Romance

The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Details, Please (Publisher’s description)
Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.

And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.

So what?
I believe this is Clarke’s debut novel, and it makes me want to read more pirate books. Yes, please! Ananna of Tanarau wants to learn navigation, a ship of her own, her own armada and maybe become the richest woman in the world. Really, is that too much to ask? For an ambitious girl, Ananna wants to do so at her own pace and is not one of those cringe worthy characters who steps on everyone to get her way. She knows her worth, she isn’t superficial, and she can take care of herself (plus she has a cool pirate tattoo)…However, don’t ask me how to pronounce her name, I have no clue.

Naji on the other hand, for being an assassin has a bit of a complex. Don’t get me wrong, he is a pretty awesome character and is ultra-cool, but Ananna came across as the more reliable of the two. Both of them went through different places out of their comfort zone whether it be the desert, the ocean or some scary island both adapting well to whatever the venue. They had a mission to accomplish, and it was a joy to go along with them.

As far as assassin books go it’s much better than some of the most recent ones (Throne of Glass, I’m looking at you) and if you liked the Rain Benares Series by Lisa Shearin which is neither about pirates or assassins (but has both) you would really like The Assassin’s Curse.

So what do you get when you have a pirate and an assassin? Awesomeness.

Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

Details, Please (Publisher Description)

Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan absorbs their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Fifteen Realms, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.

Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life….

So What?
Maria V. Snyder is an author that no matter what she writes, I’ll read. I love her stories that much. Poison Study is still my favorite, but Touch of Power her ninth book comes closest in the overall feel of Poison Study. Avry is a tough, smart heroine and is just so cool. I mean every time she decides to heal someone it’s like a mini sacrifice that takes courage…and to do that for people you don’t even know is amazing. Plus she doesn’t let people order her around when it comes to healing.

One thing I really like about Ms. Snyder’s writing is that she is able to make even her secondary characters so lovable and almost as important at the main characters. The band of rogues in this book are so likable, and their eventual camaraderie with Avry is sweet. Most of the story takes place with them traveling through the forest, but it doesn’t drag. The pacing is just right. The romance doesn’t really kick in till the end, but the characters are just so interesting I don’t even mind.

The main villain, Tohon is someone you kind of want to feel sorry for until you realize he is just plain psycho. He acts like a deranged kid who just wants to win a popularity contest….or in this case gain all fifteen realms for himself.

If you like fantasy, cool magic, a weird healing system, giant plants that eat people, zombies, knife throwing and juggling then yeah, you might like this book 🙂

And Flea, I still have hope….

Excerpt:

“No. You’re worth more alive than dead.” He paused, knowing he had said the wrong thing. “I meant, I need you to heal someone for me. Once he’s better, you can go back into hiding or do whatever you’d like.” Although muffled, raised voices and the sounds of a commotion reached us. Kerrick glanced to his left. “But if you don’t come right now, there won’t be another chance.” He held out his hand.

I hesitated. Trust a complete stranger or remain in jail and be executed in the morning? If he was sincere, Kerrick’s offer meant I would have my life back. My life on the run. Not appealing, but that survival instinct, which had spurred me on these past three years, once again flared to life. What if he was lying? I’d deal with it later. Right now, it didn’t matter; living suddenly took precedence over dying.

I grabbed his hand. Warm calloused fingers surrounded mine. He tugged me down the corridor. I hadn’t been paying close attention when I had arrived, but I knew this way led to more cells. There was one door into the jail. And loud noises emanated from that direction. Fear twisted. Crazy how a few hours ago I hadn’t cared if I lived or died, but now a desperate need to live consumed me.

Warped by Maurissa Guibord

Details, Please
Having haggled with an older lady at an auction, Tessa now finds herself the proud owner of a couple of boxes of old books and an extra crate that contains a unicorn tapestry. After hanging it in her room she starts having odd dreams and memories of a unicorn hunt from a whole different time period. The Norns, who spin threads of Fate, are especially ticked off having suspected Tessa of stealing seven threads from them. Tessa doesn’t remember this, and what happens when she does pull a thread from the tapestry? Better yet, why is there a sixteenth century nobleman in her room?

So What?
Usually I would stay away from books with time travel and unicorns, but I think this book is creative and likable. It didn’t quite live up to all the hype surrounding it, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. I didn’t find it corny at all. The whole unicorn idea was believable, and I mean there are such things as unicorn tapestries anyway.

Also, the time travel was handled in a simplistic way and not at all confusing. Although, there were times where something was mentioned and I thought it would be important and then it wasn’t mentioned again… other than that, it’s a neat read. It’s lite fantasy and reminded me of a Disney Channel movie. So if Disney Channel movies appeal to you and you like the idea of unicorns and dragons, and a girl who lives above a bookstore give it a try on a gray day. Plus it’s a standalone.

Excerpt:

Up close, the tapestry’s deep, jeweled colors made kaleidoscope whorls of crimson and gold and emerald-green, while in the center, the unicorn, woven in milky white, blazed like a pool of moonlight against the dark.

“Gorgeous,” Tessa whispered.

It looked so real. The unicorn, with a long spiraled horn jutting from its tangled mane, was depicted rearing up on its hind legs as its front hooves raked the air. A violent, yet majestic strength was captured in the arched lines of its neck and the muscular shadows of its shoulders.

The unicorn was in a grassy clearing, hemmed in by denser forest. In the background a castle sat atop a distant hill, with turrets outlined against a brilliant blue sky. The scene, Tessa thought, was like something from a fairy tale. But definitely one of the darker ones. And probably not one with a happy ending. For she noticed that a dark cut was stitched on the unicorn’s cheek, and from it flowed two crimson drops of blood. The unicorn’s large golden brown eyes seemed to glitter. Tessa squinted. She felt strange, breathless.

She reached out and brushed her fingers over the tapestry. The threads were warm and soft, almost velvety beneath her touch. Then it happened.

A tingling sensation ran up her arm, quick and warm and so lightning fast Tessa didn’t have time to snatch her hand back. Suddenly everything was gone. The tapestry, the car, even the ground was gone.

It was as if a black fog had swept her up and was carrying her far away. She was drenched in darkness, blinded. But she could hear something. In the black fog, a voice spoke. Words swirled around her.

Through warp and weft, I bind thee. 

Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

Details, please

Kitty Charing has been brought up by her rich guardian, Matthew Penicuik. Out of the blue, Matthew decides to name Kitty as his heiress, but with conditions: she will only receive her fortune if she marries one of his great-nephews. The horrid thing is the cousin she wants to marry (Jack) doesn’t even come to claim her hand, leaving her to pick from the rest of her weird cousins or be left destitute. She plans to runaway and runs into Freddy Standen another cousin who arrives unaware of his uncle’s intentions. Being a favorite of hers, she begs him to fake propose and take her to finally see London under the guise of being introduced to his parents. They plan that after a month they’ll quietly break it off and at least she would have seen London. Her real plan of course is to make Jack jealous and force him to finally propose, but what if Freddy is really the one for her?



So, what?

This book was hilarious. Both Freddy and Kitty willingly put themselves in this farce, and although he knows Kitty has another plan he doesn’t know it involves the rakish Jack. Kitty sounds pretty conniving, yet I wouldn’t call her that in a negative way…like she’s crafty in a sweet way? If that makes any sense. Also, I love Freddy. He is the weirdest hero for sure. He’s described as being a dandy, very much interested in clothes and the latest fashion. Look at this description of him:

When he relinquished his coat, his hat, his cane, and his gloves into the landlord’s hands, a slight look of anxiety was in his face, but as soon as a penetrating glance at the mirror had satisfied him that the high points of his shirt-collar were uncrumpled, and the intricacies of a virgin cravat no more disarranged than a touch would set to rights, the anxious look disappeared, and he was able to turn his attention to other matters.

I guess he was the Ryan Seacrest of his day or something, and he doesn’t readily seem like a hero at all. I think that’s what’s so cool about this book, because of his growing love for Kitty he becomes a hero doing things he would not normally do. He becomes someone she can rely on, and he goes out of his way to make sure her wishes are granted. I love the trust between the two, and how he does everything in his power to help the people she loves.

I know some people have issues about the extreme details on all aspects of regency life in Heyer novels, but it wasn’t that bad. Sometimes the language confused me, but I liked reading all the regency slang (dashed well making a cake of me!), and the view of fashionable London through Kitty’s eyes.

Overall

I’m not an expert on Georgette Heyer, or if this is good book to start with. I often hear that if you are new to her novels you should start with Frederica, Venetia, or The Grand Sophy, but I really enjoyed Cotillion. It was witty, and fun to see all the couples in this book end up with who they should.

An excerpt:

“Well, if this don’t beat the Dutch! First the fellow brings you to a devilish place like this, and then he dashed well leaves you here!”

“Freddy!” cried Miss Charing, jumping almost out of her skin.

“And don’t you say Freddy to me!” added Mr. Standen severely. “I told you I wouldn’t have it, Kit, and I dashed well meant it! Have the whole town talking!”

Kitty looked very much bewildered, but as it was plain that Mr. Standen was filled with righteous wrath she refrained from protest, merely saying in a small, doubtful voice: “Frederick? Should I, in public, call you Mr.Standen?”

“Call me Mr. Standen?” said Freddy, thrown quite out of his stride. “No, of course you should not! Never heard such a silly question in my life! And it ain’t a bit of use trying to turn the subject! Not one to take a pet for no reason, but this is the outside of enough, Kit!”

“I wasn’t trying to turn the subject! You said I must not call you Freddy!”

Mr. Standen stared at her. “Said you wasn’t to call me Freddy? Nonsense!”

“But you did!” replied Kitty indignantly. “Just this moment past! I must own, I think it was very unkind in you, for I had no notion it was wrong!”

“It’s my belief,” said Mr. Standen, with austerity, “that you’re trying to fob me off, Kit! Well, it won’t fadge! I saw you walk into this place on Dolph’s arm! Seems to me there’s something deuced havey-cavey going on between the pair of you. Time I had a word with Dolph! Where the devil is he?”

Enlightenment dawned on Miss Charing. She gave an irrepressible gurgle of mirth. “Oh, Freddy, is that what brings you here?”

“Yes, it is, and it ain’t anything to laugh at!” said Freddy.

“Good God, you don’t suppose I’d come to a place like this for no reason, do you? I’d as lief visit Westminster Abbey again!” He levelled his glass, and swept a condemnatory glance round the room. “In fact, liefer!” he added. “I don’t say those effigies weren’t pretty devilish, but they weren’t as devilish as this freak you was staring at when I came in.

You know what?–you’ll start having nightmares if you don’t take care! Lord, if it ain’t just like Dolph to choose a place like this for his dashed flirtations! Shows you he’s queer in his attic.”

“He did not bring me here to flirt with me!”

“Now, don’t you tell me he wanted to look at curiosities from the South Seas!” said Freddy warningly. “I ain’t a big enough bleater to swallow that one! Just a trifle too loud, Kit!”

“No, of course he did not. Oh, dear, how awkward this is! I wonder what I should do?”

“Well, I can tell you that!” said Freddy. “You can stop making a cake of me. What’s more, if you let Dolph go on hanging round you forever I’ll tell everyone that our betrothal is a hum!”

“Freddy, you would not!” exclaimed Miss Charing, turning pale. “What can it signify to you, after all?”

“Does signify. Here’s mother wanting to know what I’m about to let you go all over town with Dolph! Never felt such a flat in my life!”

“Oh, I am so very sorry!” said Kitty contritely.

“Yes, I daresay, but I’m dashed if I see what your lay is! If you wanted Dolph, why the deuce didn’t you accept his offer? No need to have dragged me into the business at all.”

Kitty laid an impulsive hand on his arm. “Freddy, you could not think that I would ever marry poor Dolph?”

“Well, no,” admitted Freddy. “In fact, I’ll take dashed good care you don’t!”

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

I was seriously prejudiced when starting this book. Like many other of my reads I finally read Outlander because I kept hearing people rave about it on Tumblr and so forth. I opened the book and read the first sentence of the brief summary:

Claire Randall is leading a double life. She has a husband in one century, and a lover in another.”

*slammed book shut*

“Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire.”

This suspiciously sounds like one of those books your aunt gets caught reading from the book stash hidden under her bed. Plus I hate infidelity…I don’t care if your husband and your lover will never meet because while with one the other wasn’t born yet, or with the other your lovers been dead 200 years. Pfft. How convenient.

Details, Please

So in 1945 while on her second honeymoon, former nurse Claire Randall ends up touching some random boulder in an ancient stone circle while out collecting plants and –Bamf- gets transported to 1743 Scotland. Freaked out and landing in possibly the worst place ever she ends up between a feud with Scots and the English. Now she constantly has to defend herself because everyone who’s anyone thinks she’s a spy or a witch. She meets Jamie Fraser a younger Scots warrior and complications arise. What’s a time traveling girl to do? Stay with her younger warrior or return to her husband in the 20th century…

So what? *Slight spoiler warning*

I heard it’s difficult to classify this book because its historical fiction, fantasy and even science-fiction, but you know what? It’s basically an angsty romance. I guess you could call it a fantasy…the Loch Ness Monster makes an appearance. But Gosh, I got over my initial prejudice about this book, because I was curious and I heard the first chapter on audiobook while packing. It was interesting. I mean the one scene that made me curious is when Claire’s first husband sees a Scotsman ghost staring at her from outside her window. I kept reading. Here’s the thing: It’s brutal.

I did not take pleasure in worrying about whether someone was going to get flogged, raped or assaulted at every corner. I felt like I was peering through sadistic windows, becoming an unwilling voyeur. I had to take a break half way through and read Harry Potter fanfiction. Dude, that’s how upset I was.

I felt bad for her first husband probably going out of his mind looking for her. I felt like the author was trying to justify Claire not going back to her husband because her first husband’s six-time-great grandfather is the villain of this book. Plus, some of the sentences just made me laugh:

“I was now shut in the room of a rural inn, awaiting a completely different husband, whom I scarcely knew, with firm orders to consummate a forced marriage, at risk of my life and liberty.”

I had a legit reason to marry another man in a different century! Pfft. Please.

Overall

Read it, just so you can say you read the book all the girls are fangirling about, but only if you don’t care about wasting your time. I just got tired of feeling uptight. The book has some controversial scenes. I mean the majority of it took place in the 18th century so of course women of today would be scandalized by some scenes. I don’t know what to think of them except I didn’t like reading about someone getting beaten within an inch of her life, and it being acceptable at the time.The ending was happy, but it wasn’t worth the crap I had to trudge through to get there.

I can’t go any further. I’m emotionally spent. I hear someone gets sold into slavery in the next book? No thanks. I’m not coming back to this world. I’m touching the stones at Craigh na Dun and I’m going back home.

To be fair, here’s a GoodReads link so you can find some positive reviews of this book if still interested.

Flawless by Lara Chapman

Flawless is a contemporary retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac. Thankfully it doesn’t end as grim.

Details, Please
Sarah Burke senior in high school has learned to deal with her nose, as it’s been the source of all her insecurities and unhappiness. To put it bluntly, it’s just really huge. She thought she was fine with it, until she develops a crush on Rock the new boy from Atlanta. Unfortunately she’s not the only one smitten, Kristen her best friend is as well. Because Kristen isn’t into literature or poetry she enlists Sarah to help woo him on Facebook, but how long can this go on with Sarah’s own feelings getting in the way… not to mention she’s deceiving pretty much everyone, including herself.

So What?
I like this book for its exploration of loyalty, friendship and embracing self. I think in this sort of situation it would be easy to become catty with your friend, but that isn’t the case for Sarah and Kristen. They remain close friends throughout the book. Though Sarah sort of learns a lesson the hard way because of it, and lets opportunities pass her by because of her insecurities.

Towards the end there were some random plot bunnies that were kind of just thrown in there. I still don’t know what the point was. I suppose to change-up the plot a bit. Also I found myself with the second male lead syndrome. He wasn’t even mentioned that often but from what I heard of him I liked him better.

Overall
This came off like a Disney Channel movie. That’s not necessarily bad, I TiVo those things… It’s just the kind of book you give your niece in high school to read. Well it’s meant for that age demographic anyway. It wasn’t perfect, but I think the overall message was important. I rather liked this happier approach to the tale then being overly dramatic and sad. If you know a younger kid with self-image problems then this is one book to recommend.

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

I’d been hearing a lot of buzz about The Near Witch, and was glad I was approved for a galley. The Near Witch is a hybrid of folklore and fairy tales. There is a slight semblance to The Pied Piper, and yet Miss Schwab manages to make the story all her own. It is certainly worth the hype. What an awesome debut novel.

Details Please
It is said witches and hunters live on the edge of the village of Near. Lexi Harris being a child of the latter lives in such a spot, having the advantage of seeing the comings and goings of town. The thing is, there are no strangers in Near, so when one catches her eye in the window she is curious about him. He seems to melt into the darkness. The town where everybody knows everybody wants to know who this stranger is, but before anyone can meet him the children of Near start vanishing. Lexi’s sister Wren hears children outside asking her to come play; a melody that adults do not hear. Who is responsible for luring the children out of bed and can Lexie convince the town from repeating history?

So What?
The Near Witch gave off a nostalgic feeling and it flowed so well. It was well paced and it had just enough romance. It’s lyrical, full of pretty prose and not in a confusing way. One thing I wasn’t expecting was to genuinely be scared. What started as sort of mysterious grew into a genuinely chilling book. One scene in particular really freaked me out and I had trouble sleeping that night. It had me wanting to double check my windows. It’s funny because although some parts scared me, I felt the book was lovely (such a strange dichotomy, but it worked.) I felt for the characters, and I felt outraged at the villagers. I wanted to be best friends with Lexi, and I wanted a sister like Wren. I love when I actually care for the characters I’m reading about.

Overall
I love this book. It has everything, it’s a ghost story with magic and witches. What’s not to love? It kept me repeatedly guessing, and I also learned a lot about how fear can blind us. You know what else is awesome? It’s a standalone! 

P.S. Has anyone seen Sigur Ros’s Glósóli video? It sort of reminded me of The Near Witch, with the same kind of eerie, magical, fairy tale feeling.

I received this ARC from publishers via NetGalley.