ARC review: Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

After scientists stumbled across an anomalous human hormone present during moments of emotional intimacy, further research created the ability to harness the direction of living energy and pinpoint when two lines will merge. Personalized chips are now implanted beneath the thumbnails of every infant, where glowing numbers count down to the moment they will meet their soul mate. 

Fate is now a calculation.

But loving someone isn’t.

When Shannon Wurther, the youngest detective in Southern California, finds himself face-to-face with Aiden Maar, the reckless art thief Shannon’s precinct has been chasing for months, they are both stunned. Their Camellia Clocks have timed out, and the men are left with a choice—love one another or defy fate. 

Publication date:

September 21st, 2017

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Review:

★★★✩

(Actual rating 2,5 stars)

So, fun story (skip this part if you only care about my review) I requested this ARC because my buddy Rin said it was cute and it was kind of a soulmate AU (I mean it’s not an AU since it’s not fanfiction but you get the idea) and most importantly one of the protagonists owns a cat and he walksher on a leash, like how could I not want to read it?

And I’m glad I did read it, you know. But the funny part of this story is that I finished reading it while having a fever, then proceeded to dream about writing this review (and my dream self even made up a few extra chapters of this book in her head, which she proceeded to read while dreaming, giving the book a completely different epilogue)……. Well I hope I’m not the only one having weird/obsessive dreams while being sick.

Anyway, perhaps the negativity of being sick made my dream self start to see only the negative sides of this book, so that’s why I’m writing this review after having distanced myself a little, but there is one word that dream-Silvia kept thinking about to describe elements of the plot of this book, and awake-Silvia will use it.

I don’t want to start with the negatives though, so I’ll talk about what I liked. The core idea, while not extremely original, was good. I think everyone has read a soulmate AU in their life once, and there’s a reason why they’re really popular. The idea that there is someone (one person only) out there who is perfect for you is appealing for those who believe in it, and soulmate AUs give life to this belief in different shapes. Here, it’s thanks to a timer that people find their soulmate.

The explanation for the whole soulmate thing wasn’t very extensive and it wasn’t anything supernatural apparently but more of a result of science and technology, which I really liked. I would have liked to find out more about it but ok.

Now, another thing that made me want to read it is the fact that the two protagonists are a cop and a thief. I really liked both characters individually and I also liked them together, so in theory I should have loved the dynamic that was supposed to be there (or that I expected to be there) thanks to those two roles (cop/thief screams enemies to lovers to me, which is my absolutely favorite trope ever). That dynamic was actually one of the things that I was most looking forward to, but I’m sad to say that there was no such thing.

There was such potential to explore both the soulmate thing and the cop/thief thing, and I feel like I only saw 1/10 of what I was expecting. And here comes the word that dream-me thought of when trying to describe this: half assed. Admittedly dream-me might have been a little harsh with her wording (it doesn’t help that I don’t actually know a nicer equivalent word for that? #EnglishAsSecondLanguageProblems), but with no offense to the author, this is the best word that fits what my feelings towards many elements of the plot that were barely there and not explored, or not as much as I’d have liked to see them.

The soulmate stuff was basically only an excuse to justify insta-lust, without really focusing on why these two people are perfect for each other. There was a lot of focus on their interactions, which should have showed me why and how the MCs are perfect together. Well, together they were cute I have to admit, but they didn’t scream “soulmates” to me. After all, a lot of the page-time of soulmate AUs is spent with one or both characters before their clock times out, and the reader gets to know them individually, their fears and expectations of their future soulmate, and only later sees them interact as soulmates. I’m not saying that all “AUs” need to be like that, but to me that’s the beauty of them, and here the two MCs interacted almost right away.

As for the cop/thief dynamic, it wasn’t even there. Aiden (the art thief) wasn’t really a morally grey character, and his “hobby” was never truly a point of conflict between the MCs. It was actually never solved (I mean Aiden has more than a dozen paintings he has stolen and nobody cares about those anymore?).

That’s why this word kept coming to mind: half assed worldbuilding (the explanation for the soulmate thing), half assed them being soulmates, half assed cop/thief dynamic. Everything was much more focused on the domesticity of their relationship, which works very well with some books (friends to lovers for example) but it’s not how I personally expected this story to go.

Now, I don’t only want to be negative, because I truly enjoyed a lot of this book, especially the beginning. I kept reading because it was cute and light and I liked the MCs and it kept me interested in seeing their interactions as their relationship developed. I was in that mental space where you see that the book is not perfect but you’re still enjoying it without being too emotionally invested, but at some point it just kept dragging and I was honestly bored.

Nonetheless, I kept reading, and that’s where even more half assed stuff was added to the plot (well, there wasn’t really a plot, was there?). Stuff that actually pissed me off, like the use of the trope “the bitch blond ex girlfriend who’s still in love with her ex and is super mean to her ex’s new SO, who is also filthy rich and doesn’t get why the MC is with someone that she sees as much lower than her in status”. That was literally only used to create unnecessary conflict (the conflict was right there right under your nose???? Cop/thief dynamic hello????) and prolong the book.

Then, there tried to be some art theme (that’s what the title is about, if you were wondering). Guess? Also kinda half assed.

What I’m trying to say is that this book had the potential to be awesome (or at least even good) if it just stuck to its premise and stopped adding 3573730 details that were barely touched upon, taking away page time from originally sounded interesting just by reading the blurb. Sometimes less is more, and it could have been a nice 150-pages story, but dragging it to be much longer than that is what eventually made me dislike a big part of it.

Which is a shame because as I said, I really liked the beginning, and I even think that the author’s writing style, while a little raw, has a lot of potential (I’m not allowed to quote because it’s an ARC but some sentences were really nicely written, almost poetic).

One thing I liked was the representation though, and the fact that because of the clock system everyone seemed to be pansexual since the gender of their soulmate wasn’t previously known and both characters were shown to also be/have been attracted to women previously. There was also talk about how sometimes the system isn’t limited to two people, so even poly relationships are contemplated in the worldbuilding (I just wonder what the deal is with aromantic people since there didn’t seem to be an explanation for them. I assume that since it’s mentioned that sometimes the clock is wrong that would be their case).

There was also representation of chronic depression which I feel was done well but I can’t speak for it since I haven’t experienced it myself.

So, overall: I think the author can grow a lot and I’m going to keep an eye on her next works, but this one didn’t 100% work for me. I would still recommend it if you’re a fast reader (not my case sadly) and you don’t mind spending a few hours on something mostly really light, cute and queer-positive.

TW: non graphic sexual assault on a woman, depression, anxiety, dissociation (most TWs are listed at the beginning of the book)

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ARC Review: The Tiger’s Watch by Julia Ember

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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★★✩✩

DNF @ 45%

How sad. I really wanted to like this book. I was prepared for not loving it, which is fine because not every book can be your favorite, and it’s not even fair to say I completely hated it. If I had more time and if I was a faster reader I would have forced myself to finish this, but alas life is too short and I really swore to myself that if a book needs forcing in order for me to continue reading it, then it’s just not worth it.

The worldbuilding was confusing at best and not all that interesting to me. The concept that one’s soul can be bound (?) to another creature’s is interesting I suppose, but I just didn’t care and just wondered why would someone want or need to do that when if the creature dies you fall in an endless coma (at least that’s how I understood it), like is the benefit only the fact that you get a cat friend? I mean, I’m the biggest lover of cats you can find but still I wouldn’t want my lifespan to severely decrease just so my soul is bound to one, you know?

And I didn’t really understand why everyone was at war, like what’s the point of it all? I feel like nothing was really ever explained (I mean I could have just missed it???).

I could have endured it if it wasn’t for the fact that the more I read the less sense everything the MC, Tashi, did didn’t make sense. Unreasonable (read: stupid) decisions were made just for the sake of creating future drama (that I’ll never get to read, how tragic).

But my biggest problem was the romance. Or the premise to it. Tashi is apparently in love with their best friend but as soon as they see Xian they fall in…lust? with him even tho he’s the Big Bad Guy but oh he’s hot so……… and there was truly no chemistry between the two. Everything was forced and very not subtle, as if the reader needs to be spoonfed a romance they would otherwise never see coming. Spoiler alert: readers can see subtle signs of character development, they are aware of the enemies-to-lovers trope, it’s nothing they haven’t seen before. I am aware that this book is about half the size of the usual standalone fantasy novel, but I am fully convinced that a good slow burn (the only thing that will ever work for an enemies-to-lovers trope, btw) can be written in less than 170 pages.

That’s not what was going on here unfortunately. There was no subtle shift between the good and bad sides of Xian, no deep emotional struggle within Tashi when they realized (TOO SOON) that they were falling for him. This might work for some readers, but it doesn’t for me. Tashi needs to hate Xian for everything he and his people have done and they don’t, so the romance was immediately cancelled in my book, and since that seemed like one of the only things this book had to make it interesting, the whole book was cancelled as well.

The only thing I really liked was the fact that finally we have a genderfluid character in a fantasy world! I think that aspect was done well, though keep in mind that I am not genderfluid myself. However, every review I’ve seen, regardless of the general rating, mentions that Tashi’s identity was portrayed well. There are a few instances of accidental misgendering when another character sees Tashi for the first time, but Tashi’s right pronouns are mentioned right away and nobody actually questions them. There were also a few casual reminders here and there of what Tashi might feel like on a given day (for example they sometimes felt comfortable in men’s clothing and sometimes they didn’t).

Again, to me it just felt like good representation considering what I know about genderfluid people, but I say this as a cis person so I’m really hoping someone who actually is genderfluid will read and review this book to comment on this aspect themselves.

Other than that, this book is a case of “I’ve read too many great books to truly enjoy less-than-average ones”. I am especially picky with my romances and this just wasn’t it for me and I know for a fact that if I had continued reading it with this premise I would have actually hated it, so I chose to stop where I was.


My question for this post is: Do you review and most of all rate books you don’t finish? If you don’t, why? If you do, are there exceptions?

ARC review: Scorpio Hates Virgo by Anyta Sunday

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher and the author for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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★★★★

nemesis
noun / nem.e.sis
_______
Definition of NEMESIS
: Perseus throwing verbal grenades at Callaghan to get a rise out of him.
: Callaghan throwing verbal grenades at Perseus to get a rise out of him.
: A supposed enemy
: A frenemy
_______
plural NEMESES
: two guys flirting

There are two things that have always impressed me about Anyta Sunday’s novels, ever since I read rock.

One is the incredible ability to use the most domestic situations to develop a romance, to the point where a review saying “there is no plot” becomes a praise instead of a negative point. Because yes, there is an end goal that one or both characters want/need to achieve, but everything is always so simple and real that it feels like you’re watching a reality show. Also, she always manages to switch things up in the sense that the MC and the love interest are put in a domestic situation but never through the same plot devices (which I believe is not easy at all to achieve).

The second thing I’m always looking forward to in her novels is the underlying theme, be it rocks, colors or the horoscope. It makes each novel (or each series) so unique, and even though I don’t really care about the horoscope at all it didn’t bother me (it’s not really heavy, especially in this second book, as it’s not the MCs who are super into it).

And then of course, the romance itself. You’ve heard of enemies to lovers, you’ve heard of friends to lovers; let me present to you a new favorite of mine: nemeses who try so hard to pretend they’re enemies while in fact they’re the definition of friends (until they become lovers).

I love how lighthearted these novels are and how the MCs find themselves in a super positive and welcoming environment while still being in our world. I know novels that deal with hatred and homophobia are still important but sometimes you just have to escape the real world while still reading something that isn’t a completely made up fantasy, and the novels in this series do just that.

Anyway, speaking of this, another thing that was great I think was how sexuality was handled, applying clear labels to both characters (one is gay, the other one is demipansexual -I love how it’s handled so specifically!) and that there was no big drama over one or the other’s sexuality, that nobody acted surprised and the conversation about it was literally just one page of dialogue and that’s it.

You’d think that going into a contemporary MM romance I’d have low expectations and thus my rating was more loose than it would be with a more “complicated” novel but nah my friends I really don’t lower my expectations for anything tbh, like a book has to be good no matter what in my opinion. I might judge books differently depending on what is expected from the genre (like I’m not going to judge a contemporary novel by its worldbuilding y’feel me?) but I think I’m pretty picky especially when it comes to romances.

I also love how family always plays a big role, and I know I’m making yet another point that is true for all Anyta Sunday’s novels (at least the ones I’ve read so far) but it’s true. Too many romances focus solely on the two MCs to the point where they are kind of isolated, in a vacuum, but the addition of family and friends makes the romance even better and healthier.

So in case it wasn’t clear I definitely recommend not only this book but the series as a whole (this just came out and I’m not sure if a sequel was already announced but I really hope there will be one!), especially when you want something short and with little to no angst (we all have days, weeks or months where we can’t handle anything heavy even in our fiction, so definitely put this on your rainy-day TBR).


Have you read this book or any of Anyta Sunday’s? Are you curious to read it? And most of all do you have any recs for me that might be similar to this one (so, lighthearted and cute)? Let me know in the comments! ♥

Release day + Giveaway: Scorpio Hates Virgo by Anyta Sunday

Today is release day for the latest novel by Anyta Sunday, an author I’ve been loving since finding her a few months ago, and one of the few I trust to deliver a quality new adult romance novel.

I was provided an ARC and I’ve already read it and loved it (spoiler alert: it’s a 5 stars!), so I’m really excited to participate in this release day blitz today (my review will come in a few days on the blog but you can already read it on my goodreads page)!

Here’s all the info you need to know about this book, plus two giveaway links and two excerpts!

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Book blurb:

This year is all about healing the heart, Scorpio. It’s time to leave negative attitudes and stoic facades at the door and let others see the real, more vulnerable you.

Percy Freedman is not grieving. Absolutely not, take that back at once. No, he’s entirely sure that selling his dead aunt’s home and leaving the neighbors he’s known for years is the sane thing to do. Who in their right mind would keep the house that smells like all the hugs he’ll never have again?

Nobody, that’s who.

Well, except his cul-de-sac neighbors. They all seem to think some paint and new furniture will clean the emotional slate. They all want him to stay.

Even his old nemesis, Callaghan Glover.

Especially his old nemesis, Callaghan Glover.

Lured into a game of Sherlock Gnomes, Percy finds himself hanging out with his neighbors more than might be considered healthy. Along with juggling new and surprising verbal grenades from Cal, and his burgeoning friendship with Gnomber9, Percy is starting to wonder if selling might have been the grief talking after all . . .

That’s right, Scorpio. With a little patience, heartbreak might be a thing of the past . . .

“Scorpio Hates Virgo” contains sarcasm, sexual content, a slightly sappy HEA, and an unhealthy obsession with dinosaurs.

It can be read as a standalone.

Themes: Light-hearted, friends-to-lovers, slow burn

Genre: New Adult, light-hearted contemporary gay romance

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Release Date (Print & Ebook):

September 1st, 2017

Length: 245 pages

 Subgenre: Contemporary M/M gay romance, friends-to-lovers

 The title includes: sarcasm, sexual content, and a slightly sappy HEA 

All buy links: http://www.anytasunday.com/#scorpio-hates-virgo 

Author Bio:

AnytaSunday_Author_Photo_small

Slow burn romance that quickens the heart.

Anyta is a big, BIG fan of slow-burn romances. She loves to read and write stories with characters who slowly fall in love.

Some of her favorite tropes to read and write are: Enemies to Lovers, Friends to Lovers, Clueless Guys, Bisexual, Pansexual, Demisexual, Oblivious MCs, Everyone (Else) Can See It, Slow Burn, Love Has No Boundaries.

Anyta writes a variety of stories, Contemporary MM Romances with a good dollop of angst, Contemporary lighthearted MM Romances, and even a splash of fantasy. Her books have been translated into German, Italian and French.

Member of Romance Writers of America.

Connect with Anyta: Website | Twitter | Facebook

To receive a free e-book, sign up for Anyta’s newsletter here!

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To win one of three e-copies of Scorpio Hates Virgo:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To win 2 grand prizes – 1 set of ecopy of 5 of Anyta Sunday’s favorite NA romances and 1 set of signed paperbacks of Leo Loves Aries and Scorpio Hates Virgo (open internationally):

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Now keep reading for two excerpts of the novel!

percalinary

noun / per . cal . i . nary

Definition of PERCALINARY

: a reference containing words and their definitions and usage according to Percy Freedman and Callaghan Glover

: a reference explaining the implied meanings of words as used by Percy Freedman and Callaghan Glover

Example of PERCALINARY in a sentence

My first time watching Percy and Cal interact required frequent recourse to a percalinary to understand what the hell type of flirting these two were up to.

 

Cal rocked up to his Jeep all business-casual, in form-fitting jeans, polished leather shoes and matching brown satchel, and a dark jacket that covered a beige T-shirt.

“You got a meeting or something?” Percy asked, slipping his sunglasses on.

Cal opened the passenger door and looked at him over the roof. “No.”

Sunlight did very striking things to Cal’s hair. Made it look positively copper. Not as red as his cheeks were getting, though.

A cheerful cry startled Percy and he ripped his gaze away from Cal. Crystal was waving at them from her opened kitchen window.

“Good morning,” she called.

After another restless night, he could hardly call it good, but . . . “Morning.”

She leaned further out the window, her dressing gown gaping a little too much down the front. “Are you out for the day?”

“A couple of hours. Taking Callaghan here to work, then nipping past the Home Depot.” To get the home ready to market, he needed to spruce up the place. Paint the living room and bathroom, put in a new vanity, replace the door handles of the kitchen cupboards, change the faucets and showerhead and put in a new toilet seat.

“You at the Home Depot?” Cal murmured. “Sure you’d even know what to buy?”

Percy gestured for him to get in the car. “High time I get you to work.”

As he slipped into the driver’s seat, Crystal called out after them. “Good to see water and earth spending time together!”

Over his sunglasses that had slipped down his nose, Percy looked at Cal. “See, this is why we’ll always be nemeses.”

Cal hitched his brow, and Percy turned the ignition and peeled out from the curb.

“Together we’re mud.”

Review + Discussion: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

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★★★✩

 

This is one of those weird times when I wish star-rating disappeared because I don’t think I’ll ever feel completely comfortable with any rating I might give this book.
I originally gave it 4 stars, as I’m writing this now I think I want to leave out the star-rating completely and just use words instead for once. By the time I finished this review I feel like I want to give it 2,5 stars or something?? So I’m going with 3 official stars because despite my rant I mostly enjoyed reading this.

A few notes before you head into this review: most of the things I write are aspects of this book that I didn’t like. It’s much easier to point those out and rant about them than talk about the things I did like. I don’t think it’s just me, I think it’s a human condition to focus a lot more on the negatives than the positives. So if you don’t want to read anything negative about this book, leave now for your own sake, but know that I did overall like this book. I’ll point out the things I subjectively didn’t like and the things I think are objectively kind of shitty. Also, my tastes have changed a lot in the past year, so if you see my ratings for SJM’s books (they were all five stars at the time I read them) keep in mind that they might not necessarily be true anymore if I re-read those books now.

PLOT:

I think my strengths as a reader and reviewer don’t lie in judging (and summarizing lol) plots, so I’m going to leave it to other readers to do so. All I can say is that I think the plot made sense as a whole. There some slightly dull parts, and especially the beginning at the Spring Court was rather flat. I think we all expected a lot more drama there, and there wasn’t much of it. A lot of the plot was about preparing for war and discovering things/people/creatures that could come in handy once war started. I think some things could have been handled better.
I loved how some things were downright creepy, like Bryaxis, the Bone Carver and Weaver’s backstory, the Ouroboros, Amren’s story…until they weren’t. Come to think of it, her books (I’m extending this to ToG as well) are full of things that are creepy until they’re “humanized” or somehow made less scary. I do like this aspect most of the time but I feel like she might be overusing it a bit. I’d like some things to stay creepy for once.
As for the ending, it made me really emotional in a couple of points. A lot of how the war played out was very plot-device-y, but I’m not complaining about that. And as much as I’m overall happy with the ending, it didn’t seem very realistic.
There’s also a lot of minor loose ends, and I guess those will be addressed in the next books, but I appreciate that this series feels over and the next books will focus on different characters and not Feyre and Rhysand anymore. I think it’s really easy to drop this series now if you’ve been disappointed by it, and I appreciate that she didn’t end with a cliffhanger that would attract more readers to the next book.
As for me, I think I will continue reading this series, despite everything. I really care about the characters and I admit I’m curious about the world and how certain things will come into play (also I’m hoping at some point we’ll see some clear sign of how this and the ToG worlds connect, because afaik SJM said they are connected).

CHARACTERS:

I think SJM writes character really well…for a maximum of 2-3 books. She excels at secondary and side characters (though not in this book so much), but when it comes to MCs she can’t keep them up for more than a couple of installments. Their arcs and development are basically solved, in the case of this series, with ACOMAF.
I still really liked everyone, even when I don’t agree with things they do (see: Mor). If it wasn’t for the characters, I would have probably DNF’d this book pretty early. I only wanted to finish it because I needed to know how certain relationships would (or wouldn’t) develop, and that makes up for most of the disappointment I feel towards this book.

RELATIONSHIPS:

This was partially a mess.

Friendships are very well done in all her books. One thing I’ll always applaud is her way or portraying female friendships in all her books. There’s not enough of that in popular books and it’s such an important thing to have when so many books focus on girls and women being against each other.

However, the romantic relationships kind of sucked, and the problem lies in her writing (which I’ll address more in depth below).
SJM tries to build what she hopes is unresolved sexual tension while doing exactly the opposite. The constant (not) “sexy” comments, the innuendo…they worked the opposite of how SJM intended for them to work. She’s hoping to create chemistry between the characters, but I see none. Literally none. I haven’t re-read ACOMAF, so I don’t know anymore if this applies for that book as well, but here I only knew that Feyre and Rhys had to be a pair because they’re mates etc etc but I saw none of the chemistry and mutual understanding that makes me ship the characters hard. We’re told many times how awesome Rhys is, or maybe I should say that it’s always thrown in our faces. Well, I prefer discovering it for myself by being shown, thank you.
SJM can handle the “get together” part of a romantic relationship pretty well, but she fails at portraying established relationships in an entertaining way. She uses sex as the only way to “keep the ship alive” and entertain the reader when it’s clear that a couple is endgame, and she fails at that.

I don’t really know in what section of this review this should go, but…the sex scenes. The *inhales* sex scenes *exhales*. Just…no. They add nothing to the story. They’re gross. Literally every fanfiction smut I’ve read is better than this. Stop devouring or feasting on people. That’s cannibalism. In general, just stop with all the animalistic language, the purring and shit.
Also I think this is still being published as YA? Which is so wrong. I don’t have ANYTHING against sex in YA books, but it needs to be handled properly. By all means, have a semi-explicit sex scene. But write it delicately. Write it in a way teenagers can identify themselves with. This is not it. Imagine being 16 or 17 and reading this, being told that sex is always animalistic and dirty and can happen literally at any given moment, nevermind that you’ve just killed and seen people being killed in battle merely minutes ago. Seeing weird metaphors being used instead of calling genitals for what they are. How do you not get grossed out? How do you not get scared/disgusted by sex? Hell I’m in my twenties and even I got grossed out.

I’m really sad that SJM chose the path of adding smut to every book she writes since ACOMAF. I’m all for sex-positivity but writing smut doesn’t necessarily mean that. If you do write it, it needs to be well written. This is by no means it. It’s self-indulgent, it’s pure fanservice and I worry about the view of sex it gives younger people.

WRITING:

I definitely grew a lot in the past year as a reader and as a reviewer, and there’s nothing that proves it better than reading an author you used to think was perfect and finding her writing mediocre at best. Wow. More than that, There’s a few things that she definitely used to not do before, and now she does. Like the “no question mark” policy she started to adopt in EoS.
Here’s the thing: stop writing questions without a question mark. You’re not on twitter or tumblr. If you want the question to have a certain feel to it, say, “X said in a flat tone” or something like that. Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t even need to do that. Readers are intelligent beings and can pick up a mood from the context without you constantly feeding them every.single.thing.

Another thing that she does the whole freaking time is this structure:

verbless sentence + … + sentence referring to the first sentence

Such a structure…that’s only okay once in a while, not every single page (<– see what I did there?)
She also trails off with a lot of her sentences, especially when explaining or pointing out things.

And that’s another problem. She explains and describes too much. She leaves almost nothing to the reader’s imagination, which is also wrong when using a first person PoV. If you pay attention, you’ll see that Feyre seems to describe the faces and expressions of everyone in a room, while also saying that she keeps her gaze upon one single character. Uhm, do you have eyes behind your head, Feyre? How does that work exactly? Well, it doesn’t.

Something that seems to annoy a lot of people are words like “mate” and “male/female”. I don’t find them particularly appealing, but I’ve just accepted that that’s what I’m going to get whenever I read a SJM book. You can find the whole concept of mates stupid or ridiculous I guess, or you can find it beautiful and romantic. I’m right in the middle, in that I don’t really care about it one way or another. I just accept it as part of the world building, like the fact that Fae and magic and other creatures exist, and move on with my life. But I do agree that the word “mate” was often used as a substitute for Rhys’s name when using it wouldn’t even have been a repetition, thus making it really unnecessary. As for male/female, it kind of makes sense because she seems to keep “man” and “woman” for humans, so she needed different words for Fae. I don’t know, it’s not my favorite thing either but I can see how it makes sense.

That’s it for my review, but I want to discuss the LGBT+ REPRESENTATION in this book. I won’t hide anything under spoilers in this section, so if you don’t want to find out about certain characters’ sexuality, stop reading right now.

It’s clear that SJM listened to readers when they wished for more lgbt+ representation. There are a few different points and I hope to touch them all in this review. I’ve been much slower than basically everyone else in reading this book so I guess I’m late to the party, and I didn’t read any discussions while I was reading the book because I wanted to go in the book completely blind. Still, I managed to gather what the main discussion points were:

Is this book acephobic?
I don’t think it inherently is, but if ace people have found this particular sentence

perhaps any sort of physical passion had long ago been drained away, alongside their souls.


harmful, I respect them and their feelings and I’m in no position to tell them they’re wrong. But, from a strictly rational and linguistic point of view, I do not think that that sentence implies a correlation between being soulless and being on the ace spectrum.

Is there LGBT+ representation in this book?
Yes, there is: one secondary character, three side characters and two “barely there” characters are on an LGBT+ spectrum.

Is the LGBT+ rep good?
For the most part, I think it is. I mostly liked how, except for a secondary character, there seemed to be no issue with the fact that someone is gay/lesbian/bi. In both this and the ToG world, same sex relationships are never frowned upon, nobody has anything against anyone for wanting to have sex with whichever gender they want to have sex with. The only problem, that only the secondary character faced, seems to arise when someone is expected to bear children because they need an heir for political/diplomatic reasons.

There is, however, one side character whose sexuality is handled really poorly. Helion, High Lord of the Day Court, is pan/bisexual, and apparently the only way that SJM thought of to show that he likes both (or all) genders, is to have him hit on every single character present at that moment, with very NOT subtle innuendos and straight-up invitations to a threesome/orgy. Right, because bisexuals don’t face enough stereotypes from both straight and homo people, let’s portray them as people who are always horny and always want to have sex with both genders, PREFERABLY at the same time! *rolls eyes* (To be honest, the always-horny seems to be a flaw in SJM’s character description, no matter if straight or bi).
This was honestly really disappointing and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read that part. It’s truly the only harmful part of this book that I could detect and I freaking hate it. How did nobody tell SJM she needed to edit that whole thing? It wouldn’t have taken much and she could have spared bisexual people yet another disappointment and awful representation.

However, I quite liked how the “coming out” of Mor was handled. As I said before, she seems the only character whose coming out was tough, but it made sense if you’ve read it. I’m not sure if it continued to make sense for five hundred years, and I’m really sad because she treats poor Azriel like shit because she can’t bring herself to being honest with him. The thing is, I don’t have to like everything she does, because I accept it as a (pretty big) character flaw. But flawed characters are my favorite kind of characters, so I still really like her. I think it’s pretty clear that SJM changed Mor’s sexuality between ACOMAF and ACOWAR to adapt to her readers’ demand, so I applaud her for that. I also like that it’s Mor, who is always portrayed as very feminine, to be the one who likes girls more than guys. A lot of people complained that it should have been Amren “because of her physical features”. People, do you even think before you speak/write? Geez.
(Also, I’ve seen someone confused about Mor’s exact labels… I think the terms that would best apply to her would be “bisexual homoromantic”, in case anyone was wondering and/or identifies with Mor’s sexuality but didn’t know the exact words for it. Of course, this is what I got from reading it, but I think it should be pretty accurate.)

“I’m so pissed!!!1! My ship sunk because one character is on the LGBT+ spectrum!!!1!1!!!”
🙂 deal 🙂 with 🙂 it 🙂
Do you know how many ships sink daily because a character is (or usually both characters are) straight? Yeah. So just be sad but don’t take it out on the LGBT+ representation or on the bi character.

 

Well that was long. It seems that I can either post no reviews at all or one really long-ass one with no in-between.

Anyway, I’d love to hear everyone’s opinion on this book, especially regarding the discussion part!

Review: The Search for Aveline by Stephanie Rabig and Angie Bee

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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★★★★✩

This book is really hard for me to rate. I’ve settled on the rating I feel represents my feelings the most, but I’m going to try and rate things separately because I feel like it’s necessary:

Enjoyment: 10/10
Characters: 8/10
Plot what plot?: 4/10
Technical stuff: 3/10
Writing: 7/10
Romance: 7/10
Diversity: FIVE BILLIONS/10

(Note that not all points have the same weight in my eyes)
As you see, I was able to completely enjoy this book even though I was aware that some things could have been done better.

Let’s get the bad/average stuff out of the way first:
What I called “technical stuff” basically comes down to one major thing: the PoVs in this book were all over the place. The thing is, they’re so many (I’ll talk about this in the characters section of this review), but that’s not the problem at all, at least for me. The problem is that while each chapter focuses on one/two or a handful of characters at most, it’s never really clear whose PoV it is. Very rarely I got a sense that the narrative was third person omniscient, it seemed more of a case of third person limited where the PoVs switch a lot within the chapter, without a clear separation, and, what’s worse, sometimes that even happened within the same sentence.
Look, not everybody will care about this, but the way my brain works, once I learn about these things (I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t even know about this stuff not too long ago) I just can’t unsee them, you know? There’s just something reassuring in knowing that the whole chapter will be from X’s PoV.

Despite this, I managed not to get too distracted by it and I was able to focus on the characters. I say characters because the plot was pretty much non-existent, but if you know me, you’ll know that I usually love character-driven stories, and this was certainly one of those.

The thing is, the characters in this book were so many and sometimes so random that in theory, this book shouldn’t work. But in reality? It works. At least for me. I wasn’t bored once, I was never confused despite the endless amounts of point of views, even when it wasn’t entirely clear at first how some new characters fit into the story. It was also not always plainly clear whether something was a flashback or not, but it was overall understandable given the context.
This is also a rather short book, and because of that I felt like there was no time to make each character more well-rounded and layered, but what was shown on-page was still a decent exploration of each character’s background, experience and feelings.

This bring me to my next and favorite point, and where I personally think this books shines, and another reason why in theory it shouldn’t work but incredibly it does: the diversity was a.m.a.z.i.n.g., and as I was reading I tried to write down a list of diverse rep within it because it was all too much to keep in mind:

Sexuality/gender:
✓Asexuality
✓Aromanticism (?)*
✓Demisexuality
✓Bisexuality
✓Homosexuality (male and female)
✓Heterosexuality (very little tbh)
✓Pansexuality (?)*
✓Polyamory (?)*
✓Gender fluid character

Faith/beliefs:
✓in God (Catholic)
✓in science and evolution
✓no faith (atheism) [and let me just add that the number of times I, as an atheist, have felt represented in a book were very, very few, and I was so happy to see an atheist character here]
✓not sure (agnosticism)

Mental illness:
✓Bipolar disorder (?)*
✓Depression

As well as various types of disability and all kinds of skin color/ethnicity.

(You should keep in mind though, no sexuality label was actually used within the book, since it takes place in the late 1800s -I’m not exactly sure when, and I might have caught at least one historical inaccuracy, but what can you do-. Still, the various sexualities and genders were pretty much understandable and I tried to narrow them down to labels because I think it’s useful if someone reads this review and wants to know whether they’ll feel represented.)

*(The (?) are because I’m not exactly sure about those.)

As you can see, that’s really a lot. If someone had told me that all those things, especially all the different sexualities, would have fit in a short book like this one, I would have thought it couldn’t possibly work. While you won’t find an extensive study on all of those (though I think quite decent explanations were given about asexuality, demisexuality, gender fluidity and depression), it’s still amazing how the authors managed to squeeze all of that in this tiny book. Sure, there wasn’t space for much else, like an actual plot, but it was refreshing to read about such different point of views, and at the same time I never felt like this book was used as a dump to “show off” how diverse you could make it. The different stories and backgrounds fit together quite well and to me this should be the selling point of this book.

All in all, this was pretty much a whole lot of romance (there’s so many pairings I can’t even count them all off the top of my head to be honest), but they all felt different from each other and I was never bored or felt like things got repetitive.

To wrap this up, here’s another brief list of things that I loved:
• predominantly-female pirate crew;
• Healthy! Communication! Between! The characters!
• everybody respected each other’s boundaries;
• the women were such role models;
• the men/males too;
• basically everyone was amazing for different reasons tbh;
• the different fantastical creatures were interesting and fit well within this otherwise-historical world.

All in all I would say that if you usually love character-driven plots there’s a high chance that you’ll be able to love this book as much as I did!

#T5W: Favorite Angsty Romances

Top Five Wednesday is a book meme that Lainey started and I discovered through the lovely Samantha‘s videos. If you’re interested you can join the goodreads group to get the topics for each week.

This week’s topic:

March 22nd- Favorite Angsty Romances
–This topic has been much requested! Talk about your favorite ships that have a healthy side of angst. (definition: adj.: describes a situation or literary piece which contains dark, depressing, angry, and/or brooding emotions from the participating characters.)

I know for some of us seeing the names of the couples in a book/series might classify as a spoiler, so if you don’t want to know about those don’t read this post (I’m going against my interest here but hey, I’d never want to spoil anyone).

So, POTENTIAL SPOILERS BELOW!!!


If you’re still reading, I managed to round up five series where I feel like the romance plays an important role, but they’re not strictly classified as romance. I’ve just never found an actual romance book to be as angsty as some of the romances that are built in books that classify as fantasy.

Damen and Laurent (Captive Prince)

If you know me a bit, you’ll know this is my favorite series. It features a lot of political intrigue, but it’s extremely romance-heavy, and let me tell you, it’s so angsty and slow-burning it almost physically hurts.

Neil and Andrew (All for the Game)

Okay, this is the only series in this post that is not actually fantasy, but it’s not classified as romance either. And it should’t, because the romance is so slow-burning you don’t see it happen until…well, until it happens (unless you’re re-reading and then you see all the signs). As for the angst, boy, it’s there alright.

Kaz and Inej (Six of Crows)

Many of you have read this duology, so you probably know why the way the romance between Kaz and Inej develops is extremely angsty. To say more would be really spoilery for those of you who haven’t read this, so I’ll just say your heart will break a little bit every time you find out some new piece of information about both characters.

Arin and Kestrel (The Winner’s Trilogy)

One of the easiest way to achieve angst in a romance is make it a tale about forbidden love. This is exactly what happens in this series, and the romance between the MCs is constantly hindered throughout the series for different reasons (none of those are the cliched-miscommunication that often happens in contemporary romances). This is another romance that really hurts.

Karou and Akiva (Daughter of Smoke and Bone

daughter-of-smoke-and-bone-series

This is another case of forbidden love, for different reasons and on a completely different level than TWT. The romance starts out pretty heavy in the first book, but as the characters grow and worlds expand, and the series becomes so much more.


I have a question: do you prefer an angsty romance or a “smooth” one? I think for me the most memorable ones are the angsty ones, but once in a while I need something easily shippable and that doesn’t hurt me in the process of reading it.