romance

Review: Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold

Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold (Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold, #1)Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold by Ellen O’Connell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cord and Anne are my favourite fictional couple. Their relationship is serious #lifegoals for me. I’ve searched high and low for a book that is as gripping, as warm, as pulsing with life as this one, but Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold remains my only find in this genre that I can read a hundred times and still feel the tug of a dozen emotions as if I’m reading every scene for the first time. (more…)

Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss, #3)Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Isla had a crush on Josh since her freshman year. She pined for him for three years and accepted that her cause was hopeless. She miserably watched him date a much cooler, older girl and knew he would never look at her. Then all his friends graduated and he was left alone. Josh had never been very academically motivated, but now he seemed to have lost all reason to attend classes. A fateful meeting before school reopened, caused Josh to seek Isla out and slowly they became friends and then more. (more…)

Radiance (by Grace Draven): Falling in love slowly

Radiance (Wraith Kings, #1)Radiance by Grace Draven

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brishen is a Kai prince of no significance to the line of succession and Ildiko is a Gauri noblewoman of little importance in her uncle’s court. They are both beautiful among their own kind but to each other they are ugly and repulsive. The Gauri are humans who live under the sunlight, the Kai are an elder race who thrive at night. Their new alliance is tentative and full of distrust and the marriage of these two otherwise insignificant pawns is a show of good faith between the races. When Brishen and Ildiko first meet they find each other unattractive but interesting. They begin with honesty and over weeks and months this builds to friendship. Eventually neither Brishen nor Ildiko can remember why they found the other disgusting. They fall deeply in love and form an unbreakable bond that no one in either kingdom expected.

I love all marriage of convenience stories where the pair discover the worth of the other and fall in love quietly, through every day gestures and conversations. It’s a difficult trope to build into a narrative without slowing down the pace too much, but thankfully, once in a while, authors like Draven manage to execute it perfectly.

I’ve always held that we fall in love with people, not faces. If there’s something worth falling in love with, you find it after you stop looking at the facade. (Of course I also extend this theory to gender/sexuality, but that’s another discussion). And both Brishan and Ildiko, affectionate and honest individuals with great capacity for love, tread this path together and find all they wanted in a partner in each other. It’s a great read.

I tend to extend the bechdel test to all pieces of fiction I come across. This books passes easily. There are several named female characters, one of whom has several exchanges with Ildiko about something other than a man. So that’s great. But I got the feeling that Draven created Anhuset simply to provide one other strong female in the narrative. I couldn’t really parse out whether Anhuset was the only warrior female among the Kai or if her calling was a normal one for women of her kingdom. I choose to believe the latter.

I had one complaint though. Ildiko tells Brishen that she’s not a maiden, that she’s had a lover before. As befits a well written male character, Brishen doesn’t care but he teases her about her carnal knowledge. To this Ildiko explains that her lover had been a clumsy young man and she didn’t much care for the experience. So she never took another lover.

This. This felt like a cop-out. So the author goes as far as to make her heroine a sexually experienced woman, giving the hero the best reaction to this news – which is indifference and maybe some curiosity – and then promptly diminishes the value of said experience by making Brishen the only lover to have brought her to orgasm. Oh come on. Seriously, now. COME ON. We’re surely beyond this kind of tokenism.

And now we wait for the sequel. =)

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The After Kiss

It was five minutes till midnight hour and my phone alarm went off. I straightened against the side of the building and fumbled to get it out of my jeans to shut off the insistent buzzing. My gloved fingers made this more difficult than usual, but I couldn’t take them off in this cold.

Charm smiled down at me and said, “Is it time for you to go home? At the stroke of midnight like a modern day Cinderella?

I laughed awkwardly, the warmth I’d found in his arms slowly fading as my mind circled through the consequences of delaying any longer.

“I do have to go,” I told him, still smiling. “My dad isn’t that strict but I have a curfew.”

“Alright,” he said, pulling me closer, he words a warm puff on my cold forehead. “I’ll drop you home. Leave your car here. I’ll pick you up in the morning for classes.” One hand circled my waist while the other pressed into the middle of my back. He held me like he didn’t want to let go. (more…)

Reviewing: Duty by Rachel Rossano

Duty: a novel of RhynanDuty: a novel of Rhynan by Rachel Rossano

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars.

I first read Rachel Rossano’s writing when I won her short story Exchange on goodreads and reviewed it. Since then I’ve followed her blog and read snippets of her subsequent releases.
By the time Duty came out I was familiar with her style of writing and world building.
In an alternate medieval world, in the land of Rhynan, a war has come to end and a new king is sitting on the throne. He rewards his men with title and land, and one of them, now the new Earl of Irvaine, he gives the task of securing the eastern border land by settling his soldiers in the village of Wisenvale and taking wives from the widows and women of marriageable age.
One of these women is Brielle Solaris. She was the daughter of the late nobleman who was lord of this village, but now lives in relative obscurity because the land has passed on to her careless and selfish cousin, Orwin.
When Lord Irvaine begins the process of settling his men into domesticity in her village, they cross words. But then Lord Irvaine reveals that her own fate has already been sealed by her cousin who, in a show of loyalty to the king, has given her hand and his properties to Lord Irvaine.
Brielle’s life changes from worrying about feeding her village for one more season to worrying about traitors and politics and the affection of a husband who is a stranger and yet becoming quickly the most familiar and steady thing in her world.

I’m very fond of the marriage of convenience trope. Imagine strangers suddenly forced to share lives, needing to trust each other, trying to be friends, not really expecting more. Put them in the midst of turmoil where they have to show a united front to the world outside. They hardly know each other! So it’s a quiet fight against time as they try to learn and take measure of each other’s characters. Because a weak partnership could be used against them. And in that time if they suddenly find that what they thought was the worst sort of travesty had actually become the best source of comfort and support? That would make an awesome romance! =D

So Brielle and Tomas, Lord Irvaine, travel to his new holdings and they begin the process of learning and trusting each other. The men in her village, most of who were now dead, had fought on the other side of the war. Distrust was natural. Brielle has only ever received kindness from her father and now finds herself expecting Tomas to show the darker side of his nature every time she speaks out or argues with him. But unexpectedly, he understands what she is feeling, he is kind and sweet, and even though Brielle has not quite wrapped her head around being married to a stranger, Tomas is already thinking that maybe agreeing to this had not been one of his worst ideas.

But as they grow closer, a rebellion led by Orwin and supported by the baron robbers of the east rears its head. Unexpected responsibility falls on Brielle’s shoulders when in Tomas’s absence she is faced with sedition in their new holdings. Just when they thought war had finally ended, a new one begins to brew.

I think what I enjoyed best about this book was the care Rossano took in giving us a heroine who took tough decisions and stood by her word, but was also ordinary in a relate-able way. She had been trained in wielding a sword by her father, but in no way was she competent enough to fight a trained, battle-hardened soldier. She wasn’t used to riding for long stretches of time and so when she suddenly had to spend days on a horse, she didn’t magically get used to it. When towards the end she faced a charge of treason and knew that she could hang, she doubted Tomas’s assurance that everything would be alright because despite her feelings for him, she knew he wasn’t infallible and her trust in him didn’t blind her to that.

If I have any complains at all, it has to do with a few mild anachronisms like the use of the words “noodles” and “hi” in a middle ages setting. =)

Otherwise, this is a sweet love story set in the background of a king establishing a new regime. I thought it was pretty well told and I especially liked the idea that the king now on throne wasn’t necessarily wiser or better than the previous one, and under pressure could become just as paranoid as the ruler he just deposed. The ending was believable.

Amazon link: Duty: a novel of Rhynan

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Reviewing the Adrien English series book#1

Fatal Shadows (Adrien English Mystery, #1)Fatal Shadows by Josh Lanyon

Book rating: 3 of 5 stars

Series rating: 4 of 5 stars

First, I know the covers are awful but this is a good amateur sleuth series, made even more interesting by the fact that the hero, Adrien, writes mysteries himself and often bemoans that clues don’t just fall into his lap in every other chapter the way they do with his favourite fictional detective from the 1920s.

I think it’s worth saying here that this is a series of five books and in my opinion the mysteries start getting really interesting from book 3.
Before that, I read this one and A Dangerous Thing because I liked Adrien a lot and wanted to see how Jake’s obvious disgust with his own orientation was going to play out through the series and if their relationship would work.

This first book was a great introduction to Adrien English, book store owner and mystery writer. If you stick with the series you see the change in him as he gets more used to tumbling into the middle of murder investigations. By the fourth book his almost blasé attitude during an interview with a cop, makes for a hilarious conversation. The poor cop.

Adrien is a pretty normal guy. He doesn’t have a genius for sleuthing but as Jake puts it at a later date, he has intuition, curiosity and perseverance.

I like how confused he gets and how he can’t see the solution to a mystery but he keeps digging. And I love how I can’t often figure out the clues before he can, and just when I think AHA! he thinks pretty much the same to himself and then tells us that it’s only a theory and he needs proof.

It’s a good series but obviously if you are put off by the fact that Adrien is gay then well, it’s your loss.

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Supernaturally (Paranormalcy #2) – review

Supernaturally (Paranormalcy, #2)Supernaturally by Kiersten White

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked the first one but should probably have given it something like 3.7 stars instead of full 4. This one though…this one deserves 4 stars.

I said in the first book’s review there was no insta love. Evie was falling quickly for Lend in book 1, but it was still teenage crush developing into more. In this one, Evie has everything she’d always wanted. A normal life, school, a locker, surrounded everyday by normal teenagers and best of all a boy friend who loves her and who shows his true self (literally) only to her.

But Evie isn’t completely happy. She feels like there has to be more to her life than school, working at a diner and waiting for the weekends for Lend to come home from College. So when she gets the chance to work for IPCA again, she takes it. Slowly and insidiously her old life makes her question the strength and importance of every new relationship she has formed over the last six months outside the Centre.

I really admired how well White did this. Of course we know that Evie is risking a helluva lot (and everything that is good in her life) for what basically amounts to a desire for excitement and attention. She was special once and she wants to be again.

It’s the kind of mistake you have to make to understand that it was a mistake. No matter that people you love/respect might point out every wrong at every turn, you can only ever truly learn by going down that path.

Evie’s 17. She makes a 17 year old’s decisions. But what redeems her is that in the end she is aware of exactly where and how she went wrong.

At no point in this story did I scream at Evie that she was making the wrong choices or making stupid assumptions. I knew she was, and she knew she was, she just suppressed that voice in her head for a while.

Like we all do at some point.

One final word of praise here – Lend and Evie’s relationship was sweet and steady. Of course Evie makes mistakes and Lend reacts to them, but I liked how strong their attachment to each other is.

So this was an excellent sequel. On to the last one then.

(But after a short break, because man oh man, I feel burnt out from all the YA books I’ve been reading).

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