Fangirl Book Club Pick of the Month: “Demonic Dora” by Claire Chilton

Demonic Dora by Claire ChiltonEvery month, our book club votes on the book we will read for that month. January’s book was Demonic Dora by Claire Chilton. The following review is based on both verbal and online discussions.

Spoiler-­free Synopsis:

Sixteen year old Dora Carradine is something of a black sheep in her ultra-conservative family. Her father is a fiery televangelist, her mother a vapid, Stepford-like follower. Dora is subjected to exorcisms on a regular basis, her parents assuming that her snarky attitude is the work of the devil and his minions of evil. As the ultimate act of rebellion, Dora has been attempting to summon a demon lord. She eventually succeeds… in a fashion. The demon lord who appears in her closet is not quite what she is expecting. Young and handsome, Kieran’s family is at part of Hell’s higher echelons. The problem is, Kieron is not very good at being evil. When Dora’s fire-and-brimstone family take matters into their own hands, almost costing Dora her life, Kieron intervenes and whisks Dora to Hell—much to her delight. But things down below are not what she expects.

Fangirls’ Analysis:

January’s hostess chose this book it appeared to be dissimilar to what we’ve read before and it had good reviews on Goodreads. Club members voted for it because the premise sounded fresh and the synopsis had an element of humor that appealed.

What We Liked:

Overwhelmingly, club members’ favorite part of this book was a small, fuzzy, demon named Pooey. He brought to mind Winnie the Pooh’s Eeyore, if only for his continuously dejected demeanor. Full of snide, almost under-his-breath remarks, Pooey was a constant source of entertainment.

Humor was this book’s best quality. Dora and Kieron exchanged quips and one-liners that made several readers literally laugh out loud. It’s unclear whether the author intended this book to be satirical or not, but assuming that it is, club members greatly appreciated the references (i.e. the ninth level of Hell is reserved for “nasty book editors” and internet trolls bent on destroying authors’ hard work.)

What We Didn’t Like:

Demonic Dora had more than a few inconsistencies. When Dora arrives in Hell, the first demon she and Kieron come across can easily sense her humanity – her soul. The author seems to make a point of bringing this to the reader’s attention, but it is barely mentioned again except in passing. No other demons are able to sense her, at least not that the reader ever finds out. Some of the humor (things like snot and poop jokes) brought the book down from YA to middle grade, while much of the language and content would not be appropriate for a younger crowd. There are a couple of passages that seem to come out of nowhere, as if an incompetent editor had removed relevant passages that might have provided much-needed clarity.

Overall, this book received mixed reviews from club members. A few continued on to the next book, Deceased Dora, while others were less than impressed. Everyone was able to finish the book and it was a very quick read.

Fangirl Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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Review: “Chasing Ravens” by Jessica E. Paige

Chasing Ravens by Jessica E. PaigeA review by Amanda.

I received a copy of this book for free from Booktrope in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Chasing Ravens is a beautiful story, woven from folklore around a young girl searching for a place to belong. Anouk is a quiet, lonely girl forced to live with her snobbish aunt and disinterested uncle in a new village after the deaths of her parents and her beloved grandmother. A renowned healer, she had begun teaching Anouk to follow in her footsteps, telling tales of mythical creatures who live in the woods. The only thing that brings Anouk comfort in her new, unwelcoming home is walking alone in the woods, collecting herbs that her aunt sells at the market, and recalling her grandmother’s stories.

Accepting of her tolerable, if not exciting future, Anouk is shocked into action when her uncle strikes a deal to marry her off to the town drunk. Fearful and disgusted at the prospect of marrying a cruel man more than twice her age—one who may have been responsible for the deaths of his previous wives—Anouk throws caution to the wind and flees with only her dog, Pip, and a horse stolen from her uncle. Hoping that neighbors in her home village will find it in their hearts to take her in, she rides through the forest, unsure that she’s even going in the right direction. Forces beyond her control lead her to an unknown village, hidden in the woods, and what may be Anouk’s best chance for acceptance, friendship, and a future.

This story is written in the manner of one passing down a folktale to new generations. The reader gets a good sense of the landscape, the people, and the creatures, but in a simple, straightforward way. This is not Tolkien’s lengthy descriptions of the minutiae and rightly so. The author does a brilliant job of blending reality with the imaginary, familiar with the new. There are recognizable characters from folklore (like Baba Yaga) who have been featured in many stories across the world, and ones that I had not heard of before but caught my interest nevertheless. I could have read this straight through and finished it in a day, but chose to put it down and savor the story. I would eagerly recommend this book to lovers of fantasy, fairy tales, and folklore.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review of “Bet Me” by Jennifer Crusie

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie A review by Vanessa.

Calvin Morrisey never wanted to ask out Minerva Dobbs. Especially not when a client makes a ridiculous bet with him that Cal can’t charm Min out of her pants. To avoid the issue Cal bets he can get her to go to dinner… When Minerva Dobbs overhears her recent ex-boyfriend making a bet with gorgeous stranger Calvin Morrisey, she sees a way out. She needs a date to her sister’s wedding, and that bet means she might be able to string Cal along long enough to get what she needs. Namely, her mother off her back. However, after one disastrous date neither has any desire to see the other again. Enter fate… When Min’s sweet best friend Bonnie, and Cal’s clueless best friend Roger look like they are about to tip headfirst into love a little too fast, things change. The two decide they are each other’s best source for making sure their friends are not about to make a huge mistake. But what are the odds that Cal can resist Min’s frustratingly attractive spunk, surprisingly sexy curvaciousness, and her amazing shoes? How can Min resist Cal’s heart-stopping looks, genuine warmth, and his strange ability to be exactly what she needs when she needs it? With jealous exes, meddling friends, expectant parents, a crazy cat, chaos theory, Krispy Kreme donuts, and Chicken Marsala in the mix, they might just end up betting on each other, and a love that neither one of them was looking for.

Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me is a fantastic read just waiting to be rediscovered. Though the book is a decade old, the read is just as enjoyable today. Crusie does an amazing job of weaving the two main characters together in an engaging, believable world, with a cast of supporting characters that have a depth of their own. Falling in love with Cal and Min is easy to do, even while both of them are fighting it at every turn. The reader can’t help but cheer for these two characters, both of whom are flawed but entirely lovable. And while seeing their love story unfold is heartwarming and scintillating, reading about their friends, and enemies, will definitely keep the reader fully invested in their happiness. Not only is the story engaging, it is genuinely funny.

The dialogue is beautifully crafted, a hallmark of Crusie’s work. It maintains the believable nature of the characters, is the cornerstone of most of the humor, and creates such a voice for the story that the reader can almost hear the characters speaking. It’s like listening in on an interesting conversation you never knew you wanted to be a part of. The read is fast mostly because once you pick it up, it’s difficult to put the book back down.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “Irredeemable” by Matt Waid and Peter Krause

Irredeemable by Mark Waid and Peter KrauseA review by Steve.

What if the world’s greatest super hero suddenly went to the dark side? How would everyone react if he destroyed cities, killed millions, and laid waste to everything around him for apparently no reason? These are the questions explored in Irredeemable, a graphic novel written by Mark Waid, and illustrated by Peter Krause. The Plutonian, the protector of the planet and beacon of hope, goes on an inexplicable rampage, killing his team mates and innocent civilians. As he hunts for those who might oppose him, the former comrades scour the globe, trying to find any information about his past that might help to detain or defeat him if necessary.

I really enjoyed the first volume in this saga, as it is not your typical super hero “save the world and everything is happy” story. It is dark and at some points quite depressing. It shows a realistic view of what could happen if there were extraordinary beings on the planet, and the struggles they might go through on a daily basis. It kept me locked in, wanting to know if The Plutonian was going to catch anyone, or if his team would manage to escape before being disintegrated. As I read more about his back story as a superhero and where he is now, my curiosity continued to grow. I wanted to know what the trigger was that turned The Plutonian into a villain. Was it something sudden and powerful, or just a series of small random events that twisted him to the role of super villain?  I am excited to read volume two and find out more about his story.

Mark Waid has written several graphic novel series including Kingdom Come and Empire.  Peter Krause’s work can be seen in several DC comic series, including Suicide Squad, and several Superman comics. They are both very talented and I look forward to exploring more of their work in the future. It is engaging and gritty, but does not overload the reader with too much information, as some graphic novels have a tendency to do.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars

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Review: “Tainted Bodies” by Sarah Robinson

Tainted Bodies by Sarah RobinsonA review by Danielle.

Kate Jackson is a smart, pretty girl living in Washington D.C. She’s settled for an unfulfilling life working at her uncle’s store, even though she has a Psychology degree. One day, a gorgeous stranger named Derrick asks Kate out. After a month of whirlwind dates, Kate and Derrick fall in love. The only problem is Derrick’s refusal to take the next step. Jaded from his own traumatizing first love, and only experience with a committed relationship, Derrick isn’t sure he’s ready for all the responsibilities that come with being someone’s boyfriend. After six months together Derrick takes Kate away for a romantic weekend; Kate finally receives the validation for their relationship that she has been hoping for. After arriving home from their long weekend, Kate is viciously attacked in her apartment. Violently assaulted and devastated, Kate refuses to speak with police at first. When Derrick abandons her after hearing she was raped, Kate finds the strength to not let another man get away with hurting her. As she works with police, it’s soon evident this was not the work of some amateur- the attacker is a darkly evil man who likes to stalk his victims. It becomes clear that he isn’t finished with Kate, not by a long shot.

Tainted Bodies is listed as a suspenseful romance about a killer who takes a photograph of every woman he kills. This first installment didn’t even come close to living up to its description. The first 60% of the book is filled with sparse back story and the most forced, choppy dialogue I have read in a while. The character development is incredibly lacking and the inconsistencies left me confused. For example, Derrick comes to pick Kate up on their first date Friday night but come Monday morning when he asks her out for a second date he asks for her address. Shouldn’t he have it? He literally just saw her 48 hours earlier. Small details that don’t line up make me wonder about the professional level of this book. Then there’s the trite description of the female character being ignored by boys all her life, but really she is gorgeous. All of a sudden every guy within 5 miles is reduced to a lovesick puppy while she still labors under the impression that she is a plain Jane.

Even more infuriating is Kate herself. After she’s raped and Derick bolts from the hospital, completely avoiding her for a week because this wasn’t what he signed up for, he later begs for forgiveness. Kate (being the weak minded, one-dimensional character that she is) forgives him within five minutes of his “I’m sorry I was a colossal asshole and left you to deal with the most horrible situation a woman can go through alone” speech). Derrick’s behavior and inner dialogue is so grossly inappropriate and disturbing, essentially blaming Kate for doing this to “him,” it made me sick.

I truly dislike giving books a bad review but in this case I have no choice. I feel that there is too little going on with the characters and the dialogue is very predictable. The last straw for me was when the plot finally comes to an interesting road as details regarding Kate’s attacker are revealed and book one ends. No doubt it’s intended to hook the reader into continuing on, but I find that kind of ploy insulting. If you write a gripping, well thought-out story with relatable characters, readers will actually want to buy the next installments to find out what is going to happen next.

My rating: 1/5 stars.

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