Beyond Strange New Words

“Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Uprooted

Uprooted - Naomi Novik Maybe 4.5? The only thing that kind of bothered (but not really) me was that Agnieszka was 'not like other girls'(TM) - and by 'bothered' I mean that there are so many books with heroines 'not like other girls' and it would be a nice change to once see a heroine who is just like other girls.

But then again, this is not Naomi Novik's fault, especially since she manages to sort of subvert the trope, making Agnieszka both 'worse' and 'better' than 'other girls' in certain ways and thus making her - guess what - just like other girls, which makes up a very clever writing.

Although belonging to YA sphere, Uprooted deals with rather dark themes that have thought-provoking real world parallels. Which is quite all right, after all teens, too, can very well see the problems of our time, so why not having them reflected in a work of fiction that challenges the readers' thinking.

If this was a story I had been told as a young girl, I would have most likely fancied myself as Agnieszka, mostly for her connection to nature which I very much used to feel myself. Or, put otherwise, Agnieszka felt like a kindred soul to me.

The characters in general, from Agnieszka and Sarkan to minor ones, are amazing. Novik depicts the characters and relationships between them in a way that feels authentic for a 17-year-old, not despite, but precisely because of Agnieszka's at times somewhat superficial, simplified, or idealised perception which changes and develops alongside the plot just as Agnieszka herself.

However, what I loved the most was the way this book is rooted (pun intended!) in Slavic folklore and mythology, which really spoke to my Slavic heart and made this book an absolutely fantastic fantasy read.

Archangel's Enigma

Archangel's Enigma - Nalini Singh Maybe even 4.5/5 stars? I'm a mess of emotions from devouring this in a day and a half, so... more coherent thoughts later. Probably.

Archangel's Legion

Archangel's Legion  - Nalini Singh *flails*

What I love so much about Raphael and Elena is that, unlike so many couples in romance, they communicate. Even when one of them wants to close up, the other never lets themselves be shut out.

I love the strength of their relationship – of course, they fight and then compromise and sometimes they get their ways, but all of it just makes it more real.

And I love what they have become, how they have become better, both individually and together. Especially Raphael, who would now rather reject power than become someone he doesn’t want to be (and I also liked his delightful new sense of humour).

Archangel's Legion also brought stunning battle scenes along with real consequences, and the story in general evoked so many emotions.

It was great to see five of the seven along with some other characters.

In the end, the story offers a surprising explanation for the title of the book, but I’m not saying anything more about it than that I liked it.

The book ends with a bit of a promising set-up for the continuation of the series but without a cliffhanger. And so I think this is good place for me to take a break, because I need it after binging through 6 books in 15 days (it was so good I just couldn’t stop reading, okay.)
SPOILER ALERT!

Archangel's Storm

Archangel's Storm  - Nalini Singh 4.5 stars because of snakes - which of course I knew about when heading in, but still. *shudders* Luckily, there aren't any prolonged depictions/appearances, so I could handle it (read: un-thought them.)

Other than that, wow.

I loved, LOVED how despite everything Mahiya went through, she decided to become the opposite of what Neha intended or what she could have become, not bitter, not broken, not subdued, but bright and strong and compassionate and determined to make a full, happy life for herself.

Mahiya and Jason complemented each other perfectly and I loved the way their relationship and understanding of one another developed, with hitches on the road and all.

I liked the hints of what is to come and what is happening in the world at large sewn amid Neha and Mahiya's history.

Speaking of, while I agree that Eris was unworthy of Neha and Nivriti, the faux pas of the young naive Mahiya was actually a perfect solution; all of the pain and torment could have been avoided if the sister had just shared the consort. ;)

It also goes along with Jason's more general observation that they would both be much stronger and better off working together instead of against each other. But maybe with new threats on horizon they can still learn to, because, as he said, they might in spite of everything, still love each other.

And finally, I loved that other character's stories were worked into Jason's and Mahiya's: besides two of the Seven's appearances - and Raphael's and Elena's - we also witnessed Dmitri's and Honor's wedding and the beginning of her transformation.

All in all, another fantastic instalment.
SPOILER ALERT!

Archangel's Blade

Archangel's Blade  - Nalini Singh 4 stars only because it just can't get better than Raphael and Elena (who left me speechless; hence, no reviews for Books 2 and 3 so far.)

Also, it was a bit too repetitive with the information on the world-building and mythology, but that was probably just me because I'm binge-reading and the reminders would probably be more than welcome had I read it a year after the previous book like when they were first released.

Now, since I've been spoiled (to no one's fault but mine), I'm taking double precautions as to not spoil anyone else, because I can't review this without spoilers. Seriously, do NOT read further.

I was a little unsure about how the author will pull off reincarnation, but she did it, building it organically with mounting memories and flashbacks. And, given that the series's world has angels, vampires, AND humans with extra senses/abilities, I can buy a sort-of reincarnation as well, why not. Especially with being shown how Honor/Ingrede has changed just as much as Dmitri. I really liked that despite being reincarnated she is no longer only Ingrede, but she is above all, Honor.

All in all, I loved the story, even as my heart bled for both Dmitri and Honor with what they've been through. But, luckily, there was snark to counter it and glimpses of other beloved characters and all ended well in the only possible way, as I don't think anything more mundane or less intense than a love story spanning a millennium would fit Dmitri.

Angels' Blood

Angels' Blood  - Nalini Singh This, this is the angel series I was looking for without knowing. Cue flailing, squeeing, and sighing. Not sure if/when I will be capable of a coherent review.

What an astounding world-building. And the mythology! And breath-taking visuals. Battles. Gruesome details, not for the weak of stomach.

I liked the less is more in terms of steamy scenes, and the romance was sizzling, together with banter and bickering and all, and also went straight to the heart.

(These were the notes I forgot to copy paste from Word when I finished the book, so I'm writing this 'review' after I've already read book 7 - but, darn, what a beginning it was! And everything that follows just builds and improves on it. )

A more through review perhaps on a reread that will surely happen some day.



Trust (Finding Anna)

Trust (Finding Anna) - Sherri Hayes A very fine conclusion to the series. (You can get the idea of how much I liked it by the fact that I burned through the series in less than a week.)

Treasure Island

Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson This was a refresher reread for me due to the TV show Black Sails, which was created as sort-of a prequel for Treasure Island and you should totally watch if you haven’t already.

I first read Treasure Island in 5th or 6th grade (I remember taking it from the 5/6th grade literature section in our school library, so it must have been around then). That was about a quarter of a century ago, and I only recalled a handful of names (namely, Flint, Silver, and, curiously, Ben Gunn) from it. Hence, now that the show ended, it seemed a good time for a reread.

Of course, Treasure Island is a YA (before there was YA, I guess) adventure story, while the show itself is much more serious, complex, and, of course, intended for adult audience. It is also more than superior to the novel (I know, blasphemy!) and I choose to actively ignore some elements of the book in favour of the show.

That said, I actually found Treasure Island fairly interesting this time around – and I suppose also the first time, because it is the kind of read that would have appealed to me at that age. I can see why I didn’t remember it well, though.

The story is a fast-paced adventure, which tells more than shows and is scarce with details and, thus, isn’t very memorable. The main character being a boy (and kind-of the author’s self-insert, I think) might have contributed to it being easily forgettable, as well.

Nevertheless, I didn’t hate the book and I found certain elements entertaining in the light of Black Sails. Therefore, the reread was overall worth my time.

This review was originally published on my book blog, Beyond Strange New Words.

Ours to Love

Ours to Love - Shayla Black I admit to skimming the first third or so, but I liked the rest and, therefore, tried to properly read the beginning but it again didn't quite hold my attention. I guess it was just that slow/less-than-captivating. Other than that, it was, well, a story - that just was. Good for killing some time, with fairly likeable characters, interesting enough, but nothing exceptional.
SPOILER ALERT!

Shadow's Seduction

Shadow's Seduction - Kresley Cole Darn it, Kresley! Why end it there?!

Anyway, 5 stars to counter the homophobic assholes giving it one-star ratings without even reading it.

(FYI, GR has this nifty feature which allows you to not rate a book at all even if marking it 'read' and that other one where you can create shelves, name them whatever you want, and make them exclusive - e.g. a 'won't read b/c i hate the idea' book shelf - so you can still catalogue it (though, why would you in this particular case) - and note your thoughts, again, possibly without rating it. But I assume people still would give 1 star ratings out of spite because god forbid someone enjoyed something they don't. Oh well, haters gonna hate.)

Although, actually, it comes close to 5 stars anyway, despite the abrupt ending that made me grit my teeth for a second before I thought better of it and realised that it actually ended in a perfect place. Because Mina will have to be found in her own story, which I assume will be the next in The Dacians series. Also, I think the 'unfathomable' reward for finding her will be Mina herself and/or the acceptance of her mate who will be the one to actually find her/collect the reward.

But anyway. Cas and Mirceo. And their frustrating insecurities while it was slowly revealed to us as readers as well as to themselves how much the have in common and how well they fit together. I loved their story so much.

Poor Cas with his terrible past and culturally-ingrained fear he would be seen as less for having a male mate. But I loved that he made himself and grew into his confidence.

In addition, it was fun seeing Lothaire and his quirks and Ellie managing him. Also loved seeing Bettina and learning of what happened to Kristoff.

Oh, and I loved how she explained same-sex mates (as in, it's nothing to explain) and even worked out how they can have progeny in a very no-nonsense pseudo-scientific (aka some magic instead of medicine plus a surrogate mother does the trick) way that works within the universe.

Again, more than well done, Ms. Cole!
"[But] I fear that in the individual lives of all but a few, the balance is in debit - we do so little that is positive good, even if we negatively avoid what is actively evil."
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien - J.R.R. Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, p. 80

Untitled

Untitled - Kresley Cole OMG, perfection! I now know why I was 'saving' a 5-star rating from all those other awesome books I've read lately.

Proper review (or, more likely, spoiler-ish flailing) to come in a few days, probably. When I get myself together from all of Kresley Cole's brilliance.
SPOILER ALERT!

Dark Skye (Immortals After Dark, #14)

Dark Skye (Immortals After Dark, #14) - Kresley Cole Before they were mortal enemies, they were childhood best friends. Despite belonging to enemy factions. Three (well, four, eventually) dead parents later, their friendship – let alone anything more – is over, seemingly irreparable, replaced by pain, fear, and resentment. Or is it?

I have to appreciate time in again in IAD series, how Kresley Cole’s concept of ‘fated’ mates means anything but a guaranteed happy ending (within the story; on a meta level, of course we all know it will happen) for the pairing of the moment, for there are so many things that could go wrong and keep them apart, destiny or no. I love that it takes much more than ‘fate’ for love to win.

That is also the case for Melanthe and Thronos: it only takes them five centuries of running and pursuit, before they even start resolving the hurt and misunderstandings from their past and working towards a future (trying to survive while having only each other to rely on helps a lot, though, even when they ‘hate’ each other.)

Granted, the said resolving starts off a bit slow and that made me feel a little underwhelmed and frustrated (If only they talked to each other!), but once they get past a critical point, the story picks up and, damn, it is worth every moment of the earlier frustration.

Hence, I ended up absolutely loving Melanthe and Thronos’s story: one of the most painful, tragic, but also heartfelt and beautiful ones in this series; they ended up being one of my favourite IAD couples, just as I had expected and hoped for.

Furthermore, in Dark Skye, Cole pulls together quite a few threads from other stories and the larger Ascension plotline, bringing us up to speed with some of my favourite couples from the previous books. Which made me want to reread some; I think I might have to check back to at least Cadeon and Holly’s and Rydstrom and Sabine’s stories, and maybe Lothaire. (But when will I have the time to both reread and continue the series, that is the question.)

I loved seeing Nix’s perspective and the revelation why she is playing the matchmaker for so many pairings: because, ultimately, all the mixed-factions couples will come in handy for joining Vertas and Pravus in the fight against a common enemy, the Bringers of Doom. Because this will be an Ascension on a whole new level, apparently, and I am so looking forward to it. (And Nix coming out of it as the goddess of Ascensions prediction is perfect for her.)

I could flail about so many more details, but I don’t want to spoil everything for those who haven’t read the book, yet.

In conclusion, therefore, let me just say that Dark Skye is a fascinating, intense, and clever story. It was one of the instalments I had been looking forward the most, and, even if it didn’t look like it in the beginning, it truly lived up to it.

Now, I must hurry and read Sweet Ruin, so I can next get to Shadow’s Seduction (which was released today) ASAP.

This review was originally posted on my blog, Beyond Strange New Words.
SPOILER ALERT!

The Professional

The Professional - Kresley Cole I was so annoyed by all the miscommunication, or lack of communication, issues on both characters’ sides, but maybe even slightly more with the way Natalie was written, because one would think that someone who is pursuing a PhD in her area of expertise would have enough social skills/emotional intelligence to put some things together on their own or at least be better at expressing her feelings. (Although, okay, highly intelligent scientists do often have problems with exactly that; but still, considering her field…)

Also, all her complaining about whiling away and having nothing to do made me eye roll, because again, she’s an intelligent, educated person, with high-end tech devices at her disposal that could and therefore plenty of reading/study material at her fingertips. And if she wanted/needed physical books, I bet she only had to mention it to Aleks and he’s have a truckload delivered at her feet.
There was also her indecisiveness that irked me.

But, somehow, I ended up loving her.

Because, all things said, trust Kresley Cole to make a whole bunch of annoying things paying off in the end in an utterly fulfilling way, which is why the 3-star rating I had in mind up until 85% of the book got bumped to 4 stars.

I loved Kresley’s take on the poor girl with newly found billionaire father mafia falls for the said father right-hand trope, along with the danger and luxury and the adjustments and struggles that come with it.

Even though I totally picked it up for the smut (yes, I admit), but all of it made up for a very intriguing story and who would think mob bosses would make me feel for them so much.

So, all in all, a great read.

MacRieve (Immortals After Dark, #13)

MacRieve (Immortals After Dark, #13) - Kresley Cole Uilleam MacRieve appeared on the fringes of previous stories quite a lot and I felt like it was high time to pick up his story.

I had a rather long break from reading this series, but you can always count on Kresley Cole to sum things up enough to make you remember the important parts from the past instalments without making the story tedious.

So, we meet Uilleam – okay, I will go with Will, because that spelling is finger-breaking – a few weeks after the escape from the prison in book #11 as a broken man, plagued both by the ordeal he went through on the island as by the past wounds the experience re-opened, dinking himself to a stupor every day and planning a trip to the immortals’ suicide cove.

Enter Chloe Todd, a professional football (sorry, an European here, seeing the word ‘soccer’ hurts my brain) player about to see her life dreams come true by competing at the Olympics, who is suddenly faced not only about the existence of the supernatural and becoming one of them, but also with the fact that her father is not who she thought he was, but none other than Preston Webb, the sinister leader of the Order that hunts supernatural beings.

While everyone in the Lore is hell-bent on seeking out their revenge against Webb through his daughter, Will hides his fated mate to keep her safe, unaware that she is about to come into her immortality as one of the species he detests from the bottom of his heart for all he has suffered because of one of them as just a boy.

And that is when the real problems start. Fortunately, between these two idiots who could have avoided much trouble had they only communicated – although I have to give props to Kresley Cole: Will’s inability to communicate about his past trauma is very realistic – Chloe is rational enough to put some things together on her own and thus finds in herself enough patience for Will to catch up and do his part of psychological and emotional heavy lifting as well, eventually.

My heart broke for Will in regard to certain aspects of his backstory, but I loved that she picked a male protagonist to deal with that, because it is all too often that males are dismissed as potential victims and I loved how Kresley Cole dealt with that particular topic.

And finally, Kresley Cole managed to surprise me with the Ubus people, of whom we have been told again and again in the series that they are evil, but of course there is more to that than that and I absolutely loved the twist regarding that species and I would love to see more of them now, with everything we learned in MacRieve.

This review was originally published on my blog, Beyond Strange New Words.

Beyond Surrender

Beyond Surrender - Kit Rocha I loved all the little bits and pieces from across the series coming back full circle to the beginning of O’Kane’s business.

Ryder and Nessa were perfect together with the way they complemented each other.

The war was finally brought to its peak and then to an end, and I loved that the authors managed to do it realistically, with very real casualties and a sense of loss, but without anything too heartbreaking, sticking to their 'happy ending' vision.

And everyone lived happily ever after, I guess, although the world has been altered and I am looking forward to leaning more about this new version of the sectors and Eden in Gideon's Riders series.

Again, I loved this series so much and cannot recommend it enough.

Currently reading

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