Tag Archives: Paranormal romance

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Book Review: Monsters Within, by R.L. Caulder

I received this copy of Monsters Within by R.L. Caulder in a monthly subscription book box. (I don’t remember which one.) But I also have a Kindle copy I picked up as a freebie at some point.

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Have you ever lost yourself in a fantasy world you created?

That’s how I’ve survived the years alone in a reality where humans cower in fear of supernatural creatures hiding behind the veil.

All I’ve ever had is my pen, my notebook, and the world I created to make it through the days as a ward of the state, suffering at the hands of the real villains of the world…Humans.

The pages of my notebook hold three sinful, feared monsters. Ones that I certainly shouldn’t be pining over since they aren’t even real.

I question my grip on reality when real life and fantasy collide as my words suddenly come to life. Out of the pages climb each of the beautifully twisted monsters I created with my ink.

Dark Imaginarium Academy claims to want to help me learn about my new powers. The Headmistress says they can protect me, but I’m not so sure about that.

The one thing I am sure about? I’ll destroy the world if they try to take my monsters from me.

Because my creations aren’t just monstersthey’re my soulmates.

my review

Soooo, this simply isn’t very good. It reads VERY MUCH like a teen, self-insert fantasy romance. Which, in one manner, makes sense to the plot. Self-insert fantasy is what the main character writes to create the monsters in the first place. On the other hand, nothing feels like this parallel was a stylistic choice by Caulder, and it simply isn’t any fun to read. Both because it is boring and because the amateurish writing and plotting reinforced the teen-like feel.

Additionally, the teen-like feel clashes with the collegiate setting. It feels like high school (they have detention, set similar schedules, petty high school drama, and a most specialist, special girl who is special main character, etc.). The character is only 21 (and all the magic miraculously appears at midnight on her 21st birthday), so she would be legal, and you feel that is an monsters within photoauthorial manipulation rather than fitting the plot even a little bit. She feels 16, at most.

Add all of that to a plot that feels, at best, sketched out, rocketing from point to point with no build-up or resolutions, characters who go through major shifts in reality with absolutely no reaction or adjustment time, stock, cardboard cutout heroes, cliched, mean-girl villains, and inconsistent characterization of the heroine, and I was simply done. I finished the book to finish it, but I’m not at all interested in more.

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Book Review: Suddenly Summoned, by Beatrix Hollow

I have a signed copy of Beatrix Hollow‘s Suddenly Summoned. However, I cannot remember if I got it in a subscription book box or bought it during an online author-signing event.suddenly summoned cover

Luckily, it doesn’t take much social confidence to plot a massacre. All you need is an ancient ancestral grimoire, a shameful obsession with demons, and the proper motivation. Check, check, and check.

Yep, I’ve raised a demon from Hell. The first person that dared to summon in three hundred years. I gave him my eternal soul and in exchange he gave me a vicious bloodbath.

The world knows me as Beauty, the coven massacre slayer, and I’m stuck living out my pathetic life at the supernatural prison, Dreary Isle.

Now I have a savage demon magically chained to me–petting my hair and rasping in my ear how he wants to kill me. I’ve also got Max, my frustratingly platonic best friend who I’m responsible for getting locked up. Then there’s my broody leprechaun with mischievous eyes, who makes a lot of flirty promises–including escape.

Lastly, there’s the warden. He’s insane and has a grudge against my ancestors. A devil owns my soul but the warden is what frightens me. He’s something more heinous than a violent demon…

He’s a psychotic god.

my review

I thought this was an OK read. I liked the main characters and where the story seemed to be going. But it was also far too slow a burn for me. I don’t just mean for my preference, either. The slow-slow burn made the book feel like it dragged, not hitting the expected plot points when expected. (There is no sex, for example, because no relationship has progressed far enough.) And while that isn’t necessarily bad, there wasn’t really enough other stuff to fill the void. So, it felt a little mid.

All in all, however, I liked it enough to try and buy the next one in the series. Unfortunately, there isn’t one, and isn’t likely to be one. The author appears to have pulled it from publication and has it listed on her website as something she intends to re-edit and re-publish, but she has no ETA for when that might happen. (And obviously, there is also no apparent work on the rest of the series.) So, I suppose here ends my Faustian adventure.

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Book Review: Stone Cold, by H.B. Jacks

I picked up a copy of H.B. Jack‘s Stone Cold as an Amazon freebie.

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Three massive stone gargoyles. Monsters all. And now I belong to them.

I didn’t ask to be rescued. I was doing fine on my own, even if I had just lost my job, dumped my ex and taken a wrong turn down a dark alley.

So when Cararr thinks I need saving and sweeps me up in his huge claws, what am I supposed to do? Say no to this damaged, vicious and sweet as candy gargoyle who only wants to prove to his mates he’s worthy of their love?

Mates who include Viriroz, one growly grump of a gargoyle, all dominant and possessive, and the sinful Garaz who looks at me like he wants to eat me. Whole.

These are powerful monsters with a dangerous job to do, protecting the human world from the things that slither in the dark, but they need a final female mate to complete their roost and produce their heirs.

All of which means I have to decide whether to stay with these delicious, feral males who love to share a bed and each other, or whether to condemn the rest of the world the world to the darkness.

But I have to make the choice, because the war is coming and it might just rip us apart before we even begin.

my review

Think Gargoyles, the TV show, but spicy.

I dislike the cover, but I decided to overlook it and give this book a try. It started out really well with three male gargoyles in a very affectionate, committed relationship. I liked each individually and had high hopes for when the why choose element was brought in. But the book deteriorated fairly quickly into weird sex-based power dynamics and a sloppy, predictable plot full of far too many coincidences.

Let me start with my biggest disappointment. The three males were in a pre-established relationship, and they needed a female to join them in order to have children. But this left Lara feeling like a fourth wheel, the three of them in a relationship that had a female instead of the four of them in any sort of equal partnership. I really like that the three men were involved and continued to engage with one another even after she arrived, but she was never integrated enough into the dynamic to feel like a true part of it. This was very much reinforced by the weird power relations of sex.

Penetrative sex is referred to as being bred, even between men, and penetrative sex is used as a punishment. Don’t get me wrong, everyone who was penetrated seemed to enjoy it. But it is referred to repeatedly as punishment and used as such. These two facts infer, upfront, that penetration is tied to procreation, and there is something shameful about being penetrated. It is shameful to be the receiving partner in the sexual act. Sound familiar?

Plus, there seems to be rigid penetration politics involved. Alpha Viriroz can penetrate everyone. Garaz can penetrate Carrarr and Lara. Carrarr can only penetrate Lara, and Lara penetrates no one. (This isn’t just an observation, Garaz says at one point how glad he is to never let Carrarr breed him. It’s explicit.) It’s of note here that Carrarr is the most female-coded of the three gargoyles.

This ranking of who penetrates and who is penetrated seems to correlate almost exactly with authority in the relationship as a whole. The end result is that one’s place in the hierarchy reduces with proximity to femaleness, with being the receiving sexual partner as the proxy signal and being deserving of punishment (shameful) as the reason for one’s social position.

Taken together, all of this starts to look a whole lot like familiar patriarchal, misogynistic bullshit that reduces women to sexual toys and broodmares and then deems them of less worth because of it. I want none of this anywhere near my romance books, but especially in a why-choose romance that one reads largely to subvert such puritanical standards. (As a side note, I wonder if the author even knows they did this or if it is so internalized as the norm that they didn’t even notice.)

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect every book to be a feminist masterpiece. A lot of what makes dark romances fun is that they play with the very cultural norms feminism fights. As women, these are our reality, and it can be satisfying to engage them from a position of control. (I can shut a book at any moment, and there is a compact between the author and reader, then the heroine is really safe, no matter the current plot point.) But I adamantly dislike books that do so uncritically, that feed the reader raw patriarchal, puritanical mythos as romance. There is nothing subversive here, and I find nothing in female oppression erotic without it.

Plus, a lot of the sex scenes were repetitive (both in the acts and the language used) and defied photo of stone coldthe limits of human capacity. I know it’s fantasy. One always has to suspend their disbelief. ButJacks so threw out any limits to what the female body can accommodate to pull me, the reader, right out of the scenes, the last one especially.

Add all of this to the convenient and often unexplained coincidences and Dues ex Machina solutions to problems, and by the end of the book, much of my hope had simply evaporated, and I was glad to be shot of it.

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Review: Stone Cold (Monster Prey Mates, #1). ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️