Writing this review makes me sad because I really wanted to love this book for several reasons. One, because I'm friends with the author on Goodreads, have chatted with her, and really like her as a person; she seems really kind, laid-back, and funny. Two, because I am in love with that cover. It seems to be paying homage to the bodice-rippers of the 1980s and 90s, which I am all for, as you probably know, being the self-professed Bodice Ripper Kahleesi. And three, the idea of a paranormal romance involving the four Horsemen of the apocalypse was a really unique idea and I wanted to support it, was hoping for something like J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood meets R. Lee Smith's Last Hour of Gann.
Instead I got, TWILIGHT meets the apocalypse.
The beginning and ending are unarguably the best parts of this book. Sara Burns, the heroine, is a firefighter who has literally drawn the short stick to stay behind and protect her town at all costs. When she sees Pestilence riding his horse, she shoots him and then lights his body on fire. To her horror, he comes for her, half-rotting and dead, and makes her his prisoner, vowing to her that as soon as he's fully healed, he intends to make her suffer. His treatment of her is so cruel, and the story plays out across all these abandoned households and ghost-towns filled with the dead. It's creepy AF.
The problem occurs with what I think of as insta-love, even though it doesn't happen instantly - Sara's attraction to Pestilence happens much too fast. I saw it coming because the descriptions of his angelic beauty were far too numerous to ignore the warning signs looming on the horizons. I certainly wasn't happy about it, though, especially since she forgives his abusive treatment of her - shooting her in the back with arrows, dragging her bound down a tarmac road while he's on horseback, etc. - remarkably quickly. One of the thing I love about R. Lee Smith's work, who also specializes in immortal love stories, is that 1) she isn't afraid to make her heroes repulsive or at least inhuman and 2) the connections that are forged between her characters unravel gradually, amidst much emotional strife. I kept thinking how much better this story might have played out in the hands of an author like that.
I did like how the apocalyptic setting brought out the worst in people, although there were several scenes that were almost identical in how they played out. These scenes gave me a taste of the grim setting I was expecting. I also liked the old couple they might at one point, and was quite moved by their story. That was one of the saddest parts of the book. As I said, the ending was also great and brought up some very interesting moral dilemmas; it also felt like a very different book from the first. It was like the author had 2 disparate ideas: one about a messed-up romance between a monster and an ordinary human girl (R. Lee Smith) and the other about a tender romance between a misunderstood and tragic figure who must be redeemed by an ordinary human girl (Stephenie Meyer). They really didn't mesh for me.
Also, Pestilence says some pretty creepy things to Sara about her not being a virgin. I quoted the thing he said in one of my status updates, but that made me really not like him, and that's supposedly after he's started to fall for her. What the hell, Pestilence? Sure, he redeemed himself in the end, but there's a pattern of creep behavior here that was never sufficiently addressed or talked through.
Overall, I found myself sadly disappointed by this book because so many people were giving it high ratings and I really wanted to enjoy it too. I can't help but feel that they read a different book than I did, as seems to be the case for a lot of these YA/NA new releases lately. I do have other books by this author on my Kindle, so I'm hoping that they might be better for me than this one. I also saw that the second book in this series is about War, so maybe a character who deals in battles will be more appealing to me than one who deals in fevers and plagues.
Thank you, Heather, for buddy-reading this with me!
I wanted to read this book because that title was way too sexy for the bus, and also because I am a garbage can and this looked like primo trash. PLEASURE UNBOUND was, indeed, far too sexy for the bus, but whether it was primo trash is up in the air. I'm a fairly discerning garbage can, and I'm snobby about my trash.
PLEASURE UNBOUND is set in a world filled with various types of demons, who can pair off and breed and share traits like sexy CryptoKitties. These demons are hunted by a group of slayers called the Aegis, who believe that they're dangerous. Sometimes people also collect the demon parts and sell them to black markets, but most of the Aegis, who appear to be holier-than-thou (literally) snobs want no part of the magic world, even by proxy.
Eidolon is an incubus who works as a doctor in a demon hospital. Being a demon hospital, they see a lot of patients who have fallen victim to the Aegis. But one day, a patient comes in who isn't a victim to an Aegis - she's an actual Aegis. Everyone in the hospital wants to kill her, except Eidolon, who thinks that she might be useful (and it doesn't help that she's hot, and Eidolon Jr. agrees).
It isn't until he's poking around in her anatomy - no, not that way, perverts - that he realizes there's something off about this demon slayer, who calls herself Tayla. She's not quite human. In fact, she's part demon herself. *le gasp*
I bought PLEASURE UNBOUND because it was 99-cents in the Kindle store and the garbage can inside me deemed that a fair price for worthy trash. With a title like PLEASURE UNBOUND, I didn't have very high expectations. I figured this would be a lightly pornographic romp through an equally lightly plotted urban fantasy world, and in that sense, I was right and this isn't that different from what you would expect to see in a Sherilyn Kenyon or Kresley Cole novel.
PLEASURE UNBOUND had an interesting idea but it wasn't fully fleshed out (heh). The porn definitely overtook the world-building at the expense of everything else. The villain in here was so creepy, and yet got almost no air time. The secondary characters were interesting, but weren't given a lot of air time - and the one I wanted to read about the most, Yuri, was killed off. How could you kill off Yuri, Larissa Ione? I wanted to read more about this sexy Middle Eastern demon man who had his own BDSM dungeon. That would have made for an excellent garbage can read. RIP, Yuri.
Plus, and let's face it, the heroine of this book was incredibly annoying and made the most stupid decisions. The only good things about her was that she a) wasn't a version and b) didn't have orgasms at the drop of a hat and the hero really had to work for it to make her come. That would have been great except the heroine says that this isn't "normal," implying that you have to explode with orgasms all the time in bed to be "normal." She's always marching into danger, she whines and cries a lot, and she made some of the most ridiculous decisions on the most flimsy pretenses of logic. That would be OK if she were an ordinary human but she's supposed to be this amazing demon slayer. I don't buy it.
The hero was hot, but he couldn't carry the book on his own and deserved way better than Tayla.
I didn't post any status updates for this - stealth review!!!
When you're as busy as I am, you want to have a book on you at all times. At any given moment, I have one to two books in my purse, even if I'm just going to the hair salon. You never know when you might be kept waiting! WONDROUS STRANGE was my most recent book purse and I finished it in just two days.
I was a bit hesitant about starting this book. It came out in 2009, at the start of the post-TWILIGHT YA paranormal craze, except it's about faeries instead of vampires. These trends are cyclical and right now, faeries are popular again because you-know-who wrote you-know-what, and I honestly don't get it, because I'd take vampires over faeries any day -
But then, I figured it out.
Faeries are basically the Kardashians of the paranormal universe. They're beautiful and they have nice clothes and they command attention - but what do they do? Yes, we know that they're magical - but what do they do - apart from being larger-than-life and slightly supernatural and getting into petty squabbles for no apparent reason? We don't know. The glamor lies in the glamor (or the glamour, if you're a faerie), and from there, it just becomes a cyclical argument consisting of self-hype and pixie dust. Vampires are like the counter-culture version of vampires (so, like, I dunno what that would be in terms of pop-culture... punk rock? Grunge?); there's the whole blood thing, for start, and then there's the fact that they're dead and tied to the occult. Faeries are like the squeaky-clean version of vampires: immortal and powerful without that whole "gross and dead and bloody" thing.
Anyway, getting back to the book, the main character is a girl named Kelley who is involved with the Avalon theater company in New York. Due to a fluke, she was promoted from understudy to Queen Titania (this is called foreshadowing) in the play, A Midsummer Night's Dream. Then one day, she meets a weirdo in a park and ends up rescuing a kelpie from a pool in Central Park, and that ends up pulling her into the supernatural world of the faerie.
The Samhain gate to Faerie lies in Central Park, and the time when it opens is drawing close. The faeries are pulling their usual games of intrigue, but this time it's more malicious than usual: one of them is planning on starting up the tradition of The Wild Hunt - a ruthless band of faerie hunters who kill and raze until enough blood is spilled to satisfy them. And this time, they'll want difficult prey.
Obviously, since this is a YA paranormal book, the heroine is not all that she seems, has a secret past, blah blah blah, etc. Likewise, the hero is not all that he seems, is instantly attracted to the heroine, must betray his nature to be with her, blah blah blah, etc. By the end of the book, they are already saying "I love you" (actually, it's I love thee, which makes it extra pretentious). Because of course.
I'm not sure if I would have liked this as much if I was reading it at home, surrounded by my (infinite) array of options, but as a captive audience trapped in the middle of a very slow bus with nothing better to do, it was okay. The writing is actually very gorgeous, and I loved the way the author incorporated faerie mythology into the storyline, and interwove theater into it. Especially since I recently read another YA book about theater called ECHO AFTER ECHO, which left me wanting more.
The beginning of this book is much better than the end, however. In the beginning, I was getting total Labyrinth vibes, and this is important, because Labyrinth is the yardstick by which I judge all books about faeries and goblins. The lame insta-love and lame love interest cost this book an entire star, though. I hated Sonny. For a semi-immortal, he was incredibly immature and lame. There are boys at middle school dances with more maturity than Sonny.
All complaints aside, I liked it enough to buy the sequel (this book and the sequel are $1.99 ea. on Kindle right now), so I suppose I can't really complain. It kind of reminded me of Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series, except with a less swoon-worthy hero and fewer intrigue/action scenes.
There's an old joke about TWILIGHT that you've probably heard: that it's the story of a teenage girl's struggle between necrophilia and bestiality, hurr hurr hurr. Well, here in TWILIGHT: Team Jacob Edition - *cough* - I mean, SHIVER, Maggie Stiefvater takes that a step further by writing about a girl named Grace who has romantic feelings for the wolf in her backyard. And when I say "wolf," that's not short for werewolf - before she even finds out that he can turn human (and oh, what rapturous joy that brings), she's fantasizing about the feeling of his fur under her fingers and dreaming about his eyes. She also won't ever shut up about wolves, and chats to her two friends about wolves constantly, and then is puzzled and irritated when they want to talk about other things that aren't wolves.
I might be the only person on the continental U.S. who hated THE RAVEN BOYS, but people kept telling me to give this author another chance, and I thought, "Well, okay, I did like TWILIGHT, and Jacob was cool, so maybe this will be okay." Superficially, it's a lot like TWILIGHT - it features a heroine who is wise beyond her years with absent-minded parents who she takes care of more than they take care of her; it features a supernatural love interest who likes the way the heroine smells and must fight against his nature in order to be with her, even if it results in his own death; it features an evil werewolf who is jealous of what the heroine represents and who decides to hunt, stalk, and attempt to kill her -
You can see where I'm going with this.
But comparing SHIVER to TWILIGHT is like comparing NIKE to ADIDAS or COKE to PEPSI or CHOCOLATE to VANILLA - there is only one clear winner. And spoiler, SHIVER is not that winner. First, the werewolf love interest is so lame. At least Edward had some of that Old World patriarchal charm, even if he could come across as controlling and creepy; it was obvious why he was so attractive - he was good looking and sophisticated and mature. Sam, on the other hand, is a droopy emo boy who composes poetry while they make love, and it is bad poetry, like the kind you see on Tumblr that doesn't make any sense but for some reason has thousands of reblogs. But the main reason this book gets one star is because of the heroine: Grace.
When she's not meditating on her favorite subject - wolf-lust - she's being a raging "See You Next Tuesday" to everyone in her life. The way she talks to her parents is absolutely disgusting; she is constantly snarking at them and disrespecting them and taking over their house and their things (do you pay for those things, girlfriend? is that why you feel free to take over your dad's study and then tell him he isn't getting it back?), but when they try to implement some actual parental control, she gets all bristly, like "how they try to do their job and be parents?" It's a real catch-22. But the disrespect doesn't stop there - when she brings Sam home to meet the folks, she gets angry that her mom is nice to her boyfriend, and slut-shames her own mom. OH MY GOD, CAN YOU NOT?!
I honestly don't understand why she has friends. When she's not talking about wolves, she's brushing off her friends or being rude. Everything that comes out of her mouth - that isn't some insipid drivel about how much she looooves Sam, that is - is either mean, rude, sarcastic, or brusque. She spends a great deal of time in this book looking at people coldly or speaking coldly, especially to her parents. She's even mean to Sam, telling him to shut up several times. OMG, can she die already, please? I think the only YA character I've hated more (that I wasn't actually supposed to hate) was CATH from FANGIRL. (Yet another book that is bewilderingly popular.)
The premise behind the werewolf transformations is also incredibly lame, so bear with me because ***SPOILERS*** werewolves transform based on temperature (so the temperature is always listed right below each chapter, so you know how cold it is, hence the title, SHIVER, because it's cold, get it?? so meta, wow), and when it's cold outside they turn into wolves, and when it's hot they turn into people - only after a certain number of years, they lose the ability to turn into people and just stay wolves. While reading this, I'm asking myself, "Why are they living somewhere so cold if this happens? Why not move to California where it basically never snows unless you live in the mountains?" But the author had an answer ready for this: moving to temperate places just makes you even more sensitive to small temperature changes, and you'll transform anyway. But ***SPOILERS*** Grace was bitten by wolves as a kid and didn't turn into a werewolf, because her neglectful parents "accidentally" (I think they were actually trying to murder this demon spawn) left her in the back of a car on a 100+-degree day while she was taking a nap, and she almost died, and apparently the heat + her fever cooked the werewolfiness right out of her. I AM NOT JOKING!!! So Grace & co. get the brilliant idea of infecting Sam and this other werewolf with meningitis, so they'll get high fevers that'll cook the werewolfiness out of them, too. I am shook with stupidity. How would this work, but moving somewhere temperate doesn't, Captain Cop-Out?
I can't with this series. I'll be the first to admit that TWILIGHT is not a great book, but it was fun and addictive and didn't have self-absorbed characters wallowing around in the pretentious prose of the narrative like it was some kind of smug, self-congratulatory swimming pool.
People love to ask that question: what would you do if you had a billion dollars? The first thing I'd do is start a scholarship in my name and then probably donate money to the local schools. The second thing I'd do is spend way too much money on ebooks that I'm not going to read. I AM SO BAD AT READING THE BOOKS I ALREADY OWN - and yet, like a magpie, I'm constantly on the lookout for more lovely, shiny books to feather my nest.
UNDER A RAGING MOON is one of those books. I snagged it from the freebie section of the Kindle store, along with a selection of other works by this author. I'd liked most of what I'd read by V.J. Chambers, with one exception - although, with this particular book, there's a catch... it's a serial. Meaning only the first book is free. Subsequent installments in the series must be paid for. I have always sneered slightly at serials - it seems like the book equivalent of a "freemium" app.
I know what you're thinking. "Nenia, you got a book for free and you're going to complain about it?"
Piper is a private detective (who is also a werewolf) currently investigating this man (who is also a werewolf) whose girlfriend died. She had a necklace, which was a family heirloom with magical Werewolfy Powers™ and the parents of the dead girlfriend want it back. Also, it's worth mentioning that werewolf man's name is Kale, like the vegetable. KALE.
Her plan to get into his house to steal the necklace is to sabotage her own car, flaunt her assets (and breastets - old joke, I know), and then finagle an invitation to spend the night in his guestroom by playing the helpless girl. Only Kale - *snort* - seems determined to resist her.
Weirdly, she's also attracted to the repairman of the tow truck, who is NOT immune to her charms, and they almost end up doing it in the front seat of his car. There's this weirdly uncomfortable, predatory vibe at first that gave me horrific flashbacks to the ONE and only Alexa Riley book I read, which involved alternative forms of payment in exchange for services rendered, and suddenly I was like, "OH GOD, THIS IS GONNA TURN INTO SOME SORT OF WEIRD BREEDING EROTICA." Because I have been down that road, and it's a dark and scary road.
But no, this was not breeding erotica.
Honestly, for what it was, there were some pretty hot scenes in here. I also liked that it appears to be set in the same universe as her other werewolf series, Cole & Dana, because I really liked THE KILLING MOON - although the shortness of the book kind of just made me wish that I was reading that book instead. But hey, it's free, and it's inoffensive. How often can you say that of a book found in the freebie section? Word of warning, though: it ends on a major cliffhanger.
I have a love-hate relationship with reading challenges. On the one hand, sometimes I find new gems I never would have thought to pick up otherwise (for example, this year's challenge led me to discover a new favorite author, V.J. Chambers). On the other hand, sometimes they have me scrambling around in the Daily Deals/Free sections of the Kindle Store in a panic, desperately seeking free or cheap books to complete a category I do not like.
MUST LOVE GHOSTS sort of falls into the later category. I went through this very brief period in college where I was reading romances that fell more on the supernatural side of the paranormal romance fence, i.e. psychics, realistic ghost novels, etc. I liked them because they felt more plausible than werewolves, because it's easier to believe in inexplicable occurrences in an old house than it is a hulking GQ model who turns into a furry once a month. (And no, I have nothing against furries or GQ models.) Then I got sick of them and haven't picked up another since...UNTIL NOW.
I picked up MUST LOVE GHOSTS two Halloweens ago because I thought the jack-o-lantern satchel on the cover was cute. The premise was also intriguing. Abby is a girl who lives in a small Virginia town called Banshee Creek that is rife with history. It's a destination location for those interested in the occult and paranormal and many who live there have built their lives around capitalizing on that. Not Abby, though, who's a singer in a folk/country band (although not by choice). This whole time she's been trying to get over the grief of losing her fiance in Afghanistan.
Mike was a friend to both Abby and Cole, the fiance. He's also been in love with her since the day he met her and has tried to hide his feelings out of respect to both his friends. Now that Cole has been dead for two years, though, it's getting harder - especially because he has to deliver an important momento to Abby that he's been holding onto her for years, from Cole. What makes hiding his feelings even more difficult is the possibility that they might not be unrequited.
This was a pretty good story, honestly. It doesn't have a very significant paranormal element. Most of the story focuses on Mike and Abby and their growing attraction to one another, set against the backdrop of this small town vibe. The writing was solid and I don't think I spotted any typos. Both characters felt real in a way that romance characters sometimes don't, by which I mean they are annoying human beings. Mike, especially, got on my nerves with his Debbie Downer routine, and the fact that he was constantly playing Officer Safety, and telling everyone, "that's not safe!" I'm the same way, but he even got on my nerves - and that says something.
MUST LOVE GHOSTS is a fun, light read though. It kind of reminds me of those "cozy mysteries." There isn't a lot of tension and it's mostly written for light entertainment and feeling good. I think this would be a good rainy-day read in a warm, cafe setting. Possibly with a cinnamon flavored pastry.
I'm too tired to do a properly angry review, so while reading this, just picture my face looking like this: 😡
CAPTURED was bad. The characters were incredibly bland. Braith, or whatever his dumb name was, is a generic beautiful vampire who is feared by all without actually giving any reason that he should be regarded in this way. Seriously. What is "evil"? in this world, if Braith is considered on the cutting edge of it? Girl Scouts?
Arianna is a human who is part of the resistance against the vampires. If you think that this means cool fight scenes THINK AGAIN. We meet Arianna post-capture, when she's about to be sold as a blood slave or drained of all her blood. If you think this means emotional tension, THINK AGAIN. She metaphorically bites her nails as she finds out she's being sold to a vampire with cruel eyes and a crooked nose, only to be rescued by Prince Braith.
The ensuing pages are a blathering mess of purple prose, odd word choices, bad writing, and terrible characterization. Arianna is constantly described as special, sometimes in that exact word. She has insta-hate immediately with her female human "rivals," even before she falls into insta-love with Braith. Her eyes are described as "crystalline sapphire" more than once. Her hair has "red streaks" and it's a color the hero has never seen before. She always cries "a single tear" when she's upset. The prince has never had a blood slave before: she is his first. The prince usually goes for curvy women, but now he's discovering for the first time that skinny women are beautiful and so are their angles. I'm not kidding, and yes, there's a scene where she stands in the sunlight and it flatters her sharp angles. Oh, and the kicker is that it turns out Braith was blind - but through mthe magic of Mary Sue Technology (pat. pending), she has restored his sight. Because... magical hoohahs.
I love vampire stories and I love captive romance stories, so this should have been the best of both worlds. Instead, it's the worst, featuring all of the cringiest tropes and starring the Mariest Sue in the Mary Sue universe.I don't think I'll be reading any more books in this series, and probably not anything else by this author, either.
I needed a romance novel about a demon for a reading challenge, and this book was free (this is becoming a familiar refrain from me). The summary sounded intriguing but it had one of those horrible cartoony covers (not pictured here), and I always side-eye my acquisitions from the freebie section because while I have unearthed some gems there, there's also a lot of garbage.
At first, I really enjoyed the childish banter and gossipy writing style. It kind of reminded me of Katie MacAlister before her writing got kind of bad, or the middle Stephanie Plum novels when they were formulaic and cheesy but still good.
Ysabel is a witch who was burned at the stake 500 years ago when she got too inconvenient for her lover to have around. She cursed him, his mother, and three other villagers who were responsible for her death with her last dying breath - only she didn't read the fine print of that spell. Now, she's doomed to serve as Lucifer's assistant in the afterlife and he wants her on a special assignment: those 5 humans who killed her have escaped, and she's going to relive the final moments of her death in increasing increments of time every day that they remain at large.
Remy is the half-demon assigned by Lucifer to help him, and he's basically a walking sexual harassment poster. Remember the heroes of the early 2000s, the hyper-sexualized ones who acted like frat boy rejects and thought "no" was just a "yes" in the rough? Remy is cast in that mold, so much so that I actually checked the book's publication date to see if it was a 2002 release, or something like that. But no, this came out in 2012.
Despite his grating personality, I really liked the premise and the chemistry between them was somewhat well done, so I thought I might be able to overlook that element of sleaze. I sat on a three-star rating for this book until the 50% mark, when I realized that the sexist comments were going to keep coming and Remy was going to let his alpha flag fly, saying things like, how he wished he could have her walk around panty-less but oh, then the demons who lived in the sewers might see her crotch when she was walking around and that crotch belonged to him... but oh, then he could just kill all the demons who lived in the sewers in a massive act of genocide so she could be panty-less and remain his alone! Ha ha! A winner is he! And Ysabel, she eats this up, hook, line, and sinker, after some token resistance, because Remy likes women who say "no" because he sees it as a "challenge."
Also, at the end we find out that Lucifer secretly orchestrated this to play matchmaker because he wants to breed more inhabitants of hell. Double ew @ infernal breeding programs.
The blurb on Goodreads is super confusing, because I don't remember reading any of the parts about Sera controlling his own brain or the details behind the government mandated experiments. All of that was sort of hinted at, but as far as I can remember it was never stated in such black and white terms.
Sera is a psychic who has, apparently, died. While he was alive, he was friends with a guy named "Wish" who promised him that he was going to create this great mental afterlife that he could frolic in when he died: think heaven, only for psychics, except that it's called, appropriately enough, "Wish City."
When Sera gets to Wish City, he finds out - surprise, surprise - that it's not exactly what Wish promised him. Paradise is downright ugly, with drugs and cheap sex filling the streets. Everything is dark and grungy and completely unlike what Sera expected.
Fiend, like the city, was also dreamed up by Wish, and like the City, he's a creation that managed to get loose from his creator and take on a shape all of his own. Fiend likes to eat brains, and next up on his cerebral prix fixe menu is Sera. Only... he's attracted to Sera physically as well, and decides to toy with his food before eating him - but that doesn't quite go as planned, either.
HOW TO LOVE A MONSTER falls into that hateful three-star review territory for me. There was nothing particularly wrong with the story but it didn't wow me enough where all I wanted to do was gush. It entertained me, and then we parted ways. I did think the world building was very odd, and while original, there were many aspects that confused me and could have used more fleshing out.
While reading, I kept having this sense of deja vu, wondering what this book reminded me of. Then it hit me: those weird dark fantasy movies from the late 90s like eXistenZ (1999) and Dark City (1998). Both of those movies had an incredibly original world with a compelling storyline and scenery, but - for me - also felt kind of confusing and sometimes even nonsensical (and not in a good way).
I bought this while it was 99-cents and for that, I think it was a good deal. If you're a fan of bizarre stories and/or are looking for m-m erotica that doesn't fit the usual mold, you'll like this, I think.
P.S. I realize that Fiend isn't a zombie, but since I don't read zombie novels for the most part, I decided to go ahead and use him for a zombie category on my Halloween romance challenge. He eats brains - I figured that was close enough.
The Kindle freebie section can be a cesspool of literary garbage, but once in a while, you dredge up a total gem. THE KILLING MOON, named after an Echo & the Bunnymen song, is like a cross between one of those gritty early 00's paranormal romances and the movie, The Silence of the Lambs.
Dana was kidnapped and tortured by a werewolf named Cole, but their relationship was complicated before that, and became way more complicated afterwards. Now he's locked up and she's a professional werewolf tracker, and she's forced to interact with him yet again because of information he may or may not have about a bunch of werewolf-related murders. It's painfully clear how damaged she is psychologically, and the struggle between the mind and the heart is clear as she struggles to resist the manipulative Cole.
I thought the murder mystery part was very well done. The pacing was excellent and the flashbacks heightened tension and improved the storyline instead of bogging it down. Dana was a sympathetic main character and even though she made some stupid decisions, I felt like they were in line with her character and they never bordered on TSTL - because she's one seriously F'd up piece of work.
Cole was actually sexy and that's testament to the author's skills, in my opinion, that she managed to turn a werewolf serial killer into an attractive love interest. The sexual tension between him and Dana was seriously off the charts. I think what makes it work is that it's clear that he respects Dana and understands her. He's not an alphahole. Avery was also a great male character and I couldn't decide whether I wanted Dana to end up with him or Cole. Hollis, on the other hand? Total slime-bucket. Hated him immediately and wanted him dead by the end. Boooo!
THE KILLING MOON has some disturbing content (rape, gore, kidnapping, etc.), but it was nothing too graphic in my opinion, and it never felt gratuitous. The pacing is tight and I was actually almost late for work one morning because I just had to find out what happened next. I really enjoyed the story and the tone of THE KILLING MOON and am definitely interested in reading the sequel(s).
You know what's embarrassing? Going into a thrift store when you're almost thirty years of age and buying Twilight: The Graphic Novel while the teenage male cashier judges you.
WHATEVER, TEENAGE MALE CASHIER. I REGRET NOTHING. AND NOW I HAVE TWILIGHT: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL AND YOU DON'T. SO I WIN.
When this book first came out in 2010, my first thought was, "Are you kidding me?" It looked like a cash grab to capitalize off the movie. Twilight mania was in full swing and you literally could not go anywhere without hearing someone talk about it. I initially liked the books, but the movies and the fans turned me off the series so fast because there was no escape.
Well, now that I've read the book for myself, I have revised this opinion. Yes, it is a graphic novel of a book that was turned into a movie but... the art is beautiful. Young Kim did such an amazing job. The expressions, the use of color... even the text they used... it's all so gorgeous, and fits the tone of the story far better than the movie ever did. I feel like the scenery and the looks of the characters were much more true to form.
You may be asking yourself, "What's the point?" Well, if you enjoyed TWILIGHT and you're the type of person who would buy one of those Harlequin manga (yes, they exist; yes they are awesome - YOU WOULD BE SO AMAZED HOW WELL ROMANCE TRANSLATES TO MANGA), then you should definitely get this book for your collection. I know it's going to stay in mine. <3
I kind of want to revisit the novel now. It's been sitting on my dresser, waiting...
1. a feeling of satisfaction you get when your relentless nagging & begging results in another book in your favorite vampire series
Mandatory disclosure time: I was the beta reader for this book and Heather is a good friend of mine. In fact, I basically nagged and nagged her about writing a Branek story after reading and falling in love with the other book in this series, DREAMS FOR THE DEAD. If you know me, you know that I have two modes: "Not interested" and "F*cking obsessed." For this series, it was the latter. I'm now in the works of hounding Heather for a Jared story, and then maybe a Gus story. I'm relentlessly incorrigible.
DEAD HEART went live today on Amazon, and I bought a copy as soon as I got home so I could read and review it in a somewhat unbiased manner (because when you pay for goods and services rendered, I feel like that automatically makes you much more invested in said goods and services). Heather added a lot of new scenes in this book that I hadn't read before, so it was extra fun for me to see what had been kept, what had been changed, what had been expanded on. The sexy scenes in this book were super hot and disturbing, exactly how vampires should be written. Oh, and Branek is a bisexual vampire who swings both ways, as long as there's blood to be drunk and good times to be had. You'll love him to death...and then when you die, he will do horrible things to your dead body.
It's hard for me to say which book I liked best. DREAMS FOR THE DEAD was really, really good, but I like the protagonist of DEAD HEART better, as he's more in the vein (heh, vein) of the gleefully psychotic heroes I find so interesting in fiction (even if I'd avoid them like the plague in real life). This is the sort of hero that Trisha Baker was trying to come up with, I think, when she wrote CRIMSON KISS with its evil vampire hero, Simon Baldevar, but I like Branek so much better.
P.S. Yes, I am the "Nenia" in the dedication. This is the first time someone has dedicated a book to me, ever, and I was so happy that I immediately considered screen-shotting my Kindle app from my PC so I could print that sh*t out and tack it to my wall right next to my diploma. #priorities
But seriously, if you love heroes that will scare the F out of you & dark stories, you should read this.
WILDFIRE was so good that I actually didn't want to review it right away or even read anything else. I just curled up in bed and watched mindless YouTube videos, thinking about how good this whole trilogy was (so far), and wondering why the hell it isn't a TV show when so much other bullshit is making it to prime time.
(Seriously, if nobody's bought the film/TV rights to this series yet, they better get cracking.)
The book gets off to a rough start, which made me wonder in the beginning if this was where the series finally jumps the shark. But no, everything evens out, and Nevada immediately sets out to establishing House Baylor, even though it means that she and her family and her relationship with Rogan are all going to become uncomfortably public.
Even worse, Rynda, Rogan's ex-fiance, has her husband kidnapped and being a helpless rag, gloms on to Rogan while they make an effort to figure out what happened to Brian Sherwood (an equally helpless rag). This being the world of Primes and whatnot, his disappearance is almost certainly rooted in yet another conspiracy filled with people who want Nevada dead...or alive, but totally under their control.
Nobody writes power struggles like Ilona Andrews. If you like court intrigue, the Hidden Legacy world features a whole lot of that, modernized. Magic is power in the HL universe, and those who have it are constantly using it to throw their weight around, create new alliances, and topple enemies. Nevada, who is a new player to this game, comes to this world as an outsider, and has to navigate a playing board where virtually everyone except perhaps Mad Rogan is an enemy.
The magic system in this book is also really great. It reminds me a lot of that Brandon Sanderson novel, STEELHEART, because it's all about superpowers...and while some of the classic abilities are there, she and her husband put a fresh spin on everything and make it all new and interesting. The end result is a universe that I felt utterly enchanted by in a way that I haven't really been by a book since reading Harry Potter or the Dark Materials trilogy. This is classic fantasy with a romance cover.
Also, goddamn - all the people in this book are pretty. I'd complain, but they're also extremely well fleshed-out characters with interesting flaws and idiosyncrasies, too. Bug was hilarious with how he shipped Rogan and Nevada, and Cornelius is scary AF but manages to be adorable, too. I could say more about why you should read this book but you'd just end up with a 10,000-word long essay about how sexy Mad Rogan is and I don't think that would be particularly edifying for any of you to read.
Some books are bad. Some books are very bad. And some books are so bad that they take the concept of "terrible" to such deplorably base lows that it is almost avant garde. That is how bad CRIMSON SHADOWS was: bad enough that it ought to be showcased in an exhibit as a symbol of existential despair and intellectual ennui.
I've been working my way through the Crimson series since April of last year. CRIMSON KISS was good enough that I bought the entire series immediately. "Finally!" I thought. "A vampire series that isn't afraid to be dark! Complex and interesting characters and relationships, a heroine who wants to kill the hero in the name of revenge, and a 'love interest' who is genuinely dark and terrifying and seems utterly incapable of being redeemed."
Doesn't that sound awesome? I thought so too. Hence the four star rating and foolish optimism.
The second book, CRIMSON NIGHT, was where I began to wonder if I had made a terrible mistake. Simon Baldevar, the vampire antihero from the first book, was pretty solidly established as an abusive, sociopathic freak of nature whose good looks were his only redeeming characteristic. What he did to the heroine was awful (what didn't he do to the heroine? Poor Meghann). It seemed like Baker was setting the stage for a love-hate relationship of epic proportions borne of revenge and reluctant sexual attraction, because Simon was so obviously a villain. Instead, she set about ret-conning everything that had happened in the previous book, painting Meghann's abuse in a rosy light, and actively attempting to make Simon into a romantic hero, replete with candlelight and roses. Oh, and the sex? The sex was weird. Let's just say that it involves blood, and not in an "Oh! I bit you during intercourse! I'm a vampire! I find that sexy!" way.
Since the book ended with them having children, I figured that those children were probably going to come into play in CRIMSON SHADOWS. Vampires aren't supposed to have children, but Simon is good at alchemy and managed to magic Meghann into being fertile for vampy offspring. For some reason, one of the children is human (but psychic) and the other child is vampiric (and deformed). That could be interesting, I thought. Misguidedly. Naively. Innocently.
***WARNING: SPOILERS AND DESCRIPTIONS OF GRAPHIC CONTENT***
Reading this book put me into such a weird mood, because while it was utterly bad and ruined what started out as such a strong series for me, I couldn't help but applaud the author for her give-no-f*cks attitude. Trisha Baker obviously writes whatever she wants, and on one level, I have to respect that. This book was over-the-top in a way that most books stopped being over the top in the mid-80s. It was a throwback to an era where the sex was gratuitous and awful, the heroines were infuriating and foot-stampy, and the heroes were psychotic d-bags who equated murder with courtship.
On the other hand, what the actual hell did I just read? Some of you have been following my status updates for this book and have seen examples of the sex scenes included in CRIMSON SHADOWS. My 'favorite' was this scene where Simon teabags Meghann's bloody neck before having her give him a blowjob. Ew.
Speaking of EW, Mikal. Mikal is a piece of work. He is the vampiric twin of Meghann and Simon and does some of the most heinous things I've seen a character do in a romance novel. He rapes someone to death when he is still just a child (and of course, his character is gay and his father says how disgusting this is). He rapes and kills an old lady. He tricks his sister into sleeping with him, and then later rapes and beats her and his mother (even shouting "I never got to breast feed!" before attacking her in the boob with his fangs, because that just happened).
I also hated Jimmy by the end of this book, too. Jimmy is still hanging around Maggie, even though she's back with Simon. He slut-shames her and insults her and makes her feel bad about being with a serial killer vampire (which...okay, I had mixed feelings about that - because girl, please, have some pride. He hits you and threatens you and treats you like a child - why are you still with him?). After Meghann makes it pretty clear that they're never going to happen, he decides that he's going to go after her daughter, Ellie, instead. Ellie, who is human and seventeen. Ellie, who he raised as a daughter. Jimmy looks thirty and has been a vampire for a lot longer than that. This was so creepy to me. I mean, how do you go from, "I'm your daddy" to "I'm your daddy"? (Please don't answer this. It was a rhetorical question. I don't want to know.)
Throw in a bunch of special snowflake action, additional magical powers that manifest when convenient to the plot, surprise incest, vilification of gay characters, gratuitous gore, and a bunch of stupid sexist a-holes and spineless heroines, and you get the book equivalent of a middle finger. By the time I reached the end, I was ready to flip this book the bird right on back. There's just one book left in this series and, yes, I own it...but now I'm a little afraid to pick it up.
It's been so long since I read a "bad" book that I had almost forgotten what the experience was like! Thank goodness BOYS THAT BITE came to remind me, lest I grow soft and foolhardy in my ignorance.
BOYS THAT BITE is about two sisters named...Sunny and Rayne. Sunny is a prep and Rayne is a goth. (This book was written in 2006, when such distinctions were important.) One day, Rayne drags Sunny to a Goth club and Sunny accidentally gets bitten by a vampire named Magnus. It turns out that he was actually supposed to bite Rayne, who has spent years on a special waiting list for the privilege, but because they're twins...oops!
The next two hundred something pages consists of plot devices that can be summed up with statements that start with "OMG" and end with exclamation points:
OMG, now I'm totally going to be a vampire and that sucks because I'll miss prom!
OMG, but the vampire that bit me is kind of hot, though!
OMG, now there's a vampire slayer but she's totes fat you guys, ew yuck! But also LOL!
OMG, but what about that sexy jock that I like! OMG, being a vampire means excreting pheromones that make EVERYONE like me, including dirty old man teachers, ew yuck!
OMG, so it turns out that maybe I can become a human again if I drink from the Holy Grail!
OMG, but that hot vampire though!
OMG, flying on a private jet to England!
OMG, prom with my sexy jock boyfriend!
OMG, that hot vampire guy though!
OMG, my twin sister is a selfish meanie and I hate her so much!
OMG, I'm a vampire!
This is one of those books that was clearly written with the idea that teenagers are vapid creatures who see all other girls as rivals to be jealous of (Rayne), slut-shame (Rayne), or fat-shame (the vampire slayer). Sunny was intolerable as a narrator, and a useless trash person as a human being. It's been a while since I read a character who was so selfish and shallow who I wasn't supposed to hate. The attempts to inject pop-culture and teen-speak into this book also feel really embarrassing and dated. I grabbed this book when it was free for Kindle a few months ago and I kind of wonder if it was rewritten to be more "modern" and "hip"? Because this book was written in 2006, mind, and yet, the book mentions Taylor Swift (and calls her "T-Swizzle"), the Kardashians are mentioned, and at one point, Sunny says she looks like "Jennifer Laurence." None of those things were hugely relevant in 2006. Those are more like 2016 pop culture references. On the other hand, the references and pervasiveness of Goth culture and punk culture and bands like Green Day make this book feel way more like an early 2000s effort. If this book was edited to be more "modern," it failed miserably, because now it comes across as this Frankenstein effort written by an alien who only understands teenagers from what they have seen on reruns of after school specials.
I'm really annoyed because I wanted to like this book. I love vampire stories, and I even love teenage vampire stories like TWILIGHT. This book wanted to be TWILIGHT but it also wanted to be edgy, and ended up sacrificing the love story that made TWILIGHT so epic for annoying teenage drama and ended up sacrificing the edginess for "OMG, I'm so relatable you guys! G to the whizzle! I'm hip and I'm straight-edge and I'm here to shake the scene, tubular-style!"-type shenanigans that kind of made me feel like I was watching a friend's dad try to sound cool at a barbecue. Oh, and that insta-love. That insta-love. It made TWILIGHT look like A Very Long Engagement.
I think I'll be giving the rest of this author's books a miss.
ETERNITY joins the cadre of bad paranormal romance I've read this year, alongside other greats such as TOUCH A DARK WOLF (a werewolf romance) and PRINCE OF THE NIGHT (a vampire romance). Fittingly, ETERNITY is about witches, and it's really unfortunate for this book that I happened to be watching Hocus Pocus around the same time because this book reads like someone watched Hocus Pocus, and completely missed the point.
Our heroine is a witch named Raven. Her mother is a healer in the 18th century, and after she fails to heal Raven's cousin, their relative decides to throw them under the bus by branding them as witches. They are rounded up by local witch hunter/heretic, Nathanial, to be hung. Nathanial's protege, Duncan, thinks that Raven is super-hot and is so horrified by the proceedings that he decides to abandon his master. Furious, Nathanial ignores his pleas and kills them both.
As it turns out, because Raven saved someone else's life in her past life, she gets to be an immortal witch. The only way she can be killed is if someone cuts out her heart, because that's how bad witches get to live forever: they live off the lives that they steal from someone else. And Nathanial, Witch Hunter Esq., is one of these bad witches who is not happy when he finds out that the dead bodies he planned to cut the hearts out of are both missing.
Raven goes to New England, has some run-ins with Native Americans, and settles in a small town where she becomes the object of lust for the local pilgrims who assume - guess what- since they are unable to control the activity of their privates, Raven must be a witch to fill them with such lusts. So the witch hunt begins anew, with Nathanial joining the fray yet again, and then Raven and a new witch friend flee into the woods to live with Native Americans, before going to...Salem. I think.I may be confusing the order of events, because it was all so ridiculous and I was rolling my eyes a lot.
Anyway, after Duncan dies trying to save Raven or whatever, they meet again and now he's a witch because he died trying to save her, only he's been re-adopted by Nathanial who has this weird, inexplained obsession with Duncan where he sees him as a son. Raven tries to get Duncan to love her but his attachment to the man who killed her mother is so traumatic, she doubts him. Nathanial fondles a statue of a raven while imagining cutting out Raven's heart. There's a final showdown. The bad guy wins, lol. Just kidding, this is a romance. Of course he dies, and everyone lives happily ever after. What did you think was going to happen, honestly?
I would just like to point out that the soulmate angle is this book's biggest weakness. Especially since their "meet-cute" is him thinking, "Wow, that girl is hot" while she's on the gallows, and they are basically eye-fucking while her mother is being executed. Gee, how romantic. I've never been a believer in love at first sight, and thought all of these characters suffered from a major case of TSTLitis. You know, it's funny because for last year's Halloween challenge, I read another witch romance set during the witch hunt times, called DEVIL'S MISTRESS, which also featured an obsessed witch hunter who hunted the heroine with fanaticism. It also opened with the death of the heroine's mother, and like this book, the hero is the man who helps save her from a similar fate.
I don't get why writing a good witch romance seems to be so difficult, but almost all of the ones I've encountered are painfully cheesy and weird. Let me know if you find a good one, because I haven't.
When I was a teenager, I used to spend all my time on this great site called Quizilla. It's now defunct, but it was basically the early 00s version of Wattpad + personality quizzes. With a few discerning clicks, you could find out which dysfunctional Care Bear you were (Nihilism bear), what weapon you were (sais), what element you were (water), or just forgo all of that and spend your time reading poorly written fanfiction or vampire smut.
One of the popular stories at the time was this serialized PNR, written in the second person in a "choose your own adventure" format, called "Would an Angel, a Demon, or a Vampire Fall for You?" The heroine was YOU, and as you read the story you would "choose" various actions and then the "result" would be a scene with the character that you were "meant" to end up with (i.e. the angel, the demon, or the vampire).
I bring this up, because Rachel Van Dyken's DARK ONES reminded me of this smutty story, except instead of an angel, a demon, and a vampire, it's about an angel, a siren, a werewolf, and a vampire. The heroine is not YOU, but she might as well be for all the personality she has. Like Bella Swan and her ilk, she's basically a place-holder for the reader; she's been told her whole life that she's ugly (and of course she believes it, because blonde hair and light eyes are so hideous), never mind the fact that all these paranormal frat boys are falling over her left and right, even though it's Forbidden. Smells play a key role in the sensory experience of the story. Everyone smells like a Bath and Body Works. Sex is a key plot point, and has the power to Change the World. There are dream sequences. The world is half-assed and not explained. The heroine is a virgin but comes like the hero just Konami Coded the hell out of her vag. It is, literally, just like those smutty, terrible stories I read as a teenager.
Ironically, that ended up being the book's saving grace. As with DEAD SEED, an actual story that I read on Quizilla that was "cleaned up" (no) and republished, I found it hard to be mad at something that had brought me such joy as a sad, angst-ridden little teen, no matter how badly (so, so badly) it was written. Plus, I picked this book up while it was free, so there was zero financial stake.
That said, this is the second book by Dyken that didn't work for me (the first was her new one, CHEATER). I'm thinking that her style might just be totally incompatible with my tastes. Still, it was cool to revisit the past, and I knocked one book off the Kindle, and got to do a great buddy read with some ladies from my Goodreads romance group, so let's not call it a total loss.
I am so angry at this book for not being good. I spent $2.99 on the four-book bundle when it went on sale, which was a great deal- but also a risk, because then if you end up not liking the series, you're out four books instead of just one. But oh, my God. It's set in Mongolia, and is like Indiana Jones meets Warehouse 13. I was totally predisposed to like this book, but I couldn't stand it. UGH.
Something about the writing in this book just feels very low quality. The sex scenes were awful - truly awful. I think it's going for a steampunk/Western vibe, but it didn't really strike the right balance, and the language was much too modern to feel authentic. Also, insta-love, you old bastard. I thought I told you never to darken my hallways again, and yet here you are, loafing around like you own the place. I'd like at least a semblance of some romantic tension.
It's a shame because the concept - a secret society who defends magically-infused objects called Sources from evil people - was great, and very much in line with some of my favorite movies like The Mummy and the Indiana Jones series (minus Crystal Skulls because that was the Jar Jar Binks of the Indiana Jones series). And this book was the Jar Jar Binks of the steampunk romances I've read: lame, cringey, and oblivious.
God, I love this series. Especially that terrible cover. If it's depicting what I think it's depicting in this book then lawlz, because ain't no time for sexings when you're about to be dead. I'm not going to say anymore on that because spoilers, but seriously, L-O-L.
When I finished BURN FOR ME and found out the sequel wasn't out yet, there were tantrums. This is precisely why I avoid new series. I have zero patience. If I like a book, I want the next one in my hand, IMMEDIATELY, thanks, for the low, low price of NOW.
Instead I had to wait a month.
And then I had to wait for the library copy to become available.
Which it did. On the day I left for Japan.
Luckily, I had the book for, like, 30 days, so I just saved it for when I got back and then literally as soon as I'd stowed all my travel gear and snarfed all that there was to be snarfed, I sat down and read this book in a single night - JETLAG AND ALL. After being awake for 36 hours, and then having one hell of an I-feel-like-death episode following the 16 hour time difference, I stayed up until 4:30AM PST reading this sucker, because oh my God it was so good, I could not.
I just reviewed CLEAN SWEEP and even though I didn't like that book nearly as much as this one (no Rogan, no tactile, no nada), I had to praise Andrews on her world-building. I haven't read anything stale by her, and the world in her Hidden Legacy series is no exception. In this world, certain humans have superhuman powers and are organized by House and by how powerful they are. The main character has the ability to tell when people are lying. Her love interest has the ability to have sex with people psychically. And also level buildings with his mind and kill people with quarters, but blah, blah, blah, that's not what has all y'all hollering. Let's be honest here.
LET'S BE HONEST.
Anyway, in WHITE HOT, people are being murdered and Cornelius, the animal mage from the previous book, comes to Nevada to help avenge his wife. Since the murderer might be a Prime (someone with the most magical power), they end up working with Rogan, too. Because pooling resources is good, blah, blah, blah. SORRY I CAN'T HEAR YOU OVER THE SEXUAL TENSION. So Nevada and Rogan are trying to figure out the conspiracy while also basically acting out the song lyrics of virtually every teenage pop song out there. So basically, I am like :D
:D :D :D :D :D
There's a lot of ARE THEY FINALLY GOING TO DO IT? in this book, and then a lot of NOPE, JK. And then finally, there's what's basically a chapter-long sex scene, because I think the authors felt bad for torturing us and making us wait a book and a half for these two to finally get together.
Is it worth it?
If I had one qualm, it's that the world-building can sometimes be confusing. So far, it's great, just complex enough to be interesting and intriguing, but I do think that's something the authors should watch out for. It's easy to get tangled up in a too-complicated world and forget the details. But given the brilliance of these two, I'm not particularly worried. I bet this is going to be awesome.
I'm not very good at fangirling, but some books make me want to try. BURN FOR ME makes me want to try. It was so good. The heroine, the villainous antihero, the magic system, the world-building...it was all so, so good. Reading this transported me to childhood again, when I could completely immerse myself in fantasy stories and they all felt real -
Except no childhood fantasy story ever had Mad Rogan in it.
BURN FOR ME is the first in the Hidden Legacy series, which takes place in an alternate universe where a magic serum has given various human beings X-Men-like abilities. Some control the elements, some control minds. Nevada Baylor, a private investigator, has the ability to discern truth. And right now, she's hunting down a powerful pyrokinetic named Adam Pierce who seems to want to set the whole city of Houston up in flames.
Mad Rogan is a powerful tactile who can level large buildings with the same ease that he can peel splinters of a chopstick, layer by layer. (And that's not the only thing he'd like to peel layer by layer *cough*) He's after Adam, too, although when he meets Nevada, he decides that he might just be after her, as well. You know, while he's at it.
The result is a tug-of-war between the various powerful mages, called Primes, with poor Nevada bouncing around between them like a ping-pong ball, as she dodges gunfire, actual fire, mutant turf wars, and the sexual advances of a very attractive, possibly sociopathic telekinetic, all the while trying to prevent the destruction of the entire world.
One of my friends recommended this book when she found out that I love villainous heroes, and Mad Rogan definitely fit the bill in that regard. Goddamn, that man is the type of bad that inspires X-rated fanfiction. He had some amazing lines, and some super steamy scenes with Nevada. Did I maybe skim ahead a bit, looking for said scenes? No, no of course not. That would be sacrilege. (Maybe.) It's so hard to find urban fantasy novels with romance that don't put the world-building in the backseat. In BURN FOR ME, it's front and center, and instead of detracting from the romantic elements, it makes them that much more stronger and compelling.
I want to say more about this book, but to be honest, I wouldn't know where to begin. I could tell you that the secondary characters are just as colorful as the ones in a Stephanie Plum novel, and I could tell you that reading this book gave me those same "this is good fantasy" vibes as I got from His Dark Materials and Harry Potter. I could tell you that Mad Rogan has a place in my exclusive heroes hall of fame, and I could tell you that I am insanely jealous of my friends who seem to have acquired ARCs for not just book 2 (which isn't out yet) but also book 3 (which also isn't out yet). I could tell you all these things, but you should probably just read the book for yourself.
Also, for all you people saying Mad Rogan is yours? Back off, he's mine. I WILL FIGHT YOU.
It's not exactly a secret that I like dark romance novels, especially when it comes to bodice rippers and vampire novels. CRIMSON KISS was basically a combination of both, and I really enjoyed it, despite the dark content. And trust me, there was a lot of dark content: sexual, physical, and psychological torture; rape and abuse; bloody or gory descriptions; mentions of pedophilia & bestiality. It could have been a really awful book but I felt for the most part that Trisha Baker handled the content well. The relationship between Meghann and Simon Baldevar was obviously an unhealthy one, and even when she kept going back to him again and again, it was obvious that she was still caught up in his web. CRIMSON KISS made me feel uncomfortable, but it was also an interesting portrait of twisted characters who become infinitely more debauched and depraved with the jaded ennui that comes from immortality.
CRIMSON NIGHT is...not like that. First, let me just say that if you choose to write your (anti)hero as twisted as Simon is, you have two choices if you want him to end up with the heroine: he either (a) has to enter one hell of a redemption arc (and have a viable reason for wanting to do so), or (b) has to completely and utterly break the heroine psychologically, to the point that it becomes a grim Stockholm syndrome mess. I have seen stories that took both routes, and one usually becomes a dark romance, and the other a dark tragedy. Those are really the only two options when it comes to antihero "love" interests, but I got the impression that Baker wasn't sure which route to pick, so she tried to do both at the same time.
It did not work.
***SPOILERS AND GRAPHIC CONTENT DESCRIPTIONS***
CRIMSON KISS was a portrait of abuse. Simon isolated Meghann from her family, tortured her, abused her, forced her to kill and torture others (including her ex-fiance). He came damn close to killing her, just to prove a point! She was kept in isolation, unless he wanted to parade her around in front of others as a trophy to exert his power over her and show just how confident he was that she couldn't escape. When Meghann did escape, she wasn't just trying to kill him for her freedom. No, she was subverting his control, which he took personally. This was the set-up for what I thought was going to be an intense revenge arc, with the two of them resorting to bloody Machiavellian schemes to get back at one another, culminating in either hate-infused lust, or a twisted mutual respect (like the kind that Hannibal had for Clarice).
Instead, in CRIMSON NIGHT, I honestly felt that Baker set about ret-conning the events of the previous book. First, Simon decides that he doesn't want revenge on Meghann because she didn't really mean to kill him. It was an "accident." At first I thought this was arrogance on his part, but Meghann also seems to corroborate this later on. Boom - angsty revenge plot out the window. Second, Meghann starts looking back on her past with Simon with a rosy lens. She talks about the fun outings they had together, how much she enjoyed having sex with him. It's been a while since I read the book, but I don't remember this happening. She was miserable all the time. She was his prisoner. She was embarrassed by his weird kinks and depressed about being his sexual prisoner. Seeing his treatment of her seemingly romanticized like this really put a bad taste in my mouth.
Simon is still a bad guy in this book. His treatment of his sire, Nicholas, was awful. At one point, he uses his mind powers to convince someone to commit suicide. He disparages the two wives he had before Meghann for being unattractive (I think he describes her as being like "lard") and weak, respectively. He refers to the gay vampire, Charles, as a sodomite/catamite so many times that I lost count. There are some graphic descriptions of torture in this book, as in the other, but they are less frequent. Mostly, we just get to see Simon demean other women (and gay people), while Meghann admires his thickly lined pockets, sexual prowess, and predilection for intimidating people.
Then there was some stuff that was just weird. Weird sexual things involving blood and lactation (almost all the sex in this book involves blood, so if that's a squick factor for you, be forewarned). The vampire pregnancy. The science used to explain said pregnancy (this was actually kind of cool). Simon's druidic/alchemical powers. Demon summoning. Entire swaths of the story set in Elizabethan England (and more ret-conning to make Simon look like a more sympathetic character). This story was just...weird. Uncomfortably weird. Weirdly uncomfortable. Uncomforweird.
You're probably asking yourself why I didn't give it a one-star since I hated it so much. Well, that's the thing. I didn't hate it. I hated the romance, and I hated Simon, and by the end of the story I even hated Meghann because she was just so passive and idiotic. But I didn't hate the story. I couldn't put the book down, and finished it in a day. I've never read a vampire story quite like this.
Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is entirely up to you.
Remember when TWILIGHT was at the height of its popularity, and people began opening up Wikipedia to search for paranormal creatures to have fall in love with some ditzy teenage girl so they could write the Next Big YA Paranormal Romance, too? Yeah. I think we all remember the "girls in prom dresses" period of YA fiction. Those were dark times, my friends. Dark, dark times.
I feel like ASHES ON THE WAVES is definitely influenced by TWILIGHT. The male love interest speaks in an archaic way and seems a bit too naive. He also tries and fails to convince the heroine to stay away from him because he's dangerous, although in this case it's because he might be a demon instead of a vampire. The heroine, by contrast, is a pretty girl without a lot of substance. She moves from a big city to a dreary, isolated small town - except instead of the Olympic Peninsula, it's an island sandwiched between Scotland and Ireland and entrenched in Celtic folklore.
Liam, the hero, is regarded by everyone on Dorcha with suspicion because they think he killed his mom at birth (like, legit killed her, with scratch marks and gushing blood and everything). He's drop-dead gorgeous, has a paralyzed arm, and has absolutely zero knowledge about the world. He's so sheltered and naive that when he gets jealous over a girl, he thinks his anger is a result of a demon possessing him. Everyone on Dorcha wants him dead, and most of them try.
Anna, the heroine, is a rich heiress who lives in the big mansion on the island. She's being exiled because of some racy behavior she displayed in her parents' ritzy circles. She doesn't really have much of a personality. Her two conflicts in this book are 1. fall in love with Liam and 2. act out because her parents don't love her enough. She and Liam even meet when he stops her from jumping off a cliff. Ashes on the Waves? More like Ashes on the New Moon. *tips wineglass*
The paranormal element in this book is interesting, but not utilized very well. Here you have creatures like Na Fir Ghorm, the Cailleach, the Bean Sidhe, and Selkies - and what do they spend their time doing? Making bets on the purity of the love between two teenagers. I am not kidding. We're talking Shipping Wars. Mary Lindsey turned the Fae into a crude facsimile of Tumblr.
Likewise, the Edgar Allan Poe connection is also tenuous. I liked the snippets of poetry at the beginning of each chapter and the book itself is supposed to be a retelling of Annabel Lee, but it feels kind of weird to base a book on a song...especially when you have all the Fae stuff thrown in as well. The author had some creative ideas but she ended up throwing them all together in the hopes that they would fit, and they really didn't. It was not a cohesive effort by any means, in my opinion.
"Just go with it" me enjoyed how easy it was to read this book. "Feminist" me was annoyed by the instant love, the lack of development of the female character, and the fact that a fourteen-year-old is engaged to and then almost raped by a man twice her age, because on this island, due to the shortage of men, it's apparently okay to marry children to adults. Even though this takes place in the twenty-first century. "Amateur critic" me was annoyed by all the other things, like the characterization, the cheesy plot, and that bizarro ending.
Seriously, what was that ending. I looked to see if there was a sequel because I thought I was missing something important, but nope; I guess that's how it ends. Not with a bang, but a whimper.
Aidan lifted his hand in farewell. "Take care," he said, and then he simply faded away, boots, swastika and all (61%).
Sometimes you read a romance novel, and it's like finding yourself standing in the middle of storm-blown wreckage. "What just happened?" you ask, staring at the upside-down chest of drawers and the lone cow mooing sadly in the middle of a deflated kiddie pool. "Everything was fine and normal before...and now it's not."
I love vampire stories, so when I saw that this rereleased title from the 90s was only $1.99 on Kindle, I messaged fellow vampire-lover Heather and said, "Hey, want to buddy read this with me?" We started a week later, filled with what, in hindsight, seems like an almost reckless amount of optimism and excitement because it immediately became clear that FOREVER THE NIGHT was not going to be a book either one of us was going to enjoy. Heather, the trooper, finished it in two days (you can read her review here). I slunk away to Amazon like a coward to try and return the book for a refund around the 12% mark, only to find out that I'd missed the return deadline by a day. Cursing inwardly, I returned to FOREVER THE NIGHT to consign myself to the miserable fate I'd chosen.
FOREVER AND THE NIGHT is about Neely, a human, and Aidan, a vampire. Neely used to work as a senator's aide until she found out he was a bad dude and had some dealings with drug cartels. Because she knows their secret, many people now want her dead. Aidan is a vampire who hates being a vampire. He was turned against his will by a woman who was infatuated with him at the time and now skulks about, feeding off sexual predators and people who subscribe to the "very basest of pornographic magazines, the kind even the most flagrant liberal would happily consign to the bonfire" (18%). What does that even mean? Also, "flagrant liberal"? Thanks a lot for that...
Aidan meets Neely while she's trick-or-treating with her kid nephew (or brother? I can't remember), and decides he's smitten with her 12% in. Neely decides she is in love with Aidan 16% in. Keep in mind that at this point, they've exchanged the same amount of pleasantries as any other stranger - in fact, I've had more meaningful conversations with random people I've met on trains. Even Bella and Edward would sit these two down and be like, "Okay, guys, why don't you think about this because you're moving a little fast..."
Aidan starts stalking Neely. He sneaks into her room while she's sleeping, and she thinks that he's been summoned there by her attraction to him. He has psychic sex with her in her head. Then he leaves and uses magic to pin her down to her bed, but she has to use the bathroom so badly that her desire to pee overcomes his vampire will and he is Seriously Impressed. Just remember: "No force can stop a woman who needs to go to the bathroom" (32%). #NeverthelessSheUrinated
The middle of the book is basically a giant melodrama hinging on this instant love. Aidan is so anguished, so tortured, so sorrowful, because he doesn't want to be a vampire. Neely is so mournful about Aidan's suffering. She wants him to have sex with her, but he doesn't want to hurt her. He doesn't want her to become a vampire, and yet he wants to be with her forever. If you've read TWILIGHT, this probably sounds really familiar to you (Aidan's even described as a marble statue), although what works for adolescent teenagers doesn't really work for, well, adults.
The highlight of this book is really when Aidan barges in to rescue Neely wearing a Nazi uniform that he just happens to have lying around.
He was wearing the uniform of a Nazi officer, of all things, and he slapped one gloved palm with a riding crop... (59%)
There are so many other things he could have put on. Why a Nazi uniform? Where did he get it? Later on in the book, it says that he stole it, but from whom? And why? Was he one of the degenerate pornography readers from Aidan's "OK to Feed on" list? I have so many questions....
The book's mythos gets even weirder with its mentions of angels and Atlantis. Apparently the first vampire experiments were done in Atlantis(?). This isn't really explained, and that's a shame because I have so many questions about that beginning with the word "why." Vampires can also apparently time-travel & dissolve into vapor, but this isn't really explained either which results in a number of loopholes - especially towards the end. There are also angels, who seem to oppose the vampires, but an angel also turns Aidan back into a human at the end of the book and an angel also saves Aidan from being turned back into a vampire by the evil Lisette at Valerian's request. That's right. A literal deus ex machina. Just like the good ol' days.
Then there's the sex, which is almost unequivocally terrible. Here is a sample.
His tears - tears born of a joy so fierce he feared he could not contain it - fell softly on her cheekbones and sparkled like diamonds in her hair.
Neely arched beneath him, pleading, in stark Anglo-Saxon terms, for what he and he alone could give her (69%).
Oh, and let's not forget this gem.
He...aroused her all over again simply by caressing her eyelids with the tip of his tongue (99%).
I think it's pretty safe to say that I did not enjoy this at all. What a shame that I purchased the sequel...
When I was a teenager and did not know the difference between good fiction and bad fiction, I used to sit and read stories on this site called Quizilla - which, funnily enough, mostly had bad fiction. There, I read a lot of anime fanfiction and original fiction paranormal romance stories usually involving vampires or demons. One of the common themes? The heroine was nearly always a virgin and whoever won the sexual race/lottery and got to have sex with her first usually unlocked some sort of magical sex-triggered super power that would help them rule the world. So obviously, the heroines in these stories got kidnapped and/or threatened with rape a lot, because this is what immortals do: scope out Craigslist ads that say: "Me: human girl with magical hoo-ha. You: evil demonic overlord who wants to get some. Let's drag this psychodrama out for 80k words or so, or until the author grows up and gets bored."
Why do I bring this up?
STORM BORN was literally that bad fic from my childhood retold. Eugenie Markham is a Ghostbuster of the Otherworld, which is cool - but it turns out she's also the daughter of a really powerful immortal and there's a prophecy that states that if someone has sex with her and gets her pregnant, their heir will rule the world. What does this mean? For the majority of the book, nearly every single male character the heroine encounters tries to rape her. Every. Single. One.
There's also two heroes (identifiable by the fact that they do not rape the heroine - thank God). I don't like love triangles and this one is pretty bad. There's Kiyo, a half-Japanese, half-Latino kitsune, who's this boring nice guy who likes to be dominant in the bedroom (sort of) and then there's Dorian, a faerie king, who's this boring player guy who likes to be dominant in the bedroom (sort of). Also, he has a rope fetish. I didn't really like either of them. They were bland, although Dorian was the better of the two. This made me so upset because the heroes in Vampire Academy wereso broody and attractive, so I know she can write good heroes. They just weren't present here.
This is actually my second time reading STORM BORN. I read it for the first time when I was in college and really liked it - I gave it 3.5 stars rounded up to 4. Now, after reading it again, I'm kind of wondering what my 21-year-old self was thinking. STORM BORN is incredibly problematic and not just because of the rape plot. She has a roommate who pretends to be Native American to score with babes (ugh), and everyone calls him "Indian" (UGH) and it's portrayed as soooo quirky you guys, ha ha, cultural appropriation is so funny (UGH!!!). At one point, after she and Dorian have rope bondage sex, she tells him that she feels uncomfortable because bondage is basically rape. Um, no it isn't? Also, NO IT ISN'T? I thought that was an incredibly shitty thing to say, especially since she was the one who asked for the rope in the first place. He corrects her, and explains, but still ew.
Don't even get me started on the whole Jasmine plotline either. That was gross.
I tried to think about how I wanted to rate this book because some of the sex scenes were okay, and there was a lot of creativity that went into building this world. Mead doesn't just stick to the usual cannon of werewolves and vampires - she did her research and came up with some characters you normally don't see in paranormal fiction. But there was also a lot of stuff that was just really cringe-worthy or badly-done in this book and I couldn't in good conscience give it anything higher than a 2*. It was fun reading a story that could have been straight out of my teen years - but they're the teen years for a reason. You grow up, move on, and find something better.
UNFORTUNATELY, someone (i.e. me) bought all four books in this series because they were bundled together for $2.99 (it was a really good deal, okay), so I guess I'll see you on the other side.
Biting the bullet here and bumping this up to five stars. I tend to rate my friends' books extra conservatively to ensure that there's no conflict of interest, but I've reread this probably close to ten times since I've purchased it, and the characterization is top notch and the sex scenes are great, and the story is great. It's the vampire story I always wanted to read, only I didn't know that until I picked it up. I'm currently pestering her to write Branek's story because I desperately need more from this universe. Heather, maybe you can do like J.R. Ward did and write a story from each of their POVs? I wouldn't mind reading a story about Leila and Jared, either.
Disclaimer: Heather is my friend.
I bought this book recently because it was one of the few books of Heather's I don't already own. Let me preface this review by saying that I have very specific ideas of how vampire books ought to be written, and that I tend to subscribe to the pre-2000s view of vampires books: that is, back when vampire romance could also double as horror; has a moody, Gothic atmosphere; and tended to be as dark as blood, with some deep philosophical themes.
Dawn Larkin is an ordinary college student who's out at a bar with her friend Leila one night, meeting Leila's new fling. She ends up being a witness to her friend's kidnapping that same night and is later taken by the same people. She thinks they're a bunch of sexually depraved psychopaths, which is only half-true: they're a family of vampires who keep people as their "toys."
The vampire who kidnaps Dawn is named Tristan, and he kind of has a young Jim Morrison vibe going on. Dawn is attracted to him, while also repulsed and afraid of him, too, and eventually it turns into a romance - but a weird romance. A very weird romance. Like if you took TWILIGHT, made Edward a genuinely bad man, made made James an even worse man, and turned Carlisle and all the vampire siblings into gleeful killing machines, you would have an approximation of what DREAMS OF THE DEAD would be like. Plus, kinky vampire sex, which definitely was not in TWILIGHT.
For about 50-60% of the book, it was pretty much perfect. I was sure it was going to be a 5-star book. Toward the end, some things happened that I didn't really like, but that was just me being annoyed that the story didn't end exactly how I wanted it to. I can't really go into what, exactly, annoyed me, because spoilers, but you can chalk it up to a personal preference or ask me in the comments, and I'll be happy to tell you. Mostly, I loved this book. The Las Vegas setting is so colorful and adds a lot of atmosphere to the book. Tristan and Dawn's trainwreck of a relationship is so fascinating to watch. The supporting characters are equally interesting, although I wanted to learn more about Jared and Augusta and (especially) Branek. He needs his own book, okay, I'm serious now.
Also, I was into this book enough that I came up with a mini soundtrack of my own for it:
"Dreaming in the Daylight" by Harlin James and Duffy Sylvander
"Chokehold" by Adam Lambert
"A Broken Toy" by John Moukarzel
I've read five of her stories now and this is probably Heather's best, in my opinion. It's the most developed and interesting, with some truly flawed characters. Honestly, though? As long as she keeps writing vampires, I'll keep coming back again and again, because she's amazing at it. The world needs more doomy and gloomy vampire novels.
You know you've read a good book when you just want to rub your hands together and laugh once you've finished it like you're auditioning for the "world's scariest super-villain" competition. I wanted to do that with THE COMPANION, because it easily is one of the top 5 best vampire books I've ever read.
THE COMPANION is set in Egypt and England. It's about a man named Ian who is captured by pirates, enslaved, and then sexually abused and tortured under an evil and tyrannical vampire queen named Asharti. She accidentally turns him into a vampire during one of these torture sessions and then abandons him to die in the desert. Beth is the daughter of an Egyptologist looking for a secret lost city of power in the desert. When he dies, unsuccessful and out of funding, Beth is left on her own, without protection, and is forced to end the search unfruitfully and return home.
The two characters meet on a boat, and while Beth is struck by his good looks, they don't really connect until they are forced to defend their lives from yet another pirate attack. After that, they get to talking, they play chess, and they fight that damnable sexual tension. All the while, Beth wonders what it is about her new companion that makes his skin so pale, why he acts like he's got some unspeakable horror hiding behind his eyes, and why he only comes out at night.
I really can't emphasize what a good book this is. Beth is a strong character: she's intelligent, she's unusual, and she sticks to her principles. She reacts to Ian's vampirism in probably one of the most realistic ways I've ever encountered in a book. I liked that she was half-Egyptian, half English, and that her biracialism is actually addressed - also in a very realistic way - and she talks about not fitting in in either Egypt or England, and feeling too white or too brown depending on where she is. I've read books where this is swept under the carpet, so it was refreshing to see it addressed.
And Ian, oh, Ian, the shining star of this novel. He is so tortured, and a huge part of his character arc is learning to overcome that abuse. My heart ached for him, and I felt like his reactions to his abuse and his emotional responses were very realistic - so much so, that this might be a hard book to read for people who have actually experienced abuse firsthand. In the beginning of the book, he is so emotionally exhausted and traumatized that he tries to kill himself (I don't think this is a spoiler, since it happens early on), but because he is a vampire, he is unsuccessful. Beth doesn't make him forget his trauma, but he learns to accept the memories and continue living his life to be happy and learn that sex and confidence does not equate to abuse, which I thought was a beautiful message.
The vampire system was also really interesting and unique. Vampirisim comes from aliens - in a way that reminded me of Animorphs actually - and is a parasite that attaches to the blood. There's a fountain of youth in the desert that contains parasites in the water, but the way it's contracted initially here is from one of the old aliens himself, who's living alone in a tomb waiting to be collected by his brethren. It's so creepy. But you know what they say, more aliens and more vampires equals more sequels, and there are several other vampires in here who I suspect will be the focus of the next books. (Cue that gleeful, giddy villain laughter/clapping.)
I hope that I have successfully impressed upon you that you need to read this book. I was afraid nothing would be able to top my enjoyment of her futuristic romance, BODY ELECTRIC, but THE COMPANION left it quite easily in the dust.
Reading GLASS HOUSES is a lot like watching a horror movie. The main character is an idiot, and all plot development in the story line requires that you suspend your disbelief about said idiocy. What makes it hard, though, is that Claire Danvers is branded as a "genius." She's sixteen - "sixteen and a half," she'll be quick to tell you - and yet, got accepted to Harvard, MIT, Yale, and all these other great schools, but her parents don't want her to be far from the house (dafuq), so they send her to a school that's a cross between a party school and a community college (I repeat, dafuq), in the middle of Morganville, Texas. "You can transfer, later," is the argument.
Claire immediately cheeses off one the "popular" girls, named Monica, who is basically a cross between Joffrey from Game of Thrones and Regina from Mean Girls. She's one of those "mean girls" who hangs out with a clique of her own (Claire calls them the Monickettes, which is just one example of her brilliance). She's also a studied psychopath who thinks it's perfectly okay to beat people up, attack them with beakers of acid, and then later set them on fire. You're probably wondering where the adults are in this book, because that's what I was wondering, but Claire (stupidly) lies to her parents and her friends about her safety, over and over, and a code of non-interference is built into the rules of Morganville, which is run by vampires, so no adults are ever going to look out for her safety.
Claire ends up staying with these "cool" "alternative" kids in a place called The Glass House, which is amusing for two reasons: 1) The Glass House (2001) is the name of a so-bad-it's-good horror thriller and 2) it is incredibly dated with what passes for cool. Not only is the "it's so lame to be smart" thing outdated, but Claire's new reject friends are a Goth, a musician, and a punk-ish tough guy. It's so early 2000s that it almost physically hurts, you guys. Her new friends tell her about how the town is run (by vampires) and this is arguably the most interesting aspect of the story, because I thought Caine did vampire politics in a relatively interesting way. The vampires own the city, and the cops. Important humans have Protection in the form of bracelets (basically: do not bite) and can carry over to family members, but like health insurance, expire when the wearer turns 18 (yet another reason this story is dated - thanks, Obamacare!). The best way to avoid being bitten is to stay off their radar, play by the rules, be home before curfew, and oh, yeah, don't invite them in.
That's actually another thing I liked about GLASS HOUSES: Caine uses traditional vampire lore. Garlic and crosses repel vampires. They can't be out in the sunlight unless they're very old or very powerful. They can't cross your threshold unless they've been invited in. They kill to feed. Make no mistake, these are the evil kinds of vampires that your mom grew up with, and honestly, my personal favorite kind. The world building was something I had absolutely zero problems with, and I kept thinking to myself what a shame it was that the main character was so freaking stupid.
I just couldn't get on board with Claire. Her friends were okay, but their dialogue was very wooden and they didn't have much in the way of personality, either. Even though it's written in the third person, there's a lot of annoying asides that are supposed to be Claire's "voice" and it's very annoying - more so, because never once does she display that "intelligence" that got her accepted into all those good universities. What's wrong with writing a female character who's intelligent and cunning? Why does she have to be a vapid, spineless victim who does nothing but remind people that she's almost seventeen, cry, get herself almost murdered by at least three different people, and cry some more? And she's so dumb. This is a character who could be around the corner from the guy with a chainsaw, and be all, "How delightful. A swarm full of friendly, happy bees have come to bring me honey! :D"
I'm a little afraid to pick up the next book, but I bought books 1 & 2 bundled so now I feel obligated. Rachel Caine, I thought you could do no wrong. Your Weather Wardens series is awesome. :(
ROSEBLOOD is about three of my favorite things: The Phantom of the Opera, the Comte de Saint-Germain, and vampires. All three together? Oh, heck yes. Set in a gloomy boarding school/converted opera house in the middle of France, I was certain that this neo-Gothic, ROSEBLOOD, would be able to do one of my favorite classics justice in a new and interesting way.
I was wrong.
It kills me to say this, because the writing in ROSEBLOOD is so beautiful that it actually almost convinced me that ROSEBLOOD was a better book than it actually was. A.G. Howard can write. However, her characters and story-telling choices are odd. Like, campy 80s horror movie odd. There were so many moments in here that had me blinking, and going, "Did that really happen?" Towards the end of the story, it happened more and more.
**WARNING: THAR BE MAJOR SPOILERS**
First, let me get something out of the way that really bothered me. I hate this new YA trend of taking the "ugly" characters in classic stories and making them beautiful. Sarah J. Maas did this in A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES, taking the "beast" and making him a gorgeous fairy prince cursed to wear a mask. A.G. Howard does this in ROSEBLOOD, with the "phantom" love interest being not the tortured, disfigured genius, but the tortured, disfigured genius's adopted (but gorgeous) son, Thorn. Coincidentally enough, Thorn also wears a mask, just like Tam Lin, only for fun. When you do this, it takes all the original meaning out of the story. Part of what made Beauty and the Beast such a powerful story was that the beast was a horrible man when he was attractive and human; it took being ugly and monstrous to make him realize how lonely and awful it is to be despised when your exterior matches your interior, and it took a love that was based on more than looks (well, you can argue about that, since, you know, "Beauty" and the Beast) to redeem him. Likewise, part of what makes Phantom of the Opera such a tragic story is that Erik's genius and artistry goes unappreciated because of his lack of looks; what draws him to Christine isn't just her ethereal beauty and innate talent, but also because he sees her as his soulmate; the beautiful foil to his hideous appearance.
STOP MAKING THESE CHARACTERS GORGEOUS AND SHALLOWING EVERYTHING UP.
Anyway, to the plot of the story. Our heroine is named "Rune." She has a tragic history. She doesn't want to go to this special school because she has a special ability: she is compelled to sing at certain moments, and always does it beautifully. Naturally, she is "compelled" to do this while the resident Queen Bee is auditioning, before pretending to pass out. Her mother sticks around for a while but is about to go on honeymoon with Rune's new stepfather, so like Bella Swan's mom, or Mindy from Animaniacs, she goes, "Okay, I love you, bye-bye," and swans off, leaving Rune to her own devices. Luckily, Rune makes a whole bunch of friends, immediately, who are so fascinated by her lack of personality and her special secrets that they see absolutely zero problems about sneaking into her room and snooping into her belongings. This happens several times.
Rune meets a boy named Thorn who appears around the Opera House. He always wears a half-mask, but is super attracted to the half of the face that she can see. He tells her that they're "twin souls." No, literally, they are two halves of the same soul: incarnations of the Christine from the Phantom of the Opera myth. Only, Thorn can't sing because when he was young, he was kidnapped by sex traffickers, and his voice scared them so much that they poured lye down his throat. So instead of singing, Thorn plays the violin, and when he plays, Rune no longer feels sick after she sings.
This is because Rune, Thorn, and the Phantom (Erik), are all PSYCHIC VAMPIRES who use their magical abilities to draw out people's life force.
Erik even owns a themed club in Paris. A rave club, where he picks off victims when he's so inclined. This is one of many moments, when I was just shocked and could only mumble, "Phantom...of the Rave? Phantom...rave...huh? Rave...phantom...rave..."
PHANTOM OF THE RAVE.
I'm sorry, I can't let that go. Erik doesn't belong anywhere near a rave. I refuse to believe that his artistic integrity would allow him to tolerate dub-step.
If you're wondering where Rune fits into all this, it ties back to the Phantom. Apparently, he and Christine got together at one point and had a baby (YESSSSSS). The baby was stillborn, but Erik has been keeping it alive in a Frankenstein-style incubator for all these years, waiting for Christine's reincarnation so he could kidnap that person, cut out their vocal chords, and implant them in the baby...because this will bring the baby to life again for some reason. All his attempts to get to Rune have been to activate her power, have Thorn seduce her, and then basically cut out her throat.
I've seen and read several Phantom of the Opera adaptions, and this was one of the worst because it was so weird. It reminded me, actually, of that bad Italian remake, Il fantasma dell'opera(1998), which features Julian Sands looking less like the Phantom of the Opera and more like a reject from Interview of the Vampire since a) he's not disfigured (and is actually pretty hot), and b) the movie is less about him pursuing Christina for his sensually artistic purposes and more about sex (if I recall correctly, it actually features an orgy scene) and countless violent murder sprees. Not that ROSEBLOOD was gratuitously violent or needlessly sexual - it wasn't; it's similar because, like Il fantasma dell'opera, it was so over the top that in its attempt to differentiate itself from the work it was paying homage to, it pretty much lost sight of the original's purpose and become something totally and completely different. For better or for worse.
P.S. I'm disappointed to say that the Saint-Germaine connection basically goes nowhere, which is a shame, because he was a fascinating guy. For another story about Saint-Germaine and vampires that's actually pretty good, I suggest you check out Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Saint-Germaine series.
Mathilde doesn't want a demon for her birthday, she wants a pony. But a demon is what her grandmother gets her, because demons are easier to take care of than ponies.
"I AM IX’THOR, MASTER OF THE VENOMOUS PITS OF KARTHOOM!"
Mathilde is less than pleased with Ix'thor, which just goes to show how crazy she is. Speaking as someone who has spent a fair amount of time with horses, ponies smell. Ix'thor, on the other hand, has a flaming sword and surrounds himself with smoke.
Oh, and you feed him by putting grub souls on a little stone altar.
IX'THOR ACCEPTS YOUR SACRIFICE. NUM. NUM. NUM.
When disciplining him, you beam a flashlight at him instead of spritzing him with a squirt bottle (although I imagine holy water would probably do the trick nicely too).
One of the best things about this story is how Mathilde is written. Corwin really captures the mentality of a child. Mathilde wants a pony because the girls she associates as having greater social capital all have ponies, and she wants to fit in. On the other hand, once she shows her friends her demon and they are impressed by his fearsome powers, she starts to realize her pet has value. And as she gets to know him, and bonds with him, she likes him not because of them, but because of who he is. It's a really great portrayal of how affection develops and grows over time.
The ending of this story is depressing as heck, though. I never thought I'd cry over a demon.
...I did, though.
In the words, of Ix'thor, this story was: EXCELLENT. Just make sure you have a tissue handy.
Most little girls love unicorns. They're magical and pure and mysterious and so fluffy you're gonna die - literally in this case.
Meet Steve, AKA Phantom, the cage-fighting unicorn. His owner is a Valkyrie. Together, they kick butt at supernatural cage fighting competitions and teach others the lesson that justice can sparkle and smell like warm sunshine even while it's tearing you a new one.
I loved the female narrator in this book. I haven't read the author's full-length novels, but I want to, now, because of her smooth mastery of first-person narrative. The heroine has that gumshoe noir class of nonchalance that a lot of the older, really good urban fantasy series do.
Steve is also a great character. I've read about evil unicorns in Diana Peterfreund's RAMPANT series (a must-read, if you're into unicorns and fantasy), and now I get to add gladiator unicorns to the list. He has so much attitude, and it's hilarious because it's coming from an unexpected source.
There isn't too much more to say about this book except that it's free, and it features an interesting cast of paranormal creatures that wouldn't be out of place in FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM. If you're into urban fantasy stories with snarky main characters, you'll like this.