Time Untamed by Lily Morgan

Cover photo provided by the author
Cover photo provided by the author

Title: Time Untamed
Author: Lily Morgan
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Age: Adult
Is This Part of a Series?: Yes (Book 2 of the Time Series)

*I received an e-Copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.

Summary:
The second book in the Time Series follows Butch, a member of the TSCAA, and Savannah, a member of an ancient order of assassins. Although they are married, circumstances have lead to Butch believing Savannah (and their son) are dead and Savannah spending her life trying to keep her son’s existence a secret from Butch and her family. Now there is a plot against Jack Evans (the lead passenger staging the counter attack inside US Flight 93 on September 11, 2003) and their paths have crossed again. Will they be able to get past the lies and secrets of their past and save Jack Evans, their son, and history as we know it? Or will the mysterious Mr. X, the powerful man behind the plot, get his wish to unbalance the world and the powers of good and evil that fight for it?

Overall Impressions:
Much like the first book in the series, Time Untamed was an enjoyable read with a fun premise. I really enjoy the world that Ms. Morgan has created for the Time Series.

The Nitty Gritty:
I would like to start by saying that one of my issues with the first book (typos) was much less pronounced in this book. There were a few, but not enough to be distracting from the story. There was also an improvement in the amount of “over-sharing” that the characters did. So this book has some definite improvements over the first one (not that the first one was bad; I did give it three stars after all! It was enjoyable!). However, there were also a couple of things I didn’t like that were new to this book (most likely because of the needs of a new set of characters).

Most notable were the flashbacks. They provided some good information, but I sometimes had trouble transitioning with them. They also had a repetitive quality to them–there were several times where the reader got the same flashback from both Butch and Savannah’s point of view, with almost no new information provided. While there were certainly some well-written flashbacks that provided information I was glad to have as a reader (information that provided a greater emotional connection to the character(s), character development, and/or plot advancement), the majority of them were superfluous to at least some degree.

Another issue I had was connecting to Butch. There was a certain amount of residual connection from the first book, however, I found him to be a bit off-putting, especially with his insistence to refer to the women around him as “hellcats”. Once or twice would have been telling about both Butch and the women, but using that descriptor just about every time that he mentioned these women made him seem more chauvinistic than anything. I got that he did actually admire them, but the fact that he had to label them anything other than valuable members of his team made me feel as if he didn’t expect women to be valuable in his world.

Once Butch and Savannah’s son came into play, however, my connection with all of the characters snapped into place. Not only could I relate to the parenting side of Butch and Savannah, but their son also opened up the soft, gooey center at the heart of them, highlighting strengths, weaknesses, and quirks. Once that happened, I very much liked both characters, the journey they were on, and the relationship between them.

Perhaps one of the best parts of this book, though, was the foreshadowing of the larger picture: more is revealed about Mr. X, and there are several other characters which Ms. Morgan hinted at being more important than they first appeared. More importantly, these revelations came in a surprising manner at a point in the book when I was not expecting them. It was very well done and has me excited to see how it unfolds.

Goodreads Rating: 5 Stars (1 Rating)
Amazon Rating: 5 Stars (2 Ratings)
My Rating: 4 Stars
Once again, I found myself not quite sure where to rate this book. It was not as skillfully and seamlessly written as I would like for a four or five star rating, generally, but it was also more than just a book that I “liked”. When it came down to it, I decided that the improvements from the first book to the second, as well as the skillfully enticing foreshadowing that helped close out the book, rated the bump up to a four star. However, I would have to say that a third book in this series would most likely require a continued improvement in writing technique–namely restraint–in order to “maintain” a four star rating. (I like the books a lot, world, character, and plot-wise, but my four star ratings are “reserved” for books that I like -and- have good writing. For me, improved writing qualifies as good writing. Continually improving writing is some of the best writing there is, really.)

Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand

wylding hall

Title: Wylding Hall
Author: Elizabeth Hand
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Age: Adult
Is This Part of a Series?: No

*I purchased an e-copy of this book

Summary:
This book is told in the style of a documentary film, with interviews of an acid rock band and the people close to them. The topic of discussion is their summer spent at Wylding Hall and the mysterious happenings that took place there–including the disappearance of the lead singer, Julian.

Overall Impression:
This book has gorgeous imagery, a well-developed setting, and a delicious–but tolerable–level of tension and creepiness. This is one of my favorite books of this year.

The Nitty Gritty:
This book has quite a few characters in it–including, in my opinion Wylding Hall itself. They are all well-developed and unique from each other, but I will also say that they are a little tough to get a grasp on–to picture distinctly in one’s head–in the beginning. It is a bit like having a polaroid develop, while the characters are narrating the scene. I could hear their differences and their unique personalities, but it was tough to keep them in focus–at first–while switching back and forth among them. There was a conversational tone which sweep me up and away into the world of Wylding Hall and made me feel like I was sitting in the same room with the characters.

Ms. Hand’s language was lyrical and poetic and descriptive and breath-taking. In short, it was everything I strive to create when I sit down to write my own stories. Honestly, it reminds me of the language of my favorite book (and series) Kushiel’s Dart, but with a more approachable quality to it. One of my favorite lines in the whole book: “It’s the spark that keeps us alive in the cold and the night, the fire we gather in front of so we know we’re not alone in the dark.” It’s beautiful and hopeful and inspiring, because while there is the implication of things that go bump in the night, it clearly speaks to the idea that we are part of a greater whole and, as it says, not alone. And that is a wonderful feeling.

This is listed as a dark fantasy and it is very dark. There are things that make me nervous to recall as I sit here and think about what I read in order to write this review. But as with The Shining, the scary parts of this book are balanced by the quality of writing and language twice and, more importantly, but the fact that the creepiness is best viewed out of the corner of your mind’s eye. If you look directly at it, it looses just enough of it’s brightness and edge to keep a person from loosing sleep. Or this person, at any rate. That is not to say that it didn’t raise my pulse and make my breathing shallow, because it did. It was creepy and amazing and at points almost terrifying, but it–quite wonderfully–did not give me nightmares either. It will stick with me for years, but I won’t loose sleep (other than the sleep I lost staying up to read it, and the sleep I will loose when I reread it in the future). And that is the perfect sort of dark fantasy or horror for this overactive imagination I live with!

Goodreads Rating: 4.11 Stars (164 Ratings)
Amazon Rating: 4.5 Stars (38 Reviews)
My Rating: 5 Stars

Author Interview: Anne Conley

Yesterday I did a review of Anne Conley’s book Wire (book 2 in the Pierce Securities romantic suspense series). Check it out here if you haven’t already. While reading her book, I found several elements that made me want to learn more. Here’s what I asked (and her answers too, if you really must have them 🙂  )…

1.  I just finished reading Wire, which is book number two in your Pierce Securities series. Which came first: the idea for the series or an individual book? Which is harder for you and how do you work yourself through the more difficult side of the plotting/planning?

I was just finishing my Stories of Serendipity series, which was my first willy-nilly, extremely organic foray into writing for public consumption.  I knew I needed a new series to start, and wanted to do something a little different, so I thought romantic suspense would be fun.  The idea for the series was what came first—a securities team.  But I wanted them to be different from others, so they are all guys who for some reason or another don’t quit fit in with their ‘real life’ rolls.  For example, in the first book, Craze, Ryan is ex-Coast Guard who can’t stand working with pleasure boaters on Lake Travis, because he’s seen too many disasters in his work.

To get myself through the more difficult aspects, I find it’s advantageous to take a step away from it.  That’s one reason why I have multiple works in progress at any given time. Chocolate helps too.

2.  On the book level, it seems as if (for this series) the books are connected through the men (since they are the employees of Pierce Securities, which also lends its name to the series as a whole). Did you come up with the men first, and then create a plot and woman to him, or did you come up with a plot (such as the gaming and hacking centered plot in Wire) and then create a man to fit that?

The men came first, and the plots afterward.  For example, Evan, from Wire is a hot geek, which I find awesome.  His story came after.

3.  The star game of Paige’s company is based off of fairy tales. Which fairy tale is your favorite and why?

I like Beauty and the Beast.  In fact, Quinten’s story, when it comes, will be a modern adaptation of that fairy tale, for no particular reason, if all goes well.

4.  How many Pierce Securities books do you hope to write? Do you have a release date (or hoped for release date) for the next one? 

At the moment, there’s seven, but that’s apt to change.  The next one, Click, is due out toward the beginning of October.

5.  Finally, if you could be anything, what type and/or color of dragon would you be and why? More importantly, what would be the first book you placed in your literary horde and why?

Iridescent black waterhorse.  That’s a type of dragon, right?  The first book I’d have would be a Gutenberg Bible, because they’re beautiful, rare, and valuable—perfect for my horde.

Places to find Anne Conley:
Website: www.anneconley.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/anneconleyauthor
Twitter: @anneconley10
Email: anneconleyauthor@gmail.com

Wire by Anne Conley

Wire

Title: Wire
Author: Anne Conley
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Age: New Adult and up
Is This Book Part of a Series?: Yes (Book #2 of the Pierce Securities series)

*I received an unedited Advanced Reading Copy version of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I also have chosen not comment on or include typos and such in my review or rating.

Summary:
Evan Rocco is a skilled hacker, an AI expert, and a member of the team at Pierce Securities. Paige Lawson is the CEO of gaming software company PSL. When PSL’s game Realm of Worlds character The Crimson Lady begins brainwashing teenagers into attacking real life people, Evan and Paige have to team up in order to save Paige’s company and the people of Austin. But will their one-night stand from six months earlier get in their way?

Overall Impression:
This book appeals to the geek in me, and the fact that the “star” of Paige’s company is based off of fairy tales appeals to the writer in me. The characters are fun and well-matched as a couple. The bad guy is suitably slimy. In other words, it was worth the read and had some great qualities.

The Nitty Gritty:
This book opens up with a bang, featuring Paige–fresh off winning a hostile takeover–prowling a bar looking for a one night stand. She finds it in Evan Rocco, a man she has admired physically and intellectually for years. They have a very hot night of sex, which is well-written, with just enough on-stage action to keep it interesting and just enough off-stage action to keep it from being repetitive. This takes the book from the typical trajectory of the couple fighting their physical interest in each other and shifts it to looking at how the pair can deal with the attraction they admittedly have, while doubting whether or not that is all that the other person feels. It is a small change, but it is a nice one, keeping the romance aspect of this book feeling more fresh and unique than is typically the case. In addition to this, it sets it up so that Evan is already aware of how much he likes Paige. He never really doubts whether or not he has feelings for her. Just whether or not she has feelings for him. And a man being willing to admit to himself that he cares for a woman is a nice change for a romance.

Dialogue was one of the things that stood out for me in this book, for a couple of reasons. When Paige and Evan were talking, I noticed several times that it felt like their scenes seemed a little bit forced feeling, like they were saying what would be expected to be said at that scene, rather than what truly fit them. The thoughts that accompanied these “forced” scenes also seemed to also be on the overly-telling side. Instead of just having the words flying back and forth between Paige and Evan, there were pauses to share their thoughts. Thoughts that were really rather redundant based on the actions that were accompanying their dialogue. It wasn’t horrible, by any means, but it was certainly noticeable. Especially when you put it next to the very smooth, well-written dialogue that exists between Evan and the other employees at Pierce Securities. Those scenes were downright good. I fell right into them and could easily picture the scene, actions, and the individual, unique characters that were interacting.

As for the suspense aspect of this book, there were some positives and negatives both. First, I saw the bad guy coming a little sooner than I would have liked. (In other words, I figured things out sooner than I wanted). This in and of itself isn’t that unusual for me, however. My biggest issue with this is that Evan, who is in the securities business, had such a hard time seeing the truth. I could get behind the idea that perhaps he was too wrapped up in figuring out his relationship with Paige, but that only allows him a certain amount of slack. And I feel like he stayed in the dark a bit longer than is truly realistic. (Not that I have ever been in a “real” mystery myself, of course, so perhaps it is accurate. How it feels, however, is that Evan is a bit on the slow side). The saving grace here is the tension. Despite knowing, more or less, who the bad guy was and how he was enacting his plans, I was still tense over the idea of whether or not Evan and Paige would win in the end. Who knows? Perhaps Evan being slow to catch on even added to the tension. Either way, this was a suspenseful books and gets good marks for that, even if there are things I wish were different.

Goodreads Rating: 4.39 (33 Reviews)
Amazon Rating: 4.9 Stars (21 Reviews)
My Rating: 4 Stars
The writing is solid, the story is solid, and I found it to be an enjoyable read over all. I would like to go back to read Ryan’s story (Craze, Pierce Securities book 1) and plan on following this series to its conclusion, however many books that may be.

Craft Study: Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

dragonflight

Title: Dragonflight
Author: Anne McCaffrey
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Age: Young Adult +
Is This Part of a Series?: Yes (Book 1 of a trilogy; plus many other books set on this planet)

*I have bought this book multiple times throughout my lifetime and currently have one copy of each book in this trilogy (and a few other Pern books) on my bookcases

Summary: 
*This summary was taken from the Dragonflight page on Amazon.

To the nobles who live in Benden Weyr, Lessa is nothing but a ragged kitchen girl. For most of her life she has survived by serving those who betrayed her father and took over his lands. Now the time has come for Lessa to shed her disguise—and take back her stolen birthright.

But everything changes when she meets a queen dragon. The bond they share will be deep and last forever. It will protect them when, for the first time in centuries, Lessa’s world is threatened by Thread, an evil substance that falls like rain and destroys everything it touches. Dragons and their Riders once protected the planet from Thread, but there are very few of them left these days. Now brave Lessa must risk her life, and the life of her beloved dragon, to save her beautiful world. . . .

Overall Opinion:
This is not necessarily the best book I have ever read, but it is certainly the book I have reread the most times–and I haven’t reached my limit on it yet, either. This book captured my imagination the first time I read it, led me to reading almost all of her other Pern books, set me on the path to writing fantasy, and still leaves me day dreaming about having my own dragon-rider bond. I have always loved this book and always will.

The Nitty Gritty:
During my second semester of the Stonecoast program I was finding myself facing what I thought was burnout: books were not seeming as exciting to me. My only other theory was that perhaps I was so focused on the craft of writing that I would no longer be able to “just” read. Neither was a very pleasant thought. And then I got swept along on a week of whirlwind reading: six books in seven days. A miracle with two small children interrupting me every other breath. And one of those miracle books was my trusty old standby, Dragonflight. I decided to take a closer look at it to see why I enjoyed it. This is what I found:

The first thing I noticed was the characters: all of the characters are multi-dimensional and, more uniquely, perhaps, are established on the first page. Every time a new character was introduced, they were established in an equally succinct manner. Feeling as if I knew the character–and could relate to the character–so quickly did not, however, mean that there was nothing else to learn about them. (Even in later books in this series there are still new aspects and greater depths revealed the longer the reader “journeys” with the characters).

Another difference from traditional books was the point of view structure. Dragon flight is separated into four parts, each one separated from the others by varying amounts of time. And although each part contained the same set of protagonists, they all had a different “antagonist” as well. While not all of these antagonists were traditional bad guys, they all stood between the protagonists and their goals. Over all, it was a very interesting approach to antagonists.

Something else I noticed about this book (after comparing it with the other five books I read during that magical week), was that it was a feel good book. It dealt with strong relationships bonding characters together and providing them with the tools and perseverance to triumph over the difficulties and evils in their lives. The sort of relationships everyone would like to have and be a part of. No wonder I have read it over and over again.

Goodreads Rating: 4.08 Stars (80,146 Ratings)
Amazon Rating: 4.4 Star (372 Reviews)
My Rating: 5 Stars
There are probably things I would do differently if I were writing this story, but there are also plenty of things that I learned from reading it the way Ms. McCaffrey chose to write it. It has inspired generations of readers and writers and has helped the speculative fiction genres grow and evolve. I will always own a copy of this book and I will read it to my children–and myself–many more times in the future.

Time Eternal by Lily Morgan

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Title: Time Eternal
Author: Lily Morgan
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Age: Adult
Is This Part of a Series?: Yes (Time Series–Book One)

*I received an electronic copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

Summary:
Skyla is a highly-trained member of a secret government agency involved in time travel missions meant to keep the world from falling out of balance and into World War III. Her carefully ordered life falls into chaos, however, when she meets a mysterious man while on a mission. Her body reacts as if she knows the man, but she has no memory of him. To make matters more confusing, he “pushes” her back to her time–without the use of the time machine! When he later shows up inside the secret, highly-guarded government facility, what she knows of her life begins to fall into question. Why is this man interested in her? Who is he? More importantly, who is she?

Overall Impressions:
I found myself enjoying this book, although it was sometimes difficult to know why (due to a few elements of the book that I found distracting). The premise is great, the characters are fun, and when it comes right down to it, I kept going back to read more.

The Nitty Gritty: 
As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, there were some (for me) distracting elements to this book. First and foremost was Ms. Morgan’s tendency to over describe thoughts and emotions. Don’t get me wrong, I do want to know what characters are thinking and feeling, but I don’t necessarily want to be told all of it. Tell me some, when it makes sense to. Show me some–maybe even a lot. And occasionally leave a little bit of mystery there too, to help build tension and make the surprises bigger. This was especially noticeable in the first half or so of the book, when the action was a bit slower and there was more time to share character thoughts. I would like to point out to positive things here: first, this “over” description came in handy in describing the landscape of the book–the scenery and furnishings and costuming, so to speak. Secondly, this desire to let us know so much about Ms. Morgan’s thoughts led her to switching point of view characters to those most able to share the appropriate information. It was never constrained by the fact that the character wasn’t the main character. That is a technique that I, personally, enjoy. The story should always be told by the person best suited to tell it, even if that changes from one chapter to the next.

Secondly, there were a several times that the wrong word was used in a story simply (I believe) because of a typo that resulted in a correctly spelled word (which therefore was not caught by spell check) or by a switch in approach mid-sentence (resulting in words like he and his being switched around). In a related issue, there were some word choices that I just plain felt did not fit. Some of the time there were too many words, slowing down the scene at an inappropriate time. Several times there were words that were technically right but didn’t seem to fit with the voice of the character, resulting in a jarring sensation that pushed me out of the story somewhat. And a couple of times there were words that gave details I did not feel were truly necessary–like mentioning that Skyla pulled out her Glock. There was a sentence early on mentioning how weapons needed to be time-appropriate and, in fact, another one later where there was a discussion on how they would not even work if the material components and technology to make them did not exist in the time period being traveled to. These two details combined to make me stop every time technology was mentioned and think about what time period they were in, whether or not the weaponry was appropriate for that time, etc. I don’t want to stop and think–essentially doubting the author–when I am reading. I want the world to be obviously cohesive and consistent, my author to know what he or she is talking about, and the characters to know that they can do X but not Y. I am not saying that anything that Ms. Morgan wrote was wrong–but, I was wondering about it, rather than just sinking into the book and flipping pages as furiously as I could. And all of that thinking could have been stopped by the omission of certain details. Omission can be as important as inclusion, sometimes.

As for the good…it was easy to get on board with Skyla, Rei, Knox, and the others. The antagonists were creepy, slimy, and powerful–and at least one of them was well-hidden for a good portion of the book. The idea of the TSCAA (the time-traveling government agency Skyla works for) is intriguing and fun, and I really like the premise that the time machine was invented during the 1500s, but due to a mishap was lost until present day. I also like the ideas Ms. Morgan plays with when discussing which events the TSCAA and Mr. X have been “fighting” over–some are big moments in history that are easy to imagine as history-altering. Some are smaller. Growing up on shows like Sliders, this is a concept that appeals to me. As a romance, there are sex scenes involved–both on and off screen–and I believe these were well done, with probably some of the best writing (for my tastes) in the whole book, with just the right amount of information, consistent and appropriate pacing, and a balance of sparks and character (and plot) development.

Goodreads Rating: 3.8 (5 Ratings)
Amazon Rating: 5.0 Stars (6 Reviews)
My Rating: 3 Stars
This was a tough one for me to rate. There was such a pull between things I liked and things that distracted me. What it finally boiled down to, though, was the idea that I did keep going back to the book. The premise and characters are a 4 or 5 star crew. I finished it. I would like to read at least one more book to see where the series and Ms. Morgan’s balance-in-writing go from here. But the distractions, well, distracted me. A lot. It kept me at the surface of the book rather than allowing me to really sink into it. Still while the typo/editing type errors are not a personal opinion type of issue, most of the other negatives are more of a personal pet peeve and, I believe, difference in stylistic approach than a strictly good or bad approach to the writing craft. So. I liked it a fair amount, but it felt rough around the edges.

The Agreement by S. E. Lund

the agreement

Title: The Agreement
Author: S.E. Lund
Genre: Dark Erotic
Age: Adult
Is This Part of a Series?: Yes (Volume 1 of The Unrestrained series)

*I purchased an on-sale copy of this book for review purposes

Summary: 
Kate is a journalism graduate student showing a lot of promise. She is also a good girl, always trying to live up to the right image for the sake of her powerful father: “The Hangin’ Judge” of New York’s State Supreme Court and a congressional hopeful. Drake is the son of her father’s best friend–and also a talented neurosurgeon, well-known philanthropist, and talented bass player. But it isn’t until Kate decides to do an article on BDSM in popular culture and Kate is introduced to a dominant, Master D–who turns out to be Drake–that their lives really intersect. Can the agreement she draws up–and her insistence that this is all just for research–keep their relationship in the “strictly professional” zone? Or will curiosity and mutual attraction win out?

Overall Impression:
This book is an enjoyable read and is a full book in its own right. The characters were enjoyable, their actions believable, and the sex scenes were sexy. I managed to get swept away by the book (loosing track of time when I should have been sleeping) and have no doubts that it was a fun use of my time.

The Nitty Gritty:
One of the reasons I started reading this book is because I was looking for an easy way to fill a couple hours and most erotic fiction novels tend to be on the short side, so I figured that I could fly through the pages and be ready to write another review. This book, however, was not one of those short reads. It had a steady page and kept me moving through the story, but it took about four times longer to read than the typical erotic fiction. And I have to say, I really liked that. It was refreshing to have an author take the time to fully flesh out the characters, the relationship between them, and the conflict. It was also nice that although the sex happened much quicker than a romance novel (and there was more of it), S.E. Lund took the time to deal with realistic doubts and hesitancy. More importantly, although this is a dark erotic novel, focusing on the “BD” part of BDSM, Kate–who is new to the lifestyle–goes through a full range of emotions surrounding the idea that she is attracted to the lifestyle. And Drake–her Dominant and instructor–does not go from 0 to 60 in 2 seconds. Instead, he works her into things gently, going slower than even Kate would like, most of the time. In short, it feels realistic and mutually pleasurable. This is truly consensual and for the benefit and pleasure of both people involved.

The one negative to this, however, is that the slow and easy introduction to the lifestyle also leads to somewhat repetitive sex scenes. Although this sort of tickled at the frustration center in my brain, it never totally pushed me out of enjoying the book. The characters and plot–the story–is important enough and well-written enough to keep me interested. They have good moments and bad moments, struggles and triumphs, and deal with a full range of emotions. In short, the characters seem to have real lives. If you read “those books” (as Kate mentions more than once in The Agreement) and wished that there had been more to them–not more of them, but more to them–than this book could very well fill that desire. The writing is good, the sex is good, and the arc of both characters and plots is detailed and believable.

Goodreads Rating: 3.94 (4,440 Ratings)
Amazon Rating: 4.3 Stars (460 Reviews)
My Rating: 5 Stars
I would like to add one little P.S. to my review here: while I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I was a bit surprised to find that there was a sequel. This book felt very complete and satisfying as it was. While I am happy to have the opportunity to spend more time with Kate and Drake, I am unsure where it could be going and am rather hesitant about the idea. Second books tend to be less satisfying than first books anyway, but when it feels unnecessary, it seems to me that it will have to work that much harder to make it a worthy read. I hope S.E. Lund is up to the challenge.