Sunday, September 30, 2018

Halloween Bingo 2018 | Book Rambles at Mid-game

It's the end of September and our Bingo game is at it's mid-mark!

Like last year, I decided I wanted to single out a few books for individual review, and then decide on a few books for a set of ramblings--not necessarily short.  This is mainly because I feel like it.  Originally, these types of reviews were mainly because I couldn't think of anything to say about certain books, but I always end up with at least a couple paragraphs, so my ramblings are no longer short.  I'm not even going to attempt to call them short, so simply "ramblings" will do.

Unfortunately, my "reading schedule" for this year's Halloween Bingo has been quite pathetic so far as September is concerned--well, pathetic for my usual reading achievements.  But since I wanted to do a mid-game book rambling anyway, well, I decided to steal someone's idea and just list all the books I've read so far as a simple update and mid-game summary!

Hopefully October will pick up a bit more for me so I have a chance at a Blackout.

Here it is!

This will pretty much be in the order of which I've read them.

Rating:  2.5 Stars

I've written a separate review for this book, as well as the rest of the Circle trilogy, if only because that's how my mind works.  But in a few words, this book was simply too similar to the Cousin's O'Dwyer trilogy for me to find it interesting.  While the worlds and the plots are different, the characters are similar and the dialogue is just as unnaturally awkward.

As I state in my review, the entire series had too much going on with it, much like a mish-mash of every possible paranormal or supernatural device you can think of... including a short bout of time travel.

The main hero of this book is a sorcerer, and the main heroine is a witch, so the book fits.

Series Review: Circle Trilogy

Other possible squares include:  Shifters; Relics and Curiosities; Deadlands; Supernatural; Romantic Suspense; Terrifying Women

Rating:  4.0 Stars

I can't remember the last time I read a YA novel I loved, but The Name of the Star was pleasantly surprising!  While there's a lot of banality to Rory's narrative--mainly detailing her everyday at Wexford with her friends--it was still a fun read.  I loved Rory's voice.  I only wish the book could have picked up towards the main conflict a lot more quickly.  Because while the copy-cat Ripper murders were hanging in the background, we never come to Rory's involvement until a good percentage into the book.

I've also written a separate review for this book at the link below.

Thoughts: The Name of the Star

Other possible squares include:  Ghost Stories; Supernatural; Darkest London; Amateur Sleuth; Terrifying Women; Murder Most Foul

Rating:  2.0 Stars

I have honestly enjoyed most of the romantic suspense books written by Nora Roberts, so I think that it's her supernatural trilogies that don't work for me.  Or maybe I just need to give her In Death series a try since they seem to be more popular with better critiques.

Anyway, Dance of the Gods was just a disaster, as it doesn't really seem to add much to the trilogy and boasts a hero who annoyed the heck out of me.  Larkin acted like such a teenage boy, thinking that his flirting and charm is God's gift to women.  Even Blair's kickass demon slayer character wasn't enough to save this book, if only because she actually fell for Larkin's smarmy flirting.

Stubbornly, however, I trudged on, as I'd been so excited that Nora Roberts had a trilogy that could fit so many squares on my Bingo card.  Larkin, being a shape-shifter of probably any animal you can name--even a dragon!--is obviously a great candidate for the Shifter square.

Again, this book's review is part of a series review with the other two Circle trilogy books.  I pretty much say the same thing there as well.

Series Review: Circle Trilogy

Other possible squares include:  Spellbound; Relics and Curiosities; Deadlands; Supernatural; Romantic Suspense; Terrifying Women

Rating:  2.0 Stars

I've often thought that the longer a book's title, the more likely it is setting itself up for failure; because then you read that subtitle, "History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them," and you have a certain amount of expectation.  Add onto that, marketing this piece as a popular science book and it'd better be able to live up to all that hype.  This book did none of that and probably would have been more successful as a series of blog posts, where most people would not have had as many expectations other than the fact that the anecdotes are just tidbits of knowledge and some interesting stories that the blogger was eager to share.

Again, this is another book I've written a separate review for.  This was also a read for the Flat Book Society.

Some Rambling Thoughts: Get Well Soon

This book was deemed eligible for the Doomsday square by our game hosts, and so by default would also count towards the Creepy Raven Free Space.

Initially, I'd planned to use this book for the free space, but there's always more freedom in leaving that free space open for other books, so I decided to use it for Doomsday instead.

The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley
audio book narrated by Barbara Rosenblat
Rating:  2.0 Stars

I honestly almost gave up on this book, but I've been a fan of Susanna Kearsley since the first book I read of hers, The Shadowy Horses, which I've been told isn't her best work.  I then went on to read Every Secret Thing, which she wrote under a pseudonym, for last year's Halloween Bingo and I loved it!  The Splendour Falls, come to find out from critiques and reviews, is also one of Kearsley's more disappointing novels, so I'm not sure why I'd been drawn to it in the first place.

Nonetheless, I persevered, and somehow managed to make it to the end.  Being an audio book probably helped as I spent some time multi-tasking while listening to it.  Barbara Rosenblat is wonderful as a narrator in a couple other books I've listened to, but for some reason, she doesn't seem to make this one work all that well.

I've got a more long-winded review in the works where I, sadly, end up rambling my thoughts away.  I may or may not end up posting it soon, so I'll come back and update this section accordingly, with a link to it.

But the basic gist of this book is pretty much that a lot of nothing happens until about eight hours into the audio book.  Eight hours of book is a lot of time for a lot of nothing to happen.

Other possible squares include:  Amateur Sleuth; Terrifying Women; Murder Most Foul

Valley of Silence by Nora Roberts
Circle trilogy #3 (final)
Rating:  2.5 Stars

This was probably the better of the three books in the Circle trilogy--there's more action, forward progression, more backstory to help us understand the characters better... and Cian is most assuredly the only hero of the three in this series who was really of any interest.  And I'm not saying that just because he's a vampire--I love his inner conflict and struggles, and I loved his sarcasm and blunt attitude.  I also enjoyed how he had the best relationship with the rest of the girls in the book.

Unfortunately, the romance fell a little flat, and there were some other factors in the book that really didn't work for me.  The end was way more abrupt than I would have liked.

Once again, here's a link to the official review:  Series Thoughts: Circle Trilogy

Other possible squares include:  Shifters; Spellbound; Relics and Curiosities; Supernatural; Cryptozoologist; Romantic Suspense; Terrifying Women

Not Really a Review: The Demon King

The Demon King

by Cinda Williams Chima
Book 1 of Seven Realms

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.0 Stars

Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch.  Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for his family.  The only thing of value he has is something he can't sell—the thick silver cuffs he's worn since birth.  They're clearly magicked—as he grows, they grow, and he's never been able to get them off.

One day, Han and his clan friend, Dancer, confront three young wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea.  Han takes an amulet from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to keep him from using it against them.  Soon Han learns that the amulet has an evil history—it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago.  With a magical piece that powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.

Meanwhile, Raisa ana'Marianna, princess heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight.  She's just returned to court after three years of freedom in the mountains—riding, hunting, and working the famous clan markets.  Raisa wants to be more than an ornament in a glittering cage.  She aspires to be like Hanalea—the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But her mother has other plans for her...

The Seven Realms tremble when the lives of Hans and Raisa collide, fanning the flames of the smoldering war between clans and wizards.

I'm not going to lie.  I really, really resent this book.

And I'd started this post four times, because I couldn't seem to find the right words to describe the struggle I felt while reading this book.  It was boring and monotonous.

Sure, the writing was great and the details were plenty... but sometimes you CAN have too much detail.  I'm sure I was drowning in detail to the point where I physically said aloud: "Why do I care?"

I like to see myself as fairly tolerant when it comes to books.  I have a pretty average standard and can overlook certain aspects in exchange for other traits a book may display more favorably.

The world had potential: Seven Realms, wars going on, a rich back-history of conflict, a legendary warrior queen who saved the world, some snippets of human drama between opposing groups of people who hate... well, just because the hate has been expanding for generations.  There is a lot of potential in this world.

But I'm not sure if I could find anything in The Demon King that was to my liking at all.  I didn't like the characters (except maybe Prince Liam Tomlin, what little appearance he makes with his witty banters and nonsensical responses), there appeared to be very little direction in the story line, despite the fact that you knew exactly where the story was headed, and (I repeat) there was too much info dump.

To me, the entire book felt like a prologue of sorts -- as if this one book was the build-up and back story behind the true story that has yet to begin.

So I resent this book, but not for all the things mentioned above; I resent this book because of the fact that the actual story doesn't even really begin until the end.  Things actually start to get intriguing in the last 20% stretch of The Demon King.

If I cared enough, maybe I could overlook the first 80% and be happy to continue the series.  I'm not sure if I'm feeling that generous though.


This book was read as part of my 2014 TBR Pile Challenge hosted by Roof Beam Reader.

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in February 2014.

First Impression (originally posted on February 11, 2014)

This is the first book I'm reading for my TBR Pile Challenge...  and I'm almost afraid to say that it's not going so well.  I seem to have read the first four chapters without quite knowing what's actually going on... and maybe even shutting off my brain at some point.

I picked this book to be put onto my reading list in the first place because I like high fantasies and the summary sounded interesting.  I'm starting to think that there must have been a reason why this book did some hopping back and forth from me wanting to read it to me putting it into a "maybe read" category... and back and forth again.

Nonetheless, being that it is part of a list I officially posted in a reading challenge, I'll do my best to get through it.  Who knows, maybe it's just a slow start and I'll eventually end up liking it.

Of course, so many other books out there dying to be read right now as well....

This update was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in February 2014.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Series Thoughts: Circle trilogy

Circle trilogy

by Nora Roberts
Book #1:  Morrigan's Cross | Goodreads | Rating:  2.5 Stars
Book #2:  Dance of the Gods | Goodreads | Rating:  2.0 Stars
Book #3:  Valley of Silence | Goodreads | Rating:  2.5 Stars

Series Average Rating:  2.33 Stars

This series reminded me of the Cousin's O'Dwyer trilogy.  I know that this one came first, but I read that one first, and the similarities in dialogue, narration, and even the awkward timing of the dialogue, as well as the overall awkwardness of the dialogue itself is much too similar to be ignored.  To be honest, I kept getting the distinct feeling the characters weren't sure which time period or what genre of book they were in.

Honestly, this entire trilogy probably could have been cut down to one book, although I then suspect that we wouldn't get to showcase each couple as the front and center.  But the romances weren't all that great, so I'm not sure if that's really an issue.  The couple who had the best chemistry were Glenna and Hoyt in the first book, but even then it felt lacking.  The couple with the worst chemistry happened to be Blair and Larkin--those two just didn't mesh at all and I couldn't figure out how Blair even fell for Larkin, because he annoyed the crap out of me.

To each their own, I guess.

The last book might have been the best one, but due to certain factors, it was still graded an average 2.5 Star 'Meh' Rating.  There were too many things wrong with the way the book, the entire series, really, was set up and outlined.

Anyway you see it, I've read better Nora Roberts books.

In the last days of high summer, with lightning striking blue in a black sky, the sorcerer stood on a high cliff overlooking the raging sea...

Belting out his grief into the storm, Hoyt Mac Cionaoith rails against the evil that has torn his twin brother from their family's embrace.  Her name is Lilith.  Existing for over a thousand years, she has lured countless men to an immortal doom with her soul-stealing kiss.  But now, this woman known as vampire will stop at nothing until she rules this world—and those beyond it...

Hoyt is no match for the dark siren.  But his powers come from the goddess Morrigan, and it is through her that he will get his chance at vengeance.  At Morrigan's charge, he must gather five others to form a ring of power strong enough to overcome Lilith.  A circle of six: himself, the witch, the warrior, the scholar, the one of many forms and the one he's lost.  And it is in this circle, hundreds of years in the future, where Hoyt will learn how strong his spirit—and his heart—have become...

As I've stated above, there were a lot of things about this book that bugged me, least of all were the similarities to the Cousin O'Dwyer trilogy I read a couple years back, the first book of which had been read for Halloween Bingo 2016.  While the premise seemed interesting and promising enough, I can't say that the execution of the entire ordeal was really that great.

I was a little overwhelmed that so much was thrown at us in this first book, including all the six players, their thoughts and histories and conflicts, as well as more to grow on.  There was a lot of predictability to the actions, and also a lot of frustration with these characters.  And, as I'd felt with the Cousin O'Dwyer trilogy, the dialogue just feels too unnatural, too poetic, to feel real--it's a bit jarring.

Nonetheless, I found myself enjoying this book and interested in following the rest of the trilogy to the end.  It would be interesting to see what comes of Cian, as the one and only vampire in this army of vampire slayers.

On a side note, I was a bit ecstatic when Blair pops into the picture and her introductory was actually quite kick ass--so I find myself hopeful for the second book wherein Blair's kick-ass self will be expanded upon!

With one vampire determined to rule the earth, the Circle of Six prepares to battle for their lives—and their hearts...

Blair Murphy has always worked alone. Destined to be a demon hunter in a world that doesn't believe in such things, she lives for the kill. But now, she finds herself the warrior in a circle of six, chosen by the goddess Morrigan to defeat the vampire Lilith and her minions.

Learning to trust the others has been hard, for Blair has never allowed herself such a luxury. But she finds herself drawn to Larkin, a man of many shapes. As a horse, he is proud and graceful; as a dragon, beautifully fierce; and as a ma ... well, Blair has seen her share of hunks, but none quite so ruggedly handsome and playfully charming as this nobleman from the past.

In two months' time, the circle of six will face Lilith and her army in Geall. To complete preparations and round up forces to fight, the circle travels through time to Larkin's world, where Blair must choose between battling her overwhelming attraction to him - or risking everything for a love that can never be..

All of my hopes for this series picking up with Blair's inclusion pretty much shattered with this second book.  This isn't Blair's fault, however, as I still think she's pretty kick-ass, and I like that she comes to the circle as 'The Warrior.'  Of course, she seems to have a little bit of Buffy in her, but there's nothing wrong with that.

What was wrong with this second book was that it truly contributed nothing new to the series.  It was entirely a bridging book, created for the sake of having a second book, and for the sake of giving Blair and Larkin their romance.  And if the romance had been any good, I probably would have been okay with it, even as the book was quite draggy.

But Larkin annoyed the ever-loving hell out of me, and I can't even really pinpoint why.  He was always flirting and always trying too hard to be charming.  Why that annoys me, I'm not entirely sure.  While Blair is trying to organize a fight with the vampires, he's acting like a teenager who's playing some game, having fun with his training, seeing the sights of the modern world, and flirting with every female he comes in contact with.

The fact that the romance started developing before I could even pinpoint where the chemistry was coming from didn't help.

And finally, Larkin's shape-shifting abilities remain fully unexplained for 90% of the book, and everyone just kind of goes with it.  Because, you know, sorcerors, witches, vampires... people from another world.  Obviously no one ever questions why any of these people exist, which is not surprising.  But I think I would have liked to have had Larkin's shape-shifting abilities brought to light more than the simple one paragraph flashback that was given to us at the end.

At least we got to see Blair's journey starting as an ordinary girl living in a demon hunting family, to becoming a full blown demon hunter.  There was more depth to her background than Larkin's, though I'm not sure I like that her conflicts weren't really addressed.

The battleground has been chosen for the final showdown between those selected by the gods and the minions of the vampire Lilith. But there is one vampire who dares stand against her. And his love for the scholarly queen of Geall will complete the circle of six - and change the face of eternity.

Having traveled through the Dance of the Gods to the land of Geall, the circle finds themselves convincing then training the people of Geall to defeat Lilith’s vampire army. The Valley of Silence is a forbidding place for the battle of all battles, but the circle continues to prepare through magic and a few early stakeouts that test their strength individually and as a team.

Moira finds herself playing the roles of warrior and royal, as she follows the tradition of her people and prepares to take the crown before leading them into battle. And if that isn’t enough, she finds her thoughts turning to Cian more often than not.

So what’s a chaste and intelligent young woman to do when given less than a month with the man she loves, who’s not a man, but a vampire? And how will the people of Geall fare against an army of blood-thirsty vampires who have had centuries to prepare?

While the entire series isn't really much to write home about, I'd say that Valley of Silence was the best of all three books.  Not that that's saying much, because it didn't receive more than a 2.5 Star Rating from me anyway.  It was 'Meh', though certain aspects of this book probably should have yanked the book's rating down to 'It was less than Meh and didn't do anything for me.'  There were things in this book I'm not sure were handled very well.

Secondly, I didn't really like Moira all that much.  She wasn't irritating, nor was she a speshul snowflake.  She was just there... and she was kind of flat and boring.

In contrast, I loved Cian's relationship with the other two women in this book, even as just friends.  He regards Glenna with endearment; and he seems to have some sort of rapport with Blair.  In contrast, I'd noted that neither of the other men in the series had much to do with the other women in this series who weren't their significant other.  I would have expected Hoyt and Blair to at least have something to talk about, but they barely did.  I figure it's because Blair and Cian are so much alike when it comes to their ultimate goal and mission, because they both understand the ruthlessness of their enemy and the fact that they also need to act towards the bigger picture of things.

I liked that Cian understood that both men and women were equally necessary in the war.  Whereas Larkin and Hoyt spent more time playing the big, neanderthal of a macho man.

And I suspect that this has a lot more to do with which time period each of these people come from.  Hoyt, Larkin, and Moira come from a land where honor is held much more highly than Cian, Blair, or Glenna would see it.  The latter three come from a land where--not that it isn't held highly--but in the face of war and survival, sometimes honor needs to take a back seat, and emotions can mean either life or death in a millisecond.

Hoyt and Larkin come from a land and time where you protect women and children and babies and the elderly... which really doesn't leave a whole lot of population to fight a war, but whatevs.  Meanwhile, the latter three, more modern characters come from a world where everything should be equal opportunity.  Which also helps the former three time-bound characters understand that everyone needs to learn how to protect themselves and those around them, rather than just having the women rely on all the men to do the protecting.

I suppose that's why this circle sort of works--they balance each other out, I guess.  They're all even paired as such romantically.

Anyway, the conflict in this book was a little deeper, if only because of Cian.  He made this last book work for me.  Meanwhile, the romance between him and Moira did not work for me, because, much like the previous book, I couldn't find that chemistry between them.

The ending was too abrupt for my liking, and while there were some emotional feels towards the end of the book, there still seemed to be a feeling of unsatisfied incompleteness.  And I'm not sure if it's just because the series itself was a bit lacking.

Halloween Bingo 2018 | Update #2

Whelp, it looks like I'm lagging slightly behind, though I've made more progress than I thought I would, though less than I would have liked.  But we're moving along, and maybe I can channel some of that demon reading speed I had two years ago and find a way to Blackout this card.  Because at the rate I'm going, I'm not sure that's going to actually happen.

Meanwhile, as we can see from my new and fancy card below (!!), I apparently have no strategy or rhyme or reason to the books I'm reading.  We are nowhere even near one completed square, much less a Bingo.  So... I suppose I'll just continue on as is.

Meanwhile (redux), I'm hoping to finish reading The Color of Magic next, then start a new e-book, Sick of Shadows.  In truth, my reading plan really was to try to get a hold of and read and complete books I have to check out from the library first, if I can get my hands on them.  I figure I have plenty of time to get to books I already own.

Updated Marked Card:

So after much deliberation, I've decided to really personalize my card this year... and also because I just couldn't resist using this recent picture of our family dog.  I present to everyone the marker that will depict all of my Called Squares:

Dino Baby!  Rawr!

And that is the extent of my creativity this year... along with that tedious visual you see when you scroll down.  Because the markers for my Read Squares will simply be a book cover to set to the left side of the square as Dino Baby roars at it from the right side of the square.

Currently Reading:


Squares/Books/Called Dates/Update Post Links:

Progress on my card:  12 squares called || 6 books read || 0 squares completed

Squares called that I do not have:
09/15/18 - Modern Masters of Horror
09/25/18 - Amateur Sleuth
09/29/18 - Supernatural

Halloween Bingo 2018: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Report Your Bingos!

October Group Read | Discussion Thread -- Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett (link coming soon)

Halloween Bingo 2018 | Update #1
It's Monday! Plus a Halloween Bingo Update, Just Because... | 09/17/2018

*And also, when I've posted them, the book covers will link to my reviews.

Called:  09/21/18
Called: 09/09/18
Read:  09/18/18
Called: 09/05/18
Called: 09/03/18
Called:  09/27/18
Called: 09/17/18
Read: 09/03/18
Called: 09/01/18
Called: 09/23/18
Called:  09/19/18
Read:  09/27/18
Called: 09/13/18
Read:  09/24/18
Called: 09/11/18
Read:  09/22/18
Read: 09/06/18
Called: 09/07/18
Halloween Bingo 2018
Ani's Book Abyss

Wild Card Author:

I haven't decided which author to use as my Wild Card yet, but I've been considering using Nora Roberts, as she is a writer of a lot of crime thrillers, romantic suspense, and supernatural, including the Circle trilogy I've chosen for this year's bingo.

Other authors I'm also considering are: Susanna Kearsley, who writes Gothic with a bit of supernatural; Elizabeth Peters, who has a lot of cozy mysteries; or another obvious option, Agatha Christie!