Linda78

Destroyer of Worlds (SPECTR #5)

Destroyer of Worlds - Jordan L. Hawk

SO MUCH ACTION! Which Ms. Hawk has always been good at writing and it really shines here. Things with Spectr are not all they seem and the reveals here are nerve-wracking. There are twists and turns aplenty, so I won't say more so as not to spoil things. :D

 

As I said in my review for the first book in this series, I don't read M/M/M or polyamory of any kind. I was hesitant to start this one at first, but eventually decided to give it a go when the first one was offered free. I thought that it being M/M(/M) would make this series more along the lines of what I'm used to while still offering something new. I'm not a fan of insta-love, which this series definitely uses, but the implications of it aren't ignored and I do like that. The somewhat dubcon-y undertones of the first book, what with the involuntary possession and all, didn't help but that hasn't really been an issue for awhile now. I do wish though that John and Gray had more interactions prior to this, because while I can see why Gray would be falling for John, being influence by Caleb's feelings and thoughts, it's much less clear why John would be falling for Gray beyond having a yen for "phenomenal cosmic power, itty bitty living space." It's at least acknowledged, so I'm hoping we'll get more of that interaction in the final installment. 

 

Can't wait to see how this ends!

Eater of Souls (SEPCTR #4)

Eater of Lives - Jordan L. Hawk

Ugh! NOOO! Not the "MCs refuse to talk to each other so Big Misunderstandings" occur! And not the "ex comes back and causes trouble" trope. You're better than this, Ms. Hawk. So I could knock off half a star for that nonsense, but the rest of the relationship stuff was strong enough to overcome it. (And I guess when you fall in love in just a few weeks, before you really get to know the other person, it's not too far out of the realm of possibility for these things to occur.) 

 

Complicating things further is just the basic way that possession works in this world, and we get to "go inside" the head of another victim. It's a great way to counter what's happening with Caleb/Gray and seeing why anyone would be extremely concerned about John at this point, and why Caleb is worried about losing himself completely if the 40 days come up and they haven't succeeded in exorcizing Gray. How can he really trust what Gray tells him, that Gray won't take over his mind, especially when they're getting better at sharing his body. 

 

And then cliffhanger! Thank goodness this series is complete already. Onto the next!

Reaper of Souls (SPECTR #3)

Reaper of Souls (SPECTR) - Jordan L. Hawk

The Fist is back, and they're not the only ones causing trouble for SPECTR and other paranormals at large. A political fervor is getting stirred up, and while that whole thing and its outcome were mostly predictable, it still amped up the tension and the stakes - but not actual wooden stakes. ;) No stakes near this vampire, who once again proves that real vampires do NOT sparkle. 

 

The situation with John/Caleb(/Gray) is getting more complicated too, but in a way I found interesting and compelling. It's still way too rushed, but since the time factor sort of dictates that, I can roll with it. I am bemused at John's continued PDAs while at work where anyone can walk in on them at the wrong time while simultaneously worrying about people finding out. Um... then stop calling Caleb "babe" where anyone could hear you! And stop sneaking kisses. And how are the empaths not picking up on any of this anyway, for that matter? Or maybe they are. Dun dun DUN! :P

Master of Ghouls (SPECTR #2)

Master of Ghouls - Jordan L. Hawk

This was a quick and fun continuation into the SPECTR world that Ms. Hawk started building in the first book. Caleb's still possessed - obviously - and he and Gray are learning how to share one body and work in tandem to fight the monsters. The complications of the situation aren't ignored either - Caleb still very much wants to be rid of Gray, and there are still questions being asked on all sides about the ethics of "monster" killing, at least where Gray is concerned. 

 

The main plot with the titled Master of Ghouls felt a little thin on substance but there's hints of something else in the works for the rest of the series, so I'll wait to see where that goes.

 

Pointing out it's only been eight days since all this started makes the insta-love a little harder to swallow, and Jon bordering on unprofessionalism due to Caleb feels like a stretch. 

The Last Girl (Dominion #1) (Audiobook) - DNF @ 17%

The Last Girl (The Dominion Trilogy Book 1) - Joe Hart

Meh.

 

I'm not one to quibble over present or past tense usually, but the present tense just wasn't working for me for some reason. This is dystopian, about a virus that prevents female births, and it's set one year from now. I need my dystopian to be a lot more in the future than that. And the premise just wasn't interesting, all told. Narrator was all right.

 

Moving on.

The Moonlit Garden (Audiobook)

The Moonlit Garden - Alison Layland, Corina Bomann

This was a pleasant surprise! Especially for an Amazon First selection since usually those books are not that great. This is translated into English, but I didn't notice any awkward phrasing to the translation was well done. 

 

I wasn't sure what I was getting into with this one, except that at some point there'd a moonlit garden :D so I was just going along for the ride and it was a good one. Lily owns an antique shop in Berlin and one day an old man comes in, hands her an old violin, tells her it's hers and leaves. The rest of the book goes back and forth between Lily trying to solve the mystery of the violin and Rose, the violin's original owner, a master violinist in the earliest part of the 1900s.

 

There's enough left out in the historical parts to keep the mystery moving in the current timeline. It's just nice to have a mystery that doesn't revolve around murder for a change, and trying to figure out how all the pieces fit together. And while parts of this take place in England and Germany, a good chunk of it takes place in Sumatra, Indonesia, which was also a nice change of pace as I don't often come across books set in Asia.

 

The narrator has kind of a soft voice but it didn't bother me too much. I do wish she had more range in her voices, especially for the men since despite some slight differences to their accents, it was difficult to tell them apart because they all sounded so similar. She does a somewhat better job differentiating the female voices. 

Relief Valve (The Plumber's Mate #2)

Relief Valve (The Plumber's Mate) - J.L. Merrow

Since I wasn't busy on the mystery of why Tom was dating his former bully, Phil having finally won me over in the previous book, I was actually able to pay attention to the real mystery this time around. There are two actually: who's trying to kill Tom's sister, Cherry, and what did Auntie Lol hide in her old house for Tom to find? For the first there are plenty of potential suspects, all with their own potential motives, and enough red herrings to keep you guessing until the reveal. For the second, that wasn't at all what I was expecting either and has some interesting potential for the upcoming book(s). 

 

As good and entertaining as the mysteries were, I felt like Tom and Phil's relationship got shunted to the side a bit. There's some relationship development, but it's more of a subplot and not as much of a focus as I felt it should be. Or maybe I'm just so used to the insta-love typical of the genre, I'm not used to the more slow, natural-moving pace of actual relationships, LOL. They do reach an important milestone, so there's that.

 

Really, the most entertaining part of the story was Cherry's fiancé Greg, and Tom's multitude of epitaphs for him. I'm with Tom. Anyone who smiles that much has to be shady. :P

Rise of the Empire (The Riyria Revelations #3-4) (Audiobook)

Rise of Empire (The Riyria Revelations, #3-4) - Michael J. Sullivan, Tim Gerard Reynolds

Fantasy-lite at its most mediocre. 

 

My lord, that thing was long! Two books in one volume is just too much when the exposition is this dry. On top of that, whoever edited the audiobook decided that splitting chapters up into several smaller, shorter chapters was a good idea. Honestly, I think it just contributed to the feeling of "this is never going to end" that I started getting about halfway through. 

 

I like the characters, and the stars are mostly for them. Hadrian and Royce have good banter, and Arista, Amelia and Modina have some interesting conflicts and personal journeys to go through. Really, the women do have the better part of the story here. The problem I'm having with these is the execution. Characters speak the exposition in the most expositiony way possible. Instead of aiming for subtext and intrigue, the characters continue to spew every thought to their enemies because of course that's the smart thing to do. There are no twists or attempts to subvert tropes. There is an attempt at a cliffhanger at the end of this one, but let's face it - everything will be fine, so I'm not worried.

 

I'm rewatching Buffy: The Vampire Slayer right now and recently got through the season two episode "Lie to Me." At the end, Buffy asks Giles if life ever gets easier and tells Giles to lie to her. He answers:

 

"Yes. It's terribly simple. The good guys are always stalwart and true. The bad guys are easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats, and, uh, we always defeat them and save the day. No one ever dies and... everybody lives happily ever after."

 

Sullivan seems to be writing his stories with this sentiment in mind, only he forgot the part about it being a lie (with one or two minor exceptions). This is very "what you see is what you get" and maybe it's just the wrong series to be trying to read alongside A Song of Ice and Fire and Young Wizards.

 

Since I did like the first of the prequels, I think I'll go back to those and see if that was one-time fluke or if Sullivan just got better with time. I'll have to debate with myself if I want to bother finishing this original series though. It's just not holding my attention - though that's no fault of the narrator, whose doing the best he can with the material he's been giving and he's probably the only reason the story even has some semblance of life to it. 

The Kitchen God's Wife - DNF @ 41%

The Kitchen God's Wife - Amy Tan

The writing is still well-crafted and masterful, but I just couldn't get into the plot at this time. It feels like a forgotten story from the Joy Luck Club, only without the same level of interaction with the younger generation that provided a counterpoint to the direness of the mothers' tales. I feel terrible for not being able to finish this because I do usually enjoy Tan's characters.

His Quiet Agent

His Quiet Agent - Ada Maria Soto

I really enjoyed this one. It's my first by this author, but I'm certainly interested to read more.

 

This is a very quiet story and a very slow build. Martin is highly shielded and Arthur is socially awkward. They're both considered weird by their coworkers and Arthur tries to find out if they're weird compliments each other. 

 

The cover made me think this was going to be historical Brit fic rather than contemporary American, so that took a couple of chapters to adjust to. I did like the quiet tone of the book and how Martin and Arthur's relationship developed. It's difficult enough to show relationship development when the characters are talkers, even more difficult when they're not, yet somehow this author manages it. The small gestures, the show of trust and caring - it's all convincing. I was especially surprised and pleased when both MCs were revealed to be asexual and this didn't become a "fix the ace" travesty. (So those who want sex in your books, you're not going to get it here.)  

 

There are a lot of unanswered questions, which is a given considering their jobs, and I'm ok with those. I would've liked to get to know more about Martin's backstory, but he doesn't really start to open up until the very end. The hints we get are intriguing though and opens the room for a lot of reader speculation, which in a way is more fun than getting it all spelled out for you. (Still, if ever there was a book that needs an epilogue, this is it.) There's some handwaving that needs to be done in regards to the Agency and how it appears to operate, but it didn't detract from the tension or suspense in the last quarter of the book at all. It was actually used to some great effect. 

 

There were a few more typos than I would overlook normally, things like verb tense changes and at one point even character names get mixed up, and general typos that wouldn't get caught by spellcheck but should've been caught by an editor.

Seven Stones to Stand or Fall

Seven Stones to Stand or Fall: A Collection of Outlander Short Stories - Diana Gabaldon

A few of these I've read already, so I'll be lazy and link to those reviews. ;)

 

The Custom of the Army - 2 stars


https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/524842810?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

 

The Space Between - no rating

 

I didn't bother getting this when it was originally released solo and I'm glad I didn't. I don't have much interest in Joan, and even less interest in the Comte St. Germain, nor did I ever once wonder what happened to the guy or what his backstory was. So this was one long bore and I skimmed a lot of it to get to the important plot points. It was nice to see Mother Hildegard, but her role here is pretty much just cameo and doesn't make up for the rest.

 

A Plague of Zombies - 4 stars


https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1900984342?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

 

A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows - 5 stars


(No review for this one though. Sounds like a good reason for a reread.)

 

And reread I did and loved it just as much as the first time. Roger's father, Jerry MacKenzie, is unexpectedly launched back in time when his plane crash lands, and he goes through hell and back to get back to his time and his family. We get a few scenes of what's going on with Marjorie and baby Roger, but most of this is focused on Jerry. It's beautifully and heartbreakingly written, because if you've read the Outlander books you already know what everyone believes to have happened.

 

Virgins - 3 stars

 

Jamie and Ian are mercenaries in France. There's a lot of anti-Semantism in this one, as Gabaldon doesn't shy away from the prejudices of the time, and even our protags are guilty of it. The Jewish characters themselves though do not appear - at least to me - to be caricatures or stereotypes. Some of the Scottisms seemed strange - Ian's constantly referring to Jamie as a "wean" - I didn't think their age difference was all that great, so it felt odd. There's also this whole subplot with one of the other mercenaries who makes Gregor Clegane look like a fluffy kitty.

 

A Fugitive Green - 4 stars

 

Minnie and Hal's first meeting! I was intrigued by the backstory we got about Minnie in The Scottish Prisoner, so getting to see a more detailed telling of it was great. Minnie's wonderful and resourceful, and we even get a brief (too brief, I thought) subplot of Minnie's mom and her quest to find her. That was rather melodramatic - the mom's backstory that is - and I kept feeling like there was something more there going on than we heard

because nuns getting pregnant is not exactly unheard of so why exactly did Minnie's mom go mad because of it?

(show spoiler)

 

The ending also felt a bit rushed, so I hope this isn't the last exploration we get into these characters' backstories.

 

Besieged - 4 stars

 

Man, John can't even leave an assignment without getting pulled into a war. :P This is an interesting follow up to A Plague of Zombies, as John's still temporary military governor of Jamaica and trying his darnedest to resign that post. Enter his stepfather with some harrowing news. Loved seeing Tom Byrd again, and it was neat to see how Rodrigo is dealing after being zombified. There's your ingrained racism of the time, what with the slavery and all. I've never liked John's pragmatic view of slavery, but it is what it is, I guess? At least here, that pragmatism is a help to them.

Reading progress update: I've read 77%.

A Storm of Swords - George R.R. Martin

Man, it's getting hard out here for an imp.

A Room With a View (Audiobook) - DNF @ 38%

A Room with a View - E.M. Forster

This is partly my fault, and partly the book's fault.

 

My fault - For some reason I thought this was like Rear Window, and that the movie was an adaptation of this book??? The movie has a guy with view outside his room, okay! I've never seen it, I just know about it through pop culture and the last time I heard anything about it was years ago, so I forgot the title. So I saw this book, and went hey! I should read that and then I can watch the movie, or rewatch that episode of Castle at least. Hahahaha! Nope. There is a murder, but that's about the only thing these two have in common. So incorrect expectations are totes my fault.

 

Book's fault - Bored now. Women were repressed in ye olden times. Did you know that? This is complete news to me. *sigh* Just a bunch of talking heads, characters are self-important and annoying (well, I guess Lucy's alright) and NOTHING HAPPENS. Walk around the countryside and talk. Next day: walk around the countryside and talk. Next day: Drive around the countryside and talk. Talk talk talk talkety talk talk. This is a British romance so boring even Hugh Grant wasn't in the movie adaptation. It's that bad!

SPOILER ALERT!

The Unsung Hero (Troubleshooters #1) (Audiobook)

The Unsung Hero - Suzanne Brockmann

This audiobook is brought to you by Patrick Lawlor and Siri. Ok, Melanie Ewbanks reads the female POVs (I googled it - she is not Siri), but true story: I was driving to a meeting at a building I hadn't been to before when I first started listening to this audiobook, so I had my GPS turned on. The first time Ms. Ewbanks took over the narration, I seriously thought that my GPS lady got bored and started to randomly narrate the book. (I googled the GPS lady too - not Ms. Ewbanks.) She improves a little as the story goes on - or I just got used to her - but if you want to know what sex scenes sound like when read to you by a Siri-esque voice, now's your chance! (I didn't, so I skipped over them. Even when Lawlor was reading them. Narrators reading sex scenes are just painful.) Patrick Lawlor did a much better job of getting into the material and bringing life and warmth to the story. Unfortunately - as happens too often with dual narrators - the narrators are clearly not in the studio together when they recorded their parts, so Lawlor still has to do female voices and Siri still has to do male voices and I have no idea why you would pay for two narrators and then split up the reading this way. Stop doing this to your listeners!

 

Sadly, even the best narrators couldn't have saved this book. This has three - count them - one, two, THREE - romances crammed into one long-ass boring romance novel with an attempt at an intriguing suspense subplot to thread it all together. It just doesn't work. Rating them from blandest to most promising, the romances are these:

 

3 - Charles, Cybelle, Joe - Love triangle. Bored now. Love triangle set during WW II? UGHHHH! At least it's not set in Pearl Harbor? Seriously, it's WW II and that's the best the author could think to do with these characters? STAHP. The only good thing about this part of the story is that Charles and Joe stay friends.

 

2 - Kelly and Tom - The old "girl kisses boy, boy freaks out and enlists in the Navy, boy and girl don't see each other for 16 years and in all that time they clearly barely even change since they're right back where they left off as soon as they're in the same room again" story. Yeah, nothing new here either. I did like Tom's struggles with his head injury and wondering if he's still capable of leading. I'm just not sure this story actually answers that question. I also liked Kelly's struggles with understanding her father, Charles, and getting closer to him as his health is failing.

 

1 - Mallory and David - The old "geek boy who's really a nice guy (but not a Nice Guy) stalks beautiful girl and gets her" story. Ok, stalking is a little strong. He just makes himself visible, and he's a lot more confident and self-assured than geek boys tend to be in these stories. Mallory's change of heart toward him is gradual, and while it occasionally threatens to veer into boring romance cliche territory, it mostly avoids it.

 

The terrorist stalker subplot is one I've read before also, so again, nothing new here. This was published pre-9/11, so maybe the regulations were a wee bit more relaxed then, but I doubt it. If a bomb threat gets called in, it has to be investigated. End of story. If a building needs to be evacuated in a hurry, pull the fire alarm. The ending was convoluted and eye roll worthy, and the negligence on display here by literally everyone except our protags defies logic. 

 

This series is not off to a good start, but I've seen other reviews mention the books get better after this one, so I'm going to at least give the next one a try.

Reading progress update: I've read 71%.

A Storm of Swords - George R.R. Martin

BEST!

 

CHAPTER!

 

EVER!!!!!!!!

 

Hunter of Demons (SPECTR #1)

Hunter of Demons - Jordan L. Hawk

This is an odd one. I'm going to give it four stars, because I do think it deserves it, but I'm going to put a huge caveat on that, which I'll get to in a minute.

 

Ms. Hawk certainly has a grand imagination. All her worlds, whether I can get into them or not, are well-detailed, well-thought out and the world-building is pretty smooth, giving you want you need to know when you need to know it without burying you in extraneous details. That is the same here. She's put a different sort of twist on vampires here. Certainly, vampires actually being demonic spirits isn't new, but in this world, vampires are thought to not actually exist. Ghouls and werewolves, sure. But vampires? Hah! Except they do. It's the method of transfer from one host to another that differs, and I quite thought it to be more complex and have the potential for more conflict that in typical vamp lore. We certainly get to see those conflicts emerge here and start to be explored, and since the way the possession works, you can still sympathize with Gray while understanding why Caleb is justly upset by all this. Neither of them asked for or wanted this; they're just going to have to find some way to make do. End of series spoiler:

And since this whole first series and part of the second series is already released, I know that Caleb and Gray aren't able to be separated, so I assume they will have to and do eventually come to some mutual understanding/acceptance of their fates.

(show spoiler)

I really enjoyed all the stuff that gets explored here, though I did think Caleb's trust issues with SPECTR and with John went away or started to fade just a little too quickly. I would think Caleb would be more suspicious than he ends up being, and would therefore be looking for more ways to manipulate the situation and John - but that doesn't happen. Of course, he's forced to stick around since they're hoping John will figure out a way to get Gray out of Caleb's body, but that doesn't mean that someone like Caleb, raised with a deep distrust of the system, would thaw out as quickly as he does. 

 

Now for my caveat - obviously, this is M/M(/U) (Caleb considers Gray to be "male" but Gray really doesn't have a gender), and romance is a must. There's no real romance in this first book, which is fine because that would've been misplaced. There's plenty of lusting and lusty thoughts, of course, and John gets a little too handsy with someone he's supposed to be protecting/holding in custody. John gets a wee bit unprofessional, but doesn't cross the line into totally unprofessional until they finally have sex in the last chapter. I have a couple of issues with this that prevented me from being able to like the scene, aside from the extreme unprofessionalism:

1) While they just came from a horror show of a death match with the lycanthrope and their adrenaline would be high, causing them to act rashly, I just couldn't stop thinking that Caleb's breath and mouth must've tasted like blood. Gray had just drunk a lycanthrope dry, and Caleb didn't even stop for mouthwash. Plus, even with near-instant healing powers, Caleb would've had some blood from his own injuries sustained during the fight. Shower first?

 

2) Holy consent issues! Caleb wants John and vice versa, but Gray was obviously way uncomfortable with all this and had no idea what was going on. Even though Gray's an unwanted hitchhiker inside Caleb, and Caleb was desperate to get laid for a variety of legit reasons, that still means that Gray hasn't given his consent to this. At this point, we don't know much about how this possession works. We know that sometimes Caleb is aware of Gray and can carry on discussions with Gray whether aloud or in their head, and sometimes Gray seems to "go away." But we don't know if Gray is "there" all the time or has the ability to "check out" or just makes it appear like he's checked out. Gray's had access to the memories of all his prior hosts, including their sex lives, but those were always in sepia tone, if you will, and this is the first time he's experiencing it firsthand and in technicolor with stereo surround sound. That he's subdued and quiet afterward probably just means he's processing and trying to make sense of what just happened, versus being traumatized by it, but I hope this is resolved before Caleb and John boink again. For now, I'm labeling it dubcon. YMMV.

 

3) Actually, consent is a huge issue throughout the story, what with the forced possession. Caleb doesn't want to share his body with Gray; Gray didn't intend to inhabit a body that didn't stay dead, and in fact has no control over which bodies he does inhabit. So dubcon/noncon is just a fact of this premise. Caleb's miserable, Gray's confused and doesn't know what's going on. Neither of them are really happy about this, though Caleb's pain is clearly much more prevalent and pressing. Still, it's more or less a mutually distressing experience, until the climax. Gray overrides Caleb's consent when he decides to not just kill the lycanthrope but drink all its blood. Dude! Caleb's a vegetarian! :P And also, that's gross. Gray would've even gone after Caleb's SIL if Caleb hadn't begged him not to. So maybe you don't care about #2, because Caleb's free to do what he wants with his body without having to check in with Gray - and I would agree to that IF this series wasn't sold as an M/M(/M) romance. But it is, so my issue with #2 isn't so much that it happened in this instance - because like I said, Caleb's desires were totally valid - but concern about how this is going to be handled in future installments. If you want me to believe this is a mutual romance among all three, then at some point - preferably sooner than later - the various issues of consent need to be addressed.

(show spoiler)

 

The writing is strong enough, and the characters and premise are interesting enough, I'm willing to at least give the next book a try and see how this develops from here. 

Currently reading

Summoner of Storms (SPECTR Book 6)
Jordan L. Hawk
A Wizard of Mars
Diane Duane
Greenwode
J. Tullos Hennig
A Storm of Swords
George R.R. Martin
Progress: 77 %