Monday, June 29, 2015

The Rook by Daniel O'Malley

4 STARS

The Rook Files - Book 1

On Her Majesty's Supernatural Secret Service is the tagline for this first novel from Daniel O'Malley and that's exactly what it is. What a fun read this was!

This was a guts buy from the get go. I saw it in a list of first books on a book blog, I think and was intrigued by the blurb so I added it to my 'to buy' list about a year ago. I don't recall any type of review or even comment on it, but I do remember that this was the part that hooked me...

She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain.
One of the things that makes this book stand out is that it's filled with humour and a healthy dose of irreverence. It has some real laugh out loud scenes which is like a breath of fresh air. Sometimes though, I thought the author got carried away and there was one scene in a very tense part of the book where the humour got fairly slapstick and if it had been toned down just a bit I think the scene would have worked a lot better.

There are also info-dumps... OMG, are there info-dumps! But you know what? They work for the most part because they're presented as letters of instruction from the former Myfanwy to the one in the story. There were one or two that I found a bit too long and tedious and wondered exactly what they were bringing to the narrative. For those two reasons, I rated The Rook as 4 stars instead of 4.5.

The characters are fun and if they're sometimes a bit over the top, I refer you to the tagline once again. Same thing with the plot. But it does all hang together, it all works, and that's what matters to me. This was a book I was looking forward to continue reading whenever I had to put it down. There's a second book coming in 2016 (Stiletto), but really, The Rook does stand well enough on its own.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Gasp! by Z.A. Maxfield

4 STARS

I always finish a book by ZAM with a smile and Gasp! was no exception. It's the story of Jeff, home from 3 tours of duty in Afghanistan and Nigel the rockstar and their journey to find love and find out what family really is.

I can't say that there's anything ground-breaking or earth-shatteringly stand-outish about this book, but it was a damned fine read. I can't say I fell in love with the main characters but I was supremely interested to see how they worked things out. And as seems to be getting more and more rare, they were mature men, not fresh-faced boys just out of college or even just IN college.

ZAM writes great dialogue. It runs the gamut from heart-breaking to laughter-inducing. And Nigel Gasp has a rapier-sharp wit that could only really belong to a British rockstar. The back and forth between Nigel and Jeff was very real and each had a totally distinct voice.

The story maybe meandered a bit, the plot was no more distinct than two men meet, gradually develop feelings for each other and grow as people in the process, but that is quite alright. It's truly the tale of the romance of Nigel and Jeff and all the more real for its - at times - seemingly wandering paths.

Nigel brought me near to tears a couple of times, but when he stays in the hospital near the end, the tears overflowed and I was actively crying. *LOL* And that's okay too.

Another winner from ZAM!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by KJ Charles

4.5 STARS

Simon Feximal Series

I loved this book and I'm so glad that the author decided to publish this as a collection instead of piecing them out over time as so often happens. Yes, it's a collection of short stories, but it flows so beautifully from one into the other, even if there are years in between them.

Simon Feximal is a most intriguing, dismaying, exasperating, wonderful and sensitive character and it's really not difficult to see why Robert Caldwell falls for him. And Robert himself, the light-hearted, optimistic, self-aware (The man is very quick to know and admit his fears, for instance.) journalist-turned-author is a treat. The stories are told from his POV and they never fail to hold one's interest. He never becomes pedantic or tiresome or too introspective as many 1st person narrators can. While reading, it actually felt like as if I was reading through a sheaf of servicable stationery written in ink in a sprawling handwriting - not my Kobo Aura H2O ereader. *LOL* Seriously!

Robert tells two tales really. The tale of his and Simon's work partnership, how they came to join together and learn how to work together. And it's also the tale of their intimate partnership and how they came to love one another and create their own version of a family.

I think there could be more Feximal stories, I mean we have only scratched the surface of his and Robert's paranormal adventures, but what we have in this book are the cases that affected both areas of their lives and I would be satisfied with that if that is all there is to be told. We have see both Simon and Robert grow into full, well-rounded, real characters thanks to these tales and anything else that could be written would be more for the adventure and the fun of it.

Y'know, KJ Charles is a terrific author and I could never go wrong in recommending her.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Remnant by KJ Charles and Jordan L. Hawk

4 STARS

The inevitable and eminently suitable crossover between Charles' Casebook of Simon Feximal stories and Hawk's Griffin & Whyborne series.

So much fun! I certainly hope that these two couples find a way to work together again. They are the perfect foils for each other and I laughed out lout a couple of times much to the dog's puzzlement. *LOL*

Fans of either series need to read this freebie!

Butterflies by KJ Charles

4 STARS

I really loved this - for me- introduction to Simon Feximal short story. KJ is a wonderful author of historical paranormal m/m romances and I have yet to be disappointed by any of her offerings.

And I should say, this was the perfect reading palate cleanser after my disappointment in my previous read.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Shadow Revolution by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith

2 STARS

Crown & Key - Book 1

I had such high hopes for this book. It sounded so good but sometimes what sounds good is not what one actually gets.

The characters are interesting on the surface, but we seldom, if ever, get below the surface to find out what really makes them tick, what motivates them, what elevates them above the clich├ęd norm. I'm big on characters, so this was a huge disappointment for me.

The plot was good, werewolves invading London to put it simply. Oh, and a mad doctor creating an army of homunculus monsters. There were tons of in-depth fight scenes and honestly, they were the best written things in the book. But the overall execution I felt was lacking...

Which brings me to the writing. The book has been edited, the authors thank the Del Rey editors in their notes. But my God, it was edited badly. Sentences in the middle of a paragraph that have nothing to do with the sentences before them or after them. IN THE SAME PARAGRAPH! Jerky narrative, stilted dialogue, flowery writing that was just not good. I found the actual reading to be unpleasant much of the time. Of course, your mileage may vary, but I believe that had this book had a good, intense and knowledgeable, content/developmental edit it could have been a TERRIFIC book.

This is the first novel of a trilogy, the Crown & Key trilogy and you know what? Despite the questions left dangling at the end, I really am not inclined to run out and purchase the next two. The Shadow Revolution was that disappointing.

(Looking for something in the same vein as this book? Lilith Saintcrow does it better, IMO. Check out her Bannon & Clare books.)

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Circus of the Damned by Cornelia Grey

4 STARS

Deal with a Devil Series

Gilbert is a magician. He drinks too much and gets carried away with his powers in a place where he shouldn't and is seen by people who shouldn't be seeing him.

To save his ass, Gilbert joins the circus, even though the ringmaster, Jesse, tells him that it's a lifetime deal.

"If you never believe anything again in your life, believe this: if you join, you will remain with the circus until the day you die, and beyond that . . .Your soul will be damned for all eternity. There is no way out."

Gilbert, of course, is certain that he'll be able to find a way to wriggle out of the deal, but he doesn't count on coming to like the so-called 'freaks' that make up the circus, nor does he count on falling for Jesse. And, nobody realises the danger that the circus is now in, thanks to Gilbert's original bad judgement. Then there's that pesky deal thing with the devil, Farfarello.

There were a couple of things that gave me a bit of a pause. First off, I really have no idea why Gilbert ended up falling so hard for Jesse. I suppose the why isn't that important in the long run, but I like to think that it was for more reasons than that he was pretty and good in bed. :) Also, at first Jesse came across as a bit forbidding and a bit wicked, but soon after he became gentle and sweet for the most part. It was a tad jarring for me.

But that being said, I enjoy the way Cornelia writes and ultimately, the characters were quite likable, even the somewhat creepy ones - I'm looking at you Humphreys! I enjoyed the plot of the circus and why it was in existance and even though I felt that the story behind Count Reubens needed more fleshing out, it served its purpose in the end. The love story and intimate scenes were hot, sexy and romantic, especially the one where Gilbert uses his magic... Lawzy me! *fans*

I was going to give it 3.5 stars, but I had such a good time reading it despite my few icks, that I upped it to 4. *g*

EDIT: I should say that this book has one of the best book covers EVER! Bravo to the artist Kanaxa for her terrific work!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Master of Ghouls by Jordan L. Hawk

3.5 STARS

SPECTR Series - Book 2

This is the second installment of the SPECTR series and it was exactly what I expected. Lots of paranormal fun and action,some sexy times and some character development between our two (three?) erstwhile heroes.

In this day and age of Netflix and Amazon TV and the like, the stories of John (I LOVE that his name is John) and Caleb feel to me like a Netflix limited series. And that's quite all right!

I think I have 4 more novellas in this "first series" and I am looking forward to reading them. (And casting them in my mind's eye!) 

 This is a fun series. :)

Monday, June 8, 2015

Farthing by Jo Walton

5 STARS

The Small Change Series - Book 1

I loved this book! It's brilliant, it's delicious, it's thought-provoking, it's fun, it's sad and it feels like an old friend has come to stay for the weekend. You think you're getting a cozy mystery set in an alternate history, but in reality, you're getting much much more.

I knew of the author, Jo Walton, because I read a lot of fantasy and she writes fantasy. (Apparently she lives in Montreal too, so I have to wonder if I ever met her in my sci-fi/fantasy club days.) I'd heard her name but never read any of her works. Then one day, one of my favourite authors, KJ Charles mentioned/recced Farthing on Twitter, which had been recced to her by another of my faves, Jordan L. Hawk, so it came up on my radar. Last week, I acquired my copy. :)

So, Farthing is, on the surface, a cozy murder mystery set at the country estate of high born folks - The Farthing Set - in 1947 England. But it's a slightly different England than we're used to. Peace has been made with Hitler and WW2 never really became WW in scope. What we end up seeing, is a world where what happened in Germany and other countries in the 30s can be seen to be happening in England, which adds a whole different set of layers to the story.

The author has also chosen a different way to actually tell the story. The narrative alternates between the first person POV of the daughter of the house, so to speak, Lucy Kahn - I swear, it reads as if she's sitting across the table from you with a pot of tea, telling you the story as she sees it - and the 3rd person POV (technical term Narrow POV?) of Scotland Yard investigator Peter Anthony Carmichael. You get one chapter of Lucy, and then one chapter of Peter and while it sounds like it would be jarring, it's not. It works PERFECTLY!

As far as the mystery goes, I was suitably puzzled for most of the book, my suspicions all over the place. *LOL* And in the end, the solution makes total sense.

I quite fell for Detective Carmichael and I'm really glad that his 'adventures' continue in two other books. (Apparently with the same style, 1st person POV of a female MC and then Carmichael's narrow 3rd POV.)

The striking thing about Farthing, though, is that it makes you see how easy. How too damned easy it would be to let bad things happen to good people. It's so much more than an alternate history cozy. And the ending. Well, it wasn't what I was expecting and I have to say. I cried.

Read this book. It's EXCELLENT!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Lord of the White Hell (Book 2) by Ginn Hale

4 STARS

Cadelonian Series - Book 2

Fun, fun, fun! I really enjoyed this second half of Lord of the White Hell. Enjoyed it enough to go checking right away to see if there were more books in the same world. And there are!

But, to concentrate on this one. Book Two picks up... 10 minutes after the end of Book One. Seriously, this wasn't a duology by any means. It was one huge volume snipped in half. If I can offer any advice to folks that want to read it, read them back to back in one complete experience. I read Book One back in January and I found, especially with the amount of reading that I do, that I could have used a bit of a reminder on certain things in the beginning of Book Two to make the first couple of chapters more comfortable for me. I kept having to pause and try and remember the whys and wherefores and whos of the narrative.

That being said, this half of the story of Kiram and Javier and the Hellions and Kiram's family seemed to me to move along a little faster and be a little more action-packed than volume one. At the same time, our main location moves from the Sagarda Academy to Kiram's home in the Haldiim part of his home town. Ginn Hale has created a wonderful world that's familiar until it's not. We get to see a lot of Karim's family as well as more of his best friend, Nestor's family. I enjoyed that because it brought out another side of Karim that brought him, to me, to full 3-dimensionality. (I know it's not a word, but you understand what I mean.)

Kiram and Javier's personal relationship is taken to what could best be termed the next level and while there are a few lovely sexytimes scenes, they're more romantic than erotic and suit the story perfectly.

If I have one problem, aside from the splitting into two volumes thing, it's that the end of the book felt a bit rushed. The race to beat the Big Baddie was fine, but the actual climax of the 'battle' seemed over rather swiftly and I felt it needed more gravitas. I almost felt like the author saw the end coming and couldn't wait to type the words The End. I wanted more.

Still, this was a terrific read and I'm looking forward to reading the next duology in this world - The Champion of the Scarlet Wolf - Books 1&2. I'm going to get them at the same time in case it's the same case of cliffhangeritis as with this one. :)

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

4 STARS

The Kingkiller Chronicle - Book 1

This is a book recommended to me, first by my son's friend and then once my son had read it, by my son. :)

It's very readable, very good, different enough to satisfy this jaded fantasy reader and it's really a lot of fun for the most part. The main character, Kvothe is fascinating as an adult, now an innkeeper in a little backwater town, we get to know him, sort of, in quick glimpses as he tells his life story to a character who likes to be called Chronicler. We also get to know him at this time through the eyes of his 'student', Bast. Bast is of the Fae... I think. :) There are a lot of unanswered questions throughout this book.

The Name of the Wind is really the story the boy Kvothe and how he began to become the man we now see living the quiet life as an innkeeper. There is magic, music, creatures of the dark, war, death, murder and mayhem. There is also humour, affection, fun, more music, friendship and laughter. Kvothe has all kinds of adventures beginning with his very early years spent as a member of his parents' travelling bardic/theatre troupe on through his first couple of years at the University. He makes friends, enemies, patrons and protectors.

The only thing that bothered me was the part of the narrative having to do with the elusive Denna, the girl that Kvothe meets first on the road once he's on his own. There had better be a payoff for all the page-time devoted to her, especially their big northern adventure, because frankly, I felt it was taking away from the interesting story of Kvothe learning and growing. It was truly the only part of the book where my mind began to wander.

So, all in all, a really, really good read and I will soon be getting the second book to see what Kvothe gets up to next!