When a book falls flat

I'm a voracious reader, in addition to being a writer. At the moment I'm piecing together a paranormal/science fiction romance mashup featuring shapeshifters. Cat shapeshifters, mountain lions to be specific. So I'm in devouring ("market research") mode.

Since I'm still waiting for the next Dark-Hunter book to show up at the library I settled on something my library actually has on the shelf, Savage Hunger by Terry Spear. It was my first official were-shifter book, and my first book by her. Sad to say I won't be reading anymore of hers, not even the sequel to Savage Hunger or A SEAL in Wolf's Clothing. (I have a thing for SEAL's, to the point where I could overlook the fact he's a werewolf instead of a werecat)

As a reader several things bugged me. The dialog was stilted, I never really connected with the characters, reactions to events weren't just wrong, but not there at all. The whole thing fell apart for me when she tried to bring in some PTSD elements, and utterly failed.

As a writer, I kept reading so I could figure out exactly where it went wrong and she lost me. So I did. I finished it yesterday afternoon.

It comes down to character motivation. It was there on the surface, but it didn't go deep enough. Connor didn't give Kat enough of a reason to stay with him. Maya, his twin sister, was childish and borderline annoying. Maya turned Kat into a shifter, and Kat never went through *any* of the stages one would expect to cope with what's happened to her. Especially in light of the fact she was suffering from PTSD, which I didn't buy one bit because it seemed like an afterthought.

Then there were the military pieces of the plot, which I also didn't buy. I'm no military expert, but I know my way around how things work. The setup Spear used, despite her time in the Army Reserves, is something I don't believe for a second could actually happen. Especially in Columbia. She had Kat participating in a drug cartel sting. The general Army doesn't do that. Spec ops does. And women aren't allowed in spec ops for very good reasons.

Going back to the dialog, it never sounded real. Then there was all the passive sentence construction, telling instead of showing, unsympathetic characters. This thing was set in the Amazon jungle and I never once *felt* like I was in the Amazon. The descriptions of the jungle were lackluster at best, and absent most of the time.

Sorry, Ms. Spear. I tried, but you didn't hook me.


Caught In Amber

Image courtesy of Cathy Pegau
Cathy's a fellow SFRB member.

The description for Caught in Amber attracted my attention when it came out earlier this year. The combination of science and crime fiction isn't one you see very often.

Took me awhile to get around to it though. *coughcough* Sherrilyn Kenyon *coughcough* (I know what I want for Christmas. My very own Acheron! And Nykyrian Quiakedes for my birthday.)

It didn't disappoint! I loved the noir feel of the book. Nathan Sterling, the hero, hit most of my hero buttons. Protective, dedicated, a good guy.

Sasha was very unique and not once did I find myself skimming her POV scenes to get back to him. Kudos to Cathy for getting my attention and keeping it! Not an easy thing to do.

What stood out most to me was the religion element in the book, the Revivalists. It played a key part in Sasha's backstory and in the world building. As a person of faith myself I love seeing futuristic takes on religion and matters of faith. Some modern SF authors ignore faith and religion entirely, as if they have no concept of how important faith and religion have always been to humanity. There's no reason to think that won't continue in the future. I really enjoyed having this element present in the world building. It gave Nevarro's culture a true sense of completeness.

Caught In Amber is set in the same world as Cathy's other two books with Carina Press, but Amber is the only one I plan to read. F/F romance does less than nothing for me. I already have a long history of severe dislike of books without his POV, so I've no interest in exploring a romance without a hero. But if I was willing to read F/F I wouldn't hesitate. If Cathy ever writers another M/F romance in this world I will buy it.