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review 2020-02-20 02:22
The Forbidden Game: The Hunter, The Chase, The Kill by L.J. Smith
The Forbidden Game: The Hunter; The Chase; The Kill - L.J. Smith

This omnibus edition includes all three books in the trilogy. In the first book, Jenny is doing some last minute preparation for her boyfriend Tom's birthday party and stumbles across a mysterious game store, where she buys a game in a blank white box. The game turns out to be a paper house, with paper figures you can draw on to look like the various players, and paper cards on which the players are expected to draw their worst fears. It seems like harmless fun, until the game becomes real, and Jenny, Tom, Zach, Dee, Audrey, Michael, and Summer are all trapped in the house and forced to face their fears if they want to survive. The one putting them through all of this is Julian, an evil but handsome being who wants to make Jenny his.

In the second book, everyone tries to adjust to the consequences of Book 1, and Julian's back for another game. In the third book, Jenny and her friends must travel to the Shadow World for a rescue attempt. They end up in a deadly amusement park, and this time around Julian isn't the only threat they need to worry about.

L.J. Smith was one of my top favorite authors when I was a teen, despite her book's frequently ugly covers (seriously, the original Night World covers were hideous, although they were at least more memorable than the current "face on a black background" omnibus covers). She was my go-to author for YA paranormal romance, and I loved several of her books enough to reread them multiple times.

I don't think I ever reread the Forbidden Game trilogy, though, and all I could remember about it was that it starred a hot evil guy and had a disappointing ending. I can tell you right now that the reason Teen Me was so disappointed was because I approached this trilogy as paranormal romance. In reality, it's more like YA horror with romantic elements, or maybe a YA horror love story. Even though I'd adjusted my expectations for this reread, the trilogy's ending was still a bit disappointing.

Smith's writing was as compulsively readable as I remembered it being, although it felt a bit dated, especially during the first book, and the computer scenes in the second book made me laugh a bit. Jenny was very much an "L.J. Smith trilogy" sort of character: the gorgeous blonde girl who was loved by everyone and viewed by everyone as being very good and kind. It was a bit much, but I suppose it fit with the "Persephone and Hades" vibe that the story was going for.

The horror aspects in the first book were a bit cheesy, but still decent. In Book 2, I liked the creepy moments before the newest game started (Audrey and Dee's experiences were my favorites), but the game itself was largely forgettable. Book 3's horror elements, on the other hand, were fabulous. It's no wonder that the primary thing I remembered about this trilogy was the amusement park. I'm a fan of creepy animatronics, so I considered Leo the Paper-Eating Lion and the stuff in the arcade to be some of the best parts.

The romance aspect... Even with my vague memories of how the trilogy turned out, it was hard not to read it as paranormal romance.

After the events of Book 1, I hated myself a little for wanting Jenny to end up with Julian - after all, the guy was responsible for one of her friends ending up dead (granted, the friend didn't have much of a personality) and was trying to force her into a position where she had no choice but to stay with him.

But I also kind of understood it. At the start of the book, Jenny was working her way towards becoming Tom's perfect Stepford wife, wearing clothes and styling her hair primarily to suit his tastes and laying out a future for herself that revolved around him and his plans. Tom's happiness was the most important thing. Then Julian appeared. He considered Jenny the light to his darkness and, unlike Tom, was completely focused on her. He was also way more charismatic and interesting. Tom was barely on-page in the first and third books and spent most of the second book either sulking a bit out of jealousy or acting like he'd already lost her and could only watch her from the shadows. Julian was more appealing than that. And what about a third option? Jenny could have ended up single, but stronger and more self-confident. I'd still have been bummed about Julian, but that outcome would have worked better for me than Jenny ending up with Tom. Boring, boring Tom.

(spoiler show)

I appreciated aspects of the ending more now than I probably did as a teen - the way all of the characters were forced to face the things they most feared about themselves and how others viewed them, and how they supported each other in the end. But I can't help it, I still read (or reread, I guess) L.J. Smith's books for the romance more than anything else, and this trilogy was just painful in that respect. I can understand why Teen Me never reread it.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2019-11-23 23:24
Runed by Kendall Grey
Runed - Kendall Grey

When Loki wakes up naked and encased in ice, the last thing he remembers is Ragnarok. Much has happened since then, because his body is now that of a mortal human woman, he no longer has any of the runes that gave him his powers, and Huginn, one of Odin's ravens, is a ragged chicken. (I will be using male pronouns throughout this review because Loki indicates multiple times throughout the book that he still thinks of himself as a man, right down to his choice of which public bathroom to enter. Speaking of which, content warning: there's some brief transphobia in that scene.)

The person who finds him and takes care of him is Gunnar Magnusson, an archeology grad student who's due to fly back to the US soon. Gunnar doesn't believe that Loki is really a god and is concerned about leaving this obviously confused person behind, but Loki turns out to be pretty resourceful. The end result is a road trip with Loki, Gunnar, Gunnar's rich stoner friend, and Huginn the chicken.

This was one of my Book Bonanza purchases. I don't think I originally intended to buy any of Grey's books, but she was part of one of the panels I attended, "The Outliers," and my ears perked up when she mentioned her "Loki returns in the body of a human woman" series. Then came several whirlwind hours of walking around, buying books, and getting autographs. I almost forgot that I wanted to visit her table and, thankfully, remembered just in time. I spent the last of the cash I brought with me on this book.

I bought a lot of books at Book Bonanza without actually checking any reviews. Maybe not the best idea. My biggest concern about this book was that it'd turn out to mostly be sex scenes. To my relief, that wasn't the case - although Loki was interested in Gunnar and very much enjoyed learning about vibrators (there's one on-page but not terribly detailed scene in which he uses one), Runed is definitely urban fantasy and not paranormal romance or erotic romance.

Loki's complete lack of knowledge about modern times and, in the beginning at least, modern languages made for a bit of a rough start, but I liked Loki's "voice" and Gunnar seemed like a nice guy. Then Gunnar left for his flight and the story abruptly shifted into high gear. Loki accomplished a lot in a very short amount of time, and he and Huginn were lucky they didn't end up dead.

Loki was generally a fabulous train-wreck, and I enjoyed finding out what he was going to do next. Freddie, Gunnar's rich stoner friend, didn't particularly appeal to me but still worked well as part of Loki's little group - I could believe that he'd follow someone like Loki, if only for the entertainment factor, and his money and car came in handy. Gunnar was a bit more difficult. I liked him, but I had a hard time believing that a responsible guy like him would do all the things he did, particularly near the end of the book. The only way I could even vaguely get him to gel as a real character rather than a convenient plot device was to view him as the sort of person who tended to be a passive follower, prone to ending up in the orbit of wild people like Freddie and Loki.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the next book and am hoping that the revelation at the end of this one doesn't result in some personal growth backsliding on Loki's part. Also, here's hoping that Loki doesn't try to ditch Gunnar for stupid reasons, that Gunnar gets more of a chance to shine, that Muninn gets a speaking role, and that Grey doesn't insert a love triangle into the series. Considering Loki's reaction to Darryl Donovan and my suspicions about his identity, I have a feeling that I'm not going to get my wish on that last one, unfortunately.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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text 2019-10-17 20:08
Reading progress update: I've read 25%.
Norse Mythology - Neil Gaiman

This whole book seems to be kind of a Loki one-man show. Not that I´m complaining. I like Loki. 

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review 2019-10-15 14:44
ARC REVIEW Ragnarok Unwound by Kristin Jacques
Ragnarok UnwoundAn Urban Fantasy where all the pantheons of Gods exist. Ikepele Ives lives with her best friend and tries to ignore the power flowing under her finger tips. Her mother left her with her father and with no knowledge how to control her power. Until one night she has only once tried to use her powers and it didn't work very well now she has a young Valkyrie asking for her help if not then the end of days for the Norse pantheon is coming. Even though Ragnarok is a prophesied event Hildr, the Valkyrie is telling her otherwise and she needs Ives powers to untangle fate and stop Ragnarok. Together with her best friend Jules she sets off with Hildr to find Loki.

They met his daughter Hel and then Fenrir and Jormungand, who like their father have the ability to shapeshift. With each of them the ties that bind them to Ragnarok get stronger and the more energy she needs that her mortal body can barely contain. By the time she finds Loki, who has escaped from his prison, he is so entwined in Fate's threads she almost kills herself to separate him from Fate's thread. Meanwhile Hel, Fenrir, Jormungand, Hildr, and Jules are fighting off the Frost Giants. Back on Ives home island of Hawaii her father and, unbeknownst to Ives, her Great Aunt the Goddess Pele are fighting off the giants as well.

Overall, it was a fantastic story. I love mythology retold stories and I really enjoyed this version of Loki and his giant children. I love how Pele was thrown in the mix too, as a lover of geology and if I had been smarter I would have gone into volcanology; Pele was the first Hawaiian God I had ever heard of, years ago. I loved all the characters. Ives is a strong female protagonist who is at first trying to avoid her own fate but is thrown into it without warning or a choice. Ives also learns everything her father never told her about her mother. There is a hint of romance for future books but mostly it's character driven and story strong. I love the idea of a Fate Cipher a woman who untangles fate when it gets a little to fubar. I really hope there are going to be more.       


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review 2019-06-17 00:38
Norse Mythology - Neil Gaiman
For more reviews, check out my blog: Craft-Cycle

I am going to keep this pretty short and sweet.

Neil Gaiman was born to write this book. It's a perfect fit and he excelled at the task.

Wonderfully written with humorous wit and entertaining style. This is a fantastic book. After listening to the first track of the audiobook from the library, I had already decided I would be buying a physical copy and forcing my husband to listen to the audiobook on our next road trip (he's gonna love it). Just a wonderful, amazing book.

Bonus to the audiobook: I am absolutely horrible at pronouncing names so listening to Gaiman so eloquently read them is incredibly satisfying.
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