Category Archives: Horror-Paranormal

Monthly Forecast: October 2017

Image Description: a picture of cherry-blossom tree. It's a close-up picture of the branches so that you can see numerous tiny bright-pink flowers blossoming all along the branches.

In the Southern Hemisphere, October is the time of Spring, hence the flowers (no, I am not bitter how purely American things such as pumpkin spice lattes are dominating social media, what makes you think that?). For this month, my October Reading List is more spooky themed than floral themed, however, I have made sure to include some Australian Women Writers in this list (I’m doing a terrible job on the AWWC this year, oh well *shrugs*).

Australian Women Writer’s Challenge:
Image Description: book cover of The Last Necromancer by C.J. Archer. The background has a large stone cross and a graveyard. The foreground is a close-up picture of the back of a pale-skinned brunette woman wearing a black Victorian-style bodice dress, around her wrist is a latern with a skull inside it, the eyes of the skulls are green and glowing. There is a green tint across the cover.
~The Last Necromancer by C.J. Archer (The Ministry of Curiousity #1)
Available for Purchase: Amazon | Audible | Book Depository | Kobo Books

Image Description: book-cover of Paper Dolls by Anya Allyn. The cover image is colour scheme is dark-tinted, it features a pale-skinned young lady with blonde hair, she's wearing a black dress with white polka-dots, and she's sitting on a carousel-style blue horse.
~Paper Dolls by Anya Allyn (Dark Carousel #2)
Available for Purchase: Amazon

RMFAO Genre Challenge – Horror:
Image Description: book cover of Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake. In the foreground, a pale-skinned brunette young lady is extending out her hand towards the viewer. In the background is a mountainous landscape with a break in the ground, just before the young lady's feet, from within the large crack in the landscape is lava and red spirits coming out of the crack.
~Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake (Anna #2)
Available for Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books

Image Description: book cover of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. The cover is in black and white and the main image is of a small pale-skinned girl wearing a fancy head-piece and a fancy party dress, she appears to be hovering above the ground.
~Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children #1)
Available for Purchase: Amazon | Audible | Book Depository | Kobo Books

Diverse Books Reading Challenge – Intersection:
Image Description: book cover of Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova. The cover has a purple tint across entire cover, in the background is a golden gate with a skulls design within the entrance doors of the gate. In front of the gate is the silhouette a female figure, the female figure is standing in front of the gate with her back to the viewer.
~Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova (Brooklyn Brujas #1)
Available for Purchase: Amazon | Audible | Book Depository | Kobo Books

Image Description: book cover of Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde. The cover image consists of a close-up shot of the back of someone's head, displaying cascading bright-pink hair with the title and author text displayed ontop of the hair.
~Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde
Available for Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books

I don’t have high hopes of reading most these books on the list, especially since October and November tend to be my busier months at work. I hoping to get some of these books knock-off my TBR pile via The Reading Quest, which was a great idea, but a massive failure on my part. In all honestly, I should have read most of these before now, so while I have my doubts, I’m going to give it a go anyway.

Image Description: a participation banner for NaNoWriMo 2017. The banner is turquoise-blue with white text, in the centre of the banner is two over-crossed pens and four stars surrounding the pens.
October is also the month of NaNoWriMo Preparation. I’ll be participating in NaNoWriMo this year, I’ll be working on Orion – Volume II of the Pushing Boundaries, which means I’ll need to finish the Outline before the end of October, the Outline I’ve been trying to finish for months now. I have a special notebook put aside just for working on Pushing Boundaries stuff.
Image Description: a notebook with a light-blue and dark-blue colour-scheme. The cover consists of a start-chart of the Northern Hemisphere constellations with a black band of elastic around the edge of the notebook to keep it closed.

So yeah, what you’re reading and what you’re plans are for October? Are you thinking of getting involved with NaNoWriMo? What project are you going to work on? Let me know in the comments section down below :).

Bleach – Volume 1 by Tite Kubo

Image Description: the book-cover of Bleach Volume 1 by Tite Kubo. The cover is a mostly white background with an adolescent male with orange hair wearing a black robe and pulling a sword out of a sheath.
Title: Bleach – Volume 1
Author: Tite Kubo
Social Media: Goodreads and Twitter
Publisher: Viz Media
Format and Price: Paperback at $10.56
Rating: 4 out of 5

About The Author:
Tite Kubo, the son of a town council member in Fuchu, Aki District, Hiroshima. He never took drawing seriously until he was 17; after reading Dragon Ball he knew he wanted to be a manga artist. At the age of 18 he submitted his first concept for the series Zombiepowder but it got rejected. Zombiepowder was rejected multiple times until Kubo was 22, when it finally was accepted by Shonen Jump. It did not last long; it was cancelled after four volumes in late 2000. His next series, Bleach, about a high school student who becomes a shinigami and fights hollows, was not such a failure. Bleach began regular publication in 2001. It has been running in Weekly Shonen Jump ever since.

About The Book:
Hot-tempered 15-year-old Ichigo Kurosaki, the hero of the popular fantasy-adventure Bleach , has the unsettling ability to see spirits who are unable to rest in peace. His sixth sense leads him to Rukia, a Soul Reaper who destroys Hollows (soul-devouring monsters) and ensures the deceased find repose with the Soul Society. When she’s injured in battle, Rukia transfers her sword and much of her power to Ichigo, whose spiritual energy makes him a formidable substitute Soul Reaper. But the orange-haired teenager isn’t sure he wants the job: too many risks and moral dilemmas.

General Observations:
~Sliding Scale of Plot VS Character: The series Bleach is very Action orientated (lots of fight scenes) but the story itself is more Character orientated, when Tite Kubo focuses on specific characters, he does a great job, but the plot is slow. In fact, with Bleach, there are a lot of subtle hints and clues that a first-time reader might not necessarily pick up. There’s also a lot of back-story and character history that is only hinted at within the first three volumes, but it does get explained and does make sense.

~I Found This Humerus: While there are lots of good fight scenes (if that’s what you’re into), it’s the wide range of humour that I enjoy the most about this series. As the series progresses, it does get Darker and Edgier, so the humour balances things out.

~Long Term Commitment: While I think highly of the Bleach Manga series, I did stop reading the series half-way through The Lost Agent Arc. This is for multiple reasons, the primary reason being Arc Fatigue and the fact that the reader in dumped right into the middle of a time-skip and I was introduced to a whole bunch of new characters (via an organization called “Xcution”) that I cared very little for (mind you, this is at least 50 volumes into a 74 Volume series). I’m going to attempt to read it from the beginning.

All in all, it’s a good action urban fantasy with a super intricate plot, and I am happy to recommend.

Available For Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books

Beneath A Darkening Moon by Keri Arthur

beneath-a-darkening-moon
Title: Beneath A Darkening Moon
Author: Keri Arthur
Social Media: Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter
Publisher: Piatkus, imprint of Little Brown Book Group
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
Format and Price: E-Book at $9.99

About The Author:
Keri Arthur, author of the New York Times bestselling Riley Jenson Guardian series, has now written more than thirty-three novels. She’s received several nominations in the Best Contemporary Paranormal category of the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Awards and has won RT’s Career Achievement Award for urban fantasy. She lives with her daughter in Melbourne, Australia.

About The Book
Someone is murdering humans on the Ripple Creek Werewolf Reservation, and the murders are eerily similar to those Chief Ranger Savannah Grant witnessed nearly ten years ago. Having once had the reputation for being the wild sister, it seems her past has come back to haunt her. Worse still, the man sent in to help with the investigation is the one man Savannah had hoped never to see again – the man who had taken her trust and her heart, and smashed them both.

Cade Jones is in Ripple Creek to catch the killer who escaped a decade ago. He doesn’t expect to find the woman who nearly caused his death – a woman who knows far more than she’ll ever let on. This time, Cade has every intention of discovering exactly what she does know. Soon it becomes clear that the murders are not random and Savannah finds herself having to trust the one man she’d sworn never to trust again.

Content Warning: This blog-post will discuss Abusive relationships (family relationships and romantic relationships), Emotional abuse (within the family situation/environment and romantic relationship environment), Rape and Sexual Assault (specifically Mind-Rape). It will also be discussing Rape Culture aspects such as Slut Shaming.

General Observations:
~Unfortunate Implications – Family Abuse and Emotional Abuse: Savannah and her identical twin sister Neva were raised within the Ripple Creek Werewolf Reservation within the conservative and puritan rules of the Golden pack (a huge emphasis on no sex before marriage). The Golden pack is a pack that specializes in strong telepathic abilities, their parents are, well I wouldn’t call them Alphas, but their parents sit on the committee and hold a lot of political sway and/or opinion over the Golden Pack.

Now when Savannah was about nineteen, she ran away from home, assumed a false name and joined a sex-cult. Savannah describes herself as a sexually repressed teenager (when reflecting with Cade on that time period) who just wanted to explore her sexuality and sexual options. As far I’m concerned, there’s nothing wrong with that, the problem is that the head of the cult turns out to be a serial killer (something Savannah knew nothing about at the time). If, as a teenager, a character feels that they have more freedom of expression and that their opinion counted or mattered more inside a cult run by a serial killer, then I only assume that character’s home-life was abusive.

Though Savannah returned home after the “sex-cult incident” and resumed a relatively conservative lifestyle (from my perspective anyway), her parents (especially her father) continue to undermine her community appointed position of Chief Ranger, in fact Savannah comments at the beginning just how frustrated she is with her father’s puritan attitudes and how he is using the events of the earlier book where she was attacked and was in a critical condition at the hospital as an excuse to remove her from her position.

These are not the actions of a concerned parents afraid they will lose their daughter because of a dangerous work environment, these are the actions of parents who are determined to punish Savannah for the rest of her life for daring to defy them, for daring to leave home, for daring to take up and authoritative position such as a police officer/chief ranger, a position of power and influence in the community and a threat to her parent’s position and their way of life. While in the previous book, Neva calls her parents out on their position of forcing her to choose between her family and her life-mate, though Savannah is completely supportive of Neva and her choices, Savannah never really confronts her parents herself.

Here’s the thing, I understand why Neva is in a position to call them out but perhaps how Savannah might not be, she’s the Chief ranger, she has to work with the committee (regardless of her personal feelings) and as a law enforcer, she has an image to protect, she has to grit her teeth and force herself to get along for the sake of the greater good. Not to mention that people like her father would use the fact that she allows her personal problems to affect her professional abilities against her.

Now, my big problem with this situation is that the Author doesn’t go deep enough with this issue and the author (I feel) presents this situation as Savannah and Neva’s parents as being “old fuddy duddys” or “sticks in the mud” who just won’t “get with the times”, instead of what it actually is, which emotionally abusive behavior. Emotionally abusive behavior, controlling and manipulative behavior such as denying your daughter knowledge or an education with regards to sexual health such as understanding of consent or bodily autonomy, should be referred to as such.

~Unfortunate Implications – Slut Shaming: Savannah refers to her time period in a “sex-cult” as her “wild party days”, I don’t see it that way, in all honesty, I do see it as a young inexperienced woman being taken in by cult and being taken advantage of. While I suppose this will depend on a reader’s point of view on the subject, I feel as though as long as all parties involved are of legal age (or within the legal age requirements) and are able to give consent, then it should be fine. However, power dynamics such as age, experience and possible positions of power (like police officer or cult-leader) do need to be taken into consideration.

All in all, Savannah was only sleeping with two men total (both of who were older and more experienced than her). One of them being the previously mentioned serial killer and the other being Cade, the guy using her to gain access to the cult and therefore arrest the serial killer (more on Cade later). So, engaging in a casual sexual relationship with two different guys (who know about the casual/open relationship policy of the sex-cult) isn’t what I would consider “pushing the envelope”, though at the time (due to her family’s attitudes towards sex) Savannah probably thought it was rather controversial (I suppose it’s harder to shock today).

While the serial killer character never restricted her on who she could and couldn’t sleep with (seems a little hypocritical when you’re the head of a sex-cult), Cade did have her restrict her sexual partners so that it was only him and the serial killer guy, he didn’t do this to protect Savannah or with Savannah’s well-being in mind, he did this so he could gain better access to her and any possible information she might know. Years later, when Cade and Savannah meet up again because of the present case resembling the previous actions the serial killer made, all Cade and Savannah’s conversations resolve around Cade slut shamming Savannah for being involved in a sex-cult, he does this continuously through out the novel.

While Cade eventually comes to the conclusion that his slut shamming stems from jealousy and that he probably should stop acting like a giant butt-face, never once does he apologize for his emotionally abusive behavior. To Cade, the means justify the ends, no matter what the circumstances.

~Unfortunate Implications – Mind Rape: At the Beginning of the novel, the reader isn’t privy to the reason that Cade and Savannah broke up, the reason Savannah left the sex-cult and terminated the relationship with Cade because he violated her mind by forcing himself into her mind to see what information she might have possessed with relevancy to the serial killer, as I mentioned before, Savannah had no idea the guy was a serial killer and only found out AFTER the fact (when the case became public knowledge). So Cade destroyed a meaningful relationship with a nineteen year old for no reason. I would also argue that Cade was taking advantage of her, not just because he was an older police officer, but because he was using Savannah for information (I’m sure he cared about her, but there is no denying that he was using her for his case or that his case was the greater priority).

The HUGE problem here is that not only does Cade feel no remorse for his actions (he acts as if Savannah is “over-reacting” to the mind-rape), it’s only until Savannah, a werewolf of the Golden pack who have a history of strong telepathic abilities, tells him just how violating it felt to have him inside her mind against her will, but just how unethical it is, how there are rules and boundaries. Savannah and Neva often share telepathic conversations because they are strong telepaths and because they’re twins, but consent between them is obvious, they respect each others boundaries.

Even after Savannah has explained the how’s and why’s of mind rape, he apologies not because he feels horror or remorse for his actions (or the possible emotional and psychological damage he may have caused) but because he regrets the consequences of his actions (her terminating the relationship). The impression I got from Cade is that “this isn’t a big deal for me, but it’s a big deal for you, so I’ll make the effort to try”. It makes me wonder how many times he’s violated the minds of other people, it’s an especially scary thought seeing as he’s supposed to be a police officer and the good guy here…

~Abusive Romantic Interest – Cade Jones: If you somehow managed to read all of that instead of just skipping to the bottom (which is fair enough), I salute you. Now Cade Jones Sluts Shames Savannah and previously performed a Mind-Rape on Savannah (this should be reason enough to consider him abusive). He also proceeds to treat her like crap and acts like a giant butt-face in general because he thinks that if he’s an arse-hole long enough, Savannah will confess all the things Cade wants to hear (why do male characters think this way? It always backfires, especially in reality). Cade (an older police officer) also cohered a nineteen year old Savannah into making a moon-bond.

This is a magical bond thing that the werewolves of Ripple Creek share with their mates, but I have no idea why the female werewolves even agree to it in the first place as it can so easily be used against them in abusive ways, and Cade has no problems with using their “moon bond” against Savannah. And Savannah, as a police officer herself, tolerates this because… The sex is good? That’s literally the only reason I can think of. I have no idea what Savannah sees in him. Most importantly, it’s only after Cade is willing to pull his head slightly out of his own arse that the case begins to make progress.

In conclusion, any good points this novel might have are drowned out by the terrible misogynistic implications this novel has, it’s really confusing and depressing to read the glowing reviews for this book on goodreads, only to read it and realise all of this. I understand some readers will think I’m looking too much into it, but I’m happy with the label of over-analyzing.
Links:

~Your Child’s Virginity Is None of Your Business by Libby Anne

~The Truth About Slut-Shaming by Leora Tanenbaum

Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed In Blood
Title: Anna Dressed In Blood
Author: Kendare Blake
Social Media: Goodreads and Twitter
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates, Imprint for Tor Teen
Price and Format: eBook at $10.99
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

About The Author:
Kendare Blake is the author of several novels and short stories, most of which you can find information about via the links above. Her work is sort of dark, always violent, and features passages describing food from when she writes while hungry. She was born in July (for those of you doing book reports) in Seoul, South Korea, but doesn’t speak a lick of Korean, as she was packed off at a very early age to her adoptive parents in the United States. That might be just an excuse, though, as she is pretty bad at learning foreign languages. She enjoys the work of Milan Kundera, Caitlin R Kiernan, Bret Easton Ellis, Richard Linklater, and the late, great Michael Jackson, I mean, come on, he gave us Thriller.
She lives and writes in Kent, Washington, with her husband, their two cat sons (Tybalt and Tyrion Cattister) and their red Doberman dog son, Obi Dog Kenobi.

About The Book:
Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.
So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.
Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.
Yet she spares Cas’s life.

General Observations:
~Interesting Narrative: I really like the narrative situation, people die, there’s a massive plot twist and the lone-wolf main character figures out he’s an arsehole and needs friends, and it’s through the power of friendship that the “bad-guy” gets defeated (which I approve of). Speaking of the “bad-guy”, I’m glad that the author is mentioning different cultures, I felt the author could have gone into more details about Voodoo, but then again the narrative pacing is fast and keeps the reader on edge so there might not have been time for Voodoo 101 lesson.

~Engaging Characters: I loved Thomas, I just wanted to pick him up and hug him like the adorable puppy he is. I also liked how Carmel is included as a character, on the surface she appears to be the stereotypical Queen Bee, but she’s actually a good person and is nice to people, she even got a pretty good action scene as well (never underestimate the power of a metal baseball bat, even if you’re dealing with ghosts and whatnot). There’s also no love triangles at all, Huzzah!

~World Building: The setting Thunder Bay could have used some more description and world building, the reader was only ever exposed to four places: Home, Antiques shop, Anna’s Place and School. Thunder Bay is set in Canada but I honestly could not have told you that, but then again Australian media is so over-saturated with US orientated media, so most people assume that Canadian schools and schools from the US are exactly alike, and I don’t think that’s the case.

Overall, great book really enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series Girl of Nightmares

Wolf Strap and Silver Kiss by Naomi Clark

Wolf StrapSilver Kiss
Title: Wolf Strap and Silver Kiss
Author: Naomi Clark
Social Media: Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Price and Format: eBook at $6.60
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

About The Author:
Naomi Clark lives in Cambridge and is a mild-mannered office worker by day, but a slightly crazed writer by night. She has a perfectly healthy obsession with giant sea creatures and a preference for vodka-based cocktails. When she’s not writing, Naomi is probably either reading or watching 80s cartoon shows, and sometimes she manages to do all three at once.

About The Book (Wolf Strap):
When loner werewolf Ayla Hammond returns to her home town for her cousin’s funeral, she thinks the worst she’ll have to deal with is her prejudiced parents meeting her human girlfriend. But when the grisly truth about her cousin’s death emerges, Ayla finds herself facing a monster that shouldn’t exist. A monster even a werewolf might be powerless against.

About The Book (Silver Kiss):
Ayla Hammond has come home. After years as a lone wolf in a self-imposed exile she’s rejoining the pack and trying to mend fences with her parents. She’s convinced them to accept her girlfriend, but can a lone wolf change her ways? As if homecoming wasn’t hard enough, Ayla also can’t help getting involved in a missing person case. With pressure to solve the case mounting from the pack alphas, Ayla is starting to question where her loyalties lie – and if a return to the pack she left behind is really what she wants.

General Observations:
~Wolf Pack: Wolf Pack is a free downloadable EBook, however because of its short length I didn’t feel I could justify devoting a whole post, so I decided to review both books together. While you don’t have to read Wolf Pack and Silver Kiss in order, I highly recommend that you do.

~Cover Art: While I have no problems with Lesbian Werewolf Smut, the book doesn’t actually contain that much smut, maybe a couple of scenes which were well written but completely organic to the narrative. You all know the saying, don’t judge a book by its cover, which is especially true for Wolf Pack and Silver Kiss.

~Romance Sub-Plot: I loved reading about Ayla and Shannon’s relationship, both are interesting three-dimensional characters, the relationship drama while influential to the overall plot doesn’t take over the narrative and is relative to the story-line. To be honest, I think this is a great go to example of how to write a great werewolf/human relationship. Ayla is honest with Shannon about her Werewolf abilities (and family history) and Shannon is completely accepting of this and there’s no turning Shannon into a Werewolf against her will (the werewolf situation being genetic, thus making it impossible). While Ayla does need to be careful around Shannon because werewolves are physically stronger than humans, there’s no power dynamic at play here.

~Great Characters and Narrative: Shannon is a Private Investigator and she and Ayla work together to solve cases, which I love because I’m a big Crime/Mystery fan. I also love Ayla’s friends Joel, Vincent and Glory (especially Glory). There’s a Mystery to solved and Bad Guys to beat up (and yes Ayla kicks arse and it is good). What more could you want? And yes, I got a little teary at the end of Silver Kiss when all the characters are having a massive group hug, the feels got to me.

Overall, a great read, excellent writing and I’m looking forward to more in the series.

Queer Without Gender – Rec Post: Queer Fantasy

Dollhouse by Anya Allyn

Dollhouse
Title: Dollhouse (Book 1 in the Dark Carousel series)
Author: Anya Allyn
Social Media: Facebook and Twitter
Publisher: The Studio, a Paper Lantern Lit imprint
Rating: 4 out of 5
Format and Price: eBook at $4.21

About The Author:
A dreamy girl betwixt the clouds and space, she was given the thing she desired most for her tenth birthday–a microscope–and subsequently developed a penchant for small things: frogs and ants and microbes, and the earth (when viewed from other planets). She considers a mind and body that do not roam free are the living dead.

Anya lives in a house by the sea–and slips in and out of forests and through a day, where the wild things are. She has four adventure-seeking boys and a bookcase filled with adventures.Anya Allyn enjoys fiction that is a little on the dark side. Also, she enjoys Black Forest Cake just a little too much. She lives with her partner and four children, about an hour away from the Sydney (Australia) rush. She has previously worked as a Features’ Editor for Fairfax Media and in promotions.

She is the author of The Dark Carousel series and the Lake Ephemeral dark sci fi novel. Dollhouse, her first novel, was published by PLL in May 2014 (Lauren Oliver and Lexa Hillyer).

About The Book:
When Dress-up turns deadly…

When Cassie’s best friend, Aisha, disappears during a school hike, Cassie sets off with Aisha’s boyfriend Ethan and their best friend Lacey, determined to find her. But the mist-enshrouded mountains hold many secrets, and what the three teens discover is far more disturbing than any of them imagined: beneath a rundown mansion in the woods lies an underground cavern full of life-size toys and kidnapped girls forced to dress as dolls.

Even as Cassie desperately tries to escape the Dollhouse, she finds herself torn between her forbidden feelings for Ethan, and her intense, instinctive attraction to The Provider, a man Cassie swears she has known before. Because Cassie’s capture wasn’t accidental, and the Dollhouse is more than just a prison where her deepest fears come true—it’s a portal for the powers of darkness. And Cassie may be the only one who can stop it.

General Observations:
~Engaging Narrative: I was hooked from page one and had great difficulty putting it down, the plot was intriguing, the characters were believable and complex, everything all fitted together. I can’t wait to get started on Paper Dolls

~Location and Setting: It may seem a little biased, but I do enjoy the fact that, while the main character Cassie is an American from Miami (Florida), the story is primarily set in the Australian bush-land. The Dollhouse itself is super creepy with vivid descriptions.

~Romantic Conflict While I hate Love Triangles (it’s the principle of the thing), and this story did have one, it was handled surprisingly well given the narrative circumstances and it was used a genuinely good source of conflict and character development.

Overall, an excellent read by a talented Australian Author and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

TRIGGER WARNING: The following review contains discussion of rape/sexual assault and child molestation, please don’t read if those topics upset you or make you feel uncomfortable.

Bitten - Kelley Armstrong
Title: Bitten
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr
Publisher: Little Brown Book Group
Price: $11.99 (e-Book)
Rating: 1 star out of 5

About The Author:
Kelley Armstrong has been telling stories since before she could write. Her earliest written efforts were disastrous. If asked for a story about girls and dolls, hers would invariably feature undead girls and evil dolls, much to her teachers’ dismay. All efforts to make her produce “normal” stories failed.
Today, she continues to spin tales of ghosts and demons and werewolves, while safely locked away in her basement writing dungeon. She’s the author of the NYT-bestselling “Women of the Otherworld” paranormal suspense series and “Darkest Powers” young adult urban fantasy trilogy, as well as the Nadia Stafford crime series. Armstrong lives in southwestern Ontario with her husband, kids and far too many pets.

About The Book:
“I’ve been fighting it all night.
I’m going to lose …Nature wins out.
It always does.”

Elena Michaels didn’t know that her lover Clay was a werewolf until he bit her, changing her life for ever. Betrayed and furious, she cannot accept her transformation, and wants nothing to do with her Pack – a charismatic group of fellow werewolves who say they want to help.
When a series of brutal murders threatens the Pack, Elena is forced to make an impossible choice. Abandon the only people who truly understand her new nature, or help them to save the lover who ruined her life, and who still wants her back at any cost.

Before I get into the review, I would like to post up a few links first:
Laci Green – Consent 101
Queer Without Gender – The Thing We Don’t Talk About: Sex
How Male Sexual Entitlement Hurts Everyone by Jarune Uwujaren
Please go check those out before you read this review

**SPOILERS AHEAD**

Problems I had with The Narrative Structure and/or Plot:

~Romantic Plot Tumor: The blurb presents the book as an interesting urban fantasy novel about werewolves with a possible romance side-plot, instead it is a shitty romance novel with a small badly written werewolf side-plot. The relationship isn’t even interesting, they spend the majority of their time yelling/snarking at each other, followed by badly written angry-sex, I have no idea what they see in each other and if a Writer is going to devote the vast majority of the book to establishing this relationship, then the MC’s romantic sub-plot needs to be compelling.
Also, Adultery, one of my major pet-hates in a narrative, Elena was clearly not as interested in the human boyfriend (she kept having to be reminded to call him for fuck sake). If she really loved the human boyfriend she had, she would never have cheated on him (not once but multiple times) with Clayton. Narrative-wise, I have no idea why the human boyfriend was even there, for all the romantic interaction the two of them had, the human boyfriend could have been replaced with a close female work colleague/room-mate (and it would have made more sense). Stupid Pointless Love Triangles are not entertaining for me, especially when the MC whines continuously about how hard she has it, which she doesn’t.

~Status Quo is God: The characters don’t change or grow in anyway, Elena returns to her toxic and abusive “family” environment, breaks up with her human boyfriend and re-establishes her previously abusive romantic attachment to Clayton, The Pack don’t change or learn anything from this experience. Also Kelley Armstrong isn’t contributing anything new or interesting to the Urban Fantasy genre or the Werewolf Mythos, if anything I would consider Bitten a detraction. There were no emotional stakes involved nor did this novel defy any stereotypical expectations of a Hetro-normative Romance Novel.

~Badly Written sex-scenes: The first sex scene was so bad, I honestly thought the main character Elena was being raped, I do not tolerate rape in my romance novel, and when I read this scene I had to put down my Kobo (all the while trying not to vomit) and leave it for a few days. My problem wasn’t that she had experienced rape, my problem was that I couldn’t tell if was meant to be taken as rape, I kept asking my self “Rape or Bad Sex Scene? And if it is a Bad Sex-Scene, do I want to keep reading?”.
I should not have ask myself if that was rape or consensual sex, the Author is not supposed to leave any doubt, I should fucking know. And yeah, it was a bad sex scene, Elena and Clayton pretty much treated it like a drunken hook-up with an ex-partner, which is understandable (if not morally problematic), but as I said I should not have to think about it. It doesn’t help that before the reader even meets Clayton, Elena has built up in the reader’s mind that he’s a sociopath, that he can’t be trusted, that he is abusive and with that kind of build up, what was I supposed to think?

~Designated Villains: The Bad guys consist of a Pedophile (turned werewolf), a misogynistic serial killer (turned werewolf), a born-werewolf misogynistic creep that kills human women for shits and giggles (his motives were never really clear), and a Jewelry Thief. The Jewelry thief character is pretty much the saving grace of this novel, as far as I’m concerned he’s the only compelling/interesting character with believable motives. He is presented to the reader as a pragmatic wild-card with intelligence, yet in the last scene, he throws away his gun (which was completely out of character) and attacks his opponent (misogynistic serial killer) with his hands. Why? So Elena would have one final confrontation with MSK and win, thus proving she wasn’t a helpless female after all. Also if you have to make your villains pedophiles and serial killers in order to make your MC’s look better in comparison or more sympathetic, then your MC’s have shitty personalities.

~Unfortunate Implications: There are a lot of ethical problems with Bitten such as Internalized Categorism and Fantastic Racism. In fact, I would argue that Elena displays more internalized sexism and more misogynistic attitudes against women than Bella (Twilight) and Katniss (The Hunger Games). Elena went to college, she experienced at least some of the world, she knows what an abusive relationship looks like, yet despite knowing better, Elena returns to the previous abusive situation. What’s is really disturbing is how popular this book is and while on TV Tropes there are links dedicated to misogynistic and problematic examples in Twilight and The Hunger Games (see above), there are no such mentions on the Women of The Otherworld TV Tropes page

Problems I had With Characters:

~Elena: There’s a long list of Female Protagonist Problems:
-Female Misogynist: I feel that the author mentioning the fact that she was molested as a child was less about creating genuine conflict that had relevancy to the plot and characters, more about establishing how and why Elena hates women so much (her foster mother’s often ignored the fact she was being molested and didn’t do anything about the sexual abuse she experienced, thus all women are weak and inferior, especially in comparison to her all-male wolf pack).

-Unreliable Narrator: As a reader, I pretty much couldn’t trust anything that Elena said, internally or externally. For example, the reason she thinks her relationship with her human boyfriend was never going to work out was because he was too much like her father figure Jeremy (because pursing a relationship with a man who isn’t abusive and makes you feel safe is awful and just should not be considered), and while that may be one slice of the problems, it’s by no means the whole pie. The reason why the relationship with the human boyfriend was never going to work out was mostly because Elena pretended to be someone she wasn’t, then began to resent to guy because he didn’t see through Elena’s bull-shit. The other reason is that if The Pack had found out that Elena had told her human boyfriend about werewolves, The Pack would have hunted him down and killed him, which means in order to continue the relationship, Elena was always going to have to keep lying and continuing to keep secretes from him. Then there’s the “epiphany” she has at the end of the book about how she was never a passive damsel, she was always a “strong independent woman”, the werewolf condition simply brought it to the surface, which I translated into “I was always a bitch, the difference is now that I have super-powers and money, I can lash out whenever I feel like it.”

-Center of Romantic/Sexual Attention, Acts Completely Oblivious: Elena has almost every male in the book panting after her (with the exception of two or three, mostly because their father figures) and yet Elena describes herself like this,
Skimpy tops, stiletto heels, and barely there bottoms made me look like a coltish fourteen-year-old playing dress up. Nature didn’t bless me with curves and my lifestyle didn’t let me develop extra padding. I was too tall, too thin, and too athletic to be any guy’s idea of centerfold fodder.
And yet, she is described as physically beautiful by other male characters (and through a painting), I cannot understand the appeal, she’s a terrible person. In her defense, Elena at least possesses enough self-awareness to establish the fact that the Villain only wants her because he perceives Clayton as possessing her.

-Faux Action Girl: Just because a character is Athletic or likes to go to the Gym is not enough of a qualifier to be considered an active character. Elena might be physically active in the story but she is a passive character, she has no agency through out the novel (from vital decisions that affect her life in the pack, to the decoration of her bedroom, to access to clothing) and she doesn’t contribute anything unique or vitally important to the narrative, everything Elena did for the pack could have been done by someone else.

-Special Snowflake Syndrome: I find it very difficult to believe that Elena is the only female werewolf in existence. If it can happen once, it can happen again.

-I Just Want To Be Normal: To Wangst level proportions

-Werewolf Condition as a metaphor for Rape: Kelley Armstrong uses the Werewolf condition as a metaphor for Rape, it’s not something I agree with, but I can understand it. Elena’s parents were killed in a car accident when she was six, she was adopted by various foster parents and was molested by her various foster fathers. Elena eventually grows up, becomes physically stronger than her abusers and goes to college.
While at college, she meets Clayton, Clayton lies to her, turns her into a werewolf against her will and Elena states repeatedly that she felt violated for being forced into becoming werewolf against her will (and Elena has every right to feel that way). However, an author can’t use the werewolf condition as a metaphor for rape and then have Elena get back to together with her rapist at the end of the novel, it just doesn’t work and it’s a fucking horrible message.

Honestly, I could go on about all the Unfortunate Implications of Clayton (as a character) and The Pack. I could write an essay about it (one could argue I already have) and give presentations about this book, such as “Internalized Misogyny 101” lectures or “How Not To Write an Urban Fantasy Romance Novel” lectures. However a part of me strongly feels as though I have dedicated far too much of my time to this book, this book that people have the nerve to declare “Feminist” or “Progressive”

You keep using that word

This is “Better The Devil You Know” Anti-feminism, this is “an abusive but honest” policy with regard to romantic and family relationships, but this is NOT Feminist, This is NOT Progressive, this is Misogyny in a Mini-skirt, which makes it all the more dangerous.

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