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.  

Design for Dying by Renee Patrick - My Thoughts

Design for Dying - Renee Patrick

Oh my, this was fun to read!  I am so glad it has a great cover because it was the cover that originally caught my eye.  One of the women I follow on Twitter is a librarian whose job includes purchasing the books for the library and she likes to tweet out book covers and give her thoughts on them.  So, she tweeted this cover, I was intrigued, I went to check the blurb and promptly added it to my 'to acquire' list.  It recently went on sale (as of this writing it's still $2.99 at Kobo) so I was very quick to pick it up.

And it's delicious!!  I love the setting - 1937 Hollywood.  The characters are terrific.  The heroine, Lillian Frost is right out of one of those detective movies of the 30s and 40s and I liked her right away.  I've been a huge fan of Edith Head for decades and love the way the authors (Renee Patrick is the pseudonym for the husband and wife team of Rosemarie and Vince Keenan.) have portrayed her.  The other supporting characters are perfect.  Gene, the stalwart police detective.  Vi, Ready and Kay friends of Lillian's who are wonderfully quirky.  Even the suspects in the murder case are great.  Some might call them all stereotypical, but they all evoke the genre so well that it's delightful!

I honestly felt like I was watching a movie.  Everything worked.  Even the plot of the mystery.  I thought person X did it, then maybe it was person Y then maybe it was Z and B working together, then back to X again all the while waiting for the one clue that would make me believe it was person N coming in from left field.  *LOL*

I guess one would term this a cozy style mystery even if it does take place in the decadent environs of Hollywood.  And I'll admit, they are not my favourite, but this one... I LOVED IT!   Can't wait to read the second one!

I highly recommend this - especially if you're a mystery fan and an old-time Hollywood fan.

Finding Ms. Write by Various Authors - My Thoughts

Finding Ms. Write - Jove Belle, Elaine Burnes, Lea Daley, A.L. Brooks, Anastasia Vitsky, Melissa Grace, Cori Kane, Hazel Yeats, Chris Zett, Jacelle Scott, Kathy Brodland, Jae

Finding Ms. Write is an anthology of 12 f/f contemporary romance stories and I thought it a perfect way to discover some new authors without breaking my bank.  *LOL*  You see, most of the f/f authors that are recommended by folks publish with publishers that A) never seem to go on sale and B) sell their novels for $13 a piece.  Not conducive to exploring a genre.  And quite honestly, Bold Strokes Books and Ylva Publishing should take a look at that if they want to expand beyond their comfy genre niche.  I love romance of all sorts, but quite honestly, they don't make it easy.

So, on to the book.  The stories were well-written and somewhat engaging for the most part, but what struck me was that they all seemed to have main characters who had either been dumped/widowed/deserted in some way.  Is this a big f/f trope?  The anthology didn't seem to be going for that - it's supposed to be about the publishing industry - but it seemed that every last one of these ladies had some tragedy in their past.

For the most part, all the romances are very sweet.  Not much steam or heat happening, which disappointed me.  I like my romances to have some physical oomph to them.  There was just an element of blandness to many of the tales and characters.  Maybe blandness is not the right word... I don't know.  I just found most of them too calm for me maybe.  On the plus side, the majority of the characters weren't wet behind the ears kidlets under the age of 25.  It was refreshing to read about mature women - except jeez, did they all have to have lost a love?

One thing really irritated me though... I really don't need to be reading a romance story about a main character who has early on-set Alzheimer's to deal with.

In conclusion, I will say that Finding Ms. Write was a nice read, filled with nice stories about nice people.  Nice.

Crescendo by Rachel Haimowitz - My Thoughts

Crescendo - Rachel Haimowitz

I've had this in my TBR pile forever it seems and I wonder why?  I loved the first book - Counterpoint - a lot, but for some reason I never got around to reading this one.  I shouldn't have waited so long.  Why?  First off, because I enjoyed it, but secondly, because it follows right on the heels of the first novel (they could really be two halves of a whole epic brick of a fantasy novel) and I had forgotten many of the little bits and bobs of the plot that would have been nice to remember reading this one.  

 

As I said, I enjoyed this one a lot.  An epic fantasy, elves, dark creatures, big battles, intimate fights, slaves and magic songs, at the heart of it is the love story between Freyrik and Ayden, man and elf.  I liked that the love story, while being  very very important, didn't overshadow the plot of the book, but was like one half of the whole.  

 

I did get the feeling, however, that near the end, the author just wanted to be finished with the story.  It felt a little rushed.  I would have liked more of Rik with the elves and how that bridge got built.  I'd have liked to see it instead of just being told about it.  I would also like to have seen more of some of the secondary characters, especially the some of the elves that we only really get to meet near the end of the book.  And I would also have like more depth to the solving of the problem of the 'dark elves'.  

 

But, I did like it a lot.  :)

 

Old Man's War by John Scalzi - My Thoughts

Old Man's War (Old Man's War, #1) - John Scalzi

I've been eyeing Scalzi's work for a while, but not being a huge sci-fi fan, I've always tended to pass over his books.  But after getting hooked on the TV shows The Expanse and Dark Matter, and reading the first of the Expanse books and loving it, I decided - after a quick check with some long time friends - that it was time for me to try Scalzi out.  It helped, of course, that the book was on a really good sale.  :)

And I liked it.  :)  Military space opera.  A protagonist that's closer to my age than most others these days and some really intriguing future world-building that wasn't too scientific for me.  I don't enjoy reading scientific treatises, you see.  And quite frankly, that's why this isn't 4 stars - there was a little too much techy-techy, OMG what are we going to become etc... for me.  I felt like this book was a good tale, a romp with some great characters and terrific bantering dialogue and those few parts that were of a techsophical bent just seemed preachy to me.

Anyhoo, I really did enjoy the book.  Enjoyed Scalzi's voice for the most part and will indeed read further in the series.  When they go on sale again.  *LOL*  The budget, man, the budget!!

 

Murder on the Last Frontier by Cathy Pegau - My Thoughts

Murder on the Last Frontier (A Charlotte Brody Mystery) - Cathy Pegau

For some reason, I expected this book to be a mystery with a f/f romance as the secondary plot (and I don't think I was the only one.).  Well... nope.  *LOL*  It's a m/f romantic subplot.  Sort of.  Vaguely.

Really, Murder on the Last Frontier is basically a cozy mystery starring a 1920s feminist on the Alaskan frontier.  Charlotte is a journalist who comes to visit her brother, a doctor, in the Alaskan town of Cordova (the town where the author lives today, so it feels really authentic).  There is a rangy assistant deputy who Charlotte finds herself attracted to in the course of solving the mystery of the murder of a young woman of the evening.

It's a good book.  I enjoyed my read even though I kept looking for the second heroine to appear.  :)  Much of my enjoyment was because I liked the character of Charlotte a lot.  She has some darkness and heartache in her background which is a large part of her coming to visit her brother.  She's kind of sassy and irreverent and I like that.

The mystery was okay, nothing spectacular, but it served to let me get to know Charlotte.  And by the end of the book, she's made some friends, a couple of enemies too and I find myself looking forward to reading some more about her.  :)

So yeah, if you like cozy mysteries in a historical setting that's different from most, then this is for you.

Knots & Crosses by Ian Rankin - My Thoughts

Knots and Crosses - Ian Rankin

Finally trying out a popular UK police procedural.  I do enjoy a good procedural.  And I enjoyed this one for the most part.

In some ways, John Rebus reminds me a little of my beloved Armand Gamache in that he's well-read, thoughtful, and somewhat tortured by things in his past.  My problem is that Rebus is also kind of a jerk.  I really didn't warm up to him much at all.  And his supporting cast wasn't all that likable either.

I thought there was a lot of faffing about in the first half of the book - a lot of delving into Rebus' psyche and woe-is-me attitudes and not a lot about the search for the burgeoning serial killer.  Which might have worked better for me had I felt a liking for Rebus.  *LOL*

As for the mystery of the kidnappings and murders, I suspected it pretty early on, but there were some twists and turns I wasn't expecting.

So, end result, it was a decent read and I'll read more about Inspector Rebus and hope that I grow to like him a little better.  :)

The Obsession by Nora Roberts - My Thoughts

The Obsession - Nora Roberts

I can always trust what I'm going to get with a Nora Roberts book and to date, I don't think I've been disappointed.  I thought this might be a first as I made my way through the first few chapters.  It was like an episode of Criminal Minds and that's not really how I want my Noras to be!  *LOL*  But then we got on with the story and things all fell into place.

All my fave elements were there, the hot hero, the heroine that I would love to share a bottle of wine and a giggle with, the supporting cast of friends and family and the obligatory dog or two.  Most importantly, the banter was there.  One of my favourite things about Nora books is the banter, indeed all the dialogue, between the characters.

In reading other reviews of this book, a lot of folks moaned about how much there was of the renovation talk.  I had no problem with it as that whole part of the plot was mirroring the inner journey of Naomi, our heroine.  What drove me nuts was the constant description of all the food!  I'm so not a foodie.  *LOL*

I enjoyed how Naomi and Xander fell in love and I totally enjoyed their courtship.  Yeah, Xander might be a little perfect, but it's a perfect I like and it makes me happy, so...  :)

The suspenseful part of the story was okay, not Nora's best nor her worst, but again, it felt like an episode of Criminal Minds and while that's one of my favourite shows, it's not really what I want in my Nora books.  I don't think it was too difficult to figure out who the bad guy was once the mystery part really got going.

Anyway, it was a Nora and I liked it.  :)

(By the way, I didn't really set out to read two books with the same title back to back, it just happened.  *LOL*)

The Obsession by Liliana Lee - My Thoughts

The Obsession - Liliana Lee

Holy steam bath, Batman!  This book is SCORCHING!

Erotic romance, emphasis on the erotic, done extremely well in my opinion.  Yes, there were a few passages of uber-flowery language, but I can overlook that.

The story is told from the POV of the Princess Shanyin, sister to the emperor who has a harem of 30 of the most gorgeous male concubines and then the very handsome Chu Yuan catches her eye and she decides that she must have him.  And thus the tale of her seduction of Yuan begins.

There's a plot here, beyond the seduction and heat which I thought added to the book, but make no mistake, this is a novella about erotic sex and it delivers.  I will be reading Books 2 and 3.  :)

Bonfires by Amy Lane - My Thoughts

Bonfires - Amy Lane

I absolutely LOVED this book.  Loved it!

The heroes of Bonfires are just south of 50 years of age and BY GOD that's amazing!  We so seldom get to see heroes in romances that are older than 35 these days... hell, most of them are in their early 20s in the m/m subgenre.  And they're ordinary guys!  No mental illnesses or diseases or infirmities to conquer along with falling in love.  Just kids and creaky bones and grey hair.  How goddamned refreshing is THAT!  I LOVED IT!

Yes, being as the story is set in a small town there are current day prejudices and bigotries to be discusses and small-mindedness and bullying to be concerned with, but these things don't take over the love story of these two, special ordinary good guys.  I don't know which one was my favourite, Aaron the deputy sheriff, or Larx, the reluctant high school principal.  (On small problem I had was that name though... Larx, short for Larkin - bugged the hell out of me for no specific reason.  Just did.  *LOL*)

And they have kids, both their own kids and students that have need of an understanding ear or a helping hand.  Smart kids.  Clever and wise kids.  Smart kids that do dumb things.  Sad kids.  Happy kids.  All kinds of flipping kids that made me laugh and smile and grumble and even cry.  The middle chapters of this book saw me becoming a blubbering mess!  *LOL*

If you read a lot of Amy's books, you know we usually see a family being formed, usually through the eyes of a young man or two.  In this case, we see the same forming of a family, but this time through the eyes of the two mature men.  It's so viscerally Amy but different.  :)   And yet, there's so much of Amy in this book, I can definitely see why she says she felt such joy writing it.

Anyway... I just loved it!  Period, full stop.  :)

Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan - My Thoughts

Age of Myth - Michael J. Sullivan

I was so excited to hear about this book - the first in a new series by one of my fave fantasy authors - and thank all the little gods, I LOVED IT!

Age of Myth tells tales from long, long ago in the world that we've come to know over the Riyria books and they aren't quite as they've been handed down over the millenia!  *LOL*

On some levels, it's your typical big fantasy book, there are elves and dwarves and humans and demons and magic and mystics, but that's just a framework.  The world-building is great - very consistent with what I have come to expect from the Riryia books, which is a good thing.  The plot works for me - others might find it similar to other things they've read before and maybe it is.  Hell, I've been reading epic fantasy for over 40 years, so yeah, many parts are familiar, but... BUT I love the author's voice and the way he creates his characters - I LOVE the characters!  They have flaws, they're not all gorgeous and capable, they have secrets and some of them have plans... BIG plans.  And as for that plot, well, I can honestly say that almost all the important twists I didn't see coming until I was expected to see them coming.

One thing that I love about Sullivan's writing is his sense of humour.  I love it!  I actually chuckle out loud while I'm reading at times.  And it's not that the book is supposed to be funny, okay, it's not Robert Asprin here.  People are funny and Sullivan knows this, so his characters are funny at times. Malcolm and Raithe especially.  Apropos of the humour, seldom am I moved to highlight passages from books, but I did this one:

"It was what the tree said to do.  And if you can't trust an ancient talking tree, what was the point of having one?" 



I loved that!!

In the end, I loved my read and I can't wait for the next book in the series to come out this summer!  (BTW, Sullivan writes his whole series before he publishes the first book, so there are no worries about not getting the end of the tale!)

Deep Deception by Cathy Pegau - My Thoughts

Deep Deception - Cathy Pegau

I've been looking for a good f/f romance to sink my teeth into, but you know what?  Most f/f romances by recced authors are out of my budget range!  I can't spent $13 on a 250 page romance novel.  I don't spend that for ANY novel if I'm honest.

Anyway, Cathy Pegau is a recommended author whose books don't cost an arm and a leg, so I've picked up a handful.  Deep Deception is the first one I've read.  It's a science fiction, suspense, romance and a good read.  It didn't satisfy my want for a good juicy romance, it's leaning more towards suspense/romance than romance/suspense if that makes any sense.  I should mention that Cathy's other 2 books in this setting of Nevarro appear to be loosely linked to this one - which is the 3rd one written - but every place I've checked confirms that the books can be read separately.

The main characters, Natalia and Gennie are interesting enough if a little sparsely drawn.  The story is told more from Natalia's POV, so she gets the lion share of introspection and backstory, but I found myself wanting to know more of Gennie's history.  Her childhood before she hooked up with the Reyes family for instance.

Somewhat formulaic but nonetheless enjoyable, I'm looking forward to reading the rest of Cathy's books in my TBR pile.

An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows - My Thoughts

An Accident of Stars - Foz Meadows

I'll be honest.  I bought this book because the cover caught my eye, the author's name had popped up in my Twitter feed on more than one occasion and it was on sale. :)  The blurb didn't turn me off either, so bonus!

And it was a satisfactory read.  I had some problems, however.

First off, all the way through the book I felt as if I had missed reading a volume one somewhere.  I even checked the author's website a couple of times to make certain I had the first book.  Seems I did, but the fact that I felt I had missed a huge part of the story - that was only exacerbated by the memories and expositions of the characters - hung over me all through my read.

That could be a part of the reason that I felt that the plot was all over the place.  There was a lot happening and not enough focus on stuff that I thought needed more focus and then too much on stuff that I didn't find that important.  The strands never came together.  Now yeah, it's Book 1, but SOME of the strands need to come together, in my opinion. It was like a non-ending.  Also, there was SO much well, gender switching for lack of a better word in my little mind, that it often felt forced.  The premise was interesting, but I never got the feeling that there was a why behind it.  It felt like the author wanted the women to hold all the power, the men to feel what women in our world have lived with forever, and I think sex was a good thing with no matter who.  And we also have what I believe is this world's take on transgenderism - can I use that word?.  Far too much stuff thrown in with no actual logic behind it that I could see.  Now don't get me wrong, I love all this stuff, but I want it to feel natural within the story, not thrown in for the purposes of educating the unwashed masses as it were.

There were a ton of interesting characters, very very few of them focussed on, in favour of the very youthful protaganists, Saffron,Viya and Zech.  I think maybe I was reading a YA novel that was trying to break out of the YA mold possibly.  I loved the character of Gwen, but her motives were never clear and I wanted them to be.  I wanted to 'get' her.  And her friend Pix.  And Matu and Luy/Louis.  That's where I felt the hints of depth.

So, all in all, for a fantasy novel with an interesting premise and some great characters , the execution left me flat.

Slow Horses by Mick Herron - My Thoughts

Slow Horses - Mick Herron

It sounded good when I read the blurb.  I wasn't sure about it until about half way through, but then it really got going and the twists and turns were twisty and turny and suddenly, I couldn't put it down!  *LOL*

The characters are, for the most part, quite unlikable.  Even the erstwhile hero, River Cartwright has his problems.  But, once I got to the second half of the book, I began to find them, still distasteful, but intriguing!

The plot was nice and twisty and turny, as I said, and kept me wondering until the end.  A few nice surprises along the way too.  Very British in feel, I thought.  Which is a good thing for a British spy novel, right?  And the subject of all the spy stuff is very topical for now.  Rising nationalist feelings and hate crimes against minorities.  Maybe a little too close to home?   Still... I enjoyed my read.

So I will be reading more of these.  :)

Shadows & Dreams by Alexis Hall - My Thoughts

Shadows & Dreams - Alexis Hall

A fun read, just like the first one.  Kate Kane is a tough cookie, very noir-like in inception and her adventures with the vampires, werewolves, faeries, and all sorts of different supernatural creatures are certainly filled with action.

The plot is twisty turny and non-stop.  We meet a ton of characters (old and new) and I find myself wondering if maybe there weren't a tad too many?   And not only were there many, Kate has probably slept with the majority of the ladies!  *LOL*  She likes her pleasures.  :)

So yes, a fun read and I have no idea why it took me so long to get through it.  There's a note in the back of the book about a #3 in the series coming, but I have the feeling that Alexis has moved on to other things.  I'd have read it though.

Jaran by Kate Elliott - My Thoughts

Jaran - Kate Elliott

I have been meaning to read these books for the longest time.  I'd picked up books 2 & 3 from the second hand bookstore a few years ago, but of course, held off until I could find book 1.  Well, finally, they came out in Ebook omnibus for a really great price - $2.99 - and who could resist that!

So... worth the wait?  Well yes and no.  The book is basically a fantasy set in a science fiction universe - maybe sort of like the Pern novels?  The thing is, you'd better like the heroine, Tess, because you're going to see a helluva lot of her supposedly growing.  To be honest, I found her really a bit too good to be true.  She really has no discernible flaws other than a stubborn unwillingness to actually talk to the hero, Ilya, about what's happening between them.  I wanted to smack both of them at different times during my read.  *LOL*

That being said, I really enjoyed the world-building - or shall I say universe building in this one.  Yeah, we've seen before the primitive society side-by-side with the space-faring society but the primitive world is being protected from the advanced bunch by interdictions - can you say Prime Directive anyone?  *LOL*  Yeah, it made me think, in a very loose way, of The Omega Glory from the original Star Trek.  E plebnista y'all!

What saved the book for me was the cast of secondary characters and the society of the Jaran.  Fascinating!  While I did lose a couple of my faves, I'm hopeful that further books in the series (there are 4 volumes) will continue their stories as well as that of Tess and Ilya.  And maybe Tess will stop being so perfect at everything.  A girl can hope!

 

An Unseen Attraction by KJ Charles - My Thoughts

An Unseen Attraction - K.J. Charles

A new KJ Charles trilogy!!  WOOT!

No one does historical m/m romance better than KJ Charles, in my honest and humble opinion.  That this trilogy also holds a mystery plot line makes me very happy.

As always, the main characters are distinct and different from the norm.  And as often as not, they aren't the nobility either, which I find fascinating. I always learn something when reading KJ's books.  This time, we have a taxidermist and the manager of a boarding house.

Rowley, the taxidermist, is a quiet man.  His childhood was violent and somewhat hopeless and these days he's most happy to spend most of his time by himself, working on his art or doing commissions for his customers.  I found many of his life observations to be quite true and really enjoyed getting to know him.

The boarding house manager, Clem, is part Indian and has ties to the nobility.  He also appears to be what we call 'on the spectrum'.  Asperger's?  Highly functioning autistic? It's never really stated because, well, these diagnoses didn't exist back in those days. I really enjoyed how Rowley was able understand him and let his true self show.  That Rowley's sexual preferences seemed to dovetail quite nicely with Clem's personality and needs... well it was really well done.

And Clem's friends and co-workers... delightful!  KJ does characters so well.  :)

An Unseen Attraction is a sweet love story wrapped up in a mystery and tied with a lovely historical bow and I totally enjoyed it!  I can't wait for the next book, coming in June and then the final book which I believe comes out in October.  They are pre-ordered.  KJ is one of the few authors I will preorder.

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