This is my first Blogging for Books/Random House review title and I want to preface this review by saying that I haven’t read the other two books in t...moreThis is my first Blogging for Books/Random House review title and I want to preface this review by saying that I haven’t read the other two books in this series. When I read the blurb it didn’t seem like I had to and in hindsight I don’t think I needed to. While there’s a somewhat ongoing relationship in this book that appears to have been broached in past books I didn’t feel lost while reading. Everything was pretty straight forward and it didn’t leave me guessing at all.
The book itself was okay. The society known as SECRET is more of an underground female exploration club that helps women live out their fantasies in order to grow themselves in various ways. Their played-out fantasies would help get them there. Cassie is coming to grips with two rather tumultuous relationships that may or may not end well and after her divorce from a husband who appeared to be a rather big ass (there wasn’t a lot of detail on him, just some sidebar references) she doesn’t know if she can handle the destruction again so she immerses herself in her work, both in and out of SECRET. Solange is trying to come out of a decade-long sexless funk since divorcing her husband and diving headfirst into her job while trying to raise her son at the same time.
It became obvious pretty quickly that I’m not really the correct demographic for this book. This book is more aimed at women in a mid-ish life funk (for lack of better words), who’ve already done the married thing, the children thing and need to find themselves again after losing themselves for so long. That . . . is not me. So while the stories were intriguing and I found myself invested in them all the same I couldn’t really relate so it kept the book at a distance for me.
As for the sex, I would label this as erotica light. There’s a lot of sex being had in the book but it’s not . . . in depth, so to speak. The focus seems to be more on the exploration and personal growth coming out of the sexual act than the act itself, I found. It was okay sex but it was rather humdrum. It didn’t go as far off the deep end as it could have gone (or these women really don’t reach very far with their own fantasies) and it relied on pretty “safe” sexual scenarios that made it just a regular read for me. It was vaguely sexy but nothing that had be squirming in my seat.
I did like Solange as a character. I felt for her. Her ambition was something pretty big for her and it cost her a lot, namely her marriage and it somewhat strained her relationship with her son. I liked how SECRET allowed her to go back to someone she was before the stress of success and forced her to remember what carefree felt like, what risk felt like, what love really felt like. It was a nice story. I doubt that was the aim for a book like this but that’s what I would call it.
As for Cassie, meh. She was a bit all over the board and she really did string Jesse along for a while there. I’m guessing there was more in past books but just from what I saw she really toggled between Will and Jesse and basically used Jesse as a rebound for when Will wasn’t there. It wasn’t fair to him and it was plain to tell that even though he tried to keep it casual it didn’t really work. I liked when she stopped screwing around (not literally) with her life and really set her mind to her new restaurant. It awakened her out of her need for these two men and showed her that life was more than them. Things come full circle, though, which really didn’t surprise me but a happy ending was had by all.
I don’t think I’ll be reading the other books. I don’t really think I’m in the right stage of my life to really appreciate the stories and I prefer my erotica a little more . . . involved than what was offered in SECRET Revealed. The book was okay but that’s where I’d leave it.
I requested this title from NetGalley while I was still reading the last book in the Krewe of Hunters series because Sleepy Hollow is a neat little pl...moreI requested this title from NetGalley while I was still reading the last book in the Krewe of Hunters series because Sleepy Hollow is a neat little place and I really enjoyed THE HEXED. If this book was anything like that one then I’d probably enjoy it too. It’s a fair enough assumption, I think.
Except THE BETRAYED didn’t really live up to the last book’s standards, in my opinion. While Graham’s pretty much mastered setting and Sleepy Hollow and the surrounding area were their own characters within the story, they were so vivid, I felt the interactions of the protagonists was gawky and awkward and the dialogue just subpar. The over use of the exclamation point was extremely distracting and a lot of the time unnecessary. The actions in THE BETRAYED were far more about moving from Point A to Point B without developing a whole lot of ambiance or really allowing the characters to grow at all.
Mo was a stagnant character throughout the story and while she served a major purpose in finding bodies and people as the plot unfolded she was rather wooden. Not unlikeable but she didn’t offer up anything that I would like either so let’s just say I’m ambivalent about her. Not the greatest place to be. As for Aiden he seemed to be a copy of Rocky from THE HEXED, right down to needing to see Mo to the door, protecting her, the sex, making breakfast in her house, pretty much everything except the pertinent backstory. Although Aiden did have his connections to the area, just like Rocky did so there was that. The relationship between Mo and Aiden developed in much the same way as Rocky’s and Devin’s did so there was little excitement there for me. To add to that Aiden was a dick to Mo in the beginning for no good reason except to keep his distance from her for emo reasons. That didn’t make much sense.
I’ve noticed that Graham, from the two books I’ve read, has a bad habit of introducing a condom into a sex scene, neither of the characters actually having one, the female saying she’s on birth control, it makes things all better, and the sex commences. I overlooked it in THE HEXED but now that it’s cropped up again in THE BETRAYED I can’t ignore it. Please. If you insist on bringing a condom and various other methods of birth control into a fictional sex scene don’t stop at it just preventing pregnancy (the condom). These two people were strangers. You have them fumbling for a condom that doesn’t actually exist and I guess in this world birth control not only stops babies but stops STDs too. Yeah, no. Stop it. Either remove the reference altogether, have them stop sex because they have no idea where each other has been (for the sake of realism, since we’re talking condoms), or have one be available. Don’t, well, half-cock it.
I found myself very distracted while reading this one and I didn’t feel as invested in the story as I did the last. Aside from the setting, the stark formulaic similarities between characters and plots of the two books it was kind of hard to get invested in the same rehashed story under the guise of an entirely new book. To be honest it makes me a little weary to dive into the rest of this series if these last two books are any indication of the repetition I’m going to encounter. I’d like more of the Krewe as a whole, their beginnings and how the constant characters were put together. This being book number fourteen I doubt I’m going to get any of that going forward. Still, I’m going to go back. Graham loves her settings and she does an incredible amount of research to make them come alive. I lived in Connecticut for 29 years and I never once went to Sleepy Hollow (or Salem, for that matter) and she’s gotten me to put those places on my list for when I make it back there. Because I have to. Because I’m missing that quintessential New England feel and what better places to get it?
I still want to read this series. I do. But I won’t lie. My buzz has been killed a little at the copy THE BETRAYED was of THE HEXED in terms of plot and characters. The fact that I’m picking up a formula off of two books doesn’t bode well but I won’t give up yet. I like what I read here enough to keep at it.
Another novella from DarkFuse, I ended up liking CONDUITS more than I did BLOODEYE but it was a lot of angst to wade through before anything got inter...moreAnother novella from DarkFuse, I ended up liking CONDUITS more than I did BLOODEYE but it was a lot of angst to wade through before anything got interesting. And it only really started to get interesting when the Japanese lore came into play, where a person would basically absorb all the pain of the village into herself by cutting it into her and then the final release would be suicide. So yeah, SUPER trigger warning for this one. Mara cuts herself a lot and then the lore is about a cutting, suicidal martyr. And there’s that.
I like it when an author gets psychological and makes life just as confusing for the reader as it is for the main character. If it’s 100% crazy and it’s obvious that it’s all crazy then there isn’t any fun in that. But with Mara, it was difficult trying to differentiate reality from insanity and it kept me guessing as to whose views of life were real or not.. It keeps me invested in the story. Give it all to me up front and why would I want to keep reading?
It starts super angsty and Mara is all depressed about her dead boyfriend and then ghosts start talking to her except she can’t tell if it’s real or not. When she starts getting really invested in what they’re saying is when she starts to slip and people start to get worried, namely her roommate. It gets more and more difficult to determine what events happened and which Mara dreamed up and that continues to break Mara even more. Even people around her become difficult to discern and the illusion of her world shatters.
What really kept me reading was the lore and the intermittent memories that Mara had of her grandfather and visiting him in Japan. The cultural aspect was far more intriguing than anything else and I liked seeing this heinously dark but sad event unfold. I did feel that the events with Mara’s sister were a bit nonsensical and were thrown in there for added angst but it is what it is. I think if that were to be removed entirely it wouldn’t have made a difference in the grander story.
CONDUITS is an okay book. Major trigger warning on it and I found it far more depressing than scary but I think Loring wove the cultural lore into it pretty well and it made what could have been just a wanking angst fest into something with a bit more meaning and a bit more relevance and it had a purpose to the story instead of SHOCK CUTTING. It wasn’t an issue book. That much was very clear and I liked that. But I don’t think this is horror. Dark, yes. But not really scary.
This is one of those books that I ended up rather apathetic about, to the point where I just want to write ‘meh’ as my review and be done with it. I s...moreThis is one of those books that I ended up rather apathetic about, to the point where I just want to write ‘meh’ as my review and be done with it. I sit here and try to think of what I’m going to say and I can’t think of much of anything. That’s not the best place to be when talking about a book.
The book is short. It’s more of a novella so in terms of character development there isn’t much. Unless you count Keane’s slip into insanity. I mean, I GUESS that’s TECHNICALLY development. The character wasn’t static in that regard. But when the real world was left behind for something darker inside Keane’s head is when I really started to lose interest. The story started as a rather interesting thriller with the dead body and the face looking like the book cover there. But then that goes away and is replaced with Keane’s memories and insane ramblings and he quickly deteriorates into a blithering mess of a shell that takes care of himself by the end of the book.
And the ending . . . you could see that coming the second the talk of shadows comes into play, with Keane having to kill the Shadow Man and whathaveyou. It becomes real obvious, real quick what’s going on and what’s been happening and the spark goes away. I like psychological thrillers and all but they need to be exceptionally smart. This wasn’t exceptionally smart.
It started off good, with a good tone and a good voice but Keane reverted too far into his own head and then things got OBVIOUS and far too intentional and I ended up being glad it was short.
This is the kind of non-supernatural Regency romance I can get into. This is erotica. Plain and simple. There isn’t any chase with this book, and it’s...moreThis is the kind of non-supernatural Regency romance I can get into. This is erotica. Plain and simple. There isn’t any chase with this book, and it’s certainly not chaste. There’s little concern for propriety and far more concern for whose getting plugged where. While I kind of missed the sexual build-up that comes with more romance-minded Regency, mainly because the payoff is usually fireworks, I’m not complaining with LORD SAVAGE. It delivered in the bed department over and over and over again.
I like it when sex in books isn’t boring and the author takes care to mix things up. While that’s probably not true to life for many people it makes the read a whole hell of a lot more entertaining. Gabriel didn’t let me down there. Each scene was different, with varying levels of hedonism and a lighter element of BDSM that keeps temperatures risen but also points out the darker side of all of that. Where Savage often asks Evelyn about consent, there are members of the Game that care nothing for that. And since the rules of the Game are that each Protector is free to do educate his or her Innocent how they deem fit it’s allowed, although not necessarily accepted. You get to see that in Blackledge, a rather abhorrent character that takes what he wants and doesn’t see his woman of desire as a human being but merely a fuckable bitch there to do as he commands. But even outside the confines of the Game he often oversteps his bounds and is put in his place by a few people. It’s also clear that when Blackledge sets his sights on Evelyn there are people there, including the hosts, who rally around her to protect her from him. Why he’s not addressed accordingly is never made clear and while it appears that all of his particular participants have been previously willing people are aware that he can step off the ledge rather quickly and he’s kept pretty in check. Thankfully he’s not too prominent in the story.
The Carleighs, the hosts of this Game, are rather sexually open and host this week-long event as a means for people to, well, unclench and step outside of such bounds of society to live a little. It’s definitely a master/servant set-up but both sexes play both roles so it seems that ALL societal norms are tossed out the window here, which I like. Aside from them and Blackledge you don’t see too many other characters enough to get a good grip on their personalities. Simpson a little since she’s Evelyn’s maid while in the Carleigh house but she’s a basic, gossipy maid whose only difference from a normal maid is her looks. Apparently she’s gorgeous where other maids are purposely plainer so as not to draw attention from their “better.”
Lord Savage is a rather changeable character and I don’t really have my finger on his pulse. He’s gentle with Eve and caring and attentive to her desires, both sexual and romantic, but his mood changes on a dime and it makes him rather standoffish. He’s so hot and cold with Eve, blending that attitude in and out of the Game, that by the end of the book I was kind of hoping Eve would leave him behind despite their attachment to each other. He’s unpredictable. And then there was his violent outbreak at dinner when another participant fondled Eve (within the rules of the Game, it’s expected that the participants swap around Innocents with the notion of continuing their education). Savage beat another man for that and ostracized both him and Eve from the Game. Of course he has a damaged history so he has REASONS for his actions but personally, a man with that kind of propensity for violence isn’t one I’d want to be around. Even though he never turned that kind of rage on Eve it’s there and as his feelings for her swapped between protective to possessive it was hard to tell what was going to come out. It’s because of this that ultimately I don’t like Savage. He played too many games with Eve’s head outside of the Game and with his violence he can have all the butthurt he wants in his past. I don’t want to see it.
I liked Eve, though. I think she struck a good balance between being a shocked socialite and wanting to break the bonds that she’d been put in all her life. She didn’t jump into the Game pell mell. Savage had to work at stripping away the old Eve and she did the rest to build up the new one. Actually, I liked both. Really, they’re the same people. The new Eve was just in hiding. She exhibited more laid back sexual tendencies before she arrived at the Game. Those people just helped her break out of her shell. She leaned back a lot on her past, which was expected, but she reminded herself to look forward too. Eve’s a very grounded character and I liked the story she told. I wasn’t too thrilled with her reaction to Savage because, personally, I would have told him to GTFO after so many of his mood changes but that’s just me. She liked who she was with him.
There was some good sex here. I wish Savage wasn’t so possessive of Eve and as a reader got to explore more of the Game aside from when they ambled into public view but they pressed toward that line a bit. There was some okay kink and voyeurism and experimentation. I just wish the Game, excluding Blackledge, was a bit more prominent in the picture. Because really, most of the time they’re sequestered in Savage’s room and the setting got a little dull.
Overall the book’s okay. Savage’s attitude drowns out a lot of the good for me because his attitude became grating. I’m not sure if I’d read on in the series because it would be even more of just those two squirreled away in some room together and Savage getting all moody when Eve said something she didn’t know she shouldn’t have. But Gabriel writes some pretty good sex and she keeps it interesting. So it’s all up in the air at this point.
It doesn’t take much to hook me into a story about ancient Greece so to find one on NetGalley about the labyrinth at Crete and the minotaur it housed...moreIt doesn’t take much to hook me into a story about ancient Greece so to find one on NetGalley about the labyrinth at Crete and the minotaur it housed it was a no-brainer for me. Luckily the publisher approved me and here I am. And I thank them for it.
This really was a wonderful book but it’s a story that you need to make an investment in. It’s a story that’s definitely more about people and character than about a fast action plot but I think Sweet’s painted just a brilliant portrait of all of them and I couldn’t help but follow them along on their paths. Not to mention she knows her history. She writes in exquisite detail about Crete that I had no trouble picturing it all in my head but at the same time I never felt bogged down by details. I never felt that the author’s knowledge was intruding on the story. Her setting was part of the story and it all blended so seamlessly.
Ariadne really is a repugnant, reprehensible human being. I mean there is absolutely nothing to like about her. Not a damn thing. Yeah, she’s unmarked. But so was Chara and she wasn’t a bitter snatch about life because of it. Ariadne was cruel and calculating and relished in other people’s misery and pain. She’s a true psychopath but at least she doesn’t have power. She had her father on her side and they were of one mind so her manipulation of him wasn’t really so much in her control as it was her father already leaning that way anyway. And because she was actually so powerless her situation was rather laughable. People had nothing to fear from her, at the end of the day. Not really. Especially by the end of the book when her hold was waning and control started slipping from her fingers. But no matter how vile she got I was hooked into reading her life. Every deplorable thing she did made want to see her get her comeuppance even more. I was rooting for her to die by the end of it. It would be only fitting.
Chara is Ariadne’s handmaiden and personality opposite. Where Ariadne is a psychopath Chara is kind and inviting and actually knows how to act, and treat people like, a human being. She was close with Ariadne’s half-brother, the supposed bull god, and she will stop at nothing to save him from his sister’s manipulative ways. His mother is all but powerless to help him, either resigning him to his fate because she knows she can’t do anything or is willfully ignorant of what’s going on. I refuse to believe the latter considering her antagonistic relationship with her husband. Chara is warmth and life to Ariadne’s bitter cold and calculating death. She’s steadfast and refuses to just sit by and accept what’s happening to someone whom she cares deeply for, no matter her station.
The story ends at a very pivotal moment and while, if you’re familiar with the story of the minotaur at all, you’ll know what’s coming but I couldn’t help but hold my breath at where the story left me hanging. Sweet took a familiar story and added enough suspense to it so that even though you may know how it’ll ultimately end, the path to that end is unknown so you’ll have no choice but to take it and see what means will get you to the end. She humanizes the beast so that he no longer is a beast but someone born to a crappy situation and forced to become something for the sake of a religiously delirious mother and a vindictive step-father that will stop at nothing to see him eradicated. And someone who can write such an incredibly unforgivable character as Ariadne and have her POV be half of the book and still keep me reading, is someone to keep reading. I can’t wait for the next book.
The blurb is far more exciting than the book. Let’s begin there.
When the publisher offered DESERT GOD up for review I got all excited because it’s anc...moreThe blurb is far more exciting than the book. Let’s begin there.
When the publisher offered DESERT GOD up for review I got all excited because it’s ancient Egypt and it goes to all these pretty, ancient places and Wilbur Smith is supposed to be fantasmagorical when it comes to writing historical fiction. Nabbed that one real quick. My hopes were rather dashed as I started reading.
What a slog this book was. To the point of being painful. I almost gave up on it. ALMOST. I’ve come this far in my year without DNFs. I wasn’t going to end it here. And I didn’t. But I really, REALLY wanted to.
The POV the story is told in is from Taita, a slave but not really who made a slew of appearances in past books, I’m assuming, based on introduction mentions and time dropping within the story itself but that was pretty irrelevant. I didn’t feel lost with the character. I just wanted to punch him in the throat. Taita is amazing at everything. He doesn’t even have to do whatever it is he’s good at. He’ll just automatically be perfect. Just ask him. He’ll tell you all about it. And then he’ll tell you he’s not a snob but his actions will go on to contradict that very statement. And then he’ll just go back to telling you how awesome he is at something, whether it’s warfare, shooting arrows, languages, games, taking a shit, whatever. No matter how good you think you are at something, Taita is better at it and he will make sure you know it.
This . . . is not an appealing character. At all. I didn’t give two flying fucks about anything this man did. I didn’t care about his missing dong (which he came back to. A LOT.) or his princesses (I’ll get to those pieces of work in a second) or whatever battles he was going in to or the political intrigue he had to perform. I DIDN’T CARE. Because when it’s coming out of such a pedantic mouth as that, how could I? I’m rolling my eyes too much to read the words on the page. So when I don’t give a damn about anything that’s going on, you can imagine how hard it was to actually read a 400+ page book.
And the princesses. What simpering, spoiled little quims. I wanted to drown them. Thoroughly. When they finally got sent off to be married to King Minos I was glad because that meant I never had to deal with their page presences again. Such insipid, worthless characters that only proved to be able to manipulate Taita and get whatever the hell it was they wanted. Their initial appearances on the page, regardless of scene, was always squealing toward Taita demanding gifts, or complaining that they weren’t getting something their way, or pitying themselves. Seriously, could this book have any more worthless characters in it? IS THAT POSSIBLE?
Any other secondary character was clouded through Taita’s eyes and since he never took care to get to know any of them (Zaras or Hui or Toran) they were mere stick figures in his view, blocking his sights from his princesses or whatever end he needed to get to. So I could say the secondary characters could have had potential but they were just outlines in Taita’s story. Loxias seemed kind of neat. She was a well-read and intelligent Greek girl, I think, that ended up being a tutor to the princesses. She had moments of defiance in her but her true personality was blocked by Taita’s big head so it’s really hard to tell.
The setting could have been phenomenal and I saw peeks of it through heavy-handed naval-gazing but it was all about Taita and his loquacious, head-up-rectum attitude about life that just completely drowned everything out. I could see the places being described in my head but they were pale images because Taita’s high falutin, LOOK HOW AWESOME I AM demeanor just washed everything out.
I’ll stick to Pete Hamill for my historical fiction of this caliber. It’s actually relatable and doesn’t think so highly of itself. He’ll give me a good story, relatable characters and a vivid setting. Wilbur Smith? Pass. I won’t be reading any of his other books if this is any indicator of what I’d be getting.
The setting of the book hit me right in the sweet spot and add kinky sex to the mix and I’m done. I couldn’t help myself. Lucky me the publisher appro...moreThe setting of the book hit me right in the sweet spot and add kinky sex to the mix and I’m done. I couldn’t help myself. Lucky me the publisher approved me for it through NetGalley and I set myself to reading. Oh my . . .
Cach did her homework with the setting and painted an amazing picture of the world that Nimia was living in. It came alive in my head with very little effort and on the other side I never felt smothered by the research either. Cach struck a good balance between too little and too much exposition. And her writing is just wonderful. I didn’t feel like I was reading just a story that’s hardly more than porn-without-plot in order to get to the sexy parts. There’s a vivid tale going on here. There’s real depth of character and growth, they have histories and futures and the story is about more than just sex (although that’s still a really big part of it).
And the sex. Holy wow. Freakin’ hot. Like major hot. She used a good balance of slang and not to get through the scenes, they never went hustler-level deep where it would have doubled as an anatomy lesson and you learn things that the body can do that are actually detrimental to the sexiness of the scene. Not to mention Cach was incredibly creative with her sex. No two scenes were too similar, many elicited different feelings in the characters and quite a few toed the line of required slave/willing participant. It’s built up that Nimia has basically been brainwashed from a young age to want all of this. So where is the consent? There are a few more difficult scenes that do disturb Nimia and equally made me want to punch Sygarius in the neck but as the reader you’re in Nimia’s head the whole time. You know what she’s thinking and what she feels about what’s going on. There isn’t any rape fantasy in here. Let me make that clear. But Cach isn’t shy about making the Romans Romans with their slaves and making certain situations uncomfortable. But I think she plays the balance well and keeps Nimia aware of the difference between right and wrong. She’s not a blind girl, Nimia. Terix is a great character, too, and I hope he plays more of a page-present role in Part 2. He’s sort of the comic relief in this book at the moment and turns up to help save his best friend when the poo really starts hitting the fan but for the most part he’s off-stage. He’s a great, honest character that wasn’t around Part 1 enough.
There were a couple of lines that Cach used that were jarring. And I do mean only a couple. Like comparing someone’s puckered lips to an anus. While the comparison is meant to be insulting that’s still a rather brash comparison and it’s obviously stuck with me. Funny, yes, but it really thrusts you out of the story. The other one, actually wasn’t in Part 1 but in the preview for Part 2 where Nimia is about to give head to a guy and takes a whiff of his exposed self and thinks he smells like male sweat and funk. Okay, gross. They’re just rather inappropriate and ill-timed comparisons that really separate the reader from the story, I think.
But that would be my only complaint, really. Oh, and the cover. Not the fault of the author but it doesn’t accurately portray Nimia. She’s never in chains and she’s supposed to be covered in tattoos. I do wish it were more book accurate. But other than that t loved this book. I loved the story, the characters, the sex. All of it. There is nothing not to like here and I can’t wait until I get my hands on Part 2.
I actually have the first Krewe of Hunters book in my pile waiting to be read and I didn’t realize THE HEXED was part of this series until after the p...moreI actually have the first Krewe of Hunters book in my pile waiting to be read and I didn’t realize THE HEXED was part of this series until after the publisher approved me through NetGalley but I said to hell with it. I’ll read it. So it’s the thirteenth book in the series. That’s fine.
And it really was. This seems to be one of those series where each book can be read independently and you won’t lose anything but if you read them in order you’ll be able to string little tidbits throughout that you wouldn’t otherwise get if you just read them piecemeal. I never felt lost or that I was missing out on some integral information. THE HEXED was its own self-contained story and I pretty much swallowed it whole.
First off, it’s set in Salem, Massachusetts. YES. Despite the fact that the whole region is one giant allergy spore for me I do still miss it, especially the woods and the temperatures and the general FEEL of the place. Living in the land of incredibly pre-planned developments everywhere you lose that organic, old feel that places like Salem has. And it also made me happy that Graham went out of her way to accurately portray the saying of Peabody, as in Peabody, Massachusetts. It’s not Pea-Body. It’s Peab’dy. Say it fast, say it right. So needless to say Graham got the setting right for me. I felt home and it made me nostalgic, despite the fact that I’ve never been to Salem. Go figure.
The story itself is much more thriller than PNR which I liked. Don’t get me wrong, I heart sex. But I like the more crime thriller aspect where you’re not reading in anticipation of a pumping sex scene all the time. It’s not about the constant heat between Devin and Rocky and how their loins pulse all the time. Sure, the attraction is mentioned but solving the murders was first and foremost. I really liked that.
There really isn’t a whole ton of character development going on but that doesn’t mean that the characters aren’t endearing. They’re normal people and I think that makes them even more so. No one’s destined to save the day, no one as all the power, although Rocky’s chivalry liked to border on domineering a little too much but he was a relatable character, if not incredibly deep. And neither was Devin, for that matter. They were just kind of playing along, playing with each other (moreso in the ‘let’s solve a murder’ interactive way than ‘let’s bang’ sort of way) and then problem finally solved. But the fact that they were rather static characters didn’t deter me from the story. Devin’s aunt was a hoot, being dead and all. And I think the element of creepy was hanging on pretty good too, what with the old ghost that kept popping up, all the bodies that kept turning up. There was a lot going on to distract me.
The writing was okay. Nothing spectacular or overly amazing. It was just okay. Graham set a good scene, gave me the proper amount of suspense and got me through the story in one piece. I liked what I read, though. It was to the point and without any pretense and I liked that with THE HEXED. Flowery writing wouldn’t fit with something like this. It would have drowned out the suspense and the edge of creepy I was reading. So you can keep that. I’ll keep this series.
I already have THE BETRAYED in my NetGalley account (the next Krewe book, it looks like), ready to read and, like I said, the first one in my pile. I think I found a new crack writer to add to my addiction.
I don’t impulse-buy books all that often (which is a damned dirty lie if you look at my convention/book festival purchases this year) but I was fartin...moreI don’t impulse-buy books all that often (which is a damned dirty lie if you look at my convention/book festival purchases this year) but I was farting around Barnes and Noble looking for some porn and this looked pretty decent. I like sex with angels in it, I like crazy chicks hunted by demons, I like butthurt, brooding anti-angels. Let’s do this.
It was a pretty powerful start, with the demon all up in Annabelle’s face marking her and whatnot. But, see, once she really started talking and her character started to develop, she really started to suck. On a personal level. Infantile would be a good word to describe her. I would be able to understand her stunted maturity if she’d gotten locked away at 12 or 14 but she was 18 and then forced to grow up really quickly thanks to what she was subjected to. She’d be adverse to physical contact and the concept of love thanks to her doctors, her former boyfriend and her brother.
Of course none of that was really explored. Sure it was mentioned a couple of times, usually in the midst of sex, completely ruining the scene. But her real psychological corruption was left off the page. Instead I got a character that I thought was actually more like fourteen in present day time until Laura told me to go read the first line of the book again. Nope. She’s more like 22. With insipid dialogue and heinously awkward interactions with Zacharel I kind of wanted to scratch my eyes out every time she was on the page. Which was nearly all the time. She was just so incredibly annoying in a bratty, nuisance child sort of way. It almost made her sex with Zarcharel squicky because she seemed to mentally stunted.
I actually didn’t mind Zacharel. He seemed like a solid, well-built character that was as cold as ice but with disastrous weaknesses. Until he started calling Annabelle sweetheart. Blech. Why not just be done with it and throw in buttercup while we’re at it? With how emotionally and physically awkward these two virgins were the “explosive” sex they had was just downright nonsensical. They should have been like a couple of teenagers trying to find the right hole.
And the sex scenes. How incredibly unsexy. Far too much talking. And it wasn’t sexy talk. It was butthurt talk about pasts and you don’t like me no I do like you you’re mine I’m yours I’m ugly you’re beautiful sweetheart Winged Wonder let’s go shopping. OMG shut up. Immediately. The descriptions did nothing for it either. There was one scene where they laved each other. Every inch. Laved, laved, laved. Like a dog in a water bowl, I’m thinking. Oh baby oh oh oh oh baby baby oh oh oh and oh oh oh baby baby baby. SHUT UP. If I have to read one more oh I’m going to drink heavily. These two characters, man . . .
The secondary characters had promise. I was rather interested in Thane’s debauchery and Koldo had some damage going on that intrigued me. I liked the world around them too. It set a good tone, it was incredibly vivid and still, the story was actually good. I liked reading the plot of it while trying to ignore Annabelle and sappy Zacharel (about as insufferable as sappy Eric Northman) as best I could. It was a good, solid ending that left me satisfied with finalizing the story. Everything rounded out and I was actually looking forward to it. I wanted resolution for the characters regardless of how little I connected with the writing.
The writing . . . it left quite a bit to be desired. Pun intended. Not my bag. My cousin just read a bunch of Showalter’s books and she had the same issues with writing style. Which leads me to believe that this isn’t an isolated incident. So unless someone I trust can recommend another book by the author I’ll probably pass. I can overlook one bad part of a book if the others work to boost it all up. But when there are too many bad parts (crappy character development/portrayal, bad sex scenes, awkward, incredulous dialogue) it tends to overshadow any good I may find.
I entered a drawing at Phoenix ComiCon last month and didn’t end up winning anything but as a consolation prize the author let us choose a title from...moreI entered a drawing at Phoenix ComiCon last month and didn’t end up winning anything but as a consolation prize the author let us choose a title from his works and this is what I chose. I already have ROGUE ANGEL on my TBR shelf and this one sounded pretty interesting too so why not try out a new series, right?
The POV is from two different people, one guy a reluctant addition to the Heretic’s group and the other is the Heretic himself. Both of them were rather . . . bland. The guy not Cade, whose name escapes me at the moment, doesn’t stand off the page very much and is pretty much okay with being shoved from one scenario to another. The plot moves him, really. Not much by the way of character either, pretty static, although his eyes do open up a little more by the end of it but that’s only because he’s had to deal with some crap that he’s never been up against before. But for true character growth, not much going on there.
As for Cade, he’s a rather classic anti-hero that doesn’t play by the rules but ends up getting the job done so he keeps himself useful. He has a LIFE-ALTERING PAIN that he carries with him that makes him bitter and stand-offish but also motivates him to kill bad guys and whatnot. This guy had zero character development or growth at all throughout the book. Not an ounce. Rather robotic and all business, he doesn’t emote very much except when his ghostly wife makes an appearance. Other than that he’s pretty cookie cutter and rather boring.
The plot itself wasn’t too shabby. I liked the concept of the Templars being this modern day underground organization fighting against supernatural beings. I like that Cade can access a mid-world between life and death. I like that some dude can call up revenants and use slaughtered fighters against his enemy by raising them from the dead. The references to Biblical artifacts is all rather Indiana Jones-ish and exciting and plays to my love of history. The book is certainly well-researched and it shows without being overwhelming or detracting from the story at all.
The downside is that setting development falls pretty short. There’s very little worldbuilding in favor of action fight scenes and it makes what would otherwise be a good plot exist in a mid-realm of ether. The world was fuzzy where it should have been vivid. And the thing is most of the story was set in knowable places, Connecticut, Ohio and New York. So that shouldn’t have been very hard. But even grounds, houses, any settings, really, were woefully neglected. The barest of descriptions were usually offered and I was left to fill in too many blanks, leaving the landscape bland and mostly colorless. I don’t need everything spelled out for me but give me more than just a standard ‘it was a mansion’ or ‘it was a guard shack.’ Fluff it up a little. Just a touch.
And I think that’s what really kept me from liking THE HERETIC all that much. The story was interesting enough but without a fully fleshed-out world it just felt incomplete. And because of that everything else fell in line with that blandness. The characters blended together (those who weren’t POV storytellers), the villain was run of the mill, the underlying subplot was vague at best. It wasn’t what I was hoping for.
I think I was drawn to this title because of it’s more creepy, thriller aspect. I’m not a fan of school-type books nor books about reality TV. What el...moreI think I was drawn to this title because of it’s more creepy, thriller aspect. I’m not a fan of school-type books nor books about reality TV. What else could it be, right? When the publisher approved it through NetGalley for me, I was bound to at least try it. I know I’m supposed to be more critical of what I accept for review books (according to myself) but my gut told me to go for this one. So I did.
At first I was rather . . . non-plussed about it. Rosie’s your rather average student from a less-than-stellar background just trying to make a better life for herself by trying to get through the voting period for this school. In order to make it past Fifty Cuts, your blip ranking (read: popularity ranking) needs to be, well, 50 or higher. Rosie starts off at 96. I don’t think I’d be spoiling anything to say that she ends up making the cut. It would have been a really short and unimpressive book otherwise.
But there really isn’t a whole lot going on that’s really sucking me in. It’s not-so-standard school life except Rosie keeps finding things out that she shouldn’t. But up until about two-thirds of the way through the book those things are blips on the radar. The school and work and a pseudo-love life carry more weight. The competitive aspect of the school is intriguing and even the characters share my disgust at how someone’s future is determined by anonymous internet votes. It kept me reading but I couldn’t help myself thinking when it was going to get good. I mean really good.
Well, patience pays off, my friend, because O’Brien starts going psychological at about the two-thirds mark. I mean she really starts effing with your head at that point and I just LOVE it when an author makes me question the reality of a book. Is the narrator unreliable? Is this all an elaborate trick? Or a cover-up? Is it a dream? All at once these questions start flying and I sat there going whoa . . . Which way is up? Rosie was adamant that what she was seeing was correct and despite everything she stuck to that. She wouldn’t waver. I liked her for that.
And then the end just comes in and blows my brains right out of my head because it went ahead and surprised the hell right out of me. I did not expect the book to go the route that it did and it more than made up for the slower plot the rest of the book had. The ending elevated Rosie to a new level of Awesome Character and it really gave me answers that finally gave reality to the book. There was no longer a question of what was going on.
The voice itself is really compelling and I think that’s what kept me reading in the beginning. The writing was nice and I like reading nice writing. But then O’Brien started playing with my head and I loved her just a little more for that. I think it takes real talent to be able to warp someone’s perception like that and mak them question what’s going on in their own heads, not only just with what’s in the book. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with in book two. And damn do I have a long time to wait for that.
I was just a little bit giddy when the publisher approved me for CURSES AND SMOKE through NetGalley even though it was a month beyond the publication...moreI was just a little bit giddy when the publisher approved me for CURSES AND SMOKE through NetGalley even though it was a month beyond the publication date. I love ancient Rome, I’m well-versed in the history of Pompeii, I’ve even been there, so I was super excited about this one. And I was absolutely NOT disappointed.
Probably the only down side to this book was that I just saw the movie, Pompeii, a couple weeks ago and I couldn’t stop myself from comparing the two. The book ended up being wonderful. The movie . . . is not. Just . . . not. Don’t waste your money on that one. Instead buy CURSES AND SMOKE. Much better love story, infinitely better written and rather heart-wrenching in an incredibly unexpected story of way.
From the second I started reading I was on board with the characters, the setting, the voice, everything. It’s written in such a way that it evokes the time it’s trying to portray. A bit more formal, a higher level of voice. But Shecter doesn’t overdo it, even when she swaps Tag’s slave POV to Lucia’s highborn POV. There isn’t any trying too hard or overly intellectual language going on. It’s realistic and I bought every second of it. I should go back to Tag’s POV for a second, though, to say that he and Lucia grew up together and that Tag is just as educated as Lucia. He’s a medicus (basically a healer/doctor), is proficient in Latin and Greek and had all the privileges Lucia did as a youth. He was lucky. So their voices didn’t really differ on an intellectual level but Tag maintained his intelligence even amongst the gladiators. There weren’t any slips and he wasn’t wearing two faces at all throughout the story. He was never trying to be something he wasn’t. He was just Tag.
Lucia’s situation was what kept bringing me back to the movie Pompeii because it’s similar; betrothed to an older man she doesn’t want to marry, falls in love with a slave and plans to run away with him (in the movie John Snuuuuhhh was a gladiator, but slave all around). But she was a much stronger character than the other chick whose name I can’t be bothered to remember. She was far more of a presence in her own story and did more than just get batted around from situation to situation. Lucia tried to maintain as much control as she possibly could within the confines of society and her rather dickhead father. And man, that guy was a dick until the very end. Unrelenting. Points for perseverance but he would have gotten farther in life on the wishes of goats for all his doings were worth.
Anyway, Lucia was a main character I could get behind, not just for her strength but for how honest of a character she was. She made stupid verbal slip-ups when talking with Tag indicative of her station and brought their love affair into stark reality a time or two. Most of the time she tries to see the good in people but she doesn’t ignore the evidence she’s being slapped in the face with. Except with her father. She’s a little more stubborn where he’s concerned but only just. Both she and Tag are weighed down by their places in life and neither can really understand the trials and tribulations of the other but they end up coming to a mutual understanding about it. Walk a mile in someone’s shoes and all of that.
Tag is optimistic about the situation but he’s also incredibly bitter. He knows things about Lucia’s life that even she doesn’t and even with that knowledge he resents her just a little bit. A healthy little bit for when she just doesn’t get some of his reasonings. He genuinely enjoys healing people and helping them but abhors the fact that he’s owned by someone, that he’s property. Yet that doesn’t affect the quality of his work. He knows when to shut his mouth and when to swallow his pride but even then sometimes it slips. These are both such tragic and flawed characters it’s difficult to not like them. Not that I actually tried to not like them. They clung in too hard and too fast for me to even consider that.
Shecter just nailed the setting. There was enough detail there to show that she definitely did her research but it wasn’t an overwhelming amount of information. It fit the story and I never felt anything was there for the sake of being there. I’ve been to Pompeii so visualizing the giant that is Vesuvius looming over the city isn’t difficult for me. It’s a daunting sight. (not the best quality photo, sorry) I’ve walked the streets and seen the homes and amphitheaters and forums. So it didn’t take much. But Shecter just brought it all to life and made it real in my head. I could visualize it when the city was still living (well, it’s still living today but it’s rebuilt around the ruins as opposed to a place like Rome where the past and present are far more integrated into each other). The sites, smells and tastes were just pulsing off of the page. The author really is an excellent historian.
The ending was the nail in the coffin for me. Just done. Just tear a piece of my soul off and set it on fire. I don’t want to give details because then it’ll just spoil it but the moment I realized what was going to happen, and that Shecter had told me what was going to happen the whole freakin’ time and I just didn’t realize it, I cried. I hate that. Crying. Especially since I was at work when it happened. I hate that too. Explaining things like that to co-workers.
CURSES AND SMOKE really needs to be read by as many people as possible for its adept storytelling, it’s precision with history and the far more sensical Romeo and Juliet love story (because Lucia and Tag have known each other most of their lives instead of three days). God, my heart hurts just thinking about it. I love finding books like this, that move me so. They’re rare but if you do find them, hold on to them as tight as you can. Needless to say I’ve added Shecter’s CLEOPATRA’S MOON to my reading list after this. With what she did with Pompeii, sweet baby Jesus, I can’t wait to see what she’s done with my love, Egypt.
I requested SPEAKEASY on NetGalley mainly due to the setting, because I like the 20s and the whole speakeasy/flapper girl era. While it’s not my first...moreI requested SPEAKEASY on NetGalley mainly due to the setting, because I like the 20s and the whole speakeasy/flapper girl era. While it’s not my first erotica read, it’s still within the first five so not much experience in that regard, plus it’s my first F/F erotica read so got a newbie on this one. Still, doesn’t mean I’m not going to try it out and it does’t mean I won’t know what does and doesn’t work for me.
It’s a short read; my copy was only about 150 pages but the writing is rather lackluster at best. I liked the notion of a female rum runner who runs a Speakeasy and a whore house and she’s holding her own with the “manliest” of men in Chicago at the time. Excellent concept. But the execution was rather dull and I found myself getting bored a lot.
The opening scene was a sex scene and it was pretty hot but by the third or fourth sex scene in the book following the same actions, the same speech and the same climax, it was old hat. It got to a point where I felt I had to suffer through another paint-by-numbers sex scene and I got to skimming just to get through it. Lick, lick, suck, suck, finger, finger, done. Every. Single. Time. Without flair, no less so it was repetitive, boring sex without any pizzazz. By the end of the book it almost felt like Williamz got bored with her own sex scenes and they became noticeably shorter as the story wrapped up.
Add into that the greater plot being little more than a recitation of events and the book was rough to get through. A 150 page book shouldn’t feel like work but man, it just kept going. There was very little detail in Williamz’s writing with next to no depth for the characters. I barely knew them by the end of the book and, frankly, that’s unacceptable. They shouldn’t be stick figures hopping from one scene to the next but they kind of were. The scene rotated between Helen’s office, an apartment and the speakeasies, whether it was hers or Franco’s. These people didn’t seem to travel outside of a three block radius and I felt that cabin fever as if it were me sweating it out.
If there was actual character development, a modicum of flair to the writing and a variety with the sex the book could have been enjoyable. As it stands it’s a chore to read, which is a feat for such a short title. But it’s such bare bones, very little having gone into setting the scene (a few slang words used repeatedly, a few references to clothing, cars and guns but nothing with substance), static characters and jerky, mechanical scene transitions there really wasn’t a lot here to enjoy. I wish there was because it had such potential to be something great. A female mob boss? Seriously, someone needs to get on that. But it fell so short in SPEAKEASY. It’s not worth it for the thin plot and it’s not worth it for the bland, repetitive sex either. Sure, the sex started off hot but keep serving me the same platter over and over again and I’m going to get sick of it pretty quickly.