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MandyM

MandyM

Stuff I'm reading... Mostly romance and Scifi/Fantasy.

Review: The River Leith

Very enjoyable take on the amnesia theme. This is a good example of the difference between a story being 'realistic' and being 'credible'. The author apologises at the end for the artistic licence taken with the medical condition of amnesia. But she doesn't need to. The thing is that I totally bought it because she made it credible. Good writing.

Review: Falling From The Sky

Falling From The Sky - Nikki Godwin

Plenty of teen angst and appealing protagonists. The story felt a little vague or blurred around the edges at times. Like it was lacking a needed detail. The plotline with the carousel horses was a missed opportunity. Mikah would take Ridge somewhere to tell him about another horse and then... nothing. Skip to another scene. An Indian fable (real or made up) for each horse would have added a lot of depth. 

Review: Stories Beneath Our Skin

Stories Beneath Our Skin - Veronica Sloane

Nice characters with a dash of emotional baggage to sort out. It was a slow paced tale. The MC's just slipped into a relationship without really creating any wake. Satisfying attention was paid to the secondary characters as well. Some nice passages. I liked this exchange between Goose and Deb:

 

"What do you think I am? Five? You can't double dog dare me into giving up on my ideals."

 

"You don't have ideals. You've got opinions you choose out of a hat and then defend to the death just to get on my nerves."

 

 

Review: The Silvers

The Silvers - Jill     Smith

Interesting but it had a sad feel about it and I'm not in the mood for that right now. DNF at about 20%. I might come back to it one day.

Review: Thomas Elkin series, Book 1 & 2

Elements of Retrofit - N.R. Walker Clarity of Lines - N.R. Walker

A May/December romance and that's about all there is to it. It was set in the world of architecture but it could have been any white collar job. I was bored with it by book 2 and couldn't see where the author could find enough story for another volume so stopped there.

Review: Stay With Me by S.E. Harmon

Stay With Me - S.E. Harmon

Great contemporary m/m romance from a new author. I loved Mac. His little flashes of 'queen' suited him perfectly and his fear of love was very believable. It made me tearful for him a few times. Jordan was the perfect foil. I appreciated the author's treatment of the ex girlfriend and Mac's relatives. No horrible stereotypes at all, just natural normal people. The sex is hot but the emotion is there too in spades. Hard to believe this is the author's first book? I wouldn't mind reading Nick's story too. Actually I wouldn't mind reading anything this author wrote...

 

You gotta give it to Dreamspinner Press. While other m/m publishers rehash the same authors, they are always sourcing new talent.

 

Edited to add: About the secondary characters. There's just enough fleshing out of them to make me want to read their stories without the author bashing us over the head with it. You know how in some series, each book turns into a setup for the next couple? It's not like that at all here. I also have a suspicion that Mac's brother, Robby, is gay too. Just his defense of Darcy, his secretive talks with his father and the way he seems anguished by Mac's good relationship with Robby's son Case. It's all very vague and non-specific, and that's only my interpretation of Robby's distress on the couple of occasions we see Mac interacting with Case. But still... Why put that in there if it wasn't going to be enlarged upon?

Review: Red Dirt Heart

Red Dirt Heart - N.R. Walker

I'm kind of in love with this story. Of course the setting is a huge part of that. N.R. Walker completely nails the isolated dangerous beauty of the Red Centre as well as the laconic, resourceful personality of the Australian stockman. But on top of that is a great romance with really poignant and sexy love scenes. I was a little nervous about the ending. How can Travis stay?? Visas are like gold here. Very hard to get. So I was happy to see there's a sequel. Although this book is definitely a standalone. No cliffhangers.

 

I do a LOT of rereading. But usually after a few months when my memory of the book has faded a little. After I finished this book I tried to start another but found that I just really needed to read the whole thing again. It's just as good the second time around.

Review: The Duke's Tattoo by Miranda Davis

The Duke's Tattoo: A Regency Romance of Love and Revenge, Though Not in That Order (The Horsemen of the Apocalypse Series) - Miranda Davis

I couldn't resist the blurb on this one. I'm kind of frustrated by this book. It could have been brilliant but the author chose the self-published route and the lack of guidance and editing really shows.

 

What I liked: 

 

Funny! The author presents her characters in a wry, self-effacing way, allowing the reader in on the joke of all their awkwardness and misunderstandings.

 

The cute chapter titles. An enticing and apt foreshadowing of each section as well as being in keeping with the writing styles of the time (or so I imagine. It felt authentic).

 

The premise.

 

The charming awkwardness between the MC's.

 

Jem's nightly visits to Prudence's bedchamber.

 

The heroine is smart and independent.

 

The hero. Sexy and endearingly useless at expressing himself.

 

What I didn't like:

 

I wasn't surprised to see this was a self-published book when I finished. The writing wasn't great. It lacked detail and emotion and struggled to pull me into the story. Especially at the beginning. Once the MC's finally met at about 25% it improved. 

 

The MC's are apart for a lot of the book and I did end up skimming in the second half. The big misunderstanding and lack of communication at the end was dragged out to the nth degree. Could have been done a lot better.

 

The hero has sex with another woman at the beginning of the story which is fine but the sex scene was SO detailed. Why??

 

I didn't like that it was ok for Ainsworth's brother to have groped a maid but it was not ok for him to have groped a lady. Even though that accurately reflects morals at the time it stuck in my craw that Prudence and Ainsworth both agreed so readily on this. They seemed so forward-thinking and lacking in class-consciousness in every other way.

 

At this stage I don't know if I'll continue with the rest of the series and I still feel disappointed that these books weren't professionally published. What a missed opportunity!

Review: It Happened One Wedding

It Happened One Wedding - Julie James

I love Julie James contemporary romances. I even like the fact that she takes her time with them and only releases one per year. I love that her heroines are so smart, and sexy and take no prisoners. Likewise her heroes, while very alpha, are also intelligent.

 

The formula is unchanged here. The story takes place against a backdrop of a hastily planned wedding where the best man and bridesmaid try (and fail) to resist their explosive attraction.

 

What took away the 1 1/2 stars was the abrupt ending. I actually thought there was something wrong with the ebook and flicked back and forth a few pages and even closed and re-opened the book to see where the rest of it had gone. Unfortunately I was wrong. I think the story needed some climax involving the FBI's sting operation. Preferably involving Sidney. The action part of the storyline fell flat.

 

Still the rest of it was great.

Review: Heaven's Queen

Heaven's Queen - Rachel Bach

Last installment in a really outstanding Scifi romance trilogy. This is a great mix of military scifi and space opera with an unforgettable heroine, heart-pounding action and a star-crossed romance. I'm finding it hard to make any criticism of this book. I know it's not perfect but I've enjoyed the ride SO MUCH. 

 

In this volume all the secrets are laid bare. The wrap up of Maat's and the Daughters stories, what the Phantoms are, and the nature of Devi's disease, comes together perfectly. Devi is basically on the run the whole time, dodging the Eyes, the Terrans, the Lelgis and various other players. Although the action is really exciting and has some brilliant high points there was so much escape/capture, escape/capture, escape/capture that it became annoyingly predictable. 

 

Devi learns a lot about herself on the way but never loses those characteristics that makes her so unique. She starts out as a tough, supremely confident fighter, covered in deadly armour (which she affectionately calls Lady Grey) and never loses that drive from the first word in the trilogy to the last. She is blindly patriotic to her country and her saintly Paradoxian King Stephen. She's also a motormouth and never backs down which provides a lot of the light relief.

 

Over the three books the romantic arc flows from infatuation to shocking betrayal to cautious allegiance before returning full circle to absolute trust and true love. Rupert is a great hero. Very flawed.

I wasn't sure why the author introduced the 'symbiont attacking its loved ones when sleeping' angle. That was really out of the blue and felt like an idea just tacked on to the story.

(show spoiler)

 

I thought Nova's father, Nebulon, and his alternative space/plasmex loving existence was going to have more significance to the story but he ended up being a bit of a disappointment.

 

My biggest peeve was the ending with Caldwell and Mabel. I could understand them fighting against Devi and Rupert but why the hell were they let off with a wink and a thumbs up after nearly killing the heroes? Definitely not enough penance or payback for those two. Especially Mabel who I really didn't like at all. 

(show spoiler)

 

So a little shaky at the finish but overall an exuberant, sophisticated scifi adventure that I will definitely be reading over and over again.

Review: The Protector

The Protector - Cooper West

I picked this up on the strength of the positive reviews and because I enjoyed Mixed Signals, but it fell really flat for me. In this world some of the human population develop into Protectors (humans that shapeshift into dogs) and Handlers (the 'dog' handlers). If one dies, the other can't survive. They are strictly monitored and limited by their perceived roles and the Big Brother-style, Institute, that controls them.

 

Alex, a Protector, lost his handler 3 years earlier but didn't die so he is a conundrum that the Institute scientists monitor closely. They are constantly doing 'tests'. I think that is the extent of the author's knowledge of medical terminology... 'tests'. They are really dumb scientists.

 

In his human form Alex could have been any guy from suburbia. In his dog form he is just a dog. Not a wolf. Not sexy. Not dangerous. Not that smart. Not even adorable which might have worked better with this incarnation of the shifter trope. Just a dog. Like my dog. The handlers treat the protectors like domestic dogs too. "Sit'. "Stay'. 'Good dog'. etc.

 

There was a briefly introduced sub-plot about community bias towards the Protectors (as in treating them like dumb dogs and only speaking to them through their handlers) which I thought was interesting but it didn't go deep enough for me.

 

Alex is depressed and unable to move on from his previous handler's death. He goes on and on about it constantly. When he's not thinking about it, his two friends, Sam (a female Protector) and John, her handler, are inserted frequently into the story to talk even more about Alex's problems. Sam in particular is so annoying. Sam is a typical female mm character. She is bossy, interfering and crosses all boundaries of friendship. The whole thing with them and Ryan is a shock. It could have been more meaningful but it's just accepted and not explored or resolved by the end of the story.

 

There is a killer after Alex whose identity is very obvious. Mystery plots in romance are usually fairly slim and this is no exception. 

 

I came to the end of the review and realised I didn't write anything about the other MC, Marcus. I guess that's telling. I didn't get to know him and I didn't feel their romance at all. The book ends with a HFN ending which is quite suitable seeing as Alex is not really over his first partners death. 

 

I was just bored by this. I had to push myself to finish from the very beginning. Not my kind of book.

Review: Control

Control - 'Cardeno C.',  'Mary Calmes'

I'm not the biggest Mary Calmes fan. On the rare occasion I pick up a newer book by this author I find myself shaking my head at the incredible and almost embarrassingly consistent sameness of her heroes. However I do like Cardeno C. And in this case the impact of Jory Vy is toned down by the well developed and appealing second hero written by Cardeno C. Also the question the book poses about the nature of 'mated love' is actually quite interesting and gives extra depth to the story. Quite enjoyable.

 

 

Review: Hard Time

Hard Time - Cara McKenna

McKenna puts her steamy spin on the prison romance trope. This novel includes the sexiest love letters I've ever read. The book is in two parts. The first takes place in the prison and it's definitely the most enjoyable. The second part takes over when Eric is freed and tends to drag a bit.

 

The librarian heroine, Annie, has a 'turn-the-other-cheek' attitude that becomes annoying at times. Mostly because Eric is so sexy that I had trouble being sympathetic to her ultimatums. And also because her use of Eric as a threat to her old boyfriend seemed totally hypocritical. Her initial involvement in the letter writing seemed very sudden and stupid for an educated woman but I found Eric so appealing that it was easy to just go with the flow. I know I have a few criticisms but in fact I really enjoyed it. I love the way this author writes.

Review: Shiny!

Shiny! - Amy Lane

Schmoopy love-fest by Amy Lane. 

On content warnings & courtesy

Interesting rebuttal of the argument against content warnings in the romance genre. I agree with it.

I've fallen down a fanfiction black hole. Don't know when I'll be back!