This one is a mixed bag; there are times where the things I love about Adams' writing shine through, and plenty of other times where it feels like sheThis one is a mixed bag; there are times where the things I love about Adams' writing shine through, and plenty of other times where it feels like she's phoning it in....more
3.5 This was definitely one of her cuter romances, to the point that I wish it hadn't been a novella. I would have really liked to see this relationshi3.5 This was definitely one of her cuter romances, to the point that I wish it hadn't been a novella. I would have really liked to see this relationship be a slow-burn, and build some anticipation....more
I enjoy Noelle Adams as a fun diversion, but sometimes it feels like she's phoning it in. Things are a little too easy and too simple, and I would likI enjoy Noelle Adams as a fun diversion, but sometimes it feels like she's phoning it in. Things are a little too easy and too simple, and I would like some more genuine conflict and lingering tension in her stories in general. That said, this was cute, quick and fun, as all of her books generally are....more
2.5, right in the middle of the road. I don't even know why I can't stay away from Noelle Adams/Claire Kent books, but at this point, it's just a give2.5, right in the middle of the road. I don't even know why I can't stay away from Noelle Adams/Claire Kent books, but at this point, it's just a given. I can't quit them....more
I've mentioned a few times that I've been in a strange reading funk for months now, where I'm really struggling to concentrate on what I'm reading, anI've mentioned a few times that I've been in a strange reading funk for months now, where I'm really struggling to concentrate on what I'm reading, and stick to one book. It's a pretty serious case of Ooh, Shiny Syndrome, so even when I've been really enjoying a book, I've found myself setting it down in favor of giving something else a try (and then liking that, too, and yet putting it down for something shiny, in its turn). It's like some weird avid reader's-version of an auto-immune disease: my TBR is attacking itself*... Though there has been the oddbook that has broken through this happy-reader's malaise, they've been few and far between, and for the love of all things bookishly holy, praise pen-and-ink, this was one of them.
I fell into this story, face-first and whole-heartedly. It's likely a case of the right book at the right time, and who knows how I'd feel about it years down the line, but right now, it gave me exactly what I needed; I'd read it before falling asleep at night, and pick it up again first thing in the morning. The story and the writing flow beautifully, and it has a cast and world I connected to and wanted to explore. I liked basically all of the characters (good, bad, and indifferent), and how they interacted with each other, and I liked that in nearly all of them, there was gray area to explore. They very rarely fall into the trap of being perfect (and perfectly boring), and characters that you think are probably going to stay one dimensional don't —they are explored and become dynamic as Feyre herself grows and learns more about herself and how to let people in and see them for who they really are. I'm VERY eager to see what becomes of some characters in particular, in future books (Rhys, and surprisingly, Nesta, spring to mind), and I may have already begun calculating the days until ARCs of book 2 are likely to become available...
That's not to say it's wholly without flaws (is there such a thing?); it's a little too on the nose where the curse is concerned, for instance. It's all laid out very specifically, which makes it seem contrived (and also makes me question the relationship more than I'd have liked to), and I find that in general, curses and prophesies that are a little more ambiguous in their terms tend to lead to more nuance and interesting interpretations, and more general believability, when they come into play. But things like this (which were minimal and infrequent, honestly), are very much outweighed by the things this book got right. To that end, I love love love LOVE how sexuality is dealt with in this. I always hesitate to talk about presentations of sex being "empowering" because it can sometimes sound belittling and just sort... I don't know, of over the top, I guess? But I really can't think of a better descriptor for Feyre's relationship with sex, and Maas' presentation of it. Feyre is fully comfortable with herself, sexually, and the entire approoach is very mature and thought out without taking away any of the sizzle — and sizzle it does, in doses, but without every sliding into being cheesy or tawdry. The relationship is built believably, and Feyre's sexuality is natural and VERY well done, feminist in the best way. I was consistently happy with how the entire thing played out, and how much agency Feyre has (another buzzword I hesitate to use), especially in a storyline such as this one. I really have to tip my hat (fun point of fact, I am actually wearing a hat right now) to Maas for this.
I thought the fairy tale inspiration was nicely handled, too. It's there, with lots of little easter eggs for those who are looking, but it's not heavy-handed, and doesn't overpower the story. It remains its own thing, a complete fantasy novel on its own, but with a sort of comfortingly familiar feel to it, as a result of being a retelling. Overall, there's really good balance to the story, both as something complete of itself, and as part of something larger; A Court of Thorns and Roses has a good story arc all its own, but also good build up for what's in store for the rest of the series. It left me satisfied, but also wanting more, which is exactly what a book should do — it's basically just well done and thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish, and I'm eager to see where it goes!
*I should not have to clarify this, but it's the internet, so I feel like I'm probably going to have to: This is a silly, hyperblic comparison, some may even go so far as to call it a joke, and no it is not meant to make light of those who have autoimmune diseases. Or those who've literally had their to-be-read piles turn on them and attack them. [moment of silence] Many papercuts were had that day. ...more
2.5 I don't know why, don't bother asking. It was free on Amazon, and it was late and I didn't want to get out of bed to find the book I should have b2.5 I don't know why, don't bother asking. It was free on Amazon, and it was late and I didn't want to get out of bed to find the book I should have been reading, so I told myself that the idea of modern-day mail order brides could be interesting (and it was youtube-based, btw, and not email), so despite the fact that the cover is pretty meh, I thought I'd give it a try. It was fine, mostly forgettable, completely unbelievable, and why does everybody gotta go preggers-crazy in romances these days? But yeah, quick and free, and fairly painless....more
This popped up in my feed one night from someone commenting on another's review, and because I'm fascinated by the recent trend in "Billionaire" ev2.5
This popped up in my feed one night from someone commenting on another's review, and because I'm fascinated by the recent trend in "Billionaire" everything (like, seriously. Scroll through the indie romances and they're all Billionaire something or other), I thought it'd amuse me for a time. And it did. Eventually. Most of the time, I just found it horribly tacky. The book opens with a soldier's death, and yet that never stops people from being tacky at his funeral, at his family home, at the family business... And by people, I mostly mean his "devoted" brother, Carter, but not just Carter. These characters are gross, and beyond the parental figures (Carter's parents, Gwen's foster father, and Gwen herself), I found them fairly unlikable a majority of the time (and sometimes downright repugnant). I kept hanging on in the hopes that the ship would right itself (and because it was super quick anyway), and eventually, mostly, I think it did - but it could have done with a lot more time in the end of the story for me to believe in the development and personality shifts of the characters.
But if this is your type of book and you can look past the tackiness, there are worse ways to waste 99¢, I'm sure, and it does have its moments of being effecting. It's worth it for Gwen's character, at least. (But if you're going in looking for abundant sexytimes, skip it. Tension, yes, but beyond that, not so much...)...more
I'm determined to finish this series, but let's face it, they're really all the same book, retold and retold and retold... Makes for good procrastinatiI'm determined to finish this series, but let's face it, they're really all the same book, retold and retold and retold... Makes for good procrastination fodder, though....more
Since I liked the Claire Kent works, I thought I'd give her other penname a try, and this was the first I stumbled across. Meh. In the beginning, it wSince I liked the Claire Kent works, I thought I'd give her other penname a try, and this was the first I stumbled across. Meh. In the beginning, it was a flat out NO. Really, really rough. It did get better, but didn't hold a candle to the character development or the chemistry of Escorted, or even Nameless....more
You ever have those late nights where you can’t sleep and you find yourself being sucked down the rabbit hole? No, I don’t want to say sucked. EverythYou ever have those late nights where you can’t sleep and you find yourself being sucked down the rabbit hole? No, I don’t want to say sucked. Everything sounds dirty now... Where you find yourself making bad decisions...Like buying crap from infomercials. Texting people you shouldn’t text. Reading bad books because the reviews crack you up... I found myself reading reviews of this, and then I found myself reading a few pages, just to see, and then a few hours later, I found myself ending the book and saying, Well - that was...that.
Here's the thing: this is not great writing. I doubt this is up for debate. It has a strong tendency towards cheesiness, and some of the euphemisms are pretty cringe-worthy. BUT it's actually sort of hilarious. And not in the, this book is crap, unintentional way. Clayton - and her desperate-for-an-O main character - are genuinely funny. As silly as it all is, it's engaging. So while it may not be great writing, it is good storytelling. So now, at 4am, feeling like my eyeballs are going to dry up and roll out of my head, as silly and cheesy as it could sometimes be, I don't find myself regretting falling down this particular rabbit hole. It was worth it for the surprising laughs and fun voice.
So. That happened.
[Also, for those of you put off by the fact that it started as Twilight fanfic, I can honestly say - don't be. These characters and their plots had to have similarities in name only, because nothing here really resembles Twilight. I'm not saying there's no resemblance, because I guess it peeks through a teensy bit now and again, but really - I could not have bore the last few hours if it had been Bella moaning about her lost O and Edward being a control freak. I really think Twilight must have just been a jumping off point to get Clayton writing, because this isn't a Twilight regurgitation with the, ahem, banging of walls...] ...more
You never really know what to expect when you go into a collection like this. Well, I mean you know one thingto expect, but as for the quality of theYou never really know what to expect when you go into a collection like this. Well, I mean you know one thing to expect, but as for the quality of the actual storytelling, it's a gamble. Fortunately this was a gamble that paid off, because I found myself consistently surprised with the quality of the stories. Yes, each one revolves around some sort of otherworldly/supernatural (smutty) relationship, but for the most part, it seems like all of the authors chose to focus on layering their stories and injecting as much depth and interestingness to the stories and characters.
A lot of people are put off by short stories, I think (and this used to be true of me) because they don't connect - there's just not enough time, not enough text, and so things end up falling a little flat for them emotionally. Many times a reader will say of a short story, 'It was good but I wish it was full-length' or 'There just wasn't enough' ... they are left unsatisfied, feeling as if they've just begun when it ends. But there are a good number of stories in here that I actually found myself connecting to, sometimes rather quickly, and I have to praise that. One in particular, "Cover him with Darkness" by Janine Ashbless, I found very intriguing and perfectly complete as a short story - I didn't want anything else from it. I just thought it was really well done, well-suited to the format, and intriguing. The same is true of "Painted" by Anna Meadows and "Dolly" by Charlotte Stein. All 3 of these stories are completely different with a different feel, but they all had a completeness to them, and a story I loved following.
One other thing I found interesting and a little unexpected was that the stories that most appealed to me and felt the most interesting and complete (and the least cheesy) were the ones that didn't have to do with vampires or weres. It's not necessarily that the vamp/were stories were bad, necessarily, but with few exceptions, I found myself caring about them less. I did really enjoy editor Mitzi Szereto's "The Blood Moon Kiss" which is one of the vamp stories, and is a fun, somewhat tongue in cheek take on vampire culture and a certain popular television show. But the standouts for me were the unexpected ones: artworks come to life, little wax voodoo dolls that could have been very creepy but were somehow sweet, fallen angels or gods or god-knows-what - there was a nice spread of creativity and world-building throughout the collection that I really appreciated.
The only real drawbacks for me were just things that aren't to my taste. Romances and dynamics that just don't appeal to me. (I'm sorry, but I am just not a fan of complete submission, of anyone, to anyone. Collars and cages - aaaand I'm out.) But this I think was actually probably a good thing in its own way because it shows that there really is a little something for everyone.
I think the foreward from Kelley Armstrong (yes, that Kelley Armstrong) was a nice surprise that really seemed to get at the heart of the collection and the somewhat gothic feel of the whole thing. These stories are about atmosphere and Otherness, and amping up the latant sexual tension of the gothic classics into something more palpable. Really well done.
[Side note: If you're wondering if you want to venture to read a book labeled 'paranormal erotica romance', I would employ the cock-test I used in my review of and Falling, Fly sometime back: how do you feel about the word 'cock'? If you just cringed, skip this. If you sat up straighter and said 'where?' go out and grab a copy.]...more
I really wasn't sure what I was going to get with this book, or whether I should even accept a copy; I had been in this crazy-busy mode and probably sI really wasn't sure what I was going to get with this book, or whether I should even accept a copy; I had been in this crazy-busy mode and probably shouldn't have been accepting anything, on top of which I normally shy away from lesser known, wildcard publishers. But for whatever reason, something about this grabbed me (pirates! pretty!) and I caved. And though there were certainly times I regretted that, I ended up glad I did. But it's strange.
I felt like I'd started the story in the middle. The romance was SO immediate and completely head-over, and I just couldn't see where it was coming from. It was worse than the insta-love you get in most YA PNR or adult bodice ripper, which is saying something. It felt really silly, and baseless even though I think Leever did try to make it romantic and steamy and lovey. But it so very desperately needed more build up, more connections and history and smoldering. Orrin and Aeron (don't get me started on that little bit of tongue-twisting confusion) are in love within a day, and it seems it was based on the idea of each other - and compatible insatiable sexual appetites, of course. This is something that always irritates me without fail, but it wasn't just the insta-love that made it feel as if the first 1/2 of my book had just somehow fell out before I got a chance to read it. I'm all for plunging the reader in and avoiding info-dumping, but you've still got to give a full story. And when the book is only 200 pages, there's really no excuse not to flesh it out a bit.
All of that, and some copious amounts of the eye-rolling that comes with insta-love, had me wanting and intending to put the book down pretty early on. But it's so short and such a quick read that I would tell myself, "I'll give it X more pages and then I'm done." Only I wouldn't be. Despite the eye-rollingness, there's something about this that is just compulsively readable. Eventually the urge to put it down just went away, and though the eye-rolling never completely stopped (thanks, Kale!), I couldn't help but just give in and enjoy the damn thing.
And it was a good thing, because it did have some unexpected plot points to it that balanced or even outweighed the twoowuv4eva. I mean, it had some plot holes, too, and some things that Analytical-Misty would love to question - but in a book like this (historical pirate romance for godssake), you just have to let some things go. The thing is, Analytical-Misty can be silenced. Sometimes you just have to turn off that part of you and enjoy something just for the hell of it. And it's a good pirate story, for those who like that sort of thing. There needed to be a better sense of time and timing in more than just the romance (how fast does one really travel by seas?), but when I just let go of that part that keeps saying "But wait - but what about - well, how could -" then it's just a fun book with characters I kinda wanted to hate but just couldn't.
One of the things I liked best (and worst, at the same time) was one of the surprising bits that made me glad I'd hung on - I loved how Queen Winifred was worked into the story. Granted, she was a bit over the top for my liking. Okay "a bit over the top" is the understatement of the year, however, she was reminiscent of Elizabeth Bathory, who was a real over the top whackjob, so it sort of worked. It's really interesting and rare to have a female villain, especially one with her...proclivities, and that made it so much more dark and enjoyable and unexpected. Despite any early hesitancy on my part, the Big Pirate Fight at the end coupled with Crazy Queen W. made the 200 pages worth it. And, you know, the healthy dose of smut.
All in all, a quick, fun read for fans of the genre.
<------ Also, Patricia Leever has the most adorable author picture. ...more
Oh, The Iron Duke. Where do I even begin? I guess first I should thank Velvet for being so amazeballs and sending thThis is a long damn review. Sorry.
Oh, The Iron Duke. Where do I even begin? I guess first I should thank Velvet for being so amazeballs and sending this to me (thanks, V!). I overcame my loathing of "chestical" covers to read this due to its inclusion of steampunk zombies, and for all that it is flawed, I have to say I enjoyed (nearly) every minute of it.
Forgive me, then, for starting with the things I not-so-much liked. The titular character, the Iron Duke, is...rapey. If you don't read a lot of romance in this vein, you may not get the distinction of what I am about to say, or why it bothered me: Romance (historical, paranormal, urban, doesn't matter) is very densely populated with "alpha male" characters. Sometimes they work and you love them for being flawed and domineering, but ultimately protective and cuddle-able. These aren't men you'd date in real life, but they are good for warming up a cold night. (A cold night curled up with a book, people.) Sometimes they don't work, and you see them for the d-bags they are. They're too cocky, too domineering, and too handsy - in a number of ways, not all of them good - to ever really feel comfortable with. They've had one too many slices of testosteroni and they come off more skeevy than smexy.
And then there's the Duke. The simple fact is, he takes d-baggery to a different level. But really only where sex is concerned. In most respects he's an interesting character - he's a former/would-be-again pirate, and sort of one of the more terrifying guys around, so you'd expect a little roughness. But where all that is concerned, he's kind of likeable. Despite his unhealthy and turn-offish penchant for looking at everything and everyone he values as his "possession", he actually seems to have a fair few things going for him. He's smart, he's strong, he's good looking in a threatening, scowlish way. He sees through bullshit, fights for what he loves or believes in, and doesn't seem to comprehend, let alone care about, deal-breaker flaws like racism, etc. There are things about him to like.
But then Mina comes into the picture and his possessive tendencies go into overdrive. Apparently the man cannot be gentle for more than 2 seconds; any longer and he must push Mina against a wall or threaten to shag her brains out. And I do mean threaten; sometimes throaty growls of this nature can be sexy, but the Duke's all seem to imply "whether you like it or not" - Mina doesn't really seem to have a say in the matter; for the Duke it is a foregone conclusion. [Also, PSA: "shag" is about the un-sexiest sex-related word ever. And it was used SO MANY TIMES. And then again in the next book I read. Can we all just agree that, unless you are talking about carpet or you are this man, shag should be excised from your vocabulary.]
Ok, so lest you think I'm just being sensitive to this issue, let me make things a little clearer: Mina has been raped before, and lives her life in fear of beatings and rapes because of who she is. She is justifiably terrified of sex. Like, full-blown panic attacks, terrified. And the Duke knows this. And still with the rape-iness. And I was even willing to kind of go with this thinking that it was going to be a bit of a redemptive story, with the Duke opening up and learning how to be a little more gentle and understanding as he learns to love. And he does learn to love, I have no doubt of his affection for Mina. But his sexuality takes ardent and intimidating over the line into downright scary, all the way to the end of the book. He never really changes, and that was a letdown.
On the minor issues side, there were a lot of copy-editing mistakes for a finished book, and I couldn't help but let it annoy me near the end. Things would be going along fine and then BAM, glaring mistake. There were things that were really forced as well, like the fact that every one calls the Iron Duke 'the Iron Duke' to his face. Seemed a little weird for the Victorian-ish society, which is so particular about address, since it's really a nickname, and not always one said with love. The Duke's treatment of Mina and their doubt of each other, their constant misunderstandings, etc, seemed forced too, and were very obviously plot devices.
But despite all this, I ate this book up. I know, I know, you're saying how can you write so much negative crap and then say "I liked it, you should read it"? Like this:
I liked it, you should read it.
What can I say? Like the Duke, it was flawed, but the fact of the matter is, it's still a good damn book! Meljean Brook can write, and in a genre that's often very fluffy, this one has some definite substance to it. The world building was just fantastic - I read the synopsis and thought "Zombies? Steampunk? Victoriana? Piracy? Politics? Smut? Racism and women's lib? Kraken and megalodons? Adventures and inspectings? Nano-technology? There's no way this is all going to work together." BUT IT DID. I can't really call this book any one of those many, many things - it's each of them in nearly equal measure, and it's kind of incredible for it. All of these potentially extreme parts worked together harmoniously to build a world that was fascinating and wholly different from ours, and yet still believable. Each thing seemed like it belonged. Brook understands that no matter how far-fetched your world, you still have to have rules, you still have to have stakes, and actions have to have consequences. You have to set your limits and, though you may push them, you can never break them if you want the reader to buy your world or care at all. I bought it and I cared.
And despite the rapiness of the Duke at times, there are other times where it's just plain good and smexy. Brook doesn't hold back, and there is a shockingly large usage of the word 'cock' for a Victorian-ish society. And what's even more shocking is that it didn't seem all that out of place. Brook's Victorian-like London is changed enough that there is good reason to believe people a bit more uninhibited and accepting of things like this. But most of all, Mina is kick ass. I love her and I rooted for her and I want to read more of her adventures. A book like this basically hinges on the male and female leads, and where the Duke was a bit of a bother for me, Mina made up for it in spades. She's dynamic and she grows throughout the story, opening up and confronting things and learning to embrace who she is. It's lovely. And it's worth it to read this book just for the scene where Mina slides down a rope from an airship and takes on a giant effing Kraken. I'm sorry if that was a built spoilery, but come on! That would have made it into the teaser trailer if this were a movie, so I feel no shame in sharing.
So yeah. There you have it. It's not without its flaws, and some big ones at that, but for all that it may really bother some people, a lot more are going to find things to love in it. I normally pick up a book and say "Ugh, another series?" even when it sounds interesting, but this one I'm actually glad is the first of a series - I'm eager to see more of Mina's world. ...more