Wow. *Sigh.* This novella is just...oh, God. Talk about one comfortable read! Overall, I'm not a big-honkin' fan of the short story, predominately bec...more
Wow. *Sigh.* This novella is just...oh, God. Talk about one comfortable read! Overall, I'm not a big-honkin' fan of the short story, predominately because I'm frequently of the mindset that they suck. More often than not, a writer bombs shorts because it's hardcore hard to cram a compelling, interesting story within the span of one hundred pages, or less. But, oy, Milan rocked this one out of the stadium. A Kiss For Midwinter is one snuggable and fun read that just works.
(Yes, the above one-word scream is vital.) Do not, at all, under any circumstances read this novella without having first read The Duchess War. I mean it, dude; don't. With absolute certainty, your face will explode if you don't follow my instructions. Well, okay, granted, there exist no continuity confusion-issues without first reading Book One, and a reader won't be all what-the-hell with the plot, this is all true. However, the story will not be nearly as appreciated without first having met the characters of Lydia and Jonas, who are background-fun in The Duchess War.
So! A story that focuses entirely on two characters both of which must arrive on-scene emotionally prepared to drive a story entirely on their own merit? A story that does not utilize any external conflict whatsoever to move the plot along? A story that goes to some pretty intense and emotionally dark places? A story that utilizes the "Christmas time trope" without ever once tutoring the reader? A story that makes you care about two people immediately upon the start of the novella, with vastly limited exposition time? It's almost like Mrs. Milan looked at her publisher, and went balls-to-the-wall...
The story has excellent pacing, which is damned necessary when it comes to writing truncated stories. The characters are likable, dynamic, and engagingly believable. But, there does exist one teensy-weensy problem; the hero. Oh, don't get your knickers in a wad, you Beta-male HR haters, it's not what you think. Jonas is absolutely adorable as a male lead. I like him, I love him, I want more of him; but! There's one thing I didn't like, and that's the fact that Milan basically wrote the Perfect Hero, and had him go nowhere.
The entirety of the plot, indeed, the sole basis of the story is Jonas traipsing after Lydia in trying to make her "see" him; and hey, considering the background these two characters have, I'm okay with that aspect. Rather, a perfect story has lots of Must Meet This Criteria To Be Awesomesauce, and one of those is growing your characters. Lydia morphs from a seed to a rose, which makes sense and fits when considering the emotional baggage of her back-story. In order for her and Jonas to wrap up their HEA, she's got to get from Point A "I-Gots-Shiznit-I-Need-To-Deal-With" to Point B "Hey!-Hey!-I'm-Okay!" This cool-beans transitional growth, though, never happens for Jonas, 'cause he basically arrives on scene with a lot of possible issues for internal conflict that go nowhere faster than Mother Teresa in a whore house.
THIS. IS. WHY. I. HATE. SHORT. STORIES! (Also, yay John Green GIF!) ... A Kiss For Midwinter had a lot of happy-places where I felt wonderful, and I did enjoy the story, so much. I love what it made me feel, I love the characters and the writing, but even as excellently structured as the story was, I felt that had it instead been a full-length novel, both characters could have had evolved equally as well during the span of the story, not just Lydia.
Any story that can go from here...
"Also, he had decided it would be best not to mention his main reason for wanting to marry - that he thought it expedient to procure a regular source of sexual intercourse without risking syphilis." ...
"'I only said I would stop talking to you,' he'd written. 'I never promised to stop loving you.'"
Courtney Milan has written the very definition of the perfect-effing-novel. Seriously. When it comes to romance, and God kn...more
Yeah. It's just like that.
Courtney Milan has written the very definition of the perfect-effing-novel. Seriously. When it comes to romance, and God knows I've read enough, there are so many authors who know how to suck-it so bad. Cliches become transparent, characters are a joke, and the plot is a dead squirrel hidden in the anus of Hitler. So not so for The Duchess War! As is, I'm currently holy-effing-wow-amazingly-awesome-I-CAN'T-BELIEVE-HOW-MUCH-THIS-BOOK-ROCKS! (And, yes, the exclamation marks were needed.)
First and foremost, this book is just geniusly well constructed. Most novels' writing, romance or otherwise, come off as being a men-in-tights scenario; you think it's okay initially, but after a while, you kind of want to just barf. Milan knows her business. Her structure of sentences, her pacing, her detail and description, it's all perfectly perfect perfection! Additionally, her historical writing is phenomenal, with believable detail that's just perpetual enough to allow for total immersion in setting, but not so much that I want to off-myself with the nearest Soup Spoon. The Duchess War is not a book, it's a time-travel machine; I visited Victorian Leicester England.
Speaking of Leicester England...I want to bang a Beta, right now. Okay, okay, so those two thoughts weren't exactly cohesive, but holy-crap-on-crap, Milan has entirely redefined the definition of "Romance Hero." Robert (think Downton Abbey's Lord Crawley, but even hotter, if that's physically possible) is absolutely the most respectable, most considerate, most thoughtful fictional dude I've ever read. (By the by, Robert's a virgin, and lemme just say this virgin made some HOT-HOT-HOT monkey-lovin' scenes!) And, yes, he's tortured. Hey, you Alpha-A-Holes, think you've got a monopoly on tortured? Pfft. Incidentally, Mr. Alpha-Ass...
...Think again, because Ms. Milan proved conclusively that a character can be created who's not Mr. Rapey-Rape Man, who struggles with the idea of love, and who doesn't turn into a walking douche box. I'm angry at you, Alpha-A-Hole, because you dominate a market on romance novels and you shouldn't, because Robert pwns you, almost in the same way Minnie pwns romance heroines. Incidentally you romance heroines, I'm tired of you being all "I've got problems," when in actuality you just come off as being redonkerous. I don't believe you. I do, however, believe Minnie. Oh, sure, she does some things I don't like, but I BELIEVE her crappy acts. I buy her as a person, fleshed out and whole. Minnie is absolutely someone I can see talking to IRL, someone to take out for a drink just for the hell of it.
You know that moment when your Kindle reaches out and grabs your face, yanking it through the screen like your gravity's bitch? Well, the plot's kind of just like that, except even more so. Throughout the entire reading of The Duchess War, I was so drawn in by the story that I forgot I was, in fact, reading a frakkin' story. On the one hand, it's an external conflict narrative, and on the other, it's internally driven. I don't even recall the diminutive details because hot-diggity, reality ditched my consciousness, entirely.
The Duchess War also deals with a some pretty heavy non-love-story elements, as well. Social class, working conditions for the poor, the role of government in the lives of its citizens; who said romance novels weren't "smart reading?!" This novel goes to some pretty dark places, both within the elements of the book, as well as the lead characters. There are moments when I just want to reach out and bear-hug both Robert, and Minnie. Each character has some pretty hardcore excrement from their pasts to deal with, and both do so with such believable emotion that the reader can't help but get entrenched in their emotional state. The plot aids this along at times, as well as the character's internal dialogues. Put simply, there are times I want to repeatedly slam my head in the refrigerator door because EMOTION! I do NOT cry, dammit, okay? I don't effing cry! (<--Lies.)
Wait, wait, wait, WAIT?! Are you telling me that I just read a hella grand novel, and the author actually THANKS HER READERS (capitalization necessary, yes) in the Acknowledgments? And, she also takes time to go into some of the historical points she addresses within the context of her book?
Yeaaah. My heart totally had a happy as a result of the above. So, in summary? This novel totally made me have Good Book Noise, and it's gonna be stuck in my brain's Fiction Reply data bank for quite some time. Dammit, I need more Courtney Milan, otherwise I'm going to asphyxiate for no logical reason!
Oh, don't mind me. Just, you know, sitting here, basking in the brilliance of one of the most exciting roller coasters of fiction I have ever read. Ev...more
Oh, don't mind me. Just, you know, sitting here, basking in the brilliance of one of the most exciting roller coasters of fiction I have ever read. Ever. Hyperbole might admittedly be my thing, but let's lock that bitch right up and never refer to it as anything but copious truth. The facts are these:
1. Kristen Callihan will one day be a national treasure. 2. Moonglow is one of the most adventurously entertaining stories you will ever read. 3. You will feel All Of The Feels throughout the course of this novel. 4. Orginality is NOT dead; it's name is Moonglow.
Dear wondrous bacon, where does one even begin?! I mean, logically it's first with the characters, who deserve a damned review all on their own reality of "These People That Aren't People Be Kick Ass." Aside form all the necessary adjectives (likable, believable, interesting, etc.), Daisy and Ian are so much more than simple description. If Einstein, Kant, Kipling, and Sherlock Holmes were given a decade and an endless supply of cocaine, even they couldn't convey to you the earth-shattering, level-this-sucker-to-the-ground depth and complexity embodied by our two leads. Their evolution as whole-bodied characters reveals itself layer by layer, each chapter in the book pealing back more interest and emotional agency to their existence as people. Am I in love with Daisy and Ian? Well.
Truly it's not my fault, for obviously there's a national conspiracy at hand that has genetically engineered the perfect construction of plot with excellent writing quality. Callihan delves into a paranormal world that feels such a part of the fabric of reality within its fictional setting. The historical elements mesh perfectly with the other worldly-ones, which are fundamentally unique in their own right. Yes, we've read about werewolves, but not these lycans. Yes, we've seen be-gifted heroines with powers over the elements, but not with this backstory. Yes we've seen the animated dead, but not with that steampunk Grim Reaper twist.
You really don't; not til you read the book. (Seriously, hon; read this thing.) I mean, in this single novel we've got smokin' hot romance that is emotionally fueled by the most heartbreaking needs-some-lovin' hero and heroine, a Who Done It mystery, a monster on the loose, one hella screwy love triangle that is an acid trip into Feelville, a bloody half-century family feud even Dr. Phil wouldn't touch, all topped off with some of the most NO-WAY plot twists that would leave Steven King salivating. And, if all that wasn't enough to make you want to devour this book NOW, DAMMIT, then at the very least ignore that huge run-on sentence, for my sake. Additionally, know that you're crazy.
*Dodges the hate.* Okay, so aside from my being a douche-nozzle, I will admit that if the book contained a single flaw, it would have to be that a LOT is going on in this story. Such is a good thing, in that it makes for some hella-damn interesting story telling...but not such a good thing for crowding out room for more emotion-building between Daisy and Ian. While it would have been nice to see just an itsy-bitsy bit more of these two constructing their emotional connection, the specific plot points that occur do believably allow Daisy and Ian to short-hand their way to the lovey-dovey sentiments. Confused?
(view spoiler)[Basically Ian gets his flesh literally eviscerated (facial muscles mutilated, bloody chunky inside bits falling out...yeah) all to ensure Daisy's well being. Daisy's trust in Ian's humanity sparks a bond that supersedes the need for copious love-growing exposition. So, yeah. If that's not enough to excuse the lack of an extra heaping spoonful of emotion-cresting-telling, then may Alan Rickman help you. (hide spoiler)]
The non-spoilery answer is that Kristen Callihan is a goddess, and you should worship on her alter of awesome writing skills, dammit! She creates spectacular spectacularness and you effing -NEED- this in your life for your own well being! Moonglow's entire cast of characters are all equally well written and they're just waiting to be your friend, and you want to know the future of your friends don't you? DON'T YOU?!
Read this book. Now.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
So this book kicked hella amounts of ass. We've got Steampunk, Paranormal, Alternative History, Science Fiction, and Mystery all crammed together into...moreSo this book kicked hella amounts of ass. We've got Steampunk, Paranormal, Alternative History, Science Fiction, and Mystery all crammed together into one big smacking pule of awesomeness.
Seriously, people. Very rarely do non-standard adventure romances pull me into a story, because mostly, and sadly, they bore me. Often I'll get very bored, very quickly, with romance-ish books; either make it a romance, or make it something else is my mentality. However, I gotta say, Gail Carriager is just a phenomenally damn good writer.
The characters were, in a word, sublime. Outside of just a likable, realistically relatable leading woman, Alexia, we have an interesting hero, Lord Maccon, who functions, initially, more as a secondary protagonist. Added to that is the rather fascinating Lord Lycon, the irrestiably compelling Lord Akeldama, and the craptastic mother and half-sisters to Alexia. Every character that arrived on-page, from the predominate individuals of the story, to the supposedly disposable antagonists and background characters had presence in this book. Every single one of them felt believable, realistic, and lifelike. Holy crap on a cracker, did they ever!
The plotting of this book took a little while to attain momentum, but I'm more of the mindset this slow build was done with intent, better to acquaint the readers with the cast, and Alexia, specifically. Despite that, once the ball got rolling, I was hooked. Even though the reading time for this novel was a bit longer than my standard, I was still amazingly engaged with the plot. I find it interesting how the actual events of the story line are paced within the context of the book. Some might say "rushed," and while I can see that argument, I think it felt more realistic as a result.
While it may seem redundant, I have to admit I was astonishingly impressed with the quality of writing this book contained within. Gail Carriger mastered the art of picturesque detail, when appropriate. The scenes were painted in fine consideration, when necessary, and left to the readers imagination when not. The dialogue, likewise, was snappy when appropriate, informative when needed, and always fluid and relevant. The pacing of the book, as a whole, was almost geniusly constructed, so much so that I doubt there is one single purposeless scene in the book.
Very rarely do I proclaim that a book can have everything a reader could ever want within, but Soulless unquestionably proved me wrong. This book could entertain just about any literate person on the planet, I believe. I am absolutely going to be seeing to the rest of the series, and I only pray the subsequent books carry the same amount of entertainment quality as Soulless.(less)
Sometimes they're epic, sometimes they're shittastic, and other times they fly around like a YoYo in a Bounce House. In the case of Mi...more
Books are weird.
Sometimes they're epic, sometimes they're shittastic, and other times they fly around like a YoYo in a Bounce House. In the case of Milan's book, Unveiled, said novel falls way-the-hell into the latter category. Before I dive into my I'm-Gonna-Rant-And-Then-Shut-Up review, know with absolute certainty that this book kicked SO much ass! Yep, I liked it, I loved it, and I spazzed in wanting so much more of it, truly. But! Upon the start of the book, and definitely within the first one hundred pages I was all...well...
...Yeah. Kind of like that, except more, "I don't know where the hell this book is going!" as apposed to the general, "Dude, what the serious seriousness?!" Any book can struggle at the onset, but Milan's novel, for some inexplicable reason, came off like a drunk hobo making the switch from boxed wine to Vodka; a good plan, but not without some stumbles and issues. Ironically, my yes-but-no interest in the first half of the novel didn't stem from the lack of interestingly dynamic characters; me LOVE some of them characters! Rather, the story just jump-starts with a BANG into the meat of the book without any real buildup. Throughout the first few pages, I was just searching for a foothold or some story line clarity, like bad.
Unveiled didn't seem to be a Happy-Happy-Star-Ranking kind of deal, at first, since the heroine and I...well, we didn't get along too well in the beginning. She jumped from page one seeming like the Eternal Ass-Snob, and while I know it's illogical to say one can't enjoy a story if the lead characters aren't likable (I KNOW, okay?!), I still maintain that it's a prerequisite for my judgmental ass. Margaret felt like Queen Bitch for no other reason than the fact that the reader is denied personal time with her before the book leaps off, so here I was thinking, "Yep! I'm gonna hate her!"
Yep! I sucked on that assumption! One of the most damn-woman-you're-good! aspects of Courtney Milan is that she pwns the ability to create fascinatingly dimensional characters that are layered in complexity. This is obviously true for Margaret, who was a unique mix of strength and weakness, confidence and self-consciousness, and pretty much every other polarizing identifier. Likewise, such is, can, and should be said for Ash, the hero who embodied probably one of the most interesting male roles I've ever read in quite a while. His weaknesses gave him a strength that made him simultaneously multifaceted, and fun to read.
Interestingly enough, while the above is true for the two leads of the book, the entire cast of characters contained a lot of the cool conflicting character traits, too. The brothers, each set belonging to both the hero and heroine, were the antithesis to "set pieces," were damned-yes vital to the plot, and granted so much more to the reading of this story than I can possibly articulate. The fact that the entire novel felt realistic in its character creations, even down to the inconsequential secondary and tertiary cast, shows Milan's got some mad writing skills to her credit.
(Not to Milan, apparently!)
Lastly, the final thing that just blows me out of the water is Courtney's ability to create an exceptionally complex plot that is entirely, completely, OH MY GOD ALL THE WAY dependent on emotionally driven conflict. And, yes, she even manages to do so without once making the novel come off too weak, as though there was no plot in existence whatsoever, or without bogging the whole ship down with Angsty Drama Bullshit. When considering how well the story sails along, all the while making me FEEL for Margaret's loyalty struggle, making me FEEL for Ash's feelings of inadequacy, hell, making me FEEL for their emotional story as a whole...I just...I can't even!
Incidentally, if you're an author who can write THIS for your lead character, how the hell is it possible to not just fan-girl over the book, like lots?!
"Because if you were suggesting that you would sacrifice your sister's reputation to serve your own purposes, think again. If you do, I won't just steal your title and your lands. I will run any bank that holds your funds into the ground. I will bribe your servants to slip nettles into your bed. I will hire trumpets to stand outside your home every evening, where they will sound notes at irregular intervals. You will never have a solid night's sleep again."