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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?

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Meh books and Alphaholes

25 Feb

Reaper's Legacy Knight

I’ve been really disappointed with all the books that I’ve read in the past few weeks. It’s been a good long while since I’ve read any that made me want to write about it squeeing in delight… and I want to squee my way through a book, dammit.
I think the problem with me this past month is that I have gone for the free books and the .99 cent (or so) books on Amazon thinking to save myself some money. What HAS happened is that I have bought heaps of books that I then skimmed and then promptly forgot about or simply did not finish (DNF). This resulted in me spending more than I would have if I had just bought a few really good books at a higher price point that I could really enjoy. It’s like when you’re eating at a buffet with a lot of not-so-good food and you keep eating and eating and eating looking for that taste you’re looking for, not finding it and then feeling slightly ill afterwards. That is how the past few weeks have been for me in terms of reading- too much meh stuff that has left me feeling vaguely dissatisfied.
(This is not to say that you can’t find some really amazing books out there for free or cheap, I’ve just had really crappy luck with them these past few weeks)
The other thing that I am seeing with some of the books that I am reading is the emergence of a breed of heroes I call the alphahole. I know that the whole imperfect, grittier hero is a hot trend at the moment but I find myself getting exasperated with it. What the heck is so wrong about a nice guy? You know, one who does NOT have a stable of prostitutes that he makes his money with or one that does NOT call women bitches or whores?
I’m a HUGE fan of alpha heroes. I love their take charge attitude, absolute belief in themselves and their need to take care of their women. LOVE. THEM. However, lately I’ve found that some authors disturbingly blur the line between an alpha and an alphahole (which is basically an alpha asshole). I get that there is this movement towards realism and angst. I get that they’re trying to portray heroes that are in stark contrast to sickeningly perfect, gorgeous, intelligent, billionaire, philanthropist heroes of the past. For me though, there’s imperfect and tortured and there’s just being an abusive, misogynistic pig.
I’m learning that there are certain things that I just will not accept in a hero. Salty language and dirty talk? No problem. Being derogatory to a woman and calling her a whore, slut etc and then justifying it to the heroine saying it’s okay because I’d never do that to YOU? Not okay. A man hitting a woman? Never okay.
I read a book recently where the hero was absolutely APPALLING to women. He had no respect for them aside from them being receptacles for his magic wang. He would call them bitch and forcibly evict them from his house, throwing their clothes out- after taking them home with him the night before! How in the world is a man like that hero material? This hero THEN goes on to say that yes he would hit a woman if she was “asking for it”. Arrrgh. Just typing that made me so mad! And it makes me even more mad because he then says he would never treat the heroine like that because she wasn’t a slut like all the other sluts he slept with. Given that he actively participated in the aforementioned activity this would make him a hypocrite of the highest level.
Being imperfect, sleeping around, having a tragic past, being surly and not too good with social situations- these are all fine and I can live with those. Being in any way abusive even if that abusive behaviour is not targeted towards the heroine, I’m sorry I simply cannot stomach. As a psychology major the whole “Oh baby I treat OTHER people like shit but I would never treat YOU like that” really pisses me off. I get that some of the romance heroes of old may have been a little too perfect but do I really want to read about a hero who is a pimp? Uh, NO.
There are authors who push the envelope of the alpha male but manage to pull them back right before they cross over that invisible line for me into alphahole. A really good example of this would be Kristen Ashley’s Chaos MC boys who are really rough around the edges but never cross over this line for me versus those in her Unfinished Hero series (Knight, ugh!) and Joanna Wylde’s Reaper’s Legacy which was a good book overall, but there were moments with the hero that left a really bad taste in my mouth. He is SO never going to be one of my book boyfriends. Although that cover is admittedly really nice to look at.
What do you think about this new trend in alphahole heroes?

Review: After the Storm (KGI Series) by Maya Banks

13 Jan

After the Storm MB

Okay, the title of this entry may also have to be disappointed fan girl as I wasn’t particularly enamored with this book. Aaack! That almost feels like I’m blaspheming as I love this author! That being said, Maya Banks is still an autobuy author for me and the KGI series in particular is a series that I love and pre-order. If you haven’t read this series yet, I highly recommend it… just don’t start with this book.

KGI stands for Kelly Group International and it was started by a group of brothers whose family name is, yup you guessed it, Kelly. There are 6 brothers who have all served in the armed forces in some form or another before joining the family company. KGI is made up of male and female badasses who go on righteous (their words not mine) missions such as rescuing kidnap victims, hostage extractions etc all over the world. This is book 8 in the series, with the previous books telling the stories of 4 of the other Kelly brothers and the other members of the team.

Although each book is a stand alone I really recommend that you read this series in order. This is because one, I am slightly obsessive compulsive about reading series in order (there was a reason they were written that way dammit), and two it is nice to see how the relationships between family and team members grow and develop as the series progresses.

The books are romantic suspense done well with a lot of exciting parts without the romantic elements getting lost in the mix or added as an afterthought. Action aside though, my favourite thing about these books are the relationships between the brothers. The dialogue between them is often funny and done very realistically with them teasing and joking each other in between moving heaven and earth to keep one another safe.

Donovan is the third eldest brother who features largely in all the previous books and is portrayed as the one with a soft spot for women and children. Hmmm, hot former Navy guy with a soft spot for kids and a brain like a computer? Excuse me for a moment while I check that my knickers haven’t spontaneously combusted… Could you tell that I was really looking forward to Donovan’s book?

I liked the premise of the book- Eve and her siblings are running away from her evil step father. Her half brother ends up working in the Kelly’s hardware store and through this connection, Donovan or Van ends up meeting Eve and her sibs and falling taut ass over head in love with all of them.

While the dialogue and relationship bits of the book do not disappoint there were several plot tropes that were used in this book that I don’t particularly like, and while I feel that this may fall under the heading of personal taste, I do think that they have to be discussed. First of all, this was the least action packed book in the series. The other books had kidnappings, drug lords, high powered weapons and bombs. This book was positively tame in comparison.

The next thing that I had a problem with is how quickly Van falls in love with both Eve and her siblings. While I know that romance novels are fiction, I still have a hard time with the love at first sight/over the span of hours trope- especially when this love extends to young children. Protectiveness towards and overwhelming attraction to I can understand but truly in love over a span of 3 days beggars belief. This was also an issue for me because the fact that Van loved women and children was stressed several times in the book and it did lead me to wonder whether or not he really loved them or the IDEA of them. MB gets around this problem by having one of the Kelly bros confronting Van about this specific issue but because everything happens so quickly there is that little niggle of doubt that remains- at least there was in my mind.

My biggest frustration though is the whole misunderstanding leading to awful things trope. This one drives me absolutely mad. I did at one point end up screaming at my IPAD “Just ASK him about it for GOD’S SAKE!”. This very strong dislike of painful experiences that could have been avoided if characters in a book would just TALK to each other is one of the reasons a lot Shakespeare’s plays drive me batty. I can’t really talk about it more without including some major spoilers so I’ll leave it there but let me just add a few more exclamation marks to convey my frustration one last time !!!!!

That being said, I cannot repeat how much I love this author and this series in particular. My expectations were very high for this book and I have to say even though I was a bit disappointed it’s still a better quality book than a lot of others out there.

My Week in Books…

5 Nov

This week seems to be a week of new releases. I finished Nora Roberts’s Dark Witch and Nalini Singh’s Archangel’s Legion over the weekend. Two of my autobuy authors, one weekend- yay me! I also re-read Danielle Monsch’s Stone Guardian and am currently reading Shannon Stacey’s Snowbound with the CEO.

Of all the above books I have to really, really recommend Archangel’s Legion. It was EPIC. I’m still trying to get my thoughts together so I can write a proper review because really I’m still feeling all gushy and ridiculously in love with the book- it was that good. Unfortunately, writing SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE over and over again does not a good review make so that review is forthcoming once I have come back down to Earth.

Dark Witch by Nora Roberts and Danielle Monsch’s Stone Guardian were good books, but not great ones. I’ll write about them and Shannon Stacey’s Snowbound this week. After Archangel’s Legion I’m looking for a really good paranormal romance I can get into. Recommendations anyone?

Autobuy Authors 1

2 Nov

I started this entry thinking, “This should be easy, I LOVE these authors.” Four days later I have finally come to the realisation that because I LOVE these authors so much I’m having a really hard time writing short blurbs about them when in reality I want to squee like the ridiculous romance fan girl that I am across the whole page. This is just a short and sweet entry on who my autobuy authors are (and this is another reason it’s taking me so damn long I am now stressing out that I will forget a favourite and want to shoot myself AFTER posting the damn piece) and what kind of books they write generally. I’ll probably do recommend pieces on most of them later on. At least, that is what I am telling myself so that I actually finish this list…

Nora Roberts: La Nora is a GODDESS and I will buy anything and everything she writes. This includes her Eve Dallas/ JD Robb books and I have to note that Roarke must be one of my favourite alpha male heroes EVER. She writes mostly contemporary romances although some of her later stuff has her branching out into romantic suspense and romance with paranormal elements. At the end of the day, she is a highly prolific author whose not so good stuff is better than some other people’s good stuff. Enough said.

CL Wilson: If you love your romance with a lot of fantasy then you HAVE to read CL Wilson’s Fading Lands/ Tairen Soul series. Think epic fantasy on the scale of Lord of the Rings with an even more kick ass love story. This is one of my absolute favourite series of all time and has made me such a fan she is on my autobuy list. Be warned though, she is NOT a prolific author and her last book was published back in 2010 (!!!). Her next book is due out late 2014 but trust me, she is SO worth the wait.

Nalini Singh: Both her Psy-Changeling and Guild Hunter series are autobuys for me. She has amazing world-building skills and with her Psy-Changeling series in particular, is very good with continuing an overarching storyline through multiple books. Both series are based in alternate versions of our current reality. Her Psy-Changeling series is about shifters and humans and a human like psychically powerful race called the Psy, who have also instituted a protocol called silence (complete emotionlessness) in order to deal with their psychic capabilities. Her Guild Hunter series is about Angels and Vampires and Guild hunters and starts off with the story of Elena, a guild hunter (hunter of naughty vampires in other words) and Rafael, the Archangel of New York.

Christine Feehan: Christine Feehan was probably one of the first paranormal romance authors that I read and I LOVED her Carpathian series before I got all vampired out. She also has a Jaguar Shifter series, Drake Sisters and Sisters of the Heart Series (witches) and the Nightwalker series which is about psychically enhanced super soldiers. I love and buy them all. Her books tend to be quite intense and are not as light hearted as some of the other authors that I have on this list.

Julie Garwood: Although my first ever romance novel was a Judith Mcnaught book, the author who made me fall in love with the genre is Julie Garwood. Her historical romances, especially the Highland ones are HILARIOUS and very very romantic. You’ll find that I like funny, romantic books best of all. My apologies to those who love the darker authors- I’d rather laugh my way through a romance than cry through it. Even though she has moved to contemporaries, and I don’t think most of them are as good as her early historicals, she is still an autobuy for me.

Julia Quinn: Another historical author with tickle your funny bone and pull at your heartstrings romances. I loved her Bridgerton series because I loved the interplay between the siblings but all her books are good. She has a way with funny dialogue and making you believe that the hero and heroine of her novels actually like each other as well as love each other.

NB: This is just part 1 of autobuy authors. I just had to give myself a cut off or I would never end up posting this entry! So many wonderful authors and not enough time to talk about them all!

Rock Chick Daze

2 Nov

I am in a complete Rock Chick daze. I have lost weeks (WEEKS!) of my life and I blame it all on Kristen Ashley. There are 8 books in the series and as with all series there are some books that I enjoyed a little bit more than the others but overall I loved all the books so much and am recommending the entire series as a whole instead of individual books.
The Rock Chick books are laugh out loud funny, romantic and hot- as in HAWT. I enjoyed the heck out of them and couldn’t put them down in spite of several writing idiosyncrasies that KA has that would usually drive me up the wall. I’ll get the stuff that I didn’t like about her books out of the way first so that I can continue to gush embarrassingly for the rest of this entry.

Most of KA’s books are written in first person. I usually don’t like first person point of view writing as I like getting into the other characters’ heads. In her books KA gets around only getting the main character’s thoughts by breaking all the “rules” and jumping points of views. This is not something I enjoy usually but she placed spaces and sub headings in between the changes in point of view so you’re not taken by surprise. I didn’t like it but it didn’t really bug me too much either. What DID bug the heck out of me was when she would write things like “I was walking out of the room and therefore did not see… (insert action here such as main characters exchanging meaningful looks)”. These lines always left me exasperated. If you didn’t see it then you DIDN’T SEE IT. Period. I don’t get how you can NOT see something and still write about it.

I have read other reviews of her books where the reviewers complained about the amount of detail that KA goes into when describing the clothes that her characters are wearing. I didn’t mind this at all and while I agree that there were times that I would skim over some of the lengthier descriptive paragraphs, I found that I actually liked knowing what my favourite (which was whoever I was reading about at that moment) rock chick was wearing. In fact, what they were wearing was an important part of who they are such as Dolly Parton look alike Daisy or high maintenance Roxie. The Rock Chicks as a group are strong, quirky, attractive women and I believe that their choice of clothing added to their individual quirks/personalities.
The Rock Chick books I believe were originally self-published so there are a few typos here and there but nothing like some of the other self-published train wrecks that you can get via electronic publishing.

These Rock Chick books are my favourite kind of contemporary romance because they are FUNNY. Like laugh out loud, scream and cover your face FUNNY. The humour is similar Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series in that the girls get up to all sorts of mischief by accident and by design. The things that come out of their mouth are both cringe worthy and hilarious. Some of the funniest moments come from conversations between the girls and their hot guys especially in the beginning when they are still fighting being together. Jet and Eddie’s whole racist episode down to the ex-boyfriend showing up will live forever in my mind. Ava’s time by herself in the afternoon that necessitated the cameras being turned off is another scene that made me scream out loud then burst out laughing.

The funny, light-hearted bits were a good balance to the more serious life and death/abuse situations that the chicks found themselves in a lot of the time. KA touched on some pretty serious issues in a couple of her books but managed to keep the books from becoming too heavy or depressing. I liked the fact that while the Rock Chicks all had their own physical life or death issues that they had to work out, they also had to spend a lot of time working out their internal issues and insecurities. Themes of not feeling special, not being good enough or not being worthy are all issues that I would think would resonate quite strongly with women as a whole regardless of background.

Following the whole internal work theme, I have to mention that probably my favourite thing about these books was the very strong theme of family/friends that run through the series. While reading it and certainly at the end of the book you WANT to be part of the Rock Chick family or something similar. You WANT these people to be your friends. Seriously. They always had each other’s backs, both the guys and the girls. The shared camaraderie and history really came through in the books and were very nicely backed up by the epilogues. I love me a good epilogue, especially in books where I get so attached to the characters that I want to know more about their happily ever after. KA does this really well. Nope, no short two page cryptic/ cliff hanger epilogue for the Rock Chicks, KA goes all out with a full chapter long visit to the couple and the group. Stella and Mace’s epilogue and Ava and Luke’s stood out for me especially as giving readers the reassurance that yes, they really WILL live happily ever after.

We cannot talk about the Rock Chick series without talking about their men, the Hot Bunch. Going back to the comparison with the Stephanie Plum series, imagine a whole bunch of Rangers and Morellis and… yup… sigh. The difference of course being that the Rock Chick novels are truly romance novels and while in some of the books there is another guy showing interest just to make things interesting, the stories are really about one guy and one girl falling in love with each other. The men in these books are either cops or part of a private investigation agency with the exception of Ren but in the end all the men are bad asses with a soft spot for women and really isn’t that a perfectly drool worthy combination? These alpha guys have their not so perfect moments (I believe that the term speak in Asshole was mentioned in one of the books) but KA always manages to pull them back before I ended up disliking them intensely. This is also something that she is good at- pushing characters to the limits of unlikeable and then pulling them firmly back into the likeable category (at least for this series. I had major problems with Knight which is in her unfinished hero series and to be fair she does warn readers that her heroes in that series are not the usual).

At the end of the day and all analysis aside, I couldn’t put down these books. I have read other more technically proficient books that I was able to put down and forget about. But with this series I was a total addict, even sneaking pages in at stoplights when driving home! This is not the one bite of beluga caviar that you nibble on daintily at a cocktail party. This series is a pint of Ben and Jerry’s or a bag of Cheetos puffs that you just gobble voraciously and keep eating because you can’t stop even though you know it’s not good for you. The books are in no way perfect but they made me laugh, they made me cry, they made me believe in family and love and deep meaningful connections to other people. The Rock Chick series is fun escapism at its very finest which is why this is definitely a series that I would recommend.

So What About Those Sex Scenes?

9 Aug

I love romance novels. I love them sweet, but I especially love them steamy. Give me a virile man hungry for his woman and I am one happy romance fan girl. Sad to say though that some sex scenes can be WTFery fodder like no other. There are plenty of stock standard sex scenes that have me shaking my head and thinking ugh, no. There are others that really just defy the laws of gravity and biology. Here are a few of my (not-so) favourites:

Everyone goes on and on about morning breath in morning sex scenes. I on the other hand think about having to wee. Because really people, isn’t that the first thing that you do in the morning?! I can’t think of anything worse than being bounced on with a full bladder. Shades of Gray aside (and oh my, will THAT series get another little entry of its own) I can’t see how a full bladder is conducive to sexy feelings. Enough said.

Speaking of bathrooms… how about the shower sex scenes? Now well written shower scenes can be romantic and (pardon the pun) steamy. But I have to admit that when the scene isn’t written particularly well my undisciplined mind does take a wander down the practical path and thoughts like ‘don’t the tiles hurt their knees?’ and ‘How does that work if the girl is a whole foot shorter than the massive 6’4 man pounding into her from behind’ start to intrude. And Oh my God, how about the one where the poor girl had to hold her breath underwater to pleasure her man in the tub?

The whole getting out of the shower without drying off and then getting rowdy soaking wet, in the bed, IN THE MIDDLE OF A SNOWSTORM without feeling cold at all because hey, heat of passion and all that also elicits snorts of disbelief from me. And isn’t it funny that the hot water runs out and turns icy cold JUST when the deed is done? Because no one has ever had hot water run out on them in the middle of a sex sesh. Really.

All this talk of soaking wet sheets does bring to mind another thing that can bring me out of a great story- the implication that there will be a lot of very annoying housework to do after the fun is finished. You know, it’s the soaking wet sheets that have to be changed, the sex play with chocolate syrup on the carpet (!!!) and some people’s favourite- the big dramatic sweeping of crockery/paperwork/other breakables off the table so that they can have very energetic sex ON said table. I know that these are all supposed to be swept away by passion type moments but sometimes all I do is wince through these scenes thinking of the hellish clean up afterwards.

There was one book where the hero and heroine spent the whole day tromping around in boots all day and then at night the hero sucked the heroines toes as foreplay after removing aforementioned boots that made me cringe. There was also that one book where the hero and heroine made love on a moving horse. ON. A. HORSE. As it was galloping along. Need I say more?

And then there are the ménages. If done well a ménage scene can be seriously hot… and there are the other ones where I actually catch myself tilting my head and book to the side while reading as if that would help me figure out who was touching what and where! Cirque de Soleil anyone?

A really good love scene can make my heart flutter in my chest, cause tingles and generally adds to the overall experience of the book. Even though the scenes above take me out of the story more often than not, a really skilful writer can get me so into a story that I don’t care about the hows and the whys. One of my favourite books of all time had the hero and heroine making love “in Spirit only” and underwater (and no they were not mer people of any sort). Another one had two angels making love in the sky, WHILE FLYING. How’s that for improbable? But that particular author wrote the scene so well that my mind didn’t wander off to what in the world would happen if a 747 should pass by. Talk about in flight entertainment.

What are your favourite/ least favourite sex scene tropes?