Bites

Published: January 1, 2013
Publisher: Kensington
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Once an angel, now a demon, Monica is still a succubus with an insatiable desire for sex. The more the better. Soul-stealing orgasms beat out dealing with her broken heart any day of the week. Monica has no interest in being near both her ex-lover and his new girlfriend, so she’s not thrilled when she’s asked to join them in investigating a string of murders that are clearly beyond the pale. But when she sees that one of the victims has her Celtic family crest carved on his arm, she realizes she may finally find the answers to her past she’s been searching for all these years… (goodreads.com)

Ugh. I so love this trashy trash goodness. Smutty smut smut. I don’t read a ton of it, but when I do I like it engaging, with excellent characters, and incredible sex. Check, check, and check.

Collins doesn’t disappoint in the second book of her Soul Stripper series. We get more about Monica’s prior life as an angel, we get to see how she fell, and we get a bit of a creepy story in the mix. And not creepy in a crappy relationship way. But the murderer that Monica, Damien, Adrienne, and George are hunting is digging into people’s lives and annihilating their descendants in rather ritualistic ways. It’s creepy.

The only complaint I really had was that a good portion of the story took place in Salt Lake City and the descriptions of the city didn’t feel all that accurate. It painted a very rosy, almost stereotypical view of Salt Lake as the pious of the pious places where everything was really buttoned up and it was going to be so hard for Monica and George to do their business. I’ve been there. It’s definitely a different kind of place. Utah is as close to a theocracy as we’re going to get in this country. But it’s not this bereft of sin. Two words: Pioneer Park. Right around the corner from the Mormon Mecca Temple and rife with drugs and crime. It is Chicago? No. But it’s certainly not the Mormon vision people think of with Salt Lake either.

Aside from that, I really enjoyed the story. I felt the toggling between Monica’s current affairs and her background were excellently done and added to the story being told as opposed to distracting from it. I like how the women in Monica’s life are supportive of her in their various ways. Maybe not all the time, and maybe sometimes grudgingly, but they’re there and they’re there to stay. I also liked how the twist at the end ended up being atypical. I was expecting one thing and got another and it was refreshing to see that.

I liked the mix-up of supernatural creatures as well. It’s done in a way that they all fit in naturally together. I’ve read some books that use elements of the supernatural in glaring ways that make what I’m reading feel like a disjointed mishmash of things because the author wanted everything in there. Not here. Collins’s world is expertly molded and it fits together wonderfully.

Plus the sex. Collins writes incredible sex scenes. But as much as I like seeing Monica getting into a relationship that’s deeper than the physical I do miss her aggressive, assertive side too. The end of my copy of SOUL SURVIVOR had the first few pages of SOUL STRIPPER in it and the sex scene with the guy she met at the coffee shop was incredibly hot. I miss that Monica a little bit and I hope she’s not gone for good. I still have one more book in the series so we’ll see.

SOUL SURVIVOR is definitely not a disappointment, especially for the middle book of a series. Intense action, great storytelling, wonderful characters, and salacious sex. It’s a Hell of a package! (Pun vaguely intended.)

4.5

January 16, 2018

Published: October 3, 2006
Publisher: NAL Jam
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

College freshman Claire Danvers has had enough of her nightmarish dorm situation. When Claire heads off-campus, the imposing old house where she finds a room may not be much better. Her new roommates don’t show many signs of life, but they’ll have Claire’s back when the town’s deepest secrets come crawling out, hungry for fresh blood. Will she be able to face the town’s terror or will she drown like everyone else? (goodreads.com)

Oh what a fun start to a series! This came out a month after the first TWILIGHT book so we’ll just call it square and it’s unfortunate that this got buried (somewhat) under the tripe that is TWILIGHT. Not that this is some small series or anything. It’s not. But the frenzy for it was lacking in comparison, which is unfortunate. Because the book’s awesome.

Just to note, Claire is actually sixteen and highly intelligent so she’s in the awkward position of being at college two years before her peers. So weird situation anyway. And unfortunately it’s a podunk commuter school that’s set up more like high school with it’s one resident big fish in the little pond ready, willing, and able to take it out on Claire simply because she’s there.

Claire’s no Buffy, so don’t expect her to karate chop her way through a horde of vampires. And she needs her fair share of saving because, well, she’s not Buffy and she’s in a town piled with vampires, some of which want to kill her. But she doesn’t go down without a fight, and my favorite aspect of hers is that when the going gets tough she buries her head in a book to find a solution. Her roommates are more about evading and non-confrontation if at all possible because . . . vampires. And none of them are Buffy so screw that noise. But at the same time they’re all bucking the town’s conformity requirement in their own special way so more passive aggressive than anything else. But they’ll swing knives and fire pokers should the need arise.

I also like the world that Caine’s setting up in GLASS HOUSES. You know that this is a town run by vampires. But how does their secret not get out? What do the townspeople think about it all? Why is a house full of people who obviously don’t like living in that podunk town still live there? SO MANY QUESTIONS. And I know GLASS HOUSES is just scratching the surface of what Caine’s world has to offer.

It’s different and I like different when it comes to vampires. I also really like her characters. They’re just so realistic with very believable actions and feelings. I never found myself having to suspend my disbelief like crazy in order to get through the book (just ignore the vampires part) because the character reactions were ridiculous. I could relate to all of them in some fashion, however minor, yet the crew in the Glass House are all markedly different characters on page. I look forward to reading more into this series and seeing what Caine’s developed here.

4

Published: January 2, 2008
Publisher: Signet
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Archaeologist Carrie Norton makes a startling find in a historic New York City site: the remains of a Civil War-era murder victim. Detective Max Slattery sees something more-uncanny parallels to a recent series of brutal slayings. What seems impossible becomes terrifyingly real as Carrie and Max’s investigation unearths a conspiracy between the living and the dead nearly two centuries in the making-one that has yet to claim its final victims. (goodreads.com)

Ugh. THE VAMPIRE OF NEW YORK was rough. Between the overabundance of racial epithets, gratuitous detail, and meandering, jerky plot, there’s very little to like with this book.

On the surface it has things that immediately draw my attention: old New York and vampires. But that’s where that ends. The timeline alternates between Civil War New York and present day New York and if it’s not the gratuitous use of the n-bomb or other racial slurs to describe any number of non-white people in the 1865 timeline, it’s self-deprecating racial slurs and stereotyping of black characters and heinously racist villains flinging out every manner of slur. Some would argue that, at least for the 1865 timeline, the author was being “historically accurate.” I call bullshit on that. Not that it’s not historically accurate, but that this book wasn’t written in 1865. It was written in the 2000s. There are ways around that. But combine it with all the racial bullshit in the current timeline and it’s just far too pervasive to not be author insertion. Racial slurs and stereotypes abound regardless of setting so it’s not the story. Not to me.

The insertion of Dracula into this storyline was awkward at best. It felt forced and without direction. The story often lost its way as it went on, getting lost in way too much detail, whether it was about old New York or autopsy results from the body that was found on the modern timeline. I get it, author. You did a lot of research. That doesn’t mean I needed an entire chapter on the descriptions of a street (seriously, this happened).

By the time the end of the book rolled around it felt like the author forgot that he actually needed to end the book so really out of character things happened that left me with some whiplash. Plus there wasn’t much closure with the 1865 characters, or the little tidbit with the benefactor of the dig Carrie was on in the modern timeline. There just seemed to be too much going on for the author to handle and then when it came time to wrap it all up he just smashed everything together and made a big, messy knot.

Skip this one. It’s good for details about old New York, but that’s about it. There’s pretty much no character development, the plot can’t keep track of itself, and with all the racial slurs it’s just off-putting at best. Yuck. Utter waste of time.

1

Published: January 3, 2015
Publisher: Self
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

A deadly infection threatens to wipe out humanity. The only people who can stem its advance are the Silver, a vampiric race who offer a simple exchange: protection in return for blood and subservience. It’s not a deal that Emmy’s willing to make, but as her world burns around her she finds herself in the arms of the enemy and the line between oppressor and saviour begins to blur.

After an attack by the infected, Emmy is rescued by the handsome Drew who introduces her to the world of the Silver. Desperate to escape subjugation and confused by her attraction to him, she gathers what remains of her surrogate family and plans to make a break for freedom.

But despite her efforts to resist, she is drawn further into the intrigues of the mysterious Silver through the agency of their ruler, the Primus: Solomon. Emmy refuses to submit to the cold and detached Primus and an attempt on her life makes it clear that he is unable to protect her from the political machinations of his race.

As the connection between them deepens she must choose between her desire and her will to rebel, but can she trust his intentions when everyone is after her blood? (goodreads.com)

There is a lot of amateur hour going on in A BARGAIN IN SILVER to the point where it was really difficult for me to get through. The pacing was incredibly slow, there wasn’t a whole lot going on to advance the plot, and the author spent way too much time giving inane detail to the point where she didn’t leave anything to the imagination. I don’t need a detailed breakdown of what the left hand and the right hand and the left leg and the right leg are doing, nor do I need to know where exactly in a room a character is and how many feet each thing is from the character. Just gobs of detail unnecessarily padding the book.

I think the vampire apocalypse concept is interesting; that’s why I agreed to review the book initially. But it ultimately ends up being bookends to an insufferably slow plot steeped in constipated looks from Drew and neutered vampires that simply orbit around Emmy in an offputtingly Mary Sue sort of way.

It’s all very Twilight and the ending doesn’t help there. The silver concept is neat in the same way I thought glittering vampires were originally neat in Twilight. It’s something different and it sets Jaffrey’s vampires apart from others. But that’s about it. The majority of the story is spent watching two powerful vampires cock fight over Emmy. Meanwhile Emmy’s tripping and falling over everything and constantly bleeding around them.

The prologue doesn’t do the book any favors either. It opens the book with Emmy wearing a vampire collar and serving drinks in a vampire bar. Then the story starts on the night the world went to hell, successfully killing the tension of about 2/3 of the book. I know where she ends up and how she ends up. Why am I reading this?

For most of the book there’s no antagonizing force propelling the story forward. It’s mostly a day in the life of Emmy and that’s about it. She tries to be an active participant in her own story but she’s really just shoved along as the pages turn. Nothing really antagonizing happens to her that would be cause of true dramatic tension until about 3/4 of the way through the book, and it’s barely anything. It’s more insinuated. And then when it finally does come to a head it’s all of a sudden there, as if coming out of nowhere. I guess it’s vaguely hinted at throughout the book because an incident involving Drew makes absolutely no sense when compared against his personality but it just comes off as bad writing. And I guess it ultimately is bad writing because the author doesn’t do a good job of threading the tension throughout the plot. Too much time is spent on Sol and Drew slap-fighting over Emmy. But you finally get a full chapter of villain monologuing in the penultimate chapter that explains absolutely everything. It’s just clunky.

This is a draft that needs some serious rewriting and tightening. The voice is bland at best with all the Ben Stein details going on and I should not be bored in a vampire apocalypse novel and I was most of the time. The plot is slow-moving and clunky when it does move and character development leaves a lot to be desired. I’m not sure if the author’s intent was to go for a Twilight knockoff but that’s pretty much what this is, with a sterile-detailed sex scene.

1

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Published: October 13, 2017
Publisher: WordFire Press
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Welcome to Monsterland—the scariest place on Earth.

Wyatt Baldwin’s senior year is not going well. His parents divorce, then his dad mysteriously dies. He’s not exactly comfortable with his new stepfather, Carter White, either. An ongoing debate with his best friends Melvin and Howard Drucker over which monster is superior has gotten stale. He’d much rather spend his days with beautiful and popular Jade. However, she’s dating the brash high-school quarterback Nolan, and Wyatt thinks he doesn’t stand a chance.

But everything changes when Wyatt and his friends are invited to attend the grand opening of Monsterland, a groundbreaking theme park where guests can interact with vampires in Vampire Village, be chased by werewolves on the River Run, and walk among the dead in Zombieville.

With real werewolves, vampires and zombies as the main attractions, what could possibly go wrong? (book back blurb)

This was such a neat concept that I couldn’t help but snap it up when it was offered to me. And the book didn’t disappoint.

I’ll start with what I didn’t like, which is pretty minimal. From an editing standpoint it was a bit head-hoppy. I definitely had to go back and re-read passages to make sure I didn’t space out in a scene or character change only to realize that I really didn’t. From one paragraph to the next you’d be bounced around from one character to another. It didn’t happen too often but often enough that it disrupted the flow of the story for me a few times.

Also the Auschwitz reference was a bit much. I don’t think it quite lines up with the objective of the story and it’s just tasteless and unnecessary. The story wouldn’t lose anything if that had been removed and I feel it was in there just for shock purposes and that kind of bothers me.

Everything else I really did like. Okon is brutal and I like that in a YA author. He’s entirely unapologetic with his nastiness and no one is safe. There’s a lot of gore going on in the story, however, it’s not over-described. I didn’t find myself getting nauseous at all while reading. Always a good thing. But that’s not needed. You get perfectly well what’s going on without all the detail and it’s more than enough.

I think Wyatt’s a great character and Carter was definitely number two in my book. I like that Okon gave us adults in YA that weren’t completely useless and just placed in the story to get out of the kids’ way. It made for a much more natural dynamic between the characters and for the story itself. I could have lived with less Sean, but I imagine that was the point. Annoying little brother.

I also liked how the story’s set in the future, but only about a step into the future, instead of hundreds of years. It gets you in the mind frame that this is something that could happen now, despite all the vampires and zombies and werewolves. And how the world he created, at least this little corner of Copper Valley, wasn’t a desolate post-apocalyptic wasteland after the outbreak. It’s normal but it has something abnormal happening really close to it. It grounded the story even more.

I think MONSTERLAND provides something different for the YA category that really isn’t otherwise present, not only in type of story but in teen/adult relationships. I think Okon balances the whole step-parent issue really well without going to extremes (evil step-parent need not apply). It’s a good book, a great story, and I think a lot of people will find it really entertaining in a sometimes creepy, sometimes funny sort of way.

4

I received a copy of this book from the author through The Children’s Book Review in exchange for an honest review.

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