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REVIEW: Nightfall by Ellen Connor

Note: January is a new reviewer at DA. She will be providing reviews at least once a month if not more often.

Dear Ellen Connor (aka Ann Aguirre and Carrie Lofty):

I wanted to love this book. I really did. You are both well known names in the industry, and both of you have high praise for your novels. I thought this might be a dynamite pairing. And it has potential. The concept is not an overdone one: a romance in a post-apocalyptic setting. I can get behind that. But I felt like the treatment of it was ham-handed at best. I’m having a hard time mentally articulating what I found so irksome about this book, so I thought I would make you a top five list instead of recapping the plot.

There are spoilers everywhere, so please do not read further if you are not interested.

Nightfall by Ellen Connor1) There is no apocalypse you don’t like: famine, plague, werewolves, technology, etc. My problem was that you didn’t stick with just one. Apparently cars stopped working and so did electricity. However, not all electricity stopped working. Radios and SOME cars still work. Guns still work. Generators work? I guess it is a discretionary apocalypse. I don’t know. And then if that wasn’t enough of an apocalypse, everyone is turning into nightmare wolf-dog-things. Which is brought on by an infectious disease that has wiped out cities. And the heroine is also developing psychic powers. I guess this would have worked for me better if you’d stuck with just one aspect and developed it. Instead, we have a constantly mutating – pun intended – apocalypse that I had a hard time following.

2) Tru – Why is he a POV character? I found him smirky and annoying and a massive cliché (he’s the token Goth teenager in the apocalypse, of course). Then I read the descriptions of the next two books and realized that you were setting him up to be a hero for the third book. Eh. Are goths even edgy anymore? I think Hot Topic is about as edgy as American Eagle nowadays.

3) The hero. I did not have problems with his personality. I did have problems with his portrayal. The little description we are given of him is that his hair and his skin are dark due to the fact that he is clearly mixed race. At this point, I turned my book over.

mixed feelings cover

One of these things is not like the other. And that sucks, but I know it is not the author’s fault. So I keep reading…and then felt a twinge of concern. When his race does come up, it’s in a negative context. Let me show you a few quotes.

“When the dark man comes for you, don’t be afraid.”

This is part of the prophecy that Jenna’s father left for her. I cringed. The dark man??? What does his race have to do with the prophecy? Why can’t it just be ‘When the stranger comes for you, don’t be afraid?’

But it gets better/worse.

“I never knew my folks and grew up in foster care,” he said, his throat tight. “A lot of being smacked around, but not a lot of supervision. I knocked off my first convenience store when I was fourteen.”

I just don’t know what to think. Now not only is he the ‘dark man’, he is a criminal brought up in foster homes. You want a clichéd mixed-race hero? Here you go.

Mind you, this book is not chock-full of racefail. Those are really the only mentions of Mason’s past, and I suppose that’s why I don’t know what to make of it. It happens early in the book and I read the rest of the story warily as a result.

But don’t worry – Mason’s the most likable one in the story! Especially compared to…

2) The heroine, Jenna. God. I wanted to slap her. Repeatedly. She is blonde, and privileged, and naturally can do anything and everything tossed in her direction. Mason thinks she is perfect and beautiful and he is not worthy of someone as perfect as her. She becomes the leader of the group when Mason wants to leave everyone behind. She is the nurturer and den mother and defender all in one. She’s perfect. Literally. Even when she’s described, she’s described as perfect.

“…her eyes closing and her priceless-work-of-art chest expelling a long exhale.”

Not only is she perfect, but she develops special powers. She can hear Mason’s thoughts and can communicate with him. And later on, Jenna has a plot development that makes me totally roll my eyes so hard I feared they would fall out of my head.

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

[spoiler]Jenna gets bitten by one of the wolf creatures. Everyone else that has been bitten has turned into a monster or died horribly. Perfect Jenna acquires the ability to shapechange into a wolf. A perfect white wolf. Who can communicate with the hero thanks to her telepathy. The apocalypse just handed her another special power. Lucky Jenna. 

But then it gets even better. Here’s a second spoiler for you. Mason gets bitten by the things repeatedly. He is sick and dying for days, and so Jenna decides to perform blood magic on him and uses her blood to seal his wounds with magic. How does she do this? She doesn’t know. It just works because it is magic and Perfect Jenna must have her mate. It is not explained at any point, it just is. When Mason recovers, he cannot turn into a wolf like Jenna. She is the only one. She is special.

[/spoiler]

1) The similes and metaphors drove me crazy. Every time I ran into a very obvious one, it threw me out of the story and I wanted to call a friend and tell them how awful they were. Can they be that bad? You tell me. Here’s some of my favorites.

  • Mason frowned. So did Jenna and Angela, trading their confusion like bread recipes.
  • And his cock got hard as an iron pipe.
  • His cock blazed against her belly, hard enough to hammer nails.
  • Strung tight as fishing line with a whopper on the end, Mason raked blunt nails along the backs of his forearms.
  • Her fear tugged him like a parachute deploying.
  • His chest was a volcano with its top blown open—burning lungs, thrashing heart, and the sick knowledge that he’d let this happen.
  • But Mason turned blasted eyes on him, pulling him into one of those post-modernist paintings where every road led to hell.
  • He felt her absence like the end of a rainstorm. One minute his mind was clouded ovee with the interference she always brought. The next…nothing.
  • Incredulity melted into a feeling brighter and stronger, like Sarah Connor must’ve felt when she found out Kyle went back in time for her.

Should you name check your namesake in your book? My gut tells me no. Someone please come and trade me your thoughts on the matter. We can share them…like bread recipes.

Reading this might make you think I loathed the book. Not true. While I did roll my eyes quite a bit, I kept picking it up to see what would happen next. I feel I should give the authors credit for showing people struggling to fight in an apocalypse, rather than taking the easy way out and showing it a few years later. The story itself was fairly fast paced and full of action. If you are looking for apocalypse romance, this is a very good place to start. I just wish I had connected with the characters, the writing, or the world more than I did. Instead, I did not connect with any of it. Am I on board for the next one in the series? Despite my mocking…probably. So that is a point in its favor, right? Right.

D

All best,

January

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January Janes

January likes a little bit of everything. She's partial to unique paranormals, erotic romances, contemporary, and YA. She has a fondness for novellas and trying self-published works, though more of those are misses than hits. She still refuses to read anything that smells like literary fiction. January also changes this bio on a regular basis depending on her reading mood.

29 Comments

  1. jmc
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 15:23:25

    Oh, ouch. I was really looking forward to this book, because I’ve liked Lofty’s historicals and Aguirre’s Corinne Solomon books, but the heroine sounds like she’s not my cup of tea.

    ReplyReply

  2. Jan
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 15:36:07

    Aww. No! I was soooooo looking forward to this one! And I’ll probably still get it, but now I’m a bit worried. I don’t like Chosen One like heroes or heroines.

    I do think the fact that it’s all kind of apocalypses thrown into one might be explained later. I imagine these kinds of things don’t make much sense at the time they are happening, and can only be explained later.

    Still, I’m a bit disappointed that you didn’t like it better.

    ReplyReply

  3. Mia
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 15:45:23

    Oy. She sounds like a right Mary Sue, no lie! “Like bread recipes” has me busting up, though. Is this supposed to be funny? Because most of the metaphors and similes sound like they’re supposed to be silly or make me laugh, and that’s not the feeling I get from the rest of your review. A post-apocalyptic romance farce could be a lot of fun if it were intentional…

    ReplyReply

  4. Jacqueline Cook
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 15:57:35

    Hmm. I was thinking about purchasing this one but, after reading about the racefail and so-so heroine, I’ll just try the library…

    ReplyReply

  5. Anne Ardeur
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 15:59:47

    Sooo… the hero’s eyes have the magic power to send people to post-modernist hell? No?

    ReplyReply

  6. Jill Sorenson
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 16:45:43

    Has anyone seen Apocalypse Man? The guy is pretty hot!

    http://www.funcrunch.com/apocalypse-man-history-channel-9809/

    Anway, I watched an episode where he was in the ghost town with no electricity. He used a shortwave radio (I think), got a generator working, and charged up a vehicle battery. Most cars aren’t electric and a generator converts fuel into energy. I don’t see how those details would be inconsistent with apocalyptic worldbuilding. Maybe the authors didn’t do a good job explaining how these things work or considered this basic knowledge. For me it isn’t but my husband seems to have an innate understanding of mechanics.

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  7. DA_January
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 18:09:42

    Jill – it was not explained thoroughly in the story. If it had, I might have understood it more.

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  8. DA_January
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 18:10:19

    Mia – I do not think it was intended to be funny, which is why it made me so confused.

    ReplyReply

  9. DA_January
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 18:10:42

    Jan – I am too. I really wanted to like it.

    ReplyReply

  10. Brooke Reviews
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 18:28:03

    The section on similes and metaphors had me laughing so hard I couldn’t breath. Reading them all together probably makes it worse than it is I’m assuming. I just keep picturing every other line having one like these. lol

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  11. KMont
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 18:38:32

    This is an excellent review. Great job on explaining your dislikes! I read the spoiler. Um. Yeah. I’ll have to pass I’m afraid.

    While reading your descriptions of the apocalyptic elements, the wolves, etc., the book reminded me a little of Red by Jordan Summers.

    ReplyReply

  12. DianeN
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 18:51:51

    I haven’t read the review because, wouldn’t you know, I just bought the nook book after starting to read it at Barnes & Noble earlier tonight and really enjoying the beginning. But I do want to thank the new reviewer DA January for indicating right from the start that there were spoilers ahead so I could quit reading before encountering them. I’ll come back to read the review after I finish the book, assuming I do. I’m hoping maybe whatever it is that you disliked about it won’t push my buttons quite so much…

    ReplyReply

  13. Aemelia
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 19:01:55

    I read the book and really liked it.

    There was a lot going on in this book, but I put that off to this being the first book of the series and the author(s) had a lot to explain as they built this new world, I think that is why that aspect of the book worked for me. And I agree that Jenna was annoying at times.
    I wasn’t disturbed by some electricity and cars working while others didn’t, it seemed like everything that was run by computers went down, but older cars and generators that do not rely on computer chips were still able to work.

    ReplyReply

  14. Kelly L.
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 22:46:16

    I laughed my arse off at the paragraph on selective, ever-shifting apocalypses.

    ReplyReply

  15. Loreen
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 03:46:16

    Mixed race heroes remind me of all those blue-eyed half-Comanche warriors lusting after white pioneer women, or those Oxford educated half-English sheiks who just cannot seem to resist a blond wandering around in the desert.
    I mean, if you really want to write about mixed race character, do so intelligently and have that character actually reflect the two cultures. Too often I think “mixed race” means – yeah, he is dark and “other” and exotic, but don’t freak out! He’s not the scary kind of dark person.
    Maybe our culture hasn’t moved on enough to allow a book about an actual mixed-race couple or an African American hero.
    I haven’t read this particular book, so I am not saying that is going on here. But the mixed-race cop-out hero is just a general trend that annoys me.

    ReplyReply

  16. Leslee
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 05:47:02

    Great review! Really liked the spoiler heads up but I read it anyway because apocalypses aren’t my cup of tea. I am going to looking for more of DA January’s reviews!

    ReplyReply

  17. Mandi
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 06:57:32

    I really liked this one – I’ve noticed in Ann Aguirre’s Skin series, she doesn’t always give out all the details of the world or the situation the h/h are in (I’ve never read Carrie Lofty until this book so I can’t comment on her) But – sometimes I feel like those details are not necessary (like in this book with exactly why some tech is failing and others are not) but sometimes in her books I think she does need more info.

    I just assumed in this one, the “wave” was just slowly coming over them, so tech and cars were starting to fail sporadically.

    I really wish this book would have explored more with what you cover in the spoiler section. I could have read an entire book just on those ramifications!

    I liked Tru and I’m glad he is getting a book with the girl. I’m intrigued ;)

    Great review January!

    ReplyReply

  18. DS
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 07:00:04

    If they are going with only cars without computer chips working then They are going to only be really old cars. The last one I had was a 79 Mustang– dreadful car. Come to think of it, it could have had an ECU– but like everything else it didn’t work well.

    ReplyReply

  19. Patrice
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 09:16:16

    Hmmm good insights. I usually enjoy the pacing and characters this Ann Aguire writes but I’m not familiar with her other pen name series. I will have to research and look at some other opinions to make up my mind. Oh and one thought, when I read “the dark man” or the dark whatever as part of a prophecy I never think race, I imagine metephyically dark – like dark in the soul. That’s just my quick bread take on it. ;-)

    ReplyReply

  20. Lynn S.
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 09:33:43

    Are you sure all those similes and metaphors are actually in the book? Really? They are definitely brightening up my Friday morning.

    “…her eyes closing and her priceless-work-of-art chest expelling a long exhale.”

    His chest was a volcano with its top blown open—burning lungs, thrashing heart, and the sick knowledge that he’d let this happen.

    This leaves me thinking one of them has had plastic surgery and now the other one is in need of plastic surgery; and then wondering if plastic surgery is still an option in a post- apocalyptic world.

    ReplyReply

  21. Maili
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 12:09:38

    @DS: Bicycles are the way to go. I never understood why it never occurred to writers and scriptwriters to use bicycles in the post-apocalyptic world. I’m looking at you, Cormac McCarthy the author of The Road, and authors of similar works.

    I’m joking. Sort of. Seriously, what’s wrong with bikes? Sure, it’s humble, comparing with cars, motorcycles and planes, but at least it can get one to go faster than trying to outrun a pack of zombies on feet.

    @Loreen:

    Maybe our culture hasn’t moved on enough to allow a book about an actual mixed-race couple or an African American hero.
    I haven’t read this particular book, so I am not saying that is going on here. But the mixed-race cop-out hero is just a general trend that annoys me.

    Gah. This growing trend of mixed race characters are making me feel uncomfortable. Especially when a mixed race character is clearly used as a compromise, an exotic touch, or the lite edition of tokenism (“See, see! Proof I’m a supporter of diversity!”). Same with cinema.

    It may explain why there are some growing resentment towards mixed race people from quarters. For many mixed race people, it’s becoming a pig-in-the-middle situation with no way out.

    This could be defused if authors could stop using mixed race as an easy cop-out, because it’s in danger of becoming a standard.

    His chest was a volcano with its top blown< open—burning lungs, thrashing heart, and the sick knowledge that he’d let this happen.

    Hands up if this reminded you of that chest-bursting scene from Alien.

    ReplyReply

  22. Laura
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 17:42:02

    I was going to buy this over the weekend, but I also read the spoiler and I’m also going to pass. Thank you for the review.

    ReplyReply

  23. Has
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 18:15:53

    I really liked this book too! I did find it had a bit of a slow start and there was a scene at the end where I thought it didn’t make sense concerning a death of a character. But I loved the tense and claustrophobic tone and feel of the story. I don’t think there was any issue with racefail, yeah Mason had a difficult childhood, but he broke out of that cycle. I think the authors wanted to make him an edgier character in the sense they wanted to show this was a guy who was prepared by this magical apocalypse. He was pretty ruthless in the beginning and it was Jenna’s concern and humanity for their situation & the other survivors that helped him out of his shell.

    And Jenna also became a harder edged character. I thought they turned the tables when she was later bitten and she was more attuned to this world than he was. Made their relationship more equal.

    I loved Tru! I definitely think he’s going to be a fantastic character and hero in the 3rd book. The main theme that these characters started off as ordinary people who are lost with the old world and changing and surviving with this brutal one. I think the next book we will see the wider aspects of the Apocalypse, but I loved the gritty tense opening.

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  24. DA_January
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 22:33:15

    @Maili

    Maili – I agree with your concerns. I did not feel that his race was showcased in the best light. At first I was happy that we had a mixed-race hero, and then it became more apparent to me that in the story, his race was like a cool accessory. He was the token guy in the apocalypse, and I couldn’t help but feel that the message was that the world had to end before a mixed romance hero ended up with the pretty blonde. I am sure that is my cynicism showing.

    I think I would have had less of an issue with his race if it had been a positive aspect of his upbringing, or if other characters in the story had been of any ethnic background other than white. I think the heroine of the next one is hispanic? So I will be curious as to how that will be handled.

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  25. DA_January
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 22:34:26

    @Lynn S. – They were all in my copy!

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  26. Dallass
    Jun 11, 2011 @ 22:02:13

    Ouch! Direct hit.

    This looked like a book that I might have bought if I’d seen it on the bookshelf, but after your review maybe I’ll just borrow it from the library instead :P

    ReplyReply

  27. infinitieh
    Jun 11, 2011 @ 23:45:34

    Jenna doesn’t get better as a character? Dang!

    I loved Ann Aguirre’s “Enclave” and am sad to read that the apocalyptic setup isn’t done as well in this one.

    ReplyReply

  28. Rachel
    Jun 13, 2011 @ 13:21:52

    I also really liked this book! I loved that we were coming in right as the apocolypse was happening and were immediately thrown into the action.
    I didn’t think the technology failing was confusing: if it had a computer chip or ran on the power grid it failed. Pretty straightforward.
    I also LOVED Tru, and am excited to read more about him.
    Finally, the similes and metaphors: I don’t remember any of the ones you listed. I’m sure they were there, but I was too sucked into the story to notice. And honestly, by listing them, I think you give them far too much weight. Most books have a similar amount and type, but because they’re sprinkled throughout (as they are in this one) rather than in a long, out-of-context list, they don’t stick out as much.

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  29. REVIEW: Fourth and Goal by Jami Davenport
    Mar 19, 2012 @ 09:55:17

    [...] metaphors. Holy, metaphorpalooza.  January commented on the many varied uses of the metaphor in this review, but I think Fourth and Goal has Ellen Connor’s book [...]

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