Linda78

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. 

Rag and Bone (Rag and Bone #1)

Rag and Bone - K.J. Charles

KJ Charles is a great writer, and this is one of her only series I'm aware of where one of the MCs isn't a raging blowhole. We've got Ned and Crispin, who certainly have their conflicts to work out, since Ned doesn't trust magic and Crispin is trying to unlearn so bad magical practices he was taught by his first mentor. They care about each other, and support each other, but they have their hangups and their insecurities and much of this is about how they navigate a relationship with each other given all these conflicts. That doesn't even bring into account that if the wrong person finds out about their relationship, they could end up in jail or hung. 

 

Crispin finally finds a new teacher who is interested in helping use his magical abilities, and while this is a bit too close to the prequel's plot, there is a mystery involving the strange deaths of some rag and bottle store owners to help detract from that. There's a lot of tension built into the climax, and it doesn't just fizzle out afterward, since there are still other issues to resolve.

 

Since I've only read the first book in the Magpie Lord series, I only recognized Stephan Day from that series here. I'm sure there were others, but it wasn't necessary to have prior knowledge of them, or even of Day. If you know the other characters' backstories, you'd obviously get a lot more out of seeing them, but if you don't know then you're not going to be confused or lost.

 

I hope Ms. Charles writes more about these two. I love her writing, but since I'm allergic to her douche MCs I usually avoid her books. This series is the exception.

The Hanging Tree (Peter Grant/Rivers of London #6) (Audiobook)

The Hanging Tree - Ben Aaronovitch, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

This is currently the last installment in this series, though there's at least one plot line I can see still needing to be resolved. (Why, Leslie?!) The plot is back to being a tad meandering, and the action's about as hard-boiled as a lazy British mystery can get. There are stereotypical Americans and the return of Kobna's bad American accents. Enjoyed it, but I'm probably not going to remember much about this one in a few weeks. 

Confessional (A Blake Harte Mystery, #2)

Confessional - John A. Ashley, Robert Innes

As I said on my DNF review of the first book in this series, Untouchable, there are good bones here. I feel like this author has a lot of potential but just isn't getting any kind of guidance at all. He clearly doesn't have an editor. Some of the grammatical issues from the first book are improved on - mostly - but many others remain. Many of the character interactions are more or less well done, though the author could use a better grasp on basic human psychology to avoid cliche pitfalls. There wasn't much to the mystery. It's formulaic and predictable. I had the whodunit pegged from the second they showed up on page, and I even had the murder method more or less figured out from the get-go.

I figured foxglove/digitalis sprinkled on the communion wafers; murderer went with hemlock in the communion wine.

(show spoiler)

The ending was filled with all the bad cliches; I was cringing, y'all. I couldn't get up the energy to even be remotely concerned about the welfare of the characters. It was obvious what was going to happen and it was just boring.

 

So yeah, there are good bones here, and if this author can find himself an editor or two who really know what they're doing, I can see him writing some great stories. But as of now, with one DNF and one 2.5 star read, I won't be bothering with any more from this writer.

A Rare Book of Cunning Device (Peter Grant/Rivers of London #5.6) (Audiobook)

A Rare Book of Cunning Device - Ben Aaronovitch, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Audible Studios

This is labeled as #5.6 in the series but since it's not tied into any ongoing storylines or plots, it could be read out of order. It's a very quick, short read of a case in a library with a strange book. Nothing much here, but fun.

Foxglove Summer (Peter Grant/Rivers of London #5) (Audiobook)

Foxglove Summer: PC Peter Grant, Book 5 - Ben Aaronovitch, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

Looks like this series finally got its act together! The case/mystery here was comprehensive and engaging, and the rural setting was a nice change up from the regular London beat. Also, Peter's temporary partner Dominic is a hoot! I love him and really wish he could stick around, but I'm not counting on it. 

 

Peter gets asked to help out on a case of two missing girls in case there's something supernaturally hinky about it, and of course there is. In addition to Dominic, we get the return of Beverly - who I honestly couldn't remember why she left, whoops - and she's great. 

 

Peter's also still dealing with Leslie's betrayal from the previous book, which gets no closer to being resolved. She's still with whatshisname and whatever she's doing, she knows there's no redemption for her. :( I'm theorizing she's undercover, but that's just because I like her character and don't want her permanently on the outs of the group. 

 

The pacing here was not quite as sedate in previous books, and actually manages to get up to a brisk jog in certain places, which for this series is practically a gallop. :D It kept me engaged, at least, which I can't necessarily say for previous books. 

 

Kobna is one of the few male narrators who manages to do decent female voices, and now he's doing a pretty good job at children's voices too. That's true versatility there. 

Reading progress update: I've read 61%.

A Storm of Swords - George R.R. Martin

 

Well, it doesn't involve cute little innocent kittens licking themselves and being adorable, let me tell you!

 

I HAVE SEEN THINGS THAT CANNOT BE UNSEEN!

 

 

AKLKSDFJALDSFHDSALFHDASKLJKAJF

 

And I even had this whole

Bolton/Frey alliance figured out (though not for the entirely right reasons) way back in Book 2. I knew something like this was coming.

(show spoiler)

 

Still not prepared.

 

CATELYN TOO? WHYYYYY?

(show spoiler)

 

Infected: Shift (Infected #5)

Infected: Shift - Andrea Speed

I'll be honest. Since this was the last book in the Dreamspinner bundle, I was ready to quit the series here. Up to this point, the stories were good, with some brilliance hiding in amongst the mediocre, and the characters were compelling but at the same time not exactly giving me much to come back to. Most of my issues with this series to date has been the author's writing style, which I've detailed over the previous reviews, and there's just no real way to get around that no matter how promising the premise. I'm not sure what happened with this book, if this is a sign of the author's growth as a writer or the editors doing their job, but while there were still some of the issues present, they were far less numerous and much less annoying. With those out of the way, and two well-done and well-written cases, the writing was finally able to get out my way so I could enjoy the story - if that makes sense. (Though it's not completely without side-eye, hence the half-star off the rating.) 

 

Oh, and there are hockey players. Clueless, lovable, batcrap crazy dude-broing hockey players. :D I loved the Falcons and the dynamic they brought to the story and really hope to see them again. It doesn't make sense. It's like trying to squeeze The Mighty Ducks into an episode of Thundercats (which itself is really more like an episode of Fringe pretending to be an episode of Thundercats), and yet somehow it works.

 

I should probably slap an "unprofessional professional" on this story but it seems a little late for that. Roan's never really walked the line anyway, and while he should've had his PI license revoked about three books ago, there's no denying he gets the job done. And those jobs are getting messier, more dangerous and much more personal. I guess I have more of a vigilante streak than I thought I did, because instead of headshaking at the dude (or at Holden), I'm rooting them on. Seriously, these scumbags deserve it. 

 

There are some ups and downs for Dylan and Roan too, and I'm getting to the point where I'd like to see more of Dylan's POV, especially with all the challenges he faces in this book. Telling me he's doing 'y' because of what he did after 'x' just doesn't cut it. I want to see it, and I hope we get that in the next book. Because I will be reading it. I'm in it for the long haul after this and can only hope the series doesn't backslide after getting this much needed boost.

Broken Homes (Peter Grant/Rivers of London #4) (Audiobook)

Broken Homes: A Rivers of London Novel - Ben Aaronovitch, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

Cliffhanger! NOOOOOOOooooooo!

 

Man! Just when it was finally getting good too!

 

I've been lukewarm on this series at best. The first book was great, and the others since have been good, but where I was expecting something akin to Harry Dresden, what I actually got was more along the lines of Angela Lansbury with ghosts and wizards. I haven't really been able to quite let go of that initial expectation, which hasn't helped. 

 

This book starts off slow and sedate, as all the others, but then it really ramps up in the last 20% or so and I was really getting into it when IT ENDED. Boo! Now I have to start the next one because I need to know what happens next. :D

 

Toby is still the best doggie ever. :)

Currently reading

Rise of Empire (The Riyria Revelations, #3-4)
Michael J. Sullivan, Tim Gerard Reynolds
Relief Valve (The Plumber's Mate)
J.L. Merrow
A Wizard of Mars
Diane Duane
A Storm of Swords
George R.R. Martin
Progress: 77 %