Queen of Swords Book Reviews

Queen of Swords Book Reviews

I like to read fantasy (especially urban fantasy), science fiction, romance, a smattering of mystery/thriller & some random non-fiction.

 

I also like cheese. And pants.

Sick Time Reading Binge
Insurgent  - Veronica Roth Allegiant  - Veronica Roth Ceremony in Death  - J.D. Robb

One of the very few plus sides of a cold? Time to read. And I did!

 

  • Ceremony in Death - Enjoyable but average until the scene with Feeney, which made me cry. If a book skillfully hits me in the feels, it automatically gets a higher rating. Most of the stuff about Wicca was fairly inoffensive and largely informed. Nice change from the usual. There were, though, a couple of inaccuracies but a non-pagan wouldn't be able to pick them out.
  • Insurgent - Just as good as Divergent. Still had some things that didn't make sense but I enjoyed it anyway. I admire that the author complicated the relationship between Tris and Four though sometimes it was difficult to go through it with them.
  • Allegiant - There was consistent illogic throughout the series and it reached its peak in this book. I also was confused by the point of view switching between Tris and Four. That being said, I ended up highlighting a lot of passages that were very wise. Multiple highlight-worthy phrases bumped this book from 3 stars to 4. Without spoiling, I will add that I admire the author's choice. It was a brave one.

 

Not a bad reading streak to help me recuperate!

Review
3 Stars
Lions and Tigers and...
The Dance Off (Harlequin Kiss Series #45) - Ally Blake

Why are the heroes of romance novels always roaring? Are they lions?

 

The sex scenes in this book were refreshing because they didn't use the language that has become typical for romance novel sexytimes. But then there was roaring and I was confused. The hero and heroine were not at the zoo.

Favorite Reads of 2013
Mind Games - Carolyn Crane Magic Rises - Ilona Andrews The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel - Neil Gaiman World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War - Max Brooks Suddenly You - Sarah Mayberry Glory in Death - J.D. Robb Deadline - Mira Grant A Gentleman Undone  - Cecilia Grant A Lady by Midnight - Tessa Dare The Ghost Brigades - John Scalzi

I didn't put up the covers of books in the same series that were also favorite reads in 2013 but I'll list them here:

 

Along with book 6 (which is shown), Kate Daniels books 4 & 5 were 5 star reads. Well, listens actually. I love the narrator on the audiobooks. Tantor Audio often has the mp3 downloads marked down to $6.99 or less. I highly recommend the listen. Obviously, I recommend the Kate Daniels series if books 4-6 were favorite reads.

 

Naked in Death (book 1 of the "in Death" series) made the 5 star read list as well. This is another where the audiobook is well worth the listen if you're into that sort of thing. I definitely am. Audiobooks have saved me from many a road rage incident.

 

Deadline is the 2nd book in a trilogy. Book 1 just missed being a 5 star but I heartily recommend the trilogy if you're into horror, sci-fi, zombies or a heart-wrenching read.

 

 

Review
3.5 Stars
The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie

LIKED:

  • Daniel and Violet were fun characters. I especially liked Violet's resourcefulness and practicality. She can think fast on her feet in an impressive variety of situations. 
  • Because of some lingering trauma from her past, Violet is hesitant about physical intimacy. Daniel has to take it slow or risk her running away. The gentleness and sweetness of the buildup was really sexy and fun to read.
  • The supporting cast of characters didn't overwhelm the story and was probably a nice catch-up session for those who have read other books in this series (I have not).


LIKED LESS:

  • Violet's social status is ridiculously below Daniel's. Very brief mention is made of it but ultimately, there are zero repercussions for the hero and heroine breaking convention in such an outrageous fashion. 
  • While I don't want to minimize anyone's pain, Daniel's confessions of his past troubles come across as very "poor little rich boy," especially when compared to Violet's trauma and poverty.
  • While the supporting cast of characters didn't overwhelm the story, in some cases, I think they eased the way a little too much. I don't want my hero & heroine tortured at ridiculous lengths to be together, but I also feel that having to triumph over struggle makes the Happily Ever After that much more satisfying. This HEA lacked some oomph because Violet and Daniel didn't have to push as hard to get there.


Overall, a fun romance with a slow sexy courtship but too easy of a resolution.

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
2 Stars
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
A Discovery of Witches  - Deborah Harkness

LIKED:

  • The historical elements woven into the story were very interesting to me. Then again, I was a history major in college so your mileage may certainly vary. I also enjoyed the bits of scattered information about alchemy. 
  • The sense of place is very vivid. The author describes libraries and crumbling castles so that you can imagine them very clearly. I want to visit Oxford so badly after reading this book!

 

LIKED LESS:

  • The characters were very one-dimensional, even the main ones. I don't feel like I really knew any of them. 
  • This book was way longer than it needed to be. The momentum got bogged down many times by unnecessary scenes.
  • The romance was completely unconvincing. Diana goes from being fairly indifferent to Matthew to being madly in love with him in a snap. Then they become mated for life after only knowing one another for a few weeks. I have read plenty of romance novels where the couple's relationship moves very quickly but those were believable. In this case, I don't think the author adequately lays the groundwork for such a fast-paced romance.
  • The vampires have a wolf-pack-like hierarchy where everyone defers to the oldest male. Pack hierarchy is more convincing when applied to werewolves (even though science has since disproven the whole pack hierarchy business among wild wolves) but there's no reason to apply it to vampires except it being a patriarchal remnant of the cultures they grew up in. The only thing such a hierarchy accomplishes in this book is to make Matthew disagreeably bossy and controlling and to rob the female characters (especially Diana) of their agency. 

 

Audiobook Notes: The narration was excellent. The narrator clearly delineated between characters and told the story in an engaging way. I think I might have given up on this book if it hadn't been for the high quality of the audiobook production.

 

Audiobook Deals: Urban Fantasy
Angels' Blood - Nalini Singh Three Days to Dead - Kelly Meding Riveted -  Meljean Brook Magic Bites  - Ilona Andrews Kitty and the Midnight Hour - Carrie Vaughn

Tantor Audio always has a big selection of mp3 audiobooks on sale for $6.99. This particular round of bargains has a ton of great urban fantasy books. Unless noted, I have personally listened to these audiobooks and highly recommend them. As a bonus, the downloads are DRM-free mp3s and can be easily loaded onto pretty much any player.

 

  • Angels' Blood by Nalini Singh - Book 1 of the Guild Hunter series. There are angels and vampires and hot romance. Do I really need to say any more? Get it. Now.

 

  • Three Days to Dead by Kelly Meding - Book 1 of the Dreg City series. Love the heroine in this series and how she has to adapt to her very unique life after death situation.

 

  • Riveted by Meljean Brook - Book 3 of the Iron Sea series. Don't be put off by this being Book 3. You don't have to have read the previous books to enjoy this stupendous steampunk adventure romance. I adore the hero and heroine, and the world-building is amazing.

 

  • Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews - Book 1 of the Kate Daniels series. This book is good and it only gets better from here. Many of the other books in the series are also on sale for $6.99.

 

  • Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn - Book 1 of the Kitty Norville series. Kitty is a very realistic heroine and I adore her for it. She doesn't become an instant badass just because she's supernatural. She reacts like a normal person, for good or ill.

 

Hope you find something you'll enjoy!

Image
It's Impossible... =)
It's Impossible...  =)

So true! It's a sickness.

Review
4 Stars
Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning
Darkfever (Fever #1) - Karen Marie Moning

Liked:

  • The world-building was excellent. I was very intrigued by the various types of Fae and sidhe-seers and the powers possessed by both.
  • Mac started out the book as a total bubblehead, but she evolves into a stronger person over the course of the book. Does she still have annoying relapses into bubbleheadedness? Yes, and they are often eyeroll-inducing. That being said, I feel like this is a more realistic trajectory of personal growth than is depicted in many urban fantasy novels. No insta-badass though I can definitely see plenty of badass potential.
  • Some urban fantasy books try to cram romance in where it doesn't make sense for the characters. This author thankfully doesn't do that. Mac is dealing with a lot and therefore romance isn't high on her priorities list. In fact, Mac herself addresses this in the narrative and it's refreshing.
  • Barrons is so secretive that you just want to slap him and he's a real jerk to Mac sometimes. Yet I understand her reasons for dealing with him. Plus, I want to find out all his secrets!
  • Mac's interactions with V'lan are fantastic and hilarious! You'll just have to read the book to discover what I'm talking about.

 

Liked Less:

  • The author uses a storytelling device that I just plain don't like. It's 100% a personal preference. Mac often inserts "if only I'd known then what I know now" kind of stuff in her narration. I feel that sort of thing is unnecessary and sometimes interrupts the narrative flow. Your mileage may very.
  • The extensive descriptions of Mac's outfits and her preferred colors of cosmetics got a little old. I get it. She's a girly girl who likes perky colors. Let's move on, shall we?
  • The ending didn't really resolve anything. It wasn't exactly a cliffhanger but it didn't tie anything up either. Luckily, I enjoyed this book so I will be reading the next one.

 

Overall, Darkfever has some minor flaws but is a promising start to an urban fantasy series that I will definitely continue to read.

 

Review
4 Stars
Feed by Mira Grant
Feed (Newsflesh Trilogy #1) - Mira Grant

Liked:

  • This book is excellent near-future sci-fi. The changes in culture and technology are believable and the explanations flow naturally throughout the story without coming across as infodumps. The scientific backstory of the zombie virus and the initial outbreaks is similarly believable and well-integrated into the main plotline.
  • Although this is a zombie book, I greatly appreciate that it's not a zombie apocalypse. People have adapted to the presence of the walking dead and human society continues to function, albeit with lots of infection/security protocols. I find this particular scenario to be more plausible than all of Western civilization going completely off the rails.
  • Despite not being an apocalyptic zombie book, the author does not shrink from the consequences of zombie outbreaks. People die and their loved ones have to deal with it. I didn't feel that the overall tone of the book was super-dark but Mira Grant doesn't pull any punches either.
  • I enjoy that the book is tech-friendly and features blogging as a legitimate source of news and entertainment. I believe that we are already on this path.

 

Liked Less:

  • Some things became a little repetitious, like having to go through all the blood tests and security protocols along with the characters. It does drive home the changes that people had to make due to the infection, but it gets dull for the reader.
  • I liked that the main characters of the book were a sister/brother pair instead of a romantic couple. At the same time, the sister/brother relationship sometimes walked a little close to the creepy line a few times.
  • Sometimes the plot dragged slightly in between the explosive plot twists. That being said, the plot twists do a lot to make up for the slower sections.

 

Overall, I have no idea why I waited so long to pluck this gem from off my TBR pile! If you like zombies and/or scifi, you'll really enjoy this book, especially if you're a little weary of dystopian/apocalyptic reads.

Review
3.5 Stars
How to Deceive a Duke by Lecia Cornwall
How to Deceive a Duke - Lecia Cornwall

Liked:

  • The heroine, Meg, is smart and capable. The hero, Nick, has admirable character as well. I liked both of them and wanted them to find their Happily Ever After.
  • The supporting cast was varied and interesting without overwhelming the main romance.
  • A lot of romance tropes made their appearance: marriage as a condition of inheritance, insta-lust, and a Big Misunderstanding getting in the way of the couple. These oft-used story elements can become very tired, but in the hands of this author, the plot elements in question flowed naturally from the characters and events.

 

Liked Less:

  • There were too many villains in this story and the plotline involving their conspiracy against the lovers was convoluted.
  • Toward the end of the book, the author made the stylistic choice to have short chapters. For me, the short chapters made the action too choppy and broke up the flow of the story.

 

Overall, an enjoyable take on some old romance standards. The hero and heroine are what really make this story, but the momentum is slowed toward the end by choppy storytelling and a convoluted conspiracy.

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
2 Stars
Adventures with Max and Louise by Ellyn Oaksmith
Adventures with Max and Louise: (Originally published under the title KNOCKERS) - Ellyn Oaksmith

Liked:

 

  • The premise of the book, the heroine getting accidental breast implants, was funny and the author made it seem plausible. The heroine's reaction to the mixup was also very believable.
  • I liked the heroine. Despite being somewhat closed off from the world due to grief at the beginning, she blossoms as the plot progresses. She's experienced some tragedy but isn't totally crippled by her past. I'm a big fan of the heroine who bounces back.
  • The heroine's friends and family are all great characters. I wish the author had given a little more page time to them instead of to the heroine's love interests.
  • The talking breast implants weren't as over the top as I thought they'd be. They made me giggle a few times.

 

Liked Less:

 

  • The heroine's love interests are very shallow characters. They have a few main attributes, but that's it. I don't really feel Molly's attraction to them because I don't know them well enough to understand it. Also, the author's foreshadowing is pretty heavy-handed. It becomes clear early on which suitor will not make the cut.
  • Toward the middle and end of the book, Molly starts to make decisions that seemed very sudden and ill-explained to me. For example, the decision to keep the breast implants instead of having them removed seemed like an awfully quick turnaround. I know that she would decide to keep them but they way in which the decision was handled was abrupt. The biggest example of this requires its own bullet point...
  • The reader doesn't know much about the man that Molly falls in love with. Molly doesn't know much about the man she falls in love with. But she flies out to interrupt his dream trip to tell him she loves him. Really? This is where the author totally lost me. I'm all for the big romatic gesture but there has to be some groundwork laid for me to buy it. There was no groundwork for this big romantic gesture so instead of saying "awww!" I was left muttering "seriously?"

 

Overall, this book was funny and had a lot of promise but ultimately lost me due to some shallow characterization and some weird plot developments.

Review
4.5 Stars
Mind Games (Disillusionists Series #1)
Mind Games (The Disillusionists Trilogy, #1) - Carolyn Crane

4.5 stars

Review
2 Stars
Rock Hard (Sinners on Tour, #2)
Rock Hard (Sinners on Tour, #2) - Olivia Cunning

LIKED:

* I enjoyed catching up with the band. Despite this being a romance book that focuses on one couple, the other members of the band play a big role. It's nice to catch up with everyone from the previous book.

* One of the (many) plotlines dealt with addiction to painkillers. It's a big issue and it's good to see a book addressing it.

* The heroine, Jessica, is striving to be independent. Sometimes she approaches it in annoying ways but I understand her reasons.

 

LIKED LESS:

* The plotline where Jessica can't succeed in law school because she's too beautiful and can't get no respect made me roll my eyes so often that I now know every spot that I need to dust on my ceiling. I'm not buying it.

* Sed was a controlling jerk.

* While I respected Jessica's need for independence, I didn't really like her most of the time.

* Why was everybody in the band so mad at Jessica? I understand that they're being loyal to their bandmate but as adults they should recognize that there are 2 sides to every story. Also, knowing Sed, I'm sure they wouldn't have to take too far of a leap of faith to see how he could be a controlling jerk in a relationship.

* The sex scenes were repetitive and very vanilla.

 

Overall, I really enjoyed the first book in this series (Backstage Pass) and I was very disappointed in this one. I simply didn't like the hero and heroine. I will probably still read the next book in the series because I loved book 1 so much.

Review
4 Stars
Backstage Pass (Sinners on Tour, #1)
Backstage Pass (Sinners on Tour, #1) - Olivia Cunning

LIKED:

* I just adored Myrna & Brian. They're great characters and they're great together.

* I love that Myrna has her career in academia, and that she doesn't just decide to drop everything in her life to be with Brian. She's smart and capable and driven.

* Brian is such a romantic! I love how Myrna becomes a part of his music.

* Although the book is mostly about Myrna and Brian's romance, the rest of the band has a big role too. The ensemble aspect is handled well and I like the other band members.

* The sex is steamy, plentiful, and varied.

 

LIKED LESS:

* Myrna's emotional damage from her previous marriage was overplayed at the beginning of the book.

* Some sex scenes had elements that were a little unbelievable and pulled me out of the story. For example, anal with no lube (ouch!) and a lollipop in the vagina (hello, yeast infection).

 

Overall, a fun erotic book with a great hero and heroine.

Review
5 Stars
Let's Pretend This Never Happened
Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) - Jenny Lawson
Any book that makes me laugh so hard that I cry and almost barf gets an automatic 5 stars.
Review
3 Stars
The First Love Cookie Club (Twilight, Texas Series #3)
The First Love Cookie Club (Twilight, Texas Series #3) - Lori Wilde

Review from Queen of Swords Book Reviews

 

LIKED:

* The kismet cookie tradition is really cute. I wish the author had included a recipe in the book. I'd like to dream of my true love, but then again, I don't think I could deal with crumbs in my bed. Would a baggie interfere with the magic?

* Do not read this book if you are not in or do not want to be in the holiday spirit. It's a giant Christmas cheeseball. I was in a holiday mood so I ate it up.

* I really loved how Travis is such a devoted dad even to the point of almost screwing things up with Sarah.

* Sarah and Travis had good chemistry and their backstory was great. I love how they were both knit up in the community even though Sarah didn't really want to be.

* Twilight, TX (the setting) is as much a character as the people are. I enjoyed the vivid descriptions of the town and her people. The sense of place was very well-crafted.

 

LIKED LESS:

* I didn't buy Sarah's relationship with Jazzy because we didn't get to see enough of their interactions. I can understand feeling protective of a seriously sick child, but the depth of love she is said to feel is out of proportion to the circumstances that we're shown.

* The Raylene plotline was clumsily handled. Although the book is all in third person, there was still a notable switch in tone for the parts focusing on Raylene. Although that subplot later re-integrates into the main Sarah/Travis storyline, the shifts are jolting. I think that particular plotline could have been integrated in a way that didn't pull the reader out of the story.

* The sex scenes were kind of weird to me. They came across as somewhat awkward.