This book is so astoundingly misogynistic it actually takes my breath away. Every major female character is unmitigatedly awful, and the author handle...moreThis book is so astoundingly misogynistic it actually takes my breath away. Every major female character is unmitigatedly awful, and the author handles their complex and problematic situations with all the finesse of a claw hammer. Gabi, Sandy, Amy, Mac's mother-- they're all terrible, and when they're not being terrible, they're having weepy epiphanies about how they should reform their entire lives and ways of thinking because a man told them to. The first confrontation between Gabi and Sam was the most hideous thing I've read in a long time. (view spoiler)[He blames her for making him cheat on her while she was pregnant because she wouldn't cook him meals and put out. And the reader is supposed to side with him! (hide spoiler)] These themes were obvious in the first book, and I know the author was called out on them before, but apparently it didn't make an impact, because they're actually worse in this one, and that's saying something.
Other than that, Sam and Mac are vile, the mystery is dumb, the twenty-gazillion other (male!) characters are interchangeably gorgeous, and Sasha is still my favorite. How many books are left in this series? My god, it goes on forever.
(Also, uh, "Yu Yu Hakusho" means "Ghost Files," and is the title of the series. It's not... it's not a character... Come on now.)["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Cute enough, but kind of empty, and with a fair number of plot threads that never really went anywhere. What was the use of introducing Darren's broth...moreCute enough, but kind of empty, and with a fair number of plot threads that never really went anywhere. What was the use of introducing Darren's brother, for example, and highlighting him so much in the beginning, when he's hardly even mentioned afterward? Not to mention the religion/atheism thing didn't get the space it deserved. It's a serious issue, but because of all the sex, it ended up being kind of shortchanged, and therefore the resolution was somewhat unrewarding and even a little unbelievable.
I liked Seth all right, and the (copious!) sex was pretty hot. Two major things stuck out to bother me, though:
(view spoiler)[• I could not believe that Darren actually put Seth in the position of being guilt-tripped into inking a sixteen-year-old. Even if it didn't happen in the end, it was a gross and selfish thing for Darren to do. He used Seth as a tool to to manipulate a kid while simultaneously manipulating Seth himself and preying on Seth's feelings of obligation and guilt to get him to go along with something he found immoral-- and this after Seth was threatened by the parent of a different sixteen-year-old he'd tattooed by mistake! I liked Darren up until that point, but I really found that whole scene unpleasant.
• Ugh, if someone tells you repeatedly to go away and don't talk to them, you... go away... and don't talk to them. It's not difficult. I felt sorry for that poor girl at church, being badgered by Seth; sure, eventually he was shown by the narrative to be in the right, but it didn't make his actions any less inappropriate. Plus, again with the fucking Adam's apples and low manly voices and stubble on trans women. Enough. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
It was generally all right, but, one, Tom was something of a douche for repeatedly trying to get a recovering alcoholic to drink, and, two, Will could...moreIt was generally all right, but, one, Tom was something of a douche for repeatedly trying to get a recovering alcoholic to drink, and, two, Will could really use some therapy. Some of the ways he thought about/interacted with his kid ranged from really messed up to outright emotionally abusive. It's ostensibly resolved by the end, but no, seriously, he needs to see a shrink. They all need to see a shrink.(less)
This one was all right. Justin was kind of a jerk, and honestly I hope that the the two MCs get some relationship counseling or something, because oth...moreThis one was all right. Justin was kind of a jerk, and honestly I hope that the the two MCs get some relationship counseling or something, because otherwise I'm not convinced that their relationship will actually survive. Despite that (and a couple other caveats) I thought the last scene (view spoiler)[where Justin apologizes and says he made a mistake (hide spoiler)] was sweet. My favorite was the kid, though, because he was cute.(less)
I liked this one. It was interesting and well-written, though even if the execution hadn't been good, I'm not going to say no to supernatural femslash...moreI liked this one. It was interesting and well-written, though even if the execution hadn't been good, I'm not going to say no to supernatural femslash set in pseudo-ancient China. I also enjoyed the hints of a larger world that Ottoman included. I do wish it had been a little longer, though-- it would have been nice to see more moments of intimacy and connection between Jing Wei and Zi Yong.(less)
Terrible homophobic slut-shamed ex-wife (again!), nobody acts like a normal, sensible person, the dad is just as terrible as the mother but the story...moreTerrible homophobic slut-shamed ex-wife (again!), nobody acts like a normal, sensible person, the dad is just as terrible as the mother but the story doesn't seem to think he is, ABSURD climax, and worse. Just a mess in general.(less)
The writing is clunky and shallow, Paxton is a dick, and the kids are ostensibly twelve but act more like seven or eight, which weirds me out. Also, i...moreThe writing is clunky and shallow, Paxton is a dick, and the kids are ostensibly twelve but act more like seven or eight, which weirds me out. Also, it was actually kind of creepy that they went back to joking about finding bones in their rock-hunting expedition ten days after (view spoiler)[their mother's body had been found buried in the woods by a serial killer. (hide spoiler)] Ten days! You'd think they'd be a little bit more shaken by the whole thing, but I guess not.
Like other reviewers, I was also confused by Paxton's missing parents; his father, at least, plays a significant role in his past, but neither father nor mother makes an appearance in the present, which is odd. I'm also confused about who Jennie was: she was Paxton's best friend and they got along well, but she was a cold woman who abandoned her children, but she just needed some space? The narration couldn't seem to decide whether she was a villain or a lost soul looking for something more in life. It was tedious.
Also, what was with the strange implication re: Jennie's father? Was he abusive? Did he do something to her? What was that all about?["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Incredibly repetitive. Jason's thought processes appear to be: "Acupuncture is bunk! But what do I have to lose? But I just can't believe in it! But S...moreIncredibly repetitive. Jason's thought processes appear to be: "Acupuncture is bunk! But what do I have to lose? But I just can't believe in it! But Seth said it worked! Could it work? I can't believe in it! But my shoulder hurts!" ad infinitum, and that's not even getting into the narrative's constant discussion of his messed-up credit, his bloated mortgage, and his sleepless nights. Yes, okay, we get he has a lot of problems; they don't need to be repeated every second sentence.
As other reviewers have mentioned, there's no real emotional connection between Michael and Jason. They're housemates, they hang out a couple times in a very casual way, Jason overhears Michael with a guest at night, and then they get together, sort of. I wasn't drawn to Michael as a person (he started out so bland he almost disappeared, I thought the way he treated his wife during their marriage was kind of eeeh, and I had no patience whatsoever for the whole, "We can't ~do this~" shtick that he had going on after his and Jason's first night) so I couldn't even substitute in my own enthusiasm for their relationship.
The writing itself was solid though not stunning, but there was also shoddy editing, including the heinous phrase "Monday thru Wednesday." Poor research and fact-checking, including an egregious portrayal of Grand Theft Auto. Nothing really feels resolved at the end, however, which contributes to a general sense of dissatisfaction. And there was so much inane pseudo-science I thought I was going to lose my mind, so there's that.(less)
A relatively by-the-book whodunnit interspersed with huge amounts of subplots and mix-and-match character relationships. At points, it's a little hard...moreA relatively by-the-book whodunnit interspersed with huge amounts of subplots and mix-and-match character relationships. At points, it's a little hard to keep track of who's who (Sam/Mac/Logan/Duncan/Zane/Ryan/Adam/Sasha/Nicky/Braxton/Remy/Christian/etc./etc.) and how they know one another, because they're all gorgeous gay guys who go to Tangerine (well, not Nicky or Sasha, but I'm sure they would if they could). The jumpy way the book is written means that I found it difficult to invest myself in any one plotline. A scene would begin, things would start building up, and then just as suddenly it would switch to somebody else, doing something else entirely. The actual writing was adequate, if clunky in places, but there was a terrible overuse of epithets: the man, the boy, the guy, FBI agent, the Texan, and so on. A good editor would be helpful, to reduce the copious SPAG errors and to tighten up the prose itself.
Like I said, there's a bevy of characters, which ends up being a little overwhelming. On the other hand, I was much more invested in some of the bit players than I was in Sam, Mac, or their relationship, which seemed predicated mostly on how ~amazingly gorgeous~ each of them found the other. They bump into each other, think Holy shit, he's good-looking, exchange numbers, and start meeting up to have sex. I found it difficult to really maintain any interest in them, since mostly they just got it on and thought about how hot the other was. (Sam is dark-haired with piercing eyes, Mac is huge and 100% All-American beef. Spare me.) There was some antagonistic back-and-forth between the two of them, presumably an attempt to get UST going and hit an enemies-to-lovers sort of tone, but to be frank, it just made them both come off as kind of petty and childish, as they sniped at one another for basically no reason. Their relationship just didn't have any punch, and the book ends before it can move beyond something tentative, so there's not much romance, either. Mac's thing about not coming out to his friends because of his politician family's command was dumb, and Sam was a vacuum and generally kind of a dick.
As other reviewers mentioned, the women in general really suffer here: bitchy, cold, and one-dimensional. There's Gabi, Amy, Mac's mother, Sam's sister, Sam's mother, an FBI agent whose sole apparent quality is being "conciliatory" because she "became a mother" (gag), and a quirky Asian hacker straight out of a bad cyberpunk film. The former four are awful; the latter three are barely even in the story. It's hard to understand the point of any of them, since none of them really seems to do much, but since the text doesn't seem to display any sympathy for them, it's obviously not to show the reader their miseries and eventual character growth. I found Sam's sister especially egregious, mostly because she was a victim of severe spousal abuse but was portrayed as a heartless monster, without the nuanced touch that a story like hers really deserves. The guys may fall under similar patterns, but they're all still distinct characters, so it's not clear why the women didn't warrant similar differentiation.
The investigation itself was laughably unrealistic, not to mention hardly relevant to the plot, but as it's made clear early on that this is a character-based book and not a procedural, I didn't really mind. Other readers might feel differently, however, so fair warning: if you're going into this looking for a realistic and thorough forensic thriller, don't bother.
On that note: (view spoiler)[Part of my problem with the book is it's exceedingly obvious who the killer is, unless the author has a very unexpected twist up her sleeve-- i.e. it's Julian, the only superfluous character. Everyone else has backstories, interactions, hidden depths, and then there's the one outlier, hardly even seen for most of the book, whose only qualities are weirdness and intensity. He does nothing else except be creepy and invasive, threaten Christian, talk about how he's going to protect Christian and make sure he's "safe" (see: the whole wolf/lamb shit from the first chapter), and lurk in his studio, doing paintings no one sees. Coincidentally, the killer includes personalized artwork whenever he dumps a body! Look at that. Also, Julian is obsessed with belly-button rings, is working some sort of ultimate "masterpiece" (that's not at all ominous, of course), goes insane in a markedly violent way when Christian breaks up with him, Christian is the Ur-boyfriend whom all the victims resemble, and "Peter," the creepy guy with whom Ryan goes on a date, smells "sweet." You know what else smells sweet? Turpentine. Basically, there's no mystery; unless it turns out that Sasha did it or something (and wouldn't that be a twist!) the murderer is transparent from essentially the first time he's mentioned, and since this purports to be a mystery that's not very good. And Logan, so-called FBI profiler extraordinaire, doesn't even blink when Christian starts talking about Julian's various creepy ways. For God's sake, Lo, he looks exactly like the victims you've found, he started dating Julian at the same time Lev started ramping up his killings, and he mentioned his boyfriend's focus on belly-button piercings. You really don't find any of that weird? Put it together, man. (hide spoiler)]
As this is only the first part in a serial, it ends on a cliffhanger, both in terms of the Sam/Mac relationship (who cares?) and the murder plot (such as it is). Unfortunately, as this abrupt end isn't necessarily clear at the outset, it can come as a bit of a shock, particularly since the last scene of the book (a mirror to the first) is a POV from the ~mysterious killer~ showing that ~the violence isn't over yet~. Yeah, okay, of course it's not. Hopefully the second book will wrap things up for good; I don't feel that there's nearly enough of a mystery here to draw out the story any more than that. I shudder to imagine the author trying to make this particular murderer last multiple sequels. Again, guys, it's (view spoiler)[Julian (hide spoiler)], I'm pretty sure he did it.
Some of the characters were a bit more questionable than I think the author intended. I'm giving Donovan the benefit of the doubt, as I don't think they were meant to seem so creepy, but they did. I especially enjoyed the scene where Christian (a grown man) chases Sasha (a homeless, abused fifteen-year-old boy) down the street and asks to take pictures of him; it's incredibly sleazy, but apparently the narrative doesn't think so. It certainly doesn't seem like the reader is supposed to find Christian's behavior suspect or predatory, even though his internal narration keeps going on about how hot and exotic Sasha is in a really weird way (he calls Sasha a "cutie," a "young beauty," "exquisite," and "gorgeous," continuing to wax poetic on Sasha's appearance even after he learns Sasha's age). This is exacerbated by the fact that Christian is doing all of this in front of the gay youth shelter that Logan has been desperately trying to coax Sasha into staying at. Sasha is basically a feral cat, and Logan has spent a bunch of time trying to get him to be more trusting and open and see the shelter as a refuge from the mysterious violence in his home life, and now, right in front of this sanctuary, he gets some adult stranger creeping on him. It didn't seem to bother the character, but I actually felt quite bad for him, because I think a lot of real boys in his position would be incredibly scared and disturbed by an interaction like that. Though I doubt the author intended to include such undertones, the whole thing was just flat-out inappropriate and made Christian seem quite gross. He's like a chickenhawk, trolling around in front of a homeless gay youth shelter for vulnerable minors to photograph. Couldn't he control himself? Sam is also a little sketchy-- see him calling Sasha "little beauty there"-- but at least he didn't essentially proposition Sasha, I guess?
There were parts I liked: I want to see the resolution of the Nicky/Sasha story line (they were my favorites, and I hope they get a happy ending) and I was vaguely fond of Logan, who was a decent sort, if, uh, a little oblivious at times. To say the least.
In summation: I'm not sure I'll read the second book, but I might ctrl-F through it to see what happens to the characters I care about the most. Take that as you will.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Nick and Sam were all right, though the progression of the story meant that a lot of growth in their relationship was only vaguely touched upon, and t...moreNick and Sam were all right, though the progression of the story meant that a lot of growth in their relationship was only vaguely touched upon, and things therefore felt like they moved a little fast. I didn't like the subplot with the daughter, which was pretty much glossed over and made Nick look kind of awful (Why did he think she hated him? Why did his pride prevent him from sending her birthday stuff?) until it came time for the happy ending to roll around.
I knocked the rating down a couple stars because I'm just SO TIRED of the bitchy (homophobic) ex-wife character. She's such a overdone, stock antagonist. People divorce for a million reasons, and there's really no need to fall back on the same trite 'my wife is a cold-hearted harpy who hates me for being gay and she's frigid and probably has perfect makeup and long manicured nails, because they always do!' nonsense. It's not only borderline-offensive; it's boring.(less)
Bear was annoying, the animal nicknames ground on my nerves, the plot was even less coherent than the last one, the drama near the end was OTT and rid...moreBear was annoying, the animal nicknames ground on my nerves, the plot was even less coherent than the last one, the drama near the end was OTT and ridiculous, and the thing about internet reviews accusing people of copying/the "too much time on their hands" barb were exceedingly tacky.
The Kid was cute, though, I guess, though I definitely wasn't feeling the whole plot with him and Dominic. All in all, ehhh.(less)