Urban fantasy is a genre I used to love but now tend to steer clear from, because it is so overrun with tropes and cliches. There are only so many times you can read about vampires, werewolves, and witches in all the usual ways before you start to get bored.
OWL AND THE JAPANESE CIRCUS is a breath of fresh air in a stagnant genre; in addition to vampires, it also features more unusual supernatural creatures like skin-walkers (they're terrifying, holy shit), incubi and succubi, dragons, elves, ghosts, and Japanese spirits. This sounds like it could be overwhelming but it isn't -- the world building is slow and gradual.
Owl is a pretty cool female MC, too. She's an ex-archaeology student turned antiquities thief, after she was betrayed by her professor a few months before graduation. She's also a female gamer. Her abilities have made her pretty (in)famous, and one day she's kidnapped and brought to a Japanese dragon who wants her to retrieve and ancient and priceless object that's also -- guess what? -- super dangerous and might just harbor enough power to take over the world. And if she doesn't retrieve it, he will eat her. Nom.
The setting gets an additional bonus point because who doesn't love a book set partially in Japan? Also, Vegas in a Japanese-themed casino (the titular "Japanese Circus"), Berkeley, and Bali. The locations are colorful and fun and add a lot of spice to the storyline.
The love interests are also yummy. I don't normally find blonde men attractive, but Rynn won me over. Oricho, with his dragon tattoo, tortured past, and strong, stoic act is also pretty sexy. Even Alexander, with his I-tolerate-you-but-I-want-to-eat-you school of flirting was fun. Unfortunately, all the sex scenes in this book are fade-to-black, but I guess if you don't feel comfortable writing them it's better to omit than to write them and fail miserably at it. Still disappointing, though. ;(
Tone-wise, OWL is a bit odd because it has a snarky (often to the point of being childish) MC who doesn't know when to keep her mouth shut. There's a lot of humor and sometimes it was a hit and had me snickering, and sometimes it just made me roll my eyes. On the other hand, there is some seriously dark shit in this book, and while Charish might shy away from the sex scenes, she doesn't shy away from gore -- and it can get pretty gnarly for UF, which I guess makes sense. It's hard not to be gnarly when you are writing about creatures who think of humans as being synonymous with dinner.
Owl can definitely be annoying at times, and I think she's probably the biggest peeve of the people who didn't like this book. I can understand that. However, the other characters do call her on her shit, whether it's her hypocrisy, her childish stubbornness, or her often sociopathic dissociation, and Owl does undergo some character development throughout the course of the book, so that is good as well.
The best character by far is Captain, Owl's Egyptian Mau. BECAUSE KITTY. Also, he hunts vampires. Normally, animal sidekicks annoy me in books, but I'm willing to make an exception just this once. #TeamCaptain
OWL AND THE JAPANESE CIRCUS has its share of flaws, but I feel in this case that the good clearly outnumbers the bad. Decent plotting, interesting characters and world building, a shocking twist, and a semi-cliffhanger all make this book into a surprisingly memorable debut.
When a woman is discovered in a junk yard as a bruised and broken mess, the town of Neptune is scandalized -- especially when her testimony suggests that she was raped in the ritzy Neptune Grand by one of the hotel staff. The NG hires Veronica Mars to investigate the woman's claims, to save the hotel.
Veronica Mars always does a thorough and ethical job, but she is sympathetic towards the victim, Grace Manning. Especially since local law enforcement seems to have written her off. Lamb especially is a disgusting piece of work who thinks nothing of planting evidence on people he wants to convict, and at one point even claims that prostitutes can't be raped -- that raping a woman who sells sex for money is tantamount only to shoplifting. Ass.
As Veronica investigates the case, things quickly become more complicated than she thought. Grace Manning has a secret life, and all the male suspects have plenty to hide. And her personal life takes a turn for the thorny as well, with the advent of an unexpected funeral.
I really enjoyed this book. I thought MR. KISS AND TELL was very decently plotted and breezily written. Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham did an excellent job. I learned so many new words because of their amazing vocabulary, and I was really impressed by all the wit and pop culture references. I haven't read any of the other books in this series unfortunately, but now I really, really want to. It took me back to my Nancy Drew reading adventures as a kid in the best possible way.
Rape is a focal issue in this book, but I felt like the book dealt with it sensitively.
I wrote a negative review of this book, and then was asked to remove it by the publisher. So I wrote a placeholder review explaining why I wOH MY GOD.
I wrote a negative review of this book, and then was asked to remove it by the publisher. So I wrote a placeholder review explaining why I was taking the review down and a copy of the (rude) email I received asking me to remove it because the publisher seemed to be asking only negative reviewers to remove their reviews.
And my review was DELETED?
Thanks. Thanks a lot for that. :|
So I'm editing this review YET AGAIN. This time it will be about the book, in order to satisfy Goodreads' rules. But it will not be a full, comprehensive review in order to satisfy the publisher's. Hopefully it won't be removed this time...
Anyway, I thought this book was terrible. I'm not allowed to tell you why until March 31st, but it was not a good book. The characters and their actions were deplorable, to the point where I was unable to get through the whole thing.
I liked this author's earlier works, but now I get the impression that there's just no effort being put into these books. With WHERE SEA MEETS SKY, both characters were caricatures who had the emotional depth of mirrors, and I got the feeling that KH was appropriating nerd and geek culture to capitalize on what's popular, instead of doing that complicated and interesting subculture justice.
I suppose my biggest issue with books like these is how we're supposed to believe a guy is decent just because he has a big d*** and puts the heroine on a pedestal while simultaneously debasing all other women who preceded his current lay. I don't know about you, but I don't think that's sexy at all.
I'm a sucker for revenge-based romance novels. The love-hate dynamic just appeals so strongly to me. That's why I was so psyched to get my hands on THE DUKE'S CAPTIVE initially.
Ian Wentworth was kidnapped and held hostage in a dungeon for five weeks as a young man. Two of the three women involved in his kidnapping have met their comeuppance, with one in an insane asylum and the other dead. However the third has escaped his clutches until now. When Wentworth finds out that she is recently widowed, he decides that he will be the cause of her ruin. What he doesn't expect is how beautiful she is, and how much he wants to get his bone on. But surely that can be worked into his revenge.
Viola Bennington-Jones is an artist with secrets of her own. One of these secrets is that she is a famous erotic artist who publishes her work under a male pseudonym. She is justifiably frightened when Wentworth comes back into her life, because, as an artist and a mother, she has so much to lose. And Wentworth won't stop until he makes her feel all the fear and pain that he underwent in captivity. But how much does he really remember? And is it true?
DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN. DUN.
Okay, so this is one of those books that is heavy on the miscommunication. If Ian and Viola had stopped to hash things out for a second, this story would be redundant. But instead, THE DUKE'S CAPTIVE relies on the premise of big secrets to keep things moving. Why was Ian captured? Was he raped? Will Viola be revealed as an erotic artist? Will Ian rape her? WILL SHE BE RUINED?
THE DUKE'S CAPTIVE had so much promise...and yet, I feel as if the author was unwilling to go as dark as she should have. Every time the story started to go down the dark and bitter path of revenge, she pulled a U-ie, determined that everything stay romantic and fluffy and redemptive.
I'm sorry, but when the hero kidnaps the heroine, ties her up, and threatens to rape her a couple dozen times before giving her dub-con oral and fellatio I don't think you can go the fluffy route. Half-assing it just makes you look like a weenie with questionable taste in men. You can either go fluffy or you can go dark, but attempting to combine the two almost always yields disastrous results.
I made it to the end, but I was skimming a little for the last thirty pages. So disappointing. :(
I loved TOMBOY, because it was poignant and real, and because it questioned gender roles, and what it really means to be a girl and happy. I was a bit of a tomboy growing up, and I'm still not exactly super girly, so there a lot of things in Liz Prince's graphic memoir that I could really relate to.
ALONE FOREVER made me do a jig, because I anticipated a rehashing of that reader-writer simpatico. Not only do I know what it's like to be a tomboy, I also know what it's like to be alone forever. I'll be single this Valentine's Day, and I'll be perfectly honest -- I'm shit at dating. I'm socially awkward and shy, and I'd rather hide in my bedroom than pick up men at bars or (gasp) go to parties and be forced to be social.
So yeah, I was excited about ALONE FOREVER.
Now that I've read it, however, I'm a little confused about what it was trying to say. I mean, TOMBOY had a message, and that message was that being yourself can be hard sometimes, but it's infinitely more satisfying in the long run. I'm not quite sure what ALONE FOREVER is trying to say. Have cats? (I own two.) Be attracted to men with big bushy beards? (I can't...I'm sorry, but I can't. No.) Be rude and sarcastic to strangers? (Tempting, but no.)
ALONE FOREVER is a collection of strips about being single, being attracted to men who aren't attracted to you, being too intimate with your cats, lamenting past relationships and dating experiences and wishing you weren't single. It's relatable, but not in a fun way, and some of the panels are so weird that they aren't even funny.
Also, something weird was going on with my copy. The only viewing format that worked was "fit page." If I tried to zoom, the pictures would shrink instead, and since Liz Prince's handwriting isn't very neat, I spent most of the time I was reading this squinting like a demented old cat lady.
I'm not really sure what to make of this book, although releasing it around Valentine's Day was probably good marketing. A lot of single people will be able to relate to this, although I'm not sure they'd want to...