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Julie Doe

Night Blade (Colbana Files, #2) - J.C. Daniels ****MILD SPOILER ALERT****

I really liked the originality and the world-building in the first book in this series, and this book is equally well-done. In this installment, Kit is hired by Banner to determine if/why her main squeeze, Damon, is killing other Council members. If he is, she needs to convince Banner that he has a legitimate reason for doing so; otherwise, Banner will put out a hit on him. Things are further complicated when Kit is put under a spell that prevents her from talking about her investigation to anyone. Damon eventually becomes suspicious, and their relationship is put to the test.

While I loved most of this book, I have to warn readers that the book ends on a down note. Kit is kidnapped and abused by a vampire. Although she is eventually rescued, the abuse leaves her...well, the title of the next book is "Broken Blade" if that tells you anything. I have read other books by Shiloh Walker--another pen name for the author writing here as J.C Daniels--and abuse and recovery from abuse seem to be a theme in her writing. The writing was well-done here, and heat wrenching at times--though not graphic.

I look forward to the next book in the series, as I want to see how Kit recovers from this and faces the next challenge.
The Moon Rises (Gigi Monroe, #1) - Angela Horn LOL. DNF'd this crappy book at about 20%. I could see within the first few percent why this was self-published. The writing wasn't technically as bad as a lot of self-published books, but just about everything else was. To wit:

World-building? We don't need no stinking world-building. We're told that Gigi--our lovely speshul snowflake heroine--wakes up in "the Circle". Too bad we have to read the book description, rather than the book itself, to find out anything about this Circle. The reader also quickly hit with references to the "real" world and real geography, but no time or place is given for the story. A very amateur mistake.

The little world-building that does occur includes nonsensical and unexplained rules like the Alpha weres in the Circle don't take mates or have children. WTF? Protip: have your world-building make sense. (I did have a bottle of wine riding on whether or not poor silly Gigi turned out to be a virgin--my vote was YES for one of the most annoying tropes ever--but I couldn't bring myself to read far enough to find out.)

Then we have the Mary Sue heroine who is dumb as a box of rocks and has the survival instincts of a suicidal gerbil. She really is just super speshul, though, because all the males immediately lust after this woman who appears (to them) to have the mentality of child. cough***sexual predators***cough. Made my skin crawl.

And let me not forget to mention the reason for her cluelessness: Someone has wiped out all her memories and, in some cases (this is not clearly explained) replaced them with new ones. So she knows what a checkbook is but not how to use it. She doesn't know how to waitress, but she does know that she wants to cook (and how she remembers how to cook is ????).

Overall, just a poor execution of what might maybe have possibly been an interesting concept in the hands of a writer with some talent.
Heart of Obsidian - Nalini Singh Loved this book. This is my favorite in the series so far! (OK, I know that's not a very helpful "review", but I need some time to digest it before writing a non-spoilery review.
The Shining Girls - Lauren Beukes I had mixed feelings about this book. I loved the concept of the book, but the writing was very literary and lacking in any kind of tension that one would expect from the description of the plot. I wasn't really sold on the motivation--or lack of motivation--of the villain, and I never really connected with the heroine of the story. The last few chapters finally kicked the action (and the tension) into high gear, so the book ended well. The rest, though, was just so-so.
Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2) - Leigh Bardugo Stupid GR ate my review.... Will rewrite later when I have time. Short version: great beginning and end. Middle dragged a bit. Can't wait for the next book (a year? really? arrgh). Love this series, though.
Florida V. Zimmerman: Uncovering the Malicious Prosecution of my Son, George - Robert Zimmerman This book is a quick read. The author is clearly not a professional writer, but he writes plainly and from his heart about his son's malicious prosecution by the State of Florida. I particularly liked the earlier part of the book where he talked about his family, how he met his wife, and the kids growing up. I really felt bad for them being forced to move out of their house--particularly with his wife's elderly mother who had Alzheimer's--because of misplaced hatred and threats. It's sad that something like that can happen in America today and the authorities didn't do more to stop it and support this family.

This book is self-published. There are a few typos, and I wish that he had written more/explained more in some areas. I think perhaps because he is so close to this matter, it is hard for him to step back and see what else might be included in his narrative for those unfamiliar with what is happening to understand it better.

Still, though, I would recommend to anyone who wants to know more about this case that has been in the national news, particularly in light of George being found not guilty of all charges.
Dark Triumph - Robin LaFevers This series is only getting better. I liked this book even better than the first one.
Play for Me - Lois Kasznia LOL. Mary Sue heroine. Unrealistic hero. Silly plot. Author writing about stuff she doesn't know about--like karate and architecture--and making quite a hash of it.
Sins & Needles - Karina Halle Quite enjoyed this. I was a bit wary as it appeared to be self-published, but the writing was quite good (nice change of pace from 98% of the self-published stuff I've read...or tried to read). No major editing problems.

I really liked the characters. Ellie was a trying-to-be reformed con artist, which is a rather unusual trade for romance novel lead. I liked her combination of smarts and vulnerability. She and Camden were a good fit. They've both got issues that they are trying to get over.

My big beef with this book, however, is that it isn't a complete story. The story just *stops* on a cliffhanger. I understand that it is listed as part of a trilogy, but usually each book in a trilogy still has some parts of the story that feel like a completed narrative arc. This book didn't have that.

I am definitely looking forward to the next installment.
Spin the Sky - Katy Stauber DNF'd part way in. I'm familiar with the Odyssey, which this is a riff on, but this just didn't hold my interest.
Seducing Cinderella (Fighting for Love, #1) - Gina L. Maxwell Eh. Started skimming pretty early in.
The Sphinx Project - Kate Hawkings Eh. DNF'd at 20%.
Steel's Edge -  Ilona Andrews I was very sad to hear that series was ending. I remember picking up the first book and thinking what an original concept this was. This book tells the story of Richard and Charlotte (other reviewers have summarized the plot, so I won't rehash). I actually liked Charlotte better than Richard. Not that Richard was a bad hero, but he was a little too Type-A at times. Charlotte was a wonderful heroine though. I liked that she was intelligent and resourceful and generally avoided TSTL moments. Her inner conflict and battle with her magic was well-written. Her sacrifice in the end to save Sophie and any number of others was quite touching.

I would heartily recommend this series to anyone who likes modern or urban fantasy, although you do need to start with the first one not with this book.
Black Oil, Red Blood - Diane Castle Ridiculous and contrived. A political message, not a novel.
Reflections in Silhouette: Poems - T L Cooper I downloaded this when it was on a free promotion because I am always looking for new and interesting voices in poetry. Unfortunately, I didn't find it here. Like the last poetry collection I read, most of the poems read like diary entries or poems written to allow the author to vent with nothing to make the reader care about the poet's particular problems. There is no attempt to interpret or recast the author's experiences in such a way to engage readers.

This is self-published, so: The layout and font inside were readable. Poems started on a new virtual page (kudos). However, there was no Table of Contents with hyperlinks to poems, which would have been nice for a book this long.

Overall: 1 star. Poetry is too internally-focused.
Request for a Normal Life: A Poet Waits - Brian Behnke

This was a long collection that took me a while to get through. The product page says that the poems in this book were written by a gentleman who passed away a number of years ago and were collected and published by his family members. Unfortunately, that shows.

First the good: the author definitely has an ear for the sounds and rhythm of language. More than once I got caught up in lovely lines or turns of phrase.

However, upon going back and rereading for meaning, often times lines did not hang together as a whole poem. Images or lines sometimes seemed randomly strung together with no overall cohesive theme. And a string of unrelated images or ideas does not make good poetry in my opinion.

Some poems also seemed more complete and finished than others. Some poems rambled or had lots of short choppy phrases and punctuation at odd points; these read a lot like first drafts to me and that is why I mentioned editing in the title of my review. Much of the imagery was also quite conventional and not fresh and interesting.

The poems also sometimes make use of oddly old-fashioned language--such as "doth", "thou", "thy"; this is not "Old English" (or even Middle English) as claimed in the product info--it is simply language from 200 to 400 years ago is at odds with sounds and sensibility of contemporary poetry.

Since this book is self-published, I'll address the publishing mechanics a bit. The font and size chosen makes for an easy and readable layout. However, the beginning matter is missing completely; there is no title page or copyright notice. Next comes an "index", which should really be called the "Table of Contents" as it is a listing on the poems in the order they appear in the book. There are also no page numbers anywhere in book. Very frustrating. Finally, the poems are, for the most part, in alphabetical order (by title) with no thought to grouping by theme or in any sort of progression. This isn't so much a concern in the shorter collections I have read and reviewed recently, but this book is 176 pages according to the product page. The presentation seems hastily and sloppily put together.

So overall, I think the poet had potential, and it's too bad he passed away at such an early age and was unable to continue to develop his poetry. However, I can't really recommend this book at this price unless you happened to know the poet and want a keepsake.