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review 2014-03-28 14:49
Cover Love
Etiquette & Espionage - Gail Carriger

Super cute. Super sassy. Super witty.

Strike that. It looks like I'm trying to sell glitzy fashion to tweens. 

3.25 stars. But it is super cute and fun and all that stuff.Werewolves are wearing top hats! Just the names alone are awesome, and I really hate off-the-wall names 99% of time, but how can you not love the idea of mechanical butler named Frowbritcher? I'm pretty sure that Carriger is one of the only people who can pull off all of the strange names with finesse.

And I don't even know what this means, but I want to start saying it -

"So I can be a puffed-up poodle-faker like you?"

Parasol Protectorate fans are probably going to flinch when I mention that I think I liked E&E a slight bit better than Soulless for book 1 of a series. I get that Soulless had more snark and overt humor than E&E did, but I took to Sophronia's fresh and spunky attitude more than I did Alexia's musings about her large nose. I laughed out loud when Sophronia considered a purple flannel night garment to be salacious (to quote her : imagine that!). 

Gail Carriger's writing style is sort of a weird thing to explain. She has all of the parts present which make for an excellent book - unique characters, harrowing situations, charming imagery, witty banter, etc. - but there's something about the sum of the parts which doesn't quite register in my brain as a complete success. 

Every time I would pick up the book, I'd read a few chapters and be entertained, but I could never go much further in one sitting. I felt like I was on this constant loop of intricacy, and I couldn't make my brain stop moving enough to take it all in large doses. Imagine going to the same tea party every day. The tea is good. The company is good. The conversation is interesting. But you feel like you need to get off the tea party for a minute and have pizza and beer. That's what I feel like when I read Carriger. 

In small doses, the words are charming and fun and stimulating. In large doses, I want to wander off and read something else. And that's why it took me a couple of weeks to read the book, even though I liked it. 

But sometimes, it's okay to slowly savor the things that are good. I'm looking forward to savoring book 2 of this series.

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review 2014-03-27 03:05
Absolutely Unexpected
Goddess of Spring - P.C. Cast

How wonderful is it to find a book about soul-mates where the coupling is actually focused on two people loving the soul of another person, and not about two people being brought together by some sort of instant connection? 

Before I go into what I really liked, two other things : 

1. The amount of Batman references were horrible. And annoying. Repetitive gushing - STOP IT. Besides, when is cape wearing a "romance hero thing?"
2. While I did sigh heavily at mentions of the street cats organization, animal affinities with cat/horses, the Tulsa location, and the close-knit relationship between the female lead and her grandmother (all things repeatedly mentioned in other Cast books), outside of those few things, I would have never known this book came from the author of the HoN train wreck. Apparently, there are still some things in this world which can surprise me. 

Now, I will commence with the good stuff :

This story is about a 40 something woman named Lina who is running a struggling bakery. She stumbles upon a recipe with a spell attached and (stupidly) does the spell in a plea for help. 

Demeter answers the plea and offers a solution : switch bodies for 6 months with her daughter Persephone, Goddess of Spring. Basically - go to the underworld and hook up with Hades, so her daughter didn't have to. 

Lina (again, stupidly) goes along with it, and in the process, inherits a youthful, nubile appearance which isn't her own true self.

Yes, stupidly. But this one time, I don't care as much about "stupidly" as I usually do because I loved the multiple messages of this story :

1. Friendship and bonds with other women are something to be celebrated. 

2. Kindness can break down walls.

3. People are rarely what they seem on the outside (this went both ways for Persephone and Hades). 

4. Real love is about more than physical attraction or outward beauty. 

Outside of the first few awkward chapters (I thought I wasn't going to like the book before Lina got to the underworld), the story flowed from one scene to the next, pulling me along in wonder. From Lina bonding with Orion the dreadsteed, to Lina helping Hades make narcissus bloom, I had a happy little smile pasted on my face as I read. 

This is the type of adult fairy tale that I love.

There was a little bit of everything. I appreciated the positive messages, I felt a little emotional over the scene with the soul-mate spirits at the river, I relished the steamy scenes, I laughed at a few light-hearted moments, and I even felt a couple of tears leak out as the story came to a close.

What would the Lord of the Dead do if he knew he had wooed, not the Goddess of Spring, but a middle-aged baker from the mortal world?

Rarely, do I even get excited over hot guy descriptions in romance anymore. Most of them are all the same and nothing new. But even I had a bit of a "hot damn" moment when it came to the scene with Hades working at the forge. My personal notes written in the book at that scene : FFS, I don't usually get worked up like this.

I wasn't sure if this would be a spoiler or not, but since it's not a huge plot point, I'll add it. I loved how Hades wanted to learn how best to please Persephone/Lina. It wasn't that he was inexperienced, but he knew that in order to be the right lover for her, he would need to learn her as she was, and not based on other experiences. It was a refreshing change from romance novel men who cockily think they know how to set every woman on fire. The intimate scenes between Hades and Persephone were tender and sincere, much more so than I've read in many books. Yet, he still had his "shake the ground with anger" type of wicked god moments, so it wasn't all about breaking every stereotype of his persona. The balance was lovely. 

"Teach me how to set you afire, too."

I'm not sure if this will be the book for everyone, but if you've been reading a lot of the same types of romance novels over and over, you might consider giving Goddess of the Spring a try. This is one of those books which could appeal to all ages, but I think would be special to women over 30. It really celebrates being a woman and becoming your own unique form of beautiful, even if you're not young and perfect looking. Just speed through the first few weird chapters (and pretend Lina doesn't make 50 Batman fangirl references) and it will get better.

~Lina as Persephone~

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2014-03-07 05:47
This is Not the Hero You're Looking For
Hero - Leighton Del Mia

Adult review for erotic content. Warning : some spoilers will be present.

There are few story crimes greater than the one of wasted potential.

What I expected : Superhero by day. Sadist by night.

What I got : Passing mentions of a superhero by day. Manufactured Stockholm Syndrome by night.

This was dark erotica with no real direction. The book read like Batman fanfiction without the action and suspense. I need to make a superhero shelf at some point because I don't have it in me to shelve this as sci-fi. 

This book was about yet another TSTL female who couldn't make up her mind. It was about yet another TSTL female addicted to a man like he was a drug - for no reason other than he gave her an orgasm.

I'm not making this shit up. It's all right here in black and white.

My mind is as high as heaven...

"Fuck me," I tell him. "I'm so high on you."

I sigh, sated. "Is that what it's like to get high?"

His kiss is like a drug, feeding me, quenching my thirst, my never-ending thirst, my infinite void, and planting himself inside me again.

Prose, thy name is purple utterly fucking stupid. And don't get me started on the awkward ways the word "sated" was used. It was a verb, a noun, a thought, and a conversational reply.

Let me set the record straight. I like dark/taboo/mindfuck erotica - when it's DONE RIGHT. A big part of the draw when it comes to books like these is getting to dissect what makes a screwed-up character tick.

Hero himself wasn't the issue here. I knew what I was getting into when I picked up this book. I knew that he was a rapist. I knew that he was damaged. I knew that he was a contradiction between caring human and irreparable monster. I didn't flinch when he acted upon evil impulses...because...DUH. Taboo mindfuck erotica. It's an actual book category. I've read it many times before, and been able to (enjoy is so not the right word, is it?) understand the book for what it is.

It always comes back to idiot females. If a man rapes you and takes your virginity (oh and btw, you don't really know him, so there's no emotional connection to start) - that FEAR, that PAIN is real. 

It takes time to attach to an abuser. There was absolutely no time (I don't count the time she spent alone) for Cataline to attach. I'm thoroughly sick of dubcon being misused in stories as a means to jump ahead to an emotional attachment. The "no really means yes" type of story has it's own niche in erotica. No, it's not just used in monster porn (although, if I'm going to read dubcon, I'm more likely to seek it out in unusual places).

She got an orgasm, then turned into a cat in heat. The fear didn't even come close to overtaking her lust - not even for a second. The 

escape and suicide attempts came after the fact 

(spoiler show)

. She went from adamantly stating that she wouldn't give her body to Calvin, then begging for him to take her WITHIN A FEW PAGE SPAN. I'm not expecting full-on accurate realism in taboo erotica, but FFS, I want at least a shred of something that resembles how anyone (yes, even a damaged person) would react. Hell, let me give another taboo example to give some perspective. Take the bookComfort Food. In that book, it was at least explained how the chick would not be able to survive without human contact because she was internally wired to need the companionship of others, so she gave in to her tormentor out of fear of losing herself. It wasn't the most stable explanation, but AT LEAST IT WAS AN EXPLANATION. Cataline's reasons for wanting Calvin/Hero were shaky at best, and explained way after the fact, even though we were in her head and she didn't give me reason to believe she wanted Calvin, other than "it felt good."

Rapists - as long as they're hot and can get you off, it's all good. 

My brain hurts.

I wanted to like this story so much. With the right execution, we could have seen a good man fighting his demons with the help of a patient and caring woman. 

Taboo erotica is a viable subgenre of erotica. But it's not a trend to be written haphazardly. Unless a dinosaur is running up into the mix and causing havoc, there should be a rational thought process somewhere.

The "superhero" side of the story was COMPLETELY underdeveloped. Outside of a few small snippets scattered throughout the story and some explaining which takes place in the last 20% of the book, this could have been any other kidnap story. I say it all of the time with non-contemporary genres - RESEARCH, DEVELOP, COMMIT to the theme. If you're going to half-ass it, DON'T do it.

Did I mention already that the heroine was TSTL? That entire scene where she threw herself at Calvin and begged him for sex and told him she loved him after he left her alone for a while - that was simply painful to read. 

I never realized Hero was different from us.

Wait? Is this the same chick who kept WISHING FOR HERO TO COME SAVE HER? What kind of normal human comes to save the day when he doesn't know where you're at...unless he's DIFFERENT from the rest of you???

Yeah...Cataline. Not the brightest crayon in the box.

Surprisingly enough, the best and most emotional moments came from Calvin/Hero himself. Well, except for this gem of nonsense.
"I bet you taste like cotton candy."

He's the reason I'm not 1 starring the book. Sure, he was a rapist who gave his woman a serious bitch slap (I laughed, I'm not gonna lie). But I wanted to read about a disturbed man who had a shred of humanity deep down inside of him. And I got that.

If I let myself too close, there will be nothing to protect her from the monster that lives in me.

Every day I walk a line between my need to defend and my desire to hurt, maul, and kill. To kill a predator makes me high. What kind of a predator does that make me?

Cataline continues to shake, even after she falls asleep. Or maybe I'm the one shaking. I'm holding her tightly. Too tightly.

I've always loved you, since you were a little girl. I just didn't know I was allowed to.

If this entire book had been in Calvin's PoV and had a little more superhero action, it could have easily been 4 stars. The start of the book was interesting. The emotional connection at the end was actually engaging. 

It's really too bad Cataline was such a horrid character, which made being in her head a terrible experience...and it didn't help that most of the middle of the book was frustrating to the point of almost making me DNF.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2014-02-26 03:08
Before Love Triangles Were a Thing, We had Gwarthalot
Queen of Camelot - Nancy McKenzie
Magical vag strikes again.

Fion. Lancelot. Arthur. Mordred. Spin the wheel of fortune, and hope you pick the right man. I probably would have taken Fion right off the bat and would have never gotten a chance to meet the others because I thought he was pretty awesome. The very first guy who takes an interest is a hot, nice, witty guy with an accent, who is also a king? Sold. Story over.

Actually, since Gwen didn't sleep with all of the men, she must have a magical aura instead. 

Spoilers ahead. Yes, I mean it. This time, I'm not going spoiler free. I notice that I tend to want to post spoilers when something is bothering me and I need to write it down for my own sanity, hah. Please don't read on if you don't want the book spoiled. 

Queen of Camelot would have been a solid 4 but there's one thing I can't get over. WTF was up with that foreshadowing prologue? The way it tied in with the end...uh...yeah. 

Gwen had a few moments which made me scratch my head. The reasoning of hers that it was okay to kiss Lancelot on the lips as long as Arthur was around hurt my brain. And don't get me started on the "we're almost about to die" scene where she missed a big opportunity. For the sake of the reader, that loyalty should have been put on the back burner when good ole Lance and Gwen were convinced that they'd never live to see Arthur. I wanted the famous scandal. WHERE WAS THE SCANDAL?!?

Lancelot had a few moments of his own. He started off so swoon-worthy, then the hardcore loyalty sort of fried his brain. Did I detect a few moments of simpering? I think I might have. MAKE ME SWOON, PUPPET. 

Arthur...I don't even know what to say. His faith in Gwen was admirable, if a little stupid. 

But I kid, sort of. My men complaints are so minimal. I felt Lancelot's loyalty, admired Arthur's justice, and yearned alongside Gwen as she longed for both men who were equally brilliant in their own way. 

Do I believe that Arthur was Gwen's soul mate in the end? NO. I believe that she loved and admired him. I believe that she felt him worthy of her undying devotion. However, I had a hard time believing that she shifted all of her focus from Lancelot to Arthur at the end. Why? Because Arthur died? So she can't love Lancelot in close proximity now, even though THEY FLAUNTED IT IN FRONT OF ARTHUR FOR ALL OF THOSE YEARS?

You'd almost think with my capslock ranting that I disliked the book, right?

The writing was beautiful. The emotions were powerful. The story had me by the throat. I honestly loved the book...up until the end sort of pissed me off.

I didn't expect a super happy ending. But the self-sacrificing seemed pointless when there came a time that it wasn't necessary anymore. 

That said, for any story to have me wanting to discuss and hope and speculate like this one did, I do consider it to be a success. There were so many powerful and emotional quotes that I would have liked to have included, but then I would have been here all night copying them. So, no. It's not happening. 

Oh, and mothereffing Mordred. Not that any of his behavior was unexpected. But still.

I'm honestly glad I read the book, and hope to read Galahad's (Lancelot's son) story in the near future. 

Thanks Leea for the buddy read/discussion thread/phone question & answer session!

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review 2014-02-24 07:45
Star Light, Star Fight
Burn Bright - Bethany Frenette

I'm pretty sure I've already made the Hex Hall meets Sky High comparison, but I can't not bring it up again. This is the kind of comparison which should be perceived as a good one, though. Burn Bright followed a promising (yet shaky) first book and amped up the danger, adventure, and (somewhat) forbidden attraction.

There's still one part superhero sci-fi...

"You just told us the world is ending. I'd like to know how much time I have to prevent it."

And several parts paranormal romance...

"Our first date is not going to include hospitals, Harrowers, apocalyptic predictions, or my mother."

But it's not a confused genre thing which has me liking what's going on. And it's certainly not the hodgepodge of different character traits and plot points that I've seen in other, popular series, because these books are not working with the freshest ideas or most unique story. 

This is simply all about the fact that an author came along and decided to bring the fun and adventure and romance - and it all came in a smartly written package.

I have absolutely no notes in my book copy about stupid decision making or awkward social skills. Imagine that. 

Leon was willing to die for me. It was the sort of thing that sounded romantic in theory; the type of wild, passionate declaration you hear in movies. But this wasn't a vow. It wasn't a promise. It was a fact. Cold, hard, inescapable. And it didn't feel romantic. It felt terrifying.

A female lead who gets it? Who knew?

Moms with young teen daughters might enjoy the experience of reading the Dark Star books together. The emphasis on family and loyalty is a positive message set in a story which doesn't feel preachy or disingenuous. 

This would be a cute little movie franchise. Go, Disney, go. 

Book provided from publisher in exchange for an honest review. All quotes taken from the pre-published copy and may be altered or omitted from the final version. 

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