Monday, April 14, 2014

Book Review - Honor Among Orcs

This time I'm reviewing the book Honor Among Orcs by Amalia Dillin. This wasn't one I won from LibraryThing, although this is an early review of sorts. Like those LT books, I'm giving this an honest review in exchange for a free copy of the book.



Here's the description of this book from Amazon:
After nearly a decade as the king’s whipping-girl, Princess Arianna has no intention of going quietly into marriage to some treasonous noble, or serving obediently as the king’s spy until her death is more convenient. When she discovers a handsome orc, chained and trapped inside a magic mirror, Arianna cannot help but see a lasting freedom from her father's abuse.

Left to rot inside a mirror by the king, Bolthorn never imagined his prayers would be answered by a princess. Nor did he ever expect to meet so worthy a woman after knowing her father’s cruelty. He needs her help to escape the mirror before the king marches against the orcs, but all he can offer Arianna is ice and darkness in exchange for her aid. 

If Arianna can free the monster behind the glass, perhaps she might free herself, as well. But once they cross the mountain, there will be no return, and the deadly winter is the least of what threatens them on the other side.

Fans of Kristin Cashore's FIRE and Tolkien's LORD OF THE RINGS will appreciate the collision of romance, adventure, and epic fantasy -- all with a new adult edge -- in Honor Among Orcs.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


When I saw the author post about this book online, I immediately wanted to get my hands on a copy. I love orcs in a way that everyone I know thinks is odd. Hey, some girls like werewolves, elves, or vampires. For me it's the green skin and tusks. A story where an orc is a main character and it's a romance? Yes, please!

I can happily say that I wasn't disappointed. The two main characters, Arianna and Bolthorn, have depth to them that makes them people rather than flat characters. For me what makes or breaks a book is characterization and the protagonists had plenty of that. I honestly wasn't sure if I would like Arianna, fearing that she'd be some sort of pathetic princess. (I know, I know, I shouldn't have, but with a romance, you never know.) I was pleasantly surprised that even in her times of weakness, which I certainly couldn't fault her for, she still had strength and determination. Bolthorn... well, let's just say that he's now another orc I have a massive crush on. I found him to be more interesting than Arianna; not that she was flat, he just had the more interesting backstory and personality, in my opinion. I really got into the orc culture and how they live and interact with each other and the world.

Speaking of that, the world-building had detail that I appreciated. The history of the elves and the orcs was particularly interesting, and I enjoyed reading about the orcs' culture, so I'm hoping we get more of that in later books. That's the other thing: when I got to the end of the book and realized that it was the first in a trilogy I think I gave a little squeal of delight. Needless to say I will be reading the next one!

This is another book where it's hard for me to put into words exactly what I liked about it because I want to say "everything". While that's accurate, it's also incredibly vague. Basically the characterization, the world-building, the star-crossed-type aspect of the romance, the main characters triumphing against odds... it's all there. The only shortcoming I can think of is that I thought it felt a little disjointed to start, but once the plot started rolling I had a hard time putting this book down.

I've been waffling on the stars to give this one. I have trouble giving books 5 stars out of 5 unless the book is something super awesome perfect and amazing, which never seems to quite be the case in most things I read, but I also don't want to give this 4 1/2 because I did really enjoy it. It wasn't quite at the level of blowing me away, but I think I enjoyed it way too much to give it only that half star. Since 4 3/4 probably isn't an option, I think I will give this 5. Keep in mind that this is a fantasy romance with a non-human character, so it might not be everyone's cup of tea, but if you're into fantasy and unusual love stories, then this might just be for you. (It does have sexual content in it, so keep that in mind, too. I didn't think it was particularly over the top, but it is there.)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Photo Challenge: Outfit, Collect, Sister, Self Portrait, Starts With A, Number 1, Up Close

More pictures from the photo-a-day challenge! :)


Something I collect:

(Foxes. Here are two of my many fox things. I made and embroidered the one on the left. The mask I got at a craft show.)

Outfit of the day:

(I've had this shirt since high school. I think I'm amazed that fifteen years later I can still fit into my clothes from then!)

My sister:

(This is a really old picture of us- geez, it was taken when I was in college, so at least a decade ago- but it's my favorite one I have of me and my sister. She looks so different now!)

Faceless self portrait:

(Oh look, henna again. I tend to take a lot of pictures of my henna, lol. Right now I'm on a moon and sun kick because those are the kind of tattoos two of the characters in the novel I'm writing have.)

Starts with "A":

(A Midsummer Night's Dream. My elf-sister and I decided to start reading Shakespeare since she hasn't read much of him and I've slacked off since college. I feel guilty about this since I kind of focused on Renaissance literature with my degree and it's a neglected great love of mine...)

Number 1:

(That's the number of the Magician tarot card and this is that card from my favorite deck.)

Up close and personal:

(All up in my cat's personal space.)


Thursday, April 03, 2014

Photo Challenge: Green, Favorite Night, Last Year, Mirror, Insecurity, Old Friend, Indulgence, Black & White



Something green:

(The really awesome custom hula hoop I got from Etsy. I love this thing!)

Favorite night:

(Game night, either to play geeky board or card games or to get together for our "Dungeons and Dragons" game.)

Me last year:

(This was taken on vacation in Wildwood, NJ last summer. I don't think we can swing a vacation this year, which makes me sad. It was so much fun!)

Mirror picture:

(I wasn't going to bother taking a picture of myself, but I wanted to show my hair extensions to a friend anyway. Next time I'll do something more creative with a mirror.)

Biggest insecurity:

(That what I create isn't good enough, that I'll never make it as an artist and author, that I'll lose my motivation to do what I love... although I'm always my own worst critic. These are some of my tools sitting on my writing notebook.)

An old friend:

(The very first plushie and second crochet project that I made almost a decade ago. I keep this tiny wonky cat around to remind me how far I've come.)

My indulgence:

(Henna. I'm constantly painting myself with henna because I find it really relaxing and I love being able to indulge in tattoo designs without them being permanent. [I'm so fickle- how could I ever pick something that's there forever?] Right now this is the simple design on my palm. It's inspired by one of my writing characters who has the same kind of design on his hand.)

Black and white:

(One of my many bead bins.)


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Photo Challenge: Birthday, Baby Me, Addicted, Favorite Band, Bucketlist, Day, Night

Weekly photo challenge update time! (Ignore the fact that I'm actually really behind with these...)


Last birthday:

(I went to my first convention near my birthday last summer and this leather satchel was one of the birthday presents I got. I love this bag!)

Baby me:

(I still have the same cheesy grin.)

Addicted:

(I asked my husband's opinion and he said "your hula hoop" since I've been going on and on about learning to hoop dance, but I haven't gotten the nice hoop yet, so instead here are the juggling balls I crocheted recently. Juggling's the other thing I've become addicted to lately.)

Favorite band/artist:

(Wearing my Enter the Haggis tshirt!)

Bucketlist:

(One of these days I'd like to get back into trying to teach myself Old English, so here are my textbooks on the shelf. I'm determined to learn that language at some point in my life!)

My day:

(That day I ran errands to pick up beads and hula hoops [going to adjust them into cheap doubles/minis]. Pretty colors!)

My night and bad habit:

(Fell behind with this challenge so I did two in one. Staying up late to work on writing is my bad habit, although 2am is actually early for me; sometimes I can get into a groove and stay up until 4 or 5am.)


Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Photo Challenge: Relax, Together, Leaving, Fabric, Last, Profile Picture, Show

Here's the next batch from the photo-a-day challenge.


Relax:

(The pile of books I currently have sitting on the coffee table. I pick one to read at night to relax. The one in the blue-green cover is The Two Towers since I'm usually passively rereading a Tolkien book.)

Together:

(This is hanging on the wall in my Pac-Man themed bedroom. What can I say, I'm an awesome wife, lol.)

Leaving:

(Or "leafing" maybe? I'm not going anywhere this week and my husband leaves for work while I'm asleep, so I had to fudge this one.)

Fabric:

(Literally. My drawer of craft fabrics.)

Last:

(I hate taking pictures of food, but the last banana looked so lonely and outnumbered.)

Facebook profile picture:

(Cosplay taken two years ago of one of my characters. Don't most aspiring novelists dress in costumes? They totally should!)

Favorite show:

(I feel like such a weirdo for the fact that I don't have a favorite show and don't watch much tv. My husband and I do watch a lot of Star Trek on Netflix, though, so I guess that's my current favorite. Right now we're on Voyager.)


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Review - Every Day

I just finished reading Every Day by David Levithan, so it's time for a book review. :)



Here's the description from Amazon:
Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.
There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

First I want to say that I absolutely loved this book. I was a little iffy at first about something written in first person since those can be kind of hit-or-miss, but in this case it worked incredibly well. With a protagonist who switches bodies on a daily basis, third person narration would have just made for unnecessary confusion. With a character who essentially only exists as thought, getting inside A's head in first person felt right.

This book was recommended by a close friend who knows well the types of books I enjoy and she was correct in guessing that I'd love this one! I love when books have a LGBTQ spin to them and when that's combined with an interesting fantastical premise, I'm sold. I found the protagonist to be charming and sympathetic- heck, I just plain enjoyed reading a story told from A's point of view. The story is thought-provoking and emotional. I'm not always a big fan of love stories, but I found this one enjoyable and genuine. Yes, A fell in love quickly, but it didn't feel forced or creepy or anything like that. It just felt like a teenager falling in love. (How fast the relationship started is something I've seen people comment about in other reviews.) I'm finding it hard to put into words what I liked about this book since it managed to pull at my heart in all the right ways. I think I'm too infatuated to be coherent.

I actually spent the first twenty pages or so wondering if I was going to like it or not, largely because the style was rather more poetic then I'm used to reading and I came into it a little leery of first person narration. I'm glad that I stuck with it because once I got into the story the rest of the book was amazing! I finished it in less than two days (rare for me when I normally get distracted by other books and hobbies so it take much longer than this to finish a book despite being a fast reader) because I kept saying to myself "just another chapter, then I'll put the book down". The next chapter would come and go and I'd keep reading because I wanted to find out what life A would end up in next.

The only thing I can say about this book that is anything less than positive is that the ending felt somewhat rushed or unfinished and I will admit that it left me just a little disappointed. (Although that could be because I didn't want the book to end!) When I talked to the friend who recommended it to me, she told me that the author is going to be writing a sequel. In that case, I don't mind the ending nearly as much and I will gladly read this as soon as it comes out. (2015? That's too long from now!) The subplots could have been fleshed out a little better, but overall, this was a great read.

I'm giving this book 4 1/2 stars. It's not quite at five because there were a few flaws, but the great outshines the few flaws in this book. I'll definitely be reading more by this author.

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