Sunday, August 26, 2018

Hostage (Criminals & Captives #2) by Annika Martin & Skye Warren

NOTE: The book reviewed contains themes only appropriate for those above the age of majority.

Cover of Hostage
Hostage was so good that I took a break for a week at about three quarters in so it would last longer, because I didn’t want it to end too soon.

Although we knew about Stone’s history from Prisoner, getting his point of view was equally if not still more devastating as we saw how he, being the eldest, took upon himself the responsibility of taking take care of the others, both in the past and in the present, and doing the dirty work himself so others wouldn’t have to.

And then there is Brooke, seemingly a spoilt rich girl who has everything, but who lets us see behind that façade from the get-go and gives a reader a lot of food for thought regarding how much of the ‘happiness’ and ‘wealth’ some people have could be just putting up appearances and following the invisible rules of the elite .

Brooke, somewhat naïve and innocent to an extent, with her highly-regulated life, and the hardened, disillusioned Stone, stripped of any notions of ‘propriety’ couldn’t be more different. And yet, they complement each other and fit together perfectly.

As Brooke puts it herself, she is a good influence on him and he is a bad (but in a good way) influence on her – while she shows him he doesn’t have to be a monster and can still have a life beyond vengeance, he teaches her how to stand up for herself and be her own person, and they both help each other see a way to live a life not predetermined by their past or other people and stay true to themselves even as they change each other.

Hostage takes place over several years, encompassing the time before and after Prisoner and brings the story to a wrap. Hence, although I would love to see other guys’ stories, I would also be fine with the series ending here, as the ending is very satisfactory and actually even more so than I had expected going in.  

Other qualities I praised in Prisoner – great writing, vivid side characters, real stakes, truly dark elements, and organic development of the romance among others – are also present in Hostage.

All in all, Hostage was what very few sequels are – even better than the first book, and I cannot recommend this duet enough to the lovers of dark romance.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Heroes of Tolkien by David Day

 The cover of The Heroes of TolkienI wanted to like this book, but instead I had to fight the urge to chunk it against the wall much too often. Nevertheless, there were some good things among the bad and the ugly.

The good:

  • Fancy binding and paper and gorgeous illustrations; it is visually a beautiful book.
  • The included charts can be useful, especially as a quick reminder of various relations (but you can’t rely on them for spelling and dates.)
  • Some intriguing takes and interesting comparison with various mythologies and real historical events/personages (although the latter is basically calling Tolkien’s work allegory, which he was strictly and explicitly against, without actually calling it so) and I have learnt some new things about the sources of Tolkien’s ideas and etymology and was reminded of some things I had forgotten. 
  • But mostly, it just made me want to reread actual Tolkien’s works yet again.
The bad:

  • The Heroes of Tolkien is a misleading title, since the book only deals with a selection of the most notable heroes from Tolkien’s works.
  • Equally misleading is the blurb, promising an examination of the complexities of Tolkien’s portrayal of good and evil and then doing no such thing.
  • The subject matter is dealt with superficially, without any in-depth insight into Tolkien’s heroes, so if you expect that, you will be disappointed and better off going for The History of Middle Earth (although I have yet to read it myself.)
  • The writing is all over the place, jumping from one topic to another, with out-of-place asides, and often repetitive. The effect is that of a collection of notes on historical, mythological, and literary similarities and connections, rather than a cohesive treatment of the subject in the title.
The ugly:

  • Many factual errors, confusing the reader and thus rendering the book useless as reference.
  • Day cannot keep the names straight – I know, it is hard with there being so many of them, but if one is writing a book about Tolkien’s heroes, I would consider getting the names right the bare minimum.
  • The Silmarillion in particularly is not Day’s strong point, but the book does improve with Parts VI and VII when he gets to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, so perhaps he should have just stuck with those.
On the whole, I found The Heroes of Tolkien mostly a pretty package with insubstantial content, since it is not informative enough for beginners without some pre-existing familiarity with Tolkien’s work and feels lacklustre to someone who is a bit of a Tolkien nerd like me.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Prisoner (Criminals & Captives #1) by Annika Martin & Skye Warren

NOTE: The book reviewed contains themes only appropriate for those above the age of majority.

This was finally a dark romance that met all my expectations and more.

For starters, the plot with its twists and turns was well-thought through and made sense as did both main and other characters’ choices – there was a good reason behind every decision and outcome.

It was actually dark, as in the criminals really were criminals, and there was kidnapping, murder, and very dubious consent involved, among other things.

And yet, the solid development of the romance angle made me root for Abby and Grayson so hard from the very beginning, because their connection was virtually tangible on all levels, from physical to intellectual and spiritual, and they (as well as other characters) felt alive, fleshed out in all their badness, goodness, and everything in between, with their backstories getting slowly revealed in exquisite pieces in just the right spots over the course of the story.

I loved Abby, who is smart and brave, but also very aware of her anxieties and limits. And my heart broke for Grayson and his ‘crew’ even when they were darn terrifying. And speaking of his crew, they are such a rich ensemble of supporting characters that aren’t just stock chess figures but come to life on the page even with their limited time and roles – and I am so looking forward to reading more about them (as I see there is at least one more book already out, and hopefully more to come.)

And, as the cherry on top of it all, the book is not just well, but beautifully written.

The ending is not your traditional hearts-and-flowers HEA, but is still very much a happily-ever-after in a way that fits these two characters (even if not one we would want to imagine for ourselves.)

So, both gutting and heart-warming, this is an exceptional, clever story which I would highly recommend for those not of faint heart who want a look at the dark side of romance.