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Just reactions to books I read. I don't really summarize the book's content, because how hard is it to click on the cover and read the description?


So I just write my response.

DNF. I just can't.

Slow Burn - Bobby Adair

Between the lack of indents (a line break just isn't good enough, I'm sorry. The page looks like a wall of text) and the manic first-person writing, I just can't.


Apparently reading is just not a good bet for me today.

Two bad novellas. I'll come back to the others later.

Alphas After Dark - Minx Malone, S.M. Reine, Deanna Chase, Marie Hall, Mimi Strong, Roxie Rivera, Crista McHugh, Vivian Arend, Kit Rocha

Note: I picked this up because it was 99c and I've liked some of the authors' works in the past. There are a lot of novellas, though, and I don't feel like reading them all at once, so I'll update this post and my rating as I work through them. 


First up, 4/5/2014: USA TODAY Bestselling Author M. Malone invites you to meet TANK Marshall. He has thirty days to meet his deadbeat dad or forfeit his inheritance. His mom needs surgery and he’d do anything for her, even dance with the devil. Emma Shaw just got the job of a lifetime, coaxing a rich client’s estranged son back into the fold. One meeting for $1 million. Easy money. Until she’s lying to the only man who makes her feel safe. (Blue-Collar Billionaires #1) 


I chose this one first because it sounded like something I was in the mood for, even though it was an author I hadn't read before. I typically like the angst of being in a desperate situation and lying to the person you're falling in love with, usually.


But I made a big mistake. This was one of the stupidest novellas I've ever read. The plot is all over the place, and characters don't sound like people but like characters stuck in a cliched version of romance-land (in the most boring territory, to boot. At least some cliched romances still manage to drag me in and care about the characters. Not here.)


There's plenty here that I think is supposed to grab at my heartstrings or whatever (the mother's cancer, the death of the heroine's parents, the heroine's desperate situation) but it's all so bland. It SHOULD be wrought with tension, given the setup, but it's like the author just forgot about the whole point of the plot for chapters at the time, so when the plot and the lying finally make an appearance again it all feels forced and manipulative rather than organic. ("Oh, the story needs drama!" Cue: plot again.)


Add to that, the hero and heroine don't have any interesting thoughts or dialogue -- and even worse, there's far, FAR too much of that uninteresting dialogue -- and it all just feels like it was pieced together from the deleted scenes of much, much better romance stories.


At least I didn't notice any typos? 




Story #2 - USA Today bestselling author Deanna Chase brings you MARKED BY TEMPTATION, a novella set in the Bourbon Street world. Mati Ballintine is a sex witch looking for a hot one-night stand to bolster her power, and sexy Vaughn Paxton is cocky enough to make her work for it. But when their one night turns into more than they bargained for, one life is changed, another threatened, and suddenly there’s a whole lot more than lust at stake. (Coven Pointe #1) 


Well, crap. This was another not-known-to-me author. I should just stick with the two from the collection that I know. 


It started out well. Then the novella just completely fell apart. The thing about romance novellas? They don't work so well when the two main characters spend a huge chunk of time apart. Space is limited to develop the story in the first place. So when they split up and the heroine fucks some other guy in the middle of the story, and what seems like must be every single character from the series shows up to do their thing, it's too much. 


So this started out well, then was crammed with tons of worldbuilding, far too many characters, and not enough interaction between the hero and heroine. It's a novella. Shoving an entire world and attempting to stuff an entire novel's worth of story into the constrained space doesn't work.


Novellas should be as tight as a romance heroine's vagina -- not stuffed full by everyone in the series ever.


Who are these people? Why should I care about them? I don't know. And by the end I don't care about the main couple, either, even though it started out so well.


It was better than the first one, but I'm too freaking irritated with this box set now to even bother with the others. The authors obviously used a good copy editor, because there aren't many errors in grammar, spelling, and formatting -- but the two stories I've read so far could have used a MUCH heaver editing hand to tighten up these stories and cut out all of the needless crap.




One stupid novella, and the other with no control over the story. I'm out for a while.



Good zombie tale despite minor slow start; cliffhanger ending, booooo.

The Remaining  - D.J. Molles

Eh, maybe like 3.5+ stars but I'm feeling generous. It's one of those books that is well done, so you're happy with it and glad you read it and will read another one in the series ... but then you look at other books you've rated four stars and you kind of feel like it wasn't on the same level. And although I enjoyed it and read it in one night, I won't re-read it. 


Anyway, the slow start set up the whole thing, of course, so I guess I can't be too disappointed. As soon as he gets out of his bunker the story takes off.


The setup was original, which was nice. He isn't just trying to survive the apocalypse, but actually has a purpose for which he has been trained (which is to rebuild and re-establish stable communities in his area.) Of course it all goes to hell pretty quickly, but the purpose is still there and it's a unique way to start off and give the hero motivation beyond survival -- especially since so many other elements are typical of the genre (warlords, packs of men hunting others, fights for supplies and weapons, the implied rapes and murders and so on). 


The zombies are a bit like the ones in the movie The Crazies -- a little smarter than the typical shuffling undead, and the story seems to be setting up some zombie evolution, which is all good. I like it when the zombie problems go from "avoid those things" to "oh god they're going to hunt us down and they might be smart," simply because it raises the stakes. 


Characterization is fine. We only really get to know Lee, the hero, and he's the type of narrator whose head I don't mind being in for a while. Secondary characters are pretty thinly drawn, but I expect they will be filled out in later books. Which brings me to...


The most disappointing aspect: I'll have to read about five more books to get the whole story, since there seem to be zero standalone post-apocalyptic books out there nowadays, but at least it was an entertaining and well-written beginning. I don't MIND reading more of this author's work, because it was good enough.


Still. I'm tired of books that end on cliffhangers and don't give me an entire story, so I'm taking my frustration out on this book. 


It's also too bad that half the reviews on Amazon look fake. The story stands up well on its own. It probably didn't need what looks like a ton of paid-for 5-star reviews that basically say, "This was awesome! I can't wait to read more!" (and of course they've never written any other reviews) because enough real people seemed to be saying it, too. So it makes me trust the author a bit less. 

Do-It-Again in Death

Concealed in Death - J.D. Robb

I don't know, I guess that waiting over a month before I even bothered to buy this one should have warned me that I'm a little bit tired of these books. I used to download/read them the week (sometimes even the same night) they came out. 


But obviously I still pay hardcover ebook prices for them, so I guess I'm still hanging in there. I'm not sure I'll keep on bothering with getting them even a month after release, though, because I might need a break from the samey-samey stuff.


The mystery was okay. Nothing exciting, no tension or danger to speak of, but at least a little different. Then again, maybe a bit more tension would have made the samey-samey stuff easier to swallow. I guess I'll go into bullet points.


What I liked: 


  • Eve. I always like Eve. The best part of this entire book was her interaction with Dennis Mira, and her hat and gloves.


Wow, that was a short "What I liked" section. 


What bothered me:


  • Peabody. This hurts me to say this, because aside from Eve, Peabody is the reason why I read these books. If Roarke was killed off, I'd still read this series just for Eve and Peabody. 


That said, in this volume, Peabody almost seemed like a caricature of herself. There's always been the funny bits with her craving fatty foods and remarking on pop culture items that Eve is oblivious to, along with her body consciousness. But it was just like IN EVERY SCENE that's all she was. A little bit of detecting, a lot of "oooh, shiny!" 


  • Everyone sounds the same. There are a few exceptions to this -- Eve, Peabody, and Mavis all have distinct voices, and every now and then Roarke's accent comes through into the language, but aside from that every single adult over the age of 21 has the same verbal rhythms and vocabulary, it seems like. You can't tell the difference between Morris, Mira, and most of the people Eve interviewed. This has been a problem in these books for a long time, but maybe because there was no tension, it just bothered me more.


  • The editing. Where was it? Dropped quote marks, "preformed" instead of "performed," "pricy" instead of "pricey." This isn't a freaking self-pubbed book. It's Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb, one of the BIGGEST names in publishing. Why can't she get a decent edit?

So, yeah. Going to wait on the next one.

Eh...coming back to it later (a.k.a., It's not the book, it's me.)

Blackbirds - Chuck Wendig

It's weird, because I really, really like the main character's voice and the world is interesting ... but I just have zero investment in this story. Every time I put it down I don't really care if I pick it back up. If I had a couple of hours, I'm sure I'd finish it, but right now nothing is PULLING me to finish it.


Really strange. I think a lot of readers would enjoy this book. Miriam is a great character. It's funny, it's quick, the writing is tight.


I just kind of don't give a crap about anything going on, so the larger plot just isn't drawing me in for whatever reason. 


Run-of-the-mill zombie apocalypse with unfortunately banal writing.

Aftermath (Invasion of the Dead) - Book 1 - Owen Baillie

There's nothing really exciting about the book, and nothing truly new, but for the most part, it was a solid read. 


For the most part. A few aspects of the story kind of dragged my rating down, however -- the romantic aspects, the stubborn stupidity of one main character, and the writing. 


I actually love romance in most books, but this never really seemed to rise above the level of a high-school soap opera. It started with several characters angsting over whether they really liked each other or not, and continued at the stupidest moments -- such as a brother asking whether a friend was hooking up with his sister when they are in the middle of a dangerous situation. Then there was the drama with the girlfriend who cheated/was pregnant and never went anywhere at all. A romance can raise the stakes in a zombie novel, making losses more poignant and survival more important ... yet everything felt very puerile and I was too emotionally removed from the characters to really care much. 


Part of that emotional distance was probably the result of the banal, repetitive writing style. I know this is the author's first book, and self-published, so I have to give a lot of credit where it is due: there were few errors and typos that I noticed, and the writing was clean...but he could have benefited from a line editor with a heavier hand. Sentences are written in a rote manner -- subject, verb, description. Subject, verb, description. The monotony might not have been so terrible, but the addition of distancing language (people "feel" emotions or pain, turning show into tell) erased the immediacy of almost every action. 


Finally, one of the main characters was so unbelievably stubborn and stupid that I just wanted to whack my head against the wall. And of course, he was only really stubborn when it added the necessary drama. He HAD to go to his parents house first (until the number of zombies prevented it and he was forced to concede to more rational voices.) He HAD to go back to Dylan's house to save his girlfriend and sister from the bad dudes, but only after he and Dylan had stopped at a few more places for supplies. Of course, he only really dug his feet in when Dylan saw his dad in danger, because it was more dramatic to have him suddenly desperate to return to the girls. 


So I was kind of hoping that he'd die. I don't mind selfish, stupid characters (the Breakers series has one of the best manipulative, narcissistic, shallow, clingy heroes ever, IMO, and although I wished him dead at the beginning of the first book I kind of loved him by the end) but this one just had no real redeeming qualities. None of the characters were very finely or deeply drawn -- which, okay, fine. But whatever. I don't know if I'll pick up the next book ... but if I read reviews that tell me he was killed at some point, it will be more likely. 


The Seduction of Emily - Rachel Brimble

Just boring. No real tension (sexual or otherwise) no real sense of place or time -- the heroine might has well have crawled out of the 21st century, she was so modern -- and lots of talking. Will is the most perfect man ever, Nicholas is the most evil, and there are no interesting shades of gray to anyone's character.


Readers who enjoy slower, sweeter romances might enjoy this more than I did. 

Good first installment of a post-apocalyptic series

The Purge of Babylon: A Novel of Survival (Purge of Babylon #1) - Sam Sisavath

I bought this on a whim after seeing it in the "customers also purchased" section of another book's page. It had a high rating with a decent number of reviews, so I figured: what the heck.


I'm glad I did. It's well-written with distinctive voices for the main characters (only a few very minor editing issues, like someone "balling" their eyes out) and moves at a good pace. It's a LONG book; much longer than I anticipated, because I hadn't really checked the number of pages when I bought it. So many self-published post-apocalyptic books -- especially those in a series -- run on the shorter side, like 200-something pages. This was almost a 500 page book. Well worth the money, especially because there aren't that many draggy parts. 


I loved the Will/Danny pairing. Great banter between these guys. I worried at first that the jokes would become tiring, but after the action got started the light bits between them were really welcome. 


I also appreciated Kate and Lana, although -- I'm going to mark this as a spoiler



I'm really disappointed that they both ended up in the "Will's girlfriend" role. I really liked that they were both strong female characters with interests and strengths and weaknesses beyond that pairing, and I thought that Kate's decline was believable. I just wish that Sisavath had chosen NOT to hook them both up with Will at different points, so that at least one female character/narrator wasn't partially defined by that history. 


This is probably a problem of expectations: I hadn't realized, starting the book, that it revolved around a hero. I thought it would be a story about several people. But since they both ended up as Will's girlfriend at one point (and now Kate is going to be the former-girlfriend-turned-evil) it kind of squarely puts the narrative focus on Will as hero, instead of having multiple protagonists. Sure, we have multiple viewpoints, but this book is all about Will.


But really, that's a minor nit -- because I liked Will and am willing to follow him along. I just hope this doesn't become a case of: the ladies keep dying, but no matter -- because a new pretty and smart one will show up and fill that slot again.


Only time will tell for that, though.[/spoiler]


So I'm looking forward to the next installment (and joy! It was just released yesterday. I thought I'd have to wait months!) The Gates of Byzantium  


I hope that we learn more about the ghouls. They are vampire-like, for the most part, but Sisavath hints toward a larger goal and structure behind the hordes. In a way, I guess, it's kind of like the vampires in The Strain trilogy by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan (except that trilogy just went into stupid-land. The second book was SO boring and almost unreadable) so even if there are some similarities this version was far more enjoyable. 



Decent post-apocalyptic tale

In the After - Demitria Lunetta

I liked this one pretty well, but didn't love it. I won't really be sorry if I never pick up the sequel (because yes, of course, the whole story isn't told in one book. Sigh.) 


It is nice to encounter a smart, sensible heroine in stories like these. Her survival is almost by pure luck at the beginning (thanks to a paranoid mother and a hipster father) but her continued survival is because she adapts well and doesn't take stupid chances.


[spoiler]I wasn't as impressed with the second half, when she is taken to the enclave where more survivors have set up a new community. It wasn't the plot that began to annoy me, but the way it was told -- there's a time jump, and we know that she's in a mental ward, being drugged to keep her from remembering whatever she discovered about the community that is so terrible. 


This section really irritated me. For one, it's no freaking surprise that something about the community is not as it seems (because, hello! This is a post-apocalyptic story and that ALWAYS HAPPENS) and that there's something weird about the aliens who've been attacking and killing the humans. So the stay and the mental ward and the forced drama and danger there didn't work at all, especially since her discovery was all told in flashback. Far, FAR better would have been to discover everything along with her, so that when the shit hits the fan and we discover what the aliens are -- and she has to leave -- it has all been building to that point instead of going back and forth and trying to create tension with the threat of a lobotomy. Because WE KNOW THAT WON'T HAPPEN. 


Just a really poor and silly narrative choice.



Maybe I'll read the next one. I probably won't pay the same money for it, though ($9.99)-- I'll wait until it goes on sale below $5. 


Compulsively readable; unlikable characters

The Dinner - Herman Koch

I've heard this has been called the "European Gone Girl," because it includes unlikable characters and unreliable narration, and everything we thought about the characters unravels as the story progresses, revealing who they truly are.


Plotwise, I think it's tighter than Gone Girl (which I enjoyed as well, even though the plot kind of fell apart at the end. I enjoyed how much I disliked everyone in that book, and I thought they both got everything they deserved at the end. I don't think it was Flynn's best work, however -- I thought both Dark Places and Sharp Objects were better.) Dinner doesn't go on too long, and there's no point where I'm thinking, "Just get on with it."


Anyway, a lovely story about some really screwed up people. 




Nice little end-of-the-world zombie tale

Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End - Manel Loureiro, Pamela Carmell

This was fun -- we see the end of the world come through one regular guy's blog posts and journal entries. The writing was a little stiff sometimes, but that might be because of a) the translation or b) the character, who doesn't seem like the type who would be waxing lyrical and poetic. So the writing is fairly simplistic, but at least it's not irritating. 


The main character is mostly just a regular guy, as mentioned above. The rather extraordinary things that he does do are nicely explained away by his hobbies in the old life (the wetsuit that saves his life more than once, his surviving some rough seas) and he's hurt often enough. This is no super-soldier action hero; he's just a smart guy. 


He also is likable enough, going to extraordinary lengths to keep his cat safe, which is nice -- but toward the end, one bothersome point stuck its head up:

[spoiler] his reaction to the teenage girl he meets. I understand that he hasn't seen a female in a while, so even though his reaction makes sense, it was pretty creepy that one of the first thing he noticed about this seventeen year old girl was her perky breasts. By the end of the book, her sexuality is all that we really know about her. She's apparently got a brain in her head, because she survived, but already she's nibbling on his earlobe.


On the other hand, he apparently stays four months in a basement with her (and without touching her) so maybe it won't be a problem. Still, it could be a deal-breaker for me in the sequel if he keeps getting hot over a girl.[/spoiler]

Great superhero tale...kind of.

Steelheart - Brandon Sanderson

The opening chapter made my heart pound. The rest of the book didn't quite live up to the wonderful suspense of that opening, but still -- very good. There were some great twists.


The protagonist came thisclose to being too much of a know-it-all, whose luck just happened to always go the right way even when he took huge risks.


I'll be buying the other books in the series when they come out. 

Great protagonist; not a lot of suspense.

1222 - Anne Holt, Marlaine Delargy

I enjoyed this, for the most part. I loved the protagonist and her salty, anti-social tendencies. The mystery itself ... eh. I never really felt much tension or suspense, despite the claustrophobic setting, so the urgency of discovery was never there for me.


The parlor-room confrontation and reveal was fun. Everything else about the tone of the book felt very modern, and then there was that throwback scene. 


I'm torn about whether to go back and read earlier books in the series. On one hand, I did love this narrator. On the other, I know what happens to her...and I'm not sure I'm as interested in the Hanne prior to the shooting as much as I am to the Hanne I just met. 

Buried under an avalanche of needless details and descriptions.

Innocence - Dean Koontz

I opened the book. The pages were made from paper that had once grown wild in the forests of Oregon, until a lumberjack with a plaid jacket started his chainsaw and cut it down.

Many years ago, I saw a tree fall. It was a Douglas fir, which had been oddly named after the naturalist David Douglas, though it was not he, but his rival who had discovered the species long ago in the mist-shrouded and verdant hills of Vancouver Island. My heart had wrenched in my chest when I saw that noble pine tumble, but I knew there would be a message in that tree's demise.

But no message ever came. Perhaps the message would be found on the paper many years later, after it was pulped and processed by humanity's machines.


That's pretty much how the book went. Something small would happen--"I opened a door"--but then the narrative went somewhere else and the action was left hanging pages back.

I enjoy Koontz's work, usually. He's always added interesting bits of info and research into his story lines, but that info never seemed to get in the way of the story. I can't say the same for this book. The descriptions became tedious. It wouldn't have been so bad if those descriptions had moved the story forward or revealed more about a character or the horror of a situation, but they didn't -- and pages would pass before the story moved forward again.

I liked the concept. I liked the reveal. I could have done without the endless descriptions of every building, tunnel, and location the characters visited. It seemed that half of the flashbacks could have been removed and the paragraphs of descriptions pared to a few sentences without altering or damaging the story.