Tag Archives: challenge 2013

from the ashes

Book Review of Daisy Harris’ From the Ashes

From the Ashes

I picked up Daisy Harris‘ novel, From the Ashes from the Amazon free list. At the times of posting, it was still free.

Description from Goodreads:
When an accident burns down Jesse’s apartment, he’s left broke and homeless, with a giant dog and a college schedule he can’t afford to maintain. And no family who’s willing to take him in.

Lucky for him, a sexy fireman offers him a place to stay. The drawback? The fireman’s big Latino family lives next door, and they don’t know their son is gay.

Tomas’s parents made their way in America with hard work and by accepting help when it was offered, so he won’t let Jesse drop out of school just so he can afford a place to live. Besides, Jesse’s the perfect roommate—funny, sweet and breathtakingly cute. He climbs into Tomas’s bed and tugs at his heart. Until Jesse starts pushing for more.

Their passion enflames their bodies but threatens to crush Tomas’s family. Tomas is willing to fight for Jesse, but after losing everything, Jesse isn’t sure he can bear to risk his one remaining possession—his heart.

I’m fairly torn about what I thought of this book. I really liked the characters. Tomas is pretty much everything a person could want in a lover. Yes, he has a few issues of his own, but any man who is so willing to put himself out there for the man he loves is alright in my book. And while Jesse comes across as young and naive, I also respected that he was hell bound and determined to stay independent. There were a lot of really sweet scenes. The whole, ‘you don’t have to be perfect’ thing made me sigh. There were also some cheesy ones, but nothings perfect.

But as much as I liked these aspects of the book, I also found it a little dull. There was very little angst. The two characters met, had an instant attraction, were forced by circumstances to choose to live together, and seamlessly fall in love. It was all just a little too easy.

But I also have this vague uneasy feeling about Tomas’ issue. I don’t want give too much of a spoiler, but Tomas has a problem respecting men he has sex with and what that means as a gay man. While I understand this wasn’t actually meant to be judgemental, rather a challenge for Tomas to overcome, it still made my skin crawl a little. Plus, he seemed to get over it fairly quickly in the end, all things considered.

The writing and editing were both fine and I’d be more than willing to pick up another of Harris’ books.

Review of Necropolis, by Guy Portman

NecropolisAuthor, Guy Portman sent me an e-copy of his novel Necropolis. I’ve read it as book twelve of my Taking Care of my Own challenge.

Description from Goodreads:
Dyson Devereux works in the Burials and Cemeteries department in his local council. Dyson is intelligent, incisive and informed. He is also a sociopath. Dyson’s contempt for the bureaucracy and banality of his workplace provides ample refuge for his mordant wit. But the prevalence of Essex Cherubs adorning the headstones of Newton New Cemetery is starting to get on his nerves. 

When an opportunity presents itself will Dyson seize his chance and find freedom, or is his destiny to be a life of toil in Burials and Cemeteries? 

Brutal, bleak and darkly comical, Necropolis is a savage indictment of the politically correct, health and safety obsessed world in which we live.

I have to admit to being taken completely by surprise by this book. As the first I’ve read of Guy Portman’s work, I didn’t have anything to base any expectations on. So I didn’t know I was really going to crawl behind the civil mask of a charming, but truly inhumane sociopath. Yes, I know, it’s in the description. But often that means little at all.

There were times I thought the author strove for shock factor, but I was later forced to reconsider this idea. As an example, at one point Dyson engaged in a fairly risqué, drug fuelled threesome that was described in some detail. My first reaction (remembering that I rather like a little erotica in my fiction) was to roll my eyes and tisk at the pointless inclusion of base titillation. That is until I realised the whole thing was relayed with as bland a recitation as Dyson’s appreciation of pastel shirts or distaste for custard creams, and far less virulence than his abhorrence of the cat-in-heat howls of Celine Dion’s music. This is not to say it or any other aspect of the book was boring, but that Dyson’s normal human affect was somewhat lacking and the event therefore held no more importance that a stale repast refreshment or daily grande cafe latte extra hot with soy milk from Starbucks.

And here-in lies the genius of this book—the dichotomous nature of what Dyson sees/thinks/does and the considered visage he presents the world, all contradicted against his utter disinterest in those same individuals. As readers, we are never told Dyson is a sociopath (other than in the synopsis). We are SHOWN his personality disorder in everything he does. It’s subtle but unmistakable. He never remembers names, dehumanises individuals he particularly dislikes (’cause he dislikes almost everyone) as ‘it’ and, even surrounded by the moribund accoutrements of death daily, is unmoved by it.

There is a lot of dark humour here. Dyson is, after all, a well-educated, intelligent, witty man. A lot of this humour is at the expense of the proletariat masses and their/our common, recognisable lives. Disturbingly (considering Dyson’s obvious social imbalance), I agreed with a lot of his opinions—the repugnance of the X Factor as a form of entertainment, the forgeability of the Kardashians as a clan, the omnipresence of banal office chatter, the wretch-inducing encroachment of kitsch tat into otherwise somber environs. All of this makes Dyson a frighteningly relatable, though completely unlikable character. Think Dexter with a British accent.

All of this is wrapped in wonderful prose, interesting speech patters (that never got on my nerves), good editing and a satisfying conclusion. It was an all out win in my books.

shadow Heart: Slayer

Review Claudy Conn’s ShadowHeart Slayer (Shadow Vampires, #2)

ShadowHeart SlayerSeveral months ago I reviewed Shadow Love: Stalkers, book one of Claudy Conn‘s Shadow Vampires series. I later found the sequel, ShadowHeart Slayer, on the free amazon list.

Her name is Nikki Walker, and she is a vampire slayer. She never thought she would have to use her slayer powers…but she does.

She is on the trail of an ancient and secretive vampire called Deadly Moon, and Nikki wants to destroy her. She has her reasons.

His name is Damon Drummond who some of you have met before, and already know that he is a hunk of an unusual vampire. He is bent on keeping Nikki away from Deadly Moon.

The sociopath vampire, WB, who had been Pentim Rawley’s right hand man has taken over the Pentim clan, and is turning out to be even more of a problem than his predecessor had been. In fact, if someone doesn’t do something soon…Dublin will go dark under his power, and other cities will follow.

Damon and Nikki are on opposite sides. He is a potent vampire–she is a skilled and powerful vampire slayer. Problem right there…but, when they look at each other, sparks of all kinds fly. Too much stands between them. He will live forever…she will not…and yet…

Hmmm…From the blurb and the precedent set in book one (Shadow Love: Stalkers) I expected this book to have (or at least aim for) a deep, brooding vampire and a kick-ass slayer/heroine. Certainly Damon was just so in the last book. For a little while, in the beginning, that’s what I got too.

Then everything took a turn for the Twilight Zone. Suddenly there were, not only vampires, but demons, hybrids, and inter-dimensional monsters in an enchanted wood, which just happened to surround a magical castle. It was, however, when I reached the kindly, white bearded wizard a la Fantasia, in the blue, sparkly, conical hat, silken robes and Harry-Potter-like wand that I had a fairly serious WTF moment. I only became more confused as witches, warlocks and fae were later thrown into the fray.

It was like the book completely lost focus for a little while, drifted and then simply picked up in some quixotic fairytale instead of a PNR vampire novel when it reestablished itself. I was left dazed and confused, until I shifted into irritated and disappointed. I didn’t set out to read a fairytale and there was no warning that it was what I was getting into.

What’s more, Nikki went from the hard-nosed, independent slayer of the first couple chapters to a sweet, polite, girl next door with a propensity to hug people and kiss the cheeks of affable old men. Talk about a personality 180°. I wanted to drop the book right there at 50%, but I forced myself on so I wouldn’t have to DNF.

I try really hard to find at least a few good things to say about a book and I see from other reviews that people like it. So, I’ll happily admit that this was perhaps a mismatch of reader and book. But I was seriously disappointed. Both because the story I ended up reading in no way resembled the one I set out for and because I thought it wasn’t particularly well put together. *cringe*sorry**

The narrative was repetitive. For example, WB’s feelings and thoughts about Clara were related just about every time they were in the same room. The same kind of thing can be said for both Nikki and Damon. We’re told what they think of the other again and again and again without it changing much until the end. Then it just becomes rather staid, rushed sex scenes. 

The narrative felt quite stiff, with characters too often using names and endearments in conversation and even frequently using full names where one would suffice. At first I thought this was a certain character’s habit, but then others did it too. There were also periods where people seemed to stop using contractions, leaving everyone sounding oddly formal all of the time. 

Plus, I just found myself cringing over some things. For example, I found the whole “shifted into vampire speed” or “put on the slayer speed” cheesy beyond imagination. Maybe because it was used so often, but mostly because I imagined them shifting gears, like in a car.

My main complaint, however, was that like in the previous book, the author set up one primary plot (in this case hunting down the killer of her brother) and then completely ignored it for most of the book, while unrelated distractions were thrown at the main character and reader. This left the whole thing feeling fragmented. 

I don’t want to be mean here. I truly appreciate how hard writing a book is and for a different reader maybe this one will be a winner. It was, after all, very creative and imaginative, but I’ve finished it now and am still kinda reeling in a state of perpetual WTF. I had such high hopes for the dark and mysterious Damon too. They didn’t pan out.