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Ilhem

Ilhem

Falls Chance Ranch - Rolf, Ranger

I have no idea how to rate it and I am not exactly writing a review. I'll content myself with trying to gather my thoughts and make some sense of them.

 

So, Eden is in Wyoming. The authors wrote some kind of perfect fantasy in a perfect setting where perfect Tops live with perfect Brats and perfect horses. Everybody is kind, gentle, perceptive, understanding, competent, strong. Perfect. Even the horses. Well, except Belle; but then again, she is the perfect brat.

 

The ranch is a haven of safety and harmony, a sort of naturalistic cocoon out of time. I get it, it's a fantasy and they made it as safe and undisturbing as they could. There is no sex, no hard conflict, no scary stuff, no misstep. Well, none that is presented as a misstep, I mean. It must be what this serie's readership is looking for : something safe to fantasize about and not deal with how scary it must be for real. But it had the opposite effect on me. I thought in the beginning that it helped, but I changed my mind very quickly and found it infuriating and disturbing.

 

First, there is this behavioral therapy that isn't a therapy because they only use their common sense and their guts. Some natural approach fits better in the landscape, i guess. Except that common sense is all relative, has blurred rules and strange methods that imply tricking people into the program in the first place and tricking them into failure for their own good at some point. Except, especially, that it is in facts a behavioral therapy with ethical liberties, which reminds me awfully of sectarian conditioning. Where is the difference? In the intent? 

 

It made me all kinds of confused about the domestic discipline and the top/brat relationship. Where exactly does consent lie? In the fact that they feel safe and protected? In the fact that they feel comforted? But didn't they learn that hurt = comfort?

 

So, the fact that we're spared conflicts stronger than a tantrum, that sexuality is overlooked and barely hinted at didn't help me because a whole side of the dynamics was missing and all this stuff about them being 'naturals' at dealing with people's minds didn't help either. Yes, Flynn is qualified but it's almost worse.

 

That's not all that there is to it, though. It is an interesting story : Dale is learning to rein his perfectionism in and giving up being a perfect CEO only to find out that he is a brat and can't help trying to be a perfect one. I liked this story line,  the psychological inputs are solid and Dale's journey is anything but boring. 

 

And you know what? I've complained a lot and it sounds like I hated it. I did sometimes, but I am seriously ogling book #2 and considering reading it right now. I'll edit my rambling once I've figured out why. 

 

 

Sweet smut fun

Hard Fall - James Buchanan

That’s enjoyable smut fun, one where there is actually  a story left once you’ve put the smut aside : Deputy Joe Carpenter is a cop, a climber, a Mormon, gay, and he has a hard time making all the pieces of him fit together. Well, the gay part especially is hard to fit in.

 

Let’s start with the niggles :

 

It had the usual scorned female suitor, the no-nonsense supporting lesbian friend, two bigot villains, and a total lack of subtlety as far as those characters are concerned. One scene especially, around the 80% mark where everything is culminating in a closed-door drama,  is farcical and made me lose interest for the last 20%. Boo.

 

It couldn’t be more obvious that the mystery is only a pretext, and it is so irrelevant in the story development that I even wonder why the author bothered with a mystery in the first place. Also, Kabe is hot and Joe’s love interest, but I can’t say that I have a strong grip on his character. Meh.

 

But.

 

The romance is BDSMish smutty with a lot of romantic moments, but an unusual and welcomed lack of big declarations of love. Smut, romance, no sap. Woot.

 

And.

 

I really liked Joe Carpenter. I liked his voice, I liked being in his head, I liked all those pieces of him : the closet romantic, the mountain lover, the climber, Kabe’s lover, the raging hormones and the enamoured gawking, the honesty, the man who came to terms with his faith and his sexuality with little arrangements,  only to see this fragile balance being disturbed by something deeper than a tumble in Vegas. I liked how the author made all the pieces snap together without making it too easy and contrived, and how Joe worked for it.

 

So.

 

I had niggles and I didn’t enjoy the very last part as much as the rest of the book, but Joe made the book, I liked Joe, ergo I liked the book. It made me muse over how much of a difference a character can make.

Source: http://www.boysinourbooks.com

Reading progress update: I've read 34%. Don't mind me, I'm venting out.

Falls Chance Ranch - Rolf, Ranger

You know what, I don't get it, after all.

 

I was doing fine, almost patted myself on the shoulder for not getting angry at the weirdness/wrongness and looking the other way when someone spurted some ethical non-sense. I thought that I got it, I was all "aha" and "hmmm" at the interesting stuff (because there is some interesting stuff). 

 

Now, I'm at 34% and I'm fuming.

 

I don't understand, because if Flynn-The-Horse-Whisperer ever tried to get near me with a paddle or dared treat me like a child, I would rip his head off. 

 

And I am tired of everyone being gentle and kind and of their Little-House-in-the-Prairie number.

 

And the part of my brain that hasn't short-circuited gets the 'pup' thing, but really, do they have to act like they are the not-so-bright of the litter? All the time?

 

Oh, and is it a ghost they threw in the mix?

 

*hmpf*

 

*phew*

 

*feels better*

 

Back to find some interesting stuff.

I've read 9% of Falls Chance Ranch : Dale is in deep shit

Falls Chance Ranch - Rolf, Ranger

But...But...That's not how they said it is supposed to happen, at BDSM 101!

 

And NO COFFEE is allowed!!! Unacceptable.

Deadly Dreams - Victor J. Banis

I loved it, but I'd be very cautious about recommending this book because I don't think that it is what people are expecting after book #1 & #2 and because it is on the fringe of the romance genre, even if Tom's and Stanley's romance is still well alive.

 

I don't know yet how the series will develop, but it sounded like this 3rd book was in brackets, like the author was taking stock or something. It's full of interrogations and reflections about life, love, sexuality, what brings people together, about relationships, with depressing thoughts too about ageing and people who will never find solace, redemption or accomplishment. And don't we have enough of that in real life, already? Still, I loved it.

 

The mystery is a psychological thriller rather than a whodunnit, since we get to follow the murderer as much as Tom and Stanley. It's always a question of when and how rather than a question of who. The construction and those themes are not new in the series, but it's more open in this one, heavier, more chilling somehow, as Banis takes his time to linger on them and tones Stanley's antics down. There is little humor to offset the pervading melancholy. 

 

I found the climax disappointing and the outcome contrived and melodramatic, but before this very last part, I loved the writing, the thoughts, the construction; and it felt good to be engrossed in a book and to devour it. So, 4 stars.

Great cover, lovely prose, okay stories

Hammer and Bone - Kirby Crow

It was one of those hard-to-rate books, because while it undeniably holds quality, I also undeniably didn’t enjoy it very much. In other words, although the writing is definitely far above average and describing this book as merely okay wouldn’t be accurate,  it ended up being only an okay read for me.  I hope that the difference makes sense.

 

I’ll try to explain.

 

This is not my first read by Kirby Crow.  I’ve always had very conflicted, mixed, frustrating feelings as far as her stories are concerned and I invariably follow the same path from ecstatic marvel to bored, grumpy mood. The beginning invariably hooks me. I am invariably fascinated by the lush, palpable, visual, wonderfully evocative and detailed world building, all wrapped up in the atmosphere, waiting for the story to deliver its punch. Then usually halfway through, I am invariably losing focus and interest, noticing that the characters are a bit too flat for me to actually care for them, that the story development is a bit too predictable or basic, or that it is wandering, that the story lines are not up to the quality of the writing. And yes, it is perhaps unfair, but that’s how it is. Frustrating.

 

“Hammer and Bone” is a collection of short stories and although collecting tales from different worlds, from dystopia to fantasy with incursions in horror,  it is a coherent, whole work about pain, survival, about choices, about people teetering between Right and Wrong, between Lamb and Wolf, between Hammer and Bone. There is no romance in there. It is indeed about relationships, love, but always and foremost about unsettling, straining situations, with people snapping, toppling over, and ending on different ends or places on the hammer-and-bone spectrum. Fascinating topic.

 

I will not review nor rate each story. I really liked one of them because I am partial to mind games and pacts with the devil, I really disliked one of them because I felt emotionally manipulated, one other choice took me by surprise and I liked how unapologetically immoral yet practical it was, most of them were okay reads. My most disliked story seems to be others’ favorite, it’s all subjective. What matters is that none of the stories was bad, but none of them truly stood out either, that I sometimes wondered what was the point besides the obvious one, that I wasn’t immersed deep enough in the characters’ psyche to topple over with them, and that the turning point that is so important in such stories often felt rushed. All in all,  I followed my usual pattern. I was hooked, I waited for the punch, I grew frustrated, I grumbled. The stories are too short to wander, but it’s still like they are losing themselves in their own creepy, eery, lovely atmosphere; and although I wouldn’t scratch one word from said atmosphere, I still think that the quality, the care, the depth, the pace, the word count even for world building, characterization and story development are unbalanced. It’s not about less, it’s well and truly about more. More sharpness and focus, mainly.

 

It doesn’t matter how much I like Kirby Crow’s prose and how much I wish her stories would work for me, they don’t. If you’re familiar with her work and have had the same kind of frustrations, I doubt that this book will change anything.

 

If you are new to her work, it could be a good start, since the stories will give you samples of her writing in different kinds of setting without the feeling of hopping from one topic to another. If you mind the lack of romance and/or if you are not into dark stories but into fantasy, I’d suggest to begin with the Scarlet and the White Wolf series though.

 

If you are already a fan, especially a fan of  Angels of the Deep, you obviously don’t have the same reservations and my guess is that you will love it.

Reading progress update: I've read 42%.

Hammer and Bone - Kirby Crow

I've read 4 stories so far. I'll review them later, I'm only sorting my mixed feelings out.

 

1 - Crank. Great world building. Think something between steampunk and Zola or Dickens. BUT something must have gone over my head. Besides the luscious world building, what was the point? 

 

2 - Hammer and Bone. Dystopian world where the characters are struggling to survive without being caught by cannibals or psychopaths. I got it this time, but it is still unbalanced. Nonetheless, better.

 

3 - Hangfire - 2 cops, a closet case, familiar romance territory.  It starts like a contemporary romance and follows a twisty path. The story development was way more effective; perhaps it's because that it didn't require so much world building. However, It left me very uncomfortable,  dubitative about the author's intent and suspicious of emotional manipulation. It's the one I like the less. 

 

4 - No Gods and No Tomorrows - My favorite so far. A cornered street kid and a bit of Faust. It reminded me of the atmosphere in a (the) scene that I loved in "Angels of the Deep". I really liked it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Victorian Amazon and her sidekick

The Dark Victorian: Risen Volume One - Elizabeth Watasin

It had the appeal of novelty; too rushed to be really gripping and fully satisfying, but overall entertaining.

 

“The Dark Victorian” is a paranormal mystery with a hint at an f/f romance that may be developed in the next installments. The world is Steampunk-like : England is protected from Evil by a super team of super but not secret agents, whose specificity is to have been resuscitated from a shameful death to serve Her Majesty and the country. Somewhere in the background, a secret super heroin fights Evil too and I guess that it’s only a matter of time - that is installments - before they meet. The setting is London, from its poorest to its coziest areas; it covers different kinds of misery and it brushes a solid decor.

 

I liked the idea of resuscitated agents, halfway between 19th century James Bonds and super heroes, but I found the world building too basic for my liking, especially since the initial idea held so many possibilities. I expected the usual icing on the Steampunk cake - incredible gadgets powered by inventiveness and a pinch of magic. I got equipment powered by the reader’s effort in suspending disbelief and being content with very little. Sometimes, magic is a convenient excuse rather than a pattern in an intricate work and I regret that this described the world building a little too often.

 

The story’s asset is its team, a pair made of a skull and a ghost. Jim is the skull, the veteran agent and the sharp tongue. Art is the ghost, the newbie and the gentle giant. She’s the Quaker Amazon who fights while Jim pulls the strings and gets to worry and fuss over her battered body. They are newly partnered when the story begins and I liked how their tandem is developing into something more than the obvious brain and muscles. Jim tries to put some cynicism and practical sense into Art, and Art only takes and does what she wants while putting some humanity back into Jim. Their exchanges are amusing and their friendship is cute - you know, in a skull-ghost kind of way. I’ll probably give a go to the second book in the series, just to see how they’re faring together.

 

I didn’t say anything about the mystery. Hmmm...I have not been wowed by its conclusion, but it was well put together and efficient. Two words to lure you in : reanimated corpses.

 

All in all, I had frustrations but they didn’t totally ruin my fun. The read was fast and easy; give it a try for its likable, unusual characters and the zombies.

Reading progress update: I've read 17%.

Hammer and Bone - Kirby Crow

Yes, I jumped on it because of the cover and it was already too late when I realized that it was by Kirby Crow with whom I have always had a very frustrating relationship. I swear that it will be my last try if it doesn't work!

 

So. 17%..... Lushious writing as always, but the first story is going to be very embarrassing to review, I don't think I understood it. 

Hainted - Jordan L. Hawk

I'll make it short, you all have already read it.

 

The romance was nothing special and a bit sappy, but I surprisingly didn't mind that much and the story as a whole worked for me. Perhaps reading few romance books helped and made it easier to overlook the overused tropes, but that's not all that there was to it. I did skim the fluff, but it's also that it was nicely wrapped up. A world building under Hecate's and Hel's patronage, fast-paced action and efficient writing : it was well done and the romance wasn't overbearing.

 

It's not the kind of read I felt compulsive about, I had no problem to put it down and I've read it bits by bits. But I was happy to get back to it, and I had a good time when I did.

 

So, right time, right mood, good story telling : nice read.

 

P.S. : I can't get used to the stupid inner voices though.

Maurice - E.M. Forster

I have never read anything by E.M. Forster, I am not well-versed in English literature classics and I haven’t watched the movie, but I still got an idea of what this story would be : a Tess d’Ubervillesque  love story with a happy ending and a young, gay, dishevelled and cavorting Hugh Grant.

 

If by any chance you have the same idea, forget it.

 

“Maurice” is not a romantic drama, and if it’s what you’re looking for, you’re going to be disappointed. I was not. Besides the fact that it was rather a relief, I can’t describe my experience better than comparing it to a growing relationship. The more I read it, the more I liked it; and even though I never disliked it, my initial temperate appreciation grew until I finished it with a kindle-hugging feeling.

 

My main reserve was (and nevertheless still is) about the writing style that I found rigid like a starched collar, at first. However, there is also a dry humour in this same writing that gives a deliciously ironic lighting to dramatic scenes and sketches wonderful portraits. Rigid and repressed, yet sharp and funny. It’s Forster’s humour that made a dent in my reserve and nudged me to pay attention and reach the emotions lying under his style. For all its restraint, it is never detached. Among other things, I loved his ability to tell a love story, touch me deeply and make me root for the  HEA in half a sentence. Some of his quotes are still resonating.

 

In the same way, this story is about Maurice, whom I didn’t dislike but didn’t like either, at first. I liked how E.M. Forster brushed his portrait, but I found that it was hard to grow attached to him even though it wasn’t really a problem for me. Maurice is a bit of a snob without being totally insufferable, he seems a little low on the uptake without being totally stupid, he can be a domestic tyrant without being totally mean. He is average without being ordinary.  Maurice doesn’t entertain intellectual considerations about homosexuality or love or life; he is tuned to sensations and feelings, may they be desires or longings, happiness or pain, and he doesn’t shy away from them. Somehow, his body and his heart precede his mind, and because he is fundamentally honest, they jolt him into reflecting,  learning, then making choices. That’s how E.M. Forster develops his character and stays true to his nature all along, with the best of results. Not only does Maurice develop as a character, but he grows as a person. You are so going to cheer him! It doesn’t have to be easy though; what would we hold our breath for, otherwise?

 

I’ve read in Forster’s final note that a friend of his found that the book dated and could only “have a period interest” for modern readers. It definitely reflects its time and it is quaint, but it is not a museum piece. It’s a beautiful journey toward owning one’s own soul with the underlying idea that if love is a beautiful emotion, the path toward happy ending is through growing into oneself. That is not out-dated.

 

It will probably not be your cup of tea if you’re dead set on forefront romance and lots of emotion and sex, but definitely give it a shot if you like character-driven stories. Not a romantic drama, but still holding its fair share of dramatic twists and romantic moments, this book was nothing I expected it to be. I wasn’t hard into it from the get go, but I ended up loving it and I enjoyed the journey that brought me there.

 

Source: http://www.boysinourbooks.com

About this "Maurice" buddy read...

.....I already started.

 

Sowwy.

 

But I can put it on hold and wait for you guys! You're still in?

 

 

fun & confusion

Liesmith: Book 1 of The Wyrd - Alis Franklin

3 stars : “like not love”. Or -to develop a bit – I enjoyed it, but it didn’t totally work for me because I’ve had issues with the execution and because my tastes got in the way.  I found that it showed undeniable qualities, such as a brilliant idea to begin with, inventiveness,  an underlying joy at telling a story, and a good writing. The author had fun, it is contagious and it is great. The story is complex enough to be interesting and it is great.  However, I also found that it was sometimes tiring and more confusing than intriguing, which is not so great. As for my tastes, I’m not overly fond of ‘cute’.

 

So. The story. Let’s sort things out, ‘cause there’s a lot going on. This is urban fantasy with a dash of horror. This is also :

 

  • A fluffy romance between a dork and a god that plays with the predestination trope.
  • A group of nerds experiencing the end of the world for real,
  • A tale of lies and fluidity that remains slippery and twisty until the very end,
  • The Good, the Evil, and the In-between,
  • People trying to bypass Fate,
  • A Norse mythology fanfiction and it’s perhaps what defines it the best. It’s about an author playing with her favourite stories and characters, twisting the myths, bending them to her whim, and filling the void of untold stories with hers.

 

It’s a lot, but not too much. I won’t spoil you with the details, but the general idea is that all those threads fit nicely together. If the starting point is well and truly adorkable Sigmund meeting cool and good-looking Lain, and both of them having a cute romance, the core points are the Wyrd (fate with a big F, don’t sweat on it you can’t fight it), the Ragnarök (Armageddon à la Norse) and the lie smith.  Lies, fights, doom. Enough said.  My poison.

 

I found the execution confusing though, and that’s not because of my weak knowledge of the Norse lore. I know Loki from the Avengers,  the Wyrd  and the Ragnarök  from Wikipedia and some info dumping here and there, that’s saying. It was enough to follow, and regarding words I didn’t understand and was too lazy to investigate about – I am not totally averse to keeping a part of mystery in my fantasy as long as it’s not total darkness.

 

So, not too much, not too cryptic, but still confusing,  meaning something between unfocused, vague and all over the place. How very informative, I know. Words fail me, okay! The problem is that this story is supposed to be elusive, which is tricky to execute. The author did a fine job with tying up her threads, the ending is definitely not an issue; but there is a fine line between elusive and muddling, and we crossed it just a little bit too often for my liking. This is my most objective issue along with the fact that I wished for something a little more solid in the characterization. I admit that Sigmund dorkiness was funny (I’ll get to that) and cute, but it wasn’t enough for me to grow attached to him and to care for his romance. Lain is an amazing opportunity at complexity, but, again, elusiveness was at work.

 

Let’s get to the fun. Nerds playing at the Norse version of Resident Evil for real, Sigmund’s obliviousness and awkwardness, Lain’s flippancy are fun, and the author is never short of good lines. I smiled. Often. A lot. Really, the author can write; she can change her voice when needed, and she can be hilarious. However, too much of the same humour kills the humour, and I also often wished that she would tone it down a notch. I may have lost sight of my early twenties, but Sigmund sounded a lot more like a teen than a young adult, and I’m not crazy about the whole high school retards flavour. That is subjective though.

 

My conclusion is that this story had the deflects of its virtues.  My guess is that the ratings it will get will be all along the spectrum from mild enjoyment to absolute adoration. I doubt that many readers will hate it. Give it a try if you have a weakness for adorkable characters stuck in a creepshow with sneaky twists, I think that it’s worth a shot.

Source: http://www.boysinourbooks.com

*smug face*

It has nothing to do with books, and it's not even an intelligent analysis of the current events. You may want to skip.

 

 

I know that it's not about books, and I know that you must have had your fair share of news about us, but ... Can I brag a bit?

 

3,7 million in the streets, slightly worried but still showing off (roosters we are), and above all, united. It was something guys. It was warm and powerful and intoxicating.The métro drivers warmed the crowd in the trains through the microphones that they usually use to announce that the traffic is interrupted, asking us to shout and saying that they were happy to work today. Heck, it was the fifth dimension, it was as if we had been sucked into a Disney movie! Everybody loved everybody. People applauded the CRS and the snipers on the roofs. Poor guys didn't realize it was them who were applauded at first (complicated relationship with our police forces, and all that), but then they were beaming and showing thumbs up. 

 

I applaud the determination our muslim fellow citizens showed in joining a march that was theirs certainly, but nonetheless without knowing if people in the crowd would not turn against them. My heart burst with pride to see that some of the youth came from the suburbs, too.

 

There are still lingering effects today. Our feet hurt. People smile and we are a little less rude with each other than usual. Tomorrow, we will stamp each other again in the subway, we will bicker again, and malevolent sirens will still be listened to, but we needed this. 

 

Thanks again for your thoughts, and sorry for the emo-babble, but I needed to share.

 

3,7 million and not one hateful incident. I am so relieved.

 

*end of the emo-babble*

"Ne se mettre à genoux que pour cueillir une fleur."

Jacques Brel

The King's Men (All for the Game Book 3) - Nora Sakavic

Funny how a same rating can cover different experiences.

 

3,5 stars usually means that I loved the book, but not enough to be deaf to an annoying nagging voice that keeps pointing flaws at me. That's how I've rated the first two books; and indeed, if we look at things the other way around, I made an effort to get over my niggles, but I loved those books. The effort wasn't huge, the niggles were not that important in regards of the fun I've had.

 

This book is the end of the road. It's the point beyond the back and forth between instinct of survival and desire to live, the point where we're cornered. Shit hit the fan, and I've had a lot of fun. It's the point where I've been able to go with the flow, and be oblivious to anything that wasn't the fast-paced development. Among other things, I still find Neil's clairvoyance in all things unnerving, but did I care? Not really. 4 stars fun all along. Not quite blind, but definitely deaf.

 

And then, right at the end, something happened that I didn't like. It's stupid, really. I can't even explain why, but I hated how that knot was tied. I should have rejoiced, and I am sure that many readers have, but it made me angry. I can't elaborate because I'd hate to spoil your fun, but also because I am still trying to process my reaction. One thing is sure though, it ruined my fun; and those 3,5 stars that are a good rating in my standards are proof of how much I've enjoyed myself before that, because I am far from satisfied with how this series is ending. I don't see how it could have ended in an other way to be honest, but irrational anger is my privilege and I am brooding over it.