Adriana Anders

Review: Uncharted by Adriana Anders

02:30

Title: Uncharted
Author: Adriana Anders
Date of publication: 24 Aug 2021
Genre: Romantic suspense, Alaska

Author's links:

My rating: 2.5 Stars


Blurb 

Hotshot pilot Leo Eddowes is afraid of nothing and no one. So when she's asked to evacuate a man from the wilds of Alaska, she doesn't hesitate. But with enemies in close pursuit and the weather turning sour, what should have been a simple mission quickly shifts to disaster.

And there's only one way out.

When Elias Thorne disappeared, he was America's most wanted. Now he's spent more than a decade in one of the most remote places on earth, guarding a dangerous secret. Leo's arrival, quickly followed by a team of expert hunters, leaves him no choice but to join forces with her—and run. Neither is prepared for their reluctant partnership to flare into something as wild and untamed as the frozen world around them...but as desperately cold days melt into scorchingly hot nights, Leo and Elias must learn to dig deep, trust in each other, and forge a bond as strong as the forces of nature.

Stranded together in a frozen wilderness,
There's nowhere left to run...


Review

I was bitterly disappointed with this book after absolutely loving the previous in the series. I did read Whiteout last January before the pandemic started and the deadly virus plot of the series definitely didn't affect me the way it did now, now it hit too close to home for me to enjoy the story and the romance.

It was not pleasant but I could have ignored it if the rest worked better for me. I can suspend belief regarding many things in romantic suspense but this book things too far and it felt ridiculous instead of engaging.

The heroine was sick (flu-type thing) throughout the book, on top of being injured and freezing to death for the most of it. It was stressful to read and honestly, felt superfluous, the tension was there even without it. The heroine is Black and she is an ex-military pilot but none of that is presented in much detail. From my position of an outsider, a Southeastern European white woman I expected it to be more central.

There is no romance to speak of in the first 40/50%. There was. no real character development either, just two people trying to survive in the Alaska wilderness while hunted by the bad guys.

I did like the final quarter of the book most of all - the romance was finally happening though I was not too fond of possessive, fated mates aspect in contemporaries, I can see it working here with all the adrenaline and emotions running high because of the extreme situations the MCs are in. At the same the whole danger/survival aspect was too much, we get reminded of her sickness and his injuries every couple of pages and it became boring at some point.

I liked the hero and appreciated the way he cared for the heroine. His backstory and current situation made sense though I was surprised by his abrupt change from a loner to someone who can't imagine life without the heroine. It all felt over the top to me.

There is a side plotline with Amka and the other people in town which didn't add anything to the story for me, I just found distracting.

I am intrigued by one of the villains who is morally grey but I am not sure that even his story will tempt me to continue with the series.

CW: an MC with flu-like symptoms, life-threatening injuries, violence, blood, dog in danger (survives)

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F/F romance

Review: The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri

02:30

Title: The Jasmine Throne (Burning Kingdoms #1)
Author: Tasha Suri
Genre/Themes: Fantasy, f/f romance, Indian setting and MCs
Release Date: 8 June 2021


My rating: 5 Stars


Blurb 

Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.

Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.

But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire.

Review 

I read the first book in Tasha Suri's previous series, Empire of Ash, and I liked it ok. This one though completely blew my mind. I loved everything in it - the Indian history/mythology inspired setting, the MCs and the secondary characters and all the complex relations among them, the high-stakes suspense plot, the tender f/f romance, the magic elements. 

It's a brilliant, very evocative and complex fantasy with strong f/f romantic elements.

I loved the writing, it was smooth and easily flowing and unlike many fantasy stories, especially when it's first book in a series, there was no info dump and I never felt overwhelmed with too many details about the world or the magic system. rich. 

The story is told from multiple POVs and they worked so well for me. Each voice was distinctive, giving strong individuality and important insight in the overall story. I was deeply invested in all the subplots and loved how they culminated in Priya and Malini's plot, both romantically and intrigue/suspense wise. 

The romance element is lovely but not central to the story, it's just one aspect of Priya and Malini's growth in the story. The focus, in my opinion, falls on the two women coming into their own powers, after the world had forced them to make themselves small, almost invisible in order to survive and, often, to escape the wrath and violence of the men around them. 

This book is all about strong women and how they navigate the world around them. Priya and Malini were amazing, but also Bhumika, Sima and basically I loved all the female characters. They are angry and prickly, often scared but also determined as they reclaim their place in the world. They are morally grey, going full black occasionally, but they are also caring and loyal. The moments they show  tenderness and vulnerability - they melted my heart. 

Most the female characters can be described as quintessential unlikeable heroines - the are on a journey where they are no longer hiding their power desires in all senses, they are no longer hesitant to act, instead they reach out and grab the power that inherently belongs to them. Same goes for their desires, both physical and of their soul - it's a slow process but in the end they are ready to pursue them with no shame or regret. 

Apart from the growth of strong female characters, this story is also about strong relationships -  friendship, rivalry, revenge, love in all their dimensions. I loved how nothing about the relationships in the story is just black or white, there is a lot of grey there but also lots of bright colours of hope and future. 

Overall, this is an amazing epic fantasy with strong f/f romance elements and I absolutely mesmerized by it. Can't wait for its sequel coming in 2022. 

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Note: I am adopting a new rule regarding Content Warnings in my reviews. I will quote them from the author's site if available, adding things on my own discretion is necessary. 

CW: per author's website
Explicit violence including immolation and self-immolation
Gender-based violence (this does not include sexual assault)
Homophobia and internalised homophobia
Suicidal ideation
Self-mutilation
Abusive family dynamics
Child murder
Body horror (plant-based, cosmic)
Forced drug use and depictions of addiction/withdrawal

Nalini Singh

Review: Last Guard by Nalini Singh

02:30

Title: Last Guard (Psy-Changeling Trinity #3)
Author: Nalini Singh
Date of publication: 20 July 2021
Genre: Paranormal romance, shifters

Author's links:

Rating: 5 Stars


Blurb 

Termed merciless by some, and a robotic sociopath by others, Payal Rao is the perfect Psy: cardinal telekinetic, CEO of a major conglomerate, beautiful—and emotionless.

For Canto Mercant, family and loyalty are everything. A cardinal telepath deemed "imperfect" by his race due to a spinal injury, Canto cares for the opinions of very few—and ruthlessly protects those he claims as his own. Head of intel of the influential Mercant family, he prefers to remain a shadow in the Net, unknown and unseen. But Canto is also an Anchor, part of a secretive designation whose task it is to stabilize the PsyNet. Now that critical psychic network is dying, threatening to collapse and kill the entire Psy race with it.

To save those he loves, Canto needs the help of a woman bound to him by a dark past neither has been able to forget. A woman who is the most powerful Anchor of them all: Payal Rao. Neither is ready for the violent inferno about to ignite in the PsyNet…or the passionate madness that threatens to destroy them both.

Review 

This is just brilliant, one of my favourites in the whole series which is no small with over 20 books in the series and me loving most of them. Nalini Singh is truly a master of the paranormal romance and her stories set the highest of high bars against which I measure any other shifter romance I read.

I loved everything in this story - the familiarity of the world, the amazing writing, the suspense and the romance.

Together with the familiar things in this story that gave me comfort and warm feel, there were a number of firsts here that keep the series fresh and every book stands out with something. For the first time we see an MC with a physical disability, furthermore he is a Psy and Psys don't tolerate imperfection (or everyone thinks). It was great to see Canto Mercant being a strong leader despite everything. I can judge the disability representation from an outsider perspective only but I felt it was done with care and empathy.

I love Psy-changeling couples the most with psy-psy coming close second. It is fascinating to watch how the psy embrace their emotions, how they deal with them in different ways. Canto is not really silent and his close contact with the bear shifters set him apart from most psys. The unwavering support of the Mercant family is also a powerful force that shaped him.

In a way Payal family has also shaped her who she is in a very, very different way from Canto's family.

Re-discovering each other after years, it was like getting to know each other again while at the same time, they already knew the most intimate secrets of each other. I loved how they got to trust each other, to rely on the other in all things.

We move between Moscow (bear country) and India (Rayal's world) and we get to see some of the bears which is always fun. We also get another first here - a queer relationship between to men - a psy and a bear shifter (we already met them in Silver Silence). It's not a central element or presented in much detail but it is there, wrecking havoc on the very heteronormative world we have seen in this series so far. I

The over-arching suspense plot of the series continues, it might be a bit repetitive at this point, with new threads to the psy network coming up all the time and then being resolved with the help of a new sub-designation of psys. Still, I can very much overlook this and just enjoy the good guys coming together and victorious (for now) against the bad guys.

The ending of the story was such a tender touch, highlighting the role of kindness in the world. It worked brilliantly for me.

A note of warning in the end, child abuse and the respective trauma feature prominently in this book (this is not somethin new in the series), it made for a difficult and very emotional read at times. The violence and suffering is not gratuitous at all, it makes sense in the world of the series though that doesn't make it any easier to read through.

Overall, this is another unforgettable instalment in the series and I can highly recommend it.

CW: child abuse (in the past), eugenics, torture (physical and mental), violence, ableism (challenged throughout the story)

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Fairytale retelling

Review: For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten

04:23

Title: For the Wolf (Wilderwood #1)
Author: Hannah Whitten
Genre/Themes: Fantasy, Fairytale retelling, Romance
Release Date: 01 June 2021

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Goodreads / Instagram

My rating: 5 Stars


Blurb

The first daughter is for the Throne.

The second daughter is for the Wolf.

For fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale comes a dark fantasy novel about a young woman who must be sacrificed to the legendary Wolf of the Wood to save her kingdom. But not all legends are true, and the Wolf isn't the only danger lurking in the Wilderwood.

As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he'll return the world's captured gods.

Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can't control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can't hurt those she loves. Again.

But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn't learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.

Review

This is a debut fantasy retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood and I greatly enjoyed it. I found the suspense plot intriguing, the world building was interesting and new-to-me (I haven't read anything like it before though I am sure it's not an entirely new concept, I just haven't read much SFF yet), the romance was understated but also worked great for me and found it fitting to the characters.

The story started a bit slowly for me but but the pace quickly picked up and I was eager to keep on reading. I liked the magic system, it was detailed and interesting, though quite bloody, mind you.

I loved how the story explored the power and abuse of religion and religious cult. The issues of free will and choice and loyalty were central in this story and I loved the author's takes on the,

Love is also an important element in this story - love between sisters, between a mother and her children, romantic love. We see how it can literally save you but also how it can destroy you.

I loved how the relationship between Red and the Wolf progressed, they were perfect for each other but they had to overcome so many difficulties before they got together.

Overall, this is an intriguing fantasy with romantic element, it's engaging, creepy but ultimately hopeful. The writing was brilliant and I am already excited for the next in the series which should come out next summer.

CW: sacrifice, self harm (cutting for magic purposes), violence, alcohol abuse, parental neglect, gore

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Historical Romance

Review: Subtle Blood by KJ Charles

02:30

Title: Subtle Blood (The Will Darling Adventures #3)
Author: KJ Charles
Genre/Themes: Historical, MM romance, Mystery
Release Date: 23 June 2021

Author's links: Website / Twitter / FB Group / Goodreads

My rating: 4 Stars

Blurb

Will Darling is all right. His business is doing well, and so is his illicit relationship with Kim Secretan--disgraced aristocrat, ex-spy, amateur book-dealer. It’s starting to feel like he’s got his life under control.

And then a brutal murder in a gentleman’s club plunges them back into the shadow world of crime, deception, and the power of privilege. Worse, it brings them up against Kim’s noble, hostile family, and his upper-class life where Will can never belong.

With old and new enemies against them, and secrets on every side, Will and Kim have to fight for each other harder than ever—or be torn apart for good.

Review


This is a great ending to a great series!

I absolutely loved the romantic aspect - following the ups and downs and Will and Kim's relationship, over 3 book has given me deep insight into it and love it. They are arguably my favourite KJ Charles' couple - opposites who complement each other perfectly and who learn how to be together through trial and error.

We see then build something genuine and long-lasting despite the lies and manipulation it started on. It's journey for both of them, time of change and growth, much of it forced by circumstances outside their control. It can be exciting but also scary, their hesitance, their trepidation felt natural, they both change and grow, each one dealing with their emotional baggage.

The suspense plot is engaging as always with KJ Charles' books. We have a strong focus on families here, in particular on Kim's truly awful family. We see entitlement in its worst, couple with greed and stupidity. It does not make a winning combination in the end though it sure causes enough havoc. suspense plot. Here is also my only niggle with the story, some of the main elements of the suspense plot and its resolution felt too similar to the previous book in the series. It made sense and felt organic, just a bit repetitive, we have already seen it play out.

Everything about Kim's family highlighted how previous Will and Kim's relationship is - the hard-earned trust in each other, the deep care and readiness to sacrifice oneself for the happiness of the other person - total opposite on the relations in Kim's family.

The declarations of love and commitment in this book are like no other and I loved them so much. We get to see both Will and Kim being vulnerable in their honesty. In this book it was Will who had to make the choice and do the things that scare him the most.

Overall, wonderful series, greatly recommended!

CW; violence, verbal abuse, homophobia, blackmail

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