This Week, I Read… (2017 #20)

62 - Fangland

#62 – Fangland, by John Marks

Evangeline Harker travels to Romania to vet a reputed crime boss for an interview for the show The Hour (ha, ha, I get it, you’re so clever, Mr. Author Who Used to Work for 60 Minutes) and instead winds up potential prey to a vampire.

I DNF’d at the end of the first section, page 104, and there are two major reasons why.

First, it’s wordy. Ridiculously so. I didn’t mind so much in the early chapters when that wordiness was devoted to describing the bleak landscape and Evangeline’s reactions to it–though there were occasional stereotypes/prejudices that made me cringe–but during her attempted escape from the creepy hotel, what was supposed to be pulse-pounding, terror-laden action was mere shuffling along, the pace weighed down by descriptions of Evangeline’s every thought and move.

I experienced a long shudder.

No, you didn’t, you shuddered. It’s a two-word sentence, damnit, just say “I shuddered.”

Second, and much worse, Marks has cemented his place among male writers who haven’t the faintest clue how to write a female character. I was actually pleased that it took several chapters before she described herself–usually that happens much sooner–but when she finally did, the description was definitely skewed for the male gaze, and not at all how women talk about their own looks.

But okay, that’s minor, right? But there’s more.

Say you’re a woman traveling alone in a foreign country for work. When you arrive late due to traffic, instead of meeting the contact you expected to, who would give you information and possibly set up a later meeting with the purported crime boss, you instead come face-to-face with someone claiming to be the boss himself.

A person whose appearance and demeanor disgusts you on more than one occasion.

A person you have reason to believe, if he is who he says he is, has allegedly committed crimes from money laundering and gun running to outright murder.

He says you can have your interview, but you must come with him right now, in the middle of the night.

Do you go?

I wouldn’t. Every instinct I have for self-preservation as a woman was screaming at me DO NOT TRUST THIS MAN.

Evangeline, on the other hand, was remarkably blasé about the potential dangers to her person, and went. Without calling her fiancé, or her boss at work, or anyone at all to tell them where she was going. And of course, once she got to the creepy hotel in the deep dark woods, no cell reception and she’d made an agreement to keep their “negotiations” about the interview private until he’d decided to do it or not, forbidding her contact with anyone.

Seriously. I don’t care how much she wants to land that interview–and at this point she’d already considered turning him down as an inappropriate subject several times, so she clearly wasn’t too invested–no potential kudos at work would make me risk my safety like that. Absolutely unrealistic.

But if she doesn’t go, there’s no story, because then she can’t find out the man’s not a crime boss, he’s a vampire. Because of course he is.

63 - Fallen

#63 – Fallen, by Lauren Kate

Even though I knew very little about this book going into it, reading it felt familiar. Why? Because it’s like a better, slightly less toxic version of Twilight, and also a less refined version of the (admittedly later-published, but earlier-read) Daughter of Smoke & Bone series.

I enjoyed myself enough to finish it, but it has a lot of flaws. Some are practical–why set the story in a reform school if all the students blatantly break the rules without consequence? What does that add to the story? Why doesn’t Luce, or anyone else, ever get into trouble for not going to class? There’s just that one detention (which Luce didn’t even deserve) at the very beginning, and then nothing else afterward. How strict could the school even be?

Others are more systemic. I get why Daniel is in love with Luce, I do. With him being the immortal half of this star-crossed love story, he’s the one with memories of all of Luce’s past lives. But why does she fall for him? You can hand-wave all you want and call it predestination, that they’re meant to be together, which I would have found terribly romantic at thirteen. But for a good chunk of the book, Daniel is a jerk sending laughably mixed messages and often treating Luce badly. And Cam, the other spoke of the unfortunate love triangle, spends most of the book treating her well, if with a slight sense of entitlement that grows to pushiness right at the end, before the whole fallen-angel thing is revealed.

So both of the potential romantic heroes have flaws that young girls should be especially wary of, but both are treated in the narrative as acceptable. Not cool, Fallen, not cool.

Because I know I would have adored this book as a tween, I did like it just a little. Not enough to continue with the series, most likely, but enough that I didn’t toss it aside after the first hundred pages. Still, I wouldn’t recommend it. You can find better tragic love stories elsewhere without the teen angst or problematic heroes.

64 - To Get Me To You

#64 – To Get Me To You, by Kait Nolan

I’ve complained in the past that I hate romances where the characters have unrealistic amounts of free time because they have jobs that they never seem to actually do.

I’ve just encountered the opposite problem. Norah may have lost her job, but she definitely still has ambition and a calling–she just puts her real life temporarily on hold to help her best friend’s family save their small Southern town from financial crisis. And Cam runs his own small business while also serving on the city council, both of which take up a large amount of time.

So while I liked the characters, the general writing style, and the perfect-match aspect of the romance, those jobs also took up a HUGE portion of the plot, to the point where I’d call this a Save The Town story with a romance subplot, instead of the other way around.

I’m not saying this is a bad book. It’s not. But the pacing does suffer some from the sheer amount of technical, legal, and political minutiae that weigh down the Save The Town plot. The two leads don’t even meet until about 10% in, and boy oh boy is that meeting well-written and charming, but the romance moves at an absolutely glacial pace until about halfway through the book.

And the climax of the conflict was based almost entirely on miscommunication, which is never my favorite way of putting two characters at odds. This particular version wasn’t as bad as some–it was at least rooted deeply in the personalities of the two leads, and so made a kind of sense–but still, having characters nearly break up because they refuse to just talk to each other leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

On the whole, for a freebie I picked up last year on an Amazon spree, I’m impressed, and I plan to read more of Nolan’s work. (I also got the second work in this series by signing up for her mailing list, and the third because it was also free at the time–I’m sure I’ll be reviewing those soon.) But I do hope this isn’t her best work.



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