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Search tags: 4.5-stars
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review 2017-09-18 21:05
Post Captain by Patrick O'Brian
Post Captain (Aubrey/Maturin Book 2) - Patrick O'Brian

This is a lot of fun, literary historical fiction with a dose of action. I read the first book a few years back and enjoyed it, though I struggled with the morass of seafaring terms. Either this book reduces them or I’d just gotten used to not understanding every word. This book broadens the world of the series, giving the heroes some time onshore to get into trouble and romantic entanglements (these sections are surprisingly reminiscent of Jane Austen, who was writing around the time these novels are set, which lends credibility to the text). There is perhaps less action here than in the first book, but the stakes are higher and more of the secondary characters are fleshed out. Aubrey and Maturin are both still complex, believable, flawed characters with a complicated friendship. The writing is good, there are moments of humor, and the setting is brought so thoroughly to life that a reader might be fooled into believing O’Brian was writing about his own time period. I think I must have liked this book better than the first, because I’m ready to read the third book sooner rather than later.

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review 2017-09-08 16:39
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe - Kij Johnson

I really enjoyed this novella. It is in dialogue with a short story by Lovecraft, which I have not read, but you don’t need to read that to enjoy this. And fortunately for me, this is fantasy, not horror. It is set in a portal world clearly conceived as the stuff of nightmares, with monsters, shifting natural laws and an angry sky; if this were made into a movie the horror would be inescapable. But through the eyes of a protagonist who hails from that world, these are simply facts of life, evoking no fear or disgust.

Vellitt Boe is a professor at the Ulthar Women’s College. She had an adventurous youth before going to college and settling down, so when a student runs off to the “waking world” (ours), putting the college in danger, Vellitt sets out on a quest to retrieve her. It’s an engaging story, written in Johnson’s smooth-flowing style that makes the book feel as much like literary fiction as fantasy. The world is highly imaginative, brought to life with a texture that must be Johnson’s own. And Vellitt is an interesting and endearing character, with a quiet toughness and the good sense one would hope for from a middle-aged adventurer.

This could easily have been expanded to a full-length novel, and I’m unsure why it wasn’t: Johnson takes some shortcuts through the waking-world portion, and the end is really the beginning of something else, providing little resolution. But it succeeds in telling a good story, while responding to the sexism and racism that was apparently rampant in Lovecraft. Sometimes Johnson is quite pointed in this, in other places subtle: Vellitt is apparently a woman of color, but the only indication I saw was the description of her hair. And when she arrives in the waking world, she remarks on the large numbers of women there, a clever dig at male-created fantasy worlds populated overwhelmingly by men.

Overall, I definitely enjoyed and would recommend this, along with Johnson’s other works, particularly Fudoki. I haven’t seen a bad book from this author yet, and look forward to more!

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review 2017-09-04 19:29
The Downs
The Downs - Kim Fielding

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

 

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

 

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

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review 2017-08-31 18:00
Letting Go
Letting Go (Love By Design) (Volume 1) - Ashley Morningstar

He didn’t do anything inappropriate but his touch, whether it was the hand on his thigh or when he draped his arm across the couch and drew circles on the exposed skin of his neck with his fingertips, spread chill bumps across Alex’s skin making his skin feel alive and sensitive. It was all innocent, except to Alex’s body, because it felt like Kelley was playing him like an instrument. Tweaking and strumming and fine tuning it to hit every note in a song only Kelley knew.

 

 

I have to say I was not sure what to expect from this at all. I rarely read reviews and even find myself avoiding blurbs.  But I had met Morningstar Ashley at GRL and have since interacted with her on Facebook.  So picking up her book seemed like a logical step.  But what if I hated her book?  It is a difficult position to be in as a reader when you become acquaintances with authors on FB. But in the end, I had to dive in and I am so thankful that I did, because this was better than I ever could have expected.

 

First off, as a debut novel, I can say that I was thoroughly impressed overall by not only the story itself but the writing style.  Yes, for me there were some inconsistencies in some timing of a few things, the lack of understanding about this intern program (which frankly was unnecessary) or paragraphs that did not seem to flow as smoothly as others, but regardless, these moments were few and far between. In the end it was the emotional connection made, not only between these characters but the connection made between these characters and me as the reader.  I fell in love with Kelley, Alex and Evie. 

 

Kids in books can be a challenge, but sweet Evie never felt anything but real for me.  And as a parent with a child with high anxiety I could relate to this sweet child.  And the fact that she doesn’t miss anything is absolutely true. Kids are perceptive on a level some adults never give them credit for.

 

Alex’s internal struggles were beautifully captured and told.  Morningstar dealt with these mental challenges amazingly well and I felt ever barrier that was built up over the years and understood quite well the reasons.  I loved how Kelley had glimpsed years ago the smile and life that was Alex and could see that he was buried under years of grief and internal abuse as he denied himself true emotion.

 

I do wish we could have had less of Kelley’s work and more about him.  I know nothing about his personal story other than his friends.  Had he even dated anyone in the past at all? Are his parents living?  If these things were said, they were definitely in passing.  But regardless, his caring and “mother hen” persona was just so well matched to Evie and Alex.

 

And the sex…good gawd.  I absolutely loved the sexual connection between these two.  These scenes were so hot but at the same time so emotionally driven that I loved every moment. I do wish we could have avoided the time jump at the very end and had a few more steamy scenes…but hey…I will take what I can get. 

 

 

So what is next? I have to say if Morningstar is not already writing Peter’s story I will begin hounding her now for this book. I am fascinated and intrigued by this man for sure!!

 

Oh and for what it is worth...the paper plate scene will be one I remember for years to come.  Sweet Kelley.  LOL

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review 2017-08-30 02:48
Pins and Needles
Pins and Needles - A.J. Thomas

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Highly recommend.

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