Review – An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon

an echo in the boneFor several weeks I have been so busy with work that I haven’t been able to write reviews.  Of course, I’m still reading because that is one of the top priorities in my life but it is unacceptable that work is keeping me from my blog.  It’s too bad we all have to make a living but I live with the hope that I will one day be comfortable enough to focus more on the fun stuff.

An Echo in the Bone is the seventh book in the Outlander series.  Diana Gabaldon is one of my favorite authors and I continue to enjoy the adventures of Jamie and Claire.  Much of AEITB focuses on storylines featuring Roger/Brianna, Young Ian and William.  Others have expressed frustration with those diversions from J&C and I understand.  However, I enjoyed those sections as much, and in some cases more, than our main characters.

For the first time I am giving a book in the main series only 4-stars.  The writing style still works for me.  I love the characters as if I know them as part of my own family.  But…

AEITB hit a rough patch around 40%.  I found myself picking up other books instead and saying, “I’ll get back to Jamie and Claire tomorrow.”  That just doesn’t happen for me with the Outlander series and I’ve tried to pinpoint the reason.  (Och, I’m going to get flamed for this if the Outlander fangirls read this post.)  I’m just going to say it – the Jamie and Claire story seemed to just repeat adventures they had in prior novels.  Can they not go onto a ship without pirates or other ne’er do wells attacking them?  The ocean is a pretty big place.  It seems that they could have one uneventful trip.  And, let’s just be honest, Jamie is getting on in years.  Is he really going to be pulled into service to fight so often?  I would think they would go for a younger man.  After I got through that section (which took weeks), the story did pick up and become riveting again.  There is a ton of story movement in the last 100 pages.  Almost too much.  And, I agree with others that it ended way too abruptly.  Given that it takes 4-5 years for the next book to be published, it is a little disappointing to be left with such a cliffhanger.

I also want to touch on Outlander fans for a second as I think they had a pretty strong impact on my enjoyment of this novel.  When I discovered this series a little over a year ago, I was almost obsessed.  I had to read them all as quickly as I could.  Then I found that there was going to be a TV series as well.  I joined group after group on Facebook to get the latest news.  On Twitter, I followed other Outlander lovers.

Let’s just say that it got real old, real fast.  Once you start rolling your eyes at all the “Pocket Jamie” posts and the constant references to “Herself” (what the superfans call Gabaldon), you need to take a step back.  If it makes someone happy to be so into a book series and a TV series, then I say GO FOR IT!  Enjoy it!  But, for me, it was just too much.  If anyone dared say anything negative about the actors chosen (not the right eye color) or the speed with which the books are written and published, then they were attacked like they had killed a puppy.  God forbid you don’t worship at the feet of the author.  Are we not allowed to express our disappointment when publishing dates are pushed back?  Listen, I didn’t agree with many of the comments made.  I understood that Gabaldon needed more time and she should take all that she needs.  But that doesn’t mean another reader can’t be frustrated and express that disappointment.  Give me a break.

All of this online drama really tainted my enjoyment of this book.  I withdrew from all of the forums and took a long sabbatical from reading anything about the TV series.  It worked and I was able to re-locate my love for the books.  When I eventually re-read, I am sure this will join the others as one of my favorites.  I am looking forward to that.

Review – Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs

Silver BorneSilver Borne is the 5th book in the Mercy Thompson series.  I was having a hard work week and needed a pick me up a few nights ago.  As I looked through my rather large to-be-read pile, I saw Mercy sitting there and knew that she and Adam were just the thing.

Too many times as a series progresses we see recycled storylines, characters losing their way and a general decline in the writing quality.  There are no signs of those issues here.  Each book has a fresh stand-alone story that is wrapped up well within the pages.  The overall series plot is maintained with characters growing along the way.  While there is no Stefan in Silver Borne (sad face), we get a lot of the pack and some fae action.

Patricia Briggs has done a great job of allowing the reader to become a part of Mercy’s life.  This means that we’ve gotten to know the pack pretty well.  Yes, Adam…our alpha and overall hero.  While he isn’t perfect, he is exactly what an alpha should be.  Plus, who would really want him to be perfect.  That’s not interesting.  There are so many other pack members that we are slowly getting to know.  Warren and Ben continue to be favorites as they are loyal and pretty darn funny.  Let’s talk about the women though.  Seriously, they need to get a grip and accept Mercy.  My hope is that her continued loyalty to them (the pack) and her bond with Adam will finally break through those walls.  Because, let’s just be honest, I have a big-time girl crush on Mercy.  I’ve extolled her virtues over five reviews so if you haven’t already gotten to know her then it is your loss.  And, I won’t accept these fictional characters being nasty to her.  As a woman I want to see them supporting each other.  Fingers crossed.

5/5 stars.  If you are looking for a great story, interesting characters, a lot of action plus some humor and romance, then pick up the Mercy Thompson series.

Review – The Exile by Diana Gabaldon

the exileThe Exile is my second graphic novel.  This is a must for fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and I’m glad I read it.

It is basically the first third or so of the story from Outlander but from Murtagh’s / Jamie’s perspective.  There is an additional storyline of another traveler who is working with Geilie but I almost felt that was an afterthought as it didn’t have a lot of impact.  We get to see Claire coming through the stones, her first meeting with Dougal and Jamie, Black Jack Randall, the wedding (and wedding night) and Claire’s decision to stay with Jamie rather than go back through the stones.

The script was fine but included too many “Jesus H. Roosevelt” from Claire and it did feel overdone in spots.  The drawings were not what I expected.  None of the characters were drawn as I pictured but that’s okay.  What I didn’t anticipate is that some of them seemed Disney-like.  Especially those of Claire during the wedding scene.  Plus, good Lord, they gave her some large ta-tas. What is interesting is that at the back of the book, they’ve included some of the original sketches and these were much more in line with what was in my head.  The sketch of Claire as an army nurse was spot on and captured her well.  I wish all of the artwork would have been more like this.  The story itself is gritty and rough in spots.  The artwork should reflect that.  Instead it softened the story.

3.5/5 stars.  Worth getting for your collection but cannot compare to the big books.

Review – Urban Shaman by C.E. Murphy

urban shamanUrban Shaman is the first book in the Walker Papers urban fantasy series by C.E. Murphy.  This was a used bookstore find and I would place it in the win column (with a few caveats.)

Joanne Walker is a mechanic for the police department.  Flying home after her mother’s death she sees a crime being committed from the airplane.  Her search for the victim leads her to a whole lot of trouble.

Where do I start?  The good – you can’t help but like Joanne.  She’s sarcastic, smart, tough and six-feet tall.  I’m six-feet myself so it was nice to see a female lead who wasn’t a petite flower.  “I liked being tall. Next to this woman I felt as ungainly as a giraffe.”  Been there!  The overall story is a good one.  Joanne learns, the hard way, that she is a shaman.  Her adventures are fun to read.

But…The bad – When I finished reading, my first comment was that the book was kind of a hot mess.  I think it would have benefited greatly from a strong edit.  Too many adverbs clogged the writing.  There were a lot of great ideas but way too much going on.  Shamans, the Wild Hunt, clairvoyants, ghosts, gods, demigods, fae.  Dreamwalking, alternate worlds, etc.  It was also a reach to believe that the cab driver Joanne meets at the airport becomes her sidekick throughout the rest of the story.  And, what the heck is the deal with the coyote?

This was not a bad book (3/5 stars) and I’ll definitely read the next one.  Recommended for those who enjoy urban fantasy and are able to turn off some of the mind’s questions when reading.

Review – Dirty Magic (The Prospero’s War #1) by Jaye Wells

dirty magicDirty Magic is the first book in a new urban fantasy series by Jaye Wells.  Kate Prospero is a police officer who is a reformed mage (she cooked spells).  When she is forced to kill a suspect she was chasing, she learns about a new threat to the city and is forced to work with people, and the magic, she has pushed away for years.

Will I read the second book in this series?  Probably.  Dirty Magic is saved by the fact that it is easy to relate to Kate and her struggles.  She seems like someone you would know who can’t quite get their life figured out.  Because of that, I want to learn more of her story and see how she grows as a person.

But…

I also had a lot of problems with DM.  First, one of Kate’s informants is a homunculus conjoined twin.  It felt contrived to incorporate something so strange into the story.  (Kind of like the 3-breasted woman in Total Recall – it’s there just to get attention.)  Also, the genetic marker for someone who can do magic is the fact that they are left-handed.  This was never really explained and seemed like the easy way out for a writer to explain the origin of magic in this world.  As the series continues, there needs to be a lot more work given to building the foundation of Babylon and its’ people.

The world building and some of the storyline was extremely reminiscent of other UF series (The Hollows, Mercy Thompson, etc.)  And, the writing included a good amount of repetition.  “Dirty, desperate faces”.  “Brows slammed down”.  “My conscience rose / reared up”.  I know this is picky but there is a scene where they are drinking beer from a can.  But, at the end of the scene, they clink bottles.  Little things like that bother a detailed reader.  There were other proofreading errors but I forgave those as my copy was an ARC.

3/5 stars for a decent start to a series that I hope will improve with time.

Thank you to the publisher for providing an E-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Review – Killing Moon by Rebecca York

killing moonI love used book stores.  Not only can I find books that are on my ‘need to get’ list but by browsing the shelves I find unexpected treasures.  When searching the paranormal section several months ago, I came across Killing Moon, the first in a series by Rebecca York.  The synopsis on the back was intriguing – private investigator who is a wolf, genetic researcher female lead, serial killer, secrets, forces beyond their control.  It all sounded like it was made for me.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

The high level story is fine.  Standard but fine.  One of my biggest issues was that it felt so dated.  I believe it was originally published in 2003.  But it read like it was from the 1980s.  Our female lead, Megan, wears stockings on a day-to-day basis.  Early on she mentions cell phones and it’s a big deal that she has one that isn’t part of the car itself but is actually a mobile.  Huh?  In 2003, most of the people I knew had personal cell phones.  Some of the phrase-ology also felt out of touch – “ample breasts”?  I’m sorry but that sounds like the old school Harlequins and not a modern paranormal romance.

I also had a problem with the world building and some of the explanations of the mating process.  Ross, our male lead and Megan’s love interest, is a werewolf.  Members of his family have an extra chromosome which causes all female babies to die (don’t get me started on the number of times the phrase ‘girl child’ was used by almost everyone in this book).  Male children survive into adolescence and then, during their first shift around the age of 15-16, only about half survive the process.  All of this is told and not shown to the reader.  And, there’s so little information given about the specifics of the transformation that we cannot easily picture the man turning into the wolf.  Ross is worried when he meets Megan and she begins to tend to his wounds.  Apparently once he reaches 30-years old, his wolf wants a mate and any female who takes care of him will do.  Ok…she’s a doctor!  So, he can only see male physicians?

Once they are ‘bonded’ by her touching him (oh, the horror), he aches for her and she aches for him.  All the aching and wanting are leading to….some pretty vanilla sex if you ask me.  Poor Ross tries to engage Megan in some phone sex when he becomes lonely after sending her away.  She believes that only perverts (and, read between the lines, sluts) would do that.  Oh, Ross, you lucky, lucky man.

Lastly, I cannot enjoy a book where the female author writes the female lead as an idiot.  Megan is a doctor.  Great.  But, she is pretty stupid when it comes to making common sense decisions.  After being told by Ross where the serial killer works, she goes there (without thinking, but still!!!)  She also shares secrets about Ross when they aren’t hers to give away.  When explaining this flub to Ross, she says that she was tricked into it.  No, I’m sorry, Megan, you just need to learn to keep your trap shut.  Ross just grimaces and then in the next breath forgives her.  No way.

My hopes were high that I had found another paranormal series to add to my must-read list.  Sorry to say, I won’t be reading the rest of this one.  2/5 stars.