Brekke K. (sfvamp) - , - Reviews

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Age of Odin (Age Of... / Pantheon Triptych, Bk 3)
Age of Odin (Age Of... / Pantheon Triptych, Bk 3)
Author: James Lovegrove
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 10
Review Date: 7/7/2012
Helpful Score: 2


Fight porn. Fight porn with Norse mythology sprinkled within is what this 585 page book ultimately contains.

This is one of those novels that has moments of brilliance but that I find emotionally unsatisfying at the end of the day. The problem stems from the hero (and I use the term loosely) who is unlikeable, uncouth, uneducated, and unrealistic. He is someone I can never relate to. He isnt honorable, a thinker, or self-aware. He is purely a fighter whose violence has devastated his life and those closest to him. And most of this really long book is him reminiscing about fighting, watching a fight, or engaged in fighting. It gets a little old. Plus his tactics are cold, brutal, and without sympathy or capacity to with stain from crossing lines and taboos. I find him repugnant. And I have a hard time believing that he would be able to hold his own against GODS! I mean, if he were better educated, charismatic, and a tactical genius and maverick cut from the same cloth as a hero like Captain Kirk, then Id have less of a problem with how every Norse god in this novel seems unable to pull off simple campaigns without him. But mostly I bristle at the notion that the Gods of Wisdom, War, Thunder, and Mischief, cant seem to outwit a man who frequently talks about flatulence and can barely survive in the real world. I also doubt theyd put up with all the lip he gives them. This is not a man who could realistically hold his own against ancient gods and this ultimately ruins the story for me.

As a said prior, there are moments of brilliance in this novel that can be attributed to a well-turned phrase, great one-liners, and some interesting side-characters that include a Palanesque President of the United States and a truly crafty villain. The villain was intriguing the more I got to know him. Frankly I found myself rooting for him, even if his triumph brought about Ragnarok, or the end of the world, simply because I found the Norse gods so inept at times. At least the villain was thinking for himself and executed himself more intelligently. In fact with both the hero and villain acting like glorified bullies, my favor tipped toward the character who was most interesting and intelligentie the villain.

I know enough of Norse mythology to expect how certain scenarios would play out. I was, happily, wrong. I knew who would be the villain of the piece because it comes straight from mythology, but nothing is as it seems and I find that oddly appealing. Most of the respect I have for this novel comes from how Lovegrove unveils the machinations of the villain. Too bad he couldnt have won the war. I really despised the hero of this piece.

At the risk of sounding slightly sexist, Ill say that this is a novel that would be more relatable to men than women. The humor, the conversation between soldiers, the constant fighting, and the lack of empathetic or well-drawn characterization seem to be staples of mediocre adventure books.


American Gods
American Gods
Author: Neil Gaiman
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 406
Review Date: 8/27/2012
Helpful Score: 1


Wow, this will go down as one of my favorite novels. It needs to be a mini-series or multi part movie (a la Peter Jackson) yesterday. It was just so visual, intelligent, and intricate. I loved being fully immersed in the story and the scenery. This book is ultimately a love letter to America and its unique mixture of cultures, religions, belief in innovation, and constantly shifting attentions. For people well-versed in the geography of the Mid-West and Illinois in particular, there are plenty of references to locales that are like little nuggets of gold that just make the whole experience of reading this book seem more real. Gaiman obviously did his research and it amuses me to see mentions of small towns like Bloomington.

Yes, the plot rambles a bit and the focus can shift abruptly from the hero, Shadow, to another god or a quick history lesson. But I loved that. It gave me an all-encompassing view of the world of American Gods. It mimicked the very rambling and shifting nature of the American land and beliefs. I think there is a very good reason why Shadow is so often on a road trip for the majority of the novel. His shamanic journey, and the journey of all the gods to America, is like one long, never-ending road trip through a perilous and wondrous land.

I'm a mythology buff who is often disappointed by depictions of mythology in popular culture. It's not like Gaiman doesn't make decisions that don't gel with my personal view point on certain gods, but he does it in such an intelligent, darkly humorous, and beautiful way that is somehow still respectful without being reverential. I read this book for the depiction of the Norse gods, but the true stars of the book were, for me, the Egyptian gods. I dare anyone not to fall in love with Bast, Anubis, or Thoth. And crazy Horus was just too funny and endearing. Briefly mentioned hitchhiking Jesus gave me another chuckle.

I have flirted with reading this book since it first came out, always yearning to read it but so worried I'd be disappointed. Ultimately my high expectations were met and now I can't decide what book could possibly follow up this masterpiece that is part thriller, part fantasy, part horror, and part black comedy.


Anchor and Storm
Anchor and Storm
Author: Kate Poole
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 62
Review Date: 2/8/2010
Helpful Score: 5


I guess I'm in the minority here because I thought this book was poorly written and mediocre at best. I bought it because I saw so many great reviews even though I don't normally read Ellora's Cave books (unless they are authored by people I already like) because they always disappoint me. This one was true to form though I actually really wanted to like it. To me this book lacks substance, has erratic writing, is amateurish, and is, well . . . boring. Despite this story being about a menage a trois, even the sex scenes are lackluster and unimaginative. If you like soap operas and melodrama, you might like this book. If you are expecting character development and good writing, stay away.


The Battle Sylph (Sylph, Bk 1)
The Battle Sylph (Sylph, Bk 1)
Author: L. J. McDonald
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 78
Review Date: 4/6/2010
Helpful Score: 5


I found this novel in the romance section at Borders but it is more of a fantasy story than a paranormal romance. There are romance elements in it, but no more than you would find in a Sharon Shinn novel. I'm really glad it's not a straight forward romance because the main romantic pairing is not what makes this story so interesting. Heyou and Solie provide the framework for a whole host of intriguing characters to get together and form a community (literally called The Community)--a utopia wherein sylphs, men, and women live in equality. They become a kind of rallying point for the others to create change in a world dominated predominantly by sadistic kingdoms in which sylphs are slaves and women second class citizens. But because of their youth and inexperience they must rely on more fascinating and fully developed characters to help them lead. And while Solie and Heyou are cute and innocent, it is the other battle sylphs, their masters, and other more world-savvy folk who provide the true intrigue for me. Another battle sylph, Ril and his master Leon form the most complex and creative relationship that is worth following into the next novel. I'm so glad they were such a powerful element in this first novel as it made L. J. McDonald's world more 3-dimensional to me and drew me toward reading the next novel in the series and each successive story thereafter. Had the author spent less pages developing her well-crafted secondary characters I would not have liked this novel so much. Solie and Heyou were just not that interesting on their own--a fact which I think is on purpose. After they get together, the focus of the story shifts to the other, more dynamic, characters.

And really this novel is a set up novel for more complex stories to follow. Solie and Heyou are likable clean palettes upon which is built a new era where sylphs, men, and women are all equal and interdependent upon one another. Their story had to be told so that Ril and other damaged sylphs could have their happy endings in later books. (Mace's story will be told later this year in an anthology called A Midwinter Fantasy which has yet to be assigned an ISBN number and will include work by Leanna Renee Hieber--Yay!)

I definitely recommend this book but only if you like well-written fantasy novels with some romance. There isn't very much sex and though Solie and Heyou are the glue which bind all the other characters together, their relationship isn't the main strength of this story. My definition of a romance novel includes the hero and heroine as the main interest of the plot. But Solie and Heyou take back seat to several more intriguing and dynamic characters and I am happy to let them. This is not a typical romance story and the book is better for that.


Beneath the Thirteen Moons
Beneath the Thirteen Moons
Author: Kathryne Kennedy
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 21
Review Date: 3/1/2011
Helpful Score: 3


This is my third book by Kathryne Kennedy and I think I now understand her MO. She excels at world building and creating uniquely beautiful settings. For that reason alone she deserves a few stars from this review. Unfortunately, I love character-driven plots and her characters are never nearly as three dimensional as her settings.

In fact, Beneath the Thirteen Moons reminds me of a beautifully drawn Disney movie where the animation is awe-inspiring, but the main characters are dull, typical, and constantly upstaged by an anthropomorphic animal companion. Prince Charming has no character development and the reasons keeping our heroes apart are not all that believable or well defined. Plus our heroes get together sexually very early on and I just don't feel the kind of tension or anticipation that I expect from a romance novel. Nor is it a particularly good fantasy novel either. I kept wishing for less lust-filled moments between our heroes and more action adventure. Unfortunately this novel fails for me as either a fantasy novel or as a romance.

I had a really hard time reading this novel. It took me way too long and I saved it for occasions like waiting for my laundry to come out of the dryer to get through it.


Bloodlands (Bloodlands, Bk 1)
Bloodlands (Bloodlands, Bk 1)
Author: Christine Cody
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.5/5 Stars.
 23
Review Date: 3/3/2012


Really well written, insomuch as it keeps you engaged with suspense, excellent world building, and intelligent characterization. However, as much as I feel propelled to keep reading *once* I start reading, I find it hard to motivate myself to actually keep reading it if I put down the book for even a moment. If I put it down for the night, either to go to bed or because of some other disruption, I'm just not in a hurry to pick it back up again. I think there are two problems here.

1) As much as I love post-apocalyptic concepts, I find it to be a tricky thing to actually appreciate and enjoy in my fiction. Most of the time the hopelessness of it all is too reminiscent of the hopelessness and negativity I can watch on the news in the real world. I just want more hope and less bleakness in my imaginary world. So many of these post-apocalyptic tales not only have bleak, beaten down characters but bleak landscapes and plots as well. It's just too much bleak. This might be weird, but I want a less muted colour palette to my story if that makes sense.

2) The characters are really unlikable. They are developed. Very well-developed. I just don't particularly like them or care what happens to them--except for maybe the dog. Not only do I not like them, but they are bleak too. The only one I found interesting was the baddy because he had a certain style and nuance of a great villain. But he's still unlikable and cruel in that he would beat a dog and, frankly, I can accept a lot from my villains but animal cruelty is not one of them (call me crazy). I wish the characters had a little more pizzaz so that they balanced out the muted setting of a dry, desolate world. Dystopian does not have to be equated with boring. I think it should be just the opposite. Everything should be more pronounced. More colourful.

Bottomline: This is an excellently written book with a lot of potential. It just didn't serve my needs. But then again I hated reading Snow Crash (which is apparently supposed to be an excellent representation of the dystopian genre). So if you like your dystopia and good writing, and you don't mind it accompanied by some weirdly uncomfortable romance, then you will probably like this book. I just can't be bothered to continue reading the series. It was hard enough getting through this first book.


Breath of Fire
Breath of Fire
Author: Tammy Kane
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 29
Review Date: 3/3/2010
Helpful Score: 6


This book got great reviews on Amazon and it had all the qualities that I usually like in a story, and yet I just couldn't get into it. It's a simply written story but it took me far too long to read it. I was only able to read a few pages at a time because I would find myself losing focus and thinking about other things and constantly re-reading the same passages--even the sex scenes--over and over. I should really like this story and it bothers me that I don't. There are a lot of badly written dragon romances out there and this at least is of better quality than those. The only thing I can think of when I contemplate why this book bored me to tears is that it just lacked soul. The characters seem to go through the motions and they say they love or hate each other but I don't *FEEL* their emotions or believe their actions on a visceral level. The whole story is very bland. If this story were a color it would be a very dour gray. The dragons are gray, the environment is gray, and the eyes of the dragonriders are gray. It's all so very monochrome.

I think, too, that the story tries to succeed as two separate genres, ie romance and fantasy, but doesn't marry the two properly. So one reads a dry romance and a bland fantasy novel. I've mentioned before that the dragons are gray in color and are otherwise very lackluster in character. This bothers me too. Dragons are such colorful creatures of lore, in hue as well as in character. I suppose I wanted Anne McCaffrey's Dragon Riders Of Pern series and got something far more prosaic.


Burning Up: Blood and Roses / Whisper of Sin / Shifting Sea / Here There Be Monsters
Review Date: 8/24/2010
Helpful Score: 8


Meljean Brooks "Here There Be Monsters" made the purchase of the whole anthology worthwhile. What an amazing new world, extremely well thought out, intricate, creative, and full of great characters. This was the best short story Ive read in a very long time. As it was the reason I even wanted to buy this anthology in the first place, Im extremely happy that I did. I am not one who usually likes short romance stories because I dont feel most authors can create a believable romance in the span of 65 or so pages. But this managed to be both epic and an intimate portrayal of love, which is not an easy thing to do. Meljean Brook has truly grown as an author (especially considering how much I disliked her first short story, "Falling For Anthony") and I cant wait to revisit this world in The Iron Duke this October.

The rest of the stories in this anthology were not huge offenders of the genre, but not particularly memorable either. I gave the overall anthology 4 stars based on the power of Brooks story alone. The rest of the stories Id individually give 2 or 3 stars.

Angela Knights "Blood and Roses" was the worst story of the bunch. She had what could have been an interesting concept but mucked it up with cardboard characters and dumb villains whose illogical motives never made sense to me. In fact with the amount of sex she managed to get into the plot, I felt the story was mostly sex with a few connecting lines that tried valiantly to make a plot of the whole thing, but ultimately failed.

This was my first introduction to Nalini Singhs Psy/Changeling series in "Whisper of Sin" but I was left underwhelmed. I just finished her Guild Hunter series, which is far more creative and has a better hook. I just couldnt get into this story despite it being well written.

Virginia Kantras "Shifting Sea" evoked some powerful and amazing imagery of the sea and I honestly felt immersed in the scenery. But nothing really happens in the story so the power of her detail and scene-setting is lost in a pretty uneventful plot.

Bottomline: I would recommend the purchase of this book purely on the power of Meljean Brooks contribution which is truly awe-inspiring and no less so for its brevity. I found myself wanting to re-read it right after Id finished it which is the mark of a keeper to me.


Captive Desires
Captive Desires
Author: Diane Whiteside
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.9/5 Stars.
 27
Review Date: 5/12/2010
Helpful Score: 6


Just AWFUL! So bad you can't even summon up the energy to keep reading beyond the first fifty pages because there is no way what minimal curiosity you might have regarding the resolution of the story is worth being tortured by the horrible plot, weird and flat characterization, and wooden sex. Seriously, how do these people get published????

I found this book in the Borders' bargain bin and bought it because I liked the idea of a fanfic writer's favorite character coming to life. But there is absolutely zilch anticipation involved in this book. The very worst fanfic I've ever read doesn't even compare to how terrible this book started. You realize quickly that this book sacrifices believability, characterization, and plot in order to have Danae and Alekhsiy jump into bed literally after meeting and exchanging only a few sentences 30 pages into the book. Hello? Where is the justifiable disbelief that he is actually Alekhsiy from the Torhtremer's saga (a kind of Lord of the Rings type story with a rabid fanbase and more ridiculous names)? Where is the the fun friction of him trying to convince her that he is who he says he is? No. All the interesting possibilities for this plot to be good are bull-dozed over so the two characters can start in with the sex.

So you'd think the sex would be good and varied? It isn't. You think that at least the depictions of the the convention goers would be amusing and witty? They aren't. Really, you are left with a flat world, with flat characterization, robotic bizarre sex with the worse kind of flowering prose ridiculously strewn throughout. It's like a geeky 13 year old tried to write her version of Dungeons & Dragons meets a romance novel. This is a very unsuccessful novel in my opinion and I'll be happy to swap it to someone who won't want to throw up in her mouth a little bit from trying to read it. Good riddance!


Case Histories (Jackson Brodie, Bk 1)
Case Histories (Jackson Brodie, Bk 1)
Author: Kate Atkinson
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 547
Review Date: 8/28/2011
Helpful Score: 1


It's a curious mix of dark humor and depressing mundanity. I simply don't know how I feel about this book. Reading it was an emotional roller coaster to me. I didn't like most of the characters but recognized their flaws, needs, bad luck, etc, as inherently human and grotesque. It's like a train wreck. You want to know what happens even as you despise the horrid things you see. The book is well written and interestingly done. It's a page turner and therefore very readable. I like the way the different characters and their stories weave throughout the plot somehow becoming intertwined in unusual (and not so unusual) ways with other principal characters.

I thought the female characters, with the exception of Caroline whom I found myself strangely bonded to, were truly unlikable, shrill, and downright mean. Jackson Brodie was the more feminine and likable character interestingly enough--as one character puts it he's "the last good man standing." It was strange how many of the male characters were the more nurturing and loyal while the females seemed forever pissed off, frustrated, and cold. Some of that was because of the oppressive and male-dominated world in which they found themselves subjected and restrained from their goals in life, but while I could identify with their plight, I found them all extremely obnoxious and similar. It makes me wonder who Kate Atkinson is and what she is like. She wrote that she finds it easy to characterize women, but if that is the case, then she must not know very many well-adjusted ones. All her women are borderline bi-polar--either running hot or cold. Always instantly judgmental or near hysterical, always mercurial with their identity, and very mercenary with their sexuality.

Meanwhile, Jackson listens to female country singers, wants a monogamous relationship, and keeps getting the fuzzy end of the lollypop for constantly doing the right thing. I really liked his character. I could see why half the cast of characters were in love with him but not why the other half hated his guts or why he put up with it.

I loved the beginning of the story when we are introduced to the first three case histories because they are true, dysfunctional and humorous depictions of many peoples' childhoods and early adulthoods. But by the middle of the book I was downright depressed with the painful mundanity and cruelty of everyone's life. No one is happy, except maybe Caroline who always has an escape plan. No one is truly likable, except Jackson, who is a curious sort of hero who constantly gets screwed over and gets up to ask for more. By the latter quarter of the book things are looking more up for our cast of characters and so the book doesn't end on *such* a dour note. The constant barrage of bad events are finally alleviated by some good events and happy coincidences that seem all the more brash and glaring and unlikely--embraced and tucked in amidst so many horrible events as they are. Of course you want something nice to happen so this critical reader is all too happy to let a few extraordinary events happen in a book filled with so many ordinary tragedies.

But I think I'll stick primarily to my epic sci/fi and fantasy novels. I like heroes who do extraordinary things to escape the mundane life. I suppose since we live in a mundane world I'd rather not dwell there too often in my imagination as well. Unfortunately I'm a little curious as to what happens next for Jackson Brodie, so I might have to at least read the second book in the series--when I've recovered enough from this one.


Catching Fire (Hunger Games, Bk 2)
Catching Fire (Hunger Games, Bk 2)
Author: Suzanne Collins
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.5/5 Stars.
 1630
Review Date: 11/28/2012


I am so relieved that comparisons to the Twilight series are unfounded. I almost didn't read this series because so many people said it was a Twilight rip-off, especially the love triangle between Peeta, Katniss, and Gale. But I disagree.

Firstly, Catching Fire, while by no means the literary successor to The Lord of the Rings like I believe the Harry Potter series to be, is still a much more thought-provoking and well-written story than the Twilight series. This book had a different tone than The Hunger Games. While the first book focused more on the barbarism of a televised game that hinted at an unjust government, the second book focuses on the how a revolution is the ultimate end result of all unjust governments. I really liked how Katniss is portrayed as the initially unwitting symbol and spark of the revolution. I like how she never meant to be the famous rebel. I like how brutal she herself becomes in her attempt to outwit the Capital. And I love how, as she becomes more and more embroiled in the eventual revolution, Peeta remains her stolid conscious.

Secondly, I despise love triangles of any sort in literature or film. And I was really worried that I would hate this book based on reviews that it basically boils down to who should Katniss date? I found it to be ever so much more than that. Katniss doesn't sit around wondering who she should end up with. If anything she wants to not end up with anyone, a viewpoint I identified with myself when boys were just beginning to be interested in me and I just wanted everything to remain the status quo. I definitely identify with wanting to not have complicated romantic relationships when the rest of your world is so unstable--like a freaking uprising undermining your safety and the safety of your loved ones. Also, both boys are so likable and have a purpose. I thought Gale would inhabit more pages but he is still so important for Katniss's journey no matter how brief his physical scenes, if for no other reason than he represents the halcyon days of her youth when hunting with Gale was her ultimate freedom from the harsh reality of home. And Peeta, though not a warrior like Katniss, is by no means useless. He is her conscious. The person who doesn't allow her to become another mindless and brutal Career who kills first and asks questions later. If I hadn't unwittingly found out how the series ends I would have been okay with her ending up with either boys or even neither of them.

Thirdly, I loved how we got to know and love many of the tributes even when they weren't very likable. It made the games more interesting and more sad. I felt like the tributes in the first book were so childlike and innocent in comparison with these past tributes. As much as Rue's death was devastating and Cato's so prolonged and disturbing, the deaths of previous winners seemed even more senseless and wasteful.

If you can't tell, I really, really liked this book. It was such a fast read but it packed a lot of punch. Now I can't wait for the movie to come out! I just hope no one else passes it up because they associate it with all the comparisons with Twilight. Really, they are two different animals and the Hunger Games series is far superior.


Chosen By Blood (Para-Ops, Bk 1)
Chosen By Blood (Para-Ops, Bk 1)
Author: Virna DePaul
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 44
Review Date: 8/24/2011
Helpful Score: 2


It's hard nowadays to find a really good paranormal story about vampires with so many bad ones currently saturating the romance and YA markets. So it is really nice to read a vamp tale that is original while still somehow maintaining the sexiness and allure that made the genre so popular to begin with.

Chosen By Blood is an excellent start to an intriguing series that reinvents the vampire and paranormal genre to create an original story. I've read other stories in which vampires lead variations on a top secret group of paranormal agents. It's been done before but not as well as Virna DePaul's attempt. Her world is fully developed and well thought-out and her characters (especially supporting characters) are more interesting than one would expect. The plot is well planned and complete with lot's of twists, some more obvious than others. More importantly there is witty dialogue and unexpected humor--not as witty as a Kresley Cole novel but definitely more than the standard in a genre that can sometimes take itself way too seriously.

The romance left me a little cold unfortunately. It developed a bit too swiftly for my taste--in fact most of the falling in love part of the relationship is done before we even meet the characters. I prefer a bit more chase and anticipation in my romances. And there is a *lot* of sex. And it is a bit crass for my tastes too. But for a romance reader I can be a bit of a prude so this might not bother anyone else. Our main characters served their purpose as a gateway to the series admirably if a little generically, but I became much more intrigued and interested in the fates of other characters. I hope Wraith and O'Flare's book (coming up next) lives up to the hype. Although I'm impressed with this first novel, I could see my interest in the series waning if the second book doesn't deliver where this one failed, namely to sustain my emotional investment in the main protagonists instead of allowing it to wander to side characters.


City of Ashes
City of Ashes
Author: Cassandra Clare
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 10
Review Date: 9/19/2011


This sequel to City of Bones flows much better than its predecessor and finally sheds some of the Harry Potter trappings. I think Clare finally got comfortable with her world and her characters and it shows in how characters like Valentine (whom I called a poor man's Voldemort in a review of City of Bones) and Magnus Bane finally feel three dimensional. The world also feels more settled and less forced. At this point one gets the sense that Clare is finally working from a space of inspiration rather than copying from others.

I still feel like her writing hasn't fully matured however. This is most noticeable in the confusing pacing and sense of passing time in City of Ashes. I gather from little remarks strewn throughout the book that only a week or two has passed since the end of the first book but it feels like several weeks or months, especially since Clary turns 16 sometime in that short period (a fact which makes her burgeoning sexuality with Simon and Jace a *little* bit more palatable). This wouldn't be so bad if some mention had been made about her birthday, but her age is flippantly mentioned and then forgotten about, almost as if Clare reconsidered that Clary was supposed to be 15. Also, as the characters go about their adventures, it's difficult to tell how much time is passing. One night seems to go on forever, only to have the scene change abruptly to another day. You think, from comments thought by or said between the characters that Clary is avoiding Jace or Jace is avoiding Clary, and Simon is avoiding both Jace and Clary (there is a tireless amount of this behavior) only to find out that not even a full 24 hours have passed. In some cases, barely 12 hours have passed. How can it be obvious that someone is avoiding someone else, but keeping tabs on them through Isabelle, if not enough time has passed for our characters to get a good night's sleep, much less avoid each other? There are lots of strange comments or thoughts by characters that indicate a longer passage of time than actually occurred. In another scenario, Magnus complains that all Jace does is clean his apartment and watch reruns on TV. But careful reading also suggests that Jace has only been rooming with Magnus for one day and not much of the previous night before (considering that night should have been filled with getting woken up in the middle of the night to be imprisoned, witness a massacre at said prison, and then investigate said massacre--all before being put under house arrest with Magnus Bane). So really, if it even was still night when Jace made it over to Magnus's house, I'd imagine he'd sleep most of his time there away before he was visited by the others. I doubt he'd be cleaning so much that Magnus would make a remark about it. It would only make sense if Jace had been in his new surroundings for several days and established particular habits that Magnus could complain about.

I hope the above made sense. It's just all so confusing and I feel like I have to be an investigative reporter to understand the timeline properly. I really wish Clare's editor had pointed out that her writing can be misleading and even illogical at times.

Other things that bother me are the extensive use of euphemisms and the back and forth between Jace, Clary, and Simon. The euphemisms wouldn't bother me so much if they weren't the same always. The skyscrapers cut the sky *like* knives, or the moss surrounds the lake *like* green lace. At some point I wish she'd rephrase this with something different so maybe moss laced the lake instead of surrounding it *like* lace. The love triangle is very popular in paranormal fiction and I liked it once too--when I was nine and reading The Vampire Diaries. As an adult that kind of waffling between two boys really gets on my nerves unless it is done so well that the interplay is interesting rather than annoying. Suffice it to say, I don't think Clare is up to that challenge for me, as very few authors are, hence the reason I hate this trope so much.

Yes, I'm a picky reader and a lot of little things about Clare's writing really interrupt my enjoyment of her world. But I am heartened that she seems to finally be developing some originality in her world-building and her characterization. Hopefully, as she continues writing, she'll iron out all these other inconsistencies and her writing won't straddle an uncomfortable line between juvenile and inspired.


City of Bones (Mortal Instruments, Bk 1)
City of Bones (Mortal Instruments, Bk 1)
Author: Cassandra Clare
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 646
Review Date: 9/4/2011
Helpful Score: 1


Warning: Spoilers and Ethical Dilemmas Ahead!

I had a really hard ethical dilemma about reading this work. I was familiar with Cassandra Clare when she was writing Harry Potter fanfiction focused around Draco Malfoy under the name Cassandra Claire. Years later, I went back to read some old stories in the fandom at large and discovered that Id apparently missed out on a whole plagiarism debacle. After reading the extensive evidence by Avocado at http://www.journalfen.net/community/bad_penny/8985.html (you can also check out fanlores page on Cassandra Claire), I had serious doubts and concerns about reading a series that Id otherwise had on my radar to check out. I also read several Amazon reviews, both the negative and positive, and came away with the idea that her published works are strongly influenced by Harry Potter but are generally well-received. Id hope plagiarism would be harder to squeak by in a published work, but who knows? So, not wanting to assist the career of someone who had plagiarized extensively in the HP fandom and prevaricated about it, I decided I would ban myself from reading, and thus supporting, her books.

That lasted about a couple of months. The thing about having a book banned from you, even if it is self-inflicted, is that it looms ever larger in your mind like you crave chocolate cake when you are on a diet. Plus, I had an inkling that, having borrowed extensively from J.K. Rowlings Harry Potter and fandom Harry Potter, even if her work was hardly original, Id still probably like it. I have a thing for Draco Malfoy and I know that Cassandra Claire did too, and was known for writing and shaping the way he was perceived by fandom. Plus, I wasnt sure how fair it is to judge her current work on past foibles. Its possible that she could be a changed and better person. I have no illusions that she didnt plagiarize her HP fanfiction from several sci/fi and fantasy sources as the evidence is pretty damning if you take a look at it. However, I thought maybe shed learned from that experience and evolved past the point of using the works of others as a template for her own writing. I decided to eventually read at least the first book in the series but only if I could find it at the library or otherwise get it without directly benefiting the author, because the plagiarism aspect still bothered me. If I found it original and well-written then I wouldnt worry about buying the rest of the books. And Id finally be informed about whether the new books were just poor copies of Harry Potter.

Well, I must have been even more curious about these books than I thought because the Universe quickly made available to me all three books in the series in ways that I found palatable from an ethical standpoint and from the standpoint of a curious, hopeful reader.

Ive only read City of Bones so far, but I think its safe to say that Cassandra Clare was and is still very much influenced by J.K. Rowling. I both hate and like this. Mostly I dont like it because I keep getting jarred out of the story because something feels just a little too familiar about different scenarios, dialogue, and characters. Valentine is a poor mans Voldemort who is collecting the three immortal instruments (Deathly Hallows anyone?), the Circle is a combination of the Order of the Phoenix and the Deatheaters, Lucian reminds me way too much of Lupin with a sprinkling of Snapes unrequited love for the main characters red-haired Mom, Jocelyn is a Lily who didnt die but otherwise sacrifices everything for her child, mundanes are muggles, and the concept of the evil dark lord who comes back from the (not really) dead is an important plot point, even the flying motorcycle has been done in Harry Potter. The demonology of the world is hardly new either. Ive read several paranormal romance and science fiction/ fantasy books that depict a similar world right down to the same utilization of runes and Latin and the wars between werewolves and vampires. Even the religious aspect of demons vs. angels is done better, more extensively, and first by Meljean Brook. So yes, I dont think Cassandra Clare is ever going to be a truly groundbreaking or original writer. Her gift seems to be to synthesize and borrow from many works to create something that is very indicative and hot for the times. Her writing still seems a bit unfinished or unpolished. There were moments when I read voraciously, mostly when she was writing just the interactions between the kids, i.e. Jace, Clary, Simon, Alec, or Isabelle. But there were moments when I found myself discomfited by the incompleteness of characters like Valentine or Hodge.

What I really liked were her characterizations of and interactions between the aforementioned kids and Lucian. At first Jace and Clarys relationship felt forced and I was more a fan of her and Simon, but it actually progressed to a point of believability and even eloquence. There were several little touches in some of the lesser characters, such as the flaming Magnus Bane, that were endearing and something I never would have felt was lifted from Harry Potter. Most importantly, despite initially finding his character annoying and forced I grew to like Jace. He is totally a version of wise-cracking, sarcastic fandom Draco, but I was expecting and hoping for this. There were a couple of lines of dialogue between him and Clary that I would swear Ive read before, probably in fanfiction, so I wonder if she took some of her dialogue from her earlier works and put it into her published works. I dont have proof of this, just a strong sense that Ive read some of this before. It is very prevalent in fandom to have Draco be witty, sarcastic, and striving for aloofness so its not necessarily an indication of wrong-doing on anyones part.

I will continue to read the series as I think it has potential to grow into its own. I hope it sheds more of the Harry Potter trappings to focus on Cassandra Clares own unique voice, if she has one. But, I will always acquire the books through PBS, the library, or used because I think the author still gets away with just a little too much borrowing.


City of Glass (Mortal Instruments, Bk 3)
City of Glass (Mortal Instruments, Bk 3)
Author: Cassandra Clare
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 174
Review Date: 12/4/2011
Helpful Score: 3


This is the best book out of the trilogy. Clare finally ironed out some of her writing flaws such as cardboard characterization, underdeveloped scenes, and a propensity to copy Harry Potter. The scenes between Clary and Jace and between Alec and Magnus were outstanding and the plot flowed much better than it did in City of Glass (or City of Bones for that matter). It felt like Clare became truly comfortable with her world and with her own unique voice. I liked the resolution between all the main couples and that Clary finally had a bigger role in the destruction of Valentine than it seemed was going to happen. I still felt some characters were more obvious than Clare intended them to be--I picked out Hodge's and Sebastian's identities a mile away. However Valentine finally got a little fleshing out and his final scene with Clary is very satisfying. I read not so flattering reviews of the sequel to this book (City of Fallen Angels) and so I choose to end my journey in the world of Mortal Instruments here with this nicely wrapped and packaged conclusion. This was a very nice way to end the series and I wouldn't ruin that sense of harmony by attempting to read a new book that could essentially unravel everything good about this book.


Close Encounters (Alien Affairs, Bk 1)
Close Encounters (Alien Affairs, Bk 1)
Author: Katherine Allred
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 24
Review Date: 3/13/2010
Helpful Score: 3


I liked this read . . . but I feel like there was potential for so much more. First of all this was a plotty read. In other words the author focused more on plot and explanations of her world than her characterization. In fact this novel reminded me quite a bit of Jean Johnson's Son's of Destiny series in that she succumbs to over-explaining the minutia of the plot (though never as grievously as Johnson) rather than let it unfold in a more palatable manner. At times it got a little overbearing, especially since the plot seemed to drag quite a bit as the main character, Kiera, seemed to do no more than run around all over the planet and talk to people. If conversations are what primarily drive your plot then you better have outstanding characterization to keep the reader interested. Unfortunately, Allred, chose to use first person for the entire story. In my opinion, if you are going to use first person then you had better be a fantastic writer, because too often the author tells too much without ever showing us through the actions of the character. In other words, the character can tell us that she's a tough cookie with a warm gooey inside, or her actions can clue the reader into that little gem without having the constant reminder handed to us in a sterile manner.

As another reviewer has pointed out, there was very little sense of true danger in this novel which also caused the story to drag. Our heroine is already the most powerful genetically modified human ever with a ship that is practically omnipotent and sentient, and her job to make contact with and help a new species is accomplished too easily. The bad guys are so obvious about being up to no good and our heroine is able to so quickly make allies in the enemy camp that I was almost hoping one of them would be a traitor just to add some sense of intrigue.

Also, as another reviewer pointed out, the use of the soul mates concept didn't actually enhance the romance portion of the story. I'm still not blown away by their love for each other. It was all too sterile and easy. In fact I found Kiera's relationships with everyone else much more interesting, including the one she had with her ship. Oh, and there is also a prodigious use of fade aways every time our heroes start to get hot and heavy. Normally this wouldn't bother me but I was searching for something to help me understand their supposedly passionate love for each other. I wanted either more intimacy or for it to not be mentioned so much so I could focus on the plot.

But I do give Allred mad props for actually having a plot. I liked her little bits of science, the fact that the Buri are not as simple as they appear, and that animals play a very positive, essential, and cute role. The best part of this story is the dragon birds which, for me, brought up positive associations with Anne McCaffrey's miniature dragons in her Dragon Riders of Pern series.

I mostly recommend this book for people who like light science fiction. The romance is okay and has its moments but it is not nearly strong enough for me to put this in the romance category.


A Companion to Wolves
A Companion to Wolves
Author: Sarah Monette, Elizabeth Bear
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 41
Review Date: 11/9/2009
Helpful Score: 6


This is one of the best books I've ever read! It truly has that WOW factor. A year ago I half-heartedly sat down to read this novel after a really stressful day thinking that it would help me go to sleep. Hours later I still couldn't put it down until it was fully read and even then the story stayed with me for days afterwards--so much so that I contacted Elizabeth Bear and begged her for a sequel, which she unfortunately denied was going to happen. But I'm still hopeful . . .

Part of the reason this book is so good is simply because the language is so beautiful, lyrical even at times. The world building is truly excellent and the characterization just marvelous. A warning though: this novel is not for the faint of heart. There are graphic depictions of homosexuality and dubious consent. It is also a very violent tale, but never gratuitously so. On the other hand I would call this story romantic and hopeful at its core. The only other time I had quite this avid a response to a novel was after reading Cry to Heaven by Anne Rice. Definitely pick up this book if you like intelligent, engaging stories that make you think.


Dagger-Star (Epic of Palins, Bk. 1)
Dagger-Star (Epic of Palins, Bk. 1)
Author: Elizabeth Vaughan
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 120
Review Date: 2/5/2010
Helpful Score: 1


I love romance novels--when they are done right. But more and more I'm finding paranormal/fantasy romance novels to be super disappointing and almost stereotypical in their plots. Romance suffers in return for "steamy sex" followed by swift declarations of love that don't ring true. Another stereotype is the Xena-like tough heroine who kicks butt, is sexually liberated, and is actually very unlikable. It's almost as if the author overcompensates for all the wilting flowers that used to make up most romance heroines.

So I was so surprised to absolutely love this book by Elizabeth Vaughan. I had heard of her Plains stories and was NOT interested, but for whatever reasons, took a chance on her standalone, Dagger-Star. What an amazing story! It's a cross between a fantasy and a romance without either genre suffering. It's really hard to make an alpha female pair with a beta male without making either character unlikeable or weak. But somehow she makes the two of them fit so well together. And the goats! How can you not love the goats? They add a touch of humor, poignancy, and platonic love to the story that balance out the horror of Red Gloves' past so perfectly. I believe at the conclusion of the story that she has found her peace and it is in the form of a gentle farmer and his magical goats. Every character in this story is absolutely divinely written and fully fleshed out. Upon finishing this book I had to go out to the store and immediately buy the sequel, White Star, even though I had to tear apart my local Borders to do it (Someone had miss-shelved my book and dammit I was not going to go away empty handed!).

This kind of writing is what fantasy and paranormal romance should always aspire to emulate. This is undoubtedly one of my favorite novels of all time and is staying on my keeper shelf.


The Darkest Seduction (Lords of the Underworld, Bk 11)
The Darkest Seduction (Lords of the Underworld, Bk 11)
Author: Gena Showalter
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 107
Review Date: 8/4/2012
Helpful Score: 1


Unfortunately, my fellow reviewers are right and this is book can only be described as bloated, convoluted, and just bad. The plot desperately needed some tightening up and better editing. It was way too sloppy. The characters spend a lot of time running around needlessly, popping in and out of situations unnecessarily, and making half-baked decisions that of course blow up in their faces. Both Paris and Sienna make really dumb decisions and I have a hard time believing these are the people who will help rule a new order. Cronus and Rhea also make erratic and illogical decisions that just make me want to scream as I'm reading about them. I want my heroes and my villains to show a modicum of intelligence.

This book was particularly disappointing because one of the reasons I've continued to read The Lords of the Underworld series was because way back in book 2, I became enamored with Paris and Sienna's plight. I have to admit I lost some interest as the series progressed and I found their love story less and less intriguing. But by that time I'd already invested a lot of time in reading the other books, some of which I really found boring as heck (Aeron and Olivia!), and I thought The Darkest Seduction would be a return to Showalter at her best despite the series itself being overlong and having a spotty record with me. Now I'm not so sure I want to continue the series.

If one thing can make me actually keep going it is that I found Galen and Legion's story line compelling FOR NOW. But I fear that, like with Paris and Sienna, Galen and Legion's story will be excruciatingly drawn out through several more books and then culminate in a poorly constructed, padded book that is stuffed with everything and the kitchen sink. I will have to monitor the situation and see how things go, but I doubt I'll be buying anymore of Showalter's books. I'm not even sure they are worth a credit when it's obvious they aren't keepers.


Dawnkeepers (Nightkeepers, Bk 2)
Dawnkeepers (Nightkeepers, Bk 2)
Author: Jessica Andersen
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 93
Review Date: 1/23/2013
Helpful Score: 3


That's it! I'm done with this series. I tried to like it. I tried to get through the 5 books I prematurely bought before I'd read the first one. At this point I'm calling it quits. Life is too short and too hard to waste on books we don't like.

I really wanted to like this series. It has a fresh take on mythology, is obviously well researched, and the author is intelligent. It just somehow is so clinical. The story is too long. Too much of the characterization is told instead of shown. And there is an extensive cast of characters whose stories are intertwined with Nate's and Alexis' supposed romance. It's just such a battle to get through all these characters, most of whom I don't like and who just run around a lot and don't get anything done. Then they have sex because that's how magic works in this universe, but it is all so detached and the opposite of passionate that I just skim through them. Then our lovebirds are so awful together but because they share a "destiny" we are supposed to get behind their not-so-epic love. Plus Nate is such a d**che the entire time, that I can't fathom why Alexis would put up with him even if they are destined. (He wants her, he doesn't want her, he wants her, he doesn't want her because she's not his perfect fantasy woman, now he wants her again because she's interested in getting on with her life.) Since they are such a small part of the overall book, I could overlook their terrible characterization if the other good guys weren't too stupid to live. Seriously, how many times must a character burn a place down, screw up a mission, and have a temper tantrum before you just DON'T put him on a mission anymore????

I'm so done. I'm putting the rest of my unread books up for swapping.


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