Nicole Reads A Lot

so many books, so little time

Broken Blade by J.C. Daniels

Title:Broken Blade
Author:J.C. Daniels/Shiloh Walker
PublisherShiloh Walker, Inc
Publication Date:January 2014
Publisher's DescriptionKit Colbana: assassin, thief, investigator extraordinaire. Now broken. She always expected her past to catch up with her but never like this. Haunted by nightmares and stripped of her identity, she’s retreated to Wolf Haven, the no-man’s land where she found refuge years before. But while she might want to hide away from the rest of the world, the rest of the world isn’t taking the hint.
Dragged kicking and screaming back into life, Kit is thrust head-first into an investigation surrounding the theft of an ancient relic...one that she wants nothing to do with. Her instincts tell her it’s a bad idea to just leave the relic lying about, but finding it might be just as bad.

Forced to face her nightmares, she uncovers hidden strength and comes face to face with one of the world’s original monsters.

If she survives the job, she won’t be the same...and neither will those closest to her.
My rating:****.5

brokenblade

A worthy successor to Night Blade, which is one of the best UF books that I’ve read in ages. I thought that this book came out on Tuesday, so I was pretty freaking excited to see it appear on my Kindle on Monday morning. Yay for not being able to keep my days straight! I’m glad to be able to say that this book far exceeded my expectations! While I knew that it would be good, I’m really impressed by how Ms. Daniels managed to advance Kit’s story in logical, though often unexpected, ways while setting up events that are still to come.

First of all: Kit is my freaking hero. She thinks of herself as barely being able to put one foot in front of the other, yet she is so, so capable; the fact that she doesn’t see this and doesn’t believe it when people tell her is heart-wrenching. Some characters in this book are obviously more welcome than others, but they all return and behave exactly as they ought to. Justin – still with the dreads but otherwise terrific; Sam – just as evil as ever; Damon – awesome and swoon-worthy even while navigating through a (largely deserved, sorry, but really) mountain of guilt; Doyle – still my bestest bestie ever, and even more so after this book.

I turned off the book progress info on Broken Blade, because I wanted to enjoy it without constantly trying to figure out whether I thought that the book was 70% of the way wrapped up at 70% in. Also, I just didn’t want to see the end coming. J.C. Daniels/Shiloh Walker is a freaking tactical genius; I bet her book outlines resemble the whiteboards o’crazy made popular by Carrie from Homeland (I am left-handed, and this is a compliment). I don’t believe that there are throwaway words or scenes in any of these books, but I love how seemingly small details from the first two books turn out to be absolutely pivotal in this one. And not in “a wizard did it” kind of way. I’m really excited for the fourth book, but I feel that Broken Blade ended in such a way that I’m excited, not distraught and anxious, to read the next installment in the Colbana Files.

Right now I’m still squeeing to myself over specific scenes and sentences. This series reminds me of my three favorite urban fantasy series: The Walker Papers by C. E. Murphy, and The October Daye books by Seanan McGuire. Even though I came late to it, this book has quickly made its way into the autobuy category for me. Preorder even, although I know that Amazon is totally going to screw me over on pricing somewhere around day 8.

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Out of Turn by Tiffany Snow

Title:Out of Turn
Author:Tiffany Snow
PublisherMontlake Romance
Publication Date:December 27, 2013
Publisher's DescriptionBreaking up is hard to do, as Kathleen Turner discovers. After a falling-out with her ex, high-powered attorney Blane Kirk, she’s moving on the best she can. Unfortunately, someone from her past is set on revenge and nothing short of killing Kathleen will stop them.

Keeping his brother’s ex-girlfriend alive isn’t something new to assassin-for-hire Kade Dennon, but this time can he protect her from himself? She’s a woman he can’t convince himself to walk away from, no matter what it costs him.

Regret is a constant companion for Blane as he realizes the truth behind the lies he’s been told. Can love heal the past, or can some mistakes not be undone?

Murder reunites Blane, Kade, and Kathleen as the police put Blane in their crosshairs. Blane may lose everything unless he and Kade can find the real murderer before it’s too late. But if they can’t set aside their love for the same woman and work together, it will tear them apart.

In Out of Turn, Kathleen is caught between two warring brothers, and the consequences may be fatal.
My rating:****.5

ootI have been eagerly awaiting this fourth entry in Snow’s Kathleen Turner series, and I was not disappointed at all. I’d been waiting since I read the third book in this series for this book to come out, and Ms. Snow had a lot of expectations to live up to. I’m pleased to say that she exceeded my wildest hopes for this book. A lot of the things that bothered me about the earlier books in this series were missing here. Kathleen had greater agency; she was more of a participant in her destiny, and I felt like she commanded more respect. Of course, this could be because she spent a great deal of this book in the company of Kade, the brother who was always more likely to treat her like a capable adult. I must admit that Blane bothered me a lot in the past. He seemed at times to treat Kathleen like an ignorant appendage, and I felt that he didn’t always afford her the respect that anybody should give another rational adult. And that was before he went and accused her of cheating on him with his brother. AFTER HE’D RESCUED HER FROM SEXUAL SLAVERY. I don’t even know how he could have believed that story at all, even before you got to the part where the person who she’d supposedly cheated with was HIS BROTHER WHOM HE’D RESCUED FROM A CHILDHOOD OF NEAR-DICKENSIAN PRIVATION. I mean, really.

Who I picture when Blane talks

Alas, poor Alaric…I mean Blane

Even though Blane’s character has been consistent throughout this series, this book marks the first time that I felt more than annoyance, exasperation, or anger at him; the sense I got when reading Out of Turn was that Blane was a man living with a suffocating amount of regret over his past mistakes. I’m a big fan of the extended grovel, and in way too many romance novels,  the hero (because, let’s be real here, it’s almost always the guy) gets off way too lightly for doing something terrible to the heroine. “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” might have worked in the ’70s, but I am not on board with it at all. Thankfully, it seems that neither is Ms. Snow. Here, I got the feeling that Blane really did understand the magnitude of the mistake he made when he listened to his awful uncle, accused Kathleen of sleeping with Kade, broke the engagement, and pushed his brother out of his life. What’s more, he apologized and really meant it. Not just to get back in Kathleen’s pants, or even begrudgingly: he apologized sincerely and acknowledged the possibility that he might never be able to fix what he’d broken. Even more heartening, Kathleen (after a reasonable amount of time and soul-searching), offers him sincere forgiveness, while admitting that she may never be able to trust him again.

Team Kade

Team Kade – still, forever, some more

I still don’t connect to Blane the way I do to Kade – he’s just not my kind of guy – but I felt like I came away from this book with a greater appreciation for who he is and why Kathleen would have a difficult time choosing between him and his brother. That being said, I’m 100% on Team Kade. Obviously. I mean, I was even before I read this book, but I loved seeing Kathleen and Kade work through their relationship without having to work around Blane. Sure, he’s the elephant in the room throughout the book, as the other two try, both subtly and overtly, to explore their feelings while sparing his, but DAMN. This book basically reads like the Team Kathleen and Kade playbook.

I really appreciated how Ms. Snow was able to advance the interpersonal relationships in this story, while also moving along storylines that have been in play since book one. It was good to catch up with tertiary characters with whom the main characters had interacted in the past, and to see that events that happened in previous books still resonated with the characters in this one. To my mind, Out of Turn is the strongest book in this series yet. Although I spent a lot of time gushing over Kathleen and Kade, I really love how well the strained relationship between Kade and Blane was portrayed here. It’s easy for me to say which brother I’d pick, but I really felt how torn Kathleen was by worries about the effect that her choice would have on the other brother. The balancing at between these three characters is delicious. The whole thing works even better when I think of this novel in terms of The Vampire Diaries (when that show was still must-watch television for me): Kathleen is a smarter, more capable Elena; Kade is Damon (yum); and Blane is some weird amalgamation of Stefan and Sober Alaric.

I cannot wait for book 5.

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Shady Lady by Ann Aguire

Title:Shady Lady
Author:Ann Aguirre
Publication Date:February 2011
Publisher's Description"I’d spent my whole life settling, trying not to attract attention, and generally doing whatever it took to keep other people happy. I didn’t want to do that again. Not when I was finally comfortable in my own skin. Sure, there were certain challenges, like a drug lord who wanted me dead, and the fact that I owed a demon a debt that he could call due at any moment. But everybody’s got problems, right?"

Whenever Corine Solomon touches an object, she immediately knows its history. But her own future concerns her more and more. Now back in Mexico, she’s running her pawnshop and trying to get a handle on her strange new powers, for she might need them. And soon.

Then former ally Kel Ferguson walks through her door. Heavily muscled and tattooed, Kel looks like a convict but calls himself a holy warrior. This time, he carries a warning for Corine: the Montoya cartel is coming for her—but they don’t just pack automatic weapons. The Montoyas use warlocks, shamans, voodoo priests—anything to terminate trouble. And Corine has become enemy number one…
My rating:****.5

I went back and read Blue Diablo and Hell Fire before I read this book, and I’m glad I did. I hadn’t visited this world for over a year, and there were lots of little details that I had forgotten. Reading the books in a series back to back will either cause you to fall more in love with it, or expose flaws that followed from book to book and make you like the series a lot less (hello, Weather Warden books). Thankfully, this book falls into the former category.

Corine Solomon is a fascinating character…and so is Kel. Ms. Aguire did an excellent job of showing how Corine and Kel’s relationship changes over the course of their time together. Halfway through this book, I nearly forgot how creepy he must have seemed to every rational person in this universe (no offense to poor Shannon, but it’s not like teenagers are known for their rationality).

The number of powerful, complex men in Corine’s life just keeps increasing. The mutation of the Chance and Jesse situation has been fascinating to read, and then the ending of this book went and threw two new curveballs at us. I love it!

I am really looking forward to reading the next book in this series and the further adventures of Corine and co.

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Aftertime by Sophie Littlefield

Title:Aftertime
Author:Sophie Littlefield
Publication Date:February 2011
Publisher's DescriptionTHE WORLD'S GONE.
WORSE, SO IS HER DAUGHTER.

Awakening in a bleak landscape as scarred as her body, Cass Dollar vaguely recalls surviving something terrible. Wearing unfamiliar clothes and having no idea how many days—or weeks—have passed, she slowly realizes the horrifying truth: Ruthie has vanished.

And with her, nearly all of civilization. Where once-lush hills carried cars and commerce, the roads today see only cannibalistic Beaters—people turned hungry for human flesh by a government experiment gone wrong.

In a broken, barren California, Cass will undergo a harrowing quest to get her Ruthie back. Few people trust an outsider, let alone a woman who became a zombie and somehow turned back, but she finds help from an enigmatic outlaw, Smoke. Smoke is her savior, and her safety. For the Beaters are out there. And the humans grip at survival with their trigger fingers. Especially when they learn that she and Ruthie have become the most feared, and desired, of weapons in a brave new world....
My rating:****.5

Yet another zombie book, but not a typical one. This book, maybe more than the other zombie books I’ve read lately (Allison Hewitt is Trapped, and Mira Grant’s Deadline books), focused on what happened to/in the world after the zombies came (which is one of the rebirths to which the title refers). In this world, the zombification of people came as a direct result of biological warfare, waged against the United States by an unspecified enemy that lost a ground war to the US. Zombies are the the WHY of what took place this novel, not the what itself. This novel was about what happened when California begins to remake itself after a zombie outbreak.

The main character, Cass, was a recovering drug addict who was attacked by zombies, briefly became a zombie herself, and then spontaneously recovered. This made sense in the context of the novel, and also served to give us something that is missing from a lot of other zombie books: hope for those who remain. Even though the book made it clear that “outliers” were not even close to common (one figure offered was at 1 in 1,000, but there’s no way to know if this estimate was supposed to be correct), this glimmer of light in an otherwise dark world worked to give the characters in this story something to believe in. If some people were able to be cured, why not everybody?

Cass wasn’t interested in her outlier status, except for what it could bring her: hope of being reunited with Ruthie, her young daughter, who she lost when she was briefly a zombie (or beater, in the parlance of this world). Cass met up with Smoke, a man who, for his own reasons, was willing to assist her, and headed toward the religious colony where her daughter had been sent.

The Convent was full of some seriously mess-up people, but it’s tough to believe that our world wouldn’t split into similar or crazier factions in the face of such circumstances. The small world feeling of this novel made sense in the context of a society where large numbers of people had recently died, and the sense of urgency of the novel made it hard to put down.

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One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire

Title:One Salt Sea
Author:Seanan McGuire
Publication Date:September 2011
Publisher's DescriptionOctober "Toby" Daye is settling into her new role as Countess of Goldengreen. She's actually dating again, and she's taken on Quentin as her squire. So, of course, it's time for things to take a turn for the worse.

Someone has kidnapped the sons of the regent of the Undersea Duchy of Saltmist. To prevent a war between land and sea, Toby must find the missing boys and prove the Queen of the Mists was not behind their abduction. Toby's search will take her from the streets of San Francisco to the lands beneath the waves, and her deadline is firm: she must find the boys in three days' time, or all of the Mists will pay the price. But someone is determined to stop her-and whoever it is isn't playing by Oberon's Laws...
My rating:****.5

I liked the first book in this series well enough to read the second, but An Artificial Night just didn’t interest me as a story, and I nearly gave up on the series altogether. Thankfully, I liked Toby and her mad, mad world enough to give it another try. I’m truly glad that I stuck it out for the next three titles in this series. Each of them has been better than the last, and One Salt Sea is so full of win and awesomeness that I fear the bar may now be set too high for book 6.

Toby is a really compelling character; she’s not human, and doesn’t experience the type of angst over her non-human status that is at this point almost a staple (cliche?) of non/quasi-human protagonists in urban fantasy. Toby’s hangups are largely related to class; as a changeling, she has always had a lower status in the world she chose. With her unasked for ascension to the nobility, she is now the technical equal of many of those who would shun her, which is uncomfortable for everybody involved. Toby’s life up to this point has been about learning to exist on the fringes of both fae and human society, and becoming the Countess of Goldengreen does not mesh well with the survival skills and coping mechanisms that Toby had to acquire to make it to her midfifties. She has rules that are all her own, and make her who she is. These rules are different the rules embodied by some of her closest friends and associates, and leads to a fair amount of tension over some of her actions. It is a testament to how many disparate plots are presented and resolved in this novel that this conflict is not even the first or second most pressing thing going on in Toby’s world.

I can’t begin to offer a reasonable synopsis of this novel that is not spoilerific, but I will say that I definitely didn’t expect to find myself sniffling away at my desk as I finished this book during my lunch break. Seanan McGuire did not pull any punches with this novel.

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