alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 18-21: Dark-Hunter 1-4 by Sherrilyn Kenyon

I’ve given mostly positive reviews so far for this Cannonball, so I’m rubbing my hands together with glee to finally be able to write a “critical” one.

The Dark-Hunter books 1-4 in order are:

  1. Fantasy Lover
  2. Night Pleasures
  3. Night Embrace
  4. Dance With the Devil

I borrowed these from a friend after we’d discussed how I had started to read romance and romance-adjacent books, namely, the Fever series; then, after enjoying Fever so much, I started perusing Mrs. Julien’s infamous “Shameful Tally” with piqued interest and started with one of her highest recommendations: Courtney Milan.

After finding Milan’s books and novellas to be pretty good as well, I wondered to myself: “Have I been unfairly biased against romance?” Maybe I just am a fan of fromage, after all! Well… now I can say, having mainlined this selection of Dark-Hunter (why the hyphen?) like a fifth-grader pretending Pop Rocks are cocaine, I surely did spoil myself beginning my foray into romance with the likes of Milan, because there is some true crap out there and this is it.

These books are apparently bestsellers and pretty highly rated on Goodreads. The Fifty Shades phenomenon has reminded me to take public opinion with a grain of salt, but I still feel like kind of an ass for shitting on what is obviously a well-loved series. Fortunately, I’ve accepted occasional assholery as one of my charming personality tics awhile ago, so I’m going to move forward with this review. I gave the first two books two stars as opposed to one on Goodreads, but I’m going to retcon myself a bit because frankly, they aren’t really much better than the third and fourth; I just wasn’t bored of the plug-and-play plot yet.

So: this is the plot of all four books (and I’m assuming probably all twenty-four — twenty four!!! — in the series.) The heroine, either by some mishap or lucky accident, encounters the hero, who is an ancient immortal of Greek or Roman ancestry. He is cursed somehow, and despite their smoldering sexual chemistry and his deep, inexplicable feelings for the heroine — feelings he has felt for NO OTHER WOMAN, ever (and really, I can’t emphasize enough how often the “only her” or “never anyone but her” line is used in these books) — he pushes her away because he is CURSED! She finds some way to help him become uncursed, though, and they live happily and sexily ever after.

Aside from the rote plot, there are also a bunch of really silly details in the novels that had me pretty consistently rolling my eyes. One thing that isn’t necessarily too egregious, but still had me giggling, were the technological references that were surely intended to make the book seem very “now.” But of course when “now” is 2002 (when the first book was published) and your character is dutifully punching away on her Palm Pilot, it comes across as very instantly dated to a reader in 2013. The second thing, related to the first, though it seems pretty laughable even by 2002 standards, is the author’s shameless plugging of her website in the text of the books. She spends at least a page in each of the books describing how the characters log onto “the Dark-Hunter.com website”, and in the context of the books it’s supposed to be the totally secret administrative message board for the Dark-Hunters (seriously, that hyphen just kills me,) while obviously in real life it’s the promotional website for the series. So, LOL Sherrilyn Kenyon, I see what you did there!

The other major groaner, for me, is how the characters are all on a first-name basis with the Greek gods, so we’re given HILARIOUS characterization and nicknames for said gods. Like, Aphrodite and Artemis are both self-centered and bitchy (because of course they are,) especially compared to the heroines, who are just not like other women. They’re different! Special! Artemis in particular is portrayed as pretty awful, which is bizarre because I never picked up on that from any of the mythology I’m familiar with, but then again I’m not sure that this series is meant to fit right into the Pantheon canon, so…

Let’s see, what else. The Dark-Hunters themselves are kind of like vampires, except that they don’t drink human blood to survive. They can, but it’s kind of looked down upon. But they definitely have fangs, and die in the sunlight, and they have supernatural strength and special abilities. They’re meant to hunt Daimons, which are a species with a convoluted backstory, but the point is that they kill humans. So the Dark-Hunters are basically vampires who don’t act like vampires and hunt the creatures who do act like vampires. If this sounds confusing and stupid, that’s because it is.

I could go on, and I know I’m reading way too much into what is meant to be a fluffy series, but as a fan of paranormal entertainment, if your paranormal shit doesn’t make sense, I’m not going to give it a pass just because it’s supposed to be mostly romance. The romance itself is fine, I guess, outside of being extremely formulaic. For readers of Pajiba’s caliber, I can’t recommend this series at all, unless you are really into unintentional comedy and want to practice decaying your own grey matter for sport.

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Caitlin’s #CBR5 #21: The Murmurings by Carly Anne West

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This is one of those Teen books dealing with mental illness, except with a paranormal twist. It’s difficult to describe, there are these murmurs and then wraiths or something in mirrors and they want to put their life essence into people and take them over…I didn’t really get into that stuff in my review, which you can see here. It’s basically about a girl who just experienced the loss of her sister and now is worried that she may be going crazy as well.

alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 16: Ghost Planet by Sharon Fisher

Goodreads summary: Psychologist Elizabeth Cole prepared for the worst when she accepted a job on a newly discovered world—a world where every colonist is tethered to an alien who manifests in the form of a dead loved one. But she never expected she’d struggle with the requirement to shun these “ghosts.” She never expected to be so attracted to the charming Irishman assigned as her supervisor. And she certainly never expected to discover she died in a transport crash en route to the planet. 

As a ghost, Elizabeth is symbiotically linked to her supervisor, Murphy—creator of the Ghost Protocol, which forbids him to acknowledge or interact with her. Confused and alone—oppressed by her ghost status and tormented by forbidden love—Elizabeth works to unlock the secrets of her own existence. 

But her quest for answers lands her in a tug-of-war between powerful interests, and she soon finds herself a pawn in the struggle for control of the planet…a struggle that could separate her forever from the man that she loves.

This book was the April selection for the Vaginal Fantasy Hangout, so I picked it up expectantly… and literally didn’t put it down until about 9 hours later once I’d read it completely. Thank god I work in an isolated space, because I am ashamed to admit that I took a holiday at my desk yesterday and was completely absorbed in this book. Sharon Fisher, I blame you for rising workplace delinquency! Kind of.

Anyway, let me get a few nitpicks out of the way, with the acknowledgement that for some people who have been discussing Ghost Planet on Goodreads, they are more than minor nitpicks. I did feel that the worldbuilding was a little lacking — the planet is described as having taken on ecological characteristics similar to Earth in order to be pretty recognizable to the colonists. In one sense, this is a nice shorthand, since we can fairly easily imagine a less populated, less polluted Earth. On the other hand, it functions to deprive us of what could have been some more thoughtful descriptions of the planet and the process of that adaptation, and more detail about the settlements that the colonists live in. Another related issue, which may be more due to its ‘sci-fi lite’ status than to a unique deficiency of this book, is that outside of the special attention paid to Elizabeth’s particular research (which I’ll get to later,) the futuristic technology which enables the colonization of this planet (e.g. space travel, any terraforming concerns?) and that which is used by the colonists (flat-reader) is given no description practically at all. If I had to guess, a “flat-reader” is a tablet computer, but why not just call it a tablet, unless it’s actually a futuristic descendent of a tablet? In which case, what makes it so? Anyway, little things like that make the sci-fi geek in me wish there was a little more in the way of techie detail.

At the end of the day, though, if an original concept and a well-paced plot that do that concept justice are set in front of me, I am going to completely forget about other minor concerns and just love the shit out of a book. And that’s basically what happened. I loved the main character, both as a personality and as a scientist. I read a lot of doom-and-gloom dystopia that tends to paint scientists as misanthropic megalomaniacs with unethical aspirations toward human purity or genetic cleansing, so it was refreshing to have a protagonist who is as empathetic as she is pragmatic. She actually explicitly employs the scientific method, which is pretty darn cool: she has a hypothesis, gathers data to support it, but also considers other possibilities and doesn’t reject them until she has absolutely enough evidence to do so. Not surprisingly, a character like this reasons well with others and builds a totally believable team of support, both from secondary characters and from me, who really wanted her to succeed in love and life!

I really highly recommend this. It was addictive and a great mix of psycho-biological drama and romance, and a really promising debut novel from this author.

taralovesbooks’ #CBR4 Review #9: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

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Cannonball Read V: Book #9/52
Published: 2012
Pages: 484
Genre: Young Adult/Paranormal

4 stars: Very good. Would recommend.

When I started reading this, for some reason I had it confused with The Mortal Instruments series (I guess because I’ve seen ads for the movie that’s coming out this summer based off of that book). So, I was sort of confused when they started introducing vampires. I generally enjoy dystopian YA books rather than supernatural creature books, but this book kept me interested from the start.

Allison lives in the Fringe – the outskirts of a vampire town. She is also Unregistered, which means she has to beg and steal for food. Her parents are dead and she has a small group of friends who take care of each other. When Allison finds a stash of food buried beneath an old house, she brings her friends out to gather it up, but they get caught on their way back by some rabid vampires (the more “wild” ones – there are different strains of vampirism). All of her friends are killed and, technically, so is Allison. She is dying when a vampire offers to either let her die or turn her into one of them. Allison decides to be turned (these aren’t really spoilers as they happen very early in the book and are revealed on Goodreads main synopsis as well).

Read the rest in my blog.

alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 10: Iced by Karen Marie Moning

Goodreads summary: Dani “Mega” O’Malley plays by her own set of rules—and in a world overrun by Dark Fae, her biggest rule is: Do what it takes to survive. Possessing rare talents and the all-powerful Sword of Light, Dani is more than equipped for the task. In fact, she’s one of the rare humans who can defend themselves against the Unseelie. But now, amid the pandemonium, her greatest gifts have turned into serious liabilities.

Dani’s ex–best friend, MacKayla Lane, wants her dead, the terrifying Unseelie princes have put a price on her head, and Inspector Jayne, the head of the police force, is after her sword and will stop at nothing to get it. What’s more, people are being mysteriously frozen to death all over the city, encased on the spot in sub-zero, icy tableaux.

When Dublin’s most seductive nightclub gets blanketed in hoarfrost, Dani finds herself at the mercy of Ryodan, the club’s ruthless, immortal owner. He needs her quick wit and exceptional skill to figure out what’s freezing Fae and humans dead in their tracks—and Ryodan will do anything to ensure her compliance.

Dodging bullets, fangs, and fists, Dani must strike treacherous bargains and make desperate alliances to save her beloved Dublin—before everything and everyone in it gets iced.

I need to unpack a lot of conflicting feelings about this book. The first thing, off the top of my head, is that I’m definitely a Fever series fangirl, having absolutely devoured them for CBR4. Given that, I’m inclined to give any of these books the benefit of the doubt and then some. But there are just issues here that I can’t completely overlook, despite, again, finishing this in less than a day and being really engrossed in the proceedings.

For one — that summary up there? Sounds like a pretty normal, promising premise to a paranormal romance. Spunky heroine and rakish love interest are both introduced. Except here’s the thing: the spunky heroine, in this case, is 14 years old. Now, nothing happens happens in the book, but there are a lot of significant glances that are “misunderstood” by the young heroine, and some scenes where she is injured and is stripped to her underwear by one of the competing love interests (there are at least 3 that I can count) in order to heal her. Now, I’m not really a pearl-clutcher, generally speaking, nor am I the type to deny 14-year-olds their agency and burgeoning sexuality, but given the tone and content of the prior five books (hint: pretty fucking steamy) it squicks me just a little for the new protagonist to be jailbait. This isn’t exactly meant to be a YA series, and the prior books definitely weren’t. Furthermore, with regards to her agency, it would be one thing if she personally were displaying any kind of romantic notions toward anyone, but she’s not. Instead it’s like there are three guys kind of squabbling over her and her — oh god, I use this term all the time in pop culture criticism but again, I squick myself using it here because SHE’S FOURTEEN — magic vagina. I’m just going to stop there before Pedobear asks to take this review to his bunk.

Also, this sucker is 500+ pages, and honestly, I’d say it could be edited down by at about a third. I wouldn’t exactly say I was flat-out bored, clearly, given how quickly I went through the book; however, there are a lot of, frankly, really tedious scenes where Dani and Ryodan visit an “iced” site, wax Sherlockian about it, and then escape quickly without really learning anything new. I like mysteries and sleuthing stories to kind of drop some hints along the way, to build intrigue and build the case. In this instance, all of the sudden the knowledge-bomb is dropped right at the very end, and it’s not because of a lot of accumulated knowledge from the scenes — it’s because one character does some analysis he could have done at the beginning if he had only thought of it. In the prior five books, the paranormal mystery aspect of the plot was interspersed with the romantic element, and neither felt like they were dragging; here, since the romance has to be tempered because the romantic heroine is 14 years old, the mystery is put under more scrutiny and sometimes falls short.

Overall, since as I said I’m a fangirl, I probably won’t let these issues affect my enjoyment of the series too much, by which I mean, yes, I will unreservedly pick up the next installments and continue to fawn over the prior five. I will need KMM to tread carefully where the young protagonist is concerned, especially since two of her would-be suitors are older, and one considerably so (by which I mean immortal, but since jailbait rules don’t apply to inmortals, let’s say he’s probably meant to be about 30-ish in appearance.) So, in general, there was some definite weirdness afoot here that I wasn’t super satisfied with, but KMM did lay some good foundations for the upcoming novels. I’m categorizing this as 3 stars in wordpress since it’s part of Fever, but really, it’s probably a 2.5 as a standalone.

Lady Cusp’s #CBR5 Review #3: Life’s a Witch by Brittany Geragotelis

In this Young Adult novel, 16 year old Brooklyn Sparks uses magic to transform her high school situation starting with her looks.  The story begins on the day of Brooklyn’s 16th birthday and traces her through a day of ‘invisibility’ where she eats lunch in the counselor’s office and is generally ignored by classmates and teachers with the exception of tripping in the cafeteria and spilling liquid all over herself.

Luckily, that evening, Brooklyn receives her gift from her parents—untethered witch-hood.  Until this point in her life, Brooklyn’s parents (who are ultra-conservative witches) have seen fit to bind her powers in an attempt to teach her a normal non-magic lifestyle.  This result backfires and has had Brooklyn ceaselessly researching magic spells and doing whatever preparation she could til this point.  Within 48 hours Brooklyn has given herself a magical make-over which leaves other classmates asking for the name of her plastic surgeon.

By completely transforming her outside, Brooklyn is now in the running to join the popular kids known as ‘The Elite.’  Unfortunately, this popular crowd seems intrinsically evil and require and a series of tests into grey areas of morals, law and high school codes (the kind where kissing is considered cheating).  Brooklyn aces each test (using magic) with only an occasional sting of conscious.  Her external makeover begins to work inward and while other characters (her parents, her sweet crush, her lunch-pal/school counselor) tell her how much she’s changed, Brooklyn refuses to acknowledge this and consistently rationalizes and justifies her dubious post-makeover choices.

Since What the Spell is written in first person, I wonder if the justifications that Brooklyn uses to convince herself will also convince readers.  I also found it interesting that Brooklyn never undid her sweet 16 magical make-over.  And though she manages to oust the evil Elite, will she simply fill the void as the new queen B without any real introspection?  As part of a trilogy, we can only hope

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Angela Baldwin #CBR5, Review # 5: Rise to Love by Lynn Hagen

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I always look forward to a new series from this author, but I will say that for me this book got off to a little bit of a slow start. After the initial slowness though it picked up quickly and I spent half the night reading just to see what happened next. I love a good paranormal story and this one is definitely that and more. Shifters, murder, intrigue and a great many characters that you follow on their adventures as the Changlings fight for their very existence.

Rick and Dorian are the main focus of this first book in the series. Rick is Alpha of the werewolf pack and District Manager of the local grocery store chain. Dorian is one of his employees and a very unwilling candidate to become the alpha’s mate. The change in attitude of both these characters over the course of the story was fun to watch and the secondary characters like Nate, Benito and Miguel are intriguing side stories. Hopefully these guys will get stories of their own during the course of this series.

Running for their very lives, Rick and Dorian are forced to learn to work together and rely on the assistance of strangers to keep pushing on for answers as to why they are being hunted and accused of crimes they didn’t commit. I am very much looking forward to the next book in this series.