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review 2018-02-19 03:39
Jack of Thorns (Inheritance #1)
Jack of Thorns (Inheritance Book 1) - Amelia Faulkner

A story set in San Diego written by someone who actually knows San Diego.

 

 

I was fully prepared to have to relive some really bad geography, ala Everything Changes  by Melanie Hansen, but by the time chapter five or so rolled around, I knew I was in good hands. I even learned something about that ginormous tree in the middle of Balboa Park (because she's right; locals totally don't read those tourist signs, lol). Woot!

 

Now onto stuff other readers will actually care about. :D The world-building in this book is fantastic and I'm eager to see how she develops this world going forward. This is the way I like my world-building - just enough information that I'm not lost but not so much information that the mystery is ruined. There is no info-dumping here, but we still get a complex world with hints of more lairs hidden beneath. Faulkner borrows from Celtic myths, psychic tropes and even throws in a little bit of mystery, while also balancing themes of classism, abuse and addiction. Warnings re: the addiction storyline:

Laurence drives while high on marijuana several times, which is dangerous but wasn't actually illegal until this year (2018). He also craves heroin several times. Quentin has alcoholic tendencies but those aren't focused on quite as much, though he does get smashed a couple of times.

(spoiler show)

This is a really slow burn. If you're looking for smexy or smut, look elsewhere. The MCs only kiss - twice - and one of those times was not with romantic intentions. Quentin has a lot of hangups with sex, though those reasons are only guessed at here, so this is something that appears will be explored in later books. I love that Laurence never pressures him. He doesn't ignore the issues but doesn't push more than Quentin is comfortable with.

 

We get both Laurence and Quentin's POVs, and the author actually gives them their own unique voices in their POVs. This is sadly rare in M/M, where all MCs have the same voices, so it deserves recognition when an author is able to do this. Quentin does have this habit of referring to himself as "one" throughout the first half of the book, but this seemed tied up with his many issues.

 

There were a couple of minor continuity issues and very few typos. I also felt that Laurence's bisexuality was more lip service than anything else. 

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review 2018-02-15 04:22
Bridged (Callahan & McLane #2) (Audiobook)
Bridged - Kendra Elliot

CW (because I forgot for the first one): drug addiction of a side character (family member of an MC)

 

So as with the first book, this is dual narration, which is still not my favorite. But also as with the first one, each narrator does a great job with their individual parts. It's a catch-22 any time this situation comes up. *shrugs*

 

The author is also continuing with the villain POV, though I thought it was better integrated here and the reveals as to why he was doing what he was doing and how he was connected to the victims was handled better. Still don't really care for villain POV in mysteries like this, but she does it better than most.

 

There was one thought that kept niggling at the back of my mind while listening to this: how much time exactly had passed since the previous book. If they mentioned it, I didn't catch it, but it didn't seem like a whole heck of a lot of time had passed. Yet already Mason and Ava are practically living together and act like they've been a couple for years instead of still getting to know each other. I'm not sure I really buy that level of synchronicity so soon into a relationship. 

 

Also, Ava was shot in the shoulder at the end of the previous book and she's still going to physical therapy for the injury - but she's already cleared for field duty? Um...if you say so. She should either still be on desk duty (and did she even do a psyche eval?) or there should have been a lot more time between books. There was really no need for this book to pick up so soon after the previous one.

And given all the injuries poor Ava sustains again at the end of this book, there really better be adequate time between books - and psyche evals better actually happen for both her and Mason. Jeez.

 

Really, is Ava going to be severely injured at the end of every book? Can she not? Surely it's Mason's turn next. :D

(spoiler show)

 

The mystery itself was interesting up to a point.

It kind of stretches believability that every single one of the victims still lived in the Seattle area after nearly two decades. The congressman and Derrick I can see staying put, and even Joe since he was a slacker. But the other two could have just as easily moved out of state and realistically probably would have given what happened all those years ago.

 

Also, it was rather convenient that Jane was date one of the potential victims. Because of course she was.

(spoiler show)

Still, it was better paced than the previous book, as I mentioned before, and it was odd enough to keep my attention even after I figured out what was going on. The lead up to the climax looked like we were headed toward Silly Town but the author was mostly able avoid it. And I like how Mason and Ava were able to remain professional (fancy that!) and keep their cool under pressure. 

 

I'm starting to get annoyed with Jane. Ava reminds me of those parents who constantly bail their kids out of trouble so they don't have to face the consequences of their actions and then are amazed when said kids have no moral compass or impulse control. Ava, you're doing sisterhood wrong. 

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review 2018-02-14 03:14
Throwing Stones (Glasgow Lads on Ice #1)
Throwing Stones (Glasgow Lads on Ice Book 1) - Avery Cockburn

I have no idea what curling is and honestly it always looks boring as hell in the Olympics, but it's Glasgow Lads! I'm in!

Update:

And now that I've read this, I still don't understand curling, LOL, except to say that it is a lot more complicated than it looks. The author is kind enough to include a crash course at the end and she gave detailed play-by-plays during the competition sections, but as I've never even watched more than a few minutes of any game - and that was years ago - I had a hard time picturing what was going on. Still, Ms. Cockburn was very good at making the stakes clear at all relevant points and that's what really mattered more than anything else.

Anyway, this is another great story from Ms. Cockburn, and we even get a few cameos from the main series. Oliver is an ex-curler from Canada trying to start over in Scotland as a coach for Team Boyd. Luca is the leader of Team Riley, the rival of Team Boyd. He's also the brother-in-law of Team Boyd's leader, Jack. Oliver has ADHD and Luca lives a Zen lifestyle on and off the ice. They appear polar opposites on the surface, but they click immediately and their stories end up paralleling each other in interesting ways.

This is a little insta-love since the story takes place over a week, and it seems especially quick since Luca identifies somewhere on the ace spectrum though he's not really sure where. So the quick pace was a little off but in the end didn't bother me too much since we actually get ample page time of the two getting to know each other since they initially agreed not to start anything because of the conflict of interest. Of course, that doesn't last long - and for those of you who need steamy sex, you're going to be disappointed. There's one sex scene and it's vague on details, focusing instead on the emotional components, which means it was right up my alley. :D

Oliver and Luca have their own baggage and challenges, and some of their decisions, especially Luca's, were frustrating but in a realistic way. I don't need my MCs to be infallible, and these two definitely aren't. I do need them to learn and grow, and Luca and Oliver do that by spades.

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review 2018-02-08 05:15
Vanished (Callahan & Mclane #1) (Audiobook)
Vanished - Kendra Elliot

Right away, this audiobook has one of my least favorite things: dual narrators. Both narrators do a decent job with their respective POVs, but having to hear two different sets of voices for all the characters is just annoying. I also thought the guy more natural than the female narrator, though she did grow on me over time. Just please, if you're going to pay for the expense of two narrators, put them in the studio together and assign them parts instead of POVs. It can only improve the product.

 

The author also does the thing I like least in mysteries: gives us the POV of the perp. Let me figure it out! Then again, this perp was so ridiculously out of left field, that giving us all the villain cliches via bad pseudo psychology wasn't going to hurt it too much. :D

 

What I did like about this was the relationships between all the characters. Mason's got a family tree that makes the Brady Bunch look like child's play, and they all get along. No snipping or vindictive exes, no patronizing new husbands to threaten the old husband. They're all adults, they all put the children first and they all put their egos aside. So that was refreshing. Jake has to suffer stupidity at the exact wrong moment for the sake of Plot and Climax, but other than that, they're all pretty well written. 

 

Ava's the one with the mixed up family dynamics, since she has a narcissistic twin sister who screws up her life every time they come in contact. That dynamic was actually pretty well done too.

 

And suddenly this is a romance. LOL. I didn't expect that and honestly don't think the story needed that, but whatever. Mason and Ava fall "in love" over four days. Ok, sure. But it was neat to see them work together and respect each other, and for the tough, intelligent woman not to turn into a bimbo as soon as she found true love, which tends to happen too often in M/F. 

 

Overall, this is a pretty decent start to the series. I can live with the dual narration, but I hope we don't get any more villain POVs. 

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review 2018-02-04 21:13
Games Wizards Play (Young Wizards #10)
Games Wizards Play (Young Wizards Series) - Diane Duane

So much of this is 4-star worthy but there are a few things that knocked off a half-star for me. 

 

For the majority of the Young Wizards series, Nita, Dairine and Kit have been running from one crisis to another, doing what they could to slow down entropy and defeat the Lone Power. But as they're growing up, they're realizing that things aren't so black and white, and that there are multiple, subtle ways for the LP to work and some of those ways are their in their own doubts, insecurities and assumptions. Kit and Nita are also still adapting to the change in their relationship now that they're officially a couple. 

 

Nita, Kit and Dairine have been asked to serve as mentors in the Wizard Invitational, an event that happens once every eleven years where young and upcoming wizards get to display their talents and wizardries in what is basically a worldwide wizard science fair. Dairine's and Nita and Kit's mentees prove challenging in their own ways. Mehrnaz is sweet and full of enthusiasm but has some deep-rooted doubts due to her family situation. Penn is an entitled, sexist assmonkey who things he's God's gift to wizardry but he also has something going on deep down.

 

It's rare in this series to see wizards who are less then professional and who aren't first and foremost concerned with saving the universe. It's actually one of the things that niggled me in the previous books. How is it possible that every single wizard in existence is so great and wonderful? Well, they're not, as it turns out. It was great to see Dairine rise to the challenge with her mentee, and she delivers some brilliant and much-earned verbal smackdowns throughout the course of this book.

 

I wish Nita and Kit had taken some notes from her, because they are not as forthcoming or direct with Penn when he's being a jerk (which, admittedly, is not a small portion of the time), and that was just one of things that made this less than 4-stars for me. Nita and Kit spend a lot of time complaining about Penn's behavior but not much time actually confronting him about it. True, it's not their job to teach him social skills or explain why misogyny is bad. If this was someone they were only working with on a one-time mission, that would be one thing, but they have to work with him for three solid weeks under some pretty intense circumstances. That's a long time to put up with his level of obnoxiousness without at least once telling him what is and is not acceptable behavior to them. When they do attempt it, it's not in a way that's going to get their point across.

 

The other thing that bugged me was that during Interim Errantry (which was written after this book) Kit and Nita seemed to be doing rather well adjusting to their budding romance and figuring out what the new boundaries are in regards to that. Here, they appear to have taken several steps back, and again, not once did they actually sit down and talk about any of it. If they were your ordinary teenagers, I might be willing to give them a pass, but they've proven more than capable of discussing plenty of dicey and awkward topics in the past. You're friends - TALK TO EACH OTHER! 

 

Still, there is plenty to adore about this book too. Duane's always been very inclusive in representation in her books, but up to now most of the gender fluidity and sexually fluidity has been reserved for alien species. Now we finally get some human characters declaring themselves LGBT and it's great. (Still no in-book confirmation on Tom and Carl though, but I still maintain they're a couple.) Nelaid, Roshaun's father and the one who has been teaching Dairine how to manipulate sun energy after Roshaun's strange disappearance at the end of Wizards At War, and her dad Harry have the most beautiful and epic bromance ever in this book and it's a treat to watch. They really have become a found-family in the most amazing of ways. (And let's face it, Harry needs all the help he can get with Dairine.)  Also, the two other Planetaries we meet here are a hoot, and Nita's prophetic dreams are getting more and more interesting. I figured out what they were trying to tell her by the second dream, but it was still neat to see her and Dairine put the pieces together in the final chapter.

ROSHAUN!!!!!!! HE'S BACK!!! <3

(spoiler show)

 

The ending got rather rushed, unfortunately, and I really wouldn't have minded seeing more time given between the semi-finals and the finals. And the climax on the moon was both epic and head-scratching. 

Penn's been carrying around a piece of the sun - that for some reason identifies as female even though its basically hydrogen atoms - and he's suddenly able to realize he's been an asshole this whole time. Okay, having a sunspot crammed inside your noggin can make you act up, I suppose. We certainly saw Ronan getting extra cranky (more than his usual) when he had Michael riding shotgun inside him. But as was pointed out, the sunspot still needed something to root onto to get those behaviors intensified, so it's not entirely giving Penn an "out" for his extremely rude behavior.

(spoiler show)

It could have been better paced, and as long as these books are there's no reason why it needed to be so truncated in the last quarter of the book when the rest of it was willing to let the story breathe and the characters drive the action. It was a jarring transition to go from this detailed meandering story to such a quick-paced conclusion. 

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