Review: Justice (Leopard’s Spots #10) by Bailey Bradford

Rating: 2. stars out of 5

Justice Leopard Spots 10 coverAfter being rescued by his twin brother Preston and his brother’s mate, Nischal, Paul Hardy is suffering horribly from the aftermath of his capture and two years being tortured and sexually abused as a shifter’s “pet”.  Prior to his experience at the hands of a human trafficking ring, Paul had no idea that shifters even existed, now he can’t get their existence or his trauma out of his mind.  And with his brother mated to a  shifter, Paul can’t even escape from the day to day contact he dreads. Paul, Preston, Nischal and his brother Sabin are all headed to Colorado and the snow leopard family compound hoping to find sanctuary and therapy for Paul.

Snow leopard shifter Justice Chalmers and his sister Vivian are traveling to Grandma Marybeth’s place in Colorado.  Justice was working at his dream job of being a police officer in Phoenix, Arizona when the call went out from his family about a human with a connection to them needing help immediately.  That call irequired Viv with her new therapy license to travel to Colorado and she doesn’t drive.  So Justice is currently on leave to drive his sister to their family compound.  Justice knows that there is more to the story than they have been told and his experiences as a Marine and cop, tell him to be on his guard.

A chance meeting between Paul and Justice on the road to Colorado changes the lives of both men permanently as Paul turns out to be Justice’s mate.  But their future together is cloudy.  Paul is severely damaged from his years of abuse and his abusers want their pet back.  Can Justice and Paul fight their way to happiness or will Paul’s past bring them both down?

Well, here we are at book ten in the Leopard’s Spots series and I am just as conflicted about this series as I was at book one, perhaps even more so.  To reach the tenth book in a series is sort of a benchmark for an author, an occasion to bring various plot strands together and move the entire series forward with new vigor, purpose and cohesion.  And I wish I could report that sort of growth happened here with Justice but it didn’t. There are so many missed opportunities here, so much jumbled nonsense, and quite frankly irresponsible writing that it is hard to know where to start.

Just the title alone starts the book off in a misleading fashion.  The book is called Justice but it really should be called Paul as it revolves around Paul Hardy, twin brother to Preston Hardy, Nischal’s mate  in book nine.  Justice almost serves as a secondary character here and the book suffers from that element.

Then the trajectory of the book really goes askew with the character of Paul and the author’s treatment of his traumatized state.  Back history for a moment.  Paul was captured two years ago (Nischal, Leopard’s Spots #9) by human slave traders and sold to a pack of wolf shifters keeping humans as pets.  For two unrelenting years, Paul was tortured,in every way possible from being sexually abused included gang rapes, being raped by the shifters in wolf form. Paul was tortured mentally, emotionally, and physically until he was broken so throughly that he could not even look his brother in the eyes or raise his head when rescued.  The author supplies us with all these facts and much more, although thankfully no explicit scenes of torture.  No, the reader gets flashbacks, nightmares, and stories about his numerous scars to help cobble together a picture of his time with his torturers.  Bradford wants us to believe in Paul’s traumatized state and at the beginning we do.

When we first meet Paul, the character is having multiple, desperate sexual encounters while feeling nothing. He is acting without consideration of his own safety and physical well being, trying to see if he can get himself killed without actually having to do the job himself.  His actions are understandable and the compassion the reader feels for this character is well grounded in reality.  Then he meets Justice and Viv and all that flies out the door.  Why?  Because of mates and sex, the bandaid of bandaids.  Sigh.

Apparently with Justice, he wants to have sex with a shifter, lots of it (although to be fair, it is mentioned that Justice being a snow leopard shifter instead of a wolf makes some difference).  Not only that but Paul has five therapy sessions, yes only five, with Viv, who just graduated and got her license and he’s soooooo much better.  No mention is made of a new therapist having the experience to deal with someone as traumatized as Paul.  Nope, he just improves rapidly.  Not 100 percent, as he still has flashbacks and nightmares but nothing so substantial as to immobilize him.  Now balance that picture against the one that the author built up for Paul in captivity.  It just doesn’t match up.  If the author wants the reader to buy in on Paul’s past and the horrors he endured then there is a reasonable expectation on the reader’s part that his recovery would be just as slow, hard and realistic  to deal with all the things that were done to him and that he was forced to do.

But that doesn’t happen.  Instead Bradford uses the mating urge to slap a bandage over the pain and scars left by the experience.  It’s slapdash and insufficient, believe me.  Shortcuts rarely work in fiction, and this one certainly doesn’t. Instead the reader feels as shortchanged as they should by being denied the satisfaction of seeing Paul slowly work through the horrendous events and traumas of the past two years.  That just isn’t a missed step, that a whole Marianna Trench!

And this type of plot device and jumbled narrative happens over and over again.  A wolf shifter named Cliff pops up like some vengeful enforcer but does his thing “off stage” as it were.  Totally unsatisfying too.  His captors come after  Paul again and Justice acts with such unbelievable stupidity for someone whose character was portrayed as a Marine for 10 years and then a cop, that I almost thought that Bradford had shifted the story over to a parody.  Totally lacking in any authenticity, watching Justice in action was similar to watching those actors run into spooky houses on Scary Movie.

And after all this nonsense, the author ends it with a cryptic message and not much else.  Trust me when I say my head hurts from banging it against the wall in frustration over this story, series and author.  So much promise is thrown away so casually and repeatedly over a series of ten books that it boggles my mind.  And still I want to know where this series is going and how much worse is it going to get.  I expect that the answer is much, much, worse.

How to balance an author who gets the reader to commit to believing in a character’s degradation and two year ordeal only to see that author then negate that commitment by not treating it seriously? And all within a framework of ideas that remain compelling and new? I just don’t know.  As I said I am conflicted over this series and author and so I am not even going to say whether I will recommend this or not.  I will leave it up to you.  But if you continue on as I will, get yourself prepared to encounter all sorts of frustrations and puzzling events and characters.  This is a wild grab bag of story elements and I never know what will appear.  Consider yourself informed.

Book Details:

ebook, 145 pages
Expected publication: October 4th 2013 by Total-E-Bound Publishing

Cover art by Posh Gosh is gorgeous as always. Models are on target and perfectly represent the characters involved. Just beautiful.

Here are the books in the Leopard’s Spots series in the order they were written and should be read (mostly)

Levi (Leopard’s Spots, #1)
Oscar (Leopard’s Spots, #2)
Timothy (Leopard’s Spots, #3)
Isaiah (Leopard’s Spots #4)
Gilbert (Leopard’s Spots #5)
Esau (Leopard’s Spots #6)
Sullivan (Leopard’s Spots, #7)
Wesley (Leopard’s Spots, #8)
Nischal (Leopard’s Spots, #9)

I’m Off To GRL and The Week Ahead In Reviews

GRL 2013logoShort and oh so sweet this week.  I am off to GRL in Atlanta this week and I am beside myself in anticipation.  If you listen hard enough you can hear a little fan girl “squee” here. So many people to meet and3d-person-sit-pile-books-reading-book-26141531 get to talk with, there are authors galore, publishers,, editors, other bloggers and of course readers.

Some authors i have chatted  with electronically just recently, some I have admired for years as well as so many new authors I have yet discover.  Really I am beside myself with joy. I hope to post some pictures and small journal pieces while I am gone but if things get busy (as I anticipate them to do) then, it will wait for a Scattered Thoughts at GRL Blog to pull it all together when I get back.

So here are the book reviews to be posted this week:

Monday, Oct. 14:     Conquer The Flames by Ariel Tachna

Tuesday, Oct. 15:      The Unwanted Collection by Westbrooke Jamison

Wed.., Oct. 16:            Strange Angels by Andrea Speed

Thurs, Oct. 17:            Wireless by L.A. Witt

Friday, Oct.18:           Fool For Love by Cassandra Gold

Sat., Oct. 19:               Justice  (Leopard’s Spots #10) by Bailey Bradford

Scattered Thoughts Summary of Reviews for August 2013

August banner with pencils

August 2013 Review and Blog Summary:

5 Star Rating:

Fifty Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are #3) by Lee Brazil, contemporary
Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are #4) by Lee Brazil, contemporary
Wicked Guidance (Wicked’s Way #4) by Havan Fellows, contemporary
Wicked Incarcerations (Wicked’s Way #3) by Havan Fellows contemporarysummer images with book

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Chances Are (Chances Are #1) by Lee Brazil (4.5 stars) contemporary
Dance Only For Me (Dance With The Devil #6) by Megan Derr (4.75 stars) fantasy
Demolished by Astrid Amara (4 stars), contemporary
Home Sweet Home (Home #5) by T.A. Chase, (4.5 stars) contemporary
Second Chances Are (Chances Are #2) by Lee Brazil
The Beast Without by Christian Baines (4.75 stars) supernatural
Welcome, Brother (College Fun and Gays #5) by Erica Pike (4 stars) contemporary
Wicked Bindings (Wicked’s Ways #2) by Havan Fellows
Wicked Solutions (Wicked’s Ways #1) by Havan Fellows

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Burden by Annmarie McKenna (3.5 stars) contemporary
Faire Fugitive by Madeleine Ribbon (3.75 stars) fantasy
Fall For Me (Rock Gods #1) by Ann Lister, contemporary
Handle With Care by Josephine Myles (3.5 stars) contemporary
Mixed Tapes, Vol. 2 by Kris Jacen editor (3.5 stars) contemporary
Nischal (Leopard’s Spots #9) by Bailey Bradford (3.75 stars) supernatural
Subtle Innuendos (Mixed Tape series) by Z. Allora (3 stars) contemporary
The Boy Who Came In From The Cold by B.G. Thomas ((3 stars) contemporary

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

The Queen’s Librarian by Carole Cummings (2.75 stars) fantasy

1 to 1.75 Star Rating:

Aching For It (Dominican Heat #1) by Stanley Bennett Clay (1 star) contemporary

Other Blogs:
Author Spotlight: Havan Fellows    
Author Spotlight: Lee Brazil
Wait? That Was The Ending? A Writing Mini rant From Scattered Thoughts

Review: Nischal (Leopard’s Spots #9) by Bailey Bradford

Rating:          3.75 stars out of 5

Nischal Leopards Spots 9Preston Hardy’s brother, Paul,  went missing over a year ago and is presumed dead.  But Preston hasn’t given up hope of finding his twin.  Preston knew his brother’s fascination with snow leopards and has found his way to Texas , the last place Paul was seen, and a side show with two snow leopards on display.  The people  exhibiting them seem suspicious and the snow leopards themselves are in bad shape.  As Preston investigates further into the show’s owners and his brother’s disappearance, he falls into a perilous trap and a situation that will change his life  and his perception of the world forever.

Nischal and his brother Sabin are snow leopard shifters.  Trapped and taken away from their mother in their leopard form, the two young men have been drugged and starved while in captivity, their poor mental and physical condition keeping them from shifting back to their human form.  Years of being caged have deprived them of hope but the appearance of Preston outside their cage changes everything.  From the moment Nischal sees Preston, he knows his mate has arrived.  But their captors will do everything in their power to keep the snow leopards as theirs and prevent Preston from the truth about his brother.

Nischal is the ninth book in the Leopard’s Spots series and a return finally to the story basics that made this such a fascinating series.  Nischal starts at a seemingly random point with two captive Snow Leopards caged in a side show in Texas.  A reader familiar with this series will search their memories for some prior mention of these brothers to no avail.  This is the first we have heard of them.  They are unaware of other Snow Leopards, including our foundation family, the Traveses, in Colorado, existing in a bubble created out of their mother’s isolation of them as cubs and their continued existence in captivity.  Preston Hardy too has not the slightest connection to the previous books.  He, like the shifter brothers, arrives outside of the previous narratives.  It is not until mid-story that a character from the other books arrives and heralds the beginning of a connection to the series plotlines and universe.  From there on out, this story’s twists and turns will surprise the most jaded of Bradford’s readers, especially a bombshell close to the end.  I never saw it coming, and loved that surprising turn of events.

Really, Nischal exemplifies what is most frustrating and wondrous about this series.  Bradford’s ideas are startlingly original, pinging off here and there but always eventually finding their way back to the pattern she is weaving in this series.  Just as the reader is getting frustrated that she has left her original premise with the leopard shifters far behind with her wolf shifters and cougar shifters and shaman, she manages to bring all these disparate elements together in a wide ranging plot that continues to exasperate and involve us deeply in the futures of the leopard shifters and their mates.  I loved all the different aspects of Nischal’s story.  There is several mysteries, including that of Paul’s disappearance and the origin of the shifter brothers.  A wolf faction from a previous book makes a reappearance here.  And always there is the mate sex.  Tons and tons of mate sex.

That is always my biggest issue with Bradford’s stories, that she sacrifices almost half her books story to over the top sex scenes involving various mated pairs.  It usually starts right before or after the men realize they are mates.  They leap into  bed and spend the next five or ten pages staying there.   Now I love a good sex scene and this book has many.  But there are so many that the plot suffers under the weight of all that sex.  When they finally stop you have to try and remember where you are in the storyline because its been that long since she has made reference to it.  And that is a shame because she is giving you glimpses of a much larger picture here, one that will encompass all the story lines of the previous books.  The possibilities I see within this story are intriguing and addicting.  It is the reason I have stayed with this series even when certain books in it have almost caused me to abandon the series.

I came very close to giving this story a four, but the numerous sex scenes once more worked to the detriment of the story and pulled it down.  I know that I must sound like a broken record with the same issues at book nine, but I keep hoping the author will surprise me with a change in writing style in much the same manner she surprised me with the plot twist at the end.  Like Nischal and Sabin, there is always hope.  And in this case, there is hope and a darn fine story to go along with it.

Cover art by Posh Gosh is gorgeous as always.  Models are on target and perfectly represent the characters involved.  Just beautiful.

Here are the books in the Leopard’s Spots series in the order they were written and should be read (mostly)

Levi (Leopard’s Spots, #1)
Oscar (Leopard’s Spots, #2)
Timothy (Leopard’s Spots, #3)
Isaiah (Leopard’s Spots #4)
Gilbert (Leopard’s Spots #5)
Esau (Leopard’s Spots #6)
Sullivan (Leopard’s Spots, #7)
Wesley (Leopard’s Spots, #8)
Nischal (Leopard’s Spots, #9)

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Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: August 9th 2013 by Total-E-Bound Publishing

Dog Days of Summer and the Week Ahead in Reviews

Canis Major Dog StarHere it is mid – August and the Dog Days of  Summer are almost over.  I know many of you have heard the term but do you really know where it came from?  I know that some of you are looking at your four pawed companions panting away the summer heat beside you, whether on shared walks or just sitting together in the backyard. One look at how the heat is affecting them, and I am sure you think “ah, dog days indeed.” But to understand where the term Dog Days of Summer, you must look to the sky.  The night sky that is and the Dog Star, Sirius, the brightest star above (no, we are not talking about the Sun right now).

Osiris

The Egyptians called Sirius the dog star after their god Osirus, whose head in pictograms resembled that of a dog.  In Egypt, and in ancient Rome, Sirius was in conjunction with the Sun in the summer (ie. it was up in the sky at the same time as the Sun) and ancient Egyptians and Romans argued that it was responsible for the summer heat by adding its heat to the heat from the Sun. Those in ancient times called the period of time from 20 days before to 20 days after the conjunction “the dog days of summer” because it coincidentally fell at the time of year when it was very hot.

The Dog Days of Summer start around July 7th ( I have also seen July 3rd at the start date as well) and runs until August 18th, normally the time in the Northern Hemisphere when it is the hottest.  It is the time we head for the beach, the air-conditioning, anywhere but the office.  It is also a great time to catch up on your reading and make headway on your “to be read” pile. Here are some books and one great series (Wicked’s Way by Haven Fellows) that you will want to add to the list.

Monday, Augusts 12, 2013:                   Nischal by Bailey Bradford

Tuesday, August 13, 2013:                     Wicked Incarceration by Haven Fellows

Wed., August 14, 2013:                           Wicked Guidance by Haven Fellows

Thursday, August 15, 2013                   Guest Blog by Haven Fellows

Friday, August 16, 2013                          Fall For Me by Ann Lister

Saturday, August 17, 2013:                   Home Sweet Home by TA Chase

Sirius

I will leave you all with two quotes about the dog days of summer.  Both perfection in tone and ability to paint a portrait of this time of year.

“Sophia and Grandmother sat down by the shore to discuss the matter further. It was a pretty day, and the sea was running a long, windless swell. It was on days just like this–dog days–that boats went sailing off all by themselves. Large, alien objects made their way in from sea, certain things sank and others rose, milk soured, and dragonflies danced in desperation. Lizards were not afraid. When the moon came up, red spiders mated on uninhabited skerries, where the rock became an unbroken carpet of tiny, ecstatic spiders.”
― Tove Jansson, The Summer Book

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.”
― Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

Review of Sullivan (Leopard’s Spots #7) by Bailey Bradford

Rating: 2.5 stars

Sullivan Leopards Spots 7Sullivan “Sully” Ward is heading off to college, full of excitement and ready to try new things, a true small town boy come to the big city.  Sully lands in Texas, San Antonia to be exact, ready for life as a student at UTSA and to see what life in San Antonio will hold for a young inexperienced leopard  shifter.  And it isn’t long before he runs into trouble in the wrong side of town and ends up saving a young hustler named Mando.  Mando is under age , just another teenager thrown away because his parents didn’t want a gay son.  Sully takes him into the awful apartment he rented online, feeds him as Mando reminds him of his younger brother and decides now Mando has a home with him.

When he talks to his parents back home, his story stirs up concerns that Sully is in over his head so they contact Bobby Baker, the wolf shifter brother to Josiah, pack alpha and mate to Sully’s cousin.  Bobby and his pack live in San Antonio. All Bobby has to do is check to make sure  Sully is fine and that Mando isn’t a trouble maker.  But from the first meeting, it is clear the trouble is not from Mando but from the fact that Sully and Bobby are mates.  Sully is ignorant of the effect it has on the partners who have found their mates but Bobby isn’t.  He knows Sully is his mate and it scares him enough to send him running after a bout of intense sex, especially for a virgin like Sully.

To make matters worse, there is a psycho stalking Bobby’s pack and an arsonist loose setting fires in Bobby’s clubs. And they both appear to be targeting Bobby and anyone Bobby loves.  Bobby must come to grips with his destiny and accept Sully as his mate and soon.  Sully and Bobby have an arsonist to track and in a horrifying turn of events, an attack to revenge.

Out of the seven books of the Leopard’s Spots series, this is the worst by far.  Bradford is getting farther away from the unique elements of this series, that of the Leopard Shifter history, their interaction with the Amur Leopards, and the mystery of a group of people intent on drugging and experimenting on them.  All of that is not even mentioned here as we track back to the wolf shifters of Texas that are attached to the story via Josiah and Oscar (Leopard’s Spots #2).  But that is the least of the problems here.

Bobby Baker was introduced in the last book and he was an exciting, exasperating character.  I would have hoped that if Bradford was going to abandon the Amur Leopards, at least we would have a good book out of it.  But instead we get a book that is 5 percent promise, mostly because of the character of Mando, the vulnerable, underage hustler Sully has taken under his wing and his “brother like” relationship with Sully.  Those scenes were charming, endearing, funny and held out the promise that the rest of the book would be of a similar vein.  Not so as the remaining 95 percent focuses in on the mate relationship between Bobby and Sully.This turns out to be much less affecting as they  have little chemistry as a couple, and Bobby spends most of the book fighting his role as Sully’s mate.  His club is literally burning down around him,a person close to Sully is heinously attacked by the nutjob stalking Bobby, and the two of them are having ridiculous amounts of sex and paying no attention to anything else.  These two act in such an irrational manner that the reader’s frustrations almost exceed the amount of sex they are having.

Finally, most of the goodwill this book generates is destroyed in a grievous attack on a character we have come to adore.  Mostly because it seems superfluous to the rest of the action going on and the depth of emotional and physical destruction visited upon this person is really unnecessary. It really seems such a waste of characters that had such marvelous potential and a mess of a storyline that was resolved far too quickly for the buildup and really made little sense.

I will probably stick with this series because I can’t believe it can get much worse than this.  But like a TV columnist says in his intro, “I watch these shows so you don’t have to”.  I will just say I am reading these books so you don’t have to.  And trust my word,  you really don’t want to read Sullivan (Leopard’s Spots #7).

Levi (Leopards Spots #1)

Oscar (Leopards Spots #2) read my review here.

Timothy (Leopards Spots #3) read my review here

Isaiah (Leopards Spots #4) read my review here

Gilbert (Leopards Spots #5) read my review here

Esau (Leopards Spots #6)

Sullivan (Leopards Spots #7)

Review: Esau (Leopard’s Spots #6) by Bailey Bradford

Rating: 4 stars

Esau Leoppard Spots 6During the confrontation with Chung Kee’s lepe and the death of Chung Kee and his shaman, Esau Wallraven was separated from the rest of his family with the mission to find Ye—sun Warren, the brother who helped Jihu Warren and his son Daniel escape the compound.  The compound burned to the ground as the different factions fought and neither Bae and Jihu are sure their half brother survived. So as the family gathers their wounded and leaves for home, Esau remains behind to search for Ye-sun.

Ye-sun Warren has had a hellish life.  Imprisoned and tortured by his grandfather as punishment for helping Jihu escape with his son, he is shocked and drugged, as his grandfather hopes to force him to impregnate the females in the compound, something he has refused to do.  When he is left to burn with the building, he manages to escape and runs directly into a Snow Leopard, Esau.

Both men are astounded to find that they are mates and the biological drive to consummate their bond is overwhelming. But Esau is tormented by his past and doesn’t want a mate, a fact he communicates to Ye-sun after their mating.  Hurt, rejected by family and mate, Ye-sun runs off, leaving Esau wondering if he hasn’t just made the worse mistake of his life.

Esau (Leopard’s Spots 6) picks up directly after the events of Gilbert (Leopard Spot’s 5).  The Warren family and their mates and friends have confronted the heinous Chung Kee at his compound with the results that several key members of both families were injured, and Chung Kee and his shamans were killed. Esau had disappeared into the woods at the end of that story, looking for the missing Warren brother, and this story picks up just as Esau gets the scent of a Amur Leopard in the woods.

Most of this story deals with the past traumatic histories of both men.  Ye-sun’s is one most familiar to those who have read the previous books.  Brought up in a cult like compound, under the strict rule of a obsessive leader, his grandfather Chung Kee, Ye-sun was looked at more as a breeding stud than as a person and to refuse that role meant hours of torture and shock treatments to get him to submit to his grandfather ‘s plans.  In addition to the physical trauma, his grandfather also used emotional abuse to inflict pain on the young man and chemicals to keep him from shifting.  Bradford does an excellent job of giving us a young man, confused and so full of anger that he is not sure about anything now that he has escaped.  I liked both main characters here immensely.  Ye-sun pulls at our heartstrings and his anger is something everyone can relate to.

Esau Wallraven makes a formidable mate and partner for Ye-sun.  The only child of his parents, he lead a sheltered life, where his only dream was to be normal, an impossibility for a Snow Leopard shifter.  As soon as he could, he left to travel the world, never settling down, always looking for that elusive “something” to fill up the hole within him.  Then a horrific event in South America leaves it permanent scar on his heart and cements his life of isolation.  Everything about Esau makes sense, including his rejection of his mate, done out of fear and past pain.

There is no case of instant love or even instant affection.  What draws them together is a natural imperative to mate, brought on by their animals and hormones.  And mate they do, for about 75 to 80 percent of the book, in both animal and human forms.  It’s brutal, snarling, biting and bestial for the most part as is fitting for cat shifters.  As humans, there is an exploration of their sexual natures through spanking and mild bdsm, as pain with sex seems to be part of the shifter sexuality as written by Bradford.  Ye-sun is a virgin to anal sex but is not treated like one, a subject that is brought up and dealt with.

And that is really my only quibble with this book.  Yes, there is tons of hot  sex but too much hurts the book when exposition is left behind as it is here.  I wanted to know more about the injured family members left in a coma in Gilbert’s book.  Here there was only a sentence or two to say all will survive but it did not address some of the serious situations mentioned previously.  Another Amur Leopard is scented in the woods during their mating frenzy but never brought up again.  Did someone else survive?  Is this a red herring?  Don’t know and it’s frustrating.  There are so many issues and conspiracies involved in this series and this story moves none of the plot lines forward.  We need more depth here in storyline, and to resolve some of the problems addressed in Gilbert.  None of that really happened here and it makes this story much weaker than it should have been.

We also get a look at a character just introduced, Bobby the wolf shifter brother to the alpha wolf mated to Oscar.  Bobby seems to be a good ole boy red neck shifter but Esau sees below the shallow, callow demeanor Bobby projects.  Bobby lit up the pages with his sass and moxy.  I can’t wait to see more of him.  He really deserves his own story and soon.

So on to the next story which is Sullivan (Leopard’s Spots #7).  Bailey Bradford has me hooked good and proper.  I need to know what happens next, who is drugging the shifters, what happens to all those poor schmoes from the compound who survived.  What about the Amur Leopard they smelled in the woods?  Who was that?  See, so many questions and I need the answers.   Hopefully, I will find some in Sullivan.  I will let you know.

The gorgeous series covers by Posh Gosh continues.  Just beautiful.

Here are the books in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters, their relationships and events:

Levi (Leopards Spots #1)

Oscar (Leopards Spots #2) read my review here.

Timothy (Leopards Spots #3) read my review here

Isaiah (Leopards Spots #4) read my review here

Gilbert (Leopards Spots #5) read my review here

Esau (Leopards Spots #6)

Sullivan (Leopards Spots #7)

Review of Gilbert (Leopard’s Spots #5) by Bailey Bradford

Rating: 4 stars

Amur Leopard shifter Jihu Warren was imprisoned by the leader of his lepe, forced into Chung Hee’s rigidly controlled breeding program by the use of drugs and beatings. But even in his cell, Jihu heard of his half brother’s Bai’s freedom and escape from the lepe life that is all Jihu has known.  And that fact gave Jihu hope.  When Chul, father of Bai and Jihu, comes to the compound and confronts Chung Hee, a fight breaks out that allows Jihu to escape with the help of another half brother.   With only an address and dilapidated vehicle, Jihu takes off, intent on finding Bai and a safe place to hide.

Gilbert Trujillo is puppy sitting for his brother, Isaac and his mate, Bai while they are conducting animal rescue from the Colorado wildfires.  Home from a run to the  store, he finds a strange truck in the garage and a very frightened Jihu hiding in the house.  Gilbert realizes immediately that Jihu is his mate but Jihu’s senses are impaired, a result of the injections he received at the compound.  Not only can Jihu not smell that Gilbert is his mate, but he unable to shift, causing physical pain and leaving him unable to tell who to trust as his senses are impaired. Gilbert must win Jihu’s confidence and trust, and quickly.  Because Jihu has brought with him something that will change everyones life around them and Chung Kee is intent on capturing Jihu and returning him  and his package to the compound.  Together the men and the family will have to band together to fight against an insane man bent on continuing his rule.

Gilbert is the fifth in the Leopard’s Spots series by Bailey Bradford and it deepens the mystery concerning shifters being drugged, encarcerated, and experimented on that started with Timothy (Leopard’s Spots #3).  We met lepe lord Chung Hee in Isaac’s book, but the true measure of his rigid rule is made apparent here, very similar to North Korea’s Kim Jong il. Under the guise of furthering Amur Leopards population growth, Chung Hee has kept his people confined to a rigid lifestyle in which men and women are used as breeders only with no affection shown to each other.  Or to the babies who are quickly removed from mothers who never wanted them to begin with.  Kept in fear and ignorance, those who rebel are imprisoned and experimented on with drugs, to what end is never made clear.  But Bradford is clearly setting the stages for momentus events coming in future books.  I anticipate the answer will find us returning to the Himalayas and the Russian Far East, the Amur Leopards original territory.  I love where this series is going and continue to be frustrated by the book length, here only 138 pages.  This has all the aspects of a rich plot and I would love to see it given the space and attention it deserves.

Once again this brings me back to the amount of pages spent on sexual activity.  In Isaac’s book, it balanced out with the plot.  Here not so much. We tip the scales back to so many sexual descriptions of Jihu and Gilbert’s mating that the increasingly complicated plot and wonderful characters are almost lost among it.  Why the author continues to do this when she has so much to offer in characters and storyline baffles me.  I can only hope that as the series moves forward, she finds a balance between the two that both promotes the bonding she obviously feels is necessary to the story and the story itself.

The reason for the higher rating is that the characters are wonderful to go with a rich plot.  Jihu captures our sympathy from the start. Jihu is a young man desperate to escape from the compound he has lived in his entire life, the lepe run much like the cults that end up in the news today, its members so brainwashed that to live otherwise is almost unthinkable. The reason he is so determined to escape is one of the book’s great joys, a spoiler I won’t giveaway here.  Gilbert Trujillo is another remarkable member of his family, fully realized as a kind and gentle  person, awkward outside his family, he finds his strength in coming to Jihu’s rescue and the events that  follow.  I loved Gilbert almost as much as Isaac who is back along with Bai Allen Warren, his mate and other Trujillo family members from previous books.

Gilbert ends with much up in the air, family members are harmed and we are not assured of their status, the villains points the way to a deeper conspiracy, and Esau, the subject of the next book, is missing.  With a lesser author, I might have abandoned this series long ago, but there are so many strengths here, from plot to characterizations, that I gobble up each story as soon as they come out.  Do I get frustrated by the same quibbles over and over, yes.  But the pull to find out what happens next overpowers whatever faults I find in the writing.  So it’s on to Esau (Leopard’s Spots #6) coming out in October.  I will be first in line to get it.

Cover by Posh Gosh is gorgeous,  the models are  perfect for Jihu and Gilbert, the leopards stunning. what more could you want.

Here are the Leopard’s Spots series in the order they should be read to fully understand the plots and the characters within:

Levi (Leopard’s Spots #1)- read my review here.

Oscar (Leopard’s Spots #2) – read my review here.

Timothy (Leopard’s Spots #3) – read my review here.

Isaiah (Leopard’s Spots #4) – read my review here

Gilbert (Leopard’s Spots #5)

Esau (Leopard’s Spots #6) coming in October 2012

Great Saturday, Marvelous Sunday, Fall is Here! The Week Ahead in Reviews

I had a great day yesterday.  Friends came over, a fellow blogger, and an author, both wonderful.  We had a time of it, discussing books, movies, Spartacus, you name it while drinking wine, gobbling up bread, cheese and crackers while the sun shown down!  Does it get any better than that?  I don’t think so.  Kirby loves visitors and was so excited to see them both, going from one to the other before roaming around looking for squirrels and bugs and things.  Winston and Willow are just happy to sit in the chair with me and chill.  And today?  Just beautiful, cool, sunny, the perfect football weather as they say.  Daughter and SIL off to the Redskins game and RGIII’s first home game.  I know, I know.  I swore off the Redskins but habits are hard to break!  So consider this a work in progress.

Three more bushes to go into the garden, Firelight Spirea.  The foliage changes color three times during the year.  In the spring, the leaves are a orange green changing to greenish yellow in the summer and then turning a lovely deep red in the fall, all that and beautiful pink blossoms that beacon to bees and butterflies for weeks while they are in bloom.  Sigh!  I love gardening and the discovery of new plants.  The windows are open, letting in the cool breezes to refresh the house air.  A ruby throated hummer just buzzed the window letting me know the feeders still need filling as there are still migrants making their way south and they shouldn’t be forgotten.

I am just finishing up the first in the Wolf’s Own series by Carole Cummings and loving it.  Look for the review at the end of the week.  I am starting the week off with a bang and a great book by Amy Lane.  Don’t miss out on this one.  As always so many books, so little time, but I am working on it.  Just a reminder, the first week in October is JL Langley week and I will be giving away a copy of My Regelence Rake to a lucky person who comments on the week which will include a interview with JL and recaps of all the SciFi Regency books to date.  So let’s get to it:

Monday:                               Sidecar by Amy Lane

Tuesday:                               Magic’s Muse by Anne Barwell

Wednesday:                        Gilbert by Bailey Bradford

Thursday:                            Wolf’s Own: Ghost by Carole Cummings

Friday:                                 Inferno by Scarlett Blackwell

Saturday:                             Second Hand by Heidi Cullinan and  Marie Sexton

 

Have a wonderful week.  Get out and enjoy this weather!  Happy Fall All!

Review of Isaiah (Leopards Spots #4) by Bailey Bradford

Rating: 4.25 stars

Snow Leopard shifter Isaiah Trujillo has always felt like the dumb brother of his family.  He isn’t smart like his brother Timothy, the PhD investigating shifter history and genetics.  Isaiah never wanted more than to be a good mechanic, own his own business and be happy.  And maybe, just maybe find a mate of his own, like his brother and cousins have. When a customer mentions he volunteers at a GLBT youth center that could use Isaiah’s help, Isaiah volunteers and changes his life forever.  At the volunteer dinner, he meets Dr. Bae Allen Warren, a mobile veterinarian and fellow cat shifter.  Bae is an Amur Leopard shifter and Isaiah’s mate. But Bae runs from Isaiah at first sight.  Confused and hurt Isaiah chases after his mate only to learn that Bae carries with him a truckload of trouble.

Dr. Bae Allen Warren comes from a lepe or clan almost cultlike in its actions and outlook.  Amur Leopards are becoming extinct, both as animals and shifters.  Bae’s lepe has kept its shifters isolated to keep their bloodline pure, demanding that each contributes by mating with as many other clan members as possible to produce offspring. These children are promptly sent off to other lepes to live in hopes they enlarge the gene pool. No one has ever questioned their leader or the manner in which the lepe live their lives until Bae brings home his mate, Isaiah.  Bae is gay and has refused to mate with the females of his or any other clan. That is the only reason his father has allowed him the freedom of an outside education and life. Isaiah changes Bae’s perspective on his clans lifestyle to his father’s disapproval and threats by his grandfather, the lepe’s leader. Even as Bae finds Isaiah, his mate, the lepe closes in around them, threatening their bond and their future together.

Isaiah (Leopard’s Spots #4) is the best of the series so far.  Bradford introduced the idea of a spiritual connection between animal and human in the last book, Timothy, that I felt was jarring at the time.  But clearly this idea or story thread is becoming a major theme for the series.  Isaiah is a spiritual man, good and decent.  Only he feels insecure when he puts himself next to his brother’s achievements, never seeing himself as others do.  Bae is a shifter forced to fight for his right to live his own life, while feeling the guilt and pressure brought on by his father and clan.  Both shifters bring to each other a shift in perspective that each desperately needs, along with the message of accepting who you are.

Bradford also brings back the focus on endangered cat species by including Amur Leopards also known as Korean Leopards.  Look them up, they are stunning in their beauty. Snow Leopards remain a center species and the author brings in a hybrid species known as pumapards, which actually existed earlier in the century.  Bradford has clearly done her homework on big cat species and wildlife conservation. Timothy and Otto from the 3rd book are back to help Isaiah and his mate, Bae,  with several of the mysteries running throughout the series.  One is the low shifter population within species as birthrates are at an all time low.  Is it due to inbreeding, like Bae’s lepe?  The fact that none of the isolated clans are finding their mates?  Or something more ominous, that their animal/spiritual side must be nurtured, treasured or they will lose their animal part of themselves, remaining forever damaged.  Bradford obviously has a plan with her series that is just now becoming clearer with each new book.

I loved the characters here.  I find Isaiah and Bae to be the most captivating of the group so far.  And Isaiah with his spirituality and humble outlook charmed me immediately.  I really like where Bradford is taking this series which leads me to my main quibble all around.  These stories are way too short for the goals Bradford is trying to accomplish with each book.  That was my problem with Timothy, which I will now have to reconsider given this story.  She set out so many new plot lines in Timothy (Leopard’s Spots #3) that the main story suffered under the lack of space for its development.  Here she comes close to doing it again but still pulls off her agenda.  If these books would be enlarged even a little, I think the series would benefit as new ideas could be more richly explored.

Another thing about the series is the huge amounts of sex contained within.  I find that realistic as the sexual activity helps in the bonding and if you have ever heard the neighborhood cats yowling during their nocturnal activities, well, let’s just say Bradford has that right too.  There is one section concerning the pumapards that is left completely unsettled here but I suspect that a future book will find that resolved.  At any rate, I am onto the next in the series, Gilbert (Leopard’s Spots #5) with renewed enthusiasm about the series and the vision behind it.  I promise I will let you know how it goes.

Cover by Posh Gosh.  The glorious covers just keep getting better with each book.  Nominated for the best series covers.

Here are the books in the series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and storylines:

Levi (Leopard’s Spots #1) read my review here

Oscar (Leopard’s Spots #2) read my review here.

Timothy (Leopard’s Spots #3) read my review here.

Isaiah (Leopard’s Spots #4)

Gilbert (Leopard’s  Spots #5)

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