Book review of Beautifully Burned by C J Burright

Beautifully Burned (The Dreamcaster Series Book 2)

This was an interesting new kind of supernatural.  Ella, the heroine, is a dreamcaster.  Daxen, the hero, is a V’alkara.  These two different species (?) need each other, as they develop a symbiotic relationship.  A dreamcaster has uncontrollable nightmares.  Uncontrollable, that is, except by a V’alkara.  A V’alkara can manipulate nightmares and therefore turn a nightmare into something less disturbing.  In turn, the nightmare sustains the V’alkara.  Without nightmares, the V’alkara will slowly go mad.  And so too would a dreamcaster, caught in a never ending cycle of nightmares.  So they need each other.

Ella has been warned that V’alkara are the bad guys, so she doesn’t want anything to do with them.  She’s struggling to survive a relatively normal life while enduring horrific nightmares every night.  Her only remaining family, after a house fire, is her sister who is in a mental institute.

Daxon is currently using Kalila and her nightmares to sustain him, but Kalila is already bonded to Lydon, and Lydon does NOT like sharing.

When Ella is targeted, Daxon is one of those who goes to help her.  Ella eventually learns more about the V’alkara, and Daxon shows her how he can help her nightmares and how they can work together to control her dreams.  But they won’t defeat their enemies easily, and when their enemies target Ella’s sister, things get even worse.

I found this story quite fascinating.  It’s such a unique concept.  It’s not just about the dreams sustaining Daxon, but he can use facets of the dreams in real life, to fight their enemies, etc.  It’s both disturbing (in a nightmare-come-true kind of way) and intriguing.

I didn’t read the first book in the series, but it didn’t seem to affect my enjoyment of the book.  I found Daxon to be easily likeable, and all the characters were multi-dimensional.  Within the first chapter we’re already introduced to the fact that Lydon is both capable of murdering in cold blood and loving to the point of desperation, and he’s just a secondary character (although he’s the hero of the first book in the series).  Ella is the one we relate to, being more like a regular human, living a regular life but dealing with all the terrible things life throws at us.

The book is well written and easy to read.  Definitely worth checking out.

Book review of Rended Hearts by Riza Curtis

Rended Hearts

This book is centered around Gabriel, who is a witch, and Simon, who is the alpha of the local werewolf pack.  Gabriel is a loner and doesn’t associate with any other witches.  But Gabriel has something that the other witches want, so they start to wreak havoc, trying to scare Gabriel into giving them what they want.  They target the wolves, and Gabriel has to decide if he is prepared to risk the wolves’ safety or if he gives the witches what they want.

We first meet Simon when he is attacked by a witch.  He is the alpha of his pack, but he doesn’t come across as strong or confident.  Several times the author speaks of his strength and his alpha-like characteristics, but I never saw them.  Simon came across as sweet, but definitely beta.  It was a classic case of ‘Don’t tell us, show us!’ but the author never did.  This was easily my biggest gripe with the book.

Gabriel is a healer, utilising both magical and traditional methods.  We meet him when he is brought to the pack house to heal Simon after the initial attack.  Gabriel is quiet, a loner, and is content with his lot but doesn’t dare hope for happily ever after.  As the book proceeds, we see Gabriel grow in magical strength and self-confidence.  By the end of the book, I really wanted Gabriel to get the happily ever after he deserved.

There is an aspect of insta-love, on Simon’s part, as of course, there is the True Mate thing of the werewolves.  Simon falls early and hard, whereas Gabriel slowly comes to the same place (which is much more satisfying).

There were interesting twists I wasn’t expecting which kept me turning the page.  I thought the magic was well explained (while still retaining an air of mystery) and the motive for the attacks seems plausible.

Overall, I thought Gabriel was well written and a character I enjoyed reading about.  Simon let the story down, and I really felt like he needed to be stronger.  Or more interesting.  Or more…something.  He was definitely lacking something!

Book review of More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer

More Than We Can Tell (Letters to the Lost #2)

Man, you know it’s a good book when you care enough about the characters to cry when they’re hurting.  This book made me cry.  More than once.  And I couldn’t put it down.  I was up until after midnight last night, my husband fast asleep beside me, and I couldn’t stop reading.  Thank god I could sleep in this morning!

The main characters are teenagers who are attending high school.  Their actual ages confused me because I’m not used to the American high school system, but I eventually worked out that they’re about 18 and 17 respectively.  With this in mind, this is not a steamy book.  If you’re after sex, find another book.  And yeah, there’s plenty of angst, but don’t panic, this is no Twilight.

Rev and Emma are two very different characters.  Rev was adopted after being abused as a child by his natural father.  I say abused, but it seems ‘tortured and mind fucked by a religious fanatic who has gone off the deep end’ would be more apt.  Seriously, tortured.  He’s been through things that most people couldn’t imagine.  The kind of things that leave scars on the outside and scars on the inside.  The kind of things that leave you wondering how you can move on to be a normal human being.

‘I’ve wondered how my father turned into the man he was. The man he is. I know about the cycle of abuse, and I’ve spent a lot of hours wondering when I would start to change.’

Rev is a truly believable character, and I think that’s what makes this book so powerful.  It’s not ridiculous over-the-top dramatics, it’s moments of self-doubt that the author puts into context.  The introduction of Rev’s foster brother, Matthew, also works really well.  We see Rev’s protectiveness, his fear, his compassion and his self-doubt, and they’re all highlighted by this other boy who has his own issues going on.

I’m trying really hard not to give too much away, so forgive me if I am being too vague!  I don’t want to ruin the story for you!

Emma is a gamer.  More than that, she’s a coder.  She wrote her own game.  At first, her worries and concerns are very relatable.  They’re the kind of concerns every teenager goes through.  Mum is too critical and doesn’t want me wasting my time on a hobby that’ll never turn into a dependable and secure income.  Dad never has time for me because he’s always working.  My friend and I are growing apart because we’re interested in completely different things.  Those kinds of things.  Even when her parents announce their divorce, this is all still within the realm of normality.  This helps balance the book somewhat because for most of us, Rev’s issues are not relatable, but we can relate to Emma and thus to her interactions with Rev.

‘He’s wearing dark jeans and a hoodie, and the hood is large enough to put his entire face in darkness. I feel like I’m talking to a Sith lord.’

There were times when I felt like slapping her for the way she spoke to her mother and her best friend, but this may have something to do with the fact that she’s the same age as my son.  Emma’s real drama starts when she encounters a troll in the game she built.  This, too, is something that many people can relate to.  I certainly can.  People who either outright bully you online, or people who pretend to be your friend and then screw you over when you least expect it.  I’ve encountered both, and the latter are heartbreaking.  Emma’s dad tells her that trolls are a matter of life in the gaming community.  Truth.  Rev tells her that the behaviour of the troll is in no way right or acceptable.  Also truth.

One of the things I liked about the book is that it acknowledges that Rev and Emma’s troubles aren’t on the same level, but that ‘it’s not a competition’.  Just because Emma’s troubles aren’t instigated by someone who literally tortured her for years, doesn’t make them trivial or less real.

The drama is not all in their heads, and there is plenty of real action and interaction, but I don’t want to give too much away.

There is definitely a romance between Rev and Emma, but by the time I was halfway through the book, I couldn’t have cared less if this was a romance or just a YA drama.  I was invested in the characters and just wanted everything to work out for them.  Rev seriously tugged at my heart strings.  I thought his parents were great too.  I know they were a little too perfect, as a foil for Rev’s natural father, but that’s okay.  It kind of felt like he deserved them after everything he’d been through.  And we know that people like them do exist.  Amazing people who do everything they can to help an abused child find safety, peace and happiness.

I highly recommend this book.  It’s definitely worth the five stars I gave it.  Sure, I could see a couple of things that could use improvement, but when I was reading at midnight with tears streaming down my face, I couldn’t have given a crap about them.  It’s a powerful read, and despite everything, it leaves you feeling like there are good people in the world, and we can be one of them.  It makes you want to reach out and give someone a hug.  Read it.

Book review of #Starstruck by Sariah Wilson

#Starstruck (#Lovestruck, #1)

This is a Cinderella story, where a fan catches the attention of a movie star when she tells him in a tweet that his last movie wasn’t up to par.  Chase knew that his last movie wasn’t good enough, but everyone around him kept telling him how amazing he was.  Only Zoe had the courage to tell him the truth.  And he desperately needed someone who would connect with him on a real level, where life wasn’t about Chase the movie star, but about Chase the man.

Yes, it’s totally unrealistic that a movie star will read all the hundreds and thousands of tweets he gets and then deliberately seek out someone who posted something less than complimentary.  I suppose it could happen, but I think you do have to suspend your sense of disbelief to buy into that scenario.  Once Zoe and Chase have actually met though, things start to feel more believable and the story flows pretty well from there.

There’s some predictability to it – Zoe comes up with all kinds of excuses as to why she shouldn’t tell her friend she’s dating a movie star they’ve both lusted after since they were 14.  It doesn’t take a crystal ball to realise that if she doesn’t tell her friend in time, her friend is going to find out in the worst way possible.  And the work thing was predictable too, I have to say.

There was a nice level of humour to the story.

“Zoe, I want to introduce you to Benjy, Kevin, and Chan. We’re talking about a project we’re hoping to do next year. But we just wrapped everything up, and I was about to walk everyone out.”
My jaw hit the floor so hard my face should have ached. Standing around his dining room table were Batman, Silent Bob, and Magic Mike.

I loved the cute factor of Zia and the rest of the family.  “I hits Cheese.”  Aww….

There were times when the relationship didn’t go so smoothly, and Zoe made mistakes and Chase made mistakes.  That helped to balance out the sweetness.  But it was a very sweet book.

So yeah, overall, a light, easy read, the humour and the cute factor saved it from being ordinary, and I enjoyed it.  It was a bit predictable, and Zoe’s lack of self-esteem (while probably realistic) was a little wearing.  There was no depth to this, no grit, but a nice, light read for summer.  It definitely made me smile, and it’s nice to read a book that makes you smile every now and then, am I right?  I gave it three stars, but I’d be open to reading the next book in the series.

A book review of Pure Healing by Aja James

Pure Healing (Pure/ Dark Ones #1)

Pure Healing is the first book in a series called Pure/Dark Ones.  So far there are five books in the series, although only the first two have been published so far.

This book reminds me very strongly of the Immortal Guardians series by Dianne Duvall and also the Midnight Breed series by Lara Adrian.  But more the Immortal Guardians one.  If you liked that, you’ll love this.

Similar to the Immortal Guardians, in this series, there are humans and others.  The bad others are vampires or Dark Ones.  The good others are Pure Ones.  I haven’t quite worked out how the others are different from humans.  It seems to be some kind of reincarnation after death.  The Pure Ones are not allowed to have sex except with their mate.  No mate, no sex.

This book is primarily about the romance between Rain and Valerius.  Rain is the Pure One’s healer.  Valerius is one of the elite protectors of the Pure Ones.

The role of the healer is an interesting one.  She appears to use her life force to heal, and so every ten years she needs to recharge her life force.  She does this by taking a consort for three months, and by drinking his blood and his…well, you know… she recharges enough for the next ten years.  The stronger the consort, the stronger the healer becomes.  And Valerius is the strongest of the Pure Ones.

Valerius is very old.  His father was a Roman gladiator.  After his father was killed, Valerius was sold as a sex slave.  This period of his life has left him unable to offer himself up to be Rain’s consort.  And yet, with Rain refusing to take the same consort more than once (there’s a story behind that), she’s down to weak men who will be unable to recharge her sufficiently to sustain her for the next ten years.

This book skips a little bit between various Pure Ones, and one Dark One, in order to set up various threads that will weave through the story arc.  I found it a little disorientating right at the start, because we start with the Pure One’s queen, and not either of the two main characters, but otherwise it was fine.

I gave the book four stars, and I was definitely keen to read more.  I was a little baffled though to realise that the next three books are all ‘dark’, and it’s only the fifth book in the series that goes back to the Pure Ones.  That seems weird to me.  Like maybe alternating would have been okay, but three dark ones in a row?  I guess I’ll have to read one and find out.  But this book hasn’t set me up to be a big fan of the Dark Ones, so…

But yeah, if you liked Immortal Guardians or the Midnight Breed series, definitely give this one a go.

A book review of The Spy Who Kissed Me by Pauline Baird Jones

Image result for the spy who kissed me

Everything was pointing to this book being rubbish.  The cover art is pretty crap.  It doesn’t scream ‘sophisticated writing that’s going to whisk you away into a story that feels so real you’ll…’  I don’t even know how to end that sentence.

Then the book starts with author’s notes informing us that this is the author’s first ever completed novel, and she had real issues getting it published.  Oh joy.  I’m definitely in for a thrill here.

If this was a movie, it’d be an action comedy.  Or a comedy action.  It had a lot of action and a lot of comedy.  There were shots fired, car chases, stabbings, people getting run over, explosions, and lots of kissing.  But it was interwoven with a sense of humour that kept me smiling as I turned the pages.  It was the kind of humour that made you chuckle to yourself or snigger quietly as you read on the train, leaving people wonder what you’re reading or watching.

The story is told in first person by Isabel ‘Stan’ Stanley.  She is hilariously self-deprecating.  It’s a weird kind of humour too, because the other characters keep commenting on it, which makes sense when you’re reading, but looking back makes you realise that the author was kind of laughing at her own jokes.  Never mind, I was laughing at her jokes too, so all good.

Despite all the action, despite the deaths, despite the bad guys doing bad things, it was a light hearted romp of a read, and I really enjoyed it.  I’d recommend it as a perfect holiday read, something to read at the beach, or if you’ve had too much of reading dark, intense, brooding kinds of books.

I know humour is individual and you might not enjoy it the same as I did, but definitely give it a go.  I was pleased I did.  I gave it four stars.

Book review of Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair

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Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair is a science fiction romance, set some time in the future.  My first impression was that it reminded me of Star Trek, and I initially wondered if it was fan fiction.

There’s somewhat of an ‘enemies to lovers’ trope, with Sass and Branden on the outs at the beginning.  There is a lot of hidden history though, that the author slowly reveals to us.  And to Sass.  I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of Sass having a ‘sneak peek’ into Branden’s personal feelings, but she does later share with him that she has this knowledge.  It’s interesting to wonder how the story would have changed if Sass hadn’t had that insight though.  Would she have found it harder to look beyond Branden’s closed-off façade?

Branden is a cyborg (born human but upgraded with computer technology to be super smart, fast, strong, etc).  Sass is human.  This difference plays into the tension between them, especially on Branden’s part as he can’t understand why any human would find a ‘machine’ attractive.

Most of the story takes place on the spaceship where Branden is the Admiral and Sass is the Captain.  I’m not sure why you’d have an Admiral and a Captain on the same ship (seems like overkill to me) but what do I know?  Despite my first paragraph, I’m not a Trekkie.  Later though, the story moves to a small ship, a planet and back to the small ship.  This forces Branden and Sass to interact more, as they learn to depend on each other for survival.  I felt that this was where they both truly came into their own.  Branden risks his life to save the others, and this is one of the clearest moments up to then when we (and the other characters) see that he is not an emotionless machine.  We are given insight prior to that, but this is where he lets his mask fall and shows us.

There is a secondary romance that also plays out alongside the main one.  I enjoyed this.

There was only one thing that really bugged me, and it was minor.  There are creatures called fidgets, which appear to all intents and purposes to be the equivalent of domestic cats (although they have abilities domestic cats don’t have, as you’d expect in science fiction).  The author takes this comparison and runs with it.

‘Me? Nervous as a long-tailed fidget in a room full of rocking chairs.’

Seriously?  Does changing it from a cat to a fidget actually make that saying work in a science fiction world of spaceships?  People barely use rocking chairs in 2018 let alone many years into the future.  And if you’re going to invent new worlds, new species, etc., invent new sayings!  Don’t just take old sayings and repurpose them!

‘Fuck you and the equinnard you rode in on,’ she told it.’

Ugh. ‘Equinnards’ seem utterly irrelevant in a world where people could live their entire lives without setting foot on a planet surface.  But it was a minor detail and certainly not enough to stop me from re-reading or recommending the book.

I did think the rest of the story was well written.  It was very easy to read, it flowed well, it had a nice balance of action and rest, and the aliens and alien-technology fitted into the story well without making the reader go ‘huh?’.

All in all, I enjoyed the book.  I gave it four stars.