Commentary: “Marrying Winterborne” by Lisa Kleypas

30b31-winterborneHere’s the deal: I like my romance novels pretty simplistic. Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, conflicts ensue to prevent main couple from being together–societal inequalities, unrealistic expectations, secrets from his or her past (though I prefer “his” secrets), conniving frenemies. These are the basics I enjoy.

All of these elements are in Marry Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas…and I still didn’t like it that much. Once again, I was taken out of the romance by a subplot that was murky while being too convenient. Clear as mud, right?

I don’t want to give too much away because this book only came out today, officially.

Here’s what I will say: When Winterborne and Helen are together, the book is lovely. The first few chapters will have you fanning yourself because of the tension between the two characters. Also, Kleypas knows how to write tension and sex scenes without coming across as cheesy and trite. The romance is engaging, and the main love interests are delightful.

It’s when she veers off the course of the main romance between Rhys Winterborne and Lady Helen Ravenel that I find the book to be boring and difficult. Like, I’m not sure I care about Winterborne’s interest in a tenement in London and his contemplation of that purchase, although I will admit it brings in an uninteresting hatred of some RANDOM DUDE who turns out to be NOT SO RANDOM–which is the main conflict in this novel. But this conflict isn’t even introduced until page 162. Honestly, I thought the book was going to end soon because everything seemed locked up with Winterborne and Helen early on.

So, the CONFLICT. It wasn’t interesting. Helen thinks that something that she had nothing to do with from the past, but is a result of, is something that will put an end to her engagement to Winterborne. Ummm, does she not see how the guy can’t be apart from her? He shows up out of the blue with passionate I-CAN’T-BE-PARTED-FROM-YOU-FOR-LONG kisses, and she still fears telling him the truth. It’s silly, especially considering how strong she seems before this hem-hawing on whether to tell Winterborne the truth.

And here’s another issue: She, and everyone else, claims she so malleable and agreeable, but she’s really not. She stands up for what she wants; she just does it in a quiet way that is different from the rest of her rambunctious family members. This strength entices Winterborne, especially since he seems to be one of the few who sees it. I loved Helen, honestly. She’s a great heroine, strong without being pushy and whiny, a lady without being judgmental, and compassionate without losing who she is in caring for others.

And Winterborne! He was great! I totally saw why she fought to reinstate their engagement that her sister-in-law, Kathleen (from Cold-Hearted Rake), broke without her permission. Rhys Winterborne is smart, kind, generous, and protective, while still being ruthless when he needs to be, and he loves Helen to distraction. What’s not to love?

I feel like there was a missed opportunity here. I loved Helen and Winterborne in Cold-Hearted Rake; in fact, as I stated in my review of that book, they were almost the only thing I liked about the first novel in this series. However, this book did not do them justice. NOT. AT. ALL. One problem was that Helen and Winterborne’s relationship was pretty cemented early on, and only an additional (unbelievable and convenient) conflict added later could make it seem like there was some potential for dissolution of the relationship.

It would have been more believable if another man who was Helen societal equal entered the picture and caused Winterborne to doubt where he stood. Or maybe Kleypas should have kept Helen and Winterborne’s engagement off until the middle of the book, instead of resolving it at the beginning. Enter two of my favorite plot devices: Jealousy and insecurity on the part of the hero. (I know. I’m awful. But seriously, most romance heroes are so arrogant and alpha they can handle, sometimes even deserve, a little insecurity and jealousy!)

Anyway, this turned into another disappointment in my romance reading, my dears. Maybe I should read some young adult or literary fiction for a while to let my disappointment of the latest romance crop ebb.

We’ll see. I doubt I could go long without a romance novel! ūüôā Oh, well, until next time, my friends, I hope you enjoy your romance reading!

Ta-ta,

HMichaele

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Review and Commentary: Random Romance Edition

My dear readers, I’m definitely in a romance novel slump. I’ve read three humdrum romance novels and started another that I never plan on finishing. And I’ve officially taken a whole series off of my (delusional) summer reading list. It’s a total bummer because I really wanted to like all of these books! They all had interesting premises, but never lived up to their promise.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

  • First, there was¬†Along Came a Duke¬†by Elizabeth Boyle. You may remember that I put the Rhymes with Love¬†series on my summer reading list. I’ve officially taken it off. Let me say this: I want to like Elizabeth Boyle. In fact, I do like two of her books from her The Bachelor Chronicles¬†series, Lord Langley Is Back in Town¬†and Mad About the Duke. But unlike those two, Along Came a Duke left me cold. I actually liked the heroine, Tabitha Timmons, in the book. She was innocent without being weak and silly. She faced whatever came her way with wit and grace. But the hero. Oh, the hero. The fact is that the Duke of Preston left much to be desired. He’s one of those romance heroes who seems not to care for anything specific, has no way of earning an income (except when gambling on his own reckless behavior), and wants to be a perpetual bachelor. Also, he has meddling relatives. And a scandalous background, which usually isn’t so bad, but his scandal didn’t seem to make sense to me, honestly, much like most of the plot devices used. Oh, and I think Boyle made us privy to more dialogue between the Tabitha and her friends or Preston and his family than we are to dialogue between the to character. Always a mistake, in my opinion. I realize this sets up the series so we have to be introduced to the other characters, but the romance between Tabitha and Preston suffered for it.
  • I decided to plod on with the series, though, thinking it could turn around in the next book, And the Miss Ran Away with the Rake, but I was wrong. Daphne Dale and Henry Seldon are the stars in the next one, a problem considering the Dales and the Seldons are enemies. This is another plot device that isn’t terrible usually, but the characters were so childish about this enmity that I started to question their respective ages. I just couldn’t go forth, and I, painfully, realized that I won’t be reading any of the others in the series. Read it if you like romances that focus more on friendships surrounding the main characters, that have heroes with no particular skill set, and that have lighthearted dialogue that can’t be taken too seriously. You know, the ones you read after a pretty serious, heavy book. This book will make you laugh, although not entirely for the right reasons.
  • Then, I read Defiant¬†by Pamela Clare. It wasn’t terrible, truly. But it would be pretty Defiantdisturbing for some readers. There’s a part at the beginning where Native Americans have kidnapped the¬†heroine, Lady Sarah Woodville, along with a little boy and her companion. The little boy and the companion don’t make it, and it’s pretty harsh in the land of lighthearted romance. But calling this romance “lighthearted” is a misnomer, since it’s set during the French and Indian War in the U.S. The hero, Connor McKinnon, is the leader of the ranger unit, a fierce unit used to fight for the English interests in the colonies. There’s potential for rape, and honestly, some readers might consider the first sexual encounter to be rape, too, though there’s an excuse for it happening that way. I dunno. It just wasn’t my cup of tea, but the historical research was evident. Read it if you like romances with conflicts set to the backdrop of war, and you don’t mind a harsh reality check for the heroine and the hero.
  • Finally, there’s The Romantic¬†by Madeline Hunter. First, there are typos in this eBookromantic, so those¬†of you who hate being taken out of a romance with grammar errors, beware! This book has probably my favorite plot device, a hero, in this case Julian Hampton, who has been in love with the heroine, in this case Penelope, the Countess of Glasbury, who has no idea of his affection. But she’s married. This is not something that some readers will appreciate. In fact, I didn’t, even though her husband was an abusive freak. Julian was a solicitor, and her family was powerful, if impoverished at one time. She had the means to divorce, but decided against it. And that didn’t make sense to me. She, and the hero, claim she is constantly thinking about others and how her divorce would affect them. Her choice is baffling, honestly, as is the logic of other choices. Read this if you enjoy unrequited love stories and a historical subtext for women’s rights.

That’s all, my fellow readers. I hope you’re having better luck than I am in the romance novel department lately. I will say that I think my luck is about to change because I just bought¬†Marrying Winterborne¬†by Lisa Kleypas, my number one want-to-read of the summer. YAY!

I’ll have that review really soon. Like, I’ll probably read this tonight and have a review tomorrow. That’s how excited I am for this book.

Until then, my lovelies, enjoy your summer reading!

Ta-ta,

HMichaele

Review and Commentary: “The Vacationers” by Emma Straub

VacationersFinished my first book on my (delusional) summer reading list, The Vacationers¬†by Emma Straub. (Yay! One down, numerous to go!) Technically, it was on my “to read” list last summer as well, but you know how that goes.

In The Vacationers, the Posts, Franny and Jim, go off on a two-week vacation to a house in Mallorca, which is on an island off the coast of Spain in the Balearic Sea. They bring along Charles, Franny’s BFF, his husband Lawrence, the Posts’ soon-to-be-off-to-college daughter Sylvia, their Miami-transplant son Bobby, and his distasteful-to-them girlfriend Carmen.

You know how vacations are supposed to be a time to get away from the stress of real life, but never are? The desire to leave the problems behind can be felt from every member of this little troupe. But, of course, as in real life, no one in this group can manage to forget, not for long anyway. At one point, Straub writes, “A good swimming pool could do that–make the rest of the world seem impossibly insignificant, as far away as the surface of the moon.” (Come on! How is this not a great beach read?) And for that moment, the magic of the pool is pure, but, unfortunately, this feeling is fleeting. The guilt, anxiety, depression, anger, and confusion resurfaces once that pool is gone, and rightfully so.

There are other parts in this novel where the vacation seems to do its job, allowing the characters, whose varying perspectives and insecurities Straub shows intermittently throughout the novel, some modicum of peace and relief from their problems. The mom, Franny, thinks at one time, “This is what [she] liked the most about being on vacation, the moments when no one was worried about what they should or should not be doing and just did exactly what was right.” Franny and Straub are absolutely correct, and I could sense the wonderful perfection of that moment from these characters.

Straub introduces all of the characters and their problems slowly, piecing them out. All are at a crossroads and have a question mark about something hovering over their future. Some are resolved, while others aren’t. But the point is the family–the ones you’re born into and the ones you create through friends and relationships.

The family dynamic is truly heart-warming, despite their issues (of which there are many). They know each other and accept the little quirks of each family member, despite how irritating those quirks can be at certain points. Yep, just like a real family! Forgiveness, acceptance, love, gratitude–all of these make up this novel. But beyond those, it’s also the little secrets that are kept from our family that show just how complicated a family relationship can be. At one point, Franny ponders this: “What did anyone know about anyone else, including the person they were married to? There were secret parts of every union, locked doors hidden behind dusty heavy drapes.”

But it’s not just the married couples that have secrets; it’s everyone in the book. I think at some point we all think about what we really know about those to whom we are closest and wonder what they might be hiding, and Straub has a talent to entertain us along with examining this question.

One of my favorite quotes is when the family members all recognize the perfection of a particular moment: “All four Posts held their breath simultaneously, each wishing for the moment to last. Family were nothing more than hope cast out in a wide net, everyone wanting only the best…. Franny and Jim and Bobby and Sylvia did their silent best, and just like that, for a moment, they were all aboard the same ship.” Like the pool moment, this perfection’s fleeting. But when you’re there, it’s wondrous. Much like this book! ūüôā

Well, my friends, I hope you check out The Vacationers by Emma Straub.I also moved up Modern Lovers, her newest book out on May 31st, on my summer reading list because this book was so entertaining.

Hope all you all find that perfect first book of the summer! I know I did!

Ta-ta, my dears,

HMichaele

Romance Novels I’ve Read in 2016

I started this blog in March, but I read A LOT of romance novels before spring break. After talking to my sister yesterday, I decided to list all of the romances I’ve read so far in 2016 and rate them. Here’s the rating system and the meanings:

  • Blech–What a waste of time! I couldn’t stomach this. I might have hated one or more of the main characters.
  • Hmmm…–I’m not totally sure I remember this, neither loved it nor hated it. Just read it.
  • Sweet–This was a humdrum novel, I suppose, but it had an entertaining plot. It might have lacked one of the following:
    • A character-driven, sometimes heartbreaking, tension between the two characters that I like.
    • Love interests who complement each other.
    • Believable character development.
  • So close!–This had almost every aspect of the top category, but characters might have had unbelievable backgrounds/traits or lacked depth (just a smooch too formulaic). Also, the plot devices used might have been questionable or unbelievable. (I may have laughed at some things, but that was not the author’s intent.) But still, emotional connections and tensions rule this book and made me want another from the author because I could sense the potential despite the issues.
  • I-WANT-TO-MARRY-IT!–Yeah, this book had it all–interesting plot, multi-layered characters, emotional connections, and believable tension between the love interest. This book made me root for the HEA and look up the author’s other books on Kindle immediately!

So, here’s the list of romance books I’ve read this year in 2016:

  1. Dukes Prefer Blondes by Loretta Chase:  I-WANT-TO-MARRY-IT!

  2. Born in Defiance¬†by Sherrilyn Kenyon: ¬†Hmmm…
  3. Built by Jay Crownover:  So close!
  4. The Fractured Heart¬†by Scarlett Cole: ¬†Hmmm…
  5. Waiting for Wyatt by S.D. Hendrickson:  Blech
  6. Fighting Solitude by Aly Martinez:  Sweet
  7. Fighting Hard by Marysol James: Sweet
  8. Fighting Strong by Marysol James: Sweet
  9. Fighting Love by Marysol James: Sweet
  10. Enemy Outside¬†by Marysol James: Hmmm…
  11. Enemy Mine¬†by Marysol James: Hmmm…
  12. His Light in the Dark by L.A. Fiore: Blech
  13. To Bed a Beauty by Nicole Jordan: I-WANT-TO-MARRY-IT!

  14. A Moment of Weakness by Brooklyn Skye: Hmmm…
  15. Braving Fate by Lynsey Hall:  Sweet
  16. Best Man to Wed by Penny Jordan: Blech
  17. The Wedding Journey by Carla Kelly:  Blech
  18. A Woman of Virtue¬†by Liz Carlyle: Hmmm…
  19. Phantom Shadows by Diane Duvall: Sweet
  20. Night Unbound by Diane Duvall: So close!
  21. Rogue Soul by Lynsey Hall:  Sweet
  22. Wicked Delights of a Bridal Bed by Tracy Anne Warren: So close!
  23. Games of Command¬†by Linnea Sinclair: Somewhere between “Hmmm…” and “Sweet.”
  24. Mad about the Man¬†by Tracy Anne Warren: Hmmm…
  25. When He Was Wicked  by Julia Quinn: I-WANT-TO-MARRY-IT!

  26. One-Eyed Dukes Are Wild by Megan Frampton: So close!
  27. Put Up Your Duke by Megan Frampton: So close!
  28. Taylor’s Temptation¬†by Suzanne Brockmann: Sweet
  29. Sweet Lullaby by Lorraine Heath: Blech
  30. Alinor¬†by Roberta Gellis: Hmmm…
  31. The Proposal by Mary Balogh: Hmmm…
  32. How to Please a Lady by Jane Goodger: Sweet
  33. Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas: Blech (But like I said in my review, worth reading, unfortunately.)
  34. Tempting Mr. Townsend by Anna Campbell: Sweet
  35. Broken Wing by Judith James: Somewhere between “Hmmm…” and “Sweet.”
  36. Secrets of a Scandalous Bride¬†by Sophia Nash:¬†Somewhere between “Hmmm…” and “Sweet.”
  37. Touching Ice¬†by Laurann Dohner: Hmmm…

  38. Haunting Blackie by Laurann Dohner: Blech
  39. Nobody Likes Fairytale Pirates by Elizabeth Gannon: Blech
  40. Radiance by Grace Drave: I-WANT-TO-MARRY-IT! (See my review here.)
  41. Cowboy from the Future¬†by Cassandra Gannon: Somewhere between “Sweet” and “So close!”
  42. Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt: Sweet

I think that’s it. I’ve also downloaded and read a lot of samples that I deleted within minutes, but that’s a different blog post.

I think that’s it, my friends. I notice going through this that I don’t have many of the top two categories, So close! and¬†I-WANT-TO-MARRY-IT!, but hopefully, I’ll find some more of these soon!

Until then, hope you pick up a few of my suggestions and tell me what you think about them!

Happy romance reading, my lovelies!

Ta-ta,

HMichaele

My (Delusional) Summer Reading List

So, okay, I’m a teacher, right? This means I always have a book list for summer. Do I read all of these? No way! I rarely get to all of my intended reads for the summer. One reason is because new books pop up all the time that I decided I want to read instead. Also, it’s because my summer reading largely consists of literary fiction, and I have a tendency to gobble up romances or fantasy YA whenever they grab my interest. Oh, and, of course, my children are home during summer, and one of their least favorite summer activities is watching Mommy read. (I can’t wait for them to be able to read themselves, but they probably still won’t enjoy watching me read during summer. I mean, it’s summer! Swimming and all!)

Anyway, here’s a list of my summer reading. I’ll check off in August what I actually read and what will become my fall reading! ūüėõ And, of course, I’ll review those that I actually read throughout the summer.

Romance GenreCottonbloom

  1. Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas (My #1 of them all! May 31st!)
  2. Cottonbloom series by Laura Trentham (Out at intervals this summer)
  3. Rhymes with Love series by Elizabeth Boyle (Five out now!)

Young Adult (All available now!)

  1. The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo (Already reading the first book)Serpent
  2. The Serpent King  by Jeff Zentner
  3. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  4. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Literary Fiction (All but Another Brooklyn available now!)

  1. What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman
  2. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Been trying to read this book forever! Maybe this summer will be the What she left behindtime!)
  3. The Vacationers by Emma Straub
  4. Summer House with Swimming Pool  by Herman Koch
  5. Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
  6. In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume
  7. Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson (Available August 9th)
  8. Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
  9. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (Has been languishing on my Kindle for months)Epitaph
  10. The Nest by Cynthis D’Aprix Sweeney
  11. Beatrice and Benedick by Marina Fiorato

Historical Fiction (All available now)

  1. Epitaph by Marie Doria Russell
  2. Wolf Hall and Bringing Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
  3. The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

Fantasy/Science Fiction (All available now)Uprooted

  1. The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
  2. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
  3. Is Naomi Novik’s sequel to Uprooted¬†coming out this summer? I don’t think so, but whenever it does come out, be sure I will read it that week! (Did you know there’s going to be a sequel? I read the announcement on her Twitter feed!) Maybe I’ll read one of her other books to tide me over. Uprooted¬†may have been my favorite book of the year so far!

Also, I’ve been trying to finish reading the Game of Thrones series for, like, ever. Maybe this will be the magical summer (doubt it!). ūüôā (When I say “finish”, I’ve only read the first one. Pathetic, I know. I watch the show instead!)

I think I’m going to finish up my Kate Morton books that I haven’t read yet. I like the idea of being able to say that I have read all the books of an author, besides Jane Austen, of course.

 

And just for fun, here’s the quite EXTENSIVE list of the books I never managed to finish last year (Note that there are no romance novels on this list. It’s because I read all of those last summer!):Good

  1. We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
  2. Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen
  3. Fever by Mary Beth Keane
  4. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine
  5. Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
  6. Graceling by Kristine Cashore
  7. Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
  8. The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer
  9. The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

Might as well add these to the list, too. The more, the merrier. Besides, let’s face it–doesn’t matter how many I put on here, not all of these quality books will be read, not by me anyway. But it’s been entertaining coming up with the list and imagining that I’ll read them! Eventually. ūüôā

Enjoy your summer reading, my dears.

Ta-ta for now,

HMichaele

Book Rant: “A Court of Mist and Fury”

SPOILER ALERT: ¬†Do not read any further if you don’t want to be spoiled on Maas’s new book, A Court of Mist and Fury.

CourtI hate to do it, my friends, but I’m banning an author from my reading list.

Sarah J. Maas, you done me wrong!

I’m soooo bummed about the turn of events in her newest book.

I’ve read Throne of Glass, which was entertaining, and I’ve read A Court of Thorns and Roses, which was awesome. But when I read the ending (It’s a sickness! I had to know if she did the same thing that she did in the Throne series!)¬†to Mist and Fury, guess what I found? That Maas, yet again, changes the love interest of the main female character by instilling a hatred for the former love of her life.

Why does she do this? Because I think it sucks.

I liked Tamlin. But she made me want to hate him.

Here’s the thing: ¬†I don’t mind a love triangle. It’s exciting, and when done right, an excellent addition to a looooong series (ahem, Throne of Glass). But she doesn’t do the triangle thing right. She makes me want to hate, and I mean haaaaate, a character I used to love. I’m not totally sure why Maas (repeatedly) makes me love a character (Chaol, Tamlin), only to replace him (repeatedly and somewhat unexpectedly) with another dude who’s even more preternaturally beautiful (because looks are super important in these worlds!), while turning the original into a, well, let’s go with not-nice-guy to justify it. But it rankles. And the thing is that she’s a talented writer, so I’m sure she could create the tension a love triangle would require without making one of the characters despicable. But she doesn’t.

Damn it.
Also wasn’t loving Feyre, either, in this one. She kind of lacks understanding and empathy for people who are in her “no” column. She either loves or hates them; she’s not one of those characters where there’s ever any gray. She’s more like Nesta than she even realizes, but we’re supposed to like her more for her suffering. (Maybe I’m being mean here, but she is a fictional character. She’ll live if I don’t like her.) I dislike characters who lack perspective on others thoughts and feelings, and Feyre is not exactly a reflective character. She tends to jump into trouble with both feet, not really considering who might get hurt in the process.

I’ve decided to think of her books as stand-alones and wipe the idea of A Court of Mist and Fury¬†from my mind.

I know this statement will probably tick some of you off; I read Goodreads’ comments. People loved Rhysand from the first book, which baffled me. He was kind of a jerk in the first book, and in the second, there are a ton of inconsistencies that don’t seem to match up with the first book. For example, Rhysand claims in Fury¬†to know from almost the first moment they met that he knew he and Feyre were mates. But I thought it was the end of their discussion in Roses¬†where he realizes that they are mates. Check this quote out:

“‘Well, good-bye for now,’ he said, rolling his neck as if we hadn’t been talking about anything important at all. He bowed at the waist, those wings vanishing entirely, and had begun to fade into the nearest shadow when he went rigid.

“His eyes locked on mine, wide and wild, and his nostrils flared. Shock–pure shock flashed across his features at whatever he saw on my face, and he stumbled back a step. Actually¬†stumbled.”

Isn’t this where he realizes? But in Fury, he claims to know much earlier. Roses¬†just doesn’t support this, in my opinion.

Here’s the thing: I know it’s not right to ban a writer from my list. (Who really cares though? This book is already a New York Times bestseller just after a week! No help needed from me!) And I want to like Maas. She writes well, her descriptions of the fantastical places in both of her series are off-the-charts awesome, and her stories are pretty darn entertaining. Plus, her secondary characters! OMG! So good! I sometimes love them more than I love the actual main characters!

But I read these kind of books for fun because I’m an English teacher who reads classics and discusses with students the major significance of totalitarianism or intolerance in the world of literature. I can’t justify the risk of heartbreak and the anger I feel when a second book in the series ruins my first love from my previous reading. (Here, let me date myself really quick: I always wanted Joey to end up with Dawson, not Pacey! Buffy with Angel, not Spike!) And, yes, I know that in reality, our loves lives change like a roll of toilet paper, but it doesn’t mean I have to read it.

So, I know I promised a review, but I decided this bitchfest would be more my speed right now.

That being said, I will take note when the third book comes out so that I can see if she’s redeemed Tamlin at all. ‘Cause she kind of has to. If she does, I still won’t read any of her books, but I’ll definitely read more of the Goodreads’ comments than I currently am. (Seriously, why are people rhapsodizing about Rhysand? I just don’t get it. I also don’t get why more people aren’t perturbed by the whole switch-a-roo Maas pulled. Again.)

So, if a weird and abrupt change of love interest rankles you, too, then don’t read this one and consider Roses the only book in the series, just like I’ve decided to do with this one and have already done with Throne of Glass.

Anyway, sorry if this made some of you angry. I would be mad, too, if someone talked massive dirt about a character or characters whom I loved. But it’s kind of the thing about literature: We’re all allowed to have our opinions. Mine, or yours, is just one of many, and we’re allowed to voice them in whatever forum we wish. That sounded sanctimonious, but I don’t care. This is my rant, and I can sound how I want. “And cry if I want to. You would cry too if it happened to you….” Just for fun, ya know? ūüôā

Oh, well, thanks for letting me complain for a bit. It’s cathartic, yes? Hope your reading is going better than mine has been lately. I can’t wait for Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas to come out at the end of May. I’ll be out of school and ready to dive into some romance!

Until then, my lovelies, hope your reading adventures are charming and delightful!

Ta-ta,

HMichaele

Review and Commentary: “Radiance” by Grace Draven

RadianceI downloaded a sample of Grace Draven’s Radiance¬†this weekend. I’ve almost hit my maximum (already!) number of books that I’m willing to download on Kindle, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it, though I think I was attracted by the cover.¬†

If you’ve read this blog before, you know that I love fantasy and romance. This book’s summary hit both of those categories when I read it. But I know that when I like a summary, it doesn’t always mean I’ll like the book. That’s just the way of Kindle authors outside the mainstream–it’s hit or miss. (Really, that’s for any romance author, now that I think about it!)

Well, my friends, Radiance was a hit. The sample introduces us to Ildiko, who is readying herself for her arranged marriage. She knows this is her duty as the orphaned niece of the King of Gauri, and her attitude is not one of reluctance but acceptance. She is resolute to do her duty, despite any misgivings she has. 

And there are misgivings. Big ones. You see, she’s human, but she’s being married off to the prince of an ancient alien race whose lands border Gauri. This alien race operates at night, rather than during the day, and they have gray skin and sharp teeth. She likens them to wolves, which shouldn’t really turn off any romance reader, right? ūüėČ But to the Gauri humans, this race of aliens is mysterious and unattractive.

Her prince, Brishen, has the same issue. Humans, to the Kai, resemble horses–not the most flattering description. (And, seriously, never really thought about this. Do we look a little like horses? ūüôā I’m not sure, but I liked the Draven’s description.) He is also resolved to do his duty and has a positive outlook on life as the “spare” prince who will never rule.¬†

On their first meeting, Brishen and Ildiko meet in the garden before the wedding, but don’t know who the other is. Their conversation is lively and engaging, and we can see exactly how right this two positive characters are for each other. Once Brishen realizes who the garden human is, he meets with her and discusses the possibility of holding off on the “consummation” of their marital relationship, an agreement that is totally fine with her since she finds his looks off-putting.¬†

Both these characters adapt easily, and their relationship grows over time, which is something I love in romances. Too often there’s an insta-attraction, and when you finish the book, you wonder: ¬†How long would that relationship really last?

There are prejudices and judgments that they face since they live with the Kai, who cringe at human looks. (SERIOUSLY! When Ildiko messes with them by crossing her eyes, they freak out! It’s hilarious!) Plus, since Brishen and Ildiko marry for trade purposes between the two countries, there’s a third country that isn’t happy with the arrangement and want to end the alliance.¬†Eidolon

Really, my lovely friends, this is a pretty good quick read, and for someone in a romance drought like I’ve been in lately, Radiance is pretty refreshing. Plus, it has a sequel, Eidolon,¬†that’s already out, so it’s a win all around! (Have I ever mentioned I hate reading series when all the books aren’t out? I totally hate it, but I make some exceptions! SEE: An Ember in the Ashes blog post!)

Hope you check out this book, and let me know what you think!

Happy reading, my lovelies!

Ta-ta,

HMichaele

Review and Commentary: “An Ember in the Ashes” by Sabaa Tahir

EmberAn Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir definitely falls into the LOVED-IT-AND-WISH-I ALREADY-HAD-THE-COMPLETE-SERIES-SO-I-CAN-BINGE-READ-THEM category. Seriously, dear readers, you should buy this book!

Here’s a rundown of the plot:

In a world where Scholars are ruled by the strength and might of the Martials, Laia and Elias are at two different ends of the spectrum.

After the arrest of her brother, Laia, a seventeen-year-old Scholar, searches for the Resistance to help rescue him. Using her parents’ names, two of the greatest leaders of the Resistance, to gain entry, she is given a bargain: Spy on the Commandant, a truly terrible and horrific woman who is in charge of Blackcliff, a school for an elite legion of soldiers called the Masks. Upon agreeing, she is thrust into slavery at Blackcliff with dangers and monsters, both literal and figurative, awaiting her at every corner.

At Blackcliff, Laia becomes “Slave Girl,” her identity stolen from her and the freedom that she enjoyed most of her life lost. She faces beatings and torture from both the largely male student body and from the Commandant herself.

While Laia navigates Blackcliff, she comes across the top student, Elias Veturius, who is in a different sort of enslavement to the Empire and soon to graduate as a full-fledged elite soldier. Like Laia, Elias was given little choice as to his future since he was taken from his loving adoptive family when he was six and forced into the leagues of the Masks and Blackcliff. Throughout his tenure at Blackcliff, Elias has faced whippings, battles, betrayals, and harsh judgement and punishment from the Commandant, his mother who abandoned Elias as a baby in the desert. Umm, yeah, this woman, Elias’s mother, is truly terrible and scary.

When Laia and Elias meet for the first time, they both are very aware of the other, Laia because of her fear of Masks and Elias because of Laia’s proud demeanor and beauty, which is not usually found in a slave at Blackcliff due to the Commandant’s tendency to disfigure slaves close to their arrival at the school. ¬†Their fates, of course, are irrevocably intertwined, though neither are aware of anything but a fierce attraction that seems wrong to both of them. Sabaa Tahir wonderfully connects these two seemingly disparate characters in ways that intrigue the reader and make us want more of them together.

Both Elias and Laia have separate identity crises. Laia believes she is a coward because she was unable to save her brother and focuses on her fears through much of the book. Like Laia, Elias faces his own fears, which lie in his disgust of the Martials, the Masks, and his mother. He dreads becoming a master of death as a Mask, like his heartless mother, and is planning his escape, a seemingly impossible task, at the beginning of the book. This, of course, gets put on hold, but the idea of escaping Blackcliff becomes an obsession to both Elias and Laia, who also chose to infiltrate Blackcliff and could leave with the Resistance.

Self-discovery is a major theme within this novel, and both characters reach the realizations that while their fears are founded, they should focus on what they can do, rather than what they can’t. By the end of the book, both characters have decided who they are, finding their inner-strengths. Laia realizes that her fears cannot control her life, and Elias discovers that although his skills as a Mask will always be a part of him, he will never become his mother.

This book is a fantasy, but early on, both characters highly doubt the existence of magical creatures. Tahir scatters jinn, efrits, and ghuls throughout the world she has created, as well as a mysterious order of Augurs who help to drive much of the action within the plot. The Augurs are the religious sect of the Martials and can foresee events, along with being able to understand deep wants and desires of anyone. Cain states to Laia that the Augurs “are, all of us, guilty” (401), calling himself and the rest “an error, a mistake” (401). Their purpose, as I see it, seems to be to right the wrongs of the world at this particular time in the Empire, and they need Elias and Laia to help accomplish this goal.

At the very end of An Ember in the Ashes, the Augur Cain tells Laia that she is:

“Full of life and dark and strength and spirit. You will burn, for you are an ember in the ashes. That is your destiny. Being a Resistance spy–that is the smallest part of you. That is nothing.” (400-401)

Earlier in the story, he tells Elias that:

“You are an ember in the ashes, Elias Veturius. You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy….You have a chance at greatness you cannot conceive. You have a chance at true freedom–of body and soul.” (65)

Looking at these two quotes, I can’t wait to see more of the “spark” and “burn” of Laia and Elias’s interconnected destiny to help correct the subjugation of both the Scholars and Martials.¬†And it’s interesting to think that when Cain say “that is the smallest part of you” to Laia, he is really speaking about both Laia and Elias. They both have a destiny that the Augurs want fulfilled, and this book merely introduces us to the smallest part of that destiny. (Way to set up for the next book, Tahir!)

While we don’t know exactly what will happened to these two characters, I think we can conclude that they are necessary in the machinations and manipulations of the Augurs. And there should be no doubt that one part of the end-game is to defeat Elias mother, the Commandant, who is in league with the darkness itself.

My lovelies, I think that this book is also about the choices these characters make–deciding between meeting expectations or following their own desires–and wheTorchther or not they can overcome their fears for a greater good. This book is awesome, and Tahir has created a¬†truly intricate story that makes you see the varying perspectives of the Empire. We root for both Elias and Laia to overcome their struggles and find a path that will allow them to define themselves and each other as more than just Scholar and Mask.

Well, I hope, my dears, that you will pick up this book and let me know what you think. What do you predict for the next book, A Torch Against the Night, which is out August 30, 2016?

And, as always, enjoy your reading!

Ta-ta,

HMichaele

Notice: “A Court of Mist and Fury” Is Out!

Finally! ¬†A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas is available. Mine downloaded last night, and I wouldn’t even have notice, except for the fact that I follow Maas on Twitter, where she posted it would be available today.

I read the first in this series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, not even a few months ago. Set up to be a trilogy, according to Maas, the Court books follow Feyre, a nineteen-year-old human girl, as she navigates the treacherous ways of the Fae. Thorn is, as promoted, a take on Beauty and the Beast. Feyre, as punishment for killing another Fae in wolf form, is taken from her family by Tamlin to the world of the faeries. This world is one of deceptions, and Feyre is often confounded by the secrets.

But these secrets must be kept because of the curse (Of course!) placed on the Spring Court, Tamlin’s domain. Eventually, Feyre feels more at peace in the Spring Court than she ever did in the human world, where she struggled to feed her sisters and father. Tamlin shows her the wonders of the Fae world, and he gives her to opportunity to follow her artistic passion with his encouragement. However, Feyre and Tamlin’s peaceful existence is disrupted by an evil faerie (what else?), and the tranquil life that she has found becomes something elusive when she is forced to battle for her and Tamlin’s future.

Themes of acceptance, self-discovery, artistry, and prejudice¬†abound in¬†Thorns, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting its sequel, which apparently is based off the story of Persephone and Hades. Whenever I think of this Greek myth, I always think of a quote from Lisa Kleypas in¬†Seduce Me at Sunrise–“But Kev had understood exactly why the underwold god had stolen Persephone for his bride. He had wanted a little bit of sunshine, of warmth, for himself, down in the cheerless gloom of his dark palace.” (Great book, too! Read it!)

Anyway, at the end of¬†Thorns Feyre makes a deal with the Night Court High Fae, Rhysand, who is definitely swoon-worthy, to stay in his court for a week every month.¬†The Court of Mist and Fury¬†is about this, and here’s what I hope:

That Rhysand doesn’t supplant Tamlin in Feyre’s heart.

I LOVE Tamlin and Feyre, but I know Maas has a tendency to change love interests as a series progress (SEE: Throne of Glass series). No matter how much I love Rhysand, I love Tamlin and Feyre together more.

I’ll give you a review of¬†A Court of Mist and Fury¬†sometime this weekend, my lovelies! Yay!

Ta-ta for now,

HMichaele