Warrior’s Cross

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tempest Rising: Jane True, Book 1

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

 

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

Darkling: Otherworld, Book 3

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Change of Pace: Here’s Some Cake

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

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

 

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

Shards of Hope: Psy-Changeling, Book 14

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

 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Hard as a Rock: Gargoyles, Book 3

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

 

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

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

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

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

All That Shimmers: Raine O’Tierney

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

June 2015 Releases

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

Night Shift: Jill Kismet, Book 1

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plan B: SJD Peterson

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Really, really liked this one.

 

Hotter Than Ever: Out of Uniform, Book 9

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Don’t Tempt Me: Dawn Atkins

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Asa: Marked Men, Book 6

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Changeling: Otherworld, Book 2

ChangelingAuthor: Yasmine Galenorn
Book Name: Changeling
Series: Otherworld
Order: #2
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  We’re the D’Artigo Sisters: Half-human, half-Faerie, we’re savvy–and sexy–operatives for the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. But our mixed-blood heritage short-circuits our talents at all the wrong times. My sister Camille is a wicked-good witch whose magic is as unpredictable as the weather. My sister Menolly is a vampire trying to get the hang of being undead. And me? I’m Delilah. When I’m under stress, I transform into a tabby cat–and a series of violent murders is really getting me bent out of shape…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iron Kin: Half Light City, Book 3

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dirty Magic: Prospero’s War, Book 1

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Spider’s Revenge: Elemental Assassin, Book 5

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Witchling: Otherworld, Book 1

WitchlingAuthor: Yasmine Galenorn
Book Name: Witchling
Series: Otherworld
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  We’re the D’Artigo sisters: Half-human, half-Faerie, we’re savvy—and sexy—operatives for the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. But our mixed-blood heritage short-circuits our talents at all the wrong times. My sister Delilah shapeshifts into a tabby cat whenever she’s stressed. Menolly’s a vampire who’s still trying to get the hang of being undead. And me? I’m Camille—a wicked-good witch. Except my magic’s as unpredictable as the weather, as my enemies are about to find out the hard way…

At the Wayfarer Inn, a portal to Otherworld and the local hangout for humans and beasties alike, a fellow operative, Jocko, has been murdered. Every clue points to Shadow Wing, the soul-munching, badass leader of the Subterranean Realms. He’s made it clear that he aims to raze humankind to the ground, turning both Earth and Otherworld into his private playground. Our assignment: Keep Shadow Wing and his minions from creeping into Earth via the Wayfarer. The demons figure they’re in like Flynn. After all, with only my bumbling sisters and me standing in the way, how can they miss? But we’ve got a secret for them: Faulty wiring or not, nobody kicks ass like the D’Artigo girls…

Review: I went back and forth between whether this was a 3 or a 4 star book, so it really kind of lands right on the line between the two, but I went ahead and dropped into the 4 because I did like it.

At first, I wasn’t sure I’d even finish it because there were things that keep throwing me off of getting into the story.  Probably one of the bigger things was that the conversations between the characters seemed really stilted and unnatural, like the emotions just didn’t translate.  It felt as if they were in there without any context as to what was going on in the scene beyond the words in the conversation.

The other thing that started to bug me was how some of the background and history was presented.  It was kind of like reading a dry essay at a couple of points, just a way to throw it in there and get it out of the way because the reader needed the information.

After the first couple of chapters, though, things got a whole lot better.  Either I finally got into the story or the writing got better, I’m not sure which.  Either way, I did end up enjoying the story and the majority of the characters.  I’m not sure I’m all that thrilled with how some of the romantic scenarios are presented.  There is a level of casualness that strikes me as flighty rather than as a cultural standard that I think the author is trying to convey.

I think that the way the world is presented was done pretty well and has lots of interesting potential.  Many of the characters are the same.  There are a couple that may end up being the kind that a reader loves to hate, but I’m not sure we’ve seen enough of their personality to know if that will be the case or if they are weak characters.

All in all, it ended up being a pretty good book.  I already have the next one on my To Read list.  As there are quite a few books in this series, I’m hoping that they continue to be good at the very least.  Best case is that they get even better and potentially creep up on the rating scale.

 

Sworn to Raise: Courtlight, Book 1

Sworn To RaiseAuthor: Terah Edun
Book Name: Sworn to Raise
Series: Courtlight
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Seventeen-year-old Ciardis has grown up in poverty, a cleaner in a small vale on the outskirts of the empire. But beneath her empire’s seemingly idyllic surface lies a hidden secret. Whispers of an inept crown Prince are growing ever louder—intensified by the five year anniversary of the soulbond initiations.

Amidst scandalous whispers, Ciardis finds herself chosen to train for the Companions Guild. She leaves her home and sets off on a personal journey to become a Court Companion. A position she’d never thought possible for a lowly servant to obtain, she must prove that she has the skills to attract a Patron.

But she must master those skills quickly. If the legends are true, only Ciardis can harness the power to raise a Prince in an Imperial Court sworn to bring him down.

Review:  I don’t usually choose to read young adult books unless they are by an author that I already really enjoy, and often not even then, so picking up this book was unusual for me.  From what I could tell on Amazon, it isn’t actually classified as young adult, but based on the content of the story, it really can’t be considered an adult book.

The world this book was set in seems to be intriguing, but I didn’t feel as though there was really enough detail for me to really get more than just hints here and there of what could have been something incredible, which prevented me from really getting enveloped in that world.  There were even things that, on the surface, seemed a bit contradictory to what the world appeared to be.  In a magical, non-industrial type of world it is confusing to have mentions of things that lead the reader to think of modern or even steampunk types of things.  If those things are possible in that world, then it should be made clear, otherwise it is just confusing and difficult for a reader to imagine the world the characters live in.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a fan of fantasy books that take advantage of the fact that since there is magic in the world that there are utterly simple solutions to complex problems, ie… the miracle, magical fix.  This books has that and to me, that is kind of like cheating.  You don’t really have to be creative to solve a problem, just introduce a character that can just magically make the problem go away without any effort at all.

Lots of bits and information in this book left me confused as to what, not only the world was supposed to be like, but the real end purpose of the storyline.  Since this is a part of a series, the overall plot seemed really thin, like there were lots of incomplete thoughts and ideas running around it in.  I’m not sure if it is because this was geared to a younger audience that it lacked depth (one of the reasons I tend to shy away from the YA books), but it felt like it was missing a lot that could have made it so much richer and more engaging.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad book.  I think that the series may have potential, but because there were enough things that bothered me and kept me from getting immersed in the story, I may not take the time to read more in the series.  If I do, it will be when I just don’t have anything else I want to read on hand.

Tangled Threads: Elemental Assassin, Book 4

Tangled ThreadsAuthor: Jennifer Estep
Book Name: Tangled Threads
Series: Elemental Assassin
Order: #4
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  I’d rather face a dozen lethal assassins any night than deal with something as tricky, convoluted, and fragile as my feelings. But here I am. Gin Blanco, the semi-retired assassin known as the Spider. Hovering outside sexy businessman Owen Grayson’s front door like a nervous teenage girl. One thing I like about Owen: he doesn’t shy away from my past — or my present. And right now I have a bull’s-eye on my forehead. Cold-blooded Fire elemental Mab Monroe has hired one of the smartest assassins in the business to trap me. Elektra LaFleur is skilled and efficient, with deadly electrical elemental magic as potent as my own Ice and Stone powers. Which means there’s a fifty-fifty chance one of us won’t survive this battle. I intend to kill LaFleur — or die trying — because Mab wants the assassin to take out my baby sister, Detective Bria Coolidge, too. The only problem is, Bria has no idea I’m her long-lost sibling … or that I’m the murderer she’s been chasing through Ashland for weeks. And what Bria doesn’t know just might get us both dead …

Review:  Again, I really liked this one, just like the rest in the series.  Tangled Threads is a perfect name for this book as we get to see how intertwined various characters’ lives actually are and that there is more history than the reader has known up to this point.

In this one, Bria, Gin’s sister, finally learns who Gin is and we get to see some of the emotional fallout from that revelation.  I like that it isn’t all rainbows and bunny farts and that there is hurt and doubt to deal with.

I love how solid Owen is and he is becoming one of my favorite characters.  I will say that I wish we’d gotten to see more of him in this book, but I’ll take what I can get.

I think we saw hints in this book with regards to Gin’s magic and what she is now capable of doing with it as to how she might actually survive an encounter with Mab in a later book.  It is total supposition on my part, but I’m anxious to see if my guesses pan out.  I already have the next book on my To Read list so that one will be coming soon.

 

Updated Ratings

After having written several reviews now, I realized that my previous rating system just didn’t quite cut it.  Apparently it is one thing to think, internally, that there aren’t that many slots to categorize books, but another entirely to be able to clearly define those slots when writing about them.  There are way more gray areas than I’d believed.  Because of that, I’ve decided to adjust my ratings to a more standardized form that, hopefully, will make it a bit more clear.

My previous rating scale and reasoning can be found here.  The new one isn’t a whole lot different, but it gives a bit more wiggle room that I felt I needed and didn’t have with some of my previous reviews.  I won’t go back and change any existing reviews, but all new reviews will follow the new system.

 

5+stars

 

A 5 star rating is reserved for my absolute favorites.  I will absolutely be willing to spend the money to buy this book.  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 incredibly disappointed when the book is over because I want more.  The books that receive a 5 star review will be few and far in between because there just aren’t that many books that speak to me on that level.

 

4+stars

 

4 star books are really good; excellent story/characters/world, but just miss the mark of falling into the favorites category.  There is a good chance that I might read it again if I didn’t have something more interesting in my To Read list.  It would definitely be something I’d recommend to others if asked.

 

3+stars

 

3 star books are good, but not great.  I enjoyed it, didn’t feel like it was a waste of time, but more than likely won’t take the time to read it again.  They may have mostly decent writing, but often one major aspect seems weak or not well thought out or fully developed.  I might read other books by the same author or in the series when I’m looking for something to read, but don’t have something more anticipated or interesting on my list.  A lot of the time they are the type that seem like a replay of every other storyline out there.  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.

 

2+stars

 

2 star books are books that I didn’t particularly like. They are usually books that just weren’t for me, now matter how well written they may have been.  Sometimes quality of writing alone will drop a book down to the 2 level, even if the story concept was good.  There are only so many flaws a story can have before a reader loses interest.

 

1+stars

 

1 star ratings are not ratings that I hand out often.  These 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.  I really hate using the last term for these books 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.