Author Archives: Kaja

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).

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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).

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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.

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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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The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert
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Links:

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: contemporary romance.

My rating:

Ohh, this is another one of those books. It has a great premise, some fantastic elements, I loved the heroine so much, and it made me hungry because the food descriptions are marvelous, but the whole just didn’t do it for me. This will contain spoilers because I want to talk about it some more, so if you want to read it, please stop reading now. You’ve been warned.

Lou is a small restaurant owner who gets a horrible review after she has a really bad day in life/her kitchen. The person responsible for the bad review – Al – is a nasty food critic who enjoys skewering restaurants and chefs, and takes perverse pleasure in seeing the effect of his words.

Now, Lou is fantastic. She’s warm and hardworking and trusting and a great friend. She’s also a fantastic chef, and I enjoyed her parts of the story so much. But Al…He was just such an asshole. He vents his own frustrations on unsuspecting people, and when he finds out he’s the reason for Lou’s misfortune, he hides behind his pseudonym like the coward that he is. When he didn’t come clean to Lou, I lost all interest in the story. The moment when he stated calculating how he could save his stupid ass and still stay with the woman whose life he ruined, I just sort of skim-read his parts because he annoyed me so much.

And the fact that she forgave him? Nope, sorry. He was so self-assured, so convinced that he was doing the world a favor by being nasty, I couldn’t empathize with him at all. Which is a pity, because I loved so many other things about this story.

The setting, the details of Lou’s life in the restaurant, Lou’s relationships with virtually everyone else…were great, really well-done. This reads more like chick-lit than romance, that’s worth mentioning. The story also dragged a little – I read it on my Kindle, so I don’t have a good sense of how long it was, but it definitely could have been shorter. So yeah. I might look up Reichert’s other books (are there any?) because I liked so much about this one, but I can’t whole-heartedly recommend The Coincidence of Coconut Cake because of the issues I mentioned.

Have you read The Coincidence? What did you think?

Would you forgive the person who ruined your life and lied about it?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Life Lately and Some Birthdays

Hi, I’m back. I mean, I’m still here. Leaving the blogosphere for a couple of months really makes you realize that life goes on even if you’re not chatting away in your little corner of the internet.

But now I’m here, I have some posts scheduled to appear in the next weeks, and I hope some of you are still here and reading this.

So, where have I been all this time? After January and February, which were the roughest months of the year because we were sick all the time (I think we had about 2 days in those 2 months where the four of us were healthy all at once, it was exhausting), I had to spend some time catching up with life. Everything from dirty laundry to my blog comments piled up and I just had to press pause on something, and it wasn’t going to be the laundry because we need fresh clothes, so the blog had to go for a while.

I’m sorry I didn’t say anything, I just saw all the wonderful comments you kept leaving on my last posts trickling into my inbox and felt so guilty because I wasn’t answering them, it was almost a relief to have them finally stop. Almost. And then I felt like shit for feeling this way because here I am, writing stuff, and here you are, reading it, and I’m just so grateful that you’re here. <3

But I missed you, people! I still read books and I missed talking to you about them, missed fangirling and ranting and being generally bookish, so here I am.

In baby news: We have two teeth! They’re sharp and cute. He has learned to crawl, first soldier-style (pulling himself forward while lying on his belly) and now on his hands and knees. He’s starting to pull himself up next to the couch and so on, which is quite early (he’s 7.5 months old), so he falls over a lot. He’s such a cool baby, he’s communicating more and more, eats solid food three times a day, and is this whole little person. It’s amazing to see how different he is from his brother.

In kiddo news: Dinosaurs are still a thing. He now knows various different species and loves nothing more than paging through the different dinosaur encyclopedias we borrow at the library. He’s also using complex sentences and has a cool sense of humor. Tantrums are still happening but they’re manageable. He loves being outside and his default mode is now running, so I’m getting lots of cardio.

In personal news: I finished writing that romance thingy. It’s as finished as it can be without the help of an actual editor, so I’m about to start querying agents. It’s probably still a long way from being ready for publication, so you can’t expect a romance of a bestselling kind, but I think it’s…kinda good. Anyway, my stomach is doing a painful clenching thing as I’m writing this, I’m not used to talking about this so openly and I’m really trying to be better about owning the fact that I write.

I’m still baking bread (which you’ve probably noticed if you’re following me on Instagram), I’ve reached a point where we very rarely buy bread at the store anymore. There’s just something so relaxing and satisfying about bread baking. I’m making my own sourdough now and experimenting with different kinds of flour.

I’m also turning thirty in about a week (on the 24th). So that’s pretty huge, right? I’m not super stressed about it, but it is one of those big birthdays, so I’m celebrating with a little giveaway. My blog is turning three in early May (on the 8th), so this is a dual celebration. I’m ten times older than my blog, haha! The giveaway is meant for you, for my followers, so there’s no “share” option, but new followers are certainly welcome. I’m mainly just so very happy you’re still here, willing to chat with me.

TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY, you first have to comment on this blog post and tell me one random fact about yourself. Here, I’ll start: I have so many notebooks I’ll never be able to fill them all. I just love stationery. / My favorite animal is a giraffe. / I hate the smell of pineapple and raspberries. / I put sea salt on my jam & butter sandwiches.

The giveaway is for one book from the list of my favorites (4+ stars rating) in the value of up to 15€. Open internationally if The Book Depository ships to you. I’ll be checking all entries, no giveaway accounts allowed. After the winner is announced on May 5, the winner will have 48 hours to respond before a new one is chosen instead. You know the drill.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now it’s your turn!

Having Kids in the 21st Century

Hello and welcome! It’s time for another discussion, we haven’t had any of these in a while, so I really need to get moving if I want to complete my Discussion Challenge (I’m participating again and if you want some really great discussions, head on over and click around a bit).

I normally only discuss bookish things around here – and while this discussion will touch on books, it’s of a more personal nature. Not that books aren’t personal to me, it’s just that my kids are more personal if you get me. If you’re new here, I have two kids, aged 2.5 years and 6 months (they share a birthday).

I was scrolling through the absolutely beautiful photos in this post the other day when it struck me how spoiled (or maybe just protected?) my kid was. It’s a sobering moment for any parent to realize their child isn’t the perfect little angel they thought s/he was, but I’m trying to go a bit deeper here.

Now, Kiddo is a great little person. He’s compassionate, kind, and very smart, and his temper tantrums can be chalked up to the fact that he’s 2.5 years old and it’s normal for kids that age to have temper tantrums.

But as I was looking through the photos of this Pakistani mining community, something jumped out at me. Now, I don’t know whether the kids in these photos are happy or not (I’m going to assume they are because my hormones are currently preventing me from imagining anything bad happening to kids), but they’re clearly not enjoying the same benefits of being middle-class citizens as my kid.

My kid, however, dissolved into tears last week because he wanted the orange jam on his toast, not the red one. We have daily battles on which t-shirt he’ll wear to kindergarten (because the stripy one from H&M is clearly inferior, Mom) and last night, he cried for a full five minutes because I wouldn’t let him eat double his usual dinner because I was afraid his tummy would hurt during the night.

What I’m getting at here is this: my kid’s troubles are superficial (aka First World Problems) because he’s never experienced what it’s like to really not have something. And thank whatever power there is out there for that. I’m grateful for our life every day.

But now I’m wondering how to instill some sense of worth in the (material and emotional) goods he has access to on a daily basis. How do you explain to a very young child that he should value his clean, dry, warm clothes because there are kids who don’t have the same privilege? How do I make him understand that turning up his nose at a perfectly good dinner is bad? How do I tell him that while my cuddles, love, and support are unconditional, not all children grow up in such an environment? And most of all (and this is the over-protective mother speaking), how do I do this while still protecting him?

Bookish person that I am, my first thought was to turn to books. I’m in search of picture books that feature diversity of this specific kind (we’ll tackle race and gender issues another day) without being over-the-top didactic. I know our local libraries and the Slovenian section of IBBY are preparing a list of children’s books that deal with the topic of immigrants, so I’ll definitely be making use of those, but I’d love more general suggestions.

I know that not many of my followers have children but in this day and age, social sensitivity is something we should all work towards, and where better to start than with our kids, right?

What’s your take on this? Do you have kids? How do you face similar problems?

Do you have any bookish recs for me?

I’l love to hear from you! :)

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Shifty Characters

It’s time for some discussing and some list making (because have you met me? I always make lists). I’m participating in the 2017 edition of the fabulous Discussion Challenge, which is a fantastic place to find more bookish discussions. The participants always have something interesting to say!

Today, I thought I’d say a word or two about my love for shifty characters: thieves, assassins, pirates, and so on.

It’s weird that I enjoy reading about these people so much when in real life, my worst “crime” was getting fined for jaywalking in high school (seriously, I’ve never even gotten a parking ticket, I’m distressingly honest and law-abiding. Okay, so there might have been some underage drinking and pot smoking but I’m a responsible adult now. *cough*). I can’t even say that I know any criminals – at any rate, I would do my best to avoid real-life hustlers and con (wo)men, let alone assassins, because they prey on innocent people and kill and engage in really bad behavior.

So why is it that I am so drawn to any book that has a morally questionable protagonist? I’m not even talking about villains here. It’s the main characters with shifty lifestyles that I love. The redeemable bad guys.

Probably it’s because I hate characters who are too good and pure to be true. I mean, I consider myself to be a fairly honest, good person, but I still get jealous, petty, and downright nasty (only when I’m hungry, though, promise).

So let’s consider the loveable bad guys and get some recommendations! Note that some of them fall into multiple categories (I mean, as if stealing wasn’t enough. Let’s add murder to the mix, right?).

Have you read any of these? Did you like the shifty characters?

What do you think makes them so great?

And do you have any recommendations for me?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Published in January 2017 by Del Rey.

Links: Goodreads. Amazon.

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

Genre: historical fantasy.

My rating:

‘Frost-demons have no interest in mortal girls wed to mortal men. In the stories, they only come for the wild maiden.’

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…

It’s been three weeks since my last post and I kind of wanted to do the whole Adele routine by giving you all sorts of reasons for my absence, but I’ll do that in the February recap post. Today, I just want to talk to you about The Bear and the Nightingale.

The Bear and the Nightingale is Arden’s debut and it’s a rich, powerful story. It’s heavily based on Russian folklore and I liked it a lot. To be honest, the only two things that bothered me were the relatively slow beginning (it takes the story a while to get going, but once it does, it really pulls you in) and the fact that it is not a standalone, which is what I thought it was when I started reading it.

Now, I’ve been known to start series left and right and I have about 40 going right at this moment (it’s a problem, I’m working on it), but Goodreads didn’t list it as a series when I started it and it wasn’t until after I’d finished it and was completely satisfied with the ending that I learned Arden was writing books 2 and 3. And while I loved the setting and would love to read more stories in that same world, I’m not sure how Vasya’s story will continue. Anyway, I’ll let the author surprise me.

But let’s talk about the good stuff instead. As I said, the worldbuilding was great. I’m always up for a fantasy story with a non-Western setting and Russian folklore is somewhat familiar to me (not in the sense that Slovenian folklore is similar but I’ve read a lot of Russian folk and fairy tales and I loved them), so I had a fun time recognizing the creatures and features of the world.

Arden’s writing is also rich and powerful, she paints the scenery with great attention to detail but I didn’t feel it bogged down the narrative, which was great. She’s a master at writing atmosphere, I think The Bear and the Nightingale should really be read in wintertime. It’s the perfect book for when it’s cold outside and you’re somewhere warm.

I liked Vasya, the girl protagonist, a lot. She’s a wild child with one foot firmly in the fairy world, misunderstood by her relatives and restricted by tradition. While she’s a young child, this wild streak is tolerable, but as she becomes a young woman, the society starts boxing her in. Her character development was great and it’s one of the reasons I’ll be continuing with the series – I’m curious to know more about the adult Vasya. I’m hoping she’ll be more proactive about her fate – it was hard for her to do anything drastic while she was a very young child but I sometimes felt she was a pawn on the chessboard of other, bigger forces, pushed around as they saw fit.

But Arden really writes great villains. Her antagonists (and yes, there’s more than one) are well-rounded personalities with motives that are never purely black, so it’s hard to hate them, even when they are absolutely loathsome. I’m not going to go into details and names here because it’s sort of spoilery, but let’s say I enjoyed them very much.

All in all, The Bear and the Nightingale was a very good historical fantasy, so if that’s your cup of tea, go for it. I’m hoping the sequel(s) will do it justice and I’m looking forward to exploring the world some more.

Have you read The Bear and the Nightingale? What did you think?

What’s your favourite historical fantasy?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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