Saturday, February 28, 2015

Review: Bianca by Bertrice Small

Paperback432 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 
by NAL 
(first published October 1st 2012)
Series: The Silk Merchant's Daughters, #1
My Rating: 
Genre: Historical Romance

Florentine silk merchant Giovanni Pietro d’Angelo and his wife want nothing more than to marry their daughters to wealthy men of distinction. But when their son’s dangerous indiscretion implicates him in a tragic accident, it is their eldest daughter who must pay the price. Blackmailed by the powerful and debauched Sebastiano Rovere, the Pietro d’Angelos must give beautiful Bianca in marriage to Rovere to buy his silence. 

With the aid of her mother, Bianca flees her dark, cruel union, seeking shelter in a seaside villa. It is the shocking murder of her husband that allows her to find the possibility of love at last. But Florentine society would never approve of the man she’s chosen: Prince Amir, grandson of Memhet the Conqueror.

Two passionate lovers...two different cultures...two worlds determined to keep them apart...

I will say that I read many reviews before I decided to read this novel. The premise sounded so good, yet the ratings and reviews were widely varied. And after reading it, I can understand why. The novel is a historical romance, but it felt more like historical fiction to me. Oh, there was romance. But not in the traditional romancelandia way. 

The novel opens with Bianca being forced into a marriage to an older man who proves to be cruel and really, evil. When Bianca's mother discovers the disgusting things her daughter has endured, she spirits her away in order to protect her from her husband. 

Here begins the romance with a prince who of the Islamic faith. But although Bianca and Amir love each other, this isn't exactly a match that anyone in Christian Europe would accept, so naturally Bianca's family is none too approving. Bianca is nearly forced into another marriage--and here's what I admire about Bianca. After her first marriage, she becomes her own woman, taking a lover and defying her family. She really does flout all the customs and traditions of her family, and society by refusing to take another husband, to be subjugated by a man. Her sister helps her escape this unwanted marriage, and Bianca escapes to Turkey with Amir. 

So, is this romance? Women's lit? Historical fiction? A mish mash? It leans more heavily on the romance--Amir and Bianca's romance is a focal point, but Bertice Small hasn't shied away from presenting the issues faced by women during that time period, so therefore, to me, it reads more like historical fiction. Hence why I think readers "like" and "dislike" the book. 

Once in Turkey, Bianca has to contend with her sister wives (she's Amir third wife, and the only one he loves) and learn the ways of the world around her. The story becomes slightly more political, but ends happily. Naturally, since this is a romance. However, this portion of the story is the part I struggled with the most. Would a woman of the west really be able to adjust to the customs of Turkey, and share her husband with two other women? Yes, they were all friends, but I wasn't sure that even a logical thinking, liberal woman who loved and trusted her man would be willing to share her man with two other women. Not coming from the upbringing that Bianca came from, even if she had rejected much of what she had been raised to--she had, after all, kept her faith. So, to me, this seemed a little bit much to stretch. Yet Bianca encourages Amir to take his other wives to bed! Yes, perhaps that was to keep the peace, but, I think it asked this reader to suspend too much belief. 

Stylistically, this book was a bit drab. The prose didn't captivate me, and was at times, dry. But the story was engaging enough that it was pretty easy to read through. Having never read another novel by this author, I can't compare this work to anything else by this much beloved, and now missed, author. Ms. Small passed away on February 24, 2015, and this reader would like to pay tribute to a lady to made this genre what it is today. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Review: Web of Lies by Jennifer Estep

Paperback400 pages
Published May 25th 2010 
by Pocket Books 
(first published May 5th 2010)
Series: Elemental Assassin, #2
My Rating:      
Genre: Urban Fantasy 

Curiosity is definitely going to get me dead one of these days. Probably real soon.

I'm Gin Blanco.

You might know me as the Spider, the most feared assassin in the South. I’m retired now, but trouble still has a way of finding me. Like the other day when two punks tried to rob my popular barbecue joint, the Pork Pit. Then there was the barrage of gunfire on the restaurant. Only, for once, those kill shots weren’t aimed at me. They were meant for Violet Fox. Ever since I agreed to help Violet and her grandfather protect their property from an evil coalmining tycoon, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m really retired. So is Detective Donovan Caine. The only honest cop in Ashland is having a real hard time reconciling his attraction to me with his Boy Scout mentality. And I can barely keep my hands off his sexy body. What can I say? I’m a Stone elemental with a little Ice magic thrown in, but my heart isn’t made of solid rock. Luckily, Gin Blanco always gets her man . . . dead or alive.

I really enjoyed this book. I will say, it was a bit of a slow start for me. I think after reading the first one, where there was a lot going on from the get go, this one felt draggy when in actuality the author was setting up the story beautifully. The last fifty percent was especially gripping and I loved the story development.

What can I say about Gin? She's kick ass, and she doesn't shy away from doing what needs to be done. I understand the morale dilemma that Caine experienced though, since Gin takes things into her own hands instead of letting the law deal out justice. And her ways are rather permanent. Thing is, how much of a choice does Gin have? And when is it more just to work outside the law if the law has become so corrupt that it won't be just? No easy answers there, but I liked that Gin doesn't moralize over it like Caine does. Caine runs from those questions. Gin faces the reality and does what she needs to do, and I have to say, what is right.
Book Three in the series

Caine on the other a frustrating character. He wants Gin, but his desire seems more visceral than genuine. He can't seem to accept her for who she is, and I'm starting to think these two aren't ever really going to come together. Too bad, but they are very different in their ideals and I wouldn't want Gin to be with Caine if he doesn't want her for herself. She might be a killer, but she's not evil or amoral. She deserves better.

Which brings me to Grayson--I have no idea what his interest in Gin is. It seems purely romantic at this point, but I think there's more to his attraction to her than we are seeing at this point. I'm curious to see if Gin will become involved with Grayson.

I said I loved the story development and I did. I like how Gin clued in to the fact that Mab was the Fire elemental who tortoured her so many years ago. I like that Gin has fully realized the potential of her Ice magic--or has she? I knew from the first novel that Gin is very powerful, but I'm beginning to think she is even more powerful than the author is letting on. I'm very curious to see where this is all leading. Kick ass plot line, great series story development and interesting new characters brought to the scene. I can't wait to read more of this series.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Guest Review: Golden Son by Pierce Brown

Golden Son
by Pierce Brown

Golden Son continues the stunning saga of Darrow, a rebel forged by tragedy, battling to lead his oppressed people to freedom from the overlords of a brutal elitist future built on lies. Now fully embedded among the Gold ruling class, Darrow continues his work to bring down Society from within. A life-or-death tale of vengeance with an unforgettable hero at its heart, Golden Son guarantees Pierce Brown’s continuing status as one of fiction’s most exciting new voices.

Golden Son is book two in the Red Rising Trilogy.  There is just so much going on in this series.  I am not sure if I will be able to do this book justice.  Therefore, I will focus my review on the themes that stand out to me.

Having just recently read Red Rising, Golden Son comes at a perfect time and this sequel is near perfect. It is dark and intriguing, full of machinations by characters you both love and hate.  The book is about how friendship and loyalty can win a war and overcome centuries-old prejudices.  It shows how inspiration overcomes coercion. Ultimately, this is a story about love, commitment, and the pursuit of a higher purpose. 

However, this is second in the trilogy – it is the Empire Strikes Back book – the dark, middle story.  The dark, in this case, is about what hubris does to human nature. What happens to Darrow breaks my heart. Mr. Brown takes us on a roller coaster ride with masterful storytelling and a gripping narrative. I would’ve been exhausted after finishing, but the ending had me up all night. Needless to say, I will be counting the days until the next book.

It seems almost trite to say this is like The Hunger Games or Divergent or The Game of Thrones.  However, like those stories, this one leaves an indelible mark in my memory.

Originally posted at Love Affair With An e-Reader . Thank you to Sunny for sharing her review with us today at My Devastating Reads.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Review: Lord of the Fading Lands by C.L Wilson

Paperback416 pages
Published September 28th 2010 
by Avon 
(first published October 2nd 2007)
Series: Tairen Soul, #1
My Rating: 
Genre: Paranormal Romance

Once he had scorched the world.
Once he had driven back overwhelming darkness.
Once he had loved with such passion, his name was legend...
Long ago, in the magical holocaust known as the Mage Wars, the immortal Fey and their allies fought to defeat the grasping evil of the Elden Mages and their dark-gifted supporters. During those wars, in a fit of grief-induced madness caused by the death of his mate, Fey shapeshifter Rain Tairen Soul nearly destroyed the world in a blaze of tairen fire.
Now a thousand years later, a new threat calls him from the Fading Lands, back into the world that had cost him so dearly. Now an ancient, familiar evil is regaining its strength, and a new voice beckons him--more compelling, more seductive, more maddening than any before. 
As the power of his most bitter enemy grows and ancient alliances crumble, the wildness in his blood will not be denied. The tairen must claim his truemate and embrace the destiny woven for him in the mists of time.
Lordy lord. I loved this book. Just absolutely loved it. There's something about novels that are epic in the way this one way, that are set in a purely fantastical world that just really captures my imagination. C.L Wilson really knows how to deliver complex world building within a plot that is engaging and gripping. 

This is a story that is obviously going to span over the series. This first novel sets up the world as well as the relationship that is going to develop between Rain and Ellysetta. A lot of time is spend courting, but equal time is spent developing the politics of this world and the plot line in which the Eld are going to play a major role. And I think Ellysetta will as well. There has to be a reason the Eld Mages want to find her so badly, as to be a reason she was abandoned as a child, has to be a reason that is the truemate of a Tairen Soul when no Tairen Soul has ever before had a truemate. Something big in going down in this plot, and I'm itching to find out what it was. 

Rain is an interesting character for a man who is a thousand world, and especially for one who burned the world out of grief. I wasn't sure what to expect from his character. Steel determination? Yes. But I think I was also expecting something of a bitterness to his character that I just don't see, which is wonderful because from the very first this is a king determined to save his people. This is a man who wants nothing more than to protect his truemate. There's something compelling in those facts, knowing how long he's lived, and how much he's lost and endured.
Book Two

Ellysetta has a fiery gentleness to her that I really like. In a nutshell, I think that about sums her up. She won't let anyone hurt her family, and she stands up for herself as well--even to Rain, who is at times a demanding idiot. What her nightmares mean, I can't begin to guess--I know the Shadow Man is the Eld mage, but I can't begin to think why he is so interested in Elly. I have some theories, but that plot point is still up in the air for me. Is there a darkness in her? So far her character has not demonstrated that at all, and I know Rain doesn't see it. And if he can't, I have to believe that it's just not there. But it does leave me wondering as to who she is, and why this evil Eld Mage is so interested in her.

Needless to say, I have already ordered book two because curiousity killed the cat--namely me in this case.

The writing is polished, the storyline is epic, and the characters are vividly portrayed. I am once again won over by this author who has written a story that I'm sure will stay with me for a very long. This is definitely a novel I will read over and over again.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Quote It!~16

It's been a really long since I've shared some quotes with you. So today is the day I'm going to do just that.

It's from a book I read a little while ago, and loved. And that's Jennifer Estep's Spider's Bite. You can find my review here.

I found that the narrator, and herione, Gin had a really great voice and this novel really kept me turning the pages. Hopefully the quotes might you give some clue as to why.

So he didn't sleep in the buff. A shame, really. 

He'd be even more attractive if he'd lose the righteous anger and the stick up his ass. But no man was perfect.

My vision blurred. Something burned my eyes. Crying. I was crying. Something I hadn't done in seventeen years.

I'd never been one to take the easy path in life.

Emotions were for those too weak to turn them off. And I hadn't been weak in a very long time.

Some of these make me shiver. Others made me grin. But all o f them kept me gripped in this intense read.

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