Posts filed under ‘Reviews’

My weekly…um monthly…um semi-annual…update

Well, yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve done a “weekly” update, hasn’t it? <g>

On the personal front, the kid is back in school, and we are now in the midst of soccer season. Twice weekly practice, and weekly games make it a big part of our week. Things are pretty hectic, what with making sure soccer clothes are clean, and homework is done before practice. But, once we’re at the park, it’s all fun and games. 🙂

Things are also going to get crazier yet, since next week I will be having surgery to remove my gall bladder. I’ve been told it’s a minor out-patient surgery, so I’m hoping I’ll bounce back relatively quickly. And, if nothing else, it’ll serve as a great excuse to spend the following week reading and relaxing. (Hey, I’ve got to take my opportunities where I can!)

Can you believe, that after almost a year of living in our place, we finally unpacked our books a couple of weeks ago? We’d been waiting for some furniture changes in our office, and I really didn’t want to have to move the books once they were unpacked. Our furniture situation was finally resolved, and there were no more excuses. And, while we did have to move the graphic novels over to the shelves that hold the comic book boxes—yes, we have custom shelving for the comic book boxes, can you get any geekier?— we were able to fit all of our fiction onto one wall, filled with bookcases.bookcases

Let me tell you, there is nothing more goofy than 2 Lit majors arguing over how to shelve books. If you were a fly on our wall, you’d have heard questions like:

  • Honey, should I put the Asian lit together with the Asian American lit? (Answer: a quick vehement NO)
  • Does Balzac’s Seraphita go on the European lit shelf or on the literary criticism shelf? (Answer: a ridiculously long debate that ended in putting it on the lit crit shelf)
  • Should Octavia Butler’s books be classified as contemporary fantasy or sci-fi? (Answer: a still debatable sci-fi shelving)

I have to say that my guy and I thoroughly enjoyed the day organizing our books. And, I actually spent an additional morning just playing among my bookcases (the 2 on the left, pictured here, and my other small “imminently tbr” in my bedroom). It felt so satisfying getting things organized and cleared up. We now even have additional guest sleeping space in the office, as well as a comfy reading nook, just for me!

Killing FloorI’ve just finished listening to Killing Floor by Lee Child. I don’t often read suspense-thrillers, but I’d heard so many good things about the Jack Reacher series, I thought I’d give it a go. It was a fun, pulpy read. Jack Reacher’s character made the book stand out. He really reminds me of Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name” character in the Sergio Leone movies. I’m still mourning the fact that Tom Cruise has been cast in the Jack Reacher role for an upcoming movie. You know. The 6’5″ 250lb  ex-military policeman. *headdesk* (This fact was broken to me on Twitter during a highly amusing and very depressing conversation with @younglibrarian@SonomaLass@cjewel, and @MeganMulry.)

This past weekend, I also read Pharaoh’s Concubine by ZA Maxfield and The Tempering of Men by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear. Both were excellent reads. Here’s a couple of mini-reviews I did for them over at Goodreads:

Pharaoh's ConcubinePharaoh’s Concubine by ZA Maxfield:

I really liked this romantic suspense. It put me in mind of Jane Seville’s Zero at the Bone and Brooke McKinley’s Shades of Gray.

Dylan and William go on the run, to prevent Dylan’s mobster lover from killing William in retaliation for a botched kidnapping attempt on Dylan. There’s lots of suspense and angst. Dylan’s character grows so much through the story, as he makes peace with his past and reunites with some of his family. I loved Williams low-key intensity, and his ability to see through Dylan’s pretty-boy image, and into his heart.

The Tempering of MenThe Tempering of Men by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear:

A wonderful visit back to the Iskryne world. It’s such a fascinating civilization. I love what Monette/Bear do with the sexual politics and gender roles. Yet while those issues never overtake the story itself, they greatly inform the plot and culture. Vethulf and Skjaldwulf’s stories really shed a lot of light on their characters. It was great to learn more about them, and their relationship dynamics are so interesting. I found myself reading slower and slower as the book progressed, so I could stretch out the story. It’s going to be tough waiting till 2013 for book 3 of the series. The only reason I didn’t give this 5 stars is because I was so disappointed that Isolfr was such a peripheral character. I really missed him.

Song of Scarabaeus

I’m currently reading Song of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy. I’ve heard so much buzz about this sci-fi romance, and was thrilled to find it when I went to the Borders closing sale in Rancho Cucamonga. I really like the originality of the world, and Finn and Edie’s relationship. I’m already planning on reading book 2, Children of Scarabaeus.Hellbent

I’ve also started Cherie Priest’s Hellbent in in audio. I really enjoyed the first in the Cheshire Red series, and though the narrator sounds a little too smirky at times, the narration is mostly well done.The story itself is really good, and I like how Raylene, despite her desire to be a tough cookie, keeps finding herself taking care of those around her.

Later this week, I’m hoping to get to Midnight by Ellen Connor, Good Girls Don’t by Victoria Dahl.

So, that’s what’s been going on with me. What’s been going on with you? Read any good books lately?

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September 14, 2011 at 3:37 pm 10 comments

Just finished reading…Pushed to the Limit by Nico Rosso

Pushed to the Limit (Limit War series, book 2) by Nico Rosso [NOVELLA]

Pushed to the LimitTeryn Pilander lives in a world of secrets. She is a Shadow Corps operative for the Core Army in the Limit War, trained in espionage. Her latest mission takes her to the planet Viela, drawn by a communication that the local government captured a Dusk Warrior Officer for questioning. More interesting than the message, though, is the voice delivering it. A little shy, but deep and strong, the masculine voice sparks dormant fires in Teryn. She tells herself that once the mission is over, she might put her spy self away for a bit and live a little as a woman.

 

Drel Kol has secrets of his own. He is the one who sent the message drawing Teryn and her team to his planet. But he was just following orders and led her into a trap. Now, the woman he spoke with could be in grave danger. Her voice alone is enough to ignite a passion he has never known. Yet he’s only a technician. Can he fight against his own government and the Dusk to save her? And will the new bond between Teryn and Drel be torn apart when she learns his secret?

 
Typically, I tend to be a bit compulsive when I read a series, hating to read out of order. However, when I was asked by the author to review this novella, I was assured that the story would stand alone just fine. And, I was so relieved to discover that it was true. While there were some references to what took place in Taken to the Limit, book 1 in the Limit War series, I never felt like I was missing out on any important storyline, character development, or information.

I really liked this story of Teryn, a strong, kick-ass heroine, and Drel, a shy but tough beta hero. Pushed to the Limit opens with Teryn arriving on the planet Viela after being lured to it by communications tech Drel. She quickly sees it for the trap that it is, and Drel realizes that he’s made a big mistake. When they join forces against the Dusk (a stealthy invading force) and Vielan collaborators, the story kicks into high gear.

At the beginning of the story, their connection felt sort of  like “insta-love,” with a pretty extreme reaction on Teryn’s part just by hearing Drel’s voice as he guided her and her crew to land on Viela. However, as events unfold, Teryn and Drel are given an opportunity to connect and get to know each other. (The time-frame is still pretty fast, but the time is well spent, with each learning what makes the other tick.) I really appreciated that even in the compressed format of a novella, a good amount of it was focused on developing their connection. One really gets why they are drawn to each other.

As far as the world-building, there was just enough given the novella-length, with out the story feeling either wallpaper-y or too dense. There also was a good balance between the romantic relationship and the larger story arc.

I would really enjoy seeing a long story in this world, with a greater complexity of plot and more time to develop characters. However, Pushed to the Limit was a satisfying introduction to the series, and I’m now curious enough about it that I’ve gone ahead and bought the first book. I’ll be looking forward to reading more about the Limit War.

I received this book from the
author, for review purposes.

July 3, 2011 at 7:00 am 10 comments

Just finished reading…My Dangerous Pleasure by Carolyn Jewel

My Dangerous Pleasure (My Immortal/Witches series, book 4) by Carolyn Jewel

My Dangerous PleasureTEMPT THE DARKNESS Strong-willed and independent, Paisley Nichols is used to taking care of herself. But when an insane mage begins tracking her every move and threatening her at every turn, she has no choice but to put her life in the hands of a demon.
RISK THE PASSION Burned by betrayal, demon assassin Iskander won’t get too close to anyone. He spends his days serving his warlord and his nights indulging in carnal pleasures . . . and that’s exactly how he likes it. But when a mage wages a wrenching psychic assault on his beautiful tenant Paisley, Iskander must defend her. Under his protection, she will be drawn irresistibly into his life and learn about her own mysterious powers. And not a moment too soon. The mage haunting her isn’t acting alone-and he won’t rest until he destroys both Paisley and Iskander.

I love this series, and was so glad that the long wait between books 3 and 4 was finally over. Iskander has been put through the mill in previous books in this series, so I’ve been really looking forward to his getting a shot at a HEA.

First off, let me say that this is the fourth book in the series, and given the complexity of the world and the character relationships, I highly recommend reading them in order. I’m usually a stickler about these things, and the payoff will be worth it in this case, since the larger story arc continues to get more and more interesting as the books progress.

The world of demonkin, witches, and mages waging a power struggle  in modern-day San Francisco is dark, sensual, and often violent. Nikodemus, the leader of the kin, is struggling to keep the peace between his kind with their witch allies, and the power-hungry mages.

Paisley, a human woman who owns a bakery and rents a garage apartment from her sexy (and unbeknownst to her) demonkin landlord, Iskander, stumbles into this explosive situation when Kessler, a dark mage awakens an incipient magic in her, and begins to terrorize her.

I really liked Paisley. While she’s often put in terrifying, confusing, and overwhelming situations (at the beginning of the book she is completely unaware of the non-human world) she deals with it in a straightforward, no-nonsense manner. Her naiveté doesn’t result in tstl actions, as often is the case with uninformed heroines.

Iskander is someone who has been through hell, been damaged, especially by his crazy blood-twin, and is often on the edge of losing it, himself. I love how when he’s put in the position of guarding Paisley, she brings out another side of him that we haven’t seen in previous books. He’s not just a bad-ass alpha around her, but also a considerate protector (and, eventually,) lover. Their love scenes are HOT, and I love how Iskander, for all his passion, always tries to make sure that she is ok with his more “demon-like” aspects.

While the story itself took a little bit to really get going, once it did, I love where it went. I found the story behind Kessler’s actions original and absorbing, and it kept me turning pages. I can’t wait for the next book in the series to see where the larger story arc continues to go.

Related posts about the series:

For more info on the series, the author has a great primer on it.

I received this book from the
author, for review purposes.

June 24, 2011 at 12:05 pm 8 comments

Just finished reading…Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts

This review is cross-posted from Goodreads.
Chasing FireThere’s little as thrilling as firefighting-at least to Rowan Tripp. The Missoula smoke jumpers are in Rowan’s blood: her father is a legend. She’s been fighting fires since her eighteenth birthday. At this point, returning to the wilds of Montana for the season feels like coming home-even with reminders of the partner she lost last season still lingering.
Fortunately, this year’s rookie crop is one of the strongest ever-and Gulliver Curry’s one of the best. He’s also a walking contradiction, a hotshot firefighter with a big vocabulary and a winter job at a kids’ arcade.
Everything is thrown off balance when a dark presence lashes out against Rowan, looking to blame someone for last year’s tragedy. Rowan knows she can’t complicate things with Gull-any distractions in the air or on the ground could mean the end-but if she doesn’t find someone she can lean on, she may not make it through the summer. . . .
It’s apparent that Chasing Fire was excellently researched, and the fire jumper aspect was really interesting. I also really liked Rowan and Gull, as well as all of the secondary characters. However, I did have a couple of minor issues that prevented me from rating it higher.
I listened to the digital audiobook, and between parts 9-12 (out of 13 parts) the book started feeling really long. Rowan and Gull’s relationship seemed to be in a holding pattern while they continued to work on the fires, and all of the other secondary plot threads were being dealt with. I wanted a little more focus on Rowan and Gull’s relationship, I think.
Also, I would have liked more about how they were going to work out their future, post fire-season. This seemed to be a big issue for Rowan at the beginning as to why she didn’t get involved with fellow smoke jumpers. Gull’s got a thriving family business in CA, while Rowan is firmly entrenched in Montana. That part of it seemed to be too rushed at the end, and dealt with only superficially.
I also found Rowan’s initial attitude toward her father’s romance really immature, which despite her extremely close relationship with her father, felt inconsistent with her character.
However, all that being said, it was a good read, and I think if it had been a little shorter (maybe if one of the plot threads had been smaller) I would have loved it.

May 25, 2011 at 2:20 pm 6 comments

5★ Reads for March 2011

I’ve always hesitated to grade or “rate” the books I read. There’s a piece of me that feels it’s a bit reductive. I’m a wordy sort of person (if you couldn’t already tell 😛 ) and prefer to give the whys of something rather than a letter grade, number, or a symbol (insert quantifying icon here).

However, spending so much time on Goodreads has really gotten me into the habit of giving books I read a star-rating. And, while I balked at first at giving the 1 to 5 star ratings there, I’ve now gotten (mostly) used to it.

In March, I was surprised when I noticed that I had a good number of 5★ reads. I don’t feel like I give 5★s out easily. Phrases like: “blown away”, “greatly exceeded my expectations”, and, “awesome!” have to enter my head while reading a book to which I’d give 5★s.

And, these books did all of that, and then some:

The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran

The Duke of ShadowsThis is one of those books that I don’t have an excuse as to why I haven’t read it earlier. I’ve read Meredith Duran’s other books (except her most recent one) and really loved them. Yet, despite having The Duke of Shadows on my tbr for a while, I just now got to it. And loved it. I was wrecked for other books after finishing it.

Emma was smart and feisty. She goes through hell and doesn’t come out unscathed. A lot of the book’s personal drama is due to her damage. Yet, I understood why she felt the way that she did—even though on the inside I just wanted her to get with Julian. Of course, then the book would have had no conflict.

And, in Julian I have found a new favorite hero. He’s honorable and straightforward, and like Emma, he too has baggage he’s carrying around. Yet, I never doubted his love for Emma.

The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire, book 1)  by Clay and Susan

The GreyfriarI’d heard so much buzz about this book, that my expectations were pretty high. And, even so, I was utterly captivated by this highly original story.

The closest I  can come to comparing it to another book, is that it’s like a slightly less romance-y Iron Duke. It has elements of steampunk, adventure, and some romance.

Princess Adele is the next in line to the Empire of Equatoria. She’s brave and idealistic, and she still has lots to learn about the world beyond her kingdom. An attack while she is touring border territories thrusts her into the middle of a terrifying world where vampires now rule what was once Great Britain.

Coming to her aid is the mysterious Greyfriar, a masked hero, who always mysteriously shows up at the right time. (Though that’s not to say that Adele is some helpless maiden.) The story is pulpy in feel (in a fun way), but it doesn’t sacrifice character development for action. It has a great balance of both, and is one of my favorite reads of 2011 so far. I can’t wait for book 2, The Riftwalker, later this fall.

Home for the Holidays by Sarah Mayberry

Home for the HolidaysI went on and on about Home for the Holidays over at Goodreads, so sorry if I repeat myself here:

Sarah Mayberry packs an amazing amount of story into a category romance. Even with the Super Romance’s longer length, I was surprised by how this category romance packs a wallop.

I LOVED both Joe and Hannah. They each had their baggage coming into the story, but worked through all of it even while the story took time showing their courtship. Great stuff.

There was a plot twist at the end that had me glancing at the number of pages left, wondering how Sarah Mayberry would resolve it in a realisitc and satisfying way. She did. And, then some.

A Lot Like Love by Julie James

A Lot Like LoveTied with Practice Makes Perfect as my new favorite by Julie James.

Julie James is an author I know will always give great banter. The interplay between her heroes and heroines read like Tracy/Hepburn movies, with palpable chemistry and fast dialogue that is smart and funny.

What made A Lot Like Love work so well for me was that the suspense plot flowed equally well, and made me not want to put it down. I can tell I’m really into a book when I catch myself skimming, in an attempt to read the book faster. (Of course, then I have to make myself go back, and savor what I read s-l-o-w-l-y.) There was a lot of that in A Lot Like Love.

GhosTV (PsyCop series, book 6) by Jordan Castillo Price

GhosTVI was worried that my anticipation, high expectations, and love for Vic and the PsyCop series would lead to disappointment when I finally got hands on GhosTV. I was wrong.

JCP did something that often is hard to find in mystery/romance books. That is, she showed the hero in a believable, but still compelling established relationship, while developing an equally compelling and suspenseful paranormal mystery.

Vic is one of my favorite protagonists to read about. His uncomfortable-ness in his skin competes with how happy he is in his relationship with Jacob. And, where sometimes a somewhat neurotic protagonist can be whiny or annoying, Vic is never that. One really gets that Vic’s insecurity doesn’t stem from doubts about Jacob’s love for him. THAT’S his touchstone. The rest of his baggage is his shit to work out, he owns it, and he doesn’t just dump it on Jacob. Which makes him a wonderfully strong character, IMO.

And, as for the case Vic and Jacob are working on, it kept me guessing, trying to figure things out, as well as having a considerable creep factor. It also left me with wanting more. Especially, after a decision that’s made at the end of the book. Can’t wait for book 7!

Wanna know something awesome? After writing the greater part of this post, I actually had another couple of  5✭ reads. However, my preparations for attending the Romantic Times Book Lovers Convention is necessitating that I wrap this post up here. Next week, I’ll do some mini-reviews of the rest of the books.

April 8, 2011 at 11:32 am 8 comments

Just finished reading…The Shattered Gates (Rifter #1)

The Shattered Gates (The Rifter, book 1) by Ginn Hale

From the publisher’s press release:

Written over five years, The Rifter is award-winning author Ginn Hale’s new ten-part serialized novel that follows two men transported from modern America to a theocratic world in the throes of a revolution.

When I was offered the opportunity to review Ginn Hale’s ambitious, 10-part serialized novel, I jumped at the chance. Not only am I a big fan of Ginn Hale, I was also intrigued by the structure of this project. It conjures up visions of those old-time radio dramas, serialized adventure movies, and telling stories around a campfire where the storyteller always left one wanting more.

Here’s the description for the first installment, The Shattered Gates

The Shattered Gates
When John opens a letter addressed to his missing roommate, Kyle, he expects to find a house key. Instead he is swept into a strange realm of magic, mysticism, revolutionaries and assassins.
Though he struggles to escape, John is drawn steadily closer to a fate he share with Kyle—to wake the destroyer god, the Rifter, and shatter a world.

This first installment of the 10-part serialized novel pretty much did what it needed to do, and has hooked me!

John and his mysterious roommate, Kahlil/Kyle come from different worlds, but are connected by magic. John is just discovering that there is more to the everyday world he knows. He is thrust into the action (and Kahlil’s world) when he makes a fateful mistake. Now, he’s doing everything he can to survive—and keep his friends alive—in a strange land. I like John. He’s forthright, and a bit skeptical of the magic that he’s just becoming aware of.

Kahlil is still a bit of a mystery. He’s on a mission to protect his world and John’s, even if it means killing. He’s a bit of a fish out of water in John’s world, but I love the wonder he has at the everyday (our) world. even something as simple as ordering breakfast at a diner is a special experience for him. The author really conveys Kahlil’s awe in a beautiful and believable way.

The sense of loneliness and isolation of both men is conveyed beautifully, and it ties them together, even while they are unaware of their similar feelings.

My only quibble with the story was John’s initial lack of curiosity about his knife/weapon carrying roommate. I really found it sort of brought me out of the story when he never even questioned Kahlil’s comings and goings while armed to the teeth (at least beyond wondering about it to himself).

The world—especially Kahlil’s world—has plenty of depth. It’s clear that there’s still a lot to learn about it, but it’s complexity doesn’t completely overwhelm the story. I like the knowledge that I will learn more about it as the story continues to unfold in future installments.

The events were mysterious and compelling enough to suck me in, and make me want more. I have plenty of questions about where the story is going: what role does John play in Kahlil’s world? What will happen when Kahlil connects up with John again? What exactly is going on with the shattered gate? I’m sure that all of my questions will be answered.

In all, I really enjoyed part 1, and can’t wait to read part 2 .

New installments will be released on the second Tuesday of each month. Singles installments and subscriptions are available from Weightless Books.

This review cross-posted on Goodreads.
My Goodreads rating:4 of 5 stars
View all my reviews at Goodreads.
I received this book from the

publisher for review purposes.

March 14, 2011 at 6:00 am 7 comments

Just finished reading…Chasing Perfect by Susan Mallery

Chasing Perfect (Fools Gold series, book 1) by Susan Mallery

Chasing PerfectWelcome to Fool’s Gold, California, a charming community in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. There’s lots to do and plenty of people to meet, especially women. Because there’s just one tiny problem in Fool’s Gold: the men don’t seem to stick around. Maybe it’s the lure of big-city life, or maybe it’s plain old bad luck, but regardless of the reason, the problem has to be fixed, fast. And Charity Jones may be just the city planner to do it.
Charity’s nomadic childhood has left her itching to settle down, and she immediately falls in love with all the storybook town has to offer—everything, that is, except its sexiest and most famous resident, former world-class cyclist Josh Golden. With her long list of romantic disasters, she’s not about to take a chance on another bad boy, even if everyone else thinks he’s perfect just the way he is. But maybe that’s just what he needs—someone who knows the value of his flaws. Someone who knows that he’s just chasing perfect.

I was really disappointed in this, my first Susan Mallery book. It sounded like just what I was in the mood for: a light, contemporary romance about life in a small California town, in the vein of Jill Shalvis’ Wilder Adventure series.

Unfortunately, even though it felt like all of the elements were there, the complete package never did it for me. A lot of that was due to the heroine, Charity. She was so resistant to Josh’s public reputation and desire to race again due to her own personal insecurities, that she came across as selfish. In the very end, she understands that his need to race has absolutely nothing to do with her, but it was a little too little, a little too late.

I liked Josh’s character more, but the repetition over and over about how god-like Josh was: so handsome, so lusted after by every woman in town, so envied by the (few) men around him, and how extremely thunderstruck Charity was by him, it made it hard to believe in them as a couple.

******SPOLIER AHEAD (highlight area to read)******

When Charity tells him she’s pregnant, Josh walks out on her. He doesn’t call her for days trying to “work things out”. It felt really out of character for him to not even try to let her know why he left town.

And, when they do come back together, his actions–and her reactions–are never believably resolved. (At least to my satisfaction.)

******END SPOILER*******

In the end, I never really bought their HEA. Charity’s insecurities made the climactic scene seem more like a “happy for now”, and it never really felt like she actually trusted in him or in their relationship.

It might have worked for me more if I had seen more of them as a couple after their declarations: how they settle into their new lives with Josh’s career decisions and how Charity comes to terms with his fame.

The main reason I gave it the 2.5 stars at Goodreads (and not lower) was because I liked Josh, and I also liked the town of Fools Gold. I’m not sure yet if I’ll read book 2, but I might. I’m hoping that my failure to like the story more was due to Charity, who will not be the heroine in book 2.

  • Susan Mallery’s site
This review cross-posted on Goodreads.
My Goodreads rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
View all my reviews at Goodreads.
I received this book from the

publisher for review purposes.

OK, so now I have some questions for you: Have you read Susan Mallery’s books? What do you think about them? I’d still like to read more by her, but think I might need a recommendation. Got any?

January 5, 2011 at 6:00 am 11 comments

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Pleasure and Purpose (Order of Solace, book 1) by Megan Hart

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A FEW BOOKS FROM THE PILE…

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September 20, 2011:
Tempted by His Target
Tempted by His Target by Jill Sorenson

October 4, 2011:
Angels of Darkness
Angels of Darkness with stories by Meljean Brook, Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh, and Sharon Shinn

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