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Hanna Martine

REVIEW:  A Taste of Ice by Hanna Martine

REVIEW: A Taste of Ice by Hanna Martine

Dear Ms. Martine:

This is a follow up to your debut book, Liquid Lies, which I found refreshing and different.  But the end of Liquid Lies leaves Xavier, a man of otherworldly powers, alone and adrift.  The direction of the story involves more creatures with otherworldly powers being misused by humans for a sexual purpose.  In some ways, A Taste of Ice repeats the main emotional conflict of Liquid Lies but without the conflicted loyalties. Instead we have a rapacious son gathering power in order to impress his father.  So much time is spent to make a reader appreciate his nuanced presentation as a man who loved his brother but was still willing to cage and mistreat others for his own personal gain.  Instead, however, the villain came off as plastic and obvious.

A Taste of Ice by Hanna MartineXavier is an elemental who is trying to build a new life for himself and because of his sordid past abstains from intimate contact with the opposite sex.  A literal voice in his head is constantly mocking his monk like pretensions, urging Xavier to go forth and sin because that is his nature.  Xavier has tried to bury himself in a small town in Colorado, far from the water and temptation.  He works as a chef at a local eatery and keeps to himself.

Cat Heddig is a newly discovered artist.  Her surprising and moving art pieces depicting water has been given a gallery showing during a famous film festival in Colorado.  There she meets Xavier and the two connect immediately.   Cat and Xavier are built from the same cloth.  They have extra special powers and find release in their passions.  For Cat it is painting and Xavier it is his cooking.

Xavier is presented in a cacophonous fashion. He is awkward and shy, resistant to these lustfilled thoughts Cat incites, unfamiliar with pleasuring a woman though he’s had many.  But, when necessary to infuse a certain machismo into the story, he’s aggressive and insightful in ways that don’t appear consistent.  When Michael, the gallery owner, stares too long at Cat’s mouth, Xavier confronts her:

“That’s all part of it. He wants you to think that.” The balls of his fists bulged in his coat pockets. The clench in his jaw sharply tuned the angles of his face. “Are you used to guys just coming right out and hitting on you?

He suggests there is “all sorts of shit going on with him below the surface.”

While the plot wasn’t as intriguing or surprising as the first in the Elementals series, the prose had bits of loveliness scattered throughout.  Cat, particularly, thought in poetic terms.  Xavier was like “a granule of beach sand in this cold, waterless part of the world” or a “book of a million pages, written in teeny tiny type.” The pairing of Cat and Xavier, despite their similarities, is a bit of a Romeo and Juliet story given Xavier’s hatred for water elementals and Cat’s affinity for water.

Xavier knew she painted water. Had prepared himself for the moment when he saw how she viewed the element that had caused him so much pain. He just hadn’t expected to love the paintings so much.

I wondered if the name “Cat” was consciously chosen as a parable in and of itself like Billy Budd’s name in Moby Dick.  The denouement was more geared toward the world building than the romance, as if the romance got lost toward the end and then picked up absently in the last few pages.  I wondered if it would have been better told just from Cat’s point of view as so much of the story revolved around her and her role in the Elementals world.

While the story didn’t quite work for me, the writing voice is compelling.  C

Best regards,

Jane
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REVIEW:  Liquid Lies by Hanna Martine

REVIEW: Liquid Lies by Hanna Martine

Dear Ms. Martine:

The thing I appreciated the most about this book was that it was different. The world building presented a somewhat unique twist. Gwen Carroway is part of a massive corporation known as the Company. They sell a special concoction called Mendacia that works like a glamour, fooling the human eye into believing an amputee has all his limbs or an aging actress is forever young.

hanna martine liquid liesGwen and her Company come off as high scale drug dealers, working in secrecy and the dead of night, selling a product of Ofarian magic. The Ofarians pass as humans (or Primaries as the Ofarians call them) but the alien Ofarians are like water benders. They can control water and they can transform into water. Gwen has another skill, one that hasn’t manifested in the last three generations. She is a Translator.

She can learn a new language effortlessly. Gwen’s skill as a Translator has allowed the Company to expand their reach internationally and increase profits for the firm. But the increased trade avenues means increased danger for Gwen. Gwen is trying to prove herself as an asset to the Company but her plans for advancement are impaired when her latest deal results in one man trying to steal the drug and Gwen’s bodyguard having to kill him.

Enter Reed Scott, a human and a mercenary known as the Retriever, and completely doomed because he is seriously attracted to Gwen and she to him. When they first meet, Reed does not know Gwen is his next mark. She’s only a hot damsel in distress and he helps her out (and by helps her out, he breaks the leg of the guy who was attacking her in a vicious and cold blooded fashion). “Tell me.” His head dipped lower. “Is it too early in the relationship for you to ask me up for coffee?” Reed asks Gwen after coming to her rescue. Unfortunately, the next time Gwen and Reed meet is when Reed is carrying out the terms of his retrieval contract. He’s already having a hard time living with himself and this task puts him over the top.

There are some shortcuts in the book such as Reed appearing out of nowhere and coming to Gwen’s aid, willing to break some guy’s leg for Gwen. I guess attraction does that to you if you are a mercenary? It’s akin to the cat bringing the dead mouse to lay at one’s feet, a tribute of sorts. Some guys bring flowers. The Retriever will break bones for you. (Note, it did make Gwen feel safe). Reed’s continued involvement in Gwen’s life is also somewhat of a reach. I didn’t fully buy into Reed’s conflicted morality.

Gwen acts irresponsibly in the beginning but I felt that was intentional. She has a certain air of innocence (not virginal) just youthful but that is stripped away throughout the book as one reveal upon another is pressed upon her. While she didn’t have to make decisions about who lived and died in the beginning of the book – Reed and Griffin, her bodyguard, did that – she did later. Gwen grew up in the story but under unfortunate circumstances. Plus, she was smart. She paid attention. She began to think about consequences, actions and reactions.

The Gwen and Reed romance worked primarily because it wasn’t immediate even if their attraction was. I loved the flirtation between the two when they meet in the bar; their mutual love of art; Gwen’s ruminations on Reed’s physicality. She watches his neck move while swallowing his beer and imagines how his torso would twist while looking at her art books. Her fingers itch to trace his leaf and thorn covered vines tattooed around his neck, “the tip of the last leaf resting just below his earlobe.” These small admirations were more convincing than descriptions of a clenching between the thighs so often found in other books.

Their romance is kind of fucked up, built upon her kidnapping, their mutual desperation. It’s a slow smoldering fire at first, but then the situation lent itself to frenzied passion, as if this might be the last time the two will be able to experience intimacy.

The world building relies a great deal on the existing world construct as do many paranormals but there is a great deal of potential in the storyline crafted here and I am excited to read the next book. B

Best regards,

Jane

 

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There are two things that I thought I would address in the review but are spoilery thus the spoiler space:

Love triangle thing:

[spoiler]There were some early rumblings of a love triangle in the book between Gwen’s guard, Griffin, and Reed. I felt that this was handled pretty well. Griffin wanted to be married to Gwen because it cemented his position in the Company and he was willing himself to feel something for her. Gwen didn’t have eros type feelings toward Griffin but had resigned herself to the match. Humans were forbidden to them and her eldest sister was actually exiled from the Ofarians because she tied herself to a human thus Gwen’s attraction toward Reed (which she called the Allure) was something akin to forbidden fruit. When Gwen is taken away from her family and her circumstances, Griffin no longer is an issue. [/spoiler]

Bad things ensue:

[spoiler]The plot twist is that the Ofarians are doing something horrible to Tedrans, another alien race. Reed and Gwen become reluctant revolutionaries in freeing Tedrans. Of course, there are good and bad Tedrans just as there are good and bad Ofarians. The future of the two alien races and their interaction with humans are what will take place in the next books. However, the scene in which Gwen is taken to the Mendacia plant where the Tedrans are incarcerated and made to procreate and then tortured again are pretty grim. [/spoiler]