THE EYEBALL COLLECTOR is a pretty neat book. I actually bought it for $1 at a Dollar Store because I thought the cover was cool. Usually, I'm wary about books like these because juvenile fantasy can be just that...juvenile. Never have I been more wrong!
I was telling my friend that this would make an awesome Tim Burton movie because Urbs Umida has the dark, gloomy atmosphere of Corpse Bride & The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Hector Fitzbaudly is the son of an esteemed wine merchant and butterfly hobbyist. He has lived in modest luxury his whole life, although he has been fascinated by the seedy side across the river, even getting mugged one day while slumming it up. Hector gets more acquainted with the wrong side of the river than he might lie, though, when an opportunistic conman named Trupin blackmails his father and then sells his story to the Diurnal Journal, anyway, for a tidy sum of money. What an asshole!
Hector swears revenge, and we follow him from a boys' home, to the castle of Lord and Lady Mandible. Because Truepin has remade himself as a foreign baron & is hanging around with the Mandibles who are, for lack of a better word, creepy.
The writing in this book is great. The fantasy element...maybe not so fantastic, although it is interesting. Urbs Umida seems to be an alternate England where fantastic beasts rove the woods, & everyone is just a bit more morbid than the actual Victorians were (which says a lot because -- hair jewelry and taxidermy were pretty much all the rage back in Queen Victoria's time).
One thing I really liked was how dark and atmospheric THE EYEBALL COLLECTOR was. The evil people in this book really are evil. There are paintings done in blood, a cloak of living butterflies, the bad guys kill animals for fun (this is how you know that they are really evil), and some centaur-like creature gets turned into a chair and it is morbid as fuck.
I gave this book to one of my friends who is really into Goth culture. I think she'll enjoy this book -- at least, I hope she will. If you like Victorian-era/Steampunk/mannerpunk fiction, or are into Goth culture as well, you should read this book. I'm definitely going to be keeping an eye out for more books in the Tales of the Sinister City series.
Oh, and don't be alarmed that this book is #3 in the series. It was meant to work as a standalone. The author has this adorable author's note where she says that she meant her books as "paraquels" or books that can be read in parallel with one another & have recurring characters, but that aren't dependent on the previous books. That's a really neat idea. :)
Paranormal erotica has never really sat well with me, mostly because it tends to fall into the "fated-to-be-mated" category, a la J.R. Ward.
I applied for most of the erotic titles on Netgalley because sometimes I go on these kicks--and to my surprise, several of the books I was approved for were actually good this time around. Unfortunately, DARKEST ECSTASY was not among them.
It bears noting that this is actually book #3 in a continuing series. I did not notice this when I applied for the book. I'm not sure it would have made much difference in my review, one way or the other, since the bulk of my misgivings lie with the portrayal of the male love interest and his penchant for utter douchery.
Talen Gryffon is the name of the male lead. He's part of a big family of supernaturals and I guess they're in a war with another group of supernaturals, and so they need brides to bear them children for reasons.
Talen actually fell in love already but it was with his brother's wife, Lei. There's this passage about how he's all, "I saw her first, blah blah blah, me me me," and he whines about he wanted to be the one to fuck all the trouble out of her past, etc. etc.
Okay, first off, fucking is not a psychological panacea. Yes, it has many long term health benefits (assuming that you go about it responsibly and don't contract an STD due to irresponsible fuckery).
Second, a vagina is not an apartment. You can't pay a deposit and then be all, "IT'S MINE. I WAS HERE FIRST." There is no contract or deed you can buy to say otherwise, and if you persist in thinking to the contrary, here's a nice ol' big fat "FUCK YOU."
Talen is also into BDSM, and he goes to this club. He figures the best way to forget about Lei and get a new wife is to find someone perfect at pleasing him sexually. So he ends up fucking this woman named Angela, who thinks everything from blowjobs to anal is awesome.
But then Talen meets Maggie, whose innocence and awkwardness piques his interest in a way that nothing ever has before. He flirts with her, especially in front of Angela, plays the two off one another, and they slut-shame and it's just fun for the whole family.
Anna Campbell is fast becoming one of my go-to historical romance authors. I wish books were not so expensive! My library has none of her books that I actually want to read (CLAIMING THE COURTESAN, UNTOUCHED, SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE'S BED), and no matter how many times I suggest that they be purchased as ebooks, I have yet to have my requests fulfilled.
Fuck you, library!
Anyway, I freaked out when I saw that one of Anna Campbell's books was on Netgalley! The only book of hers that I've actually read was TEMPT THE DEVIL, which is apparently one of her worse books. I read and reviewed it, and ended up giving it a solid 3, which is pretty generous if you're at all familiar with my reviews, as I'm a pretty big hard-ass and impossible to please.
WHAT A DUKE DARES is a lot better than TEMPT. I loved the premise, the set-up, and thought that Camden Rothermere was sexy as hell. The concept plays into the "I've loved you forever but never thought to tell you" trope. Pen(elope) Thorne has been in love with Camden since they were kids. There's eight years' age difference between them, which is probably why Camden has always treated her like a kid. But when Penelope turns nineteen and is about to have her Season, Camden notices that she has bewbs and finds this incredibly exciting.
He gives Pen a marriage proposal, pretty much assuming that she'll take it. Because their families are both immersed in scandal, and because her family is poorer than his, and because they're childhood friends, dammit, so she understands him, and he understands her, and will you be my wife already?
Pen says, "NO."
Her reason behind this, as we find out, is that she wants to marry for love. And she once heard Camden swear off love to his friends--because he doesn't believe in it. His parents loved each other once and then became twisted and corrupted by it, and it resulted in his mom becoming a loose woman and his father having an affair (or something like that. I can't remember but it was Bad).
FLASH FORWARD SOME YEARS
Pen is now in her mid twenties and gallivanting around Europe, doing scandalous and naughty things. Posing for Goya nude? Sure. Being the consort of rich European nobility? Why not. Living in a sheik's harem? EVERYONE DOES IT. (Especially if you're in a Bertrice Small novel.)
One of Pen's brothers is on his deathbed and summons Camden to find his hell-raising sister and bring her back home. This is easier said than done and involves, in no particular order, fighting off Italian bandits, surviving a shipwreck, getting trapped in a cabin, and getting over massive amounts of butthurt. This has all the international wtfuckery of a bodice-ripper's hijinks, but the sex is very tame and not at all rapey or disturbing. Still pretty sexy, though! Woo wooooooo.
The problem is that this book really drags. By the time I got to page 80 and realized that there were still over 200 pages left in the book, I began to wonder how the author was going to keep things running for that long. The answer? Introducing a secondary love story between Pen's brother and the daughter of one of Cam's rivals (Romeo & Juliet, anyone?), and lots and lots of miscommunication.
Oh my God, we're talking miscommunication of Julia Quinn proportions. It got to the point where I was like, DUDE. STOP FUCKING LIKE BUNNIES AND TALK TO EACH OTHER FOR A MINUTE. But did they ever? No. Not until the very freaking end. It was really frustrating, and made me want to grab my bitchslap button and start unleashing some hell on these bitches.
The sex scenes ebb a bit on the cheesy side but Campbell writes well enough that I was pretty much able to ignore all the purple flowers blossoming their way up and down the pages.* Her dialogue was excellent, and very witty. I enjoyed the repartee between all the characters, and I think that was what kept me reading. Her characters banter almost as well as Kleypas'.
*WHAT A DUKE DARES also features one of the more realistic virgin sex scenes I've read, especially in a historical romance novel, which usually takes the "peen-overcomes-all" route.
Overall verdict: this is cheesy, but a step up in quality from your garden-variety regency novels. Not quite on par with Anne Stuart, say, but certainly better than Julia London and Julia Quinn!
This is book #3 in the Billion Dollar Milkmaid series. Since I don't want to do the whole 90s thing of recapping what happened in every single previous book in one chapter (remember the Babysitter's Club? And Sweet Valley Twins? And Animorphs? And how there was always that one copypasta chapter that you quickly learned to skim), I'll just leave you with the links here:
Amy's breast-obsessed benefactor left an ominous comment in the last book about wanting her to participate in a special event. The event in question turns out to be a breastfeeding party for all his perverted business associate. Mr. King has gone through his list of contacts and hired all sorts of lacating ladies to service his friends and coworkers. (Clearly, he works for the most liberal corporation ever. It has to be situated in San Francisco.)
Amy decides to let an older gentleman feed from her, but Mr. King gets jealous. He yanks her out of the fifty-year-old guy's mouth and into his bedroom, where he then drinks up all the milk himself while fucking her. Then he tells her that he is going to give her a huuuuuge pay raise if she'll exclusively service him and no one else. Amy is soooo happy, but of course, this magical Disneyesque moment is spoiled by the resurgence of Mr. King's jealous girlfriend.
As I said before, these books are poorly written and very short for the price charged for them. I am reading and reviewing them only because I got the bundle for free during Smashwords's semi-annual Winter/Summer sale. The 23-page collector's issue is usually $4.99. That's a lot of money to pay for a book that doesn't even break 10k words.
But if you can get it for free, it's worth reading just for the sheer cracktastic lolz. There are some hilarious typos in these books, and the sex is so bad that it's like physical comedy--including this one great scene in book 2, where the heroine accidentally squirts the hero in the face with her milk.
A DANGEROUS MADNESS is a regency novel surrounding the assassination of Perceval Spencer, the only Prime Minister ever to be assassinated. All of London is in an uproar, as suspicions grow and alliances form. And some of those alliances are formed against Phoebe Hillier.
Phoebe Hillier has always done what is expected of her, both by society and her family, and it has resulted in her getting jilted at the last minute by her long-time fiance, Sheldrake.
However, when the Duke of Wittaker comes a-calling, Phoebe realizes that her husband might have had more reasons than just being a flake for breaking off their betrothal. Sheldrake might just have been involved in the murder of the Prime Minister.
The book starts out quite slowly. It took a while for me to really get the measure of Phoebe. I liked the Duke (James) immediately but I didn't feel like he had Phoebe had much chemistry. Even at the end of the book, I wasn't really convinced.
One thing I did really like was the historical note the author put at the end of the book, talking about the assassination, the conspiracy theories surrounding it, and her inspiration for writing the book. A DANGEROUS MADNESS is a light regency novel that is fun, but not especially intellectually challenging.
MERIDON is actually book #3 in the Wideacre trilogy. Something I did not know when I bought the book. Having not read books #1 or #2 in the series, I have to say that MERIDON stands on its own pretty well, but there were a lot of inherent flaws in the book--both with the plot, and with characterization--that rendered MERIDON nigh unpalatable.
***SPOILERS TO FOLLOW***
First, a summary. Meridon is the daughter of a gypsy who died when she was young. So she's been raised by her father, a horse trainer and sleazy scumbag, and his second wife, Zima. Living with them is Meridon's twin sister, Dandy: the only person she has ever loved. Ever since she was young, Meridon has been dreaming about a place called "Wide", a magical wonderland (i.e. farmland) where her name is Sarah and she is Ruler of All. Pretty dreams for the daughter of a scummy horsebreaker.
Anyway, one day performers come to town and Meridon and Dandy both get purchased along with a pony. They start working for the circus, alongside Robert (the ringleader)'s son, Jack, who Dandy is instantly attracted to. Robert doesn't approve of the attraction between them and tells them that he ditched his wife and other children to pursue this life and that if Dandy proves a nuisance, he'll ditch her too. Obviously, Dandy considers herself above the rules.
Do bad things happen shortly after? Oh, yes. But you see it coming a mile away. It isn't foreshadowing so much as it is being beaten over the head with a metaphorical block of wood while the author sneeringly goes, "SEE? SEE WHAT I DID THERE? AREN'T I BRILLIANT?"
The portion of the book that's about Meridon's life with the circus and how she learns to do the various acts made up my favorite part of the book. I thought Robert's single-minded obsession was very interesting, and his character was wonderfully fleshed out. He pissed me off, yes, but I could see where he was coming from. Dandy pissed me off from the get-go, and when she revealed her "genius" (i.e. moronic) plan to Meridon, I wanted to bash my head against the wall.
But like I said, Bad Things happen, and Meridon ends up finding her Wide after all...and then promptly turning her back on it when the "Quality" (i.e. snobby rich people) jingle their keys at her and tell her that they can make her into a lady. Red flags should have popped up, IT'S A TRAP, but Meridon is surprisingly naive and stupid, despite all her, "I am the daughter of a huckster and no one knows poverty like me" speeches. For someone who claims to be all about the money, she sure lets it slip through her fingers. When she lets her fiance and mother-in-law steal her land and gyp her into a forced marriage, I wanted to throw things. WHAT A FOOL.
Here are the problems with the book:
Slut-shaming. The slut-shaming is nonstop. Every single woman in this book is called a whore, a slut, a tart, a trollop, or something similar. Usually more than once. I lost count, though in the last two hundred pages alone there were probably about twenty or thirty instances. I lost a lot of my enjoyment of this book for this reason, because every time I started to sink into the storyline, I would be jolted out of it again by that rampant battle cry, "SLUT!" Okay...
The portrayal of asexual people. One of the biggest things asexual people have to deal with is being told that they just haven't found the right person yet. MERIDON totally ties into all those stereotypes. Meridon from the start is described as cold and frigid. She doesn't like being touched and has no interest in sex. Okay. Cool. I was actually excited about that because despite all the men she met in her life, she wasn't sexually attracted to anyone and while she was grudgingly willing to consider sex as a means to an heir, she wasn't seeking it out. ALL THAT FUCKING CHANGES WHEN THE LOVE INTEREST SHOWS UP. Suddenly, the MC can't wait for sex, and the moment she does, she immediately refers to herself as a whore! Isn't that just super.
It isn't true to the period. It reads more like Victorian England than Georgian England. And according to the back of the book, MERIDON takes place in Georgian England. Also, Meridon wanders around in men's clothes, even when she's introduced into "polite society" (i.e. rich snobs) and hardly anyone bats an eye. I always get annoyed when I see this trope in fiction because, um, hello--these people were scandalized by flashes of ankle. Can you imagine the scandal form-fitting men's trousers would cause? There were also some descriptions and dialogue that seemed very anachronistic.
The lazy ending. MERIDON lacked cohesion. I got the impression that after close to 600 pages, the author just said, "Fuck it, I'm done. End of story." None of the earlier story ARCs were successfully resolved. For example, I would have liked to have found out what happened to Meridon's step-parents, Robert's family, Rea, and David. I wanted Jack to be punished for his douchecanoery. I wanted Perry and his mother to be punished as well. Instead they got the plot-resolution equivalent of a limp wristed middle finger. Not very impressive. Also, I read through the other reviews, and apparently WIDEACRE did a piss-poor job closing the trilogy as a whole, so that's disappointing.
I'm still interested in reading WIDEACRE and THE FAVORED CHILD because they are supposed to be better written and darker. It seems like MERIDON suffers from third book syndrome (i.e. not-giving-a-fuck-itis) which is a shame, as it had a lot of potential. MERIDON started out as a five-star book but by the end I wanted to chuck it out a window. Definitely not one of my favorite Gregory books, although it's still a hell of a lot better than THE RED QUEEN, which I loathed.
I should start by pointing out that the copy I got for review from netgallYou can read more of my reviews, faster, at my blog, The Armchair Librarian.
I should start by pointing out that the copy I got for review from netgalley isn't 152 pages like it says on the book information on Goodreads - it was actually 72 pages.
The Dreamer is pretty typical of a time-traveling story. Bea Whaley is a college student who has dreams that she's back in America during the Revolutionary War. Which is really weird, because what she knows about history could fit in a nutshell.
Obviously, Bea always looks good even when she's covered in dirt and filth and hasn't washed for days, and her boobs look like they're about ready to explode out of her dress. Men fight over her, and always talk about how hot she is. She's screwing up history in the name of luuuuurve!
I haven't read volumes 1 or 2 of this series so maybe I'm missing out on some primo characterization, but I just really did not like Bea. She's always having emotional feels, or crying out for help, or just in general being an annoying Sue. I also thought it was pretty ridiculous that she's going to dump the guy she's had a crush on since forever in the real world for this one guy she keeps dreaming about. Um, how about no.
This was entertaining and the guys in it were super cute, but I just couldn't buy the premise.
Ermagerd, where are all these hot Scotsmen hiding - and, more importantly, how do I place my order? But seriously. I used to live in Scotland, and IErmagerd, where are all these hot Scotsmen hiding - and, more importantly, how do I place my order? But seriously. I used to live in Scotland, and I can't say that I ever saw a man that I would want to see in a tartan. Then again, I can say the same for most American men, as well.
The Highlander's Touch was pretty good for a bodice-ripper. The plot was decent, and fairly well-placed. Lisa Stone works as a maid in a museum. One day, she inadvertently touches a cursed flask, which teleports her to medieval Scotland. In a Scotsman's bathroom. While he's naked. To quote George Takei, "Ohhhhh myyyyyy." Unfortunately, the Scotsman in question is Circenn Brodie and he has sworn to kill anyone who lays hand upon the flask. Which now includes Lisa.
But he finds himself incredibly attracted to the woman of the tight-fitting trousers and indecently lacy undergarments. And while this pisses him off, it makes him feel other, more interesting emotions as well. Lisa is first to yield to these feelings of attraction because, let's face it, Circenn makes the sun look like a polar ice cap. But she also really misses her home; her mother is dying of cervical cancer, and Lisa can't stand the thought of her dying alone . . .
I liked this more than I thought I would. To Tame A Highland Warrior, the book before this, was quite bad. The characters made me want to punch someone - specifically them - and I didn't really feel the chemistry between them at all. Circenn and Lisa, on the other hand, are a sizzling pair. The scenes between them were very steamy indeed (hence the 'flaming-red-hot-yowza' shelf). I also liked the message Moning was trying to send about female sexuality. Virginity is frequently overemphasized in romance novels as an ideal; while it is nice to save yourself for your true love, this is not as easy as it looks in fiction, and therefore sex should be about 1) caring about your partner, 2) pleasure, 3) and being at ease with your sexuality. Very nice!
The ending was cheese x 100 and, yes, OK, I was a little annoyed with how *neatly* everything was tied up (replete with string). Circenn really had to bend over backwards to perform all those feats. So much for not effing with the future/past, eh? If I find any paradoxes, I'll know who to blame.
This was good. Not great, but good. It took me forever to read because I dropped the book behind my bed and couldn't find it, but once I did, I finished it in two hours. Of course, the Highlander series can't hold a candle to her Fae series. Irishmen > Scotsmen.