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Sherrilyn Kenyon – “The Dream Hunter”

7 Aug

Kenyon, Sherrilyn - Dream Hunter
GENRE: Romance, Paranormal
PUBLISHED: Piatkus Books, 2007

SERIES: “The Dream Hunter” series #1 (“The Dark Hunter” series #???)

WHY THIS NOVEL: I found it for 3 € in a bargain bin. Finding books in English there = rare; finding romance novels in English = rare, rare, rare, so I bought it.

In the ethereal world of dreams there are champions who fight to protect the dreamer and there are demons who prey on them …

Arik is such a predator. Condemned by the gods to live for eternity without emotions, Arik can only feel when he’s in the dreams of others. Now, after thousands of years, he’s finally found a dreamer whose vivid mind can fill his emptiness.

Dr. Megeara Kafieri made a reluctant promise to her dying father that she would salvage his reputation by provin his life-long belief that Atlantis is real. But frustration and bad luck dog her every step. Especially the day they find a stranger floating in the sea. His is a face she’s seen many times … in her dreams.

What she doesn’t know is that Arik has made a pact with the god Hades: in exchange for two weeks as a mortal man, he must return to Olympus with a human soul. Mageara’s soul.

I’ve already mentioned that I had trouble getting into this novel. It took me nearly a week to finish it. Even more damning, I had to persuade myself to read instead of doing something else. To be fair, I was very distracted by one other thing that took up nearly all of my free time in that week. But I also think the fact that I had no trouble putting the book down, or not even picking it up, for something else is telling, too.

I also wondered about how much of my trouble getting into this novel stemmed from the fact that I hadn’t read the other novels in this series. The Dream Hunter is my first novel by Sherrilyn Kenyon (although I’ve read and liked Born in Sin which she’s written under the name Kinley MacGregor).

The plots

So with these two mitigating circumstances out of the way, I also think the book is all over the place. Really, look at this:

  1. The hero, Arik, makes a bargain with Hades so that he can experience in the flesh the incredibly sex he has with the heroine, Megeara, in her dreams. The price: Megeara’s soul. She has to die after the two weeks Hades granted Arik are over.
  2. The Onoroi keep dream hunters like Arik (called Skotos) in line so that they don’t mess with human dreams too much. With Arik going human, they are afraid that Zeus will catch on to the fact that the curse which denies dream hunters emotions is weakening. To protect themselves, they sick the Dolophonis on Arik to kill him.
  3. Artemis isn’t happy that Megeara is looking for Atlantis. She sent one of her servants, Kat, to keep an eye on Megeara. She also meddles on her own.
  4. Then there’s Zebulon, or ZT, a Chthonian or god killer because they have so much power that they could. he watches over mankind is pissed at what’s happening.
  5. Arik’s brother Solin has his own agenda why he’s helping Arik.
  6. Kat seems to have her own agenda, too.
  7. And lastly, and I think that’s supposed to be the most important point besides #1, Megeara’s finding and poking around Atlantis might release Apollymi, the Destroyer, from her seal. And that’s something none of the various gods and factions wants really to see.

That’s enough plot for several novels, IMO.

Other problems

Add to that two main characters who seemed to be written according to a checklist and who often just go blithely along, forgetting what happened a few pages before, and The Dream Hunter seemed like a rather “whimsical” novel. It jumped from one thing to the other. One moment it was this, the next it was that without a real connection. There’s for example the fact that Apollymi, if released, is very likely to destoy the world in her wrath. But that doesn’t seem to enter Megeara’s mind when she considers making a deal with her because Arik’s life is at stake.

The erratic impression is strengthened even further by the several (necessary) POV characters. But even though the various sub plots require a lot of POV characters, Kenyon does change POV characters more often than is really needed, IMO. Like in one of the dream sex scenes, for example (140/141). It’s like ping pong so that you get the emotions and feelings of both characters involved. And was is really necessary to interrupt an upcoming action scene for two pages to give me the details of all of Arik’s ten attackers (144-146)?

So all that kept me from getting into the story. But there’s more. Like Megeara’s special specialness or the often forced humor (Artemis language problems? Too silly on top of all the other things for me). Or the fact that Arik has kept his powers in his dreams while he’s human even though this shouldn’t be possible (but it allows for some hot kissing because Megeara is rather frosty by day). In general, I thought the story relied too much on deus ex machina devices.

So why did I continue to read it?

  1. I wanted to find out how (or if) Arik’s attraction to Megeara turned from being based on lust and sex to being based on her character. Why does he love her?
  2. I was interested in seeing how Arik handled to suddenly have emotions, which is compelling conflict, IMO. I guess I was thinking of Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling series.
  3. I expected a laugh or two out of the fact that the world in dreams and the world in reality follows different.

And yeah, I finally settled into reading. But sadly, I have to say that at the end of the novel, I still have no idea why Megeara and Arik love each other. And there wasn’t much about point #2 and #3, either; maybe some interesting tidbits concerning Arik’s deal with Hades (on 2-3 pages). But overall, nothing much came of all the plots. Most of them meander off to who knows where, and all in all, I think this novel would have been better off as a short story.

Final thoughts:

  • I thought the Greek mythology background fun, something different.
  • I thought it ironic that Mageara is so willing to let the whole world go to hell if only Arik won’t get executed upon his return to his world (never mind the fact that if the whole world is blown apart, Arik being human will kill him jsut the same) and that Arik, on the other hand, recognized how wrong his deal with Hades was.

Verdict: This probably wasn’t the best introduction to Sherrilyn Kenyon’s world and I don’t have any idea if my impression would have been different if I’d read the whole series. As it is now, I see The Dream Hunter as a novel that has too much going and barely touches open the surface of its elements before it moves on to the next crisis/melodrama/idea which most often get solved by deus ex machina devices. Especially the romantic conflict and the romance itself suffered under it and felt rather underdeveloped. (2/5)

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B. J. Daniels – "Classified Christmas"

12 Jan


GENRE: Romantic Suspense
PUBLISHED: Harlequin Intrigue, 2007 (e-book)


From eHARLEQUIN.com:
“Cade Jackson was as country as a cowboy got, but then came reporter Andi Blake to civilize him—while turning his peaceful Christmas upside down. But Cade had a reputation as a hard-driving man to uphold, even if he was a sucker for a sassy brunette in high heels… Andi had her sights set on tracking the lawless Calhoun family and exposing the secrets of their greatest bank heist. And no one was going to stop her—not even that smoldering, sexy stud Cade Jackson! Though Andi didn’t come to town looking for a cowboy, now that she’d rustled up one, could she find a way to get Cade under the mistletoe?”


This is the summary I wrote after I read Classified Christmas:

  • fairly decent mystery thanks to some twists and turns
  • liked the ending for its surprise in its openness
  • heroine: weak element of the story; she’s supposed to be rather intelligent but a) her whole behaviour in relations to the mystery is questionable in legal ways and in regard to her intelligence; b) she’s supposed to be a good judge of character but is rather rude in confronting Cade with the truth about his wife; c) didn’t acquire appropriate clothes for winter in Montana (for reasons of story cuteness, I know); d) applies for a job she gets an anonymous note about the job offer although a stalker is harassing her at that moment
  • hero is more there because a romance novel needs a hero than he’s a real character
  • romance underdeveloped and relies of romance short-cuts; first love scene comes out of the blue in view of what goes before (although a romance reader knows it’s coming)
  • plot continuity problems: a) she keeps track of the whole “lawless” Calhoun family thanks to some special computer service and doesn’t get a message that one of them was released from prison, violating his parole? (which leads to: if there’s nothing in the papers about this, her whole “story” isn’t so hot after all because the family isn’t newsworthy for something like that); b) did she find the job notice on her own (first version) or did someone send her the ad (later version; see above)?
  • a very weird second plot line with unpleasant (nasty) characters all around with no connection at all to the main story except that this family seems to live in the same town the hero and heroine live in. Maybe Classified Christmas is part of a series and this second story is the ongoing plot line that connects each part. Reading CC, I wouldn’t know and I’m not interested in the least to find out.
  • the mystery, for all it turns, hinges on a convoluted construction which is only there to get the heroine involved
  • unpleasant message: criminal parents = criminal children
  • all in all: a lot of annotations for this story (one advantage of reading e-books), most of them for “Huh?”- moments; the notes here are just the summary

Would I recommend this novel? No.

Would I read this novel again? No.

Grade: 2 (+ for the mystery) / 5


Judy Christenberry – "Snowbound With Mr Right"

6 Jan


GENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: Harlequin Romance, 2007 (e-book)


From eHARLEQUIN.com:
“Tempting the tycoon out of the city…just in time for Christmas! Sally Rogers’s family store is the heart and soul of the small town of Bailey, and she’s working all hours to keep her business afloat. So when city slicker Hunter Bedford arrives, determined to buy her out, Sally is furious. No way will she sell to a ruthless businessman like Hunter! Instead, with Christmas approaching, she’ll show him the warmth and spirit of Bailey. But as the snow falls thick and fast, they are trapped together and Sally begins to wonder if she’s snowbound with Mr. Right…”


There’s nothing terribly wrong with Christenberry’s Snowbound with Mr Right but there’s nothing really right with it either. For me, that is.

After the first chapter, the novel was off to a bad start: I had a lot of why-questions. But they were the wrong kind of why-questions. I didn’t ask them to know what would happen, I asked them to know how this story came about and what this story is about. In short, I wasn’t hooked and thought the premise unbelievable. The grandson of a big cooperation owner is sent to a small shop in a small town out in nowhere so that he learns about doing business there with just a gentleman agreement between the heroine’s father and the grandfather and no payment for the grandson? Okaaay. In light of the grandfather’s characterization (later) as a control freak, I thought this premise even more outlandish than after I first grasped it.

The hero and the heroine are standard romance novel characters. He’s from the big city and she’s from a small town (that’s also the main conflict of the story and between them). Assume niceness and small town morals on the heroine’s part and not-the-standard-big-city-character traits for the hero (that’s the heroine’s role, more on that later), and you’re set. There’s a lot telling and nearly no showing which makes for rather bland and weak characterizations in general. For example, a big deal is made of Hunter acting as Santa Claus (he doesn’t want to do it and only concedes after Sally agrees to assist him). When the big moment arrives, I read nearly one page about getting Hunter ready for his Santa stunt and the actual event is like this:

Sally motioned for the first child to step up to Santa’s chair, and they began.
When they had finally ended, Hunter had handled his role perfectly, but he was ready for it to be over. (p. 129)

Huh?

As I said, the main conflict of the story is between big city life and small town life. In this story, it didn’t work for me. First, how small or how big is this town? I couldn’t decide because I thought there was such a discrepancy between the projected smallness of the town (rumours are supposed to start flying just because Sally is going to eat in a restaurant with Hunter) and what is actually there (for example: two restaurants, a doctor with a small clinic, enough people to keep five people busy around the clock at the store). There’s also a character who acts more “slutty” than Sally with no mentions of rumours going round.

And second, tying in with the characterization problem, for the sake of the main conflict, Sally assumes things about Hunter, repeatedly, with no foundation at all in Hunter’s character or behaviour (except his being from a big city, see above). There are sentences like “She figured he was hoping to leave at least one broken heart when he headed back to Denver” (p. 109), said in a conversation where he admits to feeling sorry when he has to leave. Because of such sentences, I thought Sally assuming, mean, and rather narrow-minded which really goes well with her niceness, supposed that it.

Maybe Snowbound with Mr Right didn’t convince me to read another story by Christenberry because her writing style didn’t manage to pull me in (somehow too “distanced”). I also thought there’s a certain vibe to the story which irked me in some way. So I should say there are a few flaws but overall it was an okay read. But in the end, it comes down to what I wrote above: there is nothing really right either, meaning that there was nothing I liked enough to balance out (at least a few of) the flaws.


Would I recommend this novel? No

Would I read this novel again? No

Grade: 2 / 5


Lisa Kleypas – "Suddenly You"

16 Dec


GENRE: Romance / Historical
PUBLISHED: Avon Books, 2006 (2001)


The back blurb:
“She was unmarried, untouched and almost thirty, but novelist Amanda Briars wasn’t about to greet her next birthday without making love to a man. When he appeared at her door, she believed he was her gift to herself, hired for one night of passion. Unforgettable handsome, irresistibly virile, he tempted her in ways she never thought possible … but something stopped him from completely fulfilling her dream.
Jack Devil’s determination to possess Amanda became greater when she discovered his true identity. But gently bred Amanda craved respectability more than she admitted, while Jack, the cast-off son of a nobleman and London’s most notorious businessman, refused to live by society’s rules. Yet when fate conspired for them to marry, their worlds collided with a passionate force neither had expected … but both soon craved.”


I really don’t know what to think about this novel. I look at my post About Grades and read: “3 / 5 = okay” and “2 / 5 = some serious flaws” and think “I don’t call Suddenly You an okay read. I think it’s boring and bland. But does it have serious flaws? It’s more that it’s missing something.”

Maybe I start at the beginning. I knew about the story – successful female novelist in London hires male prostitute to celebrate her 30th birthday and that it takes place in the past (1836). I admit, it thought it a bit improbable but was willing to go along with it (mainly for the older woman/younger man angle). Reading the first chapters, I couldn’t shake the question why is this story set in 1836? I saw nothing that made it necessary to do that. Everything I read suggested the story would be better off set in our time. The premise, the characters, the sensibilities, heck, even the publishing details – everything seemed to me modern concepts (maybe even the older woman/younger man sensibility). It could be that I just read too much about historical accuracy lately, I don’t know. Anyway, later I discovered the reason why this story had to be set in 1836: there are rumours about Amanda’s and Jack’s affair. Jack is unwilling to marry Amanda and she breaks their affair off because of the possible scandal. Of course, this storyline wouldn’t have worked in the present time! So it all makes sense now.

Or not. You see, the whole time I read the novel I tried to get what it was about, to get a grasp on the plot. To me, Suddenly You read more like a succession of well-known and all too predictable situations and reactions without any real story to tell. The best I could come up with was that it was about a woman discovering herself. So while the whole novel centers on Amanda, with the handbook romance situations and Amanda’s constant “I’m not beautiful,” it didn’t convince as the story of a woman’s self-discovery. It didn’t help that later in the story, Amanda (for the sake of more pages?) seemed to act out of character or that the age gap between the hero and the heroine is only really a point of conflict very late in the novel and then written in a way that suggests page count (which means, instead of actual conflict you have another bland plot element). Maybe even more problematic is, that because of the unconvincing character arc, Suddenly You reads like a wish-fulfillment story. Everything you could wish for when you feel all alone and unappreciated and whiny the character in the novel gets (and that’s another kind of Mary-Sue character).

So I look at my post about the grades again. And I think that I like that Kleypas writes about people who’re not part of the aristocracy, that I like to read about writers (the whole meta-thing going on) and that the writing itself is not bad. And then I think that there are things that could have been handled in another, more thoughtful and better way. And really, what it comes down to probably is that in the end, Suddenly You just didn’t work for me.


Would I recommend this novel? Probably not.

Would I read this novel again? Probably not.

Grade: 2 / 5