple dimensions.
Speaking of the characters, all my old favourites are back and we are introduced to some new ones along the way. Also, we see changes in some characters who are coming into their own. One of them, Layla, who I despaired of in the first book, has grown and has some substance now. I love authors that can do that, make me enjoy a character I once disliked or had no time for. :)
When I think of this book and its predecessor, I tend to put them in the same corner of my mind with Guy Gavriel Kay. Wonderfully written, diverse characters drawn with skill and depth, a way of writing setting and location that puts you RIGHT THERE and just... well, just everything that's good. (And the covers are gorgeous!)
This is one of those books that makes me wish I could write reviews that are pithy and fabulous, but sadly, that's not my forté. I wanted to gobble the book up as quickly as I could, but I also wanted to take a long time and savour ever little bit of the journey - I think I ended up somewhere in between. I cannot recommend this book, this series, highly enough! I think they're little known in fantasy reader circles and that's a shame. Blair is one of my very favourite fantasy authors, along with GGK, GRRM and Katherine Kurtz so go READ THEM!!! :)
Sunday, September 17, 2017
I do love Eoin Macken's writer's voice. He has lovely turns of phrase and a thoughtful way of seeing things that verges on the poetic at times. Which shouldn't suprise me, he does write poetry.
I loved Eoin' s first book, Kingdom of Scars, and was looking forward to reading this, his next offering. Now these books are not in genres that I often, if ever, read. Gonna be honest, I read the first one because I love Eoin on TV and was curious. I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that the man could write! And write well!
So, Hunter and the Grape. I didn't love it as much as I loved Kingdom of Scars, I will admit. This time, the hero is a little older - he's eighteen and his life just totally sucks. He leaves home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, meets up with a girl and the adventure begins. This book would make a terrific movie. I found it reminiscent of My Own Private Idaho, Heathers, Beautiful Thing and What's Eating Gilbert Grape.
Reading this book made me wish I was 16 again. Not because I want to live my life over or anything, but because then I could enjoy this book totally and fall in love with Cat/Hunter, the main character and wish I was Grape. They're so screwed up, but not. They get into so much trouble and then get out of it. They can make $87 stretch FOREVER.
It's a beautifully written book. I love Eoin's words. This is YA literature, in my humble opinion. :)
Friday, September 15, 2017
Book One of The Legends of Camber of Culdi
Every once in a while I get the urge to revisit old favourites and Katherine Kurtz's Deryni novels are definitely faves of mine. I think the Camber books and the Heirs of Camber books are some of Katherine's strongest work.
Yeah, there's stuff in here that might be problematic these days - I mean, it was originally published in 1976 - but I can deal with that. I'm happy to say that although I notice the problems over 40 years later (with a few rereads between), they don't impinge on my enjoyment of the book.
Magic, intrigue, memorable characters, tension, humour, tragedy, it's all here. I still cry at certain passages and chuckle out loud at others. (More crying than chuckling in this one.)
Yeah, still faves, even 40+ years later. :)
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
River of Teeth #2
I pre-ordered this book (something I very very seldom do) because I enjoyed the first, River of Teeth, so much. It was fresh it, it was different, it was intriguing and it was well written and peopled with lovely characters. This book, Taste of Marrow, was still all that, but at a lower level, I'm afraid.
Now, both books are novellas and I honestly think the story suffered from that in two ways. First off, I felt that the story over both needed more fleshing out. I wanted more... depth? No, because what's there is plenty deep enough, but it just seemed that I wasn't getting the whole story as I should be. I wanted more meat.
And secondly, I don't know why it had to be split over two novellas. The first half of this one, I didn't really understand why one of the main characters was so manically obsessed with finding one of the others - big love notwithstanding. I still don't get why it was so manic and I suppose I'd have to go back and read the first one again to see. And I only read that one in May! Anyway, put them both together in one normal sized novel - it would only be 75K words or 260 some odd pages. Not even CLOSE to epic. *LOL* I also had trouble remembering why one of the bad characters was so important to the whole story. So yeah... a single novel please?
The other thing that I found bothered me again was the gender-neutral use of the pronoun 'they'. It's bloody confusing, I'm sorry. I apologise if that sounds insulting in anyway. I have absolutely NO problem with gender-neutral/fluid people. It's just that the word, after 55+ years of reading and 60 years of talking indicates more than one person to me. I was confused so many times looking for the second or other people in the scene. It brought me up short and took me right out of the story. Which saddens me because I had to take off a .5 star for that because it did impact my enjoyment of the book.
So yeah, I was somewhat disappointed by Taste of Marrow. I do hope the author continues to write in this universe however, and maybe even with some of the same characters.