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

A book review of Match Day by Mercy Celeste

Match Day (Adventures INK, #1)

I’m not sure what compelled me to read this book, but whatever it was, I wish I’d ignored the urge.  *Rolleyes*  I’ve read other books by this author and some have been great.  I rated Let It Go five stars, and I’ve re-read Crazy From The Heat a number of times.  So don’t let me put you off the author.  But skip this book.

There are two things that let this book down.  Okay, so bear with me here.  The two main characters, Brian and Zack, have been comfortable getting each other off in the shower from when they’re in their early teens.  Their entire relationship builds on this foundation.  Despite this, Brian is 100% sure that Zack is straight.  And when we meet Zack, he’s just about to marry Brian’s sister.  Um, what?  Straight guys don’t jack off or get jacked off by their male friends in the showers.  That’s not a thing that happens in real life.  Straight guys don’t touch each other’s genitals, mkay?

I’d suggest that the author just take out any references to these prior shower sessions, but truly, you can’t.  Their whole relationship builds on that beginning.  *Headbang*

Eventually both Brian and Zack realise that Zack isn’t straight.  Like, no shit Sherlock.  *Rolleyes*  The truth is that he probably isn’t gay either.  The author doesn’t label him, but I’m guessing he’s probably demisexual.  He doesn’t seem interested in men or women, just Brian, with whom he has a strong emotional connection.  Anyway, Brian eventually admits that he’s never had shower scenes with any other friends and they realise that the shower scenes are not a normal part of male friendship.  Like, duh.

The other issue with the book is that it needs editing for correct punctuation.  But I could have overlooked that.  It’s not a major hindrance to enjoying the book.  I guess if you can get past the idea that they think it’s normal for two friends to ‘help each other out’, you can enjoy the book.  I kept rolling my eyes all the way through it.

 

The Kingmaker

“Good Gods!” the ax-wielder booms. “She has bigger balls than I do.”
Humor flashes in the warlord’s silver-hued eyes. “Balls don’t necessarily come with brains.”
“Mine do.” If my smile were any more syrupy, my teeth would rot.

I’m currently on book two of the Kingmaker trilogy by Amanda Bouchet. The first book was called ‘A Promise of Fire’, and the second one is ‘Breath of Fire’ The third one will be ‘Heart on Fire’, and I’ll definitely be reading it. Probably this week. *Laugh*

A Promise of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles, #1) Breath of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles, #2) Heart on Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles, #3)

The books are set in a land called Thalyria. It seems to be based largely on Ancient Greece, with Greek language, Greek Gods (who are real in this world), etc. Half the world is ice and half is desert, or so it seems. Magic is stronger in the regions with ice, and weaker in the regions without. Magic is might in this world…

Our two primary characters are Cat and Griffin. Cat is hiding from her evil family, and has made a home with the circus. She is kidnapped by Griffin, who is a warlord who has recently taken control of one of the three Kingdoms in Thalyria. He wants Cat because she has the magic his family lacks.

Cat takes a long time to warm up to Griffin and his team, but I felt that was understandable considering that he literally kidnapped her, put her in danger and made her leave the only people she loved. Yup, fair enough. They are good guys though, and she can’t help but warm to them. Sometimes she resents liking them, which feels like it fits the situation pretty well! I’ve read other reviews that say Cat is a bit whiny, but frankly, I would be too if I was treated the way she was!

I figured out who Cat was about 40% through the first book. We officially find out at the start of book two. I know there are more reveals ahead, it’s that kind of story, but Cat’s identity was most obvious.

I’m currently 70% through the second book and I’ve never felt like the story has dragged. It’s an epic adventure and story, and so it feels okay that it takes three books to tell it.

There is an enormous amount of world building that has gone on behind the scenes, and the creatures (some are mythical creatures I’ve heard of, some aren’t), the Gods, the secondary human characters, etc., are all well described and feel like integral parts of the story. You get enough scenery to picture the scene, but not so much that you feel the need to skip pages of description.

There is plenty of action, and if you’re squeamish, it might squick you out a bit. Even the healing scenes can be pretty gory or squicky in their own right.

The general plot of the story is obvious, but the story doesn’t feel predictable. So many things happen that I don’t expect, and things don’t go how I thought they were going to, and it all adds up to keep me interested and keep me turning the page.

The romance between Cat and Griffin is secondary to what is an epic fantasy adventure story. But it’s there.

The secondary characters are fantastic additions to the story, and Kato is a clear favourite. I’m not sure if that’s because he’s Cat’s favourite or mine. *Laugh*

All in all, it’s been a fascinating read, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the story. I rated book one five stars, and I expect to rate book two the same. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy or epic adventure stories.

A book review of Protecting Elliot by Sloane Kennedy

Protecting Elliot (The Protectors, #9.5)

So, for week two of my reading challenge on Writing.com, I had to read a book written in first person point of view.  Protecting Elliot is actually book 9.5 (it’s a novella) in Sloane Kennedy’s Protector series. I haven’t read the nine books that come before it, but I have read books #1, #3 and #7 in the series. The great thing about this author is that she writes each book so that it can be read as a standalone book, however characters from other books do make appearances. In this book, rather than featuring characters from earlier in the series (to my knowledge, although I’m sure there are cameos), it features Declan from Saving Ren, which is book #3 in the Barretti Security series. And I know the Barretti Security intersects with with Logan’s Need which is book #3 in the Escort series. *Laugh*

Anyway, this book starts with Declan, who is a police detective, hiring Cruz as a bodyguard for Elliot, without Elliot’s knowledge. Declan was, in a twisted fashion, involved in the death of Elliot’s father, and harbours a lot of guilt over it. Elliot blames Declan, and hates him. So Declan can’t help out in the normal fashion, so he hires Cruz as a sort of undercover bodyguard. When Elliot was attacked in his office, he made a police report, but Declan is sure there is more to the story.

There are immediate sparks between Cruz and Elliot, and an instant connection. I was worried that this was going to be a super obvious ‘You lied to me and therefore everything between us has been a lie’ thing since that seemed obvious and predictable. Whenever you’ve got a guy going undercover or acting without the other person’s knowledge, that seems to be how it works. Cruz does acknowledge that their connection means he’s going to have to tell Elliot the truth, sooner rather than later.

There is a small part of that ‘You lied to me and therefore everything between us has been a lie’ but it was significantly overshadowed by everything else that happened. Which is good. I can’t say the book is predictable. I knew there would be a bad guy, because obviously someone attacked Elliot, but I didn’t predict who it was or why. I couldn’t have predicted quite how that whole scene went down, and I didn’t predict how it would resolve some of the drama between Elliot and Declan.

The relationship between Cruz and Elliot was rock solid within the space of…what, a day? That’s a bit ridiculous. This is a novella though, and we get an epilogue that gives us the impression that they continue to get to know each other and strengthen and deepen their relationship.

I gave it three stars. It was a good read.  Because it was a novella, it lacked a little depth, but I enjoyed it. It made me want to read other books in the series, which is always a good thing. I probably wouldn’t re-read it, because I think it gained something from the unpredictability, which would be lost on a re-read. But yeah, a good read, and I think if you were reading the series, it’d be well worth including.

A book review of A Temporary Situation by H L Day

A Temporary Situation

I’m doing a reading challenge on Writing.com, and the first challenge is to read a book where the title starts with the letter A.  I read A Temporary Situation, by H L Day.  It was the first book I’ve read by this author. It’s a pretty cliched romance, with the PA falling for the boss. I wasn’t expecting much out of it. It was very funny though, and that made up for the cliche.

Tristan was like the human equivalent of a puppy – loyal, excitable, enthusiastic, loving, sweet, forgiving…  Dominic was gun shy. He had preconceived opinions about Tristan, he was stubborn, he was grumpy, he was defensive, he was difficult, he was downright rude at times…. but he was hilarious. Very witty. I know what you’re thinking, but Tristan was the boss and Dominic was the PA. Weird, huh?

The spider scenes were my favourite. Tristan had a true phobia about spiders, like he experienced real physical fear reactions when he saw one, no matter how small. It was used to good effect in the book. I cracked up when he freaked out after Dominic disposed of one. “WHERE HAS IT GONE?” *Rolling*

I rated it four stars. It wasn’t the kind of book you get lost in, but I really enjoyed it. Sometimes I wanted to slap Dominic upside the head. He clung to his preconceived notions even when all the evidence pointed to the exact opposite. It got ridiculous. And I saw the hospital visit coming a mile off. *RollEyes* But I still enjoyed it. It made me laugh out loud, and it wasn’t a hardship to read all the way to the end.