Thoughts and Opinions

On series – holding on, pushing through, and letting go.

Series

I have something of a love-hate relationship when it comes to series. I can be obsessive and compulsive But it is an odd relationship that is difficult to explain. I don’t like picking up books in mid series, I almost always start at the beginning. I prefer whenever possible to wait until a series is complete before even starting them. And here is the thing, I will continue to read books I don’t necessarily even like just to see what is next. It is almost pathological.

Sometimes that is great and I love the books first to last, like Ann Aguirre’s Sirantha Jax and Dread Chronicles, JD Robb’s In Death series, or Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series. Just to name a few.

Other times it is almost miserable. For example, I am still reading Christine Feehan’s Dark, Leopard, and Ghost Walker series even though I am almost sure to be enraged and disappointed. Same with Lynsay Sands’ Argeneau series (still holding out hope for Bricker’s story). I am not sure why, or what I am expecting, But there are just some series that I can’t seem to let go, no matter how much I sometimes think I want to.

Other series sometimes I just had to push through to really get into it, and I think this is where my stubbornness pays off. Some of my absolute favorite series had first or second books that I really didn’t care for. Like Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunters, Shelly Laurenston’s Pride Series, Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels series, Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate, and most recently Lisa Kessler’s Moon series. And If I hadn’t pushed through I would have missed so much. So maybe that is what pushes me to keep dipping back into a series I might feel meh toward or even just flat not like at the start.

What I think I have more trouble with than the pushing through aspect, is really the letting go of series. Not every series can be like Robb’s 40+ monstrosity that is still keeping me entertained. Every now and again a series just fades away for me, like Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunters, or Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. But that is pretty rare for me. Mostly I just keep slogging along forever and ever until the series is completed or the author stops writing them.

What got me thinking about it is the fact that Maryjanice Davidson’s Undead series has a new one coming out. I was just this side of maybe letting go (OK that is probably a lie) until I found out that there is only one more book after this one, and then the series will be completed. This is one of those series that I absolutely adored at the start and the first few I read and re-read compulsively. But the last few have been a bit disappointing and consequently I wasn’t thrilled or excited. Until, as I said, I found out the end is near. It gave me my second wind and I have actually started a complete series re-read. So posting may be a bit sluggish until I get that done. A couple of things strike me though. Marketing wise, finishing the series was probably the best move she could make. Reading reviews I am not the only one to be in this position of lagging, or worse, quitting altogether, so announcing the end may have prompted a few more people to pick the series back up and/or gave them the energy to finish. And two, re-reading this particular series is giving me a whole different perspective. Some of the things that seemed poorly planned or mentioned now make sense in hindsight, and also there are some continuity issues that are starting to bug me, not the time travel stuff, but things like how many years the Book of the Dead said she would rule, stuff like that.

I guess that last isn’t so important in the general theme of series, unless you are a big re-reader. More importantly, how do you handle series? And what are your favorite series? Bonus points for completed/ended series.

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4 star review

Review – A Tiger’s Bride by Eve Langlais

A Tiger's Bride

When at first you don’t succeed—turn to abduction.

It’s all in a day’s work when this Siberian tiger meets the woman he wants.

An accidental kidnapping? Check.

A forced marriage? Check.

A virgin bride? Damn. There go his plans for seduction and here comes the pressure into making her first time perfect. Because everyone knows that’s the one she’ll remember, forever. Gulp.

Add in a plane crash as well as hunters out to capture them and the heat is truly on.

Can this Siberian tiger meet the challenge?

This is the 4th book in the series. While book one was something of a disappointment, I found book two and book three rather charming. But I was awfully leery about how Langlais would redeem this particular hero, in my eyes.

Dimitri ended up being kind of adorable. And while he didn’t always have the best of intentions, even when he did it ended up in trouble. Poor Teena, trouble seems to find her no matter how circumspect she tries to be, fortunately for her Dimitri is more than happy to love every troublesome inch of her. After being beaten by her father, plane hijacked, shot at, plane crashed, tobogganing down the mountain, landing on a frozen lake that doesn’t hold (all things that are sadly in line with other events in Teena’s life), only a man as besotted as Dimitri could proudly declare “I think my new wife is good luck.”.

This was a romp, and it was funny watching the virgin take a turn at being predatory toward the formerly suave but stalkerish manwhore who turned rather nervous over the idea of an untouched bride. It is ridiculously cute, and the hijinks were just the icing on the cake.

This was the perfect ending for the series. I seriously recommend it. As for the series as a whole, I say skip the first book. I don’t think you need it to get into the rest of the series, it doesn’t add anything and I think it can detract. But the rest of the series is serious fun.

A Tiger's Bride (A Lion's Pride, #4)
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5 star review

Review – Breakout by Ann Aguirre

Breakout

It is finally here! After Perdition and Havoc, the conclusion is finally here! Can you tell I am excited?

All hell is breaking loose in the edge-of-your-seat follow-up to Havoc and Perdition from New York Times bestselling author Ann Aguirre…

The prison ship Perdition has become a post-battle charnel house with only a handful of Dred’s soldiers still standing and now being hunted by Silence’s trained tongueless assassins. Forging an uneasy alliance with mercenary commander Vost—who is their only chance at escape—the Dread Queen will do whatever it takes to end her life sentence on Perdition and keep the survivors alive long enough to cobble together a transport capable of getting them off station.

If Dred and her crew can win the deadly game of cat and mouse, the payoff is not only life but freedom—a prize sweeter than their wildest dreams. Yet the sadistic Silence would rather destroy Perdition than let a single soul slip from her grasp…

Seriously, look at that cover and that blurb, and my love for the other books in this series. I so wish I could have taken the day off work to read this, but alas, that wasn’t an option and I had to wait. This is the sort of book that really irks me about Tuesday release days. Seriously, Saturdays or Sundays would suit me much better.

But back to the book. There may be spoilers for at least the previous books, so stop here if you haven’t read them yet. I’ll try not to spoil anything since this is worth the ride, but no promises.

The intrepid band of murderers have just made an unholy alliance with the remaining mercenaries who were sent to kill them all. That unfortunately leaves Silence and her acolytes to deal with, no easy task, and then things go from bad to worse.

Seriously, the hard hits just keep coming at our crew, and the plot twists strike like lightening out of no where. It is a rush and I kept finding myself leaning forward like somehow my forward momentum would push me thorough it faster. It was literally painful to see what some of the characters went through, and to get into some of their back stories. Literally painful, heartbreaking even, and I am telling you again, Aguirre has some sort of magic to make the readers care so about murderers. And character growth enough to make you weep. Not too long ago I was reading a post about genre fiction vs literary fiction, and if you can read this series and not see how the characters grow, how their ideals change, and if you can’t feel the emotions just pouring off the page, then I sincerely doubt your ability to actually read or to learn anything from any sort of fiction. It isn’t highbrow, I doubt anyone but me (well and other science fiction fans) would consider it “literary” whatever the hell that means. But it is the kind of thing that puts you right there and makes you question yourself. What if? What if that were me, what if I were in that position. I’ll take my social commentary, political criticism, and focus on an individual to explore parts of the human condition, wrapped up in a shiny and gritty (yes I think it can be both) science fiction package thank you very much. Moments of emotional truth indeed.

Something else that was pleasing was an additional minor tie-ins to the Sirantha Jax series. Since I have read those I can’t gauge the impact on someone who hasn’t read them, but for me it made one of the characters just that little bit more poignant. I can imagine that if you haven’t read the other series it would seem bland, but since it is a very small part of this story, don’t feel you have to read that series, though I sincerely recommend it.

The first three quarters of the story were full of adrenaline fueled action that further honed our main characters. The last quarter was almost like an extended epilogue. I can imagine that some people might find that slightly irksome, but personally, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. If there was one complaint that I had about the Sirantha Jax series it was that the series cut off when the main action was resolved. I understand that Aguirre purposefully set it up to let Sirantha live the rest of her life off page, but it was a bit disappointing for me at least. I like the slow down and the look inside the calm, it feels like the book version of aftercare, and I missed it. But Breakout provided it spades, and I found that infinitely more satisfying than more action packed adventure. Things were neatly tied and comfortable by the end of it. Not everyone got happy endings, but I think everyone got the right endings.

In the end, for me, there was only one wrong note. A cameo that kind of made me cringe slightly, because the timeline of the story made me unhappy with how other events must have shaped up, so it was unsatisfying rather than the boon I was sure it was meant to be. Honestly though, that is just sour grapes on my part. And it made me realize how much I honestly like, respect and prefer Jael and Dred than them, so at least that clarified it for me. If that seems overly cryptic, well you’ll just have to read both series to see what I mean.

Despite that one false note though, I was completely satisfied. I unreservedly recommend this series to science fiction fans, particularly ones who like the gritty and emotional with a heaping helping of romance and ones who enjoy the after care of an emotionally gripping story. I am giving this entry 5 stars and suggesting reading this series all at once like one epic book, I think it is more satisfying that way then splitting it out and thinking of each book as a separate thing, because Havoc FEELS like the middle of a book. And since the flavor of each of the books is different due to changes in the characters, this isn’t likely to burn you out like gloms of some series tend to.

Breakout (Dred Chronicles, #3)
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4 star review

Review – Beware of Me by Cynthia Eden

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

I have read and reviewed the previous titles in Cynthia Eden’s Dark Obsession series; Watch Me, Want Me, and Need Me. And FINALLY, Ethan’s book is here. As I have mentioned before, these things are like crack to me, and all the heroes have been John McClain from Die Hard in my mind, so I was insatiably curious what Eden would do with the anti-hero of the series.

And Ethan doesn’t disappoint, though he certainly isn’t John McClain. I am not sure who he is like, but he seems very individual, and maybe that is because we’ve had several books and several different people to get to know him through. We also have a connection to Mine to Have, and Victor, the prospective hero who stole the show in that book, so really there’s double the alpha hottie goodness in this particular book.

Carly and Ethan have some traumatic history together that spurred Ethan’s rise in his business. He let her go once because he thought it was best for her, but when their shared history puts her back in danger, he’ll do anything to protect her. There is a very satisfying, and creepy mystery. Plenty of red herrings to get lost in and I was never quite sure who the real villain was till the very end. This is a couple that is willing to fight everything for each other. Plus, the smexy times are very hot and well and sensitively done. (Content warning: the heroine is a rape survivor, this is mentioned as are the later ramifications but it is not graphically detailed.) There’s nothing quite like a mad, bad hero who is putty in his heroine’s hands, and a right bastard to the rest of the world. Ethan made a wonderful hero and Carly was an excellent foil for him, sweet and compassionate but no sensitive damsel in distress.

Cynthia Eden continues her string of crack-tastic romantic suspense that I just can’t stop reading. And as an added bonus, Victor is finally getting his own story in Mine to Protect, and it is “coming soon” according to the author.

Beware of Me (Dark Obsession, #4)

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4 star review

Review – Ether & Elephants by Cindy Spencer Pape

Ether Elephants

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.

This is the 8th and final book in Cindy Spencer Pape’s Gaslight Chronicles. I got into this series after reading Meljean Brook’s Iron Seas. It was so refreshing and different that I had to find more like it. Somehow in that mindset I missed the “different” aspect of it. Needless to say, I read some abysmal steam-punk, some mediocre stuff, and then I found Gaslight/Gaslamp and this little gem of a series. The series presents a unique spin on Gaslight with the inclusion of a Knights of the Round Table mythology, vampires, werewolves, fey, and steam punk elements. It sounds overly busy, but it isn’t, it is just a wonderfully engaging world and the different aspects are very well blended.

The first book in the series, Steam & Sorcery, sets up the world building and the main characters for further books. It may not have hit the peaks that The Iron Seas did, for me, but it was pretty awesome and so I devoured what was available and have kept up with it since. And THIS is the book that I have been waiting for since the beginning. There have been some hints and then some stumbling blocks along the way, but man have I been longing for this book. This is NOT, in my opinion, a stand-alone, and I strongly encourage reading the series in order.

Sir Thomas Devere and Eleanor Hadrian have loved each other most of their lives—but sometimes love doesn’t conquer all.

Their chance at happiness was ruined by Tom’s hasty marriage to someone else. Heartbroken, Nell left home, finding a new life as a teacher at a school for the blind. But when one of her supernaturally gifted students, Charlie, is kidnapped, Tom reappears and her worlds collide.

Tom claims he hasn’t seen his wife since the day of their marriage…yet he fears the missing student could be his son.

The deeper they dig, the more Tom and Nell discover: a deadly alchemist, more missing gifted children and long-suppressed feelings neither of them is ready for. A race on airship across England and India may lead them to answers—including a second chance at love—but only if all of British Society isn’t destroyed first.

Fair warning, this is not a comfortable book. There are children in jeopardy, and Nell and Tom had my stomach in knots and my heart in my throat. But that is the mark of a good storyteller, when you empathize with the characters so much they suck you into their emotions, when the pain and the worry is real, and the outcome feels uncertain. Fortunately, this is romance, and I trust Cindy Spencer Pape to give a reliable happy ending (unlike other authors I could mention,) but in the midst of the story it was so easy to see where it could all go wrong,

Tom was a bit of a tough nut. He did some stupid things in his youth, and rather than trying to resolve things, he basically buried his head in the sand and gave up. And I think that is what hurt Nell the most. Nell on the other hand, despite the heartbreak, she grew into herself and found her agency, learning to value herself and demand respect. Tom took a little longer to get the picture, but I respect that Nell kept to her path and didn’t allow him to sway her. I think you can tell I really liked Nell, and once Tom got his head out of it, I really liked him too.

As far as the mystery goes, it was satisfyingly twisty. There was a good bit of sleuthing to be done, and this gave our two main protagonists the chance to really see how they’ve grown, without the blinders of their youthful relationship. But the mystery wasn’t a McGuffin either, it was well thought out and worked for itself AND to further the relationships and emotional connections, rather than just the latter. It kept me engaged so the whole story didn’t feel like over emotional navel gazing. Who says romance can’t also have a real plot, a real story? Not me, that is for sure. There was a bit of wish fulfillment in one element of the story, but I only noticed that retrospectively. And it was such a delightfully happy thing, that I simply could begrudge it.

In the end I believed in this couple’s happily ever after and trusted they had the grit to work through anything together. It was a very satisfying happily ever after.

I’m still hoping the author comes back to this world and we get Jamie and Piers’ stories, but in the meantime, this was a satisfying conclusion to the series and in no way feels as though the reader has been abandoned in series. 4 stars and I look forward to what Cindy Spencer Pape might come up with next.

Ether & Elephants (Gaslight Chronicles, #8)

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5 star review

OpenLibrary Review – Queen’s Own by Mercedes Lackey

Queens Own

Once upon a time, when I was still in college, I went through a phase where I was too “grown up” for reading romance. So, I read a ton of fantasy and science fiction. I was also broke as all get out, and living in south-east Texas in the summer with only enough money for either food or air conditioning. Needless to say I spent almost all my waking hours in the university library, and I gravitated towards enormous books that gave me plenty of excuses to stay there for hours on end. And one such set of books were these gigantic hardcover books that I only later realized were trilogy omnibuses and not single books. Openlibrary doesn’t have a copy of Queen’s Own, but they do have the first two books in the trilogy which is more than  enough to determine if you are going to want to seek out the third. Or you can just wait until next month, when the complete trilogy will be released altogether in digital form for the very reasonable price of $7.99.

While this isn’t the sort of series I can read regularly, or even annually, I keep coming back to it every few years, and it always hits me just as hard. The very first time I read it, I was sitting in that nice cool library, grateful for air conditioning I could enjoy without cost, and feeling conspicuous for having been in there from opening to closing for the past week or so. It didn’t even matter, within a few pages I was sucked into the story. And on several occasions I sobbed openly in public, unable to help myself. They probably thought I was crazy, but I didn’t care about that either. These books still make me cry, even knowing what is coming, and in some places even more since I do know what is coming.

While this isn’t a romance, it does have a romance element, and a happily ever after, so don’t worry on that score. But what it really is, is the story of the journey of one girl. It sounds simple, just Talia and her life. But there is this whole fantastical, magical world she’s in, a history and a mythology, and of course Talia isn’t so simple. Magic and fantasy, a strong and yet vulnerable heroine, plotting and intrigues. These are not flat or one-dimensional novels. They feel alive. These books were published in the mid 80’s, so before there was Harry Potter, there was Talia. They aren’t for kids, at all, but if you are an adult who has loved Harry Potter, and you haven’t checked these out yet, I think they will be very well worth your while. This is a trilogy that spawned an entire world you can get lost in. But most story arcs are in discrete and manageable trilogies, so it is easy enough to step out and back in again as you please.

5 stars

Queen's Own (Valdemar: Arrows of the Queen #1-3)

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4 star review

OpenLibrary Review – Julie Garwood’s Crown’s Spies

Here’s a treat that won’t break the bank. Julie Garwood’s entire Crown’s Spies series is available at OpenLibrary. Julie Garwood has always been a reliably entertaining historical romance writer, for me, and this series is one of my favorites. These books were published from 1988 to 1993, so you can expect the usual purple prose during intimate moments, when it is not fade to black. This seems especially timely because as I was working on this review, up popped a post about when classics don’t remain relevant. It may be the nostalgia talking, but these still work for me. What keeps Garwood relevant for me is the humor, engaging and quirky heroines, and alpha heroes who aren’t alpha holes. Yes, they are still dictatorial in acting the heroine’s best interest, but they tend to be sweeter than most heroes (especially the old school ones), and as often as not realize their love for the heroine sooner than she does. These 4 are only loosely connected, and really only by shared characters rather than overarching plot lines, so theoretically they could be read as standalones, but since they are all available, there’s no reason not to read the whole set. Plus, take a look at those fabulous retro covers, her publisher really picked a theme and went with it. They’ve all been updated many times, but I still really love those old covers. These books have been around a long time, so there are blurbs and reviews of these out the whazoo, so I am just going to post a bit about what I enjoy with each of them.

Lions Lady

The Lion’s Lady

This book is unusual in that each chapter starts out with a passage from the heroine’s mother’s journal. They give the reader background and a sense of how Christina ended up in her unusual predicament. You see, she was raised by the Dakota tribe after her mother’s death, and due to a promise made to her mother she has now been returned to England. Due to her upbringing there was plenty of room for cultural and linguistic confusion, It probably isn’t politically correct, but I found it humorous. While Christina definitely has some issues fitting in, she was a very bold heroine, and Lyon was so sweetly befuddled by her. And there is one scene where she “divorces” him that is an absolute must read. I adore this story every time I read it.

Guardian Angel

Guardian Angel

This one starts out with a beautiful, but injured and terrified ingénue. She walks up to the notorious Robinhood like pirate, Pagan, and requests he shoot her right in the heart. Only problem? He’s not Pagan, and Jade’s no ingénue. She’s way more…entrepreneurial than that. (That’s makes her sound like she’s a pro, which isn’t the case, but you’ll see what I mean if you read it.) She’s funny, and savvy, and smart, and she can spin a heck of a yarn all while playing out the most outrageous understatements. There’s also a nice convoluted mystery, a dictatorial butler, and a blind pirate. It is a fun story.

The Gift

The Gift

The courtship started with a kidnapping, but that was perfectly fine because the kidnapper was her husband. Granted, she’d not seen him since she was 4, and she was running away to find him anyway, it was still a rather dramatic beginning. Sara is an intriguing blend of intrepid and Pollyanna. But she was almost ridiculously naive too, so setting her on a ship resulted in a litany of pratfalls.

Castles

Castles

This book has the most mystery and intrigue out of the series. Alesandra and Colin are the most combustible of the 4 couple, and Alesandra is something of a genius. I really enjoy reading about smart heroines, who aren’t afraid to work a system to their advantage, even if it requires deviousness. Colin on the other hand is somewhat oblivious, but he isn’t by any means portrayed as a buffoon as a foil for Alesandra’s intelligence, so it works for me. Plus, they have their own dictatorial butler, which is always a plus. This might be my favorite book out of the series.


Having reread the entire series all in one go, I will suggest not glomming them all in one weekend. But, they are fun stories with satisfying happily ever afters. 4 stars and highly recommended to anyone who likes classic historical romance.

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