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Ilhem

Ilhem

Very entertaining

Magic Strikes - Ilona Andrews

Nightmarish creatures, deadly fights, gushing blood , torn flesh and dramatic gestures : this is the perfect vacation read.:)

 

This 3rd book in the series is the one where all hell breaks loose and it felt like it was a turning point in the series and Kate's story arc. The pace was better, rarely faltering, only pausing to take some breath while dealing with Kate's sidekicks. I'm not that wooed by her romance with Curran as I'm dreading that we're heading toward conventional m/f romance and growling, possessive alpha male vs stubborn, badass female, but I didn't mind too much. The fact that the romance is in the back seat helped, I guess.

 

I'm looking forward to reading book #4 and reading how Kate's fight against the Big Bad Evil turns out.

Promising

Magic Bites - Ilona Andrews

I've just read Ami's review and I'll steal her conclusion to sum up my opinion : it's a good start. 

 

I didn't like the 1st person POV in the beginning. I like 1st person POVs when they bring a strong voice in a character driven story and I didn't feel like it served this purpose here, so it felt a bit awkward and distant. Also, I like strong heroines but I hate that they always have to be so contradictory and sprout funny words all the time to sound kick ass. So, Kate sounded a bit caricatural.

 

And yet, in the end, I found that Kate's 1st person POV sounded exactly like she is : lonely and trying hard to be distant. Her attitude is just that : an attitude and there is more to Kate than a kick ass heroine.

 

There is potential for an interesting character with a good supporting cast in well put together stories, and it turned out way better than I expected it in the beginning, so there is also potential for good developments.

 

A good start.

 

 

It was nice meeting Joe again

Spin Out - James Buchanan

Spin Out is book #2 in the Deputy Joe series. I have read book #1 several months ago and it was like meeting an old friend again - you know, the one you didn't forget but still lost contact with and every quirk, every flaw, every familiar personality trait reminds you why and how much you like him.

 

Joe is learning to do the relationship thing in his honest, stubborn, endearing way and it has been a pleasure to meet him again, watch him stumble and catch himself and grow a bit more. 

 

 

 

Happy New Year!

May it be sweet,  filled with joy and.... good reads!

Lost - Varian Krylov

I am currently residing in the pit of book-slump-hell, so something sulfurous not only seemed to fit the ambiance but had a chance to jolt me out of my torpor. It almost did.

 

Lost is an erotic fantasy that takes the old tale of survival on a desert island and briefly revisits it by exploring what the primal urges of survival could do to a family of Crusoes. The question is whether or not primal instincts do take over under the right (or wrong, for that matter) circumstances and whether or not we are all but animals after all, albeit ones with scruples and guilt.

 

I found that it was a nice added layer, even though Lost is a novella and the underlying theme is more sketched than actually developed. As it is, it is first and foremost an incest  fantasy with a well written, tense erotica that sadly fizzled out in a last part that the author either should have developed with more care or should just have done without.

 

Back to the incest thing. The author made sure to not make it too hard on the reader and only sex-between-consenting-adults neon signs in the sky would have been more obvious.  Most of the author’s choices are clearly made with this goal in mind and it is open to debate whether it weakens the story or not, but it is undeniable that it makes it easier. Still, it will not be enough for some who would not get near this book anyway, and too much for others who are looking for something darker. However, if you stand in the middle or feel like cautiously stretching your boundaries, this story provides a hot erotica with just the right amount of wrongness to make you feel the heat without getting burnt. 

Source: http://www.boysinourbooks.com

I've read 13%

The Steel Seraglio - Nimit Malavia, Linda Carey, Louise Carey, Mike Carey

2% in and I was already irritated by this statement :

 

"So many terms denoting orgasm also mean arrival, and that's a trend that will continue through all the ages of man (and woman). Ich komme. J'arrive. Vengo. Only people in the far north, in a land that will be called Hungary, will choose to express the sexual climax in a word that means 'I just left'."

 

Let me rock the boat of this linguistic study : J'arrive doesn't express sexual climax since there are actually two very different words in French to express orgasm and arrival. I am not waving the Francophony flag or anything, but one would think that they would check!

 

Later, I raised my eyebrows at the sultan having 10 spouses : they could have as many concubines as they wanted, but the number of spouses is limited to 4, according to the islamic law. Since this tale often refers to a monotheist religion, I am deducting that it is not set in pre-islamic Arabia.

 

 

 

*grumpy*

Meh

The Quarter Boys - David Lennon

It's the typical okay read : nothing to rile you up, but nothing to gush about either.

 

The story is appealing : New Orleans, a serial killer, a detective with a sassy partner, a burgeoning romance that opens possibilities.... But an uninspired writing, a lot of telling and no showing, no tension....

 

Flat, flat, flat.

Nice surprise

[ [ [ The Affair of the Porcelain Dog [ THE AFFAIR OF THE PORCELAIN DOG ] By Faraday, Jess ( Author )Jun-14-2011 Paperback - Jess Faraday

It’s not quite adoration, but I liked it very much!

 

The twists are not so twisty that you can’t see some of them coming, Lords or Crime and villains are not so credible in their vileness that they truly give you the chills, you may have to suspend disbelief once or twice, but the mystery is tight with a lot of protagonists and not one single loose end, the story is a mix of charm and action that manages to be light, entertaining and sombre (well, sort of) at the same time. The historical setting manages to be richly detailed and authentic without drowning the reader under informations and being weighed down by heavy realism.

 

Really, the cover sums it up perfectly : foggy atmosphere that is more sepia than dark, a story that rings true on several aspects, yet aims at entertaining more than reflecting reality, “The Affair of the Porcelain Dog” comes right from a long line of dime novels and serials. And entertain, it does.

 

In this regard, it owes a lot to its main character’s voice. Ira is self-centered and venal like someone who learned the hard way how to survive can be, but honest with himself and funny. His verve is smartly explained by a bit of Pygmalion magic and even though it perhaps requires a bit of faith to believe that he became so deft with language in only 2 years, it is such a pleasure to read him that I didn’t put any resistance. But more than that, beyond the mystery and the funny words, it’s Ira’s journey from survivor to grown man with the luxury of possible choices that is endearing. I really liked how this it isn’t preachy or sanctimonious, how it is as much made of unapologetic opportunism than growing awareness of right and wrong.

 

It has been said a lot that this story isn’t a romance. Indeed, it is not in the traditional way, but it’s nonetheless about growing feelings, about love, about a relationship that is a central point in a story where every discovery leads to another one. I wish Cain’s potential for being a truly intriguing character had been fully developped, but I guess it’s all about Ira. I enjoyed reading about them anyway.

 

I spent a really pleasant moment with Ira. Give it a try.

Source: http://www.boysinourbooks.com
Soulless - T. Baggins

It started well, reminded me of my first forays in m/m when I read vampire slash fanfiction and I liked the first half. I thought that the story tended to derail when it tried too hard to be dark or went off on tangents, I found that Nicholas was an exceptionnally bland, almost non-existant character, but I didn't mind too much. It was Ban's story and it suited me just fine because I found/imagined some interesting threads I couldn't wait for the author to develop. Which she didn't. But keeping on trying hard to be dark and shocking, going off on tangents she did.

 

The result is that the premises of several potentially great stories are co-existing in this book and never connected with each others to go beyond the status of premises. To name only a few :

 

  • Ban is a man of faith whose death and vampiric status freed from the notions of sin and morality, only to enslave him to cruelty in a relationship with no way out.
  • Ban is a man of faith whose death and vampiric status freed from the notions of sin and morality : what does it do to him?
  • There is a quest for a Vampire Holy Grail with potential action, twists and turns.
  • Hope vs finality
  • What is someone's essence made of?

 

 

This question in particular is at the core of the story and it is highly ironic that Nicholas is such an under-developped character. I don't like the reincarnation/fated mates trope, but it would have been very interesting to follow this character,  recognize the fundamental traits of his being through his successive lives and understand that it was with this being that Ban was in love with. Instead, the clue to recognize Nicholas is to count his balls!

 

I will not elaborate about what went wrong with Ban, but none of what could have been interesting has been developped and in the end, this story is fluff with special effects, relying a lot on shock value to be dark. Which leads me to wonder what the word 'darkness' actually means : surely, it's something different from a build-up of gory and rapey details! Mind you, I don't have any final definition to give but it would have something to do with loss perhaps : loss of hope, of boundaries, loss of self... For me, darkness lies in someone's soul and it's when it reveals itself from something apparently trivial that it is chilling.

 

If you are actually interested in vampire stories with no easy redemption and you fancy a bit of dichotomy in your characters and your erotica, I suggest giving a shot at "Desire and Devour, Stories of Blood and Sweat" by Jeff Mann. I am not saying that it's the absolute best, but I found it far more satisfying. 

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 62%.

Soulless - T. Baggins

It started well but I didn't check the blurb, and now all I have to say is : bummer! One of my least favorite tropes! I really liked it so far though, so I hope that it will counterbalance my pet-peeve.

 

Nice title and cover

Power Exchange - A.J.  Rose

... And I could live it at that, because this story lost very quickly all the credit its title and cover had earned it and kept on losing it steadily until the very end that was frankly totally lame.

 

It started like an educational brochure about BDSM and moved on being a showroom aiming at showcasting as many scenes as possible. Bits of story were thrown in the mix, hastily put together and just as hastingly sorted out when the author found it convenient. It felt like A.J. Rose was so intent on not missing anything of the BDSM lifestyle that she (he?) forgot to actually tell Ben and Gavin's story and, in my opinion, missed the mark.

 

Because I have never felt any power shifting or being exchanged.

 

But perhaps I lost focus because of the incalculable number of times I thought "oh pleeease!" when pieces fell oh so neatly and miraculously and conveniently into place without making any sense whatsoever. The pattern repeated itself again and again : 

1 - throw clue

2 - throw angst

3 - throw something for shock value or titillating effect

4 - oops, need resolution, let's throw something...

5 - tada! resolved! 

Until Gavin and the story became too stupid to live and I was actually offended on the character's behalf!

 

The 1st person POV didn't help, the educational parts and some preachy statements here and there were annoying but could be considered as merely awkward. The story telling, however, is plainly loosy.

 

Now, is it objectively as bas as I make it sound? Yes and no. There were moments when I warmed up a bit to the characters. I found for the most part that it was an easy read, too aggravating to be really enjoyable but not totally awful either. Still, the accumulation, the last 25% and something in the murders not quite fitting the killer's profile and making me suspect shock value made me angry. I've just finished the book and I am still stuck on that feeling. I might round it up to 2,5 stars depending on what sticks once I've slept on it.

 

I've read that book #2 is better. I will perhaps give it a try since I already have it, but I am in no hurry.

 

 

Puzzled

City of Soldiers - Sam Burke

I don't know what to think of this book. I didn't dislike it, I didn't really like it either, yet I didn't find it merely average. In other words, I'm puzzled.

 

I liked how it focused on veterans in a way that didn't sound contrived, how it showed that besides mental or physical injuries and trauma, they are now estranged from their home country, their family, their former self. 

 

I liked the variety of characters and how the story focused on Mickael, Kristian, Sean and Roman, how the relationships they develop explore different bonds and different sexualities.

 

Finally, I liked how all this was tangled with a mystery in a multi-layered story.

 

But I also found it heavy, which is probably not the right word. I don't mean that it was too dark or not light enough; I mean that it was heavy footed. It felt like the story was told in dotted lines, like parts were missing to make it flow. 

 

Also, I didn't get the point of the paranormal side of the story. There is probably a metaphor somewhere that escaped me, but it didn't add anything to the story for me.

 

Finally again, the ending felt like a big let down, the final straw.The problem is not so much a lack of resolution than the fact that nothing is developed enough to even be able to call it an open ending. I left the characters more or less like I had found them, or to be totally honest one tiny step ahead of where I had found them, just when it was beginning to become really interesting. I even checked if this was the first book in a series!

 

It was a good book in many ways, but I would describe it with two words : perplexity and disconnection. Make it three words and add frustration too.

 

Three Traders - Rolf, Ranger

I took a break around the 50% mark but it has been a much much peaceful ride. The whole thing still sounds like a cult rather than a fantasy, but I must be resigned or something because I didn't get mad once. Annoyed by the stubborn denying of sexual kinks, amused sometimes by the ambiant goodness (even snakes are kind and gentle), but not mad. 

 

I found it a lot easier to overlook the flaws and the questionable ethics to focus on Dale's journey from broken CEO to David and Philip's spiritual offspring. Both ends of the journey are a bit unsubtle, but the development in-between is once more full of insights and very interesting. Of course, I liked that it was so difficult for him to give in because it's something that I can easily relate to, but I also found that there are many, many things readers can relate to or ponder over beyond the fantasy. Being stuck in a job or even a social role that makes you blind to who you are, being defined by said job or social role, how hard it is to take the time to simply be, to find a balance, to let go...

 

On the domestic discipline front, there were moments when I could understand how beyond the sanction, punishment is also a way of giving someone what the transgression is calling for. And there were moments when I still didn't get it, but that's not my fantasy, after all.

 

I'm not sure that I understand the polyamorous relationship either, because it seems to me that Dale has an amorous relationship with one person only, and that he got into the polyamorous marriage only because he wanted Flynn. His relationship with Riley sounds (admittedly a bit incestuous) brotherly, his relationship with Paul sounds filial, and his relationship with Jasper is a mystery to me. I guess that the next books will develop that.

 

The humor was a nice plus, and Jake & Tom lightened my read. They are such a contrast to the Falls Ranch Church!

 

I don't know how to conclude my random thoughts....I got more of what I was looking for or I was short on indignation, but I enjoyed the read. 

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 38%.

Three Traders - Rolf, Ranger

1 - Dale's bare butt is spanked in front of the 3 other men and he should feel humiliated but he doesn't because everyone takes it sooo naturally. 

 

Remember? Humiliation doesn't fit in the picture and they are not kinky, anyway.  *eye roll*

 

2 - Forget Dale, Riley, Flynn, Jasper & Paul and give me more of Jake and Tom!

 

 

 

 

 

"“You don’t have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked ‘female.'” – Diana Vreeland "