The Keepers: Alchemy Series, Book 1

The KeepersAuthor: Donna Augustine
Book Name: The Keepers
Series: Alchemy Series
Order: #1
Rating: Mediocre/Didn’t Like
Genre: SciFi

Blurb:  Two days ago, Jo Davids was a waitress by night and a college kid by day, with the unnerving problem of objects floating around her.

One Day ago, Jo’s sexy boss, Cormac, noticed her for all the wrong reasons when she witnessed a man transform into a monster in the basement of his casino.

Today, Cormac ordered her shot. If he’s real lucky, she won’t die. Because if she does, all hope is lost.

Review: First off, I gotta say that the blurb attached to this book is really pretty misleading.  It leads one to believe that it is going to be some sort of shifter book.  That is so not the case here.  If the blurb actually gave a better indication of what the book is truly about, I seriously probably wouldn’t have read it at all because it just isn’t the kind of SciFi book I’m into at all. It is actually a book more about other planets, wormholes, and alien species and I honestly have no interest at all in reading those books.  They just aren’t my thing.  While there is one character that does apparently shift, that is only a teeny tiny part, not at all the focus.

After I figured that out, I honestly did by best to not let that influence my opinion of the quality of writing and whether or not the story was well done.  Even pushing aside my personal preferences on genre, I still do not like this book at all.  So much of it just didn’t work for me.  Whether I like them or not, I’ve read books with the alien species theme before that were really well done.  This one just wasn’t.

If you are going to write about people that come from different worlds, whether they be more fantasy type worlds like Faerie or actual other worlds as in planets, one of the things that just doesn’t work is to make those different people all look like normal Earth humans in their natural form.  I’m sorry, it just doesn’t work for me.  You could get away with them blending in by explaining it somehow with magic or glamor or illusion, but again, not the case here.  This book very, very briefly mentions viewing a portion of another world through a wormhole and describing the sky as purple.  It isn’t believable that the people that come from that planet do not look the least bit different than humans, but it is obvious at a glance that the world looks nothing like Earth.

It is also going to be a huge, difficult pill to swallow when you say that some of those species are Fae and werewolves.  Yet, hello, they look just like the guy next door.  If you are going to break from the traditionally held beliefs and myths behind a culture, you cannot break it so completely and have the story work.

The other big failure when it came to this book were the characters.  By the time I finished reading, I couldn’t decide if I actually hated the main character.  I definitely didn’t like her enough to want to learn more about her.  She was self-absorbed, ditzy, wishy-washy and utterly annoying.  There were so many things that the character “thought” and her perceptions of others that made her beyond able to find anything at all redeeming about her.  None of the other characters were really any better.

I would say that this probably isn’t worth your time unless you are really, really bored.

Mate Bond: Shifters Unbound, Book 7

Mate BondAuthor: Jennifer Ashley
Book Name: Mate Bond
Series: Shifters Unbound
Order: #7
Rating: Really Good
Genre: Fantasy/Romance

Blurb:  To cement the leadership of his North Carolina Shiftertown, Bowman O’Donnell agreed to a “mating of convenience.” Two powerful wolf shifters, he and Kenzie keep the pack in order and are adored by all. Bowman would do anything to protect Kenzie, for in each other’s arms they’ve found far more than friendship. But as strong as their attachment is, they still haven’t formed the elusive mate bond—the almost magical joining of true mates.

Now with a monster ravaging the countryside and threatening the Shiftertown community, some in the pack fear that a pair without a true mate bond isn’t strong enough to lead. Bowman and Kenzie will have to rely on their instinctive trust in one another to save their Shifters—and the ensuing battle will either destroy them or give them the chance to seize the love they’ve always craved.

Review:  Mate Bond is a bit of a departure from the typical theme found in other books in this series in that the main characters are already in a romantic relationship rather than just meeting and falling in love.  At first, it kind of felt like I wasn’t getting the same experience that I’d come to expect from this series and was a bit disappointed, but ended up being pleasantly surprised.

The fact that the story is based on an existing, instead of a new, relationship, you have a lot of different options storywise to work with that wasn’t available before, different struggles come up in that scenario.  The characters have different insecurities and concerns that you just would never see in a brand new relationship.

Taking this approach has definitely allowed Ms. Ashley to keep this series fresh and interesting and avoided falling into the pitfall of becoming a cookie cutter writer.  I love the fact that she took a chance and went with something a bit different.  The characters do have a very different dynamic and vibe than the majority of other characters in this series, but it works well because of that.  Definitely another great addition to a really good series.

Silver Wolf Clan: Silver Wolf Clan, Book 1

Silver Wolf ClanAuthor: Tera Shanley
Book Name: Silver Wolf Clan
Series: Silver Wolf Clan
Order: #1
Rating: Mediocre/Didn’t Like
Genre: Fantasy/Romance

Blurb:  Loving him will be legendary…if she can survive it.

What happens when monsters turn out to be real? One summer night while camping in the woods, Morgan Carter finds out in a big way. A tall mysterious stranger, Greyson Crawford, risks his life to try and save her sister from the vicious wolf attacking their camp. When he’s bitten and disappears into the night, Morgan can only assume the worst.

Greyson shows up a year later, and he’s a different animal altogether. His eye color shifts constantly and the rumble in his throat sounds more animal than human. She hasn’t any idea where he’s been all this time, but a good guess as to what he’s become.

Grey is determined not to let the darkness of his new existence affect Morgan and the little girl in her care. He hasn’t been able to stop thinking about Morgan but knows he should stay away and let her live a normal life. That’s easier said than done, though. A new danger pulls him from the shadows to keep her safe, and he’s no wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Can she accept what lurks just below his surface? More importantly, can she survive him?

Review:  Initially, this seemed to start out with a lot of promise to be something really good.  It didn’t take all that long though to get pretty frustrated.  This book starts to introduce different potentials for really interesting options or directions the story can take, but seems to only ever just touch on them.  Enough to keep the reader wondering if what they just read had an important significance to future events or was something else entirely, but never giving enough to actually define it or solidify it in any way.  Giving the reader just enough information to be left wondering if this is going to be a problem later or if that was actually a resolution is incredibly frustrating.

The romantic relationship part of the book is also rather unsolidified as well.  It takes nearly half the book to get the characters even face to face for a conversation, then within the next 1/4 it appears that they have been in a relationship for a much longer time with a whole lot more experiences and interactions than the reader is aware of, only to have those briefly noted towards the end and in a time frame that doesn’t make sense because it hadn’t been addressed.  It felt like the time that had passed was very, very short based on the events that had been written (days, maybe a week or so), but the supposed history that is discussed much later makes it seem as though months had passed.

Because of all the disparate storyline potentials, by the end of the book, you don’t really know if anything was ever actually resolved and you are kind of left wondering what the actual story plot was supposed to have addressed.  While there are various different issues that arise and need solutions, none stand out as the Big Important of the book.  Not really.  In the end, it is hard to determine what was the intent and focus because no one issue stood out as a primary and what issues did present, were only kind of resolved and in such a way that you just don’t know.  Not even in a vague hint that it might come up again in the future way, but in a way that was really confusing.

Over all, it kind of felt like there was an overabundance of really good ideas that felt like they needed to be brought to light, but because there were so many, none got the attention they deserved.  Considering this wasn’t an overly long book, there was more than enough room to explore or deal with a whole lot more than what was there, leaving it feeling rushed or unfinished.

I won’t say that I just flat out didn’t like the book, but I can’t say that I didn’t not like it either.  It held a whole lot of potential, but I didn’t feel like any of that potential was fully fleshed out or at least not in a way that really worked.  Will I read the next book in the series at some point?  Possibly.  But that is because I would like to know if that potential begins to work and play out later, but I do not really hold out a lot of hope.

 

Still the One: Animal Magnetism, Book 6

Still the OneAuthor: Jill Shalvis
Book Name: Still the One
Series: Animal Magnetism
Order: #6
Rating: Really Good
Genre: Romance

Blurb:  Darcy Stone is game for anything—except sexy Navy veteran and physical therapist AJ Colten, the guy who’d rejected her when she’d needed him most. Now the shoe is on the other foot and he needs her to play nice and help him secure grants for his patients. Unfortunately Darcy can’t refuse. She needs the money to fund her passion project: rescuing S&R dogs and placing them with emotionally wounded soldiers.

AJ admits it—Darcy is irresistible. But he’s already been battle-scarred by a strong-willed, vivacious, adventurous woman like Darcy, and he’s not making the same mistake twice—until he and Darcy are forced to fake a relationship. Growing closer than they’d ever imagined possible, Darcy and AJ have to ask themselves: how much between them is pretend? What’s the real thing? And where does it go from here?

Review:  This book is what I would consider a typical, fun, flirty and lighthearted romance story.  It has all the essentials to make it a good romantic read.  Interesting characters that have some depth, enough to actually enjoy and want to learn more about them.  A good story with just enough going on to keep it on the good side without getting beyond the romantic focus of the story.

There is a definite emphasis on the lighthearted in this story.  It does not get too heavy or really pull hard on any emotions, so it is the perfect kind of book to read if you need a break between some weightier or more intense types of books.

As a series, Animal Magnetism books are pretty much stand alone books, where characters from previous books in the series may make appearances in other stories, but it is not necessary to read those other books in order to follow the current story or feel like you’ve missed something important.

Dark Heir: Jane Yellowrock, Book 9

Dark HeirAuthor: Faith Hunter
Book Name: Dark Heir
Series: Jane Yellowrock
Order: #9
Rating: Excellent/Favorite
Genre: Fantasy

Blurb:  For centuries, the extremely powerful and ruthless vampire witches of the European Council have wandered the Earth, controlling governments, fostering war, creating political conflict, and often leaving absolute destruction in their wake. One of the strongest of them is set to create some havoc in the city of New Orleans, and it’s definitely personal.

Jane is tasked with tracking him down. With the help of a tech wiz and an ex-Army ranger, her partners in Yellowrock Securities, she’ll have to put everything on the line, and hope it’s enough. Things are about to get real hard in the Big Easy.

Review:  Faith Hunter has pulled off another amazing addition to her Jane Yellowrock series.  Every single one of her characters continue to bring out solidly vibrant, realistic and believable personalities.

As a series, this has everything that I really love about a great series.  Individual, contained stories in each book with an overarching storyline that continues throughout the series.  Excellently developed characters that could be, in general, any normal, regular person no matter what other special talents they may have (they are essentially not perfect and have flaws that most people struggle with on one level or another throughout their lives).  A wonderfully crafted and believable world (which in this case is a bit surprising for me as I find any contemporary, like our normal everyday, world overlaid by a paranormal/fantasy aspect typically hard to swallow, but is not that case with these books) and an overall story that I can just get lost in.

While the books are individual stories with the main issues resolved by the end of each, the larger, continuing issues and story are more closely connected and continuous throughout the series than most that I typically enjoy, but it is so well done that I don’t feel left hanging at the end.

One of the things that I love the most about these books, and is consistent in this one as well, is the fact that all of the different situations and relationships are completely balanced throughout and not too heavily weighted on one or the other.  You get to touch on the all the different relationships in between all the problem solving and intense action.  It isn’t all romance or all action or all drama, but enough of each that you don’t feel as though you missed out on something.  You get it all.

I think for the first time in the series, Jane is left in a pretty strong and solid place personally, even with the potentially new/different access/connection to her beast and with the still as of yet unknown potential of problems coming from the European vamps.  She is more solid and assured in her relationships with Bruiser, Eli and Alex, and even her friendship with Molly seems to have had some of the rough edges smoothed over.  I’m definitely liking where she is right now.

We are reminded that while she is an amazingly strong personality, that personality continues to grow through her experiences and that she is not done with that growth, whether that growth is physical, romantic, friends and family, or personal.

As usual with any book in this series, I was so not ready to be done with it and hope like crazy there isn’t too long of a wait before the next one comes out.

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Spider’s Bite: Elemental Assassin, Book 1

Spider's BiteAuthor: Jennifer Estep
Book Name: Spider’s Bite
Series: Elemental Assassin
Order: #1
Rating: Really Good
Genre: Fantasy

Blurb:  My name is Gin, and I kill people.

They call me the Spider. I’m the most feared assassin in the South — when I’m not busy at the Pork Pit cooking up the best barbecue in Ashland. As a Stone elemental, I can hear everything from the whispers of the gravel beneath my feet to the vibrations of the soaring Appalachian Mountains above me. My Ice magic also comes in handy for making the occasional knife. But I don’t use my powers on the job unless I absolutely have to. Call it professional pride.

Now that a ruthless Air elemental has double-crossed me and killed my handler, I’m out for revenge. And I’ll exterminate anyone who gets in my way — good or bad. I may look hot, but I’m still one of the bad guys. Which is why I’m in trouble, since irresistibly rugged Detective Donovan Caine has agreed to help me. The last thing this coldhearted killer needs when I’m battling a magic more powerful than my own is a sexy distraction . . . especially when Donovan wants me dead just as much as the enemy.

Review: I have run across this series several times, but for some reason I just never actually read it and I have no clue why.  For all those times I skipped over it, I’m now wishing I hadn’t because this is a really good book.  I absolutely love how the author builds her story and draws the reader in.  I thoroughly enjoyed her characters and that they were beautifully flawed in such ways as to make them feel more real.  When you can sort of fall into the flow of the story itself without having anything drawing you away or distracting you, then you know that the author is truly an expert in their craft.

While the story is on the darker side, the main character is an assassin afterall, it isn’t so dark and ugly that the story isn’t also balanced out by the more positive, hopeful aspects of life.  I really enjoyed how the darker and lighter aspects of this story played together, especially within the personalities of the main characters.  It is a huge reason as to why they, and their relationships with each other, are so believable and realistic.

From this first book, I can say that this looks like it falls right into the type of series I enjoy reading.  Those that have self contained stories in each book, but holding on to that larger thread that spreads across the series.  So far, I think I’m going to really enjoy this series and these characters.

I think the only reason this didn’t rate the favorite/excellent rating from me is because I wasn’t quite so wrapped in it all that I was not ready to be done reading at the end, though I’m not certain that isn’t so much the lack of desire to leave the story’s world as it is the author’s ability to finish the story well.  I can say that it is a very close margin there, so maybe that will change with future books.

Full Blooded: Jessica McClain, Book 1

Full BloodedAuthor: Amanda Carlson
Book Name: Full Blooded
Series: Jessica McClain
Order: #1
Rating: Really Good
Genre: Fantasy

 Blurb: Born the only female in an all male race, Jessica McClain isn’t just different—she’s feared.

After living under the radar for the last twenty-six years, Jessica is thrust unexpectedly into her first change, a full ten years late. She wakes up and finds she’s in the middle of a storm. Now that she’s become the only female full-blooded werewolf in town, the supernatural world is already clamoring to take a bite out of her and her new Pack must rise up and protect her.

But not everyone is on board. The werewolf Rights of Laws is missing text and the superstitious werewolves think that Jessica means an end to their race. When a mercenary who’s been hired by the vampires shows up to extract information about the newly turned werewolf only days after her change, they find themselves smack in the middle of a war and there’s no choice but to run together. When it’s up to Jessica to negotiate her release against her father’s direct orders, she chooses to take an offer for help instead. In exchange, Jessica must now swear an oath she may end up repaying with her life.

Review: While I did like this book and the general storyline behind it, there were several things that bugged me about it and kept it from being a much better book for me.  For one, the blurb itself, which is what you need to read to figure out if you want to read the book or not, is actually a pretty big spoiler to the plot.  If you are going to write a teaser, please don’t give away one of the big surprises of the story in that teaser.

Every book needs background basics for the reader to understand the current situation/world/character history, especially books that are the first in the series.  What they don’t need, at least not if you don’t want to bore your readers, is dry, essay like descriptions that get dropped into the story just to get it out of the way.  I felt like the first couple of chapters were so fluffed full of this level of background that it took away from a lot of what was going on in the plot and made it a whole lot less interesting.  There are ways to introduce that information and keep the flow going and make it interesting for the reader to discover along the way.  This book dropped the ball in that regard.

The last, big issue for me is more a personal taste thing.  I much prefer stories that are either self contained or are the type that have small stories that fall along a much larger story arc across a series.  I am so not a fan of books with huge cliff hangers.  That is exactly what this book is.  It opened up several different plot lines and none of them were resolved by the end of the book.  I find that hugely frustrating.  When you get to the end of a story, it should feel like a reward, even if it is a little one.  You want to feel as though you have accomplished something or resolved something by the time you get to the last page, even if it is minor and I didn’t get that at all with this.

As I said before, I did like the general storyline despite the things that annoyed or frustrated me and, because of that, I’ve rated this as Really Good, but it is borderline.  I do have the next book in the series on my reading list, so I’ll see if I still feel the same with the next installment.

Dead Heat: Alpha and Omega, Book 3

Dead HeatAuthor: Patricia Briggs
Book Name: Dead Heat
Series: Alpha and Omega (in the Mercy Thompson World)
Order: #4
Rating: Really Good
Genre: Fantasy

 Blurb: For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal, as Charles plans to buy Anna a horse for her birthday. Or at least it starts out that way…

Charles and Anna soon discover that a dangerous Fae being is on the loose, replacing human children with simulacrums. The Fae’s cold war with humanity is about to heat up—and Charles and Anna are in the cross fire.

Review:  I really kind of wish that in my theme of re-reading books this year, I’d taken the time to re-read the rest of the books in this series before I’d read this one.  It has been too long since I read the last one that it took me a bit here and there to remember some of the things that had happened in previous books.

For me, even though I really did enjoy this book, it felt a bit slow starting out.  I really kind of think that is on me rather than the book, though.  I had to stop a couple of times to either try to remember an incident from previous books, or go and read the burbs to refresh my memory here and there.  Finding the right balance in too much or too little previous history in a book can be a hard line to find.  I don’t think that is an issue here, it is more that I just really, really need to understand what is in front of me whether it is critical to the story or not.  I don’t think that most readers would find this as slow to start as I did.

As with all the rest of the books in this series and in the Mercy Thompson series, this is another great story.  I have loved the dynamics in the relationship between the main characters, Charles and Anna, and this book continues to keep those dynamics interesting in the process of still giving the reader a great story outside of that relationship.  For a lot of authors, that is something that is really difficult to accomplish.  Most can pull off one or the other, but rarely both.  That is not a difficulty Patricia Briggs has, not by a long shot.

I love that the story resolves the immediate issue that arises with the missing children (I hate full on cliff hangers), but gives the reader some great insights into what is going to be happening next in this world, both the Alpha and Omega series and the Mercy Thompson series.

As of right now, the next book in this world is in the Mercy Thompson side and isn’t due out until 2016.

 

March Update and Upcoming in April

As of right now, my current book count stands at 112 new and 27 re-reads.  Seems that I am continuing with my theme of re-reading some of my favorites this year.  This month, I re-read one of my all time favorite series, Michelle Sagara’s Chronicles of ElantraI probably should have read House War (another favorite) first as that is the series that has the next book out (May5), but I’m sure that is going to be the next on the re-read list.

I’m doing a lot of re-reading because I am STILL struggling to find new authors to read that I love.  Heck, I’d be thrilled with even just one at this point.  Sure, I’ve found a couple of new ones that I like, but I don’t love them and that is getting frustrating.  I have grabbed more new books lately that don’t just jump out and grab me when I read the synopsis on the off chance that something will spark when I read the actual book.  That hasn’t quite worked yet, but I’m still holding out hope.

Something I realized the other day is that I’m not actually writing very many reviews.  While I think it is probably impossible for me to write a review for every single book I read (my current average is about a book and a half a day, so that would be a bit much), I do think I should probably be writing up at least a few more than I currently am.  I didn’t realize how difficult it might be to write up something on a book that isn’t either awesome or awful and since I haven’t found much in the first category and try exceptionally hard to avoid the second, that doesn’t leave me with all that much to write about, so I’m going to work on that for next month.

April 7th brings the new release in the Jane Yellowrock series, Dark Heir.  I’ve got that one on pre-order and cannot wait to get it.  The 7th is also the release day for Diana Rowland‘s latest in the Kara Gillian Series, Vengeance of the Demon.  This one I don’t have on my To Buy list, but I am on the waiting list through the library.  So glad that I know I’ve got some things on my upcoming reading list to really look forward to.

Phoenix Club Series (in part) Review

Author: C.J. Bishop
Book Name: It Can’t Be You; Hearts in Chaos; Shattered (Abel Trilogy?)
Series: Phoenix Club
Order: #1-3
Rating: Mediocre/Didn’t Like
Genre: LGBT Romance

I have to say that I really struggled with this review as to where it fell.  The only reason it did not fall into the garbage realm is because this book actually seems to have a small level of thought put into the overall story and time was taken to actually clean it up enough to be presentable.  Those are pretty much the only positives I can offer.

There are very, very few scenarios when an author can get away with presenting the reader with unsafe sex scenes.  Even fewer options when the subject of the book isn’t restricted because of cultural or historical accuracy needed for the scene.  There is absolutely zero reason why in this day and age, any author should allow their characters to be having unsafe sex, unless there is a specific reason for it in the basis of the story.

These books do not even allow the reader the possibility of any of the characters having safe sex.  Not only are we talking totally unprotected sex, but we are talking sex with multiple partners over an incredibly short period of time.  The only attempt at a mention at all was early on in the first book, ONE of the many characters having sex mentions a clean bill of health requirement to be able to work in his job.  With the reality of the time it takes for anything to show on tests and how long it takes to get tests back, there is no way any of the characters in this book are practicing safe sex.

Another major issue I have with these books is the entire premise that the books are based on.  One part of that is the fact that the two major characters supposedly fall in love pretty much on sight.  I’ve read a lot of books where authors can pull this off well and it works.  In this case, not at all.  For one, this at first sight love is supposed to be so all powerful and consuming as to over come severe past trauma, including rape, yet the main character has no problem immediately having sex with several other people the second there is any kind of drama between him and the love of his life.

Part of the issue with that is the timing of it all.  Again, no problem with at first sight thing, but the whole, fall in love, cry, have issues, cry, have sex with other people, cry, have more issues after having sex again, cry some more, more drama and issues, cry, then in the last 10% of the last book, everything is perfect and, after a round of sex (no actual real discussion of the issues and how to resolve those issues ever occur in any of the books, it is just lets have sex and the world is rosy and fixed, no matter the years of nightmares and trauma and fear), the couple lives happily ever after, all in about 3 weeks.

Not only is the overall timeline of the story totally unbelievable, but the issues,  how they are dealt with and resolved, are so far outside of the realm of possibility and contradict the personality of the characters that it is offensive to the reader, making them ignorant and gullible to believe any of it.

If your main character is so devoted to his sister, he is willing to prostitute himself to pay for her needed medical care (did I mention she has been diagnosed with HIV, yet not a single character practices safe sex?), then why in the hell would he abandon her the second his feelings get dinged and is gone the entire time she is in the hospital, which is all in that same short time span?

Between every character’s deep moments ending, not in a real conversation to address those moments, but rather with them having sex and then every single person dissolving into tears at the drop of the hat, I’m surprised I made it through to the end of these 3 books that dealt with this couple of main characters.

While, in theory, the general idea behind the book could have worked with actual conversations between the characters and a longer timeline, I don’t think anything could have really made me believe this story in any way, let alone enjoy it.  I wouldn’t even complain about the lack of conversation so much if I could have classified this as an erotic romance, but even the sex scenes were so off and wrong for me there is no way it would even fit into that genre.

So, in the end, I can’t say that this is worth the time unless you just like to read really poorly written and thought out stories.  I definitely won’t be wasting my time on any of the others in the rest of the series.

Peeves: Cover Art

They say that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we totally do.  The cover of a book is a reader’s very first impression of the book.  It gives the reader a first taste of what may be inside those pages and an indication of the writer’s style and personality.  As an author, I would think that you’d want your cover to be either interesting enough to grab a reader’s attention and draw them in or, at the very least, be generic enough to not matter.  Either approach will work.

In a lot of  cases, the cover isn’t going to make or break a book.  BUT… if your cover is done in such a way that it strikes a bad first impression, you are going to have a very hard time getting a reader, especially a reader that is new to you as an author, to actually get past whatever it is about the cover that bugs them enough to pick up that book and take a chance on reading it.  There are several things that bug me when it comes to cover art on books, enough so that I will often not even bother to read what the book is about and completely pass it up unless I’m just desperate for something to read.  A lot of times, I still won’t even look at it no matter how desperate I am.

Copycatting:  When a cover is, or contains, the exact same or very closely the same photo/image/design of another cover by another author.  This is something that I’ve noticed an awful lot recently and it annoys the crap out of me.  Not always so much that I won’t read a book because of it, but enough that I struggle to view the authors as more serious or professional.

I usually don’t always notice until I’ve read one book and then later see another book by a totally different author with a nearly identical image or a design that is so close, I think it is another book by the first author.  A lot of authors will use a similar design style throughout a series and that helps the reader to quickly identify it as being in that same series.  When you run across a situation where that isn’t the case, it feels deceptive and unoriginal.  I have no idea why this is so prevalent at the moment, but I am wondering if those books are being produced by the same publisher, one that isn’t willing to invest in unique cover art for their different authors, or if they fall more in line with self published works where the author has to provide their own cover art and they are getting images from free or low cost image services.

If you cannot get a full design work up with unique graphic images and/or photos for whatever reason, be it cost or lack of creativity, I would much rather see a generic design with a little color and just a title and author.  If you aren’t creative enough to show an original cover image, then how am I as a reader to believe that the story inside is going to be any more special or interesting than that cover, or even better, worth my time?

Cartooning:  Cartoon/childlike drawings.  This is definitely a peeve of mine.  If you are a mature, professional author writing mature stories for adults, why are you putting out books with covers on them that make them look like children’s’ books?  I will admit that not all covers that have cartoonish images on the cover come across as childlike, but most of them do.

I don’t read kids books unless it is something for my kids for some reason.  I also very rarely read a young adult book unless it is by an author that I already love their adult books.  This is because those just aren’t the kinds of books I usually want to read.  If your book cover appears that your book belongs in those genres, I’m not even going to take the time to read what the book is supposed to be about let alone take the time to read the book itself.

Cheap/Poor Computer Graphic:  Images or designs that look like my high school-er put together in his first graphic design class.  Sadly, in a lot of these cases, my high school-er could have done a better job.  Seriously, if it is going to look like completely amateur work, there is no way I am ever going to look past that cover.  Never.  Why even bother with a cover if that is what you are going to put on there?

Back to the point about a generic cover.  You will get a crap ton more looks and interest if you have even a very simple, basic, clean cover with zero images over something that is bad.  The goal is to generate interest, not turn it away.  I have a feeling (though I haven’t taken the time to research this for any kind of actual evidence), that books with covers like that are very poor cousins within the self published realm.  Even if it isn’t, that is the impression that those covers give.  I seriously doubt a publisher with a very good reputation is going to put out a book with a cover that isn’t at least partially well thought out, let alone so utterly terrible that it does the opposite of the job it is supposed to do which is get a reader wanting more of what it sees.

A book cover, when it has anything other than that simple, generic design, is suppose to tease and tantalize its readers into wanting to pick it up and explore what is beyond that cover.  It is supposed to draw you in, not cause you to go running and screaming in the opposite direction.

Vision in Silver: The Courtyard of the Others, Book 3

Vision in SilverAuthor: Anne Bishop
Book Name: Vision in Silver
Series: The Courtyard of the Others
Order: #3
Rating: Excellent/Favorite
Genre: Fantasy

Yet again, Anne Bishop has managed to bring us another stunningly rich book so full of character that you cannot help but be sucked in.  I cannot say enough good things about this new addition to the series.

Vision in Silver continues the story of the Others.  We get to see all our favorite characters along with meeting a few new ones, which is always fun because of how packed full of personality Ms. Bishop creates her characters.

For one of the main characters, Meg, we get to see her continue to learn how to interact and function in the world around her, emphasizing that even though she is extraordinary because she is a blood profit, she is also exceptionally ordinary and makes mistakes just like everyone else.  One of the things that I love about her is that while what she does and who she is has major impacts on the world around her, it is in a way that is indirect.  She isn’t out there fighting or killing the bad guys with her super awesome powers like you see in so many other books.  She does it by being an example to everyone around her of how to be a better person just by being who she is and what she does.  That aspect of her character really stands out in this book.

While we see a heightened degree of bitterness, ignorance and hatred from some humans towards the terre indigene and the humans that try to keep the balance and peace in this book, we also get to see the friendship between Meg and Simon continue to grow and evolve.  We are definitely left on something of a high note by the end of the story, but that high note is balanced on the edge of what is promising to be really ugly times ahead.

As is typical with an Anne Bishop book, I was so not ready for it to end by the time I’d finished reading.  I wasn’t ready to leave that carefully and beautifully crafted world.  I am beyond anxious to get to the next one, even though I don’t think there is even a title listed for it yet, so that I can sink back into it again.  This one most definitely is on my favorites shelf!

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Can’t Wait! and Update for February

March 3 is the release date for the newest book in the the Courtyards of the Others series by Anne Bishop, Vision in Silver.  I’ve already got this on pre-order and will be getting started reading it as soon as it shows up on my reader.  Still going back and forth on trying to decide if I want to re-read the other two books in the series before it comes out as a refresher.  Gonna have to give that some thought.

So far this year, my book count stands at 78 new books and 15 re-reads.  Apparently this is going to be my year to go back and read some of my favorites again as I still haven’t really found a new author to grab my attention.  Not that I have much problem at all re-reading my favorites, they are favorites for a reason.

Along the Anne Bishop theme, I’ve re-read all the books in the Black Jewels world.  I’ve actually had times where when reading a book again after a while I realize that I don’t actually like it as well as I thought I had.  That is so not the case with that series.  I have a feeling it will be the same with the new Others series, so maybe I will go through with the refresher read after all.

 

Jason: Anita Blake Series, Book 23

JasonAuthor: Laurell K. Hamilton
Book Name: Jason
Series: Anita Blake
Order: #23
Rating: Mediocre/Didn’t Like
Genre: Fantasy/Romance

I really debated on whether or not I actually wanted to write this review.  I dislike saying or writing negative things, especially when it comes to something I normally would be raving about.  In this case, I just couldn’t help but say something.

I really didn’t like this book.  For so many reasons.  It was a huge disappointment.  It just did not live up to the existing standards set by the rest of this series. While we got to see some familiar and well loved characters, there just wasn’t a story in there at all.

I’m all for hot and steamy love scenes, no matter what combination of men and women, no matter how many are involved and in most cases, not even the level of kinky, when it is wrapped inside a great story.  Sometimes I’m even good to read something that is nothing but those steamy love scenes, story or not, but please, do them well.  Don’t make them fumbling and awkward.  I get that in real life, steamy doesn’t always come across as smooth, but come on.  When I read a book, a big part of the reason to do so is to live a bit in the fantasy that the author creates.  If you aren’t going to make it so that a reader can get sucked into what you are writing without being thrown out of whatever mood you are trying to create, then what is the point?  I’m pretty sure that in some ways, awkward was the tone that was trying to be set, but it was so wrong and so didn’t work, that for the first time ever reading an Anita novel, I was really tempted to put it down and not finish.  When I finally did finish, I was still wondering why I even bothered.  If you have to force yourself to finish a book, then why even consider reading the next one?

As a whole, I have really enjoyed the series thus far, but with this addition and a couple of the other more recent shorts and additions that I’ve read, I’m wondering how long I’ll continue reading the Anita Blake series as what I’m seeing lately just isn’t all that entertaining.  Like I said, I’m all for steamy, no matter what my own personal preference is.  It is like any other kind of art, while I may not like it personally, I can totally appreciate what goes into it and how someone else might enjoy it and can enjoy it from that perspective. But apparently, even in my reading and enjoying the fantasy from that other perspective, I do have limits to what I can find sexy, even peripherally.  Up until this, and I have read more than my fair share of all kinds of steamy, I hadn’t found that boundary.  Apparently I have been pushed past that and just couldn’t find what I’ve been reading sexy or interesting or entertaining in any way.

The only reason I didn’t rate this book as garbage was because I have liked this series and the characters so far and am hoping that this isn’t an indication of where the series is going from here.  I will be waiting until the next book is in the library rather than spending money on something I’m not sure will be any better than this one.  I am glad that is how I read this one because I do feel like it would have been a waste of money.  I’m sad to say, that if the next isn’t any better, it may just be the last.

 

Lady Luck: Colorado Mountain Series, Book 3

Lady LuckAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: Lady Luck
Series: Colorado Mountain Series
Order: #3
Rating: Excellent/Favorite
Genre: Romance

This wasn’t actually a new read for me.  I read it last year for the first time, but it is absolutely one of those that demands more than one read.

I first ran across Kristen Ashley last year when my library added parts of the Colorado Mountain series to their digital library.  While the series and author quickly became one of my favorites, this book in particular hit the top of the list.

While Lady Luck contains all the hallmarks that makes the series excellent… super hot badass dude, quirky, smartass sassy chick, steamy love and intense drama… for me this book really did hit all of that perfectly.  From the first book, I have fallen in love with the men Kristen Ashley creates and how they become so very real I cannot seem to get enough of them.  In this one, for some intangible reason, I was totally sucked in, more so than any of the others in this series.

Not sure exactly where on the scale this would land, but it is definitely up there in my all time favorites of all the books I’ve ever read.

Broken Soul: Jane Yellowrock, Book 8

Broken SoulAuthor: Faith Hunter
Book Name: Broken Soul
Series: Jane Yellowrock
Order: #8
Rating: Excellent/Favorite
Genre: Fantasy

This was another excellent addition to a favorite series of mine.  Since I’m kind of an instant gratification kinda gal, I don’t always like cliff hanger types of books.  While the Jane Yellowrock series doesn’t exactly do that, it does somewhat continue a larger story arch across the whole series while at least resolving the most current drama in each book.  Broken Soul continues this pattern.  It also added some interesting layers to the main characters while giving insight into a few that had been more peripheral in other books.

I love the main character in this series and am glad to see something going her way relationship wise in this book.  I do hope it continues into the next one.  I don’t like seeing characters constantly battling and never getting a break or finding any level of happiness or heck, even a few seconds to just breathe.  So far, Faith Hunter has played with that a bit in previous relationships in this series, but has still kept it on the positive side.  I’m absolutely looking forward to the next book!

Dark Heir, book 9, looks to be due out in April of this year.

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How I Rate Books

There are several things that I believe will either make or break a book with tiny variations along the way being the only difference between a good book and one that is awesome.  Or… along the other spectrum, awful.

I categorize books based mainly on whether or not I’d be willing to spend the money on the book, or as is most often the case as I read the majority of books from the library, if it is worth re-reading (which that list has become incredibly narrow as of late). This type of book is one that I will read multiple times, has such great content that I find myself so absorbed in the story that I’m so disappointed when the book is over because I want more.  These are the books that are in my all time favorites list.  There is a big divide between this level and the next because there just aren’t many at all that will land in the top.

The next level is where a book is really good; excellent story/characters/world, but isn’t quite unique or special enough for me to want to take the time out of reading new material to want to read it again.  It would definitely be something I’d recommend to others if asked.

Editing is something of a peeve of mine and can actually make the difference between a good/mid-level book and a great book.  For me, if the story is excellent and I’m reading along and there is a glaring editing mistake, it trips me up.  I have to stop, usually re-read to try and figure out what was actually meant before I can move on.  This disrupts the flow of a book and bugs me to no end.  I don’t always know if those great books are just exceptionally well edited or if the story is just so amazing my mind skims over whatever mistakes are there, but the times it is noticeable can really effect where I place a book on my good/bad scale.

There will always be that mid-level book that is okay, but to me seems like a replay of every other storyline out there.  It may have mostly decent writing, but often one major aspect seems weak or not well thought out or fully developed.  I wouldn’t consider them a waste of time, but are right there on the border.  Cookie cutter writers eventually fall into this category, no matter how much I may have liked the first book or so.  There are only so many times you can read the same story with only slightly different characters/scenarios before it gets really old.  This level also covers books that just weren’t for me, now matter how well written they may have been.

The last group of books are those that I seriously question every single person involved in the process because that book was BAD.  Bad story, horrid characters, no way was there any editing involved, or any combination of those things.  An awful lot of times, these are the books that I may get a few chapters into and cannot force myself to attempt to plow through another sentence and are absolute and total garbage.

It may seem that there is a huge gap between those last two, but there really isn’t.  Most books that I’m not a huge fan of will fall in that second to last group.  Just because I don’t necessarily like or enjoy it doesn’t make it a bad book.

I guess if I had to put a label or name on those levels, they would be Excellent/Favorite, Really Good, Mediocre/Didn’t Like, Garbage.  Though I really hate using the last term for that label as I don’t like to slam anyone, but there really just isn’t a nice way of saying it when a book is actually that bad.

So Far – January 2015

As of today, I’ve already read 19 books.  For the most part, while I have enjoyed what I’ve read, I haven’t just loved it.  I think I’ve gotten to a point where I need to find a new author I love to add to my favorites list, though.

Last year’s new author was Kristen Ashley.  I still have quite a few of hers to read, but as most of them are not available through my library at the moment, I’m having to read those as they come.

Other than those books, I haven’t been absolutely absorbed by anything I’ve read in a while, so I think I need to do some research into some new authors that I have yet to read.  Finding the Goodreads site recently is probably where I’m going to start.

I was lucky enough to get a couple of gift cards over the holidays, so that opens  my options up a bit more, especially with as stingy as I’ve been when it comes to what I’m willing to actually pay for now that I’ve discovered the wealth of options available to me through the library’s digital content.  Unfortunately, that wealth of options also means I’m more willing to read all kinds of stuff whether I actually like it or not just because it is available, so I may have to seriously rethink that as well.

2014 Final Book Count & Looking Forward

I managed to get my database updated with the last few books I read in 2014 and was a bit stunned by my final totals.  I really didn’t think it was possible to read more books than I did last year, but not only did I do that, but I did it by quite a bit.

Last year I hit 465.  This year, I hit a whopping 509.  507 of those were new to me books and only 2 were re-reads.  I really think I had one or two more re-reads in there, but I didn’t get my database set up figured out to keep track of those until way later in the year.

And yes, I have a database that I built to keep track of my books.  I started with a notebook that I kept authors, books and series lists in, but quickly outgrew that when I had so many that it was hard to find what I was looking for.  I then went with a binder that I could keep more organized, but again seriously outgrew that when I wanted a quick and easy way to see totals.  I still keep the binder for a fast look-up when I’m not wanting to get on the computer, but I doubt I will be doing that much longer as I’m about to the point where I’m going to have to split the one binder into two.

The database started as a simple thing that just listed the author, book title, series and order (if there was one) and the year I read it.  It has grown over the last year to add in additional methods of keeping organized as there have been several times I wanted to look up a book but couldn’t for the life of me remember the book or even the author, but I remembered the general subject.  Now, I have a genre/subject designation, re-read options, a notes section and whether or not I own the book.  I now have the ability to actually go in and search for very specific information and not have to spend hours looking up the books that I think are possibilities and reading the summaries to figure it out.  Yes, I’m such a geek when it comes to stuff like that.

Hopefully with the better organized database (I still have a ton of genre entries to fix on the books that were already there), it will be a bit easier when I need to go find the next book in a series, especially as some authors just don’t have clean websites that lists that kind of information.

As for 2015, I’m not setting a reading goal.  I seriously doubt I will want, or even be able, to read more this year than I did in 2014, especially if I’m going to spend any time at all writing about what I read.  I’m sure I will still read way more than is probably healthy while getting very little else done.

Beginnings

A few years ago, I got an e-reader for my birthday.  It didn’t take long to discover the convenience of the instant download when purchasing or that I could easily get books for it through my local library.  Lots and lots of books.  Books that I didn’t have to wait on or go out somewhere and get.  If I wanted to read it, it was right there.  Instantaneously.  That set off an interesting chain of events and a huge new addiction.

I’ve always been a big reader, but had this weird obsession of needing to own what I read.  I didn’t like going to the library to check books out because I hated having to give back a book that I loved.  When you do not have an unlimited book budget and you have a weird quirk about needing to own what you read, it forces you to become really picky.  Because of that, I really didn’t read a lot of books, maybe 5 or 10 a year depending on what my favorite authors at the time were releasing.

When I got my first tablet, it helped me to let go of that little obsession (that whole “you can have it RIGHT NOW” thing kind of began to overrule that little quirk), but also opened the door to me reading all kinds of books.  This lead me to find lots of new authors that I loved.  It also lead me to a whole lot that not only did I not love, but absolutely couldn’t stand.  I learned an awful lot about what I did and did not like in a book or an author.

For the last few years and through over 1200 books (no that is not a typo, I did say “huge addition”), I’ve found myself wanting to get some thoughts out of my head about what I’ve read.  There is only so much my poor hubby can sit and listen to about books, especially when he is so not a reader himself.  I figured this was a much better option than driving him crazy on a regular basis.