Monthly Archives: May 2015

Review of Ascension (Shadow and Light Trilogy, #1), by Felicity Heaton

AscensionI downloaded a copy of Felicity Heaton‘s Ascension from the Amazon free list.

Description from Goodreads:
A witch on the verge of achieving phenomenal power, Lealandra must turn to her half-breed demon ex-lover Taig for protection from the dark force that is after her and also from her own magic.

With her Counter-Balance dead and her coven against her, Taig’s blood and power is the only thing that can help her control her magic and survive the ascension and gain the strength to defeat her enemy.

Old feelings come flooding back as Taig allows her into his world and Lealandra finds herself fighting not only for survival but to win his broken heart again and heal the pain in their past. Can he forgive her for walking out on him all those years ago and will he ever believe her when she tells him that he’s not a monster but the man that she loves? 

Review:
Eh, wish I’d left this one on the shelf. While the idea was an interesting one, the actual execution is a mess and frankly Lealandra was the kind of heroine I always want to slap and the gender relations are so outdated and disgusting I almost couldn’t get past them.

Let me start with some examples of Lealandra’s behavior. She returns to her ex when she needs his protection. She then kisses him, but gets pissed off when he basically says, “I’ll only help you if you have sex with me” (which also makes him a big dick, even after Lea’s internal monologue says he’s only saying it to get back at her for leaving) but spends the whole book giving him very obvious mixed signals (because she really loves him and wants to have sex with him, despite refusing). She gets jealous of him speaking to another woman, so she throws herself into obvious danger and gets herself drugged and almost assaulted, requiring rescue. She get’s angry at the bad guy and then charges in to fight him, so unprepared she literally didn’t even put clothes on (yes, naked). Again, needs rescuing while thinking, “I wish I’d listened to Taig.” She allows Taig to constantly talk about possessing her, owning her, releasing custody of her, taking care of her, protecting, etc. She lived with a man for six years who didn’t “allow” her to do something she needed. Her impending ascension means that she isn’t able to control her own body or sexuality. (God, that is such a common theme in romance books and it always pisses me off.) She’s 32 bloody years old, but acts and is treated like a child.

Basically, Lea’s character, which we’re told is strong can, be summed up in this disgusting quote

Usually she was strong, but around him, she felt as though she didn’t need to be. She could be the woman she was inside, without fear of him thinking that she was weak. He would protect her.

Because apparently she can’t simultaneously be the woman inside and strong? Because obviously no true woman would want to be strong when there’s a man available. Blerg.

And this is all highlighted by the fact that she basically doesn’t do anything but cower and lust over Taig for the whole book. Even defeating the villain, who we’re told is weaker than her (but male) requires this:

It was his power that allowed her to do this, that would see her end this fight and become the victor. It was his strength all along that had helped her, through both the ascension and also through what lay ahead. She would always need him and his power, his support and guidance, but most of all his love and devotion.

Blerg. Because god forbid she both have her own strength, power and skill and be a woman!

Then there is the actual writing. It could have been ok, a bit purple but readable, if it wasn’t so damned repetitive. We are told the same things over and over and over again. Then those same things are contradicted over and over and over again. Just so we can be told or shown the opposite again. The internal monologues are endless and always focus on sex or the other person’s body, usually when the character is in pain or running/fighting for their life. Sure, his sexy abs are just what I’m thinking about when trying not to die.

The plot is incredibly weak, mostly because there is sooooo much sex, talking about sex, fantasizing about sex, refusing to have sex or, well, sex (most of which was of the hammer and nail variety. He basically just gracelessly pounds her and apparently that’s erotic and gets her off) that there is almost no room left for plot or character development. There is one side character, who gets mentioned repeatedly throughout the book, but isn’t introduced or explained until 80% in. Similarly, there is no build up to the final fight. Suddenly, with almost no explanation, they have a team fighting with them and are in the middle of it.

Very poor. I have no desire to continue the series, thank you very much, even if the hints for book two started getting dropped at about page 10.

Review of Stripped with the Vampire (Austin Immortals #1), by Jax Garren

Stripped with the VampireI received a copy of Jax Garren‘s Stripped with the Vampire from Netgalley.

Description from Goodreads:
Shy vampire Charlie never intended to see Vince again after the bad boy human broke his heart. But when Vince turns up beaten and marked for sacrifice to an Aztec God, Charlie will do anything keep him safe.

Vince has never forgiven himself for the lie that ended things with Charlie. The spark between them is as hot as ever, and Vince would risk body and soul to make it a fire again. But as they hide deeper in Austin’s supernatural society—a world of lies, dark magic, and warring immortals—he finds the path to reconciliation more twisted than he’s ever imagined.

Review:
This is a hard book to review, because objectively I don’t think it was very good. It was campy, sappy, full of ‘love will conquer all’ tropes and repressed gay men stereotypes. But I still found myself enjoying it. This is especially true when I consider my enjoyment level next to my initial expectations given the book’s title. I’m sorry Jax Garren, but I think that title is a horridly unfortunate choice. It leads reader to believe this is going to be a cheap, plotless, possibly PWP book and even I, with my faint praise, have to admit it’s more than that.

To illustrate my inconsistent feelings on this book, let me drop a few contradictions. I thought it was funny, but I also thought the characters ability to joke and not freak the flip out unrealistic. I liked the characters in general, but I thought Vince’s inability stop baiting people in the presence of very real attempts on his life over played. I thought they were a cute couple, but thought Charlie’s reluctance after 300 years as a gay man were illogical and Vince’s unwillingness to make allowances for Charlie’s fears selfish. I thought the bad guys and battle were fairly epic, but who really catches the villain and then lets them go…twice? Honestly, for almost everything I liked, there was an opposite that annoyed me.

So, I’m putting this on my imaginary ‘smack in the middle of good/bad’ shelf. If you can get over the porn star title and read it for fluffy fun you might enjoy it.

On a side note: One of those characters on the cover is presumably Charlie…who should have red hair and freckles. I’m firmly of the belief that if you’re going to put a character on a book’s jacket, it needs to match that character. People notice these things.

Review of Cronin’s Key (Cronin’s Key #1), by N.R. Walker

25112503I bought a copy of Cronin’s Key, by N. R. Walker.

Description from Goodreads:
NYPD Detective Alec MacAidan has always been good with weird. After all, his life has been a string of the unexplainable. But when an injured man gives him cryptic clues, then turns to dust in front of him, Alec’s view on weird is changed forever.

Cronin, a vampire Elder, has spent the last thousand years waiting for Alec. He’d been told his fated one would be a man wielding a shield, but he didn’t expect him to be human, and he certainly didn’t expect that shield to be a police badge.

Both men, strong-willed and stubborn, are still learning how to cope with the push and pull of being fated, when fate throws them another curveball.

Rumors have spread quickly of turmoil in Egypt. Covens are fleeing with news of a vampire who has a talent like no other, hell-bent on unleashing the wrath of Death.

Alec and Cronin are thrown into a world of weird Alec cannot imagine. What he learned in school of ancient pharaohs and Egyptian gods was far from the truth. Instead, he finds out firsthand that history isn’t always what it seems.

Review: (Spoilerish):

A lot of people love this book and I can see that if you’re one of those readers who like watching Gary Stus moon over each-other and constantly vocalize how in love and in awe they are of one another, you would. I am not one of those readers. In fact, I’m one of those people who will put up with a couple, “You are my heart” comments, maybe even a couple “You are amazing” ones when the person has basically done nothing of consequence. But 300+ pages of it makes me nauseous. And that’s what this book is…mostly.

The first 30% is one solid info dump. You could maybe break it into several smaller info dumps, but basically nothing beyond info dumping happens. Then, the next 50% of the book is just people talking, cracking jokes (that fell flat for me), trying unsuccessfully to flirt, and being in awe of one another. The last 30% does have a little action in it, but it left me lost.

For one, the whole plot is that a crazy vampire is created with the ability to bring back embalmed vampires and she does, creating an army. She’s the only one who has ever been able to. No one has even ever heard of the skill. BUT how do you suppose Alec saves the day? He brings an embalmed vampire back to life. Um…how does that work?

Further, we’re told that part of what makes Cronin so dangerous is that he can just jump (transport) in anywhere and stake you before you know he’s there. He did it to a hundred or so vampires on his way to the bad guy. So…why didn’t he just do that to the villain? Further still, that villain is depicted as shocked when they arrive in her chambers. Why? Surely she knows some vampires can leap. So, why would she never consider the possibility of anyone doing so? And why do Alec, Cronin and crew bother fighting through hundreds of undead when they can just leap in? So. Many. Plot. Holes.

That villain was a ridiculous cardboard cutout. We’re told about her but she’s never given any depth. She manages to raise a whole undead army, but doesn’t apparently have the brains of a freakin’ fruit fly. Plus, she’s crazy and evil because she suffered a sexual assault that was never investigated. Really, women are so fragile they’ll condemn the whole world to slaughter to avenge two men? It’s such a cheap attempt at character development (and trust me when I say it was the ONLY one).

Worst of all is that, while I know Alec is said to be fine with the weird, because weird things have always happened to him, his blasé reaction to everything was more than my credulity could bear. I simply couldn’t suspend my disbelief that far. Same with his father; he just accepted everything, no biggy. (Plus, he was basically a useless character. He contributed nothing to the plot.)

Then there is the writing itself. It was passable and there weren’t too many typos, but it uses terms like “good vampire” and “bad vampire” seriously and that is just soooo cheesy. Plus, names, titles and endearments were occasionally used too often to be natural sounding.

Lastly, the sex was about as exciting as plain, non-fat yogurt. They put off sex until the end of the book, so there are a couple teaser type scenes that are about as erotic as turnips before the big event. But that big event…almost no foreplay or sexual tension and the men climaxed on entry! So, the whole thing lasts like two paragraphs. It felt very much like the author was uncomfortable writing sex scenes and then just fluffed them.

So, if you’re into vanilla vampires and Gary Stu love affairs you’ll probably enjoy this book. If you’re looking for action or mystery or romantic development, this is not the book for you (or me).

Edit: I’ve decided to add links when I get flack about my reviews. I usually have a pretty thick skin for this sort of thing. But this comment is actually from an author who I own several of her books and I’m now reluctant to read them. I mean, if she is this reactive about a review of someone else’s book, how might she react if I read hers and give it a poor review?