Review of Stolen Ink (Ink Born #1), by Holly Evans

I received a copy of Holly EvansStolen Ink from Netgalley.

Description from Goodreads:
I’m Dacian, a tattoo magician, and my life went from my biggest concern being finding a pretty guy to fall into bed with at the end of the week to everything falling apart around me. 

There are two problems in my life.

Number one – I’m an ink magician, the thing of myths. A lot of very powerful people would love to get their hands on me, and I have no intention of letting that happen. 

Number two – A tattoo thief came to my city, and the magical community has decided that I’m the guy to stop them. 

Somehow, I have to catch the thief without letting my secret out of the bag, and that’s even harder than it sounds.

Review:
I was seriously disappointed in this book. There is such a cool idea here. The connection between characters and their tattoo/companion animals is really interesting. Unfortunately the author did not pull it all together in a complete, engaging story.

The biggest problem is the writing. Sure, it’s readable and the dialogue isn’t such that it feels amateurish, it’s even pretty, but it all feels very shallow, like the reader is only given access to the surface of a much deeper story. I felt cheated. For a long time, after starting the book, I thought this must be a latter book in a series, because I wasn’t sure what was going and the characters seem to have so much history that we’re not given. Further, so much of the writing is tell, instead of show. I just never felt connected or invested in anything or anyone. Then it climaxes suddenly and is over.

I was left with some really basic unanswered questions, like what was the fundamental difference between and Ink and Tattoo Magician? Why did being an Ink magician need to be hidden from the council. Why was the council so scary and useless? What were the tattoo animals if not spirit animals, which they weren’t as a spirit animal is something different? And if it’s the bearer’s, say, soul, which it is kind of inferred they may be, how can they have more than one? It all led to a deep feeling of dissatisfaction. I didn’t hate it. In fact, I really wanted to like it because I liked the idea of it. I’d probably be willing to give the author another shot, but this one was a bust for me. Oh, and the cover doesn’t match the dark tone of the book or main character at all.

Review of Claiming Mister Kemp, by Emily Larkin

I received a copy of Claiming Mister Kemp, by Emily Larkin from Netgalley.

Description from Goodreads:
Lucas Kemp’s twin sister died last year. He’s put aside his mourning clothes, but not his heartache. If Lucas ever needed a friend, it’s now—and who should walk in his door but Lieutenant Thomas Matlock… 

Lucas and Tom are more than just best friends; they’ve been in love with each other for years. In love with each other—and pretending not to know it. 

But this time, Tom’s not going to ignore the attraction between them. This time, he’s going to push the issue. 

He’s going to teach Lucas how to laugh again—and he’s going to take Lucas as his lover…

Review:
I thought this was ok, not great but not bad either. It’s a 4th book in a series that I haven’t read and it stood alone, but felt more like book 3.5 than 4. Both men are side characters from the previous book and there are several characters that I could tell were cameos even without reading the other books. It just didn’t feel particularly fleshed out, even if the writing was very pretty.

I was also uncomfortable with how the relationship started. I understood Tom’s seize the day attitude, but I really thought he was too aggressive, pushing Lucas even when he was actively saying no. I did appreciate the presence of bisexuals and the fact that sex didn’t have to be penetrative to be satisfying and loving. So often ‘romances’ culminate with penetrative sex, as if it’s the only real kind of sex and somehow marks a relationship out as real.

From what I understand of the other books in the series, they are fantasy. But there is no evidence of magic here. It’s a fairly straight forward historical romance. I did get tired of Lucas’ constant fretting. I understood it, but from the reading perspective, it got old. Lastly, I thought given all that emotional turmoil, Lucas seemed to get over it awful quickly, once the time came.

Review of In the Wreckage (Metahuman Files #1), by Hailey Turner

Author, Hailey Turner sent me a copy of In the Wreckage for review.

Description from Goodreads:
A Marine with honor. 

After surviving a horrific chemical attack that turned him into a metahuman, Captain Jamie Callahan got a second lease on life. For three years he’s been working for the Metahuman Defense Force and leading Alpha Team—all against the wishes of his family. The job requires his full dedication, so it’s no surprise Jamie doesn’t have time for a relationship. An enticing one-night stand with a gorgeous stranger is all it takes to show Jamie exactly what he’s been missing. When a mission to take down a terrorist cell brings that same stranger back into his world, Jamie’s life gets complicated. 

A soldier with secrets. 

Staff Sergeant Kyle Brannigan was only looking to relieve some stress after a long mission. He didn’t know the hot guy he picked up at a bar was the leader of the MDF’s top field team. When Kyle and his partner get seconded to Alpha Team to help fight a terrorist threat, he has to balance his desire for Jamie against his duty to keep his secrets safe. That gets harder and harder to do amidst regulations both are tempted to break. 

Two men trying to survive. 

Giving into passion could cost both their careers. Abiding by the rules will only result in heartache. An attack on MDF headquarters brings with it a choice Jamie and Kyle can’t escape—duty, or love?

Review:
Not bad at all. I quite liked Jamie and Kyle, as well as all the side characters. I liked that women were given equal time and treatment. I liked that the sex was filthy hot (a little over the top for my taste, but still hot). I liked that the two men explored power dynamics without having to formalize into BDSM or declaring “I’m your Dom and you’re my Sub.” If felt a lot more natural than a lot of authors attempts at this. I liked the idea of the world and how metahumans were created. There is a lot of good going on here. It’s well written and I’d definitely read more.

However, I also thought the sex blotted out the plot at times and there didn’t really seem to be an overarching plot line beyond ‘these are metahuman soldiers who get set out on missions.’ Yes, there were the good metahumans and the bad metahumans and theoretically neutral, civilian metahumans (though you never see one). But there was no apparent central villain or single disaster they were aiming to prevent, at least not as far as I could tell. So, it felt a little strung together and random. Plus, becoming metahuman was supposed to be rare, but there sure seemed to be an endless supply of them.

Also, while the writing was good for the most part, it did occasionally fall into heavy telling passages and occasionally the ‘I’ll use my powers to…’ came across as cheesy. There were also a few really Hollywood scenes that stretched my credulity too far.

While I really liked Jamie and Kyle and I liked them together. There was not enough development in their romance to believe. I totally saw that they clicked sexually, but then suddenly they’re falling in love and I couldn’t fallow that at all. It’s not quite insta-love, but it’s pretty darned close.

Lastly, as much as I liked everyone, I had a hard time keeping up. There were a lot of characters, all of which had multiple names and it was really easy to get lost in it.