Level Up Your Life

I’ve been a member of Nerd Fitness for about three years now. If you don’t know anything about Nerd Fitness, it goes something like this:

Steve Kamb and Team Nerd Fitness write articles that they post on the Nerd Fitness blog. Readers of those articles are members of the “Rebellion.” The focus is on fitness, nutrition, and sometimes general life stuff, like finances, self-confidence and mental health, social skills, etc.

There’s a lifetime membership you can buy, which gets you access to the Nerd Fitness Academy content, and the NFA Facebook groups (one for male-identifying individuals, one for female-identifying individuals). There’s also a billion and one unofficial side groups, with various purposes (one for our LGBTQA+ members, location-specific groups like the Pacific Northwest one, one for NF singles, etc.).

Nerd Fitness also designed an IRL RPG internet membership program, called Rising Heroes. Instead of a lifetime membership fee, you pay monthly (or annually, for a discount). You get missions sent to your mission control, you join a faction, and you all battle together against the Shadow Organization, which is fighting to keep the general populace complacent, lazy, and fat.

I read the articles on NerdFitness.com. I am a Women’s Academy member. I am in Rising Heroes. Obviously, I’ve really bought into this stuff. For good reason—it’s helped me more than I can say with fitness, nutrition, and finding amazing friends that are supportive and enrich my life every day.

I preface this review with all that info so that you understand where I’m coming from, and that my review is probably a tiny bit biased when it comes to Steve’s book, Level Up Your Life.

Is the writing good? Yep. Are the topics within relevant and sprinkled with nerdy references? Yep. Did it help me reframe my thinking about certain things, and make me feel more capable of progress toward my own goals? Absolutely.

There’s a lot of great stuff in this book. Really. But if I’m being totally honest—it’s just a gateway. I think you should definitely read the book. And if you like what you read…check out the articles on NerdFitness.com. Start exploring the free resources that are available. Consider joining the Academy, if you like structured progression plans when it comes to fitness and nutrition. Or join Rising Heroes, if, like me, you struggle with daily accountability. There’s a wealth of information and support and love out there, all facilitated by Team Nerd Fitness. They’re amazing people, and their products are helping hundreds of thousands of people every day.

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Silence Fallen

I’ll start with the same disclaimer I always start with when I review Mercy Thompson books…if you haven’t already read all the previous ones, go do that. You start with Moon Called, and then work your way through. After you’ve finished up to Fire Touched, you can come read this. 🙂

Silence Fallen, the newest Mercy Thompson novel, is a fabulous continuation of the series, and it offers something extra that we haven’t experienced before in Mercy’s world. I almost didn’t want to read this, because it means I’ve caught up to the publication of Mercy novels, and now have to wait with everyone else until the next one comes out. More Mercy, please!

I’m super glad I read it, though, of course. I always am, with Mercy novels.

In Silence Fallen, we start out in the normal setting, in the tri-cities in Washington. Where do we end up, for the vast majority of the novel? Oh, just Europe. With European vampires and werewolves, of course. 😀

It’s pretty awesome seeing Mercy in such a different setting. She’s away from the comfort of home, and beyond most help, actually, from the people she normally relies on. This book alternates between Mercy’s POV and Adam’s, which is also new and interesting. There’s a fun surprise near the end which I honestly didn’t spot coming, though many people online said they saw it right from the start. I had to do internet searches to have some questions answered by the time I finished the book, actually, because I suspected I knew what happened but wasn’t 100% sure. Sometimes it’s nice to hear the author weigh in themselves.

Once I understood what I’d missed, I was pleasantly entertained.

The characters are, as ever, beautifully realized. There’s a more subtle, tricksy villain in this one than many of the others we’ve seen, and there’s more relationship politics as the US vamps and wolves band together to help Mercy out.

In short, if you’re a Mercy fan, you’ve already read this novel and I don’t know why you’re bothering to read this review. Another excellent addition to the series. Job well done, Patricia Briggs.

Fire Touched

As always, if you haven’t read the other Mercy Thompson books, go do so now. Off you go. No spoilers for you.

Okay, now that all of us here have read up to Night Broken…what should I say about Fire Touched? Is it another solid addition to a fabulous series that keeps me wanting more and more? Yep. Do we get to see more of our favorite characters and explore more magic and fantastical creatures? Yep.

Most of the books have a predominant supernatural focus. Moon Called was werewolves, Blood Bound was vamps, etc. Fire Touched is faeries again, but an interesting twist in that one of the protagonists of this story is a human child who was just trapped in Underhill for a very long time. And She changed him.

Adam is…more than a bit player, in this one. He features prominently. Baba Yaga, as well, which is thrilling and chilling in all the ways she normally elicits the spooky delightful tingles-up-your-spine feels.

The wider world is starting to be more and more influenced by the Fey and the werewolves. There are political ramifications that are felt by all members of the magical communities. And then there’s Mercy, just trying to keep her people alive and healthy, but still called to fight for justice and honor again and again and again. Gods, I could read Mercy all day, every day. She’s one of the best.

Should you read this one? Obviously. But if you’ve already gotten this far, there’s no way you aren’t devouring each new Mercy novel as quickly as it comes out. 🙂

Night Broken

Again, let me start by saying if you haven’t read the other books in the Mercy Thompson series, you should go do that. Seriously. Start with Moon Called, then proceed through Blood Bound, Iron Kissed, Bone Crossed, Silver Borne, River Marked, and Frost Burned. THEN you can come read this review. Spoilers ahead for the previous books; you’ve been warned.

If Mercy was completely okay with Adam’s ex-wife showing up to stay in their house because some crazy stalker dude is after her—she wouldn’t be realistic. I really love how Mercy is fallible, same as the rest of us. I love how strong she is, too, though. She knows what petty is, and she tries hard to steer clear of it. Her motivations are so genuine in this book. Don’t lose face among the pack. Try to protect her step-daughter from the emotional upheavals. Get out of the house as much as possible, but reclaim her territory when it’s the proper time. Mercy is fabulous.

I have to say, Briggs must know (or have known) someone with NPD. Narcissists are tough to deal with, in relationships, because they can seem so charming and genuine to so many people. Those closest to them, though, tend to be able to see through their bullshit. Man, does Briggs nail Christy in this book! My particularly favorite part was when big strong Darryl, when he’s finally not near Christy anymore, has a smack-the-forehead kind of aha moment. Of course she’s manipulating everyone. Of course he couldn’t see through it before.

It’s a topic that hits close to home for me, because the gaslighting that narcissists do is SO painful and damaging. So seeing Mercy deal with it, faltering like the rest of us, but ultimately coming out of it her own person, confident in herself, is really rewarding. I wish I could have that kind of self-possession and presence around the narcissists in my life.

If you’re wondering if there are also baddies in this book, and awesome fight sequences, and fun werewolf politics, you’re absolutely right. Plus explosions and new mythology (know what a tibicena is? I didn’t either). Fact is, if you’ve read all the Mercy books that come before this one, then you’re going to read Night Broken as well. You don’t need me to convince you. We’re all die-hard Mercy fans at this point.

The end of this book takes you by surprise, and is pretty heart-wrenching. These books don’t make me cry as a general rule…but this one did, just a little bit. Edge of your seat kind of crying.

Now, onwards to the next book…

Frost Burned

I absolutely love the way this book starts out. Mercy and Jesse are out shopping on Black Friday. So mundane, so human. Then Jesse says something interesting and…things really take off. The acceleration is insane in this seventh book of the series.

As ever, if you haven’t read the others in the series, go read them. You don’t want spoilers. Believe me. Read them in order. Go start with Moon Called.

I don’t want to give away the central issue, so let me just say it hardly matters that the “villains” are shrouded in mystery, or using obscure military groups to conduct their evil schemes. The only thing that matters in this book is Mercy and how much she discovers about her abilities. It’s fascinating and beautiful stuff. I love watching Mercy discover herself, her powers, her inheritance.

The ending is a different sort of pace in this novel than everything that comes before it. You don’t really see it coming, and it kind of sneaks up on you. Feels a little off-course and abrupt, too, though poignant for Mercy’s associations with the vampires. Basically, I feel like this book had the climax it did just so we could bring Stefan back into things. You won’t find me complaining about that, though.

This is a tense installment to the Mercy Thompson series. It’s fascinating, and heart breaking, and sets us up well for the novels to follow. Forever Mercy fan, here, if you couldn’t tell.

River Marked

Only Mercy Thompson could go on her honeymoon and encounter a friggin RIVER DEVIL bent on seducing all humans to their deaths by drowning, dismemberment, or mind-controlled thrall-ness. Damn.

If you haven’t read the other books in this series yet, get the hell out of this review and go read them. Seriously. Spoilers ahead, and I don’t want to be the one who ruins them for you.

All gone?

Okay, good. As for the rest of us…(not that you need a review to convince you to read this book, since you’re probably devouring them as fast as you can already…)

So, Mercy and Adam. Not the worst pairing ever. And they seem to suit each other really well. I love that Adam is a super controlling, powerful pack leader—but is continually forced to let Mercy do her own thing. Independent women kick ass, yo.

The river devil isn’t quite as fascinating as the other shapeshifters that Mercy meets in this novel. Including some big powerhouses of the Native American totem variety. Coyote’s role in this book is hard to pin down, just like the trickster he is. I think Briggs writes him super well. And man is it interesting, finding out more about where Mercy comes from!

The climactic battle had me very much on edge. I don’t know how Briggs does it. You think things can’t get any more dangerous than they have already gotten, right? Wrong. She manages to amp it up every single time, until I’m seriously wondering how Mercy is going to stay alive through this, because there are other Mercy books after this in the series. Unless Mercy actually dies and comes back as a ghost or something. Or gets turned into a vamp. Please don’t get turned into a vamp. I don’t want another Anita Blake. I just want Mercy. Mercy forever.

Silver Borne

This fifth installment of the Mercy Thompson books is a must-read for Mercy fans—especially those who love Samuel.

I’m not saying I wanted Mercy and Sam to be together. Really, I’m not. It’s just that Samuel is so much more interesting than Adam. I’m not really drawn to the tortured, I’m-a-werewolf-therefore-I’m-a-hideous-and-irredeemable-monster type guys. I’d go for the brooding Celt over the guilt-ridden Russian any day.

Samuel is having major problems with life in general in this book. His story isn’t quite central to the plot, but it matters a lot, and helps keep the tension high. I love it when the wolves surface. I love the duality of the wolf and human, two separate halves, sometimes cooperating, sometimes dominating each other. I think it’s a really beautiful interpretation of werewolves and creates interesting internal power dynamics.

You get a lot of the werewolves and some Fae in this one, not so much the vamps. The Fae stuff is usually kind of over my head—there’s a lot going on with their complicated society. At least the werewolves and vamps are all basically their own species. The Fae have so many different kinds it’s hard to keep track of them all. There’s a Faerie queen driving the plot of this book, and I didn’t find her as compelling or memorable as some of the other villains from the series so far.

Regardless, you’ve gotta read this book if you already love the series. I mean, come on. You know you want to hear more about Samuel, and get to know him better. Here’s your chance. Go take it.

Bone Crossed

I’ve loved Mercy Thompson since I picked up Moon Called. Blood Bound was fabulous as well, and it made sense after how much I loved Iron Kissed that I would pick up the next book in the series pretty much right away.

Bone Crossed is the fourth book, and feels sort of like a bridge. Books one and two introduce us to the werewolves and the vampires, book three to the Fae. Bone Crossed deals with the intersection of all of those, to some degree. Mostly it works to deepen the relationships between characters, and strengthen the reader’s interest in what will happen next. Mercy and Adam, Samuel and Zee and Warren and Kyle and Stefan and even Jesse—they’re old friends, now. You read them, and you think, “I know you,” at the same time you’re hungering to know more about them. Some of them still have mysterious pasts. Some of them have uncertain futures. They’re beautifully written and so very real.

The villain in this book is pretty creepy. Not quite as psychopath-creepy as Littleton from Blood Bound, but still scary. Suave and scary. It feels like the book is going to take one direction, but it veers off course a little and dabbles in a distraction instead. A distraction that ends up being beneficial, though you feel odd at the end of the book that even though you’ve gotten a big confrontation out of the way, it wasn’t the one you were expecting to get.

I think the order in which I like the books at this point goes: Iron Kissed, Blood Bound, Moon Called, then Bone Crossed. But even in last place among its fellows, this is still a very good book. It made me pick up book five right away. Go figure. I can’t get enough of Mercy Thompson. 😀

Iron Kissed

Wow. Just—wow. Moon Called was really good. Blood Bound got my heart racing with the tension and terror and high stakes. Iron Kissed is EVEN BETTER.

How often do you get to say that? Some authors really peter out as their trilogies or series continue. It takes real skill to keep your books on an even level, or to make each subsequent one better. So far so good, Patricia Briggs. You’re totally rocking these stories.

Moon Called focused on the werewolves, and Blood Bound on the vampires. Iron Kissed is about the Fae. It starts so innocuously. Come to think of it, it was like that in Blood Bound, as well. Stefan showing up at Mercy’s doorstep asking for help with something vampire-related. Zee calling Mercy up and asking for help with something Fae-related. Good friend that she is, Mercy complies. She does everything she can to help—both times in her coyote form. Both times getting in WAY over her head.

The crazy part is, Briggs starts the stories the same way—and takes them to entirely different (and almost equally good) levels. Blood Bound has more horror in it. Iron Kissed more suspense. Blood Bound deals with characters and creatures who are “evil” in the moral and/or religious sense of the word. The stuff that goes down in the climax of Iron Kissed is “evil” in the gut-wrenching, nausea-inducing sense of the word.

Trigger warning for survivors of sexual assault: whether you read this book is up to you. It is fantastic, and does end on hope rather than despair, but you’ll need a strong stomach to get beyond the events of the climax. They could be triggering.

I love how Briggs is able to grow Mercy into such a REAL character. Not changing her clocks for Daylight Savings Time. Putting her phone into her back pocket, which has cost her two phones already. Her hot chocolate comfort food predilection. Her strength of will that allows any romantic B-story through-lines to develop organically and make sense when they do (instead of the “instant” attraction of so many romance novels). The dialogue is wonderful. Mercy’s internal commentary is still a joy to listen to. The writing is so on point when Mercy’s internal voice changes while she’s under the influence. I’m impressed by the skill it must have taken to balance that just right, to avoid annoying the reader or popping them out of the story but still show that Mercy was not truly herself.

Damn. I’m so happy I found these books.

As a side note, Lorelei King does a FANTASTIC job narrating the audiobooks. She’s a gem, nails so many different voices, and has the Welsh, Irish, AND German accents down pat. I would definitely recommend the audiobooks for those who like that format. I’m eager to get my hands on physical copies of these books, though. I can imagine them becoming old friends, like some of the other series I re-visit from time to time.

I’m eager to start the next book. Briggs is doing such a wonderful job with these, and Mercy Thompson is the newest on my list of favorite badass female characters. ❤

Blood Bound

If you love Mercy Thompson as much as I do, when you finish reading Moon Called, you’re desperate to know what’s next. I have to admit—I was a little apprehensive about what the situation might be, coming into the second book. It felt like our kickass, independent heroine was giving in to romance a little too easily. I should have more faith in Patricia Briggs, because book two of the series starts off with Mercy being too damn independent to let a man claim her. Any man.

There’s a bit of a love triangle situation going on in this book, and it adds to the intrigue, rather than detracting from it. It’s a slow tension, subtle, never directly influencing events much, but growing the characters. It helps flesh out their backstory, makes them real.

The primary action-packed conflict in this novel centers around a baddie much more evil than the one in the first book. Literally evil, as the whole book deals with vampires and the demon-possessed (or demon-rider/ridden, if you want to get technical). It’s nice to learn more about the vampires in this series, and to spend more time with Stefan. These vamps are actually bearable (coming from someone who has never been a vampire fan), and figuring out the minutiae of how they live, organize themselves, use their powers, and feed is very interesting.

Compound that with a truly scary baddie, an action-packed climactic battle, and the hint of future repercussions after Mercy has to do something during the battle that seems small but will probably have major consequences down the line…and this is a beautiful continuation to a series I was already hooked on after reading the first book.

Funny anecdote: I was listening to the part where Mercy kneels on her bed all night, shotgun in hand, while we had a tree leaning against our house (waiting for the tree guys to come remove it). So all that night I woke repeatedly to the scritch of twigs scratching the windowpane in the wind. You’ll get it once you read the book. Which you should go do, right now (as long as you’ve already read Moon Called. Don’t hit these out of order—they’re too good to screw up for yourself that way, though Briggs usually includes small backstory to the previous tome at the beginning of the next, folding it in to the story to feel mostly germane).

Seriously. Go read this book. Read the whole series. It’s off to an auspicious start and sequel so far.