A Strange Hymn by Laura Thalassa

A Strange Hymn (The Bargainer, #2)

A Strange Hymn by Laura Thalassa

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Book 2, and my verdict remains mostly the same.
The world is interesting and well-developed, the hero is all what you’d want from a comfort book, plenty of elements that speak of a book made for mental self-satisfaction (dream-like landscapes, too-convenient magic, overprotective mate, etc), but the problem is that we are forced to experience it through the prism of a just barely tolerable heroine.
On first pages I almost believed that together with the wings and scales the heroine might finally start growing some brains. As in, being in the place where her manipulative powers don’t work, and after suffering through a pretty terrible ordeal, I hoped it would shake some sense into her.
Alas, the main character and her manner remains the single most annoying feature of this book, which is hard to ignore when the book is in the 1st-person pov. And still inspires a lot of pity towards the Bargainer who saddled himself with her.
She still refuses to be pulled down from her high horse, bristling on everything and everyone. She still calls the ‘love of her life’ bastards, asshole, creep; they are having a ‘romantic moment’ and she calls him ‘slippery f**ker’ in her head, and finds a reason to be angry and hateful towards him at least 3 times every chapter. Even when essentially every thing he does is for her.
She bitches at him when he tries to make her like her new appearance, she bitches at him when he teaches her to use her wings and fly, she bitches when he wakes her up with coffee in bed and makes her breakfast, she bitches when he tries to teach her to defend herself so she wouldn’t feel like a victim anymore (something she should have been begging him to do, and jump at every opportunity… and don’t even get me started on the shockingly naive and simplistic essence of the said ‘training’ where they just take swords and swing at each other), she finds a reason to bitch at every second word he says to her (or do little mean things like cover his painting with black paint because she’s a little shit who doesn’t care about anything but her darling self). She bitches, and bitches, and bitches non-stop about almost everything, and it makes reading this book unfortunately tiring, where it could have actually been pleasant.
Another issue is the writing that tends to go okay-bad-okay-bad again sometimes 3-4 times on a single page. It is also mostly tied to the manner in which the main character expresses herself, ranging from ‘I might hate the process, but I kind of dig the results. I also am coming to love the sweet pair of blades strapped to my hips. … I feel like a bad bitch tonight, which I totally dig.’ to her dialogs with her best friend which mostly made me want to wash their mouths with a toilet brush.
She sounds immature, uncultured, and often disgusting.
I’m not saying she should be a gentle damsel in distress. But some respect, culture, and dignity would be nice.
…. But then, about a dozen or so of chapters before the end, something suddenly changes, and the book snaps 90 degrees: the presence of super-powerful constantly-swearing best friend almost gets forgotten, while the main character suddenly actually begins to act selfless and uncharacteristically brave. Which would be a welcome change, if the whole story also didn’t suddenly change into a constant anxiety dump, with enemies hiding at every corner and main characters remaining completely blind to them even though everything that is about to happen is a bit too clear to the reader (which, again, is a difficult dissonance to wrap your head about when you read from a 1st-person pov, but see and understand more than the said protagonists deigns to).
This book is made up from two very different parts. Unfortunately, both of them have some elements I dislike quite a lot, also entirely different. But I also still like enough about this story to continue reading anyway… The question is how much angst will we have to deal with in book 3, and will I feel like it is worth it or not.



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Bodyguard by Jennifer Ashley

Bodyguard (Shifters Unbound, #2.5)

Bodyguard by Jennifer Ashley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Now here we have an actual comfort book of romance variety.
Although, admittedly, rather short and swift. Problems in this book get solved swiftly, main characters fall in love very swiftly, bad guys get dead very swiftly, and so on. Which, likely, is what this book needs. It’s a romance focused on themes of protection, saving people, and especially children, from shitty circumstance, unconditional care, trust. There’s a Papa Bear and a heroine who can think for herself, take care of herself, and doesn’t take shit from anyone. The writing is on the simpler side, but not cringy (with the exception for the head-hopping… it’s bad), and the romance-related scenes don’t actually feel ridiculous.



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Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles, #2)

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book gave me too much anxiety.
Not that it means it’s a bad book. I suppose for those who like to be kept on their toes while reading and constantly worry who will betray who, who will give up on who, who will have to sacrifice what, how much longer will we need to suffer interactions that involve the evil queen that is too evil and too powerful, how many will die… it’s a big plus.
Yet, personally, I don’t need even a milligram of extra anxiety in my life and it made this book damn hard to read (I had to put it down a couple of times and read 2 other books while reading this one to dilute it).
Though this book does introduce a character that I feel like will be my most favorite in the series (but now I’m also feeling anxiety regarding the fact that they might be killed off in near future).



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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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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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