Review – You Slay Me (Aisling Grey: Guardian #1)

you slay meYou Slay Me is the first installment in the Aisling Grey urban fantasy / paranormal romance series.  I found my copy at the Friends of the Library sale for 25 cents.  Score.

From Goodreads: “In her job as courier, Aisling is to deliver a precious demonic artifact to a Mme. Deauxville in Paris, but she finds Madame freshly dead, surrounded by a circle of ash. The artifact is then stolen by the fast-talking Drake, who claims that Aisling is no mere courier but in fact a demon lord and his destined mate. Determined to play detective, Aisling summons up a demon only to find herself saddled with one, in the form of a slobbering Newfoundland who wants to go walkies. Drake wants to show her the way dragons mate, and then bodies seem to pile up all over Paris, making Aisling a corpse magnet and top suspect. It’s going to take every screwy new ally she’s got to solve this murder and adjust to her new life in a strange new world.”

When I read this yesterday I hoped for a fun, lighthearted read.  You Slay Me delivered that…sort of.

I have to say I am surprised by the high rating this has on Goodreads.  While entertaining, you do have to turn off some parts of your brain if you want to enjoy the story.  Especially if you are a woman.  My biggest issue is that Aisling is portrayed as, well, an idiot who is easily swayed by a handsome face.  My favorite UF/PNR series are anchored by smart, tough women.  Aisling could be those things but just isn’t.  She doesn’t believe in demons yet tries to summon one with bargain basement ingredients.  While she says she doesn’t want to be mated to Drake, she sure does jump his bones anytime she gets the chance.

The supporting cast works well and I can see a lot of potential here so I’m giving this one 3/5 stars even with its’ faults.  It’s a decent start to the series and I hope that the author worked out some of Aisling’s issues in future installments.

Review – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

gone girlBy now you’ve all seen the advertisements for the movie so you know the gist of the plot.  Wife goes missing and husband is prime suspect.

I held off on reading Gone Girl as long as I could.  It was a little too popular and I’m not one to read books that are water cooler topics.  I knew that one day I would read it and I finally gave in when the movie came out.

This is my second Gillian Flynn read – I gave Dark Places four-stars.  Honestly, I don’t want to give Gone Girl 5 stars but I don’t have a choice.

 

Reasons GG should be avoided:

- Every single major character is unlikable.  Most aren’t just unlikable but awful people who probably shouldn’t be out in the general population.

- Some of these people will do things that would have been unimaginable to you before reading and you will wish you could erase these acts from your memory so that you don’t have to believe that a human being could act this way.

- Most importantly, if you are getting married or thinking of getting married you should avoid this like the plague.  It doesn’t paint a pretty picture of wedded bliss.

 

Reasons you have to read GG:

- It’s so dang well-written.  The use of Nick’s POV in the present day alternated with Amy’s diary entries just works.

- The twists and turns will keep you guessing.  Even if you figure out one piece of the puzzle, Flynn surprises you by moving one you already had in place.

- You don’t want to be the one loser at a dinner party that doesn’t know how it ends.

 

5/5 begrudged stars.

 

Review – The Iron Wyrm Affair (Bannon & Clare #1) by Lilith Saintcrow

iron wyrm affairSince I haven’t read much steampunk and I saw The Iron Wyrm Affair at the used bookstore, I knew I needed to snatch it up.

From Goodreads: Emma Bannon, forensic sorceress in the service of the Empire, has a mission: to protect Archibald Clare, a failed, unregistered mentath. His skills of deduction are legendary, and her own sorcery is not inconsiderable. It doesn’t help much that they barely tolerate each other, or that Bannon’s Shield, Mikal, might just be a traitor himself. Or that the conspiracy killing registered mentaths and sorcerers alike will just as likely kill them as seduce them into treachery toward their Queen.”

When I finished TIWA, I stared at the cover for a few minutes trying to decide how I felt.  There were things I loved and others that irked the heck out of me.  Rating it seemed almost impossible.

So, I’ve decided to use a little math.  Let’s start with 3-stars and go from there:

Plus 1/2 star: Steampunk element was well done.  I like the mix of magic and technology.

Plus 1/2 star: Some good world building and characterization.  Victorian England elements worked within the story.  The explanations of the different types of people – sorcerers (some prime or super special like Bannon), mentaths (extra smart geniuses like Clare) and shields (protectors like Mikal) – was fascinating.  By the way, I would be a mentath if you care.

Minus 1/2 star: Taking the convenient route when world building.  It’s not a problem that we recognize Victorian England but I don’t think an author should take the easy way out and leave too much of the real world in place.  There were scenes where it was a little too close to reality.

Minus 1 star (and probably should be more): Characterization of women.  How can you have a strong, smart female lead like Emma Bannon and still leave the reader feeling like you dislike women? Clare alludes to Bannon being too hard or straight-forward.  Ok, I could accept that as part of his character.  But, you made Emma question herself constantly saying that she wasn’t feminine enough or was too outspoken.  And, why, every time she said a curse word was it blanked out?  Other, male characters, were allowed to curse freely.  Don’t get me started on the attitude Clare had about Bannon’s intimate relationship.  MYOB, buddy.

Minus 1/2 star: This reduction is simply due to Clare’s obsession with Bannon’s child-like face and curly hair.  It was creepy.

Plus 1 star: When you can’t wait to read the next installment, the book deserves an extra star.

Overall, 3/5 stars.  Now, can someone send me the next one?

Review – Broken Harbor (Dublin Murder Squad #4) by Tana French

broken harborI have decided that Tana French is a sorceress.  She has special powers that cannot be explained.  Broken Harbor is even better than previous installments in the Dublin Murder Squad series.

From Goodreads: “Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy always brings in the killer. Always. That’s why he’s landed this high-profile triple homicide. At first, he thinks it’s going to be simple, but the murder scene holds terrifying memories for Scorcher. Memories of something that happened there back when he was a boy.”

We first met Mick Kennedy as one of the detectives in Faithful Place.  He was kind of a d-bag and was so by the book that you couldn’t like him.  When I saw that he was the main character here, I was concerned.  Was this going to be one of those books where I dislike the MC so much that I can’t really enjoy the story?  So little faith.  I should know that Tana French writes about real characters with real flaws.  Learning some of his back story completely changed the dynamic.

What is so great about Broken Harbor?  I could say everything but that would be too simplistic.  There is a great story here with a mystery that keeps you on the edge of your seat.  Characters are so well-developed that you truly do feel that you are in the room with them.  And, the way French portrays mental illness is just…something that sticks with you.

Just plain wonderful.  That’s all I can say.  Seriously, if you are a mystery or thriller reader and haven’t found this series you need to go to the bookstore today.

5/5 stars.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

Review – Black Widow (Elemental Assassin #12) by Jennifer Estep

black widowFirst things first – a question for the author.  Did you write 12 books in this series in about 4 years?  That’s 3 books a year or one every 4 months.  This is in addition to the Mythos Academy series you write plus anything else you have to do in real life.  That is amazing!

Having said that, please forgive me for what I’m about to say.

Gin Blanco and friends are back.  Plot wise it’s the same old, same old.  They are being threatened by a big bad elemental and they have to fight back.  Gin tries to take on everyone by herself.  Well, to be fair she did enlist a little help this time but she puts all the responsibility squarely on her own shoulders.

The Elemental Assassin series has been an uneven experience for me.  The last book was a fun read that I thought was one of the better entries.  Unfortunately this one took several steps back.  Recycled storyline?  Check.  Repetitive writing? Check.  Obsession with eye color (yes, I get it, Owen has violet eyes)?  Check.  And so on.  And so on.  And so on.

Is the book bad?  Not by any stretch of the imagination.  If you are new to the series you probably will love it.  The issues only come in when you have read so many.

As a reader and fan, I would love to see the author and Gin take a new direction.  Maybe even get the heck out of Ashland.  I’m just not sure there is really much more for her to do there.  (Yes, I know the ending opened a few doors but I’m not sure about where they lead.)

3/5 stars for a pretty good book that could’ve been better.

Thank to the publisher for providing an e-copy through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review – The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood

killer next doorFor the past few months I have been obsessed with reading mysteries, thrillers and crime novels.  When done well they are almost unbeatable for sheer enjoyment.  When I saw The Killer Next Door on the Penguin First to Read page, I thought this would be a great one to try.  A new-to-me author who has a blurb by Stephen King.  Can’t lose, right?

I’m not even sure how to describe the plot for this one so I’ll leave that to Goodreads:

“…a brilliant, tightly paced thriller that will keep you up at night and make you ask yourself: just how well do you know your neighbors?  Everyone who lives at 23 Beulah Grove has a secret. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be renting rooms in a dodgy old building for cash—no credit check, no lease. It’s the kind of place you end up when you you’ve run out of other options. The six residents mostly keep to themselves, but one unbearably hot summer night, a terrible accident pushes them into an uneasy alliance. What they don’t know is that one of them is a killer. He’s already chosen his next victim, and he’ll do anything to protect his secret.”

Here’s the deal – this one was just okay.  I expected more.  The first thing that struck me was the writing.  It was in third person and the first half included a lot of “he”, “she” sentences that seemed way too basic.

Also, it wasn’t really scary.  It was disgusting in parts but I didn’t feel any tension or build up.  Honestly I figured out the twist pretty early on so it was a little disappointing.

Overall, I would give this one 2/5 stars.  There was definite potential here so I would try another by the author but this just didn’t work for me.

Thanks to Penguin for providing an e-copy as part of the First to Read program.

Review – Storm Front (Book One of the Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher

storm frontAnother urban fantasy series that I am now hooked on.  Oh well.

The Dresden Files books have been on my radar for some time but I kept putting off starting.  As with the Iron Druid Chronicles, I just wasn’t sure I’d be as interested in a male driven UF.  Turns out I am an equal opportunity reader.

Harry Dresden is a wizard living in Chicago who has his own wizarding agency.  He works with the police and as a freelancer.  Surprisingly, it isn’t easy being magicky.

It’s clear why so many people love this series.  It has great writing and an entertaining story.  Harry is an interesting MC.  He has a good heart but like so many of the female UF leads he doesn’t seem to catch a break.  His imperfections make him more likeable.

But, there is work to be done in future installments.  Harry is a little too free with his opinion of women.  I can see why some hate him and the series for this.  I, personally, didn’t take offense as I didn’t read him as an overt misogynist.  But, yeah, it’s almost there.

A wizard / mage / whatever you want to call him should also make better decisions.  It’s a little annoying when they botch things even with their superpowers.  Get with the program.

Overall a strong start to the series and I can’t wait to read book two.

4/5 stars.