Monthly Archives: January 2015

Review of A Reason To Believe, by Diana Copland

A Reason to BelieveI bought a copy of A Reason to Believe, by Diana Copland.

Description from Goodreads:
Detective Matthew Bennett doesn’t believe in ghosts. So when the spirit of a murdered child leads him to her body, he’s shaken to the core—and taken off the case. Unable to explain his vision, or to let go of the investigation, Matthew turns to renowned medium Kiernan Fitzpatrick. Though he has doubts about Kiernan’s claims to communicate with the dead, Matt is nevertheless drawn to the handsome psychic, who awakens feelings he thought were long-buried.

Haunted by the lingering spirit of the little girl, Kiernan is compelled to aid in the search for her killer. The chance to get closer to the enigmatic Matt is an unexpected bonus. Although Kiernan’s been betrayed by people who turned out to be more interested in his fame than in himself, with Matt he’s willing to risk his heart. As the two men grow closer, Kiernan helps Matt rediscover that life offers no guarantees—but love offers a reason to believe…

This was an upper-middle of the road read, meaning I didn’t love it but I was perfectly satisfied by it. I like Matt’s character quite a bit. I tolerated Kiernan. He was basically just too over the top and grated on my nerves. I can’t even count how many perky, puppy-like bottoms I’ve encountered in m/m romances, but he just felt like one more of the same.

I’ll say the same for the token female BFF. They only seem to come in one of two designs, total biyatch or mouthy and nosy, but well intentioned. Sheila fell into the latter category. Meh.

As for the mystery, it was ok. I figured the basics of it out pretty early but was more than happy ride it out and learn the details. Unfortunately, three things annoyed me about it. One, there seemed to be quite a few convenient coincidences. For example, in a town of half a million the token BFF happens to be friends with the single person who can provide them the single piece of the puzzle they don’t even know they’re missing and just happens to think to speak to her. Ummm?

Two, Matt and Kiernan go about doing a lot of stupid stuff to figure out who the murderer is and exonerate the wrongly accused man. But nothing they do is anything they can take to the police, so it’s all basically pointless in the grand scheme of things. Three, the six-year-old ghost is way too smart for her age and Kiernan pretty much said they go into the afterlife with the understanding of their living selves.

The romance was also ok. I liked it well enough, but nothing about it wowed me. It was nice seeing Matt reemerge from his grief. (The scene with the flag at Brad’s funeral almost brought me to tears.) But the way Kiernan threw sexual innuendo in all the time just got annoying.

All-in-all, it was a fine read. I even liked it. But by next week I probably won’t even remember reading it.

Review of Shadows of Asphodel (Shadows of Asphodel #1), by Karen Kincy

Shadows of AsphodelI grabbed a copy of Karen Kincy‘s Shadows of Asphodel from the Amazon free list.

Description from Goodreads:
She never asked for the undying loyalty of a necromancer.

1913. Austria-Hungary. Ardis knows better than to save a man on the battlefield. Even if he manages to be a charming bastard while bleeding out in the snow. She hasn’t survived this long as a mercenary without some common sense.

When she rescues Wendel, it isn’t because he’s devilishly handsome, but because he’s a necromancer. His touch can revive the dead, and Ardis worries he will return from the grave to hunt her down. Besides, a necromancer can be useful in this world on the brink of war.

A gentleman of questionable morals, Wendel drops to one knee and pledges his undying loyalty to Ardis. She resists falling for him, no matter how hot the tension smolders between them. Especially when she discovers Wendel’s scars run much deeper than his skin, and it might be too late to truly save him from himself.

Wow, was I ever disappointed in this book. Not just because it was a disappointing read, but because it was a disappointing read that was almost something wonderful. It’s that close shave with loving a book that serves to exaggerate ones disappointment.

The problem really comes down to the romance and the fact that it’s not at all supported. Ardis meets Wendel on the battle field and on discovering he’s a necromancer, she’s so afraid of him that she’s not even willing to let him die (for fear he’ll come back from the dead for revenge). Further, she so disgusted by him she can’t even touch his hand with her fingers.

Then, less than a day later she’s grabbing him by the back of the neck and dragging him down for an impassioned kiss, but turning down sex because she wants something more than just a one-night stand. But the reader sees NOTHING to change her opinion or feelings toward him and honestly in less than 24 hours what conceivably could?

Then the next time they meet, meaning they’ve now known eachother a collective 36 hours (at most) and very little of that time is spent in conversation, they have sex and he’s telling her he loves her. They then are swearing to defend eachother to the death, etc. etc. etc. It’s not insta-love, it’s just insta-meaningful relationship. And there is nothing at all in the story to leave the reader feeling as if they’ve seen this relationship grow. What’s more, Ardis’ love seems to be wholly based on some cliché female need to heal the broken soul of an abused man. Ugh, please.

Plus, I was embarrassed for Ardis and the way she always seemed to be subtly demanding love from Wendel. She always behaved as if their relationship was more than he was offering. It was like seeing a woman trying to trap a man into marriage. Now, I’m fairly sure it wasn’t meant to feel like that. I think she was supposed to just have a big heart that she was offering to Wendel and that is what he responded to and changed his rogue-like ways. But it didn’t feel like it to me. She just felt clingy and demanding. (Though I appreciated her demanding nature in the sex scenes; I like encountering a female character who knows what she wants and is willing to say it.)

So, since the romance that was the reason the two characters were together to do the things they were doing felt hollow and unsupported, nothing else in the book felt believable to me either. Every-time Ardis ran off to save Wendel again, I wondered why. Every-time Wendel declared his adoration for Ardis, I wondered based on what. Every-time Ardis disregarded people’s warning about Wendel I thought, idiot, they’re probably right. The underlying scaffolding of the story was weak, thus everything else felt wobbly.

Beyond that, the story is mildly interesting, until the end when you reach a patently ridiculous ending where the ultimate baddie essentially allows them to waltz in, fight and waltz out again. How is that believable?

The writing is fine. The editing is fine (a few hiccups, but not many). The dialogue is fine. I liked the idea behind the book and the world. I almost liked the characters. I thought that Ardis, for a mercenary, was awful weepy and Wendel’s fragility felt contrived. But, for the most part, it was all passable.

I’d also like to comment on the cover. It’s a cool cover. I like it, but I don’t understand it. One can only assume that is meant to be Ardis on the cover, but quite a big deal is made out of her appearance in the book. She’s half Chinese and half American. She inherited her mother’s eyes and her father’s corn-silk blond hair. Why do publishers insist on putting characters on covers that look nothing like the characters are described in the book? It’s a huge pet peeve of mine. Either make them match or don’t bother, is my opinion.

Review of According to Hoyle, by Abigail Roux

According to HoyleI received a copy of According to Hoyle, by Abigail Roux, from Netgalley.

Description from Goodreads:
By the close of 1882 in the American West, the line between heroes and villains is narrow. Total chaos is staved off only by the few who take the law at its word and risk their lives to uphold it. But in the West, the rules aren’t always played according to Hoyle. 

US Marshals Eli Flynn and William Henry Washington—longtime friends and colleagues—are escorting two prisoners to New Orleans for trial when they discover there’s more than outlawry to the infamous shootist Dusty Rose and the enigmatic man known as Cage. As the two prisoners form an unlikely partnership, the marshals can’t help but look closer at their own. 

When forces beyond the marshals’ control converge on the paddle wheeler they’ve hired to take them downriver, they must choose between two dangers: playing by the rules at any cost, or trusting the very men they are meant to bring to justice.

I quite enjoyed this. I don’t read many Westerns, so it was a change of pace for me. I liked Flynn’s flustered, brash personality; Wash’s laid-back outlook; Gabriel’s cocky charm and Cage’s silent, honourable atonement. I like that, though this is a romance, it’s not particularly romantic. I liked the witty back and forwards banter and the writing style in general.

However, I also thought that having two romantic pairings diluted the plot. As funny as Flynn and Gabriel’s sniping was, it got old. Wash’s character was never particularly developed. He seemed to exist solely for Flynn to quietly long for. And after finally acting on their feelings after platonic decades together, I would have like at least conversation about it.  I also found Cage inconsistent. He spent 2/3 of the book so quiet and honourable that he almost felt child-like. Then in the last 1/3 he was made out to be all sorts of bad to the bone. It didn’t feel like the same man.

I’m assuming this is the first in a series, as it concludes with an open ending.  I’m not head over heals in love with the book, but I’d be more than happy to pick up a sequel. It’s a serious case of good enough.