I'm so glad I finally got a chance to read this, especially in the month of October. While there are romantic elements and some detective work, this iI'm so glad I finally got a chance to read this, especially in the month of October. While there are romantic elements and some detective work, this is an action horror novel more than anything else and the break neck speed made it difficult to put down. Danger was around every corner but it was never felt over saturated and Anita's sense of humor in describing her day to day paranormal grind relieved a lot of tension.
There are a lot of characters thrown into this book and many are on a scale of gray to evil with varying levels of intrigue, but Anita is the foundation of what makes the story work so well. She is capable of going into sleek bad ass mode, but only when it is absolutely called for. Most of the time she sees vampire hunting and raising the dead like most of see our jobs, a necessary obligation. Instead of wearing some sort of leather suit and katana during her investigation, she packed heat under ratty jeans and an oversized t-shirt. Even in the midst of being on a lot of people's kill list, she had no problem casually picking up fried food in a diner or sleeping in at home with her stuffed animal penguins. She also has a sarcastic wit and a filter-less observation of the odd people and circumstances surrounding her that was laugh out loud hilarious.
But all this isn't to say she was completely unprofessional or half-assing her heroic impact. You start to see that a lot of her inappropriately casual demeanor and sense of humor is her way of coping with the constant threat of death and a career where she has to witness a lot of disturbing, fucked up shit. Once the mask is down, it's clear she is processing just as much depression, grief, anxiety and compassion as would be expected. I loved this overall layering of her personality and how by the end of the novel, she's forced to be a bit more vulnerable to see things through.
I can't wait to read the rest of the series! ...more
**spoiler alert** I still stick by my review and rating of the first book in this series based on the ridiculous home invasion part alone but the seco**spoiler alert** I still stick by my review and rating of the first book in this series based on the ridiculous home invasion part alone but the second half picked up a bit more intrigue and emotional development so it earned an extra star. Overall the series gets a 2 and half to three stars. Character development never rises above the early plateau, but in the second book the emotional roller coaster the author takes you on is at least bold and riskier in the consequences than I had expected. There is something undeniably compelling about love/hate, volatile matches that are doomed to consume each other. However, as I went into before in the review of the first book, the chemistry between Joan and Elliot is purely physical. Like literally no spiritual or communicative depth is ever developed between the two outside of fucking. It's so frustrating how much wasted potential that leaves the reader with.
I get that sometimes a story is more interesting for what you don't see or for the questions that are not answered, but that kind of developmental mystery should be used sparingly and skillfully. The author can't excuse Elliot as charmingly enigmatic because there isn't even a foundation of personality outside of generic alpha to begin with. We get no answers about his background and what formed him into the psychologically unwell and violent man he is. That's not being suspenseful or inviting theories, that's just lazy storytelling. Joan makes such a big deal of seeing a picture of him as a kid and spotting a swing set out in his backyard. That doesn't really say anything though other than that...yeah, he was a kid once.
Joan herself is developed with a little more care in the sequel though. Her depression, obsession, anxiety and sense of isolation and detachment from the world really forces her into lost phase of life that you could really feel. By the end, there is no doubt that she is a broken, empty, shell of a person because of all the trauma she has been through and not even a semi-happy ending will really remedy that. Her emotional journey, while tumultuous, at least made a hell of a lot more sense than the first and felt more grounded in reality. The story is unflinching in showing that she can't really ever love him but she is sickeningly attached to him because of major stockholm syndrome and his manipulation of her. It's a fake, unhealthy relationship that can only be tolerated by the distraction of sex. Or at least that was the vibe I was getting and I have no problem with a bleak outcome as long as it fits the story.
Something a bit random I can't help but notice about a lot of "dark" contemporary romances I've read recently is this idea that a character is more expendable if they are rude or unfair to the heroine or just plain "too nice". This was the case with the professor in "Monster in her Eyes" and in this it was Joan's doctor husband. He's brutally killed by Elliot but that is justified strangely by Elliot because her husband was cheating on her. Joan recognizes the hypocrisy and implications but the fact that this explanation is added at all in context instead of him just blatantly murdering out of selfishness and jealousy felt like a ploy to make Elliot bad but still palatable to the reader. This is really annoying because brutal murder is still brutal murder- it's shitty either way and still made me hate Elliot for being a narrow minded psychopath. That's not being a "bad boy" ladies. That's just messed up, wrong and in no way attractive. I miss when bad boy romantic heroes were just sarcastic, slightly intimidating men in jobs of power and intrigue. Now it's like the dudes are quite bad enough until they are doing things that make your stomach turn.
I don't mind morally ambiguous or villainous characters when they are used well, but trying to make us sympathize or rationalize his bad behavior was just gross. ...more
This is another one of those dark romances of the popular genre I like to refer to as "trashy dude fantasy" featuring horrible psychopaths and unstablThis is another one of those dark romances of the popular genre I like to refer to as "trashy dude fantasy" featuring horrible psychopaths and unstable men with no social skills or respectable careers (often work as hitmen, mafia dudes, motorcycle cult leaders,gang members, criminals etc) that replace normal relationship building elements like conversation and dating with growling and empty obsession. I've come to know the formula a bit but sometimes it's actually fun and good for a smut book mood when it's decently written. Well, let's just say this piece of work makes King look like the next great American novel.
First of all, even in erotica the characters converse often enough to get a feel for the character and set the chemistry a bit. These two were having sex or getting stuck in repetitious inner monologues so often that I'm not even being dramatic when I say by half way into the book they had only exchanged the equivalent of a couple complete sentences. I laughed out loud when Joan at one point asks to watch tv with him to distract Elliot from their millionth sex session and he stops in his tracks in shock and goes "Why?" Um...because life can be interesting sometimes without your cock getting involved. Sex gets old at some point. Seriously, I don't care if this guy was the embodiment of Adonis himself and made love like Casanova, at some point ,if I might steal a quote from Ralph Wiggum on the Simpsons, I would be like "So...you like..stuff?"
Elliot is a bit of an embarrassing idiot. He logic reminds me of the reasoning of a kindergartner. I'm paraphrasing but in one of his chapters his internal epiphany for kidnapping Joan goes like "What a good fuck she was. Wish I could do it again. Wait, if I take her home, I can have her whenever I want!" Forgive for abusing Simpson quotes but, this exchange comes to mind:
Homer: Aw, twenty dollars? I wanted a peanut! Homer's Brain: Twenty dollars can buy many peanuts. Homer: Explain how! Homer's Brain: Money can be exchanged for goods and services.
Also his reasons for focusing on her in particular is essentially that she's soft, pretty and smells nice. Comprehensible for physical attraction but with that being the entire basis of his dependency on her, there wasn't exactly riveting development on his end. If it wasn't clear by that point that he had a bad case of the dumb, the author did him no favors by making him a construction worker in the deep south. His expression range is limited to growling (why do they always growl in these books? To this day I have never witnessed a grown man growl) and giving an "evil smile" or an "evil laugh". It just didn't work.
Joan: Did you just fart in my face! Elliot: *evil laugh* Joan: ......... Elliot: *evil smile* Joan: I'm bored...can I eat the last poptart in your pantry? Elliot: *growl*
Eh...it's a workable vocabulary of communication I suppose. Just not a fun one to read.
Joan started out promising since she was, you know, actually quite horrified by his behavior and even had some funny observations about how odd the whole situation was. Despite the steamy sex, she was rational enough to remain detached as a whole and recognize the criminal context and his clear mental instability as inherent threats. She was realistically able to compartmentalize her actions and feelings for the sake of escape and sanity. Like, okay he's conventionally attractive, but he is also capable of burying me in his backyard line of thinking. But after her escape and the two years later transition, she was suddenly having mixed feelings about the whole event. That's not stockholm syndrome, that's just out of left field emotions for no reason! She only encountered him for two days and the entire experience was painful and awkward. How can you possibly romanticize that in your mind so fast?! It was like she became a completely different character. She went from being normal and reasonable to just sort of randomly indulging these phantom irrational emotions for Elliot for no particular reason. And that's not even getting into her lack of initiative on reporting the crime or contacting police.
The author put no care into how this downward spiral was developed. It was like "I lived in terror for a few weeks, moved on, got a fiance, lived off my rich parents...but now I can't get his dick out of my head.." Huh?! While we're on the subject of personal lives of the characters, they seemed to live in a vacuum set apart from reality because you learn literally nothing about them. What is their relationship like with their friends and family? How do they like their jobs? What was their childhood like? What are their hobbies? Values? Outlook on life? All you get is an outline of a character. Joan likes to drink and pick up dudes on occasion and Elliot is a rapey sociopath that works in a hard hat in the sun. How am I supposed to get involved in a story with outlines like that?
And now the plotting...I've never thrown a book across the room as so many people claim to do when surprised or upset by a book, but the home invasion chapter was a good contender for that. Joan sets up a romantic dinner for her fiance it's insinuated she doesn't love or want to marry, but still puts on a show for because...reasons. And Elliot appears at the door in a ski mask- sorry, but what is the point of wearing all black and a ski mask to camouflage yourself if you're just going to directly confront the owner of the home you're invading and make multiple references to your identity?? And the black gloves?? Joan responds by being useless and watching from inside while her fiance is brutally attacked.
Then she and Elliot get into the most schizoid, awkward argument session ever, while Trace, her boyfriend, is tied up outside going "Um, guys? *cough cough* Guys?" I can't even adequately relay how awful the dialogue was. Joan actually gets turned on by Elliot's inane possessive ramblings and intermittently makes out with and hits him. I couldn't keep up with her emotions. I mean I know the whole "there's a thin line between love and hate" cliche but for fuck sake, let's not forget the fact that YOU HARDLY KNOW EACHOTHER! How is it that you feel so much? One thought at a time, woman! So, after confirming she's committed to her boyfriend Trace, Elliot tries to shoot Trace but Joan heroically pushes Elliot into the pool before that can happen.
Well the pool might as well have been the middle of the goddamn ocean for how dramatically Joan nearly drowns and struggles to recover from thirty seconds in like 3 feet of water. At that point Elliot and Joan start to have passionate, dirty post pool drowning sex in the middle of the lawn in full view of Trace. So suddenly Joan is just flat out giving into lust for Elliot in the open at the most ridiculous time and context. Does not compute. But the clusterfuck of non-logic doesn't stop there of course. No, apparently this story couldn't move fast enough for the author because as soon as Elliot pulls out he starts murdering Trace with a knife. I'm fucking done. How about we take just make Joan rollover in the grass and pop out Elliot's baby in the bushes while we're at it? At this point, that would make about as much sense as anything else that's happened.