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Finish Line 2014 > Alicja's Reads 2014

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message 1: by Alicja (last edited Sep 27, 2014 12:49PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments Alicja's Reads 2013:

Rules: Books are to be at least 160 pages long, no pictures.

12 Science Fiction:
1. Trouble and Her Friends (Jan)
2. Santa Olivia (Feb)
3. Snow Crash (Mar)
4. The Girls From Alcyone (Mar)
5. Ancillary Justice (Apr)
6. Sand Omnibus (Apr)
7. Altered Carbon (Jun)
8. The Lathe of Heaven (Jun)
9. Catching Fire (Jun)
10. Parable of the Sower (Jun)
11. Whiskey Delta (Jul)
12. The City and the City (Jul)
13. After the End (Jul)
14. Moxyland (Jul)
15. Starship Troopers (Jul)
16. Railsea (Jul)
17. Bellwether (Jul)
18. Across the Universe (Jul)
19. Valor's Choice (Aug)
20. The Better Part of Valor (Aug)
21. Dark Space (Aug)
22. Dark Edge of Honor (Aug)
23. House of Suns (Aug)
24. Time's Eye (Aug)
25. Ringworld (Aug)
26. The Handmaid's Tale (Sep)
27. The Heart of Valor (Sep)
28. King of Dublin (Sep)
29. Fuzzy Nation (Sep)
30. The Stone Gods (Sep)
31. Warchild (Sep)

5 Fantasy:
1. Nor Iron Bars a Cage (Jan)
2. Double Hue (Mar)
3. The Heroes (May)
4. Assassin's Apprentice (May)
5. Sheepfarmer's Daughter (May)
6. Counterpoint (May)
7. The Pedlar and the Bandit King (Jun)
8. Captive Prince: Volume One (Jun)
9. Captive Prince: Volume Two (Jun)
10. Mariner's Luck (Jul)
11. The Magpie Lord (Aug)
12. The Rifter Book One: The Shattered Gates (Aug)
13. The Rifter Book Two: The Holy Road (Aug)
14. The Rifter Book Three: His Sacred Bones (Sep)
15. The Land of Night (Sep)
16. The Curse of Chalion (Sep)
17. The Blade Itself (Sep)
18. The Warlord and the Bard (Sep)
19 Dragonflight (Sep)
20. Brothers of the Wild North Sea (Sep)
21. Thief's Covenant (Sep)

25 Historical Fiction:
1. The 47 Ronin Story (Jan)
2. Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae (Jan) [HFU '13]
3. The Afghan Campaign (Feb)
4. Lords of the North (Feb)
5. The Three Musketeers (Feb) [HFU '13]
6. Sword Song (Mar)
7. The Scarlet Pimpernel (Mar) [HFU '13]
8. The Ten Thousand: A Novel of Ancient Greece (Mar)
9. The Eagle and the Raven (Apr)
10. Augustus (May)
11. A Burnable Book (May)
12. The Burning Land (May)
13. The Song Of Troy (May)
14. Fire in the East (Jun)
15. Sharpe's Tiger (Jun)
16. Genghis: Birth of an Empire (Jul)
17. Eromenos (Jul)
18. Roman Blood (Jul)
19. The Soldier of Raetia (Jul)
20. Alexander: God of War (Jul)
21. The Persian Boy (Jul)
22. The Gentleman and the Rogue (Jul)
23. False Colors (Aug)
24. The House of the Vestals (Aug)
25. The Nobleman and the Spy (Aug)
26. The Gates of Rome (Sep)
27. I, Claudius (Sep)
28. I, Claudius: A Full-Cast BBC Radio Drama (Sep)
29. Let Him Go (Sep)
30. Unhinge the Universe (Sep)
31. Give Me Back My Legions! (Sep)
32. Nefertiti (Sep)

3 Literary:
1. Bow Grip (Mar)
2. The Poisonwood Bible (May)
3. Much Ado About Nothing (Jul)

10 Nonfiction:
1. An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 (Mar)
2. The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever (May)
3. Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power (May)
4. The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant (May)
5. The Heroin Diaries: A Year In The Life Of A Shattered Rock Star (Jun)
6. Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (Jun)
7. God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (Jun)
8. Free to Be: How I Went From Unhappily Married Conservative Bible Believer to Happily Divorced Atheistic Humanist in One Year and Several Complicated Steps (Jul)
9. The Vagina Monologues (Jul)
10. A Brief History of Time (Jul)
11. The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific (Aug)
12. Alexander's Lovers (Aug)
13. The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (Aug)
The Western Way of War: Infantry Battle in Classical Greece

M/M Mystery:
1. Life Lessons (Mar)
2. Breaking Cover (Mar)
3. Home Work (Mar)
4. Learning Curve (Mar)
5. The Complete Darkness Collection (Mar)
6. Sinner's Gin (Apr)
7. Cover Me (Jul)
8. Trust Me (Jul)
9. Fatal Shadows (Jul)
10. A Dangerous Thing (Jul)
11. The Hell You Say (Jul)
12. Death of a Pirate King (Jul)
13. The Dark Tide (Jul)
14. Like Coffee and Doughnuts (Jul)
15. Somebody Killed His Editor (Jul)
16. All She Wrote (Aug)
17. Stranger on the Shore (Aug)
18. Winter (Aug)
19. The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks (Sep)

Kissing Sherlock Holmes (currently reading)
Cut & Run

1. Bound: Forget Me Knot (Mar)
2. Aftermath (May)
3. Rough Boys: Runaway (May)
4. Special Forces - Soldiers (May)
5. Special Forces - Mercenaries Part I (May)
6. Rough Boys: Redemption (May)
7. Special Forces - Mercenaries Part II (May)
8. "Daite." (May)
9. This Is Not a Love Story (May)
10. Special Forces - Veterans (Jun)
11. Wild Raspberries (Jul)
12. A Note in the Margin (Aug)
13. Make Me Whole (Aug)
14. The Darkling Thrush (Aug)
15. Gold Digger (Aug)
16. Lindsay Versus the Marauders (Aug)
17. Latakia (Aug)
18. Exception to the Rule (Sep)

? Various Other:
1. Two Boys Kissing (Jan)
2. How to Repair a Mechanical Heart (Jun)
3. The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (Aug)
4. If There's A Heaven Above (Sep)

M/M Romance Group Collections:
1. Don't Read in the Closet: Volume One (Apr)

to remember
Tell the Wolves I'm Home
Hollow World
Kirith Kirin/The Thousand Names

message 2: by Tiffany, Administrator (new)

Tiffany | 1761 comments Mod
Good luck :)

message 3: by Alicja (last edited Jan 16, 2014 07:38PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments First book of the year finished!!

1. The 47 Ronin Story by John Allyn The 47 Ronin Story by John Allyn

pages: 244 (total: 244)
read: Jan 2014
rating: 2/3

There are certain aspects of this story that I liked such as the plot and the cultural details of the time period. The author has studied the Japanese culture extensively and it shows.

However, the characters, style of writing, and emotional connection/passion fell flat.

The feudal Japanese culture is vastly different from the modern Western way of thought, it was hard to understand some of the actions, and the reasoning and state of mind of the characters that led to those decisions. The author just didn't take me to that place, instead the characters were just there to propel the plot forward. There were some fascinating issues explored regarding loyalty, consequences of actions, justice, suicide... so much potential for deep exploration lost.

Additionally, the style of writing was as simplistic as the characters. It is simple, to the point, without any stylistic elaborations. It added emotional distance between the story and the reader, and contributed to the lack of passion. I don't think I have ever read a story with so much potential for emotional connection and pain that so completely missed the mark. I admit, I am a huge crier. So it is quite sad when such a story as this didn't elicit as much as a shudder. The style of writing, the development of characters, everything just seems to contribute to this distance between story and reader which seems to grow as the story progresses ending with the most disappointing and anti-climactic battle scene I've ever read.

This novel was ok. It had some moments, like the duel in the theatre, that connected me with the characters. It also had an interesting plot based on a true story with fascinating feudal Japanese cultural details that I loved. But overall, it just didn't do it for me.

And... click for a spoilery rant: (view spoiler)

message 4: by Alicja (last edited Jan 21, 2014 03:42PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 2. Gates of Fire An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield

pages: 384 (total: 628)
read: Jan 2014
rating: 5/5 (more of a 4.75 but I rounded up)

My rating was teetering on the 4/4.5 until the last 3 books (the novel is split into 8 "books" or sections), which were filled with jaw droppingly amazing battle and camp scenes from Thermopylae. I am a sucker for well written battles and soldier camaraderie and this was it, one of the best I've read so far.

This novel was also filled with a ton of historical accuracy, from the events to the historical people and through battle techniques, Spartan battle training and laws, through to how ancient Greece looked, felt, and even smelled. The description and detail was captivating.

The character development was good as well, I feel in love with Xeo and his telling of Alexandros, Dienekes, Leonidas, Suicide, Polynikes, and others.

However, the story was told by Xeo, looking retroactively at the battle and the lives of the Spartans, to the Persian Great King Xerxes and involved jumping through time in a non-linear fashion. It also included some notes from a Persian historian, as if he were recording the story and happenings currently, post Battle of Thermopylae. I understand why the author made those choices, there were things that Xeo couldn't witness and an understanding we could only get from a Persian POV. I get it. Still, it served to drag me away from the story and my emotional involvement with it, and sometimes even caused confusion as to the timeline. The disruption wasn't terrible but it was enough to strip this novel of its potential to be one of my all-time favorites.

Despite this, it was still amazing, brilliant, and breathtaking; a worthy read and one of the better ones on ancient Greece. I would recommend it to everyone, especially those that love historically accurate detail and ancient military history, tactics, and battles.

message 5: by Alicja (last edited Jan 21, 2014 03:58PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 3. Trouble and Her Friends by Melissa Scott Trouble and Her Friends by Melissa Scott

pages: 379 (total: 1007)
read: Jan 2014
rating: 5.5/5

There is just so much to think about/analyze with this book. I'll admit that I'm not familiar with cyberpunk, it has always been on my tbr lists but this is the first I've been able to get to it. Some other reviews have said that this book borrows too much from other cyberpunk books but I wouldn't know, haven't read them yet.

That said, wow! I loved the ride. The descriptions and details of the world inside the net were so vivid it felt like I was inside it myself.

The plot was fascinating, although I did figure a part of it out earlier than they did I still didn't get it quite right. The story takes us through multiple setting in the real world as well as on the net. Trouble left the underground cracking (hacking) world after a law was passed that would crack down on illegal activities on the net. In doing so she left her partner and friends, and disappeared. But three years later someone has stolen her name to do bad, bad things on the net. Now the law enforcement is chasing her and she has to find who is defaming her name before its too late.

I love the relationship between Cerise and Trouble when they are forced to work together again to find this newTrouble. They are both strong, independent, and capable women and the sparks fly! However, this is not a romance, it has a few relationship-y scenes but they are tertiary to the plot and everything else that makes up this novel.

Published in 1994, this novel dates 20 years and yet there are many still relevant societal critiques. For example, control of the next. As I was reading this book I read news stories about the federal court struck down rules designed to prevent the nation’s largest broadband service providers from charging content companies for access to Internet “fast lanes.” It is a step closer toward corporate control of the internet as opposed to the neutral free forum that it has been until now. This novel presents similar themes and explores questions of control and policing the net.

I absolutely adore this novel, there is so much in there I am sure in a few years I'll be picking it up and reading again!

message 6: by Kim (new)

Kim | 13 comments Alicja wrote: "2. Gates of Fire An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield

pages: 384 (to..."

I was glad to read your review on this one. I've had it on my ever-growing TBR list for a while and just haven't gotten around to it yet. I may have to bump this one up the list now.

message 7: by Alicja (last edited Jan 21, 2014 06:46PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments Kim wrote: "Alicja wrote: "2. Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield

It's amazing but also very technical regarding the warfare. I love that kind of thing as long as it doesn't take away from the story and this one definitely doesn't do that. But some people would prefer less detail so I just wanted to give a warning.

message 8: by Kim (last edited Jan 22, 2014 06:58AM) (new)

Kim | 13 comments Alicja wrote: "Kim wrote: "Alicja wrote: "2. Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield

It's amazing but also very technical regarding the warfar..."

Thanks for the warning. I hear that complaint often from others about the books I like the most. (Especially the historical fictions.) Enjoy your reads!

message 9: by Alicja (last edited Jan 23, 2014 09:10AM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 4. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

pages: 208 (total: 1215)
read: Jan 2014
rating: 5.5/5

I do not have the skills with words to express my opinions and emotions properly to review this book and do it justice. This is such a short YA novel and yet contains so much within its pages. Narrated by a Greek chorus of gay men who have died from AIDS, it ties together the experiences of these men in the past to the experiences of the current generation of young gay men. It is beautiful, amazingly written, emotional, philosophical, and so much, much, much more. I think I may need at least a few days to even start to process it.

It deals with difficult topics such as love, friendship, bullying, suicide, growing up, death, disease, family, support systems, loneliness, unity, life... It will change your outlook on life and for those outside the queer community give an inside into experiences specifically of gay men but there are also many shared experiences that lesbians and bi girls can relate to.

I'm not going to get into the plot of this novel because the plot isn't really that important. All you have to know is that Levithan wrote a 200 pages novel about one kiss between two boys that blew me away. The blurb may not be enticing but during that one (super long) kiss everything changes for Craig, Harry, Peter, Neil, Avery, Ryan, Tariq, and Cooper.

If you don't normally read LGBT lit, read this book.
If you don't normally read YA, read this book.
If you don't normally read contemporary fiction, read this book.
If you don't normally read anything without action, battles, the paranormal, magic, flying spaceships, etc., read this book.
Whoever you are, whatever your opinions, political ideology, religious preference, sexual orientation, gender (or lack of), or anything, read this book.

message 10: by Alicja (last edited Mar 30, 2014 06:33PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 5. Nor Iron Bars a Cage by Kaje Harper Nor Iron Bars a Cage by Kaje Harper

pages: 244 (total: 1459)
read: Jan 2014
rating: 4.5/5

This is everything that I look for in a romance novel. It has interesting characters who are equally important to each other (no damsel in distress clichés), action, overcoming obstacles and challenges without easy answers and with consequences, complex plot with a surprise ending (I really didn't see it coming), and a realistic romance with no over the top gushiness and declarations of forever love and soulmateness within 5-minutes of meeting each other. Plus a little bit of sexy sex. This novel contained a perfect balance of these is a beautifully written prose that takes place in a fully developed and well explained fantasy world. I never wanted to leave...

Honestly, this is exactly what I look for when I look for a romance novel and it is so rare to find something this perfect in the genre. The story and characters kept me glued to the page (uh, or rather my Kindle screen) and I couldn't put it down.

And this was free through the Love Has No Boundaries promotion. Sometimes I pay for m/m romance and then regret making the purchase. I won't hesitate to buy Harper's novels, this is one of the best m/m romances I've read in a while (along with the ICoS novels, which are free as well).

Lyon is a sorcerer, or he was a sorcerer until his mentor made a mistake and unleashed a daemon. Lots of spoilery things happened before Lyon escaped. And then he became a hermit, withdrawing from life and others (and exhibiting PTSD symptoms). Then one day Tobin, an old friend, appeared on his doorstep with a summons from the King. And so an epic adventure begins... And oh it was good, so good. And unexpected. And adventurous.

In short (I am afraid of saying too much more and spoiling the plot), loved it!!

message 11: by Alicja (last edited Feb 08, 2014 04:08PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 6. The Afghan Campaign by Steven Pressfield The Afghan Campaign by Steven Pressfield

pages: 354 (total: 1813)
read: Feb 2014
rating: 3.5/5

I have mixed feelings about this novel, it doesn't even compare to Pressfield's Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae but it had some great moments, descriptions, and characters despite a major flaw that annoyed me to no end.

I'll start with what I loved, mainly Shinar. It is so rare that historical fiction with battles and warriors have such a realistic portrayal of women in the past that are strong but still within their prescribed culture. Many times portrayals of women veer into fantasy warriors (which I love in fantasy but not historical fiction) or to the opposite of women concerned only about marriage and babies. Instead, we have Shinar whose life has been devastated by war and yet remained strong and defiant in a complicated world. I won't go into everything here since I don't want to spoil the plot but Shinar was by far my favorite character and probably the most complex as well (despite the story being told from Matthias' first person POV).

It was also interesting to see another side to Alexander the Great's campaigns, from the point of view of a common soldier. I was disappointed at first when I realized that there is actually very, very little Alexander in this book. But then realized that maybe it was a good thing. I have an image of Alexander in my mind painted with Renault's beautiful words and am afraid other interpretations of Alexander would not live up. Here I didn't have to worry. There is one general scene with Alexander but not long enough to get anything but a vague idea of the kind of general he was.

Despite its slow start, by midway of the novel Pressfield paints beautiful and horrific images of Alexander's soldiers' tribulations. The realities of moving such a huge army, and as swiftly as historical accounts indicate, are presented beautifully and in detail. I gained an admiration for his logistics officers.

However, there was one huge negative that didn't allow me to get lost inside the novel, inside this ancient world he created and it was the language he used. I am not saying that the soldiers back then didn't use slang, I am sure they did, but Pressfield's used modern slang and terminology. Additionally, he also used words like dames for women which I associated more with the 1920s (and that specific word just pisses me off in general). I'm sure this contributed to my rough start with the novel. By midway, either less slang was used or I had gotten used to it because the language didn't bother me as much. Regardless, it left me annoyed and despite the amazing story and characters I just couldn't help being thankful that it was over and I never had to read that again.

message 12: by Alicja (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 7. Lords of the North (The Saxon Stories, #3) by Bernard Cornwell Lords of the North by Bernard Cornwell

pages: 336 (total: 2149)
read: Feb 2014
rating: 4.5/5

The third in the Warrior Chronicles/Saxon Stories series and am still loving it! Uhtred is a blood-lusting arrogant ass with a cruel streak but also a redeeming goodness (which seems contradictory but you just gotta read for it to make sense).

This book picks up soon after the battle in the second book ends. Alfred gives Uhtred five hides (the bastard) so Uhtred buries his fortune and, with Hild in tow, makes it for Northumbria. Then shit happens, Uhtred acts recklessly, gets himself in deep trouble, etc. The standard, marvelous Cornwell formula for good adventures and lots of bloody killing.

In between Uhtred gets a good dose of late 800s politics, meets a slave king, takes some long overdue revenge, makes fun of priests, and spouts Viking insults while chasing after Gisela.

Oh, didn't I mention Gisela? Uhtred love interest and a hard-ass Dane. Someone's gotta keep him in line and if anyone has a chance it is that girl.

We also got more Ragnar (yay) but I still miss and grieve (view spoiler). Finan is cool but NOT a worthy replacement (and clearly he is meant as a replacement).

So then why the lower rating than the two previous books in the series? There is a battle at ---------- (spoilers!) toward the end and some WTF moments had me questioning whether Cornwell just got bored describing battles with shield walls and wanted something different but couldn't quite get it right. It wasn't as epic as the ending battles I've come to expect from him. His fault, he set up such high standards with the first two!

Anyhoo, still marvelous and still loved it! Still love Uhtred, the haughty bastard.

message 13: by Alicja (last edited Feb 20, 2014 07:00PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 8. Santa Olivia (Santa Olivia, #1) by Jacqueline Carey Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey

pages: 341 (total: 2490)
read: Fen 2014
rating: 4.5/5

A superhero novel that takes the typical superhero origin story and mixes it up into a surprisingly deep novel. It is contemptuous regarding power structures with an analysis of the power of sexuality (and the role of women within power structures), and creates an understated superhero.

The diversity and depth of characters made this a page turner. Additionally, Loup may be the offspring of a genetically modified rogue soldier but she isn't "the hero". I love how others around her, regular humans, display heroic behaviors (including children). Some push her to be better while she has that effect on others just by being herself. The relationships are complex, and the characters grow and develop to become more.

I also love that Loup is lesbian (possibly bisexual, the novel is also anti-label). She may fall for a girl but this isn't a romance, just a novel with a romance subplot. It actually delves deeply into a variety of relationships such as parents/children, siblings, friends, unrequited love, frenemies, enemies, that guy whose a complete asshole but may have some redeemable qualities, etc. No relationship is like another, nothing stereotypical. It is nice to also have a girl-loving female superhero.

Loup's "super powers" are also interesting, non-stereotypical. She may be a bit stronger and faster than others, maybe even not experiencing fear can be classified as a super power. But there is no single moment where she goes from regular girl into super ass-kicking vigilante. Her development is that of a lifetime, one that starts before her birth, and by the end she's still not done cooking.

Despite at times uneven writing and an anti-climactic big boxing match at the end (which was glazed over instead of giving us lots of violent and bloody details, including boxing details), it was an amazing novel. Ok, and despite the ending which seemed too cliché for a novel thriving on breaking down clichés and stereotypes.

I still loved the concept and (mostly) the execution, the ideas and themes which are still churning in my mind. This is definitely worthy of a re-read just for the commentary on power structures and dynamics.

message 14: by Alicja (last edited Mar 01, 2014 08:38PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 9. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

pages: 786 (total: 3276)
read: Feb 2014
rating: 4/5

Soap opera-ish, humorous, romantic, tragic, twisted world of absolutes with interesting characters and a plot to leave your mind in a whirlwind (that ends up getting much darker than I remembered when I first read it years ago). There is just so much that can be said and analyzed about this novel but I'll just hit up that which had an effect on me.

Analyzing morality through Dumas' work was an interesting endeavor. The Musketeers are Royalists, therefore the King is good, but the King much of the time seemed nothing more than a capricious child. This unquestioned devotion to the King seemed odd to me, and yet Duams' made it impossible for me not to cheer for our protagonists. It is all about grandeur of the actions, about a moral certainty. And then it all ends up taken apart, skewed, twisted, tainted...

The most interesting aspect is the look into history that this novel provides, and I don't mean the 1620s France that Dumas portrays (inaccurately) but what the novel says about Dumas' own time (the 1840s). The Queen is having an affair. The Musketeers are not just keeping it a secret from the Cardinal but also from the King. They seem to be doing it more out of protecting the Queen's name, virtue if you will, than some other ideal like honesty. For me, as a 21st century reader, that seems like morality turned upside-down. At the same time it serves as a looking glass into history. I can't help but wonder what Dumas' contemporaries thought about this. Did they see it as a righteous cause to fight and die for? Or were they as perplexed as I am thinking that his work served as a way to view a history and culture and foreign to themselves as they are to me now?

The digs at religion are also entertaining. Many of the churchmen (like Aramis' friends) are presented as caricatures, comedic in nature. I get a perverse pleasure from mocking religions in literature, especially in historical works.

As far as female characters... I love Milady, her plotting, betrayal, and seduction skills. The seduction of John Felton is genius!

This is a tale about love and friendship and loyalty, about hatred and destruction and death and betrayal and vengeance and tragedy. I wish I could say that above all it is a story about...

"All for one, and one for all."

But when reading Dumas, nothing is ever as it seems.

message 15: by Alicja (last edited Mar 06, 2014 12:56PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 10. Bound Forget Me Knot by H.B. Pattskyn Bound: Forget Me Knot by H.B. Pattskyn

pages: 260 (total: 3536)
read: March 2014
rating: 3/5

Story delivers exactly what it advertises... an erotic, BDSM story of self-discovery and romance. However, I am going to split the review in two, a review of the first half and second half, because of the inconsistency of the story.

I loved, loved the first half. Despite a few BDSM certain BDSM kinks that had me scratching my head (hey, whatever floats your boat) the sex, in general, was hot. Loved being inside Justin's head as he's nervously discovering his sexual kinks while navigating figuring out his life and relationships. It realistically portrayed the newness of sexual experience when young and brought me back to a time when I was young and it was all just a mystery. Love Henry's and Justin's dynamic, Henry's Dom/Master persona, and that the author got D/s facts right. Well written as well.

Then about half way through something happens... Justin's development stagnates and he becomes whiney. Despite online research, Henry's explanations, and extensive reading he keeps harping on a misconception ((view spoiler)) that made me wish to take a cane to his ass so he'd remember. The plot starts to become awkward, editorial mistakes start appearing. A lot of great set-ups at the beginning and potential unexplored.

And Justin's treatment of Kendra is reprehensible. Kendra is Justin's best friend and she is worried about his safety (as she is fed stories of abuse without a deeper understanding of D/s and BDSM). (view spoiler) The whole situation could have been handled so much better.

Overall, I enjoyed the story. Despite wishing some key things in the second part were handled better, I still liked it and would read a sequel.

message 16: by Alicja (last edited Mar 15, 2014 08:38AM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 11. Sword Song (The Saxon Stories, #4) by Bernard Cornwell Sword Song by Bernard Cornwell

pages: 314 (total: 3850)
read: March 2014
rating: 5.5/5

Ah, Cornwell, you did it yet again. Love, love, love this series!

Uhtred is a little less brutal in this one (which only means he doesn't kill an unarmed-priest- in cold blood). It still has the humor, the brutality, the vivid descriptions of life and battle, and some new wonderful (and villainous) characters. A solid novel, highly enjoyable, that had me loving every single word.

I also need to gush about Aethelflaed. She is another example of strong women in this series and I just fell in love with her. She inherited Alfred's best qualities in a tiny 14 year old package of courage and strength. Unfortunately, being a woman in the 800s sucked because she was property. Being a princess in the 800s sucked even more because she was very valuable property. I just loved her storyline!

And Erik, complicated Northman Erik who is a kind man bound to his war-loving brother, Sigefrid. I loved the storyline with these two brothers and wished for more. I fell in love with Erik on pg. 155 and continued to do so through the entire novel.

And then *bam*, Cornwell actually managed to surprise me with a plot twist I didn't see coming. I should have seen it, the hints were all there but I was lulled to semi-predictability through the last three novels and then he goes and throws something like that in. I can't not love it!

The ending had me in tears while cursing and yelling at the book. Fortunately it didn't respond (I'd be a bit worried at that). I am still baffled that Cornwell had the ability to shock me with a major plot twist despite his mostly formulaic writing.

message 17: by Alicja (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 12. Life Lessons (Life Lessons, #1) by Kaje Harper Life Lessons by Kaje Harper

pages: 276 (total: 4126)
read: March 2014
rating: 4/5

Mac, a deeply closeted homicide detective, responds to a homicide at a local high school. He is assigned to interview the only witness, a young English teacher.

What surprised me the most is that this isn't only a romance but has a great mystery in there as well with a huge chunk of the novel dedicated to solving the mystery. Although the mystery isn't the most complex and unpredictable, it did have me wondering who did through about half the book before I figured it out.

And yes, the romance clichés are abundant; the closeted cop falling for the out teacher, the angst, drama, violence, action, guns, and a cliché rescue of the English teacher by the cop. But it was a sweet, easy read that has many elements I look for in my romances (a slow developing relationship, HFN, issues that aren't magically resolved or aren't even resolved at all, and a steamy passion wound around lots of action).

My fingers are itching for the next one...

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Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 13. Breaking Cover (Life Lessons, #2) by Kaje Harper Breaking Cover by Kaje Harper

pages: 320 (total: 4446)
read: March 2014
rating: 3/5

Second in the series after Life Lessons, it wasn't as strong as the first book. The mystery was pretty crappy, the most cliché serial killer story ever written. And the kids started to play a central role in the storyline and I really don't care to read about kids. Plus, the whole convenient plot twist, saw it coming from ten miles away.

However, I still enjoyed the continuation of Mac and Tony's story. The coming out portion was actually pretty good, the pressure of hiding a relationship and living in the closet was presented wonderfully. A lot of stories tackle coming out during teens but it great reading about coming out mid-adulthood, the issues and consequences that arise. It was the most enjoyable part of the story.

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Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 14. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy

pages: 204 (total: 4650)
read: March 2014
rating: 3/5

Reading this novel felt weird. The hero, the Scarlet Pimpernel (SP), is not the hero of the masses but one of the aristocrats, the nobility, those traditionally born into power. Despite Orczy's best efforts it was hard for me to connect with the characters and see SP's actions as heroic the way they were meant to be.

SP also seemed like a two-dimensional character. We never got his POV, and despite the clever, exciting stunts he pulled there really wasn't that much to him. Similarly, I just couldn't get into the dramatics of that relationship either.

Overall, it was an interesting read, I enjoy reading novels written so long ago trying to decipher what the people of that era felt and thought reading such things. However, as far as a novel for my own enjoyment, I wasn't that impressed. Maybe I came in too biased and sympathetic to the rebellious masses, but all I saw in SP was flash and very little substance that would actually make me feel sorry for the ruling class who historically has been responsible for keeping the masses poor, hungry, dirty, disease ridden, and used up while they prospered on the labor and pain and starvation. But I would suggest anyone reach for this classic, give it a try, and form your own opinions.

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Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 15. Home Work (Life Lessons, #3) by Kaje Harper Home Work by Kaje Harper

pages: 356 (total: 5006)
read: March 2014
rating: 4/5

Third in the series (after Life Lessons and Breaking Cover) throws another wonderful mystery into Mac's hands. This one is even better than the first one with complexity and clues upon clues. My favorite mystery of the series and love how much time is spent tracking down the clues and trying to figure out who the killer(s) is/are. It was very exciting!

At home, life also gets complicated for Mac and Tony as they wrangle with kids, family, and bigots. Those pesky relationship issues keep popping up during most inconvenient times.

And the ending, I don't want to spoil but its intense and surprising (and a lead into the fourth in the series). This is probably my favorite in the series, so far.

message 21: by Alicja (last edited Mar 15, 2014 09:04AM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 16. The Ten Thousand A Novel of Ancient Greece by Michael Curtis Ford The Ten Thousand: A Novel of Ancient Greece by Michael Curtis Ford

pages: 466 (total: 5472)
read: March 2014
rating: 3.5/5

To review this book properly I have to split it into thirds since it almost seemed like three separate books in one and I had a very different reaction to each one.

I simply adored the first quarter of the novel dealing with Theo and Xenophon growing up in Athens and becoming men. I love 5th century Athens, the look at the life of citizens, especially Socrates' students. And Ford did it amazingly well (maybe not quite like Renault well but I still fell in love with his descriptions of Athens' life). I also loved it for its character development and the in-depth look into the formation of Xenophon's character.

Then in the second third, the middle, it seemed like character development completely stopped. We started to see less and less of Xenophon and most of the soldiers turned out to be nothing more than two-dimensional stereotypes. And the romance between Theo and Asteria was awkward and out of place. The descriptions of battles and strategies were brilliant but that could have been done in any non-fiction work. It was very disappointing.

Although I did love, love, love the rooster story! Its a campfire tale told by a soldier and there was just something about his description of the soldiers sitting around, drinking, telling amusing stories that made me really connected to them. I just wish the same feeling had carried over past this scene.

The last third dealt with the army's road back to Greece and it started to pick up again. I was still disappointed in how little we saw of Xenophon and what we saw of him was just the surface with little flickers of what could be happening deep inside. There was so much potential to creating a Xenophon that would stand out, the man behind the hero of the legend, but Ford shied away from making speculations on the impact that being thrust into leadership of a doomed army can have on a person and stayed nice and safe without any significant analysis of his character.

However, the descriptions of hardship and psychological depictions of the survival were impacting. The story strayed away from just depictions of battles and strategies and showed the humanity within that struggle. I think Ford did that right.

Additionally, the romantic entanglement between Theo and Asteria became less awkward (even as issues came up) and I started to enjoy their interaction even more.

Overall, it was a great novel but that could have been epic given the material Ford had to work with. I've noticed that often authors shy away from depicting legendary characters in a meaningful way (like some Alexander the Great novels do as well) and instead focus on everything except character development of those figures. Ford's lack of a meaningful depicting on Xenophon past his childhood felt safe, whereas a deep exploration of Xenophon is what I was most looking forward to. It also makes the novel sometimes awkward to read, especially since it is from the POV of his squire, the one person who supposingly knows Xenophon better than anyone else. Despite this major shortcoming, it was an overall enjoyable novel.

Oh, and as a side note: When the army first sets out home, Theo calls it the army of ten thousand. Then they start dropping dead left and right he keeps calling them the army of ten thousand until the very last moment. I remember having the following thought midway through their trek back, "Yeah, still ten thousand if you round up to the nearest ten thousand." It annoyed me.

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Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 17. Learning Curve (Life Lessons, #4) by Kaje Harper Learning Curve by Kaje Harper

pages: 370 (total: 5842)
read: March 2014
rating: 3.5/5

This is it, the end of the series. Mac is recovering while preparing to testify at various trials despite his disability. Tony is trying to juggle another school year, the kids, and Mac's struggle while dealing with his own fears regarding the future. Lots of interpersonal interactions, relationship growth (and not just Mac and Tony's), some more homophobes, family issues, etc. This book is filled with all that goodness we've come to expect.

But... Yup, I bet you could tell there was a but (and not the sexy kind). But the case sucked. Granted Mac was on probation and only got called in sporadically but it wasn't the mystery I've come to expect with this series. It didn't even live up to the second one and that one was a bit boring. But this one, well, its lame, fell completely flat, made me wish I could just fast forward through it.

The story still gets 3.5 stars, the relationship stuff and Mac and Tony's struggle with Mac's disability are brilliant! It showed what a mature relationship these two have grown into, and that despite how hard it can get, they are able to give each other enough space and pick up the slack when necessary to get through them. Really in depth relationship stuff. Just don't expect a mystery on par with the first three.

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Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 18. Bow Grip by Ivan E. Coyote Bow Grip by Ivan E. Coyote

pages: 224 (total: 6066)
read: March 2014
rating: 5/5

What I absolutely loved was the wonderful character exploration. They seemed real, like people that I actually knew. They were vividly drawn, complete down to every virtue and fault.

It is so easy to sympathize with Joe Cooper, a man who a year after his wife left him for a woman is still trying to put his life together. His mom and sister are pushing for him to get a hoppy. Into his mechanic shop walks in the town hermit who offers to trade a cello for a car. Joe decides he needs a hobby anyway so what the hell. This spur of the moment trade sets off a series of events that will lead him to self-rediscovery and finding his balance again.

There isn't much plot, it is also slow to progress at times, but the characters completely take over this novel with their personalities. I guess the down side is that its just too short! Coyote needs to write more novels, I like her short stories and life observations but this was so much better!

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Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 19. The Complete Darkness Collection (Refuge Inc., #1-3) by Leslie Lee Sanders The Complete Darkness Collection by Leslie Lee Sanders

pages: 470 (total: 6536)
read: March 2014
rating: 3/5

This collection includes three books of a series in one. I received it for free in exchange for an honest review.

Before the Darkness

"Are there any other survivors?"
"Are we the last two humans?"


"There is a dark cloud of crap coming our way; will block the sun for years, rain down dust and debris. Should we worry about it?"
"Nah, let's keep on walking and see how things go."

*sex again*

"What about food or water or even shelter?"
"We have a few granola bars and two bottles of water, we're good. And despite passing that water source we didn't stock up because, uh..."

*more sex*

"Oh we can take a bath in that freezing cold hot tub to wash ourselves."

*even more sex*

If you like to watch idiots survive the apocalypse while constantly ejaculating out what little brain cells they have left, then this is the book for you. Otherwise, I wasn't that impressed. Honestly, if I didn't have all three in the collection I wouldn't have read past this one.

Amid the Darkness

And then something happened... the story changed drastically and the plot became the focus, so did their relationship, and, oh good Himeros, there was no sex! Yup, the lust filled, frantic coupling of the first one gave way to substance. I had to double check I was reading the same series on my Kindle.

Make no mistake, this isn't some literary genius but the story became plotty focused on the mystery behind Refuge Inc. and its quirky characters. Our two lust-blinded lovers actually realized they were lust-blinded and a bit obsessive and they took a breather. I've actually started enjoying their post-apocalyptic journey.

Beyond the Darkness

This last book in the series was my favorite and way, way too short. It had so much potential to expand on this new world that I think it missed (although it was still very enjoyable). It had so much that I liked which I can't go into details without spoiling the first two. At the end it may have done the overemotional, melodramatic thing but aside from that it was a great (although too, too short) finale to the series.

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Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 20. An Army at Dawn The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 (World War II Liberation Trilogy, #1) by Rick Atkinson An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 by Rick Atkinson

pages: 704 (total: 7240)
read: March 2014
rating: 4/5

I don't think I've ever read anything about the war in Africa during WWII, even back in high school I think it got an honorable mention during a class before moving on, so I had no idea all this was going on. And I am so glad that I decided to pick up this group read although it took me 6 months to get through. It isn't an easy read, if you are like me and unfamiliar with this topic, then you'll have a ton of names, events, battles, etc. that you'll be reading about here for the first time. It was hard keeping it all straight but I like a challenge. And I didn't pick this book up for fun but because I wanted to learn something new.

This is the first time I've ever heard about operation Torch, or even realized just how unprepared and unorganized the US military was at the time. The book felt like the US was a blind man trying to make his way through an unknown haunted house. And it was painful to watch.

I know this review sucks but I am still trying to process. I don't think I'd recommend this book to someone new to the African campaign during WWII topic, unless you really want a challenge. But it was overall well written and filled to the brim with information. Plus, it wasn't a dry history book. The author took the time to try and understand the people through historical accounts, biographies, letters, stories, etc. He describes the hardship of war, battlefields, death, and victory realistically without romanticizing war or glorifying the US. I think in time I'll read this again, I'm sure there is lots that I didn't absorb upon the first reading.

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Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 21. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

pages: 470 (total: 7710)
read: March 2014
rating: 5.5/5

This is an epic tale of Hiro Protagonist, a sword fighting, pizza deliverator for the Mafia, hacker and data collector, and Y.T. (Yours Truly), a 15 year old skating courier who always gets the package delivered regardless of the circumstances and obstacles. They reside in Reality, a world where the mob, gangs, companies, religions, governments, racial groups, etc. are all corporations and franchises. Gang wars, racism, group loyalties, and religious fervor create enemies and allies. But inside the Metaverse, Hiro creates his own rules as his gifted hacker skills code the world around him.

Our two heroes get caught up in an ancient and at the same time very modern mystery of epic neurolinguistic hacking proportions. Their lives become tangled up with the Mafia, band promotions, a nuclear bomb driven around with a motorcycle, a raft of immigrants, a bio-cyborg dog, an ex-girlfriend, a teenage fling with a murderer, the Feds, ancient myths, and a religious cult. (Note: Not a complete list.)

This is an action packed, sword wielding, nuke blasting adventure through Reality and the Metaverse that will have you biting your nails in anticipation. But the philosophical elements shouldn't be dismissed. It will ask questions regarding reality, the functioning of human brains (comparing them computers), language, religious influence, and so much, much more.

And at the end, among the blood and gore, we will obtain the answer to the ultimate question, (view spoiler).

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Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 22. Double Hue by Briana Lawrence Double Hue by Briana Lawrence

pages: 224 (total: 7934)
read: March 2014
rating: 4.5/5

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

And holy damn am I glad for it! The premise is simple... Gable and Avery are dating. One day Avery disappears without a trace and a week later the police find his dead body. Gable gets informed his boyfriend is dead and falls asleep while grieving. And then the fun begins...

Gable wakes up and Avery is alive. Soon he realizes he's stuck in some sort of time loop (although I was disappointed it was never explained) while trying to save Avery's life. He manages to solve a little bit of the mystery at each pass but will he be able to save Avery in the end? Will he lose his own life in the process? Go insane from the time rewinds? Or be trapped endlessly grieving his boyfriend forever?

And the mystery is awesome! I can't say anything about it because that would spoil the fun, or horror as may be more accurate. It kept me on the edge of my seat biting my nails in anticipation.

The characters are well developed, the two main characters, the boys, are likable but not perfect. There were times I was screaming at Gabe that he's an idiot, but the character is meant to be a college boy and they're all idiots so I figured that characteristic was planned into the plot (or at least I hope so). The supporting characters are great too, even the annoying roommate. And the, uh, yes, another great character with great development that I'll just keep a secret (*shhhh*).

It was a great novel but if you are looking for romance, its not much there (not a complaint). The two college boys are in a long-term, stable, loving relationship. There are no over-the-top melodramatics or gushy love scenes. The relationship is realistic and not the focus of this novel, not at all (which is why I didn't tag it as a romance). The plot, Avery's mysteries death, and characters take center stage here and that beats out romance any day.

The only criticism I can think of is a few weird POV shifts (but not many) so I recommend this novel to anyone not just interested in m/m romance but also to those that like dark mysteries with a little bit of time tampering.

message 28: by Alicja (last edited Apr 24, 2014 12:50PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 23. The Girls From Alcyone (The Girls from Alcyone #1) by Cary Caffrey The Girls From Alcyone by Cary Caffrey

pages: 316 (total: 8250)
read: March 2014
rating: 3/5

The novel started slow, Sigrid is sold by her family to the Kimura Corporation where she becomes one of many girls in one of their secret experiments. This is the typical girl taken from her home and gets genetically and technologically modified to be one cool kick-ass fighter. It takes about half the novel to get there and it was okay. The pace was sedate (with a few action-y moments in between) and, to be honest, the childhood friendship/budding romance with Suko boring.

And then midway through the book Sigrid grew up, was assigned on a mission of Alcyone and the drama began. This is where I started to love the story. Yes, the characters are one-dimensional, but the action and political intrigue turn it into a fast-paced space romp. Skin-tight suit wearing, gun and sword toting lesbians included. Yay!

However, the writing was simple, some wording a bit awkward, and the world building came from the Insert Typical Space Setting Manual.

But in the end I couldn't help but enjoy the ride. I think it was the sexy lesbians in space bit; it was plain fun.

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Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 24. Sinner's Gin (Sinners, #1) by Rhys Ford Sinner's Gin by Rhys Ford

pages: 260 (total: 8510)
read: April 2014
rating: 2/5

The premise sounds really good, a case gets personal for a rock star who falls for his investigating cop. Some of the reviews praised the case, indicating that they weren't expecting so much of a mystery. I was thinking this would be similar to Kaje Harper's Life Lessons series which I loved, so my expectations were high and... it was bad. Train wreck kind of bad. A train wreck where you can't stop staring at the horror kind of bad.

Granted lots of bad, abusive stuff happened to Miki but he was so melodramatic and needy, he seemed more like a caricature than a realistic character/person. The author tried to make him appear like a strong survivor but just managed a disjointed composite of polar opposite between a sobbing victim and shallow show of strength. And of course Kane was all about the comfort. I can't even count the number of times Kane's inner dialogue mentioned how his heart was about to burst when he thought of all Miki's been through. It seemed more like mutual dysfunctional need than love. Which led into a serious case of insta-love, their whole relationship developing in, what, two weeks or so? It was awkward and didn't really follow any sort of identifiable progression of development.

Additionally, no way cops would be so accepting of homosexuality as to talk amongst themselves about gay relationships and sex in such an intimate manner. I'm not saying they should be portrayed as homophobic but the conversations resembled more like girl friends chatting about sex and boys while having a few too many cocktails than something said between cops at the station or inside a police cruiser.

And the writing... I cringed when it regurgitated over and over "the cop," "the musician," "the young/old man," "the ___." Someone call an editor! Its an emergency.

But why didn't I dislike it? It was so bad it was hilarious!

I wished that the author had meant for this to be a romance parody because that would have been genius. The dialogue was the most romance cliché purple prose ever written. And the sex descriptions... just priceless. You'd be hard pressed to find worse written sex scenes.

For your amusement I am including below, in the spoilers (warning: may be graphic), some of my favorite bad romance and sex quotes from the book. It's so horrible its actually enjoyable on the I-can't-believe-someone-seriously-wrote-and-published-that.

(view spoiler)

Hahahahaha!! Hahahahaha!!

(And I feel ashamed to have been duped into spending actual money on this crap. Never reading this author again, unless its free, then the hilariously bad writing would be worth the price.)

message 30: by Alicja (last edited Apr 24, 2014 04:31PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 25. The Eagle and the Raven by Pauline Gedge The Eagle and the Raven by Pauline Gedge

pages: 704 (total: 9214)
read: April 2014
rating: 2/5

Finally finished. *sigh of relief* My take on this novel is... complicated, outweighed by the negative.

Maybe I came in with too many expectations knowing it would be about Caradoc and Boudicca. I was expecting guerilla resistance, battles, struggles of a people against a domineering, invading empire, all the stuff that usually gets my literary blood pumping. It did provide that in some form but it just didn't work for me.

Overall, it was long and over-descriptive (except when portraying battles scenes, those were short and glazed over). There were many lengthy descriptions of the scenery and landscape, over-detailed depictions of mundane everyday life, and long-winded speeches. Granted, it contained a lot of great cultural information and portrayal of Celtic life (I learned a lot); I just didn't care for her writing style.

My disappointment extended into the depictions of politics and military campaigns. Most of the effort was put forth to give us the historical events on a silver platter with each military movement and possible outcome talked out in depth... and then the actual battle would take up a short page or two of vague descriptions. I prefer my novels showing the strategy while depicting the battle so I guess this is another one of those areas where it's just stylistic choices that didn't do it for me.

I did like Caradoc, a lot. He is a great character and develops amazingly from a young man to the arviragus. He is interesting and complex; we really get to experience his mind.

But I didn't like the way she handled Boudicca. Not only did Boudicca barely get any time; she was presented almost like a child, hot headed and carried away by emotion. Even at the end when she led the army it was emotion that drove her to it (stereotypical pissed of woman goes on a violent rampage while in charge of an armed pissed off populace, ugh). I would have liked my Boudicca to have been much more complex, like Caradoc. I do realize the author is known for her feminist characters but I just didn't see it. She seems to write women characters just a bit out of their prescribed roles, like sword fighting or telling their men they want to battle, not being completely obedient, etc. but when push came to shove it is the men they follow.

The female characters who fell in love gave up themselves and their identities for their men. (view spoiler) I guess the only one that didn't was Aracia but she was depicted and shallow and vain (and evil). So the moral of the story here is that women's strength lies in supporting their men no matter how much of themselves they lose, and those that don't do so get cast as villains.

And the horrible, horrible ending (and I'm not talking about the defeat of the Celtic revolt by the Romans). (view spoiler)

Plus I am not a fan of that floating POV style, where the POV can switch between one paragraph and another.

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Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 26. Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, #1) by Ann Leckie Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

pages: 409 (total: 9623)
read: April 2014
rating: 4/5

Turned out to be an unexpected sci-fi rollercoaster! The main character is a thousand year old ship AI (a spaceship! sweet!). At first I was a bit confused, the chapters alternate between now and an alternate story set sometime in the past that was meant to explain the now, eventually. Its almost like a mystery where we have to put the story pieces together, as this alien world (and yet familiar at times) unfolds before us. Once the pieces started to fit, the confusion regarding the plot melted away. I became sucked into a political drama where a ship AI with dozen ancillaries, corpses it controls/is, gets reduced to one body on a mission of revenge.

The scenes from the AI's POV as a ship and from the many bodies it controlled were brilliant. We'd at the same time experience multiple scenes in different locations as the AI amalgamates these experiences into a whole and yet remains an individual. Very unique and effective.

The author uses "she" to refer to all characters regardless of gender. The Radchai language doesn't distinguish gender (nor, as we learn later, do they have gender stereotypes that define behavior among their people). Since the AI is Radchai, Breq (the AI) has difficulty distinguishing between genders. The use of she as default (contrary to the more common use of he as standard, generally when referring to mixed gender groups) made it a bit more difficult to get used to but gave the story an added dimension. I still have no clue whether Breq's body was male or female (or the gender of some of the characters), and the amazing conclusion is that it doesn't matter. Leckie has succeeded in making a genderless kick-ass character that can be identified with by men and women alike (at least mostly, from what I gathered from discussions, reviews, and comments). The realization that it didn't matter sneaked up on me at the end and left me loving this book even more.

Without spoiling the plot, I just have to add that the political drama is superbly done, and crazy twisted. However, Breq's plan is a bit, uh, simplistic. And to think that she spent 20 years working on it... I would think that an AI could come up with something more than the worst plan in space opera history. Despite this, the political twists and turns were complicated and a bit surreal.

It is a space opera, yet it is not in the traditional sense. Not much in epic space battles, but there is action, adventure, and some violence (especially toward the end). However, it focuses more on the concepts and characters, thoughts, actions, and reactions.

Despite a slow start, I ended up loving this novel and look forward to the sequel.

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Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 27. Sand Omnibus (Sand, #1-5) by Hugh Howey Sand Omnibus by Hugh Howey

pages: 252 (total: 9875)
read: April 2014
rating: 4/5

Haven't read Wool yet, been meaning to, but this popped up on my amazon prime Kindle lending program so I snatched it up quickly. I was pleasantly surprised at the amazing world building. The idea of diving under sand to find lost treasures of the past (i.e. our current world) was unique (to me). The descriptions of the technology and experience so detailed and delicious I was left wishing I could try it out.

The story follows a family living in this pretty much lawless society of, well, sand and more sand. There is actually so much sand I've found myself brushing the (imaginary) stuff off me while reading.

It all starts with Palmer's dive into the lost city of Danvar (aka Denver, Colorado); the best and worst dive of his life. And then follows from the POV of the all the children in the family in a story that seems not to be connected, and yet at the end we find out how everything fits together, interwoven into a whole. Loved seeing all the pieces of the puzzle fall together!

The only downside is that we never find out a lot about the world at large, even with the (rushed) ending. There is an event (toward the end) with Viv that happens off-page and I think it would have made the story more complete if we could have gone with her (more please, just more), experienced what she's experienced (and it would have completed the world building while providing answers to questions I still have).

Overall, I loved Sand. It is well written and unique with personable characters that left me rooting for them; a post-apocalyptic thriller of sand proportions.

message 33: by Alicja (last edited May 15, 2014 12:22PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 28. Don't Read in the Closet Volume One by Jade Archer Don't Read in the Closet: Volume One by Various Authors

pages: 740 (total: 10615)
read: April 2014
rating: 3/5

I'm just going to speak of the volume as a whole, just providing a few honorable mentions to check out.

You can find everything in this collection, from clumps of yellow snow to polished gems incased in platinum. My average rating hovered about three and I enjoyed most stories that I've read. I also learned a few things about myself... I have a soft spot for enemies-to-lovers but am bored out of my mind when its friend-to-lovers. Dark and humorous stories get my attention but sugary, sweet clichés leave me snoozing. Hot sex is fine and all but no substitute for great characters and an engrossing plot. I'm amazed to see what some awesome writers can do with so few words.

I would also like to thank the M/M Romance Group for putting this free collection together. It is a great way to find m/m writers I adore and lavish them with money when I go on ebook shopping binges.

My favorites from this collection are A Little Bit Country, great characters and setting, enemies-to-lovers romance, a little bit of country and a little bit of rock 'n roll. Masochism 101, such great characters (a reluctant Dom, a submissive in love with his roommate) and the development, awkwardness of the first steps into their relationship, the care and wonderful writing created an awesome whole.

Others that stood out are It's the End of the World As We Know It (great apocalyptic concept if a bit unrefined writing), Mourning (despite some issues it explored life and death, loss and survival well), and Sucker-Punch (explores the themes of life changes and has an interesting romance).

message 34: by Alicja (last edited May 15, 2014 12:39PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 29. Augustus by John Edward Williams Augustus by John Edward Williams

pages: 336 (total: 10951)
read: May 2014
rating: 4/5

I loved this novel! Beautifully written it sheds a light onto a time period that I know little about. The author has taken some liberties with the timeline and texts and states so in his discussion of the novel. Using historical documents and writings, including parts of the letters and documents translated and paraphrased from actual writings, and filling in where he needed to with his imagination, the author creates a breathtaking story. It is truly a work of historical fiction.

Split into 3 separate "books", I loved the first and third completely, was a bit ambivalent about the second one.

The first "book" dealt with Octavius' (later given the title of Augustus) as a young man and inheritor to the Caesar title after Julius' murder. Despite the format (epistolary format of letters, documents, and journal entries), I felt connected with the man and those close to him. The bit with Salvidienus had me in tears. We get a good picture of the youth growing into a man as he wrestles with Roman politics, finding his way of doing things, traitors, and his frenemy Antonius (and Cleopatra). I loved the battle details and military strategy!

I also loved the third "book" as it is the only one in Octavius' own voice. We get to read the thoughts of an old man, one who has outlived his friends, as he muses on his life choices and ruling of an Empire. These musings become deep and philosophical writings of not an emperor, but a man whose life was filled with triumphs and regrets, various choices made for better or worse.

The biggest disappointment was the second "book." I felt truly disconnected from Octavius. Many of the writings were from Julia, his daughter's, journal and focus more on her and only some on his relation to her. Many other writings are by famous poets of the day (Horace, Ovid, Nicolaus, etc.) as well as letters between his friends, frenemies, and enemies. However, at this point all we get is Octavius' scattered actions and reactions but not his state of mind or many glimpses into the man. It seems now that he is emperor he becomes untouchable, even to us. We do receive some explanations and reflections upon events in this section in "book" three but it doesn't begin to bridge the distance breated in this section of the novel.

Don't get me wrong, "book" two is still interesting, it presents Roman politics of the time amazingly. It just misses the personal connection that is the reason I picked this up, Octavius Augustus himself.

Overall, I still loved the novel. It works well as a political drama, is beautifully written, and presents personalities and characters through letters, documents, and journal entries superbly (each having their own voice and personality). Just wish there was more Octavius.

message 35: by Alicja (last edited May 15, 2014 01:27PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 30. Aftermath (Aftermath, #1) by Cara Dee Aftermath by Cara Dee

pages: 211 (total: 11162)
read: May 2014
rating: 3.5/5

This was positively dark without getting overly graphic. Many times when there is torture involved, stories will go into gory details but the author was able to paint us a traumatic picture without the gore of the physical torture, and instead presenting the psychological torture was beautifully.

Austin and Cam's relationship develops slowly. They were both (along with other men) kidnapped by a mad man (and its not what you think, the reason for the kidnapping is brilliant and different than I expected). They form a friendship while being stuck together in a cell taking care of each other. The book starts as they deal with the, ahm, (appropriately titled) aftermath of the trauma. The present weaves together with glimpses from their time in captivity to create a whole. Aside from some minor issues I think this was done pretty well.

What I didn't like is Austin's wife as the "evil woman" character. This story fell prey, like so many others, to dumping a two-dimensional bitch into the plot and quickly doing away with her. Apparently the wife works as a social worker but within a month of having her husband back after five (yes 5!) months in captivity she coldly tells him she can't do the marriage anymore. The whole divorce was glossed over, as was any emotional fallout from it (including emotional fallout to their child who has just had her father returned form 5 months thinking the worst-possibly of his death- before having her whole world turned upside down again).

And of course Austin ends up (conveniently) the custodial parent and in a short amount of time she meets Cam and they make a big happy family (again, without much emotional fallout). It was all so unrealistic. And unnecessary. This story would have been better if we didn't waste time with dismissing the bitch wife so easily, Austin could have already been divorced and had the daughter live with his ex-wife (or even with him, making an issue of the daughter living with the ex during his time in captivity). Then the two-dimensional bitch in the background would have at least made more sense, and the stuff that was ignored in the story would not have needed to be addressed, on the most part.

Aside from the above issue, I really enjoyed it. Austin and Cam's relationship development was nice and slow simmering, and the trauma explained their closeness and caring.

message 36: by Alicja (last edited May 15, 2014 07:14PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 31. Rough Boys Runaway (Rough Boys #1) by J. Vaughn Rough Boys: Runaway by J. Vaughn

pages: 245 (total: 11407)
read: May 2014
rating: 2/5

I received a free copy for an honest review.

There are aspects that I enjoyed but too much of the story was one dimensional. Let's start with what I liked and that's Ty. Even though there were three main characters Ty, Dani, and Kaeden, Ty was the only one I connected with. He ran away from home, from an abusive ex-cop of a father. Ended up living on the streets until one snowy night as he shivered near death Abe, a nurse, took pity on him. But his story isn't that simple, he doesn't stay with Abe that long ending up on the streets again. We get to see inside him as he struggles with identity, self-esteem, friendships, new experiences (not all positive), etc. I would like to have seen more depth to the character, more complexity to his emotions and reactions but his story is compelling. However, that's where it ends for me.

Despite tackling topics like prostitution, drug abuse, and rape it shallowly explores the emotions and actions when dealing with such trauma. The reactions seem to be the most dramatic in nature, and the most predictable.

The POV changes and random jumps into people's heads (like the girl at the part who flirted with Ty who received a full two lines of introspection) made my head spin.

And then there is Dani. Poor kid has zero street smarts and gets himself into vulnerable situations. I can sympathize with that. But then he does something so outrageous I couldn't connect with him anymore. (view spoiler)

And Kaeden. Well, he likes to wear heels, makeup, and crazy hair. Oh, and he doesn't seem to have any problems with being a prostitute even though he just started because apparently its fun. Seemed more like a secondary character too.

All these older men (even those that claim to be straight) seem to fall into insta-love with the boys (and all are big, alpha males and the boys (of legal age, except for Ty through part of the story) ate twinks. There are so many references to "the large man" with "large hands" I think the word editing program ate the thesaurus. They follow the oh-he's-so-cute-I'll-give-him-drugs-to-just-see-him-smile and similar formulas. Their internal thoughts make it seem like they're all the same character.

And lastly the stereotypes, oh my, so many stereotypes. I understand that everyone fits some kind of stereotype but so many of these characters are just cardboard cutouts.

Overall, it was okay. I did enjoy Ty's story and think I'll try the second story because I do want to know what's next for him. I foresee drama; issues he'll have to face, internal and external.

message 37: by Alicja (last edited Jun 03, 2014 08:30AM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 32. Special Forces - Soldiers (Special Forces, #1) by Aleksandr Voinov Special Forces - Soldiers by Aleksandr Voinov and Marquesate

pages: 559 (total: 11966)
read: May 2014
rating: 4.25/5

What a rollercoaster ride through hell. It was 559 pages of brutal military fights, dead bodies, sniper fire, explosions, knife fights and two enemies whose hate turns to love within the 9 years covered. What starts as a rape turns into an all out personal war between these two. Generally I don't like rape in my romance and rape-to-love isn't usually a believable storyline... but, damn, the authors made me a believer. The characters are so twisted and dark and fucked up that it worked. The relationship built slowly, with setbacks. The hate fueled both mistrust and lust. Simmering. Love. And then a brutal cliffhanger from the midst of the underworld.

I have a soft spot for military romances like this; two tough-ass special forces enemies and a thin line between hate and lust blurred by violence. Boy, do I have a screwy idea of romance. :P But at least I'm not alone, someone wrote this and many others liked it. It was action filled and brutal, and portrayed the military mindset so well.

My only criticism is that it needs an editor (not too terribly but noticeable). The overuse of the words "the other" annoyed the hell out of me. Most of the sentences could have just had that cut out without losing any meaning. The POV changes were a bit distracting at first but fine once I got used to them. Also, the use of sentence fragments was overabundant. However, this is published for free consumption so I'm forgiving the authors for not spending money on an editor.

Despite these issues it was an amazing story, one fucked up romance, amazing and deep characters, and a world I can't wait to go back to in the sequel. And the cliffhanger... golly, I'm picking up Special Forces - Mercenaries Part I right now, and I really mean right at this very moment.

message 38: by Alicja (last edited Jun 02, 2014 08:17PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 33. Special Forces - Mercenaries Part I (Special Forces, #2 part 1) by Aleksandr Voinov Special Forces - Mercenaries Part I by Aleksandr Voinov and Marquesate

pages: 607 (total: 12573)
read: May 2014
rating: 4/5 (more like 3.75 rounded up)

My review will spoil Special Forces - Soldiers but hopefully not this one.

Very different story to the first one, although still likable. The first was a love story between two enemies and focused mostly on the two of them as they hated, lusted, and finally loved.

This one brings in many other characters into the fray, characters that we end up getting to know on an, ahem, intimate level.

Dan/Vadim: At times hated Dan here, thought him a selfish bastard. For someone who claims to love Vadim he seemed to give up too easily while making sure to hit Vadim where it hurts the most. At the same time I love Vadim, even in his psychotic murderous phases. He seems so real and his responses to trauma understandable, well written.

A side rant: (view spoiler)

Jean: No love for Jean. None. The Jean/Dan "friendship" ((view spoiler)) makes me angry and Jean's annoying. Just say no Dan and quit hurting Vadim.

Matt: Adorable baby Jarhead. :P

Hooch: Love! Love! Love! He may be an opportunist, but he's a lovable one. With Hooch you get what you see.

Deeper Reflections on Hooch: (view spoiler)

One more take on Vadim: (view spoiler)

The Rescue: Oh yes! Action, blood, bravery, and mission banter at the edge of death. And all coded with Dan/Vadim relationship milestones. Oh, how romantic (hehe, that is if secretly fucking through Afghanistan is the definition of romantic, which for me it is)! More please.

Winner of Most Disturbing Moment: (view spoiler)

Whether I love 'em or hate 'em, these authors write amazing characters full of emotional depth, even if sometimes they act like complete idiots.

message 39: by Alicja (last edited Jun 29, 2014 04:45PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 34. The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie

pages: 581 (total: 13154)
read: May 2014
rating: 5.5/5

Three days. What could possibly happen in three days? Apparently 581 pages filled amazing characters, plot, intrigue, and a battle that will change everything and nothing at the same time.

Intrigued yet?

Well, you should be. This is the gritty battle fantasy infused with realism and philosophy between bloodied swords and piles of dead bodies. All over a hill. With dead bodies buried underneath. Maybe.

What is a hero? Traditional battle fantasies usually send their main characters through a set of trials ending on a battlefield of glory and great deeds. Not here. This entire novel is a philosophical exploration of what it means to be a hero (is it even a good thing?) that will make you re-think wars and heroism, and force you into a new perspective of the genre. You'll never read the same again.

The story is character driven and that's a good think because the characters are brilliant. Each is unique, with thoughts and feelings and quirks and flaws that are their own. I was amazed that despite so many characters, so many POVs, Abercrombie was able to keep them sounding so different, yet fitting into a cohesive whole, with a complexity and thought put into each of them.

Some honorable mentions:

Prince Calder: Complex and so very human. Others think him a duplicitous coward, and he is, but there is so much more under the surface. At times I hated him. At times loved him. At times cheered for him. And at times I wanted him dead. It is rare that I'm emotionally torn over a character like this, and that's a testament to Abercrombie's skill in forming realistic, and relatable characters despite many flaws, character defects, and immoral behaviors.

Bremer dan Gorst: Being in the brain of someone so cynical and self-destructive as they squeak out every word of their shameful existence was wonderful. More please.

Finree dan Brock: One of the few female characters but so easy to love her fierceness and manipulations. She is a woman who knows what she wants and goes for it, standing her ground despite fear and out of control circumstances and rivals.

I do wish there were more female characters, but between Finree and Wonderful (and barely known Seff and Ishri) the female characters Abercrombie creates are just as complex, realistic, and amazing as any of the male characters.

The plot thickens with political intrigue as the pieces are placed on the battlefield. All characters are pieces placed on a gigantic chess board. But is there anyone who has the view of the entire game? Or are chance and fate interfering with purposeful moves of the chess players? And who are they anyway? Loved the twists and turns, loyalties broken, and human mistakes that defined the action. I couldn't stop turning the pages.

Now, I'm going to read the First Law trilogy and then I'm going to read this one, again.

message 40: by Alicja (last edited Jun 29, 2014 04:57PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 35. The Portable Atheist Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever by Christopher Hitchens The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever compiled by Christopher Hitchens and written by various authors

pages: 499 (total: 13653)
read: May 2014
rating: 3/5

This collection of writings selected by Hitchens is an interesting look into the development of atheistic thought from its historical roots to current writings. I found some authors (and some new to me authors) very engaging cognitively. While some others I found completely boring.

Among those in this collection I found these to be most compelling, authors who I'd like to read more:
1. John Stuart Mill (one of my favorites during my Political Science theory classes back in college)
2. Charles Darwin (surprisingly I haven't actually read anything by him yet, must remedy that)
3. Anatole France (loved Miracle, must read more)
4. Mark Twain (I've been missing out)
5. Emma Goldman (more please, and she is one of the few women in this collection)
6. Sigmund Freud (re-read from college, still loving it)
7. Bertrand Russell (ha! love it!)
8. Carl Sagan (and why haven't I picked him up yet?)
9. Michael Shermer (hahahaha!!)
10. Daniel C. Dennett (Thankg Goodness!)
11. Richard Dawkins (almost never disappoints)
12. Elizabeth Anderson (hmmm... thoughtful)
13. Penn Jillette (I've always liked him)
14. Ian McEwan (another new [to me] author worth exploring)
15. Salman Rushdie (made me have John Lennon stuck in my head for hours after)
16. Sam Harris (how is it I haven't read this yet?)
17. A.C. Grayling (ah...)
18. Ayaan Hirsi Ali (mostly the writings in this collection came from those with Christian roots or living in Christian countries, nice to have a well-written different perspective)

Overall, 18/47 writings have become my favorites, not bad. It was great getting exposure to so many writers. I think every atheist will find something to enjoy in this collection.

message 41: by Alicja (last edited May 15, 2014 07:24PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 36. Rough Boys Redemption (Rough Boys #2) by J. Vaughn Rough Boys: Redemption by J. Vaughn

pages: 300 (total: 13953)
read: May 2014
rating: 2.5/5

I received a free copy for an honest review.

I was glad that Ty's story took up most of the pages. He is still the most interesting character, one that seems most like a real human rather than a walking stereotype. I think his dealing with (view spoiler) was portrayed realistically. Made for a good reading.

Unfortunately, similar critiques as to the first book in the series still stand. Although, the writing has improved and the story is much more organized than it was in the first book, it still has a juvenile feel. But it still relies on (melodramatically) predictable reactions to extreme situations. Just seems like the author tried to fling as much horrible as possible without developing the characters with as much depth.

Also, the insta-love still rules with the character love pairings pretty much as established in the first book, even if in Kaeden (view spoiler).

message 42: by Alicja (last edited Jun 29, 2014 06:33PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 37. Drift The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow

pages: 288 (total: 14241)
read: May 2014
rating: 5.5/5

I listened to this as an audiobook. And I'm so glad I did because Maddow is brilliant and no one else could read her book as well as she has. But I did have to listen to it twice because her sexy voice kept distracting me from the content. And here I must confess that my crush on Maddow may bias this review.

I was a political science major back at university and I still learned a lot from this book. I knew a bit about the history of US military and that it has changed drastically since colonial times. But there was so much more, especially the details, that I've not known before.

After a brief overview of the founding of US military, Maddow picks up after WWII and shows us how the various wars have led to changes within presidential administrations that transformed the military into the professional powerhouse it is today.

Maddow mainly focuses on the time period starting with Reagan. It is clear she doesn't have a high opinion of him, the changes made to the executive branch, nor the law breaking. However, she doesn't spare any president Republican or Democrat. She points out that Clinton and Obama have both been complicit in maintaining the executive branch's control over the military while subverting the powers of Congress.

Yes, Maddow is liberally biased, but what I love about her (aside from that voice and the sexy pant suites) is that she doesn't spare liberals when they behave like shit (and this book can be called unbiased with a clear conscience, or as unbiased as anyone talking about politics can get). This book is a testament to her journalistic/researcher integrity as much as it is a history lesson on the power, control, and structure of the US military.

message 43: by Alicja (last edited Jun 29, 2014 07:00PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 38. A Burnable Book (John Gower, #1) by Bruce Holsinger A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger

pages: 464 (total: 14705)
read: May 2014
rating: 4/5

What a fun and thrilling mystery! When I think I know what's going on, the plot twists and conspiracies and motivations were all turned upside down. Over and over again. I still have a few questions which I hope the next one (yup, there is a sequel in the making) will tackle.

Its as exciting as 14th century can get outside a battlefield. We have Chaucer (yup, that writer we all studied in high school) mixed up in something, the murder of a French girl, curious maudlyns (prostitutes), lawyers, and even the King. In the middle of these is a mysterious book of prophecies that can bring down the kingdom.

And my favorite character is Elenor/Edgar. It is so great to have an awesome and fully drawn non-cisgender character in a book that isn't specifically centered around LGBT+ identities. She/he is a maudlyn whose accidental involvement in the case gives it a deeper dimension.

It took some time for me to warm up to Gower, his personality takes some time to develop but once we started to find out the personal about his life I just couldn't help but love him too. He is the primary mystery solver (Gower PI?), and its through him that the whole story gets put together (mostly).

This isn't what I typically read (historical mysteries or this historical era) but I am so glad I did. I loved the mystery and the characters and I'm definitely picking up the next one.

message 44: by Alicja (last edited Jun 29, 2014 07:23PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 39. Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy, #1) by Robin Hobb Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb

pages: 480 (total: 15185)
read: May 2014
rating: 4/5

Fitz is a royal bastard, and by that I mean he's the bastard son of a prince who was one day dropped off at the castle's doorstep by his grandfather claiming he's not feeding the boy anymore. What's the king's solution to an inconvenient kid? Train him to be an assassin.

It is an interesting premise, and an even more interesting execution. When I imagine assassin, I imagine leaping buildings in the dark, staying to the shadows, and slit throats in bed without anyone having heard a peep. No here. The assassin's tools consist mostly of poisons, which fits more with Fitz's personality than my initial imagining's of an assassin's work.

However, the story started off realllllly sloooow. The years of training as a kid started off interesting but my attention started to wane, I started to become frustrated and then... *bam* oh hell, this is good! The slowness of the story runs parallel with world building. Its an amazing world but it takes awhile to get it all laid out with its structures, rules and regulations, magical properties, etc. It got a bit tedious. But once the foundations were laid deep into the ground the story took off with an explosive ending that made me crave more. And the best part is that that ending wasn't the payoff, just the beginning of the payoff that I suspect is hiding in the next two books of the trilogy. Meaning, when can I lay my hands on Royal Assassin?

message 45: by Alicja (last edited Jul 08, 2014 07:00PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 40. The Kid What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant by Dan Savage The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant by Dan Savage

pages: 246 (total: 15431)
read: May 2014
rating: 4/5

Originally published in 1999, Dan Savage already had that I'm-being-super-honest-and-openly-hilarious-with-you tone. Its just as funny as his newer stuff but it didn't feel as rehashed as the newest book (maybe because much of the newest stuff I've already gleamed through his podcast while this was from my innocent high school freshman days, i.e. pre- my knowledge of Dan's existence, and therefore I haven't the exposure).

Despite this being a memoir of his and Terry's adoption of their son, Dan still manages to go all political on us. (view spoiler) And he does it all within the framework of his life and relationship. That open, honestly raw prodding into his own life lets us indulge in our natural human voyeuristic nature. Ah, what better way to deliver a message political and yet very personal at the same time?

Reading this book 15 years after it was written doesn't make it feel dated. Well, most of it doesn't. Although it does show that Dan may have been a bit too cynical in his younger years. (view spoiler) Oh Dan, you were so, so wrong but in a good way.

Mainly, this is a look at a journey of a couple seeking to adopt a child. The good and the bad, from the reasons in wanting one to the logistics of "making a baby" the non-biological way. Usually books about adoption are filled with sentimental, depressing, and hopeful angst that forces tear ducts to create a never-ending waterfall of tears. Here the only tears were from laughter.


Ok, fine, I lied. It was laughter until the very end where even Dan gets a bit sentimental, and I finally did too.

message 46: by Alicja (last edited Jul 08, 2014 07:41PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 41. Special Forces - Mercenaries Part II (Special Forces, #2 part 2) by Aleksandr Voinov Special Forces - Mercenaries Part II by Aleksandr Voinov and Marquesate

pages: 565 (total: 15996)
read: May 2014
rating: 2.5/5

When its good it is amazing-brilliant-wonderful-wow! But unfortunately, that's only about 100 pages of that behemoth. Aside from hot sex the rest was just meh over-processed relationship stuff that could have fit easily into 100 pages rather than the 400+. And there could have been less sex too. Oh noes, I actually said it, less sex please.

And Jean is pissing me off... so is Dan come to think of it ((view spoiler)). (view spoiler)

I adore Vadim, his darkness, his struggles, his humanity and damn if Dan is acting like a selfish prick. I realize he claims to not be good at the understanding part but grrr anyway. This part in the series left me feeling overprotective of Vadim. And that is why I like Hooch, he is just so very accepting of Vadim as he is, with all the darkness and pain inside. But in no way am I suggesting Hooch to be a Dan replacement, I just want Dan to get sense smacked into him.

Now on to the mind-blowing goodness...

Go team Vadim/Dan! Kick some genocidal maniac ass, snipe the snipers, throw some Molotov cocktails on the Soviet junk tanks, blow up a bridge, save some civilians, and save your relationship. I love it when they go all kick-ass working together, wish there was just more of this in the story and not a measly 100 pages.

And the ending: Damn! Everything is so uncertain, a powder keg waiting to blow. It does leave me craving more.

message 47: by Alicja (last edited Jul 10, 2014 12:35PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 42. "Daite." (Jiai Jouwa, #1) by Hildred Billings "Daite." by Hildred Billings

pages: 233 (total: 16229)
read: May 2014
rating: 2.5/5

I was really looking forward to this read... a a serious, business woman and a flower-child, get-down-and dirty (in every sense of the word, from literally digging in the dirt while farming to super hot girl-on-girl sex) woman get together on a rollercoaster ride of hot sex and relationship-ness.

But it failed to deliver. Instead we live inside Jun's head, a very scary place, with all the neediness and whiney-ness I just couldn't endure. And after getting through her corporate drama and over-emotional self-depreciation, about 70% of the book later, we finally get a peek into Saya's life and, holly hell, I wish that's the story we were told (and not just in a few page info dump).

Saya remains a mystery almost until the very end, the story would have been so much better if Jun decided to track down her past, like a detective, rather than whine (or if it was told from Saya's POV). Would have been so much better if we had little bits and pieces revealed slowly, and saw Jun's reactions to each bit. But no, for a go-getter, super powerful business bitch she has the emotional maturity of a grousing teenager, and the tear ducts to prove it.

Despite how I make it sound, it wasn't terrible. The corporate stuff was interesting enough and Saya's story at the end made me ache for her (and like her even more... oh, didn't I mention that I loved Saya?). And the sex was steaming hot!

message 48: by Alicja (last edited Jul 10, 2014 01:59PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 43. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

pages: 546 (total: 16775)
read: May 2014
rating: 3.5/5

Let me start with what I loved about this book: the cultural details regarding Africa, the African culture, customs, and way of life. Few fiction novels have I learned so much as I did from this one. These alone would have held my attention, even without the author's delving into philosophy.

I also liked the mother and the daughters (Rachel, Leah, Ada, and Ruth) despite their narration appearing more mature than their chronological age (although I guess that can be explained by the story being told through their adult selves; I still think these kids didn't always behave like kids).

The downside is the author's penchant for black/white thinking. She could have created the father as a very complex character but instead he came out purely as a villain. At the same time, I think despite the contrary evidence, it was clear the author held the African culture as "good" compared to the "bad" American culture. Instead, the story would have gained depth if it remained in the shady grey area. IMO, in the end it came to their superstition (and the culture founded on that superstition) is better than our superstition (i.e., God(s), religion, etc.).

Despite falling short of depth in some areas, it is still a fascinating novel where we end up learning through story (and not info dumps) about another culture from the eyes of four American girls (and their interpretations of this culture). Additionally, it provided me with food for thought, questioning cultures, established customs and superstations, and their impact on people.

message 49: by Alicja (last edited Jul 10, 2014 05:35PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 44. Sheepfarmer's Daughter (The Deed of Paksenarrion, #1) by Elizabeth Moon Sheepfarmer's Daughter by Elizabeth Moon

pages: 506 (total: 16735)
read: May 2014
rating: 4/5

An highly enjoyable medieval-type military fantasy. I like Paks, she is a stubborn girl from a small village that has dreams of war and not of farmgirl motherhood and marriage.

The military details are amazing, the descriptions of strategies, training, and ordinary soldiers' life are awesome.

However, it stalled a bit in character development. This book could have been extraordinary but I feel like we are kept removed from Paks' emotional development. We also don't get to see the friendships really form. We are told her and Saben were best of friends but I would have loved to see and feel that friendship. It would have been nice to get some more buddy scenes in a tavern or around a campfire, to show the camaraderie between the soldiers.

However, the detailed world-building makes up for the flaws. Despite the fantasy genre, the world was a real feeling to it (and the map at the beginning is very helpful). The detailed descriptions of the various cultures, peoples, dress, practices, and religions are fascinating. Moon doesn't shy from including realities of war either, such as Paks losing friends in battle.

I also find it awesome that Paks seems to be asexual, aka has no interest in sex. We get characters of a variety of sexual orientations these days but it is so rare that asexuals feature at all in literature. Some have said it seems unrealistic to them in reviews but I guess they've never had asexual friends. Paks is a great example of the variety of human sexuality, and I commend Moon for pulling it off marvelously.

message 50: by Alicja (last edited Jul 10, 2014 05:56PM) (new)

Alicja (darkwingduckie7) | 273 comments 45. Counterpoint (Song of the Fallen, #1) by Rachel Haimowitz Counterpoint by Rachel Haimowitz

pages: 414 (total: 17149)
read: May 2014
rating: 3.5/5

I'm not one to get all excited about slaveboy non- or dub- con so I was a bit weary of reading this at first. But it came so highly recommended and I'm glad I eventually picked it up. It still may qualify as dub-con but the amount of time and the development of their interactions before anything sexual happens creates a buffer that bleeds out the uncertainty to minimum.

Keeping that in mind, the romance part of this was actually fascinating. I liked both of the main characters, and even though Ayden at times seemed more like a spoiled child than prisoner, with the jailer and king, Freyrik, indulging him way more than believably realistic. But that's "fantasy", right? And an enjoyable one at that.

As far as the fantasy world-building component, it was average. But at least the author put in enough thought into the structure of the world that enabled us to have an engrossing battle at the end with swords and blood and killing and all the military goodness that comes with it.

All in all, an average fantasy with a slightly above average (possible dub-con) romance, mix in interesting characters and a major battle, and the results are quite satisfying.

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