Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs

Bone Crossed (Mercy Thompson, #4)Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Patricia Briggs continues to impress me with her oh-so expressive writing that conveys so much, so economically.  I am truly in awe of her talent. Clearly I am very behind on this series. It's not due to a lack of appeal, but due to my reading style and my review reading taking up a lot of my reading time.  But I do love knowing that I have a guaranteed read when I reach for one of her books.

Mercy is definitely near the top of my list of fictional characters I think I would love to have as a friend in real life. Probably number one, if I'm honest. And not just because she's an excellent and trustworthy mechanic (and I need one of those big time).  Mercy is a mix of real-life traits:  humble, down-to-earth, courageous (even in the face of fear, which is the true definition of courage), snarky, empathetic, observant, and very self-deprecating.  While some readers don't like abuse storylines in their books, I don't mind them when they are done well. Mercy shows so much strength and fortitude of character. Her journey to recovery after her attack in Iron Kissed is realistic and inspiring.  I truly love this woman.

Briggs writes the kind of fantasy that grabs hold of me and doesn't let go. She plants a garden of what seems like ordinary wildflowers, but exotic blooms that are far from ordinary grow in that garden, waiting to be plucked by a reader.  Briggs mixes shapeshifters, werewolves, fae, and vampires in an appealing way that doesn't leave out the inherent menace of all the various supernatural creatures.  With a coyote shifter narrator, the reader is fully along for the ride, as Mercy is the first to admit that being a coyote shifter doesn't always give her the advantage, but often puts her in a dangerous situation (while she is more immune to magic than most, she's not impervious.) Oh, and Briggs also throws in ghosts.  I must say that I was happy as a clam, since I love fantasy like a house on fire, but I also have an appreciation for old school/classic horror and an old-fashioned ghost story.

Can I take the time to gush over the men in Mercy's life?

Adam, Adam, Adam!  How I love you. He is perfect for Mercy. And I like that Mercy is starting to see past her emotional wounds and barriers to see him for who he is, her Mate. Also, I love that Adam is so patient and loving about it, even though that is an act of hard-won discipline. He's very possessive, but not in a controlling, irritating way. I love a possessive hero like a house on fire, but I find controlling, dominating men a turnoff. Adam is just right for me.  I wish I had an Adam in real life!  He's very demonstrative that Mercy is his, but he's not trying to dictate to her every step she takes. He's a true life partner.

If there was no Adam in the Mercy Thompson world, then I would definitely be all over Samuel.  I still love Samuel, very much. I just don't love him for Mercy's mate. I love him all on his own, and I hope he gets the Mate he needs one day.  He's a really cool character.  Sweet as pie, but also full of danger that makes the hair stand up on one's neck.  He seems serious, but has this mischievous sense of humor. His calm facade hides a wild wolf that might never be tamed.

Bran is the Man, or rather, the Alpha of the Alphas (Marrok).  He steals a scene, no matter who else is in it.  And that's saying something in this series! I know Briggs has said she probably won't write a book with Bran as a main character. I'm sad and understanding of that. He's such a mysterious and compelling figure, when he shows up, it's so satisfying but also tantalizing.  I can't love him more.  I'm always hungry for more of him.

Stefan has actually grown on me quite a bit.  While I have become quite a vampire romance fan, I still prefer shifters/weres to vampires, and I like that they take center place in this series. But Stefan adds such a nice touch to this series.  While he insists on telling Mercy that he is a 'very bad man', his actions say otherwise.  I haven't decided who would play my Stefan, but it would have to be an actor with lots of presence. I liked how Briggs develops Mercy's friendship with Stefan much more in this book (it was more assumed at the beginning).  I have to say the vampire storyline makes my heart beat fast and gives me shivers.  They are truly menacing creatures.

The thing with Briggs is that no character is a throwaway. Each one is carefully developed, even for their short presence in this book.  You feel everything even in a short scene that you should feel.  And while the characters might throw you for a loop at first, their motivations are apparent as the layers peel away.

I think that for the short length of this book, it's really a full meal. Urban fantasy for the true lover of the genre. Also, I think a good gateway to those who are investigating this genre for the first time. Mercy by herself is enough to keep a reader hooked. But the secondary characters, the plotting and storyline will have the reader staying for seconds and dessert.

Highly recommended!

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Fables, Volume 12: The Dark Ages by Bill Willingham (Goodreads Author), Mark Buckingham (Illustrator), Peter Gross (Illustrator), Andrew Pepoy (Illustrator), Mike Allred (Illustrator), David Hahn (Illustrator)

Fables, Vol. 12: The Dark Ages (Fables, #12)Fables, Vol. 12: The Dark Ages by Bill Willingham

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think that this volume more than others in the series conveys such a powerful sense of loss and risk. In fact, it feels very melancholy. No doubt that was Willingham's intention.  A character dies and it feels like an enormous hole is left in the Fable community.  This volume touches on how someone can be such a part of your life and you take them for granted, until they are gone. I don't know if I will get over the loss of this person, and in that I feel I identify with the characters.  The same has happened to me in my life outside of the pages of books.

Right now, theme of loss and death is hitting me hard, after having lost people and my beloved pets so recently.  I feel that this is probably therapeutic for me, but it hurts, much like when a doctor debrides an infected wound.

Along with the harbinger of loss, there is a harbinger of a cloud of doom over the heads of the Fables.  They have rejoiced in conquering the Adversary, but someone has awakened a sleeping giant who makes the Adversary look like a schoolyard bully. I really hope the Fables can band together and deal with this thread without losing more beloved members in the process.

I think this is another five star read.  I find myself scared to pick up the next volume, honestly!

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Fairest, Vol.3: The Return of the Maharaja by by Bill Willingham (Creator), Sean E. Williams , Stephen Sadowski (Illustrations), Phil Jimenez (Illustrations)

Fairest, Vol. 3: The Return of the MaharajaFairest, Vol. 3: The Return of the Maharaja by Bill Willingham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This volume of Fairest is quite different. The lead isn't even a princess.  But she is a Warrior Queen in her own right.  Nalayani undertakes a dangerous mission to seek help from the Maharajah to save her village from man-eating monsters and encounters a dispossessed Prince from the Land of the Fables, the one and same Prince Charming. Ever the opportunist, Charming takes advantage of his exit from Fabletown, after making an enormous sacrifice in the war against the Adversary.  Nalayani isn't his typical conquest (seducing Princesses is after all his niche). Instead, she's a fierce young woman who is passionate about saving her village. The question is,  Can she get Charming to believe in doing the right thing in the end, before it's too late?

I don't know if I was just in a weird mood, but this volume was creepy to me. I think it was the dhole monsters and the awful situation that Nalayani was facing (and later on Charming).  It has a very different feel from the first two volumes, but in a good way. A look at a very different culture from what we typically see in the Fables books.  I really liked Nalayani. While Charming shows all of his bad traits in spades, I still came to respect him for what he is.  He's like any real life person, flawed, just like I am.

I read this one in the right place with my reading of the Fables series, but I would consider this one as having spoilers for Volume 12 of Fables,War and Pieces, so reader be warned.

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Suicide Squad, Volume 5: Walled In by Matt Kindt (Goodreads Author), Patrick Zircher (Illustrations)

Suicide Squad, Vol. 5: Walled InSuicide Squad, Vol. 5: Walled In by Matt Kindt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was so thrilled that my library has this. I had to wait a while before it came in, but by and large, it was worth the wait. This story is so twisty. The established 'norm' of the Suicide Squad is totally disrupted, and Amanda Waller is forced to call in the Squad to protect her from enemies within the prison.  I think that if you didn't get the idea that these folks are not the good guys already, you will get a wakeup call in this volume.  Yeah, they are all killers and criminals, and it's not a case of them being a little bit morally compromised, but instead it's how far over the line they really are.

I think this volume was the most creepy to me.  Part of it is that sense of paranoia about not knowing who you can trust (yeah, if you're going to trust any of these people, including Waller), but also the fact that Waller is locked in the prison with lots of people who want her dead, and she's not in control of the situation anymore.  And one of the few people in her corner is an extremely intelligent psychotic who's semi-obsessed with her.

Waller isn't a nice woman. She's very manipulative and opportunistic, but I kind of felt afraid for her.  Yeah, I'm a soft touch.

I really hope this series continues! Can't wait to see what happens next.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

The Punisher, Volume 1: Black and White by Nathan Edmondson (Text), Mitch Gerads (Illustrations)

The Punisher, Vol. 1: Black and WhiteThe Punisher, Vol. 1: Black and White by Nathan Edmondson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was leery about this arc of The Punisher changing authors and storylines, but I feel that it was pretty successful in keeping the tone I liked with the Rucka run, without it being an exact copy.  I didn't veer into the realm of ultra-violence either (what I was really nervous about).  Edmondson continues to write Castle as a driven man who isn't afraid of using violence, but with his own rigid code of morality. I did miss Rachel Cole-Alves though.

Castle has set his operations up on the West Coast, and targeted a series of violent gangs who have declared a war against the city of Los Angeles.  Castle adopts a wounded coyote (which was a nice touch). He also has a set of allies who help him out (in the ways he needs it).  There are a few fun cameos I really appreciated. They don't step outside of the tone of the series, so that's good.

The artwork is well-done, different from the last run, but I still enjoyed it.  They capture the grim nature of Castle and convey his dead seriousness about his vocation.  I have to say I kind of have a soft spot for the Punisher that has been restored after the travesty of  the movie Punisher: War Zone.

I have to say that I am satisfied and will keep reading the new Punisher series. 

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Samurai Game by Christine Feehan

Samurai Game (Ghostwalkers #10)Samurai Game by Christine Feehan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

2nd Reread Completed in April 2015. I wanted to revisit the GhostWalkers before I read Viper Game. And let's face it, I start getting withdrawal pains when I spend too long away from the GhostWalkers. I'm obsessed.

My thoughts this time around:

I just plain love this book. I mean, it's nothing special amongst the other books, but I really felt the love between Azami and Sam. I think even though they only knew each other for a short period, and they couldn't have been paired on both sides, it was just a synergy between them that made my true romantic heart feel warm and fuzzy. They make such a good pair, and Sam happened to put into words, they just fit together. Their relationship was deeply romantic and appealingly sensual. Those of us who have followed Team One's GWs, I don't think they could be dissatisfied at seeing Sam get his woman.

I love them just as much as individuals. Sam is so fantastic. He's such a good guy. Smart as a whip, lethal as a ninja and sweet as a puppy. That is my kind of combination. This is one of those heroes that I often wish "Why can't I have a guy like that?" It doesn't happen much. I usually view romance as escapism, and it's not wish fulfillment for me, if I'm honest. More than anything, I'm more in love with love. But, yeah, Sam is 100% on my personal compatibility scale. I think out of all the GhostWalkers, he's probably the one I feel like I would be a good match with in real life. But enough of that!

Azami, I have a serious girl crush on her. She's freaking lethal, but elegant and demure. She's highly intelligent, but has no desire to showboat about it. And she's a serious survivor. Out of all the crap that Whitney did in his experimentation with the GhostWalkers, he committed the most atrocities to her. But it didn't break her, she was reborn as a samurai. There is something about a woman warrior that I just love. While I don't have a tendency towards being a warrior in real life, I truly love that aspect of a woman. Yes, I admit I have a secret desire to be a ninja that never went away. Azami's secret assaults on Whitneys organization were long in coming. He thinks she's thrown away and probably dead, but she's the real ghost who is going to give him his reckoning.

I do believe this book is slightly more action-focused than the previous book. While Feehan goes in detail with some of the operational information, I liked that. I'm sort of geeky about special ops stuff.

I could probably rave more, but I don't want to repeat myself over what I said on my last read. I can say that it definitely stands up to a reread. Sadly, it makes me want to start the series all over again, but I lack the time for it. :)

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

The Wells Bequest (The Grimm Legacy, #2)The Wells Bequest by Polly Shulman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a fun book for tweens that I appreciated, although I'm much older than that age. :) Shulman moves from fairy tales The Grimm Legacy to science fiction novels with this book, but it still takes place in the New York Circulating Material Repository. Leo is the least scientifically-gifted in a family full of science geniuses. But he gets the opportunity to explore science in a way that his siblings never had. He'll find out for himself that time machines are real, among other really cool devices.

I thought this was pretty cute. I liked Leo's characterization. He was adorable with and his floppy black curl on his forehead. His crush on Jaya was very cute. Jaya seemed very mature for her age, which was interesting. I like that it's no big deal that he's Russian American and she's Indian American (not Native but the country). The use of various science fiction novels in the story was a fun touch. I mean, that would rock to be able to use The Time Machine and to meet Nicola Tesla.

Also, the use of Nicola Tesla was an interesting touch. I learned some new things about his conflict-ridden relationship with Thomas Edison and about Lewis Latimer, who was a black man whose work with electricity went a long way towards Edison inventing the light bulb. He actually drafted the patent for the telephone with Alexander Graham Bell before his work with Edison.

I'm always a fan of metafiction, and I liked that idea that devices from classic science fiction novels really worked in this book. Don't expect technical explanations that would stand up under rigorous scientific scrutiny. It's a major suspend disbelief in some aspects, but that's what fiction is often about.

I only gave this three stars because I felt like some parts of the story was lightweight. I would have preferred a little more story development in some areas. I think the ending wraps up a little too neatly. But I still enjoyed listening to this, narrated by the excellent Johnny Heller.

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Runner by Patrick Lee

Runner (Sam Dryden, #1)Runner by Patrick Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Runner was raved about by one of my Goodreads friends, so I picked it up from the library. This story is about a man who happens to be in the best place at the right time, and makes the decision to help a girl that changes his whole life.

Sam Dryden has this irresistible compulsion to go running at night, in a certain area. He's been drifting after his personal loss, and believes this is due to his restlessness, and perhaps an existential crisis. He meets a girl who begs him to save her life from her pursuers and makes a split decision to do exactly that. It's fortunate that he's not just a typical guy. He's highly trained in black ops work, and equipped with all the assets needed to keep Rachel alive. It gets more interesting from there. Because Rachel isn't your typical twelve-year-old. Not by a long stretch.

This novel has some really cool ideas. It's like the X-Files episode of Pusher with some heavy duty action thrown in. Rachel's psychic abilities are seriously scary! Sam is a bad*ss. Great combination. It reminded me favorably of one of my favorites series, The GhostWalkers (minus the romance and with a few different aspects).

The things I loved about this book was the bond between Rachel and Sam. Sam assumes a fatherly role, with a little bit of friend thrown in. Rachel definitely needs a parental figure who is honorable and willing to make enormous sacrifices for her, considering her past. One might at first take it for granted that Sam would go so far to defend a young girl. The reveal could have compromised my perception of Sam as a really good guy who acts as Good Samaritan. I thought at first it would, but in the end, I was okay with it. I definitely believe that things happen in our lives for specific reasons, and they were meant to come together, no matter how it happened.

I loved the action elements. I also liked that the story is far from predictable. You don't always know right away who exactly is the big bad. There are a few characters who are doing some nasty things, so it's a coin flip at some points. The story flips things around. All you know is that Sam is a good guy and the right guy to be the bodyguard to Rachel. Things get twisty in that we're dealing with people who can literally get anyone to do whatever they want. You wonder at what point are the characters doing something of their free will. I have some huge issues with control, and that's a very scary thought that someone could control me and make me do something I would never do otherwise. I think Lee understands how truly frightening that is.

Runner is probably equally suspense and action, with some paranormal/science fiction thrown in. It's a really cool premise. It looks like this will be a series, so I wonder what will happen in the next book. I do want to read more of this series and see where the author goes next with the characters he created in this book.

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Asteroid Outpost by John Bowers

Asteroid OutpostAsteroid Outpost by John Bowers
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This is a hard book for me to rate. It's been a while since I read it, but I still haven't changed my mind about what I thought I should rate it (I thought I'd be in between and I still feel that way). I will say that it was really quite satisfying for an impulse buy.

There is something that just works about space westerns. Even if Fox did cancel Firefly because they were crazy, I knew that show was magic in the first five minutes. I mean, isn't space the final frontier? Well, Bowers captures all the wildness, the corruption and the lawlessness of space. And he puts a newbie Marshal (who was once a war hero) in a situation where his determination to see justice done might just get him killed.

Overall, this was a well-written book. I do feel that Bowers captured a really gritty feel and showed how deeply corrupt things were on Ceres and in the mining asteroid belts. It did remind me of how things were in the Real Old West. While Nick is definitely a White Hat, he has no issues with getting his hands bloody.

Readers who are sensitive to topics of sexual violence will definitely want to be careful with this book. There were aspects that made me absolutely livid, because that is a really sensitive topic with me. Sometimes I even had a anti-male rage going on, but Nick was just as hot about what was happening, so it does prove that not all men are like that. Yeah, what the Farringtons were doing to women in this book (and allowing to be done) was seriously dark. It made it hard to keep reading at times. I listened to this on my Kindle Text-to-Speech and it was a very visceral thing to hear about the abuses that were taking place at the Farrington Lockup. I'm not a violent person, generally, but this book made me feel murderous.

Overall, Nick was a very likable character that I respected. I totally felt his strong need for justice. I'm wired that way as well. However, I was conflicted about Nick's love life. I felt like his aversion to commitment was more of a throwaway to fit into the concept of him as a roaming marshal. It made me feel he was a bit skeevy, to be honest. At least he showed integrity in many other ways (and I can't fault that he was honest with the women he was involved with). I think it's deeply icky for character to bed hop, so I definitely could have done without that.

I feel that the secondary characters could have been a bit more developed. Misery was barely three-dimensional. Monica moreso. I loved that they were both black women. :) I did like David quite a bit. He seemed like one of the more fleshed out secondary characters, strangely enough.

I do think Bowers is working out his issues with religion in his fiction. He seems very cynical about organized religion, but I don't get that he's anti-God or anti-people of faith, but just not a big fan of some of the behaviors that occur in the religious community. I can respect that a writer uses their fiction to work out their issues, as long as they don't obviously get out their soapbox, and he didn't do that. So we're cool. I agree that the minister was pretty ridiculous to take his beautiful, young virginal daughters into a mining community with the worst of the worst and not expect something like that to happen. It's not that I don't believe in God's protection (I definitely do), but he didn't even rely on that, but just this arrogant belief that he had been called there to minister to the Lost (and he could save all the souls). So, yes, I was feeling Nick when he read the minister the riot act.

We read this for the Action/Adventure Aficionados group and I felt the action was definitely high caliber. Nick isn't afraid to dive into the fray, and the suspense was killer. I mean these folks were evil, and there are few things more disturbing to me than corrupt law enforcement.

I can't quite convince myself that this is a four star book. It's hovering, so I'd have to go with 3.5 stars. One of my pet peeves is abrupt endings and when tension dissipates too quickly, and I thought that was an issue. And honestly, I think a lot worse things should have happened to the bad guys, based on how horrific their behavior was.

I will probably continue this series, but I am not feeling Nick's bed-hopping, and I hope that isn't a pervasive trend in this series.

I think fans of Firefly and the movie Serenity and also of the show Ripper Street (not Western but about the law in London in a very rough area full of corruption) would like this book. But be warned, it's not for the faint of heart!

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The Shadows by JR Ward

The Shadows (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #13)The Shadows by J.R. Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, this is my review of the latest Ward book. I love this time of year, and the traditions that come alone with it as a long-time JR Ward fan. It's a big part of why I enjoy this series so much.

Sorry, but this is a really long review. I had a lot to say!

Possible Spoiler Disclaimer: I will warn readers that while I really tried not to use overt spoilers, you will see that there is an emotional shock that comes in this book, but I don’t reveal exactly what it was. Readers beware!

The Shadows is the telling of the story of the two s’Hisbe brothers who have become unofficial members of the Brotherhood’s growing family. Trez is running away from his destiny, written in the stars, as the future mate of the Princess of the s’Hisbe. He’s done everything he could to disqualify himself, but the time is growing short and he can run no longer. iAm has stood in the gap for his brother for many years, trying to keep his brother from going over the edge of oblivion to the exclusion of having his own life. But the time is coming when he won’t be able to save his brother. Trez is stone cold in love with the Chosen, Selena, but for many reasons, a happy ending doesn’t seem to be written in their destinies. Will iAm ever get the chance to build his own life, and to make decisions that aren’t dictated by his sacrificial love for his brother?
With a storyline that like, you know there’s going to be major drama.

Drama is JR Ward’s calling card. When I read one of her books, I automatically expect it. It’s hard, at the same time, waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it often does, very hard. I deliberately took my time reading this, preparing myself for the emotional blows sure to come. Not at all sure that there would be a happy end by the last page. I know a lot of people weren’t happy with this book, and I was prepared that I might not be, or that I might like it and find myself an outlier in saying why I liked it. So, it was emotionally stressful for me to read it. Another reason to take my time.

Some have argued that Ward has moved away from her initial writing of romance. I’m not sure I agree. Even in her earlier book, there was always a sense that not everything was settled, and while there were committed and happily mated couples, troubles could be lurking around the corner. Yes, the books were shorter and they focused more on the romance, but there was always something more, and plenty of drama. As the series has progress, the books have expanded, and with them, the storylines. And yes, the drama quotient. At times, it’s wearying how the storylines get dragged out and she introduces yet another set of new characters instead of giving more resolution on current storylines. This book was not different in that regard. And there were parts of this book that ripped my guts out and gave me a headache that was just a shade below a migraine. I wanted to slap one particular character super-duper silly. And I wanted to shake another one. I wanted to rail at the capriciousness of life, and ask the whys. But at the same time, I was satisfied at the end of the story. Hence my rating.

My opinion won’t be popular on this book amongst many of my friends. Largely, I really enjoyed this book. While there were some parts that were terribly sad and that made me sob like a big old baby, I felt that JR Ward delivered the quality of storytelling I appreciate about her writing. I’m not the one to tell you if she messed up specific details. I love this books a lot, but I don’t always remember which hand of Vishous glows or which eye of Qhuinn’s is blue versus green. To me, I don’t find that terribly important. I do care about the stories and the emotional journey. I don’t care if she rewrites some aspects of the storyline, because that’s to be expected in a long-running series. As an artist, one’s creation will evolve, and Ward views these people as real, probably as real as they seem to me, but probably even more real. And real people do change.

I will say this as well, I believe in eternal life. I believe that life doesn’t end on this plane. I believe that death is an enemy in that it steals love ones away from their beloveds, hopefully not forever, but sometimes it is forever. Our mortal bodies fail us and we leave this life and go to another place. I’m a Christian, so I believe that Heaven and Hell are real. For the Brothers, it’s the Fade. But I think the pain is the same, knowing that you won’t see a beloved again in this life. And when one is dying, it’s facing one’s mortality, and the question of whether what you’ve believed that whole time was real or not.

My two cats (that I had for pretty much their whole, long lives) died this past fall, and it broke my heart to pieces. They were older and I should have been prepared. I work in animal medicine, and I lost my dad about ten years ago, so death is not new to me. But it still wrenched my soul to lose them. It’s funny what people say and don’t say to you when you lose someone. I had people say some things that were quite ugly even though they didn’t mean it that way, and that didn’t help my emotional healing. I also had people who ministered to me in my grief, and understood exactly how I felt. They can’t know how much they helped me, but I say a prayer of thanks that God put them in my path at the right time.

I think this book touched me because I saw one of the characters go on that journey. The stages of grief were so tangible to me because of my recent loss (and quite honestly, I also lost a church friend recently, so I was dealing with that as well). I could feel what it was like for this character and the pain of losing a person, but also the fact that they could not ever have regrets about having loved that person, for however short that time was. It’s real for me. I don’t know, but I’m thinking that Ward went through a loss recently, and she wrote this from her heart. I connected with that, and I can see why she didn’t change the ending to a “happy, joy, joy” one that would be expected. Sometimes, that’s not the way life works. Sometimes, you lose people and you have to get out of bed the next day. You have to attend to the ceremonies that come along with the loss and keep one foot in front of the other until you can walk without falling. Sometimes you have to be strong so you can be strong for another person who needs that strength, and put your own needs aside. That was all so real to me, and very well-written.

Others may not like how that was done. I respect that. While it sucked that this person died, it was also valuable in the terms of the story. I can’t fault Ward for that decision. I’ve seen her make others in her stories that I was more angry about. I think she handled the situation with grace, even in the most ugly and emotionally wrenching parts. I think she knows that people are going to be angry with her, and she owns it. I respect her for that.
Speaking of things that made me angry, Xcor was a real tool in this book. I had started seeing more potential for him as a future hero in the past few books, but now I’m just annoyed at him and I question his value as a future love interest for a certain person. I really disliked what he did, for numerous reasons. Those who know my tastes can probably pinpoint why, and can understand why I wanted to bitchslap him. It’s not that I don’t understand his character or the whys but it was a jerk move. At some point you have to stop being a whiny baby and say no to the past and declare a better future. I hold out hope that he’ll get a clue, but he’ll need to get a cleansing deep inside and outside before everything will be okay with me.

I continue to like Layla’s character. She’s really growing as a three-dimensional character in her own right. I wasn’t happy about that storyline with Qhuinn at first, but now I’m okay with it. I think it’s an interesting dynamic, and I want to see where things lead with her and her ancillary relationship with Qhuinn and Blay. I just want her to have a Hellren who is worthy of her. She deserves it! I hope the male she’s in love with gets his head out of his rear end sometime soon.

One of the things I absolutely loved about this book was the relationship between iAm and Trez, and how things turned around, and the one who always made sacrifices got to be the one who was put first in a crucial way. iAm is a really classy guy, a worthy male, and while Trez did have some jerk moments in the past few books, I really liked him in this book and felt for him. He proves to be a very worthy male (although I don’t agree with his view of prostitution being okay as long as the women get the lion’s share of their earnings). Yes, they don’t consider themselves black or African American, but I liked that they do represent people of color in this book so well. I also found the s’Hisbe culture fascinating. In some ways, it’s not super well-defined, but it’s intriguing to me. An interesting compare and contrast to the Vampire and Sympath cultures. ‘s’Ex is some kind of dude. On the real! He has swagger like my beloved Rehvenge, and that is a very nice comparision from a reader who is stone cold in love with Rehv! I hope we see more of him. I like one of the new characters introduced very much, which I cannot reveal as a spoiler. Thumbs up for her. That was super-sweet too what happens with her and another character.

A few things I was indifferent about as well. I am indifferent about the Lesser storyline. It doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. We’ll see what happens in the next book. I can’t make up my mind how I feel about Assail. I hate drug abuse/activity, so he’s got a major strike against him. At the same time, I do appreciate the pragmatism of his character. I think he truly is amoral, and he sticks true to that. I’m not sure if he’ll turn out to be an antihero or a full on villain. I have this sick appreciation for a good antihero, I freely admit.

I feel like the Band of Brothers storyline was underrepresented in this book, but I think Ward is saving it for the next book and chose to focus on other aspects. It will be interesting to see what happens between Xcor and Throe (and I’m glad that Wrath ain’t nobody’s fool when it comes to that situation). I wish she’d spent more time on the BoB instead of developing the new storyline with Paradise. I don’t hate her, but I can’t say I really care that much about her right now. Having said that, I’ll definitely be reading the spinoff series, even though I think it’s Ward’s bid for the New Adult niche (and I’m not interested in that genre).

So, yes, I think I could go on about this book, but I’ve already written such a long review. It won’t change anything. I’m pretty set on how I rated the book. I own it. I liked this book a whole lot. I enjoy Ward’s writing. I love the elegance of the old races she writes about, juxtaposed to the gritty modern world. I even like the thug slang and urban ways of the Brothers (as odd as some find it). I know a lot of folks hate that, but I feel that it’s characteristic of her writing, and I smile every year when I get to hang out with the Brothers and their ever-growing circle of acquaintances. I think that Ward really loves writing about these characters and that joy is infectious to me as a reader. I wish that some of my favorites were more front and center, but most of them had their day in the sun and it’s time to let someone else take the center focus. I will say it was nice to see more of Rhage and Mary in this book.

I guess I’m always going to enjoy Ward’s book for what they are. I don’t expect her to be a perfect writer. She has her quirks like any other artist, but I think she’s a darn good writer, and I love this world she’s created, even more with each book. I added The Shadows to my BDB hardcover shelf with a feeling of proprietary pride. Enough Said!

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