Linda78

Man & Monster (The Savage Land #2)

Man & Monster (The Savage Land: Book 2) - Michael Jensen

It was great (I guess?) getting back to Hugh's Lick, which is still as much a stain on the frontier as it was in the first book. I hoped that we would get to see John, Palmer and Gwennie again, and we do. Even though they're not the MCs here, we still see plenty of them as they help Cold-Hearted Cole, new to the frontier and not having a good time of it. Wendigos trying to devour you can be such party-poopers, ya know. ;)

 

I really liked Pakim (I don't remember if he was in the first book or not) and the relationship that developed between him and Cole was often humorous and sweet, even while Cole was fighting his feelings. There was some good sexual tension there too, just don't expect any mind-blowing sex scenes.

 

I didn't feel as engaged in this book as I did with Man & Monster. Cole isn't as engaging a POV character as John was, for starters. Cole is purposely closed off for various reasons, and while we do get to see flashes of who he is underneath the cold-hearted persona, it's not quite enough for me to care about him as a character. Then there's the really bad horror movie aspect of the book that involves the monster/wendigo that's terrorizing Hugh's Lick. 1) The majority of these settlers deserve to be eaten, and 2) it was like reading the equivalent of "running up the stairs in the dark" for two hundred pages. The pacing felt off, if not downright slow, and the characters barely even paid any attention to the warnings or advice they got. I also figured out pretty quick who at least one of the wendigos was going to be. The editing also could've been better.

 

Thankfully, once the show - or the characters - finally get on the road and get to doing something not phenomenally stupid, the action was pretty well-written, if just as over the top as you'd get from any blockbuster movie. 

 

It was good, and fun, but I think going through and trimming out about twenty pages would've helped a lot.

 

I do think when authors take liberties with historical figures, they really should make an author's note on their research and what they decided to change about that person for the sake of their story. So there's that.

 

In closing:

 

"Oh, the Lord is good to me.
And so I thank the Lord
For giving me the things I need:
The sun and the rain and the apple seed;
The Lord is good to me."

 

Bet y'all haven't thought of that one in a hot minute.  I know I haven't. ;)

Agent Bayne (PsyCop #9) (Audiobook)

Agent Bayne (PsyCop Book 9) - Jordan Castillo Price, Gomez Pugh

Review of book here.

 

Still as enjoyable as the first time. Gomez Pugh once again performs brilliantly.

 

I'm eager to see where this series is going to go next after the reveals made here with Vic's past and the pre-runner to the FPMP.

Red Dirt Heart 2

Red Dirt Heart 2 (Red Dirt Heart Series) - N.R. Walker

This started off kind of rocky, to the point I even considered quitting at one point since the first book was only ok. I'm glad I stuck with it though since it ends much stronger than it started. All it took was Charlie to stop acting like a twelve-year old (jealousy and angry snits are really not appealing to me) and the guys to actually start talking to each other instead of just having sex as the basis of their relationship. Go figure. 

 

There's still too much of everyone thinking the gay couple is cute, and I wanted to (lightly) smack everyone who was smiling/laughing at Charlie's discomfort at various points throughout the book. Their reactions came from a place of love, but that still wasn't cool.

 

I felt that this ended with a stronger relationship between Charlie and Travis, which helped me to care about them as a couple and as individuals. Charlie's coming out process is maybe a bit too rushed considering his years of baggage, but it was too satisfying to bother me long. :)

 

I also got a (somewhat) better sense of some of the side characters. Greg is an even better friend to Charlie than originally thought.

 

Onto the next one.

The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo #2) (Audiobook) - DNF

The Trials of Apollo, Book Two: The Dark Prophecy - Rick Riordan, Robbie Daymond

I think I've reached my saturation point with this author. As much as I enjoyed the Percy Jackson series, it was something of a struggle to get through it by the end since there's not a lot variation in the themes. I knew I needed to take a break from Riordan's writing before considering another series. I thought this would be that series, and I really enjoyed the first one.

 

But man, Apollo is an annoying self-centered brat! :P If that character type appeals to you, you'll love this series, but I just couldn't take it anymore. I didn't like Apollo, I couldn't remember any of the other characters, themes and conflicts are again getting repetitive. I was struggling to pay attention or care about anything. I even went back to the point where my attention first started wandering and tried to listen again, but it just wasn't working for me.

 

This is no fault of the narrator - or maybe in an ironic way it is. He performed wonderfully and he really got the Apollo character down pat, in all his conceited glory. :D

Lord of Ravens (Inheritance #3)

Lord of Ravens (Inheritance Book 3) - Amelia Faulkner

CW: Child abuse, drugs:

Laurence sees back in time to the first time Quentin's father beats him. The scene cuts out as his father is preparing to rape him. It's brought up a few times afterward, but no further details are given. :( Seeing this also causes Laurence to try to score heroin later, thankfully unsuccessfully.

(show spoiler)

 

Well, this certainly didn't go in the direction I thought it would, at least in regards to Laurence and Quentin's relationship, which is a good thing. They only deepen their relationship here, and grow more intimate with each other, and after the last two books of patience and hard work to get to this point, I was happy for the guys getting some happiness. They deserve it.

 

We do finally learn what Quentin's father did to him as a child, which is exactly what I thought it was going to be (see CW above). The reason for why he did it was more messed up than I thought it'd be though, and I'm dreading when Quentin remembers or finds out. He's getting stronger and more sure of himself all the time, but his father has a way of reducing him to a scared little kid again.

 

We get to see Neil again, and he's a riot as always, and I love that he just accepts Quentin and clearly understands him as well as Laurence has come to. I wish we'd seen more of Ethan, Aiden and Maryam, but the story didn't allow much time for that, what with the introduction of Amy and Rufus - and we don't even really get a whole lot of time either, but what we do get looks promising.

 

In a book titled Lord of Ravens, I was expecting ravens to be a little more prominent and important to the central plot but that didn't really happen. Instead, Laurence gets a baby raven that he has to raise, and as with babies everywhere it does nothing but eat and poop the whole story.

 

I feel like this book was just a little disjointed, or more accurately that it served more as a bridge to the next book. There is a beginning, middle and end, but the main conflict is still ongoing, so nothing really feels resolved. I do like that Laurence and Quentin actually communicate with each other (though there is a brief Big Misunderstanding), and that real life considerations are taken into account when weird mystical things happen.

 

And lastly, I suppose it had to happen eventually: the geography fail. :P
-No matter what time of the year it is, the sun never sets as early as 4 PM or as late as 9 PM in San Diego. It certainly would never be setting at 4 and fully set after 9. Most people I know wouldn't say the sun is setting until it's within a half-hour of the sundown. (There are websites that'll give you sunset/sunrise times for any location on any date you could wish to know about.)
-Americans don't use meters to measure distance (unless they're scientists). We use feet and yards. Dating a Brit isn't going to change that.

 

There were also more typos in this one than I recall in the previous installments. The most distracting one was the constant use of "noone" instead of "no one." Hopefully this doesn't remain an issue going forward.

Introducing Mr. Winterbourne

Introducing Mr. Winterbourne - Joanna Chambers

I read this as part of the Another Place in Time anthology that was released a few years back. Here's what I said about it then:

This was fun. Yes, this all happens in a day and usually that annoys me, but it doesn't here. I didn't see it as insta-love, not even really insta-like, since Winterbourne and Freeman had to get over their preconceptions of each other before they could start getting along. It was fun seeing them realize they're not so different after all.

The Youth & Young Loves of Oliver Wade

The Youth & Young Loves of Oliver Wade: Stories - Ben Monopoli

"This was the tragedy of growing up a closeted gay boy: you've had no practice when it matters."

 

We meet Ollie near the end of Paintings of Porcupine City, so we don't really get to know him that well when he and Fletcher hook up. These books have always been more gay lit than M/M, so I was only disappointed that we didn't get to know Ollie better. This collection of short stories fixes that. It chronicles Ollie's life from his first school dance to his meeting and first date with Fletcher.

 

The stories are often insightful, and the ones focusing of his teen years are especially angsty. One of the college years stories includes dub-con, so be aware of that. What is fascinating in all the stories is how Ollie learns to be honest with himself and others, how he figures out what being gay means, and how he fumbles as he tries time and again to find true love - until that true love finds him.

 

I still don't know what to make of Paint Day. It's a weird fantastical element in books otherwise firmly rooted in reality, but a bit of mystical reality never hurt anyone I suppose. :D

Anne of Green Gables (Audiobook) - DNF @ 36%

Anne of Green Gables - Audible Studios, Rachel McAdams, Maud Montgomery Lucy Maud Montgomery

OMG, shut up.

 

I might have liked this - maybe - when I was younger. And I admit Anne has a certain appeal - when I'm not trying to figure out what kind(s) of mental health issues she has - but I really can't take any more of this. Plus, this is very much a slice-of-life story, which I do enjoy, but there's no real conflicts here that don't get resolved immediately.

 

Also, the narration by Rachel McAdams is kind of flat. She comes to life when voicing Anne with an E, but the rest of the time, she's just reading words on a page.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (Audiobook)

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood - Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah narrates his own autobiography with humor and passion. Even when he's describing things as crippling as apartheid, racism, and domestic abuse, he's able to relate the events in a way that not only educates the listener about the horrible cruelty that crippled a country under the laws of apartheid but also allows the listener to laugh - or cry - with him at the absurdity of some of the situations. 

 

As an American, I know very little about apartheid, except that Nelson Mendela helped bring it to an end and that it made Jim Crow look like a Sunday brunch. Trevor Noah explains the ways that the South African government, ruled by the minority white population, overcame the majority black population, split them up and took the power from them. He's able to convey the lessons he learned growing up in this system - which made his very existence as a half-white/half-black child a crime - and how his mother found ways to get around the system time and time again. 

 

In a lot of ways, there are many things here that many can relate to - your first pet, feeling left out of the crowd, struggling to make ends meet - but the constant presence of apartheid and its aftermath turns those things on their head. His observations on life, people, the power of language and empathy, and the laws that surround us and shape us are astute and timely, even today. Maybe even especially today. 

 

I wasn't sure what I was going to get with this story, and didn't realize that Noah was that guy from the Daily Show until after I finished it, but I enjoyed this a great deal, which is a weird thing to say about a book filled with such heavy topics.

 

“Nelson Mandela once said, 'If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.' He was so right. When you make the effort to speak someone else's language, even if it's just basic phrases here and there, you are saying to them, 'I understand that you have a culture and identity that exists beyond me. I see you as a human being.”

Running Blind

Running Blind - Venona Keyes, Kim Fielding

4 stars for the first half, 3 stars for the second half.

 

I was really enjoying this book and didn't even mind that the romance didn't kick in until near the halfway point. I liked Kyle and liked seeing how he adapted to his blindness and how he didn't let it slow him down for too long. He had moments of anger and self-pity, but they were just moments. This is very much a story of recovery. I do wish we'd been shown more of his time in rehab, but I liked what we did get.

 

Then Seth shows up and it was just too late in the book to really develop the romance in a satisfying way. There was no doubt that the two clicked right away, and that they both had their reasons for not wanting to jump into a relationship. But I didn't really feel like the "I love you"s were earned when they showed up. Maybe if the authors hadn't felt the need to give Seth some baggage (in the form of a previous relationship, not his aging mom, who is delightful) that took up time that could have been used to better establish Kyle and Seth as a couple, that might be different. Instead, time is spent on this side story that really could take up a whole book on its own but barely gets the attention it deserves. It felt like it was thrown in there to give the relationship some unneeded angst, or make Seth a little less perfect. Then milestones are jumped right over or referred to in passing.

 

What saved the second half was again Kyle's continued recovery and learning to not just live with being blind but also rediscovering his sense of adventure that he'd had when he was younger. And I like that the struggles he encounters with other, well-meaning people weren't over the top - except Derek. What a tool that guy was. Kyle had to figure out what he could still do in his job as a narrator and voice actor, and how to navigate the world and convention circuits on his own.

 

Oh, yeah, and the pushy, meddling sister is in full force in this book. *sigh* Can we please stop including this character in romance books? Don't get me wrong, I love how supportive Lily was for her baby bro and how much they clearly love each other. But there's a way to be supportive without being obnoxious.

Red Dirt Heart (Red Dirt Heart #1)

Red Dirt Heart - N.R. Walker

I like this! It was standard, as far as M/M goes, but has the distinction of being set in the Outback. Charlie and Travis were fun, and it was nice to see Travis pull Charles out of his shell and self-loathing. I really liked Ma and George, too. (Though I did get a little annoyed with the chapter headers, gotta be honest.)

 

This is a short read though, barely longer than novella length, so we don't get to see much of the other workers on the ranch, who are basically just there as set dressing. A lot of the relationship development between Charlie and Travis was set in the bedroom too, and after one-and-a-half standard sex scenes, I just started skipping them altogether. There was still enough development outside the bedroom for me to appreciate why they're clearly good together, so that was good.

 

The next one looks longer, so hopefully it'll have more meat on its bones. And be better formatted. The formatting for this book was all over the place. It though Ch 6 was Ch 8, for instance, and thought the book was complete when I was still at 70%. 

Wingmen (Audiobook)

Wingmen - Ensan Case

First thing's first: this is NOT a romance, so anyone reading this as a romance is going to be very disappointed. This is a war story with some romantic elements, but those elements make up a very small percentage of page time. Really, it's more  a story of a squadron of pilots, focusing on three of the men, two of whom just happen to be gay and start a relationship with each other, but for the most part that relationship is between the lines. 

 

HOWEVER, all that said, I still really enjoyed the story. I could tell that a lot of research went into this. The lingo, the fight scenes, the war diary, the protocols - I can't attest to how accurate anything is but it sure sounds legit. (Though the military lingo was a little too much at times. I even had to go back and relisten to the first few chapters because I was losing the thread of the story. Once I got used to it though, the story flowed well.) I thought many times while watching that this would make a great war movie, perhaps directed by Ron Howard, and I would've liked for the story to keep going after

Fred gets hurt and discharged

(show spoiler)

since I wasn't invested in the relationship as much as I was the squadron as a whole. So the ending felt a little anti-climatic. The epilogue covered about twenty-five years after the war's end, highlighting the major events in Fred and Jack's lives together. But even though this isn't a romance,

I was still disappointed this wasn't an HEA for them, since it ends with Jack's death by heart attack.

(show spoiler)

 

Keeping in mind this was originally written in 1979, it's no surprise then that this is not the gay-ok revisionist history that you get in too many m/m romances today. I get why people want their protags to be happy, but I always feel like it disrespects the men (and women) who had to live through those times. I really did like that aspect of it, and just the fact that this was published when it was is an example of all those little steps over the decades that brought us to where we are today. 

 

The narrator does a good job, though I wished he'd made the voices a little more distinctive. My issues with the audiobook isn't because of him though. The editing was less than stellar. I lost track of how many times sentences were repeated, but it was easily over a dozen. This should've been caught before it was released and since I've had experience with this from Audible before, I doubt it's going to be fixed any time soon.

 

I do recommend this one if you're a WWII buff and enjoy action/adventure stories, but readers wanting Romance (™) should look elsewhere.

A Lucky Child (A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy)

A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy - Thomas Buergenthal, Elie Wiesel

For being about the horrors of Nazi occupation of Europe and the Holocaust, this wasn't a difficult  read. The author, Thomas Buergenthal, writes about his childhood in an approachable manner. It probably helps that he's writing it several decades after the fact - the pain and anger he would have felt during and immediately after the events have had time to heal. It's light on details of the day-to-day activities of those years, as he and his family were first on the run from Germans, then living in the Jewish ghetto in Poland, then the various concentration camps he was imprisoned in. As a result, it glosses over a lot of the horrors, focusing instead on events that stick out to him most - but those events are rather harrowing in themselves. He doesn't linger on them though. Some might find this lack of detail frustrating, others may be relieved. I've read other accounts of the Holocaust, most memorably Elie Wiesel's Night, so I was able to fill in what wasn't there. 

 

This felt like a very honest and intimate account of his days surviving WWII and the Holocaust. His writing here is flowing and stark, and he doesn't get bogged down with unnecessary repetition like last few autobiographies I've read. He was indeed a "lucky" child to survive Dr. Mengele and Auschwitz. Speaking of Night, they were both clearly in Auschwitz at the same time, as they both describe the Death March with the same sort of dreadful resignation. He was lucky many other times in order to survive, and that continues even after his liberation as he details how he was eventually reunited with his mother.

 

One cannot stress enough how important this time period was to the shaping of the world as it is today and why it's necessary that it continue to be taught in our schools. Buergenthal's work in international humanitarian law is inspirational and reminds us that, no matter how bleak things can still appear, there is hope for improvement and that things already have improved in many places. We can make the world a better place, but we can only do that by remembering the atrocities that came before and striving not to repeat them.

A Reason to Believe (Audiobook)

A Reason To Believe - Jack LeFleur, Diana Copland

Still just as good as the first time I read it way back when I was first getting into M/M. I always worry that those "older" reads won't live up to my initial impressions of them, but this one does. It's even been long enough that even though I remembered the gist of mystery (the motive mostly) I didn't remember the whodunit, so it was fun to try to figure it out all over again. 

 

Kiernan is fun and full of energy, and he's such a great balance to Matt, who is more even-tempered and still grieving the loss of his last boyfriend. It was a bit on the insta-love side, the story takes place in barely a week, but they go through enough and actually talk to each other about things instead of just lusting after each other (which they really don't do much of, actually). It makes their connection feel more real, instead of the shallow "he's so hot I MUST have him" nonsense you get in a lot of other romances. 

 

Sheila and Aiden weren't as annoying as I remembered them being, even if they are a little too gushy over the guys finding love. 

 

The narrator is pretty good. He did sound a little "the number you have called is not in service" at times, but when he was reading dialogue, he really got into all the characters and shined.

Shelter the Sea (The Roosevelt #2) (Audiobook)

Shelter the Sea - Heidi Cullinan

I was worried at first when I realized this book was going to get political. Not because of the focus of the politics - America's dismal record with mental health illness - but because the last time Ms. Cullinan went political with her story Enjoy the Dance she forgot she was writing a story. The characters took a back seat to the politics, and the story suffered for it. I'm glad to say that was not the case here. She remembered to tell an engaging story this time, she kept Emmett and Jeremey front and center, and we got to see how their relationship continued to progress.

 

It's been a couple of years since the end of Carry the Ocean, and Emmett and Jeremey are still living in the Roosevelt. Emmett's working now and doing well. Jeremey however is still struggling with his anxiety and depression and has entered a dark period that he tries to hide from Emmett. Emmett wants to help him and also wants to take their relationship to the next level. On top of that, the Roosevelt is facing funding problems, that exacerbates everything and highlights how easily law makers overlook the mental ill and physically limited when it suits them. 

 

Emmett though doesn't give up easily. He and the other Roosevelt Blues Brothers come up with a plan to try to defeat the legislation to privatize mental health care and along the way he figures out how to help Jeremey too. It was great to spend time with these characters again, and to see David and Darren again. We meet some great new characters, and Mai is especially a sweetie. 

 

Iggy Toma was, as always, perfect. He's four for four in the audiobooks I've listened to so far. He really brings Emmett and Jeremey and the rest of the characters to life, and lets their humanity shine through. 

SPOILER ALERT!

Running the Tides

Running the Tides - Amanda Kayhart

This started out so promising and then it just meandered around until I lost all interest and skimmed the last quarter just to get through it and see just how the inevitable Big Misunderstanding would shake out. On the good side, the Big Misunderstanding wasn't the one I was expecting it to be. On the bad side, the Big Misunderstanding was completely contrived and out of left field and was even more unnecessary than Big Misunderstandings tend to be.

 

I liked Avery and Olivia and they were pretty cute while they were crushing on each other. There's a nice slow burn to their relationship too, so they didn't just fall into lust and actually spent time with each other and got to know each other. The whole thing with Avery's grandmother was pretty predictable, but it didn't quite play out the way I expected (see above re: Big Misunderstanding). 

 

But...

 

The writing was wordy, and there were many incorrect word usages throughout. Most of them I was able to figure out, but I'm still trying to figure out what "edit my jeans" is supposed to mean. 

 

Avery drives from upstate New York to North Carolina without apparently taking a break, and she somehow manages to get to NC in time for Val to tell her that the owner will be back "in the afternoon". ... It's at least a twelve hour drive. Avery left after breakfast, and she's driving a pickup truck not a black '67 Chevy Impala, so I know her truck doesn't have wormhole technology. ;) There's no way she got there before nighttime.

 

Olivia asks Avery to stay on an extra month to fix the roof at the B&B. Permits and rental equipment are mentioned, but nothing at all is said about Avery not having a contractor's license in NC. Pretty sure a NY state contractor license isn't going to cut it in NC. Hell, you can't even cut hair in another state without a proper license.

 

Avery's about to fess up at one point about her grandma, but it starts raining so she's interrupted. (Timely interruptions happen a lot in this book.) Once inside, Olivia goes about getting them dried and settled and tells Avery she can continue with her confession. Then the chapter ends and the next chapter starts up three weeks later and we don't find out for another 150-something pages if she told Olivia anything or not, and if not, what she did tell Olivia instead. 

 

And there's more, but that's the point where my interest started to wane and by about 65% I just really couldn't take it anymore. By 75% I was skimming and looking for relevant parts. The Big Misunderstanding was shortly after that and so completely stupid that it was hardly worth the time it took to skim it.

 

*sigh* I want to find good F/F books to read but everyone I pick up is either just okay or less than stellar. Why is it so hard?

Currently reading

Leah on the Offbeat
Becky Albertalli
Drums of Autumn
Geraldine James, Diana Gabaldon
Interim Errantry: On Ordeal
Diane Duane
A Feast for Crows
George R.R. Martin
Progress: 85 %