Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern

2 Stars DNF

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I will start by acknowledging that this book is universally loved. I haven’t met a single person who didn’t enjoy it… and  I do not understand why.

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I don’t usually review DNF’s, because I don’t think it’s fair to voice an opinion on a title I didn’t actually read. I’m going to this time because I couldn’t finish. Y’all, I have tried four times to read this book and it’s just… dull. The imagery is beautiful and so clearly depicted, that it reminded me of Steinbeck. Even in Canary Row, though, Steinbeck managed to grasp my attention through his detailed characters. That’s exactly what this book felt like, too: a Steinbeck-level writing exercise. Despite the setting of a magical circus, though, Morgenstern fails to elicit an ounce of feeling for any of her seemingly eighty-seven characters. Coupled with the lack of any engaging plot, it just became a chore to read these random artistic journal entries.

I give the author credit for an original storyline. It was compelling and had such promise… until the other eighty-five characters showed up, all equally as flat as the main two and nothing happened. Reading this book was such an effort, that I finally gave up at 42%. If you love imagery just that much, this is the book for you. If you’re excited by the prospect of a magical circus death match, as suggested by the blurb… well, I don’t think that one’s been written yet. If it has, this ain’t it.

Review Word Count: 249

 

 

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The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls

2 Stars

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While some David Sedaris style humor wouldn’t have been misplaced in The Glass Castle, I did understand and expect that this would be a serious memoir of abuse. Despite my rating, I admire how Walls tells a story of alcoholism and mental illness with love. Though the story’s matriarch seems to be a case for forced sterilization, The Glass Castle is uniquely written in such a way that it’s unlikely she would pick up on the implications within them, were she to read it. I respect that the author wasn’t willing to hurt her mother, no matter who she was. However, while this book lacked Sedaris’s dark humor, it did mimic his anecdotal writing style and it just… didn’t work.

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I’ve read dysfunctional memoirs, humorous memoirs, and dysfunctionally humorous memoirs. While the latter two can be told in Walls’s campfire style of individual stories, the former works much better as one cohesive tale. The problem with The Glass Castle is that it’s so deeply depressing, you don’t want to read the next woeful childhood drama; and you don’t need to, because the last one was wrapped up so neatly. Where Jenny Lawson kept me engaged, because I couldn’t wait to read more about her ridiculous shenanigans, Walls made me want to pick up some paranormal romance and escape this horrible and bleak world for some alien sexy times. The story wasn’t bad. The writing wasn’t bad. Thank heavens the ending wasn’t bad, because it was tough to get to it.

Review Word Count: 250

Beautiful series (Travis and Abby), by Jamie McGuire

2 Stars

Meh. That about sums it up.

I was surprised, and admittedly disappointed, that there is zero sex in Beautiful Disaster. It’s not that I can’t enjoy something without smut, but for this kind of romance, I expect some sexy times. Instead, I got an abusive relationship between once-friends, Travis and Abby. If you’ve read my reviews, you know I love a good alpha male. Travis wasn’t alpha, though. He was irrationally angry, a lot. After deciding that he and Abby, can’t possibly be just friends, he acts like a raving lunatic with the smallest provocation, by smashing up his apartment, beating the crap out of his cousin, and generally stalking Abby. It’s not fantasy sexy like Kristen Ashley. It’s scary and there aren’t even erotic scenes to make up for it. The “plot” is distractingly far-fetched in its conclusion, taking the reader right out of the pages for a good eye roll. 1 Star

Walking Disaster was surprisingly much more readable. Travis’s point-of-view comes off as less violent than Abby’s perception of the same events. The plot flaws are still present, however. I just couldn’t get past them. 2 Stars

Beautiful Wedding was wonderful, if only because we got to see an author respond productively to criticism. I’m not the only one who found Travis to be too much (which is saying something in the genre) and one year later, we see a realistically toned-down version in Beautiful Wedding. This wasn’t just a happy ending, but a healthy one to an unhealthy romance. 3 Stars

Review Word Count (sans star ratings): 249

Keep Me Safe (Slow Burn 1), by Maya Banks

2 Stars DNF

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I don’t like to review DNF’s, but I tried, y’all. I really tried.

The problem with Keep Me Safe isn’t the plot. It was pretty original, mixing romantic suspense with paranormal romance. That’s why I gave it a second go (and star) after only having made it through 25% the first time. You have to be in the mood for Banks, because she loves her damsels. These aren’t KA damsels, mouthy and impulsive. These are old school Disney damsels, too stupid to refuse an apple from a stranger or prick their finger on a glowing spinning wheel. These gals are weak and need saving from the badasses who fall in love with them instantly… which can be fun to read. In fact, this theme worked particularly well in Banks’s highlander series and the first half of her KGI series, which, admittedly, takes a hilariously hard left turn.

Keep Me Safe’s major flaw isn’t the plot or characters. It’s the writing. I don’t know if Banks has jumped the shark or if she’s writing too quickly, but this book was unbelievably repetitive. In the first few chapters, Caleb confesses that he’d do it all over again at least four times. It takes away from the effect and is exhausting to read. On top of that, I know this is romance, but oh my stars, Caleb turned into such a vagina. I just could not take another redundant heartfelt speech from this “badass.” It was beyond nauseating. I quit at 66%.

Review Word Count: 246

Slow Burn

1. Keep Me Safe
2. In His Keeping
3. Safe at Last

Dark Prince (Dark Saga 1), by Christine Feehan

2 Stars

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I’m not sure what sounds more suffocating: sleeping in the ground or being a Carpathian’s lifemate.

Regardless, the unhealthy relationships depicted were not my reason for giving this a two star review. In fact, I was initially excited by a new series, especially one so long. Each book is told in the vein of J.R. Ward or Kresley Cole with a new couple as the focus and there are twenty-seven of them. Sadly, the first one, at least, was extremely disappointing.

While the plot was engaging enough, with its fairly original take on vampires that are more terrifying than dreamy, this book suffers most profoundly from poor writing. Drink every time someone says “do this thing for me” or Mikhail calls Raven “little one” and you’ll be dead by the midpoint. The redundancy was my biggest issue. Repeatedly, the reader is told that the Carpathians cannot survive eternity without their lifemates, or they’ll turn to darkness. We’re told in exactly the same way, multiple times, in every chapter. When the storyline FINALLY picks up, the repetitiveness STILL causes a significant lag. Furthermore, numerous errors were made in continuity, such as a character going from standing to sitting, to standing again. Ultimately, I was bored and saddened by the fact that this story had real potential and was so poorly executed. I’ll continue reading, under the hopes that the promising plot will thicken and the writing will improve exponentially.

Series Reading Order (sans novellas)
1. Dark Prince
2. Dark Desire
3. Dark Gold
4. Dark Magic
5. Dark Challenge
6. Dark Fire
7. Dark Dream
8. Dark Legend
9. Dark Guardian
10. Dark Symphony
11. Dark Descent
12. Dark Melody
13. Dark Destiny
14. Dark Hunger (manga)
15. Dark Secret
16. Dark Demon
17. Dark Celebration
18. Dark Possession
19. Dark Curse
20. Dark Slayer
21. Dark Peril
22. Dark Predator
23. Dark Storm
24. Dark Lycan
25. Dark Wolf
26. Dark Blood
27. Dark Ghost

Review Word Count: 239

Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander 2), by Diana Gabaldon

2 Stars

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Compared with Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber was a massive disappointment.

I think my biggest issue with this title, is that Gabaldon opens with whopping spoilers. I’m not sure what the editor was thinking in approving the layout of this book, but the first six chapters are the ending. The reader knows exactly where the story is going and spends the entire book waiting to catch up, which doesn’t happen until the last page. In all honesty, I would recommend that anyone reading this series skip to chapter seven and go back to the first six after they’ve finished. I’m not exaggerating. I wish I’d done so, myself.

Besides the lack of spoiler alerts, this book was just too far-fetched, which is saying quite a bit for an epic time travel, highlander, adventure, romance. Jamie and Claire spend the story hobnobbing with royalty as they try to prevent the massacre at Culloden. Not only was I forced to expand my suspension of disbelief, but I had to do so amidst tears of boredom. For the most part, every time Outlander started to drag, someone got shankraped on the next page, but not so much with Dragonfly in Amber. Furthermore, some of the things that occurred between Claire and Jamie were just a bit too depressing, which is again, saying something for this series.

Ultimately, I’m glad I muddled through this one, because Voyager more than made up for it. As it is, though, I’m not even looking forward to season 2.

Series Reading Order (sans novellas)
1. Outlander
2. Dragonfly in Amber
3. Voyager
4. Drums of Autumn
5. The Fiery Cross
6. A Breath of Snow and Ashes
7. An Echo in the Bone
8. Written in My Own Heart’s Blood

Review Word Count: 250

Golden Dynasty (Fantasyland 2), by Kristen Ashley

2 Stars

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I didn’t have as many issues with this book as some, but it wasn’t my favorite. Yeah, it was pretty rapey at times, but this was clearly a shoutout to the Khaleesi and Drogo, so I could adjust to the more… primitive sexuality (yeah, we’ll go with that).

What frustrated me the most, though, was actually the pretend language employed in this story. Several chapters included large blocks of gibberish text that were only explained at the END of the chapter, which was intensely distracting for a Kindle read. Smaller words weren’t always explained at all and I kept having to download the PDF dictionary. It was just unnecessarily difficult to read, for this reason.

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Furthermore, while I could deal with the more brutal sexual themes, this was probably the book where KA is most guilty of victim blaming. After the hero does the most unthinkable and despicable things possible, we get to hear the heroine’s nosy and obnoxious best friend (what’s a KA novel without one of those?) blame HER for “holding a grudge” and causing HIM to abuse his men. That, coupled with all that rape and spousal abuse, was just a bit too much for me.

Series Reading Order
1. Wildest Dreams
2. Golden Dynasty
3. Fantastical
4. Broken Dove

Review Word Count: 200