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 proteg├ęs 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!