Thursday, February 26, 2015

Hatshepsut's Collar by A.W. Exley

Hatshepsut's Collar
Author:  A.W. Exley
Publisher:  Curiosity Quills Press
Pages: 312
Release Date: November 13th, 2013
Source: Received from author in exchange for an honest review
"Loving you is easy, it's living with you that's killing me."

An ancient Egyptian artifact is driving Queen Victoria insane, and that's not top of Cara Devon's growing list of problems.

Viscount Nathaniel Lyons is a man of numerous secrets, but there is one in particular that threatens his fledgling relationship with Cara. Stunned by Nate's revelation, and before she can absorb the ramifications of his actions, he is arrested, charged with treason and imprisoned in the grim Tower of London. He stole something the mad queen wants, and only has days to deliver, before his date with the executioner.

Although sorely tempted, Cara can't let him die on Tower Green, not when their connection means she would share his fate.

Only together can Cara and Nate figure out how to wrestle Hatshepsut's Collar from around the queen's neck, before she plunges Britain into a world war. The search for answers sends Cara to the opulent Winter Palace of St Petersburg and the frozen depths of Siberia, with every step shadowed by an enemy with his own dark plans.

After reading Nefertiti's Heart, I had some mixed feelings about picking up the sequel. While there were a lot of elements I loved about the first Artifact Hunters book, the relationship between Cara and Nate left a funny taste in my mouth. Unfortunately, I feel a lot of those feelings continue in the sequel, and that made it hard to enjoy a portion of the story. It evens out a little as things progress, but not enough for me to like it completely. 

Don't get me wrong, I still love Cara. I think she's is a strong female lead, and I enjoy seeing her take charge attitude. But Nate's continuous manipulation of her just feels unromantic to me. His secret feels a bit twisted, and I felt like Cara had a right to be mad. I think the whole seduction and physical attraction tends to overshadow that Nate really pulls strings to make Cara do things. Plus, when Cara risks her life for him, I felt like he was almost smug about it, verses being grateful. Like his attitude is more "yeah, I made you love me" at times than just really loving her.

I will admit, I do feel like we see that Nate genuinely cares for Cara. I just think he kind of expresses it poorly for most of the book. There are some really tender interactions. Maybe I want more consequences for his lying and control of her? It wasn't until the last portion until anyone really calls him out on it, and I just wanted someone to smack him...Yeah, sometimes people are bad about showing they care and stuff, but that usually pushes people away. Sometimes he just seems like a jerk. But maybe that's realistic. I still don't suppose I have to like it. 

I don't know, I just am not a fan of that sort of dynamic in a couple. As much as I love the steampunk elements and the mysteries, I'd rather have some healthier growth in the relationships. There are sparks and gems of what they could be together. I just want it to continue throughout. 

As for the story line (now that I got off on that tangent)... I liked some of the new elements, especially the mysterious stolen objects (which is probably as much as I can say without spoilers). I think if I didn't want to strangle Nate most of the time, I would have enjoyed the plot much more. 

As it is, I am hopeful for the third installment of this series. Mostly because by then, I'm hoping some of the relationship annoyances will wear off. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Lyche by E.A. Rappaport

Author:  E.A. Rappaport
Publisher:  Owl King Publishing
Pages: 312
Release Date: February 13th, 2014
Source: Received from author in exchange for an honest review
An evil spirit, trapped within a volcano for ages, escapes its fiery prison with a vow to destroy all life. Only a young Arboreal wizard and his companions dare to oppose the powerful creature. After a massive earthquake shakes the land, Jarlen, an inexperienced Arboreal wizard, and Tyraz, a Ferfolk warrior, travel from a cursed island in the north to the barren wastelands of the west, tracking an ancient spirit that is capable of combining living creatures with the dead. With little help from their respective communities, the two must discover the lyche's foul plans before there is nothing left to save.

Lyche is in the middle of a unique series, a set of 3 trilogies that interlock, while still leaving the story solid enough to standalone. While I always hesitate to pick up a book without reading previous novels, I did find the story line easy enough to settle into. The characters are fairly likable, and the species in the story have their own original feel to them. I felt like this series had a lot of potential, especially for readers that like fantasy.

That being said, I'm not sure it was personally my cup of tea. While E.A. Rappaport does have some solid writing ability, I found a lot of the scenes jump forward far too quickly for me to ever fully engage with the story. I didn't feel like events transitioned well from one place to another, so it made it difficult to ever read more than one chapter at a time. But that is more of a stylistic preference I think than a full mark against the author's work. 

I did like the species the story had. The tree like Arboreals were a nice change in a genre dominated by the typical dwarves and elves. Jarlen and Tyraz were likeable enough, and I felt other characters felt dynamic. I just wish it had been a bit easier for me to really immerse myself in the author's world. It really felt like it could have been an enjoyable book in the right hands. Bummed it wasn't the book for me though.