Friday, January 30, 2015

Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell


Greatcoats - Book 1

What a wonderful surprise this book was! I picked this book and the second volume in the Greatcoats series up when I caught sight of the them on sale at Kobo. It was a guts call, based on the blurb and the cover artwork - you know, how we used to choose books back in the days before all the online review blogs, opinion blogs, publisher blogs etc...

Traitor's Blade is a swashbuckling, action-packed, fast-paced story told in the first person by Falcio Val Mond, the one time First Cantor of the Greatcoats, the travelling magisters of the land. King Paelis has been executed by his Dukes and the Greatcoats disbanded and in disgrace. Falcio, along with his besties, Kest and Brasti are working as bodyguards and things are about to blow up in their faces.
I loved Falcio's voice from the get go. It was easy to read, even the parts where he was giving us the history of something or describing the fights. And OMG, there were a lot of fights to describe. Duels, battles, and fights. That was the one thing I wasn't fond of. Not that there were so many of them, but that they had to all be described in depth.

I enjoyed the other characters, Kest and Brasti, the people they meet and hook up with along the way - good and bad. And even Falcio's memories of his beloved King. They all fit perfectly in this world. They all work and I wanted to keep reading to learn more about them. One more chapter, one more chapter. *LOL*

So I figured out one or two of the puzzles before the reveals in the plot. It didn't matter, it didn't diminish my enjoyment one bit. In fact, I think it may have actually increased it because I was so pleased with the twists.

So yep, this was a rollicking, fun, thoughtful in parts, swashbuckling ride and I'm looking forward to reading the second book in the series. :)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence


The Broken Empire - Book 1

This was something completely different. I'd had this book and it's two sequels on my 'to acquire' list for a while and was pleased when my son gave me the whole trilogy for Christmas. I had been warned, however, that the first book, at least, was very dark and the main character not very likable, but the book was good if one could deal with that.

Well, my friend was quite right. The main character of Jorg is HORRID. Wicked, evil with very, very few redeeming features. But a few chapters in - and they are very short chapters - and I was totally fascinated. Not just with Jorg, but with his band of 'brothers' as well. Makin, Nuban, Pike, Liar, Elhan as well as Gog and Golgoth. A bunch of more unsavory characters would be hard to find, but they are wonderful in their own way.

The writing itself works for me. Written in the 1st person POV of Jorg, the reading is easy and full, by which I mean it clips along quite nicely but there are some lovely turns of phrases and descriptions that put you 'on location' as it were. Clever turns of phrase like - "Brother Gains convinced Gorgoth to call a rest halt by stumbling into space, and wailing for a good ten seconds before the unseen floor convinced him to shut up." I laughed out loud reading that one. Jorg has a dry, sarcastic tone that I quite enjoy. I mentioned the quick chapters. I find this leads to a quick-paced book and the fact that most of them are around the same length, it doesn't pain my reader's brain the way some books do with their 3-page chapters followed by a 35-page chapter.

I don't know that this book would be for everyone. It's dark and violent - unrepentantly so - and there sure aren't a lot of warm fuzzies to be found. IF ANY. But if you enjoy fantasy that strays outside the norm, this is a good book for you. There are some fun surprises to be had as well - well, fun for the reader, but sometimes not fun too. *g*

Mark Lawrence has definitely captured my imagination although I may never forgive him for what happens 2/3rds of the way through the book. :)

Blue Skies by Tamara Allen


Time travel stories usually make me cross my eyes more than once as I try to wrap my head around all the 'what if's and paradoxes that come up. Blue Skies was no different but be that as it may, I still enjoyed it a lot.

I picked Blue Skies up because it was getting a decent bit of buzz in the Romance portion of my Twitter feed. It was recced as a time travel romance with a prominently featured second couple that was m/m. I had read a couple of the author's short stories and quite enjoyed them, so, I picked up the book. When I finally got around to reading it this week, imagine my surprise to find out it wasn't quite as advertised! *LOL*

I would describe Blue Skies as a time travel adventure with a romantic secondary plot. Or plots. Because there ARE two couples. I think that maybe the intention was to give both couples equal time, but in my opinion, I think the m/m couple got more attention and page time. And the romances aren't really the main story here. It's the time travelling.

I liked the characters a lot. Especially Neil, the present day high school teacher. I liked his snarky grumpiness. :)

Now, be warned, there is not a lot of sex in the book and what there is of it is rather mild. Mind you, the author does a lovely job with the kisses. So if you're in the mood for a time travelling adventure with a dash or two of romance thrown in the mix, you could do far worse than Blue Skies.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Blood Magick by Nora Roberts


The Cousins O'Dwyer - Book 3

And that's a wrap! :) The trilogy is finished and all's well that ends well and I am a contented reader.

Blood Magick, the finale of the trilogy, focusses on Branna - who is really the head witch - and Fin, the man she's loved since they were children. But, Fin bears the mark of Cabhan - the baddie - and as well, is part of his bloodline, so he and Branna can never be together, the main reason being that they refuse to pass the curse on to any innocent children they might have.

Yes, the whole trilogy is filled with what I term Nora Tropes and follows a predictable plotline - but it's the journey that I love, what she does with her tropes and the way she writes her characters, the banter, the loving, the no-nonsense and the sweetness. I love how she incorporates family pets into the story - although I would LOVE to have seen a little more of Bugs and Merlin in this one, seeing as we were getting Fin's story.

So, yes, I am replete with satisfaction at the end of this trilogy. I basically knew what was going to happen (Nora Tropes), but there were indeed a few surprises for me, and I was brought to tears a couple of times too. Yes, I am a sap. *LOL*

So overall, I would give the trilogy 4 stars, with the 2nd book being my favourite (4.5 stars) .

Friday, January 23, 2015

Whiskey and Wry by Rhys Ford


Sinners - Book 2

Loved it! Loved both Sionn and Damien and really enjoyed their love story. The villain... OMG, the VILLAIN... the whacko bad guy, Parker.... he's the creepiest, scariest, most revolting bad guy I've read in a long time.

And Rhys does it again!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Shadow Spell by Nora Roberts


The Cousins O'Dwyer - Book 2

I enjoyed the second of the trilogy even more than the first! To be honest, I think it's because it was told mostly from Connor's POV and I DO love Nora's men. (I would absolutely over the moon were Nora to write a m/m romance, but she's said that she doesn't think she could do it justice, so....)

So yes, this is the story of Connor and the woman he's loved pretty much all his life, now that he's smart enough to realise it. Her name is Meara and she is a glorious, short-tempered, large-hearted, warrior princess. I liked her because she did have an explosive temper and because she had a believable set of insecurities beneath her warrior-like exterior. She was good enough for Connor who is pretty much my favourite of the six.

I think maybe I relate to Connor so much because he IS so positive and filled with faith that things will just turn out all right. :) He has the soul of a poet and the heart of a true romantic. He's sweet, thoughtful, loves women, loves men, loves life period! But when he gets angry... it takes one helluva lot... but oh, when it blows, take cover! And he's a falconer! I have a thing for birds, you see. And Connor's 'guide' is Roibeard, the falcon, the gorgeous, lovely, majestic protective Roibeard. :) Yes, I have a bit of a crush on him too.

So yes, this book hits all my buttons even more than the first one. There were passages that I must admit I teared up - Nora portrays the love between friends and families and lovers so well! The threat of the evil Cabhan is sneaky and insinuating, striking at the deep-seated inner fears of all our characters and even though they seem to hurt him again and again, he keeps coming back stronger and angrier and even though we know he will be bested in the end, it's the journey that's important. The journey of these six people finding love and bringing joy to the reader. At least that's how I see it.

Now, all the while I was reading, I was seeing this guy as Conner. From the very first pages. He's an Irish actor by the name of Eoin Macken and he is currently starring in The Night Shift on NBC and the upcoming TV movie Killing Jesus for the Nat Geo network. He also played Sir Gwaine in the BBC's Merlin. He just IS Connor O'Dwyer in my head.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Dark Witch by Nora Roberts


The Cousins O'Dwyer - Book 1

Nora Roberts is the equivalent of a romance comfort read for me. I love her books, be it the contemporary romances, the mysteries, the singletons, the trilogies, the long series or the magical paranormals. (It's funny because I'm not thrilled with J.D. Robb at all.)

Dark Witch is the first of the O'Dwyer trilogy, the book where we meet all the characters, the magic quest is set and the seeds of love are planted. Yes, there are three women and three men and you know that each couple is going to get their book to shine. The first of these three couples are Iona, fresh come to Ireland and her cousins from America and Boyle, the taciturn, blunt, gorgeous stable owner, longtime friend of these same cousins.

I think probably a lot of readers might not be so fond of Boyle - he's prickly and sometimes not very nice and he really doesn't stand out from the the other two, the brooding Fin or the utterly charming Connor, but I though the was so wonderfully guyish. Sometimes as dumb as a post, saying things that aren't quite what we'd call PC, taking things and Iona for granted at times. I liked him. :)

And I liked Iona. She made me chuckle so much with her non-stop talking when she got nervous. I loved how she loved the horses - a girl after my own heart. I was enchanted by her wonder at her 'newfound' family and I really do think that big, strong, quiet Boyle is perfect for her.

So yes, a very enjoyable read for me from one of my favourites. Hits a lot of my buttons, as Nora always seems to do. And I think I'll be right on to the next book in the trilogy!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Among the Living by Jordan Castillo Price


Psycop - Book 1

I had heard many good things about JCP's PsyCop series, so I was really hoping I'd like it after the disappointment that was Magic Mansion. Luckily, I really, really enjoyed it! It was a good, fun read.

I'm not a huge fan of paranormals, but I do love a good cop story and this was a good cop story. The world-building is good and it works. Police detective psychics partnered up with non-psychics or "stiffs" is a simple premise but can give rise to all kinds of wonderful situations.

This book is written in a 1st person POV, that of one of the PsyCops, Victor Bayne and his voice is very real. He's not a hero type, just a cop that wants to do his job and not bring undue attention onto himself. I liked him. I liked his quirks and flaws and uncertainties. And I liked his humour and his caring and his honesty. For me, he's an easy guy to want to follow through his adventures.

The secondary characters, Jacob, Lisa, Warwick, Carol... they're all separate and distinct and while they are the types you see in a lot of detective type books, they are also original and interesting. I really liked Lisa and hope to see more of her in further books.

This was a novella and was over far too soon - but the story had been told and well told, so I shouldn't complain. The mystery made sense, the clues where there and the characters discovered things at the times they should have been discovered. There was no heroic flash of brilliance, no obvious deus ex machina, the characters solved the case when they should have.

I will definitely be reading more of this series.

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Dangerous Thing by Josh Lanyon


Adrien English Mysteries - Book 2

This is the second of the Adrien English mysteries and was just as enjoyable as the first.

I really like the character of Adrien, I like his voice, his inner musings, his sense of humour and his intelligence. I like that he has flaws and acknowledges them. I like that he's not perfect.

As for his erstwhile paramour, Jake... well... I disliked him a lot in this book. I hated the way he treated Adrien for the most part and I hated his snarky attitude. I had a very hard time seeing what Adrien sees in him aside from the outer package. I wanted to smack him all through the book.

The mystery was good. Interesting and kept me guessing all the way through. I do like the way little bits get solved and new questions get raised and for the most part, the whole thing hung together rather well. At least I didn't know the guilty party before the end of chapter three! *LOL*

So yep, a good mystery read!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Lord of the White Hell (Book 1) by Ginn Hale


The Caledonian Series - Book 1

This is another book that I've had in the TBR pile for a while. What caught my attention first was the blurb:

Kiram Kir-Zaki may be considered a mechanist prodigy among his own people, but when he becomes the first Haldiim ever admitted to the prestigious Sagrada Academy, he is thrown into a world where power, superstition and swordplay outweigh even the most scholarly of achievements.
But when the intimidation from his Cadeleonian classmates turns bloody, Kiram unexpectedly finds himself befriended by Javier Tornesal, the leader of a group of cardsharps, duelists and lotharios who call themselves Hellions. 
However Javier is a dangerous friend to have. Wielder of the White Hell and sole heir of a Dukedom, he is surrounded by rumors of forbidden seductions, murder and damnation. His enemies are many and any one of his secrets could not only end his life but Kiram's as well.
To be honest it was the second paragraph that caught me. Then, I saw a couple of positive recs for the author as a good fantasy author, so I picked it up. It really didn't register with me that it was probably considered a YA fantasy, which is a good thing because I tend to stay far, far away from YA books in general, reading only the rare fantasy novel in the genre. And that would have been sad because I ended up really enjoying the book, the world the author created and her wonderful characters.

I like the author's voice. I like the world she created and the people she populated it with and the story she's telling is intriguing. What is the white hell really? What is the malevolent force that's cursing Javier's family? What's really going on in the depths of Javier's cousin, Fedeles? How can Kiram help? How will his gift with mechanical things help? Lots and lots of questions, none of which were really answered in this book.

That's the only bad thing. This book is basically about setting up the story, meeting and getting to know two young men and their circle of friends and teachers. Establishing some kind of relationship between them and well... that's it. The cliffhanger is HORRID! I hate them at the best of times if I'm honest, but this one... Yes, it's the perfect end for Book One... but Book Two should be in the same damned book! It is an incredibly frustrateing ending - especially for someone like me who is trying to budget her reading $ and time/schedule. Had the cliffhanger been less... um... totally cliffhangerish, I would have given this one at least 4.5 stars if not 5.

But that being said, I will definitely pick up Book 2 and unless it's totally awful, will pick up other books by Ginn Hale.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Home the Hard Way by Z. A. Maxfield


This book came out in July of 2014 and I've had it in my TBR pile since then. Why did I leave it unread for so long! *LOL* Seriously! I was up very late last night reading it, wanting to finish, but I just couldn't - my eyes kept closing despite everything, so the first thing I did this morning, before even getting the coffee going, was to pick it up and read the last 4 chapters.

I don't know why there wasn't more buzz about this last summer, it's really a good read, but I think that some of Z.A. Maxfield's (aka ZAM) titles aren't for everyone because there's an undercurrent of something dark, something broken, something very real that is never completely resolved by the end of the book - and THAT'S OKAY! It's real and I love it! In some ways it made me think of Lost and Found which I absolutely adored.

Both of ZAM's main characters - Dare and Finn - are flawed. Neither is perfect and at times both can be quite unlikable. But they're interesting and real and that's what makes me so enthralled by their story. I wanted to shake Dare so many times while I read because his demons are so recognizable and so ordinary and I guess I found it out of place in the supposed hero and wanted him to rise above them, but even though he tried, he kept slipping and it was so honest and real... well - it worked bigtime for me.

And Finn, my God, his tightly wound, walls up, protect the inner Finn was so believable, so logical and so well done that I teared up on more than one occasion. The scenes with his aunt - OMG! - they were so gutting and filled with emotions. And it seems on the outside that Finn is so together, so cool, so capable, but like so many people, he really isn't. Stubborn git!

The mystery. The suspense. The WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE??? It was really well done. There were twists and turns throughout the book, a couple of biggies that had me going... OMG, REALLY?... and the final twist, the end of the mystery caught me totally by surprise.

Then there were the BDSM elements that were very, very well done. The power exchange, the discovery, the separation of scenes, sex and love and the way those things can or cannot come together and it's perfectly normal. The scene with the rope, the shibari was excellent! I never really understood the attraction in anything other than an abstract way, but now I feel like I 'get' it.

And ZAM also does a lovely job of her supporting characters. They're all unique, have depth and serve to move the story forward all the while being real people.

I think that one thing I really appreciated about Home the Hard Way was that the ways the characters were challenged or damaged/hurt were, I guess I want to say, normal and run of the mill. There seems to be a trend today in M/M or maybe all romance, that one or both of the characters has to be afflicted, or suffering from, or dealing with, or conquering, or existing with some form of disability be it mental or physical in order for the story to have some what, ... deeper meaning? a roadblock to conquer? be a symbol of diversity? show that everyone deserves love and an HEA? Which is all well and good, I'm all for diversity and I love many of those books, but I like to see stuff I know and recognise as having impacted my own life every once in a while. (Yes, that's my privilege showing probably, but it's my blog and I can give voice to it.)

So all in all, this was a great read with terrific characters, a good mystery, some hot sex scenes, depths of all kinds of emotions and an ending that didn't solve All The Problems Ever with a hug and a kiss and an I love you.

Books like this are why I love ZAM.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley


Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne - Book 1

I'd had this book on my 'to buy' list since the spring, I think, but I never managed to fit it into the book budget. Finally, my son gave it to me for Christmas - YAY!! I was looking forward to reading it, so it was the first of my Christmas books that I cracked.

It began slowly, I have to say, but I wonder if that's because I'm more used to reading quick romances where you jump into the plot of the story right away and there's minimal backstory needed or setting up required. Whatever the reason, the author takes his time to introduce the three main antagonists, the three children of the freshly-murdered emperor. We get to know them, the boys mostly, through looks at their daily routines and their friends and mentors. Kaden is the eldest who has spent the past 8 years training with the monks up in the mountains and Valyn, the younger brother, who has spent that time with the Kettrel - an armed force of elite soldiers who basically use giant raptor-type birds as their war vehicles. Both boys have their challenges - many of them. We also meet their sister, Adare, who has been named to the high post of Finance Minister of the Empire. I think she's older than Kaden, but this being a patriarchy, only the males inherit.

About half-way through the book, I took three days out to re-read another book I had promised to read, and when I came back to this one, the action soon began to pick up. Some things became clear as both young men come near to the culmination of all their training, but there are still so many questions to be answered. Then BOOM! The action picks up to an almost frenetic pace - at least where Kaden and Valyn are concerned. Yeah, things are happening to Adare as well, but we get nowhere the in depth storytelling we get for the boys. I think that will be addressed in the next book - in other words, I don't think this is a slight to the female antagonist. Her time to shine will definitely come, I'm sure.

To sum up, this was a super read! I loved it. I didn't even mind that the main characters were basically teenagers! To me they 'read' older. The secondary characters were distinct and nicely fleshed out and I have a couple of favorites, especially Valyn's comrade, Annick and Kaden's friend, Akiil. There is also the very Yoda-like Tan, one of Kaden's mentors and The Flea - another member of the Kettrel. I have hopes/suspicions about The Flea that I'll have to see about in the second book. There is a cliffhanger, yes, and many unanswered questions but y'know, I didn't really mind the way I usually do. I'm just looking forward to book 2! It's out next week, I think. :)

You like good, juicy fantasy? Give this a try. :) I measures up to the hype, I think.

Monday, January 5, 2015

According to Hoyle by Abigail Roux


This was a reread of According to Hoyle, the re-issue that just came out this week from Riptide.

According to Hoyle has always been my favourite of all of Abigail Roux's work. Neither Ty and Zane from Cut & Run, or the Sidewinder boys have ANYTHING on Cage and Gabriel or even Wash and Flynn.

This is a thick, juicy story that pays as much, if not more, attention to the actual caper story than any sexytimes. The growth of the relationships between the MCs are shown in full force, but the actual sex scenes are few and far between. Which is JUST FINE! A wealth of emotion and meaning can be shown via a simple gesture or a turn of phrase and Abi does it SO well in this book.

My usual *SIGH* is in place, however, as most of the featured men are large in stature - I think Gabriel is probably a favourite because he's not a freakin' behemoth! *LOL* And I will admit that even though Cage is written as being a big fellow (think Hemsworth), I see him more as a Tom Mison (Ichabod in Sleepy Hollow) type. Mind's eye, it's a funny thing.

Anyway, I loved this book again and probably even more than before. I think it's Abi's best work, her best characters, her best writing and her best... everything. *LOL* A very good way to start off my 2015 reading. :)