Review: The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I admit it!  I wanted to read The House of the Four Winds because of the cover.  I think it is absolutely breathtaking.  We all know the problem with judging a book by its cover, though.  Sometimes the story doesn’t live up to that gorgeous cover.  In this case, I’m glad I did pick it up.  While the pacing was occasionally frustrating, The House of the Fours Winds was a gripping read none the less.

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Interview with Cassandra Rose Clarke, Author of The Assassin’s Curse

Cassandra Rose Clarke is the author of the fantastic Strange Chemistry release The Assassin’s Curse.  I loved this book, so I am super geeked to have her in the virtual offices today!  Please give her a warm welcome.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] A writer, reader, movie watcher, dinner cooker, and amateur artist.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Assassin’s Curse?

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] The Assassin’s Curse is a YA adventure novel about a lady pirate and an assassin who are thrown together when the pirate accidentally activates a curse that had been placed on the assassin before they met. The story has tons of magic, swashbuckling, and adventurous peril — and a teeny hint of romance.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] I wanted to write a high fantasy story because I’d never written one before. Originally, The Assassin’s Curse was going to be a short story, and the character of Ananna was going to be a witch, someone more like Leila. However, as I was working on her character, I thought it would be interesting to make her a pirate — I’ve always liked pirates, and you really don’t see that many stories about them. Naji was always going to be an assassin, though, because assassins are just cool.  Really, the novel grew out of an amalgamation of character types and tropes that I find interesting, or that I wanted to play with or subvert.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Naji?

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] Mysterious, intelligent, moody

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Ananna had a theme song, what would it be?

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] Probably “Warrior,” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  Ananna feels like a Yeah Yeah Yeahs kind of girl in general, but I think “Warrior” really captures her personality — as well as her adventures in the book!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Naji’s biggest regret?

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] Probably casting the spell that gave him his facial scar — Naji always struck me as the sort of person who would put a lot of stock in being conventionally attractive, and when that was taken away from him, he had some trouble adjusting. That being said, his biggest regret is liable to change over the course of the book and/or the sequel ;)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Ananna’s pockets?

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] This is a hard question! I mean, there are the obvious answers, like a cell phone, a ballpoint pen, or a flash drive. Those things don’t currently exist in her world and won’t ever exist in her lifetime. But if we’re pulling from items that do currently exist in her world? It’s hard to say there’s anything that would never show up in Ananna’s pockets. She’s resourceful. She could find usefulness in pretty much anything.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] I pull a lot of influence from popular culture, and I love playing around with tropes. It’s so awesome how you can take these patterns that show up over and over again in books, movies, TV shows, video games, and whatever else, and when you put them together it creates something totally new. It’s a bit like piecing together a scrap quilt.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] Quiet: I can’t write with music playing in the background at all. My computer: I’ve never been fond of writing by hand — whenever I try it I wind up throwing out everything I came up with. Daylight: I hate writing at night — or doing any kind of work at night, really. Fortunately my day job gives me a fairly flexible schedule so this isn’t an issue.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] Probably Among Others, by Jo Walton. I devoured it in about two days and then couldn’t get it out of my head for a week or so after. What I loved most about it was the narrator’s voice — it just carried you along with the story. I’d care one or the other about the old school science fiction references, but I loved the 1970s boarding school setting bunches.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] I can’t honestly remember I time when I didn’t enjoy reading.  The first book I remember being OMG obsessed with was Mary Downing Hahn’s Wait Till Helen Comes.  I’d read plenty of books before it, of course, but that book was the one that made me realize just how powerful stories can be. Everything about it captured my attention: the isolated, rural setting, the fact that the family has moved into an old church, the strained relationship between the narrator and her sister, and of course Helen, who remains the creepiest ghost I’ve ever encountered. I reread the book a few years ago when I was home sick, and it still creeped me out!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] I love watching TV and going to the movies, and I love talking about TV and movies even more, so I’m often doing one or the other. I also love to cook, draw, and paint, and I do Zumba classes a couple of days a week, because Zumba is awesome.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] There are loads of ways to get in touch with me! My Twitter handle is @mitochondrial. You can also leave a comment on my blog (at www.cassandraroseclarke.com) or email me at cassie@cassandraroseclarke.com. I always try to reply when people contact me!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can purchase The Assassin’s Curse from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below.  Digital edition is only $4.84!

 

About the book:

Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.

And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.

Fall into Fantasy Hop-Win The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke!

Welcome to my Fall into Fantasy giveaway,  hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and The Write Path.This hop runs from October 16 to October 21, and you can win lots of new reads.  Click here for a complete list of blogs participating in the hop.

I recently read The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke and loved it.  I am giving away an ARC of the book, because I know that you’ll enjoy it, too!

About the book:

Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her. 
And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.

Entering is easy! Just fill out the widget below. Earn extra entries for following! US addresses only, please.

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Review: The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

 

Title:  The Assassin’s Curse

Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke

Publisher:  Strange Chemistry

The Assassin’s Curse Digital (Only $6.01 for the eBook!)

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.

And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.


Review:

I love books like The Assassin’s Curse.  The premise sounded intriguing, but when I first started reading it, I wasn’t sure that I would like Ananna.  She’s rough and unpolished, the daughter of pirates.  She’s a thief, she lies with aplomb, and she just didn’t seem like someone I wanted to know better.  But like Aria in Under the Never Sky, by the time I reached the fourth chapter, I had a drastic change of heart. While Ananna could be crude and violent, she was also brave and ready to fight for her own freedom.  After fleeing from an arranged marriage, she opens a huge can of worms that includes an assassin with her name on his hit list, a curse that she unwittingly unleashes, and an adventure the likes of which she could have never imagined.  Neither could I, when I first sat down with Ananna and Naji.  By the last page, I wanted more of their story and more of their larger than life journey. Even more than that,  I wanted them to be happy, and to be safe from the dangers that stalked them. 

I read The Assassin’s Curse in less than a day.  It is a fast read, one that you won’t be able to put down.  Ananna careens from one life-threatening situation to the next with the speed and trajectory of a pinball, and the only thing she has to keep her alive is her courage and her razor sharp wits.  She may not have had the benefit of an education like Naji or her ally Marjani, but she is far more clever than either of them.  She also has a steadfast confidence in her own abilities, which gave her an edge in every thing she did.  Ananna is street smart and street savvy; she has been raised among cutthroats and thieves, and she fully expected to take her place as a pirate ship’s captain, whether she was a girl or not.  Her gender just gave her more of a challenge to make her dream of owning her own ship, with her own colors, come true, and she wasn’t going to give that up.  Ditching her stupid fiancé was easier than ditching the scary, shadowy assassin his family set loose on her, but Ananna didn’t even back down from Naji and his deadly, mysterious blood magic. 

I loved the gradual friendship that develops between Ananna and her would be killer.  Naji didn’t strike me as the kind of guy who could take money to commit murder, but when pushed, he suddenly turned into a freaking badass.  One with little common sense, but with all of that magic at his command, he was able to move mountains.  Literally.  What happened after that, well, that was anyone’s guess, especially when he depleted his energy so much that he could barely remain upright.  Given his impulsiveness and, at times, his complete lack of common sense, I wasn’t surprised that he was the victim of an impossible curse.  That Ananna, his would be target, set the curse into motion made the premise of the book that much more enjoyable.  These two extremely diverse people are stuck with each other, not able to venture far apart, and they must learn to get along and, more importantly, learn to work together, to find an answer to Naji’s problem.  As long as the magic shackles them together, Ananna is a target of a different sort.  Powerful magical beings want Naji, and they will do anything to get him, including using, or hurting,  Ananna. 

My one nick pick with the book is, as usual, the lack of an ending, but I felt optimistic and happy when I reached the last page.  I don’t even know why, because Ananna and Naji are left with more questions and challenges than answers at the end.  I think that I just enjoyed spending my time with them so much that Ananna’s optimism rubbed off on me.  She knows that they will overcome all of the impossible tasks before them, and she knows that, one way or another, all of her dreams will come true.  Even though she despairs at Naji’s cluelessness, and even though his disregard cut to the bone, both Ananna and I know this one thing; Naji’s impossible curse has at least one possible cure.  It’s a pity that we must both wait until the next book for him to finally open his eyes to the answer that is sitting right in front of him.

Grade:  B+/A-

Review copy provided by publisher

Cheap eBooks! It’s All About Pirates!

Here are some cheap reads to feed your Kindle or Kindle app for the weekend!  These are all pirate themed books.  Who can resist a pirate?  Arrrrr!

The Buccaneer by Donna Fletcher ($2.99)

The beautiful and sheltered Lady Catherine Abelard makes the ultimate sacrifice. She agrees to marry the infamous Captain Lucifer, a pirate known for his evil ways, to save her step-father from the gallows.

Only the captain can provide the proof of his innocence.

Captain Lucifer has far different plans for Catherine. He wants revenge for the hell her step-father has put him through the last few years. He intends to take her innocence and return her home… a fallen woman.
A simple strand of pearls stands in the way of the captain’s plans and when the strand finally breaks… will it be revenge or love he seeks from the beautiful lady?

Originally published in 1995 by Jove


Blood and Treasure (A Romancing the Pirate Novel) by Jennifer Bray-Weber ($2.99) This is the first book in her Romancing the Pirate series

Although Lianna Whitney was gently bred, she must now empty slop buckets and fight off randy sailors in a seaport tavern to survive. One night, she unexpectedly comes into possession of a golden medallion. But when the man who left it with her is immediately murdered by soldiers of the Royal Navy, she’s afraid to admit she has it. Unsure who to trust, she’s caught up in crossfire between navy officers and a pirate captain, who, realizing she possesses the object he’s been paid to find, whisks her away to his ship during the fight. Privateer Captain Zane Fox is not interested in the mystical healing powers the medallion is said to hold, even though the legends claim it can bring a dying man back to life. He only plans to procure the medallion, drop the chit off at the next port where she’ll be safe, and collect the money he was promised. However, as they fend off storms at sea and attempt to outrun the Royal Navy, the two are also fighting the attraction they feel for one another. But when they are captured, Zane must choose between recovering the medallion and saving Lianna from the noose. And soon it becomes clear to him that the medallion is not the only treasure worth risking his life for.

Beneath The Water’s Edge (A Romancing the Pirate novella) by Jennifer Bray-Weber (only 1.99!)  this is book 2.5 in her Romancing the Pirate series, and it is a 113 page novella

Elyssa Calhoun Montgomery had been willing to do anything to keep her father from debt, including following her new husband to the Caribbean-–dressed as a lad. But she never dreamed she’d become widowed so quickly, or that she’d come face to face with a fearsome pirate who expects her to fight like a man. Captured and her identity exposed, she doesn’t know what’s worse, being locked alone in a pirate captain’s quarters or experiencing an unsettling attraction toward him. Captain Bran Blackthorn has grown weary of the pirating trade and seeks a King’s Pardon for his crew. Unfortunately, the man who could sign a reprieve, his half-brother Governor Flynn, would rather see him dead. When the gods—or the devil—bestows an angel to his spoils, he sees an opportunity to force a pardon with her ransom. Never mind his beautiful pawn has bewitched him, filling him with a desire to press his body against hers, capture her mouth in a searing kiss, and brand her as his own. But when Bran’s enemies seek vengeance, Elyssa becomes entangled in their deadly game and Bran faces the gallows. Can they cheat death and save each other? Or will they be dragged…

Bound By The Heart by Marsha Canham ($2.99) I read this a billion years ago, but I don’t remember a thing about it.  Originally published by Avon in 1991

A swashbuckling adventure featuring Captain Morgan Wade, a notorious privateer and blockade-runner, who rescues, then kidnaps the daughter of the British governor of Barbados after she and her brother are shipwrecked. Summer Cambridge is betrothed to Wade’s arch-enemy, Commodore Bennett Winfield, who will go to any lengths, even start a war between two countries to get her back.


SEA MISTRESS by Nancy Morse  ($2.99)  I have read books by Nancy Morse in the past, but I haven’t read this one.  If you happen to read it and enjoy it, please let me know!

In 1813, with America embroiled in a war with England, the search to recover a precious jewel and save her family’s Virginia plantation sends Raven De Lys to New Orleans, where the Creole code of honor is being threatened by an emerging American way of life and cannons of war reverberate throughout the countryside. The path to the jewel leads Raven on a dangerous game of cat and mouse across the high seas and into the arms Dominique Sauvinet, the notorious pirate who holds the jewel, and her fate, in the palm of his hand. Can their love survive a risky game of charades that proves not everyone is who they seem, and a murderous pirate’s thirst for vengeance?

Feed Your Kindle! Pirates and More!

Here are some nicely priced romances to feed your Kindle or Kindle app!

Three books for the price of one! Elizabeth Boyle’s The Brazen Trilogy (The Brazen Series) only $6.99!

A boxed set of Elizabeth Boyle’s wildly popular, Brazen series, including BRAZEN ANGEL, BRAZEN HEIRESS, and BRAZEN TEMPTRESS.

BRAZEN ANGEL: Lady Sophia D’Artiers plays a dangerous game of deception that pits her against the most unlikely of adversaries, her betrothed, Giles Corliss. Winner of the prestigious RWA RITA Award for Best First Book.

BRAZEN HEIRESS — Lady Lily D’Artiers is lured into spying by her childhood love, the bold and dashing Webb Dryden.

BRAZEN TEMPTRESS— Julien D’Artiers’ double life as the toast of the ton and an American privateer are about to collide when he finds himself face to face with the one woman who could unmask him: his wife.


Gentleman Says "I Do" by Amelia Grey (only .99!)

Iverson Brentwood has finally met his match. Catalina Crisp heats his blood like no other lady. Her alluring countenance has stopped him dead in his tracks. But no matter how attracted he is to her, he can’t give into his desire to possess her in every way…she is the daughter of the man he’s sworn to destroy.

Catalina’s father is a well-known writer, but wastrel whose disappearances continuously put them close to destitution. Something drastic must change, so it is with quill in hand, that Catalina completes her father’s latest parody of Iverson and Matson Brentwood’s spectacular arrival in London. When the story hits the newsprint, a darkly handsome man is at her door, looking for her father.

Seeing the dashing rogue in the flesh, for a bewildering moment dallying with the rake seems like the perfect fictional escape—and it’s all she can do not to give into the madness of the intriguing man.


The next three books are digital reissues of Jennifer Ashley’s Regency Pirates series.  I like the new covers, so here’s a shout out for all three, which are very reasonably priced.

Regency Pirates: Pirate Next Door by Jennifer Ashley (.99)

Mayfair, London, 1810: Alexandra Alastair, a respectable young English widow, wonders if she dare add the new viscount who’s moved in next door to her list of potential husbands.
He certainly doesn’t look like the gentlemen on her list—Grayson Finley, Viscount Stoke, is tall and sun-bronzed, muscular and blue-eyed. He wears dress so casual as to be unclothed—long coats, leather breeches, shirts without collar or cravat, and he carries pistols wherever he goes. The men who attend him are just as strange, exotic-looking, even. And the way Grayson smiles at Alexandra whenever they pass in the street—sinful, blood-warming—turns her inside out.

In the middle of the night Alexandra hears shouting coming from the house next door, and the viscount’s life being threatened. She rushes over just in time to save Grayson from being hanged by his greatest enemy, his former best friend.

Thus is Alexandra pulled into the adventures of Grayson Finley, former pirate and terror of the seas. Grayson has made a bargain with the devil (in the form of the pirate hunter, James Ardmore), in order to ensure the safety of his daughter. He’ll do anything to keep her safe, but when Alexandra saves his life, he looks into her eyes the color of water and starts to drown . . .

Book One of the Regency Pirates. Originally published in 2003, fully revised by the author in 2012. This is a full-length novel of 90,000 words.


Regency Pirates: Pirate Hunter’s Lady by Jennifer Ashley ($2.99)

James Ardmore is hunting the pirate who killed his brother’s family, and nothing will stand in his way. Not the English who want him dead, and definitely not Diana Worthing, a beautiful woman he takes the opportunity to abduct while he’s busy rescuing an American spy. Diana knows the secrets of an island called Haven, which James is determined to find. But both James and Diana are unprepared for the sparks that fly between them.

The Pirate Hunter’s Lady is the second, revised edition of the original print title: The Pirate Hunter. New in this edition: New first four chapters detailing Diana and James’s first meeting. Revised, edited body of the book. New epilogue.


 

Care & Feeding of Pirates (Regency Pirates) by Jennifer Ashley ($2.99)

Book 3 in the Regency Pirates series. This is a full-length novel (80,000 words, twenty-six chapters).

Honoria Ardmore has a secret. Four years ago, the notorious pirate Christopher Raine, arrested and condemned for stealing a ship full of gold bound for Napoleon, makes one last request of Honoria. She grants it, and Christopher is taken out to be hanged. — Or was he?

Honoria couldn’t have seen him alive again in the rather thick fog outside Covent Garden Theatre, could she? Christopher is long dead and gone, Honoria’s secret with him. Her life has moved on, and now she’s betrothed to a respectable English gentleman.

Christopher has other ideas. His sentence commuted at the last minute, Christopher was press-ganged onto a ship bound for Asia, and he’s spent the last four years working to return home and get everything back—his crew, his treasure, and Honoria Ardmore—his wife.

Meet the crew of the Starcross, and revisit the crews of the Argonaut and the Majesty for more pirate fun and adventure!


Review: The Voyage of the Sea Wolf by Eve Bunting

 

Title: Voyage of the Sea Wolf

Author:  Eve Bunting

Publisher:  Sleeping Bear Press

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

At the end of The Pirate Captain’s Daughter, Catherine and cabin boy William are marooned on Pox Island by the murderous crew of the pirate ship Reprisal. The young lovers see no hope of escape.

In Voyage of the Sea Wolf, the continuing saga of Catherine’s sea adventures, she and William are rescued from their island prison by the Sea Wolf, a pirate ship pursuing the Reprisal. Catherine worries that these new pirates will send her back to the island once they discover she’s a girl. But then, she meets the captain of the Sea Wolf. A woman! Surely, Catherine thinks, the bloodshed and brutality she and William experienced aboard the Reprisal can’t happen again, especially under the leadership of a female captain.

But just as things seem to be going their way, the captain takes a liking to William. Catherine is forbidden to see him.

If Catherine and William want to stay together, they must find a way to now escape from the Sea Wolf.

Review:

After enjoying The Pirate Captain’s Daughter so much, I was hyped to start reading The Voyage of the Sea Wolf.  Ultimately I was disappointed, as the characters all displayed a shocking lack of common sense, especially Catherine, who was so resourceful in the last book.  I guess watching your father murdered and then being dumped on a deserted island would be cause to completely lose your marbles, but I was really hoping for better from our plucky heroine.  Her near death experience left her incapable of making one commendable decision until the very end of the book.  The ending is another disappointment.  Without giving out too many spoilers, William and Catherine are left in pretty much the same situation as the prior book. Ugh!

When the young lovers are rescued, saved from the brink of death, they have new challenges to face.  They’ve been rescued by another pirate ship, this one captained by a fierce woman who imagines herself to be like her namesake,  Medb, the daughter of the High King of Ireland and a brutally calculating warrior who took what she wanted, when she wanted it.  Like her namesake, Medb is cold and cruel, and when she sees William, she wants him.  I found this storyline wearying.  She is significantly older than William, yet for Medb, it is lust at first sight.  She will have him, because he reminds her of her lost love.  She will possess him, for no other reason than this uncanny resemblance to a man she drove away years before.  This made no sense to me, regardless of how handsome William was.  He was but a boy to her, and the attraction creeped me out.  Considering that Medb is a bloodthirsty, possibly psychotic  pirate, this shouldn’t have turned me off like it did, but I couldn’t get beyond how gross is was to me.

To egg her on, William is disrespectful and defiant.  Medb, her heart lost to William, took all of her anger out on Catherine.  This is another plot point that drove me nuts.  Catherine knew that Medb was just looking for any excuse to get rid of her so she could have William all to herself, yet she purposefully  does stupid things to piss the pirate captain off.  Let’s stop for just one second and think about the pirates in Eve Bunting’s novels.  These are not Disney pirates, with yummy tats and weird things woven into their sleek braids.  These are pirate pirates, the kind who make a living plundering other ships and murdering innocent people.  They steal stuff, they shoot people, and they live by a code that demands obedience and loyalty to their ship and their captain.  Both William and Catherine have close, intimate knowledge about how things work on a pirate ship.  They witnessed murder first hand, and experienced pirate punishment.  They suffered pain and almost died because they pissed off another ship full of pirates and decided to not follow the rules.  Did they learn anything from that experience  Nope!

While these plot elements did bug me, there were aspects of the book that I did enjoy.  The battle scenes were tense and exciting, and the details of daily life on a ship  was fascinating.  While I found the supernatural elements ridiculous at times, Medb’s fear of witches and evil magic made perfect sense given how precarious life on a little ship in the middle of a very large and dangerous ocean could be.  One run of bad luck could spell doom for everyone aboard, and Medb took omens very seriously.  Until the time she didn’t and greed won out over her fear, spelling disaster for everyone.  I didn’t understand that, either.  She was a seasoned leader, in addition to being extremely superstitious.   It was against her character to disregard every single evil portent and to continue with her plans to launch an attack against another ship.

While this book didn’t totally work for me, I am still curious to follow Catherine and William as they try to make their way home.  I just hope that they learned something this time, so that they don’t vex me as much when we meet again.

Grade: C

Review copy provided by publisher

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