Archive | March, 2014

Review: The Last Hour of Gann by R. Lee Smith

18 Mar

The Last Hour of Gann

Lizard people. Must read the book about Lizard People. I remember telling myself this over and over again when I first heard about this book. I mean really, lizard people, lizard people planet, lizard person hero who is also some sort of PRIEST, which of course leads to lizard people sex, crashing spaceships, and douchebag humans all trying to survive aforementioned crashing spaceship- it seemed really bad B movie in book form and had my inner sci-fi geek panting in excitement (also I wanted to see how many times I could write lizard people in one sentence and I think I did pretty well there, don’t you?). What I got was something so completely different I found myself sitting on this review for 2 weeks because I simply did not know how to write about this book. I hated and loved parts of it in equal measure. I would have to grade it both A and an F; which doesn’t make sense but completely describes how I feel about this book.

Quick summary of the plot: Amber is the heroine of the story. Being a down on her luck human in a dystopian future Earth she decides that she and her sister would take their chances on the very first ship to leave Earth in order to go colonise another planet. Things don’t go as planned and they crash onto another planet, Gann. Gann is a planet inhabited by, yup you guessed it, lizard people. They’re a pretty violent race and religion governs pretty much all aspects of their society. Meoraq is the hero of this book and is a Sheulak or warrior priest. This position is a really big deal in local society and Meoraq can pretty much do whatever he wants as long as it falls under the auspices of being Sheul’s (God’s) will. This is a very simple explanation that doesn’t completely encompass how complex the world building and plot of this book really is.

Before I go on though I feel that I have to warn people that this book is terribly, terribly violent. There’s rape, children being killed, more rape, murder of children, a little more rape… and no closed door stuff for R. Lee Smith. No sirree, she explains everything in graphic detail. I have to admit that I felt a little sick after finishing this book. So, if any of the above scenarios are hot triggers for you steer far, FAR away from this book.

I can’t recommend this book wholeheartedly because this book was SO freaking violent and the humans in this book were all people I wanted to burn at the stake- ALL of them, from Scott the head douchebag to Nikki the unbelievably annoying sister. They were so horrible and were basically portrayed as sheep following Scott the leader and totally mistreating Amber because Scott is threatened by her. It was a very exaggerated form of bullying and while you feel that the author is making a point here about human society, it was very difficult for me to read.

But here’s the thing, even with all of that, I HAD to finish the book. The world building was fascinating and there’s a twist at the end that’s really surprising. But strangely enough for such a rabidly violent book? The romance itself was really beautiful. Yes, it was a beautiful romance between a human girl (who by the way was initially portrayed as someone so obese they worried she wouldn’t fit into the space capsule thingy they travelled on) and her lizard man.

Unlike a lot of the insta-love, fated to be together romances out there nowadays, you actually saw the development of the love between Meoraq and Amber. They would have all these wonderful conversations about life and God and religion and you could see them falling in love with each other very slowly and very reluctantly. One of the more fascinating aspects of this book is how R. Lee portrays the characters as actually finding each other physically ugly in the beginning. Meoraq thinks Amber looks strange, soft and ugly and well, Amber thinks Meoraq looks like a lizard which in no culture here on Earth is a compliment. Because the love story was so thoughtfully developed and written, the sex, which I initially thought would squick me out the most actually became a very natural part of the story.

The best parts for me were when Meoraq, a warrior-priest and Amber, an atheist would get into debates about the existence of God. Those conversations were very thoughtful and interesting. I normally am not a fan of putting too much religion in romance novels (haven’t read a single love-inspired book and I can say that I’ve read pretty much everything) but I loved the way the hero and the heroine would talk about their beliefs.

So there you have it- my love-hate-love-hate relationship with The Last Hour of Gann. I am sitting here wondering if I will ever read another book from this author again. I am reluctant as this book was soooooo violent and the rape scenes and children dying… but the beautiful love story and the really compelling storytelling that went with it… Right now I have to say that my abhorrence of some of the more violent scenes in the book probably means I won’t be picking up a book by this author again anytime soon but I wouldn’t say never. Have you read other books by this author? Are they as violent as this one?

RFG Recommends: Uncommon Passion by Anne Calhoun

11 Mar

Uncommon Passion A Calhoun

I was listening to the DBSA (Dear Bitches Smart Authors) Podcast recently, going through all of their old podcasts hoping that I would find a book or books to break this reading slump that I’ve been on lately. One of the books that Sarah from Smart Bitches Trashy Books recommended was Uncommon Passion by Anne Calhoun.
The thing that made me want to read it was the description of the heroine. Her name is Rachel Hill and she is described in the summary as someone who has recently left a fundamentalist commune called Elysian Field. Having grown up in this very restrictive environment, she is a 25 year old virgin. Wanting to rid herself of her aforementioned virginity she buys the hero, Ben, at a bachelor auction thinking that he looks like the kind of guys who could do the job and walk away. Ben, at first, seems to be nothing more than a really hot adrenaline junkie police officer with too many notches on his bedpost.
One of the things that I really LOVED about this book was how thoughtful it was. There were no stereotypes to be found anywhere in the story. A lazier writer could have easily portrayed Rachel as an uber innocent (verging on too stupid to live) traumatised young thing and her father and everyone in the commune as evil and mean. What we do get is one of the strongest heroines I have read in a good long time.
Rachel’s strength is quite different from the outwardly tough, I will kick your ass to the moon and back strength of the urban fantasy/paranormal heroine, but by the end of the book I thought: wow that is one strong, self-aware woman. Anne Calhoun was able to write a character of such quiet inner strength and grace, I finished the book with an incredible amount of respect for the character and for AC as a writer for not turning Rachel into a caricature of what people think “escapees” from cults or communes should be like.
It also would have been easy to just vilify Rachel’s father as this oppressive man and in some ways, he was because of his beliefs. At the same time, he was also the man who baked cookies with her and read her stories and all these other things that show that he was a very loving father. There’s a scene where Ben and Rachel are talking about her life in Elysian Field and she says that people think she left because of the lack of fashion or long skirts but that’s not why she left at all. She left because she wanted to decide things for herself without her father or one of the elders telling her what to think or feel. I found it fascinating that she wasn’t even supposed to be mad or grumpy as this was being ungrateful to God so she had to be serene or cheerful all day.
Ben as a hero seems really simple in the beginning but is actually a really complicated character. I LOVE that he had to work through his issues and come to realizations about himself before he felt he had anything to give in terms of a relationship. I love how the romance developed slowly, completely apart from the steamy sex which would have been about an 8 or 9 in the steamy charts. I LOVE how the heroine , even being inexperienced knew to stand up for herself after a raunchy sex sesh and say you know what? You didn’t treat me right that time, buh-bye. I love how AC made Rachel brave enough to fully accept and experience all emotions even negative ones.
I know I may be repeating myself but it has to be said again; this was a very well-written and thoughtful romance that I will remember in the jumble of all the other meh books that I have read lately. My only criticism is that I didn’t get that ‘chest hurts oh my God this book is ripping my heart out’ feeling that I get with the some really good books. It’s a solid B+ for me though, hope you like it.