4.5 star review, Miscellaneous

Review – The Unyielding by Shelly Laurenston

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The Unyielding

Stieg Engstrom, Angriest Viking Ever, has got big problems. The human Viking Clans of earth are in danger of being obliterated—along with the rest of the world—and the only one who may be able to save them is a super pain-in-the-ass Crow. Most people annoy Stieg, but this is the one woman he really can’t stand…

Erin Amsel loves being a Crow! Why wouldn’t she when the other Viking Clans are so hilariously arrogant and humorless? She’s not about to let all that come to an end! She just didn’t expect to be shoulder to shoulder in battle with Stieg. Then again, he’s so easy to torment—and also kind of cute.

With the future of the world riding on them, Stieg knows he’ll have to put aside his desperate need to kiss the smirk right off Erin’s face. Wait. What? He didn’t mean that—did he? No! They have one goal: To conquer the idiots. Because nothing bugs Stieg more than when idiots win. If only he can keep himself from suddenly acting like one….

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.

Erin “Fire Hands” Amsel is a bit of a dick, ok, not just a little bit, but a real dick. She messes with people because she can, She’s A.D.D. extreme with a snarky attitude and a puckish sense of humor, and I ADORE her like the sun!. Of course being that we share a name, I was predisposed to favor her, but I have enjoyed her offbeat worldview from the start of the first book, and this one just makes it better. This is book 3 in the series, and while perhaps they can be read as standalones (I mean each book has its own story arc that is complete), I discourage it in this case because there is an overall arc Laurenston is building, and relationships that won’t exactly make sense without reading them in order.

So, a quick primer: imagine a world where are the gods are real, albeit flawed creatures. Powerful, but unable to act on the world except through their human intermediaries. And I mean all of them, Christians, Hindu, and most importantly; VIKING. Yes dear gentle readers we have Viking mythology on steroids…and probably some LSD. And needless to say based on the Nordic Pantheon, their human clans are NOT the best of friends.

And once upon a time, while the Viking clans were doing what they do, Skuld-Norn of Fate, occasional Valkyrie rider, she who cuts the thread and sometimes unweaves what her older sisters make, decided to dip her hand into influencing the humans. Of course, being sometimes bent of humor, as little sisters tend to be; she didn’t pick pure bred rape loving Vikings. Nope, she picked only women, only slaves and the abused who had mostly been killed, with a motto of “Let rage be your guide.” whose avatars are crows. Who says fate can’t have a sense of humor?

Now the purpose of the human clans is to prevent the end of days (Ragnarok for the vikings, but if any one religions end times come it would actually create a cascade of all religions end times), and to find the gods lost items of power, and to train as warrior when Ragnarok does come. Basically, they are all hitmen and women for their respective gods. The Crows, due to their history are just a bit more of hot messes than the rest of the clans though, but seeing as how rather than being born into the life, they are REborn into their second lives, they make the most of it.

So there is an overall big baddie they are trying to fight who we meet in The Unleashing; along with the first heroine Kera (a former Marine) as well as the Ravens who are hot as hell burly Vikings and owe their fealty to Odin-and which sets you up to understand the Clans and all the mythology. In the next book, The Undoing, we get to know Kera’s teamate Jacinda Berisha (former cult leader’s wife and Berserker), as well as the Protectors, who are OCD book loving Owls owing fealty to Tyr-and which sets us up for an upcoming showdown. And now we have the The Unyielding, which pairs up the meanest of the crows with the angriest of the Vikings-a pairing guaranteed to set sparks firing.

Seriously, these two can’t STAND each other, and it is hilarious. But with the fate of the world hanging in the balance, of course they both have to step up, and of course they fall in love and discover the secret things hidden in each other. (Dude, the angriest viking ever is so freaking adorkable!)

Here’s the thing, and why I adore Shelly Laurenston. Her heroines aren’t demure, or sweet or any of that. They are large and in charge and take no crap from anyone. And the snark; it abounds. So don’t expect sweet romance or angsty “will we wont we”, these are women who know what they want and will damned well TAKE it if they want it. I LOVE these women and I reread Laurenston’s books regularly. All I can say about this story, like I say about all of them, is buckle up for a violent and hilarious ride full of crazysauce along with the plot pets (this one has goats!), and prepare to have a good time.

So the world is saved for another day, hero and heroine are happy-ish (I mean come on, you can’t expect hearts and flowers for the dick and the angriest viking-but they seem to enjoy it), and prepare to get ready to save the world all over again tomorrow.

Interestingly, I have absolutely NO clue who the next book will be about, which is unusual for me. Will it be the former sociopath turned psychologist Crow Annalisa? The socially awkward and OCD Owl, Bear. The hypochodriac Crow Maeve? The booty shaking, dancing man and accountant Raven Siggy? Some odd and hitherto never guessed combination? Honestly, I have absolutely no clue, but with a cast of characters like this all I can say is I am so ready and will be thrilled no matter who it is, because Laurenston never disappoints.

The Unyielding (Call Of Crows, #3)

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4 star review

Review – The Book of the Unnamed Midwife

Book of the Unamed Midwife

Philip K. Dick Award Winner for Distinguished Science Fiction

When she fell asleep, the world was doomed. When she awoke, it was dead.

In the wake of a fever that decimated the earth’s population—killing women and children and making childbirth deadly for the mother and infant—the midwife must pick her way through the bones of the world she once knew to find her place in this dangerous new one. Gone are the pillars of civilization. All that remains is power—and the strong who possess it.

A few women like her survived, though they are scarce. Even fewer are safe from the clans of men, who, driven by fear, seek to control those remaining. To preserve her freedom, she dons men’s clothing, goes by false names, and avoids as many people as possible. But as the world continues to grapple with its terrible circumstances, she’ll discover a role greater than chasing a pale imitation of independence.

After all, if humanity is to be reborn, someone must be its guide.

This was a hard review for me to write. I did read it a while back, at the start of my slump when a change seemed as good as a rest (and I enjoyed it), but then I struggled to find what to say about it. It’s the end of the world as we know it, and no one feels fine. The titular heroine of the story, the unamed, gets sick in a world going mad and wakes up at the literal end of the world. Women are mostly dead, dying, or enslaved. Babies aren’t being born. And men are grabbing all the power. Into this world the unnamed goes forth hidden as a man.
The tale is mostly told in epistolary form, and it actually mostly worked for me. The book starts 100 years in the future with scribes recopying the unnamed’s diaries. And with that introduction we are jolted into this world. It is dark, gritty, sad, and much of the time horrifying. Realistic is probably the right word. Don’t expect a happy ending, or romance. Don’t expect reunited lovers. This isn’t this book.
What it is, is a “smart” book that delves deeply into gender role, survival, and the slide into superstition when science is lost. And I was on the edge of my seat for the majority of the book, but there is really no one to root for and you already know no one is getting their happy ending. So if you are looking for something a little out of the ordinary as a palate cleanser, then this is worth a look. Now, I understand there are other books in the series, but this one I think ends in the perfect way, so there is no sense that you actually need to read the sequel if you don’t want to, and I probably won’t.
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere, #1)

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5 star review

Review – Ashwin by Kit Rocha

Ashwin

The first book in the follow-up to Kit Rocha’s bestselling BEYOND series…

Gideon’s Riders, Book One

Lieutenant Ashwin Malhotra is a Makhai soldier–genetically engineered to be cold, ruthless. Unfeeling. His commanding officers consider him the perfect operative, and they’re right. Now, he has a simple mission: to infiltrate Gideon’s Riders, the infamous sect of holy warriors that protects the people of Sector One.

He’s never failed to execute an objective, but there’s one thing he didn’t anticipate–running into Dr. Kora Bellamy, the only woman to ever break through his icy exterior.

When Kora fled her life as a military doctor for the Makhai Project, all she wanted was peace–a quiet life where she could heal the sick and injured. The royal Rios family welcomed her like a sister, but she could never forget Ashwin. His sudden reappearance is a second chance–if she can manage to touch his heart.

When the simmering tension between them finally ignites, Kora doesn’t realize she’s playing with fire. Because she’s not just falling in love with a man who may not be able to love her back. Ashwin has too many secrets–and one of them could destroy her.

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

Do you know what I have been missing in my reading life? Legitimate joy. Joy which I finally found again. I have been waiting for this man’s book since his very first appearance. He is all kinds of chilly and just my kind of damaged hero catnip. Seriously, I referred to him in my last review as “my cuddly wuddly little Maiko shark“. I am not saying there is nothing wrong with me, I am just saying that Ashwin is one stone cold heart-breaker in the best of ways. If you are a fan of Nalini Singh’s Judd, Kaleb, or Vasic, this will be right up your alley too. He’s colder and more pragmatic like Kaleb, but dropped into the emotional and caring culture like Judd was, with a little more depth like Vasic.

Now, this IS the start of the spinoff series, and I think you CAN read this one apart from the other series (though I think everyone who likes erotica should read the other series), but it does add a little something to it if you have read the other series. However, if the more in depth erotica-ness of the previous series wasn’t your cup of tea, then jump on in over here, because the water is nice and warn…but not too warm. No menages, no voyeurism, none of the overt BDSM elements, just good old fashioned super smexy times romance (but not boring smexy times either if you know what I mean).

So what is going on is this. The previous series chronicled the start through the end of the war in a post-apocalyptic dystopian. It was kind of like the Hunger Games in that there was a greedy capital that sucked the life out of the other sectors and pitted them against each other. Now we are seeing the rebuilding phase of this world. Basically that is all you HAVE to get from the previous series, though Kora and Ashwin were minor albeit integral characters in the other series.

It has been 6 months since the end of the war. Kora had left her cushy but emotionally unfulfilling life in the capital to work as a doctor in the Sectors. Her and Ashwin were parted at the end of the last series and Kora has grieved for Ashwin while she has been working in Sector One. When he pops back up it was, needless to say, quite the shock. And it hasn’t exactly been the most fun 6 months of Ashwin’s life either. Ashwin is there to join up with the Riders, the protectors in the religion that Sector One had come up with and what has turned into the stabilizing new force in the post war culture. Sector Four’s irreverant devli may care attitude was enough to push for and win the war, but what is needed now is more a culture of home and family and peace. This naturally causes some consternation in what is left of the capital, and decisions have been made to monitor and perhaps influence the growing power. So there are intrigues and conspiracies, and the left over power structures in the capital aren’t as neatly severed as one might like. And we can definitely start to see where the future conflicts are going to come from in the world at large.

As far as relationship conflicts go though, this one was kind of a doozy, and Ashwin screwed up royally. Can I blame him? Not exactly, because there is a ton of subtext and personal past history going on, but then, I am not the one he screwed over either.

Dude, I am screwing this review up though, because all I want to do is squee and gush over the entire plotline…which would completely spoil things. So I will just say that I LOVED it. I loved how Kora has plans and hopes and dreams for herself separate from any man-and that she has plans to continue her path even with Ashwin in her life. I love how she gets MAD. I loved Ashwin, from cold and hard to emotional as he changes and grows; and I want to see more of that arc in future books. And I loved how they were together. They were sexy and sweet and they fought and made up, and they knew that it would be building a family, that their relationship would take work. And they are all in on making it work.

I have actually re-read this one already, and foresee rereading this many happy times in the future. So seriously, buy the book, here are the links; I am not an affiliate I just really want people to buy and read it.

 

Ashwin (Gideon's Riders, #1)

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4 star review

Review – Falling for the Highlander by Lynsay Sands + Giveaway

falling-for-the-highlander

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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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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3.5 star review

Review – A Merciful Death by Kendra Elliot

a-merciful-death

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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5 star review

Review – Beyond Surrender by Kit Rocha

Beyond Surrender.jpg

The final book in the bestselling, award-winning series…

She’s the heart of O’Kane liquor.

He’s the brains of the revolution.

They’re facing a war that could end their world. Again.

On December 13th, the Beyond series comes to its climactic conclusion with Nessa and Ryder’s story–and the final battle between the sectors and Eden.

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

This is book 9, and the final book in this remarkable, dirty filthy beautiful series. The first 8 books in the series are only 0.99 as a bundle for an extremely limited time. SO pick it up NOW.

Like many I was late to the party on this series, two years late to be precise. And I only picked it up on accident because I was picking up lots of anthologies early in my blogging hobby trying to broaden my reading horizons and book 4.5 was in it. I liked it so I went back and picked up the first book and proceeded to devour 1-4 in the course of a couple of days and after that I was a devoted Sector 4 junkie jonesing for the next hit. Fortunately for me, while my reviewing skills needed work (so very much work), the books were fantastic and only got better with a new one coming every few months. Beyond Addiction, Beyond Possession, Beyond Innocence, Beyond Ruin, and Beyond Ecstasy.

It was (if you’ll excuse my truly awful play on words) beyond anything I had ever read before. All the sex and kink I could possibly want, without the woman being powerless or overpowered. And all the freaking consent, consent is so sexy and this series proves the hell out of it. Plus menage that felt equal and balanced.

And the world building is truly excellent. I felt immersed in this world that took all the things I had been enjoying with YA/NA post apocalyptic dystopian, without the insipid things I couldn’t stand.

As each book has followed a particular relationship to further the overall plot arc, so too this one did. We FINALLY get the Sector Four princess, sweetie pie Nessa’s story. And her and Ryder are smoking hot together, even with the fact that objectively their relationship is the most vanilla of any in the series. I guess you could call it spare, or basic, but it fit them. They didn’t need the trappings of power and submission, they each hold their own shares of power albeit in different spheres.

More important than the relationship though is the conclusion of what has been a massive undertaking: war. The war that was ramping up in the last book culminated in this book, and the results are dire and heartbreaking. Not everyone got out alive and it effing HURT. We also got some background or a behind the scenes peek at some of the subterfuge that shaped the events in Dallas’ life, and a distilling of all the relationships in the Sector. When everything is destroyed, what you have left are the people, and that is the real strength in Sector Four. And in that, even with the individuals who died, the core of Sector Four endures. It is a bittersweet ending, but the sweet makes it worthwhile.

And while I don’t want to leave them, it is good that Kit Rocha is leaving them to live out their lives in what happiness they have found. I really do hate when authors keep jerking around beloved characters just to keep drama high enough to continue a series.

Fortunately, we don’t have to leave the Sectors. Kit Rocha will be returning next year, only this time to Sector One, and the writing duo heard my (and probably everyone else’s) pleas to give us more Ashwin Malhotra. The icy cold Makhai soldier is up next. Every time I saw Makhai I read it Maiko, and that is what Ashwin is, my cuddly wuddly little Maiko shark (sue me, I looove the damaged ones), and I so want to see him got his happily ever after. Ashwin can’t come soon enough for me.

Beyond Surrender (Beyond, #9)

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