Homo floresiensis

Jun. 25th, 2017 04:58 pm
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
 ... has older roots than expected.  They were human, or at least hominids, but not Homo sapiens.

Sunday Yardening

Jun. 25th, 2017 04:06 pm
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Today is beautiful, cool, and breezy.

We checked the firepit after yesterday's Litha bonfire.  It had burned down almost completely, just a double handful of stubs to pick out.  Then we shoveled up the loose ash and wheeled to dump in the prairie garden. 
galacticjourney: (Default)
[personal profile] galacticjourney

by Gideon Marcus

I've been thundering against the new tack Editor Avram Davidson has taken The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction for several months now, so much so that I didn't even save what used to be my favorite magazine for last this month.

So imagine my pleasant surprise when, in synchronicity with the sun reaching its annual zenith, the July edition also returns to remembered heights. Of course, Davidson's editorial prefaces are still lousy, being at once too obvious in describing the contents of the proceeding story, and at the same time, obtuse beyond enjoyment. If there's anything on which I pin the exceeding quality of this issue, it's the unusual abundance of woman authors. It's been a long time, and their absence has been keenly marked (at least by me). For the most part, the fellas aren't too bad either. Take a look:



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)

Bayou Shadow Hunter by Debbie Herbert

Jun. 25th, 2017 06:00 pm
[syndicated profile] smartbitches_feed

Posted by Guest Reviewer

B-

Bayou Shadow Hunter

by Debbie Herbert
March 1, 2016 · Harlequin Nocturne
RomanceParanormal

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Ms G. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Paranormal Romance category.

The summary:

HOT, SULTRY, DEADLY… THESE ARE THE SECRETS THAT LURK IN THE BAYOU.

Bent on revenge, Native American Shadow Hunter Tombi Silver could turn to only one woman, the “witch” Annie Matthews, for help. Her ability to hear auras had allowed her to discover Tombi’s friend mystically trapped by forces that could destroy them all. The accompanying message of a traitor in their midst meant Tombi could trust no one. Dare he bring Annie along on his quest to fight shadow spirits? Putting his faith in someone outside his tribe, especially one who pulled at his tightly controlled desires, could prove just as dangerous as his mission…

Here is Ms. G's review:

I haven’t read a paranormal romance in a long-ass time. I binged and then got sick of vampires and werewolves. However, whilst scrolling through the open options on the RITA spreadsheet, I came across a book called Bayou Shadow Hunter. Damn if that shit didn’t sound either fucking awesome or batshit crazy. Since it is a paranormal without bizarre creatures, I decided to give it a shot, and I ended up enjoying myself quite a bit.

Annie Mathews is a Hoodoo witch with magical auditory powers that not only allow her to hear like a roided-up bat, but also listen to other people’s auras in the form of music. Annie fucking hates her gift because all the constant auditory input makes it nigh impossible for her to person IRL. All she wants is for her Grandma Tia, the Hoodoo Queen of Alabama, to help her get rid of it. Annie has been coming to stay with Tia in Bayou La Syrnia every summer since she was a kid, but Tia can’t/won’t help Annie ditch her gift.

One night, while trying to fall asleep Annie notices a glowing green orb floating outside her window, and she decides to Nancy Drew it. Turns out the orb is a will-o’-the-wisp and it leads her into the Bayou. Wisps are trapped spirits of the dead, and this particular one is named Bo. He can only talk to Annie because of her gift. He wants Annie to tell his BFF, Tombi Silver, that there is a traitor in Tombi’s inner circle and Tombi shouldn’t trust anyone.

Of course as soon as Bo finishes delivering his cryptic message, who should step out of the woods but Tombi! Tombi is a carpenter by day and the leader of a group of Choctaw warriors who run around the Bayou freeing trapped spirits and fighting evil by night. He has pretty full plate.

The second these two clap eyes on each other, they catch a raging case of insta-lust. They are also kind of suspicious of each other because, you know, the whole total strangers in the dark thing. After they spend a few minutes feeling each other out (verbally) Annie delivers the message from Bo. She also explains her gift to Tombi.

Though Tombi is intrigued by Annie’s gift, he’s also suspicious as fuck. See, besides releasing the souls trapped inside wisps, he and his warriors are also looking for a way to stop the evil spirit, Nalusa, that their ancestors trapped in the Bayou. Hurricane Katrina not only took Tombi’s parents and his home, but it also fucked shit up so bad that Nalusa started gaining power and running amok. Tombi and his warriors are desperate to keep Nalusa confined to the Bayou because not only can this son-of-a-bitch shapeshift into a creepy-ass snake, and other horrible things, but he can also infect the minds of the living and bend them to his will and drive them to kill themselves. So when Annie tells Tombi that one of his most trusted friends is a traitor, he half thinks that she is under the control of Nalusa and spends a most of the rest of the book trying to decide whether he can actually trust her.

Annie is kind of fascinated by Tombi because not only is he hot AF, but she cannot hear his aura. Yep. It’s reverse Twilight. Turns out that being a shadow hunter means that you have a very particular set of skills, such as night vision and the ability to control how much energy you release into the world.

Despite being wary of Annie and her message, Tombi still feels the need to look into this whole traitor kerfuffle. He wants Annie to come and creep on the auras of his friends. At first Annie is all “Hell no. I want none of your evil snake monsters.” However, Tombi tells her he can teach her to control her energy field which might help her learn to turn off her gift. The prospect of being rid of her super hearing is too good, so Annie agrees.

This book has A LOT of plot, so for the sake of brevity I’m just going to say that Tombi’s plan doesn’t work out so well, straight up because of his trust issues and rather magnificent dumbfuckery, and all the shit hits all the fans.

Show Spoiler
Annie totes identifies the traitor (his other bestie) but Tombi doesn’t want to believe it and disregards her. Basically, Tombi is a fuckwad who should have listened to the outside consultant that he brought in because doing so would have solved almost all of the problems that arise in the rest of the story, but hey, that would have been a much shorter and less angsty book.

They spend the rest of the book hunting wisps, trying to figure out how to fight Nalusa and, attempting to suss out the traitor. Of course, all this intrigue and danger is just bursting with sexual tension and they end up boning like bunnies. And in the grand tradition of the majority of romance novels that I’ve read, Annie falls hard and knows it while Tombi has trust issues and manfeels he doesn’t quite know what to do with. Besides, he has a sacred duty to fight evil and love makes you weak so…. Anyways, it all works out OK. Evil is smushed back into a tree, Annie owns her power, Tombi figures out his manfeels, and love and weddings and shit.

I really enjoyed Bayou Shadow Hunter. There were a lot of things that I liked; however, there were also a lot of things that kind of annoyed me and took me out of the story. Granted I am a nitpicky motherfucker, so the things that bothered me might not phase other readers at all. I am willing to admit I tend to overthink. Especially about books that are set during my lifetime. I ended up having a lot of feels, so I figured the best way to break this down was to make a list (I am a BIG fan of lists) of what worked for me and what didn’t.

Things That Totally Worked for Me

– The plot is crazy interesting and compelling. There is a lot of it, but it is paced pretty well. Not too bogged down in detail or slower moments, and not too rushed or so action packed that there was no room for character development. Now it wasn’t quite I-can’t-put-this-book-down-or-I-might-actually-go-crazy good, but it was damn!-I-am-so-curious-to-see-what-happens-next good.

– I loved the setting. Debbie Herbert does a good job at giving the reader a really concrete sense of place. Her descriptions of all of the natural elements of the Bayou are lush and detailed without going complete Anne of Green Gables with the adjectives. As someone who has spent the grand total of a whole week in NOLA, I found the constant mention of mosquitos and being bitten by mosquitos to be very authentic. Though, no one ever mentions bug spray which I found disquieting.

– The main character’s total acceptance of each other’s cultures. Now, I don’t know much of anything about Hoodoo or Choctaw religious practices, but in the book there is a decent amount of overlap between the two. However, neither Annie nor Tombi ever prioritized their rituals or practices above the other’s. In fact, they were usually willing to try both or blend the two together figuring the more firepower they had in the fight against evil the better. In this era of what seems like constant religious conflict and judging, it was really nice to have two supportive people who were like “Yeah, your thing is totally cool. You do you.”

– Annie’s super hearing is really interesting. I’ve never come across paranormal auditory powers before, so for me this was a cool and unique gift. I could also see how it could be a total pain in the ass and why she was so desperate to get rid of it. As a reader I found the constant whining she had at the beginning of the book to be a little grating, but if I’m being honest with myself, if I were in her shoes I would probably be waaaay more of a sad sack.

Things That Kinda Worked for Me, but I Wish Were Better

– The world building in the supernatural realm is pretty good and vivid. There are some basic rules and people follow them. I am persnickety however, and just wanted a little more explanation. For an example of extreme persnicketiness, the shadow hunters free wisps by hitting them in the center with stones. Does it have to be stones or could any projectile work? I am sure that most people won’t care, but rocks were specifically mentioned enough that it got me wondering. Also, Grandma Tia is kind of an all knowing badass. She can suck demon-snake poison out of people and come out the other side alive. She also seems to know a whole lot about Tombi’s secret fight against Nalusa and about how and he and Annie they are destined for one another. How does she know this? Do the spirits tell her? Does she have visions? Grandma’s intuition? This inquiring mind needs to know! I mean all the stuff with Grandma Tia was cool and very convenient plotwise, but it all kind of felt Hoodoo hand-waved, which stuck out because Herbert took time to explain the mechanics of a lot of the Hoodoo rituals.

– I want more backstory on Annie. We learn that Annie is known as “Crazy Annie” in her home town up in Georgia. How did the whole town find out about her gift? Did she ever tell other people? We are left to assume that as a kid hearing shit all the time meant she acted weird, but I am hella nosey and wanted more info. Plus, we are told that Annie’s mom is awful and does not do well with Annie and her magic powers, but it is just talked about and never shown. The rejection from her town and her mom is a huge part of Annie’s character make-up and explains why she is such a shrinking violet at the beginning of the book, and I would have liked a little more explanation into her past.

Also, Tombi’s cultural heritage is a huge part of who he is. Annie is Cajun, Native-American and Caucasian, but her heritage(s) (beyond Hoodoo which in my understanding is more religion than heritage but I could be mistaken) is barely mentioned. I cannot tell if this an intentional choice to show that her past doesn’t mean anything to her, or if it was just lost in all of the paranormal stuff and plot, or whatever, but it kind of bothered me.

– I am very meh on both of the main characters. Their flaws and motivations make sense given their what we know of their backstories. Tombi is fighting an evil demon that controls people, so his trust issues, while rather prolonged, are not unfounded. Annie has had very little support and can’t do much of anything because she is constantly trying to filter out noise, so her desire for quick fixes for her gift and tendency to just bounce when the going gets tough, while a bit grating, make sense. Usually (I’m looking at you Tombi) neither one was Too Stupid To Live, which is nice. They were both just kind of broody and angsty a lot, which used to thrill me when I was a teen, but I now I like it when my heroes have their emotional shit together a little bit better. I was totally fine hanging out with both of these people for a whole book, but I just didn’t love either of them.

Things That Annoyed The Ever Lovin’ Dickens Out of Me

– PROTECTION!!!!!!! This is one of my biggest pet peeves: if you are going to set your novel in modernish times (I have no idea what year this is supposed to be taking place. Cell phones are used a lot, but no one even mentions the internet so . . .?) then your grown-ass characters should not be having unprotected sex! Protection and/or birth control is never even mentioned. No condoms. No “I’m on the pill.” No “Don’t worry baby I will pull out.” which is bullshit, but still would at least show they are aware of basic biology. NOTHING!! They just keep going at it like irresponsible twits.

I find this kind of hard to believe since when they started going to pound town Tombi was actively avoiding emotional entanglements. You know what’s emotionally entangling Tombi? A baby. And syphilis. Also, you know that Annie, working with the Hoodoo Queen of Alabama since she was knee high, has seen women showing up to Grandma Tia’s for various reproductive reasons. Girlfriend should know better. Especially because they both have been sexually active before. Unless one of a shadow hunter’s particular skills is immunity to STIs, protection should have part of the sexy times. There is no reason modern characters to be sexually irresponsible. It actually pops me out of the narrative and makes the sex scenes way less sexy because you know what is not hot? Genital warts.

– The secondary characters are barely flushed out. Tombi’s twin Tallulah gets an okay amount of page time and motivation for her actions (she is also the heroine of the sequel) but all the other warriors are barely mentioned. Like we get their names and some jobs and maybe an adjective but other than being potential traitors, they are pretty much just filler.

Show Spoiler
Even when we do find out who the traitor is, it has no emotional impact at whatsoever because we have no idea who this person is or why they go dark. It’s just like, “Surprise bitches! I’m a jackass! And now I’m going to fuck all of y’all over and be an evil rapey dick.”

– Probably not a big deal for most readers, but after I put the book down and thought about it for a minute this drove me crazy. The shadow hunters spend a week camping in the woods every month. The week after the full moon is the time when the supernatural is extra frisky, so that’s when they hunt. However, these guys have jobs. One dude in the inner circle is the local sheriff. Tombi’s sister works at a museum. How do they disappear into the woods for a week once a month and still hold down their jobs? Especially the sheriff. Tombi is self-employed, so he can peace out for twelve weeks out of the year I guess. It’s never made clear how many shadow hunters there are, only that not everyone in the tribe can be one. Overall, it’s not a huge thing, but I am detail oriented and I want to know how they manage to incorporate shadow hunting into their daily lives. Do they rotate shifts? Is there a schedule!?! An age limit? What are the mechanics of fighting evil in today’s fast paced world?

I think I would give this book a B-. Even though there were quite a few things that got my dander up I was very engaged and interested in what was happening throughout the story. Also, I was being a bit more critical than usual since I’m reviewing this book. If I was reading this book just for funsies I probably wouldn’t have been as critical. So if you just want a fun fast read, if you are into paranormals that are not vampires and werewolves, and enjoy books with a firm sense of place I think this could be an enjoyable book.

"One big Donald Trump AIDS"

Jun. 25th, 2017 02:34 pm
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

As I've observed several times over the years, automatic speech recognition is getting better and better, to the point where some experts can plausibly advance claims of "achieving human parity". It's not hard to create material where humans still win, but in a lot of ordinary-life recordings, the machines do an excellent job.

Just like human listeners, computer ASR algorithms combine "bottom-up" information about the audio with "top-down" information about the context — both the local word-sequence context and various layers of broader context. In general, the machines are more dependent than humans are on the top-down information, in the sense that their performance on (even carefully-pronounced) jabberwocky or word salad is generally rather poor.

But recently I've been noting some cases where an ASR system unexpectedly fails to take account of what seem like some obvious local word-sequence likelihoods. To check my impression that such events are fairly common, I picked a random youtube video from YouTube's welcome page — Bill Maher's 6/23/2017 monologue — and fetched the "auto-generated" closed captions.


Here's an example that combines impressive overall performance with one weird mistake:

5:07 Mitch McConnell says he wants a vote
5:10 before the 4th of July when Trump voters
5:13 traditionally blow their hands off
5:19 oh the fourth of July hey summers here
5:24 boy it was real Beach weather in Phoenix
5:26 the other day did you see that it was
5:28 122 122 plains could not take off hey
5:34 climate deniers
5:36 if melting IceCaps and rising oceans and
5:40 pandemics aren't enough to scare you not
5:42 being able to leave Phoenix that should
5:50 work

I'll give the machine a pass on "summers" instead of "summer's", and we can ignore the issue of "oh" vs. "ah", and forgive the hallucinated "work" at the end — but "plains could not take off"? In Psalm 114:4 the mountains skipped like rams, but not even then did the plains take off.

A bit later:

6:32 but speaking of solar Donald Trump broke
6:36 some news at the rally that the wall you
6:39 know the wall between us and Mexico it's
6:41 going to have solar panels on he said it
6:43 was his idea solar battles okay so the
6:47 wall which is never going to be built
6:49 which Mexico is never going to be paying
6:52 for which now has imaginary so propels
6:56 on because if it's one big Donald Trump
6:59 AIDS it's fake news

So the system got "solar panels" right the first time, but then heard "solar battles" and "so propels". In fairness, Maher kind of garbles the last one into something like "solar pels":

But still, I don't think anyone in the audience heard "so propels".

And then at the end, "if it's one thing Donald Trump hates it's fake news" get turned into "if it's one big Donald Trump AIDS it's fake news":

In that case, I don't hear any acoustic phonetic excuses. And surely "one thing Donald Trump hates" is a priori a more probable word string than "one big Donald Trump AIDS"…

I don't know which generation of ASR Google is using to generate YouTube captions. But it's possible that this sort of thing is an example of the sometimes-peculiar behavior of RNN language models.

This week in writing, 6/25

Jun. 25th, 2017 06:23 pm
dira: Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier (Default)
[personal profile] dira
Not a particularly epic word count, but !!!!!

WIPs currently active: 4, because I finished Slavefic #5!!!

Words written this week: 7,711 

WIPs that got no words this week: 3 - broken dick epic, Born in the Blood, sequel to “Ring the Bell Backward", for the second week in a row. RELENTLESS FOCUS ON STUFF THAT NEEDS TO GET FINISHED. (But I am def gonna finish my RBB fic TODAY, so this coming week will involve blowing the dust off these and getting back to work and DEFINITELY NOT STARTING ANYTHING NEW YET UNLESS I REALLY REALLY WANT TO REALLY BADLY. ahem.)

WIPs that did get words this week:

Slavefic #5 (THE DRAMATIC REUNION): 3,267, and DONE!!! Just waiting for beta and propitious timing to post–should be all out by July 4th!!! :D

Dragon!Bucky/Tribute!Steve Cap Reverse Big Bang Story: 4,444, and FINISHING TODAY I MEAN IT! Posting date is June 30th!!!!

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Half-Price Sale in Polychrome Heroics

Jun. 25th, 2017 12:51 pm
ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Today is the last day of the half-price sale in Polychrome Heroics.  I've had a little activity, but so far it has centered on things not listed on the sale page.  

However, [personal profile] ng_moonmoth has a pool going with primary interest in "The Place Where the Journey Begins" and "We Are All Related," and secondary interest in "Uncertain Miracles."  If you plan to sponsor anything today, I recommend checking there first to avoid duplication.

All previously sponsored poems have been posted.

Why My Wife is Amazing, Part 73,592

Jun. 25th, 2017 04:05 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Conversation between me and Krissy yesterday:

Me: With all this bullshit around health care, and the possibility of pre-existing conditions and insurance caps coming back, we should probably look into supplemental insurance.

Krissy: I got us supplemental insurance years ago.

Me: You did?

Krissy: Yes. I even have policies for very specific things.

Me: Like what?

Krissy: I have an insurance policy on your hands.

Me: My hands?

Krissy: You’re a writer. You use your hands. If something happens to your hands, it’s a problem. We’ll need to pay for someone for you to dictate to.

Me: You’ve insured my hands.

Krissy: Yes.

Me: I’m not going to lie. That’s literally the sexiest thing you’ve said to me this whole damn month.


[syndicated profile] smartbitches_feed

Posted by Amanda

Prudence

Prudence by Gail Carriger is $2.99! This is part of 3 pages of Kindle Daily Deals, which also includes books like Bossypants and Misty Copeland’s memoir. This book is the first book in her Custard Protocol series and Carrie gave it a B-:

The best and worst thing I could say about this series is that it’s very much like Carriger’s other series. It’s the worst thing in that there’s not a lot new in here except that it seems to be a series that gets us out of alternate universe England and into the rest of Empire. It’s the best thing because honestly Carriger’s world and style are just pure yummy candy. If you give me a five pound bag of M&M’s, it’s not like I’m going to get to the bottom and say, “Gosh darn it, this is still M&M’s!”

ON BEHALF OF QUEEN, COUNTRY…AND THE PERFECT POT OF TEA.

When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama (Rue to her friends) is given an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female would under similar circumstances — names it the Spotted Custard and floats to India in pursuit of the perfect cup of tea. But India has more than just tea on offer. Rue stumbles upon a plot involving local dissidents, a kidnapped brigadier’s wife, and some awfully familiar Scottish werewolves. Faced with a dire crisis and an embarrassing lack of bloomers, what else is a young lady of good breeding to do but turn metanatural and find out everyone’s secrets, even thousand-year-old fuzzy ones?

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The Duke and the Domina

The Duke and the Domina by Jenn LeBlanc is 99c at Amazon! It’s possible this deal is on its way out, so snag it while you can. It’s also filled with lots of catnip: time travel, a Dominatrix heroine, a marriage of convenience, and for those playing Ripped Bodice Bingo, it has a broke hero! This is the third book in the Lords of Time series, and I think it can be read as a standalone, but someone please correct me if I’m wrong.

He’s poor. She’s rich.
He’s a sub. She’s a switch.
It’s not love.
It’s a marriage of Kink-venience. 

Grayson Danforth, Duke of Warrick, was banished from England by his father when his propensity for pain was discovered. The only reason he returned was because his father and two older brothers were killed, requiring him to take up the title. His honor has him bound to the contracts meant for his brother—including a marriage—but first he has to meet his bride.

Lulu—a professional dominatrix—was in a scene with a client when she tripped and fell, waking up in a strange house in a strange world with no idea what to think. She’s either part of an elaborate scene for another client or it’s all just a dream. But the man she woke up to…he makes her want to live in the dream forever. When she’s given the choice to run and hide or complete the contract for marriage to Warrick, she chooses the latter. She can’t help the way she’s drawn to this beautiful, powerful, man and the secrets she can see he’s hiding beneath his cross façade.

Warrick knows Lulu’s secret—even if she doesn’t believe it—and he knows that marrying her will be the best way to keep her safe. But Lulu stirs something deep inside that he’s worked for years to hide. When Lulu realizes his masochistic tendencies it’s up to her to force him to let down his domineering guard and submit. He needs to learn that what he wants, what he yearns for is not only beautiful but something she can give him but getting him to submit is a task that won’t come easily to either of them.

As they begin their dance of husband and wife can two people who’ve never known trust or love learn to submit to each other? 

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This book is on sale at:

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Illuminae

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is $1.99! This book has been recommended by a couple readers in the comments around the site. It’s about a couple who breaks up before the planet is destroyed. The entire book is told, epistolary-style, through texts, emails, and other documents. Some people found the epistolary format rather annoying, while others highly recommend it on audiobook. Have you read it?

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

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Shadow Magic

Shadow Magic by Patricia C. Wrede is $1.99! This is a fantasy novel first published in the early 80s and is the first book in the Lyra series. Some found the first installment a littler boring, but say that the series gets better with each book. For those who have read it, what do you think?

Alethia listens as her father Braca questions heir Har and friend Maurin, back from Lyra borders where other caravans have disappeared. Her mother Isme has a bad feeling. The night of her twentieth birthday party, Alethia is kidnapped by enemy Lithmern, led by a man with no face, and a body of black smoke.

But the woods are protected by Wyrd, small furry archers, and Ward-Keeper mage Jordet, of the tall silver-haired Shee. Soon the Noble House of Brenn must decide whether to ally with mythical races, including the sea-dwelling Neira. While the other eight Noble Houses squabble, the evil Shadow Men rise, and seek the five lost treasures of Alkyra that used to unite the four races.

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Bayou Shadow Hunter by Debbie Herbert

Jun. 25th, 2017 02:00 pm
[syndicated profile] smartbitches_feed

Posted by Guest Reviewer

C

Bayou Shadow Hunter

by Debbie Herbert
March 1, 2016 · Harlequin Nocturne
RomanceParanormal

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Dominika. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Paranormal Romance category.

The summary:

HOT, SULTRY, DEADLY… THESE ARE THE SECRETS THAT LURK IN THE BAYOU.

Bent on revenge, Native American Shadow Hunter Tombi Silver could turn to only one woman, the “witch” Annie Matthews, for help. Her ability to hear auras had allowed her to discover Tombi’s friend mystically trapped by forces that could destroy them all. The accompanying message of a traitor in their midst meant Tombi could trust no one. Dare he bring Annie along on his quest to fight shadow spirits? Putting his faith in someone outside his tribe, especially one who pulled at his tightly controlled desires, could prove just as dangerous as his mission…

Here is Dominika's review:

I was really hoping to like this book. I wanted to write a review that was filled with lots of squee and happy rainbow unicorn gifs because that would have been fun to write. In retrospect, I was being overly optimistic since I am not typically a paranormal romance reader and rarely feel such adoration for the subgenre. This book did not leave me with warm and fuzzy feelings after the HEA. I found the entire journey to the HEA underwhelming. This lackluster reading experience is partly due to my extreme pickiness as a reader. There are specific tropes and character dynamics that I find satisfying in my romance novels, and this book featured none of those. In fact, it was full of a lot of my personal turn-offs.

Our heroine is Annie, a young woman with the special ability to hear other people’s auras. I think she has some kind of super hearing in general since it’s mentioned at some point that she can hear the ocean’s tides from far away. She is visiting her Grandma Tia in the South Alabama town of Bayou LaSiryna. Annie is desperate to be rid of her extrasensory ability, and she hopes her grandmother’s hoodoo powers might help her with that. I sympathize with Annie’s frustration. It’s annoying enough to get a random song stuck in your head; I can’t imagine how I’d deal with the din of every single person’s unique musical aura along with the magnified sound of every cricket and gust of wind. The hero is Tombi, a local Choctaw Indian and a supernaturally gifted hunter of evil spirits. He enlists Annie’s help to fight the local shadow spirits of the bayou in exchange for helping her learn how to control her magically magnified hearing. It’s an ok enough premise and I went into the book ready to suspend a certain amount of disbelief. The execution of this premise, however, did not work for me.

I knew I was in trouble on page one of chapter one after reading this sentence: “The forest beckoned with its thick canopy of trees draped in long tendrils of Spanish moss that fluttered in the sea breeze with a silver shimmer like a living veil of secrecy.” When I eventually get to the sex scenes, genitals are referred to as “his manhood,” stirring “loins,” and her “womanly core.” Perhaps these phrases make you want to pick up this book. Maybe that is a writing style that works for you as a reader. If you enjoy phrases like “weeping whistles of warring hope and despair,” this might be the paranormal romance for you. This writing style fell flat with me. I tend to prefer brisk action and sharp, witty dialogue. I’m not as big a fan of borderline florid descriptions of nature.

I won’t bother going into too much detail about the plot surrounding the supernatural big bad because I found that predictable and tame. The key to defeating the main villain (a shape shifting, misery loving snake beast named Nalusa) involves some kind of magical flute and Annie’s newfound hoodoo powers and the power of love or something and I just couldn’t bring myself to care because what the hell was I thinking when I picked a paranormal romance to review. When reading about the shadow hunters chasing down wicked wisps in the bayou, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the descriptions of people creeping through the woods at night with slingshots. I imagined the hunters throwing rocks at swamp gas and communicating with hand signals in the dark and felt more amused than enchanted by some of the supernatural elements.

Another thing that did not work for me was the reliance on inner monologue as exposition (more telling than showing). I got through the book with a combination of reading and listening to a chunk of it on audio book. The inner monologue felt particularly awkward when listening to the supernatural action scenes. When our main couple first runs into Nalusa, I was listening to Tombi’s inner monologue about Annie’s trustworthiness/Nalusa’s rise to power after Hurricane Katrina and thinking “just attack the stupid snake beast already.”

I never really enjoyed this book because I kept finding things to be persnickety about. Heroine overreacts to the hero telling her to sit down and claims that she doesn’t get ordered around like a dog. Native American music and history is referred to as “primitive” or a “simpler, more natural past existence.” Hero is terse, stoic, temperamental, and emotionally unavailable. Heroine is sweet and nurturing and has to convince the closed off hero that he wants more with her than just sex. Her ex-boyfriend was selfish and terrible in bed and sex with the hero is the best the heroine has ever had. The hero “probes” the “opening of [the heroine’s] womanhood” and I wonder if anyone has ever considered “probe” to be a sexy word. It’s just a long list of moments or tropes that do not appeal to me and add up to a mediocre reading experience.

In conclusion, this was not a book written for me. The things I was picky about might be the very reasons that someone else picks up this book and enjoys it. I considered backing out of the RITA review challenge altogether, but I figured that someone else might read my litany of turn offs and think, “That’s my catnip,” thereby making this review somewhat useful. As for a letter grade, how do you assign a letter grade to something so subjective as reading for pleasure? For the purposes of this review I’m going to go with a C grade since it wasn’t the worst written book I’ve ever read. It also wasn’t an amazing reading experience for me by any means. Bayou Shadow Hunter left me feeling “meh” and I probably won’t be reading tons of paranormal romance in the future.

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Jun. 25th, 2017 09:04 am
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