Review of Soul Breaker (City of Crows #1), by Clara Coulson

I picked up a free copy of Clara Coulson‘s Soul Breaker from Amazon on the recommendation of someone in a Fans of Urban Fantasy group.

Description from Goodreads:
There’s a hideous monster on the loose, crushing heads and taking names.

But Detective Calvin Kinsey is on the case!

Two years ago, Cal Kinsey was an up-and-coming cop in the Aurora Police Department. But during a fateful nighttime stakeout in search of a prolific killer, Cal witnessed the darkest corner of his dreams come to life. A rogue vampire slaughtered his partner — to put it nicely — and introduced Cal to the supernatural world he never knew existed in the shadows.

Now, Cal is a newly minted detective at the often mocked Department of Supernatural Investigations. By day, the agents of DSI are called “Kooks” by local law enforcement. By night, they’re known as “Crows,” reviled by the supernatural underworld.

Mere weeks out of the academy, Cal catches his first real case, a vicious murder at a local college. An unknown sorcerer has summoned a powerful creature from the Eververse, a realm of magic and mayhem that borders Earth, and set it on a dangerous warpath through the city.

Between butting heads with his grumpy team captain, stirring up ill will with the local wizards and witches, and repeatedly getting the crap beaten out of himself, Cal must find a way to stop the Eververse monster and send it back to the hell it came from…

…preferably before Aurora, Michigan runs out of coffins for the dead.

I seriously did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did, so it really was an awesome surprise. Cal, while 22 and ready to be a hero, is also self aware and willing to be inspired by those around him, including several badass women. (Women who were martially badass without reading like men-with-tits characters). He’s inconsequentially bi-sexual, meaning it’s no big thing or in need of explaining. He’s bi, just like he’s brunette, no need for further drama about it (this isn’t a romance, after all). He shows emotion, including grief and tears and then gets up and does his job.

Of the side characters you have several powerful women, who aren’t using sex to get ahead. A 40+ year old women still allowed to be sexy, have sex and enjoy it, (So often ‘older’ women’ seem to have lost this aspect of themselves in literature.), man in authority who is grieving and showing physical pain but still functioning, an academic who is basically saving the day with research and being appreciated, and racial and sexual diversity.

All in all, I really liked this and look forward to more. I did think Cal made a couple leaps of logic that were a little too keen to follow and despite saying he’s scared and such, he was a tad close to Marty Stew perfection (but not too close). I’ll be looking for more books by Clara Coulson.

Review of Heart of the Hunter (Dragon Chalice #1), by Lara Adrian

I picked up a copy of Lara Adrian‘s (writing as Tina St. John) Heart of the Hunter from Amazon, in November of 2012! Glad to see I got around to reading it in a timely manner. As it’s

Description from Goodreads:
Ariana of Clairmont would risk anything to save her kidnapped brother, a quest she knows is fraught with peril. Her only ally is Braedon le Chasseur, a formidable knight with a mysterious past, whose scarred face and brooding nature mask a soul filled with pain. Ariana fears this dangerous man and the secrets he strives to conceal—but Braedon’s touch is pure seduction, his kiss a potent lure that tempts her into a passion she is powerless to resist.

Once known as The Hunter, now haunted by a dark legacy he struggles to deny, Braedon lives in a world of shadow and isolation—until he is thrust together with an innocent beauty in need of his protection. Embarking on a journey that will lead them to a legendary treasure, Braedon will be forced to confront old enemies and the stunning secret of his true nature—or risk losing Ariana and the only happiness he has ever known. . . .

Ok look, I chose to read this by scrolling through my Kindle and going, “Oh, historical paranormal romance with dragons. Yes please.” I didn’t look farther than that. I didn’t notice I’d had the book since 2012 or that the first edition on Goodreads is from 2004. Because if I had, I wouldn’t have bothered with the book. I would have know in advance how much I’d dislike it.

As Suzanne Brockmann recently addressed in her RWA speech, the language of romance novels used to be a lot different, back when penis wasn’t allowed, etc. So you got a lot of ‘velvet covered steel” and “pearls of womanhood.”

And OH MY GOD, while I’m no fan of cunt, I’ll take it over “glove of her womb” a hundred times over! I am Modern Woman, hear me…panic over the fear of accidental pregnancy for my whole sexually active adulthood. Unless the point is implanting semen in said womb and impregnation, do no put the word womb in a sex scene. JUST DON’T, especially in a historical where prophylactics don’t exist anyhow. And it’s used over and over here, “glove of her womb,” “entrance of her womb,” just “her womb’ (which is even worse), “fist of her womb,” and of course her climax floods her womb and her womb expands and contract with orgasm. OMG, stop!

There was nothing erotic in these sex scenes. And that’s before I address things like, ” He didn’t wait for her permission. In truth, he wasn’t sure he was asking for it…” or “”Tell me to let you go, Ariana. If you do not…ah, God, if you do not…” He had no will to wait for her denial.” Yeah, when it came to sex he was all about doing what he wanted.

I’ll grant that Adrian at least provided a little foreplay and the hero didn’t pound away like a jackhammer in a vagina that should be bone-dry for all he touched it. And the heroine had her own sexual agency. But sadly I had trouble with that too. The word innocent/innocence is used about a million times to describe her (especially in regard to being a virgin), as well as guileless, naive, naïveté, etc. Then, BAM, she’s giving head like a boss with no instruction. How exactly would such an ingénue, as she’s supposed to be, know anything a blow jobs? Tell me, how?

And then there was the fact that as soon as the hero decided to help and protect the heroine, all this started: “That’s right. From now on, I decide our course of action. ‘Tis the only way.” “…and do whatever I tell you. Understand?” “Don’t ever disobey me again, do you understand? If I tell you to do something, know that I have my reasons. I must be able to trust that you will do as I say, not question me or defy me.” (These are just a few example.) And I’m all reading this book like, Dude, you are just some rando off the street. Who are you to take control of her like that? I don’t care if it is historical. You’re not her father, brother or even her husband yet! Fuck off. But of course she lets him make all the decisions and falls in love with him instead. Plus, any time she tried to do anything on her own she went and did something stupid, like almost get raped. (And it’s worth mentioning, just in case this dumpster fire isn’t obvious enough, she initially met him and then he immediately saved her from being raped and sold into sexual slavery. Because of course he did. What else would happen to a woman out in the big scary world of men? It’s certainly the only thing that ever seems to happen to them in books like this.)

For those like me who like historical paranormals, know that there are no dragons in this book and the paranormal aspects are almost nil. They certainly aren’t well integrated. So, as you might guess, I hated this book. This is the sort of book that kept me from reading heterosexual romances for so long. The industry has moved forward, things have gotten better. But this shit can go die.

Review of Dhata Mays, by Greg Dragon

I received an Audible credit from the author (Greg Dragon) for a copy of Dhata Mays. At the time posting, the Kindle version was also free.

Description of Goodreads:
In a war between man and machine, he must find a way to protect them all…

After a devastating war forced humans to rely on synths for survival, the two have learned to coexist peacefully.

Until now…

When detective Dhata Mays is called in to investigate a homicide, what he uncovers threatens the serenity of this futuristic society. The gruesome murder means only one thing: someone is ready to incite another war. Now, it’s up to Dhata to ensure that the truth stays hidden–to protect both sides of the battle. But can he be unbiased in a black and white world that forces him to take sides?

I quite enjoyed this. It was a little bit futuristic noir, a little bit Maze Runner. Hell, there might even have been a little Elijah Baley in Dhata. It was a good mix. Yes, Dhata was just a little too perfect—a little too tough, with too many connections in all the wrong places to somehow be one of the few clean cops left around. But I liked him and the book all the same. The writing was sharp (though occasionally oddly formal), the mystery progressed at a nice pace, and the persecution of Synths could easily be read as an allegory. I look forward to reading more about him. And Tucker McDougall did a marvelous job with the narration.

On a side note, it’s worth knowing that there is a glossary at the end of the Kindle edition that I think may be missing in the Audible version, which is a shame. I needed it for some of the slang.