I don’t usually go in for dragon stories–I have a feeling these are going to be famous last words–but I’m...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
I don’t usually go in for dragon stories–I have a feeling these are going to be famous last words–but I’m familiar with Shana Abe’s Drakon books. They–or, rather, Shana–have been recommended to me since I’m a fan of alpha heroes. So, when I heard that Shana Abe was going to write a young adult novel, I automatically added it to my TBR. I was particularly excited about it because I’ve had such a bad run with YA historicals and historical fantasies. I knew, from having read The Smoke Thief, that I could expect an enjoyable read.
What I did not expect was to love it. I got a third of the way through and I was already on the internet making sure it was going to be a series. Here, finally, was a novel that worked as a historical and a fantasy both, with a heroine who didn’t feel transported from the 21st Century United States. Specifically, an impoverished heroine who wasn’t about to risk her entire future by having a smart mouth, or by spouting radical opinions that hadn’t even been thought of in her era. More on this another time–Small and I have had numerous discussions about this.
I think that Lora was the first heroine that I’ve really like in a long time. She’s kinda classy. I liked that she knew when to stand up for herself and when to toe the line. I also love that, while there were two potential romantic leads, it becomes clear pretty early on, which boy is the object of Lora’s affections. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t rooting for the other guy…I totally am, and I still think there’s hope…but I liked that Lora wasn’t all, “I love him. NO! I love him.” She has a genuine connection with both of them, and I think all of the relationships in the novel will evolve naturally–just like in real life!
If I had one complaint–and it certainly wasn’t the gorgeous, detailed setting!–it was that I think Shana Abe presumed a little too much on her previous readership. Since it’s been so long since I read The Smoke Thief, I can’t really lay claim to any knowledge of the Drakon folklore, and I don’t count myself as a loyal follower. I had to double check that “Rue” was a character I’d met before (she’s the heroine of The Smoke Thief), and certain details scratched at my mind like I should have recalled them. Sadly, I didn’t. Instead of frustrating me, however, not knowing these details made me really excited about going back and reading Abe’s Drakon books. I’ve left them unfinished for far too long!
If you haven’t already read The Sweetest Dark, you should. It will satisfy you to the last page, even as it leaves you eager for more of its wonderfulness.(less)
I’ll be honest: after Hawke and Sienna’s book (Kiss of Snow), my interest in the Psy-Changeling series ki...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
I’ll be honest: after Hawke and Sienna’s book (Kiss of Snow), my interest in the Psy-Changeling series kind of waned. Don’t get me wrong–I wasn’t about to miss any book Nalini Singh chose to bestow upon the reading world–but KoS was the culmination of nine volumes of highly charged foreplay. There was no way that Tangle of Need could live up to that kind of promise. In a way, though, I appreciate the space that Tangle of Need gave me. It was the right kind of book to come after Kiss of Snow. There’s no way I’d have been able to appreciate Heart of Obsidian as much as I did if it had been book eleven instead of twelve. Which would have been a travesty because Heart of Obsidian is a fantastic read.
Hawke and Sienna’s book was nine volumes in the making, but I’ve been anticipating Kaleb’s story almost as long. The waiting was different, though, because I knew that Hawke and Sienna were meant to be each other’s HEA. In Kaleb’s case, it was more a matter of worrying that his heroine would be worthy of the character. Another difference was that, throughout the series, we’ve been privy to a moment or two of Hawke and Sienna’s perspectives, but never Kaleb’s. He was an enigma–and if you know anything about me, you know I love a man of mystery. I don’t usually worry too much about cover and blurb reveals, but the strip tease method of slowly revealing information about Heart of Obsidian had me checking Nalini’s blog almost every day. I agonized over how much information (if any) I wanted to know about the book before I read it.
In the end, all I really knew about HoO before I read it was that Kaleb was the hero and that the identity of the Ghost was revealed in the book. I knew I was getting a review copy from the publisher because I had participated in the tour, but when it didn’t come by the publication date, I was kind of relieved. I was more nervous about reading it than I had ever realized! Still, when it came, I didn’t hesitate to dive into what turned out to be a book to rival my love of Kiss of Snow. I’d thought KoS would never have any real competition–but how wrong I was! (Note: Hawke 4-Eva!)
Heart of Obsidian sizzles with romantic and sexual tension–this is a Nalini Singh novel, after all–but it’s also a game-changer for the Psy-Changeling series. Nalini packs so much into this one book that you’ll turn page after page until the end suddenly smacks you in the face. And, incidentally, makes you wail with despair because you have to wait so long for the next book. I, personally, want to kick the Guild Hunter books in the shins because I suspect they’re holding up the Psy-Changeling series. Except then I’d have to wait longer for Venom’s book. Unacceptable.
When I reflect on how much I love the Psy-Changeling books, I tend to focus on the romance. Heart of Obsidian does the romance stunningly well, but also highlights Nalini’s skill in world-building. I love (lovelovelove) series books with over-arcing storylines and Nalini Singh is the Queen, Empress, Goddess of that particular skill. HoO also puts paid to my preference for Changeling heroes. I’ve always liked them best, but after Hawke (*dreamy smile*), Kaleb is definitely my favorite. Complex, ferociously protective and on intimate terms with his dark side, Kaleb is a prime candidate for a Book Boyfriend. He’s also lucky enough to have powerful, passionate heroine that perfectly suits him.
In conclusion: I loved this book. I’d recommend the entire Psy-Changeling series based on the fact that it builds up to this one. Just think of it–if you start this series now, that’s twelve delightful books you’ll be able to read in a row. If you’ve already read every book in the series except Heart of Obsidian, don’t worry. It’s as good as your wildest dreams hoped it would be.(less)
What with book twelve in the Psy-Changeling series being marketed as so epic that they can’t even gi...moreThis review was originally posted on Ruby's Reads.
What with book twelve in the Psy-Changeling series being marketed as so epic that they can’t even give us a real description (read: NAMES), I was sorely in need of something to take the edge off. What better than a nice little collection of novellas? As a Nalini Singh fan, I’d already read the second novella, so I was super excited about the first story and the last two. As it turned out, I probably enjoyed Stroke of Enticement and Declaration of Courtship the most, even if one of these was a reread. But, really, I enjoyed all of them because I like the way that each story gives us a little more insight on the nature of the mating bond, which is a big part of the series’ world-building.
Beat of Temptation, as the blurb tells us, is Nathan and Tamsin’s story. It takes us into the past, before the events of Slave to Sensation. This is fun because it allows us a peek at Lucas before he became the DarkRiver alpha. It also explores what happens when the mating bond ignites between a grown man and a teenage girl. Don’t worry, though. By the time the story begins, Tamsin is an adult, and frustrated that Nathan is still making all the decisions about their relationship. Namely, that she’s not ready to be intimate with him (when she totally is). It’s a light, sweet story, but not my favorite.
Stroke of Enticement was a better read. The hero is one of Nalini Singh’s signature alpha Changelings and the heroine is a–gasp!–human. We don’t meet too many of those in this series. I loved this one because I adore it when Nalini writes children into her stories. I can just picture their little faces in the scenes she writes. Stroke packs a fair amount into its small package. None of the stories in this collection satisfied me the way a Psy-Changeling novel does, but this one came the closest.
Declaration of Courtship stood out because of its exploration of the submissive wolf. Though submissive wolves are occasionally mentioned in the Psy-Changeling books, this is the first time we’ve had one as a main character and narrator. In a way, Declaration was the most important book in this collection. If Nalini was going to create dominant heroes, it was inevitable that the dominant/submissive pairing would come up. And if you don’t know that dominant heroes are wasted on submissive heroes, well, email me and we can talk about it. However, just because the heroine in this story is a submissive does not mean she is weak-willed. In fact, I think the fact that she has to struggle against her submissive nature in order to stand up to the hero (and figure out how to be in a relationship with him without losing herself) makes her incredibly strong.
Texture of Intimacy was my least favorite story in this collection, and here’s why: I didn’t particularly enjoy Walker and Lara’s story in Kiss of Snow. I was very much: “Get back to Hawke and Sienna!” And I was completely irritated by the fact that there wasn’t a single ounce of them in this story. Sure, there’s a reference or two, but we never get to see them together. Call me a bitter grudge-holder, but if they were going to take up so much of Hawke and Sienna’s story, shouldn’t they return the favor? Okay, you caught me. I wanted this to be Kiss of Snow: The Extended Epilogue and it wasn’t. Completely my own fault, but there you have it.
Down and dirty rundown:
Beat of Temptation: 3 Matryoshkas: I would have coffee with this novella. Stroke of Enticement: 4 Matryoshkas: I would make dinner for this novella. Declaration of Courtship: 4 Matryoshkas: I would make dinner for this novella. Texture of Intimacy: 2 1/2 Matryoshkas: I would glance at this novella through a store window. (less)
I'm usually a sucker for "she was right under my nose the whole time" romances, but this was one that did not work for me. I was pretty excited about it when I picked it up, but the disappointments kept on coming. First I discovered Big Bad Wolf wasn't the first in The Others Series. Then I discovered that it wasn't the swoony werewolf romance I was hoping for. It started out pretty bad and kept getting worse.
In the beginning, we meet the hero, Graham at a party. He's that romance standard--the playboy. As the novel opens, he's in a funk because he's been celibate for thirteen days. Although I'm not sure thirteen days qualifies for the word. Anyway, Graham's really bummed that his "different woman every night" philosophy hasn't been as appealing to him as it formerly had been. In fact, as his "beta" (his second in command) points out, there aren't many women at the party he hasn't already slept with. Charming, right?
While Graham and his beta (Logan) are discussing the few women present that Graham hasn't despoiled, the heroine shows up at the party. It's her turn to be "fixed". By which I mean that her friends have been setting her up on excruciating blind dates. Only they're not dates so much as assignations. That night's fix involves conservative Missy dressing up in a skanky, uncomfortable dress and high heels. Thus arrayed, Missy finally gets the attention of the one man she's been drooling after for six months. Only he's not a man, he's a Lupine (werewolf) who is known for his promiscuity and his "I don't date humans" attitude. One look at Missy's scantily clad behind, however, and all of Graham's objections to dating humans disappear. Graham literally carries Missy away from the party and into his lair (er, home).
I think that that all this was supposed to be romantic, but I should tell you that, although Missy and Graham have known each other for six months, Graham does not recognize Missy. At least, not until after they've slept together. Which brings me to another point: what self-respecting woman would sleep with a man who doesn't recognize her after six months of acquaintance? Oh, wait, dumb question. A major factor in this novel is Missy's low self-esteem. One thing that made me hate this book was that it was never resolved. Missy had some bad experiences in college, which lead her to hide herself behind the frumpy personality of a kindergarten teacher. Okay, it's time for me to take a deep breath. And write a HUGE aside.
I am a teacher. I don't teach kindergarten, but I work with kindergarten teachers and as part of my training, I worked in a kindergarten classroom. Warren's characterization of Missy as a stereotypical kindergarten teacher infuriated me. First of all, teaching kindergarten is NOT all about teaching five-year-olds to tie their shoes. It's an insult to kindergarten teachers--and how hard they work--to suggest that it is. Teachers work very, very hard. Working with five year olds is especially difficult and it takes a very special kind of person to do it well. It's not all fun, games and singing songs. And despite the short classroom hours, it's not a nine-to-five job. I don't know any teachers who don't take their work home with them in some way or another. The second thing I take issue with is the image of a frumpy kindergarten teacher. It's true that some teachers dress as though they are still stuck in the 1950s. But there's a lot of difference between dressing appropriately for working with five year olds and dressing in burlap sacks. I don't mind that Missy is a frumpy dresser. It makes sense given her history and her low self-esteem, but for god's sake, there was no reason to correlate it with her profession.
Okay, sorry. I had to get that off my chest. On to more book-related issues. Like, for example, Graham was a total jackwagon. He's the worst kind of alpha hero. He makes all the decisions, he lies to Missy, and conceals important information from her, he's controlling, he isolates her, he makes her participate in a disgusting, archaic tradition. He was a thoroughly repulsive hero. Here's one small thing that set me off: As a Lupine, Graham's body temperature runs warm. This means that he doesn't need things like comforters or blankets on his bed. Missy is a human. Most of the time she's in Graham's bed (I bed your pardon, when she's in bed and they're not, er, otherwise occupied), Missy is naked and cold. At no time does Graham try to make her more comfortable by turning up the heat. All he does is throw her one scratchy, inadequate blanket. Ah, God, that pissed me off.
But, wait, that's the not the worst of Graham's actions. He makes a decision in the novel that is indefensible. This part is spoilery, so beware: Graham has sex with Missy knowing that she will get pregnant. He does this without consulting her or even telling her after the fact. Warren tries to justify this by telling us that Missy desperately wants children. But that's not the point. If Missy's willing to take the risk, great. They can make that decision together. But Graham doesn't give Missy a choice. He makes it for her. And, in case you were wondering, yes, part of his motivation is that a baby will keep her by his side. Then, to compound matters, Graham brags about Missy's pregnancy to his archenemy in front of her. Missy takes Graham to task for this--but has already forgotten the whole "I slept with you knowing it would result in a baby. Sorry I told my archenemy before telling you" thing. Gah.
I don't even want to talk about the matehunt thing. If you read it, you'll see.
Missy, though, needs to be addressed. In the beginning of the novel, we learn that Missy has been hiding herself since a bad experience in college. We're never told what the bad experience was, though there are hints. Basically, whatever happened left Missy with some seriously low self-esteem. I think I mentioned that she sleeps with Graham while knowing that he doesn't recognize her? Yeah. That basically sets the tone for their relationship. It kind of seems like Missy's so amazed and grateful that Graham wants her--like, for life--that she's willing to put up with anything. He's sexy, he's hot, he's a scumbag--but he's all hers! Puh-leeze! Grow a spine already.
I also need to mention the pathetic excuses that Missy has for friends. None of them makes a single on-screen appearance. This may be because Graham is an abusive, controlling boyfriend. Or it may be because they're sucky friends. I mean, who wants to be friends with someone who makes you wear clothes you'd rather be caught dead in and setting you up for assignations you didn't want in the first place. I mean, dates are one thing--but Missy's fixes are meant to be more than that, if you know what I mean. Anyway, once Missy and Graham get together (which happens almost right away), Missy's friends pretty much disappear. That was okay with me--I didn't want to see any more of them anyway.
I feel like I could go on and on but I have to stop. I wish this book had been so bad it was good, but it was just bad. I won't be giving the other books in The Others series a try. At least, not if they're anything like this one.(less)
The Calling was my most highly anticipated release for the first part of 2012. However, despite the fact that I received an ARC in the mail early in February (I think), I didn't actually read the book until late in March. Why? You'd think I would have been all over that puppy, but I knew that the sooner I finished The Calling, the sooner I'd have to start waiting for The Rising to be published. And mother of pearl was I right. Once I finally started reading, I didn't lift my head from the book until it was finished, and what a happy/sad moment that was! Kelley Armstrong is a fabulous author. She knows how to craft a story so tightly, that she keeps me on edge each second. Even when I think I know what's going to happen, I never fully believe it until it does. I'm not saying she jerks her readers around--she doesn't!--but she does take them on an adventure they'll remember, and one that will make sense every step of the way. Each step, each event is deliberately planned and executed by the author, and if that's not enough to keep you hooked, there probably isn't any hope for you. In addition to the fabulous story-telling and world-building, all of the characters have depth, even the ones with the smallest roles. Maya is the central character, and as much as I root for her, I don't mind seeing her learn a few salient lessons. Knowing that there are more to come doesn't hurt, either. Maya's so capable, and so in control, and so comfortable with who she is (and devoid of pretense) that she needs a little humility or I'd hate her. Daniel, her male counter-part and best friend is equally as awesome. I'm just sorry he's still a teenager. The third central character, Rafe, is missing for a great deal of the book, and for that I'm grateful. He's a pesky third wheel I wish I could swat with a fly-catcher. I want to finish this review with a thank you to Kelley Armstrong. Seriously, lady, you rock! But more than that, I want to thank you for avoiding that contrived plot technique called Withholding Pertinent Information From Each Other. There was a point in The Calling where I thought I was going to be gravely disappointed and started to get irritated...and then you pulled the rug out from under my head full of steam. Yes, I know I'm mixing metaphors, but this is my blog. I get to.(less)
For those of you familiar with Ilona Andrews, you know that this is not one female author, but a husband and wife team that write together. In my opinion, they do an awesome job. You already know that I’m a Kate Daniels fan, but my first introduction to this (these?) author(s?) was On the Edge. But, wait, before I go on, I want to explain about the Edge. In these books, there are three distinct places: The Broken, which is pretty much the modern world. It has no magic. Then there's the Weird. In the Weird, magic reigns supreme. In between the the two, there's the Edge, a place that is both magical and not. It's a place of swamps and poverty. To get between the three worlds is painful for those that possess magic. The more magic a person has, the more painful it is. The most magical people cannot pass into the Broken at all.
Bayou Moon is the second book in the Edge Series and features one of the characters from the first book, William. In On the Edge, William was a quasi villain and possible third corner in an almost triangle. In reality, William never had a chance with Rose and he knew it. It turns out that was for the best, as William meets his true mate in this book. She comes in the form of Cerise Mar an Edger from a land rich, cash poor family with origins in the Weird. This is werewolf week, so I better tell you now that William is the wolf in this story, although he is referred to as a changeling. William is from the Weird, where changelings are abhorred and their only perceived use is to be made into trained killers for the military. We learn a great deal of William's backstory in On the Edge but Bayou Moon tells readers enough for the latter to stand alone.
I wasn't that crazy about this book. I liked it. It's good writing, but it didn't have the spark that On the Edge had. Both William and Cerise are good characters, and they seem well-matched. I buy them together as a couple. I liked that Cerise was such a strong female character. They seem to be a trademark of Ilona Andrews. And William was fierce and protective while also letting Cerise do her thing. Their romance occurs at a slow burn, which I also liked. And the plot is both compelling and intricate. It had me guessing until the end. Another point in the book's favor was that we get to catch up with the characters from On the Edge.
The thing is, this wasn't a book I was very excited about. I didn't have that compulsive desire to pick it up in every possible free moment. In trying to reflect on why that might be, I think it was really that I never completely connected with the characters. Cerise is a Edger and Edgers, especially in the part where she lives, are sort of notoriously brutal. Cerise is no exception. I just couldn't get behind a character who was willing to risk so many family members for the sake of a family feud. I understood William's motivation a lot more and should have been able to connect with him a lot better, but I didn't. I got tired of his "I'm not worthy" thoughts. I mean, I get it. It makes sense. Changelings are treated so vilely in the Weird, how could William not have issues. I still wanted him to get over it already.
There were also too many fight scenes for my taste. My favorite parts were when Cerise and William were with her family but they were too few. There's a great cast of characters and I liked them enough that it pained me when some of them died. The ending was also a bit too tidy for me and I still have a lot of unanswered questions. It was a relief to be finished, though. Bayou Moon is no novella. It has 447 pages. I'm hoping that some of my questions are answered in the next book in the series. I'm assuming there will be one and I'm hoping it will feature Lark, Jack, George and Gaston. I look forward to revisiting the Edge--but with some different characters. (less)
Kate Daniels is a heroine in a thousand and I think this might be because she is the brainchild of a husband and wife team. Together, they work to create a tough, likeable, sarcastic strong female protagonist. I was slow to warm up to this series, possibly because the series itself had a slow start. In fact, when first read Magic Bites, I put it down for about three weeks before I picked it up again to finish it. By the time I was halfway through the book, I was hooked. It’s a series with everything—complex, intriguing world building, a kick-ass heroine with a sense of humor, werewolves, a hot Beastlord and layers, layers, layers. Kate Daniels’ Atlanta even has vampires—though not one that you’d care to meet in a dark alley. They’re majorly gross, which makes for a nice change from the tall, dark, handsome and (let’s not forget) brooding vampires that dominate both Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy.
In Magic Bites, the first book, we learned about Kate and some of her background, but mostly we’re introduced to the alternate world of a sometimes-magical Atlanta. In Kate’s world, the magic rises and falls. When the magic is “up”, technology doesn’t work. Nothing—no cars, no TV, no electricity. The opposite is true when the magic is down. Magic Burns finds Kate’s Atlanta during the onset of a flare—a time when the magic rises and falls rapidly. This means more chaos, of course, but it also means that all magic is intensified—both Kate’s magic and the magic of the other creatures she comes into contact with. The flare provides a backdrop for Kate’s Problem of the Book (PoB). Kate has more than the PoB on her plate, though. There’s Curran, The Beastlord attempting to court her. There’s Julie, a young girl who’s mother has gone missing, and who is placed into Kate’s care. There are the amazing, disgusting reeves with their vicious, prehensile (I kid you not) hair attacking at every available moment. There are also the stolen maps that the Pack has asked Kate to retrieve from a man able to appear and disappear at will.
But Kate is not too busy to be a slightly caustic observer of life. She’s realistic about who she is and what she expects from life. Which is pretty bleak. She knows that she has great power—and that has been both a blessing and a curse for most of her life. Kate’s origin is still a mystery—I can tell that we’re going to be learning about it at a glacial pace, just a bit, book by book. Yet, though Andrews teases us with the mystery a wee bit too much, I can’t wait to learn more. Also, the secret that Kate’s carrying plays a large part in her desire to resist Curran’s advances. Not that Kate can forget Curran’s promiscuous past and her firm belief that he’ll stop wanting her as soon as he’s had her. Then there’s the fact that she works for the Order and being involved with Curran would definitely be a complication she didn’t need. As I said—layers.
I think what I like best about Kate is that she’s very no-nonsense. When counseling young Julie, Kate doesn’t hold back. She tells the girl some very important things that she needs to know. They are painful to hear, but Kate doesn’t refrain from saying them, either because she thinks Julie is too young or because she wants to protect her. Kate knows that giving Julie the information is the best way to protect her—which is a refreshing change of pace, and keeps us from the kind of Big Misunderstanding that so often powers a novel. Kate is also a deeply caring person. She hides it easily, and she talks a lot about having only one friend, but it’s clear in this book that Kate has more friends than she knows about, or believes in.
I can’t review this book without touching on the relationship between Kate and Curran. In the first book, it didn’t look like Andrews was ever going to develop anything between the two, then—smack—the ending came and it was all suddenly worth it. I like that Andrews is taking plenty of time to develop the relationship. It reminds me a little of the Mercy Thompson books in that way. Patricia Briggs built Mercy and Adam’s relationship with almost glacial slowness. That’s what’s made the books so good, even after they finally got together—which is generally the death knoll for a series. I’m really looking forward to seeing Kate and Curran’s relationship twist and turn and eventually morph into the thing we all want to see. They’ll be great together. Neither could be with anyone else. If only I could get my hands on the rest of the series. I’d be in hibernation on my couch, cuddled up in a blanket so I could read my way through the first cold snap of the season.(less)