Category: Two Star


Ahhhhh, I got this thing read and reviewed in less than a day. I feel wired. So this is the first book in The Essential World of Darkness and seems to be one of the few to have received a print run prior to the omnibus. We’re starting Halloween off with vampires. Enjoy!

Vampire Diary The Embrace cover

Auston Jacobson is many things. A runaway, a pastor’s son, a bartender, but he’s no monster. Not even with the horrible dreams he’s been having lately. The hunting dreams that he remembers so clearly. The ones where he wakes up sweating and aching. He only started the diary because Danya, the cute girl who comes to the bar a lot, suggested it. It gives them something to talk about. But it’s scaring him more and more.

Vampire Diary: The Embrace was written by Robert Weinberg and Mark Rein-Hagen with art by Daniel Thron and Chris Elliott. This book was hard to read, literally difficult to make out what the words on the page said, hard to read. Vampire Diary: The Embrace is the story of a young man coming into his own and then losing it all to something far more dangerous than he could have imagined. The concept and story are both pretty simple and interesting in their own right. I like the idea of a diary style book from the view point of someone being stalked by a vampire, it’s interesting.

Interesting is really the only thing this book really has going for it. The story has a lot of potential, but the writing is really basic and can get super overblown. It gets so bad that it’s funny at points. The concept is solid and it is definitely the kind of thing I would keep in character for a Vampire game, but it doesn’t totally work here because of the protagonist. He’s too much, nothing is just a thing, everything is big and probably leads back to his dad and how bad his dad treated him. The parts with Danya were pretty solid though, mostly because those bits were love song overblown rather than teenage sad poetry overblown.

My big issue with this book is its presentation. The combination of art and text is reminiscent of the blurbs in the World of Darkness source books. It’s super messy though, with art overlaid with text and pages where the lay out breaks the flow and really should have been done better. More thought to how this would affect the reader’s ability to enjoy the story would have been fantastic. Though, part of the layout issues might be that I’m reading a later reprinting rather than the original printing of the book. There are pages here that hurt my eyes to try and decipher with the art and text laid over each other.

I feel like this book would have been a lot better if the art had been more separated from the text. The pages where art covered the text itself hurt my eyes to try and read, thought those pages were also some of the most overblown bits so they may have been meant to be skipped. I’m not entirely sure. I’ve said it a lot but, while there’s a lot of potential to this, the book isn’t good. I’m giving it a two out of five.

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Frost

Not much to blurb about today. It’s quiet in my neck of the woods and that’s pretty ok. I did wind up cutting several things from today’s review for spoilery reasons. So, if you all are cool with tagged spoilers in the reviews, let me know in the comments. Today’s book is courtesy of the nice folks at Scholastic. Here’s Frost. Enjoy!

Frost cover

At sixteen Frost has never been outside the apartment she grew up in, and with good reason, the world outside is a hunting ground for ravenous cannibals and robots gone rogue. It hasn’t been a safe place to live since before she can remember. She needs to leave though. Her pet, Romes, is dying and she can’t bear to see him in pain. Even as the memories of her father try to hold her back, to keep her in her safe prison with the family robot for company and protections, she knows she has to leave and save the only living thing left to her. She grew up on stories about the utopia at the other end of the city, the Battery, where all the science that’s been lost still exists. With Bunt’s help she might be able to make it.

So, M. P. Kozlowsky’s Frost is an odd book. I mean that in a lot of ways. Part of this comes from the fact that Frost feels very much like the first book in a series rather than a standalone novel. It builds slowly for a good two thirds of its page count, then crams in a ton of stuff that could be pay off but that also feels like set up for next time. This book is kind of a mish mash of ideas, so it can be a little difficult to separate them all out.

Let’s start there though. This book is a mess of ideas that could be really cool but then don’t really go anywhere. There’s too many separate threats and concepts for the time spent on any of them. We get a lot about Frost’s feelings and several imaginary flashbacks to before everything fell apart, but not a ton of world building. For example, the Days of Bedlam are the in world name for whatever happened to lead to the current world. It involved robots. That’s about all I know about it from reading the book. Building on that could have been a great way to show more of the world and to explain some of the other stuff. The cannibalistic Eaters, the Broot, the rogue robots, even the climate being messed up all seems to stem from this one set of events. How? It’s mostly waved away as people going too far and it blowing up in their faces, but that’s not satisfying and ,again, leads to this feeling like the start of a series.

There’s also not a lot going on here in the character department. Frost is our ingénue main character innocent, naïve, and just out to save her pet but she doesn’t really seem to change or grow in the course of the book. She’s out in the world for the first time in her life, finds out all this life changing stuff, deals with some seriously messed up situations, but then at the end she’s not a more mature character or more aware. She’s still desperately searching for the same thing she was at the beginning of the book and with not a lot of change in the tone of it.

But she inspires hope in people who meet her, that’s got to count for something, right? Not so much. The side characters she inspires hope in, Flynn and Barrow, are initially written as being hardened by the world they live in and the tragedies of their pasts. Then in comes this random girl, who is super sure that if she can just reach this mythical place she’ll be able to save her pet. She’s so sure of this thing that they both think is impossible at best that they both start believing in hope again. Flynn this could work with if it was done better. He’s the same age as Frost and, despite his tragic back story, is given several moments where he’s shown to want something to believe in. His father, Barrow, not so much. Barrow’s arc feels like it was cut short, which is unfortunate, it was a pretty standard “guy wants to protect his kid even if it means doing questionable things” but it felt more grounded than any of the other character arcs.

A lot of my issues boil down to being issues about character work or world building. There’s a lot of potential to Frost, lots of interesting ideas. In a few instances there’s a quality pay off to an idea established earlier, but there isn’t enough of that for the book as it stands. The book is also very simple both in how it deals with its characters and how the reader is fed how characters feel, almost to the point of it just being straight up telling. In a more solidly written book that wouldn’t have been as much of a problem, but here it goes back to feeling like the author had so many ideas that he didn’t have time to develop any of them.

That’s kind of where I ultimately land on Frost. It’s way too underdeveloped, if Kozlowsky had taken any one of the ideas he introduced here and focused on it the book could have been fantastic. Most of the other issues I had could have been forgiven if the story had been tighter. As it stands though everything is too scattered and underdone so what could have been a solid three to four book winds up being a two out of five, not because it offends me but because it needed so much more work. I might give Kozlowsky’s writing another shot down the road, but it would need to be a book that I’d heard good things about.

I’m late again. Not going to lie, this one was hard to write. LArgely because a lot of my issues with the book stemmed from spoilery things that were hard to write around and I didn’t want to do a spoiler filled review. This one’s from NetGalley. Enjoy!

Moonbreaker cover

Eddie Drood, former head of the Drood family and very secret agent, is a dead man. He was attacked and poisoned by Dr. DOA and cannot last much longer. To prevent anyone else getting hurt Eddie and Molly Metcalf, former magical terrorist turned ally and love interest, are going to do whatever it takes to stop Dr. DOA. If that means dealing with the Unforgiven God, fighting the Drood family’s past mistakes, or even going to the moon to prevent a world ending weapon from being used, well that’s just business as usual.

Moonbreaker is another book that is far into its series, leading to me having a number of issues with both the characters and story. That makes me worry a little about being fair to the story, especially given that I can’t help comparing it to books from Simon R. Green’s Nightside series which is set in the same world.

The characters, particularly Eddie himself, were a fair part of my issue here. Imagine that James Bond knew that he was kind of awful and was perfectly happy to explain that to his companion and, by extension, the reader. Also MI6 has not only hunted Bond in the past, but also has a habit of hording all the dangerous things and people they’ve managed to capture. Just in case. That’s the Eddie and the rest of the Drood family. For a first time series reader this makes Molly the reader’s view into the Drood family’s whole deal, and her horror with some of the things the family does just sort of gets brushed aside. It’s what and how they do things and it’s always been that way. That annoys me. I’m good with protagonists that aren’t golden heroes who do no wrong and help everyone, those guys get boring, this isn’t that. The Droods feel so married to the grey area that I just couldn’t get invested in them or Eddie.

My other problems is that the plot feels almost fractured. There are several conflicts that crop up that have little to do with stopping Dr. DOA or could have done better as the main conflict of another story. There are enough of those that by the time we get to the climax of the story there just isn’t any tension. Eddie’s presented as pretty boringly unstoppable for most of the book’s run due to his Drood armor, only being weakened by the poison in any meaningful way in the last quarter or so of the book, which doesn’t help with all the little conflicts feeling unimportant. Then the book was over and I could only be disappointed.

Molly was pretty awesome though. I kind of want to read a series about her. What didn’t work with Eddie being so, so over powered because of his armor, sort of worked in Molly’s favor. She’s also supposed to be super powerful but, because all the Droods have this ridiculous armor, she stands out more for holding her own despite being so much weaker by comparison. She’s also the one who wants to look for an antidote or something instead of just letting Eddie have his death. Trying to find a cure would have actually worked better for me as the B conflict that a lot of the other stuff and it could have hit a lot of the same beats the book did anyway.

Where does that leave Moonbreaker? Despite my best efforts, I know that my enjoyment of the older Nightside books leaves me more disappointed in this one than I would otherwise be. That’s not really fair to this book as a standalone and, again, it being later in the series doesn’t help things. I feel like there were a lot of good ideas here that wound up being used as padding instead of explored as well as they could have been. But it is rushed and disjointed, so it gets a two out of five. I would read Simon R. Green again, just not this series.

Don’t Bang the Barista

I’m still trucking along. We had a cold snap, one thing lead to another, and now the cat beast has eaten the leaves off of every bean plant I’d gotten started. So that kind of sucks. I can always start again though, and it looks like this should be the last time it gets below freezing this spring. Anyway, I have a review for you all. Not going to lie, I bought this book mostly for the title. Enjoy!

Don't Bang the Barista cover

It is a known thing that baristas are the best thing since scones for the coffee drinking public. Even better when they’re as hot as the coffee they serve. It is also known that, when one spends a lot of time at a coffee shop, there is a single massive rule to remember in order to avoid exile or at least spit in your drinks: don’t bang the barista. In the face of Hanna, gorgeous drink slinger and drummer that she is, Kate’s having a bit of trouble remembering that rule. It doesn’t help that Hanna is a glorious flirt or that her friend Cass might have ulterior motives for reminding her of it.

Leigh Matthews’ Don’t Bang the Barista is a book I have definite mixed feelings on. Where it’s good, it’s really good and I had a ton of fun. Where it’s bad, it’s nearly unreadable.

Don’t Bang the Barista has an expansive cast, which works well here, the author does a lot of solid character work. I was probably more invested in the side characters than in Kate herself. They were fun and interesting and, because the reader isn’t following them, they got to stay that way even when serious moments hit. The barista from the title is a complete sweetheart. The pre-established couple has their issues but are shown to be working on them together. Even Kate’s ex, while she’s more of a plot device than a character, is well used in the story. I found myself invested in the side characters and having a good time reading about them.

This probably doesn’t count as a spoiler, given that it’s a romance novel, but still. My big issue with the book is actually Kate’s love interest, Cass. Cass reminds me of why I stopped reading romance novels awhile back and just makes me very uncomfortable as the love interest here. I was actually waiting for the moment where it became clear that she was the antagonist and we found out who the actual love interest was going to be. She’s deeply childish with her feelings, doesn’t talk to the protagonist about said feelings, and is just super petty in how she deals with the woman she’s supposedly in love with. She won’t tell Kate that she’s into her, but then the minute Kate meets a cute girl and they start flirting Cass swoops in to break it up or she disappears and refuses to talk to Kate. This doesn’t get better as the story progresses, she’s static.

That kind of dovetails into my other issue with the book, Kate herself is sort of a wishy washy protagonist. That’s by no means a book killer for me and, given a more solid grounding on who she’s meant to be romancing and a better love interest, it might have worked out well. As is, when she’s holding a scene on her own it gets really tiring because of all the hand wringing and uncertainty. It combines with the lack of clarity on who the love interest is like a fresh summer peach and a handful of rusty tacks.

So, where does that leave us? I’m not going to lie, I really wanted to like this book, and for long stretches of it I did enjoy it. Heck, if Matthews either had excluded Cass from it or had developed her at all, I would be giving this a three or even a four. As it is, that one character takes any little problems the book has and magnifies them, leaving Don’t Bang the Barista with a two out of five.

Trapped in Wonderland

So this is late by a couple hours. Better than days or weeks, but still. I was sent a copy of Trapped in Wonderland by the author, Dani Hoots, for an honest review as part of a blog tour. She’s been great to work with and I hope you all enjoyed her guest post earlier today. Enjoy!

The first time Alice visited Wonderland she had been shoved in a locker. The second time she had to be rescued from the White Rabbit. Now she’s trapped in a world like a dream with four boys from her school who are, it turns out, characters from the story. But dreams are dying and it will be up to Alice to save both Wonderland and her own world from the Cirque de Reves and their mysterious leader.

Dani Hoots’ Trapped in Wonderland is something of a new spin on an old classic. The Alice here is not the original Alice who told her story to Lewis Carroll. Wonderland is different, being ruled by the Kingdom of Dreams and sectioned into Zones. Also the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, Doormouse, and March Hare are all cute boys. It’s different from the original, but still feels very familiar on a lot of levels.

I admit, this book frustrates me and I think a lot of that comes down to it feeling very like young. It has a lot of new writer problems like stilted dialogue and a lot of unnecessary details that could have been removed to improve the pacing. Most of the little details, like what manga Alice was reading, could have gone while keeping bigger things, like her getting up early to fix her own lunch because she wants to have a bento box. The book sort of waffles between things that build Alice’s character and things that just fill space on the page. There’s also a lot of repetitiveness and contradiction when it comes to certain things. The reader keeps being reminded both that Alice does ballet but is still super clumsy, or that she’s pretty sure that Wonderland is just a dream. It leads to the book feeling like it was originally posted as each chapter was finished rather than as a whole.

There’s this weird sort of conflict of character with regard to Alice and her family as well. It’s sort of a tie in to the plot itself. Her older sisters are both smart and successful, one is a med student and the other is studying physics. Her parents are both CPAs. None of them care about Alice’s art or her dancing or her interests. These things are, according to Alice at least, treated as pointless hobbies or something to be taken away from her if her grades drop. They want her to give up her dreams and become like them, but then these same parents who don’t seem to care about any of her interests also seem to be paying for all those interests. She’s going to ballet classes, has adequate supplies for her art, and has the food around to make her bento boxes. It feels like something written by a fairly young writer venting about their own life. It could be a really good real world tie in to the main plot if more was done with it or if her family was written more sympathetically, but as is it doesn’t work.

My feelings on this book ultimately wind up being fairly meta. The writing itself does feel very fan fic-ish or, again, like it was written by someone either very young or just not used to writing. There are a ton of references to pop culture, particularly anime and manga, that can get really distracting and make the book feel weirdly dated. There’s some issues with the editing that could have used a second going over. There’s a lot of potential here and, with Mrs. Hoots having written several other books, I’d definitely give one of her other books a go. Plus a couple of the characters were a lot of fun if a little stock and I completely love a couple of the concepts used.

So, where does that leave me? While I’ve had a lot of issues with the book it didn’t leave me feeling like I’d wasted the time reading it. It isn’t good, but it shows a lot of potential and leaves me hoping it’s an older project that’s just not getting its turn or a genre the author isn’t entirely comfortable with. That all taken into consideration, I’m giving Trapped in Wonderland a two out of five with the note that it could be a solid three with more editing and some cuts.

Late as always, but not by months this time. It’s a review! Enjoy everyone.

Some years ago humanity began settling a new planet so that they could leave the polluted shell that was Earth and once again feel the sun on their skin and breath without respirators. They terraformed their new home, built cities, and started shipping in colonists and animals. The planet is a perfect place for humanity to start again, or would be if not for one minor issue. The planet’s natives, the Indigenes, aren’t happy with their aggressive new neighbors and want their home back from the beings that drove them under ground. Not all is what it seems and, between an alien world and an inhospitable Earth, it can be impossible to know who to trust.

Eliza Greene’s Becoming Human is the kind of book that I really wanted to like. It had enough elements that I usually love that I should have liked it. Unfortunately, it also feels very much like a first attempt at writing and had a lot of pitfalls that go with that. I’m imagining that she will improve as she continues writing.

Becoming Human’s biggest issue, to my mind at least, is that it spends the first half of the book introducing characters but giving the reader no time or reason to care about them. Most of the characters who are given point of view chapters could have been safely omitted from the novel to focus more on Bill, Stephan, and a couple of others who were directly important to the plot. The flip side to the lack of character development winds up being one of the villains, Bill’s boss, she gets a couple of chapters of focus and they don’t do anything to make her a more engaging character or a better villain. I’m certain that I, as the reader, am not meant to like her. But rather than not liking her because she’s doing terrible things, I don’t like her because it keeps being drilled into my head that she doesn’t like other women and that she has to have things done “the Japanese way”. It’s acknowledged in text that Japan was where she was trained, but that’s pretty easy to forget and the focus on doing things “the Japanese way” feels less like she’s an exacting highly organized villain, and more like the author didn’t really have characterization set for her.

So that’s my biggest issue, the other big one I can think of is the ending. The author spent the first half of the book or so introducing characters and not really going anywhere with the plot. When the plot finally shows up it’s jumbled and feels rushed and then, just as the heroes are actually going to do something, the book ends. It’s a painful set up for the next book given that the reader doesn’t actually get much story in this book, just a lot of characters that don’t go anywhere and build up. This one actually bothers me more than the characters not being well done, but it winds up being a smaller issue as a whole because not being invested in the characters leaves me not invested in the series.

So, with those as my big issues for the book, what works? I did enjoy the idea of the Indigenes and the initial deal with Stephen sneaking around trying to figure out how humans work. There were a number of ideas on the Earth side of things that, while fairly stock at this point, could have been pretty awesome with a little more work. This being stuff like going more into how Earth wound up with a single government for the whole planet, how people dealt with the air being poisonous if you didn’t wear a mask, or even what was done to prevent near endless worker casualties with the combination of ridiculous work weeks and stimulant pills.

How, then, does it rate? Being Human has a lot of minor issues and two really major ones and, unfortunately, the parts it does well don’t do well enough to make up for those. It felt very much like a first book and could have done with a bit more polish before being released. That said with work from this point I think Eliza Green could become a solid author. So at the end of the day, it earns a two out of five.

It’s Not My Favorite

So, it’s been more than a couple of days, hasn’t it? Sorry about that. Work stress picked up again and I had to get most of my car’s air conditioning set up replaced, so that wasn’t fun. I have a review though. It is pretty spoilery, so heads up there, but here it goes.

Gwen’s life is in shambles except for her business as The Organizer, Rachel is in the process of breaking up with her girlfriend, and they have to help their parents move again. It follows that Gwen has always harbored dreams that her parents weren’t actually her parents and she would find a better more supportive family elsewhere. These dreams seem to be realized when she finds a set of pictures of a younger version of her mother that linked to a painter, Daniel Gregory, she of course leaps at the idea that he is her real father.

It’s Not My Favorite by Rue is, well, not my favorite by a long shot. It bills itself as a sort of romantic comedy featuring the Hutchinson sisters Gwen, who can organize anyone’s life but her own, and Rachel, out and proud to everyone except her parents. I admit, I was a little hesitant to buy it because Gwen’s shoddy love life got higher billing than Rachel’s anything, but it was listed as LGBT and on sale so I gave it a shot. I probably shouldn’t have.

Gwen is the focus of the book for nearly its entire run whether directly as the point of view character or indirectly as the object of another character’s concern in their chapter. This gets really old really quickly, because I didn’t start the book to read about Gwen and her running away from adult life because she didn’t get what she wanted. I didn’t want Gwen’s adventures in going half the world away from her problems and shtupping some English dude while her poor love interest tries to find her to fix things. To be honest, the whole book would be a lot more palatable if I’d started it expecting that or if her running away from everything had any notable consequences. She leaves her sister, who is dealing with relationship problems of her own, the dude who is inexplicably falling for her, and her business with next to no warning and very little prep. That bothers me, I know this is basically a romance novel, but as a retail associate I and everyone I work with has to give at least two weeks notice if we need or want to be off, so seeing a professional more or less abandon her business because she doesn’t get a new father/brother kind of pisses me off.

All of that comes down to me not liking Gwen in the least and, probably the bigger writing issue, not caring what happens to her. Not caring about, essentially, the main character means I don’t care about the romance. I really didn’t care about the romance. It was forced and badly written and just didn’t work for me. Just, yes, he’s hot and she thinks he might be her father/brother, he has feelings for her that he hasn’t felt since his wife died and she’s awkward. Then we get the trip halfway around the world where he follows her and then, when it looks like she’s with another guy, falls off the wagon. Then they agree to be friends and immediately fall into bed for a day. It’s like the book was made by throwing clichés at the wall and seeing what stuck.

But what about Rachel? She got nearly equal billing didn’t she? Well, yes she did. Her entire story arc took something like five chapters from “I think she’s cheating” to coming out to her parents. That’s it. She was interesting enough while she was the focus, but I’m not giving the book any points for barely having her in it.

So the only remaining thing is, how does the book rate? It’s Not My Favorite is very true to its name, while there were points where the writing was legitimately entertaining they were few and far between. Given that I got it because it featured a lesbian protagonist and then mostly ignored her for her sister’s relationship drama and trip across the world, I was severely disappointed. A more honest blurb would help with that a ton. It also has kind of a non-ending what with being the first in a trilogy, some stuff gets tied up but not enough and I didn’t care about the characters enough for it to feel satisfying in any meaningful way. So, yeah, while the book wasn’t unreadable It’s Not My Favorite by Rue earns a two out of five.

I’m working on getting my backlog of review copies reviewed and posted so the schedule may be a little wonkier than usual from now until a bit after finals. Things probably won’t get back to what passes for normal here until I’ve got a job for the summer and have gotten my computer checked out for why it’s running slow.

Ana Cordona has been left to defend the remainder of her pack since all the males were killed when someone poisoned their well.  She’s had to fight off the advances of her neighbor, Sean Taggart, another Alpha who wants both her and her land for his own.  When an old flame shows up offering protection for her and her pack it’s enough to accept his conditions and become his mate.

I started reading Katie Reus’ Alpha Instinct expecting a somewhat trashy romance novel with a tough female lead and a thoughtful, maybe a bit sorrowful male lead.  What I got instead was a trashy romance novel with a “strong” female lead and a bull headed male lead who was too wrapped up in being the Alpha and doing what was “right” for Ana to consider how she’d feel or react to his decisions.  The reader is told that Ana has been leading the remainder of her pack fairly well since her father, the previous Alpha, died.  But then Connor Armstrong shows up out of nowhere to claim his woman, his woman who he left for no apparent reason over fifty years ago, and suddenly Ana’s not only not the Alpha of her own pack anymore but she’s also relegated to being a painfully minor character while Connor and his brother go off to hunt down any and all threats.  While the boys are away, Ana stays mostly at home taking care of her sisters and being neurotic about Connor’s actions since he left all those years ago.  She also can’t do anything apparently because he’s the Alpha, this includes sitting down and figuring out what needs to be done to protect all that land that she knows better than he does and has been protecting herself for months.

There was some stuff with the shifters themselves that might have been interesting were it explained better or introduced slower.  There are Alphas, like Connor and some of his men, who are both alphas and warriors and are the one who apparently do all the actual leading.  Then there are alphas, like Ana, who are dominant to betas but aren’t warriors so they can’t lead properly because of something.  It needs to be expanded on a lot before it makes much sense.  Ana can’t complain about Taggart to the werewolves leading body because if she does it means that they’ll send her a man to take over her pack for her, not because she isn’t an Alpha mind but because she’s female, so that’s another thing that needs explaining.  Why are the human with attached animal self werewolves bound by the behaviors of wild animals by their government?

I’m not liking this world of Reus’, its logic doesn’t make all that much sense for me and its characters aren’t terribly likable.  Male wolves here apparently recognize their “destined” mates on sight and that aspect of it isn’t done well enough to keep me from having a knee jerk ick reaction to it.  The male characters take action, and the female characters just are for the most part.  I would read more about the only female in Connor’s pack, Erin, but only if she wasn’t being paired off with some dude as her main role.  I give Alpha Instinct a two out of five.  The writing was pretty average over all, I just couldn’t enjoy it because of the characters.

I did not mean to be this late with the review for 7 Scorpions: Rebellion, it’s been a weird one folks.  I’m hoping to have the next review up on time and some more nerd rantery regarding the New 52 up in the next few weeks.  Also, more books, more give aways, and less of my whining about life in general.  But enough about that, on to the review.

On May seventh, the world was turned upside down when the power hungry dictator know only as Zodiac flash bombed every major city on earth simultaneously.  What survivors there were are hunted by Zodiac’s foot soldiers, the Seekers.  Paralyzed by fear the remaining out posts of humanity are destroyed or enslaved one by one.  It’s up to former vigilante crime fighter turned government super soldier Vincent Black to save the remaining résistance and stop Zodiac once and for all.

Just based on the blurb for Mike Saxton’s 7 Scorpion: Rebellion I figured that it was going to be either a way deep sci-fi exploration of what it means to be human in the face of unrelenting horror or a somewhat cheesy sci-fi/horror romp on levels comparable to Aliens meets Sleepaway Camp 3.  It actually fell somewhere between the two with a good dash of navel gazing and assuring the reader that the government is evil.  I’m going to wind up doing a bit of a break down here because I enjoyed the story itself but had issues with the writing.

Vincent has this thing, he used to be something like BatPunisherMan but then the government stole him for scary secret experiments that had killed six other test subjects.  He will-powered his way through a year of radiation cancer that should have killed him within hours of exposure.  A year in which he decided to fight L.A.’s underground and won.  Yet this guy doesn’t think he’s a leader of any sort and seems to have self esteem issues on par with the female lead in a romance novel.  Lexi is the romantic female lead that no one seems to realize is the main romance interest.  She, like Vincent, had cancer that should have killed her but also survived, minus her ability to feel fear.  Her Dad also had some as yet unexplained connection to the project that made Vincent what he is today.   The side characters are for the most part interchangeable until about two thirds of the way through.  Josh is the computer guy.  Talbot is that guy.  Andromeda can’t seem to decide if she’s eight, twelve, or eighteen.  John’s got serious doubts about his courage and a pregnant wife.  Everyone gets crushing self doubt in one way or another and then they talk about it for a page or so.

There was a good deal of needless description here.  Anyone who was going to be even vaguely important for the scene was given a full description of their clothing.  Not just a general “worn blue jeans, a t-shirt, and a jacket” kind of description, no we’re talking down to what state’s logo was written on the shirt.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it happened way too much.  Action sequences devolved into a good deal of “tell” regarding a character’s skills or emotional state without much “show” to back them up.  Vincent does a lot of conserving ammunition by simply not missing the Seekers he’s shooting at and somehow hitting vital organs with every shot.  Is this a conscious decision or is Vincent just that good?  Likewise we’re told that it’s impressive that Vincent survived the way across the country while avoiding the Seekers, but there are several other characters who manage to do so without being written as particularly tough by human standards.  Saxton also seems to have a habit of using far more words than he needs, making it easy to get bogged down in the writing rather than enjoying the story.

The dialogue gets repetitive rather quickly.  Somehow the good guys manage to forget things that they had discussed not two chapters ago and have to go over the subject again.  Many of the early bits with characters coming to conclusions regarding the Seekers or the nature of Zodiac felt like they hadn’t been changed from one character to the next, so there was a good deal of characters sounding the same early on.  The villains all got a very over blown “Caps Lock is the rule for cool” style of dialogue that makes even Zodiac, the complete monster big bad, seem like a parody of the terrifying empire of doom.  It’s a bit like Saxton wanted to show people who had been kicked so many times that they’d come unhinged and were taking out on the rest of the world, but wasn’t sure how they’d express themselves.  So, they all got the ranting evil doer treatment.  It gets old rather quickly though, even if it does make sense.

And that brings me to one of my more interesting things with 7 Scorpions: Rebellion.  There’s enough plot bits mixed in and enough stuff included to make three separate series easily, but it boils down to two groups of social outcasts fighting over the survival of mankind.  Zodiac and his commanders are clearly messed up and any time the reader is told about their life prior to May 7th they got the short end of every stick offered.  Vincent and the rest of the heroes are almost as screwed up as Zodiac’s bunch; they just deal with it in a less genocidal manner.

Where does this leave me?  As I said earlier, I enjoyed the story a good deal but the book could have been much more streamlined.  If 7 Scorpions: Rebellion was online rather than published, I would probably suggest a beta reader to give another opinion and to catch what I’ve missed or neglected to go over.  It earns a two and a half out of five, there’s a lot of promise here and a good story, but it’s too easy to get bogged down in the writing.

Rock Hard

I’m really sorry that this is this late.  The weekend was crazy and I’m starting to get into gear for finals and move out.  I’m also going to warn here that the next few weeks’ reviews may be on a fairly erratic schedule due to studying for finals and trying to keep up with class work towards the end of term.  Apologies in advance and on to the review.

Thinking of what exactly to say about Olivia Cunning’s Rock Hard is being kind of a pain, especially as compared to the other books I’ve reviewed recently.  Rock Hard falls into the erotic subgenre of romance novels and, whether as a result of that or as the reason for it, comes across as being less of a novel and more of a series of sex scenes bundled together with a little plot to separate them.

Sed is a rock star, the lead singer of the Sinners, a play boy who can get any girl he wants, and desperately heart broken by Jessica the only girl he ever loved.  Jessica is a law student trying to save up the money to make up for her lost scholarship with what is apparently the only job anyone can think of, stripping.  This sets the two ex-lovebirds on a collision course that ends with Jessica out of a job and Sed with her on his mind.

The little bit of plot that there was, was good but it was completely overshadowed by Sed and Jessica having sex in grossly inappropriate places.  There were a number of plot points that could have been expanded upon and made interesting books on their own, like Jessica dealing with that one professor who hates her or Trey’s mix of an addictive personality and boyish charm, that were cut off rather abruptly in favor of sex and inner turmoil.  So many of Sed and Jessica’s problems would have been solved if they could have kept their pants on for ten minutes and talked about why they don’t get along well.  As much as I talk about the sex, was it good?  Some of it, yes, but a lot of it was either public place sex or lacked believability as seems to be typical of romance novels.  The character interactions were a bit easier to believe, at least to a point.  Sed loves Jessica and, despite his broken heart, is willing to play along with her “just sex” rule until he can convince her to come back to him.   Jessica is out for revenge?  She’s really kind of hard to pin down, at one point she’s going to break his heart by giving him really good sex and then dumping him but that gets thrown out the window in favor of sex and romancing her man.  Their past relationship was glossed over enough that it might have been more worthwhile to just introduce them to each other at the beginning of the book rather than giving them a past together.

So, it comes down to this, would I read more of the Sinners on Tour series?  Maybe, this really wasn’t my cup of tea but I liked the minor characters enough to give the other books a chance.  Do I wish there was more plot and less random sex?  Yes, but that might just be due to the public nature of a lot of the sex.  So, what’s the verdict?  I’m going to give Rock Hard a two out of five for fairly average writing and the character’s use of insane troll logic in a number of situations.