Out of the Dark (Five #1) by Holli Anderson

Out of the Dark (Five, #1)Out of the Dark by Holli Anderson

I really wish this book had been able to decide what it wanted to be. It’s really three separate, but related storylines, none of which are fully developed because they’re all sharing space in a fairly short book.

I found myself reading in stops and starts because there would be something interesting going on, and then it would get too slow and devolve into a lot of skimming along the top of the story without really giving us any detail or depth and I’d get bored. Then something else would pop up and I’d start again and then it’d slow again. And it’s a real shame because there are some good ideas here, but it just doesn’t know what it wants to be.

In flavor this is a Harry Dresden light with magical teenagers. The author introduces all kinds of supernatural critters with a kind of reckless abandon and while we hear a lot of names, the readers don’t know much about what makes one creature different from another or how these teenagers manage to learn enough to fight them from experimentation and a little white book.

The ending isn’t particularly satisfying. The book hits one major climax, then kind of restarts with an extra 20 pages or so that it really there to introduce the next book and tie off a few ends way too quickly. I would really have loved to see this book with those last pages removed and more time given to the development of the characters and the pacing of the first part of the book.

Would I read the next one, which is one of the defining questions in this situation at the start of a new series? Maybe. If it was the right price and hit me on the right day, but I’m not rushing off to buy it. So a solid mid range, but I really wanted more.

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Off to LTUE

I suppose there’s really not much ‘off to’ given that LTUE (Life the Universe and Everything fantasy symposium) is only about a 45 minute drive away and I’m coming home every night, but it sounds more fun to be off to a conference.

This should be an interesting experience as the last time I went to LTUE was about 20 years ago. At that time the conference was help on the Brigham Young University campus and fairly grudgingly at that. It was made up of mostly students with a few “weird old people” and was a three day geek-a-thon with panels, author signings, role playing games and singing weird music into the wee hours when campus cops came around and kicked us out. These days it’s apparently become more academic and draws well over 1000 people to the Provo Marriott Convention Center. It’s a far cry from our tiny rooms in the Wilkinson Center where the sound never worked quite right, and finding a bottle of anything caffeinated was nearly impossible.

I’m looking forward to the whole thing, even if this time around I am one of the weird old people. Geek never dies…and this time I’m bringing my own Dr. Pepper.

Book Review: The Highly Capable

The Highly Capable (The Ruby Dawson Saga Book 1)The Highly Capable by Jayme Beddingfield

I received this ebook in exchange for an honest review.

I was excited to receive this book as it had a lot of aspects which, on the surface, would be a good fit for me. However, the further I got into the book the more obvious it became that it was a total mismatch.

The Highly Capable is a redemptive story with very strong X-men undertones. (IE: Our heroine is a red-headed telekinetic who is developing telepathic and empathetic powers as well and she eventually meets a guy named Charlie who runs a comic book store and is an option for a way out of her current life.). We are introduced to Ruby, an 18 year old telekinetic who is running with a gang of similarly powered individuals who go from using their powers to pick pocket the tourists to robbing homes and then businesses and then taking on drug gangs and other such things. Their leader, Madison, has some kind of manifest destiny in mind for them, not that she’ll tell anyone what that is and spends much of her time threatening to kill one member or another. However, the stuff with Madison is kind of background while much of the immediate plot circles around Ruby’s changing powers, her relationships with three men and her slowly growing desire to get out of the life she’s in the middle of.

So why did I stop reading? I like paranormal books. I like redemption arcs. I don’t even mind the heavy X-men influence. But the biggest problem? I had no one to root for. I didn’t like or empathize with a single character, Ruby included and especially. She’s wishy washy and often stupid. She blames her indecision on bad self control and begs people to take her away from her life, even when she says on the next breath that she’s perfectly capable of taking care of herself…except that she’s not and she doesn’t. Things happen TO Ruby, she doesn’t do anything proactive to change it. She kills without mercy or remorse except for the occasions where she doesn’t, which is only when it’s plot pivotal and when it starts to physically and emotionally hurt her because she’s experiencing what she’s putting others through, which feels like a very heavy handed way to try to push her towards choosing a better life.

The other characters aren’t better.

For me, in order to enjoy a story of redemption I have to believe the character wants it and I have to have someone to cheer for who I want redeemed. Unfortunately this book didn’t do it for me.

POV Information: This is in first person present tense.

Content warning: Sex, drugs, drinking, language, violence… Most of it isn’t explicit, but it’s all there.

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Book Review: Days Gone Bad by Eric Asher

Days Gone Bad (Vesik, #1)Days Gone Bad by Eric R. Asher
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

All together I fear this book tries too hard and ends up stumbling over itself. I ended up skimming the last half of it because by half way through I was tired of the supernatural salad and the consistent grating laughter. On first glimpse this should have been the kind of book I like.

Damien is a snarky, slightly older (yay 30) male protagonist and a necromancer, which is something we don’t often see as a hero. He runs a shop of oddities and magical stuff in St Charles, which I guess is either a suburb or close to St. Louis, I never really could tell exactly how that worked. His sister is a fairly new vampire (vampires who have no trouble with things like sunlight, grr) and one day his old mentor calls to say that there are demons being loosed and they’re coming after Damien because…reasons. When the demons do come it all gets tossed into supernatural salad with fae, demons, vampires, zombies, zombie vampires and psychotic faery dogs. The book is fairly brutal as Damien gets his butt handed to him rather consistently, and enemies get bifurcated and exploded among other things. (view spoiler)

While there are some interesting world building aspects, and a few characters I found myself drawn to, the choppiness of the writing, jumping from place to place and vast inconsistency of pacing and world building was a turn off. A shame because it had a lot of potential for more.

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Grump…

Dear Windows 10,

We’ve had this discussion a few times now. I’ve gently poked your settings and prodded you at your misbehaving. Let’s go over this one more time. Stop updating and rebooting yourself when I’m in the middle of things!!!!

Me

Dear Me,

Hit save more often.

Me.

Book Review: Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh

KIYA: Hope of the Pharaoh (KIYA Trilogy, #1)KIYA: Hope of the Pharaoh by Katie Hamstead
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As the new year has begun I’ve been making an effort to clear off some of the many free and inexpensive books off my Kindle list. Some of them have just been dumped entirely because whatever caught my eye in the first place no longer holds true and the others I’m trying to give a read and review before deciding if they stay or go.

With that long explanation Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh is a book I’ve looked at several times, but hadn’t picked up until recently. I decided that I wanted something a little different and the Egyptian setting and pseudo historical bent sounded fun. This is the first in a trilogy in the classic sense of a continuing story, not a series in the same world or years apart, but one book leads into the next, etc. Hope of the Pharaoh tells the story of a Hebrew girl named Naomi who takes her sister’s place as the wife of the Pharaoh because she believes that her timid younger sister wouldn’t survive palace life.

This story sort of qualifies as historical fiction. There was a Kiya during the reign of Akhenaten and Nefertiti and there is still some question over the heritage of King Tut who followed Akhenaten. The period isn’t well documented so it leaves a lot of space for imagination and the author took advantage of that, which was fun. However, and there must be a however here, it didn’t feel like there had been a lot of research done into the accuracies of Egyptian life at that time and certainly not into Hebrew life. It felt a lot more like Egypt as seen through the Ten Commandments or other Hollywood portrayals. I never got a feel for the food and the more specific culture and rarely did we see the Pharaoh doing anything…well…Pharaohie. Instead the focus was all on his genetic deformations (which is historical) and on his role as a husband and master of the house. The Hebrew references had her partaking in restrictions and observances which weren’t brought to the Hebrew until after the time of Moses and this time period was too soon for that, though a few generations after Joseph of the famed coat of many colors. I did a lot better when I considered it a fantasy “Egypt” instead of trying to ground it in the reality.

Plotwise the book works for me. Naomi comes to the capital, is prepared to be a wife and then faces intrigue and politics which threaten her life and that of the children she hopes to have. It’s an interesting imagining of how 312 wives and concubines manage to get along while sharing one man and how kingdoms pass from one to another.

Now the big place where it didn’t work for me, and this kinda pains me to say, is the characters. I can’t think of anyone that I really felt was well rounded and well developed. Yeah, almost everyone had interesting aspects, but those paled beside the problems. Kiya is not likeable, no matter how EVERYONE except the ‘bad’ guys seems to immediately take to her. All the men lurve her and there’s a full on Love Quadrangel going on between her, the Pharaoh, a guard and the General of the city and I don’t know why any of them really think she’s all that wonderful. They call her clever, but she really isn’t, and we’re continually reminded how she’s beautiful and bigger and stronger than the other women which is supposed to be a bad thing except that it’s totally…not. Her devotion to her religion is something which comes and goes when it’s important to the plot and seems to be more about socialization and family than real belief and dedication. All in all I found her wishy washy and unreliable as a narrator and a person. And Nefertiti was portrayed much like the Wicked Witch of the West. I was just waiting for her to start with the cackling and the ‘I’ll get you my pretties’ kind of lines. She was unrelentingly evil and jealous and awful, and stupid…all traits which seem very out of step with maintaining her status as the number one wife of Pharaoh. He said she couldn’t be punished because of her royal blood, but I couldn’t believe that due to how far she went to maintain her place. No one would have blamed him except her co-conspirators who were just as guilty. So all in all, I wanted characters who were LIKE these characters but more well rounded and realistic put into this plot.

Now, a couple of other nits to pick. I like the writing in general. However, there are a LOT of modern phrases and attitudes which show up all through this book. I’d be sinking into the narrative and then something would pop out of Kiya’s mouth which would totally throw me out of the story because it sounded like a girl at the mall, not a woman in ancient Egypt, particularly an outsider in a strange land and among a strange people.

My other nit… The Pharaoh was receiving 3-4 women a night, every night and performing his duty with each of them. And later in the story he was seeing Kiya during the day as well as his nightly jaunts. All I can think is that he must have had access to some kind of super Viagra because most men cannot manage three times in a night once, much less every night with some quickies during the day too.

In the end will I pick up the next book? Eh, maybe. I don’t feel driven to know what happens to Kiya at this point and I really don’t care which of the men she ends up with because I don’t believe any of the relationships. I didn’t have to force myself to finish or give up, so it still gets a three star and I may pick up the next one on sale for some summer day, the books read quickly, but I’m not rushing to Amazon right now.

Content: There are a couple of violent and bloody scenes, descriptions of women giving birth, and a mild sex scene as well as domestic violence. Kiya gets shoved around a lot including when she’s pregnant.

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Book Review: Exile of the Crown

Exile of the Crown (The Crown of Tremontane #2.5)Exile of the Crown by Melissa McShane
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Exile of the Crown is a novella lengthen piece, though it’s really four shorter pieces all pulled together to show what happened to Queen Zara after the events of Servant of the Crown, bringing her timeline up to speed.

I was a big fan of Zara in Servant of the Crown and wanted her to get more ‘screen’ time, so it was really fun to get these glimpses of what came next for the character and how she built herself a new life. I like seeing the deep emotions she’s capable of, all while never giving up her innate bossy Zaraness. She may not be Queen of Tremontane anymore, but she is still Lady of all she surveys.

You definitely do NOT want to start reading the Tremontane books here. This one really needs to be read after Servant of the Crown and Rider of the Crown and before Agent of the Crown. There are secrets revealed which will really mess up reading the other books if you start here.

* I received Exile as an ARC. Lucky me.:)

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