Monday, January 26, 2015

Dream Interpretation for Beginners: Understand the Wisdom of Your Sleeping Mind - Diane Brandon

Dream Interpretation for Beginners: Understand the Wisdom of Your Sleeping Mind - Diane Brandon
Source: NetGalley
Originally Reviewed: January 26, 2015
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

This book was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was excited to read this book. I have always had really bizarre dreams. For as long as I could remember, they have seemed extremely nonsensical, but very vivid and easily recalled. In fact, Ms. Brandon practically quotes my thinking:

“If it was bizarre, it wouldn’t mean anything.”

The Good
You can read a lot on the science of sleep and on dreaming as separate entities, but they were included here together in terms of how one’s sleep actually impacts the dream itself. I thought including that information was a fantastic idea.

Most of what I was wanting to note about the book was informational. This means that I found the information relevant and meaningful. Despite a lot of the information being redundant, once you got to the sections of the book actually dedicated to dream interpretation, it was clearly explained and very well put.

The “tips” and “step-by-step” sections were fantastic. They include a number of things that could be easily forgotten during dream analysis that are very important to getting a good look at the big picture. Plus it breaks the interpretation process down into easily manageable steps that can help keep the analysis focused.

The Bad
I had a hard time getting going with this book. The introduction seemed unnecessary, more like an extended table of contents than anything else. A lot of information included was pretty redundant – information that can be found in your average dream interpretation book, or with a simple Google search on dreaming & interpretation. Beyond that, though, it was hard to feel engaged. There was some information included you might not find in your typical dream interpretation book, which I think was meant to make it stand out. However, it read more like filler rather than relevant information.

As a book for beginners, I feel there was a lot of information missing. In fact, it’s almost as if this should have been a supplemental book to a more robust, complete book on dream interpretation. This book could have gone a lot further with me if the same information hadn’t essentially been re-written in 3 different ways, and instead different, interesting information had been used to fill the pages instead.

And I understand that while to interpret dreams you have to be able to look beyond the obvious and analyze what’s really going on underneath – in a book that’s specifically cited “for beginners”, you shouldn’t have to engage that kind of analysis to get the most out of the book.

I do see the benefit in having example dreams as well as practice dreams – but having both wasted a lot of space I think could have been used in a much more valuable manner. For a beginner’s book, I think she should have skipped right to the practice dreams and spent more time fleshing out the information in the Appendixes.

In the End…
The book itself is well-written, but highly flawed. As someone intimate with their own dreams and how deep, malleable and unique they can be, I was extremely disappointed in the material provided. It may have been personally interesting, but definitely not personally useful.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Plan Cookbook: More Than 150 Recipes for Vibrant Health and Weight Loss - Lyn-Genet Recitas

The Plan Cookbook: More Than 150 Recipes for Vibrant Health and Weight Loss - Lyn-Genet Recitas
Source: NetGalley
Originally Reviewed: January 14, 2015
Rating: ★★★★★

This book was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’m always on the lookout for great, new cookbooks. When I had the opportunity to snatch this one up, I did so without having read the original book.

Within the first few pages, I wanted to. The idea behind “The Plan” was absolutely fascinating, as I have actually experienced immune response reactions to foods before. My husband, as well, has made numerous comments relating how he felt, physically, directly to what he had eaten and tends to adjust his diet accordingly.

However, “The Plan” is definitely not a one-size-fits-all system. You have to put in actual effort to find the right way of eating, but the recipes provided in this book definitely give you a nice, solid place to start. It’s motto, “rotate or react”, is clear, as the sheer variety of ingredients in the included recipes makes it so easy to keep your meal times interesting. What’s even better is the ingredients are mostly things you would find in your typical kitchen, and doesn’t require the purchasing of too many oddball or bizarre items that might not be available locally. That is probably one of the most appealing features of this book. If I had to hunt down natural food stores or order a bunch of stuff from online, it’d be much more difficult to even attempt this.

Included is their recommended 3-day “cleanse”, a chance to allow your body to slip back into equilibrium; to heal and to balance, with the requisite warnings of some of the symptoms you may experience while detoxing. But, the cleanse is a cleanse with real food. Hallelujah! I tried to a juice cleanse once. Worst idea of my life. Having this “cleanse” included is nice, as those who may not ordinarily stick through an entire program can still get off on the right foot, and then pick and choose from the cookbook to continue without having to adhere to a particular schedule.

I am skeptical of the claim about the number of calories you take in not making any kind of a difference or not mattering. One has to wonder what happens to the calories that you take in that don’t end up getting burned off – there’s no explanation even attempted for this, so it leaves me wondering a bit on the actual science of this plan, The idea of “reactive” foods definitely makes sense, though.

I ended up buying the original book before finishing going through the recipes in the cookbook. I, myself, have been having some very oddball issues with weight, food and exercise lately and really want to put this whole idea to the test. Once I go through the plan outlined in The Plan, I’ll include my results with that review.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Beltane: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for May Day - Melanie Marquis [Llewellyn's Sabbat Essentials]

Beltane: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for May Day - Melanie Marquis [Llewellyn's Sabbat Essentials]
Source: NetGalley
Originally Reviewed: January 13, 2015
Rating: ★★★☆☆

This book was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is another book published by Llewellyn that I’ll have to go back and make notes on. Everything was very clearly explained, and it’d be difficult to misunderstand the information. There’s a lot of information on Beltane available, but the kind of clarity Ms. Marquis brings to it allows for a lot more detail, and there was obviously a lot of thought put into this book. It was great to finally know where some of the most common information actually originated from.

I found a lot of the information refreshing, but it took an excessively long time to actually get to the information, plus there was not-so-common history bits that are still relevant today. As opposed to the included Tarot information, which could be found in any introductory book on Tarot, or with a few clicks on Google.

Oh, but the recipes. And the crafts! And the explanation of prayer from a Pagan perspective… brilliant, and the best I’ve ever read.

This book would probably be best for the solitary Witch who doesn’t already have an established practice, or perhaps for the experienced Witch who wants to freshen up what they already do.

I ended up skipping the section on modern Beltane celebrations. They got kind of repetitive, plus there wasn’t anything included that’s local to me so it wasn’t very interesting.

Speaking of repetitive, there was a summary of Beltane at the start of almost every chapter. I think after the second or third time it gets pretty well ingrained and we don’t need to be reminded. The additional details on the astrological timing of Beltane was nice.

Reading through this book I’m reminded of some friends I had in high school. They were part of this masonic-type organization for young women – I forget what it was called – but every year they would decorate plates and make a bunch of goodies and leave them on people’s doorsteps early on May 1 before school.

The author could stand to find some more creative segways. The word “another” can only be used so many times before it starts reading as gibberish. And I can understand the reasoning behind knowing the history of what you’re celebrating, but… I was starting to fall asleep. You don’t need quite that much.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Everyday Witchcraft: Making Time for Spirit in a Too-Busy World - Deborah Blake

Everyday Witchcraft: Making Time for Spirit in a Too-Busy World - Deborah Blake
Source: NetGalley
Originally Reviewed: January 9, 2015
Rating: ★★★★☆

This book was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was excited to read this book, and was so happy that it did not disappoint. And the writing style was beautiful – I could almost hear the author reading aloud. She definitely has her own voice, and she uses it well.

She writes in a very no-nonsense manner. Everything is straightforward and easily understandable. She throws in these dashes of humor that break things up so smoothly and at just the right places. And I can’t emphasize enough how much I love the simplicity of the entire book.

There are so many people I could see picking up and utilizing this book. The experienced Witch trying to revitalize their practice (such as myself). Someone who might be interested in Witchcraft but the idea of ritual and spells makes them uncomfortable. And she says it in the book, but it’s definitely worth nothing here: If you end up reading this book, something is calling you to a deeper, more involved spiritual practice.

Being that I’ve been a practicing witch for… eesh, at least fifteen+ years (I’ve lost track), there were some sections I skipped over: moon phases, Wheel of the Year, the elements. The majority of the information there is “old news” for long-time practitioners, but it never hurts to re-acquaint ones self with the basics. Plus, she includes great little rituals to help solidify your connection with the different elements and such. I also ended up skipping others because there wasn’t really any relevance to an actual daily practice.

Still, I’ll probably go back and read it again and make notes on the information. Even when I had other things to do, I had a hard time putting it down. She gave a lot of ideas I want to try, and says a lot of things I think everybody needs to remember. I need to point out one major thing – this is the first time I’ve read a book that has given reasonable, doable suggestions for working with and involving familiars.

There were some things that were distracting and kept me from giving this book a full five stars. There is one area where there is quite a bit of personal opinion, as well as quite the tirade on social/ecological issues. While I can see the relation between the Activist Pagan and these subjects, I question the validity of including this in a book for the “everyday Witch” who already has trouble meeting their spiritual goals. The entire subject seems best suited for a different kind of book all together.

There are also issues that, well, the author freely admits she doesn’t know much about. Those types of issues I believe should have been left out entirely, as they bear no relevance without a strong background. Others still are issues that are merely trendy. They serve as nothing more than a source of contention in the greater Pagan community and would be best to be avoided.

Oh, one final thing that made me really happy: She didn’t forget the car!

I used to hang a Kundalini charm from my rear-view window and listen to Laura Powers and other “witchy” music on my way to and from work every day. I am so pleased to see this included!

Miramont's Ghost - Elizabeth Hall

Miramont's Ghost - Elizabeth Hall
Source: Kindle First
Originally Reviewed: January 9, 2015
Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

RIGGERS: rape, incest, pedophilia

Thankfully, I did not have to spend money on this book. I received it through the Kindle First program.

It took far more alcohol than I want to admit to get through that book.

The story had potential, true, but it had potential in the way that Jane Eyre had potential over 150 years ago – except Jane Eyre lived up to it’s potential.

Miramont’s Ghost, essentially, failed.

Let’s start with the most glaring issue. Yeah, it may be a spoiler, but I’d rather “spoil” this than have some unsuspecting reader stumble upon this with no advance warning: the rape. By her cousin. After remembering some kind of pre-molestation behavior from when she was a child.

Fine, I get it. Something had to send her over the edge. Then again, the way she was going, realizing what was being done to her, maybe not. Maybe the rape was as completely, utterly pointless as it seemed. Not even a claim of being historically “accurate” would fly by me right now. The girl’s life was completely and utterly dreary. We get it.

No, really, we do. Absolutely HORRIBLE.

There’s absolutely nothing noteworthy about this book, aside from some glaringly inaccurate statements about things that make me really question how much the author cared about being “accurate” aside from the “history.” Even in the end, all we’re treated to is some ridiculously long and pointless diatribe about how she’s trapped and the ones who perpetuated her misery are gone and escaped, and, wait, oh my god, a revelation! She can let go! She’s free! She’s no longer a ghost!

To Summarize:

Adrienne, our heroine, is clairvoyant (which also has absolutely nothing to do with the story except to possibly be the reason for all her misery). Her grandfather, governess and eventually a man named Gerard are the only people who really care about her. Her aunt is suspicious of her and wants her to stay quiet. Her mother is spineless and her father is an adulterous bastard.

Adrienne looses her grandfather, looses her governess thanks to said adulterous bastard, looses Gerard thanks to scheming bitch of an aunt. Then bitch aunt tells spineless mother that she’s taking Adrienne to the US to live with her and her son, the pedophile priest who can do no wrong in the eyes of his mother.

Bitch aunt tells rest of the family Adrienne drowned on the trip. She’s trapped. She’s brought to Miramont under the guise of bitch aunties maid, and is treated as such. She is given a room in servants quarters. She cleans, tends to the bitch aunt, all while hoping her love Gerard will come save her or plotting an escape.

Of course, her trying to watch pedophile priest/cousin gives him the wrong idea. After bitch aunt increases suffering of Adrienne intentionally, dear cousin takes it upon himself to act on delusions he’s created around his “whore cousin” constantly watching him.

Eventually Adrienne tries to kill herself and succeeds, after which bitch aunt returns to France and pedophile priest has to flee due to his pedophile’s ways leaking to the general public. But not after sealing Adrienne’s body away since the ground was too hard to dig. *snorts*

Then we reach the end, where we receive the aforementioned pointless diatribe to a ridiculously unsatisfying ending. In fact, the whole damn book was one of the least satisfying I’d ever read, and isn’t worth the energy to say anything more about it.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Ghost of a Promise - Kelly Moran [Phantoms]

Ghost of a Promise - Kelly Moran [Phantoms]
Source: NetGalley
Originally Reviewed: January 8, 2015
Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

This book was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Oh my god. I miss Ghost Hunters. I mean, the back in the day, real ghost hunting minus all of the drama bulls* Ghost Hunters. I was so excited for this book! The history behind the ghost(s) was… okay, a little hoakey, but it was there, and it was just so awwwe!

I just about cried when I kept reading. The heroine’s motivation… it’s flat. How the sheer number of people “on stage” at a time is handled… awkward at best. The dialogue is trite and the interactions between the heroine and her would-be love interest are overused and unoriginal. Plus, after just finishing another book from the same publisher in the same genre… the internal dialogue is lacking in a big way.

She does have her moments that shine – typically when she’s closing a chapter. Seems like that’s the only place she’s willing to pull out the witty turns-of-phrase that make me grin. I wish I could have seen more of those, though. Say, to help build sexual tension. We were made aware that it was there, but not in the subtle, viscous way that we can feel, but in a “this exactly what I’m thinking I want her to do to me” way.

And oh, gods, do not get me started on what my inner chef was doing. I wanted to pull my hair out. Let’s not even go into what my inner English Teacher was doing.

It had very little in terms of redeeming qualities. One of those would be matchmaking ghosts. Yep, I said it. The ghost was playing matchmaker. Only reason why this piece is getting any stars at all from me.

In Closing…
In my reader’s world over here, sexual tension is supposed to entice the reader – not bore them. Another thing that bores? Rip offs. No kidding. I watched Ghost Hunters religiously back in the day (again, pre-drama) and when it came down to the scenes of the active investigation, I couldn’t read them. I knew everything they were going to do, what was going to happen, and how they would react. Honestly, the whole story read that way. Like I’d read the story before but it’d gotten revised to include some ghost hunting to try and spice things up. Without that, it was bland, lifeless, full of cliches, and boring. I was relieved when it was over.

Her Sexy Sentinel - Jenn Burke

Her Sexy Sentinel - Jenn Burke
Source: NetGalley
Originally Reviewed: January 8, 2015
Rating: ★★★★☆

I keep hoping one day I’ll encounter a paranormal romance that I just get blown away by, the same way I did by Innocence by Dean Koontz. This one came so close, but in the end left me feeling like something was missing. Don’t know what, but something.

In all seriousness, I could sum up this book in one word. Well, a sound, really. Mmm.

I think Her Sexy Sentinel really says a lot about Burke as a writer. I love her descriptive style, the way it just captures the mundane in a way that translates so well from words to an image in the minds eye. She doesn’t overdo it, and finds ways to describe things you wouldn’t normally think of, but are those little details that make everything so crisp and well put-together.

She also amazes me in the way she writes the thoughts and thought process of her characters. It flows so naturally, and isn’t forced at all. I could only wish to have talent like hers!

She also does a great job at making us absolutely HATE Derrick for a few minutes, too. Mmm.

There are a few things that niggled at me a little bit. Some things weren’t explained, or weren’t fleshed out as much as I think they could have been, and some things just didn’t make sense, period, but of course those are things that could be construed as spoilers. There were some awkward transitions, like despite her typically flawless descriptive capabilities there were just a few moments where her brain got stuck and she couldn’t find the right words.

About the Book
So, there’s magic. Does magic rule everything though? No. This isn’t high fantasy where magic is the be all and end all of a society. It’s just kind of there, hanging out at the back of your mind until, hey, the dam’s open. Lemme out!

Seriously? Seriously.

That was nice. I really love the way magic was handled.

I know I’ve already made mention about how seamlessly Burke writes internal dialogue, but I have to mention it again, and not to emphasize her skill as a writer. The way she makes her characters think and the thoughts that they have show a keen insight into the human psyche, and she has used that to make Derrick one of my favorite Hero’s ever in paranormal fiction. He’s seriously like the perfect guy – bordering on too perfect, but as mentioned earlier: We do get to hate him for being a jackass for a few minutes.

All of the characters, even the ones who only made token appearances, were so well fleshed out I was able to connect and empathize and FEEL. And laugh. I laughed out loud many times while reading this book not because of things being humorous or funny (though there were those moments, too) but because a scene or an incident was just that enjoyable that it merited a laugh.

The twist at the end… that was definitely out of left field. I loved it. This is a book where you definitely will not be disappointed by the ending.

I really look forward to reading more from Burke in the future. I enjoy her style, her characters, her dialogue, and Her Sexy Sentinel highlights all of those things.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Marked - Sarah Fine [Servants of Fate]

Marked - Sarah Fine [Servants of Fate]
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Originally Reviewed: January 5, 2015
Rating: ★★★★☆

My first introduction to Sarah Fine was with her Guards of the Shadowlands trilogy. I was hooked on the first book. Even if I hadn't read that first, Marked would have done it all on it's own.

The thing about Guards of the Shadowlands is that, even though it was decidedly dark, it was most definitely YA. Touched is a far, far cry from all of that and the comparison has completely caught me by surprise. It's not that often that you find an author equally skilled in writing for both adult and YA audiences.

And Marked is definitely for an adult audience. My god, is it ever. Sarah Fine's talent is absolutely undeniable. Her work with the Guards has cemented that in my mind. Any author who can completely wrap me up in a YA novel let alone hold my attention through an entire series deserves bragging rights. That trend has definitely continued with Marked.

Cacey is a Ferry. Her family name, of course, but there's a reason for that. Her family helps the spirits of those who have passed transition to heaven or hell, wherever they are fated to go. The Ferries work on conjuction with the Kere, another race of beings who marks those fated for death by the Fates themselves.

She works as a paramedic, and she gets partnered with Eli, recently moved to Boston with his sister. Eli manages to tap into her secret, and both of their worlds are completely spun on their axis. We're thrust into a world of rogue Kere, and possibly even a conspiracy among the Fates that could unravel the tapestry of time and life itself.

All characters are phenomenally put together. Cacy and Eli are both very believable. Eli's sister, though she doesn't get a lot of screen time, becomes a major player and is very well developed. My only issue is with Cacy's immediate family. Her brothers and sister aren't nearly as well done as Cacy, Eli and his sister were. They seem a lot rougher and disjointed.

We already know that I think Fine is a brilliant author, though. However, and this is probably a silly gripe, the scenes between Cacy and Eli completely overshadow everything else. The story, minus Eli and Cacy, could have stood up fabulously on its own. The sexual tension between them was so. Intense. That alone was enough to distract from the non-romantic storyline. Then the tension finally gets acted on, and...

My girly parts tingle just from the memory.

But it was like two fully developed, independent storylines crammed together in a single book, with only a token effort to fuse them into a cohesive story.

Meh, what can I say though? Sarah Fine has me firmly in the grip of flawless dialogue, enrapturing creativity, and emotionally engaging people with stories that leave me breathless. 

Dark Prophecy - Ann Gimpel [Soul Storm]

Dark Prophecy - Ann Gimpel [Soul Storm]
Source: Goodreads Giveaways
Originally Reviewed on Goodreads: January 4, 2015
Rating: ★★★★★

This book was received as part of the GoodReads Giveaways.

Never judge a book by it's cover.

We've all heard that, I 'm sure, but I don't think it has ever been more blatantly true as Dark Prophecy. On the cover is a woman with her head tilted back, lips parted, a man with a hand behind her neck, a small smile on his lips. Inside, where one might think to find an erotic, lust-inducing tale, we instead find a tale of a world where resources are dwindling, dreams foretell the future, and a woman who's ignored her inherent magic for most of her life can no longer do so.

Dark Prophecy starts off somewhat slow, a little confused. The plot could have gone any number of directions, and didn't really show a clear purpose until about halfway through the book. Despite this, Dark Prophecy delivers thought-provoking, challenging and intriguing ideas. Philosophically, environmentally, magically...

Not many books these days strike me as having a clear message as much as this one does. Was this the intent? I don't know. What is this message?

What, exactly, is our responsibility? What do we owe our planet? Our friends? Our gifts (even if we consider them curses)?

What do we owe, and to who? For the lives we live and the resources we use?

This is not a book influnced by activism, not by a long shot. The main part centralizes around Lara McInnis, a therapist with powers she only barely acknowledges. We meet some of her clients, her partner, friends. The danger she faces isn't just from dwindling resources. Something wants her power, and will stop at nothing to get it and render her useless in the face of growing chaos.

Attending her is Trevor Denoble. While not nearly as memorable as Lara, he is not to be passed over. He is about as human as they come. He looses his job, and has a partner with psychic abilities who's life is on the line more than once during the time we get to spend with them. His humanity and role as the man in Lara's life become more and more evident as the book continues, and he and Lara start making hard decisions about their future, and their lives together, in a changing world.

The supporting characters are many, but few stand out and fewer still make it to the end of the book. I would have loved to have seen fewer minority characters in exchange for having more time to get to know the ones that really mattered in the end. I know we'll see more out of them in future books, but worry that they'll continue to be overshadowed by sub characters that are ultimately pointless.

I hesitate to say much more, because so much of what I think makes Dark Prophecy so memorable and makes me want to read more... you just won't see coming, and I don't like spoiling those kinds of surprises! I could easily classify this into realistic fiction or magical realism. In Dark Prophecy, Gimpel approaches magic and the end of life as we know it in a very believable fashion.

If you're looking for the romance element, it is by no stretch of the imagination lacking. The relationship between Lara and Trevor is enviable, but the story does not depend on it, and I think that just adds to the realism of it.

Dark Prophecy does a wonderful job blending fantastical elements with real world relationships and experiences. With the kind of deals I can get on these books for my Kindle, you can count on seeing reviews for the following books very, very soon!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Some Fine Day - Kat Ross

Some Fine Day - Kat Ross
Source: Kindle
Originally Reviewed: January 3, 2015
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Some Notes:

On page 137 I read a line where she’s wondering “Is it possible to have a midlife crisis at the age of sixteen?”

WOAH. She’s only 16? I completely forgot. The way she talked and acted, I thought she was about to graduate from a post-secondary military academy.

On page 199, it gets even better – because she’s sixteen.

“If I wanted to kill you right now with my bare hands, I could do it in a dozen different ways. Some fast, some slow. Some real slow.”

Sixteen. Sixteen years old, and this is what her dystopian society has turned her into. Then they wonder why she’s trying to *spoiler so I’m not finishing that sentence.*

There may not be any specific enemy in this book, but I’ll be damned if Ross didn’t give me a thoroughly hateable enemy in Raven Rock. If you have an enemy, they need to be hateable.

Moving on…

The fact that Jansin, the heroine, is only sixteen largely escapes me for perhaps 2/3 of the book. She doesn’t act like she’s a teenager. She’s not the only one. Her eventual love-interest, Will, is only a year older than she is and yet I keep thinking he’s in his late 20’s. I have a really hard time noting this as YA, except if it wasn’t YA there would have been a lot more happening between Jansin and Will than there was.

So, what exactly happened? I’d say about a generation ago (when the parents in this society were little and the “grandparents” were parents) we have an event similar to what you’d find in The Day After Tomorrow (I’m a sucker for end of the world movies, what can I say?). Massive, massive storms, though they don’t just freeze and die out in one hemisphere like the movie. Nope. They just charge right across the continents, causing massive flooding, scouring trees and even grass from the earth, and ending society as we know it.

A fraction of the population escapes underground. Future generations are taught that it was perfectly planned and executed. Heroes were born, and society saved. Except they left out the part about how many people were left to die on the surface, which Jansin finds out in the worst possible way.

On a vacation to the surface, she gets kidnapped. By humans.

She learns a lot about what things were like before the “descent”. She learns a lot about surviving, and about living, and about what the “real world” is like. She begins to question whether or not she would want to return underground.

She begins to question whether or not she would have the choice, once the militia from Raven Rock found her.

It is so hard to go into what makes this book special without spoilers. I know I’ve bashed YA novels before about their kids being unrealistic in the way they react to danger and their lives getting tossed around, but Ross handled things splendidly. You don’t spend almost 10 of your most formative years in a military academy to learn to freak out when crap hits the fan. No, you learn to breathe, to analyze, to act based on your desired outcome and not what’s currently raining down on you.

Jansin struggles of course. She goes through a massive trauma and it’s only 2 months before everybody decides she’s had enough time to recover and expect her to move on. Ain’t that just like an adult? She may have been trained for combat and all sorts of other things, but she’s still 16 years old and suffering from post-traumatic stress. Jansin deals in the only way she knows how – the way the military taught her – which really sets things up for a potentially explosive ending. The whole time everybody things she’s fine and has recovered, she’s questioning everything she was ever taught.

On the ending…

This has probably been one of the best YA dystopian society/post apocalyptic books I’ve read, but the ending was a HUGE let-down! So much of a let-down that I would have given this book 5 stars if only the ending wasn’t so damned anti-climactic. I want to know what happens to Raven Rock, and who’s where, and what was found… there’s so much I was left wanting to know. If this was obviously a book that was part of a series or a collection, it wouldn’t be so bad – the answers must be coming somewhere, right? But it’s not, so where are the answers?

Seven Years - Dannika Dark [Seven]

Seven Years - Dannika Dark [Seven]
Source: Kindle
Originally Reviewed on Goodreads: January 3, 2015
Rating: ★★★★★

There is a lot I could say about this book. A ton. Really, don't doubt me. I could probably ramble all day about it. That'd involve a lot of spoilers, though, and that's not what I'm about. Not here.

What I will say is I was beyond impressed. Shifters seem to be one of those plot elements that just about every paranormal or urban fantasy author is using these days, and they can get tiring, quickly, if they're not done well. Dannika Dark has done something wonderful with the Shifter device. There's something refreshing and interesting about it that makes me want to keep reading, pick up the next book, and read some more. And more, and more, and more.

The imagery in a lot of the scenes, both intimate and not, was amazing. I don't often highlight things in fiction books, but this book is now chalk-full of them because I don't want to forget my favorite scenes, and it's not just enough to bookmark. I want to remember specific moments that took my breath away, made my heart melt, my stomach muscles clench or made me just go "awwe!"

There was one moment towards the end that had me completely melting, and absolutely jonesing for Denver's story:

Austin had warned me Denver's wolf had a vicious and unpredictable nature, one that couldn't be trusted.
Except with a six-year-old little girl who adored him.

Seriously. Read the book if only for that scene alone. For the interactions between Denver and Lexi's little sister. Fan-fucking-tastic.

The Characters

Lexi, I love. She's sharp, witty, strong - but not so strong as to be beyond reasonable. She may start off as being uber irritated with Austin, but she's not above admitting when it was good for him to show up. The mental dialogue and, well, actually most things involving her and her wolf are a total crack-up.

Austin... okay, it takes him a while. A long while. I just couldn't warm up to him, because things having to do with Lexi aside, I didn't see much of a man out of him. Not to say that's a bad thing, but he's supposed to be an Alpha. Alpha's can't be Alpha's only when there's a woman around, human or other. In general, he doesn't have much that interests me, but as a partner to Lexi, he's perfect. Just wish that wasn't all he was perfect about.

Some Notes:

Okay, I have one serious, serious gripe about this book: What's up with all of the random guys groping Lexi? I mean, it'd be one thing if it was chalked up to human guys getting caught up in the whole Heat thing, or if these random guys happened to be Shifters as well, but... throughout the book they're just random guys that happen upon Lexi and try to grope or otherwise sexually assault Lexi.

I couldn't put this one down. Seriously, it was gripping and I kept wanting to know what would happen. It had everything I wanted in a book. Despite Austin's shortcomings, his character with Lexi more than made up for it. The interactions and roles of the other characters made me crave their stories, find out what made them the people and wolves they became in Austin's pack. Anybody who enjoys books with a thick plot, supernatural elements, and lots of fun will absolutely love this.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Masters at Arms & Nobody's Angel - Kallypso Masters [Rescue Me]

Masters at Arms & Nobody's Angel - Kallypso Masters [Rescue Me]
Source: Kindle
Originally Reviewed: January 2, 2015
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Thanks, Kallypso – both for a wonderfully written first installment to this saga, and to the warnings you so thoughtfully provide.

With that out of the way, I have just one word for this: HOT! Possibly TOO hot (as you’ll read in my notes below).

Masters at Arms
First, we get introduced to the Masters at Arms – Marc, Adam and Damian. We see what led them together to a fateful day in Fallujah where limbs and lives were lost, leaving all three of them scarred and bonded for life. The writing here is rich, deep, evocative and gripping.

Nobody’s Angel
This is where things get just a little sketchy – though still phenomenal. Marc has gradually faded away from the BDSM club he owns with his other 2 military buddies, favoring solitude and time in the mountains as a SAR (search and rescue) to getting up close and personal with women he doesn’t want any kind of relationship with. Understandable, considering what we learn about him in Masters at Arms.

But when he rescues Angelina from being abused on a St. Andrew’s Cross by her abusive boyfriend Allen, his life becomes irrevocably changed. Angelina flees the club as soon as possible and writes off BDSM, choosing to stick with her novels instead, and Marc is left with scalding memories and an inability to track her down. It is by sheer chance that he ends up in her town, 3 hours out of Denver, on a SAR mission with his partner Luke, in the same bar where Angelina decides to go on her first night out on the town since “the incident.”

Let the fireworks begin!

Angelina doesn’t remember Marc, as when Marc rescued her at the club in Denver, he had a mask on and she couldn’t see his face. Marc isn’t the only one who’s been troubled by dreams, however, land something about Marc – the way he handles her, the way he speaks – reminds her more and more of her “dream Dom” – one she has managed to convince herself doesn’t exist.

Now let’s throw in Luke – guilt-ridden Luke, who lost his wife the same day that Angelina lost her father (another SAR man). He is convinced, however, that Angelina was sent to him by his late wife – on account of a dream. What a cluster.

Marc wants to help Angelina move on from her horrid experience at his club. Luke believes his dead wife has sent Angelina to him as a sign to move on – with her. Apparently both men are willing to step away to allow the other to move in, though it’s almost like a tug-of-war in terms of who backs away when.

In the end… I won’t spoil it for you. Pretty much everything comes out in the open and it’s a gigantic cluster…. but it’s a fun one!

On the Characters…

Now, I absolutely love Angelina. Truth be told, I think she’s the most well-rounded, realistic and unique individual of the three. Her psychological and emotional responses to her initial experience with BDSM, her “wolf-angel dream Dom”, Luke, Allen again, and just… everything. Everything about her is wonderful.

We don’t get a lot of genuine screen time with Luke, which is disappointing. I hope we see more of him, because he seemed to kind of fall in the space between “true supporting character” and “crowd character.” I’m honestly not sure what his purpose in the book was, other than the fact that Marc needed a SAR partner, so it was decided he’d get thrown in the middle with Angelina and Marc as well. I really believe the book could have done without him, though.

Marc… the number of times I wanted to smack him across the face and shake him by the shoulders… I lost count. I’m really starting to get a little tired of the “I’m not the man she needs” kind of crap from what are otherwise strong, capable men. I have seen that done a million times – and very, VERY few times has it been done well. This is not one of those times.

Some notes:

This is just what I noted in my Kindle as I was reading…

1. How many times can a guy’s cock harden before it can’t get any harder? I mean seriously. I think we heard about Marc’s cock getting hard a dozen different times in a 12-hour period. Oh, but then we find out it’s just been hard for about 24 hours. Even better!

2. Bad guys in romance novels, especially when the bad guy is a bad guy because he has an obsessive interest in the heroine, need more screen time. Not just “evil plans” screen time, but something to make them a 3d character that, at the very least, we can hate. Allen just annoyed the crap out of me, simply because he was distracting.

3. If you’ve had the unlucky experience to have a “dom” use a BDSM scene to abuse you, you don’t go from total panic to total acceptance in the space of a heartbeat. When Marc used the flogger on Angel and she’s freaking out because that’s what Allen had used on her, she goes from freaked out to “deep breath” mode in less than a heartbeat. I’m sorry, that just doesn’t happen. Especially not your first or second time out with the thing.

4. This goes for any erotica novel with dialogue during the juicy stuff. If you don’t understand the dialogue, you need a better lover. I can imagine soooo well what Angelina’s experiencing, because of that dialogue.

In the end, I think Masters really needs to find a better balance. She goes over the top in some areas and doesn’t flesh out others nearly enough.