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REVIEW: Surviving Demon Island by Jaci Burton

Dear Ms. Burton:

Surviving Demon IslandI think this is one of those books were the hook will totally captivate people or turn them off. Gina Bliss is an action star in the vein of Jackie Chan. She does all her stunts herself. Coming off of back to back action movie blockbusters, Gina agrees to do a Reality TV show that involves physical challenges. The TV show is really a guise used by a demon hunting recruiter named Lou to gather elite fighters from around the globe to train them to be demon hunters. Derek Marks is the hot trainer who Gina constantly challenges. Derek and Gina are an explosive combination both in bed and out.

The hook or setup is just one of many really big suspensions of disbelief that the reader must undergo in order to enjoy the story. The book read more like a screen play than a novel and had little room amongst the killing of demons to focus on character developments. Where I might have bought into the story if it were on the big screen, in the more intimate setting of reading the book, I found it hard to lose myself in the pages.

Gina never considers how this will reflect on her career (i.e., what if she doesn’t do well in the challenge, will that affect her ability to be a marketable action movie star) nor does it address that Reality TV is a place that washed stars and wannabe stars go to find new star status. I maybe could have bought into it if the Reality TV was more like the ecochallenge, something an action competitive junkie could really get into; but I kept thinking Survivor and had a hard time seeing any movie star signing up to eat bugs and go without for days on end. The fact is that Gina’s star status had so little to do with the overall story that I couldn’t figure out why the hook was used. I had a hard time believing that disparate individuals could band together and work as an elite fighting squad hunting down demons within two days of arriving on the island. I had a hard time understanding why Gina would even be invited when Lou is so adverse to publicity.

The elements of the story just didn’t fit very well together, from the hook, to the many players invited to be part of the team (screamed setup for series to me), to the not very believable surprise ending.

If a reader can get past those issues, and just go with the story without paying attention to any realities of the world, there is a fast paced action story that features bad guys that act like bad guys and a different mythology. There is plenty of action and steamy sex scenes to fill the pages. For me, though, this was a good idea hampered by some really unbelievable details. C. Surviving Demon Island can be purchased as an ebook or in stores now. Bookseller Jolie really liked this one and is probably hand selling a copy right now.

Best regards,

Jane

P.S. Does the cover of this book like an ad for a timeshare or is it just me?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

13 Comments

  1. Avaron Dale
    Dec 27, 2006 @ 07:24:42

    This book is being raved about everywhere I go in the blogworld. Angie also blogged about how great it was on her blog (see: link ). The book even has a video trailer. (aside – are they the new ‘in-thing’ for promoing your upcoming release?) Be that as it may, just the blurb of this book turned me off since, as you say, reality TV is not the place to find big ‘megastars’.

    Avaron

    PS: It is a series book. The series is called “Demon Hunters”. I believe Jaci’s working on the second one now, calling it “Hunting the Demon”. Doncha just hate ‘setup’ books?

  2. Jaci Burton
    Dec 27, 2006 @ 07:50:18

    Thank you for taking time to read my book and review it, Jane. Sorry it wasn’t to your liking, but I do appreciate your comments, as always. I’m a big fan of Dear Author and always read the reviews and blog posts here, so I respect all your opinions.

    Thanks again and Happy New Year! :-)

  3. Teddy Pig
    Dec 27, 2006 @ 14:29:08

    Jane,

    I am really starting to agree with you on the whole “series mania” thing. Here is yet another book I am not going to get into because I do not need to be following yet another series or depending on some “future book” to finish the story somehow.

    I just got through reading Lora Leigh’s – Elizabeth’s Wolf that she wrote as part of her breed series and I really liked it. The problem is I bought some of those other breed books and dang if this one book is so different from the rest of the series in that the characters are actually complex and the story showed signs of actual inspiration and polish.

    That is till some of the characters from the series show up and turned a “Terminator like” story into a “Roger Rabbit” send up. You know, two-dimensional characters meet complex well-written characters.

    It was like a literary train wreck.

    Anyway, I swear people need to really think when doing this and maybe show some restraint since it is such a fad now days. In my opinion one really great keeper of a book is worth ten times more than a series of sorta good books that I will have problems recommending.

    Maybe not, maybe the money generated is better, I don’t know, I’m not a writer.

  4. Lara
    Dec 27, 2006 @ 14:43:53

    I loved this book, so add my vote to the “totally captivated” camp! I thought the premise, which felt to me like LOST meets SURVIVOR (with demons!), was refreshingly original and lots of fun. And I’m not just saying that because Jaci is a friend–we actually “met” via this book, when I begged an ARC off of her last summer because I couldn’t wait till December to read it. :)

    I didn’t have any trouble suspending disbelief–I mean, I knew going in that I’d be reading about demons, so my mind was pretty open to anything. It didn’t seem so outlandish to me that an adrenaline-junkie action star might consider doing this kind of thing as a “vacation.” And there was the added carrot that Gina was doing it for charity, too. Anyway, the setup worked for me, and the pacing was so fast, the writing so crisp, that I fell right into Jaci’s world on the first page and stayed there to the end. I thought Derek and Gina sizzled together, and there were a lot of tense moments on the suspense side of the story as well. Like I said, I loved it!

  5. Melani Blazer
    Dec 27, 2006 @ 18:44:48

    Hi there… Just wanted to pipe in. A lot of people know Jaci and I have been friends forever, so my opinion might not be very objective, but I have to say this… Anytime I pick up a paranormal themed book, I *know* it’s not going to be believable. Unless the world shifts and contradicts itself within the book, which makes me nuts, I will often have an open mind and trust what the author is saying.

    At this point, I’ve read enough about celebrities in the rag mags to know that they will do all kinds of insane things. Nor do I believe one has to be washed up at all to do a reality show for charity–so I didn’t think twice about Gina’s decision. It really is a minor point, certainly not something I kept thinking about through the entire book. The fact is, she is a skilled fighter–that’s demonstrated up front, and the book is so fast paced, I didn’t have time to stew over those little details. I’ve always thought this book was very different and fresh when compared to some of the ideas (vampires) that have been done, done and done again with different names and locations.

    Even if it didn’t have Jaci’s name on the cover, this would be a book worth recommending to readers who like a fast-paced, suspenseful paranormal.

  6. Jane
    Dec 27, 2006 @ 19:54:38

    - Anytime I pick up a paranormal themed book, I *know* it’s not going to be believable. Unless the world shifts and contradicts itself within the book, which makes me nuts, I will often have an open mind and trust what the author is saying.

    This may be true if the world is completely a fantasy but when it is urban fantasy and you are incorporating real world motifs, then I think that “unbelievable” thing has to be explained away somehow either with some otherworld construct (ie. Gina Bliss lives in an alternative world that has movie stars and reality tv, just not our world) or with some realistic explanation (and the charity thing just didn’t cut it for me. I just can’t see Halle Berry or Angelina Jolie signing up for a reality tv gig for charity).

    Just because the author is writing paranormal doesn’t automatically give her allowances to make the characters or the actions of the characters free reign to live outside the parameters of the real world if the real world is going to be part of the basis for story because to me, that is contradictory world building.

    And as for different, sure the demonology is a bit different, but the story boiled down to a true mate pairing which is as old of a storyline that paranormals can present.

  7. Avaron Dale
    Dec 27, 2006 @ 20:23:05

    Thank you, Jane! I agree completely with you statements above about worldbuilding and beliefs. And I don’t think I’ve seen a single paranormal lately that doesn’t fall back on the old, tried and nearly cliched soulmate/lifemate premise.

    Avaron

    PS: Thank you for fixing my error this morning. :grin:

  8. Jackie
    Dec 28, 2006 @ 07:32:38

    And as for different, sure the demonology is a bit different, but the story boiled down to a true mate pairing which is as old of a storyline that paranormals can present.

    Maybe I’m missing a nuance here, but isn’t a “true mate pairing” what romance is about, whether it’s paranormal, contemporary, historical, gothic, etc.? Hero + Heroine = HEA. Right?

    I enjoyed Surviving Demon Island. I liked the fast pace, the screenplay-like feeling that let me clearly visualize the events, the very (VERY) steamy love scenes, the interplay between Gina and Derek.

    The fact is that Gina’s star status had so little to do with the overall story that I couldn’t figure out why the hook was used.

    For me, her star status worked quite well — she was less Julia Roberts, more female Jackie Chan (replace the martial arts with hand-to-hand fighting and weapons). She was an action heroine on the big screen who did her own stunts. I had no problem with her agreeing to do a reality television show in which there would be (pretend) combat as a way to do something different/relax. As for how it would impact her career, because Gina’s character was one who competed to the best of her ability and didn’t stop to think about what if she lost, I could easily see her not thinking through the whole “what if I lose” scenario.

  9. Vivi Anna
    Dec 28, 2006 @ 11:38:53

    I can’t wait to read this book! And I’m even more excited to hear that it’s fast paced and reads like an big action movie. I think I’ll go out today and buy my copy.

  10. Janine B.
    Dec 28, 2006 @ 12:20:30

    I have been hearing raves about this book… great fun, great action, great characters. I’m a buyer!

  11. Sybil
    Dec 28, 2006 @ 14:10:48

    [quote comment="16834"]Anytime I pick up a paranormal themed book, I *know* it’s not going to be believable. Unless the world shifts and contradicts itself within the book, which makes me nuts, I will often have an open mind and trust what the author is saying.[/quote]

    Interesting point… so why bother with world building then? To me you can take anything, it can be way off the wall, but as a writer you have to sell it to me. If you don’t – bad book.

    [quote comment="16834"]
    At this point, I’ve read enough about celebrities in the rag mags to know that they will do all kinds of insane things. Nor do I believe one has to be washed up at all to do a reality show for charity–so I didn’t think twice about Gina’s decision. It really is a minor point, certainly not something I kept thinking about through the entire book.[/quote]
    Oh I completely disagree here. I thought the set up was dumb and completely dismissed the book. There is only one reason I wanted to read it.

    But the big star thing? That is believeable? Name one celeb that would give up that much time out of their lives and give up all of their privacy to be on the lowest form of entertainment – when they are at the top of the food chain. This isn’t a softball game or a few hours on American Idol.

    LOL of course you can prolly tell my love of R TV ;)

    [quote comment="16834"]Even if it didn’t have Jaci’s name on the cover, this would be a book worth recommending to readers who like a fast-paced, suspenseful paranormal.[/quote]
    This is my one reason for getting this… jaci. I have enjoyed her work in the past and wanted to see if she could take this plot and make it work.

    I look forward to getting a chance to read it.

  12. Fox
    Mar 03, 2007 @ 20:44:23

    I am late in reading this book.
    But I really enjoyed it.

    I don’t have any problem with this being a launching pad for a series, if I didn’t enjoy the first book I wouldn’t continue. I like single titles and series of books. I’m glad this is a series.

    But I did enjoy it. I liked the way it was written and flowed, I liked the ease of the telling, it was not overworked or scripted. The technical side to Burton’s writing was really good.

    I do not think that we need to know every moment of the hero and heroine’s past to make them rounded characters, or to make me sympathetic to them. I feel we do not need every detail of their angst, and I would have hated the book if we were overburdened with boggy “woe is me” details. We are of an age of reader that can work that stuff out for ourselves.

    I liked this book in the same way I liked Sherri L King’s Horde Wars. They contained that sci fi element pushed into a world I can relate to. This style of romance is a new emerging one, and I get the comparison to movie script, that reflects our tastes and reflected style of the (multi media) world from this generation of writers. It has a contemporary feel, that I find easy to respond to and easy to follow.

    I, too, have questions about the lives and careers these people have left behind. It will be good to see how Burton handles it, perhaps she is leading me on… to the sequel.

    Fox

    PS. I was not a fan of the cover either, but I can see why they used it over a traditional romance or sci fi cover. It was pretty ambiguous to the content.

  13. Jess
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 04:10:40

    Gina never considers how this will reflect on her career (i.e., what if she doesn’t do well in the challenge, will that affect her ability to be a marketable action movie star) nor does it address that Reality TV is a place that washed stars and wannabe stars go to find new star status.

    when i read the beginning i got the strong impression that Gina didnt really give a hoot about her career, to me and this is just my perception but i thought she just loved the fighting/stunts and did the movies for that.

    she also clearly stated that her idea of a holiday was something vigourous like rock climbing, hiking etc so i never go the feeling that she was off to sun herself on the beach.

    to me its seems like you got lost in the fact that shes a movie star and forgot to enjoy the book!!!

    Anyway, I swear people need to really think when doing this and maybe show some restraint since it is such a fad now days. In my opinion one really great keeper of a book is worth ten times more than a series of sorta good books that I will have problems recommending

    i think this is little unfair, i know at least 3 authors, and no i wont name names without permission that were asked for series straight up from their publishers – in one case they had to have a firm synopsis for a trilogy and present that to the publisher after they liked her first book.

    as the author gets popular and has more selling power i think publishing companies will take a bigger punt on you.

    and on a personal note, i love series, i often get sad if im reading a stand alone cause i know i wont get to see the characters again.

    overall i think Jaci had a fairly slow build up that turned into a great ending, i to think this is going to lead to a great series…. look at lord of the rings, the first book was the stepping stone to the rest….

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