4 star review

Review – Falling for the Highlander by Lynsay Sands + Giveaway

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New York Times bestselling author Lynsay Sands welcomes readers back to the Scottish Highlands, where a gallant warrior vows to protect a beautiful runaway . . .

Lady Murine Carmichael has known her share of bad luck. But when her debt-ridden half brother tries to sell her off in exchange for a few Scottish horses, it’s the final straw. If keeping her freedom means escaping through harsh countryside alone, so be it. She has barely begun her journey when she lands an unlikely escort—the brawny Highlander who just refused to buy her virtue.

Dougall Buchanan was disgusted by Lord Danvries’ shameful offer, but Murine tempts him beyond measure. Even bedraggled and dusty, the lass glows with beauty and bravery. Dougall wants to do more than just help her flee. He wants to protect her—with his life and his heart—if she’ll only let him. For Murine may be pursued by a powerful foe, but nothing compares to the fiery courage of a Highlander in love.

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

This is my happy-go-lucky, light and sappy, happy place. Lynsay Sands is almost always good for a few laughs and a sappy romance, and I have been digging on this series for a while now. In fact, I moved this ahead on my queue after reading a truly angst inducing series, after which I was compelled to go back to the angst which prompted a reread of this whole series. They are that light, happy, and fluffy. The perfect counterpoint to angst.

We had met both Murine and Dougall in the previous books, and Murine had already proved herself to be kind, loyal, and brave. So I was predisposed to like her. She didn’t necessarily exhibit the extreme competence levels of previous heroines, but she was cute and likeable so I was happy to go through her story to happily ever after. And while Dougall was really just one of a bunch of big brash Buchanans, well I enjoy that sort of character, so he worked for me as well. And needless to say I enjoyed seeing the rest of the brothers again too and will look forward to the rest of their stories as well (particularly that of the scarred eldest brother). And while this story itself stands alone, I think it is one where it is best if you have read the series, especially books 2 & 3.

The story itself was a series of pratfalls, misadventures, and misunderstandings (albit small ones which were mostly talked out in quick order-I HATE the BIG Mis). Murine has had horrible disasters befall her, and a really hard life of late, but her stepbrother’s latest betrayal was just one step too far. Escape was in order. And so our fainting heroine rides forth on her trusty steed…a bull. Seriously! That is just the start of the ridiculousness in store if you pick up this book.

Poor Murine and Dougall. They stagger from one calamity to the next, eventually finding love and a life together. It was sweet and left me feeling happy. Though I’ll admit, I saw the bad guy coming from YEARS away, literally, I saw it coming from book 2. But even so, I enjoyed the story.

Now I’ll admit, this isn’t the most earth shaking and moving or memorable story. In fact in probably a week or two I’ll probably remember very little of it except the bull (and maybe the plumber’s crack above that kilt…how odd is that cover?). But that is fine, it is great even. Because that isn’t why I read these books, I read them for that happy little moood lifting buzz, and it provided that in spades. So it not being the most memorable book every just means I’ll be even happier when I go back and re-read it, which I guarantee you I will! I finished it with a big old sloppy/sappy grin on my face, and if you like a good wallpaper highland historical complete with brogue, Sands put out another winner.

Falling for the Highlander (Highlanders, #4)

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Challenge, Thoughts and Opinions

#FitReaders- Weekly Check-In January 27, 2017

Week of January 21-27 Stats

Everything has been a bit hit or miss; eating, exercising, motivation. Likely most of this boils down to sleep, but it is very much a chicken or egg thing. Am I sleeping less well than usual because I have been less active, or am I less active because I am not sleeping well? Probably it is just my stupid brain/body being stupid, but that doesn’t help the fact that I find myself distracted, irritable, and short tempered. I am seriously considering investing in more specific sleep hardware. I wish Fitbit had something, but it looks like right now the Withings Aura is the most comprehensive item available, and I DO have the option to “purchase” a 20% off code with my Higi points (they also have Garmin, WSS, iHealth and LeftLane, so if anyone wants a code I can see if I can figure out how to share them, I have way more points than I know what to do with). And I am also keeping my eyes out on the Sleep Number 360, desperate times call for desperate measures. Would it help? Probably not, but more data is more data.

All I know is that food logging is back to being a seriously ingrained habit, though that doesn’t necessarily mean I make good choices. I went to log my morning once this week and found calories already in. When I looked I had logged 2 fun sized Snickers in the Midnight-4:00 am slot. I checked my Fitbit and sure enough, I got up at 3:05 am…apparently for a snack. Aren’t parasomnias fun :/ In the meantime, I’d better finish up this post and get back up off my behind.

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2.5 star review

Review – The Hangman’s Daughter by Gavin G. Smith

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Four hundred years in the future, the most dangerous criminals are kept in suspended animation aboard prison ships and “rehabilitated” in a shared virtual reality environment. But Miska Storrow, a thief and hacker with a background in black ops, has stolen one of these ships, the Hangman’s Daughter, and made it her own. Controlled by explosive collars and trained in virtual reality by the electronic ghost of a dead marine sergeant, the thieves, gangsters, murderers, and worse are transformed into Miska’s own private indentured army: the Bastard Legion. Are the mercenaries just for fun and profit, or does Miska have a hidden purpose connected to her covert past?

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.

They say a change is as good as a rest, and this sounded interesting and just enough out of my usual milieu to be just what I needed. And I am so sorry to say, mostly it didn’t work for me.

It should have. Strong militaristic heroine with a grudge and a plan? A high degree of moral relativity with a somewhat amoral heroine? Fighting and gratuitous violence? All things that SHOULD have made it my catnip.

Unfortunately the author stalled on a couple of key points. I don’t mind a crazy heroine, in fact I adore them. But this one whiplashed from on target-large and in charge, to crazed manic pixie sex bot who randomly exclaims “Pretty!”. It was pointless. I don’t know what the author was thinking. Was it an attempt to humanize her or make her more feminine? To appeal to a particular fan base? To capture romance readers or sci-fi dude bros? I just don’t get it, and it didn’t appeal. And worse than not appealing, it detracted from the story.

And the story itself was good, or at least it should have been. We have a woman out for revenge. We have battles to fight, plots to plot. All of space is the canvas and the scope is potentially enormous. And the fighting and plotting were good, it is where this author shines. But instead of sticking to that, or putting in hints of sexual attraction, the author beat us over the head with something that was completely irrelevant to the story. It broke into the meat of the story making it a slog to get through, I almost gave up at the 60% mark it drug the story down so much.

As relatively well as the author manages the action parts of the story and came up with a compelling premise, characterization is obviously a struggle yet. It isn’t just the main heroine though. From the start the way the sub characters were thrown at us, the just failed to initially flesh. It was just more noticeable with Miska, which is probably a combination of the fact we spend the entire story in her head…and because I am female.

In any event, there is some good material to work with, and I hope the author gets some help with characterization because I think tightening that up would probably tighten up the story line as well. And I am just masochistic enough that should another book in the series come out, I’ll read it.

The Hangman's Daughter: The Bastard Legion: Book 1
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Challenge, Thoughts and Opinions

#FitReaders- Weekly Check-In January 20, 2017

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I started this post initially by saying that if the fog cleared I would do my 5K later today, but then I looked at myself, and said “Stop procrastinating”, got up, and did my first 5K-wet, fog, mud and all. I guess if I were following my own internal logic I would wait to post it until next week, but damn it, I am proud of myself even if it was done in a truly uninspiring time. I am rocking and rolling along otherwise in keeping moving on a daily basis, and figuring out how to work it into my work day.

I am feeling a touch blah though, about the fact that I am in a bit of a stall, despite the fact that I knew it was coming. And knowing all I have to do is continue as I am to get out of it really doesn’t help the blah.

January 21, 2017 5K Stats

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Week of January 14-20, 2017 Stats

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5 star review, Challenge

#TBRChallenge 2017 -Theirs Not to Reason Why & First Salik War by Jean Johnson

 

Cantankerous and contrary, those are the watch words for this year. The first TBR Challenge of 2017 is short story. Yeah, that ain’t happening. The only thing I have really read, and consequently re-read since the end of December has been Jean Johnson’s space opera series. What we have here EIGHT books, the first five written are one series, and then the second 3 are a second series set in the past explaining the circumstances that lead up to the first series. These books come in at least 3,200 pages depending on which way you count them.

There are two ways to read them. One is to read them in the order they were published, as recommended by the author. The other, the way I did it, is to read them chronologically. There are things you get I am sure from reading them the way the publisher intended, but I am going with chronological.

I suspect though I am going to struggle to articulate precisely what captured my attention and imagination in these books, despite just how deeply I was captivated. I mean seriously, I read them in one great gulp, turned around and immediately started back over, finsished, read one other book, and then started all over again. That puts them in the same camp as Dred Chronicles, Linesman, and Class 5. But oddly, I can not so unreservedly recommend these as I do them. Don’t get me wrong, I DO recommend them, but there are some caveats on this one.

First Salik War describes our world several hundred years into our future. A time when the planet Earth has joined together as one government and essentially one people. We’ve united as one with no differentiation in race, color, creed or religion into one people, a bit pompous and honor bound but essentially well meaning. Psychic abilities have been proven as just another form of energy and can be documented and used in an efficient manner. Which is helpful since it turns out that all those claims of alien abduction were quite true and we have a great an highly technologically advanced enemy in space, the only way which we can counter is through the use of psychics. Meanwhile we are taking our first steps into space outside our own solar system. And the precognitive Psy are ready with a doozy-we are about to meet a whole bunch of aliens, some friendly and some not so much.

Meanwhile in a galaxy far, far away, we meet a people very like our own who have not only their own precognitives, but also a religious icons; The Prophet of a Thousand Years- who foretold this meeting and many other events with directions to save all people as much as possible, and The Immortal-the first Empress of the V’Dan who saved them from a disaster on Earth and brought them to a new planet ruling the under her directions and with directives from the aforementioned Prophet.

So we have Jacaranda MacKenzie, an earth military veteran, politician, and Psy at the head of things for our side. And on the V’Dan side we have Li’Eth, a soldier and Psy for his own people. And when these two meet, sparks fly, worlds collide, and events few could have foreseen (more on that in a bit) unfold.

The V’Dan are not the only aliens out there though. Most of them are friendly and allies, so I am going to give them short shrift in this review because I have a lot to cover, and though they are well done and interesting, I could send a ton of time describing it and not really give most readers anything that tells them whether or not to read these books or not. The one notable exception are the Salik, a creepy frog like carnivore race with a taste for eating sentient species. And that is where most of the conflict comes  from.

There is really only one notable thing that needs to be stated up front about the V’Dan, due to the ecology of their world, The Immortal-to save her chosen people used gene therapy in order to keep them well which resulted in them developing colorful spots. In their culture these spots which come with adulthood are what denotes maturity. This obviously creates a great deal of cultural conflict when they meet the people from their motherworld who have no such marks, and furthermore a people who fought long and hard to NOT judge people based on appearance.

So overall it was very interesting the way Johnson handled first contact. The difficulties in communicating, the cultural SNAFUs, the risks inherent micro-biologically when meeting people from different worlds, all fantastically done. This is where I have my hesitation in recommending. While Johnson includes a variety of POC in her books as a matter of course and the people on Earth and her United Planets tend to treat each other as equals, when it comes to how the respond to the other peoples they meet, even counting in the extreme amount of disrespect they are obviously getting, well there was a slight grating colonialist superiority attitude that on occasion made me uncomfortable with the story in the way that I sometimes get reading historical fiction with a Brit in some foreign clime. It was a very similar pompous attitude of bringing enlightenment to the backwards natives vibe. And it is odd, because I even agreed in this case that the V’Dan were in the wrong, but something really rubbed me wrong in how it was written.

But besides that one thing, the stories themselves were fascinating.The way ALL these different aspects were interwoven, the love story, the intriguing hints to the future (or nods to previous events depending on which way the series have been read), the building conflict and eventual (albeit unstable) resolution made for a very satisfying read. And I genuinely like Jacaranda despite finding her a bit pompous.

In fact this has come the closest to reading as “real” to me when it comes to a first contact, building of relationships, and climax of interspecies alliance of probably any space opera/science fiction I have ever read. Frankly, it was that thing I didn’t even know I was looking for and now don’t know if I could live without.

Which brings me to the first five books, 200 years after the First Salik War:

…What if you could see the future? What if you foresaw that, three hundred years from your time, your entire galaxy would be destroyed in an overwhelming invasion? What would you do to stop it, when it would all happen long after you were dead and gone?

These are the questions that Ia must face, and the obstacles she must overcome. Spurred by her teenaged visions of an apocalyptic future, the young heavyworlder woman seeks to set up a series of events, a domino-chain of actions and repercussions that will hopefully stop the coming invaders long after her time has passed. But in order to do so, she must enter the military and engage in a four-front war: an old, barely contained enemy whose twin goals of galactic conquest and lunch terrify all sane sentients; an ancient foe whose technology vastly outstrips anything the Alliance can fling at it; a fanatic, xenophobic religious movement on her homeworld which Ia dares not stop; and her ongoing battle against Time itself.

If Ia fails, the stars and planets of the Milky Way will cease to exist, and so will the countless lives that depend on them. But the odds of her winning the ultimate battle are very, very small, when even the slightest, most innocent-seeming misstep could domino down through time in the wrong way, and doom untold septillions of sentients to a dark and terrifying fall. Bound by the ice of her duty, burned by the fires of her conscience, driven by what she foresees, Ia must become the herald of death herself:

The soldier known as Bloody Mary.

It is so dramatic and teenagery and sumptuously angsty. A fifteen year old girl comes into a blazingly powerful precognitive gift that shows her the end of the universe, with one slim hope of forestalling disaster. And she throws herself into this with all the strength she can muster and develop. A fifteen year old girl forced to grow up overnight in horror…and then really never able to grow up or develop any further, held in personal stasis to this grand and impossible hope as she races against literally Time itself to set up a future that will progress long after she has died.

And that is where I can see this being difficult for some people to get into, because really Ia doesn’t grow or develop as a character, it is definitely a function of who and what she is at the outset…who and what she HAS to be, but it can be a little disconcerting to spend that much time with a character that really doesn’t change.

Nevertheless, I could have hated her, I honestly didn’t expect to like her because on the surface she is the epitome of the special snowflake YA heroine. But it didn’t take too long until I was firmly on her side and completely rooting for her to win. Johnson did a wonderful job of making the special all powerful snowflake a character that for all her powers had flaws that she recognized and owned up to, making her human and thus a character to care about.

The story itself is this pageantry of warp and weft, a breathtakingly complex tapestry woven into the past and present and a future I literally beg Johnson to write, because Ia is the Prophet of a Thousand Years, the one who set The Immortal into play and everything.

On the face of it, the stories are simple, we follow one character’s life as she tries to save the universe, a story that has been told probably a hundred times. But it is just so fascinatingly complex and mind bogglingly complex that it is far away from simple. And the character, I rooted for her, and I hurt for her, and I WANTED her to get more, but knew as well as she did the consequences. Just…damn. It got to me. With a heartbreaking ending. One I keep going back to even knowing what I will be getting.

The author has made some noises that she will write the Fire Girl Prophecies, which would take us further into the future to see how Ia’s carefully laid plans play out, and honestly I need this the way I needed Alexandra Ripley’s abomination of a Gone With the Wind sequel, because I pine. I don’t expect to get a different ending for Ia though, I just really want to read and see the results of her sacrifices, that they were worth it and they mattered. But even if I never get that, I am glad to have read the ones that are here, they moved me.

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3.5 star review

Review – A Merciful Death by Kendra Elliot

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FBI special agent Mercy Kilpatrick has been waiting her whole life for disaster to strike. A prepper since childhood, Mercy grew up living off the land—and off the grid—in rural Eagle’s Nest, Oregon. Until a shocking tragedy tore her family apart and forced her to leave home. Now a predator known as the cave man is targeting the survivalists in her hometown, murdering them in their homes, stealing huge numbers of weapons, and creating federal suspicion of a possible domestic terrorism event. But the crime scene details are eerily familiar to an unsolved mystery from Mercy’s past.

Sent by the FBI to assist local law enforcement, Mercy returns to Eagle’s Nest to face the family who shunned her while maintaining the facade of a law-abiding citizen. There, she meets police chief Truman Daly, whose uncle was the cave man’s latest victim. He sees the survivalist side of her that she desperately tries to hide, but if she lets him get close enough to learn her secret, she might not survive the fallout…

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.

Mercy Kilpatrick was a side character in the Callahan & McLane series, where she came off as one cool, competent individual. The thing I enjoy about Kendra Elliot is that she writes about adults, established adults with adult lives who feel (despite their traumas and dramas) more similar to myself now than the YA/NAs and early 20s characters that populate so much of the romance landscape. It is a nice break for me.

But back to Mercy, like I said, she came off as cool and competent if somewhat closed off in the other books. And now we get to see why. I did not grow up as a prepper, but I did grow up rural where self sufficiency was the order of the day, and we did know some preppers, so this one was easy for me to get into.

There were a couple of mysteries going on, not exactly wheels within wheels conspiracy, but there were enough changing directions and red herrings to keep me engaged throughout the book.

And the web of relationships; broken, cut off, and later imperfectly mended, were also a draw in this book. For the most part I bought her family members as characters as well as their responses to her and to events of the past. I felt enmeshed in Mercy’s emotions as she confronted her family and her past and admitted the effects of same on her present and probable future.

The love interest, Sherriff Truman Daly, he was a bit of a tougher sell for me. I mean I got him as a person, but I just had trouble with seeing their relationship as exactly plausible or realistic. But, since it was left as a happily for now, and there will be future books, I look forward to Elliott work them through it because I know she can do it. And I liked it well enough that I will absolutely be reading future books in the series, though I can’t yet say that I prefer this series to Callahan & McLane.

A Merciful Death (Mercy Kilpatrick #1)

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