Being Sawyer Knight: Souls of the Knight, Book 1

Being Sawyer KnightAuthor: Nicola Haken
Book Name: Being Sawyer Knight
Series: Souls of the Knight
Order: #1
Genre: LGBT/Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars


 

 

Blurb:  As lead singer and guitarist of the internationally renowned Souls of the Knight, Sawyer Knight is living a life most men can only dream of. He’s surrounded by music, fame, wealth, women throwing themselves at his feet. He has everything…

Yet he has nothing.

Life as one of the world’s most sought after rock stars is tiring, oppressive and lonely. He spends every day being who the world wants him to be, who his manager tells him to be, who his mother expects him to be… all the while fighting against who he really is. Truth is, he’s used to it. He’s actually gotten pretty good at pretending… at living the lie.

Until Jake Reed, his ex-best friend and the only person who’s ever made him ‘feel’, waltzes back into his life as the band’s new head of security. Jake wants Sawyer – always has, always will. Now, he just needs to get Sawyer to admit that he feels the same…

“You will be mine, Sawyer Knight. The faster you try to run the quicker you’ll fall to your knees. Then, Sawyer… then you’ll be too weak to resist.”

Review:  When I was trying to figure out what to say about this book, one word just kept poking around in my head.  Bland.  No matter what aspect I was trying to focus on, that word fit.  The story itself, the characters, even the sexy scenes were all just pretty bland.  Which is kind of a surprise considering the story is about a rock star.

Rock stars should never come across as bland, especially a rock star trying to come to terms with his sexuality.  Rock stars are the stereotypical bad boy, or at least they are on the surface, no matter how soft they may be at heart.  Here, while we get something of a history of a guy that was famous for his slutty ways, it is never really apparent in the character that we see.  Sawyer’s character comes across as incredibly insecure and weak.  We never really see anything truly rock star like out of him other than the crazy death threats, fans and the press, all of which is only on the periphery.   Even with the weakness of his character, it isn’t so much so that I couldn’t stand him, just that he wasn’t all that interesting.

Jake isn’t any better.  He is supposed to be some elite level body/security guard, but is so easily distracted by attraction, it takes away what it supposed to be special about him and makes him rather ordinary instead.  When he comes on the scene at the start of the book, his words and actions seem bold and confident, but it comes across off in a way that is kind of unbelievable and almost creepy stalkerish instead.

With the lack of something special from the main characters and a story that also doesn’t have anything that stands out and says “This is what makes this book different and awesome”, it isn’t one that will ever stand out and won’t prompt me to run out and read other books by this author.

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Where Angels Rest: Mann Family, Book 1

Where Angels RestAuthor: Kate Brady
Book Name: Where Angels Rest
Series: Mann Family
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


 

 

Blurb:  A RACE FOR SALVATION

For the past decade, psychologist Erin Sims has been helping victims of violent crimes move on with life . . . but the one person she can’t save is the one who matters most. In only seven days, her brother will be executed for a murder he didn’t commit. Convinced she knows the identity of the real killer, Erin is determined to find the man and bring him to justice.

A COUNTDOWN TO DESTRUCTION

Sheriff Nick Mann moved to rural Ohio hoping to forget the tragedies of his past. When Erin shows up in town, bringing scandal and unwanted media attention with her, Nick knows she’s trouble. No one believes sleepy Hopewell could harbor a serial killer . . . until residents begin to disappear. Now as Nick untangles the dark secrets plaguing his town, he can’t help falling for the beautiful woman with the warm heart and iron will. And, as the days tick by, the truth becomes clear: Erin is hunting a vicious murderer-one whose only escape is to silence her forever.

Review:  I’ll get it out of the way right up front.  This does have that insta-love kind of thing going on here since the time line of this story lasts only about 7 days (14 if you count the time skip at the end, but I’m not being picky here).  That said, because there is so much that goes on in those seven days, I’m willing to overlook that because it does mostly work here.  Still not my favorite thing in a story, but it doesn’t kill this for me.  Because the timeline for this is so extremely short, it pushes the bounds of believability with all that does happen in this story, but again, it is still written in a way that it works.

I liked this.  The characters were interesting and had decent personalities that made them likable.  That isn’t often something I tend to find in romantic suspense lately.  I liked the fact that Erin had a backbone and Nick wasn’t all alpha-male to the point where he treated Erin like some fragile piece of glass.

This was also pretty twisty as to trying to figure out who the bad guy was, at least for a large portion of the book.  It was nice to not really know from page one exactly who and why.  Sure there were hints if you were really paying attention, but I think the author did a pretty good job of making the reader have doubts about those hints for quite a while.

It was definitely good enough to make me want to pick up another book by this author.

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The Skull Throne: Demon Cycle, Book 4

The Skull ThroneAuthor: Peter V. Brett
Book Name: The Skull Throne
Series: Demon Cycle
Order: #4
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Okay
3+stars


 

 

Blurb:  The Skull Throne of Krasia stands empty.

Built from the skulls of fallen generals and demon princes, it is a seat of honor and ancient, powerful magic, keeping the demon corelings at bay. From atop the throne, Ahmann Jardir was meant to conquer the known world, forging its isolated peoples into a unified army to rise up and end the demon war once and for all.

But Arlen Bales, the Warded Man, stood against this course, challenging Jardir to a duel he could not in honor refuse. Rather than risk defeat, Arlen cast them both from a precipice, leaving the world without a savior, and opening a struggle for succession that threatens to tear the Free Cities of Thesa apart.

In the south, Inevera, Jardir’s first wife, must find a way to keep their sons from killing one another and plunging their people into civil war as they strive for glory enough to make a claim on the throne.

In the north, Leesha Paper and Rojer Inn struggle to forge an alliance between the duchies of Angiers and Miln against the Krasians before it is too late.

Caught in the crossfire is the duchy of Lakton—rich and unprotected, ripe for conquest.

All the while, the corelings have been growing stronger, and without Arlen and Jardir there may be none strong enough to stop them. Only Renna Bales may know more about the fate of the missing men, but she, too, has disappeared. . . .

Review:  At first, I wasn’t even going to write a review on this because I was so conflicted I just didn’t know where to even begin or how I really felt about it.  After thinking on it and having it drive me crazy I decided that I apparently needed to just get it out.

From a general standpoint, the concept and basic story is still pretty interesting and is really the only reason why I decided to read this one after the first three frustrated me so much.  They are actually pretty good, but there are also so very many specifics that make me want to toss this across the room and that just out and out piss me off.  There isn’t a rating for “This is good, but it also totally sucks.”

For the first time, we didn’t spend over half the book focused on stuff that has already happened and that we apparently have to suffer through from yet another character’s viewpoint, so that was a plus.  Sadly, Mr. Brett still managed to find ways to bloat this with so much that was rather unnecessary filler.  This could have easily been cut down by about 1/3 at least.  I have no problem with lengthy books.  In fact, those are typically some of my favorites, but only when every bit is important to the overall story.  That isn’t the case here.

Once you wade through all the stuffing, you then have to deal with seeing characters that have been pretty great in the series suddenly get a personality transplant into something rather ridiculous.  We saw it between book one and book two with Leesha.  With this one, it was Rojer.  He had his moments of self pity in previous books, but he seemed to get over those and get a backbone.  In this, he kind of becomes pathetic and only interested in getting yet another wife (don’t even want to get into the cultural overload in this series or how pathetic or horrible every single woman is portrayed).  He isn’t the only one.  By the time this book was finished, I don’t think that there really was a single character that was left even remotely likable, with maybe the exception of Arlen and that is only because he hardly has a second of page time, yet another annoyance.

Not only does the author do a pretty thorough job of destroying the personalities and likability of the majority of his characters in this book, he decides that it is a good idea to go on a giant killing spree and knock off a few pretty major characters as well as a whole slew of other secondary, but still prominent characters.

Between the personality changes and so many characters dying and the fact that not a single character is now left in this story that isn’t a self-serving, greedy, hateful creature, by the time I reached the end of this book I was ready to root for the demons to wipe out the human race because they were all too stupid to live.  While I would like to know how this all ends, I don’t think there is enough left to like after this book to suffer through all the garbage that I just can’t stand enough to read any more books in this series.

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The Oracle’s Queen: Tamir Triad, Book 3

The Oracle's QueenAuthor: Lynn Flewelling
Book Name: The Oracle’s Queen
Series: Tamir Triad
Order: #3
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


 

 

Blurb:  Under the rule of a usurper king, the realm of Skala has suffered famine, plague, and invasion. But now the time for the rightful heir has come, a return to the tradition of warrior queens. And the Lightbearer’s prophecy is to be upheld at last: so long as a daughter of the royal line defends and rules, Skala will never be subjugated.

Now a mystical fire has burned away the male body known as Prince Tobin, revealing Princess Tamír, a girl on the verge of womanhood–and a queen ready to claim her birthright after a life in disguise under the protection of wizards and witches. But will her people, her army–and the friends she was forced to deceive–accept her? Worse, will the crown’s rival heir, friend to Tobin, turn foe to Tamír, igniting civil war in a fierce
battle for Skala?

Review:  It is a little shocking, if you consider how closely I came to not finishing the first book in this series, how much I ended up liking this.  I’ve said before that this just isn’t quite what I typically like to read in a fantasy book/series.  That is still true.  This wouldn’t be one of my first choices, but it would be one that I’d absolutely pick up and read again.

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Hidden Warrior: Tamir Triad, Book 2

Hidden WarriorAuthor: Lynn Flewelling
Book Name: Hidden Warrior
Series: Tamir Triad
Order: #2
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


 

 

Blurb:  A trick of magic, a twist of fate.

As the orphaned nephew of the king, trusted companion to his cousin, and second heir to the throne of Skala, Prince Tobin’s future is clear. But not as clear as the spring in which a hill witch shows him his true face–and his secret destiny….

Now Tobin carries a burden he cannot share with even his closest friend, Ki, his squire. He is to rule–not as he is but as he was born: a woman. Given the shape of a boy by dark magic, Tobin is the last hope of the people of Illior–those who desperately seek a return to the old ways, when Skala was ruled by a line of warrior queens. They still believe that only a woman can lift the war, famine, and pestilence that have run rampant through the land since the king usurped his half sister’s throne. It is these outlaw wizards and witches who protect Tobin–and it is for them that Tobin must accept his fate.

With the unsuspecting yet fiercely loyal Ki at his side, Tobin must turn traitor against the only blood ties he has left. He must lift the masks of Skala’s rulers to show their true colors–before he can reveal the power of the woman within himself.

Review:  Thankfully this lacked much of the morbid factor that the first book had.  That opened up the story more for me to enjoy better.  It still skirts the fantasy genre line of what I like, though.  There are not a ton of elements that allow this to fit into that genre and is a big par of why it skirts that line for me.

Tobin’s whole situation is because of magic (which is mostly just background fact rather than situational substance), but outside of that and the extremely rare appearances of Brother there aren’t many instances of anything truly fantastical until late in the book.  Even then it isn’t really the focus of the story.   The focus is more on the characters themselves, their relationships and fighting rather than anything out of the ordinary.

I did like this, even though it isn’t my typical kind of read and is actually more of a young adult book, so I will be reading the last one in this series to see how it all finishes out in the end.

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The Bone Doll’s Twin: Tamir Triad, Book 1

The Bone Doll's TwinAuthor: Lynn Flewelling
Book Name: The Bone Doll’s Twin
Series: Tamir Triad
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


 

 

Blurb:  Sometimes the price of destiny is higher than anyone imagined….

Dark Magic, Hidden Destiny

For three centuries a divine prophecy and a line of warrior queens protected Skala. But the people grew complacent and Erius, a usurper king, claimed his young half sister’s throne.

Now plague and drought stalk the land, war with Skala’s ancient rival Plenimar drains the country’s lifeblood, and to be born female into the royal line has become a death sentence as the king fights to ensure the succession of his only heir, a son. For King Erius the greatest threat comes from his own line — and from Illior’s faithful, who spread the Oracle’s words to a doubting populace.

As noblewomen young and old perish mysteriously, the king’s nephew — his sister’s only child — grows toward manhood. But unbeknownst to the king or the boy, strange, haunted Tobin is the princess’s daughter, given male form by a dark magic to protect her until she can claim her rightful destiny.

Only Tobin’s noble father, two wizards of Illior, and an outlawed forest witch know the truth. Only they can protect young Tobin from a king’s wrath, a mother’s madness, and the terrifying rage of her brother’s demon spirit, determined to avenge his brutal murder….

Review:  I have to be honest, there were several points throughout this where I came very close to putting this down and not finishing it because, even though this is a fantasy genre book, it is just enough outside the type of fantasy that I typically enjoy.  It is very dark at points, with a horribly morbid, twisted undertone that was just almost too much for me to enjoy.  I was able to enjoy and appreciate the quality of writing despite struggling to stay in the story because of how twisted this got.  It was for that reason that I decided to stick with it until the end and I am glad because this is a good story.  It is still just a bit outside of what I normally like and is the main reason I can’t give this a higher rating.  That and the fact that this left off with a rather nasty cliff hanger, which drives me crazy so I am very much interested in seeing where the next book takes this.

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Primal Possession: Moon Shifters, Book 2

Primal PossessionAuthor: Katie Reus
Book Name: Primal Possession
Series: Moon Shifter
Order: #2
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars


Blurb:  To protect her, he will unleash the beast within…

As his pack’s second-in-command, lupine shifter Liam Armstrong gives orders and takes what he wants—until he meets red-headed, blue-eyed December McIntyre. Liam knows the human beauty is his intended mate the moment he sees her, but December is far too strong-willed to accept his protection.

December, whose brother is the town sheriff, has every reason to mistrust shifters after one killed her youngest sibling. But the forceful and handsome Liam has gotten under her skin in a way she hadn’t thought possible, and the desire she feels for him is almost too much to bear.

When a radical hate group targets all humans known to sympathize with paranormal beings, December is attacked in her bookstore. Reluctantly, she turns to the only one who can help her: Liam. And he is going to take her to places within herself she never knew existed.

Review:  There was nothing about this book that really made it stand out as being all that different than just about any other shifter book on the market.  You have your standard pushy, arrogant, alpha male shifter that isn’t all that smart and the weak, ineffective human female that he is stupidly determined to protect, even from himself.  That isn’t such a horrible concept, but it is just so typical and common and over done.  I didn’t hate this but I also probably won’t remember it a month from now.

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Evil Games: D.I. Kim Stone, Book 2

Evil GamesAuthor: Angela Marsons
Book Name: Evil Games
Series: D. I. Kim Stone
Order: #2
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Good
3+stars


Blurb:  The greater the Evil, the more deadly the game…

When a rapist is found mutilated in a brutal stabbing, Detective Kim Stone and her team are called in to bring a swift resolution. But as further disturbing events come to light, it soon becomes clear that there is someone even more sinister at work.

With the investigation gathering momentum, whilst also trying to expose the secrets of a sick paedophile ring, Kim finds herself in the sights of a lethal individual undertaking their own twisted experiment.

Pitted against a dangerous sociopath who seems to know her every weakness, for Detective Stone, each move she makes could be deadly. As the body count starts to mount, Kim will have to dig deeper than ever before to stop the killing. And this time – it’s personal.

Review:  Not sure if it is just my perception of this one or if the writing and construction of this story was just different from the first book, but this one didn’t have quite the same feel.

The story line was interesting and intriguing and I did really enjoy that.  It was the huge chunks of time we spent with the bad guy that brought this down for me.  I don’t mind that approach in writing, but in this it just seemed to be way too much and not entirely necessary.  There is only so much devious mind exploration and self ego stroking I need to read before I get the idea of the bad guy’s thinking.  I like Kim’s character so much, that I’d much prefer the majority of the time be spent focused on her.

There were also two separate stories going on here and even though both of those cases were Kim’s to work on, the majority of her time was spent focused on Alex.  So much so that the pedophile part to the story kind of gets shoved to the side and all the other members of her team are the ones to work on it, becoming more of an afterthought rather than a bigger part of the overall story.

So while this was still good, I much preferred the first book to this one.

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Ghost Gifts: Laura Spinella

Ghost GiftsAuthor: Laura Spinella
Book Name: Ghost Gifts
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Paranormal/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


Blurb:  All Aubrey Ellis wants is a normal life, one that doesn’t include desperate pleas from the dead. Her remarkable gift may help others rest in peace, but it also made for an unsettling childhood and destroyed her marriage. Finally content as the real estate writer for a local newspaper, Aubrey keeps her extraordinary ability hidden—until she is unexpectedly assigned the story of a decades-old murder.

Rocked by the discovery of a young woman’s skeletal remains, the New England town of Surrey wants answers. Hard-nosed investigative reporter Levi St John is determined to get them. Aubrey has no choice but to get involved, even at the terrifying risk of stirring spirits connected to a dead woman’s demise and piquing her new reporting partner’s suspicions.

As Aubrey and Levi delve further into the mystery, secrets are revealed and passion ignites. It seems that Aubrey’s ghost gifts are poised to deliver everything but a normal life.

Review:  Normally when I get notices from Amazon about the books available for free to Prime members, I either completely ignore the email or glance over the offerings, finding nothing that appeals to me (hence the ignoring the emails), but I took a chance this last time and ran across this one.  It looked interesting enough and, it’s free, so why not?  I honestly had zero expectations one way or another as I’ve never read this author before, so I was pleasantly surprised by the time I finished reading this that I liked it as much as I did.

I don’t think I would call this a typical paranormal romance.  It absolutely had aspects of both the paranormal and the romance, but neither were entirely the focus of the story.  The focus is more on the characters and their lives and how those lives intersect.  I think it is as much because it isn’t the typical that I enjoyed this as much as I did.  It was unexpected, which was a wonderful change of pace for me.

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Fire Touched: Mercy Thompson, Book 9

Fire TouchedAuthor: Patricia Briggs
Book Name: Fire Touched
Series: Mercy Thompson
Order: #5
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars


Blurb:  Tensions between the fae and humans are coming to a head. And when coyote shapeshifter Mercy and her Alpha werewolf mate, Adam, are called upon to stop a rampaging troll, they find themselves with something that could be used to make the fae back down and forestall out-and-out war: a human child stolen long ago by the fae.

Defying the most powerful werewolf in the country, the humans, and the fae, Mercy, Adam, and their pack choose to protect the boy no matter what the cost. But who will protect them from a boy who is fire touched?

Review:  I was reading along, totally engrossed in the story when I checked my place in the book to decide where I needed to stop for the night.  Turns out, I was already damn near to the end.  I was blown away at how quickly I blew through this.  Normally, even if I’m totally embedded in a story, I still have an idea of my place in the book without having to really think about it.  This one just kept me so wrapped up that I had no clue how far I had already read.

Like all the other Mercy Thompson books, this was absolutely awesome.  It is one of the very, very few series, fantasy genre or otherwise, where the relationship dynamics between romantic partners are totally balanced.  No matter what goes on around them, Adam never tries to down play or diminish Mercy’s strengths.  He never tries to get in the way of what she feels she needs to do, even if he isn’t comfortable with what that is.  It goes the same the other way.  It is awesome that we get to see their struggle sometimes in how they can let go of their own concerns or fears to be what the other needs and to accept each other for exactly who they are.

I also love the fact that Mercy isn’t this end all be all power that always comes in and single-handedly saves the day.  Sure, as the main character of the story, she is generally a huge part of it all, but her strengths lie in the fact that she is rarely ever alone in the saving the day role.  It is because she has other powerful people that are willing to stand by her in whatever needs to be faced.  Every one of them have their own flaws and weaknesses, but that doesn’t make any one of them any less than another.

This was another great addition to an already terrific series.

 

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Marked In Flesh: The Others, Book 4

Marked In FleshAuthor: Anne Bishop
Book Name: Marked In Flesh
Series: The Others
Order: #4
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Favorite
5+stars


Blurb:  For centuries, the Others and humans have lived side by side in uneasy peace. But when humankind oversteps its bounds, the Others will have to decide how much humanity they’re willing to tolerate—both within themselves and within their community…

Since the Others allied themselves with the cassandra sangue, the fragile yet powerful human blood prophets who were being exploited by their own kind, the delicate dynamic between humans and Others changed. Some, like Simon Wolfgard, wolf shifter and leader of the Lakeside Courtyard, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn, see the new, closer companionship as beneficial—both personally and practically.

But not everyone is convinced. A group of radical humans is seeking to usurp land through a series of violent attacks on the Others. What they don’t realize is that there are older and more dangerous forces than shifters and vampires protecting the land that belongs to the Others—and those forces are willing to do whatever is necessary to protect what is theirs…

Review:  Yes, yes, YES!  Seriously, you just can’t get much better than this.  I knew it was going to be good because I love Anne Bishop, but even going in knowing that, expecting that, I still got way better than that.

I also knew going in that this was going to be one of those intense books since this was the Humans against the Others collision that had been getting built up in the previous books, so that part wasn’t a surprise.  It isn’t often though that the book I’m reading forces me to get up and move while I’m reading because I just can’t sit still.  I was antsy all the way through this.

My biggest complaint with this is really the same one I always have with these books (not that is any kind of real complaint) and that is that there just isn’t enough.  I want more Meg and Simon and Sam and all the rest of the Lakeside Courtyard cast because they are my absolute favorite parts of these books.  I also want more story because I am never ready to hit that last page, knowing that I’m done until the next release.  Even giving myself the time to reread the first three books before this one came out, I’m still not ready to walk away from some of my absolute favorite characters.

Part of what kept me on edge was feeling like this had to end up being the last book in the series, because where can it go from here after such a huge shift, but just not ever really knowing for sure as there were possibilities either way all the way up until the end.  Thankfully, it doesn’t look like Ms. Bishop is ready to let this wonderful world go just yet.

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Daughter of Blood: Wall of Night, Book 3

Daughter of BloodAuthor: Helen Lowe
Book Name: Daughter of Blood
Series: Wall of Night
Order: #3
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


Blurb:  Malian of Night and Kalan, her trusted ally, are returning to the Wall of Night—but already it may be too late. The Wall is dangerously weakened, the Nine Houses of the Derai fractured by rivalry and hate. And now, the Darkswarm is rising . . .

Among Grayharbor backstreets, an orphan boy falls foul of dark forces. On the Wall, a Daughter of Blood must be married off to the Earl of Night, a pawn in the web of her family’s ambition. On the Field of Blood, Kalan fights for a place in the bride’s honor guard, while Malian dodges deadly pursuers in a hunt against time for the fabled Shield of Heaven. But the Darkswarm is gaining strength, and time is running out—for Malian, for Kalan, and for all of Haarth . . .

Review:  So much better than the last one!  Instead of huge chunks of time seeming to just drag along like we saw in the first two books, this one picks things up and keeps a steady, intense pace throughout.  We also spend way more time with the focus being on our main characters rather than hopping all over between main and secondary characters.

Of the main characters, this one seems to focus most heavily on Kalan so we get to see his character growth first hand.  While we do see bits of Malian, they are small and with the little actual growth we saw of her in the last book and the short page time in this one, it feels like we’ve missed some important changes along the way.  That would have to be one of my only drawbacks to this, the fact that we saw so little of her.

The only other drawback, and it is more of a personal taste thing than anything, is the giant cliff we were left hanging off at the end of the book.  It is understandable that with an ongoing series that builds book to book that you aren’t going to see major story line resolutions and that is fine.  I’m just not a huge fan of a main character doing or experiencing something big only to not know the outcome.  As a major character, you know it can’t be world ending, but still.  Not a fan of the hang.  Sadly, I’m not seeing when the next one in this series is going to get released yet, so I’m going to have to wait a while to get any answers.  Otherwise, I liked this one the best of the series so far.

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The Gathering of the Lost: Wall of Night, Book 2

The Gathering of the LostAuthor: Helen Lowe
Book Name: The Gathering of the Lost
Series: Wall of Night
Order: #2
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


Blurb:  Garrisoned by the Nine Houses of the Derai, the towering mountain range called the Wall of Night is all that separates the people of Haarth from the terrible Darkswarm.

Five years have passed since the Wall was breached and the Keep of Winds nearly overrun. Five years since the Heir of Night, Malian, and her friend and ally Kalan went missing in the wild lands of Jaransor.

Now, in Haarth’s diverse southern realms, events are moving. From the wealthy River city of Ij to the isolated Emerian outpost of Normarch, rumors of dark forces and darker magics are growing. As the great Midsummer tournament at Caer Argent approaches, Haarth will have one opportunity to band together against an enemy in which few believe . . . or be lost forever.

Review:  This was a frustrating read.  Don’t get me wrong.  I still really liked this, but it took way too long to get to that point where I was still interested in what was going on.

It started out just fine and looked like it was going to continue from where the first book left of, but quickly turned into something else entirely.  Firstly with the entire focus being on the heralds from book one rather than on the two other major characters.  I get it.  Most of what went on was important to events later in the plot, but there was a whole lot of extra in there that could have been paired back.

Then there is another character perspective shift, one that made absolutely zero sense.  I had my suspicions as to the general path it was leading to, but there was just so much that, at that point, had no relation to the story so far.  A good half of the first 50% of the book fell into that “didn’t relate” realm that I very nearly called it quits.  Yes, I’m glad I didn’t as there was a really nice twist that helped, but it was just almost too much and it felt like a lot of the momentum that was built up in the first book got lost in this one during that apparently unrelated time.  By the time you actually got to the point where the familiar characters emerged and became a part of the story again and things got interesting with many of the magical aspects from the first book, it stalls out a bit again with the heavy emphasis on the tournaments.

In the end, we actually see very little actual page time or character growth from the two expected to be the focus of this series, Kalan and Malian.  What we do see is only just alluded to because there is a 5 year gap in the timeline of their story (which still makes them only 17 and 19, so still a YA book) so we don’t get to see what little growth they did have and how it came about.  That and the purpose behind the title of this book doesn’t even come into play until the very last 10% or so.  I do absolutely enjoy this series.  It is definitely unpredictable and doesn’t follow any set formula for a book in this genre.  There is just a lot of extra that tends to drag at the parts that are so good that it doesn’t break into the truly great class.

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The Heir of Night: Wall of Night, Book 1

The Heir of NightAuthor: Helen Lowe
Book Name: The Heir of Night
Series: Wall of Night
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


Blurb:  

If Night falls, all fall . . .

In the far north of the world of Haarth lies the bitter mountain range known as the Wall of Night. Garrisoned by the Nine Houses of the Derai, the Wall is the final bastion between the peoples of Haarth and the Swarm of Dark–which the Derai have been fighting across worlds and time.

Malian, Heir to the House of Night, knows the history of her people: the unending war with the Darkswarm; the legendary heroes, blazing with long-lost power; the internal strife that has fractured the Derai’s former strength. But now the Darkswarm is rising again, and Malian’s destiny as Heir of Night is bound inextricably to both ancient legend and any future the Derai–or Haarth–may have.

 

Review:  As with many new fantasy series (at least new to me), this one left me cautiously optimistic.  The world is wonderfully crafted and there is a full cast of interesting characters.  I was definitely pulled deeply into the story.

I was a bit surprised at the ages of a couple of the main characters because this wasn’t noted as being a young adult book.  Since Malian is 12 and Kalan is 14, this kinda sorta should have that label.  They aren’t the only big characters and all the rest appear to be adults, but Malian and Kalan are mostly the focus of this story.  I can say that many of the things I don’t like about YA books are not present here.  If anything, I had a difficult time remembering that those two were actually that young as they appear much more mature than their stated ages, so for me that was actually a plus.

I already have the next book checked out and ready to go, so I’m excited to see if book 2 holds up to what book 1 has built up so far.

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Hell & High Water: THIRDS, Book 1

Hell & High WaterAuthor: Charlie Cochet
Book Name: Hell & High Water
Series: THIRDS
Order: #1
Genre: SciFi/Fantasy/LGBT
Rating:  Good
3+stars


Blurb:  When homicide detective Dexter J. Daley’s testimony helps send his partner away for murder, the consequences—and the media frenzy—aren’t far behind. He soon finds himself sans boyfriend, sans friends, and, after an unpleasant encounter in a parking garage after the trial, he’s lucky he doesn’t find himself sans teeth. Dex fears he’ll get transferred from the Human Police Force’s Sixth Precinct, or worse, get dismissed. Instead, his adoptive father—a sergeant at the Therian-Human Intelligence Recon Defense Squadron otherwise known as the THIRDS—pulls a few strings, and Dex gets recruited as a Defense Agent.

Dex is determined to get his life back on track and eager to get started in his new job. But his first meeting with Team Leader Sloane Brodie, who also happens to be his new jaguar Therian partner, turns disastrous. When the team is called to investigate the murders of three HumaniTherian activists, it soon becomes clear to Dex that getting his partner and the rest of the tightknit team to accept him will be a lot harder than catching the killer—and every bit as dangerous.

Review:  This is one of those books that has a lot going for it that is really pretty good, but has a handful of things that just rubbed me wrong and kind of threw it off.

Overall, the story line is pretty good and kept things interesting, though I picked up the bad guy and a lot of details right off the bat, so it fell more into the predictable range after that.  Where things got weird and kept yanking me out of the story is with the characters.  Don’t get me wrong, I really kind of liked them, but they just didn’t quite work for me.

Both of the main guys, Dex and Sloane, are these supposed tough guy cops with lots of experience, Sloane even being more badass as he is a shifter.  Yet… their general personalities and several situations contradict those facts.  Dex is constantly getting his ass handed to him, whether by several people at a time or sparring with Sloane.  This happens several times throughout the book, even towards the end when it is up against only one guy.  Compound that with some of Dex’s personality and antics that gets thrown around in what is supposed to make him funny, but it makes him seem kind of weak and cowardly (the funny usually worked, but in a really weird way).  Sloane didn’t bug me quite as much as Dex, but we hardly saw any of what should have been his potential strengths.

There are certain job types or rolls that really do take a certain kind of personality to fit those rolls.  That may seem a bit stereotypical, it is still something of an expectation people have.  In what is darn near a SWAT like team or even a kind of military group, the personalities of both Dex and Sloane just don’t quite always work.  Dex especially as there are times that he just really kind of comes across as the nerdy guy everyone beat up on rather than as a tough cop.  Sloane’s was more in how his thoughts and emotions were presented along with his more “off duty” personality.  Enough that it was hard for me to stay immersed in the story and that ended up overshadowing what could have been a really good story.

Throw into that mix a story that doesn’t really have any clean resolutions by the end of the book and this was a mostly good, but frustrating read.

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Criminal: Will Trent, Book 7

UnseenAuthor: Karin Slaughter
Book Name: Unseen
Series: Will Trent
Order: #7
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Good
3+stars


Blurb:  Will Trent is a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent whose latest case has him posing as Bill Black, a scary ex-con who rides a motorcycle around Macon, Georgia, and trails an air of violence wherever he goes. The cover has worked and he has caught the eye of a wiry little drug dealer who thinks he might be a useful ally. But undercover and cut off from the support of the woman he loves, Sara Linton, Will finds his demons catching up with him.

Although she has no idea where Will has gone, or why, Sara herself has come to Macon because of a cop shooting: Her stepson, Jared, has been gunned down in his own home. Sara holds Lena, Jared’s wife, responsible: Lena, a detective, has been a magnet for trouble all her life, and Jared’s shooting is not the first time someone Sara loved got caught in the crossfire. Furious, Sara finds herself involved in the same case that Will is working without even knowing it, and soon danger is swirling around both of them.

Review:  I think I kind of hit a wall with this one.  While the story itself is good, there is just only so much of the seriously dark, ugly and nearly unforgiving hopelessness that these stories tend to exude that I can stomach.  The cops are almost always bad.  Even the supposed good guys in the stories are really kind of nasty and horrible to each other.  The bad guys are so horrifically bad and on all kinds of levels that it can’t help but poison everyone around them.

I don’t mind reading the darker stuff.  I’ve found a few that I’ve really enjoyed, but that was because they were pretty well balanced by the time I reached the end with a level of positive that made the darker more interesting.  These books, and this addition to the series is no exception, are just so excessively depressing with little to no relief that there just isn’t a whole lot to recommend when you can’t pull yourself out of the dark hole these tend to drop you in.

A book kind of loses something for me when I feel relieved that I finally reached the end.  I don’t enjoy a story that doesn’t let up on all the negativity so I think I might need to be done with this author for a while.

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Quietly Reading

While I have still been reading, I’ve just kind of been off to the side, doing it quietly.  Partly because there have been quite a lot of things going on that have kept me too busy and partly because I just haven’t had much to say about what I’ve read recently, no matter if it was really good or not so good.  I have still been updating my reading list on Goodreads with ratings, but I haven’t written any reviews recently.

I’m in kind of a reading funk lately.  It isn’t that I haven’t read anything good, but I want to find something new that really grabs me and I haven’t found that yet.  I have my handful of very favorite authors that I anxiously await anything new they put out because I know, without a doubt, that I’m going to love it.  Sadly, that is only a very small handful of authors that fall into that category.  I’d made it something of a goal last year to find a new one, but it didn’t happen, which I thought was really surprising as I figured it couldn’t be too hard with as much as I like to read.

Kind of like having a food craving, but not having the right food around to satisfy it, I’ve been reading all kinds of things to try and figure out what I feel I’m missing, even doing a bit of rereading a few books here and there.  There have been a few times I thought I’d touched on it, but it never really quite hit the mark.  Not sure if it is the sheer volume of books I read and I’m just getting bored or if it is that I genuinely want something I haven’t run across yet, but most of my reading hasn’t been all that satisfying lately, even if I have read some good ones.

I’ve even been shuffling books to the bottom of my reading list, or having to recheck them out later because I didn’t get to them in time, because even though I do want to read them, I’m just not in the mood at the moment for most of what is on my list.  Not a fan of the current slump, but it isn’t like it will be much of hardship getting over it, because… books, reading… yeah, not like you’ll have to twist my arm or anything.

Elemental Arcane: The Eldritch Files, Book 1

Elemental ArcaneAuthor: Phaedra Weldon
Book Name: Elemental Arcane
Series: The Eldritch Files
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


Blurb:  Samantha Hawthorne lives a rather curious life in New Orleans running a magic and herb shop. As an Elemental Witch in the Big Easy and owner of a wolf Familiar as well as the head of a former Faerie Queen, curious is as quiet as it gets for Sam.

Until children start turning into blood-thirsty Changelings and attack their parents.

When one of these children shows up in front of her shop, Sam and her friends are determined to find out where they’re coming from and where the exchanged children are being kept and put a stop to it. But will they succeed when they find themselves pitted against ninja ghouls, one of the oldest and darkest enemies of the mortal world, and a secret from Sam’s childhood that could unravel her magic?

Review:  Since this is a new author for me, I really wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.  Though on the shorter side, I did end up liking this quite a bit.

There were enough twists and turns in the plot to keep it interesting and is apparently not one of those stories where the main character is this can do not wrong, perfect, mega-magic user that just happens to be able to easily solve everything with the awesomeness of her powers.  Instead, she has lots of potential balanced out by normal, human imperfections.  So far I’m liking many of the supporting cast of characters as well.

I’m left feeling cautiously optimistic about this author.  Sadly, these aren’t carried at my local library, so I may only be able to grab additional books occasionally between my “must have” purchase budget.

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Dragon Storm: Black Dragons, Book 2

Dragon StormAuthor: Katie MacAlister
Book Name: Dragon Storm
Series: Black Dragons
Order: #2
Genre: Romance/Fantasy
Rating:  Good
3+stars


Blurb:  TURN ON THE CHARM
According to some (including himself), Constantine is one of the greatest heroes of dragonkin who ever lived. Too bad he’s now lonelier than ever and his biggest adventure involves a blow-up sheep-until he has an opportunity to save his kind once again. All Constantine has to do is break into a demon’s dungeon, steal an ancient artifact, and reverse a deadly curse. The plan certainly does not involve rescuing a woman . . .
TURN UP THE HEAT
Bee isn’t sure whether to be infuriated or relieved when Constantine pops up in her prison. The broody, brawny shifter lights her fire in a way no one ever has before, yet how far can she really trust him? Their chemistry may be off the charts, but when push comes to shove, Constantine will have to make a crucial choice: to save the dragons or the woman he’s grown to love with fierce intensity.

Review:  Not sure if I just wasn’t much in the mood for this one, if it was that it just wasn’t  as interesting, but I just didn’t like this one as much as I have many of the other books in this world.  Constantine’s demeanor is supposed to be funny, but it just kind of felt more pompous and it all sort of fell flat for me.  Bee’s personality didn’t grab me either.

The story wasn’t bad, I just didn’t really get as into it as I had hoped, so I think I may have to go with mood more than anything.

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Sebring: Unfinished Hero, Book 5

SebringAuthor: Kristen Ashley
Book Name: Sebring
Series: Unfinished Hero
Order: #5
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


Blurb:  Nick Sebring has issues. Born feeling like an outsider in his own family, growing up under the shadow of a brother who could do anything, Nick isn’t that great of a guy. But when this culminates with Nick lashing out to hurt his brother through the woman he loves, Nick turns inward and makes some decisions about the man he intends to be.

And as he does this, he falls in love and truly learns the man that he’s grown to be.

When his love is murdered right before Nick’s eyes, Nick knows he has to avenge her. He knows how he’s going to avenge her. And he has no qualms using Olivia Shade to exact that vengeance.

Olivia Shade has grown up on the outside of her family too. Her problem is that they don’t want her outside. They want her all the way in, right under their thumbs. She pays the price for seeking escape and learns her lesson—she’ll never see a dawn where she wakes up free.

Then she meets Nick Sebring, and even as she fights it, the hope that died years ago starts to blossom. She can find love. She can have a man of her own. She can be happy. She can be free.

Olivia hopes while Nick schemes.

However, as Nick peels back the layers of all that is Olivia Shade, he finds something surprising. He understands its fragility. He falls in love with its beauty. He seeks to protect it.

But he forgets to protect his Livvie from one thing: Nick Sebring.

Review:  This was definitely one of KA’s sweeter books, which seems odd as this entire series falls on the darker side as far as her characters go.  I enjoyed it mostly because it was a sweeter romance than many of the other KA books I’ve read recently.

Livvie isn’t one of my favorite characters, but she isn’t a cotton candy character that melts in light drizzle.  She has something of a quiet strength, but she isn’t bold and does tend towards doormat status, at least within her family.

I really enjoyed Nick’s character in that he isn’t over the top bossy and the softer side he does have is pretty awesome.  He still had his quirks, but nothing that was overt enough to take away from the rest.

It was nice seeing the other characters from this series pop up, and I was overjoyed with the fact that they were just sort of pop up notes rather than whole additions that weren’t necessary.  There was just enough page time with most of them to get that taste, but we weren’t forced to overindulge in them as this was Nick and Livvie’s story, not theirs.  It was a nice, clean finish to this series.

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Sing the Four Quarters: Quarters, Book 1

Sing the Four QuartersAuthor: Tanya Huff
Book Name: Sing the Four Quarters
Series: Quarters
Order: 1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Okay
3+stars


Blurb:  The Bards of Shkoder hold the country together. They, and the elemental spirits they Sing – earth, air, fire, and water – bring the news of the sea to the mountains, news of the mountains to the plains. They give their people, from peasant to king, a song in common.

Annice is a rare talent, able to Sing all four quarters, but her brother, the newly enthroned King Theron, sees her request to study at the Bardic Hall as a betrayal. To his surprise, Annice accepts his conditions, renouncing her royal blood and swearing to remain childless so as not to jeopardize the line of succession. She walks away from political responsibilities, royal privilege and her family.

Ten years later, Annice has become the Princess Bard and her real life is about to become the exact opposite of the overwrought ballad her fellow students at the Bardic Hall wrote about her. Now, she’s on the run from the Royal Guards with the Duc of Ohrid, the father of her unborn child, both of them guilty of treason – one of them unjustly accused. To save the Duc’s life, they’ll have to cross the country, manage to keep from strangling each other, and defeat an enemy too damaged for even a Bard’s song to reach.

Review:  Not really sure how I felt about this one.  It was an okay story, but I had a really hard time getting pulled into it or having any kind of an emotional connection with the characters.  Not that they were bad or anything, but there was just so much that seemed to be missing that I never really got to understand them or even the world this was set in.

There were lots of concepts and ideas that were tossed around that you could only ever make some very general assumptions about because they were never explained.  I think a huge portion of this was based on the world’s belief system, but with little to no details provided to help the reader understand what that was made it incredibly difficult to grasp a character’s behavior or how those beliefs either enhanced or limited their abilities, if it did at all.

I guess it just felt like there were a lot of important details missing or that they were never fully fleshed out.

 

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