I have to say, this book wasn't what I expected from the title. I was gifted it by the author, and it was kind of low on my TBR list, so it has takenI have to say, this book wasn't what I expected from the title. I was gifted it by the author, and it was kind of low on my TBR list, so it has taken me a while to get to it.
Well, I've just shoved everything else aside to read the rest of Esker's works. I thought it would be a light romantic read but it was far more than that. Esker took a delightful trope--waking up naked in a unknown location handcuffed to a strange (but handsome and also naked)man--and turned it into so much more. I don't want to give too many spoilers, but suffice to say I thoroughly enjoyed the world-building, and I was completely drawn into the story from the get-go. This was action-adventure-romance at its best. I can't wait for more!...more
**spoiler alert** This has been one of the most difficult reviews I’ve ever written.
Before I get started, I’d like to mention something about the fact**spoiler alert** This has been one of the most difficult reviews I’ve ever written.
Before I get started, I’d like to mention something about the fact that I experienced this story as an audiobook. My initial reaction to the narrator’s voice was that he struck me as flat and harsh on the ear—but I was very quickly proved wrong. The narrator was extremely adept at the different character voices, giving them life and animation, and I believe now his narrative voice was meant to be as different as possible in contrast. I came away from the audiobook deeply impressed with the narrator’s skill and delivery.
The reason this review is so hard for me to write is because I detested the main character, Cary. Not just disliked him; I loathed him with the heat of a thousand burning suns. Yes, we’d been shown that his home life and parental expectations were tough. But darn it, he had tremendous, rare talent, and his lifestyle choices were not only disgusting, but destructive and stupid, placing everything he’d worked for in jeopardy.
I honestly think had this not been an audiobook, and I was on a long road trip with nothing to distract me, I wouldn’t have finished the story. That would have been a big mistake. I would have missed out on a fabulous story had I given up on Cary too soon.
It took me a while to realize why I was so furious with Cary. Then it struck me. I grew up in Cary’s house. Oh sure, with a few minor differences, but essentially the same. Only it wasn’t me who was the child prodigy, but a sibling. I still grew up in the same environment of unobtainable goals and unreal expectations however. Where a “C” was considered a failing grade and if I got straight A’s, well, anyone could get straight A’s in such a mediocre school. Where nothing was ever good enough, and patterns of thought were so ingrained that parental influence lasted a lifetime, well beyond the point where you stopped trying to please them.
And yet, I fumed, I hadn’t embarked on a suicidally detrimental course of self-destruction. I’d grown up in a very similar house and hadn’t hamstrung myself, putting my talent at risk, had I? I was a reasonably well-adjusted adult, right? Only the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was guilty of as much self-sabotage as Cary—only in more socially acceptable means. It was a sobering realization, and it kept me glued into the story.
The author’s own musical background was put to good use in this tale, not only for the authenticity of the world in which Cary lived and worked, but in the construction of the story too. There was a prelude, where we learned what Cary’s home life was like as a child, and how music both saved him and made him feel like an impostor. There is the bulk of the symphony, where Cary’s story unfolds, how he meets Antonio and his life begins to change. There are underlying themes, melodies that intertwine with each other, that bring the story full circle back to the beginning again. We watch as Cary remakes his life, ironically becoming the person he never thought he’d be, and being the better for it both as a person and a musician. It’s masterfully done. Every time I found myself thinking, “Well, THAT was too easy…”, we’d soon find out it wasn’t going to be as easy as it had seemed.
Some people might have trouble with the fact that Cary finds love and redemption before the end of the story. What they fail to realize is that a lifetime of thought patterns do not change overnight, and while love gives you the strength to start believing in yourself, there is still a lot of work to be done to fully accept that. Cary made such a complete turn-around in character and lifestyle that anything less would have been unbelievable. The story is perfectly balanced, as Cary not only finds love—but the ability to love himself as well, and forgive those who loved him imperfectly in his past.
And while Antonio, perfectly delicious and patient to the point of sainthood, was the ideal man to be Cary’s rock—I appreciated that he had his own faults, and that Cary wasn’t always the one that needed saving. In a word, brava, Ms. Antony! Brava! ...more
When I picked up the first book in the series, Trial by Fire, at lunch one day, I couldn't put it down. I read straight through lunch--forced myself tWhen I picked up the first book in the series, Trial by Fire, at lunch one day, I couldn't put it down. I read straight through lunch--forced myself to go back to work--picked it up again while waiting for takeout, and sat in the parking lot reading while my dinner went cold. I put off reading Counter Hex because part of me was a little afraid it couldn't possibly be as good as the first book. Boy was I wrong! I made sure I didn't have anywhere to be (just in case) and sure enough, was pulled into the story from the get-go. Can I say here how much I loved Bruce-the-Lizard? *pets Bruce* Gatkis has created a deeply intricate and well-crafted world: her rules of magic make sense. I particularly like that people have natural affinities for certain kinds of magic. Jade is a complex character with secrets that are slowly being revealed, but also as an outsider, we get to see the Coven through her eyes, learn things along with her, and long for acceptance, even as we distrust it. Extremely well-done. This series just gets better and better!...more
I've been looking forward to story ever since I read book one in the series, Gyrfalcon. What can I say? I love a good military sci-fi story, and onceI've been looking forward to story ever since I read book one in the series, Gyrfalcon. What can I say? I love a good military sci-fi story, and once again, Anna Butler delivers.
This is epic space opera at its finest, in the tradition of such writers as David Weber or Eric Flint. More than any other genre, convincing sci-fi needs a strong foundation of characterization, plot, and world-building. Many authors shine at one or two elements: it's rare that you get stellar treatment of all three in one story. I bet if you asked the author for details about the ships and the structure of the political organizations--things that aren't related in the story--she could tell you about them without hesitation. I certainly hope that future stories include specs on some ships--the geek in me really wants to see them! The different branches of the military: Fleet and Shield, and the rotational system designed to keep Shield officers from burning out makes sense from a logistical standpoint, but man, is it hell on relationships! Add to that the political machinations behind the military, and it is small wonder that the idealistic Bennet has a hard time knowing where he stands sometimes.
Then we have the characters themselves. What I love most about them is that they are complicated people with the kinds of motives and failings that make them so very real, so very human. I love too that even the secondary characters are fully fleshed out; to the point that if something happens to them, I feel a strong sense of loss for them. Bennet is not very likeable when he hurt, which keeps him from being too, too perfect. Bisexuality is more common in this universe, but there are still sects that disapprove of same-sex relationships. The biggest obstacle that Flynn and Bennet face is not societal disapproval or even the no-fraternization rule (which Bennet takes very seriously) but the sheer distance between them and the unlikelihood they will ever see each other again except if they can somehow arrange leave together. That makes even starting a relationship foolhardy, unless it's one with no strings. Flynn is your classic no-strings-attached flyboy--this should be easy for him, right? But Bennet is hard for him to forget, and when a dangerous mission goes pear-shaped, and Flynn realizes just how close he came to losing Bennet forever, well, his actions are easy to understand.
The relationships in these stories are complex and very real. No, this is not M/M romance. It *is*, however, adult fiction, and for that, I am truly appreciative.
I'll be the first to admit I don't leave reviews often. I think there is an art to it, and I find it difficult to leave a good review without too many spoilers. When a book really speaks to me I do my best however! Gyrfalcon was a strong opening to an epic series, with a large over-arching storyline that I fear will break my heart. It was a tough first act to follow, but Heart Scarab takes us to the next level effortlessly. I can't wait for the next installment!...more