Review: Dragons Don’t Cry by D’Elen McClain

10 Apr

Dragons Don't Cry

Summary at the back of the book:
One pint sized human female who’s had too much to drink, not enough sleep, and absolutely no patience meets one stubborn dragon shifter with an attitude.

Bastian claims Acasia, his unwilling bride, after she spends the night carousing with friends. She’s not happy, he’s pissed off, and with a curse from a goddess thrown in, you’ll see Bastian breathe fire.

Add secrets, treasure, and unimaginable heartbreak for an emotionally humorous read and discover why Dragons Don’t Cry.

I had never heard of this author before but have a particular soft spot for dragons (Thank you, Anne McCaffrey) so decided to ask for this book on Netgalley. I like that the back blurb made the book sound like a GA Aiken style humorous paranormal. It didn’t quite get there for me but I did enjoy reading the story.

The story starts with a little background setting of how and why the dragons are cursed. One of their kin killed a daughter of Hera and as punishment she cursed them to live alone until they find their true mate- which will happen only once in a hundred years. There’s a bit about another goddess who is sympathetic to the dragons and vows to help them… but I found that she had a much smaller role than what it seemed in the prologue. I wasn’t sure the prologue was needed at all actually as the story gets explained again later in the book. Anyhoo, on to the main story…

Acasia is offered up as one of the maidens in a virgin sacrifice ceremony to the dragons. This ceremony happens once every 25 years and is met with dread and weeping and tears as you can imagine. She is of course picked by Bastian, the red dragon and carried away to his lair where she thinks he’s going to eat her- only he doesn’t. Their relationship slowly progresses after a rocky start and they fall in love (as you do in romance novels of course).

One of the more interesting parts of the book was the whole virgin bride sacrifice. It seemed that everyone in this world saw the dragons as these big, hungry beasts and their “brides” as poor victims who are never seen again because they are eaten or something as equally terrifying. The reality of course was that the dragons loved their brides and enjoyed their company and had to live with their brides becoming old and dying on them over and over again since only a true mate could become an immortal dragon. The author portrayed how painful that was by introducing the other 3 dragons, one who had just lost a bride and was mad with grief, one with a very elderly bride and one with a middle aged one.

In spite of this, the author was able to imbue a fun sense of ridiculousness to the story. It wasn’t quite over-the-top crazy sauce but there were fun, humorous bits that were enjoyable. I DID get confused when in the beginning of the book Bastian in human form was described as wearing jeans as the realm the dragons lived in was decidedly not Earth or modern times as we know it but that was later on explained when Bastian and Acasia would travel to Earth to save dying humans. These humans would then be brought back to the dragon realm in order to save their lives but would never be able to speak again. I found the whole back and forth through realms and humans not being able to speak a little weird. I know weird is expected in paranormal/fantasy books but I didn’t see the point in it except as a plot device to add friction to Bastian and Acasia’s relationship.

If I had to highlight a negative aspect of this book it was that the world building was weak. As I mentioned before the prologue didn’t seem needed, there was the tried and true virgin bride sacrifice trope and then there was jumping between realms which I think could have been fleshed out a little more.

However, I did enjoy the humour in the book. The ending in particular startled a giggle out of me. The romance was sweet and I liked how the hero and heroine got to know each other before falling in love.

I didn’t LOVE this book enough to recommend it but I didn’t hate it either. I would definitely buy another book from this author as I’m curious to see how her other stories turn out.

Review: Tamed by Rebecca Zanetti

2 Apr

tamed-ebook

Caleb Donovan was never meant to be a prophet. At heart he’s a conqueror, his appetites far more carnal than spiritual. He’s not inclined to repress his passions and surrender to fate. After all, that’s what cost him Lily–three centuries ago. She married another, because it was ordained. Now that he’s in the same benighted calling–and forced into proximity with her–all the old desires are roaring back to life. . .

After widowhood and centuries of celibacy, Lily is eager to explore the wild side of life, except now she’s vulnerable to another forced relationship, with an enemy. But this time she’s determined to choose her own path. And if hot, furious Caleb comes charging to the rescue, it might just change both their destinies. . .

Rebecca Zanetti has become one of my autobuy authors and this novella reminds me of all the wonderfully wicked and funny reasons why. Even though I love all her books, I have a special fondness for her Dark Protector Series as they were the books that introduced me to her.

For those of you familiar with the series, Tamed is the story where we finally see Lily and Caleb get together after hundreds of years of unrequited love (squee!). For those of you who haven’t read the Dark Protector books, I strongly suggest you read the previous books first (start with Fated). This novella is not a good point to jump into the series as there is a LOT of back story that would be difficult to understand if you are not already a reader and besides, the previous books are seriously awesome and I highly recommend them.

I’m not a big fan of novellas as a lot of authors tend to go for the love at first sight or insta-love trope to try and fit the romance into a relatively small word count. One of the things I really liked about this novella was the way RZ seeded bits of their relationship through the other books. As a reader, I knew that Lily and Caleb have known each other for 300 years and were in love way back when but Lily felt she was forced to choose duty over love and married someone else. The reason why this is not a good book to start the series with is the reason this is such a good novella- the love story between Lily and Caleb was very believable because there is such a back story there.

The dialogue in this story was sharp and downright funny- two things I really enjoy. Lily, who I always pictured as somewhat overly proper and mousy comes into her own in this story. She learns to let go of her image and duty and lets herself just BE. I do think that Caleb forgave her marrying someone else a little too easily as that must have really hurt at the time. In spite of this, I was rooting for them to get back together and ended the novella believing that they could have a happily ever after -in spite of all the mayhem and war and destruction around them.

I found it interesting that the time in this world has moved forward considerably in the last two books. The overarching plot line is finally coming to a resolution and I CANNOT wait. I would highly recommend this book to those readers who love alpha men, strong women and dry humour.

Disclaimer: I received this book as an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley

Review: The Last Hour of Gann by R. Lee Smith

18 Mar

The Last Hour of Gann

Lizard people. Must read the book about Lizard People. I remember telling myself this over and over again when I first heard about this book. I mean really, lizard people, lizard people planet, lizard person hero who is also some sort of PRIEST, which of course leads to lizard people sex, crashing spaceships, and douchebag humans all trying to survive aforementioned crashing spaceship- it seemed really bad B movie in book form and had my inner sci-fi geek panting in excitement (also I wanted to see how many times I could write lizard people in one sentence and I think I did pretty well there, don’t you?). What I got was something so completely different I found myself sitting on this review for 2 weeks because I simply did not know how to write about this book. I hated and loved parts of it in equal measure. I would have to grade it both A and an F; which doesn’t make sense but completely describes how I feel about this book.

Quick summary of the plot: Amber is the heroine of the story. Being a down on her luck human in a dystopian future Earth she decides that she and her sister would take their chances on the very first ship to leave Earth in order to go colonise another planet. Things don’t go as planned and they crash onto another planet, Gann. Gann is a planet inhabited by, yup you guessed it, lizard people. They’re a pretty violent race and religion governs pretty much all aspects of their society. Meoraq is the hero of this book and is a Sheulak or warrior priest. This position is a really big deal in local society and Meoraq can pretty much do whatever he wants as long as it falls under the auspices of being Sheul’s (God’s) will. This is a very simple explanation that doesn’t completely encompass how complex the world building and plot of this book really is.

Before I go on though I feel that I have to warn people that this book is terribly, terribly violent. There’s rape, children being killed, more rape, murder of children, a little more rape… and no closed door stuff for R. Lee Smith. No sirree, she explains everything in graphic detail. I have to admit that I felt a little sick after finishing this book. So, if any of the above scenarios are hot triggers for you steer far, FAR away from this book.

I can’t recommend this book wholeheartedly because this book was SO freaking violent and the humans in this book were all people I wanted to burn at the stake- ALL of them, from Scott the head douchebag to Nikki the unbelievably annoying sister. They were so horrible and were basically portrayed as sheep following Scott the leader and totally mistreating Amber because Scott is threatened by her. It was a very exaggerated form of bullying and while you feel that the author is making a point here about human society, it was very difficult for me to read.

But here’s the thing, even with all of that, I HAD to finish the book. The world building was fascinating and there’s a twist at the end that’s really surprising. But strangely enough for such a rabidly violent book? The romance itself was really beautiful. Yes, it was a beautiful romance between a human girl (who by the way was initially portrayed as someone so obese they worried she wouldn’t fit into the space capsule thingy they travelled on) and her lizard man.

Unlike a lot of the insta-love, fated to be together romances out there nowadays, you actually saw the development of the love between Meoraq and Amber. They would have all these wonderful conversations about life and God and religion and you could see them falling in love with each other very slowly and very reluctantly. One of the more fascinating aspects of this book is how R. Lee portrays the characters as actually finding each other physically ugly in the beginning. Meoraq thinks Amber looks strange, soft and ugly and well, Amber thinks Meoraq looks like a lizard which in no culture here on Earth is a compliment. Because the love story was so thoughtfully developed and written, the sex, which I initially thought would squick me out the most actually became a very natural part of the story.

The best parts for me were when Meoraq, a warrior-priest and Amber, an atheist would get into debates about the existence of God. Those conversations were very thoughtful and interesting. I normally am not a fan of putting too much religion in romance novels (haven’t read a single love-inspired book and I can say that I’ve read pretty much everything) but I loved the way the hero and the heroine would talk about their beliefs.

So there you have it- my love-hate-love-hate relationship with The Last Hour of Gann. I am sitting here wondering if I will ever read another book from this author again. I am reluctant as this book was soooooo violent and the rape scenes and children dying… but the beautiful love story and the really compelling storytelling that went with it… Right now I have to say that my abhorrence of some of the more violent scenes in the book probably means I won’t be picking up a book by this author again anytime soon but I wouldn’t say never. Have you read other books by this author? Are they as violent as this one?

RFG Recommends: Uncommon Passion by Anne Calhoun

11 Mar

Uncommon Passion A Calhoun

I was listening to the DBSA (Dear Bitches Smart Authors) Podcast recently, going through all of their old podcasts hoping that I would find a book or books to break this reading slump that I’ve been on lately. One of the books that Sarah from Smart Bitches Trashy Books recommended was Uncommon Passion by Anne Calhoun.
The thing that made me want to read it was the description of the heroine. Her name is Rachel Hill and she is described in the summary as someone who has recently left a fundamentalist commune called Elysian Field. Having grown up in this very restrictive environment, she is a 25 year old virgin. Wanting to rid herself of her aforementioned virginity she buys the hero, Ben, at a bachelor auction thinking that he looks like the kind of guys who could do the job and walk away. Ben, at first, seems to be nothing more than a really hot adrenaline junkie police officer with too many notches on his bedpost.
One of the things that I really LOVED about this book was how thoughtful it was. There were no stereotypes to be found anywhere in the story. A lazier writer could have easily portrayed Rachel as an uber innocent (verging on too stupid to live) traumatised young thing and her father and everyone in the commune as evil and mean. What we do get is one of the strongest heroines I have read in a good long time.
Rachel’s strength is quite different from the outwardly tough, I will kick your ass to the moon and back strength of the urban fantasy/paranormal heroine, but by the end of the book I thought: wow that is one strong, self-aware woman. Anne Calhoun was able to write a character of such quiet inner strength and grace, I finished the book with an incredible amount of respect for the character and for AC as a writer for not turning Rachel into a caricature of what people think “escapees” from cults or communes should be like.
It also would have been easy to just vilify Rachel’s father as this oppressive man and in some ways, he was because of his beliefs. At the same time, he was also the man who baked cookies with her and read her stories and all these other things that show that he was a very loving father. There’s a scene where Ben and Rachel are talking about her life in Elysian Field and she says that people think she left because of the lack of fashion or long skirts but that’s not why she left at all. She left because she wanted to decide things for herself without her father or one of the elders telling her what to think or feel. I found it fascinating that she wasn’t even supposed to be mad or grumpy as this was being ungrateful to God so she had to be serene or cheerful all day.
Ben as a hero seems really simple in the beginning but is actually a really complicated character. I LOVE that he had to work through his issues and come to realizations about himself before he felt he had anything to give in terms of a relationship. I love how the romance developed slowly, completely apart from the steamy sex which would have been about an 8 or 9 in the steamy charts. I LOVE how the heroine , even being inexperienced knew to stand up for herself after a raunchy sex sesh and say you know what? You didn’t treat me right that time, buh-bye. I love how AC made Rachel brave enough to fully accept and experience all emotions even negative ones.
I know I may be repeating myself but it has to be said again; this was a very well-written and thoughtful romance that I will remember in the jumble of all the other meh books that I have read lately. My only criticism is that I didn’t get that ‘chest hurts oh my God this book is ripping my heart out’ feeling that I get with the some really good books. It’s a solid B+ for me though, hope you like it.

Meh books and Alphaholes

25 Feb

Reaper's Legacy Knight

I’ve been really disappointed with all the books that I’ve read in the past few weeks. It’s been a good long while since I’ve read any that made me want to write about it squeeing in delight… and I want to squee my way through a book, dammit.
I think the problem with me this past month is that I have gone for the free books and the .99 cent (or so) books on Amazon thinking to save myself some money. What HAS happened is that I have bought heaps of books that I then skimmed and then promptly forgot about or simply did not finish (DNF). This resulted in me spending more than I would have if I had just bought a few really good books at a higher price point that I could really enjoy. It’s like when you’re eating at a buffet with a lot of not-so-good food and you keep eating and eating and eating looking for that taste you’re looking for, not finding it and then feeling slightly ill afterwards. That is how the past few weeks have been for me in terms of reading- too much meh stuff that has left me feeling vaguely dissatisfied.
(This is not to say that you can’t find some really amazing books out there for free or cheap, I’ve just had really crappy luck with them these past few weeks)
The other thing that I am seeing with some of the books that I am reading is the emergence of a breed of heroes I call the alphahole. I know that the whole imperfect, grittier hero is a hot trend at the moment but I find myself getting exasperated with it. What the heck is so wrong about a nice guy? You know, one who does NOT have a stable of prostitutes that he makes his money with or one that does NOT call women bitches or whores?
I’m a HUGE fan of alpha heroes. I love their take charge attitude, absolute belief in themselves and their need to take care of their women. LOVE. THEM. However, lately I’ve found that some authors disturbingly blur the line between an alpha and an alphahole (which is basically an alpha asshole). I get that there is this movement towards realism and angst. I get that they’re trying to portray heroes that are in stark contrast to sickeningly perfect, gorgeous, intelligent, billionaire, philanthropist heroes of the past. For me though, there’s imperfect and tortured and there’s just being an abusive, misogynistic pig.
I’m learning that there are certain things that I just will not accept in a hero. Salty language and dirty talk? No problem. Being derogatory to a woman and calling her a whore, slut etc and then justifying it to the heroine saying it’s okay because I’d never do that to YOU? Not okay. A man hitting a woman? Never okay.
I read a book recently where the hero was absolutely APPALLING to women. He had no respect for them aside from them being receptacles for his magic wang. He would call them bitch and forcibly evict them from his house, throwing their clothes out- after taking them home with him the night before! How in the world is a man like that hero material? This hero THEN goes on to say that yes he would hit a woman if she was “asking for it”. Arrrgh. Just typing that made me so mad! And it makes me even more mad because he then says he would never treat the heroine like that because she wasn’t a slut like all the other sluts he slept with. Given that he actively participated in the aforementioned activity this would make him a hypocrite of the highest level.
Being imperfect, sleeping around, having a tragic past, being surly and not too good with social situations- these are all fine and I can live with those. Being in any way abusive even if that abusive behaviour is not targeted towards the heroine, I’m sorry I simply cannot stomach. As a psychology major the whole “Oh baby I treat OTHER people like shit but I would never treat YOU like that” really pisses me off. I get that some of the romance heroes of old may have been a little too perfect but do I really want to read about a hero who is a pimp? Uh, NO.
There are authors who push the envelope of the alpha male but manage to pull them back right before they cross over that invisible line for me into alphahole. A really good example of this would be Kristen Ashley’s Chaos MC boys who are really rough around the edges but never cross over this line for me versus those in her Unfinished Hero series (Knight, ugh!) and Joanna Wylde’s Reaper’s Legacy which was a good book overall, but there were moments with the hero that left a really bad taste in my mouth. He is SO never going to be one of my book boyfriends. Although that cover is admittedly really nice to look at.
What do you think about this new trend in alphahole heroes?

RFG Recommends: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Series

9 Feb

Magic Rises

I recently bought Magic Rises which is Book 6 in the Kate Daniels series and because of this I went back and re-read the 5 books in the series that came before (as you do). I am now totally kicking myself for not adding Ilona Andrews to my first autobuy authors list as I love their writing.
(Quick sidenote: for those who may not know, no the use of their instead of her wasn’t a massive grammatical error. Ilona Andrews is actually the pen name for a husband and wife writing team, how cool is that? )
The Kate Daniels series is the series that automatically springs to mind when talking about IA. It’s a fantastic urban fantasy about a mercenary named (you guessed it) Kate Daniels. I don’t want to put too much detail in as I don’t want to inadvertently spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t started the series yet, but I CAN tell you that Kate is a totally kick ass, strong female lead. What I love about her is that IA manages to make her strong and kick ass without crossing over into the mad at the world, ornery for the sake of being ornery stereotype. Kate is strong and has been through a hell of a lot, yet manages to be kind and well, likeable.
The Kate Daniels World is a post-apocalyptic type world with a twist. Technology in this world is no longer reliable due to “waves” of magic that suddenly come and go. People have to adapt to having tech one minute and then not having anything work in the next during a magic wave. This applies to everything including lights, cars, phones and even guns. Because of this folks in KD world Atlanta have two of everything to ensure that they have things that work during tech and during magic such as regular electric lights and magic lights, guns and swords, normal cars and cars that run on magic- the world building is fascinating and provides plenty of avenues for IA to stress out their poor hapless characters.
But what I love about this series is the writing. The stories and plot points just flow very naturally and nothing feels forced or contrived. All the characters, even the secondary ones are interesting and multi-dimensional. My favourite part though has to be the dialogue. I’m a big dialogue and character girl and this series (and the other series of this author) is GOLD when it comes to witty dialogue.
I love the romance between Kate and her man (who I will not specify as there may be a FEW people who may not know who it is). My only complaint as a romance reader is that in some of the books I would have liked a little more on the romance- but that’s really nitpicking.
Magic Rises is my favourite book so far of the series. It’s hard to get into too much of the storyline without massive spoilers but let’s just say there was plenty of magic and good old fashioned sword fighting and ass kicking by Kate and the cast of secondary characters who are just as big a presence in the book. It had that perfect blend of romance and action that great urban fantasy books have: the relationship stuff that made me tingle (and at one point I burst out laughing in my darkened bedroom surprising my poor baby girl in the cot next to me) and oh my goodness so much edge of your seat action I stayed up WAY past my bedtime finishing it. It’s an A for me for this book and this series generally. What’s your favourite Kate Daniels book?

More Sex Scene Funnies

29 Jan

Late last year wrote a blog entry about some things that I found strange, disturbing and hilarious about sex scenes: http://romancefangirl.com/2013/08/ . One of my absolute favourite romance blogs, Smart Bitches Trashy Books recently published an article on sex scenes that had me rolling-on-the-floor-oh-my-goodness-I’m-going-to-wet-my-pants laughing. I then read all the comments that other romance fan girls like me made on the article and there commenced another round of undignified snorting and snickering. Any long time reader of romance novels is sure to have her (or his) particular pet peeve when it comes to these scenes.

Anyway, here is the link to the article:  http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/blog/10-things-i-hate-about-sex-scenes. Enjoy y’all. If both these articles left something out that has you rolling your eyes when you read it, I’d love to hear from you!

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