Quick Reviews

Here are a few quick book reviews, since I haven’t been doing them lately. I want to give my impressions of these books, even if not full-blown reviews. After all… I am calling myself a bookwyrm. I need to have books in here SOMEWHERE to make that really count.

First is the book I just finished: Bonds of Justice by Nalini Singh. This is part of her Psy-Changeling series, and quite enjoyable. I like the fact that she doesn’t follow a formula with her romances. It’s a nice change that the hero and heroine don’t always end up in the same situations (eek – a bit spoilery, be warned) and a very nice change that it seems not all main character Psy in her books will defect from the PsyNet. However, it does seem that the women are the ones needing to be rescued, if one of the pair gets in trouble. While I roll my eyes at that, it is a standard thing, and definitely fit this particular book.

Another thing I noticed while reading this one is that the steamy scenes didn’t interest me as much as expected. This could be because of the hour (it was late) or the specific characters, but I’m not sure. The hour usually affects my enjoyment of only creepy scenes, and I liked the characters. I’m wondering if it’s because I don’t need the external outlet for romance that I did not too long ago… It will be interesting to see whether I react to other romance novels in a similar fashion now that my own relationship is more steady.

Next up in the mini-review list: Shower of Stars by Nancy Herkness. This one was a contemporary romance, which (for purposes of my reading mini-challenge this year) I am considering outside my usual genre. There was no paranormal or fantasy element to it at all, and I do read more fantastical books than anything.

I wasn’t sure what to make of it when I got it from the library, frankly, but I was curious and decided to give it a try. I’m really glad I did! The hero is a meteorite hunter, and while I’m not sure whether this is an actual profession, it’s a fascinating one whether real or fictional. The characters were nicely fleshed out, though I didn’t quite understand the heroine’s obsession with having kids to the point of getting married on a week’s notice for the sole purpose of having a steady income, once I accepted that there were some quirks I just needed to go with, the read went smoothly. It was highly enjoyable, and I will be looking for other of Nancy’s books in the future.

The last of the mini-reviews is a long-standing comfort read for me: Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsong. There’s something magical about dragons. Always has been, for me. And so the fire lizards (aka mini-dragons) which hold such a prominent place in the second half of this book are a good choice for a comfort read. Add to that the music that permeates the whole of the Harper Hall trilogy (this is the first book of that trio) and I love the set.

I’ve not been reading the Harper Hall trilogy lately, though. I’ve been listening to the audiobooks as I commute to and from work. And while I’ve found (in general) that men have an easier time distinguishing male from female voices in a believable enough fashion, Sally Darling (the reader for the whole trilogy in the Recorded Books edition) does a wonderful job of narrating the men’s voices as well as the women’s. I really like listening to her read these books. I may have to look for other things she’s read when I’ve finished this series.


Week 34: Forsaken by Shadow

Here is this week’s 52 Books in 52 Weeks post…

Forsaken by Shadow
by Kait Nolan

(paranormal fantasy/romance)

This is an e-book that I picked up after reading Kait’s Friday Snippets on her blog. (They’re here. I’ll wait while you go read them.) I am very glad I did! It’s a fun read, and waiting for the next installment was driving me nuts.

So: the book. I enjoyed it. I liked the conflict in the story, and while I saw the twist coming, it wasn’t obvious to the point of being distracting from the story. It was more of the “oh no, when will they figure it out?” than the “you stupid people! Open your eyes!” kind of situation. So that was good, in that I was never tempted to throw my e-reader across the room.

I like the character building as well. Starting the story with the hero knowing nothing about who he is or how he got there was fun. I liked getting to discover things along with him. Even though his bout of amnesia doesn’t last long before we’re put in the heroine’s viewpoint for a while, it set a good tone for the story.

The romance in this story was a nice touch without being in your face. It was more emotionally a romance story, rather than physically. (Given the choice, I prefer the feelings to the physical.) I also liked the other relationships, between the hero/heroine and other characters. Bonus points to Kait for giving them other people to be attached to!

If I have a complaint, it’s that the e-book length always leaves me wanting more. I have yet to read an e-book that is long enough for me. I want more of the characters, more of the world, just more. I read fast to begin with, so reading a shorter piece only makes it go that much faster. However, I bought the book for $0.99 (if I recall correctly) and it was a great use of a dollar. Can’t complain about the price! I’ll just have to pester Kait to write more.  🙂

Grade: A

Week 32: Discord & Bones

Here is this week’s 52 Books in 52 Weeks post…

Today we have a 2-book review!

First up… City of Bones (Mortal Instruments #1)
by Cassandra Clare

(YA paranormal, romance-ish)

I enjoyed this book, but. It is YA. In places, VERY YA. However, it was amusing. There was some good world-building, and some really enjoyable characters. I wonder if I’m odd in that my favorite character was Simon, the mundane, rather than any of the paranormal characters. Clary was fun, but rather predictable. Jace was less predictable, except in his “I’m the bad boy” attitude. And the others just didn’t get as much screen time.

As to the plot, there were some elements I was expecting from the start of the story, some I saw coming about half to two-thirds of the way through, and one or two things that surprised me. I’d say it was a good blend of twist and not… some books have so much twist to them that you can barely see straight when you’re done reading them. Personally, I don’t think YAs should have too much twist, and this one has a good amount.

The writing style, in my mind, was the weak point. There was one point where the characters — all teens — are teasing each other, and using some (not too bad) swear words to do so. Instead of using the word or saying “he swore,” Clare wrote something like “he said something that rhymed with…” Not only did this wording throw me off, it threw me out of the story. And that’s never a good thing. Something else that threw me out of the story was the main character’s name: Clary. It’s short for Clarissa, I think. But in either case, both names are Way. Too. Close to the author’s first and last names. Made me roll my eyes a few times because it seemed that she was trying to make the MC herself.

All told, it was an enjoyable book, but not one that’s going on my “to buy” list. I’m very glad this was a library book for me.

Grade: B

Next book: Discord’s Apple
by Carrie Vaughn

(urban fantasy? fantastical contemporary romance?)

I did not like this book. I wanted to, but I did not. At all. Very disappointing. I didn’t even finish it.

The basic premise is that all the magical items of myth are real, and have been saved in this magical Storeroom until such a time as they are needed once again. There’s Excalibur, the Golden Fleece, Cinderella’s glass slippers, and the apple that Discord used to start the Trojan War. Now, Evie has to find a way to keep the wrong people from getting their hands on Discord’s Apple in order to prevent chaos and war.

Sounds like a great story, right?

The problem I had was the execution of it. I loved the premise, sounded like a great story. And I couldn’t get into it. I didn’t sympathize with the main characters. It didn’t phase me that Evie’s dad was sick. I tried, but I couldn’t bring myself to care about Evie at all. (I had to look up her name, because I couldn’t remember it.) The part I liked best was where Sinon and Odysseus were talking right before the final battle at Troy, with the Trojan Horse and all that. (Side note: the Greeks built it, so why don’t we call it the Grecian Horse?)

I have had this problem with Vaughn’s other popular series, the Kitty series. So I guess I’m not surprised that I didn’t like Discord’s Apple either. I had hoped, though… If you like Kitty, you’ll likely enjoy this one as well. But if you (like me) don’t enjoy Kitty, I wouldn’t bother to read this book.

Grade: C—

Romance Top Thirteen

I’m stealing this idea from Shiloh Walker (who stole it as well)… Only I’m making it 13 instead of her 10 because it’s a Thursday 13 this way. (And because I can. So there.)

Now, these are not all “official” romance novels. But they all have a romance (to one degree or another) in them. So I think they count. Doesn’t matter to me if they don’t actually have a sex scene in them. (Some of my favorites don’t.)

  1. Sorcery & Cecilia by Patricia C. Wrede & Carolyn Stevermer
  2. Industrial Magic by Kelley Armstrong
  3. The Smoke Thief by Shana Abé
  4. Phenomenal Girl 5 by AJ Menden
  5. Heart’s Blood by Gail Dayton
  6. Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn
  7. On Fortune’s Wheel by Cynthia Voigt
  8. Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh (I like the whole series that I’ve read, but it’s so hard to pick a favorite so I’ll just go with the first one.)
  9. Ecstasy Unveiled by Larissa Ione (Again, I like the whole series — the last one is due out soon! — but in this case I’m going with the most recent instead of the first as a “top” pick.)
  10. Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
  11. Last Girl Dancing by Holly Lisle
  12. Evermore by Lynn Viehl (as a representative of the Darkyn series)
  13. Dark Lover by JR Ward (not as a representative of the BDB series. I liked the first 2 a lot, and then the rest went downhill very quickly for me.)

So, what about you? What are your top 13 (or 10, or even 1) romance novels?

Week 31: Beautiful Death

Here is this week’s 52 Books in 52 Weeks post…

Beautiful Death
by Joely Sue Burkhart

(spec fic romance)

I really enjoyed this book. I actually considered yelling at Joely over Twitter at one point while I was reading it… because it was 2am, I had tons of things I needed to do the following day, and I couldn’t. Put. The. E-reader. Down. (Yes. It’s an e-book.) (Disclaimer: e-reader in question was my iPhone.)

What were my favorite bits… hmm. I liked the naming conventions. If you’re familiar with Greek myths, you get hints of the characters’ personalities based on the names they took. (Each had another name prior to an outbreak, and then took new names in a kind of token re-birth. I’m not really clear if this was required in their society, or merely common.)

I liked the worldbuilding. Joely is an expert at that, and always manages to create a world that draws me in. This one is a futuristic, and you get senses of what today’s world turned into in her world’s history.

The characters also were well drawn. At times I was confused by some of the alien bits, but the personalities were nicely developed. The parts that confused me were mostly physical in relation to the aliens. They seem too human to not be human. I kept waiting for the twist to say they really were humans, they’d just been genetically modified or something. (But no, they really were aliens.)

If I have a complaint, it would be that there were a few things that weren’t explained to my satisfaction. (Keep in mind that this is, like most e-books, not as long as most print novels. Given the shorter length, the lack of explanation makes perfect sense.) Things like what happened at the very end to the Enforcer, how a certain necklace was really capable of what it described as being capable of, a bit more (or different) explanation of some of the futuristic bits… Basically, my complaint is that I enjoyed the world so much I couldn’t get enough of it. Not that I needed more, but that I wanted it. There was plenty of detail, don’t get me wrong. I just loved the world Joely created.

Grade: A-

Week 30: Waking the Witch

Here is this week’s 52 Books in 52 Weeks post…

Waking the Witch
by Kelley Armstrong

(urban fantasy)

First of all, this book is due out for US release today, I believe. Unlike Kelley’s YA series, I did not beta read this one… my local book store got the book I’d put on hold in early, called me, and I went to get it. Who am I to be able to resist a book I want to read when it’s sitting there waiting for me?

Second of all, this is the 11th book in Kelley’s (Women of) The Otherworld series. It is not meant as a place to start into the series. While I suppose it is possible to read this one before the others, I wouldn’t recommend it. There are too many things that would spoil the prior books, and other things that aren’t properly explained in this book because they’re in other books. (Nothing that would prevent a new reader from understanding the book, but the full comprehension does require more than a passing knowledge of the world.)

Third, there is a very minor cliffhanger at the end. Well, others have called it a cliffhanger. I would call it a hook. I mean… this is an ongoing series. Not all loose ends will be tied up at the end of the book. The only difference that I see is that this book leaves it a lot more clear who the narrator of the book that follows it will be than prior books have. (Book #12, Spellbound, will be another Savannah-narrated book.) I personally had no problem at all with the ending of this book. There were things about it that I rather liked, actually.

Now… on to the rest of the review.

I love Paige and Lucas. So a Savannah book without them made me a little nervous even as I knew it was the only way to let Savannah get her feet wet. My worries, however, were unfounded. I now love Savannah, too. Not quite as much, but nearly. She’s a great character, and it’s easy to see (even when we’re not specifically told) which parts of her are her mom and which parts are Paige and Lucas’ influence.

Also, I was nervous about the romance angle. A lot of people on Kelley’s forums want Savannah and Adam (her girlhood crush) to get together in her book(s). I’m not sure. If it works well, then great. If it doesn’t, I don’t want it to feel forced. But I really like the way the romance plays out in this book. If you read the first three chapters on Kelley’s site (PDF here), you’ll see that there are other guys who could end up being Savannah’s love interest. It’s not clear-cut that it will be Adam. And I’m not telling. (I will say that this book, unlike the rest of the series, does not get very steamy. This is appropriate, as Savannah is just now 21 and we first met her as a child. She needs to grow up a bit before the readers will be fully comfortable with her having sex scenes, I think.)

Last thing I’ll say (and forgive the lack of detail, but I’m determined to not give spoilers): I like the conflict Savannah is up against here. The external conflict is well done, and I guessed part of it but by no means all of it by the time it was revealed. However, it is the internal conflict that I like best. (This ties into the hook at the end of the book, too. Savannah resolves the main external conflict in this novel, but not her internal one.)

All told, I really like this book. It’s not my favorite in the series — that honor remains with Industrial Magic — but it is up there among my favorites.

Grade: A

Week 28: Frostbitten

by Kelley Armstrong

(paranormal romance)

This is the tenth book in the (Women of the) Otherworld series, and while it could theoretically be read out of order, there’s no reason why you would want to. At the very least, you’d want to read the other books narrated by Elena (Bitten, Stolen, and Broken). However, for me it is the books narrated by Paige and Jaime that are my favorites, so I (if asked) would recommend starting at the beginning and working your way forward.

At any rate, as to this book itself… I liked it. I liked it a lot. It might be my favorite of the Elena books, though I’m not really sure. As a narrator, I’ve never fully connected with Elena. I liked her, sure. She was a strong heroine with her weaknesses and soft spots, and the other characters (predominately men) around her were well developed characters and fun to read about. However, her relationship with Clay was never something I got. I mean, I understand that there was hurt and betrayal there. And I saw where the events of the first book tied into the emotionality of it. I didn’t really have a “problem” with their relationship… but it wasn’t something I was rooting for. (I wasn’t against it either. Very indifferent, unlike Paige and Lucas. Or Jaime and Jeremy, both of which were couples I wanted to end up together.) By Frostbitten, however, Elena and Clay have settled into a relationship that is close enough to “normal” that I am finally rooting for them as a pair. I am quite pleased with how that aspect has turned out.

I also really like the inclusion of other werewolves. Wolves who aren’t Pack but aren’t quite mutts either. I think the werewolf books have been leaning this way for a while, and I’m glad that they finally got there. Other (non-Pack) werewolves are important to the series. So are other Packs, and I’m glad that was touched on too. And, without giving anything major away about the release of the next related YA book next spring — The Gathering, first in the Darkness Rising trilogy, for anyone who wants to know — it’s nice to see hints of what’s yet to come in Kelley’s other books. (I beta read The Gathering, and it was great! No, I won’t give you any spoilers.)

All told, I really liked this book. It’s nice to see Kelley growing as an author, as well as to see her characters growing as the series progresses. This is a very good addition to the series, and I am really anticipating the release of Waking the Witch (Savannah’s book, Otherworld #11) later this month.

Grade: A