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review 2018-01-24 00:49
The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace
The Memory Trees - Kali Wallace

Alas, The Memory Trees falls on that odd line that I've found lately between something that enchanted me, and also left me slightly cold. I'll do my best to explain, I promise. It should be noted that I love Magical Realism. There's something beautiful about books that keep one foot firmly rooted in our reality, while exploring something otherworldly at the same time. In this case, I'm just not sure that Sorrow's story really accomplished that as well as I had hoped.

At the core of this story is a deep family lineage that, as is often the case, is peppered with grief and loss. The Lovegood family has never had it easy. From the moment that the first Lovegood moved onto their ancestral land, their lives have been difficult and layered. I appreciated the fact that Wallace took the time to let the reader see the vast history that surrounded Sorrow's childhood home. It's easy to see how one event can echo through history, and even affect the present in ways that might not be completely obvious. The stories that were told rooted me in the Lovegood's lives like nothing else could.

The downside to this way of writing though, is that it's rough to really settle into. Although I felt for Sorrow, and understood her anger at what she had lost, I couldn't quite step into her shoes and really become her. There were portions of this story that, while I could see that I should be feeling grief or hatred or anger, all I felt was a missing connection. It's a little tough to explain, but I felt like I was being told this story by someone far removed rather than someone who had actually experienced this. Additionally, I felt like the Magical Realism wasn't really coming through as strongly as it could have. There were small elements of mystery and magic, but they didn't feel as fleshed out as I would have liked. I wish I could have felt more of the magic that Sorrow was meant to feel. Try as I might though, it never stuck.

As you can see, I'm of two minds about this book. The Memory Trees has great bones. The family history here is vast, and gives this book something that I'd been missing. It gives it roots. On the flip side, I never felt fully connected with our protagonist and that made things tough. What I can say is that the audio book version of this is definitely perfection. The narrator that was chosen has a voice that pins down that ethereal quality, and really brings the ghostly Lovegood family to life. So, my final suggestion is just to read this! If you're in love with rich familial ties, wide open country land, and stories that pull you into the life of someone unlike you, this is a book for you.

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review 2018-01-23 22:13
Well that was totally delightful...
The Soldati Prince - Charlie Cochet,Juan Manuel Pombo

Riley works in a bakeshop and the most magical thing in his world is lemon cake...that is until the night he 's saved from zombie like creatures that spew black ooze by tiger-shifting Soldati warriors...one of whom might just be the Soldati king and Riley's mate...oh hell no!!! Neither of them are overly pleased with that little tidbit.

 

Once Khalon and his warriors realize that Riley is his mate they have no choice but to take him back with them...at least until they can find a way to make him safe from the demons and then they can wipe his memory and return him to his world where he belongs.

 

As Khalon and Riley travel to see the priestess and get their bond dissolved so that Riley can return home. They begin to spend time with each other, find out more about each other and inevitably neither of them can deny the pull of attraction that they are feeling for each other.

 

I loved listening to this one on audio and I have to admit as an audio story it worked really well for me. This was so much like having someone read me a story...hey, what can I say I came from a large family and bedtime stories were a very rare event so now here I am all grown up and once in a while it's nice to have someone tell me a story and this one...well this one was definitely an adult fairy tale and I loved it.

 

All that was missing to make this perfect was a...ok, I'm not going to say it...dragon!!! Come on you thought I wouldn't say it? But seriously tiger-shifters! They count for a lot...oh and foxlings...cute little foxlings so no dragons but lots of other awesomeness.

 

I really enjoyed this story but I think for me it would have been so much better if there'd been a bit more development in the romance department and maybe a bit more after things were resolved to show us more of Khalon and Riley together as a couple, but this is a series so hopefully that'll come with time, right?

 

Manuel Pombo was the narrator for this story and I really enjoyed listening to his narration of this story. Not only did he check off my basic 'things I like to hear in an audio book' list but he gave it that bit of extra that for me is the difference between a solid or good audio experience and a truly enjoyable audio experience.

 

For me this story was probably 3 maybe 3.5 stars while the audio took it to a solid 3.5 maybe even 4 stars for me. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what comes next in the world of 'The Soldati' and hopefully Mr. Pombo will be on board to tell me another story.

 

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An audio book of 'The Soldati Prince' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2018-01-19 00:51
I love it when a series just gets better...
Model Bodyguard: Haven Investigations, Book 2 - Dreamspinner Press LLC,Lissa Kasey,Brian Hutchison

I really enjoyed 'Model Citizen' the firs book in Lissa Kasey's 'Haven Investigations' series this one has definitely stepped things up a notch or two.

 

While 'Model Citizen' was about Ollie's POV this time around we're given Kade's POV on life with Ollie and I loved it. Kade loves Ollie there's zero doubt about that but he also sees Ollie in a very realistic way which is really, really good for Ollie because Ollie's got some issues that need to dealt with in a realistic way. I just love that I don't feel like Kade views Ollie as a burden to be taken care of. For Kade, Ollie's issues are just a part of Ollie and need to be dealt with in a positive and constructive way which is what Kade does.

 

Things are going good for Ollie and Kade. As a couple they're on fairly solid ground and the PI business is doing a lot better with the addition of Kade.  Plus the house that Ollie bought for him and Nate to build a family in is getting renovated by Kade as well and even this task shows Kade's love for Ollie with how sensitive he is to how much the house means to Ollie and that there are areas of the house that he knows Ollie's not ready for him to tackle yet because they were meant to be Nate's space and Ollie's still grieving for his brother. He's trying to get on with his life but it's hard and it gets a little harder when questions start arising surrounding Nate's death.

 

Kade's POV not only gives us a closer look at Kade's life before he came to Haven Investigations but more detail as to how he came to be at Haven Investigations...he had some scary stuff going on and we're not talking PTSD from the war here, ok? 

 

Ironically it's once again Ollie's past that brings a mystery back to their door along with Jacob...Ollie's ex and a definite contributor to Ollie's issues. Nate's a rock star and a playboy he doesn't do relationships just sex and kink but somewhere along the way he's picked up a stalker...one who's decided that he needs to be punished in a permanent way and there's no limit to the suspects in this one. Jacob's whole family is at the top of the list. This is one serious group of users and leeches and getting to the bottom of things and figuring out who wants Jacob punished may be impossible since Jacob's loyalty is pretty extreme in that he feels that his family is above reproach and would never hurt him...did I mention that Jacob might be a little delusional...trust me he is because I wouldn't trust any of them as far as I could throw them.

 

Kade's got his hands full as he tries to keep contact between Ollie and Jacob to a minimum because honestly interacting with Jacob really isn't in Ollie's best interest and Kade's got his own insecurities where Ollie's ex's are concerned because Ty...who is also an ex of Ollie's seems to be around a lot more as well, thankfully though this is because he's seeing Tomas so his presence is far less stressful and concerning for Kade. Also let's not forget Kade's still dealing with his own physical injuries and a past that doesn't want to let go of him and may not be over yet.

 

I loved seeing things from Kade's perspective and I really loved how much Ollie and Kade's relationship has strengthened. Kade is so good for Ollie and good to Ollie. I also felt that Ollie was truly beginning to get past his grief from losing his brother Nate and make a real effort to move forward with is life. I loved seeing Ollie as a capable, contributing partner in Haven Investigations and not some damsel in distress who needs constant rescuing.

 

Kade and Ollie's relationship may be fairly solid but that doesn't mean that having Ollie's sexy rock star ex in their lives isn't going to be a test for them and sadly for the ready because...holy hell!!! did you see the size of that cliff that the author has left us sitting on? It's a biggie and while I know I could pop the next e-book onto my e-reader to find out what happens I've really been enjoying this series on audio. While the first one was narrated by Mike Pohlable this time around we've been treated to the narrations of Brian Hutchison and I've really enjoyed this one. While I liked Ollie's voice in the first book pretty much everyone else except the annoyingly whiny Donovan was just ok and while this is only my second audio book narrated by Brian Hutchison I have to admit that from an audio standpoint I enjoyed this one a bit more.

 

I'm really enjoying this series on audio and I admit I'm hoping, really, really hoping that the third audio book isn't too far off but in the meantime because I can't wait to see what's going to happen next with Kade and Ollie but until it arrives I'll just be sitting here over on the cliff's edge...you know that really, really steep cliff that Ms Kasey has left me on passing the time with some more audio books or an e-book here and there...who knows I may even have a DTB or 2 lying around to pass the time with.

 

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An audio book of 'Model Bodyguard' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

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review 2018-01-18 23:29
I've wanted to read this one for a long time now...
Model Citizen - Lissa Kasey,Mike Pohlable

Ollie Petroskovic is finally going to pay his brother back for all the years that he's been there for him taken care of him been the parent that they both lost years ago. Signing the papers to purchase the home where Ollie and his brother, Nate will live. Where Nate and his future wife can raise their children. It's a fixer upper but Ollie knows that's what Nate would love a house that's a DIY dream come true.

 

Ollie's sure that he's finally made their dreams come true. Ollie can continue his modelling and clothing design career while helping Nate with Petroskovic Haven Investigations, a house where they can be happy as a family. What no one saw coming was how the dream would come crashing down when Nate could no longer deal with the nightmare of PTSD and saw taking his own life as his only escape from it.

 

A year later Ollie's struggling to try and keep what's left of that dream alive as he continues to work at the PI agency that was Nate's dream but without an Investigator's license it's a struggle that he's slowly loosing until Nate's friend Kade Alme arrives PI license in hand and tool belt strapped on. Kade's looking for to honor a promise made to his friend to take care of Ollie but he's also looking for his own fresh start. He's fresh out of the hospital with his own battle wounds but he's determined to make this work because for Kade that fresh start includes Ollie in his life in whatever capacity he can get him...if it's as friend and co-worker than so be it but if Kade has any say in things it'll be a far more intimate relationship than friend and co-worker.

 

Ollie's pretty resistant to Kade's help and it takes a lot of patience and determination but Kade's got those in spades and before they know it the two men are firmly involved in a case as they try and help an old friend of Ollie's who seems to be in a lot of trouble.

 

'Model Citizen' is a fast paced story with a lot going on. I loved both Ollie and Kade. Ollie appeared to be androgynous and identified as gender fluid, while his orientation is gay. Kade identifies as male and his orientation might be gay but to me it was more like he was Ollie-sexual because from the word go Kade was all about Ollie or maybe it was just the manties...nah, I'm pretty sure Kade was very into what was in the manties...mind you I'm just guessing.

 

I loved how supportive he was of Ollie. But that didn't mean that he was a pushover where Ollie was concerned. Kade wasn't the least bit timid about standing up to Ollie when someone needed to but he also stood up for Ollie when someone needed to. 

 

I enjoyed the mystery in this one while there were things about it that were fairly obvious or easily figured out this story kept my interest from start to finish, so much so that as soon as I was done listening to 'Model Citizen' I jumped right into 'Model Bodyguard' because I wanted more. 

 

Mike Pohlable was the narrator for this audiobook and I have to admit I'm a little torn on the audio for this one. I really liked his voice for Ollie for me it aligned with Ollie's identity of being gender fluid. 

 

While Kade's voice didn't work quite as well for me, most of the time it was ok as were most of the other voices in the audio book but then there was 'Donovan' and I guess in some ways I would have to say his voice was good because for me Donovan was just an annoying little sh*t but really did he have to be such an annoyingly whiny little sh*t! Because there were times the whiny  in his voice was way more than I could stand. As far as I can tell 'Model Citizen' seems to be this narrator's first audio book so I think I'm just going to sit back and see what the future brings before deciding yeah or nay with this narrator...who knows I may love whatever he does next or not but for now it's on to 'Model Bodyguard' and another new to me narrator.

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review 2018-01-16 23:45
"Year One - Chronicles of the One #1" by Nora Roberts
Year One: Chronicles of The One, Book 1 - -Brilliance Audio on CD Unabridged-,Nora Roberts,Julia Whelan

Year one is sort of urban fantasy twist on "The Stand". It tracks the path of groups of survivors of "The Doom", a virus which kills anyone who is not immune. As billions die, some of the immune discover latent magical powers and find themselves drawn to The Dark or The Light.

 

It's an easy to read entertainment that effortlessly manages the large number of characters and multiple initially parallel but eventually converging plot lines. The good guys are clearly drawn and instantly likeable. There are babies and a lab-cross dog. The bad guys are irredeemably evil and everyone else is either dead or consumed by fear.

 

Nora Roberts' accomplished writing kept me reading, in much the same way that high production standards make it easy to watch "Chicago Fire" or "Rookie Blue" but the good guys didn't become people I cared about and the bad guys seemed more like comic-book demons than people.

 

About halfway through, I realised that, although "Year One" was entertaining enough for me to stick with it to the end, something was preventing me from immersing myself in the story. It took me a while to isolate the cause: my lack of empathy with middle-class America. Most of the main good guy characters in this book come from privileged, sometimes very privileged, backgrounds. The Doom has destroyed their bright futures and now they have to adapt to survive.

 

It turns out that the secret to surviving the apocalypse is to band together with skilled people who embrace middle-class values, choose faith over fear, work together as a team and focus on "doing what comes next". Of course, emergent magical powers are also pretty useful.

 

There's nothing wrong with this. It might even turn out to be true. It's also not so far from the message of "The Stand". What spooked me about it in "Year One" is that Nora Roberts wraps such positive emotions around these values that they slid into my imagination already tagged as a Good Thing. Then I thought about the scale of loss, of the billions dead, of cultures across the world extinguished, of losing everyone you ever loved, of having the value of your previous life challenged or eroded and it seemed to me that the main characters react almost as if they're on medication. Their ability to focus "on what needs doing" is certainly a survival skill but the ease with which they do it, the unthinking adoption of the "I'll protect Us against Them" mindset and the strong link Nora Robers makes between this stance and The Light made it difficult for me to empathise with or care about these people.

 

Later, I struggled with Nora Roberts' obsession with the idea that some things are "meant", that they're part of a "destiny", that it isn't enough for people to be attractive, privileged, educated and have magical gifts, they also have to have some kind of pintable-tilting agents of fate on their side. This began to feel like the dystopian urban fantasy version of meeting Mr Right.

 

At about the same time, we got the sex scene between the Alpha witch couple, Max and Lorna, the two "good guys" that I liked least, and it surfaced everything I disliked about the book: the sex was glossy, the sentiment was saccharine and the allegedly spontaneous vows that followed were so cliché filled and delivered with such self-absorbed seriousness that I felt I'd dropped into the middle of a romance novel. I have less trouble accepting a world-ending-virus and the emergence of latent magical powers than I do believing that people actually talk to each other like this when there's no camera crew present.

 

I liked the end section of the book well enough, setting aside the drumbeat message about "doing what needs to be done". I disliked that fact that not one of the bad guys was given any motivation other than fear, ignorance or just being born that way. The idea of a Messianic "One" sent to save the world doesn't do it for me so I won't be bothering with book two in this series.

 

If this book appeals to you, I recommend the audiobook version. It's skillfully narrated by  Julia Whelan. You can hear her work on the SoundCloud link below.

 

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/378462590" params="color=#ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true" width="100%" height="300" iframe="true" /]

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