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

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.