5 star review

Review – Alliance by SK Dunstall

Alliance

As the Linesman series continues, linesman Ean Lambert finds himself facing an alien ship he doesn’t understand—and a terrifying political threat he cannot fight…

The lines. The soul of every ship. It was once thought there were only ten, but that was before an alien vessel appeared at the edge of space—before Ean Lambert heard more lines singing. Ean’s ways of communicating with lines is strange. But his abilities make him a valuable tool—or weapon—to command.

Captain Selma Kari Wang has lost everything—her ship, her crew, her legs. But the New Alliance of Worlds is not done with her yet. After they rebuild her broken body, they send her to captain one of the new alien ships, teaming her up with Ean, the only one who can understand the alien lines.

Kari Wang and Ean are poised on the threshold of discoveries that could change the world. But not everyone wants the New Alliance to control the secrets they uncover—and those who oppose won’t hesitate to do whatever it takes to stop them…

Linesman (much like Dark Horse) was a breakout surprise for me last year. It just blew me away and I can’t count how many times I have re-read it since. So seeing the next one on Amazon was an immediate pre-order.

I jumped in as soon as I got home from work, and I was quite surprised we didn’t start with Ean Lambert. All of the last book was from his perspective, so I just wasn’t ready for Captain Selma Kari Wang. Fortunately she completely rocks, a completely in charge woman, and it was a hell of an introduction. Any doubts I might have had about how Dunstall would write from a female perspective were immediately dispelled.

As for the main action, we get right back to Ean and the New Alliance quickly, the action is exciting, Ean’s self deprecating charm is still a hit, and the politics are still simply fascinating. Seriously, I can not quite come up with the words to express how fascinating the political parts are, but it is one of my favorite aspects of this series. And the lines and the way Dunstall is building them and the linesman are a close tie for interest.

When we head back to Kari though, it is a gut punch, and I am highly impressed with how the author was able to weave such an emotional connection between the reader and this woman in such few words. While Ean was a man who needed to grow, Kari is a woman broken down to nothing who rebuilds herself…despite herself.

Secondary characters are also coming into their own fleshing out an already interesting world. It will be interesting to see how the Eleven’s crew shakes out, some of them are a delight

The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the ending. Nothing negative, and no cliffhanger, it just came to a conclusion rather than a climax. But I can live with it, and I am in fact giving it 5 stars. I an hoping desperately Dunstall can keep creating at this rate.

Alliance: A Linesman Novel

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5 star review

Review + Giveaway – Beyond Ruin by Kit Rocha

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Adrian Maddox fled his royal life—and tragic past—in Sector One, choosing instead to join up with the O’Kanes. For years, he’s lived by one rule: love fast, love hard, and always be willing to walk away. He’s managed to guard his heart, keep it whole and untouched—until now.

They couldn’t be more different—Dylan, the brilliant, burned-out doctor from Eden who drowns his pain with drugs and self-destruction. Scarlet, the sensuous, sexy rocker from Three, a woman unafraid to embrace the world. And Jade, the whore turned spy from Sector Two, who battled addiction and came out stronger than anyone he’s ever met.

Separately, they make Mad long to open his heart, to tumble head-first into a sea of possibilities and wild love. Together, they make him burn, inside and out, with lust and unbearable, unimaginable pleasure.

Then one fateful moment shakes their world to its foundations—and leaves the sectors on the verge of all-out war with Eden. It’s the biggest fight the O’Kanes have ever faced, and Mad and his lovers are at the dead center of it. They could end up with everything they never knew they wanted—or lose it all. Including their lives.

I received an ARC of this book from the author(s), this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

This is a series that I adore. Dark and gritty, sensual with a biting edge, and in my opinion, feminist erotica. Post -pocalyptic dystopian, which I can’t get enough of. And characters you just have to love set in an intricately built political world. You really can’t just jump in here at the 7th book. It won’t work. Start at the beginning and dig in. Fair warning, the first ones are skewed mostly to the erotica side, but as we go along Kit Rocha builds this whole world and political system that is kind of a darker, and way sexy, Panem.

And this particular story is one that we readers have been clamoring for. For one thing these are some of the most mysterious characters, and for another, after the triad the authors pulled off, how would they pull off a quad? Mad, Dylan, Scarlet, and Jade have serious demons, and this particular story is erotic /fic in just about any configuration you can think to make. And it is intense, and explicit, and not to be missed or skimmed over, because it redraws the terms and boundaries of their relationships and their souls. And for just how sexy it is, it also feels a bit like a cuddly puppy pile, especially at first, because it is also about comfort and caring. And the remarkable thing is that they analyze why they are broken, and what in them is “them”, and what in them is what they were made to be. And as a quad they are whole, and they shore each other up, and they SEE each other, because some things you simply can’t fix…you just have to live with who and what you are now. So it is heady being inside their heads.

On the political/societal front, things come to a massive head. Outright war is on our doorsteps. But sometimes that isn’t even the worst of it. The lives Eden twisted and destroyed and turned into their twisted playthings are PEOPLE under it all, not nameless, faceless things, people…and as I’ve said, sometimes people can’t really be fixed. But sometimes they can remake themselves, and that is often the theme in this series. And if Ashwin Malhotra doesn’t get his ever loving redemption, if not a full-fledged happily ever after, then I WILL freaking riot.

But that is a side thing (but I am serious Bree and Donna, so, so serious), and we have to focus on the now.

And here is what I mean by this being feminist erotica. Yes, there are sexual power plays, and yes, some characters ink collars and cuffs on each other (and that is predominantly women). And yes, there is a ton of sexual submission going on, and what some might argue is coded language. But the flip side to it is, who has the power if sexual submission is what you like and want? And that isn’t all women are in this series. The sexual games are titillating, but if you care to look, the rest is often powerful. Women can be healers, and power brokers, and powers in their own rights. Women can be Sector Leaders, and some of that is because even in the midst of the chaos women can teach their daughters powerful lessons “…how to tell right from wrong, and how to use whatever power she had to protect those who had none….because her mother had loved her enough to tell her she could do anything.” And the powerful men in this series don’t take that for granted, they don’t diminish it, and whatever sexual games they might play-they recognize that the sex (submissive or otherwise) isn’t the defining feature of the women. And there isn’t any BS about the men having to have equal outside power to count, or holding extra internal power to compensate, they just are who they are and they respect each other.

And the love story here of 4 broken individuals who remade themselves, and reshaped themselves-for themselves- somehow made themselves into pieces that fit together perfectly, a puzzle that might not make sense to anyone but them. I’ll admit, I had my doubts about how well a quad would work, how they could balance so I felt that everyone gave and got what they needed, so no one was lesser. But it turned out beautifully, and I can see this relationship working for all of them.

That ending though, war, and not everyone has made it out alive so far, and the future looks pretty grim. We have a title, Beyond Ecstasy, and our two new main characters are revealed. But so far, no date, though it is listed as 2016, so hopefully not too long, I can’t wait.

If you haven’t picked this series up, here’s chance to score a digital copy of a bundle of the first 3 in the series.

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BEYOND SHAME (87,000 words, 354 pages)

All Noelle Cunningham has ever wanted is a life beyond the walls of Eden, where only the righteous are allowed to remain. But ruins lie outside the City, remnants of a society destroyed by solar storms.

Those ruins house the corrupt and the criminal–men like Jasper McCray, bootlegger and cage fighter. He’ll defend the O’Kane gang with his life, but no fight prepared him for the exiled City girl who falls at his feet.

Her innocence is undeniable, and so is their attraction. But if she wants to belong to Jas, she’ll have to open herself to a world where passion is power, and freedom is found in submission.

BEYOND CONTROL (100,000 words, 398 pages)

Alexa Parrino escaped a life of servitude to become one of the most influential people in Sector Four, where the O’Kanes rule with a hedonistic but iron fist. There’s nothing she wouldn’t do for the gang–and for its leader. But she bows to no one, not even Dallas O’Kane.

Dallas fought to carve order out of the chaos of the sectors. Danger threatens his people, but his liquor business is flourishing, and new opportunities fuel his ambition. Lex could help him expand his empire–and no one says no to the king of Sector Four.

Falling into bed is easy, but their sexual games are anything but casual. Attraction quickly turns to obsession, and their careful dance of heady dominance and sweet submission uncovers a need so deep, so strong, it could crush them both.

BEYOND PAIN (89,000 words, 350 pages)

Live fast, die young–anything else is a fantasy for Six. She’s endured the worst the sectors had to throw at her, but falling in with Dallas O’Kane’s Sector Four gang lands her in a whole new world of danger. They’re completely open about everything, including their sexuality–but she hasn’t survived this long by making herself vulnerable. Especially not to men as dominant as Brendan Donnelly.

Bren is a killer, trained in Eden and thrown to the sectors. His one outlet is pain, in the cage and in the bedroom, and emotion is a luxury he can’t afford–until he meets Six. Protecting her soothes him, but it isn’t enough. Her hunger for touch sparks a journey of erotic discovery where anything goes–voyeurism, flogging, rough sex. He has only one rule: he won’t share her.

In Bren’s arms, Six is finally free to let go. But his obsession with the man who made him a monster could destroy the fragile connection they’ve forged, and cost him the one thing that makes him feel human–her love.

Enter the Rafflecopter HERE: a Rafflecopter giveaway

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3 star review

February TBR Challenge 2016 – Sudden Backtrack by Kim Harrison

 

Topic: Series Catch-Up (a book from a series you are behind on)

My TBR works a little different than most people’s since I just never could afford to buy that many books. So it is mainly just a Goodreads list and the books I am waiting for holds to catch up from the library. And I don’t tend to lag on series. So this was a hard one, my options were Kim Harrison’s Sudden Backtrack, Hannah Howell’s If He’s Noble (2  people ahead of me), or Mary Balogh’s Only a Kiss (6 people ahead of me). So that clarified what I would read pretty handily because I waited till the last minute and those people just wouldn’t finish and return those books.

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Of course there is a reason I hadn’t read this. When I read The Witch with No Name, I was…ambivalent toward it. It was good enough for a finale to not leave me screaming in rage, but not exactly something that let me leave this series on a happy and high note. So when I heard Harrison was putting out something else, I had mixed feelings to say the least. But it has stayed on my TBR because I am curious about Al and Newt’s history.

The origins of the elf and demon war have been shrouded – until now. Told from a demon’s point of view, join Al as he helps Newt spin the curse that caused the elven downfall… and perhaps holds the beginnings of their own reclamations.

So, here we are,and I am reading a book I am not sure I actually want to read, in the midst of one of the biggest reading slumps in my history (heck I am following politics and social media politics instead of reading much right now).

The particulars: this is NOT for someone who hasn’t read the series. If you haven’t read the series yet, I recommend it to anyone who enjoys Urban Fantasy and doesn’t mind not having much romance…and now I suppose I have to add a lackluster series finale. But overall, it is a series I enjoyed very much. The biggest mystery, and one that was never tied up, is how exactly did demons come to be what they are?

Dang this is just heartbreaking though. Demons are painted as very morally ambivalent throughout the series, and we get just peeks into the history that set up the final confrontations.

There isn’t truly much I can say without spoiling things, but it does answer some very significant questions about how the elves and demons came to be how they were, and especially how Newt became what she was.

My thoughts? I wonder why the heck Harrison waited until after the series was over to share this. I think it would have changed to tone of the series in a small, but significant and positive way. And I don’t think it would have spoiled anything either. But after it is all over, this 22 page snippet just leaves me feeling frustrated. I’d have been thrilled to get this any time before the series ended, but now I am just glad I borrowed it from the library rather than wasting $1.07 on it. But I am glad to finally get it off my list, so thanks to Wendy Super Librarian for that at least.

 

Sudden Backtrack (The Hollows #13.1)

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News, Thoughts and Opinions

New and more comprehensive ways to make room in the book budget.

No, this post isn’t exactly about books. But, making room in a budget is somewhat crucial to the process for most of us. So, I have been experimenting.

For one thing, I have been using the heck out of my library cards. And being able to get a card for the Houston Public Library (which any Texas resident can get for free) gave me access to a rather large digital catalog. Plus, checking out library books at midnight while wearing no pants has always been a dream of mine.

I’ve also found a way to rack up $5.00 Amazon giftcards pretty quickly with Bing Rewards. Pro-tip: hold off redeeming until you have Gold Status. I’ve made about $30 in the past 5 months, and frankly I am kind of lazy with it.

Another way I’ve managed is by saving or making money on the things I have to do anyway, most notably grocery shopping. There are so many options out there.

Here are the apps I use:

Ibotta

This seems to be the most successful app for people. You unlock offers by performing small tasks, then when you shop at specified stores you scan the items you purchased and then take a picture of your receipt to upload. When they have verified the items they credit your account. When you have reached at least $10.00 in rebates, you can cash out for things like Amazon gift cards. What sets this program apart from the others is the $2.00 referral bonus you can get when someone signs up with your code and redeems their first rebate (full disclosure that link up there puts me as your referrer, but you can just ask a family member or friend for their referral link if you really wanted), and the team activities. Basically your team is made up of everyone who signed up with your referral code, and all your Facebook friends. And each month there are team activity bonuses that make you extra money. The easiest way to do this is to have a lot of friends who are active using Ibotta, and there are a ton of people out there who are thrilled to be Facebook friends with someone else who is active. Check for Ibotta Facebook groups and the like for people to friend request. Pro-tip: If they are only Ibotta friends, make a Facebook list for Ibotta friends, and then add these people to your Ibotta List, Restricted, and then unfollow them. It keeps your Facebook account uncluttered.

Checkout51

Checkout51 is similar to Ibotta, except there are no referral bonuses or teams, and they don’t have as many items, but they do usually have produce and they don’t require specific stores.

Snap

Snap is Groupon’s version of the previous two apps. It has small selections, and the rebates don’t just expire, they can be used up, so you need to be fast. But it frequently duplicates Checkout51’s items, and there is not specific store requirement. There is also a referral bonus, but it is only $1.00. (Full disclosure-that link is for my referral code)

Receiptpal

This app you just scan receipts, basically any receipt though it works better with shorter ones. Earning are much slower to accrue, but it does make a handy space to keep copies of your receipts. And, you can cash out for an Amazon gift card.

Wal-Mart Savings Catcher

This app only works if you shop at Wal-Mart. basically, instead of you bringing in adds for them to price match, you scan your receipt and then they check for you and credit your account. Results are kind of mixed with this, but if you are shopping at Wal-mart, there is absolutely no reason not to do this. Plus the app lets you look at prices for things, so it is handy when you are shopping at other stores.

And the really nice thing, is you can use the same receipt for all of these programs. Of course this only works if you are only using them for things you would have bought anyway, OR if you get them ridiculously cheap, or free, or even make money on them. And this is edging into extreme couponing territory, but there are plenty of places besides the circulars and Sunday newspaper where you can get coupons.

Coupons.com

RedPlum

Common Kindness

Krazy Coupon Lady

And check your local stores, because some of them have coupons to print or other offers. I frequently shop at HEB which has an email you can sign up for that sends you great coupons like for produce and meats, and they have manufacturer’s coupons you can print. HEB also has in store coupons that are frequently amazing, but since it isn’t a national store I didn’t want to spend too much time on it.

So this is just what I do. Anyone else out there doing anything different? Do you have any suggestions?

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2 star review, Miscellaneous

Review – The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton

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Set in the extreme landscape of Alaska, THE QUALITY OF SILENCEfollows the story of Yasmin and her deaf daughter Ruby. Yasmin arrives in Alaska to be told her husband, Matt, is dead, the victim of a catastrophic accident. Yasmin, unable to accept this as truth, sets out into the frozen winter landscape, taking Ruby with her in search of answers. But as a storm closes in, Yasmin realises that a very human danger may be keeping pace with them. And with no one else on the road to help, they must keep moving, alone and terrified, through an endless Alaskan night.

In a story that explores the very limits of human resilience, The Quality of Silence is as much about a mother learning to hear her deaf daughter as it is about their journey across the vastness of Alaska, and proves, once again, that Rosamund Lupton is a storyteller of class and elegance.

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

I picked this up because I am always interested in a books treatment of a Deaf character. So bear in mind, much of my perspective will be from my interest in that topic. FYI, this has previously been released, but for some reason it is being rereleased.

And the Deaf 10 year old is beautifully written. We get such fascinatingly clear insight into her perception of words and language, and it feels real to me. What I wasn’t so enamored of was how the narrative jumped between Ruby and her mother’s perspectives and Yasmin’s present and past. It was a jumble that was difficult to follow and often felt stilted and disjointed.

There’s a lot going on in this book though. There’s something very meta about Ruby’s linking of current events with her perspective of language, plus there is the relationship angst between Yasmin and Matt, and on top of that there is the mystery/thriller aspects. It is busy, so while I understand that this is literary fiction rather than genre fiction and that the author is trying to do something here, it is just too many things. I wish the author had stuck with only playing with the narrative structure with Ruby, and pared things down a bit. As it is, trying to cobble together the disparate narrative structures of the two heroines, while giving us insight that may have made Yasmin and Matt’s relationship more poignant, caused the story to drag in ways that often made reading this story a chore.

However, the portrayal of Ruby was evocative and compelling. She is what kept me reading, and I think that despite my misgivings about this book, I may recommend it to the older Deaf students in my life.

“CREEPY: looks like hands turning into jellyfish; tastes like cakes that are alive; feels: too close”

“I don’t want Mum to hear something on the radio again or on Mr. Azizi’s CB and for me not to know what’s happening till later. So I’m going to use Voice Magic. That’s what it’s called, like, “Hey, presto! I can hear and speak! Ta-da!” It’s this program I have on my laptop that turns someone’s mouth-voice into typed words on my screen. That’s the magic part. And because the screen is lit up it’s my secret weapon to hear even in the dark. Though it’s not always convenient to be carrying a laptop around. And it doesn’t work if there are lots of voices, because it scrambles them all up together. But if there’s just one person, you’re OK, so I can just imagine me on a dark night with a boy wanting to whisper lovey-dovey things to me, and I make him wait while I pull my laptop out of my enormous handbag. That’s a joke! I don’t have a handbag. And I don’t have a boyfriend. I AM TEN and I think it’s really silly that people in Year Six have boyfriends or handbags.”

Ruby is simply delightful. And as irked as I was with her mother, who was so focused on forcing her to fit into the hearing world, the “real” world, so someday others would hear her, that she refused to hear her daughter herself, in many ways it was lovely to see her learn her daughter. And relearning herself. So the meandering narrative mirrors the journey of discovery; not only of the mystery, but of relationships, and of self. But frack, it drags in so many ways. If the author had tightened things up I think the suspense would have had greater impact, driving the story as a whole.

Things picked up I guess at around 65-70% in, and from there things really moved. And we get a really poignant punch from the continued use of language from both Ruby and Yasmin as a metaphor for their lives and selves. The mixture of use of sign language, text, and voice really hit me in the feels. And I thought perhaps this would be a book I was glad I had read, even aside from my love for Ruby as a characters.

Fair warning though, the ending was left almost wholly in the air. We never find out what happened to Mr. Azizi, or Coby or secondary characters. And we don’t even get any resolution for our main characters. There were no neat resolutions and I was entirely discomfited by where things were left. If you are looking for a love conquers all, heroines prevail over the bad guys, righteous winners, etc, well this isn’t your book. And it was painful, because in spite of the irritating meanderings, or maybe because of them, you really get to know the characters, and feel for and with them, so to be cut off from them so abruptly was literally, physically painful. Consequently it isn’t my book either. I don’t necessarily require a happy ending (though I infinitely prefer them), but personally I do require resolved endings. It was what made me so nuts about Gone with the Wind, a physical pain I still feel all these decades later, and why I pined until a librarian kindly directed me to Scarlet, and why I accept that as cannon…but that is perhaps a post for another day. In any event, the plot twist at the end downgraded my overall rating even further.

I honestly want to cry, but I am also remarkably angry at how it all played out. So 2 very personal stars, mostly only that high because of Ruby. But I would add, if you can handle an ambiguous ending it is well written, and if you enjoy books that play with the actual use of language itself, not just the words but the actual use of language, then this might be your book instead of mine.

The Quality of Silence

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3.5 star review

Review – Brotherhood in Death by JD Robb

Brotherhood in Death

The new novel featuring homicide detective Eve Dallas from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Devoted in Death.

Sometimes brotherhood can be another word for conspiracy. . . .

Dennis Mira just had two unpleasant surprises. First he learned that his cousin Edward was secretly meeting with a real estate agent about their late grandfather’s magnificent West Village brownstone, despite the promise they both made to keep it in the family. Then, when he went to the house to confront Edward about it, he got a blunt object to the back of the head.

Luckily Dennis is married to Charlotte Mira, the NYPSD’s top profiler and a good friend of Lieutenant Eve Dallas. When the two arrive on the scene, he explains that the last thing he saw was Edward in a chair, bruised and bloody. When he came to, his cousin was gone. With the mess cleaned up and the security disks removed, there’s nothing left behind but a few traces for forensics to analyze.

As a former lawyer, judge, and senator, Edward Mira mingled with the elite and crossed paths with criminals, making enemies on a regular basis. Like so many politicians, he also made some very close friends behind closed—and locked—doors. But a badge and a billionaire husband can get you into places others can’t go, and Eve intends to shine some light on the dirty deals and dark motives behind the disappearance of a powerful man, the family discord over a multimillion-dollar piece of real estate . . . and a new case that no one saw coming.

This series is an auto for me. I adore Eve and Roarke and the whole gang. But, this is Book 42 in the series, and while the mystery stands alone and you probably COULD read this without the rest of the series, I would say it is inadvisable, because the STORY doesn’t standalone.

And this one features a favorite character that we haven’t had a whole lot of insight into. And I adore that part, although he was even more befuddled then I would have expected (it was a bit over done). I have to admit though, I am becoming frustrated by the increasingly fast and loose way Robb (AKA Nora Roberts) handles the police procedural part. Yes, the way Eve works with her husband and friends is part of the appealing aspects of the story, and part of watching her grow into herself, but now since so many of her friends are not cops, it is just becoming unsettling. Because the other part that is important about Eve, is that she is a great cop. The balance is getting shifted a bit too much in my opinion. If this is about the balance being shifted further to the home life and making the changes that will end the series, then I am OK with that, much though I will miss the series. But if we are going to hang out here for an extended length of time with Eve playing faster and looser with the police procedural side, I fear I am going to start getting very irked.

Anyway, beyond that, I really enjoyed this one. Mr. Mira (who it turns out is actually professor Mira) was a delight. There was lovely friendly banter between everyone, particularly noteworthy between Eve and Roarke, and Eve and Peabody. And the mystery part was fast paced, interesting, and it kept me engaged-even though the psychoses are horrifying. And we do get more character growth from Eve as she really talks to both Peabody and Dennis Mira.

And Eve and Roarke’s relationship seems to have reached a turning point. He’s not so perfectly inexplicably tuned to her as he has been before, and their relationship has become decidedly less adversarial.

So, as I’ve said before, much though I’ll miss this series, I’m hoping it’s a sign of things coming to a close and getting that final happily ever after for one of my favorite romance couples… before it loses the things that have made it so successful and wonderful. 42 books is one hell of a run, but I think it’s time to be letting go now.

Brotherhood in Death (In Death, #42)

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