Tag Archives: PNR

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 In a Badger Way, by Shelly Laurenston

I borrowed a copy of Shelly Laurenston‘s In a Badger Way from the local library.

Description from Goodreads:

Petite, kind, brilliant, and young, Stevie is nothing like the usual women bodyguard Shen Li is interested in. Even more surprising, the youngest of the lethal, ball-busting, and beautiful MacKilligan sisters is terrified of bears. But she’s not terrified of pandas. She loves pandas. 

Which means that whether Shen wants her to or not, she simply won’t stop cuddling him. He isn’t some stuffed Giant Panda, ya know! He is a Giant Panda shifter. He deserves respect and personal space. Something that little hybrid is completely ignoring.

But Stevie has a way of finding trouble. Like going undercover to take down a scientist experimenting on other shifters. For what, Shen doesn’t want to know, but they’d better find out. And fast. Stevie might be the least violent of the honey badger sisters, but she’s the most dangerous to Shen’s peace of mind. Because she has absolutely no idea how much trouble they’re in . . . or just how damn adorable she is.

Review:

This was really just horrible: juvenile, stupid and basically plotless. I could give it credit for being grammatically sound and edited, but I had to force myself to finish it. So, I’m not going to encourage this puerile idiocy. There were far too many jokes about farting on people, dog shits and releasing anal glands. I want to ask if the author thinks her audience is 12; but the book has lots of good reviews. So, someone somewhere likes it. Just not me. 

I admit I got the occasional chuckle, and I suspect a lot of what made me grit my teeth at the ludicrously over the top antics of this group was probably also meant to be funny. But I just wanted to ask if no one in Laurenston’s professional life is able to reign her in just a little bit. The petite woman doesn’t just shift into a large tiger/honey badger. No, she shifts into a TWO TON animal. No one is just smart or talented, everyone is a GENIUS or a PRODIGY. Stevie doesn’t just have anxiety, she has a crippling phobia of a certain sort of shifter (that doesn’t even make sense in context). There is no spark between the H & h. She just decides they are together and he spends the whole book saying they’re not, until they have sex and then he stops and they’re together. 

I love a bit of humor in my PNR. I abhor a slapstick collection of too-dramatic-to-believe schticks. AND THAT’S ALL THIS BOOK IS.

Review of House of the Rising Sun (Crescent City #1), by Kristen Painter

I borrowed an audio copy of Kristen Painter’s House of the Rising Sun through Hoopla.

Description from Goodreads:

Augustine lives the perfect life in the Haven city of New Orleans. He rarely works a real job, spends most of his nights with a different human woman, and resides in a spectacular Garden District mansion paid for by retired movie star Olivia Goodwin, who has come to think of him as an adopted son, providing him room and board and whatever else he needs. 

But when Augustine returns home to find Olivia’s been attacked by vampires, he knows his idyllic life has comes to an end. It’s time for revenge—and to take up the mantle of the city’s Guardian.

Review:

Gah, this was not good. One Goodreads reviewer called it lazy and another called it facile and boring. Both are accurate descriptions of the book and describe my opinion perfectly. The author has some interesting ideas, but just drops them all in willy-nilly, with no attempt to situate them in any sort of world building. 

Both “main” characters are just cardboard cutouts of PNR heros/heroines. He’s protective and she needs protecting. There isn’t really anything more to either of them. But Harlow is especially poorly sketched out. Augustine at least goes out and does things. Harlow just basically sits home and frets, waiting for someone else to solve her problems. Want to know how important she is to the story? She’s not even mentioned in the book’s description, despite her sexy image being used to grab readers attention. (And it should be added that the actual character lives in baggy sweatshirts to cover her physique. So the image really is just to sex the cover up.)

There is a semblance of plot. It has to be Augustine who protects the city, because reasons. Harlow hasn’t much spoken to her mother for decades, because reasons. She has to come home now, because reasons. Olivia has never told Harlow who her father is (despite it destroying their relationship), because reason. Olivia took Augustine in, because reasons. BUT NONE OF IT REALLY HOLDS UP TO THE LIGHT. And frankly a lot of it isn’t even believable. 

Lastly, the timeline is hinky. Ages aren’t ever stated, but they can be approximated with the information provided, and Olivia seems far too old to be Harlow’s mother. And all of Harlow’s childhood is basically glossed over with “sent to boarding school.” Despite this, there seems to be several missing years in there. And if 20+ years pass, am I to believe Olivia never mentioned essentially adopting a son? Again, it’s all a product of lazy writing. 

All in all, I’m very glad to be finished with this. By the end, Harlow’s intense unlikeable-ness was becoming too much to bear. Painter apparently couldn’t even put in enough effort on her behalf to make her palatable. The narration, done by Elijah Alexander was fine. But again, choosing a male narrator for a book with a female main character on the cover, should tell you who the focus of the book is really on. (I actually wouldn’t call Harlow a main character at all.)

Edit: As an amusing side note, there is a character named Zarah in this book. She’s referenced, but never makes an appearance. This is noteworthy because just the other day I wrote a Goodreads review in which I said how rarely I see this name in books. Now, I’ve come across TWO IN A ROW. What’s the likelihood? I’ll cross-post the review to the blog when I finish the boxset and post all the reviews together. But at least I got a chuckle out of it.