The Raven: The Florentine Series, Book 1

The RavenAuthor: Sylvain Reynard
Book Name: The Raven
Series: The Florentine Series
Order: #1
Rating: Mediocre/Didn’t Like
Genre: Fantasy/Romance

Blurb: Raven Wood spends her days at Florence’s Uffizi gallery restoring Renaissance art. But an innocent walk home after an evening with friends changes her life forever. When she intervenes in the senseless beating of a homeless man, his attackers turn on her, dragging her into an alley. Raven is only semiconscious when their assault is interrupted by a cacophony of growls followed by her attackers’ screams. Mercifully, she blacks out, but not before catching a glimpse of a shadowy figure who whispers to her . . .

Cassita vulneratus.

When Raven awakes, she is inexplicably changed. Upon returning to the Uffizi, no one recognizes her. More disturbingly, she discovers that she’s been absent an entire week. With no recollection of her disappearance, Raven learns that her absence coincides with one of the largest robberies in Uffizi history—the theft of a set of priceless Botticelli illustrations. When the police identify her as their prime suspect, Raven is desperate to clear her name. She seeks out one of Florence’s wealthiest and most elusive men in an attempt to uncover the truth. Their encounter leads Raven to a dark underworld whose inhabitants kill to keep their secrets . . .

Review:  So, I wasn’t jazzed about this book.  I’m not sure there is any one big reason, but just several smaller ones that added up to me just not really enjoying it.

One of the first things that hit my annoyance trigger was the style of writing.  It kind of felt pretentious and uptight.  Kind of like being in a room with a bunch of art critics that only want to discuss the deeper emotional implications of the art and what it is supposed to represent while you just want to look at what is there and appreciate it for what it is.  I’m not sure I can really explain my reaction any better than that.

Part of the feeling of pretension came from the sex scenes.  There are three ways to successfully handle the steamy side of writing as far as I’m concerned.  One, you can gloss over it completely and not actually give any details.  Another is to “Soft Romance” it by using euphemisms and creative terms.  The last is to just get real with it and say it like it is.  Please do not write a clinical sex scene.  I do not want to feel like I’m in the doctor’s office.  This book fell into the clinical for the few scenes it had and it was difficult for me to find any kind of a real emotional connection because of that.

I came really close to putting the book down after a few chapters, but pushed on hoping what I initially thought of as a very dry read would get better.  I was over half way through before I realized that I was probably wasting my time.  I couldn’t get invested in the characters or what they were going through because I didn’t find them either all that interesting or believable.

I did finish and was frustrated when I was left hanging at the end.  Not a single thing in the entire book was resolved.  What action or drama occurred was very thin and didn’t really occur until you were well into the book, then it was left with the giant question of whether that was the end of things or if there was more to it because it was just not clear.

I won’t say that this was a junk book because it wasn’t.  I’m sure that lots of people would really enjoy it and get way more out of it than I did.  It just didn’t work for me on so many levels and wasn’t the kind of book that I enjoy.  More than likely, I won’t take the time to read another book by this author for that reason.

 

The Keepers: Alchemy Series, Book 1

The KeepersAuthor: Donna Augustine
Book Name: The Keepers
Series: Alchemy Series
Order: #1
Rating: Mediocre/Didn’t Like
Genre: SciFi

Blurb:  Two days ago, Jo Davids was a waitress by night and a college kid by day, with the unnerving problem of objects floating around her.

One Day ago, Jo’s sexy boss, Cormac, noticed her for all the wrong reasons when she witnessed a man transform into a monster in the basement of his casino.

Today, Cormac ordered her shot. If he’s real lucky, she won’t die. Because if she does, all hope is lost.

Review: First off, I gotta say that the blurb attached to this book is really pretty misleading.  It leads one to believe that it is going to be some sort of shifter book.  That is so not the case here.  If the blurb actually gave a better indication of what the book is truly about, I seriously probably wouldn’t have read it at all because it just isn’t the kind of SciFi book I’m into at all. It is actually a book more about other planets, wormholes, and alien species and I honestly have no interest at all in reading those books.  They just aren’t my thing.  While there is one character that does apparently shift, that is only a teeny tiny part, not at all the focus.

After I figured that out, I honestly did by best to not let that influence my opinion of the quality of writing and whether or not the story was well done.  Even pushing aside my personal preferences on genre, I still do not like this book at all.  So much of it just didn’t work for me.  Whether I like them or not, I’ve read books with the alien species theme before that were really well done.  This one just wasn’t.

If you are going to write about people that come from different worlds, whether they be more fantasy type worlds like Faerie or actual other worlds as in planets, one of the things that just doesn’t work is to make those different people all look like normal Earth humans in their natural form.  I’m sorry, it just doesn’t work for me.  You could get away with them blending in by explaining it somehow with magic or glamor or illusion, but again, not the case here.  This book very, very briefly mentions viewing a portion of another world through a wormhole and describing the sky as purple.  It isn’t believable that the people that come from that planet do not look the least bit different than humans, but it is obvious at a glance that the world looks nothing like Earth.

It is also going to be a huge, difficult pill to swallow when you say that some of those species are Fae and werewolves.  Yet, hello, they look just like the guy next door.  If you are going to break from the traditionally held beliefs and myths behind a culture, you cannot break it so completely and have the story work.

The other big failure when it came to this book were the characters.  By the time I finished reading, I couldn’t decide if I actually hated the main character.  I definitely didn’t like her enough to want to learn more about her.  She was self-absorbed, ditzy, wishy-washy and utterly annoying.  There were so many things that the character “thought” and her perceptions of others that made her beyond able to find anything at all redeeming about her.  None of the other characters were really any better.

I would say that this probably isn’t worth your time unless you are really, really bored.

Silver Wolf Clan: Silver Wolf Clan, Book 1

Silver Wolf ClanAuthor: Tera Shanley
Book Name: Silver Wolf Clan
Series: Silver Wolf Clan
Order: #1
Rating: Mediocre/Didn’t Like
Genre: Fantasy/Romance

Blurb:  Loving him will be legendary…if she can survive it.

What happens when monsters turn out to be real? One summer night while camping in the woods, Morgan Carter finds out in a big way. A tall mysterious stranger, Greyson Crawford, risks his life to try and save her sister from the vicious wolf attacking their camp. When he’s bitten and disappears into the night, Morgan can only assume the worst.

Greyson shows up a year later, and he’s a different animal altogether. His eye color shifts constantly and the rumble in his throat sounds more animal than human. She hasn’t any idea where he’s been all this time, but a good guess as to what he’s become.

Grey is determined not to let the darkness of his new existence affect Morgan and the little girl in her care. He hasn’t been able to stop thinking about Morgan but knows he should stay away and let her live a normal life. That’s easier said than done, though. A new danger pulls him from the shadows to keep her safe, and he’s no wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Can she accept what lurks just below his surface? More importantly, can she survive him?

Review:  Initially, this seemed to start out with a lot of promise to be something really good.  It didn’t take all that long though to get pretty frustrated.  This book starts to introduce different potentials for really interesting options or directions the story can take, but seems to only ever just touch on them.  Enough to keep the reader wondering if what they just read had an important significance to future events or was something else entirely, but never giving enough to actually define it or solidify it in any way.  Giving the reader just enough information to be left wondering if this is going to be a problem later or if that was actually a resolution is incredibly frustrating.

The romantic relationship part of the book is also rather unsolidified as well.  It takes nearly half the book to get the characters even face to face for a conversation, then within the next 1/4 it appears that they have been in a relationship for a much longer time with a whole lot more experiences and interactions than the reader is aware of, only to have those briefly noted towards the end and in a time frame that doesn’t make sense because it hadn’t been addressed.  It felt like the time that had passed was very, very short based on the events that had been written (days, maybe a week or so), but the supposed history that is discussed much later makes it seem as though months had passed.

Because of all the disparate storyline potentials, by the end of the book, you don’t really know if anything was ever actually resolved and you are kind of left wondering what the actual story plot was supposed to have addressed.  While there are various different issues that arise and need solutions, none stand out as the Big Important of the book.  Not really.  In the end, it is hard to determine what was the intent and focus because no one issue stood out as a primary and what issues did present, were only kind of resolved and in such a way that you just don’t know.  Not even in a vague hint that it might come up again in the future way, but in a way that was really confusing.

Over all, it kind of felt like there was an overabundance of really good ideas that felt like they needed to be brought to light, but because there were so many, none got the attention they deserved.  Considering this wasn’t an overly long book, there was more than enough room to explore or deal with a whole lot more than what was there, leaving it feeling rushed or unfinished.

I won’t say that I just flat out didn’t like the book, but I can’t say that I didn’t not like it either.  It held a whole lot of potential, but I didn’t feel like any of that potential was fully fleshed out or at least not in a way that really worked.  Will I read the next book in the series at some point?  Possibly.  But that is because I would like to know if that potential begins to work and play out later, but I do not really hold out a lot of hope.

 

Phoenix Club Series (in part) Review

Author: C.J. Bishop
Book Name: It Can’t Be You; Hearts in Chaos; Shattered (Abel Trilogy?)
Series: Phoenix Club
Order: #1-3
Rating: Mediocre/Didn’t Like
Genre: LGBT Romance

I have to say that I really struggled with this review as to where it fell.  The only reason it did not fall into the garbage realm is because this book actually seems to have a small level of thought put into the overall story and time was taken to actually clean it up enough to be presentable.  Those are pretty much the only positives I can offer.

There are very, very few scenarios when an author can get away with presenting the reader with unsafe sex scenes.  Even fewer options when the subject of the book isn’t restricted because of cultural or historical accuracy needed for the scene.  There is absolutely zero reason why in this day and age, any author should allow their characters to be having unsafe sex, unless there is a specific reason for it in the basis of the story.

These books do not even allow the reader the possibility of any of the characters having safe sex.  Not only are we talking totally unprotected sex, but we are talking sex with multiple partners over an incredibly short period of time.  The only attempt at a mention at all was early on in the first book, ONE of the many characters having sex mentions a clean bill of health requirement to be able to work in his job.  With the reality of the time it takes for anything to show on tests and how long it takes to get tests back, there is no way any of the characters in this book are practicing safe sex.

Another major issue I have with these books is the entire premise that the books are based on.  One part of that is the fact that the two major characters supposedly fall in love pretty much on sight.  I’ve read a lot of books where authors can pull this off well and it works.  In this case, not at all.  For one, this at first sight love is supposed to be so all powerful and consuming as to over come severe past trauma, including rape, yet the main character has no problem immediately having sex with several other people the second there is any kind of drama between him and the love of his life.

Part of the issue with that is the timing of it all.  Again, no problem with at first sight thing, but the whole, fall in love, cry, have issues, cry, have sex with other people, cry, have more issues after having sex again, cry some more, more drama and issues, cry, then in the last 10% of the last book, everything is perfect and, after a round of sex (no actual real discussion of the issues and how to resolve those issues ever occur in any of the books, it is just lets have sex and the world is rosy and fixed, no matter the years of nightmares and trauma and fear), the couple lives happily ever after, all in about 3 weeks.

Not only is the overall timeline of the story totally unbelievable, but the issues,  how they are dealt with and resolved, are so far outside of the realm of possibility and contradict the personality of the characters that it is offensive to the reader, making them ignorant and gullible to believe any of it.

If your main character is so devoted to his sister, he is willing to prostitute himself to pay for her needed medical care (did I mention she has been diagnosed with HIV, yet not a single character practices safe sex?), then why in the hell would he abandon her the second his feelings get dinged and is gone the entire time she is in the hospital, which is all in that same short time span?

Between every character’s deep moments ending, not in a real conversation to address those moments, but rather with them having sex and then every single person dissolving into tears at the drop of the hat, I’m surprised I made it through to the end of these 3 books that dealt with this couple of main characters.

While, in theory, the general idea behind the book could have worked with actual conversations between the characters and a longer timeline, I don’t think anything could have really made me believe this story in any way, let alone enjoy it.  I wouldn’t even complain about the lack of conversation so much if I could have classified this as an erotic romance, but even the sex scenes were so off and wrong for me there is no way it would even fit into that genre.

So, in the end, I can’t say that this is worth the time unless you just like to read really poorly written and thought out stories.  I definitely won’t be wasting my time on any of the others in the rest of the series.

Jason: Anita Blake Series, Book 23

JasonAuthor: Laurell K. Hamilton
Book Name: Jason
Series: Anita Blake
Order: #23
Rating: Mediocre/Didn’t Like
Genre: Fantasy/Romance

I really debated on whether or not I actually wanted to write this review.  I dislike saying or writing negative things, especially when it comes to something I normally would be raving about.  In this case, I just couldn’t help but say something.

I really didn’t like this book.  For so many reasons.  It was a huge disappointment.  It just did not live up to the existing standards set by the rest of this series. While we got to see some familiar and well loved characters, there just wasn’t a story in there at all.

I’m all for hot and steamy love scenes, no matter what combination of men and women, no matter how many are involved and in most cases, not even the level of kinky, when it is wrapped inside a great story.  Sometimes I’m even good to read something that is nothing but those steamy love scenes, story or not, but please, do them well.  Don’t make them fumbling and awkward.  I get that in real life, steamy doesn’t always come across as smooth, but come on.  When I read a book, a big part of the reason to do so is to live a bit in the fantasy that the author creates.  If you aren’t going to make it so that a reader can get sucked into what you are writing without being thrown out of whatever mood you are trying to create, then what is the point?  I’m pretty sure that in some ways, awkward was the tone that was trying to be set, but it was so wrong and so didn’t work, that for the first time ever reading an Anita novel, I was really tempted to put it down and not finish.  When I finally did finish, I was still wondering why I even bothered.  If you have to force yourself to finish a book, then why even consider reading the next one?

As a whole, I have really enjoyed the series thus far, but with this addition and a couple of the other more recent shorts and additions that I’ve read, I’m wondering how long I’ll continue reading the Anita Blake series as what I’m seeing lately just isn’t all that entertaining.  Like I said, I’m all for steamy, no matter what my own personal preference is.  It is like any other kind of art, while I may not like it personally, I can totally appreciate what goes into it and how someone else might enjoy it and can enjoy it from that perspective. But apparently, even in my reading and enjoying the fantasy from that other perspective, I do have limits to what I can find sexy, even peripherally.  Up until this, and I have read more than my fair share of all kinds of steamy, I hadn’t found that boundary.  Apparently I have been pushed past that and just couldn’t find what I’ve been reading sexy or interesting or entertaining in any way.

The only reason I didn’t rate this book as garbage was because I have liked this series and the characters so far and am hoping that this isn’t an indication of where the series is going from here.  I will be waiting until the next book is in the library rather than spending money on something I’m not sure will be any better than this one.  I am glad that is how I read this one because I do feel like it would have been a waste of money.  I’m sad to say, that if the next isn’t any better, it may just be the last.