56 Followers
17 Following
sirius

Romance and other things

Reading...

Reblogged from Hol:

SPOILER ALERT!

Liked the story but was not happy with the mystery aspect

Lock In - John Scalzi

A blazingly inventive near-future thriller from the best-selling, Hugo Award-winning John Scalzi.

Not too long from today, a new, highly contagious virus makes its way across the globe. Most who get sick experience nothing worse than flu, fever and headaches. But for the unlucky one percent - and nearly five million souls in the United States alone - the disease causes "Lock In": Victims fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. The disease affects young, old, rich, poor, people of every color and creed. The world changes to meet the challenge.

A quarter of a century later, in a world shaped by what's now known as "Haden's syndrome," rookie FBI agent Chris Shane is paired with veteran agent Leslie Vann. The two of them are assigned what appears to be a Haden-related murder at the Watergate Hotel, with a suspect who is an "integrator" - someone who can let the locked in borrow their bodies for a time. If the Integrator was carrying a Haden client, then naming the suspect for the murder becomes that much more complicated.

But "complicated" doesn't begin to describe it. As Shane and Vann began to unravel the threads of the murder, it becomes clear that the real mystery - and the real crime - is bigger than anyone could have imagined. The world of the locked in is changing, and with the change comes opportunities that the ambitious will seize at any cost. The investigation that began as a murder case takes Shane and Vann from the halls of corporate power to the virtual spaces of the locked in, and to the very heart of an emerging, surprising new human culture. It's nothing you could have expected.

Review:

Dear John Scalzi,

I am still not very familiar with your back list but this book came highly recommended by several people so I finally decided to try it.

First and foremost – I really enjoyed it while I was reading the story. You can even say I tore through the book since it took me less than two days to finish it. It was exciting and it was fun, it had a lot of social commentary which was fully integrated in the narrative and did not make the story preachy to me.

The blurb describes the imaginary illness “Haden syndrome” quite well. In this world because millions of people ended up experiencing the “lock in”, the government at first put a lot of money in the research and technology, however one of the main reasons the government did that was because first lady of the United States was one of the first victims of the disease and “Haden” was her last name. Couple decades later (I think it is couple decades later, apologies if I misunderstood the timeline in the book) some people decided that government spent too much money on Haden related research and development of the technology. Those people unfortunately convinced the people in power to vote for the bill which would cut a lot of important things for people with Haden’s Syndrome and a lot of important things would be privatized. When the book begins the bill is about to become the law very soon and of course many people with Haden’s syndrome are not happy about that and one of the prominent Haden activists is scheduling a protest march.

I just tried to give you a little more of the background than what the blurb described. The blurb describes the main storyline of the book very well though. Rookie FBI agent Chris Shane is our narrator and we are in their head all the time. I say “their” because Chris’ gender is not mentioned and I remember reading somewhere that it was done deliberately. When Chris starts the job our newbie agent gets thrown right in the mix of things and those things start moving very quickly.

This case is testing Chris on many levels not just because they want to do their job, but because Chris also has “Haden’s syndrome” and is ultimately familiar with many hurdles and challenges caused by it. Chris is also one of the most famous people living with the disease because of the family being very well politically connected and the father being in politics for many years. So Chris also has had a lot of advantages growing up.

I really liked Chris. They were smart and funny and self-aware enough to realize the advantages they had growing up. Chris also seemed to be very invested in delivering justice and actually went into FBI in order to help people. I liked several other characters in the story and as I said above I really enjoyed the plot. I thought the imaginary technology was inventive but made perfect sense considering the illness the story was dealing with. I thought plot moved really fast, but also let me catch a breath when needed.

So basically I thought that as SF thriller the story delivered. There was one aspect of the plot I didn’t like however and that was the mystery part.

Trust me when I say it – I went into the book not reading any reviews. As I said before I have read earlier that the narrator’s gender was not mentioned so I did pay attention to that, but otherwise I knew nothing and formed no expectations.

Having said that, when I read about dead body in the story and then *another one*, I did form an expectation and that expectation was that I wanted an interesting resolution as to the suspects reveal. I was very disappointed in that.  As you can see from the blurb I hope for a little bit in the beginning of the story the integrator was being a suspect in the murders, but it was for a little bit. Then we get a suspect/s also early enough and *no other suspects appear ever*.

And the suspect/s whom we meet early enough in the books end up being the bad guy/s. I was hoping to be surprised, to be shown some red herrings. I had no such luck unfortunately. To be fair, the story seemed to be mostly concerned with how and why and I could not guess “how” till almost all of it was revealed, but even *why* was easy enough to guess if the guess won’t go into specifics in my opinion.

So, partially it is my fault of course, because the blurb says thriller, however I do not think it is so unreasonable to expect an interesting solution to the dead bodies in the narrative.

Grade: B-/B

Why do I still worry then!?

Reblogged from Hol:

I enjoyed a lot

A Taste of Honey - Kai Ashante Wilson

A Taste of Honey is the Hugo, Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon, and Locus finalist novella that N. K. Jemisin calls "a love story as painful as it is beautiful and complex". One of BookRiot's "Best Books We Read in November."

Long after the Towers left the world but before the dragons came to Daluça, the emperor brought his delegation of gods and diplomats to Olorum. As the royalty negotiates over trade routes and public services, the divinity seeks arcane assistance among the local gods.

Aqib bgm Sadiqi, fourth-cousin to the royal family and son of the Master of Beasts, has more mortal and pressing concerns. His heart has been captured for the first time by a handsome Daluçan soldier named Lucrio. In defiance of Saintly Canon, gossiping servants, and the furious disapproval of his father and brother, Aqib finds himself swept up in a whirlwind gay romance. But neither Aqib nor Lucrio know whether their love can survive all the hardships the world has to throw at them.

A Taste of Honey is a new novella in the world of Kai Ashante Wilson's The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps.

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Review:

Dear Kai Ashante Wilson,

I have read your story as a part of the Hugo voting package and I really enjoyed it. Readers please note that I have not read “The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps” but the story did not left me feeling confused at all. Oh there were features in the world building I would have loved to know more about but I thought that for this story just enough was revealed and several whys that I had did not stop me from easily following the plot.

Readers please also note that after I finished the story I have read several reviews and some of the readers seemed confused by the non -linear narrative in this novella. Honestly I didn’t understand that complaint at all. Yes, the narrative jumps around *a lot* chronologically. There are no flash backs per se, but it is certainly not linear at all. However, the writer clearly marks every jump – for example, fifth day or tenth night or 52 years old.  My advice will be just to pay attention to these marks and you will not be confused.

I always enjoy the book which has gay love story front and center as this one most certainly did. Is this a romance though? I don’t know. See I cannot answer the question whether the ending was happy or not. For me it most certainly was, but I acknowledge that it is most certainly open to interpretations.

The language is so beautiful and I thought that language itself played an important part in the story. I cannot reveal more details because I feel  most of the revelations about this novella would be VERY spoilerish.  I do understand that it makes the review vague and less satisfying unfortunately. I wish I could quote from the ebook, but I cannot because as I said I have not bought the story, I read it as part of the Hugo reading, but please do check the sample and see if the writing is for you.

I loved the settings – the story mostly takes place in the fictional country of Ollorum as blurb describes it for you where Aqib and Lucrio meet. I thought Ollorum came to live based on some African influences and no, I cannot place it within specific real country context unfortunately. Dallucam seemed Rome inspired. 

I said previously that I am not sure if the story belongs to the genre Romance despite having gay love story front and center however there is also not much of the development of the relationship going on – they fit well together, but they fell in love pretty fast, so there is that. I didn’t think it made the story any less beautiful by the way.

There is a VERY significant plot twist in the last few pages of the book – the plot twist which surprised me in this story even if I saw such plot development ( in a very general way, I am almost looking at the whole trope behind this twist) before, but I was pleased that it happens here. I appreciated it.

The only reason why I am not giving this novella a perfect mark is because there was another plot development which was mentioned in the middle of the book but was not fully explained and I could not believe that the writer did not explain it. It could have been intentionally of course, but it almost felt as if the author forgot about it and I was annoyed.

Grade: B+

SPOILER ALERT!

Really liked

The Ruin of a Rake - Cat Sebastian

Rogue. Libertine. Rake. Lord Courtenay has been called many things and has never much cared. But after the publication of a salacious novel supposedly based on his exploits, he finds himself shunned from society. Unable to see his nephew, he is willing to do anything to improve his reputation, even if that means spending time with the most proper man in London.

Julian Medlock has spent years becoming the epitome of correct behavior. As far as he cares, if Courtenay finds himself in hot water, it’s his own fault for behaving so badly—and being so blasted irresistible. But when Julian’s sister asks him to rehabilitate Courtenay’s image, Julian is forced to spend time with the man he loathes—and lusts after—most.

As Courtenay begins to yearn for a love he fears he doesn’t deserve, Julian starts to understand how desire can drive a man to abandon all sense of propriety. But he has secrets he’s determined to keep, because if the truth came out, it would ruin everyone he loves. Together, they must decide what they’re willing to risk for love.

Review:

Dear Cat Sebastian,

I was intrigued by Simon’s uncle Lord Courtenay when he showed up at the end of last book, but I absolutely adored him by the time I finished this story.

I thought that Courtenay seemed eager to have close relationship with his little nephew Simon again at the end of the second book. I also thought that Lawrence would be okay with that, considering that Lawrence really was a kind man underneath of that rough exterior.

Alas, as blurb tells us somebody wrote a novel which was going around in London high society and the villain was easily recognizable to everybody and supposedly based on Courtenay’s ( he really did prefer his last name and if I had the name Jeremiah, I may have preferred the last name too ) erotic exploits. I kind of could not blame Lawrence for not wanting Simon anywhere near his uncle if the book contained grain of truth.

Courtenay however has at least one good friend in London – Elleanor whom the readers of the series may remember as Lawrence’s friend as well. Elleanor knows that Lawrence is not a monster and as long as his worries about Courtenay’s behavior will disappear he won’t keep Simon away from Courtenay. So she is asking her brother Jullian to “rehabilitate” Courtenay so to speak – basically to reenter him in the polite society. Julian is not too eager to do that for several reasons, but agrees for his sister’s sake.

Initially both men do not particularly care for each other. Julian, young as he is, is a skillful businessman and even more skillful at manipulating people. He mostly applies his talents for good causes (as he sees them) but he is also used to keep himself and his desires under the tight leash or so he thinks.

“How old were you when your grandfather died and you took over? I’ve done the sums in my head but I can’t make you out to have been anything more than a child.” “Sixteen.” “You were a child, then.” Courtenay said, staring at him curiously. Julian felt his breath hitch. “I was never a child!” He hadn’t meant it to sound so vehement, so angry. But he hadn’t had any kind of childhood, not when it was divided between the sickroom and the counting house. Courtenay didn’t look surprised, though. He nodded, as if to indicate that he had guessed as much, or that he commiserated without the need for further elaboration."

Courtenay really is a nice guy who after the death of his sister, Simon’s mother holds himself personally responsible for her death and at some point he just decided that since society thinks of him the certain way he must act the certain way (as a rake that is).

I thought the author did a great job with showing how these two people slowly fall for each other. Oh there is a sexual attraction between them which happens pretty fast. However what I liked the best was watching how their perception of each other changed and how both of them kept noticing the best qualities of each other instead of the worst and how all of this lead to them becoming each other’s favorite person.

"Medlock never looked better than when he was telling people what to do. He wasn’t precisely handsome, nor even striking or any of the other adjectives people used to describe men with unconventional looks. No, Medlock was the opposite of striking. He was aggressively neutral. But the way he moved, the way he spoke, the things he said—Courtenay’s heart thumped in his chest whenever he caught a look at the man. He was aware of a growing conviction that Medlock looked precisely the way he wanted a man to look like, whatever that even meant."

To me this story comes as close as being a perfect romance as they go. This is no small feat considering that more often than not I am tempted by the book full of action and intrigue, where guys are saving the world or investigate mystery, in other worlds where the relationship at least shares the spotlight with action/adventure storyline if not cedes the spotlight to it. In this story “saving the world” may briefly show up as Courtenay realizing that as the member of rich and privileged class he may have to do more to help the poor in Great Britain, but otherwise the development of the relationship is what the book is about and I really enjoyed it.

I thought the story was relatively low angst and that is something I was perfectly okay with, but beware if you like angstier books. I thought it made perfect sense that even when they argued; they could not stay away from each other when trouble came, but I am curious to see what other readers will think.

I thought sex scenes were great – funny, erotic, sometimes a little awkward. More importantly sex felt like organic part of their love story, not something author inserted in the book just for the sake of it.

"“How did you manage to debauch yourself so completely if you can’t even tell me what you want?” “I have to say, Med—Julian, that most people, when confronted with my naked, tied up, obviously aroused body would have a pretty good idea of what to do with it.” Julian narrowed his eyes. “I think you usually give people what they want. And, because you’re basically a hedonist with a broad range of tastes, you enjoy yourself perfectly well despite never articulating what you actually crave. Is that how things usually work for you? You just sort of drift into these situations and then drift through them?” Courtenay was silent for a moment, as if he had never considered the matter in that light. “Well, yes?” “There will be no drifting tonight. Now, tell me about what you require for your pleasure.” “I require . . . Oh, kiss me, you maniacal bastard.” Julian crawled up his body and by the time his lips were near Courtenay’s he was smiling too broadly to manage anything like a proper kiss. Instead he pressed his silly, uncooperative mouth to Courtenay’s and then buried his face in Courtenay’s neck. “I’m glad you’re amused,” Courtenay said, but he had been smiling too. “But I still want that kiss.” Julian lifted his head and kissed Courtenay fully, rewarding him for having said what he wanted. He bit Courtenay’s lip, then licked it, then thoroughly tasted Courtenay’s mouth, as if kissing was the point. That was what Courtenay had asked for, and so it was the point."

Oh and there were kittens too. How could you not like kittens?

 

““Thank you.” Julian tried not to read too much into the gesture. Sugar syrup in one’s medicine did not constitute a declaration of love, or even a truce. He lifted a feeble hand to pet the sleeping kitten. It was still at the fragile stage of early kittenhood, all bones and fluff. “Do you want me to take the cat away?” “No.” “Good, because the two of you look adorable, and besides, there are two other kittens hiding in the bookcase, waiting for their chance to stake their claim.” Julian squirmed. He knew he didn’t look anything close to adorable.

He was sweaty and disheveled and wearing nothing but one of Standish’s borrowed nightshirts. He could smell himself, which was never a good sign. Courtenay, meanwhile, was reprehensibly handsome in his evening clothes, even after a night of sitting in a sickroom. Julian thought he’d never get used to the stark fact of Courtenay’s beauty. Or, rather, he never would have, in a world where he was given the chance to find out. “The kitten was probably cold,” he said, stroking one of the cat’s impossibly tiny ears. “And I’m the warmest thing in the room. It would be mean-spirited for me to send him away.” Courtenay touched Julian’s brow. “Not as hot as you were when I brought you here. Perhaps you’re recovering?”"

Grade : B+

 

 

Lyn Gala "Echoes of deviance" (Aberrant magic #4)

The FBI’s Talent team is back on the job with Kavon and Darren trying to navigate being lovers and partners in the office and at home. Without the imminent danger from magical attack hanging over their heads, Darren hopes their life together will turn out to be the happily ever after he expects. However, relationships require negotiation and compromise, and that’s difficult when the cases keep coming. This time the team is called in when a parole officer dies at the hands of a shaman with a violent past. Local law enforcement doesn’t want federal help, and they certainly don’t want shamans involved when they blame magic for the death of one of their own. Kavon and Darren have never walked away from a case simply because they’re unpopular. Unfortunately, Kavon’s instinct to protect Darren threatens to drive a wedge between them. Darren must struggle to find his own independence without undermining the bond they share. And there’s no room for mistakes because someone wants to see the team fail on this case.

Review:

Dear Lyn Gala,

I reviewed the first three books in this series here at DA. As one can see from my reviews overall I was quite pleased with the series even if I had some nitpicks. I did not expect to see the fourth book, but it was a very pleasant surprise nonetheless.

I really liked this book. In this part of the story the team takes part in the investigation of the murder of the local parole officer.  We are not shown any other investigations taking place, but what took place in this one really made sense.  I was very pleased about how real this investigation felt to me ( once again I am as civilian as they come, but from what I read and hear about real life work of the law enforcement agencies it all made sense).  Of course the talent team was invited to the scene; however that does not mean that everyone was going to be very happy to work with them.  Some people could be prejudiced of FBI agents who have magical talents, but that does not make them BIG BAD EVIL necessarily.  I was just happy that such people did not feel like caricature to me.

The puzzle itself was complex enough to me and I liked how the whole time Kavon and Daren just did not let go. If one lead did not work, they tried again, they were really working their case as far as I was concerned and they really tried to work with other cops – and they were not the primary agency on the scene anyway.

No, I didn’t think that disagreements between them were going to drive a wedge between them; in fact I do not think that such disagreements were anything new. Kabon was obviously worried for Darren and wanted to step in and stand over Darren’s head to protect him when Darren was doing his job. Darren of course took offense to that and after couple of arguments they continued to work the case. What I liked that this argument while not new felt as organic as it could be – moreover I feel that this argument would never become repetitive.

 Of course the guy would always feel an urge to be a little too protective of his lover.  I was really happy how Kabon was trying his hardest to reign himself in and Darren realized that not overreacting maybe the best way to go. When I am thinking about it though, I wonder if at some point if it comes up again in the future books (if such are planned), it may become too repetitive. Because yes, by now I got it – Kabon can be overprotective of everybody on his team, and especially of Darren. I personally consider this plot point to be very much resolved.

I don’t think that our guys experienced huge character growth in this story, but I think they grew just about enough for my liking.

I very much liked how past threads were not dropped in this book. We still hear about how Tracy’s betrayal may have influenced some team members’ reacting to the things in the certain way. The case they investigated previously is also mentioned in a way that makes sense for this story.

Now the blurb makes an interesting statement as to the reveal of the mystery puzzle. I invite you to tread the words “dies at the hand of shaman with violent past” with caution. I kind of understand why such statement was made, but the certainty makes it misleading.

Bennu, my favorite magical spirit guide of course made an appearance or two, same as Kabon’s bull, but to be honest I didn’t think that he was given that many chances to shine.  I suppose it also makes sense – initially all they did together seemed unknown and Bennu and Darren were breaking the rules all the time. They still break the rules occasionally, but they are training and Darren is getting more and more comfortable with the magic he can wield. They will never be an ordinary pair, but I get why Bennu’s full powers may not be needed every time.

Grade: B+

 

Which country reads the most? Travel guide for book lovers [Infographic]

Reblogged from BookLikes:

Summer time made us think of summer travels. Travels and books go well together, right? And what's a better place to visit than the one filled up with people alike, other book lovers? Lets read on and pick your summer destinations based on global reading habits.

 

So, where is your next summer stop?

 

Infographic via Global English Editing

Source: http://geediting.com/blog/world-reading-habits
SPOILER ALERT!

Good action, not so good romance

Lochlann (Order of the Black Knights) - Andrea Speed

Order of the Black Knights Violence has been Lochlann O’Connor’s companion since he was born into a family of old-school Irish terrorists. From there he is recruited into Alpha, a secret government agency dedicated to fighting terrorism—with extreme prejudice. Lochlann’s bravery, efficiency, ruthlessness, and the natural deadeye aim that lets him hit anything that moves, quickly make him one of the shadowy organization’s most valued operatives. Cas Vega joins Alpha because it’s marginally better than a prison sentence. He’s a former drug cartel assassin—or at least that’s his story. But Lochlann is suspicious. Despite an irrational and overwhelming attraction to Cas, Lochlann has questions, and they soon lead to a deeper and deadlier mystery. What is Alpha’s true purpose, and why does it seem they want to eliminate Lochlann? Lochlann and Cas must work together to get to the bottom of Alpha’s scheme and escape it—and all while Cas keeps secrets that could cost him his life if they’re revealed. But it’s not an alliance that can last. Duty turns the men into enemies, even while fate compels them into each other’s arms. Before they can contemplate which will prevail, they must figure out how to survive.

Review:

WARNING FOR GRAPHIC PHYSICAL VIOLENCE, A WHOLE LOT OF IT.

Dear Andrea Speed,

I really wanted to like another book of yours as much as I liked your “Infected” series, so when I saw this one, I one clicked as soon as I checked whether this story could be read as a stand-alone.

Now when I finished the book, I can confirm that it was indeed a stand –alone. I am guessing that all the love stories in other books follow the same framework, but that’s the only thing that connects them ( or maybe that’s not the only thing, all I know that this book did not require any prior knowledge of any events or to be familiar with the other characters).

So, this is the very beginning of the book , for this reason I do not think it counts as a spoiler.

"EVERY CENTURY has seen its knights. But there are those who are never seen. They do what must be done, what has to be done—when nobody wants to get their hands dirty. They are called the Black Knights. First created in the 1100s by the wizard Moriel, these men seem cold and hard, and it is said that some have no soul. But for each knight, there is one who can bring out the man who waits inside. The question is whether or not he will kill the individual before he figures it out. Through the ages, they’ve conquered and ruled and taken what they wanted. And they have adapted to modern times. Instead of being bullies for hire, they have taken their skills further—the Internet, the CIA, government infiltration, hacking, special ops, assassination. But each one of them has a need they don’t understand—to squash, kill, or destroy. If the Knight pardons an enemy, he will no longer be cursed. If not, he will continue to live the same life again and again, and each life will make him harder and more unyielding. And each life will make it is less likely that he can be saved. "

 

Readers I adore the redemption stories, I adore when m/m romance storyline is mixed up with the action/adventure. I was *really* excited to start this one, however as much as I was excited by the prospect of reading enemies to lovers storyline and forgiving your enemy, something bothered me already. And when I read the prologue which featured Lochlann; I was bothered even more, because set up didn’t make much sense to me.

 

Was Moriel supposed to be the devil of these books with whom all those mysterious knights made pacts and then trying to get rid of the pact? Because we all know how well it usually went for many fictional characters – trying to break up the pact with the devil. I didn’t know but was excited to find out. Here is what I found out from prologue which featured two of Lochlann’s past lives – his family was killed and he wanted a revenge on the man who killed his family and Moriel offered Lochlann to enter into his service and revenge would be his reward. Of course Lochlann agreed, only the service apparently spun centuries and after his first life we get the glimpse of the year 1963 when Lochlann once again kills a man who has the potential to save him by becoming his lover, only Lochlann remembers all of this in his dying moments and Moriel is here to gloat or to express regret that Lochlann still didn’t learn.

 

I wished I would have gotten an explanation as to why Moriel was interested in this pact in the first place. Lochlann was not a bad guy in his first life – he wanted to avenge his family and for that he deserved to be cursed forever till he finds in himself to forgive the reincarnation of the guy who killed his loved ones? But why? What’s the point? It is not as if Moriel wanted his soul, because instead of taking the soul when Lochlan dies, he keeps giving him more and more chances to get it right.

 

And after that we are in present time and meet Lochlann who is one of the best members of Alpha, fictional agency of undercover operatives and assassins which allegedly does dirty jobs for the government, only it looks like something in Alpha’s core is very rotten and as you can see from the blurb Lochlann gets a very strong vibe that his employer wants him dead and tries very hard to achieve that purpose.

 

Alpha constantly recruits new guys – and they target very specific type of recruits and one day Cas shows up and Lochlann is assigned as his trainer and soon enough Lochlann takes Cas as part of his team.

 

There is plenty of action in this book. In fact the author can write action scenes very well , please also beware that the action is mostly very violent, because when I said that Alpha takes dirty jobs I was not kidding.

 

Cas and Lochlan’s love story is very important, but also secondary storyline and I would not have minded it at all, if I saw a *love story*. All I saw was they are attracted, they have sex, then boom – they are in love. Why they were in love I have had no idea whatsoever, the author didn’t show me that. I mean I understand that the reincarnation storyline was supposed to be a shortcut for why they fell in love ( although it is not like we were treated to the past life showing them falling for each other), but it just didn’t work for me at all.

 

Grade: B for action scenes, C- for romance

P.S. I Spook you by S.E. Harmon

SSA Rain Christiansen used to be the agency’s golden boy. It just takes one moment of weakness, one slight, tiny, itty-bitty paranormal sighting, and all of a sudden he’s the agency’s embarrassment. His boss gives him one last chance to redeem himself—go down to Brickell Bay, play nice with the local police, and leave the ghost sightings behind. Rain is determined to do exactly that, even if it kills him. Cold-case detective Daniel McKenna’s latest investigation is going nowhere fast. Five years earlier, high school student Amy Greene went missing after leaving her part-time job and was never seen again. Daniel is glad to finally have the FBI help that his department requested, even if it does come in the form of his ex. It doesn’t help that Rain is pretty sure he’s falling in love with Danny all over again—if he ever stopped. Add to that the frustration of seeing ghosts at every turn while he works a case that’s stalled in its tracks, and Rain is starting to wonder if second chances and happy endings are just for fairy tales.

 

Review:

Dear S.E. Harmon,

I have read your “PI guys duology” and liked it well enough, but this book would probably become a reread for me, so much I liked Rain’s voice and since this is another story written in the first person POV being in Rain’s head all the time suited me very well. I think it is easy to overdo things when you want to write snarky and sarcastic, but this is a good example of “not overdoing things” for me. Rain made me smile, even giggle sometimes, but somehow the writer managed (IMO) to keep just the right balance between fun and serious.

Rain has a problem, had been having a problem for a long time. He sees ghosts, many of them and in many different places.

"I CAN’T pinpoint when, exactly, I’d begun to see ghosts, but I’d certainly seen my fair share. I generally did a good job of ignoring them, but in terms of annoying me to death, the one in Graycie’s office was an unexpected front-runner."

As you can guess seeing ghosts does not really mix well with FBI work – it could be very helpful if somebody actually believed Rain. Instead Rain’s caving in to a ghost begging to let her parents know that she is in peace became a straw that broke a camel’s back where Rain’s boss, Graycie, was concerned.

"It was a demanding job and one that required that you trusted everyone on your team. Apparently that was no longer the case. I was trying not to be bitter, but I’m genetically wired that way. It’s in my DNA, right next to punctuality and a love of chocolate. “If you’re going to fire me, you could’ve done it over the phone. I was getting a good deal on some blood oranges.” “I’m not firing anyone,” Graycie said, clearly exasperated. “But I do have something different in mind for you.” “Yeah? I have no desire to fold shirts at the Gap.”"

Rain is told that his regular team already left to investigate some high profile murders and he should choose for himself which request for FBI help in “cold cases” he prefers and go help out police department which requested FBI’s help.

Rain for all his snarky commentary is a decent guy who really did go into FBI because he wanted to help people and he does not object much to being used as a helper in the cold cases. He chooses a case of Amy Green from his home town and off he goes. Of course going back home also means that Rain would have to face and work again with Daniel McKenna mentioned in the blurb, but I got an impression that Rain didn’t mind that at all, Daniel being his ex-lover notwithstanding. Going home for Rain also means that he has to face his eccentric parents and sister, whom he didn’t see for more than a year,

I really liked how investigation was portrayed in this book. It felt believable to me that the guys talked to people, kept going back to the lines of inquiry which may not have given anything the first time around, but they still felt it was something worth pursuing. It moved fast but not all the time so I could catch the breath.

As a bit of the related point I really liked Rain’s portrayal of FBI agent and his thoughts below on FBI role in the investigation. Once again it felt very believable that the agent who is very smart and has PhD will like solving puzzles the best, but also can use the gun if he had no choice.

"It was times like that I realized what it meant to be an FBI agent. Despite how various popular shows made us out to be 30 percent Rambo, 30 percent Bruce Willis in any Die Hard movie, and 40 percent Rainman, I always thought of myself as more of a scholar. We didn’t ride in on our white horses and solve the case from the bumbling, know-nothing police of Mayberry. We worked together, and each branch of law enforcement played a role. We were just one cog in a great working machine, and when it worked, it was fucking beautiful. My part of that machine usually involved puzzling out clues in a well-air-conditioned room in DC. Sometimes it was in a room that local law enforcement requisitioned for our team. Also air-conditioned. My part generally did not involve donning my FBI flak gear to raid a house. Despite what Criminal Minds said. Whenever I balked, Graycie loved to remind me that I had, in fact, had many years of tactical training. I’d passed the physicals and earned my stripes. And apparently someone had decided that qualified me to crouch in scratchy shrubbery and get Kevin’s “six,” as he put it. God. It took me a good five minutes to realize that Rambo Jr. meant his back."

I believed in Rain’s portrayal in this book – heroic but not flashy, I also thought that the paragraph above sounded believable to me – law enforcement agency which does good work, but which does not barge in without the requests for help from the local law enforcement and where some agents prefer to use their brains more often than guns but certainly know how to use guns if need arises.

I also thought it was a good decision to do it that way because very often when we have one paranormal element in the story which was otherwise grounded in real world; very often I have ‘suspension of disbelief “problem because I find the paranormal element to be jarring.  I cannot explain it well enough, but because overall  Rain is not portrayed as a superman running to the rescue with the gun, it was easier to accept him seeing ghosts as just something factual that was happening to him, just one more talent of his.

You will ask me, but what about the relationship? I thought it was nicely done too! I was not too impressed by sex scenes, but I am hard to please where sex scenes are concerned. They were not horrible, just nothing to write home about. But everything else I liked a lot! I thought the author did another smart thing here – Danny and Rain broke up three or four years ago and they still having strong feelings for each other made sense to me. I often have trouble buying the reunited lovers trope when ten or fifteen years passed after the guys broke up.  And when they meet again, I once again liked what I read a lot. Sure they have unresolved issues and they are initially not too happy with each other, but they are both adults and both know that they have to work together and try their best.  And since they do love each other, they find their way back to each other eventually.

Grade: B+

 

 

SPOILER ALERT!

Sweet book

A Boy Made of Blocks: A Novel - Stuart Keith

Alex loves his family, and yet he struggles to connect with his eight-year-old autistic son, Sam. The strain has pushed his marriage to the breaking point. So Alex moves in with his merrily irresponsible best friend on the world’s most uncomfortable blow-up bed.

As Alex navigates single life, long-buried family secrets, and part-time fatherhood, his son begins playing Minecraft. Sam’s imagination blossoms and the game opens up a whole new world for father and son to share. Together, they discover that sometimes life must fall apart before you can build a better one.

Inspired by Keith Stuart’s own relationship with his autistic son, A Boy Made of Blocks is a tear-jerking, funny, and, most of all, true-to-life novel about the power of difference and one very special little boy.

 

Review:

Dear Keith Stuart,

Your book was one of the sweetest books I have read in a while without being overly saccharine. We meet thirty-something Alex not at the best moment of his life. He is separating from his wife Jody and eight year old son Sam. They clearly love each other, but Sam is on the autistic spectrum and Alex not being there enough for Sam (not for the lack of trying but the result is the same) had been enough for Jody and she wants Alex to figure things out and do it elsewhere.

The book also hints that Alex had to deal with something that happened in the past which affected him, which turns out to be a family tragedy for which Alex had a lot of misplaced guilt he had to deal with. To me the book was mostly about Alex figuring out his relationship with his son (and then with his wife), so while there is some angst about the past, I honestly didn’t think there was too much of it.

Alex also is also losing his job early in the book, so that added to him not being in the best of spirits.

The book is written in the first POV. Alex narrates it and I really liked the guy, his mistakes and missteps notwithstanding. He loves his family, he just got lost along the way because he could not figure out how to deal with Sam. As an aside, of course mom didn’t have that luxury of figuring things out or not figuring things out, she just had to be there for her boy all the time. I totally got why it became too much for her at some point.

In any event, Alex figures out pretty soon that he has to try and try again with Sam, even though initially more frustration came out of it. However in one of his visits back he learns that Sam likes to play Minecraft and the mentioning of the game even stopped Sam from crying and screaming.

So Alex decided to start playing with him and the game seemed to help Sam in many different ways. The disclaimer here, I understand that portrayal of Sam is a portrayal of one child on the autism spectrum, however as you can see from the blurb author’s son is also on the autistic spectrum and “Minecraft” helped him to improve leaps and bounds as well. I am not going to question the portrayal of the autistic child by the parent who deals with the autistic child every day.  Obviously Sam is not cured from the autism because he started playing “Minecraft” and fell in love with it, but it helped him to become more articulate, more creative, it helped him to meet friends more easily and he met some real friends who loved him very much.

And it helped Alex and Sam to reconnect with each other.

“As we work, I realize something. Normally, when we play together – in the precious moments he is prepared to concentrate – it is as a shared solitude: I watch or guide or worry about him. Or when we play with the building blocks or Lego, I make something he plays with for a few minutes or simply knocks down. But here, for a few hours, we are working as one – well, as I do what I am supposed to do. But that’s another positive. In this universe, where the rules are unambiguous, where the logic is clear and unerring, Sam is in control.”

“Daddy!”

It is the sweetest sound, piercing four days of great blank silence. My son, miles away, but suddenly right here under the same boxy clouds. And he sounds happy to have me here, even after everything. He has let me into his world. I’m so stupidly excited I don’t know what to do with myself. He still wants to play with me. I get another chance”.

I thought that interactions between Alex and Sam were very sweet; but I was also very impressed how the author managed to make the descriptions of the computer game fun. Then I read that the author wrote about computer games for the Guardian for a long time before he wrote this book and was not so surprised anymore, but still thought that Alex and Sam playing “Minecraft” were some of the best parts in this story.

Don’t worry; they are not playing “Minecraft” all the time. As I mentioned in the beginning Alex has to figure out a lot of stuff when the book begins. He deals with his past, with his friends and his family and for the most part manages to do quite well. I thought he definitely grew up throughout the book, he was not a horrible person when the book began, he did not experience personality transplant, but he understood things better and dealt with the past trauma in his life.

The book is by no means a romance, I would classify it as a family drama, but it had very hopeful HFN ending.

Grade: B+

SPOILER ALERT!

Good story

His Quiet Agent - Ada Maria Soto

Arthur Drams works for a secret government security agency, but all he really does is spend his days in a cubical writing reports no one reads. After getting another “lateral promotion” by a supervisor who barely remembers his name, it’s suggested that Arthur try to ‘make friends’ and ‘get noticed’ in order to move up the ladder. It’s like high school all over again: his attempts to be friendly come across as awkward and creepy, and no one wants to sit at the same table with him at lunch. In a last-ditch attempt to be seen as friendly and outgoing, he decides to make friends with The Alien, aka Agent Martin Grove, known for his strange eating habits, unusual reading choices, and the fact that no one has spoken to him in three years. Starting with a short, surprisingly interesting conversation on sociology books, Arthur slowly begins to chip away at The Alien’s walls using home-cooked meals to lure the secretive agent out of his abrasive shell. Except Martin just might be something closer to an actual secret agent than paper-pusher Arthur is, and it might be more than hearts at risk when something more than friendship begins to develop. Please note this book has a Heat Rating of zero.

 

Dear Ada Maria Soto,

Several book buddies at Amazon m/m group where I hang out a lot recommended your book. I never heard of your name before, but the book was on kindle unlimited and I do have the subscription so it seemed like a safe bet.

The story surprised me in a good way. I do not think I have ever read m/m romance which was set in the security agency, but was mostly about quiet life of those men and women whose job is to analyze stuff for the agency instead of fighting bad guys in the field. I say mostly because *not quiet* life ends up affecting one of the heroes closer to the end quite strongly, but even though it did happen, we never even know what exactly he was asked to do that the consequences were so harsh. It was nicely done I thought and mostly the story was about the office life and about the development of their relationship.

And I just liked the writing from the very beginning.

"There was something about ficus trees Arthur found disconcerting. It was how he could never tell if they were real or plastic. It would irritate him to the point where he would break a leaf trying to work it out, usually just at the moment when someone important walked into the room."

Arthur is a good employee, but he didn’t get a promotion in a long time and he finally decided to be brave and do something about it. He asks his supervisor and supervisor tells him sure he would be level two analyst on the fifth floor. Arthur had been on level two for several years though and points that to his supervisor that moving him from one floor to another is not much of the promotion.

Supervisor sighs and basically tells Arthur that nobody knows who he (Arthur) is. Basically the advice he gives to Arthur is to be more social, maybe run Super bowl for the office or something like that.

Arthur poor guy tries to be more social really hard on the fifth floor, however as blurb tells you his interactions come out as awkward at best and creepy at worst to some of his colleagues till he finally makes a friend who points that to him. Arthur abandons his attempts to be more social after that till he notices another coworker who was eating lunch at the same time and apparently that guy is “more weird” than Arthur to the point that he has a nickname of “The Allien”.

Basically Arthur and Martin getting to know each other were at the heart of this book. I think it is a novella, but it is packed with the character development and gentle humor.

Arthur is a decent cook, Martin was eating one apple for lunch every day and Martin was a skinny guy. Arthur’s attempts to feed Martin in the least obtrusive way possible made me smile throughout the story.

"How does someone, in American society, get to whatever miscellaneous age Martin might be, and seem totally perplexed by the simplest of menus? There was pizza listed. Yes, there were plenty of people who didn't, wouldn't, couldn't cook, but unless Martin had been raised in some secluded cult (a theory Arthur was willing to consider) he must have an opinion on pizza toppings. The lights blinked, announcing the start of the movie. Arthur sighed. "Antipasto plate for two and two chocolate milkshakes," he ordered."

We get to see Arthur helping Martin to get through some pretty bad situations and we see Martin helping Arthur as well, really liked that the narrative did not go the “rescuer and damsel in distress” road.

Both guys knew each other much better at the end of the story than in the beginning, although of course they have had plenty of discoveries left to make. I loved for example how Arthur discovered Martin’s volunteer activities when he went to the library to return Martin’s books.

""Why don't we make some get well cards for Merlin." The children each gave him cold stares. It was like being looked at by twenty tiny Martins. It was scary. "Okay, I can't read this." "Merlin hasn't taught you old English yet?" "No, he hasn't. It's on the list. I can read you something else? We can make cards?"

"You didn't collect homework." "He gives you homework?" Arthur had some memories of the local children library growing up and he was pretty sure there was no homework or old English epic poetry involved. The children each pulled lined paper out of bags and passed them forward. He flicked through them. They seemed to be about the history of Beowulf, but what Arthur noticed the most was that all the papers, even from the youngest kids, were all in the most perfect of cursive letters.

It reminded him of Hanh's elegant writing which had been beaten into her by nuns. "I will pass these on to him. I am sure it will cheer him up. Now how about those get-well cards and you all can start teaching me old English so maybe next time I'll be able to catch up."

I thought that even though the story ends with HFN ending I understood perfectly what these men saw in each other and why they fell in love.

Please note that there is no sex in the story, both men are asexual.

Grade: B

Books...

Reblogged from Hol:

Still fun for me

The Trials of Apollo, Book Two: Dark Prophecy - Rick Riordan

Dear Rick Riordan,

I reviewed the first book in this series here, and I enjoyed this story as well, but looking through the review of the first one I realized just how much harder it will be to write this review without the spoilers because I think I actually did a pretty decent job keeping the first review really vague and I really need to refer to the certain plot points to at least give you an idea about what was happening to temporarily – turned – mortal again Apollo in this part of his adventure.

To make a long story short please expect spoilers from the first book even if I will try hard to avoid a lot of them. At the end of the last book we left Apollo aka Lester with Leo and Callypso and they were going to take care of the problem that was affecting Oracles.

In the beginning of the book we catch up with them in Indiana where they run into problems almost right away.

This is how the book begins and yes, the descriptions of all chapters at the beginning elicited either a giggle or at least a smile from me.

Lester (Apollo) Still human; thanks for asking Gods, I hate my life

 WHEN OUR DRAGON declared war on Indiana, I knew it was going to be a bad day."

Of course Leo’s mechanical dragon was not their real problem. Instead very soon our heroes are attacked by creatures called blemmyae and find themselves in the middle of the very dangerous situation. They are helped by mystery woman and that mystery woman takes them to Waystation to recuperate after battle.

"A shrill whistle caught my attention. In the middle of the plaza, standing atop the fountain, a woman crouched in faded jeans and a silvery winter coat. A white birch bow gleamed in her hand. On her back, a quiver bristled with arrows. My heart leaped, thinking that my sister Artemis had come to help me at last! But no… this woman was at least sixty years old, her gray hair tied back in a bun. Artemis would never appear in such a form. For reasons she had never shared with me, Artemis had an aversion to looking any older than, say, twenty. I’d told her countless times that beauty was ageless. All the Olympian fashion magazines will tell you that four thousand is the new one thousand, but she simply wouldn’t listen.

The gray-haired woman shouted, “Hit the pavement!” All around the plaza, manhole-size circles appeared in the asphalt. Each one scissored open like the iris of a camera and turrets sprang up—mechanical crossbows swiveling and sweeping red targeting lasers in every direction. The blemmyae didn’t try to take cover. Perhaps they didn’t understand. Perhaps they were waiting for the gray-haired woman to say please."

It turns out that mystery woman is not such a mystery to Apollo. At first we learn that her name is Emmie and she and her beloved Josie aka Josephine used to belong to Artemis’ Hunters. They left Hunters some time ago because they were in love and they built the Waystation which in the recent years became sort of refuge to magical runaways and other beings that needed help and needed saving from Triumvirate. Those who read the first book know that Triumvirate consists of Three Roman Emperors who are trying to get all the power and to destroy the Gods and Demigods and god only knows what other evil things they planned.

While being the guest of Emmie and Josie, Apollo and his friends are being given a new quest by a certain Goddess; they also help former Hunters with their personal issue, even if the personal issue ends up being quite important for Apollo as well.

I think the author is doing a nice job with Apollo’s character growth. When I wrote the review of the first book I mentioned that I liked how Apollo while retaining his vain and selfish self, also becoming capable of some selfless thoughts and even does selfless deed or two. The second book continued the trend. Opinions may differ of course, but I think he moved even further towards being able to not only help the friend because it is a part of the quest but also because he wants to do it.

The story is full of action and Apollo’s voice was as snarky as ever and I thought that the book ended at okay place in order for me not to consider the ending a bloody cliffhanger. Although the story is very far from over , after all it is only a second book.

 

Grade B

SPOILER ALERT!

Fun!

Liar, Liar - TA Moore, TA Moore (ID: 4826269)

Review,

Dear T.A. Moore,

I remembered trying your book about the shifters and putting it aside simply because I was not in the mood for the post apocalypse setting, but I also remembered really enjoying your writing and when I saw this book I happily one clicked because it sounded like my cup tea and mostly the book did not disappoint.

The blurb mostly describes the set up very well. We meet Jacob when he is pretty much in the middle of trying to steal some computer related information from a bioengineering firm where Jacob is cleaning offices while being part of the cleaning crew. His cleaning gig was a part of his master plan to get into the bioengineering firm in the first place of course.

As an aside, I cannot exactly tell you what specific information Jacob was stealing except that it was called code that was supposed to help other program run better and do a whole lot of good things. Honestly to me it read as a mumbo jumbo but I am not a computer person – it could be that the author did a lot of research and the computer people will find it believable. In any event the story itself did not really depend on whether the information that Jacob was stealing made any kind of sense or not in my opinion.  Except one thing which I think you should know – supposedly Jacob’s client wanted to prove that Simon’s boss stole this code from him in the first place and this information would confirm it or not.

Jacob’s plan goes a little wrong, actually a lot wrong and he has to run away from the place even if he managed to steal what he needed. Simon who is the chief of security at the firm tries to apprehend him but fails. Needless to say it leaves Simon very pissed off, knowing that he got involved with the spy at their firm. And as much as Jacob is trying to tell the reader that Simon does not matter to him very fast we learn that it is not true either.

The action continues to unfold very fast from now on and the reader rarely gets a chance to catch a breath. Jacob is meeting with his client to give to him the stolen information (whatever that information was), but out of nowhere he is attacked, beaten and his client ended up dead.

Now not only Simon and his boss want a piece of Jacob, but he is also framed for murder. Jacob though manages to give Simon a call somehow and Simon saves him from nasty people.

Now Simon and Jacob are stuck together (by choice no matter how much they want to deny it) and trying to figure out what is really going on and how Jacob’s job was connected to the murder if it was connected at all.

You would ask me readers, what about romance? I will certainly say that the book has romantic elements, but in my opinion it is first and foremost a thriller/mystery and the author did a really good job with those, especially with the thriller part of it. I may have figured out who was behind the unfolding events a little earlier than our heroes, but it was first and foremost because of the limited cast of the story, not of anything obvious our main villain did till the really big clue fell in my lap. And this was the clue which meant to clue Simon in, so it was *really* obvious, but even when I knew who I had no idea about “why”.

Romantic storyline was definitely there, but first and foremost we do not see the men falling in love when the story begins they are already involved and have pretty strong feelings for each other (once again no matter how much they want to deny it and one of them even learns to say “I love you” by the end of the book. They are also pretty busy trying to figure out what is going on, even if they manage to have some sex amongst all the action. And because we do not see the relationship evolving much; I thought that even at the very end it was clear that it could use a lot of work (their relationship that is).

Both guys also have pretty big character flaws. This is the case when I thought that author made flawed characters work very well for me, but if you do not want to read about liar and manipulator who fell in love with alcoholic, this book is probably not for you.

"He was a liar. He was a criminal. Simon glanced to where Fozzy was lying on the backseat. He was possibly a dognapper. And he was leaving. None of it mattered. Simon still wanted to drag him into his lap and kiss him until he stopped being an idiot. Although that would probably take more time than they had. “Let me get this straight.” He averted his eyes and scowled out the window at the perfectly manicured gardens and expensively uninteresting houses. Christmas decorations that side of town were apparently minimal—just twinkling lights in the garden and tasteful wreaths on the doors. The gaudiest was a neighborhood anarchist who had a wreath of red, green, and gold baubles on the door. “Your plan is to walk up, try the door, and hope no one stops us?”

Don’t worry, they are together and in love when the book ends, but at most it felt like HFN ending and even for HFN it felt a little shaky. NOT because I doubted their love, but because I would have liked the other guy to be able to communicate something stronger than “We know I am not good for you”. He stayed, so fingers crossed they would work on the communication skills.

"It wasn’t funny. Except it was. Simon snorted out a laugh that hurt and managed to convince one arm to cooperate enough to reach for Jacob. He grabbed hold of his hand, squeezed the fingers roughly, and dragged him down into a hug. Relief filled his chest like warm air and bubbles and pushed the pain out to the corners."

 

 

Grade: B+

 

 

Mixed bag for me

Recovery (Reawakening) - Amy   Rae Durreson

Reawakening: Book Three Resistance, exile, plague. Raif has survived them all, but now he finds himself in search of a new purpose. Traveling north to wake the dragon Arden, he hopes he has finally found a leader worthy of his loyalty, but Arden turns out to be more of a frivolous annoyance than an almighty spirit lord. Now bound to Arden’s side despite his frustration, Raif follows the dragon to the rich and influential lagoon city of Aliann, chasing rumors of the Shadow that once cursed his homeland. With the election of a new duke at stake, Raif struggles to make sense of the challenges he meets in Aliann: a conspiracy of nixies and pirates, selkie refugees in desperate need of a champion, a monster that devours souls, a flirtatious pirate prince, and a machine that could change the world. For nothing in the city of masks is what it seems, from the new friends Raif makes to the dragon he follows—or even himself.

Review:

Dear Amy Rae Durreson I reviewed the first two books in this series here and here at DA, as you can see I liked the first book quite a bit and the second one even more. This one left a mixed impression on me.

As blurb tells you this book’s main couple is Raif and Arden. We met Raif in the last book during which he endured a lot and if you read the last book you know that at the end he is leaving his homeland to search for Arden, another sleeping dragon brother and hopefully to wake him and to become a part of Arden’s hoard.

Raif is on a mission that both dragons who woke up in the previous books and their lovers wanted him to undertake, but he also wanted to leave his home because he was having a crisis of faith of the sort. Raif finds Arden indeed and wakes him up and of course Arden is taken with him. Just to remind dragons in these series thrive on Love from their Hoard, people and all kinds of beings they taken under their wings and Dragons love their Hoard back. I am saying this to stress that it made perfect sense that Arden took to Raif, but this relationship also felt to me the most human and the most complex out of all three books, which I suppose a good thing.

Arden may be a mighty Dragon, a defender of the Law, but he is grieving over the loss of his Hoard because all of them died over the thousand years, he wants to win Raif over and he really loves to laugh and tease him. Raif may be attracted, but he also thinks especially in the beginning that Arden is not *serious enough* in order to make him a worthy person to serve. But we know by now that dragons want to love, they want somebody to cherish; they do not want servants in their Hoard. Raif eventually learns to take some teasing from his Dragon of course and overall I just thought that the way both guys played off each other was really nicely done, they both felt like multilayered and very alive beings.

"Arden was quiet for a few moments. Then he said dreamily, “Those old stories about virgin sacrifices being sent to dragons—they were never true. I’m thinking I missed out on something life changing, if all the virgins were as eager as you. I could have had whole meadows full of virgins, all desperate to be touched. Virgin orgies.” Raif sighed. Nobody had ever understood this. “I was a virgin. That didn’t mean I didn’t want to be touched or that I didn’t think about it. In fact, I had a lot of time to think. I was just waiting for the right one.” Arden’s voice went serious. “I am honored, you know, that you chose me.” Then he ruined it by adding dreamily, “You are the best virgin sacrifice imaginable.” “Your brothers sent me,” Raif reminded him, which shut Arden up for a while. Then he began to whisper in Raif’s ear—a long, increasingly absurd, and utterly distracting fantasy involving a fishing boat run aground, public nudity, ropes, and a love potion that meant “A hundred orgasms between us, Raif, or we would drop dead within a week, and so I begged you, my treasure, begged you to take my cock and….” They made it to double figures before breakfast."

I quoted this little bit of silliness because I thought the romance was really nicely done, however the story is also about a fight against Tyranical shadow and I had issues with this storyline. First and foremost I think I understand that Shadow supposed to represent the tyranny and the fight against the tyranny never ends and anybody could fall victim to it, but I am reading the fantasy series and by book three I am getting a little bored by the villain *who nobody seems to be able to overcome*. Yes, I understand it is getting weaker and weaker, but honestly I cannot help but wish we would get a new villain already. 

But this was not the main reason why I was bored and annoyed while I was reading parts of the book. As you can see from the blurb Arden and Raif end up chasing Shadow in the city of Aliann, which was at least in part inspired by the medieval Venice. Basically almost the whole book is set up in Aliann and our guys get to participate in the Aliann’s politics.  You see, Aliann is preparing for the elections while its duke is on the death bed. 

"Tomorrow, the Ten meet in private to ratify selection criteria for the representatives of the fifty districts. The heads of the Fifty Families are meeting today to nominate a choice of electors for each district. The districts will then choose their representatives, who vote on the electors, who vote on which of the Ten should be duke.” Raif blinked. “That’s a little—” “Complicated? We like it that way. All is balanced, and no one group has too much power.” “Except the one who can bribe the most electors.”"

I don’t know what associations anybody else may have had when they read this paragraph, but my first thought was , wait why am I reading about American elections?   Now, because I am an American, I am willing to assume that I absorbed too much information about the circus that our politics became in my opinion and I can see it everywhere, but “fifty families”?

Let me be very clear here, I am not the kind of reader who thinks that work of fiction shouldn’t be political. I think that folks who say that the work of fiction shouldn’t have the message in it just usually disagree with the message of the story; however I also think that the story should be a message.  Basically what it comes down to is that at times (not all the time) I was feeling that I was reading a propaganda piece instead of a fantasy story and it jerked me out of the story several times. I guess while I really liked the writing overall, I did not feel that the message was done elegantly enough.

And message or no message, I felt that the book dragged at places. It has 7800 locations on my Kindle and I love long books, but often I felt that political conversations went nowhere and to be honest I felt that political storyline actually started moving at sixty or so percent of the book.

Grade: C+/B-

 

SPOILER ALERT!

Enjoyable

Trustworthy - Astrid Amara

Ten years ago, lovers and best friends Ivo Toreli and Robert Mackenzie were separated by death. But sometimes life gives you second chances. Life...and a lot of cybernetic enhancements. Trust Agent 505 may not remember who he was before he worked security for Trust Insurance, but now his prisoner thinks he knows him. This revolutionary named “Mack,” who has stolen one of Trust’s prized possessions, seems to think Agent 505 is named “Ivo,” someone from his past. Someone he once loved more than anyone on any of the inhabited worlds. Ivo doesn’t remember any of it, of course. But if he’s going to get Trust’s property back from the revolutionaries, he’s going to have to play along. And if playing along also means sleeping with a handsome, humorous, and slightly dangerous ex-soldier, all the better, right?

 

Review:

Dear Astrid Amara,

I am always looking forward to a new story from you, but when I heard that this one is going to be a sequel to your earlier book “A policy of lies” which I believe was published in 2008 I was a little disappointed, because I could not finish “A policy of lies” years ago and when I tried to read it now, all I managed is to skim it. It was not horrible by all means, but it just paled for me in comparison with some of your other books.

I did not feel that I was confused though, so I think the readers could easily read this book without reading the first one. It takes place in the same world, and we do get to meet the couple from the first book briefly at the end, but the events in “Trustworthy” are taking place twenty years later and those events could be easily understood on its own.

Blurb describes the set up very well. Two boys had been friends with each other since they met when they were six or seven in the orphanage, grew up together, joined the Army together and we meet them in the prologue of the story when they are both twenty five (actually I am not hundred percent sure if both of them are twenty five, Mack could have been same age or couple years older) and their unit is assigned to fight unexpected raid of revolutionaries. Ivo dies during that assignment and then the next chapter opens up with the “ten years later” note.

Now the prologue took maybe fifteen percent of the story on my kindle and I am a little torn about what the author was trying to do here (as I understand). Basically Ivo narrates the whole story and in the prologue he is still Ivo, he is still in full control of his memory and amongst other things we are supposed to see how much these guys are in love with each other. From the blurb we know that major part of the story is about Ivo actually not remembering the love of his life for some very good reasons and then eventually reuniting with him after all the action took place. Of course in the prologue the reader should see their love so it would be all the more painful to watch Ivo struggling after all that time.

So initially I was not sure how much of their love I *saw*. I sympathized with Ivo right away, clearly the guy had a hard life and he was supposedly having a deep and powerful connection with his best friend. I saw Ivo’s love pretty fast; I just did not see the connection just yet.

"When we finished our burritos and Mack got up to use the restroom, I went ahead and ordered him a flan because I knew he’d want one. I paid for our meal before he could protest, because he spent his credits on osys upgrades, virchworlds, books, instruments, gadgets, whereas I saved every penny so I could buy Mack shit. When Mack came back to the table, the bill paid for, the flan, and sugary Mexican coffee awaiting him, his look of boyish delight melted my heart.”

When the story picks up ten years later, Mack and Ivo are on the different sides of the barricades. Actually Ivo is not even aware that he is Ivo anymore. He works for “Trust Insurance” company and he is an agent 505. When Mack is attacking the train which Ivo and other agent guard because they transport a certain valuable item, Mack does recognize Ivo even if he saw his lover die in front of him, but Ivo has no idea.

The attack unfolded the way that Mack and Ivo are stuck together and going to have to look together for the item. Or to be more precise Ivo took him as a prisoner, but Mack supposedly threw away the item during the attack, but he knows where it is and he can show Ivo and they need to hire a transport and get there together since there is nobody else left to do so.

Mack in the meantime keeps telling Ivo the stories from the life he does not remember, and he does not, but here and there he seems to catch fleeing impressions from the past which disappear frustratingly fast.

Would the men reconnect? Would Ivo remember all that he had lost? Why is he alive when his last words in prologue are him feeling as if his back was breaking? What did Trust do to him and other agents who do not even have their names anymore?  Stay tune to find out!

I want to note that while this book has plenty of action scenes and it is set in science-fiction setting, to me it is first and foremost a romance. Don’t get me wrong, I did not feel that the setting was lacking of anything, I thought the author shared just enough which was needed in order to write a satisfying romance. Just don’t go in expecting hard science fiction, all that I am saying.

Romance was indeed very satisfying for me and despite what I wrote above, I think it is not a spoiler to say that the men do indeed come back to each other, because once again it is Romance. I just realized something – I think it was by design that in the prologue we mostly saw Ivo’s love for Mack because he was a POV character, but even though he remains a POV character throughout the whole book in the rest of the story Mack’s love for him shines through as well.

B+