Monthly Archives: March 2015

‘Annoying closeup guy’ reading challenge wrap-up

Annoying closeup guy

So, that’s another reading challenge under the belt. You can find the reviews here:

Prophecy Foretold
Shadewright (along with Shadowslave)
Stalking Dead (along with Living Dead Girl)

You’ll notice that The Mark of Saturn is not listed. I’m afraid that I wasn’t able to finish that one. You can find my DNF ‘review’ here, on Goodreads. It turns out I have an early edition, which was titled Lumen: Blood Luminary but was the first edition of the same book. However, I can only assume (or desperately hope) that the subsequent editions improved on that first one.

Of the three books that I read (five if you include the tag alongs), Shadewright was the star. It was a tad slow and ended on a cliffhanger, but it had one really cute character, strong writing and an interesting plot.

All in all, I’ll call it a success.

Review of Living Dead Girl & Stalking Dead (The Vampire Hunter #1-2), by S. C. Reynolds

I picked up S. C. Reynolds’ Living Dead Girl and Stalking Dead (book 1 & 2 of The Vampire Hunter series) from the Amazon free list. I believe the whole series is perma-free. (At least it was still free at the time of posting these reviews, a year after originally downloading.)

Living Dead GirlDescription from Goodreads:
When Aurora Stone awakens to find she’s been buried underground, she frantically claws her way to the surface. But the nightmare has only just begun; she was buried in her own grave and has been resurrected on the one year anniversary of her death.

Aurora immediately seeks the help of her best friend, Henry, who is no longer the awkward sixteen year old she remembers from a year ago. Henry is tall, muscular, with piercing blue eyes. 

But Henry isn’t the only one who’s captured Aurora’s attention. Lucas, a sexy vampire, is watching her every move. He’s been ordered to send her back to the grave, but he is immediately attracted to Aurora and can’t bring himself to re-kill her. 

As Aurora struggles with her new un-dead body, she must make a decision between the boy next door and the vampire who has nothing to lose. And time is running out – plagued by blackouts she can’t control, Aurora knows her days may be numbered. She was brought back for something epic, but will she get the chance to find out what?

Run, run away as fast as you can. You want nothing to do with this book. It’s horrible. The main character is a shallow, mindless, boy obsessed nitwit that is so uninteresting I barely managed to finish the book. If this had been the only problem I had with the book I probably would have shrugged it off as a weak YA, but it’s not.

This book is flat…I mean FLAT. There is no emotional resonance or peak anywhere in it. Example: Aurora has just mysteriously risen from the grave. Does she freak out? Search for a reason? Show any evidence that she’s been dead? Nope, she gets upset that the boy she liked is now dating her friend. A frightening vampire kidnaps her and informs her that he’d been told to kill her. Does she get mad or frightened? Nope, she worries about what to wear. She is told that her vampire friend was an admitted killer at one time. Does she get nervous? Nope, she’s mad he didn’t kiss her. A werewolf attacks and almost kills her. Does she get the shakes and go into shock? Nope, she has a makeup session.

There is just nothing realistic about Aurora’s rising from the dead. Even down to the rising. Look at the cover of the book. See that dirty, grime incrusted hand? Yeah, she’s supposed to have dug her way out of the grave. But when she gets to Henry’s house, she and her pretty pale pink dress are clean. So clean, in fact, that she even chooses to wear it again. How did she manage that?

Time passes that isn’t accounted for. Aurora pulls the cliché TSTL storm-out-and-get-lost-and-endangered shtick when angry. She makes no effort to figure out what happened to her, even when it’s obvious that people around her have the information. Assumptions are made and treated as fact (that she’s a living dead girl, as opposed to a vampire, zombie, etc) based on nothing. The same belief is shared by several people with no sharing of information. She managed to go clothes shopping despite being dead for a year and having no discernible source of income or credit. She’s supposed to be hiding in someone’s house for several weeks without them noticing. People get stumbling, hiccuping drunk on three beers and seventeen year olds somehow manage to go on quick beer runs. The younger sister is horribly slut-shamed because her skirt is too short. There is the start of a love triangle. The book is from Aurora’s 1st person POV for 25 chapters and then we randomly get a chapter from someone else’s POV, before going back to her. (It’s jarring.) The editing needs attention and the author uses ridiculous, contrived occurrences to artificially drag out reveals.

Basically, I found very little to enjoy here. I’ll admit that the writing was fine, but the story is undeveloped, lacklustre and a time-waster. However, I read it because I’m doing a reading challenge in which the second book in this series factors, so I’m committed to at least the next book in the series before I can pretend I never read it. *sigh* I will persevere.

Stalking DeadDescription from Goodreads:
In the second installment of The Vampire Hunter series, Aurora finds herself getting dangerously close to Lucas, the sexy vampire who was hired to send her back to the grave. As Lucas fights his own attraction to Aurora, he can’t bring himself to follow through on his orders to kill her. Instead, he tries to help Aurora and her best friend Henry solve the mystery behind her resurrection. They dig up her grave to find out what item of hers was placed there when she was brought back to life.

As it becomes increasingly obvious that Henry thinks of Aurora as more than a friend, she is torn between the two guys. As much as she is drawn to the mysterious Lucas, she is also deeply attracted to Henry. But deciding what she wants will have to wait – when Lucas didn’t follow orders, someone else was hired to do the job. And the new hunters on the scene have a history with Lucas. They would like nothing more than to kill Lucas and send Aurora back to her grave – permanently.

Soooo, yeah….this wasn’t an improvement on the first book. Nope, still annoyed me at almost every turn. I still found Aurora to be a vapid, useless, unpleasant heroine. I still found the love triangle contrived and infuriating. I still found both heroes substanceless.

The main problem I seem to have with this series is that a girl rose from the dead. She’s being hunted by supernatural assassins. “Agencies” (don’t ask me what that means or entails) all over the world know about her “case” (don’t ask what constitutes a case). She has a mysterious medium who pops up with timely advice on occasion and a vampire lusting after her (and vice versa) but the book is essentially dedicated to a weak love triangle, Henry’s basketball practice and whether his father is having an affair or not.

Seriously, given everything that’s supposedly going on, I don’t really care about her adolescent obsession over who she has or hasn’t kissed (even as YA). I sure don’t care who his father may or may not be kissing. And the whole, ‘he might be having sex with a man, thus his whole life and marriage must be a lie, since he obviously can’t also be attracted to women’ instant assumption is insulting to the extreme. Talk about jumping to conclusions and making simplistic judgements. Ugh.

Aurora never presses on important points. People all around her have information she should want. I mean, how she died is worth pressing for.  But she never does. She just lets it all slide. Useless!

I have the rest of the series and if reading it wasn’t so painful, I might be interested in knowing the cause of the ‘living dead girl.’ But I just can’t face any more of the dull, flat recitation of daily events.

Review of Shadewright & Shadowslave (Shadewright Cycle, #1-2), by Dean McMillin

I grabbed a copies of Shadewright and Shadowslave (by Dean McMillin) from the Amazon free list.

ShadewrightDescription from Goodreads:
Born with grey skin the color of lake clay, Phantist is an outcast from birth, shunned by the other children in the Orphan Asylum where he is raised. Then, during a solar eclipse, he witnesses a magnificent performance by Lasander Shadowmaster–a shadewright, sculptor of shadows.

When Phantist discovers that Lasander is a fellow greyskin, he finds his goal: he will become a Shadowmaster himself. His dream is to make an entire city hold its breath as his idol Lasander has done.

This quest leads him to the isolated village of Half Oak, where a strange cult holds sway, worshipping a voice in the earth: the Earth Darkness. The cult’s leader relays a deadly prophecy from his god-master:

“Everything you care about will be destroyed, greyskin. Everything and everyone. And it is all because of you. He wants you to know that. Because of YOU.”

Soon, Phantist is drawn into a web of plots and ambitions. He finds allies: Despanya, a greyskin who has forsaken shadow-sculpting to become a soldier; and Arick, a yellow-skinned master of lightning power whose childish nature belies dangerous abilities.

But the ever-present threat of Earth Darkness pursues them across the countryside. The very ground beneath their feet turns against them …

In the end, Phantist will face a grim choice that will determine the course of his life, and the fate of his world.

I was basically enjoying this. The writing is perfectly readable, though the editing starts to crumble a little after the halfway mark. (It’s noticeable, but not problematic.) And I’d probably give Arick a star or two all his own. He’s adorable, feels Asperger’s/Autistic-like. I even like that the main character has a tendency to be petty and proud. It’s annoying to read but he has flaws, which is so much better than a perfect Marty Stu.

However, I say, ‘was basically enjoying’ instead of ‘enjoyed’ because the plot barely gets started and then the book ends on a cliffhanger. While I assume the events leading up to Phantist’s quest aren’t random, they kind of feel like they are. He wandered into a random town, is picked out by a random enemy and randomly decides to be the hero. Maybe the next book will pull it more clearly together.

I will be reading the next. The writing is good enough, the characters interesting enough and I’m curious how it will end. But I also have a sneaky suspicious it won’t actually end. We’ll see.


Description from Goodreads:
Phantist, the grey-skinned master of shadows, is summoned to the island of Arliss, a burnt-out ruin of a city where clues to the nature of the enemy beckon.

The house of Lasander– a deceased shadewright of great power, and Phantist’s greatest idol– lies there in a shadow-void, thrust down into shadow to save it from the flames of the earlier fire.

In the realm of the shadow-void, Phantist discover clues to the terrible truths of the conspiracy of the Earth Darkness to destroy his nation. He also attracts the attention of something dangerous. An ancient spirit of pure shadow-essence, feminine in form and highly seductive, who claims to exist to serve his needs, to be his “Shadow Slave.”

But she is vicious and jealous, and soon the lives of the two women Phantist loves are placed in terrible danger …

All the while, in the confines of a vast ruined cemetery on the city outskirts, the cult of the Earth Darkness is nurturing an ill brood. An infant god, nurtured on the essence of dead things and hatred, is about to emerge from his mortuary cradle to spread fear and death across the land … And only a master of shadows can track him down before it’s too late.

A good continuation to the story; the writing remains strong (though the editing still needs some attention), I still enjoy the characters, there is one heart-rending twist I didn’t see coming, the plot is still slowly developing. Honestly, it’s coming about at an agonisingly slow pace, but it would be unfair to claim I couldn’t see where it’s heading.

I do kind of  want to subtitle the book Shadowslave: Where Phantist Develops his Harem. Seriously, to a greater or lesser degree there’s Despanya, Cleo, the Shadowslave and Jenma, all wanting a part of Phantist. It gets to be a little too much and unless they come up in the latter books, both the Shadowslave and Jenma seem extraneous to the plot. (To be fair, I do expect Shadowslave to show back up.)

This one doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, but it’s very much a middle book (no real beginning or conclusion). All in all, a nice enough read that is compromised by its lack of an ending.