a very late review

Guess who finally saw Guardians of the Galaxy II?! Yup, this girl. I’m sure there are a million and one reviews out there already breaking it down, but I want to talk about it so here is one more.

download (1)

Also, spoilers abound.

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-2-Main-Cast

Guardians II is FUNNY. Quite possibly even funnier than the first one which is saying something. Rocket and Baby Groot are hilarious and kinda steal the show in my opinion. There was one point where I seriously considered whether I would have to leave the theatre for a few minutes to calm down I was laughing so hard.

There are very few action movies that are also comedy but Guardians has that shit nailed down. It is also family-friendly and thoroughly entertaining for adults so its no wonder they rake in a billion + before the DVD is released.

Baby Groot is adorable and I loved that the animators took the opportunity to make him so much more expressive in personality and facial expressions. At times, this little guy almost broke my heart but he is the core of the film and my favourite character.

The only part of this movie that I didn’t like, was the part that I was looking most forward to. The big reveal of Peter’s lineage, aka The Celestial, Ego.

guardians-of-the-galaxy-2-kurt-russell-chris-pratt

Ego started out great and I think Kurt Russell did a pretty great job of it, but the idea of Ego is somewhat existential and I didn’t feel like that came across very clearly. I also hate how he was supposed to be so powerful and yet was defeated relatively easily. Certainly more easily than Ronin in the previous movie!

images (1)

Additionally, I was disappointed that Peter finally finds his dad, who is a super cool being, just for Ego to immediately portray his complete lunacy and evil intentions, and then be killed off. It was too “easy” and would have loved to see Peter have a contentious struggle with his father all his life … which is apparently a very long time … and develop his super-power.

It finally looked like we had met a human supe without any (obvious) physical enhancements, “just” the ability to manipulate energy and energy balls. Most of the Marvel cast are superhuman in a physical way, from Thor, to the Hulk and Spiderman and Captain America. Now Peter is a run-of-the-mill human.

6d66ccad36907508976d57669dc4445a0cd67790-600x300

I detest that Marvel made Ego so evil. It doesn’t fit with my idea of a Celestial and made the character so pathetically one-dimensional when he could have been the most interesting new development in the MCU. I would have preferred him to go forward mostly impartial to the plight of humans, and all our “petty” concerns, and have an ongoing relationship with Peter and his family. Ultimately, this plot line dropped a star from my review of an otherwise fantastic movie.

I did love the plot development that went into this movie. Everyone involved brought more into the universe from the intricacies of ravager society, and the gold people to information about the creation of the universe itself.

I saw this movie with my Mum who isn’t a marvel fan and doesn’t like superhero movies in general. She hadn’t even seen the first movie which I didn’t quite realize before we arrived, but she was a good sport to go with me for my birthday and even she admitted it was great. I’m glad she enjoyed it and even ventured that the trailer for Spider-man (2017) looked good so maybe I can return the favour and take her to that for her birthday!

Trailer for this movie

* * * *

xx

 

Fatal Harmony by Anne Malcom

fatal-harmony

I may be the villain of the story, but at least I get a leading role.
Evil is a term thrown around history and literature as if it’s something so easily definable. A concept to fight against.
Evil doesn’t exist.
Neither does ‘good.’
Vampires do, though.
I just happen to be one.
I’ve cruised through the centuries managing to avoid all the wars, supernatural and human, but still going to all the best parties.
I would say I avoided bloodshed, but it’s kind of part of the whole ‘vampire’ thing.
I’ve lived on the fringes of a society that considered cruelty and sadism favorable character traits for almost five hundred years. Now I’m in the middle of a war that might just put my nonbeating heart in a lot of danger.
Battles, I can handle.
The impossible attraction between me and the vampire slayer, not to mention the penetrating gaze of the king of our race, on the other hand?
I might not get out undead.

—                    —                     —

Fatal Harmony is the first book in a brand new series by Anne Malcom, who is one of my favourite authors. She normally writes biker romance set in California, so a contemporary fantasy series about vampires, witches, werewolves, demons and slayers is quite the departure. I try to trust authors I’ve been following for a while though, and I always want to support them, so I had this pre-ordered on Amazon as soon as the link went live and read it the day it downloaded to my kindle.

I am so glad I made this decision. Not so glad about the one to stay up reading until 3 am just so I could finish book. Facepalm! I really need to start campaigning my work to provide paid “book days” to staff. I do work in a library after all. It is an expectation that we read and often. Let’s just call them professional development days, shall we?!

First off, Fatal Harmony is FUNNY! I love Isla. She could be my best friend. She always has a quip or a quick one-liner and is heavily influenced by the entertainment industry, one of the things that makes her so different from the rest of the vampire race. She is fashionable, a self-made billionaire and hard-working CEO who is incredibly sarcastic but not in an unkind way. Isla is unassuming. She is one of the best-connected and powerful of all vampires, due to her genealogical lineage and friendships with other otherworldly beings, but spurns the aristocracy and politics of her own race.

Malcom provides a fresh perspective on vampire literature. I am so sick of reading vampires but I love her take on them. They don’t sparkle. And they aren’t “turned” humans.

Vampires are their own race created by the gods in the dawn of time, just like witches and werewolves. And humans. Baby vamps are born to vampire parents and grow up remarkably human-like, until they reach the age of sexual maturity and undergo a transformation into vampirism … much like a second stage of puberty. Every few hundred years, vampire women experience an “awakening” for one year, in which their body basically wakes up and is able to procreate.

Malcom’s world is well thought out. All of her otherwordly explanations make sense to me which is incredibly important because I have a difficult time suspending disbelief while reading. I need to feel that the relationships and rules of a society are “believable” even in fantasy.

Along with the POV character Isla, we also meet a wide range of other characters. Her best friend is a bad-A witch with coven problems and her “not a side-kick” second-class vampire friend (vamp mom, human dad) has hidden depth. The King of the vamps is seriously scary and completely intrigued by our dear Isla, which is even scarier. He is one sexy and powerful potential relationship. I cannot wait to learn more about him in the sequel.

Finally, vampires’ mortal enemies Slayers, are back in town and one in particular has some pretty big secrets. And sex appeal to spare.

Life is gonna be interesting.

Fatal Harmony is the first book in the Vein Chronicles. The second is in progress but no word yet on a release date. Sounds like 2017 though!

* * * * *

xx

Dark Promises by Christine Feehan – review

I have been a fan of Christine Feehan for fourteen some years now, which most certainly makes her the author I have been reading for the longest period of time. But the past few years, I have gone off her megahit “Dark” series which I began with. They seemed (to me) to have become repetitive and somehow less tangible when compared to most of her other series. The Sea Haven and Ghostwalker series are much more human in my experience and I find it easier to relate to those female protagonists.

Enter Gabrielle in Dark Promises.

dark promises

Blurb, courtesy of the author’s website.

Gabrielle has had enough of battles, of wars, of seeing the man she’s engaged to nearly lose his life when it isn’t even his fight. Once Gary was a gentle and very human researcher. Now he’s a fearless and lethal Carpathian warrior with the blood of an ancient lineage coursing through his veins—a man Gabrielle still needs and dreams of with every breath she takes. All she wants is a life far away from the Carpathian mountains, far from vampires and the shadows cast by the crumbling monastery that hides so many terrible secrets. But Gabrielle soon learns that promises made in the dark can pierce the heart like a dagger.

And she isn’t the only one in search of answers in the corners of the unknown…

Trixie Joanes has come to the Carpathian mountains in search of her wayward granddaughter, fearing that she has been lured there by something unspeakable. Instead, Trixie has stumbled onto the path of a desperate woman on the run. And they’re all fated for the lair of a mysterious ancient with revenge in his soul and the undying power to make bad dreams come true.

** Note, the author posts the first chapter of every book on her website, if you want to check it out before deciding whether to purchase.

—               —

What absolutely made this story for me was Gabrielle and her refusal to accept the new Carpathian life that fate has set before her. She isn’t in love with her stranger of a lifemate (Aleksei), clings desperately to beau Gary and quite seriously considered suicide before dedicating herself to reinventing her life.

In all the previous Dark books the heroine has rather easily accepted the new life thrust upon her. The overbearing lifemate, the eternal life not also granted to loved ones, the strange new rules and customs of an ancient and foreign species, career loss, the necessities of drinking blood and sleeping underground (aka getting buried alive every night) to survive …. these all seem reasonable given the emotional and physical intimacy between lifemates, at least to the majority of heroines.

Well I call bullshit.

As fun as it can be to read about, much like the Hunger Games, this is one world that I would prefer NOT to jump into. I think it would actually be rather traumatizing to become a Carpathian and I highly doubt I would adjust as quickly as most of the leading ladies. And I like to picture myself as said lead, I do it unconsciously as I read, so it is important that I am able to relate to her.

Savannah was already Carpathian, although she had trouble accepting her lifemate at first. Lara and Alexandra notable resisted. But nearly 30 books on, true denial of the lifemate bond has been few and far between. If you follow the series, you know that Gabrielle was actually “turned” several books ago to save her life, well before meeting Alexei, but she hasn’t made any attempts to join Carpathian society. She can’t even feed herself or tuck herself in underground in the morning. She clings to her human life and human mind with every bit of strength and tenacity she possesses.

I think her reaction would be most closely aligned with my own of all the heroines introduced so far. It was refreshing to see a “normal” woman with regular old problems trying to fit into this world and failing so desperately at first. It was also awesome (in a bittersweet way) to watch Alexei fail so miserably in stimulating affection in Gabrielle for the first while. The series is set upon the basis that they are two halves of the same whole, but in the mean-time, they are still complete strangers who have many misunderstandings and hurts standing between them and happiness.

I would love to see Christine one day write a book where the heroine comes with a few kids who aren’t so happy with the Carpathian lifestyle (and danger) their Mom is dragging them into. Maybe with a biological Dad in the background that shares custody.

A lot of fans might not share my dream – they’re more escapist readers who want the fantastical adventure and fairy-tale romance – but I love to read tales that are bound to the human world, and what could be more human than our complicated familial ties and emotions that bind our lives to one another.

* * * * *

xx

 

Winter of the Wolf – Cherise Sinclair

Winter of the Wolf is the second book in the Wild Hunt Legacy series by Cherise Sinclair.

were 2

Blurb:

After years in foster care, Breanne Gallagher has the stable life she’s always wanted, living with her foster-sister, working as a chef, enjoying her comfortable routines. Then one devastating night, a hellish creature invades her apartment and shatters her fragile existence. Shifting between monster and man, it slaughters her foster sister and assaults Bree. Alone, wounded, her beloved home tainted by gruesome memories, Bree flees to a tiny wilderness town, following her only clue to her past.

Shapeshifting warriors, Zeb and Shay move from one pack to another, hunting the hellhounds which prey on their kind. Assigned to Cold Creek, they take over management of a decrepit fishing lodge for their “human” cover. Their first renter is a pretty human female who trembles at the sight of them—yet stands her ground. Furious at the hurt they see in her eyes, the protective nomads are drawn into helping her. Although no shapeshifter is ever attracted to a human, her scent is oddly compelling, and her ferocious determination to conquer her fears ignites longings neither loner ever expected to face.

Bree is healing, learning to shoot the biggest pistol she can find, and overcoming her fears, especially of the two deadly, disconcertingly attractive hunters. Her life is getting back on track…until she tries to save a little girl from a hellhound and discovers that everything she knows about herself is false.

—                 —                   —

It isn’t often that you see a second novel build so incredibly from the first in a series. Often, the story revolves around new characters in the same format and world.

Well, the world might be the same. And the initial premise too, of an adult woman discovering that she is a shapeshifter and trying to find her footing on new ground. But Bree is such an incredibly different character from the heroine of book one, almost her opposite in many ways, that it feels like a completely different story. Her male companions too are different, friends and partners in the field instead of littermates.

While I loved the original story, I also loved the differences that made this one unique. Bree is vulnerable and emotionally fragile throughout much of the book, with a difficult foster care background and abuse suffered both as a youth and an adult. Yet she grabs hold to a new existence in Cold Creek, forging personal relationships and business ties, and just generally establishing a life for herself.

I love books where the heroine does this. I find that … gumption? determination? pizzazz? something … to be an extremely admirable quality. It is something that I have many doubts I could do but wish I could. One day maybe I will pack up and move somewhere completely foreign to me and start again. Lord knows I wish I could, and Bree gives me the encouragement that maybe it would be possible for me as well.

Another difference from the first novel is that the protagonists are werewolves rather than were-cats, which means that in addition to belonging to the territory, they also have a pack that all the wolves in their territory belong to. The were-cats and bears don’t have this second community so it was an interesting development that added depth to the Wild Hunt series. I wanted to tear the pack leader limb from limb, but hey – that’s just a sign of a great author if they can make you care so much.

Ms. Sinclair adds enough humour into her novels to make them light, even when there is dark content, and that is a rare and lovely addition to erotic romance. Here is a brief excerpt from Winter of the Wolf, a scene that shows both Breanne and Zeb’s true natures, and is humorous as well.

A sweet voice caught his attention. Carrying a small tray she could use one-handed, Bree was taking drink orders. As she wove her way around the tables, her sunny hair gleamed in the light from the wall sconces. The wavy tangle stopped just above her waist, drawing attention to the way her jeans cupped her round ass. An inch or two taller than Vicki, she was even curvier and totally appealing.

Fuck.

Others had noticed, as well. She was collecting interested looks from the entire male population of the bar, even Daonain. But, true to form, humans started the trouble. Drunk, human, and male spelled pain in the ass, and the centre table held four PITAs.

One latched onto Bree’s arm tightly enough she couldn’t jerk away without spilling the drinks. Another had the effrontery to grab her ass.  Taller than everyone in the room, Zeb had a clear view. He started to push his way through the crowd.

She scowled and snapped something, but the human males only laughed. And then, she pivoted and planted her foot into the ass-toucher’s stomach. Man and chair went over backwards, skidding a few feet until coming to rest against the adjacent table.

She hadn’t even spilled a drink.

She turned toward the other male. He snatched his hand from her arm. With a swing of her blonde hair, she moved away as if she’d never been stopped. Fucking amazing. Zeb adjusted his jeans around a disconcerting hard-on and returned to the bar.

Calum was waiting for him. “Could you do me the favor of taking out the trash? Just the two. Politeness is not required. The others may stay.”

Sinclair, Cherise (2012-03-23). Winter of the Wolf (The Wild Hunt Legacy Book 2) (Kindle Locations 1144-1148). VanScoy Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Winter of the Wolf is certainly a romance novel, but you won’t find gratuitous sex scenes in the first couple of chapters. It is a menage relationship between two male “cahirs” and one little female, and they take their time getting to know each other before jumping beneath the sheets. Sometimes this gets boring, but it works for this series and the plot moves quickly without the spicy scenes.

I highly recommend this series, it is currently my favourite in the fantasy-romance genre!

* * * * *

xx

Hour of the Lion – a review

Does it ever feel like time just gets away from you?

As previously announced, my favourite author Ms Cherise Sinclair is releasing a new book in her erotic-fantasy series, The Wild Hunt Legacy, on January 26th. I wanted to review the first two books prior to the release of the third so that I had the whole series reviewed … here we are two days before and I’m just starting. Gosh dang it!

Nonetheless, it is time to push on, so here is my review for the fantabulous (yes, that’s a word) novel, Hour of the Lion.

were 1

Blurb:

As a dedicated covert ops agent, Victoria Morgan follows two rules: accomplish the mission and protect the innocent. When bitten by a werecat—yeah, that was a sucky day—she must investigate beings that shouldn’t exist and are hard as hell to identify. Just how can she tell if a person is human–or an animal-shifter who enjoys Bambi-sized snacks?

During her investigation, she finds a real home and friends for the first time. Sweet, right? But there’s a flip-side: the bad guys are waiting for her to turn into something four-legged with a tail, the shifters suspect her of spying, and she has fallen in love with a pair of Thumper-eating werecougar brothers.

Her duty is to expose their existence. Or she could follow her heart and protect them with all of her deadly skills.

—                     —                     —

The first time I heard that Sinclair’s new release was going to be a menage romance,  I was a little wary. You can read a lot of things that wouldn’t actually appeal to you in real-life, but this was one of those topics I didn’t think I could get past. But I love her writing and she has helped me through some tough spots in the past so I gave it a try anyway. There is something to be said for having an author who is an automatic buy!

I loved Hour of the lion!!!

The world that she created is so magical and much more complete than I was expecting. Instead of just the were-creatures that are the focus of the series, the author also builds her world with brownies, pixies, fire salamanders, et al, all in the background but contributing to the feel of this otherworldly community hidden in a remote mountain town.

Victoria was an incredibly spunky and vivid character, a really inspirational role model for any woman. I find that when I read many books in a row whose female protagonists exhibit the same major characteristics, I tend to unconsciously take on some of those attitudes. “Vic” attacks life with a take no prisoners approach and doesn’t let fear stand in the way of anything, so she is a great role model to be reading about.

This is one of my favourite quotes:

Okay, she was braver than this. She wasn’t a little girl unable to fess up to her actions. She’d done the deed – deeds – and not it was time to pay the piper. She stared into the fire and confessed …

Victoria isn’t afraid to do a lot of things that I am. Like stand up to a mean guy who stole a waitress’ tips, or break up a barroom brawl. Of course she is a marine and CIA agent with lots of training behind her. I’m certainly not. And she is a book lover to boot! What’s not to love?!

Calum and Alex, the two male leads in Hour of the Lion, are entirely drool-worthy. Both are strong, protective, thoughtful males who aren’t afraid to stand up to their mistakes when they get it completely wrong. And boy do they get it wrong sometimes! I like that both are patient and slow to pass judgement, even if they have quick tempers. I love heroes who have an edge of danger to them, something both Calum and Alex have in spades. De. Lic. Ious.

I loved Hour of the Lion and encourage everyone not just to check it out, but also all of Cherise Sinclair’s books. Here website is: cherisesinclair.com or her author page on goodreads can be found here.

I can’t wait to read Eventide of the Bear this week, but I will try to review the second in the series before I get to it. The OCD perfectionist in me will grump if I review out of order ; )

* * * * *

xx

Eventide of the Bear – January 26th

CheriseSinclair_EventideOfTheBear_200

I am so excited about this book. It comes out January 26th and is the loooong awaited third instalment to the Wild Hunt series.

The Wild Hunt series is paranormal. Were-creatures (lions, bears, wolves…) have their own communities in the mountains, ruled by the Consantir of the territory who is given his legitimacy by the God Herne. While I am not usually a huge fan of fantasy, Ms. Sinclair does it right.

I am a huge fan of Cherise Sinclair, she is my most trusted author. Which means that she is the one author who I will follow into uncharted territory, whether I like the sound of a book or not. I trust that she will make it all ok, and is an automatic one-click in my books. I’ve been waiting a long time for this book, hopefully it will help clear away some of the mid-winter blues!

Here is the blurb to Eventide of the Bear:

She risked her life to save a human child.  Pain was her reward.

All her life, Emma longed for someone to love. Instead, disaster sees the brand-new bard banished from her people for long lonely years. Injured saving a child, the werebear has to steal food from humans, breaking shifter Law. The territory’s Cosantir and his lethal grizzly warrior catch her in the act. To her surprise, she’s healed and welcomed. Obviously, they don’t know her past. But oh, she can’t resist being around other shifters—especially the captivatingly powerful warrior. Maybe she can stay…just a little while.

As a grizzly warrior, Ben is ordered to house the pretty werebear until she heals. His littermate abandoned him, his home is empty, and he’s been alone for a long time. Intelligent and sweet and lushly curved, Emma is a delight…even if she is oddly reticent about her past. Although having sworn off females, he’s sorely tempted by this one. Damned if he doesn’t want to keep her, secrets or not.

Females were trouble. Years past, one split Ryder from his littermate. Now the panther shifter is returning to Ben, bringing his cub with him, a four-year-old he stole from the abusive female. To Ryder’s annoyance, his brother is sheltering a wounded bear. A female. Even worse, she’s beautiful and gentle and loving—damned if he’s going to fall for that act again. But when the dark of the moon arrives and death reigns supreme, he’ll discover that not all females are alike.

In a world filled with hellhounds and pixies, can three lonely shifters and one silent cub create a new family together? 

Genre: Paranormal erotic romance (menage)

Ms. Sinclair has posted an excerpt from the first chapter on her website. You’ll find it here.

The two books in this series are Hour of the Lion, followed by Winter of the Wolf.

xx

Star Wars: the force awakens – a review

Warning: This post does contain spoilers from the movie.

download

I have mixed feelings about this film. I loved, loved, loved the first half to three quarters. The Force Awakens is fast-paced but I could feel a connection to the characters. It has a very old-school feel; it is styled after the first trilogy which is pretty much universally recognized as better.

In some ways, it almost felt like a reboot of the original movies. Fiftyish years on, the story is the same but the costumes and special effects are incalculably better. In The Force Awakens, I didn’t come out of the movie-verse to think on the special effects as characters go hurtling through space because in the moment, I forgot that wasn’t real. That a camera-man wasn’t hanging out in a spacesuit picking it up. Those are some good special effects.

StarWars

The issues with the movie, in my opinion, were very small. Certainly The Force Awakens is a successful return to a series that is much beloved. It is awesome that whole new generations are being brought into this universe and Disney did a great job with a project that came along with so many expectations. So did the actors. Both new and known to Star Wars.

** Here is where the spoilers really start. **

My problem is that I knew who the new Dark Lord was the whole time. Pretty much. Okay, so I know that in the book/comic book world, Luke Skywalker struggles with the balance between the Light and the Dark. I also know that Leia and Luke’s son does cross over the Dark side. So the whole time, I was expecting it to be one of those two characters.

dark-side-luke-skywalker-star-wars-force-awakens

Luke has a very dark intensity. I’d believe his turn to the Dark side

I have to admit, I was hoping for it to be Luke. And it made sense with the plot-line, because the bad guys were trying so hard to prevent the Rebel Alliance from getting the map that lead to Luke. There was no clear admittance that they needed the map to find him themselves, just that the rebels couldn’t get a hold of it. Clearly Luke could tell from the Force that bad things were happening, and several planet systems had been incinerated. But he didn’t return.

These circumstances made me hope that the new Dark One was Luke and that he was desperately trying to control the map so no one followed it to him, before he was ready to declare himself.

Alas, I was mistaken.

My second choice was accurate. But I didn’t love him as the bad guy. Throughout the movie, his loyalties waver as he struggles with the call of the Light. You see it in his prayers to his Grandfather, Darth Vader, and in his relatively gentle treatment towards Rey. He seems to have a crush on her and is trying to persuade her to join him, much as Anakin felt towards Padme in the end.

maxresdefault

*Minor interlude. In the end Darth Vader returned to the Light. He died saving his children and the universe from the Sith Lord. Surely Kylo Ren knows the true story of his Grandfather’s end. So it didn’t make any sense to me that he prayed to him to give him the strength of the Dark, no matter what else Vader had done.

 

maxresdefault (1)

Ok, back to what I was saying.

The problem is, I just didn’t buy Kylo Ren as a such a major character. I would have preferred that he had rare shining moments of good intermittent in his overwhelmingly evil activities. But the only true evil he committed was killing his father, Han Solo. (I was temporarily inconsolable by the way). Instead he was written as more of a middle-ground character.

will-han-solo-survive-star-wars-episode-7-the-force-awakens-han-amp-chewie-in-the-for-366237

If you are a regular reader of Mackenzie’s Mountain, then you know I love it when the writer takes a character who is seemingly past the point of redemption and then has him/her do something that stops the viewer from writing him/her off completely. Like a truly despicable Dark Lord who falls in love with an enemy aligned with the Alliance. But I didn’t get those goosebump-inducing feels.

I also expected him to be over-overwhelmingly handsome, when that mask was finally removed. Fantasy has largely moved past the trope that good guys are handsome and bad guys are not. Look at the Lannisters. However, Star Wars seems to have not, which disappointed.

Another problem I had with The Force Awakens was the power that Rey held. It felt too similar to the Anakin story that has already played out.

star-wars-the-force-awakens

I would have preferred that Rey lost her battles with Kylo Ren, that he let her live for his own purposes, much as he does in the forest when he uses the Force to knock her out and carry her onto the ship. The idea that a completely untrained person could go up and win against such a formidable opponent is a little too unbelievable. It is a one in a billion chance, and one that the Star Wars universe has already done. Not to mention her inauspicious beginnings replicate Anakin’s, right down to living on a desert planet, destitute and more or less a slave to scrappers. It made this movie seem more like a reboot. In less of a ‘yes this is an awesome return to the glory days’ way, and more like they were retelling the same story.

Overall, I loved the first half or so of the movie, as I said. I sat in my seat and giggled because I loved it so much. But all these little plot points and character reveals turned the tide in the second half, and unfortunately, that disappointment is the impression that I was left with when the film ended.

* * * (and a half)

xx