Monthly Archives: November 2013

Review of Melanie Walker’s Bliss (The Custos)

BlissI grabbed a copy of Bliss (The Custos #1), by Melanie Walker from the Amazon free list.

Description from Goodreads:
London Chase has set her mind to a new start as far from Texas as she can get but lands in Vegas under the protection of a sexy but deadly Vampire, Cacius Troy. Her Father and a brother she has never met are looking for London dead or alive and are willing to stop at nothing to bring her back to Texas. Her blood holds the key to unleashing Bliss on a nation not prepared for its affects. Now she must choose between the growing passions and love for her Vampire savior, or the Father she always wanted to please.

In the fight for London, Cacius falls deeply in love with the spoiled rich girl and one night of passion ignites a fight to the death to save her from their clutches. He has never gone into a battle with so much at risk knowing her life is on the line Cacius will fight dirty and cause hell itself to tremble if anything or anyone gets in his way.

Passion will unfold as danger thickens and forces Cacius and London to face their biggest fears and trust one another to the death, or un-death as it may be.

The streets of Vegas are no stranger to sin, but when a drug intended to change the life of rape victims lands in the hands of the Vampires. All bets are off.

Review: **Spoiler Alert**
This book had potential. There was a point in the beginning when I thought I might really like it. But that time passed and I was never able to reclaim it. I’ll grant that Cash was both manly and open about his feelings. It’s a heady mix. I found him an appealing leading man.

London was also a strong female lead.  I liked that about her. But while I appreciate that she had a mind to give Cash a piece of, she was practically psychotic about it. She flipped from docile to furious with almost no provocation, often then childishly acting out on impulse. For example, taking unknown drugs, provided by a known enemy, who was already making sexual overtures and suggesting the drug would make her ‘want to party’ and then, not surprisingly, turning into a panting, nymphomaniac, porno princess; all simply because Cash had said not to, in what she perceived to be too authoritative a tone. That’s pretty much approaching ‘too stupid to live’ territory. What did she expect to happen? Plus, the whole begging every man present to fuck her was just about too tacky for words. Though Cash’s response to it all was pretty good, that’s about when I really gave up trying to like this book, but I hung in there and finished it. 

I did like the side characters—Preacher, Leucious, Bastion. I think I even liked where the plot was going. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like it ever really got there. It got completely sidetracked by London and Cash’s deluge of self-affirmations. I lost count of how many times they told themselves (and each other) they loved the other, or how sure they NOW were that he or she was THE ONE, or how perfect the other was, or how sexy, or how dirty (in the good way), etc. It was ENDLESS, as was the sex.  I like a good erotic scene as much as the next reader, but the sex definitely got in the way of the story here. What’s more, by the end London was orgasming, literally, on command. It started to feel mechanical—push the button, cue the orgasm. Not sexy anymore. 

By the final climactic scene, I’d pretty much forgotten what they were fighting for and the easy win didn’t reestablish it in my mind. The Custos just pretty much walked in and walked out again. That easy. It was a real lost opportunity. 

Lastly, editing: OMG, I have to talk about editing. But I also have to admit to a certain amount of confusion. You see, I downloaded my copy of this book way back in April (2013). The Amazon description currently reads, “This version was edited professionally and updated to Kindle on 7/27/13. Any errors remaining in the book are mine alone.”

So, though my version predates the re-edit, it SHOULD have been updated by Amazon. However, the book I’ve just read is possibly the worst edited self-published book I’ve ever seen. It was full of typos, homophones, incorrect or missing punctuation, inconsistent tense, and just randomness. For example, every time the word ‘next’ was used it was capitalised. No idea why. Worst of all, though, was the skull-razing constant use of ‘I seen’ instead of ‘I saw.’ I mean, even the most basic automatic grammar check should have caught that. So, I’m left wondering if the problem was that my copy was never updated for some reason or, heaven forbid, it was the ‘corrected’ version. I just don’t know. I suspect the former. It would make a whole heck of a lot more sense. But I have no way of verifying it, beyond checking for pending updates, which my account says there aren’t any.

So, though I know others seem to really like this story and I’ll admit that there were some funny bits, the heavy-handed attempt at emotional manipulation and excessive sex-talk (by which I mean characters who talk about what they’re doing as much as actually doing it), and the virtually abandoned plot left me struggling to make it to the last page. 

Review of The Trilisk Ruins, by Michael McCloskey

The Trilisk RuinsI grabbed The Trilisk Ruins (Parker Interstellar Travels #1), by Michael McCloskey, from the Amazon free list. At the time of posting it was still free.

Description from Goodreads:
Telisa Relachik studied to be a xenoarchaeologist in a future where humans have found alien artifacts but haven’t ever encountered live aliens. Of all the aliens whose extinct civilizations are investigated, the Trilisks are the most advanced and the most mysterious.

Telisa refuses to join the government because of her opposition to its hard-handed policies restricting civilian investigation and trade of alien artifacts, despite the fact that her estranged father is a captain in the United Nations Space Force.

When a group of artifact smugglers recruits her, she can’t pass up the chance at getting her hands on objects that could advance her life’s work. But she soon learns her expectations of excitement and riches come with serious drawbacks as she ends up fighting for her life on a mysterious alien planet.

Hrmm, it was OK, I suppose. Not gripping, in fact I thought the whole thing fell a little flat, but I also wouldn’t call it a disaster or drivel. It was just uninspiring. The main characters did a lot of running around, surmising their situation to each other, and remember things, but very little of significance actually happened. Not nothing, mind you, but not as much as you would expect for 300+ pages, most of which was useless description of stuff. The romance/sex was abrupt, pointless and out of place, the writing/dialogue were stiff and sophomoric, and the characters baseless.

What rescued the book for me was Kirizzo. He was about as far from human as an alien can get, very centipede like. But I found that I related to him more than any other character in the book. This was largely because he was far more fleshed out than any of the others, but also because he wasn’t bogged down with useless details and his unbiased assessment of humans intriguing.

The story seems to be an interesting beginning to something. It’s definitely not a stand alone book. The problem is that, having finished it, I don’t what the primary plot arch is or will be. Is it an action adventure, following two romantically involved artefact smugglers—Indiana Jones in space? Is it a space opera about an errant daughter on the run from her politically and militaristically connected father and his morally debased government affiliation? Is it a sci-fi about exotic alien species being encountered for the first time? I have no idea and at this point, I should.

Again, it’s not a bad book. It has an interesting premise. The writing, though stiff, seemed well edited. I don’t remember any noticeable typos. The whole thing just left me, personally, a little cold. But there are undoubtedly readers out there who will feel differently.

Review of Cynthia Wicklund’s Thief of Souls

Thief of SoulsI grabbed a copy of Cynthia Wicklund‘s Thief of Souls from the Smashord’s seasonal sale.

Description from Goodreads:
Nicholas Anthony’s spirit has been corrupted. A moment of spite four hundred years in the past turned him into an immortal monster. Now he is obsessed by an unnatural hunger, feasting on the good in others while seeking the good in himself. But unlike the vampire of myth, it’s not the taste of blood that draws him, but the very essence of his victims. The soul. Fortunately for Nicholas the evil that dwells within him has not destroyed his conscience, his ability to care, because that in the end will be his salvation. 

That and Regina Miles. 

The appearance of “Nick” in Regina’s life comes at a time when she is vulnerable. As a young intern in a teaching hospital, she’s overworked and exhausted most of the time. Her vulnerability is the very weakness Nick intends to exploit. However, he does not reckon with Regina’s strength of character or her sensitivity to what he is, despite her pragmatic nature. Most important, Nick does not recognize his own growing dependence on her, emotions so raw, so new to him that are emerging unexpectedly, emotions that can end his purgatory.

I found this on Smashwords, classified as PNR. While it does have a paranormal character and eventually a romance of sorts develops, I have a hard time seeing it as PNR. If anything I would call this horror, not the gory, bloody kind of horror but the suspenseful, emotionally terrifying sort.

There are almost no ‘Awww’ moments here, no budding hearts and flowers, or emotional outpourings. This is ‘love’ from a creepy stalker’s point of view. Oddly, though the subject matter varies vastly and they have very little else in common, reading this book reminded me a lot of reading Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. You spend a lot of time inside the deviant’s unrepentant head, watching him manipulate and trap his victim. It’s uncomfortable, to say the least.

And since it was previously classified as PNR I also found it confusing. There are certain expectations a person places on a book by virtue of it’s genre. This book never conformed to my PNR expectations and until I finally forced myself to accept that it never would and to give up my preconceived notions I had a hard time going with the flow. The problem, of course, is that there isn’t a horror romance genre to place it in. I have no doubt this is more a matter of finding the closest available genre, as opposed to an actual inaccurate genre.

None of this, however, is to suggest this isn’t a good book. Because, like Lolita, being an uncomfortable read doesn’t negate literary value or a story worth tolerating goose bumps for. Playing mental passenger to someone facing an obsession is a rare opportunity. While I cringed for Regina and kept waiting for her to find her miraculous inner strength, I also found Nick’s selfish internal dialogue enlightening. His petty jealousies and purposeful isolation techniques told a story of their own, quite separate from what often left his mouth or even what he felt would be ‘the right thing to do.’

I think the characters probably could have been fleshed out a bit more though, Regina especially. Other than seeing her fall for Nick’s charisma we see very little of her personality. We also only get the bare bones of why Nick was cursed, and the punishment seemed a little server if you ask me. If we knew a bit more of about the man he was, instead of just what his single slight might have been, that might not be the case.

The book is what I would call a slow boil. It builds slowly, spends a lot of time cultivating a suspenseful atmosphere. Even hugely important events are treated with the same muted attention as everything else, as if the author is whispering it to you for fear she’ll be overheard if she allows her excitement to give evidence to the gravity of the moment. As a result, I found very little actual action, but I was still held rapt by the narrative.

I wouldn’t suggest this for fans of J.R. Ward or Jeaniene Frost. It’s not that sort of paranormal romance. Hitchcock fans, however, might find something here to appreciate. It has a similar kind of surreal, atmospheric horror feel to it.