Review: The Return by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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Genre: New-Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 335
Series: Titan #1, Covenant series spin-off
Release Date: February 16, 2015

3.5 Stars

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I’m certain that Jennifer L. Armentrout has reached that point in her career where she can demand better covers that actually have some relevance to the plot of the novel, instead of a random shirtless dude being featured there like it’s the cover of a Playgirl magazine (I know that’s not an actual magazine, but I don’t know any real ones for girls).

I mean seriously, whoever designed the cover didn’t even bother to add his glyphs! I know they’re invisible to almost everyone, but we know they’re there! And if you don’t know, that means you haven’t read the Covenant series, in which case, I really think you should. Because the Covenant series…

a) is better,
b) has a better female protagonist
c) will help you appreciate and understand this novel more, and
d) is better.

But that kind-of-insulting topic aside, lets move to the next kind-of-insulting topic (I know, I’m on a roll). And that topic is… the author!

You see, I’ve read about a dozen novels by Jennifer L. Armentrout, and if you exclude the Covenant series, I’ve been highly impressed with exactly none of them. They’re all decently written and most of them are entertaining or interesting enough (Lux series not included; it sucked) but they’re ultimately pretty meh, or even aggravating. All this led me to think that maybe the Covenant series was a fluke. And while I enjoyed this novel, that belief still kinda stands.

This book follows Seth, who is an Apollyon, the child of a pure blood (descended from the Greek gods) and a half (half human and half pure). He did some very, very, extremely shitty things in the past (see: Covenant series) and to make up for some of them, he made a deal with the gods that pledged his existence to serving them, before and after death.

Apollo, who is freaking awesome, tasked Seth to protect a very important and special *rolls eyes* girl named Josie, because the world is in danger again and she’s very crucial to saving it.

Now, I enjoyed the book, I really did. It has a heavy focus on the romance but I’m okay that. I’ve read plenty of paranormal romances and I’m good with authors building on the relationship between characters before focusing on the big problems. And the fact that I liked Seth’s arc helped things along.

In the Covenant series, I hated Seth. I may be one of the only few people who did since everyone seemed to be in love with him, but I had a very hard time forgiving him for the shit he pulled. And even after he somewhat made up for it in the end with his deal with the gods, I still liked seeing him guilt-ridden over his actions and struggling with all that took place. Seth is a changed man, and though I miss his funny and sarcastic moments, his emotional arc was with it.

On top of that, for the most part, I liked Josie. She does have a habit of talking too much; and not in a cute-and-rambly sort of way, but more like she stops listening to what anyone has to say and words start pouring out of her mouth and you’re just waiting for her to shut the fuck up. But yeah, other than that, she was good.

The pace of the novel was good and you can fly through it very easily. It has plenty of clichés with the whole innocent, perpetually-blushing, virgin female MC, the obligatory guy-is-suddenly-shirtless scenes and stuff like that. But it was still readable and fun; made better that it would have been, by the addition of Seth’s character complexity.

As for reading the sequel (there are at least three more books in the series, probably more), I kinda, accidentally, on purpose spoiled myself on some things, things that I know I won’t like. So I will read it, but it will likely not happen very soon. If you’re a fan of the Covenant series, I think you’ll sufficiently enjoy this one (especially of you love Seth). If you haven’t read the previously mentioned series, read it first and then come back to this one.

Review: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

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Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Retelling (Beauty and the Beast)
Pages: 384
Series: None
Release Date: March 14, 2017

4 Stars

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I’m a sucker for retelling. I freaking adore them (as long as I’m familiar with some other version of the tale). Prior to this, I’ve read three different Beauty and the Beast retellings. I liked only one of them, and that was a very cheesy version. This is most likely my favorite. But not just because I wasn’t the biggest fan of two of the previous ones, but also because it’s actually really good.

I finished reading this book about six days ago and have managed to kind of forget the things I didn’t like about the novel. But not to worry, I’ll remember while I’m writing the review. Until then, lets focus on the positives.

Hunted is more about the symbolic meaning behind the story and I really liked the way that was done. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problems with direct-ish scenes from fairytales (the ‘wolf impersonating grandma’ scene in Scarlet was clever and epic) but I like symbolic cleverness as well.

It’s inspired by the original French version, seeing as Beauty’s father loses all his wealth in the beginning and the family (including Beauty’s two older sisters) is forced to move to a cabin near the woods. There are other similarities, but those might be spoiler-y. The different element is that her father is a hunter who becomes obsessed with hunting a monster in the woods and when he goes missing, Beauty goes to find him.

Where it’s similar to the Disney movie (or maybe some other version, there are a lot of them) is Beauty’s desire to have more, to be more. In the movie, Belle reads book. Here, Beauty (or Yeva, her actual name) hunts and explores. But it’s the same thing. Both Yeva and Belle want an adventure.

Anyway, the point I was trying to make is that this ticks the retelling box big time. Which is very important to me.

It also checks the well-written box and the interesting box and the un-put-down-able box; I read it in two sittings. I really liked the characters with their peculiar flaws and their surprising humanity. The topic of human contentment, how we always want more, is brilliantly featured.

Where there were problems… there was a secret that we, the reader, were told early on. And the author always dropped hints for Yeva about the secret in a way that made it seem as if she should have guessed it. They were not obvious hints, but written in a way that made you think Beauty was stupid or something. And I was like, why is the author trying to make Beauty look dumb? There could have been a simple solution, either don’t tell the reader, make the hints less hint-y, or make the protagonist smarter.

The other problem was a little section before the end, when things winded down for a bit. There were a few chapters of playing house that made me impatient and annoyed. I get that it was a nod to the French tale, but still, couldn’t they have been shorter?

Overall, this review seems like a disjointed mess to me, but I’m hoping I made the point I was trying to make. This is a very good novel, both on its own and as a retelling. I was quite surprised by it and I highly recommend checking it out.

P.S. Also inspired by Russian folklore but since I know next-to-nothing about that, I’m refraining from commenting.

Review: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan

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Genre: Middle-Grade, Young-Adult, Fantasy, Humour, Mythology (Greek)
Pages: 432
Series: The Trials of Apollo #2
Release Date: May 2, 2017

5 Stars

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This book is 432 pages long? I read an e-book so I didn’t know the page count, but I do know that it sure didn’t feel that long. It actually ended really quickly.

But I guess that’s what happens when a book is so much fun that you’re surprised the book also had a plot. Because plots are supposed to be the boring, or interesting, parts of a novel with some fun squeezed between them. The whole thing can’t be fun! That’s just not possible. But uncle Rick proves one again that he is awesomeness personified. Because this book… is wonderful.

For one, we have Apollo’s narrative, which is filled with his all his numerous whinings that usually start with “when I was a god” or “if I was a god” or “when I become a god again”. Seriously, that dude is so not adjusting and it’s hilarious to read. Apollo is narcissistic, self-absorbed and would use you as a shield against monsters, but he’s still so likable. And he’s also learning, much to his disgust, to be selfless. I love the guy and I love his narrative.

Then there’s the fact that this series is almost like an epilogue for the Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus series, giving us moments of closure with all the old characters one by one, while also introducing new characters, and mythical figures and creatures.

There is honestly so much going on and I don’t know how Rick Riordan is balancing all of it. The writing is very clever too, so there’s something in there for people of all ages. I feel like Rick Riordan is highly underappreciated because everyone just considers him the “fun” writer, as if it’s not masterful the way he balances multiple characters, storylines, humour, emotion, characters development, adventure, action and backstory so brilliantly. People seem to equate good writing to serious writing with as little entertainment as possible. And that makes me very sad.

Thankfully, whenever I’m sad, I can just reread a book by uncle Rick and comfort myself with the knowledge that I appreciate him very much.

Anyway, I got off topic there. Lets get back to the book. I love it. Maybe even a little more than The Hidden Oracle because we got even more into the character of Apollo and there was an emotional arc with Meg (thanks to Nero, the turd) that made me finally like the character, where I was a bit iffy about her before.

Overall, this book was everything I wanted from the sequel and I can’t wait for the next part to come out. I’m going to leave you with the first haiku from the novel, because I love it:

Lester (Apollo)
Still human; thanks for asking
Gods, I hate my life

P. S. Just now noticed that I didn’t mention the plot. Though you probably know, still, it’s follows Apollo, Leo and Calypso as they head off on Festus to search for Meg, the second Roman emperor, and another old oracle that the Triumvirate has control of.

Review: Mine to Possess by Nalini Singh

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Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Adult
Pages: 328
Series: Psy-Changeling #4
Release Date: February 5, 2008

3 Stars

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Thanks to my exams, both my reading and reviewing are all over the place. I’ve started four books since the 6th but haven’t finished a single one and I’ve been putting this review off for a week. Even now, with a few days off, I’m not in the reviewing mood, so bear with me please.

This book follows Clay, a sentinel in the DarkRiver pack of changelings. He’s got a dark and violent past and that’s turned him kind of… dark and violent. He constantly feel like he’s on the edge of going rogue. Then, someone from the past, someone he thought was dead, comes back and there’s hope. Talin faced some very traumatizing things at a very early age. Clay was her best friend. But due to a violent act, she’s separated from him and, in her trauma, asks her social worker to tell Clay that she died in a car crash. Now she in trouble and has no other option than to tell Clay the truth so that he can help her.

First of all, can you believe this girl? She practically fakes her own death — sure she was just a kid then but she had 20 years to correct her lie. She didn’t — and then demands that Clay help her? And people say that I’m unfair to female characters. Well, if they’re going to be like this, what do you expect?

On top of that, the book was still all about her and her sensitive little feelings. She pushed her best friend away, didn’t contact him for 20 years, and still got to spend the entire novel whining about how she was insecure and afraid that he would leave her just because he left her before. Fuck you! He didn’t leave you. He went to juvie for saving your life! The least you could do is apologise and try to make it up to him instead of demanding comfort and being pissed at the guy because he didn’t immediately get over your faked death!

Ugh!

Before I started this review, I only disliked Talin. Now I hate her. There’s a serious case of special snowflake syndrome going on with her, and this was all just made worse by the fact that Clay was made out to be the bad guy for being mad at her. And his emotional trauma was never touched upon. He was just supposed to get over it because he’s a guy and he’s tough. Well guess what? Being tough doesn’t make you immune to emotions! How could Clay’s feelings just be dismissed like that! I am seriously pissed off right now.

But… rant over. I don’t want to spend much more time talking about the fact that the girl who ran out on the guy got to whine about her, practically unfounded, fear of abandonment for over half the book while he was criticised for being angry for half a chapter. And don’t even get me started on the possessive bullshit she pulled despite not having any right after what she did.

Then there was their relationship. I didn’t feel it. They were best friends and mates so they got together. That’s all there was to it. There could have been a connection between them but I just felt like that chunk of the book was missing. And at this point, I’m starting to wonder why I’ve given the book 3 stars.

Oh wait, I know. Talin is human.

For the last three books, we’ve stayed mostly with the changelings or the Psy. But this installment introduced us to the humans part of the world and I really liked getting introduced to that. Humans are, in fact, not incompetent. They’re just highly underestimated, mainly by the Psy. With the changelings, they prefer to live in their own packs so they aren’t always involved with humans.

But here they were, and it was great. Another thing that was great was seeing the past characters and the relationships, the way they’ve grown. Things with the Psy council are seriously amping up and I’m so excited for that. I mean, they’re still pulling shit but it’s more build up at this point. Things are gonna blow and people are gonna die, hopefully not any of my faves, and I can’t wait.

In the end, I can conclude that anything that didn’t have to do with Talin or the romance was good. I was interested in Clay and I wish he was given more of an arc. This is not a book I would recommend, but it introduced some pretty important characters so if you’re going to continue the series, you should read it.

Review: Borderline by Mishell Baker

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Genre: Urban Fantasy, Adult, Paranormal
Pages: 400
Series: The Arcadia Project #1
Release Date: March 1, 2016

3 Stars

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It’s funny how sometimes, if I put off writing the review for 2-3 days, I then have to sit and think about what I wanted to write in the review, for 20 minutes. But with this one, it’s been 10 days and I still remember all I planned to mention.

Maybe it’s because this is such a different and interesting book. It features Millie, a former movie director who, in a suicide attempt from the 7th floor of a building, lost half of both her legs. She was then diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, and spent half a year in rehabilitation facility. Then she was approached by a strange woman who offered her a job that involved hollywood, her first job being to tracking down a missing movie star who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court.

A very strange twist in what seemed like a normal story, right? And that’s the way that the book is told. The world is surprisingly normal, with some supernatural elements that are explained in a way that would even make sense to someone whose never read a fantasy before. I loved the way the fae were incorporated into the story instead of them being the story.

The protagonist was one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever read about. She’s a complete mess thanks to the consequences of her suicide attempt and her BPD, but she knows she’s a mess. And her self-awareness makes for some brilliant narrative. Seriously, this book is so freaking quotable. There are so many lines I’ve got marked. A couple of examples:

Next to its neighbours, the house looked like a cat lady at a PTA meeting.

Just because you don’t feel something, it doesn’t mean the other person is faking it. You know who thinks like that? Sociopaths.

Combine that with a really good plot and great side characters, and it makes absolutely zero sense that this book is completely and utterly uninteresting. Shocker, right? All those nice words and now I’m shitting on the book? I wish I wasn’t, I really do.

But the truth is, no matter how hard I tried, I could not get into it. I would check how far along I was, or how much of the book was left, constantly. And even if I did manage to build some sort of flow, the moment I put the book down, it would take nothing short of an internal pep talk to get me to pick it back up. I didn’t even care to see how it was going to end. How is it possible for such a promising read to be like this? I’ve been trying to figure it out for almost two weeks. Still don’t know for sure.

I did come up with one theory. It’s that the plot is so separate from the characters that you can’t seem to care about it. But that’s not right. There were personal connections formed. I guess it’s that I didn’t feel them because the book is more clinical than emotional. And lack of emotional connection to the characters can be a problem. That’s probably it, right? Maybe. Maybe not.

Overall, I know a lot of people who loved this novel and a few who felt similar to how I did. It could go either way, and I think it’s worth a chance to find out.

Review: Caressed by Ice by Nalini Singh

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Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Adult
Pages: 352
Series: Psy-Changeling #3 (Can be read as standalone, but I don’t recommend it)
Release Date: September 4, 2007

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Where the last two books had Changeling male protagonist, with the whole alpha-male thing going on, and Psy female protagonist, this one is the opposite. Which is a very good thing because we don’t want to get repetitive.

The story follows Brenna, who was saved from a psychotic serial killer after she was tortured for days and is now learning to adjust to normal life once more, and Judd Lauren, one of the Psy who are in hiding from their Council after their entire family was given what is basically a death sentence, for no fucking reason. Brenna likes Judd and would like him to feel the same way. Judd is afraid that if he breaks conditioning and starts to feel, he’ll turn into a psychotic killer thanks to his very specific skill set.

In between their relationship problems, we have the Psy council trying to eliminate both the wolf and leopard packs and there’s a serial killer gunning for Brenna. And Brenna, who is totally not a psychic, is having weird visions.

So yeah, a lot of stuff is going on. And that kind of didn’t work in the book’s favour. But more on that later.

First, we got even more info about the Silence, when it came into play, the process behind it, how kids are conditioned and the Council’s newest evil plans. Seriously,  the council is hella interesting but so completely evil that the “good” member would be the one who only murdered for political gain and power plays. Don’t even get me started on the bad ones. And that new guy, Krychek, I have no idea what to make of him. Except that he’s really smart. And then we have the rebel who’s going by the name “the ghost” which makes the whole things even more curious. Basically, the overall plot of the series is great.

And in this case, the book’s plot is really good as well. Both Brenna and Judd are great characters and the problems in their relationship are genuine. Brenna, despite being awesome and strong, is still struggling with what was done to her. And Judd is totally not kidding about the possibility of him turning into a murderer if he breaks conditioning. He didn’t his research.

I loved their relationship and how there was effort to make the relationship work, on both parts.

Where I had problems was the pace. For one, the book had a lot going on and the various tangents felt like they were not entirely necessary and were stretching the novel. And there were fillers between different major events that stretched it even more, making the book fell very long. That’s my only complaint. And that little thing that happened with Brenna in the epilogue.

Overall, this was a really good installment and I’m super happy with it. Totally the best book in the series so far.

Review: Visions of Heat by Nalini Singh

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Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Adult
Pages: 332
Series: Psy-Changelings #2 (Can likely be read as Standalone)
Release Date: March 1, 2007

4-25-stars

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You know, despite the half-naked guy on the cover and the innuendo in the name of the book, it’s really not all about sex. Yes, there’s adult content, but not that much. The main focus is developing the relationship, and the various problems going on in the Psy-Changelings world, what with the Psy still being emotionless bastards.

This book follows Faith. She’s an F-Psy, a forseerer, meaning she gets visions of future events. She’s the best F-Psy in the world and worth billions. But recently, her visions have taken a dark turn, showing her murders. She wants to figure out why her visions have suddenly changed and why she feels emotions in them. She decided to do to Sascha, one of the few Psy who isn’t connected to the PsyNet or the Council, as she’s part of a Changeling pack. And on her way to the secret meeting, she meets Vaughn, a pack member and Jaguar who’s more in touch with his animal side than most Changelings.

And I gotta say, I kinda liked this one more than the last. It had more humor in it. I mean, who would have thought dark, brooding Vaughn had a sense of humor. But he does. And his relationship with Faith is less dominating. He constantly pushes her, but he does it to help her. This book had less Neanderthal-ness than Slave to Sensation as well. The guys are still really protective but in a more supportive way.

The writing and pace of the novel was good. The plot regarding the killer was good and the one with the council, great. We got to know more about the world and about Psy in particular. We found out about the Silence conditioning and some of the safeguards built-in to it to prevent people from breaking Silence. It was interesting to come across an emotionless Psy who slowly comes to feel and develop romantic feeling for someone, as well as normal feelings, like whether she likes coffee with milk or without, since Psy don’t actually like or dislike things.

Overall, I liked getting more into the Psy-Changeling world. We’re still pretty disconnected from humans but that will probably change as the series moves along. I’m very interesting to know more.