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Book Review: Set Adrift by D.S. Kenn (Series, #1)

April 4, 2015 5 comments

Book Review: Set Adrift by D.S. Kenn (Series, #1)Summary:
Terric, nickname T, a half shifter half demon, and his girlfriend Jordyn, full vampire, have decided to move from New York City to Provincetown, Massachusetts.  T has an opportunity to work as head of security at a nightclub and bar that caters to the supernatural, and he thinks the move will be good for he and Jordyn.  Jordyn had a nightmarishly abusive past, and T has been helping her heal through a safe, consenting BDSM relationship.  But his love for Jordyn is not one of a mate; it is one of a friend.  He intuitively knows that his mate will be a man but he struggles to accept this, due to suffering he has endured in the demon realm.  When Jordyn decides it is time for her to stand on her own two feet and move out, she also encourages T to confront himself and grow as well.  But all T feels is set adrift.

Review:
Every November/December I open up to submissions for books to review in the upcoming year on my blog.  When I saw this one in the submissions, I was excited.  Not very much paranormal romance is submitted to me, and paranormal romance with a bisexual main character is nigh on impossible to find.  Plus, I love Provincetown.  This paranormal romance features a unique set of characters and a wide variety of sex scenes but its world building struggles some.

The strongest aspect of the book is that its main character Terric is so unique in paranormal romance.  Terric actually describes himself perfectly:

I’m an anomaly. A fucking bisexual demon shifter. Not really all of any one thing…. I don’t really fit in most categories, you know. (page 33)

First, I love love love the fact that the hero of the book isn’t just bisexual, but he actually uses the term to describe himself as such.  This may not seem like a big deal, but it is quite rare to have a character self-identify as bisexual and simultaneously have that character be one of the good guy leads.  I really applaud the author for going there.  Terric struggles with his sexuality but not for the reasons the reader might expect.  Provincetown, for those who don’t know, is known for being a small town with a large accepting queer community.  T’s community would accept him for who he is, but he struggles with accepting and loving himself.  The reason given for this is that when he is summoned to the demon realm (as a half demon, he is subject to hell’s dominion), he is sometimes subject to punishment that consists of rape by other male demons (or half demons).  The reason he has trouble imagining being mated with a man is due to this trauma.  Bisexual men experience a higher rate of rape than straight or gay men (source), and I think it’s a good thing that the author works this into T’s past within the context of his supernatural world.  The rape is not misrepresented as causing his bisexuality but rather as a trauma he must get over to fully embrace his sexuality for what it is.  It’s not a storyline seen very often, and it’s handled well.

Similarly, the BDSM subplot in the first half of the book is also handled well.  The BDSM is completely presented as something both partners have consented to with pre-agreed upon boundaries that are respected.  It is also shown as something that is therapeutically used to help Jordyn overcome her past trauma.  This is a use for BDSM that some readers may not know but it is clearly well-understood by the author and well presented in the book.  Plus, the BDSM scenes are well-written and just the right level of steamy.

Unfortunately, the world that T and Jordyn live in is not as well fleshed-out as they are.  In particular, the workings of the supernatural world are never fully explained and can be a bit confusing.  For instance, vampires can apparently have children (as in, conceive and give birth to them, not as in turning humans into vampires), but it is never explained how.  Also the logistics of mixing different supernatural races are unclear.  For instance, there is one character who is 100% shifter, but his parents are both half vampire and half shifter.  Even the character himself doesn’t know how that worked out to him being pure shifter.  Some readers probably wouldn’t be bothered by the lack of details and world building regarding the supernatural and just how it works in this world, but others will be.

There are a few minor editing mistakes, the most startling of which is that the book on page 142 suddenly changes from indenting new paragraphs to having a line space between them (like how paragraphs appear on this blog).  I have no preference for one over the other, but consistency throughout the book is preferred.  There is also one plot point that bothered me.  At one point a character is established as being tipsy.  He then kisses someone and, freaked out about it, decides to leave and states that he can because he is “sober as a judge,” and the other character agrees he is fit to drive (page 152).  Unless that kiss lasted an hour or two, there’s no way he went from tipsy to sober as a judge in the span of one kiss (unless something supernatural was going on that was not explained).  Similarly, sometimes the book veers too far into telling rather than showing, particularly in the scenes that are not sex scenes.  For instance, in one scene, this occurs:

He told Kevin a little bit about his own upbringing, just the basics. (page 144)

At this point, the reader does not know much about this character’s upbringing.  Why not write out the dialogue in which the character tells Kevin about it, rather than telling the reader that the character tells Kevin?  The sex scenes never veer into this telling rather than showing zone, and it would be nice if the plot points didn’t either.

There is also a chapter that is called the “epilogue,” which kind of bothered me since it is a direct continuance of the plot in the previous chapters.  No significant time is skipped, nothing in the future is explained.  It is basically the last chapter in the book.  I am uncertain as to why it is thus called an epilogue.  I was expecting it to update me on the future of these characters, not simply continue the story in a direct linear fashion from the last chapter.

Sex acts in the book include: anal sex (male on female), BDSM (male dom, female sub), and M/M kissing/touching.  Rape is mentioned as an occurrence in the past but is not depicted.  Those readers looking for more in-depth M/M scenes should keep their eye out for the next book in the series, as it appears that a M/M relationship will be building to greater intimacy in the next book.

Overall, this is a welcome addition to the paranormal romance genre, featuring a unique cast of characters, including a bisexual half-demon, half-shifter male hero.  The book contains a wide variety of sex scenes, including M/F BDSM and M/M kissing/touching.  Readers interested in in-depth world building may be disappointed by the lack of explanation of the supernatural world these characters inhabit.  Those looking for a quick, steamy read will enjoy these characters and the development of them that goes on in-between their well-written sex scenes.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review

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Book Review: One Death at a Time by Thomas M. Hewlett (Series, #1)

June 26, 2014 7 comments

Man in a hat standing next to a Europeanish buildingSummary:
Jack Strayhorn is a private eye and a member of Alcoholic’s Anonymous.  Only, he’s not an alcoholic, he’s one of the vampires who meet in a secret vampire group that exists under the umbrella of AA to learn how to control their urges and feed on humans without killing them.  He’s just returned to LA, his death site that he hasn’t been back to since he had to run in 1948 after becoming a vampire.  When his current missing person case shows up dead next to a Fae politician, Jack gets dragged into a mixed-up underworld of Faes, werewolves, drugs, and a group of vampires determined to rule the world.

Review:
This is one of the twelve indie books I accepted to be reviewed on my blog in 2014 (complete list).  I was immediately intrigued by the summary, due to its delightful urban fantasy/paranormal take on AA.  The book delivers exactly what it promises, spiced with a noir writing style.

Jack Strayhorn is the perfect paranormal version of the noir-style hardboiled detective.  He’s got a biting, snarky wit, a handsome presence, a sharp mind, and is a bit distant and mysterious.  It’s just in this case he’s distant and mysterious because he’s a vampire.  Making the private eye a vampire makes his character unique in noir, and, similarly, making the vampire a private eye with his focus primarily on crime solving and not paranormal politics gives the urban fantasy vampire a unique twist.  Jack is presented as a complex character, one who we could not possibly get to know fully in just the first entry in the series.  It’s easy to see how he will manage to carry the proposed 12 entries in the series.

Supporting Jack is a wide range of characters who accurately portray the diversity in a large town like LA, as well as the diversity one expects in a paranormal world.  The characters are multiple races and classes.  Whereas some urban fantasy books slowly reveal the presence of more and more paranormal races throughout the series, this book starts out with quite a few, and that is a nice change of pace.  Most urban fantasy readers expect there to be more than just vampires, and the book meets the urban fantasy reader where they’re at.  Even though the book has a large cast, the secondary characters never blend together.  They are easily remembered, and the diversity probably helps with that.

I like the idea of vampires having an AA-like group, but I’m still not sure how I feel about this group existing as some secret under the umbrella of AA itself.  The book even goes so far as to say the the founder of AA was a vampire himself, and used the human illness of alcoholism as a cover for the vampire group.  I like and appreciate vampirism as a disease that some people just mysteriously have at birth as an analogy for alcoholism, but I feel that having it present in the same group as the real life AA groups dampens the realness of actual AA, weakening the analogy instead of strengthening it.  I’ve seen books before have paranormal people get together in AA-style groups (zombies anonymous springs to mind), and in real life AA has spinoffs such as Narcotics Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous.  Prior to reading the book I thought maybe something might be added by having the vampires be a secret organization under AA, but after reading the book, I don’t think it did.  I think the analogy would have been stronger if vampires spotted the similarities of their genetic vampirism with alcoholism and formed a “vampires anonymous” group, inspired by AA.  Something about vampires creating AA themselves as a cover hits a bit of a sour note and weakens the analogy.

The plot is complex, with just enough twists and surprises.  There were parts of the ending that I was unable to predict.  The plot contained within the book was wrapped up sufficiently, and the overarching plot intending to cover the whole series was well-established and filled me with the desire to keep reading.  Unfortunately, the second book isn’t out yet, so I will just have to wait!

Overall, this is a delightful mix of urban fantasy and noir and is a strong first entry for a new series.  Some readers might dislike the paranormal take on Alcoholic’s Anonymous found within the book, but it is secondary to the mystery/noir plot and easy to gloss over if necessary.  Recommended to urban fantasy readers looking to venture into noir or vice versa, as well as anyone who enjoys both urban fantasy and noir.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review

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Book Review: Ecstasy in Darkness by Gena Showalter (Series, #5) (Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge)

January 16, 2014 Leave a comment

A man's naked back can be seen. He is holding a whip.Summary:
Ava Sans is hoping to move up to a full agent at New Chicago’s Alien Investigation and Removal (AIR) team.  But before she can, she and her best friend, Noelle, are assigned to capture a powerful vampire who can manipulate time.  McKell, recently cast out from the underground tunnels the monarchical vampires call their home, is having to adjust to living with daylight and is desperate to find out the secret these above ground vampires have for moving around in the daylight without burning.  Used to seeing humans only as food slaves, he’s disturbed to find himself inexplicably attracted to Ava Sans, who just so happens to smell like butterscotch.

Review:
I rarely impulse buy books in drugstores and, after reading this book, I think that’s probably the wiser move.  I bought this in a CVS due entirely to the cover and didn’t pick it up to read for three years.  When I did, I saw it was the fifth book in the series.  Fortunately, this isn’t the type of series that it’s necessary to read in order.  Unfortunately, nothing about this book made me want to go read the rest of the series.  It suffers from a meandering plot, ridiculous dialogue, two-dimensional characters, constant cock-teasing of the reader, and an entirely misleading cover (that I suspect was misleading on purpose).

This series focuses on a different romantic pairing in each entry.  They all have ties to AIR in some way.  The previous couples make cameos in other books, but the actual plot from the prior books doesn’t have much impact on this one.  All that needs to be known is there was a war with the aliens, New Chicago is not on Earth, vampires are an alien species that are allergic to the sun and live underground on this planet, the vampires make humans their food slaves, and some of the vampires have started living above ground. Oh, and there’s this alien called the Schön Queen who looks beautiful but actually is a rotting, disease-ridden creature who gives those who bang her an illness that makes them her voodoo zombie slaves.  Those who read a lot of pnr will understand that that’s a pretty simple plot summary for a series this far in.

The actual plot for this book basically is that Ava will help McKell lure vampires to interview to find out how they live in daylight and he will, in turn, come willingly to talk to the head of AIR.  AIR wants to find out if McKell’s blood can be used to save victims of the Schön Queen’s disease.  If the book stuck to this simple, straightforward plot it would work.  But it meanders all over the place, tossing in red herrings, asides, diatribes, and scenes that seem to happen just for the fun of it.  This book is over 500 pages long.  That is not enough plot to support that many pages, unless the characters are stopping to bang a lot, which was honestly what I was expecting.  That’s not what we get though.

The cover definitely implies that this is a BDSM book with a lot of sex.  The only thing that ever happens with a whip is McKell comes over to Ava’s house with the whip intent on actually beating her up with it (in a to get revenge way not in a sexy BDSM way) but then he never uses it on her.  She mentions it in a giggling aside toward the end of the book, and McKell states he would never ever whip her. He loves her too much now.  I know the author generally doesn’t have any impact on the cover design at all, but somebody somewhere must have known they’d be pulling in people expecting BDSM only to have BDSM scorned within the book.  Not cool.  That’d be less irritating, though, if there was at least a lot of sex of some sort in the book.  Instead, we repeatedly find Ava and McKell getting hot and steamy only to stop just short of having sex.  They have sex twice in the book at the very end.  You seriously have to read at least 400, maybe 450, pages to get one full sex scene.  Which is incredibly frustrating because by far the best writing Showalter does is of the sex scenes.  They’re tantalizing and realistic with some things we don’t always see in romance novels, like the guy going down on the girl, for instance.  This book would have been at least three stars if Showalter’s steamy scenes had led to actual sex scenes throughout the novel.  But instead, the reader just gets going with excitement only to have it yanked out from under them to go check in on that meandering plot.

The characters are so two-dimensional that it’s essentially impossible to truly care for them. McKell is a vampire with a temper. A bad boy, supposedly, that Ava inexplicably falls for. Most of his presence in the book consists of snapping at Ava and being shocked she doesn’t obey him and then being turned on by that.  Ava, on the other hand, is traumatized by growing up on the bad side of the tracks and has a big inferiority complex.  She also smells like butterscotch. And tastes like butterscotch. And her hair looks like butterscotch. She’s a piece of butterscotch candy who says boo hoo poor me and I want to prove to everyone that I’m not trash so oh hey let’s fall for this bad boy vampire who treats me badly that seems like a great choice.  I admit by the end of the book McKell is treating her well but his transformation is out of the blue, not gradual.  Plus, Ava falls for him when he’s a bad boy and never stands up for herself or says I deserve better.  She ends up with an ok guy but only because he magically transformed, not out of any agency of her own.  The supporting characters are even less well-developed.  I can say maybe one or two things about them all, but nothing that makes them truly come to life in my mind.

Overall, this is an overly long pnr with a light, meandering plot and only two sex scenes in over 500 pages.  While the sex scenes are well-written and tantalizing, the rest of the book is dull, with two-dimensional characters it is impossible to come to truly care for.  The romance uses the bad boy/wounded woman trope and does nothing to make it deeper or richer.  Those who think from the cover that this is a BDSM pnr should be aware that it is definitely not.  I would perhaps pick it up in a library or at a friend’s house to skim through and read the sex scenes, but there is definitely better pnr out there to devote your time to.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: CVS

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Previous Books in Series:
Awaken Me Darkly
Enslave Me Sweetly
Savor Me Slowly
Seduce the Darkness

Book Review: Alien in the Family by Gini Koch (Series, #3)

October 3, 2013 1 comment

A blonde woman in a wedding dress holding a gun is surrounded by aliens in three-piece suits. Summary:
Kitty loves being engaged to Martini, her super-sexy alien fiancee from Alpha Centaurion. But she’s not super into the whole wedding planning thing.  The issue gets pushed to the forefront, though, when Martini’s estranged extended family on AC announces their intent to visit and determine the worthiness of the marriage.  It seems Martini is actually royalty.  Meanwhile, some new aliens crop up, and they just so happen to be Amazonian terrorists.  It’s an awful lot for the Super-Being Exterminator team to handle.

Review:
This is a hard review to write, because I *loved* the first two books in the series but this one left such a sour taste in my mouth, I won’t be continuing on.

The overarching plot is good.  Yes, it’s a bit ridiculous that Martini is royalty, but anyone who’s read the first two books in the series should expect and embrace the ridiculousness at this point.  The added twists from the AC homeworld make the wedding plot more interesting and unique.  Every wedding is unique in its own way, but this gives Kitty and Martini’s wedding a decidedly paranormal romance flair.  I didn’t find the Amazonian terrorist plot particularly necessary but it was well-done and kept the action moving.

The writing continues to be tongue-in-cheek dirty wit.

I hated having to be someplace on time, it took away so many potential orgasms. (page 40)

But the relationship between Martini and Kitty gave me reason to pause this time around.  They continue to have excellent chemistry, which is fun to see.  But there are two glaring issues in the relationship.  Martini is overly jealous, in a cartoonish, immature way.  He doesn’t get jealous in a way that is sexy. For instance, he doesn’t see men looking at Kitty and hold her hand to show they’re together.  He actually growls. And yells. And clearly doesn’t trust Kitty.  Of course, that lack of trust could be justified since Kitty repeatedly wonders if she’s choosing to marry the right man.  Not just that, she thinks about whether she should marry any myriad of her guy friends and ex-lovers.  Plus, she continues to flirt with just about anyone, in spite of Martini telling her it makes him uncomfortable.  These are issues that should have been worked out prior to an engagement, and they don’t bode well for a future marriage.  I wouldn’t mind the issues, but the couple are presented as the ideal couple.  They aren’t presented as a couple who has some issues to add some realistic drama to the story.  This is paranormal romance.  The main romantic couple *should* be a bit idealized, but they aren’t.

A much, MUCH bigger issue to me though is how rape is handled in the book.  This comes up in two different scenes.  There is a scene where Kitty is fighting some bad guys and accidentally ends up in a room with a football team visiting Vegas.  Half of the team makes a very overt attempt to gang rape her, but the other half of the team (plus an alien pet Kitty picks up early in the book) puts a stop to it.  Then later the leader of the rapey half of the team comes to help fight the bad guys and apologizes, and Kitty recommends that they be added to the secret forces.  She shrugs off the rape attempt as everyone makes mistakes and they apologized and essentially recommends they get hired to her company.  I’m ok with a heroine narrowly escaping a rape attempt, as that could happen.  I’m not ok with the heroine then shrugging it off, accepting an apology, basically saying that a rape attempt is just a mistake, and trying to help the career of the attempted rapist. What. The. Hell?!

In the second scene, Kitty is hanging out with her friend, Chuckie.  Chuckie is, at this point in time, her boss. He’s also her almost life-long friend, she’s had sex with him in the past, he’s asked her to marry him before, and she’s periodically wondered throughout this book if maybe she should be marrying him instead of Martini.  At the end of their conversation, they’re getting ready to go, and this happens:

He [Chuckie] took my [Kitty’s] shoulders and turned me around. “God, it’s as bad from the back. Really, go put on some clothes.”
“I don’t have a wrap, okay?”
“Find one. Before I rape you.” He gave me a gentle push toward the bedroom.
“Fine, fine.” (page 434)

So, Kitty’s friend: A) judges her clothing and deems it immodest B) orders her to change her outfit C) casually jokes about raping her D) victim blames rape victims with his comment implying clothing causes rape.  And of course Kitty just takes this all in stride and doesn’t see anything at all inappropriate about what Chuckie says.

There is just far too much casual boys-will-be-boys acceptance of rape and rape culture in this book that supposedly features a strong female lead and *romance*.  And a wedding! Paranormal romance fans deserve better.  Men deserve to be treated as not mindless animals who will tackle anything in a sexy dress.  Women deserve better than to be blamed for rapists’ behavior.  Toss in the relationship issues between Martini and Kitty, while the relationship is treated by the book an ideal one, and no amount of sexy humor, wedding dresses, and aliens could save it for me.  I’m very disappointed in the turn this series took.  If you’re interested in the series, I would recommend reading the first two and stopping there.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Previous Books in Series:
Touched by an Alien, review
Alien Tango, review

Book Review: Tracking the Tempest by Nicole Peeler (Series, #2) (Audiobook narrated by Kate Reinders)

August 8, 2013 1 comment

Cartoon drawing of a white woman with black hair surrounded by water in twisting columns with a background of fire. The title Tracking the Tempest and the author's name Nicole Peeler are on the image.Summary:
Things have gotten interesting since Mainiac Jane True found out she’s half selkie.  She discovered the whole world of supernatural beings, started training and honing her own powers with the help of a local goblin, and of course met and started dating the sexy vampire Ryu.  After being caught up in the mystery that was a supernatural person killing halflings, Jane really just wants to focus in on power honing and Ryu.  Particularly with Valentine’s Day approaching.  But when she goes down to Boston for her first visit to his home, she ends up getting caught up in his current investigation. Going after a dangerous halfling who just escaped from an illegal lab.

Review:
I enjoyed the first entry in this series as a surprisingly humorous paranormal romance set in the unusual (for pnr) setting of Maine.  So when I needed a new audiobook for a roadtrip and saw this lounging on audible, I snatched it up.  I kind of regret that choice because not only did I enjoy this entry in the series less but I also apparently misremembered how well I liked the first book in the series.  I only rated it as 3.5 stars but remembered enjoying it at at least 4.  Hindsight is not always 20/20.  Essentially, everything that kinda sorta rubbed me the wrong way in the first book got worse instead of better, and the things I liked became worse as well.

The humor takes a nosedive.  Whereas the first book deftly handled a dry New England sense of humor, here things turn mean and inappropriate.  Jane laughs at things she shouldn’t laugh at and invites the reader to as well, and it becomes deeply awkward.  Like hanging out with a friend who thinks they’re funny but is in fact offensive.

I was excited to see what Peeler did with Boston, and I admit some things she handled well.  She nailed the neighborhood of Allston, for instance, but she also put Ryu’s home in Bay Village.  Ryu is supposed to be a wealthy vampire, but instead of putting him in Beacon Hill or a wealthy suburb like Cambridge or Newton, she puts him in a neighborhood that is actually a lower to middle class neighborhood that is slowly being gentrified.  That’s not where a home like Ryu’s supposedly is would be located.  This is a neighborhood that border the Massachusetts Turnpike (noisy big road, for non-Americans).  It’s not the mecca of wealth that Peeler seems to think it is.  A big mistake like that is rather jarring when she got details like how the exit of the T in Harvard Square is called the Pit, a bit of knowledge even some locals don’t have.  On the other hand, she seems to think that the Boston Public Garden closes at night and has a big scene where Ryu takes Jane there on a romantic late-night date. Um. No. The Garden doesn’t close at night.  It is, however, full of people trying to sell you drugs. Yes, yes, ideal for a romantic date.  This unevenness in knowledge of Boston and its surrounding areas made reading the setting uncomfortable and awkward.

The issue of Ryu being an obvious jerk continues.  It’s clear from the beginning of the book that a break-up is coming and Jane is being set up with another character.  It’s kind of annoying for the book to be this predictable, but it is paranormal romance, and Jane does ultimately stand up for herself, so I was ultimately ok with this.  In fact, the way Jane stands up for herself is handled so well that it saved the book from getting 2 stars instead of 3.

The last, and most important, thing that made the book deeply upsetting for me was the fact that Jane is not once but twice put into a situation where she is about to be raped.  Rape comes up a lot in paranormal romance and frankly it bothers me.  These are worlds in which women are powerful, talented, and often gifted with great gifts.  So why must their confrontations so frequently devolve into threatened or real rape?  I get it that rape is a very real thing in the real world, and I am completely fine with it existing as a plot point in horror, dystopian or post-apocalyptic scifi, and mysteries.  Horror is supposed to push the boundaries of comfort. Dystopian and postapocalyptic scifi is frequently presenting humanity at its worst, and rape is one of the worst.  Mystery needs a victim, and frequently murder victims are also raped.  But in a battle between supernatural creatures in a book that is supposed to be a romance suddenly tossing in rape as a weapon doesn’t read right.  It removes so much agency from the main female characters.  Like, what, she’s always easily defeated because you can just threaten to shove your dick into her against her will and suddenly she will acquiesce to your viewpoint?  It’s paranormal romance. Why can’t the paranormal world have fights where rape threats and attempted rapes aren’t a thing?

What really bothered me about the second scene this happened in with Jane is the level of victim blaming that happens as well.  Jane has just successfully escaped from the first rape attempt. She saves herself. This is great, and she does it with a mixture of trickery and violence that is commendable.  But then a man shows up and immediately takes over. He says he needs to protect her; he’s going to walk her out of this situation. Jane insists she needs to pee. She goes to pee, against his protests, and when she comes back out, he’s gone because another group of villains have him, and Jane starts to be attacked by a known violent rapist.  She later blames herself for having to go pee, and no one argues with her that she has every right to pee when she needs to. So we have a powerful halfling who can’t go pee by herself because she might get attacked and raped? That is so incredibly victim blaming and putting all the responsibility for safety on the woman that I can’t even properly articulate how angry it makes me.

Kate Reinders, the narrator, mostly does a good job.  She lands the complex voice of Jane quite well.  The only negative I can say is that she mispronounces some New England words and city names.  But her narration did make the book more enjoyable for me.

Combine these issues (aside from the audiobook narration which was fine) together with the fact that the plot is basically the previous book’s plot flipped in reverse (violent halfling killing supernatural people instead of supernatural person killing halfling), and I can safely say I won’t be continuing on in the series.  The only thing that saves the book from a lower rating is the fact that Jane ultimately does stand up for herself. But for me it was too little too late.  Not recommended.  Unless you enjoy bad humor, awkward settings, and rape threats and victim blaming of the heroine.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

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Previous Books in Series:
Tempest Rising, review

Book Review: Hellsbane by Paige Cuccaro (Series, #1)

February 14, 2012 4 comments

Blonde woman standing near statue of an angel.Summary:
Emma Jane Hellsbane has always had the ability to sense other people’s emotions, and she turned that into a comfortable career as a “psychic.”  All that changes when the cute jock from highschool who mysteriously disappeared halfway through senior year lands on her doorstep with a clawed stomach.  She swiftly finds out that he’s a nephilim–half human, half fallen angel–and so is she.  Without intending to, Emma Jane finds herself swept into the war between the angels and the fallen, as well as attempting to pay off the debt for her father’s sin.

Review:
This was a classic case of not a bad book but I’m not the right audience for it.  I definitely don’t think the summary of the book that I read was quite as clear about the book’s Christian leanings as the one I just wrote for ya’ll.  If it was, I wouldn’t have picked it up.

What we have here is what I’m thinking is probably a new category of Christian fiction I was completely unaware of –Christian paranormal clean romance.  Now, I know at least two of my followers who would absolutely LOVE this book for exactly those reasons.  Alas, that’s exactly why I didn’t like it.

The Christian mores and doctrines have a strong presence.  We even go so far as to have Emma Jane come from a Catholic family but be an agnostic herself until hell and heaven literally show up on her doorstep.  As an agnostic myself, I found it rather patronizing to have an agnostic character proven wrong by flesh and blood angels and demons.  Y’know, like that would ever actually happen in real life? The whole scene just felt smug.  On the other hand, I could totally see as a Christian enjoying seeing someone convert from agnostic back to Catholic.  And yes, this book is heavily Catholic.  There is a lot of talk of saints and levels of sin and etc…  This of course means that there are things that I just don’t agree with (like the whole Emma Jane being held responsible for her father’s sin), but that’s only natural considering that this book is geared toward people who believe in those sorts of things.  Kind of like how I can’t stand The Chronicles of Narnia for similar reasons.

The fact that this is a Christian romance also means that there is ZERO SEX.  There is one pretty tame kiss.  If you want clean romance, this is your book, but if you’re like me it, um, is not.

The only thing that bothered me that I can’t chalk up to not being the target audience is the surprising lack of racial diversity in a book set in Pittsburgh.  Seriously, woman, I know there are black people in Pittsburgh!  And we’re not just talking oh the characters are white.  They all seem to be blonde-haired, blue-eyed white people.  This would make sense maybe in um….Wisconsin perhaps.  Not Pittsburgh.  Cuccaro really should focus on more diversity in her future books.

These things said, Cuccaro is generally a good writer.  The plot is complex, the characters well-rounded, and the sentences are well-written.

Overall, this book is well-written for its target audience–Christian, probably Catholic readers looking for some clean paranormal romance.  If this sounds like you, you should check it out.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Netgalley

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Book Review: Timeless Trilogy, Book One, Fate by Tallulah Grace (Series, #1)

January 2, 2012 2 comments

Clouds.Summary:
Kris is a successful video editor in Charleston, South Carolina with two best friends she’s made her own family with.  She has a beautiful beach house and a loving fluffy cat named Pegasus.  She also just so happens to be precognitive.  Her visions have never been about herself until she starts sensing that she is being watched, receiving late night phone calls, and finding flowers left at her house and on her car.  Increasingly, she realizes she is in danger, and right then her old college flame moves in next door.

Review:
This is an interesting mix of suspense, romance, and paranormal that keeps the reader guessing and interested and shows promise in the writer.

Kris’s life prior to the stalking is relatable to the modern female reader.  She has a core group of good friends, a pet she loves, a career that is solid but not yet stellar, and her dream home.  All that she is missing is the man.  The added touch of her visions gives her that extra something special, but her visions are not over the top.  She can’t control when they come or what they’ll show her, so she treats them more as an odd talent.  This keeps the heroine from being over-inflated, which is nice.  The love interest, Nick, is cute without being a god and kind without being perfect.  He’s a good guy with flaws, ie, the ideal love interest in a romance that we’ve, alas, been seeing less and less of lately.

The plot is this book’s strong point.  It is scary and suspenseful, but still believable.  No characters make obvious stupid mistakes that would make the reader scream at them, and let’s just say, Kris is no Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but she also isn’t a weak, quivering Disney princess.  Kris is neither a super-hero nor incredibly weak, which is just the kind of heroine we need more of in literature.

All of that said, Grace shows promise as a writer, but she still needs to work on her craft.  Her plot structure is excellent, but she frequently shows instead of tells.  Similarly, she struggles a bit when first introducing a character, often falling back on the beginner writer’s method of explaining hair and eye color before anything else.  Similarly, the book needs more editing for simple grammar, spelling, and typos.  The book does not read like a strong author’s work, but it also is still enjoyable.  I am left wanting to find out about the romances of Kris’s friends Cassie and Roni, but I am also hoping that the writing that goes along with creative plots improves in the next two books.

Overall, if you are a fan of suspenseful romance with a dash of the paranormal and don’t mind a bit of showing instead of telling, this book is a fun way to pass a few hours, particularly for the low cost of 99cents.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review

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