Reviewed for THC Reviews When reading anthologies, I usually pick up one novella here and there to fill in gaps between longer books and rarely read thReviewed for THC Reviews When reading anthologies, I usually pick up one novella here and there to fill in gaps between longer books and rarely read them straight through. With that being the case, I've decided to post reviews of each story as I finish it. Reviews on the remaining novellas and the overall book rating will be forthcoming.:-) *newest review for this anthology
Stray Magic by Diana Peterfreund - Stray Magic is a really cute story about a stray dog that is brought into an animal shelter. Mary Louise aka Malou, the girl who works there, was told by her friend that it is a Golden Retriever, but what she sees is a ragged, ancient-looking dog, who can mysteriously communicate with her psychically. The dog tells Malou that she's lost her master, and must find him within three days or she will die, because he has been keeping her alive far beyond her typical life-expectancy through the use of magic. This kind of reminded me of Ned's dog, Digby, on the TV show, Pushing Daisies, where Ned couldn't bear to part with Digby so every time he died, Ned resurrected him with his magic.
I really enjoyed this short story for a number of reasons. First of all, I thought it was a really fun, creative premise. I love animals, so the animal theme only added to my enjoyment. The author manages to highlight the plight of homeless and abandoned animals as well. Malou works for a no-kill shelter, while her friend Jeremy works for the county shelter which euthanizes animals within three days of their arrival. The brevity of this time frame is metaphorically played out through the use of our doggie protagonist, Goneril, only having three days left to renew the spells that are keeping her alive. This places her and Malou in a race against time to find a witch who can help her. I also really liked Goneril's loyalty to her master. Even though Malou fully believes the man abandoned his dog like so many other pet owners do, especially when they get old, Goneril is completely devoted to him. This served to show what a beautiful thing the love of a dog can be. Overall, I had a really good time reading Stray Magic. I think any kids (or adults too) who love animals will really enjoy it. Since I had never read anything by Diana Peterfreund before, it has also put her on my authors to watch list. Rating: ****1/2
Payment Due by Frances Hardinge - Payment Due is an imaginative story about a teenage girl named Caroline who lives with her gentle and slightly naïve grandmother. One day, the older woman lets a bailiff into the house. The man proceeds to make a list of their household items and gives them five days to pay their debt. When they are unable to come up with the money, he returns and takes all the items away. Caroline then proceeds to get them back in a very creative way.
Payment Due is short story of only about fifteen pages. We learn just a little of Caroline's background. Her mother, who obviously meant a lot to both her and her grandmother, died and that's why Caroline lives with her grandmother. There is no hint though, as to how Caroline came by her powers. She isn't directly called a witch, although since this entire anthology is about witches and wizards, she must be one. At the very least, she wields certain magical powers that make it possible for her to talk with animals and make body exchanges with other creatures. I found both of these qualities to be very unique to the fantasy and paranormal genres of literature, or at least, I've never seen them in my reading of these genres. This made the story intriguing. Also the way in which Caroline goes about getting their possessions back was quite clever. Overall, despite its brevity, I did enjoy Payment Due. I had never read anything by Frances Hardinge before, but this taste of her work shows a lot of promise and makes me interested in possibly reading more stories by her. Star Rating: ****
A Handful of Ashes by Garth Nix - A Handful of Ashes felt a little more mature than the other stories I've read so far in this anthology. I would categorize it as more of a New Adult fantasy, because unlike the other stories which have teenage protagonists, the two main characters in A Handful of Ashes are about to graduate from college. The university Mari and Francesca attend is a special school for training witches, and they are known as sizars, lower class students who are there on a kind of scholarship in which they earn their education by acting as servants to the upper class students. A small group of these lady undergraduates are bullies who treat the sizars like they don't belong at the college and are up to no good. They are trying to subversively reinstate the Old Bylaws, which will discriminate against the sizars, so when Mari realizes what their plan is, she and Francesca must try to stop them before it's too late.
I had a harder time getting into this story than the others I've read so far. I know that Garth Nix is a fairly popular and well-respected author in the genre, but I couldn't help feeling like the story was a little overburdened with details. Normally, I would consider the use of lots of detail to be a good thing, but here it just felt like it bogged things down a bit. I found the use of some magical words with which I'm not familiar and a fairly complex backstory on the college's bylaws a little hard to wrap my head around. Meanwhile the story was moving forward while my brain was trying to play catch-up. I also felt like the villains didn't have much motivation for their evil deeds other than them simply being the snobbish, “mean girls.” Additionally, up to this point, the other stories in the anthology seem to be aimed at a middle grade or young adult audience. While there is no objectionable content other than a couple of bad words, I felt like the more advanced vocabulary and extensive use of details make this story less accessible to the middle grade audience at whom the book, in general, seems to be aimed. It's more appropriate for the slightly older YA readers. Overall, A Handful of Ashes was a decent story that did have some entertainment value. I enjoyed the underdog vibe of the main characters, but it just didn't spark my imagination in quite the same way as the other stories have. Star Rating: ***1/2
*Little Gods by Holly Black - In Little Gods, sixteen-year-old Ellery is part of a Wiccan coven that travels to a distant farm to celebrate Beltane. She joined the coven in hopes of experiencing a little real magic in her life, and she just might get her wish during the holiday. I enjoyed the magical encounter Ellery had with the mysterious “boy,” Aspen, but ultimately it felt like a mere moment out of time rather than a complete and satisfying story. Little Gods is a very short story of only about twenty-five pages, yet Aspen's appearance lasts a mere 2 ½ pages. I wanted to know more about him, where he came from and who he actually was. Unfortunately, my curiosity was not to be appeased. The remaining 22 ½ pages are devoted to Ellery's reasons for joining a Wiccan coven and their spiritual practices, particularly surrounding Beltane. To my way of thinking, this made the story seem more like a fictional exploration of a Wiccan girl's beliefs and experiences within her religious group more so than a fantasy story.
While I may have thought Garth Nix's story was a little mature for this collection based on the age of the protagonists and some advanced vocabulary, it was still quite tame when compared to Little Gods. For anyone who doesn't know, the Wiccan celebration of Beltane is a lushly sensual experience, where virtually anything goes. As such, the story contained some fairly mature content for the middle grade/YA audience at which the anthology seems to be aimed. Ellery drinks from a water bottle, only to discover it's actually alcohol, but that doesn't stop her or her companion from having some more. There is mention of background characters smoking marijuana. A secondary character uses a very strong bad word that I've never seen in a YA story before. Some of the female supporting characters dance topless around the fire in the company of young men. And last but certainly not least, there is a bit of sexual innuendo, as well as a fair amount of discussion about opposite sex, same sex, and multiple partner make-out sessions, with implications of a lot more possibly occurring behind the scenes. With all this in mind, even though Ellery doesn't indulge in any of these activities other than drinking alcohol, I would say this story is definitely not appropriate for middle grade readers, and I would strongly caution teenage readers. Even though I would like to think of teens as relatively innocent, I realize that most of them are probably aware of all these things if they haven't personally encountered them already, but I still can't really recommend it for anyone under the age of sixteen and even then with certain reservations.
Overall, I can say that Little Gods was well-written with regards to the mechanics, and the general writing style was engaging. However, I would have preferred a little more fantasy and a little less exploration of spiritual beliefs. Star Rating: ***
Barrio Girls by Charles De Lint -
Felidis by Tanith Lee -
Witch Work by Neil Gaiman -
The Education of a Witch by Ellen Klages -
The Threefold World by Ellen Kushner -
The Witch in the Wood by Delia Sherman -
Which Witch by Patricia A. McKillip -
The Carved Forest by Tim Pratt -
Burning Castles by M. Rickert -
The Stone Witch by Isobelle Carmody -
Andersen's Witch by Jane Yolen -
B Is for Bigfoot by Jim Butcher - B Is for Bigfoot is a cute short story in the Dresden Files series. Harry is hired by a bigfoot to find out what's happening with his son at school and why he's coming home with injuries. The son, Irwin, is a bigfoot/human hybrid (aka scion) who lives with his human mother and doesn't know about his father. Of course, the dastardly bullies are otherworldly as well, making things a little more challenging for our intrepid investigator.
I really enjoyed this novella and think the bullying theme is one to which kids and teens will be able to strongly relate. Even though Irwin is much larger than his tormentors, he's a shy, sweet kid who doesn't want to hurt anybody. I liked how Harry assisted him in finding a solution that helped him to stand up for himself but didn't involve violence. Much like in Restoration of Faith, one of the early shorts in the series, Harry shows his big heart toward kids. Not to mention, he can relate to the boy on a deeper level, because he used to be just like Irwin when he was a kid. I loved all the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy references. Even though I haven't read the books yet, my husband is a big fan, so I understood all the jokes. Unlike the other Dresden Files books, this one was pretty clean in deference to its younger audience. There were only one or two mild profanities and no other objectionable content unless the idea of a human and a bigfoot producing a child is bothersome. However, the bigfoot in this story, while still quite hairy, is portrayed as a highly intelligent, humanoid being. Overall, I found B Is for Bigfoot to be a fun read that was an enjoyable way to spend about an hour of my reading time. Star Rating: ****
Great-Grandmother in the Cellar by Peter S. Beagle -
Crow and Caper, Caper and Crow by Margo Lanagan -...more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" My Life with Snoopy is the love story of one man and his faithful dog. It is a compilation of vignettes about theReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" My Life with Snoopy is the love story of one man and his faithful dog. It is a compilation of vignettes about the 13+ years they spent together as best friends, along with some background information on the author, events in his life that affected his decisions to, at first, not want a dog, and later to finally adopt Snoopy. I've always believed that our animal friends can teach us many things. This is a phenomena I've experienced firsthand, so when the author talked about how Snoopy was such a major influence on his life, I could relate. I also fully understood the serendipity of walking into an animal shelter and simply knowing that a certain animal is meant for you. When we let them, pets have a way of grabbing onto our hearts and never letting go, even in death. This seems to be exactly what happened with Joey and Snoopy.
After a serious childhood trauma in which a puppy he had come to love was abruptly ripped away from him, Joey didn't really want to have another dog. Much later in life when he was forty and had spent time around friends' dogs, seeing how the animals enriched their lives, he decided to take another chance and went to the animal shelter. There he found Snoopy, the dog who would become his best friend for the next thirteen years. I loved reading about all the adventures these two had together. Snoopy's sweet, lively, intelligent personality shone through in all the little stories about their friends, neighbors and other animals they met along the way. The other obvious thing was just how much Joey adored Snoopy. These two were virtually inseparable until Snoopy's life on this mortal plane came to an end.
Of course, the end of life stories of pets are always heartbreaking, and this one was no different. I've personally been in the author's shoes multiple times, and it's never easy to say goodbye. I have to commend Joey though for making Snoopy's passing as peaceful and comfortable as possible. After dealing with this myself, I was shocked to learn of people who simply abandon their sick, elderly pets, unable to cope with letting them go in a healthy way, so whenever I read about someone who cares enough to “do it the right way,” I have to give them a pat on the back for their compassion and bravery. Snoopy was obviously a very special dog who deserved the best in both life and death. As difficult as the ending was to read, I rejoice in the fact that one less dog was left on the streets neglected or worse yet, euthanized way too early. Joey and Snoopy were, without a doubt, made for each other. I'm so glad they found one another and had those thirteen years of fun, adventure, laughter and tears together.
My Life with Snoopy is written in a breezy, conversational way that made me feel like I was sitting down with a friend, listening to him recount stories from his and his dog's lives. Mr. Camen is a good storyteller who kept me engaged throughout the book with his fun and occasionally heartbreaking tales. The only reason I knocked off a half star is because I found a number of mistakes that a good editor/proofreader should have caught and which could be a tad distracting. Overall though, I very much enjoyed reading My Life with Snoopy. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good animal story. It would also make a great gift for the animal lover in your life.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews One Night is a sweet M/M romance novella about two men from disparate walks of life who serendipitously meet at a vacation resReviewed for THC Reviews One Night is a sweet M/M romance novella about two men from disparate walks of life who serendipitously meet at a vacation resort while each of them is there for very different reasons. One is attending a winemakers' convention, while the other is there doing some soul-searching before entering into a marriage of convenience with a woman who his family views as the perfect choice for him from a social standpoint. They spend a few romantic days and one steamy night together before circumstances come between them, leaving them with some very important decisions to make about the future.
Liam is a very sweet beta hero who is confused and vulnerable. Three years earlier, he had married his pregnant best friend since childhood to give her and her baby the protection and stability of his family's name and wealth. She died mere days after the baby was born, leaving him a grieving single father. He loves his little girl more than anything in the world, so much so that he is about to enter into another marriage of convenience, thinking that his daughter needs a mother in her life. His fiancée is a woman who is socially and financially perfect for him on paper, but he doesn't love her. In an attempt to provide all the best things for his daughter and please his family, he became an attorney. He works long hours in the family law firm and doesn't see his little girl as much as he would like. Deep down, Liam is an artist at heart, who would much rather be out taking photographs than toiling away behind a desk or in a courtroom. Mere weeks before his wedding, he decides to take a vacation, during which he hopes to clear his head of all the confusion. Liam knows he's gay, but he doesn't have much experience at being gay. He's still in the closet, because of his fear over what his semi-famous family will think of him. Liam experimented with gay sex a bit in college, but he hasn't been with anyone since. He wants to find a guy who's amenable to a one night stand, thinking it will help get it out of his system, so that he can go through with his wedding. Because of his past experiences with sex, he's very confused about what gay sex is. He thinks it's supposed to be nothing more than quick and dirty with no tenderness and no commitments, and because of where he's at in his life, he believes that's what he wants. With that being the case, when Micah tries to take things slower and actually make love, it's scares him. Liam was an amazing guy to do what he did for his best friend, but since losing her, he hasn't really had any friends. He's a shy guy who doesn't make friends easily, so when Micah comes along, he finds himself longing for that type of connection again but afraid to take the necessary leap to have it. Liam's vulnerability over his sexuality was very touching, and I think Micah was the perfect person to help him sort things out. When Liam finally stood up to his parents and decided to take control of his life, I was cheering him on.
Micah is a well-adjusted gay man with strong family ties. He and his two sisters own and run the family winery business which he's been in charge of since their parents died when he was only eighteen. As such, he's a very responsible guy, who's something of a control freak and a bit of a wine snob. His sisters always insist on sending him on a trip to California each year to attend a winemakers' conference. Like Liam, Micah has his own introverted side. He hates being the public face of the family business and is much more at home in his role of vintner. He prefers growing the grapes and making the wine over giving tours of the winery or schmoozing with his competitors at the convention. When he meets Liam by chance on the beach one day, the attraction is instant and palpable. Part of the reason Micah's sisters sent him on the trip is because they think he needs to find a hot guy and have some equally hot sex, but that isn't really Micah's game. I loved that he was a relationship guy who wasn't into meaningless sex. The way he took care of Liam when he got drunk and refused to sleep with him while he was in that state was sweet and showed him to be a real gentleman. He really likes Liam and wants to give him far more than the other man seems to be looking for.
One Night is a fairly short novella that takes place over only about a week's time. I liked that the author took things slowly though, and allowed Liam and Micah a little time to get to know each other. They spend some really good quality time together, doing some very romantic things, before falling into bed. Even then Micah was a little hesitant, but Liam's overt sexual overtures and overall hotness proved a bit too much for him to resist. Still, I liked that he stuck around afterward even though Liam was trying his best to push him away. Of course, some unexpected circumstances temporarily tear them apart, while Liam makes up his mind about his life. Then they share a sweet reunion, which left the door open for a happy future for them together. Some readers may have to suspend disbelief to buy into the notion of these two men knowing they were meant for one another and Liam making the sort of life changes he did after having only spent a few days together, but it was just so tender and romantic, I didn't have much trouble. I really loved this story and almost gave it 4.5 stars. The only thing that held me back is that the ending, while somewhat satisfying, felt like it happened too soon. I would have loved to see Liam and Micah have a deeper reunion moment, and I would have loved to read more about them as a couple.
The other thing that knocked off half a star was that the story could have used a little better editing. There were lots of places where more contractions were needed, particularly in dialog, and some of the longer sentences should have been broken up to make things flow better. There were also a few spots, the ending included, where it would have been nice if things had been written out in more detail. I think this would have added even more depth to the story. The author had a tendency to skim over certain things, engaging in a bit of telling rather than showing. However, I did just discover that Ms. Scott apparently has gotten back the publishing rights to her stories that were previously released by Silver Publishing, one of which was One Night. She added to the content of the book before republishing it herself. For readers who purchased an old copy of the book put out by Silver, she is offering a free digital replacement copy that includes the updated material. I wish I had realized this before reading it, because she may have fixed some of the things I had issues with. If I discover that she has, I will update my review. In the meantime though, One Night was still a very enjoyable read that I would recommend to fans of the M/M genre who like sweeter stories....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Stand-In Wife is another gentle contemporary romance in Debbie Macomber's Those Manning Men series. As with the other ManningReviewed for THC Reviews Stand-In Wife is another gentle contemporary romance in Debbie Macomber's Those Manning Men series. As with the other Manning books so far, this novel didn't have a very involved plotline, but overall, it was sweet and enjoyable. In this one, Paul Manning is suddenly widowed when his wife dies of complications following childbirth. She leaves him with young twin sons and a newborn baby girl to raise. With the multiples stresses of child care, home care, his job, and grieving, Paul is barely keeping his head above water, until his dead wife's sister steps in to help out. With them living in the same house together, unexpected feelings begin to surface, leading to a marriage of convenience and much, much more.
Paul is a man at loose ends. He's grieving for the loss of his wife, but at the same time, doesn't have the luxury of taking time to really grieve with three young children to care for. He and his sister-in-law, Leah, bond over their shared loss. When she offers to move in with them, Paul appreciates her help, but his sense of pride sometimes gets in the way. I think it makes him feel rather inadequate as both a man and as a parent that he can't do it all himself. It was kind of amusing that when Paul started having confusing feelings toward Leah, he pushed her toward Rob, a guy she'd only casually dated, but then he experienced unfamiliar jealous feelings when the pair actually went out. Soon his parents convince them to marry, because of Leah having no health insurance and the children, especially baby Kelsey, viewing her as their mother. Of course, by then, Paul knows he's falling for Leah; he just doesn't fully understand the extent of his feelings until faced with the fear of losing her when she thinks she might be pregnant. Even then, he, unfortunately, doesn't go about expressing those feelings in a clear and healthy way. It's not until the end that he figures everything out and is able to tell her how he really feels in a way that she understands.
Leah was tremendously selfless to give up her teaching job to move in with Paul and take care of the kids until they're older and in school. Her sister was her only family, so Leah loves and misses her deeply. With her sister gone, Leah sees this as an opportunity to stay close to the kids, who are now the only family she has left, as well as a way to fulfill a "promise" she made to Diane when her sister appeared to her in a dream the night she died. Leah goes into it believing this to be a temporary arrangement, but when she starts having feelings for Paul and realizes she would never be able to leave the children, accepting his marriage proposal isn't a difficult choice. Still, she believes it to be little more than a marriage of convenience, because she thinks Paul could never truly love her the way he loved her sister. They're just too different. Diane was the beautiful, vivacious one, while Leah was the shy, bookish, plain Jane. Although Leah always loved her sister and never blamed or envied her, their mother always treated Diane differently, like she was the golden child, while Leah was only second-best. This still makes her feel inadequate in more ways than one, especially when she misunderstands some of Paul's words and actions. Then Leah begins, for the first time in her life, to envy Diane even though she's dead. It takes a long time for Leah to finally realize that Paul loves her every bit as much as he did Diane, but in a different way.
Things get rolling for these two when they share a passionate kiss. Both are rocked to the core but afraid to admit it, which unfortunately leads to them reading things into the other's reactions that aren't entirely true. They have an almost impossible time communicating how they really feel, because they are both confused by their emotions. Paul is still in love with his dead wife and feeling guilty for loving another woman too. It doesn't help matters that the woman in question is his wife's sister. At the same time, he thinks she was repulsed by his kiss, when of course, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Leah loved every minute of it but has trouble believing Paul could be attracted to her after being in love with her gorgeous, outgoing sister. As a result, they spend a lot of time around each other walking on egg shells. This lasts throughout most of the book, with the primary conflict being various misunderstandings, based on miscommunication, lack of communication, and misperceptions. This isn't my favorite form of conflict, but it seems to be par for the course in all of Debbie Macomber's books I've read so far. It wasn't too bad here, because at least, I understood most of the time where they were coming from. However, it could sometimes be a little frustrating that they didn't communicate better.
Stand-In Wife brings back Paul's brother, Rich and his wife, Jamie (Marriage of Inconvenience). We get to see the happy couple and their growing family a little ways down the road from their book. The last Manning sibling standing, Jason, becomes a sounding board for Paul and has some surprisingly good advice for someone who's never been married. This carefree bachelor becomes the hero of the next book, Bride on the Loose. Overall, Stand-In Wife was a light and easy, but enjoyable read that has left me looking forward to seeing what's in store for Jason. Stand-In Wife was originally published as a stand-alone novel in the Silhouette Special Edition line, and was later reprinted in the single-author anthology The Manning Brides along with the first book of the series....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Divergent is proving to be a tough book for me to review, because I finished it with very mixed feelings. The premise behind tReviewed for THC Reviews Divergent is proving to be a tough book for me to review, because I finished it with very mixed feelings. The premise behind the story is quite good and intriguing, but ultimately, I felt like the execution was somewhat lacking and not quite up to the standard I expected based on the outrageously high ratings it has on GoodReads and other book-related sites. I can see why many are enamored of this book, but IMHO, it wasn't as good as similar books I've read. Because of its dystopian setting and its tough, teenage, female protagonist, the comparisons to The Hunger Games are inevitable. While I go into reading every book, trying to judge it on its own merits, I have to admit it was difficult for me to avoid drawing those comparisons too. Whereas, I was engrossed and enthralled by the world of The Hunger Games, the Divergent world didn't quite draw me in the same way. Whereas, I always felt like I understood Katniss even when she made choices I personally wouldn't have, Beatrice often confused me. Whereas, I totally fell head over heels for Peeta, who is now one of my all-time greatest literary crushes, Four didn't quite capture my heart. Whereas, I was very emotionally invested in Katniss and Peeta's romance, Tris and Four's romance seemed lackluster by comparison and just didn't have the same depth of emotion. As I'm sure you can tell, Divergent simply didn't meet the high standard set for me by The Hunger Games, but I'll admit it was good enough to make me want to continue with the series.
Beatrice aka Tris is the first-person narrator of the story. She was born into a dystopian world in which everyone is separated into five different factions based on their personalities and beliefs. At the age of sixteen, which Tris now is, she must choose whether to stay in Abnegation, the faction into which she was born, or switch factions, but to do so would mean leaving her family. Tris obviously loves her family, which made her choice to join a different faction a difficult one, but in her heart, she felt like she didn't belong there anymore. To top if all off, the aptitude test she took before the Choosing Ceremony labeled her a Divergent, someone who doesn't fit neatly into any one faction. She is also told never to speak of her result, because anyone knowing this information could be extremely dangerous for her. As Tris goes through the initiation into her chosen faction, she proves herself to be a very worthy candidate. She's tough as nails and never gives up even when things get rough. In this respect, I'd say she was an admirable character and a good role model. However, where I found myself having problems with Tris is in her seemingly contradictory personality. Sometimes, she could show brief moments of compassion and kindness, but more often than not she squelched those feelings, which sometimes led her to being cruel and callous. She loves and misses her family and faction to an extent, but also doesn't seem to have any real qualms or regrets about taking an independent stand. She sometimes thinks of herself as weak, but exhibits a great deal of strength. One minute she's upset, maybe even crying, in a moment of vulnerability; the next, she shuts down her emotions and turns cold and angry. Ultimately, Tris was a big bundle opposites that made it difficult for me to get an emotional read on her. I strongly suspect that the author was attempting to use this dichotomy to express Tris's Divergence, but having her bounce around from one behavior and feeling to another was simply confusing to me. I think Ms. Roth could have found a better way to show that Tris was different without turning her into an enigma. As she was written, I can't really say whether I liked Tris or not. Sometimes, I very much admired her actions, and other times, I was very disappointed in her thoughts and behavior. I think the thing that bothered me the most was her seeming unforgiving nature, especially toward anyone who ever wronged her, even in small ways. I think an author can show a character to be strong without making them appear cold and unfeeling toward others, especially when Tris was raised in a faction that was the exact opposite. So, in the end, I'd say I have rather ambiguous feelings toward Tris. She was an OK character, but not one that I found to be compelling enough to carry the entire story on her small shoulders.
One of the drawbacks to writing a story in first-person POV is that the secondary characters can become little more than window dressing. Unless they're in the hands of an extremely talented writer who knows how to bring them to life through the eyes of the narrator, they can be difficult for the reader to get to know, and that's largely how I felt about the supporting players in Divergent. The most important character besides Tris is her love interest, Four. He is one of the trainers of the initiates and eventually becomes more than that to her. When Four first appeared, he was an intriguing character, someone whose philosophy is honorable and stands out in stark contrast to that of the other trainer and faction leader, Eric, who is cruel and ruthless. However, I correctly guessed two of the most important pieces of information about Four long before they were revealed, making those parts rather anti-climactic. There were tidbits of ingredients sprinkled throughout the book which if nurtured could have made Four a real stand-out character, but overall, I felt like he didn't live up to the potential. A large part of the reason he didn't is that he and Tris never really shared much in the way of meaningful interactions or conversations that would show what makes him tick. The only thing I can think of is Four allowing Tris into his fear landscape, which showed a certain level of trust in her, but they don't really discuss the experience afterward. I truly wanted to love Four in the same way so many other fans seem to, but ultimately, much like with Tris, I couldn't get a strong enough impression of him as a person to feel like I knew him. As to most of the other characters, they tend to fall into prescribed roles of friend and foe and rarely deviate from that. The one time someone does, I was stunned by this character going from good to bad in a heartbeat, and never understood what would drive him to do what he did. Overall, there was just enough development to make me care about some of the supporting players, but I never really felt like I truly got to know any of them on the deep level I crave.
As a parent, I feel that Divergent is suitable for the young adult age group for which it is intended. As with many dystopian novels, the element which would probably be of primary concern is the violence. There is a fair bit of this, but I felt it wasn't nearly as graphic as it could have been. However, it can get somewhat brutal at times. The initiate training can seem rather severe with the kids beating up on each other until one is knocked out cold and/or bleeding. They also do other dangerous things and often get injured. A character is stabbed in the eye with a knife. Tris is kidnapped by some villainous boys who threaten to kill her and inappropriately touch her. A character presumably commits suicide. They must face their fears inside a fear simulation which could be troublesome if the reader experiences any of the same fears as the characters. In the end, a war breaks out in which many are killed, including some characters readers have come to care about. This also necessitates Tris and Four carrying firearms and killing others in self-defense. Otherwise, there is little in the way of objectionable content. I believe I counted only three mild profanities. Four is seen a bit buzzed on alcohol in one scene and others are drunk in the background. Tris and Four share some kisses that gradually get more passionate as the story progresses, but there isn't much in the way of sexual content. There is one scene where Four removes his shirt while they are alone together, which stirs some fluttery feelings in Tris, but overall, any sexual references are pretty minimal and mostly veiled.
For a dystopian novel, I felt like Divergent moved rather slowly for about the first ¾ of the book. It focuses pretty narrowly on Tris's initiate training with a sprinkling of tidbits here and there to show that things in the world at large are not as perfect as they seem and that tensions are rising. There is some action and adventure as Tris goes through her initiation process, just enough to hold my attention, but what I really wanted to know was how this deviant world and its factions came to be. Unfortunately, there was really no backstory to explain all this, which was disappointing. Even the explanation of why it was dangerous to be a Divergent wasn't revealed quickly enough to suit me, but I did like the ideas behind it once I fully understood it. Then after plodding along, everything finally escalates at a breakneck pace during the last 100 pages or so. I would have preferred if the political jockeying had been woven in a little more prominently and sooner to build more suspense and an overall sense of the peril that was to come.
The last thing that kind of bothered me about Divergent is the writing itself. Despite being classified as young adult, this book is written at about a fifth grade reading level. Most of the time, the author's word choices and sentence structure are pretty simplistic, which made it quick and easy to read, but difficult for me to connect with because of its lack of sophistication. I know many readers enjoy the spare type of writing style that Veronica Roth employs, but I much prefer the richer complexities of language that paint vivid word pictures and metaphors. When used well, it allows me a window, not only into the mind of the characters, but the writer herself. When Ms. Roth isn't writing overly simple sentences, she has a tendency to use run-on sentences which IMHO needed to be broken up to maintain the flow. She also needed way more contractions than what she used. As written, the wording was often stilted, especially in dialog. I honestly couldn't envision a group of goth-like daredevils speaking in such a formal manner, so I had to contract the words in my own mind.
After all my many criticisms, readers might wonder why I still chose to give this book four stars. In all honesty, I'm not entirely sure I can explain it myself. As I mentioned when I started this review, I have very mixed feelings about Divergent. It does have a measure entertainment value, as I wasn't really bored while reading it. It also has a certain appeal in its world-building, enough so that being left with an unfinished ending makes me want to continue. As much as I didn't feel like I got to know the characters well enough to genuinely say I liked them, I, at least, liked them well enough to be curious about what happens next for them. In this respect, I guess one could say Ms. Roth was successful in her mission as a writer, because even though I thought the story could have been much better constructed, she still sufficiently peaked my interest to make me come back for more. And this I suppose, is the main reason I still felt compelled to give Divergent a favorable rating despite its many shortcomings....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Warm Bodies is probably the most unique work of fiction I've ever read. It is a tale of post-apocalyptic human surReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Warm Bodies is probably the most unique work of fiction I've ever read. It is a tale of post-apocalyptic human survival against a zombie horde, except in this case, the main character and first-person narrator is one of the zombies. Said zombie is an existential philosopher who is trying to discern his reason for living (or being undead as the case may be). All of this is couched in a love story, although I hesitate to classify it as romance like many other readers do. It just simply isn't written in the style of romance, nor are the emotions as palpable as they are in most romance novels. However, I will certainly allow that love is a driving force in the story and without it there couldn't have been the happy ending that is classic to romances.
In my opinion, what makes this story so unique is it's protagonist, a zombie simply known as R. He can no longer remember the name he had when he was one of the Living, but he recalls the first letter being R. He spends his days in an often stupefied state at the old airport which is inhabited by his hive, lumbering around and groaning. Despite his outward appearance and actions, R has a rich inner thought life in which he analyzes his existence as a zombie. At his heart, R is a philosopher, but even though he can ruminate on the deeper meaning of life and death, he cannot remember enough human speech to verbalize much of what he's thinking, and even if he could, there is no one around who would care. I liked that R exhibited an unusual sense of morality for a creature such as himself. Although his “wild nature” drives him to hunt humans, he's not entirely comfortable with doing it. He's also a collector of human artifacts, which I saw as a way for him to remain linked to his humanity. Something inside R begins to fundamentally change the day he goes hunting and eats the brain of a young security officer named Perry. R promptly starts feeling guilty about this, because through consuming the scrumptious morsel, he becomes privy to all of Perry's thoughts and memories. Some of his most compelling memories are of his time with a girl named Julie. Essentially living vicariously through Perry's memories, R decides that Julie, who was present when Perry and most of the other members of her salvage crew were killed, is not someone to be eaten, but someone to be protected. He takes her back to the airport with him, and she becomes the first person he has ever really tried to communicate with since being turned zombie. Together, they embark on an adventure in which they must try to figure out why R's interactions with Julie have begun to change him, why some of those changes seem to be transferring to other zombies in his hive, and whether they might be able to stop or even reverse the effects of the plague that made the zombies.
Julie is the main female character, but we only see her through R's eyes. Because of this, there were times when I felt like something was missing. There wasn't quite sufficient explanation about who she was as a person and her motivations for doing certain things. She's had a pretty rough life in which she had to grow up fast in a world that was crumbling around her. She's a brave spitfire who doesn't really take any grief from anyone, and she has a curious nature too. This may be part of why she's so open toward R almost from the start. She sees that he's different from other zombies she's encountered, and after a short period of fear, she becomes almost blasé about being friends with him. This is where being privy to her thoughts would have helped me to understand her motives better, but as I read further and learned more about her life, my understanding of her character gradually became clearer.
There are a few secondary characters who play significant roles. Perry, despite being dead, lives on in R. The way in which he begins communicating with R reminded me somewhat of the relationship between Melanie and Wanderer in Stephanie Meyer's The Host. Perry was an intriguing character who appeared to be a rather doom and gloom person. He had essentially decided his life was all but over anyway and that he probably wouldn't live much longer. I think I understood what fueled this attitude in him, but again, like with Julie, it would have been nice to know a little more about him. Perry, in effect, becomes R's conscience, driving him to seek more from life. Julie's best friend, Nora, is another kick-butt girl who doesn't take any crap. R's zombie friend, M, also recognizes when things begin to change and helps lead the revolt. Then there is Julie's father, the general in charge of the human security forces, who unfortunately has become so blinded by his own hatred for the zombies, he won't listen to reason when Julie tries to tell him that she thinks she may have found a way to start curing them. Luckily, his second in command and Julie's surrogate grandfather, Rosso, sees what his friend doesn't.
It appears that one of the major genre categories for Warm Bodies is young adult fiction which makes sense given the age of the protagonists. Although their ages aren't outright specified, it is implied that Julie, Perry and Nora are still teenagers, but in many ways they act older, probably due to their circumstances. No one really knows how old R is, but there is some speculation that he was probably only in his twenties when he was turned. Given the young adult classification, there is some content in the book to which parents might object. For starters, there is quite a bit of language, including frequent uses of the f-word. Given that most of the characters appear to be teenagers, there is also some underage drinking going on. Sex is more talked about than actually described, but there is some mature content in that respect. Some of the things that occur: R briefly describes zombie sex which is basically a poor imitation of human sex, a character watches porn, a character's arousal is implied, a character tells of having prostituted herself at the age of thirteen, and a boyfriend and girlfriend are mentioned to have made love several times. When looked at in perspective, none of these things, language, drinking or sex, are terribly surprising though, given the rough nature of the post-apocalyptic setting in which people are struggling for day to day survival and social niceties have, for the most part, become a thing of the past. Of course, last but not least is the violence and gore. More than once the zombies go on hunting raids, looking for humans to eat, and sometimes, the consumption of human flesh is described. At times, it made me a little squeamish, but overall, I didn't think it was overly graphic. There are some good messages for young people here too about standing up for what's right, looking for common ground to solve differences, not giving up even though things seem hopeless, and the fact that love can heal a multitude of hurts. Overall though, given the content and the philosophical nature of the book which might be difficult for younger readers to understand anyway, I would only feel comfortable recommending it to readers sixteen and up who wouldn't be bothered by any of the things I mentioned.
In Warm Bodies, Isaac Marion has crafted a very unusual story that was an enjoyable read. I liked the world-building here, and he described everything in a way that was easy to envision. He's also a master of metaphor. Not only is he clever with a turn of phrase, but the entire story becomes a metaphor for hate, avarice and a plethora of other sins, a morality tale of sorts. While it was a very well put together story, I wouldn't say it was perfect. In addition to some character motivations being a bit murky as I mentioned earlier, the pacing was a little slow in places, especially given the post-apocalyptic setting filled with zombies. This novel is written in present-tense which I think was appropriate, but the author has a tendency to frequently use present perfect tense when I thought simple present tense would have given the narrative more punch and a greater sense of immediacy. Despite me zoning out a little during the earlier parts of the book, the ending was pretty action-packed, keeping me on the edge of my seat. For this reason and because of the delightful oddity of the story, I decided it was worthy of keeper status. While Warm Bodies is a self-contained story, it does leave some room for a continuation which it appears Mr. Marion is working on as we speak. There are also some short stories he wrote which are set in the same world and star the same characters. I'll be looking forward to checking those out while waiting for the next installment in the series....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" Robyn Carr has been a favorite author of mine for a while. I'm a big fan of her Virgin River series and up to thisReviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" Robyn Carr has been a favorite author of mine for a while. I'm a big fan of her Virgin River series and up to this point, the Thunder Point series has been good too. That's why it pains me to have to give The Chance less than four stars, but in all honesty, I didn't feel it was up to her normally high standards. For starters, the vast majority of the first ¾ or so of the story was told in dialog. I'll be the first to admit that rich dialog that advances the plot and character development is a must in any book, and to some extent it accomplishes that goal here. However, there were many times that the dialog would drag along, then be briefly punctuated by a tidbit of narrative, only to slip right back into another lengthy conversation. This is a classic extroverted style of writing that simply doesn't work well for an introvert like me. With so little narrative, it was difficult to get a feel for the setting and plot, which seemed to meander anyway, and with so little introspection, it was nearly impossible to connect with the characters in a meaningful way. The author has never been the best writer when it comes to blocking during dialog (ie. interspersing bits of narrative that show where the characters are and what they're doing or thinking while talking), but in the early parts of this book, this deficiency became painfully obvious. Normally, Ms. Carr does a better job with integrating the narrative and dialog together, but in The Chance, the story was very top-heavy in favor of dialog.
I liked Laine in The Hero for her heroic efforts in saving the women and children from a cult commune, but I'm sorry to say that I never fully warmed up to her in The Chance. It's not that I disliked her either. Her personality is just so different from my own that I had a hard time relating to her. She's a woman who enjoys the domestic side of life such as cooking, organizing and painting her house, and while she's willing to share those talents with Eric, she has no intention of becoming a mere housewife. She's a daredevil, who even as a little girl, liked to live on the edge, which is why the FBI appealed to her so much. After getting shot though, she's ready to relax a little and do some soul-searching. Laine is a very bold, take charge kind of woman, a little too much so for my taste. I guess it was kind of cute that she asked Eric out first when she felt like he was taking too long, but overall, I prefer a more traditional heroine. I also think there could have been more introspection to explain why he was waiting and why she was feeling impatient. Laine is basically the alpha female, taking the bull by the horns in their relationship. She's the first to ask for sex (on their first date, no less) and invites Eric to move in with her mere weeks later. Luckily for her, he's a very laid back kind of guy who isn't bothered by this and just takes it all in stride. Overall, Laine seemed to think more like a man, which was hard for me to understand. She does have some daddy issues, since her father never supported any of her choices in life and constantly downplays her accomplishments. This helped to make her a bit more sympathetic, and in the end, she showed what a devoted daughter she was anyway despite not having a very good relationship with him. These things made her a little more relatable, but she was simply never a stand-out heroine for me.
For an ex-con who walked out on his possibly pregnant girlfriend seventeen years ago, Eric turned out to be a pretty likable guy. As it turns out, the event that got him thrown in prison for five years in his wild youth ended up not entirely being his fault, but the judge threw the book at him anyway. Even though he got a rather harsh sentence for what he did, Eric isn't bitter about it, which is something I admired about him. He's also done a great job of turning his life around since getting out. He built a very profitable body shop, which he then sold for a very good price to move to Thunder Point, where he's starting fresh with a new service station. He works long hours, but always tries to find time for Ashley, the daughter he just recently found out about. Then Laine comes into the picture, and he's totally smitten. I liked that Eric was a gentleman on their first date, even turning Laine down on her initial offer of sex, although that resolve only lasted a day. He's also a bit on the old-fashioned side and very protective toward Laine when he finds out the truth of what she does for a living, although he backed off on his concern after she “proved” she could take care of herself. Although Eric might not make it to the top of my favorite heroes list, he had grown into a pretty admirable and laid-back guy, who was willing take whatever Laine offered and never pressured her for more.
Where things kind of fell apart for me was in their romance, which was pretty mundane for a Robyn Carr book. When they first met and then started seeing each other around town, there was some underlying interest on both their parts, but no strong spark of attraction, not even one of them thinking "Wow, he/she is gorgeous!" With that being the case, I wasn't entirely sure why they liked each other and wanted to go out in the first place. This is where I felt that more body language and introspection would have helped build these two characters and their emotional connection better. On their first date, I could see more of a connection, but overall, their romance was still pretty bland. They fell into bed on their second date and had explosive sexual chemistry (although for the most part, that's told, not shown, since there is only the one moderately descriptive love scene), but they literally don't have anything at all in common. This makes it difficult to see how a long-term relationship would work. Also, despite them living together, they still keep their relationship relatively casual, saying that they aren't looking for any commitments, especially Laine. Eric is quite aware too that once her leave of absence is up, she very well may return to the bureau and leave Thunder Point (and him) behind. The other thing I thought was weak about the romance is that there's virtually no conflict to speak of. The cover blurb alludes to the primary conflict being the differences that arise from Laine being an FBI agent and Eric being an ex-con, which could have been quite interesting if that was the case, but nothing could have been further from the truth. They get along famously right from the start and never have any arguments or misunderstandings. While there's something to be said for characters not keeping secrets from one another, them getting it all out in the open so early in the story left little else of interest which is probably why their relationship seemed so ordinary to me. Laine does have to go away to Boston to deal with her father toward the very end of the book, leaving at least a little doubt as to whether she would get things worked out and find a way to get back to Eric and Thunder Point, but it was too little too late, in my opinion. Up to that point, I was starting to get bored with them as a couple.
Robyn Carr's signature writing style is usually full of secondary characters who have their own POVs and side plots, but sadly, there weren't very many in The Chance. Most of the characters from the first three books of the series barely show up, and only a couple of new characters, both employees of Eric's, are introduced, who might play roles in future books. First is Al, a middle-aged drifter who has trouble settling down in one place because of past mistakes. Almost immediately upon coming to town, he kindles a romance with real estate agent, Raye Ann. However, we don't really even get into the meat of his storyline until near the end of the book. Once I started learning more about him, he was a pretty interesting guy. His sub-plot intertwines with that of Justin, a seventeen year old young man whose mother is gravely ill and whose father skipped out on the family a long time ago. He's trying to hold things together for the sake of his two younger brothers, both of whom are in danger of winding up in foster care. Again, he was an intriguing character, but things don't really get rolling for him either until near the end. I would have liked to see their stories woven into the narrative earlier and more seamlessly instead of being crammed into the final chapters. The final supporting characters who played important roles were Laine's family. Her twin brother, Pax, is basically her support system and the only one who can really deal with their irritating father, but he's a busy doctor with little time to himself. As with the other sub-plots, Laine's father appears during approx. the last ¼ of the novel, but I have to say his storyline was pretty predictable. I realized almost instantly what was happening with him, and it didn't do much else besides providing a little family drama and giving Laine the opportunity to reconcile with him. Even Eric's daughter, Ashley, was barely seen. We're simply told about her and the other kids from the first three books graduating high school rather than being shown, which would have been nice. The new town doctor, Scott Grant, who becomes the hero of the next book, The Promise, shows up briefly in a few scenes, just enough to give the reader the impression that his story is coming.
While The Chance had some good points, in general, it was the weakest of Robyn Carr's full-length novels I've read to date. At times, it felt like she'd run out of ideas and was just writing stuff to fill in the word count without really taking the time and care to breathe life into her characters, particularly Laine and Eric. With no real commitment until the final pages (even then it was more of an HFN ending since there's no proposal or anything), and the stakes being pretty low for our happy couple, even the romance was lacking. I know for a fact that Ms. Carr is capable of much better. Just about any book in the Virgin River series is proof of this. The final 1/3 or so of The Chance actually reflected more of the writer I've come to know and love. The fact that the ending was considerably better than the first 2/3 of the book is what prevented my rating from being lower, but I still couldn't help feeling like this book was rushed to publication when it could have been more carefully crafted to tell a truly compelling story. One misstep certainly isn't enough to put me off Ms. Carr's writing, so I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that with The Promise, she'll get back to the engaging storytelling that won me over as a fan and give the sexy doctor a meatier plot.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the publicist via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" One with the Night was another great read in Susan Squire's Companion series. Once again, I'm rather shocked by thReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" One with the Night was another great read in Susan Squire's Companion series. Once again, I'm rather shocked by the somewhat lower ratings for this series. Then again, perhaps it has something to do with the fact that she has a penchant for seriously torturing her heroes, sexually and physically. Said heroes are also typically more docile and submissive than most vampire heroes, though I hesitate to call some of them betas. However, for the most part, none of this bothers me. Overall, I enjoy the juxtaposition of the heroine essentially saving the hero. I also love how Ms. Squires takes her characters on an emotional and psychological journey that always culminates in them not only finding true and lasting love, but also finding some peace with their companion which up to that point has usually tormented them. I thoroughly enjoy watching them learn about themselves and each other and grow throughout the story to a place where I can believe in their rightness for one another and the power of their love.
Like nearly all of the heroes in this series to date, Callan is a deeply tortured man who was another of the evil Asharti's victims. She put him through hell as her own personal plaything, repeatedly raping and physically tormenting him throughout his time with her. At first it was via compulsion, but eventually, he submitted to her tortures which only left him further psychologically confused about whether he was a warped man who truly enjoyed her “attentions.” She coerced him into committing other atrocities for her as well, and when she was finally dead, he tried to create a vampire haven where others of his kind could find solace. Unfortunately, that plan backfired to the point that he became known as a traitor both to humans and vampires. Because of all this, he believes himself evil and unredeemable, but it doesn't stop the good in him from coming out in small ways. I loved how his part of the story opened with him “cleaning house” in a brothel and throwing the cruel manager and customers out while offering a new life to the prostitutes. Little good deeds like this are his way of trying to atone for the wrongs he committed in the past, but in reality, he doesn't believe he's doing much good. Callan is so tormented, he has tried several times to kill himself, but his companion won't allow it. Therefore, when he hears of a possible cure for vampirism, he's all too eager to find the doctor who is trying to discover it. Callan thinks that if he can become human again, he might finally be able to return to a normal life, and if not, then at least he'd be able to commit suicide. He just didn't expect to find love in the process. Not surprisingly, since escaping Asharti, Callan has chosen a celibate life for the past two years and doesn't really want to have anything to do with women or sex, but he can't resist the way Jane draws him. She's innocent, good, generous, and shockingly positive even in the face of her own vampirism. Although he desires her deeply, he believes it's only his companion driving him to the call of life, and he also believes himself not even close to good enough for her. Callan loathes himself so much for the things Asharti made him do that he eventually allows Jane to believe some things about himself that, while technically true, have more nuance to them than he's willing to admit. He even lets her think he's willingly having sex with the villainess, Elyta, when in reality she is compelling him in one way or another. Poor Callan has been raped so many times, first by Asharti and then Elyta, that he has trouble differentiating between a loving, healthy sexual relationship and abuse, but luckily through Jane's gentleness and their love for one another, he is finally able to experience and recognize the distinction.
Jane has always lived in the shadow of her father but is a very talented scientist and healer in her own right. She learned a great deal about doctoring by simply watching her father and reading anatomy books. In fact, she's a very bookish young lady in general, which was something I loved about her. She also taught herself midwifery by lying to her father about where she was and going into the slums to help pregnant woman. Despite all this, her father has little faith in her abilities, mainly because she's a woman, which has left her with some psychological scars of her own to overcome. Because of how she was turned vampire in a laboratory accident, Jane is still innocently unaware of the full extent of her condition and powers. She only knows what she and her father have been able to deduce scientifically. Because his only child has this “disease,” her father is working tirelessly to find a cure. It's very cute how Jane tries to comport herself like a proper lady, drinking her blood from a teacup, not allowing her "affliction" to turn her into a beast. This measure of control she exhibits over her companion definitely comes in handy in convincing Callan that not every vampire is a slave to the creature that shares their blood. She's definitely a scientist through and through. The fact that she treated her one and only sexual experience years ago as a science experiment was amusing, yet it was sad that she thought of herself as not attractive enough and too much of a bluestocking to be marriageable. This is what led to her wanting to experience sex outside of marriage, but her experiment definitely didn't produce the results she was looking for. She'd been told it would be a transforming experience, but hers was anything but until she meets Callan. However, Jane leans so far toward being a liberated woman that her first love-making experience with Callan leaves her feeling frightened that she might lose herself and her ambitions in her feelings for him. She also thinks it's just her companion producing a heightened sexual response, and that makes her feel warped for wanting sex with him so badly. Luckily, she finally comes to terms with all of this and eventually embraces every part of her new self. I also couldn't have been prouder of her when she showed her intelligence by deducing (with a little help) what was actually going on between Callan and Elyta and putting stop to it.
This is the first book in the series in which both characters begin the story as vampires, so the dynamic between them is a little different. Because of the companion in their blood, they experience an intense, raw sexual attraction from the moment they meet. It even provokes a sexual response when Callan is gravely wounded and unconscious. Events that occur later in the story change this dynamic, as they experience their attraction for each other in a different way. Always though, Callan is thinking of Jane first and foremost in everything he does which I found very romantic. They each also see things in the other that they can't see in themselves. Callan recognizes Jane's talents, creativity and femininity all of which she tries to hide or deny, because of how her father treated her as the son he never had. Jane intuitively senses the pain in Callan's past, because she can see it mirrored in his eyes. She also sees the goodness in him when he thinks of himself as nothing but evil. Both of them admit their love for one another to themselves, but each think the other can't love them back, which delays their verbal declarations until the very end. A part of me wished that they could have had a little more faith in each other and their ability to love, but it all ended well anyway.
For the first time in this series, I have to admit that the sexual abuse of the hero was a little harder for me to take. I think it was because a large part of it was happening in real time with Elyta, interspersed with some flashbacks to his time with Asharti as well, which made it all a little too overwhelming. It got to the point that Callan was spending so much time engaged in torturous sex acts with the villainess that I felt it was taking something away from his and Jane's burgeoning love. Of course, none of this is his fault, because Elyta first compelled him with her vampire powers, and later, by hanging Jane's safety over his head. At the time, he had little else with which to bargain except his body, so I did admire him for putting himself on the line like that to protect Jane. It was just difficult to read about him being abused over and over when he was already deeply damaged from his time with Asharti. It also didn't allow for a lot of time for Callan and Jane to develop a healthy sexual relationship, so that part seemed slightly rushed. Having Callan and Jane finally rekindle their intimacy right on the heels of the abuse seemed a little too soon as well. However, I will admit though, that their interactions were very sweet and romantic, and the author did a great job of differentiating between the two experiences for Callan.
There were a few common characters from past books who appear in One with the Night. Jane's father was first seen in The Companion as the doctor who Ian turned to, looking for a cure, and it is through his blood sample that Jane was infected. Stephan Sincai's mentor, the monk, Brother Flavio, arrives with Elyta and her maid, Clara. Although Flavio seems to have a guilty conscience for not doing more to help Stephan and is obviously not evil like Elyta, he is largely passive throughout the story. I thought it was sweet that Clara had been in love with Flavio for a long time and unable to express her feelings inside the confines of Mirso Monastery. She finally finds her voice, but sadly, we don't get to see much of what happens between these two. Perhaps they will appear again as supporting characters in future books of the series. There is also the vampire, Khalenberg, who is out to prevent anyone from discovering a cure. Although I don't distinctly recall him from the previous books, he may have appeared before, because he seemed to have knowledge of the other now-happy couples. I also thought the inclusion of the Loch Ness monster was clever.
Overall, I enjoyed reading One with the Night and thought that it was another worthy effort in the Companion series. The only reason I marked off the half-star was for the somewhat excessive sexual abuse, but in the grand scheme of things, it didn't take too much away from the rest of the story for me. I liked the journey to finding a cure and how that all turned out. I also admire the author for her talent with character studies and how she was able to bring Callan and Jane full-circle in both their relationship with each other and their individual relationships with their companions. Although the main characters for the next book of the series look like they are going to be brand new, I look forward to meeting them when I continue the series soon.
Note: The sexual tension and love scenes between the hero and heroine are fairly steamy but not really what I would term erotic. However, there are multiple scenes of the hero being raped both in the present and in flashbacks that are pretty intense and contain some BDSM style interactions (including a D/S “relationship”, bondage, flogging, and intimate piercing) between him and his female abusers, which are not for the faint of heart....more