A cute, mostly forgettable PNR. Being a self-published book (the copy I read, anyway), it was surprisingly more polished than I expected, though the a...moreA cute, mostly forgettable PNR. Being a self-published book (the copy I read, anyway), it was surprisingly more polished than I expected, though the author did seem to have a fetish for ellipses. Those three little dots were everywhere! To the point where they began to lose all meaning. There's very little plot beyond the "I'm a vampire! Oh no, now what do I do?" variety, with the obligatory stand-offish alpha male who the heroine desires and who clearly wants to be with the heroine, but remains stoically stand-offish due to Deep Dark Secrets, which apparently will be revealed in the next book. Which I rather hate. I don't like it when a single story is strung out over multiple books. That's okay for a subplot, but not for the main, driving plot, even a light and fluffy plot such as this one. There's some mystery regarding who made Anja (that's with the 'j' said like a 'y', so ya know) a vampire, but, again, nothing is resolved. I highly doubt I'll read the second (and probable third) book because it was a total fluke that my library even had this one. And, while Wake Me was cute, it just didn't hook me enough to want to find out how everything ends up.
That said, despite the flaws, Olsen has an engaging voice and while the modern references will horribly date the book a decade from now, those references are authentic and not just as a result of an author trying to sound knowledgeable and coming off like a complete idiot. Olsen has managed to create a roster of characters that are funny, engaging, and realistic, populating an often humorous and entertaining story. Wake Me is not the worst self-published book I've ever read and while it may not be the absolute best, it's certainly up there as one of the better quality of self-pubs. A nice little gem that I ran across by pure accident and am glad I gave it a chance.(less)
I hate to say it, but despite some flaws and occasionally wonky writing, Pettersson's second outing in the series is marginally better than the first....moreI hate to say it, but despite some flaws and occasionally wonky writing, Pettersson's second outing in the series is marginally better than the first.
I'll admit it, even I was rather taken aback by my urge to read this book when I wasn't all that enthused about the first one. Perhaps it's my insatiable curiosity: I had to know if Pettersson did a better job of things the second go 'round than she did in the first. Well, to that I have to say 'Eh.' Some things were improved, but some of the same issues I encountered in the first book popped up again in this book. Not to mention the mystery wasn't all that mysterious and anyone with half a brain could figure out the identity of the enigmatic woman who shows up in the narrative and is revealed early on to be the mastermind of the troubles in which Kit and Grif get embroiled. Yet, for all that, I still have a weird compulsion to read the next book when it comes out. I can't chalk it up to a “So bad it's good” compulsion, because the book is just good enough to ease out of that category, yet I can't call it a “Must read” compulsion either. My guess is because the second book is slightly better than the first book, by the time Pettersson gets to the sixth book in the series, it'll be so good my socks will be knocked off. Whatever the case, the series and the characters have sunk hooks into my psyche.
In The Lost, Kit is still the same incessantly positive, spunky, stubborn, foolhardy-disguised-as-brave, so-upbeat-you-want-to-beat-her-over-the-head-with-a-baseball-bat rockabilly chick we met in The Taken. However, this time around, her rockabilly schtick seems less of a veneer as it was in the first book (which led to the awesome and apt term Rockabilly Barbie. Sadly, I can't take credit for inventing that; instead my friend came up with it in her fabulous review). We're given a better explanation as to why Kit has gravitated towards this lifestyle and why she dresses the way she does and why her house is decorated the way it is, giving Kit more substance than what she had in The Taken. What hasn't changed is Kit's insistence on running straight into a dangerous situation, especially right after someone (usually Grif) tells her not to. I get that Pettersson is trying to show Kit as fearless, but there's fearless and then there's just plain stupid and lacking the basic sense of self-preservation. During the climax of the novel, Kit does this over and over, running into situations most people would look at and think, “Um, you know what? I like my skin just where it is. I think I'll call the authorities and let them handle it.” Frankly, it's a toss-up between this behavior and her insane chirpiness over which makes you want to punch her in the face more.
Grif is little better. Once again the now half human-half angel P.I. is obsessively hung up on his ex-wife Evie and with solving her (and, by extension, his) half-century-old murder. The only difference between this novel and the previous one is that in The Lost, Kit finally starts to get a bit more ticked off with Grif on the subject, especially when he keeps calling out Evie's name in his sleep (which finally makes her seem a bit human--after all, what woman would like having her lover call out another woman's name in his sleep?--instead of some doll programmed to be chipper and optimistic 24 hours a day). The thing is, though we're told over and over that he's a P.I., both in his former and present life, he seems to really suck at it. Whenever he runs into a roadblock in his Evie investigation, he basically gives up until the next lucky hint/tip/clue falls into his lap. He does nothing active to move the investigation forward. For example, Grif has been looking for a woman who might have information pertaining to Evie's murder; when he goes to his source, he discovers that the woman has remarried (several times) and has moved away. So he basically gives up that lead as dead. The stupid thing is, he knows the woman's name and he knows where she's moved. So, in this day and age of Google and other public information sources, not to mention the fact that Grif is sleeping with a reporter who has access to even more information and contacts, to just give up on a witness because she's moved away is just.... brainless. Worst. P.I. Ever.
The main thrust of the story revolves around the deaths of, let's say undesirable members of the population, from a new drug, krokodil, which hooks a user after one trip, but is made of such awful stuff that it actually eats the person alive from the inside so you start dying the moment you take it; however, if a user tries to stop, the withdrawal is so bad, you can also die from it. So you're pretty much damned if you do and damned if you don't with the drug. Again, I have to give props to Pettersson for coming up with yet another despicable plot as she did with The Taken. However, as I mentioned earlier, the mystery behind who introduced the krokodil and why isn't as convoluted as one would hope and is fairly easy to figure out. A secondary plot involves a fallen angel called Scratch, who is having a grand time seeking out those who find themselves Lost (hence the title, see?) and taking their souls. Of course, once Kit gets introduced to Scratch, she has to get all righteous and shake her fist at it with a “I'll fight you, you evil thing!” attitude; naturally, Scratch becomes enamored of Kit's purity and vows to corrupt her, so throughout the book, the two engage in a tug-of-war, with Grif standing on the sidelines, wringing his hands and telling Kit (futilely) not to engage with Scratch and, most importantly, don't let Scratch get his hands on Kit's tears, which contain all her emotional history along with her goodness. As you can probably guess, Kit ignores every single thing Grif says. And, of course, the third plot line is the one about Grif and Evie, which is basically more of the same from the first book, though it does lead to a denouement at the end in which Kit has to make a difficult choice about whether to stay with Grif (having to do with her being mortal and will age and die, and Grif isn't, so he'll have to stand around and watch her age and die). The climax of the book somehow manages to use all three plot threads to make for one big showdown between all the different participants involving a lot of action and a lot of blood.
In the end, there was just enough improved in this book from the first to keep me interested in the third book (dammit!).(less)
After finishing this, I realized I'm probably not the target audience for Shattered Souls. Yes, I'm of a certain age. Yes, I'm of the female sex. Two...moreAfter finishing this, I realized I'm probably not the target audience for Shattered Souls. Yes, I'm of a certain age. Yes, I'm of the female sex. Two things which might seem to be the only qualities necessary to be a member of the target audience for this particular book or even this author. I guess I just want more from a PNR than just a couple of supernatural elements and a lot of sex. Really, this is all my fault; I knew better going in, but I just couldn't help myself. I really should not read PNRs anymore. I like the paranormal parts, but the romance I can do without.
Okay, let's get to the nitty-gritty: the sex. I'm sorry, but when I read the sex scenes in this book, I could literally hear the cheesy “bow chicka wow wow” music, see the harsh lighting, and the jerky camera movements of a porn movie. The way Cait and Sam behaved during sex, the way they kept changing positions, it just didn't feel like two real people having real sex. It was artificial and thus not sexy at all. Plus, whenever Cait got wet, it either dripped down her thighs or was so plentiful that Sam could detect it through her jeans. Now, thanks to some research, I realize that some woman suffer from excessive lubrication. However, it's actually not something that's desirable: it's distracting, it's messy (and, yes, I know sex can be messy, but this is like can-only-have-sex-in-the-bathtub messy), and the excess fluid actually reduces pleasure for both parties in that women lose out on vaginal stimulation and men lose out on that “tight” sensation. Most women actually seek medical help for this problem. Being so wet it runs down your legs like urine is not desirable and it's far from sexy. You might think this is an absurd or even gross point to bring up, but when I was reading, I was utterly distracted when I came across mention of this condition in Cait (and it comes up three times, if I remember correctly). It brought me right out of the story. So not only were the sex scenes not sexy and occasionally perturbing, they were long. I mean, dragging on to the point that I ended up flipping past them. One scene required nine and a half pages! The other three scenes were nearly as long. Oy. And for such a short book, the fact that there are four long sex scenes in it, taking up at least a quarter of the story, doesn't bode well for a deep, involved, or engaging plot. Which it wasn't.
Honestly, I'm not really sure what the whole point of the book was. There's some stuff about demons and magic, and the prerequisite family drama involving secrets and betrayal--frankly, all fairly standard stuff for this genre with no unique twist or take on the subject. Basically, it came across as just an excuse to string together the sex scenes, like those thin plots they give to porno movies so people can feel less guilty about watching them because, hey, it's more than just sex, there's a real story here! Thin, flimsy, and not at all compelling, the story is pretty lackluster. I didn't feel any real sense of danger, mystery, or excitement while I was reading the book and even when the action ramped up or the characters were supposedly in danger, I never once felt a corresponding increase in my pulse or interest level, or sensed that the characters were in any real peril.
Oh, and that whole 'We're divorced, but we both are still in love with each other, and we still have hot monkey sex, and, oh boy, we're getting back together at the end of the book to live happily ever after!' trope is so freaking tiresome! Is it like some kind of law that if you have a male and female protagonist, you have to use this template?
You know, if I had to sum up Shattered Souls in one word, the one that keeps coming to mind is “beige.” Other possibilities are “generic,” “lightweight,” and “forgettable,” all of which perfectly describe the overriding sensation I get whenever I go back over the book in my memory: absolutely nothing stands out. Not the characters, not the story, not even the setting. It all blends together into one bland blur.(less)
*e-ARC graciously provided to me by the folks over at NetGalley*
I cannot believe how much I adore Kristen Callihan's Darkest London series and its lat...more*e-ARC graciously provided to me by the folks over at NetGalley*
I cannot believe how much I adore Kristen Callihan's Darkest London series and its latest entry, Moonglow. No, really, I can't. Because, you see, I don't particularly care for the PNR sub-genre, not because of the paranormal elements--actually those are what draw me. It's because, for the most part, I loathe, detest, and despise romance novels. Those romances which I do happen to read, written by authors I know and trust not to become too ridiculous, are picked out because the other story elements are stronger, as in a thriller which has some romance (such as those by Iris Johansen or Tess Gerritsen); otherwise, I avoid the genre like the plague. The only time I've ever really read "straight" romance was when I was younger, when I was a bit more idealistic and ready to believe in "twue wuv": In my mid-teens, I read a couple of titles by Jude Devereaux (A Knight in Shining Armor is the one I really remember), as well as Jewels by Danielle Steel, the one and only Steele title I've read. Currently the only romance novels I actively seek out and enjoy are contained in the Eve Dallas series written by Nora Roberts (as J.D. Robb). And even with those novels, as much as I like them, it's the futuristic setting and mystery/thriller nature of the stories which drives me to read them, not the romance between Eve and Roarke. Nowadays, when I do read a romance novel, whatever the title or author, when things get hot, I skip over the panting, writhing, and moaning so I can get back to the story all the panting, writhing, and moaning has interrupted.
See, the problem I have with the Romance genre is the unreasonable expectations the novels engender. The women in these novels, all of them wish fulfillment avatars for the author, are always perfect: Short or tall, willowy or curvaceous, every single romantic female lead has a perfect face, perfect breasts, a perfectly formed body, giving the impression that only the beautiful find true love, deserve true love, are worthy of true love. The plain, the fat, the imperfectly endowed, they don't exist, so therefore they aren't aren't worthy of being loved. And it's just as bad for the men. All the men are walking Adonises: Perfectly sculpted abs, wide shoulders and narrow hips, with Goldilocks muscles (not too big, not too small, but just right), these guys are always endowed with the ideal combination of savagery and sensitivity, not to mention enormous cocks. They may have their faults, but nothing so disagreeable or disturbing as to derail the romantic buildup; just something small enough for the woman to “fix” with the power of her love (which is just another myth perpetuated by the genre: Women, you cannot “fix” men, no matter how hard you try or how much you love them or how loudly you nag. That's the man you fell in love with, warts and all; if you can't accept that, walk away). It's enough to give a man, should he dare to be seen reading a romance novel, a complex. Frankly, the whole genre feeds into the obsession for beauty and perfection, just as guilty for female self-image dysfunction as beauty magazines and ad campaigns. Not to mention the perpetuation of the whole “Happily Ever After” myth, the idea that love is perfect and once you fall in love, all your troubles are over and marriage will only enhance this rosy state of being. There's never any mention of petty disagreements, marital spats, the sensation of coming to hate all those little quirks and habits which once you found cute but now gnaw at you until you snap at your partner for every little thing he or she does. Yup, you guessed it, I'm a cynic. So the idea of perfection--perfect people, perfect love, perfect sex--presented in the Romance genre makes me ill. That's why I skip over the sex scenes, not because I'm a prude, but because if I want to experience so much unrealistic sex, I might as well go watch some porn.
Not so with Kristen Callihan's sex scenes. True, they still feature perfect people in perfect bodies, yet the scenes are hotter because there's a sense of connection, of the occasional awkwardness, of two people exploring each other, with words, with touch, with every sense in their bodies. Not to mention a real sense of affection, even of humor and, in the case of carriage scene with Daisy and Ian in Moonglow, palpable frustration. It's a depth of reality which seems to be missing from other romance novels and which makes for some pulse-poundingly, seat-squirmingly hot scenes. Then again, maybe it's just that the sex, as it's written, is so bloody hot, it was easy for me to overlook such things as “...her pillowed bottom lip and the taste of her, like sweet strawberries and dark chocolate” and “...she traced a path of kisses along his jaw... He was better than caramels, richer and saltier.” Do people really taste like candy?
Okay, so now that the important stuff is out of the way, let's get down to the story. This is the second book in Callihan's series and features Daisy, sister to Miranda, the heroine of book number one, Firelight. Daisy, widowed just over a year ago, is just coming out of her mourning period, though there was no love lost between her and her loathsome husband, Sir Craigmore, and his death came as an immense relief. Daisy is, well, let's just say she's a lusty lass and knows the pleasures which can be found in a little flesh-on-flesh romping. But just as she's spreading the wings of her new-found freedom, in the form of a social outing and a bit of 'hide the sausage' in the back garden, Daisy finds herself face to face with a hideous beast who attacks her. She gets tossed aside in the mayhem and the creature begins to munch on the bodies of her erstwhile lover and the hostess of the soiree Daisy ducked out on, Alexis, another recently widowed young lady and Daisy's friend. Oddly, at the time of her death, Alexis is wearing the exact same perfume as Daisy; in fact, it's Daisy's signature scent, meant to be worn by no one else. As she follows this clue, helped, hindered, and distracted by the infuriating Lord Ian Ranulf, Marquis of Northrup, she discovers not only is her life in danger, so is her heart as she defends it from the persistent attentions of Ian.
Now, we all remember Ian from Firelight, right? He was the shit who kept coming between Miranda and Archer, so much so that many readers assumed he was the villain of the story. Here, though, we see that he's much more complicated than what we saw of him in the first book, and as his story unspools and the reasons for his previous behavior come to light in Moonglow, we discover the vulnerability beneath his swaggering facade. The heat and the chemistry between Daisy and Ian, as the two discover each other in both physical and psychological ways, is immediate, especially of the physical kind. (Hoo boy, is it hot!) However, as the story progresses, the two find each other connecting on a deeper level as their long-held secrets come out to one another. The requisite third act forced-separation* comes a bit later than normal in romance novels, setting the reader up to believe that it might not occur, that for once the two romantic leads will solve the greater exterior problem affecting them without an interior problem causing a rift between them. Yet when the two do separate, once I understood the solution Callihan was setting up which would bring them back together, I was actually happy as the whole thing solved a larger issue plaguing Daisy and Ian's relationship, paving the way for their 'riding off into the sunset as they lived happily ever after' moment.
The book develops the mythology introduced in Firelight, not only by adding to the roster of supernatural creatures (the 'Ghost in the Machine' creature is brilliant--creative and ooky. Yes, that's a legitimate descriptor), but by making us aware of a sort-of supernatural police force: the Society for the Suppression of Supernaturals. The S.O.S., as it's known, is responsible for keeping the general public unaware of the activities and the presence of creatures which have crept, climbed, and clawed their way out of myth and folklore. As to the story, it's a worthy successor to Firelight and certainly doesn't suffer from the "second book slump": it's thrilling, mysterious, comedic, heartfelt, passionate, and very, very entertaining. The prose moves along at a steady clip, never dragging or becoming dull. From the very first book, Callihan has managed to avoid the dreaded info dump syndrome, giving her readers all the information necessary to keep them interested and engaged in the story without dumping great gouts of exposition on them. Her dialogue is lively and sparkling, her descriptions vivid, and while I'm sure there are a few minor faults in the novel, they're undetectable in the greater excellence of her work. (At least to me they were.)
As an added bonus, the novel lays the groundwork for the third (and, I would presume, last, even though the thought saddens me) book of the series, starring the eldest sister, Poppy. Now, after I finished reading Firelight and heard about Moonglow, I figured there would be a third book; makes sense after all--three sisters, three books. But what stumped me was how that could be. After all, romance novels are all about two unattached persons finding and wooing each other. Yet Poppy's been happily married to the man of her dreams since the very beginning of the series--how could she star in her own romance novel? Well, Callihan settles the issue with events which occur in the last half of Moonglow and I can't wait to see how she pulls things together for Poppy and her Detective Inspector Winston Lane.
All in all, I thoroughly recommend this series and personally I can't wait for Winterblaze.
*As outlined in the following script: Boy meets girl, boy saves girl from some difficult yet minor trouble, boy and girl fall in love and vow to be with each other forever, girl suddenly finds some reason not to be with boy through some fault or doubt of the boy's character, girl leaves boy in heartbreaking manner, boy mourns then gets angry over girl's leaving, girl finds herself in trouble, boy stiffens backbone and discards pride to rescue girl, girl realizes depth of her feelings for boy and boy's depth of feelings for girl, boy and girl head off into the sunset to live happily ever after.
I met Sara King about four (or was it five?) years ago while I was participating on writing.com. I started reading the story she'd posted there entitl...moreI met Sara King about four (or was it five?) years ago while I was participating on writing.com. I started reading the story she'd posted there entitled "Outer Bounds," or should I say part of a novel because it simply consisted of the first few chapters she'd been working on. I was immediately hooked, so much so that I almost cried when I reached the end of what she'd posted. When I discovered more about her, I was absolutely astonished that she hadn't been picked up by a big-time publisher, even with the help of a go-getter agent. After all, it only takes a brief glance at any of her works to see that this lady has an untamed imagination and an unstoppable talent.
That said, this book is one hot mess. Don't get me wrong, it was fun to read. (And rather spooky from my end: The heroine is 6'4" tall [if I'm remembering correctly] and complains about how men her height seem to have a genetic disposition to prefer women about a foot shorter than they, leaving her out in the cold and having to deal with the freaks who only like her because they can dress her up in leather and be their 'Amazon woman'. I'm 6'1" and have often complained about the same issue. Not to mention I've literally had people cling to the other side of a hallway I'm walking down, in fear, I guess, of me squishing them to death. I seriously thought about growling out "Fee, Fie, Fo, Fum" at them. But I digress...) Blaze's inner dialogue concerning her dating issues and other problems can be quite hilarious; the description of Jack facing the humiliation of his paralyzed legs is heart-wrenching; and the parts where the bad guys are being bad made my butt pucker with the utter 'badness' of the villains. However, the story, taken as a whole, is all over the place. You can tell King and company really tried with the editing (since she doesn't have access to a professional editor, she relied on the help of several friends and first readers), but the book desperately needs that professional polish and tightness. The so-called banter between Jack and Blaze often became infantile and drawn-out. Their continual arguments and insults, with the occasional "Um, I like you" inserted just to let the reader know that the two of them were engaged in some sexy banter designed to build up tension, failed as such because they just went on for too long. Even the sex scene, once the two finally worked their issues out and got together, went on way too long. They'd start getting hot and heavy, then they'd stop to talk right in the middle of the action, then get back to it. Frankly, it took all the heat out of it. The action jumps around, going from a near-fatal encounter in which either Blaze or Jack is unconscious and ready to die, to the description of Blaze or Jack or both going about their duties on the lodge grounds as if nothing had happened. Stuff gets built up and then we pause, then it starts up again and then we pause again, like going up a hill and down a hill and up a hill and down a hill, instead of a nice steady climb to the final scene: There's no real coherency. And once the climax is reached, the book continues on for another good while, describing how things get back to normal at the Sleeping Lady lodge, with Blaze and Jack turning it into a scare-fest for geeks and thrill-seekers. While that's all well and good (and personally, I like a bit of a wrap-up once the villain(s) has been taken care of and all personal issues between lovers have been cleared up), it just seems like a rather flat way to end the book. Coming down from the high of the climax is fine, but with this, we've come down and started to fall asleep once the book finally ends.
Basically what we've got here is a good set of bones that desperately needs the flesh rearranged to make it more appealing. After all, King has managed to combine the Alaskan Bush, wereverines, werewolves, a phoenix in human form, and other assorted supernatural and mythical beasties into one novel and, aside from a few bumps, makes it work. That's no small feat. Which is why, at the end of the day, I gave this book 4 stars. It may need some serious reworking to make it flow better, but I was still enthralled and entertained by what I read, enough to make me eager to start book two. And for anyone who's read enough of my reviews, you'll know that I am rarely eager (in fact, before now I'd say never eager) to read a second book in a series if the first book has as many editing errors as Alaskan Fire. There's a good story here if you're willing and have the patience to dig it out.(less)
A cute, mostly forgettable PNR. While the story at the book's heart, the one actually driving the plot, is as dark and twisted as they come, the rest...moreA cute, mostly forgettable PNR. While the story at the book's heart, the one actually driving the plot, is as dark and twisted as they come, the rest of the book is fairly prosaic. There's the spunky heroine, Katherine "Kit" Craig, this time dressed up as an "I defy you to pigeonhole me" rockabilly Lois Lane, which, I'll grant you, is an interesting twist--I haven't seen too many rockabilly dolls in modern fiction. Then there's the deep and brooding hero, Griffin Shaw, with the requisite dark past, only this particular incarnation of the trope is a not-quite-fallen, more-like-demoted angel, who died in 1960 and has enough baggage to fill one of those brass hotel trolleys. Also shuffling in and out of the story are the other contract players whom we never quite learn much about, but are necessary to fill out the plot: the schmuck of an ex-husband (who is appropriately schmuck-like and, naturally, completely different to Kit's lifestyle, so much so it makes one wonder why the author had Kit married to him in the first place, other than to lay the groundwork for a future dramatic scene); the protective girlfriend (who can also create Kit's killer Bettie Page 'do); and the supportive cop friend (who we have to take on faith as being trustworthy as we're never really introduced to him beyond a superficial intro). Basically, nothing really original, except maybe for the Vegas location and the kitschy retro backdrops.
While I must say I didn't find Kit quite as annoying as many other PNR heroines, I don't feel as though I came away from the novel knowing who she is, what drives her, what's really underneath that rockabilly exterior. (In fact, the most annoying thing I ran into was everyone else's insistence on calling her 'Kitten' or 'Kitty-Cat'. How cute. And how so completely unoriginal.) Griffin Shaw, the angel/P.I., complains constantly about Kit's incessant talking, the fact that she's too cheerful, too stubborn, flighty, contradictory, cavalier, yadda yadda yadda, but we never learn why she's any of those things, most especially when it comes to her indefatigably upbeat nature, or if those mannerisms are merely a cover for deeper issues. (We kind of get a hint that it's the latter, but that hint is never fully explored. Perhaps Pettersson is leaving that for later books.) When it came to the rockabilly part, you can tell Pettersson is fascinated by the phenomenon and respects those who belong to that particular subculture, but it never felt fully integrated into Kit's character. At times, it felt as though she was almost too "kooky" or, as one character called her, "weird," as though she was trying to hard to be insouciant and one-of-a-kind. She wore the clothes, she talked the talk and walked the walk, but it still felt a bit like a little girl playing dress-up. Basically, she seemed...unfinished.
Griffin Shaw is little better, as his main motivation is vengeance. His wife, Evie, was murdered in front of him, just before his own life was taken, and he was set up as the fall guy by whomever committed the murder. Once he returned as a Guardian (an angel responsible for ushering newly departed souls to the Everlast--which is just about the worst name for an afterlife, though highly appropriate for the book's Vegas setting, as every time I saw it mentioned, I thought of boxing equipment), he made it his mission to somehow find out who killed his beloved Evie. Or at least never stop thinking about her and her death. And believe me, for most of the first part of the book, he never does. Evie this and Evie that. It gets a bit tiresome after a while because you began to believe his memories of perfect Evie and their perfect, wedded bliss have become enhanced by the rose-tinted glasses of memory and Griffin's driving need for closure. However, it does make his gradual realization of his feelings for Kit feel a bit more realistic, even if I did want to hit Griffin over the noggin to speed up the process. For all the drama/trauma driving him, there's little more to Griffin's personality. He always acted the complete gentleman and from his actions it was obvious he had a strong moral center, but, like Kit, you never really knew what, if anything, was going on underneath that polite exterior. Once again, the word 'unfinished' comes to mind.
I think the most disappointing feature of the novel is the lack of spark. I'm not talking about romantic chemistry, which you can see between Griffin and Kit. No, I'm talking about a different kind of spark. After all, I figured with a rockabilly heroine and an authentically cool cat angel/P.I. there'd be some snappy dialogue, along the lines of the Howard Hawks/Rosalind Russell/Cary Grant type you see in His Girl Friday (the best movie of all time for that kind of one-liner repartee). Instead, the dialogue was pretty flat and occasionally awkward or forced. The book tries to strike a balance between funny and dramatic, yet usually only achieves jarring results when a scene can't decide which way it wants to lean. It wants to be noir, but can't achieve the necessary hard-boiled snappiness required to be good noir; it wants to be a romantic comedy, but can't achieve the light-hearted snappiness required to be a good romantic comedy. So it ends up being a slightly confused mishmash of all of the above.
About the only thing that makes this novel stand out is the plot line, which is dark, diabolical, and completely reprehensible. It makes you wonder if Pettersson has some issues with men or perhaps just Mormons and this is how she's working them out. While it may not be utterly believable, the plot did make me want to keep reading, just to see the villain get his well-deserved and inevitable comeuppance. However, a dark and disturbing story line does not a good PNR/urban fantasy make; it needs all the other parts to make it whole, which once again brings me to that word 'unfinished'. The book felt as though it was missing that one key ingredient which would've brought the whole mess together and made it into something spectacular.
I'm not sure I'm invested enough in either the premise or the characters to continue reading the series, mainly due to the disappointing execution of the tale. There are other authors out there who can do twisted suspense stories even better and without all the angel falderal (which is the aspect of the novel which really got on my nerves. Yes, yes, before ya'll start foaming at the mouth, I knew the book involved angels and I knew there would be some God talk, but it still seemed a bit heavy-handed at times). I don't know why angels are the new big thing lately in the PNR genre, but I think I'll stay away. They're really not my cup o' tea. And as far as Pettersson, I have the first novel of her Zodiac series sitting in one my bookshelves; I'm still interested in reading it, but I think I'll go into it a bit more reservedly than I would've before reading The Taken.(less)
I know, this is a paranormal romance and I liked it. What is the world coming to? Well, first off, this is a retelling (albeit a loose one) o...more4.5 stars
I know, this is a paranormal romance and I liked it. What is the world coming to? Well, first off, this is a retelling (albeit a loose one) of the classic Beauty and the Beast fairytale and I love a good retelling when I get my hands on one. Secondly, I'm a sucker for any kind of alternate Victorian novel. I can't tell you why, just that I am.
One thing to know, the blurb on the back of the book is slightly misleading. Miranda, the beautiful (natch) leading lady, is forced to wed the mysterious and infamous Lord Archer in order to redeem her family's name and fortune. Well, Miranda, her temperament matching her fiery red hair, is feisty and fully capable of defending herself and certainly not one to be "forced" to do anything she doesn't want. For once, I didn't find myself screeching in annoyance over a empty-headed ninny of a female protagonist. Miranda's got spirit and intelligence; she's a protagonist whom I can actually admire. Now we come to Archer. Tall, dark, and brooding, in the best possible way. And masked. And sensual as hell. Yummy!
Of course, there's some intrigue and both Miranda and Archer have deep, dark secrets, which neither of them is willing to divulge to the other, creating the sexual-tension-fueled misunderstanding between them which drives most of the action for the first half or so of the novel. And while that kind of cliched misunderstanding gets rather irritating (you just want to knock their heads together and makethemtalk), once it gets cleared up and they start working together, they work so well as a pair, it's worth any amount of annoyance. Their sparring, and the sparks that often (literally) fly, reminds me of another fun literary couple, Amelia Peabody and her husband Emerson. There's something about a large, bellowing man, who is really a soft, squishy marshmallow inside, which is just unbelievably sexy. Add in a woman who's not afraid to stand up to his thunderings, who'll stand nose to nose (even if she has to pull over a step-stool to do so) and poke the bear, as it were, and you've got one immensely readable, entertaining, compelling story.
There was only one big quibble I had with the story and that was the fact that Miranda's "talent," her ability to create fire, is never fully explained, as far as where the ability came from. Was she cursed as a child? Were her parents cursed? Was there some sort of magical object causing the ability? I would've liked to have had a deeper backstory on Miranda.
That said, I could barely put this book down, reading it in only two days which, considering how my powers of concentration have been lately, is an amazing feat. I'm eagerly looking forward to the sequel and because I got this book from the library, I'm seriously contemplating buying it and adding it to my permanent "keeper" shelf.(less)
It seems to follow a rule: The second book in a trilogy is invariably the weakest link, usually there only to bridge the story between the first and t...moreIt seems to follow a rule: The second book in a trilogy is invariably the weakest link, usually there only to bridge the story between the first and third books. I can't say this was 100% true for A Gathering of Gargoyles but I will say, if not the story, then the characters were weaker, especially Aeriel. I don't know what happened, but somehow she became dumber during the book. Despite numerous hints, whether about something as trivial as the cloak she wore or about something as important as her true identity, she had to be beaten upside the head with a sledgehammer before any of these concepts got through to her. And once they did, she had to act in the predictable dumb-heroine manner: “What are you saying? Are you saying what I think you're saying? You're crazy!” Despite that annoyance, the story continued its theme of intertwining various elements from folklore and fairytales, as well as a deeper exploration into the sci-fi background of Aeriel's world, into a lyrical story of transformation, rebirth, and empowerment.(less)
When I started reading The Darkangel, I wasn't sure I would like it. After all, it was told in such a melodramatic way as to read like the fantasy of...moreWhen I started reading The Darkangel, I wasn't sure I would like it. After all, it was told in such a melodramatic way as to read like the fantasy of a teenage girl. When I found out, however, that the book was published when the writer, Meredith Ann Pierce, was only 23, I understood a little bit better why I was getting that impression.
Though the book has its flaws, the story soon swept me up into in heady mix of folkloric and fairytale elements, set within a sci-fi framework of a planet colonized by a people called the Ancients many moons ago. I won't go into the details of a synopsis—others before me have done that, and quite well—but I will say that this is one of the most unique books I've read, weaving together disparate and seemingly incompatible story ingredients into a compelling dark fantasy. I'm just a bit disappointed that I came late to the party and didn't discover this series until now.(less)
I like Lucy Valentine, I actually like her. Sure, she's harebrained, but if she weren't, there wouldn't be a story. However, she's also more down-to-e...moreI like Lucy Valentine, I actually like her. Sure, she's harebrained, but if she weren't, there wouldn't be a story. However, she's also more down-to-earth, more fully developed, more real than most female protagonists in the paranormal romance/cozy mystery genre.
The book had a bit of a rocky start; I think a more judicious hand in the editing department would have benefitted the book greatly as Webber has a tendency to repeat names or information unnecessarily, which created a somewhat distracting reading environment. However, the actual writing was well done, and the action and pacing kept me involved with the story and made me care about the characters. Speaking of which, they, like Lucy, were well-rounded and real; it wasn't a case of having cookie-cutter supporting roles sprinkled around the place, only there to make the main characters look good. Instead, they each had their own personality and drive, and the requisite "quirky" character, Lucy's grandmother, Dovie, was unique enough to make you laugh yet not so much that she became a caricature. I think the thing I liked most about the book was that it was an actual romance. Not "romance," as the word is used nowadays, where the woman leaps into the man's bed and half the book is devoted to bedroom gymnastics, heavy breathing and cries of passion. In Truly, Madly we get an actual romance: tentative touches, sidelong glances, exploratory kisses, desires that yearn to do more than kiss yet restrain themselves. Lucy and Sean learn about each other's character and personality through the course of the story; they feel lust and passion for each other, but manage to keep their pants zipped regardless. And even though Lucy tried to keep her feelings for Sean under control, it wasn't because she thought herself undesirable (as is the case in so many romance novels these days), but because she thought he was in a relationship and therefore unattainable. Quite refreshing.
As for the mystery at the heart of the story, while it wasn't as complex or convoluted as those in straight mystery novels, it still presented enough of a twist at the climax of the book to create an "Oh!" moment. All in all, I throughly enjoyed this book and eagerly look forward to further adventures with Lucy Valentine.(less)
This will probably sound self-serving, but I think the main reason I enjoyed Tempest Rising so much is because Nicole Peeler's writing "voice" is very...moreThis will probably sound self-serving, but I think the main reason I enjoyed Tempest Rising so much is because Nicole Peeler's writing "voice" is very similar to my own: the snarky asides, the goofball attitude, the first-person narrative complete with inner monologues and conversations (and arguments)... it's all there. Reading her book is most likely the closest I, or anyone else, will come to seeing my words in print.
However, I'm supposed to be speaking of this book (after all, that is the purpose of a review) and I must say it's a refreshingly quirky entree into the jam-packed Paranormal genre. Jane True is a slightly odd outcast in the small town of Rockabill, Maine. She's laden with guilt over a childhood tragedy and thus falls easily into the role of town pariah. Her family history doesn't help either, nor does the fact she likes to swim in the ocean... in the dead of winter... right next to the famous Old Sow whirlpool. This is Jane's life, until one nightly swim changes everything for her. The discovery of a body leapfrogs her into the world of the supernatural and into the arms of Ryu, a handsome and dead-sexy vampire. Perhaps Jane doesn't handle all her adventures in this new and dangerous world with grace and dignity, but humor and a smart-ass attitude works out just fine for her. Not to mention a healthy dose of reawakened libido. I'm not saying there aren't moments where Jane's guilt and self-pity don't get annoying, but I will say that I wanted to shake and/or smack her less often than I have with other female leads. The peripheral characters of the story are fairly well fleshed out (especially Grizelda, one of Jane's close friends; she's quite flashy with her flesh) and the potential for a deeper relationship between Jane and Anyan is quite tantalizing.
Nicole Peeler's writing is crisp, funny, and idiosyncratic, with many laugh (or snort) out loud moments. While the plot is a bit, not necessarily thin, but perhaps meandering, it still leads up to quite an exciting finale and, frankly, the ride is so much fun, one doesn't mind taking the scenic route to get there. I really hate to compare books to one another, but if you enjoy the Sookie Stackhouse series or Kim Harrison's novels featuring Rachel Morgan, you'll get a kick out of Tempest Rising. 4.5 stars.
Addendum: Many reveiwers have commented on Ryu's lack of depth as a character; 'cardboard cut-out' is a common phrase. It's true, we don't get a sense of who Ryu really is, what drives him, what his history is. Perhaps he is a bit bland. Frankly, I didn't see that. I did, however, see a man who is nice and courteous, character traits which are unusual in romantic leads. Maybe it's because Ryu wasn't a bad boy, a brooding, mysterious, cypher of a man, that the appellation of bland was applied to him. Yet his niceness doesn't negate the possibility of him having a past, even a tormented one. This is a purely personal observation, but I'd rather have a heroine fall for a nice guy who may still have a dark history rather than another overdone Gothic "hero."(less)
I'm not exactly sure what star rating to give to this book; three stars seems at once too generous and not generous enough. Perhaps it would help to s...moreI'm not exactly sure what star rating to give to this book; three stars seems at once too generous and not generous enough. Perhaps it would help to simplify and break my review down into what I like and what I don't like about the book. What I Like: The gothic spin on a traditional Victorian London setting. The dark, gloomy and terrifying atmosphere of classic gothic storytelling fits perfectly with this book, whose story takes place in the year 1888, the year of Jack the Ripper. I also liked the interpretation of the ancient tale of Persephone and her abduction by Hades, which forms the backbone of the book's storyline. What I Don't Like: The author's repeated use of 'regal' and 'noble' to describe the appearance of Professor Alexi Rychman. 'Regal brow', 'noble face', 'regal this', 'noble that', ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Enough already, we get it, he's a handsome dude! I know Ms. Hieber is emulating the traditional gothic guidelines in describing her hero, but one or two 'nobles' or 'regals', combined with the futher descriptions of the character swooping, stalking, pacing and prowling, is quite enough for us to understand he is the hero, in all his brooding, mysterious, tormented, waiting-to-be-saved-by-his-one-true-love glory. Ease up on the descriptors and move on! I also quite dislike the book's subject, Miss Percy Parker herself. She has been raised in a convent, where modesty and self-effacement is all that, but her mewling, whining, whimpering, cowering, cringing, apologetic, servile attitude is so far beyond modesty, it creeps into the sado-masochistic realm ("please, hurt me, for I deserve no better"). Yeesh! Annoyance is not a strong enough word to describe the feeling her behavior engenders in me. We, as readers, are given to understand that the lack of self-confidence in Percy comes from her unique appearance when instead she is merely falling prey to the tired cliche of a Beautiful Heroine Unaware of Her Beauty. Her continual assumption that her snow-white hair, milk-pale skin, and near-colorless eyes brings nothing but revulsion to people grates on the nerves and, frankly, made me want to smack her. I know the Victorian era was several decades before the "Let Your Freak Flag Fly" movement was popular, but, still... Woman up and grow a backbone already! When she finally does grow a backbone, it comes so late in the tale and it's such a half-hearted attempt at confidence that it doesn't seem worth the effort. Lastly, the density of the other characters as regards to Percy and her role in the story was so frustrating, I came close to throwing the book at the wall. Despite many clues, one of which the equivalent of a ginormous neon sign, as to Percy's importance, the characters' heads remained firmly up their arses. Ostensibly, this was to create a dramatic denouement at the finale of the book, but their behavior was so unbelievable that instead of a gasp of surprise and empathy at the reveal, I blurted out "Well, duh! That's what happens when you have your heads up your butts." It was a ham-handed approach to creating dramatic tension. However, despite all these failings, I felt a strange (strangely beautiful?) compulsion to keep turning the page. It was the kind one feels when watching a train wreck, the horrified fascination which comes when one knows something will end badly but has to watch anyway.(less)
Cute book, and an inviting start to the series; it doesn't take itself too seriously, it's steamy enough to raise one's temperature, but not enough to...moreCute book, and an inviting start to the series; it doesn't take itself too seriously, it's steamy enough to raise one's temperature, but not enough to cross the boundary into pornography, and the swearing is kept to a non-distracting minimum. (I don't mind the F-bomb, but it makes me wonder, when authors use it almost as often as the word 'the', if those authors are trying to compensate for something--either a deficient story or a deficient vocabulary.) Sure, there are some moments of idiocy where the main characters are concerned (the vamps know who's hunting them and his modus operandi, but when the hunter walks into Glory's shop and whips out his hunting tools, not one of the vamps recognizes him--yeah, that makes sense), but the stupidity never reaches throw-it-across-the-room level. The author has taken the well-trodden path of vampirism and added a new twist by allowing some of her vampires to have curves, creating an image at odd with the convential portrayal of a female vampire as slender, willowy, or even downright emaciated. It makes for an entertaining, zippy, sometimes annoying and occasionally funny novel.(less)