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review 2017-06-12 02:49
Jewels of the Sun by Nora Roberts
Jewels of the Sun - Nora Roberts

Surprising herself and nearly everyone who knows her, Jude Murray quits her job as a psychology professor, rents out her Chicago condo, and flies to Ireland to live in a little cottage once owned by a relative of hers. She hadn’t even reacted this drastically when her husband asked for a divorce only a few months after they’d gotten married. All she knows is that she’s stressed and unhappy with her current life, and she has no idea what to do about it. She intends to stay at the cottage for six months, write an academic paper about Irish legends, and somehow figure out what to do next.

The village of Ardmore awakens a part of Jude that she’d thought long since squashed out of existence, a dreamer willing to believe in romance and magic. She’s baffled and pleased when two local women, Brenna O’Toole and Darcy Gallagher, decide to befriend her. Then there’s her attraction to Darcy’s charming and gorgeous brother, Aidan. And the beautiful and sad ghost who seems to be residing in her cottage.

This was a reread. I loved it when I first read it: the cozy Irish village and welcoming villagers, the Gallagher and O’Toole families, and Jude learning to just do things without worrying so much about the possibility of failure. I still enjoyed it this time around, although my enjoyment was a little more measured.

The main thing that kept me from completely sinking into this story was how painfully obvious it was that Jude came from a fairly wealthy family. She’d have to be, in order to suddenly quit her job, fly to another country, and spend six months working on a paper that, on its own, would probably never pay any bills. At one point, she went on a shopping spree with Brenna and Darcy and spent 2000 pounds on lingerie, plus who knows how much on purses, shoes, and outfits. Just thinking about it made panic well up in my throat - I couldn't help but remember how I'd felt when I paid $100 for a nice coat to wear to job interviews back when I was job hunting. Jude was also a bit shocked at her shopping spree, but whereas I kept thinking about her spending that much money without knowing when she’d see another paycheck, I had a feeling that Jude’s reaction was primarily inspired by her having done something so out of character for the person she’d been back in Chicago. Chicago Jude was practical and wouldn’t have spent so much money on sexy things.

I have a really nice life, but I can’t imagine ever having the kind of safety net that would be required for something like Jude’s story. When it dawned on her that what she really wanted to do was write stories, she worried about failure, but not about how she’d pay her bills if she failed. I could relate to aspects of Jude’s personality quite a bit - I, too, have a tendency to avoid risks and drama - but not so much her background.

That said, I still consider this one to be of Roberts’ better books. It was a quick and cozy read. Aidan was great, a guy who used to be a wanderer but who’d since matured and settled down. The gift-giving bit was lovely and sweet. The way he tried to handle Jude near the end of the book was more than a bit boneheaded, something he probably should have figured out sooner, but I could mostly understand how he’d gotten those idiot ideas in his head. And the groveling at the end was nice.

There were lots of other moments I loved that weren’t directly related to the romance. The way Jude’s mother, who up to that point had been painted as stiff and unemotional, got angry on Jude’s behalf. The hints of Brenna’s unrequited feelings for Shawn. Molly O’Toole’s steadiness, and the surprise Molly’s husband and Brenna had lined up for her. The way Darcy panicked when she realized that she might have had a part in setting Aidan up to be deeply hurt. Darcy wasn’t my favorite character, and I recall her book being my least favorite one in the trilogy, but I did like the way she’d get into snarling fights with her brothers and yet still clearly care about them. (Although her asking Jude for details about sex with Aidan seemed weird. Do sisters with brothers ever really do that? I only have a sister, and I can’t imagine wanting to discuss her sex life.)

The book’s supernatural aspects weren’t too bad either. This is one of the few “Nora Roberts trilogies tied together by something supernatural” that I can stand. The supernatural aspects are well-integrated into the romances and aren’t too hokey. Basically, a long time ago a mortal woman named Gwen fell in love with a faerie prince named Carrick. However, she doubted that her feelings for him and his feelings for her were real and ended up marrying the perfectly nice man her father lined up for her. She had kids, a decent marriage, and a nice but not passionate life. All the while, Carrick tried to woo her but made one big mistake - he never actually told her he loved her. At the end of Gwen’s life, he essentially cursed himself and Gwen not to be able to move on until three other couples fell in love. It was a bit silly and lacking in details (Carrick never actually specified which three couples, so it could have been anyone falling in love, not just the Gallagher siblings) but not too bad.

Jewels of the Sun hasn't perfectly stood the test of time for me, but it still made for a good reread.

 

Rating Note:

 

The me prior to my big job hunt probably wouldn't have had a problem rating this book. It would have been an easy 4 stars, possibly even 4.5. This reread left me debating between 3.5 stars and 4. In the end I settled on 4, because I mostly enjoyed myself and could see myself rereading it again sometime in the future.

 

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

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text 2017-02-09 17:43
The Iron King (Iron Fey #1) by Julie Kagawa
The Iron King - Julie Kagawa

"Meghan Chase has a secret destiny; one she could never have imagined.

 

Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school or at home.

When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change.

But she could never have guessed the truth - that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil, no faery creature dare face; and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart." Goodreads

 

This book is what you can call a typical faery book. To be honest, you will probably find a lot of the different elements that makes up this book familiar already. Summer court? Check. Winter court? Check. Characters from classical literature, namely Shakespeare? Check. We have them all - Titania, Oberon and not to forget: Robin Goodfellow/Puck. Mind you, this Puck doesn't bear a lot of resemblance to the Puck we're used to.

 

I never managed to fall in love with this book, even though I wanted to. Mainly because of Meghan Chase herself. The time-span of this book is somewhat confusing, and our main character makes a lot of weird, or even stupid, choices. I guess it's fair to say I'm not a huge fan of the main character, but the friends and enemies she gains along the way is a lot more interesting. Want a hint? Ash. Wow. Now that's a character to pay attention to.

 

The world building in this book is..Extensive. You'll probably discover the never ending descriptions of fantastic creatures that Meghan meets on her way. Loads of them. Thankfully, the author takes a break from that from time to time, throwing in some pretty hilarious dialogues, often involving Puck.

 

“Ladies and Felines," he stated grandly, grasping the doorknob, "Welcome to Tir Na Nog. Land of endless winter and shitloads of snow.”

 

I ended up giving this book 3/5 stars. It's an okay book (maybe I've grown too old to put up with the idiocy of a wannabe heroic main character?), but like I said, I didn't really fall in love with it.

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review 2016-12-26 00:55
#CBR8 Book 121: Storm's Heart by Thea Harrison
Storm's Heart - Thea Harrison

I read this TWO months ago, and need to get through this ever-increasing review backlog, hence resorting to the blurb once more:

During the rule of her murderous Dark Fae uncle, Thistle "Tricks" Periwinkle found sanctary among the Wyr in New York. Her ethereal beauty and sparkling personality won the hearts of the public, but after her uncle's death, there are those who don't want to see her ascend to the throne. 

Able to wield thunder and lightning, Wyr sentinel Thiago Black Eagle has ruled the skies for centuries. His massive build and thunderous power makes him one of the Wyr's best weapons. And he's sent to protect Tricks when she's almost assassinated in Chicago.

Soon, both Tiago and Tricks will fall prey to the stormy hunger that engulfs them - a passion that will shake the very foundation of all the worlds. 

Last year, I read and really enjoyed Dragon Bound, the first of Thea Harrison's Elder Races paranormal romance series. This book, which features some of the supporting characters of the first book, Tricks, the petite and outgoing fae PR representative for Dragos, the super-Alpha dragon shifter whose the hero in book one, and Thiago, one of his main security guys, who happens to be a Thunderbird shifter and immensely powerful and so on and so forth. In Dragon Bound, there is a conflict with the ruler of the Dark Fae that ends in his death. Once he's killed, it is revealed that Tricks is in fact his long lost niece, the only surviving member of the original royal family, who were murdered when her evil uncle usurped the throne. She's been hiding with Dragos and the other Wyr shapeshifters in New York under her assumed identity. Now a delegation of Dark Fae are asking her to return and take up her rightful place as queen.

Others are less enthusiastic, and video where Tricks cuts down her would-be attackers in an alley in Chicago goes viral, while Tricks is nowhere to be found. Dragos sends his best tracker, Thiago, to locate and protect her. While the two seem not to have spent all that much time together in the past two centuries while they've been working for the same dragon, apparently taking up bodyguard duty, shielding her from new dangers and spending a lot more time in close confines for the reluctant Tricks makes Thiago realise that she is his fated mate. The various Elder Races have their own territories, and are not supposed to intermarry. The Dark Fae will not accept a queen mated to a Wyr, and Thiago becoming Tricks' consort could be seen as a dangerous power bid. Of course, all of these complications will be irrelevant if they don't figure out who is trying to assassinate Tricks before she can even make it to her home territory to take up her title.

This book was moderately entertaining while I read it, but I can now barely remember any of the details and mainly the bits that annoyed me, at that. Harrison makes no great attempt at actually establishing why Tricks and Thiago may suddenly be falling for one another, she basically just tells us that it's so. Fated mate storylines rarely work for me, because they just seem a bit lazy. Why bother showing us the characters getting to know one another and falling for each other when you can just make them meant to be? They have no control over their choices or actions, they are just destined to be compatible because...reasons? Also, this being a romance, the whole "oh noes, my people will never accept our union" seemed a bit contrived, as they are obviously going to stay together. Finally, it was painfully obvious to me who the person scheming to kill Tricks was from the moment said character was introduced. There was very little tension there.

Add to that the fact that it seems like for at least a quarter of the book, Harrison was mostly busy establishing the two characters who currently have an antagonistic relationship but are clearly fated to be together, neither of whom I was particularly excited about, and this book was a big disappointment compared to the first one. I'm hoping later books are better, but based on their introductions in this book, I may skip the next one too. I don't know if I care about the inscrutable vampire queen and the next of Dragos' many security officers.

Judging a book by its cover: Well, your eyes are certainly drawn to the abs, aren't they? Unlike the cover model for the last book, this one doesn't actually get a face, to leave more to the reader's imagination? I don't exactly think this cover is very exciting, but then the contents were pretty underwhelming too, so at least it's not trying to oversell the story? I've got nothing.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2016/12/cbr8-book-121-storms-heart-by-thea.html
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review 2016-11-26 15:57
#CBR8 Book 115: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
The Invisible Library - Genevieve Cogman

Irene is an agent of the Library, a place that exists outside normal space and time. In fact, as long as the agents and librarians that work for the Library are there, they do not age in the slightest. Only when they are out in the different worlds of the multiverse, do they visibly age, and how much depends how time passes in the various worlds they find themselves. As an agent of the Library, Irene is sent to retrieve books that are deemed of value, because they are represent something different from what already exists in the archives. Sometimes she has to disguise herself and go undercover for months, sometimes she can just stroll into a shop and buy a book. Having just completed a several month stint as a scullery maid at a posh boarding school, Irene is looking forward to some down-time. Instead, she is told she is to mentor a trainee library agent and that they are to start their new mission immediately.

 

Irene's new assistant, Kai, is very handsome and very tight-lipped about his background. The Library never recruits anyone with living family, unless they are the children of other Library agents (like Irene) and therefore understand the need for secrecy and the strange customs and traditions that surround the work. He seems eager and helpful enough, but it becomes clear to Irene that he's not entirely truthful about where he came from, and she wonders if the senior librarians know of his falsehoods. 

 

Irene and Kai are sent to a world resembling a Steampunk Victorian England. It is a world heavily influenced by chaos magic (some worlds are heavy in magic, some are almost devoid of it. Some worlds are highly technologically advanced, some very primitive) and there are vampires, werewolves, sinister dark fae and mechanically enhanced alligators waiting to attack. Irene and Kai discover that the owner of the book they're after was a vampire, recently murdered rather spectacularly. A cat burglar with a glamorous reputation appears to be involved and the fae ambassador for Lichtenstein is very keen to get his hands on the book, as well. To complicate matters further, Irene receives word that Alberich, a centuries old Librarian gone rogue and evil, is also in this reality, wanting the book for unspecified reasons. Their mission, which was supposed to be a fairly innocuous training exercise is turning out to be very dangerous, and they'll be lucky if they even survive, let alone succeed in getting the book back to the Library.

 

The world-building in this story is intriguing. There's the Library, where they clearly have fairly advanced technology, existing in a place where time apparently stays still. No one ages while within its walls. The agents of the Library can travel in both space and time, visiting hundreds of alternate worlds, some very like our own, some very different. The agents are trained in the use of magic, and there is a secret magical language that can be used to manipulate the world around you, but only if you speak it with the right vocabulary and inflection. Who exactly runs the Library and how one ascends through the ranks to become Librarians or even Senior Librarians was only hinted at, but I hope it's revealed in later books. 

 

The main characters, Irene and Kai, were fun to spend time with. All agents take their names from literary characters and Irene loves all kinds of detective fiction, so named herself after the famous Ms. Adler. Being sent to a world that so closely resembles the setting of her beloved Conan Doyle novels is thrilling to her, especially when they befriend a gentleman detective who certainly fits right into the genre Irene so enjoys. Having always been aware of the Library, she doesn't really question its organisation, and how it goes about recruiting people. She starts having questions once she gets to know Kai more closely, though, and wonders if it's right that only people wholly unconnected in the world get to be recruited. 

 

While there is a more contemporary, modern setting to some bits of the book, most of this is set in a Steampunk, late Victorian setting, with dirigibles and the occasional mechanically enhanced menace. There are quite a lot of action sequences, with our protagonists finding themselves in peril of various kinds. One of Irene's rival agents from the Library pops up with her own agenda, and there is the looming threat of the sinister Alberich. As a first book in a series, it was a good introduction. I certainly want to read more.

 

What I'm not going to do is continue with the audio books. The audio book (which I got in a big Audible sale last year) is narrated by Susan Duerden, whose inflection is just so annoying. Her voice had a tendency to go up and down at the strangest time, and she frequently ended sentences on a high point, making it seem as if everything was a question. It was incredibly distracting, and meant that I spent much longer getting through the audio book than usual, because I actively avoided it for a time, just because the narrator's voice was so grating to me. Searching the Audible catalogue, I notice that she's the narrator for the sequel of this, as well as for a lot of other books in fantasy and romance. I'm going to have to pay attention when getting new audio books, because I'm not interested in having this narrator worsening any more listening experiences for me. 

 

Judging a book by its cover: I quite like the cover design, with the green, slightly marbled background and the almost golden font and decorations of a lady and a gentleman silhouetted in period costume. Not entirely sure what the snakes at the top have been included for (there are no snakes in the story as far as I can remember), but they add a sense of danger, I guess. The cover designer could possibly have made more of an effort to try to convey more of the adventure and action aspects of the book - if you remove the rather cheesy taglines, there's nothing to suggest to a reader that this isn't just some sort of run of the mill historical novel.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2016/11/cbr8-book-115-invisible-library-by.html
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review 2016-09-25 01:30
#CBR8 Book 107: Once Broken Faith by Seanan McGuire
Once Broken Faith: An October Daye Novel - Seanan McGuire

This is book ten in an ongoing series, and as such, REALLY not the place to start. While my review may not have too many spoilers about earlier books in the series, there is a whole lot of history in the books before that is required for this book to be fully satisfying to a reader. Start at the beginning with Rosemary and Rue

 

After changeling knight and sometime champion of the realm, October "Toby" Daye's adventures in the Kindom of the Silences, there is now an actual functional cure for elf shot (poison arrows that make a pureblood fae sleep for a hundred years). Queen Arden Windermere pops up unexpectedly while Toby is hosting a slumber party for the various teens in her life. Arden wants Toby to be there while the elf shot cure is administered to the queen's seneschal, as well as her brother, both struck down by her enemies. It needs to be done before the High King can show up and forbid them to use the cure. As it happens, they manage to wake one of two, before High King Aethlin Sollys arrives and postpones any further awakenings until they've had a big conclave, discussing whether the cure should be allowed, or buried forever.

 

Toby is ordered to appear at the conclave and is none too pleased about it. With so many different faerie rulers and high powered dignitaries in one place, it is important that Tybalt assert himself fully as the independent and aloof King of the Court of Dreaming Cats. As the Court of Cats doesn't swear fealty to anyone, even the High King, Tybalt can't really associate publicly with Toby, a knight to with a very set allegiance to the Divided Courts. The enforced distance hurts and unnerves them both.

 

As well as more faerie royals in one place for over a generation, the conclave is attended by the oldest of the Firstborn, the Sea Witch herself (and Toby's aunt), the Luidaeg. She intends to bear witness to proceedings and brings along Karen, Toby's honorary niece, an oneiromancer (she can walk in and interpret the dreams of others). She's been tasked with speaking the opinions of Evening Winterrose, Toby's nemesis, and the original inventor of elf shot. While Evening herself is sleeping through a hundred years after being elf shot herself, she wants to make sure that her case is heard at the conclave and has no qualms about emotionally blackmailing a vulnerable teenage girl to enable it.

 

What initially seems to be likely to be a boring few days of pureblood faeries yelling at each other, turns a lot more sinister when one of the kings are murdered and the Duchess of Saltmist is unexpectedly elf shot in her quarters. As always, when Toby starts investigating, things get bloody and fraught with several near-death experiences, taking turns for the very bad before getting better again. 

 

With Toby being almost invincible because of the gifts inherited from her mother, it seems as if Seanan McGuire needs to come up with new and horrific ways in which to injure our intrepid protagonist. While I'm not sure anything can top the book where she was disemboweled more than once (!), the pain and horror Toby has to suffer in this book is still pretty gruesome. 

 

Being close to Toby is always dangerous and the people out to cause havoc will happily target those nearest and dearest to her if it means taking her out of the game, even temporarily. As I adore all of Toby's little found family and neither of them have the near-immortality that she does, I was absolutely terrified for a while when things were at their darkest in this. No matter how much I've enjoyed this series, and how much I look forward to each new instalment, there are some character deaths that will make me drop the series immediately, should they occur. Not only that, I will never read any of the other series she's written either. I can be deeply unforgiving if crossed. 

 

Luckily, to my deep relief, I did not have to make this decision now, and hope I won't have to do so in future either. This is the tenth book in the series, and it seems from the preface that Ms McGuire has no intention of ending the series any time soon. As I love spending time with Toby, Tybalt, May, Quentin, Raj, Sylvester and the Luidaeg, I'm quite happy to follow wherever the story takes me next.

 

Judging a book by its cover: I don't know who the cover artist who makes these for Seanan McGuire is, but whoever it is, they are very good at their job. As always, Toby is featured front and centre, here in a clear defencive pose (which considering the events of the books is probably wise). There's nothing to get too excited about on this, but considering the awfulness of a lot of paranormal covers, this is still tons better than what I'm used to.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2016/09/cbr8-book-107-once-broken-faith-by.html
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