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About Amy

Amy is a feminist who never realized how much she would love being a stay-at-home mom (at least for now). She reads everything, but has a particular fondness for anything with speculative elements and romance. Her favorite authors change with the seasons but most recently include Ilona Andrews, Kristin Cashore, and Laini Taylor.

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REVIEW:  The Iron Traitor  by Julie Kagawa

REVIEW: The Iron Traitor by Julie Kagawa

The Iron Traitor

Dear Julie Kagawa:

I was a fan of your first book “Iron King,” which I received at an RWA conference awhile ago, and then as I completed the next two books, my interest sort of lagged, and I don’t exactly remember why. I lost track of your books, but recently when your latest popped up on my radar, I had to take a look. Although I ’m glad I did, readers here should know that this book is definitely no romance.

Ethan Chase is recovering from being fairy-napped for the second time in his life. He’s still digesting several discoveries, among them, that his missing sister has become a faery queen herself and has a son as the same age as him (because of weird fairy time). It also didn’t help that he vanished from the mortal world at the same time as rich and popular classmate MacKenzie St. James. Their shared experiences of nearly dying in the faery realm have brought them together and they intend to stay together. But when Ethan gets sucked into more dangerous fairy complications, his relationship with MacKenzie is tested.

Ethan is a compelling character and I like how he makes stupid teenage mistakes as is fitting. He allows his nephew’s faery girlfriend Annwyl to stay in his room and heads off to fairyland all the while telling MacKenzie to stay behind. Concerned about her safety and his nephew Keirran’s problems, he fails to realize what the situation might look like to MacKenzie. And when MacKenzie and Ethan meet up in fairy land, a difficult yet mature conversation is had that shows how these two former loners are still trying to adjust to being part of a couple.

Throughout the story, Ethan and Keirran are presented as two people in similar situations with opposing views, and it is interesting to see how they react to each other. Both Ethan and Keirran have loves who are destined to die, but Keirran is the type who will destroy himself in making fey bargains to save what he loves. Ethan, on the other hand, has had a life long suspicion of the fey and tends to be more about letting fate take its course. His back history was well woven into his present day reactions. Usually, I’m on the side of ‘love will conquer all,’ but in this story, I found myself rooting for Ethan’s point of view. Sometimes all that you have is all that you have and you have to treasure what you have before it fades away. Unfortunately for Ethan, the fey are not going to let him do that with his terminally ill girlfriend Kenzie.

Kenzie, though pretty and popular, is living with the knowledge that she has terminal disease. Though the characterization of Kenzie nearly veered into the background-jealous-girlfriend trope at points, for the most part, she had her own motivations and her reactions were firmly rooted in the character you had established; someone who wasn’t afraid to risk danger because her life was limited already.

Kierran is great as the dark foreboding character, but for some reason the relationship between him and Annwyl didn’t intrigue me as a reader. You go in to the story knowing that they are deeply in love and devoted to each other, despite the fact that their relationship is forbidden by complicated faerie court politics, but there isn’t much more development beyond Annwyl’s being the victim in need of saving and Kierran’s obsession with saving her life. There are glimpses of Annwyl being a once rather formidable faerie herself, but not enough. I would have liked to have found out more about how those two got together, but perhaps that was in a previous book.

It was hard for me to tear myself away from the early part of this book, but as I read on, the glamor seemed to kind of fade. I’m still trying to figure out why. It wasn’t that the plot wasn’t exciting and engaging, on the contrary, I think it was a little too teenage dramatic. The pace of the plotting felt emotionally relentless, in a way that I’m not quite used to. I suppose that makes sense since this is a YA after all. Maybe it’s also because although I enjoy all sorts of books, I am a romance reader at heart.

 

Spoiler (spoiler): Show

And maybe it’s because I like happy endings and despite the title, I thought there was a chance that Kierran would not betray Ethan as he did.

I really wanted some kind of closure, but the cliffhanger ending was a bit much for me. I enjoyed it while I was reading it, but I don’t know if I would want to come back to this. I think if I was a young teenage girl, I would totally be obsessed and hooked on this series, but right now, I’m on the fence about whether I’ll pickup the next book.

B

~Amy

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REVIEW:  Mirror, Mirror by J.D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Elaine Fox, Mary Kay McComas, R.C. Ryan

REVIEW: Mirror, Mirror by J.D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Elaine Fox,...

Mirror, Mirror J.D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Elaine Fox, Mary Kay McComas, R.C. Rya

Billed as an anthology of fairytale inspired romances, the majority of these stories turned out to be rather sweet. Although J.D. Robb’s Eve and Roarke story is fabulously dark, one should not assume the rest of the stories are going to be anything like that. I feel like that story would have fit better in an anthology that included Jeff Lindsey and Greg Iles (if those authors ever decided to do romance).

I would recommend this anthology to people who tend to like their romances on the sweeter side and tell them to skip the first story. If you’re buying this for Eve & Roarke, then just skip the rest of the book.

C for the anthology overall (Individual grades for each story are given below).


Mirror, Mirror by J.D. Robb

So what originally drew me was the promise of another Eve Dallas story. (For those unfamiliar with J.D. Robb’s “In Death” series, Eve Dallas and Roarke are the protagonists of an awesome futuristic police procedural series). However when I saw that this story revolved around kidnapping children, I kind of balked. In this story, Eve tracks down a cannibalistic twin who kidnaps her sister’s twin children. For some reason, I haven’t been quite able to stomach stories about children being hurt since I had my baby. But skimming the first few pages just sucked me in. And this was just a perfect short story, full of all the tension and suspense you would expect from a J.D. Robb short story. She truly knows how to write frightening villains and I could not put this down. However, unlike the longer length novels, there wasn’t much conflict between Eve and Roarke. Instead you just got to see how awesome Eve is at her job and just how perfectly Roarke is as a supporting partner. By far this is the best story in the anthology and I would say that this story makes the anthology an auto-buy for die-hard Eve and Roarke fans, even if the other stories are kind of meh.
A+

—–
If Wishes were Horses by Mary Blayney

This was real tone shift from the J.D. Robb story but definitely the next strongest story in the book. Set in 1816 England, housemaid Martha Stepp has a magical coin that seemingly grants wishes for everyone who holds it except for her. But when she wishes for “finding a man who would take her away from the servant’s life and share his bed and his world with her forever,” the coin slowly begins to grant her wish in a rather unexpected manner.

After being wounded at Quatre Bras, just before Waterloo, Sergeant James Tresbere accompanies his commanding officer and friend, the countess’s son as he returns home. Treated as an “upper servant” since James is filling in as his friend’s valet, in truth he occupies a space that is neither upstairs nor quite downstairs since he saved James’s life.

It’s a rather old fashioned sweet romance in that there are a few discussions between the two, but no physical contact When Martha is found asleep in James’s bed (fully clothed since she has a secret habit of sleeping in random unoccupied beds in the mansion), she is fired. James sets out in search of her and finds her asleep in a room at an inn. Thankfully he does not get in bed with her (because I totally hate that trope of a woman finding an unexpected man in her bed), but politely sits in the chair next to her, waiting for her to wake up. They talk, and discover that although they have feelings for one another (“I love you Jack but I do not know you as well as I would like”) they realize that they will have to take some time to get to know each other, though both are positive that they have found true love in the other. It’s a rather fairy tale romance, in that love seems to just strike like magic, rather than having a growing a relationship in the modern sense. Still considering that this is 1816, and relations between the sexes were much less casual, I suppose it worked.
B+

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Beauty, Sleeping by Elaine Fox

This was a quirky modern day take on the sleeping beauty story with a gender reversal that didn’t quite work for me, but that may be because of my own flaws as a reader. First, I’m not a fan of ghost romances. Secondly, I illogically kept picturing Michael Jackson in this story because this hero shares the same name as his kid: Michael Prince.

Cursed at birth by a fairy, Michael is a young man in the 1970s who is achieving some small success as a local news anchor. However, forgetting the curse, he cheats on a girlfriend named Deirdre Spindle. She curses him (apparently the birth curse is kind of a prophetic curse) and he disappears without a body and becomes a ghost haunting the house he lives in until the present day. When Cassandra Carlisle wins the lottery, she uses the proceeds to start a new life away from her soon to be ex-boyfriend and buys Michael’s old house. She’s the only one who can see him, and over time gradually falls for him. There are hints of them being lovers in another time, but to a reader’s disappointment, none of that is ever made quite clear.

What was neat about this story was that as a ghost, Michael had access to multiple planes of existence, including time, and we saw him relive the bitterness and sadness of his death and being unable to contact his grieving family. It was perhaps, maybe too well done , because it made the ending seem saccharinely sweet.

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Michael recovers his body and a life with his friends and family as if he never left. This didn’t seem quite logical too me as I guess the curse must have erased the last 30-40 years of his family and friends’ life for that to happen, but oh well.

C-

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The Christmas Comet by Mary Kay McComas

I’m really not the audience for this type of story: a supersweet Christmas story with the perfectly selfless heroine and a climax that feels quite deus ex machine.

Natalie, angel of a heroine is always behind on rent, because she spends her money and time helping the homeless. As the bills pile up, Natalie takes on double shifts at the hospital where she works as a lab tech and also picks up extra shifts as an off the books motel maid, while volunteering at her church and opening her apartment to an immigrant family from Mexico.

Miles is a cop who has taken upon himself to look after her. 10 years older than Natalie, he envisions himself to be too old for her until he’s pushed by a friend. There’s a bit traditional male posturing here, with some talk about ‘protecting one’s woman.’ When Natalie is carjacked in the midst of a snowstorm, her attempts to build a fire leave her out in the cold where she sees the beauty of a Christmas comet. Falling asleep, Miles rescues her and there is of course a rather abrupt overly sweet happy ending.

Spoiler (spoiler): Show

Since this is based on a fairytale, a windfall of money also drops into her lap. The Mexican family that Natalie takes in turns out to be a wealthy family hiding from Mexican cartels because they witnessed a murder. When Natalie asks why they chose to hide with her in such humble circumstances, the response is that her reputation let them know they would be safe. I didn’t quite buy this. I couldn’t imagine some wealthy family in America allowing their family to stay in such humbled circumstances.

I almost felt like this story didn’t belong in the anthology, but then the author’s note said it was based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “Little Matchstick Girl,” which made more sense. Still, I was kind of bored by a story with a heroine that was so perfect.

C-

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Stroke of Midnight by R.C. Ryan

This Cinderella based story isn’t bad. The stepmother is truly vile and a nasty piece of work. Sydney is a bit of a gentle pushover (are all fairytale heroines such selfless innocent pushovers) who has finally found peace as an art teacher at a local community center. When her stepmother dumps off a bunch of her father’s junk at her house, Sydney discovers $5000 hidden in her father’s old shirt and a letter telling her of his hopes for her to travel to his ancestral home of Innismere, Ireland.

Taking a risk, she does just that, and meets a handsome lad named Cullen, who coincidentally is also from Innismere. A whirlwind friendship turns into an affair as he takes her physically to “a place where only lovers go,” which is about as much as you get from a sex scene. Despite accepting Cullen’s proposal, Sydney is scared off by Margot’s warning of a marriage scam designed to trap rich tourists. Of course she runs off, Cullen catches her, and Sydney finds out that Cullen is the farthest thing from being poor one could get.

I found this to be rather predictable, and overly sweet for my taste. Although there is a bit more relationship development in this story than other ones, there was something about this that felt very old fashioned, perhaps the way the single love scene was blacked out.

C

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