Thursday, February 18, 2016

Oldie Review: You Belong to Me by Johanna Lindsey

Hi all!

And here's an oldie!




Title: You Belong to Me
Release date: 2nd of August 2011 (first published 1987)
Series: Cardinia’s Royal Family #2
Reading level: FICTION – ADULT: Romance, Historical
Published by: Avon
Pages: 436 in Kindle e-book format
Source: Bought from Amazon.com for Kindle

Summary:

In all the world, no man exists who can tame Alexandra Rubilov. A fiery and beautiful free-thinker, Alex's steadfast refusal to marry has frustrated her hapless father. And so he creates a "long-forgotten" agreement and sends his rebellious daughter away, maintaining that Alexandra has been promised since childhood to the handsome, insufferable libertine whom she must now accompany to his homeland to wed.

Dismayed to find himself suddenly engaged, Count Vasili Petroff plans to repulse his unwanted fiancee by acting the perfect cad, unaware that wily Alexandra plans to follow a similar path. But the road to deception is a rocky one and its many unexpected turns can lead two reluctant companions to a most unanticipated destination: that place called passionate love. 

Review: 

I’ve never been a huge historical romance reader. I enjoy them, but I don’t gravitate towards them that much. Except in cases, where the synopsis offers the promise of that specific type of uniquely sweet flavour I would devour, or if it’s a Johanna Lindsay novel. For some reason she has written pretty good historical romance coinciding with my preferred taste. While I have read the first book in the Cardinia royals series, that this story is also part of, and quite liked it, this current one, on the outside, looks humongously promising. BUT, it manages to deceive me with one of the aspects it actually lured me in with: an independent, opinionated and headstrong heroine. It sounds good, but there are always black sheep in the bunch, and Alexandra is it for me. 

So what did Alexandra mange to annoy me (and her initially very reluctant intended, the hero of the story, Vasili) with? Well, almost everything, as she turned on the heat for all aspects, that in moderation, would have made me cheer for her. While I applaud her tactics to scare away an unwanted betrothed by presenting herself off as a mannerless wild child without anything resembling feminine behaviour of that time and age, she went overboard. Especially with her acting all loco savage and violent with all women who caught Vasili’s eye. Yes, claiming and protecting her “territory” is absolutely fine and expected, but to physically attack, offend and threaten those women, who hadn’t really, in most cases, even done anything yet, was beyond irritating and off-putting to me.

Her dragging her babies, her horses, with the travelling party, through dangerous conditions, was incredibly irresponsible. She claimed that she was taking care of them with having them come along, but it had the exact opposite effect. Also, by her too stubborn, too selfish, too woe-is-me behaviour during the trip, she endangered every person and animal accompanying her. I did, however, appreciate that she didn’t turn to goo for Vasili and maintained her backbone and uncontrollable character (somewhat), but overall, it was very difficult for me to grow fond of and root for her.

I did, in general, like the hate to love storyline, because, it’s exactly the trope I enjoy reading about, because this actually enables the couple time to get to know each other and develop genuine feelings, instead of BOOM! insta-love! In that sense, I quite loved the story, because the hate part was believable, all the logical reasoning was present. The gradual developing of feelings was a welcome slow burn. I particularly liked their first meeting, with attraction and sparks flying galore, without either of them knowing who the other was. Due to that high quality chemistry, the lack of a satisfying steamy scene was disappointing. I’ve come to expect a lot more from the author, than the underwhelming, out of place (considering the situation), awkward and another compulsory romance element receiving a tick feeling I received from that only one scene in this story.

Compared to Alex, toward whom I had high expectations, Vasili, from whom I wasn’t expecting much, except for being hot and alpha, really surprised me with his maturity, considering the situation. Yes, he was still the arrogant and a mega ultra womanizer I remembered from the first book in the series, but he acted almost decently for a man during that time and with a hurry to get rid of his unwanted fiancé. He put up with Alex’s antics with almost the patience of a parent with an unruly child, to a certain degree of course, and behaved much more reasonably than his intended, trying to maintain some sort of control over the situation. She just lashed out and trashed around on the floor like a baby, not considering who she was inconveniencing or hurting. I was, however, annoyed with his hypocrisy (he could dally around, but if she was promiscuous, then it was an issue – but I’m not surprised considering the time and age of the story, and when it was written) and obsession with her breasts, also, rape threats are never acceptable.

The adventure part is always something I look forward to in historical fiction, if included. There was a bunch of it in this story as well with the travels and perils during it. While caused by unforgivable irresponsibility, I most certainly enjoyed the rescue, the bad guys and one-on-one battles. It was also quite lovely to meet up with the main couple form the previous book again and have a glimpse of how wonderfully things are still progressing.

3 stars!

LIIS

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Review: Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

Hi all!

I'm slowly getting back on track with my reviews!




Title: Rebel Belle
Release date: 3rd of March 2015
Series: Rebel Belle #1
Reading level: FICTION – JUVENILE: Fantasy, Romance, Contemporary
Published by: Speak
Pages: 368 in paperback format
Source: Bought from a local bookstore

Summary:

Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper's destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts. Just when life can't get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she's charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper's least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him--and discovers that David's own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y'all beg for more.

Review:

Finally, a special snowflake hero, even though, the heroine by sheer proximity gets the title as well, more or less. Okay, he’s not really a special snowflake in the traditional sense, but for a change, instead of the girl being the saviour, the messiah, the big kahuna, the really really awesomely powerful grandmaster of all things grand, blah blah blah, it’s actually the guy this time. Yay for change! What’s more, the girl takes on the role as protector and butt kicker – empowering women and subverting gender roles is always welcome!

I despise to seven hells all love triangles, but while this nasty piece of bane of my existence trope was part of this story, it didn’t feel as irritating, because I kind of sensed that it wouldn’t last and it wasn’t as significant in the grand scheme of things. I also found Ryan to be too annoyingly perfect. He understood, was patient, acted a gentleman, forgave – blah. I do feel very guilty and quite ashamed to whine about his niceness and for preferring the douche (but who means well inside) over the more decent guy, but this is fiction and Ryan was just dull. I need spark, passion or at least some bantery dialogue to be able to root for a couple. Sugary sweet pairs, “I love you pumpkin” – “I love you too honey,” bore me to death. I do have to admit, though, that the final state of the trio was beyond intriguing and hilariously ironic. BAM! Ryan wasn’t so bothersome anymore, but only thanks to his newfound position.

I live for hate to love romances, because it usually guarantees a delicious slow burn and can make the budding relationship much more satisfying, sweeter and hotter than its lifeless and too convenient insta counterpart. I do, however, have to point out that when the source of dislike between the main characters is not realistically or at least believably explained, and they hate each other just because or due to something insignificant, then there I draw the line for enjoyable hate to love romance. Harper and David were on the borderline, I did understand the origin, but it wasn’t as convincing as I would have preferred. Nevertheless, I loved reading about their "battles" with each other. And I especially loved how Harper couldn’t hurt him, due to her being his protector. Her trying to slap him and being unable to was hilarious. All other instances, where she unexpectedly, due to instinct, dashed to defend him were quite amusing as well. Talk about irony.

Overachievers don’t really draw me in or evict sympathy and rooting for them. Harper was just that, she was like Figaro, here, there, everywhere. She had her finger in every pie, managed everything, was part of everything, made it everywhere and, in addition, was popular, got good grades, had a wonderful boyfriend, a great best friend, etc – she had a good life going for her. Till she forgets her lip gloss… So here’s a lesson to all girls, don’t forget your lip gloss, otherwise, you may unexpectedly become a kickbutt karate queen in stilettos, in addition to being the how-does-she-do-it envy evicting girl. On second hand, sounds exciting to me! Anyway, I wasn’t inclined to like her, but I did end up doing just that. And the scene that changed my mind was, when she was confronted with her new sacred duties and asked to accept them, her blunt reply: “No, thank you!” I loved her attitude, she wasn’t a doormat nor did she shy away from responsibility.

Regarding the plot, I was very excited for how things would unfold and all the potential mystery and mythical background elements for the Oracle and his Paladin story. The premise was a total hit with me. There was a lot of talk and build-up, but I was left hanging, because the fantasy topic was handled too lightly or superficially. I wanted more and, I guess, there will be more in the following books, but there was too much teasing and too little satisfaction in the first one. Also, nothing really happened plot-wise. I mean, something obviously happened, but it came across stretched thin. I’m still anxious for what will be going on and love the fascinating fantasy set-up, but the first book was somewhat stingy in that regard. It did, however, give me some interesting insight into the Southern way, like cotillion, etc, which is a really foreign area to me and which I appreciated.


3 stars!

LIIS

Monday, February 8, 2016

Review: Magnus Chase and The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

Hi all!

A new series from Rick Riordan!




Author: Rick Riordan
Title: Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer
Release date: 6th of October 2015
Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1
Reading level: FICTION – JUVENILE: Fantasy, Adventure, Contemporary
Published by: Puffin
Pages: 505 in Kindle e-book format
Source: Bought from Amazon.com for Kindle

Summary:

Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.

One day, he’s tracked down by an uncle he barely knows—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. Uncle Randolph tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.

The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.

When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision.

Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die ...

Review:

The Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus (which I still haven’t managed to finish, shame on me!) series are one of my favourite newer children’s fiction. They’re imaginative, full of magnificent methodology lessons, there’s adventure, peril and action to the extreme, the characters are distinct, likeable, grab your attention and stay with you, and the humour, oh the humour, it’s simply wonderful in the exact right dose for a semi-serious semi-fun series. Extra focus on the fun, though.

When I heard that Rick Riordan was starting a new mega adventure ride with Norse mythology at its centre, I was on board before you can say Yggdrasil (the world tree – how do I pronounce it?). On the successful wave of Marvel’s Thor movies and the ultra popularity of Loki, this seemed to be a gold mine, because while the named characters are known, Norse mythology itself isn’t that widespread in all its glorious details. There’s more to it than Thor, Loki and Asgard. And that is exactly what I was most looking forwards to reading about in the new series.

Having read books from Rick Riordan before, then I knew what to expect and I got precisely that. In that sense, there is nothing really original or slightly fresh within this series – same old, same old. The story in all it’s devices, eg. pace, tone, pattern, character outlines, basic structure, it's distinctly similar to his previous books. Nevertheless, I’m not whining, because this formula works, and it works like a well-oiled machine – I wouldn’t want to have these stories anyway else. Except, when he finds another formula that is as successful, then I’m all open for that.

Basically, Magnus, a homeless kid, is suddenly confronted with his family and their secrets and, well, he dies… And here is where the joyride begins. He is transported to Valhalla, finds out who he really is, makes some friends, makes some enemies, fights, a prophesy turns up about him, he takes his ragtag team of wacky friends to solve the prophesy and, along the way, meets all sorts of weird, creepy and fun mythical beings. There is nothing remotely new in this journey outline, but it’s okay, because there was simply heaps of hilarity, fun and excitingly tense moments throughout the quest to make up for that.

I loved the insight into Norse mythology, all the big and small details, the nine worlds, famous and less known figures, legends, connections, diverse beings, magic, the dividing of the gods to nature and war gods, the two so called “afterlives”, etc, etc, and especially Ragnarok. The latter I’ve always found fascinating, because it’s predetermined and cannot be bypassed, everything from how it beings to who dies and how, is set in stone. Most mayor gods will die, Thor, Odin, Heimdall – all goners. Norse mythology is a lot more grimmer and fatalistic that it’s Greek counterpart, but it’s none the less fascinating and rich with imaginative stories.

From the important mythological characters, Loki was confusing -- is he evil or just misunderstood? Thor was somewhat of a moron, big, loud and all the time ready for some clobbering – I liked his goats. Freya was too much of a typical vain goddess, but Frey was someone I really liked and found intriguing, based on the short amount of time he was in the story. Apparently, he’s the most similar to Chris Hemsworth, so obviously, I was drawn to him… I, overall, found it funny how Magnus compared everyone to the images we are used to from Thor movies. I assume I would do just the same in his shoes.

Rick Riordan is the ultimate master at writing sarcastic, smart mouth, humorous heroes, and dialogue and general text in the same calibre. It’s light, funny and very effortless to read. There were a multitude of hilarious laugh-out-loud moments, where I actually did genuinely laugh out loud – a rarity with me when reading books. Alone Magnus’ inner thoughts were priceless. In addition, the situations the main characters found themselves in and the weird creatures they encountered were, safe to say, quite comical, eg. pigeon giant, going fishing for world-serpent, talking sword, Thor’s goats, the dwarf stuff creating competition (Blitz’s creations were absolutely supreme) and the sabotage going on there, squirrels, etc.

Despite this awesome humor, I have to spoil the fun somewhat. I was more or less bothered by Magnus’ voice being almost identical to Percy. Both were great protagonists and funny heroes, but I would have preferred them to have more distinct voices. At times, I felt as Magnus was actually Percy and I had to check the cover to see if I was mistaken. Also, as a con, I didn’t really feel a connection to Samirah. From the pro side, Magnus’ other sidekicks, the dwarf Blitz and a deaf elf Hearth, were lovely. The latter leading to a lot of comical situations with his sign language (I loved how Thor misinterpreted everything Hearth said).

The connection to the Heroes of Olympus series was also quite intriguing due to Annabeth being the cousin of Magnus. I’m curious to know if there will be some confrontation between the Norse and Greek/Roman mythology worlds. I did, however, notice that compared to the latter books, the new series story had a lot of info-dumping, which I didn't feel to the extent in the previous series. I guess it is due to Norse mythology being less out there, there being more to introduce to the reader and the information coming across brand new, so there is more intensive attention needed to take in everything.

Further recommendations: The anime (based on the manga of the same name) Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok (2003) was one of my favourites some years back and it focuses on a cursed, but cute as a button and physically little boy, Loki, a quirky wannabe detective girl student and Loki’s children – Fenrir the adorable doggy was soooo squichy (I loved how he said “daddy” to Loki all the time). Nothing really amazingly interesting happens; it’s more a monster of the week or mystery of the week anime, with a cringeworthy magical staff transformation sequence a la Sailor Moon, but it was unexpectedly fun with idiot Frey with his pig, short-tempered Heimdall and other shenanigans.

www.animenewsnetwork.com

4 stars!

LIIS
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