The Grendel Affair (SPI Files, #1)

The Grendel Affair by Lisa Shearin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This book has an interesting enough setting and idea, but it simply failed to grip me.
I attribute it to the fact that writing was dry, and repetitive. Sometimes it almost seemed like every chapter was written separately for people who didn’t read the rest. Seriously though, while people with attention span of 30 seconds might appreciate it, it at times felt like readers were treated like idiots who aren’t able of remembering that main character is as a seer and what it means for longer than 3 pages.
A pity, really, because it feels like I could’ve really like the characters and setting (and Stat Trek references) if the prose just didn’t feel like such a snooze fest…




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Oracle's Moon (Elder Races, #4)

Oracle’s Moon by Thea Harrison

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I find myself very cautious reading these books now…
Because, unfortunately, it’s been more and more difficult to enjoy books in the series because they (and some other books from the same author) 1) have been following the exact same theme and pattern (which on its own is already alarming) book after book; 2)and the pattern they tend to follow is a one that really doesn’t agree with me.
And yet, even after the alarming developments in the last two books, I still wanted to hope there still was a chance.
When I begun reading this book, at first I felt my hope pick up (because it at least seemed like it won’t be about another sentinel completely abandoning his post, life, and Dragos all together), but then, around Chapter 9 came the ‘oh shit’ moment. The ‘Oh shit, please tell me that this book is not going to go in the direction I think it’s going to go judging by this sentence…’ kind of moment.
And until the very very end of this book I was sitting on this ‘just please don’t go there’ feeling, while the topic was picked up over and over (in the end, it left on the ‘we won’t go there yet, but still might in the future’ note). Aaaand… it completely spoiled most of my experience reading this book.

Thing is, I really liked the very first book a lot (enough to buy a better edition after I read it for the first time and read it twice in one year already). But the first book also was also the one that had this underlying theme I’m having so much trouble with in the least amount (it’s not like it didn’t have it at all, but there at least appeared to be at a reasonable level).
I also still enjoy many things about the world and writing in these books. Personally, it’s the dialogues like this that I love especially:

‘I will clear away this mess and…I will achieve pancakes.’
‘You’ll achieve pancakes?’
‘I do not see why not.’
‘Have you ever achieved them before?’
‘That question is irrelevant. I will achieve pancakes now.’

But.
There is this same topic that I’ve already seen repeated as the main topic in 4-5 books by this author (and 3 more where it was present to a degree, even if it didn’t turn out as bad), and I apparently I can’t really enjoy these books anymore because I keep seeing just this same topic and pattern all the time.
(Here I am, instead of actually writing a review about the content of this book, writing about how I was not able to really enjoy it because I was too afraid it was about to turn out like the previous two.)
It makes me genuinely disappointed, but I’m beginning to turn to the idea that it likely will be better for my health to abandon the ship (this series as a whole, save fore the some novellas I’ve already purchased) and only re-visit the first book from time to time.
The world is great, the characters are fun, and the plot might be second-best after Dragon Bound so far in the series, …but there this underlying direction that leaves this very nasty after-taste that spoils the whole experience.
Sad.

I’ll say it again. One party in a relationship having to throw away everything about their previous life, their jobs, their loyalties, their other relationships, their nature, “for the sake” of the said relationship is NOT ROMANTIC AT ALL.

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Tempting Danger (World of the Lupi, #1)

Tempting Danger by Eileen Wilks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


There is just something about this book that prevented it from grabbing me.
Maybe it was the world setting where the werewolves can only be male and like to walk around topless.
Maybe it’s the too many levels of political games (and dominance) and players.
(Clans, sorcerers, cults, police, various government agencies, etc; and the pissing contest within each one and among them all. Too much of boring and unpleasant to labour through it all.)
Maybe it’s the ‘all self-important’ (prejudiced, judging, I-know-better, and ‘I have to be this way to be taken seriously, so don’t expect me to get off my high horse any time soon’) side to the main character.
Maybe it’s all the ‘free sex’ and poly-amorous themes and sexualised imaginary everywhere (right until they are forced into insta-lust and monogamy by the powers above).
The content of this book just kept balancing on the very edge between ‘okay’ and ‘don’t like’ for me constantly, and I couldn’t really get into it.



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Kitty and the Midnight Hour (Kitty Norville, #1)

Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


DNFed.
This book lost me somewhere between mleh and disgusting.
A weak (in more than one sense) main character who surfs through the story on sheer dumbness and luck. It’s likely very subjective, but there just was nothing to like about her. The whole ‘Secret world of supernatural creatures? Hear me talk about it on the radio! A hired gun is coming to kill me and he needs to do it on the air? Of course I can’t quit the show and save my hide, the show is more important!’ way of thinking is just something I can’t get behind.
Her attitude towards everyone and everything is just..too dumb.
Then, even setting the protagonist aside, the whole “supernatural world” of this book is too immoral and distasteful. It’s all about dominating, bullying, and abusing each other. Mated alpha practically raping anyone he wants and she still wants to hide behind him and have him protect her? Main character’s close friend questioning her why she would protect herself from being raped by the guy who turned her against her will and telling her she’s “getting too cocky”? The main character in turn then deciding she would enjoy it to become a bully herself instead?
No thanks.



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Tinker (Elfhome, #1)

Tinker by Wen Spencer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Interesting world. Disappointing protagonist. Morally grey developments. Trigger warnings required.
Almost loved this book from the beginning. Or I really wanted to love it.
Because it has a weird complicated world of magic, elves, and space technology (and it’s all very weird because technology level ranges from ancient(absent) to futuristic and there’s no defined standard) and a weird, independent, smart heroine.
But then… A nasty love triangle enter stage left (it’s ugly and a waste of good positive character), weird sex spells enter stage right (a lot of morally grey questions there), and…it all just went downhill from there. But the worst disappointment was that the heroine is actually neither as independent nor as smart as I first wanted to believe. She mostly gets washed down with the flow left and right without questioning what is happening to her (see the weird sex spells and love triangles). She needs people to tell her what to do, and does what people tell her more often than not. She blabbers around to everyone. And it’s not that she is a badly written character. It is actually very believable neurological profile—person who is too smart in “maths” but likely forever to remain an ignorant child on the side of ‘life intelligence’. The problem is that she is more annoying than fun to read about.
Then there’s also the problem so many female writers suffer from: the abundance of attractive positive male characters, most of whom are very fond of the main character (and even some negative ones who inspire more sympathy than hate) versus female characters who come only in two categories: either complete bitches or crazy grandmas.
Then, as if grey-zone love triangles and sex spells were not enough, we get actual rape (which needs a big trigger warning). And torture. And the reactions from the main character that are closer to black than to grey. Judging from the authors obsession with things Japanese I half expected tentacles at some point.
And I’m not even going to go into the treatment of real-world cultures and political issues cough racism cough.

All in all, very promising premise/setting and beginning, which gradually goes more and more sour under the influence of a morally grey story, disappointing protagonist, and trigger-y treatment of female characters.



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Inquisitor (Witch & Wolf)

Inquisitor by R.J. Blain

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I have to say I wasn’t sure I really liked this book for 90% of it.
It was the feeling of constantly not knowing if every character with exception for the protagonist would die the next minute or betray her. It felt like there was not enough to grasp on, not enough solid ground. I suppose in some way it is actually consistent with the life the main character is living—disappearing and re-eventing herself, watching everyone die.
Also, too many innocent people dying left and right might have something to do with that.
Usually, ‘mind games’ is one of the themes I try to avoid in books.
But I was also pleasantly surprised by the ending, which took me right back to being excited to continue reading this series.



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Archangel's Kiss (Guild Hunter, #2)

Archangel’s Kiss by Nalini Singh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I find myself very cautious reading this.
There is simply too much senseless violence and gore. Their whole world is based on the survival of the strongest and proving it in the cruellest ways possible. Blood, torture, too many innocent victims… Too many triggers at every step.
But then there’s also a certain kind of captivating elaborateness that makes me keep reading.

It’s not a big surprise that the biggest factor that keeps me with these books is the main relationship. The kind of love that is longer than forever and strong enough to destroy the world for each other. I usually don’t like books where the relationship is wobbling near the line of using force and other dominance play tendencies, but since they don’t actually cross that line and are striving for a two-way street on most aspects of the relationship, I find myself captivated.
Also, the fact that the main character tries to stand against all the cruelty and heartlessness certainly helps.

It’s a very well-written book, with a complex and well-built world, multitude of no less complex and interesting characters, and captivating story.
But I find myself constantly waiting for it to cross some line where I won’t be able to follow it… because too much gore and sadism is too much.



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Second Grave on the Left (Charley Davidson #2)

Second Grave on the Left by Darynda Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


My impression is that this book felt a little too dragged out. A lot of circling around the same questions without actual developments. A lot of back-and-forward on relationships.
A lot of interesting side character, but so many questions…
Even the humour felt sometimes laid too thick and forced sometimes.
Also, …mostly frustrating and unsatisfactory ending.
Hoping for swift improvement in the future books…




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Hush, Hush (Hush, Hush, #1)

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


So much teenage idiocy…
I have a mixed feeling about this book, because, on one hand it seems that there is a passable fantasy-suspense story plot lurking on the background, and the main character is not too terrible (she even seems to use her head…sometimes…more so in the beginning, than towards the end), but the rest of it…
Characters, without exception, are either just creepy (or creepy and disturbing) or mostly faceless.
This book reminded me of that ‘find the main character’ meme where people make fun of anime by showing a picture with a room full of identical characters with brown-black hair and hardly any facial features drawn, and among them a single character with pink hair and detailed expression.
This is exactly how his book feels, with the exception that when a character has a face or a name they will be creepy as hell… Or, all males will be creepy and disturbing in a dangerous way, and all females creepy and preoccupied with sex (including the 70yo housekeeper). There are no classmates except for the creepy stalker boys and one vain venomous cheerleader. There are hardly any teachers other than the Coach “teaching biology” by talking about sex, and “councillor” who is even worse. People in the shops and restaurants are creepy. Police are creepy. (The mother maybe the only exception, but she is also absent most of the time.)
It would’ve actually maid so much more sense if the “twist” of this book was that all this time we were reading an account of a mentally unstable (paranoid and delusional) person (who understandably lost her marbles after her father was murdered), and that was the reason why every person who came into focus in her POV acted suspicious and disturbing, and why so much weird shit was happening around her. The explanation “it was all in her head” would’ve maid this a much better written book. Because when it’s not in her head, the “tunnel vision” and “one colour” world building make this into a rather weakly written fantasy book.

Then there’s the problem of the ‘best friend’ of the ‘who needs enemies with friends like this’ variety, (a.k.a. the reason for all problem situations in the book) where you want to strangle this ‘positive character’ more than all the creepy negative characters in the book. Literally the worst character in the whole book, by far. And I don’t comprehend her existence.

Things are kind of happening, but it actually feels like they are not, because we are not getting any closer to the answer to the “what the hell is going on” questions for at least for 250-80 pages, and things of repetitive nature (Someone got hurt. Did boy A or boy B do it? Is something supernatural going on or am I loosing my mind?) keep happening on the sidelines, keep raising the exactly same questions over and over, but giving absolutely no answers.

The ending was actually better than I expected it to be, but I wish we didn’t suddenly devolve into romance, just like that, after a whole book of unhealthy and not-okay behaviour.



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By the Sword (Valdemar)

By the Sword by Mercedes Lackey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I have a strong feeling I would probably have loooved this book if I read it in my early teens.
In fact, I wish I had read it when I was 12-14.
You know, somewhere around the hormonal times where thoughts like ‘why do they try to force me into their standards and act like I have to choose between acting ‘womanly’ or being a lesbian and can’t just be as I am?!’ and ‘am I the strange one or is everyone else?!’ were the biggest hit.
(Well, unfortunately, they are still pretty relevant, just very much old and tired news by now.)
By page 150 I could almost imagine myself being 13 again while reading it.

So, if I was 13, I would likely be very happy to read something to empathise with like this, and I would probably also be very happy about the number of ‘lessons’ this book tries to present. How it goes through every teaching and training detail and explains why.
I probably also wouldn’t have minded as much the way it chews on every detail too…but as I am now, I kind of do.
Over-explaining is the world. The writing mostly feels like a meal that was pre-chewed for you so you wouldn’t have to do much chewing yourself.
Much of this book feels not like a ‘tale’ but like a ‘reference manual’…with strong feminist inclination.
It spends entirely too much time teaching reader how to think (by explaining how people think and feel, and why, in detail at every step).

It’s also full of details that certain kind of teenage girls would feel very strongly about. The herds of too-smart horses and bit-less bridles. The telepathic wolves. The main character who can be a saint (strong morals, strong feelings about fighting fair), stubborn as a mule, and also smarter than most people around (can run a household, natural with horse-training and riding, natural with fighting, natural with strategy and leading others, etc.)
A girl who is there to prove that she can be a better boy than a boy and still be an attractive girl.
Including all the emotional stuntedness.

In fact it was that emotional stuntedness prevented me from actually empathising with the main characters herself. While this book encompasses decades of her life, she doesn’t really seem to change or grow up. Kero learns skills, but she hardly feels different in the end of the book compared to how she was in the very beginning. Personally, I feel that she was missing a certain kind of emotional maturity throughout the whole book.

To sum up…
As I think the teenage girl I used to be would give this book 5 golden stars, and the adult me, who was honestly bored by the repetitive and slow prose and had to keep myself from cringing at times, would probably give 3, I have taken the golden middle.




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Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1)

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


First impression: This is fun and very well-written!
Second impression: …but this ‘(not so simple) PI with constant financial difficulties, tragic personal history, and everyone out to get him’ kind of protagonist also feels like a such an over-used concept…

I like this book a lot, but, to be honest, it begun losing me a little towards the end…instead of gripping me in hunger to catch every next word, it left me in the state of ‘and now I just want to get through all this action as fast as possible (skimming through some text) just to get through to the end’. And it’s not that I don’t like action. I think it was the overload of ‘frustration’ over everyone being out to get the main character a bit too much. The feeling you get when someone is desperately running against the clock and everyone else tries to get in their way by acting exceedingly stupid? I don’t handle it well.

Other than that, looks like a promising start of a series I’m looking forward to getting my hands on.



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Once Burned (Night Prince, #1)

Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A vampire romance for extra violent

I must say I was a little surprised no actually enjoy this book, partially because I was expecting another cheesy oversexualised super-hot-vampire-and-damsel-in-distress ‘female fantasy’ kind of story, and partially because I kind of hated “Halfway to the Grave“. (Though I didn’t even realise this was by the same author and belonged to the same universe until I was already reading.)

This book has an interesting heroine, who is neither the ‘innocent saint’ nor the ‘sassy bitch in miniskirt’ type of the usual vampire novel heroine, and this is one of the things I like about this book the most. She doesn’t lie to herself much, she deals with the shit that falls on her, she does what she needs to. Also, I have a tendency to prefer characters who maybe a little too fearless in a way that they stand up for the things they believe in, even in the circumstances where normal human instinct would tell them not to dig their own grave. She also has morals.
I haven’t read any “Night Huntress” books after DNFing the first one, so this feels like an impressive improvement from a clueless-serial-killer(psycho)-playing-at-dress-up type of main character I saw there.
I did, however, see the similar love for unnecessary over-the-top violence and torture. Not a fan. Especially because of the fact that its senselessness (unnecessary-ness) is so very glaring. I mean, could you actually explain to me what is the point of all the torture when you 1)can read minds and 2) actually have a person who can touch someone and tell you what they’ve done and where they’ve been better than anyone can torture out? I don’t know if the author is just so in love with all the gore, but it’s nothing but gore for the sake of gore, and we have a main hero and ‘love interest’ who continues to torture other vampires with no reasonable justification.
Now, speaking of Vlad, I didn’t actually mind that this is another book about the Vlad. Though I do suppose it is a bit of a tired idea.
What I did mind is the fact that it feels like the only aspect in which the fact that Vlad is a centuries old vampire is in any way reflected is his tendency for violent resolutions of everything. I can’t really explain what exactly I’m expecting to see, but I think that the fact that these ‘people’ have been around for a very long time and have ‘seen it all’ should have been made a little more believable. This Vlad only reads like some sort of modern businessmen, just an abnormally bloodthirsty one.

Also, I hate when people translate Voivode (Wojewoda) as ‘prince’, or use them as synonyms. That’s not what it means at all. Yes, you can be both, but inherent meanings in the titles are very different.



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We Hunt the Flame (Sands of Arawiya, #1)

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


For the most of this book, I though I would be able to at least give this book 3 stars (1 for its events, 5 for its words, divide the sum)…but somewhere closer to the final 3rd even the writing I found compelling and interesting had turned to the worse. While most of the prose in this is very well done and indicates a talent, there is really something wrong with the way relationships between people are written here. And the closer they became, the more that ‘wrongness’ stood out for me. But that’s not my biggest issue with this book.

I wonder when we will finally move out of this fashion of YA books that all begin the same: the theme of oppression, mental or physical slavery and domination, a presence of some kind of absolutely evil/disturbing/disgusting egocentric monarch getting off on abusing others, and our hero/heroes just taking it. The genders change, the worlds change, we can be on Earth, Cosmos, or some other land; we can change favourite English cuss word to ‘daama’ and ‘elves’ to ‘safir’, but it’s still all the same overused and tired formula.
These stories may be dressed in different images and names, but they all smell exactly the same. Of some weird YA fascination with abuse, humiliation, and misery that makes me vomit a little in my mouth. And of making death and torture trivial and commonplace.

Here, once again we have out shackled heroes grinding their teeth, psychopathic antagonist monarch torturing and killing for fun (or for some great purpose and fun) (who are also exactly the same in every book), reluctant forbidden attraction, hidden destiny to change the world…
You read and 50 pages in you can pretty much tell where this will go and which of the introduced characters will end up where. Then you read on hoping the book might still surprise you and prove you wrong…and in never does. If anything, it kept getting worse the closer it got the part III of the book. The childish

‘And then his grip
began
to falter.’

the awkwardly written ill-fitted developing relationship (even when you know it was going to happen from the very beginning, the way it was written in just felt…all wrong). And then the mess of an “ending” with so much wrong there too.

I don’t read YA that much, but even I find myself very tired from seeing this same set up and bone structure everywhere. I wish one day when I get a new YA book in my mail it would really be NEW.

That said, some do it better than others and it has to be said that the writing, imagination, and world building in this book are all at least admirably good. I believe the author really possesses a keen talent with words, but (only in my personal opinion) it’s a shame that it was used to join the line of identical YA misery stories.
Because no matter how attractive your characters are, and imaginative your world setting is, what matters in the end is the following:
Did this book tell me something new?
Did reading this book bring any positive or pleasant emotions? (Did it leave me with something good?)
Does it feel like I would want to revisit/re-experience/reread this book in the future?
And for me personally, answer to all these questions is the same – No .
Because why would I want to re-experience something that didn’t bring anything good or positive into my life?

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