It can be awkward, being a modern day Heathen reading someone else's ideas of your Gods. Most of the time the interpretations of my Goddess, Sigyn, arIt can be awkward, being a modern day Heathen reading someone else's ideas of your Gods. Most of the time the interpretations of my Goddess, Sigyn, are so offensive that I drop the book in a rage and never touch it again. (Touch of Frost, anyone?)
Initially I overlooked Liesmith because I didn't want to read yet another novel where Loki has a mortal lover and the book completely ignores his actual wife. However, I stumbled across an interview the author did that talked specifically of Sigyn, and how she thought there was more to Sigyn's story than what we have.
So, I gave it a shot. And I'm not sorry I did, but... man, it was odd sitting there reading a book that tries its best by your Goddess, but She's going, "No, I wouldn't do that."
I'll just get this out of the way first: While I do applaud that Sigyn is respected and a main driving force of this novel, at times she came across more as Freyja than she did the Goddess I know. Liesmith's Sigyn was much colder, harsher and sharper than Sigyn would ever be. The main point of Sigyn, Goddess of Constancy, is that She's constant; even in Her grief over Her sons, She doesn't allow Odin to change who She is. She's still compassionate, loyal, and gentle. She's as strong as a mountain. She looks Odin in His eye and defies Him in order to stay by Loki's side. Her strength isn't in your face -- it's subtle and easily overlooked.
Hence the other slight issue I had: Sigyn wouldn't ever go to war or wield a sword. Sorry. There's a reason She chose a bowl to protect Loki with instead of a weapon. While this makes sense in the context of the story, it still rankled me a lot, because there's an irritating habit people have of thinking Sigyn can't be awesome in Her own way. They have to give Her a sword and have Her murder people in order to be badass.
There are other discrepancies in my own personal beliefs compared to the story Liesmith presents us, but honestly, they're not important. While Sigyn is most certainly not a mortal that was turned into a goddess by Loki, I appreciate how narratively, that particular storyline came together in conclusion with Sigmund and Lain's.
And really, it was wonderful to read a story that focuses on two un-stereotyped gay men who fall in love with each other and then have to deal with the world possibly ending. Added to that is the fact that Sigmund is black, overweight, and a huge nerd -- in other words a real human -- and it gets even better.
Though I will say that I expected more of an emotional introspection on his part when the big reveals happen. It feels like he kind of skims the surface of what it means, but the big questions aren't asked and he doesn't have any kind of worry over it, save for a brief moment. Still, I really enjoyed Sigmund as a character, even if it feels at times that he doesn't really grow past who he was in the beginning.
His relationship with Lain was cute too, enough that I could ignore my own personal issues with Loki being in a relationship with someone other than Sigyn.
But I found the ending rather confusing, even though I understand more or less what happened. It was a mad rush of action and there wasn't a following moment where things quieted down and the reader could make sense of what happened. I'm still not entirely sure about who or what Lain is, when I think I should.
Still, I enjoyed Liesmith, enough to possibly look into the next book. It gave enough respect to Sigyn that I can forgive Franklin's differing portrayal of Her. It really means so much to me that an author finally gave this to me.
(A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley for a review.)...more
I'm very picky when it comes to romance. The very basic requirement of any romance book is that you have to convince your reader that these two peopleI'm very picky when it comes to romance. The very basic requirement of any romance book is that you have to convince your reader that these two people are not only into each other, but good together. Unteachable fails in that.
Maise's strength as a character and narrator was really the only good point in this novel for me, and the reason I gave it an extra star. Her narration can be melodramatic a lot of the time, but show me an eighteen year old who isn't melodramatic. She's snarky, messed up, and uses men without guilt. Sometimes she was hard to like, and that's great -- I love complicated female leads.
The other characters? Not nearly as strong. Not even Evan, who should be as memorable as Maise. The only reason I remember him is with disgust, frankly, because this is not the first time he's dated a high school girl. If I were Maise, that would have been the moment I went nope and ran the other direction.
Everything else in the novel fell flat for me. The novel tries very hard to convince me of the all consuming love between Maise and Evan. There's a lot of talk about how different they feel with each other, how they find all this worth in the other, but that's all it is: talk.
I can't think of a single interaction between them that really showed me that they were good with each other. Literally all of their interactions ended up in them having sex, and anything that might have advanced the character or relationship development between them was quickly put aside for more sex.
I'm not a prude, but I appreciate some development of a relationship to go along with my endless sex.
At the end of the novel, I was actually hoping that they wouldn't stay together. Kind of defeats the purpose. As for the whole teacher/student thing, I don't know that it honestly should have been a part of the novel. The characters didn't treat it with the severity it deserved, until other people started finding out and blackmailing them with it.
Other highlights include Maise's mother being a drunk, drugged out hooker who let a man touch Maise when she was twelve, and generally isn't there for Maise at all. Because of course, all sluts are bad mothers, didn't you know?
Will I look into Raeder's next book? Maybe. The strength of Maise as a character does tell me she has a lot of talent as a writer. But as someone who loves a good "two broken monsters find each other and love each other" story, this one fell flat.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley for review. See more reviews, plus bookish news and articles, at Bibliodaze!...more
Is Virgin something of a stereotypical novel? Sure. Did I enjoy the hell out of it anyway? YEP.
Full disclosure, I've never read Bridget Jones's DiaryIs Virgin something of a stereotypical novel? Sure. Did I enjoy the hell out of it anyway? YEP.
Full disclosure, I've never read Bridget Jones's Diary or anything that came after. I enjoy the occasional chick-lit novel, but they're not part of my overall bookish diet. Still, when I was automatically approved for Virgin, I wanted to read it. Mostly because I can relate a lot to what Ellie was facing.
I read this entire novel in one go overnight when I had a bad case of insomnia. I didn't want to put it down at all. It was hilarious, and I loved Ellie's friendships with other women, even if they were occasionally rocky. Ellie herself was maybe a tad immature -- as a fellow early twenty-something myself, I did occasionally raise an eyebrow at how she acted, especially towards her mother. But her fears and concerns and complaints about womanly issues and her relationships hit spot on with me, in addition to making me laugh out loud (though that may have been a bad thing, since it was three AM at the time!)
I think a lot of twenty-something women should read Virgin. Even if they don't love it, maybe they'll come away knowing something they didn't, and get a few chuckles out of it in the process.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley for review....more
The Lost is a mixed bag that I still ended up enjoying. Although I think Durst's transition to adult made her feel as if she needed to strip down herThe Lost is a mixed bag that I still ended up enjoying. Although I think Durst's transition to adult made her feel as if she needed to strip down her writing style (a lot of the sentences are very short) otherwise I think her first foray into adult fiction was a successful one.
The aforementioned prose either became less stunted as time went on, or I became more used to it. Durst finds her flow once Lauren becomes situated to Lost and her life there. The idea of Lost is a fascinating one, although maybe not overly original (after all, the same idea appears in a Halloweentown movie, although in the form of a house.) Wallets end up there, as do dogs and even houses lost to foreclosure. People end up there too, as Lauren accidentally does.
The exploration of Lost and how it operates was well defined and thought out. Lauren's relationship with the Finder and little Claire were touching, although I will say that the primary mystery of who Lauren was to the Missing Man was a tad predictable, even if it hasn't been entirely revealed yet.
The main point of The Lost, however, is Lauren's development as a character and her relationship with her mother. I enjoyed seeing a healthy relationship between mother and daughter here, and the resolution to it is a gut punch right in the feelings. You will need tissues. As much as Lauren annoyed me in the beginning of the novel, I did enjoy seeing her grow as a character and get over the traits that irritated me at first.
If there were a critique I had with The Lost, it's the relationship between the Finder Peter and Lauren. Peter is a sort of quirky character, constantly reciting lines from old classical novels, plays and poems. Generally, he's charming. But a lot of the time, he speaks down to Lauren. Never maliciously, to him he's only stating obvious facts, but it has the same effect: Lauren, who already has a trouble with self-esteem, takes it badly. Her reactions are generally laughed off and she soon forgets any of her issues with Peter because, hey, he's hot after all, and one of the only ways she can survive in Lost.
At one point Claire states that Peter teases Lauren because he likes her, and I actually cringed away from the screen. I hate this myth and I wish it wouldn't be repeated in fiction everywhere. Peter also sleeps in Lauren's bedroom closet without her knowing. She calls him out on it being creepy the day after, but again is laughed off and no one really takes her complaints to heart. Nothing's more romantic than a guy creepin' on a woman in her sleep and constantly saying she isn't interesting enough to cause such a commotion in the town!
But despite that admittedly huge obstacle, I'm still left a fan of The Lost. Enough so that I want to see what happens in the second book of the trilogy, The Missing.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review through NetGalley....more
I opened The Truth About Alice intending only to read a chapter or two before bed. I ended up staying awake late into the night to finish it. That telI opened The Truth About Alice intending only to read a chapter or two before bed. I ended up staying awake late into the night to finish it. That tells you exactly how addictive and intriguing this novel is.
The Truth About Alice is actually about four other characters along with Alice. The story is told from their POVs, everything from how one of them was with the boy Alice supposedly slept with to the boy who's loved Alice from afar.
Although the characters are stereotypical (the religious girl with the strict Christian mother, the genius outcast geeky boy, the jock, etc.) and their stories aren't exactly fresh, their views on Alice and the events prior to the novel make it worth reading about. Theories abound about Alice and what happened, but we don't find out what's the truth or not until the very end.
I would have merely enjoyed this novel but not outright loved it had it not been for the romance between the geeky boy and Alice. I'll admit it, the supposedly bad girl/good geeky guy narrative is one of my favorites. I'm a sucker for it, so I kept reading for the squee, and I was not disappointed.
The Truth About Alice is an important story about bullying, peer pressure, gossiping and whether to listen to it or not, and even better it features a lovely little romance. I'm glad I read it.
A copy of this novel was provided by the publisher through NetGalley for review....more
I've been trying to sort out how I feel about Third Daughter the past few days. On one hand, I did enjoy the second part of the story and I enjoyed seI've been trying to sort out how I feel about Third Daughter the past few days. On one hand, I did enjoy the second part of the story and I enjoyed seeing a non-European steampunk fantasy world. The characters were well drawn (if romanticized in the cases of the love interests) and I'm not sorry I read it.
On the other hand... well. Dharia, the alternate reality version of India, seemed very much to me like a white person's idea of what India is like.
First we have a Princess in the Tower trope with the titled Third Daughter, Aniri. Even though she doesn't really spend time in her mother's court or with politics because, as a third child, she doesn't really need to, she still feels trapped by the conventions of her status and longs to be free. The Princess in the Tower trope isn't so much of a thing in India, especially in relation to Indian princesses. It isn't unheard of for an Indian princess to lead an active life or even take part in revolutions. (Related, everyone should read about Noor Inayat Khan. Because she was awesome.) Of course there were likely some princesses who led quiet or secluded lives, but it wasn't all of them.
I also found it very unsettling that a lot of the Western clothing pieces were named -- such as corsets -- but any Eastern Indian staples were vaguely described and unnamed. A saree, for example, was described as only a "sweep of fabric across the shoulder" and mentioned as being traditional. Matha patti was only described as a piece of head jewelry that ended in pearl or a ruby on the forehead. Mendhi, or henna as it's known to Western people, was vaguely mentioned as "having ink done".
Aniri also expresses some shock that Jungalian men wear jewelry, as Dharian men do not. I found this to be a strange decision in regards to world-building, as Indian men do wear jewelry, or they did in the past.
If you're doing to write about a steampunk fantasy alternate of India, commit to your setting. An Indian/Dharian character should call these things by their names. Not only should, but I believe they would. I can't help but wonder why the decision was made to leave these things unnamed. Ignorance isn't an excuse -- it literally only took me a minute to Google "Indian jewelry names" and find a site that described all the various pieces, how they're worn, when they're worn, and what they go with.
So why three stars? Well, because I did end up liking the story, at least enough to finish it. I enjoyed the relationship between Aniri and Malik; it progressed slowly enough to be believable. I would have liked to see them butt heads over things, though. Their relationship progression was almost too smooth. I would have also liked to have seen Aniri have some trouble acclimating to Jungalian culture. She has more issue adjusting to the thin mountain air of Jungali than she does taking in the culture of the place.
Still, it's nice to see a non-European fantasy steampunk novel, and I do plan on reading the second novel. I only hope all of these issues are resolved in the third book of the trilogy.
A copy of this novel was provided by the author through NetGalley for review....more
I've had to sit on The Fall of Lady Grace for a while. Unfortunately I'm nowhere near decided on how I feel about this novel despite the time I took tI've had to sit on The Fall of Lady Grace for a while. Unfortunately I'm nowhere near decided on how I feel about this novel despite the time I took to think on it.
Overall I enjoyed it more than the first book in the series, The Trouble with Honor. I enjoyed Grace more as a character, and I liked the hero for his unconventional characterization. Here's a hero who has OCD and it's portrayed with knowledge and care. He doesn't go around cleaning everything like most lazy stereotypes of OCD characters would. He's convinced that something awful will happen unless he counts to eight; when things aren't in their right places, he believes it's inviting chaos and bad fortune; he has sexual intrusive thoughts; and when he feels on the edge of panic, he'll do things by eight in order to calm himself down.
It was lovely to read. Also lovely was the slow burn of the main couple's romance, and how they had to figure out how to really make themselves work in order to be happy with each other.
The Fall of Lady Grace had all the makings to be one of my favorite romances ever. But...
The first time Grace and Jeffrey have sex, Grace is clearly very uncomfortable and uncertain. Jeffrey still goes through with it and isn't gentle at all. This continues for a while until he and Grace actually begin speaking to each other and coming to an understanding, but still, it ran too close to rape for me to be entirely comfortable with it.
I make a point of picking romance books where rape isn't part of the parcel. Grace didn't need to say "no" for it to be rape; her discomfort and tears were enough.
Still, in spite of all that... I really did love the rest of this book. Enough to even buy a physical copy when it comes out. I just wish the earlier sex scenes had been altered just enough or even taken out altogether.
A copy of this novel was provided by the publisher through NetGalley for review....more
Courtney Milan is, hands down, my favorite romance author. Her books are consistently amazing, and now that she's moved into self-publishing, which alCourtney Milan is, hands down, my favorite romance author. Her books are consistently amazing, and now that she's moved into self-publishing, which allows her to push the envelope in what she writes? It's only gotten better.
While I think The Countess Conspiracy is still my favorite of the series, The Suffragette Scandal ranks a very close second. How can I not adore a romance novel that focuses on a heroine who's an unapologetic suffragette and the dude who loves her?
I loved Free from the moment she appeared in a previous novel. She doesn't suffer fools, she knows exactly what she wants out of life, not only for herself but for others, and she's very damned determined. She blackmails the hero right back when he attempts to blackmail her; she can hold her own against him and others; and frankly she's just amazing.
The chemistry between her and Edward is a joy to read. Free routinely throws him off balance, because anything he assumes about her and any tricks he tries on her end up just making her laugh. But they don't end up besting each other: instead they work together as equals. Their road is a rocky one, especially near the end. Milan always makes the stakes very real and high in her novels, and this is no exception.
Plus, there was a subplot with a female character who's in love with another woman. Lesbians? In MY feminist historical romance novel? YES PLEASE. GIVE ME MORE.
If you haven't read Courtney Milan's novels yet, you need to get on it immediately. Her characters are always fleshed out and believable, her couples always work together, the stakes are always high and do genuinely leave you wondering how they're going to work through it to that happy ending. You won't be disappointed, at all.
I received a copy of this novel for review from the publisher via NetGalley. See more reviews, plus bookish news and articles, at Bibliodaze!...more
**spoiler alert** Returning to Shore was a nice, quiet, introspective and slow little novel that I read more or less in one sitting. I can honestly sa**spoiler alert** Returning to Shore was a nice, quiet, introspective and slow little novel that I read more or less in one sitting. I can honestly say I haven't come across another YA contemporary novel quite like it. It focuses on the main character and her relationship with her father, and there's no romance involved at all.
I might have liked a bit more development and closure on Clare's relationship with her mother, but the relationship with her father made up for any lack on that part. And it seemed like Clare was mostly static throughout the novel; I don't remember thinking she really grew or changed much by the end of the story.
I will say, though, I was rather irritated by how the point of Clare's father being gay was dealt with. A big deal is made out about how he married her mother and had her, and then realized he was gay. It's a rather stereotypical story, and furthermore, it completely erases the existence of bisexuality. He could have been married to her mother and still liked men and been with one after they divorced. It wouldn't have changed much.
Still, that huge flaw aside, I liked it well enough. I'm glad I read it.
(A copy of this novel was provided by the author and publisher through NetGalley for an honest review.)...more
I feel bad for not liking Moon at Nine as much as I wish I could have, because honestly, part of it isn't even the book's fault. I knew going in it waI feel bad for not liking Moon at Nine as much as I wish I could have, because honestly, part of it isn't even the book's fault. I knew going in it was going to be a book about Tragic Gays, but there was still a slight glimmer of hope from this queer girl that maybe it would end happily.
I won't spoil it past that. Like I said, it's not the book's fault I'm really sick of the Tragic Gays trope, or the fact that publishers only seem to find value in books about gay kids that are all about how sad their lives are because they're gay.
But past that, I also had issues with the writing -- frankly it was a little immature at times, and rather choppy. It didn't flow and more than once I was jarred out of the story by a sentence that just didn't work. I also question ending the story where it did; while I enjoyed seeing Farrin and Sadira's relationship bloom, I would have also liked to see Farrin's journey after she gets out of prison. That would have been a truly inspiring story, I think.
Perhaps I'm being harsh on the book for not being what I wanted it to be. I didn't hate it, it just... made me really, truly tired.
It's worth a look at to see a YA book focus on characters that aren't white, Christian, or straight. But I don't know that I can recommend it past those valuable aspects.
A copy of this novel was provided by NetGalley for review....more