September 11, 2014

Currently Reading: Rock Stars, Vampires, Demons, and Maids

Source: Review copies provided by the publishers through NetGalley.

Are you feeling cheerful today? Here’s a bunch of mini doom-and-gloom reviews to help you with that.

Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh

Rock Addiction, cover description: Black and white picture of a topless man wearing dark jeans and holding a mic. He has one armed with a full-sleeve tattoo. I was very excited when Ms. Singh announced that she was publishing a Contemporary Romance, but this book was a disappointment that I couldn’t even finish.

A rock star falls in love with the virgin, skittish heroine the moment he first sees her. There is absolutely no reason why these two would want to be together, not even to have sex. The problem here wasn’t the trite tropes and contrived plot, though, but how incredibly half-baked the book was. Nalini Singh’s books are all about complex world-building and interesting characters, and at first I thought that the shortcuts she was taking were the product of bad PNR habits that didn’t translate well to a contemporary setting. But whereas the fated mates in the Psy/Changeling series are nuanced people who take time to develop a relationship, this book had two stock, flat characters getting together for superficial reasons in what ultimately was an underdeveloped story. I hear the second half gets better, but I seriously doubt it, because the groundwork just isn’t there.

Grade: DNF
Purchase: Amazon


Night’s Honor by Thea Harrison

Night's Honor cover description: a man wearing an open purple shirt on the foreground. He's standing under some columns and on the foreground there's a lake and a city. This book had a lot going for it: I appreciate the different setting that opened the world and, in theory, revitalized the series by taking the focus away from the original cast of characters; I liked the vampire hero who was a quiet, honorable, world-weary gentleman; and I liked the slow-building relationship between the two leads. But it was so boring, that I can barely bring myself to talk about it now. The slow-building relationship only transformed into romance because this was supposed to be a romance, and the two leads had nothing in common, never really spend that much time together, and they didn’t even have enough sexual chemistry to help this poor reader pass the time.

Also, the hero, Xavier del Torro was from Valencia. I don’t think del Torro (two R’s) is a real name (never heard it and I lived in Spain). Googling isn’t proper research, but I couldn’t find anything. Del Toro (one R), on the other hand, is del Torro’s appropriate, non-jarring friend. That name does exist, and it’s even right for the time and place, so I guess this guy was named after a typo that was never corrected. Also, he’s from medieval Valencia, yet speaks Spanish. Medieval Valencians, much like their 21st century counterparts, spoke Valencian. Look, I get that I’m about to win a gold medal in nitpicking, but these are the type of details that turn a boring experience into distracting torture, even if I’m the one lonely reader unfortunate enough to notice them.

Grade: 2.5
Purchase: Amazon


The Beautiful Ashes by Jeaniene Frost

Warning: Mild spoilers ahead.

The Beautiful Ashes cover description: a woman with red lipstick stands in a grey forest. The cover is all in grey and red.

Frost’s books are so much fun. They embrace the camp and don’t take themselves too seriously, but never cross the line into the absurd. I like them a lot.

And then I read this book and started questioning my life choices.

This is New Adult Urban Fantasy. I guess NA now means “the heroine is in her early twenties”, because I don’t see how this one is any different from the non-NA UF’s. But I digress. What’s important here is that this book isn’t good at all. The biblical world-building is paper-thin, and when I wasn’t groaning I was cringing. The main character discovers she’s trapped in an epic battle between angels and demons, that she’s David’s (as in David and Goliath) descendant, and that demons want her dead, so of course she goes: “sure!” And let’s not forget the insta-love with a built-in conflict, because who needs complexity, right? It’s not a bad idea, and I don’t care if you’re using the Bible, but ideas must be developed, otherwise we just get a lazy mess filled with stuff like this:

His mouth twisted. “Judas’s descendants are a threat to Archons, so eliminating the line means eliminating the threat. Throughout history, demons have tried to do the same to David’s descendants. They nearly succeeded several times, most recently with the Holocaust.”

When in need, appropriate real-life human drama and horrors.

Grade: 1.5
Purchase: Amazon


One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

One Plus One cover description: Vibrant green background and on the foreground the title is written in black and blue. There's no image, just the title and uniform background.
This one I did like. I have not read this author before, and her other titles don’t compel me, but someone on Twitter mentioned that it had a great heroine, and that was enough for me to want to read it.

The hero, Ed, is a socially-awkward, high-strung millionaire who made a lot of bad decisions and is paying for them. He’s a bit of a compromise for those who hate millionaire heroes: he has the money, but he’s about to lose it all, and maybe even go to jail; he doesn’t have an underground BDSM club, and in fact, he’s quickly losing control of his life.

The heroine is, indeed, great. She takes care of her step-son, she takes care of her brilliant daughter, and she takes care of her huge dog. She is poor, but doesn’t dress like a cheap slut. She’s poor, but she reads a lot and has a ton of books. She’s poor but she won’t take charity. She is poor, but she isn’t loud. She is poor, but she’s clean. See the pattern? She’s poor like her neighbors, but she is not like her neighbors at all. And although the book was charming and engrossing, the portrayal of poverty, and especially the way the heroine’s brand of poverty was set apart from that of the other people around her, was upsetting. The differences are subtle and I had to read the whole book to realize what was happening, but by the end I had the impression that this woman was being rewarded for being better than the rest and for conforming to some weird idealized, and certainly privileged, idea of what poverty should and shouldn’t be.

They come together as enemies and turn friends/lovers during a road trip that comprised most of the novel. As I said, I liked it, but I’m not comfortable recommending it. Oh, and the dog doesn’t die. This is a spoiler you want to know.

Grade: 3
Purchase: Amazon


Next time I’ll review a bunch of great books, so you don’t feel like I’ve become one of those bloggers who hate everything.


  1. Re: Your Valencia Nit-Pick ;)

    Yeah, this is me too. When I'm not engaged in the story (for whatever reason), those niggling nit-picks start popping up all over the place. And then what started out as a slog read turns into a distraction and then maybe even rage-inducing depending on the level of nit-pick we're talking about.

    I need to start giving myself permission to DNF again. My recent reading hasn't been horrible, just kinda dull. It's the only way I'm going to get through my ARC backlog me thinks....

    1. I don't usually do DNF reviews, but this was a review book, I read half of it, and I was very surprised by how much I didn't like it. DNF reviews can be just as helpful and interesting as regular reviews, though, so I'm surprised by the fact that they aren't more common and by how reluctant I am to write them.

      As for the details, when the book doesn't grab you, one can be easily distracted ;-) I'm sad because this book took a direction that I think the series needs, but the characters just weren't right.

  2. Is it wrong to love it when you get your snark on Brie? :)

    1. Everybody knows that it can't be snarky if there are no GIFs, so I don't know what you're talking about...

  3. I've been going back and forth about whether I should read Rock Addiction. Every single other "rock star falling for regular girl" that I've read has been all about wish fulfilment, so if this is not the reader's fantasy (it's not mine, and it's never been), then there's nothing there for her. But this is Nalini Singh, so I thought maybe it'd be better. Sounds possibly not :(

    As for the Del Torro thing, ugh. That would have annoyed me to no end, especially because it's not bloody hard to fix. If you're using a name from a culture you're not completely familiar with, please just tweet "I'm planning to have a Valencian hero called "Del Torro". Does this sound natural to native speakers?". And that's sorted. Any Spanish speaker would have told her that Del Toro is a much better option.

    Of course, maybe the vampire got his legal name screwed up by a careless official when he went through Ellis Island ;)

    1. CRAP! Google just ate my long, thoughtful comment. I want to cry, because it was really long (not so sure on the thoughtful). So here's the short part:

      Yes to all you said. And authors, please do proper research even if it's for very minor background elements, because you never know! (Del Torro was a very minor character in a previous book, so I doubt any thought went into naming him).

  4. Wow. I'm sorry you read such a string of bad books and finished up with something mediocre. I've been wanting to try Nalini Singh and Jeanine Frost, but I know not to start with these books here. I've heard great things about One Plus One, but that whole poverty and I'm poor but better than you theme would have worked my nerves. I won't be rushing out to pick that one up. Great reviews!

    1. Thanks, Jade! I recommend reading Singh's Psy/Changeling series, and if you like Urban Fantasy that's heavy on the romance, I would recommend her other series. As for Frost, well, if you like campy, slightly OTT stories, then you'll probably enjoy her other stuff.


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