Heartstone by Elle Katharine White

Heartstone (Heartstone #1)

Heartstone by Elle Katharine White

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This re-telling had a lot of potential, as an idea, but some things just didn’t work… The contrast between ‘grumpy and misunderstood’ persona and ‘lovable’ persona of the hero was just not represented organically. The change between the two personas was too drastic, and the fact that Alastair constantly referred to common people like trash and said ‘loving someone like her is beneath him’ was too much and should not be forgiven/explained by temper. A lot of his actions didn’t look like something that could be explained by grumpiness and temper, but in stead appeared to be genuine cruelty. It was overplayed and not believable. In fact, there were a number points about the writing I’d like to pick on… Like the fact that the hero was constantly referred to by his family name, even in places where it felt unnatural, because there were multiple members of his family present in the scene.
The first half of this book was very mild and slow paced, presenting dozens of little mysteries of ‘why could’ve that person said that/acted that way’ in a constant stream. In that classic style of the literature this takes as the basis. Unfortunately, I feel like half of them were not even addressed properly by the end of the book. It builds a lot of mysteries, and then drops them in a very anticlimactic way. Too many questions not nearly enough answers.
And the ending was too rushed and mangled. It was both too bloody and too trivial. As in, there were supposedly all these lives lost on the background, cities destroyed, and many Riders who were supposedly as strong as the main heroes dead where named characters survived, and it didn’t even look like we were supposed to care much.
The human nemesis was dealt with behind the scenes on the background which was a throw away.
In fact, I’m not sure what exactly were we supposed to care about at that point… the revenge story line was skipped over, most of the war was skipped over, the romance was mostly skipped over, weddings were skipped over… None of the events of the ending were really brought into focus, and collectively felt like a short summary, compared to the slow pace of the first half of the book.
Also, the ultimate sacrifice by the ‘love rival’ felt like an unfortunate plot choice. Another life just thrown away in a convenient way (how much cooler it would be if she just cut out herself from the worm instead, eh?).



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Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book is like a modern version of old Slavic, or European in general, fairy tales. In both good and bad ways.
It has a magical, has a fully developed world, heavily based on Slavic influences yet still original.
It also asks you to believe and accept a lot of things shrewd modern minds would like to question.
What I didn’t really enjoy is how unnecessary bloody it turned towards the end. Really, the numbers were entirely disproportionate and stood out like a thorn in my eye. Though I suppose it matches the fairy tale style of old.
I also wish we would have gotten a bit more insight into Dragon. While the book works seamlessly as one told from the POV of the main character, it feels like I’m missing a big chunk of story.



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Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs

Blood Bound (Mercy Thompson, #2)

Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


If I wanted put my opinion about this sequel in a single word it would be ‘frustrating’.
It feels like this book follows practically the same arc as the first one did, and ended also in practically the same place. In fact, they were so similar that it actually made me wonder if every ‘Mercy Thompson’ book is going to follow this pattern of ‘An enemy appears-> Mercy gets involved (reluctantly) -> all her (few lifetimes older, more powerful, more experienced, supernatural) male friends tell her to stay out it, and then get hurt or likely captured by the evil guy -> Mercy, being the special cookie she is, rides in to save the day and all the powerful men in her life.’
I am also finding myself liking the main character less and less, which is unfortunate because I thought there was no way I wouldn’t like a headstrong independent heroine.
But the more I read the less I believe that Mercy is what we are supposed to believe she is. Here are the facts that bother me:
1) Powerful men of all races like her and care about her. Good human cop is her friend, one of the most powerful vampires (who are supposed to be evil) cares about her, very powerful fae (who are supposed to be uninvolved) like her and help her, the nicest alpha werewolf around is supposed to be in love with her, the very dominating son (and a doctor) of the most powerful werewolf (who also acts like her father figure) also wants her. Literally everywhere you look there will be a very powerful male ready to act all caring and protective towards her. Including powerful gay friends.
2) Every female character either acts like a bitch towards her, or openly submissive, or is a daughter of a man she is trying to date and is going to look up to her. I literally can’t remember a single positive female character in these two books, unless they are dead or Jesse.
3) She ‘cannot possibly choose between these two sexy men(her exact description)’, so she is going to live with one, and kiss and cuddle occasionally, and sometimes date and cuddle with the other one, but also act like she doesn’t want either <-the behavior I absolutely despise. If she at least owned it, it would be a choice, but she simply does it because she doesn’t know what she wants and just strings everyone along.
She is increasingly manipulative, wants to stay out of any pack power structures but enjoys showing off power over others every time she gets a chance a bit too much, and acts like she wants to be ‘one leg in one leg out as long as it’s convenient to her’ with everything, not only her love life.
Which looks less and less to me like a ‘strong and independent female protagonist’.
Also, author’s insistence on describing men as domineering assholes, even the good ones, over and over is getting tiring.
And I hate hate hate love triangles (especially ones that last for multiple books).



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Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh

Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling, #1)

Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Another one of my ‘I needed more books and wasn’t really paying attention to what I was buying’ episodes. When I skimmed the description, I ended up under impression that, despite of its title, this would be more of a contemporary fantasy thriller set in universe divided onto three major races–humans, shifters, and psy; and involve unusual alliances and hunting serial killers. With some romance as a bonus.
However, the first impression I got when I started reading is that this was going to be a book where characters think about sex 98% of time, and then somehow maybe find time to do something else in between…like hunt a serial killer, or build a housing project (which everyone seemed to completely forget about less than half way through), or hack the psy network. I don’t know if it got better or I just got used to it, but it did stop bothering me eventually.
What didn’t stop bothering me is the less than stellar quality of writing… Constant head-hopping, poor wording choices, same thoughts repeated over and over again, and unfortunate ‘romance’ related narratives that mostly enticed a lot of eye rolling. After first 6 or so chapters I felt that if I had to see words ‘sensual’ or ‘predator’ one more time my eyes would bleed.
Also, the rather disgusting habit of the main male character (and some other characters) to call the main female character pet names. ‘Kitten’ I can live with, but all the ‘darlings’ and ‘sweetcheecks’ or whatever it was… More than a bit disturbing, really.
All of the ‘mysteries’ were a bit too obvious. The main characters identity, the serial killer’s identity, the answers to many of their problems, all of it was amazingly easy to predict half way through the book. Though, to be honest, right now I appreciate the simple answers and non-angst happy ending more than I would have things being more complicated.
All in all, this book has a lot of flaws you could pick up on. But there are also some interesting ideas and story elements that maybe just enough to ignore the other uncomfortable stuff, and I personally am currently grateful to any book that actually deals with its angst and puts emphasis on such ideas as loyalty, honor, love.
P.S. No Russian would ever call their daughter Nikita, only western people do. Some research before assuming would be nice.



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Me: Buys a tone of books that have ‘romance’ as one of the genres every time there’s an anxiety attack (seeking ‘comfort books’ like cheeseburgers).

Also me: Gets genuinely surprised and disappointed when plot/romance balance exceeds(on the romance side) 70/30 and characters can’t stop thinking about sex… (like I thought I was buying something else).

I also complain about cheesy covers and titles. But then keep buying fantasy, sci-fi, and historical romance books anyway. And stuff them into my brain like gauze into bleeding wound.

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves, #1)

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book genuinely surprised me. Mostly because I reached that point where I don’t really expect to ever like anything YA anymore.
This books is filled with sparks of something great that speak of real talent. (Personally, I think the author should just drop the YA and switch to full-scale adult fantasy.)
Each character is a fully developed separate entity, and it is very clear when the POV changes. Their backgrounds and personalities are detailed and captivating. Personally, as someone with ASD, I appreciated the insight into Zofia’s mind. The world is complicated, with elaborate descriptions that sometimes feel even a bit too complicated, but I think it only makes it more attractive for the imagination. I loved many of the descriptions, especially the ones that included characters’ feelings about the landscape around them. The interactions between characters are great, even if there were a couple of times where they were overplayed for the sake of humor and broke the immersion.
I’m not a fan of puzzle-mysteries or ‘heist action’ stories, but the writing and the characters kept me reading and kept me interested in this world.
I have mixed feelings about the composition of the ending and the related angst… the decisions made for a couple of human relationships and ‘down-up-further down’ emotion structure were not particularly pleasant, but somehow I want to hope that some things will be righted in the next books.
Definitely a series to follow.



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In the Woods by Tana French

In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad, #1)

In the Woods by Tana French

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


In the Woods by Tana French happened to be one of those books that felt ‘pushed onto me by the universe’ (meaning the promotion was pretty good, I guess), because I kept seeing mentions of it everywhere, beginning with pictures from unrelated people on different sites and ending with reading a mention of it in fiction.
I gave it a shot and it was very… strange. It’s a very strange work, which is difficult to hate and difficult to love, felt like a battle to read and left me very suspicious.
I couldn’t make up my mind how I feel about this book for it’s entirety, and I still don’t know how I feel about it and that’s what bothers me about it.
I also learned a few things about myself:
– I still have trouble reading stuff in 1st person POV. (Especially when the protagonists is an idiot.)
– It’s worse when protagonist keeps talking to the reader in every single chapter, and, most importantly, assuming something about the reader. (There was one paragraph towards the end about ‘she fooled you too’ which was especially bad.)
– I really don’t like it when authors keep using ‘hooks’ to keep people reading, like ‘much later I understood that this was my biggest mistake of all’ to make them wonder what will go wrong in the very end, while you’re still about half way through, and such. It felt like the book was full of them – little mentions of strangest things that are designed to keep the reader interested, but hardly ever connect anywhere (at least not in the fist book), and the use of these techniques irritates me to no end.
– I don’t know how I feel about works that are not being clear about their genre. On one hand, it’s might be more interesting that way, when you literally have no idea in which direction it’s going to take you and have to keep guessing… On the other hand, if you want to read a mystery, but get only a psychological human clusterfluff, it’s rather frustrating. But this is something I noticed about many latest UK police dramas – a lot of them tend to feature hard-to-sympathize-with main characters that keep fluffing up as actual human beings can be expected to, and their personal lives make more of the story than actual police work and mysteries.
Overall, since I liked the writer’s language, I decided that I’ll let myself get ‘baited’ and read the second book to see there will be any change or progress, before I can decide if I like it or hate it… but I can’t say that it left a pleasant aftertaste at all.



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