Thursday, February 4, 2016

Review: Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs

Title: Frost Burned
Author: Patricia Briggs
Series: Mercy Thompson World, Book 10
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 5 March 2013

Mercy Thompson’s life has undergone a seismic change. Becoming the mate of Adam Hauptman—the charismatic Alpha of the local werewolf pack—has made her a stepmother to his daughter Jesse, a relationship that brings moments of blissful normalcy to Mercy’s life. But on the edges of humanity, what passes for a minor mishap on an ordinary day can turn into so much more…

After an accident in bumper-to-bumper traffic, Mercy and Jesse can’t reach Adam—or anyone else in the pack for that matter. They’ve all been abducted.

Through their mating bond, all Mercy knows is that Adam is angry and in pain. With the werewolves fighting a political battle to gain acceptance from the public, Mercy fears Adam’s disappearance may be related—and that he and the pack are in serious danger. Outclassed and on her own, Mercy may be forced to seek assistance from any ally she can get, no matter how unlikely.

I can't believe that I haven't written a review of this one. That seems so foreign to me, especially since I just re-read it a little over a year ago. But, I guess that gives me time to write my review now.

I'm not sure I love it quite as much as my original thoughts below, but I do love this book still. Mercy and Adam are, as always, amazing. And we even get a couple of chapters from Adam's point-of-view! He's much calmer in his head than I might have expected, but Mercy gives a very good reason for that in this book, and it makes sense. I love Adam, completely.

There's not a whole lot of a chance to figure out who the baddie is in this book until it's revealed to you - and that's probably my only complaint. I like to have the opportunity to determine what is going on, and who is calling the shots. Even if I never can figure it out (and there've been a few books out there that have thoroughly stumped me - I love those the best), being able to see the breadcrumbs on re-reads is a real pleasure for me.

I didn't remember as much of this book as some of the previous books in the series, and that's probably because this is only the third time I've read this book. Still, I didn't see the clues I was hoping for throughout the story.

Even despite that, I love this book. The first obstacle (as Mercy calls it, her 'triage' of the situation) is fraught with suspense. I love this part of the book even though there's a ton of worry in my head for all these characters that I love. And there's a huge heartbreak that I can feel in my chest, still. The second, and in truth - real, obstacle is ... scary. I can't say more than that for fear of revealing any of the truth, but it scared the hell out of me. And scared me more that Mercy decided to fight that fight. She speaks the truth when she says that all that is required for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing, but she's so damn vulnerable! I don't like my heroines invulnerable, but I'd love it if Mercy could find some mithril armor or something.

Also, I loved all the geekish references throughout the book. They added some much-needed levity in very scary and wrenching moments.

This book is another excellent addition to the series, and I can't wait to continue my re-read.

I have two minor complaints as a whole with this series:
1. Patricia Briggs ends the books REALLY abruptly. It's not cliff-hanger-abruptly, usually, but I always feel like I could have used a couple extra pages of denoument to bring me down off the high of the climax.
2. In order for Mercy to fight the 'big-bad' at the end, Adam is ALWAYS taken out of commission somehow. Probably because he's so much stronger, physically, and able to take on damn near anything. But after several books it just starts to ... become noticeable.

Grade: A-

Monday, February 1, 2016

Review: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Title: Poison Study
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Series: Study, Book 1
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Release Date:

Murder, mayhem and magic...

Locked in a coffin-like darkness, there is nothing to distract me from my memories of killing Reyad. He deserved to die—but according to the law, so do I. Here in Ixia, the punishment for murder is death. And now I wait for the hangman's noose.

But the same law that condemns me may also save me. Ixia's food taster—chosen to ensure that the Commander's food is not poisoned—has died. And by law, the next prisoner who is scheduled to be executed—me—must be offered the position.

How long have I had this book on my to-read shelf? I'm not even sure. I think I bought the paperback when it first came out, whenever that was. At the urging of Sarah and Khanh, who both RAVE about this book, I decided to finally pick it up.

I'm so glad they badgered me into starting it, finally. I enjoyed it quite a lot. Yelena's probably my favorite part, but there's a lot here to love.

Yelena is a fantastic character - she's spent nearly a year in a dungeon awaiting execution, when suddenly she's offered an out. It's not much of an out, because she's going to be the food-tester for the Commander, but it is life for at least one more day. She's damaged because of what she's gone through, not just the time incarcerated, but the history prior to that - which is only hinted at in the beginning. But you get a pretty good idea. And yet, at the same time, she's so incredibly strong. She's determined to live, not just day to day, but really live, safe from the threat of death. There are few characters that are actually smart, but Yelena's one of them. She takes the time to plan, implementing her plan without being (too) devious, or cruel. She trains and figures out what skills she's going to need, and goes about learning them. She doesn't trust (or fall in love - this is a big one for me) quickly or easily. I found it really easy to root for her, to want her to succeed, and I loved that I never felt the next to smack some sense into her.

Valek, well, he's a bit of a different story for me. It took me a LONG time to warm up to him. And then once I did like him, I still wasn't (and am not) shipping this relationship. I think it's got a long ways to go. But I will say that I'm interested in seeing where it goes, how it develops. I appreciate a lot about his character, namely that "love" doesn't change everything. I also really love how things develop organically. There's no insta-love here.

I have to mention Ari and Janco, because I absolutely adore them. I really hope we get a lot more of them in the future.

The world kind of confuses me. There was a king, and his whole kingdom was apparently corrupt. So there was an uprising - and the Commander took over. Now there are unbendable rules. Period. All the rules and punishments for running afoul of those rules are spelled out, and there are absolutely NO exceptions. I find this a little harsh, and - despite wanting to like the Commander, I'm left not being able to. I hope that changes, because I really like the backstory there.

The plot and pacing are kind of ... quiet. That's the best word I can think of to describe it. It's not slow, but it's not edge-of-my-seat. I was interested because I wanted to see Yelena come out on top, but the mystery and plot were mere backgrounds to seeing her triumph, for me.

Poison Study is a nice start to a series. I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes from here - especially with the knowledge of Yelena's immediate future at the end of this book. I do hope that the world is more developed in the future books, and that the plot becomes a bit more opaque to me, though.

Grade: B

Friday, January 15, 2016

Review: Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier

Title: Dreamer's Pool
Author: Julie Marillier
Series: Blackthorn and Grim, Book 1
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: 4 November 2014

Award-winning author Juliet Marillier "weaves magic, mythology, and folklore into every sentence on the page" (The Book Smugglers). Now she begins an all-new and enchanting series that will transport readers to a magical vision of ancient Ireland...

In exchange for help escaping her long and wrongful imprisonment, embittered magical healer Blackthorn has vowed to set aside her bid for vengeance against the man who destroyed all that she once held dear. Followed by a former prison mate, a silent hulk of a man named Grim, she travels north to Dalriada. There she'll live on the fringe of a mysterious forest, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help. Oran, crown prince of Dalriada, has waited anxiously for the arrival of his future bride, Lady Flidais. He knows her only from a portrait and sweetly poetic correspondence that have convinced him Flidais is his destined true love. But Oran discovers letters can lie. For although his intended exactly resembles her portrait, her brutality upon arrival proves she is nothing like the sensitive woman of the letters.

With the strategic marriage imminent, Oran sees no way out of his dilemma. Word has spread that Blackthorn possesses a remarkable gift for solving knotty problems, so the prince asks her for help. To save Oran from his treacherous nuptials, Blackthorn and Grim will need all their resources: courage, ingenuity, leaps of deduction, and more than a little magic.

The first Juliet Marillier book I read was Shadowfell, and I adored it. I adored that whole series. I've been anxious, ever since, to pick up another book/series by her for a long time.

Finally, I was able to squeeze this start to a new fantasy series in. Dreamer's Pool is the first book in the Blackthorn and Grim series. And the two title characters, I absolutely adore.

We first meet them both in a prison. Blackthorn thinks tomorrow is to be her "day in court," so to speak. Unfortunately, the powers that be have different plans - ones that will result in Blackthorn never seeing the light of day. Grim has the cell across from her. His only thought is of her safety, even when he knows what is to happen.

That night, a mysterious visitor appears offering a deal that's too good to be true. Yet, what choice does Blackthorn have but to accept it. This delays her vengeance and justice for seven long years, but the alternative - no justice at all - is unbearable. So Blackthorn accepts, and makes the long journey north as bid....with Grim following along behind.

This is told in multiple first-person points-of-view. There's Blackthorn, Grim, and the prince of Dalraida - Oren. I really enjoyed all of their voices, even though Grim's stuttered way of thinking did take me a bit to get used to. I appreciated how different their voices truly were, how unique they were to themselves. And I can't help but want to know more - especially about Grim's past.

The story itself meanders a bit to get to the point. For a good deal of the book I know what happened, even if I can't figure out how. So it was slightly frustrating that it took so long for everyone else to figure out. Granted, we had everyone's point-of-view, and they only had their own, but still, that's one of the disadvantages of this kind of storytelling.

All the same, I did enjoy the pace and the world. This is a beginning, a fairy-tale-like set-up to this new world. We get bits and pieces, and just the barest mention of magic. I'm dying to see what Conmael is up to (and who he actually is to Blackthorn). I already mentioned wanting more of Grim's past. And I'm eager to see Blackthron settle more into herself - though I know (and am glad) that her thirst for justice/vengeance will not wait for eternity....maybe just long enough to see it done.

Dreamer's Pool didn't grab me quite as completely as Shadowfell did, but I am definitely happy I read it, and excited to go on in the series.

Grade: C+

Amazon | BN | kobo | Book Depository | Goodreads

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Review: The Deal by Elle Kennedy

Title: The Deal
Author: Elle Kennedy
Series: Off-Campus, Book 1
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 24 February 2015

She’s about to make a deal with the college bad boy...

Hannah Wells has finally found someone who turns her on. But while she might be confident in every other area of her life, she’s carting around a full set of baggage when it comes to sex and seduction. If she wants to get her crush’s attention, she’ll have to step out of her comfort zone and make him take notice…even if it means tutoring the annoying, childish, cocky captain of the hockey team in exchange for a pretend date.

...and it’s going to be oh so good.

All Garrett Graham has ever wanted is to play professional hockey after graduation, but his plummeting GPA is threatening everything he’s worked so hard for. If helping a sarcastic brunette make another guy jealous will help him secure his position on the team, he’s all for it. But when one unexpected kiss leads to the wildest sex of both their lives, it doesn’t take long for Garrett to realize that pretend isn’t going to cut it. Now he just has to convince Hannah that the man she wants looks a lot like him.

What in the name of hell took me so long to read this?? I would say I don't know what I was thinking...but the truth of the matter is that I do. I was going to say that New Adult and me don't really get along, but the truth of the matter is that I'm incredibly gun-shy about it. First, I've read a MILLION reviews of NA books from friends, and they horrify me. Second, NA is - primarily - contemporary romance; not my favorite genre. Third, I'm not a fan of angst, and there's usually plenty of angst to go around in New Adult. So, I get them, because they sound good, but then they languish on my shelf for ages until I finally pick them up.

No matter how much I love Elle Kennedy's Out of Uniform series (and I seriously love that series - don't judge me that it's more sex than story, at least for the first half dozen books - it's fun AND sexy as fucking hell), it still took a friend's amazing updates to make me excited to pick this up. I have mentioned that I'm not a fan of NA, right? I want to be, I swear I do, and I've actually had pretty good luck - but that's probably because I'm incredibly picky, and only read the NA that my trusted friends vouch for.

And then, even when I'd decided to read it, I waited until I had some buddies to read it with. Because I'm a coward. And, if it sucked, I needed someone to bitch with and commiserate with.

First things first, because when I opened the book and read this sentence - on the first page - I wish I'd had a little warning.


The heroine in this novel was raped, five years before the start of the book, but it is mentioned fairly frequently. She's still dealing with it, and it comes up in discussions, thoughts, and memories in regards to some situations. And I'll talk about it a lot in my review below.
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