Monthly Archives: January 2019

Review of Angel’s Blood and Archangel’s Kiss, by Nalini Singh

I borrowed audio copies of book one and two of Nalini Singh‘s Guild Hunter series (Angel’s Blood and Archangel’s Kiss) through Hoopla and my local library.

Description through Goodreads:

Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux is hired by the dangerously beautiful Archangel Raphael. But this time, it’s not a wayward vamp she has to track. It’s an archangel gone bad.

The job will put Elena in the midst of a killing spree like no other—and pull her to the razor’s edge of passion. Even if the hunt doesn’t destroy her, succumbing to Raphael’s seductive touch just may. For when archangels play, mortals break.

Review:

This is a hard book to rate because though it was OK, it’s basically 10 years old and we readers demand a lot more out of our PNR now than we did 10 years ago, especially from the hero. And some of my biggest complaints about this book are things that I think authors do better about now (the publishing industry allows them to do better about). It’s a little impolite to judge a book written a decade ago by the standards of today, but my enjoyment was definitely effected by them. Hmmm….

So, the good. I liked Elena. She was a professional, good at what she did and strong without being a consistently rude (so many times authors try and write a strong woman an just write and angry bitch). I think the lore of the angels and vampires was an interesting one. All in all, I like the idea of the book and the narrator, Justine Eyre, did a fine job. 

The bad. There isn’t any romance. I saw lust between these two characters and I understood it, no problem. But they didn’t even seem to like each other, let alone love. And the power divide between the two was too gaping to be crossed, IMO. I couldn’t see that Elena could or would ever be an equal in the relationship. What’s more, the sex was the sort that’s hot, but reads as if female bodies are made of steel and have to be jackhammered into. I cringed. 

The really bad. I cannot even count how many times I have written reviews in which I point out that the single other significant female in the book, other than the main character, is the jealous woman who uses her sexuality as a weapon and tries to steal a man. This plot device is so common that (though I couldn’t have articulated it) I mimicked it in writing in my very first attempt to write a story at age 10. Of course, I didn’t understand sexuality then, but the character I wrote had all the trademarks of the angry, jealous, vixen that can’t be trusted. Can we maybe stop feeding women the idea that other women can’t be trusted? I’m SO sick of seeing this in books. 

I’ll try book two. But if it’s not an improvement on this first book, I won’t read more. I imagine by 2009 standards it was a fine book, but by those of 2019 not so much.

Description from Goodreads:

Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux wakes from a year-long coma to find herself changed—an angel with wings the colors of midnight and dawn—but her fragile body needs time to heal before she can take flight. Her lover, the stunningly dangerous archangel, Raphael, is used to being in control—especially when it comes to the woman he considers his own. But Elena has never done well with authority.

They’ve barely begun to understand each other when Raphael receives an invitation to a ball from the archangel, Lijuan. To refuse would be a sign of fatal weakness, so Raphael must ready Elena for the flight to Beijing—and to the nightmare that awaits them there. Ancient and without conscience, Lijuan holds a power that lies with the dead. And she has organized the most perfect and most vicious of welcomes for Elena.

Review:

Oh look, the requisite book where the hero takes the heroine and buys her a pretty dress. The cliches just keep coming. The book also continues the evil woman trend. There are three significant females, other than the heroine and her best friend—who are of course perfect (and I wouldn’t consider the friend significant)—and they are all evil. Every one. 

The plot was pretty obvious, both what would happen and who the villain(s) would be. It was tedious. I also just plain got tired of every man Elena spoke to hitting on her, even as they told her they’d happily kill her. Between all the innuendo with the other angels and vampires and the sex with Raphael I bored quickly. 

It’s a shame. I like the idea of this series, but I’m not interested in reading anymore of it. I basically couldn’t get done with this one fast enough, so I could walk away.

Review of Building Forever, by Kelly Jensen

I received a copy of Kelly Jensenh‘s Building Forever through Netgalley.

Description:

Charlie King is doing fine. Sure, he’s a widower raising a teenage daughter who just got her first boyfriend, his book series isn’t writing itself, and he has a crush on his new neighbor—the guy next door. But everything’s just fine. 

Simon Lynley is doing better. He moved to Bethlehem to fall out of love and rebuild his career. An affair with his neighbor isn’t part of the plan, but the attraction between them is too hard to ignore. 

But when Simon’s ex follows him to Pennsylvania to reconcile, and Charlie’s life starts to feel like a video on repeat, everything comes apart. Charlie fears that he’s failing as a father, and Simon is a distraction he can’t afford. Meanwhile Simon doesn’t know if he could survive being left again, and he hasn’t come all this way to make the same mistakes. Despite their fears, it’s only together that they’ll find the strength to slay old foes and build the forever they’ve been waiting for.

Review:

I finished this sitting in the waiting room of the ophthalmologist, hoping no one noticed I was getting teary. It was very sweet and they were tears of joy. I thought the author got a little didactic at times, at one point going so far as to have a character look up the definition of pansexual to ensure the reader knew it. But I also found so very much relatable in this book. The whole messy and contradictory idea that you can love your life and the people in it, but still mourn the life not lived is one that struck me dead centre. I also very much appreciated that there were no misunderstandings or pointlessly kept secrets. There were several times Jensen could have taken this over-trod path and instead opted to have a character be brave, honest and upfront. Similarly, Charlie didn’t agonize over his newly embraced identity. He was open and honest with himself and everyone else about it. I loved that and the characters for it. All in all, I call this a success. And considering romance without a trace of sci-fi or fantasy in it isn’t wholly my jam is really saying something.

Review of Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen, by Sarah Bird

I won an audio version of Sarah Bird‘s Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen through Goodreads. I then managed to convince my bookclub to read it this month, which means I actually got around to reading it. Double win.

Description from Goodreads:

Though born into bondage on a “miserable tobacco farm” in Little Dixie, Missouri, Cathy Williams was never allowed to consider herself a slave. According to her mother, she was a captive, bound by her noble warrior blood to escape the enemy. Her means of deliverance is Union general Phillip Henry “Smash ‘em Up” Sheridan, the outcast of West Point who takes the rawboned, prideful young woman into service. At war’s end, having tasted freedom, Cathy refuses to return to servitude and makes the monumental decision to disguise herself as a man and join the Army’s legendary Buffalo Soldiers.

Alone now in the ultimate man’s world, Cathy must fight not only for her survival and freedom, but she vows to never give up on finding her mother, her little sister, and the love of the only man strong and noble enough to win her heart. Inspired by the stunning, true story of Private Williams, this American heroine. 

Review:

I want to start out with praising Bahni Turpin for her narration. Historical fiction isn’t a genre I gravitate toward and I don’t know if I’d have made it through this one without Turpin’s reading of it. 

Next, I want to warn that there is a spoiler in this review. In fact, I should just get it out of the way. SPOILER: Bird does not give these characters their happy ending! Hopeful, I might call it (if 20 years too late), but not happy. I get that Bird may have been constrained by historical fact, but I was still hugely disappointed by this. (And there are so few details available about Cathy that I have to wonder if Bird couldn’t have made it work if she really wanted to.)

Beyond that I appreciated the beautiful use of language (having the audio version really helped with this). And I thought Bird really highlighted some aspects of slave life that gets glossed over in a lot of fiction. For example, when everyone was up in arms over a white girls being kidnapped by Indians and a free slave asking, Who hasn’t seen worse done to our by a Master? Or when a black soldier was speaking passionately about not wanting a white woman (as all white men seem to assume he does), but a black woman. These were moments that touched me and felt real. 

A caveat: Maybe it is a simple reality of writing race, but I was never able to allow myself to forget that Bird is white. So, beautiful as these scenes might be, there was always a grain of “It feels right, but I’m white and she’s white, maybe it only feels right to us who have never faced this head on. I hope that’s not the case, but…” Certainly I’ve seen other reviewers take issue with some aspects of the representation. And there were definitely whiffs of Cathy being better than other slaves, which is problematic in the same way writing a female character that is somehow ‘different’ and ‘special’ and ‘better’ than ‘those other girls’ is inherently anti-female in general. So, I leave open that there may be problematic aspects I didn’t highlight. 

I did think the story repeated itself at times and dragged a bit through the middle. There were a few “too coincidental to be believed” moments (the prostitute scene, for example) and I just can’t accept the ending. It looped around and gave Cathy something she’d wanted early on and left the possibility of happiness in the future. But that wasn’t enough to really satisfy me. All in all, however, I liked it well enough.