Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) – B+
. If you’ve ever visited www.thebloggess.com
you’ll know what to expect here. It’s funny, with some poignant and moving bits too, but mostly it’s just really funny. You will probably need tissues – from laughing so hard – and people will look at you strangely if you read in public. Also, very cool cover.
Lord of the Fading Lands (Tairen Soul #1) by CL Wilson – A-. See my full review here.
Lady of Light and Shadows (Tairen Soul #2) by CL Wilson – A. I don’t want to say too much about the plots in the last books because I dont’ want to spoil it for new readers. But, if you read the first book and like/love it, you will love the rest I think.
The epic love story upon which the fate of the world hangs continues in this second book of the quintet. Ellysetta has started to forge soul bonds with Rain and as their wedding draws closer, the Eld Mages step up their efforts to capture her.
Even better than the first book, I was forced into very late night reading because I just could not put this book down. The last 100 or so pages are so packed full of drama and action that I just had to keep going until Rain and Ellysetta were safe.
King of Sword and Sky (Tairen Soul #3) by CL Wilson – A- Safely married, Ellysetta and Rain journey to the Fading Lands where they will try and heal the Tairens and help the Fey prepare for another war with the Eld.
The cost of saving the Tairens is very high and the High Mage’s hold on Ellysetta’s soul increases. Another excellent instalment of the series. The action in the last 100 pages or so of each book is edge of the seat stuff – my tip when reading, make sure you time the last section of the book so you can read it in one sitting.
Queen of Song and Souls(Tairen Soul #4) by CL Wilson – A- War has come and there are problems at home in the Fading Lands too. The High Mages continues his efforts to capture Ellysetta and to influence/corrupt, one way or another, the Celierian King and Queen. Lillis, Lorelle and Sol are missing in the Faering Mists. Lots of action, lots of romance and drama. Great stuff.
Crown of Crystal Flame (Tairen Soul #5) by CL Wilson – B+/A- I think I had built myself up so much for the end of this series that I’m not sure I could be satisifed by the ending. Maybe I was just exhausted from all the tension in getting Ellysetta and Rain to the “final battle”. There were both happy and sad surprises in the series and this book and I did shed a few tears but never fear, there is a HEA for Rain and Ellysetta. An excellent series. I highly recommend it.
Fall Into Me (Hearts of the South #7) by Linda Winfree – C/C+ I confess I haven’t read any other books in this series, but was assured by those who recommended it to me that it was a stand alone romance. I’d heard it was the favourite of the series by a few of my Twitter friends and as it features an older woman/younger man, I thought I’d give it a try. I think it didn’t work quite as well for me as it did for those friends, but overall, I did enjoy it. I stopped reading halfway through for a little while when I could see some big messes coming up. I kind of needed to gird myself to read the rest as it looked like the relationship between Troy Lee and Angel was headed for trainwreck territory. As much as I believed it would end up well (it is a romance after all), I needed to reinvigorate myself for the rest of the book as I kind of felt tired in advance of what I could see would be the impending drama.
Can I also say that I don’t really know who Tick is, other than a jerk (he really did have too much page time given that this was not his story), and I was confused by Tick’s wife (at least, I assume it was his wife) sometimes being referred to as “Falconetti” but other than that, I didn’t find it a problem to start at book 7 of a series.
The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan – B-
See my review here
Beg Me by Shiloh Walker – C- This one was let down by some really bad editing/formatting – words missing, typos, etc. It was really distracting. As for the story, Tania was married to Kyle and he died in a car accident. They used to enjoy a kinky sex life, including consensual rape fantasy. Kent, Kyle’s twin (and psycho) brother, raped Tania a year after Kyle died and now Tania feels that her sexual agency and identity has been stolen, as well as her happy memories of Kent (he was Kyle’s identical twin). Kyle’s best friend is Drake – he has loved her from afar since Kyle first met and wooed her and when Tania asked Drake to help her regain her sexual identity he’s only too willing. The only thing I didn’t know about the set up going in was that the rapist was Kyle’s identical twin brother. I felt that was unnecessarily complicated in a short story/novella and the twins’ mother was an absolute nutjob. I felt that, given all she had been through, Tania seemed to be able to respond sexually to Drake fairly quickly – there wasn’t any time where she was freaking out – I wondered whether that was realistic? Also, there was a point late in the story where the consent issue was turned around and Drake felt forced to go places sexually he didn’t want to. I thought that could have been a really interesting aspect to the story but it wasn’t explored. I liked the premise, but the story didn’t get there for me. And the errors? They really were egregious. I even went and checked that it wasn’t an issue that could have been caused by converting mobi to epub or something (which sometimes occurs) but, no, I bought this one in epub so there’s really no excuse.
Guarding Morgan (Sanctuary #1) by RJ Scott – C/C- Another book which had a promising premise but I felt was let down by the execution. Morgan Drake is being protected by the FBI after witnessing a murder which is somehow (and we never really find out why) linked to a crime boss/mafia type person. The crime boss obviously has an inside man in the FBI and Morgan’s handler sends him to the Sanctuary organisation and Nik Valentinov. There is very little suspense in the time that Nik and Morgan are together and it is of course inappropriate for a bodyguard to start sleeping with his protectee. I bought into it in Brooke McKinley’s Shades of Grey in part because the men were together for months. But here, it was less than 2 weeks. The suspense aspect seemed clumsy and so did many of the sentences. The structure of many of them seemed odd to me and I kept getting thrown out of the story. The sex scenes, when they did happen, were the best parts of the book, but I need more than that to really enjoy a novel. I have another RJ Scott on my TBR so I will give that a go at some stage – maybe this was one of the author’s earlier efforts? The story had promise but it didn’t really deliver for me.
Hard Tail by JL Merrow – B I really enjoyed the easy conversational style of the narrator in this first person POV story about a closeted guy who helps his run his brother’s bike shop after the brother breaks his leg and the guy’s marriage breaks up. Tim is a likeable, self-deprecating and very humorous guy and he falls fairly instantly for Matt Berridge, the bike shop employee who is also a klutz. But, Matt lives with someone and Tim has only just started to admit to himself that he’s gay.
When Matt came back, his face was shining, and not just with sweat. “It’s brilliant!” he enthused a bit breathlessly, his chest still heaving. “I mean, it’s a bit weird ’til you get used to it, and it’s harder work uphill, and when you go downhill your legs are going round like buggery, but it’s like…” He trailed off, hands waving as they struggled to express what his words couldn’t manage. “It’s like the bike’s just an extension of your legs. Like, you’re not so much riding it as being it.” He gave me a rueful smile. “That probably sounds like a load of bollocks to you.”
“N-no,” I managed. My throat was tight, and my vision might even have swum, just a little bit. Matt’s smile was broader than I’d ever seen it, he was talking with his whole body, and his enthusiasm wasn’t so much infectious as in serious danger of causing a pandemic. He just seemed so…so alive at this moment. As we stood there staring into each other’s eyes, I had the strongest, almost painful urge to kiss him.
He’d had me at buggery.
The ending was a little abrupt and I would have liked a little more of Matt and Tim happy together but I very much enjoyed this one. After the previous 2 books hadn’t been so successful for me this was a welcome relief. I have definitely become a JL Merrow fan.
**pick of the month**
Muscling Through by JL Merrow – A. I had been reluctant to read this one because I’d heard that it involved a romance between a “simple” man (in the sense of his intelligence) and a Professor and I wasn’t sure about the concept. But, I’m so so glad I did. Told from the 1st person POV of Alan “Al” Fletcher, the reader is always aware that Al isn’t being taken advantage of. He isn’t a caricature and, while there is humour in what is apparent from the page (such as his and Lawrence’s – Al calls him “Larry” – first meeting and Larry’s mistaken but not unrealistic assumptions), he is never made fun of. Also apparent are the reasons why Larry wants to be with Al. Al is an artist and they are able to talk about their shared love of art and Charlie Chaplin movies. There is also a strong physical attraction and the sex is pretty hot. Larry is around educated, erudite scholars all the time, so perhaps he doesn’t need that at home. What he has with Al not that – but it is nevertheless real and enduring. Enough of Larry’s thoughts are shared with the reader that we can tell that he thinks Al has been failed by the education system rather than that Al is retarded or intellectually disabled. Al is blunt and direct and very literal in how he sees things. He thinks he’s stupid but he doesn’t let that bother him all that much. I’m not doing a very good job of describing why I liked Al so much and therefore this book. It is so much better than I expected. Perhaps I’ll let Al speak for himself for a bit.
Toby gave me a cheque for my paintings that sold at the do. It was more than I make in six months pulling in punts. I didn’t know what to spend it on, ’cause my mum said she didn’t want me to buy her nothing. So I was going to buy Larry something, but he said I should spend it on something I always wanted. So I bought a cat. I asked Larry first, because it’s his house and all. The cat didn’t cost much, because it was from the Cats Protection League and they don’t have posh cats there, only ordinary ones. I didn’t want a posh cat. I got Larry for when I want posh. I bought a litter tray for the cat, and some food bowls and a scratching post, and then put the rest of the money in the bank. I thought maybe I could buy Larry something later when he wasn’t looking.
And that’s why Muscling Through is my **pick of the month**.
The Rebuilding Year by Kaje Harper B/B+ Firefighter Ryan was injured in the line and as a result, had to change careers. He starts medical school at a small college, where he meets up with (slightly) older (there’s only 7 years difference in their ages) former landscape architect and current head groundsman, John. Both identify as straight and for a long time, the men enjoy a strictly platonic friendship. John is paying child support to his ex-wife for his teenage children who live interstate and Ryan needs a place to live, so he rents a room from John and they become closer. Gradually, they start to explore their attraction to one another, come out, to themselves and then to their families, on their way to their HEA. I really enjoyed this one. The characterisations were complete and interesting enough that even though I was quite a way into the book before there was any romance, I didn’t find it dragging at all. John’s relationship with his children is explored and both men have to come to grips with coming out and being “gay dads” to John’s children. The scene where John comes out to John’s daughter left me with a little conflict – it was kind of dumped on her and I didn’t see a lot of explaining to her, whereas there had been with John’s son. However, that’s a small thing really. The book takes place over that one year and there are things in the future which remain unknown – where will Ryan do his internship and will that mean John has to move house/jobs? etc, but I believed in their HEA and who knows, maybe we’ll see them again sometime. I really like this author’s books and she’s definitely on my autobuy list now.
Permanently Legless by JL Merrow – B This is a very short story about a veteran who returns from Afghanistan having lost both legs to an IED. He meets up again with a gorgeous young man with whom he’d hooked up shortly before deployment (and who he felt was way out of his league even when he had legs) . The story was complete in that the does-he-like-me conflict was resolved but I enjoyed Chris and his self-deprecating humour and his attitude to life and would have liked to have spent more time with him and his gorgeous young thing. It felt, to me (who has never been a soldier, never been to Afghanistan and who is in possession of both legs) to be a realistic portrayal of disability.
Cinder by Marie Sexton – B This is Marie Sexton’s take on the Cinderella story, only with 2 boys. I certainly enjoyed it but I wondered, in the end, how the royal line would continue with the Crown Prince and Heir Apparent being gay. I suspect I wasn’t supposed to think about this – it is a faery tale after all but I did. As a faery tale however, it worked and I liked it quite a bit.
The Saturnalia Effect by Heidi Beilieau and Violetta Vane B- This short is set in a prison where Troy, a new young inmate with a 40 year sentence is impressed to kill fellow lifer, Daniel. Troy falls hard for Daniel but doesn’t see a way out of his dilemma – if he doesn’t kill Daniel (or himself), then “Pliers” will kill him – but not before a bit of non consensual torture and rape. Some of the imagery of the story was a bit lost on me I’m afraid and there were parts there were merely suggested but I wasn’t with it enough to work out what had happened exactly. Maybe that was supposed to be that way. The ending has a supernatural magic to it so that the men can get their HEA which was a bit odd in terms of the rest of the story, but at least is gave me the HEA and that was way better than the alternative. Overall, however, enjoyable enough.
Her Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry – B+ see my full review here.
Skin Deep by Pamela Clare – B Ms. Clare is part of the “RockIt Reads” author group, who self publish but “guarantee” the quality – in terms of story, and editing etc, to their audience. I can say that I only spotted one typo in this book – where a name was mispelled, so I think the quality of the editing etc was very good and the cover is fine also. As for the story, well, I’m a sucker for a scarred, tortured hero, so this one hit the spot for me. The epilogue was a bit overly saccharine (but this is nothing new) and the freebie short “Beer Run” included as a bonus at the end was too full of guns, their makes and models and what kind of bullets they take for my liking. But, the bromance between Julian and Marc continues! Skin Deep is the Megan Hunter’s story – fans of the I-Team series will remember her as Marc’s sister and the reason he broke out of jail, kidnapped Sophie and was on the run in Unlawful Contact. Our hero is Nate West, a former Spec Ops Marine who was burned on most of the right side of his body by an IED in Afghanistan. Because it’s a novella, there’s not a lot of room for conflict, so much of it was confined to whether Megan could enjoy a sexual relationship and Nate’s issues were kind of glossed over. A person from Megan’s past is stalking her and her daughter and Nate and the I-Team boys come to the rescue. It is fairly standard as it goes, but I really enjoyed it. I liked Nate quite a bit and it was nice to see Megan get her HEA. Like I said the ending got too sappy, but up til then, I was lapping it up.
The Witness by Nora Roberts, narrated by Julia Whelan (who is totally Sophie Eastlake) – B+
I reviewed this one for AAR. You can check out my review of the print version (I gave it an A) here
One Grave at a Time by Jeaniene Frost, narrated by Tavia Gilbert – C+ An excellent performance (as usual) by Tavia Gilbert was the highlight of this book. I thought the plotting was a bit thin and there wasn’t much tension in the romance (well, there wasn’t any tension in the romance). I wasn’t as captivated by the story as I have been in earlier books. There were plot devices I didn’t understand and which I found boring and repetitive – especially the conversations with evil Ghost Inquisitor Kramer. Enjoyable enough but by no means the strongest of the series. There is also a storyline regarding someone called Madigan who takes over from Don Williams which really doesn’t go anywhere – I suspect the thread will be picked up in future books.
The Spiral Path by Mary Jo Putney, narrated by Barbara Rosenblatt – C. This is an oldish MJP and one of her few contemporary novels. I remember really enjoying it in print when I read it a few years back but I think it has dated and/or I have changed since then because, while I liked it well enough, I can’t say it was as good as I had remembered. Kenzie Scott and Rain Marlow are estranged spouses and both celebrated actors. Rain asks Kenzie to act in her directorial debut (she adapted the screenplay also) but the movie dredges up Kenzie’s traumatic (secret) childhood. The Spiral Path the title refers to is a labyrinth and I’m still fascinated by them. Barbara Rosenblatt does a great job of the narration but the production values were fairly poor – it’s an old cassette recording which has been spliced together for my iPod but I can hear her swallowing all the time (which is really off-putting!) and there’s a large portion of the book where I got distracted by her heavy breathing. More modern audiobooks don’t seem to have this problem (thank the Lord!).
Seeing Eye, from Strange Brew (anthology) by Patricia Briggs, narrated by Jennifer Van Dyck – B- As I’m a romance reader, my grade reflects that there’s not much romance in this story. We first met Tom and Moira in Hunting Ground, and it was nice to know how they’d met. As Urban Fantasy (sans romance) a good short story, as a romance, not so much. Also, Jennifer Van Dyck gave a really strange Rumpelstiltskin type voice to Tom which was odd and not terribly attractive. Holter Graham or Lorelie King (who narrated the Alpha/Omega and Mercy Thompson series’ respectively would have done a much better job) IMO.
To Say Nothing Of the Dog; Or How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump At Last by Connie Willis, narrated by Steven Crossley – B+ A very funny historical/time travel story with a hint of romance. Excellent narration by Steven Crossley – I’m sure I found it that much more enjoyable because I was listening to him rather than reading it myself. His female voices were very very good and he differentiated the male characters very well too. The humour is quite dry and again, Crossley excels. The plot is very convoluted but basically revolves around 2 historians from Oxford in 2057 going back to 1888 to fix a “parachronistic incongruity” which could have disastrous effects (including changing the outcome of WWII). But, it’s much more than that. And, it’s filled with interesting (and presumably) true historical anecdotes about the small things which made a big difference. (To Say Nothing of the Dog refers to the book Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome. Ironically, Steven Crossley narrates that one too). I can see on Goodreads that Mr. Crossley has narrated Judith Ivory’s The Proposition and Julie Garwood’s The Wedding and Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel. All of which I now want to listen to.
Summer Days by Susan Mallery, narrated by Tanya Eby – DNF The narration is Tanya Eby’s usual very good standard. The story is so full of WTFery, I could not suspend my disbelief enough and thought all the characters were pretty stupid. I found it very difficult going indeed. In the end, I bailed a couple of hours in. Head on over to my Goodreads rant about the first 2 chapters if you want more.
The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold, narrated by Lloyd James – A This book is straight fantasy with only a very very little thread of romance – less than Lord of the Rings, for example, but the story was so wonderful and the narration was just excellent. Lord Cazeril returns to Chalion after nearly 3 years away, having been betrayed and sold to a slave galley after a siege. Through a series of events, he is given the role of tutor/secretary to the Royesse (Princess) Iselle and her companion the Lady Beatrez (?spelling). He becomes aware of a longstanding curse hanging over the royal house of Chalion and it turns out he’s got something to do with breaking it. That brief summary doesn’t give the story justice. It’s just excellent. If you like fantasy, you’ll love this one. Lloyd James is a wonderful narrator. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like he’s done much else that I’m likely to listen to.
Never Love A Highlander by Maya Banks, narrated by Kirsten Potter – C+ I reviewed this one for AAR, so watch out for it over there in an upcoming column. Overall, an enjoyable listen.