Silver Thaw: Mystic Creek, Book 1

Silver ThawAuthor: Catherine Anderson
Book Name: Silver Thaw
Series: Mystic Creek
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb: After years of living in fear of her husband, Amanda Banning has left him and moved to Mystic Creek, Oregon, for a fresh start. But she’s having a tough time providing for herself and her six-year-old daughter. Writing her secret yearnings on slips of paper and sending them into the wind helps her cling to the hope that things will get better…and that she can find happiness again.

Jeb Sterling has no idea that the handwritten messages he finds scattered across his land are the first hints that his life is about to change. Nor does he understand why he feels so compelled to help Amanda Banning and her daughter when a cold snap leaves them temporarily homeless. Maybe he’s inspired by Amanda’s courage or perhaps by her beautiful brown eyes. Either way, the man who once renounced love suddenly finds himself willing to do anything for the pair. Amanda seems to have given up on her dreams, but Jeb refuses to quit until he makes her every wish come true….

Review:  I wasn’t all that sold on this one.  Within the first couple of chapters, I came close to putting it down and not finishing because there were a couple of things that just rubbed me wrong and that came across as soapbox preachy, which was kind of annoying.

I pushed beyond that and did finally get more into the story and was able to finish it.  I never really totally bought into the the whole story or the characters.  Just enough here and there felt off or just didn’t quite mesh for it to really click as totally believable.

The story itself is good and mostly on the sweet side even with some of the stuff with the abusive husband in the mix.  This is pretty heavy on the big, strong man to the rescue of the weak little woman theme, and that is kind of tired and wrung out to me, but it is still a sweet story.

All in all, it was just an okay book for me because there wasn’t much that really drew me in.

Back To You: Hurley Boys, Book 3

Back To YouAuthor: Lauren Dane
Book Name: Back To You
Series: Hurley Boys
Order: #3
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars

 

Blurb: What won’t he do for a second chance?

Former model Kelly Hurley has finally put the ashes of the past behind her. After a passionate but turbulent marriage to rock star Vaughan Hurley that ended in heartbreak and divorce, Kelly rebuilt her life in Portland, where she settled so their two young daughters could be close to their father. Just not so close Kelly couldn’t truly make her own way without interference from the man who shattered her heart. Now Kelly’s finally ready to move on, and she’s planning to marry another man.

But not if Vaughan has anything to say about it.

Vaughan knows he was a fool all those years ago. A young, selfish–and prideful–fool. Even as he buried himself in the fast, decadent rock-star lifestyle, he could never drown out the memory of Kelly’s beauty and love. Or the sweet, searing heat whenever they touched. For years, he’s had to deal with the pain of seeing her only because of their daughters, but it was never enough. Now Vaughan must prove that he’s the only man Kelly needs, before he loses her for good. And there’s only one way to do it….

Review: This was my least favorite book of the series.  Normally, I’m a pretty big Lauren Dane fan, but I really struggled with this one.

First, I really wasn’t a huge fan of how either character came across.  Vaughan came across as lacking in any real personality and character.  What little did show was kinda spineless and a following along without any real will of his own sort of feel.  Kelly came across really off.  Based on the storyline, she’d been divorced for 8 years, but still incredibly bitter about the whole thing and hanging on to all of that hurt, yet is totally okay with letting it all go after she was able to voice it.  I get where the author was wanting to go with this, but I just didn’t feel that the way this was written.  I also totally hated Sharon (Vaughan’s mom) in this, but thought she had been an awesome character in other books.

I think that part of the reason I struggled with the characters in this book was the dialog and how it was presented.  I honestly don’t remember if the dialog in other books came across the same, but I don’t remember feeling as annoyed by it before.  Here, it felt thrown out there and ranty in places with random bits tossed in without any context for it.  It didn’t seem to really flow well.  There were lots of times I had to stop and reread portions before to see if I missed something because there was suddenly a conversation going on and I wasn’t sure how it even came up.

I really wanted to love this book as I have most of the others, but I just couldn’t.  This wasn’t awful, not by a long shot, but it really wasn’t all that great either.

 

Total Surrender: Sin Brothers, Book 4

Total SurrenderAuthor: Rebecca Zanetti
Book Name: Total Surrender
Series: Sin Brothers
Order: #4
Genre: SciFi/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  A fight he must win . . .
Piper Oliver knows she can’t trust him. They warned her that the tall, dark, and sexy black-ops soldier Jory Dean would try to win her over with his steel-gray eyes and deadly charm, but she won’t be conned by this man they call a traitor. All she has to do is figure out the science necessary to save his life, and she’s done. Something isn’t adding up, though, and she won’t rest until she uncovers the truth-even if it’s buried in his deep, dangerous kiss.


A passion she can’t resist . . .
Jory will do anything to reunite with and save his brothers-even kidnap the gorgeous woman who’s working to deactivate the deadly chip in their spines. But the forces determined to destroy his family won’t let them go so easily. Keeping Piper alive is more than he bargained for-and so is his burning desire for her. But with every second bringing him closer to certain death, can he afford to lose himself in her hot and willing embrace?

Review:  This is the way an exciting, action and drama filled romance should be written.  Both of the main characters are amazingly wrought and full of personality.  Their chemistry on the page is really quite perfect.

As the 4th book in the series, it holds its own along with the ones that came before it and is just as good.  It was awesome to get to finally find out more about the last brother and to get his story.  I was not even remotely disappointed after finishing this.

When I read the author’s note at the beginning of the book, I was under the impression that this was the last book in the series.  They way it was finished, though, left a lot of potential for the author to come back and add to the series, but from another direction because there are still some unfinished strings just hanging out their ready to be pulled on.  Nothing frustrating, but definitely interesting.  While it would be awesome if we got to see more from this, it also wouldn’t be heartbreaking because we did get closure for all of the major characters that have been the focus of the books to this point.

Fire Kin: Half Light City, Book 4

Fire KinAuthor: M.J. Scott
Book Name: Fire Kin
Series: Half Light City
Order: #4
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

Blurb:  Imagine a city divided…a city readying itself for a war. The vampire Blood and the shape-shifting Beast Kind seek to seize control now that the treaty is broken. Only the humans stand in their way…but they stand without their Fae allies…and they desperately need help….

I chose to stay with the humans when the Fae withdrew from the City. I am a healer, and they need me. I know the odds are against them. I know they need reinforcements. But I never expected them to turn and seek aid from the depths of my past. Asharic is a powerful Fae, exiled by the Veiled Queen thirty years ago. Leaving me behind. But now the queen is dead and the throne is vacant, and Ash is returning to the City—my City—with his mercenary army.

It would be false to deny that there is still a spark between us, but I will not be taken in again. And I’m not the only one disturbed by his return. A Blood lord is poised to conquer the Half-Light City, and other enemies new and old are gathering to eliminate the threat Ash poses. To save the City, we will have to join forces. And pray we’re not the ones who burn…

Review: Fire Kin is book 4 and the final one in the Half Light City series.  This one covers Bryony’s story.  I was a bit surprised that this was the focus character for this book at first, because I just wasn’t expecting it.  I did really enjoy the direction it went, though.

As a final book, this closed out the series nicely.  All of the issues that were brought into play in all the previous books saw a clean and believable resolution without any major strings left hanging.  There are no plans to return to this series, though the author’s FAQs section does mention that she may be willing to return to this world at a later date.

While I did enjoy this book quite a bit, the characters were probably my least favorite of the series.  I just didn’t get quite as into them as I have the others.  I think part of that was because of the impressions I had formed of Bryony in previous books struggled to line up with how she came across in this book.  As for Ash, I didn’t feel like he was as interesting as the other male leads in the other books, either.  Something about the interaction between the two was just a tad off for me and that kept me from liking them as much.  I think I enjoyed the non-romantic part of this book the most.

As a series, I did really like this one as it was pretty different than the typical shifter or vampire or even fae book out there without stretching those differences completely out of whack.  This introduced me to a new author for me and I’ll be watching to see what else she has to bring to the table.

Imager: The Imager Portfolio, Book 1

ImagerAuthor: L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
Book Name: Imager
Series: The Imager Portfolio
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

Blurb:  Although Rhennthyl is the son of a leading wool merchant in L’Excelsis, the capital of Solidar, the most powerful nation on Terahnar, he has spent years becoming a journeyman artist and is skilled and diligent enough to be considered for the status of master artisan—in another two years. Then, in a single moment, his entire life is transformed when his master patron is killed in a flash fire, and Rhenn discovers he is an imager—one of the few in the entire world of Terahnar who can visualize things and make them real.

He must leave his family and join the Collegium of Imagisle. Imagers live separately from the rest of society because of their abilities (they can do accidental magic even while asleep), and because they are both feared and vulnerable. In this new life, Rhenn discovers that all too many of the “truths” he knew were nothing of the sort. Every day brings a new threat to his life. He makes a powerful enemy while righting a wrong, and begins to learn to do magic in secret.

Review:  I actually had enough time between waiting for paint to dry before I could do more and after I was done for the day to get another book in while working on my daughter’s room.

I must note, that my preferences tend to lean towards female authors.  This is most often because how they typically express the worldview of their characters and attitudes seems to be easier for me to connect with than most male authors.  This is not an absolute, but is generally the norm, so it isn’t often that I find a male author that I enjoy.  That made this a bit of a surprise for me as I did enjoy this book.

I really wasn’t sure that was going to be the case because there were pieces early on that felt a bit dry and a little on the archaic or old fashioned side with regards to the usage of language and phrases.  This is, again, not usually something that I would enjoy because writing like that is often tedious to plow through. This was really well written, though, and I quickly found myself deep into the story and not getting caught up in the language.

Both the world and the characters in this were well crafted.  I did have a few little quirks and issues that I wasn’t thrilled with.  One was the supposed level of secrecy of the imagers in serving the counsel.  No one was supposed to know, but there really weren’t any real precautions to prevent people from easily finding out.  The other was that I felt that there was quite a bit of extra “stuff” that was written that wasn’t in any way essential to the story and really kind of felt like filler in places.  There is a possibility that some of that may come into play in later books, but it wasn’t clear in this one.

With those few exceptions, this was a good book and I’m looking forward to the next one in the series.

Dragon Wytch: Otherworld, Book 4

Dragon WytchAuthor: Yasmine Galenorn
Book Name: Dragon Wytch
Series: Otherworld
Order: #4
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  We’re the D’Artigo sisters: savvy–and sexy–operatives for the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. But being half-human, half-Fae short-circuits our talents at all the wrong times. My sister Delilah shapeshifts into a tabby cat whenever she’s stressed. Menolly’s a vampire who’s still getting the hang of being undead. And me? I’m Camille, a wicked-good witch, trying to juggle faulty magic, gorgeous men, and the demonic war in which we’re embroiled. Sometimes, it’s hard to know just who we can trust…

The Equinox is coming, and mayhem rules. A crown-prince unicorn offers us a legendary gift, but it vanishes. Goblins and trolls swarm the streets of Seattle. And now Smoky, the sexiest dragon alive, decides to stake his claim–on me. Overshadowing it all, the third spirit seal surfaces and Shadow Wing’s after it. But I’ve discovered a secret that could change everything. A new power is rising–a dangerous force from the past–one that intends to restore balance to the worlds…whether we like it or not…

Review: This is another good story in the series, though I’m beginning to be a bit torn as to whether I should keep rating these as a 4.  The things that bothered me in previous books, seem to keep bothering me rather than getting better.  The books about Camille seem to bug me the most at this point.

The nature of her relationships just doesn’t seem to work all that well for me.  In this book, she begins a relationship with Smoky the dragon, but he comes across as some seriously creep stalker, especially if you look at how Camille seems to feel uncomfortable around him and some of the things he says and does.  This is on top of being in two other relationships that, apparently, are all good with the openness of it even though the reader is only told that everything is hunky dory and didn’t actually get to see the issues worked out.

I have no problem with multiple partner relationship stories, but I have to believe that they work the way the author is writing them.  I just can’t seem to get into this one.  If I could take out the relationship aspect of these books, I’d probably really love them.  As it is, I enjoy the action and plot parts of the story, but end up kind of skimming the relationship parts because they just don’t appeal to me.

Non-Reading Summer Projects

I probably wont’ have a whole lot of time over the next couple of weeks to get very many books read and reviews written because it is closing in on my summer project time.  I am in the middle of one book that I will, hopefully, have time to sit down and finish later today.  After that, it might be a bit hit or miss.

Summer seems to be major project time for me, especially since my kids are home for the summer.  The last couple of years, the focus was on my boys’ rooms.  This year it is Baby Girl’s turn.  I’m going to be doing a full on re-do of her room starting with getting all of her furniture either cleaned up enough to be good or even repainted in a few cases where there are too many scuffs and scratches or even just had the paint wear off.

The next part of the project is going to be to repaint the walls.  As usual, I’m feeling a bit ambitious and won’t be doing just a simple paint the walls a new color.  No, we are doing two different colors with a new piece of trim about 2/3 of the way up the wall and a tree silhouette in one corner with a couple of cat silhouettes (’cause we can’t do a project in her room without including at least one cat), 3D flowers and butterflies (which I think we are going to have to make) in and around the tree, new bedding and curtains and a whole lot of rearranging of the stuff that is already on the walls so that the pretty new design doesn’t get overwhelmed.

I’m kind of in a hold patter with starting as I can’t get the paint colors until her comforter comes in.  I’ll be starting on getting the furniture ready and painted first.  One piece I even have to take to my Dad to get him to repair a small crack.  Since he will be fixing it in his spare time and everyone in the family is always demanding to take up every bit of that time with their own projects, he may not be able to get to it right away.

Even though this is probably going to be my biggest painting project yet, it will be well worth it when I’m done.  I absolutely love how a room looks when it has a fresh coat of paint, even more so when it is is a new color.  When we moved into this house over 11 years ago, all the walls were a very bland beige for the express purpose of me getting to repaint them all.  It was my blank canvas.  It has taken a while, but Baby Girl’s room is the last major room to get painted.  The only rooms that will be left will be the part of the kitchen over the cabinets and the laundry room.  Since I could care less about the laundry room and I’m not thrilled with trying to crawl around on top of my cabinets, I’m not certain I’ll ever do those rooms.  More than likely, I’ll start back at the beginning with new colors.  Not any time soon though.  This project will be more than enough to run my creative juices low enough I won’t feel the need for another paint project for quite some time.

Sugar’s Twice As Sweet: Sugar, Georgia, Book 1

Sugar's Twice As SweetAuthor: Marina Adair
Book Name: Sugar’s Twice As Sweet
Series: Sugar, Georgia
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars

 

Blurb:  He’s trouble she doesn’t need . . .

Thanks to a cheating fiancé, Josephina Harrington’s perfect life just crashed and burned. Moving in with her overbearing parents is definitely not an option. No, she needs to prove she can make it on her own. And she will-by turning her great-aunt’s old plantation house into a destination getaway. She’s just not expecting her contractor to be so hands-on-and so totally irresistible.

. . . but everything she wants

Bad-boy golf champion Brett McGraw figured his hometown of Sugar, Georgia was the perfect place to lay low and get his life back up to par. The leggy blonde with a pint-sized pup is the kind of sweet ‘n sassy trouble he never saw coming. She doesn’t know a nut from a bolt and before long, he’s renovating her house . . . as she steals his heart. Can he convince Josephina that his womanizing ways are in the past and he’s ready for forever?

Review:  This was a cute, fun, lighthearted read.  The main characters were both pretty fun and believable and the chemistry between them definitely worked.  I liked the work up in how they managed to get together while still managing to keep things interesting.

I wasn’t a fan of the Old Lady Brigade.  Instead of them coming across as just ornery old biddies stirring up trouble, they really came across more of just down right nasty and mean.  The things they did weren’t funny little pranks, but really kind of hateful.  It was hard to believe that they were just doing that because they cared for Josephina’s Aunt and her memory.  That part of the story just didn’t quite work for me.  I’d like to say that it was easy enough to overlook as not being essential to the plot, but their behavior and attitudes were essential and knocked this down a notch for me.

The ending is pretty much predicable in standard romance novel fashion, but still fits into the overall feel of the book of keeping it on the lighter side of things.  Definitely a good one for when that is the mood you are looking for.

Hunter’s Prayer: Jill Kismet, Book 2

Hunter's PrayerAuthor: Lilith Saintcrow
Book Name: Hunter’s Prayer
Series: Jill Kismet
Order: #2
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Another night on the Nightside…An ancient evil looms over Santa Luz. Prostitutes are showing up dead and eviscerated. And Jill Kismet just might be able to get her revenge against an old enemy.
There’s just one problem. Someone wants Jill dead—again. And if they have to open up Hell itself to kill her, they will.
Sometimes, even when you’re Jill Kismet, you don’t have a prayer…

Review:  I had to drop the rating of this second book in the Jill Kismet series because it is just so intensely heavy and dark, it’s really kind of hard to plow through without anything relieving the tension.  Generally I can breeze through books, even really intense ones, and not once feel the need for a break.  I found myself setting this aside several times just to unwind a bit.  There is absolutely no levity or breaks in this story.

The breaks you should be getting, with the romantic parts, just aren’t breaks because there is even a lot of tension and intensity going on there.  Not that we really get to see an awful lot of that.  I was really thrown off by the fact that this book apparently takes place two years after the first one.  By doing that, the author took the easy way out with regards to the relationship between Saul and Jill because the reader never gets to experience it and see how they managed to work things out since how it ended in the first book wasn’t exactly clear or clean on the issue.  What interactions they do have leave a lot open and sometimes makes the reader feel like they missed something, like a whole book as the author just assumes the reader will get it or understand some obscure underlying meaning.  It just felt a bit off.  It doesn’t help that Saul seems more like a obedient puppy following along, rather than a strong partner.

Needless to say, I really wasn’t a fan of this one.  I’m not sure I will take the time to read the next one as this falls just a bit too far out of my interest zone with regards to the kinds of books I like, fantasy or no.  I think the writing itself is still pretty good, if you don’t mind some of the things that can be frustrating and the unrelieved hopelessness that permeates this, but it just isn’t really what I want or need in a book.

Dead Ice: Anita Blake Series, Book 24

Dead IceAuthor: Laurell K. Hamilton
Book Name: Dead Ice
Series: Anita Blake
Order: #24
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Anita Blake has the highest kill count of any vampire executioner in the country. She’s a U.S. Marshal who can raise zombies with the best of them. But ever since she and master vampire Jean-Claude went public with their engagement, all she is to anyone and everyone is Jean-Claude’s fiancée.

It’s wreaking havoc with her reputation as a hard ass—to some extent. Luckily, in professional circles, she’s still the go-to expert for zombie issues. And right now, the FBI is having one hell of a zombie issue.

Someone is producing zombie porn. Anita has seen her share of freaky undead fetishes, so this shouldn’t bother her. But the women being victimized aren’t just mindless, rotting corpses. Their souls are trapped behind their eyes, signaling voodoo of the blackest kind.

It’s the sort of case that can leave a mark on a person. And Anita’s own soul may not survive unscathed . . .

Review:  We get to see more of Anita Bad Ass in this book and not just Booty Call Anita, which is a huge improvement over the last book.  Bad Ass Anita is the Anita that drew me into this series in the first place, so I was really glad to see that here.

While we did get to see the mystical and police side of Anita, it felt a little like she wasn’t all that relevant to the investigation until it impacted her personal life.  It was also only about 1/3 of the content of the book.  All the rest focused on the relationship aspects of Anita’s life.  What mystical side we saw, either zombie raising, police related or even relationship wise, was still very minimal.

Earlier in the series, it was Anita’s uniqueness and powers that began to draw in the different people that she ended up in relationships with and the focus on the mystical aspects of those relationships helped to make the huge number of people she got involved with work.  It was a stretch, but it worked.

Now, after it has been mentioned in several books that she has way too many bed partners and should figure out a way to pair it down, especially since there is a need and desire to have commitment ceremonies and an actual wedding, we end up adding more, not narrowing it down.  What makes this even worse, is that these new people don’t have any kind of a mystical or emotional connection.  They are just being added in an effort to keep everyone satisfied in bed.  That alone takes away the believability of this huge poly group that supposedly has deep emotional and mystical connections and makes it more just a whole bunch of people who have sex with whoever they want for reasons not even remotely related to anything other than physical.

To top it all off, they are now being forced to try and add another person to the commitment aspect of the group to satisfy a prophecy.  In an effort to do this they are meeting with potentials to see who may work, not because there is anyone that they may care about, let alone love, but because they feel they have to.  This goes against what the characters claimed in previous books that they wouldn’t add anyone to the commitment/marriage that they didn’t love just to soothe hurt feelings.  It smacks of arranged marriages and breaks down the importance of what emotional relationships do exist.

I’m also not thrilled with the amount of pressure that seems to be put on Anita to have sex with so many people that she really doesn’t have any connection with.  She has become so much more the Booty Call Anita rather than the Bad Ass Anita.  I don’t know very many women that would feel all that good about themselves by being passed around as a sex object just so other people can get a power boost or political connections or via emotional blackmail just because they feel left out.  It is no longer about love and commitment or even mystical connections, it is just about sex.

I have really enjoyed a lot of the relationships that Anita has had in the past.  And like most fans, have my favorites, but with the direction the series seems to be taking, those relationships begin lacking in emotional depth and realism when so many other people start getting involved.  Especially when those people just do not seem to be involved for any real good reason other than to have another person to have sex with.

Also, when the focus of the story leans so far away from what we loved the most, Bad Ass Anita, her powerful nature and her close loves, towards so much more of these superfluous relationships and the petty drama that a good 50% of the story is no longer interesting, but tedious to read through, it lessens how much I like the characters I do like because they are so willing to put up with crap that anyone with an ounce of self worth would have walked away from a long time ago.  Asher, Jade and Domino are really good examples of characters that are really just whiny brats that like to throw little fits.  The fact that ANY of these supposedly strong characters are willing to continue to tolerate them makes me like them so much less than I did in the past.

This book was better than the last, absolutely, because we get to see more of what drew us in in the first place.  It was still a disappointment.  As a series, though, it is really starting to suffer in my opinion.  Part of what makes a really good piece of fiction work is the author’s ability to get the reader to suspend their disbelief and find that fiction to be real for the time they are reading the story.  As this series has moved forward, that suspension is breaking down more and more often.  There is only so much a reader is going to bend their brains, no matter how much they may want to, before it just no longer works for them.  Each book in this series is taking us closer and closer to that point.  Because I have loved so much of this series in the past, I’m really, really hoping that it gets redirected before it gets to that point.

Touch of Power: The Healers, Book 1

Touch o fPowerAuthor: Maria V. Snyder
Book Name: Touch of Power
Series: The Healers
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan absorbs their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Fifteen Realms, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.

Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince–leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life….

Review: I had seen this book/series a while ago, but for some reason didn’t pick it up.  I think I was under the impression that it was a young adult book, but it turns out that it isn’t.  So glad I took a second look.

This is a different type of story than what we’ve seen from Ms. Snyder’s Study, Glass and Soul Finder series, but it is just as good as all of those.  While those three series are connected and set in the same world, this series is totally new with new characters as well as a new world.

Much of this story is meant to get the readers really sunk into this new world and introduce them to all the different facets around the political climate.  There is a lot going on and while there are a few primary protagonist characters, there are also lots of antagonists that are important factors as well.  We get to meet a lot on both sides.

Avry’s character in particular is pretty awesome.  She is so not a pushover and absolutely has a mind of her own.  Even though I’ve classed this as a romance as well as a fantasy, the focus isn’t really on the romantic side of things, but more on Avry, her allies and the difficulties she needs to deal with and overcome.

Readers are left with lots of questions by the end of the story, in a good way.  It didn’t leave them hanging, but opened the door for all kinds of “What’s next?” scenarios.  I’m definitely putting the next one on my list.

 

Burned: Ignite Trilogy, Book 1

BurnedAuthor: Tara Sivec
Book Name: Burned
Series: Ignite Trilogy
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Seventeen years old when he broke my heart.

Seventeen days later when another picked up the pieces.

Seventeen years together.

Seventeen thousand problems.

Seventeen days of reliving my past and finding a new future.

Seventeen minutes until it all went up in flames.

Seventeen breaths until I took my last.

This is my story…and it’s going to burn.

Review:  When I first read the blurb about this book, I was intrigued.  Reading the prolog, was intensely dramatic, a deeper expansion of what the blurb hinted at and convinced me that it was going to be a deeply emotional and passionate read with a lot of pretty intense drama.  It definitely wasn’t going to be a typical hearts and flowers romance.  You knew there was potential for serious heart wrenching by the time the story would be over.  I was definitely hooked and anxious to dig in.

It only took about a chapter and a half for that impression to dissolve completely as the rest of the book didn’t even come close to living up to what the beginning set in place.  Instead of something that was intensely emotional and goose bump inducing, you got near the opposite.  I started skimming through several places, trying to get to what I was expecting and finding myself disappointed when it wasn’t there.

Finnely’s character came across as unemotional rather than, what I assume, was supposed to just be a done, over with and numb attitude created by living the life she’d lived with her husband. Something that would be understandable with that history, but something about her personality just didn’t quite make it work out that way.  She just seemed cold instead.  I also could never decide if she was actually supposed to be strong or incredibly, naively stupid in places.  Combined with the coldness, the character just felt really off.

The relationship she develops with Collin is purely sexual, not based on anything emotional at all.  With only a token attempt to put any interaction between those characters into a non-sexual context, it just underscores that impression.  Sure, the author talks about the emotion outside of the physical between the characters and, as a reader I really wanted to believe it, but it isn’t ever backed up with any actual action that the readers can connect with.  It is presented in a few paragraphs as an information dump rather than specific scenes or interactions.  It is done almost as an afterthought.  Sex does not automatically equal emotion and connection.  It can, absolutely, but I just didn’t pick that up with the way this book was written, because every single mention of thoughts about the other character is done solely as thoughts about the physical.

The reader knows from the very beginning that there is going to be something bad go down.  They don’t know exactly what or to what extent, but there is a huge lead up from the very start.  When the bad does happen, it is dramatic, but the resolution is somewhat pat and rather anticlimactic after all that lead up.  I expected something much more emotionally wrenching and didn’t get it.

The best part of this book was the prolog.  If the rest had been written to the level of that first part, then this would have been an amazing book, but it just didn’t live up to the potential that was set in the very beginning.

 

Warrior’s Cross

Warrior's CrossAuthor: Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux
Book Name: Warrior’s Cross
Series:
Order:
Genre: LGBT/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  Cameron Jacobs is an open book. He considers himself a common waiter with normal friends, boring hobbies, harmless dogs, and nothing even resembling a secret… except a crush on a tall, dark, devastatingly handsome man who dines alone at his restaurant on Tuesday nights. All it takes is one passionate night with Julian Cross to turn Cameron’s world on its head.

Julian’s love and devotion are all Cameron could have hoped for and more. But when his ordinary life meets and clashes with Julian’s extraordinary lifestyle, Cameron discovers that trust and fear can go hand in hand, and love is just a step away from danger.

Review:  I really enjoyed this one.  The story was intriguing enough to keep me interested the entire book.  There were a couple of plot twists that you might have been able to guess at, but were still mostly surprising because you just weren’t sure which direction the authors were going to take you.

I really liked Cameron’s character.  Mostly just an average guy, but with enough of a personality to not be boring.  I enjoyed the fact that he had very reasonable doubts, but still managed to make rational decisions despite those doubts.  It made him that much more real.

Julian stays most of a mystery even to the end of the story.  While there is an awful lot that the reader can infer as well as the little bits here and there that are revealed, we really never quite get to know him.  I was a little torn about that.  I really enjoyed it, but it was a bit frustrating as well.  That was part of why the book stayed interesting throughout.

It was definitely a good read.  I will be watching for other books by this pairing of authors as well as any individual works they may have done.

 

Tempest Rising: Jane True, Book 1

Tempest RisingAuthor: Nicole Peeler
Book Name: Tempest Rising
Series: Jane True
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  THE START OF A BRAND NEW URBAN FANTASY SET IN SMALL TOWN MAINE WHERE EVERYTHING IS NOT AS IT SHOULD BE…


Living in small town Rockabill, Maine, Jane True always knew she didn’t quite fit in with so-called normal society. During her nightly, clandestine swim in the freezing winter ocean, a grisly find leads Jane to startling revelations about her heritage: she is only half-human.


Now, Jane must enter a world filled with supernatural creatures alternatively terrifying, beautiful, and deadly- all of which perfectly describe her new “friend,” Ryu, a gorgeous and powerful vampire.


It is a world where nothing can be taken for granted: a dog can heal with a lick; spirits bag your groceries; and whatever you do, never-ever-rub the genie’s lamp.

Review:  This was a decent book, but there just wasn’t anything that stuck out at me that made it really good.  The main character is a bit on the flaky side. The romantic interest in the book kind of screams “Bad Idea” at me as it seems many of the motives for him to be interested are just not genuine and I cannot see how any kind of real relationship will ever develop that can be even remotely healthy.

There also seems to be a huge mixing of mythologies here that just don’t quite seem to work for me.  If you are going to break historically accepted thoughts on creatures or groups, then make that break work somehow.  It kind of feels like they were all just thrown in together without any rhyme or reason and the reader is expected to just accept that it works.  Sorry, it just didn’t for me.

Overall, the story wasn’t really bad, it just wasn’t really good either.  I’ll probably take the time to read the next book, but only when I’ve got time between books I’m waiting on.

Darkling: Otherworld, Book 3

DarklingAuthor: Yasmine Galenorn
Book Name: Darkling
Series: Otherworld
Order: #3
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  We’re the D’Artigo Sisters: Half-human, half-Faerie, we’re savvy–and sexy–operatives for the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. But our mixed-blood heritage short-circuits our talents at all the wrong times.  My sister Camille is a wicked-good witch whose magic is as unpredictable as the weather.  My sister Delilah transforms into a tabby cat when she’s under stress.  And me?  I’m Menolly, acrobat-extraordinaire-turned-vampire.  And I’d give my right fang to make my sire pay for killing me.  That is, if he doesn’t find me first…

“All over Seattle, humans have been going missing, only to turn up as newborn vampires–the sure sign of a rogue vamp on the loose. It looks like Dredge is to blame. The same sadistic Dredge who gave me my scars, and who may well be in cahoots with the demon Shadow Wing. If so, Otherworld and Earth are screwed. The only way we can hope to defeat Dredge is for me to travel home to Otherworld, where I must face my own demons. Because unless I sever the ties that bind me to Dredge, all hell is going to break loose…”

Review:  Book 3 and I’m still enjoying the series.  The focus in this book is on the third sister, Menolly.  It was a little less of a romantic focus than the other two books, but there was just a lot that need to be dealt with and addressed in this book with regards to Menolly’s character.

The issue I had in the previous books with the dialog seems to have been much better in this book, though I’m still conflicted over the cultural sexuality as it is presented because it still seems a bit unclear as to where the characters stand and what the actual cultural significance is in relation to the main characters.

There didn’t seem to be as much progress towards the overall arch of the series storyline outside of dealing with some of Menolly’s history in this book, which dropped the interesting factor down a tiny bit for me.  I do have the next book on my To Read list, so I’m waiting to see if the interest level picks back up or continues to drop.

Change of Pace: Here’s Some Cake

One of my (many) hobbies is making cakes.  Usually I only ever do these for my kids or other close family members.  This year for my daughter’s birthday, I wanted to try and mimic her ballet costume.  Since we hadn’t gotten the costume yet, I had to enlist the help of her teacher to get hints of what it was going to look like.  When it was all finished and I showed the teacher the finished product, she fell in love and asked me to make one for her daughter’s birthday that fell just a few weeks after the recital.  Since I really had fun on the first one doing it off of only fabric swatches, a simple drawing and a lot of guesswork, I thought it would be even more fun to try and get even closer.

Ballet Cake 2015 Ballet Cake 2015 Ballet Cake 2015 - Side by Side

 

I was right. It was fun. Huge challenge, but totally worth it.  This project sadly took quite a bit of time away from reading, but I’ll be back to writing reviews soon.

Shards of Hope: Psy-Changeling, Book 14

Shards of HopeAuthor: Nalini Singh
Book Name: Shards of Hope
Series: Psy-Changeling
Order: #14
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars

 

Blurb:  Awakening wounded in a darkened cell, their psychic abilities blocked, Aden and Zaira know they must escape. But when the lethal soldiers break free from their mysterious prison, they find themselves in a harsh, inhospitable landscape far from civilization. Their only hope for survival is to make it to the hidden home of a predatory changeling pack that doesn’t welcome outsiders.


And they must survive. A shadowy enemy has put a target on the back of the Arrow squad, an enemy that cannot be permitted to succeed in its deadly campaign. Aden will cross any line to keep his people safe for this new future, where even an assassin might have hope of a life beyond blood and death and pain. Zaira has no such hope. She knows she’s too damaged to return from the abyss. Her driving goal is to protect Aden, protect the only person who has ever come back for her no matter what. This time, even Aden’s passionate determination may not be enough—because the emotionless chill of Silence existed for a reason. For the violent, and the insane, and the irreparably broken…like Zaira.

Review:  Love, love, LOVED it.  Yet again, Nalini Singh shows that she is an example to follow when it comes to writing a truly excellent fantasy novel.

The world she created for the Psy-Changeling series is amazingly done.  There are so many times where something that would have, under any other author, blown my ability to stay enmeshed and believing in the stories right out of the water, but she always follows through and makes it work so smoothly that I don’t even realize it until much later and I think back on how well she crafts her stories.

I adore the blend of cultures she has created for this world and that each one has their own unique abilities and vulnerabilities.  I have to say that my favorites are the changelings.  Though we didn’t get to spend as much time with them in this book, I was not disappointed.  We did get to see how much the world has begun to change after the fall of Silence and the fact that it impacts more than just the Psy.

Both Aden and Zaira in this book are strong characters and I love that, even with Silence in place while they were young and becoming Arrows, they stayed connected and loyal to each other.  Their story has some similar characteristics we’ve seen out of other Psy pair stories from this series in the past, but it is still very unique.  Even though this is book 14 in the series, it is far from cookie cutter.

Zaira has her damage and with that, her doubts, but they way Ms. Singh brings her to life in this story still allows her to have those doubts without the character becoming so doubt filled she is unable to still be an amazingly strong character.  That is sort of a signature in her writing and a facet that I love about all of her books.

I really enjoyed the revelation of Aden’s actual strength and his uniqueness.  It makes me wonder if his abilities are hints at what some of the Forgotten children, that are mentioned in passing in this book, will develop in later books.  Lots of new potential for new, future, issues were hinted at and I’m anxious to see where the next book is going to take us.

 

 

Hard as a Rock: Gargoyles, Book 3

Hard as a RockAuthor: Christine Warren
Book Name: Hard as a Rock
Series: Gargoyles
Order: #3
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars

 

Blurb: Wynn Powe comes from a long line of powerful women, and an equally long line of Wardens. Unfortunately, Wardens all over have gone missing—her brother included—just when the threat from the Order of Eternal Darkness has begun to rise. Now more than ever, humanity needs Guardians to stand between them and the ultimate evil, so Wynn has returned to Chicago to locate a Guardian of her own. But the Order of Eternal Darkness has beat her to the punch, and the statue she’s come to investigate has been blown to smithereens. An elusive enemy is on her trail… and this time, she’s on her own. It’s up to her, a woman with no training as a Warden, to summon a new Guardian to the fight.

Enter Knox. He may be a newly summoned Guardian, but he possesses all the skills and memories of his race…along with drop-dead, expertly-chiseled good looks. Bound to Wynn as his Warden, Knox vows to learn the truth about the destroyed Guardian—and protect Wynn at all costs. But he never could have imagined the fierce attraction that has taken hold of him, body and soul. Is his desire for Wynn worth the risk of being destroyed by the Order? The only thing he knows for sure is that he won’t go down without a fight. Nor will he pass up a night of pure blind passion…

Review:  This is another fun, sweet book in the Gargoyles series.  While it falls just a tiny bit on the too sweet and too perfect side, there is still enough of the harder stuff that the characters have to deal with and overcome.  They definitely aren’t perfect, nor does the book fall into the mistake of the miraculous ending which is what balances out some of that too light side and keeps everything really interesting.

I would recommend this as a read if someone is looking for something a little lighter after some really heavy reading but doesn’t want fluff.

All That Shimmers: Raine O’Tierney

All That ShimmersAuthor: Raine O’Tierney
Book Name: All That Shimmers
Series:
Order:
Genre: LGBT Romance
Rating:  Didn’t Like
2+stars

 

Blurb:   Beau Bell is a former Olympic hopeful, left paralyzed from the waist down after a car accident. He has every reason in the world to be pissed off and miserable, yet he’s training for the Paralympics Men’s 100m—S6 division. The chair? Just a part of who he is now. Beau’s attitude is golden. If only he could contend with this one little issue: errant erections and no way to relieve them!

Nikša Meríc is a lonely scientist and really bad poet living underneath the old building where he does his research. Every night he watches his neighbor through his basement window as he undresses in his wheelchair. Although there is no apparent reason for Nikša to be unhappy, he’s struggled with depression his whole life and has tried to kill himself on multiple occasions.

When Beau proposes that his “voyeur” come over and help him experiment with the erections he can’t actually feel, the relationship they build is a sexual one. But the relationship they need is one that will heal each other’s heart as well.

Review:  There really wasn’t much about this book that I liked.  At all.

The characters totally didn’t work for me.  Beau was the epitome of the stereotypical jock.  He is an arrogant, self centered SOB who only thinks of two things.  Winning and getting off.  Niksa is catastrophically depressed with absolutely no friends or even acquaintances and comes across as seriously creepy and needy.  It would be a stretch of incredible talent and creativity to write a relationship between these two characters that works on any believable level.  That just isn’t the case here.

Not only are you trying to force two seriously messed up personalities into a working relationship without any kind of damage, but the writer also does so in a ridiculously short period of time.  There are lots of ways you can make a really short courtship work in a book.  Extenuating circumstances, like a really intensely dramatic situation, usually life and death, that forces the characters to become extremely close.  Heck even a mystical reason, like a mating bond type thing you often see in fantasy novels sometimes works.  Every day, general life experiences typically just won’t do it unless you’ve, again, gotten really creative and made it work.  Again, not the case here.

As I’ve mentioned before, safe sex scenes in a book are a huge peeve of mine.  This book pushes the peeve button all the way.  The couple have unprotected sex after knowing each other barely a week based on the fact that Beau tells Niksa, who claims to never have had sex before, that he is tested regularly by the team he is on and that he is clean.  Sorry!  No.  It is not okay to just trust that it is okay.  Suit up or wait for a test and written proof.  Sort or long term relationships don’t even make a difference.  Always, always.  No exception.  No excuse.

In the end, after only about a week, both characters are madly in love with each other.  Personality issues are either magically gone or, hey, yeah, the one that is horrifically unbalanced is now in therapy and all is good in the world.  Even after 95% of the time the two spent together, one is treating it strictly as an experiment and the other is so completely lost in his own depression or so needy it is almost scary, they suddenly realize they are in love and are going to live happily ever after.  That just doesn’t work for me.

I’ve said it many times before, I have to really believe what I’m reading to make it even a decent story, let alone a good one.  This is so far away from believable that it doesn’t even rate an okay from me.  Authors can do wonders working with dark and seriously broken characters and create some really amazing stories in the process, but it does take a lot of ingenuity and realistic problem solving and having the characters deal with and work to overcome those issues to make it work.  If you aren’t going to put that work into your writing, please don’t try to work with those kinds of personalities for your characters.