Spirit Bound by Christine Feehan


Grade: F
Hotness Level: Blaze
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Magic, audiobook
Series: Sisters of the Heart #2
Published: 12/27/14
Reviewed by Anne
404 pages

So, I have to tell you, I really grew to hate this book.  In fact, I stopped listening to it when I was on section 18 of 21, because it was just making me too angry.  I didn’t set out to hate it!  I was really looking forward to it – Christine Feehan was my gateway author into vampire romance with her Dark series.  I loved her Drake Sisters series even more.  Spirit Bound is even set in the same town and world as the Drake Sisters series.  I went into this book expecting it to be pretty good, but things went downhill pretty fast.

First, let me give you the set up.  Judith is one of 6 magical sisters.  They aren’t biologically related to each other, but formed a family in their adulthood after surviving traumas in their pasts.  They live together on a farm in California.

Stefan is an secret agent for Russia.  He had a horribly traumatic childhood and has spent his entire life doing undercover work in one situation or another.  Stefan is assigned to insinuate himself into Judith’s life so that he’ll be there if she’s pursued by a master criminal who is known to be obsessed with her.  Oh, and Stefan has magical powers, too.

OK, pretty decent set up.  It gets complicated pretty quickly, but Feehan handles that well and it’s easy to understand.  The audiobook narrator was decent and I have not audiobook related complaints.  I enjoyed the magic in the story and I loved the sisterhood!  What I didn’t enjoy was the hours and hours I felt like I spent in Stefan’s head thinking about how he’d never allowed himself to love anyone, but now he was falling for Judith (before he even met her) and how he had decided that he was never going to love anyone, but his heart was opening to her without him even asking.  And his childhood was awful and he learned early never to trust anyone, but already he’s trusting her.  And he was never going to love anyone, but he’s falling in love with Judith.  Oh, and did I mention that Stefan was never going to allow himself to have loving feelings for anyone, but Judith has already taken over his heart?  Because Feehan mentions it a lot.  A. Lot.

We get some of the same head time from Judith, but it’s not quite as bad as Stefan’s inner monologue.  There are a couple bad guys in the story, but the one in town directly pursuing them (Ivanov, I think) is a sadistic, cruelty loving, bad guy who is into sadism and likes to hurt animals and people just for the joy of it, because he’s a sadistic bastard.  Yes.  He’s a very, very bad guy and the story is filled with Stefan remembering horrific anecdotes from his childhood (he grew up with Ivanov) so we can be impressed with how awfully sadistic he is.  Sheesh, that got old.

But, through all that inner monologue and driving home of points with lots of repetition, I was still really wanting to know how things would work out for Judith and Stefan.  I was curious and even rooting for them.  But the thing is, the more I got to know Stefan, the more I disliked him.  He’s a controlling asshole with no relationship skills.  He wants to know more about Judith, so he breaks into her home and looks around.  He stalks her, but we’re supposed to be ok with it because he has feelings for her?   He treasures Judith like she’s a thing to be owned.  He withholds information from her even when it seems like he should be coming clean.

And then, as if he weren’t being a big enough asshole, he starts drugging her to get her to sleep through the night so he can go out bad guy hunting without having to explain himself.  He says he does it to keep her safe while he’s gone. What????  Because leaving a strong, independent, and powerful woman totally incapacitated and protected only by a security system that he himself routinely breaks through is a good decision?  And he does it repeatedly.  Repeatedly!  And when another character calls him out on it, Stefan thinks he’s justified because he’s doing it all to keep her safe.

When Judith miraculously is roused from her drugged state and saves his life and then realizes what he’s done and is very angry with him  – only then does he start to reconsider his decision to drug her.  He admits to her that he “probably shouldn’t have done that.”  Oh. Really?  Thankfully, Judith is very angry with him.  Unfortunately, he continues to boss her around, which is how he ‘takes care of her’ and even more unfortunately, she lets him!  And when she’s still kind of upset he decides he needs to have sex with her.  He needs it.  And they start kissing passionately and he realizes he doesn’t know if she’s resisting or capitulating – and he doesn’t care!  He needs this closeness with her.

That was it for me.  I was driving while I listened and I just reached over and shut off the player.  I couldn’t listen to another word.  All I really wanted was for Judith to dump him and find someone better.

I know some of Feehan’s other books have old school “heroes” like this, and I’ve enjoyed them in the past.  I don’t know if I’m growing up and feeling more strongly about consent?  Or maybe that kind of behavior is somehow more acceptable to me when it comes from a vampire with super-human needs?  I don’t know, but this book left me steaming mad and very disappointed, I love Judith and her sisters and their farm and their powers, but I can’t listen to another word..  Please, someone, recommend a sisterhood series that will cleanse my palate of this mess!

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park
Grade: A
Hotness Level: Ember
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Published: 2/26/13
Reviewed by Anne
Sometime last year I heard a lot of buzz about this book.  I jotted down the title and decided I should read it one day.  Then when I was burnt out from my 3rd re-listen to the In Death series by J.D. Robb, I thought I’d listen to Eleanor & Park instead of reading it.  I remembered that it was about high schoolers.  I downloaded my copy and started listening.  And I listened and l listened and I listened.  It was so good, but it was also heartwrenching.  
I’d stumbled into a trigger of mine and I had a hard time putting it down.  I kept inventing chores to do so I could continue to listen.  That night when I went to bed only half way through the story, I felt like I was abandoning Eleanor and her siblings!  It haunted me!  I managed to finish it the next day, and it’s still haunting me.  In a good way, but disturbing, too.
Sixteen year old Eleanor has just moved back in with her family after a year away.  They’re in a new house and a new school district, so besides her family, she knows no one.  And after a year away, even her family feels like strangers.  
Park first sees Eleanor on the bus.  She’s clearly going to be a target to be bullied, with her bright red bushy hair and weird clothes.  When she can’t find a seat on the bus he surprises himself by reluctantly making room for her in his, all while hoping it won’t draw the bullies’ attentions to him.  
The way their relationship unfolds is sweet and so true!  This is the best description of first love I’ve ever read!  Rainbow Rowell just nails it.  Along with their relationship, we also hear about Park trying to live up to his father’s expectations and dealing with his own issues as a half-Asian kid.  And we hear about Eleanor’s horrible step-father who abuses her mother and looms over the whole house like an awful shadow, infecting everything they do.  And then there’s the abject poverty Eleanor’s family lives in.  It’s just painful to read about.  But the sweetness and hope that comes when Eleanor and Park are together is so wonderful, it balances out some of the bad.
Eleanor and Park were great characters.  They weren’t perfect and they both made mistakes that strained their relationship.  They came across as very real and three dimensional.  They grow and change as the story progresses.  Even the bullies in the story are multi-dimensional.  
The story takes place in the eighties, and it’s quite a contrast to the anti-bullying climate we see in schools today.  Eleanor bullied at school and there are times that the teachers not only don’t help, but make Eleanor’s life even harder.  I’ve rarely been so rage-filled toward a character as I was toward Eleanor’s gym teacher!
This book made me wish I was back in high school or in a traditional book club and could analyze it to death.  I hated that in high school, but now I want to know what people think.  Did they see this big twist coming?  Why did this character act in this way.  Was this just a perception in his head, or was it a real thing?  WHY did Eleanor make that choice?  What was up with Eleanor’s mom?  How much did Park understand?
I loved this story, and it’s really stuck with me.  I highly recommend it, with the caveat that it’s emotionally wrenching!  Honestly,  I avoid a books like this because the kids in the story just break my heart.  i wouldn’t have read this one if I’d known about the abuse in it. I’ll for sure read Rowell again, though!