Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review: Storm Born Volume 1

Storm Born Volume 1
Storm Born Volume 1 by Richelle Mead

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Down & dirty review because I gotta be somewhere in about ten minutes.

Sea Lion Publishing contacted me as they seemed to have done with a lot of people and sent me the first three issues of Storm Born. The collected version will have issues 1-4 so I haven't seen the complete book as of yet.

To be perfectly honest, I'm not a Richelle Mead fan per say. I think she's a good writer, but her books tend to go to dark, angsty, places and I don't like angst in my romance.

However, I have read Storm Born, back when it first came out, and let me tell you, the graphic novelization is way better. I actually couldn't remember if I'd read it or not, but as I started to read the first issue, it all came flooding back. The art is phenomenal, Grant Alter has stripped away a lot of the extraneous detail that bogged the story down, and Eugenie is free to shine as an awesome heroine.

I have to say, I really love the way the sex scenes were handled. You never see masculine or feminine bits, but the hiding of them never seemed contrived. The body language is completely natural and sometimes you could almost see movement on the page.

If the art by Dave Hamann wasn't so fabulous, the writing couldn't carry the book alone, so this is really a perfect pairing. Comparisons should be drawn to Patricia Briggs' Mercedes Thompson books as Mercy and Eugenie are the same type of heroine.

Gotta run, but I rec this and I hope it does well enough for the later books in the series to be covered so I don't have to read them!

Review: Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes
Behind the Scenes by Natalie J. Damschroder

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So this isn't coming out until Halloween, which is a little over a month away, but Carina Press doesn't have any 'wait until' guidelines over at NetGalley and I'm feeling too lazy to log into Blogger.

I realized when I was almost finished with this book that I tend to think of these books as Carina Press books rather than a Natalie Damschroder book. I figure it's because I've never heard of most of these authors, but then I catch myself trying to compare Behind the Scenes to Falke's Captive. It's apples and oranges, Self, apples and oranges.

Anyways. The book. The heroine is Kennedy, a security specialist who dedicates herself protecting others. She normally sticks to taking jobs from humanitarian organizations because her older brother was killed while working for a Doctors Without Borders-type group. Due to machinations by her father and old family friends, she gets drafted into protecting a movie set. Kennedy doesn't take the threat seriously at first, but soon learns the bad guys are taking it very seriously indeed. She gets entangled with the leading man, Roman, who then becomes a target for the bad guys.

So. Good stuff. Kennedy is the kick-ass, take charge, type of heroine. She may not be in the military, but she is a soldier nonetheless. Her strategy was smart and she was a good leader. The reader gets a very in-depth look at what being in personal security means. The book also moved along at a very fast clip.

Bad stuff. Next to Kennedy's strong presence, Roman paled. Here's this Brad Pitt-esque movie star and he barely registered. In addition, the relationship development got greatly overshadowed by the action. Damschroder makes it a point of saying that Kennedy & Roman are having nightly chats over a long period of time, getting to know each other, but the reader doesn't get to see any of it. I twigged onto the bad guy's identity about halfway through, but Damschroder threw in enough red herrings that I wasn't positively sure until the last quarter of the book.

I don't read a lot of romantic suspense so that could factor into my general meh-ness about Behind the Scenes. I admit, I wanted more of the rich and famous lifestyle & less of the screaming and dodging. If you like romantic suspense, I'd rec you give this a try and you'll probably rate it four stars. Everyone else, go read something by Shannon Stacey or Cindy Spencer Pape.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Review: Falke's Captive

Falke's Captive
Falke's Captive by Anna Leigh Keaton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't know if this really deserves four stars, but it's getting them for two reasons. First of all, Falke's Captive makes sense and I'm still shaking my head over Chaos Tryst. Secondly, you rarely see this kind of plot in shifter romances. There was that brief scene at the end of Shelly Laurenston's Here Kitty, Kitty! and, the beginning of, oh, crap, what was it? Um, The Jaguar Prince, I think. I mean, there are many books where shifters are hunted by scientists and the like, but very few where they are shipped off to the zoo or 'tagged' (I'm excluding Jennifer Ashley's Pride Mates series as the purpose behind those collars don't fit this scenario). I like seeing what realistic situations modern-day shifters could find themselves in and being tranq'd & tagged by a wildlife researcher certainly fits the bill.

I admit to skimming through the sex scenes, not because they were bad, but because there were a lot of them and I was on lunch at work. Reading about anal sex is a little surreal when the co-worker sitting next to you is on the phone, arguing about a bill. It did feel like the sex scenes kinda outnumbered the plot scenes, but that's not exactly unexpected with this type of book. This is also the second book in the series and, despite not having read the first one, I was able to follow along quite nicely. I respect an author who can continue a series without info dumping or ignoring the first book entirely.

I'm starting to get the after-lunch sleepies so it's definitely time for my vitamins. To wrap up, I'd rec this for fans of Crystal Jordan. I'd have priced this at $3.99 instead of $4.99 (don't ask me why, it just doesn't feel like a $5 book and it's only 174 pages. Harlequin Presents are usually another 20+ pages for the same price), but if you can get a coupon somewhere, check it out.

Review: Chaos Tryst

Chaos Tryst
Chaos Tryst by Shirin Dubbin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This seems to be my week for the almost-greats. Y'know what I mean. I'm referring to those books that inch along the tightrope between 'Eh. It was good,' and 'This was awesome,' and they invariably fall off the wire somewhere in between. Chaos Tryst took the plunge closer to the 'Eh' side, which was disappointing.

Ariana (aka Ari) is a returner, a person who retrieves stolen artifacts and returns them to their rightful owners. She's also the daughter of two trickster gods, Anasai and Inari, and she's inherited a large chunk of their chaos magic. Maks's origin is somewhat fuzzier. He's a Bear shifter, the middle of three brothers, and he's the only one who got chaos magic from their mother. Maks makes a big deal out of being half Russian and half Gypsy, but since I'm not really up on Russian or Gypsy mythology, I couldn't really tell you where his parents fall on the the power scale or what Maks really is. Maks's characterization is where the book started to lose its balance. Ari is very clearly defined. She is a tricksy girl who tries to use her powers for good. When she's being tricksy, her kitsune spirit overlays itself on her physical body, but she doesn't actually turn into a fox. Maks literally turns in a bear and the bear seems to have its own consciousness because the bear knows it wants Ari while the man is still reluctant. Maks the man is also sulky as several of characters call him and he is largely inscrutable. You don't really see him fall in love with Ari. He goes from being murderously pissed off to I guess I'll help her out to We shall be wed!. I raised my eyebrows at that.

Furthermore, the world Dubbin has created bears the potential to be fascinating. It's like a cross between the comic book series Fables by Bill Willingham and Wen Spencer's Tinker (I need Spencer to write faster. Like seriously). However, the reader is never given any framework for understanding it. It's like there's a refugee camp crammed full of every mythological being ever created, regardless of ethnic origin, and inhabitants refer to themselves as Faebles. To make things more confusing, the implication is, Ari aside, that the characters' first language is of the country their myth originated from. For example, Inari's dialogue reads like a native Japanese speaker translating her thoughts into English. Maks's dialogue has a Russian flair. So it begs the question: why are they here and not there, and why is English the common-use language?

It sounds nitpicky when I re-read it, but I firmly believe that if an author is going to create an elaborate fantasy world, they need to establish a logical framework within it. When Maks and Ari touch, their chaos magics spiral together and create havoc. Okay, I can buy that, but why? Is it because they are meant to be together? Did their magic ever spring out of control when they were children? Can they manipulate events to kill someone? Is chaos magic only passed down trickster bloodlines? Why did Maks inherit the magic, but not his brothers?

Also, after some chaos incidents, Dubbin throws in a section, '2 minutes prior' or whatever, where the reader is told how the chaos incident happened. I don't understand why this wasn't just part of the story. Why do I need a flashback for this? Why can't it be in the linear narrative?

I can keep asking question after question about various aspects of the story, which is basically my point. A story can have a good foundation and be crappy (see the vast majority of fanfiction), but if the foundation is riddled with cracks, the story is going to collapse within itself.

I'm keeping this at three stars because I would read a sequel. The flaws within Chaos Tryst are definitely fixable so another story set in this world has the potential to be very good, if it can just keep its balance long enough!