Author Archives: Sadie

Review of Agent (Empowered #1), by Dale Ivan Smith

I picked up a copy of Dale Ivan Smith‘s Empowered: Agent when it was free on Amazon. It was still free at the time of posting.

Description from Goodreads:
The world says those with superpowers are either heroes or villains. But what if you’re both?

Mathilda Brandt isn’t the angry, out-of-control teenager she was before she got out of jail. She’s hungry for a chance at a normal life, but when a gang threatens her sisters, she has no choice but to use her illegal superpower to protect them.

A secretive government agency gives her a choice: go back to prison for life, or infiltrate a notorious super-villain group in order to stop a psychotic Empowered. To save her city, her family, and herself, Mat must become the last thing she ever wanted to be again: a criminal.

Review:
Not bad, sort of your standard girl with superpowers gets pulled into something she doesn’t want to do and then goes about kicking ass and taking names. I thought she was a little too quick to jump to the “I need to kill this guy” stage, but I also felt her conundrum.

I do, however, have to ask such YA heroines always have to be so unfailingly aggressive and unpleasant. And I’m not just talking about Mat either. All the young women who wanted to look tough were just bulldogs with spiky personalities. I swear, you’d think this was the only version of tough authors had ever heard of.

All in all, not bad, just nothing superb or stand-out about it either. It felt a little short on details, considering how long it was, but had enough action not to drag. I’d be willing to read another of the series, but I’m not racing out to buy the sequel either. A solid 3-star read.

Review of Bound (The Silverton Chronicles #2), by Carmen Fox

I won an Audible copy of Carmen Fox‘s Bound. I read and reviewed book one of The Silverton Chronicles, Guarded earlier in the month.

Description from Goodreads:
Florian has it all: excellent fashion sense, a kickass job with his best friend, and a hard-won place among Silverton’s werewolves. When a pack of females pads into their territory, Flo’s alpha dispatches him to handle a merger. Total cakewalk. Except Keely, their alpha, has no intention of submitting her wolves to Flo’s larger pack. Worse, a single glance from her baby blues sends his eloquence on vacation and his heartbeat into overdrive. His flirtations seem welcome too, but there’s a snag. She doesn’t know he’s a vampire.

While Flo struggles with his conflicts—obey his alpha or win over Keely—his estranged sire blasts into town with a catalog of radical ideas. And hanging out with unsophisticated werewolves didn’t make the list.

With violence in the air and all sides testing his loyalties, Florian must bite back, even if showing his fangs costs him the girl.

Review:
Look, I realize that not every book is going to be a feminist masterpiece. But there are times when a reader who is even remotely aware of stereotypical representations of women in fiction reads a book and can’t help but notice when a woman is pigeonholed in a patriarchal way. And there are times when this is done so drastically or repeatedly that it becomes an all-encompassing distraction for said reader. That is the case with me and this book. I was so often side-eyeing it with a ‘why does that female character act that particular way’ or ‘why is that women treated this way’ that it blotted out most of the rest of the story.

This book was infuriating. As far as I was concerned it’s basically a litany of ways to subtly to say ‘subservient to a man is a woman’s true place.’ Everything from the older female vampire who couldn’t stand up to her maker, while the younger brother was a “full grown male” so he could, to the ultra powerful Guardian who could only do her duty because her husband allowed her to, to the female alpha who didn’t really want to be an alpha, but “just a girl” (not woman mind you, but girl) who gives responsibility to someone else (a man). And of course she also happened to like to be tied up and spanked, another way to give away her power. And of course she was treated as unreasonable because she didn’t want to submit. And of course the solution the book comes to in the end  was actually subservience to a male dressed up as something else.

But there’s more. There’s the vampire sister who really liked to clean up after her brothers and iron the clothes and domestically slave away for them, instead of pursuing her own career. And a whole boatload of victimized women who are treated as a commodity. But mostly, it’s just a ton of subtle little snipes that put men above women. And that’s without my getting into how dehumanizing I thought their constantly being referred to a ‘the females’ was. None of whom had names or personalities. They might as well have been ‘the vases’ or the ‘vehicles’ or ‘the incubators.’ It drove me crazy.

But stories that paint women as secretly wanting to place themselves in the hands of a man, instead of being responcible for themselves isn’t uncommon. The thing in this book that irritated me, but isn’t so common was the treatment of Ollie (maybe Ali, can’t tell with an audio version). Unless he gets an M/M book next in the series, I’m going to have to call that whole thing nothing more than queer bating. There is just no reason for Florian and Ivy to be bound to ‘mates’ in the same ceremony and one lead to a romance without readers expecting the same from the other. And there isn’t any reason to set this up with a man except queer bating. You might say it was so that Florian could get out of it to meet his mate here, but it simply wasn’t necessary in the first book, so it’s not necessary here. Queer. Bating.

Lastly, the whole thing was very predictable. I found it annoying that no one was supposed to see the obvious machinations. And I found the little bit of bondage and spanking irrelevant. It wasn’t well incorporated and felt unnatural in the sex scenes.

The thing is, this is a second book in a series and I had a lot of the same sort of problems with book one. So, I can’t say I’m surprised. But I really wanted to have this read and off my TBR. The mechanical writing seems fine, but the authors version of what should make women happy makes me gnash my teeth. The narrator, Brian Callanan did a fine job with it though.

Review of The Spirit Tree (Tess Lamar #1), by Kathryn M. Hearst

I received an Audible credit for a copy of Katheryn M. Hearst‘s The Spirit Tree through AudioBookBook.

Description from Goodreads:
Tessa, a southern girl with a crazy family and a brand new college degree, wants nothing more than for her life to start. When her uncle dies unexpectedly, she inherits more than his old truck. Lifetimes of family secrets unravel and nothing will ever be the same. After learning that she is not only a Fire Bird, but also half Nunnehi—the Cherokee equivalent to a fairy—Tessa is forced to fight for her life. Good thing she was raised by two tough southern ladies.

Review:
Pretty good. I liked the characters, Bryson was especially wonderful and I liked that Tessa had a backbone. The writing was smooth, as was Holly Adams‘ narration. Mostly I liked the book, but I had a few gripes.

I’m not down with the pointless love triangle. There was no need for it, but more importantly, it meant I never really felt the actual romance in the story. Sure, Tessa chose one man over another and we’re told why, but the whole thing was just too diluted by there being two men.

Similarly, the secondary mystery (or maybe primary, it did come first) was solved too easily and then just disappeared from the plot in favor of another one. So there too, having two mysteries meant neither was strong enough on its own. Plus, it made the book feel awful long.

There were also a few TSTL moments in which Tessa threw herself into danger and had to be rescued. I got tired of her apologizing to Bryson for endangering herself.

Lastly, I’m a bit iffy with the use of Native American mythology in the plot. I’m not screaming appropriation or anything, but there were several occasions where I kind of had to side-eye the book.

On a broader, genre level, I have to ask why young women in such books are never raised to know their own heritage, such that some man (or men) have to step in and teach them amidst a crisis. This is practically a constant in fantasy and I’m ALWAYS confused by parents/guardians who raise their wards without teaching them the basics of their powers. I mean, if you’re a shifter or have magic, shouldn’t learning about them be as expected as, say, teaching a young girl about the period she’ll have one day? Why do they NEVER do this? Why?

Despite my few complaints, the book is worth a read and I’ll be happy to read more of Hearst’s writing, but it wasn’t perfect.