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All posts for the month July, 2016

Review: Cara’s Twelve by Chantel Seabrook

Published July 11, 2016 by Shannon

Cara's Twelve

This was the first NetGalley book I was able to download and read on my own, despite being a member for years. So, yay for some accessibility improvements, I guess, although the process isn’t nearly as painless as it would be, say, if I were sighted.

Anyway, Cara’s Twelve by Chantel Seabrook isn’t a bad book. It’s not super amazing, and I wanted it to be more than it was, but for my virgin Net Galley attempt, I could have done worse.

The blurb:

“Highly recommended.” -Jack Magnus, Readers’ Favorite-

Raised in the backwater province of Crowthorne, Cara finds her fate bound to a system she despises and a goddess she no longer believes in. When it becomes
clear that the heir to the Elbian throne has found disfavor in the eyes of the goddess, Cara is ordained by blood to take her cousin’s place as heir apparent.

One man from each twelve provinces are chosen by the royal council to pledge their lives and swords as champions and consorts of the future queen. From
these men, Cara must choose the future king of Elbia. Before she is able to take her place on the throne, Cara and her Twelve must visit each province
and perform a sacred ceremony, one that will make Cara question everything she thought was real.

Cara soon realizes that not all of the men who swore to protect her are what they seem, and that there are those who would use her as a tool to gain power.

Cara’s Twelve is a refreshingly different, romantic fantasy story of fair maidens and fearless warriors in a medieval land.

I was drawn to this book because I liked the notion of one woman having to choose from among twelve potential consorts, Bachelorette style. I might have also been hoping for a reverse harem situation, like In this recent read. Alas for me, that was not what happened. Instead, Cara’s choices are laid out fairly clearly in the beginning. Most of her Twelve, in fact, get very little character development, and by about the halfway point, it was clear I wasn’t getting a love dodecahedron. It was going to be a standard love triangle between the broody one with the tragic past and the sweet but overprotective one with whom Cara develops insta-lust. For me, this marred the pacing of the book. When it became clear that most of the Twelve were unnecessary, I stopped caring about them.

That’s not to say the book is all horrible. I liked the world that Ms. Seabrook has created, and I liked watching Cara grow into a formidable ruler, even if at times she was a bit shrill. I also appreciated that Ms. Seabrook didn’t sugar coat the violence. There were some dark scenes in this book, and I liked that Cara found them distressing and didn’t just shrug them off like, “Oh well.”

Unfortunately, since the romance got sapped of anything interesting fairly quickly, my enjoyment of the book suffered. I thought the ending in particular was a shade too bittersweet for romance readers. (It’s an HEA, but not a terribly satisfactory one for me.)

I feel like I’m ragging on this book more than I mean to. It’s competently written. I appreciated that there was a strong female friendship throughout that sustained Cara, because I was not expecting that would be the case at all. And though the men we did get to see weren’t well-developed, I didn’t hate any of them.

My first NetGalley book gets graded a C. I’d probably seek out more by this author, but not right away.

June book bingo!

Published July 1, 2016 by Shannon

I had a pretty good month with the shallowreader bingo. I’m so glad she’s agreed to make the cards accessible so I can play! And this time I almost filled in everything. Bwahaha. Recurring themes include books that are objectively terrible, but I read them anyway.

Naked: Some Kind of Magic by R Cooper. Werewolf cop realizes flighty half-fairy profiler is his mate. He spends six hours in audio not doing anything but suffering stoically in silence. I got extremely irritated with both characters, and even though R Cooper writes the sort of M/M I should theoretically like, her complete lack of an editor means I probably won’t read her again until she gets a better publisher than Dreamspinner.

A Child’s Grief: Nope.

June: Thomas by Grace Burrowes. I’ve read this Burrowes before, when it was called Douglas, with the competent heroine managing an estate until the hero shows up. I didn’t quite buy Thomas’s sudden elevation to baron, because he wasn’t titled in previous books, and I thought he was a bit condescending to the capable amazon heroine, but dammit I can’t stay mad at these books for long. I put this here because it was set in summer, which I thought was close enough.

Dust: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. This was a book club read. I liked it more than a lot of the people in my book club did, but it sort of… ended, which I wasn’t a fan of. I put it here because of all the vivid descriptions of bombed-out London during the blitz.

Delusion: Broke, USA by Gary Rivlin. A very angry-making look at the poverty industry–payday loans, instant tax refund services, and even pawn shops. The fact that these people think they’re actually doing good for the working poor is the delusional part.

Au Revoir: Beautiful Bitch by Christina Lauren: The couple takes a trip to France. Not much happens in this novella, but I liked the first book a lot, and appreciated the glimpse into Chloe and Bennett as they got more serious about each other.

Interrupted Intimacy: Barbarian’s Touch by Ruby Dixon. Another addition to a series of books that probably in the main aren’t very good, but I love them. When the hero and heroine plan on getting intimate, the heroine’s sister is there to ruin it.

I have to add that what I love about this particular installment of the series is that Leila, our heroine, is deaf, and even though it would be easy for Ms. Dixon to tack on a deus ex machina ending that restored her hearing, she didn’t. (The books are about earth women stranded on a planet where, in order to survive, they must take on a symbiont that keeps them healthy and able to survive in the, well, icy planet’s atmosphere. It has cured brain tumors, so hearing loss shouldn’t have been a problem.) Instead, we get Leila being competent in the way disabled people seldom are, and Rokan, her mate, deciding that learning to communicate with her was his problem, not hers. I can even forgive the fact that linguistics don’t work the way they do in the book, because he was always very much in her corner, and I loved that.

Mini: The Turn of the Screw by Henry James: This one was 5 hours long on audio, hence why I put it here. It may be a slim book, but it packs a hell of a punch, and I’m still not entirely sure I have an explanation for what went on that satisfied me. I liked it a lot, though, and would like to seek out more of his work.

Gratitude: Can’t Hold Back by Serena Bell. Gratitude was actually a running theme in this book. The heroine is worried that the hero’s feelings about her are mostly gratitude over the fact that she helped relieve his war-inflicted pain. I like Serena Bell’s writing, and I enjoy this series, which is angsty but not over the top. I did think, however, that the heroine was a bit of a martyr.

Just the Tip: Lassoing the Virgin Mail Order Bride by Alexa Riley. Not all of Riley’s books work for me. This one did, though, and it’s appropriate because the hero, Cash, wonders if he can get further inside the heroine’s tight virgin body than the tip of his penis.

I’m So Sorry: Never Sweeter by Charlotte Stein: This book is one extended grovel scene. I loved it, and reviewed it here.

Beautiful All Along: Introductions by C L Stone. Gah. These books. Sang is a ridiculous Mary Sue. She has nine love interests, and end game looks like she’ll get with all of them and they’ll share her. I didn’t know I was into this until I started reading it. And I am kind of ashamed.

Gold Star: Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell: They couldn’t agree on much after the end of the Revolutionary War, but people in the US seemed to agree that Lafayette was the best. As for me, the book was engaging if not terribly substantive.

Gesticulate: Revival by Stephen King. A quieter sort of horror novel than I’m used to, although it doesn’t really stick out much in my head. However, there was a lot of carnie showmanship going on from Charles Jacobs, the piece’s eventual villain.

Broken Pedistal: David by Grace Burrowes. Letty is hired to become the madam of a brothel that David owns. Of course, she’s a historical romance heroine, so her fall from grace wasn’t entirely her fault. And her brother also finds out that his wife is a terrible shrew and not just the misguided snarky woman he thought she was. It wasn’t a terribly great Burrowes, but it hit the spot when I was reading.

Solstice: Changeling by Yasmine Galenorn. The book closes on a Yule celebration. I liked it a lot, though again, this is not a terribly substantial
series. But the sister dynamics are great, and I’m enjoying watching the different ways they navigate interesting relationship dynamics.

Mary Sue: First Days by C L Stone. Because literally all the boys at Ashley Waters High want to be with Sang. Why? I have no idea. It’s bad enough she has her harem of nine.

White Man’s Burden: Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi. I put this here because there aren’t really any white characters to speak of. This isn’t a bad thing. It was lovely to read about disabled queer characters of color in space being awesome. The only sour note I found is that one of the characters is an otherkin, and I thought the rest of the crew were a little hard on our protagonist for thinking something mildly judgey about him. Because dammit, I was feeling mildly judgey, too.

With Pleasure: The Best Kind of Trouble by Lauren Dane. Paddy Hurley is definitely a hedonist, which makes him a great foil for Natalie, who’s a bit of a control freak. I loved all the female friendship in this one, and I adored the rest of the Hurley family. Also, Kate Turnbull was an excellent narrator.

For Your Own Good: Kneel, Mr. President by Lauren Gallagher: I still love that the President of the United States is kinky and poly in this book. I reviewed it here.

Shipping: Once a Soldier by Mary Jo Putney: There was a lot of talk both about how to transport wine out of the country in which the book was set, and about how both the main couple and the secondary couple were just perfect for each other. I reviewed it here.

Pride: Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren: Both Bennett and Chloe have pride in spades. Also, they’re both kind of awful people to each other, but their awfulness was endearing.

I ended up reading this one because someone showed up in my Twitter mentions to finger wag about the author’s ethics, but since they aren’t hiding the fact that this used to be Twilight fanfic, I don’t see the problem? Especially since none of the rest of the books they’ve written appear to be.

Pretty in Pink: Friends vs. Family by C L Stone: Naturally, Sang’s favorite color is pink. Because of course it is.

Hero is a Mountain: Forgiveness and Permission by C L Stone: My favorite of Sang’s harem is the gentle giant Silas. Who is supposedly Greek, which makes me wonder if maybe I should give some of those tycoons a try.

100: Nope.

Also read: Drop of Doubt by C L Stone, where we meet Volto, who points out how fucked up everything in this setting is.
Push and Shove by C L Stone: In which one of her boys is kind of a manipulative little pill, but it had a legitimately hot scene in it, so I’ll forgive that.

PS: You’re Mine by Alexa Riley: Soldier writes letters to a schoolteacher. They meet when he’s deployed, and, well, it’s an Alexa Riley book so you can probably predict what happens. It was a cute bit of fluff.