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.

The Raven: The Florentine Series, Book 1

The RavenAuthor: Sylvain Reynard
Book Name: The Raven
Series: The Florentine Series
Order: #1
Rating: Mediocre/Didn’t Like
Genre: Fantasy/Romance

Blurb: Raven Wood spends her days at Florence’s Uffizi gallery restoring Renaissance art. But an innocent walk home after an evening with friends changes her life forever. When she intervenes in the senseless beating of a homeless man, his attackers turn on her, dragging her into an alley. Raven is only semiconscious when their assault is interrupted by a cacophony of growls followed by her attackers’ screams. Mercifully, she blacks out, but not before catching a glimpse of a shadowy figure who whispers to her . . .

Cassita vulneratus.

When Raven awakes, she is inexplicably changed. Upon returning to the Uffizi, no one recognizes her. More disturbingly, she discovers that she’s been absent an entire week. With no recollection of her disappearance, Raven learns that her absence coincides with one of the largest robberies in Uffizi history—the theft of a set of priceless Botticelli illustrations. When the police identify her as their prime suspect, Raven is desperate to clear her name. She seeks out one of Florence’s wealthiest and most elusive men in an attempt to uncover the truth. Their encounter leads Raven to a dark underworld whose inhabitants kill to keep their secrets . . .

Review:  So, I wasn’t jazzed about this book.  I’m not sure there is any one big reason, but just several smaller ones that added up to me just not really enjoying it.

One of the first things that hit my annoyance trigger was the style of writing.  It kind of felt pretentious and uptight.  Kind of like being in a room with a bunch of art critics that only want to discuss the deeper emotional implications of the art and what it is supposed to represent while you just want to look at what is there and appreciate it for what it is.  I’m not sure I can really explain my reaction any better than that.

Part of the feeling of pretension came from the sex scenes.  There are three ways to successfully handle the steamy side of writing as far as I’m concerned.  One, you can gloss over it completely and not actually give any details.  Another is to “Soft Romance” it by using euphemisms and creative terms.  The last is to just get real with it and say it like it is.  Please do not write a clinical sex scene.  I do not want to feel like I’m in the doctor’s office.  This book fell into the clinical for the few scenes it had and it was difficult for me to find any kind of a real emotional connection because of that.

I came really close to putting the book down after a few chapters, but pushed on hoping what I initially thought of as a very dry read would get better.  I was over half way through before I realized that I was probably wasting my time.  I couldn’t get invested in the characters or what they were going through because I didn’t find them either all that interesting or believable.

I did finish and was frustrated when I was left hanging at the end.  Not a single thing in the entire book was resolved.  What action or drama occurred was very thin and didn’t really occur until you were well into the book, then it was left with the giant question of whether that was the end of things or if there was more to it because it was just not clear.

I won’t say that this was a junk book because it wasn’t.  I’m sure that lots of people would really enjoy it and get way more out of it than I did.  It just didn’t work for me on so many levels and wasn’t the kind of book that I enjoy.  More than likely, I won’t take the time to read another book by this author for that reason.

 

Vengeance of the Demon: Kara Gillian, Book 7

Vengeance of the DemonAuthor: Diana Rowland
Book Name: Vengeance of the Demon
Series: Kara Gillian
Order: #7
Rating: Really Good
Genre: Fantasy

Blurb:  Demon summoner Kara Gillian is on the wrong side of the law, and there’s evidence to prove it. Too bad the courts don’t accept “fighting demonic forces” as justification for murder and mayhem.

Yet Kara has problems that go way beyond her legal woes. When the enemy demonic lords spur their human accomplices into high gear, master summoner Katashi aggressively pursues their goal to establish a permanent gate between Earth and the demon realm. To hell with the consequences for humanity.

The line between ally and enemy blurs as Kara gathers the remnants of her posse to prevent a devastating demonic incursion, but a shattered trust may cost them the war and put Kara behind bars. With treachery rife, and her loved ones in danger, Kara must call upon the essence of who she truly is in order to rally back from a crushing loss.

And if she can’t, the world is going straight to hell.

Review:  The Kara Gillian series is one that I probably wouldn’t normally enjoy because it is one of those that absolutely drags huge amounts of the story across the series, but the character and story are unique enough that I can overlook that enough to still enjoy them.

Not sure I liked this one quite as much as the other books in this series, though.  This one seems to come really close to falling into a type of book/story that I’m just not fond of, which is the “can never get a break, always something bad happening without any relief” types of books.  This book just skirts that edge, more so than I’ve seen in the other Kara Gillian books.

There seems to be a whole lot more left unresolved and hanging by the end of this book than in past books.  We have no clue how the legal issues are going to get cleared.  The loss of several support characters is left hanging.  Readers are left wondering who’s side other characters are on now.  Kara’s own status with regards to her abilities are also left strongly in the “now how are you going to deal with that” category.  I’m not sure, at the end, that there was actually anything that got resolved in this book.

I definitely still liked the book, but it is going to be hanging on the edge for the next book.  I’m not a fan of a never ending, constantly changing plot so I’m holding out hope that this isn’t going to become that.

 

Oracle: The House War, Book 6

Oracle

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Michelle West (Sagara)
Book Name: Oracle
Series: The House War
Order: #6 (Triple Series Order #14)
Rating: Excellent/Favorite
Genre: Fantasy

Blurb:  Beneath the streets of Aver­alaan lie the three Princes of the firstborn, doomed to sleep until the end of days. When gods walked the world, they feared the Sleepers. They fear them even now. If the Sleepers wake, the city will not survive — and the Sleepers are waking.

House Terafin has already felt the conse­quences of their stirring.

To save the city — and the House over which she rules — Jewel Markess ATerafin must go to face the Oracle. She leaves a House that is still divided, and a city in which demons, in human guise, have begun to move. At no time in Terafin’s history has it faced the dangers it now faces, and it will face them bereft of its leader.

Jewel has always seen unpre­dictable glimpses of the future — images of death and destruction which she cannot control and cannot always under­stand. To master her birthright, she chooses to walk the path of the Oracle. In her hands, she carries the only hope of the Winter Queen.

But the path she must travel was old when the gods ceased to walk the world. Ancient crea­tures stalk winter skies at the behest of the demons who mean to ensure that she will never reach the Oracle’s side.

Secrets, long hidden from all but the firstborn, will finally be brought to light. Choices will be made, and paths chosen, from which there will be no return.

Review: For probably the first time in this series, we get a much closer look at one of the other members of Jay’s den, Jester.  While he hasn’t taken on a level of importance as some of the others, like Finch or Teller, we see that he does have a roll to play that hints at becoming more important than just a background character.

We have seen it in other books, but in this book, the gathering of additional support for the entire group, not just Jay, becomes more prominent and solidified.  Both in firming up support from past characters as well as introducing some new ones.  The specific enemies are still left unclear as new potentials have appeared.

While we got to see quite a bit of growth for some of the den members, Finch in particular, and learned a bit more about Meralonne and Hectore of Araven’s servant Andrei, there wasn’t as much for some of the other characters that I was either expecting or hoping for in this book.  I really thought we’d see something more from Angel and learn a bit more about his specific role in relation to Jay.  We did get a some, but I kind of thought there would be more.  Avandar fell into the background a bit more in this one as well.  Since I’m fascinated with his character, I always want more from him.

As is often the case with any book from this author, I wasn’t ready to be finished by the time I got to the end, but for a few more than the usual reasons this time.  It didn’t have quite as clean of an ending as her books usually do, and that left me hanging in a way that I wasn’t thrilled with.  I don’t want to give it away, but I honestly expected something totally different, or maybe more dramatic.  None of that really takes away from how amazing the book overall is because I know that all of the loose ends that have been left are leading up to what should be the last book, so it works.

I will say that I couldn’t help but be brought to tears in this one.  It has been a while since a book tore at me that hard, but this one…  yeah, it got to me.  It has me wondering if I should by stock in tissues in time for the final book of the series is released.

The House War, The Sacred Hunt and The Sun Sword Series Notes

Author: Michelle West
Series: The House War, The Sacred Hunt, and The Sun Sword

I have FINALLY gotten around to finishing all the re-reading I wanted to get in before I started on the latest book in this series.  I thought that before I actually wrote up the review for it, I needed to post a little about the series itself, which is actually listed as three separate series, though I’m not sure why as they are all pretty intimately connected.

The order that these books need to be read in also does not follow from series to series.  They overlap.  If you are not familiar with them, I recommend reading them in the order listed below:
The Hidden City – The House War
City of Night – The House War
Hunter’s Oath – The Sacred Hunt
Hunter’s Death – The Sacred Hunt*
House Name – The House War*
The Broken Crown – The Sun Sword
The Uncrowned King – The Sun Sword
The Shining Court – The Sun Sword
Sea of Sorrows – The Sun Sword
The Riven Shield – The Sun Sword
The Sun Sword – The Sun Sword
Skirmish – The House War
Battle – The House War
Oracle – The House War

The first note to the series that must be made is that Hunter’s Death and House Name are pretty much the same book.  I will admit that these were not the books that I took the time to re-read on this go round as I’ve already read the first several books in the series several times and felt that with the short time I had, I was okay to skip those.  Because of that I cannot say definitively, at this time, that they are exactly the same books (hey, it has been a while).  They are substantially enough the same that you could easily get away with only reading one.  The events in the last couple of books in the Sun Sword series happen at the same time as Skirmish and Battle from the House War Series.

These books are not the kinds of books that you can pick up one of the later books and not be totally lost.  You absolutely have to read them in order to be able to follow the story.  The entire storyline is incredibly intense and packed full of various different characters and places and political and personal interactions.  While each individual series has central characters, which are numerous, many of those characters are critical across the entire story line of all three series.  You could probably read the Sacred Hunt Series or the Sun Sword series alone, but if you want to read the House War series, you need to read them all in order to not miss out on something.

If you stop and think of what kind of mind can create the level of writing that is in these books, you just might break your brain.  Incredibly detailed world, phenomenally developed characters, intricately wrought and complex situations, relationships and political intrigues.  It is just so much to take in and absorb.  I actually described it to my husband as though you were reading about all of the residents in a small town, with all the details and personalities of each of those people and their interactions and relationships, except in a completely fantastical world filled with humans, magic, immortals, gods, and demons.  While this is a pretty dumbed down description, it is still pretty accurate.

In a way it is funny, because I’m not sure I would like a series like this written by any other author.  I don’t typically like reading books that are quite that intricately detailed and full while having to keep so close track of what is going on in a story, nor am I a huge fan of books that are that wed to the entire series that I would feel at a complete loss if I started in the middle somewhere.  In the case of these books, though, it is done so expertly that I cannot help but love every bit of it.  It is absolutely one of those “suck me in and devour me” kinds of series.

 

Venom: Elemental Assassin, Book 3

VenomAuthor: Jennifer Estep
Book Name: Web of Lies
Series: Elemental Assassin
Order: #3
Rating: Really Good
Genre: Fantasy/Romance

Blurb:  It’s hard to be a badass assas­sin when a giant is beat­ing the crap out of you. Luck­ily, I never let pride get in the way of my work. My cur­rent mis­sion is per­sonal: anni­hi­late Mab Mon­roe, the Fire ele­men­tal who mur­dered my fam­ily. Which means pro­tect­ing my iden­tity, even if I have to con­ceal my pow­er­ful Stone and Ice magic when I need it most.

To the pub­lic, I’m Gin Blanco, owner of Ashland’s best bar­be­cue joint. To my friends, I’m the Spi­der, retired assas­sin. I still do favors on the side. Like rid­ding a vam­pire friend of her over­sized stalker — Mab’s right-hand goon who almost got me dead with his mas­sive fists.

At least irre­sistible Owen Grayson is on my side. The man knows too much about me, but I’ll take my chances. Then there’s Detec­tive Bria Coolidge, one of Ashland’s finest. Until recently, I thought my baby sis­ter was dead. She prob­a­bly thinks the same about me. Lit­tle does she know, I’m a cold-blooded killer … who is about to save her life.

Review:  This is another killer addition to the Elemental Assassin series.  I feel like all I can do is to keep repeating myself from the reviews of the previous books in this series.  The characters are awesome.  How they interact with each other is awesome.  Jennifer Estep is amazing about finding a perfect balance when it comes to creating these characters.  They are so completely believable you can’t help but get sucked into their lives.

We get to meet Bria, Gin’s sister in this book.  We also get to learn a bit more about her past and some of the story behind her family’s murder.  I’m really enjoying how all of this is getting pieced out to the reader.  It isn’t so little that you are frustrated by the lack of progress on that end, but it isn’t so much that all the suspense and mystery is suddenly gone.

Getting to see more of Owen and his story has got to be one of my favorite things (among many) in this book.  I am really liking his character and who he is.  I’m hoping that it stays that way in other books.  I get really frustrated in a series when the love interest changes every couple of books.  I don’t hate it (usually), but It kind of takes something away for me I think.  I’m anxious to see how this relationship plays out in future books.

I’ve already got the next one in the series on hold and it will most likely end up on the top of my To Read list as soon as it is available.

Coming in May and Update

Current reading stats
New: 138
Re-reads: 28

How I choose the next book to read often depends on how many books are on my To Read list.  The fewer I have available, the more time I have before they are due back (if they are checked out of the library) and I will often just pick the one I’m most looking forward to.  The more I have on that list, with some getting close to their due date for return, I will pick up the one with the closest due date.

After finishing a book the other day, I went to look at all the books I had checked out and on my To Read list to decide which one I wanted to start next. I had quite a few on that list and was really torn because the bottom couple just weren’t books I was all that excited about starting because I wasn’t thrilled by the previous book in the series.  I ended up just going with one that I was way more excited about, thinking I had a bit more time to get to the others before I had to return them.

After doing this a few times and looking at my Coming Soon list of books that are getting released in the next month, I realized that Michelle Sagara’s next House War book, Oracle,  was due out on May 5th.  It has been a bit since the last release in this series and I thought it might be a good idea to do some re-reading.  IF I could get my To Read list under control enough that I’d be able to have time to do that.

Unfortunately, I had a ton of books on that list and a whole crapton on my hold list that would be coming available at random times along the way.  I finally decided that if I kept skipping over those bottom list books, then maybe I should just not bother with them all right now.  I ended up returning a bunch of books to the library so I could focus on the ones I was actually really excited about.  If I get really bored, then I’ll consider checking them out again at some point in the future.  Then again, I may not.  Seems I’m having difficulty finding the time to read all the ones I’d really like to at the moment, so why waste that time with the ones I’m just not all that jazzed about?

Besides, a Michelle Sagara book will ALWAYS take precedence over any other book.  Well, unless it is an Anne Bishop book.  I honestly don’t have a clue what I’d do if those two authors ever released a book at the same time.  Fingers crossed that I’m never quite that lucky.

Even after pairing it down, I still seem to have too many on that list.  If I truly want to have the time to re-read all the connected books from the House War series (that is an awful lot of reading because it connects with both the Sacred Hunt books and the Sun Sword series), I’m going to have to pair it down quite a bit more.  I may have to settle for re-reading just the House War books for now.

No matter what I choose, there is going to be a lot of reading in my future.  As if that is any different than any other day.  😉

 

Key Essentials to a Great Romance Novel

A great romance novel is something that tugs at the heartstrings, yanks on the readers emotions and draws them into the story.  It is an escape and, in some cases, a hope that honestly great romances do happen.  There are several things that a story needs to have to become a truly great romance novel, essentials that really help connect a reader to the story emotionally.  Those essentials are some of the primary aspects that make a real romantic relationship work.

Honesty
Yes, authors often use secrets and the withholding of information as a way to create tension and drama.  As long as you give a strong reason why that honesty isn’t happening, then it can work.  It can also work if it is one of the struggles the characters are dealing with and trying to do better at.  If it is not present just because, as a whim or because the character is ignorant, oblivious or just completely insecure, you had better do a really good job writing a story that makes those issues work or the integrity of your characters can fall apart and end up seeming stupid or week.

Trust
Trust ties in closely with honesty.  If your characters can’t be honest with each other, then the trust is going to be really hard to work with.  Absolutely, trust should be earned.  When you don’t take the time to build and develop that in the relationship, then it doesn’t come across as believable.  The characters are either blindly trusting, which can make them seem painfully naive, or they just never trust at all.  When you have a character that is so completely unwilling to build that trust or is unbending in their distrust of their romantic partner, no matter the actions or honesty the other has displayed, then that makes your character seem harsh, cold, uncaring or even something of fool.

Equality/Balance/Compromise
What is good for the goose is good for the gander.  All parties in the romantic relationship should have the same rights and expectations of behavior, otherwise there is a huge double standard allowed and things can get really ugly.  If one part of the romantic couple gets upset about the behavior of the other, don’t have that one turn around and do the exact same thing and not allow the same kind of fallout to be addressed or dealt with.  All parties should have to compromise and develop or the relationship isn’t balanced and won’t appear very realistic.  You cannot have only one person expected to or be making all the changes or taking the difficult steps or having to deal with the difficult decisions.  That just isn’t that realistic.  Even though we are buying into the fantasy of the story, it still needs to feel possible.

Growth/Change
Any good story is going to have some conflict, even in a really lighthearted story.  You cannot expect it to all be rainbows and rose petals and utterly, completely perfect.  On the other hand, the flawed characters, have to have growth as well.  In their situations, their personalities, even how they view the world around them or their belief in how relationships should work.  If you get to the end of the book and the characters are still the same as they started, then part of the point of the story got missed.  That goes for all characters, that whole equality/balance/compromise thing.

If the issues and conflicts within the relationship are the exact same ones throughout the entire book with zero progress toward improvement or change, the reader is going to get frustrated really quickly.  In a real relationship, if one or another of those in that relationship continue to keep making the same mistakes over and over, or continue to hurt their partner over and over again, eventually that relationship is going to break.  If it doesn’t, it isn’t a healthy relationship and that kind of defeats the purpose of a good romance.  You also cannot have it be the same throughout the entire book to only have the characters have a miraculous epiphany in the last chapter and all those problems are magically resolved.  It does take a bit of time to deal with and go through those changes.

Strong Characters
Make them flawed.  Make them imperfect.  Allow them to make mistakes, even big ones.  Allow them to feel insecure.  Allow them to be a little broken. Give them great personality.  Allow them to have emotions.  Just don’t make them so much of any one of those things that they are unlikable or that their attitudes and behaviors are just painfully unappealing.

If your character is confident in who they are on page 50, do not make them suddenly, for no reason, feel differently on page 120.  Don’t have your characters hate each other in the beginning, then have absolutely nothing change at all but they suddenly have the hots for each other.  Have motivations and reasons for the personalities you create and make sure they work together.  Back up any changes with specific and clear reasons.  It doesn’t work for someone to be a total badass, but is unable to function without someone holding their hand or cries at the drop of a hat.  A character can be conflicted, that is fine.  Don’t make them seem like they have multiple personalities, unless you are actually writing a multiple personality character.

There are always exceptions.  Different scenarios can allow for these aspects to not necessarily all be prominent in a story or allow for exceptions, but you have to have some hint of them.  Either that or have a great reason to allow for those exceptions to make a story work well.  Sure, you can produce an okay or even a good romantic story without some of those aspects, but chances are you aren’t going to be able to pull off that really great one without them on some levels.  The biggest thing that is going to make the difference between okay and great is believability.  You don’t want your reader laughing at your characters like they are that bad horror movie actor that does that obviously stupid thing that everyone knows is going to get them killed (because, come on!  Everyone knows you don’t look under the bed).

Besides providing entertainment, romantic stories can also often be a launching platform for how expectations begin to form in younger generations.  It is something of a peeve of mine for a romance novel to set an extremely bad example of what is okay in a relationship.  No, not all romance stories showcase healthy relationships.  The ones that are well written make sure it is pretty clear that the story is about a relationship that isn’t healthy.  Others that aren’t so well written can send the wrong message altogether, allowing impressionable or inexperienced readers to get the idea that some incredibly unhealthy, even harmful behaviors, attitudes and actions are actually okay.  Not much will drop a book onto my Don’t Like list faster than books that don’t make it clear that certain behaviors are unhealthy or worse, promote those ideas and behaviors.

Safe sex falls into that category.  I’ve mentioned it before.  There is zero excuse for an author to not include safe sex practices in their writing, with a very, very few exceptions like authentic representation of a time period and the rare time when a story warrants it.  Most authors are good about making it clear when an unsafe sex situation has occurred that the characters should have been safe/made better choices, but not all authors do this.  I personally respect the author and characters a lot more when they take the time to be responsible.

Oh, and for me?  A real romance has a happy ending.  That can be approached from a lot of different ways.  It doesn’t always mean a traditional Cinderella, happily ever after.  As long as, in the end, the characters are happier in themselves and/or their relationships or better off overall then it qualifies.

 

 

Web of Lies: Elemental Assassin, Book 2

Web of LiesAuthor: Jennifer Estep
Book Name: Web of Lies
Series: Elemental Assassin
Order: #2
Rating: Really Good
Genre: Fantasy/Romance

Blurb:  Curiosity is definitely going to get me dead one of these days. Probably real soon.

I’m Gin Blanco. You might know me as the Spider, the most feared assassin in the South. I’m retired now, but trouble still has a way of finding me. Like the other day when two punks tried to rob my barbecue joint, the Pork Pit. Then there was the barrage of gunfire on the restaurant. Only, for once, those kill shots weren’t aimed at me. They were meant for Violet Fox. Ever since I agreed to help Violet and her grandfather protect their property from an evil coal-mining tycoon, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m really retired.

So is Detective Donovan Caine. The only honest cop in Ashland is having a real hard time reconciling his attraction to me with  his Boy Scout mentality. And I can barely keep my hands off his sexy body. What can I say? I’m a Stone elemental — with a little Ice magic thrown in — but my heart isn’t made of solid rock. Luckily, Gin Blanco always gets her man … dead or alive.

Review: I am again kicking myself for not picking up this series earlier, because these are really good books.

In Web of Lies, we get to see more of the kick ass, self assured Gin.  I love her personality.  While she is flawed, she doesn’t apologize for who she is or what she has done.  Not to or for anyone.  Heroines with that kind of combination just really work for me.  I especially love how she deals with the issues in her relationship with Detective Caine.  No matter what she’d like out of that relationship, she isn’t going to try and be someone different to make another person happy.

One of the things that I’ve loved about these books is how well the different dramas and plot lines blend together so well.  Both the ones that are self contained in each book and the bigger one that seems to be stretching across the series (so far anyway).  The background story of Gin’s family and her sister still being alive, how it has been presented and what it is hinting at has me really excited to see how that plays out.

Often authors that write in the fantasy genre have a tendency to take the “there is magic so anything and everything is possible” attitude in their books.  When their main character gets into a bind, suddenly, previously unknown talents surface and everyone lives happily ever after.  I don’t like it when authors take that easy route instead of taking the time to really work a story and have the character deal with struggles.  That said, if it is done right, where the magic is what saves the day, but it took effort and work and really wasn’t such a miraculous moment, it can totally work, especially if it isn’t over done.  We do have one of those moments in this story, but it falls into the second category of writing and it is done really well.

I’ve already got the next one in my reading queue.  If it is as good as the first two, there is a strong possibility I might have to rethink my ratings and boost these to favorites.