Agent Bayne (PsyCop #9)

Agent Bayne (PsyCop Book 9) - Jordan Castillo Price

*happy sigh*


I didn't read Skin After Skin, so the last new PsyCop book I read was Spook Squad which was FOREVER ago. To say that I've been impatiently awaiting this book is not an exaggeration, and it did not disappoint.


This is around the time in most long-running series where the author runs out of steam (if they hadn't already) and just start phoning in their books. Not JCP though. She keeps this series fresh, keeps finding new ways to challenge her characters and push their boundaries, and keeps delivering hilarious commentary on the absurdities of life. (Vic vs smartphone is my new favorite.)


I loved seeing Vic in this new environment at the FPMP. He finally starts to realize just how toxic things were at the precinct when his new coworkers are not only nice to him but actually excited to work with him, and some are genuinely in awe of him. It's a lot for him to adjust to. Along with that, he has a new assignment unlike anything he did when working homicide and he has to figure out how to work with Darla.


Darla is a great addition to the cast, and her history with Vic has a lot of possibilities for exploring not just their shared pasts but their ever-changing understanding of what it means to be a medium. Jacob also does some growing here, though not quite to the degree as Vic. He is not okay after the events in Spook Squad and has some anxiety to deal with. It's the first chink in his armor that we've seen and it brings him more down to Earth in his view of psychic abilities. 


As for the mystery, the perp was pretty obvious from the get-go, and while we expect Vic to be clueless and obtuse, I was rather bemused that Jacob didn't start asking the necessary questions sooner. Thankfully, the mystery isn't the sole focus here. Vic's got his mediumship project and he's also starting to unearth some memories of his childhood and realizing that his fuzzy memories don't mean what he always expected they did. But they all tie together and it opens this whole new realm for exploration in future books.

Return of the King (Lord of the Rings, Vol 3) (Audiobook)

The Return of the King: Book Three in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy - Recorded Books LLC, Rob Inglis, J.R.R. Tolkien

'Well, here we are, just the four of us that started out together,' said Merry. 'We have left all the rest behind, one after another. It seems almost like a dream that has slowly faded.'


'Not to me,' said Frodo. 'To me it feels more like falling asleep again.'


Tolkien disliked allegory, favoring instead applicability. The War of the Ring is not WWII, Sauron is not Hitler, and the Nazgul and orcs are not Nazis. This story survives because anyone, at any point in time, can pick it up and find something in it that speaks to them, to their times and to their concerns and hopes. Undoubtedly, WWI and WWII influenced Tolkien. How could they not, when he started writing about Middle-Earth in the trenches while fighting in WWI? He writes about war, the battles, the people, and the destruction it brings unlike any other author I've read. He went to war with all his friends and came home alone. He then had to watch his sons go to war, and wait, and hope and fear, to find out if they would ever come home to him or be lost to him as his friends were long ago. And when he sons returned, it was to find their home ripped apart and devastated. So too Frodo and his friends return to the Shire to find their battles are not yet done.


This book easily has some of Tolkien's best writing in the entire series. The emotions and stakes are high throughout. He knows when to let our heroes have little moments of peace and small victories among the constant barrage of violence and hopelessness. 


And in that very moment, away behind in some courtyard of the City, a cock crowed. Shrill and clear he crowed, recking nothing of wizardy or war, welcoming only the morning that in the sky far above the shadows of death was coming with the dawn.


And as if in answer there came from far away another note. Horns,  horns, horns. In dark Mindolluin's sides they dimly echoed. Great horns of the North wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last.


The onslaught and oppression of the Dark Lord is relentless. He took the day away! He unleashes his armies against the West and he nearly wins. Our heroes battle on, not because they're Big Damn Heroes (although they are) but because if they don't fight they will definitely lose. They continue without hope, they willingly sacrifice themselves again and again, because if they give up, there is no one else to carry on the fight. The longer they can keep fighting, the longer they can hold off defeat - and the longer a certain hobbit has to reach Mt. Doom. In the onslaught of seemingly insurmountable odds, they keep putting one foot in front of the other - and they accumulate a lot of kickass moments while they're at it.


'Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!'


Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. 'But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund's daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.'


From ruin, destruction and grief, comes healing, joy and love. Tolkien coined the phrase "eucatastrophe" to describe that moment in a story where the hero doesn't meet a terrible end - everything turns and victory is achieved. But that doesn't mean that losses don't still happen, or that everything bad is undone. But against all odds, that one moment of horror doesn't happen. We see it time and again throughout this book, the greatest being after Frodo fails in his quest but the Ring is destroyed anyway. Joy and sorrow, together, but joy is the greater.


And all the host laughed and wept, and in the midst of their merriment and tears the clear voice of the minstrel rose like silver and gold, and all men were hushed. And he sang to them, now in the elven-tongue, now in the speech of the West, until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.


Tolkien uses the concepts of dark and light to great effect throughout the book, from the day without dawn to the glittering veil of the Undying Lands, he shows again and again how even the darkest days cannot extinguish all light, that no matter how bad things are and how hopeless things may seem, that to give up, to give in to despair, is the worst thing any of our heroes could do. Despair is the greatest sin, for by despairing you are assuming you already know how things are going to end - and end horribly - and if any of our heroes had done that, things would have gone very differently. Each time it seems our heroes might be about to despair, they're given a sign to keep going.


There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was a light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.


Yet no matter how much light may shine upon you, sometimes you've just seen too much evil. That is Frodo's reality after the War, and so the Shire was saved, but not for him - just as many veterans feel when returning home. They don't fit anymore, those they left behind can't understand what they've seen or done, or lost within themselves. No amount of explaining, if you can bring yourself to do so, will help them understand. You're forever changed, and there is no going home again. Tolkien understood it well, and it flows from the pages in the last few chapters. Yet even for Frodo, healing may still be found. 


Though here at journey's end I lie
in darkness buried deep,
beyond all towers strong and high,
beyond all mountains steep,
above all shadows rides the Sun
and Stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
nor bid the Stars farewell.


Anyway, I can continue to rain praises on this book, but let's get to the movie pros and cons:


~Frodo would never tell Sam to leave and Sam would never go! (Yes, I covered this in the book review for TTT, but it bears repeating. This is the single change that pisses me off the most about the movies.)

~Yet more fakeout falls to non-deaths *sigh*

~Pippin in Gondor, Merry in Rohan - amazing!

~Denethor *sigh* Way to take a complex character and turn him into a one-note villain.

~Faramir doesn't fare much better here than he did in TTT either.

~The destruction of the Ring and Mordor were spot on, and the Eagles were great.

~That ridiculous nonsense about Arwen's life force being magically tied to the Ring's destruction is ridiculous. It makes no sense and how the hell did Elrond even get to Dunharrow? 

~Everyone bowing to the hobbits was pretty spectacular, though I do love Aragorn sitting Frodo and Sam on his throne and bowing to them just as much. 

~Éowyn and Faramir's epic whirlwind romance got reduced to a single look - and yet still somehow works. :D

~And I do like that Merry got to go to the Black Gate with Pippin. They weren't separated yet again. Yay!

~The Scouring of the Shire is, in my opinion, the most important chapter in the series. It's a culmination of everything the hobbits learned while on their quest, and now they use those skills to free their own people and their own lands. It also reinforces Frodo's PTSD and sense of failure. 'I set out to save the Shire, and it has been saved.' Note he doesn't say 'and I have saved it.' Saruman's words to him on the steps of Bag End are the cruelest words he could have spoken, and his voice proves to still be weapon enough, for even though Frodo recognizes his lies when speaking to the other hobbits assembled he still finds what Saruman says to be too close to his own thoughts. 

And it's what soldiers returning home after WWI and WWII would have encountered. No land was left untouched. They came back from fighting for their homes, families and freedoms to find those very things yanked away from them still. They had to rebuild, and say goodbye to many they loved, and roust out the spies in their midst. And so too do the hobbits. 

All that being said, for the movie that PJ was making, the Scouring wouldn't have made sense. And it would have added another half-hour easily to the already long running time. I actually love all the stuff that happens when they get home in the movie - unrealistic though it may be - and I don't miss the Scouring at all. I can always come to the books and read it when I want to.

~Mordor was just as screwed up and gloomy as I expected.

~The Paths of the Dead and the Dead Army - someone was watching too much Scooby Doo before they made those scenes. I just can't take them seriously, and using the Dead Army at the Pelennor is ridiculous. They look like scrubbing bubbles! Also, it makes the deaths of Théoden and everyone else fighting at the Pelennor feel like a stalling tactic and cheapens their sacrifices.

~More oliphaunts!! <3

~Legolas's physics- and gravity-defying antics *sigh*

~The Witch-King crumbling up like a witch forced to take a bath is a bit on the nose, especially after they made Minas Morgul the Evil Emerald City. (I do love the visuals for Minas Morgul, it looks so creepy!)

~The Grey Havens are beautiful.

~"Well, I'm back." <3


And now, I'm done. Until the next reread. ;)


Shiver (Unbreakable Bonds #1) - DNF @ 50%

Shiver - Rinda Elliott, Jocelynn Drake

That's three for three. What the hell is going on? I've never had this many DNFs in a row. *frustrated sigh*


There was some good stuff here, which is why I kept reading so long, hoping the rest of the story would catch up. But...


The Good:


~Ian seems like a fun character, though I hope he has a good manager since being a good chef isn't enough to keep a restaurant going. 

~Banner, the intrepid detective, is so dedicated to his job he goes on interviews with a flu. Because nothing will scare witnesses into giving answers than fear of getting sick. ;) Naw, that's not why he does it, he just really wants to solve his case.

~This isn't entirely GFY. Andrei's noticed guys and had some sexual encounters with them, but only when their was a woman or alcohol involved. Still, it smacks of GFY because "there's just something about Lucas" that makes him different. What that something is I have no clue. Lucas isn't a bad guy, he's just kind of jerk sometimes.

~The writing is decent and doesn't have too many typos.


The Annoying:


~Incorrect medical procedures are incorrect. There's no way the hospital would let Andrei out of there, even with a minor burn, without first dressing the burn and wrapping it up, so that whole scene that takes place after the hospital doesn't make sense; it shouldn't need to be happening. And then Lucas is putting this green gel goop on it and also not dressing it. Poor Andrei's shirts are all going to be a mess at this point.

~Speaking of, this is yet another story where the MCs are seriously injured and aside from a few aches and pains the next day, they're walking around like no big deal. At least Lucas took a couple of pills? And only one with alcohol. Yay? But Lucas has broken ribs. RIBS! And he keeps getting thrown down the ground like no big deal. If you're going to go to the trouble of trashing up your characters, can you please remember they're injured? Thanks.

~And why aren't his ribs wrapped?! Are his broken fingers even wrapped or did I just imagine that they were?

~Andrei's supposed to be protecting Lucas's life and keeps getting distracted by his lips and other stuff. Ugh!

~Insta-lust is boring to me on the best days, but when he's lusting after someone covered in cuts and bruises, I have to wonder about the character's mental state.

~Inconsistencies with established facts: Lucas's penthouse is initially described as three stories. Andrei only ever checks the first two stories. What's up with the third floor? Also, Andrei is described many times as being bigger than Lucas, but then suddenly Lucas is bigger than Andrei. Which is it?


The Bad:

~Rowe, Lucas and Snow (and Ian) are supposed to be these super tight BBFs but aside from Ian, all the other three seem to do is bicker, fight or strangle (yes, literally) each other at every turn. Just not feeling the unbreakable bond here.

~Lucas is so stupid that he goes off to the property he bought that's putting his life at risk to show off the night skyline view to Andrei. Andrei's so stupid that he actually takes Lucas there. 

~And that's only the first stupid thing they do in the first half. I don't doubt there is plenty more stupidity waiting in the second half.

~That sex scene up against the window is just logistically impossible the way it's written. Andrei's facing the window with his hands on the glass and Lucas is behind him. But then Lucas is suddenly giving Andrei a blowjob. How? Did he crawl between Andrei's legs when no one was looking?

~I kept hoping the glass would pop out of its casing and they'd plummet to their deaths like that Darwin Award winner, but they didn't. :(

~When I realized that I didn't even care enough to skip ahead to see who is targeting Lucas or why, I realized I just needed to put the book down.

In the Blood of the Greeks (Intertwined Souls #1) - DNF @ 32%

In The Blood Of The Greeks (Intertwined Souls Series Book 1) - Mary D. Brooks

Just not feeling this one. The writing is technically good but not very engaging. The story idea is interesting and intriguing - a young resistance fighter and the daughter of an SS officer work together to help Jews to escape Greece - but the writing is so ... matter-of-fact and clinical that there's no real emotion to anything. I'm having a hard time wanting to finish this book, much less go onto to read the others in the series, so this is my stopping point.

The Path to Dawn (Opal Charm #1) - DNF @ 4%

The Path to Dawn (Opal Charm, #1) - Miri Castor

The writing is choppy and amateurish, and the MC thinks everyone is stupid. Character is definitely way too young for me to relate to. 

Feral (Shelter #1)

Feral - Kate Sherwood

This was a nice read, and certainly a different kind of romance. But it never really got better than nice. I'm still looking forward to the rest of the series though. 


Noah's a veterinarian student, volunteering at a vet clinic. Shane's homeless and goes to the clinic to seek help for his puppy when the puppy gets sick. Shane doesn't trust the system or the cops, and Noah, despite a spot of trouble in his past, has lived a sheltered life. As they become friends, working together on an outreach project, they challenge each others' world views and come to new understandings. 


I think this would've worked better if it had covered more time. They both changed too much too quickly. The story takes place in just under week. I do like that they don't fall in love in that length of time, though they do care for each other. Shane's possibly on the ace spectrum, so there's no sex for those of you who are looking for that. 


Dodger the puppy was adorable. I would've liked to see a bit more of Noah's family situation since that was mentioned in the beginning and we saw them in the first chapter, but that didn't really happen. We do get a bit of mystery to solve, and it's good to see Shane's protective side come to the fore time and again. I especially liked that Shane's situation isn't magically solved because he met some good Samaritans. 


So again, a nice solid start to the series, and I'm interested to see who else we get to meet along the way.

The Two Towers (Lord of the Rings, Vol 2) (Audiobook)

The Two Towers  - J.R.R. Tolkien, Rob Inglis

[Sam] wondered what the man's name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace - all in a flash of thought that was quickly driven from his mind.


I admit it: This book aggravated me to no end the first time I read it. Where are Frodo and Sam?!!! Who are all these Rohirrim and why are they so obsessed with their horses? No, really, are Frodo and Sam still alive? Who is Gríma and Théoden and why am I supposed to care about them? Ok, I was worried about Merry and Pippin too since they got carried off by the Uruk-hai in the first chapter, but we find out pretty quickly that they're just fine and dandy and then the good professor makes us wait more than HALF THE BOOK to find out what's going on with Frodo and Sam. He is EVIL and CRU-EL. I kept sneaking peeks ahead because I just had no patience for anything going on in Rohan. Gandalf kept flashing his whites at everyone, and Aragorn was practically swooning over his sword and name-dropping his ancestors like there's no tomorrow. Which, admittedly, there could have been no tomorrow, but still!


Where now the horse and the rider?

Where is the horn that was blowing?

Where is the helm and hauberk,

and the bright hair flowing?



NO! WHERE ARE FRODO AND SAM?! You are beautiful, poem, but you are asking the wrong questions. :P


Way back when I first read this, it was my plan to read each book after each movie, but that didn't happen, and I went right into TTT after finishing FOTR. I got to experience the book as its own thing, and got to see just how diabolical and brilliant a storyteller Tolkien was. He ended this book on the cruelest cliffhanger ever (Shelob) and those poor saps who were reading these books as they were originally published had to wait a whole year to find out what happened next. I can't even imagine that. I read ROTK in one day, y'all. 


As aggravating as my first read was, I've learned to enjoy it on rereads. It has some of the best writing in the series, and I was pleased as punch when many of those lines and poems made it into the movie. Treebeard and the Ents are amazing, and Merry and Pippin are just having this whole walk through the park while everyone else is fighting for their lives. Their reintroduction to Gandalf and the Three Hunters was fantastic, and nothing warmed me to Théoden faster than his kindness and genuine interest in the hobbits when they meet.


When we finally get to Frodo and Sam though, holy moly, does Tolkien ramp up the tension even more and keeps it going through to the last sentence. Everything about their journey was so desperate, and knowing that the Dead Marshes were inspired by Tolkien's experiences in WWI made that chapter even more haunting. Gollum alone added a very tense dynamic to the group, and knowing that he was up to no good, despite his oath to Frodo, just made things even more tense. And then - Faramir! Despite the fact that he was nicest guy ever, he still had a job to do and it was fantastic how Tolkien could make us empathize with everyone in those chapters, even when they're all seeing things from their own perspectives and their own goals, or in Faramir's case the rules of his father, the Steward. 


'So that is the answer to all the riddles! The One Ring that was thought to have perished from the world. And Boromir tried to take it by force? And you escaped? And ran all the way - to me! And here in the wild I have you: two halfings, and a host of men at my call, and the Ring of Rings. A pretty stroke of fortune. A chance for Faramir, Captain of Gondor, to show his quality.'


And show it he does (much more believably than his movie counterpart), and those chapters show how complex this story is and how real and nuanced these characters are.  None of them have easy choices, they have to constantly weigh what they think is right versus what tradition would tell them is right, and it all culminates into "The Choices of the Master Samwise," the most heartbreaking chapter in all of LOTR, at least in my opinion.


Also, Tolkien totally tells us exactly how the Ring is going to be destroyed and it's not a spoiler. :D That's doing foreshadowing right. 


PS - Frodo would never take Gollum's word over Sam's, and Sam would never leave. He made a promise! (Movie vs. book splits make this tricky, but since this is a review for the book, I'm sticking to scenes that are actually in this book, rather than the movie.)


PPS - Cupid playing Éomer was a delight. All the Rohan stuff was great, as was most of Helm's Deep, Éowyn, Gollum, the Dead Marshes, po-ta-toes!, the Palantír scene, etc.


PPPS - The movie has more pluses than minuses, of course, but what's with all the fake-outs deaths? And nothing about Osgiliath makes sense. Gimli has a poetic soul, he's not a punchline. Treebeard was smarter than that. 


PPPPS - Shelob was awesome though. 


The Silmarillion

The Silmarillion - J.R.R. Tolkien,  Christopher Tolkien

Watch in amazement as I reduce the wordiest and densest novel of Tolkien's to just five words:


It's all about that bling. :P


Elves and their bling are nearly as bad as a certain dark lord and his bling. 


But seriously, one of the greatest things about LOTR, and to a lesser extent The Hobbit, is that Middle-Earth is a fully realized world. It feels real because it has depth, it has history, and Tolkien understands how to use language to give the various peoples their own traditions and beliefs and philosophies. He understood how geography and topography shaped the people who lived there, and he used his experiences in WWI to inform his works in a way that no others have. Tolkien was a rarity because he was a linguist first and storyteller second, and he didn't have to worry about following or subverting tropes because he created all the tropes. He spent literally the majority of his life creating this world, starting in the trenches during WWI and continuing on to his death. Very few writers come anywhere close to accomplishing that, and even the few who do still don't hold a candle to the Professor. 


Why is all this important to this review? Because if you've ever read The Hobbit or LOTR and wanted to know more about the history that those characters were talking about, or why Elbereth came so readily to Frodo's tongue in dire needs, or why the Light of Eärendil was the Elves' most beloved star, or who the hell Morgoth was, this is the book where Tolkien lays it all out.


No offense to the Professor, but I get why his publisher wasn't eager to use this book as a follow-up to The Hobbit, and I get why even the biggest fans of Tolkien shy away from this book. It is DENSE. Which makes sense because this isn't just a bunch of stories about the beginnings of Middle-Earth. No, these are the myths of the forming of Arda and the histories and myths of the First and Second Ages, and as such they don't read like The Hobbit or LOTR at all. The use of language, while beautiful, is very much reminiscent of scripture in structure. All that's missing is the numbering of section breaks and paragraphs into chapters and verses. (It's a shame Tolkien never did his own translation of the Bible. He wouldn't have put up with all those deletions and additions and convenient rewordings, and he would've fought - very politely and academically, because he's a British professor - with the Pope and all the bishops and ministers and priests about why he's right and they're all wrong.)


And look, I'm usually the first one to yell "show don't tell!" but showing every single story in full that's contained in this book would make it so ridiculously long that Tolkien would still be writing it up in heaven to this day. When he does show though, holy moly, is it amazing! Beren and Luthien, the Children of Húrin, Tuor, Eärendil and Elwing - so many amazing stories. And so many amazing and kickass women. This is honestly why I don't have a problem with Arwen stealing Glorfindel's role in the FOTR movie because look at who her great-great-grandmother is: fricking Luthien Tinúviel, who faced down both Sauron AND Morgoth and walked away from it. If Luthien were still around in the War of the Ring, she could totally simply walk into Mordor. :D 


If you just can't settle down to read this (it took me 13 months to read it the first time around), but you still want to know what's up, check out Jeff La Sala's Silmarillion Primer on TOR here: As I'm writing this review, he's currently in the process of doing the primer, so he's only gotten up to "Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor." He keeps it light and fun and has visuals, and while he doesn't go into every detail, he gets most of the highlights and the commenters are equally insightful. 

Man & Beast (The Savage Land #1)

Man & Beast (The Savage Land Book 1) - Michael Jensen

CW: One scene of attempted rape; discussion of rape, assault and atrocities done to Native Americans; and lots and lots of racists dirtbags. This is the frontier, y'all, and the author doesn't shy away from how icky a lot of these people were.


This was unexpected, and in this case that's a good thing. You do need to check your disbelief at the door on this one, at least for the climax. It was a Monty Python case of horrors, that's for sure.

I'm surprised no one yelled, "Why won't you DIE?!" at any point. ;-)

(show spoiler)

The emphasis is on horror because right away you know things just aren't quite right, and by the end you've got a Most Dangerous Game situation that'll keep you flipping the pages.


What I really liked about this is that it wasn't your typical M/M novel. I would even go so far as to say this isn't a romance, though there is a love story of sorts and an HFN. But this didn't follow the standard formula that has, let's be honest, become somewhat stale. And after The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, it was nice getting an historical where the characters sound like they're in an historical. It still could've used a bit more detail than what we got, but again, still much better than Gentleman's. 


John's struggle to learn to speak up and act on his own behalf and those he cares about was a nice journey to watch, even though it was painful at times. He starts off as a man who just runs from everything and has to figure out through many trials what's worth standing up for. He makes a lot of bad decisions and indecisions along the way but I was never frustrated with him. It was obvious why he acted the way he did, not least because he was trying to save his own hide if people found out he's a sodomite. 


Gwennie, Thomas and Palmer are all great supporting characters, and even Samantha gets a point or two in her favor. The ending was a bit abrupt and the epilogue doesn't really wrap up the loose ends. Since the next book is centered around another main character, I'm not sure if we'll see these characters again or not. Hopefully we do because there is certainly more to see with these guys. 


For this being self-published, it was surprisingly light on typos. There were a few more near the end than throughout the rest of the book, but it's still much cleaner than most self-published books out there. The story is in first-person, if that's something that concerns you, but John has an easy and approachable POV, so the writing flows rather well. 

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue - Mackenzi Lee

This is a strange one, so I'm going to split it up.


Things I liked:


Monty's struggles of self-acceptance. He's an arrogant aristocrat, a drunkard and a rake on the surface, but there's a lot more going on and as we learn more about him, it's clear how he got to be so messed up. But he's got his best friend Percy and his sister Felicity, who are more aware of the world around them and help him see what he's always been so blind to. I did like seeing him grow up and learn new things about himself, and that it doesn't happen all at once in a giant ah-ha moment but a little at a time as the story progresses. 


Percy was also great. I like that the author acknowledges people of color existed, and as more than just slaves. He was born in a high-class family, but being interracial and a bastard doesn't give him much standing. He's treated as second-class, and while Monty might not treat him that way or understand why anyone else would, Percy is aware of his position in society and how tenuous it is. And that's even before the reveal

that he has epilepsy and his family wants to put him in an asylum because they're tired of dealing with his fits.

(show spoiler)


Felicity, Monty's sister, knows her own mind and isn't afraid to use it. She wants to study but is limited by her sex. She also helps hold a mirror up to Monty's face, but she's not there just for the benefit of the male characters. She has her own agency and makes her own decisions. 


As a road trip gone askew, this is a great book and not nearly as silly or whimsical as I thought it was going to be. And I like that it didn't always follow the tropes to a T, so that it kept you guessing in some places.


The things I didn't like:


As a historical book, this is somewhat lacking. There's nowhere near the level of details that I expect from a historical. Nothing is really described, like the author is expecting the reader to already know what all these places looked like back then and so doesn't have to bother setting the scene. Except for the lack of pay phones, the author could've easily placed this story in the 1960s or 1970s and not have had to change anything except some character names. The rather modernistic manners of the characters would have made a lot more sense and rang truer than they do placed in 1720-something.


The language is definitely too modern. Look, y'all, "abso-bloody-lutely" is annoying AF coming out of mouths from today's youth. It has no place coming out of these characters' mouths. They had their own slang in the 1700s. Use it! There were a few other modernisms like that too, and it just pulled me out of the book every single time. This is basically a historical for people who don't want to read historicals. 


There were a few continuity errors too. At one point, Monty has to stop to put his boot back on. I went back several pages to see where the hell he took off his boot - he didn't. At another point, Felicity is hurt rather severely and it's several scenes before she's able to properly tend to her wound. In between, there's an encounter with some rather important people who I would expect to be far more observant than they are. There's no mention at all that Felicity is attempting to hide her wound, yet it's not mentioned and neither does it seem to even bother her. What the hell happened to Lockwood?


Then there's Monty's dad and everyone else practically having no concern whatever that Monty's got a liking for boys. Sure, the author does bother to point out a couple of times that sodomy was a big no-no and even bothers to mention some of the punishments that could befall someone because of it. But then everyone just acts like it's no big deal. Extremely distasteful, sure, but nothing you wouldn't bring up in casual conversation during a ball. It felt like the story and the characters were making far too light of something that could get you killed. The fact this is YA doesn't justify that, and this is far too much a trend in many an M/M historical. I was disappointed to see it happen here too.

The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, Vol 1) (Audiobook)

The Fellowship of the Ring  - J.R.R. Tolkien, Rob Inglis

The only "unabridged" audio recording of FOTR, my aunt Lobelia! WHERE IS THE PROLOGUE?!!!! That is not only a part of the book but contains some important information for the story you're about to read. Why the fiddlesticks would you leave that out and then call it unabridged? Tricksy, filthy editorses. We hates them, precious.


Ok, I don't hate them, but the point still stands. No tea for them!


It's been too long since I've reread LOTR, and Fellowship is still as awesome as I remember. I really don't get why people think this book is slow or too wordy or hard to read. Black riders, the Conspiracy, Old Man Willow, the barrow-downs, "A Knife in the Dark" and "The Flight to the Ford," the forming of the Fellowship, Caradhras, Moria, the balrog, the breaking of the Fellowship, and of course the scariest creature of them all: Tom Bombadil. :D It's got it all: fun, good times to kick off the adventure, suspense, horror, action, FRIENDSHIP.


"But it does not seem I can trust anyone," said Frodo.


Sam looked at him unhappily. "It all depends on what you want," put in Merry. "You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin - to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours - closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo."


Is it any wonder that I, introverted and socially awkward, fell for the hobbits so hard? I could only dream about having friends like that, and the hobbits had them in spades. And is it any wonder why Sam would become my favorite character of all time, not just of this book but of anything ever? He's the only one of the company who isn't any form of nobility or influence, and yet he'll go on to play one of the most crucial parts of the War of the Ring, and he's just super loyal and awesome and squishable. He totally fanboys over the Elves when he finally meets them and comes away with a new understanding of them and his purpose, and literally grows up overnight.


"Do you like them still, now you have had a closer view?"


"They seem a bit above my likes and dislikes, so to speak," answered Sam slowly. "It don't seem to matter what I think about them. They are quite different from what I expected - so old and young, and so gay and sad, as it were." ... "I seem to see ahead, in a kind of way. I know we are going to take a very long road, into darkness; but I know I can't turn back. It isn't to see Elves now, nor dragons, nor mountains, that I want - I don't rightly know what I want: but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in the Shire. I must see it through, sir, if you understand me."




I adore everything this book chooses to be (minus that whackadoo in yellow boots). Tolkien does so much in such a short space of time, setting up all their characters, all their relationships with each other, constantly raising the stakes and the tension. The Mines of Moria - that chapter is insane. Every time you think things can't possibly get worse - THEY DO. The writing in LOTR is levels above that in The Hobbit, and the characterizations are instantly deep and complex.


This is my favorite book, and favorite movie because I would never have read the books if the movie hadn't been so awesome. I had very few issues with the movie - Frodo being reduced a dude who falls down a lot and Arwen stealing his thunder at the Ford of Bruinen being most of the list. (The lists get longer as the movies go on.) I'm not sorry about losing Bombadil, but I was super bummed about losing the barrow-downs as a result because that chapter is nightmare fuel personified, and it's the first time that Frodo gets to show that seed of courage at the heart of all hobbits, and it was really important that this happened before they met Strider because it gives him a chance to be tested before they have their big bad bodyguard around to help them. And considering PJ gave his moment at the Ford of Bruinen to Arwen, all we get to see him do in the movie before the breaking of the Fellowship is react to things. It's the Hermoine-effect - building up one character to the detriment of another. I love that they gave Arwen screen time, but they could've done that and let Frodo have his moment of awesome.


Anyway, before I write an entire essay:


Rob Inglis's narration is great again. I love being able to hear the songs, and he has a pleasant singing voice. Some of his pronunciations of the names and places are off, but that will only bother the nitpicks. ... Which is so not me. *whistles innocently and strolls away*


But yeah, missing prologue. 1/2 star off.

Pictures of You (90s Coming of Age, #1) - DNF @ 11%

Pictures of You - Leta Blake

This one just wasn't working for me. The writing is average. It focuses on surface level stuff, and Peter's POV is not very engaging. Maybe this changes as the book goes on and Peter grows; I don't know and I'm not feeling compelled to stick around and find out. 


Because Adam's an asshole. He tells Peter that he thinks Peter's mom is considering molesting him, then he tells Peter he thinks molestation is okay by the right person, then he kisses Peter and tells him it's okay between friends. All in the span of about a minute. It's just a weird scene, and the whole "it's what friends do" bullcrap just makes him sound like that guy who tells the nerdy girl who has a crush on him that she can be his girlfriend but only if they have sex. Because that's just how it works.


Oh, and he lights up a toke without even asking Peter first if he's okay with that or not. Because he's just that cool. *rolls eyes* And then he goes to drive somewhere and I'm pretty sure he's still high. Can this idiot die already?


Peter's coming off as a complete doormat - but of course he's the skinny nerd without any friends so what else are his options? Apparently, this is not a romance, but it's still going to focus on these two as a couple and I already want them miles apart from each other.


I went looking at the glowing 4-star and 5-star reviews of my friends and those I follow and they say IT GETS WORSE. Nope. This book and the characters are already annoying me, and I'm not sticking it through just for it to get worse because apparently that's what being a teen in the 90s is about. I was a teen in the 90s. I don't recall it sucking this much. (But then I'm also asexual and skipped all the relationship melodrama angst, so there's that. :D )

Summerwode (The Wode #4)

Summerwode (The Wode) - J. Tullos Hennig

Gah! Cliffhanger! NOOOOOOO! And I have no idea how long I'll have to wait for the next one. Going by the time between previous installments, two years maybe? :( Unless she pulls a George R.R. Martin or Diana Gabaldon, then maybe ten years? :P Thankfully, I don't see her doing that.



This picks up a few months after the end of Winterwode. Gamelyn is still entrenched in the Templars, having to suppress himself again and letting alter-id Guy de Gisbourne take over the reins for him, with all the complications that comes with. Robyn's once again has no idea what's up with Gamelyn because Guy's not a man to share his plans, and Marion's just trying to hold her little family together. Of course, forces are in movement that are determined to see Robyn's little band of merry men ended one way or another, and whether foe or potential friend and ally, playing the game could end their way of life for good or ill.


There are things here that would normally drive me crazy, except that it's so perfectly in character that there really is no other way it could've gone down. There's no manipulation of characters of OOC moments to force plot points, like other authors would depend on. We've come to know these characters over three previous books, and while my hand itched to smack Gamelyn upside the head several times - and Will and occasionally Robyn - it was clear and understandable why everyone behaved the way they did.


This was as strongly written as ever, and it's also well edited despite this being DSP. My one complaint is that it felt a tad overlong. In particular, that whole cliffhanger ending, while certainly compelling, felt like it was resetting the board too much. There was already a threat there hanging in the shadows to give an ominous ending to the book while the characters still got to enjoy life for a little bit, so the last few chapters really could've been held off to kick off the next book with a bang, at least in my opinion. 

Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit (Audiobook)

Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" - Corey Olsen

Corey Olsen is the Tolkien Professor and has a great podcast where he discusses all things Middle-Earth. It was his podcasts for The Hobbit that first got my attention several years ago. It was slow going, about one or two a month, but it's not that long of a book, right? Well, then he got sidetracked. :D No harm, I got to listen to his brilliant lectures on The Silmarillion and hear some great live discussions about LOTR. Over the years, I lost track of him, but I'd think about his The Hobbit series from time to time. So when I saw that he'd compiled all his The Hobbit podcasts into one audiobook, I had to snatch it up. I originally intended to listen to his analysis instead of rereading the books - as I mentioned, it's not my favorite of Tolkien's works, but I still love the world and the mythology related to it, and somewhere buried under the narrative style is a great work of fiction. I just need someone as enthusiastic about it as Professor Olsen to help me see it. 


He does one analysis per chapter, following along with Bilbo's development over the course of the book and his various adventures, dissecting the songs and riddles, and highlighting all the themes and narrative devices. He also goes into the development of the dwarves, the elves and the various other characters they come into contact with. He mostly sticks to The Hobbit, but he ties it in with Tolkien's other works where appropriate. He breaks down each chapter into sections and subjects, and I think that even if you haven't read The Hobbit it'll be easy to follow along.


The only downside to this audiobook are the technical blips. None of the analysis is lost of skipped over, but there are quite a few instances of repeated lines. This could've used an extra pass through quality check. If you can overlook that - the repeated lines are very brief - then I would still recommend giving this a listen. It's great for those who love The Hobbit or, like me, love the world of Middle-Earth and enjoy discussing the events within the book even though the writing style and POV isn't quite to my liking.

The Hobbit (Audiobook)

The Hobbit By J.R.R. Tolkien, Rob Inglis(A) [Audiobook] - Author

Narration: 5 stars

Story: 3 stars

Average: 4 stars


Oh, The Hobbit. Twenty pages of plot, two hundred pages of madcap adventures, only one of which has any significance. It's a fun story but nowhere near as in depth as Tolkien's other works, which makes sense since he wrote this for his son and his son's friend. And it shows. It's a worthy read, but it requires you to really like Bilbo - which I don't particularly. Balin is cool, and Thorin's arc is pretty interesting, but they're really the only other characters worthy of note. Well, except Gandalf, but we all know he was barely involved. All he did was give Bilbo a little nudge out the door. ;)


This definitely didn't need to be three movies totaling nine hours run time. Eleven of the thirteen dwarves were just filler and didn't need their own stories. The Battle of Five Armies wasn't even that important. That's why Bilbo slept through the whole thing! But we all know PJ is trash for an action sequence. :D


Rob Inglis does a great job with the narration. I wasn't completely onboard with some his voice choices for the characters - why is Balin an alto? - but he made up for it by going full force on all those ridiculous songs.

Smoke Through the Pines (Night Fires in the Distance, #1.5)

Smoke Through The Pines (Night Fires in the Distance Book 2) - Ruben Moule, Sarah Goodwin, Alan Moore

This novella is set between the first and second books in this series and starts up right where the first book, Night Fires in the Distance, ends. Laura and Cecelia are heading north after the disaster that laid waste to the prairies, hoping to start over. They have no plans, just a grim determination to get away from their former life and the sorrows they left behind there. They eventually decide to try their luck in Minnesota, where the loggers are destroying nature for profit. Where's Treebeard when you need him? *clears throat* Anyway, things don't go as planned and they have yet more troubles to face as winter comes on. And Laura and Cecilia finally get to have some sexy times. <3

This still needs an editor, but other than that, I really enjoyed this. I did see in reviews for the second book, One Nation Afire, that it ends in a cliffie and focuses more on Laura's daughter Rachel, so I'll hold off reading that one until book 3 is out.

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