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review 2018-10-15 03:03
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
All the Birds in the Sky - Charlie Jane Anders

This is in a lot of ways a fun, quirky book, but somehow I managed to not realize going in that it’s ultimately about the effects of catastrophic climate change. So I wound up finding it too depressing, for real-world reasons, to really enjoy.

 

The book starts with the two protagonists, Patricia and Laurence, as kids, both outcasts at school who happen to be unusually gifted (Patricia with magic and Laurence with science) and who become friends. Usually I don’t have much to say for child characters, but the third of the book following their childhoods was my favorite part of this one. It’s fun and quirky, vividly over-the-top in a Roald Dahl kind of way that doesn’t take itself too seriously. And the pair as kids are fun and relatable.

 

Then they grow up, and the middle third of the book sags a bit, as the characters meander through a near-future San Francisco without a particular sense of urgency. The characters aren’t especially deep, but they do feel like real, weird people, speaking and thinking like actual millennials; for instance, Laurence worries that he’s not good at active listening, while Patricia is concerned that she’s too self-centered (when she’s not). Then at about the two-thirds mark, we get a chapter straight out of On the Beach, and this became “that horribly depressing book that I have to finish because I’m most of the way there” for the remainder; even when depressing things weren’t actually happening, it was still a climate change book. The ending isn’t a total downer, but only because of

a fantastical solution with no real-world application.

(spoiler show)

 

And yeah, it’s important that people think about this stuff and take it seriously, but I’ve done that for years with no effect; in the end I’m one person with no particular power to effect change, and exposing myself to this kind of material depresses me without doing anyone any good. Real power is in the hands of corporations and the politicians they fund (supported by a public who will believe any message they want to hear that lets them claim moral high ground while requiring nothing of them). And the powers-that-be don’t care much about anything beyond this quarter’s profits. So, too bad we don’t have the level of magic and science that exist in this book to solve our problems for us, I guess?

 

God, this was depressing. I would read something else by this author on a different topic though.

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review 2018-09-19 16:30
Well this one needed to come with a warning...
What Binds Us - Larry Benjamin,Richard Magnus

maybe something along the lines of...

'Warning...before reading this book the reader should ensure that they have tissues, a warm and snuggly teddy bear (because teddy bears fix things...all the things) and copious amounts of alcohol may also be beneficial.' 

 

I've had this one on my radar for quite a while now. But to be honest between the blurb and what I've seen and read in other reviews...well, I was nervous...I've read 'A Little Life', 'Let's Hear It for the Boy' and a few others that basically left me feeling more than a little brokenhearted...so I had to ask myself am I read to do this again, to let read a book that's not all goodness and light or filled with action and adventure. When I saw the book on audible.com...I thought...'Audio, I can do this on audio' and I clicked the button and added the book to my library...and there it sat for weeks...and more weeks...because every time I looked at it...I said 'nope, not yet. can't do it.' and this went on and on until I finally pulled on my big girl panties and clicked the play button and then I sat and I listened...I laughed and I cried...oh did I cry...tissues were sacrificed in an effort not short out my laptop with the tears...my poor little furbaby was frantic with worry and paced the floor because his people don't cry and if they do there's something wrong. 

 

'What Binds Us' is by no means a simple romance novel...It's the story of Thomas-Edward, Donovan (Dondi) Whyte and his brother Matthew. It starts with Thomas and Dondi when they first meet in college as roommates. Things progress between them to friendship and then something more and this is where things also start to get complicated.

 

Dondi's a bit of a bigger than life person, who also happens to be a bit self absorbed. But ultimately he's one of those people who others are just drawn too and he's a creature of excesses.

 

As Dondi and Thomas-Edward's relationship progresses and grows it also changes and they move back into the realm of being friends...enter Dondi's brother, Matthew.

 

Like his brother, Matthew and Thomas-Edward start out as friends as well. As things progress the lives of these three men become inextricably tangled. 

 

As Dondi and Thomas-Edward go from friends to lovers and back to friends while Thomas-Edward and Matthew explore their own friendship that ultimately sees them become lovers and partners and Dondi remains a permanent fixture in their lives as Thomas-Edward's best friend and Matthew's brother. 

 

What follows is a story of not just Matthew and Thomas-Edward but a story of love, friendship and partings...of having someone in your life and loosing them, of heartbreak and courage, of being a friend even when the other person pushes you away...a story of love and not just being in love, it's about growing up gay when having Aids was a death sentence and friends and lovers came into lives and left to soon.

 

There's not a lot of steam and sexy times in this one but this is about the relationships... the connections, how people grow and change, fit into each others lives sometimes forever and sometimes just for a while.

 

'What Binds Us' is about love and what it brings into our lives and how that shapes us and our relationships. It's love between friends, family and lovers. It's sweet and gently and beautiful and sometimes it's ugly and cruel but always it's a driving force in our lives.

 

Richard Magnus narrated this story and I loved his narration from start to finish especially for Dondi...his interpretation of how Dondi would sound was so perfectly in sync with what I imagined. This was actually my first time listening to a book narrated by this narrator and I'm looking forward to hearing more as well as re-listening to this story...as soon as I restock my supply of tissues. 

 

The ending of this one was good, really good it was happiness tinged with heartache...it was real. it was about the people we love and how they come and go from our lives but remain forever in our hearts.

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review 2018-09-12 14:18
Maybe a little drama llama would be ok...sometimes...
His Leading Man - Ashlyn Kane,Kenneth Grahame

Drew Beaumont is a successful actor who's bored with the usual Hollywood fare when it comes to movie roles. So when he gets the chance at something that's different and pushes all of his acting buttons...there's not much that Drew won't do to not only have a role in it but to make sure the movies gets mad.

 

Steve Sopol is so close to having his dream come true of seeing his first screenplay become a movie...but is he desperate enough to step out from behind the camera when the leading man wants Steve to take on the role of co-star. Is Steve brave enough to speak the words he's written in front of the camera?

 

I wasn't looking for big, convoluted problems or overly dramatic resolutions and for the most part what I found was that any problems or conflicts seemed too be resolved just a little too easily to the point of bordering on tedious at times.

 

The steam and sex were fairly low key in this one and that's not an issue, but something somewhere has to happen to make me feel the connection between a couple and while I'm not a fan of over the top excessive amounts of sex. I am a fan of steam and heat and attraction...something that makes me say 'yes, these two are going to melt my e-reader' ...there has to be something that still gives me a sense of their connection, makes me feel a little melty inside but I just never quit felt it with this pair.  I could see where it was possible. On paper they're a good match. But I wanted to feel that connection not see it as a logical forgone conclusion...sorry, I'm a romantic sap about this stuff. 

 

While both men had their problems to deal with...as well as being a self professed diva Drew's every move is scrutinized because of his fame as an actor and there was of course an ex or two in his past. Steve ironically has a bit more to deal with as well as an ex who thankfully stayed in the past but left his mark on Steve in terms of emotional damage. Steve has reasons why he wants his personal life to remain private but with stepping into the limelight it becomes not a matter of if things will be revealed but when.

 

Also just a quick mention as far as secondary characters go I really liked Steve's mom, she was one of the only sparkling moments in what turned out to be an ok but rather lackluster story. I truly don't need a lot of over the top drama in a story but I have to admit this one went a bit to far the other way.

 

It's been a long time since I've read anything by this author and I guess maybe I was looking for something more along the lines of 'Return to Sender' or her 'Lost Boys and Love Letters' series, I loved the hell out of that series...like really loved it...maybe it's time for a re-read? Or maybe if the audio gods are smiling on me these will be on audio one day (yeah, that's totally a hint on my part, but hey, you don't get, if you never ask, right?)

 

Thankfully, Kenneth Obi was the narrator for this one and while the story may have had some lackluster moments his narration did not and kept me on track with things making for a more enjoyable story experience.

 

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An audio book of 'His Leading Man' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

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review 2018-09-02 17:30
These cowboys just weren't working for me...
Cowboy in the Crosshairs - B.A. Tortuga

I'm not sure where I'm at with this one. As a rule I love B.A. Tortuga's books but this one...well, honestly I just wasn't feeling it and there were a couple of things that just bugged the hell out of me. However, the narrator did a solid job and I enjoyed listening to him...so kudo's to Dorian Bane and as for the rest well as soon as I get my brain sorted out a full review and rating will follow....

 

So I've been sitting on this one for a couple of days now because B.A. Tortuga is totally one of my favorite authors and I have to admit of all her books that I've read this one has unfortunately turned out to be one of my least favorites. Try as I might it just was not meant to be and I'm pretty sure it's as much me as anything. So I'm not going to spend a lot of time examining things. I'm just going to say that as far as the relationship went I just wasn't feeling it and there was a couple of things that well...quite honestly really annoyed me so for me this one was a bust but not a total loss I very much enjoyed the narrations of Dorian Bane and whatever wasn't working it certainly had nothing to do with the narrator. I'm a fan of gravelly voiced cowboys and truthfully I'm still very much a fan of Ms Tortuga as well...just not this particular story.

 

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

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-08-19 11:24
To Kill A Kingdom
To Kill a Kingdom - Alexandra Christo

Beware the sea queen, she'll squeeze the pitiful human life out of you.

 

Two kingdoms that come with responsibilities we each have trouble bearing. Him, the shackles of being pinned to one land and one life. Me, trapped in the confines of my mother’s murderous legacy. And the ocean, calling out to us both. A song of freedom and longing.

 

I am still torn between loving this book wholeheartedly despite its flaws and being honest with myself by openly pointing out the things I now regret to have noticed.

 

Inner me: Choose the latter and deal with the comments later.

 

People labels this as a retelling of The Little Mermaid but I still think of it as its creepy pasta version. Reading the first page mentally unprepared – when Lira was casually talking about her freaking heart collection hidden in the sand of her room – legit sent shivers down every nerve endings in my body. Talk about collectibles and siren trends.

 

To Kill A Kingdom is a creatively dark and vicious story of two people who each have their own goal to make their worlds better. Narrated by two point of views, we are introduced to Lira, the renown Princes’ Bane who aims to out-power her mother by claiming the Crystal of Keto and to make a better Sea Queen. And Elian, the heir of the Midas throne who chooses to sail with his crew over the throne and become the heroic stray prince in children’s storybooks who hunted down the Princes’ Bane to stop the siren madness.

 

Well I think you get the gist. Lira and Elian ought to loathe each other from the very beginning yet we all know where this leads the two only characters to have switching point of views in the entire book. Hence, the enemies to lovers trope butts in.

 

I admit the romance aspect was a bit awkward if it weren’t for the snarky comebacks that flows all too naturally from our main characters’ mouths. I also wish Elian could have fell in love with Lira not just for seeing the ocean in her eyes. It only convinces me that there was no real bond between them at all. They were just two strangers who used each other to achieve their goals and along the way – they might have mistaken their curiosity for the foreign as actual love.

 

In spite that, you know what made me love  To Kill A Kingdom so much that I’m ready to shut down my own criticisms on this book is the world building and Alexandra Christo‘s straight forward and addictive writing. I love how nothing was out of order. Especially in distinction between cities: Midas the city of gold, Eldyllio land of romance, and Kleftes land of thievery. I just wish she did the same for the undersea. I really want to know what caused the barrier between mermaids and sirens.

 

Moving on to the characters, I know there are a lot of essential characters who contributed to 1/3 of the plot but these three characters are the ones I’m pretty sure who will stay with me for a very long time.

 

1. The Sea Queen. The best epitome of a villain who stays in-character the entire book. Cruel to the vulnerable side of Lira and physically and emotionally abusive to her own family. Ursula is nothing compared to this Sea Witch and I love how she made this book more thrilling.

 

2. Lira. Full of bad assery – number one attribute I am looking for a female character. She’s smart and clever. She strategizes first before making a move. I love her so much.

 

3. Elian. Really didn’t made an impression on me. However, I still enjoy his point of view especially when he’s in the mood of ticking off the people around him. Aside from that, nothing really. I also think as an experienced siren hunter, he could have already tell Lira is a siren given the fact that she was floating naked in the middle of a vast sea with no other ships in sight, she can barely use her legs, and she used a language to speak with the other siren they caught. [shakes head in utter disappointment]

 

Things went smoothly as planned and a fantasy is not fantasy when it does not have an epic fight scene near the end. This book offered that and the battle between the Sea Queen’s armies and Elian’s crew was certainly very gripping.

 

It should have ended there though because the next chapter was absolute cringe-worthy. Sure, I like how things got better for both worlds – treaties signed and goals achieved but when Lira emerges from Diavolos and the crew putting on their wetsuits, I can’t help but to laugh out loud. After all that brutality in the beginning and the snarky comebacks – the ending is so off and cheesy. I felt like I was watching a Disneyland theater play finale with all the singing and fireworks. It was a very happy ending and I’m also happy that I was done with it.

 

It was a great read considering it’s a debut standalone but I just did not love it as much as the majority here. These are my sole thoughts and opinions only and it won’t matter if you love this book and think it’s perfect. Anyway, I will surely check out the future works of Alexandra Christo because her writing is really 5 star worthy.

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