Monday, August 21, 2017

Cover Reveal: Scars of War (Modern Tales of Na Fianna #3)


The Reading Hedgehog is proud to officially reveal the cover for the upcoming third book in the Modern Tales of Na Fianna series by Hazel West! I've always been a big fan of these covers, with their simplistic and classic "warrior adventure story" feel. But this cover is probably my favorite yet! Please join me in welcoming the newest addition to this awesome tale of brotherhood, modern warriors, and classic faery magic! 

Also be sure to leave a comment to be entered into a giveaway for ebooks of the first two books in the Modern Tales of Na Fianna! Leave your email address or visit Hazel's blog on August 23rd for the announced winner. Remember, if you leave comments on multiple blogs, each one will be counted as an entry, so your chances can double!

Scars of War
(Modern Tales of Na Fianna #3)
by Hazel B. West
Publication Date: August 31, 2017
Add it on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36011045-untitled 

Synopsis

After the events on Samhain Eve things have calmed down for High King Eamon and his Fianna. The Unseelie Court is under new rule, and Eamon is happily married - and with an heir on the way! But just when it seems like things couldn't be better, reports of changelings keep coming into the BPAFF (Bureau of Protection Against Fair Folk). With the risk of children being changed out in their cribs, especially when a royal heir is weeks from being born, Eamon enlists the help of Aeden Mac Cool, Commander of Na Fianna, and Cassandra Whalen, Director of BPAFF, to deal with the threat before it escalates. Riots, Faerie rebels, and road trips with the King of the Unseelie - it's just a typical day, right?

Links for More Information!

Check Out Modern Tales of Na Fianna!

Scroll down for an excerpt from Scars of War! And be sure to check out the other blogs to read even more excerpts from the upcoming third book in Modern Tales of Na Fianna!

Excerpt from Scars of War

We could hear the shouting by the time we got onto the front step, sounding like a very disobedient child. I rang the doorbell and waited with an antsy Rory until a frazzled woman answered the door.
“Mrs. Dempsey?” I inquired, reaching into my coat to pull out my badge as Rory did the same. “I’m Director Whalen of BPAFF and this is my assistant Mr. Cahill. We’re here about your son, Tomas.”
“Oh! Thank you so much,” the woman said, obviously relieved as she stepped aside and ushered us in. “You would not believe the trouble this whole ordeal has been. And not knowing where poor Tom is, I can barely stand it. I didn’t expect you to come yourself, though, Director.”
“I was in the vicinity,” I told her as we were led into the kitchen and offered coffee. “If you could tell us a little about what happened, ma’am?”
“Well, it was a week ago today,” Mrs. Dempsey said as she rummaged for something in the fridge but eventually gave up. “I’m sorry, we seem to have run out of cream, it’s that creature you know.” She sighed, running a hand through frizzled red hair. I couldn’t exactly blame her, though I didn’t like hearing the way she said ‘creature’. Faery children were just like ours, simply not meant to be accustomed to suburban human environments. 
“Why don’t you take a seat,” Rory told her quietly and led her to a chair at the kitchen table and sat her down before we joined her. As Rory sat he pulled out his pad to take notes on the case.
“So it was a week ago?” I asked, getting her back on track.
“Yes,” she nodded. “I wasn’t sure what to think at first after Tomas—or not Tomas—ate practically everything in the pantry for breakfast that morning. But it wasn’t until that night I really suspected, what with him seemingly going crazy. Peter, my husband, was the one who thought of it first, but poor Donnie, my other son, I think he knew. They’re twins you know, and twins are like that. He hasn’t been taking it well, I’m afraid, he’s currently hiding in his closet. Peter is trying to keep the creature occupied for a while to see if we can get it to calm down.”
“I’d like to see the changeling,” I told her.
“Be my guest,” Mrs. Dempsey said and stood to motion Rory and me through to the parlor.
I saw a similarly frazzled man playing jacks with a small child who was cackling loudly and making a point to be as rambunctious as possible. The house was frankly a disaster, but I tried not to notice, knowing that Mrs. Dempsey was likely embarrassed about it. Mr. Dempsey looked grateful as he saw Rory and me come in.
“They’re from the Bureau, dear,” Mrs. Dempsey informed him. 
“Thank the saints,” he said.
The changeling stood up and stuck his tongue out at me and Rory. His clothes were disheveled and torn and his hair was wild and sticking up from his head in sticky clumps that looked like they had been shampooed with honey. Maybe they had.
“I’m hungry!” he whined. “And I wanna play, play with me!” He ran forward and kicked Rory in the shin.
“Ow! Cass!” he complained hopping on one foot, but I ignored him, crouching down to snag the changeling child before he could run off.
“Come here, you little rascal.” I took out my shamrock pendent and touched his hand with it, instantly dispelling the glamour that had been concealing his true form. It revealed a Fae child with forest green eyes and pointed ears sticking out from beneath the shaggy black hair. He blinked, looking at me with wide eyes before they watered and tears started falling down his freckled cheeks. He tried to get away, but I held him tightly.
“No, no, you’re not going anywhere, wee one,” I informed him. “We’re not going to hurt you. Now, come here and talk to me. Do you know where you came from, who put you here?”
He shook his head firmly. “Don’t remember. They’ll be angry!” he started crying harder and I stood, picking him up and settling him on my hip.
“It’s alright, don’t worry about that right now. Are you sure you don’t know where you came from? Where they took the little boy who lives here? The real Tomas?”
He shook his head vigorously. I refrained from sighing. “Alright, well, let’s get you somewhere else.” I turned back to the Dempseys. “We’ll be back later to look around a little more after we take this one somewhere more suitable.”
“Will you be able to find Tomas?” Mrs. Dempsey asked, wringing her hands.
“Hopefully soon,” I assured her.
“But it’s very unlikely he’ll be mistreated,” Rory assured with a smile. “Faeries usually take very good care of the human children they change. They’re highly sought after in the Courts.”
The Dempseys didn’t look entirely reassured by his words, but there was little else they could do. None of us mentioned the fact that neither Court was taking children right now—at least as far as I knew. I carried the Fae child out to the Land Rover and sat him between Rory and I while I drove back to the BPAFF station. The secretary looked surprised to see the child with us.
“Is there anyone in town who will take in a Fae child for a while until we can get him back to Dublin?” I asked her.
“Of course, Mrs. O’Toole will take him. She runs an orphanage here in town and takes in both human and Fae children. Here’s her address.”
“Thanks,” I said, handing Rory the paper she had written it on.
“Did you find the boy then?”
“Not yet, but we’re on our way to do that,” I told her.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

I wish you would take me. Ravish me. Right now.
Wintersong, pg. 232

All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They've enraptured her mind and spirit and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family's inn, Liesl can't help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.

But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds - and the mysterious man who rules it - she soon faces an impossible decision. With time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.

An encroaching winter, where goblins come into the human world and steal away a bride for their king? Classical music? A protagonist forced to make the biggest sacrifice she can to free her dearest sister from the clutches of the mysterious Goblin King? Sounds like an adventure worth signing up for, right?


Liesl is the eldest of three siblings, and her whole life she's been certain of three things: her little brother Josef is more talented than her, her little sister Kathe is prettier than her, and the Goblin King is dangerous (until she finds out just how sexy and misunderstood he is).


"A wren is still a wren, even in peacock's feathers. Don't waste your time. It's not like Hans - anyone - would notice anyway." (pg. 10)
And if we ever forget just how plain and pathetic and pitiable Liesl is, she reminds us. All. The. Time.

My face looked sunken, haggard, old, and the copper basin distorted my image back at me - long, pointed nose; stubby, weak chin. Or perhaps I truly was this ugly. (pg. 249-250)
 How I both loathed and loved visiting the shops with my sister. Loathed because I would never be as lovely as she. . . ." (pg. 253) 
The gown was dull and ashy brown in color, the color of dirt, the color of mud. It was also, I thought, the color of sparrow feathers. (pg. 259) 
I knew who I was because I knew who I was not: my sister. (pg. 283)


Meanwhile, Liesl's little sister Kathe is the belle of the town - or more like the county slut, as she parades around in clingy dresses, accepts enchanted fruit from hungry-looking strangers (that everyone knows are goblins), and delights in the attentions of her captors in the Underground. One could argue that she's enchanted, but given that this is Kathe's normal behavior, I'm not buying it.

Both men and women traced the lines of [Kathe's] body, the curve of her cheek, the pout of her lip. Looking at Kathe, it was difficult to forget just how sinful our bodies were, just how prone we were to wickedness. Clothed in clinging fabrics, with every line of her body exposed, every gasp of pleasure unconcealed, everything about Kathe suggested voluptuousness. (pg. 26)


Josef was fine in and of himself, but he served no purpose beyond earning the book "diversity points" and to serve as another area of self-deprecation for Liesl.

When Kathe is kidnapped by the Goblin King, Liesl knows she must go to the Underground kingdom and save her dearest sister. Oh, did I say dearest? Yeah, it's a little hard to tell between Liesl's envy and the fact that it takes her forever to actually get around to the rescuing part. Sure, Kathe is probably suffering at the hands of the wicked goblins - the Goblin King might have even ravaged her by now (not that Kathe would mind). But the thing is: Liesl's life is suddenly going perfectly for her. Josef has time to play with her again, her father is actually paying attention to her compositions, and Kathe's fiance is actually noticing her. Actually, why is Liesl going after her sister at all?


But eventually Liesl decides it would be the sisterly thing to rescue Kathe after all, and suddenly Wintersong starts to feel an awful lot like the movie Labyrinth.


Only the goblins look more like this, only with sharper teeth:


This is when I really began to despair. Because Wintersong has some good elements. The goblins are much more traditional Fae-goblins, rather than the nasty little puppet creatures featured above (or even what's found in Middle Earth, apparently). It takes place in a beautiful historical era (though it's never specified when exactly; sometime after Mozart and before Beethoven). But then we meet the Goblin King - your classic misunderstood hot captor who, in turns out, doesn't actually want to steal all these girls and drain them of. . . .whatever it is he's draining and for whatever reason.

I look, and the austere young man is still there, waiting for me to follow him into the woods. I am no longer ashamed of my wanting, and I tilt my head to kiss him. He warms to my breath and I follow him as we grow wilder and wilder. We stop for breath and now there is a hint of the devil in his angelic face. The wolf has come out to play. (pg. 301)

Welcome to the rest of the book, folks. There is nothing else beyond this point. And if sex ever sounded appealing - well, this book will have you pushing your significant other away as quick as you can.


It's no spoiler that Liesl ends up switching places with Kathe in being the Goblin King's bride (more or less). And all of the warnings she's been given her entire life about the Goblin King completely fly out of her head the moment she beholds his devil-like hotness. The plot, which at first promised daring escape from an underground world and dark magic, boils down to Liesl desperately trying to get her hot captor to have sex with her.

"I am at my lady's command," he said. "Your wish is my desire." "Is it?" I rose from the klavier and took a step forward. "Then I think you know just how I would like to pass the time." (pg. 344)
But Liesl isn't just desperate for the physical attention. She demands it. Over. And over.

Slow, too slow. I wanted him to devour me, break me with the urgency of his lust. If he could not give that to me, then I would take it from him. (pg. 235) 
The kiss is sweeter than sin and fiercer than temptation. I am not gentle, I am not kind; I am rough and wild and savage. I bite, I nip, I lick, I devour. I want and I want and I want and I want. I hold nothing back. (pg. 231)
I gripped him harder, staking my claim on him. Mine, I thought. Mine. (pg. 236) 


Yes, Liesl becomes the emotionally abusive one. Because for reasons not entirely made clear, the Goblin King keeps refusing her (though he eventually gives in. . . .several times. . . .), and that throws Liesl into so many tantrums that involve her hitting him and demanding to know why he won't "ravish her."

When Liesl isn't trying to find confirmation of her value through sex, she's thinking about music. . . .As a person who grew up on classical music, I adore musical jargon. Wintersong felt like a graduate student who had just completed her Music Theory 103 class and thought she sounded like an expert. Huge swathes of narration and dialogue about quarter notes and half measures and sonatas (Liesl seems incapable of composing anything else) and a thousand other things that no one is going to care about, because it's all dumped unceremoniously in with no thought to how it affects the overall flow of words. To top it off, classical music is just dirty in Wintersong. She composes best after having sex - or after she's had a fit over the fact that the Goblin King won't have sex with her. And then it devolves into her describing her sex with classical music comparisons.

I let the Goblin King play me the rest of the evening, the sonata, the bloodstained handkerchief, and the candle forgotten for the time being. He was the bow, I the strings, and his fingers brushed my body to make me sing. (pg. 321)
The plot stumbles on amid this ruination of a fairy tale, desperately trying to patch things up by vaguely throwing in references to changelings and the Goblin King's past - and the fact that Liesl in fact once played with the Goblin King when they were children, but forget about him (or did she? Because she never actually seems to have forgotten about that at all). And after countless scenes of hot-n-heavy sexy times that will make you feel like a seedy old man in a trailer park, Wintersong winds down to a conclusion so incredibly stupid and contrived that I finally just threw the book across the room.

SPOILER

After hundreds of reiterations that if a Goblin Queen isn't sacrificed eternal winter will descend on the mortal world and changelings will be free to eat up the human morsels, the Goblin King somehow is able to just let Liesl go with no consequences. Eternal winter doesn't descend, the changelings remain in the goblin kingdom, and that's that.

SPOILER END

I realize that Wintersong is gearing up for a sequel (to which I say NOOOOOOOOOOO), but I have little doubt that the convenient way in which the ending ignores the rules of the world will not be excusable.

VERDICT

Wintersong at first offers a slightly sinister and darkly whimsical fairy tale set in a charming historical era and a flawed protagonist who struggles through her lack of confidence in order to save her sister from a horrible fate. Instead, Wintersong delivers a protagonist who can't stop wallowing in her plainness, desperately claws for confirmation through sex, and eventually gets what she wants by wearing the Goblin King down. While I felt a little bad for the Goblin King due to Liesl's abuse, he still fits into the category of creepy stalker portrayed as something desirable and sexy. The conclusion was a nonsensical mess and I never want to hear about sonatas and half measures and musical dictation ever again.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

March 2017 Book Haul


Well, hello there, people! Don't know if anyone comes to the blog anymore. Can't say I blame them, since it's been AGES since last I posted. With Bilbo the hedgehog's passing, blogging hasn't been all that appealing lately, and I've been concentrating on the Youtube channel, so yeah. But anyway! I haven't been completely AWOL in the book community! And thus - I give you my March 2018 Book Haul! It's long, so grab a snack and a comfy chair.


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