narfna’s #CBR5 Review #102: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

bone seasonThe next J.K. Rowling? Uh, nice try, Bloomsbury, but no. Extremely false. This isn’t the worst book I’ve read, by far, but it is one of the most frustrating, mostly because Samantha Shannon is clearly very smart, so that makes it all the more aggravating that this turned out the way it did. I have lots of thoughts, as if you couldn’t tell from all my status updates. I will try to parse them out in a concise and entertaining manner, but I make no promises because it is New Year’s Eve and I’m in my party dress.

So let’s start out with that awful marketing plan, since I’ve already brought it up. Comparing their extremely green author to one of the most beloved authors of all time was not a smart move on Bloomsbury’s part. I’m sure they miss all their Harry Potter revenue dearly, but all it did was set up Samantha Shannon for failure. And that was going to happen whether or not the book was any good. This book, which in my opinion is a hot mess, needed to be edited within a half inch of its life. It didn’t need to be praised as “the next Harry Potter.” Honestly, what I think it needed was for its author to incubate a little more. Her fine education and precocious imagination aside, she bit off way too much with this series, and did not have the life experience necessary to pull it off. This book screams AMATEUR to me. As stated above, I’ve certainly read worse books, but I almost think the experience of reading this one was so horrible because I could see the potential hiding in there. This story could have been great given five or so years, and a lot of patient editing.

To sum it up quickly, The Bone Season is the first of seven novels that take place in a dystopian/alternate world that diverged about two hundred years before present time. It’s a world where clairvoyance is real, and those possessing the ability are either persecuted or conscripted for police service, and where others choose to practice their talents in criminal underworlds as an alternative. But just as Shannon begins to describe this world to us, and we’re already feeling lost, our main character, whose name I have now forgotten, is kidnapped by a mysterious race of beings who are also clairvoyant, and then we have to learn about THAT world on top of the other one. Everything has a label, there is a new and confusing terminology for everything Shannon could have possibly thought of, and it is an incredibly trying reading experience. Not that challenging books are a problem, but there’s a way to do it that Shannon didn’t manage.

And then it quickly became clear to me that the plot of the novel was just the standard YA/romance with a super speshul heroine hiding underneath the thin veneer of the very confusing exterior of the world Shannon has created. Our heroine is SO SPECIAL and nobody has ever had powers like hers and the bad guy falls in love with her! And only she can save the day! It was about 1/3 of the way through the novel when I just gave up trying to keep track of everything and just let the crazy wash over me. The cardboard cutout secondary characters, the way the heroine fixated on things for no reason (and Shannon clearly expected us to care about those things as well, only I didn’t want to), the constant info-dumping and violations of Show, Don’t Tell. She uses complicated words to impress when simple ones would do. Last minute plot contrivances to get her story in place. A romance that comes out of nowhere. She basically lifts a character straight from A Clockwork Orange, and probably thought we wouldn’t notice, maybe because her target market won’t have read that book yet:

Look at you with dewdrops in your shiners. Raise your head, O my lovely! What do you want–sympathy? Pity? You won’t find that from him, just like you didn’t find it from me. The world is an abattoir, my mollisher. Raise those barking irons, now. Let me see you give him hell.”

Ugh, shut up.

I might read the second book in this series. But maybe not. Reading this one was torture, if I’m being honest, because a lot of the things I see Shannon doing as an author are things I used to struggle with as well. It’s like looking into a mirror and seeing my past self, and I can see myself thinking the wrong things are good, and being an idiot, and I don’t have the power to stop myself. Anyway, in my case it didn’t matter, because nobody was publishing the shit that I wrote when I was her age, and mistaking complicated worldbuilding for complexity and depth of content, as Bloomsbury seems to have done with this series.

Most of all, I just really wish whatever person accepted her manuscript for publication would have been thinking with their brain instead of their wallets. This book and its author are going to suffer for it.

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Sophia’s #CBR5 Review #56: The Last Kiss Goodbye by Karen Robards

The Last Kiss GoodbyeI did not pick up The Last Kiss Goodbye (2013) by Karen Robards with the best attitude. First, I am not a fan of paranormal romance novels. I just don’t understand the appeal of falling in love with a ghost. Romance heroes are pretty unrealistic already. Is it really necessary to make them even more unobtainable? Second, the only reason I was reading The Last Kiss Goodbye was to get closure after reading The Last Victim, a book that I only read because Robards was one of my favorite romance authors, and she’d never written about ghosts before. And not only did The Last Victim have ghosts, but it didn’t even have an ending! What I know now is that it is the first book of the “Charlotte Stone” series. I have no idea when this series is going to end, but it appears it could go on forever. The Last Kiss Goodbye is the second book in the Charlotte Stone series. I picked it up because I like closure and I was curious how she was going to make everything work out (I was assuming that paranormal romances–like regular romances–requires a happy ending).

Unfortunately, reading The Last Kiss Goodbye didn’t get me any closure.

Continued…

alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 34-38: The Demonica Series by Larissa Ione

The covers (and titles, and character names) for this series are patently ridiculous (perhaps not moreso than usual for paranormal romance aka PNR, but that’s a rather low bar) so instead, to give you a brief idea of what the ‘tone’ of these books is, have this GIF of Blanche:

blancheI can’t confidently assure anyone who isn’t already a fan of this genre that this series will convert them, but among the PNR I’ve read, I really enjoyed this series. The standard formula is there. You have your alpha male heroes — here, they are demons (in particular, sex demons… spicy!) — and heroines who are THE ONLY WOMAN for the hero. The women across the series are varied in background, and while each of them can be described in some manner as “kick-ass” — as is par for the course in this genre, lately, since PNR readers seem to like their leading women to want it rough, if you know what I mean — their strength comes from different wells of experiences.

My two favorites in the series were Pleasure Unbound (Tayla and Eidolon) and Sin Undone (Sin and Conall), and my least favorite was Desire Unchained (Runa and Shade.) Really, the differences between all of them are slight; it comes down to how much you like the coupling. One thing that I liked about this series in general was that there were several plot arcs that spanned across several of the books at a time, which tied them together nicely and prevented them from seeming completely interchangeable and redundant. Even though you could read any one as a standalone, they were actually more rewarding read together as a series, which for me is in stark contrast to a lot of PNR, where over the course of the series I think to myself, “Okay, I get it, I don’t need to go any further.”

A few more fun points: the author has created a whole phylogenetic/biological classification for the demons in the books, which is pretty precious. Also, did you know that the semen of certain classes of incubi is an aphrodisiac? Now you do! And if you’re looking for ThunderSex (h/t Mrs. Julien) you’ll get plenty of it, with blood-bonding and all kinds of other great things that preternaturally strong beings can do to each other in bed.

In sum total: for PNR fans, highly recommended. For fans of exclusively highbrow literature, well, you probably didn’t even start this review, much less finish it. For those willing to dabble, this entire series will probably take you about a week or less, so it won’t be a huge imposition on your time if you didn’t find it as fun and/or steamy as I did. Allow me to re-iterate: FUN! and STEAMY! So yes, enjoy yourselves; this shit is fucking silly. If nothing else, the covers will make you giggle.

Caitlin’s #CBR5 #44: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown

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This was another historical YA book that dealt with spiritualism. Basically, something written so that I would love it.

It’s about Anna, whose mother claims she is Harry Houdini’s daughter. Anna performs magic as an opening act in her mother’s shows. She also hides her real abilities, premonitions and the ability to read emotions.

I really liked the descriptions of 1920s clothing and speakeasies in this book. The mixture of a real person and a real paranormal society really adds to the appeal.

You can read my review here.

meilufay’s #CBR5 review #10 Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs

Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series is easily my favorite paranormal series. I have to say, this wasn’t my favorite book in the series by far and I did keep on picking it up and putting it down again (rather than read obsessively) but I’m by no means done with Mercy’s adventures. I think maybe Briggs is a little at a loss with her character now that she’s settled down and doesn’t *quite* know what to do with her next. Anyway, it’s not a great book, but I liked it.

Sophia’s #CBR5 Review #24: The Last Victim by Karen Robards

The Last VictimI’ve read a lot of Karen Robards because she writes romantic suspense, and romantic suspense is some of my favorite escapist literature. Feeling the need for some escape, and seeing that Robard’s latest book was available at the library with no wait, I decided it was time to read it. I’ve usually liked most of Robard’s contemporary stuff. However, when I read the blurb, I felt some premonition of doubt. The heroine, Dr. Charlotte Stone (Charlie), could see and sometimes communicate with ghosts. I’ve never been a fan of mixing ghosts into my romance novels. The romance requires enough suspension of disbelief as it is, so when you throw ghosts into the mix, it’s a little too much for me. But since Robards had been pretty grounded in the past, I hoped the ghosts bit would just be a small part of the story that I could mostly ignore. That turned out to be wishful thinking.

To read more, click here.

Caitlin’s #CBR5 # 29: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

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In the Shadow of Blackbirds was a really creepy, sad ghost story. I’m in love with the World War I setting. That’s not even mentioning how much I love the Spiritualism movement, séances and spirit photography and table-rappers. This book seems as though it could have been written just for me, because three of the things I love are history, Young Adult fiction, and the Spiritualism movement. It’s hardly a wonder that I liked it so much.

You can read my full review here.