Okay, I knew going in that this was going to be steamy. And it is. But I also knew that I like some of the author's other works and, bonus, gaming. AnOkay, I knew going in that this was going to be steamy. And it is. But I also knew that I like some of the author's other works and, bonus, gaming. And it doesn't disappoint. Erickson tells a tight story and manages to make this believable enough even in such a short work—a short work that would be half its length if you removed all the sex. Interestingly, she even got the tech right (though the games business is nowhere near as remunerative as she supposes—particularly with regards to games journalism).
Anyway, a solid, though predictable, story that would probably be rated higher if it didn't trounce all over my steam tolerance.
A note about Steamy: Yeah, way, way beyond my steam tolerance. Way. Though I have to admit the sub/dom was incredibly well done and not the least bit creepy. I think it works because not only is Marley good with it, but because Austin takes care to know that she's good with it. Add in a bit of Austin's emotional vulnerability and it was not only well done, but sympathetically and romantically done....more
I didn't connect very well to this book, which is kind of a shame. The world is interesting and the story is well constructed. There are interesting eI didn't connect very well to this book, which is kind of a shame. The world is interesting and the story is well constructed. There are interesting elements and I can't help thinking I should have enjoyed this much better than I did.
The obvious weaknesses are the uneven pacing and an emotionally distant main character. Alex Pendlebury is a "Reader"—someone who reads the emotions of others (including lingering impressions left on objects and locations). To keep from being overwhelmed, she has learned to fortify herself and erect shields. Elrod does a good job conveying that emotional distance, but that had the side-effect of putting an emotional distance between me and the main character, as well.
This is nowhere more evident than in her interactions with Lieutenant Brooks. This is a crying shame and crime against the novel because Brooks is by far the most interesting character in it. He's stalwart and kind and unflinchingly honest and that's an incredibly engaging combination. Elrod pulls off his character supremely well, as well, and that's something of a miracle (as it's really easy to sacrifice one of those virtues for the sake of the others). Sadly, this, too, has an unfortunate side-effect as I spent more than half this novel wanting Alex to lighten the heck up and actually see the gem that was standing right next to her the entire trying night and day and night that comprise the story.
Between the uneven pacing, puppy-crush on Lt. Brooks, and the emotionally guarded heroine, I had a hard time letting myself simply immerse in the story. It's good enough that I was never tempted to put it down, but it wasn't the pure win it might have been.
So yeah, 3.5 stars, but without enough Oomph to push the rounding up....more
This is a straight-forward read but a little too, uh, manufactured for my taste. Both the characters and their situations tended to be broadcast a litThis is a straight-forward read but a little too, uh, manufactured for my taste. Both the characters and their situations tended to be broadcast a little broadly with too many contrivances to buy into at all. I mean, she left a year ago and in that time she not only completed super speshal agent training, but became a top agent with lots of experience to lean on. When it turned out how stupid she was in leaving in the first place, I kind of lost all respect for her. I might have made it further, but I didn't really care for Hank, either. He's demanding and way too sure of himself. Add the instalove and the whole "mate" trope and I really lost patience. I quit at about the half-way mark when Junior (Hank's brother) turned out to be some super genius out of the blue. The plot already had a lot of holes and I found I just didn't care any more....more
This one continued my steady progression of liking each slightly better than the last. It also carries on the series tradition of having a quirk or twThis one continued my steady progression of liking each slightly better than the last. It also carries on the series tradition of having a quirk or two that was at least mildly off-putting for my enjoyment.
I ended up liking Philip more than I expected to. I'm not so much a fan of urbanite pretty-boys with expensive tastes. I knew that going in so I was braced. Fortunately, he's much better than the other books lead me to expect, though he is, yes, an urbanite pretty-boy with expensive tastes. He was, however, also all man and comfortable with it. I didn't like his late-book development (view spoiler)[of emotional terror of commitment. It was a bit clichéd while not having enough support or individuality to make it flow naturally. (hide spoiler)]
Sybill, however, was a mess. From the early book anticipation of the inevitable crash to the middle book (view spoiler)[stupidity and irrationality regarding Gloria to the late book fragility I just wasn't drawn to her at all. (hide spoiler)] These things were small, though, and I did like her in the end. And her growth is outstanding.
But a large part of my enjoyment also has to be that the Seth storyline comes to a definitive conclusion. We get the promised reveals and they are what they needed to be. Sybill's role in that side of things was actually useful because it gave us the details at a comfortable remove and from a sympathetic source.
Anyway, the whole was better than its parts and that's no small thing.
A note about Steamy: A weak showing here. Yeah, there were a couple explicit scenes, but I wasn't much into them so they had less impact than they might have had.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
It has been months since I finished this and I keep putting the review off for reasons mostly having to do with trying to put my thoughts in order. WeIt has been months since I finished this and I keep putting the review off for reasons mostly having to do with trying to put my thoughts in order. Well, now the thoughts have faded enough that I'm going to knock this out just because I can.
And I'm doing the book a huge disservice and I regret that.
This book was a delight. I hadn't expected much because it's obviously aimed at RPG gamers and that's niche to start off and most authors don't limit their readership right up front like that. Hayes isn't great but he's more than adequate and with this book, his story is compelling, with characters I cared about right away. The plot and pacing are great. The worldbuilding is rudimentary, but adequate and possibly deliberate (Hayes goes to some lengths to make the world game-agnostic, while still hitting all the important RPG tropes).
What I truly enjoyed, though, was the play against stereotypes. These are mild spoilers, but far be it for me to ruin someone's enjoyment (view spoiler)[I got a huge kick by the party figuring out their respective classes. The princess becoming the barbarian, the gnome becoming the paladin, the half-orc the wizard, and the palace guard making a truly fantastic rogue. (hide spoiler)] None of those were surprises to the reader, I don't think, but watching them come to their eventual callings was a good deal of fun.
The eventual plot was obviously the beginning of something bigger (without any detestable cliff-hangers) but the eventual reveal works against taking the book seriously (take this spoiler seriously) (view spoiler)[making the artifact able to affect our "real" world breaks the conceit that this is a fantasy. I mean, for the story to be real, you have to accept that a magic item can reach across dimensions to mess with RPGers in our world. Yeah, having RPGers able to affect people in this fantasy realm is weird to start with, but having the effect go two ways requires accepting the truly unlikely as possible. That's a not-insignificant intrusion on suspension of disbelief for the very audience most likely to find this book engaging. (hide spoiler)] It's an interesting development, mind you. And one rife with story possibilities for future installments. But it's still a bit of a break for connection with the story.
The fact I remember so many details from a book I finished literally half a year ago is telling about how engaged I truly was. In the end, I came away wanting to recommend this to all my gamer friends. I still haven't, though, because I couldn't figure out how to tell them about it any better than I could come up with a review. Maybe now I can...["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This is a fun book with a deeply sympathetic character it was easy to fall in love with. Aren is stronger than she thinks she is, and more powerful. AThis is a fun book with a deeply sympathetic character it was easy to fall in love with. Aren is stronger than she thinks she is, and more powerful. And compassionate as well—way more than I could have managed. Briggs does a great job creating a story and setting with very broad strokes of power and struggle brought down to an isolated village in a valley far from the devastation wrought by war but feeling its effects nonetheless.
This is facilitated by creating three forces her villagers need to struggle against, all frighteningly more powerful than they are. Of these, the bloodmages are the most powerful, and the most implacably evil. Their power is built on the death and subjugation of others and a mad craving for more that only grows as their power grows.
Newly freed from domination by the bloodmages, the wild world awakened is more unpredictable. I might call them fey, as many fit the traditional definitions, but I rather like Briggs' term of "wildlings". They can vary from the earth spirit of the entire valley to the subtler dryads, nyads, ghosts, and fetches that plague individuals or haunt specific patches of readily defined niches. Much of the story involves learning the old lore afresh to find how to coexist/appease/defeat these forces newly released from slumber.
Finally, you have the raiders newly arrived in their valley. These "merely" human antagonists might not be as frightening as the others but their predations are as much an existential threat and as seemingly implacable. Indeed, they're the first we meet as Briggs takes us from an easy, even pastoral, beginning into heartbreak and loss.
Aren's mettle is tested right from the start as her home is one of the first to meet the new threats coming to their valley. Her grief drew me to her immediately and evoked an intimacy that carried me through the discovery phase of the story. My interest flagged a bit periodically in this early phase, actually. Never enough to break with the story, but events were sometimes telegraphed a bit too simply and Briggs lingered a bit on some of the emotional lows in the early novel, I think. Since much of the action was episodic throughout the novel (with the goals mainly short-term and quickly achieved), the early pacing issue stood out more than it might otherwise have.
That said, the last half of the story was extremely hard to put down, with the episodic nature of the action clearly on a unified vector but without being predictable or boring. Briggs does an excellent job shepherding the emotional journey of both Aren and Caefawn as they unite in their struggle for survival of both themselves as individuals and of the village Aren feels obligated to. The only distraction in this latter part of the book was how much I despised the village itself. I get that people are petty and that bickering and bad blood can fester, but these people added needlessly stupid on top and that I had a much harder time with. Well, that and Aren's ties to the village. In retrospect, I kind of wish Aren and Caefawn had given them all the finger and rode off on their own little adventure together alone. Good thing that didn't occur to me or I might have lost my emotional investment.
And the reason it didn't occur is that the action was fast and engaging and Aren's ties to her home made sense even if I had a hard time with them myself. i.e. they fit her character even if I disagreed with the validity of those ties. If the village had been wiped off the face of the valley by the end and Aren and Caefawn had ridden into a moderately safe sunset, I'd have been content.
But that would have robbed me of a conclusion that bumped the book a full star on its own. All the threads of the story turned out to be much more three dimensional than I'd expected and the conclusion had a strong payload that left me stunned for a bit (and yes, there were tears). The strong finish more than compensated for any passing stutters in the beginning and left me with a warmth I'm still basking in somewhat....more
Better than the first book, I think, but not by a lot. Ethan isn't the demanding jerkwad that Cam is, but he has his own neuroses and it was layered oBetter than the first book, I think, but not by a lot. Ethan isn't the demanding jerkwad that Cam is, but he has his own neuroses and it was layered on rather thick. The whole "I'm tragically flawed and must be alone" thing was rather self-indulgent and that stood against every other aspect of his life.
That said, Grace was nine kinds of awesome, even if (view spoiler)[she did go kind of stupid with the whole assuming Ethan just needed her to take the steps to advance their relationship. She should have known he wasn't that kind of stupid, I think. (hide spoiler)]
Anyway, this is a series where I wouldn't skip and if you read the first, you know pretty much what to expect with this one. I think this one is marginally better, so at least it's moving in the right direction.
A note about Steamy: Medium for me, so Roberts standard, though I think this one ran to three explicit scenes. I finished a few days ago and sadly, I don't remember exactly. While it was a little cheap how the scenes played into Ethan's insecurities in certain ways, (view spoiler)[I also appreciated how Grace was able to turn that into a positive by owning her appreciation for and participation in their (very mild) demand/surrender sex play as an equally responsible partner. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
There are a lot of reasons this book shouldn't work. And frankly, it doesn't really. But I was still entertained.
I have no rationale for that. I'm tryThere are a lot of reasons this book shouldn't work. And frankly, it doesn't really. But I was still entertained.
I have no rationale for that. I'm trying to come up with one but every time I do, the book's many flaws spring to mind. Start with instalove. Or the "genius" that's more magic plot device than anything else. Or a soft-sell version of my very least favorite "love" trope (making a choice for the loved one without talking it over—i.e. breaking up for their own good).
But I kept reading regardless. Adrianne is engaging, sure, but not that engaging. And Mason was kinda hot, but not outrageously so. So I'm at a loss coming up with an excuse. It's a light romance that hits the right notes. I guess in this case that was enough.
A note about Steamy: Way high, but not quite over my tolerance. Three to five explicit scenes (didn't keep exact count), most of them long, but not all. Some were kind of weird, actually, now I think on it......more
My main problem with this book is that I didn't find Stanton even a little bit attractive. He's arrogant, demanding, high-maintenance, thinks with hisMy main problem with this book is that I didn't find Stanton even a little bit attractive. He's arrogant, demanding, high-maintenance, thinks with his, uh, lust, and degenerates from sort-of-sweet at the beginning to a giant douchebag by the time the story really starts. Sophia was rather more likeable, but not terribly so.
And that's exacerbated by having Chase start off with the young lovers finding that they've created a baby and deciding what to do about it. They're both still in High School and they're making these grand decisions without any reference to family or loved ones beyond who to notify first. I kind of hate how casually they work to justify depriving Presley of a present father in her life. And no, daily/nightly calls from across the country don't count!
Looking back, I have no idea what kept me going with this story. I think it was mostly that I was in an easy mood so putting up with Stanton was less hard than it might normally have been. And I had nothing better to do than listen while driving or doing other non-mentally-challenging things. Well, that and the fact that Chase is an excellent author so you could see the characters' real emotional engagement beyond their words (and even actions). You knew, pretty much from the start, that Stanton and Sophia were already in love pretty much from the time you first see them together.
Which makes this an odd kind of love story, now I think on it. Chase brings us not to witness them falling in love, but rather in their discovering that they are. And that's what rescued this for me, despite my personal distaste of Stanton. Seeing them grow into their love was engaging, even though the pitfalls and roadblocks were telegraphed right from the start. Truly remarkable of Chase. I can see why she has a strong fan base. I just wish her hero hadn't been such a macho jerkweasle.
A note about Steamy: This blew way past my steam tolerance and never looked back. Sophia and Stanton are going at it at every opportunity. Yes, I get it, they like sex. No, they love sex. Sex is great. Dozens of sex scenes (well, okay, maybe six) hid around every plot corner ready to leap out at you like kittens on the Serengeti—adorable, sure, but kind of out of place and more than a little distracting....more
A decent story and a fun setting, but I really hated the romance in this one. Roberts is good and this one was written in the late 90s and that's abouA decent story and a fun setting, but I really hated the romance in this one. Roberts is good and this one was written in the late 90s and that's about the time I have designated in my head when I don't expect a true loser or something I won't enjoy. And that expectation stands—it's a good story and I cared about most of the characters and the setting is outstanding.
But I kind of hated Cam. He's a selfish jerk from start to finish and he gets things his own way, far, far too often. And I hate the whole "I'm going to override your decision because we both know you want it." And yes, it does border on abuse. Enough so that if it hadn't been for the internal dialogue letting me know that Anna did really want it I'd have been entirely thrown out of the story. Frankly, this may have been an instance where I needed more tell and less show. Anna's dialogue and described posture is at odds with the signals Cam is clearly receiving and I found that disconcerting. Indeed, Cam actions could often be seen as either brusquely interested or creepy stalker based solely on Anna's reaction.
So I cared about the story, setting, brothers, and Seth. I just hated Cam and that kept me from fully engaging even with Anna, who I mildly liked. Plus, social worker dating guardian under evaluation just doesn't feel right...
A note about Steamy: Two and a half explicit scenes (the half was just really short) makes this mid-range for me. Frankly, this was the best part of their relationship....more
This was just a failure to connect with me. It's a heist book, but with so many character PoVs, it was kind of hard to become invested in any individuThis was just a failure to connect with me. It's a heist book, but with so many character PoVs, it was kind of hard to become invested in any individual. Or even of any group. I mean, I kinda like Loch. And Kail. And the others. But not strongly and not in a way that compels me to keep reading. And part of it may be that I liked at least one of the investigators as much as I liked any of the heist team. So having my loyalties split between him and Loch made me even more ambiguous than I already was.
I like a good heist story, mind. But I like them when I'm firmly engaged by the heisters for one reason or another (like with the Robin Hood theme of Hustle or the sheer competence porn of Ocean's Eleven, for example). I have to want them to succeed and in this story, at the 50% mark, I just didn't care. So there's a manuscript stolen from Loch. Meh. She seems well-off enough without it and I'd just as soon her actions be about taking the scum who stole it down as about retrieving a treasure I couldn't care less about—a heritage, by the way, that she explicitly plans to sell on acquisition.
So no rating because the writing is good, the pacing excellent, the characters interesting enough. I just didn't connect to the story and don't want to hold that against the book....more