ARC Review: The Taken (Celestial Blues, No. 1)

The Taken (Celestial Blues, #1)The Taken by Vicki Pettersson

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Even though I’m not especially fond of angels, I decided to try out this new series based on my previous experiences with Vicki Pettersson’s work. Sadly, after an intriguing first chapter, any enjoyment I may have expected never came knocking (guess it was too busy knockin’ on heaven’s door).

Meet one of the two main characters, rockabilly girl Katherine “Kit” Craig. She’s an eternally optimistic and peppy reporter whose best friend and co-worker, Nicole, was just murdered while following a lead. Our other MC is a haunted Centurion angel named Griffin Shaw who ushers the newly murdered into the afterlife, otherwise known as the Everlast, while bemoaning the murders of both himself and his wife Evie back in 1960. After making a mistake concerning Nicole, he’s been sent back to earth as a human with some angelic senses still intact. Kit and Grif soon meet up and begin investigating the circumstances around Nicole’s death, whilst Griffin seeks out any details involving his own.


Problem Number One

The Cardboard Characters
Character development is supposed to unfold over the course of a book, in this case it actually appeared to deteriorate as the book went on. Kit never developed into anything but one of those annoyingly chipper people you just want to hit with a sledgehammer, while Grif started promisingly enough but then stagnated. They were both very shallow characterizations, and on top of that, I never understood Kit’s actions or reactions to just about anything. I never felt her sadness about her best friend’s death, whom she rarely gave a passing thought, believed she was smart (by the end, I thought her a dolt), or seem in any way human with nary a rational thought in her head. About mid-way through the book, Grif tells her he’s an angel after they kiss, so what does she do? Does she a) run away screaming, b) think he’s a few feathers short of a goose and tell him to get hell out of her house and life, or c) have a calm Q&A session followed by giving him a whatfor that consists of “I won’t kiss you again” and “you’re watching me walk out that door (in her own house) because you can’t handle any emotion blah, blah, blah by pretending you’re an angel” and then proceed to attend a charity event wherein she acts and converses normally, like nothing happened? If you picked “c” *ding ding ding*, you’re a winner! Because as we all know, any sensible guy will pull out the “I’m an angel” trick and expect a woman to believe him. *rolls eyes* Never was it ever crystal clear if Kit thought Grif was either crazy or a liar. It was all a bit hazy, but what can you expect from someone we’re never allowed to know? All we discern is she dresses and lives (somewhat) rockabilly, but it’s all a veneer to her hollowness inside, which led me to dub her Rockabilly Barbie.

Because that’s all she is and nothing more. The only character that I found a little more well-rounded was the secondary character Bridget Moore and the two Centurions introduced close to the end. Everyone else was either forgettably two-dimensional or they were a caricature, a la Caleb Chambers and Paul Raggio.


Problem Number Two:

The Relationship(s)
I’m expected to believe in a possible relationship between Grif and Rockabilly Barbie Kit, but there’s not much there to believe in. Like the characters, it was shallow with the same descriptions reiterated over and over again. Basically it’s a case of telling instead of showing. I felt no love, maybe some attraction, but that’s all she wrote. Likewise I never bought that Kit and Paul could ever have gotten far enough to be married, they were just too different. Most people don’t do a 180 after they get married, the seed of who Paul really was deep down inside would have already been there and if Kit was even a fraction astute, she should have caught that. All this served was to be a plot point in the book.


Problem Number Three:

The Plot(s)
The main plot involving Nicole’s death and Chambers had a “been there, done that” quality to it. The plot didn’t shock me or seem like anything new, I’ve come across the same before or at least plots that were very close, and it wasn’t even told in a fresh way. So I wasn’t as affected by anything in the book as I probably should have been, partially due to the indifference I felt and the fact that I figured out everything long before the author dropped, what I guess she thought, were informational bombshells.
The book had three major plotlines: Grif and Evie’s deaths, Nicole’s death/prostitution ring, and Grif and the Pure Anas’ philosophical moments. They weren’t juggled well at all. Ms. Pettersson should have picked only one and paid more attention to developing that specific plot and the characters. The scenes with Anas (or Anne) especially didn’t mesh with the other stories and felt as if the author was overreaching the boundaries set up by the book. One scene in particular was extremely bizarre and pointless to the book as a whole.
Where was the noir? I’ve seen enough film noirs to know it ain’t here.


Problem Number Four

The Ending
What happened at the end is what I’d expect in a book that’s exclusively romance and not in a mystery/urban fantasy hybrid, which made the rushed ending seem even more ridiculous and sappy. It was incredibly unbelievable to the story and didn’t seem to set up the next book in any way. Also, one of the plotlines was all but left dangling with no foreshadowing or anything. Poor, poor, poor execution. Don’t expound on a storyline if you’re not going to finish it up or at least leave it dangling in a way that makes the reader want to come back. All that boring set-up for a completely stupid and cheesy ending. I expected rainbows and unicorns to pop out at any moment.

Overall the book felt more like a rough copy than a finished one and definitely could have used a few more goings over. Several descriptions were rushed and chaotic or simply poorly done so that I was scrambling to picture what was going on. The book is almost 400 pages and it is simply too long. With so many storylines, I’m not sure how they managed to both crawl and have very little action at the same time. I was going to give this two stars because I didn’t hate the book, that would imply that it elicited any feelings what-so-ever, but the truth of the matter is that there isn’t one thing I really liked about the book either. The only way I’d read a sequel to the bafflingly-named Celestial Blues series is if it featured different leads like the aforementioned Centurions, and even then I’d cautiously dip my toes into the book.

Originally reviewed: June 29
Received: Amazon Vine

ARC Review: Fury of Fire

Fury of Fire

Fury of Fire by Coreene Callahan
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
February 18, 2012

Book Description

A clandestine race of half-dragon, half-humans known as dragon-shifters lives among us. Bastian, leader of the Nightfury dragon clan, is sworn to protect humankind at all costs. For him, honor and duty always come first. When the clan dictates he take a human mate to sire a son, he falters, aware that for a human to birth a dragon-shifter she must die. Myst, the woman given into his care, is the most extraordinary he’s ever met, and though he can’t bear the thought of harming her he is bound by duty.

Myst loves her life in the human world, but Bastian has captured her heart in an instant of electric connection. But Bastian and his warriors are in the middle of a deadly battle with the Razorback dragon-shifters, intent on killing every Nightfury clan member—and the humans they protect—the fate of their world and ours hangs in the balance.

An extraordinary blend of action, fantasy, and steamy romance, Fury of Fire brings to life a dangerous new world intertwined with the survival of humanity, all while exploring the meaning of honor and the nature of true love.

My Review

NOTE: I did not finish Fury of Fire. I reached page 207, out of 412, before I called it quits. My review reflects on what I read and no more, which is more than enough to be indicative to how the author creates her book.

During the course of reading, everyone comes across a book that just doesn’t connect with them. That doesn’t mean the book is bad or that others shouldn’t read it, it just means the it isn’t a good fit that particular person. This is that book for me. I had a very difficult time getting through what I read, mostly due to a bunch of little things that stood out and were what I consider oddities, especially in context to situations in the book. If I had to describe this book in one word, it’d be abrasive. The characters, the dialogue, and most importantly, the writing felt like rubbing sandpaper over a wound. Over and over again.

THE BAD

The constant bombardment of internalizing that both Myst and Bastian provide in this book was like a splinter under my fingernail. The more I dug, the more painful it became, and I started to dislike the book and main characters more and more as I read on. Admittedly, it was pretty easy to loathe Bastian and Myst when it became apparent that they are both boring and stupid, and I didn’t find Bastian all that likeable in the first place. Call me crazy, but I just feel uneasy when a character wants to immediately jump the bones of a person he just met in horrific situation while she is frightened beyond belief. But apparently that’s okay because he acknowledges his creepiness in a fit of mental self-flagellation. Sorry, but that doesn’t fly with me. Maybe if that had been mentioned only once, I would have let it slide, but it keeps on like that for way too long. Apparently he’s all alpha on the outside and emo on the inside. What a winning combination! Not. Myst herself starts off, uh, decent enough but then quickly becomes the nitwit I was hoping to avoid. She gets the fastest case of Stockholm Syndrome I’ve ever come across. For all intents and purposes, Bastian kidnapped her. Sure, we the readers know it’s for Myst and the baby’s safety from the evil Razorbacks, but she certainly doesn’t know that, therefore I found her reactions extremely unrealistic and bizarre to the situations she was in. One minute she’s fighting, and by fighting I mean being stubbornly spunky, or somewhat thinking of escape, the next she’s imagining wild, hot monkey sex with Bastian. I’m sorry but if some big, six-foot-six (apparently every male is 6’6 in this book, even the human cop. Obviously, if a guy is under that height, he’s not really a man.), scary dude who can turn into a dragon kidnaps me, I am so not going to be thinking about how hot they are or what they’re like in the sack. Yeah, uh-huh, that makes perfect sense. Oy! Anyway, they end up making out that night due to Bastian’s alpha going crazy and some supernatural roofie that dragons put out to females. God, this is not romantic at all. And it’s only been a few hours since they “met”! The morning after Myst is kidnapped, she wakes up naked and finds out Bastian bathed her, can you say mondo creepy? So after she dresses, she goes meandering through the Nightfury’s lair, admiring his artwork and crap, then ends up in the kitchen with the rest of the freaky-tall Nightfuries. I’d be high-tailing it out of there, in fact, I would have been plotting escape long before this point. It appears she only thinks of escape once a day. While she’s in the kitchen, Bastian has her sit at the table so she can eat her breakfast. He sets down a plate in front of her and as she goes to have a bite, she notices he cut her waffles into little, perfect, bite-size pieces and she’s apparently overcome by this act. How weird is that?! All feminist angles aside, who cuts up someone else’s food unless: A, it’s for a small child, two, their arms and hands are broken, or D, they’re handicapped in some way that prevents them from feeding themselves? W.T.F.? Frankly, I think it’s just odd. And then she gets misty-eyed (Myst is all misty, how cute. *gag*) when he asks her to help name the baby he kidnapped. I’ve already doubted her sanity before but now it’s gone to even more ridiculous heights by this point.

The magical Rohypnol I mentioned before creeped me the heck out. So when a dragon guy needs his energy fix, he picks out a woman, roofies her, feeds off her energy, sleeps with her, and then wipes her memory! Say what? That’s too close to rape for my liking. This wasn’t just the bad guys doing this, but the next book’s “hero” did that to a woman in a hospital (note: she wasn’t a patient, I think she was a researcher or something, I don’t remember). How sweet.

The excessive swearing needed edited down. Normally I don’t mind a little cursing here and there, but so much of it didn’t need to be added to the dialogue or characters and showed a lack of creativity.

The “dragons” are really shape-shifting vampires. They have to feed off women, only it’s energy instead of blood, they can’t be out in the sun, they heal quickly, live a long time, are super-strong, amongst other attributes. If you’re going to have shape-shifting dragons, don’t make them so similar to other paranormal species. Differentiate them so they’re unique, not a near-clone.

I didn’t like the whole reading of minds thing. If it was something that happened when mated, fine, but I don’t like the thought of someone just arbitrarily getting into someone else’s brain whenever they want. It’s a violation. Bastian did this to Myst way too often.

The characters sound a lot like each other. They don’t all have individual voices so there isn’t much beyond a name separating one from the other.

THE GOOD

The first fight scene was actually quite well-done, although it was very early on in the book so it might not hold up on a second reading. The next fight scene wasn’t too bad, maybe a little confusing at times.

The other characters in the Dragonfury series have the potential to be more interesting if they can be given some individuality, but since I didn’t connect with the author’s writing style and don’t like most of the ideas, I won’t be looking for any sequels to this oh-so-romantic series. I wouldn’t recommend this book, but hey, if it sounds right up your alley or you have masochistic tendencies, by all means try it out for yourself.

As a final note, I just wanted to thank Buzz McCallister for his mad counting/alphabetizing skillz in writing this review. I couldn’t have done it without you, buddy.

Received through Amazon Vine.

(Clicking on the book cover image or title take you to the book’s product page on Amazon)