Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Nalini Singh - Wild Embrace

The “alpha author of paranormal romance”* presents a stunningly sensual collection of four all-new
Psy-Changeling novellas, in which taboos are broken, boundaries are crossed, and instincts prove irresistible...
Echo of Silence
In a deep-sea station, Tazia Nerif has found her life’s work as an engineer, keeping things running smoothly. But she wants nothing more than to break down the barrier of silence between her and her telekinetic Psy station commander...
A changeling who can never shift lives a life of quiet frustration—until he learns how to let his leopard come out and play...
Partners in Persuasion
Still raw from being burned by a dominant female, wolf changeling Felix will never again risk being a plaything. But for dominant leopard Dezi, he’s the most fascinating man she’s ever met. She just has to convince this gun-shy wolf that he can trust the dangerous cat who wants to take a slow, sexy bite out of him…
Flirtation of Fate
Seven years ago, Kenji broke Garnet’s heart. Now the wolf packmates have to investigate the shocking murder of one of their own. And the more Kenji sees of the woman Garnet has become, the deeper he begins to fall once more. But even his primal instincts are no match for the dark secret he carries...

Comment: As a huge fan of the Psy/Changeling series, I couldn't not read the stories in this new anthology, especially because they are all brand-new, meaning they haven't been individually released or were part of other anthology before this edition. As soon as I realized that, I got really interested in all the stories because I really think Nalini Singh has invented one of the best PNR worlds out there and all her books in the series - whether better or not as good - are winners and all show glimpses of the complex but wonderful structure that it is the society in which they belong. There's something about the world that just makes it all amazing and then the interactions and relationships between characters make it all worth it.

I was curious about all the stories and I'm glad to say all were good but nothing is ever perfect and all had their strengths and weaknesses. Each one happens at different moments within the timeline we are familiar with.
I'll go one by one with just a few lines.

Echo of Silence is an interesting story featuring a Psy and a human. This is not a mix we see very often and I was curious to have another story with this pairing. I liked it, but Tazia begun as an incredible character, sort of lonely and shy, sad...I felt empathy towards her and longed for her romance with Stephan. When we realize her sadness comes from a situation in her past concerning her family, things start to go a path any reader ca follow and the conclusion was rushed. I know this is a short story and things must happen quickly but it was still too much and to em didn't reward the connection Stephan and Tazia begun not too long before the relationship was settled.

Dorian is a sweet mix of scenes from Dorian's life, from his childhood, teenage years and now as an adult with his leopard finally free. They were all very sweet glimpses, not exactly a normal story but still very cute. It surprised me how good one is left feeling after reading it.

Partners in Persuasion was probably my favorite story. It features Desiree from the DarkRiver pack and Felix, from SnowDancer. The interesting thing here is how the submissive and dominant roles are what we aren't used to. I was curious to see how a submissive male would treat Desiree and how would he deal with the relationship. Things were complex and I liked it but feel sorry this was only a novella. A book dedicated to this would have enlightened this situation much more, plus the pack's link, the family, the whole hierarchy, the different species...everything was done well, but very superficially and I'd like to have seen more complexity. It was done well, don't get me wrong but I also can see everything that could be more developed. All in all though, Desiree and Felix won me over.

Flirtation of Fate is the longest story, features Kenji and Jem, two lieutenants from SnowDancer who have been in love for a long time but never really got along to admit their feelings. This was one of those stories I don't appreciate much because it's a lovers reunited kind of plot, I know they've never been together intimately but there's a story between them and obviously they keep thinking and talking about it. It works in terms of plot development for a novella but personally I'm not fond of it. The biggest issue here was why weren't they together, they have loved each other, they trust one another, they are friends, colleagues...when we learn the why it makes sense but it's something that shouldn't take years to be discussed which makes this rather unlikely. I loved the pack interactions and the characters but the romance wasn't as powerful as I imagined.

All in all, all stories were good, I still consider them special and wonderful snippets of (mainly) the changeling world because we can gorge on changeling characters and structure but yes, all could be a little stronger in delivery. Still, the writing is as precious as ever, the amazing world is there and all the little details about how the characters live, their work, why everyone matters is reinforced here. I liked this aspect a lot.
Not the best in the series but a great new addition and a way for some characters to have air time.
Grade: 7/10

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Allie Larkin - Why Can't I Be You

At one time or another, everyone has wished they could be someone else. Exploring this universal longing, Allie Larkin follows up the success of her debut novel, Stay, with a moving portrait of friendship and identity.
When Jenny Shaw hears someone shout “Jessie!” across a hotel lobby, she impulsively answers. All her life, Jenny has toed the line, but something propels her to seize the opportunity to become Jessie Morgan, a woman to whom she bears an uncanny resemblance. Lonely in her own life, Jenny is embraced by Jessie’s warm circle of friends—and finds unexpected romance. But when she delves into Jessie’s past, Jenny discovers a secret that spurs her to take another leap into the unknown.

Comment: This is the second book I read by this author. After Stay, which was one of my favorite books of last year, I was very curious to read more about the author but apparently, she only has written these two books. I hope she keeps writing in the future, though...

This story features Jenny Shaw, a young woman who works at a job she doesn't have the passion for. She also thinks her boyfriend will ask her to move in with him but when he drives her to the airport instead of a big question, she is told he wants to end things. Devastated, Jenny boards her plane and feels miserable.
At the hotel, where the business conference she is supposed to attend is taking place, she is mistaken with someone else. The mix up apparently happens because she is very much alike Jessie Morgan and the new people she meets only assume "Jessie" has had a nose job.
But Jenny likes the new people she meets, she finally feels wanted after a crappy childhood and adolescence and the recent break up. She pretends to be Jessie for a while, but then a while turns into days, and so on but what will she do when she is found out?

I liked this book. I think the author has a very simple but east writing style, her prose is easy to follow and captivating. I think this book wasn't as impressive as Stay in terms of plot and characters especially because this book has a very unlikely plot. Ok, not very realistic because who knows what people actually do. But the idea of simply impersonating someone and nobody seeing it, in particular people that knew the real woman...I mean, it's very unrealistic and difficult to imagine how could be possible. But even contemplating that scenario, wouldn't anyone notice the things that wouldn't seem right? Wouldn't anyone ever say or ask something that would reveal the truth? Humm, that is taking things a bit too far.

Putting aside all doubts and unlikely actions, the story was quite lovely because it touched one factor we all look for in our lives: acceptance. Jenny was suddenly someone who had friends, who could share secret thoughts, memories... She obviously took her fantasy too far, but the emotional aspects of all this, the experience itself and what it meant for Jenny in a moment of her life where things were difficult and she struggled to recognize who she was, individually.
The interactions between Jenny and all the other characters offer interesting tidbits into her physique and how sad her past was but it also showed the possibilities and the hope Jenny could have. I imagine how difficult it would be to come clean - because eventually she had to - and that showed strength of character too...

There's a romance here. Jenny falls in love with someone who thinks she's Jessie. This was quite the challenge but the author made their connection very credible and it was romantic and hot to see them together. Of course, when the truth comes up - and it always does - it was a shock and there was a lot of hurt and mixed feelings in between, especially related to the characters that felt it the most.

In one hand, the end felt incomplete because there are still things unsolved and to explain but after thinking about it, life isn't simple to solve al the time and I actually liked the internal journey Jenny went through and the will she had to change how she saw her life. It was more realistic to let her try and leave us the idea that the friendship and love she found had room to develop when she was being the real Jenny. Quite ironic, after such a plot...

Anyway, I liked the book and had a great time reading it. 
So sad the author hasn't more already but when she publishes a new I'll try to pay attention.
Grade: 8/10

Friday, August 26, 2016

Sherry Thomas - Beguiling the Beauty

When the Duke of Lexington meets the mysterious Baroness von Seidlitz-Hardenberg on a transatlantic liner, he is fascinated. She’s exactly what he’s been searching for—a beautiful woman who interests and entices him. He falls hard and fast—and soon proposes marriage. And then she disappears without a trace…
For in reality, the “baroness” is Venetia Easterbrook—a proper young widow who had her own vengeful reasons for instigating an affair with the duke. But the plan has backfired. Venetia has fallen in love with the man she despised—and there’s no telling what might happen when she is finally unmasked…

Comment: This is the first full length installment in the Fitzhugh trilogy by author Sherry Thomas. I've been curious about the blurb for a long time and I've purchased the book months and months ago. As always, many books just stay in the TBR pile a lot longer than we wish and only now I finally picked it.

This is the story of Venetia Easterbrook, a woman who's been married twice but never quite happily. She's been labeled as a seductress because of her beauty and has the reputation of being cold and cynical. But the truth is Venetia has a heart just like everyone else.
Christian, the Duke of Lexington, fell in love at first sight with her when both were younger but Venetia's reputation made him stay away from her, something his constant travels helped with.
But now, years after, they are in the same room again in America and once more the Duke says something that Venetia considers offensive. To get revenge, she invents a scheme to seduce him, proving he is like any other man and then confront him. To do this, she disguises herself as a German baroness and, in a ship, they meet properly and fall in love. But what can Venetia do when things get out of hand and she realizes he's the man she never wants to leave?

I ended up enjoying this book a lot!
In the beginning not so much for two reasons: first, one of the secondary characters had an attitude I despise and that apparently she felt no remorse for. Second, I've read other books by the author and while one of them was something I loved (Delicious), the other one ( Private Arrangements) was more on the hate team. This meant I was afraid this would follow more into the latter side and disappoint me. Thankfully, all ended up well and I liked this a lot, I couldn't put it down and read it in one day.
The romance was well aced, I liked all the stages they went through and even when things seemed too angsty, it worked. I really liked how things moved along for them. Venetia could find someone who got her and who would cherish her for who she is and not her looks alone and Christian found a partner who could share his interests and passion for life and the unique. I could easily imagine their life together and that's the best things about a HEA!

The writing is as easy and fluid as ever and one can very easily get into it. the descriptions and the details we could infer by character's actions spoke volumes. We can always like or dislike, agree or disagree. The author does have talent and it shows. I guess it only matters if we can appreciate the characters or not...

The plot had its strengths and weaknesses. Many readers comment on how unlikely it was for Venetia to have deceived Christian for so long. I think one can accept it considering this is a romance and in real life people wouldn't let themselves go through all that work (and expenses) to just prove a point. Personally, I could not focus on that and instead I looked at how special their bond was getting and how beautiful it was so see them fall in love, especially considering all the things they have in common.

I liked the secondary characters, for the most part. Only one really got on my nerves but I suppose I can always rant when I comment on that book, because I know she will have a story too. One of the best things about real series is how we can learn a lot more about all characters, protagonists and secondary, from the interactions they all share. people aren't islands, so I always look for this and mrs Thomas did it quite well here. I loved the little glimpses from other character's perspectives. I say this is a real series because there's an obvious connection we can follow and understand. In my opinion, it's much better than just single books grouped together - which is what many series look like.

All in all, this was great, not perfect, but good and very enjoyable!
I can't wait to read the next one and will do it as soon as I can!
Grade: 8/10

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Jaci Burton - Changing the Game

Most people play by the rules. Gavin and Liz aren't most people...
Win at any cost. That's always been the mantra of sports agent Liz Darnell. When she carries things too far and risks losing her number-one client, baseball pro Gavin Riley, Liz realizes that she'll have to work extra innings to win him back. It might not be too much of a stretch. She's had a thing for this player's moves since she first laid eyes on him, and by the looks of it, he wants her just as bad.
Gavin's more than ready—especially when Liz is offering herself as part of the bargain. And as much of her as Gavin wants. For added thrills, he decides to throw a little curve ball Liz's way to see just how far she's truly willing to go to keep him as a client. But when love unexpectedly enters the playing field, neither Liz nor Gavin are ready for the biggest game-changer of them all.

Comment: This is the second installment in the Play by Play series by Jaci Burton. This books follows the first one almost immediately and it can be read as a big continuation. The series are labeled erotica but there are some interesting elements to look for anyway.

This is Gavin's story, he's the brother of Mick, hero of the first book. Gavin wants to talk to Elizabeth, his agent and his brother's former agent too. Mick has fired Elizabeth because she did something that hurt the woman Mick is in love with. Elizabeth feels bad and apologized but she knows the easy relationship she used to have with Gavin and Mick's family is gone.
Gavin, however, hasn't fired her and one night, after a party, they are slightly drunk and give in to their attraction. But can they maintain a professional relationship when things are so weird and apparently superficial in private?

This book has left me the same sort of impressions as the previous one. The concept is quite good, the little emotional elements too but the delivery... such a pity.
I know this is labeled erotica and that is what I should wait for when I start the book. But there's still hope every time that the erotica isn't as heavy as this. I mean, there's erotica and erotica. I don't read a lot of it because I find it too repetitive but when it's done well, it can add layers to the character's personality and add in their personal relationship. But with these novels I don't get that feeling. Everything simply seems repetitive and annoying because with important things to deal with, both professional and emotionally, they just have sex. Sure, it can be great but...priorities? This makes it look like any scene is an excuse for sex and what a pity because this could be so much better, overall.

Some elements are interesting and I wish I could have seen more of them, namely the character's past and how that affected them now. Most things related to this, though, have felt superficial. Obviously dealing with sentiments and how those affect us is something difficult to just get over, especially within bad or less good situations/scenarios. But wouldn't it be important to deal with them in a better way and certainly not mix everything up with sex? I really get the sex idea and content but it's not even a direct cause of their attraction, there's no sexual tension or seduction, we just know Gavin liked Elizabeth, we are told she has been in love with him and they agree of a no stings attached sex. But we don't really see how important they are to one another before they got into sex. I think when romances are executed this way, it makes it feel lacking.

The secondary characters all play an interesting part, Mick especially as he's the biggest conflict persona here and gain, it would have been interesting to explore this - we know all along things must get solved at the end - but the sex distracts and certainly doesn't seem necessary.

All in all, this was an average installment. I knew it wouldn't be something amazing but I hoped I'd be more impressed. I understand the idea, the concept and the possibilities do seem good. But then things happen in a way that feels so unrealistic and lacking in the important aspects... not that sex isn't important in a relationship but page after page with it makes everything feel redundant.
Too bad the great, gorgeous covers can't match the content as fabulously...
I'll read the next one one day, I already have it and well...one always hopes the next one is the one that makes it all worth it.
Grade: 5/10

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Steve Kluger - Last Days of Summer

A charming, touching and funny novel of the Forties in which a young boy finds an unusual -- and unwilling -- role model.In 1940, 12-year-old Joey Margolis decides to focus his attention on one person: Charlie Banks, the talented young third baseman for the New York Giants. Joey is a wiseguy kid, and pretends to be dying so Charlie will come and visit him. At first the player wants nothing to do with the kid, who's a liar and a fake, but after time he's tricked, cajoled and charmed into being what he never wanted to be: a role model for another human being who needs him. 

Comment: I got this book last year because I've read something else by the author and I liked it. I was curious to read more by the author and the blurb to this book seemed something I'd enjoy as well. This month, I finally started it and it was worth the wait fr sure.

In this book we meet Joey Margolis, a 12 year old Jewish boy who's constantly bullied and beaten at school. In an attempt to make his bullies leave him alone he makes up a friendship with New York Giants baseball player Charlie Banks. To do so, Joey writes Charlie pretending to be sick but he does is to often, Charlie catches on and after some letter exchanging, they no longer deny they like each other and become friends. But life goes on and while Charlie helps Joey with key moments of his young life, can a friendship survive it all?

This was a great story, not perfect, often mentioned things I'm not familiar with - which can be a plus for veracity reasons but not so much for all reader's understanding - but overall, the focus is definitely the friendship young Joey and adult Charlie develop. It starts very reluctantly but with time we get to realize Joey sees in Charlie someone who can help him after his own father dismisses him and doesn't care, and Charlie becomes a sort of friend/father figure and everyone gets richer because of the group of people they interact with and know.

I liked this story, especially the graphic text. The novel is told from notes, reports, letters the character exchange, school notes and other means of written communication. The action is set in the 1940s, therefore not as easy as it would be nowadays to keep in touch. But this added interest and an unique eye because we, the reader, have to infer things, we have to read between the lines about the character's motives and personality. Sure, they often discuss personal choices and actions and that helps, but I liked this was not a boring narrative. It was fun to read all the different notes and that actually helped to make the reading easier and faster.

It doesn't mean, however, that this was just laughs. In fact, part of the story was quite heartbreaking because with every moment there's a lesson, there's the notion time is gong away... it's too sad to think what means so much now can become something else in the future... But still, for the most part, this was amazing and the learning both Charlie and Joey do because their lives connected is so much more important.

The author has talent and, so far, his work has been positive to me. I have curiosity in his other books but this one was very emotional in a way I'd not think so when one of the main characters is a kid.
But what truly makes this amazing is all the secondary details we get to follow now that History has happened and we can match what the characters go through with the reality. It jus gives a certain sturdiness to all the elements presented.
I thought this was good and recommend it.
It's not a perfect book, because of the way things are told, some information doesn't seem to be as important or well explained/done but it's things one can overlook.
This is mostly good and easy to read!
Grade: 8/10

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Two novellas

Terrell Hubbard, decorated Marine sergeant, proudly serves as Beta wolf to his True Alpha and Dominant. During a mission, he meets Staff Sergeant Kai Thayer, Pack Leader of the Camp Fallujah sippe. Terrell is thrown completely off balance by the strength of their mutual attraction and the intensity of their passion. His entire world felt perfect though, each time they came together to mark and claim one another.
In the chaos of a surprise attack Kai shows poor judgement, driving a wedge between Terrell and him, and landing Kai on the True Alpha's bad side. Terrell is torn between his ferocious loyalty to his True Alpha, and his new but powerful feelings for Kai. In the battle's aftermath, Terrell and Kai are drawn together in passion, hoping it's not the final chance to mark their claims.

What could a humble peasant offer a lofty, but dour, crown prince?
Many years ago, in a kingdom far away, there lived a young prince. This prince was very handsome,

and everybody in the kingdom loved him. His father, the king, doted on the young man, and did everything he could to make the boy happy. His mother, the queen, adored her prince, and devised new and special gifts for him every day. The subjects of the kingdom brought offerings to the prince, and served at his pleasure, without a single complaint. The prince, being a good man, responded in kind and treated everybody fairly and with respect. But, much to his father’s confusion and his mother’s disappointment, there was one thing the prince never did...
He never smiled.
Finally, unable to tolerate his son’s dour expression any longer, the king sent out a decree. He dispatched messengers to every corner of his country, and runners to all the neighboring kingdoms. The first person to make his hard-faced child smile would earn the right to marry him.
Unfortunately for the king, things did not go as planned...

Comment: These two short stories were some of the most recent reads I've had. I'm going to give the same grading to both, different reasons, but in the end it's the same.
Short stories are great ways to move series along or to just write about specific things or themes without much (boring) development but often, the concept is much better than the execution...

Heart of a Warrior is a novella in the Tameness of the Wolf series by author Kendall Mckenna. the author has gone through some issues because of a broken leg and some of her deadlines have not been met. This was supposed to be a full length story, which many readers were waiting for but now the novella is finally out. I'm very glad for that but I didn't realize it would be a novella. I can understand the problems but I thought it would be the book. Will there be a book, I wonder. Anyway, this was a good enough story, the usual trademark we expect from the author, it was great to see the characters again but I feel too much time was spent with the main couple's sexuality and nor developing the plot, which felt rushed and underdeveloped. I only hope a full length story is too come! 
Grade: 5/10

The prince Who Never Smiled is a story by Pepper Espinoza that has been in the pile for a long time. It's an interesting twist on a fairytale and it was interesting to read, it's a very quick read. The idea that there's only one special person that can change someone's else is quite interesting and the author did it well enough but I think because this is a short story, the emphasis isn't always on the right themes. It was great to see all things happening but then nothing can really be developed and it feels like all things were rushed. I liked how we got to know the main characters well, despite all this, but the writing isn't always engaging.
The cover isn't very appealing either...
Grade: 5/10

Monday, August 22, 2016

Amy Harmon - The Bird and the Sword

"Swallow, daughter, pull them in, those words that sit upon your lips. Lock them deep inside your soul, hide them ‘til they’ve time to grow. Close your mouth upon the power, curse not, cure not, ‘til the hour. You won’t speak and you won’t tell, you won’t call on heaven or hell. You will learn and you will thrive. Silence, daughter. Stay alive."
The day my mother was killed, she told my father I wouldn’t speak again, and she told him if I died, he would die too. Then she predicted the king would sell his soul and lose his son to the sky.
My father has a claim to the throne, and he is waiting in the shadows for all of my mother’s words to come to pass. He wants desperately to be king, and I just want to be free.
But freedom will require escape, and I’m a prisoner of my mother’s curse and my father’s greed. I can’t speak or make a sound, and I can’t wield a sword or beguile a king. In a land purged of enchantment, love might be the only magic left, and who could ever love . . . a bird?

Comment: This is the second book I read by author Amy Harmon. Although this one wasn't as wonderful for me, I still think it was good. This is the author's first attempt at fantasy and, in my opinion, she managed to do a good work.

This is the story of Lark, a young woman with a Gift, the power to Tell and make things happen. However, this power - and others - isn't well seeing by most people and the king actually persecutes and kills those who are Gifted. Her mother has sacrificed herself for Lark and told her to never reveal her Power. Because of this, Lark has become a mute.
Years after that, Lark is kidnapped by King Tiras, the son of the previous king who killed Lark's mother. King Tiras needs Lark's father help to battle against the Volgar, beasts who fly and kill humans. While living in Tiras' castle, Lark not only gets to learn to write and read, something never allowed to her, but she also starts to develop feelings for Tiras and his kingdom. But Lark has the Power to Tell and what would happen if others found she is different?

This is the August book for the book club I belong to. It was an interesting pick and because I liked the first book I've read by the author, I thought this would be a great book by her talent alone. I'm very glad it was a great story.

This is a great new world created by Amy Harmon, a fantasy type of world, with a medieval feel but where people can be divided into humans and Gifted. These last ones are special, are descendants from four type of beings that, with time, have become the enemy because people always fear what and who is different. A long time ago, there were Tellers, people who could speak and make things happen, Changers, people who could turn into any animal, Healers, people who could heal and Spinners, people who could spin things into other forms or materials.
Because of this, humans with no powers are now afraid of what Gifted can do and accused them of all the problems that exist. We know this is a matter of fear and generalization, but even those who are Gifted feel the fear and the unfairness of everything.

I liked this story a lot, Lark is obviously a Teller but she's mute and can't speak anymore. This doesn't stop her from trying and from wishing she could help others. Her personality is very sweet and quiet, I liked how she turned out to be a strong person but yes, there are many moments where she acts insecure on her abilities and in who she is but I get her and I think I'd act like her if I were in such a situation. It was great to see her find happiness, though.

The plot is not very complicated, King Tiras is ill and needs to secure his kingdom but with time he and Lark fall in love and learn to trust one another and that was the best, how little moments gained strength between them. I still think this could have been done better, because despite being emotional, it wasn't as heartfelt as it could, at least I felt almost a restraint from the author to increase the emotional levels. I suppose that wasn't a bad decision, because her work is usually very heavy emotionally...

Something I also would improve would be the relationship with one o two secondary characters, they could have been developed more. There are some surprises closer to the end in this aspect and that was unexpected but overall, it could have been worked out better.
The way things end, in terms of plot, were quite good and not too tragic, which would have clashed against the tone of the story. All in all, this was a great story, balanced but not perfect.
The romance was truly the best part. It was more subtle than exciting yes, but sweet. And the pace served the story well. The secrets to uncover were well mixed into everything and even the dichotomy Gifted/humans was well played.

There is always something else we could say or mention to make this more interesting but I don't have the words, not like Lark might. It's funny how we often pay more attention to certain details and not the whole picture. I guess this is one of these cases, the overall idea is positive but what makes this amazing, to me, is the little details about Lark and Tiras' relationship, about the world and people's feelings. It's certainly worth it reading.
Grade: 8/10

Friday, August 19, 2016

Lyn Benedict - Sins and Shadows

Sylvie Lightner is no ordinary P.I. She specializes in cases involving the unusual, in a world where magic is real-and where death isn't the worst thing that can happen to you.
But when an employee is murdered in front of her, Sylvie has had enough. After years of confounding the dark forces of the Magicus Mundi, she's closing up shop-until a man claiming to be the God of Justice wants Sylvie to find his lost lover.
And he won't take no for an answer.

Comment: This is another of the many books I've collected through the years, mostly PNRs and UFs because I had this notion most books within these genres would offer adventures along with amazing romances filled with tension and emotions. I keep hoping the next book is my next big finding in terms of series I an be in love with. Apparently, this was still not it.

This is the story of Sylvie Lightner, a PI who specializes in the paranormal and the weird in a world where magic exists and different types of beings walk among humans.
Sylvie's problems begin when a god asks her help to find his missing lover. Sylvie was on the verge of closing down her business after the death of an employee but the apparent new god of justice has strong arguments to push Sylvie into accepting. From that moment on, is enemy after enemy, death after death and Sylvie knows she might not be on time to help and demand payment...

After pushing through the more than 300 pages of this story, I need to say I agree with any other reviewers who said this is too depressing. Is UF a synonym of anger and/or anguish? I suppose conflicts and imagination matter in books labeled UF but does everything need to be dark and negative? I can understand why this tone would work for the story presented, as does for many others, but it gets tiring after a while to see things go wrong, to see things become sad or close to hopeless and then the end can't justify all the invested time either. 

If only the characters were so amazing one could overlook that, but sadly I also think Sylvie was more annoying than strong and decided.
I didn't particularly like her. Sylvie was determined yes, but most of her choices and actions were things I couldn't simply defend or share. I'm not saying she should be a defenseless but lucky heroine but nothing in her personality made me feel happy she would succeed or sad she went through so many strikes against her. 

The plot was interesting, the world interesting but again, too sad and dark. Is life only about tones of dark? I can understand this but the characters had personal lives, didn't they have good moments, something to makes us feel more in tune with them? I think the story misses out without more positive things to balance all the rest. The way things were presented, despite the intriguing elements such as the magical rituals, the different gods and types of people and what they could do, I still got the feeling I should worry about Sylvie but I was irritated each time she was the focus (which was a lot of time, obviously) and only looked at how many more pages I had to go through.

I think this book has interesting elements yes, but to me the execution wasn't what I expected. I really thought I'd get much more realistic emotional development but it was all about anger and hurt and justice and payback... nothing wrong with that but it's not the sort of things I want all the time. Again, to me there's no balance.
The end was so so. I get it but at the same time why couldn't things be easier or have hints of happiness? Is it only to make us read more to find out? If so, for me it's one less series because just the idea of having to go through all this again..

All in all, an interesting book, interesting elements and details but the characters were so annoying it got more and more tiring to keep reading. I was curious about certain things but for the most part what happened in the book got me more annoyed than glad I read it. One less series o worry about.
Grade: 5/10

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

TBR Challenge: Judith Ryan Hendricks - Bread Alone

Thirty-one-year-old Wynter Morrison is lost when her husband leaves her for another woman. Desperate for a change, she moves to Seattle, where she spends aimless hours at a local bakery sipping coffee and inhaling the sweet aromas of freshly-made bread. These visits bring back memories of the time she aprenticed at a French boulangerie, when her passion for bread-making nearly led her to leave college and become a baker.
Once again, the desire to bake bread consumes her thoughts. When offered a position at the bake shop, Wyn quickly accepts, hoping that the baking will help her move on. But soon Wyn discovers that the making of bread—the kneading of the dough—possesses an unexpected and wondrous healing power—one that will ultimately renew her heart and her soul.

Comment: Here we are in another Wednesday dedicated to the TBR post. August is the month of "Kicking it Old School", which means a book published 10 years ago or before that. My original pick was something else but on Monday morning I realized the publishing date was actually 2009 and not 2005 as I somehow got into my head. 
Because I really like to meet the themes and not cheat, I immediately looked at my reading list and this title, which I'd read right after anyway, was the one wining the chance to be part of the challenge, more so when I checked and it was originally published in 2001, well meeting the mark.
The narrative, though, is set in 1988 but it hardly shows.

This is the story of Wyn Morrison and the story begins with her realizing her husband of seven years wants to have a divorce. At first it's just "time" but eventually thing progress negatively. Wyn goes through all the stages of not believing what's happening and even trying to find a way to convince David, the husband, not to leave her. Although he keeps saying he just wants time and he feels neither has been happy, Wyn realizes he already has another woman.
Wyn travels to Seattle, to be closer to her best friend and somehow she gets involved in the bakery business, something that also helps her deal with her personal problems. In the meantime, she has to accept her mother is getting married again and that the sweet new male friend can become something more important if only takes a chance...

This book is marked woman's fiction and it is but there's some glimpses of romance I appreciated too. I decided to read it as a buddy read because I got into my head it would be a sweet romance and my friend shares some of my reading tastes. However, this is more a study on how to go through an unfair divorce. I say unfair because Wyn never agreed and she never saw it coming. Because the book is told from her perspective, of course we empathize a lot with her and her feelings.
I confess I cried here and there just thinking how something like this in real life can hurt and depress and bring someone down. Just reading about possible scenes like the ones described by Wyn were complicated, like the knowledge he was lying, that he replaced her with someone else, etc.. Difficult feelings to overcome, which I know added more power to the story but at the same time made you think.

This is a contemporary novel too, so obviously Wyn has a lot to deal with. Her emotional path was quite believable and despite not sharing her views on this or that, for the most part the scenes she was in were convincing of someone in her difficult position.
I liked the moment the action changed settings but things were still complicated but Wyn's mother was marrying again after years being a widow. Because nothing is simple in woman's fiction, Wyn truly loved her father and missed him and felt her mother, despite deserving happiness was replacing her father, which I can understand if I were in her place, but then all things together made for some dramatic situations.
Wyn also has a new romance on the horizon but it's never something set in stone, not only because throughout the whole book she isn't divorced yet but also because she is not in the best emotional position to make that jump.

This is my first book by the author, I liked the style, the writing, the story in general. Sure, I disliked some things, I got annoyed at others but for the most part, it was a good book. I understand its faults and I'd change some things but the voice is here. Interestingly, the author must love bread because there are many examples of recipes of bread and descriptions of it. Of course, this is almost therapy to Wyn, but the author has a lot of knowledge about it and in the end it helps the plot move forward!

The characters were interesting, we learn more about Wyn because she's the narrator but many of the other characters were well depicted and because we don't have their POV, good for the author to manage to impart personality to them like that.
Wyn is complex, not perfect, but I was rooting for her and her new chances in life.

As a whole this was a good book but the end felt too easy and didn't match the rhythm of the book. Now I understand why, there is a sequel and another (this is the 1st of a trilogy in fact) and that explains why the end seems rushed. But I feel weird because although I liked this book, I won't read the next ones. My feelings about this book are defined and positive, despite the theme. The blurbs of the next books point to a path I didn't expect and that sounds too melodramatic for the story we have here. Almost as if the next books went too far.
Therefore, I stay here to maintain my good vibe of this book and not ruin the experience with more stories I might dislike. And considering all I have to read anyway...

All things considered, this was an interesting read, emotional but well paced until the end and I liked it but this will be it.
Grade: 7/10