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Review of Hex Hall, by Rachel Hawkins

Hex Hall

I picked up a copy of Rachel HawkinsHex Hall somewhere along the way, probably Goodwill or a similar place. I was on a YA kick, at the time. But I’ve hence given that up. So, it and several like it, have just been taking up space on my book shelves.

Description from Goodreads:
Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father—an elusive European warlock—only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters. 

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tag-along ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect. 

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

This is pretty standard YA fare—young girl who thinks herself average or below turns out to actually be extraordinary. Meanwhile, she catches the eye of the school hoty and makes enemies of the school’s clique of queen bees. There were no surprises or depth here. The most tension-laden scenes revolved around the creation of a dress for the school ball, while the villain was discovered, found and confronted in less than two pages, defeated in less than a paragraph. There are also some things that really needed to be address further, in my opinion, that characters jut let slide. But it was well written and I found it pleasantly amusing.

I do have to ask about the cat on the cover though. No one in the book has one. In fact, the main character is allergic to them. So, why is the cat on not only this cover, but every one in the series? Just to symbolize witches? But these witches would have found that so cliché. Covers that don’t match the story annoy me.

What I’m drinking: What the English might call Builder’s tea. One inexpensive bag of black tea, quite strong and a dash of milk. This is one of my comfort drinks. These days, I’m often off dairy. So, I don’t drink it as often, but my British relatives are currently visiting. There is lots of tea and milk in this house right now.

Isles of the Forsaken

Book Review of Isles of the Forsaken, by Carolyn Ives Gilman

Isles of the ForsakenI borrowed Isles of the Forsaken, by Carolyn Ive Gilman from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:
The Forsaken Isles are on the brink of revolution. Three individuals are about to push it over the edge and trigger events that will lead to a final showdown between ancient forces and the new overlords of the land.

This was an interesting read with some intriguing complexity to the characters and a slow but engaging plot. I was a little uncomfortable with the Great White Savior set up though. And it is a set up, to come about in the next book, but by the end of Isles of the Forsaken I was a bit squinked out with Nathaway’s position. However, up to that point I’d found him pleasantly complex. He was naive and short sighted. He truly believed he was bringing a gift of the rule of law to the islanders and was completely blind to the destruction in his wake, because he simply couldn’t see that the cultures, beliefs and practices of peoples other than his own had value and place. He wasn’t malicious in any way, just utterly ethnocentric.

Then we have Harg, the reluctant hero. I have to admit the reluctant hero is one of my favorite tropes, which made Harg my favorite character. And he too has some complexity of character. An outsider among his own people and ready for a peaceful period in his life, he instead becomes the leader of a rebellion of the very people who largely deny him, while laying claim to his cause.

This tendency of people to greedily grasp at something that would happily be given if not demanded is a theme we see with Spaeth too. She’s desperate to give of herself for the people, but no one will stop demanding from her long enough to let her gift herself instead. It’s an interesting conundrum. The same actions make her a slave in one scenario and a savior in another. And she’s so young and innocent that she has trouble navigating this confusing terrain.

I admit I’m always sensitive to representations of women in novels. It’s hard for me to look at them as individual characters in individual novels and not as one more in a collective of female characters. But the wide-eyed, beautiful, innocent, overly sexual creature of femaleness (created for a man’s entertainment) felt very cliched to me. The impression only got worse when she was constantly protected from herself by the men around her and her will was eventually subjugated to a man while she was unconscious (which she woke up thrilled about, of course).

I’ll be reading book two to see where the rebellion goes. Honestly, there is a political rebellion underway here, but the whole book is about rebellion. Everyone is rebelling in their own way and that subtle, undercurrent of frisson is what’s kept me going even through the weird dream-like scenes and slow passages that pepper this otherwise interesting book.

Billionaire Dragon's Bride

Book Review of Billionaire Dragon’s Bride (Treasure Lane Dragons #1), by Anya Nowlan

Billionaire Dragon BrideOn a lark, I picked up a copy of Anya Nowlan‘s Billionaire Dragon’s Bride at Amazon when it was free:

Description from Goodreads:
He’s blazing hot and this dragon won’t take no for an answer. 

Devon Bluewing is a billionaire playboy like no other. Cocky, strong and sexy as hell, he’s used to getting anything and anyone he wants. But when it comes a time to step up and stand as the head of his family, and the dragon council of Treasure Lane, Devon is met with an inexplicable problem. He needs a mate or his whole legacy could be in jeopardy. Now, that doesn’t work at all for the fire-breathing bad boy, who’s used to getting his own way. 

Gemma Teeley can’t stand injustice. She’s sassy, smart as a whip and always ready to fight for what is right. So when the newest Bluewing heir decides to wrack up the taxes on her hometown, Gemma isn’t about to stand for it. But what she doesn’t know is that her fight against traditions might just get her into a whole lot of steamy trouble! The curvy, headstrong woman has all the fire of Devon, and when he gives her an ultimatum, they’re both in for more than they bargained for. 

Even if she’ll play along, it doesn’t mean that she’ll make it easy on him. But it isn’t just Devon whose making decisions for Gemma, and soon it becomes very clear that it’s not only Gemma’s pride that’s in danger of getting burned… 

There were dragons. I love dragons. They’re my favorite mythical shifter. But they weren’t enough to save this train wreck. Nope. For one (and most importantly for me) I went all over ragey at the just-force-her-and-she’ll-like-it-in-the-end plotline. I hate that in a book. I hate it on the whole, but also in the smaller scenes where a female character is justifiably angry and the man grabs her and forces an unwanted kiss on her and she then just melts and forgets she’s angry, because she wants him so bad. RAGE people, RAGE!

On the smaller scale the world isn’t defined. The characters aren’t developed and are both unpleasant. The plot is shallow, never even expanding far enough to allow minor things like family coming to the wedding, because that would require introducing new characters. The villain is evil just because he is. The file seems to have a lot of filler, as the story ends at 60%. It’s repetitive and needs more editing. I’m fairly sure no one says, ‘he cummed’ to explain the culmination of a sex act.

I did appreciate the dragon’s obsession with his hoard and how that played into what he perceived as courting and there was some humor.