Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Review - The Hot Zone

The Hot Zone
by Jayne Castle

This is book 11 in the Harmony series and  book 3 (or 4 depending on how you are counting) in the Rainshadow series. This is obviously not a stand-alone novel, at all. You could maybe get away with reading just the Rainshadow novels, but really, the whole Harmony series is a lot of fun and dust bunnies are completely awesome! What casual readers may or may not know, is that Jayne Castle is also Jayne Ann Krentz is also Amanda Quick. Jayne Castle is her futuristic (with paranormal) pen name under which she is writing the Harmony/Rainshadow series. Jayne Ann Krentz is her contemporary (some of which is also paranormal) pen name under which she has or currently is writing the following series: Eclipse Bay, Arcane, and Dark Legacy. And Amanda Quick is her historical (some of which is also paranormal) pen name under which she writes The Ladies of Lantern Street and Arcane. And there are some trilogies that fit into the larger series that span through time and are written under each pen name, like Looking Glass Trilogy and Dreamlight Trilogy.  Confused yet? Well you don't have to be. Most of the time you don't actually have to cross genres and pen names to enjoy the stories, there doesn't seem to be too much the casual reader needs to enjoy most of the books. However, if you do follow or read all of them there are fun connections between events and characters that just make everything so much more fun.

So, back to The Hot Zone. Harmony is a futuristic world where 200 years in their past, a curtain opened between that world and earth. Colonists started coming over and everything was fine until the curtain suddenly closed stranding them away from earth and her technology. Conditions on Harmony were a bit different from earth, so long story short, people started developing psychic talents and the means to control them and they also started bonding with dust bunnies. They also discover that aliens previously lived on this planet, and though they are gone, they left tunnels and artifacts behind. (This may sound like Castle's St. Helen's Trilogy, but it isn't. I consider those books to be kind of like proto-Harmony books, but they aren't connected though some of the themes and world building a very similar). This particular book features Sedona Snow (which if you have read the Eclipse Bay series ought to ring all sorts of bells), her faithful dust bunny Lyle, and Cyrus Jones (yes, one of those Jones's). Cyrus has been brought on to Rainshadow Island as the Guild Boss for the newly established Rainshadow Guild. Shenanigans are had, mysteries are solved, dust bunnies have a superb time, and two people who think they may just be all wrong for each other turn out to be exactly right.

So, yes, these books are formulaic in the extreme. But somehow, they almost always turn out to be more than the sum of their parts. The characters have different talents, different struggles and (sometimes) different personalities. Plus, there are dust bunnies and I just can't emphasize enough how they are really just as enjoyable as the romance. I find myself picking this series up and re-reading on a somewhat regular basis. They are fun, and they are fun the second or even third time you read them. And that is without all the tiny little linkings to all those other series. Digging in to the linkings just increases the fun factor, for me, exponentially.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How to get a better price on new books?

There is something in the world of books that I only recently became aware of, pre-order price matching.

On Amazon, if you pre-order something (including ebooks), you will eventually pay the very lowest price it ever was between the time you ordered it, and the time it ships. And your creditcard is only charged on the day it was ordered. On 06/17/2014 I pre-ordered JD Robb's Festive in Death at $5.99, it is currently at $11.99, and here is the fun part, I am actually getting it for $5.42 because sometime between when I ordered and now, the price must have dropped that low. So, from now on, if I am absolutely certain I will be purchasing a particular book, I will just pre-order it on amazon instead of comparison shopping.

And what this seems to work best on, is pre-ordering the ebook of something that is releasing in hardcover format.

Barnes & Noble doesn't have anything even close.

"If you pre-order an item and pay with a credit card, the authorization for that purchase usually expires in seven days for Visa, or 30 days for MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and JCB cards. For items that are due to arrive in more than 30 days, we may need to obtain another authorization from your credit card company. Your credit card is charged at the time we ship the product. The only exception to this is digital pre-orders such as NOOK Books, NOOK Magazines, NOOK Newspapers and NOOK Apps—for these items, the credit card account is charged immediately. "

So Barnes & Noble charges your book when your ebook when you order it, not when you receive it.

And I have absolutely no clue what Google's policy is on this. Either my google-fu is weak, or their policy is just no where to be found.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Advance Review - Her Last Whisper

Her Last Whisper
Karen Robards

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

This is book three in the series and absolutely is NOT a standalone. While I'll grant you a story about a criminal psychiatrist who can see the ghosts of the violently departed and is involved in a love triangle with a living FBI agent and a dead serial killer sounds like an altogether insane and confusing plotline, reading this book without reading the others is only going to make things worse. Moreover, my review isn't going to make any sense if you don't know the characters either.

Reviews for previous books in the series:

The Last Victim

The Last Kiss Goodbye

So to start with, this is definitely not the end of a trilogy. Imagine me banging my head against the wall, repeatedly. I don't know where I got it into my head that this would be a trilogy, but I honestly thought it was, and the ending of book 2 for some reason reinforced that impression. It's not, so now I've got to be all irritated waiting around for the next book. I'm truly hoping that one has some sort of resolution, because as understanding as I was about this being a multiple book thing after the first one, because this kind of crazy sauce definitely needed a little more room to work, the bloom is definitely off the rose so far as I'm concerned, and I'm looking for some payoff.

Charlie's back at work in the prison with a truly irritated ghost who thinks she should be on a vacation after her last case. That last case had the unfortunate side effect of opening her senses even further to ghosts, which is where her issues in this book pick up. She also has serious trouble saying no to the FBI, no matter how much she exclaims about how all she wants to do is finish her research. I'd doubt her resolve, but this particular case involves Lena's sister, so I can understand why she feels she needs to help. Which I guesses is my next point; I've become much more interested in Lena and Buzz's story than I am Charlie and Michael, despite the former pair's relatively short page time. When you are just waiting for the resolution of the main characters and find yourself less and less interested in their story, that's a problem. Granted, we find out a whole lot more about Michael, and the story definitely flirts with exploring the nature of guilt and innocence and what does it take to be dammed. Philosophically, it starts to explore if we are condemned not just for what we've done, but our own perspective of and feelings about our actions. But, it doesn't delve long or deeply into those themes. And I want a happily ever after for Michael in the worst way. What's happened to him and what may happen keeps me invested to a point. This is definitely the point where the next book better dammed well give me a happily ever after or I'm going to have less than pleased feelings about the series as a whole. It's felt like we've been building towards something, but without any payoff, this pleasant feelings may evaporate to nothing.

In the end, this is still my kind of crazy sauce story. As I was reading it, I was kept entertained by the mystery and the characters. I honestly didn't see the perpetrator coming, but that could be mostly because I was blinded by the crazy that is Spookville and the relationship between Charlie and Michael. But the ending just feels like being jerked around, so in retrospect, it colors my feelings tremendously. I waiver between enjoying this insanity and being absolutely irritated by the whole thing. Book 4 is either going to see me thrilled with a truly bizarre series, or pissed I've wasted this many hours of my life on something.

Advance Review - Playing with Fire

Playing with Fire
Cynthia Eden

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

This book is the third and final installment in Eden's Phoenix Fire series.

Books 1 & 2 Reviews

Despite the fact that overall, I liked the second book fairly well, I didn't realize how much it had disincentivized me towards reading the next book in the series. But, Playing with Fire just kept staring at me from my Netgalley shelf, and I was really kind of dreading actually opening it and reading. But I'm happy to say, I was perturbed for nothing. This book was a fantastic thrill ride. The dichotomy between Cassie who remember and feels everything and Dante who rarely remembers Cassie or much of anything- except for all the wrong things, was just heart wrenching for most of the book. There's strong attraction on both sides and they are thrown into action packed scene after scene.  There is a ton going on here, and we finally get resolution on Trace and what caused the Phoenix wars, on top of the very satisfying HEA for Cassie and Dante.

4 stars for a fun and sexy read.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sale - Charlaine Harris

The first five Sookie Stackhouse books are on sale for $1.99 each at Amazon for today only.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sale - Jeanienne Frost's Night Huntress series

Jeanienne's Night Huntress series is now on sale for $1.99. This series appears to be complete. There's 7 complete books, the last of which was published 01/28/2014. Goodreads average ratings start out in the high 3's and gradually increased through the series.

Sale - JD Robb In Death

JD Robb's (Nora Roberts) first 4 In Death books are currently on sale for $1.99. If you've not yet tried this series, they're at an excellent price to try them out. Don't be fooled by the $2.99 ones though, those are novellas.

All 4 have average Goodreads ratings of over 4 stars. So if you are in the market for a futuristic, tragic back story cop police procedural romance novel series, dig right in. I love these books because sometimes it's really enjoyable to stick with the same couple throughout a series, particularly without any irritating love triangles. And personally I don't figure that's a spoiler considering the 39th book in the series is about to be released, and it's always Eve and Roarke. That's right, 39th, so if you are at all interested in these characters, feel free to wallow, I know I do.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Review- The Last Kiss Goodbye

The Last Kiss Goodbye
by Karen Robards

This is the second book in the series. I gave the first book, The Last Victim 3 stars.

This is still the kind of crazy sauce I tend to adore. While Dr. Charlotte Stone had pretty much decided to quit with the FBI work already and get back to her research, the plottings of a deadly serial killer land, quite literally, on her doorstep. Which brings back delicious FBI Agent Tony, and heats up the love triangle between Charlie, Tony and Michael. But really? It is still all about Michael. And there is some pretty juvenile posturing going down between Charlie and Michael (poor Tony is completely out of the loop on this), but I find it hard to denigrate it, because when one of the twosome is basically incorporeal there has to be something to ratchet up the tension. And, while the crazy sauce romance mix was definitely still up front and center, the mystery here was also a major part of it too. That part was pretty fun, but much of this book is just a hot mess. One of the bright parts those, was the emerging characterizations of Buzz and Lena and I am really hoping for some more page time. Besides Lena and Buzz, what saved this book for me was that the mystery took a little more center stage and was fairly griping, we get a bit more hints about Michael's true nature, and the ENDING. The ending completely rocked my world.

So, I am tentatively giving this 3 stars, because I liked this well enough to keep going in the series. there were some issues, and I don't totally love everything about this, but the crazy sauce levels have eased down to bearable and the mystery has come up just enough, and I've learned about Michael just enough.

Monday, August 18, 2014

OpenLibrary Review- Seventh Heaven

Seventh Heaven
Catherine Anderson

Seventh Heaven is available to borrow on Openlibrary. That's right, free to anyone with an internet connection through Read in Browser, or to anyone with an internet connection and Adobe Digital if they want to have it on their shelves for a while.

This particular book caught my eye because I remember it being an incredibly sweet and romantic second chance love story, but edgy too because it was either the first, or one of the first books I ever read about a rape survivor. I remembered thinking that it was remarkably well done, and I was curious to see if this book held up to my memories of it.

What we have here is two best friends from childhood who became high school sweethearts, then are ripped apart by tragedy in college, and are meeting again 10 years later after a whole lot of rough life for both of them. Joe Lakota is a dominant former pro-football player with a small child named Zachary. Zachary is a plot moppet, but he's fairly integral to the story, and reasonably cute. Marilee is a neurotic mess, but all things considered, she has every right to be. Some of what she did and did not do doesn't make sense till more than a third of the way into the book so in reviews I saw quite a few DNF's based ont that, but, her reasoning eventually does make sense if you get through it.

So how does it stack up against my memories? Not quite as well as I had hoped. Joe did some pretty bone headed things and while he usually caught on, at least in his head, he never truly expressed that to Marilee. It is still mostly sweet and romantic, but there are ways and places that Joe pushed, that I was just not entirely comfortable with. But he never really pushed the sex angle either, so it was at least acceptable. Altogether, for a book published in 2000, I am still fairly happy with how the treatment of a rape survivor with PTSD was handled. No magic smexing magically made her all better, and Marilee's panic felt very real to me.

I am not quite sure whether or not to recommend this book. I still liked it, but I can see where some people are going to be put off with various aspects of it. basically though, if the events described in the book aren't triggering to you (and they are fairly graphic), and you like or want a bit more realism in your contemporary, then this might still be a good choice.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Review- Iris Johansen's Kendra Michaels Series

Much like Karen Robards' Last series, I have been holding off on reading this. Somehow I doubt the series is concluded, but it has been taunting me from my TBR stack for a while and today I got alerted to the new book being released. So I am going to go for it and hope for the best. I am not going to recap these books because that has been done to death by now. So following the blurbs I am just going to be writing my impressions.

Close Your Eyes

Goodreads Blurb:

In Close Your Eyes, The New York Times bestselling duo Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen are back with a suspenseful novel about a once-blind woman with a talent for tracking serial killers

The FBI doesn’t usually consult with music therapists to solve their cases. But Kendra Michael’s astonishing powers of observation and analysis have made her a favorite of law enforcement agencies all across the country. Blind for the first twenty years of her life, she cares little for investigative work but can’t deny her unique skill, or the results she’s been able to facilitate. Kendra learned at an early age to become hyper-aware of her surroundings, perfecting the art of picking up the most subtle audio, olfactory, and tactile cues in the world around her. Like a secret weapon, she is in high demand.

Former FBI agent Adam Lynch, known as The Puppetmaster, has weapons of his own. He’s a notorious master manipulator, skillfully handling criminals and colleagues alike to get the results he wants. Now he needs Kendra’s special brand of help, but she’s not interested until Lynch reveals that Agent Jeff Stedler—Kendra’s ex—is missing and may have run directly into the path of a serial killer. What began as a heinous murder investigation escalates into something even larger and more frightening: a multi-million dollar conspiracy to hide a secret that’s worth killing for, again and again and again.

The set up really intrigued me, I am a fan of suspense and FBI procedurals, and an extrasensory formerly blind person sounded like it would make this a paranormal without the paranormal, if that makes sense. I really enjoyed Kendra, she's like a slightly warmer Bones (of the TV series not the book), she's dedicated to her job, she has a best friend, and she has an interesting relationship with her mother. And, she just so happens to be super perceptive and logical. Paranormal without the paranormal indeed! Lynch was a bit harder for me to peg, but I think I may end up liking him just fine. I enjoyed the mystery part of the story while reading it, but a few days later I am mostly blank. This story is all about setting up the characters.

3.5 stars

With Open Eyes

This is an extremely short novella, and frankly, it doesn't add much, I enjoyed it, but it wasn't worth much.

Sight Unseen

Goodreads Blurb:

A deadly multi-vehicle pile-up on San Diego’s historic Cabrillo bridge is thought of as a horrific accident–until Kendra Michaels arrives on the scene and perceives it as something much more sinister. Blind for decades and now sighted, Kendra's unusual skill for observation is highly sought after by both the FBI and CIA. Now her amazing conclusions open up a multi-jurisdictional investigation that once again teams her with the FBI and federal agent Adam Kyle as they investigate a conspiracy so explosive that someone will kill again and again to protect it. As the killer casts a deadly web of lies, Kendra’s life hangs in the balance, as do the lives of those she holds most dear.

Now that we have the characters set up in the previous story, I found the premise and execution of this mystery much more entertaining. Lynch seems to be unfolding and he's a rather intriguing man. But, Kendra feels a little flat and static to me. I don't know if this was just Lynch's development book and we will see Kendra develop more as this series progresses, or if this is JUST who Kendra is. This story ended on a doozy of a cliffhanger, both as far as the potential relationship and the villain, so I am thinking we now have a rough outline of this series' direction, and my earlier comparison to Bones is probably even more spot on than I thought. I liked this book, but I didn't love it.

3.5 Stars

Overall, there is enough happening in this series that I will keep my eye out for the next in the series, but it isn't necessarily something I am going to jump on either. I hate to say lackluster, but that is almost what it is. The third book is likely going to be make or break for me in this series.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Review- Magic Breaks

Magic Breaks
Ilona Andrews

Book 7 of the Kate Daniels series is finally here and I can't believe I have a whole year at least to till the next one (fortunately a Dali and Jim story is coming at the end of November).

First things first, I re-read this book twice before feeling able to write this review. If you are a longtime fan of this series, you are likely to either love it or hate it. If you are not a longtime fan of this series, despite the handy intro to all things Kate Daniels at the front, don't start here, it won't be worth your time, the ride to finding out everything is what is important-not the culmination. And if you haven't read this book already, just stop now, this book is highly polarizing and honestly, why on earth should my opinions matter to you?

Now that I have that out of the way, excuse me while I squee. I adore this book, this series, and these authors. YES, I adored this book (no, it won't hurt my feelings that people think I am fan-girling). Did I love everything about it? No, particularly the Mauro thing, but I don't expect things to always be happy and sunshiny roses with unicorn rainbows. But this book was so much the culmination of Kate's personal growth, the culmination of her relationships with people, and their relationships with her, that I could not help but love it. I keep reading reviews where people are irked about Kate supposedly acting out of character, and I suppose if you compare her to how she was presented in Magic Bites, you would be right. But here's the thing, she has grown and changed, and so have the people around her, and I can't help thinking how inexpressibly boring this series would be if we were still dealing just with bad assed merc Kate. Traitors, allies, and frenemies are revealed, lives are changed, and YES Roland, and (yuck) Hugh. Turns out the world is a whole lot stranger than Kate (or us readers) ever thought. And to me the ending totally makes up for Curran's BS in the last book (YMMV). The other things I tend to see people complain about are deus ex machina and plot devices and that things weren't done creatively enough (often from the same reviewer). So, in my opinion, yes, some things were unavoidably twisty, and yes, you saw some things coming a mile a way, but it felt like a fairly good balance between making things creative and unique and avoiding the plot device of having everything be a surprise JUST for the audience gasps. Sometimes a spade is just a spade. There were things that were a bit more exciting and emotional than I expected, and things that hit a lower note than I expected, but putting it all together it felt like exactly the story we have been leading up to, even when it wasn't precisely what I was expecting. 

And if you want some spoilers straight from Ilona's words, read here.

Monday, August 4, 2014

ARC Review- Love is a Battlefield

Love is a Battlefield
Vivian Arend & Elle Kennedy

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

This is the second book in the Dream Makers trilogy which features three ex-military men who rather than starting the ubiquitous security company decide to carve out a new niche as date and event planners for clueless men. The premise is over the top, the stories are light, frothy and very sexy/kinky. All Fired Up, book one, has an average Goodreads rating of 3.89, and the negative reviews tend to have one thing in common, so consider this your spoiler/trigger warning.......there are threesomes.

Book Two Starts with Pepper, the little sister of Parker the hero from the previous book, hiding out in the office because she has been injured from a fight/fall and doesn't want her brother to see her. Her and Jack (Parker's best friend and business partner) have had the hots for each other for years but nothing has ever come of it due to family dynamics and personal hang ups. When Jack offers to let Pepper crash at his place until she heals, it throws them into proximity with each other and of course, sparks go off. There is a little bit of the whole older brother not wanting younger sister to date his best friend thing (which never does make sense to me, because big brother obviously knows what a great guy he is) but that doesn't over shadow too much of the plot. Most of the book focuses on Pepper and her mysteries and her relationship with her brother.

I enjoyed this book for the sexy ride it is, it's humorous with a bit of action and mystery, and it is well written, but deep reading it is not. On the more plus side though, the main characters do not exist in a vacuum, they have friends, guys and gals, and family connections, that make these characters and books feel real, despite the semi comically ridiculous jobs and zany antics. So don't expect the next literary award winner here, expect a fun and enjoyable hour or so that makes you look forward to the next book in the series. It is good vacation reading and I can't wait to learn about Dean.