Author Archives: Kaja

My May

May was pretty good to me. Apart from constant sleep deprivation, we had some great weather and managed to go on some good trips.

In Kiddo news: He’s doing good. Sometimes, he’s jealous of his little brother and also annoyed because he keeps trying to steal his toys (I think this will be a recurring theme for years to come). He talks a lot, he’s mastered complex sentences and it’s really funny to hear him repeat back phrases that we use or read in books. He’s in a Peppa Pig phase, which is cool because that cartoon is awesome. Dinosaurs and tractors (and combine harvesters) are still a thing. He’s also potty trained, which is a relief. :D We planted some beans and cucumbers on our balcony and he’s very diligent with watering them with his yellow watering can.

In Baby news: We had his 9-month check up last week and he’s great. He’s really big for his age and it’s hard to carry him sometimes if he decides to squirm. He still doesn’t understand what we want from him, obviously, so it’s impossible to keep him away from Kiddo’s toys, for example. He’s also very different, personality-wise – he’s very determined and…brave? By which I mean reckless when he wants something and just goes after it, even if it’s out of his reach. Then he dangles from the tabletop or the sink by his tiny fingertips, waiting to be rescued by us. He also started saying mah-mah, which is adorable, of course! He can clap (clumsily) and if asked what sound cows make, he blows out his cheeks and makes a sort of bwuh sound that vaguely resembles “moo”. So that’s a win. ;)

In personal news: I’ve really been enjoying the weather. Being outside and taking day trips is so much easier in the summertime. And I’ve been taking photos of flowers everywhere, they’re gorgeous and early this year. I don’t bake as much bread anymore, though, because it just seems stupid heating the oven to 350°C every other day when it’s 30°C outside… I’ll start baking again in the autumn. I did bake a chocolate cake (with Kiddo’s help, of course) yesterday because my husband and I celebrated our 30th birthdays together (mine was in April and his is in 2 weeks but we invited everyone together).

We went to two medieval fairs these past two weeks – one at Ljubljana Castle, where we witnessed a sword fight demonstration (Kiddo watched, transfixed, and I had to explain to him that the gentlemen hacking at each other weren’t actually trying to hurt their opponents…), and the other at Bled Castle, where we saw a smithy and my husband tried his hand at flinging throwing axes at a battered wooden target (He hit it more than once! And the guy who gave the demonstration reminded me of Jean Tannen so much.).

I’m going to try and post a book haul/recently read post soon because I got so many books this month. I bought some for myself, I got some gift certificates for the bookstore for my birthday, I got a couple as gifts…and it’s been a while since I did one of these posts. Let’s just say that my reading slump still hasn’t gone away completely and I’ve been self-medicating with easy-to-read romance, which isn’t exactly healthy for my book budget. *sigh*

How are you doing? How was your May?

What was the best thing that happened to you last month?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

 

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Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Published in October 2015 by St. Martin's Griffin.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: YA fantasy.

My rating:

Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen. That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far, far more monsters.

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This review should really have been written a year and a half ago when I first read Carry On, chewing through the entire book in one day. But I never got around to actually writing down my (very enthusiastic) thoughts, so I put Carry On on my “to be re-read soon” pile and now I finally took the time to do it! My re-read was the result of a pretty big reading slump – I just needed to re-read a favorite and fall in love with books again. There are spoilers in here (because that’s how I roll these days), so you probably shouldn’t be reading this if you haven’t read the book yet. But it’s been a while since its publication, and you’ve been warned. So.

Carry On has received mixed reviews – and I can absolutely see why. It’s a big mess of a book, the setting and topic and everything so reminiscent of Harry Potter, some people couldn’t get past it. I guess it’s possible to read it as a sort of parody. Rowell picked a ridiculous number of fantasy tropes and mashed them all together and yes, the resulting story is overwhelming at times.

But I loved it. I loved it the first time when I barely grasped what I was reading because I was so eager to see what happens and I loved it now that I took my time to savor Rowell’s writing.

I think it’s mostly the characters who make this story great. Rowell’s characters always have this fascinatingly real feel to them (see my reviews of Eleanor & Park and Attachments and Fangirl if you want to read more gushing praise), even if they’re vampires, ha. Something about them just speaks to me and they get under my skin and I can’t help but root for them. It’s good to know that I can trust an author to create likeable characters every time.

Simon Snow and Basilton Pitch are among my favorite YA couples of all time, and that’s saying something. I liked that they were more preoccupied with the fact that they were supposed to be mortal enemies than by being “hopelessly queer”. Coming out stories are important and powerful but I enjoyed reading a book where the fact that they weren’t even both human was more important than their sexual orientation. (Not that there was no mention of it. There were confusion and questions and people judging. But none of that mattered in the end. Because <3.)

I also enjoyed the side characters, Penelope in particular. I want to read her story. I even liked Agatha – the first time I read the book she sort of seemed pale and unimportant, but she’s a really intriguing young woman if you pay attention to her. I’d read her story, too.

And can I say that I wanted to clap when I read the ending? Flipping the Chosen One trope on its head was the best thing ever. I didn’t know what to expect with all this talk about Simon being the Greatest Mage that ever lived and his power being amazing, and then he sort of just fizzled out instead of being a big hero. Well, he did sort of save the day in the end – unintentionally. He didn’t want this burden, he didn’t enjoy his role, and for once, he wasn’t made to accept it and “grow a pair”, but was left to live the rest of his life in peace. I really liked that.

I now have only Landline to read (and a couple of novellas). I have a copy on my shelf, but I’m afraid to read it because it might not be as good as I want it to be and then I’ll have to wait for her next book to be released, which is just horrible. I’ll auto-buy all her books from now on, and I hope you’ll give them a try if you haven’t already.

Have you read Carry On? What did you think?

Who are your auto-buy authors?

I’d love to hear from you! :) 

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A Conjuring of Light by Victoria Schwab

A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by Victoria Schwab
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Links:

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: historical fantasy.

My rating:

I’ve asked my husband to simplify my review form a little. The book cover link still goes to Goodreads and you can figure most of the metadata from there, you’re bookish people after all and don’t need me for this. :)

This review was hard to write. It’s nearly impossible for me to say anything bad about Victoria Schwab’s books because I’m a huge fan, but I just didn’t enjoy A Conjuring of Light like I did her previous work. This post contains serious spoilers for the entire series, so if you haven’t read the books (all of them) yet, I suggest you go and remedy that situation before coming back to chat with me. You’ve been warned. Also, if you’re a die-hard fan of the series and can’t hear anything bad said about it, please stop reading. This review isn’t nasty or snarky, but it isn’t as awed as I hoped it would be, either.

I had some issues with A Gathering of Shadows already, namely that the big magical tournament took over the entire book and didn’t really move the plot along until the last couple of chapters. I also didn’t like the way Lila seemed determined to keep herself distanced from everyone (to her own detriment).

In ACOL, the first problem grew worse (I’ll talk about it in a moment), but Lila was much more approachable. I know many people probably disliked the fact that she and Kell hooked up but I’ve been rooting for them from the beginning and was very happy when they (and by they I mean one Delilah Bard) managed to get their shit sorted out and realized they actually belong together. *happy sigh*

But most of the plot consists of defeating Osaron, aka The Evil Entity of Doom (or EED for short). He/It wants to take over the entire world, possibly two, and everyone needs to unite in order to vanquish him/it. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, but the whole “let’s do this together” thing wasn’t really to my taste.

First of all, EED was such a poor villain. Oh, he was uber powerful and very evil, but also completely black. I like my antagonists a bit grayer – there wasn’t a single moment when I thought “huh, he might win,” because he was one-dimensional and just had to be defeated. So the entire plot of the story wasn’t “will they defeat the EED” but merely “how will they defeat the EED”, which is a bit more predictable. I know, I know, I’m being super harsh… :(

Schwab also decided to redeem Holland. I know he was just a pawn for the Dane twins but he did some really atrocious things and was nasty in the process. So I couldn’t get behind his change – especially not as the justification came in large amounts of backstory that seemed entirely unnecessary. Some readers were probably happy, I know people loved Holland, but I just didn’t.

Then there were the multitudes of POVs. Starting from AGOS, more and more characters got their turn at being heard. This is absolutely a pet peeve (I had the same difficulty with Strange the Dreamer and The Gray Wolf Throne) but head-hopping really bugs me. It takes valuable page time away from my beloved main characters and it never gives enough attention to side characters who remain undeveloped and therefore interchangeable. Here, it felt like the queen, the king, the guard, and the sailor all got their bits of the story so we’d feel bad when Schwab eventually killed them. This sounds way harsh but I just didn’t feel anything when they died!

To be honest, I worried about who she’ll kill by the end of the book. Why is it that we can’t have a HEA for everyone in fantasy books? There are other ways of punching me in the gut without murdering characters. (Okay, this mini rant is closely connected to my feelings about Crooked Kingdom, but we’ll discuss that at some other time.) I’m really glad Schwab didn’t murder any of the main characters – I really feared for Rhy and Alucard for a while, but I think she must have known she’d start a riot if she killed them off. :)

I did like the book, mostly. As I said, I loved Kell and Lila’s dynamic, I enjoyed Rhy’s development so much, I liked how Alucard made amends. They were a good crew and the series as a whole is still very much a favorite.

But I wish it could have been done without the flashbacks and backstory, which made the story stutter and stumble, especially when they interrupted the main action. (This is also a problem I had with Traitor to the Throne. Fantasy sequels haven’t been kind to me lately.)

Anyway, I enjoyed A Conjuring of Light, it was a fast and ultimately satisfying read, but I wish the execution was more to my taste (HA, I wish ALL the books I read were more to my taste. But weirdly enough, writers don’t write books for me exclusively.). I’ll probably even re-read it at some point, I just need some distance from it first. I usually don’t feel the need to apologize for my unpopular opinions, but here I feel like I’m being a huge asshole. I can safely say I know Schwab can write better books because I read most of her work and loved it. So I’m hoping Our Dark Duet, the next sequel of hers I’m waiting for, will be…better. Stronger.

Have you read A Conjuring of Light? Did you like it as a series ending?

Do you ever feel personally attacked when someone disagrees with you on your favorite books?

I’d love to hear from you! :) 

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Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer
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Links:

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: contemporary romance/mystery.

My rating:

Agnes and the Hitman is the third Jennifer Crusie novel I read (though it’s co-written with Bob Mayer), after I loved Bet Me and enjoyed Charlie All Night. Agnes and the Hitman was the best of three, even if it was completely different.

Agnes is a chef, hot-headed and fed up with being treated like a fool by the men she knows. She’s angry and violent (she’s handy with her cast iron skillet) and in no way your typical romantic heroine. I loved her, she was everything that I wanted in a romance heroine but didn’t know how to express. It’s rare for me to fall so completely for a female character, especially in romance, I always have some complaints about gender issues and whatnot. If I had to make a comparison, Agnes is like an angrier, Southern version of Stephanie Plum (who is one of my all-time favorite fictional people in case you didn’t know).

Shane (no surname), her love interest, is a hitman (the body count of AatH is unusually high for a romance, that’s true). He’s the guy who takes care of things for you, and he’s on a mission. So why he ends up living with Agnes, saving her life, and repairing her house, is a mystery. I was afraid he’d end up being one of those one-dimensional macho-types, and while he was certainly macho (look, it’s not really something I like, either, but stay with me), he was a complex love interest with separate motives and experience, so I really liked him, too.

I mentioned Stephanie Plum – and I think Janet Evanovich’s entire series is a great comparative title for Agnes and the Hitman. The supporting characters are over the top, hilarious, and ridiculous, there’s a flamingo wedding, a secret basement, and a mob war. So be prepared for some seriously high-level twists and turns. It was one of those reads that I couldn’t put down because the plot just pulled me in and refused to let go. I also snort-laughed a lot and debated making my husband read it (I didn’t, in the end, he’s not much of a romance reader).

I’ll be re-reading this one for sure, it’s a fabulous pick-me-up when a fluffy romance just doesn’t cut it and you need something with a bit of a bite.

Have you read Agnes and the Hitman? What did you think?

Do you have any other romance recs with unconventional heroines for me?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Spring TBR

I had some success with seasonal TBR lists before, though I have to admit my winter list was a fail because a) life was crazy, and b) I only put weirdly serious books on it, which immediately put me off reading. Eh.

Anyway, I’m going for a combination of books already owned and new releases this time. I know I’ll be reading my favorite authors’ books as soon as they’re published (lots of romances, duh. Spring is going to be hell on my book budget.), but I want to mix it up a bit. Maybe I can even make some progress on my challenges.

  1. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – I already started reading it, so this is cheating a bit, but it’s my list and I can do what I want. This has been very high on my most-anticipated list of 2017. So far, so good. (read in May, a disappointment.)
  2. Child of the Prophecy by Juliet Marillier – I’ve been reading this one for more than a month. It’s different from the previous two books and I’m not sure why it’s dragging so much.
  3. The Girl With the Make-Believe Husband by Julia Quinn – this will release on May 30 and I can’t wait! Because of Miss Bridgerton, the first book of this series, was one of the few romances I rated with 4.5 stars. (read in May, so good!)
  4. Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab – obviously.
  5. City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong – I saw this one got 5 stars from three reviewers I trust implicitly, so I grabbed the audiobook when I had a new credit to spend. I’ve listened to a couple of chapters and it sounds great! It’s just going slowly because I don’t have a lot of time to listen to audiobooks lately. (read in April/May, loved it, already bought the sequel.)
  6. Pipe Dreams by Sarina Bowen – I can’t wait for this one. I haven’t talked about my love for Bowen’s romances yet, I need to do that soon, but she quickly became an auto-buy author for me. (read in May, binged it in 1 day, ha.)
  7. Stay by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy – yeah, like I said.
  8. I Knew You Were Trouble by Lauren Layne – I know I said I didn’t like Love Story that much but I *just* finished reading Walk of Shame (I binge-read it in a day) and it was gorgeous. Layne is another auto-buy author.
  9. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys – I bought this one when it was a Kindle deal and haven’t had the time to read it yet. But I really want to! I’ve heard nothing but good things about it.
  10. One of Amelie Nothomb’s novels – I have several unread ones and I don’t know which one I want to read first, but I want to read more French books.
  11. Le Secret by Phillippe Grimbert – I’m halfway through this one and really should just finish it, it’s not long at all.

I think that’s enough for now, don’t you? :)

Have you read any of these? Which should I tackle first? 

What’s your most anticipated release for the rest of 2017? 

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Three Romances I Wanted To Love But Didn’t

Sometimes, books just don’t work out for me. It’s not even that these books are bad, because they aren’t. They just each pushed some buttons and I didn’t enjoy them as much as I hoped I would. I decided to do shorter reviews for books that didn’t work for me from now on, since my posting schedule is different and I’d rather spend my time and effort talking at length about books that I actually loved.

Love Story (Love Unexpectedly #3) by Lauren Layne
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Links:

Source: Publisher via NetGalley. Thank you for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: contemporary NA romance.

My rating:

Love Story…Ahh, I wanted to love it so much. I read it at the end of a serious Lauren Layne binge (I discovered her last year and was then lucky enough to read this as an ARC, so I’m super late posting my review, oops), and maybe that’s why I wasn’t entirely impressed by it.

I mostly just couldn’t connect with the characters. Lucy was too “spoiled princess” for my taste, I didn’t really see what her conflict was here, and Reece was an asshole one too many times. I mean, the plot itself (a road trip across the US and a second chance romance) should have been enough for me to completely fall for it because those are some awesome tropes right there. And I did enjoy it, it was a quick read, I just wished to empathize more with Lucy and Reece.

It’s a standalone, even though it’s listed as a part of a series, which is kind of nice in the world of romance. If you’re already a Layne fan, go for it, you might connect better with the main characters. But if not, try another LL book first and fall in love with those (they’re great and she’s one of my favorite contemporary romance authors).

zmaj-desno

Rescued by the Space Pirate (Ruby Robins Sexy Space Odyssey #1) by Nina Croft
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Links: Goodreads.

Source: Publisher via NetGalley. Thank you for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: space opera erotica.

My rating:

(Trigger warning for rape and dubious consent) Uhhh this book. I wanted this book to be campy and ridiculous and maybe sexy. I mean, when you pick up a book with such a title, you don’t expect to find serious literature of Nobel-prize-winning kind. But I expected some sort of space opera, with kissing. (Somebody find me that, please, I really want it now!)

What I got instead was alien porn with questionable consent and some uncool views on rape. *sad trombone* No but seriously, a hero who takes one look at a woman who was repeatedly gang-raped by weird tentacly aliens and says “she’ll get over it, people can adapt to anything” is not a hero I want to read about. Our heroine also gets bullied (aka fired from her job) into accepting the position of a spy which gets her into a situation where she gets touched by an alien against her will (she gets an orgasm out of it but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s non-consensual), so I wasn’t too impressed.

Look, I kind of wanted to continue reading the series because a three-way with a hot blue-skinned alien and a man who’s half-droid sounds like great fun (in writing, lol) but there were just too many issues for me to ignore. Now please, give me your space romance recs (aliens and tentacles are…fine, just as long as everyone’s there of their own free will).

zmaj-levo

Royally Screwed (Royally #1) by Emma Chase
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Links:

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: contemporary romance.

My rating:

Whyyyyy are allllll the heroes such assholesssss? Don’t get me wrong, I like a good bad boy now and then, but not if he’s a straight-up jackass. I’ve seen a lot of positive reviews for Emma Chase’s Royally series, and this was a fast read (what contemporary romance isn’t?), but I didn’t get the appeal of Prince Charming, so the whole thing fell short for me.

He behaved atrociously towards Olivia, insulted her and treated her like crap, AND YET she went with him and they somehow fell in love. Being fantastic in bed doesn’t make a hero a good person, and at the end of the day, I want my romance heroes to be good guys the heroine can trust to stand beside her no matter what. Prince Nicholas just didn’t deliver on that. Meh.

zmaj-desno

Give me all your romance recs, especially the sci-fi kind if you have any. 

Any new contemporary romance authors I should try? I’ve been on a real contemporary kick lately.

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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