ARC Review: Fallen (Shadows of Regia, #1) by Tenaya Jayne @TenayaJayne

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I will not submit to the man who killed my best friend…no matter what destiny says.

Half vampire and wealthy playboy, Maddox lives his life in the public eye and thoroughly enjoys his bad reputation. But what most people believe of him is not who he really is. Life has always been easy for Maddox, but now a dark figure moves through the shadows slaughtering innocent young women, and the evidence points at him as his exes start turning up dead with his name carved into their skin.

Erin hates everything Maddox stands for and when her best friend becomes the most recent in the line of mysterious killings, she has no doubt the rich lothario is responsible. Torn by grief, Erin decides to take matters into her own hands and she will stop at nothing to make Maddox pay.

But when the two rivals finally come head to head, neither is prepared for the sparks that fly or the eternal bond that destiny weaves between their souls. Maddox is desperate to keep Erin by his side and prove to her his innocence. Erin would rather die than submit to being his destined life mate… And her death is just what the killer has in mind.

This is a full novel. Book 1 of 3 in The Shadows of Regia Trilogy.

My rating: 4.5/5

I’m honored to be an early reviewer for this first book in the Legends of Regia spinoff series. I was a huge fan of the original seven books and just this author in general, so of course I jumped at the chance to review!

The plot:

The development of Erin and Maddox’s relationship was amazing. I think their story arc was actually the best one this author has written yet. She did a fantastic job pacing the characters’ personal growth and their inner insecurities/complexities. I was truly impressed.

I docked this book by half a star because of the anticlimatic resolution to the antagonist(s). The main villain of the story had a great deal of potential, but I really felt it wasn’t carried through. I’ve seen the author can do so much better and I was a little disappointed. However, the book was a wholesale success otherwise and I think this trilogy is off to a strong start.

The characters:

Erin has a great deal of conflict in her character, especially with regard to her bond with Maddox. The suspense with her character was nearly overwhelming, but that made it that much better. I appreciated that she had as much character development as Maddox and grows the same as he does.

Maddox has some glaringly obvious character flaws, but the potential for decency are clearly present from the beginning. His reform wasn’t instantaneous like some PNR heroes and I was SO GRATEFUL.

We also get to see some of the original series’ couples’ married lives and it was so sweet! It’s great to have a snapshot of the world 20 years after it was saved, if nothing else. Not all the problems are solved and there are some new ones, but you can see how the struggles of the original series paid off.

The world of Regia is back with a new generation and a new series you don’t want to miss!

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My Moldovan Misadventure 2017

Last month, I took a trip to Moldova.

Moldova is a third-world, landlocked nation wedged between Romania and Urkaine. I had only heard of it in one movie, had a vague idea of it being close to Russia, and otherwise knew nothing.

I’ve debated posting about it.

I have a great many conflicting feelings about the trip.

The people I stayed with were wonderful. I went as part of a mission trip from my church, but I didn’t feel I brought anything to the group.

Aren’t people supposed to come back from mission trips reaffirmed and gushing about all the good they did and spiritual transformation?

Did I make meaningful connections and experience revelations? In some ways. I was mostly the awkward American who smiled too much.

In the middle of the trip, I got so dehydrated I ended up in the hospital. That meant a two-hour trip to Chisinau, the capitol, to find and ER with English-speaking doctors.

(I’m fine, just mad at myself for not drinking water like a moron.)

I don’t feel I brought anything positive, just a drain on resources. I didn’t really help and I don’t make friends easily even without language barriers.

But like I said, the Moldovans were all very kind to me at the church, the camp, and everyone with the local ministry, KBC Ministries.

As for the country itself…everywhere we went felt bleached, worn out. There’s a tiredness and a heaviness to most the population. Hopelessness. I don’t know how else to describe the feeling.

I was told by one young man that everyone in the countryside wants to go to Chisinau, and everyone in Chisinau wants to go to America or Western Europe.

I spoke to one young woman just a few years older than me who remembers the Soviet Union.

Right after the Iron Curtain fell and nationalist anti-Russian fervor swept the country, hundreds of people were murdered just for speaking Russian. It’s something you don’t hear about in the US.

The Moldovan people my age I was able to talk with worry about the same things as American people my age: what will I do with my life, how will I get a good job, will I be happy?

From what I gathered, older Moldovan people complain about the same things I’ve heard from American seniors, mainly: why isn’t the government paying for my healthcare? (Regardless of how one feels about that.)

Moldovans bag their sour cream, their government makes mine look reputable, and their traffic lights are on posts. I still don’t believe they’re as different from us as we or they think.

I think I do want to go back someday. I met some lovely people and have some new Facebook friends I’d like to see again. I’m just waiting to see when the right time will be.

Review: Blood Lock (Legends of Regia, #6) by Tenaya Jayne @TenayaJayne

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After her sister’s brutal murder, Sabra swore vengeance. But now, her brother has sold her as mate to the highest bidder. Defiant of the custom, and unwilling to submit, dangerous trouble lies ahead. In order to survive, she’s forced to accept the help of her mortal enemy.

On the eve of the Savage Solstice, the werewolves hold a tournament. A fight to the death. The victor will become the new pack leader. In a culture where women have no rights, Sabra will challenge tradition and fight in the tournament. She will need all of her rage, strength, and training if she is to have a chance. But most of all, she’ll need her heart, and it just may have been stolen by the man she hates more than anything.

The wizards are coming… All of Regia’s best minds are working tirelessly to come up with a plan to save their world. A blood lock is set in place to hold the enemy back. But if it fails… Will Forest’s daughter hold the key to Regia’s survival?

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

My rating: 5/5

This book was part of my weekend Regia binge and the emotional sucker punch was possibly the worst. My involvement in this couple with their separate and individual battles kept me glued to my Kindle.

The plot and pacing:

As far as story structure, I think this might be the author’s seminal work. We have three main plots being juggled: Sabra’s plot, Shreve’s plot, and their relationship’s plot. Everything that happens raises the stakes and all the characters’ interactions heighten the tension to some extent. I absolutely loved the way this book was put together and the bittersweet romance made it impossible not to love.

The characters:

Sabra is a badass, let’s just put it that way. For once, I have found a story where the female breaking out of society makes sense. There’s a set up to it and an explanation of her motivations.

I absolutely love Shreve. Good lord, I love Shreve. His quest for morality and goodness are touching, compelling, and at times downright heart wrenching. Watching him struggle to have a relationship with his newly found family, trying to help Forest through her difficulties as a new mom…it was beautiful.

This is a sweet romance with a heavy dose of moral dilemmas, self-sacrifice, and hardcore fight scenes. I absolutely love this series and I 100% recommend!

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What is an Antihero?

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We have recently seen a shift from the traditional idealistic hero toward what is touted as the antihero. Antiheroes are less moral, generally more ruthless, and less admirable.

Webster’s defines an “antihero” as “a protagonist or notable figure who is conspicuously lacking in heroic qualities.”

Deadpool, Arya Stark, and Malcolm Reynolds are all examples of less-than-moral people who we nonetheless love.

Still, the term “antihero” makes no sense to me.

In the end, all those examples I listed have their boundaries. They do go after those they see as guilty without remorse. They do inflict terrible atrocities on their enemies.

At the same time, they are almost always avenging or protecting the victims of their own victims. Then again, we have seen villains with codes, out for justifiable revenge as well.

This begs the question, when does a hero become an antihero and when does an antihero become a villain?

From my own observation, heroes and antiheroes tend to put doing the right thing first and do bad things as a side effect. The villain does bad things first and does good as a side effect.

This line becomes so murky, it can be hard to see straight. Arya Stark and Deadpool are both out for revenge and do inexcusable things as a result. But I have yet to see either called an outright villain.

Meanwhile, characters like the Lord Ruler of Mistborn have wholly reasonable, even humanitarian motivations, but no one doubts they are villains. The definition is fluid.

In the end, I believe the only difference between an antihero and a villain is how the reader feels about the character.

If you like her/him more than her/his victims, then you can say “antihero” instead of “villain.” If you like the victims more, then you say “villain.”

Review: Burning Bridges (Legends of Regia, #5) by Tenaya Jayne

27575518.jpgThe deadly game continues…Kidnapped, tortured, and used as bait, Forest’s life hangs in the balance as Copernicus moves forward to claim the throne. In the shadows, an army of slaves, waits to deal Regia’s new republic a killing blow.

After the insurgent’s first strike, a wave of rage builds through the races. No one is ready to lay down and hand Copernicus what he wants. But time is running out for Syrus to save Forest and their baby.

Turned into a drone, and weighed down with guilt, Redge tries to break free of the grasp of the insurgents. The only person who can help him is the woman of his past.

Lives will be lost, reluctant heroes will rise, and past flames will be rekindled. Regia must rise against Copernicus, but on the horizon, an even darker shadow lengthens over the land.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

My rating:  5/5

Book #4 ended in a cliffhanger because Tenaya is a cruel monster who loves to torture us. Ergo, I downloaded the next book and got to reading! (What choice did I have?)

The plot:

I would have liked to understand more about Journey’s homeworld and the dynamics there. It seemed to be that there weren’t enough consequences for her decision to break the law and return to Regia. Other than that, I loved everything about this storyline. It was a sweet, heartfelt adventure about rediscovering young love in one plot line, finding redemption in another, and Forest and Syrus weathering yet another hurricane in their relationship.

The characters:

Journey is beautiful in every sense of the word. Her description, her personality, her heart. I LOVE HER SO MUCH. Her appearance in Regia throws a wrench in some major villainy, which made it all that much better. Hardcore with a gentle heart and borderline pacifist, she’s a good contrast to the martial heroines we’ve seen so far (not that I’m complaining).

I had no idea Redge could be this awesome. His undying love for Journey and the mental repercussions he experiences as a blood slave were gritty and intense. I was glad Tenaya expanded on Syrus’s best friend as much as she did. It not only gives depth to Redge, but to Syrus as well. His relationship with Journey and how it impacted everything else in his life were

Syrus needed to be upsided in the head with a shovel once or twice, but other than that, he and Forest were perfect as always. We see more of Forest and Rahaxeris’s relationship and I loved that part. Also, the complicated repercussions of the Rune-dy’s experimentation AND SHREVE PRECIOUS CHILD I WILL SPEAK OF HIM IN THE NEXT REVIEW OH YES.

This series continues to be amazing and if you’ve read it, you’ll agree. If you haven’t, may I ask why not?

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How Do Readers Feel About Romance in Fantasy Books?

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It’s not hard to find Fantasy readers who say they hate romance subplots.

Romance plots get a lot of crap, but if you go onto any fan site, I guarantee that matchmaking characters is more than half the discussion.

The truth is, the criticisms I see are often valid. Being in a relationship defined a character, made him/her weak. (This happens A LOT with female characters).

In those cases, I get it. Crappy writing is crappy writing, no matter how many heart eyes there are. However, I don’t believe for a second that the problem is romance itself.

If Speculative Fiction fans actually hated love stories, they wouldn’t be a part of every major film/TV franchise in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre.

There are times I see people complaining armed with no information other than the fact two characters have an attraction. Those people should be ignored.

I believe that, save extreme cases, there are two kinds of people in the world: people who like romance and liars.

Maybe you would disagree, but I’m convinced that, to some extent or other, people are in love with love. The numbers don’t lie.

Romance is the top selling book genre in any category. Sci-Fi/Fantasy is third.

Passionate as Sci-Fi/Fantasy fans are, Romance fans are more so.

Outside the Romance genre, romantic love features to some extent in every successful fiction series, regardless of whether or not it involves the protagonist or has an HEA. That cannot be coincidence.

Love story subplots certainly didn’t stop the success of Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, or The Wheel of Time.

All of them have romance as a major plot point. All of them are roaring successes.

I guarantee that if you lookup fan fiction, fan art, or fan made anything for any of those series, the search results will be overwhelmingly about the romances.

The fact of the matter is that people who don’t like love stories are outliers. They might be loud and insistent, but they are far from the vast majority of readers.

In short, Fantasy readers don’t hate romantic story lines. They hate bad ones. Everyone who says otherwise is lying.

Blog Tour Review: Krait’s Redemption (The Cat’s Eye Chronicles, #5) by T.L. Shreffler @CatsEyeAuthor

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I’m honored to be an early reviewer for this BRILLIANT author’s newest AMAZING book in this OH SO AWESOME series.

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With winter solstice fast approaching, Sora and her companions are running out of time. She must stop The Shade from awakening the Dark God, yet a powerful force has overtaken her Cat’s-Eye necklace, rendering the stone almost useless. To use the stone, Sora must learn to trust her instincts and embrace her own inner strength. She joins forces with unexpected allies, Lord Gracen Seabourne among them, to protect the City of Crowns. As the city dissolves into chaos, she finds herself barreling toward an epic battle that will decide the fate of mankind.

At risk to his own life, Crash returns to the Hive seeking aid against Cerastes. However, the events that led him into exile have not been forgotten. Will the Hive offer him redemption, or will they demand he pay the ultimate price for his transgressions?

Join Sora and Crash in their epic battle to save the City of Crowns!

Releases 09/12/2017

My rating:  5/5

I love these characters, I love this book, I love this series, and I love this author! I have so many feelings. SO MANY feelings. *deep breath* I will try to give you my thoughts in an intelligent manner. It may be difficult.

The plot and pacing:

This story is lean, which is my favorite kind of story. There’s not a single wasted word, the action moves quickly while still giving you the chance to breathe. The suspense and mystery are layered perfectly and I binge-read this in a day. For me, it was exactly the kind of story I love to read.

The characters:

Sora is reaching the zenith of her coming-of-age story. Faced with gigantic life choices on top of the looming threat of world destruction. She comes face-to-face with life as a noblewoman versus life as an adventurer and that’s a scary decision. She continues to be a badass with a beautiful soul and I just love her to bits.

Crash is the other character I also love to bits. He is a badass, needless to say, but also full of so much emotional angst he’ll never admit to. I just read this and I can’t really explain beyond I LOVE HIM SO MUCH OH MY GOSH OH MY GOSH.

Krait and Caprion’s story has some major developments that I have been awaiting almost as much as Crora (as they are affectionately called by the fanbase). This story did not disappoint. There was heartbreak, there was redemption, as promised…it was beautiful.

Burn, our Wulven friend, continues to be one of my favorite characters. At this point, he’s more of a father figure to Sora than anyone else and I just want to hug him. He plays pivotal roles at multiple points and doesn’t get lost in the background, which can happen to characters when the cast broadens. But no.

Lori and Ferran continued to develop along their own arcs and I am so proud of them.

There is a lot of death in this book I wasn’t expecting. Minor spoiler: I was furious that Grandmaster Natrix got to live when so many others didn’t (even if she had surprised me as we got to know her). I was angry…and then I wasn’t. Not at all. I am the opposite of angry, but that’s a spoiler.

I am still madly in love with this series and I’m so glad the author’s back! It was totally worth the wait.

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Check out my reviews of the previous books in the series:

Caprion’s Wings (A Cat’s Eye Chronicles Novella)

Sora’s Quest (The Cat’s Eye Chronicles, #1)

Viper’s Creed (The Cat’s Eye Chronicles, #2)

Volcrian’s Hunt (The Cat’s Eye Chronicles, #3)

Ferran’s Map (The Cat’s Eye Chronicles, #4)

 About the Author

tlshreffler

T. L. Shreffler is a noblewoman living in the sunny acres of San Fernando Valley, California. She enjoys frolicking through meadows, sipping iced tea, exploring the unknown reaches of her homeland and unearthing rare artifacts in thrift stores. She holds a Bachelors in Eloquence (English) and writes YA Fantasy, Paranormal Romance and poetry. She has previously been published in Eclipse: A Literary Anthology and The Northridge Review.

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Review: Dark Soul (Legends of Regia, #4) by Tenaya Jayne @TenayaJayne

22455215.jpgThief. Murderess. Sacrificial messenger. Netriet has faced death many times but she never consented to the transformation she endured the last time her life was pulled back from the edge of death. She’s compelled to live a solitary life for fear the shadow inside her will terrify others. Lonely, Netriet longs for acceptance and friendship. Joining up with the Fair, a haven for misfits, she believes she’s found home and love with Merick.

The ghosts of Merick’s past haunt him. Helplessly attracted to Netriet, he’s sworn to help her destroy the shadow within, but losing his heart to her cripples him with fear. Mistakes and misunderstanding push her away and Merick’s forced to watch her flee into the arms of another man.

Torn between two men, Netriet’s true nature is drawn to one, while the shadow yearns for the other. At war with the darkness, Netriet must choose, or let the shadow swallow her completely.

The fate of Regia’s new republic hangs in the balance as a new enemy arises, backed by a group of violent insurgents bent on destroying everything Forest has worked for. Desperate for intelligence about the terrorist group, Forest learns the leader wants not only to claim the throne, but also her life.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

My rating:  5/5

I binge read the last four books in this series over a weekend and I’m not sure any mortal was meant for that amount of feels in that short a period of time. The other drawback is that much of the stories have run together in my head, especially since characters recur throughout the books. This has created some recall problems, but I will do the best I can.

The plot:

This book follows Netriet who we last saw running away from the safety of Forest’s house in Forest Fire. After the tragedy of Verdant, I was terrified. I’d seen Tenaya is willing to kill of characters nastily and it was horrible. I spent this book in emotional knots and on the edge of my seat. I suffered, but it was awesome.

The characters:

It’s been so long since I read books 1-2, that I’d forgotten much of Netriet’s character. That worked out fine because she’s essentially undergone reconstructive surgery on her soul as a result of Shi’s “help.” The duality between Netriet and the shadow that lived inside her was a mesmerizing power struggle.

Merick is a sweet, darling teddy bear whom I absolutely adore. With as many scars as Netriet, the two of them fit each other’s broken places to beautifully. His compassion, his loyalty, and his selflessness were amazing and I simply loved watching his relationship with Netriet blossom.

In the background, we have Forest and Syrus, still at the whole saving the world thing, still going hot and heavy in their romance. <3 <3 <3 Honestly, I would have read the book just for that part.

This was an intense read that was nonetheless rewarding. I’m so glad these books came into my life and I’m psyched for the spinoff series!

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Is The Lord of the Rings Racist?

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While I love The Lord of the Rings, it’s not a great example of racial relationships. The elves, Men, hobbits and Dwarves are all a mix of good and bad, but mostly good. On the other hand, orcs embody every negative stereotype of any outcast group.

Orcs are conniving, untrustworthy, greedy, ferocious savages that kill, plunder, and rape their way across Middle Earth. (While I don’t recall rape ever described in The Lord of the Rings, I feel there are passages that heavily imply it.) They are rabid animals that must be put down. Reasoning with them is not only impossible, but counter-productive.

Applying racial literary criticism to orcs is depressing

By contrast, the other races embody positive traits. There are the Elves (all good), the Rohirriam (mostly good and honorable), the Gondorians (mostly good and honorable), and the Dwarves (all good, but proud). Every one of those races adheres to a stereotype that’s mostly positive. There are occasional outliers, traitors to the Elves, Hobbits, Dwarves, and Men, but they are rare overall. Even those outliers are occasionally redeemed.

It has long bothered me that the orcs were all evil. One can’t deny they show remarkable intelligence and problem-solving capacity, yet they only ever work for nefarious purposes.

Orcs are savages with no culture but war

While Elves, Men, Hobbits, and Dwarves all have their own lore, their own art, traditions, rituals, and customs, orcs have none of that. There’s evidence they pass stories from generation to generation, but nothing else.

There are signs of them being extremely smart, but they never do more than pillage and cause trouble unless a stronger mind commands them into unity.

The Southrons are a whole other can of racist worms

Though they feature less prominently than orcs, it’s clear the Southrons embody the eastern threat perceived by the English in Tolkien’s time. The Ottoman Empire was still in existence and the Southrons do exactly as the British feared the easterners would.

In The Children of Hurin, a Southron murders a Gondorian lord and forces his widow into marriage. Though the story isn’t nearly as graphic as George R.R. Martin would have it, we learn Southrons are gluttons, conquerors, and rapists who must also be driven out or killed like wild dogs.

This is identical to how the British viewed the eastern empires. It’s another example of racial prejudices leaking into literature.

It doesn’t stop with The Lord of the Rings

Across the fantasy genre, orcs, Southrons, or some incarnation of them keeps popping up again and again. This idea of a scapegoat for evil seems impossibly attractive, especially to fantasy writers.

Early on, I caught myself rewriting the Southrons and revised my series to fix it. I didn’t mean the story to sound prejudiced, but it happened because I’d seen it so often in fantasy literature and didn’t notice when I was writing it.

I still love The Lord of the Rings (doubt that will ever change!). At the same time, I won’t deny parts of it are problematic.

What do you think of race issues in The Lord of the Rings? Have I ruined the franchise for you (sorry)?

Review: Verdant (Legends of Regia, #3) by Tenaya Jayne @TenayaJayne

22455212.jpgIt all began with one stolen kiss…

10,000 years ago, deep in Regia’s forests, the Dryads lived hidden and aloof. Determined to serve the Heart of the World, and keep it secret. Shi was chosen at birth to become a Verdant, one of the twenty princesses to sacrifice to the flame. Plagued by curiosity, one night Shi breaks the rules. A Verdant must always remain pure and innocent and never venture out beyond the boundary.

A month after taking the throne, King Leramiun grows restless confined to the castle by his new responsibilities. After receiving reports about a mass grave in the forests, Leramiun makes a rash decision to investigate by himself. Instead of finding death, he finds Shi, a goddess of life.

One stolen kiss set in motion the destruction of an entire race.

*26k word novella

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars

This prequel novella takes us through the origin story for Shi, Forest’s adoptive mother, including the first great love of King Leramiun and the story of how the Dryads went extinct. I came in knowing that (Shi is a ghost and the Dryads are extinct, after all), but forgot all the dryads died and that was a good kick in the feels.

The plot:

This story is what I like to call “pack a punch.” There’s not a lot of space, but there are plenty of layers and feelings. Yes, feelings. Oh so many feelings. This book made me laugh, had me on the edge of my seat, then crushed me as expected. It was awesome.

The characters:

Shi is an interesting paradox. Despite being deeply innocent, she knows everything about a person the instant she touches them. She reminds me of that phrase “half ancient, half child.”

Leramiun grows remarkably through his relationship with Shi. They were so adorable together and then everything got ruined and now they’re both dead and it’s horrible. Geez, there were a lot of feelings here.

The subplot with Helena had me furious for the first three quarters of the book, I won’t lie. The whole “she’s a concubine, so what does she matter” mentality got old a long time ago. And then is took a turn and YEEEEESSSSSS! Honestly, Helena’s story was probably my favorite part. I mean…the redemption and recognition of her value as a person…respecting her despite her former profession…it was so freaking beautiful.

It’s good to be back in the land of Regia and I’m looking forward to the spinoff series coming this fall! This series is absolutely fantastic and I highly recommend.

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