Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Blushing Bounder by Meljean Brook


An Iron Seas Companion Story

A quick, fun read! Steampunk romance with the most adorable of couples. I started it last night, read the first 2 chapters and then read the final 3 today.

I've not read a lot of Meljean's work yet, but what I have read I really, really enjoy, so... there will be more. :)

It's Here!! It's Here!!

It's here!! It's here!!

I had pre-ordered it from Chapters and it was only supposed to be released on December 2nd, the day before my birthday, but it arrived today!! Yes, Canada Post is delivering on Sunday because they have so many parcels to deliver, according to the fellow that came to the door.

Anyway! Katherine is my most favourite of faves and while the last few books of hers haven't been up to the standards of the Camber series and the Heirs of Camber series, I still have hope. She's the only author I will buy in hardcover, no questions asked.

I am going to be good and finish the novella I'm currently reading but then, I'm diving in! I'm SO excited!!

Bomber's Moon by Alex Beecroft


Under the Hill - Book 1

I have come to really enjoy Alex Beecroft's work. She gives great plot, terrific characters, a love story that takes its time to grow and some super dialogue. And I'm very enamoured of the historical settings that she uses as well.

This time around, we're thrown into the action rather quickly. We meet Flynn who is in Fairyland with the mythological creatures, and then Ben and Chris and other modern day group in what feels to me like small town England. And it seems that while this is modern day, Chris is actually a bomber pilot from WW2. These days, he's a Fairybuster (as opposed to a Ghostbuster.) or maybe a more inclusive term would be Mythologicalcreaturebuster. *LOL* He and his small group of co-workers are ready to help out with all your paranormal needs. I know that sounds flip and it's treated with far more seriousness in the book. And it makes sense, it fits in this slightly skewed view of our world and its history.

In the fairy realm, there seems to be some crossover with parts of what I assume to be Indian mythology. I don't know a helluva lot about those cultural myths and I admit to just making assumptions based on how the story is going.

From what I gather, Chris and his WW2 bomber crew were attacked by something from the fairy realm and all were killed except for Chris who woke up something like... 30 years later in a field with his plane wreckage. And somehow, Flynn is connected to Chris and wears the face of Chris' lover, Geoff Braxtasomethingorother... I haven't figured that out yet. And something bad is going down in Fairyland - there's some kind of war? It's complicated.

The upshot is, we're left with a HUGE cliffhanger and a ton of unanswered questions. it makes me think that this book and its sequel Dogfighters would have been better served as one large volume. But you know... we don't do things that way in an M/M world. It seems that most M/M readers can't read past 250 - 300 pages max. And even then, it's asking a lot. But I have the second of the two Under the Hill books in my TBR pile so whenever I'm ready I can jump right in to it. (I have a book coming next week - Monday? - that I MUST read right away and then it will be holiday reading.)

I quite totally enjoyed this though and I have been charmed by both Ben and Chris, so the sequel won't languish in the TBR pile for very long. :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tattoos & Teacups by Anna Martin


Well... they can't all be winners, can they? I admit, I bought this one a while ago because the cover was just so stunning and musician/professor and an age difference - worked for me.

Except it wasn't that great.

There was absolutely no conflict in this book, all 200+ pages of it. No conflict between the main characters, no obstacle for them to overcome, no real journey at all. They meet, they are interested in each other, they fall in love, they part for a bit, they get back together and they set up housekeeping. And yes, it was all just that bland.

First off... HUGE pet peeve of mine is the use of the word smirk. Synonyms for this word include, leer, smug, simper, sneer, sly smile.,, It's not cute, it's not attractive, it's not hot - it's obnoxious, insincere and smack-inducing! Unfortunately, the younger of the two MCs does it all the time, ALL THE FREAKIN' TIME and quite frankly it didn't help his likability quotient.

So, Chris is a 23-year old drummer who drums in a band as well as for the symphony orchestra (I found myself wondering if he was inspired by the harpist from the Metallica S&M concert DVD) and he's full of energy, laughter and tattoos. The other MC is named... um... hold on.. .I have to go look it up... Robert. (And that's hysterical because it was one of the big deals, supposedly, between the two that Chris called him "Rob" and no one EVER called him that.) Rob is 32 and boy, is that ancient! ANCIENT, I tell you! Yeah... no... that's not working. This is supposed to be some kind of bone of contention between the two, but quite honestly, it's only given lip-service in the depths of Rob's mind and a few teasing little affectionate asides by Chris.

Oh, and that upbringing/cultural divide between them? Never explored. Robert's Scottishness was a big deal in the first chapter or two, it seemed and then... conveniently set aside. Just like every other set up in the book. Mention it and then sail right by it. Just like the surprising and sudden pull back when Chris has his hand down Rob's pants and about to touch his balls. OMG, NO, don't touch me there! Time passes... it happens once again and Rob confesses about his testicular cancer as a kid and how he only has one testicle. Traumatic, okay... *nodnod* But it's mentioned and Chris makes a few noises of sympathy and that's the end of that.

Chris is invited to come to one of Rob's lectures and in the end he doesn't because he feels uncomfortable. He's barely graduated high school and he doesn't want to look the fool. Rob makes a few understanding noises and that's the end of that.

The characters begin as interesting and you can see how the two would clash as these things do in relationships, but everything is a non-issue. There are no sparks. There are no misunderstandings. Never ONCE was there ever a thought as to ... how the hell are they going to work this out? They work everything out by the end of the damned page!

And then... the last couple of chapters of the book go from being told in the first person (Rob) past POV to being told in the first person (Rob) POV present. It was weird..

And the ending... the ENDING! The lines that are supposed to be final and satisfying and let you close the book with a happy sigh.... all I was doing was wondering when the hell Chris EVER had a problem with drinking tea...

This read to me like a series of vignettes that were written in a fanfic AU and then strung together to make a novel-length narrative.

I had such high hopes for this one... but sadly, it sure didn't deliver.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Fatal Shadows by Josh Lanyon


Adrien English Mysteries - Book 1

I do enjoy a good mystery and this one didn't disappoint. This wasn't the first Josh Lanyon work that I've enjoyed but I think it is the one that settles me firmly on the Lanyon bandwagon.

It's not a romance. It's a mystery with a sort of romantic subplot.

Adrien (with an 'e') English is the owner of a used bookstore and an about to be published mystery author. His high school friend is murdered and the adventure begins.

I liked Adrien a lot. He's not perfect, he has flaws, but they are flaws I can relate to. He has moments of uncertainty and confusion. He can be a bit of a smartass at times. And he has bitchy moments. And he basically has my dream job - second hand bookstore and writer. *LOL*

The other characters were nicely formed and those that needed fleshing out were fleshed out. There are a couple of weird ones and I'm looking forward to learning more about them further into the series. I do lament the killing-off of one of them and up until the scene where it happened, I had no idea it was coming.

The mystery was pretty good - it kept me wondering until the last couple of chapters. It really could have gone either way in my mind. And it did keep me turning the pages to find out what was going on - and isn't that the hallmark of a good mystery?

I really enjoy Josh Lanyon's voice too. I like how he writes, the way he puts stuff together, the balance between action, dialogue and exposition and just the overall rhythm of his books. He's good. :)

So I'm a fan. Adrien English has stolen my heart a little bit and I'm looking forward to reading about his next adventure and seeing where that ending - which by the way, was perfect in it's open-endedness - takes us!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Flight of Magpies by KJ Charles


A Charm of Magpies - Book 3

I loved this book. :) Stephen and Crane are among my favourite couples in all of Romancelandia and the opening scene of this installment of their adventures had me squeeing online as I read it. The affectionate banter, the wonderful characterization, the casual sexiness, it all had me grinning from ear to ear.

And then things start to happen. Paranormalish type things. Gruesome murders, theft, pretty yet shifty young men appear on the page. We have Stephen's partner, Esther, with her own challenges. It all seems very disparate at first, but by the time the last chapters roll around, everything hangs together quite nicely.

There's a scene not quite halfway through the book, I think, where Stephen and Crane have an explosive argument. It was so REAL! The author did a wonderful job and had me holding my breath as it played out. I find these books so READABLE.

I think that in this book, the actual paranormal plot, while important and exciting and served to drive the story onward, was really only of secondary importance to the growth of Stephen and Crane's relationship into the strong, walls all down, no holds barred, permanent relationship we've been reading for.

Now, an argument could be made that the hurt and anger they both felt through most of the book was manufactured by outside forces, but I think that what they felt may have been magnified by what was going on, but that there were definite and deep issues that both had to work out. It was all very believable for me and you know, I'm not sure that everything has been perfectly ironed out. Nor should it be. Even if we are looking at the supposed closing of the trilogy and the story of Stephen and Crane. They have their HEA, but there is no doubt in my mind that they will face challenges and hard times and quite honestly, that's how it should be.

I am looking forward to the passage of the torch, so to speak, from Stephen and Crane to Jonah and even more superb writing from KJ Charles.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Magic Mansion by Jordan Castillo Price


In all the M/M reading I've done over the past couple of years, Jordan Castillo Price was always an author that was recommended to me but I never had the chance to follow up on those recs. One day I had a thought strike me that I had never read a romance about magicians and I thought that would be an interesting occupation for a main character and indeed a fascinating world to explore. I mentioned this on Twitter and someone came back with a rec for Magic Mansion with the added bonus that the main characters weren't twenty-somethings or younger. Having always wanted to try JCP, I picked it up.

Magic Mansion was originally written as a serial and unfortunately it shows when reading it as a novel. Also, the fact that it's about a weekly reality TV contest show only added to the weird up and down reading experience I had. It felt as if I was driving on a hilly road or one of those baby rollercoasters with the gentle rise and fall motion. I think this way of writing the story hindered the development of the relationship between John and Ricardo, the two main magicians. At least that's how it felt to me.

There was just so much about how this TV show was being produced and the details of the competitions; so much behind the scenes stuff when I would rather have been focussed on John and Ricardo. I didn't feel as if I got to see their relationship grow and progress from that initial 'coup de foudre' meeting at the auditions. Instead I felt as if we were being given relationship markers along the way. The pair is at this point of their relationship now here... and then at this point here. And it's a shame because I really, really liked both of them! I wanted way more about them and way less about the BTS shenanigans of the TV show. I find myself wondering how much of this lack was because of the way the story was originally published.

There was also the interesting "True Magic" angle. Some magicians have it, others don't. They can sense it in each other... or is it only some of them that can. I don't know what it is really, I wanted to know more about it and how it formed and affected those magicians that possessed the power. And is that the same thing as the "Truth" reading that John seems to be able to do? I don't know... it seemed to be more important to describe each set, each competition down to the last screw and nail than to explore the truly magical side of things. When I first started the book, a couple of chapters in and the "True Magic" was mentioned, I got all excited because I hadn't been expecting anything like this... then sadly... it became a minor thing, hauled out as a deux ex machina I felt.

Don't get me wrong, the tale was enjoyable, the MCs interesting, the supporting players were fun but the whole thing just ... left me feeling a little disappointed, a little flat, a little let down. I will most definitely read JCP again - I have the first PsyCop in my TBR and that's gotten A LOT of praise from people whose opinions I trust. It's just that I felt this book could have been a helluva lot more.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan


A Land Fit for Heroes - Book 1

It took me a long while to really get into this book. It's the first of a trilogy (the final book is out November 20, 2014) which might be why there was so much setting up. So much info dump. So much "back during the war". At times it was a bit of a slog - thank God Richard Morgan creates interesting characters and can write a nice turn of phrase or I'd have probably DNF'ed it.

But I didn't.

I was intrigued by all 3 of the main characters. The blurb from Richard Morgan's website describes them perfectly:

Ringil, the hero of the bloody slaughter at Gallows Gap is a legend to all who don’t know him and a twisted degenerate to those that do. A veteran of the wars against the lizards he makes a living from telling credulous travellers of his exploits. Until one day he is pulled away from his life and into the depths of the Empire’s slave trade. Where he will discover a secret infinitely more frightening than the trade in lives.
Archeth,  pragmatist, cynic and engineer, the last of her race – is called from her work at the whim of the most powerful man in the Empire and sent to its farthest reaches to investigate a demonic incursion against the Empire’s borders. 
Egar Dragonbane, steppe-nomad, one-time fighter for the Empire finds himself entangled in a small-town battle between common sense and religious fervour. But out in the wider world there is something on the move far more alien than any of his tribe’s petty gods.
Anti-social, anti-heroic, and decidedly irritated, all three of them are about to be sent unwillingly forth into a vicious, vigorous and thoroughly unsuspecting fantasy world. Called upon by an Empire that owes them everything and gave them nothing.

Thanks to these 3 I kept reading and for the last quarter of the book I could not put it down. Things finally began to hang together. There was far less telling of things and much more doing. Hopefully, all the meandering we did in the first 3/4s of the book will prove to be more important in Books 2 & 3, especially all the set-up of Ringil's family, his place in it, their society and more about the lizards and The War.

The last oh... 4 or 5 chapters were fascinating. Ringil especially blossomed as an intricate character for me. I love his darkness. Yeah, he was dark in the beginning, but by the end of The Steel Remains, he was positively MOONLESS MIDNIGHT.

A small but important thing that I never got an answer/explanation for was how Archeth's weapons came to be named and why. I do hope we learn more about her antecedents in the following 2 books.

So, while it didn't blow me away, The Steel Remains finished on a high note for me and I will pick up Book 2 at some point.