Author Archives: Kaja

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.

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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!