Sunday, September 10, 2017

Review: The Duchess Deal

The Duchess Deal The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Every time I try one of these historical romance novels I hope for something different. Alas, they all fall into one of two plot styles and The Duchess Deal was no exception. I'm not sure why I even bother but there's the hope that one day I'll stumble across one I really love.
The Duchess Deal lacked the complexity in plot I was looking for to make this standout. It's typical poor girl with sad back story and broody troubled aristocrat being forced together and falling in love. There's the occasional obstacle here and there but nothing majorly chaotic. It's light, on the surface and of course accompanied by smut.
The Duchess Deal wasn't bad per se, it was ok (see the 2 stars lel) but I got bored a lot of the way through. Said obstacles bored me and had me rolling my eyes.
Emma is fierce and tenacious enough, speaking her mind and the Duke is certainly broody and caring in that stereotype we see. I don't mind their characters but they didn't stand out to me.
I get these are meant to be cute, sweet, sexy and the kind of book you read when you want something to get away from the deep, heavy stuff. I KNOW that, I even expect it? But I can't help wanting more.

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Review: The Savage Dawn (The Girl at Midnight #3) by Melissa Grey

Firstly, thanks to Date a Book for this review copy <3



Date Read: August 15 - 20 2017
Date Released: July 6th 2017
Publisher: Hachette Australia (Atom)
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating:

Synopsis:
"The sides have been chosen and the battle lines drawn.

Echo awakened the Firebird. Now she is the only one with the power to face the darkness she unwittingly unleashed . . . right into the waiting hands of Tanith, the new Dragon Prince. Tanith has one goal in mind: destroy her enemies, raze their lands, and reign supreme in a new era where the Drakharin are almighty and the Avicen are nothing but a memory.

The war that has been brewing for centuries is finally imminent. But the scales are tipped. Echo might hold the power to face the darkness within the Dragon Prince, but she has far to go to master its overwhelming force. And now she’s plagued by uncertainty. With Caius no longer by her side, she doesn’t know if she can do it alone. Is she strong enough to save her home and the people she loves?

Whether Echo is ready to face this evil is not the question. The war has begun, and there is no looking back. There are only two outcomes possible: triumph or death."

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It’s always so hard to review the last book in a series. There’s so much to say and yet I can’t talk about most of it because it would spoil the journey that was taken. And what a journey The Girl at Midnight has been. From the moment Echo first appeared on my doorstep back in 2015 to the very last page of her saga in 2017, I have been invested in her story.

Once upon a time Echo was just a simple human girl in an Avicen world and all she wanted was to eat sweets. But then prophecies, destiny and an ages old war swept her up in magical mayhem and Echo is no longer simple human girl stealing sweets. Watching her become this increasingly selfless heroine was an interesting progression. It was a bit jarring seeing her throw everything down to save a friend with no hesitation at all; she hit the ground running from the first page of the book. Echo continues taking on more of the burden, the responsibility of needing to save the world solely resting on her shoulders. It was definitely exhausting reading from her POV sometimes because she wanted to do everything herself, not letting others around her in to help. But can we blame her when she’s the Firebird?

Grey has done an absolutely stellar job of including a cast of wonderful and diverse characters with their own storylines. I can tell you that a number of books I’ve read have included diversity for the sake of having it, like the author felt it had to be included to tick off a box. Those occurrences come off as forced and unnatural and honestly those books would’ve fared better without the so called ‘diversity’. This series though? Done so well. We’ve obviously got the glaring race issue of Avicen versus Drakharin but amongst that there’s LGBTQ representation throughout. And you know what? These characters aren’t cast aside, they’re front and centre, with their own stories and perspectives and HUGS ALL AROUND. I loved Ivy’s gentleness, Dorian’s steadfast and unending loyalty, Jasper’s confident fa├žade that hid his vulnerabilities.

I’m biting my lip just thinking about the romance. So much build-up throughout the series and MY SHIPS. I just… nope can’t even with the feels. Sweet and lovely and bittersweet and fleeting and enduring. I’m sorry I can’t really string together proper sentences so I’m just flinging adjectives at you. These are my emotions in full swing *massive sigh*.

The plot continues with the Kucedra’s wrath threatening the world and the Firebird racing to stop it. I’m not going to lie and say it’s anything mind blowingly complex but it’s a story that we’ve heard a lot and doesn’t tire – giving one’s people a chance, of being sick of needing to hide and the ambitious means to be great. Execution style? Not graceful or ideal but in the eye of the beholder’s clouded judgement well… Do I even make sense? I’m just going to carry on now.

ANYWAY. I love Grey’s writing style. She’s not flowerly but there’s a poetic ease in the way she writes that gets her point straight across. It’s effective and she uses that technique of bringing together many meanings that can’t be expressed by a single word in the English language, through a foreign word. I loved it and was scrambling to commit these lovely words to memory as they rolled off my tongue.

It’s a story filled with magic and heartache, lives are lost and sacrifices made. With Grey’s lovely writing directing Echo to the end we experience happiness, love, loss and in those final pages, a bittersweet edge that for now it’s the end.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Review: Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh

Firstly, thanks to Date a Book for this review copy <3



Date Read: May 8 - July 23 2017
Date Released: May 16th 2017
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating:

Synopsis:
"The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known."

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This review is so painful to write you don’t even understand. Imagine a child dragging their feet along the floor in utmost resistance as they enter the dentist. That’s me and this review. I mean we can review the evidence, the time between when I started reading Flame in the Mist, the time between me putting it down and finally picking it back up again, to the time between finishing and writing this review. From the beginning of May to mid-July to the end of August. Every time I think about the book I ask myself why couldn’t I like this, why it had to be this way. Then a deep disappointment fills my bones.

Call me presumptuous but I already knew I wouldn’t like this book from the very first page – how dare she just assume and not give this book a chance you may be asking? It was in the writing but we’ll delve into that later. I had a lot of problems with Mariko, the protagonist of the story. The daughter of a wealthy clan and family of samurais, she is enroute to her marriage with the emperor’s son when her envoy is attacked. Her litter is in flames and her inside it but she still can’t decide whether she wants to leave it despite her attackers already having presumed her dead. Honey, you’re more likely to survive outside that in a wooden contraption feeding the fire. And that was what frustrated me about Mariko throughout the book. All her supposed thinking/pondering that was meant to come across as strategizing. Her constant internal debates were meant to show how she had a great mind for a battle of wits but she came across as indecisive and uncertain. There were so many situations where I was screaming at her to just go – I’m sorry that I like my heroines who know when to act. Then there was her supposed wit – those moments where she says it’s more powerful to stay silent rather than retort? I found it embarrassing as this came across as her not having a proper comeback and admitting defeat when she’s adamant she’s right. I didn’t buy into her character.

The book would occasionally cut to her brother Kenshin’s point of view and while I actually liked the Dragon of Kai and the honourable qualities of his character, I just didn’t care about his perspective. I feel that the book could do without these parts and it would be fine; even better really because it would speed up the pace.

Having infiltrated the Black Clan disguised as a filthy peasant boy, Mariko spends her time trying to get to know the members and their motive to kill her. The two main guys Okami and Ranmaru immediately accept her as a boy and I found this a tad unbelievable? I mean come on, the Ouran Host Club found out Haruhi was a girl within a day and they didn’t even live with her. Mariko spends months with these guys and nobody suspects a thing? What the? I can’t say I even cared too much about Ranmaru or Okami like yeah cool bromance guys now move on with the story.

Of course there had to be romance. Honestly could have done without. I’m not sure how hate turns into love so quickly. I fully support hating someone but there’s chemistry leading to attraction, but love? It felt so forced too, hate one moment, love the next. I didn’t understand, I didn’t feel and I didn’t sense the chemistry at all. No attraction. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

The plot progressed so slowly I kind of wondered if anything was ever going to happen. Endless pages of Mariko “biding her time” and nek minnit days or weeks have passed. This book isn’t a slow read by any means, the physical turning of the pages can happen quickly, but it’s just nothing seems to move? The writing itself is easy enough to read but it felt so distant and simplistic. I was craving the lush, lyrical style that Ahdieh graced me with in The Wrath and the Dawn and I got the complete opposite. As soon as I read the first page, my heart plummeted as I’d set my hopes up for the writing style I had fallen in love with. Don’t get me wrong, the writing isn’t bad, Ahdieh is a good writer but Flame in the Mist wasn’t a style to my liking.

In terms of the world-building I feel like this incorporated every trope-y, stereotypical Japanese element stuffed into one book. Samurai, geisha, teahouses, ninjas, THROWING STARS. I’m not Japanese though so I don’t have a right to comment on these aspects. My Japanese friend did look at the writing and at parts like “Ranmaru ronin” go “what a weeb” LOL.

And coming to the end of this review I’ve made this book sound so much worse than it really is. I think I’m still feeling the disappointment because I love The Wrath and the Dawn duology so much and I had such exceptionally high hopes for Flame in the Mist. This book just wasn't for me.