ARC Review: Team Human

Team HumanTeam Human by Justine Larbalestier & Sara Rees Brennan
Genre: Young Adult – Paranormal
Received: Amazon Vine
Originally Reviewed: February 20, 2013
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Description (via Amazon):

Readers who love vampire romances will be thrilled to devour Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan. Team Human celebrates and parodies the Twilight books, as well as other classics in the paranormal romance genre.

Mel is horrified when Francis Duvarney, arrogant, gorgeous, and undead, starts at her high school. Mel’s best friend, Cathy, immediately falls for the vampire. Cathy is determined to be with him forever, even if having him turn her could inadvertently make her a zombie.

And Mel is equally determined to prove to her BFF that Francis is no good, braving the city’s vampire district and kissing a cute boy raised by vampires as she searches evidence in this touching and comic novel.

*****

As I started reading Team Human, I couldn’t help but feel this was written as a good-natured poke at Twilight and all the vampire ridiculata left in its wake. However, the story leaves its parodying fairly early on and becomes a book in its own right, with characters who have flaws and an interesting world with its own set of rules. All the while written with wit, feeling, and reality.

Mel Duan is the protagonist of the book, who is full of character flaws. She is prejudiced against vampires, rude, thinks she always knows the right thing to do, and is a big buttinsky (I call her Meddling Mel). She’s also caring, loyal, helpful, well-meaning, funny, and charming in her own way. Basically, Mel is a real human being. There are two main storylines in the book, the first one about her BFF, Cathy, and her relationship with an uptight vampire. The other dealing with a mystery involving another close friend and her parents. Both are incorporated into the story well, as are the smaller B-plots. Mel doesn’t always come across in a very good light, which helps me fall into the world and believe it could be true. Nothing takes me out of a story more than an unrealistically perfect character. Not one of the characters in this book is like that, even Cathy, who does come close. I also love the fact that Mel would typically be the sidekick in any other story and Cathy the main character who falls in love with a vampire. Instead it’s the other way around, so we see the over-the-top relationship from the outside, and also from Mel’s rather small-minded point-of-view. It’s a great idea that luckily works thanks to the talented authors.

The book moves along nicely without seeming hasty, it has lessons that aren’t heavy-handed, it features love aspects but it isn’t a love story, and most importantly, it has character evolution and believable characters, mainly Mel herself. In the end I was surprised that I had gotten so caught up in outcome of the story and actually cared what happened to these people. Kudos, I’ll definitely be reading more from both Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier, and can only hope they conspire to write another book in the future.

ARC Review: Slide (Slide, Book One) by Jill Hathaway

Slide (Slide, #1)Slide by Jill Hathaway
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Book Descripton (via Amazon):

Vee Bell is certain of one irrefutable truth—her sister’s friend Sophie didn’t kill herself. She was murdered.

Vee knows this because she was there. Everyone believes Vee is narcoleptic, but she doesn’t actually fall asleep during these episodes: When she passes out, she slides into somebody else’s mind and experiences the world through that person’s eyes. She’s slid into her sister as she cheated on a math test, into a teacher sneaking a drink before class. She learned the worst about a supposed “friend” when she slid into her during a school dance. But nothing could have prepared Vee for what happens one October night when she slides into the mind of someone holding a bloody knife, standing over Sophie’s slashed body.

Vee desperately wishes she could share her secret, but who would believe her? It sounds so crazy that she can’t bring herself to tell her best friend, Rollins, let alone the police. Even if she could confide in Rollins, he has been acting distant lately, especially now that she’s been spending more time with Zane.

Enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies, and danger and with no one to turn to, Vee must find a way to unmask the killer before he or she strikes again.

*****

Slide features an intriguing idea though the results left me with mixed feelings. The concept is awesome, but the execution? Yeah, not so much. The writing is serviceable, neither bad nor great and it didn’t draw me into the story straightaway. Both the way it is written and the storyline reminds me of some of the books I read as a pre-teen/teen way back during the Pleistocene epoch, otherwise known as the 1990s, with authors like Christopher Pike, R.L. Stine, Diane Hoh, Lois Duncan, Richie Tankersley Cusick, among others. It especially seems to fall right in between Pike and Stine. While the writing is more mature than Stine’s, it’s not quite as sophisticated as Pike’s. The mystery is weak, and by the end, seems pointless as it’s totally anti-climactic, over in a flash, like it was written just to finish the book up, and absurdly contrived. The whole ending is totally ludicrous and unbelievable. The clues leading up to it are obvious and not incorporated into the story well at all. These clues were so glaring they all but had a flashing sign pointing to them in cartoon-like fashion whenever they fell into the main character’s path. Sylvia a.k.a. Vee wasn’t written as a dummy, at first, but boy she was an absolute idiot about those clues and putting two and two together, or really much of anything until it slapped her in the face. While Vee is sympathetic, I can’t say I felt much of anything for her, and even less for anyone else in book because of their lack of depth. No one is explained in any detail, either personality or looks, motivations, or whatever. Just a brief shallow summary if lucky. Speaking of…. What has happened in books today where there are no descriptions of how anybody looks, except “I have pink hair,” “his blonde hair,” or some other toss away adjective? I’ve seen it over and over again and all I’m left with is the visualization that these people have no faces, much like that episode of Doctor Who (The Idiot’s Lantern). Frankly it’s all rather creepy.

I feel like this could have been a great book if it was longer (the copy I read is only 250 pages of at least 1.5 spaced lines) and had much more depth. Add in a couple more suspects, motivations, etc., and maybe a little more information on Vee’s “sliding” powers. Unfortunately it’s only an “okay” read that’s easy and moves at a rapid pace. I didn’t hate the book by any means, it’s just not one that’ll stick in my head for more than a few days. On the plus side I love the cover composition and colors, so kudos to the artist(s). This works fine as a standalone, but is now part of a series, for some unfathomable reason. Frankly, I’m getting sick of every book that comes out, most usually in the YA genre, becoming a series. It’s ridiculous how few standalone books there are anymore. Still, even with all my grumbling about the numerous series and everything else, I think I will check out Impostor, the second book in the Slide series, as it sounds interesting. Who knows, this might have just been the stepping stone to bigger and better things. Although if Vee is as stupid as she was in this one, I’m outta there.

2.5 stars

Originally Reviewed: October 16, 2012
Received: Amazon Vine

ARC Review: A Blood Seduction (Vamp City, Book 1)

A Blood Seduction (Vamp City, #1)A Blood Seduction by Pamela Palmer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Marketed as a paranormal romance, A Blood Seduction is much closer to the genre of urban fantasy with strong romantic/lusty elements (there is only one instance of “doing the deed” and that is very close to the end of the book). Quinn Lennox is the lead, and while she might not be the usual kick-ass heroine usually drawn upon in this field, she is far from the weakling I’ve seen others refer to her as. Face it, she was in way over her head, there’s no way in hell she could ever be a contender against these vampires, at least not in this particular book. Heck, I bet the indomitable Buffy would have had trouble. She could be smart and she made the occasional dumb move, who hasn’t? I like the fact that she isn’t perfect. Okay, she has to be saved, a lot, and she doesn’t have the most memorable personality, but this is only the beginning of the series and there is plenty of time for her to grow and come into her own. I rooted for her all through the book. I wanted Quinn to save her brother Zack and his friend/potential girlfriend, Lily, I wanted her to be able to use her magic, and I just wanted her to succeed and become even stronger as a person.

The world is well drawn, mostly on account of it being a magical copy of Washington, D.C. circa 1870, but with some modern conveniences thrown in as well. Okay, so I did groan at the Washington, V.C. (Vampire City), it is a bit cheesy, but luckily it was usually called either Vamp City or V.C., which both fit the atmosphere of the book much better. Parts of the city are abandoned and decaying, others a thriving compound for the different vampire families, known as kovenas. The vampires themselves are killer, quite literally. Gone are the pantywaists of recent ilk, we’re going back to basics (mostly) here. Not only do they feed on blood, but some also have to feed on either fear or pain as well. They go from zero to sixty in about a second, they have the super strength, mind control to entrance their victim, they have slaves who adore them (called slavas), and boy, are they are mean. But hey, it’s just in their nature, they can’t help who they are, except maybe for the love interest and possible future heroes depending on how the series goes. For those who are fainthearted, this ain’t the book for you. There are numerous disturbing scenes that depict torture or gore, I can handle it, but not everyone can. Ye have been warned.

Speaking of the love interest, Arturo “Vampire” Mazzo, he was, well, certainly mysterious. Due to his unswerving allegiance to his master, Cristoff (who I pictured as a 25 year old Lucius Malfoy played by Jason Isaacs, with a black goatee:
),
Arturo would turn his back on Quinn, yet the further on the harder it was for him to do so. His loyalty was being tested because of his feelings for her. Just to make things clear, this is a messed up relationship, some may not like that, but I thought it added a dose of reality and interest to the circumstances. Sure I felt like Quinn was an idiot at times to be attracted to this untrustworthy vampire, especially the very first scene that was just too early in the story for that to be included, but overall it works for the book. My absolute favorite relationship is the sibling one between Quinn and Zack. I thought the author did an awesome job conveying just how much Zack means to her. Basically he is everything to her and all she has. Her father may be alive but he was never there for her, he always sided with her stepmonster (Zack’s mother) instead of his firstborn. Creep. Anyway, despite her stepwitch’s hatred of Quinn and that Zack adored her from the time of his birth, and vice versa, then after high school he moved to D.C. where she lived, he’s always been there for her, even when she was being punished. It’s really a sweet and respectful relationship. She’d do anything to save him and she tries like hell all throughout the book, which doesn’t always work out so well.

This is definitely the start to a series, and while there is an end to the book, there is still much to be told. In the fates of Vamp City, Quinn’s sorcery, the relationship between her and Arturo, plus much more I don’t want to give away. I’d recommend that if you’re looking for a romance to go elsewhere, but if you’re a fan of evil vampires, darkness, don’t mind abnormal relationships, and just want to have a bloody good time, then what are you waiting for?!

Originally Reviewed: September 20, 2012
Received: Amazon Vine

ARC Review: The Wicked and the Just

The Wicked and the JustThe Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Wicked and the Just doesn’t have much in the way of a plot, it more focuses on the everyday lives of two very different girls in 13th century Wales, one who’s English and lives inside the walls of Caernarvon, the other a Welsh servant, who lives outside the walls, than on any particular focal point. This changes in the latter part of the book when an event that has been gnawing at the fringes suddenly erupts.

My first impression of Cecily is that she’s a colossal brat. She’s English, thinks she’s better than the Welsh (while also fearing they’re going to kill her) and her so-called “betters” as well, pouts and connives to get her father to do as she wants, complains…a lot, and doesn’t seem to like anyone other than the friends she was forced to leave behind, her father (sometimes), and her dog. But can you blame her if that’s how she was raised and didn’t know any better? My feelings about her ran the gamut, as did her behavior, it had its ups and downs as does just about anyone. She can be quite funny with her sly remarks or thoughts, but she can also be cruel, kind, loathsome, understanding, and pathetic. Everytime I thought I was about to like her, she’d do something terrible and I thought her lower than dirt, then she’d have her eyes opened to see her surroundings and then she didn’t seem so bad. It went like that quite a lot, and by the end, I felt quite bad for her. Gwinny, on the other hand, though while I didn’t like her exactly, I understood her right away and sympathized with her position. She is one angry and vengeful person, who through sheer willpower, somehow manages to hold most of it back. The sections told through her eyes are usually shorter than Cecily’s, but they get right to the point and have enough information that I didn’t feel anything necessary was excluded. The interactions between the two girls are fraught with dislike, loathing, and begrudging understanding, before it all starts over again. Until the last section the characters are the main plot, where after that point the story really explodes into a fast-paced, suspenseful read, which I’ll not spoil if you’re not familiar with that part of history (I wasn’t). You couldn’t tear this book from my hand during these last sixty pages if you tried, I was absolutely riveted. The emotions were high, the situations scary, and more than anything it made me grateful. Grateful to have a roof over my head, grateful for the food I can afford to eat, just grateful all around that I don’t have to live as the Welsh did, as many others did in the course of history. A word of warning, as with changing circumstances in life there is no concrete ending to the story, which suits the book well. It ends while just beginning and I can’t think of a more fitting finish to the story. A good, solid, thought-provoking novel that has a possible crossover appeal to both history-loving teens and adults.

Originally reviewed: September 10
Received: Amazon Vine

Archived Review: Vesper (Deviants, Book One)

Vesper (Deviants, #1)Vesper by Jeff Sampson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The start of VESPERS immediately caught my attention with the transcript of an interview with Emily Webb, the protagonist, and an agent of the mysterious Vesper Company. This led to the first chapter where no time is wasted getting straight to the story. Emily is every introverted, insecure, don’t-make-a-scene-or-stand-out girl out there, which made her very relatable to me; as a teen, I was just like her. Her transformations into Nighttime Emily, as she called herself, were well-done but I felt the author could have stretched a little further than the “wild child” persona he gave Emily during those times. I got a bit bored when she was in that stage and liked when she went back to Daytime Emily, her normal self, much better. At first, I was a little disappointed in where the story actually went, mainly what Emily ended up being (and that’s all I’m saying, no spoilers here), but I accepted and enjoyed it anyway. The middle of the book lagged and I was afraid it would end up an average read, with too much wild behavior and not as much development as I would have liked. However, toward the end the story picked up and kept me riveted; it’s always a good thing for an author to end his or her book on a high note. This isn’t a YA book with romance as its central focus, but it does have its place in the story and doesn’t overwhelm the main plot. The book as a whole could have been deeper than it was, but it’s still a good start to the Deviants series and opened up numerous possibilities, with many unanswered questions for future endeavors. The use of six or so transcripts interspersed throughout the book was a nice element and I quite enjoyed them; the entire book could have easily been written this way. This would probably appeal more to teenagers but some adults would enjoy it as well. I did. THE VESPERS is a breeze to read, briskly-paced, and has a few snicker-worthy moments; maybe it’s not perfect, but it’s far from bad and I had a good time reading it.
3.5 stars

Note: There is some graphic violence, only one scene really, but it’s there.

Originally reviewed: December 10, 2011
Received: Amazon Vine

Archived Review: Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick (Perry & Gobi, #1)Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber

My rating: 4 of 5 *****

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick is a pure adrenaline rush from start to finish, never letting up for a moment. The tagline: “Ferris Bueller Meets La Femme Nikita in this funny, action-packed young adult novel” pretty much describes it to a T (though I’m sure there are other influences involved too), except in this case the main character, Perry, is closer to Alan Ruck‘s Cameron than Ferris himself. While reading, I couldn’t help but visualize this as a movie, as it’d work very well developed for the big screen. This is definitely a plot-driven book, with less characterization than action, though the author gives just enough to get a sense of who both Perry and the pseudo-foreign-exchange-student-but-in-reality-assassin, Gobi, are that goes beyond two-dimensional. If you’re looking for a realistic book, this isn’t it, but if you’re looking for a wild ride filled with death, violence, rock ‘n’ roll, humor, mystery, and a main character who grows as the night unfolds, give this a shot, it’s loads for fun. A very short book (190 pages), ARCEC is a fast, non-stop action read that would be perfect entertainment if your brain is overworked from work, school, or just every day worries and should appeal to both males and females who enjoy light YA novels.

Originally reviewed: November 7, 2011
Received: Amazon Vine

ARC Review: Unraveling

Unraveling (Unraveling, #1)Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Within the first ten pages of Unraveling, the main character, Janelle Tenner, dies from a runaway pick-up. A fellow student from her school, Ben Michaels, revives her and then runs off before she fully awakens. Convinced there’s more than meets the eye with Ben, Janelle won’t give up trying to figure out how and what he did to her and why she isn’t dead, even facing her best friend’s refusal to believe she died and Ben’s denial of ever resurrecting her. As she pieces together that puzzle, Janelle plays detective on a case her F.B.I. agent father is working on, by rifling through top secret files and eavesdropping, that involves a mysterious countdown and people dying of radiation poisoning, which are somehow connected to the man behind the wheel of the vehicle that hit her and possibly even to Ben as well.

The author did a great job setting up the story with a slow build that introduces Janelle’s life, both at home and at school, along with any free time she may have, and accelerates once it hits the halfway point until it reaches the book’s climactic ending. In particular, the development of her home life was interesting and had depth. She has a mother who’s bi-polar and not “there” most of the time and a father who seemingly avoids dealing with the realities of his wife’s mental illness by being a workaholic, so all the household responsibilities fall on Janelle’s shoulders. She takes care of her family and does the majority of the cleaning, cooking, laundry, and most importantly of all, being a mother to her younger brother, Jared. She makes sure he does his homework, has meals, and gets to school on time. What’s nice about their relationship is that he actually respects his sister and there isn’t much in the way of petty arguments, which was refreshing. I liked the whole interrelationships of the core family: Janelle, Jared, and their father. They all loved each other, faults and all, and even adding in the situation that Janelle’s mother is in, they felt like a genuine family. Adding to that, both Alex (Janelle’s best friend and my favorite character) and Struz (her dad’s partner/friend) were a part of the family too. If there was anything that stood out in the book for me, it was how people related to each other in it, for good or ill. I loved Alex and Janelle’s friendship, again it was really authentic, and they were just that, best friends. No romantic agenda going on, no secret one-sided yearning, only true friendship where they looked out for one another.

Janelle herself was a strong character, but not so strong she never showed her feelings. She could be quick-tempered, but usually for good reason, she stood up for herself when necessary, and was sensible, so while she could be judgmental and at times conceited, those flaws made her realistic. Nobody’s perfect. The experiences she’s had to live through have molded her, so every action and reaction she made made perfect sense to who she is, whether it’s flying off the handle or falling into pieces. While I can’t say I ever totally liked her, I understood and respected her; there aren’t many YA characters I can say that about. Every character in the book had their own identity, whether they had a small role to play or a bigger one, so there was no confusion to who they were. Ben, the mysterious “stoner”, is of course the love interest. He could have been more fully fleshed out, but I still got a basic idea of who he was and he’s at least a nice guy, which is a novel idea these days. The love story between Janelle and Ben felt like it could actually happen that way. The chemistry between the two was well-written so the magnetic attraction between them is palpable. I remember how it is to be a teenager (scary but true), and I hate to be such a broken record, but it felt realistic. Do I think it was love? No, not yet, but they have a connection and it’s a start towards something serious.

The plot is intriguing and has a lot of good ideas that generally mesh well together. Each short chapter, some less than a page long, features numbers counting down to the big event that’s at the core of the novel. I’m not going to go into details since it’d be too hard to do without giving anything away, but I will say that I enjoyed how the story was told and how it unfolded. While this is sci-fi, it’s light on the ‘sci’ part and not everything is explained as well as it could be, but hopefully the sequel will tackle some of the bigger components. Most of my complaints are trivial: the ending was rushed for an almost 450 page book, there was a passing comment about AAA that wasn’t right, the phrase ‘junior detective’ was used just a little too much, an info dump that would have worked better as dialogue, and a couple of other inconsistencies that hopefully were caught before the final copy was printed. However, I admit to some ire at an event that happened at the end, I just didn’t feel there was any need for it plot-wise and thought it total overkill. That was unfortunate but overall I still enjoyed the book cover to cover. A solid four-star book that’s a cut above the rest and left me looking forward to the sequel.

Originally reviewed: August 15
Received: Amazon Vine

ARC Review: The Titanic for Dummies

The Titanic for DummiesThe Titanic for Dummies by Stephen Spignesi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars
Chock-full of facts that range from the building of the Titanic to the 1985 expedition when it was finally found to why the ship’s legacy still lives on, THE TITANIC FOR DUMMIES is a nicely arranged, easy to read history for those who either have a passing interest or intermediate knowledge of the Titanic. Although aficionados on the infamous ocean liner most likely won’t find anything new between the covers.

The author wrote this with the intent that each section could be read both straight-through or out of order, which can make it slightly repetitive if read front to back (as I did) or too quickly. I found that reading only a chapter or two at a time was a more enjoyable experience overall and kept me from getting overwhelmed by all the information. The writing is clear, easy to understand, and all encompassing to anything related to the Titanic. I enjoyed reading about some of the ludicrous myths, in which the author debunks most of them, the list of recommended documentaries to see, and well, most everything. I only noticed a few minuscule errors, most of which did not involve Titanic history and were mainly grammar, but nothing worth mentioning. The only negative I can find to the book is the lack of pictures, it only features three pages of color photographs, and a few more added diagrams of the ship. Throughout the book’s text there also could have been more black and white photos included. The most glaring exclusion from the book is that there is no picture of the “Big Piece”, a 15×25 foot, 20-ton piece of the hull that had been salvaged from the wreck site and was mentioned extensively throughout the book. I would have welcomed the addition instead of hopping online to see a picture of the famous piece. Also, at one time there was a table of Titanic’s ten decks, with descriptions and what rooms were on those decks, that would have been better served with a diagram of the ship to help those of us who are more visually-inclined. Those are fairly minor complaints in comparison to the breadth of material this book covers however.

Highly informative, concise, and written for anyone of any age, I would recommend The Titanic for Dummies to anyone interested in learning more about the Titanic, it’s a great primer that has left me more knowledgeable about a subject I’ve always been fascinated by.

Click here for some great photographs taken by passenger, Father Francis Browne, who disembarked from the Titanic when it docked in Cobh (then Queenstown), Ireland.

Originally reviewed: June 28
Received: Amazon Vine

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)