Bitten (Women of the Otherworld 1), by Kelley Armstrong

4 Stars

bitten

Bitten is definitely paranormal romance, but there’s a lot more action and adventure to the story than is usual for the genre. That’s both the reason for the high rating and the reason I didn’t award that 5th star. The relationship between Clay and Elena is too central to the story not to categorize the title as romance, but also lacks the emphasis of a typical love story, because of the heavy and engaging plot. At times, I couldn’t decide if I wanted more Clay and Elena or if I wanted to hear more about this whole wolf thing.

The plot itself is original and complex, and a truly unique take on werewolf lore, without creating a new supernatural breed. Honestly, though, I think my favorite aspect of Armstrong’s writing is her characterization. None of her characters are truly perfect. Elena is sort of cold and angry. She holds a wicked grudge against Clay, who is pretty unforgivably barbaric at times, his choices differing greatly from the show. The choice between Clay and Phillip isn’t obvious to the reader, because Phillip is never painted as a villain. Once again, the relationship is not the sole focus of the story. Typically, with PNR, we enjoy the tale, but we know how it ends. This isn’t so in Bitten. Characters die. Hearts are broken. Not everyone is forgiven. It’s quite refreshing in the genre, if you’re looking for refreshing. There’s also the joy of the closely based Canadian show, now available on Netflix.

Review Word Count: 250

Women of the Otherworld
1. Bitten
2. Stolen
3. Dime Store Magic
4. Industrial Magic
5. Haunted
6. Broken
7. No Humans Involved
8. Personal Demon
9. Living With the Dead
10. Frostbitten
11. Waking the Witch
12. Spellbound
13. Thirteen

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The Troop, by Nick Cutter

4 Stars

the troopEvery five years or so, I decide I’m capable of reading horror…

… and I am always wrong.

For some reason, I read that Stephen King found The Troop horrifying and immediately thought “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!” In fact, this title reminded me a great deal of a King novel, particularly through characterization and imagery.

“The sky was salted with remote stars. The beach was a bonelike strip unfurling to the shoreline. The sea advanced up the shore with a series of minute sucking inhales.” pg. 111

For realz, y’all, he made a beach sound eerie. As far as the brand of horror, though, this is mostly a creepy crawly, mindfuck story.

“11:42 Subject blindly consuming own stripped flesh.” pg. 151
“The… stomach split soundlessly, like Saran Wrap, groin to rib cage.” pg. 167

Unlike King, Cutter’s side tangents were brief and rare. However, while they served a purpose in characterization and story line, I felt the animal abuse anecdotes were excessive. I admit it. I skipped the kitten story. I saw the word “kitten” and the word “Borax” and nope. Flip, flip, flip. It was at least five pages long. Dude, not necessary.We get it. The kid’s fucked up.

In addition to the animal abuse, the central plot of this tale is the horrifying first person deaths of several 14-year-old boys that are written like 12-year-olds. It was tough for this substitute teacher to take, but Cutter’s mission was certainly accomplished. I’ll never go camping again. Though, there was never much of danger of that anyway.

Review Word Count: 249

Rock Chick (Rock Chick 1), by Kristen Ashley

3 Stars

rock chick

I can sum up Kristen Ashley books in one sentence: she ain’t deep, but she sure is fun.

As a librarian, I meet a lot of people who think that all reading has to grow your mind. It doesn’t. Sometimes, it’s really nice to enjoy the literary equivalent of that Kardashian show. The difference is, old school KA has a delightfully fun plot. So, why just three stars for Rock Chick?

Rock Chick is not a good introduction to KA. Lee isn’t quite as much of an alpha as her many male leads and, quite frankly, there’s not as much sex. I wouldn’t call the majority of KA erotica, but it’s definitely heavy on the romance. The plot of this entire series is crazy and fun and maybe a little too goofy in comparison to the rest of her contemporary romantic suspense. Not only do the women refer to themselves as Rock Chicks, the men are The Hot Bunch. It’s eye roll inducing if you’re unfamiliar with the author and even if you are, it takes a bit of adjusting to accept alongside the almost supernatural draw the men have to their individual gals.

All that being said, this book is great fun, as is most of KA’s older stuff. The author has a signature writing style and characterization that many have failed to replicate. Admittedly, she rotates the same six characters with new names, but they’re just so much fun to read that you’re not so sure you care.

Review Word Count: 249

Series Reading Order
Rock Chick
Rock Chick Rescue
Rock Chick Redemption
Rock Chick Renegade
Rock Chick Revenge
Rock Chick Reckoning
Rock Chick Regret
Rock Chick Revolution

Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, by Lori Gottlieb

4 Stars

marry him the case for settling for mr. good enough

 

I don’t really read dating guides. It’s not that I don’t think anyone else has a valuable perspective. It’s just that the genre is generally so broad. “Love yourself first!” Thanks a heap, Carrie Bradshaw. I can’t believe this shit got published.

So, when I stumbled on this book while creating my New Year’s Resolutions display, at work, the provocative title got my attention. The title is exactly that, though: an effort to set the book apart in an overcrowded genre. Gottlieb is an unmarried woman in her early 40s, attempting to advise twenty-somethings and women in their early 30s to reevaluate their expectations of men, if they hope to be married and have children. Her book is written with marriage as the ultimate goal, children being an obvious perk. It’s not as preachy coming from Gottlieb, however, because she, herself, never got married and had a child alone, always assuming a better guy would come along.

This book genuinely changed my outlook on dating. If you follow my personal blog, you can see how my choices have changed. I’m no longer criticizing trivial issues and am willing to attempt to move past things that don’t matter in an effort to find love. Gottlieb writes with a somewhat defeatist attitude, but those who would benefit from reading this need that. My only real complaint was that she kept insisting religion was trivial and, at least for this Catholic gal, that simply is not true. This was a necessary wake up call.

Review Word Count: 250

Animal Farm, by George Orwell

5 Stars

Can I read this to my children as a bedtime story? I mean, how fucked up, exactly, would that be?

animal farm

This book reminded me of the 9th grade assignment I had to write an existing classical novel as a children’s book. Apparently, my photo of a teddy bear in a noose was “inappropriate” for grade school students. Well, excuse me for the sins of Hester Prynne.

I do actually have a bone to pick with my public high school, though. Why the hell was I reading The Great Gatsby, when I could’ve been reading Animal Farm? Maybe it’s a librarian fail, but I feel trading the beauty of language for a Communist fairytale is a pretty sweet deal. I’d much rather write an essay about the lessons learned in Animal Farm. For instance:

Plan A: Educate yourself and seize control as swiftly as possible, by nefarious means, because the other guy ain’t playing nice.
Plan B: Defect and defect quickly. Loyalty is no one’s friend.
Plan C: Confess to a crime punishable by death, because fuck it.

I loved this book. It was brilliant with the intended focus of Communist Russia and it was eerily relatable when read with our current American political parties in mind. I can’t believe I wasn’t required to read this in my AP literature class or my government class. High five American public schools. High five.

I was only half kidding about the bedtime story.

Review Word Count: 239

Silver Bastard (Silver Valley 1), by Joanna Wylde

3 Stars

silver bastard

I’ll admit, after book 4 of the Reapers MC, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this one. More often than not, once an unknown author has lost her mojo, it’s because she’s gotten a publisher and a time crunch and you’ll never read anything good by her ever again. However, I was still binge watching Sons of Anarchy and I am forever the obsessive 12-year-old who, at one time, regularly watched the week’s new episode of Roswell on repeat for seven days. I figured I’d get the MC craze out of my system and what better way to do that than with a book called Silver Bastard, from a one hit wonder?

If the 3 stars didn’t already give it away, I was wrong. Unlike Reaper’s Stand, Silver Bastard had enjoyable characters engaged in a gritty and intriguing plot. Wylde also managed not to overdo the alpha role, which has been one of her struggles in the past. Puck’s just arrogant enough to keep me from rolling my eyes over hearts and flowers, but not enough to earn genuine dislike. Becca was a little bland and inconsistent, virginal at times and an old pro at this slutty biker chick gig at others. Her decisions made enough sense, even when they were frustrating. It didn’t seem like Wylde was just trying to make the story happen and fill her word count. The climax did not disappoint, nor did the epilogue. I’ll reread the next time I’m in the mood, I’m sure.

Review Word Count: 246

Dark Desire (Dark Saga 2), by Christine Feehan

1 Star

dark desire

“The Queen of paranormal romance.”
USA Today

I’m a masochist. That’s the only possible reason I continued this story. In fact, there is a story here. Feehan just buries it under a junkyard of redundant melodrama. I seem to find these books engaging from the start, but quickly lose interest once the initially strong and defiant female characters cave to the sexy force of their alphas, cuz vaginas, yo. Besides the repetition, that’s my major issue with the writing. The characterization is just irritatingly inconsistent. We start with an independent survivor and end with one of those creepy sex dolls you can order online.

Shea has a blood disease and must take “transfusions”… orally. Oh, she’s also a doctor and doesn’t realize that that’s not a thing. That’s just drinking blood, but whatevs. She travels to the Carpathian Mountains to find information on her birth father while looking for a cure. There, she finds Jacques, her (unbeknownst to her) Carpathian lifemate, who’s been buried for seven years. Imagine her shock when he also has to have oral transfusions! She saves his life and then… well, nothing really happens. There are some Bad Vampires trying to kill them. There’s a battle scene. There are several timeline inconsistencies (kind of Feehan’s thing). The book is finally over after 300 pages of this shit. I’m pretty much done.

Review Word Count: 224

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

Reaper’s MC, by Joanna Wylde

3 Stars

reaper's mc

Motorcycle club romances have become increasingly popular since Sons of Anarchy and few writers have pulled them off. They definitely need plot with the sex and Wylde accomplishes that… mostly. I tend to exhaust a genre before moving on, so I’m going to review this series as a whole, since I read them all in four days.

Reaper’s Property
The romance felt genuine and the plot, while a touch predictable, wasn’t lazy or tiresome. It worked and could’ve easily failed. Horse was a bit of a jerk, but he’s well redeemed in the end. Marie was too judgmental and took the mistrust too far. 3 stars.

Reaper’s Legacy
Ruger delved into alphahole territory. Sophie was too hormonally impulsive and made bad decisions. They both did, so the relationship had too many highs and lows. The plot wasn’t bad, but it was surprisingly anti-climactic. 3 stars.

Devil’s Game
It wasn’t intentional, as it says in the author’s note, but this is clearly new adult. It’s not bad new adult, but you can’t switch genres in the middle of a series, so it made for a frustrating read. Futhermore, the first 40% heavily overlaps with Reaper’s Legacy, so it drags. The plot is… fine, I guess? Nothing about this one was especially engaging. 2 stars.

Reaper’s Stand
DNF: 50%. This one just… sucked. Picnic was vastly different and London was about as interesting as a tape dispenser. The chemistry wasn’t there and the plot was painfully obvious. It read like fanfic and based on the reviews, the ending is completely unrealistic, even in this Felons Be Hawt universe. I couldn’t do it. 1 star

Review Word Count (no ratings or titles): 249

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

3 Stars

TGG-orig

Every time I reread a book I was forced to read in high school, I have one of two thoughts:

No wonder they made me read this!

…or in the case of The Great Gatsby..

No wonder I looked up the SparkNotes!

This book is beautifully written. The language and imagery practically define modern classic, making it obvious why we were forced to read it in the 11th grade. The portrayal of 1920’s materialism and the self-absorption of the upper class is both believable and insufferable. Jay Gatsby, himself, is a depressingly realistic portrayal of a man in love with an undeserving fantasy, yet unwilling to settle for less. We see him in every time period, the hero tossed aside for the villain, mourned only by the narrator. In this case, that’s Nick Carraway, who proves redemption is possible in the eleventh hour. Then there’s Daisy.

Daisy… well, Daisy was a hopeless cunt. I know. I know. We don’t use the c-word when reviewing classic literature, but it fits every other character, as well. No matter how gorgeously written, I just cannot enjoy reading about a cast of hopeless cunts, even if that is the point. I also wanted to shoot Gatsby myself by his 44th “old sport.” While intentional, the repetitiveness was distracting. Ultimately, I hated this book just as much at 27 as I did at 17. The best ending would’ve been for Gatsby to serve Kool-Aid laced with cyanide at one of his glorious parties. I’d read that fanfiction.

Review Word Count: 249

It Ain’t Me Babe (Hades Hangmen 1), by Tillie Cole

2 Stars

22020052

This is one of those books that I laughingly describe to friends who mock my reading material ::ahem, GAIL::

She’s officially forbade me to read passages aloud.

The plot sounds absolutely ludicrous, but I actually enjoyed this book. In fact, one of the problems I have with motorcycle romances is that they’re rarely truly gritty, especially with an endearing love story. I love an old school KA book, and I enjoyed Motorcycle Man, but a true MC novel is a modern day outlaw story that might scar me a little. Well, this one certainly qualifies and it does so with an original twist… though, perhaps, too original, which is why I didn’t rate it more highly. You see, mute future MC president, Styx, meets indoctrinated Christian cult victim, Mae, through a fence one day. Fifteen years later, fate brings them together, forcing him to fight for Mae’s freedom from her fundamentalist captors. Yeah. That sounds like a Mad Lib. It sure was a fun one, though, if you can get past all that rape… and the intense vulgarity… and the murder… and the frustratingly structured dialogue (stutters and Old World English). In short, while it’s a bit random and far-fetched, you’ll have no complaints about it being MC Light or plot light.

Review Word Count: 212

Series Reading Order (sans novellas)
1. It Ain’t Me Babe
2. Heart Recaptured
3. Souls Unfractured (not yet released)
4. Deep Redemption (not yet released)