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.

Sudden Backtrack.jpg

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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4 star review

Review – Mind Magic by Eileen Wilks

Mind Magic

FBI agent Lily Yu’s mind is a dangerous place to be in the latest Novel of the Lupi…

Thanks to the mindspeech lessons she’s receiving from the black dragon, Lily is temporarily benched from Unit Twelve—until her brain acclimates and the risk of total burnout passes. At least she has her new husband, lupi Rule Turner, to keep her occupied.

But when her mentor calls in a favor and sends Lily to a murder scene, she’s suddenly back on active status—despite the hallucinations she can’t keep at bay. With one touch, Lily knows the man was killed by magic, but her senses don’t warn her how far the conspiracy goes…

A shadowy force within the government wants to take Unit Twelve down, and they don’t mind killing to achieve their goal. With none of her usual resources, Lily is up against impossible odds–because with her mind in disarray, she can’t trust anything she sees.

I’m not entirely sure why I waited so long to read this one. Some of it was me, I hadn’t been feeling well and was rather blah, but for the rest I was unaccountably nervous about this one. I was weirdly nervous about starting the last one too, but I figured it was because it was focusing on alternate characters. This one focused on Lily and Rule, so I am not sure why I was nervous, but I am starting to think it may just be this series. It makes me nervous. Even after 12 books now, it is always something unexpected (as an aside, don’t start with this book, it would be impossible). And then I read some reviews that made me more nervous. So, I kept putting it off.

Once I did get to it, the beginning didn’t begin to make me feel any better than the blurbs or the reviews I read had. It took a couple of chapters for me to really get into it because we started out in someone else’s head and I couldn’t understand why. But then once I did, it was Whoa Nelly.

There are some seriously surprising plot twists in this story, and Lily and Rule spend an unprecedented amount of time apart. But since we get to learn so much more about both dragons and brownies, it was forgivable. And those parts were amazing. I missed many of the usual characters, but their lack was only really evident in retrospect. And the one new major character is really interesting and I hope we see more of her.

And this story was really, really good. Amazing really. But I don’t quite understand how or even if this furthers the overall story arc of the series. I’m going to have to admit that I am quite baffled at this point.  I mean, I get where some of the odder threads have been leading to now, but where we go from here is slightly baffling. And there are a few threads that are far from tied up, beyond the overall story arc. But considering how Wilks has pulled it off in the past, I’ll just have to go with it. Eileen Wilks said of the differences between her initial novella and the first book, that she “can’t step into the same stream twice”, and I think that is true, maybe in more ways than she meant at the time. Most series are strongly linear, by both time and events. Hers is oddly non-linear, in a way that I can’t quite describe. I’ve described it as a tapestry before and that seems as good a description as any.

And holy heck this went to some really dark places, even compared to the places Wilks has taken us before. It wasn’t really gratuitous, but it stung a little. Some of it was expected, but the rest was almost completely out of my frame of reference.

So, where do I stand as far as opinions? It isn’t my favorite story of the series. Yes, moments were amazing and magical and fascinating, but not all of it was. And I’m not talking about the things that hurt, because they seemed necessary. But there were some rough spots. And this isn’t going to make my re-reads for any old reasons shelf. But it was certainly better than just solid, and it is very necessary for the series as a whole I think, even if I can’t quite see how right this moment. So I am going to give it 4 stars and hope the next one comes out soon.

Mind Magic (World of the Lupi, #12)

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3.5 star review

Review – Only a Promise by Mary Balogh

Only A promise

While I have read some very good books of late, they have been decidedly less optimistic in tone and I felt the need for change. Fortunately the Houston Public Library was able to come to my aid. Since the previous four books gave me the warm fuzzies, I figured this would hit the spot.

Ralph Stockwood prides himself on being a leader, but when he convinced his friends to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, he never envisioned being the sole survivor. Racked with guilt over their deaths, Ralph must move on . . . and find a wife to secure an heir to his family’s title and fortune.

Since her Seasons in London ended in disaster, Chloe Muirhead is resigned to spinsterhood. Driven by the need to escape her family, she takes refuge at the home of her mother’s godmother, where she meets Ralph. He needs a wife. She wants a husband. So Chloe makes the outrageous suggestion to strike a bargain and get married. One condition: Ralph has to promise that he will never take her back to London. But circumstances change. And to Ralph, it was only a promise.

Yes, I figured there would be a high degree of angst, this being book 5 in the Survivors Club series (a group of friends who survived the Napoleonic wars at great personal cost). But based on past behavior I expected an unmitigated happy ending, which of course this being Balogh I got.

The survivor here is Ralph, but Chloe has survived more than her fair share of heartache. They are two abjectly lonely people, no matter how they fill their lives with people and things to do. And much of their romance and being in their heads was lovely. But damn me if this wasn’t absolutely depressing for the first three quarters of the book. Chloe and Ralph, along with us readers are ran through the proverbial ringer. There are no Big Misunderstandings, no Big Secrets, just two lonely and damaged people finding their way, often painfully, to each other. And then we see the turn, and for me at least I realized that that turn had been inexorable, it was only when mired in the midst of tragedy that there seemed to be no way out of the morass. I can only suspect that our two protagonists felt much the same way.

And damned if I don’t sound overwrought and melodramatic. I suspect it is just that Balogh makes me feel that way. The ending though was rather delightful, if wrapped up a bit too neatly. But I just didn’t care if it was overly perfect and overly neat, I wanted the sweetly sappy and romantic and that is just what I got. And I felt that Ralph’s PTSD was handled very sensitively and that while he found true love and happiness, it wasn’t that he was cured by true love.

This was another satisfying read by Balogh and I can’t wait for the 6th one to come available from the library.

Only a Promise: A Survivors' Club Novel

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3.5 star review

Review – If He’s Daring by Hannah Howell

If Hes Daring

In a dazzling new novel in the Wherlocke family saga, New York Times bestselling author Hannah Howell creates an unforgettable story of intrigue, jeopardy, and desire…Stealing a stranger’s carriage is the second most reckless thing Lady Catrin Gryffin de Warrene has ever done. The first is succumbing to her powerful attraction to the carriage’s owner. Catrin has heard the rumors about Sir Orion Wherlocke’s family and their otherworldly gifts. He’s the one person who can keep her son and his inheritance safe from her late husband’s ruthless brother. As for how to protect herself…it may be too late for that.

Orion is facing the worst danger a man of his ilk can find: a woman he can’t walk away from. Catrin is an intoxicating blend of innocence and sensuality, and for the first time, seduction is far more than a game. But her beauty and fortune have made her a target–one that will dare him to risk everything he’s known–in pursuit of everything he’s ever longed for…

After reading the first five books in the series in fairly short order, I took a bit of a break and here I am on number 6. It was a good break and kind of gave my mind something to think about besides being immersed with the Wherlockes and Vaughns.

It was a fun story, despite some darker moments and incidents. Catrin and Orion are a very comfortable couple. There was travel, and adventure, a handful of adorable plot moppets, and of course, the indomitable Wherlocke-Vaughn family. THere were secrets to ferret out and a villain to overcome, and a family to be made.

Other than that there really isn’t a ton to say about this book. It fits into the mold with the rest of the books in this series, right down to some rather useless interest in another woman at the beginning, and a pregnancy to hide until love has been revealed at the end. If you happen to be happy to step into that mold then you’ll enjoy this one too, as I did.

If He's Daring (Wherlocke, #6)
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4 star review

Review – If He’s Tempted by Hannah Howell

If Hes Tempted

Lady Olympia Wherlocke has the gift of foresight. When Lady Agatha Mallam asks Olympia to locate her brother so he can rescue her from an arranged marriage, she knows exactly where to find Lord Brant Mallam, Earl of Fieldgate. What happens next is something she never envisioned…

Since his betrothed died, Lord Brant Mallam has drowned his sorrow with wine and women. His dissolute ways have only emboldened his calculating mother. But with the help of the enchanting Olympia, he concocts a daring plan to end his mother’s devious designs for his sister. While each step in their bold scheme works to perfection, the sins of the past could unravel a growing desire that neither Olympia or Brant can control…

This 5th book in the Wherlocke series features one of the other most present characters in the series. I’ll admit, for some reason I wasn’t really looking forward to her story. I don’t know, for all her bawdy conversations, she just felt so spinster aunt-like that I didn’t even foresee her story until I came to it. And it wasn’t even a logical reason, for me, because I like spinster heroines. But I started looking forward to this one once I realized the hero was Brant, who had been so cruelly betrayed in If He’s Sinful.

And then we are in Olympia’s head and she has quite the sense of humor regarding her overt spinster like status, particularly as she is a widow. And I realized how ridiculous my reticence truly was. Which brings me to my trigger warning for this book. Nothing is really described,but there are children in jeopardy and also discussion of past events. Olympia is admirable and also very funny and charming. All I can say is she seems very much like someone I would be pleased to be friends with. And Brant was simply sweet and yummy, and in no way deserved the bum deal he got. I liked them both, and even better I liked them for each other.

There was no real mystery in this, just the unraveling of the villainy of Brant’s mother, but there was plenty of action and intrigue involved in it. And always, family ties are key and were lovely to watch.

There is just one thing that bothers me, and it does so only because of the glom, but I am realizing every single one of these ends with a pregnant woman waiting for the hero’s return. Since none of them relied on the trope of married because of child, I didn’t really note it at first. It didn’t make me like it any less, but I have decided to take a break before the next ones.

If He's Tempted (Wherlocke)
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3.5 star review

Review – If He’s Dangerous by Hannah Howell

If Hes Dangerous

New York Times bestseller Hannah Howell’s extraordinary Wherlocke family returns with the story of a passion that will heed no resistance, no matter how deadly…When Lorelei Sundun first finds Sir Argus Wherlocke in her garden, she’s never heard of the mysterious Wherlocke clan-or their otherworldly abilities. That changes the moment she watches Argus-the most tantalizing man she’s ever seen-disappear before her very eyes. What she’s witnessed should be impossible. But so should falling in love with a man she’s only just met…

Pursued by a madman intent on harnessing the Wherlockes’ talents as weapons, Argus meant to seek help from his family, not to involve a duke’s lovely daughter in the struggle. But now, the enchanting Lorelei is his only hope for salvation-and the greatest temptation he’s ever faced…

This is book 4 in the Wherlocke series, and my glom has become that much more enjoyable, as there wasn’t a single woman entwined in the story. So yeah!

Argus has been heavily involved in the previous books and while I have been seriosuly anticipating his story, I can see why people might fear his particular gift. Adding that on top of his horrible home life with the Wherlocke/Vaugh curse of unfaithful spouses was more than enough of a relationship impediment for Argus and Lorelei.

The mystery that took the place of previous female entanglements was pretty interesting and in line with the family’s differences. A shadowy organization is after their gifts by hook or by crook. Fun stuff, it kind of reminded me a bit of Quick/Krentz’s Arcane series, another highly glommable series.

And Hannah Howell, seriously writes the best eccentric families. The best. Now that I am sitting here really analyzing WHY she is so utterly glommable for me, it has never been the romances, it is the families. And now she has added the Sundun family which is every bit as charming as the Wherlocke/Vaugn family. One scholarly minded patriarch who seems to have his head in the clouds but has his feet firmly planted on the ground, an imperious butler (I adore imperious butlers), 13 sons, and 4 daughters and a phalanx of extended family that he has infected with logic and fair-mindedness. They are seriously delightful. Additionally, we got a nice little epiphany about the so-called Wherlocke family curse that makes me feel rather pleasant and rosy toward the whole rest of the series.

I actually don’t have much to say about the romance itself. It was warm and fuzzy and more than enough when plopped into the midst of these delightful families.

If He's Dangerous (Wherlocke #4)
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4 star review

Review – If He’s Wild by Hannah Howell

If Hes Wild

SHE SEES HIS FACE EVERYWHERE…

Lady Alethea Vaughn Channing is haunted by a vision of a man in danger—the same man who she has seen in dreams time and time again. She doesn’t even know his name, and yet she feels the connection between them, knows she is the only one standing between him and disaster.

…YET THEY HAVE NEVER MET

But rakish Lord Hartley Greville is capable of protecting himself, as he has proven more than once in his perilous work as a spy for the crown. If he’s to carry out his duty, he’ll need to put aside the achingly beautiful woman with the strange gift. And yet, when Alethea’s visions reveal a plot that could endanger children, Hartley will not be able to ignore the destiny that binds them together—or resist the passion burning between them…

I can fortunately say that Howell is definitely stepping further and further away from entanglements with the evil woman as the relationship conflict, and I couldn’t be more pleased. No horrible spouses nor plotting evil fiances littered this particular story. This time we have a plotting, evil would be mistress. But since the hero never did the deed with her, and since it would have been for crown and country and he was never really deceived by her, I’ll take it as a win. What I’ve won, I am not sure of, but I’ll take it. In fact, our hero’s thoughts turned to marriage almost immediately and the two were married for a good half of the book which was a rather nice change of pace.

We also have the usual meandering in and out of Wherlockes and Vaughns with their fortuitous gifts coming in just when they are needed. There was also plenty of action to keep things entertaining. So here’s the thing, and I am not sure I can really explain. When I am reading romance, I read it because I know (J.R. Ward notwithstanding) that there will be a happily ever after, even when like the previous two books there is another woman standing in the way. But, I am still much happier when that isn’t the impediment. That sort of story tends to leave me with a sick feeling to my stomach throughout that I simply don’t enjoy. With this book, knowing who the villain was and that the hero and heroine were already together made the unraveling of the mystery so that good could prevail over evil and the unraveling of the hero’s heart just flat-out enjoyable. I could enjoy the whole ride without any reservations.

This is still escapism fiction for me, this book didn’t change that, but I did like it quite a bit more than the other two, and it will keep me on my glom a bit longer, though I do doubt I will be able to read all 7 in one go.

If He's Wild (Wherlocke #3)
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