2.5 star review

Review – The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick

Girl Who Knew Too Much

When Hollywood moguls and stars want privacy, they head to an idyllic small town on the coast, where the exclusive Burning Cove Hotel caters to their every need. It’s where reporter Irene Glasson finds herself staring down at a beautiful actress at the bottom of a pool…

The dead woman had a red-hot secret about up-and-coming leading man Nick Tremayne, a scoop that Irene couldn’t resist—especially since she’s just a rookie at a third-rate gossip rag. But now Irene’s investigation into the drowning threatens to tear down the wall of illusion that is so deftly built around the famous actor, and there are powerful men willing to do anything to protect their investment.

Seeking the truth, Irene finds herself drawn to a master of deception. Oliver Ward was once a world-famous magician—until he was mysteriously injured during his last performance. Now the owner of the Burning Cove Hotel, he can’t let scandal threaten his livelihood, even if it means trusting Irene, a woman who seems to have appeared in Los Angeles out of nowhere four months ago…

With Oliver’s help, Irene soon learns that the glamorous paradise of Burning Cove hides dark and dangerous secrets. And that the past—always just out of sight—could drag them both under…

So I am still feeling blah, and this book didn’t help. Wasn’t even sure I would write a review, but since I did read it, and it wasn’t a re-read, I may as well.

I had hopes. Quick/Krentz/Castle is usually a sure bet for me, and the opening few pages which I had previewed seemed good. And the switch to a more modern historical setting could have been good. But after opening with a bang, we slogged through the first 10 chapters/20% of the book with a whimper…of pain…for me. It was so very boring setting up the characters and the setting.

And then once we got into the story, even though events ostensibly got more exciting, my interest never perked up. I didn’t warm up to Oliver or Irene. They were flat, and so I didn’t particularly care for their relationship or what might happen to them.

The mystery was crazy sauce convoluted, and absolutely no one was who or what they seemed. But since I neither liked nor actively despised the side characters, this did not matter to me.

Final verdict: If you are a die hard fan, pick it up at your library if you are bored and don’t have high expectations. Otherwise, maybe give it a pass.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much

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2.5 star review

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

hangmans-daughter

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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2.5 star review

Review: Confessions by L.M. Mountford

**A copy of this eBook was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review**

29796703

When Mina returns for her stepbrother’s 21st birthday, she thinks her days of lusting after him are over. Caught up in the heat and passion of the moment, she is stunned to find them back in bed together; their feelings clearly far from resolved.

 

Well, where to start? Not much in the way of printed works causes me discomfort, but this short novella had enough taboo to skate the edges of social and personal acceptability. While the author provided a disclosure related to the consensual nature of the sexual acts contained, the events that played out seemed to hedge more along the lines of rape, than consent.

For the duration of this quick reading, I am sure my face was flushed with shock. The beginning was smooth, with a nice introduction to our main character, but quickly and unseamlessly fell into a dark pit of kink. I can get over the dalliances between the step-siblings, but the brutal scenes that unfolded soon after started to cross a line I didn’t know I possessed. I am all for an enthusiastic romanticized tryst, but the gang-attack of this 20-something model was a bit much. While I understand her initial stance was one of consent, Mina’s continual second guessing was enough to make me think that she wanted to withdraw that consent, but feared for her career.

Consent obtain through threat, is sexual assault.

This is my first experience with this author’s work so I can not comment on his writing abilities much more than I have already. For a dirty afternoon, or steamy evening read this would fit the bill. If you were hoping for complex character development and a solid plot,  you won’t find it here.

 

 

 

 

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2.5 star review

Review – Nexis by A.L. Davroe

Nexis

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.

In the domed city of Evanescence, appearance is everything. A Natural Born amongst genetically-altered Aristocrats, all Ella ever wanted was to be like everyone else. Augmented, sparkling, and perfect. Then…the crash. Devastated by her father’s death and struggling with her new physical limitations, Ella is terrified to learn she is not just alone, but little more than a prisoner.

Her only escape is to lose herself in Nexis, the hugely popular virtual reality game her father created. In Nexis she meets Guster, a senior player who guides Ella through the strange and compelling new world she now inhabits. He offers Ella guidance, friendship…and something more. Something that allows her to forget about the “real” world, and makes her feel whole again.

But Nexis isn’t quite the game everyone thinks it is.

And it’s been waiting for Ella.

YA/NA, can we ever really escape this genre. It is so ubiquitous and so tempting. Look at that cover, check out that blurb, can you see why I would be tempted?

So this is a post-apocalytic dystopian where there are strict class rules and little to no room for upward mobility. Ella, grew up on the lower fringes of the Aristocracy, and is a Natural, meaning that unlike most of the Aristocrats (particularly the Elites) she has not been Altered or Modified-though she does still have a thought modification chip as everyone is her world does. But her father, in one of those rare opportunities for upward mobility, creates a society altering virtual reality game that raises them to the heights of their society.

If you note all the random capitalizations, that is as the author intends, as there is an explanation in the initial info-dumping of the story about how they spell things differently now and they use more capitalization.

There are a ton of really interesting concepts, it is kind of like we are plopped down into a hyper technical Panem Capital, but instead of the 13 districts we have a virtual wasteland which all but the Aristocrats must scrabble to survive in. And I suspect that if I read more YA/NA I might recognize more of the motifs. It wasn’t that it is a poorly done mashup, the world building is cohesive enough. It is just that some things seem vaguely familiar, as if I have read the blurbs or seen the movie trailers, not enough to make me think of something directly, like I did with the Hunger Games, but just enough to catch my attention. And I think that all these concepts being jammed in were what made it such a slog. Plus, it took about the first quarter of the book to really feel like things were going anywhere and it just about bludgeons you to death on the life lessons of loving yourself and humanity’s penchant for destruction. There’s no subtlety at all.

But then we hit the 25% mark and things seem to speed up. I spent a good bit of that section with an uncomfortable lump in the pit of my stomach. Basically what is happening is this: Ella has her Real Life which is unabashedly awful, and Nexis Life which is mostly very good. In Real Life she has basically no one, and in Nexis Life she has friends in the form of the Trickesters and a boy she loves. In Real Life she needs to find out why the bad things are happening (that is very obtuse but I don’t want to spoil it) and in Nexis she is on a quest with her fellow Tricksters. I make it sound prosaic, but it isn’t it is really good and there is quite a bit of emotional growth.

And then at around the 50% mark things slow back down to a crawl. There is still a lot of emotional stuff going on, but the story itself seems to revert back to its snail pace and I almost couldn’t force myself through it. Yes we were able to see the relationship between Ella and Gus (her love interest) deepen. But somehow that didn’t seem like enough. And there were some action adventure sequences too, but that didn’t seem enough either. I know the whole thing is only around 300 pages, but it seriously feels like the longest book I have ever read.

And then bang, at around the three quarters mark we are back to warp speed and an enormous head trip. Actually several of them, and it was very well done, interesting and exciting. I became excited to see how the book would end and where the series would go. Then the author sets up for a freaking love triangle for the next book and the love interest I like better does something boneheaded too.

Honestly I struggled with how to rate this. It was hard for me to finish and there were parts I didn’t like. But there were parts I absolutely enjoyed too. And the entire concept was really interesting, and I genuinely like Ella and Gus, though his absolute enrapture over her is a slightly off-putting and one of those NA tropes I don’t care for. And I will almost certainly read the next one because I am fiendishly curious where this whole thing is going. But you know what? I have a feeling that I will start out a bit miffed when I do start it and I hope the author resolves the whole love triangle thing PDQ.

So where does that leave me? Not a stellar rating, but an OK one. And I think this may turn out to be a popular book, probably deservedly so. It is well written, intricate, and has some heft to it. It is just that I am at least a half step out of sync from this book’s primary audience.

And if you want another perspective and some more information on the history of this world, check out this blog.

Nexis

 

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2.5 star review, 3 star review, 3.5 star review

Review – Harvest Moon (and the rest of the series so far) by Lisa Kessler

Harvest Moon

Some wolves were never meant for a mate…

Dr. Jason Ayers unleashes all of his rage and his frustration through fists and brute force in an underground boxing ring. The werewolf may be the pack’s doctor, but he can’t even heal his coma-stricken father after the Nero Organization’s attack stopped his heart. And as his Pack brothers settle down around him, he still refuses to believe in the fairy tale notion that every wolf has a true mate…

In hiding and on the run, nurse Kilani Akamu is a loose end that Nero is desperate to tie up. She can’t afford to be attracted to a doctor—especially one as unexpectedly hot and complex as Jason. Yet the sexual sparks arcing between them are undeniable…and Kilani’s precognitive senses warn her that temptation is inevitable.

All it takes is one touch to send Jason’s wolf howling. But even if he could protect her from Nero, he can’t protect her from himself…

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.

Have you ever requested something, and then by the time you got it, you didn’t know why you wanted it in the first place? Yeah, this was one of those books for me. I apparently requested it, and then when it was sent to me, I didn’t even recognize the blurb and wondered a bit, “What was I thinking?”. This is book 4 in a series that has a shadow organization and is building up to something. So not a stand alone. So I dutifully picked up the other books in the series so I could catch up. I’ll share some brief thoughts on the first three books before diving into the main review. I’ll try not to say anything too spoilery, but no promises, except this is one of those series that doesn’t immediately take hold, in my opinion, so don’t give up after the first book.


Moonlight

Alternating first person narrated between wolf male (Adam) and jaguar female (Lana) shifters. Wolves and jaguars are mortal enemies in this mythology, though it isn’t initially clear why. It was clearly marked whose head we were in. But it was mostly telling and not showing, the story happening in the respective characters heads. It was a bit clunky though and often dragged. Plus, the secrets and duplicity just left me irked. But the premise was interesting enough even if the execution lacked something. And it left me intrigued enough about the next book to keep reading. But, if definitely suffers from firstbookitis.

2.5 stars

Moonlight (Moon #1)

Hunter’s Moon

This book features another wolf (Aren, the twin brother of the hero from the previous book), and another jaguar female (Sasha a former cop who was turned) with alternating first person narratives. It starts back up right where the previous book stopped with the new couple dealing with the aftermath from the first book. There wasn’t nearly as much ridiculous duplicity, and the two main characters in this one were much more forthright and interesting to me. Both the narrative and the dialogue were much smoother and didn’t drag nearly as much as the previous book. We also learned quite a bit more about Nero, the evil shadow organization. I am pretty sure I have guessed one major thing though regarding the connection to the heroine in the first book. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. The second book is significantly better than the first one and I bought these two as a couple more than the previous two.

3 stars

Hunter's Moon (Moon, #2)

Blood Moon

This book features Gareth, a wolf who has been isolating himself in grief and anger over his brother’s murder, and Nadya, sister to Sasha from the last book. At the end of the last one, Nayda was bitten by one of Nero’s mutated wolves and no one quite knows what will happen with her. Gareth really wants to stay out of it, but he can’t seem to help himself when it comes to her.

Holy heck, this one was a ride. At this point in time I am sort of feeling bad for the people who didn’t get into the first one and opted not to continue. I’ll admit, if I didn’t have a goal of getting to the 4th one, I might have stopped myself. This seems to be one of those unicorns, a time when leaping at a mid-series book hasn’t bitten me in the butt. I absolutely fell in love with Gareth and Nadya. And I don’t know if it is just that I’ve gotten used to the first person alternating format, or if I just liked these characters that much, but this time it seemed like a benefit rather than something to overcome. Action, pacing, and dialogue were all much smoother, and the supporting characters were much more fully realized and helped round the story out more. Nero’s back and even more reprehensible than ever, and the enigmatic Sebastian has been hit with something he just can’t ignore. I am seriously hoping we get his book, I don’t know how Kessler would pull it off, but it would be something to see. But the real star of this story is the relationship between the couple, and it was a lovely romance.

3.5 stars

Blood Moon (Moon, #3)

Harvest Moon

And now we are at the main event. I took about a week-long break after my glom of the previous books so I wouldn’t burn out and could come at this one fresh.

Dr. Jason Ayers is riddled with guilt over previous events, weighted with the frustrations of his responsibilities, and quietly imploding where even his pack can’t see him. It is kind of making him a jackass, particularly with Kilani. Meanwhile, the enigmatic Sebastian is at once more visible, and more opaque than ever. The author tells me that his book is the book 8, and the final in the series, and I simply don’t know how I am going to wait any longer.

But back to the main characters. After the main stumble over honesty, there was a lot of straight up front honesty and disclosure that really helped the relationship move forward. There were things they held off on, but even then they acknowledged there was something that needed discussing, And as an extra bonus, rather than a too stupid to live heroine, we have a too stupid to live hero. Granted, he got a hell of a wake up call, but it was nice to have a nice, sensible, rational heroine. It was a sweet relationship.

We also got some more information on Nero, and the substance of how the skills and personnel of the Pack will come together to defeat that organization is starting to take shape. It was an exciting and heartbreaking installment. If I had to pick a favorite so far, it would still be Harvest Moon, but only by the slimmest of margins. November can’t come soon enough for the next book.

Harvest Moon
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