Evaine's Books, Books and More Books

It's about books.  I read all kinds of different genres. And I curse.  

 

5 Stars = AWESOME!  Best of the Best

4 Stars = Really good.  Easily recommendable.

3 Stars = Good

2 Stars = Not so hot.  Readable but just barely

1 Star = Bad.  

Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly - My Thoughts

Amberlough - Lara Elena Donnelly

The book I read was not the book I thought I was going to read.  I'm not sure what I expected, but what I got ended up being interesting and thought-provoking, especially in this day and age.

Amberlough is a fictional province in a fictional country called Gedda. A double-agent sacrifices all his ideals in order to save his smuggler lover before a government coup takes over their decadent city in this glam spy thriller, or as I've also heard it called - a cabaret thriller. (Think 1930s Germany)

I had problems with what felt to me like slowness in the first 2/3rds of the book, if I'm being honest.  It felt draggy and what's the point, even though the writing was quite good and I will admit, it built up the atmosphere quite well.  It set up a lot of backstory and situational things about the governments and past spy doings that are needed to tell the tale.  But I think I was just not in the right frame of mind to enjoy it. Because the writing is very special and engaging and perfect for the 'period' of the book.

I've seen the book spoken about in romance circles, but it's not really a romance.  Yes, there is a romance at the heart of it, a love story for the ages type of thing, but it's not any kind of HEA that I know about.

The book ends on a cliffhanger and while that usually pisses me off, I was okay with it this time.  It fit the book.  And the book is clever, it's dark, it's scary (especially when held up against the current shit going on in the world), it's exciting.  But there are moments of humour and moments of true sweetness and gentleness, but baby, they're few and far between.  And maybe all the more precious for it.

Anyway, I'll be looking for the second book when it comes out.  Wondering what's happened to the three main characters and if we'll be seeing any of them again.  Two of them I think for sure we will, the third?  I'm not certain at all.

Anyway, Amberlough ended up being a different and intriguing read.  Check it out.

First Watch by Dale Lucas - My Thoughts

The Fifth Ward: First Watch - Dale Lucas

I read a blurb about this book where it said that it reminded the reader of an episode of the TV show Hill Street Blues. And I think I must agree. 

The story is told through the eyes of Rem, a young man of noble blood new to the city of Yenara.  He's left home - I believe he's a younger son - and I can't quite remember if we're ever told exactly why.  We are told that his father was quite demanding and, to Rem, belittling towards him. Rem gets thrown into the city dungeons and then, stroke of luck, gets offered the chance to join the Watch Wardens.  Which he takes, because lets face it, it's better than rotting in the dungeons, right? 

Rem is teamed up with a cantankerous dwarf by the name of Torvil to begin with, Torvil's regular partner having not shown up for his shift. And the adventure begins.

There's no new ground broken with this book.  It's an adventure, a buddy tale, about two mis-matched guys in the city police force who have a mystery to solve.  A mystery that includes murder, theft, drugs, kidnappings and elves, orcs, dwarves, mages and humans all existing together in this melting pot of a city.  It's a fun read and while maybe predictable in spots, the characters are definitely charming and the writing is quick-paced and the narrative flows quite well. 

I liked it and I'll definitely be looking for the next book when it comes out this summer.

Vision in White by Nora Roberts - My Thoughts

Vision in White  - Nora Roberts

I almost forgot to write this up! 

So, a Nora romance does what a Nora romance does for me.  Makes me smile, makes me chuckle, makes me tear up and makes me sigh a little, a happy sigh, at the end.  La Nora is a comfort read for me.

And Vision in White doesn't lack in that category. 

It's not the best Nora I've read, nor is it the worst.  4 gals run a wedding business.  One stop shopping for the big day.  Now this is really all lost on me because I think the money spent on these spectacles would be far better spent on a vacation or a house or a car or... well, you get my drift.

Anyway, book one is about the photographer, Mackensie and Carter, the high school English teacher.  I have to say, for the first few chapters I wondered if we were going to find out that Carter was on the spectrum, but no, he was just being an iffily written safe, stable and a little befuddled guy.  I liked him a lot in the second half of the book.

Anyway, sweet romance, fun dialogue and far too much details about wedding planning.  *LOL*  I have the other three in the Kobo for the next time I need a comfort read. 

Wisp of a Thing by Alex Bledsoe - My Thoughts

Wisp of a Thing: A Novel of the Tufa - Alex Bledsoe

I really enjoy Alex Bledsoe's voice.  His writing is easy yet rich and full.  Perfect for the subject matter of North America's fairy population. It's not an urban fantasy, it's more a contemporary, rural fantasy, I think.  Set in the Appalachian mountains and peopled with a whole bunch of unique characters, it's the place where Rob Quillan, a musician haunted by tragedy, comes in search of a song to heal him. 

Now there may be other books out there about the other-worldly creatures in this part of North America, but I can't really recall any.  As it is Bledsoe walks the perfect line of keeping the story sounding ... um, not of the city .... yet not sounding like the Clampetts.  His characters are characters, not caricatures and some you love, some you hate and some you just... know.  It's a homey book, but with an edge.  :)

And the fairy-folk themselves.  They're not the grand lord and lady types, not the ethereal little nymphs, not the austere folk we see portrayed so often.  They're good, they're bad, they're dark, they're light and they're not quite like anything I've read about before.

I think if you're a fan of Charles de Lint, you'll enjoy this series. 

Pretty Face by Lucy Parker - My Thoughts

Pretty Face - Lucy V. Parker

I loved it.  Pure and simple. I loved it like I loved the first book in the series.  It's fun and it's sexy and it's honestly a joy to read, just in the way it's crafted. 

Back when I was a tween, hell, I guess I'd have been about 10 or 11 (1966/1967 to put it in time frame), I started reading the Penny Parrish books by Janet Lambert.  Sweet, teenage type romances that followed Army kid Penny through her teenage to her adult years.  And Penny became a famous Broadway actress who ended up marrying her director and it was MARVELOUS!  Then, a few years later, I read one of my first Harlequin Romances - Kay Thorpe's Curtain Call (1971) and absolutely loved it.  So much that other than my Janet Dailey collection, it's the only Harlequin of hundreds that I've read that I have left on my bookshelves.  Lucy Parker's books bring me back to that time and remind me of the dreams I had as a girl, to be a stage actress (didn't happen *LOL*, but I still love the dream).  I feel the same way reading Lucy's books as I did back then and I like the feeling - it's a good one.

The characters are terrific and never perfect, even the secondary or thirderary.  *LOL*  I know, I made up that word, it should be tertiary, I think.  Anyway, Lucy's characters, while they are bigger than life, which, of course, they are or who'd want to read about them, they are also relatable with flaws and not so nice traits at times.  I especially liked the way Margo, the hero's ex, was portrayed.  Her emotions and motivations when dealing with Lily and Luc are real and understandable.  She's not a martyr, nor is she a bitch.  I liked that!

Another important thing that I loved was that the author navigated the pitfalls of the power imbalance between the big director and the young actress very well.  It never felt icky or anywhere near #metoo-ish.  Luc was always respectful and mindful of the power imbalances as was Lily and they spoke about them.  So, kudos to Lucy!  That could have gone very wrong.

One thing that Lucy weaves throughout her stories is a sense of fun and witty humour.  I love it!  I've even laughed out loud while reading.  Which brings me back to the girl I once was.  Back in the day, my best friend, Cat, and I used to devour romances - Harlequins, Heyers, Silhouettes... we'd sit and read, different books, and read out delightful passages to each other and then... we'd trade books!  Had we had Lucy Parker's books back in the day, there would be a ton of passages read out loud and then, I'm pretty sure we'd make sure we each had our own copies.  :) 

Oh, read these books!  Sexy and fun and I just love them!

Borderline by Mishell Baker - My Thoughts

Borderline - Mishell Baker

I picked up this book after reading this review by KJ Charles (one of my fave authors).  I don't read everything that KJ recs, because some of it isn't my cup of tea, but many of the books she recommends I eventually pick up and try out.  I've not been disappointed yet!

So I found this book, the first in the The Arcadia Project series, fascinating for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, the main character who narrates the story, Millie, is one of the most intriguing main characters I've read in a long while.  I can't say it better than KJ does in her review (so if you didn't read it, go and click the link and READ IT!).  What I can say, is that I grew to really LIKE her by the end of the book and can't wait to see what she gets up to in the next book. 

Secondly, I liked the way the two worlds/realities were treated.  Sure, we didn't see anything of the fairy realm itself, just some of the creatures and beings that inhabit it and cross over into our world. I have to hope that we see more of it and learn more of it in the next book.

So, even though I'm not a huge fan of urban fantasy/paranormal, I really did enjoy this one and will be adding the second novel to my list.

Panacea by F. Paul Wilson - My Thoughts

Panacea - F. Paul Wilson

F. Paul Wilson is a favourite author of a bunch of my friends and one of them recommended Panacea to me, knowing I enjoy a good thriller.  And I did enjoy this one.  :)

It's a typical thriller in that there's a lot of action, a bunch of twisty turny investigations, bad guys with big guns and lots of power, good guys with a bit of mystery in their pasts, and a possible world-wide disaster to be avoided.  There's also a cute kid and some ancient mythology. 

The book reads lickety split, thanks to some great pacing by the author and chapters that don't run into the 30+ page realm.  I'm a firm believe that short chapters help give a book an aspect of  "can't put it down" or "just one more chapter before I sleep" type of thing.  The characters aren't really complex, but they are believable in a thriller sort of way.  And they're likable - well the good guys anyway - and that, for me, is important.  I especially liked Rick Hayden and his sense of humour.  I also liked him together with Laura Fanning.  There's going to be some romance, somewhere along the line, but there's little of it here, just the pair getting to know each other and starting to trust each other as they search.

I like the idea of ancient history and ancient mysteries being explored and the whole secret societies thing.  I find it all quite fascinating. 

Wilson, I think, is more known for his horror books - Repairman Jack and the like - but there's not much horror in this book.  One scene though.... near the end... well, I guess it was more gross than horror, but EWWWWW!  *LOL*

I think if you enjoy books like the Sigma Force books by James Rollins, you'll enjoy this.  I know I'll be looking to add Book 2 to my library.  :)

It Takes Two to Tumble by Cat Sebastian - My Thoughts

It Takes Two to Tumble: Seducing the Sedgwicks - Cat Sebastian

This first of a projected series was recommended all over my Twitter feed as being a fun, sexy read.  And the recs weren't wrong.  :) 

The two main characters were a little different from the norm.  A ship's captain and a vicar.  I liked their characters.  Phillip, the widowed naval captain with the three unruly children is a grumpy, clueless, stern and standoffish fellow who we soon learn actually does have a heart under that disciplined exterior.

Benedict, or Ben, the vicar, is a sweetheart.  Takes care of everyone.  Good humoured and understanding and endowed with a huge heart, he's the perfect foil for Phillip. 

I honestly can't say that any new ground in historical, gay romances was broken here, but it's certainly a fun and entertaining read.  The love story is sweet and believable, the sexytimes are hot, and the children aren't little paragons of cleverness or virtue or old beyond their years. 

I enjoyed it quite a bit!  And I'm looking forward to the next in the series. 

Jade City by Fonda Lee - My Thoughts

Jade City (The Green Bone Saga) - Fonda Lee

I really have to start putting my thoughts down when I finish my books, not three days later! 

I really enjoyed this book, more than I thought I would, if I'm honest.  It's The Godfather meets Ninjas and Yakuza clans in a 1950's-ish time and on the Island of Kekon where jade is magical, giving enhanced abilities to some who are known as the Green Bone Warriors. 

I found the first maybe third of the book a little slow, as things got set up and we meet the main players, the Kaul family, as well as the a slew of secondary characters.  It's a typical clan type family, I guess, with the 'retired' grandfather who is having difficulty letting go of his power.  His three grandchildren, Lan, Hilo, Shae and the adopted Anden.  Lan, the eldest, is the new Pillar or head of the No Peak clan, Hilo is the Horn, the second-in-command.  Their sister, Shae, has been away from the island and the clan for a while and has been living without her jade.  Anden, the youngest, about to leave his teen years behind is a senior at the Academy, just about ready to graduate and take his jade as well as his position within the family. 

Once we begin to know all the characters and get somewhat of a handle on them, the story really kicks in.  We're talking murders, assassinations, stolen jade, government scandals, love affairs, clans heading to war and maybe even the total collapse of their island and way of life. 

The world-building is intricate and terrific and the characters, main, secondary and even the walk-ons are deftly drawn.  Once we get into things, the plot moves along quite nicely with twists and turns and surprises along the way.  Some good and some bad.  Some I saw coming, some I did not.

So, yes, this is one of those books where I wish I could write a decent review because I feel like I'm not doing it justice.  It's a terrific book and I can't wait for the second book to come out.

Tyrant's Throne by Sebastien de Castell - My Thoughts

Tyrant's Throne - Sebastien de Castell

I finished this a few days ago and promptly got sidetracked and forgot to write up my thoughts!  And it's not because it wasn't good,  because it was GREAT! 

In this, the fourth book of the Greatcoats quartet, the tale of Falcio, Kest, Brasti et al comes to its finale and my goodness it's not what you'd expect.  :)   And just when you thought you knew everything about the land of Tristia it turns out that you knew next to nothing!  *LOL*  I felt like Jon Snow there for a bit.  :)  But what we discover... mama mia, it opens the door to all kinds of musings and ponderings!

I found this book a little more serious, a little deeper than the previous three and I wonder if that's down to us being inside Falcio's head as everything gets turned upside down and sideways.  Probably. But despite that, there was still the humour, still the swashbuckling, still the larger than life characters that I've grown to love over the past books. 

So I loved the way that Sebastien wrapped things up.  The adventure, the politics, the ethical conundrums, the brotherhood, it was all there.  And the ending was perfect even if just a wee bit open-ended.  THAT made me happy, the hope of seeing our faves again. 

I still love Brasti beyond all belief, I really think he's my favourite character.  Brasti, Monster and the latest addition, Chalmers - my God, I fell in love with Chalmers! 

Anyway, incoherent as this is, I loved this book, I loved this whole quartet of books and I thank Sebastien de Castell for writing them!

Beyond the Empire by K. B. Wagers - My Thoughts

Beyond the Empire - K.B. Wagers

I actually finished this book 2 days ago, but I've been unable to even think about putting my thoughts down until now.  And even now, I know I'm not going to do it justice. 

I loved the book and the loved the series!  I just clicked with the characters.  Or they clicked with me... whatever.  *LOL*  I'm pretty sure there might be people out there who think Hail, the gunrunner empress, is too perfect, but you know what?  She's like my superhero.  Yes, she's one of the best gunrunners in the galaxy and you don't get to be that without being pretty damned good at all facets leading, fighting, learning, listening, plotting... well, you get my drift.  So Hail Bristol is basically my Batman.  :)   And you know what else?  She's not an uberly-gifted teenager, she's almost 40 years old.  Life has battered her around some. Her knowledge and abilities, while some of it is ingrained, a lot of it has also been learned and tried in a cauldron of fire.  Anyway... yes, she is my hero. 

The action in this last book of the trilogy is pretty much nonstop and the surprises keep on coming as Hail, Emmory, Zin and the gang fight to regain the Indranan throne.  People die.  And sometimes they die in a most awful manner, but such is the way of war.  Even as I was cursing the author, weeping, I knew it was something that had to happen. 

There are some quite times thought.  Scenes where Hail tries to come to terms with the loyalties and expectations of her people, of her found family and even of herself.  Scenes also, where she shares intimate moments with those closest to her, and we get to see the affection and love between them.  It's like... so... I've been watching the Olympic figure skating like a good Canadian, and cheering on Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir as they won their gold medal, all the while listening to all the speculation about their relationship and are they a couple or not.  So... I watch Tess and Scott and I see Hail and her Ekam, her head bodyguard, Emmory.  It's a deep connection, it's love, it's true kindred spiritness.  They're not a couple - that's Emmory and Zin, thank you very much (and how I wish we could have some stories about their adventures as Trackers.) - but they are very much together, if that makes any kind of sense. 

Okay, so, yes, I loved this trilogy so so much.  It was so much fun, so much action, so much of all kinds of things I love in my books.  There's another trilogy coming in the fall and I'm really looking forward to more adventures with Hail, Em, Zin and the gang.  But don't let that deter you, this trilogy can stand alone, honest.  :) 

Oh, I loved it.  So much that I went and joined the KB's Patreon.  

 

(And thank you Renzii!)

After the Crown by K. B. Wagers - My Thoughts

After the Crown - K.B. Wagers

Thanks to a very special and sweet person, I was able to continue right into Book 2 of this wonderful series. 

It was TERRIFIC!!!

And me, the reader who never binge-reads for various reasons, is binge-reading her way right into Book 3.  (Again, thanks to that lovely person.)

Need I say more?

Behind the Throne by K. B. Wagers - My Thoughts

Behind the Throne - K.B. Wagers

Thank you, Blair MacGregor (One of my favourite authors), thank you!  Thank you for recommending this terrific book.  I enjoyed it SO SO much.  I never binge read series - I find I overdose too easily and lose pleasure in the reading - but when I finished this book, I was ready to get the next two and read them right NOW!  But... they're a wee bit pricey and I can't be an adult and justify the expenditure.  This month.

So we have Hail, the gunrunner, who is in reality one of the Indranan Empire's royal family, and has been away from 'home' for twenty years.  The story opens when she is brought home, unwillingly, into a midst of politics and intrigue and family drama.

We have action, we have intimate emotional scenes, we have danger and spying, we have humour, we have heart-warming moments... oh, it's all there in this book.  And while the heroine, Hail, seems at times a bit too smart, a bit too clever and capable, you then remember that she's one of the most notorious gunrunners in the galaxy and has come by all those smarts and abilities quite honestly - so to speak.  *LOL*

I loved her.  I also fell for the whole darned cast of secondary characters (the book is written from Hail's POV, 1st person) and wanted to see more of them.  Especially Emmory and Zin, the Trackers who come to find Hail and bring her home and who are so much more than political bounty hunters and bodyguards.  :)

Oh, and another BTW, this society is matriarchal.  I enjoyed the way the author flipped the traditional gender roles and how that plays into the political shenanigans going on in the Empire.  The Indranan Empire is descended from space colonists from India and it's fascinating to see how the author has created a world 2500 years in the future.  I don't know a lot about Indian society, history etc... but it felt well done to me.  :)

Oh, I enjoyed this book so much.  :)  I can't wait to read the next two!!  And it looks like the author is starting a second trilogy with the same main character.  Makes me a happy camper.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, Blair!  It rocked!!

Fish Stick Fridays by Rhys Ford - My Thoughts

Fish Stick Fridays - Rhys Ford

Bless Rhys Ford.  Whenever I need a go-to book because the one I've just finished has been awful and enraged me or managed to rip my heart out and leave me with a book hangover, I know I can go to a Rhys book and sink into an adventurous love story that hits most, if not all, of my sweetspots. 

I loved the two main characters of this book right off.  Rough and tumble Deke and the more reticent and maybe even proper, Lang.  And Deke's niece, Zig, well, she's just a special creature unto herself!  And these three were exactly what I needed after the dark and dreary of the book I had just finished. 

It's Rhys, so there had to be at least one dead body.  :)  But the main thing was that Deke and Lang met, they connected and they fell in love.  I thought they complimented each other perfectly and their banter... Oh, Rhys was definitely 'on' when she wrote this one.  I laughed out loud on more than one occasion.  But there is darkness.  After all, Deke and Zig have had pretty shitty lives up until they arrive in Half Moon Bay. 

So, Rhys does what Rhys does and soothes my mind with a terrific romance and I'm very pleased that I still have a few unread Rhys novels in my TBR.  

The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark - My Thoughts

The Court of Broken Knives (Empires of Dust) - Anna Smith Spark

This book was so damned dark and bleak...  Grimdark?  Oh my GAWD, it was freaking grim and dark to the nth degree!

Now I have no problem with grimdark fantasy.  I like characters with flaws and who aren't goodie-goodies.  This post on Fantasy Hive by Cameron Johnston, published just yesterday, reflects many of my own thoughts on the genre.  Needless to say, I don't believe that The Court of Broken Knives succeeds in any of it. There is nothing of hope, of love, of humour, or of anything other than death, blood, violence, sadness and hate.  Nothing redeeming at all!  I couldn't help but think that the author must have a couple of hundred tons of demons to work out on the page. 

Now, the writing is a bit different, it's somewhat odd.  For instance, there are a couple of 1st person POV chapters thrown into the 60 chapters of the book.  Why?  I'm not sure, but it didn't bother me.  It must have worked on whatever level the author was hoping it would.  And that's just one instance of something 'different' in the writing style.  I appreciated the difference though.  Wasn't a problem one bit. In fact it's one of the reasons I was able to finish the book, I think.  That, and the fact that it was a Christmas present and I always want to finish those.

But the characters... OMG... the characters.... not a single one left standing that I cared for.  And all the ones I thought I might get to like... eviscerated, burned up, squished, beheaded... you name it... 

So in the end... far too dark and irredeemable for me.  Depressing.  Not a story that enthralled me - it more appalled me.  

Not a fan. 

A Turn of Light by Julie Czerneda - My Thoughts

A Turn of Light - Julie E. Czerneda

The third of my Christmas books and I'm 3 for 3!  (I have one Christmas book left to read.) 

So, Julie Czerneda is a Canadian author, mostly of science fiction.  She's a favourite of my good friend, Ginette, and when I had read something about Julie and this book somewhere (I follow a lot of blogs) I mentioned to G that I thought I'd like to give her a try.  G said that she thought I'd like it.  She did.  So it went on my Christmas list and my son put it under the tree for me.

Now this book is a brick.  I mean, an 800-page brick!  And I have the mass market paperback edition so let me tell you that when one is used to reading on an ereader, it's a pretty daunting thing!  *LOL*  It took me a while (for me) to read.  2 1/2 weeks.  But not because I wasn't enjoying it, 'cause I was, but looking for a light and a comfy way to hold the book for an extended period of time and the smallish font is a bit of a chore!  *LOL*

Anyway... to the book.

This is not a book for someone who wants a quick, action-packed thrill ride.  This is a book to immerse yourself in.  A book to discover slowly, like that cliché of peeling back the layers of an onion.  A book to sink into until you become as at home in Marrowdell as Jenn and her family and her friends. 

There's something special about Marrowdell and as you go along in the book, you slowly begin to discover its delights and secrets bit by bit.  It could be frustrating if you weren't into that, but I found myself almost wallowing in the atmosphere.  Julie makes Marrowdell come alive. 

And the characters.  Oh, I loved most of them.  Absurdly, the character I could never really warm up to was the main character of Jenn.  She was just a little too young, a little too naive and impulsive, a little too... flighty at times?... for old lady me.  I didn't dislike her at all.  I just never warmed up to her.  The surrounding characters... honestly?  I think I liked them all!  I have a special soft spot for Horst.  And Kydd.  And Tir.  Then there's Scourge... the, um, big warhorse. *LOL*  And like my friend, Ginette, the TOADS!!! 

And you know... there's nary a prince, a duke, a queen or an emperor.  This is a story about normal (well....) country folk, farmers, millers, tinkers and an one-time soldier or two.   You know... it feels just like a Canadian book in some ways.  *LOL*

Oh, I enjoyed this!  And I'll read the second one as well as dip into Julie's science fiction tales. 

Currently reading

The Crimson Campaign
Brian McClellan
A Killer in King's Cove
Iona Whishaw
Fosse
Sam Wasson
The Magicians
Lev Grossman
The City Stained Red
Sam Sykes