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

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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

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

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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 Isaiah (Leopards Spots #4) by Bailey Bradford

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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)

Review of Timothy (Leopards Spots #3) by Bailey Bradford

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Rating: 3.5 stars

Dr. Timothy Trujillo, a snow leopard shifter, has arrived in Mongolia to work on the Snow Leopard Conservation project working to save the species from extinction. But Timothy also has another agenda.  He is searching for answers about his families history.  All Timothy and his family back in Colorado know is that his grandmother came from Mongolia and that her clan was killed when she was a child, leaving her the sole survivor.

On their first day in town Timothy and his best friend, Dr. Dane Calderon spot a gorgeous  man watching them intently.  it becomes even more worrisome when that man follows them through the streets of Dalanzadgad to their hotel. Tall, dark and handsome turns out to be Otto Marquat, son of the head of the Snow Leopard Conservation Programme and a Snow Leopard shifter too.  Timothy is stunned by that fact and he is overwhelmingly attracted to Otto in every way.  Timothy is lost without any of the shifter history or culture to aid him now that his cat’s instincts are taking over.

Otto Marquat has a job to do for the project and for his family.  Otto tracks down poachers and turns them over to the authorities.  Right now he is on the trail of a particularly nasty poacher, one who threatens the lives of all Snow Leopards in Mongolia, animal and shifter alike.  He is unprepared for Dr. Timothy Trujillo as he recognizes immediately that Tim is his mate, something Otto thought he would never find.  Not only is the timing bad but Timothy is acting like he is unaware of their status as mates.  Now Otto has two mysteries on hand, that of the identity of the poacher and the reason behind the curious naivete of Timothy. Together, Timothy and Otto must find and stop the poacher before they can go forward with their lives, and the poacher will stop at nothing, including torture and kidnapping, to reach his goal – the death of the snow leopards.

Of the three books in the series so far, Timothy is my  least favorite, or more accurately less satisfying.  I loved Bailey Bradford’s characters and  think she did a good job with Timothy and Otto.  Timothy was an unknown going into this book and I feel like I really got to know him by the end of the story.  Timothy is insecure about his looks as he and Oscar (Leopards Spots #2) are the only members of his family that share the same physical characteristics of blond hair, blue eyes and a smaller statue.  He feels bland, made more so by his best friend Dane, a character I adored. It takes Otto, a strong character to show Timothy how beautiful he actually is.  In fact the relationship between Timothy and Otto is based on mate attraction and sexuality in a strictly animal sense at the beginning, so much so that it almost obliterates the plot line.  I like that it is their animal natures that draw them together and not a case of instant love.  And yes, two cats in heat would forget about nothing else for a while but I felt that while it was very hot, I wanted more exposition to go along with it.   Other characters such as Steve and Lona, Otto’s parents and Ganzukh, Otto’s friend and Mongolian wrestler, are equally well done.  But Dr. Dane Calderon, Timothy’s best friend, almost steals the book away so vividly is he portrayed.  In fact he is easily my favorite character, not a good thing in a book called Timothy.

The plot line also gave me more quibbles to contend with.  Timothy’s main reason for his trip to Mongolia is to trace his family’s history.  As far as Timothy and the rest of his family are concerned, they are the only snow leopard shifters alive as his grandmother’s family were slaughtered in their native land, leaving his family ignorant of all shifters and shifter cultures. And yet is he stunned to learn that Otto is a Snow Leopard shifter too? Not really, Timothy seems to take it in stride whereas most of us would have been flattened by such a stunning revelation that here is his journey’s goal in human form. To know who you are is a powerful impetus and I had been looking forward to learning the family’s history.  And yet in the book, it is given short shrift which completely baffles me.  All that is mentioned is “oh yeah, I heard about a clan getting killed, too bad it was Timothy’s”.  We learn nothing!  How do you set up such a great plot line and totally abandon it? And even Otto’s  shape shifter family background is given shallow treatment too.  We get a mystical element towards the end which doesn’t really make much sense and then an abrupt ending.  Timothy asks Otto to marry him and that’s all she wrote, folks, leaving huge holes open in the plot that are never resolved (what happened to that poor boy, why was he tortured, what happened to Dane and Ganzukh, will Otto’s sister ever get laid, on and on it goes). What makes all of this really a shame is that the elements were all there for a great story and the author either ignored them or blew them up in her own fashion.

I want to see who is the focus for the book in the series is about. We now have two continents of snow leopards as locations. We still have that situation with the cougars in the States, and Oscar’s wolf pack but quite frankly, I want to know what happens with Dane and the Mongolian wrestler too.  I am just sorry that  after the joys of Levi and Oscar, their cousin, Timothy, didn’t bring as much to the table.  Lets hope for better luck next time. And please, give us Dane and Ganzukh story too, they deserve it.

Books in the series in the order they should be read:

Levi (Leopards Spots #1)

Oscar (Leopards Spots #2)

Timothy (Leopards Spots #3)

Cover:  Another glorious cover by Posh Gosh.  I wish the book lived up to it.