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review 2017-05-22 15:41
Await Your Reply, by Dan Chaon
Await Your Reply - Dan Chaon

Await Your Reply is ultimately a tragic story featuring characters who are lost or mentally ill and either want a new start or can't let go of the past. However, I found it hard to sympathize with the three characters whose perspectives the novel shifts between in alternating chapters. As a result I rushed through my reading mostly to finish the book and see how these seemingly unconnected characters were, in fact, connected. It's a story of identity, how it is mutable but perhaps can become its own trap, even when that identity is traded in for a new one.

 

I'm surprised I purchased this book since it features one of my greatest squicks (as we say in fandom): a teacher-student romantic relationship. The recently graduated student, Lucy, is one of the characters whose point of view is narrated. Though she's lost her parents, at first it seems this is not a great loss to her. She also disparages her older, less ambitious sister. This made Lucy and her rash decision to run off with her AP History teacher unsympathetic for me. She's bright academically, but stupid and naive when it comes to everything else. She almost immediately begins to feel uneasy about the promises her older boyfriend made once they arrive at their temporary destination, but she sticks around.

 

Similarly, Ryan, a college student, leaves school and his family behind once he learns the truth about his parentage. He hadn't been doing well in school and wasted the money meant for tuition. He takes off with a guy he's just met and becomes involved in illegal money-moving and identity fraud schemes, though he barely understands what he's doing and why. He doesn't seem that troubled knowing that his family is looking for him. So, he's another character I found I couldn't care about.

 

The third character, Miles, I found the most sympathetic. He's been on the trail of his schizophrenic twin brother, Hayden, ever since the latter disappeared years before. Miles disrupts his own life (or barely develops one) to chase his twin and feeds on occasional communications from him. He gives Hayden the benefit of the doubt, despite the warnings of others and evidence to the contrary. Is he big-hearted or a fool?

 

I won't spoil how the three characters' stories connect, but despite some surprises, the mystery of that connection wasn't enough for me to overcome my issues with the characters.

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review 2014-01-12 01:10
Emotionally Abusive Vampires are Not Sexy
Lothaire (Immortals After Dark, #12) - Kresley Cole

Lothaire has found his Bride, the woman who brings his body back to life and is his destined mate. The problem is that two souls currently inhabit his Bride’s body. One is an evil goddess who lives for blood, violence, and all around nefarious deeds. The other is Ellie, a mortal hillbilly who is content to live-out life on her family’s land. Naturally, Lothaire assumes that his Bride is the evil goddess and begins planning a way to exterminate Ellie’s soul.

After waking up covered in other people’s blood, Ellie decides that the only way to stop the goddess from murdering is to kill the body they share. The problem with this plan is that every time Ellie devises a way to kill herself, Lothaire pops-up out of nowhere to stop her. After one close call, Lothaire decides that the safest place to keep an eye on Ellie is close by. With this in mind, Lothaire hauls Ellie off to his penthouse where she'll be prisoner until he discovers a way to kill her soul, so the goddess can assume total control of the body.

I had some major problems with the way the relationship between Ellie and Lothaire played out. The biggest one was the captive heroine storyline. I don’t usually enjoy stories where the heroines are taken captive by the hero and they fall in love. If done incorrectly (which it typically is) the romance takes on a creepy vibe that makes the relationship seem more like Stockholm syndrome. Despite that, I’ve read a couple captive heroine stories that I’ve enjoyed. This… was not one of those.

After taking Ellie prisoner, Lothaire immediately begins emotionally torturing her. He mocks, he threatens her family, he laughs, they boink, he has a violent episode, he sneers; wash, rinse, repeat until the end of the book. While the emotional torture is going on, Lothaire is also still hunting for an item to kill Ellie’s soul with. Eventually, he begins to realize that Ellie might actually be his Bride, which leads to a few tiny scenes where Lothaire regrets how he’s treated her. However, these moments are over in a blink of the eye and Lothaire immediately goes back to being a douche.
So, by the end of the book, I hated his ass. I was actually hoping that Ellie would gain a backbone and run off with a different character.

 

Yes, Lothaire had some really awful moments in his life and at first I did feel sympathy for what he went through, but as the story progressed (and he just kept getting worse) that sympathy died. He was horrendous to Ellie and he never atoned for his actions. In the final ten pages he finally comes around, but after 300 pages of him being a total dickhead I needed a hell of a lot more from him than what we got.

The saving grace for this book was Cole’s writing style. I love Cole’s use of mythology in this series and I give her huge kudos for writing these books as if all the plots are happening at (or around) the same moment in time. I imagine that takes some serious effort.

If you haven't read any of the other novels in this series, I would not start with this one. I think Lothaire requires more background knowledge (which you gain in the other books) to really appreciate and understand all the events going on in the story. Also, if you didn't like the first book in the series (A Hunger Like No Other) you definately won't like this one as it has a similar vibe going on.

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review 2014-01-10 02:45
Full Consent is IMPORTANT
A Hunger Like No Other - Kresley Cole

Wow am I glad that I didn't start this series with Hunger Like No Other. The story starts out like a bad 80's bodice ripper. First, the heroine, Emma, is chased through the streets of Paris by a crazy man who captures her; then forces her to strip naked and jack him off in the shower. Crazy man turns out to be our hero Lachlain.

 

Lachlain has been tortured in the catacombs of Paris by vampires for the past 150 years and, as a result, has a healthy dose of hatred for them. This is bad because his fated mate just happens to be half vampire. So, Lachlain spends most of the book sexually assaulting Emma and being an domineering ass-hat, while Emma plays helpless victim and bemoans her weakness. She does eventually come into her own and kicks some ass but it's not until almost the end of the book.

 

The thing that ticked me off the most about Hunger Like No Other is that after all the crap Lachlain pulls concerning Emma he never atones for it. Yes, he feels bad, but the only thing he does to make up for being such a douche-bag is to buy her presents. "Hi honey, I'm sorry I sexually assaulted you! Here's a fruit basket? We all good?" 

 

However, even as Lachlain is trying to "make it up" to Emma for his behavoir he's still keeping her captive and getting her drunk so he can have sex with her again because she keeps turning him down. Uh yeah, that's still not consensual. Seriously, Lachlain just wasn't redeemed in my eyes and Emma's change of heart towards him seemed to come out of no where.

This book really managed to annoy me and the only reason why it didn't score lower is because Cole's writing style is pretty fantastic and funny.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2014-01-03 20:14
Plot on Fast Forward
Can't Bear It (Greer, #1) - Celia Kyle

Wow, this was one of the most rushed short stories that I have ever read. Kyle had a lot of things happening here in a very very short time (30 pages) which just did not work for me.

Meg, the heroine, is in the process of fleeing from an abusive situation and Jacob, the hero, is big ole' man-whore who just wants to stick his wick in anything with a hole. They meet, there's an instant attraction, Jacob goes into denial and tries to screw the first available body in an attempt to deny their connection but suddenly develops erectile dysfunction. Meanwhile, Meg finds out that she hasn't covered her tracks enough and her abusers find her. Suddenly, out of no where, Jacob comes to the rescue and has miraculously decided that he wants Meg and only Meg. The abusers meekly leave, but not before revealing to Meg that Jacob nearly humped some dude in the back alley of a bar. Meg (for no reason) comes to terms with this and decides that, despite just getting out of a horrible situation, she wants to be with Jacob even though she knows absolutely nothing about him except that he sleeps around... a lot. Meg and Jacob proceed to hump like bunnies and profess to wanting to spend the rest of their lives together.

 

Later that same night, while they're napping in post-coital bliss, Meg's abusers break into the house and attempt to kidnap her, which results in Meg and Jacob slaughtering them. And I say slaughter here because there's no real reason given as to why their first and immediate reaction to these guys coming after Meg is to disembowel them. Shoot, they don't even really try to hurt Meg, one of the guys just puts his hand on her shoulder and suddenly he's missing body parts. But anyway, after a handy clean-up of the bodies by a minor character, Meg and Jacob drive into the sunset to live happily ever after. The end.

I think I got some serious whiplash from reading this short story. Primarily because all those events I mentioned occur within a 24 hour time span. This much stuff happening in such a short time did not allow any for much, if any, character develop. So when Jacob was getting ready to ride some guy like a pony behind a bar after developing a connection with Meg, I did not give a fig. I couldn't even muster any sympathy for Meg and her situation. I didn't know enough about these characters to really care at all about what was happening. Why was Meg in such a toxic place in the beginning? Why does she get paid so much money for being an unsuccessful breeder? What kind of culture is she living in and who really holds all the power? etc. etc. All of this just lead to me not believing that Meg and Jacob would work out. I figure that after the initial lust wears off Jacob will go back to man-whoring and Meg will once again find herself in a sucky situation.

Kyle seems to be a hit or miss for me. So while I really did not enjoy this short from her, I'll probably still pick up another book of hers in the future since I have enjoyed some of her other stories.

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text SPOILER ALERT! 2013-10-14 20:42
Lorraine Heath: Skirting the Edge of Squick
Between the Devil and Desire - Lorraine Heath
Lord of Wicked Intentions - Lorraine Heath
In Bed With the Devil (Avon Romantic Treasure) - Lorraine Heath
Texas Glory - Lorraine Heath
Texas Destiny - Lorraine Heath

Before I started reviewing the romance novels I read, I rarely thought about them for more than ten seconds after turning the last page, and often everything about the book would fly out of my head except for a vague positive or negative impression of the book, series, or author. So it is with Lorraine Heath: I've been reading her historical romance novels for years, with a generally favorable impression, but only the in the last few months have I noticed a pattern: a lot of her plots tread uncomfortably close to my personal squick threshold. 

 

Now, no doubt everyone has their own personal point at which something becomes too icky for enjoyment, and also perhaps that point changes over time. For example, I know I'm a lot more sensitive to issues of nonconsent and violence now that I'm a domestic violence prosecutor than I was when I was prosecuting DUIs. I imagine someone who has been raped, or is close to someone who has, might be a lot less tolerant of old skool bodice rippers than she might have been prior to that experience. Likewise, someone whose lover is unfaithful might have even less patience than the average reader with infidelity tropes. 

 

At any rate, I hadn't realized it until just now, but Lorraine Heath seems to have real talent for developing dramatic conflict that makes me very uncomfortable, but which usually does not cross the line where, for me, that discomfort reduces my enjoyment of a book. Some examples:

 

Lord of Wicked Intentions: The heroine's brother auctions off her virginity to settle his gambling debts. She thinks she's being introduced to potential husbands, and doesn't learn the truth until the winner, the hero, gets her home and tells her she's essentially a sex slave. Luckily, there's no forced seduction, and he undergoes a really emotionally satisfying redemptive character arc before the happy ever after, but there's no escaping the fact that the heroine doesn't have any real choice in becoming his lover.

 

In Bed with the Devil (Scoundrels of St. James, #1): The hero is in love with and hopes to marry someone else, but she, a commoner, is intimidated by his social standing (an Earl) and refuses his suit. In exchange for a helluva giant favor, the heroine agrees to give his would-be fiancee lessons in joining the aristocracy so that she will agree to marry the hero. Of course, the hero and heroine fall in love and start screwing around, and only the fact that the would-be fiancee knows she and the hero don't suit saves the hero's infidelity from seeming as reprehensible as, rationally, I know it is. 

 

Between the Devil and Desire (Scoundrels of St. James, #2): The hero's mother sold him to a child molester when he was five. When he grows up, he unexpectedly is named the guardian to another five year old boy when the boy's father, a duke, passes away. Having had no real relationship with the duke, the hero believes for a time that the duke was the guy who diddled him, but it turns out the duke was actually his father. Of course, he learns this after he has married the duke's widow. That's right: he marries his stepmother and becomes stepfather to his own half-brother. Kind of gross, eh?

 

Texas Destiny (Texas #1): I really love this book. It makes you feel all the feelz, but the dramatic conflict, satisfying though it is, is pretty squicky. The heroine is a mail order bride who comes to Texas to marry the hero's brother. She and the hero fall in love on the long, treacherous trip from the train to the brother's very, very remote ranch, but the hero doesn't want to be the bastard who steals his brother's girl, so he lets her marry the brother anyway. -And they do marry, and it's totally worth reading the book to find out how they untangle that complication. 

 

Texas Glory (Texas #2): Don't feel too badly for the brother whose wife got stolen; he's wealthy enough that in the next book, he just buys himself another. That's right: the hero buys his bride from his enemy in exchange for giving water and grazing rights to her family. At the time, he thinks she's been disfigured by Indians and doesn't have a nose -- but he doesn't care, as long as her ladybits work and she can give him an heir. Thankfully, he's not as evil as the creepers in the family that sold her, so marrying the hero is actually as significant improvement in her circumstances. Also, imagine how liberating it must be to have a husband willing to marry you even believing you're hideously disfigured. He married her thinking she was missing half her face (she wasn't), so what's he going to care if she packs on some extra pounds as the years go by? 

 

I have about eight other books by Lorraine Heath on my kindle that I read a long while ago, and she's got others that I've never read, and now I'm fascinated to know if all of her books skirt so close to my squick threshold, and if any of them go over the line. 

 

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