portable pieces of thoughts

Like my wordpress blog it will include reviews and perhaps also some essays.

A book of lost potential

Fearless - Christine Rains

The book had a potential for something more than just an ordinary urban fantasy novella/short novel but somehow, in my very humble opinion, the author decided to leave all the good parts in an embryonic stadium. Pity.


My full review you can find here: http://fantasyreviewbarn.blogspot.com/2013/09/urban-fantasy-review-fearless-by.html

[REBLOG] - [Masterpost] Customizing BookLikes

There are quite a few tutorials on how to change the layout of your BookLikes blog. I figured it's good to have them all in one post, and I'd like to thank all who put a lot of work into making them so others can enjoy BookLikes. 


Let's start with the customization blogs posted by BookLikes: 




Tutorials made by BookLikers for BookLikers: 




Note: All links open in a new window and take you to the original posts and their creators. Leave comments, likes and reblog the hell out of them so others can see it too :) 


Reblogged from Evaine's Books, Books and More Books

REBLOG: Questionable Author Behaviour - An incomplete list

This list is in no way comprehensive, just a collection of blog-posts talking about Authors Behaving Badly. I did not include amazon- or GR-Reviews because a) there are far too many and b) often comments or whole reviews get deleted and in the end everything looks highly confusing and nobody knows what was actually going on. I simply don't have the time to check all these reviews to see what still makes sense for people who haven't been following them from the beginning.


read more
Reblogged from Sandra @ My Fiction Nook

Homer is always worth quoting...

Homer (Odyssey) - "If you serve too many masters, you'll soon suffer."


look at my followers/following ratio...

Do I actually need another blog?

I share one blog, I own the other (a very recent addition but it is my love child) and here it seems I can have the third. Now I wonder...am I really such a talkative person? Do I really have so much to say? 


but are we?

Mini Review: Right Hand Magic (Goghotam 01) by Nancy A. Collins

Right Hand Magic - Nancy A. Collins

My impressions

If a novel is described as  “vampiric, postpunk, metal-fanged, dark-doomed romance at its best” it makes me interested almost despite myself. I grant it - Golgotham is a very original setting. So original, in fact, that it overshadowed a bit the main characters and the action; mind you the action, although sensibly paced, still seemed more important than the whole romance between Hexe and Tate.

 I was really strange – the pair of protagonists were simply lost among all those colourful Kymerans, maenads, centaurs, werewolves, changelings and satyrs. I really loved the fact that the author knew her mythology but wasn’t this novel supposed to be about an interracial romance? Dark-doomed to boot, whatever it means? And let me assure you that I haven’t noticed one single vampire, at least not in the first part of this series.

 What’s more the narration left plenty to be desired, with smaller and bigger infodumps here and there. The baddies were cardboard-thin and, when I come to think about it, the world build had to save the day too many times.

 Final verdict:

 Would I like to revisit Golgotham? Maybe, providing that there is more character development in the next parts and the writing style is better..

I have this problem.
I have this problem.
Reblogged from ChooseYA

The Emperor's Edge (The Emperor's Edge #1)

The Emperor's Edge (The Emperor's Edge #1) - Lindsay Buroker My impression:A high fantasy novel with steampunk elements, featuring an intrepid female protagonist and a stone-faced, ninja-like assassin who simply have to work together and can’t help liking each other more and more – what can go wrong? Add to that a handful of colourful secondary characters: an elderly professor, drowning his sorrows in wine, a handsome and vain swordsman, a surly street rat dabbing in magic, a young and idealistic emperor who, living in a splendid isolation, is being slowly poisoned by his closest advisor…sounds so nice, right? And yet…Ok, let’s start on a positive note. The camraderie and interaction between the characters themselves was the best thing about this book, and honestly, it could be quite humorous at times. And here my praise stops - even it did not make up for the shortcomings in the main leads and the story itself.Somehow neither the feisty Amaranthe Lokdon, nor the mysterious and deadly effective Sicarius, always clad in fitted dark clothing, won my heart. Ok, I admit it, perhaps it is too early to judge them so harsh, it is just the first part of a long series but they all seemed a tad too schematic - to a point when I could easily guess their thoughts and choices even before they opened their mouths or did anything. Their roles were also pretty clear from the very beginning. Maldynado, the most handsome gigolo and coxcomb in the city, and Books, the unhappy prof turned drunkard, were destined to provide comic relief whenever the sour Sicarius and the surly former gang member, Aksytr, were making the narration uncomfortably stiff. Amaranthe was there to attract trouble and then save the day, the emperor and the rest of her band from venal courtiers, sadistic magicians, brutal enforcers but mainly from themselves. Sometimes, I admit, she was being sweet, but more often she was obnoxiously noble – to such a point that I had to roll my eyes and remind myself of some of those deliciously dark antiheroes who pick their teeth with honourable men and women. It is such a kind of heroine which unleashes my worst instincts. Her goodness of heart is supposed to turn even the most hard-hearted criminal into her ally, she outwits the most powerful and corrupt politicians in the empire, while outthinking the most devious foreign spies and wizards. Reading about it you better never ask yourself ‘how come’ because the moment you do so you are doomed and the whole reading enjoyment is evaporating like champagne bubbles.Now there is the romance between Amaranthe and Sicarius. Perhaps not a bad idea per se; still I couldn’t forgive the fact that it has been moving slower than a drugged sloth in a sheepskin catsuit on a greased branch; I know the purpose of that pacing – I don’t doubt that the romance will be artificially dragged on and on until the very last installment (the series features seven books, no mean feat) where most probably those two will finally kiss and proclaim that they love each other. Still I resent it. It’s like buttering a slice of bread with just a fraction of a normal portion you need to do it right - frustrating to say the least of it.The action is nonstop – it is one of these novels which can make you almost physically tired. Amaranthe gets in so many scrapes and scuffles, is captured, escapes, is recaptured, escapes again... I forget how many times. Her captors are pretty inept and some of her escapes are pretty implausible so you should keep a very tight control on the logical part of your mind while reading about them. Now those names…Maldynado? Seriously? Why not marinade when we are already there? Sicarius? Sure, otherwise we wouldn’t guess he is a perfect, cold-blooded killing machine. Emperor Sespian? Why stop short of thespian? The capital of the empire is called…Stumps *rolleye* because no other name would be more imperial. The main baddie’s name is Hollowcrest, making you wonder why the young Emperor trusted him at all…oh wait, he was so naïve and trusting, poor thing, he most probably couldn’t help himself even if all his excuses ring a bit hollow.Final verdict:Definitely something for younger/less blasé readers than me. It might be just because of my dark fantasy fixation but I think the only way to enjoy this novel is to read it as a comedy, ignoring the missteps as far as the plot goes and laughing at the characters mercilessly. I don't know if it is enough to make me pick the second book.

Suddenly You

Suddenly You - Lisa Kleypas My impressions (this time in a form of a devilish parable):2006, somewhere in the USA. A successful female romance writer is sitting and pondering over her next novel. What to write: a contemporary or a historical romance? What will sell better? What will be more interesting for her audience? More challenging to write? Old or new? Contemporary or Victorian?Unfortunately both options have their advantages and disadvantages (like everything else in life apart from chocolate perhaps). A contemporary heroine might be independent, more adventurous and creative in bed, fully indulging her every whim – what woman wouldn’t like to do the same? A Victorian lady has to be aware of many restrains limiting her appetites but her hairdo, clothes and jewellery would be such a joy to describe – what woman wouldn’t dream of donning such an attire to a ball like a proper princess? A contemporary chick? A Victorian miss? Or maybe…maybe…wait a moment… here’s an idea…a Victorian chick?I don’t doubt (but, of course, I may be wrong) that at that precarious stage of planning a she-demon of failed romance novels (there is such a demon for sure) must have intervened, appearing out of the blackest pits of hell, lured to the Earth by too many pink and fluffy thoughts swirling around, the food she enjoys feasting on the most.Whispering sweet nothings to the willing ear of the said writer the she-demon blurred the line between the common sense and utter pink rubbish with a clever spell. Then she was hissing and crooning in a voice which was black-chocolate-and-caramel-smooth: “Come on, no need to think so hard and make your head ache; I know the perfect solution. Let’s mix those two options together, keeping the best of both! With a liberal amount of steamy sex scenes your next book is bound to succeed anyway! Nobody will notice those itty-bitty discrepancies or even the bigger ones; as soon as you make your characters disrobe in a bedroom your readers will, in fact, forget their own names; steam is such a great way to cover any historical slip-ups and plot mistakes.”A moment of weakness or laziness or both and here you go: the demon succeeded and “Suddenly You” was created. As you can guess such an influence didn’t pay off. No surprises here - demons rarely offer a good piece of advice; their intention is to destroy and to sow discord among readers and writers. The results?The novel features one Amanda Briars a rather sheltered Victorian miss raised in the country who sold the family house and moved to London after the death of her parents – just like that. While enjoying her solitary life in the Big Smoke she launched out into writing, soon becoming a popular writer of romantic fiction. Drat, she’s been earning a decent living with the fees and royalties, no mean feat even in our times, let alone over one hundred years ago. What’s even less probable, she’s been publishing under her own name not a well-chosen male pseudonym (as it was usually the case at that era) and she has had no male agent to act in her behalf. Strange? No matter. Here starts the real deal.Our sweet Amanda is a proper lady and a virgin and yet, and yet... one evening, after eating one plum pudding more, drinking a supernumerary glass of wine, crossing herself, she sighed and decided to arrange a visit of a male prostitute for her 30th birthday. You see, somehow she felt she had to get rid of that wretched hymen. Why such an idea came to her Victorian mind? How did she know male prostitutes existed at all? How did she find out where to go to hire one, without the Internet or tv? Nobody knows but our she-demon is laughing out loud and shakes her horn-adorned head with scorn, hearing such questions. Who cares about probability and other such inanities? A lady wants a stud and a stud she will receive. It’s a romance, she is a Victorian chick, it’s not about reality, right?When the said cicisbeo (a word Amanda uses – also from the wrong era, at least one hundred years older, and with a different meaning but who cares) turns out to be a well-known publisher, masquerading for fun as a prostitute (don’t ask why – he doesn’t know why himself) I gasped - how come? Our heroine was such a popular author in London and the said publisher was doing so well in roughly the same business, still they didn’t known each other at least by sight? Strange. It gets even stranger, though.After initial period of dithering they both decide that their tryst will last three months exactly. Amanda is embracing that idea with a really suspicious enthusiasm for a Victorian prude. Still she also wants to keep their affair in secret, now acting like a real Victorian. However, several dozen pages later, she doesn’t hesitate a moment when John (Jack) Devlin, the said publisher, invites her for a Christmas dinner to his house; mind you it is not a family dinner, rather a large party with plenty of people present, publishers, editors and authors, a social event. Can you imagine something more scandalous than that? Amanda, dear, you neglected your own family during Christmas for the sake of a man and you did it in public, it was almost as if you placed an announcement in all the main newspapers! Do you still think you can keep the whole affair ‘discreet’ and ‘private? Pigs can fly…Apart from that the book spreads some really obnoxious romance cliches and their list I do not hesitate to include below (mind you some of them might be spoiler-ish):If you fall in love, you do so because a man you fancy is very handsome/ a woman you fancy is very pretty. No love for uglies.If you love someone you cannot help but have sex with them as soon as possible. Alot of sex.If the sex is good it always means you love each other very much. If you get pregnant, it’s ok not to inform your partner about it because, after all, it is your private business.You can lie about your age, your previous life, anything at all – if your partner truly loves you he/she will always forgive you, no matter what. Honesty? Trust? Confidence? What are these?Final verdict:Ms Kleypas, some of your books are really good but this one disappointed me horribly. Maybe I would treat it less harshly and be less disappointed if my expectations weren’t set so high. Suddenly You wasn't perhaps the most horrible romance novel I've ever read but it most definitely was 'meh'.

The Cuckoo's Calling

The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith What I liked:I did like the fact that the book was published under an alias. If you remember my review of The Casual Vacancy you know I have been an ardent proponent of such a solution. And surprise, surprise: before that secret became known to all and sundry allegedly at least one editor rejected the novel because let's face it: it is a good story but hardly brilliant. Still kudos to the author for taking the risk of an impartial assessment! I do hope it will lead to better novels in the future!I admit I liked the Cuckoo's Calling far better than the first 'adult' JKR's book. The plot was more interesting, the main character and his secretary sidekick - more likeable. Small wonder, this book is full of birds: we got a cuckoo, a cormoran, a robin and a Leda who, as far as I remember my Greek myths, was intimately involved with a certain swan...Fortunately JKR does like to torture her characters - poor Cormoran not only has just one leg and is virtually penniless, forced to sleep in his office, but also has been ditched by his fiancee, a very beautiful and rich girl called Charlotte he apparently still loves. What's more, he is rather overweight and plain, in bad physical condition, practically friendless, constantly harrassed by people who want to know more about his relationship with his famous rock star father. I admired the man's stamina and patience - if I were him I would be completely miserable, snapping at everybody right left and centre.The mysterious death of a fashion model, Lula Landry, wasn't done badly - perhaps not exactly an original premise but overall executed nicely as far as I am concerned. The narrative voice of Rowling was perhaps, in my opinion, the best feature of this one. JKR knows how to write, although she sometimes uses a bit too bombastic vocabulary to suit a simple whodunnit.What I didn't like:Let me start with an unimportant tidbit. One name: Lechsinka. It was supposed to be a name of a lovely Polish cleaning lady, a girl with bad English but a great bottom and a thorough approach to her job. One problem: that name doesn't exist and/or it is not used in real life - take it from another girl born and raised in Poland. One would think that there are so many Polish people, cleaners or otherwise, living and working on the British Isles, it would be relatively easy to come with a real name, Slavic-flavoured and all. I wonder why JKR decided to invent one instead. Boredom? Laziness? Some obscure Google problems? Or maybe the authoress thought that nobody would care ? After all an immigrant cleaner and a secondary character to boot is not important, right? Well, wrong. A good author, in my view, always tries to dot their i's and cross their t's. In a great novel there are no unimportant characters or spurious names. What's worse, Lechsinka apparently doesn't know the English word 'detective' - Cormoran has to explain to her that he is a kind of cop. I found that particular scene simply ludicrous because actually that word is very similar to its Polish counterpart (detektyw). Honestly, is research such an onerous task, Mrs. Rowling?My second complain: there were too many elements which purpose I simply didn't understand. For example these Latin quotes (and additionally it did bother me that I couldn't find any mention of the author of the English translations - did JKR translate them herself? If so, why it wasn't stated anywhere?). At a stretch you could somehow join them with some story arcs but they were, in my humble opinion, too philosophical and aloof to fit the story. I might be just mean now but after a while I admit I started to suspect that the author included them because she wanted to appear more sophisiticated and educated than your ordinary crime story writer. Then the title. It was a bit too vague, too metaphorical to reflect well the content or provide a clear message of any kind. Ok, I admit it, after a while it kind of made sense (and no, not because the book features a Swiss cuckoo clock ;p ) but, at the same time, it felt spurious, too overthought perhaps. I personally could think of several more fitting titles and I am not the only one. One of funnier suggestions I've found: The golden goose's calling.Finally something that really disturbed my reading and made me bored more than once: walking and talking. In other words the novel was too stolid for my taste. I grant it, perhaps the real investigations done by real detectives are as mundane as this one, consisting mainly of interviewing the witnesses, family and friends, connecting the facts, guessing and double guessing who lies, who tells the truth and why but in a novel it should be limited to the bare minimum. Nothing kills the interest in the crime itself more swiftly than an endless walking and talking. Nothing is more pathetic than a situation when a crime mystery reader, reaching page 320 out of 388, shouts : finally something happens!Let me add a word or two about the cover - it is HIDEOUS and STUPID, perhaps a good choice for a chick lit novel but completely WRONG for a crime fiction book. I would never take this one into my hand just because of the cover appeal because there is NONE.Final verdict:A moderately good crime story. For a rookie writer it could have been a nice debut (if it was published at all, that is; for somebody of JKR's fame and renown my expectations were definitely higher. Better luck next time, Mr. Strike. I suppose I might be inclined to give you a second chance. Still let me call a spade a spade - it will be your last one.

Threat of Darkness (Witches Knot)

Threat of Darkness - Lauren Dane I started to read this novel while on holiday by the sea. I was feeling rather optimistic at the time - you see, it enjoys a pretty high rating average on Goodreads, 4 stars out of 5, nothing less. Why - my mind boggles. It was horrid. It was stupid. It was a fantasy book without one inch of imagination or, well, fantasy. The fact that your characters are fairies, demons, trolls and werewolves DOESN'T mean anything without the proper world build and here there was no such a thing. Still I was the first Goodreads user who actually has given it one star. There must be something wrong: with the universe, with me, with the books and the publishing industry, with the world at large. Horribly, terribly wrong. How cannot people notice? HOW?It is a relatively short novel - just 133 pages. One third of it consists of sex scenes. Boring, repetitive and schematic sex scenes I must add. Any and every conflict is resolved by either sex or deus-ex-machina magic performed by some gods - Freia and Carl Donovan are among them. Carl Donovan a.k.a. the Donovan is really a strange choice of name for a divine entity but whatever - if you compare it to the fact that all characters of this beauty take the expression "too stupid to live" to quite an insanely low level one inappropriate name is really a minor glitch.Ponder over this: Mei was imprisoned and tortured by some BDSM demonic afficionados for a millenium. Yes, a millenium of torture and rapes, you read it right. Nobody even thought of looking for her because everybody believed she had been killed in a battle. Why? Her aunt said so. Nobody found the remnants of Mei's body, nobody saw anything but all those great fairies, Mei's mother and her very loving husband, Jaice, among them, assumed that if Eire (the aunt) says Mei is dead then Mei is dead, end of the story. Irrefutable logic, right? Then Mei is freed from her prison by Card the half were half demon, soon to be her hubby number two;  after a period of recovery she returns home and she is said that Jaice is dead, her mom doesn't want to see her anymore, she is disinherited and basically she can go and jump to the lake, thank you very much for the visit, don't bother to show your face the second time. Yes, you guessed right: once again her lovely aunt was the source of those completely false revelations. Actually she sent one of Mei's mother flunkies to do the dirty job. What Mei, a clever warrior and a fairy princess several millenia old, does? She believes in every word of that flunkey - without even thinking of contacting anybody else. If you are said by a third party your beloved husband is dead and your mum hates your guts you should ALWAYS believe it straightaway, right? Even without any proof presented? *headdesk*Then the novel went from bad to worse. Yes, I mean the baddies, whose characterization was non-existent. You see, they are bad because a) they are DARK fae (got it? DARK!!!) and b) they hate humans. Oh well, sometimes I am not so fond of humans either and I dress in black - I bet I am bad too, right? Not that the goodies were better, believe me, they were not. Both male interests of the main heroine  could be described very simply as a red-headed, long-braided Scot with great physique (Jaice) and a half-werewolf half-demon with yellow eyes and great physique (Card). Here you go - now you know everything there is to know about them. I bet plenty of male catwalk models show more of their personality during an average photo session than those two. Their main role is to satisfy Mei in bed (or anywhere else if the mood strikes) and generally take care of her.  If you are now wondering I rush to add the crucial bit of info: both do it at the same time. Mostly. In order to spoil you even further: they are her two husbands and they are fond of each other as well. How come? Magic! Nothing else is needed in a successful relationship, right? (btw thanks Tasha/heidenkind for that little beauty below!)If only magic extended also to the plot, the dialogues and the overall writing quality...unfortunately the plot was HIGHLY predictable, I bet my dog would guess any major turn and twist without any problem, the dialogues were wooden infodumps full of cliches and maudlin love and/or independence declarations (independence so you knew Mei is kick-ass), some sentences were clearly grammatically incorrect and after reaching the half point I decided I really don't need to torture myself any longer so I dumped it. Still I amused myself with  checking the finale grande. Yes, I guessed EVERYTHING right.  What joy ;(Final verdict:So not for me that I can hardly contain myself, limiting the amount of expletives to zero. If you want to know how a fantasy erotica novel looks when gone completely awry, read this one but don't blame me afterwards - you have been warned.
The Conspiracy (Theft and Sorcery, #2) - Erica Dakin Synopsis:Vaysita (Sita), a half-elf orphan, has been palace-bred and trained all her life. Adopted by Queen of Arlis she was made the companion and bodyguard of her son, prince Tio, a very handsome jerk. Soon some extra-curricular subjects were added to Sita's normal daily schedule: lock-picking, burglary, close combat, dagger throwing and such – not exactly skills expected from a high-born courtier who calls the Queen her Aunt Tima.One night Sita is sent by her shadowy tutor to rob her own castle’s treasury. During the test she meets a real burglar Kailev (Kai) – a handsome young thief, far more skilled than her and with magical abilities as well. His simple, straightforward compliments, so different than the oblique wooing of mercenary court elves and half-elves of noble birth, make Sita blush too easily. Kai is clearly smitten with the pretty burglar girl but doesn’t promise himself a lot – she is evidently a refined lady and he lives on the streets. Still soon enough Sita will need his help in a very important mission and he won’t be able to say ‘no’. How long will the calf love last? Is it really just a case of calf love?What I liked:I am very glad to say the second part of Theft and Sorcery was far better than the first book. The author limited the amount of romance (in the previous installment there were two couples of identical twins in love; in this one we get just Sita and Kai) on behalf of world building and her choice paid off. From my point of view the novel was far more interesting than the first one.The romance itself was also quite well executed – although Kai was instantly in love with Sita it took him plenty of time and effort to understand properly not only his beloved and her feelings but also himself. I really enjoyed how these two had to adjust each other’s ideas of relationship to the reality they had to face. I didn’t expect much and I was very positively surprised – take it from a regular romance-basher! The fact that Sita had to overcome her previous infatuation with Tio Prince Charming added to the romantic story arc a much-welcomed reality factor and was more than enough to justify the first person narration. Overall well-done!If it comes to the world building I really, truly adored the Tizar household of Nayev and his family! Far better than Rivendell and Elrond’s home, I am telling you – not high fantasy of course but who needs high fantasy when you are having fun?The cover art is simple but I like it. At least you don't have to look at another plastic naked, headless torso.What I didn’t like:Once again the whole plot sometimes made me nonplussed to say the least because the mission of prince Tio and Sita was close to suicide. The longer I thought about it the less pleasant epithets I had for the Elven Queen and her outlandish ideas of spying on those ugly, plotting elven lords. Let's face it, she endangered two important people close to her just to get some proof which could have been bought with gold and favours – what a prodigality! Of course you might argue that if not for the mission Kai and Sita would never got to know each other so well.Final verdict:I like a series which gets better and better; I am pleased to say this is one of them. Light read perfect for the summer with elves, half-elves, magic, theft and a lot of steamy romance – if you don’t have anything against the genre I recommend it and no, you don’t have to start with the first part in order to get your bearings.


NOS4A2 - Synopsis:The plot of this novel revolves around Charles Talent Manx, his enemy Vic (Victoria) McQueen and her family. Both Vic and Manx have the same gift – a very vivid imagination which allows them to create new worlds and move between them and reality, bending space-time continuum with the help of some special objects. These objects include, but are not limited to, a vintage Rolls-Royce Wraith and a much humbler Raleigh Tuff Burner bike. Vic is aided from time to time by Margaret Leigh, a stuttering librarian who loves Scrabbles to no end and understands the gift like nobody else; Manx’s current henchman is a mentally retarded man with a criminal record called Bing. Both strive to protect what they love the best. In the case of Charles Manx it is a place called Christmasland and its inhabitants, the children he’d abducted, allegedly to protect them against their families and the ugly world around. In the case of Vic it’s her son, Wayne, and her partner, Louis. The war between them will be long and bloody, especially after kidnapping Wayne. Still you must pay for every gift and Vic cannot fathom how steep price will be demanded of her.My impressions:My first general remark: any decent writer having so many good plot ideas would write a series – three books at least, perhaps even four or six if the first two got off financially. Joe Hill wrote one long, great novel and gained my admiration.My second general remark: in this book I found one of the best baddies I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet in the literature. I loved to hate Charles Talent Manx, a man who would love to have Christmas every single day, all year round. He was three-dimensional and hideous and fascinating at the same time. He was a psychological vampire and it suited me to no end and his car…well, I love vintage cars so it worked exceedingly well, reminding me a bit about Christine of Stephen King. Still Rolls Royce Wraith was better.Vic McQueen was also a lovely heroine – a kick-ass girl who had her own demons and vulnerabilities which sometimes made her stronger and sometimes made her like a soft putty in the hands of her opponent. It also took her quite a long time to figure out how her gift worked and what it entailed. Here Manx had a clear advantage over her because he was way older and experienced.Vic and Lou’s romance…once again it worked and I couldn’t believe how well it worked for me. It was very moving, real and just fantastic. No, they didn’t marry because Vic didn’t believe in marriage (and small wonder, taking into account her family history) but the bond between them was stronger than the bond between many fictional married couples. Especially that both of them were hardly flawless – Lou was seriously overweight and adult Vic was both drug and alcohol addict.Now the fictional world of magic and space-time tricks. Shorter Way Bridge (Vic’s way around) was good but Christmasland (Manx’s special kingdom of sorts) was mesmerizing – really one of the more original and scariest places I’ve ever visited while reading horrors/thrillers. It was very cleverly constructed, being similar to some places from my nightmare – allegedly harmless but with that atmosphere that sends chills down your spine and makes your hair curl. In fact I think such a place would be a dream come true to any thriller director – it can sell any movie in no time, especially during Christmas, to such weirdoes like me.Final verdict: If you like thrillers, go read it. If you don't like thrillers, go read it.Yes, it was an awesome book, confident and at times ruthless, moving along at a determined pace, never looking back. I loved it.

The Heiress Effect (Brothers Sinister)

The Heiress Effect - Courtney Milan Synopsis:“Never before had so much money been put in the service of so little taste.”Jane Fairfield is trying on a new dress. She knows she looks utterly ridiculous but she has no choice – that’s the way it has to be. Her hideous, expensive, ghastly attires, overflowing with lace and silk of any imaginable kind, are her only armour against the polite society. She must drive away any potential marriage candidate while pretending she is actively looking for a husband – no mean task when you are young, fresh and you have one hundred thousand pounds of dowry.Still the happiness and well-being of Jane’s sister Emily, is at stake so Jane will go to any lengths to achieve her goal. Four hundred and eighty days – that’s how long she must endure, attending parties, spouting the most stupid, the most cheeky nonsense she can think of to practically everybody and bear the consequences. Everybody around calls her the Feather Heiress; they joke about her poor taste, brainless head and giggle behind their fans and tumblers when she opens her mouth. It doesn’t matter. Being dreadful is such a wearing work but she is prepared to suffer it to the bitter end.Everything is going exactly according to her plan until she meets Olivier Marshall, an illegitimate son of a duke, a very ambitious young man, a future politician and possibly also a prime minister. She takes him for a servant. And then insults him some more, calling him ‘common’. And then she insults his father. Such a grave mistake but at that time Jane was unaware of the consequences of treating Olivier as if he was just a headless aristocrat. Will she manage to fend off Mr. Marshall like her other suitors – with brainless talk, horrible dresses and a complete lack of manners? Never trust a politician – that’s how I’ll end my synopsis. If you want to know more you must read this novel. ;pMy impressions:Once again Courtney Milan proved that when it comes to challenging Victorian romance clichés she has no equals. In this novel you have your ordinary uncouth heiress who is invited to the parties only because she is filthy rich. However our heroine, not as stupid as everybody would like to believe, has her own secret agenda: she can’t marry for the sake of her beloved younger sister. She must fool her uncle Titus who would love nothing more than to get rid of tempestuous Jane for good. She must endure endless jokes and derision.It worked surprisingly well, allowing Ms. Milan to add several deliciously funny scenes during which Jane, looking as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, was offending in public everybody around her. Not to mention the fact that she deliberately dressed as if she wanted to test the sense of sight and colour recognition of all the present guests at the same time. Who would like such a wife: not only stupid and socially inept but also with a complete lack of any sense of colour coordination? And here I hit the first little snag because I believe plenty of men would gladly close their eyes, plug their ears and pocket both one hundred thousand pounds and their owner, no matter how uncouth or stupid she was. Add to that the fact that Jane was rather curvaceous and pretty and I believe her little ruse wouldn't work in real world at all, not even for a month, let alone for over a year. I bet a clever gentleman would outmaneuver her in no time, using the old, stupid Titus as a bait.Now we get Mr. Olivier Marshall who, despite being an illegitimate son of a duke, wants to make a career in politics. He is of course aware of his disadvantages; he also knows that the right wife might help his prospects a lot. Unfortunately, he falls for our heiress, admiring her stamina, wits and stubbornness. Once again, the romantic cliché of a strong male delivering a weaker female from dire straits, social or otherwise, was inverted here: firstly Jane didn’t need delivering, not really, secondly she actually provided greater assistance to Olivier than the other way round. And, surprise, surprise, soon enough the gentleman got scared off because he’d never envisioned somebody as assertive and colourful in his life. He wanted a wren and he got a phoenix. What’s more, a darker, more opportunistic part of his nature was whispering in his ear dangerous ideas: perhaps the foolish heiress could be used to his advantage after all; she had trod on too many toes. If only he could persuade his conscience there is nothing wrong with humiliating her a bit so she stops pestering his aristocratic friends with her inanities. I liked that aspect of Olivier’s personality very much but, unfortunately, it wasn’t developed properly. Eh, the woes of romance fiction...The secondary characters I liked the best. The love story between Emily, Jane’s little sister, and a certain Hindu student of law was unexpectedly sweet. Emily was an avid reader of popular adventure series penned by a woman which also sounded very original. Sebastian Malheur and Violet reappeared again and made me curious about their relationship to say the least of it (I try hard not to spoil you here so bear with me).As I already mentioned Emily and her interracial affair...it made me do some research concerning the actual status of Hindu-English marriages in Victorian times and, although I agree it was completely possible, I have to say it sounded a bit unreal. Let me quote a fragment from a very interesting article (which can be found here) written by William Dalrymple who presented the results of his own (much more professional) research concerning that topic:“This period of intermixing did not last: the rise of the Victorian Evangelicals in the 1830s and 40s slowly killed off the intermingling of Indian and British ideas, religions and ways of life. The wills written by dying East India Company servants show that the practice of marrying or cohabiting with Indian bibis quickly began to decline: from turning up in one-in-three wills between 1780 and 1785, they are present in only one-in-four between 1805 and 1810. By 1830, it is one-in-six; by the middle of the century, they have all but disappeared. Biographies and memoirs of prominent 18th-century British Indian worthies that mentioned their Indian wives were re-edited in the mid-19th century so that the consorts were removed from later editions. The mutiny of 1857 merely finished off the process. Afterwards, nothing could ever be as it was. With the British victory, and the genocidal spate of hangings and executions that followed, the entire top rank of the Mughal elite was swept away and British culture was unapologetically imposed on India.”The Heiress Effect is set clearly after the Indian Rebellion of 1857 also known as the sepoy mutiny, so you can assess on your own the probability of an Indian-English marriage in India, let alone in London. Of course it is not a historical book, just my inner nerd had to be appeased. ;pFinally the ending. I know, I know, romance and HEA are like a horse and carriage or rather like petrol and a car – virtually inseparable. Still the HEA in this one was, again, a tad too rushed and too perfect, at least in my opinion. We were never shown the struggle of adjusting and readjusting of any of the young couples. Pity.Final verdict:I liked this one more than The Duchess War but less than some of the Turner series novels which were simply brilliant. Overall I of course recommend it but I do hope the next part will be even better. I know it can be so.One more remark.I want to use this opportunity to emphasize the fact that Courtney Milan is an author who appreciates both positive and negative reviews so if you don't like her book you don't have to be afraid that you might be attacked by her/her friends online for your cheek. What's more she encourages sharing her novels with friends, often publishing them without DRM. I really appreciate both approaches - thank you Ms. Milan for a bit of normalcy!

Lay Death at Her Door

Lay Death at Her Door - Elizabeth Buhmann Synopsis:After being raped and witnessing the murder of her lover Kate Cranbrook, a 20-year-old college girl, sent a man to prison. The wrong man. She lied during the trial because it was the most convenient way out. She had to protect her secrets even if it meant committing perjury. She had learned during a difficult childhood in Kenya that sometimes you have to be mendacious and ruthless in order to survive and achieve your goals. Then, deeply traumatized, she lived in seclusion with her father for two decades, isolated, bored, afraid. Now she thinks she's had enough. She is 42 and she wants to put her life in order – keep her landscaping job, become more independent, find a nice man, marry, be happy. She is also given a splendid occasion - new evidence exonerates her victim. Unfortunately it also means that her role in the trial is being examined anew Kate tries to think of a good defence line; she claims that in the darkness and confusion she must have mistaken her attacker's identity. She is lying – again – but at least now she dares admit that truth to herself. Still the local community might never forgive her for putting an innocent man to prison for twenty years even if she is a white woman, he is a black man and they live in Virginia. Kate would like nothing better than to turn her back on the past, but she is trapped in an invisible stand-off with the real killer. What will it take to get rid of him?Soon enough another dead body practically shows up on her doorstep. Kate comes to the realization that someone definitely wants to stir up the hornet's nest and draw the attention of local police to her shadowy past. Will anybody be able to see through her lies and help her before it's too late?My impressions:It was a story which grabs you with the first words and keeps you interested until you finishes it. It is a dark and twisted tale which I loved exploring. It presents an interesting, intelligent heroine, flawed to a great extend, who likes toying with the reader but also honestly recalls her own past mistakes because she feels her time is running out. Kate is a manipulative character, full of wit and ready to play on the sympathy of others. As the novel progresses, you starts to doubt her words but, at the same time, you are eager to find out the truth. The relationship with her father is increasingly disturbing and after a while, somewhere in the middle of the story, it simply becomes impossible to believe that all of the bits and pieces she told you will ever make sense. But they will, shockingly so, at the very end. Still it won’t be pleasant.The character of Kate was constructed flawlessly. Firstly let me say how much I enjoyed a woman who is beautiful, cunning, rich and guess what? She doesn’t have a retinue of available men fawning on her and worshipping the ground beneath her feet. No love triangle, no love affair, nothing and not for the lack of trying, mind you. It was so refreshingly normal and right. Let me illustrate her situation with one quote. Kate comments bitterly on her friends' advice:“Why don’t you marry, Kate? You could have anyone you wanted.”I hate it when people say that. It isn’t true. No matter how beautiful you are, how intelligent and talented, no matter how accomplished, even if you have money, it is never true that you can have anyone you want. And the worst problem is that sometimes there simply isn’t anybody. In books and movies, there is always a likely man for the taking. In real life, there isn’t always.”I instantly warmed to her after such words even if, from the very beginning, I was sure she hid too many darkness inside to be truly innocent and decent girl. As the novel is written in a form of a diary or a memoir, her first person narration allows us to look deep inside Kate’s mind and find many shadowy wardrobes full of rattling skeletons. Although Kate tries her best to exonerate herself of what she's done, a completely understandable and a very human thing to do, nothing erases the stain that has been left on her - and she is completely aware of it. She used to be a thoughtless little brat who behaved as if she had every right to own the world. She's done things she's not proud of, all in the name of survival. She was selfish, ruthless and greedy. She lied a lot and she did it so skillfully that sometimes she almost believed in her own lies. Now she must reap what she has sown.Final verdict:This novel was a real pleasure to read; I started it just to get the taste of the narration and, after a short while, I couldn’t let it go. It kept me awake late at night because I simply had to reach the final page and find out what role Kate played in all this. I won’t forget this heroine for a long time – I think it’s the highest praise any book can get. Thank you, Ms Buhman, for this great story!

In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad Series #1)

In the Woods - Tana French What I liked:I am happy to say I liked a lot. Firstly the narrative voice of Tana French is completely captivating - atmospheric, funny, intelligent without being patronizing. Secondly the author managed to omit many template mistakes. Imagine yourself a book without a love triangle. Imagine a book in which two main characters, a young man and a young woman at the beginning of their career, simply befriend each other, without any sexual context, and continue that friendship almost to the very end. Imagine that Rob Ryan, the narrator, can be deliciously honest about his own shortcomings, saying something like this:"What I am telling you, before you begin my story, is this - two things: I crave truth. And I lie."There is also Cassie Maddox, who not only thinks and acts like an intelligent human being but also is a dropout psychology student so perfectly able to analyze herself and the others. If only those others listened to her and believed in her best intentions...The friendship between her and Rob Ryan is at the heart of the story, interwoven with Rob's childhood trauma and the ongoing investigation concering a murder of a 12-year-old Katharine Devlin, an aspiring ballet dancer. I found that thread really refreshingly original. I was so pleased it wasn't the case of an insta-love or insta-lust but something far more mature and real, something beautiful and true. Of course the fact that their frienship is doomed from the beginning because Rob admits he destroys every relationship, sexual or otherwise, due to his childhood drama or maybe a flaw of his character, adds to it a dash of nostalgia. Let me quote him once again:"And then, too, I had learned early to assume something dark and lethal hidden at the heart of anything I loved. When I couldn't find it, I responded, bewildered and wary, in the only way I knew how: by planting it there myself."Well, I don't know about you but that quote I found simply heartrending. How not to like such a character?Finally let me add that the attention to police procedural detail was exquisite. I was really surprised Ms. French hasn't worked as a cop herself.What I didn't like: This book won the Edgar Award for best debut novel but it doesn't mean it is perfect. Don’t read it for the mystery part. In fact I found the criminal puzzle the weakest as I was able to spot the main culprit without any problems somewhere in the middle of the investigation and I am not the brightest fictional crime solver around, even old, good Agatha Christie always managed to mess with my head (fortunately I loved every minute of it)Also don't read it if you like everything nicely solved and explained in your books because plenty of questions will be left unanswered. If I were to choose an alternate title for this book (and yes, it is a bit spoilerish) it could be: Complete Lack of Any Clear Explanation About What Really Happened In The Woods. It didn't bother me much; I admit that monsters living inside our heads are rarely exposed or explained and that's why they are more interesting and terrifying than any real creature you can meet. The two hapless kids could have been taken by the Pooka or by the slavers or Doctor Who, it really doesn't matter. If you share my outlook you'll be fine.Final verdict:I loved this one even if, from time to time, I dreaded what direction the story would take and I solved the crime pretty early on. I definitely want to read more because I like psychological mysteries far more than normal ones and here Ms French didn't disappoint me even one single time.ETA: thank you, dearest Nataliya for your review which made me curious!

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