A fantasy and scifi writer who has only her pen to beat back mundane existence and bring to life worlds with demons and dragons, where damsels do the rescuing.
As I work toward finishing my first novel, I write blogs, read books, and write reviews when I can. Oh, I'm also working on my PhD in American Postmodern Literature, in case all that other stuff wasn't enough to keep me busy.
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Smashwords book reviews by Amanda Rudd
on Sep. 08, 2011
Kait Nolan, known for her paranormal romance/urban fantasy novellas Forsaken by Shadow and Devil’s Eye (see my discussion of Forsaken by Shadow), has written a YA fantasy/paranormal romance called Red. And we are all grateful that she decided to branch out.
Perhaps you can guess from the title, though possibly not, that Red is inspired by the old folktale Red Riding Hood. The novel has been advertised with two different taglines: “Every fairy tale has a dark side…” (true, but not especially enlightening,” and “Once upon a time Red Riding Hood fell in love with the wolf. It ended badly.” Now that is a tagline you can sink your teeth into, yes?
This novel follows the story (part romance, part coming-of-age) of Elodie Rose (and I love that name by the way), the latest in a long line of women descended from the girl who inspired the Red Riding Hood tale. A curse haunts the matrilineal descendants, leading to madness and death for every successive generation. But, having reach the age of 17 safely, Elodie begins to hope she has escaped the curse. Until she suddenly begins to experience symptoms that mark the change, and she must admit to herself that she is becoming a werewolf.
Enter Sawyer, a young man with a temper, a protective streak a mile wide, and a troubled past. Sawyer, like Elodie, is not all that he seems. The two become fast friends, finding in each other a stability they have been unable to find elsewhere. Yet, just as it seems the two might become something more than simple friends, a hunter whose family has hunted Elodie’s line through the centuries appears to take her life.
Thrown into mortal danger, with only Sawyer by her side, Elodie must herself become the hunter in order to fight for her right to live. If she is to survive she must learn to trust herself and her strength, and accept the wolf as an integral part of who she is.
Having previously read and enjoyed Forsaken by Shadow (and already loving the concept of reimagining fairy tales) I approached this novel expecting to like it. However, I have (of late) begun to lose my taste for YA fantasy/paranormal romance, in large part due to Twilight and its many mimics, so I was also a little apprehensive. I need not have worried, however.
Kait Nolan takes a very old tale and turns into something fresh and entertaining. Elodie and Sawyer are both complex, interesting, and likeable characters. Sawyer is a great character — angry and a little brooding, fiercely protective, smart, and sweet, who despite his best intetions makes more than a few mistakes. But the true bright spot, and rightly so, is Elodie herself. She is intelligent and resourceful — perhaps a little moreso than is common in most 17-year-old girls, but Kait Nolan does a good job demonstrating why she is not your typical 17-year-old girl. Elodie is torn between her desire for a normal life, and her determination that she would take her own life before hurting anyone. And Kait Nolan is careful in presenting this angst in a way that is believable for a teenage girl with a lot on her shoulders without succumbing to melodrama.
I will admit that the whole romantic concept of instantaneous attraction, of that “they touched and suddenly all was right with the world” idea, gets a little old. It seems like the romantic elements in many YA fantasy tend be very similar and predictable. It’s a complaint I file against the whole genre and the expectations that most readers have for the genre. However, Kait Nolan does frame this concept nicely within the context of werewolf behavior, which helps alleviate some of the predictability. And overall the romance is evolves in a believable fashion, if somewhat quickly due to the time constraints of the plot.
All in all, Red is a very entertaining novel with good pacing and great characters that fans of YA fantasy/paranormal romance should definitely add to their reading list.
on Oct. 05, 2011
Claire-Obscure is about a young woman named Claire Caviness. It is written in first-person present tense. Here are the opening lines: “Dear Virginia Woolf, My name is Claire Caviness. I am twenty-one years old, with an English degree and a job at a bookstore. I am the only child of parents I rarely see. My mother has never hugged me. My father takes pleasure with men. I am no longer angry about that, but jealous, because he does something I cannot.” Claire writes letters to Virginia Woolf, telling the story of her life. She collects words as if she is desperately seeking the right word to make everything better (and accordingly, a word and it’s definition open each chapter). She buys and wears eccentric vintage clothes. We also quickly learn that as a teenager Claire was raped not once, but twice, and this is (unsurprisingly) the deciding factor in her relationships with men.
And as the book opens, she meets a man at an art gallery named Finn Weston. Quickly, more quickly than seems possible (to her or the readers), she moves in with Finn, fancies herself in love with him, and becomes increasingly obsessed with him as she realizes he will not sleep with her. He has gone so far as to give her her own room in his apartment, and he locks his bedroom door at night. From here, things get more and more strange. One of Claire’s friends kills herself, her female boss at the bookstore comes on to her, and she meets another man named Raoul at a club, who quickly places himself Finn’s rival.
Put simply, this book is the portrait of a woman in crisis.
What made it difficult for me to read, especially in the first half of the novel, is that I was continuously frustrated by Claire’s actions and choices. I understood that the things she did were in a variety of ways reflections of the immense damage done to her, but that didn’t make me any less frustrated. I wanted so badly to grab her by the shoulders, shake her really hard, and explain to her exactly WHAT she was doing, WHY she was doing it, and why it was the WRONG thing to do. Because most of the time, she really didn’t know. And because I am always extremely hyper-self-aware, I sometimes have difficulty staying calm when others aren’t. So, every twenty minutes or so, I would get frustrated, growl at my Kindle, and toss it on the bed. Then after a couple hours of this back and forth, I would give up entirely and not read again for a couple days. Which meant it was going to take quite awhile to get through the whole novel.
What I want you to take away from this, however, is NOT that this is a bad book. Rather, the fact that I was able to be so painfully frustrated with this character, should tell you something about how real Billie Hinton was able to make Claire. I felt for her, I didn’t want to see her get hurt, and I didn’t want to see her do stupid things. I was worried about her. I wanted to jump into the novel and be the one friend who could figure out how to stop her and help her.
The two main male characters, Finn and Raoul, were also interesting, fleshed-out, and complicated characters. But most of the time, I didn’t want to help them, I just wanted to smack them. Hard. If I tell you why, that will be giving too much away. If you read it, you’ll see what I mean.
So, the characters are real and human and interesting. The story, slow in parts, frustrating in others, and pretty intense towards the end, probably would not have kept me going if I wasn’t so invested in making sure Claire ended up some place better than where she started out (though, toward the middle, I was beginning to worry that I was reading a tragedy and hadn’t been warned). It sort of felt like walking someone home because you want to make sure they gets there in one piece. The ending, while not precisely “happy” in the traditional “and she lived happily ever after” sense, was satisfying. And I felt it was safe enough to leave Claire at her front door, about to go inside.
There is, as I discovered at the end of the book, a sequel called Signs That Might Be Omens. But I’ll be honest, as much as I ended up liking Claire-Obscure in the end, I’m not sure I’ll pick up the sequel. The ending of Claire-Obscure seemed complete enough, and I don’t feel a sequel is necessary. And the short description of the sequel sounds a little like something a fan-writer would do when they felt the girl didn’t end up with the right guy at the end of the book. I have no doubt this is a gross overgeneralization and is probably not fair to the sequel, and maybe I’ll give in and read it eventually, but it just seems unnecessary to me.