Saturday, June 27, 2015

Warrior of Ice by Michelle Willingham

From the Publisher

Locked in a deadly game!
Physically and emotionally scarred, Lady Taryn knows no man would want her for a wife. Nonetheless, she's determined to free her father from his merciless overlord and enlists powerful warrior Killian MacDubh to help.

He has his own motives for confronting the High King...
Born a bastard, Killian longs to carve out a place for himself. Unaware of her true beauty, Taryn is an alluring distraction to his plan, but as traitors are revealed and loyalties tested, their forbidden love becomes the only thing worth fighting for!

I picked up a copy of this through I will be the first to admit that my netgalley bar is pretty low. I think I have about 400 books on my shelf, and I would be surprised if I have read 20 of them. Between the fact that I don’t always get approvals, and the fact that I have no idea if I’ll ever get to these books leads to some pretty wild requesting. However, Harlequin usually grants my requests.

I’m on the fence about Harlequin’s Historicals. It’s how I first came into contact with the wonderful Jeannie Lin, but, on the whole, I generally find Harlequins a bit lacking. They follow the strict formula and they are often a shade too thin to provide a very solid world-building experience. Sometimes I feel like a romance needs a bit more time to simmer than a Harlequin can give it. I guess that
is why they are kinda the fast food of romance.

Regardless, on to Ms. Willingham. The thing that got me to read this book was the fact that there is an ugly heroine. Taryn was attacked by dogs as a child and now has scars across her cheeks. So often the heroine is beautiful and perfect in every way, it was really nice to have a heroine with a glaring physical imperfection. I really enjoyed seeing Taryn open up to Killian. She has all kinds of issues stemming from the attack and the fact that her society sees her as cursed really.

Killian is some kind of Irish untouchable, I guess a slave? The author used a Gaelic word and I don’t have my copy on me. . . It’s never really explained how this caste system works, but you should know that he is lower than a peasant. Killian is a big handsome warrior but from this really low caste. He is the bastard son of the high king, but has never been acknowledged and he has to live as a servant in another man’s castle. He’s super bitter about all this. He is itching to make his way in the world and make his mark. He’s also just very brooding.

I really loved seeing this couple come together. They both needed to learn how to trust and I liked seeing as they worked out their issues. The A plot is about Taryn trying to free her father from the High King’s prison and Killian trying to keep his sister from having to marry the High King. I honestly didn’t care about this at all. It was historically spurious at best, and I felt distracted from the romance. I really cared about Taryn learning that Killian loves her, the other stuff was just a distraction.

Either way I give it 3 out of 5 odd inserts of Gaelic words.  

Friday, June 19, 2015

Queen of the Blood by Jill Myles

Queen of the Blood by Jill Myles

Description From Publisher:
For one hundred years, Seri’s people have lived under the thumb of the Blood, the cruel and mysterious rulers of Athon. Seri wants nothing more than to put food on the table and marry the hotheaded but handsome Rilen come spring. But when a noblewoman asks Seri to be her handmaiden, Rilen insists she move to the enemy’s castle . . . and spy on the newly arrived prince.

After a century, Prince Graeme has grown weary of his family’s curse. The Blood are powerful, but doomed to live in the shadows, flitting from lover to lover, always in search of the mythic Eterna—the one woman who will sate their hunger. Now his father has sent him to the outskirts of the empire to stamp out a rebellious Vidari faction. But when a wild and alluring Vidari girl shows up at court, he finds himself torn between following his father’s orders and following his heart . . .

A war is brewing between Athonite and Vidari, between Blood and man. As uprisings sweep through the land, Seri and Graeme find themselves at the center of a storm with only one choice: betray each other, or betray their people.
I picked up an e-arc of this care of  I have mixed feelings about his book. I saw the description during class and it really hit all of my cat nip points. I love a brooding hero, I like vampires, I like fantasy, and I love a weird religious structure. This book had all of those. In the end I absolutely could not put it down. I downloaded it when I got home from class and started reading before bed. I stayed up til 2:30am finishing it.

While it was a bit heavy handed, I really enjoyed the structure of this world. Essentially the rulers of Athon are cursed with "The Blood" which makes them vampires. But they aren't really "undead" they just drink blood, don't age and can't go into the sunlight.

The Athonians have a high court of bitchery and scandal, in that respect this book was similar to other high fantasies and romances with a lot of haute ton drama. There are an assortment of courtly ladies vying for the prince's affection. One of them, Lady Mila, decides to hire a goosegirl from the impovershed and oppresed local people to act as her handmaiden. It's a callous attempt to gain stature in the court. Unfortunetly for Lady Mila, she gets our heroine Seri, who is actually destined to be the first Eterna.

This is where some of the mythology gets heavy handed. Essentially the princes of the Blood are cursed with a hunger for women's blood (it's always that they feed from women lovers, I don't know what would happen if they just had feeders or were in love with men). After a few months he becomes "immune" to her blood and it doesn't taste good any longer. I disliked the title "Eterna" as in eternal mate, it just seemed needlessly heavy handed. There is also part of the mythology where none of the men of the blood can have daughters, they can only have sons. The Eterna is supposed to have daughters to save their race? I was unclear about why this would happen or what the point was.

The thing that kept me reading was the romance. The plot reminded me a bit of a marriage of convenience. Neither Graeme nor Seri had any romantic attachments before the Goddess signaled that they were to be married. Because of that we have two people from very different backgrounds, she is very poor, trying to make something about of this new forced circumstance. This is complicated further by the fact that they have a "bond." As in they can feel each other's emotions. I thought that this would be really annoying, I have read this trope before, but I actually thought it helped with the will they won't they aspect of the book. Each one is pulling away from this forced marriage, but they have this inescapable God-forged emotional bond. They also can't keep their hands of one another as well. The intense sexual attraction, augmented by the emotional bond and his need to feed on her blood created a really interested romantic entanglement.This is what kept me reading.

What almost had me stop was two things. The first was that I felt like Seri could not do anything right, she was constantly making the wrong choice. Now I don't mind a heroine who makes mistakes, but I felt that all the characters around her were being very harsh on her for making this mistakes. As a poor country girl who has been forced to marry a blood drinking prince whose father really is oppressing her people, I wasn't sure what they wanted her to do? Just instantly trust her new husband and all of the terrible Athonian nobles?

The second thing that I didn't like was the way the revolution was depicted. There were times when I was sympathizing with the "bad" rebels far more than the "good" rulers.  I think that the author was trying to show the worst of each society and that the couple would need to come together in order to rule. It was only when they worked together respecting each other's customs that they could forge a sucessful peace. I'm not sure all of the pieces of the plot worked together to communicate that.

Regardless, I would recommend. It was a fun quick read and a really solid re-imagining of the vampire myth.

3 out of 5 Geese

Resurection of The Blog

Hello Everyone!

I am resurrecting my book review blog. Mostly so that I have some place to catalog my literary thoughts, and to up my netgalley rating. A few quick updates. When I started this blog I was working at two bookstores in Los Angeles' South Bay. The wonderful comic book store Stuart Ng Books and the now defunct Borders Books. Since then I have quit working at both of those places, and I'm currently in Law School! Yeah, probably a life mistake, but I think ultimately for the best. I've just wrapped up my second year at Southwestern Law School. I was thinking about starting something new, but I still love the title of this blog. (A reference to My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by Amos Tutuola). I want to keep this because originally I meant it as a reference to being surrounded by books all the time. I've always loved reading, and books. I write as well, and it felt like an accurate description of my life. Even though I'm not currently working at a thousand bookstores books are still an incredibly important part of my life. I am working at the Library at school, and books are so critical to a lawyer's profession. I do feel that even though I am not actively engaged in the book biz right now, that I am still deeply set in that world. Plus it just makes sense for a book review blog.

That's it for now. Over the next week I want to write up reviews for what I have read over the summer.



Saturday, June 22, 2013

Beletseri's #CBR V Review 16 My Favorite Witch by Lisa Plumley

I’m going to try and keep this review short, mostly because I read this book about a month or so ago and gave it a DNF (did not finish). It just got exponentially terrible. 

Dayna is a runaway witch. She fled her witchy hometown because she sucks at magic and all the mean girls at her high school were making her life miserable. Apparently there is some kind of weird second puberty for witches around 30ish and Dayna has to come back to train to control her magic? Or something I don’t know. TJ McAllister (who I kept calling TJ McSexxxypants and/or TJ Hooker) is the warlock sent to get her. Blah blah, he gets her and accidentally marks her as his mate. Blah blah, she comes back but he doesn’t want to be tied down so he basically dumps her on the town’s weird bureaucracy for training. Dayna has to train and is taking night high school classes, complete with mean girls, cliques and bullshit. Dayna’s story is about coming into her powers and redeeming herself in 2nd high school, while TJ is on a mission to save witchy kind from evil forces by finding The One. (Who, duh, is Dayna). He’s also half Native-American which makes him part shaman, or something. 

Basically my problem with this book was that there were so much crap all mixed together. Each time I turned around there was a different theme or set of references being added to a character. I just didn’t feel like everything worked together. One chapter would have Dayna fighting high school mean girls, the next chapter TJ is fighting evil spy warlocks, then there’d be a romance chapter. It just became clunky. A better author might have been able to make these things work, or set a better tone for all the elements to work together. Here it just felt sloppy and disjointed. Although the final straw for me was that through some more complicated and, frankly, stupid mythology warlocks aren’t supposed to get blow jobs. But Dayna wants to give him “his pleasure” or some nonsense. I read that bit about BJs and literally yelled “OMG BJs are VERBOTEN!!” Then I had to explain to my roommate why I was yelling about BJs alone in my room at 11 o’clock at night. That is really how I’d surmise this book, stupid plots point created through terrible convoluted logic to create unnecessary conflict.  

I must say that even though I couldn’t finish it there were aspects of the book that spurred me on. I got through about 2/3rds of the book and then read the last chapter to find out what happened. I said early that there were too many elements mixed together, but often the elements on their own were very interesting. I felt like I was reading 3 fun books that just happened to be mixed together. Dayna was spunky and fun, TJ was a sexy and interesting hero. I wanted to see the two of them get together, I wanted to see Dayna learn about her powers, and I wanted to find out how they defeated the evil. But I just couldn’t keep wading through the other terrible aspects of the book. Plus that whole forbidden BJs thing just pissed me off. In a book with lots of sex set in the modern world I really don’t understand how an author can justify writing that. 

I give it 1 out of 5 William Shatners.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Beletseri's #CBR V Review 15 Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Lani Taylor

Wow, Holy shitballs. I just finished it, like 30 seconds ago. Baxlala was totally right. It’s amazing!!

Ok. Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system review time! I’m going to try not to spoil it, but since the last half is basically just a huge reveal it might be hard. Karou is a teenage girl living in Prague attending art school, she lives on her own but her family, where she was raised, are chimera which are like human animal hybrids. Brimstone runs a shop that deals in teeth, of all kinds, human, animal whatever. Karou knows she isn’t normal and doesn’t have a normal existence, she’s curious about who she is but takes all the strangeness in stride.

Without giving away too much what makes this book amazing is three things, the characters, the world, and the big reveal. (There’s a love story that is really solid too, but it’s not what drove the book for me). Karou is a great lead character. She’s badass, smart, can fight with knives! And she has blue hair. The book is, mostly, told from her perspective. The big reveal is the truth about who she is. Strange things begin happening all around her, winged beings (angels) start being seen around the world and they’re burning handprints into doorways. This is all linked to Karou and swirls around her. The book does a great job of building this. It’s a tantalizing mystery and is very well paced. I was actually really impressed with the plotting. The second half of the book is almost all flashbacks, which is a bit clunky. But the point of everything leads up to the full reveal of who Karou is and what her story is. It’s done really well, and I think is the biggest contributor to the fact that the reader just can’t put this book down.  

The story is also told, partly, from the perspective of Akiva who is one of the angels. He sees Karou and becomes fascinated with her. He begins following her and trying to piece together the mystery of who she is. Plus there is Issa the snake woman and Brimstone the horned, goat footed fellow who is her father figure. Karou also has a bff named Zuzana who is adorable and really supportive.

I can’t tell you too much about the world without revealing everything, but I went into this book expecting YA Urban Fantasy and I got YA low fantasy. The way magic operates is really interesting; teeth are used for magic because they are a bit of pain. The magic of this universe is predicated on pain. The world and it’s characters become very fascinating.

The only thing I really didn’t like was that there is a bit of the POWER OF LURRRRVE that solves all problems, that kind of annoyed me. Plus the beginning starts off kind of slow and I felt like there was an unevenness between the two worlds. There is this night world Karou inhabits of the chimera, but she is also a normal teenage student. The juxtaposition feels uneven. I’m not sure if that was on purpose, since there is a unevenness in her life that is part of the story, or if it was clumsy. 

Meh, either way I give it 4 out of 5 moray eel teeth.

Beletseri's #CBR V Review #14 Punk Rock Jesus by Sean Murphy

Punk Rock Jesus by Sean Murphy has a lot happening in just six short issues. Firstly I got this book through and it was of the upcoming trade paperback. The story follows a reality television show, skeezy television exec Slate obtains DNA from the Shroud of Turin and commissions Dr. Sarah Epstien to make a clone of Jesus. They get a teenage virgin named Gwen to be the mother and Slate sets everyone up in a bizarre island compound. The compound is protected by former IRA member Thomas. Everything is filmed and J2 becomes the hottest reality show on TV, along with the most divisive. There are constantly hordes of activists protesting the show and the baby (called Chris). The most prolific and vicious are the born-again Christians. And that’s just the premise! 

Chris doesn’t even become “Punk Rock Jesus” until the third issue. I don’t want to spoil it, but the island is more of a prison for the “stars” than a way to protect them. Slate manipulates everything till the bitter end. Chris becomes radicalized and an atheist. He escapes the compound, starts a band, and sets off on a crusade to stop religion? I dunno, at this point it was at bit, well, pointless. 

While I totally enjoyed this comic, it was almost impossible to take it seriously. It was so violent that one of the main character’s really gruesome death just feels like another scene. It’s one of the most defining moments for the title character (and the other main character Thomas) but it was hard for it to have the gravity it needed in with all the Tarantino-esque bloodshed. Plus I really feel like the author put too much in. Christianity (including Catholicism and Protestants) Muslims, Reality TV, Evil Network executives, Science, atheism, alcoholism, guns, the IRA, punk rock, the list really goes on and on. It was tough for me to care too much about any one of the things the author was harping on. 

It read like Murphy had just been introduced to atheism and was really really excited about it. Like he got this new toy and couldn’t wait to tell everyone. Plus the bulk of the book was a “fuck you” to someone, Christians, TV execs etc. Not that I don’t enjoy a good fuck you, but that’s really all it was in some parts. Plus I heard a rumor that this book was kind of Murphy’s reaction to working for the big comic companies that he wanted to make a creator-owned comic that couldn’t be messed with. When I heard that it made perfect sense. It did read like someone who had been majorly burned by TPTB.

Despite all that I really enjoyed the book. The art’s not bad (which is a pleasant change) and the story is really original. It’s not often you get to read a book put out by a mainstream publisher that touches on so many very radical ideas. Plus I love reading non-orthodox takes on religion. It was a different comic, and just that alone gives it enough value to warrant reading. 

I give it 3 out of 5 overly violent deaths.