Book review of Rebuilding Hope by Jessie G.

Rebuilding Hope (Kindred, #1)

This was an interesting take on a shifter romance.  I’m accustomed to such things as fated mates and alphas, but both those things were taken a step further in this book.

Crowley is not the alpha, he’s the Zenith.  That means two things – he rules over not just a group of shifters, but all shifters.  Of all breeds.  There are three Zeniths in the world, ruling over different areas.  Crowley rules over the Americas.  Below him there are the regular alphas who run the groups on a day-to-day basis.  Alphas are the strongest, as per usual.  Zeniths are born to the position, not in terms of bloodlines but in terms of abilities.  Secondly, Crowley can hear the thoughts and feel the emotions of all the shifters under his rule, and vice versa.  That’s what makes him the Zenith.  How that works in reality (can you say reality when it’s a fiction novel?!) wasn’t explained in great detail, but the reader was given sufficient information to get the gist of it and understand how it affects Crowley and how he uses it to affect the shifters under his care.

Then you’ve got mates.  Most shifters in this universe choose a mate, as humans do.  They may fall in love, but they’re not fated.  It turns out that Holden is Crowley’s fated mate, which for a Zenith is known as a Kindred.  No one has encountered a Kindred in so long that they were believed to be myths.

All of the above gave the novel a sense of uniqueness, and made it interesting and different to those that have come before it, which is good.

I found the story hard to follow at first, and I was super confused as to why Crowley asked Holden to join him at his table in the restaurant, although that was sort of explained later.  Their first encounter wasn’t shared with the reader.  From Crowley offering Holden a seat, we skip forward to them in bed together, and that baffled me.  Why didn’t we get to see their very first interaction with each other?

Once the story got going through, everything flowed quite smoothly after that.  I liked the fact that Crowley wasn’t arrogant, that he worried over whether he was doing a good job as Zenith, that he genuinely cared for his people, that he respected advice from those whom he trusted and respected, and yet that he was ruthless and hands-on when it came to necessary punishments.  In short, a good leader.  Holden’s bewilderment and bafflement over the whole shifter thing and also his role as Kindred worked well and felt natural, and yet he instinctively reacted to some things, reinforcing the idea that the relationship was ‘meant to be’.  I thought that was all handled really well.

Some of the secondary characters were quite interesting. The vampire king definitely caught my attention.  I suspect there are sequels to follow on the other two Zeniths as they hunt for their Kindreds. Four stars from me.

Book review of A Chosen Man by Jaime Reese

A Chosen Man by Jaime Reese

This is the 6th book in Jaime Reese’s Men of Halfway House series.

Wall is a secondary character we’ve encountered previously, who talks very little.  Like, ridiculously little.  So I was curious to see how Jaime would portray his story.

I loved Dylan.  He reminded me of Cole, a previous character.  Dylan has a powerful memory and can remember virtually everything he reads.  The author didn’t explicitly state that it was a photographic memory, but it obviously was.  He’s also a tech genius, specifically a hacker.  But then comes the similarity to Cole – the habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time because he doesn’t fully understand the nuances of normal, everyday social situations.

Both Dylan and Wall have had previous relationships that scarred and/or traumatised them, and led them to being wary of new relationships.  Built into this is the explanation of why Wall is so quiet, and how Dylan ended up in jail.

It wasn’t the guy, or his smile, or the sound of his voice. It was the promise of the dream. And, at the time, he probably would have accepted that from a three-legged iguana shifter if it had been able to speak that promise to him.

Like with Cole, the author doesn’t try and pretend he’s squeaky clean, an innocent man who did time for an honest mistake.  Dylan broke the law, but the author cleverly entices the reader to fall for him anyway.  I mean, for Wall to fall for him anyway.  Ahem.

I felt that the relationship between Wall and Dylan healed both men to a point where I felt like some of their stronger personality traits weren’t so obvious anymore.  Wall talked a lot more than I expected, and Dylan learned how to concentrate on his surroundings and what reactions were best in a given situation.  I was a little disappointed that they became more ‘normal’.  I didn’t feel like that happened with Cole, or even Adrian, who were strong characters that remained strong characters but found someone who loved them anyway.  Wall and Dylan changed each other.  For the better, sure, but…  Anyway, I dropped a star off my rating for that.

I added a star to my rating for the humour.

He imagined he would be crapping sugar cubes at any moment.

I kept laughing aloud as I read, and I love a book that can do that for me.

Wall didn’t know shit about computers, programming, and wouldn’t be able to find the dark web in a well-lit room.

The relationship between Wall and Dylan didn’t have enough tension or conflict to really keep my interest.  Their relationship was very sweet.  There was external conflict, which came from the men chasing Dylan.  The ‘escaping the bad guys’ sections of the book were easily my favourite, although Wall’s mum was very cool and I liked her a lot.  If there had been more conflict, I think the book would have been stronger.  As it was, I felt it was a three star read, taken to four stars with the humour.  If you want a sweet read that will make you smile, check it out.

Book review of Archangel’s Shadows by Nalini Singh

Archangel's Shadows (Guild Hunter, #7)

This is the 7th book in Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series.  When I looked ahead in the series, I was disappointed to see that I was going to have read through Ashwini and Janvier’s story, and then Naasir’s, before getting back to the primary and secondary characters.  I felt that Ash and Janvier were tertiary characters to date, and we’d seen so little of Naasir even though he was on of Raphael’s Seven, and what we had, I didn’t like.  I wasn’t looking forward to his story at all.

But I’ve been enjoying the series, especially since switching to the audio versions, and I wanted to continue to follow the overall arc.  I wanted more of Illium and Aodhan in particular.  So it was with some reluctance that I started on Archangel’s Shadows.

Firstly, as someone who lives in New Zealand and has never been to America, I’m glad I listened to the audio book.  I could never have imagined Janvier’s accent correctly!

We knew already that Ash was pretty kickass, and a little crazy, and she didn’t disappoint in that regard.  There was a big build up to finding out why Ash was holding Janvier at arm’s length, and why she refused to consider becoming an immortal.  I was sceptical, I admit.  I was afraid this was going to be one of those ‘if you’d only talked to me’ tropes, where she had misconceptions and it had kept them from being together for ages and once she ‘fessed up, Janvier would sort them and they would have wasted so much time.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  I should have known not to doubt Nalini Singh!  I don’t want to give away any spoilers, because that would truly ruin the book for you, but it’s a good reason, and even Janvier has to agree that it’s a good reason.

The hunt that runs through the book helps keep the momentum going, and provides action, conflict and insights into both Ash and Janvier.

We see a lot more of Naasir in this book, and now I really want to read his book!  I hadn’t expected that AT ALL.  He is sweet, amusing and fascinating, and I really want to see how Nalini expands on that.

I was a tad disappointed at how neatly things were wrapped up at the end of the book, but unsurprised.  And that was really the only part where things were too easy for the characters.  Both Ash and Janvier stayed in character the whole book, which is good.  I gave it four stars.

 

#T5W – Favourite covers

The first two things that grab your attention when you’re looking for a book are the title and the cover, right?  Then it all hinges on the blurb.  I have read a few great books with terrible covers, but generally, if the cover is atrocious, I’m likely to keep scrolling.

A lot of romance novels have very similar covers.  Half naked men are pretty standard in contemporary romances.  Women in ball gowns are pretty standard for historical ones, or men in kilts for Scottish historicals.  Men in cowboy hats, with or without a woman at his side for Westerns.  And so on and so forth.  So it’s hard to find covers that really stand out.  I’ve done my best to choose five though.  Note that I limited to myself to only choosing from books I’ve actually read.

Entranced (Guardian Academy #1) Entangled (Guardian Academy #2) Enchanted (Guardian Academy Book 3)
I like the blend of kickass, supernatural and femininity that Jessica Sorensen’s covers for her Guardian Academy series have.  You know by looking that the heroine isn’t going to be an insipid pushover.

Demon Possession (Shadow Quest, #1) Demon Slave (Shadow Quest #2)
The first two books in Kiersten Fay’s Shadow Quest series have beautiful covers.  Pretty and other-worldly, with a hint of darkness.

Keep Me Safe (Slow Burn #1) In His Keeping (Slow Burn, #2) Safe at Last (Slow Burn, #3)
Maya Banks often has unique covers on her books.  Some feature more traditional covers, but most don’t.  The first three books in her Slow Burn series feature striking covers, although I admit, they don’t give much clue to the stories inside.

Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling, #1) Visions of Heat (Psy-Changeling, #2) Caressed By Ice (Psy-Changeling, #3) Mine to Possess (Psy-Changeling, #4)These are the covers of the Kindle editions of the first four books in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series.  I think they look dark and dangerous, which gives them an added advantage over the half-clothed men on many other covers.

 

A Sorceress of His Own (The Gifted Ones, #1) Rendezvous With Yesterday (The Gifted Ones, #2)
These are the only two books currently in Dianne Duvall’s The Gifted Ones series, but it is very closely tied to her Immortal Guardian’s series.  So closely tied, in fact, that you can move from The Gifted Ones to the Immortal Guardians without feeling like you missed anything.  Especially if you read Marcus’s story in the Immortal Guardians series, as it ties the two series together nicely.  Anyway, these are historical romance novels, with a paranormal twist and some time travel in the second one.  The covers are unique and eye catching.

So there you go.  There were a few others I hummed and haa’d over, but eventually you have to make a call, right?  As it was I cheated by doing five series instead of five individual books!

What are some of your favourite book covers?

 

 

 

 

Cliffhangers and ‘Happy for now’

‘I am confident that, in the end, common sense and justice will prevail. I’m an optimist, brought up on the belief that if you wait to the end of the story, you get to see the good people live happily ever after.’ ~ Cat Stevens

I read romance novels almost exclusively. Within the primary romance genre, I read virtually every subgenre there is, with some being more favoured than others, of course. I read romance because I demand my ‘happily ever after’, and the romance genre is the only genre that promises this. Or does it? I have been noticing a trend lately in the romance genre for books to have either cliffhangers or end with the couple ‘happy for now’. Most often, these books are followed by a sequel where the couple continue their relationship, and may or may not arrive at their ‘happily ever after’. Is it a ploy to get readers to buy more books? A natural consequence of readers delving more deeply into characters’ lives so the stories take more than a single book to tell? Or do romance readers no longer care about ever after? We live in a world where instant gratification is demanded by so many, and where the future is a distant, intangible thing that will sort itself out. Are these books a result of the world in which we now live?

‘The magic is as wide as a smile and as narrow as a wink, loud as laughter and quiet as a tear, tall as a tale and deep as emotion. So strong, it can lift the spirit. So gentle, it can touch the heart. It is the magic that begins the happily ever after.’ ~ Walt Disney

This is something that I have been pondering for some time, and another theory has occurred to me. With the proliferation of ebooks and self-published books, there are huge quantities of novels coming onto the market all the time. Far more than have ever been available previously. Perhaps many of these books have romance as a subgenre, rather than a primary genre.

Let’s look at Nalini Singh’s hugely successful Guild Hunter series, which is marketed as ‘paranormal romance’. The first book features Raphael and Elena as the primary characters. The second book also features Raphael and Elena as the primary characters. In fact, so do the third, sixth, ninth and eleventh books in the series. So they didn’t get their ‘happily ever after’ in the first book. So are these books paranormal fiction first, and romance second? Or are they paranormal romance novels that simply don’t have a ‘happily ever after’? Interestingly, the first book in the series, Angels’ Blood, is ranked in Amazon’s fantasy and horror genres, although it is highest ranked in the romance genre, in the paranormal subgenre.

The Guild Hunter series is far from the only example, just a high profile one. Share some of your examples with me, and your thoughts about them.  How do you feel about ‘romance novels’ that end on a cliffhanger or just a ‘happy for now’? Are you satisfied? Do you buy the next book in the series? Do you feel they even qualify as romance novels? Is the ‘guaranteed happily ever after’ gone from the genre?

‘Have you thought of an ending?’ ‘Yes , several, and all are dark and unpleasant,’ said Frodo. ‘Oh , that won’t do!’ said Bilbo. ‘Books ought to have good endings. How would this do: and they all settled down and lived together happily ever after?’ ‘It will do well, if it ever comes to that,’ said Frodo.’ ~ J. R. R. Tolkien

18 ways to appreciate New Zealand

I

Far from where Hillary ‘knocked the bastard off’,
rise peaks that conquer the horizon,
beckoning the intrepid, the brave,
the fatally ill-prepared…

 

II

Some sleep, undisturbed by the passing eons,
while others hiss and belch, spewing molten rock
and ash to splatter and scar their slopes.

 

III

Taupo, youngest global supervolcano,
hides simmering tantrums ‘neath waters
stocked with trout, tempting fishermen
and complacency.

 

IV

Glittering black sands,
remnant from Waitakere
(cremated long before records began),
provide vivid contrast to
golden east coast beaches.

 

V

Rolling green hills,
dotted with the white and tan splotches of livestock,
send a soul-deep sense of peace.

 

VI

Small-town hospitality, local bands
playing gigs in community halls,
that brogue that strengthens
as you head south, and the simplicity of rural life.

 

VII

Civilised society with an English veneer
and a quirky sense of spunk and survival
in Christchurch.

 

VIII

Wellington takes no prisoners, with
a brusque wind and a taste for politics.

 

IX

Auckland fancies itself a careful blend of
high society, expensive coffee, smashed
avocado and nightclubs for those who overindulged…
on caffeine.

 

X

Wines, from Waiheke, Waitakere,
Marlborough and beyond… Sumptuous reds,
bold whites, and delicate rosés
to satisfy the reveller,
the amateur and the truly discerning palate,
no’ necessarily in that order.

 

XI

The commuter ferries from Waiheke and Devonport
just a few of the boats on the Hauraki Gulf,
‘city of sails’ no misnomer.

 

XII

Fishermen catch kai moana for dinner,
a staple of New Zealand cuisine
(fine dining meets fush and chups)
and embedded into local culture and lore.

 

XIII

Sampling Maori tradition,
barefoot on a marae,
surrounded by towering wooden sculptures that
speak of ancestors and times long past.

 

XIV

The haka following the national anthem,
an acoustic display of might rattling
the stadium before another All Blacks
Rugby World Cup triumph.

 

XV

Endless black skies that reveal
the astonishing Southern Lights or
the Southern Cross constellation amid
starlit heavens.

 

XVI

Moreporks and kiwi send calls through the night,
until dawn brings the plethora of birds
that dominate the aural landscape.

 

XVII

Imagination abounds in Middle Earth,
where wannabe hobbits sip ale at
the Green Dragon Inn and stumble home
to houses under hills.

 

XVIII

Adrenaline soars as bungee cords snap back,
rafts plunge down waterfalls,
and parachutes float
far above New Zealand.

#T5W – Books for my younger self

I’m a bit late posting for #T5W, considering it’s now Friday here in New Zealand, but oh well.  I was a bit stumped on this prompt.  Books for my younger self.  I was a voracious reader.  My mother tells me that I was so desperate for reading material that I would read the backs of cereal packets, and once she even caught me trying to read the shredded newspaper we were using to insulate the house that we were building.  It’s not that my parents denied me books, but we didn’t have a lot of money, and I went to a very small rural school.  It didn’t take me long to read my way through the library there.  I remember that going to high school was amazing because they had this huge library that I could explore.

So I read anything I could get my hands on, but I did tend to favour fantasy novels.

In high school, the first books I remember really enjoying were Anne McCaffrey’s talent series and ship series, both of which I enjoyed.  I never got as much into her dragonrider series, which is crazy, because it seems ideal for me.  I read her crystal series and freedom series too.  And then I really enjoyed Jean M Auel’s earth’s children series.

After high school I read a lot of Mills and Boons, partly because they were cheap and plentiful.  You could pick up stacks of them for really cheap.  Win!  Eventually I grew out of those and started looking for romance novels with more depth, and I’ve stayed there ever since.

So…  I have no idea what to recommend to my younger self.  Am I only recommending books that were available back then?  Or ones that I wish had been?  I’m leaning toward the latter.

I’ve actually bought a heap of books for my kids over the years.  Neither of my kids are quite as manic about reading as I was, but I think that’s because they have the internet and I didn’t.  Although we had a computer at home in my later years of primary school, we didn’t get internet until I was 17 I think.  My son is definitely into fantasy, and my daughter prefers feel-good, happy stories, although I’ve noticed she also leans toward fantasy, with fairies and mermaids and things.

So, these are books I’ve bought for my kids.  Which I guess I wish someone had bought for me when I was a kid, except of course they weren’t published then!

The Dragon Defenders (The Dragon Defenders Trilogy, #1)

We lucked out when we bought my daughter’s copy of this book, because the author is a local and he’d signed the book!  Win!  This book also contains digital content that you can scan with an iphone or ipad, using the app.  Very cool, and a way to mix up the two technologies for modern kids.

Blurb:  When evil boss The Pitbull discovers that dragons exist on Flynn and Paddy’s island, he sends his men to kill one, and to bring him back a dragon’s egg. It will take all of Flynn and Paddy’s skill, bravery and cunning to stop them.

This is a trilogy and all three books have been published.

 

The Lost Twin (Scarlet and Ivy #1)

Blurb: Ivy, I pray that it’s you reading this. And if you are, well, I suppose you’re the new me…

When shy Ivy’s troublemaking twin Scarlet vanishes from Rookwood boarding school, Ivy is invited to “take her place.” But when Ivy arrives, she discovers the school’s true intention; she has to pretend to be Scarlet. She must think like Scarlet, act like Scarlet, become Scarlet. What on earth happened to the real Scarlet, and why is the school trying to keep it a secret?

Luckily for Ivy, Scarlet isn’t about to disappear without a fight. She’s left pieces of her journal carefully hidden all over the school for Ivy to find. Ivy’s going to figure out what happened to Scarlet. She’s got to.

But the staff of Rookwood is always watching, and they’ll do anything to keep their secrets buried…

There are five books in this series so far.

 

The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil, #1)

Blurb: The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?

The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.

There are four books in this series so far, with a fifth one scheduled for release next year.

 

Skulduggery Pleasant (Skulduggery Pleasant, #1)

Blurb: Meet Skulduggery Pleasant

Ace Detective
Snappy Dresser
Razor–tongued Wit
Crackerjack Sorcerer
and
Walking, Talking, 
Fire-throwing Skeleton

—as well as ally, protector, and mentor of Stephanie Edgley, a very unusual and darkly talented twelve-year-old.

These two alone must defeat an all-consuming ancient evil.

The end of the world?

Over his dead body.

There are eleven books in this series so far.

 

The Ruins of Gorlan (Ranger's Apprentice, #1)

Blurb: They have always scared him in the past — the Rangers, with their dark cloaks and shadowy ways. The villagers believe the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. And now 15-year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice. What he doesn’t yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. This time, he will not be denied….

There are twelve books in this series, but then there’s also seven books in John Flanagan’s Brotherband Chronicles which are a spin-off, and my son seems to enjoy them just as much.

 

So there you go.  Not five books, but five series!  Of all of them, I know my son has enjoyed the John Flanagan books the most, but then, he’s a more avid reader than his sister, and I think he didn’t outgrow those ones as quickly as the Skulduggery Pleasant ones.