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review 2017-07-13 20:34
Bright Smoke, Cold Fire
Bright Smoke, Cold Fire - Rosamund Hodge

[I received a copy of this book through Edelweiss.]

Hmm, not sure about this one. It’s a retelling of ‘Romeo & Juliet’, in a city that is the last one standing while the rest of the world has been invaded by ‘zombies’, where three families share the power, and where the religious order of the Sisters of Thorn has to perform yearly blood sacrifices in order to keep the undead at bay. It has a mysterious plague that makes people rise again after their death if precautions aren’t taken, and in that city, ‘the Juliet’ is actually a warrior bred from birth through magic rituals, with the ability to sense if someone has shed her family’s blood, and the compulsion to avenge said family member in turn (in other words, she still does a few other things than feigning death, thinking Romeo is dead, and promptly killing herself in turn). Also, she’s doomed to turn mad at some point

All in all, why not? This was interesting. The story itself, though, was kind of confusing, and although it did end up making sense, there were quite a few things I would’ve seen developed more in depth. Such as the Night Games, or the Necromancer (who kind of turned up at the awkward moment), or the Romeo/Paris/Vai trio relationship.

I’m not sure about the characters. I sort of liked the Juliet? Because she had that idea that ‘I’m already dead, and Romeo is dead, so I don’t care about dying because it means I can see him again’, yet at the same time she was quite lively and determined and not actively trying to take her own life while moping; her story is also rather sad (stripped of her name/real identity in a family whose beliefs in the afterlife involve having a name in order to be saved... nice). Romeo, though, was kind of stupid, and Paris way too naive; of the power trio there, the one I definitely liked was Vai (with a twist that was a bit predictable, but eh, he was fun to read about, and I totally agreed with the way he envisioned problems and how to tackle them!). As for Runajo... I don’t know. Determined, too, yet there were several moments when I thought her decisions should have her get killed or cast out or something, and she wasn’t because Plot Device.

(And very, very minor thing that probably only peeved me because I’m French, but... ‘Catresou’ sounds just so damn weird. I kept reading and ‘hearing’ that name as a French name, which sounds exactly like ‘quatre sous’—that’s like ‘four pence’—aaaand... Yep, so bizarre.)

Conclusion: 2.5 stars. To be fair, I liked the world depicted here in general, and that this retelling is sufficiently removed from R & J as to stand by itself; however, it was probably too ambitious for one volume, and ended up confusing.

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review 2016-10-20 21:46
Book Review of Necromancist (The Seven Forbidden Arts Book 6) Kindle by Charmaine Pauls
Necromancist (The Seven Forbidden Arts Book 6) - Charmaine Pauls

Nine years ago he took her virginity. Now he’s back for revenge.

 

Alice Jones has loved one man only–the man who stripped her from her clothes and defenses to leave her vulnerable and cold, the man who took her virginity and went downstairs for ‘a glass of water’ never to return. After nine years the once poor and shamed Ivan Kray is back in London, now a world-famous rock star. He is wealthy, successful, surrounded by millions of fans, and built like a machine while she is struggling, single, overweight, and has to borrow affection from her neighbor’s cat. To make matters worse, he blames her and her family for driving him away. This time round, Ivan doesn’t come to her with gentle caresses and roses. He comes with vengeance and thorns that will either purge or destroy her.

 

A malnourished toddler barely kept from starving by a nursing dog, Ivan Kray grows up into a hard and emotionally scarred man with a golden voice and a cursed art. Suffering from visions and voices in his head, he finds peace in Alice Jones’ heart and naked arms, only to be knocked down once again. When she chooses her upper-class family over him, he slaves for nine long years to climb to the top of the ladder with one purpose only–to take revenge. He swore he’d be her first and last, and he isn’t a man to break his promises. His plans of submitting Alice to his will are hampered when someone tries to kill him. The sinister attempts on his life are more than the actions of a fan gone fanatic. When his hunter uses Alice to achieve his ominous goal, Ivan must acknowledge his true feelings and put his skills as necromancist to the ultimate test. Will his unusual ability be enough to save Alice before it’s too late to tell her the truth?

 

Review 4*

 

This is the sixth book in the Seven Forbidden Arts series. I loved it!

 

Alice Jones is a wonderful character. I really liked her. She is an independent woman and level headed, though she has low confidence in herself from being abandoned by her parents, and Ivan when she needed him the most. She is now working in the PR office of a theatre in London. However, nine years before she'd met Ivan Kray and fallen for him. After a night of passion he disappeared from her life. Now he's back and determined to exact revenge. Will she be able to survive with her heart intact, or will she have it broken all over again?

 

Ivan Kray is a character with a huge chip on his shoulder. I didn't like him very much to begin with, but as I got to know and understand him, he gained my admiration. He is a Necromancist, able to talk to the spirits of the dead. However, in Alice's presence, the voices and visions that usually plague him disappear. After being thrown out of the house by Alice's father nine years previously, he was determined to make something of himself and became a huge rock star. Now he's determined to punish Alice but as danger threatens, he finds himself having to make the biggest sacrifice of his life.

 

Having previously read the other books of the series (although for some reason I've missed Geomancist), when I found out that Necromancist was due to be released I pre-ordered my copy. However, I was also contacted by the author to see if I would like a complementary copy to read, which I accepted.

 

I started to read the story and was quickly hooked. I found myself on a huge emotional roller coaster ride from start to finish. There are a few twists and turns that I didn't see coming and a shocking scene that had me in tears. Finding out who Alice's father is, was a bit of a shock too. However, as this brought the other members of the paranormal task force into the story, it made sense. I loved meeting them again. The heat level between Alice and Ivan is extremely hot and the bedroom scenes are a little on the kinky side (think spanking and anal play, though not full on BDSM). I was unsure how the author was going to end the story, but I was pleasantly surprised with how it did end. I am now looking forward to reading book seven, which will, I think, be the final book of the series when it's released. Though, I think I will read Geomancist in the meantime. Although these books are standalone, it is better to read them in order.

 

Charmaine Pauls has written an entertaining standalone erotic romance. Her characters are lifelike and come alive on the page. I love her fast paced writing style and the flow is wonderful. I would definitely consider reading more of her books in the future.

 

Due to the explicit nature of some of the scenes, as well as use of foul language, I do not recommend this book to readers under the age of 18. I do, however, recommend this book if you love science fiction, erotica, erotic romance or paranormal romance genres. – Lynn Worton

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review 2016-10-06 20:40
Eight Rivers of Shadow
Eight Rivers of Shadow - Leo R. Hunt

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

 

Alas, I didn’t enjoy this second instalment as much as I did the first. It lacked the character dynamics, the spark I had felt at the beginning of this series.

 

I think the main reason is the way Luke and Elza are rather isolated from the others throughout the novel, even from their parents (who apparently don't even care what their kids do?). Elza’s family pops in on one page only, Luke’s mother is faring better health-wise but still not very present, Luke’s former friends don’t talk to him anymore… So mostly it revolved around two, maximum three people at a time, and in turn, it shed light on the fact those characters weren’t that much developed. It would have been a great opportunity to do so, and it wasn’t used as such, and I found this too bad.

 

Another annoying thing was the magic itself: here, too, this book provided huge opportunities of developing it, more specifically of showing Luke growing into it and learning more. However, for the most part, he either didn’t want anything to do with it, or bumbled from one mistake to the other (when he was warned about what mistakes not to make!) while more savvy characters saved the day. Not unexpected, sure, but frustrating no matter what. Or perhaps it is my bias towards necromancy speaking?

 

On the other hand, the novel shows an actual foray into the land of the dead, which is definitely not unexpected where magic of the necromancy type is concerned! This catabasis was very welcome as far as I’m concerned. And ghosts fighting each other. That’s cool. (I would really have wanted to know more about the Widow!)

 

Also present in this second book: themes that make you think and difficult choices to make, especially when it comes to helping your loved ones vs. the sacrifices you may have to make. Again, this is about necromancy, not kittens and giggles, right?

 

Conclusion: Still interesting, only I didn’t feel invested much in the characters, and Luke disappointed me both with his magic and with his borderline stupid decisions.

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review 2016-07-13 04:02
Life, death, betrayal...and also a cat
Sabriel - Garth Nix

A book about Necromancy! Coooool. Garth Nix is one of those well known teen fantasy authors I'm just getting around to reading now. When you have a tight budget and books are expensive, you pick up whatever is cheap and has been on your 'I'll get to it' pile for a while. Enter a used copy of Sabriel I found in a bookstore in Napier. 

 

Sabriel is a mostly normal girl living in Ancelstierre, a world similar to our own, though she was born in the Old Kingdom, which is just a short ways away on the other side of the wall. Her father is also the Abhorsen, a necromancer who works to protect the Old Kingdom from evil magics. The novel kicks off when she is thrust into a world she barely knows in order to rescue her father, who is trapped in Death, with the aid of a cat named Mogget and a soldier named Touchstone, who was trapped in a ship's hull for hundreds of years. 

 

This was a fun, fairly fast-paced read. I enjoyed reading a story that revolved around new types of magic and sorcery than haven't seen before. The world building was rich but not overbearing. There was also a map in the edition I had. Always a plus. I also liked the duality of the world. It reminded me a bit of Stardust. But I liked that the two were aware of each other, and there was crossover. One world wasn't just this mysterious scary thing on the other side of a wall. 

 

Nix is a very fluid writer and gives beautiful descriptions of the locations and items in his books. I particularly enjoyed reading the bits where Sabriel was in Death. The different concepts of what is in the afterlife always pique my interest. 

 

~Ren 

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review 2016-07-02 22:49
Much of Madness
Much of Madness (The Conexus Chronicles Book 1) - S. E. Summa

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

Quite a few original ideas in this one. Ultimately, though, I found it too disjointed, in plot as well as in writing, and while I shall acknowledge its premise as definitely interesting, it wasn't a novel I really enjoyed.

To be fair, some background information is delivered little by little, not as huge info-dumps. The problem was mostly the order in which everything was disclosed: more than once, I felt that “this information should have come sooner”, or “that revelation deserved being held for just a little longer”. I could feel that in the characters, for instance; in the nature of Seraphina's powers, her relation with Rolf, the way she wove her spell to get the book; in the way Kath's background was introduced (kind of “oh yes, by the way, I'm this species and I come from that family”); or Max's nature—it looked like Marceau was the one doing all the work from beginning to end? Had such tidbits been handled differently, I suspect I would've enjoyed them more.

(And what exactly is the Conexus? Some kind of supernatural government or body, obviously, but it seemed oddly absent, only mentioned in passing in the beginning and at the end.)

In general, I didn't really connect with the characters. Partly because their presence wasn't always justified—I'm still wondering what was the point in having Vespa hang around. And partly because of the book's “tell not show” tendency and stilted dialogues; the way Marceau address Seraphina was often pretty unnatural, which easily turns into suspension of disbelief as far as I'm concerned. (As a side note: the names. Sera, Finn and Khat are amlrights, but “Marceau” immediately conjures images of old French mimes, and “Vespa” that of Italian scooters. I couldn't get that out of my mind. It was... distracting.)

As for the plot, well, for me (again) it was shadowed by the romance. The latter was of course important when it came to the curse, I won't deny that; only the “telling” and dialogues didn't spoke of chemistry between Sera and Marc. And the “daily life snippets” were too long and several too many—as in, they eclipsed the Big Bad of the story, and the threat he was supposed to pose, in such a way that all feeling of urgency was lost. I could almost picture him popping out of a box at times, saying “muhaha, wait, I'm still here, let's not forget me.”

Conclusion: Interesting types of supernaturals and magic (Sin Eaters, magic boosts, necromancy...) but plot- and character-wise, it just didn't work for me. Not so much madness in there...

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