Skinwalker (Jane Yellowrock, #1)

Skinwalker by Faith Hunter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It really is a good feeling when you like a book much more than you expected to.
It’s well-written, complex, thought-through, unique, and fun.
I’m not really a fun of vampire themes (the whole sex-and-dominance imagery ticks me off more often than not), so when a book touches on those images, but lures me in with other good and fun qualities enough to make me ignore them, it matters heavily.
Looking forward to discovering in which directions this series goes from here on.

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No Kitten Around: A Magical Romantic Comedy (with a Body Count)

No Kitten Around: A Magical Romantic Comedy by R.J. Blain
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sadly, this might be the only MRC(wBC) book I wasn’t able to get behind 100% so far.
My reasoning is very spoilery, read at your own risk.

(view spoiler)

For this reason, I just couldn’t get behind the character of Kennedy with all her behaviour. It’s a personal preference. Sometimes some things just really don’t agree with you. Consequently, unfortunately, it also led to me being unable to fully get behind the main characters as well, with the whole stance on love-and-hate issue. And then…the book sort of just fell apart for me.
The amount of ‘beatings’ I found excessive and boring at the same time didn’t help either.

I still think there are a lot of fun(pun) parts in this book, and the main ‘conflict’ wasn’t bad at all, but it sort of took too much of a background role to more uninteresting parts, inho.

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Level Grind (The Twenty-Sided Sorceress #1-4)

Level Grind by Annie Bellet
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had a very loopy experience when I first began reading this…because I may not be a secret sorceress, but I translate from Japanese and Russian, speak nerd, and work in gaming (and there was some other similarity I forgot by now), and for a while there I was all ‘Um… Hi, Ms Bellet, do we know each other?’ … But then of course I reached the point where the main character says she speaks all languages, and calmed down.
I think a lot of people who read this would draw some parallels with ‘Kate Daniels’ series: a sorceress, a scary-scary older sorcerer after her blood, a big alpha cat, Russian, Japanese, gory battles, shifter society, being badass and usually passing out afterwards… There are definitely some similar points, but of course these are very different books.
The stories here are on the shorter side, but are filled with action, lore, fun characters, and nerd speak.
My only real complaint is that, while the nerd elements and romance make an attempt to lighten the mood from time to time, it doesn’t really work, and the overall mood of these books is rather too grim and angsty with not enough reprieve to keep the reading experience actually enjoyable.

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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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