16 Tasks of the festive season: Kwanzaa

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Tasks for Kwanzaa: Create a stack of books in the Kwanzaa color scheme using red, black and green and post your creation and post a photo (or post a photo of a shelfie where black, red and green predominate).

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Did you know that German publishers seem to like a red-blue-green colour scheme fo YA-trilogies? I didn’t. But the Tintentod, Mara und das Todesmal and Saphierblau all have blue covers. (The third Temeraire book is black so I guess I could have put that on the picture as well, but I noticed it too late because it’s still on my tbr-pile).


Part of 16 Tasks of the Festive Season

Ash and Silver (Sanctuary #2)

25176096Title: Ash and Silver
Author: Carol Berg
Series: Sanctuary #2

Ever since the Order of the EquitesCineré stole his memory, his name, and his heart, thinking about the past makes Greenshank’s head ache. After two years of rigorous training, he is almost ready to embrace the mission of the Order—to use selfless magic to heal the troubles of Navronne. But on his first assignment alone, the past comes racing back, threatening to drown him in conspiracy, grief, and murder.

He is Lucian de Remeni—a sorcerer whose magical bents for portraiture and history threaten the safety of the earth and the future of the war-riven kingdom of Navronne. He just can’t remember how or why.

Fighting to unravel the mysteries of his power, Lucian must trace threads of corruption that reach from the Pureblood Registry into the Order itself, the truth hidden two centuries in the past and beyond the boundaries of the world…

RatingC-

I stand by my opinion that people who are not me might enjoy the Sanctuary Duet a lot. Unfortunately, I am me and I still don’t enjoy conspiracy thrillers. And while Dust and Light had at least a very entertaining murder mystery B-plot, Ash and Silver is all about the conspiracy. Well, and Lucian’s lost memories. I like the amnesia trope about as much as conspiracy plots. Still, like for the first book, I have to say that I might dislike the trope in general but it’s still well written. The complete confusion before Lucian’s memories come partly back isn’t drawn out too much and there are enough other things to keep him (and the reader) busy. Very busy in fact. And that’s where I’m again back to a complaint I already had about the first book: there is only so much of a character being constantly on the run and almost getting killed or seriously injured I can take before I refuse to believe that a single person could get through this. At some point, I just crossed the line where I felt for Lucian because yet another thing went wrong and just rolled my eyes and thought ‘seriously?’

Besides, one of the things I always enjoy about Carol Berg novels are the friendships. Her characters might start off as lone wolves but over the course of the story, they meet somebody with whom they form a strong bond. And all of these friendships feel so well-developed and go far beyond what you usually find in fantasy novels. In Dust and Light Lucian had Bastien but while he still appears in the second book his screen-time is much shorter. And, with the conspiracy plot getting turned up to 11, there really isn’t anybody else he can form such a friendship with. He can trust nobody and everybody at least quadruple-crosses him because that’s what happens in conspiracy thrillers…

Last but not least: I wasn’t a fan of the ending. I am used to endings that don’t rule out another book completely from Berg’s other novels. But this one felt a lot like a very strange sequel hook.


Review of book 1

An Unseen Attraction (Sins of the Cities #1)

30517107Title: An Unseen Attraction
Author: KJ Charles
Series: Sins of the Cities #1

Lodging-house keeper Clem Talleyfer prefers a quiet life. He’s happy with his hobbies, his work—and especially with his lodger Rowley Green, who becomes a friend over their long fireside evenings together. If only neat, precise, irresistible Mr. Green were interested in more than friendship…

Rowley just wants to be left alone—at least until he meets Clem, with his odd, charming ways and his glorious eyes. Two quiet men, lodging in the same house, coming to an understanding… it could be perfect. Then the brutally murdered corpse of another lodger is dumped on their doorstep and their peaceful life is shattered.

Now Clem and Rowley find themselves caught up in a mystery, threatened on all sides by violent men, with a deadly London fog closing in on them. If they’re to see their way through, the pair must learn to share their secrets—and their hearts.

RatingC+

Greater Love hath no man than he share the last ginger biscuit.

After The Magpie Lord and The Spectred Isle this is my first non-fantasy novel by KJ Charles and it’s…well different. Beyond the obvious lack of malicious spirits trying to kill the main characters. (Although…it depends on your definition of malicious spirit I guess). Both books felt like fantasy novels with strong romance elements to me. I’m not trying to slag off romance novels (and I gushed over the relationship in The Spectred Isle a lot). I’m just saying that the main plot was about the characters trying to defeat an evil supernatural being. They happened to fall in love along the way but the main threat wasn’t their relationship not working out but getting killed by aforementioned supernatural evil.

An Unseen Atraction is more a romance with a murder mystery in the background…and it occasionally tries to be a murder mystery with a strong romance plot and the end result left me somewhat unsatisfied. There was more focus on the building relationship and the troubles they face along the way than in the average ‘sleuth falls in love with a witness during the investigation’-mystery. Clem and Rowley argue. They have things they don’t want to share with each other. There are misunderstandings and their different backgrounds sometimes cause tension. All of these conflicts are well-written, realistic and not just arguments for the sake of filling pages. But the resolution sometimes falls short when suddenly the mystery pushes the romance in the back seat again.

And then the mystery plot goes beyond ‘romance where the heroes conveniently fall over some clues’ but also is never a ‘proper’ mystery because the actual sleuthing that they do is rather limited. So despite loving historical romances and historical mysteries, the book couldn’t quite win me over. I still enjoyed it and am curious enough to give the second book a try (even if there hadn’t been the sequel hook at the end) because even this romance that I wish had been more time to develop is more convincing than many of the ‘they meet, they find each other hot, they fuck, there is a ridiculous misunderstanding, it is resolved, happy end’-variety. *glances at some past reading choices*. (But yes, there’s also the sequel hook. Damn you *hmpf*)


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This is also part of the 16 Tasks of the Festive Season challenge:

Winter Solstice/Yaldā Night: Read a book where the cover is a night-time scene.

16 Tasks of the Festive Season (Square 6: Sinterklaas / St. Martin’s Day / Krampusnacht)

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Book themes for Sinterklaas / St. Martin’s Day / Krampusnacht: A Story involving children or a young adult book.

For this task I listened to Tommy Krappweis’ Ghostsitter audio play:

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14-year-old Tom has inherited a haunted ride. A real one. There’s a zombie (who loves his plush rabbit), a werewolf (who’s grumpy but never bites anyone), a mummy (who is very polite), a ghost (who loves computer games but can only watch the let’s play videos because…well she’s a ghost) and a vampire (who occasionally laments that it’s not the 19th century anymore but is otherwise also really nice).

Together they fight crime…well or the supernatural that is less benevolent than the creatures of the haunted ride and it’s hilarious. The phrase ‘a story that children and adults can enjoy’ gets thrown around a lot but here I genuinely didn’t care that I’m over 20 years older than the target audience.

Part of the 16 Tasks of the Festive Season

I had to see this and now so do you

Today I got lost in the hilarity and horror that is the Amazon freebie section that is full of…fascinating covers and summaries. And since I don’t want to suffer alone…

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Might Drake be…a dragon? Nah. That would be silly. (Get the book if you are so inclined)


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That cover in combination with the title makes me expect just the best from this book…


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How do you think the cover of a Gay Monster Harem book looks?

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Was that what you expected? Did you even want to know?


Do you like fiction? Do you like books set in the past? I have a book with a perfect setting for you:

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The random capitalization is not the worst about this book. (Don’t believe me?)


Do you hate finishing a book and then wondering what the moral of the story was? Seafarer takes care of this for you:

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Are you tired of fantasy where the fate of the kingdom is at stake? Shield has you covered:

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Reading about the kingdom’s fait is something new and refreshing. And talking about refreshing:

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When does ever something expected happen in books? Having something expected happen is so…unexpected.


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Oh yes, please! I want to learn froma master! (You can do so, too)


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I miss the times when atrocious crimes against punctuation were reserved for fanfiction sites. I also don’t dare to ask if ‘necromongers’ is an in-universe word. Are you braver?


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So…living 5000 years isn’t immortality? Also, Mountain of the Down is the least impressive name for a fantasy mountain where a prophecy says epic shit will happen. (book…sorry screenplay)


This might have a second part if I ever get sucked into the abyss again. Meanwhile…

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Hamilton’s Battalion: A Trio of Romances

36242916 Title: Hamilton’s Battalion: A Trio of Romances
Authors: Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Alyssa Cole

Love in the time of Hamilton…

On October 14, 1781, Alexander Hamilton led a daring assault on Yorktown’s defenses and won a decisive victory in America’s fight for independence. Decades later, when Eliza Hamilton collected his soldiers’ stories, she discovered that while the war was won at Yorktown, the battle for love took place on many fronts…

Let me begin with a confession: I have in total listened to perhaps 2 Minutes of the Hamilton Musical. When all my friends on Tumblr started gushing about it I looked it up, started listening to the first song, went ‘OK that is hip-hop, I’ll skip that song and listen to the second…which is also hip-hop…so that is a hip-hop musical? Thanks but no thanks.’ Because that is not my genre at all. And then I just tried to ignore it. Only that was impossible because it was suddenly everywhere. On every social media site, I frequented people kept yelling Hamilton lyrics, made fanart, combined the lyrics with other fandoms. Even blacklisting and muting did only so much. I just could not escape.

Don’t get me wrong: I have absolutely no problem with people enjoying things I dislike, but if you get bombarded with something you absolutely don’t care about you can get…let’s say very annoyed. Eventually, the hype died down and I found other things to get annoyed at. I still had no intention of reading this book. Also because I assumed it would require historical knowledge about Hamilton beyond ‘He gets shot, doesn’t he?’

But then the gushing on social media started. Not quite as inescapable as for the musical but still very loud. And there was talk of a cross-dressing Jewish heroine and a mixed-race gay couple which both piqued my interest. So I asked one of the gushers if people who ran away screaming from the musical would still understand the stories (I did not phrase it quite like this) and was told that no deep historical knowledge was required.

So here I am.

Bloody Hamilton.


Rose Lerner: Promised Land

Donning men’s clothing, Rachel left her life behind to fight the British as Corporal Ezra Jacobs–but life catches up with a vengeance when she arrests an old love as a Loyalist spy.

At first, she thinks Nathan Mendelson hasn’t changed one bit: he’s annoying, he talks too much, he sticks his handsome nose where it doesn’t belong, and he’s self-righteously indignant just because Rachel might have faked her own death a little. She’ll be lucky if he doesn’t spill her secret to the entire Continental Army.

Then Nathan shares a secret of his own, one that changes everything…

RatingB

Is there any way a story like this could not have been awesome? Jewish heroine dresses up as a man to fight in a war and stumbles over her husband whom she left years ago and now they get a second chance at romance. That is everything I never knew I wanted.

I think I might enjoy stories about couples who separated and find each other again even more than stories about couples falling in love for the first time. Especially if they are so well-written as this one. There is no idiotic misunderstanding that drove them apart the first time. It is clear that they did not fit together back then. There were genuine feelings but they also didn’t understand the other person well enough to really spend their whole life together. By the time they meet again they have grown out of this. They realize why things that weren’t a big deal for them were very important for the other one. And while I see Nathan as being the one who is more to blame for the relationship ending badly I wouldn’t describe him as a jerk who suddenly finds redemption. He was never deliberately hurtful, he only talked without thinking and never considered that others might feel differently than himself.

What did bother me was that there was no resolution for the storyline with Nathan’s mother. She was seriously sabotaging their relationship the first time around because she considered Rachel an unfitting match for her son and it is clear that she will have even more reasons to disapprove of her once they get back together. Yet, there is only a vague promise that they will deal with her and then no further mention. Considering how big a deal they made about her interference that is very unsatisfying.

Oh and yes. There was also a battle. I admit I was mostly confused because my knowledge of that period of history boils down to ‘the war of independence happened and then America was independent’ and I wager that the target demographic of that book, drawn in by the Hamilton in the title knows a bit more about that period than I do. It is not vital that you know every little detail about the battle of Yorktown but more than nothing is definitely helpful.


Courtney Milan: The Pursuit of…

What do a Black American soldier, invalided out at Yorktown, and a British officer who deserted his post have in common? Quite a bit, actually.

* They attempted to kill each other the first time they met.
* They’re liable to try again at some point in the five-hundred-mile journey that they’re inexplicably sharing.
* They are not falling in love with each other.
* They are not falling in love with each other.
* They are… Oh, no.

RatingA

This story was simply lovely and laugh-out-loud hilarious and still, the serious parts did not feel out of place. While the main story is about two guys on a road trip from hell (walk from hell?) during which they try not to strangle each other. (Though I would say Henry was in bigger danger of being strangled) it is also a story about a privileged white guy and a black ex-slave. And while Henry did have his share of tragedy in his past, he never really considered the things John had to go through. And John tells him that without any sugarcoating.


Alyssa Cole: That Could Be Enough

Mercy Alston knows the best thing to do with pesky feelings like “love” and “hope”: avoid them at all cost. Serving as a maid to Eliza Hamilton, and an assistant in the woman’s stubborn desire to preserve her late husband’s legacy, has driven that point home for Mercy—as have her own previous heartbreaks.

When Andromeda Stiel shows up at Hamilton Grange for an interview in her grandfather’s stead, Mercy’s resolution to live a quiet, pain-free life is tested by the beautiful, flirtatious, and entirely overwhelming dressmaker.

Andromeda has staid Mercy reconsidering her worldview, but neither is prepared for love—or for what happens when it’s not enough.

Rating: D

The final novella was sadly disappointing. I already considered not finishing it because I hated pretty much everything about the beginning. First, there’s Mercy whose inner monologue is so world-weary and full of repeated ‘love is a scam’ assurances that I wanted to tell her that the gloomy noir fiction PIs are in a different aisle. Then Andromeda appears and her beauty gets described in three pages of purple prose. She then starts ‘flirting’ with Mercy and by that she means ignoring her boundaries, making her uncomfortable and finding it extremely amusing. Oh and she takes advantage of the fact that Mercy’s boss has ordered her to stay with Andromeda to drag her to places she doesn’t want to go. How charming.

Towards the middle, I got my hopes up a bit because Andromeda seemed to realize that Mercy needs some breathing space but instead of developing that point further we get some utterly ridiculous obstacles and in the end, Mercy has to learn that all was her fault and apologize. Because people who have been hurt badly totally still have to expect the best of everybody. Always.


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This book also is part of my 16 Tasks of the Festive Season challenge:

International Human Rights Day: Read any story revolving around the rights of others either being defended or abused. 

In Promised Land Rachel joins the army because she hopes that having openly Jewish soldiers in the army will lead to Jewish people being treated better in the independent United States than they are in Britain (or any country at the time). A main point in In Pursuit Of… is that the nice words in the Declaration of Independence aren’t really about every man. And while it isn’t the main theme of This Could Be Enough Andromeda does get told that the owner of a property is reluctant to sell it to her because she is unmarried and black.

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 1 (Día de Muertos/All Saint’s Day)

Tasks for Día de Muertos and All Saint’s Day: Create a short poem or an epitaph for your most hated book ever.

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I have hated many books but if I have to pick one there’s really only one choice:

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How can it be
That nobody in this book
Has any sense?
How can it happen
That they are all idiots?
How have they not died
From stupidity?

 

 

 

 

 

It really was that bad.

Obligatory pingback to my masterpost