Review: The Dream Lover

The Dream Lover: A Novel of George SandThe Dream Lover: A Novel of George Sand by Elizabeth Berg
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley.]

I'm afraid I don't have anything good to say about this book. I was bored through almost the entire story. The frequent back-and-forth in time was disruptive, where it could have been a bit more natural. When the two timelines met around 80%, the book started skipping forward vast amounts of time. Some authors make this work (one of my favorite series is told by skipping around in time). With this book, it did not work. It would have been much better in linear format.

I was bored by the story, and by the persona of George Sand herself. I felt it was bordering on the ridiculous, even if it were completely historically accurate, that she fell in love with essentially every man she ever met, and slept with him too. Now I'm not criticizing her for that, a woman is welcome to do whomever she pleases in my book; rather, I disliked the character that was given to her - petulant, irksome, unlikable, and yet every man she met threw himself at her. It made absolutely no sense to me. She was also incredibly inconsistent. I really tried to put this down as an historical rendering of someone who was truly like this, but in the afterword the author mentions that there are so many conflicting accounts of who she really was and what she was really like, that I have to take the character as someone almost entirely fictionalized, picked and chosen from the various accounts and with whom the author did what she would. In that respect, she was not believable at all to me as a character.

Others have said similar things, and I find myself in agreement with many of the one- and two-star reviewers on Goodreads. One person said it felt like more of a daily journal, and in that respect it certainly was. "That day I went there, and had an argument with this person, and then we made love, and then we went out to eat. The next day he left me and I decided to move back to Nohant. And then I was bored at Nohant and decided I didn't like anyone anymore and moved back to Paris to beg him to come back." It was, again, ridiculous.

I have heard only good things about Elizabeth Berg in the past, and was very excited to read this. Some reviewers have said that her other works are much better, however after reading this I am very hesitant to give one of her others a shot. I do not recommend this book.

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Review: Emissary

Emissary (Legends of the Realm Book #1)Emissary by Thomas Locke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley.]

While I'm only giving this book three stars, I am going to say that this was one of the better new fantasies I've read in a long time. This book was more rooted in traditional fantasy than a lot of other books I've read lately, that purported to be fantasy but were in actuality just a teen romance. It probably helped that Hyam is 21, not 17, and the romance aspect was very underplayed until right around the end.

First, what I did like. I enjoyed the fact that this was more about defeating an enemy than a character finding himself. At one point, Hyam is told that he had better get over himself and stop being so selfish. His quest to find who he is can wait, but right now there's a threat and he needs to do something. I also appreciated that Hyam isn't "the chosen one," but rather an orphan who goes in search of his history, only to find that he has power to help save the country and decides to do something about it.

BUT, and here are the reasons why I couldn't give this four stars (these are very personal reasons and maybe people think I'm being petty, but aren't reviews personal?):

I hate the word crimson. It's like nails on a chalkboard. And I swear it showed up on like every other page. "The crimson mage" this and "the crimson mage" that. Every time the bad mage showed up, it was the only descriptor used. He was "the crimson mage," and that was it. He's referred to so often I wanted to start striking through the word. While this is a rant about the word crimson, it's also a rant about word choice. If you only have one descriptor for a character, there's a problem.

I really didn't understand why doors were referred to as portals. They are *doors*. They don't transport you anywhere. It just sounded like the author was trying to make the world sound more foreign, but it didn't work, because calling doors "portals" was the only real thing that was so altered.

Hyam's personality seemed to change a lot over the course of the book, and I couldn't keep up with what was going on in his head. I had a very hard time connecting with him as a character. I didn't really understand who he was trying to be. While I am grateful that we didn't really get the chosen one trope in this book, I still needed a bit more of a solid character to identify with. Overall, while he does grow and change and evolve throughout the story, and while this is usually a good thing, for me he sort of fell flat.

I did enjoy the plot, and most of the way the story was told. For me it was more of the descriptors, and some of the character development, that really took away from the book. I still recommend this to fantasy lovers, and I'm very glad I was approved to read it. It's certainly an interesting premise and story.

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Review: The Witch of Napoli

The Witch of NapoliThe Witch of Napoli by Michael Schmicker
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley.]

There was a lot that bothered me about this book. I didn't enjoy the POV the author chose. Tomaso came across callous, unfeeling, and more like a pulp fiction private eye character than a newspaper photographer/reporter recalling events from 1899. The book is told from his POV, 20 years after the events he recounts, so he's speaking from somewhere around 1919. He was 16 at the start of 1899, so he's only ~36 by the end of the book. He sounds like a mid-40s American private eye lounging in his office waiting for a pretty dame to come to him with her problems. It was grating.

Throughout the book, Tomaso offers up articles from various papers that tell part of the story of what was happening. But in the first few chapters, he introduces them by saying "Here, I'll read it to you." He also periodically addresses the reader throughout the book, which I found irritating. I understand that the perspective of the novel was intended to be a sort of conversation between Tomaso and the reader, but it was not effective.

There was also quite a bit of juxtaposition of crass words like "piss" and "shit," appearing in the same sentence as polite terms such as "water closet." I think one of the sentences went something like, "I needed to take a piss, so I went in search of the water closet." I'm paraphrasing, obviously, but that's how a lot of this book went. I felt it was awkward.

There was also frequent reference in the first half of the book to how Tomaso used to be poor but now he's rich and edits a newspaper. A reference or two would not have been amiss, but seeing it throughout a large portion of the book felt repetitive and overdone.

Some of the pacing was also awkward. For example, Nigel Huxley is mentioned in the last sentence of Chapter 19. Chapter 20 begins with a two-paragraph vague explanation, and then we don't see his name until the end of Chapter 20, nearly 3% later (that was a lot of pages, if you're wondering). Why bring him up at the end of Chapter 19 if you weren't going to actually talk about him for another ~30 (Kindle) pages? I spent the entire chapter confused, wondering what the big deal was. At first I thought he was actually on the train with them, which confused me even more.

Lastly, my frustration with Tomaso as a character was partly founded on the fact that he declared several times he was in love with Alessandra, but then didn't act like it at all. He spent a lot of time berating her, a little time comforting her, but most of his time acting like a selfish brat who only went along on the tour so that he could see the sights. His devotion to her was not nearly as deep as I would have expected considering how adamant he was that he loved and supported her.

For all the reasons above and some I did not feel like discussing, I did not particularly enjoy reading this book, and would not recommend it to my friends, although it appears I am in the minority. I spent a lot of time being bored with the writing and the content, and not enough being engaged. I didn't care for any of the characters, not even Alessandra. I pitied her, mostly. But that was about it.

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Review: The Witch of Painted Sorrows

The Witch of Painted SorrowsThe Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley.]

I don't even know where to start. This book was far from perfect, but I enjoyed it a lot. I tend to give bad reviews to books that have some holes in them, but this one made up for it in the story. I was completely surprised by the ending, which probably makes me a dunce because looking back it seems like it would be obvious.

There was a lot going on in this book, and I didn't quite understand all of it. The whole side story with Dujols and his occult friends seems almost meaningless by the time the end came around. I still don't know who was willing to help Sandrine, and who only wanted to use her.

The sex scenes were completely unbelievable, but boy were they great even so. They weren't typical romance-novel frequent, but there were enough of them to get the point across. I'm glad this was more of a fantasy-occult-mystery than a romance, even though love was at the center of the story.

I do think there were parts where the story was trying too hard to be something it wasn't, but I can forgive it for the fact that it was simply very entertaining.

//ETA//

I realized reading another review I meant to mention the "sleep rape" scene towards the mid-end of the book. That reviewer is not the only one who noticed it, and the fact that people would defend it as not rape is pretty bad. If the author intended it to be a positive thing, I must seriously question her idea of rape. If Sandrine had actually woken Julien up, and he consented, then cool. But he wasn't awake, not completely, and arousal does not equal consent. End of rant.

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Review: Seeker

Seeker (Seeker, #1)Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley.]

**To clarify my own thoughts because I was left feeling so muddled after finishing, I have been skimming other reviews. I had the same opinions as many others so I'm reiterating them here.**

Seeker is a difficult book to review. Overall it was well-written grammatically, pretty well-edited, and not altogether boring. But I didn't find myself engaged with any of the characters, or even the story. I hated the structure of it, where we get a different character's perspective in each chapter (at least the author didn't attempt to write from four different POV's but still). This technique dragged out scenes that should have lasted maybe 10-15 pages to what felt like more than 50. That huge battle at the estate in the first I think 25% of the story bounced between perspectives I don't know how many times, and it took me a good half hour to get through it all. And the way the back story was structured drove me nuts. We'd be getting along with the present story, and BAM we're in the past again. Also, I still have no clear idea of what a Seeker is. And isn't that the entire point of this book? That we're supposed to figure that out? Apparently they're just people who travel through "anomalies" and kill people. But WHY?

The fact that John was so consumed by the promise he made to his mother completely ruined him as a character. He showed zero progression as a character, no true remorse for anything he did. The constant, "Oh I hope no one hurts Quin, I don't want to hurt Quin, but she better help me or I'm going to hurt her!" only reinforced that he's a terrible person.

I think Shinobu is the only character who really evolved in this book. And I didn't even really like him that much.

I couldn't figure out the "when" and "place" of it all either. Some years were mentioned, but they were several hundred years in the past, and whenever the present was discussed it was stated like, "It's been some four hundred or more years since then," or some other such nonsense. I'm thinking the book takes place in some alternate reality, not based on the present but in an alternate steam-punk-wannabe parallel present. But I'm not entirely sure, because while we got some descriptions of the Scottish estate, and Hong Kong, and a few vague ideas about Traveler, there was no real sense of place or world-building to the story. I didn't feel at all that the estate was in Scotland, because the only person who spoke with an accent (and that wasn't even consistent) was Alastair. Hong Kong didn't feel like a real place either, because all I could figure out was that they lived near a bridge at Victoria Harbor. Traveler was barely described, and I didn't even realize it was an airship until the very end of the book.

The book was okay, but I don't think the author could decide whether to make it a young adult fantasy or a new adult romance. (Not that I think new adult romance is a real genre, but bookstores seem to think so.) And the romance was terrible. Quin is stuck choosing between someone she thinks of as a cousin (and who is constantly referred to as her cousin, even though he's barely blood-related to her, which makes this a completely weak plot line), and a full-tilt psychopath who has no qualms about hurting her to get what he wants, all the while protesting that he doesn't want to hurt her. And when he's done hurting her, they can be together!

Lastly, I was super annoyed by the fact that the pronunciation of "athame" was included RIGHT IN THE TEXT. If you need a pronunciation guide, put it at the beginning or end!

All told, I didn't like it all that much. I am willing to admit it was well-written grammatically for the most part, and readable, but I would not recommend this to anyone I know.

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Review: Dance of Thieves by Mary Pearson

Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson My rating: 5 of 5 stars I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes. ...