I have friends who are bargain hunters. They stalk the aisles of stores like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, searching for last seasoReviewed by: Rabid Reads
I have friends who are bargain hunters. They stalk the aisles of stores like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, searching for last season frocks from Kate Spade and Lilly Pulitzer, and are often successful. They preen over their discoveries, and I sometimes envy the fruits of their labors . . .
BUT. I will never be able to do it myself.
Those types of places are too chaotic; I walk in the door and immediately turn and walk back out. B/c overwhelmed. There's so much stuff shoved together so haphazardly that I haven't the foggiest notion of where to begin.
THE BIRD AND THE SWORD had a similar effect, and I'm kind of baffled that the same author who wrote A Different Blue, which I loved, also wrote something as poorly planned and executed as this was . . . But here we are.
MINOR SPOILERS after this point.
1. The journey is merely the shortest distance from point A to point B.
There are two main types of writers: those who plan and those who write by the seat of their pants, and if I had to guess, I'd venture that Harmon is the former.
You: What makes you say that?
Me: The extraordinarily stupid actions that enabled obvious plot points.
Take Lark's first adult encounter with King.
The last time they met was the day King's father (former King) killed her mother, b/c magic is outlawed. Having magic herself, Lark is understandably afraid when she belatedly learns that King will be visiting her home that very day.
So what does she do?
She tears off through the forest, determined to be hidden in a tower before King arrives, but when she hears horses pounding down the road, does she retreat back into the relative safety of woods? Does she hide herself until the riders have passed, slinking home behind them and avoiding detection?
She runs faster.
And that's just the beginning.
You: What do you mean?
Me: Father wants to usurp King. Has been planning it since the death of his wife.
So what does he do?
Lay low, scheming and machinating until the time is ripe for a coup?
He refuses the command to send soldiers to the war front, painting an arrow over his head that shouts, "MALCONTENT."
You: That's not very smart . . .
Me: Yeah, but, see, King needs to be able to take Lark hostage b/c reasons.
You: Seems like kind of a bullshit way to make it happen though.
Me: YES. It DOES.
2. Deliberately obtuse heroine.
The problem with telling a story from the first person perspective is that the reader gets ALL of her information directly from the source. SO. If a thing is more-than-obvious to the reader, it's incomprehensible if it isn't also more-than-obvious to the storyteller.
And yet . . .
*sing songs* "My mother foretold that the former king would lose his son, the prince, 'to the skies . . .' The injured eagle I found in the forest disappeared while I slept, and I returned home to discover that one of my servants had been conked and the head and relieved of his clothes, and a horse was missing from the stables . . . King chained himself in the dungeon, tormented by a mysterious malady . . . Oh, look! It's my friend the eagle sitting on the rail of King's open balcony! Hello, friend eagle! Where ever could King be? He never returned last night . . ." *blinks vapidly*
3. Conflicting information.
The following screenshot serves a variety of purposes, but for now, let's focus on the blue passage:
They are creatures, animals, ruled by instinct. They are PREDATORS. Like a shark scenting blood in the water or a bear whose normal food sources have been unnaturally depleted.
If this is true, they cannot also be "base."
To be "base" requires sentience, yet Harmon uses the mutually exclusive concepts of being governed by basic needs--food, water, shelter--and more nefarious or "base" motivations interchangeably.
My knee-jerk reaction was that she was confused about the meanings of "base" and "basic," but on the very next page:
They lived to kill. Not for hate or power. But still, they killed. They killed because death meant food. Death meant life. Death meant that their blood pounded hotter in their veins, and their flesh grew thicker on their bones. They were simple monsters, but monsters all the same.
And a paragraph or so further down, the earlier accusation is even more blatantly contradicted when she references the creature's, "innocent instinct, however bloodthirsty."
So it's not that she doesn't understand the terms and the difference between them, it's that she was so concerned with finding flowery ways to present information that she either didn't care or didn't notice that the end result made not one lick of sense, which segues perfectly into my next issue . . .
4. Purple prose.
This time let's check out the yellow highlights:
Taken individually, all the various flourishes and embellishments might not be a problem. I mean, just b/c I've never personally experienced an "obliterated" appetite, and could come up with half a dozen less vague ways of describing the weather than "advantageous," doesn't mean that an emphatic adjective/adverb (or three) is a distraction.
BUT. As you can see, there are four on this page alone, and friends . . . that is not a fluke.
Then there's this:
Suddenly freed and temporarily weightless, the ground rose up and snatched my breath. I lay stunned, the wind forced from my lungs.
The ground . . . rose up . . . and snatched her breath . . . *flares nostrils*
NO. It did NOT. She fell and had the wind knocked out of her. The end.
5. There are just some things you CANNOT do.
Like reference real world works of literature in a wholly make-believe world:
"The Art of War?"
BUT. That specific reference is borderline hilarious, b/c later on, King is so determined to engage the enemy on his terms that:
We rested a full day, giving the horses a chance to recuperate from the journey, but the collective unease of the camp made the day feel wasted. Shrieks and shouts filled the night as the Volgar picked off men in the dark . . .
Huh. So the same King who is familiar enough with Sun Tzu's ART OF WAR to make jokes about the bloodthirsty discussion points, passively allows his soldiers to be attacked by their enemy?
I guess he skipped this part:
Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.
And I'm done. DONE. D O N E.
Basically, I spent twice as much time deciphering the events and characters’ actions as I did reading this book. Whatever it is that the rest of the world sees in THE BIRD AND THE SWORD, I am immune, wholly and utterly. Not recommended.
I received an ARC of A PROMISE OF FIRE early in the year, and I was excited about it tooReviewed by: Rabid Reads
This book . . . *shakes head*
I received an ARC of A PROMISE OF FIRE early in the year, and I was excited about it too, b/c fantasy romance, I love it. And it's rare. So new author, new series, hell yes, I will board that train.
Then I started reading it.
1. First person, present tense. Which I HATE. It's my least favorite perspective to read from.
2. Poseidon. What in the Sam Hill is Poseidon doing in a fantasy world, I ask you? Hmm??
The second is admittedly one of my weird quirks that probably won't bother the rest of you, but it irks the fire out of me when real world people or religions (or, you know, other stuff) show up in high fantasy and/or make believe worlds. You can have Middle Earth or you can have Hinduism, and never the twain shall meet. #jessicasrules
Borrowing a real world religion is the tactic of a lazy author to avoid creating her own. Also, it breaks continuity.
Long story short, I DNF-ed it at probably less than 5% and hadn't thought about it since . . . Until the Best Books of 2016 lists start coming out, and it's on like four of them.
So I'm like . . . Okaaaaay . . . Did I give up too soon, or is the majority cray?
It's somewhere in the middle, I think.
But it's complicated.
Bouchet has created in her heroine, a womanchild who is occasionally hilarious, frequently courageous, and repeatedly irritating--Cat is as stubborn as she is inconstant.
Think about that for a second. Stubborn . . . yet inconstant.
If I'd encountered that description pre-Cat, I'd have been at a loss to imagine what it looks like. BUT. This is post-Cat, so it's not a problem.
Context: I'LL NEVER TELL!!
Three pages later:
Context: I will tell you ALL THE THINGS! B/c ANGRY! Even though it's dangerous for me to do so! *hiss* *spit*
This happens A LOT.
Unsurprisingly, the source of much of Cat's inconsistency is her immaturity. By the midway point, Griffin (who is NOT a manboy, no siree, he is all MAN), has kissed her either two or three times, and each time she's swooned, until she "comes to her senses," which entails violence in the form or hitting or kicking, followed by angry exclamations of "Yuck!" or "Gross!"
Don't believe me?
And that's only the beginning of Cat's juvenile behavior.
The trouble is that she's also entertaining as hell. And the plot, once I got past the presence of the Greek pantheon, is equally entertaining.
That being said, no one will be surprised that this is Bouchet's first novel. Her non-magic population is called the "Hoi Polloi." YES, as in the unwashed masses, and she needs to embrace her genre for what it is--when someone narrows their eyes, it is not an "ocular threat" (*rolls eyes*). BUT. She shows clear promise, and I'm interested to see where the next installment takes us.
SO. Not really comfortable making a recommendation just yet . . . Do what you will. *shrugs awkwardly*
SO. It's no secret that steampunk isn't my thing. Too often the gadgets overwhelm the plot that is too often filled with dead things (b/c Victorian obSO. It's no secret that steampunk isn't my thing. Too often the gadgets overwhelm the plot that is too often filled with dead things (b/c Victorian obsession with death).
*melancholy sigh* (b/c the moods of books, they're infectious.)
I don't like dead things. Ironically, Draven perfectly captures my view on the subject in this very tale:
After Harvel’s experiment, and with gehenna-tainted blood in his veins, he was no more human than the Hound and a hundred times more terrifying. Like those fearful folk, he’d once been an ordinary person. Now he represented the horrors that might have happened to any one of them but by the grace of God had not. In his observations, people feared the almost far more than the what if.
BUT. There is no surplus of gadgets, there is only one (pseudo) dead thing in this tale, and even if you don't typically like steampunk, GASLIGHT HADES has a strong enough romance-based plot line to hold your interest.
I know this for FACT.
The beginning was a little bit slow for me, but once Nathaniel and Lenore started getting (re)acquainted, I was hooked:
“I would give all of eternity for one more hour with you,” he said . . . He kissed her forehead. “But today, it’s not to be.”
Not to mention how interesting Nathaniel's altered existence is. *high fives Draven* for creating a scenario in which someone dead could be brought back to life in a way I didn't find objectionable. *pigs fly*
Sadly, I'm not current enough with Draven's work (a deficiency I plan to remedy) to know whether or not GASLIGHT HADES in a standalone story or part of a series, but I was fine reading it as a standalone regardless. Also highly recommended.
Once again the combined work of this talented duo is well worth the small expense--gotta love the rare beast that is the quality indie publication. If you haven't already checked out Elizabeth Hunter or Grace Draven, please do so immediately. I'm only looking out for your best interests. *nods emphatically* And BENEATH A WANING MOON is an excellent place to either start or renew your acquaintance with these lovely ladies. ...more
Fantasy Romance is one of my favorite sub-genres, but I rarely have an opportunity to read it, b/c there's not a lot of it available. This makes no sense to me, b/c AWESOME--it's fantasy and it's romance . . . what's not to like?
I think some people automatically shoot down anything designated as Fantasy, b/c they get overwhelmed by visions of infinite pages, multiple POVs, gruesome battle after gruesome battle, etc.
Fantasy Romance is an entirely different beast. Yeah, some of them are a bit longer (not this one) than the average book, and yeah, there are often multiple POVs (only two), BUT the focus is different.
The characters are still trying to save the world (or the kingdom), but the story is primarily about the heroine and her love interest(s), NOT on so many characters and organizations that a glossary is required to keep track of them all.
At least that's my take. FYI.
And so The Bloodbound by Erin Lindsey had been on my watchlist long before I had the opportunity to read it.
I instantly liked our heroine.
The story opens in the heat of battle, and we meet Alix as she decides to run headlong into danger when she sees her leader in trouble. When a friend tries to reason with her--reminds her that their orders are to stay put--her response is, "And their orders were to attack."
And that is my reasoning every time I'm driving and have to pass some idiot on the right. You see . . . orders (rules, laws, speed limits, whatever) only work if EVERYONE follows them . . . and when everything goes according to plan.
Sometimes you just have to roll with situation you're thrust into, damn your orders, and Alix gets that.
So does her brother:
"We're not strong enough to confront the enemy directly, but we've become quite adept a hit-and-run strikes--taking out their scouting parties, raiding their camps, targeting their supply lines, that sort of thing. Some of the men disapprove of such devices--they've got fool-headed ideas about glory and honor--but I'm no martyr. I do what I can with the resources at my disposal, and no more."
I realize that's a lot of war talk for a fantasy I'm trying to differentiate based on the romance aspect, but there is a war going on, and there are battles. They just aren't the page after page (after page) of lopping off limbs and heads type of battles. And thank the nine Virtues for that.
Speaking of the nine Virtues, the world-building left a bit to be desired.
To save you the trouble, here are the Virtues I was able to figure out:
Beyond that . . . I got nuthin'. I appreciate the lack of an info dump, but by the end of the book, I still hadn't gleaned enough information to know what all nine Virtues were, let alone understand their importance. I had similar issues with other aspects of the world-building, but it wasn't a huge problem for me, b/c I was too caught up in the story.
Why was I so caught up in the story?
Well . . . I don't know about you, but by the end of Thor: The Dark World, I was ready for Thor to kick Jane Foster to the curb, b/c Sif. I mean really . . . Jane was BLAH, and Sif . . . Sif was Sif (<------AWESOME).
Alix is Sif with red hair. And Erik is Thor, and Tomald is Loki. *shrugs* Hey, you have to get your inspiration somewhere, and I'm pretty convinced that's where Lindsey's came from:
Tom sat beneath the window with his back to the wall, one arm draped across his knee. He made no move to stand as Erik entered. He did not even raise his head.
Don't misunderstand--this is a completely new and original book, and one that I very much enjoyed. All I'm saying is that if you're a fan of one, then it's likely you'll be a fan of the other. At least I am, and I was.
Full of witty banter, immensely likable characters, and swoons aplenty, The Bloodbound by Erin Lindsey is not to be missed. There's something for fans of both Romance and Fantasy, and I can't wait to see what Lindsey has for us next....more
YAYYAYYAYYAYYAYYAYYAYYAY!! Definitive proof that the real Kristen Ashley still exists. (HUZZAH!)
I know I'm not the first person to be disappo4.5 stars
YAYYAYYAYYAYYAYYAYYAYYAY!! Definitive proof that the real Kristen Ashley still exists. (HUZZAH!)
I know I'm not the first person to be disappointed in the last few Kristen Ashley books. Not everyone was, but there were enough of us, that I felt vindicated in my shock an incredulity at the lack of drama, the lack of quirkiness in the heroine, the lack of abduction (for the love of Pete). I mean Kristen Ashley is so consistently awesome at what she does that she's practically become her own separate sub-genre. I've read tons of reviews for not-Kristen-Ashley books that have been praised for their Kristen-Ashley-like qualities or criticized for their failed attempts to be Kristen-Ashley-like.
Broken Dove was everything I've come to expect from Kristen Ashley books and more. Ilsa was full of that spectacular combination of wonder and resilience that I've come to love in Kristen Ashley books. Apollo was magnificent in his alpha-male, domineering wonderfulness.
Yes, wonderfulness. Because no one writes a jerk-of-my-dreams like Kristen Ashley.
This is also the most emotion-provoking Kristen Ashley book in a long while. I remember getting teared up reading whichever 'Burg book that focused on Violet and Joe (Cal) was, and there were probably others that I'm not thinking of right now, but Broken Dove gets you. I mean gets you.
Did you see what I did there? Heh.
Anyway, the point is--HAVE HEART all you die-hard Kristen Ashley fans. She's still there (when a publisher isn't mucking up her already proven perfection). I mean really, publishers pick up indie writers for a reason, and that reason is that they've proven their ability to sell books, Kristen Ashley more than any of them (in my maybe-not-so-humble opinion). So why mess with the system (grumble, grumble)? LEAVE THE SYSTEM ALONE.
SO. If we're Goodreads friends, you probably already know this (if we're not, you soon will): I LOVE Kristen Ashley.
About three years ago I stumbled across one of her books on Amazon, one-clicked it, read it, and then . . . read every, single one of her other 40(ish) books, back-to-back. It took about a month, but I did it.
Yes. I did. B/c MANIAC. #cantstopwontstop
There are two reasons why this is the first KA review I'm posting:
1. I'm OCD, so even though I've read several of her paranormal books since joining Rabid Reads, I've read them out of order, and thus they must wait.
2. KA writes a lot of romantic suspense, and as awesome as it is, no paranormal elements, so no RR review. *shrugs*
But don't be mislead by my previous lack of SQUEE on the KA front, b/c trust me, it's there.
Finnie Wilde is an adrenaline junkie.
She comes by it honestly, being the daughter of two adrenaline junkies, but as fun as that sounds, it's actually quite sad. Finnie is essentially an orphan, having lost both mother and father to said adrenaline junkie-ness when she was twelve, so she jumps out of airplanes in an attempt to feel closer to her long-departed parents.
When she learns about an parallel universe populated by alternate versions of ourselves, she enlists the help of a witch to contact Alternate Finnie, who is more than eager to arrange a temporary body swap.
Real World Finnie is ecstatic, b/c Alternate Finnie's parents are very much ALIVE, so against the admonishments and skepticism of her friends, RW Finnie pays Witch an exorbitant fee to perform the swap of her and Alternate Finnie's consciousnesses.
Meet Frey Drakker:
One of the most powerful and feared men in the realm, he has agreed to marry to Alternate Finnie to secure an alliance with her father, a significantly less powerful (b/c Frey is just that badass and important), but still powerful king.
He is not happy about it.
Alternate Finnie is as beautiful as her RW counterpart, but that is where the similarities end.
Alternate Finnie feels constrained by the limitations of her world. She is tomboyish in a reality where a good and proper princess does not favor hunting and archery over more "womanly" pursuits, or *gasp* prefer the company of women to men *waggles eyebrows* (something she admitted to Frey after imbibing too much wine during their betrothal negotiations).
But Alternate Finnie is as pragmatic a choice as any, and Frey has never considered marrying for any reason beyond necessity, so . . . the marriage is arranged.
Which brings us to the circumstances Finnie finds herself in--post swap--in a FANTASYLAND version of our reality filled with magic, and herself a princess about to be wed to a man she has never met.
Sound a little far-fetched to you? A little uh-huh, sure, whatever you say, boss?
I'm inclined to agree.
If you're unfamiliar with KA, you don't know this yet, but KA can do things that others cannot do. To KA an outlandish/ridiculously far-fetched scenario is a playground. To KA women who make choices that would be questionable in any other context are instead quirky and fantastic. To KA brutish and extreme examples of alphaholes are sex on a stick.
You should read it. *nods emphatically*
It is worth noting that the only reason this is a 4.5 and not 5.0 star read is an excessive use of the term "cool" in the beginning of the book. I am not grading it on a lesser scale b/c indie. It's really that good. That being said, Kristen Ashley is not for everyone. If you do not enjoy supremely Alpha-type males (similar to those you find in Kresley Cole's IMMORTALS AFTER DARK series, then I'd skip these).
However . . . if you do enjoy that kind of character, I encourage you to exercise your ability to one-click, b/c despite KA's extreme popularity, her books are still downright cheap, so even if you don't love it like I do, you won't break the bank over that discovery. It's a basic cost vs. (potential) benefit scenario, people! Check it out!
C.L. Wilson writes Fantasy Romance like nobody’s business.
I discovered Wilson’s Tairen Soul series a little over a year ago thReviewed by: Rabid Reads
C.L. Wilson writes Fantasy Romance like nobody’s business.
I discovered Wilson’s Tairen Soul series a little over a year ago through a Goodreads’ recommendation, and I read all five books in five days.
All five books. In five days.
And they weren’t filler books either. They were all 400(ish) page FANTASY books.
When I finished my reading binge, I was glad to see that another book was in the works—The Winter King (this book), and I’ve had it on my watchlist since January of last year.
And people . . . it did NOT disappoint.
Khamsin Coruscate is the unwanted daughter of King Verdan IV of Summerlea. Unacknowledged, she roams the abandoned places of her father’s castle, desperately trying to be good enough, noble enough, worthy enough to gain her father’s affections.
All of her efforts are for naught.
Wynter Atrialan is the young King of Wintercraig. Barely into manhood, he is already a legend among his people, having single-handedly killed a Frost Giant in a successful attempt to save his younger brother. But when he is betrayed, he embraces an ancient, dangerous magic to assist him in his quest for revenge.
But the magic has a cost, and the longer Wynter uses it, the higher the price.
Things I loved about this book:
1. The characters—ALL of the characters, main and secondary alike, were incredibly well-developed. I felt an instant connection to both Wynter and Khamsin, and the secondary characters were both likable and entertaining while enhancing my understanding of the MCs.
2. The world-building—Time wasn’t wasted describing actual landmasses, so while I may have only had a vague understanding of where Summerlea, Wintercraig, and Calbernan would be located on a map, I did gain knowledge of the other (more important IMO) aspects of the geography. I knew what creatures lurked where. I knew the weather patterns and the local customs. The imports and exports, etc. All those details combined to create a clear picture of Kham and Wyn’s world.
3. Villainous villains—I love to hate a good villain. Oh, I like a sympathetic villain on occasion as well, but sometimes a clear-cut bad guy is a wonderful target for your animosity, and The Winter King has several.
4. The ROMANCE—Wynter and Khamsin are instantly drawn to each other and have incredible chemistry, but oh, how they fight it. There are numerous misunderstandings and miscommunications (for the path to true love never did run smooth), but the journey never crosses the line from swoonfest to tedium. It’s very simply delicious torture.
5. Possibility of future books from this world—As far as I can tell, there are currently no other books from this world under contract. BUT Wilson lays the groundwork for several future books throughout this one, and my fingers are crossed that said books will come to pass (Dilys Merimydion + a Season = True Love 4-Ever).
Things I could have liked more:
1. Too many villainous villains—There were at least four significant bad guys (as well as several other characters you were made to be suspicious of), and as effective as they were, I can’t help but think that cumulatively a few less would have made even more of an impact. Even if there were still a few secondary bad guys all working for one Big Bad<——Big Bad is singular for a reason.
2. So very LONG—I kind of feel like this book could have had 100 less pages and still accomplished everything that needed to be accomplished. The end seemed to drag a bit (but only a bit). That being said, all of those pages flew by.
But ultimately, a couple of minor issues were not enough to keep me from absolutely loving this book.
Fantasy romance is not a big genre, so finding an author who excels at writing it is highly fortuitous. C.L. Wilson is one such author, and this book perfectly illustrates that claim. With a completely enthralling combination of fantastical elements and a swoonworthy romance, I recommend The Winter King to lovers of both Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. C.L. Wilson is always a safe bet, and The Winter King is perhaps my favorite of her books to date.