alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 51: Assassins in Love by Kris DeLake

Goodreads summary:

Agent: Misha
Profile: Highly trained in every method the assassins guild has to offer. Always goes by the book.
Agent: Rikki
Profile: Rogue assassin who kills only to rid the world of hardened criminals. Hates organizations. Always does it her way.

Misha’s mission is to get Rikki to join the guild or give up her guns. He completely undere

stimated the effect she would have on him…and what heat and chaos they could bring to each other…

You guys, I just can’t with that cover and title. I CAN. NOT. The book was pretty bad too: what you see is what you get. I finished it a week or two ago and can barely remember enough of it to compose a thoughtful review; I only remember that I thought it was pretty banal and followed a pretty typical pattern of instant lust somehow becomes love even though they barely know or trust each other, because in the world of romance, pants feelings conquer all. In some cases, “love” is measured here by the two having growing respect for each others’ skill at their jobs, but this is pretty rich because we never see Misha complete a job in the book and Rikki doesn’t come across as a superstar in the one job she does on her own at the beginning either.

This isn’t really worth reading, but I am generously rounding up to 2 stars from 1.5 because the author did some competent world-building to flesh out the sci-fi universe, and there were details there that I appreciated outside of the hum-drum romance.

alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 49: Born of the Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Goodreads summary: “Awakened from a drugged sleep in a cold cell, the Princess Kiara finds herself a prisoner of the merciless marauders who threaten her father’s planetary kingdom. Miraculously, a rescuer appears, but behind his fearsome mask is the handsome face of a dark avenger whose outlaw touch sets her very soul aflame.”

The last time I reviewed Kenyon, I somewhat flinchingly (really though — I did NOT like them, but lots of other women do and I am not generally contrary just to prove a point) bashed the first few books of her Dark-Hunter series. Perhaps a bit of healthy distance did us well, because I was able to more-or-less enjoy this book despite it being, seemingly, the original template she used to create her other popular series. She even likes to reuse names a bit. Here, our hero is Nykyrian; the second Dark-Hunter hero is Kyrian of Thrace.

The tortured and broken hero is not a uniquely Kenyon device, but she has a particular brand that was unmistakably born here: self-loathing, forsaken by his parents and would-be peers, but with one or two loyal and fiercely protective friends, this hero has no love to give any woman because he can’t even love himself. But lo! He then encounters THE ONE WOMAN who re-ignites his soul and his erection, and the province of Sadland slowly transforms into Gladland after much turmoil and upheaval.

Other than healthy distance, I think the thing that allowed me to enjoy this one a bit more was a fairly interesting sci-fi universe. It’s built on classic tropes of the genre, but I liked Kenyon’s version of shadowy assassins and who-watches-the-watchmen?-isms. Kiara was a fairly standard heroine: she’s stubborn and snarky (read as: “different” from other princesses who probably just want to stay home and knit space petticoats and drink intergalactic tea, or something), but more importantly, she somehow has the capacity to fix our broken hero, and that’s really all we need from our romance heroines anyway (HINT I’M CHOKING ON MY SARCASM. How’s that for a sarcasm font?)

Anyway, I’m talking more smack than not, again, but really this one wasn’t so bad. It was fun, even! If you’ve read Kenyon, it’s probably an interesting experiment to read this one if you haven’t already, just so you can keep tracking her tendencies backward.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #62: The Host by Stephenie Meyer

hostSo, The Host surprised me, and The Host disappointed me.

Despite being told by several reliable sources that this book was actually . . . good? I still went in with pretty low expectations. I read all the Twilight books (even Midnight Sun and that damn Bree Tanner thing, even though both were totally useless, because I don’t know? Curiosity? Masochism? We don’t have time for a psychoanalysis here), and found them extremely problematic*. So when I found myself enjoying The Host, I should have realized that it wouldn’t be perfect enjoyment (but it does make me feel better about Stephenie Meyer having so much money).

*I didn’t necessarily enjoy book one, but I couldn’t stop reading it. Book three was soapy and overwrought. Book two was just . . . no. I found Bella detestable, and the message her behavior sent to Meyer’s young readers made me want to break things . . . but also I really like the fourth one because it is the weirdest thing I’ve ever read, and I know this has been pretty much fully covered on the internet, but A WEREWOLF FALLS IN LOVE WITH A BABY. 

The main character in The Host is Wanderer, a member of a parasitic alien race that has taken over Earth and enslaved the human race. They call themselves Souls, and besides the fact that they totally enslave alien races all over the galaxy so they can have bodies, they are peace-loving, kind, and have technology and healthcare that has all but eliminated suffering and premature death. Humanity barely fights back anymore. Wanderer is one of the oldest, most experienced Souls, having experienced life on almost all of the planets the Souls have colonized. But Wanderer’s host, Melanie, won’t let her get away with just taking away her human body. Her refusal to just fade away begins causing problems for Wanderer, both among the souls, who see Melanie’s body as defective, and for Wanderer herself. Melanie’s memories begin to change Wanderer and soon enough, the two have teamed up in order to find Melanie’s missing family. From there, love quadrangles, suspicion, and lots of people living in caves. Oh, and did I mention that the love quadrangle involves one guy being in love with Melanie and the other guy being in love with the alien parasite who lives in her brain. (So, yeah, this book isn’t without its bits of ridiculousness.)

Stuff I liked: the premise. I’m always down for alien invasions, especially ones that involve body snatching, and I like what Meyer does with her take on it. The aliens have already won, and the focus is on one of the aliens as protagonist instead of the humans. The first 1/3 of this book goes incredibly fast, and I really liked the way Meyer set up Wanderer’s world and emotional journey. Relatedly, the thematic consistency was pretty impressive (finding a home, chosen family, body stuff), especially in comparison to Twilight, the message I got from that being roughly . . . boyz boyz boyz TWU WUV.

Stuff I didn’t like: it was too long, sort of. Too long for the events that occurred in the story, anyway. The middle of the book was kind of a slog because nothing was actually happening except FEELINGS, and people talking about their FEELINGS. Meyer’s dialogue is also really cheesy and fake sometimes (although I will acknowledge a couple of lines were genuinely really good in that authentic this-could-maybe-actually-happen sort of way that all good books should aspire to). For the most part, I thnk Wanderer/Wanda was a great character, but in parts she also walks a fine line between being ‘complicated’ (having seemingly conflicted personality traits and desires) and being Mary Sueish. Meyer sort of set her up to be this way no matter what because of the nature of the Souls. Wanda herself comes off as pretty cool — the problem is more that other characters treat her like she’s the second coming of Mother Theresa, so good and so pure and so noble. But I also feel like this sort of works because Wanda and the Souls are friggin’ aliens. I’ve probably spent more time than I should thinking about this, and I’ve decided that’s probably a good thing. It’s at least better than Bella Swan sitting up in her room crying for three months straight and then taking a nose dive off a cliff just because her damn boyfriend dumped her.

Which reminds me, I really liked the ethical quandaries and shades of grey (that phrase is ruined forever) inherent in the Soul/human conflict. The souls are portrayed as gentle, kind creatures, and yet they enslave entire species (and until Wanderer/Wanda spends extended amounts of time with them, she has a hard time seeing the species they enslave as anything but hosts). The humans are violent and mercurial, and yet capable of adapting and treating Wanda, an alien, as more important than someone of their own species. The humans grew to love Wanda so much they violated their own rules by stealing her a body. I also liked that that the alien invasion wasn’t easily solved, and that it was more like background for the real story, which was Wanda finally coming to terms with who she is and what she wants.

I still wish Meyer would tone down some of the melodrama, but the vast majority of this book was worth my time. Hoping the sequel comes out soon so I don’t have to re-read this, though. God bless Wikipedia.

alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 28: Children of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy

Ugh, I have so much catching up to do! I read this over a month ago, so let’s hope my memory functions well enough to make this coherent. Children of Scarabaeus is a sequel, so the Goodreads summary and my review will be spoiler-heavy. Thus, the rest of this is going under a cut.

Continue reading

alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 26: Song of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy

Goodreads summary: “Trained since childhood in advanced biocyph seed technology by the all-powerful Crib empire, Edie’s mission is to terraform alien worlds while her masters bleed the outlawed Fringe populations dry. When renegade mercenaries kidnap Edie, she’s not entirely sure it’s a bad thing . . . until they leash her to a bodyguard, Finn—a former freedom fighter-turned-slave, beaten down but never broken. If Edie strays from Finn’s side, he dies. If she doesn’t cooperate, the pirates will kill them both.

But Edie’s abilities far surpass anything her enemies imagine. And now, with Finn as her only ally as the merciless Crib closes in, she’ll have to prove it or die on the site of her only failure . . . a world called Scarabaeus.”

Last month’s alt-pick for the Vaginal Fantasy Hangout, I enjoyed this a lot and immediately downloaded the sequel for Kindle. I mean — space pirates! Slow-burn romance! Terraforming! A consolidated extra-terrestrial Empire vs. “Fringe” outer planets! Also, the heroine is an alien! Cool!

Edie, our protagonist, is a highly-skilled — possibly the best in her field — “cypherteck,” so she’s something of a hacker/repairperson/creator when it comes to data interfaces between hard technology and biological lifeforms. Creasy does not shy away from sci-fi technobabble, and it assists in drawing you into the world immediately, but readers who aren’t regular readers of sci-fi may find the instant onslaught of jargon a little off-putting. Even as a fan of the genre, I did have to re-read some sections to further engrain what the terms all meant in my head. I ended up not having much of an issue doing this, in terms of enjoying the book and moving along at a good pace, but I do wish there was a little more backstory given to some of these things. There are many mentions of the Evil Empire (so to speak) and a very abbreviated story about a war between said Empire and the Fringe planets, but there isn’t any information at all as to how the Empire was formed, or who or what it actually consists of. Similarly, though we are kind of able to piece together what all of the technology is through in media res descriptions of what Edie is doing, at no point is there any kind of background exposition of the history of this technology. I know that for some people this may not be necessary, but personally I enjoy a bit of history in my world-building.

The above is my main gripe with this book. Otherwise, I enjoyed the characterization and pacing in this novel, as well as the developing relationship between Edie and Finn. Their romance struck me as the right combination of respect and attraction, and I’ll be interested to see where it goes in the sequel. I expect, based on the way things were here, that the two of them may take on an “us against the world” mentality, but if they don’t, I’d like to see more development of Cat’s character. Here, we learned that she’s a good pilot, but that she can be fairly easily bought, even if she knows she isn’t exactly doing the right thing. I’d like to know a little more about her, since Edie did show signs of interest in a friendship with her in the first book.

There are a lot of directions Creasy can take this series, and I’ll definitely be following along.