Tag Archives: romance

Blog Tour: Degrees of Wrong by Anna Scarlett

Dr. Elyse Morgan is in trouble. Her whole life has been destroyed around her, and she is now under the custody of the United Nations, who believe that she is close to finding the cure for the HTN4 virus. The virus is a deadly weapon that has been used by terrorists, and was responsible for the deaths of Elyse’s parents. A prodigy in the field of medicine, Elyse’s obsession with finding the cure has attracted attention, resulting in her present position. In order to assure her compliance and keep her away from others after the same information, Elyse has been given access to a high tech lab on an undersea warship which rarely remains in the same location unless necessary, and several pounds worth of chocolate. On the warship, her assumed identity as a cadet begins to cause complications when she catches the attention of one Captain Nicoli Marek, who is attractive, intelligent and patently unavailable, as he is already engaged. What ensues is an unforgettable battle of wits as Elyse’s race to acquire the cure keeps pace with her weakening defences against Captain Marek, who seems determined to make her life even more complicated.

Upon reading the synopsis for the book, I was really looking forward to seeing what the author would do with the ideas she had discussed. Having heard very good things about her other work (Anna also writes as Of Poseidon author Anna Banks), I opened the book with all the anticipation of a small child presented with their favourite sweets. Cliché, perhaps, but true nonetheless. I wasn’t disappointed.

The plot itself has plenty of pace and didn’t leave me wandering off in incomprehensible directions, confused as to where it was going. One scene clearly moved into the next or had an effect on something later; nothing was written without purpose. When we first meet Elyse, she is busy stitching up a soldier who has been hurt in the line of fire on her island. What she doesn’t realise is that she is the main objective of all the armed forces presently there, because of her knowledge of the HTN4 virus. While Elyse treats him, she is operating in degrees of wrong, deciding what she can and cannot do. This gives us a good look at Elyse’s moral character, something which sets the tone for the rest of the book. When dealing with someone’s injuries as a doctor, she decides what is right and what is wrong with clinical precision. All of that is about to become immensely difficult for Elyse. She has lost a great deal at the beginning of the novel, and is given very little time to absorb it before she is taken almost immediately into UN custody; initially against her will. Rather than crumpling, however, once she is told what they want, her instinctive reaction is anger. Even once she agrees to try and find the cure to the virus, she never really loses that fighting edge. I think that this directly influences a lot of her interactions with Captain Marek, and what makes this an infinitely different type of romance for the reader.

Elyse is one of few heroines that I’ve encountered recently who really does have both brains and guts. She shows realistic reactions to difficult situations that most people would struggle to bear up under while also maintaining the strong morals set from the word go. Elyse has one hell of a temper and it proves to be her defining characteristic, as well as being the thing that I like the most about her. She’s vulnerable without sacrificing her personality or her strength to be deliberately appealing, and best of all, she’s absolutely oblivious to anyone who is attracted to her. I know that sounds like an odd thing to say, but it’s not the carefully crafted kind of oblivious that I tend to see a lot of female characters play. She genuinely doesn’t notice when other people find her attractive, and she peppers that trait with a burning sense of sarcasm that could literally raise blisters on the skin. It’s heartening and encouraging to find a character like Elyse in the midst of the sci-fi/romance genre, because she really is remarkable. Anna Scarlett has really thought things out beautifully.

Now, Captain Nicoli Marek. Where can I possibly begin? A conundrum from the word go, there is an instant connection between Nicoli and Elyse – and it isn’t immediately hearts and flowers, either. Nicoli is infuriating, authoritative, strong and stubborn. And I don’t mind telling you, he commands your attention whether you want it that way or not. Through Elyse’s eyes, you really do get the full blast of exactly how charming and exasperating Nicoli can be, while also being responsible and careful. He’s a man who goes after what he wants, even with circumstances set against him. For a lot of male characters, I tend to find that kind of attitude proprietary and off-putting. In Degrees of Wrong, it was done in such a way that I couldn’t help but smile or be frustrated along with Elyse. He’s an immensely likeable character and incredibly magnetic. The constant exchanges of banter between himself and Elyse are the highlight of the entire book. They range from intense to touching to absolute comedy gold.

In addition to the above, the author has made the wise choice of having a very good cast of minor characters to support the two very charismatic lead characters. Of these, my absolute favourite has to be Lieutenant Frank Horan. He and Elyse get off to a very bad start and the friction between them is brilliant. There is a particular scene involving these two, which I shall not spoil for those yet to read, that had me applauding. To cast this into understanding for you, I am very picky with minor characters. For one to grab my attention and hold it the way that Lt. Horan did is very rare, so I must once again extend my congratulations to the author.

Overall? Brilliantly done, Anna Scarlett. I can only hope that there will be a sequel. If not, I’ll simply have to re-read Degrees of Wrong again and again!

This blog tour has been hosted by Lynn Marie over at Bringing The Epic. Thank you, Lynn, for allowing me to participate. Thank you also to Anna Scarlett for the ARC and the many, many wonderful lines that this book contains.

If you would like to read some of the other responses to the book on this blog tour, feel free to visit the links below. These include interivews with Anna Scarlett, interviews with the characters of Degrees of Wrong, other reviews and ARC giveaways!

Jamie Manning – What’s On The Bookshelf – The Book Addicts Guide – Ems Reviews Books – Liana Brooks
The Fairy Tale Nerd – Moonlight Book Reviews – The Fuma Files – Confessions Of A Vi3t Babe – Cover Analysis
Book Brats – Cover2Cover – The Book Cellar – We All Make Mistakes In Books – Mandi Baxter – Nite Lite Reviews

Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless by Gail Carriger coverI’m going to begin simply by stating that this book has the cure to whatever ails you. Whether it be work-related blues or sheer tiredness, you’ll start feeling better once you’ve cracked the cover and read the first few pages. I wouldn’t quite suggest it as a prescription, but anything with the wicked kind of humour that Soulless contains is perfectly fine by me.

Meet Alexia Tarabotti, self-proclaimed spinster with a pronounced predilection towards books and a dangerous turn for wielding a parasol to fend off unwanted advances. She has what one might call a slight social impediment: she was born without a soul, and as a result is considered preternatural – between the natural and supernatural worlds. What is especially interesting about Alexia is that due to being soulless, she is able to neutralise any supernatural powers that she comes into direct contact with (such as those of vampires or werewolves, for example). This of course causes a problem when Alexia defends herself against the attack of a vampire, left to the point of starvation and completely uneducated as to how to properly behave.

Armed with her sharp tongue and assertive nature, Alexia must find out why the vampire was left in such a state. In the meantime, she becomes slowly and quietly tangled in a political mess of both supernatural and scientific origin. This necessitates the involvement of the messy and magnetic Lord Conall Maccon, the Earl of Woolsey and Alpha of the local werewolf pack, who is also Queen Victoria’s agent in the matter for the BUR (Bureau of Unnatural Registry, a division of Her Majesty’s Civil Service). Alexia faces adversity in the form of improper behaviour, family dramatics, attempted kidnapping and things of a far darker calibre. The result of all of the above combined is a fantastic romp through Victorian England, with elements of steampunk and history laced through it. Add to this witty dialogue and the downright brilliance of the unresolved romantic tension between Alexia and Lord Maccon, and you’ve got an incredibly entertaining read.

Amongst this book’s many delightful points, I first feel compelled to praise Gail Carriger for creating such a brilliant female protagonist. Alexia might be soulless, but that definitely doesn’t make her dull. Her verbal fencing with Lord Maccon is simply wonderful, and I was immensely pleased to find a vast amount of it throughout the entire book. Secondly, while Alexia’s nature of being soulless/preternatural is used as an important focal point in the book’s plot, it isn’t constantly thrown into the reader’s face at the expense of all other development. Carriger has woven it in with the complexity of werewolf society, the difficulty of Alexia having to submit to a social climate that doesn’t necessarily suit her assertiveness and the major plot of what is occurring amongst the vampire nests to produce roves (the book’s reference to solitary vampires). The layers make the plot much richer, something which I couldn’t help but appreciate. I also really enjoyed the unique approach to vampires: the idea that only a queen vampire can make more of their kind lends a different angle to the established conventions of vampire literature. I thought that in context of the story, it was very well thought out. In addition to her very nicely crafted protagonist, Carriger’s secondary characters are most definitely worthy of praise. Lord Maccon is simply delicious; rough manners and attractive appearance to boot. Professor Lyall, Lord Maccon’s Beta in the werewolf pack, has a wonderfully dry sense of humour and the kind of arresting politeness that characterises a true gentleman. And last, but certainly not least, there’s the utterly fabulous and absolutely outrageous vampire Lord Akeldama; stylish, loud and genuinely a lot of fun in every sense of the word.

Additionally, the dialogue. Oh my, the dialogue. How can I possibly begin to describe what I loved the most?

Here, perhaps?

Lord Maccon was ever more enraged. “Who bit you?” he roared.

Alexia tilted her head to one side in utter amazement. “You did.” She was then treated to the glorious spectacle of an Alpha werewolf looking downright hangdog.

That, right there, is just a single sample of the glorious play on words that Gail Carriger is capable of.  That is one snippet of what runs through this entire book and makes it one of the best reads I’ve had thus far in 2012. I started and finished the book in one night, and purchased the second book in the series today. Please, if you’re suffering from the blues? Go and pick up this book. You won’t regret it.

Review: Every Last Kiss by Courtney Cole

So, you all remember how much I loved Stacey Jay’s Juliet Immortal, right? That was the first Young Adult book I’d read since I was about fourteen, and I enjoyed it enough that I actually went out and found a few more YA books to read, thinking about how much better they’ve gotten since I was a kid in the 90s. So I was really enthusiastic to read Courtney Cole’s Every Last Kiss, because I liked the cover art and the premise seemed interesting enough, involving time travel and ancient Egypt and my favorite trope of Putting Right What Once Went Wrong.

It’s too bad, then, that I wound up so disappointed and had to actually force myself to finish the book – and that almost never happens. I suppose they can’t all be great, but I found myself feeling quite relieved when it was over with. I was especially relieved that Every Last Kiss was short, less than two hundred pages, because any more than that and I’d have felt the distinct urge to pinwheel my arms in the median strip of I-95, screaming the lyrics to “Crazy Train”.

Actually, the fact that this book was so short was part of the problem; the plot felt rushed and there was so little room for character development amidst the frequent descriptions of hair, makeup, and clothes, that I wound up wanting everyone dead by the end of Every Last Kiss, because I just did not give a hoot what happened to any of them. The first book of a series might sometimes be a little clunky, because you’re building a world and establishing your characters and trying to get everything set up. The problem with this book is that the world is full of holes, and the characters are similarly one-dimensional and totally lacking charm. I couldn’t wait for Antony and Cleopatra to die, and for someone who’s cried her way through every single book in Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series, that’s saying a lot.

I still don’t understand the mythology that Cole is trying to put into place, and the rules of it feel completely arbitrary and tacked on. The time travel makes absolutely no sense – why is Macy sent back in time to start with? When we first meet her, she’s already done what she needed to do in her past life as Cleopatra’s handmaid Charmian, even though she doesn’t remember it (having had her memory wiped after each life she lives through, apparently). But now she’s suddenly got to go back and do it all over again for some fictional bland-as-Wonderbread boyfriend, and then fix everything from there because it inevitably gets screwed up? I’m honestly baffled. There was no need for a do-over in the first place.

The dialogue, too, fell flat for me. It was a bizarre mixture of modern slang and archaic syntax, which completely failed to gel and seem plausible in the least. Marc Antony sounded like a teenage girl aping a frat boy, instead of the intelligent (though impulsive) military strategist that he was, and Cleopatra and Macy/Charmian both came across as sorority girls with better jewelry.  Cole spends more time telling us how beautiful everyone is than she does showing us their personalities.

The historical aspects also bothered me. I’m willing to overlook things if the story is good and the characters are compelling, treating it merely as a minor annoyance. But for a book set in the last month or so of Cleopatra’s life to not make a single mention of the battle of Actium, which had taken place nearly a year prior, is appalling. Actium signaled the end as Antony and Cleopatra knew it, giving Octavian sole and uncontested control of the entire Mediterranean – trapping them in Egypt, with nowhere to go and their soldiers defecting en masse, leaving them unprotected. Yet there is no real sense of fear or urgency in Every Last Kiss, which strikes me as incredibly strange, because the plot hinges on Macy/Charmian making sure everything happens the way it’s supposed to. Even the scenes with more action were off, with no tension at all.

Again, the fact that the book is so short may have contributed to the weird tone. I think that if it had been longer, maybe a few things could have been fleshed out and contributed to building a world that makes sense and is interesting to learn about. But then again, you’d also think that a book involving the Temple of Serapis as a major setting would at least get it right that Serapis was a male deity, not a goddess. Even if this was done deliberately, changing the gender was a weird decision, because it didn’t make any sense in the context of the story.

I wish this book had been better than it was, I really do. The concept is actually pretty cool, and with better execution it would have been a joy to read. Lest you think that I found nothing redeeming about Every Last Kiss, I will say that the epilogue as written by Courtney Cole was pretty great. She clearly enjoyed doing her research and writing about her characters, and it shows there. It’s just a shame that the rest of her book wasn’t as coherent – or as interesting.

Anime Review: Romeo & Juliet

I started watching this show because the art was gorgeous – which is sometimes the first thing that gets my attention. After seeing the art, I thought it would be fun to cosplay – so of course I had to watch it. Also, I do admit to enjoying the play. I was in theater in high school and some of college, what can I say.Since this is anime, of course the story gets a bit crazy and spins off the original play, otherwise this wouldn’t be very original. There are dragon steeds [like a pegasus but with the tail of a dragon] and the entire city of Neo-Verona [which is floating btw] is held together by some sort of magic that requires the blood of Capulet women to survive.

Of course it does.

I watched this dubbed on Hulu, and at first I thought it might be a bit too over the top for me, with the crazy mystical changes and whatnot. Overall, I pretty much tried to just jump in and go with the flow of the show, despite some of the bizarre ideas that they used. I did like that Juliet was a strong young woman who didn’t stand idly by, but stood up against the monarchy that was destroying her city. Romeo was also a strong character, very caring and giving compared to his father, and together the two of them went through a lot during the show just to ensure the people of Neo-Verona could have a better life. Also a nice touch was that the characters spoke with a Shakespearean flair that I enjoyed.

Read more for some slightly spoilery chat!

Review: Jane Eyre [2011]

I am quite picky when it comes to films that I will actually trawl myself to the cinema for. This is due to the fact that I have wasted my money on one rubbish romance-comedy too many for my liking. However, happily, I spotted Jane Eyre looking like a diamond in the rough amongst the cinema listings.

It was hardly a difficult decision to make, after that.

I was even more thrilled to watch it when I discovered that the two principal characters of Jane and Mr. Rochester were being played by Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender, both of whom I had seen in other productions for television and film. Having a very high opinion of the abilities of both, I anticipated a promising beginning.

The film’s chronology begins a tad out of sync, settling at the moment of Jane’s parting from Rochester, rather than in the order of the novel. The director chose a retrospective viewpoint from which to display Jane’s life. I thought it was an interesting choice, but would have worked better with a longer amount of screen-time. Two hours wasn’t quite sufficient to make it as effective as it could have been. However, I was still interested to see how this retrospective viewpoint would be developed.

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