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review 2018-09-29 05:55
Mark of Cain
Mark of Cain - Kate Sherwood

It was just bad luck that I ended up reading this at the same time I was listening to Brothers of the Wild North Sea. The two books, despite being different genres and different time periods, deal with the same themes: enemies to lovers, a man of the cloth struggling with his faith and church, a wild man learning a new way to live his life. One of these books is successful at exploring these complex themes, the other...not so much. 

 

Brothers of the Wild North Sea is like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Mark of Cain is like a finger painting by a three-year old. Brothers of the Wild North Sea is like eating freshly ripe strawberries dipped in cream on a breezy, mild summer day. Mark of Cain is like an ice cream sandwich that's been out of the freezer too long. You know it'll still taste the same, but the texture's all wrong and the sandwich part sticks to your fingers and it's just not as satisfying as it could've been.

 

But anyway, enough with the unfair comparisons! Let's talk about the Mark of Cain!

 

 

A man struggling with his faith and church - There were good bones here. I did find most of Mark's storyline here to be superficial at best, but I did like how it highlighted the struggle that many fundamental churches have when trying to move forward with the times. They can talk the talk, but they trip and stumble when they try to walk the walk. Unfortunately, much of the meat of this was pushed to the back burner because of the Twu Wuv taking center stage halfway through. *sigh*

 

I mostly liked Mark. Except when he was being an ass. He loves his church but slowly comes to realize how much of himself he's given up for it and that it doesn't love him back. This could have been really intense, but in the end there wasn't all that much depth to these sections and they're breezed over for the Tru Wuv.

 

 

An excon trying to make amends and be better - I really liked Lucas. His story here is sad. Yes, he killed a guy, but he spent his stint in prison doing what he could to become a better person, one who doesn't drink too much and doesn't get into pointless bar fights because he's bored with his life. He was only 19 when this stupid thing happened, and it'll haunt him the rest of his life. When he's released, he tries to hold onto what the therapist taught him, but his friends are determined to pull him back into his old ways. And his friends are, for the most part, caricatures with no real nuance of their own, the exception of Sean.

 

Between Mark and Lucas, his actions made the most sense throughout the book and I was most interested to see where his story would go. 

 

So what happens when these two "enemies" get together?

 

 

Well...not much. First, Lucas is placed in the half-way house that Mark supervises because his parole officer is terrible at his job - and despite Lucas's case being very high profile, to the point that random strangers know who Lucas is and what he did, none of the other ex-cons in this place have any clue about the connection between Mark and Lucas. Or maybe they do, but we just don't get to see it because we never actually meet any of the other guys in the house except when they're needed to play bit parts. But since even Lucas is unaware of this connection, I can only assume the other guys in the house don't know either. Yeah. Suuuure they don't.

 

Anyway, that ridiculous coinkydink aside, Mark's a jerk to Lucas, and he's completely unprofessional with his job. Like, on so many levels. And Lucas just takes everything that's thrown at him - from Mark and every other random person - because he knows he deserves it.

 

And then this thing happens with Alex, a teen boy that Mark is counseling at the church. Alex starts off as a character in his own right, and he's a mirror to Mark. Mark is constrained, careful. Alex is bold and upfront. And of course he's got the big crush on Lucas. But turns out his character is mostly just a bridge to Mark and Lucas burying the hatchet and forming a friendship of sorts, because Alex needed help and they're both willing to help him. Which is all great! I was ready to see where this went!

 

But then it kind of fizzles out. Alex fades into the background for awhile and Mark pretty much ignores him because of Tru Wuv. *sigh*

 

 

In the end, I needed a lot more time spent with these two as hesitant acquaintances/quasi-friends before they jumped into bed together. Years worth. Not just months, which are really more like a couple of weeks once they really start spending time together. The moment they started lusting is the moment this book became just another M/M Romance (™) and stopped being anything interesting. I just couldn't buy it. I was pretty much yelling (in my head) at Mark "Dude, he killed your brother, what are you doing?!" every other page. And I like Lucas! But seriously. He killed your brother. WHAT ARE YOU DOING!

 

Random stuff:

 

We meet Will in chapter two when he takes Mark to a bar to unwind after the news that Lucas got released on early parole. Will and Mark seem like good friends, so he should have shown up again at any point in this story to help out Mark or be a sounding board for him when his life was falling apart, but it's like Sherwood forgot this character even existed.

 

I thought we'd see a lot more of Mark's parents, since such a big deal was made over how upset they were about Lucas's release, but they're barely mentioned at all in the first half of the book, and we never even actually meet his dad. And his mom...okay, I'm going to keep this rant super short, but I really resent that Mark's mom was made to look like a villain at the end. This poor woman has lost everything, and to try to make her the mustache-twirling bad guy just felt disingenuous. Was that there to allow the reader to feel better about Mark being with Lucas? If so, that is beyond the pale. She has every right to be upset and want nothing to do with Lucas, and I frankly have to agree with her that Mark wasn't making wise decisions at this point.

 

There's also this weird subplot with Lucas's friend Sean towards the end that doesn't really go anywhere. Was this supposed to be a series at one point and she changed her mind? That's the only reason it makes sense to include all this stuff that really just takes time away from other things that should be getting more focus.

 

Anyway, there's good stuff here, good bones, but a lot of it felt haphazard and didn't go as in depth with the material as I wanted it to. This could have been glorious

 

 

but ended up just being kind of frumpy.

 

 

(Sorry, Chuck.) :D

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review 2018-09-19 03:42
Tinsel Fish (Tyack & Frayne #2) (Audiobook)
Tinsel Fish - Harper Fox

I seem to be having trouble connecting with this series, and I honestly don't know if it's the length of the stories or if it's the narrator. 

 

This is really too short to go in-depth with the material or the characters, and things and other characters keep getting introduced, on top of the mystery of sorts that Lee and Gideon are working on. I did love Gideon's mom, and it was nice to see Gideon going out on a limb relationship-wise, planning time off from his job when he knows that Lee will be home from his own job. 

 

I didn't understand why Lee, a psychic, didn't believe in spirits off the bat. His job is going out, documenting monsters and such, and reading energies and people's minds and other random mojo to find things and people. But spirits? That's crazy talk! Atheism in paranormal settings just doesn't make a lot of sense to me. He doesn't have to be religious or anything, but he does have use basic common sense. It reminded me of those idiots in that godawful The Boys on the Mountain, going out to investigate a haunted house but none of them believe in ghosts. *headdesk* Thankfully, Lee does prove to be smarter than that lot. Not that that would've been a hard thing to do.

 

Tim Gilbert is a great narrator, and he's easy to follow, but he's got this gravelly, gruff voice that just doesn't really seem to fit. Well, that's not quite right. It fits Gideon perfectly, but everything else? Not so much. He is able to clear his voice up for Lee, but the variation in his voices for the various characters shows a limited range. And I still feel like he should be reading something much more serious, like one of those classic Russian authors with names I can't pronounce. :D

 

There is promise here, and I've loved nearly everything else I've read by Ms. Fox, so I'm going to try the next one eventually, but I I'll be reading it. This'll be it for me with the audiobooks. 

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review 2018-08-29 02:19
Once Upon a Haunted Moor (Tyack & Frayne #1) (Audiobook)
Once Upon A Haunted Moor - Harper Fox

Well, that was definitely a short story. A little too short. There was next to no time to really get to see Gideon and Leander form any kind of connection before they're falling into bed together *yawn* and just as I was settling into the story and the mystery, they were over. 

 

And there may or may not be an actual monster on the moor. Since Leander is psychic, I don't know how far into paranormal/fantasy this series might go. 

 

I did like Gideon and Lee, and at least they're not already moving in together by the end of this, so hopefully that means actual relationship development is coming. Given the author, I expect nothing less. Isolde was a precious little pooch who's perfect just the way she is. :D

 

I'm not sure about Tim Gilbert as a narrator. He narrates well and clearly, but there were a couple of instances during the climax when it was difficult to tell who was talking, the protag or the bad guy, which was not really a time I wanted to be confused. His timbre of voice also sounds like he should be reading something much more serious, lol.

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review 2018-08-09 03:48
Page of Tricks (Inheritance #5)
Page of Tricks (Inheritance Book 5) - Amelia Faulkner

Heed the warnings for this one because this gets dark:

Mental torture, forced drug use, drug addiction, detailed description of past child sexual abuse, violation of autonomy 

(spoiler show)

 

I was worried after the last couple of books that this series would end with a whimper instead of a bang, but thankfully I had nothing to worry about. And I can reiterate, definitively, that book 4 can be skipped as everything that's revealed there is brought up here - not in every detail but enough to know what you missed. I was also worried I'd have to endure more of Freddy and Mikey's POV, but thankfully that didn't happen. Sadly

Freddy and Mikey are still alive at the end of the book, so I might have to put up with them again later,

(spoiler show)

but I can deal with that when I get there. I was hoping to see 

the ever-elusive Nicky but he was again MIA. I'm getting mighty curious about him and what powers or abilities he may or may not possess.

(spoiler show)

 

The big showdown with the Duke has come at last and it's just as messed up as I'd thought it'd be. I got so angry at Freddy and Mikey multiple times, and I still can't really buy their relationship - and thus Freddy's motivation. I'd more easily believe that Freddy's pride was insulted by his dad presuming to take a plaything away from him than I do that he actually cares about Mikey but whatever, it was a smallish part of the plot and not lingered over too much.

 

It was neat to see Windsor take a more active role in the story, now that he's a little older and learning new words. :D Lawrence and Quentin are put through the ringer in this one though and it's often difficult to read because all their weaknesses are used against them.  Both of them have grown and changed so much since the first book and their adventure here tests all of that growth to its limits. I really had no idea how this was all going to be resolved, which just added to the angst and intrigue. 

 

This was a wild ride and once the action gets going it doesn't really let up until the end. It was hard to put down at times and it went quickly. We get a nice little epilogue that hints at what the next arc is going to be dealing with, and I for one will be eagerly awaiting that release.

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review 2018-06-30 21:40
Brief Cases (The Dresden Files #15.1) (Audiobook)
Brief Cases (Dresden Files) - Jim Butcher

Another fun compilation of short stories and novellas set in the Dresden universe. I finished my read of the currently available books almost three years ago and have been waiting impatiently for Peace Talks ever since, along with everyone else. So I was happy to see this come out to break the dry spell a bit - and also impress upon me the need to do a relisten at some point in the near future. :D

 

A Fistful of Warlocks - 3 stars

 

I spent the first half of this trying to remember who Luccio was. Whoops. She never made much of an impression as a character, so it took me awhile to place her, especially since I heard19th century and got excited that maybe we were getting a story about Ancient Mai. Alas, no. Still, Wild West, Wyatt Earp and Warlocks - what's not to love?

 

Cassandra Campbell narrates this one.

 

B Is For Bigfoot - 4 stars

 

Harry must deal with bullies targeting Bigfoot's kid. Irwin is pathologically pacifist, and Harry's intent on making him understand that he can still stand up for himself. As ever, Butcher takes what should be a fairly straightforward issue and complicates the hell out of it. Plus, it's about time Sasquatch makes an appearance in this world.

 

AAAA Wizardry - 4 stars

 

Harry's again playing mentor, this time to young wizards. Harry shines when he's taking care of kids and teaching others how to be better. The classroom setting is intertwined with a case that Harry worked where things ... wait for it ... went wrong. I know! That never happens to him, right?

 

I Was a Teenage Bigfoot - 3 stars 

 

Irwin's again in trouble, and Harry's sent to help out. This one is fairly straightforward, on the Dresden scale, and we don't get as much interaction with Irwin this time around. And you will NEVER guess the motive for this one. :D

 

Curses - 5 stars

 

I actually never heard of the Billy Goat curse, and the way Butcher comes up to explain it is classic Dresden, whimsical and offers some of the most hilarious moments in this collection. 

 

Even Hand - 3 stars

 

Oh, Gentleman Johnny Marcone. I don't care for him, but he's hardly the worst villain out there. He reminds me a lot of Xanatos from Gargoyles, actually. Unrepentantly evil, but with his own moral code and rules. The best rule being "no kids." So when Justine come to him asking for help protecting a child, well...what's a cold-blooded mafia-type man supposed to do?

 

Jim Butcher narrates this one. And...well...Hermoine would approve his narrative style. His pronunciation is always very proper and precise - and as a result a little on the stilted side. 

 

Bigfoot on Campus - 4 stars

 

Bigfoot Irwin's all grown up and in college and has a girlfriend whose not what she seems. What could go wrong? Harry's got a condition on this one though: Papa Bigfoot has to meet his son, who is more than a little ticked off for being kept on the sidelines his whole life.

 

Bombshells - 4 stars

 

Molly's trying to fill the shoes of Harry after the event in Changes, and she's finding it to be quite an overwhelming task. I've always liked Molly, so was happy to see her POV and get inside her head. She's made some questionable decisions, and seeing how she navigates the world of wizardry as a result of those decisions and what she's learned since was fascinating. Plus, she gets company of Justine and Andi while she tries to figure out how to save Thomas. (I forgot Andi was dating Butters.)

 

Cold Case - 5 stars

 

Two Molly POVs in a row! And this one hurt. Molly's first assignment as the new Winter Maiden pairs her up with Carlos as they go up against monsters Alaska, and it doesn't go anything like she thought it would. Her new "mom" Mab is as cold and vicious as always, and a stark contrast to Charity. Mab's not here for sentimentality. She's here to fight a war. She does offer Molly the opportunity to find a better way to fight that war though, so hopefully that means Molly will be able to do that someday.

 

Julia Whelan narrates both of Molly's stories, and she does a great job.

 

Jury Duty - 4 stars

 

Harry Dresden has been found - by the government! Dun dun DUUUUNNNN! Jury duty happens. Wackiness ensues. Good fun.

 

Day One - 4 stars

 

BUTTERS! I love Butters - and totally forgot he was a Knight now. Whoops. He's called to his first mission as a Knight of the Cross and he does an excellent job of it. Oliver Wylan does the narration on this one and he captures Butters perfectly. 

 

Zoo Day - 5 stars

 

Harry spends his first full day with his 10-year old daughter Maggie and it's adorable. Of course, this is Dresden Files, so it can't just be a nice family outing. There's a lot going on here, and we get to see not just Harry's POV, but Maggie's and Mouse's too. Yes, you saw that right. Mouse gets his own POV here. Maggie's an amazing little kid, and Mouse's POV was charming as hell - in between all the horror, lol. 

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