Historical Fantasy and Good Storytelling

Title: The White Mare (Book 1 of The Dalriada Trilogy)
Author: Jules Watson
Genre: Historical fantasy
Source: I own this book.

Set during the period when Rome was busy trying to take over the world, including the British isles, this novel leads the reader deep into relationships, magic/pre-Christian faiths, and war. Wars of all definitions are occuring. Battles for place / rank in society, battles for love, battles against love, battles of protection and revenge, battles of hatred and jealousy....all are prominent and intermingled in this engaging novel.

Title: The Dawn Stag (Book 2 of The Dalriada Trilogy)
Author: Jules Watson
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: I own this novel.

A continuation of the first novel; some of the battles have been won, some are close to being resolved, while others are just barely coming to a head. This is a very satisfying tale for readers who enjoy their romance mixed with the more gritty side of life...actual war.

Overall: I've enjoyed reading these novels. I've even checked the third out from the library. (I have no idea why I bought one and two but not three) I plan on reading it, but am a bit put off due to the ending of the second book. This is a trilogy, which as far as I know means a continuation of the story. However, the story is completely wrapped up by the end of Dawn Stag. Infact, there is even an epilogue that tells of us how the main characters lived the rest of their lives. That doesn't seem to be leading to another book.....but, we'll see. Ever had a series do something like that to you? How'd it work out?

The Value of Good Storytelling

Many fantasy readers are aware of two main sub-genres, high fantasy and historical fantasy. The similarities are easy to spot and make readers comfortable in both categories, but it's really the differences that count. While both can have (and often do) swords and magics, high fantasy involves worlds and battles much like our own....but different. Different as in on a different planet, travel involving portals, things like that. Historical fantasy is just what it sounds like. An epic tale set in a known-to-us historical time period. The characters and situations may be completely fictional, but these tales are usually grounded in some historical accuracy.

Why am I telling you this? I had to look it up for myself. I'm a fantasy reader from way back, but I was hard pressed to explain why some fantasy novels appealed to me while others didn't. After researching it a bit, I've come up with an answer that is not entirely based on the research, but makes sense to me. In my experience, most high fantasy novels create a distance between the reader and the tale by the language they choose to use. These types of novels seem to be less about the story telling and more about the outlandish fantasy. I don't mind outlandish fantasy, but only if it is paired with great story telling. Historical fantasies tend, imo, to be more concerned with the tale and its details and less about how the language sounds.

And the winner is........

free glitter - http://www.sparklee.com

Out of 38 total entries, Carey was chosen to be the recipient of the $60 gift card from CSN stores......and will also be receiving a surprise romance novel from me! Congratulations, Carey! I will be emailing you soon for your shipping address.

My blog is 1 year old!!

I love birthdays! Don't you?  And while I adore receiving birthday gifts, I've learned a lil something from my husband and now I also enjoy giving other people gifts on my birthday. My blog's birthday works just as well for me.....I've got goodies to give away!

One of the bloggy-birthday gifts I'm giving is a $60 gift card to any of the CSN stores. They have dozens...hundreds...of different stores and products to choose from. Personally, I like the book case store and the bedding stores, but you can use it where ever you want.

The other gift, which I decided to add just now (literally), is a surprise. Sort of. The winner of the gift card will have the opportunity to choose from three categories of books.  I will then surprise them with a book of my choice . (Hey it's my bloggy birthday, I pick what you read!)  If the winner of the gift card doesn't choose a genre then a separate, different winner will be chosen from those who did, to receive the book.

Please spread the word! Birthdays are better with friends!

Fill out the form to enter!

Such sweetly confused romantics!

Title: A Lady of Persuasion
Author: Tessa Dare
Genre: Historical Romance
Source: borrowed from the library - wish it were mine!

I know Ms. Dare already has two of the three books in her new collection out, but I'm still working on the first trilogy. My book buying budget has been more than a bit tight.....and combine that with the fact these books have huge wait lists at my library means I'm a bit behind the times. Oh, well! This one was worth waiting for.....and makes me think I should fight harder to not have to wait for her other books.

This novel, as well as the others I'm sure, did something I really enjoyed...it is set in the same time/world as Surrender of a Siren, has many characters in common, but is not a sequel or continuation. Some of the characters who were minor or side characters in Siren are now the main characters in this novel.

Summary from author's website:

Only one thing could convince Sir Tobias Aldridge, an incorrigible rake, to profess undying fidelity to a woman he’s just met. Revenge. What better way to get back at his enemy, than by stealing the scoundrel’s sister? Not that Toby finds it a chore, seducing a beguiling, sultry beauty freshly arrived from the West Indies. When the prize is Isabel Grayson, vengeance is doubly rewarding.
Isabel is determined to marry a wealthy, powerful lord and become a lady of influence, using her rank and fortune to fight social injustice. Sir Toby, with his paltry title and infamous reputation, is unsuitable husband material—but he makes her blood race, her heart pound, and her long-buried passions come to the surface. If she can reform the charming devil, she’ll get exactly what she craves: society’s respect. But it’s a dangerous gamble. For if Toby wins this battle of persuasion, Isabel could lose her heart.

I love it! All the characters I'm comfortable with, but new faces, situations, and loves to learn about.  My only complaint is that the two leads, Toby and Isabel, fall into that frustrating trap of trying to read the other's mind but not actually talking about the problems and feelings. Otherwise, this is a sweet love story of two people who seem genuinly surprised when love strikes them.

Also! If you are a fan of Tessa's books, she is running a contest from her web site where you can enter to win a signed copy of one of her new books. You should go enter. I am.

It's a vampire sex carnival!

Title: My Wicked Vampire
Author: Nina Bangs  (who has an awesome name, btw.)
Genre: paranormal romance
Source: public library

Who wouldn't want to go to an adult theme park.....especially one billed to fulfill your dreams - whatever they are? Sounds good right? Now throw in a vampire or two, some mischievous cosmic deities, a wizard, a goddess or two, and don't forget the hybrid plants. Sounds even .....crazier? Better? This novel is all of that. Problems come from all angles, there is a lot of not talking about the important things, and some quite silly names ( the owner of the park is named Sparkle Stardust), but in all it is a fun to read novel.

What I like:
1. While it is technically the fourth book in the Castle of Dark Dreams series, it functions almost perfectly as a stand alone. I didn't know it was part of a series when I picked it up, and there were only a few places where I felt I wasn't getting enough information. I don't think it is necessary to read the others, but they are probably just as much fun as this one.

2. The setting is perfect. While I like imagining a world where the monsters are accepted as every day citizens, that is sometimes hard for me to buy. The idea that at least a few of them would band together and use their powers to create a business like the Dark Dreams fantasy park seems totally reasonable to me. They get to use their powers and show off whatever makes them different while the humans get to indulge in their fantasies and never truly know it is real.

What I dislike:
1. The names are truly awful. The seem to fit the fantasy idea, but in general the names are so ridiculous ....Sparkle Stardust, Cinn, Bain..  Nope no telegraphing character traits through their names here...nope none at all.

2. There was a lot of action and strange situations the characters had to overcome. This isn't the problem, per se. However, often the situations were seen coming miles off. There were so many contextual hints and clues as to what was going to happen that very little seemed surprising.

Overall: I had fun reading the vampire sex carnival that is My Wicked Vampire. It isn't a serious, thinking book, but is worth a shot if you're looking for a fun summer read.

A romance with a bit of mystery

Title: Truly, Madly (A Lucy Valentine Novel)
Author: Heather Webber
Genre: romance
Source: my personal copy

Better than a cool glass of milk is a cool glass of chocolate milk. Better than a surprisingly sweet romance is a sweet romance mixed with a mystery.  I  enjoy romances like this, where the characters have other things going on and aren't particularly looking for love. The added story just makes it more believable to me.

This is the first novel in a new line featuring Lucy Valentine. Her entire family has powers. Some can see auras, which they use to better the family match-making business. Lucy can find lost items, which keeps her from joining the family business....almost, but then that doesn't even go as planned.

What I like:

1. While the family has these supernatural powers, this isn't a paranormal romance. The inclusion of these powers is down played, the family doesn't want anyone else to know about them, and they set Lucy up for a fun series of adventures.

2. Both Lucy and Sean (the male lead) are/were English majors and name their pets after literary figures. I love it! And I love the idea of naming a cat Grendel.

What I dislike:

1. The end felt a bit rushed, which is strange because the rest of the novel played out well. Events, romantic and not, unfolded naturally. So, the end where *poof* everything just seems to fall in place is a bit odd....and quick. Especially knowing that this is the beginning of the series, it could have been stretched out a bit.

2. This one is my fault. I read the excerpt, included in the back of the book, of the next novel....and a character and relationship I really enjoyed appears to be broken. Stupid spoilers in the excerpt! I won't ruin it for you, but I would recommend not reading the next preview.

Overall:  This is a fun read. It plucks all the right heart strings......and who wouldn't want a Valentine match-maker?

So excited!

In honor of this blog's birthday, CSN has kindly given me a $60 gift certificate to share with my followers. Since we're all readers here, maybe you'll choose a new book case, or maybe something to spruce up your bed. Curling up someplace comfy does sound good doesn't it?

On the anniversary of my first post, July 16, I'll post about the actual contest. It will run until July 31...giving you lots of time to enter, hope, and plan what you'll use the gift certificate on. Plus, I'll probably throw in some other goodies.

How does that sound for a birthday party?
I read books they way other people eat, sleep, or watch movies....voraciously, obsessively, and as often as possible. The reviews, random commentary, and snark in this blog are mine alone. Don't take my word...read the book.
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