Tag Archives: why choose

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Book Review: Monsters of Ashwood, by Ariel Dawn

I picked up a copy of Ariel Dawn‘s Voices in the Dark as an Amazon freebie, and then purchased a copy of Whispers in the Woods.
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A haunted house. A protective gargoyle. A past that controls the future.

For Jenna Hellsing, the sleepy little town of Ashwood, Oregon seems to be the perfect place to hide and start over, to quiet the demons, even if it’s in a house haunted by shadows… but the darkness isn’t ready to let her go.

As Jenna attempts to navigate her new life, will she be able to resist the voices of the past? Especially the ones she hears in the dark?

Degal’s heart is colder than stone. After all, he’s been separated from his mates for more than a century. The broody gargoyle has only one focus: To protect the legendary Ashwood Manor.

When a fearless young woman buys his home, can Degal find a way to ignore the undeniable bond he feels?

my review

I’m going to give this duology a single review since I read the books back to back, and they form one continuous story. Honestly, the two books combined are less than 350 pages, so I don’t know why the author bothered to break them in two. I know there’s the sell-more-books aspect. But finding standalone Why Choose romances is like finding a treasure. I wish more authors would write them, and here I see a perfect opportunity to do so squandered.

I have mixed feelings about this series. In one sense, I liked it a lot. I liked that the men of the harem have a real, deeply felt, and openly expressed relationship with one another. I liked the characters themselves. Since I finished book one and then bought book two, I obviously enjoyed spending time with them.

BUT I was hoping for so much more than this series delivered. There are some aspects of the story that seriously disappointed me. (This will be spoilerish, by the way.) I found the heroine bland. Honestly, among the three men’s history and established relationship, she felt very much like a late addition tag-along rather than a truly important addition. Honestly, I’m not even sure she felt like the main character of the book. Degal, in terms of page time and development, and Shadow, in terms of group dynamics, fit the bill a lot better.

But mostly, the author made some choices I thought were super cliched and predictable. At the tail end of book one, I had a premonition of where the story was going and made this note:

I’m going to be so disappointed if this book/series goes in the reincarnated lover direction. Let her be important as herself, not as Virginia 2.0. Please!

Well, to risk repeating myself, I was disappointed. It wasn’t straightforward reincarnation, but it’s close enough to fit the bill. I want a heroine that the men love FOR HER, not for what (or who) she is a reflection of.

The villain was incredibly obvious. It’s the only named character with no other obvious character role (best friend, work colleague, lover, etc.), and his motivation was one we’ve all seen a billion times before. It’s serious low-hanging fruit in the plotting department. I have to say the same about the FMC’s history of rape. *Yawn* So overused as to have been leeched of all emotional impact. Again, it’s low-hanging fruit plotting. It’s evidence of either incredible laziness or an author who has yet to mature and learn to imagine plot points for themselves instead of choosing them from pre-scripted cultural story arcs.

As a side note, I’m quite tolerant of purple prose. But if you are not, this might not be the book for you. It could also do with another editing pass. All in all, this wasn’t horrible. I like it well enough. But it left me with several unanswered questions and could have been so much more than it is.

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Voices In The Dark (Monsters of Ashwood Book 1) by Ariel Dawn – My Review

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Book Review: Forbidden Honor, by May Dawson

I picked up a copy of May Dawson‘s Forbidden Honor as an Amazon freebie.

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In my world, dragon shifters rule. Dragon shifters are always royals. They’re always male. They’re always assholes.

An orphaned servant like me? Everyone assumes on first shift, I’ll turn into a squirrel.

Instead, I grow wings. Breathe fire. Throw the world into chaos.

No one wants a girl in the Royal Dragon Guard. So I’m disguised as a man and sent off to military training.

The Dragon Royals are not a welcoming bunch. These princely scions of the four ruling families have been training to fight the plague-crazed Scourge since they were toddlers. Every girl in the city dreams of winning the heart of one of the dragon nobles, but they only care about each other.

Jaik, the cold-hearted hero who never smiles and never falters. Arren, who kills without mercy and guards his friends fiercely. Lynx and Branick, the twin spymasters with deadly swords. Talisyn, with the beautiful cruel mouth and endless bravery.

By night, I’m the servant they flirt with. I’m the one stealing Jaik’s heart and kissing Talisyn and antagonizing Arren. All the while, Branick and Lynx fret that I’m a spy, sent to destroy the Royals.

By day, I’m Lucien Finn, the man they despise and the dragon shifter they have to fight alongside.

These royals are determined to make me fall, and the princes play dirty. Can I ignore the pull they have on my heart and kick them off their thrones?

Will they break the maid… or kill the man? What will it do to us all when they finally discover the truth about who I truly am?

my review

I had mixed feelings about this book, but I mostly enjoyed it. I liked the characters well enough and the world seems interesting. But I also thought it had a little too much filler and far too strong of a ‘she’s a special snowflake who is not like other girls’ vibe. Plus, the men of the harem are given drastically uneven attention, though I suspect that is a matter of the neglected ones getting time in future books. All in all, I don’t regret reading it, but I probably won’t be continuing the series all the same.

Here’s the thing. I love the Why Choose genre, but it’s burning me out pretty quickly because of how series-heavy it is. This was book 1 of 6, and I’ve read enough such series to strongly suspect I’ll need to read all 6 books to reach any sort of satisfying conclusion (and each will end on a cliffhanger). I just am not ready (or in a position, time-wise) to commit to 5 more books. That’s not so much a criticism of the series as a comment on my condition in engaging with it. But it is what it is.

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Other Reviews:

What I’m Reading: May Dawson’s Dragon Royals series

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Book Review: Monsters Within, by R.L. Caulder

I received this copy of Monsters Within by R.L. Caulder in a monthly subscription book box. (I don’t remember which one.) But I also have a Kindle copy I picked up as a freebie at some point.

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Have you ever lost yourself in a fantasy world you created?

That’s how I’ve survived the years alone in a reality where humans cower in fear of supernatural creatures hiding behind the veil.

All I’ve ever had is my pen, my notebook, and the world I created to make it through the days as a ward of the state, suffering at the hands of the real villains of the world…Humans.

The pages of my notebook hold three sinful, feared monsters. Ones that I certainly shouldn’t be pining over since they aren’t even real.

I question my grip on reality when real life and fantasy collide as my words suddenly come to life. Out of the pages climb each of the beautifully twisted monsters I created with my ink.

Dark Imaginarium Academy claims to want to help me learn about my new powers. The Headmistress says they can protect me, but I’m not so sure about that.

The one thing I am sure about? I’ll destroy the world if they try to take my monsters from me.

Because my creations aren’t just monstersthey’re my soulmates.

my review

Soooo, this simply isn’t very good. It reads VERY MUCH like a teen, self-insert fantasy romance. Which, in one manner, makes sense to the plot. Self-insert fantasy is what the main character writes to create the monsters in the first place. On the other hand, nothing feels like this parallel was a stylistic choice by Caulder, and it simply isn’t any fun to read. Both because it is boring and because the amateurish writing and plotting reinforced the teen-like feel.

Additionally, the teen-like feel clashes with the collegiate setting. It feels like high school (they have detention, set similar schedules, petty high school drama, and a most specialist, special girl who is special main character, etc.). The character is only 21 (and all the magic miraculously appears at midnight on her 21st birthday), so she would be legal, and you feel that is an monsters within photoauthorial manipulation rather than fitting the plot even a little bit. She feels 16, at most.

Add all of that to a plot that feels, at best, sketched out, rocketing from point to point with no build-up or resolutions, characters who go through major shifts in reality with absolutely no reaction or adjustment time, stock, cardboard cutout heroes, cliched, mean-girl villains, and inconsistent characterization of the heroine, and I was simply done. I finished the book to finish it, but I’m not at all interested in more.

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