Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Black Lament by Christina Henry

Inevitable spoilers for books 1-3 ahead, go away if you wish to read those with some element of surprise.

photo via author website
As an Agent of Death, Madeline Black deals with loss every day. But when tragedy touches her own life, Maddy will have to find the strength within to carry on… 

Devastated and grieving, Maddy unexpectedly finds hope with the discovery that she is pregnant. But Maddy’s joy is short lived when Lucifer informs her that he wants the baby, hoping to draw on the combined power of two of his bloodlines. Maddy is determined that her grandfather will never have her child, but she’s not sure what she can do to stop him. 

Being pregnant is stressful enough, but Maddy suddenly finds herself at odds with the Agency—forbidden from meddling in the affairs of the supernatural courts. When a few of her soul collections go awry, Maddy begins to suspect that the Agency wants to terminate her employment. They should know by now that she isn’t the sort to give up without a fight…

synopsis via Goodreads

So, like, all of the books are fun, with plenty of action and occasional hilarity. But they aren't really very deep, both in content matter and in characterization (which is totally fine, I like fluffy books). This book feels particularly shallow because Maddy's husband was murdered but her grief never feels authentic (not that there is a right way and a wrong way to grieve or feel grief IRL but this is fiction, the rules, they be different). It's been only a couple of weeks since Gabriel died and she's just found out she's pregnant and her sadness feels like so much lip service.  "I am sad" is really not a sufficient portrayal of sadness. Realistically though, emotional depth has never been the strength of this series. The romantical aspect was definitely under-fed in the previous books so it makes a sort-of weird sense that the other emotional aspects have been neglected here? At least it's consistent.

As a whole, it's written competently and is paced well (the pace, btw, is FAST). The end wraps up a little bit too quickly, but it's neither super-predictable nor zany-out-there.The dudely love interests (for lack of a better term) sound pretty foxy and even though we get a Sassy Best Friend, Beezle (Maddy's pet/best friend/gargoyle) is neither red-haired nor human and manages to evade being quite a cliché. The weird pregnancy-detecting fallen angel skillz were pretty creepy and hitting on a pregnant lady whose husband has just died is in pretty bad taste, but over-all another solid entry into the Black Wings series.

Read this if you like very fluffy Urban Fantasy that's heavy on witty dialogue and light on emotional investment.

Black Lament by Christina Henry
Series: Black Wings
Previous book: Black Howl  Next book: Black City (forthcoming Feb-2013)
P.O.V. Third person
Language: Mostly clean, maybe a couple of f-bombs? I don't exactly recall
Sexxxoring: There was a super-vague dream-thing but otherwise ZERO
Where from? Borrowed from das Library

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Judy Blume - Summer Sisters



So I'm dealing with this; this Calibre thing that Jae totally understands/loves/might as well just marry and I just keep looking at it dubiously, like who are you and why can't I make categories on you, why are you genuinely consuming my entire night just loading my shit, and don't even think about turning this around and making it about the actual volume of shit I have so shut up seriously.

While that's happening, I will tell you about a book I read. I do this never, on my shared book blog, so obviously this is important.

Judy Blume - Summer Sisters

I guess I'm super late to the party on this one -  it was published in the halcyon days of 2003. This probably would have changed my life had I read it in 2003, but reading it in 2012 was more "nice evening in, please hold the sonnets decreeing it's greatness." It's a lovely book, but I'm pretty sure Judy Blume's life-changing capabilities fade entirely after your 23rd birthday or something. It's in your DNA, like those weird cell phone noises that only children can hear. Some things, you just age out of.

Regardless, I was feeling nostalgic and starting plowing through a boatload of JB's catalog (Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself was always my favorite, I know, who am I, what have I done with general consensus, but oh my god those letters to !!!Hitler In Disguise!!! fucking kill me) and this was thrown in the mix because I almost never remember the titles of books I've read. I assumed I had read it, with the rest. I had not. And it's pretty damn amazing.

It's one of her adult novels (not adult like porn, adult like probably don't give this to your 8 year old). It's about these BFFs (kind of? like not my definition of BFF but clearly someone's?), and their lives basically from age 12 through eternity. Whatever, here's the summary, I'm terrible at this:

In the summer of 1977, Victoria Leonard's world changed forever—when Caitlin Somers chose her as a friend. Dazzling, reckless Caitlin welcomed Vix into the heart of her sprawling, eccentric family, opening doors to a world of unimaginable privilege, sweeping her away to vacations on Martha's Vineyard, a magical, wind-blown island where two friends became summer sisters. . . .

Now, years later, Vix is working in New York City. Caitlin is getting married on the Vineyard. And the early magic of their long, complicated friendship has faded. But Caitlin has begged Vix to come to her wedding, to be her maid of honor. And Vix knows that she will go—for the friend whose casual betrayals she remembers all too well. Because Vix wants to understand what happened during that last shattering summer. And, after all these years, she needs to know why her best friend—her summer sister—still has the power to break her heart....
Why do all summaries end with an ellipsis? I mean, I guess I know technically why, but it's still irritating as all fuck.

And this kind of sounds awful! Don't listen to the saccharine synopsis. There is some deep shit buried in this book. And scissoring! Honestly! THERE IS SCISSORING, OK.

Blume is basically the master of relateable adolescent girl stories. It's why she's such a hit with the YA set -- it's like someone sucked the awkward insanity out of a 12 year old's head and made sense of it in a way that understandable, hilarious, absurd, and sad. This book has SO MUCH of all of those things. You will laugh, you will cry, etc. The relationship between Vix and Caitlin is so tragic and awful, and I feel like most ladies have had at some point a friendship that was just that intense and inevitably doomed for it.

FOR THE RECORD: Minus the scissoring. I get that it's a thing and surely happens amongst pre-teen/who the fuck am I/what is sex/etc girls, but also does NOT happen with the same frequency, and let's just take a moment to recognize that there are all kinds and all of them are fine. THAT SAID: some of these paragraphs made me keenly uncomfortable in a way that has probably everything to do with my own hang-ups, but come on, I am basically reading a sex scene between 12 year old girls and that is weird, there I said it.

Read this book! Totally read it. It will take you like 4 hours, not even. And your library has it. Right now. There are characters named Bru, Von, and Lamb (for gods sake) which are all genuinely stupid and I didn't even care, that's how much I enjoyed this book. So read it, and then we can talk about the The Power, which is such a bizarre concept that I can't even tell you about it.

Hey, guess what! Calibre's done. I'm going to go pretend like I know what the fuck I'm doing.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Down to You by M. Leighton

Amazon recommended this to me because I bought everything Tammara Webber has written (you should definitely read all of her stuff, it’s pretty great).

The scorching tale of one girl, two brothers and a love triangle…that’s not.
Olivia Townsend is nothing special. She’s just a girl working her way through college so she can return home to help her father run his business. She’s determined not to be the second woman in his life to abandon him, even if it means putting her own life on hold. To Olivia, it’s clear what she must do. Plain and simple. Black and white.
But clear becomes complicated when she meets Cash and Nash Davenport. They’re brothers. Twins. Cash is everything she’s always wanted in a guy. He’s a dangerous, sexy bad boy who wants her in his bed at any cost. He turns her insides to mush and, with just one kiss, makes her forget why he’s no good for her.
Nash is everything she’s ever needed in a guy. He’s successful, responsible and intensely passionate. But he’s taken. Very taken, by none other than Marissa, Liv’s rich, beautiful cousin. That doesn’t stop Olivia from melting every time he looks at her, though. With just one touch, he makes her forget why they can never be together.
Black and white turns to shades of gray when Olivia discovers the boys are hiding something, something that should make her run as far and as fast as she can. But it’s too late to run. Olivia’s already involved. And in love. With both of them.
Both brothers make her heart tremble. Both brothers set her body on fire. 
She wants them both. And they want her.
How will she ever choose between them?
(via Goodreads)

Ignore the first 2 parts of the synopsis, just about everything that wasn’t related to the main characters fucking/thinking about fucking/trying to fuck was glossed over. And since it wasn’t erotica, a plot would have been nice. And since there wasn’t a plot, more than a token attempt at character development could have been made. Olivia never learns anything/grows up/has an epiphany/does anything but whine about how much she likes these boys/can never have these boys. And Cash/Nash are never developed beyond their super-secret secret, which didn’t even come into play until at least halfway through the book.

And hooray for manufactured conflict, Olivia’s ex-boyfriend was a bad boy and he hurt her feelings so she’s sworn off bad boys forever.  Yeah sure, having your heart broken sucks balls, but here’s a protip: just because a boy has tattoos doesn’t make him bad. BEING AN ASSHOLE WHO CHEATS ON HIS PREGNANT GIRLFRIEND makes him bad.  Also, guys in suits are not necessarily good guys either.

There were few terrible grammar/editing distractions and the story was well-paced (mostly). The author was definitely heavy-handed with the exclamation points and italics but that’s more a style issue than anything else (reading about people who are that excited! about! everything! was exhausting). I will admit that this was kind of compulsively readable; I almost missed my bus stop because I was reading. The dudes were super foxy and the sex scenes were pretty steamy. However, and this is a BIG however, the last quarter of the book takes a sharp turn from oh-this-is-mildly-entertaining to holy-shit-WTF. And then the epilogue crashes into now-this-is-a-suspense-novel-what-the-hell and surprise-there’s a-sequel!

Should you read this? If you like reading about people who are magnificent jerks and you’ve got a couple of free hours and don’t need to go to the dentist or something, sure. If the ending wasn’t so utterly bizarro, I’d have left off the caveat about the dentist. Regardless, I’m glad I borrowed this and didn’t use the last of the Amazon gift card I’ve been saving for a rainy day.

Series: As yet untitled
Next book in series: To be announced
P.O.V.: First person, present; alternating narrators
Language: Salty
Sexy business: Plenty and semi-graphic

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Demon's Librarian by Lilith Saintcrow

I just glommed the Dante Valentine series by Lilith Saintcrow a couple of weeks ago. Since I mostly liked it, I went ahead and bought this book and also the Jill Kismet series which just happens to be available on Kindle for $9.99 if you pre-order it (yes, all five books).

Demons are preying on schoolchildren in her city, so Francesca Barnes does what any red-blooded librarian would do-she does some research and goes hunting. But the books she finds in a secret cache don't tell her the whole story. Chess has no idea what she's just stepped into or just how special she is. Orion is Drakul, part demon, and a loyal servant of the Order. He doesn't expect a motorcycle-riding librarian to be messing around with demonic forces, and he doesn't expect her to smell so damn good. But Ryan's got bigger problems. His partner has disappeared, and the forces of Darkness are rising. Now Chess is Ryan's only hope of finding his partner, and Ryan is Chess's only hope of survival because the demons now know Chess exists and that she is the heir to a long-lost power that could push back their dark tide. If Ryan can keep her alive long enough, she just might be the key to destroying the demons completely. But Ryan doesn't know he's been betrayed by the very Order he serves. And if Chess does, by some miracle survive, he won't ever be able to touch her again. . .

(synopsis via Goodreads)

So! Librarians, secret books, demon hunters, mysterious order protecting us poor little humans, a little romance, everything about this story sounds awesome, right? Well, not quite. It’s good but never quite makes the leap into amazing. Chess is a likeable protagonist, she’s smart (a librarian!), she’s feisty (but not that absurd-feisty that too many UF lady-protagonists tends towards), she’s pretty brave, she’s independent. Although sometimes she’s a little too independent for someone who’s only killed one demon and who now has a certified demon-hunter at her beck and call.

Ryan sounds super foxy and he’s definitely a good guy to have in your corner, what with the super strength and healing abilities, but I am not a fan of the mate-instinct that we got to deal with when Ryan’s POV was at the forefront.  I got a little tired of the but she’s so pretty and she smells so nice! This must be Twue Wuv! Also, things could be a little scary from his perspective because he was fighting his instincts (read: major boner) all the time.  And he goes from “You give me a boner” to “I love you forever” really damn quickly.

On the other hand, the romance was almost totally undeveloped on Chess’ side, because she spent most of the book going “Fuck, demons! This is scary, run, no, fight, wait, I have a knife!” and passing out and only very occasionally “That Ryan guy is a little scary, but he’s kinda good looking”.  

There isn’t much in the way of world-building since it’s basically just real world + demons but there’s enough to make it convincing. It’s a bit of a shame because Lilith Saintcrow is a master world-builder (seriously, the world-building aspect of her Dante Valentine series is mind-blowing).  

Final Reckoning

Read this? Sure, why not. It’s entertaining and over quickly.  I realize that isn’t quite a ringing endorsement but I would have liked it better if there were a couple of follow-ups (or even just one) because the epilogue was kind of ridiculous. It reads like a first entry in a series, right up until the epilogue, where things get wrapped way too neatly, but it’s a stand-alone.  It’s kind of hard to categorize too, since it’s PNR from Ryan’s POV and UF from Chess’ POV.  It was at least worth the 7 bucks I paid.

The Demon’s Librarian by Lilith Saintcrow
Series: n/a
P.O.V: Third person, past;  alternating perspective
Language: Mostly clean with a few dingers
Sexxxoring: Zero action, lots of (mental) talk

Friday, September 28, 2012

Coming Undone by Lauren Dane

I would apologize for the long interval between this post and my last, but I’m not really all that sorry, I’ve had an eventful 7 months. But none of the two people who read this blog care to hear my personal woes (if you do, I LOVE TO SHARE [that is a lie but I do love to complain!]).
 “After his parents' death, Brody gave up a promising career to care for his family. Now, with his siblings grown, Brody owns his own business, and for the first time in years he's alone. Elise has come to Seattle with her daughter to find peace. After years as a world-famous ballerina-and trapped in a marriage gone bad-she's looking for neither love nor attention. But she finds both in the handsome, honest man who befriends her with no strings attached.
Brody and Elise discover in each other the wild, physical passion they need. But it'll take a shadow from Elise's past to make them look beyond what they need-to what they truly desire.
                  (via Goodreads)
The story is fine, it’s about more than just Brody and Elise fucking each other’s brains out. They’ve both been burned romantically, but they aren’t exclaiming “I will never love again” and there’s a sub-plot for some narrative tension. They don’t quite fall victim to insta-love but their relationship develops over a reasonable period of time. As a whole, the story is pretty  believable (except maybe for the legal what-have-you, but I’m not a lawyer, what do I know).

The major problem I had with this book is that these people talk a lot. Like, A LOT. No one can answer a question without explaining the shit out of it. It makes the flow of conversation really disjointed because when someone asks a question, the person answering answers the next 3 or 4 questions that might follow up. F’rex: 
“Where’s your little girl?” Brody asked
“She’s, um, out in the backyard. She’s doing this soccer day camp thing this summer and loving it. We set up a net so she’s kicking goals over and over. Which, well, let’s be honest, is awesome for me because it runs her down and there’s no three-hour battle to get her to sleep. She’s pretty high-energy.” She paused and laughed. “That’s a nice way of saying she’s hyper.”
That is WEIRD, you guys. “In the backyard, playing soccer” would have been a perfectly acceptable response.  And the sex talk is kind of out of control. I’m all for dirty-talk but by the middle of the book I was skimming the sex scenes because it all sounded more porn-sexy than actual-sex-sexy.

“Yeah. So fuck me. Come inside me before I die right here stuffed with you.”
Oh. Well. He liked dirty talk too. Especially from her lips. Good god. “Pick up the pace then. Ride me hard so your tits jiggle.”*
Um, whut? Is there a camera in there? Personal preference, yadda yadda, but it’s all like that and I am not a fan.

So anyway, I guess it’s decent, I think it’s just that Lauren Dane’s writing style is very obvious. Despite what should be a least a little emotionally investing, I never felt connected to the characters. Everything seemed to happen just on the surface. On a positive note, all the people in this book sound foxy as hell. So that's something. Also, if you've read the previous entry in this series, you'll (probably?) be glad to see Erin, Todd, and Ben (nontraditional relationships, ftw!). 

This is the 3rd book of Lauren Dane’s that I’ve read and they’re all very similar in style. If you don’t mind a lack of depth and you like really porn-y sex, by all means read this. Otherwise, go read some Megan Hart. (I feel a little bad about recommending one over the other because they seem to be friends IRL, but there you go.)

*this quote is from the end of the book, mostly because I didn't want to go searching for something that occurred earlier

Series: The Brown Siblings, book 2
Previous book in series: Laid Bare
Next book in series: Inside Out
P.O.V.: Third person
Language: Pretty darn dirty
Sexxxoring: A LOT