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REVIEW:  Bound by Night by Larissa Ione

REVIEW: Bound by Night by Larissa Ione

Dear Ms. Ione:

I enjoyed the “Demonica” series and liked the spin-off “Lords of Deliverance” series even more, but this book, which debuts a new paranormal romance series set in a different alternate universe, just didn’t work for me. I’m having some troubling articulating why, but my biggest clue is that I’m having no desire whatsoever to return to this world or to follow any of these characters into future books.

boundEight year old Nicole knows something’s up. Normally a vampire servant (yes, vampire servants!) would keep his eyes humbly down, but not today: “This time, he looked at her the way her dad looked at the Thanksgiving turkey.” But no one listens to her, and just a little while later, most of Nicole’s family is dead and she is badly injured and severely traumatized.

Twenty years later, Nicole is a scientist at her family’s company, specializing in exploiting vampire physiology for human uses. But she’s aghast when, as the new CEO, she’s accused of ordering the death of numerous vampires — although she’s very frightened of them, the memory of her beloved vampire nanny (yes, her vampire nanny!) keeps her from seeing all vampires as vicious animals. When she’s kidnapped by a vampire named Riker, who needs her to order the release of one of her company’s test subjects, she begins to understand how wrong the human treatment of vampires really is. Also Riker? Really hot.

I think the aim was for something new and interesting here, but for me the mix was just so off. The elements that strive to be new — the worldbuilding — seem confused and ridiculous. There’s all kinds of complicated who-has-to-drink-what-kind-of-blood-when scenarios that made me tired.  The clan names — MoonBound and ShadowSpawn — have an incongruous, off-putting high fantasy sound to them. And enslaved, defanged vampires as nannies and butlers — seriously?  The blatant parallel to American slavery makes no sense whatsoever — though the use of the vampires for scientific experiments sadly does — and it’s presented in a squirm-inducing way. The racist who loved her nanny is such a well-known cliche — perhaps that was the point but if so, it didn’t come across, especially when late in the book Nicole then goes on to think about the enemy clan as “what amounted to a den of wild animals.” Yeah, some real consciousness raised there. There’s also a Native American connection to vampirism which made me uncomfortable. Again, possibly I missed the point, but it felt exploitative.

And then the elements that strive to be the usual enjoyable mixture — the basic characters and relationship — came off as a little stale. Dudes are cruel, violent, and kinda homophobic — until they inexplicably fall for a woman, and then they’re also protective and endlessly horny. Women are tough — especially on each other. I’m having trouble commenting on the relationship between Nicole and Riker because there just isn’t much to say about it. The sex is hot, there’s a bit of a twist caused by Riker’s guilt over his dead mate (the previously mentioned nanny — slightly icky, but that’s probably just me) and it did make my heart happily twinge a few times.  I’d say I mostly enjoyed the relationship — just not quite enough. I never got swept away with fast-paced excitement, which is really what this type of book is for.

In the end, what it all came down to is that neither the worldbuilding nor the romance were captivating enough for me to not be bothered by how intensely violent and upsetting much of the book is. (It’s the same thing that eventually happened to me with the show “TrueBlood” — and the comparison is an apt one.) Other issues aside, there’s a lot of gore, torture, and general awfulness.  I really needed to be swept away to make it worthwhile.

I wish I were sharing this review with another reviewer, because I don’t feel like I’m doing a good job of conveying what other readers might like about the story.  I’m sure there’s an audience for it, and honestly, because of how much I got into other Ione books, I’m surprised and disappointed that it isn’t me. But it isn’t.  C -.



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REVIEW:  Fairies in My Fireplace by R.L. Naquin

REVIEW: Fairies in My Fireplace by R.L. Naquin

In an effort to bring more topical reviews, particularly in the paranormal romance and urban fantasy arena, I’ve been out recruiting for Dear Author. This is Mary Kate’s second review for us. For those who asked about AJH’s absence, he has taken his show on the road. You can find him at Wonkoromance and Heroes and Heartbreakers!

Fairies in My Fireplace (Monster Haven #3) by R.L. Naquin

Dear Ms. Naquin:

First of all, I’d like to say thank you for this delightfully quirky and strange third installment of your Monster Haven series. The characters are warm and sweet, mostly relatable with just enough spice to make them believable. However, I believe “subtle” is a word that is verboten in this universe. Zoey Donovan is a newly discovered Aegis – one with special abilities who attracts the Hidden of society, those who are distinctly not human, but who have to live within the human world. With the help of her vast cast of friends, Zoey must discover why Hidden all over the United States are going missing – and stop the mysterious Collector.

For someone who hasn’t read the first two books in the series, it was a little difficult to fall into the story and figure out who came from where and why. Some characters and their relationship to Zoey – Andrew and Milo, for example – were explained fairly well, but Riley, Zoe’s significant other, was a bit of a mystery. It took quite a bit of reading between the lines and digging out of context clues to figure out his role in everything. I thought, at first, that there’d been a typo in the description of the book and that it was paranormal romance – I’m used to the two going together like a fennec fox and oversized ears. But I was wrong – this was straight paranormal with just a tiny bit of romance tossed in, almost as an afterthought. Which is kind of a shame given that this book showed some relationship progression that deserved a good bit more screen time than it received.

I have to say that the secondary characters absolutely won my heart and made me want to read more of the series. From Molly the Brownie to Maurice the Closet Monster to Iris the Skunk-Ape, all of them were beautifully developed with just enough “humanity” to appeal to readers, yet there’s just enough otherworldly about them to set them apart. Sarah, Zoey’s best friend and business partner, turned out to be the surprise hit for me – she’s a perfect blend of friend, confidante, judge, and kicker-of-behinds when needed.

Overall, the book felt a little light in places, as if there could have been a little more literary meat in there, but it was trimmed off for some reason. I wanted to know a bit more of the Collector’s story – there weren’t enough details in there to satisfy inquiring minds. I wanted to know about motivation for the Collector’s actions and even a little history. Certain important plot points weren’t elaborated on to the point where they made sense – it was if I were grabbing for explanations and hoping what I took a guess at was correct. One other thing that didn’t quite work for me was the cliffhanger ending. While quite a bit of the main plot was resolved, it felt as though things were left too unfinished. The overall metaplot was progressed incrementally, at an almost glacial place, with bits dangled in front of the reader then snatched away, rather like a cat toy in front of a cat.

All of that being said – I want more. The narrative drew me in to the world, immersing me in quirky delight. The characters, for the most part, were vivid and interesting with quick, witty dialog. Since I came into the series with the third book, I decided to go back to read books one and two. The third follows in the same vein, but isn’t quite as strong as the others. It feels more like a transition into the next phase of the Monster Haven’s incarnation. The monster under the bed in this book isn’t quite as friendly as Maurice, but neither is it a grumpy, pregnant sea serpent. B-

Forever Inside the Mushroom Circle,
Mary Kate

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