This was a very good fantasy romance. I loved the dragons, so majestic and beautiful. The world-building was strong, and the magic awe-inspiring. I wo...moreThis was a very good fantasy romance. I loved the dragons, so majestic and beautiful. The world-building was strong, and the magic awe-inspiring. I would like to read more by this author.
This was a fun, quick read. A collection of short stories with steampunk themes in various incarnations. A good dose of sweet romance as well. Recomme...moreThis was a fun, quick read. A collection of short stories with steampunk themes in various incarnations. A good dose of sweet romance as well. Recommended if you can find it for an affordable price for your ereader (only about 100 pages).
I'm not sure how I feel about this book. It has beautiful writing. The descriptions are lyrical and lush in their imagery. The ideas are very imaginat...moreI'm not sure how I feel about this book. It has beautiful writing. The descriptions are lyrical and lush in their imagery. The ideas are very imaginative. I loved Karou. She's strong and vulnerable. She's old for her years, but full of youthful energy. Akiva has an appealing brokenness and dangerous allure. And of course, I love angels. However, I didn't feel satisfied when I finished this book. I felt rather empty, to be honest. I felt a twisty knot of anguish inside. Maybe that's a sign that it was a very good book. That I felt deeply for both Karou, Akiva, Brimstone, Madrigal. I couldn't take sides easily. That's real though, isn't it? War always has losers and rarely has winners. Even the winning side counts the cost, with the innumerable loss of lives, as much as their way of life in no small part.
Now this is embarrassing for a huge romance fan to admit. I found the romantic descriptions a bit much for my tastes. A little too saccharine for me. It could be because I listened to the audiobook version, and honestly I tend to avoid romance on audiobooks (with some notable exceptions). I think I liked this better as fantasy than as a romance. Certainly the end was a hard slap in the face. Very melancholy!
I can see why this book is so well-loved and highly reviewed. It has a lot to offer a fantasy reader. The storyline is very creative, with the author's building of unique myths just for this novel, and the writing is lush and beautiful. As an audiobook, it's a feast to the ears, and the narrator does a great job. However, since I am an unrepentant emotional reader, I couldn't give this five stars, because I wasn't fully satisfied in some intangible way. Having said that, I am looking forward to the upcoming sequel.
Would I recommend this? Yes. It's a book you don't want to miss. Whether you'll feel the same way I did, I can't say. It's important for you to make up your own mind.(less)
Dragon Bound was an extremely hard act to follow, but I think Thea Harrison did a good job with her second book in the Elder Races series. I wondered...moreDragon Bound was an extremely hard act to follow, but I think Thea Harrison did a good job with her second book in the Elder Races series. I wondered how she could top Dragos, because he is so VERY! I am glad she didn't try to do that. She gave us a distinct hero with Tiago, and I like his differences, although he had the crazy/dangerous/possessive/jealous/fierce vibe of Dragos. Honestly, I would have missed that part...a lot. Tiago held his own as a hero, but not quite as compelling as Dragos. Having said that, how many heroes would be? Overall, I felt that he had some nice layers to his character. Lethal but also very caring and loving. The best kind of PNR hero! He reminded me of a mix of a Mack truck and a Golden Retriever.
Niniane, I liked her a lot. She was sort of the anti-urban fantasy heroine in all the best ways. She was soft and needy and vulnerable in a realistic way. But she was also very strong-minded, determined, in her force of will, which speaks to me more. Considering what happened with her family and her exile from the world of the Dark Fae, she definitely put on her big girl panties to go back to reclaim her throne. And that took some serious chutzpah. I liked that along the way, I was able to see an organic reaction to this process. Who wouldn't be scared to death, uncertain, and conflicted? I know I've felt that way even in much less dangerous situations. I could identify with her insecurities in that way, and it made her more lovable and admirable to me. I loved her warm, friendly way with people. I was glad that the betrayal she faced early in her life didn't destroy her capacity for that. I can see her being a very effective, beloved ruler.
Niniane and Tiago as a couple was something I couldn't quite get my mind around after I read Dragon Bound and knew they were next. But they worked together very well. Tiago is at heart a male who needs someone to fight for, someone to protect. Niniane has that softness to her personality that is a very good contrast to Tiago, and they complement each other very well. I would have enjoyed a bit longer book for their courtship in all honesty. But what I got was very enjoyable. Definitely some hot, sexy loving times for this couple! Talking about lightning striking, the earth moving, and seeing stars! I loved that they worked past the issues in their relationship and faced some serious obstacles as a united front.
The storyline was interesting, focused on Niniane's process of assuming the throne of the Dark Fae. A mix of fae politics, but a focus on the main characters and a few intriguing secondary characters. So far, I love me Aryal, the harpy sentinel. I know I said it in my Dragon Bound review, but she reminds me of Xhex from the Black Dagger Brotherhood books by JR Ward in the best ways. Looking forward to more of her. Some interesting chemistry between Rune and Carling, the Queen of the Vampyres.
Ms. Harrison is a very good writer. She provides a compelling story that kept me reading, with some sexy, swoonworthy romance that keeps a PNR fan more than happy. I feel her world-building is a star element in this series, so along with the aspects of PNR I can't resist, it makes her a safe bet for this fan. I do have to say I was a little disappointed at the very rapid climax and denouement, and not too happy about the fate of a character I liked and hoped to see more of. I wasn't as satisfied with the ending because of those issues. That's why I couldn't quite give this five stars, although it is very close.
Overall, a very satisfying follow up to Dragon Bound, and more validation that Thea Harrison is a PNR author to follow. 4.5/5.0 stars(less)
Ilona Andrews (writing team of Ilona and Gordon) caught and kept my interest when I read Magic Bites. I liked the distinctive voice I saw in that stor...moreIlona Andrews (writing team of Ilona and Gordon) caught and kept my interest when I read Magic Bites. I liked the distinctive voice I saw in that story, one that has stayed true in the subsequent stories that I have read by this team. With On the Edge, they have continued that excellence, providing me with a novel that is multi-faceted, genre-wise and story-wise.
Although I grew up in the Midwest, my roots are Southern, and I do appreciate books set in the South that show the real ways of Southerners. In this case, I saw something very real and almost familiar in Rose, her brothers, grandmother, and friends and neighbors. I smiled when Rose threw the boys in the car and took them to Walmart. Yeah, that's real. Real people do shop there. How many times do you read a book where the characters go to Walmart to buy not the designer shoes, but the ones that look close enough to pass muster? How about a heroine who buys ground beef and adds rice and bread crumbs to stretch it? Yup, that's real alright. How about those moments when you have to stretch your paycheck and hope you have enough money left over the week to buy gas so you can get to work? I've definitely been there. And the love and ties of family, having to work hard all day and get home, take care of your family, go to bed, and get up and do it again. I think a lot of readers can identify with that. So what if Rose is magical, along with everyone in her family? That's a little more on the fantasy part of the scale. But this combination is why urban fantasy is so irresistible to me. The real and the surreal nicely entwined.
The ideas in this story strike me as very unique and different. I liked it a lot, even if some elements was pretty odd, like a reanimated grandfather who likes to eat stray dogs' brains. Or the fact that a lot folks in the Edge community can curse people, or send flashes of powerful energy out of their bodies. And then there is the shapeshifting younger brother of Rose, Jack. The other young brother is a powerful necromancer (hence the zombie granddad). And things get even more interesting when Declan shows up. Rose's powerful flash abilities have made her an asset to Blueblood families who want to integrate her genes into their family lines, one way or the other. She has become wary of men for that reason, since most of her suitors didn't ask nicely. So when too good to be true Declan shows up to claim her and take her back to the Weird, the magical lands that are adjacent to the Edge, she definitely doesn't eagerly go off with him. She makes an oath with the handsome warrior that he can have her if he succeeds in her three challenges. However, they have big problems on their hands, as there are horrible, magical hounds that are devouring Edgers for their magic. And they really want to get their hands on Rose and her family.
I loved Rose. She was a heroine that you could hang with, and that you'd be slightly in awe of, because she knows how to take care of business. She's the type that you tell to do something, and she takes about five minutes or more, and she's back and ready to get the job done. Not the heroine who is infallible and annoyingly perfect. Nope, she's the heroine that you love because she tries so hard, and she has the determination to do what is necessary. I loved Rose's commitment to her brothers, how she raised them from a young age after her mother lost her mind and her father ran off treasure-hunting. Jack and Georgie (her brothers) are adorable and genuine little boys, despite their very unusual abilities. They were sweeties and reminded me of the poem about what boys are made of (you know, snails and puppy dog tails). You could see why Rose loves them, even though being a single mom to her brothers is far from easy.
Declan was a great match for Rose. He was just as determined and capable. He might be a rich princelike guy, but he was down to earth enough that this didn't bother me. And I do like tough, warrior heroes, I won't lie. He took to the kids very quickly, and he treated them like they were his own. He even makes pancakes for them. I liked how he was as much a thinker as a doer, a problem-solver not afraid to get his hands dirty. He was a guy who made a commitment and stood by his word, no matter what. Declan was definitely a knight in shining armor, and I could see why Rose fell in love with him.
William was also adorable. I felt for him, and I will probably end up reading Bayou Moon soon to get more of him. I liked his wildness but also his goodness and how sweet he was with the kids (I am a sucker for that).
On the Edge has its dark, gruesome elements, but I'm okay with that. I like some dark in my fantasy. I loved the juxtaposition of the everyday with the fantastic and surreal. The Andrews have a great way of writing descriptively and setting the scene without overdoing things and info-dumping. I like that the narrative is spare in some places, and the character sketches give you enough to get an idea of the folks in the story, but you can still learn more as you read. There are times you have to figure things out as you go, which is what I prefer, to be honest.
Although I am sure this book wouldn't work for everyone, I had a ball reading it. I liked everything about it. The romance was great, but the fantasy elements were equally important. I'd recommend this to a reader who likes fantasy but wants to try romance, and a reader on the other side of that equation.(less)
**spoiler alert** Review Update: 9/9/11 I am going to do something I don't do when it comes to reviewing/rating books. I have thought about this book a...more**spoiler alert** Review Update: 9/9/11 I am going to do something I don't do when it comes to reviewing/rating books. I have thought about this book a lot, and the fact that I really disagreed with the message about women, what empowers women, how they show that they are 'strong' and 'independent' women. I am going to downgrade my rating because I felt like the message in this book was too blatant and leading. It feels manipulative to me, and that's an issue I can't get past. Ultimately an author has a choice of what kind of story they choose to write. I don't have to agree with it. I would hope that they would just tell the story instead of preaching. In this case, there was a lot of not so subliminal preaching going on in this story, that on further analysis, I can't get past. Sadly, I liked the idea and some of the concepts. I liked that Katsa was imperfect. I really liked Po, but even he is a bit of a 'too good to be' true creation that makes the message come across better from the author. I mean, you need a good, kind, loving man who is very tolerant to allow himself to be treated the way Katsa does him.
Womanly strength is not 'one' thing. Like the rainbow, a spectrum of colors composite womanly strength. A housewife with children is just as strong as a woman who never marries, takes lovers, and goes around fighting battles. And there is a somewhere in-between, to be sure. To assume that there should be one extreme or the other, or that either choice is wrong for every women is a fallacy. I don't want to get preachy here, so I'll stop right here with that train of thought. I think that as far as other aspects, my review stands. But as far as the message in this book, it impels me to go back on my original review. I'm downgrading this to three stars.
I don't feel I should change the original review without rereading, so I add the update as a caveat. So, if you read my review, the math doesn't add up with the final rating. If I do reread this, I will alter the whole review.
Simply put, I found this to be a fantastic book. I loved the world that Ms. Cashore built. The concept of the Graced individuals was fascinating. I liked the way the Graced stood out with their eyes that are different colors from each other, and their phenomenal abilities that varied between each Graced person. And the characters that inhabit this story...well they weren't ones you could easily forget about or dismiss.
Let's start with Katsa. I felt for her. She was basically her uncle, King Randa's goon. He sent her to hurt people for his own selfish ends. Her Grace became something she hated about herself. It took Po's love and acceptance to get her to see that her Grace was a blessing, and to see it for what it was. Not the power to kill, but the power to make a difference. Katsa had some serious control issues. I totally empathized with her on that. Being under someone's thumb and control is an ugly, ugly thing. I could see why she wanted to be free to make her own decisions. So, that was something I respected about her, but it led to a big issue I had with this story, which I will go into shortly. That withstanding, even though I really disliked a decision she was set on, I loved her. I thought she was a great character. Her strength as a person was formidable. Her determination to protect others and to survive any obstacle humbled me. I admired her so much, it brought tears to my eyes.
Po was fantastic. Sometimes I am somewhat skeptical about these wonderful men that women authors write. Do they write men that they feel that women will instinctively love, or are there men out there as wonderful as Po is? I hope I meet one. Haven't just yet (no offense to the great guys I know). Po got my attention, and kept it, from the first meeting, in which he ends up encountering Katsa, and being one of the few who are somewhat of a challenge to her as a fighter. Po has a gypsy sort of vibe that reminded me of another favorite, Cam Rohan, from romance novels by Lisa Kleypas. He has an ease in his skin which makes him very attractive. He's gorgeous and sensual (not too sensual for a young adult book---but it's there alright). He's a great fighter. He's intelligent, resourceful, supportive, and insightful. He has a sense of adventure and an air of mystique. He was a really good guy. I couldn't love him more. Yet Po hides a secret that actually makes him a great counterpart to Katsa, although she has to take time to accept that he can see and perceive her in ways that no one else can. He has to come to terms with his own Grace, and that journey will not be without anguish to him. I overuse the term soulmates in my reviews, probably because I'm the sappy romantic who believes in this concept. But Po is without a doubt the one soulmate for Katsa. That made me more able to accept an issue I had from the romantic angle.
The secondary characters were very distinct and absorbing. Young Bitterblue is a character that really stood out. I loved her by the end of this book, and I look forward to reading her book when it comes out. The poor girl. What she suffered. It was completely harrowing! Then there's Prince Raffin. He was adorable. I hope we see him again and see him find his bride. Oh, the awful villain. I won't say who it is, but he was an abomination! He got exactly what he deserved! No question.
The world itself: Ms. Cashore stuck to simplicity and it paid off. She writes a world that looked a lot like our own, but the people in it gave this book the fantasy feel. If you like survival books and journey/quest books, you'll love this. It made me want to bone up on my non-existent survival skills. I couldn't do it justice the way Katsa and Po do. I liked the idea of the Seven Kingdoms, and how they related to each other. Far and above, Po's people stood out, with their penchant for jewelry, their dark hair and gray eyes--their culture was nicely distinctive. They had a Roma (gypsy) vibe that I liked.
The action and adventure were par excellence. I love both, and I heartily recommend this book, if you are of the same mind. If you love a heroine who can more than handle her own, and the combination of a tough heroine and hero fighting at each other's side, you will love this book. The fight scenes are thrilling and awesome. The violence is not so graphic that it's disturbing, but there is death and blood in this book. But, the value of life is very much made clear by the author. I think this book sends a good message to younger readers in how she handles some tough issues such as using power in a way that is helpful and not selfish and hurtful to others.
Okay, now I'll talk about the romance: It was scintillating, completely appealing. Katsa and Po had great chemistry. You knew they were for each other and no one else. You could see why they loved each other. This book does have some love scenes, but they aren't descriptive enough to be unsuitable for young adult books, but they had enough steam to make this book sizzle in a way that would appeal to a fan of adult romances, at least in my opinion. A good steam factor is about chemistry, and it was there in spades here. Also, there was that vibe of a love that was too strong to resist. Let me get into my one and only issue with this story. Katsa did not want to fall in love. She didn't want to give her heart away. She did not want to be owned, and not really to belong to anyone. She vowed not to marry or have children. One one level I could completely understand that, but it also frustrated me. I think Po more than showed he was the kind of man who would never try to own or control her. I think he gave her more than 100% of himself, but I felt she didn't give herself fully in return. I think agreeing to marry him would have showed her trust and love for him in return. I felt she did love him and show it, but I also felt she was holding a large part of her essential self back. And thus, the true romantic in me was unsettled and dissatisfied with the resolution of this book. I hope and pray that eventually Katsa will marry Po. I think he deserves that show of trust from her. I can't get away from my feelings about love. I think if you love someone enough, you want to marry them, and there is no substitute. That's my personal belief. And, it made the way this book ended a big issue for me. So, on the romantic front, this was not a 5 star book. It's more like a four. As a fantasy and a book overall, there is no question that this book is a five star book. But, if you are reading this as a romance, it doesn't quite reach perfection, at least if you are of a similar mind to me. You might not be. You might be fine with this great couple existing forever in a relationship that is uncommitted to the rest of the world, and between them in the sense that Katsa feels she will always have the freedom to walk away from Po. Ugh, it makes my heart ache to think about it.
So, this is the best review I can write. It's so hard to describe my feelings about this book, and I did the best I could. I don't think I can add much more to it. I highly recommend Graceling. It was a pleasure and a joy, and I want to read more by Ms. Cashore.(less)
Eclipse started out pretty good, and by the time I finished it, I was once again feeling the love glow that these books give me.
1.Bella....moreEclipse started out pretty good, and by the time I finished it, I was once again feeling the love glow that these books give me.
1.Bella. Bella was rather annoying in this book. I have decided that she must have the lowest self-esteem of any person alive. I just don't get why she doesn't like herself, doesn't think herself worthy of others' love. I think that everyone should love themselves, and with two parents that adore her, you think that would have instilled some degree of self esteem within her. But, no! Yes, we all see our flaws magnified, but still we should love ourselves as God made us. Unique creations, good part and areas in need of improvement, alike. And to make her more annoying, her self-esteem issues make others' lives more difficult. As much as I love Edward, Bella's attitude that he's so far above her, that he couldn't love her is frustrating. She doesn't think she should take anything from him more than his love. Like he shouldn't fight for her, or be willing to die for her. When she'd do it for him. That he can't give to her selflessly, when she gives all for him. In contrast, she seemed to take Jake's love for granted. The saving grace of Meyer's portrayal of Bella is that she's actually fairly self-aware. She can see her flaws clearly, her tendency to be selfish, despite her lack of self-love. She knows she's neurotic and grasping, and seems ungrateful at times. She wants to do better, and she tries. And in other ways, she's very giving, the way she cares for others. In the end, I still like her, but she's hard to swallow at times.
2. Bella and Jacob. I'm not sure how I feel about the way Bella and Jacob's relationship changes in this book. (view spoiler)[ Why does Bella have to be in love with Jacob too? A woman/man love? I am not saying that people can't feel more than one kind of love, but I just don't believe that you can love more than one person as your mate whole-hearted. In this story, it seems as though part of Bella loves Jacob as much as Edward, but she can't live without Edward, so that's why she chose him. That's a cop-out. It makes it seem like Edward is more of an addiction, and not the man she chooses to love. That she loves fiercely. I'm not discounting Bella's capacity to love Jacob. Jacob is a wonderful guy. He's very lovable and wonderful in a different way from Edward. I think that in another life Jacob was her true mate. I know that when Edward left, Jacob was there, and his love healed that wound that Edward's leaving caused Bella. He's always going to be a part of her, and even Edward knows that. I believe that he is her soulmate in that he is her best friend. But I don't think he's her other true love. So that drama of having her heart broken because she loved both guys seemed unnecessary to me. Far be it for me to tell a writer how to write her story. If that's how Ms. Meyer wanted to write it, then so be it. I just wasn't too fond of it, though. (hide spoiler)] I do like the sweetness and the snarkiness and the enrichment that Jacob and Bella's friendship brings them both.
3. Jacob. I started caring deeply for Jacob in New Moon. Even when he is annoying, he's so vibrant, and it's hard to dislike him. I can see why Bella felt like he was so necessary to her life. He has that way of bringing life and love to the lives of those around him. I see him maturing into quite a man. I think some of what he does to Bella and Edward was kind of low-down, but he playing to win Bella from Edward and a future as a vampire. He thought he was doing the right thing, and I could see that, even though I can see why Bella and Edward wanted to hit him. I appreciated the perspective I gained of Jacob by learning more about his tribe, their pasts, and the awful things the Cold Ones had done to them. I can totally see why Jacob feels such hatred for the Cullens. I can see why he seemed so mercurial and he shows some emotional cruelty in moments. He has a whole lot on his plate. Not only does he have his unrequited love for Bella to deal with, he has a several tons' weight of all his pack and tribal family's issues to carry around. That's a lot, even for a six-feet, seven, enormous guy like Jake. At the end of the day, flaws and all, I want to hug him. Even if I don't think he should be with Bella in the long run. He needs a more balanced, more emotionally healthy person than Bella to be his true soulmate. (view spoiler)[ One thing I don't get is why he hangs onto Bella so hard, when he knows he's not imprinted on her. Is he trying to rebel against his destiny in this way? Shape at least one thing for himself? He sees that Bella can be the one thing he can claim selfishly, that doesn't have to be about his heritage as a Quilete tribesperson? I think yes. (hide spoiler)]
4. Edward. I still love him as much as I did in the first two books. Yes, he's kind of bossy sometimes, but Bella does what Bella thinks is right, and he's pretty easy for her to manipulate. He's wrapped around her finger. I love that Edward's love for Bella isn't a selfish one. He really does want what's best for her, and much of what he does comes out of that. That doesn't mean he's perfect. There are times when he does want to be selfish, or when he tries to be controlling in her best interests, but he realizes that he's wrong and he makes up for it. And I can't stay mad at him. Really, I love this character. Everything about him. He's very courtly and decent. He's also tough and protective. His beauty isn't just skin deep. It goes to the heart and that shines out, and becomes part of his appeal for this reader. I like his interactions with Jacob, how they both do the territorial guy thing, and you see some of his more primal aspects in those moments. But at the end of the day, Edward is always going to be that decent, kind man who will do the right thing even if he doesn't like it. I hurt for Edward that he could see the draw between Bella and Jacob, and how he was hurt by some of the interactions between Bella and Jacob. Almost as though Bella's love for him was so sacred, he couldn't have the normal moments with her that she shared with Jacob. I think he shows his love for Bella that he tries very hard to allow her to have that, and not to mess that up for her. I can totally see why Bella loves him, although I don't think she should put him on a pedestal. Even Edward doesn't want that.
5. Edward and Jacob talking things out. As with the movie, which I saw first, this was one of my favorite moments in this book. I felt that it shows a lot about the two characters, and they come to realize that they aren't the enemies that they believe themselves to be. They are part of a triangle that has complemented their lives even as it's complicated them, but also one that has enriched each person. I think this is when they make peace on a deep level (even though things are a bit rough after this point). Jacob comes to see how Bella can love this 'cold one', and that Edward would never be selfish when it comes to Bella. He would give her up out of love, if he thought that was what Bella wanted and needed. And Edward comes to realize how important Jacob is to Bella, and how he can give her things that Edward can't. It's a painful thing for both to accept--the importance that the other guy has in Bella's life. This part was very well done, in my opinion.
6. The Cullens' stories. I loved reading about Rosalie and Jasper's stories. Rosalie in the movies annoys me. I like her more in the books, because you can see that her enmity with Bella isn't so much against Bella, but the desire for Bella to have the life that she couldn't, and for Bella to appreciate those choices better. What happened to Rosalie was shockingly dark. It's hard to believe that people can be so wretched to do something like that. But that's real. I can't say I regret that Rosalie was 'theatrical' in exacting her revenge. Jasper's story was one of my favorite parts of the book. I have to say that other than Edward and Jacob, Jasper is up there for me as a guy in this book. I like him almost as much as Jake. I liked seeing more of him, and how Meyer takes him from being the 'strange' brother to having a rich back story and a crucial role in the story in this book. As Rosalie's story is dark, Jasper's is equally so. Even though people hate how Meyer portrays vampires, thinking is all sparkling and light, that's clearly not the case. I like the constrast that Meyer draws between the luminous beauty of the vampires, to their dark, ravenous, grasping, cruel, destructive natures. I think in some ways, these vampires scare me more than the traditional lore, and that's coming from a girl who's read vampire stories for many years. Her vampires are formidable in a more scary way than some of the traditional vampires I've read about The typical nature of the Cold Ones strikes a sharp contrast to the decent, loving, humane natures of the Cullens. I don't want to be a vampire at all, but being a Cullen....I think I'd like that very much.
7.Victoria. I can't stand her! She's so selfish and cruel. I think she got just what she deserved.
8.The Volturi. I can see a major standoff between them and the Cullens looming on the horizon. They will realize that it's folly to take the Cullens for granted. I especially despise Jane!
Overall Verdict: After the emotional rollercoaster of New Moon, it took me a while to find my feet in this installment. However, Meyer worked her spell on me once again. There are some moments of pure brilliance in this novel. I think that she has a way with words, with painting powerful imagery in my head. I loved the line in which Jacob says he is Bella's sun, but he can't fight the eclipse (which is Edward). That one line pretty much conveys the essence of this series. I love this series because it strikes me at the heart. The idea of a love that great, something beyond understanding. When you love someone, you can't always dissect out the whys, and you can't change it. You can move on, sometimes. Live your life, but part of you is always going to be with that person, and you don't ever get it back. That's what I see with Edward and Bella, and with Bella and Jake. Although not on the same scope, as an inveterate booklover, when I finish these books, I feel like part of me stays with them after I read the last page. It echoes that powerful feeling of love in a small way in my life. And I like that!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I finished this book on Friday, and I took all weekend to decide what I wanted to say in my review. Let me start by saying that Poison Study is writte...moreI finished this book on Friday, and I took all weekend to decide what I wanted to say in my review. Let me start by saying that Poison Study is written in a very elemental fashion. If you are a reader who likes flowery, descriptive writing, this might throw you for a loop initially. The story is told inelaborately, and there is no hesitation in describing the ugliness of Yelena's situation. When I met Yelena, she was taken out of her prison cell, where she had languished for the better part of a year, and was prepared to meet the executioner. I can't say I've read too many books that started this way. I was hooked right then and there. Instead of seeing Yelena get executed, she is taken to the office of the man who will cause a profound change in her life, Valek. Yelena was offered the opportunity to escape a quick execution. She could undertake the training as a food taster, which was not without risk, and if she survived, she would spend her life risking death on a regular basis. Typically the life of a food taster is very short. But, it's a lot longer than instant death. Yelena thought things through and decided she'd rather take her chances as a food taster.
From the beginning, I was interested in Yelena's story. She was a young woman who had ended up in a very dire situation (not all of her making), but was willing to own up to the life she'd taken. She never made excuses for her actions, although the reasons were valid. With the murder she committed, she felt as though her soul had been lost. And yet, some part of her refused to give up.
This book brings to mind the aphorism that "Justice is Blind." More and more I wonder if justice really should be blind. Those who enforce the law make their verdicts on cases based on the evidence presented. Yet, they don't always consider the underlying reasons why a person commits a crime. In the eyes of an omniscient diety, this makes perfect sense, because that Supreme Being sees all things. But, humans don't have that all-seeing perception. Is it fair for a woman to be sentenced to death for trying to protect herself and her loved ones, for killing a man who brutally tortured and raped her? According to the strict laws of Ixia, murder outside of war is considered a capital offense. From the moment that Yelena took the life of the son of General Brazell, her life was forfeit.
I believe in second chances. I just do. I know that we all fall and fail, and while I think some crimes are extremely heinous, I cannot let go of my belief that everyone deserves the right to make amends. I was happy that Valek gave Yelena the opportunity to live. Yet, Yelena will face more trials with her second chance. And she is put in a position to save the Commander who she serves as food-taster, and to prevent Ixia from falling prey to a conspiracy that involves key members of the government.
Poison Study was a very readable, fascinating, enjoyable adventure. I loved seeing Yelena come into her own. It was clear that she'd always been a strong person, and her strength of character and will is what allowed herself to emerge from the fires that had potential to destroy her. Instead, she was honed by those fires and made stronger.
I'm not very good at political stuff. I have my own way of looking at things, and it makes my interpretation of political stances, parties, affiliations, and governmental structures very against type. I think it was interesting to see the inner workings of the system that the Commander had set up through Yelena's eyes. In many ways, going from a monarchy to what appeared to be a dictatorship was an improvement. However, there were many restrictions imposed on the people as a result of that same government. Opportunities were open that weren't before. The government was set up to encourage fairness and to discourage waste. The downside was, anytime you have people in a system, it's going to be flawed, because people are flawed. So this system was not perfect. Through Yelena's eyes, I was able to see this all playing out.
I started this review by saying that this book was written with a simple use of language. I found that this narrative style was a bit deceptive. You might think this story is basic on first glance, but that's far from the truth. There is a lot going on here. I liked that Ms. Snyder left it up to the reader to interpret the events through her own eyes. I like how she slowly reveals aspects of the characters until the fullest picture comes to mind. That was the best way to write about a character like Valek. When he comes on the scene, he doesn't seem that grand. He seems like a puppet in the political structure of Ixia. But, if I had continued to see him that way, I would have been missing out on a lot. You see, Valek is not the puppet. He's the puppetmaster. He is an extremely intelligent and cunning spymaster, a swordsman without equal, and a deadly assassin. He's so matter-of-fact and without flare, so you don't see him truly unless you look deeper. He holds his allegiance to Commander Ambrose very sacredly, but that doesn't mean he doesn't always agree with the rules that the Commander has instituted. That he cannot see justice done in his own way. Through Yelena's eyes, we see how the perception of Valek expands to show who and what he really is. I fell in love with him as Yelena did.
I'm a romantic at heart, and I will always be. I loved the burgeoning relationship between Yelena and Valek. How they slowly worked their way into each others' hearts, through proximity and the fact that they saw something in each other that resulted in an irresistible draw to each other. It's clear from the beginning, through the eyes of others around Yelena and Valek, and through Valek's actions, that he cherishes Yelena. It's a subtle but at the same time, pretty obvious thing. In my opinion, it took a lot of writing skill to convey this to the reader, and Ms. Snyder did an excellent job.
Poison Study was a grand adventure in the style of the classic adventure novels. The fight scenes are well-written, and the danger elements are exciting and involving. Being Yelena is a dangerous proposition, because Brazell is determined to see her dead for killing his son, and continually uses underhanded methods to do it. Also because she lives in dangerous times, and in an environment fraught with intrigue. I liked that Valek saved Yelena several times, because it showed the intensity of his regard for her, but I also liked that many other times, Yelena was able to save herself through her intelligence, quick-thinking, and through her developing skills at self-defense. Yelena views herself as a small person in the scheme of things, but she had an important role in preventing a very ugly conspiracy from coming to fruition. She effects change by doing what she feels is right, and because of that, she gains the respect of those who had previously viewed her as a cold-blooded murderess. Her actions don't occur in a vacuum, and they often result in helping/protecting others in various ways.
The fantastic elements are subtle but integral. I liked how Yelena's magic was instrinsic to her, a part of her that was dormant, emerging when she needs it. I loved seeing her become a capable and deadly fighter. She hates the idea of killing, but killing is necessary in the dangerous world she lives in. She had to come to realize this, or she couldn't love Valek, a man who kills for a living, and must do it without letting remorse weigh him down.
Poison Study was a book that I thoroughly enjoyed. Like many unexpected favorites, it snuck in there on me. But when I finished this book, I had a big smile on my face.(less)
As I had hoped, I liked this one even more than Penelope and Prince Charming. It was hot without having the over eroticism that I found uncomfortable...moreAs I had hoped, I liked this one even more than Penelope and Prince Charming. It was hot without having the over eroticism that I found uncomfortable in the first book. It definitely helped that I became drawn to Grand Duke Alexander in Penelope and Prince Charming. He is a very good villain turned hero, utterly compelling, with a charisma that grabs and doesn't let go. I understood his motivations even then, and I gained a deeper understanding of him in this book. Megan is the perfect heroine for him. She is sweet and innocent, but no pushover. Her love is steadfast, and even though she doesn't always understand everything about Alex, her love for him and the desire to be fully joined with her husband in marriage, is the guiding force that pushes her to break through those quite formidable and rather intimidating barriers between her and her husband. I rooted for their happy ending, because they are one of those couples you really want to see have their happy ever after.
I love the magical aspects of this series, and the fantastic culture of the Nvengarians. They are so dramatic and fascinating. I loved the humorous aspects of their Nvengarians' intensity, how they are loud, proud, emotional people, and very endearing in their over-the-top ways. I think Ms. Ashley crafted these people in a way that feels very authentic, and she gained a fond admirer of these people in me. They stand out in many ways, both in their consistently blue eyes and black hair, and their ethos and their personality traits. It's interesting seeing Megan, who is very English, adapt to a life surrounded by these folk who are so very different. She will have quite a life as the Grand Duchess of Nvengaria.
This is one of those books that you read very quickly because the story draws you in and keeps you hooked. Not just for the romance, but for the whole story, including the cultural aspects and the light fantasy/magical elements. With two leads that are both lovable and compelling, sexy, intense romance, and great humor moments, there is much to recommend this book to readers of historical romance who like their stories nicely steamy, with some well-integrated paranormal elements. Another winner for Jennifer Ashley, who definitely has a master touch with historical romance. This is one of her earlier books, but it's worth looking up if you haven't read it.(less)