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Book Review: Bitten, But Not Smitten

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sometimes I like picking up reader-recommended books without reading the synopsis, so I go in to the story blind. It adds a little more suspense, and hopefully makes me approach the book without any preconceived opinions on the genre.

That was the case with Bitten, which - since I got the Kindle copy from my library and so didn't see the cover art - I assumed was a vampire story. Instead I was pleasantly surprised to find a story about the only female werewolf in the world, Elena, trying to make a life for herself away from her kind in modern society.



That doesn't last long, though, as Elena is soon called away from her devoted live-in boyfriend and city life to return to her Pack's home and help hunt down another werewolf-turned-murderer.

Elena's pack has plenty of obvious parallels to Twilight's Cullen family: a supernatural "family" living together in a remote-yet-lavish backwoods estate, a benevolent Alpha father figure who is obeyed without question, and their self-imposed obligation to police others of their kind, "mutts" who have less compunction about killing humans.

It was at this point, though - roughly 50 pages in - that the story started to fall apart for me. Up 'til then Elena seemed like a pretty relatable main character, but by the second night she's hopping into bed with two of her fellow pack mates, without so much as a passing thought to her boyfriend back home. It was really bizarre, with no lead-up, and seemed drastically out of character for her.

Anyway, before much happens, the three play a game of poker to determine which guy gets to sleep with her. (To be fair, Elena seems pretty on board with this.) When one wins, Elena obediently follows him out to the woods, but then starts to have second thoughts. So the guy overpowers her, ties her up, and forces her. (Again, this whole section was like the Twilight Zone invading - I couldn't believe it was the same story!) We're supposed to believe it's not quite rape, though, because after a while the guy says he'll stop if she really, really wants him to, and Elena finds she just can't say no anymore. So hey, SCORE ONE FOR ROMANCE.

I can't decide if the author was trying to emphasize the animalistic nature of werewolves, or if she was honestly trying to write a hot sex scene. I will say that it was so awkwardly written that I was still trying to figure out the mechanics - "wait, wasn't she hanging from her arms a second ago? So how is she lying on the ground now?" - by the time I realized it was over. In fact, it was so rushed and robotic in nature that I think the author just wanted the whole sordid ordeal over with as quickly as I did.

Anyway, I put the book down at this point to look it up, and learned that not only is Bitten primarily a romance (?!?), it also has five stars across the board from the vast majority of readers. 

  (From Amazon's review page. Clay is the-not-quite-rapist. How's that for terrifying?)

So, thoroughly confused, I decided to keep going and see if it got any better - or at least made any more sense.

Having finished all 540 pages now (yep, I WORKED for this review, guys), I can say that the "romance" angle does get better - if only because it couldn't possibly have gotten worse, and also because Elena doesn't get tied up and not-quite-raped again. In fact, Bitten is a pretty decent werewolf story that could have been quite good, if only it wasn't afflicted with lots of awkward rushed sex and a protagonist more self-absorbed than your average three-year-old.

It goes like this: Elena has sex with Clay, the-not-quite-rapist. Then Elena spends the next day(s) sulking and hating Clay for being so gosh-darned irresistible. They fight a lot. Then they have sex again - and it's always the super-rushed, mindless, literally-ripping-clothing-off kind of sex. About halfway through the book I started wondering how they had any clothes left, and if maybe Clay wouldn't benefit from some kind of performance aid. (WHAT.) Oh, and then Elena goes back to hating him again - all while rationalizing that her cheating isn't really her fault, it's Clay's for being so gosh-darned irresistible, and ooooh, does she hate him for it. And so on.

If you're starting to think that maybe Elena is a terrible person, then you'll understand why I had a hard time rooting for her. She IS a terrible person, only rarely realizes it, and never does anything to try and change her inherent terribleness.

However, like I said, things get a little better as the story goes on. And it does go on. And on. Let's call it the literary equivalent of a leisurely stroll - with occasional showers of dangling intestines. The more tedious sections are the ones where everyone's just running through the woods as wolves: killing rabbits, licking blood off each other's fur - you know, werewolfy things - but doing absolutely nothing to move the story along. I found myself skimming some of those.

Then, for no other reason than because it would be really, REALLY awkward, the author makes Elena live with her two guys in the same tiny apartment for a while. Elena ramps up the annoyance factor as she continues to waffle between the two men, lashing out at Clay all day while going to bed each night with her clueless-yet-saintly boyfriend. I may have started hoping for a few more dangling intestines at that point.

It would be one thing if Elena knew her own mind and was intentionally playing both men - not something I'd approve of, but at least she'd be acting from a place of strength and independence, as opposed to just being a fickle child with daddy issues (which get SUPER creepy, btw) and a bad case of narcissism. In the end she doesn't so much make a choice as have it made for her, which was, again, kind of disappointing. But at least it finally broke the snipe/sex/sulk cycle, so let's call that a win. (Heck, by that point anything that stopped her whining would have counted as a happy ending in my book.)

There are more books in The Otherworld Series, but since the next one, Stolen, also features Elena, I think it's safe to say I won't be reading it.

So, in conclusion, if you're looking for an edgy shape-shifters' romance filled with adventure, fascinating animal-based cultures, and gripping suspense, then I highly recommend Hawksong, by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes.


In fact, the whole Kiesha'ra series is pretty flippin' fantastic. Enjoy!



For more of my reviews, check out this handy-dandy list. I've even starred some of my favorites there, in case you're just looking for other titles I'd recommend!

Posted by Jen at 2:30 PM Labels:

150 comments:

  1. I love the Other world series I will admit I haven't reread the first two ever but the rest of the series and Characters are pretty great.

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  2. This series gets MUCH MUCH better - this is the first novel the author ever published. The slow pacing and retreading of choice between the two guys is pretty torturous after reading her more tightly paced novels.

    And the poker game thing is a joke.

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    1. Agreed! The series is one of my favorites. Maybe skip to the Dime Store Magic/Industrial Magic titles and read from there.

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  3. The Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole is the only paranormal romance series I stand behind; many of the others I've tried seem to follow the "terrible-storyline, fast horrible sexytime, more terrible story, more fast sex, end" path. Kresley Cole though, weaves an amazing story throughout each book, in addition to having a very strong over-arching plot throughout the entire series. It's her story-telling ability that keeps me hooked; the sexytime is just a very delightful plus. I would highly recommend the series to anyone who wants a strong story and strong/moral characters (both male and female). A word of warning though; the first book (A Hunger Like No Other) is good, but it's the weakest of the series. However, when I first read it I was hooked - so maybe the subsequent books are just SO good, that - looking back - the first is just the worst of the best.

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    1. Love that series so much, I agree its a great storyline and consistent

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    2. Oh, yes, I love IAD. You gotta loove those valkiries who, like most of the female characters in that universe, are incredibly strong, independent, loving and hilarious. The narrative itself is really funny, and she has managed to create a believable world (even with its faults, I have to admit that it has them too. I second your recommendation!

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    3. I agree, it's one of the better storylined smutbooks. I love the way they portray old legends like valkyries and such.

      But i have to confess, im into Anita Blake, vampire hunter, Dark Hunters,and Black Dagger Botherhood, which are all kinda smutty.

      But one of my fav series tooday is The Dresden Files, i love the way they portray a wizard who just puts an add in the yellow pages for his services, and nobody believes him. But he IS a real wizard, and the humour is fantastic. Its more urban fantasy, but one i enjoy so much that ive reread the whole series everytime a new book has been published. The first book is also a bit different, but i can really recomnend this series, everyone i recommended it to so far, loves it :)


      And for some werewolves urban fantasy, i recommend the Mercy Thompson series.

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    4. Love, love, love The Dresden Files. Butcher is an amazing author! Also, Furies of Calderon is a fantastic series as well! :D

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    5. Another vote for Dresden Files!! Harry is awesome, and I love his cat.

      I'm also going to vote for the Living With the Dead series by Jesse Petersen: Married With Zombies, Flip This Zombie, Eat Slay Love, and The Zombie Whisperer. I haven't read the fourth one yet, but I loved the first three. Married couple taking on the zombie outbreak.

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  4. I'm not sure if you missed it, or misread, but Elena + Clay's relationship was not new in this book. The "hopping in bed with two men" is totally not how the scene plays; Nick (the other man) was and is a friend to her, never a romantic partner. A lot of the torment for Elena is that the life she lives with her boyfriend is what she should want, according to normal rules.

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    1. At that point in the story the author hadn't really spelled out Elena & Clay's prior relationship - just hinted at it - but even if she had, tying up a woman and sexually assaulting her while she's resisting is still rape, no matter how much history there is between them.

      As for Nick: he jumps on top of her in bed, kisses down her neck, and Elena is intensely turned on by it - not exactly something a non-romantic partner would generally do - and especially not while another man looks on with amusement. Really, the whole scene was bizarre; I thought the author was leading up to some kind of pack orgy. (Which is why I stopped to go find out just what kind of book I was reading! Hehe.)

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  5. Yeah, I've been doing a deconstruction of bitten over on my blog, and frankly, so far not impressed.

    http://yamikuronue.wordpress.com/category/deconstructions/bitten/

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  6. Wow Bitten sounds like something that could have been fun and turned it into bad fanfic...I mean it's not really rape because she doesn't say no?! So wrong on so many levels! Thanks for saving me the time and I'll avoid it.

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    1. Yeah, it's not rape if she retroactively asks for it!
      ... Oh hail naw. I agree, this one is NOT on my to-read list.

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  7. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon is pretty terrific. It's an historical fiction/romance/sci fi (sorta) hybrid, and the heroine of the story, Claire is wonderful. The first three books, in particular are great. Definitely worth a read if you've got the chance!

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    1. I loooove the Highlander series!

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    2. THIS. The Outlander Series is WONDERFUL. Book 8 is out next spring.

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    3. Outlander is one of my very favorite series. I was going to recommend it, so glad someone else is on the same page!. (Ha!)

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    4. Outlander!!!! I'm so glad someone brought that up. Btw, they are making a tv series. I don't know if I should feel full of hope or dread, though. I just hope the right people do the right thing and make this wonderful story justice.

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    5. I've only read the first Outlander, but I was so put off by the physical abuse (where the heroine is not okay with it but goes along because it was "acceptable" in the past time period?) was just not okay with me. I finished it grudgingly, and didn't bother with the rest.

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    6. Woops! Outlander and not Highlander... :-s

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    7. The Outlander series IS amazing. I started reading like the 2nd or 3rd book of the series by accident because I originally didn't realize it was a series - and it was still great. I've read all of them now, but don't read much of the Lord John novels - just didn't get into those as much.

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  8. I loved this review, Jen! I'd like to add that I've always had a problem with the Clay character. I found him to be a bully throughout the book. And I started the series with Stolen (the one after Bitten). I will say, though, that I enjoyed Armstrong's stories about the witches and ghosts far more than her werewolf ones.

    I also have to disagree with the assessment of the Outlander series. (SPOILERS FOLLOW!!!)

    A married woman falls through a time warpy thingie and lands in ancient Scotland, where she takes up with a guy who spanks her as punishment (bare butt) in front of a whole lot of other guys for starters. The book ends up with his enduring horrendous, horrific torture for her and because of her. The book is long and involved, but for me it boiled down to an unlikable spoiled brat of a heroine "falling in love" (read: lust) with her kidnapper, who although he lived in ancient Scotland, was a huge 6 ft. plus brawny redhead with perfect teeth. I haven't bothered to pick up any of the other books in the series.

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    1. This is another series where the first book is an unfortunate misrepresentation of the other installments. I agree with you on Outlander. I read the second only because a number of ladies from a book club loved it. The other books are adventure/historical fiction with some romance thrown in and they are amazingly complex and fascinating. But yeah. That first one puts a lot of people off.

      Nat

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    2. The Vaginal Fantasy bookclub (led by actor/writer Felicia Day) read Outlander a few months ago and this book generated more discussion on its goodreads forum than any other book the club has read. People seemed to love it or hate it, either because they couldn't stand Claire (and this a potential problem for any book with a first person POV; it's hard to read a story when you are inside the mind of someone you'd rather throttle and the author hasn't been able to develop an empathy between the character and reader) or because of the spanking scene.

      I don't want to derail this thread for a discussion about Outlander but I just have to point out that Jamie does not kidnap Claire. Murtagh is the one who finds Claire after she's traveled through the stone circle and brings her to the group led by Dougal. We find out that Jamie is not part of this group willingly but is only there because it's the best choice amongst a lot of bad possibilities. Also, after the spanking, Jamie makes a vow that he will never strike her again. And he never does.

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    3. Plus it's administered more like a parent spanking a child then abuse or rape - Claire totally ignores/disobeys Jamie (who she's married to, not kidnapped by), which results in people (actually or almost? I can't remember, it's been a while...) dying. Claire's pride is wounded more then anything else, but they end up genuinely forgiving each other and moving on to a long and happy marriage, so to throw the whole series out just for that one scene is a bit baby/bathwater!

      Although I do agree that Jamie's kidnapping and torture was horrific, and it almost put me off the series, but I'm glad I persevered! Voyager is one of my favourite books ever! I own all Diana Gabaldon's books. :)

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    4. I love lavender but have a difficult time mentioning this around Outlander fans for that one torture scene. I love the part after that where he's at the monastery facing his demons. It's really foreshadowing for everything else Claire and Jamie will go through - constantly saving each other's lives in usually unorthodox ways.

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    5. Outlander is one one my favorite series! But just like everything else may not be for everyone!

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    6. Yeah, that torture scene in the first book was really hard to take, and it tainted the rest of the books for me--the rest that I read, anyway. I don't know that I'll go back and finish the 5th one and/or read any of the rest.

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    7. He does not spank her "in front of a whole lot of others" but in the privacy of their hotel room. He never kidnapped her. She wasn't a spoiled brat. The books are very well researched and I think very well written, full of humour, and very genuine characters. The author Diana Gabaldon has multiple degrees AND used to write comics for Disney!

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    8. So glad someone defended, for back of a better word, the "spanking" issue. One of the greatest things about this series, in my opinion, is the fact that Claire is a relatively modern woman. She's transported back in time to a HIGHLY misogynistic culture, and the books (at least at the start of the series) are from her point of view: the ultimate fish out of water. Scotland at that time (especially in the highlands, where the story takes place) was not an easy place (especially for women). As it’s been pointed out, the spanking was NOT in “front of a whole lot of other guys”. It took place after the characters marriage, and was Jamie’s way of asserting his masculinity and “position” in the marriage (in a manner NOT uncommon for the time period). However, this leads to an understanding between the two – after discussion they really are on equal footing and are partners.

      The alluded to torture scene is horrific, but how the characters “deal” with the torture is very realistic.

      I’m not sure I see the “Spoiled brat of a heroine”, but hey, to each his own (personally, I can’t stand Bella in Twilight…or Twilight in general, but I know plenty of readers who insist she’s a great role model.”

      My recommendation regarding Outlander is this: if you are interested in historical fiction (especially that of British history) the story is an interesting read.

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  9. Dear Jen,
    You are wonderful.
    Sincerely,
    - A (Good) Book Lover

    :)

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  10. I'd really like to recommend Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti (steampunk!). It was published years ago, but is being republished in the fall. I had the incredible pleasure of editing Clockwork Heart, and I'm really excited about it. You can download the first chapter from the publisher's website! I'm not at all objective about it - I think it's fantastic. :)

    http://www.edgewebsite.com/books/clockworkheart/cwh1-catalog.html

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  11. The Kate Daniels series (written by a husband and wife team writing as Ilona Andrews) is amazing. Magic Bites is the first book in the series. It sets up a romance for the rest of the series but there is no romance in it. Seriously kick *ss heroine, creative world building, interesting character development. Can't say enough good things about the series!

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    1. I love this series! I've fallen behind because of the $8 a book cost and my library doesn't carry them, but they are good! The very similar Devon Monk series is also good, as is the Rachel Morgan series by Kim Harrison. I also looooove the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning. It starts with Darkfever and is highly intense, quite sexual and so, so good. I normally don't read books that are so graphic, but it's exceedingly well written. I fractured a couple of vertebrae a few years back and read the first four books in like two days, they were so good.

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    2. I read up to the 4th in the Kate Daniels series and had to stop. I absolutely loved everything about the series, except for Curran. He kept getting more and more alphahole as the series went on. It's a really disturbing trope in urban fantasy to have the supposed hero act like this (controlling, manipulative, stalking, massive rages, abusive or borderline abusive, the rapes/forced sex like in Bitten, etc) and is in so many series. I've tried to overlook or explain it away in some series that I've loved otherwise; but I just can't do it anymore.

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    3. I LOVE Ilona Andrews books. They are amazing. The Edge series is also awesome. It`s a little more high fantasy than I usually like but it`s something about the writing that drew me in and I want to read it until I`m done.

      One other thing. Ilona Andrews has posted on online free serial on their website over the last, I don`t know, year or so. It`s called Clean Sweep. The whole story is now posted. Here`s the website, you should check it out.

      http://demo.ilona-andrews.com/category/clean-sweep/

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  12. I found out on Diana Gabaldon's blog yesterday that her next book won't be released until next March! I literally howled aloud. I hadn't recommended that series here yet, because it wasn't precisely the genre Jen was asking for. And truth be told, there is a lot of violence, but all in context of the stories and the characters. As for writing, characters and storytelling, she's the best of the best, and there are the time-travel and other mystical plot-lines. I didn't find the writing in the earlier Lord John novellas to be quite as compelling, but they are wonderful for fleshing out the backstories of the peripheral characters. The short story I read on the other hand ("A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows") is an absolute jewel, but it may (or may not) help to have the context of the rest of the series before reading it. Give yourself a taste at: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorDianaGabaldon
    At least if you start the series now, you'll know not to read the 7th one until February, saving yourself the 4 1/2 year wait the rest of us are experiencing for the resolution of the triple cliff-hanger at the end!

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  13. I love your book reviews but as an avid reader, there's never enough for me :) Sooo... do you have any suggestions for a good blog or site dedicated to reviews? Most of the blogs I've found aren't very entertaining and don't cover science fiction.

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    1. I like goodreads.com. You can track the books you've read, and once you rate 20 books, they start giving you reading recommendations similar to what you've already read. Reviews are done by other readers -- you get the full range of "I loved it" to "I hated it" for each book, but you can figure out which reviewers you relate to.

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    2. A few that I like: The Book Smugglers, Fangs for the Fantasy (they also review SF/Fantasy movies), Fantasy Book Cafe, and Book Riot.

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  14. Oh, no - that's one of our favorite series! What everyone else says about it: it gets much, MUCH better, and back story gets filled in over time that helps explain Elena's behavior. Armstrong lets the characters grow immensely, but there are a few huh? moments when she introduces someone, refers to them, but doesn't provide much explanation until one or two books along. If you stop now, you'll miss Jaime and Eve and Savannah and Adam and Paige and Lucas and, and, and...or you could go with The Dresden Files...

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    1. I definitely agree about the series and the fantastic characters down the road but I'm not sure if the promise of good like able characters is enough reason for someone who didn't care for the first book to keep reading.

      It's been long enough since I've read any of the series, Bitten in particular since it was the first, that I'm not sure how much I would even recommend the rest of the series when it involves Elena. I personally I kept reading up till No Humans Involved just to get more Jeremy but gave up after that.

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    2. I second that on the Dresden Files! I love that series! That is another series where the first one is the worst but they get immensely better as they go on. I do get a little annoyed with Harry`s sexism from time to time, but overall one of my favourite series.

      And there was even a terrible tv series that lasted for one season. It`s got the guy that plays the detective in that new Arrow show as Dresden (because that`s not vague or anything) I admit it, I have it on DVD. It`s not good, but I just had to watch it because I loved the books so much.

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  15. WOW! Thanks for this review! I doubt I would have read the book anyway, but I really appreciate your review nonetheless!

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  16. I love the Kiesha'ra series, so glad you've recommended it!

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  17. Borders used to carry this title under Horror. I definitely would not consider it romance. Although I wouldn't call it Horror either.

    I have read Bitten but not the rest of the series. It was okay. I might eventually read the rest of the series at some point. And to answer your question, yes she is definitely trying to bring home the animal-like nature over human nature of a werewolf.

    I have met Kelley Armstrong a couple times and she is absolutely lovely. If you ever do give her another try, read her YA series that she has been writing over the last few years. The Summoning is the first in that series and the heroine is a young girl that is just learning that she is an overly strong necromancer.

    Great review!

    Nat

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    1. Thank you! I KNEW I'd read a series by this author that I liked, but I couldn't remember what it was. I don't think I've ever read Bitten, though - it doesn't sound familiar. I read so many books I can't keep track, though, unless they are favorites.

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  18. Then you will be just thrilled to know that they are filming this right now as a TV series in my city of Cambridge, ON.

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  19. I also recommend the Kate Daniels series. Also, you might want to try the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne, the first book is Hounded.
    These two series are hands down my favorite discoveries in 2012!
    They also both have exceptionally good audiobook narrators.

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    1. I agree a hundred times over! Love the Kate Daniels series (and basically anything written by Ilona Andrews) and the Iron Druid Chronicles is fantastic. I love Oberon (the dog) and the banter back and forth.

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  20. I don't remember half this book >.< I DO remember I read the 'witch' books first, dime store magic and industrial magic, and rather like the necromancer character Jami best... because she's just... different lol I was never a big Elena/ clay fan, although once I understood that Clay has been a werewolf since childhood and was on his own 'running wild' for quite a while before Jeremy takes him in and 'tames' him...and so he tends to react more as a wolf as a man... I kinda understood him a bit better. I read t long before the Twilight stuff came out though, and never really saw the parallels until you pointed them out >.< lol guess it's been a awhile.. should re read them... although.. you kinda have me wanting to read it again to refresh my memory.. and NOT wanting to read it again lol

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  21. The Name of the Wind and the sequel Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss are absolutely incredible if you're ever in the mood for some high fantasy. I recommend them as often as I possibly can! Married with Zombies by Jesse Petersen is also a lot of fun.

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    1. YES! I recommend Patrick Rothfuss whenever I get a chance. If you like fantasy even the slightest bit, you'll love him. And even if you don't like fantasy you may still love him—he's that good! I've read a lot of books, and I can honestly say he's among the best authors I've ever read (in any genre).

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  22. ...have you ever read the Seven Kingdoms trilogy by Kristin Cashore? I just picked up Graceling a couple weeks ago on vacation and I had to buy the other two on Amazon. It's YA medieval-ish fantasy, but I liked Graceling for the female protagonist and I enjoyed Fire, too. I'd probably recommend it, but I'm not everyone.

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    1. She read Graceling but couldn't get through Fire: http://www.epbot.com/2013/03/book-review-graceling-fire.html

      I LOVED Graceling but didn't like Bitterblue nearly as well (didn't try to read fire because of Jen's review)

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  23. That sounds . . . horrible. Wow.

    Also, I just read a book wherein the librarian author states that you should try to give a book about 100 pages to rein you in but because there is so much literature out there the rule is: 100 - {your age} = # of pages you should read before giving up.

    Hope that makes you feel less guilty about quitting sloughing through junky novels. :D

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  24. Go forth and find books by Patricia Briggs. The Mercy series (werewolves, although Mercy is something different) kicks this one's *ss! Seriously, nobody tops Patricia Briggs!

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    1. And I really like her fantasy books, although some of the early ones are not as good as the later books.

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    2. I must also heartily endorse Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega series! Every time a new book in either series comes out (same world, and occasionally characters cross over or reference events taking place in the other series), I go back and reread all the previous ones too. Her werewolf culture is detailed, well thought out, and she has reasons for why they act the way they do. I don't want to spoil, but there is a rape in one of the books, but I thought that the characters' reactions to it were well-written and believable. I'm pretty squeamish about reading violence against women too. OH! Mercy has also been known to quote the Princess Bride and she has a vampire friend who loves Scooby Doo :)

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    3. I really enjoyed both series, though Mercy is still my favorite just because she's so weirdly quirky and interesting. Though I love werewolves Alpha & Omega didn't hold my interest as much, its been too long to remember exactly why.

      You all have reminded me why I like the series so much, looks like I'll be rereading them soon :)

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  25. I'm pretty much in love with anything by Ilona Andrews. The Edge and Kate Daniels are seriously fun reads. As a bonus, my husband loves them too, so we get to gush about our favorite parts.

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  26. They get so much better! Elena matures alot over her next few book appearances, and they aren't all about her. There is also material online which is author written explaining the backstory between Elena and Clay (or at least there used to be, she might have actually published now) and the other characters are much better developed.

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  27. Since you have youngish geek girls as well as old/middle aged geek girls reading you it's good to point out that rape is bad no matter how it's book ended in a story. Good job.
    K F

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  28. I'm an avid paranormal romance reader (and I re-read everything at least 4-5 times), I'll read everything. I tried to read Bitten and I couldn't do it lol, I couldn't make it thru. It's still on my Kindle and I'll try to read it again. My picks for good paranormal romances are:

    1. Black Dagger Brotherhood, JR Ward - 1st series I ever read...love them so much.
    2. Immortals after Dark - Kresley Cole - this one is awesome. I love that its the females that kick ass. Cadeon's book is my favorite and Regin's.
    3. The Demonica Series - Larrisa Ione - This has everything in it and I like that it has such a strong family bond.
    4. The Fever Series (Mackayla Lane Series) - Karen Marie Moning - This one is more paranormal than romance, the romance comes in the 2nd to last book. But it has a great build up and once you read Barrons, you'll love him.
    5. Mercy Thompson Series - Patrica Briggs - Now you want a Werewolf Book, THIS is the one you get.
    6. Midnight Breed Series - Lara Adrian - This is probably the only series I haven't re-read in a long time, but I remember it being good.

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  29. "fast horrible sexytime". Ugh, I've had that.

    I'm pretty sure you've talked about "Soulless" before, but one of the things I love about Alexia is that she has some agency when it comes to her sexual development. Living in pseudo-Victorian times this is not something a young lady is told about, so when she discovers her sexual feelings, she initiates exploring them. None of that "you need a man to teach you" crap.

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  30. Whoa...that's not how I remember Bitten but I read it when it first came out and was thrilled to find a heroine in a paranormal book who wasn't a ditz or helpless. Maybe I should reread it. Or not. I never liked Clay, though. I could be misremembering (again) but he wasn't given any defining (or redeeming) characteristics until after he was shown to be a bully, hot-headed, and willing to kidnap. Ick.

    Clockwork Heart is a great book and I'm happy the sequel is finally coming out. In that one, too, I was surprised at who became the love interest but unlike Bitten, it made sense and was fleshed out.

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    1. Yeah I'm finding myself in the same boat. I don't remember half the awful stuff in the review but it's been a long time since I read it and it was with younger far less critical eyes. I'm not sure if I want to reread it and see how bad it is or just leave it alone and remember it kindly.

      However Clay is a jerk no matter how you spin it, even after you learn more about him. I think they kind of deserve each other though, they're both rather awful.

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  31. Ilona Andrews' books have been recommended several times here, Patricia Briggs is super as well, AND don't forget Carrie Vaughn's werewolf series starring Kitty Norville. Yes she's a werewolf named Kitty - a running joke through the series. (And Vaughn's non-werewolf books are good too).

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    1. Second the Carrie Vaughn suggestion. Kitty is a wonderful character and I love how she starts out vulnerable and kinda weak and really grows into her own (stronger than she could have imagined) person through the books.

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  32. Wow, I liked the book. Not my favorite, but it was pretty good. The rest of the series explains the werewolf culture -- she's not human and doesn't think like a human, even though she was trying to be one. I think that's the point the author is making. I did wonder how she could not think of the human boyfriend, like, at all.

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  33. Aww. I love Elena. But I get why KA isn't everyone's cup of tea.

    If you like changelings, though, check out Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series. SO good!

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  34. I'd like to recommend Nick Harkaway's Gone Away World. He has a second book out now called Angelmaker which was not as good as his first book but gets an honorable mention for the clockwork ninja monks.

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  35. Thanks for being honest in this review. Glad to know that I should avoid it.

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  36. I can't remember if you have ever mentioned reading the "Heralds of Valdemar" series by Mercedes Lackey. There are more than 30 books that take place in this world, and I end up re-reading the series, and some of her other series at least once a year or so. Usually whenever she releases a new book in the series, I end up reading all of them again. Valdemar books are not explicit, but are special. I like explicit books, but I adore these books. Just writing this is making me want to re-read these again. She also wrote the Diana Tregarde series many years ago, and they are hard to find, but they are worth it. I also just recently re-read the Dragonriders of Pern collection. Also around 25 books or so. Thank goodness for libraries. My mom and I shared our books to the point that we could not find them when we went back to re-read them. Kelly a/k/a Anonymous

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    1. I started reading the Heralds of Valdemar series when I was in high school (so, um, more than 15 years ago). There are several trilogies in the Valdemar books that I absolutely love (Arrows, Last Herald-Mage, Mage Winds) but in my opinion her more recent books have not been up to scratch. I used to eagerly anticipate each new book's release, but as of now I haven't even bothered to read the last few. The older books in the series were near and dear enough to my heart that I packed 'em all up to take with me when I moved overseas and had limited weight for household goods :)

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    2. My husband has almost every Mercedes Lackey book written. I've been reading her Five Hundred Kingdoms books. I enjoy her writing style.

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  37. I'm so glad you reminded me of Hawksong! I can't wait to go home and reread it now!

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  38. This sounds pretty horrible :S Thanks for the heads up!

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  39. Thank you for the detailed review, now I have no reason to read it even if I wanted to! And that isn't sarcasm, I sincerely thank you for taking a bullet for the team, or whatever metaphor works for you.

    "(At least it made John laugh, in a horrified kind of way.)"
    If John Laughs at you a bit too much for reading it you can always just say you are looking for some bedroom role playing ideas.

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  40. I am another fan of the Otherworld series who prefers the witch stories to the werewolf stories. And Armstrong does grow as a writer after that first book.

    If you want to try something else of hers that is set in the same world but doesn't have the unrealistic sex, she's also written two YA trilogies in the same world - but featuring teens instead of adults, so there are crushes but nothing too heavy. These start with the Darkest Powers trilogy.

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  41. Loved your book review so much! If you ever read another lemon of a book please write about it because this just made my day! :)

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  42. Bitten has such good reviews on Goodreads, including from people who share similar tastes with me... might still give it a chance but who knows?

    The Ilona Andrews books are definitely on my to-read list. I read Poison Princess by Kresley Cole and it made me never want to read any more of her books. So many people are suggesting her Immortals after Dark series but I don't know if I can do it.

    I really enjoyed J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood and Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld series. Karen Marie Moning's Fever series was really enjoyable, I blew through 5 books in 8 days.

    I seem to be getting more into high fantasy books lately, and I definitely recommend Patrick Rothfuss, Brent Weeks (especially Lightbringer series) and Peter V. Brett (Demon Cycle.) Currently I'm reading Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series, which is really great so far!! A newcomer I happened upon because of a Kindle Daily Deal last year is Michael J. Sullivan, and I will shout his praises to anyone who will listen. His Riyria Revelations series is EPIC.

    I think my very favorite author ever, though, is Anne Bishop. If you haven't read her original Black Jewels trilogy you really, really should. Go, go do it now!!

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    1. Ilona Andrews writing team has a spectacular sense of humor. I enjoy them. I do enjoy the black dagger boys, have you read any Patricia Briggs she's pretty great too.

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  43. Thanks for the honest review! I generally avoid any sort of paranormal romance, being the sort of person who HATES character driven novels. I know, I know... I'm sorry. I just can't do it...

    But I do give popular series a try from time to try. I'm just so glad you're willing to be honest and upfront.

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  44. I read this book so long ago, I'd forgotten it was bad. I enjoyed the later books in the series--as others have mentioned, Armstrong got better at writing and she wrote about other, more grown-up people (until she got to Savannah, which, just...ICK!).

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  45. Ack, "romantic" rape is a personal pet peeve. However, as a poly person I feel obligated to point out that there are options in addition to playing both guys--loving two people is an option for some as well.

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    1. But any decent poly person wouldn't do it secretly. I'm getting the impression from this review that at least the boyfriend is clueless. Which isn't acceptable at all, whether the main character identifies as poly or not.

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    2. Oh definitely true, and I guess I didn't realize that in the first review. Also obvs not everyone's poly which is cool. I think I was feeling grumpy when I commented. ;)

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  46. I just recently read Carnival of Souls and Graveminder by Melissa Marr. Carnival of Souls is the first in a YA series she is starting and had a decent premise. Not the usual supernatural stuff that we always see. No vampires in sight! Graveminder was her first adult novel and was good too!

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  47. You should try reading Ecksdot. It's a ghost-robot adventure story (YA) that really shocked me with how great it is. Plus it's self-published (not by me because I can't even write a coherent blog comment) which means supporting the little guy!

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  48. There are so many series here that I just absolutely love. Outlander and the following books were given to me by a dear friend and I absolutely love them all. The Iron Druid series is amazing and my 13 year old is currently reading them as fast as she can lol. If you like fantasy and are up for a very, very long series try The Wheel of Time. Amazingly complex and definitely something that I've found hard to put down lol. If you're looking for something more risque then try the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning. Her Highlander books are also awesome and all interwoven. Also, highly recommend the Dragonriders of Pern series! I picked up the first book when I was about 6 and I've loved them ever since.

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    1. I love Pern too - although the sexual relationships in that are problematic too. Rape disguised as romance etc. I tried to read the Wheel of Time but the first book was so poorly written with such thin characterisation that I couldn't be bothered with the others.

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  49. Yikes, this book does not sound good! If you haven't read them already already, I think you would love The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. The first two books are out now with two more to go, but each book is fairy tale retelling set in a somewhat dystopia world, and the first book, Cinder, is about a cyborg and she's awesome! Definitely check them out! They're a lot more fun than Bitten, I promise. :)

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  50. Thanks for the review, Jen! I've found that your opinions are a good gauge of whether or not a book is my type, so it definitely helps.

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  51. Heh. Forcing oneself to slog through a rough read just so that one can honestly eviscerate it in a review. There has to be a word for that...

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  52. Wow. I have to say you read the story line completely differently to me.
    So differently that reading your review makes me feel like you read a different book.
    Clay and Elena's relationship predates her 'devoted boyfriend at home' and she was never actually going to have sex with her other packmate, because they all respect the situation with Clay, it's only Elena who is running from it.

    Anyway, I won't go on. I'm just baffled. I'm not saying it's the greatest book I've ever read, but I appreciated it for what it was. Keep in mind it is also her first novel.

    The next book introduces the rest of the characters that really fill out the series, and given they aren't all Clay/Elena you may well enjoy some of them. Particularly the witch ones I'd think.

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    1. Book reviews here are always pretty one-sided. Any hint of blatant sexuality or (perceived) sexual force damns a book, regardless of any other aspects of a story or wether the events are part of the larger story context. However, child murder is perfectly acceptable as she loves both The Hunger Games and Ender's Game, where horrible things are part of telling a story and accepted as such. It's a targeted bias that you just have to ignore. Books that go against her moral code in this way will never receive a fair review, they are doomed from the outset. I wish she would stick to books that met her criteria rather than condem books that, frankly, don't stand a chance based on the story they are telling, wether it's a good story or not.

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  53. I have read Stolen but not Bitten. I've tried to read the "magic" books following and I couldn't get through the first 100 pages of the books. I really tried. The characters seemed flat to me and uninteresting.

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  54. You echoed my thoughts on this book exactly. Why does it have so many 5 star reviews??

    Thanks for the rec; I'll have to check out Hawksong.

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  55. I just finished reading "As the Crow Flies" by Robin Lythgoe, a 300-some-page ebook tale of a thief in a fantasy world. Dashes of buddy-movie sarcasm and humor made it a really enjoyable read and left me longing for a sequel. If you enjoy David Eddings' writing (but not necessarily his five-volume epics), you'll fall right into this book. The main character, Crow, is like Silk's brother from another den of thieves.

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  56. I agree with other commenters that the Otherworld series gets better, and it's one that I like enough but have forgotten enough that I plan to re-read it. I remember feeling frustrated with the length of time it took to get to the backstory, though I totally don't remember the poker game scene from Bitten. But yeah, the werewolves are supposed to be a bit animalistic, and I didn't get Elena much at first. She's supposed to be resisting her werewolf side and not doing a very good job of it. Clay will never be one of my favorite characters, but I respect some of his traits.

    I would be curious to see your opinions of Kelley Armstrong's YA stuff -- the Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising take place in the same universe as the Otherworld series but thus far there's no direct tie in (though those two series are about to tie together, I think?)... I seriously had a hard time putting those books down, staying up WAY too late to finish them. Because they are YA (and I guess because Kelley got better), they tend to be pretty quick reads. I would LOVE to see those series meet the Otherworld characters!

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  57. Oh my I love these books! It is worth getting to know each character because you find out why they act the way they do. You can't judge a book without reading it. Kelly Armstrong has also written some really good young adult books that were very good. I highly recommend Kelly Armstrong to people who enjoy reading about werewolves or witches and ghosts. Another good batch of werewolf books would be the Mercy Thompson series. Along the same lines as Bitten but with a twist. Again, the five star reviews are there for a reason, and if you continue reading you know what happened between Clay/Elena isn't rape.

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  58. As many have stated, this is not my favorite book of the series. But, it does introduce some characters that the author later fills in really interesting and compelling backstories for. If you can get your hands on the Men of the Otherworld short stores series, I highly recommend it... and there is NO romance in it al all! The thing about this author is that she loves to write her characters as really mentally outside the normal molds. They have little relatability, but can be fascinating case studies.

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  59. Haha! I find it hilarious that you spent so much time discussing the book you hated (hey, that's what I gleaned from your review) and then threw out the name of your recommendation at the end as sort of an afterthought without much detail at all. Not that I neeeeed anything more. I just found it more than slightly giggle worthy.

    So, I'll add Bitten to my reading list so that I can immediately cross it out, then I'll add Hawksong. Sounds interesting.

    Thanks, Jen!

    Andrea

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  60. That review is awesome. I will NEVER read this book. I think I may have read a Kelly Armstrong book that was good, but I think it was about a witch. It was at least entertaining.

    I just finished A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, it has no creepy sex scenes and kept me reading straight for two days so that's always good. Any book that shows rape as something that is sort of desirable gets a two thumbs down. No woman in her right mind would find that appealing.

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  61. I also checked out Bitten, and was less than impressed. However, Kelly Armstrong wrote a YA trilogy that was... The Summoning, the gathering, and another one, which were actually pretty decent! I haven't read any other of the adult books after this one, and happenend upon the YA's first, so maybe give those a shot!

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  62. Awww, sorry you didn't enjoy it as much as my 18 y.o. self. To each their own, though. And agreed- the Hawksong series is super good! Also, for the record, this did come out before Twilight. Also also if you want this idea but probably done more to your liking, I'd recommend Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series. It has more cool culture stuff, and less of the sex. Also Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels novels.

    This was actually my introduction to what I consider Urban Fantasy. I really enjoyed it when I read it in my first year of college (wow, 10 years ago), but I'd be interested to see how my impression of it has changed with my (hopefully) more mature understanding of relationships. I remember being a bit weirded by the threesome stuff, but eventually I just accepted it as a different sort of nudist-colony culture. Elena didn't treat Phillip too well in this one, but I remember thinking her indecisiveness was also a function of her thinking she wanted to fit into society when she didn't really want to? Also my 18 y.o. self found the sex scenes to be really hot, probably.

    The later books develop things more, and you might find Paige in Dime Store Magic to be a more relatable heroine. The next book, Stolen, features Elena but introduces way more characters and a wider supernatural world.

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  63. Oh, and if you like fantasy if you've never read the Sword of Truth series, you NEED to. Some of the best books written, though Kahlan can be a PITA sometimes and at one point I wanted her to die in the books, but she's not the main character so it's okay.

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  64. Amelia's books are all fantastic, including her vampires. (She wrote In the Forests of the Night at 14!)
    I'm not sure if it's been mentioned yet (so many comments, so little time!) but the Parasol Protectorate series is a fantastic Steampunk/Paranormal, comedic romance. It always has me giggling out loud. In my (humble) opinion the author does a great job of balancing the tech (I don't have a techy type mind so heavy tech steampunk looses me quick in the lingo) and paranormal. Plus the heroine really holds her own.
    Thanks for your reviews and general awesomeness, Jen!

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  65. Another author that I haven't seen in comments is Katie Maxwell / Katie MacAlister. She is a bit smutty though not as much as some of the others listed... but I do love her books! She has a few different series and some that intertwine with the others. She is awesomely funny (nothing like getting a fit of the giggles in the breakroom)... some of her characters are quite outrageous! She has series with dragons, vamps, demons and even a steampunk one.

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  66. Thanks for the review! I've wanted to try out something by this author for a while, but now I'll stay away from this one.

    Lots of other people have recommended both Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs and I would like to throw my support behind both of them! Well-thought out worlds, likeable and believable characters and much better romance.

    If you're in the mood for something a little more gritty and adult, I highly recommend the Iron Seas series by Meljean Brook. It's a steampunk world, but one where Genghis Kahn took over much of Europe, zombies have laid waste to most of the Continent, and people are infected with nanoangents and have mech parts grafted on. Oh, and giant armored kraken and megalodon sharks roam the ocean! The first one, The Iron Duke, wasn't my favorite, but I've loved the rest of them, and all the novellas as well. The explicitness varies per book - the third, Riveted, is probably the tamest of the three full-length novels out so far.

    Happy reading!
    Claire

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  67. I agree with everyone that stated this series gets better as it goes. I honestly don't remember most of what you talked about in your review, and for awhile I questioned whether it was the same book. Maybe it's just the perception of the reader? Or maybe I'm just not remembering because I read it a few years ago. Anyway, the author creates a lot of amazing characters in this 13 book series (plus a bunch of short stories) with great back stories. By the third book I couldn't put them down. One of the few series that I was really upset about ending. Elena's story was never my favorite, but I especially like Eve and Jamie as characters if you can stick it out!

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  68. This reminds me of how I felt after reading 50 Shades of Grey... After hearing SO many women in my life talk about how wonderful it was and how hot it was and how it was just SOOOO sexy, I had to read it... and by the end of the first book I felt exhausted, and had to force myself to finish... I was also relatively disgusted with anyone who thought this was what counted for hot sex, and had to wonder what was missing from their lives if this is what sparked something inside them... Someone being coerced into bondage play by a disturbed man with horrific abuse issues who likes to take it out on his sex partners is not my idea of good sex or a relationship to aspire to, I don't care how much money he has or how "sexy" he is... This goes double for the Crossfire series, where the characters are even more grossly flawed and WAY less redeeming as people (in addition to it being a blatant cash grab at the 50 Shades fans, pretty much re-writing the exact same story with more irritating and less interesting characters)... Sorry you had to push through such a sucubus of a book... I have to try out the Hawksong book, you've never steered me wrong before!

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    1. I agree with you about 50 Shades of Grey too! I hated it. No one in that book spoke or said anything. They always muttered or mumbled. It drove me nuts! Speak up and enunciate already! Also, the main character girl (whose name I`ve forgotten) Anna or something, she always went, Oh My, at everything, which of course immediately made me think of George Takei so that really distracted me from any sexytime mood the author was going for.

      I just never got what was so amazing and wonderful about this book that everyone raved about.

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  69. Ohhh, and the Elemental Masters and Bedlam's Bard series by Mercedes Lackey. I really liked the Serpent's Shadow (Victorian era Snow White with Indian culture!). War for the Oaks by Emma Bull for rock and roll and fairies and shape-shifters.

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    1. Yes to both of these! Serpent's Shadow and The Fire Rose are my favorite of the Elemental Masters series.

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  70. If you feel like reading another werewolf romance, I really recommend Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. There's a sequel called Linger, but I haven't read it; it's sitting on my shelf waiting for finals to be over. The book was well written; the werewolves were original, there were interesting characters, and the romance wasn't Twilight level nauseating.

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  71. While more high fantasy as opposed to urban fantasy I would suggest the Night Angel trilogy by Brent Weeks. Not only is Brent Weeks a super nice guy in real life (I went to one of his book signings and it was amazing) but the books are really enjoyable. Just as a warning, they do have sex and rape (and some disturbing stuff happening to younger folk in the beginning), but it's never graphic or feels like it was put into the plot to make it "sexy". It always made sense in the context of the story (hey, a pivotal part of this characters back story is that she was abused by the person who was supposed to be teaching her, so now she's more than a little messed up). As I said, I really enjoyed the trilogy.

    I also love all of these other recommendations! Urban fantasy is one of my favorite genres and I'm always on the prowl for something new. I was surprised no one has mentioned the Dresden Files yet, or if they did I missed it. I love me some Dresden Files.

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    1. Dresden has been mentioned! And Codex Alera. Both excellent.

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  72. Your review is right on. Besides the pedestrian writing, Armstrong has issues. Just wait until you get to another of her offerings, "Haunted", which references the rape and murder of teenage girls, because the antagonists just "wanted to have some fun." To make it even more fun, we learn that one of the girls was "crying for her mother" before she was killed. Absolutely sickening.

    I'm wondering if we shouldn't blame "50 Shades of Grey" for the re-emerging trend (it cycles around now and again, remember Luke and Laura?) of "I'm going to rape you and hurt you and it's going to be sexy and then you're going to fall in love with me because I'm so strong and demanding and forceful" which completely misrepresents BDSM, consent, sexual equality, female pleasure...Anyone who can read Armstrong's books, nearly all of which feature or refer to rape, and enjoy them, need to google "rape culture" and educate themselves a little better.

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  73. sounds like 50 shades of grey with werewolves. The only reason I STARTED 50 shades was morbid curiosity, and I only finished it because I kept HOPING that something so popular just HAD to get better. It didn't.

    Between that and Twilight- there is just no explaining things that gain popularity sometimes.

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  74. Storm the KlingonJune 13, 2013 at 3:23 AM

    Thank you. Thank you for speaking up about these weird new books that call themselves "erotic horror" and are just genre rape porn, where the female character is swept away by it all and has no will or mind of her own and "can't help but give herself to him utterly". Absolutely distressing to old feminist nerdbroads like myself, even if I do self-identify as a leatherwoman. As such, I go looking for that kind of read on occasion, knowing well what to expect; forgive me for saying so, but "vanilla" women such as yourself are not expecting that sort of thing when they pick up what seems to be a nice little book about monsters. This in itself breaks the BD/SM Player's Code of "Safe, sane, and *consensual*". A woman at a BD/SM event goes there knowing she might see nudity and kinkiness; this is her consent. A woman walking down the street that has a dude jump out and flash his sad junk at her is uncool if for no other reason than that she did NOT consent to have to see his sorry business, nor to be a part of his getting off on her reaction. I feel like what happened to you with this book is the literary equivalent of minding your own business, enjoying your evening, and some freak suddenly accosts you with his weirdness. Does this make sense? I'm annoyed at the world this evening.

    If what you want to read about is sexy vampires, werewolves, witches, and/or kinky sex, then for the love of Bowie, read some Anne Rice. She is the Little Richard of erotic horror; she is The Originator, and all others are just Perpetrators. She also wrote a bit of rather hardcore BD/SM erotica back in the day, using the conceit of it being a "kinky fairy tale", but it says so upfront that's what it is; she doesn't sneak up on you with it in her horror stories, which are still quite erotic (and only for readers who can deal with reading about men snogging).

    Damn, now I want to re-read "The Witching Hour" again, all 1000+ pages of it.

    Sorry, my grouchy old Goth self couldn't let this thread go by without some love for Anne, especially now that she's off her bizarre Fundamentalist Christian kick she was on there for a little while after her beloved husband died; she was just at sea without him. She's off the "I'm ONLY writing for/about Jesus now" trip and back to her old self, so it's OK for her LGBTQ fans to read her again without angst about the anti-gay stuff she found herself caught up in (she chose new friends badly for a while that twisted her mind/faith around to their agenda). I felt so bad for her; she really is a fascinating, clever, talented lady, and I'm glad she's back to form.

    And really, if all you want is a little light reading (Rice novels average at least 500 pages, usually more) about a girl that loves a vampire, there are crap TONS of Buffy novels out there; read about a girl that kicks monster ASS, not one that sits around and whines and pines for her sparkly undead ancient/teenage lover (*gag*).

    Cheers, and Grumpy Goth Rant /over,

    Storm

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    1. The Sleeping Beauty trilogy is awesome and I always recommend it to anyone who gushes over how amazing 50 Shades is...

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    2. Storm the KlingonJune 14, 2013 at 3:39 AM

      Cheers, darling; that's the "fairy tale" I was referring to. But my favourite is still "Exit to Eden"; that book changed my young perverted LIFE. Shame that every time I mention it, people always think of that hideous Rosie O'Donnell movie; it really is a primer for the budding Domina, in the form of what is essentially just a romance novel.

      As far as "50 Shades of Bleh" goes... I think I liked it better back in the 80's, when it was called "9 1/2 Weeks". (snap!)

      Cheers, and everybody play safe,

      Storm

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  75. The problem with literature these days is that the pervasive culture of reality TV has changed everyone's idea of what constitutes strength in a person and what constitutes "good" entertainment. People are shallow and cannot imagine that a great romance can occur without gratuitous sex and nasty catfights. As a result of the loss of deep thought and introspection in society, characters have become limited and wooden because people don't even understand their own motivations and emotions. If you can't find it in yourself, how can you write about it?

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  76. Try the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones. Book #1 First Grave on the Right. Charley is a Grim Reaper, but she is mortal, has a family, is a P.I. and is protect/has the hots for the Son of Satan. Hysterical, fast paced and fun. Well written. #5 comes out in July and I can't wait!

    I am also a long time HUGE fan of Laurell K. Hamilton. Anita Blake is my favorite with the first 9 being better (in my opinion) than the next 9 with the last two getting back to what made the first 9 so good. (The second 9 involves more and more sex with more and more men and that is all the books seem to be about. Anita has to find herself in those books to become even more kick-ass, I guess. Through orgasm. ;-P)

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  77. Oh, my gosh, what a great thread! I don't think you realize what kind of box you opened up, Jen;^) What great recommendations (although nobody as yet has talked me into trying the rest of the Outlander books).

    For what it's worth, here are my recommendations:

    John Levitt: an urban fantasy series set in the San Francisco area. Not a ton of sex, just great plots, great world-building, and afrits! Here's his home page: John Levitt Start with Dog Days, and meet Louie.

    Jim Butcher: can't say enough good things about the Dresden Files. Didn't care as much for his other series (Furies of Calderon), but it's OK reading, and both series have great character building.

    Charlaine Harris: the Sookie Stackhouse series, of course, but there's also her Harper Connelly series, which is about a girl who was struck by lightning and can now see the dead. Mysteries ensue. Another great thing is that on her blog every week Ms. Harris features what she's currently reading. I've gotten some truly fine recommendations there.

    Andre Norton: the grand master of sf/fantasy. She was the groundbreaker. I especially love her Hosteen Storm series (Beastmaster), about a Navajo who talks to animals and has a fantastic menagerie of his own.

    Carrie Vaughn, Kim Harrison, Patricia Briggs, Gail Carriger: they've all been mentioned and they're all really great. All recommended!

    Kevin Hearne wrote the series about a druid living in the Southwest, but also Mark del Franco wrote a series about a druid living in Boston named Connor Grey. Start that one with Unshapely Things. It's very good.

    Neil Gaiman: his American Gods is one of my all-time favorite books and I'm crushing big time on Shadow, the main character! Actually, anything by Neil Gaiman is fantastic, but American Gods is a classic. OH! He also wrote Good Omens with Terry Pratchett, which is a MUST READ.

    Terry Pratchett: his early Discworld books are incredible. Scathing political humor rolled up in a fantastical landscape delivered with amazing British humor. And footnotes! Be sure to read the footnotes;^) Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg are absolutely unforgettable, as is The Librarian (who was turned into an orangutan). Ook.

    I just checked out the first book in the Sandman Slim series by Richard Kadrey. I've only read the first chapter, but I'm completely hooked. The hero spent the last 11 years in hell for the entertainment of fallen angels, but he escaped back into LA. Murder and mystery! And it's a series.

    Sorry I've been so long-winded; books are one of my very favorite things to talk about. BIG THANK YOU to everybody on this thread who has added to my reading list!!!

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  78. My guilty pleasure romance writer is Nora Roberts and my favorite trilogy of hers is the Circle Trilogy. Witch, shapeshifter, vampire, slayer, etc. I just wish she had written more with these characters!

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    1. I was given these books and love them. Speaking of, need to go re-read them! :D

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    2. Me, too! Haha

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  79. Having not read this book, I'll say this:

    Ugh. There is no moral gray area when it comes to rape and books with scenes like that only encourage the notion that there is and encourage that it is somehow the victim's fault.

    Seriously, there is NO moral gray area. There's just not.

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  80. Thank you for the review, I will avoid that one for sure.

    I don't have any recommendations of books TO read, but I will say... please do NOT read the Anita Blake books. Unless you like rape. Lots, and lots, and lots of rape. Both physical and mental.

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  81. hmm I found this really interesting because Kelley Armstrong and the Women of the Otherworld series is one of my all time favourites. It`s true in some of the later books I stop liking Elena though. I feel as though the later books that feature her just rehash the same issues over and over again but I always say a bad Kelley Armstrong book is still better than some other stuff that`s out there. However you can skip the second book and go right to the third without missing too much. And they do get better as they go along (except for the ones with Elena). I think someone already mentioned that Bitten was the first book ever published by Kelley Armstrong. I think I also read once that the author hates writing sex scenes but they are expected in adult fiction or something so that`s probably why they feel rushed.

    Also, you should read her YA stuff, it`s great. The Darkest Power trilogy and Darkness Rising trilogy. They are still in the same genre of necromancer, werewolf, witch and sorcerer kind of thing. They are action packed, without the awkward sex scenes.

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  82. If there are any parallels to the Bitten series and the Twilight series, they are purely coincidental or Twilight is paralleling Bitten, considering it came out a decade or so before Twilight.

    I echo Jade. Stay far away from any of Laurell K. Hamilton's books. Far, far away.

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  83. This sounds weirdly familiar, except I think I ended up throwing it across the room rather than finishing it. But reading part of this book made me think I could possibly write a book. I mean, if THIS got published...

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  84. I agree, stay AWAY from Laurell K. Hamilton. The first 6 or 7 Anita Blake Vampire Hunter books are OK, but then they degenerate into fairly badly-written porn, including but not limited to rape. It's too bad, too, because the premise held such amazing promise!

    OH, but I can't believe I forgot a favorite: Seanan McGuire. She writes a series about a Halfling named October "Toby" Daye. Terrific worldbuilding, nice mysteries, NO rape. Here's her website: http://seananmcguire.com/toby.php

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  85. I actually really enjoyed the Anita Blake series for the first 8 or so books. But after that they do begin to degenerate into mindless, plot-less porn (not that there is anything wrong with that, but its not my style and its a dramatic departure from the earlier novels).

    I'm so glad to see you recommend Hawksong! It was one of my favorites when I was younger and I still pick it up from time to time. If you are looking for something similar I'd recommend the book "Warprize" by Elizabeth Vaughan. It begins a three part series which I couldn't put down and remains one of my favorites today.

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  86. i have a few recommendations! because im 16 i tend to go more for childish books but that does not mean they aren't good they just dont have a lot of drama. So onto the list basically anything from Bruce Coville this guy has written so many books im still digging up ones i haven't read after YEARS some of my favorites include the unicorn corronicles, the magic shop books, monsters of morley manor and thor's wedding day. Most of covilles book you could read in one or two sittings. Coville is a fantastic story teller an all his stories are very intreaging and hillarious look him up and you'll see what i mean. I also recommend fairest and the two princesses of bammar (one of my all time favorite books) both by gail carson leavon auther of ella enchanted which i haven't read yet. I recently re-discovered the may bird trillogy. i read the first book when i was ten then re read it followed by the last two after my 16th birthday and all i can say is its amazing! just read them! the last book i will tell you about is peter and the star catchers i picked it up because the cover art reminded me of peter pan whom i am addicted to after watching finding neverland when i was little. this was another book i started a long time ago when i had kidney stones i think i didnt finish it because i was high on vicadin and just insane but i asked my friend for the synopsys recently and he refused to tell me anything insisting i finish it and now i can say i am so happy he wouldnt tell me it is one of the bet books i have ever read and it might have something to do with peter pan so if you like him READ THIS BOOK!!! ok that's it for now

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  87. The first three "Anita Blake" books are on my "must read" list. Books four, five and six are pretty good... Seven and eight are... not bad... Book nine was the last one I actually finished. May have to finish them at some point, just to see if the all vampire country-and-western review in Branson Missouri that was cut from "Bloody Bones" ever ended up in a book...

    As a St. Louis native and a member of the St. Louis SF convention scene, I can honestly say I was there at the beginning. If you've read the hard cover edition of "Guilty Pleasures", Laurell describes reading the first draft of an Anita Blake book to the crowd - I was there (she was a last minute replacement for Melinda Snodgrass). I was also in the audience when she stated that under no circumstances would Anita ever have sex with a vampire - because vampires are dead, rotting corpses. The degeneration from paranormal mystery into fantasy porn dovetails rather neatly with the Laurell's real-world divorce and remarriage, for whatever that's worth.

    I also have to say, I enjoyed Laurell Hamilton's "Merry Gentry" series - it's fantasy porn, but it started out as fantasy porn!

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  88. Do you need any more recommendations? LOL. One that I haven't seen anyone mention yet is the fairly new "Written in Red" by Anne Bishop. It's an urban fantasy that has werewolves, vampires, etc. but in a much different way than I've usually seen and as someone who usually avoids those types of books, I found it fascinating. It was the first book I gave 5 stars to on Goodreads in a long time. The writing is really good. The only caveat being that some reviewers found that the book glorified self-harm because of the main character's ability/gift. If you are sensitive to that issue use caution. Otherwise I can't recommend it enough and I can't wait for the sequels.

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  89. The infernal devices and the mortal instruments (the one with a movie out this summer) aren't bad - the first is 3 books and the second is on its fifth. There are moments that tread toward being uncomfortable (or even slightly fanfic-ish) but for a quick read they weren't bad.

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  90. Gosh, how I agree with you on Bitten. I couldn't even finish it, and that almost never happens!

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  91. Storm the KlingonJune 15, 2013 at 2:22 AM

    Can I jump back in just to recommend a single book? One of my Ten Desert Island Books is definitely "Red As Blood, Or Tales From the Sisters Grimmer", by Tanith Lee. I was turned on to this book 30 years ago this month (sigh), and I re-read it at least once a year. Decades before the recent trend of doing "dark monstery versions of classic fairy tales", Tanith did a series of short stories that turn the old tropes on their arse. Case in point; the title story. Snow White is in fact a vampire, bleeding the kingdom dry, and The Witch Queen is trying to save the people by destroying her. In her take on "Beauty and the Beast", the "Beast" is a hideous alien... every story is a gem, none of them too disturbing for your delicate nature. Not sure at the mo if it's still in print (it took me YEARS to find it used back in the days before the Interwebz), but worth finding.

    Cheers, thanks a lot,

    Storm

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  92. Weird. That Armstrong cover looks almost exactly like the new Carrie Vaughn book.

    Which, by the way, you would really enjoy, Jen. The first one's Kitty and the Midnight Hour - it's got all the snark a witty girl needs.

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  93. Jen.
    Syfy is making a show out of Bitten.
    I'm just a bit wary of what could come of that....
    Also, I concur. The book was awful (so awful, in fact, that I couldn't finish it)

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  94. You do realize that Bitten predates Twilight by nearly 5 years, right? It's arguably one of the novels that created the urban fantasy market.

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  95. I've been a fan of Cakewrecks for a while, but only just really discovered this site and am currently on an archive binge. I love all your craft posts and the closet play/disney bounding! I've only been to one convention (Destination Star Trek London) and I wasn't confident enough to cosplay, but I like the idea of more subtle outfits! I absolutely adore this site and will definitely be visiting it regularly.

    I just wanted to say, that the rest of the Otherworld books are better, the focus moves off Elena in book 3, and the other characters are much more sympathetic. I love Paige and Lucas, and I have a soft spot for both Jaimie Vegas (a real psychic pretending to be a fake psychic) and Eve (a ghost).

    The series is complete now and she's working on the YA spin off. I agree that the sex scene was weird, badly written and kind of rapey. But I think the problem with it is that Kelley Armstrong is uncomfortable with sexuality and writing sex. She has said in interviews that the sex scenes were mostly added to otherwise complete manuscripts later at the urging of her editor, and there's a scene in one of the later books that's famous among fans for the continuity errors within.

    I think she was very much trying to convey the idea that wolves mate for life with Clay and Elena, but she mostly made Elena seem childish and selfish. A wobbly first book, but the others are better (I actually read the third book 'Dime Store Magic' focussing on a witch first because I didn't realise it was part of the series until I got partway through and she started calling back to earlier events, and it got me hooked.)

    I almost commented on your review of Cinder as well, because I really enjoyed that series. I'm a big fan of steampunk and fairy tales both, and it's got a really compelling story, leaving you wanting more without annoying cliffhangers. Have you read any Robin McKinley? She's written some interesting and empowering rewrites of fairy tales. 'Spindle's End', her version of Sleeping Beauty, contains an Aurora who works as a blacksmith. It's really great and is definitely different from most versions. Her urban fantasy 'Sunshine' is one of my favourite books of all time. There are some issues with the relationships, but the world building is simply amazing and I highly recommend it.

    That's all I really wanted to say. Keep up the good work. :)

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