Monthly Archives: August 2019

Review of The Strip, by Heather Killough-Walden

I’ve been doing a lot of diamond paintings lately. (Repetitive, slightly obsessive hobbies are dangerous things for me.) As a result, I’m flying through the audiobooks lately. The Strip, by Heather Killough-Walden is the most recent.

Description from Goodreads:

Green-eyed Malcolm Cole is a cursed werewolf, an alpha in the most powerful sense who has given up hope for any kind of happiness or peace in his life.

Until he catches wind of Claire.

Claire St. James, Charlie among friends, is an amazing young woman with an incredibly special gift. Cole recognizes this at once and swears on the spot to claim Charlie as his mate.

Of course, he isn’t the only one with such plans. Charlie is too precious to let go without a fight, and one of the most powerful alphas in the world has already staked a claim, whether Charlie—or Cole—like it or not.

Review:

There is a little bit of a story to why I read (or listened to) this book. I recently borrowed The Wolf at the Door (Big Bad Wolf #1) through Hoopla. When you get to the end of a book, Hoopla often gives you a pop-up asking if you want the next book in the series. I really like The Wolf at the Door, so I said yes. However, when I started the book, it was an entirely different series altogether, just one with the same name. 

I decided to give it a try though. I like to give pure chance a chance on occasion. Very early on I could tell this wasn’t going to be a winner to me. And I wasn’t all that surprised. I’m often wary of older PNR. I find A LOT of the content problematic. (The industry is getting better, but anything more than 10 years old is chancy for me. And this one is from 2011, so borderline.) But I stuck with it, determined to finish it so that I could write a full review. 

I’d planned to talk about how angry it makes me when what is important about the fated female mate is WHAT she is not WHO she is. How this was strongly highlighted in this particular book by the fact that Charlie probably doesn’t have 3 dozen lines of dialogue in the whole thing. What she has to say or think isn’t important, only what she is to be possessed. I’d intended to discuss how she and he literally don’t know one another, spend no time together and he used magic as mystical rohypnol to remove all agency from her. Thus, making women out to be mindless, malleable objects, rather than people with their own power and desires. I was going to put strong words on paper about how this IS NOT ROMANCE, not matter what the author says. 

But the honest to god truth is that after clawing my way through the book and gritting my teeth through sex and sexual scenes that read more as abuse than anything else, I just can’t be bothered. It’s exhausting and demoralizing to find romance framed in such a way that (if you removed the names) I literally (LITERALLY!) would not be able to tell which scenes involved the sexual sadist who tortured Charlie and which was the ‘sexy dominant’ mate who was some how supposed to love and cherish the woman he’d never had so much as a conversation with. Both were ‘rough.’ Both were described using words like “cruel.” Both emphasized being unconcerned with hurting her. With the exception of the first scene in the book, with the best friend with benefits, in which it was made explicit that he checked in with her and made sure she was ok during rough sex (involving strangulation), every other scene was rage-inducingly abusive. And I read plenty of S&M, kink-laced, BDSM books. I’m not kink shaming. But that’s not what it book contains. 

By the time I got to the end, my desire to write an intellectual review of it had withered to despondency. So, I’ll just call this tuture/rape porn and be shut of it. 

Gildart Jackson did a fine technical job with the narration, minus a tendency to swallow a lot. However, I found that having a man read a book that involved quite so much pseudo-rape and torture of a woman made it feel extra pervy and skin-crawlingly dirty.

Review of Shayna (The Fate of the Faes #1), by Cynthia Melton

Cover of Shayna

I received an audible code for a review copy of Cynthia Melton‘s Shayna from the narrator, Amy Deuchler.

Description from Goodreads:

A darkness approaches that only a fae can stop. 

Evil forces threaten to cover the human world with darkness. The faerie world is dependent on the human world’s survival or they, too, will perish. Shayna, a faerie warrior of the Light is sent to the human world to prevent that from happening and must convince a human to help her. 

When she reveals her true self to Detective Pierce Cochran, his world is thrust upside down. Everything he believed to be a fairy tale is true. 

The faerie and the detective join forces against a growing number of demons and vampires, enlisting the help of an assortment of creatures Pierce didn’t know existed. Magic and weaponry collide as the mis-matched group of warriors race toward the final battle. 

Review:

This is the second time in a relatively short period that I’ve found myself in the same awkward situation, having accepted an audiobook for review from the narrator. Then, finishing it torn because the narrator did a fine job, but I basically hated the book. So, let me be real clear on this:

1. Amy Deuchler did a fine job with the narration. My only complaint being a slight emphasis on the names that exacerbated my main problem with the actual story, which I’ll get into. 

2. The book Shayna sucks balls. 

Now, that complaint: Shayna is perfect. She’s beautiful. She’s innocent. She’s sexy. She’s virginal. She’s the most powerful warrior. She can do any magic at any moment to get them out of any scrape. She’s loyal. She’s clever. She’s empathetic. She’s caring. She’s…she’s…she’s… To call her a Mary Sue is an insult to both Maries and Sues. SHE CAN DO NO WRONG and it makes for a horribly boring book. (This is where my only complaint about Deuchler’s narration comes in. She says Shayna’s name with an almost awed breathiness, which I understand given the text. But when I’m already irritated with the Shayna-worship, actually having to hear it in the name itself grated on my nerves something awful.) At one point an addictive substance was introduced and I actually thought, “Finally, something that might give this character a little depth and interest.” But no, even that was given to someone else, so that Shayna could save them again. 

Further, the story itself wasn’t smooth. I didn’t feel the romance develop AT ALL. It just suddenly was. Some characters seemed to know things they shouldn’t have. While other characters had large changes of heart for no apparent reason. And 2/3 of the book was basically just Shayna running around New York putting out fires as they popped up. Then, the whole thing culminated in a large sword and magic battle that didn’t relate to anything preceding it. It had some of the same characters (plus the ones that were pointlessness added too late in the book to truly be introducing characters), but nothing that happened before that point seemed necessary or to have effected the outcome. Then it was all over, Melton basically skipping over the battle and any last chance of providing a little tension or excitement. 

Overall, I very much feel like the author didn’t really have a plan for the book, so things just cropped up as she thought of them and nothing really tied together. I actually have all three books and I hate to not fulfill my obligation to read them. But I so disliked this one that I have a hard time thinking I’ll ever really listen to them.

Review of The Wolf at the Door (Big Bad Wolf #1) ,by Charlie Adhara

Cover of The Wolf at the Door

I borrowed an audio copy of Charlie Adhara‘s The Wolf at the Door from Hoopla.

Description from Goodreads:

Hunting for big bad wolves was never part of Agent Cooper Dayton’s plan, but a werewolf attack lands him in the carefully guarded Bureau of Special Investigations. A new case comes with a new partner: ruggedly sexy werewolf Oliver Park. 

Park is an agent of The Trust, a werewolf oversight organization working to ease escalating tensions with the BSI. But as far as Cooper’s concerned, it’s failing. As they investigate a series of mysterious deaths unlike anything they’ve seen, every bone in Cooper’s body is suspicious of his new partner – even when Park proves himself as competent as he is utterly captivating. 

When more people vanish, pressure to solve the case skyrockets. And though he’d resolved to keep things professional, Cooper’s friction with Park soon erupts…into a physical need that can’t be contained or controlled. But with a body count that’s rising by the day, werewolves and humans are in equal danger. If Cooper and Park don’t catch the killer soon, one – or both – of them could be the next to go.

Review:

I generally really enjoyed this. I liked that it was mystery first, romance second. Honestly the romance barely develops. There is plenty of lust, but love….maybe not yet. But it’s coming and this book set the stage. I liked the characters and the theme of a guy trying to do the right thing and floundering a bit. I thought Dayton’s experience in the BSI could easily be read as an analogy for the way good people can enter a racist environment and slowly become so inoculated by the hate that he doesn’t even notice when he’s drowning in it. Here it’s human/werewolf, but it could easily be read more realistically. 

I had a few small niggles. I disliked that the first time they had sex it was while one was drunk. Consent was plainly and purposefully established (which I liked). But I dislike the get drunk, lose inhibitions to move plot along trope. The mystery also wasn’t hard to figure out. Lastly, I listened to the audio version. I thought it was a little too fast and flat. I wouldn’t say it’s bad by any stretch of the imagination. But I don’t have a lot of praise for it either. The story however is a winner for me. I’ll be looking for the rest of the series.