Tag Archives: Smashwords

Review of Cynthia Wicklund’s Thief of Souls

Thief of SoulsI grabbed a copy of Cynthia Wicklund‘s Thief of Souls from the Smashord’s seasonal sale.

Description from Goodreads:
Nicholas Anthony’s spirit has been corrupted. A moment of spite four hundred years in the past turned him into an immortal monster. Now he is obsessed by an unnatural hunger, feasting on the good in others while seeking the good in himself. But unlike the vampire of myth, it’s not the taste of blood that draws him, but the very essence of his victims. The soul. Fortunately for Nicholas the evil that dwells within him has not destroyed his conscience, his ability to care, because that in the end will be his salvation. 

That and Regina Miles. 

The appearance of “Nick” in Regina’s life comes at a time when she is vulnerable. As a young intern in a teaching hospital, she’s overworked and exhausted most of the time. Her vulnerability is the very weakness Nick intends to exploit. However, he does not reckon with Regina’s strength of character or her sensitivity to what he is, despite her pragmatic nature. Most important, Nick does not recognize his own growing dependence on her, emotions so raw, so new to him that are emerging unexpectedly, emotions that can end his purgatory.

Review:
I found this on Smashwords, classified as PNR. While it does have a paranormal character and eventually a romance of sorts develops, I have a hard time seeing it as PNR. If anything I would call this horror, not the gory, bloody kind of horror but the suspenseful, emotionally terrifying sort.

There are almost no ‘Awww’ moments here, no budding hearts and flowers, or emotional outpourings. This is ‘love’ from a creepy stalker’s point of view. Oddly, though the subject matter varies vastly and they have very little else in common, reading this book reminded me a lot of reading Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. You spend a lot of time inside the deviant’s unrepentant head, watching him manipulate and trap his victim. It’s uncomfortable, to say the least.

And since it was previously classified as PNR I also found it confusing. There are certain expectations a person places on a book by virtue of it’s genre. This book never conformed to my PNR expectations and until I finally forced myself to accept that it never would and to give up my preconceived notions I had a hard time going with the flow. The problem, of course, is that there isn’t a horror romance genre to place it in. I have no doubt this is more a matter of finding the closest available genre, as opposed to an actual inaccurate genre.

None of this, however, is to suggest this isn’t a good book. Because, like Lolita, being an uncomfortable read doesn’t negate literary value or a story worth tolerating goose bumps for. Playing mental passenger to someone facing an obsession is a rare opportunity. While I cringed for Regina and kept waiting for her to find her miraculous inner strength, I also found Nick’s selfish internal dialogue enlightening. His petty jealousies and purposeful isolation techniques told a story of their own, quite separate from what often left his mouth or even what he felt would be ‘the right thing to do.’

I think the characters probably could have been fleshed out a bit more though, Regina especially. Other than seeing her fall for Nick’s charisma we see very little of her personality. We also only get the bare bones of why Nick was cursed, and the punishment seemed a little server if you ask me. If we knew a bit more of about the man he was, instead of just what his single slight might have been, that might not be the case.

The book is what I would call a slow boil. It builds slowly, spends a lot of time cultivating a suspenseful atmosphere. Even hugely important events are treated with the same muted attention as everything else, as if the author is whispering it to you for fear she’ll be overheard if she allows her excitement to give evidence to the gravity of the moment. As a result, I found very little actual action, but I was still held rapt by the narrative.

I wouldn’t suggest this for fans of J.R. Ward or Jeaniene Frost. It’s not that sort of paranormal romance. Hitchcock fans, however, might find something here to appreciate. It has a similar kind of surreal, atmospheric horror feel to it.

Review of S. Hart’s Swordmaster Dasan

swordmaster dasan 1

Swordmaster dasan 2

swordmaster dasan short
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Some time ago I grabbed free copies of S. Hart‘s Swordmaster Dasan short stories. Being the manga addict I am, I adore the covers. I tend to avoid posting about short stories/novellas/novelettes (whatever you want to call them), but these deserve a little attention so I’m making an exception. All three are currently free on  Smashwords and the first is also free on Amazon.

Deciding how to structure this was a little awkward, so just try to bear with me. 

Descriptions:

Book One:
Swordmaster Kyo Dasan is known for both his abilities and bitterness regarding visitors throughout the territory, seemingly comfortable only when alone.

Localem Arada, nicknamed Loki for his tendency to find trouble wherever he goes, finds himself at the mercy of the man he needs totrain him. Despite his reluctance, he agrees to the Swordmaster’soffer regarding alternative means of payment.

Book Two:
It has been three years since Kyo has seen his student when an opportunity to cross paths with him presents itself. He immediatelydiscovers that Loki has gotten into trouble again, and intervenes.

Reviews:

Book One:
I find that I really like Hart’s writing and characters. Granted there is little to this story except A LOT of sex, but hey that’s what I picked it up for so it’s not really anything to complain about. The world building felt a little week, but especially so since there appeared to be some quite detailed races/peoples/societies involved. This book is apparently set in the same universe as Hart’s Playing with Tigers series, which I haven’t read yet. I get the feeling that a lot of the lacking social details are set out in those Tigers books, because the author has obviously taken the time to develop them even if not seen here. Either way I still found the story easily followable and I adored Loki and Kyo.

I had to drop a star because some of the earlier sex scenes felt almost like rapes even if Loki had consented. I had a hard time relaxing into that. That’s just me though. Hart even warns in the introduction that the Swordmaster Dasan books arn’t “meant to display safe or proper bondage practices,” so I can’t claim to have been unprepared. It’s fiction afterall. I can appreciate that. But like everyone, I have my own personal limits.

A fun, well-written read.

(As an aside I actually couldn’t help by imagine Kyo as the Onime-no-Kyo from Samurai Deeper Kyo. They really look nothing alike, but between the name and the constant cruelties my mind made the leap and wouldn’t let it go.)

Book Two:
Yep, it just keeps getting better. Kyo and Loki are wonderful characters. Hart seems to excel at creating situational tension that tugs at the readers heart strings without ever feeling sappy or over played. Often I’m not even certain where it comes from, only that it’s there. Here you really feel both Kyo and Loki’s frustration, even as they steadfastly refuse to acknowledge it. They simply drive each-other to distraction…and are very very hot together.

Loki does seem to have accomplished A LOT in the three years he was separated from Kyo. He seems to have accrued too much experience in so little time. But he also grew up and returned very much a man…very much the man Kyo needs. If only Kyo would get out of his own way on the subject. I love their dynamic.

The writing here is just as crisp and wonderful as in the previous book. I did notice a minor tendency to reuse stock phrases, but nothing off putting or technically incorrect in any manner. The plot thickens up a bit in this volume too, which is nice. The books ends at a fairly natural point, but there is obviously going to be a third book. (There better be a book three and I’m fairly sure I’ve seen mention of it somewhere.) I can’t wait.

Yunan Holliday:

At barely 20 pages there isn’t much to it, but it’s a fun little short to tide us over until book three comes out. Plus, I think we should all start celebrating Divainya Rekeshna.

Review of Tabitha Levin’s The Feathered Lover

The Feathered Lover

I picked up a copy of Tabitha Levin‘s The Feathered Lover for free from the Smashword’s seasonal sale. It will be free using code SW100 until the end of July. 

Description from Goodreads:
It’s 1943 and Ruby Kelly just saw one of the wild men with wings for the first time in her life. He’d been captured, tied up, and was now being held in the stables at the same Inn she was staying.

She had to get a closer look. She crept downstairs toward the stable window. His chest was smooth and bare, and it glistened with sweat from his recent struggle. Butterflies erupted in her stomach when he looked her way. Did he see her?

Now she had two options, free him and risk the wrath of the thugs who caught him, or pretend she never saw him at all.

Neither would be easy.

Review:
This was an all right read, I suppose. I can’t say it did much for me though. The whole thing just felt wrong. (If that makes any sense.) Starting with Zan. He felt very child-like to me. Everything from his insta-love which reminded me of a kid’s tendency to become obsessed with anything new, to the language divide that left him speaking like a halting toddler for much of the book, to Ruby’s tendency to compare him to a pet, to his occasional tears. As a result I had a really hard time seeing him as the sexy male lead he was supposed to be. That’s a real problem in a book with as much sex as The Feathered Lover. There was a lot of it. I don’t have any real issue with this much of the time, but here it started to clutter up the plot. Everywhere they went–endangered, held hostage, trying to have a conversation was apparently appropriate for a quickie before moving on.

I did like Ruby. She had a stubborn streak a mile long and I appreciated that. She prattled on a bit, having long one-sided soliloquies regularly. I had a little trouble understanding her insta-love with Zan though. She crossed the species/social/legal divide with him based on nothing but one meeting in which she didn’t think him capable of intelligible speech and possibly dangerous. She’d been taught Voltane were wild animals after-all. So what does she do? Well, seamlessly give her virginity up to it of course. What else?

I had to wonder why exactly it was illegal to be in the presence of the Voltage to start with. Was this a species or environmental protection, basic xenophobia or racism, etc. I didn’t understand the social intention, so I had a little trouble understanding the implications of Ruby’s actions. Plus, for being feared and held separate Ruby and Zan seemed to find a lot of sympathisers with almost no effort. I get that this was meant to infer that the society was ripe for social change, but it also felt very convenient to the plot. I also thought that trying to situate the whole thing in an alternation 1943 complicated matters. I didn’t see the relevance.

The writing was fairly simple, but it was clean, perfectly readable and only had a few editorial mishaps. In the end I was left wondering what I had just read, but I imagine that the book will really appeal to some. It was a pleasant change to encounter a hero who wasn’t a bulging alpha with an alarming tendency to aggress on questionably willing heroines. Props to Levin for being willing to move away from the canned PNR.