Tag Archives: challenge 2013

Review of Daughter Of Darkness (The Darkness Series #1), by Mandy M. Roth

Daughter of DarknessI picked up a used copy of Mandy M. Roth‘s Daughter of Darkness at the second hand shop. (I was totally curious about what book would have such an obvious Angelina Jolie look-alike on the cover.)

Description from Goodreads:
Good or Evil? How’s a girl to choose?

Gwyneth Stevens, born of magical descent and raised by humans, fully understands that creatures of the night exist outside of books and movies. When her job leads her to Necro’s Magik World & Supernatural Theme Park, she meets Pallo, an Italian vampire so captivating, so perfect and so familiar. Before she can fully explore her feelings for him, fate steps in, bringing with it a sexy bounty hunter who makes Gwen’s insides tighten and her body burn. Caleb instantly lays claim to her heart.

Torn between her love for two men, Gwen finds herself caught in a triangle shrouded in passion, lust and immortality. In a world where humans live in ignorance and supernaturals are a sub-culture, anything is possible.

Review:
I give this a good, solid erotic 3 star rating; keeping in mind that, while not a wholly different rating system, I do generally have far lower plot/character development expectations for an erotic novel.

For the most part, I enjoyed the book. The men were kind and sexy, while Gwen had a wonderful sarcastic streak. Unfortunately she also slowly crept into the ‘too stupid to live’ category. She constantly ran out on her own, despite knowing she was being hunted. She seemed to be unable to look beyond even the simplest deception, to see the obvious truth of a situation and she was then painfully stubborn about it.

To be fair, she wasn’t the only one showing evidence of stupidity though. I mean, come on, if you were trying to hide a woman from someone you know to be dangerous and who will obviously want her, would you then take her dancing in HIS club? Seriously, would you? Stupid! Honestly, some of these bonehead moves felt very much like needed plot devices. They irritated me as much for being too stupid to credit as for their obvious mechanical necessity to the plot.

When I picked this book up I was unsure how it would go over. I generally hate love triangles, but I really enjoy ménage fiction. From the blurb I could have seen this going either way. It’s a bit of both…or rather, there is one mild ménage  scene and a love pentagon (Gwen and four male pursuers). Since it wasn’t an angsty read I could handle the triangle/pentagon aspect of it, but there were just too many men after Gwen. This is especially true since it wasn’t really THIS Gwen they all fell in love with. (That will make sense if you read the book.) There was absolutely no way for this to have a satisfactory conclusion. Someone important was going to get hurt or left out and I’m not thrilled at how it ended. Since this is the first in a series maybe there will be a better ending in a future book.

 

Review of Gena D. Lutz’s Ember’s Curse (Prime Wolf, #1)

Ember's CurseI grabbed Gena D. Lutz‘s Ember’s Curse (Prime Wolf, #1) from the Amazon KDP free list.

Description from Goodreads:
For Prime-Werewolf Ember Stilwell, life has been far from normal. Decades ago, a vengeful Witch cursed her Pack, leaving the women of her line incapable of feeling love. When an organized group of immortal killers begin to stalk and capture wolves from her pack, she sets out on a path fraught with danger. Just when it seems the world as she knows it will be changed forever, she meets Collin, an Alpha Werewolf with a body built for sin. As her heart begins to heal, she comes to find that the demons of her past are not nearly as dangerous as the nightmares she will be forced to face in her future. Can finding her true love conquer all? Or will the ability to feel for the first time be overshadowed by losing everything else she holds dear?

Review: ** Mild Spoilers**
This book had an interesting story behind it. Unfortunately, it seemed to start in the middle somewhere, with the main character, Ember, being mentally molested by a pervy vampire who never reappeared or played any role in the book. (WTF was that about? I’m still wondering.) It didn’t get any better after that. There was absolutely no world building, no character development, and no time between events to allow tension to build.

At one point a character was using a semi-automatic gun to shoot out the tires of a passing motorcycle and I thought to myself, “that’s what this book it like.” It’s literary automatic fire, with action as ammunition. There was no time between occurrences to rest or figure things out or get to know anyone. Further, there didn’t seem to be any real aim. Not to stretch the analogy too far, but like bullets shot in such quantity, there was no need for accuracy. The idea seeming to be if the author sprayed enough ammo at the reader something would hit eventually.

It would be one thing if I could have fobbed this off as erotica, where I wouldn’t expect much plot or character development. But there wasn’t even that much sex and what there was was pretty bland. So I can’t even give it that excuse. 

Now, there was quite a lot of humour in the book. Especially in the way the main group of characters ragged at each other. For example, the bitchy vampire regularly referred to her werewolf counterpart as “mongrel” and he quipped back by calling her “Vampire Barbie.” I liked that. Humour can go a long way toward redeeming a weak plot for me, but in this case, it wasn’t enough. Nor was the fact that the strongest character was a gothtastic female side character. She saved everyones butt on numerous occasions and pretty much rocked my world. I really liked her, but my complaints still continued to pile up the longer I read. I probably would have been better off to DNF this one. But I hate doing that. 

First (or second if you count the Indie-500 pace of the plotting), Insta-love doesn’t accurately depict the speed at which these two main characters fell into ‘true love.’ Seriously, they hadn’t even seen each other’s faces. They shook hands and fell to it. Seriously, 15 seconds, tops! They then instantly exchanged a lifetime of memories. While this neatly negated the pesky need to spend time letting the characters get to know one another, it also denied the reader this same opportunity. I rather like knowing the characters I’m dedicating my time to.

Further, you end up with passages like this, “You’ve been in my head. You know how important my mother is to me.” Really? Maybe he’s been in her head, but I haven’t. It was the first time her mother had been mentioned. I had no idea how she felt about her. So, all that importance she claimed, held absolutely no emotional resonance for me, except maybe a vague resentment for the presumption that I knew something I’d not been entitled to. I simply couldn’t care less as a result.

Next, time didn’t seem to mean anything. People were said to have been off doing things that took numerous hours when they only had one or two available to them. Collin had time to go buy an engagement ring to surprise Ember with, when they had spent the last several days held hostage and or fighting their way to freedom. When did this stuff happen? I’m all for a little suspension of reality for the enjoyment of fantasy, but I still need the bounds of logic to apply. 

Lastly, someone tell me why EVERY single PNR baddie seems to have to be a sexual sadist too. When he started taunting Ember with rape and using Donna, I just groaned. Really, was there no other way to show how bad he was? It’s not that I have any general problem with the use of sexual subjugation in a story, but I feel like I’ve read this same scene in hundreds of books this year and made this same comment over and over again. Do women really enjoy this? I sure don’t. I didn’t used to notice it, but it’s becoming so common it’s now hard to ignore.

The writing itself seemed to be ok and, like I said, it’s an interesting idea. Plus, a large chunk of the middle was dedicated to setting up what will obviously be a sequel (since the arranged event will be three months from this book’s happenings and it wasn’t concluded here) so there is room to grow. And there weren’t too many editorial mistakes. So, if the book had been given another 100 pages or so, spaced out among the action, to bulk up the world and character building it could have been pretty good. As it stands I won’t be looking for book two. 

Review of J.A. Pedersen’s Dark Flame Rising (Keegan Crowe Chronicles, #1)

Dark Flame Risin (Bigger)Author, J.A. Pedersen sent me an ecopy of his new YA novel Dark Flame Rising (Keegan Crowe Chronicles, #1).

Description form Goodreads: 
Keegan Crowe knows nothing of her past. But when she returns to Turtle Spring, the fourteen-year-old discovers that her parents were members of a secret society dedicated to preserving lost magic – a group destroyed for its knowledge and powers. Seeking those responsible, Keegan enrolls in a secretive school and delves into a hidden world of mystical powers, fabled creatures, and enchanted objects. There, she unearths a plot to stop an age-old threat and bring justice to a warring adversary. 

But Keegan rejects her discoveries. The scientifically-minded teen digs elsewhere for the truth, unleashing unexpected consequences. As friends and foes race to find a legendary treasure, Keegan stumbles upon a flaw in the plan. She now holds the key. But to prevail, she must find the strength to push aside her convictions and embrace her family’s shadowy legacy.

Review:
This book tricked me. Not without my complacency, I’ll admit, but it did all the same. When the author sent it to me, he was very clear that it is a YA novel, so I knew. But over and over again, I saw the cover (which is a great cover BTW) on my TBR list and wanted to read it, only to stop and remind myself with ‘but it’s YA, even if it really doesn’t look YA.’ I’ve burned out on YA a little, you see.

In the end, I gave in to my urges. And what do you know; it really is a YA novel. Not only YA, but lower YA, maybe even upper Middle Grade. The main character is 14 and much of the book reads like an Urban Fantasy version of Harry Potter’s time at Hogwarts. She attends a magical school with quirky teachers, talking animals, spells, potions, etc. Heck, it even has houses of sorts, based on abilities and zodiac signs and Muggles, though here they’re referred to as Turtles. Yes, there is a very Harry Potter feel to The New School.

I generally liked Keegan. She was smart and possessed a surprising backbone. She did not, however, feel 14. She was an accomplished hacker, blogger, intrepid journalist, fell in love, etc. In fact, many of the characters didn’t feel their age. As an example, Cody, her love interest was 15 but could drive and held a job. At one point another group of characters of similar ages were shown to be drinking and partying in an abandoned house. I’m not naive enough to think teenagers don’t do this, but it clashed with the idea of the main character being barley out of her tweens. 

I also found her dedication to skepticism in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary tedious at best and eventually even a little infuriating. I starting thinking we (she and the reader) wouldn’t ever be able to move on if she didn’t accept the obvious at some point. That she could retain her denial after the things she saw was almost magical in and of itself, not to mention a little unbelievable.

The writing seemed fine, but I had a serious problem with the use of endnotes to relate educational information. I found them very disruptive to reading the book. But they were also problematic in the sense that if a child is young enough to not know who/what Cleopatra, Excalibur, tarot cards, the Zodiac and many more are then they also probably aren’t old enough to know how to follow a superscript to the end of a chapter. And, honestly, would they be all that interested in a history lesson?

Lastly, the book starts out at a breakneck speed. Information is thrown at the reader so fast that it’s difficult to keep up. Then, once they reach Turtle Springs, things slow down almost too much. Perhaps this reduced pace felt exaggerated after the first couple fast paced chapters, but once Keegan hit the school, everything seemed to creep along. 

I did appreciate the implicit moral of facing the consequences of your actions. There is also an exciting twist at the end. An observant reader will see it coming, but it still opens up some interesting possibilities for future books. All in all, I’m torn on what to feel about this book. I didn’t hate it but didn’t particularly care for it either. However, I would bet 12-15 year olds might.