Tag Archives: fantasy romance

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Book review: Red, by S.J. Sanders

I saw S.J. SandersRed recommended on Tiktok and purchased a copy for myself.
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There were certain truths everyone knew. Never wear red or any other bright color. Make as little sound as possible if one had to be outside the protection of the sanctuary settlements. And never, ever, go out in the wild places alone. The Ragoru, an alien species set down to live among them, dwell within the forests and everyone knows that they crave all things red.

Arie’s life has always been one of playing by the rules. She doesn’t draw attention to herself. She doesn’t leave her home without her hood that conceals her bright red hair. It is a secret from everyone, and her hood protects her secret so that she may continue to live safely within the village until one day that secret comes to light. Absconding into the woods soon becomes her only safety, and she will risk her very life into the care of the very dreaded beings that all people fear, the Ragoru, in hope of making it to her grandmother’s house in the citadel at the other side of the great forest.

When circumstances reveal them to not be the monsters of human imagination, but that they stir the ravenous beast within her, Arie finds that she is willing to risk far more to find a way to be with them forever. Even if that means severing ties with her grandmother, rejecting the human comforts of the citadel, and facing the horror of the Order of the Huntsmen.

my review

Meh. I actually really enjoyed the first half of this book. It is super formulaic and predictable. (I mean if, before reading the book, someone had asked me to write a generic outline based on this book’s blurb, I would have succeeded with 100% success.) There are NO surprises and NOTHING that you’re used to seeing in the genre is left out. Even the seemingly random events are just section 2, part b, subsection iii of the most commonly utilized industry outline (or so it seems). It’s your basic bitch, Why Choose fairy-tale retelling book. But hey, we read them because we enjoy them. So, predictable in the extreme, but also super cute. I really did enjoy watching the males come around. They’re all adorable in their own way.

I can’t really say the same for Arie though. She just kind of existed. And I honestly never got over my page-one question about why, if you could be exiled or killed for having red hair, you’d grow it out instead of cutting it off. I was really bothered by the idea that she walked around with a whole Merida-like head of hair hidden under a hood her whole life. Why would you endanger yourself like that? It was ridiculous in the extreme, but I decided to look over it. Despite that, I still found her a fairly bland heroine.

I’m wandering. My point was that despite being noting new to the genre I enjoyed it…up until the halfway mark. I even overlooked the editing mishaps. But after the halfway mark, when Sanders took the characters outside of their small story-line, the whole thing fell apart. Most notably the plotting fell apart and suddenly everything was too easy.

Three non-humans walked into a hostile human city for the first time and instantly found what might have been the only human who both wasn’t afraid of them and was willing/able to help them. Arie similarly was introduced to one person. She asked them for help and they said yes, etc. It didn’t even really feel like a story anymore, just a list of events with no emotional significance. By the time the final fight scene rolled around—which was won with ridiculous red photoease—I was done.

The book is also just too long. Whole sections could be cut easily. I’m thinking of the entire episode with the mutated humans and subsequent events, for example. All of it could have been cut wholesale for a tighter read, it contributes so little to the overall story.

So, to recap, fun if formulaic first half, lazy (and still formulaic) second half. I love the cover though!


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Book Review: The Dark King, by Gina L. Maxwell

I received a copy of Gina L. Maxwell‘s The Dark King through Netgalley.
the dark king cover

I thought a weekend away would be the perfect escape. Until I woke up married and trapped…by the king of the Dark Fae.

For Bryn Meara, a free trip to the exclusive and ultra-luxe Nightfall hotel and casino in Vegas should’ve been the perfect way to escape the debris of her crumbling career. But waking up from a martini-and-lust-fueled night to find herself married to Caiden Verran, the reclusive billionaire who owns the hotel and most of the city, isn’t the jackpot one would think. It seems her dark and sexy new husband is actual royalty—the fae king of the Night Court—and there’s an entire world beneath the veil of Vegas.

Whether light or shadow, the fae are a far cry from fairy tales, and now they’ve made Bryn a pawn in their dark games for power. And Caiden is the most dangerous of all—an intoxicating cocktail of sin and raw, insatiable hunger. She should run. But every night of passion pulls Bryn deeper into his strange and sinister world, until she’s no longer certain she wants to leave…even if she could.

Soooo, I didn’t love this. Granted, I didn’t hate it. But it elicited exactly zero feels from me or endeared itself to me in any way. Now, the writing is fine. It’s easy to read. The editing seems clean. So, this is largely a personal taste sort of ‘meh.’ I can acknowledge that it’s a finely written book, while also saying it wasn’t one to light me on fire.

I did actually like the characters. I especially liked that Bryn stands up for herself consistently. And the world seems interesting. My issues were that I just never truly felt Caiden and Bryn’s love. It’s instant and then we’re more told about it than shown it. I didn’t think that the BDSM aspects were well integrated into the plot. So, it always seemed to stand out to me as artificial. the dark king photoAnd it doesn’t live up to it’s own hype.

Caiden is supposed to be sooo dark and dangerous. He goes on and on about how she could never handle his kinks. Heck, the book is called The Dark King. But it’s actually quite sweet, the kink is on the mild side, and the book isn’t even that spicy, comparatively. So, I felt like it built up a promise it didn’t keep.

All in all, it’s a meh for me. I didn’t hate it. But I probably won’t remember it next week.


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One More Book: Review – The Dark King

 

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Book Review: Speak Easy, by E.S. Barrison

In May, when the SCOTUS leak first dropped, before the Supreme Court actually made their appalling ruling on Roe vs Wade, Charlie Nottingham organized a #ReadForOurRights event over on Tiktok. She and several other authors agreed to donate the proceeds from book sales that month to campaigns fighting to reestablish and/or protect women’s rights. I ordered several books from several authors during this event. (Something like 17, if I’m remembering right.) E.S. Barrison‘s Speak Easy  was one of them.

speak easy cover

Victors, they say, write history.
Too bad the victors can’t write.

After her father passes away, Nanette hops on a caravan to the neighboring country of Rosada to join her sister. Yet Rosada is in the grip of a deep fog: magic is banished, storytelling is outlawed, and the Order reigns. With her sister grown complacent over the horrors of their new home, Nanette takes matters into her own hands to protect stories, no matter the cost.

With the help of a loud-mouthed cabby, Nanette forms a plan to reignite the storytellers in Rosada. But it’s not safe to tell stories, even in the shadows.

With tensions rising and storytellers vanishing, Nanette must decide: are stories worth her relationship with her sister?

Are stories worth risking her life?

my review

Let me start by saying how stunning I think the cover is. Now let me move on to the content underneath it.

I have two primary and opposing feelings about this book. On one hand I think it’s a really timely read, being primarily focused on the suppression of truth and rise and destructiveness of propaganda (or ‘state-sanctioned stories.’) And I acknowledge that Barrison added a lot of recognizable, real-world issues. The main character is bisexual. There’s a trans character happily living their life. There’s a diabetic struggling with the cost of his insulin (thought they don’t call it that in this magical realm). There’s a government being eclipsed by religious insurgence. There’s police abuse and ongoing experiences of trauma. (Plus more I’m leaving out because it would be spoilery.) So, I think this is a book of the times.

However, I also found the storytelling very straightforward and not overly engaging. There are no red-herrings, twists or turns, or unexpected events. Problems crop up and are immediately and easily mended. (I found the sister’s sudden change of attitude and miraculous save toward the end especially convenient and unbelievable!) The story is very linear. This happens and then this happens and then this happens. It’s simplistic in the extreme, as is the writing itself. Which is unfortunate, especially in a book about the importance of storytelling.

speak easy photoFor this reason, despite the fade to black sex scenes, I think it would be best for the younger end of young adults—those who aren’t yet looking for too much complexity in a story. I see the book labeled as intended for 18+. But I don’t think that matches the reading experience.

All in all, I’m not sad to have read the book. But it wasn’t a favorite either.


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Ashley’s Reviews