Of Swine and Roses is a cute fantasy short story. The characters are young and the situation is entertaining with funny moments, as well as having oneOf Swine and Roses is a cute fantasy short story. The characters are young and the situation is entertaining with funny moments, as well as having one of those rooting -- oh yeah! -- type of climactic moments. Unfortunately I didn't find any real surprises and the world of magic and characters were not engrossing. The world is rather familiar with noble families or clans that base their power on magic as well as assets, and maintain their territories with that power over those who have less influence.
The story begins when a young woman is ordered by her parents to go on a date so that her family may obtain a loan from a more powerful clan. I like that although Alena goes on the date as ordered by her parents she doesn't, for one minute, consider Chad as a possibility. I love that she stands up for the pig! Amusing and cute. Definitely....more
Well, I really enjoyed A Lot Like Love by Julie James. In this story James combines contemporary romance and "light" suspense quite well. Jor4.5 stars
Well, I really enjoyed A Lot Like Love by Julie James. In this story James combines contemporary romance and "light" suspense quite well. Jordan and Nick are as different from each other as you can get, yet by the end you believe they belong together.
She's the owner of a successful wine shop and he's an FBI agent who needs her help to catch a crook. Julie James uses Jordan's wealthy background and Nick's preconceived ideas about what that might mean to set up initial tension. Jordan being a woman who works hard for her money is not ashamed of her father's wealth and has never been spoiled, gives as good as she gets and the result is some excellent snappy and witty dialogue between these two.
A Lot Like Love is a good contemporary romance with lots of amusing moments, likable protagonists, and quite a few sexy moments. I actually loved Nick's slow trip into love, thought his internal dialogue was a hoot and really enjoyed the ongoing joke where everyone refers to him as Tall, Dark and Smoldering (or TDS as I began to think of him). I wish a visit to New York with Nick's mother and brothers had been included, there was some great interaction over the phone with these characters, and it almost felt as if the story was incomplete without their physical presence. This is the second book by Julie James I've read and really enjoyed it, so I'll definitely pick up the next book which will be featuring the Twitter Terrorist himself, Jordan's brother Kyle....more
Saddled and Spurred by Lorelei James is the second installment in her Blacktop Cowboys series. The story focuses on local Wyoming cowboy and ranch(B-)
Saddled and Spurred by Lorelei James is the second installment in her Blacktop Cowboys series. The story focuses on local Wyoming cowboy and rancher Bran Turner, and down and out beauty queen Harper Masterson. He desperately needs a ranch hand and she desperately needs a job. She has no experience as a ranch hand, he hires her and the fun begins!
Bran met Harper when she blew into town with her mother and sister. He has lusted after her from day one, but for some unknown reason her gorgeous looks always intimidated him and he's always admired her from afar. Harper's mother was a slut who ran out of town with someone else's husband and left Harper holding more than one bag. Harper's an ex-beauty queen whose lot in life seems to be taking care of others first. She works two and three jobs to take care of herself and her younger sister who's about to graduate and go to college. Taking a job as a ranch hand is no big deal to her, and working for a stud like Bran is no hardship either.
There's lots of story telling and sexual tension before Bran and Harper finally get together and James' signature erotic scenes begin. The storytelling is quite good and includes a large cast of secondary characters that complement this story. I like the fact that this couple spends time together and considers consequences first instead of jumping into a 'blinded-by-lust' relationship right off the bat.
Both Harper and Bran are portrayed as extremely likable characters. Unfortunately, I was a bit underwhelmed by Bran's character development as the real reasons behind his insecurities and trust issues were not clearly defined. Harper is a bit of a contradiction: feisty, sexy and sassy with Bran, and weakly (obliviously?) blind about her sister and herself until the very end.
This is an erotic romance and this is Lorelei James, so let's talk about the hotness in this book! You know I enjoyed that part of Saddled and Spurred. There are no threesomes in this story. Instead, Bran and Harper embark on a sexual adventure as they explore never-before experienced fantasies together. James takes her time by using sexual tension as a build up to the erotic scenes, so that when they do come along they just get better and better. Do not expect some of James' more extreme scenes, but believe me this couple is hot on and off the sheets with all that built-up tension working in their favor.
I'm definitely looking forward to reading the next installment in this series, Abe's story, Wrangled and Tangled....more
Sebastian Junger's prose and writing style in War was gripping enough to basically haul me into reading this book in one sitting. His focus is on theSebastian Junger's prose and writing style in War was gripping enough to basically haul me into reading this book in one sitting. His focus is on the brutal experience of soldiers, grunts, and the bond created while in combat. How not only their training, but that bond keeps them fighting and going back into danger, and how the excitement of combat effects their lives there and later on. All are thoroughly examined while Junger follows a single platoon from Battle Company through a harrowing and brutal 15-month tour in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley (2007-2008).
Mr. Junger is surprisingly apolitical in his approach to the story as are the soldiers -- quite refreshing. Well documented are the battles and patrols, the men's deprivations, loyalty, grief, love, edginess, tension, as well as the excitement and highs from combat and the boredom that sets in throughout their time in the Valley. The soldiers become individuals to the reader, and after a while I wanted to put faces to the names. Of course I had to watch Restrepo, the 2010 Sundance award winning documentary by Junger and Hetherington to do just that. It helped watching the documentary after reading the book.
My one problem with the book itself is in the way it's organized, it doesn't flow well at times and at others it becomes repetitive. Particularly when Junger is using sections of his research about combat soldiers to make his point. Regardless, War is a fascinating read as the reader gets a journalist's perspective on the soldier/grunt's daily experience of combat, plus, plus, plus...
The Shattered Gates is Book 1 in Ginn Hale's brand new ten part serialized fantasy series, The Rifter. It is tough trying to review the beginning of aThe Shattered Gates is Book 1 in Ginn Hale's brand new ten part serialized fantasy series, The Rifter. It is tough trying to review the beginning of a book instead of the whole thing, so I'm just going to give you my impressions on the world building and her introduction of characters at this point.
Ginn Hale begins the story in our contemporary world with John opening a letter addressed to his unusual roommate Kyle. The letter contains a key and John keeps it. In the meantime Kyle or Khalil is fighting a war in his own world. A strange world where there are such things as oracle bones and talking dogs. After a series of unusual events, John uses the key and unwittingly opens a gate that transports him and his two closest friends to a strange and hostile world where they find themselves trapped. When Kahlil realizes what has happened, he attempts to follow John through the gate. He arrives at a place that is both familiar and yet different. Kahlil finds himself alone as all he knows seems to be gone forever.
The initial part of the world building in this first part of the book was excellent. It's easy to understand and follow and fascinating enough to hook the reader. Of course there's still much left to develop, but having read this first episode, there's no way I wouldn't continue reading this book.
The characters are also interesting, although at this point the world caught my attention much more. Hale concentrates a bit more on John's development than on Khalil in this episode, but there's enough information about both characters to give the reader an idea of what is to come. John has an affinity with the earth itself and seems to receive comfort from it. He's a bit of a lone wolf and although he shares part of himself with his friends, there's a lot there within him that's still unknown. I want to know the reason behind some of his reactions and can't wait to see where his character goes from here. Khalil is even more of a mystery as the reader receives only enough information to wet the appetite. We know he was chosen as the protector of his world and somehow failed by not keeping John from going through the gate. I can't wait to read more about him.
The Shattered Gates was engrossing. I was transported to this world and wanted to know more about these characters and the events that were taking place. Of course the tough part is waiting for that next episode to come along next month! This was a solid beginning to this serialized fantasy series. ...more
Well, Blackout was a surprise! After reading Roadkill, I was expecting dark and downright bloody. Instead Rob Thurman takes Cal and the reader4.5 (B+)
Well, Blackout was a surprise! After reading Roadkill, I was expecting dark and downright bloody. Instead Rob Thurman takes Cal and the reader on a trip to Neverland. Yes you heard right, it is Peter Pan all over again. The boy who didn't want to grow up and forgets his family because it's so much fun and easier to live a "let's pretend" life, than it is to live with reality. Thurman even reprises her own version of the land of "lost boys."
On the surface Blackout takes Cal's character backward. He's a blank slate and has to re-learn everything about himself, but in reality this is big leap forward for him. This is where Cal finally comes to terms with what and who he really is, for better or worse. There's much needed character growth for him and in my opinion this was well done by Thurman, even with the repetition found throughout the text and Cal's long internal dialogue. Blackout was a great addition to this series.
I admit to being initially disappointed and not understanding why Thurman was taking Cal's character backwards, I wanted dark Cal back. But as the story went along, the more I read the more it made sense to me. I absolutely loved the ending and that last line! Cal is now ready for what may come next -- Delilah, and/or whatever monsters are lying in wait in the dark, himself included. Bring on the next book!...more
he Perfect Family by Kathryn Shay is a contemporary family story about the struggle a family goes through while coming to terms with their seventeen yhe Perfect Family by Kathryn Shay is a contemporary family story about the struggle a family goes through while coming to terms with their seventeen year-old son Jamie's sexuality after he discloses that he is gay.
Mike and Maggie Davidson have, what many would consider, the "perfect family." They love each other and their sons, athletic eighteen year-old Brian and artistic seventeen year-old Jamie. Both are excellent young men, well-liked, doing well in school, and getting ready for college. As Mike says at the beginning of the book, they "have so much to be thankful for." However soon after Mike makes this statement young Jamie finally reveals to his family that he is gay and the struggles begin.
Mike, Jamie's father, is a religious man and has always felt the comfort and reassurance that participating in his community church give him on a personal level. Reconciling what his religion dictates, faith (two different things as presented by Ms. Shay), and the fact that his son is gay summarize Mike's personal struggle. Then we have Brian, a young man who is torn between loving his brother and best friend, peer pressure, and religious beliefs reinforced by his father.
Finally, we have Maggie whose family was torn apart while growing up because of the church. Maggie not only fights for Jamie, but her already negative feelings about the church place her in a precarious position with her husband Mike. On top of that, Maggie must take her son Brian's feelings on the subject into consideration. There's a danger that their family might split apart. Can she find an alternative and keep her family intact? That's her struggle right there.
But of course the family is not only affected by their internal struggles, they also have to deal with external pressures: school, neighbors, family members, church officials and friends affect the Davidsons, making this a well-rounded story as the family experiences disappointments and finds support from the most unlikely of places. Shay balances out the Davidson's issues by showing how different families react to the same situation. She highlights a different side of the story by featuring how Jamie's boyfriend Luke and his family deal with his coming out to family and friends.
The Perfect Family is narrated in the third person perspective, so although the story begins with Jamie's coming out to his family, Shay gives each family member a voice and explores their thoughts and feelings about this subject. As a result the characters are well-drawn, realistic and believable as are the circumstances surrounding them. I personally couldn't stop thinking about them for days after finishing the book.
Kathryn Shay approaches this story from personal experience, although she stresses in the Author's Note that the story is not autobiographical. However, she also points out in the same section that some events that occurred during her own son's coming out experience are used as a base to tell Jamie's story. It is perhaps the author's personal experience, combined with her writing talents, that make the characters and circumstances in this book feel so real and unforgettable.
The Perfect Family is a well-paced and well-written, engaging read. I became so invested in this characters that I didn't want to stop reading until I finished the book. I was impressed with the direct way in which Shay approaches and discusses important subjects; from differing psychological and religious views on homosexuality, to suicide in gay teens, to religious and community based venues that provide support and can be accessed by teens and families. Yet all these subjects are made very "personal" in a way that makes this an entertaining and educational read at the same time.
I see this book as a must read for families weather their teens are coming out or not. Specifically recommended to those who just want to be aware or who are interested and want to know how to be of help to that friend or neighbor. Highly recommended to all....more
Angel's Pawn by Nalini Singh is an e-book and a novella, so it's not too long and a fast read. It's actually called aRe-read. 5/5 again for me! 2011.
Angel's Pawn by Nalini Singh is an e-book and a novella, so it's not too long and a fast read. It's actually called a "companion book" to Angel's Blood. As a companion book, I think it works well. The story works by giving the reader the starting blocks to the Hunters Guild world without giving away too many details -- the ones Singh really gets into in Angel's Blood.
I read Angel's Blood first, so I was already familiar with its main character. The two main characters are Ashblade or Ashwini, a Guilt Hunter, and Janvier or The Cajun, a Vampire, as he is referred to in most of the book. These two characters share a history and some serious chemistry. However, there's not a "conclusion" to their relationship in this novella. My hope is that their will continue to be developed throughout the series because I really loved both of these characters, and unlike Elena -- whom I really liked, but took me a while to embrace -- I liked Ashwini from page one. There's a lot we still need to learn about this character and I'm very curious about her. Janvier is too charming for words and I'm definitely rooting for him.
You'll also meet a mid-level angel in this novella, Nazrach, who rules the Atlanta territory and who's having problems with two different factions of Vampires trying to take control from each other. An old family that has been ruling for centuries and a new, ambitious Vampire who wants to take over. Although the Vampires have autonomy when it comes to their own businesses, etc... they have to ensure that they don't ultimately challenge the Angel who rules them in any way.
The conflict here involves all factions -- Nazrach, the Angel, the Beaumonts, an old Vampire family and Callan, a new and ambitious Vampire trying to take over. Ashwini and Janvier come in to help resolve the problem and in the process make more enemies than friends. They also learn to see each other in a whole new light and gain an appreciation for each other that they didn't have before.
I read this prequel second and Angel's Blood first, so I was already familiar with the worldbuilding. I wonder how it would be to read this novella first? Either way it's a good one and I personally loved it!...more
Dust by Elizabeth Bear is the first book in the Jacob's Ladder trilogy, a 2007 release. The trilogy is categorized as science fiction, however I foundDust by Elizabeth Bear is the first book in the Jacob's Ladder trilogy, a 2007 release. The trilogy is categorized as science fiction, however I found enough fantasy elements in this first book that places it firmly into the science fiction/fantasy category for me. This didn't surprise me overmuch after having read some of Bear's other works and discovering her talent to seamlessly weave fantasy with mythology, so why not with science-fiction?
Bear takes a broken down ship in the middle of space and creates a whole world out of it with cities, societies and customs. The most recognizable concept in Dust is that of a medieval society. There are the ruling noble houses -- the House of Rule and the House of Engine (or the Commodore's Quarters and Engineering) -- knights, quests, chivalry, honor, political intrigues, inheritance issues, war, swords, servants, ancient bloodlines, and even names like Sir Perceval, Tristan and Benedick. Then Bear mixes in not-so-subtle religious references -- God, Angels and even a depiction of the Garden of Eden -- with a necromancer, a dragon and a basilisk along the way. It's quite the smorgasbord, yet it all fits together and it made this an exciting read.
The story seems simple enough; the world is in danger from two different fronts and it must be saved at all costs. Sir Perceval, a knight from the House of Engine is captured by Ariane, a Princess from House of Rule, and surrenders honorably. Ariane severs Perceval's wings with her unblade, committing a dishonorable act that will trigger a war between the two Houses. Ariane's father, the Commodore, reprimands her for her actions and she responds by killing and consuming him to acquire his knowledge and memories. At this point it's clear that Ariane is making a move to control House of Rule and Engine. In the meantime Rien, a servant girl tending to Perceval, makes a few surprising discoveries and the two girls escape and embark on a journey throughout the ship to stop a war between the two Houses.
Perceval finds herself as the center of the conflict between the "Angels" and the war between the Houses. However, it is Rien who really effects the changes in this story and turns out to be the courageous "knight" of the piece. As the character with the most growth from beginning to end, she became a favorite. Rien begins as a fearful servant who is Remade by Perceval from a Mean (a human who doesn't have a symbiont) into an Exalt, and after unknowingly consuming the memories of the original Chief Engineer and finding her family, her strength of character really comes through. Jacob Dust was also a fascinating character that took me for a ride from beginning to end by just trying to figure him out. I also loved his interactions with the other Angel entities and Perceval.
Of the main characters although Perceval was well developed, she was also my least favorite as I found her to be emotionally weak. On the other hand, there were secondary characters that were key to the story -- Tristen, Benedick and particularly Ariane -- who either piqued my interest or were likable, but whom I thought could have used further development within this first book.
In the other works I've read by Bear, she approaches sexuality openly through her characters. In Dust she includes a hermaphrodite, an ungendered character, one who chooses to be celibate, homosexuality, and taboo subjects. I loved Bear's seamless weaving of science fiction and fantasy and again enjoyed her approach to sexuality through characters and how she makes it all work.
Dust is well plotted, has excellent pacing and fascinating world building. I enjoy Bear’s writing style and this book is no exception. However I did have a problem with the very beginning of the book where I felt the story was bit rushed and lacking in detail. It took a couple of chapters for everything to “gel” for me. Once it did, the story took off and I couldn’t stop reading.
This is the first book in the Jacob's Ladder trilogy and obviously there's more. Bear ties up the most important threads of this particular story -- Perceval, Rien, the war between the Angels and the “world’s” immediate fate -- but there's more. The story ends with a bang, and I mean of epic proportions, and at this point I was glad I had the second book, Chill, available to read immediately as I became obsessed with this world's fate. This is a book I recommend for those who love science fiction, fantasy, or just a great adventure full of creativity and fantastic characters. ...more