Sunday, January 24, 2016

Stone Angel (The Chosen Ones, #4.5)Stone Angel by Christina Dodd
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I feel kind of bad giving this less than four stars since I normally love this author and this series has really come into its own. However, the writing wasn't up to snuff in my opinion. I think it felt too thin and maybe a little silly at times. That is really harsh of me, but there you have it.

I love British and Irish heroes, but Liam felt a little too much like a caricature instead of a fleshed out hero. Amanda was fine. The idea of the Other who could turn people into living statues, now that was pretty brilliant, and so was Liam's ability. Also the message about love and sacrifice. I also enjoyed revisiting the Chosen Ones, most of whom are happily married. Aleksander is AWOL, and Charisma is worried about him. Pretty soon, I'll read Wilder and find out what happens there. Looking forward to it.

Overall, pretty good short read, but also disappointing in comparison to others by the author. It's not up to the same caliber of writing for Ms. Dodd. I think the short format was a factor.

Overall rating; 3.5/5.0 stars.

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The Punisher MAX, Vol. 1The Punisher MAX, Vol. 1 by Garth Ennis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really regret reading this. It was stomach-churningly violent and full of visual imagery I wish I hadn't seen. I definitely had a sick feeling in my stomach with the over the top violence. Not that most of the people who met bad ends weren't bad guys, but I'm not a big fan of that kind of gratuitous violence, which is why I usually avoid Tarantino and Verhoeven movies, not to mention most modern horror movies.

I won't say that Ennis doesn't get The Punisher. He probably does. I just don't like this presentation of him. Pretty much all the issues I had with the movie "Punisher: War Zone" I had with this book.

Thank God they toned down the violence a lot in the later runs of Punisher. Otherwise, I wouldn't be reading any more of these.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Air Bound by Christine Feehan

Air Bound (Sea Haven/Sisters of the Heart, #3)Air Bound by Christine Feehan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reread in January 2016.

I am working my way through a reread to get ready for the next books in the series, and I also just plain love the Prakenskii brothers (they're Russian, enough said!) and the Sisters of the Heart, the found family of women who buy a farm together and are united by personal tragedy and their gifts of power over the elements.

I can easily say this is still my favorite so far (out of the first 3 books), although I loved to the third power Water Bound and I really did enjoy Spirit Bound. I think that this has the best action and the romance between Airiana and Maxim is so natural in its progression. Although they seem to start as enemies, the mutual alliance they found becomes a bond of trust and love.

It hit me hard like for the first time how lethal Maxim is. He doesn't play around! Airiana is sweet, but she has the capability to dive into the fray and do what needs to be done. She's feisty too and she definitely tells Maxim what she thinks. They're such a great couple!

The children are integral to the story and adorable, but it's so awful and heartbreaking what they have experienced. The subject matter here is definitely not for the faint of heart.

I'm super jazzed to finally be able to start reading Earth Bound and excited about Fire Bound coming out in April! I've a feeling that Casmir is like Maxim on steroids.

Previous Review
I loved this book!

I am seriously in love with the Prakenskiis, and I have to say that Maxim is my favorite now. He's a mad, bad, dangerous man but he loves so good! I had no clue that this tough, lethal man that we met at the beginning of this book could be such a sweet, gentle, loving guy to Airiana. I think that is Feehan magic, how she creates this guys who are lethal and ruthless, but then they are so deeply in love with their heroines, that I end up sighing as I read the book. Now this won't work for some readers, but I am such a sucker for the mix of action and suspense and romance, and Feehan has delivered both in such a delicious combination in this book.

I will confess that she's autobuy for me and I didn't even read the synopsis. I was there because I knew it was a Prakenskii hero. I didn't read the blurb until I opened the book to read it, and I was like, 'cool.' So I didn't have much preconceived notions, but I was just in it for the ride, and what a fun, wonderful ride it was.

Most of the book takes place away from Airiana's sisters, but I didn't mind that. I think that the situation was crafted very well to the lead characters. While somethings will always be the same about Feehan's books (but those things are why I read her), the situation felt different in an appealing way. Maxim is in no way a carbon copy of his brothers. And Airiana is also distinctive from her 'sisters'. Despite her air element, she's actually quite cerebral and far from flighty and hippie-chick, like I was suspecting. I liked the backstory of her life and how it ties into Maxim's story. Airiana is a tough young woman. For such a small, delicate person, she can hold her own and she was quite the action heroine in this book. She's really a very cool, down to earth, mature for her age woman. She gets my seal of approval.

I feel that Feehan does a good job of plotting and tying her stories together. and this fits very cohesively into the series. She makes the idea of the 'Sisters of the Heart' all ending up with Prakenskiis a lot more plausible than one would expect. I'll admit that I am fine with it because I can't get enough of these guys.

I liked that the love scenes come later in the book. Considering how dangerous Airiana and Maxim's situation was, it made a lot more sense. I can't stand when they take an inappropriate 'sex break' in romantic suspense novels. When the the love scenes come, they are blisteringly sexy but also very romantic. Although both are wounded, the 'getting busy' part isn't implausible. the love scenes say so much about the love journey of these two characters. You can see how much Maxim cherishes Airiana and you can also see that Airiana truly trusts Max and gives her heart unreservedly. That makes me sigh happily.

There is a really cool twist in this book that I really liked, and it adds to the believability of Maxim settling into a normal life, which he never had because of his family and their tie to the Russian government. There was some horrible tragedy and wrongness in this book, but I think that Max and Airiana were in exactly the right place at the right time and they will make things right.

I really can't say enough good things about this book. I wanted to read it again right after I finished it. Lately, I've felt less sucked into books, and this book certainly breaks that trend for the better. I rejuvenates my romance novel juices and makes me want to go on a reading tear. I have a need for more high octane romance novel action books like this, with a yummy hero and heroine I really like for this long, hot summer I am facing! Please write the next book soon, Ms. Feehan!

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Resenting the Hero by Moira J. Moore

Resenting the Hero (Hero, #1)Resenting the Hero by Moira J. Moore
My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

This lovely book was on my to be read pile for a long time. I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. The idea is very unique and quite intriguing. However, it took me a little while to get into the book. Once I made it about forty pages in, I was settled into a groove and enjoying the ride.

Dunleavy is not happy about her bonded work partner. He's probably the second to last one she would have picked, and her last choice has a reputation for being a psychopath. Lord Shintaro Karish is just too showy and she wants a more low key partner. But the forces that bring a pair of partners together make the choice, not her. Although Dunleavy spends too much time trying to convince herself that she doesn't like Taro, the more time they spend together, the more she realizes that there is a good man beneath his facade.

The magic system, if you will, is pretty distinctive. I won't go into the backstory of why the Sources and Shields are able to work together to stop natural disasters, but it's different.

One thing that threw me was most of what they do is internal, so this isn't what I'd call an action-packed book. This would be a hard book to make a movie out of for that reason. The pace does pick up nicely as it goes along, and the climax is desirably dramatic.

"Resenting the Hero" is a good start to a series that I am quite sure I will enjoy reading. I did find Taro delicious, but I could see why Dunleavy was trying so hard to resist him even on a friendship level with him. Especially when everyone is in love with and admires Taro.

Dunleavy is the 1st person narrator, and she makes things feel very comfortable for the reader, even though at times, she is a bit of an unreliable narrator, because her vantage point isn't exactly clear on some things.

There's a clever little mystery in this book, with some nice red herrings. It's definitely a book worth checking out, so long as you don't mind it being a slow starter. That's why I took .75 points off.

Overall rating: 4.25/5.00 stars.

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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Fables: The Wolf Among Us, Vol. 1 by Matthew Sturges (Goodreads Author) (Writer), Dave Justus (Writer), Shawn McManus (Artist), Stephen Sadowski (Artist), Travis Moore (Goodreads Author) (Artist), Christopher Mitten (Artist), Eric Nguyen (Artist), Andrew Pepoy (Artist) ,

Fables: The Wolf Among Us, Vol. 1Fables: The Wolf Among Us, Vol. 1 by Matthew Sturges
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I can freely admit that I was just happy to have more Bigby and Snow, and that's a huge part of my generous rating. But this was genuinely good. It's very dark and noir. There is some bad language and sexual situations, and the killer is really depraved. Convincing as a murder mystery set in Fabletown can be. The examination of class distinctions and the vulnerabilities of certain groups in society is prescient and delivered in a way that is far from preachy.

I liked the flashback to when Bigby first goes 'straight' and ends up on a little village called Salem during a very important time of history. Sturges interjects content from The Crucible, including John Proctor, and gives a plausible look into the situation and someone who might have helped engineer the situation. Ichabod Crane is the temporary acting mayor. A nastier little bureaucrat couldn't be possible. His hands are dirty since way back. Unfortunately, Bigby has to take orders from him. Bigby's only friend and secret love Snow expects him to play nice, when 'nice' isn't really his thing, and certainly not 'politics'.

I love how this series takes popular and lesser-known fairy tales and integrates them into an ongoing story. The sad tale of Donkeyskin takes on an even deeper poignancy in this story when it's related to a missing persons case that Bigby takes a personal interest in. There's even Mister Toad from The Wind in the Willows and so involved in the mystery.

I am Team Snow/Bigby for reals, and so even though this is a prequel and it's not written as a romance, I can see the spark and the chemistry between them from a mile away. But also that they respect each other. Frankly, Snow seems more open and friendly with Bigby than she did in the first Fables episode, Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile.

I'm absolutely thrilled my library had this, and I'm hoping they continue to get it! I should try to get a copy of the video game.

Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Constantine, Vol. 4: The Apocalypse Road by Ray Fawkes, et al

Constantine, Vol. 4: The Apocalypse Road (The New 52)Constantine, Vol. 4: The Apocalypse Road by Ray Fawkes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was definitely pretty intense. At times it was hard to follow what was going on with the story. The artwork was good, but the layout was disorganized, which detracted from my rating considerably. Constantine is definitively anti-heroic in this volume. He makes an ugly, mean choice that makes him the de facto bad guy to parties concerned, even if he believes it's for the greater good. I asked myself a few times if I agreed with his decision and on one level, I can't see it working out better the other way. That doesn't make what he did any better. I didn't understand the magic at all, but maybe that's good. I am sure that I don't need to know how to do sorcery anyway. I am studying Revelation at my Bible Study and we just finished Revelation 9, in which the angels are sounding the trumpets, and Constantine makes a reference to that. Who knew I'd have this kind of crossover in this week?

This is still not my favorite New 52, but I keep picking it up. That must count for something?

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Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Sicilian's Mistress by Lynne Graham

The Sicilian's MistressThe Sicilian's Mistress by Lynne Graham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another older Lynne Graham novel that slipped through the cracks for me. I read this one today and it was a nice way to while away some relaxation time. Graham sets a tone that is emotionally charged and involving. Gianni wasn't exactly my favorite person for most of the book, but I did see how his early childhood set him up for being the less than ideal lover in that he's not able to communicate in a healthy way. He's deeply emotionally locked up and Milly wore herself out practically trying to batter against his walls. She wasn't aware how much progress she'd made before a terrible misunderstanding caused them to separate the first time. Gianni makes a lot of excuses for his behavior, acting as though he's being rational throughout, while he distrusts Faith/Milly's more honest emotional approach. By the end of the book, it was clear that he loved Milly very much even though he wasn't able to accept that fact until it was almost too late.

At times, I didn't like that Milly was so emotionally vulnerable to Gianni and pretty much did what he wanted for the most part. However, it was clear that Milly didn't have any disillusions about who she was and what she valued or wanted for her life. Milly was in a tough situation having lost her memory and found that she had left a lot of pain behind her in her pre-memory loss life.

I made one of my reading resolutions to read more Harlequin Presents book this year than I did last year. My HP reading was at a near all-time low last year because of many things, but I hope to rectify that this time around. This is my 2nd this year and I really liked both of them. Of course, I consider Lynne Graham a very reliable author, which is why I pull her out when I want a sure HP vacation.

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Saturday, January 09, 2016

Alpha by Greg Rucka

AlphaAlpha by Greg Rucka
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alpha is a tense, suspense-filled story. Admittedly, I was bit thrown by the present tense format. I'm not a huge fan of that. I prefer past tense narrative. Otherwise, I have to say that Rucka has another success on his hands. I've been reading almost every graphic novel by his I can get my hands on, because he knows what he's doing. This is my first official prose book by him. He can write just as good without illustrations to tell the story.

I found myself feeling very sympathetic towards the sleeper agent. While he's not by any stretch a good man, I think that in another life, he could have been a better man. It's very hard to write a villain that is sympathetic, but Rucka did it well in this case. I really wish things had ended much differently for him, although he did make his choices (admittedly from a deck short of cards) in the end.

The idea of an action story set at an amusement park was well done. I have always had a distrust of, shall we say, people wearing character suits (something a bit disturbing about it, especially if they are animal characters), and now I won't look at them the same way again. I like how Rucka emphasized the frozen smiling face of the terrorists in their character suit. It's a metaphor for how a bland face can hide evil and latent menace, especially when one cannot see the eyes (the windows to the soul). The amusement park is almost a bit of a stand-in for Disneyland, but with its own mythology that plays out in a way that's decidedly creepy considering that the park is harboring blood-thirsty terrorists.

"Alpha" is more of a suspense book but it has plenty of action. I felt my stomach tense up in knots as the story progresses at a fast pace towards its climax. Jad is a likable protagonist despite having some flaws. I appreciate that while he's a skilled special forces operator who has earned his formidable reputation, he's not bulletproof or invulnerable.

I would recommend this book to people who enjoy a tightly written, well-plotted novel that straddles the fence between suspense and action. I'll definitely keep reading this series.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2016

One Hour of Magic by Melinda Cross

One Hour of MagicOne Hour of Magic by Melinda Cross
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Wow. I really liked this book. The intensity and character development was fantastic. I like how the layers pull back and you can see more and more about both characters. Daniel was definitely a deep guy. He was like the Beast to Holly (even though she didn't consider herself beautiful)'s Beauty. He was super-grumpy and angry and initially, it gave me a way different impression of him, but as Holly's perception changes, so did mine. That was very clever storytelling.

As I get older, I get jaded about the power and the allure of romance. I really crave a true blue romance with deep, powerful emotions and a strong bond between the couple. I always go back to Harlequin Presents because they are short novels, but they have the desired intensity in the short format, when done right. This one was done right. On the surface, Daniel doesn't seem as accessible a hero to the one in Pulse of the Heartland, but he's ten times the man that Nick was. I love characters who feel things deeply, especially when still waters run deep, or when they are just intense by nature. Daniel was a little of both. I liked how he challenged Holly to come out of her safe zone and to see the world deeper and differently.

I like heroes who are very strongly attracted to the heroine, but I want it from a "Can't Live Without Her" perspective as opposed to just scratching an itch. At first you can't tell which is driving Daniel. But the reveal gave me goosebumps. The end was so touching and it really ends this book on a high note. I'm not afraid to admit I did cry a little.

This one is worth tracking down if you can.

Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.

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Saturday, January 02, 2016

Spirit Bound by Christine Feehan

Spirit Bound (Sea Haven/Sisters of the Heart, #2)Spirit Bound by Christine Feehan
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Reread from November to December 2015.
My thoughts:

I liked this more the second time in some ways. I didn't have as high expectations because I wasn't reading this after Water Bound this time. It's not my favorite in this series, but it's still very good. I wouldn't knock the rating down much, but it would go down to 4.5/5.0 stars this time because I'm getting pretty strict when it comes to five star ratings.

I'm a sucker for Russian heroes. I won't even lie. I liked that Stefan is as much a creation of his experiences in the training school for spies he was forcibly inducted into as a child as he is a person who has a deep internal life that he's not been able to live. When he first sees the picture of Judith when he's undercover as Jean Paul Le Roux's cellmate, that's when he falls in love with her, I believe. Even though he didn't allow himself to admit his feelings at that point. Seeing Judith for the first time brings it some. I think Feehan excels at writing about soul mates and love at first sight. It's evident that it's the case with both Judith and Stefan. I enjoyed their journey. There's an interesting contrast between Le Roux and Stefan, both dangerous, rough men, and one was trained to be a killer but wasn't a sociopath, and the other seemingly had many advantages, but was emotionally dead on the inside, taking advantage of a young girl like Judith and destroying her young life. I'm glad that Judith was able to rise from that and become the woman she was meant to be, and that Stefan doesn't take her for granted.

I internally squeed when the brothers Lev and Stefan reunite. I'm Team Prakenskii 'til I die. I am so waiting for the complete reunion of all the seven brothers. I even hope that Feehan finds some cousins to look them up.

I love sisterhood and so the idea of Judith and her sisters by choice really hits home. You can have different kinds of soulmates, and in a non-romantic sense, her sisters are her soulmates.

It was really hard to squeeze in this reread, but I'm glad I did it!

Hope to reread Air Bound soon and finally read Earth Bound for the first time.
1st Review:
It's very hard to top a book like Water Bound, but this is a very good follow up. I think that Lev and Stefan managed to feel different although they are brothers, both very dominant, possessive, dangerous, edgy, and surprisingly passionate men. I'm not going to lie and say that I wouldn't have liked Stefan even if he was too much like Lev. I just have no resistance to this kind of character. But, I am glad that I liked him in a different way. Lev started out very rough and turned into, not a puppy dog when it came to Rikki, but a lethal guard dog, who loves her and her sisters so much that he can be soft for them. Stefan is still learning how to be soft. He undoubtedly loves Judith very much, but he's not going to soften the way Lev did in that way. Instead, his strength and his hard core are given to protecting his beloved and her family, her way of life. It should be interesting to see how Stefan adapts to being part of the family of sisters and husbands in Sea Haven.

Christine Feehan does have the tendency to be long-winded, so it makes her books a bit harder to read than a more concise author (my favored writing style). But she utterly worth the effort. She does passion, danger, dark love in a captivating, distinct way. It's interesting how her and Anne Stuart (my #1 author) write the same genre of romance, but do it very differently. And each one is obligatory in my reading regimen. When I want the domineering (which isn't my favorite except how she does them, go figure), possessive, lethal beyond belief hero who falls head over heels for a woman, along with an interesting intersection of mystery and paranormal, friendship, familial love, and an appreciation for the important things in life, I run to Feehan, because it's her trademark.

Okay, rambling aside. I really liked this book. It didn't move me like Water Bound, because that's just a one of a kind read. But there was a lot to offer in this book. I loved Judith. She has an effervescence, and a strange air of the zen in the middle of a swirling wind of chaos. That's not really easy to convey, but I get that from her. Stefan is the right man for her, because she can handle the things about him that make him a very tough sell for other women, and she touches his heart, makes him feel like a man, not a shadow. And for Judith, Stefan is the one. He calms her in ways she needs calm, opens her up and encourages her to be at peace with her abilities and her emotions, the good and the bad, and he meets her head on with the fiery passion she craves in life. Plus, he appreciates the importance of art in her life.

I thought long and hard, and I have to give this five stars, because even without being perfect, it meets my needs. As a emotional reviewer, that's five star criteria.

Man, these books don't help my Russian fixation at all!

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Collision Course by Zoe Archer

Collision Course (8th Wing #1)Collision Course by Zoe Archer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a fun, quick read. I love space romance, and this definitely fits the bill. I rated it three stars because the storyline was too focused on sex for my tastes. It seemed like much of what happens occurs through that filter. I would have liked to see more of Kell and Mara's relationship develop outside of their sexual attraction. It was clear they fell and love and will stay together, but too much of their bond seems physical to me.

Also, Mara seems to be mainly characterized by her sexuality. While I'm not judgmental against a woman for being sexually active, I was uncomfortable with how often her past sexual exploits (including a drunken bout with a female friend and triplets) were referred to. I can appreciate the role reversal that I believe Archer was going for. How often is the hero's sexuality thrown in our face and so casually? A lot. I'm not a big fan of that, so I'm equal opportunity. Her past when reveals adds some perspective to why she lives her life the way she does.

Kell is a good hero. I like that he's multi-layered. While he's an all business military guy, he also has a less-than-respectable past, and he can handle himself, in all ways. I liked that it was clear that he was falling in love with Mara probably even before she was allowing herself to feel something more than lust for him. He can hold his own with a strong woman and throw down, and what's not to like about that?

The action was really good, and the world-building felt authentic. The descriptions of the planet and the Scavengers hangouts were really great and gritty. I really got a feel for their culture in those descriptions. I love that Rustic sort of sci-fi vibe, ala "Firefly" and Archer captures it here beautifully. The aspect of how the 8th Wing fighters fly their ships was really cool. I was geeking out.

I think that if a reader is going for a shorter, steamy sci-fi romance where sex is the focus, they will love this. If a reader wanted a more full-bodied story where other aspects are equally developed, they might find this lacking a bit. Having said that, I'm excited to read Chain Reaction in the near future, I hope. Zoe Archer is a great writer and I'll continue to read her books.

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