Showing posts with label book reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book reviews. Show all posts

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Book Review: Zenn Scarlett

When you're studying to be exoveterinarian specializing in exotic, alien life forms, school... is a different kind of animal.

Zenn Scarlett is a resourceful, determined 17-year-old girl working hard to make it through her novice year of exovet training. That means she's learning to care for alien creatures that are mostly large, generally dangerous and profoundly fascinating. Zenn’s all-important end-of-term tests at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars are coming up, and, she's feeling confident of acing the exams. But when a series of inexplicable animal escapes and other disturbing events hit the school, Zenn finds herself being blamed for the problems. As if this isn't enough to deal with, her absent father has abruptly stopped communicating with her; Liam Tucker, a local towner boy, is acting unusually, annoyingly friendly; and, strangest of all: Zenn is worried she's started sharing the thoughts of the creatures around her. Which is impossible, of course. Nonetheless, she can't deny what she's feeling.

Now, with the help of Liam and Hamish, an eight-foot sentient insectoid also training at the clinic, Zenn must learn what's happened to her father, solve the mystery of who, if anyone, is sabotaging the cloister, and determine if she's actually sensing the consciousness of her alien patients... or just losing her mind. All without failing her novice year....

Right off the bat I think I should make it clear that while exciting things do happen in this book, this is largely a day to day accounting of what its like to be a novice exoveterinarian (exovet).  Zenn is an engaging, if sometimes a bit too clinical, main character who grew up around practical people living in a harsh environment.  While she worries about what's going on with her, those are secondary to the very real problems she's facing each day.

This sort of narrative tact can be frustrating at first.  As a reader we can see a larger picture than the characters so when something happens that's obviously much more serious than the characters are giving it credit for, it can get irritating.

This happened a lot to me, especially in the beginning.  Otha, Zenn's Uncle (and only actual family present), dismisses everything Zenn says to the point where Zenn wonders if she is just going crazy.  Its not to say he doesn't make logical points, but the logical points serve no purpose.  We know that Zenn is experiencing something 'supernatural'.  We know that Zenn is not to be blamed for the mistakes occurring.  There's no belief of tension at all.

Schoon is not subtle.  Whether because Zenn is naturally paranoid or clumsy writing, who's at fault for almost everything is apparent pretty quickly and the motivation behind it clicks about half way through.  This again leads to a sort of simmering frustration as everyone tiptoes around the obvious.  The world is fascinating--its very 'wild west'/frontier oriented, but the cloister and its wild aliens make it interesting.

I liked Fane quite a bit.  Yes he was a jerk, but its not like Zenn was making many friends with her attitude (which given her environment its a wonder she can talk to anyone at all).  I loved Hamish--I look forward to seeing more of his 'independent thinking'. Schoon is careful to keep romance a very small part of this novel.  Zenn doesn't really understand it and at any rate is too busy wondering if she's gone insane or if she'll fail her three tests.

Overall this was an interesting if uneven read for me.  I'm hoping that in the next book, since Zenn won't have her exams to worry about, the book will be less concerned with the everyday minutiae and focused on Zenn's search for answers.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Book Review: And the Miss Ran Away with the Rake

Daphne Dale never could have imagined that when she answered an advertisement in the newspaper that she would find true love. Now she has the opportunity to meet her unknown suitor, but it means traveling to Tabitha’s wedding, and into the heart of her family’s sworn enemies. Everyone knows the Seldons are terrible rakes and bounders, but Daphne will risk anything to gain the happiness she is certain is right around the corner.

Lord Henry Seldon is aghast at the latest addition to the house party guest list—one would think after the unforgettable scandal Daphne Dale caused at the duke’s engagement ball, she wouldn’t dare show her face at the duke’s wedding. But here she is, poking her nose where she shouldn’t and driving Henry mad . . . with an unforgettable passion that will turn enemies into lovers.

Boyle and I have a love/hate relationship when it comes to her romances. I've liked a couple, but by in large I don't find her as captivating as say Julia Quinn or Sarah MacLean or Eloisa James. However the premise of this series (a town who's women are cursed to be spinsters pretty much) caught my attention and thus I found myself caught up in this book.

Happily Boyle doesn't drag out the letter writing alter egos plotline too long--both Daphne and Henry are clever and quick-witted, kind of seeing what was going on.  The two play a cat and mouse game, trying to ferret out information, while trying to seem uninterested, and not coming to blows (since their families hate each other).  Though I'd argue it was some of the best passages when the two would convince themselves who the other was (mentally) and then try to trip the other up. Admittedly it was frustrating at times because as soon as they convinced themselves, they un-convinced themselves for this or that reason, but it was amusing most of the time.

I hadn't read the first book in this series, Along Came a Duke, though that story is eluded to in the "forward" by the author explaining the Curse that has beset Kempton.  Henry is related to Preston (his Uncle, though that's a farce) and Daphne is friends with Tabitha, but other than giving an excuse as to why Daphne is constantly around the Seldons, the previous novel doesn't affect the story here at all.  The other characters throughout--especially Daphne's obnoxious cousin Crispin--were all right, but not very interesting.  Boyle spends little enough time with many of them to make me feel interested.  Harriet and Roxley, who are the main couple of the next book If Wishes Were Earls, feature during the house party at Owle Park, but they're the only ones that stand out (in a pleasing way).

As the attraction between Daphne and Henry is based off their banter it comes around well.  Daphne gives as good as she gets from Henry (including a lovely turn around near the end).  I do think the book went a bit overlong in that the charade was hard to allow stand once it became obvious the two were falling in love with their non-letter selves.  Plus Daphne did some thoroughly reckless things, which if she had been wrong in any way would have spelled the end for her.  I understood why she did those things, but each time I wanted to shake her and ask her why she exhibited so much intelligence one moment and no common sense the next.

Overall this was a fairly entertaining novel that moved quickly.  As I said the bantering is the best part, but try to ignore the illogical moments as best you can.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book Review: The Forever Knight

Lukien is the Bronze Knight, beloved by his kingdom and renowned in battle throughout his world. After betraying his king and losing his beloved, he wishes only for death, but rather than die, Lukien is given a chance for redemption: to be the protector of the Inhumans—those fragile mortals who live deep in the desert, far from the prying eyes of their world. These remarkable individuals have been granted magical powers in exchange for the hardships and handicaps life has handed them. And Lukien, now immortal himself, must be their champion. But how can one man, even an immortal warrior, protect hundreds from a world of potential enemies?

Fourth in the series, I was a little wary to read this as I didn't have time to play catch up with a long involved fantasy series.  I was assured however that this book didn't require 'catching up' and could be read stand alone.  And for what feels like the first time in a long time it turned out to be true.  References and summaries are given for what happened in the first three books (I assume its from the first three books), but Lukien was very focused on the now.

Where it may have benefited was with the other characters and their relationship to him.  Marco gives a good accounting why this or that person is important to Lukien, but I felt less invested in them regardless.

In essence Lukien is on a heroic quest to basically find a reason to live.  In the preceding novels everything he loved, respected and held dear was taken away from him, leaving him left adrift with no end in sight (he's immortal).  This isn't to say he went looking for suicide, but rather he was proactively searching for a means to death. Lukien had a lot of flaws (not the least of which was who he fell in love with), a lot of guilt about what happened.  Unlike other heroes with tragic backstories he didn't seem to be looking for redemption.  He had made a try of making things better, mucked it up further and now was resigned to finding something else.

Marco manages to pack a lot into a slim by today's standards full length novel.  Under 300 pages, The Forever Knight is surprising in the detail presented.  Even for a fourth novel in a series Marco goes out of his way to engage new readers in Lukien plight and the larger world.  I'm still a bit iffy on how things went down to give Lukien his immortality, and what exactly Malator is, but by in large Marco set a brisk easy to read pace.

The one drawback I think I have is that while I'm interested in Lukien's further adventures especially given Malator's...gift at the end, I'm not as keen to read his previous adventures.  I like the Lukien as he is now, and I don't fancy that being ruined by the fact I'm going to get to read as his angst happens instead of in a past sense.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Book Review: Hysteria

Mallory killed her boyfriend, Brian. She can't remember the details of that night but everyone knows it was self-defense, so she isn't charged. But Mallory still feels Brian's presence in her life. Is it all in her head? Or is it something more? In desperate need of a fresh start, Mallory is sent to Monroe, a fancy prep school where no one knows her . . . or anything about her past.But the feeling follows her, as do her secrets. Then, one of her new classmates turns up dead. As suspicion falls on Mallory, she must find a way to remember the details of both deadly nights so she can prove her innocence-to herself and others.

In a lot of ways this was kind of like watching one of those Police Procedural shows.  Criminal Minds or Cold Case, maybe even CSI (when Grissom was in charge).  We have what's going on now--Mallory's life at Monroe, trying to move on, trying to make sense of that night and then we have what happened before.  Her and Reid's history, her and Dylan's history, her and Colleen's history, her and Brian's history.  Everything kept weaving around itself and at times it became one big ball of tangled.

As I was reading this book I grew more and more confused, wondering what one thing had to do with another, why that detail was so much more important then some other.  In hindsight the narrative works really well, but a reader doesn't read in hindsight. 

In hindsight its fairly obvious that what she had with Brian was not the stuff of dreams.  In hindsight it was obvious that Dylan was manipulating her just as surely as Brian.  As a narrator of both then and now, Mallory is mostly unreliable.  She built so many things up in her head about her relationships with everyone that her memories were tainted.

So yeah I spent up until the very last chapter thinking that Mallory was a murderer and possibly psychotic as well.

When the truth comes out about the murder at Monroe it kind of makes sense and kind of doesn't.  Mallory spent so much time worried about her problem and what other people were thinking of her, that any inferences she had about the murdered victim and the circumstances surrounding their death wouldn't have been enough if not for the deus ex machina Miranda pulls.  

Look convenient plot info dump is convenient and noticeable.  Instead of saying 'Of course that makes perfect sense!' because as a reader I put the clues together, it was 'Well I guess that makes sense'.  The lead up to the reveal was just so muddied by everything else happening to Mallory that it just kind of happened and then it was the next day.

It was entertaining and was different from other boarding school set books.  I just wish it had been more.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Book Review: Chosen Ones

Life is bleak but uncomplicated for sixteen-year-old Tess, living in a not-too-distant future where the government, faced with humanity's extinction, created the Chosen Ones, artificial beings who are extraordinarily beautiful, unbelievably strong, and unabashedly deadly.

When Tess begins work at Templeton, a Chosen Ones training facility, she meets James, and the attraction is immediate in its intensity, overwhelming in its danger. But there is more to Templeton than Tess ever knew. Can she stand against her oppressors, even if it means giving up the only happiness in her life?

Oh Dystopia.  We have had a rough ride in the last couple of years.  Whereas before I had read maybe a half dozen books where the Earth (or at least humanity) was near extinct for one reason or another, in the last year alone I've read 14 books with that premise.  That's a lot.  Like a real lot.  It makes it a little hard to find new ways to invent the wheel sometimes.

Chosen Ones does at times remind me of the other books.  I'd kill for a YA Dystopia that didn't involve a romance in some fashion honestly, but Tess and James was far more palatable then I would have thought.  Its understandable that Tess falls for him almost immediately--different is always alluring and James is very different from any other 'Chosen One' that Tess has meant.  James for his part is cognizant in a way that Tess doesn't seem to understand at first, what it means for them to be 'together'.

The history of how humanity reached the level its reached by the story's start was less interesting to me then the real world reactions Tess' father and James extoll.  In an economy that is doing better than others, but still seems unable to sustain itself, I can understand her father's sentiment that people grow resentful when their hardwork (in this case protecting the country) seems to mean nothing.  If you go off to war to protect your home from being destroyed, but its taken away because you're not being paid enough to keep up the mortgage why did you go off to war?  You could have instead found a better paying job and let someone else protect your house.

By in large I enjoyed this book.  Some of it dragged with uneven pacing...plus Tess is rather unlikeable until she starts to 'blossom', but Truitt makes up for it by engaging the reader in a game of 'It Could Happen To You'.  I certainly hope that the next book, Naturals, builds on the premise (and maybe lets the romance take a backseat).

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Book Review: Prospero's Children

Fern and Will Capel, the children of a feckless art dealer, find themselves sharing the remote farmhouse he has inherited with his current, and sinister, mistress. Something snuffles outside; a stone in the garden, which bears an odd resemblance to a passing tramp, moves in the night; a wolfish dog befriends them. Dreams and sleepwalking and the most remarkable videotape ever watched provide 16-year-old Fern with evidence that the world is not the controllable, rational place she thought it was--and that her own future is to be altogether more remarkable, and full of pain and wisdom, than she has expected.

Siegel was a completely new to me author when I picked this book up at the (semi)local used book store.  I had seen it around for a bit, but for whatever reason I didn't pick it up until an idle Saturday afternoon.  It caught my interest then with tales of a mermaid and Atlantis and a magical destiny.  This isn't as old as I thought it was either--published originally in 1999, I thought this was from the 80's.

The beginning is simply captivating.  The story begins with a mermaid who makes a bargain with a fisherman, though neither enter into the deal in good faith.  The fisherman demands she pay him back for the life she took (she killed his son after her capture) and in turn the mermaid offers a key to a treasure they can never touch.  This sets into motion events that encompass Fern and her family centuries later.

I didn't really warm to Fern.  She's 16 going on 50 it feels like.  Levelheaded, composed and seemingly devoid of the teen characteristics one expects she seems so...remote.  Even as she acknowledges that her attitude or behavior is out of character for herself, those moments don't serve to warm the reader to her at all.

This is also a very languid novel.  Many things happen that defy reason, but the pace of the book doesn't alter one iota.  Siegel determinedly forges forward detailing the Capel children's investigations with very little determent.  Their father's sinister girlfriend does creepy things at night--first investigate, ask questions, test the theory, then form a plan.

The writing is very dense though despite the languid pace.  So much happens in so little time that's its easy to feel like the book is much longer than it is (barely 350pgs, which is nothing by today's fantasy standards) or that you haven't progressed very far into the book.

Mainly I became engrossed in the story because Siegel ties in the Atlantean mythology with other mythologies.  The back of my edition had a glossary and a character list, offering tidbits about how this or that name related to other mythologies.  Its very obvious that Siegel spent a lot of time researching and it shows in her writing.  Her words shine the best when this or that character is discussing history (or as happens later, the past is brought to life in vivid detail).  Siegel really immerses you in the scene.

I plan on reading the next two books (which I am given to understand Fern progresses in age as the books go on so that we end with her as a young woman).  I want to see how this plays out and whether Siegel is able to keep the immersive feel going for another 600+ pages or not.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Review: Bite me, Your Grace

England's "vampire craze" causes much vexation for the Lord Vampire of London, Ian Ashton. To save his reputation, Ian enlists aspiring authoress Angelica Winthrop without realizing she has hidden plans of her own.

Angelica Winthrop's life goal is to ruin her reputation, avoid marriage, and become a gothic authoress like her idol, Mary Shelley. To find inspiration for her new story, she breaks into the home of Ian Ashton, Duke of Burnrath, not knowing she will be coming up against the Lord Vampire of London. Romance sparks and reputations are at stake. But who knows the real difference between fact and fiction?

Bite Me, Your Grace was a disappointment on a couple of levels.  I was expecting a fun wallpaper historical romance with vampires, a smart heroine and humor (kind of like Minda Webber's books), which I guess was my first mistake.  This is by no means a bad book, its just...Angelica is so annoying.  She's an utter harridan!


This was kind of how things went:

Mother: Angelica!  You need to behave!
Angelica: I refuse to behave as a lady must! I will RUIN MYSELF! :flings self into ruination:
Ian: This damn female...I should marry her and maybe possibly get these people off my back about being a vampire...ho young lady!  I shall save you!  You shall be awesomely celebrated!  Also lots of passion!
Angelica: Married to a vampire? Never!  I will show you how smart I am! And difficult! And political! And strongly against women being marginalized!
Mother: Oh my smelling salts!
Ian: All you are are doing is proving how different you are and how right I was.
Angelica: I'd rather be poor and destitute! As long as I can write it doesn't matter!
Ian: :shows Angelica the poor and destitute lifestyle:
Angelica: :immediately horrified by the stench: Maybe I will marry you I mean it can't possibly be as bad as all that right?  I mean I can still do whatever I want...

So on and so forth.  The book is literally one idiotic notion of Angelica's after another as she attempts to either a) get Ian to not marry her, b) get Ian to tell her more about his vampire lifestyle for her Gothic writing or c) both at once.  After they marry it only gets worse because she then falls into the 'Oh the sex is so good!  Why does he not love me?' angst.  I don't know Angelica, considering you spent half the book trying to convince him you shouldn't marry?  Or maybe because you're idea of communication is to say how strong and independent you are and then run off doing something stupid?  She gets drunk at Almack's and kicked out just to prove she shouldn't get married for pity's sake!

I realize she was meant to be a 'strong' and 'socially progressive' woman, but instead it seemed like she was a child having a tantrum because no one would listen.  Why did she have to be a Women's Rights Activist AND a gothic romance author AND cross dress AND not want to be married or have children AND hate everything about the ton AND be virtually friendless?  Mind you she's also an immensely wealthy heiress who's apparently gorgeous.

Meanwhile Ian, who's a couple centuries old and has not apparently ever fallen for a mortal before, finds her simply refreshing.  Personally I think he just likes having to save her.  Oh he's Lord of London and is super powerful and super wealthy and super this and super that, but for a guy who's ready to take some poor writer's head off for writing a satirical novel (that may or may not be about his vampire self) he's awfully jolly about sharing everything with Angelica.  Only to wonder why his gothic romance obsessed wife would try to write a gothic romance about it.  Ian you knew what you were marrying when you married her, don't acted surprised when the crazy woman who broke into your house (for research!) ends up, well, being crazy even after you marry her.

Honestly it sounds like I dislike the book and really I only disliked Angelica.  She just...no.  Every time she spoke I was taken out of the story.  Yeah I can see why folk want her dead.  Your mileage may vary though, so take this as a cautious recommendation.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review: Blood's Pride

Rising from their sea-torn ships like vengeful, pale phantoms, the Norlanders laid waste to the Shadar under cover of darkness. They forced the once-peaceful fisher folk into slavery and forged an alliance with their former trading partners, the desert-dwelling Nomas tribe, cutting off any hope of salvation.

Now, two decades after the invasion, a rebellion gathers strength in the dark corridors of the city. A small faction of Shadari have hired the Mongrel, an infamous mercenary, to aid their fledgling uprising—but with her own shadowy ties to the region, she is a frighteningly volatile ally. Has she really come to lead a revolution, or for a more sinister purpose all her own?

This thrilling new epic fantasy is set in a quasi-Medieval Mediterranean region, drawing together the warrior culture of Vikings, the wanderlust of desert nomads, and the oracles of ancient Greece.

We all know I love my epic fantasy tomes.  Melanie Rawn, Michelle West, Brandon Sanderson, Brent Weeks...seriously its hard to convince me that the more pages there are the less interested I'll become.  World building is one of my favorite things to read about, I mean come on I have countless companion books for the shows and books I love.

This may be a good example folks can hold up from now on however.

Its not that this was bad exactly.  I just felt as if Manieri crammed things that may have served themselves better by being spread out throughout several books.  Character revelations, character motivations, even relationships all seemed to shove each other around.  They jockeyed for position like shoppers during Black Friday and in doing so fell short on development.

I realize this is part of a larger series, but Manieri seemed dead set on wrapping up some plotlines in that book instead of letting them come to a natural conclusion maybe later.  I'm not sure if it was because she had all these great ideas and was so excited by them she couldn't figure out what to cut and save or if this will be a trend throughout.

She also treated every plot as super important to the overall series plot, but were really character stories that probably aren't necessary to the larger whole.  It seemed to me that at times Manieri took side stories--interesting tales about the soldiers' interactions, curious asides between the conquered people, discussions about religion and faith--that a lot of authors are now putting out as 'between' book novellas/novelettes (or are used in anthologies) to flesh out the world and inserted them into the whole of the book.  Quite a few of the asides could be left out or trimmed without affecting the overall book.  It would have made the pacing faster and the book's focus tighter overall.

Can I recommend this?  Mot so much.  I'll be picking book 2 up, just to see if Manieri continues the trend of too many stories, but this won't be my go to example when trying to convince people of the benefits of epic fantasy.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Book Review: A Long, Long Sleep

Rosalinda Fitzroy has been asleep for sixty-two years when she is woken by a kiss. Locked away in the chemically induced slumber of a stasis tube in a forgotten subbasement, sixteen-year-old Rose slept straight through the Dark Times that killed millions and utterly changed the world she knew. 

Now, her parents and her first love are long gone, and Rose-- hailed upon her awakening as the long-lost heir to an interplanetary empire-- is thrust alone into a future in which she is viewed as either a freak or a threat. Desperate to put the past behind her and adapt to her new world, Rose finds herself drawn to the boy who kissed her awake, hoping that he can help her to start fresh. But when a deadly danger jeopardizes her fragile new existence, Rose must face the ghosts of her past with open eyes-- or be left without any future at all.

Oh, oh this book.  Tez (of Tez Says) really enjoyed this book and I was inclined to read it because its a scifi twist on Sleeping Beauty (plus at least one other fairy tale I can't put my finger on), but this book was WONDERFUL.  It was perfect; perhaps not technically perfect, but it was perfect for the time I was reading it.  There's a scene, near the end, when Rose is confronted with a lot of harsh truths really quickly and I had tears pouring down my face.  This reminded me of The Adoration of Jenna Fox (by Mary J. Pearson) actually as both dealt with gaps in memory and struggling with identity.

From an outsider perspective, Rose's memories don't match up quite right from the get go.  Not just the fact she knew her boyfriend Xavier from he was in diapers, aging next to him in fits and spurts until they were the same age finally.  Someone mentions she should be in her late 70's, based on the birthdate they found and she muses silently that she's really more like a hundred years old given all the times she's been "stassed" (put into stasis) throughout her childhood.

Her casual acceptance of this goes from worrisome to outright disturbing when a character--the boy who found her, Bren, says she uses being stassed like a drug to escape.  Little things throughout the novel start to make more horrifying sense.

And then there's the ultimate revelations close to the end that just...this poor girl.  The twist with the person hunting her was surprising, but fits in so well with everything we found out that its almost sickening too.

I found her friendship with Otto, a teen boy part of a hybrid/genetic experiment done by her parents' company while she was stassed,  to be fascinating.  Unable to 'talk' with each other, their conversations by instant messenger are far more revealing then any other discussion. The anonymity of the screen helps them both I think.

This isn't a fast paced book; Rose slips in and out of her memories often, and her memories aren't told sequentially for the most part.  She's also rather...vague as a personality at first.  Partially because when her parents were alive she didn't have one really.  They told her where to go, what to wear, how to talk.  The only time she really acted on her own was when she was with Xavier, but even then she was so afraid of her parents taking it away she didn't really act on her own.

A unique retelling of the sleeping beauty fairy tale, this princess overcomes her demons and figures out how to save herself.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Book Review: City of a Thousand Dolls

Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.

Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but her own life

City of a Thousand Dolls was an engaging read, though the ending felt rushed. Whereas at first Forester hoarded clues and secrets like a squirrel with acorns, the last quarter was revelation after revelation, giving me very little time to adjust. Some of the secrets were subtly woven in, often buried beneath each new murder so that in the end I was able to look back and recognized the signs. And some became painfully obvious far too quickly.

At first I didn't understand the big deal about Nisha. She alternated between being unbelievably naive and independent. I blame Devan for this mainly. The entire family of his were a thorny manipulative bunch of of jackals, though to his credit I think Devan did genuinely care for Nisha...he was however a spineless coward as well. Nisha rose above her early unlikeableness though. Her interactions with the cats, her investigation and insistence for the truth drove this story.

In some ways I think this reminded me of Avatar: the Last Airbender and Legend of Korra. At least what I enjoy most about those shows. This story was about balance in the end. The Empire finding a balance between what was working and what wasn't, the girls of the Houses finding a balance between their wants/expectations and reality, the balance of past mistakes and potential failures in the future and lastly Nisha finding a way to come to terms about where she belongs.

I can't help but think that there will be more books about Nisha and this world, and for that I'm hopeful.  While Forester does a good job wrapping up Nisha's story in this novel, there are by far more mysteries and secrets to uncover before I think her story is fully told.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Book Review: Raw Desire

Unforgettable Pleasure
Ally Kendal knows returning to her hometown to sell her mother's house isn't going to be easy. She left in disgrace years ago and hasn't been back since. But she's never forgotten the one man who awakened in her a secret yearning for wildly erotic sexual pleasure...

Undeniable Desire
Rob Ward is surprised at the surge of desire he feels when he first sees Ally after all this time. He's gotten over the betrayal he felt when he found her and his best friend together on the eve of his wedding, but it's obvious he's never given up wanting her. And now that she's back he'll show her what she's missed, how good he makes her feel, how easy it is for him to take control and bring her to the edge of sweet surrender...

Okay let me put this out there, I had an unreasonable need to read this book.  I mean it.  I read an excerpt of it a couple years back, before it came out, and had wanted to pick it up when it came out at my local Borders (where I normally picked up my romance books, don't judge).  Unfortunately I could not find it!  And I couldn't find a reason to add it to my Amazon queue either (its pretty full).  Finally I broke down and bought it on my Kindle.

So did it live up to my expectations?

Yes and no.

It was hot.  Very very hot.  Pearce has got sexy writing down pat.  What I found wanting is everything else.  The 'incident' that broke Ally and Rob up originally is given more vague explanations then concrete information.  Basically Ally was found in bed with Jackson by Jackson's then girlfriend Susan and Rob.  How she got there is up to debate, why she was there is up for debate, how Rob really felt about it is up for debate.

Then there's Rob entering the 'scene' (that is, the BDSM scene) in college.  Its just tossed out there.  Not how he got into it though.  Basically he 'got into it really deep' and if I was understanding things right, he rushed home to his girlfriend to basically be like 'omg it all makes sense you are a sub I'm a dom and that means you HAVE to do what I say!', which freaked her out since um hey she has no idea what he's talking about and he really has no idea what he's talking about.

Apparently at some point in the ten years since he last saw Ally he found experience though, and decided it really wasn't for him after all.  I don't even know.

There's Jackson, who I'm not even sure where to start with him.  He claims to have coerced Ally into his bed when she was vulnerable.  He claims to have always had physical feelings for Rob and Ally.  And a whole bunch of other things.

The mystery subplot is weak--you can guess who it is a mile away and the fact Ally is constantly 'weirded out' by this person just cements the deal.  Her need to resolve the lingering issues with her recently deceased mother are also apparently just kind of there.

Honestly I probably would have been happier thinking this was a Plot-What-Plot erotic novel because the plot was paint by the numbers, the romance was meh and the mystery even meh-er.  The sexy scenes made it worth continuing however.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Book Review: The Geek Girl and the Scandalous Earl


An avid gamer, Jamie Marten loves to escape into online adventure. But when she falls through an antique mirror into a lavish bedchamber—200 years in the past!—she realizes she may have escaped a little too far.

Micah Axelby, Earl of Dunnington, has just kicked one mistress out of his bed, and isn’t looking to fill it with another—least of all this sassy, nearly naked girl who claims to be from the future. Yet something about her is undeniably enticing…

Jamie and Micah are worlds apart. He’s a peer of the realm. She can barely make rent. She’s wi-fi. He’s horse-drawn. But soon the pair will do anything to avoid a Game Over.

This was, by in large, a successful and entertaining read for me.  Its also not something you take anywhere near seriously or think too hard on honestly.  Especially the end, which seems to be a direct slap in the face of everything Micah was talking to Jamie about earlier (more on this in a bit).

Jamie is mostly amusing, reacting in a believable way I think.  Her running commentary as she's sucked into the mirror is almost word for word how I would be reacting, though I think he inability to process that she's in a time period that requires her to act less...brazen was irritating.  I'm not sure what part of that she wasn't understanding, but she didn't make very many attempts to make HER life easier (never mind Micah's), but learning the rules of the time.

Micah, or Mike as Jamie insisted on calling him (I'm not sure but were shortened names for men common in Regency England?  I know women often called each other shortened names, but men in the peerage?), did what any self-respecting lordling with scandal in his past would do--treated her like a madwoman.  The fact he becomes obsessed with Angry Birds is amusing, but his high-handed manner with Jamie got grating.  And it continued well after he admitted his feelings.

The underlying danger is telegraphed pretty early on and feels more than a little silly at times.  We're never given to understand WHY Micah is so highly prized by the person.  He's not the richest, handsomest or well-titled person on the block and its not as if the person did it from undying love.  So why?  The easily written off excuse of insanity is just that--a cop out.  There was little no depth of character to the person.

As to what I referred to earlier on.  At one point, when Jamie is doing her best to fit in, she lands in a conversation with Micah about a recent scandal involving a Peer running off with his mistress, leaving his estates in shambles, his dependents ruined and his family devastated.  He does all this for love, which Jamie notes he says with a lot of disdain.  This next part is spoilery, so highlight to read. [spoiler] Not a page later Micah is wondering what he said to Jamie to cause her to give him such a cold shoulder.  Then at the end he comes to our time to be with Jamie for love...despite the fact he just left behind a whole estate that desperately needed him.  Being a hypocrite in other words.  This is never addressed by either party, nor is it addressed if he made 'provisions', as some time travel romances like to say. [end spoiler]

The funniest part is possibly when Jamie manages to set up a 'modern day date' in his parlor room and MacGuyver's a fake TV, laptop, and other such things from articles in his house to show him what her 'world' is like. I found it so cute, especially the pizza part. Overall this was a quick paced, easy read. Definitely worth a look!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Book Review: Sex and the Single Fireman

The toughest captain on the East Coast, single father Rick Roman has come thousands of miles to San Gabriel to put an end to the "Bachelor Firemen" media hype. But when a stunning woman he nearly hooked up with in Reno turns out to be a firefighter from his new station, Roman realizes it's going to be tough keeping the tabloids at bay.

But there's even more Sabina isn't telling him. Before dedicating her life to battling blazes, Sabina led a very different life, one that made her famous. The last thing she wants is to have her secret exposed. The papers, bloggers, and TV gossips will have a field day with that—especially when they sense the obvious sexual heat between Sabina and Chief Roman, who's torn between firing her...and falling in love with her!

Contemporary romance and myself are in a weird relationship.  I read them more now than I did before, but its still not a genre I can confidently say I enjoy wholeheartedly.

That said SEX AND THE SINGLE FIREMAN is an entertaining and satisfying read.  I haven't read the previous books in the "Bachelor Fireman" series (The Fireman Who Loved Me and Hot for Fireman), but surprisingly this didn't impact my enjoyment of the book at all.  I found that the backstory for Sabina and Roman, individually and together, was enough to keep me engaged in the story.

As for the chemistry...well...I can't make myself write a pun.  I just can't.  But you get the idea.

This was also a bit of a crossover appeal novel.  Not just firemen, but also a lot is delved into with Sabina's life as a child TV star and the lasting impact that has.  In a world where child stars are routinely paraded on tabloid and magazine covers, or in blog reports and Hollywood Scandal shows as having difficulties adjusting to their adult years, I found it refreshing that Sabina took that step and walked away before it came to that.  Roman for his part had a lot to deal with because of the death of his wife (also a firefighter), raising his son alone and being Sabina's boss, but I was more invested in his present circumstances (struggling to find the same passion he once had for being a firefighter) and where that ultimately led him.

The tension is palatable throughout the novel, but it never feels...strained I suppose is a good word.  The two of them don't get together until fairly late in the book (last third), but that connection is still there.  It was almost sweet really, how they both obviously wanted to encourage the other, but was thwarted by overly ambitious mothers, coworkers who didn't know when to quit and regulations that could strangle them.

I was not a fan of the resolution between Sabina and her mother Annabelle.  While the truth wasn't particularly surprising, given the circumstances, what was surprising was that it took them this long to get to the bottom of things.  Highlight for the spoilers:  So it turns out Max, Sabina's old agent, is a creep and a thief.  Okay.  So you're telling me that they were both so mad at each other they didn't even so much as look into how they were doing?  They're mother and daughter!  They couldn't possibly be so bullheaded as to not care if the other was alive or not. /end spoiler.

Otherwise I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.  It was a (really) quick read and was perfect to jumpstart my want for romance once more.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Book Review: The Kassa Gambit

Centuries after the ecological collapse of Earth, humanity has spread among the stars. Under the governance of the League, our endless need for resources has driven us to colonize hundreds of planets, all of them devoid of other sentient life. Humanity is apparently alone in the universe.

Then comes the sudden, brutal decimation of Kassa, a small farming planet, by a mysterious attacker. The few survivors send out a desperate plea for aid, which is answered by two unlikely rescuers. Prudence Falling is the young captain of a tramp freighter. She and her ragtag crew have been on the run and living job to job for years, eking out a living by making cargo runs that aren’t always entirely legal. Lt. Kyle Daspar is a police officer from the wealthy planet of Altair Prime, working undercover as a double agent against the League. He’s been undercover so long he can't be trusted by anyone—even himself.

While flying rescue missions to extract survivors from the surface of devastated Kassa, they discover what could be the most important artifact in the history of man: an alien spaceship, crashed and abandoned during the attack.

But something tells them there is more to the story. Together, they discover the cruel truth about the destruction of Kassa, and that an imminent alien invasion is the least of humanity’s concerns.

Technically speaking this is closer to a 3.5 because while the mystery of Kassa drew me in, the writing style left me feeling unenchanted. It was very...stark feeling. Especially in the beginning, it felt as if someone was just reading off the important information. Prudence talks about her crew, crew she will regret seeing go and will miss, very clinically. Kyle sort of behaves in the same manner about the crew he is forced to endure in the beginning, but he has no love for them (nor they for him) so it makes a bit more sense.  

This largely goes away around 2/3rds of the way through, but makes an abrupt return sporadically jarring me out of the reading zone.

This also had a very familiar feeling to it and it took me a while to figure out what that feeling was - anyone who has watched Blake's 7 or Farscape or Serenity may experience the same sort of thing. Prue's crew is ragtag and mismatched, all folk trying to duck out on the official Government levels for various reasons (even Kyle to a certain extent) making their way in the universe doing what they can to survive. They run afoul of a deeper conspiracy (Kassa) and feel honor bound, in a weird way, of seeing it through to the end. Though as Planck has listed Firefly as an inspiration for this novel, that's hardly surprising.

I'll give Planck credit however, the science fiction part of this novel doesn't ever delver anywhere I couldn't keep up with, which is rather remarkable once the secret worth killing for rears its ugly (ugly) head.  There's also an impressive use of double talk--politically and legally speaking, which was fun to decipher.  Its a bit ruined by the fact Kyle kept confusing matters internally, thus breaking up the narrative somewhat, but ignoring his 'I'm so confused by this doublespeak' thoughts helped.

This isn't a very long book--288 pages, which makes this a quick read.  Parts get bogged down by sciencey-talk, or political talk and there's even some discussion that transcends the metaphysical, but by in large a reader can breeze through this and not be confused. Until the end, it gets a bit jumbled when Pru and co are racing through the nodes ahead of the Big Bad at one point.  And honest to god I kind of felt dejavu because it really does follow an eerily similar plot progression with Serenity at the very end.  

The characters are agreeable enough; Pru is slightly inconsistent in how she acts (though it may partially be because Kyle's impression of her vs. how she thought she presented herself were wildly different) and Kyle is a bit manic, but I enjoyed both of them coming up with every paranoid excuse in the book as to how the other one wants them dead.  The secondary characters had a bit more life to them--I especially liked Jorgun and Jandi, who both shared a love of Marvin the Martian.

The ending is anticlimatic--more political than anything else and largely dealt with in the epilogue as 'and this is what happened after' fashion.  Still the mystery of Kassa kept me engaged until the very end.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Book Review: Nobody

There are people in this world who are Nobody. No one sees them. No one notices them. They live their lives under the radar, forgotten as soon as you turn away.

That’s why they make the perfect assassins.

The Institute finds these people when they’re young and takes them away for training. But an untrained Nobody is a threat to their organization. And threats must be eliminated.

Sixteen-year-old Claire has been invisible her whole life, missed by the Institute’s monitoring. But now they’ve ID’ed her and send seventeen-year-old Nix to remove her. Yet the moment he lays eyes on her, he can’t make the hit. It’s as if Claire and Nix are the only people in the world for each other. And they are—because no one else ever notices them.

Ever felt invisible?  Like no one sees you or listen to you invisible?  Just a face in the crowd?  We've all felt it I'm sure--some maybe more then others, some maybe more intentionally then others.  Yet in Barnes' new scifi thriller she posits that there are people out there who are truly invisible.

Maybe not so literally--though they can do that too, but in all other ways they are essentially non-existent and she's got a whole plethora of physics related scifi babble to back this up (look I'm not a science girl so it all made sense to me, but I think that the technobabble in Star Trek makes perfect sense too).

In the ways that counted NOBODY worked better for me then EVERY OTHER DAY.  I never quite got on board with the heroine of EVERY OTHER DAY, never quite liked her or bought into the whole science of why she was as she was.  NOBODY however made a lot of sense.  The perfect killers are those you can't see so of course some shadowy agency will take advantage of that to the nth power.  The romance also made more sense to me as Claire had a good grip on why she felt for Nix so strongly and didn't delude herself into thinking it was completely healthy.

On pg. 72 (of the ARC) Claire says "...there was a difference between being stalked and being wooed."  Claire who to escape the lonely isolation of her life creates elaborate 'Situations' in which she's not alone.  Claire who reads books and watches TV to feel connected to something.  Claire who only a couple chapters before was happy to be seen even though her life was in imminent danger.  That quote above proved she had more self-awareness than most other young adult (or hell even adult) heroines.

Quite frankly her romance with Nix is not healthy.  It doesn't begin healthy, it doesn't continue in a healthy fashion and I'd be hard put to say that it resolved itself in a wholly healthy manner.  But the thing is neither Nix nor Claire are healthy people.  Claire lives inside her head and Nix was taught from cradle that if they see him they are lying to him.  Trust issues be damned, these two were gunning for who has the most pitiful excuse as to why the other won't like like them.

Together they find a way, they find a better purpose to their lives.  Together they are much better then the sum of their parts.

Nix was raised by The Society (the bad guys) all his life.  Told over and over again that he was worse then useless, worse than non-existent.  Whereas Claire had hope that one day, maybe, she would be noticed (because she grew up in ignorance of what being a 'Nobody' meant) Nix had no hope.  Nothing at all except the possibility that his tortured existence served a heroic purpose.   Barnes touches on some serious subject matter throughout the novel where Nix is concerned.  And really that's all she does is touch upon what he's done to himself and had done to him abuse wise. 

Its hard to call something abuse if the premise is that they can't remember he exists though.  Its like if PETA came after you for not protecting a stray dog you saw once on the side of the road months ago.  Its not malicious, cruel or neglectful.  It just is.

I think Barnes, much like in EVERY OTHER DAY and her Raised By Wolves trilogy set up a unique, intriguing premise with a narrative outside the norm.  It was a little confusing, especially in the beginning as Claire is thinking one thing and Nix is contradicting the same thing out loud and some of the scientific explanation is Star Trek worthy, but this won't disappoint in the end.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Book Review: Demon's Curse

A rising star on the Covent Garden stage, Bianca Parrino believes she has everything she wants. Independence. Wealth. And a life finally free of her violent, abusive husband. But when her close friend, Adam, is murdered, and Bianca is suspected in his death, she is unwittingly drawn into the search for his killer, and soon must question everything she believes—about her friend, about herself, and about a world she never knew existed.

A member of the mysterious race of shape-shifting Imnada and part of an elite military unit, Captain Mac Flannery gathered intelligence during the Napoleonic wars. As a result of a savage massacre, Mac and the men he served with are cursed. Now one of them has been found murdered, and Mac suspects the existence of the Imnada has been discovered at last. His only link to unearthing the truth is the beautiful actress who turns up unexpectedly at Adam’s funeral.

Before long, Mac has more to contend with than Bianca’s overt mistrust, his ill-fated attraction to the haughty and beautiful actress, and his ongoing search for an end to the curse. Because Adam’s killer is back, and Mac is next on his list

Generally I'm not a fan of paranormal romances that have the Fey running around being jerks.  I'm actually not terribly fond of the Fey as a rule, unless we're in a fantasy setting.  Urban fantasy/Paranormal does not count.  Not even Historical Paranormal Romance set in 1816 (possibly my favorite of all years for Regency romances for no reason I can ascertain).  But I give Egan credit--I was invested enough in the Hero's plight that at the first mention of the Fey I didn't jump ship to a new book.

Admittedly part of what kept me going was that Bianca (our Heroine) spent a fair amount of time wanting to throttle Mac for various idiocies.  Note to Heroes everywhere - its probably best just to come clean about your worries, cause you don't earn smexy times by withholding that information. Bianca was a sort of heroine I like--she has gumption.  She has to deal with a lot of crap in this book and Mac really adds a boatload more that she didn't need.  She keeps her head high and speaks her mind, determined to not falter.

Mac for his part, was more interesting when he wasn't mooning over Bianca.  Its not that I begrudged them a romance, but there are times when Egan sets this up more like an urban (historical) fantasy, then a paranormal (historical) romance.  The sudden shift from the mystery of how to help Mac and his friends to how tormented Mac feels and how he needs Bianca to the ongoing problems of the Imnada didn't feel genuine.  They felt a bit more forced.

I liked that Egan played around a bit with the 'shifter' curse Mac and co find themselves stuck under.  There's a deeper purpose at play for the Imnada and honestly I can't wait to see how the next book plays out.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Book Review: Three Parts Dead (@torbooks)

A god has died, and it’s up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart.

Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without Him, the metropolis’s steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot.

Tara’s job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help: Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead god, who’s having an understandable crisis of faith.

When Tara and Abelard discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts—and their quest for the truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and Alt Coulumb’s slim hope of survival.

Guys I think I found a new fantasy author to love and gush over.

Where to begin?  I loved that this wasn't a story of absolutes--good, evil, right, wrong...practically everything in here is a shade of gray.  One person's helpful deed, is another person's horrible sin--but that doesn't mean it was either of those.  Gladstone spends a good chunk of the book building up the fact that everybody sees everything differently, but its the person with more power who decides which way is the 'right' way (this is illustrated very literally in the end).

I thought Tara was marvelous--kind of drunk on her power in the beginning (to an almost bad ending), but also partly resentful of how it separates her and how others just don't understand, she comes into her own (for good or ill) and finds a place that needs her (and maybe will appreciate her for it).

This is a very complicated book however.  Gladstone draws out explanations and motivations for as long as he can, revealing such things as how Tara got herself kicked out of the Hidden Schools (kind of, not really...its complicated, but it may have involved an explosion) until much later in the story in a mildly inconvenient moment.  This works well for the endgame, but for other things (the Gods' War?) it gets a bit irksome.  The characters act, talk and react as if its something the reader should know (like water is wet or fire is hot).

Murder Mystery, religious thriller, and fantasy--Gladstone blended all the elements of various genres quite well.  This is kind of like a Criminal Minds episode (if that was set in a world with magic and Gods talking to their acolytes mentally), there's a police procedural feel to the novel with Tara and co gathering facts and clues and investigating leads.  The pacing feels off however because again as a reader we don't know everything about the world, so something I found to be 'ah-ha! clue!' is easily dismissed because its just an everyday occurrence in the world.

The thing of it is, even those minor sort of complaints didn't really stop me from eagerly turning page after page.    By the end I understood quite a lot about the world, but I can't tell you how I know.  The casual, organic sort of way Gladstone conveys the world-building is wonderful.

I can't wait for book 2 (Two Serpents Rise, due out in July).

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Book Review: Stained Glass Monsters

When a motionless woman dressed in white appears in the village of Falk, Kendall Stockton has no inkling that the strange apparition will soon leave her homeless, and tangled in the affairs of mages and monsters. For the white figure is the first sign of a spell which will shatter cities, and make the caster as powerful as the gods.

Saved by a stranger who claims her goal is to stop the woman, Kendall is torn between admiring the mage Rennyn Claire's strength, and doubting her methods. What is Rennyn willing to do to win? Do the best of intentions justify pragmatic sacrifice, or is Rennyn Claire no better than the monster she is trying to stop?

Its to be expected that I would enjoy this, all of Höst's books have been greatly enjoyed by me.  This is however the one I've put off reading because at first I wasn't certain about it.  I'm really uncertain why, I bought it (Kindle and paperback edition), I happily displayed it and told folks about it when I would mention Höst's works to them.  I just somehow didn't get around to reading it yet.

Then I got sick and was laid up in bed unable to move more then a few feet and this just happened to be my bed stand (I had recently lent it out and had it returned to me). 

Those familiar with Höst's works (Champion of the Rose or the Medair duology mainly) will recognize some of the patterns here.  Pre-ordained event, things spiral out of control due to unforeseen variables, and then clever planning (with a bit of contingency planning as well) wins the day with a layer of bittersweet consequence.  This is of course much MORE than that--it doesn't describe Ren's fractured morality or Kendall's stubborn need for independence or the Kellian's complicated history making a mush of their present circumstances--but the bare bones run down to that I think.

Ren has moved herself up on my list of Höst's characters by simply being everything she says she is and not giving an inch to anyone who says otherwise.  Very few people seem to understand what exactly Ren is doing or giving up.  Faille understood, maybe because his people (the Kellian, golem constructs of magic made by the Black Queen 300 years ago to be her brute force) are stuck in a similar position.  Ren could, and did do, everything in her power to keep the Grand Summoning from occurring, but she's tainted by her ancestry.

Kendall is more or less an after thought at first.  Used by the Sentene to track Ren, then shuffled off to a school of mages too far advanced for her untutored self, before finally she's tossed about understanding way more then anyone gives her credit for (initially).  The inclusion of things from her point of view does a lot to explain everything that Ren doesn't care about (or can't think about).  We see more of the politics, hear more from the outsider observations about how the ordinary people see things.

As Kendall begins to understand what's going on, the reader can see the larger picture and understand a lot of what Ren isn't saying and Kendall can't know.

I would have liked to spend more time with the Kellians.  We see basically three and those are the three we learn the most about.  Sukata is passionate about her magical studies, her mother Captain Illuma and then Faille, who interestingly apparently was a topic of sympathy from his fellows from almost as soon as Ren appeared (though how he knew is beyond me).  Over the course of the novel both Kendall and Ren observe ways to understand the feelings of the Kellians, but by in large they are much more shrouded in mystery.

Things move quickly in the book and at this I come to sticking point.  I'm not entirely sure how much time passed from the first page to the last, though at least a month went past based on something Seb (Ren's younger brother) said.  That being the case, Ren's interest in Faille seemed to just suddenly appear.  Not like insta-love (just add lust), but it was just there suddenly and I'm not sure the story supported it fully.

There shall be another book (at some point, in the future.  Höst has a lot of sequels, new books and promised books in the works (check out her page here to see) so I'm assured that something will be coming out from her soon(ish).  That said I would like to see the hunt for a character who survives and I can't name because its a spoiler.  As Ren said, if she had a life of ease she'd get bored wouldn't she?

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