Review

Magic Binds Review

With less than a day until its official release (although I got my copy in the mail today), Monika sent over her review for Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews, the ninth book in the Kate Daniels series. Doug already sent over a review a couple of weeks back (which can be found HERE), now let’s check out another POV.

magic bindsWhat Monika said…

Fate and Father issues: Turning inward.

To readers familiar with the series it does not come as a surprise that Kate Daniels is having father issues; after all the overarching story arc has been all about finding ways and the means to defeat Roland, who in the past has seemed far too powerful to go up against. Now dear old dad has relocated to outside of Atlanta and is building a residence there, right outside the territory that Kate has claimed (quite unwillingly) as her own in order to protect it from his grasp. For a short time Kate and her dad had an uneasy ceasefire going, that is, until Roland has Saiman abducted. Although Saiman is no particular friend of hers, Kate cannot have people taken from her sphere of influence if she wants to appear credible as a leader.

Her father troubles are all the more inconvenient as Kate is trying to plan her wedding with Curran. In fact, that is were the book starts: Kate and Curran are trying to gain entrance into Roman’s magically protected home to ask him to officiate at their wedding. Roman is delighted as normally – because of his position as a priest of the Dark God Chernobog – he never gets asked to officiate at happy occasions. When it turns out that Kate is busy with other stuff he takes over as the wedding planner, with hilarious results.

And if that weren’t enough the Oracle has a vision of Kate’s future if she does indeed go through with her marriage to Curran and it is bleak, though not marrying him could be even worse. Thus faced with two impossible choices Kate tries everything to change her destiny and the outcome the Oracle predicted. The question whether one’s fate is ordained or whether one can shape one’s own destiny is at the core of many belief systems. Kate seems to be more on the side of taking fate into her own hands, even if the consequences turn out to be unpredictable.

Having broken off from the pack Kate and Curran also have to establish their new roles and redefine the parameters of their relationship, thinking about the lines in the sand that cannot be crossed. Kate is also trying to strengthen the bonds with her allies and to gain new ones in order to have a chance at defeating her father.

But between all the the myriad responsibilities, her relationships with Curran, family and an ever growing circle of friends and planning the wedding, the most important struggle that Kate has to fight is an internal one. As her quest to cheat fate progresses she comes to realize that the greatest danger does not lie in being defeated by her father, but in becoming like her father: a powerful godlike being that cares nothing for the lifes and emotions of others and rationalizes his actions, even the most heinous ones, as serving the greater good…

Verdict: a great UF read, fast-paced, full of action and urgency, at times hilariously funny and displaying quite some philosophical depth.  I cannot wait to see where Ilona Andrews will take this series next!

I managed to get most of my crap done today so I can dive into Magic Binds tonight and read right through. Can’t wait.

Review

Reading Wrap Up

booksFor those who haven’t heard me whining before, Sherrilyn Kenyon books officially make up more than half of my total To Be Read collection. Seriously. Over half. I had 50 books from her various series – and three of them read. But I kept waiting for “the right time” to dive in. I always thought that the day I started on her books would be an event. You know, January 1st. My birthday. Something memorable to mark the day I started my very own TBR monster. Turns out one day I just grabbed one and dove in. Finally.

So, I made it through the Chronicles of Nick series, which wasn’t bad. I did find Instinct was a bit on the confusing side, but still manageable. Now I am five books into the Dark-Hunter series and still chugging along. I have been marathoning them for the last couple of weeks, and enjoying them so far. I did find myself getting a bit worn out from the overly tortured heroes, but then I hit Kiss of the Night which wasn’t nearly as tortured. So far, so good. The only thing that is weird to me is that Nick from Chronicles of Nick doesn’t really match up with Dark-Hunter Nick. I keep waiting for Caleb or Kody to show up, but then I remember that CoN has almost an alternate timeline going on.

I find myself flying through them, but I do seem to need to do some “homework”. I found some of the groups and terms weren’t explained well enough to get them into my head. I had to do a Wiki search to figure out who was who, and I still remain hazy on a bit of it. For example, I couldn’t keep straight some of the lesser-mentioned groups…Strati, Spathi, Talpinas, Tessera…that sort of thing. Maybe I need to not be so OCD, but I like to have all of the details straight. Hopefully I will get all of the groups straight as I read on.

My goal is to have all of the Dark-Hunter world books done by the end of the year, and I think it is doable. I have given the monster Acheron and Styxx books the evil eye since you know those suckers are going to not only take forever to get through, but are going to be heavy on top of it. I just know the break from the tortured hero isn’t going to last, but when it gets to be too much I will just take a break.

That is what I have been reading…and what I will be reading…for a while. What have you been up to? Have you pulled any long-standing titles off of your TBR lately?

Review

Magic Binds Review

Yes, we are on the final countdown for Magic Binds, the next installment of the Kate Daniels series from Ilona Andrews, which is due out on the 20th. Doug Meeks sent over his early review, and it sounds like it doesn’t disappoint. Not that any of us thought it ever would.

magic bindsWhat Doug said…

My head is still trying to grasp all the things that happened in this book and more importantly the question of “What happens next??” As for the question, I don’t know and trying to guess what the authors will come up with would be the textbook definition of “exercise in futility”.

OK, to get things started and to raise the stress level of the reader, we get an oracle who sees all kinds of horrible things in Kate’s future and almost no way to avoid them which sets this book off on a series of small adventures leading up to a middle sized adventure which leads to an epic battle, so what could we add?

Did you forget the wedding? Yes, the wedding which they choose the most unlikely priest who has never been asked to do a wedding and becomes a “wedding planner” and he and others pursue Kate all through the book to add some serious humor to a very stressful story. It is things like this that make this book rise above almost every other series in this genre, they can make you laugh at the best and worst times.

Let’s not forget about Roland, the loving Father and homicidal megalomaniac that has been the monster since book 1 pretty much but has become a mixed bag over the last few books. Is he the horrible monster or just a misunderstood psychopath? Well, you get a lot more information in this book and just when you think you know all the answers The Andrews Mafia give it a twist to make you run for your Advil. We do get a LOT more history of Roland in this book than we have in this whole series up until now.

One of the things in every almost every novel in this genre I have ever read is any character with enormous powers has to fight their own inner demons to avoid becoming a monster and this happens with Kate a lot in this book but it is SO subtle at the time that you don’t realize she has crossed a line until it is pointed out to you and THAT folks is just plain old good writing.

Another thing I have noticed in recent books is that a few characters I really liked have become somewhat unlikable but still remain uneasy friends. They take this small tidbit of a plot twist and blow it into the stratosphere in this one, you will not believe who Kate is bringing home for a visit.

You been wondering about Christopher you say? Answers will be forthcoming and it is just one of MANY surprises in this book.

I keep wondering about Julie and what the future plans for her are, she is still a bit of an unknown power and she is still spending time with Roland. When I think of this series ending it is more than a bit depressing but I can see this carrying on with Julie as the lead character in the future.

Let us get back to the wedding planning, it is pure chaos and in addition to all the “girly” stuff that Kate must suffer through Roland wants to attend and make it into a feast for the ages. Ya gotta love family LOL. If all the monsters and evil villains can’t kill Kate, this wedding might do it.

I think I will end this horribly long review with a question …. where is Hugh, we don’t see him at all in this book and I don’t believe for a minute that he is really gone. Is that April Fool joke about him getting his own book going to become a reality?

Bottom Line: WTF can I say that has not already been said, I get tired of saying how this one is better than the last. I have already run out of superlatives and to repeat how awesome/exceptional/amazing/[ fill in the blank ] this series is just makes me look inept. Let’s just call it in a class with maybe 3-4 other series at most and give it 5 Stars only because they don’t allow more.

My Favorite Line (and you have to read it in context to enjoy it): “My impersonation of a peacock is proceeding as planned.”

Since it would be stupid to ask if you are looking forward to this one, I will ask instead what you would like to see after this series wraps up. The mysterious Hugh book? More Derek stories? How about a Roman-centric series?

Review

On the Brighter Side of Things

Glossy Green Heart-256x256I have found that for the last couple of weeks, I have been coming off as negative in most of my posts. Between mocking some recent cover art (ok, they were totally ugly and deserved the pointing and laughing), and the whining about series I am dropping and recent disappointments in what I have read, I have decided to do a post about something I really liked.

That something is the new one from Faith Hunter, Blood of the Earth. It is the first book in the Jane Yellowrock spin-off series called Soulwood, and for me it did about everything right. I like the characters and the world-building in the Jane Yellowrock books, but the multiple potential romantic interests took me out of the story. I don’t mind if there is no romantic lead for a few books, but when there are a few different ones all the time then I can’t really get invested in the story. Weird, but true. I didn’t have that problem at all in Blood of the Earth. There is one potential love interest, period, and even that is only at the hinting-at stage in this first book. But because I wasn’t trying to play a guessing game figuring out who it might be, I was able to sit back and enjoy the story.

The world-building is great, and Nell was a fascinating character. Her situation is so unique that I don’t remember any other characters in any other series with her particular type of backstory or voice before. Add into that her very interesting and complex set of abilities, and you have a stand-out character. But there are others, too, who stood out – like Paca and Occam, Tandy and even Mud. I know there is a lot of Rick hate from the Jane Yellowrock books, but I didn’t get far enough into the series to see what for. At this point, I actually feel bad for him and the situation he seems to be stuck in, but that might change when I find out what he did that turned off so many readers.

And I will be finding out, because my enjoyment of Blood of the Earth did exactly what I was hoping it would do – it jump started my interest in Jane Yellowrock. See, now I have to go back and re-read the couple of books that I have already read, then power through the rest of the series, just so I can feel that I didn’t miss any backstory that will impact what is going on here. As a bonus, you all have mentioned that the romantic-whiplash thing does eventually get resolved, so I am in.

Did you check this one out? What did you think? Doug sent over his early review a while back, so hopefully you have had time to check it out by now. How does it compare to Jane for you? For those who loathed Rick heading into this one, was he redeemed at all?

Review

Reading Wrap Up

booksIt has been a couple of weeks since my last Reading Wrap Up post, and I am interested to see what everyone has been checking out lately. I had some hits, some so-so’s, and one I can’t quite put my finger on.

Let’s start with a big winner for me, and that is Betrayals from Kelley Armstrong, the fourth book of her Cainsville series. As much as I was looking forward to this one, and it was one of my biggies for the entire year, I didn’t quite know what direction things were going to go in, especially on the Ricky/Olivia/Gabriel front. I figured there might be a bit of progression on the romance front (trying to keep things general, which I am not good at), but I was surprised by just how much there was. Especially on the Gabriel front. Gabriel has been so…oblivious? Stunted? Scared?…that I couldn’t see how Kelley could realistically start to bring him around, but she pulled it off. I like Olivia a lot, and Ricky too, but Gabriel stole the show. Seeing his POV was a real treat, but then so was finding out what was going on behind the scenes for Ricky, as well.

I have never made any secret of my general loathing of love triangles, but I can honestly say that this is one of only two series (the other being The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare) that has one that works for me. I think it comes from the fact that I like all three of the characters, and most importantly all three of the characters like and respect each other. There is only one book left to wrap everything up, and while part of me can’t wait to find out how things end, it is going to be hard to let this series go. Now just a year to wait for Rituals…let the countdown begin.

Also on the winning side of things, I flew through another Eve and Roarke book from J.D. Robb, this time Holiday in Death (book 7). Still enjoying these a lot – I am reading them quickly enough to keep details fresh, but not so quickly that I am burning myself out on them. I have had a string of other things that I had to read, and I find myself looking forward to picking up the next one – and it is great if you are still excited seven stories in.

This next one is a bit hard to put into words. I had to force myself to read the last Carpathian book from Christine Feehan, Dark Promises, for a couple of reasons. The most important one was that I cannot stand the female lead, Gabrielle. She bugged me from the start, so picking up a whole book devoted to her didn’t light my fire. I did end up making myself read (or skim) it, but it didn’t add anything to the overall series, and in fact it was bland enough for me that I have completely forgotten most of it in just a couple of weeks. The same cannot be said for the most recent release, Dark Carousel, which while not a perfect book does set up a whole new world for the Carpathians first brought to light in the Dark Crime novella. We move out of the jungles and mountains (and those damn caves) and this new branch is set in cities in the US, and it was a welcome change.

For me, though, this one was less the story of Tariq and Charlie and more a set-up for future books. There was a lot of things going on with a lot of different characters, and the two main leads got lost a bit in the shuffle, but Tariq was less ass-holey than a lot of her recent male leads, and Charlie actually managed to stand up for herself while acknowledging that this was Tariq’s world and he knew best in certain situations. She wasn’t completely stupid and borderline abused, which was a bonus. It made sense. But the bad guys were a bit over the top for me, and there is a lot of eye-rolling magic stuff that had me laughing. I mean, I started humming “Puff the Magic Dragon” when the triplets starting building the come-to-life stone dragons to fly around on. In terms of the Feehan Female Formula, though, Charlie does still speak with the same voice as most recent heroines what with her “honey” this and “honey” that. And she did get a smokin’ hot pair of ruffled boots, too, so all was well with the world. I like the new feel for the series, and I guess I can say I liked it for what it was, but hopefully now that the set up is done the stories will flow a bit better.

On the not-so-successful side of things was Kresley Cole‘s two recent Arcana Chronicles releases, Day Zero and Arcana Rising. I started out with Day Zero but quickly dropped it – it is great for adding info as a reference, but it didn’t grab my attention as a story. I did finish Arcana Rising, but not sure how I felt about it. Maybe my annoyance with the whole e-book only format changes and lack of info played a part, but this one was weird. For me, the tone was completely different than previous books, and I felt like I had missed a chunk of story that would bridge between the previous book and this one. It felt really short and rushed, and like important things had been skipped like in a badly edited movie. I guess I am trying to say that for me it felt like everything was just thrown in, so when there was a big reveal or twist, it just fell flat. There were parts I liked, but for me it didn’t really fit with the rest of the series. I didn’t hate it, but I wasn’t thrilled, either. Let’s just say I thought it felt self-pubbed, and not in a good way.

Ok, your turn. What have you been reading lately? Have you checked out any of the ones I did, and if you did what did you think?

Review

Reading Wrap Up

booksIt has only been a few weeks since I did my last reading wrap up post, but it seems like so much longer. That is probably because I managed to go through a decent number of books for a change, and I also managed to tackle some of my TBR pile, too. A win/win.

First things first, and this is a big one for me…

I did it. I finally, finally tackled some of my huuuge Sherrilyn Kenyon TBR pile. Her books make up just shy of HALF of my total books to be read – yes, almost half – and the pile staring at me had gotten so out of control that I figured if I didn’t jump in now I never would. Not quite sure where to start, I tackled the first five Chronicles of Nick books, and I ended up quite liking them. I figure it will give me a bit of a backdrop for when I do get to the Dark-Hunter books, too. The Nick books I read were fun, and I flew through them really quickly. I can’t say I will be caught up with all of Kenyon’s books anytime soon, but at least I have gotten a decent start.

Hm, what else…oh, yeah. I finally got to the latest from Darynda Jones, The Curse of Tenth Grave. I didn’t dislike this one, but it was…lacking, somehow. Maybe it was because of the distance between Charley and Reyes (both physical ad emotional) for the vast majority of the book, especially since it was based on what felt like soap-opera level drama. I think for me, just Charley isn’t quite enough to carry the book – she needs the gang around, and they weren’t around much. Things did pick up in the last quarter, so all is good again. But like I said, when Reyes, Garrett, Osh and the rest aren’t around, it doesn’t quite work as well for me. Still funny and all, but not quite as engaging.

Well, I also broke down and decided to borrow a book. Weird, for me, but there you have it. For quite a while, I have debated on picking up Dark Promises from Christine Feehan. There were a couple of issues I had – the biggest being that I loathed the character of Gabrielle since she was first introduced way back when. She just rubbed me wrong even in the little bit she had been seen in previous books, but I wasn’t stoked to read a whole book about her. I probably would’ve bitten the bullet and just picked the darn thing up anyways, but then I read the first chapter excerpt on Christine’s website, and I really couldn’t stand the way Gabrielle came off. Whiny, needy, demanding, and completely oblivious to pretty much everything going on around her, that one chapter completely turned me off her. Plus, I was strangely weirded out by the thought Grandma Trixie. Not sure why, but it just sounded odd. Add to that the less than stellar reviews I had heard, and negative reactions to the “hero”. So, not excited for the book. At all. But I do still have higher hopes for the next one.

However, I was thinking that if I didn’t give this one a try, I might miss some story set up for future books. You know, the introduction of new characters, possible leads on new lifemates, that sort of thing. But nope. I could’ve completely skipped this one and not missed a thing. I thought Gabrielle was a waste of page time, and to be honest I can’t even remember the name of her lifemate. Nope, no clue what his name was. Trixie wasn’t that bad – I ended up preferring her and Fane to Gabrielle and…unknown ancient dude…but I did roll my eyes a few times at nearly virginal, still incredibly hot and awesomely built, self sacrificing great grandma Trixie, but at least it was good for a laugh. And at least she was different. Gabrielle followed my “Feehan Female Formula” down to letter…but at least it was someone else who mentioned the “awesome boots” this time. Joy.

And I finished up Nalini Singh‘s Archangel’s Heart just last night. It has a different tone to it than previous books, but I liked it. It wasn’t my favorite by a long shot, but it is always great to get back into a favorite world. There is a lot of Aodhan, too, and he is making great strides towards taking back his life. I am still getting a Sparkle/Bluebell vibe, but I can’t be completely sure if it is just me.

So, what have you been reading lately? Have you managed to tackle any long-standing TBR monsters, or have you been hitting all new releases?

Review

Release Day Review – A Promise of Fire

I have already said a few times that my attention was caught a few months back when I saw the cover and blurb for this book from new author  Amanda Bouchet. I even made it one of my spotlight author features sight unseen. Well, it turns out that Monika got her hands on an ARC of A Promise of Fire, and it looks like it will live up to the hype…

a breath of fireWhat Monika said…

Review A Promise of Fire

Mythical creatures, magical powers, mysterious prophesis, exciting adventures, interfering gods, a daring hero, and a reluctant but feisty heroine, this epic tale of fantasy and romance has it all. A truly entrancing debut novel!

I picked this book up on a whim; I liked the cover (you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but in this case the writing more than matches the beautiful cover art), I was intrigued by the synopsis and it also seemed to have a good buzz going. Many debut books that get hyped then turn out to be quite a disappointment, but not this one. It’s actually one of the most exciting debut novels I have read in years.

It is set in a fantasy world comprised of three kingdoms, where the inhabitants have different levels of magical abilities or no magic at all. Cat, our heroine, is hiding in a circus from her family and a painful past. She masquerades as a clairvoyant and her act has been very successful, that is, until Griffin. The warlord has conquered the realm through a coup, but because of his apparent lack of magical ability he is looking for some strong magicians to recruit as advisors. He recognizes what Cat really is and approaches her with a proposal. When Cat refuses to enter his service, he abducts her in short order. Although Cat is afraid to become a pawn once more and fears to be discovered by the people she is hiding from, she is not immune to Griffin’s charm and that of his companions and his family. Also – albeit quite reluctantly – she lusts after his body…

The story is told from the POV of Cat in first person narrative. Her voice is in turn snarky, irreverent, jaded and innocent and as she carries a lot of emotional baggage, sometimes also a bit angsty. It is saved from being annoying, because she is also quite self-deprecating.
The banter between Cat and Griffin is very entertaining and sexy, often quite funny, and her interactions with his companions and his family are kind of sweet, as it is quite baffling to her to be met with kindness.
The world-building is mostly original and convincing; the descriptions of the landscape, the people and customs are woven seemlessly into the story and the secondary characters are well-fleshed out and memorable.

There are some areas that could be considered shortcomings: one of them are Cat’s powers. Her magical abilities seem to grow (that could still be credible), but she also develops new abilities just as she needs them to deal with a difficulty or a challenge and if her own powers are not enough she is miraculously helped by one god or another. There were quite a few deus-ex-machina moments and I have to admit I am not too fond of that device, especially when it is employed repeatedly. To me this shows a weakness in plot development; the situation cannot be resolved by the heroine or through external circumstances, so a god has to step in and save the day. Even (or especially) in a magical realm where everything is possible and the only constraint is the imagination of the author, seemingly hopeless situatons should be resolved differently.

One reviewer also objected to this book because the hero initially takes the heroine against her will. That is sort of the definition of an abduction. So for that reviewer everything that happens after is colored by how the two main protagonists came to be together and hence their relationship appears in a problematic light. I have to admit that for me the abduction formed part of the appeal of the story, and – contrary to that reviewer’s claim – the hero did not abuse the heroine in any way. Also, before they ever had sex, Griffin set Cat free and she remained with him of her own free will.

But even with the few shortcomings mentioned above this is a very powerful and gripping story that will leave you wanting more of this magical world and the creatures that inhabit it. I cannot wait to see what happens with Cat and Griffin and their families next and whether Griffin will be able to hold on to the kingdom he has conquered. Since it is a debut novel I am inclined to be lenient with the author and give this book 4.5 stars because it surprised me with its freshness.

Who else is looking forward to picking this one up? I am on a new-series ban until I get a few of my existing series caught up, but it is definitely going on my To-Be-Bought list for a future purchase.

Review

Review – Blood of the Earth

Ever since I saw that Faith Hunter was planning a spin-off of her Jane Yellowrock series, I have been looking forward to it. As backwards as it sounds, it was actually word of this series that got me to finally pick up the first few Jane Yellowrock books and give them a try. But as I have said on a few occasions, my enjoyment of the Jane books is thrown off by the lack of defined love interest, but I am hoping that reading the Soulwood series will kick-start a Jane marathon. I was really happy to see that Doug Meeks had sent over his review of the first book, Blood of the Earth, and it sounds as awesome as I had hoped.

blood of the earthWhat Doug said…

Well let me start off by saying that this is a spin-off from the Jane Yellowrock series and while it might help a small bit to read that series it is really not required to enjoy this one, especially since a lot of things we thought we knew prove to be false.

OK, this story revolves around Nell Ingram who is a bit magical, a bit homespun botanist, and a lot hermit who really does not care for people when this book starts. Nell is an incredibly complex character and so there is a lot of pages required to try to reveal to us (and to Nell) who Nell really is and some questions are not answered easily and some will be revealed as we go down the road in this series. We get enough information fed to us along to keep the reader interest high and it gets more intense as the book progresses.

Nell after being approached by the PsyLED team starts to reveal a natural ability for investigative thinking in addition to whatever magical powers she might possess (which are kind of murky and get a bit clearer as we go along but still very mysterious). She hopes it will also give her some measure of safety on her own land from the cult that watches her.

For the first book of a series this has a very complex multifaceted plot in addition to the plotline of just trying to figure out who/what Nell is and what she can actually do, something she does not have the answer for when this story starts.

The main story revolves around the religious cult that Nell escaped from many years ago and to solve this crime she will have to revisit her previous life and a lot of things will be revealed along the way. The story is amazing.

Bottom line: First books in a series are usually much lighter than this one because the author usually wants to hook you in quickly. This one starts slow and continues to build throughout the story and you are indeed hooked long term by the end of this book. The characters are good, the ones on the team that are not fleshed out here will be in subsequent books I am sure since Nell seems to be the central character, this is a team story and we only get depth from 2-3 of them for this story. So 5 Stars for a excellent first book in the series and an exceptional story that just grabs you a bit tighter the farther in you go. I am glad I don’t have to wait too long for the next one Curse on the Land in Nov 2016 .

Ok, everyone, how excited are you to pick up this new book set in the Jane Yellowrock world? Where does Jane fall in your list of top heroines?

Review

What She Said – Rock Kiss Review

Thanks once again go to Monika, who sent over her review for Nalini Singh‘s latest Rock Kiss book, Rock Wedding. I loved me some Rock Hard – that was a total winner for me. Couldn’t get enough of Charlie and T-Rex.  I was meh about picking up Noah and Kit’s story until I started reading, and then I really enjoyed it. But for some reason right from the start I haven’t been all that interested in Abe and Sarah’s story, and I didn’t know quite why. But from what Monika said, I might not be alone…

rock weddingWhat Monika said…

Too much… of everything (especially shirts, swearing, sweetness and weddings)

I’ve read almost everything Nalini Singh has ever written and loved all of it (some more and some a bit less), so it pains me to write a less than stellar review and rate one of her books only 3 stars.
This was also the first Nalini Singh book I did not finish in a day or two, but which I had to force myself to continue reading, and I only plodded thru to the end because I needed to write a review.

But first things first: this is the fifth story in the Rock Kiss series, and it’s about Abe and Sarah, of whom we have seen glimpses in previous installments. Abe is the band’s keyboard player and sometime vocalist and he has serious abuse problems: drugs, drinks, and dimwitted groupies, he does it all. Sometime along the way he inexplicably falls in lust with Sarah, marries her, doesn’t change his habits and treats her like dirt, until finally she can’t take it anymore and divorces his ass (takes her long enough). Then, at the end of Rock Redemption, at the Zenith event, we see Sarah get slapped around by her new boyfriend. The band members rally behind her and Abe finally realizes that he is still very much in love with Sarah and finally decides to get his shit together and seeks help for his abuse problems. So, that’s were we stand at the beginning of this book.

I actually do like second chance and/or redemption stories, but somehow this one didn’t click for me. I think the main reason was the characterization of the two main protagonists. I had a difficult time to swallow the complete about-turn in Abe’s behavior towards Sarah: when they were married before he behaved like a complete heel to her, he treated her as convenient fuck-buddy and occasional arm-candy, but otherwise he kept emotionally distant from her, was not interested in anything about her as a person, about her past or what her interests were or even her dreams. And even though he did not physically lay a hand on her, he would psychically abuse her every time he went into a drug-induced fit of rage. But say you paint you hero that way (and I do love reformed bad boys), but then they at least need a horrible past to explain their behavior, even though there is no excuse for it. But far from it, Abe is from a loving, supportive upper middle-class family and ever since he met the guys from Schoolboy Choir his friends have stood by him and had his back. There is a huge personal tragedy in his past, but for me it’s just not enough of a justification.

In comparison I liked Sarah a bit more, even though (at least in the beginning of the book) she was as close to a doormat as I could stand. She is deeply insecure and very needy, and lets Abe get away with shit and tries to be supportive. Most of this I can overlook, because she was very young when she met Abe, all alone in the world, and she did have a horrible past, so I could kind of relate to her for being awestruck by being noticed by a rock star and also her need to cling to the person that she believed loved her even a little. I also liked that after her divorce she started to build her own life and career, although – even with the suspension of disbelief – I had a hard time believing how she went in two or three years from a rather low-end job to owning her own successful business, especially as apart from going to one or two meetings and making a few phone calls we never see her working.

Now to some other problems in this book, chief among them the (needless) repetition: a reviewer of Allegiance of Honor complained that there were a gazillion descriptions of the clothes that the characters wore and I went “come on, describing dresses adds texture to the story and besides, I did not even notice it”. Unfortunately I  did notice here, mostly because Abe is always wearing a variation of the same thing, mainly a suit, either black, or charcoal or dark grey, with either a black, charcoal or dark grey shirt. Sadly, the repetition does not end there: Sarah is endlessy fascinated by his stunning physique and his bulging biceps. We already know Abe is a hunk, so no need to reiterate it every time he strips. She in turn is repeatedly described as feeling too tall and too curvy, and even though she claims she is (finally) happy with her body the constant preoccupation with said body actually creates the impression of an unhealthy attitude towards one’s own body image.

Obviously I am the last person who should complain about the occasional swear word, and really I don’t mind swearing, but it should at least be creative. Fuck, fucker, fucking appear a total of 91 times, mostly used either as an expletive or an intensifier and only three times to actually refer to intercourse, so it was just a bit too much for me.

Nothing against a feel-good romance but there was just too much of the happy feeling in this book. Aside from the main protagonists, everybody is deliriously happy all the time, deeply and disgustingly in love (they don’t even fight so that they can have make-up sex), and to top it off, there are no less than four! perfect weddings that naturally go off without even the tiniest hitch! Sorry, but ‘gag’! It’s like eating bar after bar of sinful chocolate, until you get sick of it and crave something savory! And there is even more ‘sweetness’, but I won’t mention it, because it would be a major spoiler!

So now I have to go find me some gritty UF novel with a kick-ass heroine who worries more about her fighting prowess than her looks or some dark romance with a deliciously bad anti-hero to get this feeling of cloying sweetness outta my head!

I think, for me, part of the problem is that I am not a huge fan stories where the couple already has a romantic history/divorce, that sort of thing. I have always felt that in that situation, it feels like being dropped into the middle of the story. Not sure that makes sense, but it is harder for me to get involved in the couple when so much of their story isn’t shown in the pages of the book. I do have high hopes for Gabriel’s brother’s books, though – they were awesome in Rock Hard. What did all of you think about Rock Wedding? Any fans, or were you like Monika and just found it too much?

Review

He Said/She Said Review – The Staff and the Blade

Elizabeth Hunter is an author that I have only heard great things about, and today we have not just one but two reviews of her newest release, The Staff and the Blade. Doug Meeks has been a longtime fan, and Monika is a newer but no less enthusiastic convert, so let’s check out this latest release…

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000032_00049]Warriors. Lovers. Enemies. Legends.

Their union became pivotal in Irin history, but to understand Damien and Sari’s ending, you must go back to their beginning. Four hundred years ago, a young singer and a hardened warrior met and loved each other, but their life was torn apart by violence.

Love. Desire. Grief. Betrayal.

No matter how much pain and anger stain their lives, bonds in the Irin race cannot be abandoned. Damien and Sari will never truly leave each other, because those who are destined cannot be ignored.

The Staff and the Blade is a four part stand-alone book of approximately 480 pages. It is the fourth book in the Irin Chronicles.

DREAMS: Damien of Bohemia was a legend content to live in obscurity. Weary from a century of human and Irin bloodshed, he took shelter among those who would not question his silence or the martial spells he wore over his body. Until an earth singer of raw power and no delicacy came to the village where he hid. Sari of Vestfold wasn’t intrigued by the mysterious warrior or his moody silences. And she wasn’t interested in listening for the whisper of his soul. Even when those whispers promised a connection that could tie them for eternity.

GHOSTS: A new posting in Paris during Napoleon’s reign leads Sari and Damien back to familiar faces and the Council politics Damien has tried so hard to avoid. But the Irin world has changed in the two hundred years since their mating. The singers have become more isolated. The scribes are more martial. And the Grigori flood growing cities and lay in wait. When Sari’s sister envisions the future, she sees emptiness, chaos, and a darkness that threatens to overtake their world.

MEMORIES: Hidden from Irin society, the Irina have learned to take their revenge on the Grigori. They answer to no one. They ask for no mercy. And forgiveness? That’s the last thing on anyone’s mind. Two hundred years after the Rending, Damien and Sari are thrown together to face a new threat, a girl who might be key to the healing of the Irin race. If they can survive the anger and grief that has separated them for two hundred years.

VISIONS: The Irin and Irina are together again. Society is being rebuilt. But what do you do when the foundation of your world has crumbled? Where do you go when all the boundaries have been redrawn? For Damien and Sari, charting a new path into the future means confronting the demons of the past. They’ve forgiven each other, but can they forgive themselves?

Doug sent his review over first so let’s see What Doug said…

Well let me start by disagreeing with the line in the synopsis that says “The Staff and the Blade is a four part stand-alone book”. I cannot see anyone really enjoying this book to its fullest without a lot of prior knowledge from previous books in this series. Since the last book was a bit over a year ago I had to move some brain cells around to remember certain things and the action skips over events that took place in previous books so I do not see this book as any type of “stand alone” other than the love story is self contained, much of the rest of the book is detailing things that happened in previous books but were not part of those plots or it skips certain events completely that were detailed in previous books.

OK, now let me mention that this book is laid out a bit different in that it is 4 parts (or 4 books as the author refers to them) that tell a story that covers centuries, mainly revolving around an epic romance between Damien and Sari. It covers a love story that begins with passion and love, almost destroyed by tragedy and decades of separation and regret before we get to a most satisfying ending.

If you have read the other books in the series you know some of what is coming and you are so involved that you wish you could prevent some of it but are swept away by the history that has already been shared in previous books and is touched upon lightly in places and horrible detail in others.

You will be caught up in the emotion and scope of this romance and epic story as it slides across centuries while telling not only the evolving love story but also the evolving history of the Erin/Erina race.

Bottom Line: It has been more than a year since I read The Secret and there was a lot of things from that book you needed to know so read it first if you have not already. This is an amazing story and I can see why it took over a year for her to get it done, it covers a LOT of Erin history and tells a love story that is tempered by passion, love and tragedy. As always when I finish one of her books I am breathless and wishing there were more pages to read but it does have a satisfying conclusion and I hope we get to see a bit more of these characters in future books. So I give it 5 Stars without any reservations since you have a love story, adventure, tragedy, revenge, battles, sex, and overall an epic story you will remember long after you read the last page. What more could you want .

And not to be outdone, now it is Monika‘s turn…

A hauntingly beautiful tale of love, suffering, sacrifice, and ultimately forgiveness that spans centuries.

Ever since Sari and Damien did battle in a meadow in “The Singer” and Damien held back (some) so that Sari could vent her rage on him, I have been dying to read their story. As they both appear as important secondary characters in Malachi and Ava’s story it is strongly recommended that new readers start with the first three books of the Irin Chronicles.

Damien is an Irin scribe and a warrior by blood and training. But years of war, killing and doing unspeakable things in the service of the council of his race have left him battle weary and empty. So he retreats to a little community in the Orkneys were he can tend to his manuscripts and fields and otherwise be left in peace. Until Sari, a young but powerful earth singer, is stationed there to help improve the crops. She is fascinated with the taciturn warrior who keeps to himself but as far as she can discover he doesn’t seem interested in women in general. But when he sees her work magic for the first time his soul recognizes hers. Sari doesn’t believe in fate and soulmates, she wants to forge her own destiny. When Damien is called away on a long mission Sari realizes that she wants to choose him, too, not because it was ordained by fate, but because of who he is.
Just as their relationship seems settled, the “Rending” occurs, the most traumatic event in the history of their people. The society of the Irin is structured in a way that the (male) scribes are the warriors and protectors, while the (female) singers tend home and hearth and maybe follow artistic pursuits. To protect the women they are segregated in so called retreats in the country, while the scribes hunt  their enemies in the cities. This proves disastrous as their enemies mount a concentrated large scale attack, drawing the scribes away, leaving the retreats that were believed to be safe unprotected. Mostly Irin women and children loose their lives, with many warriors following their mate, rather than go on without them. Sari survives because she insisted that Damien train her to fight, but she blames Damien, who was the watcher of their community, for what has happened. Damien blames himself, and so he not only carries his own pain, but takes on hers as well. In the aftermath they disagree on how what remains of their society should be restructered: Damien still adheres to the dictates of the council while Sari is building safe havens for the Irina all over the world, where they are free of council mandates. Their rare meetings become so painful that they stop seeing each other altogether, except for in their dreams. Then Ava’s mate is killed and Damien decides to take her to Sari’s safe haven in order for her to heal and to learn to control her magic. Will Damien and Sari be able to overcome the rift between them that was caused by pain, betrayal, and loss? Will they be able to forgive each other and themselves? And will they be able to fight the calcified structures of their council in order to reform their society?

I loved everything about this book: the love story between Damien and Sari that starts out sweet and poignant and then turns so heart-breaking; the two main protagonists, Sari with her independent spirit and sometimes abrasive demeanor and her kick-ass personality, Damien, who is strong and honorable (and hot), and brave enough to lay his soul bare. I also liked how the characters developed and grew throughout the novel, and how they learnt from their mistakes. And I found it extremely refreshing that their union is one of choice, that they came together out of love and not because of duty or fate or some inescapable mate bond.
Then there is the superb world-building with just the right amount of historical and local detail to weave a fascinating tapestry; it serves as the perfect backdrop for this epic tale of the descendants of fallen angels that fight to keep humanity safe. The overarching plot revisits and continues threads that were developed in the first three books, but also changes some of the premises set up at the beginning oft he series: the boundaries between good and evil are starting to get blurred.
The most fascinating aspect for me was the strong gender criticism pervading this book: the structures of Irin society have become very patriarchal, with men making all the decisions and the women being segregated “for their own protection”, instead of being taught how to protect themselves. It is precisely this thinking that has led to the worst tragedy in Irin history. The Irina/singers have different magic than the Irin/scribes, but it is just as powerful. Damien, though, always wished for a mate that could match him strength for strength. Hopefully the council can be brought to realize that a more egalitarian approach to the gender question will strengthen their society and not weaken it.

5+ stars from me. I strongly hope Elizabeth Hunter will continue to write stories in this fascinating and darkly compelling world.

I have been trying to get to her stuff for over a year now, since I have one of her books on my TBR pile. To be honest, I have never heard anyone say they haven’t enjoyed her books, and that is incredibly rare. Anyone else anxious to get their hands on this one?