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Nessa's Thoughts

Just a British girl who reads a bit too much.

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The Dead Zone
Stephen King
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Jean-Dominique Bauby
Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady
Samuel Richardson, Angus Ross
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Piper Kerman
The Cuckoo's Calling
Robert Galbraith
Dark Lover - J.R. Ward I remember a few years ago, being huddled around a table in the canteen, and talking about books with some of my friends. They were nigh on obsessed with this vampire hunting series, having bought all the books and swapping them between each other. I never got to borrow any copies (but then again I was kind of burnt out on vampires anyway), but the name did stick in my mind.Some months later, I asked one of these friends about the title of the books she loved, and she said they were part of a series called the Black Dagger Brotherhood. The title sounds kind of cool, doesn't it? Eventually I downloaded the e-book, and started reading it.I was howling four percent in. Reading this book was like watching a really bad crime thriller that wallows in its own grittiness and has stereotypical characters, like the grumpy detective, the shallow heroine who can't help but get herself in trouble, the devoted vampire bride whose husband just won't reciprocate her affections, and various other oddball vampires who just so happen to be purebred or highly-trained and thus, are more awesome than civilian vampires.Oh, the characters… Sigh… Oy vey, in fact.The aforementioned shallow heroine is named Beth. She works for a newspaper, and is described as being stunningly gorgeous. No, seriously, I mean it. J.R. Ward goes at length to make sure you know this. Beth has long black hair and perfect facial shape and lips made for kissing a man (seriously, J.R. Ward wrote this!) and a perfect figure: a short waist, long legs, and ample breasts. She finishes work at the beginning of the novel, and is almost raped by this utter berk. However, she's saved and she gets back to the apartment, and seems to freaking forget about almost being raped. She jitters for a moment or two, then has a shower, eats a ready meal, and plays with her cat. Yeah. In the morning, this guy called Butch (who she lovingly nicknames Detective Hard-Ass) rather objectionably demands to know how she got some of her superficial injuries from being assaulted. Beth eventually tells him, which leads us on to my other point about bad characters in this book.Being the daughter of a retired police officer, I can tell you that in most developed nations, the police generally don't beat the living tar out of suspects before making an arrest, which is exactly what Butch does to the guy who nearly raped Beth, even though the only evidence he has is a description of his appearance. Do you know why that is? Partly human rights, partly not living in a part of the world where police brutality doesn't really exist, and partly compensation culture! Yes, call it political correctness if you will, but I highly doubt Butch's policing skills. Beth even says early on in the novel that Butch's interrogation methods leave people in hospital. In hospital. Well, kudos to you, J.R. Ward, for perpetuating the stereotype that most cops are violent idiots who were probably bullied at school and now take out all their rage on criminals, because a badge and ID card now legally allows them to. And while this Billy Riddle kid who almost raped Beth confesses his crime the moment this hilariously over-the-top depiction of a hard-nosed police officer threatens to whack him in the privates so hard that he'll be 'pissing sitting down for a week', what would have happened if it was a case of mistaken identity? Butch would have egg on his face in the form of having his badge and gun taken away, and he'd probably be forced to pay out massively in compensation. When Butch finds Billy in the morgue later that afternoon, he threatens him and really physically abuses him. Grabbing him by the lapels, slamming him against the wall, slapping him around the head, and breaking his nose. Now, I'm not saying that Billy doesn't deserve this kind of punishment for his horrible crime, I'm just shocked that anyone would think any police investigation revolves around mercilessly beating up a suspect and apparently putting some of them in hospital! You know that tense interrogation scene in The Dark Knight where Batman interviews The Joker and slams his head into the table and throws him around the room and shakes him and slams him against the wall? That's a cool scene, but it's complete and utter fantasy! Butch took that type of good cop bad cop routine and amplified it, and it's fucking ridiculous.Did I mention all that happened barely 10% into the book? Boy, we are in for a ride.Now, let's look away from our human characters for a moment, and onto the vampires.First things first. The vampires all have absolutely ridiculous names. I mean it. Wrath is one of our main characters, and besides being described as what appears in my mind as the horrifying cross between Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z and Neo from The Matrix, he's at least… okay as a character. He's boring, but hey, we've got ridiculous names to talk about!1. Tohrment2. Rhage3. Phury4. Zsadist5. VishousThese all sound like names a really crappy DJ or band or artist would give themselves. (Speaking of that, there's mention of a band called 'Tomato Eater'. *facepalm*) Also, let's look at Zsadist's background, shall we? So, he's a tortured soul who enjoys pain. He's got tattoos and piercings all over the place, and he's heavily scarred because of his addiction to pain. So surely his name should be Mhasokhist?Of course, Beth isn't just there to look pretty. No, she has connections to the vampires, in that her father (Darius) has just been killed off via a car bomb, and lo and behold, he's a vampire! Her body is transitioning now she's come of age, I guess, and so the Black Dagger Brotherhood puts her under their protection. She begins noticing something's off, and then… there was the mother of all awful vampire sex scenes. I mean it. I'm no prude, but the writing was just hysterically awful, not erotic in the least. J.R. Ward seems obsessed with the shape of her characters' faces, with undulation and curvaceousness. Now, in this sex scene, Beth is rocked by a wave of lust when Wrath, a creepy looking guy dressed all in black leather, stalks into her apartment. Normal people would tell him to get out, call the cops, you know, be a bit freaked out. Not Beth! No, she quite happily lets the weirdo chomp on his cigarillo (which is not a sexy image in the least – it makes me think of some corrupt old oil baron), then close the distance between them, and yes, it all ends up in the bedroom. And if you thought the sex scenes in the Sookie Stackhouse books were bad... then look away now. Beth's breasts descriptively strain against her top, Wrath's John Thomas throbs like it has its own heartbeat, Beth's body undulates in a sexy wave... urgh, dear gods. If there was ever a time I wanted brain bleach, it was now.I mean, for gods' sake, when Beth decides halfway through foreplay that she doesn't really want to have sex after almost being raped the night before, like Khal Drogo from A Game of Thrones, he grumpily says 'no' to her refusal and continues anyway because he lusts after her so much. And Beth just lets him! OH-MY-GOD. -_-Also, the terminology and the metaphors and similes used in this book are utterly bizarre! Barely 20% into the book, we have a prostitute 'shaking her ass like it was a can of paint'. Dead sexy. Then there's a description of Wrath's abdominal muscles looking like someone had inserted paint-rollers underneath his skin. Because home improvement is, need I remind you, dead sexy. Another bizarre choice was the security at a mechanic's workshop being 'tighter than a tick'. Uh... tighter than a tick? I understand that ticks do clamp down something awful on skin (resulting in Mr. Tweezers meeting Mr. Tick), but that is a godawful comparison. The terminology is also a really big problem in this book. The reader occasionally gets vampire-specific lingo, such as shellan and doggan. If you're curious as to what they mean, well, basically a shellan is the permanent partner of a vampire, and bonded to them for eternity. A doggan is a servant of a higher-ranking vampire. And since the vampires in this book all seem to be rich, princely bad boys, they happily ignore their wives and make sure Fritz the butler knows his place every once in a while. However, the most major problem that The Black Dagger Brotherhood has in this regard is that those terms are not defined in the slightest. I had to go 'well I guess since shellans are kind of like wives then...' only much later in the novel do we get any kind of explanation about this vampire-specific language.Admittedly, TBDB has an interesting take on the vampire mythos. Rather than the Black Dagger Brotherhood feeding from humans to sate their appetites, they actually feed off each other. Human blood is their equivalent of junk food, in fact. It fills you up, but not for long. Being exposed to sunlight results in second and third degree burns before turning into ashes, and the vampires even have their own religion, where the Scribe Virgin is the embodiment of good, and the Omega is the embodiment of evil who creates soulless 'Lessers'. Interesting, but there are still some incredibly flawed things about this book.I also remember sitting back whilst reading this book and realising just how much of a sausage fest it was. I mean it. There are more than 10 men featured as protagonists, antagonists, or deuteragonists, and barely 5 female characters. Now, this isn't too much of a problem. I don't demand that the books I read have an equal balance of the sexes, it's just that the female characters are awfully written here, like some of them were just an afterthought. Beth is attractive and has no common sense whatsoever. I don't care that she and Wrath are fated to be together, but you do not let some creep come into your apartment and have his way with you because you're rocked by feelings of lust. The other female characters are underdeveloped wives, or prostitutes who wind up murdered. There's a smidgen of back-story to one of them, whose name is Mary, but otherwise, they're just cheap trollops who are there to dress provocatively and get killed for it. I barely got to know Wellsie or Marissa, two of the 'wives' of our main vampire characters, because there's little to no background information about them. Wellsie is pregnant and deeply in love with her mate. That's it. Marissa is mated to Wrath but breaks up with him when he gets serious with Beth and then her brother Havers is all like: “Hey, you ruined everything” and so she's upset and finds solace in Detective Hard-Ass, which comes completely out of nowhere, if only to break some vampire taboo.The pacing in this novel is also a major problem. Things seem to happen much too fast. Stuff like character relations, discovering vital plot information, getting over the shock of something... they all happen much too fast. And then we get distracted away from the main plot to focus on inane shit like Beth and Wrath having sex, Marissa and Butch having sex, and over the course of twenty or so bloody pages near the end, we have Wrath and Beth getting married. You know. Let's forget about this serial killer and his lackey, Billy Riddle. Let's get married in an impromptu ceremony, even though we didn't know each other from Adam two weeks ago!The ending is also as clumsy as Bambi trying to walk across that frozen pond. Far too much happens in the course of those pages, and there are several fake-outs which really got on my nerves. One of the Brotherhood is supposed to have betrayed them all, then oh no he didn't actually. One of the villains is killed, but the other one escapes after shooting one of our heroes and setting his dogs (pit-bull terriers, since of course that ugly stereotype will never go away) on another. Then there's a long and convoluted scene in the hospital, and a rather desperate grab for a sequel in the form of a certain character being resurrected from the dead. Eurgh.So, awful pacing plus badly-written sex plus terribly-written female characters in the middle of a complete sausage fest of vampires and humans who are ridiculous archetypes served to make this book a really bad experience for me. I'm told that this is just the first book in a fairly good series, and the fans even agree that this book is hardly liquid gold, but I do not care enough to get the sequels, based on this. I may give TV shows a three episode litmus test before dropping them (in case they do turn out to be amazing), but I am much less forgiving with book series. Sorry. 1/5.(This review is also available on my blog: http://book-wyrm.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/dark-lover-black-dagger-brotherhood-1.html)