Monday, 18 June 2018

#CBR10 Book 45: "Hamilton: The Revolution" by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

Page count: 285 pages
Rating: 5 stars

A quick search suggests that this book has been reviewed for Cannonball at least eight times already, so it's not like anything I say about the book is likely to be new or revolutionary (see what I did there). I don't think there was ever any doubt that I was going to love this book, considering just how much I love the musical.

I don't remember exactly when I first heard about Hamilton, but it's likely to be early in 2016 (I got this as a birthday gift that year from my best friend, and then postponed reading it until spring this year, in preparation for seeing the musical live in London). Enough people I know on the internets (it's where almost all my friends "live" now) were talking about it in such enthusiastic tones that I was curious. I discovered that the music was available on Spotify, and don't think I've been so immediately taken with a musical since I first heard Les Miserables (another musical where I'd listened to the music countless times before I actually got to see it on stage. The first time I heard it, it was the Norwegian translation - not as good as the English, but still great). I had shivers down my spine, I cried buckets, especially during the second act. I'd listened to it more times than I could count by the time the husband and I visited New York in the summer of 2016, so when I saw this book in a bookstore, there was no question it was going to go on my birthday wish list.

Yet when I finally had the beautiful hardcover, I didn't feel like starting it right away. Other things kept getting in the way, and once I secured tickets to the show in London, I made the conscious decision to wait to read it until our trip was getting closer, so the reading experience would be fresh in my mind. Of course, this spring, there's a little someone who takes up most of my time and also tends to wreck my concentration. I can get a fair bit of reading done, by either listening to audio books or holding my Kindle in one hand while nursing, but juggling a big hardback book and turning pages while also half-wrestling a rapidly growing infant (he's getting squirmier by the day) on my lap isn't the easiest. So I would usually get a few chapters read at a time while he was sleeping or being entertained by his father. I also listened to the cast recording on Spotify several times while reading the book, following along with the annotated lyrics for the songs included at the end of each chapter. In the end, I read the last two chapters the evening before we flew to London, once we were done packing, because the wee one was refusing to go to sleep. While reading a big hardback while nursing isn't ideal, it can be done and I was determined to get the book finished before we left.

Hamilton: An American Musical is a wonderful musical. It's a great show and seeing it on stage in London was a dream come true. While I pretty had all the lyrics memorised, seeing the actual staging and character interactions just blew me away. I was crying on and off throughout the entire show, much more so than when I just listen to it (and It's Quiet Uptown and Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story never fails to have me in tears). Having the back story of how the show came to be, with all the work and loving labour that went into it probably made it an even better experience.

It's a beautiful book, with so many behind the scenes pictures and I can't imagine any fan of the show wouldn't get a lot out of reading this book.

Judging a book by its cover: The cover of my hardback is very simple, with the now pretty iconic image promoting the musical at the centre. The background colour is chosen to bring to mind old paper or parchment, I suspect (the pages of the hardback are the same, it's lovely). Simple, yet elegant. I don't think they needed a flashy cover design for this book to sell.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

#CBR10 Book 44: "Binti" by Nnedi Okorafor

Page count: 96 pages
Rating: 3 stars

Spoiler warning! In my explanation of what worked and didn't for me in this story, I will be going into plot specific details. If you want to approach this story completely unspoiled, you may just want to read the first few paragraphs.

Binti is the first of her people, the Himba, to be offered a place at the Oomza University, the finest in the galaxy. She pretty much runs away, knowing that her decision to take her place at the university might mean she is no longer welcome back with her family. While the prospect of going far away is daunting, the promise of using her skills and learning is a heady draw. On the space shuttle on the way to Oomza, she begins to make new friends, but then disaster strikes.

Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, a race of jellyfish-like aliens who are known throughout the galaxy as warlike and fearsome. Binti is in terrible danger and needs to find a way to communicate (and hopefully placate) these beings if she is to survive and make it to her destination.

In 2016, this novella won the Hugo, the Nebula and the Nommo Award and was nominated for a Locus. I had heard a lot about it and Nnedi Okorafor, so when this was the monthly pick in Vaginal Fantasy a while back, I figured it was finally time to read it (as is the case more often than not, I didn't actually get round to reading the book until after the hosts had discussed it, but the various hosts' enthusiastic responses to the story made me optimistic). Having heard so much about it and with it having won so many awards, I was expecting something more.

Spoilers beyond this point...

I get that this is a novella, so the author doesn't have the time to go into the depth that she could in a novel, but I've also read novellas that are pretty much perfect in the way they capture not only characters, but a specific time and setting. So it can clearly be done - and I found this story lacking. It felt like Okorafor spent a lot of time dealing with Binti's preparations for the journey and establishing a bunch of characters that are then just killed off. I'm still not entirely sure how Binti was the sole survivor of the Meduse massacre, but it seemed to have to do with her "magic clay". As far as I can tell, the Meduse have been at war with the people who run the Oomza University for some time and there's been a lot of killing (including the entire spaceship full of students that Binti was on), but then the situation is fairly rapidly resolved in the end, and lo and behold - one of the Meduse will even get enrolled as a student - no grudges held?

I would have liked a bit more elaboration and clarification on quite a few points. I never understood exactly what it is that Binti is so brilliant at, what made her get accepted to University in the first place. She does calculations at an advanced level? It wasn't adequately explained exactly why Binti would risk shunning by her family and culture for going away to University either. Then there is the fact that this inexperienced student from what appears to be a minority culture (on Earth - what planet is she from, really?) manages to convince this fearsome race of aliens not only to spare her, but to let her negotiate a peace treaty on their behalf? Which they allow her to do, after physically altering her forever, without her consent. This did not sit well with me.

Then there's the whole conflict between the Meduse and the people who run the University was started by the Meduse leader's stinger (I don't entirely remember, it's been a month and a half since I finished the book) being stolen, and everything was resolved by its return, miraculously negotiated by Binti. Cause it seems to me there must have been others more capable of sorting this out in the past, without so much blood probably being spilled on both sides? Also, after what seems to have been a long and aggressive conflict, it's totally ok to just enroll a Meduse student at the University, no more questions asked?

I liked Binti as a character - it's always to have science minded girls who defy expectations to pursue their interests, but I didn't feel I got to know her enough. She also seemed entirely too unbothered by the life-altering modifications done to her by the Meduse, but since everyone else on the ship was killed, maybe she feels that it's a small price to pay to still be alive?

I'm left with a few too many questions and niggles to really have been able to enjoy this story. Having not read any of the other novellas nominated for the awards it won, I honestly can't say whether it was a deserving winner - but I do have to question it. It seemed just a bit too simplistic to me. There are two more novellas in this series now, but I'm not sure I can be bothered to read them. That's not exactly good for something that won that many awards and so much critical acclaim.

Judging a book by its cover: I think the cover is quite beautiful, with a confident-looking woman of colour staring out at the reader. The colour she's rubbing over her face has significance in the story and is a big part of Binti's identity. I think I like the cover more than I do the actual book.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

#CBR10 Book 43: "Counting on a Countess" by Eva Leigh

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 3 stars

Christopher "Kit" Ellingsworth was given an Earldom for his bravery during the Napoleonic wars. It doesn't really bring in any money, though, so Kit is pretty much penniless and mounting up debts living the life of a libertine upon his return to London, everything to forget his time in battle. Hence he is surprised when he is told his mentor wishes to leave him a substantial fortune...as long as he finds a wife within the next month. It doesn't leave him very much time to find someone willing to marry him.

Tamsyn Pearce has been an orphan since she was in her early teens and while her aunt and uncle seem to care very little about the lives and fates of the residents of the little Cornish village of Newcombe, Tamsyn feels differently. For the last eight years, she and the villagers have  run a successful smuggling operation, making sure the taxes could get paid and everyone would be able to feed themselves and their children. She's in London to find a buyer for her latest shipment of illicit goods, and if she could find a wealthy husband who won't ask too many questions as well, that would solve a lot of her problems. Her uncle wants to sell the family manor, Tamsyn's childhood home, and she needs enough funds to purchase it herself.

Kit and Tamsyn meet at a ball when he has a week left before the stated deadline. There's an instant spark between them and both need to find a spouse in a hurry, so they agree to marry. It's only after she is wed that Tamsyn discovers that her ex-soldier husband doesn't look kindly on law-breakers. Can she keep her handsome new husband from discovering what she and the villagers have been doing for the last eight years? Kit, on the other hand, discovers after signing all the legal paperwork, that he does have access to a substantial fortune, but his lovely new wife is the one who will be holding the purse strings. Kit wants to use the money to build a pleasure garden to help him forget about the horrors of war. Can he persuade his wife to surrender the funds?

Normally, I really like Eva Leigh's historical romances, but I'm not sure if it's because I just wasn't in the mood for it, or if this really was just a weaker entry of the author's. It's been over a month since I finished the book and I must be honest, I don't remember too many details about the plot. For readers looking for a lot of smexy times, it should be noted that it takes Kit and Tamsyn about two thirds of the book to finally consummate their marriage. So it's not exactly the raunchiest of reads.

Obviously, the big thing standing between the couple is Tamsyn's smuggling secrets. She needs to keep the truth from her husband, who while being an unrepentant rake before tying the knot, nevertheless risked his life in combat for king and country and doesn't look kindly on the law being broken through smuggling. Apart from that, the couple may have entered into a marriage of convenience, but both fall rather quickly for one another - I just didn't care all that much. Juggling reading, blogging and motherhood means I need something a bit more out of the ordinary to hold my attention. There is nothing badly wrong with this book, it just didn't wow me and has clearly not stayed very fresh in my memory. It's a fun enough, run of the mill historical. That is not to say others may not enjoy it more than I - but I would not encourage people to go out and pay full price for it either. I'll probably pick it up myself when I find it in a sale.

Judging a book by its cover: While the book was so so, and didn't really stick in my memory all that much, this cover is lovely. The cover model is very pretty and has the correct hair colour for Tamsyn. The dress is period appropriate (even though it's unlikely anyone on the windswept Cornish coast would show off that much naked skin) and the colour is gorgeous. The backdrop evokes a romantic sunset - I really like this a lot. Eva Leigh frequently has excellent covers - this is another to add to the list.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

#CBR10 Book 42: "Leah on the Offbeat" by Becky Albertalli

Page count: 368 pages
Rating: 4 stars

While this book can be read as a standalone, it is a sequel of sorts to Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and I suspect you might get more out of it if you read that one first. The movie adaptation of said book; Love, Simon is currently in cinemas now (and it's just as delightful as the book it's based on).

Leah Burke has a big secret and she doesn't really feel comfortable telling anyone apart from her Mum, even her best friend Simon. Leah's bisexual, but doesn't really know how to tell even her openly gay BFF. Simon was involuntarily outed online for their entire high school to see, but it all ended well for him and he's been soppily happily in love with his boyfriend for most of senior year.

Leah is different from most of her friends - she lives with her single Mum and they certainly don't have the same amounts of money everyone else in her friend group has. With their high school graduation and prom coming up, Leah's previously so tight knit friend group seems to be fracturing and her home life is also changing in ways she's not sure she's ready for. Her Mum seems to be getting serious about her new boyfriend, and Leah's not really certain how she feels about that. She is pretty sure that she's in love, but she's also pretty sure the object of her affection is straight, not to mention still dating one of Leah's closest friends. Should Leah act on her crush, or stay silent?

While I didn't read this book during Pride month, it seems suitable that my review of it comes out during - considering the subject matter of this book. You don't often see confident and clearly out bisexual characters in YA fiction (or other types of genre fiction for that matter), but Leah is bi and proud and has both a female and a male love interest in this book. Her female love interest (the name of whom I don't want to disclose - because I don't want to spoil anything) is in a relationship with a boy at the start of the book and isn't entirely sure of her own sexuality to begin with - but Leah's never been in doubt about liking both genders, she just hasn't told anyone except her Mum about it.

About a month ago, I went to see Love, Simon in the cinema and Leah's character was played by the excellent Katherine Langford. The actress gets thanked in Albertalli's acknowledgements at the end, and I can see why, she seemed like a perfect choice (although the actress may be a bit too thin) and was pretty much my mental image while reading the book. When I read Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, I pretty much loved Simon from page one. He's just so earnest and adorable. Leah is a slightly tougher nut to crack and while she lightens up on her Mum and her Mum's boyfriend eventually, I thought she was being generally bratty and unfair. Leah's Mum was great, so supportive and has clearly worked so hard to provide for her daughter - I wished Leah would show a bit more gratitude and acknowledge that her Mum deserved some happiness too.

There's a fair amount of teen drama in this book, with break-ups, conflicted feelings about the future and college choices, old friends coming to unpleasant realisations about each other, and obviously various characters crushing on each other. One of her male friends is clearly interested in her and wants to take her to prom. Leah finds his attention flattering, while also feeling guilty, since she fancies a girl more, but is unsure if said girl even vaguely returns her interest. It's a cute book, with a fun cast of diverse characters and absolutely in the vein of what Albertalli has written in the past, but it didn't give me the same happy feels as both Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and The Upside of Unrequited. Even ranked lowest of her three books, this is still a good read with a lot of nice role models for teens and I can't wait to see what Albertalli is doing next.

Judging a book by its cover: I don't know if it's the mustardy yellow top on the cover model that clashes with the teal background, or the fact that this cover just seems a lot more haphazardly thrown together than the ones for Albertalli's previous two books, but I really don't like this much. Two thumbs way up for a plus-size model on the cover - body positivity is very important, but I wish the cover designers had given Leah's book more care and consideration.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

#CBR10 Book 41: "After the Wedding" by Courtney Milan

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 4 stars

I was very kindly granted an ARC of this book in return for an unbiased review. I had already pre-ordered the book when I was given the ARC. The book is on sale now, and I recommend that you buy it.

This is the second novel in The Worth Saga. While it might work fine as a stand alone book, I would recommend beginning with the first book in the series, Once Upon a Marquess, to get a better idea of whom all the various supporting characters from Camilla's family are.

Lady Camilla Worth was twelve when her father and oldest brother were convicted of treason and her family lost their money and social standing. Her father committed suicide in prison, her brother Anthony was transported to Australia, but there was a big storm and a shipwreck on the way and he is believed to have died on the journey. A family friend offered to take in the remaining Worth siblings, with the exception of Camilla's younger sister, Theresa (who could most kindly be described as difficult). Judith, the eldest remaining Worth, promptly refused, and when Camilla wanted to stay, because she wanted "pretty dresses and lemon cakes", very harsh words were had, then Judith took her other two siblings and left. Camilla has never been able to forget Judith's angry words, and sadly didn't get to stay with their "uncle" for many weeks before he shipped her off to some friends, unable to care for a moody young girl. Camilla never gets to stay in one place for very long, getting sent on whenever she is deemed too difficult or whomever she ended up serving (usually unpaid) died and after eight years, believes she is being punished for having chosen material comfort over love all those years ago. Now she's working for a pittance for a minister who claims he's saving her soul. This is where she meets, and is married at gunpoint to Adrian.

Adrian Hunter is the grandson of a duke. His mother married a black abolitionist, and as a result, some of her family don't really want to acknowledge her or her family. Three of Adrian's brothers died fighting in the American Civil War, so now he's desperate to prove himself in some way and one of the ways in which he tries to do that is by getting his uncle, Bishop Denmore, to publicly support Adrian and his remaining brother. His uncle just needs a teeny tiny little favour first - which involves Adrian posing as a valet for a rival bishop, and finding proof of said man's corruption. Once he obtains this proof, Denmore promises to openly acknowledge his nephews and sister. Adrian is not a very good valet and before he has any chance of finding anything incriminating, he finds himself married at gunpoint to Camilla, a flirtatious housemaid in the house Bishop Lassiter is visiting.

Camilla just wants someone, anyone, to love her or even like her. She hasn't had anywhere to call home for so long and never had any responses to the letters she sent her family, so she assumes they still want nothing to do with her. While she is rather taken aback by being forced to marry a near-stranger, she's also briefly hopeful that at least she'll finally have someone - a hope that dies when Adrian insists they need to get an annulment. Ms Milan is really good at writing characters whose suffering break your heart, and Camilla's loneliness and hopes for belonging are truly heart-wrenching. Unbeknownst to Camilla, however, her family haven't actually given up on her. Her sister Judith and her new husband have spent massive resources trying to track her down, only to fail, and her younger siblings, Benedict and Theresa, are determined to find Camilla, as a gift for Judith. While Theresa may have annoyed the crap out of me in Once Upon a Marquess, she's so much better written in this book, and I am very much looking forward to seeing where her story goes in future books.

I felt a lot more for Camilla than for Adrian in this book, but that's probably also because of my anxiety and being left without anyone is literally one of the biggest fears I have, so our poor heroine having suffered abandonment after abandonment, without ever giving up that last sliver of hope really got to me. The main theme of this book is the importance of consent and choice and how no one should have to settle, but be allowed to choose who they spend their lives with. Adrian wants their marriage annulled because he wants what his parents had, a slow falling in love and a mutual choosing of each other. As the story progresses, Camilla comes to realise that even though she loves Adrian, she also deserves someone who chose HER, whose fondest wish is to share their life with hers. It's not her fault that she's been abandoned so many times and it's simply bad luck and a series of unfortunate circumstances that's caused her to be so harshly punished for a moment of youthful bad judgement.

There is a need for added diversity in romance and Ms Milan has proven before that historical England really wasn't as white-washed as a lot of books would like you to think it is. In this book, we get a bisexual heroine marrying a biracial hero, while there is a large cast of diverse supporting characters from a number of countries and cultures making a difference, without it ever seeming forced or like she's trying to prove some sort of point. Adrian's brother is going to be the hero of the next book, if I'm to believe Ms. Milan's website and this will be the last book in the Worth Saga set in England. She's moving the action into the big wider world instead.

I'm sorry if this review is disjointed and a bit incoherent. I'm desperately behind on my reviews as my now four month old little boy is spending more of his days awake and demanding a lot more of my attention. My brain goes a bit muddled, and this was the best I could do under the circumstances. TL, DR - this is a moving and engaging romance, well worth your time, and you should consider buying it. I'm already looking forward to seeing what the next book holds, and hope the wait for it will not be as long as for this one.

Judging a book by its cover: I keep looking at this cover and trying to understand what in the world is going on. There's the strangely yellow sky, the random field of red flowers (poppies maybe?) and our poor cover model, obviously supposed to portray Camilla, with some sort of hazy lace tablecloth stuck to her head at an implausible angle. There's the voluminous purple ballgown the woman is wearing (resembling nothing like I recall Camilla wearing at any point in the book - certainly NOT when she is being forced to marry), but it's the awful veil that gets me every time. I've seen a lot of bad book covers over the years, this is near the top.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

#CBR10 Book 40: "Once Upon a Marquess" by Courtney Milan

Page count: 372 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars

This is a re-read. My original review of the book can be found here.

This book was such a disappointment to me when it came out, and as I mention in my original review, it was not an easy book for Ms. Milan to write, and felt a bit cobbled together and nothing really worked all that well as a result.

With the next volume in the series just around the corner, I found myself barely remembering anything about this book and wanted to re-read it. I'm glad I did, because I had forgotten pretty much everything but the major plot-beats (and that I hated Theresa, the youngest Worth sister). One thing that changed between my first read and this re-read is that I read a short story (given away as a freebie to Courtney Milan newsletter subscribers) about Theresa, set some time after this book, and it gave me more insight into her character. With hindsight, knowing how much Ms Milan struggled to get this whole novel to work, I suspect Theresa and her neuro-atypical outlook at the world, let alone her completely different life goals from Judith got short shrift in the book and she came across as rather more insufferable than the author intended. And I had forgotten just how much I enjoyed her adventures in bread-baking in the latter part of the book.

Re-reading the book with lowered expectations absolutely helped, but I didn't find myself able to adjust the rating, as there are just too many story lines battling for space in the book and Christian and Judith's romance really gets lost. While I'm sure it was supposed to be cute and quirky, I also found myself rather annoyed by Judith's tendency to use water fowl terminology to swear. Can't really blame the woman for her love of bread and sandwiches though. The description of her gorging herself on freshly baked bread and butter when visiting Christian made me really hungry.

As part one of a long (and I suspect rather sprawling) series, I think this is probably a good book. It does a good job of introducing all the characters in the Worth family, even if Anthony and Camilla are mostly talked about, rather than appearing in person. It's just not a very satisfying romance, as too many other things and characters fight for the reader's attention throughout the book.

Judging a book by its cover: Another Courtney Milan, another photo-shopped wedding dress, this one with one of the seemingly endless skirts that can be found on so many romance covers. I'm not a big fan of the muted brown countryside in the background, although the sky is pleasant. Since Judith and her siblings live in the city, I would have much preferred an urban backdrop rather than pastoral fields.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

#CBR10 Book 39: "Pestilence" by Laura Thalassa

Page count: 382 pages
Rating: 3 stars

The four horsemen of the Apocalypse came to Earth and in their wake, there was destruction. Engines stopped working, planes fell from the sky, technology sputtered and the internet failed. There was  chaos, and then people learned to adapt. Five years later, only one horseman is active - Pestilence the Conqueror, who rides the length and breadth of the American continent, with whole cities dying where he's appeared. In a small settlement in Canada, Sara Burns is a volunteer firefighter who literally drew the short straw when she and her remaining colleagues decided who was to sacrifice themselves to kill the horseman. While it goes against her every instinct to harm anyone, in order to save the rest of humanity, Sara is willing to do what she can to stop Pestilence. She lays an ambush and shoots the horseman off his horse, dousing him with petrol and setting him on fire for good measure. Unfortunately, the horseman cannot be killed and is rather furious at the treatment he received.

Once the horseman has regenerated, he takes Sara prisoner and is determined to make her suffer. Normally anyone who gets anywhere near Pestilence takes ill and dies within four days, but Sara stays untouched by the plague that normally affects people. She's tied up and forced to run behind the horseman's steed until she collapses with exhaustion. When she tries to escape, he shoots her multiple times with his arrows and then patches her back up again, refusing to let her die. For trying to murder him, and refusing to show mercy when he asked it of her, he will keep her alive, forcing her to see up close the ravages of the disease he spreads on the people they encounter on their journey. While Sara may not get sick, she still requires food and shelter and can get dangerously chilled if they don't stop to let her eat and rest. While many houses are abandoned (communities seem to send out evacuation notices when they know that Pestilence and his horse are near), they frequently find people in the houses they enter. These people are not spared from sickness and Sara has to live with the knowledge that her human needs are what brings Pestilence into their homes. She has to watch men, women and children sicken and die, usually cursing her as they suffer.

Trying to escape is futile, yet as she spends more time with the unstoppable horseman and his horse, she finds out more about him and his feelings towards his gruesome task. Before taking her prisoner, it's quite clear Pestilence knew little of humans, and had a very pessimistic view of humanity as a whole. The longer they spend together, the more the lines blur in their relationship. Feelings begin to develop between them, unwilling as they both are to admit attraction to the other. How can Sara love a creature sent to bestow divine punishment on humanity? And can Pestilence be stopped from fulfilling his duty, allowing some of humankind to survive?

I'd not really heard of this book until it was selected as a monthly read in Vaginal Fantasy (which as of last month will sadly no longer have the monthly video hangouts with Felicia Day and her co-hosts, but just exist online on Goodreads and Discord) and after browsing some reviews, I was intrigued. It wasn't very expensive on Kindle and with the premise - literal immortal embodiment of Pestilence comes to Earth, takes lady prisoner - they fall in love - I wanted to see how that was going to work. The answer is, surprisingly well.

For much of the book, the book deals with two individuals who have a decidedly antagonistic relationship. They travel at punishing pace throughout fairly abandoned areas, only occasionally interacting with others (who all get sick and die, so that really brings out the cheer and pleasant conversation). Frankly, when Pestilence and Sara do approach cities or larger populated areas, that's when things get really dangerous, as Sara is clearly not the only one trying to kill the horseman. While he's immortal and will regenerate from pretty much nothing, Sara is very much a mortal. She's affected by the elements, she starves if she's not fed enough (and in the beginning, Pestilence has absolutely NO idea what is actually good or suitable to eat. He tries to feed her things like Worcester sauce and tinned sardines and he doesn't understand things like hypothermia (until Sara nearly dies from it).

Based on the description of the characters, my mental image of Pestilence was petty much Lee Pace as Thranduil from The Hobbit movies, while Sara was very much Wynnona from Wynnona Earp. She had the same kind of wise-cracking internal monologue and the tough kick-ass attitude. It is rather fascinating seeing the merciless and uncaring Pestilence slowly start learning what it's like to be a person as he spends time with Sara and sees that not all humans are hopeless and care for nothing. Because he's not human, he can be hurt, but regenerate from almost nothing, and he's not affected by things like hunger, thirst or the elements. Nevertheless, he eventually tries both food and alcohol at Sara's prompting and is rather baffled at his growing attraction to her.

The main problem with this book is that we're meant to root for a romance where one party is the literal embodiment of disease and plague. He kills literally millions over the course of the book, even after admitting that he hates the suffering his presence brings. While it's quite clear that he can control who gets ill or not (since he can keep Sara both from catching the plague, and her wounds from getting infected), it's difficult to really see him as a worthwhile hero - cause you know, genocide. He's not exactly kind and gentle with Sara throughout the first half of the book, either, but you know, she tried to kill him and burn his corpse - which wasn't exactly great either. Overall, the tone throughout the book is very grim, and Ms. Thalassa makes it even more difficult to get over Pestilence's actions in that she actually spends quite some time with some of the plague victims, making it all the more horrible when they die. I found the HEA or possibly, HFN, difficult to entirely believe in, considering the premise set up in the rest of the book.

I was, however, pretty engrossed as I was reading the book. I kept wanting to finish just one more chapter to see what was going to happen, and it's only thinking back on the book - the redemption of Pestilence doesn't work for me. It wasn't like the book was terribly expensive, though, and I am curious enough that I may well check out the next book in the series - introducing War.

Judging a book by its cover: Sara is a firefighter and doesn't really seem like the type to wear flowy balldresses (she certainly doesn't at any point in the story, as far as I can remember), but I guess it creates a more romantic visual than if she's in dusty, scruffed up clothes like jeans and a flannel shirt, or the hand-me-downs she seems to find along the way while taken from place to place with Pestilence. I actually really like the cover image, but it suggests a more historical romance than this book presents.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.