Tag Archives: Grade F

My Epic Quest for Adult High Fantasy Romances – aka what I read in the second half of 2017

Hi friends! I’ve been talking about books for quite some time, and it’s been really easy for those conversations to get lost in the mix, but especially these days. Nevertheless, here at ALBTALBS we’ve taken to posting comprehensive lists of the books we’ve read annually … and here’s mine for the ~second half of 2017. It was also heavily focused on high fantasy fiction, because frankly, this is my sentiment: the world is a garbage fire and fuck all that shit. >.>

High fantasy is in general and here “as defined by me” [only not really] – that it has nothing to do with the real world. (Some people say high fantasy requires a “noble quest” … which most of these stories do as well. … All?) ANYWAY. None of this “the hero and/or heroine start out in Chicago and travel to another world.”

Of course I did read some other sub-genres too … but the majority of what I read and what I was looking for was high fantasy ADULT romances. And let me tell you, there aren’t that many. Authors – if any if you are reading this, PLEASE CONSIDER WRITING THIS/TELLING YOUR FRIENDS. Readers are DESPERATE for these books and voracious. There are many more ~YA [older teens/considered ~adults in their world] stories … so I branched out in to that, but I’d love to see adult adult ones. (No, not [just] sex 😛 – but with mature, grown characters.) Continue reading

Review: Wake by Amanda Hocking

CJ’s Review

Wake by Amanda Hocking
Young adult fiction released by St. Martin’s Griffin on August 7, 2012

Gorgeous. Fearless. Dangerous. They’re the kind of girls you envy; the kind of girls you want to hate. Strangers in town for the summer, Penn, Lexi and Thea have caught everyone’s attention—but it’s Gemma who’s attracted theirs. She’s the one they’ve chosen to be part of their group.

Gemma seems to have it all—she’s carefree, pretty, and falling in love with Alex, the boy next door. He’s always been just a friend, but this summer they’ve taken their relationship to the next level, and now there’s no going back. Then one night, Gemma’s ordinary life changes forever. She’s taking a late night swim under the stars when she finds Penn, Lexi and Thea partying on the cove. They invite her to join them, and the next morning she wakes up on the beach feeling groggy and sick, knowing something is different.

Suddenly Gemma is stronger, faster, and more beautiful than ever. But her new powers come with a terrifying price. And as she uncovers the truth, she’s is forced to choose between staying with those she loves—or entering a new world brimming with dark hungers and unimaginable secrets.

I guess what initially attracted me to this book was the story behind it. You know–the one about self-publishing’s darling and the huge commercial deal. I wanted to know whether Hocking had written something genuinely worth publishing, or if St. Martin’s Press had simply seen a sure profit in her previous success. I wasn’t overly excited to read Wake. It had an interesting premise and I tried to approach it with an open mind but I just couldn’t stave off the sense of trepidation as I started reading.

Gemma, like every other person in this book, is a cookie-cutter-character. She’s a Mary-Sue to the nth degree—beautiful, athletic, and perfect. Oh, sure, she’s got a rebellious streak—she enjoys going swimming at night—but there is no depth to her character and I couldn’t make myself like her.

Harper, Gemma’s older sister and the other main character, doesn’t even warrant a mention in the blurb. She’s a walking cliché—the over-protective older sister trying to take the place of an absent mother—not to mention a complete and utter pain in the arse. Harper actually made me care about her, but in a ‘what the hell are you doing?!’ sort of way. From the moment I met her, I detested her desire to control Gemma’s life and her attitude towards Daniel. She could have such a bright future. The scholarship she worked so hard for guaranteed her a place at any college she wanted, but she chose a local school just because she doesn’t trust that Gemma and their father can look after themselves. When executed properly this trope makes the character in question appear multi-faceted but Harper just seemed controlling.

The romance in this book was almost depressing. Alex, the boy next door, is sweet and nice, but his initial description painted him in such a way that he was so far out of the realm of love interest he could have been Gemma’s brother. Daniel, on the other hand, was obviously a romantic interest even though Harper was so intent on being rude and haughty when he was around. It made me question what he saw in her and made me feel sorry for him.

It’s hard to believe just how much this book dragged on. Wake is marketed as a tale of sirens and fantasy but, for the most part, it’s simply about family relationships, which isn’t what I signed up for. The catalyst for the events in the cover copy doesn’t even occur until the book is half-finished leaving the first fifty percent a hard slog to get through. If I didn’t have a thing about finishing what I start, I would have given up a quarter of the way in when I was still wondering when the real story would start.

My biggest gripe with Wake was the voice. I don’t read to be told a story, I read to escape. The best books drag you under the surface and wrap you in sensory details without actually shoving them down your throat. From the very beginning I choked on the back-story flooding the prose and, if that wasn’t doing the trick, the unbelievable dialogue kept me from enjoying the tale at all.

I feel like I’m grasping at straws to try and find something good to say about this book. I made it to the end, but it was a struggle. I couldn’t picture the world and none of the characters made a lasting impression on me other than dislike. In fact, the more I force myself to try to think of something good I find myself detesting it even more. The only thing that endeared this book to me was the fact the sirens weren’t that of the Disney variety.

I can’t bring myself to recommend it. It just annoyed me too much.

Grade: F

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.

Review: Love and Splendor

Erin’s Review

Love and Splendor by Patricia Hagan
(Retro) Historical romance published by Samhain Publishing on April 17, 2012

This book caught my interest due to the Faberge plot line. There is not much historical romance based in Russia or around the Romanovs, but it is a time period that I really enjoy reading about. I didn’t realize when picking up the book that it is one of a series, but that did become readily apparent upon reading.

Dani Coltrane is a spoiled nineteen year old reconnecting with her father and stepmother after her tumultuous past. She is suspicious of anyone trying to manipulate her and wants to exert total independence. The problem being she does not understand what independence actually means and she is constantly making selfish decisions in the name of independence. In fact she’s not far off what I imagine many 18-22 year old girls today can act like.

Drake is a Russian playboy, for lack of a better description. He has spent the last ten years or so in exile from Mother Russia and searching for the key to restoring his family honor (by finding the Faberge Egg). He is a womanizer and his moral code is pretty loose believing that behavior is justified so long as the intentions are good. He’s a snake that you want to like because you think he can change and grow up, but deep down you know it’s not true.

The best way to describe this book is Dynasty meets Jerry Springer. The author spends inordinate amounts of time describing how elegant, cultured, and sophisticated this family and their associates are only to have them open their mouths and act completely opposite. Dani can be shrew, demanding, and bratty. You expect Drake to be extremely refined, and at times he is. While other times he’s a complete ass. Both of them are oblivious to how their actions are seen or the havoc they cause, or they are just to rich to care. While atypically,you do not meet the hero until about 15-20% through the book, which was okay given how she presented the start of the story. But from there until about 75% through the book was horrible, three ring circus mess that seemed to go on forever.

There was no need for the Coly/Lily subplot line at all. It added nothing to the story except making me hate all the characters. Dani for being so wishy washy and such a teen. Lily was just horrendous and I absolutely expected a hair pulling cat fight between the two at some point. But even worse, the author perpetrated the myth that men just can’t control themselves, sexually, around any slightly attractive and willing woman. The only fairly explicit sex scene in the book is Drake’s running dialogue of how much he can’t stand Lily, how much he dislikes her and doesn’t want to do this, how he thinks Dani may be the one, all while he’s pounding away at Lily. Of course, this was a repeat of Colt’s inability to control himself around Lily either, but at least he thought he liked her. If your going to have the hero of the novel be unfaithful, at least let it be for a better reason then he had some slight desire, she was there, and well I just can’t stop myself.

The author gets around to pushing the actual plot of the story in the last 25% of the novel. This entire plot is extremely rushed and ends up being an afterthought in the novel. Also, Dani and Drake finally coming together is so shallow. He tells her his family story and she forgives his lying cheating ways. She does so, in spite of him currently lying to both her and Colt. All in all, the entire romance lacked maturity. It held the flavor that rich and beautiful (or handsome) was all that was needed to make a couple happy. This couple lack any depth and are barely tolerable let alone sympathetic or romantic.

Several times I almost gave up on this book. I started skimming at about 55-60% through just because I did want to know what happened to the egg. I half expected that plot to roll over to another book when it still had not been barely mentioned three quarters through the book. The resulting ending was unsatisfying and I wish I hadn’t bothered reading on. It would have saved me from being disgusted with both couples.

Grade: F

You and read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.