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review 2017-06-29 18:08
Rag and Bone (Rag and Bone #1)
Rag and Bone - K.J. Charles

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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review 2017-06-16 04:52
Infected: Shift (Infected #5)
Infected: Shift - Andrea Speed

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-06-07 04:42
The Monet Murders (The Art of Murder #2)
The Monet Murders: The Art of Murder Book 2 - Josh Lanyon

 

***SPOILERS AHEAD!***

 

After I recently reread The Mermaid Murders and realized it didn't quite live up to my original impression, I dialed down my expectations for this book. I really only wanted two things: an explanation of why Kennedy is the way he is, and a reason for me to root for this couple. It delivered on the first - eventually. It did not deliver on the second. I can’t be invested in a "relationship" that was barely lukewarm in the first book and then "developed" in between books, started the second book with them split up and kept them apart until the 60% mark. I had no reason to care about Jason's moping - and boy did he ever mope, often while processing crime scenes. He really needs to learn to compartmentalize. Jason and Sam had no chemistry and I really didn't care if they got an HEA or even an HFN. The sex scene was just that - a sex scene. 

 

Kennedy's reasons for treating Jason in the passive-aggressive, jerkass way that he does certainly did explain a lot - but it's not what I expect from a 46-year old top-notch FBI investigator-now-supervisor known for his directness. His behavior was very wishy-washy, and his excuses were more suited to a man half his age and a fraction of his supposed maturity. 


The mystery was good once it got going. There were a lot of layers to it, but it's not overstuffed. There are some TSTL moments from both Jason and Sam, and I actually have a hard time believing these guys have been in the FBI as long as they have - or never seen or read a mystery book to know basic murder mystery tropes. The climax was rushed and would never have gone that way. There's this thing called mobilization. And not running off solo to chase down something hinky when you've got an entire task force at your beck and call. Also, Lanyon needs to research basic physics on how bullets work. I was not at all in suspense when Jason was being shot at while underwater. I was scratching my head why the bad guy was wasting his ammo.

 

I had a vague feeling while reading the first book that Jason and Sam were lightweight versions of Adrien and Jake, and that impression was solidified here. Jason's not as interesting a POV character, and Sam's not as complex or compelling as Jake, so the comparisons just make these characters feel flatter as a result. That whole sidestep with Shipka had shades of Bruce Green to it too (minus him being a homicidal maniac). Lanyon often reuses themes in her stories, but this is the first time I felt like she was reusing characterizations. On top of that was the constant pimping of Winter Kill, another just-okay book with likable characters that I never got invested in, during the last half of the book. It worked my last nerve. Lanyon's crossovers used to be a lot more subtle. Not anymore. I didn't want to read about Winter Kill; I wanted to read this book.

To try to figure out a rating for this book, I'm going to split it up:

 

Romance - 1 star. It's pretty much non-existent until the last 75% of the book and that's just too late for me to get invested. 

 

Mystery - 3 stars. The various branches of the mystery were interesting and seeing Jason's determination to solve them was great. The resolution for Jason's case wasn't the usual, but I actually liked that. The climax was good until I started thinking about it and all the TSTL crap that went on. 

 

Characters - 3 stars. I did like what we learned about these two, but the side characters were just filling in spots, with maybe the exception of George. Kennedy's reasons for treating Jason like crap were pretty big - but something he should've worked out with a therapist early in his career before his obsession could become a potential liability to his investigations.

 

Editing - 4 stars. Above the average for this genre, but there are a lot more typos than Lanyon usually has in her works. 

 

Writing - 4 stars. Masterful as always, and really the saving grace here. She has a way of describing imagery and settings that put you in the location. She gets a little purple in the sex scene. I really wish she'd tame down the purple metaphors and similes. It's not as bad here as in some of her other works, but it still pulls me out of the scene.

 

Will I read the next one? I don't know. Maybe eventually, but it won't be a pre-order. 

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review 2017-06-06 03:06
Draakenwood (Whyborne & Griffin #9)
Draakenwood (Whyborne & Griffin Book 9) - Jordan L. Hawk

I probably should've at least skimmed the previous book before reading this one, because I didn't remember it nearly as well as I thought I did. Thankfully, the author provides enough background info/reminders that I wasn't completely lost, as the plot is very much reliant on the events in Fallow. 

 

This was a fun ride. I continue to be amazed that Ms. Hawk can keep these characters and this world fresh - and still be picking up steam for more down the road! Griffin and Ival's relationship is as strong as ever, there's a new police chief in town determined to "shake things up" and cause problems for our protags, and we've got the Endicotts back in town causing their own special brand of disturbance. 

 

What I loved most about this, besides all the typical stuff, is how much Whyborne's relationship with his father has changed - and how his father himself has changed as a result of that. I never thought I'd actually like Niles, but he's come a long way from his first appearance in this series. Percival has also grown so much from the first book, and while he sometimes regrets the loss of his quiet simple life, he knows these changes are inevitable and can't be denied or ignored. I won't say any more on that though.

 

To end:

Librarians are the coolest.

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review 2017-05-31 00:56
Infected: Freefall (Infected # 4)
Infected: Freefall - Andrea Speed

In this two-fer, Roan's falling apart. Not literally, but definitely figuratively - and okay, a little literally I guess. It's not pretty, folks. Well, except maybe that one scene was pretty sweet. You know the one. 

When Roan goes to confront the new DT guy who put out the hit on Dylan. Hahahaha, that scene was pretty rad. While also being worrisome.

(spoiler show)

 

The main case in book one involves a trans-male looking for his missing son. At this point in the series, I guess I have to accept that the cases just aren't going to be worked out like they would in a typical mystery series. I thought there was a really fricking obvious potential lead that was never followed up on when the kid originally went missing - 

The crazy anti-cat church fanatic lady with a baby. Um... seems she'd be the type to steal a child away from a transexual parent, you know?

(spoiler show)

- but Roan goes in the complete opposite direction. He never even considers that other lead, which just seemed really strange to me that he wouldn't. I know he's got spidey senses and at this point we're just supposed to assume he's probably right even when it can't be verified, but that was still a glaring oversight. The case in book two was much better executed and had the weight and scope to carry the whole book from start to finish, bringing in Holden again and getting to see the whole "team," ragtag though they may be, working together. This is more what I expected all the cases to be like. 

 

I have to say, as much as I like Dylan as a character, I'm just not feeling him and Roan as an item. Maybe because Roan's not really feeling it. He's gutted after the loss of Paris and probably should've taken more time to mourn before getting involved with someone else. We do get some POVs from Dylan's perspective, which certainly helps, but I still don't really understand his motivation for staying with Roan or wanting to be in a relationship with him. Since this isn't a romance series, I have no idea if they're supposed to have staying power and we the readers should be rooting for them, but I honestly want to see Dylan move on and find someone else. I love Roan, but the dude is not good for Dylan at this point.

 

I continue to appreciate how real Roan is as a character. The various side characters aren't always prominent in each book, but when they are, I feel that's when this series is at it's strongest. Ms. Speed's characters are complicated and don't always make the best choices - looking at you, Holden - but you can understand why they make them even if you don't agree with them. 

 

The weird potentially transphobic language is still present in this book, and I'm starting to get a little weary of the guys referring to themselves as queens all the time. I'm not a gay man, so maybe I just don't get it. *shrugs* Yes, I'm sure this is how some people actually talk but it still makes me uncomfortable, and it seems improbable that every single person Roan knows, including Roan himself, would talk like that.

 

This book still has the same issues with editing as the previous books. I guess it really is true that Dreamspinner doesn't bother with editing their books anymore because the overuse of "his" when the "his" being referred to isn't clear and the repetition is ridiculous at this point. There was one point where Roan thinks no less than five times over the course of about five pages that he doesn't know why he's angry with Dylan over a painting Dylan made. Three of those times were in a single paragraph. That's probably the worst example, but there are others. Get better editors, DSP!

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