A to Z Challenge – Y is for Yours to Keep

yours-to-keepI first picked up one of Shannon Stacey’s Kowalski novels because it was on sale for 99 cents and a reputable source had given it a rave review. I enjoyed the book (Exclusively Yours) with only the most minor reservations, so when the third book was on sale, I snapped it up.

Yours to Keep has a lot of the same things that made Exclusively Yours such a fun read: the family dynamic with the Kowalskis, the fun writing and funnier situations, and some very nice sexual tension.

However, it also has a ridiculous premise, a problem which could have been fixed in five minutes if the heroine had been willing to step up and act like a damn adult. She doesn’t, though, and that marred my enjoyment of the first half of the book, and the rest of it couldn’t quite overcome that initial annoyance.

Sean Kowalski is back from Afghanistan, out of the Army, and ready to enjoy living life on his terms for the first time in over a decade. However, no sooner does he get settled in the apartment over his cousin’s bar than a tall brunette knocks on his door, claiming to be his fiancée. Sean is, understandably, shocked by this turn of events.

Emma, the aforementioned brunette, has told a little fib. Her beloved grandmother, who has been in Florida for the past two years, has been so worried about Emma living by herself that Emma made up a fake live-in boyfriend (specifically, Sean) to give Grandma some peace of mind.

Now her grandmother’s returning to New Hampshire to meet the lucky man. And she’s not just coming back for a few days; she’ll be there an entire month.

Emma wants Sean to play house with her for the month so Grandma will return to Florida satisfied that Emma can take care of herself.

Now, I don’t know about you, but “lying to the cherished grandparent who raised you” does not exactly scream “mature adult,” but hey, what do I know?

As you might be able to tell, having the entire setup for the book predicated on a lie did not sit well with me. Sean’s initial reaction (which was “HAHAHAHAHAHAHA no”) was well-warranted, and even after reading the book I still have no idea why he ultimately changed his mind and went along with it. Because we wouldn’t have a story if he didn’t, I guess?

Regardless, after thinking about it a bit, Sean decides to go along with this heap of crazy because, hey, she’s hot. The problem is, he’s now got to convince his entire family—which includes brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, cousins’ spouses, and cousins’ kids—not to spill the beans to Grandma.

The problem is, I really liked Grandma. We get a chance to spend quite a bit of time in her head and even see her embark on her own little romance, and it’s genuinely sweet. I hated that Emma felt she had to lie about her life to a woman who obviously cares so deeply for her, and it really, really irritated me.

In fact, if a certain plot point hadn’t happened when it did (about 42% of the way through), I may well have put the book down. (In fact, I had told my roommate said plot point had better happen soon—when I was about 30% through—or else I was going to chuck the Kindle.)

The sections with Sean’s family were easily the funniest in the book. As before, the Kowalski clan is a generally loving group, but they’re certainly not above giving Sean hell for this fib.

Plus, the Newlywed-style game all the couples play at a family party about halfway through the book is just gut-bustingly hilarious, as Sean’s cousins come up with questions specifically to trip Sean and Emma up.

Unfortunately, my biggest issue was with Sean and Emma themselves. While I was definitely convinced as to their sexual compatibility, I wasn’t convinced about the rest of their relationship. They spent so much time in their relationship wearing masks for everybody else that it didn’t seem like they’d gotten a chance to really know each other without them.

Not to mention I really, really didn’t like that Emma’s solution to her problem, rather than come clean to her grandmother, was instead to actually LIVE the lie for a month and drag another semi-unsuspecting person into it. Hell, sweetie, if that’s how you solve your problems, no wonder Grandma’s worried about you living alone.

I can tolerate a lot from characters I don’t like if it feels like they’ve sufficiently redeemed themselves by the end of the book. In this particular case, it didn’t happen for me. In fact, it’s a testament to how much I like Stacey’s writing that I was able to continue reading this book even as the main characters were making me facepalm.

This is a difficult book for me to unequivocally recommend. The writing is great, the family is fantastic, there are some very funny scenes, and it really picks up at about the 40% mark. I love that Stacey includes a subplot with another romance, which really gives Emma’s grandmother a chance to shine. But the hero and heroine themselves? Definitely not my cup of tea.

Movie Review – Warm Bodies

warm-bodies posterWhen I started writing this review, I kept coming back to something Sarah at Smart Bitches said about the Julia Quinn novel Just Like Heaven.

Just Like Heaven is a fizzy confection, pleasant and enjoyed in one sitting. If you think about it too much, it goes a bit flat, like mineral water at room temperature.

It’s a weird comparison to draw to a zombie film, but that’s kind of how I see Warm Bodies: light and enjoyable, entertaining, but if you start to examine it too hard, you’ll probably see it come apart at the seams.

And yes, there may be something wrong with me for saying a movie with, you know, zombies and multiple character deaths is “light,” but honestly, there wasn’t enough connection to the characters that died for me to care too much about them biting it.

Our narrator is R, a zombie who spends his days mostly shuffling around an airport, locked in an existential crisis in his own mind. The most connection he has with other people—well, other zombies—is the occasional grunt and physically running into them. He wants more from life, but being dead has a way of complicating things.

And then one day, while out looking for food (read: people), R meets Julie. Admittedly, Julie is firing a gun at his head at the time, but R is instantly smitten.

Instead of eating her, R protects her, hiding her from the other zombies and, more importantly, the “bonies,” the zombies who are so far gone they’re nothing but skeletons seeking to devour anything with a heartbeat. And along the way, you find yourself rooting for those two crazy kids to make it.

Please, pay no attention to your boyfriend's blood currently dripping down my chin.

Please, pay no attention to your boyfriend’s blood currently dripping down my chin.

Since R is a zombie, our introduction to this world comes via his voiceover. His humorous comments in the midst of his existential angst do a good job of setting up the tone of this movie: yes, there are zombies, but really they’re just people too, even if their conversations consist mostly of grunts. (Hearing a zombie tell himself “Don’t be creepy, don’t be creepy” as he’s approaching a girl has a special level of hilarious irony to it.)

It’s one of the few non-Bilbo voiceovers that doesn’t make me want to dig my nails into my ears, and I think it has a lot to do not just with the writing, but with Nicholas Hoult’s delivery. He does an excellent job as R, both as the shuffling, monosyllabic zombie and the much more articulate person R is on the inside.

I don’t know if zombies will replace vampires as a teenage girl’s paranormal romance of choice, but if more zombies looked like Hoult, I imagine more than a few girls would be considering it.

As you might have guessed, the zombies in this movie aren’t quite as disgusting as zombies have tended to be in the past. For the most part, the only difference between them and the humans is paler skin and blue lips, and their sunken, vacant eyes. The makeup department did a good job making them look zombie-like without actually having them rot.

Uncle Carl?

Uncle Carl?

This is also the first movie I’ve seen that has a reason zombies go for the brain: by eating the brain, they can absorb the memories of the person they’ve killed, and for a few minutes it makes them feel more alive. The memories R absorbs are so much more colorful than the real world, and I like the way they’re shown.

Rob Corddry is shockingly understated as R’s best friend, M, though he is also the character who gets the movie’s solitary F-bomb (of course he is). I probably liked him more here than I have in just about any other movie I’ve seen him in, and I kind of wish he’d been in it more.

Another highlight was the sometimes-deliberately inappropriate choice of music. Hell, the music selection was half the reason I cracked up throughout the film.

Because this is more of a romance than a straight-up zombie movie, while there are moments of menace, they’re comparatively few and far between. I was never too terribly worried about R and Julie, even when they’re running from the bonies. It’s surprisingly not-gory (then again, PG-13), which makes it a lot tamer than other zombie movies.

Every day I'm shuffling...

Every day I’m shuffling…

And because the movie is so short (just over an hour and a half), it feels like much of the story isn’t as fully realized as it could have been. Plus, certain aspects of the end of the movie made me kind of look at the screen and go, “Really? This is what you’re going with? Okay, I don’t buy it, but I’ll roll with it.”

Warm Bodies is based on the novel by Isaac Marion, which I haven’t read, so I can’t speak to the faithfulness of the adaptation. I can say, overall, it was an enjoyable movie that never took itself too seriously, worth the matinee price I paid to see it in the theater. While it would have been nice if it was a bit more substantial, not every movie wants to be. And that’s okay.

Book Review – Clockwork Blue by Gloria Harchar

Back in July I went on a Kindle binge, buying up a lot of really cheap or free ebooks because they all happened to be on sale the same weekend Clockwork Blue was one of the books I grabbed.

Clockwork Blue CoverReading Clockwork Blue was ultimately frustrating for a number of reasons: poor editing, a jerk of a hero (for at least the first half of the book), and way too many extraneous genre elements.

It’s a shame, because there were parts I liked and I think it could have been a good story.

Synopsis, courtesy Amazon:

Mission… Impossible: The pixies’ mission—if Allegro and Glissando are to accept it—is to secure the future of a troubled England. To achieve this, the Earl of Falconwood, better known as the Black Falcon, must marry Nicola Moore. Never mind the woman is a hoyden who makes the most atrocious hats decorated with machine parts, which she then dyes with her famous Clockwork Blue.

And certainly forget the earl is atoning for his brother’s death by purposely hovering on the fringes of the ton. Add to the mix Glissando’s tendency to slip to the side of the Mrasek, the ones who work to free the evil Lord Sethos.

But Maestro depends on the pixies—for better or for worse. To release the magic trapped in the Clockwork Blue dye—a magic that will safeguard England’s future—Malcolm and Nicola must not only wed, but they must also fall in love.

For the first half of this story, I got so irritated with Malcolm, our “hero,” that I wanted Nicola to punt him to the curb. With the whole forced marriage thing, we’re so much in Nicola’s point of view that it is difficult to ascertain Malcolm’s (or Falcon’s) motives.

Everything he does is, ostensibly, to get ahold of the dye. Which is fine, but Nicola alternates between seeing it in that light and seeing him as a project that needs to be fixed. And the back-and-forth gets really, really frustrating, particularly since he has given her NO reason to think he wants anything other than the dye.

It also doesn’t help that Nicola is constantly manipulated and pushed around for the first half of the book. She doesn’t win any victories with Malcolm. He occasionally accedes to her, but not because she’s outsmarted him or pushed him into a corner. I get the feeling that it’s all, very consciously, his decision. I hated that Malcolm saw Nicola as “malleable.” He doesn’t think he’s won a skirmish with her; he thinks he’s manipulated her into doing things his way. And that doesn’t endear me to either of the characters.

Fortunately, that aspect changed about halfway through the story, when we started getting more from Malcolm’s point of view and seeing why he thought and acted the way he did. It made him more sympathetic, but by that point I was so angry at him that it took most of the rest of the book for me to come around.

It bothers me especially because there are a few parts—a line here, a conversation there—where the characters intrigued me or made me laugh out loud, where I could see the glimmer of a relationship building. But it wasn’t enough to outweigh the problems.

Also, I have no idea why this is steampunk. Yes, Nicola puts clockwork gears on her hats and has a “barrelabout” (a…I don’t even know), but that’s it. Steampunk plays absolutely no part in the actual plot, which would’ve worked just as well as a regular historical romance.

This note on the Amazon page has been added since I read the book:

Note: This is a Christian New Adult Fantasy Romance. There are equal parts of Fantasy and Romance with hints of the Steampunk wave which is starting to become popular in the Alternate World. In Book 2, The Copper Tuners, the reader will see the Steampunk wave affecting society more.

I kind of wish this had been there when I’d picked the story up, because I would’ve expected less from the steampunk part of the story. That being said, I still wish those elements had been integrated more into the story instead of being so much window dressing.

In fact, it was the genre parts—particularly the stuff with the fairies—that made me keep rolling my eyes.

Now, I’m normally all for throwing in magic and fantasy wherever you can, but it just didn’t work quite as well here. I liked Allegro and Glissando well enough, but I was much more intrigued by the story between Nicola and Malcolm. There were a few parts where the fairies came in handy, but I don’t think it would’ve hurt the book at all if they hadn’t been there.

Besides, it seems Glissando got a makeover at some point, because the novel alternates between describing him as fat or thin or as having orange hair or green hair. I’d totally buy this if it had mentioned fairies could change their appearance at some point, but it never did, and Allegro’s description was consistent throughout the story. So I’d have a picture of Glissando in my head, and then I’d have to revise it every time I came across a conflicting description.

Then there are the Mrasek, or rather, aren’t the Mrasek. They show up in one scene early on and then vanish from the story, so completely that when one of them showed up at the climax (only mentioned by name; he doesn’t say a word) I had to search his name to figure out who he was. Why mention these super-evil villains if you aren’t going to DO anything with them?

And really, none of this extra stuff was needed. I actually liked the normal plot: Malcolm wants the dye, which just happens to be Nicola’s dowry. She doesn’t want to get forced into marriage because she saw how horrible it was for her grandmother; she wants to marry for love like her parents did. He, however, is up for doing just about anything to get said dye. There is plenty there for conflict and tension in the relationship.

Plus, there was the interesting stuff going on with the stockingers and the hosiers and the Luddite Rebellion. All of that would have been MORE than enough to craft an engrossing historical romance, but then there were fairies and “steampunk” for no good reason I could ascertain.

I don’t mind the addition of those things at all. But it has to be necessary to the story. There has to be a world built up where that’s a part of it. It has to be an ingredient in the cake, not just a decoration thrown on top at the last minute.

Now, this is the first book of a series, and maybe the fantastical aspects of this world play a larger, more integral role in future stories. (The added note on Amazon makes me think this is so.) But I really wish that had been brought in more in this book. As it is, it feels like too much was crammed into what could’ve been a really sweet historical romance.

Book Reviews: The Smoke Thief and Dead Until Dark

It’s a two-for-one book review post! (Synopses from Amazon, per usual)

I read these over Christmas break, so alas, they don’t count toward my 70 books in 2013 goal. But reading them did help to get the giant pile in my room to under 40 books, so kind of a win? 😉

The Smoke Thief by Shana AbeThe Smoke Thief by Shana Abé

Dubbed the Smoke Thief, a daring jewel thief is confounding the London police. His wealthy victims claim the master burglar can walk through walls and vanish into thin air. But Christoff, the charismatic Marquess of Langford, knows the truth: the thief is no ordinary human but a “runner” who’s fled Darkfrith without permission. As Alpha leader of the drákon, it’s Kit’s duty to capture the fugitive before the secrets of the tribe are revealed to mortals. But not even Kit suspects that the Smoke Thief could be a woman.

Clarissa Rue Hawthorne knew her dangerous exploits would attract the attention of the drákon. But she didn’t expect Christoff himself to come to London, dangling the tribe’s most valuable jewel–the Langford Diamond–as bait. For as long as she could remember, Rue had lived the life of a halfling–half drákon, half mortal–and an outcast in both worlds. She’d always loved the handsome and willful Kit from the only place it was safe: from afar. But now she was no longer the shy, timid girl she’d once been. She was the first woman capable of making the Turn in four generations. So why did she still feel the same dizzying sense of vulnerability whenever he was near?

From the moment he saw her, Kit knew that the alluring and powerful beauty was every bit his Alpha equal and destined to be his bride. And by the harsh laws of the drákon, Rue knew that she was the property of the marquess. But they will risk banishment and worse for a chance at something greater. For now Rue is his prisoner, the diamond has disappeared, and she’s made the kind of dangerous proposition a man like Kit cannot resist…

This is another one of those “right up my alley” novels. One, it’s a romance. Two, it’s a historical romance (England, mid-1700s). Three, it’s a historical romance with shapeshifting dragons.

And I loved it so very much.

It was difficult to get into at first, in a large part because of the 10-page prologue setting up the world and the history of the drákon. It was well-written, but dense, and encompassed quite a lot of history. I know at least some of it was necessary, but it wasn’t exactly an easy introduction into the story.

It also didn’t help that Abé occasionally switched viewpoints in the middle of a scene, without the benefit of a break between the paragraphs. Inevitably it would trip me up halfway down the page and I would stop and go back, trying to figure out where I’d jumped from one person’s head into the other’s.

(This is something a lot of romance authors tend to do, and it’s one of my least favorite aspects of the genre. Give me a double-space between paragraphs before you haul off and jump into someone else’s head, I beg you.)

But really, those two things were the only quibbles I had about this book. The writing itself was lovely and drew me in easily. And once I got into the story, I couldn’t put it down.

Kit and Rue were great, two very willful people each determined to get their own way. When they were together, the story crackled with animosity and attraction. Kit toed the line of turning into an Alpha asshole a couple of times, but as Rue was more than a match for him, it made it far more palatable to me. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute I got to spend with them.

I also enjoyed the mystery of the missing diamond, which didn’t go the way I expected. It was pretty clear, though, that the romance was the more important part, and I think it overbalanced the mystery aspect just a hair.

That being said, I definitely want to read the next book in the series (The Dream Thief). Just the first few pages in the back of The Smoke Thief had me wishing for more.

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine HarrisDead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Sookie Stackhouse is just a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. Until the vampire of her dreams walks into her life-and one of her coworkers checks out…. Maybe having a vampire for a boyfriend isn’t such a bright idea.

This one was hit and miss for me. On the one hand, I never felt like it was a chore to read it, and I stayed up late to find out who the killer really was. I liked the small-town setting, and I liked how completely normal Sookie was (outside of her “disability”): normal job, normal car, and she generally enjoyed her small-town life. It was a nice change of pace from other heroines of paranormal novels.

Plus, Sookie could and did take care of herself; she didn’t always depend on Bill to save her. That being said, she didn’t try to take care of something herself when CLEARLY the super-strong immortal vampire who could see in the dark would be better equipped to do it.

On the other hand, the writing quality itself was inconsistent. Sometimes it would be really good and smooth, and other times it would be rough, which jarred me out of the story. Sometimes Harris would show us how angry Sookie was getting, other times it would be: “I was really angry!” Sometimes the narration would fit for Sookie; other times it sounded like she’d found a word-of-the-day calendar and was determined to use it.

And I didn’t really like how fast Sookie and Bill jumped from “Hi, I’ve just met you” to “I love you.” I wasn’t sure their relationship had been built up quite enough for that.

The murder mystery in the story was built up and fleshed out much better than the romance, and I loved the glimpses into how the existence of vampires was changing the world. (Example: The black market for vampire blood.)

Even though it was an enjoyable read, there really wasn’t enough about the story and the characters to compel me to continue with the series. There has to be LOVE there, and while I liked this book well enough, I didn’t love it.

The Netflix Queue: Hope Springs

Hope Springs posterDespite my obsession with love of romance novels, I don’t care for most romantic movies. I don’t think I’ve voluntarily watched a romantic comedy since college, and that was when I was getting paid to review them.

It seems that every romantic comedy that comes out is some unrealistic piece of trash, the same mind-numbingly predictable plot occasionally spiced up with fun stuff like glorifying infidelity.

The characters are typically little more than caricatures, people that we only want to see together because they are pretty people and the movie tells us that we want them to get together. Good romantic movies are rare indeed.

That’s why I was so surprised that I wanted to see “Hope Springs.” It’s definitely not my usual fare, but with a cast including Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, and Steve Carell, I really couldn’t pass it up.

Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) have been married for 31 years. They’ve fallen into a comfortable routine of keeping each other emotionally at arm’s length, but Kay wants more even as Arnold resists. In desperation, Kay signs them up for an intensive week-long couple’s therapy session in Maine, hoping to rekindle the spark in their marriage.

So often when we see a romantic comedy, we see the beginning of a relationship, from boy-meets-girl to happily-ever-after. “Hope Springs” is about what happens after that “happily ever after,” showing us a couple that has been together for so long that they’ve forgotten how to have a marriage.

After 31 years, Kay and Arnold don’t share a bedroom anymore. They rarely touch each other, except for the perfunctory kiss on the cheek Arnold gives Kay every morning before he leaves for work. There’s a painful awkwardness between them when they try to talk about intimate, meaningful things; Kay is so timid and Arnold seems terrified of anything that forces him to feel more. Each has pushed away the other so many times in various ways that the fear of being rejected yet again runs through every encounter when they get out of their comfort zones.

Though Steve Carell is billed up there, it’s really Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones that carry this movie. They do such a great job as Kay and Arnold, who over the years have become little more than roommates. Streep is very sweet as Kay, who yearns for more from her marriage but, in the beginning, isn’t quite sure how to go about it. There’s a kind of innocence about her that you wouldn’t expect so much from a long-married woman with two children, but it’s very believable.

Jones is equally fantastic as Arnold, who’s kind of wrapped himself up in a gruff cocoon, keeping everybody else at arm’s length. Any time something strays too close to his heart, he shuts it down with grumbling complaints, sarcasm, or straight-up yelling.

There aren’t any grand gestures in this movie, not like a proposal in the middle of a baseball game or a run to the airport to catch someone before they get in a plane (a gesture that particularly now strains the bounds of credulity). It’s just two people fumbling their way back around to really trusting each other, really talking to each other, really displaying their love for each other. It feels real, and the situations you see Kay and Arnold in are so common that you find yourself rooting for those two crazy kids to make it.

“Hope Springs” shows us that no matter how long you’ve known another person, no matter how long you’ve been married to another person, a true, loving relationship can still be a gamble, a risk, a leap of faith. Love is not about the rush or the grand gestures; it’s about the little things we do for and to each other every single day that can build walls between us or tear them down. How so much not-speaking can fill up chasms between us until all the unsaid things do more to drive a person away than one hurtful word ever could.

And how, while getting there may be scary and painful (VERY painful), the relationship you have without the walls is even better than before.

Book Review: Goddess of the Rose by P.C. Cast

Goddess of the Rose by P.C. CastI was excited when I picked up Goddess of the Rose by P.C. Cast at the used bookstore when I did my binge buy over Labor Day weekend. A friend of mine had enjoyed the book, and I loved the dedication: “This book is for everyone who fell in love with the Beast, and then was truly disappointed when he turned into a handsome prince.”

Also, I was stoked to read about a heroine named Mikki (that’s my nickname).

It sounds pretty good, right?

Well, I should have reined my high hopes in a bit more. While there were good parts to the story, I had a number of problems that ultimately made it difficult for me to enjoy the book.

Synopsis, courtesy Amazon:

Empousai family roses have bloomed for centuries, thanks to the drops of blood their women sacrifice for their gardens. But Mikki would rather forget this family quirk and lead a normal life. Until she unwittingly performs a ritual, ending up in the strangely familiar Realm of the Rose. As its goddess Hecate reveals, Mikki is a priestess-and the Realm’s been waiting for her…

Long ago, an enraged Hecate cursed her guardian beast and the entire Realm with a slumber only a priestess can undo—and she’s counting on Mikki. The beast at first terrifies Mikki—but soon intrigues her more than any man ever has. But the only way he and the Realm can be saved is for Mikki to sacrifice her life-giving blood—and herself…

Now, I love Beauty and the Beast and I love the retellings of the story, so at first glance, this is right up my alley.

The Guardian was a great hero, a gentle giant who was utterly lonely. The people around him are either afraid of him or see him as little more than an animal. He just wants to be loved, truly loved, and it’s been withheld from him for his entire life. I spent most of the book just wanting to give him a big hug, and I would have loved to see more from his point of view.

It was also great to read a book that was, at least in part, set in Tulsa. It’s very, very rare that I find a book set in Oklahoma, so it was a nice change of pace to recognize the areas and places mentioned in our world.

I liked Hecate’s realm, though I wish it had been more fleshed out. It felt a little thin, particularly for a place that’s supposed to be on the crossroads between the real world and the magical one.

And Mikki herself was a huge problem for me. She’s thrown into a crazy situation that, for the most part, she handles well, despite nobody really being around to guide her. On the other hand, she complains so much about some things that I wanted to reach into the book and slap her.

Firstly, there was a lot of man-hating. It’s a trope that crops up in romance, particularly contemporaries, on a regular basis, and it drives me up the wall.

Mikki’s complaining that all men were pigs and none of them were good enough for her made her seem bitchy and insecure. She has one terrible date that we see, but other than that, the level of “I hate men” seemed really disproportionate to the rest of the story.

When I see so much of that in a romance novel, my first thought is not “Yeah, men suck.” My first thought is, “The common denominator here is YOU, sweetie.”

I also had to wonder about the “romance novels are NOT trashy” rant near the beginning of the story. I was torn on it. On the one hand, I wanted to cheer for Mikki putting the guy in his place. On the other hand, it also seemed a little like the author was stepping in to defend her chosen genre. Which is all well and good, but I dislike it when writers use their characters as a soapbox.

Plus, Mikki spends a lot of time harping on the age difference between her and the previous Empousas. It switched between “I’m too old for this shit” and “Bah, they’re all babies. Get off my rose-covered lawn, childish nitwits, and let a real woman show you how it’s done!”

She’s been plunged into a completely new world and she’s trying to learn on the fly, and that aspect I totally understood. It was when she started the constant comparisons to the younger Empousas before her that made me roll my eyes. It added another layer of insecurity to what I already got from the man-hating.

There was also a scene with Mikki later in the book that was on par with the “don’t run up the stairs, run out the damn door!” scenes from horror movies. It’s rare that I actually yell OUT LOUD at a character for doing something stupid, but here I did. (And no, I don’t care that it was clearer later that she was under an external influence. I was already hacked off at her for being dumb.)

She had some good qualities, but she just came across as so abrasive for much of the story that I had a great deal of trouble relating to her.

Even so, I might have been able to tolerate that if the writing itself had been better, but it was just kind of meh overall. There were several instances of redundant or poorly worded phrases (my personal favorite being “spherically shaped circle”).

Plus, for some reason, the book went from having very clearly delineated viewpoint changes in the first third of the story to just cramming it all together in for the last two-thirds. (I HATE it when that happens. The rest of your story has to be AWESOME for me to tolerate it.)

Overall, I was really disappointed in the story, especially considering I had such high hopes in the first place. It had some bright points, but there just wasn’t enough to overcome all the problems I had with it.