Linda78

The Queen's Poisoner (The Kingfountain Series #1) (Audiobook)

The Queen's Poisoner (The Kingfountain Series Book 1) - Jeff Wheeler

Well, this was a strange one. This can't be considered YA, but the POV character is an eight-year old boy. Which also makes getting a woman narrator that much more strange. She does okay with the material, but her voices for the men were not the best. 

 

The story itself was pretty straightforward and includes many of the staples of the fantasy genre. There is some subversion of tropes, so that was nice, but even those weren't anything that were all that surprising. 

 

I probably would've stopped listening halfway through, but that's about the time that Elizabeth Victoria Mortimer arrived on the scene, and she's an absolute delight of a character and most of the stars are for her. Without her, there wouldn't be anyone to really care about in this story.

 

If you're looking for a story along the lines of Game of Thrones, look elsewhere. If you're looking for something light and breezy with a bit of intrigue to read on a lazy day, this might be the ticket.

Infected: Lesser Evils (Infected #6)

Infected: Lesser Evils - Andrea Speed

I just can't seem to stay in love with this series, but I am at least saying in like with it. Once again, there are lots of things I really like here, mostly with the characterizations and the relationship building. Holden and Scott were especially a nice surprise. But, and this is a big but, Ms. Speed just can't seem to decide where to take this story. The overall arc is well done - Roan's continued evolution/downslide as a virus child and how the virus is changing/being changed by him and vice versa. Other than that though, there are a lot of things that are introduced and then just sort of get shoved aside, forgotten or rushed at the end so at least something's kind of resolved. 

 

Still, I'm glad I'm reading these after they've all been released, because that cliffhanger is just cruel. CRUEL I SAY! 

Shirewode (The Wode #2) (Audiobook)

Shirewode (The Wode Book 2) - J. Tullos Hennig

 

Now this is more like it. I'm endlessly fascinated by this series and what the author has envisioned for these characters, and it has me wanting to read the original Robin Hood tales or maybe even suffer through Kevin Costner's lack-of-accent again. I want to know which characters - aside from the main, well-known ones - are part of the original tales and which ones are original characters to these stories, if any are. I'm also enjoying trying to figure out which characters will end up being who - as for instance, Friar Tuck. :D

 

I'm also pleased with how things turned out with Robyn and Gamelyn. They both had long, arduous - and separate - journeys to go on in this book in order to come back together again, so getting to see them grow up, as it were, away from each other was pretty neat. I especially like that Marion also gets her own story here, though I thought it took a little too long to come back around to her after the prologue. Still, her "reintroduction" was well-done, and Ms. Henning keeps all these threads well-balanced. It's a complicated, complex story, mixing history (The Crusades), fantasy (the old gods), and legends of our own times (the Knight Templar, and of course Robin Hood himself). And since this wasn't about two boys falling in love, but two men learning to trust again, there was much less sex and a lot more plot, and when there was sex it was plot-relevant and character-driven.

 

Ross Pendleton again narrates this one and does a stellar job. The only thing that can be rather confusing - until you realize what's going on - is the transitions between what's going on in the real world and what's going on in the otherworld or when the characters are having dreams or visions. In the books, these sections are italicized, but there's just no easy way to make that kind of distinction in audio format without using things like echo settings or, IDK, chimes to mark the beginning and ending of each section. Frankly, I'd rather just be confused until I figure it out than have to put with that nonsense. ;-)

 

PS: For those only listening to the audiobooks - you're missing the little gap-fillers, or "Solus", at the end of each book. They're not very long and you don't miss anything vital by not reading them, but they do provide some extra character insights and whatnot. 

 

Since it's been over three years since this audiobook came out, and two years since book 3 was released, I'm sadly not holding my breath that the last two books will be released in audio any time soon, so I'll be reading those my own self.

Moondrop

Moondrop - Katey Hawthorne

This was cute. A high school teacher meets a dragon-shifter and it's tru wuv, though not in that creepy brain-washy meant-to-be way that tends to define the shifter genre. This could've been rounded out more, but for a short, breezy read this was nice. 

The Downs

The Downs - Kim Fielding

Similar to The Pillar and Treasure, this is another story of a magic healer and a man in desperate need of healing, both of them social outcasts in their own way. While The Pillar felt too similar to Treasure, this novella felt unique to both of them, even though it uses the same basic themes. That could simply be due to getting the POV of the one being healed, rather than the one doing the healing, but it really is more than that.

 

The world of the Downs is lush and vividly described, and while it holds many dangers, it's also easy to see its appeal. The city, which goes unnamed, is more mysterious than the mysterious, legendary Downs, and I wonder if that was on purpose. We never really see the city before Enitan is convicted and removed from it and literally cast out into the Downs. I would've like a bit more worldbuilding for the city (why did the people settle there and why did they stay, for instance) and how it came to operate the way it does, but in the end, those things don't really matter.

 

What matters is Enitan learning to think of himself as someone with value, and Rig learning to let go his past regrets, finding healing in himself as he heals another. The story takes its time as these men get to know each other and Enitan regains his strength. There's no insta-anything here, just two men learning how to live and love when neither of them expected to have any reason to.

A Wizard of Mars (Young Wizards #9)

A Wizard of Mars - Diane Duane

It was never going to be easy to follow up Wizards at War, so I can cut Duane some slack for the unevenness of this book. It takes a long time for the central conflict to show up, and then the climax is a bit rushed. The expanding role of Carmela into this world felt forced and she nearly veers into Mary Sue territory. The whole thing with Nita and Kit maybe starting to have feelings for each other didn't exactly come out of nowhere but since they've been kept apart for most of the previous few books, it felt unearned. There was a great deal of telling versus showing when it comes to their friendship. Plus the fact of them not talking and comparing notes as a way to get all this stuff to happen on Mars in the first place just didn't feel authentic if they're supposed to be such tight friends. 

 

Still, even if this wasn't up to her usual standards, it still has all the things that have made Duane's other books in this series such good reads: imaginative settings, lush descriptions, personal conflict and stakes, and more background into a newly discovered alien race packed into a couple of hundred pages than most tv shows can manage over their entire runtimes. She makes the Shamask-Eilit real, and the use of the LP here is certainly unlike any we've seen in the previous books too, which is something I've been asking for for awhile.

 

This is far from my favorite, but once things started picking up, it made up for the somewhat slow and uneven beginning. 

Blow Down (The Plumber's Mate #4)

Blow Down - J.L. Merrow

More fun and snark from our psychic plumber. 

 

Tom's little secret - the ability to locate hidden objects (which occasionally includes dead bodies) and leaky pipes - is not so secret anymore now that someone let the cat out of the metaphorical bag. Tom's propensity to martyrdom allows him to be guilt-tripped into displaying his talents to the public - with the expected disastrous results.

 

Really, y'all, this is why you don't ask the guy who can find dead bodies to perform "magic" tricks. I mean, that should just go without saying.

(show spoiler)

 

I did feel the whodunit was a bit more obvious this time around and wondered why Tom and Phil didn't cotton onto them sooner. That aside though, the mystery was full of wackadoodles and cagey relatives aplenty, enough to be fun while still making you wish Tom would start wearing a helmet everywhere he goes. :P And it does seem Tom's abilities are taking on possible new skills - not that he's anymore open to testing them out than he was before.

 

I like the way Tom and Phil's relationship is progressing. There's still plenty of ways for them to miscommunicate without going the whole Big Misunderstanding route, and they trust each other enough that they don't blow everything (well, most things) out of proportion.

 

That's not the only relationship Tom has to foster here either, now that he's found his "real" dad. I like that their reunion and getting to know each other was realistically awkward and that they're taking their time getting a feel for each other. I still need to know a lot more about Mike, so hopefully we'll see that in the next book, which I'm pleased to see Ms. Merrow has planned for next year. Fingers crossed there are no delays it getting it to us. 

Pins and Needles

Pins and Needles - A.J.  Thomas

It's been too long since I've had a new A.J. Thomas to read, and this one was worth the wait. 

 

Nate is a trial lawyer working in his father's law firm. He's tired of waiting for his father to see his worth and the hard work he puts into his job and sets out to start his own practice. Sean is newly disabled in an oil rig accident and the company's settlement offer is paltry at best. Nate's the first lawyer to take his case seriously. 

 

The law here is very well done and even the antics that go on in the second half of the book are sadly not far from the truth either, lol. It was a little obvious who the whodunit was, though Thomas does give the reader a few suspects to choose from. It was a bit of a stretch that Nate was handling this case all on his own, especially with all the time he's spending at the tattoo parlor and his other cases, even if they're minor ones, though there was at least an explanation why he was having trouble getting help. I liked that the ethics in getting involved with your client isn't ignored either. 

 

But what I really liked was this story took its time. The relationship isn't rushed. Sean's dealing with a lot after his injuries and just trying to walk again is a challenge. Ms. Thomas doesn't go the disgruntled paraplegic route. Sean's got struggles and pain and a lot on his plate, but he doesn't become bitter or angry or disillusioned. His kinda-dad Hawk is great too and I wish we'd gotten a little more of him. 

 

Nate's got his own issues, and it's neat that they're both going through somewhat similar journeys in this story, each one out to prove they're better and worthier than how they think others see them. Nate especially has to deal with a homophobic brother, and the way his parents have decided to deal with the situation is less than ideal for him. I was pleasantly surprised with where that subplot ended up going with his parents. 

 

I really enjoyed this one, so much so that I stayed up until 1:00 AM to finish it. I did think it got a little overstuffed in a few places and I would've liked more resolution on one or two subplots, but I did like that the epilogue didn't end with the wedding ring/proposal scene that has become cliche at this point. The ending here was much more touching and more appropriate to these characters. 

 

Highly recommend.

Openly Straight (Openly Straight #1) (Audiobook)

Openly Straight - Bill Konigsberg

Rafe is openly gay, has supportive parents (a little too supportive), a fairly inclusive community (a little too inclusive) and a great life. So what does he do when he realizes that his entire life has become about him being gay and nothing else? He goes to boarding school clear across the country and drops all labels that define him. 

 

This was a fun book, and often funny. The supporting cast were great, especially Alfie and Toby. It was interesting to see Rafe navigate his way through his no-labels experiment and realize that whether you use them or not, they still define you and to deny them is to deny yourself. He makes a lot of mistakes, including some big ones with his bromance bestie Ben, but he learns a lot about himself and life along the way. 

 

The narrator did a decent job. He got Rafe down perfectly and did a good job with the main supporting cast. There could've been more variation in the voices he used for the other characters, especially the girls. But he knew when to keep it light and when to get more introspective without getting schmaltzy. 

SPOILER ALERT!

Buffy: S8

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home - Joss Whedon, Georges Jeanty, Paul Lee, Andy Owens, Dave Stewart, Richard Starkings

This'll be for all of S8, since I'm too lazy to shelve each volume individually. I read these as they were released and while there were a lot of things I liked about it and it started off promising, there were more things I didn't like. The wit was there in spades, and the artwork was great. There were a lot of individual issues that were great, but many of the overall story arcs were not my favorite, and a couple of them thoroughly pissed me off even before that craptastic ending. If this is what lack of special effects budget means for the Buffy-verse, give me cheesy foam-suited monsters and inventive lighting any day.

 

I did get the first issue of S9 but could never bring myself to read it. I'll stick to the TV show (which I'm currently rewatching for the 10th time).

Accepting the Fall

Accepting the Fall - Meg Harding

This is my first book by this author and it's a good one. It's a nice slow burn as Cole and Zander reunite and get to know each other again after their disastrous first attempt at love as teens. Cole's now a teacher and Zander's a firefighter with a daughter in Cole's class. While there's plenty of focus on their past and current relationship, this doesn't ignore the rest of their lives and I liked having that balance here. I might have found it a little hard to believe they'd still be hung up on each other after 17 years apart, but there was enough time given to them getting reacquainted that it didn't bother me too much.

 

I loved Savannah, and Cole's plethora of pets. Savannah was a realistic five-year old - not sweetly perfect but not out of control disruptive either. She had a lot of issues and I like they were taken seriously, and I really liked seeing Zander overcome his own issues to help  her deal with hers.

 

Aside from the inability to capitalize "Marines" ever, and one very wrong wording choice, there weren't too many editing issues, better than most stories out there today. 

A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire #3)

A Storm of Swords - George R.R. Martin

Holy amazeballs! This is easily my favorite so far. This one takes off running and never slows down. It was very hard at times to pace myself and not just tear through it because I wanted - needed - to know what was going to happen next. Martin is a master storyteller and the various narratives he's crafted in the first two books continues to build here until it reaches max capacity - and then just keeps going. And that ending

Catelyn's resurrection and paling around with the Robin Hood gang

(show spoiler)

- wow. I couldn't believe it when I heard that was left out of the show, because I can't wait to see what Martin's going to do with that. 

 

And how about that kill count, eh? 

 

Happiest death:

Joffrey, hand's down. Tywin's a close second.

(show spoiler)

 

Most upsetting death:

Prince Oberyn Martell, my prince of salty goodness. You were too precious for this world.

 

Also, Lysa Arryn. I absolutely hated her character, but what a miserable, loveless and lonely life she led. And then betrayed at the last second. 

(show spoiler)

 

Most predictable death:

ROBB YOU IDIOT!

(show spoiler)

 

Death worthiest of a Darwin award:

Hope you had a nice fall, Balon Greyjoy. May you make it to that pearly ship in the sky, or whatever.

(show spoiler)

 

Just die already:

Gregor, Littlefinger, and Roose Bolton and his little Bastard too, and all the Freys.

(show spoiler)

 

 

 

Greenwode (The Wode #1) (Audiobook)

Greenwode - J. Tullos Hennig

I have mixed feelings on this one. 

 

First off, I've never read any of the Robin Hood legends, and the only movies I've seen are Prince of Thieves and Men in Tights, so I can't in anyway compare this to the source material aside from the obvious - Marion is Robin's sister, and Rob's gay. I remember John and Will from the PoT movie, but I pretty much don't know who anyone else is. So I'm just going to review this like any other book.

 

As a fantasy adventure historical, this is great. Very imaginative and takes place in roughly the same time frame as the original RH stories. The pagans are still very much a presence but slowly being squeezed out and pushed to the sidelines by the Christians. There's a lot of world-building here but none of it feels overwhelming. The social and religious strife between the two sides in this conflict is realistic and rooted in our actual history, while adding in elements of fantasy. It's a good meld of the two. 

 

As a romance, you could pretty much pull it out of this book, and plop into any other YA/teen in-the-closet/coming-out story and it would be exactly the same as all of those, along with way too much sex. Except, you know, actual lives are in danger and not just teen angst making it feel like that's the case. Rob's especially pig-headed, and I wanted to smack him a few times, especially at the end, but the book does that well enough when he decides listening to his dick is more important than being stealthy, so I'll refrain. ;) Gamelyn's struggles to accept himself despite his upbringing were interesting though, and I liked that we get to see both accepting and fire-and-brimstone views on sodomy by the two prominent religious figures.

 

The narrator does an excellent job bringing the story to life and voicing all the characters. He's easy to understand and is able to do a full range of vocalizations for both the male and female characters, and he's pretty great with the accents too. 

Reading progress update: I've read 99%.

A Storm of Swords - George R.R. Martin

 

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WHAT IS AIR

 

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Heat Trap (The Plumber's Mate #3)

Heat Trap  - J.L. Merrow

Oh geez, so much going on in this one! 

 

I complained in my review for the last book that I thought Tom and Phil's relationship took a backseat. That was not the case here. The case Phil's working on effects them both personally and even brings out some secrets Phil has been hiding about himself. It really tests their relationship, bringing up old concerns, but doesn't go into melodrama territory. 

 

The case is again well-done. Marianne, the new bartender at the Dyke, is running from her abusive ex-boyfriend, and Phil's asked to dig up dirt on him. The ex is a Douche-with-a-capital-D and annoyingly wily when it comes to the law. 

And I can't believe Tom fell for Grant's line about being misunderstood. Com'n Tom, that's Abuser Manipulation 101.

(show spoiler)

This has some good and creepy twists to it and definitely doesn't end up anywhere I thought it would.

 

On the personal front, Tom's still trying to sort out how he feels about a family secret coming out in the previous book,

about his mother having an affair and his father not being his biological father,

(show spoiler)

so there are family tensions to deal with but again it avoids from going into melodramatic territory. I enjoyed seeing more of Cherry and Greg, and of course Gary and Darren are always a hoot. Oh, and I have to give a shout out to Arthur and Merlin too. They're just the coolest cats, if maybe a bit too quick with their affections. :D

Summoner of Storms (SPECT #6)

Summoner of Storms (SPECTR Book 6) - Jordan L. Hawk

That was one hell of a ride!

 

I liken this series to working similar as a season of tv. This is a complete arc and can be read on its own, with a beginning, middle and end. There is room left though for more stories to be told, and if the second series Ms. Hawk is working on is anything like this one, I'll be eager to read it. But I don't know if I can wait months in between books, and she's only halfway through the next series. Dilemma! 

 

I'd sworn off vampire books way back in high school when I tired of Anne Rice, and I really haven't read very many at all since then where the vamps were front and center. There's the Dresden Files, and now this, and both that series and this one do some really refreshing things with their version of vamps. (I guess the Kate Daniels series does too but that whole series was bordering on corn with a hefty side of cheese. ... Cheesy popcorn? Yeah, I think that fits. Starts off promising but you just can't finish the whole bag.) Here, the "vamp" in question only has the blood drinking to liken it to common vamp lore, and even that isn't used in the usual way, so I really enjoyed how everything was changed up and made its own thing. Also, no sparkling. No sparkling is always key to a good vamp story. :D I'm not going to rush and start reading more vamp-centric stories after this, mind you. I really am done with that genre, but I'll make an exception for this series.

 

I did get rather bored with the sex scenes. Maybe reading these one at a time as they came out, they might not have seemed as numerous. But reading the bundle, one story after another, I just started finding the sex scenes tedious halfway through, and by this one I was skipping them to get back to the plot. 

 

Another thing that got repetitive was how Ms. Hawk reiterated basic information - characters' appearances, basic background info, etc - in each book, I guess so those who decided to come in halfway through wouldn't be lost. It started to drag things out that didn't need to be dragged out. Thankfully, she did keep these bits to the bare minimum, but even those bits I started skimming/skipping. And what is her obsession with tigers? No, stahp!

 

Once again, Ms. Hawk shows her flare for action as the team figures out the big conspiracy afoot and all the plot threads come together in one epic climax. This is one of those stories I would love to see on the big screen. There's even a new development with J/C/G that opens up all sorts of possibilities for the next series. And then there's Sean, who inspires various complicated feelings. He's easily the most interesting character here and has the most potential to really grow in the next installment. 

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