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review 2018-02-25 09:17
‘Ash Princess’ brings dark themes of abuse and violence to YA fantasy but it’s wholly absorbing; bring on the Astrean rebellion!
Ash Princess - Laura Sebastian-Coleman Ash Princess - Laura Sebastian-Coleman

This was admittedly a little slow for me to get into but it had quite a bit to do with me starting it while away on a sunny beach at Amelia Island in Florida (it was in stark contrast to the dark world in the novel, so I had competing worlds in my head).

Nevertheless, once I got into 'Ash Princess' further, I became captivated by the darkness, and contrary to some interpretations of it being a story that is there to shock its readers with the relentless abuse, and of murders of whole populations, I read this book and absorbed this in a very different way. I'll get back to all of that in a moment...
The novel is centered around a young girl, the 'Ash Princess', Theodosia, who is now known as Lady Thora, who is being held captive in the palace that her mother, the Fire Queen was murdered. The cruel and murderous Kaiser, has subsequently enslaved the Astrean people, and now the Kalovaxians rule the land, although there's a rebellion brewing.

Theo's position is complicated to say the least. She has suffered a decade of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her mother's murderer, but she knows that if she is to survive, she needs to bide by the Kaiser's wishes. Theo's closest friendship is also complex, since she is friends with the daughter of the enemy Theyn, the Kaiser's right-hand man; Crescentia is close with Theo, but looks the other way when things are hard for her friend (namely, her beatings), quite happily will give her the less flattering dress to wear, and doesn't see many things that are right under her nose (luckily).
Another complication: where would a good YA novel be without a little bit of confusion over what boy you like? It's even more complicated when one is supposed to be the enemy, the Prinz (and your best friend hopes to marry them some day), and the other is a long time friend, and orchestrating the plot to escape, amongst other things (*no further spoiling!).

Beyond the walls of the palace, there are also battles fought for more land, in the name of the Kaiser, and in terms of how this comes across to me, is that I liken this to how I see much of European history. I'm not talking about the Kaiser specifically but when I think back to what I know of centuries of history across Europe and all the battles fought, particularly for land, the pillaging of villages, the murdering of its people, these sorts of things happened. I liken what I'm reading to that sort of knowledge I have of history of the way that lands are conquered; even royalty has been imprisoned within their own castle walls. History really has been that cruel, so when I read something like this (or like many other fantasy novels), it really has been played out. What's wonderful in a book like this though, is that the people are waiting for this young woman, Theodosia, to take back the throne again.

So, ultimately I felt like this was a tale of survival in a very harsh world, where Theo has to make hard choices to not only survive, but to try and fulfil what she believes is a destiny expected of her by the Astrean people. It leads her to do some things she doesn't want to do sometimes, and through that, she actually becomes stronger as the novel progresses, but at a cost.

This is not a novel for someone who wants their books about fallen kingdoms to be light and with frequent uplifting turns; this book is pretty heavy, and high on dark content, but if you're willing to fall into a novel where kingdoms don't get taken back easily, and in which many lives are lost in the process, you will be ready for this. There are strong characters in this and I hope they're developed even further in the next book. I'm looking forward to seeing the rebellion of the Astrean people continue!
YA fantasy has ANOTHER amazing author, Laura Sebastian, to pay attention to!

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text 2018-02-25 08:21
PROGRESS UPDATE: Page 252 THE UNQUIET DAUGHTER
The Unquiet Daughter - Danielle Flood

I am on page 252 of this memoir. I am not much of a memoir reader, but this one claims to be the inspiration for "the love triangle The Quiet American by Graham Greene." Graham Greene is one of my favorite writers, so I grabbed a chance at a giveaway from the author on Goodreads and won it! So far I am enjoying it a lot. (it's actually got another giveaway on Goodreads that ends on March 3rd). I'm in the middle of 2 other books, but I am hoping to finish this one soon.

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text 2018-02-25 07:19
Reading progress update: I've read 550 out of 940 pages.
Midnight Tides - Steven Erikson

Midnight Tides - Steven Erikson : I didn't think the last book could be bettered. I was definitely wrong! Erikson is a master crafter of story telling.

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review 2018-02-25 01:18
ARC Review: Cam Boy (Murmur Inc. #3) by Quinn Anderson
Cam Boy - Quinn Anderson

If you look up the words "naive", "reckless", and "overly confident" in the dictionary, you might find Josh Clemmons' picture there.

If you've read the previous books in this series, you might remember Josh as the guy who works with Pete at the coffee shop. Additionally, you might recall that Pete works for Murmur Inc, a company that makes pornographic movies, but also provides Phone Sex Operators, and apparently, on-camera live action. 

Josh, stuck in a dead-end, low-wage job, partly because college just wasn't for him, looks for more excitement and more dough. Thus he's been looking online at Murmur Inc. for open audition calls, and wouldn't you know, his luck is about to change. 

Hastily cobbling together a resume, he's so confident that he's perfect for porn and will be chosen to perform that he. Quits. His. Job. before he even has an interview lined up. Overly confident? Reckless? You betcha.

Also naive. So very naive, because he thinks if Pete can be a porn star, so can he. Like, surely, anyone can be in porn, right? Lots of sex and you get paid? Why wouldn't everyone do this, amirite? How hard could it be? 

Right.

Josh's dreams of being the next AVN winner are dashed quickly when he realizes after his first scene he's not quite cut out for that kind of career. 

Mike Harwood, on the other hand, has been an adult film entertainer for quite some time. Filming both straight and gay movies, he's so used to faking attraction that he's no longer sure what's real and what isn't. I could tell that he was approaching burnout, but he wasn't quite there yet.

Josh and Mike meet on set for Josh's first and last scene, after which Josh crawls back to the coffeeshop and begs for his job back. Which he does, lucky him. Neither can get the encounter out of their mind, but Josh isn't going to make any movies, and Mike is busy filming the next scene. Josh also gets even more lucky when Colette, the owner of Murmur Inc, offers him cam work - something he can do from his rented room, on his own laptop, but still get paid. Josh agrees - jacking off seems simple enough when one hasn't to contort himself, and getting paid to jack off - what more could he want? 

The author has done really good research for her books and gives good insights to the industry. What we see on film is hard work for the actors, and there is a constant fear of STDs that is just part of daily life. It's also true that the straight porn is less likely to utilize condoms, and thus the actors undergo frequent tests to ensure they're as safe as can be. When Mike is told that one of his recent co-actors on the M/F set has been tested positive, he is immediately sent for a test, and anyone with whom he performed since then must also be tested. Additionally, until he tests negative, he cannot perform with anyone else. 

And so Josh and Mike reconnect. With Mike laying low and waiting the appropriate potential incubation time, he's got time on his hands, right? 

There's a bit of angst among the giggle-snorts, and Josh's antics kept me largely entertained. This series is campy, cheesy fun for the most part, though there are some serious undertones between the lines. With each book, the author offers an unflinching look at the porn industry, and reminds us in subtle ways that what we as consumers see is only the glossy outer layers, and not the seedy underbelly of the beast. Mike knows that his days as a performer have a sell-by date, and he tries to share that knowledge with Josh. 

Mike also has a secret he's keeping from Josh - which I thought was going to create a bit more of an issue when it comes out, but thankfully Josh isn't just naive and reckless, he's also kind and forgiving. 

There's a happy ending here too, which I appreciated very much. It was nice to see them in a good place in the end, in love and happy.


I couldn't tell if there's going to be another book in this series, but I sure as heck hope so. This was a fun read!


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher via Netgalley. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2018-02-24 23:50
ARC Review: New Heights by Quinn Anderson
New Heights - Quinn Anderson

Insta-love done right, this is.

James is traveling home from NYC to Charleston, SC, after attending a friend's wedding. Mika, pronounced Mee-kuh, is heading the same way as part of work. Except, they don't initially know this.

The meet-cute happens when both of them need a power outlet at the airport after their respective flights are delayed. James is hogging the outlet, and Mika is irritated. Then Mika hogs the outlet and James is outraged. 

It's difficult to flesh out your characters in what amounts to a novella, but the author succeeded in weaving plenty of background info for both James and Mika into the plot. It's also admirable how well this book worked for me, considering that most of this novel takes place in an airport - there's not a potential for change of scenery, and you're somewhat limited in what you can get your characters into. 

The characters had immediate chemistry, and none of it felt forced. The attraction burns brightly from the start, despite James' prank (that was so funny) and Mika snagging the outlet when James isn't looking. They have a rough start, for sure, but ultimately, they both call a truce, give in to the attraction, and realize that there might just be something there. 

I liked this a lot. It's a quick and easy read, and it just flows and flows, and before you can blink, they're in the family bathroom doing not-so-family-friendly things. Which, as fiery as the attraction was, isn't really a surprise.

The sweet epilogue just sealed the deal on this book - that was fabulous.

Recommended for when you need a little pick-me-up for a long lunch break or some such. This was a lot of fun to read.


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. **

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