Linda78

Once Upon a Time in the Weird West

Once Upon a Time in the Weird West - Langley Hyde, Jana Denardo;Chelle Dugan;Zee Kensington;Susan Laine;Jamie Lowe;Dar Mavison;Anna Martin;Sean Michael;JL Merrow, Lex Chase, Tali Spencer, Tricia Kristufek, Venona Keyes, Andrew Q. Gordon, C.S. Poe, Jamie Fessenden, Shira Anthony, Kim Fielding, Astrid Am

OMG, I thought that would never end. This is an interesting collection. There's certainly a lot of imagination on display, and as with all anthologies, some were better than others. There's a good mix of steampunk, fantasy, and sci-fi. Most fell into the good to meh range for me, but the first and last were the strongest.

 

Reaper's Ride by Astrid Amara - 4 stars.
Basically a gay Ghost Rider minus the unfortunate skelemorphisis. Good fun. :D

 

Wild, Wild Heart by Shira Anthony - 3.5 stars.
This was well-written and I liked Al and Cyrus alright, but the world-building was a bit lacking. Since we're dropped right into the middle of things here, there wasn't time to really get the full impact of the MCs' connection before things got going.

 

Dr. Ezekiel Crumb's Heavenly Soul by Lex Chase - 2 stars.
Wow. From shot in the knee, to stitched up, to rough and wild sex in less than five minutes. That's a new record! Oh, and a former alien king something or other.

 

Corpse Powder by Jana Denardo - 3 stars.
A Navajo man running from a skinwalker meets a Jewish doctor after the airship Tsela was on is raided by pirates. There were a lot of good ideas here, but they didn't really have time to blossom, and the romance was very insta.

 

The Sheriff of Para Siempre by Jamie Fessenden - 2 stars.
So...I liked the beginning of this a lot. It was really sweet and cute, if sad 'cuz homophobia was alive and well in the Wild West, hence why Billy and Joe were always on the move. I liked Joe's voice a lot, and it was clear these two were smitten with each other, and the no-dames-in-this-town Para Siempre is pretty casual about them so long as they keep it under lock and key. But then, zombies?? Or zombie. I think? This is something I know a lot of my friends hate in romance, so spoiler.

Billy is killed and because he promised his soul to Joe, he ends up a walking corpse who can only move about, can't talk or anything else. So Joe ends up stuck in this podunk town for the rest of his life. He can't move on or find someone else because he's gotta watch over Billy. Then Joe eventually dies of old age, a friend comes along and finds him and burns them both. The end.

(show spoiler)

 

The Tale of August Hayling by Kim Fielding - 3 stars.
It's Kim Fielding, so it's well-written. But talk about insta-love. But I guess if you're into

dragon shifters

(show spoiler)

and there's no chance of ever finding another one, your choices are pretty limited.

 

Time Zone by Andrew Q Gordon - 3 stars.
I thought all these were supposed to take place during the Wild West days, but this one's contemporary. Pretty interesting and it's a story more like something Marvel would do.

 

Get Lucky Ginn Hale - 3 stars.
Hale throws everything and the kitchen sink into this story. Mages. Theurgists. Dinosaurs. Epic flood. Gangsters. Pinkertons. Seriously, everything is in here, and yet it doesn't feel overstuffed. Unfortunately, there's no ending! A lot of stuff is set up, and then it's left hanging. I did see the note that this is story takes place in the world of another story, and I have no idea what that story is about, if it continues with these two or picks up where this leaves off, or if it deals with an entirely different cast. And it doesn't really matter. This is still an incomplete story. Well-written, greatly imagined, likable characters, so three stars.

 

From Ancient Grudge to New Mutiny by Langley Hyde - 2 stars.
A gay fantasy version of Romeo and Juliet, where

they both live at the end.

(show spoiler)

This could've been interesting, but it was undeveloped and the ending was rushed.

 

POMH by Veronica Keyes - 2 stars.
This is more of a detailed outline, and doesn't make much sense. This is like a gay steampunk version of Pinocchio. Kinda weird and random.

 

Oh, Give Me a Home by Nicole Kimberling - 3 stars.
This one is very short, so the author wisely keeps this to just a few scenes, and she does those scenes very well. She sets up this world in a minimum of words and without spending time on unnecessary details. However, since this is so short, there's not much time to set up the relationship between the MCs. Also, it wasn't set in the wild west but on a completely new planet.

 

Gunner the Deadly by C.S. Poe - 2 stars.
I didn't know what to expect from this author, and I tried to go into this with an open mind. This had an interesting set up, and the action was decently written, but the "romance" was way too insta and unprofessional professional to boot. Throw in an abrupt ending and there wasn't much to recommend this one.

 

After the Wind by Tali Spencer - 4 stars.
This is a strong end to this anthology. Micah is a fire elemental, in hiding from the government, bounty hunters and poachers who hunt his kind down. When a couple of poachers come through selling the services of a water elemental, Micah decides to do what he can to help the man - but exposing himself would be risking his friends and neighbors as well. The author also doesn't ignore the trauma of Rain's abuse at the hands of the poachers. There's no insta here, as there shouldn't be. I actually wished this one had been a little longer.

Play Hard (Glasgow Lads #4.5)

Play Hard - Avery Cockburn

This was very sweet and very porny. Way too porny. I had a hunch going in due to the blurb, which is why I borrowed this one instead of bought it, and I'm glad I did. There were just too many sex scenes for such a short book and most of them I couldn't be bothered to read. But if you're looking for a pornmance, this should definitely scratch that itch.

 

What I did like was seeing how Robert and Liam are still navigating their way through their new relationship. They've been together romantically for a little over a year, but they've been best friends for sixteen years, and sometimes those old BFF patterns can tame down the flames of romance. I liked how Robert came to a new appreciation of Liam, and how Liam was able to eventually open up to Robert about his fears of the future.

 

I also really liked the scene where Evan and Liam talked. Liam still hasn't warmed back up to Evan, so it was nice to see Evan helping him sort out his thoughts and feelings. Now that I like Evan, I want all the Warriors to like him again too. :D

The Last Sun (The Tarot Sequence #1) (Audiobook)

 

The Last Sun

Written by K.D. Edwards

Narrated by Josh Hurley

 

This is a new author and new-to-me narrator, and they both make a hell of an impression. While this didn't quite have the emotional depth I usually require for 5-star reads, it was so much fun and generally well-written that I can't give it less than five stars. And it was emotional when it needed to be, even though all the MCs were a bunch of dude-bros (but not douchey dude-bros, have no fear).

 

So you've got Rune St. John, the last of the Sun Court, which fell twenty years earlier when Rune was fifteen. Rune somehow survived - but he didn't get out undamaged. He wears sarcasm like a shield and has emotional and mental barriers so think that no powered sigil can get through them (though one guy starts to manage it.) There's also Brand, his companion and bodyguard and his best friend. Brand doesn't have magic but that doesn't slow him down one bit.

 

The beginning is a bit strange and doesn't appear to have much to do with the rest of the story, at least not on the surface. It does set up a lot about this world though. When Rune's recruited by Lord Tower to look for his missing godson Addam, things really start to take off. Along the way we meet a very fun and interesting band of side characters: Max, who Rune unwittingly agrees to look after; Quinn and Kiernan, both seers; and finally Addam, who proves to have hidden depths.

 

 

Brand and Rune's relationship is the most important one here. Their friendship is unshakeable, despite some challenges along the way. I liked that their conflicts weren't contrived or borne from ridiculous miscommunications or misunderstandings. Rune's a bit impulsive and that sometimes gets them into interesting situations, but they're both competent at what they do. It's just that their opponents are also competent, which really ups the ante and makes the action more interesting.

 

I hesitate to call this a romance, though there is that potential there. It's just not the focus, and what is here is a slow burn, so don't expect a lot of sexy times. 

 

In addition to all that, Edwards gives us a fully realized alternate reality, where New Atlantis exists within the normal world, where magic is real and humans are tourists. There's a lot to learn about this world and it's done in digestible doses. No info dumps here. There's also plenty set up for the next book - or however many books this series ends up being. There's so much than can be done with this world, and it's done in a fresh and fun way. I'm very eager to see what the next book brings to the table when it comes out later this year.

 

I listened to the audio at 1.20x speed. Hurley really got into the spirit of the book. He could have done better with the voices - Brand and Rune sounded too much alike - and he might have gotten a little too enthusiastic at times, but overall it really worked for the tone of the story. I hope he comes back for the next one.

 

The Bar Watcher (A Dick Hardesty Mystery #3)

The Bar Watcher - Dorien Grey

This was another solid mystery, as Dick gets pulled into trying to solve what appears to be a solitary murder of a massive douchebag. As more douchebags turn up dead, Dick starts to see a pattern emerge - and it's not one he particularly has an issue with. 

 

The case was interesting and kept my attention, even if the perp was pretty obvious. But like Dick, I didn't want that particular person to be the perp, so I was willing to overlook the clues. There were a couple of potential perps actually, and a conspiracy uncovered to murk things up. Dick even manages to make a couple of allies on the Riverside PD, which surprised him and me both. 

 

It's been awhile since I read the first two books - and those were far apart too - so I forgot these were set in the 1980s until Dick meets a sweet young man with "pneumonia." The saddest thing ever was hearing the young man talk about what he'll do if he "beats this thing." Dick starts off skeptical about the so-called gay plague, but he ends it pretty certain that something needs to be done about it quick. Of course, we all know the history of that. :( I'm hoping he'll keep these concerns in mind and gets in the habit of using protection, or that he gets over his "slut phase" (as he calls it) quickly. I lost track of a couple of the guys Dick was juggling in this one; he had a quite few of them. 

Magic's Promise (Valdemar #7; Last Herald-Mage #2)

Magic's Promise - Mercedes Lackey

I don't know what just happened, and I'm almost afraid to examine it too closely in case I find things to nitpick (and I certainly could nitpick) and end up lowering my rating.

 

This hasn't been a very good year for me, rating wise, and I was pretty close to giving up on Lackey altogether. I was really tempted to just finish up this trilogy and move on. And for all I know, it goes downhill from here (I know how the next book ends) and this book is a complete fluke. After the dregs of the Vows & Honor series, I wouldn't be surprised if that ends up being the case, but this one gives me hope that there could be other gems in the Valdemar series.

 

This series has certainly had it's ups and downs, and Lackey has quite a few storytelling quirks that irk me more often than not - like her tendency to emphasize words she feels are important but really puts the emphasis on words that end up being completely unimportant and not at all the words I'd emphasize myself. It breaks the natural flow of the sentence structure and I really wish she's stop trying to help out the readers with the constant italics. Also, she can't write a romance worth a damn. Thankfully, she doesn't really attempt that here, and the little hint of a possible (completely nonsensical) one was mostly ignored and then quickly resolved, taking up maybe a half page out of the whole book total. 

 

She has gotten much better at writing action and she's filling in more of the rules of this world with each novel and trilogy that gives new insights into things that didn't quite make sense before. 

 

Now I could certainly complain about the "gays don't get happy endings" trope and the "gays must suffer" trope that are definitely in full force here, and I wouldn't blame readers who get annoyed by them, because I certainly do too. But for Vanyel's personal journey, knowing where this character comes from and what he's been through, and knowing already some of the history of this story and how it impacts later generations, what Vanyel goes through here to understand his place in the world and to come to a sort of peace with his hurts and losses makes sense. Also, keeping in mind this was written in 1990, Lackey needed to humanize Van as a character, which means he is going to be used to call attention to many of the stereotypes so prevalent (even to this day) about gay men.

 

I was thrown a bit at first that this jumps ahead in the timeline by about 10 years or so, and some of the cast of supporting characters were new. I was having to catch up at the beginning, but then Vanyel was off for "vacation" back at the homestead with his loving family and things got so good. A former rival turns into a surprising ally, his father ends up being kind of reasonable, there's trouble over the Border and new friends to make. I really liked Medren and Tashir, and it was a treat to actually get to see Vanyel engage in a job rather than just hear about it afterwards. Savil continues to be great, and even Van's brother Mekeal has his shining moments. 

 

Everything was just working in this one. Lackey was firing on all cylinders and she proved that when she stays focused and doesn't get wrapped up in unnecessary high school melodrama or half-formed subplots she can actually weave a fantastic story.

The Forgotten Hours (Audiobook)

The Forgotten Hours - Katrin Schumann

Hm... I seem to have liked this more than most reviewers, but I have reservations about this one too.

 

Katy's an empathetic character, and I felt for her as she's trying to piece together what happened one fateful summer several years earlier when her father was accused - and later convicted - of raping her best friend. She's always believed her father was innocent and taken his side, and now that he's getting out of prison, she finds herself more in the dark than she previously realized.

 

It's hard to talk about this one in any detail without spoiling things, unfortunately. So non-spoilers first:

 

It was odd that the present day storyline was told in past tense, while the past day storyline was told in present tense. For once though, the third-person present didn't bother me, I'm guessing because the whole story was told from Katy's POV and didn't head hop, so even though it was third-person it still felt like first-person.

 

The narration by Bailey Carr was decent. I had to speed it up to 1.35x before I could keep my attention on it. She strained with the male characters' voices, but the important voice was Katy and she did that well. 

 

Now spoilers:

 

I was mostly concerned with the statutory rape storyline going on in the past that it would end up being a long con or not really examine the longterm effects of that. Thankfully (as much as anyone can be thankful about such things) it wasn't a long con and it was exactly what Lulu always claimed, but you have to wait until the very end of the book to find out. There's a lot of speculation about Lulu's testimony being questionable for various reasons, but the main one is because of a psychological study about victims of past sexual abuse confusing things with what happened in the past, putting those events in the present. It's all very valid to look at the effects of trauma and how that can warp reality, but at one point, you realize that poor Lulu has been raped/assaulted at least four times by four different men before she reached 15, and twice in one night. Was that really necessary?

 

Also, while Katy's voice was interesting and her search to discover the truth was interesting in that we can see how the repercussions of this event ripple out and effect everyone, we don't really get to see Lulu on page until the very end. We don't actually see how it effected her, the victim. She's largely supplementary to the storyline even though she's the one driving the whole thing forward. It's like the author wanted to address these issues but didn't want to do it too closely.

 

Then there's the ending, which again went further than I thought it needed to do narratively. Katy's just found out some horrible truths about her father, including the big one, and while I don't care one iota that idiot drove himself off a cliff (thankfully not taking anyone with him), but what purpose did it serve to have him run over his own daughter first? That wasn't necessary for me to view him as scum, and it wasn't necessary for Katy to realize he's scum, and it wasn't necessary for him to drive himself off a cliff. So why do it? Just to hammer it home?

(show spoiler)

 

So that's my main issue with this. If the author had dialed it back in a few instances and instead focused in more where needed, this could have been much better, but instead she decided to ante up when it really wasn't needed. 

Back Where He Started

Back Where He Started - Jay Quinn

3.5 stars

 

This story flowed much better than The Beloved Son, but it was still on the wordy side. I did skip over a paragraph here and there when it got repetitive or too detailed to wade through, and some of the dialogue still felt unnatural. But it was overall a better reading experience.

 

Chris is a middle-aged man forced to start his life over after his partner of 22-years walks out the door for another life and another family. The three children they raised together, now grown and the youngest about to graduate college, are all firmly on Chris's side. Chris decides to relocate to the beach and tries to figure out who he is on his own.

 

Once again, Quinn delves into the complexities of family and how the various relationships within a single family can shape each person in it. This isn't so much plot-driven as it is a character study of Chris and the various shifts his family have to make in order to adjust to their new reality. Chris would almost too good to be true, except a few scenes of pettiness with his ex saves him from saintliness. Chris spends a great deal of the book trying to figure out who he is other than a "mom" and "wife" to his children and ex, and figuring out how to let go past hurts in order to move forward with new relationships. I wasn't sure about Steve at first, but he kinda grew on me, and the "kids" had a family dynamic that felt very familiar to me but also unique to them.

 

The typos were dramatically reduced, though there were still some formatting issues - for instance, the section breaks weren't visible in the Android app or on my Paperwhite, but they were there on the Mac app - and there was still one case of mixed names. There were a few continuity issues, and Chris's penchant for calling everyone "baby" started getting on my nerves pretty early on, as did other terminology used in the book.

Of Sunlight and Stardust (DNF @ 30-something %)

Of Sunlight and Stardust - Riley Hart, Christina Lee

A grieving husband. A convicted felon who for some odd reason got out of prison without having to do parole, leaving him free to wander about the country. A hidden notebook written by a tortured closet case in the 1940s. Oh, the violin of it all. The drama! The heart-felt pain!

 

Good grief, y'all. I tried, I really did, but I got bored. Maybe I'm just cold-hearted, but this was not working for me at all.

 

Bad enough that it was GFY and didn't once attempt to deviate from the tropes of that worn-out genre. I powered on, hoping it would be one of the few rare good GFYs, because they do exist. But nope. This man, who volunteered time helping at a shelter for homeless LGBTQ+ teens but never once bothered to question his total straightness until that one uber special guy showed up out of nowhere, is suddenly attacked by the gay flu. Seriously, every time he started getting gay feelings, his reactions read similar to getting the flu. Dude even thought he was coming down sick a few times, and even at one point had to lie down to take a nap that ending up lasting all day. For real. That happened. But have no fear, my man! You're just turned on by a man! With tattoos! What else are you gonna do when he walks around shirtless all the time, all sweaty and tempting? Ooh-la-la-la.

 

The characters were nice and all, but the "secret notebook hidden in the floorboards to be conveniently discovered decades later by the very people who need to read it most" has been done better before. Namely, in The Tin Box, which this book made me want to reread rather than continue to drudge through the tediousness of this story. There was no real plot to speak of, and the long-lost lovers having the same initials as our current day duo was desperately schmaltzy, although I was probably meant to see it as kismet or serendipitous or some other heart-tugging nonsense.

 

Yep, I'm cold as ice. Willing to sacrifice their love for a DNF. Yes, I am!

 

But tons of others loved this book, so don't take my word for it. Try it for yourself and see if it strikes the right chords for you.

Dreams of Silver (Silver Music Box #2) (Audio)

Dreams of Silver - Mina Baites

In the second, and I believe last, book of this series, we continue to follow the Blumenthal family post-WWII as they continue to piece together the puzzle of what happened to their lost family members during and after the war, mainly Lillian's sister Margueritte, who was put on the Kinder Transport the same time as Lillian. 

 

This was a much more sedate story, since there wasn't the threat of the Nazi regime and the Holocaust, but that doesn't mean the characters weren't still impacted by the lingering effects of that time period. While it was also predictable, I was interested in the things that this story brought to light that you don't hear too much about, like the various ways that fraudsters benefited from the war and used it to their own selfish ends, not caring how they further hurt those who were already vulnerable.

 

There's also a subplot with Lotte in Cape Town, South Africa. Apartheid was in full swing during this time, Mandela was in prison, and the legacy of the Nazi regime continued on in the way South Africa was divided and suppressed by the white dictators in power. Lotte sees what's happening and she decides to act, to help a black woman, Dede who is being targeted by the oppression. There were some harrowing parts to her story:

She's beaten severely at one point, and then the building where she's sleeping with her baby is set on fire and her baby dies.

(show spoiler)

 

The story does end on a positive note, jumping forward a few decades to see the impact of the Blumenthal's legacy on the next generations. 

 

Jane Oppenheimer again does a great job with the narration. She doesn't always do well with the male voices, but she doesn't try to force it which makes up for it. She gets emotive at times but mostly settles into the storyteller style of narrating. 

Be Fairy Game (Starfig Investigation #2)

Be Fairy Game - Meghan Maslow

This wasn't quite as much fun as the first one, though it certainly had its highlights, namely Cookie, who I kept picturing as a tribble. A tribble with some very plot-convenient abilities.

 

The mystery was a bit convoluted as Twig and Quinn try to hunt down an infamous troll hammer that keeps eluding them, and Twig's also having to manage the election campaign his scheming dad wrapped him into. Since I probably won't remember much of it in a few weeks:

The hammer turns out to be part of prophecy to bring about the endgame, and a dragon that's out to get Twig's mom is after it. Quinn ends up claiming the hammer, or more accurately the hammer claims him, and it very conveniently turns itself into a cuff around his wrist that I'm sure will prove to have plot-convenient powers for the next book.

 

Meanwhile, someone keeps trying to kill Twig's dad. One of the someone's turns out to be a dark elf that Bill had been dating, and that doesn't end well. For the dark elf. After some psychic mojo, Bill's back to normal, and it appears that Twig might have gotten some of Quinn's soul mojo mixed with his - I'm just guessing this because their souls bumped into each other while trying to subdue Bill's monster on the astral plane and now Bill's noticed that Twig smells different. Which I'm guessing will end up being the key to Twig finally completing the mating with Quinn without Quinn losing his powers. But we'll have to wait and see on that.

(show spoiler)

 

I'm not really jiving with this whole wizard/familiar thing between Quinn and Twig. Twig made a big deal over it in the last book because Quinn bonded with him without full disclosure, and now it's just a thing between them. I feel like he got over it a little too quickly. The few times Quinn has to "pull rank" in this one were not pleasant to read about, even if a couple of those times were necessary, and he's a bit of a hypocrite each time he does it. I would've preferred more apologizing over it at the least. *shrug*

 

So this was a little uncomfortable at times and not quite as carefree as the first one to make up for the power imbalances that peeked out now and again. Especially when everyone kept pushing Twig aside to hit him over the head with the Very Important Lesson of learning to rely on others. I was starting to think he'd get sidelined for the entire book, but thankfully that wasn't the case.

Not Dead Yet (Not Dead Yet #1) (DNF @ 41%)

Not Dead Yet (Not Dead Yet #1) - Jenn Burke

I wouldn't say everything was going honky-dory until 31%. This did start out pretty rough, the world-building wasn't all that fantastic, the writing was average and the MCs had zero chemistry and I didn't really care about either one of them. I enjoy second-chance romances, but I need to care about why they parted and care about why they should get back together, and that wasn't happening here. But the case they were working on was interesting and the setup for that was going well and getting interesting, and that more than anything else was keeping me going.

 

So Wes is a ghost, but he's not. He can go solid, and even needs to sleep for some reason, and he drinks coffee and all that jazz. But he can go incorporeal too. Because, you know, ghost. Except not. *sigh* He can't see people clearly when he's incorporeal but he can see everything else just fine - very plot-handy skills he's got, our Wes. He also has a somewhat meddling female best friend, because apparently every gay man needs one of those, even not-ghost ghost ones.

 

Then there's his ex-squeeze, Hudson, who's a cop. They dated 30-some odd years ago, but being a ghost and being a cop, it didn't work out. A murder brings them back together, except Hudson's kind of a jerk. And then at 31%, he's suddenly

revealed to be a vampire while he's feeding on some kid - accidentally killing him, it should be noted; he doesn't drain his victims normally, just takes what he needs and sends them on their way, somehow none the wiser that they're missing a couple of pints of blood - so instead of leaving a body to be found, he turns the kid into a vampire. There is some irritation and ire and a smidgeon of regret, but no one's really as concerned about this as they should be. I started skimming at this point to see how it would be handled when the kid finally woke up, and the tone was just way too light and breezy for my liking considering what was happening on page.

 

I'm not generally a fan of the vampire genre, which sounds weird because I love Buffy and Angel and Harry Dresden. And I did like SPECTR Vol 1, and while the vamp stuff did get weird in the last couple of books, it was a unique enough take on the genre that it was fresh and new. But I need to know going in that there're going to be vampires and that it's going to be handled with the brevity that I need it to be dealt with. I didn't feel like I was getting that here.

(show spoiler)

 

*sigh*

 

Time of death: 41%

 

Maybe it gets better, but I'm not inclined to find out. Still, plenty of my friends enjoyed this one, so don't take my word for it. My issues are very specific to me. It's like when I was watching The Girl With All the Gifts and was really into it until

it was suddenly just another zombie movie

(show spoiler)

and I got bored out of my mind and couldn't finish it. It's just not my usual genre and if I'd known that element would be in it, I wouldn't have bought the book in the first place.

The Doctor's Secret (Copper Point Medical #1) (Audiobook)

The Doctor's Secret (Copper Point Medical #1) - Heidi Cullinan, Iggy Toma

DNF @ 25%

 

Even Iggy Toma sounded bored.

 

No chemistry, nothing new here, more political preaching, more weird fetishization of Asian culture. And music in ORs is totally normal. Plus, it's just creepy to get jealous over a guy's friends - FRIENDS - when you've only known said guy a week and you're not even dating. And the "no dating between co-workers" thing to desperately try to drum up some drama in this no-pulse DOA story is pretty thin as far as plot devices go.

Over the Edge (Troubleshooters #3) (Audiobook)

Over the Edge - Suzanne Brockmann

Once again, the plot gets shoved aside for the sake of the "romances" going on. Once again, I'm left to wonder how any of these people get anything accomplished when they're completely unable to get their heads out of their pants. Once again, the WWII flashbacks feel shoehorned in and completely out of sync with everything else.

 

Teri and Stan - This was the best of the couples, but Stan goes way overboard trying to be the "guy who fixes things" in a completely condescending way. And Teri's response is to yell at him (right response) and shag him hard (wrong response).

 

Alyssa and Sam - Amazing that when Sam finally stops acting like an alphadouche and starts acting like a real-live human being, he gets better. Who'da thunk it? Then a subplot from the 1950s gets thrown in at the last minute because of stupid reasons. Alyssa's not much better than Sam though, to be honest.

 

Helga - I started skipping over most of her stuff and the WWII stuff. I can't help but think these subplots - and the rest of the book - would be much better served to remove them entirely and just put them in their own series.

 

Gina and Max - Wow, an actual plot! That takes up about 10% of the total book time. *sigh*

 

I switched to the ebook near the end, and found it went much better when I could just skim/skip the uninteresting parts. It definitely went faster. I just really don't like dual narrators and Lawlor and Ewbanks tend to bring the camp out of the book - hard not to, since it's 75% camp. I'll be avoiding the audios from here on out, and at this point, I think I'm better off skipping around to the ones that I want to read instead of going in order.

Bloodline (Whyborne & Griffin #5)

Bloodline (Whyborne & Griffin) (Volume 5) - Jordan L. Hawk

Reread review 6/1/19:

 

Oh, Stanley. You deserve the biggest chankla of all. Whyborne earned his fair share too though.

 

 

I was interested to see how much of this I remembered. It was also neat to see how my perspective of certain events changed, knowing how things turned out. I even surprised myself by feeling a smidgeon of pity for Niles, and I think he might even care about Whyborne for realsies even before the events of this book.

 

Original review 7/19/15:

 

This one got a little weird. And a little predictable. The hints were there all along, right from the first boo. I missed a few, but the more obvious ones were enough that I more or less knew where this story was going to end before I was even through the first couple of chapters. How it got there though was a little more in the air. Even though I did have it more or less figured out, Ms. Hawk provides enough question marks to keep some things up in the air.

For instance, I knew the visiting Endicotts would play a role in the climax of the story, obviously, but I didn't know what exactly. At one point, I thought they and Stanford might even be in cahoots. I was surprised that their earlier friendship of Percival was genuine and they didn't have ulterior motives towards him until the truth was revealed. And while I figured Whyborne would be revealed as a sea creature of some sort, I hadn't figured that Heliabel and his siblings were also. Rather, I thought it'd be revealed that Heliabel herself had lain with a selkie right before Whyborne's conception, rather than her great-great-grandfather. His twin sister being alive was a complete surprise.

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I hate it whenever Griffin and Whyborne fight, and I was super worried at one point. Whyborne's ego was tripping all over the place in this book, helped along by his visiting cousins from England. I was having flashbacks to the mess that was Dark Willow on Buffy, but thankfully, things didn't get quite that far. And as always, our guys talk to each other and work things out. Griffin too learns how to be more accepting of Whyborne's skills with magic, and that was a treat to see as well. Hopefully, that point of conflict will be put to rest permanently, though I'm sure they'll find plenty of other things to argue about. ;)

 

The ending felt a little too contemporary for me, even if it came about by less than contemporary means, and I'm not really sure how I feel about it yet.

Whyborne and Griffin get "married" and start calling each other husband. On the one hand, yay for their commitment to each other. On the other hand, it feels like it was put in there only because gay marriage was the hot topic when this was written and so it feels a little political.

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I understand this was supposed to be the original end of the series, and some of my friends have expressed concern about it continuing from here on out. I think there's still plenty of story to tell.

Griffin just found a brother, there's a possible threat from England,

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and other minor threads hanging loose that I wouldn't mind seeing tied up. Onward I go. 

Justice at Risk (Benjamin Justice #3)

Justice at Risk (Benjamin Justice Mystery, Book 3) - John Morgan Wilson

Warnings:

Rape, attempted rape, torture, AIDS/possible forced infection

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This one is much darker than the previous two books, so if you have limits or you know you get squeamish about certain things, please heed the warnings above.

 

This was both gripping and difficult to get through. Ben's finally in a good place in his life. He's healthy, taking care of himself, has an amazing new job opportunity and is actively engage in life again. So naturally it all goes to crap. In a really, super messed up way. It seems pretty much inevitable that

Ben was infected with HIV when he was raped, but it's left unanswered here. However, the blurb for the next book confirms it.

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In the romance arena, Ben continues to make terrible life decisions. Peter was a nice, sweet, horribly naive young guy, and Oree is ... unfathomable. Peter's open and eager to see what life has to offer, and Oree trusts slowly and opens up even slower, so I never got a real sense of his character.

 

The mystery was interesting but only up to a point. There were a few too many handy coincidences, and while some were explained, others were just supposed to be taken at face value.

So I get that Cecile hired the one dude she did because she thought he had something she needed, but there's no explanation for how she also just so happened to hire the other dude she did. Pretty convenient. The three cops involved is just too creepily realistic though. I cringe about the thought that the very cop who assaulted Winston ended up taking his statement.

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It pulled me out of the story a little, so I can't give this full marks.

Magic's Pawn (Valdemar #6; Last-Herald Mage #1)

Magic's Pawn - Mercedes Lackey

Well, I was all ready to go with this one, geared up to finally get to this trilogy which has been on my Kindle for the last three years, actually looking forward to one of these - and then my friends "helpfully" reminded me of how the trilogy ends. Granted, there was a very brief detailing of Vanyel's legend in the Arrows of the Queen trilogy, very early on, but I had managed to forget it completely by this point. Being reminded - accidentally, granted - right as I was starting this book kind of soured me on the whole trilogy, but I did my best to power through that and read the book on its own merits.

 

It was actually pretty good. There were some rough patches. Lackey still doesn't know how to write romance and/or a convincing love story at all. The whole lifebond nonsense is so lazy and lacks any kind of investment by the reader to care about the characters in those pairings. Still, this was significantly improved over Talia and whatshisname from the Arrows of the Queen trilogy since we actually get to spend time with the couple and see them be couple-y. And I did care about Vanyel and Tylendel, even if I wasn't really feeling their uber special epic love. Vanyel is an interesting POV character since he's quite different from Talia and the horrid duo Tarma and Kethry. There are some similarities to Talia, in that they're both characters who have learned not to rely on others and who bottle things up, but they do so in different ways and for different reasons.

 

Clearly, since this was written in the late 80s/early 90s, Lackey was dealing with a much different social reality than we have today, so some of the stuff with Vanyel and Tylendel reads as "The More You Know" for queer characters, but I could generally role with it. I was worried that Lackey would be setting things up only to not deal with them until the last book again, but she didn't do that here. 

 

There were some drama llamas, which included the very unfortunate trope of

Bury Your Gays, since Tylendel commits suicide after his twin is murdered and he fails to avenge him. Vanyel's side of that whole mess makes absolute sense. I'm not so sure about Tylendel's side of it. He just went full on Evil Queer and then died. Then Vanyel has to go and nearly kill himself. Which, actually, the number of times Vanyel nearly dies in this story is ridiculous. I lost count at some point.

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I'm starting to understand the magic system here better, and it was interesting to see how magic works in Valdemar back in the days when they still had full-on magic and not just mind magic. The writing could still be better. The characters still feel like they're playing second fiddle to the world and still talking in exposition, but I'm getting used to it.

Currently reading

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, with eBook
Howard Pyle, David Case