Friday, October 31, 2014

eBook Review: Night's Deep Hush

Dreaming turns dangerous...

Malcolm Rook and Jordan Lane are on the run from powerful forces that seek their deaths. But they are discovered by someone from Rook's dark past. Under no circumstances will Rook allow this criminal to learn how talented Jordan is in the world Darkside. Instead, Rook succumbs so that she has a chance to survive.

Rook has been abducted and Jordan assumes the worst. She's fallen for him and will do anything to get him back. Alone on the streets, she concocts a plan that will take her into the black market of dreams to find help. An unlikely ally comes to her aid, and together they search and for love, the other for vengeance.

Night's Deep Hush is the fourth installment in the Reveler serial, a hot paranormal romance set in a world where shared dreaming is a new pop culture phenomenon that allows people to indulge their wildest fantasies. But there are also unknown dangers Darkside; nightmares are slowly infiltrating not only dreams, but the waking world as well.

Revel with me.

So we circle back to Rook and Jordan.  We've kept tabs on them throughout the other two stories of course but this is about them square on.  With some assists from everyone else.  Welcome back to the Darkside folks, it only gets creepier from here.

Things get seriously complicated when Rook is kidnapped and Jordan is saved by their old pal Vincent.  He's changed though, not for the better and certainly not without consequences.  The suave man is now darkly dangerous and emotionally a shade away from unstable, but without his help Jordan can't find Rook...and Rook can't survive his kidnapping.

Its hard to remember but the timeline for this series isn't that long.  Things happen at a rapid pace both in and out of the Reve, making it hard to figure out just how long its been.  I liked that Kellison returned to the first couple, but makes it bigger then they are.  And while I still look a little askance at the quick devotion Jordan feels for Rook (it seems more in character for Rook?), neither was willing to let the other "sort it out".  They were committed to protecting each other.

Annnd welcome back Vincent.  How've you been? Och not well huh?  Oh well maybe don't be a dirtbag next time--VINCENT DON'T DO THAT. This my friends was my reaction every time he opened his mouth.  He's better and more interesting now that he's horribly broken and unstable and okay so maybe more attractive now that he's that way.  He's not quite willing to admit how wrong he was, but he did admit he went about things the incorrect way.

The next book is focused on Vincent and another character who's important to this book's plot.  I'm looking forward to that since their last scenes together were kind of like this:

Vincent: I don't trust you.
Person: I don't trust you.
Vincent: Monster.
Person: Worse Monster.
Vincent: I think I'm attracted to you.
Person: That's wholly inappropriate but right there with you.
Vincent: Crap.

How can I refuse that?!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Book Review: Empire of Shadows

Cast out of her family three years ago, Mara turned to the only place that would take her—a school where students train to protect others. But Mara is stunned when guarding a noble girl in the Empire’s capital turns out to be more dangerous than she could’ve imagined. More shocking still, she finds the boy she thought she had lost forever outside the gates of her new home.

Mara knew her life in the dizzying Imperial city would hold dangers. How could she have known that her heart, as well as her life, would be at stake?

Review for City of a Thousand Dolls

There's a bit of a trick to EMPIRE that isn't as obvious as it should be at first.  If you've read CITY then you'll hear familiar names, but in unfamiliar circumstances. Certain events will sound like a story you've heard before, but maybe not quite like this.  The last word on the last page however brings it altogether and I have to wonder--would I have felt differently if I had known going in that this was like that to CITY?

I think if I had known, or if I hadn't been so enthralled by the story I had realized what was going on, the story would have felt so much sadder in a way.  And that's a disservice to Mara and Revathi and Emil in so many ways.  Mara is...fantastic.  There isn't any other way to describe her.  She owns her mistakes and while she suffers a bit too much for them, she doesn't let it ruin the rest of her life.  She moves forward, on her own two feet and with her own determination.  She doesn't allow her family's condemnation of her actions completely destroy who she is.

Her suffering, her penance and her vow to not change shape again, she does because she doesn't want to lose control again.  She doesn't want to hurt humans, little as they regard her kind. 

So she joins an elite group of body guards who protect their charges unto death.  She leaves her school full of idealistic hope that she will find some great scholar or priest who deserves her loyalty and protection.  More then anything she wants to make up for her past by protecting someone who has worth in this world.  Someone others look up to and who believe in, who does the right thing.

Having so little experience with the real world (or with humans in any significant manner) she doesn't understand that a person doesn't need to be doing great things to be in need of help and loyalty.  The moment when she realizes who deserves that respect is a powerful moment.  You could see it coming, could see that this was an outcome that was desirable for all parties concerned, but she just had to come to terms with the "ideal" vs. "the real".

I'll admit that Mara and Emil's romance is...well its instalove.  They know very little about each other before they start promising the moon and stars, but here's the important bit - when push came to shove Mara trusted the person she swore to protect above Emil.  She loved and honored Emil, but for her love wasn't the most important choice in her life.  In a perfect world she wanted both, but she didn't enter into service to just toss it aside when the perfect guy came along.

And you know what? Emil understood that and he accepted that.  Did he not like that? Oh yeah.  Did he wish it was different? Yep.  But Emil understood the place Mara was in (mentally) and understood why her vow meant so much.  So yes, this was insta-love, but it was insta-love that became a stronger bond based on appreciation on both sides.

Here's something else.  Revathi and Mara, though they begin as contentious, I think was the stronger of the two relationships.  What begins as a way to get a suitor off her back, quickly becomes a friendship between two girls with no one to turn to, but very similar dangerous situations.  And while that friendship began because of a guy, and many times could have ended because of a number of different guys, they stuck fast.  In the end I think Revathi, more then even Emil, understood what Mara needed--no matter the sacrifice or cost.

I can't recommend this or its companion enough.  I can't wait to see what else Forster comes out with because already she's won me with these two books.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Book Review: The Bloodbound

Of all those in the King of Alden’s retinue, the bloodbinders are the most prized. The magic they wield can forge invaluable weapons, ones that make soldiers like Lady Alix Black unerringly lethal. However, the bloodbinders’ powers can do so much more—and so much worse…

A cunning and impetuous scout, Alix only wishes to serve quietly on the edges of the action. But when the king is betrayed by his own brother and left to die at the hands of attacking Oridian forces, she winds up single-handedly saving her sovereign.

Suddenly, she is head of the king’s personal guard, an honor made all the more dubious by the king’s exile from his own court. Surrounded by enemies, Alix must help him reclaim his crown, all the while attempting to repel the relentless tide of invaders led by the Priest, most feared of Oridia’s lords.

But while Alix’s king commands her duty, both he and a fellow scout lay claim to her heart. And when the time comes, she may need to choose between the two men who need her most…

Dear Erin,

I see what you did there with my name.  I like it. :)

Little known fact about me readers, back in HS I tried to get folk to call me "Alix" instead of "Alex".  Let me tell how well that didn't go over.  Sure football quarterback Jonathan wants to go from "Johnny" to "Jon" and everyone is "Sure thing! Right away!" but shy, quiet bookish Alex wants to go to "Alix" and suddenly its like she tried to take over the'cha if I was like Alix Black they wouldn't be laughing...

Megalomaniac tendencies of my own aside, this was a solid sword and sorcery tale with a heroine who backs up the size of her sword with skills and a fantasy setting that while familiar is none the less intriguingly set up.  I'm always down for some internal family squabbles leading to backstabbing treachery on the battlefield.

I found myself not enjoying the world as much as I wanted though.  There's large glitches in the world building, or in Lindsey's explanation of it.   I'm still kind of confused by some of the politics and I've only got a basic understanding of the magic system.  Lindsey spent more time on the character entanglements then the world, with mixed results.
And since the above summary decided to make it a thing let's address the love triangle really quick. I don't hate them as much as anyone else.  Maybe because I adore asian dramas, manga and animes where its usually more of a love polygon then a love triangle, but to me its not a dealbreaker (most of the time).  So the above didn't scare me.  What did scare me was that this would become sort of like the Alanna books (by Tamora Pierce).  You have a royal guy, a kickass girl and then her friend/comrade. 

Thing is I don't feel Lindsey does a good enough job justifying Alix's interest in either guy.  I understand why Erik suddenly has a thing for Alix - she saved him, when it was probably he worst decision to make if she valued her life at all and she continues to loyally serve him.  He just got a kick to his teeth by the one person he should have been able to (but really shouldn't have) trusted and dealt a heavy blow to his trust.  Alix is like a beacon of hope that not everyone is a jackoff like his brother. 

I have no earthly clue why Liam is interested in Alix.  Their interactions are cute, but I don't sense chemistry between them.  At least not on the level to overcome his "bastard" status.  Since we're thrown into the middle of a battle from the first page, plus well into Alix/Liam's friendship, we see very little of the "buildup" to why Alix would defy convention to be with Liam instead of her King (even an exiled King is more on her social level then Liam).

Actually there's the nail for me - I didn't "sense" a bond between any of the characters.  We're told of this bond, this bond is referenced by the characters and by outside characters, but we're not exactly SHOWN this bond.  So when all is said and done this is really less of a love triangle and more of a Love Lorn entanglement with me wondering why she would have chosen either guy.

I'm interested to see where Lindsey goes with the world now that she's opened it up to the possibilities of other countries.  I'm also hoping there's more development to the characters as I'm kind of sure Erik isn't as pragmatic as he should be for a King and given the conversation at the end of the book he probably needs to up his political clout quickly and efficiently.

Friday, October 24, 2014

eBook: Farewell to the MBRC?

Morgan thought the most difficult decision of her life was deciding to become an official employee of the MBRC. But now, a senior in high school, she’s realizing it only gets worse.

With a certain Goblin mob boss urging her to stay within commuting distance of Chicago, and a flirtatious Pooka pushing her to study overseas, Morgan has a hard enough time trying to sort through her college choices the way it is. Planning out her future is made even more difficult when terrorist threats are issued by an anti-human, anti-rehabilitation, magic-based organization. Does Morgan want to continue working at the MBRC when it puts her life in danger?

Sooo...remember back in April when I read a book called MY LIFE AT THE MBRC?  And how it was literally the most entertaining book I had read in a while? Go read my review then come back here because otherwise this review, which is about the sequel to that book, will make no sense at all.

Welcome back to the Magical Being Rehabilitation Center where all your paranormal needs are met!  You have female vampires suffering from a fear of blood, teen techie centaurs rebelling against their parents' insistence on speaking in riddles, elves with a stick so far up their you know what they can't see straight, the goblin mafia offering the world's best cookies and of course poor human Morgan L. Fae being harassed by the kiddie Dark Lord.

This my friends is the life I want to live.  No joke.

I've been anticipating this book for a few months now and it did not let me down. Let me repeat that--no let downing of my expectations occurred.  Not a single one.  Well except Devin isn't real.  But that's hardly Shea's fault.

Its been 2 years since Morgan joined the MBRC as a human consultant for all things human related.  In those 2 years she's become a professor, aided the MBRC in negotiations with the Goblin Mafia (aka her friend Hunter's group), rebuffed Devin's continual flirtations and learned to love the dysfunctionality of the place.  But she's a senior in HS now and hard decisions must be made. Like what school to attend...and whether she really wanted to spend the rest of her life steeped in the magic world.

I appreciated that Shea presented Morgan's choice between being normal and staying in the magical one as something she was thinking hard about.  We saw her struggle through weighing the pros and the cons (lying for the rest of her life vs. helping an entire culture live more comfortably).  It wasn't just Krad (aka Kiddie Dark Lord)'s harassment of her and endangerment to her person she considered, she was honestly trying to figure out if what she was giving up was worth the price.

In the time she had joined the MBRC she did extraordinary things, not because she had special powers, but because she got to know these people.  She learned and listened and didn't discount anyone no matter their race, alignment or clothing preferences.  Could they have found someone to take up her post as consultant? Oh I'm sure.  But could they have found someone who devoted so much of herself to each person's overall happiness not just their species' happiness?  Probably not.

I don't want to ruin too much of this because honestly there's a lot to love and gush about.  This is a book that doesn't take itself, its concept, its characters or hell reader expectations too seriously.  Its cliche to say, but I found Morgan's reaction to Krad to be spot on with how I would have reacted.  The way she was constantly ruffling Aysel or his father's lives.  The way she wanted what was best for her friends even if that meant being ridiculously dressed and blazingly hot.

Shea captured a character I not only would like to know in real life, but who I completely emphasized with.  So no I don't want to say farewell to the MBRC...but I trust that they're having plenty of adventures I'd approve of.

Friday, October 17, 2014

eBook Review: Darksider

She has always been his dream…

Chef Serafina Rochan believes her recurring nightmares of pursuit are a symptom of her anxiety about opening her second restaurant. But when the stalker appears in the waking world, she swallows her pride and calls the one man she trusts to go into her dreams, even if it means risking her heart.

When Marshal Harlen Fawkes receives Sera’s call, nothing else matters. Time has not eroded the power of his feelings for her. After years apart, they go Darkside together and cannot resist the longing and desire their connection evokes. The past and present collide, and Sera abandons all reservations to embrace Harlen again, if even for one night.

In order to protect her, Harlen aligns himself with disavowed friends, and in so doing is drawn deeper into the secrets and perils of the dreamwaters. As the tide of darkness rises, Harlen faces his demons…but not without Sera, who fights just as fiercely for the dream of a life together.

Dream dangerously.

Oh man.  Okay so we got a little bit of Harlen previously and that does nothing to prepare you.  Here's a man that refuses to let his pride get in the way when it comes to the woman he loves.  She's in trouble and he can fix it and that's what matters.  In fact they can work out their problems later. 

I loved them together and that because of Sera, Harlen realizes some rather powerful truths. Unlike Rook or Coll, Harlen was a straight shooter.  He did his job because he wanted to protect idiots from those who would exploit them.  There was no other vested interest.  Sera showed him that what he saw as the truth and what WAS the truth were vastly different.

I can understand how others see this series as a "serial" novel.  You can't read this without the others and you can't get the whole picture by picking and choosing your couple.  The first pages are of Harlen being interrogated about what Rook and Coll are up to and their experience helps to drive how he saves Sera later.

Romance happens and is a strong undercurrent.  Their past association helps with this actually as the two pick up where they left off (arguments and everything) pretty quickly.  Yes Sera's safety is paramount, but for Harlen there's no other choice once he sees her again.  He'll convince her come hell or high water.  Not that Sera is against the idea, she's just against them breaking up again.  There's never a sense of confusion for the reader, Kellison lays out their relationship issues quite clearly without derailing the plot. 

So a wonderful third entry into the series and definitely keeps the reader wanting to know more.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review: Stray

Princess Aislynn knows all about the curse. Its magic is a part of her, like her awkward nose and thin fingers. It’s also something she can’t control. And girls who can’t control their abilities have a tendency to disappear. So for her own protection, Aislynn is sworn into the Order of Fairy Godmothers where she must spend the rest of her life chaste and devoted to serving another royal family.

Tasked with tending to the sweet, but sheltered Princess Linnea, Aislynn also finds a reluctant friend in the palace gardener, Thackery, who makes no secret of his disdain for her former life. The more time they spend together, though, the more she begins to doubt the rules she has observed so obediently. As Aislynn’s feelings threaten to undo the sacred vows she has taken, she risks not only her own life but Linnea’s as well. With the princess engaged to a devoted follower of The Path, there are some who would do anything to keep Aislynn from straying.

First things first, the cover is really weird right?  Not in a bad way, in a 'what is going on here novel explain it to me' sort of way.  Since I read an e-ARC I'm interested to see how it looks in real life.  Secondly I freely admit that the first part of this book is of more interest to me then the second latter half.  Without spoilers I found Aislynn's life at the Academy and with Linnea to be fascinating and wanted to know more about it.

I felt bad for Aislynn; you could tell from the start that she was so desperate to fit into the life being laid out for her even as she had her doubts.  Seen through her eyes the entire system is horrific.  Truly, utterly horrific.  There's no room for another life--either you marry and uphold the "traditions" or you are regulated to a chaste, loveless life as a "Fairy Godmother".  Want something different?  So sad too bad you're earmarked as an enemy of the state (a "Stray") and condemned as "evil".

Sussman has used the bare bones of fairy tales and crafted an intriguing, disturbing world where who you shouldn't try to be more then you are (men or women).  Women using magic, even in defense of themselves or their loved ones is considered too dangerous to allow.  Men who didn't control their women were just as penalized quite frankly, though not as overtly.  Men who sympathized or aided the "Strays" were hunted and condemned as well.

Its not a great world for anyone with a thought in their head honestly.  This is a book filled with harsh class structures, oppressive societal pressure and worst of all, you can't trust anyone.  Aislynn tries, oh she tries so so hard, to be what everyone wants her to be.  She tries to live the "true path" she tries to fit in and be the perfect devout follower. 

Aislynn's life, both before and after she is condemned to be a Fairy Godmother, at the Academy was of the most interest to me.  Even after she is sent to be a Fairy Godmother Aislynn believes in the Path, which I think illustrated something I think a lot of fantasy books in YA land tend to overlook.  Aislynn didn't get betrayed and suddenly find the light about how wrong her world was, she accepted (if not happily) that what happened to her was part of the culture.  Did she want more?  Sure.  But she thought the "more" could be attained by proving herself ever more devout.  She was a believer and believers need more then a socially approved sanction for misbehavior to break that faith.

Outside of the Academy things get a bit more twisty and I admit I lost some interest.  Josetta and the "Strays" are (of course) not what they appear to be because (of course) propaganda being what it is those in charge didn't want folk thinking there was any alternative to their abusive system.  Not to say either side is completely on the side of Angels, but well one is more right then the other. 

As a subverted fairy tale fantasy this works really well.  Sussman does a good job of taking those pieces and hijacking our expectations.  Often for darker purposes (looking at you Fairy Godmothers...though in truth they always kind of creeped me out), but sometimes to illustrate how our expectations are what really deluded us (a Prince will not always save you for the right reasons...).

Definitely a recommended read and I look forward to seeing what happens next!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

eBook: Star Trek TNG: Q are Cordially Uninvited...

The wedding of Captain Jean-Luc Picard to Doctor Beverly Crusher was a small, private affair overseen by the mayor of La Barre, France, and witnessed by the groom’s sister-in-law and the mayor’s wife. At least that’s what the happy couple always told their friends. On the anniversary of that blessed day, however, Worf and Geordi La Forge manage to coax the real story out of the pair, to discover a tale of mythical treasure and a lost civilization in the Delta Quadrant. It all begins when the omnipotent being Q crashes the festivities, declaring himself best man and bringing along an unwilling guest as a surprise for the groom…

All right so previously I've only really read Deep Space Nine fiction. That's the series I love, has the characters I love and by in large the conflicts I care more about. I cut my teeth on The Next Generation crew however--I was a diehard Troi/Riker fan, I wanted Data to be my tutor, Geordi to be my teacher and Jean-Luc to teach me to read (and drink tea - actually his being French and being so British was really confusing to me as a kid).

That said Q, and to a degree Vash, were part of why I watched TNG. And I'll admit they did not work on DS9 - John de Lancie and Patrick Stewart had such a wonderful bantering bromance that it was almost painful to see Q try that with Sisko (Avery Brooks).

So this, which is a culmination of so many decades and movies and books worth of relationship building (world's longest courtship ever), was practically perfect. Full of Q's antics, backhanded compliments, ridiculous displays of narcissistic affection and as always he knew just how to rile Picard up. 'Cause let's face it, who would be a better Best Man then Q?

I will say that in some ways Picard and Crusher came off much more youthful seeming then I remember them being exactly (especially given the last TNG movie). Having not read the canonical book continuations, and only barely keeping abreast of their lives as part of the various serials I do follow (DS9, Titan, Corps of Engineers, Voyager...) I'm not entirely sure how much older they are vs. their last "on screen" appearance.

But oh the fun! Crusher got to show off her smarts sans all that flashy equipment the future has, Picard got to be Archeological Man, Vash got to be quipy, Q got to be (badly) flirtatious and hey no one dies in the end! What more could a person want in a bachelor's party? (Don't ask Worf, he was rather disgruntled by Picard's "passionless" ceremony to Crusher).

Though now *I* want to know more about the Treasure of the Ancients. And maybe follow Vash on her adventures. Since she seems to have so many of them (wonder what she was doing during all the recent wars/invasions/serious crises?)