Tag Archives: book reviews

The Proving by Ken Brosky.

Stars: 3.5 out of 5.

A few hundred years ago, a comet came too close to the Earth and when it collided with our atmosphere, it broke into a ring of ice that circles around most of our planet, hiding away the stars. That alone would be a disaster, but ice wasn’t the only thing that came with the comet. Every time a few of those chunks collide up there, they release Specters, strange beings that fall down to the Earth bellow. Problem is, those Specters are incompatible with Earth life. In fact, everything they touch dies, because they vibrate on a different frequency than all the other living creatures on Earth…

How can you fight an immaterial enemy who can phase through walls and can kill you by mere touch? What follows is a near annihilation of mankind. What’s left is holed up in a few cities protected by energy barriers that Specters can’t cross. Problem is, most of the infrastructures needed for those cities to function lay outside of the barriers and need to be repaired from time to time. That’s the job of the Cotteries – groups of people from all the clans who work together as one combat unit. Cotteries are formed  first at the age of 18 when they go through their first Proving, which also serves as a rite of passage into adulthood.

All in all, I really liked this book. The premise reminded me of the movie Final Fantasy The Spirits Within, which I really loved back when it came out in 2001. Same idea of an untouchable enemy that could kill you just by passing through your body. Same small human enclaves hiding behind energy shields.

But The Proving is in no way a retelling of that movie. This is a standalone story with a distinctly different world and interesting structure. The worldbuilding is what I enjoyed the most in this book. The world feels complex and well thought of and I would really like to know more about the clan system and technologies mentioned in this book.

I liked the pacing as well and the different POVs we had which put the same events in different, but complementary perspectives.

My problem with this book and the reason I only gave this book 3.5 stars is the characters. Most of them are supposed to be 18 year olds, but they behave like they are 14-15 at the most. My second problem is that they are supposed to be a Cotterie – a group that will be working together their whole life and performing tasks in a dangerous and deadly environment. Yet they don’t even try to get to know each other and try to cooperate. In fact, they so obviously distrust each other and even look down on each other that I’m amazed they even survived until the end of the book.

This also made me think, are all the Cotteries like this? From what is described in this book, the members have virtually no interaction with each other apart from when they go on missions. No training together, nothing. That’s… a serious lapse in logic in my opinion.

I wasn’t really thrilled by the ending either. I understand that this is the first book in the series and that the author needed to hook the reader into picking up the next one, but end it in a cliffhanger like that? Not cool man, not cool. I would have been okay with the ending if at least some of the questions raised throughout the book had been answered. But as it stands now, there is no resolution in this book. I felt like the characters accomplished nothing. And they didn’t really grow as people either, or learned to cooperate and trust each other. The whole story felt kinda… pointless. We got no answer as to what that secret research facility was working on and what the repercussions for the characters and the mankind would be from discovering that. We got no answer as to what was in those containers they found in the facility. We got no answer as to why the Specters chose that precise moment to change their behavior.

In fact, if the story is headed where I think it’s headed, all those answers will be irrelevant because the characters will have a bunch of new problems to face. That’s disappointing. I felt like the story was building to this big climax, a huge reveal that would shatter everybody’s view of the world… only to fizzle out like a wet firecracker.

Nevertheless, I will probably check out the next book because I liked the world and I want answers. But I will be upset if once again, I don’t get any.

Of Scions and Men by Courtney Sloan.


Stars: 4 out of 5.

Of Scions and Men is the first book in a new urban fantasy series and as such, it does a good job in introducing the readers to the world and the characters who inhabit it.

And that’s no small feat, I can tell you. First books in a series have the thankless job of showing the reader a brand new world and making sure that they love the protagonist enough to stick not only until the end of one book, but to keep reading the series, AND they need to do that while avoiding info dumps and expositions and still telling an interesting story. So I’m always happy when a start a new series and am hooked from the get go.

So what is this world that Rowan inhabits? This is a world where the war against terror escalated into a full blown all out Third World War and threatened to wipe the human race off the face of the Earth. Supernatural beings like vampires and shifters, who had until then been content to stay in the shadows and make normal people believe they didn’t exist, decided to intervene and put a stop to the massacre, because, in the case of vampires, they were reluctant to lose their food source. By the time vampires took control of the world and bought order and peace again (in a rather ruthless and bloody fashion, I must admit), most of the planet was a smoldering radioactive mess. And humans aren’t in charge of anything, not even their own lives anymore.

Rowan Brady sold her life, her career and her blood when she chose to become a vampire’s Scion, but it was the only way she could ensure that her brother would have a roof over his head and enough food to eat every day. And even though the loss of freedom and the obligation to give a pint of blood a week to her master is a bitter pill to swallow, in exchange Rowan got a job she loves with the police, making sure that supernaturals don’t engage in illegal blood trade.

I like Rowan and her relationship with Devon. I like how she tries to make the best out of a bad situation and preserve every sliver of independence she can while basically having Devon in her head and thoughts 24 / 7. I like that she always relies on herself and doesn’t flash her scion get out of jail card left and right. I like that she is a truly though and capable protagonist.

I like the fact that Devon isn’t your typical domineering selfish and rather violent male lead we usually get in those kind of books. If fact, as vampire masters go, he is a good one to be scioned to.

I do have a few gripes with this book though, hence the 4 out of 5 stars.

The first one is with Lyle. Lyle is gay and flamboyantly so, since even his true form is a blue jay. He could have been such an interesting character if he’d been fleshed out instead of being a walking assembly of clichés. As he stands now, he is more of a plot point and trusty sidekick to Rowan, always there to help her out and listen to her problems. That’s annoying. I want to know what makes him tick. I want to know his backstory. I want to know what pushed him to display his orientation so blatantly in a world where being gay is greatly frowned upon. Why did he choose to come out of the closet and become an outcast? Hopefully, we will discover more about Lyle in the next books because that’s one character I could really fall in love with.

My second gripe is with Rowan’s constant resentment towards Devon and the fact that she became a scion. I would understand that if she’d been forced to do that against her will, but she CHOSE to become a scion. Yes, it was for her brother’s sake, but still, nobody bent her arm or held her at gunpoint when she agreed to this. And it makes even less sense that she would rail against Devon instead of her little brother whom she is making all those sacrifices for. Also, this reaction is rather out of character for her, at least in my opinion. Rowan is a person used to making tough decisions and owning to the consequences, so rehashing this resentment over and over again gets old really fast.

But all in all, this is a solid first instalment of a new series and I will certainly look forward to the next book. And I would recommend it to lovers of urban fantasy.

PS. I received an advanced reader copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Courier by Gerald Brandt.

Stars: 3.5 out of 5.

I actually enjoyed this book quite a lot. It’s fast paced, well written and entertaining. The story is solid and the protagonist quite engaging. So why did I give it only 3.5 stars? Because it could have been so much better if the author had worked on his antagonists a bit more…

But we will get to that later. So what is this book about? Well, Kris Ballard is a motorcycle courier who tries to scrap a living doing courier jobs between levels 3 and 4 of San Angeles, a huge multilevel conglomerate city that has swallowed the west coast from Los Angeles to San Francisco. She makes barely enough to put food on the table and a roof over her head, so when Dispatch sends her after a late package, promising better rates and a tip, she grumbles, but goes anyway. After all, her bike needs new tires. Only the delivery goes all kinds of sideways when she walks in on a murder. Now she is on the run with the package that every corporation out there seems to want and her life is pretty much over if she can’t stay one step ahead of the hunters.

First, let’s talk about the things I loved about The Courier, and the most notable one would be Kris herself. She is one tough young woman. She comes from a background of tragedy and abuse, but she had the strength and courage to pull herself out of the muck and build herself back up again. She doesn’t expect handouts from anyone and relies only on herself. She is smart and street savvy and doesn’t scare easy. And one thing I really like about her is that she is too stubborn to give up. No matter what life throws at her, no matter how bleak the situation, she finds the strength to keep on going. So Kris immediately had my affection, and following her through her story was a blast.

Second, as I said, the story is well thought out and fast paced. I didn’t have time to take a breath because everything was unfolding so fast, which is actually a good thing because it stressed the urgency of Kris’s situation. The tension revs up the moment she starts running for her life and doesn’t let down until the last pages of the book.

I also like the world the author has created where big corporations have pretty much divided zones of influence on Earth and own everything, from the government to the police, healthcare and entire giant cities. Earth has been pretty much depleted of all resources and those rich enough have fled to the Sat cities who orbit the planet. Those who weren’t so lucky are trying to scrap a living on a polluted dying planet. This premise has potential, and we have only seen a small fraction of the world in this book, since Kris never left San Angeles. From what I understand, this is the beginning of a series, so I’m looking forward to exploring this world a bit more in the consecutive books.

Now I need to talk about the stuff that I DIDN’T like, because even though the book was well-written, the flaws were jarring enough to make me knock 1.5 stars off my score.

First of all, apart from Kris and Miller, all the other characters we encounter seem pretty one-dimensional. In fact, most of them are more like walking names or stereotypes. Devon is a nerd with uncanny computer skills. Dispatch is a down on her luck woman who seems like a b*^ch but has a good heart underneath. And Jeremy is a megalomaniac as well as a possible psychopath.  Not to mention the very simplistic approach that since the corporations are bad, everyone who works for them is bad as well.

I mean, take Quincy for example. He is part of the corporation’s Black Ops, which by definition should be a group of very skilled professionals right? Wrong. Instead of getting in and out and done with the mission as cleanly as possible, he plays with his victims, he tortures them, and he isn’t even against an occasional rape.  I would understand if he was a common thug or gangster, but he is a Black Ops team leader, for God’s sake!

My second problem with this book is that the idea that an untrained 16 year old girl would be able to escape several trained killers and Black Ops over 5 times and then even kill one of them is rather ridiculous. One or two times I would understand, but more than that? That screams of sheer incompetence on the killer’s part or too much luck on our protagonist’s part. After a while it’s simply not believable.

But all those flaws become apparent only AFTER you finish the book, because while you are immersed in the story you are too busy running with Kris to notice this. Though admittedly, the sadistic villains got on my nerves even while I was reading this book.

All in all, I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a fast-paced story with a strong protagonist though.

PS. I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for a honest review.

Help the Author – The Importance of Book Reviews.

book-review

I love reading books. I read a lot. In fact, I usually read one or two books a week. I’m also friends with a lot of avid book readers. But there is one thing that baffles me every time I hear it – it’s when those friends say something like this:

“I loved this book! It’s one of my favorite authors! But I don’t want to leave a review because I can’t formulate my thoughts well enough for it, or I’m afraid that I would make too many grammatical mistakes, or because it takes too much time.”

I’m sad when I hear that, because the BEST thing you can do for that author that you love so much (after buying their book legally of course) is to leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, and other book review sites for other readers to see.

You see, the publishing world is not what it was even 10 years ago. Putting a book for sale on Amazon is incredibly easy now – takes less than 5 minutes. So there is a literal sea of new content being put out there every day. And that book that you absolutely loved is just one tiny fish in that sea, easily overlooked by readers browsing for their next book.

So how can you help the author get more sales, which means she or he will get paid enough to write another book? By making their book more visible to potential buyers. And one easy and free way you can do that is by posting a review.

interior_view_of_stockholm_public_library

Reviews are important because, at least on Amazon, they increase the visibility of the book. The more reviews it has, the better are the chances that it will be included in the different lists or the “also viewed / bought” tab.

With so many books clamoring for my attention every time I go on Amazon or in a book store, I ALWAYS read a couple reviews before I decided if I will spend some of my hard earned money on a book or not. And I don’t only read 5 star reviews either. I usually pick up one 5 star, one 3 star and one 1 or 2 star review to make up my mind. Which should tell you the reason why all sorts of reviews matter.

That’s why authors are so desperate for reviews, and that’s why reviews are so hard to come by because most of the readers think exactly like the example above.

For some reason, a lot of people still think that only professional book bloggers / book magazines can write reviews for Amazon and other sites. This is so not true! Most of the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads have been posted by normal readers like you and I who loved a book (or hated it, or just thought it was so-so) and took the time to drop a  line or two and give it a few stars.

Yes, a book review doesn’t have to be a detailed analysis of the plot and characters that’s over 1k words long. It can be as short and or as long as you want. You liked something about this book, right? Or you didn’t like something, that’s okay as well. So write about that! ALL reviews are important and useful, as long as they’re honest.

Amazon Reviews

If you are still unsure of whether you should leave a review or how to approach it, here are a few tips:

  1. Write about the book, not the author. Never get personal in your praise or your critique. Never treat this more than a fictional story you read.
  1. Be honest. Write about what you liked or didn’t like about the book. Leaving a glowing 5 stars review on a sub-par book will actually do a disservice to the author in the long run. Others will read the book as well and might not be as forgiving, so your review will attract more negative attention then positive.
  1. Avoid spoilers. Maybe there is a plot twist you absolutely loved in the later part of the book, but don’t mention it in your review. You don’t want to spoil other readers, do you? You want them to reach that point and be as blown away as you are.
  1. Don’t worry if your review doesn’t look professional. So what if you didn’t structure you sentences properly or made some spelling and grammatical mistakes? You aren’t writing a dissertation or an article for New York Times. You are just sharing your opinion with fellow readers.

So now that you read all this, how about you go to Amazon and Goodreads, open the page of the last book you read, and leave a review? Share your love by helping the author get more visibility.

There is no such thing as too many books.
There is no such thing as too many books.

Broken Dolls by Tyrolin Puxty.

Stars: 5 out of 5.

 

I didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did. The premise sounded rather quirky, so it could have gone either way for me. I’m so glad that I decided to give it a chance though, because it was blast to read! In some places Broken Dolls reminded me of another excellent book I had read – The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath, which I have reviewed here. It has the same quirky and slightly psychedelic feel to it.

 

This is the story of Ella, and Ella is a doll, though she knows that she has been human before, she just doesn’t remember what it was like or anything from her past life. All she knows is the dusty attic and the big chest she lives in, the old tape recorder she plays with during her Imagination Time, and the ancient black and white TV she watches sometimes. The only person she ever interacts with is the Professor, who, even though he always tells her that she is special, nevertheless forbids her from leaving the attic and never explains anything.

 

She doesn’t remember how long she’s been a doll, but her peaceful and boring life changes when the Professor creates Lisa, another living doll. Lisa is a Goth and a rebel and she remember her human life. And she will stop at nothing to get her human body back and make the Professor pay for what he’s done to her.

 

At first, Ella thinks that Lisa is crazy and is scared of her, but then Ella meets Gabby, the Professor’s granddaughter and everything changes. Gabby is sick and Ella has the sinking feeling that the Professor will try to change her into one of his living dolls. And Ella will do everything in her power to save her new friend. So the good little dancing doll rebels for the first time in her memory.

 

What I loved about this book was its unpredictability. You start the book with the idea that you have the plot pretty much figured out – crazy evil Professor praying on little girls and turning them into dolls for his crazy evil pleasure. And for the first part of the book, Mrs. Puxty does a good job to cultivate that assumption… until she starts slowly revealing little details that make us doubt what’s going on and wonder if what we are seeing is perhaps not the whole truth. And in the end we discover that all of our assumptions were wrong and the villains are not who we had expected. What can I say? That was brilliant!

 

Nobody is who they seem to be when we first meet them, apart maybe for Gabby, but she is a 10 year old child, so not really capable of much deception. So it was fun for me to discover different sides to all these characters and to constantly have to revise my opinion of them. And the best part is that the author does those reveals in a very natural way that flows seamlessly with the story.

 

I also loved Ella, even though I came to hate her by the end. Well, hate is kind of a strong word. Let’s just say that I disliked the person she was when she wasn’t a doll. I won’t go into many more details because that would be a spoiler, so to know more, you need to pick up this book and read it for yourself.

 

The book is also well written and the story was fast paced and kept me on the edge of my sit. I devoured it in one day because I just couldn’t put it down! It’s also not very long, only about 150 pages, so that helped.

 

Anyway, I would definitely recommend this book. You want something fast-paced and interesting to read while curled up on your couch with a cup of hot chocolate? Broken Dolls is a book for you.

 

PS. I have received an advanced reader copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Under the Empyrean Sky by Chuck Wendig.

Stars: 4 out of 5

I rarely read and review young adult books, but I had read Chuck’s Atlanta Burns which I also reviewed and loved it. Plus the premise of this book sounded interesting. Carnivorous corn? Dystopian society? Heck yeah! So I requested Under the Empyrean Sky from NetGalley when it became available.

I liked it. Less than Atlanta Burns, but it was still an enjoyable read. The world is interesting. Who would have thought that the world would be destroyed not by a plague or natural disaster or alien invasion but by genetically modified corn that turns carnivorous? Most of the land is covered in it. It’s so virulent that it kills all other plants, so that’s the only thing that grows anymore. And it’s not even edible to bout!

This world has a very clear separation between the have and the have nots – the Empyreans living on their floating ships sailing high above the corn and dictating their law to the few people who still live in the Heartland. The Empyreans have everything: the best technologies, the best food, the best healthcare, while the Heartlanders live on scraps that sometimes fall from the sky.

The Heartland is a bleak, hopeless world. There is no future for those born amongst the corn. The only jobs available is to grow, harvest or process the corn. Cancer and other diseases are rampant due to the highly toxic chemicals used to process corn and keep it away from the villages. There is no school, no sports, no entertainment. Even marriages are arranged by the Empyreans who send down a list of who will marry whom on Obligation day. The only way out is the Lottery that is held once a year and which gives one family a chance to relocate into one of the Empyrean flotillas. Only everyone knows that the Lottery is rigged, though it doesn’t prevent people from hoping…

Cael and his crew are salvagers. They have a glider they use to scout the sea of corn around their village for broken harvesters they can salvage for parts or anything else that could earn them a few ace notes. Cael’s dream is to become rich and famous, to build a better life for his family, to be a better man than his father whom he sees as weak and incapable of providing for his sick wife and his children.

Even though I found Cael’s narrative to be a bit too angry at times, I could understand it and even empathize a little: I still remember how it feels to be a teenager in full rebellion.  Everything is either good or bad, black or white. There are no shadows or demi-measures. Cael is at that age when he is at odd with the rest of the world. He thinks that adults don’t understand him. He doesn’t want to conform to their rules. He wants the freedom to find his own path. The fact that his crew is the ultimate underdog in this town doesn’t help either. No matter what they do, it ends up in disaster. All their small victories morph into failures and things go from bad to worse.

So yes, I understand why he is angry, but this is also something that didn’t sit quite right with me and why I gave this book only 4 out of 5 stars. Since we see the world through Cael’s eyes, all the bad people are horribly bad, with no redeeming qualities. The Empyreans are painted in such thick dark colors that they could be demons feasting on poor Heartlanders’ souls for all I know. I find that a bit heavy handed. I like my worlds to be more nuanced and my villains to be a little less of a caricature and a little more real. Real people have both good and bad in them, and they can do bad things for entirely honorable reasons.

But other than that, I did enjoy Under the Empyrean Sky quite a lot and I would definitely recommend it. And I will certainly read the next book in the series.

PS. I received a free copy of this book from NetGAlley.

Moon Called (Mercy Thompson book 1) by Patricia Briggs.

Stars: 3 out of 5.

 

Since I had absolutely loved the Alpha and Omega series (you can read my review of Book 1 and Book 2), I decided to give this older series a go as well. They are set up in the same world after all, and some of the characters play a recurring role in both series.

 

What can I say? I was happy to come back to this world Mrs. Briggs created, because it’s fascinating and the worldbuilding is very well done. It’s a world where the fae have come out into the light of day, and now the whole world is trying to live with the consequences. And the werewolves might be forced to do that as well, because with the medical and technological advances, it’s getting harder and harder to keep their existence a secret. I was also happy to learn a bit more about pack structure and the complex hierarchy between the dominants and the submissive wolves and what it meant to be an Alpha.

 

I was NOT impressed with the role of women in this structure.  They are basically just an addition to their male mates (oh, not traditional relationships are also frowned upon). So if a dominant female mates with a submissive male, she is treated like a submissive wolf on the very bottom step of the hierarchy ladder. And if she is not mated, she is treated like an object to be protected / courted / dominated. Not cool, Mrs. Briggs, not cool at all.

 

I love Mercy. She is a fun character to follow – she is smart, independent, stubborn and tough as nails. She also loves to do a bit of mischief from now and then, so it’s no wonder that she shifts into a coyote. My problem with this book is that, unless the author plans on making the werewolf packs undergo a significant shift in mentality when they reveal themselves to the human world, if Mercy accepts to become a werewolf’s mate, she will lose everything that makes her such a great protagonist to follow.  She would become just one more female to be protected and robbed of her own agency.

 

And she understands that, that’s why she’s resisting tooth and nail and rejecting the advances of a certain very determined Alpha…  yet she still lives next to Adam, the Alpha of the local pack, and allows Samuel, who is another werewolf and who she used to have (possibly still has) a crush on to move in with her.  And no matter how much she resists and snarls, she still allows both of them to manipulate her and try to decide what’s best for her.

 

This is a very worrying tendency that I really hope not to see in the next book. I am also extremely surprised to see this kind of one-sided approach to relationships in this book, because it’s diametrically opposite to the relationship Anna and Charles have in Alpha and Omega, and they are part of the same world, after all.

 

The other thing that dampened my enthusiasm for this book is the love triangle between Mercy, Samuel and Adam. Or is it a rectangle, if you take Stefan the vampire into consideration as well? But that’s a particular pet peeve of mine. Call me naïve or deluded, but I believe that if you can’t choose between two people you supposedly love, then you don’t love either one of them. But that’s a personal quirk, and plenty of people love reading about love triangles it seems – just look at the YA shelves.

 

Anyway, I liked Moon Called, but definitely not as much as I loved the Alpha and Omega series.  I will probably give the second book a go, but if the worrying tendencies I’ve seen in this book persists, I might drop this series altogether and just read about Charles and Anna.

Hunting Ground (Alpha and Omega book 2) by Patricia Briggs.

Stars: 5 out of 5.

 

I was a bit apprehensive when I started Hunting Ground. I loved Cry Wolf, the first book in the series (and you can read my review here), as well as the short story that told us how Charles and Anna met. I was scared that the next book wouldn’t be as good, and that I would end up disappointed with the series. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. If anything, I loved Hunting Ground even more than Cry Wolf.

 

The events of Hunting Ground take place just a few weeks after the first book, and all the characters are still dealing with the aftermath of their confrontation with the witch that almost destroyed the Marrok and his pack. But they don’t have the luxury to lay low and lick their wounds because the Marrok has decided to make the existence of werewolves known to the general public, just like the fae have done a few decades ago. The advances in science, technology and medicine leave him no choice – it’s just a matter of time before they are discovered anyway, so the Marrok wants to do a preemptive strike and “come out” on his own terms.

 

Since he is the Alpha of the North American pack, his decision is law, but he decides to call a summit in Seattle as a courtesy to the European, African, Russian and British werewolves, because this decision will impact them as well. The werewolves are coming out of the closet and that is not up for discussion, but Bran is willing to offer terms and aid to the other packs to mitigate the backlash of this announcement.

 

Only the spirits tell Charles, in no uncertain terms, that if the Marrok attends the summit, he will die. So after a lot of werewolf-style discussions (aka lots of snarls, fighting and broken furniture) and a little help from Omega wolf Anna, Bran finally decides to send Charles and Anna in his stead…

 

The story itself is interesting enough, and we get to meet a lot of different werewolves, both dominant and submissive, as well as another Omega. It was interesting to learn more about the structure of werewolf packs and their society, as well as the interaction between different Alpha wolves. The author also reveals more details about what makes an Omega so special and why using Omega powers can be bad in some situations.

 

Oh, and the villain was not who I had expected, so that was a nice plot twist.

 

But what sucked me into this series and kept me reading book after book is the relationship between Charles and Anna. I love how wonderfully detailed those two characters are, and how their backgrounds impact their actions and their perception of the world. More importantly, I love how they grow and evolve in this series so far.

 

They are still pretty much newlyweds, and their past experiences don’t make married life easy. Anna had been raped and abused by her first pack and still has problems with intimacy. Charles has been a loner most of his life. He is used to being treated with fear and disgust because he is the Marrok’s enforcer, the cold-blooded killer who will hunt down and eliminate anyone his father orders him to. He has no friends, because he never knows when he would have to kill someone he’d called friend just a few days ago. So it’s easier for him to build a wall and not get attached to anyone.

 

Needless to say, they both struggle with everything that being a couple entrails. But what I love about this series is that they work on these problems. They don’t just go skulk in different corner after a fight or a misunderstanding. They sit down and talk it out until they uncover the underlying problem and agree on how to make things better. They are a couple, yes, but they are also equal partners, and their relationship is based on mutual respect as well as love.

 

I also love the fact that even though Charles is extremely dominant (he is only a little weaker than the Marrok himself, which makes him the second strongest wolf on the American continent) and has a protective streak a mile wide, he never tries to dominate Anna or to smother her with his care and protection “for her own good.”

 

Oh, the impulse is there, and his protective instincts scream at him a lot. He is just wise enough to stop and think about whether locking Anna in their hotel room or forbidding her from joining the hunt is really the best solution or if it’s just his fear talking. And in the end, he always choses to let Anna do whatever would help her become stronger, even if it means letting her participate in a hunt with a bunch of other Alphas.

 

Anna grows tremendously in this book as well. She finally comes to terms with being a werewolf and an Omega. She even starts using her powers to help Charles and her pack. She also faces her own fears and insecurities. Anna is a very calm and level-headed person, some might even call her passive, but she is no doormat. There is a steal core of resolve under that soft exterior. So it is perhaps symbolic that it’s not Charles, the Marrok’s enforcer, who defeats the antagonist in the end of this book, but shy and broken Anna. I loved the way she does it as well. In fact, I loved that whole scene.

 

My only complaint is how one-dimensional the character of the Beast of Gévaudan, Jean Chastel, was. He is too much horrible bad wolf, maniacal murderer. All darkness and no light. He is so evil he reads like a caricature, especially compared to all the other well-developed characters in this book. I think that he would have been much more interesting if Mrs. Briggs had added a bit more ambiguity to his character.

 

All in all, I will definitely recommend Hunting Ground to my friends, and I can’t wait to start the next one in the series.

Wicked Misery (Miss Misery book 1) by Tracey Martin.

Stars: 2 out of 5.

I’m always apprehensive when I start a new series, because you never know if you will like the world and the characters. And I usually try to stick with the series for at least 3 books or so before I decide to drop it, because the first book has the difficult and thankless task of introducing the reader to a brand new world. So even if I am not particularly trilled with book 1, I am more than willing to discount some of my misgivings and give the series another chance by reading book 2… That is if I like the protagonist enough to stick with him / her for another book.

Unfortunately, that is not the case with Wicked Misery.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I loved the worldbuilding for this series. The fact that we have a different kind of supernatural beings than vampires or werewolves is rather refreshing. It’s also interesting to read about a world where the preds and other supernatural beings are known and more or less integrated into society.

My problem with this series is the protagonist, which is a deal breaker when you are stuck observing the whole story through her eyes. Jessica Moore is a classic case of how the character has to constantly do stupid sh@t to drive the story along. I mean, I understand that the protagonist has to make mistakes, get burned and rise to the challenge, but a good protagonist also has to LEARN from those mistakes and get better, or at least not repeat them over and over again.

In Jessica’s case, she doesn’t seem to learn. AT ALL. And while this might be endearing the first time or two, it gets extremely annoying by the end of the book. She is in deep trouble, framed for a series of gruesome murders, wanted by all sorts of powerful people because of that. Yet, she absolutely refuses to listen to the people who try to help her with this problem. People whom he ran for help in the first place, I might add. It’s like she landed this whole mess on the satyr’s lap, then can’t seem to manage to stay put and let them deal with it. They tell her to hide and lay low, but she runs off to meet with a goblin who might or might not have pertinent information for her instead… without telling anyone where she is going. Ok, that might work once as a plot device, but later on in the book she pulls the same trick again and goes barging into a Fury bar on her own without telling anyone about again, in the middle of a Griffon raid designed to find her btw.

That’s not endearing anymore, that’s called having a death wish. The fact that she seems to emerge from those encounters unscathed and with no consequences at all indicates poor planning on the author’s part. The fact that Jessica’s little escapades are the only thing that drives the story forward also makes me want to put the book down.

My other problem with this book is the romantic relationship between Jess and Lucen, or what will probably become a romantic relationship between them in later books. It doesn’t work, at least not how it’s written. He is a satyr, so a pred whose whole nature is to incite lust in humans. Jess feels that and despises him for it. In fact, even though she run to him for help, all she does during the whole book is belittle and denigrate him, at least in her head (and since we are in her head, we get to read all of it). Then by the end of the book, after a plot twist I won’t tell you about, her ability to sense preds is dampened and she realizes that she still lusts after Lucen. Light bulb moment for our protagonist – so that wasn’t entirely him, I really want him! So it’s okay to finally be with him. News flash, honey, the fact that you want to jump his bones does not a strong relationship make. Especially since you haven’t really changed your opinion on what he is and what he does.

I think that’s my biggest problem with this book – Jess hasn’t really evolved by the end of it. As a person, I mean. Sure, she learned a bit more about her powers and decided that she would use them for good rather than evil, but that’s as far as the character development went. And since she wasn’t a character I was particularly interested in following at the beginning, it doesn’t make me want to follow her into the next book.

So my verdict for Wicked Misery is – interesting world building, but the protagonist is not my cup of tea. I wouldn’t recommend this series to my friends. There are plenty of other excellent series to read instead.

Cry Wolf (Alpha and Omega book 1) by Patricia Briggs.

Stars: 4 out of 5.

While this book is the first in the Alpha and Omega series, it’s set in the same world as the Mercy Thompson books and has a prequel in the form of a short story that explains how Charles and Anna met. I haven’t read either of those. Cry Wolf was my first introduction to this world and these characters, and I was surprised at just how much I loved them.

I think it mostly has to do with the fact that their relationship is exactly the sort I like to read about. It’s a solid partnership between two mature, albeit damaged people who make actual efforts to work through their problems together and gain each other’s trust and acceptance. Amongst the sea of one-sided, often abusive relationships we see in the paranormal romance books nowadays, stories like that are a sip of fresh water on a parched throat.

It also has a lot to do with how wonderfully complex those two characters are.

So many things could have gone wrong with this relationship. Charles is his father’s Enforcer. He has the reputation of a ruthless killer, ready to put down anyone who threatens the Alpha’s rule and the safety of the pack and not lose sleep over it. He is feared and even covertly despised even by his own pack because of what he does and how seemingly remorseless and even emotionless he is about it.

He rescues Anna from a horrible situation, but at the same time, he yanks her out of a town where she had at least some kind of support system: a job, a few acquaintances that might have been friends, the familiarity of the big city. Now she has no job, no money and is in a werewolf village in the middle of nowhere with nobody to help her if things go wrong. In other words, she is absolutely and totally dependent on him.

When I first picked up the book, I was scared that this would turn into one of those toxic and abuse relationships with Charles being the typical “alpha male” – possessive and jealous, disregarding Anna’s wishes and opinions and depriving her of her own agency for her own protection. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case at all.

Charles might lead a violent life and be forced to do horrible things out of duty to his Alpha father, but he is always treats Anna with respect. She is his mate, but that doesn’t put her in a subservient position in his eyes. To him, she is an equal partner in this relationship. She has a voice and an opinion that he listens to.

Anna is also not your typical female protagonist. She doesn’t go through life kicking ass and taking names. In fact, she is not a fighter at all. And, surprise of all surprises, she actually thinks before she opens her mouth, can assess a situation and knows when saying nothing might be the best course of action. She is the slow and steady river current to Charles’ firestorm. A soothing presence that can ground him. She helps him remember that no matter what the rest of the pack thinks of him, he is not a monster. That all those glances of fear and barely veiled contempt are directed at the façade he has created, not the man that hides behind it.

It’s never a one-sided relationship, because they both give as much as they take. They complement each other and manage to build something beautiful out of the broken pieces of their lives.

… and this is the first review in which I managed to wax poetic about a love story while saying absolutely nothing about the actual plot! It’s not because the plot was lacking depth, I can assure you. It’s just that it paled in the face of those two wonderful characters, at least in my eyes.

So would I recommend his book? Definitely. But I would suggest reading Alpha and Omega short story in the On the Prowl anthology first, otherwise the beginning of the book might seem a bit confusing.