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.

 

June 2015 Releases

June has quite a few new titles that I’m looking forward to.  Not all are on my purchase list, but they are definitely books that I’ve been anxiously awaiting their release.

Shards of HopeAuthor: Nalini Singh
Book Name: Shards of Hope
Series: Psy-Changeling
Order: #14
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date:  June 2, 2015

 

 

Dead IceAuthor: Laurell K. Hamilton
Book Name: Dead Ice
Series: Anita Blake
Order: #24
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date:  June 9, 2015

 

 

Song of Midnight EmbersAuthor: Dana Marie Bell
Book Name: Song of Midnight Embers
Series: Maggie’s Grove
Order: #4
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date:  June 22, 2015

 

 

Ride SteadyAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: Ride Steady
Series: Chaos
Order: #3
Genre: Romance
Release Date:  June 30, 2015

 

 

Night Shift: Jill Kismet, Book 1

Night ShiftAuthor: Lilith Saintcrow
Book Name: Night Shift
Series: Jill Kismet
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  When things go bump in the night, I bump back. Hard.

Every city has a hunter — someone brave enough, tough enough, and fearless enough to take on the nightside. Santa Luz is lucky. They’ve got Jill Kismet. With a hellbreed mark on her wrist and a lot of silverjacket ammo, she’s fully trained and ready to take on the world.

Except the world isn’t the problem. The problem is hellbreed thinking they can run her town, and a clutch of nightmarish murders. It looks like a rogue Were is killing his way through Santa Luz, and he’s got help. So does Jill—but help isn’t what this new hunter needs. She needs a miracle. But miracles are in short supply. Better stick with more ammo…
Welcome to the Night Shift…

Review: This was another new series, and author, for me so I didn’t really have any expectations going in.  In a lot of ways, this is a classic good vs. evil type of set up, but it is presented well enough to still feel fresh.

The world this is set it is a modern one, but it is filled with demons, weres and other creatures that we’ve yet to be introduced to.  While there is a lot of paranormal activity, it isn’t 100% clear that knowledge of the paranormal is common.  There are a couple of vague references that make me think it isn’t common knowledge outside of certain groups, but there is enough going on that it makes it really hard to believe that.

So far, I’m really liking the main character and her personality.  Several of the other characters we’ve met, we didn’t really get to know well and it isn’t clear how important of a roll they will play in later books.  The potential love interest, Saul, is a were and I am really interested to see what is going to come of that.  I do wish we would have gotten to know him better in this book.

The one bigger downside to this book for me was the fact that a lot of things were really pretty vague.  You had to make a lot of leaps and guesses, but even then the reader isn’t really clear on some of the events or the history that was presented as most times it never really gets clarified.  I get the writing technique to build the drama and suspense, but sometimes things just need to be made a bit more clear than they were here.

Definitely looking forward to reading the next one and am hoping it continues to be interesting.

Plan B: SJD Peterson

Plan BAuthor: SJD Peterson
Book Name: Plan B
Series:
Order:
Genre: LGBT Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  Danny Marshal has always lived his life out loud, but his androgynous appearance is only a small part of who he is. One night at a frat party, Danny meets Lance Lenard, football jock and apparent straight guy. Lance is shocked when he’s immediately attracted to Danny’s feminine side. Danny is happy to be the subject of Lance’s first man-on-man experiment—until Lance begins to struggle with the fact that despite his appearance, Danny is indeed a man.

Lance’s whole life has been focused on his goal of playing in the NFL, and he knows those dreams will be smashed if anyone finds out about his little secret. Although Lance has grown to crave Danny’s touch, he’s not willing to give Danny what he’s grown to crave: a boyfriend who’s proud to love him for every flamboyant and snarky cell in his body.

Life sends Danny and Lance in different directions, each of them focused on his respective Plan A. But the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

Review:  This is absolutely one of the better MM romance books I’ve read.  Not only do the characters come across as genuine and believable, so does the entire story.  There are not any short cuts or easy outs to solve the difficulties that arise.  The relationship has its issues and complications and they are dealt with over time and with work.

This also isn’t a raunchy read.  The intimate scenes are done really well, with enough steam, but not falling into trashy.  They also are not the entirety of the story.  The steam and the story are really well balanced.

While the characters are early adults (college age), they have more mature personalities and not the typical flaky type that is often seen in early adult books.  They are still young and lack the experience that living life outside of a school setting brings, but they are not just naively stupid.

Really, really liked this one.

 

Hotter Than Ever: Out of Uniform, Book 9

Hotter Than EverAuthor: Elle Kennedy
Book Name: Hotter Than Ever
Series: Out of Uniform
Order: #9
Genre: Erotic Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Claire McKinley has just experienced every bride’s nightmare. The groom is a no-show, and now she must face five hundred guests alone. Furious and humiliated, Claire seeks help from the most unlikely candidate—her almost-brother-in-law, who promptly whisks her away to his apartment in San Diego, where she can recover her pride in peace and quiet.

Dylan Wade is no fan of Claire’s, but no way can he leave the jilted bride in her time of need. Bringing her home seems like a good idea—until he remembers his new roommate. Dylan’s relationship with Aidan is…complicated. And with Claire thrown into the mix, life becomes even more…complicated.

Claire is blindsided by her attraction not only to Dylan, but also to Aidan, a man she’s just met. Soon they’re caught up in an all-consuming sexual storm they can’t fight even if they wanted to. Yet Claire wonders if it can last, or if she’s just setting herself up for more heartache.

Review:  For a steamy erotic romance, this has a decent story that is somewhat believable, but it stretches that ability almost to the breaking point.

A truly good erotic romance will have the reader completely entrenched in the story and catching their breath with the intensity level of the passion expressed in the scenes.  An okay one is pretty much just decent porn in written form.  This book falls into that second group.  It doesn’t make it bad, especially if that is what you are looking for.  If you were expecting something more engaging, then this probably isn’t the book for you.  It absolutely has the steam, but is more on the raunchy end of the spectrum.

I do think the presentation and handling of the menage’ relationship was done pretty well.  It falls a bit into the too perfect to believe category, but it just skirts it on the side of it still mostly working.

Really didn’t like the handling of the situation with the ex-fiance’/brother.  Sorry, but when there is that much wrong in any relationship, it just isn’t all that believable to have it all pretty much be washed over and okay in the end.  It just didn’t work at all for me.

Overall, a decent book when you are wanting something steamy, but not all that real or intense.

 

Don’t Tempt Me: Dawn Atkins

Don't Temp tMeAuthor: Dawn Atkins
Book Name: Don’t Tempt Me
Series:
Order:
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Boudoir photographer Samantha Sawyer is seeking the perfect guy to help her with a little project—one that involves willing captives. Or experimenting with edible goodies. Or… The tricky part is that the fuzzy face of her dream-man has morphed into that of her new assistant, Rick West—whose gaze tends to make Samantha spontaneously combust.

But Rick forces himself to walk away, just as Samantha’s about to draw him in. She’s actually part of an undercover assignment, and partaking in her erotic world—enticing as it is—only makes his deception worse. Because once he’s tempted, there’s no going back…

Review:  I was wanting something different than what has been on my reading list lately.  Something lighter, and on the sweet side.  This fit that pretty well.  It definitely fell on the sweet side, right dead on the line of being too sugary.

The story was pretty decent and mostly believable, though both characters felt just a tad bit too mushy for me.  The balance between strong and sweet is hard to achieve without being cold and hard or falling into mushy.  These characters didn’t really come across as all that strong to me.  They worked within the bounds of the story, but they weren’t the kinds of characters that I could fall in love with and why the story only rated a 3.

I like there to be a bit more depth in my romance stories than what this story had.  This one was pretty predictable from the beginning as to what you could expect for the entire book.  There really weren’t any surprises and that drops this into what I’d consider a cookie cutter romance.  Decent and not a total waste of time, but just not all that special either.

Asa: Marked Men, Book 6

AsaAuthor: Jay Crownover
Book Name: Asa
Series: Marked Men
Order: #6
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  You never know which moment might lead to forever . . .

Asa Cross struggles with being the man everyone wants him to be and the man he knows he really is. A leopard doesn’t change its spots, and Asa has always been a predator. He doesn’t want to hurt those who love and rely on him, especially one luscious arresting cop who suddenly seems to be interested in him for far more than his penchant for breaking the law. But letting go of old habits is hard, and it’s easy to hit bottom when it’s the place you know best.

Royal Hastings is quickly learning what the bottom looks like after a tragic situation at work threatens not only her career but also her partner’s life. As a woman who has only ever had a few real friends, she’s trying to muddle through her confusion and devastation alone. Except she can’t stop thinking about the sexy southern bartender she locked up. Crushing on Asa is the last thing she needs, but his allure is too strong to resist. And she knows chasing after a guy who has no respect for the law or himself can only end in heartbreak.

A longtime criminal and a cop just seem so wrong together . . . but for Asa and Royal, being wrong together is the only right choice to make.

Review:  This is the last book in the Marked Men series.  Because of that, it is almost impossible to write a review without reviewing the series as a whole.  While the books are connected because of the characters, you can generally read them in any order and not feel lost.  I actually read book 4, Nash, before I realized that there were other books before it.

The characters in this series are all quirky, messed up, struggling with who they are and how they fit in their world.  Basically, they are real and human and totally believable.  They are the kind of people that I’d love to know in real life.  Asa and Royal are no different, though Asa may be a bit more messed up than most.

I have loved this series.  When I first saw in the intro at the beginning of this book that it actually was the end of the series, I was pretty disappointed because it has been a refreshing change of pace for the romance genre.  Thankfully, Ms. Crownover intends to write around the characters I’ve come to love by focusing a new series on some of the supporting characters we were introduced to.

As this was the end of the series, we saw a bit more about the previous characters and where they were at in their own relationships than we have in previous books.  I like that it was done in such a way that it didn’t take away from Asa’s story.

The resolution at the end of this book was a bit of a twist that I didn’t see coming.  It was an interesting perspective when it comes to relationships as it isn’t something that I think most people would even consider, but I liked that it was so out of the box.  Much of this series deals with out of the box characters and situations and this one was no exception.  It really makes a person think of where there own personal line of what they are willing to live with or compromise may be.  It really was a great ending to an already wonderful series.

 

Changeling: Otherworld, Book 2

ChangelingAuthor: Yasmine Galenorn
Book Name: Changeling
Series: Otherworld
Order: #2
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 Menolly is a vampire trying to get the hang of being undead. And me? I’m Delilah. When I’m under stress, I transform into a tabby cat–and a series of violent murders is really getting me bent out of shape…

Someone’s been slaughtering the Weres of the Rainier Puma Pride, and my sisters and I have been enlisted to investigate by Zachary Lyonnesse, golden boy of the werepumas. Right away we smelled demon trouble, and we tracked it directly into the snare of the Hunters Moon Clan, sworn enemies of Puma Pride. But there’s more than Were rivalry at work. It’s that old demon Shadow Wing who is setting a deadly snare for the pumas. We have to find out why, which means a visit one to of the Immortals. Unfortunately, for my sisters and me, our half-human blood is just enough to put us in mortal danger.” “At the Wayfarer Inn, a portal to Otherworld and the local hangout for humans and beasties alike, our fellow operative Jocko’s been murdered. Every clue points to Shadow Wing, the soul-munching, bad-ass leader of the Subterranean Realms. He’s made it clear that he aims to raze humankind to the ground, turning both Earth and Otherworld into his private playground. Our assignment: keep Shadow Wing and his minions from creeping into Earth via the Wayfarer. The demons figure they’re in like Flynn. After all, with only my ‘bumbling’ sisters and me standing in the way, how can they miss? But we’ve got a secret for them: faulty wiring or not, nobody kicks ass like the D’Artigo girls.

Review:  I always love it when an author manages to surprise me with an interesting plot.  Could we please have done without the concept of spider shifters, though? Spiders?!  Eeeppp!  One of my least favorite things in the world and I had to spend over half this book imagining all the creepy possibilities that little twist managed to bring out.  I thought for sure I’d have nightmares and this so isn’t a scary book.

Okay, other than that I’m a wuss when it comes to the creepy crawlies, I did really like the direction this book took with the plot.  Normally the concept of a spider shifter would have broke something in my brain trying to believe it, but I think this was done well enough to skirt that issue for me.

I had some of the same issues with this book as I had with the first one with regards to the lack of a more natural flow of conversation.  In a lot of cases it was hard to determine what kind of emotions should be going along with the words because it wasn’t clear which made it hard to connect with the characters mindset.  The shifts in conversation didn’t seem natural and tended to trip me up.  Again, not in all of them, but in enough that it is definitely noticeable.

I’m still not totally buying the cultural issues with regards to the sexual relationships in these books.  It still falls a bit onto the flaky side for me which makes them a bit less believable, no matter how interesting the characters may be.  That flakiness takes something away from their likability for me.

I still really enjoyed the story, though.  There was enough that I did like to overshadow the few things that bugged me.  Already have the next book in the series on my To Read list.

Iron Kin: Half Light City, Book 3

Iron KinAuthor: M.J. Scott
Book Name: Iron Kin
Series: Half Light City
Order: #3
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  Imagine a city divided. Fae and human mages on one side, vampire Blood Lords and shape-shifting Beast Kind on the other. Between these supernatural forces stands a peace treaty that threatens to shatter at the slightest provocation….

I was raised to do the right thing. But to my family that means staying safe behind the walls of human society. To be a respectable metalmage and never put myself at risk. But the treaty is faltering. And if it fails, nothing is safe. To help save the city and everyone I care about, I will use whatever means I can to ensure the negotiations to renew the treaty are successful—even if that means forging an alliance with a man who is the very opposite of the right thing….

Fen is trouble. Wild. He would rather bind himself in iron and drink himself into oblivion than learn to master the visions that come to him. Those visions might just hold the key to peace, and it seems that my power might hold the key to his control—if I can keep it around him….

Review:  As a series, I have really enjoyed the blend of Fae, Vampire, Shifters and Magic users that exist in this world.  It is a very unique blend that includes a touch of steampunk to the mix.  The first two books are a bit more self contained than this one.  You absolutely must know what has happened in those to really understand and grasp some of the underlying plot lines in this book.

The focus on this book is  Saskia, a metalmage, and Fen, a mixed breed seer and what their part is in the overall story arc of the series as well as their relationship with each other.  I’m not certain that their characters were quite as strong or interesting as the characters in the previous books, but this book wasn’t quite as clean cut as the others either.  It seemed to be more stage setting for the next book than anything which necessitated a level of complexity that we haven’t seen before.

Even though the characters didn’t come across as well for me, I did really enjoy this book.  There was an awful lot of stuff going on in this one and it ended on a “what the hell just happened” note that made it a bit frustrating with where it actually ended as I just wasn’t ready to be finished yet.

Dirty Magic: Prospero’s War, Book 1

Dirty MagicAuthor: Jaye Wells
Book Name: Dirty Magic
Series: Prospero’s War
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  IT’S DANGEROUS, ILLEGAL AND TWICE AS ADDICTIVE

The Magical Enforcement Agency keeps dirty magic off the streets, but there’s a new blend out there that’s as deadly as it is elusive. When patrol cop Kate Prospero shoots the lead snitch in this crucial case, she’s brought in to explain herself. But the more she learns about the investigation, the more she realizes she must secure a spot on the MEA task force.

Especially when she discovers that their lead suspect is the man she walked away from ten years earlier – on the same day she swore she’d given up dirty magic for good. Kate Prospero’s about to learn the hard way that crossing a wizard will always get you burned, and that when it comes to magic, you should never say never.

Review:  This was a pretty decent book.  There were lots of little twists and turns that kept it from being predictable which was a nice change of pace for me.

With all the different books out there with magic as a foundation for the world, this book has a pretty different take on that theme.  It has more of a scientific/chemical focus as opposed to the traditional view of a truly mystical nature.  The mystical is still present, so it isn’t so far off the norm, but it just isn’t the main focus.

I’m not sure how much I like the characters.  While they are complex, I’m not sure yet what I think of the personalities I’ve seen so far.  I haven’t really seen enough to know if the main character, Kate, has the smarts or backbone to become a truly strong, likable character or not.  There have been hints that it is possible, but there were also a lot of hints that she may just be the type to buckle under the pressure of circumstances rather than being able to creatively work her way out of situations that appear to have a no win scenario.

The overall feel of this series leads me to think it may lean heavily towards the type that the main character is pretty much in a constant state of struggle.  While this book had some positive events for Kate, there were still a lot more downturns, especially when you thought you were just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I’m not a huge fan of the kinds of books that the characters just can’t ever seem to catch a break.

I’ve got the next one in the series on my list so I can see if that theory proves to be true or not.

 

Spider’s Revenge: Elemental Assassin, Book 5

Spiders RevengeAuthor: Jennifer Estep
Book Name: Tangled Threads
Series: Elemental Assassin
Order: #4
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Old habits die hard. And I plan on murdering someone before the night is through.

Killing used to be my regular gig, after all. Gin Blanco, aka the Spider, assassin-for-hire. And I was very good at it. Now, I’m ready to make the one hit that truly matters: Mab Monroe, the dangerous Fire elemental who murdered my family when I was thirteen. Oh, I don’t think the mission will be easy, but turns out it’s a bit more problematic than expected. The bitch knows I’m coming for her. So now I’m up against the army of lethal bounty hunters she hired to track me down. She also put a price on my baby sister’s head. Keeping Bria safe is my first priority. Taking Mab out is a close second. Good thing I’ve got my powerful Stone and Ice magic — and my irresistible lover Owen Grayson — to watch my back. This battle has been years in the making, and there’s a chance I won’t survive. But if I’m going down, then Mab’s coming with me … no matter what I have to do to make that happen.

Review: This one was a bit disappointing for me.  At book 5 in the series, you would think that every time we first crossed a character in the book that we no longer needed a full history of that character.  A small statement that addressed that history should be more than enough.  I get that since I’m reading these back to back, I have less need of a reminder of the previous stories, but a reader rarely ever needs a full on rehash of previous history past the first time or two in a series or if you haven’t seen a character in a long while.  By the time I was about a third of the way into the book, there had only been a couple of new events and they took up about a quarter of the content.  The rest was all back story.

It wasn’t even just the presentation of the characters that was redundant, but of the common places in the story like the Pork Pit, Northern Aggression and Jo-Jo’s place as well as the different runes the characters used, their purpose and symbolism and all that goes with it.  Again, this is book 5.  As readers, we have read all of this over and over again before.  We should already have really solid knowledge of all of this by now.  I gave it a bit of slack in the previous books because we do need reminders here and there, but for some reason there was just a bit of overkill with regards to the history repetition in this one.  It was even more frustrating because I was so impressed with the creative way history was introduced in the first books but that creativity just wasn’t present here.

This was also supposed to be the big confrontation book that all the other books had been leading up to at this point, the showdown with Mab.  While we absolutely get that, it just didn’t feel as if that confrontation was as dramatic or interesting as all the ones we’ve seen in previous books.  It left me wanting more and kind of feeling “That was it?”

One of the other things that bugged me was that it seemed as if we were seeing a totally different Gin in this book.  She has always been pretty strong and self assured in the past.  Sure there have been levels of doubt, but she has never really let that interfere with what she needed to get done.  In this book, that doubt nearly paralyzes her to the point that she makes several mistakes.  This is a huge situation for her character and it is understandable that there would be a lot more doubt involved, but the way it was handled just didn’t seem to fit what we’ve come to expect from her character.

I’ve mentioned before that I really love Owen’s character and when I read the blurb for this one, I thought we’d get to see a whole lot more of him and that he’d take on more of a true partner role for Gin, but that didn’t happen.  He comes across as more of a footnote rather than as a true supporting character.  It felt as though the great potential that had been developed for him in previous books kind of fizzled out in this one.

I wanted to give this a 4 rating, but I just couldn’t do it.  There were too many things about this one that wasn’t up to the standards set by the rest of the books in the series.  I still liked it, but it really kind of was just okay for me in comparison.