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.

The Keepers: Alchemy Series, Book 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mate Bond: Shifters Unbound, Book 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silver Wolf Clan: Silver Wolf Clan, Book 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Still the One: Animal Magnetism, Book 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dark Heir: Jane Yellowrock, Book 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Spider’s Bite: Elemental Assassin, Book 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full Blooded: Jessica McClain, Book 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dead Heat: Alpha and Omega, Book 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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