Murder House (PsyCop #10)

Murder House - Jordan Castillo Price

Vic goes undercover and it goes about as well as you'd expect, lol.


I love seeing Vic continue to expand his horizons. Moving to FPMP might have freaked him out initially, but it's been such a positive place for him and he's able to see and learn new things about himself as a result. And here he decides a course of action regarding his mysteriously redacted past that he hopes will protect Jacob. Vic being so protective about Jacob and his career is touching.


We also get to learn a lot more about Agent Bly, and as another reviewer said, I hope we get at least a short story about him at some point. He's such an interesting character and his background is much more complex than he originally let on.


Now, in the previous book, some reviewers complained about

the lack of romance and Jacob not being in the story enough. I suspect there may be similar complaints about this one. Since Vic's undercover, that means no contact with anyone from his normal life. For me, I think this series surpassed Romance(™) a long time ago, and is instead a paranormal series with romantic elements. But more importantly, the forced separation caused Vic to take stock about his relationship with Jacob and all the reasons he loves the big lug and how much knowing him has changed Vic's life for the better. It was really somewhat sappy and incredibly sweet, and it made their few interactions that much more intense.

(show spoiler)


As for Vic's past and what he discovered about it in the previous book - or didn't discover as the case may be - and what he learns at the end here:

I'm not sure if we're supposed to already be able to figure out who Dr. Kemal is, based on everything we already know. Dr. K is too obvious, and wouldn't be hiring people for Laura's assistant anyway. I'm in need of a major reread of the series, but I did a quick skim of the first two books and nothing popped out at me.

(show spoiler)

I hope it's not too long for the next book, because I need answers now!


I did feel it dragged just a teensy bit, but JCP switched gears at the exact right time to keep it from being an issue. I am curious though if "carrot in headlights" is an actual saying that anyone anywhere has ever used, or what the hell that was about. Vic's very obsessed with carrots in this one and I don't know why, lol.

Oathbreakers (Vows and Honor #2; Valdemar #5)

Oathbreakers - Mercedes Lackey

DNF @ 23%


I hated The Oathbound with a fiery passion. I was going to skip this one but several reviewers said it's better than the first one, so I decided to give this book two or three chapters to see what happens.


What happened was I just can't stand Tarma or Kethry. Every second they're on page is like nails on chalkboard, and since they're the POV characters, that became a problem real quick. What kills me is it would be simple to write these characters as both entrepreneurial, and compassionate and sincere, but the compassion and sincerity are seriously lacking and they come across as self-centered assbutts.


Then there's the plot. The first "book" was a series of short stories thrown together in a really lazy attempt to make a full-length book. The shorts tended to provide the beginning and a quick wrap-up ending, and leave out the middle where the action was supposed to be. Here, we're thrown into the middle, in this case a war between two forces I don't know or care about, in a conflict I don't care about, and that's over by 20%.


So characters I don't like + plot I don't care about = DNF.

The Oathbound (Vows and Honor #1; Valdemar #4)

The Oathbound - Mercedes Lackey

Skimmed the last 25%


It started out promising but then it crashed, hard and fast, and somehow just kept getting worse. This book is like that awkward kid who tries too hard to fit in with the cool kids: cringe-worthy and embarrassing. I can see what it was trying to do, but to say it's been done better before is putting it mildly. I don't even know where to start with this one, so list!


1) So. Much. Rape. Most of it's off-page, but it's like Lackey thinks this is the only threat women face. Well, that and murder after said rape.


2) And it's bad enough that it's used so often and so cavalierly, but then our heroines don't even have to deal with the trauma because of mystical, magical healing, which just further cheapens it and belittles every rape victim ever. If you're going to use it, be ready to deal with the consequences of it. (The same issue happened with Talia in the last Arrows book too. I'm sensing a trend here, and it's not a good one.)


3) Too repetitive and too scattered. I thought this was setting up Kethry to confront her brother and the dirtbag he sold her to, but that was over and done - largely off-page - by 23%. The brother could show up again, I suppose, but that would be rather anti-climatic at this point. Also, every time they met someone new who needed their help, we had to see them described all over again, from their looks to their weird bond to their abilities and on and on. (After writing this, I also found that this was a collection of short stories that they tried to package as a single story, which explains a lot of the pacing issues and repetition.)


4) The idiocy of a sword that only women can use, but not against other women, and that can turn a completely untrained person into a master swordswoman. I know this is fantasy, but you can't just write "cuz magic, yo!" to explain everything. This stretched my ability to suspend disbelief. I mean, what happens if a man picks it up? Does it become so heavy it's impossible to move? Does it just freeze itself in midair somehow? Does it freeze the man? Tarma tries to use it once against a woman and it's described as awkward, which doesn't really explain anything.


5) Lackey can't write action, and there's a lot of action in this one, when it's on page anyway.


6) So you have a rapist. You go to bring him to justice. You use your powers to make him look like a woman and send him off to his band of rapists so he can get some of his own medicine. Um... what? Do I really have to spell this one out? And not surprisingly, it comes back to bite them in the ass, as it should have.

(show spoiler)


These women are awful. The writing here is somehow both banal and gross. If this is what Lackey's idea of woman empowerment, I'll pass. Next time I want to see two women with a sacred bond righting wrongs and signing songs, I'll watch Xena.


This review includes a lot more of the issues I had with this book, but didn't have the energy to include in my review. Warning for spoilers.

The Defiant Hero (Troubleshooters #2) (Audiobook)

The Defiant Hero - Melanie Ewbank, Patrick Girard Lawlor, Suzanne Brockmann

2.69 stars, rounded up.


Sometimes you want cheese, and it's just the right amount, and you're in cheese nirvana:



Other times you want cheese, and it's just too much, and you end up with all the regrets:



This was a little of both.


Clearly, a story about terrorism, child abduction and a mother in peril just isn't meaty enough to carry the plot of an entire book all by itself, doncha know. Nope, this thing needs some filling. Lots and lots and lots of filling. So much filling that you pretty much lose sight of the plot entirely for huge chunks of the book. Because who cares about terrorist plots when romance is in the air, amirite?


So, you have a story wherein a little girl and her great-grandmother are abducted by extremist terrorists (not just your run-of-the-mill terrorists,

but thank God they're also somehow amateurs)

(show spoiler)

, and held in custody until you, the girl's mommy, bring them a terrorist from an enemy cell so they can kill him. Then, and only then, will your daughter and grandmother be released. Do you: A) immediately call the FBI and inform them of this terrorist threat and tell them everything you know upfront to give them the best opportunity possible of saving your family as quickly as possible, or B) follow the terrorists' exact instructions, hoping on dumb luck and the gullibility of some guy you knew once a few years ago, and go along with the terrorists' plan because obviously, even though they're terrorists, they're totally trustworthy and will follow through with their promises if you deliver what they want, all the while acting like the epitome of the stereotypical hysterical woman? If you're smart, you choose A. If you're Meg, you choose B.


She chose B so hard, y'all.


And she's a mom, I get it, but she set womanhood back by at least a few centuries with her hysteria. I mean, she called in John because she knows him and trusts him. But then she doesn't trust him and is constantly lying to him and badgering him about how untrustworthy he is even though he

A) came at her beck and call, B) helped her get out of the embassy, C) came after her sorry ass after she ran away again to help her even though it could end with him court-martialed and imprisoned, and D) didn't once try to get the upper hand, even though he very easily could, because he was giving her every opportunity to not be a dunderhead. But he's not trustworthy. Uh-huh. Sure.

(show spoiler)

And John Nilsson was every corny movie action hero ever. Bonus points for stripping atop a car hood, in the rain, while hanging on with at least one hand the whole time, while the car is in motion. He must have godlike powers to accomplish that feat.


And then there's Alissa Locke. She was set up as a really cool character in the previous book. The first woman who even stood a chance of getting into the SEALS but had to settle for the prestigious job of an FBI sharpshooter instead. And here, we find out that she doesn't know how to track her targets or how to keep her targets from spotting her, doesn't know how to dress for a sweltering hot day in D.C. even though she lives there, and doesn't understand how alcohol works. But have no fear! A man's here to show her the ropes! And what a man he is! A condescending, patronizing, sexist Texan redneck, complete with a cowboy hat and a high opinion of himself. Of course, she must have him!



But Sam's a classy guy. Really. He is.

He'd NEVER have sex with a clearly intoxicated woman incapable of giving informed consent. ... Oh, but wait. He did. Never mind!

(show spoiler)


I just didn't understand this subplot. Why was it here? I certainly hope I'm not supposed to be rooting for these two to get together in the future. And the whole stupidity in the motel room was ... well, stupid. It was like something out of a 80s sitcom with the stupid handcuffs and the abuse of chocolate syrup.


Then both of these couples having sex at the stupidest times - unprotected sex at that. Is it really that difficult to control your hormones? I don't get it. Well, Meg and John I get; that was about comfort. But Alissa and Sam ... ugh.

(show spoiler)


Then there's Amy and Eve, in the hands of their captors, and Eve spends the entire time telling their sole guardian (why were these guys not on rotation?) about her love affair during WWII. Which is actually the only thing that happens in this book that makes a lick of sense. Getting your captor to see you as a human being is goal number one for anyone who has been abducted. It's your best hope for escape or release, and it can work. So go for it! But my lord, did I so not give a crap about her story.


Once again, this is a dual narration, and I believe all the books in this series are. Patrick Lawlor is the better of the two. He's much more natural than Melanie Ewbanks, who can sound a little too technical at times. Still don't like getting two sets of voices for the same characters, and their various accents were almost painful to listen to. Still, Lawlor was at least fun to listen to at times.


Thankfully, I was in the right mood for cheesy and stupid, even if I did find a lot of it frustrating.

Sword Sworn (Vow & Honor #0.5; Valdemar)

Sword Sworn - Mercedes Lackey

Decided to read this from the Oathblood anthology to get the fuller background of how Tarma and Kethry met. It's a short story, so it's more detailed than the summary provided in Oathbound, but it could be a lot more fleshed out too. Not thrilled about how becoming agender and asexual to be Sword Sworn is seen as a sacrifice though. No doubt, even having an ace character, much less an agender character, was progressive at the time, but the logic behind it doesn't translate well 30 years later.

Firestarter (Timekeeper #3) (Audiobook)

Firestarter (Timekeeper #3) - Tara Sim, Gary Furlong

Objectively, if such a thing is possible with books, this should probably be 4 stars, but anything that can get me this invested in the plot and characters, despite some very obvious flaws and some truly TSTL moments, deserves 5 stars.


I muttered aggressively at the audiobook while taking my afternoon walks and actually yelled during my morning and afternoon commutes, y'all. I lectured at the characters hard time. Good thing there weren't any people around. 


This is the final book in the trilogy and Ms. Sims actually manages to make Xavier somewhat likable and certainly relatable. Danny and Colton are constantly in peril because they're magnets for danger. Akash, Mina, and Daphne all play parts in the unfolding story between the crew of the Prometheus, intent on freeing Iotas, the god of time, and the Builders, intent on making more clocktowers to maintain time, including all the entails.


Danny goes through quite the journey here. He's still a bit innocent in this and still clinging to his morals, even when it's really not a good idea. It was hard to see life knock him about. He grows up in this book, and learns some hard lessons, as does Xavier. As much as I hate some of the things Xavier's done, he did at the very least only have the betterment of humanity in mind. Some of his methods were questionable, true, and he learns to accept his role in things.


There was a bit too much repetition of events, and there's a pretty significant plot point that hinges on what is unfortunately a huge plot hole. I could do mental gymnastics to attempt to make the plot hole make sense, but I shouldn't have to.

Archer's trap for Danny and Colton makes no sense, even with someone on the inside. It hinged on a complete improbability that Archer would have had zero hope of actually amounting to anything, and it's only because Daphne had a conveniently-timed breakthrough that it happens at all.

(show spoiler)


Gary Furlong's narration continues to be amazing, though there were a few times that his voices didn't shift quite enough and it took a few sentences to figure out who was speaking. But when it comes to emotions, he really shines. He gets to the heart of each character and makes them feel real. 

Think of England (Think of England #1)

Think Of England - K.J. Charles

This started out a lot of fun as Curtis goes to a friend's estate for a visit with the intention of find out if he was in fact responsible for sabotaging a supply of military weapons. While there, he runs into da Silva, who is constantly in his way and foiling his every move - and vice versa, as it turns out, since de Silva has his own reasons for being there. There's a good amount of teasing and tension in the first half, and it was a lot of fun. 


Then an extremely predictable thing happens about halfway through and the story never quite recovers. Everything's wrapped up very nicely and expectantly, and of course our guys pledge themselves to each other after a whole six days' acquaintance. *sigh*


I did really enjoy the side characters of Miss Merton and Miss Carruth, and I'm excited to see there's a prequel now featuring them, which I do plan to get and read.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (Audiobook)

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin - Andrew Trees, Benjamin Franklin

What didn't this man do? He started a printing press, a library, a fire brigade, the Poor Man's Almanac, drew up the plans for a school system that would eventually become the University of Pennsylvania, invented the Franklin oven and helped give us electricity, and got the roads in his hometown paved to save everyone from having to sweep up dust all day - and that's BEFORE the revolution. Which is sadly when this biography ends, since he passed away before he could get to the real meaty parts of his life. On top of all that, he was humble in the face of his accomplishments, was anti-slavery, pro-female education and pro-vaccination, invented bifocals and the "long-arm" to retrieve books from high shelves, and pretty much did all of the things. Can we clone him and replace everyone in Congress and the White House with him? We'd get a lot more accomplished, a lot more sensibly.


The narrator was good, though it took me awhile to get used to him. The audiobook available through Prime lending has a short timeline that covers the bigger events after the biography ends. The public domain ebook I have also has some letters he wrote, including the one detailing his electric kite experiment.

Revision of Justice (Benjamin Justice Mystery #2)

Revision of Justice - John Morgan Wilson

Ben is a glutton for punishment, y'all.


So in this one, Templeton asks Ben for help with a society piece for a magazine. They head off to a Hollywood party and of course, murder happens! Ben again gets involved with a jerk involved in the case, and he also befriends the murdered guy's roommate, who has AIDS. Ben's lover died of AIDS several years before, but Ben had ducked out and avoided the end, and it's been eating at him ever since, so now he's going to be there for Donny.


This isn't as sad and maudlin as it could have been, thankfully, because AIDS is a heavy subject. There's still a lot of detail about the disease and its effect on various characters, infected or friends/loved ones of those infected. So be forewarned if this is a sensitive subject for you.


The mystery was pretty decent. It could have gone a couple of different ways from the beginning, but it became clear what was going on about 2/3s of the way through, and then it was just a matter of getting enough evidence to go after the whodunit. There was a lot of focus on Hollywood and all it stands for, which was on the boring side, but since Ben wasn't into the glam, seeing it from his POV kept it from getting cheesy or hokey.

Chainbreaker (Timekeeper #2) (Audiobook)

Chainbreaker - Tara Sim

This suffers from middle book syndrome. It takes awhile to get going and doesn't have the same sense of tension as the first book, and mostly exists to set up the last book. It does pick up in the last half, though.


Time needs to be managed in this world, because if it's not, it'll stop and towns trapped in these stopped zones all but seize to exist for those outside them. For hundreds of years, the clocktowers have managed time, but the secret of how has been lost. But now a clock tower has fallen in India - and time didn't stop.


I really liked seeing Daphne become a full fleshed-out character, but I did miss spending more time with Dany. Colton's POV was also quite refreshing and interesting. I can't quite decide if his decisions were convenient to the plot or in character though - perhaps it's both.


There are various threads going on here, and they're weaved liked the Fates at their loom. Things that happened in the previous book are expanded on here, and we get more info on how the clock spirits came to be and why. Even the villains aren't quite what they might seem at first - though their methods certainly leave a lot to be desired. The social commentary on England's occupation of India was interesting also.

Simple Justice (Benjamin Justice #1)

Simple Justice - John Morgan Wilson

Benjamin is a broken man. A one-time lauded journalist who won the coveted Pulitzer Prize for a series he wrote about AIDS, he's now living with a ruined name and years of regrets. After the death of his lover years before, he's been hiding from the world, getting by on bit jobs and the generosity of his landlords. When his old editor, Harry, comes walking back into his life, asking him to help his new star journalist, Alex, with a piece about the death of gay man, Ben at first refuses - until he sees news coverage of the confessed murderer and is convince something's not right.


There's a lot going on in this first book. Wilson does a great job of setting up Ben's character. His past is anything but peachy and he's been worn down by his guilt and grief. He's a bit fatalistic and prefers to duck his head than to stick his neck out, at least with his personal life. Once he gets the scent for a story beyond the facts being reported in the news though, he's all about sticking his neck out, taking chances and doing whatever he needs to do to find the truth.


There are actually two mysteries here: why did Ben lie in his story that won him - and lost him - the Pulitzer, and who is the murderer. The first was pretty obvious to me rather quickly, but getting all the details slowly uncovered as the story progressed and Alex got more and more interested in his story gave a better picture of who Ben is. As for the murderer, there are a lot of good leads and possible suspects. I did peg the real murderer early on, but the why and how come didn't get revealed until closer to the end.


A head up: This is NOT a romance series. There is a bit of dubcon here. Like I said, Ben's a broken man and his choice of bed partner is less than wise. Then again, his bed partner is also broken and using Ben right back. How much it bothers you, or doesn't bother you, or whether you think it actually goes into non-con territory, will no doubt vary.

Room to Grow

Room to Grow - Kate Sherwood

This was a very quick, short (ends at 87%) novella about a man, David, coming to terms with being gay and figuring out how to move on from his failed marriage, and Cole, a landscape architect - sorry, a "garden designer" - who's getting over a bad breakup from a closeted user. This could've been angsty, especially since David's still married to his wife at the beginning, but it wasn't really. I liked the wife, who reacted realistically when she learns the truth, and doesn't become a villain. It also helped that their marriage had been on the rocks for a few years, and the breakup really had nothing to do with Cole but with David learning to be himself.


I liked the interactions between David and Cole; they quickly click and even though Cole has some hangups, they don't have any real miscommunications. I liked their fantasy garden designs and that they talked like adults. And David practicing saying he's gay was cute.


However, since this was a novella, there wasn't really time to delve into any of the hinted subplots, so a lot gets glossed over and feels a little rushed.


P.S. Who would build a tropical garden in Vancouver???! That's nearly as crazy as spending $400K on trees!

A Way Home (Gay Amish Romance #3)

A Way Home (Gay Amish Romance Book 3) - Keira Andrews

FINALLY. I've never gone so long between 5* reads before, and after the last book, I wasn't that hopeful for this one. I figured this was going to Melodrama City, what with

Nathan's cancer and Issac and David's relationship being on somewhat rocky grounds at the start.

(show spoiler)

While there was drama, it managed not to teeter over into Drama Llama territory.


Going back to Zebulon so soon after getting away from it could have been a serious misstep, but it helped to reinforce for David and Isaac why they left and why they're better off away from their Amish roots. Especially for David. He had so much guilt in the previous book for how they took off at the end of the first book that he needed to see with his own eyes that his family was all right and getting on. The time away from the bustle and confusion of San Fran also helped them to slow down and really figure out where things went wrong with them.

Still think that whole nonsense with Clark was unnecessary, but I'm glad it wasn't made a big deal of here and that Isaac quickly realized that nothing happened between David and Clark.

(show spoiler)


I really liked how things were resolved with their families. It was believable and sad, but also there was some hope there, and the epilogue was perfect.

By Fairy Means or Foul (A Starfig Investigation #1)

By Fairy Means or Foul: A Starfig Investigations Novel - Meghan Maslow

This had so many things that don't normally work for me: shifters, fated mates, and a quasi-master/slave relationship, but a good dose of humor to lighten the mood really went a long way. Maslow's obviously not taking any of this too seriously, and takes every opportunity to subvert expectations. Unicorns aren't pure and good, sprites come with potty mouths and giants like to knit. Yes, it was predictable and campy but that also was part of its charm.


Twig is a half-fairy/half-dragon and doesn't really fit in anywhere. Quinn is a human who flunked out of wizard school to become an indentured servant and bed slave of one of Twig's customers. Quinn's feisty and determined, and Twig's a big softy with a possessive streak. As they galavant across the fairy realm to hunt down a lost unicorn horn, they meet one unusual character after another and even pick up a friend or two along the way.


While this was light and breezy for most of the story, it did allow time for some serious moments as needed. The resolution at the end leaves plenty of room for different conflicts and mayhem to come, and I look forward to the next one.

Winter Loon (Audiobook)

Winter Loon

Written by Susan Bernhard

Narrated by Vikas Adam



3.5 stars for story and narration


Oh boy. Where do I start?


There was a lot here to like - a lot - but it got a little bogged down with some of the drama. I think the narrator's somewhat dry delivery is the only thing that kept this from feeling too melodramatic. But seriously, everything poor Wes goes through really is a bit much. In the space of a year he

loses his mom to drowning, both grandparents under equally as dramatic circumstances (though they were no great loss, truth be told), finds out that his mom was molested by her dad when she was a kid, gets a love bite from the old man himself (though thankfully it went no further than that), and learns that his grandmother was also abused by her brothers when she was a teen.

(show spoiler)

On top of that, he tries to reconcile his father abandoning him and while I get that kids love their parents no matter how messed up they are - and they were both really, really messed up - I just couldn't really care too much about Wes's drive to find his dad. Good riddance, as far as I was concerned.


What worked for me was Wes learning to be a man, learning to show compassion and learning to stand up for what he feels is right. He's got the deck stacked pretty heavily against him, and aside from a few precious memories he doesn't have much to look back on that isn't filled with grief in some way. He's got nothing but bad examples and it's not until he meets Jolene and Lester that he comes to know what friendship is. He has his first love with Jolene and through her he gets to experience a family that doesn't tear themselves apart, that support each other and expects the best of each other. Watching him grow up and learn to be better than where he came from was really something.


I wasn't too sure about the narrator at first but he grew on me after awhile. There is no way Vikas Adam is anywhere close to a teenaged boy, but he did get the personality and introspection of Wes down perfectly.

A Clean Break (Gay Amish Romance #2)

A Clean Break - Keira Andrews

Isaac and David are in San Fran and trying to get used to the outside world. Naturally, it doesn't go so well.


I liked getting David's POV here and seeing events from the previous book from his eyes. His guilt at leaving his family behind is palpable, and his fear of losing Isaac to the world makes a certain amount of sense. David puts a lot of pressure on himself and see only what he does wrong - or thinks he's done wrong - and he doesn't have the skills to communicate those concerns what with his stoic, stiff upper lip upbringing. The stress takes it's natural toll, and it was sad to see him having such a hard time adjusting to freedom.


While it made sense for the miscommunications to happen, it was still frustrating to read. When the Big Misunderstanding happens though, it feels unearned and cheap. Isaac just so happens to be in the wrong place at the right time two times

first to hear that Clark is going to go after David, and again at the club to see when Clark actually makes his move

(show spoiler)

and it just felt contrived for the sake of melodrama and a cheap cliffhanger. They had plenty of other struggles to deal with that it just wasn't necessary.


I wish we'd have seen more of Aaron and Jen. Since Aaron admits to being in therapy because of how hard it was for him to adjust to outside life, I kept waiting for him to see the signs of David struggling but he was just kept off page for most of the book. I thought it also got too repetitive at times.

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