Category Archives: First Reads 2015

Review of Blood of the Beast, by Tamela Quijas

Blood of the BeastI grabbed a copy Blood of the Beast, by Tamela Quijas from the Amazon freebie list.

Description from Goodreads:
There is a scent that fills the night, far more delicate than the beat of the heart, more fragile than the whisper of breath escaping human lungs.

The echo that fills the darkness is the scent of blood pulsating through the mortal body.

Commonly overlooked by those among the living, it is a sound fervently sought by those residing on the fringes of the world existing between the living and the undead.

Blood is what the beast craves.

Detective Valentina Kureyev had been assigned to one of the worst murder cases of the century. A serial killer haunted the streets of her city, depositing bloodless corpses throughout the section of town known as Little Europe.

She hadn’t a clue to the identity of the culprit.

The case was hopeless.

The terror was real.

As real as Demetri Daskova.

The Professor of Russian Antiquities had been targeted with the murderer’s special form of a calling card. Val couldn’t turn away from his offer of aide in the bizarre case, even though he whispered tales of ‘those that walked on the dark side of the moon’ and the beast that hungrily fed on human blood.

He was the primary suspect.

Good lord that was just horrible. I almost didn’t even make it through the prologue. But it’s the end of the year and I’d set myself an alphabet soup challenge (read a book by an author for every letter of the alphabet) and I only have Q, X,Y & Z left and I DNFed my Y yesterday. So, I wasn’t going to do the same with my Q. So I was trapped with it.

Eventually I just started reading passages aloud to my husband, because sharing the shocking horridness and strange, STRANGE over-use of the word quiver/quivering was the only way I could keep going. (Seriously, the word is used a lot, often in questionable ways.) The whole book is painfully wordy. No one has gold eyes, they’re golden hued eyes, etc. It contradicts itself. It is painfully dependent on tropes. There is no palpable chemistry between the characters. The female MC is pathologically angry and extremely unlikable (but all the men lust after her). The male MC was a jerk in the beginning and we’re never shown that he changed. It’s just supposed to be assumed. In addition to too many words, there are also misused words, missing words and anachronistic language. The villain is a cliche scorned woman (who spent one purchased night with the man she goes bad over) and the whole thing was just jumpy and clunky. But hey, the author’s name is Quijas, so it’s all good.

Review of Blueberry Boys, by Vanessa North

Blueberry BoysI received a copy of Vanessa North‘s Blueberry Boys from Netgalley.

Description from Goodreads:
Connor Graham is a city boy—a celebrated fashion photographer in New York. When his uncle’s death drags him back to the family blueberry farm, all he wants to do is sell it as quickly as he can. Until he meets his uncle’s tenant farmer. 

Jed Jones, shy and stammering, devout and dedicated, has always yearned for land of his own and a man to share it with. Kept in the closet by his church, family, and disastrous first love, he longs to be accepted for who he is. But now, with his farm and his future in Connor’s careless hands, he stands to lose even the little he has. 

Neither man expects the connection between them. Jed sees Connor—appreciates his art and passion like no one else in this godforsaken town ever has. Connor hears Jed—looks past his stutter to listen to the man inside. The time they share is idyllic, but with the farm sale pending, even their sanctuary is a source of tension. As work, family, and their town’s old-fashioned attitudes pull them apart, they must find a way to reconcile commitments to their careers and to each other.

Sooooo, I held off reading this book for a while because I often don’t mesh with contemporary romances. I need a little extra oomph to make romance in general work for me. But I’d seen so many wonderful reviews of this book that I gave in and requested it from Netgalley……and I should have stuck with my initial instinct. This wasn’t a winner for me.

Now, it was marvelously written. I liked the characters, both their personalities and their imperfections. I liked North’s treatment of Jed’s religion and its importance to him. And it was very sweet. But…but…well, I’m just gonna go ahead and say it. I was bored. It’s a fairly straightforward romance. There are a couple challenges to overcome, but no real twists. And the challenges seemed overblown to me. I mean Blandford was 2 hours from New York. Seriously, I know a man who commutes that distance everyday for work, so I don’t understand why this is such a barrier to a relationship.

Here’s the thing though, I suspect my boredom was at least in part the result of me not relating to the primary events of the book. I’ve never had to come out to family. I’ve never had to negotiate my sexuality and my religious beliefs, etc., etc. Perhaps if I had, I would have been grabbed more fully by this plot. Which is to say that those who this is familiar to might find a homecoming here that I didn’t. In this, I am perhaps just not the intended readership.

Outside of that, my only real complaints are that the attraction seems instant and based largely on being the only two gay men around and how neatly and easily it all wrapped up. [Slightly spoilerish] Jed decides to come out and then seek advice from the pastor immediately after the homophobic jerkface pastor leaves and the new conveniently liberal and accepting pastor comes in. (And there was no indication that this was purposeful.) Conner’s brother, who had been hostile his whole life suddenly decides to try and correct his ways. Jed’s homophobic family come around to accepting him in no time flat. It all just happened too easily and honestly it’s just a little too pat for me. Plus, it’s super sappy-sweet.

So, not a winner for me, but I suspect a home run for other readers

Review of Dragonspire, by Talya Andor

DragonspireI received a copy of Talya Andor‘s Dragonspire from Netgalley.

Description from Goodreads:
In the wake of his grandfather’s death and the unexpected contents of his will, Gideon abandons his career, cuts ties with his family, and heads overseas to figure out a life that has never made him happy. He settles for a time in Myanmar, content to roam the country taking pictures, carefully avoiding the dangerous local politics.

When he ventures into the jungle, he expects wildlife and possibly men with guns if he’s unlucky. Instead, he meets a princess who sweeps him off to another world, claiming that Gideon is the only one who can help her slay the terrible black dragon threatening her people—and if he ever wants to see home again, he has no choice.

I think OK is the best I can give Dragonspire, and even that is only for beyond the 30% mark. The first third is so rough I almost just gave up on the book. But I stuck with it and it did smooth out eventually.

I did enjoy the main characters and the general shape of the plot. But unfortunately I thought the whole thing was dragged out far too long, with too many conveniently unspoken things leading to misunderstandings. Plus, you’re never given a satisfying explanation on Gideon’s grandfather’s actions that spurred him into the events of the book.

I also had an issue with the diversity in the book. Hang with me a minute, because I can’t believe I’m saying this either. It’s the sort of thing that normally makes me cheer. I want everyone to be able to see themselves represented in their literature. But at one point, one character is introduced to ten or so dragons and their mates and they are of every conceivable pairing. There are M/Ms, F/Fs, M/Fs, gender fluids partners, non-binaries partners, polys, etc. And while a very very large part of me was like, ‘Yeah, look at that. I love seeing such representation’ another (admittedly smaller, but still present) part of me was like, ‘Oh look, the author tossed in some obligatory, I’m-so-liberal diversity.’ The characters (and their sexuality) played no significant part in the book and the pages and pages and pages of description were distracting, but worse, felt like hollow tokenism. Maybe for some the former will outweigh the latter, but it made me uncomfortable.

Anyhow, after the first third, it’s a fluffy, feel-good book that, if you like that sort of thing, is worth picking up, despite my complaints.