Category Archives: books/book review

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…

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?

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.

Review of Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell

I borrowed an audio-copy of Karen Russell’s Swamplandia from the local library.

Description from Goodreads:
The Bigtree alligator-wrestling dynasty is in decline, and Swamplandia!, their island home and gator-wrestling theme park, formerly #1 in the region, is swiftly being encroached upon by a fearsome and sophisticated competitor called the World of Darkness. Ava’s mother, the park’s indomitable headliner, has just died; her sister, Ossie, has fallen in love with a spooky character known as the Dredgeman, who may or may not be an actual ghost; and her brilliant big brother, Kiwi, who dreams of becoming a scholar, has just defected to the World of Darkness in a last-ditch effort to keep their family business from going under. Ava’s father, affectionately known as Chief Bigtree, is AWOL; and that leaves Ava, a resourceful but terrified thirteen, to manage ninety-eight gators and the vast, inscrutable landscape of her own grief.

Against a backdrop of hauntingly fecund plant life animated by ancient lizards and lawless hungers, Karen Russell has written an utterly singular novel about a family’s struggle to stay afloat in a world that is inexorably sinking. An arrestingly beautiful and inventive work from a vibrant new voice in fiction.

Oh, I am well and truly torn on how I feel about this book. For one, it took me over a year to listen to it all. I borrowed it from the library and didn’t finish it before it was due, even after renewing it. Returned it and just wasn’t in any hurry to check it out again. It was almost a year later before I did. On the positive side, I was able to pick right back up where I left off, with no confusion. So, the story is easy enough to follow. On the negative side, I wasn’t invested enough to care that I didn’t know the ending for almost a year and I spent a lot of that time cringing and dreading where Ava’s narrative was obviously going. I REALLY hoped I was going to be surprised on that plot point, but predictably I was not.

I thought the setting was vivid and interesting, but the plot was kind of lost in it and the ending was so loose and anticlimactic I felt a little let down. The writing is very pretty though. I adored Kiwi’s narrator, David Ackroyd, but honestly I didn’t much care for Ava’s, Arielle Sitrick. She felt a little too stiff to me. All in all, I’m glad to have finished it, but also very glad to actually be finished.