Category: Two Star


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.