The Commander and the Den Asaan Rautu by Michelle Franklin

Title: The Commander and the Den Asaan Rautu
Author: Michelle Franklin
Series: Haanta #1
Publisher: N/A
Release Date: 6/14/2011
Length: 185 pages
Format: PDF
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
Challenges: N/A
Source: Author (thank you!)
Purchase: E-book
Rating: NO RATING

The Kingdom of Frewyn is being invaded by the Galleisian infantry and at the forefront of the battle is Boudicca MacDaede, a First Captain in the Frewyn armed forces. Her regiment is charged with defending the borders between the two nations, but when Frewyn’s last line of defense falls, Captain MacDaede enlists the assistance of a Haanta, one of giants from the islands to the far north. Promising to free him from his imprisonment in exchange for his help, she gains his trust long enough for them to win the battle and save the Frewyn border from being breached. The giant’s freedom is granted, but Rautu cannot return home unless he redeems himself in the eyes of his people for his past transgressions. He is offered a place by the captain’s side, and together, they defeat the Galleisian forces and become the saviors of Frewyn.

One year later, King Alasdair Brennin takes the Frewyn throne, Boudicca is made commander, Gallei and Frewyn reach an accord, and Rautu is granted an invitation home. He is eager to return and see his brothers but finds it difficult to leave Frewyn without Boudicca at his side. He has become accustomed to her company and the idea of being made to live without her begins to distress him. Rautu invites the commander to the islands in hopes of finding a way for them to remain together, but when they arrive at the white shores of Sanhedhran, not everything goes as planned: one of the dangerous Haanta magi is freed, Rautu’s three brothers are strangely missing, and the neighboring nation of Thellis leads an attack on the islands.

Together, the commander and the Den Asaan Rautu must find a way to unite their two nations and defend against the Thellisian fleets, but can they do so successfully when outside forces are attempting to keep them apart?

Let me start out by saying that I didn’t finish this book. I know, I know. It’s really short and I couldn’t manage to finish it? I probably could have, but I just wasn’t as into it as I wanted to be and one of my resolutions for this year is not to waste my time reading books I’m not enjoying. Now, that was just a little heads up before I talk about the book and why I wasn’t enjoying it.

This book is like a weird mix between fantasy and romance. It’s set in this fantasy world and Rautu is this crazy huge warrior giant. All the names of everything in his country looks like the English spellings of sanskrit or something. The story begins by giving some background on the commander (who is barely ever called by name). One day during battle she stumbles upon an imprisioned giant. He was supposed to be executed, but was forgotten about when war broke loose. She strikes a deal with him: she’ll give him freedom if he’ll aid her in the war. He agrees, the war is won, and when he is called home he asks her to come with him. I’d say I made it close to halfway through before I started skimming rather than reading. I was pretty disinterested in the politics of his country.

I also felt like their personalities weren’t fleshed out enough. I mean, I got the gist. She was a strong female lead, but not too serious. She always brought the humor out in everything, and she made a big trend of mocking Rautu’s caveman-like tendencies and the culture he was raised in. While, she did this in a joking manner, it still came off pretty condescending. Rautu was pretty much a caveman. So much so, that it was annoying. I’m okay with big, tough guys, but this was ridiculous. All he ever called her was woman, and heaven forbid he admit his feelings for her. That would be a disgrace to manliness. I think I understood the characters, but I definitely couldn’t connect with them, and that’s probably the root of my issues with the book. I just couldn’t sink into it and get comfortable.

I really don’t mean to tear this apart, but I wasn’t a fan of the writing either. It’s not that Michelle Franklin is a bad writer, it’s that she writes in this sort of summary form. She just tells you that Rautu fought with the commander and they defeated their enemies and he always stayed close to her. While I’m getting the facts of the story, I’m getting absolutely no character connection, and for a book that’s so short, I think details would have been a good thing. I think it would have been much more effective if I had been given time to warm to the characters and get a sense for who they really are.

I don’t want anyone to read this and just think they would hate this book or something. There are a whole bunch of people who loved it. I’ve seen numerous 4 star and 5 star reviews on Goodreads. I spent a few days trying to get into this book, and just couldn’t, but you might feel differently.

If you do decide to give it a try, I suggest it for more mature readers due to some sexual content. Also, if you’re not into fantasy, this wouldn’t be a good choice.

Much Ado About Rogues by Kasey Michaels

Title: Much Ado About Rogues
Author: Kasey Michaels
Series: Blackthorn Brothers #3
Publisher: HQN Books
Release Date: 4/1/2012
Length: 379 pages
Format: Electronic Galley
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Romance
Challenges: 2012 E-book Challenge
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Purchase: Paperback | Kindle | NOOK
Rating: ★★★★★

Who is the darkly handsome Don John “Black Jack” Blackthorn? With his air of mystery and menace, the whispers about him hint of highwayman or government agent or even dark prince. But no one knows what it is Black Jack does… or how dangerous he can truly be. Now Jack’s mentor has disappeared, and Jack must track him down before it’s too late. His unlikely help: the man’s daughter—the very woman Jack had once wooed and betrayed.

Lady Tess Fonteneau knows more about the fine art of clandestine activities—and about the mysterious Mr. Blackthorn—than he realizes. As their journey leads them on the adventure of a lifetime, their reunion is fraught with passion, high-stakes danger and the one twist of fate Jack never saw coming….

This is most definitely the best book in this little trilogy. It’s definitely a close race, but I think Black Jack really outshines his brothers. I was positively riveted throughout the entire book, and only a little deterred by a little plot confusion.

Intrigue and cunning games can be confusing. I think any author writing about them needs to be very careful. While, I really enjoyed the book, the plot could get a little daunting and I had to spend a little time working through it. I will say that the confusion also kept me very interested in that part of the plot. I was eager to see how things with Tess’s father and the Gypsy would turn out. I did see some of the plot twists from a mile away though, and while it’s nice to say “I knew it,” I think I’d rather be surprised and blown away. But you know what, at least it had a good plot to begin with. Sometimes historical romances get too caught up in themselves to bother with that, and they end up just being about sex and fancy words. Fortunately, that was not the case in this book.

It’s really something to have the mystery of Black Jack revealed and realize that he’s just as likable and compassionate as his brothers. He’s just a little rougher around the edges, and he has a lot of ghosts from his past hauting him. Actually, it’s pretty simple to see why his story is the best. There’s a lot more to it. Tess was his rock. He would never admit it, but she’s the reason he developed. It took a lot of nagging and fighting to get him there, but she put in the effort. She is in love with him, after all. The two of them make quite the team and I really loved their banter. It was always entertaining.

I think Kasey Michaels perfectly executes regency language. It’s not too much. It’s easy to understand, but also not too current. Conversation is one of my favorite things about reading historical books. I love how witty people could be without being rude. You could cut someone down and still seem like a perfect gentleman. It’s pretty awesome.

This is a great one for historical and regency romance lovers, especially if you like intrigue.

Previous books in this series:
The Taming of the Rake
A Midsummer Night’s Sin

One Wicked Sin by Nicola Cornick

Title: One Wicked Sin
Author: Nicola Cornick
Series: The Scandalous Women of the Ton #2
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: 10/26/2010
Length: 360 pages
Format: ePub
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Romance
Challenges: 2012 E-book Challenge
Source: Purchased
Purchase: Paperback | Kindle | NOOK | ePub
Rating: ★★★★☆

Lottie Palliser was once the toast of the Ton but now is notorious for being divorced—and penniless. Shunned by society and disowned by her family, the destitute beauty is forced to become a courtesan in a Covent Garden bawdy house. Refusing to oblige her customers, Lottie is about to be turned out onto the streets when a dangerous rake saves her with a scandalous offer…

Ethan Ryder is the illegitimate son of an Irish Duke and a circus performer. He rose through the ranks as one of Napoleon’s most dashing cavalry officers—until his capture landed him in England as prisoner of war. Now on parole, Ethan is planning his most audacious coup yet. But he needs to create a spectacular diversion. And having infamous Lottie as his mistress will lull everyone into thinking he’s busily bedding her instead of plotting deadly treason. Both Lottie and Ethan believe that their cool heads and selfish hearts will give them the upper hand in their ruthlessly passionate union. Yet their unexpected bond will scandalize even them.

Though I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve read in this series, this one felt a little different. I don’t mean that in a bad way either. I was immediately intrigued when I began and remained that way throughout the entire book. I also found myself wanting to squee a little because there were some seriously touching moments in this book. Those came off much more sincere than most love scenes in romance novels do.

I love the plot. It’s what really interested me. I went in disliking Lottie for her actions in the first book, but I was hooked by the plot. There was just something about the two characters and thier lack of morals that promised some nice intrigue. Though there was plenty of that, I was a little moved by their romantic development. While two months doesn’t sound like a long time, it might as well be a century in romance novels. Most often, characters fall in love in a matter of days. Though, I’ve always found this unrealistic, I’ve chosen to overlook it. It was pretty refreshing for it to take them a couple of months. Some of it was still stereotypical romance, but that’s okay. I like romances. The scene where Ethan declares his love was actually really sweet. One of my favorites ever!

The thing I really love about Nicola Cornick’s books is that it’s not all about sex and romance. That’s there, but the character always have something deeper going on within themselves that they have to get through. It’s where the romance comes in. They get through these things together. They get support from one another and their romantic connection. Lottie and Ethan are both hesitant to give their hearts away because of the possible hurt. They both have experience in abondonment, and though that is what keeps them from giving their hears away so easily, it’s also what binds them together. There’s development and some complexity, something that I can’t always find in romance novels.

I also really love Nicola’s style. She always creates a perfect balance in her dialogue. the characters speak in the language of their time, but it’s still easy to understand. I’m excited to get more of her style when I pick up the next book in the series.

I highly recommend this to historical romance lovers. I do suggest you read the first book in the series though. You don’t really have to, but I think it helps to understand how Lottie’s character changes.

 

Previous books in this series:
Whisper of Scandal

Life is But a Dream by Brian James

Title: Life is But a Dream
Author: Brian James
Series: N/A
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: 3/27/2012
Length: 234 pages
Format: Paperback Galley
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Young Adult
Challenges: N/A
Source: Around the World ARC Tours
Purchase: Hardcover | Kindle | NOOK | ePub
Rating: ★★★★☆

Sabrina, an artist, is diagnosed with schizophrenia, and her parents check her into the Wellness Center. There she meets Alec, who is convinced it’s the world that’s crazy, not the two of them. They are meant to be together; they are special. But when Alec starts to convince Sabrina that her treatment will wipe out everything that makes her creative, she worries that she’ll lose hold of her dreams and herself. Should she listen to her doctor? her decision may have fatal consequences.

Achingly beautiful. Those are the two words that come to mind upon finishing this book. I sincerely hope that this book gets all the buzz it deserves and does well. With so many hyped books coming out next year, it would be easy for this one to fall between the cracks. Don’t let that happen! It really is beautiful.

This book is both a look at the world through the eyes of a girl while her mind slowly unravels and a gorgeous love story about two troubled teens who find solace in their understanding of one another. I will say that the quick progression of Sabrina and Alec’s relationship was a little off-putting. I had to remind myself of the desperate and intense emotions that comes with being a teenager. I can only imagine that those emotions would be taken to another level if suffering from the psychological and social disorders that these two have. What’s so beautiful about it all is that they get each other. In the same situation most people would decide Sabrina or Alec was crazy and walk quickly in the other direction. Because they’ve both felt what it’s like to be weird or outcast (or “special,” as Sabrina would say) they develop a deep connection.

The book isn’t just about Sabrina and Alec’s love. It’s mostly about the world Sabrina lives in vs the real world. She struggles to hold onto what is real and what isn’t. What I loved about Sabrina’s illness what that it was written in a way that’s easy to understand. It’s easy to see how she gets confused. Her obsessive fixations on some things seem to take her away from real life. It’s so easy to sympathize with her character when experiencing the whole thing through her eyes. She’s constantly afraid of what will happen. She doesn’t want to change. She doesn’t want to become fake, like all the people she sees around her. She most definitely does not want to lose Alec. It’s all very engaging. I could hardly tear myself away from the book.

Within her stay at the hospital, she sorts through her memories. I slowly got to discover what happened to her and why she ended up there in the first place. That part was almost as interesting to me as her developing relationship with Alec and the progression of her illness. I just needed know how things ended up this way. There was also a small focus on her relationship with her parents. I think that part was a little more understated, but it was there. I am glad they’re not the terrible parents that always seem to inhabit teen books.

To sum things up, I thought this book was terrific. Everything really leaped off the page. It was a very visual experience for me. The writing was beautiful and I can’t wait for it come out so I can go get my very own finished copy.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (audio remix)

Title: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Narrator: Kim Mai Guest
Series: N/A
Publisher: Listening Library
Release Date: 10/11/2011
Length: 10 hours, 29 minutes
Format: Unabridged Digital Audiobook
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Young Adult
Challenges: 2011 Audiobook Challenge
Source: Purchased
Purchase: Audio CD | Digital Audiobook
Rating: ★★★★★

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris – until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he’s taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near – misses end with the French kiss Anna – and readers – have long awaited?

I just fell in love all over again. I loved this book when I first read it, and I recently got the chance to love it again. This is just as good on audio as it is in print. When I first read this book, I was just coming off the high from Lola and the Boy Next Door, so I didn’t understand why people said this one was better. I get it now. This is the better of the two, but they’re both super cute.

Anna and St. Clair are two of the best characters I’ve come across in contemporary YA lit. I mean, they’re perfectly written for their age. They’re a little angsty and a little immature sometimes. It’s hard to fall in love when you’re seventeen. There are so many emotions floating around that it all seems so intense. I think Stephanie captures that feeling perfectly. Another thing she captures well is the fact that people make mistakes all the time. Both Anna and St. Clair make some bad decisions throughout the book and that’s okay. It happens to everyone. It’s what you do about it that matters and I think that message was brought out well.

Kim Mai Guest does such a good job with this. She captures Anna’s voice perfectly. It took me a bit to get used to her voice for St. Clair, but it worked. The only reason that was hard for me was that I listened her read Incarceron and Sapphique, and the accent is similar to those. I was actually suprised by how awesome she was. After listening to the Incarceron books, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I loved it though. Good fluency and distinctive voices. She also did a great job capturing the emotion is some of the more intense scenes. She almost had me in tears at one point.

This book is super cute and will leave you with an enormous smile on your face. Highly recommended!

 

Read my original review of this book here.

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    Some of the books reviewed on this blog were sent to me by the author or publisher for review. I did not receive any payment in exchange for the review nor was I obligated to write a positive one. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own and may not necessarily agree with those of the author, the book's publisher and publicist or the readers of these reviews. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
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