Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Book Review - Bitten

Bitten (Women of the Otherworld, #1)Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Perhaps I've grown a bit tired of the mostly-exposition books out there, now that I know more about writing (and good writing at that). I cannot say how many times I skipped ahead to the action - forget that, even some dialogue would have sufficed - in this book because I lost count. It was one long-ass info dump as far as I'm concerned. Shame on the author for what I consider "phoning it in." And shame on the editors and agent for not demanding more from this book.
I found this book (and the other books of the series) in the comments of a blog post asking for people's favorite urban fantasy books. They're apparently pretty popular, though based on this first book, I can't really understand why. Maybe they get better as the series progresses, but I'm a believer in first impressions, and this one was a limp handshake at best. Let's review my pet peeves, shall we?
- mixed verb tenses (sometimes in the SAME SENTENCE!) - I really can't stand this one. It's frustrating to read and distracting enough to pull me out of the story to wonder what the hell the author thought was okay with mixing tenses. Example: "That sounds worse than I intended." And it's not a thought, or at least there's nothing to denote it as thought. This one's a gem (it immediately follows): "What I meant was that he was accustomed to following the plans of others." More narrative, neither is dialogue, and beside not lending anything to the story, if the author feels like her character needs to explain herself with FURTHER narrative after narrative, there's something wrong here, people. Oh, wait, there's more right after that: "He was an enthusiastic lieutenant and a loyal friend, but he wasn't exactly -- how do I put this nicely -- not exactly a deep thinker." Okay, last time I knew, the hyphen used like this should add another little nugget of information and the sentence around it should make sense if it's taken out. As you can see, this hot mess does not make sense. Again with the mixed tenses. Again with the further explanations that do nothing for the story. Based on these things alone, I'm really to poke my eyes out with my red pen.
But, because I'm a glutton for lit punishment, I continued.
Something else about this book and plot that bothers me is that Elena is like the sun here: her world and the characters in this book completely revolve around her, and are only in the story to serve her and provide her with muscle. I don't give two shits about any of them - not Elena or Clay or even Prince Charming, pansy-ass Jeremy - and again, there's something inherently wrong with that, people. I read the entire book, and all I felt at the end was relief that I didn't have to listen to Elena's annoying narrative in my head or wonder why the eff none of these "wolves" ever felt the need to assimilate. I mean, really. You LIVE in the human world, but being polite and celebrating christian holidays escape them? Oh, but it's okay - they're independently wealthy, live on this big-ass estate where no one bothers them, and no one in town has ever confronted them about their weirdness or asked them why they don't pay taxes or support the community at all, or even interact? Methinks no, author. Notsofastmyfriend. The author throws in some half-baked attempt at answering those questions, but it falls short.
Suspending my disbelief for additional, precious minutes, I'm also concerned for Elena. See, she's like Smurfette in the Smurf village: the only chick in a world of horny, leg-humping doggies (or Smurfs, if you're still following my little imaginary analogy). Wolves, whatever. Don't even TELL me they haven't ALL tried to hit that. And that somehow Clay's the only one who's gotten any bootie from her. And that they're not all scratching the shit out of her bedroom door trying to get in. Uh-uh. Not buying it for a second.
The one thing that IS missing from this info-dump (and it is the ONLY thing) is a glimpse into Elena's mind when it comes to Clay. Okay, she says she hates him but they share this bond, but it just doesn't explain the manic way in which she treats him. Elena literally smiles at Clay and then slams a door in his face. They fight and then they hump. I'm dizzy. And not all that interested. You gotta make the crazy compelling at least.
My biggest gripe with this book is that it read like a book report. Look, this is something I'm still trying to learn, but I'd like to think that by the time I get my own book published, I will have at least cracked the treasure chest that is great writing, and will know how to inject emotion - gut-wrenching, unadulterated, mind-blowing, life-altering - into my story. I want to read the kind of book that changes my view on things. I want to believe that the author had his or her own life-changing moment and how could it NOT spill out onto the pages? I know. It might be a bit silly, but I've read books like that, and I want that every time I begin a new one. I expect the same from my own writing. It's asking a lot.
But I don't care.

P.S. I suppose someone might read this review and notice most of my others are rather critical, too. It's true that the more negative ones come more easily than the reviews full of praise, but when the book's fantastic, it stands on its own. What can you say in that case other than, "I love it."

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