Book Review: Breathless

cover-breathlessTitle: Breathless [Blue Fire Saga 1]

Author: Scott Prussing

Genre: New Adult, Paranormal, Romance

Rating: 2 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: College freshman Leesa Nyland has been fascinated by vampires since she was three years old. That’s when her mom started acting weird, refusing to go outside during the day and insisting the sunlight hurt her skin because she had been bitten by a one-fanged vampire…

But fascinated doesn’t mean Leesa believes—any more than she believes in blue fire, people who live for centuries, and kisses that can kill. When her beloved older brother suddenly disappears, she is forced to confront all these and more.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I really wanted to like this book. The cover was gorgeous, the writing was clear, and easy to follow… and the author obviously took their time to really explore the lore and world-building behind this series.  It had a down-to-earth but intriguing plot. Unfortunately, the characters had the depth of a half-mopped spill. Their actions in this story were so utterly unbelievable that I was actually angry by the time I finished the book.

It’s not that I didn’t like the characters. I found Leesa’s shyness endearing. Stefan and Rave were a gorgeous mix of masculinity, kindness, and brooding predator. Even Leesa’s almost-non-existent friends had great personalities… but that’s pretty much as far as they went. There was no back-story to any of the characters except to mention Leesa’s part-vampire mother, and we rarely even saw her in the story. Most of the narrative consisted of Leesa going to class, hanging out in her dorm room with friends, or awkwardly wandering around campus.  It was mostly mundane tasks and conversations and very little action, intrigue, or suspense… which… given the plot, should have been present.

The most infuriating part of this story, however, was the wishy-washy nature of all the characters… and complete lack of common sense.  Vampires, Volkaane… all the immortal beings were perfectly fine divulging all of their secrets to the human populace despite the fact they frequently talked about how they wanted to stay under the radar.  It was a good thing though – because Leesa couldn’t keep her mouth shut. She told all of her friends, her family, even the enemy of her “boyfriend” everything there was to know about everyone else’s business. She couldn’t keep a secret to save her life–not that anyone seemed to mind. Also, despite the fact that Rave and Stefan were supposedly mortal enemies (though it was never explained why), Leesa was magically able to tell them to quit fighting… and they listened. Suddenly everyone was behaving as though they had no choice. Hello? These two immortal beings are centuries older than this shy little mouse of a college student, but they were both willing to do whatever she asked.  In fact, by the time I was half-way through the story, the two men were so completely smitten with her they were more than willing to marry her.

W. T. F.

Between her selfishness, stupidity, and inability to keep her mouth shut… I just couldn’t understand the appeal.

Another oddity was that despite the fact that these two immortal species were supposed to be “secret”, the minute Leesa informed everyone (and I do mean everyone) that they existed… no one questioned her. Everyone took it at face value and went “oh.. okay. cool!”  and we’re not just talking about her close friends; I’m talking friends, family, even her teacher. No one questioned it. No one thought she was crazy, no one seemed to be frightened either. How does this happen? I’m still trying to understand.  There was a complete lack of any sort of tension or mystery to this story. Everyone… got along in a sort-of saturday morning cartoon way, and the one or two “fights” that were presented were easily dissolved away once Leesa stepped into the middle of them. She’s like a magic tranquilizer in human form.

The frustrating part of it was that there were so many instances where tension and conflict could have been introduced. I would have killed to have Edwina show up and harass Leesa, or to have seen the Volkaane lead an assault against the Vampire coven. They never did. Rave wouldn’t even fight to keep Leesa. At the final moment when Leesa revealed her plan to sacrifice herself for her brother, he pretty much stepped aside and agreed with her. He didn’t try to stop her or rescue her… there were no daring plans to steal her brother back.  The ending was wrapped up in a shiny little perfect bow, and no one got hurt, or angry, or swore retaliation. Nothing.

I am completely baffled.

The one truly redeeming feature of the story was the lore/world building. It was obvious the author had taken a lot of time to research vampire lore and adapt it to their own unique version. The concept of the Volkaane was interesting and unique (though now that I think about it, the moodus noises never were explained…), and a bit of a neat twist on the usual immortal beings we find in these kinds of stories. The only area that lacked in their development was an explanation of WHY the Volkaane fought the Vampires at all. I knew they hunted the vamps, but never why. The vampires didn’t seem all that evil to me. A total of.. what… 3 people were murdered during the entire book? Considering their food source and the circumstances they were in… I’d consider that pretty damn nice of them.

In the end, I just couldn’t enjoy the story. It wasn’t a bad idea for a novel, and there were certain aspects of it that were done very well, but in the end the execution was more of a “limp rag” than a “taunt bowstring”. It lacked any sense of immediacy, action, tension, or suspense. The pieces fell into place easily and without effort… to the point that the narrative became mundane and unfulfilling. Would I recommend it? No. I don’t think I would. If I had one way to sum up how ill-written this book was, it would be to quote the first line of chapter 33:

“It was a dark and stormy night.”

Book Review: Bluebonnet Bride

cover-bluebonnetbrideTitle: Bluebonnet Bride [Men of Stone Mountain Book 3]

Author: Caroline Clemmons

Genre: Historical, Western, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: He’s a by-the-book Texas sheriff; she’s on the run from a murder conviction…

When a tornado provides Rosalyn with the opportunity to escape the gallows, she collects her daughter Lucy and flees. They travel far enough West that Rosalyn believes she’s gone to the ends of the earth. She hopes she and Lucy will be safe in this remote North Texas town where she embarks on a new life as a dressmaker. If only she could avoid contact with people, especially the handsome sheriff who pops up every time she turns around. She fears either she or her chatterbox daughter may slip and reveal too much.

Joel Stone has been content with his life, even if it’s not the one he’d dreamed. His younger brothers are married and living nearby, his aunts have moved to Radford Springs, and he is respected for the efficient job he does as sheriff. When he meets the new widow in town, his instant attraction staggers him. She appears uninterested, but he is determined to win her hand in marriage.

But life doesn’t turn out the way either Rosalyn or Joel plan. They overcome temporary obstacles, but what of the secret she protects? Can he save her from the gallows?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Once again, let’s start with the cover:  it’s another cut and paste job, only this time it’s super-obvious. The white background behind the model can still be found like a halo around her head. Unfortunately, she’s also a completely different model (and much older) than the one represented on the back cover…. and despite the fact that they’re supposed to be living in historical times, they both have massive amounts of makeup on. Sigh.

That being said, like the book before it, I found this one to be a bit of a mixed bag. It’s clear, easy to follow, and interesting… the plot is a good one: woman escapes from nearly being hung for a crime she didn’t commit, and finds herself fleeing to the middle of nowhere and falling in love with a member of the law who at any moment may discover her deep dark secret. It’s a good premise. Unfortunately, like the other books in the series, the characters lacked a sense of depth, and the events in the book were a little too convenient to be believable.

I think my least favorite character was probably Joel. Here’s this guy who’s a Texas sheriff, seems to have his life pretty much well in order – he takes care of his brothers, he’s good in the community, and he has a big ole house he’s working on renovating. He obviously had all his ducks in a row and was a responsible, level-headed guy. Right? Except nearly the moment he meets Rosalyn and her daughter Lucy, he’s smitten. We’re talking full-out puppy-love where he practically invites himself into her company and goes all gooey-eyed. He acted like a 40-yr-old virgin, desperate for affection. It wasn’t endearing, and it wasn’t sweet, it was roll-your-eyes “are you serious?”.

Rosalyn, on the other hand, was probably one of my favorite characters, because she looked at Joel pretty much the same way I did “Really? Back off dude.” All she wanted to do was raise her daughter in anonymity, and run her struggling dress-shop. She was a hard worker, practical, and cautious. It fit her situation, and I loved her for it.  Unfortunately, circumstances were against her, and it seemed that at every turn, something drastically awful was happening to her. It started with a hurricane that leveled the jail she was waiting in (though didn’t harm her), then the fire… that burned her dress shop and endangered her daughter’s room, but didn’t harm anyone in the family, and she was able to salvage some of her shop-equipment/materials, thereby forcing her to move in with the sheriff. Like I said, it all seemed just a little too convenient.

Also, I think the secondary characters were a bit too much like props, and too little like actual people. They all either seemed to love Rosalyn and Lucy, or they hated their guts and wanted them crushed. They showed up for brief mentions here and there, but really didn’t have much impact on the story (even when it was obvious the author was using them to drive the plot… like the angry school teacher that burned down Rosalyn’s house). I found their hatred of her to be very manufactured.  It was a convenient way to make events happen, but the attempt at tension fell flat for me.

So did I like the story? Yah. I did. It was a fun afternoon read, and while it wasn’t “great writing”, it did hold my interest, and there’s something to be said for that. Would I recommend it to other people? Maybe if they needed a book to read at the doctor’s office… but I don’t think I’d be shoving the book in their hands shouting “READ THIS!”. If you like sweet, happy-ending historical romances, then give this a try. It’s cute, and it’s a great afternoon read.

in The Mail #13

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I was completely floored today when I checked the mail. Sitting outside on my porch was a rather large box – too large for just one book, I thought. I knew I had some books coming in the mail soon that I’d won in various Goodreads Giveaways, but it still struck me as rather strange. Nevertheless, it was marked “Media Mail” and my name was scrawled across it in beautiful cursive, so I took it inside, and after several minutes of wrestling with the tape, managed to get it open.

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ImageThe box weighed a TON, and when I popped open the cardboard lid, inside I found not one, not two, not three, but FOUR signed books by the lovely Caroline Clemmons along with a very pretty post card. I’d won Blue Bonnet Bride in the goodreads giveaway, but had no idea just how generous Ms. Clemmons was planning to be.

Anyways, the books are:

I’m so excited to start reading these, they’ve all gotten great reviews on Goodreads. This may have made my week. :3