Sunday, September 14, 2014

Game by Barry Lyga

Netgalley approved me for books #1-3 in the series, which is super exciting because now I get to read them all at once & not  suffer through cliff-hangers like the people who actually had to wait. Oh, and by the way, the cliffhanger at the end of this book? It is a mean mother of a cliffhanger, & I suggest having book #3 on hand before starting or you might just become a murderer too.

(You can read my review of book one here .)

Jasper Dent is the son of Billy Dent, a serial killer with about five or six monikers who is probably just as evil and devious as Ted Bundy. In the last book, Jazz accidentally helped his father escape from a maximum security prison and now Billy is free in New York, with millions and millions of victims to "prospect."

And oh, yes, he wants to play a game with them. And let me tell you, I love books about serial killers who like to play games.

So it's totally not like I'm biased or anything. *cough*

Jazz is pretty emotionally exhausted at this point, the poor kid. I mean, he helped his dad escape to murder more people, & he feels partially responsible for the murders the Impressionist (another serial killer) caused in book #1, even though he helped capture him. And word gets around because pretty soon the NYPD come a-callin' and are all, "Hey, we have ANOTHER serial killer on our hands. This one's called the Hat-Dog killer & he cuts off peens, gouges out eyes, & puts guts into KFC buckets. PLEASE HELP US CATCH HIM, K?" So Jazz goes to New York and more wtfuckery transpires.

There is character development in this book, and I loved the depth of Jazz's angst. I suspect he is a sociopath as well, but a nonviolent one, in spite of what his dear old da would like to believe. Connie wants to take their relationship to the next level but Jazz is terrified of sex because for his father sex and killing went hand in glove, and Jazz is so brainwashed he thinks it might unlock his inner-killer.

We also meet Jazz's Aunt Samantha, Billy's older sister. Jazz's friend Howie decides that she is his love interest, and I have to say, I was pretty squicked out by all the descriptions of Howie talking about how much he wanted to bone this older woman because Howie is 17 & Samantha is, what, 40-something? I have no problems with May-December romances where the woman is older, but Howie is seventeen and that is just too young, which made it very creepy for me. Especially since the author seemed to find it hilarious. I am sorry, but that is not funny. I hope they don't end up together.

One thing I really didn't like about GAME was all the POV swaps. They really bogged down the story. There were some scenes with Howie and Aunt Samantha that could have been cut. I also feel that some of the Connie-fighting-with-her-family scenes could have been cut as well. The first 200 pages of GAME moved really slowly, and it wasn't until the last 100 that things really began to pick up. The last 100 pages I finished in about an hour because I literally could not put the book down (or, I guess, close the window, since I was reading this on my comp. But w/e).

That twist. It was pretty great. I was not expecting that. I was not.

Although I would have liked for some of my questions to be answered. My friend Myrika was laughing at me on Gchat because she sped through books 1-3 after I told her how much I liked book #1 and I was pestering her with theories, until finally she was all, WANT ME TO TELL YOU HOW IT ENDS?" And I was like, "NOOOOOOOOOO." But apparently it's really grim stuff & I'm going to be traumatized for life after finishing book #3. And this is coming from a woman who writes stories so dark that they make mine look like sunny walks in the park, so that fucking tells you something.


That's just cruel. I bet when this was first published, Mr. Lyga got a lot of angry fanmail.

2.5 to 3 out of 5 stars.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Zen Cat by Judith Adler

I bought ZEN CAT for my dad, but I gave it a quick read-through to make sure it was good.

ZEN CAT is really cute. It has a lot of "zen" quotes. Some of them are from Buddhists, like Buddha or the Dalai Lama. Others are from other religions, like Rumi (who practiced Sufism). Then there's random quotes from people like T.S. Eliot or Coco Chanel who just said something that sounded zen, but isn't necessarily zen.

I think the pictures are the best part. They complement the quotes very well. All the cats are super cute & have great facial expressions that give the photographs stark intensity. :)

Recommended for cat aficionados everywhere!

2.5 to 3 out of 5 stars.

Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede

My book club wanted to read all three books of the Frontier Magic series for our next meeting, & that is why I am here today. I've read so many books already (I've sat out a couple meetings because there's an attendance cap, & I already read the book, so let someone else have a shot) that I was excited to see that they'd chosen an entire series I somehow hadn't read yet. OH BOY!!!

Most people know Wrede by her Enchanted Forest series, which I actually have not read. I know her from her Cecilia & Kate series (charming) and her Mairelon series (twee and annoying).

THIRTEENTH CHILD falls somewhere in the middle of being charming & twee and annoying. If you crossed Harry Potter with Oregon Trail, you would get something that closely approximates THIRTEENTH. In fact, many of the characters in this book wouldn't be out of place in an HP book & Miss Ochiba is pretty much a black Professor McGonagall.

The premise is that the main character, Eff, is the twin sister of a double-seventh son. Seventh sons are known for their good luck and innate magic abilities so everyone is really excited about Lan, her twin. Thirteenth children, on the other hand, are very unlucky, and a lot of people believe that they cause misfortune and jinxes. A lot of her extended family wouldn't mind if she died, and treat her very cruelly because...that's what you want to do, piss off someone who brings misfortune. W/e.

Eff's father is commissioned to become a professor in a university so the family ends up moving (the younger children anyway; the older children got married/jobs & stayed in Helvan Shores) to the city. Eff starts taking magic lessons from black Professor McGonagall, and I thought the magic systems -- Arvpan, Cathay, Hijero, Aphrikan -- were pretty interesting. It's too bad that magic doesn't serve much purpose in this book beyond being a shiny ribbon the author dangles at the reader, as if to say, "Come on! Follow the magic! All the way to the end of the book now, come on! Wheeeee!!!!"

The book moves very slowly. I think the first 200 pages were a chore to read because her family were all assholes, & Eff is a child for so much of it. By the end of the book she's sixteen, and finally, about fifty pages from the end of the book, we finally have some action. Even though it's kind of pathetic. I mean, as far as villain bosses go, that's like, a stage one platformer boss. Only a n00b would miss.

Similarities to HP aside, I did think the frontier setting was interesting but problematic. Other people said it reminded them of LITTLE HOUSE (which I've never actually read -- *ducks*), but it really reminded me of Oregon Trail. An Oregon Trail with dragons and woolly mammoths, and dire wolves... Wut. (Don't get too excited. These beasts don't make much of an appearance and when they do, it's from a distance and highly anticlimactic.) I saw someone else complaining that there weren't any Native Americans and I do think that's an interesting point. Where are the Natives? And why are there woolly mammoths? What is the rest of the world like? DOES THE REST OF THE WORLD STILL EXIST? I mean, what is it like in Europe and Africa?

THIRTEENTH CHILD raises more questions than it answers, & doesn't really serve as a standalone book. If my book club hadn't demanded that we read all three books by the next meeting, I'd probably drop the series like a hot potato. But as it is, it looks like I'm stuck. So. Until next book, yes?

2.5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

This is another one of those books that literally everyone else seems to like except me. The moment I saw the average rating, 4.21, I knew foul play was afoot, because 4-point-something ratings usually mean that the book in question is a total smutfest with a brutish alpha male whose sole attractiveness lies in the bulginess of his muscles and the epic proportions of his mighty peen.

BUT some of my friends really liked this book, and I loved that the title and cover were total throwbacks to the bodice rippers of the 1980s. And I actually like PNR (sometimes). I thought, "Hey! Maybe everyone's right! Maybe this book will be good!"


First, I would like to start by saying that rape in fiction does not necessarily bother me. What bothers me is when it is romanticized or when the heroine reacts to it inappropriately. You can write the most graphic rape scene in the world & as long as it is suitably horrifying, I'll be like, "Okay, good job" as long as the rest of the book is good. Note: this does not happen in this back.


My thoughts while reading this book were basically:
Please stop. Please. I can't take anymore. D:

And the book was just like:

In A HUNGER LIKE NO OTHER, rape is equated with courtship. Lachlain pounces on the female character in public, rips her clothes off, and starts ogling her in public. In the rain. He then basically holds her hostage in her apartment, demands that she showers with him, comes close to raping her in the shower (but he is satisfied by her jerking him off instead), threatens to rape her about 100 more times after that, almost burns her alive, destroys the whole apartment while she's sleeping to threaten her some more, forces oral sex on her while she's sleeping, and then rapes her while she's running away from him & oh, when he does it, he's in beast form, so he's even bigger than normal, and Emma is like NOOOOOO I'M SCURRED but then she decides she likes it so yay! it's not rape after all.

All this basically comprises the first three quarters of the book.

The first quarter of A HUNGER LIKE NO OTHER is easily the worst, because that's when Lachlain is saying that he can't decide whether he's going to kill her or not, so he wants to rape her first to test the merchandise and see if she's worthy of being his mate. He also steals her credit card to go on a shopping spree, forces her to wear sexy undies which he then says make him lose all control and make him want to rape her more (victim blaming: I love it), & oh yes, tells her that she can't wear her normal clothes anymore because he doesn't want men ogling her. Also there's this weird thing in the beginning where he's like, "You can only wear red because you're a vampire and I don't like that." This pretty much goes nowhere, and does nothing except to show what a crazy control freak he is.

Oh, & let's not even go into the Outlander brogue. All the dinnas & cannaes & lasses you don't want!

Emma isn't much better. As far as heroine's go, she's pretty spineless. She cries when she kills moths. She's a spoiled rich girl who has expensive clothes and lives in a nice apartment and has long, butt-length blonde hair. She's majoring in pop-culture. She's a seventy-year-old virgin. Oh, & she doesn't know she's beautiful. BECAUSE TINY, PETITE BLONDE WOMEN WITH LONG GORGEOUS HAIR AND HUGE BOOBS ARE SO UGLY U GAIZ OMG. YOU NEVER SEE THEM IN MOVIES. OR MAGAZINES. OR ON TV. OH WAIT--YES YOU FUCKING DO.

Oh and guess what. Guess what? Her orgasms summon lightning. DAFUQ.

Maybe she's a Thundercat.

And oh boy, is her body traitorous. She lets Lachlain treat her like crap because he's hot. She enables his ill-treatment of her, lying to her caretakers about where she is & who she's with, even when Lachlain announces that they'll be going to Scotland because SOUL MATES BITCHEZ!

Obviously, Lachlain's wolf pack is less than pleased, and there's this one Lykae who has been pining after Lachlain all this time who's named Cassandra. The two of them get into a catfight while the males lul and make jokes like, "Where's the Jell-O?" Emma talks about how much she wants to tear this bitch's eyes out, calls her a skank, and Cassandra responds in equal terms, being all like, "LOL YOU CAN'T HAVE BABIES! LOL YOU'RE INFERTILE. LOL NOBODY HERE LIKES U!

I found the world-building very scattered. Since the bulk of the book is about Emma and Lachlain's abusive relationship, not much attention is paid to the actual development of the world of Lore. From what I gather there are --

Lykae (Lycans)
Norse gods
Good demons
Bad demons
Vampire demons

AND THEY ALL HATE EACH OTHER. Except when they rape fuck each other.

Seems legit.

Apparently the series does get better and more feminist-friendly as it goes on. While that may be, A HUNGER LIKE NO OTHER was a terrible read & I would not recommend it to anyone looking for a romance novel with genuine emotional connection between the h & the H.

0 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Devil Earl by Deborah Simmons

Prudence wears glasses(!) and writes sensationalist Gothic mystery novels(!!). I wanted to like THE DEVIL EARL for those reasons alone, and when we were introduced to her sexy and dangerous neighbor, the Earl of Ravenscar, master of Wolfinger, I wanted to love this book. Seriously, it had the formula for everything I love in fiction -- smart heroines, dangerous alpha heroes, mysteries, Gothic atmosphere, danger, sex...come on, book, let me love you!

Book: LOL, nope.

Prudence Lancaster is, by her own admission, on the shelf. She writes books and embraces the single life while her younger and prettier sister, Phoebe, courts men and trouble with equal gusto. One of these men is James Penhurst, the younger brother of the current Earl of Ravenscar. Prudence is almost as excited as her sister about this because she has an unhealthy obsession with the Wolfinger manor, and her neighbors' twisted and sordid history.

When Prudence actually meets the so-called Devil Earl, she is shocked by how good-looking he is, and how much his manner affects her. Sebastian Penhurst feels the same way. A debaucher in his youth, he still feels the heavy weight of his family's evil deeds. But he can't quite suppress his feelings for Prudence; she intrigues him, infuriates him, and excites him, all in equal measure.

Then James Penhurst goes missing and everyone assumes that Sebastian Penhurst offed his younger sib with a kind of, "Oh, the Devil Earl strikes again!" sort of ennui. But Prudence is convinced of his innocence and decides to help solve the mystery of the Missing Brother -- while fucking Sebastian's brains out, of course.

THE DEVIL EARL started off really well, but about halfway through it completely fizzled out. The ending was a speeding train of wtfuckery with increasingly ridiculous plot twists. I'm not going to say too much about what these twists are (there were a lot), but half of them involved pirates. You know you're in dire straits when you have to fall back on pirates to create some drama.

I was surprised that there were actual sex scenes in this book and not the more typical fade-to-black type things that tend to grace these historicals. The foreplay scenes in the beginning were pretty sexy but the actual sex itself...not so much. And on that note, I'm almost positive E.L. James read this book. She had to've. Prudence said "Oh my!" more times than I cared to count, especially when Sebastian aroused her (which, unfortunately, was a lot, this being a romance novel & all).

She wriggled, but he held her fast and kissed her. There. "Oh, my!" Prudence whispered, as awareness shot through her, obliterating all else. Sebastian. Hot. Wet. There. With his mouth! (191).

Compare that to this one from Fifty Shades Darker:

Oh my. He kisses me… there.

With his mouth! There! OMG SO EXCITING!!!!!

What was that editor doing? Sleeping on the job? About half those "oh mys" should have been struck.

Maybe her editor was George Takei. Although if here editor was George Takei, we probably would have at least gotten the consolation prize of some hot man on man action. OH MYYYYYY!!!!

But no.

It's all straight up in here. And Sebastian actually cries when they have sex, because it's so beautiful! How did she know what he'd been wanting for Christmas all this time? A virginity, of his very own!

Sebastian managed to slide in and out, over and over, until her maidenhead gave way gently before him. She opened her eyes wide then, surprised at the breach, but she shed no tears. He was the one who felt pressure behind his lids, because of her precious gift to him (197).

It's a very white Christmas after all.

I was also upset by the fact that Prudence wasn't recognized as pretty until Sebastian decided to take her glasses away. It would have been a lot better if he thought Prudence was pretty with her glasses. Instead, there was a lot of emphasis on, "Well, she's got glasses, but she's also super skinny, and has great T&A, and super tiny feets, so I suppose this one flaw can be overlooked."

Yeah, thanks for doing me that solid.

Now that I've finished the book, I kind of wish the story had been about Sebastian's wicked ancestors -- pirating, gambling, duels, beating people, raping local peasant girls, imprisoning his wife in a tower and then stabbing one another to death. That sounds like an awesome story. Like something that could have been one of the greats when it comes to bodice rippers. Instead, I got a wallpaper historical with a dash of Gothic flavoring (but oh my! not too much!).

1.5 to 2 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Wolf's Embrace by Gail Link

Hey, look! It's Fabio!

WOLF'S EMBRACE was a big disappointment. I'm a huge fan of love-hate relationships and romances born of outlandish revenge plots & schemes, but if you're going to go that route, you have to stick to your guns -- and, oh, yes, if you have actual guns or other weapons, so much the better -- and not wuss out.

The premise of WOLF'S EMBRACE is this: Rolf O'Daileigh, Earl of Killroone, is butthurt that the evol Norman, Hugh Fitzgerald, has abducted his niece-slash-ward, Lady Duvessa. He decides the best way to resolve this is to kidnap Hugh's oldest daughter, Sybelle, rape her, & then hold her hostage in his castle until the situation resolves itself, because he is a man and men don't talk things out. (Especially not in romance novels; this is how you get Big Misunderstandings).

And boy, is there a big misunderstanding in this book because it turns out that Hugh didn't kidnap and rape Duvessa at all. They eloped, because Duvessa's mean ol' uncle was going to make her marry a boy her own age, and thank Goodness this handsome middle-aged man swooped out of nowhere to save her from marrying one of her peers! (Wait...)

WOLF'S EMBRACE reads like the author decided to take the concept of Christine Monson's spicy debut novel, STORMFIRE, and turn it into pudding. Which you cannot do. I mean, if you are going to have the hero rape the heroine, that's your business -- but then you can't go the other way and turn it into fluff. Rape is not fluffy. It is traumatic on physical, psychological, and emotional levels, and as soon as you start talking about traitorous bodies, I'm Audi.

But WOLF'S EMBRACE has STORMFIRE beat in one way -- the torture. Even Torquemada would approve of the atrocious prose of this novel. Read it to infidels and watch them recant in minutes!

The tantalizing allurement of her lust was upon her now, weaving its wiles around her (53).

I don't think that's purple enough. Can we up the ante?

His mouth levied a tax on her flesh... (53)

Okay, that's getting better.

Finally, he couldn't avoid the portal that he sought. His fingers stroked the curls guarding her inner treasure (53).

Perfect! That's just like something Bertrice Small would write!

Oh, and then we have this romantic thought just before the rape:

It was as if every other wench he'd lain with was merely a preparation, a rehearsal, for this particular woman (53).

I actually made it a lot farther than page 53, but this page was so full of terrible writing that I almost DNFed right then and there. I made it another 150 pages before giving up in frustration. Hugh Fitzgerald is such an asshat. This whole situation is all his fault, but even though his daughter is (presumably) getting raped, he won't let Duvessa intercede for him because -- gasp! -- Rolf might confine her to her room and then there will be no more sexins! When one of Hugh's other daughters (who I actually liked -- they were adorable and quite intelligent) points out that he seems to care more about fucking than saving his daughter from certain rape-torture (rapture?! I see what you did there, romance novels!), he raises a hand to hit her, and stops only when his ladylove says "don't."

Yeah, no.

I tried to finish this book, but it was terrible and I have a whole stack of less terrible romances to work through, so there really isn't any point in sticking with something like this. I highly doubt another 150 pages of this mess will change my mind -- or my rating.


0 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Kamen Volume 1 by Gunya Mihara

A man wakes up in the field and finds out he's wearing a mask that he cannot take off. The mask is sentient and gives him super strength and while he's wearing it he doesn't have to eat...but if he takes it off, he and the mask will both die.

Reading this book made me think of R.L. Stine's THE HAUNTED MASK (maybe evil mask that can't be removed) and INUYASHA (feudal Japan, fighting spirits and demons). I enjoyed the throwback to my childhood and adolescence which is probably why I liked this book more than others did.

Apart from the mask that can't be taken off, there isn't much to distinguish this from other martial manga and anime. The action sequences were decent, the plot was okay (since this is book #1 it's mostly set-up), and the characters were interesting. I liked Lord Simba -- who's a woman! -- and how she was harsh but fair, given her evil uncle (SCAR?! LOL).

I just got approved for volume #2 on Netgalley so it will be interesting to see how this develops.

2.5 to 3 out of 5 stars.