Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Review: It by Stephen King

Title: It
Author: Stephen King

Read copy: Paperback
Published: August 7, 1987
Publisher: Signet
ISBN: 0451169514
ISBN-13: 9780451169518

The story follows the exploits of seven children as they are terrorized by an eponymous being, which exploits the fears and phobias of its victims in order to disguise itself while hunting its prey. "It" primarily appears in the form of a clown in order to attract its preferred prey of young children. The novel is told through narratives alternating between two time periods, and is largely told in the third-person omniscient mode. It deals with themes which would eventually become King staples: the power of memory, childhood trauma, and the ugliness lurking behind a façade of traditional small-town values.

My rating:

I was among those who watched this when it came out as a miniseries. I was definitely too young to watch the miniseries, which proved itself when I kept inspecting out bathroom sink for any signs of blood for months afterwards.

Anyway, with the movie coming out (which I probably won’t go see), I became interested again, and after reading about the books having a much more developed Pennywise storyline, I decided to give it a go. After more than a week, I must say, the book proved to be quite a disappointment.

It started off great and the creepy factor was high, but then it sort of fizzled out and should’ve become a DNF, but somehow my stubborn streak kicked in. It was too long with too many things crammed into it going from creepy and gory into rather disgusting territory (with the animal torture and the “orgy” in the sewers) to downright bizarre with the whole alien and the Ritual of Chüd thing.

Somehow it all felt overblown, bloated and overburdened with all these different elements while most of it could’ve been cut creating a leaner, meatier tome.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Review: The Shining by Stephen King

Title: The Shining
Author: Stephen King

Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Anchor
ISBN: 0307743659
ISBN-13: 9780307743657

Jack Torrance's new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he'll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote...and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.

My rating:

The Torrance family moves to the Overlook Hotel in order for the recovering alcoholic patriarch, Jack, to start his new job as caretaker. But bringing his family with him proves to be a huge mistake for Jack, since his psychic son seems to bring out the worst in the old hotel.

Nicely plotted and well developed with realistic and believable, somewhat heart breakable (Jack in this instance) characters and plausible actions and reactions, this books flows more along the lines of psychological thriller than straightforward horror.
The suspense builds up so slowly that the true horror and evil creeps up suddenly and (almost) unexpectedly, although it also has its silly moments that break the flow of the story and the slow, inexorable progress of the creeping evil.

What also breaks the stride of the story is the length. It felt overblown, overdrawn, and was slowly getting very boring indeed. Fact is, it took me ages to finish. But maybe it was just me having an adverse reaction to King’s narrative style.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Review: Motor City Alien Mail Order Brides Series by Ellis Leigh

Title: Cutlass
Series: Intergalactic Dating Agency, Motor City Alien Mail Order Brides
Author: Ellis Leigh
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: September 23, 2016
Publisher: Kinship Press

These aliens are looking for love in all the wrong solar systems

Cutlass never thought he’d be stuck on some backward planet in a solar system with only one sun. Earth wasn’t his home, but he’d find a way to survive there if it meant finding a mate. He could put up with their ancient mechanical devices and a name that wasn’t his own for the right woman.

Chloe never imagined she’d sign up to be some sort of modern-day mail order bride. But too much wine and an internet connection were a bad combination, especially when the life she imagined seemed so much greater than the life she was living. Everyone stretches the truth on those dating websites, right?

One ad in a space station, one night of too much drinking, and one hotel room that will never be the same. What would you do if you found out the man from your fantasies was actually the man from your science fiction?

My rating:

Earth is the new addition to the Intergalactic Dating Agency's list. The planet it apparently filled with single women waiting for that special guy, that Mr Right. Women who apparently aren't that picky about Mr Right not being human. So the powers that be at the IGDA are starting to accept applications of aliens of male sex from around the universe to be matched with human women.

Cutlass or whatever the hell his true (long) name is, is the first, and he's matched with Chloe who managed to beat "the rush", since female applications have also started pouring in. They have two weeks to make it work, and then it's mate or bust.

I simply adored this story. Adored it to bits. The MCs were wonderful, and funny (especially with the whole culture and language barrier thingy), Cutlass was just perfect (oh, my), Chloe and her inner monologues quirky as heck, the story was super cute, and super hot (oh, my), and the length spot on.

Loved it and looking forward to more.

Title: Hudson
Series: Intergalactic Dating Agency, Motor City Alien Mail Order Brides
Author: Ellis Leigh
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: October 11, 2016
Publisher: Kinship Press

Hudson knew from the moment he saw the flyer in a space station bathroom that a mail order bride from Earth was for him. He wanted a mate, someone to cherish, someone to spoil, and finding her in another species wasn’t a big deal in his mind. Convincing his two shipmates to go along was the hardest part, and even then, he knew everything would work out for them.

Macy had a plan. Go to school, become a doctor, and keep her twin sister healthy. If men fell to the side along the way, she could catch up on the whole dating thing later. But when said twin sister decided to apply for a mail order bride program as Macy, things got a little complicated. Suddenly there was a hot guy with rock-star charm looking at her as if she was the greatest thing on Earth, and she had no idea how to deal with that.

My rating:

Hudson finally gets the news he's been waiting for for so long—he's been matched. When he meets her, he finds out he's been matched to a beautiful little woman who smells of dead things. A veritable perfume for a hunter.

Macy's been pimped by her own sister. Her twin, Stacy, had applied her for a mail-order-bride deal posing as her, and now that she's been matched, Macy cannot find it in herself to renege on the "deal". Especially when the deal comes in a package like Hudson.

After the first story in this little trilogy, Cutlass, that was cute, sweet, sexy, and funny, this came as a disappointment. I liked the hero, although he lacked the humorous cultural-gab moments of his predecessor, but I disliked the heroine with her codependence with her manipulative sister, and her complete inability to send the aforementioned sister to hell.
I understand the whole cancer-scare thing, but it was a long time ago, and letting her twin walk all over her, making everything about herself, literally cockblocking her on the date Stacy herself helped put in motion, was a bit too much.

Also, the story lacked the ease and fun of its predecessor, sounding rather forced.

Title: Hudson
Series: Intergalactic Dating Agency, Motor City Alien Mail Order Brides
Author: Ellis Leigh
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: November 1, 2016
Publisher: Kinship Press
ASIN: B01L378WQ2

No one puts Stacy in a corner...

Maverick wasn’t a fan of the planet Earth. He also wasn’t particularly fond of being matched to a human mail order bride. She was too bossy, too fake, too…everything he didn’t want. Until he did.

Stacy spent a year of her life isolated from her friends and family, so she refused to spend another minute that way. That was why she signed up to be matched as a mail order bride. It worked for her sister; it’d work for her, too. As soon as she got past her match’s broody ways.

My rating:

I was looking forward to Maverick's story since the beginning of this trilogy, because the grumpiest usually fall the hardest, but I couldn't have been more disappointed if I tried.

I hated his heroine with a passion. Bossy, brash, self-centered, egotistical and bitchy Stacy couldn't have been redeemed no matter what happened. I felt a sliver of empathy somewhere around the half mark, but she ruined it all soon afterward when she couldn't have been bothered with actually sticking around and listening, preferring to wallow in self-pity.

It was always and all about her. Maverick sure deserved better.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Review: The Princess Series by Alexa Riley

Title: His Princess
Series: The Princess Series
Author: Alexa Riley
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: February 22, 2017
Publisher: Alexa Riley

Alena is a princess, and with that comes responsibility. Like marrying the giant caveman King Roman, who looks more like a warrior than a ruler. Everything about him is intense. Especially the way he looks at her. But she's been promised to him, and there's no way out.

Roman took one look and made up his mind. Princess Alena will be his and no one will stop him from taking her. Everything about her belongs to him now, and waiting one week for a wedding isn't going to happen.

This beast of a man might just claim his princess before she has a chance to say "I do."

My rating:

It was cute and sweet, with a nice (albeit predictable) plot and rather solid characters. The insta-love was bothersome (unbelievable and unrealistic), and the story reminded me slightly of a Barbara Cartland plot.

The flowery prose was kept to a minimum, and everything went along rather nicely, but then in the second part (@ 67%) the hero's inner monologue about his queen's particular position being optimal for breeding ruined it.

Sheesh. Talk about overkill.

Still, it was better than the daddy-debt crap.

Title: Stolen Princess
Series: The Princess Series
Author: Alexa Riley
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: February 27, 2017
Publisher: Alexa Riley

Karim is past the time when he should have chosen a bride, but he never met anyone who caught his eye. Forced to choose, he holds a ball and invites all eligible princesses to attend. And that’s when everything changes.

Giselle’s been tucked away on her father’s land and doesn’t know how the royal world works. It’s her first party, and it’s going terribly until she finds herself alone in a room with a man. A man who wants to make her his.

When Giselle gives him everything and then discovers who he is…well, how good do you think she’ll be at hide and seek?

My rating:

Worse (if possible) than the first story in this series, but still better than the daddy-debt crap.

The usual template applies...The hero getting all down and dirty while spouting flowery prose to the virginal, inexperienced, but incredibly beautiful heroine who's also a very quick learner when it comes to sex. They fall instantly in love and do it (repeatedly) without a condom.

The end.

Now you'll ask me, why I keep reading these stories if I don't like them. I call'em palate cleansers. A nice, quick, sometimes even cute, respite from "meatier" story-lines.

Title: Claimed Princess
Series: The Princess Series
Author: Alexa Riley
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: March 6, 2017
Publisher: Alexa Riley

Heavenly and Carlos have been best friends their whole lives. But it’s almost time for Heavenly’s birthday, which means she’ll be married off to a king.

Carlos has been King for a few years now and is being pressured to choose a bride. But he’s only ever had eyes for one princess, and he’s had to wait for her to turn twenty-one.

Heavenly doesn’t have any idea the plans Carlos has made for her, so when she offers to marry his brother, things don’t go so well. Girl, they don’t go well at all… Carlos isn’t having that. She gets a dose of alpha when Carlos lays down the law. But when she runs…how far will she actually get?

My rating:

Definitely the worst so far. Slow, boring, with a childish heroine (she sounded more like eleven than twenty-one), and a virgin hero to boot.

My standards aren't that high, but come on!

Title: Forbidden Princess
Series: The Princess Series
Author: Alexa Riley
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: March 12, 2017
Publisher: Alexa Riley

Tabitha is destined to marry a king and unite her powerful family with another. But she’s never been one to do what she’s told, and she’s decided to make her own destiny.

Vlad has devoted his life to guarding his king and never thought about taking a wife. But all bets are off when a sassy, dark-haired princess appears.

These two are hot and fast, but when Tabby’s parents step in, things get messy. Can they forgo tradition and make their own way, or will the divide break them?

My rating:

Okay, this is officially ridiculous. Although I don't know which is more. This series (which went from bad to worse) or me for reading it.

I cannot claim these type of stories to be palate-cleansers anymore, they're just shyte. Over-the-top, unbelievable, fantastical, ridiculous crap. The heroes spout flowery prose a real-life man wouldn't be caught dead saying, and let's not speak of their oral fixations—talk about unrealistic. And the heroines are all perfectly happy to spend the rest of their lives alongside a sexually-obsessed maniac who bangs them without a condom to make as many babies as possible with a complete disregard to the woman's health.

I only read this one because I liked Tabby and Vlad in the first book, but I should've known that their story would ruin all good feelings from that little short scene. And I was right. Does that make me a glutton for punishment?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Review: Blood Assassin by Alexandra Ivy

Title: Blood Assassin
Series: The Sentinels
Author: Alexandra Ivy
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: December 30, 2014
Publisher: Zebra

Out Of The Shadows

At six-foot-three and two-hundred-fifty pounds, Fane is a natural born guardian. A flawless mix of muscled perfection and steely precision, he has devoted years of his life to protecting a beautiful necromancer. But after she found love in the arms of another, Fane has been a warrior adrift. He swears allegiance only to the Sentinels. And no woman will ever rule his heart again...

Into The Fire

Not only a powerful psychic, Serra is that rare telepath who can connect to minds through objects. When the daughter of a high-blood businessman is kidnapped, Serra agrees to help. But when she stumbles onto a conspiracy involving secrets sects and ancient relics, her life is in mortal danger—and Fane is her only hope. Is the warrior willing to risk his body, his soul, and his heart, for Serra? Or will one last betrayal destroy them both?

My rating:

Serra Vetrov, still bruised from the latest (and according to her last) broken heart event caused by the man she's loved for the past twenty years, is suddenly helpless to resist the compulsion (n: you might read the book, blurb-writer!) to travel to Saint Louis without telling anybody. But Fane isn't anybody, and he doesn't have to be told anything. He knows Serra is in danger, and he promptly follows.

Only for the two of them to discover, Serra must find a kidnapped child. If she doesn't, she'll die.

The premise didn't make any sense. Why force Serra to do something she always does without coercion? Why blackmail a psychic specializing in finding missing kids into finding a missing kid? Serra put it best, he could've simply picked up the phone, told her a version of the truth, that no one, not even Valhalla must be aware or the kid dies, and done.
But no, the villain had to be all obscure and witch-y about it, and I hated it.
And since I hated the idiotic premise (without which there wouldn't be a story, which made me hate it all even more), I didn't enjoy the book as much as I could've. As much as I should've.

Serra and Fane were lovely together, but there was this strange, slightly bitter aftertaste after their scenes together. First, they were brought together because of the danger they were in which, second, didn't exactly scream eternal love and devotion because she's who she is for me on Fane's part. It was more one last f*** before you die kind of vibe, the way Serra suspected it was. Why did it take him so long to decide he did want her no matter what? Why did it take a life-or-death situation to make him pull his head out of his ass?
This sudden pivot didn't make it genuine, and even at the end, left doubts about this "romance" and where it was going.

Now to the anti-hero, who was more of a villain to me than the real one, Bastard Cavrilo. I hated him. Hated him with a passion, no matter how much he seemed to care about his daughter. Not all ends justify the means, and I just wanted Fane to kill the SOB. He kept appearing, intruding, stealing the spotlight from Serra and Fane and their (yes, iffy, but still) romance, until, in the end, I just skimmed his scenes, simply because I didn't care. And since he's the hero of the next (last?) book in this series I guess I'll wait a while to forget a little what a bastard he is.

The suspense could've been a little better, less convoluted, and a tad more "scary". As it was, I knew they were getting the kid back alive, it might've worked better if that outcome had not been so obvious. Keep us guessing, keep us at the edge of our seats.

The best this book had to offer was the Mave/Tagos side-plot. Boy, would I love so read their book. Which is, apparently, not possible due to their roles in Valhalla. Damn.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Review: Born In Blood by Alexandra Ivy

Title: Born In Blood
Series: The Sentinels
Author: Alexandra Ivy
Read copy: eBook
Published: December 31, 2013
Publisher: Zebra
ISBN: 1420134116
ISBN-13: 9781420134117

In The Heart Of Darkness

Sergeant Duncan O'Conner has seen it all before. Beautiful erotic dancer, murdered at home, no suspect, no motive. But there's one clue: she's missing her heart. It's enough to make the hard-bitten Kansas City cop enlist the help of a necro—one of the dead-channelling freaks who live in the domed city of nearby Valhalla. It's a long shot, but desperate crimes call for desparate measures.

Lies The Kiss Of Death

Unlike the other "high-bloods" in Valhalla, Callie Brown considers her abilities a gift, not a curse. But when she reads the dancer's final thoughts, she senses a powerful presence blocking her vision. This is no ordinary homicide. This is the work of a legendary necromancer who controls souls. A ravenous force that will put Callie's skills to the test, O'Conner's career at risk, and both their hearts on the line...literally.

My rating:

***copy provided by publisher through NetGalley***

When a body of a young, beautiful woman is found naked in her house, with no apparent struggle signs, and missing a heart, Sergeant Duncan O'Conner knows it's the case for high-bloods. Enter his little obsession, Callie Brown, a diviner able to glimpse into the minds of the dead, searching for their last memory.

What, or better yet, who she sees seems to be connected to her on a yet-unknown level, and will put the police department and Valhalla in an uproar, changing her and Duncan's lives forever.

I was a little leery of this series after the rather disappointing introduction to it, but my fears and doubts were soon put to rest.
The world-building was wonderful, the "new" universe intriguing and interesting without descending into the been-there-read-that territory (it was a paranormal romance without a vampire or shape-shifter in sight), the plot was gripping, the pacing good (despite some iffy passages), and the characters nicely-developed and fleshed-out with great (and rather realistic) interactions, and the villain and his nefarious plot intense and just the right amount of chilling.

The romance was solid, growing and developing rather organically after the slightly rushed start, with Duncan and Callie nicely complimenting and balancing each other. The relationship between Fane and Callie was also well-written with its slight ambiguousness at the beginning, the unbreakable bond of friendship shining through. I loved the animosity between the two men, the dick measuring something so utterly male, and realistically believable, it was a pleasure reading any scenes the two shared.
And the dangling of the bait as to just what might be between Fane and Serra was a little evil (since it's apparently resolved in the next book) but very well done at the same time.

In the end the suspense took a backseat to all the relationships (romantic and non) in this book, but that doesn't mean it was bad, dull or boring. Far from it, and kudos for the surprising twist about Callie and her connection to the evil necromancer.

I'm definitely looking forward to the next installment.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Review: Out of Control by Alexandra Ivy

Title: Out of Control
Series: The Sentinels
Author: Alexandra Ivy
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: October 28, 2014
Publisher: Zebra

Ph.D student Angela Locke has a crush on her sexy professor, Dr. Nikolo Bartrev. When she learns he’s actually a Sentinel with extraordinary powers, she joins forces with him to catch a psychopath. But soon, their hottest pursuit is of each other...

My rating:

A high-blood (a.k.a. freak) has escaped Valhalla in desperate search of normalcy and knows just who to go to—genetics expert Angela Locke, and Nikolo Bartev is dispatched to keep the scientist safe.

This was a rather weird read for me. Not in terms of genre, but in terms of story-telling, I guess. I've never read a book (long or short) with such clear delineation between the two halves of it as this one.

In the first half the world-building was good, making this "new" universe interesting without seeming rehashed, the pacing was solid, the character of Angela, although naïve and a little bit needy, rather nice, and the villain and the hunt for her intriguing.

Then came the second half, and Angela turned a little annoying, then the supposed romance came into play with little to no indication to it in the previous half (making the hero appear calculating by using the heroine's attraction to him and sex to bind her), and the paying went haywire first by halting due to the "romance", then speeding up with the final confrontation...And then it was over.
Also, I didn't appreciate the info dump toward the end about the binding or whatever the hell that was about. Not because of the info, but because of the "lack of finesse" in the dump, compared to the gradual world-building (and info providing) of the first half.