Give me magic, gadgets, monsters, zombies, everything that seems impossible, and throw in some tough chicks with swords. That's the stuff.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Recent Reviews

It's another one of those days, where I let loose a bunch of reviews that have been sitting in draft form for a bit. I've tried to get in the habit of letting my thoughts on a book percolate for a bit - saves me having to retract any knee-jerk reactions that may or may not have affected my overall feeling for the series. See, I'm growing up (slowly). That and I've found that sometimes a character will piss me off, or I'll have some other visceral reaction to a book, but I still crave the next one.

Today I have a Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and a Romantic-Suspense.

Geist (Book of the Order #1) by Philippa Ballantine

Book 1 of a four book series. There is quite a bit of setting the stage, introducing the world and characters here.

I really liked the world. You have ghosts ("geists") who prey on the living, and the Order is tasked with trying to protect the people from this menace. There is a complicated political scene, with an Emperor from another land and the Pretender to the Throne, a man whose family has lost their kingdom, and are also saddled with a horrible curse. There's betrayals, conspiracies, and someone is up to Very Bad Things.

My favorite part, though, was that the main character is so different from what I usually read. Sure, she's got some snark, swagger, and is VERY powerful, but she's also facing more than a bit of bitterness for how her life has turned out. See, this isn't some twenty year old making her way in the world. Sorcha is on the back end of thirty. She's in a frustrating, emotionally-barren marriage to her partner. She is battle-hardened, a hot head, she's seen things that would drive others past the edge of sanity. She knows she will likely not survive to old age, and has an addiction to cigars (her job will likely kill her before those do). She is frustrated by the bureaucracy in the Order. The idealism of youth died a long time ago, but she still holds on to the core beliefs she trained under, because without those, she's got nothing.

Then her husband/partner is seriously injured, she's stuck with a new partner who is more than he seems, and she's about to drop into her worst nightmare.

I focus a lot on Sorcha, because she is really the driving force behind the bulk of the action, but it is a tale told from the POV of Sorcha, her new partner Merrick, and Raed, the Pretender to the Throne (it's all 3rd person). They form a very interesting alliance and I'm looking forward to where it goes from here.

Any detractions to the story for me, are more in just that there is so much going on, and the tale is definitely unfinished (there's 3 more books for that). Some parts sped by, some parts I had to re-read (this happens sometimes when the narrative follows one character for a while, then jumps to what another character is doing). I still enjoyed it, and I'll be reading the next one.

Slightly spoilerish note: there is infidelity in this book, so if that is one of your "absolutely cannot cross the line things that you can't read about and still enjoy the story", be warned. For me, this isn't a Romance. It's a Fantasy that has some romance in it, and even if I don't agree with all of the decisions the characters make, they were true to character, so I can accept it. As always, your mileage may vary.

Control Point (Shadow Ops #1) by Myke Cole

This one is a slight departure from my normal reads as it is a male-lead UF. I thought the world was very, very cool. Magic has found it's way into the world, giving some people the power to heal, control the elements, control animals, control the dead and open portals, just to name a few. The military takes command of anyone who tests as a probable magic user. Those who run are hunted down. There are also accepted and prohibited forms of magic, but since you can't decide what kind of magic you'll have, it sucks to be you if you develop into one of the prohibited powers.

Oscar Britton is a career soldier who does his job, but doesn't blindly follow orders. A lot of the magic users who run are scared teens, and Britton has a big moral problem with hunting them down. Then, after a grueling fight, his own powers manifest and turns out his are on the No-no list. Certain this means his death, he runs. What follows next tests everything he's trained for, his personal beliefs, and makes him question where he really belongs. Can he live with himself if he follows the easier path?

There were a lot of times where I wanted to scream, "Oscar, you're an idiot!" but if I look at it in the context of the story, his vacillation makes a lot of sense. It's not easy to go against authority. Britton pretty much has to go through another adolescence as he gets his body under control. Mistakes will be made.

There's a whole bunch of setup here for future books. It was an action-fueled story and I'll be reading the next one.

Right now, the series is under contract as a trilogy, but it's possible ti could be picked up for more books. There's certainly ample room in this world for multiple stories.

If You Hear Her (Ash Trilogy #1) by Shiloh Walker

Most of the Romances I read have some kind of paranormal element. This one is Contemporary, but it is a Romantic-Suspense with a REALLY evil big bad in it. It's also different in that it's not fully contained in one book. The main relationship is, but the overall mystery will span 3 books, each with a different couple as the main focus, but still with the other characters involved. This is very different from other romances I've read and I think it really works for me. If everything had been solved by the end, it would have been too neat. Too easy. I've read a few too many Romantic-Suspense books where in between the all night marathons of fantastic sex to the exclusion of all else, the hero and heroine are also able to capture the villain who has been giving the authorities the run around for years. I'm not saying that this concept hasn't been done well (for instance, I loved Linda Howard's Dream Man), but in more than a few I haven't been satisfied with the end, mostly because there wasn't enough balance between mystery-solving and romance-building.

I liked the characters. There are a lot of different POVs here (it's all 3rd person, just following several different characters), but that didn't bother me. It worked for the story. Being in the killer's head was creepy as hell. He's a sadistic torturer-rapist-killer. You don't get really graphic, explicit details, but sometimes what's NOT told is even scarier as your mind makes up the difference.

Lena, our lead female character is blind with a fierce independent streak. She's worked hard for the life she's built, is fiercely loyal to her friends, and has a wicked sense of humor. Ezra is a cop on leave following a shooting - I won't spill what happened, as it's pretty crucial to his whole attitude, but I thought it worked. There were plenty of times I called him an idiot, but his actions were understandable. I bought their relationship. It's not one that starts because of the villain, although circumstances involving the mystery do bring Lena & Ezra closer together. The romance was hot - there was no skimping on that end at all.

I am definitely reading the next one.

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