(Reviews posted at The Book Pushers)
I must admit that I approach the NA genre with a bit of trepidation. Sometimes it knocks my socks off and other times it’s tepid at best. When done well, a NA story will have a depth of emotion/angst, uncertainty and engaging protagonists who are learning to deal with adult life situations for the first time. And then there are the ones that come across as narcissistic, melodramatic and shallow. For me, (Never) Again falls into that latter category. It wasn’t particularly bad, it just wasn’t particularly interesting, either. It took me awhile to get through this book because I kept putting it down. Finally, I forced myself to stick with it and muscled through to the end. I didn’t find anything new or compelling here.
The overall tone smacked a tad young and immature for an NA. Granted the characters were only 18 and had just entered college so that could have been a factor. Perhaps I just prefer my NA characters to be a bit older, further along in college/life and not quite so green and naive. Liz barely seemed able to function in the world just yet–at least not without a lot of help. The narrative had this odd way of dropping in random facts and character insights at the oddest times. Examples follow. Liz threw a decorative pillow at Zach, “but being an ex-state champion baseball player he caught it before it hit him.” Now, I don’t know. I’m not an athlete by any definition of the word, but I’m pretty sure I could catch a throw pillow when it’s tossed at my head. In another scene, Liz and Zach were playing a round of tag in a hotel room and Liz observed to herself that “Zach was quick–it was something his dad was proud of. Unfortunately, being quick hadn’t been enough for him to make the football team…” ?? I understand the need to integrate background information about a character into the narrative, but what did those tidbits have to do with anything in their respective scenes? Why was Liz telling us that Zach’s dad, who didn’t even factor in the story as anything other than an off-page presence, was proud of Zach’s quickness? Providing character background like this sticks out.
It was difficult for me to relate to Liz. On one hand she seemed nice enough. On the other, her self-absorbed melodrama turned me off. It is clear that Liz didn’t know who she was outside of the influence of those around her...
Read the full review at The Book Pushers: http://thebookpushers.com/2013/12/12/review-never-again-by-theresa-paolo/
MiscJoy: I read Soulbound (Lone Star Witch #1) a year ago and left that story quite conflicted. When Flamebound came up for review, I hoped that some of the issues I had with the first story would smooth out within a now established world. It didn’t quite work out that way for me. For the most part, I enjoyed the story. The action kept moving at a brisk pace and the relationship dynamics between Xandra and Declan lead to some realistic give-and-take growth on both their parts. However, some of the key plot elements didn’t work well for me and in the end, I was left feeling like I’d been cheated out of what could have been a really great storyline.
Cass: I didn’t leave Soulbound feeling conflicted – I rather liked it. Though my main takeaway from it a year later was the glorious lack of a love triangle. (Come, MiscJoy! Bask in the wondrous absence of the genre’s obligatory love triangle!) Well, that and the high chance of political intrigue. Are Xandra’s family evil despots? Or mindless figureheads backed by a murderous clandestine agency?
Sadly, Flamebound failed to deliver the dynamic plot I wanted. It was an engaging enough read, but ultimately unsatisfying. Like Chinese food. Though it was delicious while it lasted, I was hungry again as soon as I finished. AND they forgot my fortune cookie!
MiscJoy: LOL! What a perfect description! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Soulbound but I felt a lack of cohesion in some of the basic storytelling elements which seemed to present again in Flamebound. Ultimately, for me, it comes down to the fact that I enjoy Adams’ writing style and I can forgive a weak plot when I like how a writer writes. Adams sets a blazing pace with the narrative and doesn’t shy away from dragging her characters through hell. I mean, hello? As a magical empath, Xandra is inexplicably drawn to murder scenes that take place within some proximity to her whereby she then psychically experiences the victim’s violent death. That makes for some tough scenes. In the first book, she experienced multiple psychic rapes and various other forms of torture. Although Flamebound doesn’t have more of the psychic rapes, given Xandra’s magical ability, you gotta know there will be violent murder and you’re gonna read about it as Xandra experiences it.
I think Adams is great at creating some dynamic primary characters and exploring relationship dynamics. My favorite aspect to this series is the relationship between Xandra and Declan. Here we have two very powerful characters. Declan, who is the most powerful warlock ever and knows it and has the alpha-male personality to go with it. Xandra, who is likely going to be the most powerful witch ever and doesn’t have a clue but is catching on fast. Do you know what I liked even more than the glorious absence of a love triangle? The absence of relationship melodrama and angst. These two characters wanted to be together, and so they were together. None of that wishy-washy, back-and-forth game playing. They actually communicated and worked their issues out. I found it refreshing. On the other end, I still don’t feel like Xandra’s family or the location of Ipswitch have been fully integrated into the series. The connections to these important secondary characters and locations just don’t feel complete and instead come across as rather one dimensional.
Cass: I agree that Adams’ strengths are in the romance. The relationship between Declan and Xandra is handled perfectly from start to finish. Didn’t set off any of my “this is a DV relationship” alarm bells! Which is tragically rare in the genre...
Read the complete joint review at The Book Pushers: http://thebookpushers.com/2013/12/02/joint-review-flamebound-lone-star-witch-2-by-tessa-adams/
MinnChica: I’ve read the last few Rose books, and found that she was easily a new favorite for romantic suspense. Her books are like an intense murder mystery with a heavy dose of romance, character development, and creepy villains. When I saw she was continuing the story of Daphne and Joseph, I couldn’t wait to find out how Daphne was doing after the total emotional destruction of the last case she worked. It was such a treat to not only see her move on emotionally, but also get to see Joseph working a case. *sigh* I love these two! This was a super short novella (only about 50 pages or so), and to me read more like an extended epilogue, with a little extra suspense kick.
MiscJoy: I would add that if you haven’t yet read Did You Miss Me? (Baltimore Series #3), and think you might like to, then do that before reading this novella. As MinnChica said, this short novella seems more like an extended epilogue to that story. It’s not necessary to have read the previous book in order to appreciate this novella. However, this novella does allude to some of the details and ultimate resolutions of the previous book which I think would spoil a bit of the tension and suspense. Having not read the previous book myself, I kinda wish I’d known that — so I’m just passing that along. Really, I picked up Broken Silence because I wanted an introduction into Karen Rose’s writing. I enjoy Romantic Suspense and had heard good things about her work. From that perspective, this novella did the trick. I’m looking forward to reading more from Rose in the future...
Read the full Joint Review at The Book Pushers: http://thebookpushers.com/2013/10/31/joint-review-broken-silence-baltimore-series-3-5-by-karen-rose/
[excerpt] MiscJoy: What’s not to love about Raphael and Elena? I enjoyed the focus on their character progression and the solidification of their love and unbreakable heartbond. I really liked how both Raphael and Elena accepted each other and even when they disagreed, never lost sight of who the other was at the core level. Raphael had to reconcile his instinctive response to protect Elena by accepting her Hunter-born abilities as well as her warrior spirit. He knew she would never stay on the sidelines so he made sure she had access to everything she needed to prepare for the coming battle and life as his consort. His actions showed her that he had faith in her abilities and respect for her position. That didn’t stop him from being the Archangel — he still had to make seemingly harsh decisions to keep his people safe. However, Elena’s humanity, compassion, humor and love made him a better man and subsequently, a better Archangel. I also liked his perceptiveness towards Elena and the emotional wounds she still carried from her childhood and relationship with her father. He wouldn’t allow Elena to fold into herself when she felt the pain of that trauma, just like Elena wouldn’t let him be consumed by the power influx. Each one made stronger because of their love.
Read the full **spoiler-free** review as posted at The Book Pushers: http://thebookpushers.com/2013/10/24/bookpushers-joint-review-archangels-legion-guild-hunter-6-by-nalini-singh/
***Possible trigger warning: this story contains a singular rape-themed scene where the female villain drugs and tortures the hero***
Ice Red, the first book in the Once Upon a Red World series, is a SciFi Romance loosely following a Snow White construct. The story takes place on Mars, some 300-plus years into the future. A Mars elevator and orbiting space station have been developed to enable more efficient travel from the planet’s surface to awaiting spaceships. Bianca's father, the creator of the Mars space elevator, is about to embark a spaceship bound for Earth so he can help the Earther’s complete their elevator project according to his specs. This leaves Bianca's step-mother, Victoria, in charge and forces Bianca in a position of having to prove her worth. Bianca is sent to the surface of Mars to complete the merger of a mine that Victoria wants to acquire for StarLine, only the owner, Cesare, isn’t interested in selling. He has secrets to protect in the mine and people’s lives on the line and isn’t about to let his mine fall into StarLine’s hands.
I had a difficult time settling into this story. The narrative switched locations and POVs which affected the pace and made the pieces of the story slow to come together. Just as I was beginning to follow a character, the narrative would switch over to someone else in a different location. This made it hard for me to connect to the characters in the beginning and to really get a sense of where I was within the setting. The pace evened out as the story developed and the main characters came on scene together, but the approach used to introduce the story elements and the characters felt a bit choppy to me.
I found the story concept intriguing and enjoyed imagining life on Mars and the slow evolutionary process of making Mars habitable. I could tell a lot of thought went into the worldbuilding with descriptions of the various types of functional clothing, the different habsuites and locales, the rugged terrain, and various modes of transportation. Wye also took into account how Mars would affect the subsequent generations who were born there. As a result, native Martians took on their own unique characteristics. She also included social elements to the story rooted in the colonization and history of Mars and the impact that had on the current times. The writing style had an ease and overall smooth flow with a good balance between descriptive writing and keeping the action within the individual scenes moving forward. However, when it came to the characters and their feelings and motivations, I felt the narrative skewed a bit into Telling which detracted from my experience of the characters on the whole. I couldn’t help but see echoes of <em>Firefly</em> in the dialogue with the inclusion of Chinese phrases into the everyday English vernacular in addition to some cowboy/outback references. Although, here, the setting stayed primarily futuristic and didn’t have that full-out Western vibe.
While many of the SciFi elements worked for me, the romance aspect did not...
Read the full review at The Book Pushers: http://thebookpushers.com/2013/10/18/review-ice-red-once-upon-a-red-world-1-by-jael-wye/
[excerpt]...MiscJoy: You’re on! We really must discuss:-) The examination of relationship dynamics and inner personal journeys was my favorite part of this story. McKenna took on two important issues: our relationship with and acceptance of our physical body and our sexuality. She deftly wove a blanket of healing around these two characters as they came to know themselves by opening up to another person. Even though the relationship initially developed over a few days, their meaningful conversations and the level at which they connected to each other made it work for me. They connected at both a physical and emotional level. Through their inner revelations and what they shared with each other, we really learned about these characters and their private struggles and insecurities...
Read the full joint review at The Book Pushers: http://thebookpushers.com/2013/10/15/joint-review-unbound-by-cara-mckenna/
I really should have DNF’d this YA post-apocalyptic/fantasy, but it had a train-wreck quality and for some reason I just couldn’t look away. And in truth, I actually finished this book a few weeks ago, but couldn’t bring myself to revisit it until now.
Having said that, it wasn’t all bad. The worldbuilding had some interesting (if contradictory) elements and the story premise itself is quite good. The characters go in search of a mystical land known only as the Blue while dealing with the post-apocalyptic aftermath of a broken society and traverse through very dangerous terrain.
Sadly, it went downhill from there. I found the writing style passive, stiff and lacking in emotional depth. The dialogue felt awkward. The narrative relied heavily on the verbs “had” and “was/were.” Sometimes whole pages went by where they were the only two verbs to show up. I have a thing about had/was’s. When overused in the narrative, my brain begins to pick out the pattern. It doesn’t take long before my brain starts to read:...
Read the full review at The Book Pushers: http://thebookpushers.com/2013/10/15/review-frozen-by-melissa-de-la-cruz-and-michael-johnston/
This book did not work for me. Generally unlikeable characters, lack of plot cohesion and a romantic male lead who perpetrates physical violence upon the female lead when they first meet.
I really didn’t know what to expect when I picked this book up for review. Although new to the series, I found the glossary at the back useful and didn’t have much trouble following this book. It seems some characters from the first book make a cameo, but the focus is primarily on a new couple, Gwen and Gregory. I do recommend reading the short-story included with the book (for me, it was located in the front of the eARC) as it details when Gwen and Gregory first met. I think the story itself would be confusing without this bit of introduction.
The narrative takes a mad-capped, farcical tone throughout, which while fun at times, makes it difficult to provide any sort of analysis of the plot or its characters. I don’t think its meant to be taken quite so seriously. The plot plays it fast and loose, introducing new elements at every corner to suit the purpose of the scene. It felt a bit like taking a trip down the rabbit hole.
On the whole, there just wasn’t much for me to hold on to....
Read the full review as posted at The Book Pushers: http://thebookpushers.com/2013/08/30/review-the-art-of-stealing-time-traveller-2-by-katie-macalister/
With the conclusion of the Otherworld series last summer, I have been looking forward to what Armstrong had up her sleeve for her new Cainsville series. Now, having read Omens, I’m still wondering how this series is going to develop. I’m left with more questions than answers — a hallmark of a good series opener, in my book. Although, I have to admit, it took me just a bit to get hooked in but I’m oh so glad I stuck with it. I think mostly that had to do with not feeling anchored to something specific or even familiar and it just took a while for me to get comfortable with the world. At the beginning of Omens is an Author’s Note in which she references “literary Easter eggs” within the text for readers impatient to learn about Cainsville. Those of us familiar with the paranormal genre will likely pick up on them right away…I’m just sayin. But even with that, Armstrong is still keeping her cards close to the vest at this point.
Everything about Omens is subtle. There is an undercurrent of the supernatural, but for now these elements are just beyond our peripheral vision. We know something is there, but we can’t quite see it. Armstrong is still weaving the foundation of this story so we aren’t able to see the full tapestry as yet. Because of this, it’s hard to know what to call this story. For now, it seems to be a bit of a supernatural mystery/thriller. I have no idea if it will stay that way or develop into a more familiar UF construct with the addition of more paranormal elements. Will there be paranormal creatures in this world? I don’t know, but I think so. What is Olivia’s role and how does this relate to her biological parents? Is there more to Gabriel than meets the eye? The town? Oh, yes, especially the town! I have some theories about all that, and half the fun is in the guessing...
Read the full review at The Book Pushers: http://thebookpushers.com/2013/08/28/review-omens-cainsville-1-by-kelley-armstrong/
This book is a bit of a departure from my usual pleasure reading preferences (i.e, no romance, no action, or anything remotely supernatural). It’s a slice-of-life Fiction that follows Gal during a transitional time in her life when her niece comes to live with her set amongst the backdrop of her work as a teacher, her dreams of becoming an established rose breeder, and her routine visits to the dialysis center. The roses take center stage and become a metaphor for Gal’s life and personality. However, this story goes one step beyond metaphor and delves into character exploration in which the juxtaposition between subject matter and character merge in both the archetypal and allegorical realms. It will be difficult for me to discuss this book without also sharing a bit of my personal philosophy because that is the level at which I connected to this book. Hopefully, you will indulge me a bit in that...
Read the full review as posted at The Book Pushers: http://thebookpushers.com/2013/08/23/review-the-care-and-handling-of-roses-with-thorns-by-margaret-dilloway/
I loved this book!
Arthurian lore, Tudor England, Fae and Angels -- all blended together by a well-written story full of descriptive language, active narrative, interesting characters, intrigue, tension, and romance. Yummy!
Full review posted at The Book Pushers: http://thebookpushers.com/2013/08/14/review-midsummer-magick-by-laura-navarre/
...MiscJoy: I think my main complaint about the book is the lack of depth. We weren’t given much if any focus on the character’s development — they were just presented in the story as fully formed and didn’t really go through a progression based on interior motivations. Plot points and conflicts just sorta happened and then were easily resolved without much consequence. The villain turned out not to be much of a villain. These issues meant the tension fell flat for me...
...MiscJoy: I enjoyed the relationship that developed between Sorin and Susan. I liked how Sorin saw Susan’s strength in her intellect and her ability to serve the pack even if he wasn’t sure how the pack would accept her since, as a culture, they primarily saw value based on physical strength and dominance.
Even though I felt the story suffered from an overall sense of depth and some confusion in the worldbuilding, I do think that the writing style was quite readable. The author did a good job at writing an active narrative and kept the story moving forward at a good pace...
Read the full joint review posted at The Book Pushers: http://thebookpushers.com/2013/08/01/joint-review-scent-of-salvation-by-annie-nicholas/
MiscJoy: When Has and I reviewed the first book of this series, The Trouble with Fate, we had mixed feelings given the issues with pacing and clarity, but overall felt the story and worldbuilding had potential. Personally, by the time I finished that first book, I was hooked despite the problems I had getting into the story and couldn’t wait to read the next installment. I enjoyed The Thing About Weres and felt it improved upon the story. I continue to appreciate how Evans keeps me on the edge of my seat with regards to putting her characters into dangerous situations without a sense of how they are going to get themselves out...
Full joint review posted at The Book Pushers: http://thebookpushers.com/2013/07/25/joint-review-the-thing-about-weres-by-leigh-evans/
When this book came my way, I was curious. I like a good transformation romance story. The subject of this story touches on a delicate topic and I wanted to know if it could be done without stereotyping overweight people or objectifying women and make me believe that the hero loved the heroine despite what she weighed. The answer to all that is a resounding yes. However, the journey wasn’t easy and the author gave us a very honest portrayal of character’s thoughts that weren’t always flattering but were reflective of what I felt was a true and personal odyssey of coming to grips with inner demons, judgements, hangups and insecurities...
Full review posted at The Book Pushers: http://thebookpushers.com/2013/07/19/review-big-girl-panties-by-stephanie-evanovich/