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review 2014-03-16 19:25
A Kiss of Venom by Hailey Edwards
A Kiss of Venom (An Araneae Nation Novella) - Hailey Edwards

I received this novella in a BookLikes giveaway run by the author. It's book 3.5 in Edwards' Araneae Nation series, which takes place in a world divided into lands of perpetual winter and lands of perpetual summer. In those lands live various clans, each with specific characteristics that define them.

A Kiss of Venom stars Nicolette. She and Maisy, her musically-gifted young daughter, have traveled to the Araneidae clan, ostensibly so that Maisy can perform at Rhys and Lourdes' first anniversary party. In reality, Nicolette has been hired to kill Pascale, Lourdes' sister (this is directly related to events in A Hint of Frost).

Having been cast out of the Araneidae clan ten years ago because she slept with Armand, Lourdes' brother and the Araneidae heir, Nicolette has little love for the clan. She has since changed her name and appearance. She has also altered Maisy's appearance, so that no one will connect her and Armand's lavender eyes – yes, this is a Secret Baby book.

It took me a while to wrap my brain around the situation and characters. I was confused, because I didn't recall Armand being a jerk in A Hint of Frost, and yet, if Nicolette's side of the story was true, that's what he was. To be honest, I could barely recall anything about him – Henri, his herbalist brother, stood out more. Armand was simply the brother who could increase male thread production the way Lourdes could increase female thread production.

I spent much of the novella wondering what, exactly, had happened ten years ago. I think I eventually got everything sorted out in my head, but it was pretty confusing for a while. On the one hand, Nicolette blamed Armand and his family for her having been cast out of both the Araneidae clan and the Salticidae clan. On the other hand, Armand seemed to think that the girl he'd loved 10 years ago was dead. Had Nicolette spent years blaming him for a situation he hadn't even had full knowledge of?

I did decide, by the end, that Nicolette's anger was justified. I wasn't entirely happy with how Armand and his family dealt with one of the revelations about Maisy – I felt it was a step backward as far as earning back Nicolette's trust went. I couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if

Maisy hadn't conveniently turned out to qualify as Armand's heir.

(spoiler show)

It annoyed me that Armand seemed to assume that he, Nicolette, and Maisy could be a happy family, as though the events of ten years ago had never happened. Thankfully, Nicolette didn't make things quite that easy for him. The story's ending was more HFN (happy for now) than HEA (happily ever after), which fit the situation better.

Although I felt this story was only so-so, I did at least like it more than A Hint of Frost. Nicolette was less naive than Lourdes, and the world-specific details were a little more focused and lightly touched upon, so I didn't spend so much time wondering how it all fit together. Unfortunately, I didn't find Armand to be any more interesting after I finished the story - maybe I'd have connected with him more if some of the story had been told from his perspective?

Additional Comments:

There is either a formatting error or continuity error near the end. In one paragraph, Nicolette has just stood and is about to go meet Giles to talk about getting a job. In the next, she's in a tub, taking a bubble bath. There is no extra space between the paragraphs to indicate a scene change. It was a little confusing. Otherwise, though, I didn't notice any errors, and I was thrilled that the default font size was larger than Samhain's usual choice [explanation: although I think this novella is self-published, most of the rest of the series is published by Samhain Publishing].


(Original review, with read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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text 2014-03-09 05:20
Reading progress update: I've read 29 out of 104 pages.
A Kiss of Venom (An Araneae Nation Novella) - Hailey Edwards

So far, it's a decent read. It takes place a year after A Hint of Frost and is directly connected to events in that book, so I'm glad I read that first.

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review 2014-03-09 00:17
A Hint of Frost by Hailey Edwards
A Hint of Frost - Hailey Edwards

I won A Kiss of Venom in a BookLikes giveaway and decided to push it to the top of my TBR. However, it's Book 3.5 in Edwards' Araneae Nation series, and I wasn't sure how confused I'd be if I read the series out of order. Since I already owned A Hint of Frost, Book 1 in the series, I figured it couldn't hurt to read that first.

After her mother, the Araneidae clan's leader, is poisoned to death, Lourdes becomes the clan's newest maven. There's no time yet to mourn – the clan has been betrayed by its Theridiidae allies and is still in danger. Lourdes does the only thing she can think of: she contacts Isolde, the Mimetidae maven and her mother's friend, and asks for protection and help finding her mother and father's killer. In exchange, Lourdes agrees to supply the Mimetidae clan with Araneidae armor and to carry out a binding ceremony with whomever Isolde chooses. Isolde's choice turns out to be Rhys, one of her sons.

This book was a little overwhelming at first. There were lots of clan names to remember, and each clan had its own characteristics. The Araneidae could spin silk that was stronger than metal – hence the Mimetidae clan's desire for armor made by them. Members of the Theridiidae clan could produce deadly venom (although I think other clans were sometimes venomous as well, just not as deadly?). The Mimetidae clan's members ate the raw flesh of their enemies after battle in order to gain their strength.

The various clans could interbreed, but I'm still not entirely sure what effect this had on their clan-specific abilities. Lourdes and her siblings were all half Theridiidae, but, ability-wise, they seemed to be wholly Araneidae, so I thought maybe clan abilities were passed on via mothers. However, that didn't seem to hold true for all characters with multi-clan heritage.

World-building confusion wasn't the only problem I had with this book, or even the worst. The worst was probably Lourdes. Lourdes was a combination of stupid, naive, and forgetful. During his investigation of Lourdes' parents' deaths, Rhys found evidence that led Lourdes to suspect that Pascale, her sister, had likely been the murderer's lover. Here were Lourdes' thoughts on how to handle that suspicion:

“I had many questions, but only Pascale knew the answers. Given her toxic reaction to Rhys, I thought it best I keep these suspicions to myself and let him find his own conclusions. We could compare notes and, if necessary, I would approach Pascale and interrogate her alone for answers.” (35)

This was the first bit of evidence they'd found that could help them identify the killer, and Lourdes didn't think it was necessary to immediately talk to her sister, either on her own or with someone else as a witness? Seriously?

Of course, Pascale ran off at the first opportunity. Despite the evidence that she had willingly run off with a Theridiidae lover, Lourdes wanted so badly to believe that Pascale hadn't played a part in their parents' murder that she changed her deal with Rhys and the Mimetidae clan, asking that he help find and bring back Pascale. My estimation of her went down another few notches.

I had problems with the romance as well, in part due to my issues with Lourdes. I was supposed to believe that Lourdes was a little scared of and repulsed by Rhys, because he was part of the Mimetidae clan (violent, raw flesh-eating, etc.). However, from the moment she first laid eyes on him, she was attracted to him. It was blindingly obvious that, at some point, Lourdes would learn that Rhys was Not Like the Other Mimetidae, so that her attraction to him would suddenly be okay. I guessed some of the truth about Rhys fairly early on. Lourdes, of course, did not, because she needed to be jealous of Rhys's possible relationship with a woman from another clan.

I really wanted to like this book. Sadly, I didn't. The world-building was confusing, the writing didn't really work for me, and Lourdes, who should have been awesome considering that she was one of the few people in her clan who'd been trained to fight, was a disappointment.

I'm now worried about reading A Kiss of Venom. On the one hand, it's a little reassuring that the main characters will be different: it stars Armand, one of Lourdes' brothers, and a new female character. On the other hand, I'll still have the confusing world-building to deal with, Armand was not my favorite of Lourdes' brothers (I preferred Henri, the herbalist), and I'm afraid I'll be lost as far as series-level plot developments go. A Hint of Frost ended with the yellow death storyline still unresolved, and the description of A Kiss of Venom mentions that Armand had previously lost “the woman he loved.” Since this woman wasn't mentioned at all in A Hint of Frost, I assume she was introduced, and died, in a later work.


(Original review, with read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2014-01-14 20:32
I don't feel the love...
A Hint of Frost - Hailey Edwards

It has a nice story flow, but I have some problems with it.


Some of the plot construction seems clumsy and predictable to me (e.g. the sister/treason stuff/Rhys' big secret/the relationship development between Rhys and her etc.). I didn't like the "virgin till real marriage" line - that is a very typical m/f romance thing - over-used and expandable. Also the groom not being allowed to see her wedding dress before the ceremony.


Of the characters I liked Rhys best, but he also stayed card-board heroic - alpha in the sense of dangerous fighter, but vulnerable and caring as a true modern guy.


I found the world building more than confusing - starting with the names in this strange world: male lead is called Rhys, which is basically a British name; his brother's name is Vaughn. And then the female lead's siblings are called Pasacale (a girl!), Armand and Henri - so we go French here. And then there are side characters like Wishövi (WTF?) and Masikookyang (double WTF??). The first one is a Hopi word for spider web according to google. And the best one: The female lead is called Lourdes (a "holy" place in France, Madonna's daughter is also named after it).


There is mentioning of Anis and Licorice. But there are also fantasy animals and the "Araneae" are some kind of spider-people. 


This kind of stuff really bugs me - it is the same when characters in historicals say "Okay" all the time. 


It was overall an ok read, but I won't continue with the series - there are better ones out there I am sure and so I'd rather search on.


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review 2013-12-30 14:54
Review - A Breath of Winter (Araneae Nation #4) by Hailey Edwards
A Breath of Winter - Hailey Edwards

Review originally posted on The Book Pushers, see source link below.


Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publish Date: Out now
How I got this book: ARC from the author

There’s no easy cure for a love of epidemic proportions.

Zuri and her mercenary brothers had a simple mission. Transport a captured harbinger to Erania and collect the bounty. But this job turns out to be anything but easy.

Their welcome to the northland is nothing short of frigid. A scuffle with border guards and her prisoner’s attempted escape leave Zuri injured—and she and her brothers stuck in quarantine. Worse, the bounty comes with silken strings attached. Strings held by a scientist with a daring, dangerous plan.

Because Zuri and her prisoner barged in before his fail-safes were in place, Henri had no choice but to lock them all down until he’s sure there’s no risk of spreading plague. He’d planned to study the harbinger, but it’s the mercenary holding the leash who intrigues him the most.

When Henri’s experiment goes awry, they learn they’ve all been pawns in a plan with one goal: bring the Araneae Nation to its knees. Zuri is forced to make a choice that could sign her death warrant—or sacrifice everyone she loves.

Product Warning: This book contains a chair-bound heroine who won’t let anyone—least of all a man—push her around. Expect tea-drinking, net-tossing, and knife-wielding. Should you feel compelled to indulge in a bear ride, please keep your hands on the reins and your feet in the stirrups. Author not responsible for possible maulings.
This blurb came from the author’s website.

If you have been following this blog over the past few years you might have noticed the name Hailey Edwards popping up on a fairly regular basis. I have been hooked on this series since I read the first one, A Hint of Frost. The characters, the world-building, and mysterious deadly illness sweeping over the land were all intriguing. Since this is a tightly connected series with each book building on the events of the previous ones, there will be spoilers for earlier installments. I strongly recommend that you start at the beginning of this series instead of jumping in part way. I thought events had pretty much come to a head in the last book, A Time of Dying, with the discovery that this disease was created, spread on purpose, and meant far more than just death to most of its victims. Boy was I wrong. Edwards has continued to raise the stakes even as she circled back around to provide a glimpse of life at the site of her opening story and how it has changed over the passage of time.

I was introduced to Zuri and her companions in the last book but didn’t see them as much more than skilled guards. It was fascinating seeing into what shaped them and their dynamics not just as a mercenary band but as a family unit. Some of the same traits that kept them together led to issues when they were confronted with an intelligent foe who would stop at nothing to win. I loved Zuri’s fierce loyalty to those she cared about even when they made her feel like an outsider. She was willing to give her all for her family and as a result made some interesting decisions.

Henri, was one of the minor supporting characters in A Hint of Frost, but like other skilled authors, Hailey included his scene there for a reason. He was very smart and somewhat overconfident. While he seemed to enjoy talking about his experiments, he tended to withhold crucial pieces of information, which caused some issues to those around him as the story developed. Even though I supported Zuri’s anger and hurt by his actions, I could understand his reasoning based on the threat they faced and how he was treated during his formative years. I loved his patience and care for Zuri and her brothers as he tried to make amends for events that occurred because of his secretiveness. I did get a bit frustrated when Henri remained oblivious of a certain reoccurring event but as the danger to his clan sharply increased, I understood why.

I thought the interaction between Zuri, Henri, and her brothers was a lot of fun. Zuri and Henri had a push-pull relationship with one acting on their mutual physical attraction while the other pulled back and then they switched places. The push-pull meant they moved from just physical attraction to emotional closeness before fully acting on their attraction. In the meantime, Henri developed a bond with her brothers which gave him some insights into their family dynamic but also made it harder to gain Zuri’s trust. I also thought the conversations and teasing between Zuri and her brothers demonstrated a very tight bond. As Zuri shared their history and the responsibility she carried I was drawn into their dynamic even more. The closeness between the main characters made certain events even more gut-wrenching as they unfolded.

In addition to the slow growing romance between Zuri and Henri, I enjoyed the overall story progression. Hailey introduced a couple of very fascinating new characters I hope get their own story. The twist they brought in addition to what happened with Zuri and Henri is really moving this series in a new direction I think. I also found the harbinger’s newly demonstrated abilities very unsettling and perhaps indicative of the growing complex problem facing the Araneae Nation. I am not quite sure how this is going to play out which is another thing I enjoy with this series as a whole.

A Breath of Winter was another strong installment in Hailey’s Araneae Nation. I am glad that she is able to keep me guessing and hooked on her characters and world. While the installments build on each other, I have a hard time predicting where Hailey is going next which helps keep my anticipation high for each succeeding story. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

I give A Breath of Winter a B+


Source: thebookpushers.com/2013/12/30/review-a-breath-of-winter-araneae-nation-4-by-hailey-edwards
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