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.

A book review of Daring Fate by Megan Erickson

Daring Fate (Silver Tip Pack, #1)

This was a paranormal m/m romance. To explain the plot, I first have to explain the different species in this world. And the first of the two things that annoyed me about the book. But bear with me, it’s not all bad.

Humans used to exist in this world, but don’t anymore. Now there are just three main species. Werewolves can shift between human and wolf forms at will. Weres can shift between human, wolf and some kind of hybrid werewolf form that’s bigger and badder than either of their other two forms. And there are noweres, which are basically zombie weres, who are stuck in were form, and they’re undead zombies. *Rolleyes* I fucking hate zombies. I hate zombie books and I hate zombie movies. And what the fuck is up with naming all the species with such similar names? *Confused*

But anyway. The story starts with Reese, who is a werewolf. He awakens in a dungeon, chained to a wall, badly beaten. His brother is also in the dungeon. The last thing he remembers is trying to rescue his brother and sister from the small settlement they belonged to, as his sister was being forcibly mated to the leader of the settlement. He saved his brother, but was found before rescuing his sister, and beaten and left for death. His brother, with no other options, went to the weres for help.

Reese is hauled before Dane, the leader of the weres. Generally, werewolves and weres don’t get along. As it happens though, when they meet for the first time, Dane and Reese are shocked to realise they are Fated Mates. Don’t panic, it’s not insta-love so much as it is a knowledge that they’re destined to be together. They still have to go through the whole process of getting to know each other and falling in love.

Dare has to put his pack first, as he is their leader. Reese is still determined to rescue his sister. This is the major conflict between them. But there are also run-ins with zombie noweres, and weres that are trying to usurp Dare’s position, etc.

My only other niggle in the book was very minor. This is a romance between two males, which is fine. There are intimate scenes, also fine. But the author skips the whole concept of lube and just makes the male weres and werewolves ‘self lubricating’, much as human females self lubricate. *Think* I felt it was just that the author thought that it was too hard to figure out lube in a world where they live off the land, and so she just magically fixed the problem. No, no, no! *FacePalm*

But that was a very minor thing, and the book was a decent read. I rated it three stars, which means I liked it, but it wasn’t a stand-out for me.

A book review of In His Keeping by Maya Banks

If you’re following along with my reading challenge for 2018, this book was for ‘A book by your favourite author’.

It was hard to decide who my favourite author was.  So I went to my read books on Goodreads and reviewed all my five star books.  My top three authors were:
Maya Banks – 7
A M Arthur – 5
Nalini Singh – 5

So I went with Maya Banks, despite the fact that the last new book of hers I read was a pitiful one star disappointment, and the three before that were crappy two star reads.  Sigh.

So it was definitely with mixed feelings that I went with Maya Banks as my favourite author, but I couldn’t think of any better way to choose.

I went with the safety of re-reading one of her books that I’d enjoyed.  A safe bet, so to speak.

In His Keeping (Slow Burn, #2)

In His Keeping is the second book in the Slow Burn series.  It’s a modern paranormal romance series.  If you’re not familiar with Maya Banks, she also writes historical romance, modern military (or paramilitary) romance and menage romance.

There are five books in this series, with a sixth due to be released in March.  I rated the first one five stars, and the second and third I rated four stars.  I couldn’t finish the fourth one, and the fifth one was the one star read I’ve already mentioned.  So it started great, then seriously fizzled out.  But anyway, I enjoyed In His Keeping.

The series is based around the Devereaux family. Caleb and Beau Devereaux run a private security company.  Some of the men who work for them star in the later books.  This book, In His Keeping, is about Beau Devereaux.  A young lady comes to him for his help after her parents are kidnapped.  But she’s not an ordinary young lady.  Ari has paranormal powers.  For the most part I think she’s telekinetic.

The book moves really quickly.  I might be wrong, but I think there’s about a week from the beginning of the book to the end of the book.  Ari and Beau commit to ‘forever’ with each other by the third day I think.  It’s insta-love at its finest.  But the action is great, and the paranormal aspect keeps you wondering.  The plot kind of unfolds, revealing that it goes back to a long time before Beau and Ari were even born.

Ramie, from the first book, is the best secondary character in this book, but Zack definitely leaves us wanting to know more about him.  He’s the star of the third book, which is worth a read.

I haven’t done it justice, I don’t think, because a book is rarely as good on the second read through.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but I guess I was less absorbed by it than the first time.

Anyway, the first three books in this series are a decent read if you like modern paranormal romance. Maya Banks typically tortures her characters, especially the women, and this series is no different, so they’re gritty. For me, I think the speed of Beau and Ari’s relationship was the only real negative. The rest was good. And I’m tempted to re-read Zack’s story. Maybe that’ll even inspire me to finally finish the fourth book. Or not. *Smirk*

 

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.

The best laid plans

Prompt: Tell us about a time you made the most out of a bad situation…and if you’d do anything different should you be put in a similar one again. 

Hmm…

In 2002, my then-fiance and I were living in a little town called Thames. Yup, named after the river in London. It’s got a population of about 7,000 people. Very quiet. Our son was very small, less than a year old. We were renting an old house with a huge backyard that had a river running along the back of it. It was peaceful and lovely.

We were planning our wedding. I started attending the local Anglican church which was just gorgeous. Both the people and the building. The people were so lovely. They didn’t judge us for having a baby out of wedlock. They told me to just put him on the ground and let him crawl around during the service. I was terrified he would pull the cloths off the altar or something, and they just laughed and said ‘Don’t worry, someone will stop him. You just relax.’ *Smile* It was a far cry from the judgement I would later face from so-called friends at church in Auckland.

The building was gorgeous too. It had these soaring ceilings, with kauri (a native timber) all over the place. It was both impressive and yet had the warm tones to make it feel welcoming. The website describes it as a ’19th century wooden gothic building’. I just liked it.

I found a beautiful wedding dress in a shop in Thames. Literally the only dress shop in Thames. It was perfect for me, which is amazing, considering I was short and curvy. The shop owner said she’d dreamed about the dress and had to make it. It cost $500 which is ridiculously cheap for a wedding dress, let alone a one-of-a-kind wedding dress.

The dress was almost medieval in style, and the church was gothic (not that I would have used that word, but you know) and Thames was a cute little old-fashioned town that was struggling to keep up with the modern world. So we planned a medieval style wedding. We’d have a horse and cart take me to the church, get married in the church, then have the reception on our huge back lawn, sitting on hay bales, eating spit roast. *Smile*

Then one night our neighbours came round (we didn’t really know them) and said “They’re predicting heavy rain and flooding, so you should move your car away from the river at the back of the property and up on to the road.” So we did, and then we went to bed. We were woken up by a thunderous knocking on the front door and found the property flooded. We had to go out the back, and wade through the water, baby in arms. If we hadn’t moved the car earlier, we’d have lost it. We spent that night in a local retirement home, then the following night in a hotel, before we were allowed to return home.

The river had washed away literally half the property. The house was fine, but the shed (full of firewood and our lawnmower) was gone, and the backyard was half the size. It had literally been washed away.  *Shock*

The whole town was suffering from the floods, and shortly after, my fiance was made redundant from his job. I wasn’t working, so that was our only source of income. No one in Thames was hiring, so we packed up and moved to Auckland. We would live with his parents for the next three years, the three of us in one small bedroom, and a total of five adults and a baby in a tiny three bedroom house.

Our wedding plans were totally destroyed. We had the dress….and that was it. So I sat down with my mum and my mother-in-law-to-be and we got creative.

We planned a garden wedding at my in-laws’ house. We stuck with the medieval theme, but used bench seats and trestle tables instead of hay bales. We had a spit roast. We created these cool medieval-style banners with the family coats of arms on for decoration. We were given goblets to use at the head table, and a quill to sign the marriage certificate with. The groom wanted to wear a suit of armour, but it was the middle of summer and too stinking hot. As it was, it was a gloriously sunny day, and he was relieved he didn’t wear a suit of armour! *Laugh*




The day was wonderful. It ended up being…perfect. And it was exactly fifteen years ago yesterday. *Bigsmile*