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REVIEW:  Naked Games by Anne Rainey

REVIEW: Naked Games by Anne Rainey

Dear Ms. Rainey:

I am a logical person ergo I like my books to make sense. When characters do something, I want to understand them, see the path of their motivations. If they are confused, then I want to see them acknowledge their confusion, not blunder onward as if they are a drunken beast shambling down the road. In Naked Games,  I questioned the characters’ actions about every other chapter.

Naked Games Anne Rainey
About two months after her parents’ death, Catherine Michaels learns from her family doctor that she was adopted. Initially expressing anger at her parents, Catherine and her best friend Mary search the family home and find evidence of Catherine’s private adoption. The letters left in a secret drawer in her mother’s room reveal that Catherine’s biological mother was dead from liver failure but that she has a half sister, Gracie.  Catherine discovers that Gracie is alive and engaged to be married to Wade who has two siblings: Dean and Deanna. Deanna is coupled with Dean’s former military buddy, Jonah. Jonah and Wade are private investigators and Dean is a contractor.  It was obvious that both Deanna and Gracie were the stars of previous books.

The story starts out with Dean walking in on his woman with a ring in his pocket.  He is about to propose but instead, of course, finds her in bed with another man. Dean determines all women are untrustworthy.  When Catherine comes to meet Gracie, Dean is sure that Catherine is hiding something despite Catherine being thoroughly checked out by his family members who are actual private investigators.  Thus, their business is finding out the secrets of individuals.  Catherine has no secrets.  She is a law abiding citizen with a large bank account thanks to insurance proceeds and her own successful web design business.

After first meeting Dean and being insulted by him and then kissed by him, Catherine then decides to go spend the night with him.   WTF Catherine. This is your only family and if you want to spend holidays with them, does it make sense to fall into bed with the lone single brother in law to be of your newly found sister? Catherine doesn’t think about these issues.  WTF Dean. Why sleep with Catherine if you think she is totally untrustworthy. If it is just a booty call, surely there are plenty of hot women around town you could bring to your bed?

After the two of them sleep togehter, Catherine overhears Dean telling his sister Deanna he is going to get answers about Catherine. This makes Catherine run away. Dean resolves to make this better but before going after Catherine, he makes a detour to Jonah.  Find out all you can about her, Dean demands of Jonah. I know she is hiding something he reasserts. Then he leaves to convince Catherine that he was wrong and he deserves another chance. WTF Dean. If you don’t trust her, why are you going to her to beg forgiveness and ask for her to consider that your one night hookup with her was more meaningful than just a physical connection?  WTF Catherine. Why are you letting this jackhole into your room and into your body?

I think I am supposed to feel conflicted like Dean, only I’m not conflicted at all. I’m thinking Dean’s an asshole and Catherine is a dumbass.  The two continue on in stumbling in and out of bed with one another despite their obvious misgivings and in order for Dean to look like a hero, a suspense element is thrown in.  While the book had no apparent copyediting or grammatical errors, the storyline failed for me.  D.

Best regards,

Jane

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REVIEW:  Hearts of Darkness by Kira Brady

REVIEW: Hearts of Darkness by Kira Brady

Dear Ms. Brady:

I picked this book up randomly from my pile of paper ARCs. I had no preconception of the story. The ARC had a plain blue paper cover and while it may have had a cover flat attached to it at one time, it was nowhere to be found when I began reading. I was so intrigued by the end of the first chapter, however, that I had a hard time putting the book down to do mundane things.  I’m so jaded by paranormals these days, but I’ve not read this story before or encountered this world before.  You’ve brought something new and exciting to my reading world.

hearts of darkness kira bradyThe setting is alternate universe, modern day Seattle. Kayla has come from the East Coast where life is relatively normal and is shocked to see that the accoutrements of daily living are decaying at a rapid pace. “Seattle might be a six-hour plane ride from Philly, but Kayla felt like she’d traveled halfway around the world to some war-torn, third world country where electricity was rationed. She’d never seen so many old diesel cars or broken traffic lights.” She finds out that the reason for this is that the Gates to the Land of the dead in Seattle is broken and dark spirits are leaking through the gate.  The dead are supposed to pass through the gate but the evil spirits refuse to leave.  They become wraiths and feed off the living.  Seattle has so many wraiths that electricity has become spotty and thus people have turned to gaslights and steam engines for reliable sources of power.  The wraiths are a bit like pollution, occluding the air.  To see through the Aether and the wraiths, you need a Deadglass (hence the name of the series).

Kayla has come to Seattle to identify the body of her only family left — her sister. Her sister’s body reveals secrets of an unknown pregnancy and strange markings. Determined to find out the cause of her sister’s death leads Kayla to her sister’s dangerous lover and a necklace that two powerful factions in Seattle would kill to recover, the Kivati and the Drekar.

The Kivati are shapechangers, mostly war birds like falcons, eagles, thunderbirds.  Their leader is known as the Raven Lord. He keeps his people pure and separate, or at least tries.  Other shapeshifters of the lower form, those that creep the earth like a wolf are looked down on.  Hart, a wolf, was outcast and never able to fully gain control of his beast.  To survive, Hart swore a blood oath to the leader of the Drekar wherein he became the Drekar’s hound, a position he has held for fifteen years.

No one who has sworn a blood oath to the Drekar has every been able to work it off, to gain their own freedom.  Bound by the blood oath, Hart has done unspeakable acts and he seeks release.  When Norgard, the lead of the Drekar, announces that Hart can finally earn his freedom by obtaining the necklace and delivering Kayla to Norgard, Hart sets off on a determined path, one that he will not turn from no matter how strong Kayla’s pull to him is.

None of the world building is secret, as in other books where authors try to hook the reader by making the unfurling of the world building a suspense. Instead, each part of the world is revealed naturally as Kayla or Hunt encounters it. Kayla’s relative inexperience in the region helps to provide the reader a sense of comfort, as if we are both navigating the waters of the new area together.  There are no expansive info dumps yet I never felt confused.  The story is shown to us.  For instance, we can draw the conclusion that Hart must be color blind because he couldn’t distinguish between the color of two carpets but knew one was red and one was green which is consistent with Hart’s wolf.  Later in the book, we learn why Hart swore allegiance to Norgard not because he confesses the reasons but because we see Norgard taking advantage of another young boy, desperate and helpless.  We see Hart in that boy and it is far more powerful when viewed through Hart’s angered lens  than hearing Hart bemoan his past bad decisions.

The myths are part Norse, part Babylonian, part Native American.  The characters could be read of any race. (I envisioned Kayla and her sister as black by their hair coloring, skin, and eyes but they could have also been Native American as well).  I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the world building, but the romance is strong and sexy and angst filled.  My biggest complaint was the ending.  I didn’t feel like I quite had enough setup to buy into what happens to a certain character.  It didn’t ruin the book for me by any means, but it seemed too tidy a conclusion.  However, I can’t wait for the next Deadglass novel.  What a debut. A-

Best regards,

Jane

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