Friday, December 29, 2017

Come Sundown by Nora Roberts

3.5 Stars

I generally really enjoy Nora's stand-alone big suspensy type novels, but this one just took SO long to get going I was afraid it might even become a DNF!

First off, maybe it's just me, but has Nora become rather enamoured of the woman kept prisoner by the loony-tune guy over the past few books?  That's the basis for the suspense here. 

The first... oh, almost 55% of the book is spent getting to know the characters, and getting to know how the resort works. We see Nora building her trio of couples - another of her tropes that seems to now have made it's way into the one-of books.  And there wasn't even any friction or anything between the heroine and the hero.  Just alot of dancing around each other in a very pleasant bantery sort of way.  It was at this point that I was about ready to throw in the towel and that's rare for me, especially with a Nora book.  But all of a sudden, things actually began to happen! 

I devoured the last 40% of the book today.  Couldn't put it down. Even enjoyed the twist at the end which really shouldn't have been a twist but she got me anyway.  *LOL*

So in the end, it was far from the best Nora I've read, but still worth a 3.5 star rating. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand

4 Stars

Winter Trilogy - Book 1

This was not the book I was expecting but I quite enjoyed it!

I was expecting a heart-warming romance, typical of the season, but what I got was a family story filled with love, humour, drama, whimsy and fun. 

The characters of the Quinn family are real and flawed and quite perfect in some ways.  All I can tell you is that I loved reading about them.  Dysfunctional doesn't quite cover it.  *LOL*  Oh, but they're a lot of fun, really.  I wanted to see the Christmas movie made of this novel.  It'd beat the Hallmark Christmas movies all to hell, I'm sure! 

So, not quite a romance and not really a family saga.  It's a heart-warming novel, as they say, about a family coming home for Christmas and I found it hit the perfect spot.  And as such, this will close my Christmas reading for the year.  Always good to close on a good note.  😊

All I Want for Christmas by Clare Lydon

3 Stars

All I Want - Book One

Just not for me.  I liked the premise, woman wants a girlfriend for Christmas and goes about seeking one out, with commentary from her best friend and roommate.  She has misadventures, says clever things, does a lot of moaning and groaning about her lot in romantic life and can't see what's in front of her face.

It reads too much like chick lit for me to enjoy, really.  New Adult chick lit.  *sigh*

Now, don't get me wrong, the author does a wonderful job in her chosen genre/voice.  I just didn't like it much. 

I like my romances to have obstacles and hurdles for the couple to overcome, on their own and together.  I haven't found many f/f romances that manage to do that.  They all seem either tortured or bland. I shall continue to hunt, but I am getting a bit discouraged. 


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Homecoming by Beverly Jenkins

3 Stars

This is the first novel by beloved doyenne of the historical romance genre, Beverly Jenkins, that I have read.  I was concerned.  Everyone loves her so much and my track record with hugely loved and highly touted works is iffy at best.

Well, I liked the premise.  A second chance at love type of thing, with a school teacher, headmistress, and a buffalo soldier.  Mature characters both.  Lydia comes back to her childhood home from Chicago and crosses paths with Gray Dane, her first love.  Turns out that his love for her as well as hers for him hasn't dimmed, but most probably grown.  So we have some angst, some winsomeness, sexiness, and some humour.  It should all work.  Yet...

I wish I could say I adored the book, but colour me not overly impressed. Mostly with the style of writing.  Very flowery, especially in the love scenes.  For instance, I don't think I'd ever heard/read about one's nipples being dazzled by a lover's fingers, but now I can say that I have.   Also, some of the dialogue didn't work for me, at times I found it stilted and at times it just sounded a wee bit too modern.  And I don't know, there was just something about the writing that felt dated and unrefined (?) to me.  (And not because it's a historical, sillies!)  So I checked.  This novella was published in 2007 according to the author's website, as part of the Gettin' Merry anthology.  Okay, 10 years ago.   Maybe that's why.

Anyway, I have another Beverly Jenkins in my TBR, a more recent one - Forbidden - from 2016.  Hopefully I'll enjoy it more.  :)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

This Christmas by Jeannie Moon

3.5 Stars

Christmas in New York Book 1

This is a charming novella-length love story filled with romance tropes which I didn't mind at all.  The heroine, Sabrina, Bree, is the single mother of an almost 10-year old daughter and the hero, of course, is the father, Jake Killen, pro hockey player. 

There's not a lot of real angst as Bree and Jake readily admit their past and the fact that their feelings haven't died.  Well, not to each other of course.  We need a bit of conflict!  The electricity between them is still there.  Their daughter, Charlie (Charlotte), has inherited her mother's looks and her father's hockey talent.  She loves her mom and she quickly comes to love her dad.  Her one wish for years has been to have her father back and whatddya know, this Christmas it happens!

We have Bree's parents who are suspicious of Jake at first and Bree's crew of girlfriends who have her back.  There are the obligatory confrontational scenes between them and Jake.  There is also an obligatory ice-skating scene.  A father-daughter dance.  Some not-really-needed bullying at school and a side sort-of plot concerning the local lighthouse that I thought could have been built upon more.

All in all, it was a charming read but I found myself wishing there had been less introspective inner-dialogue and more action.  And maybe a little more conflict?  Bree was a little too nice for me, I guess.  *LOL*  Anyway... a sweet holiday read. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Christmas Fling by Heidi Cullinan

4 Stars

Christmas Town Book One

The first of my Christmas books to read and ooh, it's a good one!  In The Christmas Fling, we return to Logan, Minnesota, the setting of the Minnesota Christmas quadrology.  We meet many old friends - as one does when they go home for Christmas, and we meet a pair of MCs that have issues.  Oh, they both have issues. 

The book starts of with a bang- almost literally.  Before we are many pages in, we find ourselves in the midst of a hugely satisfying, steamy, sexy scene that is really enough to curl your toes.  And a bit of a warning here, we're talking some kink, more specifically, some humiliation kink - which is not everyone's cup of tea.  It's really not mine either, in fact it usually squicks the hell out of me, but the way Heidi writes it, I found the workings of the characters' minds fascinating.  Characters are Heidi's strength and it really shows in this book. 

We have Evan, who is most likely on the spectrum, who can't really remember faces, who has a tendency to one-track-mindedness to the point of forgetting to take care of himself.  Another one who has his own neuroses, his own insecurities, his own bloody one-track-mindedness.  *LOL* 

But honestly, aside from the terrifically drawn characters, the other wonderful thing about this book, and really about all of Heidi's books, is the sense of family.  Found family and blood family.  It never fails to warm my heart and often sets me to tearing up.  And then there's Linda Kay who is right up there as fave Cullinan character of all time with Randy Jansen. 

So great start to my Christmas reading!  :)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Glass Houses by Louise Penny

5 Stars

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache - Book #13

Loved it.  Pure and simple,  I just loved it. 

Again we're in the village of Three Pines, amidst the characters we've come to love - or at least like and appreciate - and there's been trouble. 

The book jumps between two time periods.  A Montreal courtroom in the depth of a hot and humid Montreal summer and early November in our beloved Three Pines.  This is usually a set-up that I'm not fond of, but in the hands of a skilled writer, like Louise Penny, it works a charm.  Scenes in the one setting set up revelations in the other and I found myself on the edge of my seat waiting for these other shoes to drop with great anticipation.  I actually found myself forcing myself to put the book down so I wouldn't gobble it up too fast. 

And the characters.  My God, you'd think that after a dozen books there'd be nothing more to learn about Gamache and Beauvoir and the rest of the crew.  But there is!  More flaws, more good things, more... well, more humanity.  Because that's the strength of these novels.  Not just the mystery or the convoluted plot, but the characters and their basic humanity.  I defy anyone to not be able to find themselves reflected in one, some or all of them. 

I cried at the end of the book.  I always cry at some point in the Gamache books.  :)  Oh, it was truly delicious!  I cannot... CANNOT wait for the next one and I don't know that Louse has even started THINKING about it!  *LOL*

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Shatter by Jocelynn Drake and Rinda Elliott

3.5 Stars

Unbreakable Bonds - Book 2

This is my m/m romance catnip.  There's action, there's a mystery of some sort, there's a band of brothers, there's humour and there's some hot sexytimes. 

This is Snow's story.  Snow, or Dr. Ashton Frost, is, as his name implies, somewhat cold and standoffish - walls up for everyone except maybe his three closest friends.  He's a brilliant surgeon and sexy as hell.  Well, right up my alley, anyway.  A ghost from his past is haunting him and he's framed for a murder and his found family is under attack and of course he's trying to deal with it on his own.

Enter Jude Torres, paramedic whose had his eye on the good doctor for a while.  He's a big, handsome, smart caregiver and he's determined not to let Snow handle this unravelling situation on his own.  He's had a sort of crush on the good doctor for a while, but tragedy brings them together and the attraction catches fire in all the best ways. 

I like Snow and Jude together.  They are good for each other.   They have great banter, which is another of my catnips.  And they just naturally have great physical chemistry too.  Sometimes that doesn't come across in these romances, but here it's loud and clear and I love it! 

So if like me, you're a fan of Abi Roux's Cut and Run series, or any of S.E. Jakes' series or Rhys Ford's series, I think you'd like this.  I did.  :)

Monday, November 27, 2017

Nothing to Lose by Clare Lydon

3 Stars

The blurb sounded so good!  Both MCs are on the cusp of turning 40, there are no deep, dark tragedies in either of their pasts, no one is suffering from any kind of mental illness or disease, neither is fresh from a break-up.  And, well, there you go. 

The premise was good.  Sudden flooding, one gal finds refuge at the other gal's, the mayor's, home.  Their paths have crossed previously and there's a bit of a disagreement about the local football club - soccer football, as this is set in England.  The problem was... things were set up so that there could be some conflict between the characters but it never came to fruition, it was all explained away.   As a result, the plotline was rather bland.  Not only did we have a case of insta-love, which, you know, I can buy from time to time, but it never felt that the new couple had any real hurdles to get over. 

The style of writing, the author's voice, I guess, didn't really appeal to me.  I kept thinking that it, too, was rather bland.  It never really came alive for me.  I felt constantly just a little off-centre the whole time I was reading.  I will say that the sexy-times scenes were quite well done.  A little flowery at times, maybe, but nothing to the point of where I was constantly rolling my eyes. 

The story was also billed as being humorous at times.  Well... I missed the funny.  I could see the chances for it, but it was something that the author never seemed to really deliver on. 

So, while this was an f/f romance that comes closer to what I'm looking for, it still missed the mark for me. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells

4 Stars

Hob Book 1

Thank you SO much, KJ Charles for bringing this book to my attention.  I loved it!  :)  I have to say, I don't read everything that KJ recs, but I have found that the ones she recommends that catch my interest with the genre and blurb are never a disappointment.

The first half and a bit of the book was admittedly a bit slow.  Interesting but slow, I found.  We were getting to know the characters of importance, Hob, Mag, Nick, the Bone Collector etc... and learning some of the way Tanegawa's World works.  It's a mining world with some farm communities and one big city - I think.  In charge of the planet is Transrifts Inc., a mining company that holds most of the planet under its heavy heel.  The company also controls the mysterious people, the Weathermen.  These are also the people who have talents/abilities to facilitate rift space travel.

So, Hob, one of the main characters, is a young woman who is a member of a mercenary biker gang that lives apart from 'normal' society.  Exiles for the most part.  Hob is not native to the planet, she came by spaceship as a child, a stowaway type thing, I think I gathered, and was adopted by the leader of the bikers, Nick.  Nick also has a brother, who is a miner, a team leader if I'm not mistaken.  There's a wife and a daughter, Mag.  Mag is the other main character in the book and is as different as night and day from Hob, her adopted cousin.

Anyway, there are strange things afoot on Tanegawa's World and everything points to some sort of huge change for its inhabitants.  Rebellion?  Natural disaster? Further enslavery by the company?  God knows.  But when you get into the second half of the book, the action picks up and things get really, really good.  The characters come really alive now.  And rebellion/resistance is a trope that gets me every time.  There's some magic involved.  There are spies.  There are raids and assassinations and plots and mysteries afoot.  Hardly anything gets settled by the end of the book, but I didn't find that a problem.  It's a jumping off point, like the first, establishing season of a good TV series.  And this would make a great series, I think. The characters are rich with depth, and diverse, and they feel real, which is very important to me.

I can't wait to read the next one!  Which is out in February.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Dead Things by Stephen Blackmoore

3.5 Stars

Eric Carter - Book 1

I've said this before, I'm not a huge fan of the paranormal horror novel, but this series came recommended by one of my favourite authors, so I figured, what the hell, give it a try. 

And I enjoyed it!

I liked the main character - the book is written in the first person POV - Eric Carter, who can talk to dead people and can wield some magic. He's what they call a necromancer. His voice is easy to read and he has a sense of humour that hit me in my sweet spot - seasoned with a bit of sarcasm. He's basically a good guy, but he has issues, some of which he actually confronts in this first book of the series.  And he likes to dress for the occasion - suit and tie.  *LOL*

  The setting is contemporary Los Angeles and it abounds in lots of paranormal denizens.  Eric has friends there, friends he hasn't really spoken with in 15 years.  I liked his friends.  He also has enemies.  They are good evil enemies.  Ghosts and monsters and gods. And when you make a deal with the devil, so to speak, ... well, it's a deal. 

Now, there's a lot of blood and gore.  Things, living and dead, exploding and melting and destroying and causing mayhem.  And lots of blood and gore.  Usually it turns me off, but I was willing to go with it this time.

So the book has a paranormal noire detective type feel and noire detective hits a lot of my sweet spots - the paranormal I can take or leave.  But this was good. I enjoyed it and I'll be reading the next one. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Trials by Linda Nagata

4 Stars

The Red - Book 2

This is a genre that I seldom read, near-future, sort of post-apocalyptic, military fiction; but DAMN, I like this series. It's almost like ... well, I want to say good Tom Clancy with twists.

This is the continuation of the events in First Light, book one of the series.  Again, we follow the 1st person narrative of Lieutenant James Shelley as he navigates this screwed up world.  Shelley is the beneficiary of some high tech body modifications, even thought they sometimes seem like a curse and Nagata writes it so well that even a know-nothing like me understands what's going on.  Even the trial/court scenes were eminently readable and that's not always the case.

The world is dark and cynical and full of conspiracies and plots and counter-plots and the author does them all justice.  I never predicted what was happening until it was either happening or just about to go down.  And even then, there was always some twist I didn't see.

This is a techno-thriller in the true sense of the word, I think.  I was on the virtual edge of my seat almost the whole time I was reading.  We meet up with lots of old friends, make some new ones and come across some not so nice folks too, familiar and otherwise.  And I should have seen that twist coming at the end, but I didn't, and damn, it's a good one!

So yeah, I really enjoyed my read and I'm glad that I have the final book in the trilogy nestled nicely in my Kobo.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Extraordinary People by Peter May

3.5 Stars

The Enzo Files - Book 1

A good friend recommended Peter May to me when I was looking for mystery writers to add to my 'to read' list.  I picked up a couple and this is the one I decided to read first. Out of all of his books, I picked this one because I liked the idea of a Scots-Italian hero in his early 50s with a pony tail.  *LOL*  Seriously!  Enzo Macleod.

I enjoyed the book for the most part.  I'm not totally enamoured of the afore-mentioned Enzo, but I suspect he will grow on me.  I honestly didn't like him at first, but by the end of the book he had improved muchly in my eyes.  :)  He has issues and he's a bit of a misogynist.  He - or maybe it's just the author - has a fixation on boobs.  If I had to hear about his student/assistant's bouncy bosom one more time, I think I'd have screamed.  *LOL*   There is also a subplot concerning his two daughters - half sisters - that I found interesting and I hope it continues on in the series.  Pretty sure that it will.

The mystery itself, the years past disappearance turned into years past murder of a brilliant French teacher at one of France's elite centres of higher education, wasn't that twisty turny, but it did keep me guessing until nearly the end.  I liked that it was much of a puzzle and involved a lot of give and take between Enzo and the secondary cast in brainstorming sessions.

There was a lot of description going on - scene setting and location picturing - and I've come to think that this might be a hallmark of Brit-authored police procedurals/suspense novels.  It might turn some folk off, but it sure gave me a detailed mind-image of many of the mystery's locations throughout France.

There were a couple of threads I thought were left dangling, but maybe they'll get picked up in the next Enzo File - or maybe they really are just coincidences, indicated a rising level of Enzo's paranoia as the story went on.  To be determined, as they say!

So, while not perfect, Extraordinary People was quite enjoyable and I'll indeed read more.  :)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Airs Above the Ground by Mary Stewart

5 Stars

Last week was such a treat, all of Mary Stewart's books were issued in ebook format and being sold for great prices.  So I splurged and bought 10 of her mysteries (I have all her books in paperback or hardcover) because Lady Mary is one of my all-time faves!  She wrote the mysteries that were my introduction to grown up mysteries.  From Trixie Belden books (which I still adore) to Mary Stewarts.  My favourite of hers is The Moonspinners, but Airs Above the Ground is a close second.

We have horses... and not just any horses, my friends, but the famous Lipizzaner horses.  I can't remember clearly, but I think this was my first Mary Stewart, and the reason I picked it up was because of the horses.  Horse mad is what I was.  Nothing's changed.  *LOL*

Now this book was written in 1965 and I always thought it was set maybe a decade earlier, simply because of its talk of newsreels but I could be wrong and they had those in British movie theatres in the 60s.  Anyway it has all the hallmarks of a book of the time.  But that doesn't bother me.  That was just how things were then and the way that Lady Mary writes her heroine, Vanessa, even when the men are trying to protect her, she has a nice bit of sarcastic aside that lets you know she's fully capable.  I will admit though, I did like the way the hero made the villain regret what he had done to her. 

And then there's Timothy, Tim, the teenager who Vanessa is supposedly chaperoning in a trip to Austria. He goes from a sulky boy to a funny and smart young man and becomes one of my favourite Mary Stewart characters.  He's vital to the solving of the mystery too.

I watched an interview with Mary Stewart a few days ago - it was from 2010, I think - and she spoke of these books as adventures and yeah, I'll buy that.  Romantic suspense, yeah, but definitely adventures.

So this was a very, very enjoyable reread. I'm glad I splurged.  Oh and... check the cover!  All the books have these fabulous covers and I love them. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Where Loyalties Lie by Rob J. Hayes

3.5 Stars

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

Take the Lead by Alexis Daria

3.5 Stars

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

An Unsuitable Heir by KJ Charles

4.5 Stars

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

Gunpowder Alchemy by Jeannie Lin

4 Stars

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 protegĂ©s 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

The Love Song of Sawyer Bell by Avon Gale

3 Stars

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!

No Quarter by Tanya Huff

3.5 Stars

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

Breath of Stone by Blair MacGregor

4.5 Stars

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 fortĂ©.  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

Hunter and the Grape by Eoin C. Macken

4 Stars

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

Camber of Culdi by Katherine Kurtz

4.5 Stars

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

Taste of Marrow by Sarah Gailey

3.5 Stars

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.


Monday, September 11, 2017

The Mystery of Nevermore by C.S. Poe

3 Stars

Snow & Winter Book One

I was vaguely disappointed by this book.  I say vaguely because it wasn't a bad read, it just didn't satisfy me the way I was hoping it would. I mean, it has some of my fave tropes - the shop owner and the cop, a mystery or two, the promise of a series of adventures, even a holidayish setting.  It just never clicked for me.

One problem I had with with it was the shop owner main character.  He suffers from achromatopsia, which is total colour blindness.  He only sees in shades of grey/white/black and is extremely light sensitive.  Now that's not a problem in and of itself, it's just that I spent at least half the book wondering how he saw things and how he could do certain things.  Not that the author didn't explain things, she did.  It just took a hold in my mind and the wondering would not stop!  It was very distracting.

And then there was the instalove.  Now.. I find that as I get older, instalove has begun to lose some of its lustre.  Especially when the characters aren't new adult age, but one is 33 and the other is 42.  Insta- LUST, I will buy.  Big time interest?  Most certainly.  But in this case, Sebastian and Cal seemed to get deep really, really fast and for no perceptible reason that I could see.  If anything, the subplot of Sebastian breaking up with his boyfriend, Neil, should have made impeded the whole deepness thing, IMO.  Sufficient to say that I wasn't buying it. Now, I do think the characters will grow on me.  I hope, anyway.  I liked many of the basic traits etc... that were set down in this first book of the series.

I liked many of the secondary characters as well.  Seb's father, Cal's partner, Seb's antique store employee and Seb's store neighbour.  They all seemed pretty authentic and I hope we see more of them as the series continues.  I also hope that the mystery will be a little more weighty - I like it when the mysteries are as important to the story as the love story, but I didn't get that here.  It felt to me like the mystery was created so the guys could have some hot sex.  So maybe, next book, a little more sleuthing and a little less dancing in the sheets?  And some more delving into the emotions of the MCs would e nice too.

I did find that there was more than an echo of the Adrien English mysteries by Josh Lanyon, but thank heavens I didn't dislike one of the MCs the way I do Adrien's erstwhile cop lover.  I do believe that if you're a fan of the Lanyons, you'll enjoy this book.  So, all in all, the book just left me, as I said, vaguely disappointed.  But I will be continuing the series.  :)  Oh, and BTW, I love the covers of these books.  They are nicely evocative, I think.




Friday, September 8, 2017

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

4 Stars

I really enjoyed this book!  I'm a fan of Elizabeth Bear's, even thought sometimes I think her writing is too smart for me to actually get.  *LOL*  I had been looking forward to reading Karen Memory since it was published and finally, it went on sale and I could afford the ebook.  All I knew about it was that Elizabeth wrote it, it was steampunk, the heroine was lesbian, and all the buzz was really good.

But when I started it.... OMG, my stomach sank because there were two things that are generally a 'no way JosĂ©' type of thing for me.  The character speaking in dialect, hell, the whole narrative in dialect when it comes to that because it's a 1st person POV and the heroine being young, like YA/NA young.  This did not bode well.

But you know what?  I soon forgot that the heroine was of tender years, so to speak.  Yeah, she was young, but she wasn't that annoying young that so many of the YA/NA characters I have read are.  And the dialect?  Well, I can see how it might be problematic for some - the should haves and could haves and would haves were all should of, could of and would of, which would normally drive me absolutely apeshit, but oddly enough, it didn't bother me.  Shocking, I know.  (Had she thrown in a verse in place of versus, I may have felt differently.  *LOL*)  But the character of Karen had come alive very quickly and this is how she talked and it was okay.  :)

What we have here, is the tale of Karen Memery (that's the actual spelling of her name), and what happens when a badly injured girl comes begging sanctuary at the door to the bordello where Karen works, setting in motion adventures and mysteries.  The action is exciting and seldom lets up.  The characters are all terrific - the girls and staff of the bordello, the lawmen, the villains.  Even the animals!  *LOL*

Karen Memory is one of those books where I wish I could write decent reviews to do it justice.  Suffice it to say that it's a rollicking adventure with a diverse and fascinating cast and a real sense of humour and fun.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver

3.5 Stars

This book is pretty much outside my comfort zone.  Atmospheric ghost stories aren't something I'm drawn to and the only reason I read this one was because a good friend said it was one of the best books she'd ever read.

I will admit that it is a well-written book and it catches you from the get-go, but I also have to say that I totally disliked the main character for the first 1/3rd of the story.  And that's a big deal when the book is written for the most part as a journal.  I never truly liked him though.  I was also glad that the book was only a little over 200 pages.

Did it work as a ghost story?  Yes.  It evoked the spooky, solitary world of the Arctic quite well and the loneliness was genuinely depicted.  (Can I say that?  It sounds odd.) The thoughts and musings of Jack, the main character were very believable and I finally came to find him somewhat sympathetic and thus grew concerned for his well-being for the duration of the book.

Now, the book is set in 1937 and it FEELS like 1937 which is just fine.  Some things, were they said/done today would be found quite ... unacceptable?  But that's how things were in 1937.  I'm OK with that.  The book was published in 2010 but quite honestly, it felt like it could have been released back in the 30s or 40s.  And seeing as it's a journal for the most part, I'd say that's a success.

The book is very British.  Good thing too, seeing as it's main characters are British.  :)  I think it would make a terrific spooky movie.  No blood & gore that is so popular these days, but a truly mind-fucking suspenseful movie.

So yes, good book.  I would recommend it highly to anyone who enjoys ghost stories and spooky stuff.  I see why my friend loved it so much.  That's not my bag, though, so it gets a bit of a lower rating because of that.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Bay of Sighs by Nora Roberts

4 Stars

The Guardians Trilogy - Book 2

After the disappointment of my last read, I needed a sure thing, so I picked up one of my trusty go-to's and that's La Nora.  Nora's always an easy read for me.  I find myself reading just one more little bit, just one more bit.  *LOL*

I discovered that one of the reasons I enjoy Nora's trilogies concerning 3 couples is that there's always a sense of a family coming together.  The guys banter with the girls and the girls banter with the guys and they all banter with each other and I end up chuckling like a crazy person.  :)  Yes, they might seem repetitive from one trilogy to another, but it's a pleasant repetition.  I love the friendships that get formed and I honestly think they mean more to me than the romances.

This book, book 2, is the story of the mermaid and the traveller.  She's so funny and innocent of the ways of the land.  I find her verbal faux pas very amusing.  I also find her freedom and honesty refreshing.  She seems so fragile and while I might be like Sawyer, the traveller, and want to protect her, she's fully capable of taking care of herself.  

The romance is great, as always.  I enjoy the OTTness of the love scenes, something that doesn't carry from one author to another.  but as I said before, it's the friendships that often bring me to tears.  And I usually, probably always, tear up reading a Nora.  *LOL*

So, when the 3rd book Isle of Glass is no longer $13.99, I'll be picking it up.  Even though I'm pretty damned sure I know how the trilogy ends, I'm going to enjoy the way it gets there.  :)


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Blood Gospel - James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell

2.5 Stars

The Order of the Sanguines Book 1

I wanted to like this book so much!  It sounded like such interesting fun from the blurb and I enjoyed the James Rollins book I read earlier this year, so I was looking forward to another action-filled thriller with some cool religiously supernatural overtones.  Vampire priests!  Woot!

Ugh.

That's not what I got.

First off, the female lead, the heroine, Erin... well, she spent half her time hiding behind the big, strong, blond, soldier protector guy who could make her warm with just a faint touch in the midst of all the danger of the damned world.  Every time something remotely dangerous approached, there was the big dumb hero thrusting her behind him.

Speaking of big dumb hero, his name was Jordan, which is fine.  Jordan is a unisex name.  The only problem with this is that Jordan is a name I have used in my own writing for years as a woman's name.  So that bugged me from beginning to end.  *LOL*  Most people probably won't have this problem though.

Overall, this book had a really sexist vibe to it. Not only was Jordan 'protecting' Erin every chance he got and not only were the both of them getting turned on by the slightest of things in the midst of great danger or focus, the whole plot of the book hinged on sex it seemed.  Now I know that vampires are supposed to be sexy and all, but neither author is very good at writing sexy to prove it for one thing - and for another it all read like the downfall of all the good and holy came at the hands of the woman and her seduction of the defenseless priest.

I also felt that some of the ideas were really good and could have been expounded upon more but the authors maybe didn't have the facility to go deeper?  I dunno... I felt they missed the mark on a lot of the historical stuff.  And there was A LOT of historical stuff in this book - maybe too much.  Masada, Christ's Life, Saint Peter, Hitler, Rasputin, the siege of St. Petersburg, medieval Hungary.... just so so so much and alot of it just glossed over.

But of course we have the improbable love story of Erin and Jordan - oh, did I mention that I think the story takes place over 2 days - 3 max?   Yeah, well, the number of times that we were treated to adolescent reactions from both of these characters was really over the top.

I could go on because so much of this book left me unsatisfied.  And in the end... well... we don't really get much closure at all.  Oh... Erin and Jordan like each other.  *RME*  I don't know that I'll pick up the second book in this series.  Maybe, but I doubt it.  I think I'll probably stick to Rollins' Sigma Force novels instead for ridiculous, crazy action thrillers.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

3.5 Stars

Wayfarers Book 1

Let me be clear from the get-go.  I think many readers would rate this book with at least 4 stars, even 5, but quite honestly, I'm not the ideal reader for this book, so MY rating is a little lower.  I just don't want people to miss a fun, well-written, diversely cast, thoughtful, filled with love book.

My problem with the book is that the plot was little more than a wisp of smoke in an evening breeze.  I need a plot, really I do.  And this world/universe was built in a way that a whole BUNCH of plots could have been explored.  But the author didn't go there with her diverse merry band of  'tunnellers', wormhole builders if you will.  Instead she went for exploring the characters and their backgrounds and how this biggest job of their lives manages to affect them all in a very profound way.

We get most of the story through the eyes of Rosemary, the young human who comes aboard as the ship's clerk, trying to escape her past and in reality, learn who she is and who she wants to be moving forward.  It's really a New Adult coming of age story, I guess.  Again, not my cup of tea, but I liked it in spite of that.

Here's a fan drawing of the crew I found that I thought was pretty good.  It's a crew that often reminded me of the crew of Firefly.  There are unlikable members and members that you just want to hug to bits.They all gel as a team though, especially after their big job journey.  Again, the story is way more about the characters than that big job thing.  :)




So, if you're looking for some sci-fi fun, heavy on the characterisation, light on plot, but a fun read and one that will warm the proverbial cockles of your heart, this is your book.  :) It'll make you feel good!

And I'll probably be picking up the next one in the series at some point.  

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Fish and Ghosts by Rhys Ford

3.5 Stars

Hellsinger Series - Book 1

I can always count on Rhys to give me a good read and this time was no different.  This is one of her earlier books and it shows some in the writing.  To me it's fascinating to watch an author's progress at improving their craft, but I have to admit that I'm thrilled that Rhys has gotten over the need to use epithets in her writing.  If I had read the words "the blond" one more time, I think I might have screamed!  *LOL*  We know... we KNOW that Travis has blond hair, for heaven's sake!  And you know, most readers are smart enough to discern the differences between the two 'he's' in the story.  So, being as that's a pet peeve of mine, it did kind of impede me enjoyment of the story.

For my money, I could have done with sexytimes scenes being of shorter length (I mean.. almost 2 chapters long at one point?  And long chapters?) and a bit more meat to the paranormal aspects of the story.  I found that I wanted to know more about the personalities and characters of Travis and Wolf other than that they set each other on fire.  :)

It's an interesting world that Rhys has set up and I'm looking forward to reading more about it in the second book which I also have in the TBR.  I hope we get to learn more about Wolf's family and childhood and then more about Tristan's childhood as well.  Oh! And I really like the new covers on these books.  Far better than the generic men people that tend to populate a lot of the m/m book covers.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Bookburners by Brian Francis Slattery, Margaret Dunlap, Max Gladstone, and Mur Lafferty

3.5 Stars

Bookburners - Season 1

This is a serial book - that is, 16 episodes strung together like a season of TV shows, each episode written by one of the 4 authors.  One of the reasons I picked it up was because I had read one of Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence novels and enjoyed it.

Anyway, it appears that I'm not really a huge fan of the serial experience.  It's not my preferred style of book.  I just find it tends to go on for too long, maybe.  Or maybe it's the pacing that I'm not fond of.  I'm not bright enough to figure out the reasons.  *LOL*

But also, I'm not a fan of urban horror fantasy.  I mean, I like the premise.  I like the characters for the most part but it's the horror part that's not my favourite.  I'll read them and if the the characters are captivating and the plot intriguing, I can usually deal with the actual horror parts - like the intense descriptions of monsters and dungeons and lairs and the like.

So, after that caveat, Bookburners was a good read for the most part.  The 4 different author styles weren't jarring, as a matter of fact they were all rather similar and I'm not familiar enough with them to know if it was worked towards in this project or just something that they all have in common.  The main character, Sal, I couldn't quite enjoy until about 2/3rds of the way through the book.  I just didn't like her very much.  I was fascinated by the other members of her team though.

Will I read the next seasons of Bookburners?  Maybe.  If they come up on sale at some point.  I enjoyed this one enough to be curious about where they go next with the story.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Spectred Isle by KJ Charles

4.5 Stars

Green Men Book 1

This book hits so many of my sweet spots.  KJ Charles - one of my favourite authors, the time period of the early 1920's, the setting of England and all its history, legends and folklore, magic tied to the land - practically perfect!

I love how KJ writes.  There's one scene, about 1/3 of the way through the book, where it gets really spooky and otherworldly and it was so amazing - it was in the humid mid-eighties temperture-wise and I swear, I was shivering as I read it!

The two main characters of Saul and Randolph are lovely.  Okay, so Randolph can be a bit of a trial at times, but I love his British upper-class snark and his crankiness and being difficult just endears him to me because he really does have a mushy centre when he allows it to be seen.  And Saul, the everyman who has seen such horrors and been through such an awful time through no real fault of his own, the fact that he's still a functioning human being is amazing, and when he finds something to grab on to (Randolph) well, he is so stalwart and brave and human.  I loved him.

This is the first book of a trilogy and as KJ likes to do with her trilogies, there is an over-arcing plot for all three books, the beginning of which we read about here.  And old evil, the historical figure of Geoffrey de Mandeville (Man-Devil, see?), the aftermath of the War Beneath (what we didn't see in WW1) versus the group of Green Men (there are women too) who are there to protect England - that's the big picture against which the love story of Saul and Randolph plays out.  For my taste, there was a really good balance between the love story and sexytimes and the paranormal mystical stuff.

So yes, Spectred Isle is one of the best books I've read this year, proving once again, that KJ Charles never lets me down.

Oh, and I have to say a word about the cover of the book, created by Lexiconic Design.  IT'S GORGEOUS!



Monday, July 31, 2017

Turning Angel by Greg Iles

DNF

Penn Cage #2

I tried.  I made it 70% of the way through this book before calling it a day.  I really wanted to like it.  I wasn't counting on another joyful find like the Armand Gamache books, but I was hoping to at least like the guy.  Sadly, it didn't happen.

I found this book to be filled with what I have come to understand as white man privilege, I guess.  All I know is that I found the tone of the book to be racist, both overtly and subtext as well as misogynistic.  For the latter, there is just too much what I might call Marty-Sueism having to do with the man in his 40s being beguiled, seduced, attracted to the sensual, not as innocent as she looks, 17 year old school girl.  Poor, helpless men.  *eyeroll*

And the portrayal of black people in this book?  SO very stereotypical in every way.  The only thing we're missing is the wise, loyal black housekeeper who basically brought up the children.  But then I checked some info on the first book in the series and it looks like she was murdered then.  These are attitudes I would expect to find in a book about the 1950s south and while things maybe haven't changed a lot down there since then - I don't expect the upright hero of the book to have those attitudes.

I just did not like the way this book was making me feel.  I found myself making that ... "Huh?  What?" face on more than one occasion.  It felt ugly.

I hate DNFing a book, it feels like a failure, but I have to remember, it's the book's failure, not mine.  I have book 3 in my e-TBR pile, but I don't know if I'll ever get to it.

I am disappointed.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Sumage Solution by G. L. Carriger

3.5 Stars

San Andreas Shifters - Book 1

Make no mistake about this book, it's a romance, a sexy, sex-filled romance pure and simple.  Yeah, there are a lot of paranormal/shifter elements, but it's basically the story of a werewolf and a mage who fall for each other and can't keep their hands (and all other body parts) off each other.

This is Gail Carriger, author of The Parasol Protectorate among other things, writing as G.L. Carriger, and it wasn't quite what I was expecting.  I was expecting more paranormal/shifter story and less hot and sexytimes in the sheets.

I liked the paranormal/shifter premise of the story and I loved the pack and it's history and I would have loved more of this and a little less of the sexytimes.  It was sex all the time.  All. The. Time.  Okay, maybe not all, but a really good portion.  There was a plot in that both MCs had to get their shit together and figure out how to work together as they are 'fated' to be.  I will admit to being a little disappointed by that.

There were also times that I found the constant sexual bantering to be a bit much.  A  bit too frat-boy.  Carriger's style is easy to read, but be warned there are a lot of italics.  Lot's of inner snide comments.  *LOL*

In the end, I enjoyed my read even though I was a bit disappointed when it didn't match up with my expectations.  I'll continue with the series, but it won't be an auto-buy for me.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky

3.5 Stars

Olympus Bound - Book One

A paranormal mystery/thriller with a dollop of romance, The Immortals was a fun read and a good introduction to the series, I think.  Since I was a little girl, elementary school little, I've been fascinated with Greek mythology, so this author and her books were a cool find for me.

So...

We follow the heroine, Selene DaSilva who is, in fact, Artemis, goddess of the hunt, forests, hills, the moon, archery and a ton of other things.  It's modern day and the gods of Greek mythology have gone through The Diaspora and are now living as part of human society.  Artemis, in her latest guise as Selene, with her faithful hound Hippolyta at her side, is a protector of women, sort of a hit person for abused women.

There's a particularly gruesome murder that Selene stumbles across to start the excitement and that brings her to meet Theo, the professor of mythology who is particularly knowledgeable about his chosen subject.

I enjoyed the book.  I enjoyed the chase and how Selene came to understand a lot of things about herself and her family.  I really liked how Theo grew into the hero of the story and I especially liked hi sense of humour and wry observations.  I liked the members of Selene's 'family' that we got to meet - well, most of them.  And I liked their present-day premise.  I loved Hippo, Selene's wonderful hound (I pictured a huge Irish Wolfhound in my reader's eye) and I loved Theo's friend Gabriella.

Were there things that I could have liked more?  Maybe.  I'm not a huge paranormal fan though, so the fact that I'm pleased I got Book 2 on sale a couple of weeks ago is HUGE!  *LOL*  I think The Immortals is a good summer read.  :)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Bourbon Kings by J. R Ward

3.5 Stars

The Bourbon Kings - Book One

Holy potboiler, Batman!  The combination of  insomnia and a book that was written to be breezed through made this book a quick read.  J.R. Ward is known for her Dark Brotherhood books that people have been raving about for years.  (I have the first one and yet to read it - but it's in paperback, not ebook, so I'm less inclined to just pick it up.)  This book is the first in a family dynasty epic, romance, mystery, soap opera trilogy.  Well, unless she decides it needs to go further.

For me, the most interesting character in this saga is the eldest brother, Edward.  He's had terrible things happen to him and he's really mostly a shell of a man when we meet him, but I couldn't tear my reading eyes from him.  Broken, beaten and more, scarred and ill - the man is a conundrum. :)

The heroine of this tale, Lizzie King, is the head horticulturist at the estate of the uber-wealthy bourbon barons, the Bradfords.  And she has history with the youngest son, Lane.  I alternated between enjoying her independent self and rolling my eyes at her silliness.  I wanted to pinch her, hard, more than once.

Much of the book, the characters, the setting, the feel of the thing is clichĂ©, but it's enjoyable!  The writing is okay - Ward writes for the present, lots of pop culture references that will be out of date in another 10 or less years and those inner dialogue asides that almost but not quite break the fourth wall.

I'm going to read the next book, but I will most definitely wait until it goes on sale.  I may even check out that Dark Brotherhood book I have up in the bookcase.

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

5 Stars

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache - Book 12

And Louise Penny hits it out of the park once again.  I cannot tell you how much I adore her characters and her stories and her insight into the human mind and all the messy emotions that roil within.

Yes, there's a murder mystery in the story, but Gamache stories are SO SO much more than just a murder mystery.  It's the motives, the whys, the reasons that people do what they do, are who they are and the choices that we all make.

When I finish one of Louise Penny's books, I always feel so inadequate when writing up my thoughts.  All I can say aside from professing my love for the characters old and new, the familiar locations in which the stories are set, the puzzlement of the mystery and how it manages to affect the denizens of Three Pines, and the easy yet deep way the books are written is that I wish there were a ton more to read.  This is the 12th book in and I haven't felt once that I was reading a retread of what had come before.  Armand et all always have something to teach me.  Some surprise, some twist, some truth I hadn't seen.

I think I spent the last 20 or so pages of the book wiping tears away.  Rip my heart out, Louise!  Rip it right out!  *LOL*

I am sad because I have no Gamache books left to read.  I'd been hoarding this last one for the longest time.  The next one, #13, comes out at the end of August but I find the $16 price tag a bit rich for my budget right now.  But as SOON as I can, I'll be adding it to the library, anxious to read of what's next in the lives of my favourite members of the SuretĂ© du Quebec.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

4.5 Stars

The Draconis Memoria - Book 1

I loved this book!  Yes, it seemed to take a while for me to read, I have no idea why, but I absolutely loved it.  :)

The Waking Fire is a wonderful mix of dragon fantasy, steampunk, military and adventure and some magic thrown in for good measure.  Sounds like quite the jumble, but it works spectacularly well, IMO.

The three main characters, whose POVs we follow throughout the book, are very different - a small-time street criminal, a lady spy and and upright, honourable Navy man - but they all have one thing in common that I'm not sure I can describe well enough.  But it's got to do with conscience, honour, selflessness (this is a maybe)... I don't know bit they all have this 'it' factor.  And they're all likable while having recognisable flaws, which I find very, very important.

The world that Ryan has created is familiar yet different.  There is some incredible world-building here and it's fascinating - even though there were a few parts when I found the descriptive passages a tad tedious.  That's probably what kept this from a 5 star read for me.

A word about the dragons.  They're different from most of the dragons we read about in fantasy and I feel like we've only scratched the surface in this book one of the series.  I don't know how many books it's projected to be, but let me tell you, I can't wait to get my hands on the second book when it gets down to a reasonable price!  Definitely one of my favourite reads of the year.  :)



Sunday, July 2, 2017

Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

3.5 Stars

The Band - Book 1

This book was highly recommended throughout the fantasy book blogosphere over the winter - it was published in February - and I think it's the author's first book.  Anyway, I quite enjoyed it!

Kings of the Wyld is one one of the new flavours of fantasy, mixing grimdark with humour with epic and of course, magic.  It's the tale of a group, a band if you will, of aging warriors/adventurers/mercenaries teaming up together for one last mission.  I saw the book described as Lord of the Rings meets Guardians of the Galaxy and you know, that description works!

I actually loved all the characters.  The main character is Clay Cooper and I think he really was my favourite.  Or maybe it was Ganelon... hell, I really loved them all.  Cranky old men whose bones creak and crack, who reminisce about the old days but can still get the job done.  The banter and the quips that fly back and forth between them worked very well and brought me to laughter on more than one occasion.  The narrative also, at times, would take on a humourous aside that I also appreciated.

Rollicking is a word that's been used to describe Kings of the Wyld and it's a perfect word for it.  The tale is a complete one even if it seems to be the first in the series.  The story of the band, Saga, has come to an end even though we're going to see familiar characters in other books it seems.  And that's okay.  It's perfect, as a matter of fact!

A good, fun read!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Windward by Kirby Crow

4 Stars

Mirror - Book 2

This is a serious book!  Not for the faint-hearted, let me tell you.  And I loved it.  :)

We're back with Matty and Grant who still have so many things to iron out between them.  It's not an easy row to hoe by any means, love notwithstanding.  Are they to be allowed to do this by themselves?

Oh hell no.

If it's not interference and at times outright disapproval from Grant's family, it's the FBI come knocking with a request for Matty to help them out with the tracking down and capture of his ex-lover, the chilling assassin, Jaeger Koning.  And what's with Jaeger?  Well, nothing other than that he wants his one-time submissive, Matty, back where he belongs.  With Jaeger.

There's action.  There's banter.  There's humour.  There's emotion.  There's heart-stopping danger and there's moments that one is tempted to weep.   Seriously!

But the main strength in this book, I think, comes from the way the author brings us into the minds of the three main characters - Grant, Matty and Jaeger - sharing their thoughts and how their minds and their.. well... their selves are guided and formed by the power exchanges of D/s relationships.  I'm explaining it badly - who's surprised? - but I find the whole idea of power exchange to be sexy and heady and fascinating.

Loved it and I hope we may revisit the Mirror Universe at some point.  :)