A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught

A Kingdom of Dreams (Westmoreland, #1)

A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A well written archetypal historical romance.

While 14-16 y.o. me would’ve loved this, given it 5 stars, and squealed in delight while re-reading favorite parts multiple times, there’s a part of me that is apparently a bit too old and cynic for this.
The younger me loved that the heroine was actually clever, resourceful, resorting to unusual choices, and not simply blindly stubborn and arrogant; loved the conversations between main characters (even though there were 1-2 dialogs my fingers just itched to re-write); loved that many of the characters actually used their heads and altered their opinions. Also the hero… Big, strong, fearsome and fearless “Black Wolf” on a big black horse? He is practically the model (template) hero for the majority of these romance novels (the ones that don’t deal with the ‘fair-haired and beautiful noble hero’ type). It feels like I’ve seen a few dozen of his twins before. Even if it works…
(Though I do suppose an allowance should be made for the fact that this book was published in 1989 and I’m influenced by the books that came after.)
The older me narrows her eyes at how young the main character is (I know it’s historically accurate, I can’t help it), and at the fact that this book suffers from the ‘I got addicted to the angst and added some more…and more…and more again’-syndrome. I’m not convinced that the final family-related angst sequence was entirely necessary. As wasn’t the mini-angst detail of the Epilogue. Some of the plot turns, especially the ones that sacrifices positive characters, felt excessive.

Overall, I think this is definitely one of the better examples of ‘romance with actual plot’ variety, but I also think that it would be mostly appealing to younger readers.

(Unrelated to the content of the book, I happened to get the edition with rather terrible printing. The problems ranged from about twenty extra pages getting stuck in a wrong place in the book, to constantly missing punctuation marks… Even for a 30 y.o. edition, it’s a bit too much.)



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Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard

Mr. Perfect

Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


50% ‘Criminal Minds’-style thriller, 50% insta-romance explosion

This is a skillfully-written story, with some subtle twists that keep you guessing, and enough humor and romance to keep you distracted from the gruesome reality of the thriller portion. Other that the clear introduction to the where this is going to go in the Prologue, the story actually starts pretty slow, taking plenty of time to introduce all the characters and relationships. To be honest, I have my doubts about believability of the main concept—the one where the list becomes the nation-wide news feature and where so many people feel offended by it—but I know close to nothing about US society so I can’t really judge. The romance may feel a bit too fluffy and instantaneous, but then again, isn’t that the dream. I did also appreciate the fact that the culprit wasn’t a generic ‘his mother treated him bad so he grew up a woman-hating psychopath’ kind of deal, but then again, the twist I imagined in my head for the later part of the book might have been a little twistier that the actual one, which led to me feeling that this was after all a 4-star read, rather that a 5-star.



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Pride Mates by Jennifer Ashley

Pride Mates (Shifters Unbound, #1)

Pride Mates by Jennifer Ashley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


To be honest, I first, after reading the description, was actually planning to avoid these series… The whole ‘Shifters are Collared and controlled, outcast from humanity’ concept doesn’t appeal to me at all. Not that I’d have hard time imagining humans being discriminating asses trying to degrade, insult, and control others on every step, but just because I don’t really like to be reminded of these disgusting human traits. I only picked this up because I have read Bodyguard by chance first and thought maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all.
It’s not a bad story. The plot is there, not dissolved behind the romance, and the characters are interesting and mostly well-developed. And yet, too much of this book talks about these issues of control, power over others, dominance and submission… even if the main character says she is not ‘into it’, everything in this book rotates around these concepts. Which honestly kind of puts me off.
Also, the insta-love and thick-headed main female character did seem clichéd, even if not enough to be annoying.



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Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews

Magic Burns (Kate Daniels, #2)

Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


On one hand, I can’t help but feel that these novels (especially this one) are too short, on the other hand, they are so packed with non-stop action that I also believe if it was any longer I would actually get tired reading it. The main character hardly has any any time to rest, she spends more time passed out after almost dying again than sleeping, she hardly eats, she goes from one deadly battle to another, ‘almost dies’ multiple times, and the whole book hardly covers more than a couple of days.
I enjoyed this book more mostly because there weren’t really any unreasonable blunders like in the first one, but I do think I would enjoy it even more if there was more ‘room to breathe’ between all the action.



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Dragon Actually by G.A. Aiken

Dragon Actually

Dragon Actually by G.A. Aiken

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fun, unexpected, and explicit in more ways than one.


The way this book started, I thought I’d give it 5 stars. The tone, the humor, the characters and interactions, everything seemed great. Even thought this book is plenty bloody and violent. Unfortunately, later on the ‘rapid POV switching’ style, while fresh and enjoyable in the beginning, seemed to turn the story a progression bit too abrupt. Puff! Enemies are about to attack this specific village. Puff! We’re in the middle of the battle. Puff! It’s all over. Puff! A year has passed. (And I do feel like making it a year was neither realistic nor reasonable).
It also progressively turned a bit too porny, and when we reached “Chains & Flames” also too S&M-y for my tastes. It’s probably because, once again, I thought I was getting a ‘fantasy novel featuring some romance’, while it actually picking up ‘erotica in fantasy setting’. While it still could be the former if it tried just a little bit harder, it definitely is much more closer to the latter.



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Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews

Sweep in Peace (Innkeeper Chronicles #2)

Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Unfortunately, this series didn’t manage to escape the ‘curse of the second novel’. It was so much drier, heavier, and compressed, I can’t even really say I enjoyed it. It made me rush to finish it not because I couldn’t look away, but I wanted it to be over quickly so I could see if the next one is any better. Most of the good content that was in this was practically suffocated from two sides by too extensive dry recapping of the events of the first book in the beginning, and a wave of angst in the end; the humor and flavor of the first novel didn’t really have any space to breathe here.
Also, the twist with Sean was too obvious. I really hate it when I get this ‘well wouldn’t it suck if this happened’ feeling in the middle of the book and it just comes true.
I’m giving this 4 stars because it’s not a bad book (even if I can’t help but feel like there should have been a better way to write it.) But it is also is a book that didn’t really leave me feeling good.



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Shadow of The Fox by Julie Kagawa

Shadow of The Fox (Shadow of the Fox, #1)

Shadow of The Fox by Julie Kagawa

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


The first impression is very simple—reading this is like watching anime in text. Not just because it’s Japanese. It’s the whole imagery, concepts, attitudes, flow of the narrative. I suppose it’s probably a very different book for you when you don’t actually live in Japan and feel like every image from this book you’ve already seen somewhere before. But I’m at least glad that this at least was written by someone who knew what they were writing about.
I also suppose that his ‘anime’ nature fits very well with the YA trend of mixing childish with gruesome deaths and cringy concepts (of people not having free will and being tortured in general). And this is really all the description I can come up with: it’s like anime, childish and bloody at the same time, full of yokai monsters and talk of samurai honor; cringy enough to keep me from really liking what is going on.
Minus points for the cliff-hanger ending, as predictable as that turn was, but plus point for the Epilogue—that bit was very satisfying.
On one hand, I might be curious about what will happen to the characters from now on, on the other I don’t know if I’m actually willing to read two more books to find out…



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