Monthly Archives: January 2016

Review of Born to Darkness (Fighting Destiny #1), by Suzanne Brockmann

Born to DarknessI checked Born to Darkness (by Suzanne Brockmann) out from the library.

Description from Goodreads:
In the not-too-distant future, the Obermeyer Institute (OI) has made a revolutionary discovery: with special training, humans can tap into the brain’s hidden powers. The training is strenuous, though, and it works only for those with natural potential. Tough girl Mac has that potential, and she’s a devoted member of the OI.

I seriously almost loved this. Brockman can write. I liked the characters and the plot is an interesting one. But the fact that kept me from loving it and, in fact, coming to really resent large chunks of it is unfortunately so common in modern fiction it’s hardly worth commenting on…except that we should all be commenting on it all the time.

The whole book hinges on cliched female terror. Almost every single female in this book, adult and child, is either raped or threatened with rape at some point in this book. This is used as character development shorthand. Want a villain to seem especially vile? Make him a serial rapist, better yet a serial child rapist or a knife wielding sadistic rapist. Want a woman to be especially pitiable? Make her relive the memory of her rape over and over. What her to be notably strong? Make her over come her rape. Want a girl to be especially terrorized? Make her witness another girl get raped or threaten her with rape. Want your heroes to be especially good guys? Have them overlook the besmirchment of the women they love and, unlike everyone else, not judge them for getting raped. Better yet, have them also save them from the after-effects of their rapes. Either teaching them how to not remain stuck on the memory or convince them it wasn’t their fault. All of these are in this book. Every single one of them and more. It’s common, trope-based characterization shorthand and it’s LAZY writing! I expected so much more from this book.

marching two by two

Soooo, since I still have a broken wrist and still don’t want to write long reviews, I’m still working my way through all the novelettes on my bookshelves. This is the fifth such post. Surely these things multiply in the cloud. I can’t honestly believe I downloaded so many, especially since I generally only do so when I’ve not thought to check the page length of a work and one-click thinking the story is a full novel.

I’ve mostly just been working my way through the list, shortest to longest. I’m up to 70-79 pages long. But I’m bored by so many short pieces. I much prefer to sink into something more substantial. So, I’m doing something a little different here. I went through and picked out all of the pairs. That would be any true duologies, a series that may be longer but only two books are currently out, or a longer series that I only have the first two books of. There weren’t as many as I expected there would be and it was entirely accidental that they all happened to be erotic.

two by two

Mission Xby Kim Alan

Mission: X: Basically ok, but nothing exceptional. I thought it was nice to see the dom as the one pining for a change, but I bore easily of the common, apparently scripted dom role and speech. The use of ‘boy’ seems to especially make me groan, “not again.” (Maybe it mimics some real-world play or something, but it shows up so regularly that it’s essentially been stripped of impact for me.) There were some hot bits and sweet bits and I found it generally enjoyable, but that’s about it.

The Bigger They Are: Meh, basically just one long, overwrought and unrealistic sex scene. Entertaining but not much more.

Monster Farm Saga/New Gotham Fairy Tales), by Sophie Avett

Cry Wolf: It’s utterly ridiculous. It is. It’s a mash-up of several myths and fairy tales (I think that’s the series schtick). But despite being strung together, just this side of too much and minimally developed, I did enjoy it (probably more than it warranted). It’s also, surprisingly, a pretty clean read.

Cry Wolf: The Hunt: Much like the first one, I enjoyed it more than I think the skill of the writing deserves. But I prioritize enjoying myself, so, whatever. I did have a huge problem with the fact that the initial problem that caused discord was one character started pushing for sex and the other felt he was being forced and had no expectation that the other would respect his wishes (essentially raping him if he didn’t leave), but by the end, the problem they solved was the first finally agreeing to have sex. Ummm, seems the bigger issue got dropped in there somewhere!

Wiccan-Were-Bear, by R.E. Butler

A Curve of Claw: I suppose my dislike of this book might just be a matter of taste. I dislike slut shaming and you would think that the fact that this MC was sleeping with 7 men and standing up for her right do so would be a good thing, but it wasn’t. It rubbed me wrong for a couple reasons. First, they were the 7 most powerful men in the area, all fighting for her attention (the old she’s so special for some unknown reason trope). Second, they bought her expensive gifts, like cars, and sent her the clothing they wanted her to wear on their ‘dates.’ By 25% I’d decided she read like a high class prostitute instead of a sexually liberated woman, like she was the cliche sexually available woman who therefore must be available to all powerful men. Third, she’d described as 18+3, so basically 18 (this is stressed that she’s 18), making her a sexually promiscuous girl instead of woman. Fourth, the antagonist of the story is one of her jilted lovers and it’s suggested that her sexual activity was to blame for the coven’s problems (basically shaming her past activities). All this countered by five, after one good f_ck she settles down into marital bliss and it’s ever so much better than playing the field. So the whole story is basically framed around how much better being in a committed relationship is than not. Maybe not slut shaming, but at the least admonishing. Then we have the oddity of it being stressed that bears DO NOT SHARE, therefore her sexual behavior would have to stop when she mated. Then she mated two bears who SHARE her. The MC’s personality is only as deep as her bed sheets and the mates have none at all.

A Flash of Fang: Better than the first, but very much an intermediate book—half a lead-in to book 3 and half wrapping up book one (and maybe setting up a future/second generation book). I was irritated that she had to give up her life and position in order to have a happy future. How cliche that a woman can’t be powerful, have a happy marriage and children.

Ward of the Vampire, by Kallysten

Ward of the Vampire: An interesting start to a series, with a first person narrative I didn’t find too horrendously annoying. (I am not generally a first person POV fan.) Flawed however, as so many serials are, by just randomly ending without accomplishing anything notable.

My Reluctant WardenFar, far too little progression for almost 100 pages and part of a serial; no where near enough to tempt me into the next installment. I forgave the ‘it only happened in a dream’ once, in the first episode, pulling it a second time was cheap and unsatisfying. Not to mention how very very jarring it was to go from the two of them clashing to the two of them being polite and flirtatious. I thought the woo-her-with-your-wealth trope was distasteful and again with the random endings.

Sons of Thunder MC by Deva Long

Alpha Heat: A @#$&* cliffy! I cannot stress strongly enough how much I hate the influx of serials and the apparent acceptance of breaking a SINGLE story into several chunks that don’t have endings. Beyond that, this is standard erotica. A sexually exploratory and nympho-like virgin (of course and that’s not at all a contradiction apparently) gets kidnapped and then rescued. Sex ensues almost immediately, full of pointless bondage (the day after she’s been kidnaped, tied up and traumatized to boot) and sudden paranormal elements are thrown in at the last second. Oh, and her internal angle/devil talking to her all the time was horrendously intrusive to the narrative. Nothing in this was anything but bog standard.

Alpha Howl: On Amazon this book’s title reads like this: BBW Billionaire Shifter Werewolf Romance: Alpha Howl (Sons of Thunder MC Book 2). Let’s break that down. It has a big beautiful woman. It’s paranormal, has a billionaire alpha-asshole, who’s also in a motorcycle club. (It also happens to have BDSM in it.) It’s like the author Googled what was hot in erotica at the time of publication and wrote a series that had ALL of it in it. The fact that some of them make no sense together, let alone ALL of them, seems to have been irrelevant, especially since most of them are actually irrelevant. The shifter? He gets furry when he climaxes. That’s about it. The MC? One guy road a motorcycle for about two sentences in the last book and the last 3 or so pages here have some others show up on bikes. That’s about it. The billionaire aspect? He has a black card. That’s it. The whole thing is a chaotic mash-up of half ideas. Plus, it’s cheesy sex.

Eagle’s Honor: Banished (the serial), by Sandra Schwab

Part 1 & 2: I’m afraid this taught me that, even when written well (which it is), I’m just not in to Roman slave/centurion erotica.

Blood Genies, by Sheri Whitefeather

The Vampire Pendant: Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. Flat, overly simplistic writing, no tension—not even in the sex scenes (since they held conversations throughout them)—no chemistry, predictable, no character development or world-building, boring. I really wish I didn’t have the next one in the series to read.

The Vampire BraceletWell, if you ever wanted to know what BDSM erotica written by a giggling school girl who thinks french kissing the height of hot, dirty, naughty sex might be like, now is your chance. This was better than the first in the series, though it repeated all the same info-dumps, but still not good.

Review of Half-Resurrection Blues (Bone Street Rumba #1), by Daniel José Older

Half-Resurection BluesI checked a copy of Half-Resurrection Blues, by Daniel José Older, out from my local library. (And discovered that the cast on a broken wrist makes reading a paperback awkward and cumbersome. Grrr. Guess it really is too soon to give up the novelettes.)

Description from Goodreads:
Carlos Delacruz is one of the New York Council of the Dead’s most unusual agents—an inbetweener, partially resurrected from a death he barely recalls suffering, after a life that’s missing from his memory. He thinks he is one of a kind—until he encounters other entities walking the fine line between life and death. 

One inbetweener is a sorcerer. He’s summoned a horde of implike ngks capable of eliminating spirits, and they’re spreading through the city like a plague. They’ve already taken out some of NYCOD’s finest, leaving Carlos desperate to stop their master before he opens up the entrada to the Underworld—which would destroy the balance between the living and the dead.

But in uncovering this man’s identity, Carlos confronts the truth of his own life—and death…

I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I liked Carlos. I liked the author’s voice. I loved that the main character’s gaze was Puerto Rican, therefore not white, and the reader is gifted with observations we rarely see. (This is part of why it’s so important to have authors of color, not just characters.) I liked the idea of the story and plot. But I always felt like I was playing catch up, like I was never certain what was happening. Time was indeterminate and frequently large chunks of time would pass in what I thought had been a day or two of action. Characters seemed to know things without my knowing how and I just never felt deeply invested in the story.

Having said all that. I think that, though this particular book wasn’t a huge winner for me, the author could be. I’ll definitely be giving him another chance.

Now, outside of the review of the book Half Resurrection Blues, I have to give Older kudos and cool points because of this.

Older signitureI’m taking it at face value and accepting it for just what it appears—an autographed copy of this book, probably donated to the Ferguson library in solidarity during the protests and social actions of last year. I’m a bit shocked to find it in regular circulation, but think it’s fabulous and a great surprise on opening the book.