Shadows in the Night is the first book I've read by MA Church. I was really in the mood for a shifter stReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Shadows in the Night is the first book I've read by MA Church. I was really in the mood for a shifter story when this book came up in the review rotation just prior to release, so I decided to take a chance. After all, I've been interested in several other books by this author, but I've never tried any of them. I got what I wanted, this is a shifter story. And while it would maybe be insulting to call it a simple shifter story, by which I mean maybe a classic shifter romance with mating bonds and all, that's really what this is. And because of that, it was a satisfying read.
Chip grew up in a loveless home. His spoiled and cold mother and a workaholic absentee father made his relationship with his Granny grow and grow with age. Granny lived in a small town in Mississippi and every summer Chip escaped there to run in the grass, swim in the ponds and fish and play with his "horsie", a very large black animal that he used to ride like a horse. He remembers those days with fondness when he loses his job and his Granny dies. It's a low period for him, but it's important to return to her home and the small town to pay respect to her and to remember such a wonderful, independent and loving woman, the only real mother Chip ever had.
His grandmother's last words to him -- "Trust him. He's the one." -- baffle him, but Chip puts them out of his mind as he goes through her arrangements and her will. She left everything to him, which was surprisingly a large amount of money and her home and land. He no longer has to worry about finding a new job, which is freeing. Chip can spend the time he needs to go through her things and then live as he's always wanted to, there in her house in the country. He soon meets the colorful characters of the town, her wizened lawyer, the creepy realtor, and his neighbor Jason, with beautiful Native features and long black hair. Jason seemed to know his Granny rather well and rather quickly Chip grows to know him well also. The two form a quick bond that seems perfectly right. It's only when he's nearly attacked by a tawny brown cougar and rescued by a black cougar -- one that by all means shouldn't exist -- that things change drastically.
As I said before, in many ways this is a typical shifter story. We have a shifter and his secrets from the man he's recognized as his mate, and the man himself who knows nothing of the paranormal world. There's a mating bond and a threat coming from one of the men's past that acts as a catalyst to move the plot and relationship forward. It makes an enjoyable read, but not a wholly original one. But, that's okay. It's all about what you like to read that will make this book good for you or not. I know that shifter stories such as this one do really well, because there are so many fans of shifters out there. There are also some of you that don't like to read these stories that much. I fall somewhere in between. Every now and then I will always want a shifter story to fall back on and read. It's comforting and why I'm a big proponent of not hating on the "fluff". Sometimes that's what you want to read, and there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, most people (or those that don't read romance) would call all romance fluff as a blanket term (so let's not nitpick people).
Anyway, sorry for going tangential on you. While I maybe wouldn't define this completely as reading candy (in the fluff sense), it is mostly a lighthearted read. I found the shifter culture in this book to be rather interesting, in that there didn't seem to be highly defined pack structure. The community of shifters are all related by Native American culture and Jason, when he finally must tell Chip everything, talks a bit about the creation of the shapeshifter. I liked this part of the book the best, and I found the author's genesis of the shifter and their human's relation to the animal totem to be pretty interesting. There is mention of a little detail about a representation of their totem that I really wanted to know more about that isn't much explained, but hopefully that will come up in the next book. This story focuses mainly on Chip and Jason and their world in this book is incredibly insular. There are a few moments where other characters are present, but this book is highly focused on their relationship and their internal conflict, with the external conflict I mentioned before acting as a catalyst to their relationship's progression. I'll be really interested in reading the next book because I'd like to see if there is more of their native cultural history.
This is a fairly quick read and definitely a book that you should know if you'd like from reading the blurb and from reading this review. If you're a fan of shifter stories then this is definitely something you'll want to pick up. It's not trying to push any boundaries or re-define the shifter romance novel, but that probably opens it up to a wider audience as well. Sometimes what you want to read is something that you know will give you pleasure and which you won't have to stress over while reading. It makes for a pleasant experience and this was a book that I enjoyed. Plus, you'll love Jason in bed. HOT!...more
I've missed out so far on reading any of SJ Frost's non-contemporary books, though I did read the first book of hReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I've missed out so far on reading any of SJ Frost's non-contemporary books, though I did read the first book of her Instincts series. But most of what I've read and really liked by this author has been her Conquest rocker series. This is a bit of a deviation from what I'm used to reading from her, but I still found her touch and sense of humor in it, and I found it to be a book that I really liked and, even more, am looking forward to the further books in the series. Fantasy is one of my favorite genres, and this was a sweet, light-hearted take on the genre, not a dark fantasy by any means, but more along the mood of a fairy tale.
We meet Garrett as he's hiking through a forest bordering the near-by and protected national forest. He works for EarthQuest, an organization that exposes environmental abuses and government action. This forest is being heavily lobbied to be cut, but Garrett is EarthQuest's secret weapon, in a way. He travels to places in danger and, as a biologist, looks for species or plant or animal that could become a mascot for protection. What Garrett finds blows his mind. Capturing the tiny dragon-like birds, Garrett is amazed when he sees a spirit bear, a bear with a recessive gene coloring it white and a heavily revered animal by the First Peoples. He knows he can save the forest now, but in trying to get evidence of the bear, Garrett falls into a ravine.
Bryson is called to the scene of a unconscious man by Koda, the spirit bear. Bryson is a witch, the Gatekeeper between Earth and a parallel, symbiotic world called Terra, and spends his time in both places. He can speak to animals, as well as manipulate the natural forces. And the only way he can save the beautiful and injured man is to take him to his home in Terra. It's against the rules, but Koda tells him that he trusts the man and his confidence as well as the fact that the Floras showed themselves to him leads him to trust the man.
After reawakening in a strange place, the two men get to know each other and at the same time Bryson introduces Garrett to Terra and to his friends, a ragtag group (that will surely become the future main characters of Terra books): Korran, a dragon speaker and protector, Zain, a theif and assassin and all around smartass, and Larkin, a young minstrel who can speak to the dead. Soon, there are not only forces endangering the gate from the Earth side, but also a nearby Duke who is interested in stealing the power of immortality that comes with being it's keeper, enough to summon another witch to help in his ends.
This happened again yesterday, when I reviewed the first book of a new fantasy series (that was Dragon Slayer by Isabella Carter) -- I end up writing a huge summary for the book. I suppose that's to be expected if I was actually going to touch on all the points. First of all, I like having a decent summary. I'm not really spoiled by them because I never remember summaries/blurbs when I start the book and I actually put off reading this for a while because I just wasn't really sure what it was about. Granted, I probably don't remember those blurbs because I don't really read them that closely. That's all my fault! But still, I wanted to give an accurate idea about the book if you're thinking about buying it. Second, as the first book in a new fantasy series there really is a LOT of setup to be done. In this case, not only do we have to learn about Garrett and what he's doing on the Earth side, but then we also have to learn about Bryson and the gate and his home, but also about Terra and a whole different way of life there, including the symmetry between the worlds and how they're connected and why. That's a lot to introduce, so I don't completely blame SJ Frost for the fact that the first half of the book was full of exposition. At least it wasn't dumped on us entirely in the beginning, but drawn out as Bryson and Garrett get to know each other.
No, while I really enjoyed the book and I think that SJ Frost set up a really enjoyable world (though not wholly original still interesting and engaging for those who like lighter fantasy), I still felt like this story was trying to juggle conflicts, between both the Earth and Terra side, which made what ends up to be the major conflict seem slightly underdeveloped. So much time was taken to introduce the world and the relationship that when the conflict started to ramp up I felt like I wished it had been a little more integrated into the story. That isn't to say that it was totally sudden, and it's a relatively minor complaint for a story that I really enjoyed.
This story really reminded me of a lot of Less Than Three Press releases, so those of you who are fans of their fantasies will have to check this one out. I'm very interested in the future books, although it is my own preference that I like to not know who the relationships are going to be before their books start. But then, that's probably bad business ;) I like SJ Frost's writing, and I was actually surprised to find this a lot lighter than I'm used to by her. But then, this is fantasy and those were contemporaries. But she's known for her angst in the Conquest series, and this book was surprisingly light and fluffy, in the best sense of the word....more
I didn't quite understand what Rolf and Ranger were trying to do until I remembered the name of this story. And the format (twelve short shoBrilliant!
I didn't quite understand what Rolf and Ranger were trying to do until I remembered the name of this story. And the format (twelve short shorts with Christmas as their only common denominator) works beautifully for such a large cast of characters, especially since so many of them are still partially unknown to us, or we only know them from third-hand information through the main characters. Getting to see them like this, their history in just a moment captured from one Christmas in their past or present says so much about each one of them and introduces us to a lot of new information. Wade, especially, is someone that I feel I have a completely better understanding of now.
And the format really works and must have gone over really well, as seen with Rolf and Ranger's most recent FCR short story release, "Jackson High", which has the same vignette format....more
This was great! One of my favorite of the FCR short stories because we get to see Dale in his stride -- I love seeing the competent Ice Man get pulledThis was great! One of my favorite of the FCR short stories because we get to see Dale in his stride -- I love seeing the competent Ice Man get pulled out of an important meeting for his spanking ;) Plus, it's nice seeing Dale get to live his life the way he wants and still be a competent businessman....more
I loved this one. So great to see not only Paul when he was younger, and see him in a different light, but to see him from a new perspective, especialI loved this one. So great to see not only Paul when he was younger, and see him in a different light, but to see him from a new perspective, especially Phillip's and David's when he's not totally put together and still finding his place. Plus, I love hearing him talk about Maine, his grandmother and the boarding house and tenants :)...more
In lieu of a typical review that I might write, I'm going to just post some of my favorite quotes from this book.Review posted at The Armchair Reader.
In lieu of a typical review that I might write, I'm going to just post some of my favorite quotes from this book. Sarah Black is one of my very favorite authors, across the board. Her books always move me -- I don't know if she can write a book that isn't really exploring a part of our lives. I feel refreshed yet tired after finishing one, as if I've just had a long and hard workout. And I try not to read too many of her books around the same time, or I'll just go crazy. I may love it at the time, but I won't be able to get into any other books afterwards and I feel particularly exposed, like the book opened me up to everything wonderful in the world, but also everything hard and scary, and sometimes being that open is frightening.
I am almost too nervous to review her books sometimes. They move me so much and they're so personal that I want everyone else to experience them blind. I don't want my feelings to impact yours because, above all, the experience of reading her books is most important to me, and I hope that all of you feel that way as well.
So, I'll just share some of my favorite quotes from The Legend of the Apache Kid and hope that they'll make you want to read the book. Because you should.. you really should. Now, I need to read Lawless.
Go to the review at my blog to finish and see the quotes. They formatting doesn't work as well here....more
This third installment in the Falls Chance Ranch series sees further exploration of the relationship and family of Dale, Paul, Flynn, Riley, and Jasper as well as the exploration of Dale's issues as he finally starts to get a grip on his new life on the ranch.
After a tumultuous summer of getting caught in mines, the discovery of Gam Saan, and a very celebratory commitment among friends and family at the ranch, fall has set in and winter is quickly approaching. Dale is given a work project, his first real project since his breakdown, which brings back a lot of the problems he's had trouble working through at the ranch. Combined with that stress, Dale continues seeing strange people and animals around the ranch. His analytical mind cannot leave an unsolved problem alone, and whether the origins are his own anxiety or a real mystical connection to the land doesn't seem to matter until Dale starts having extremely realistic dreams that uncover clues about a spiritual place on the ranch they call Mustang Hill, a spot where nothing grows and Dale finds strange markings. New friends from Three Traders, Luath and Darcy, return in this book as Dale starts to really believe in his place on the land and that his extraordinary mind for facts and figures also relates to seeing connections between people and places that the others don't.
This book is somewhat different than the previous ones, for several reasons. I've seen other readers have varying feelings about this book where most of them loved the previous ones for these reasons. For one, it is at least a third shorter. Where the second book, Three Traders moved beyond the internal and explored the whole of the ranch and the characters of the family, Mustang Hill is in many ways a retreat to the style of the first book. Without losing the connections made in the second book, this time the story is again a solitary journey for Dale. He's regressed in several ways that remind us of the first book. He is also dealing with a very private understanding of the land and why he can see certain things that only Jasper can see, and sometimes sees even more than Jasper.
The mysticism is something that I am always interested in, so I really ended up enjoying this book, even though it is a bit more subdued and certainly less exciting than TT. This is also Jasper's area of expertise. Having grown up Cherokee in the mountains of Virginia alone with his grandfather, learning the lore and essentially raised in isolation and of a lost period of time and Native American culture, he's connected with spirit and land more than anyone else. We have seen and gotten to know Jasper the least of the 5 main characters at the ranch, but he's one that I've always been really interested in. He's quiet, an observer and he has immense respect for everything around him. The discovery of the spiritual site atop Mustang Hill allows Dale and Jasper to connect in a way that they haven't before, and for us to see a side of Jasper up close that has always fascinated me. As a part of that, we get a lot more of his history and the history of the Shoshone area around this part of Wyoming.
I plowed through this book. It is the last of the completed books. The fourth book, Silver Bullet, isn't finished yet. I tried to slow myself reading this book because I really don't like to read WIP but this book was so much shorter that I found myself finished in a day. I'm really sad that I have to put this story down for a while. I have no idea of the schedule of releases, how fast these authors write, but I have a feeling that I'll be waiting quite a while to read the next book. No matter how much I'm trying to talk myself out of it…. I love these characters too much and I wouldn't be surprised if later today I can't stop myself from picking up the first chapter of Silver Bullet.
It will be a while before I'm able to review Silver Bullet, even if I do start reading it as it is being written. So I really hope that you all have enjoyed my reviews (more of a lengthy profile!) of this series. This series has become quite important to me. Of course it isn't without it's own problems, no matter how much I have gushed about it. Still, it's one of the best serials I've read. I have been really happy to see a lot of you pick these books up! It is such a good feeling to find a series that you love like this and then for them to be free. If you have the time and patience to read such long books, I couldn't recommend these more!...more
Again, like my reread of the first book, I seemed to love this even more the second time around. I LOVE Dale. Well, ISecond Read - 5/19/13 - 5/22/13
Again, like my reread of the first book, I seemed to love this even more the second time around. I LOVE Dale. Well, I really love all of them! Esp. Riley :) And I have a soft spot for Tom and Jake :D Now on to a re-read of Mustang Hill.
**Spoilers for those who haven't read the first Falls Chance Ranch book**
We left the end of book one as Dale became an official part of the relationship between Riley, Flynn, Jasper and Paul. Three Traders picks up right where the first book left off. Dale has come back to Falls Chance Ranch following his first time back in New York City after his recuperative therapy at the ranch and his epic breakdown. Dale thinks that his dissatisfaction with his old life will keep his three weeks in NYC quitting his job and moving to Wyoming from changing him, but he quickly finds that that isn't the case. He's slipped back into old patterns of obsessive and perfectionistic behavior. Besides, he comes to learn (or Flynn tries to drill into him) that moving to the ranch to be with the men is really like starting over. Before, he was a client and focused solely on bettering his own behavior and learning new methods to cope in life, but entering as part of a relationship opens up whole new areas Dale has no experience with in life, namely commitment. And that is a whole different beast for Dale, still a bit shell shocked by normal, every day interactions and his own head games.
On top of this Dale, Riley and the guys stumble upon a bit of a mystery that needs to be solved, linking the ghost town of Three Traders to the ever present reality of the ranch's past owners, David and Philip, two spirits of the ranch land that Dale desperately needs to feel connected to in order to tell himself that he belongs on the ranch and in the family.
I need to admit something. Last week, when I reviewed the first book I talked extensively about how amazing the slow pace works for this story -- to wade through the deep characterizations as well as Dale's numerous mental health issues -- and partway through this book I felt a bit hypocritical. I started getting a bit dispirited while reading, thinking not more of the same problems! At the end of the first book i was so happy that these problems were treated so in depth and given so much time to work themselves out. It is something that is given a much more real to life pace. Part of this is that I'm reading these stories back to back, so there is significantly slower change like most serials that are meant to be read by installment.
Then, something magical happened. The pace of this story started to pick up with all kinds of wonderful little sub plots (the mines, the town, all the new characters coming to visit!) and I could see that this second book was going to be a story all of it's own. Yes, it continues the first, but it goes further. No matter how much I love these guys, I wouldn't have been able to handle another book one over again with the same issues. I don't know why I lost faith, perhaps because I continually don't know what to expect from these books, but I am so happily surprised by the turns this story took and I was present for every bit of it, unable to put it down for other things. Now that I've finished this second book, I can see how it has built steadily over time, a story arc for the book independently, and a separate overall story arc that is very ingrained into the story and so naturally slow at progressing (which I was so happy about above).
I finished this story feeling like the first book really served as a foundation, in a way a prequel to this story. Where the first book was an in depth exploration of Dale, this book really set out to explore their overall relationship, something that I was insanely curious about. The first book barely even touches on their relationship. Besides the fact that there is no sex, there's barely even any kissing or mention of private time. This book allowed us to peek a little more into what they do and how they interact behind closed doors now that Dale is properly a part of it. We get a lot more detail about the characters and their history, which really pleased me and helped me to get to know them better. They're also becoming a lot closer as a 5 person unit, with a whole new dynamic now that Dale has joined them, and I loved seeing them explore that and finally settle into it by the end of this book. It made me instantly want to see where the third book will go and once again, I doubt I'll get any other reading done in the next few days. I probably won't even be able to go to bed tonight without at least starting Mustang HIll.
This is definitely one of those reviews that I can't stop gushing in, but that's okay I suppose. I've been reading these books totally hooked, and to be honest, that doesn't happen much anymore. I read a lot of wonderful books but perhaps because I've read so much of this genre, I feel like something has to really be different and have a lot of charm for me to feel this wonderful feeling reading. It is something that I only remember from when I first started reading in this genre and reading about gay men in (happy) love felt so wonderful to me as a form of fiction and literature that I'd never read before. This series feels like that to me, and when I finished Three Traders, I felt like I just might like this book even more than the first....more
I love it just as much as the first time. Even though I told myself I'd just read a bit here and there, because on WeSecond Read - 5/15/13 - 5/18/13
I love it just as much as the first time. Even though I told myself I'd just read a bit here and there, because on Wednesday when I started this I really needed a comfort read, I couldn't help but putting everything else aside and reading this first book straight through. I have another full week of reviews coming up that I still need to finish some of them and finalize and format the rest of them, but I don't think I'll be able to stop myself from opening now and reading it as well! Hopefully I can take it slower though :) Maybe...
First of all, I really want to thank Jen for pointing this online serial out to me (don't worry, this book is complete), and by proxy Orannia. It is a pretty long book, especially when you realize that the rest of the series is just about as long, but it really is worth reading.
The basis of the story is a working ranch in Wyoming that runs an exclusive program designed to help overworked and overstressed executives and CEOs rejuvenate. It may seem like rehab, and it is -- without the negative white-washed wall and formica tabletop and stale coffee associations. It is a place where people can come and help work the ranch (one at a time) and get some perspective and help with their problems.
Dale is sent to Falls Chance Ranch by his company after he has a breakdown at the office. A lifetime of bad habits and obsessive behavior have gotten him the reputation as somewhat of a whiz kid in financial circles, but at the failing of his health. Not eating and not sleeping and working around the clock simply will not work for him anymore. He's not given much of a choice, something he really despises, but the ranch and the people who live there quickly get under his skin. He starts to feel a part of something he never even knew could exist and starts to understand himself for the first time in his life.
I swear at least one of the authors of this MUST be a psychologist. I just don't know if I could believe that such a character intensive story could be written, especially in the setting of mental heath issues, without that knowledge and background. Because it doesn't just sound like Dale has an internet diagnosis and the plot flows from a breakdown of Wikipedia neurotic disorders, but the story is deeply ingrained in how people see the world and react to one another, both from a social perspective, and from a deeply internalized one. The slow pace and long length allow the authors to really dig deep in the characters, take their time, and let the plot unfold.
I think that a very strong case could be made for shortening some of this. And if this were published and professionally edited (it is remarkably free of mistakes and errors, to me anyway :D), it would no doubt lose quite a lot of length. But a lot of the charm and reason that the characters sunk so deep in my bones and I could feel them like best friends, was because of the time spent with them. Enough time that the pace is much more akin to real life, more than most written works.
Perhaps what is strongest here though, besides how wonderful the characters are and the relationships between them, is the place of Falls Chance Ranch. The whole premise of the rehabilitation of clients, even though it is never called that, is the return to idyllic nature. The meaning of working land and passing it on. Of a place as character, seen through the constant stories of David and Phillip, now long since died in the story, but present characters because of interchangeability of them and the land they became. Seen from the perspective of a man who has become battered by everything artificial in the world, the land, the story and characters, and therefore the book become a similar experience for the reader as the situation is for Dale. It seems like so many of the reviews I've seen of this story have mentioned how people felt so connected to Dale, and that's because when his problems are laid bare, really bare, we can each find a way to connect to them.
I'm completely addicted to this story, and it probably isn't for everyone. There's no sex, which definitely upset me sometimes because the connections are so strong I wanted to see that. In her post, Jen talked about seeing a group of 5 guys work together, and that was simply wonderful. I've never seen such a polyamorous family work in fiction this way. It is very long and has a slow pace. So it might be tedious for some to read. But if you really like digging into stories that won't leave you for a long time and will take you a while to enjoy, then this is definitely for you. I simply cannot wait to read the rest of this series, no matter how much further it will destroy my very detailed reading schedule I had laid out. Who cares? I'll read all those books next week! This week, I want to finish Falls Chance Ranch.
**Note: While technically this is BDSM, the lack of sex and therefore BDSM sexual play really breaks down to the core of dominance and submission and the transference of power.Three Traders...more