Monday, September 29, 2014

Anna Strong series by Jeanne Stein (Books 1-9)

This is a series review. I read them back to back, so it makes sense to write one review as I believe the series is at an end???
This is an adult urban fantasy novel series (Rated NC-17)
(Four and a half FANTASTIC Hearts)
Book Blurb is for book one The Becoming....
My name is Anna Strong. I am a vampire. How I became one is the reason for this story. I tell it all the way it happened. It may not be what you expect.

She's a bounty hunter--tough, beautiful, and trained for the unexpected. Until the night she's attacked and left closer to death than she can imagine. She awakens to an indoctrination into a dark new world where vampires walk among us. But this time, a tight grip on a .38 won't stop what she's hunting for.

Existing between the worlds of the living and the dead, Anna is torn by her love for two very different men. Max, a DEA agent, all too human, and vulnerable. And Avery, a Night Watcher who's joined Anna in pursuit of the rogue vampire who changed her life that terrifying night. Now, as her two worlds collide, fate plunges Anna into the ultimate battle between good and evil where survival is not just for the living...
My Review (covers the entire series 1-9 no novellas except Blood Debt)

After finishing Outlander, I was looking for something different and something I could put down. Boy was I wrong. Initially, I wasn’t as invested in this series, but quickly I was sucked in this world and could do nothing but continue to read it until I’d read it all.
I’m not sure if this series is at an end. I get the impression that it is, but I have no concrete proof that it is. The last book sure felt like a wrap up, so my review will be based on all novels and none of the novellas except Blood Debt (only read because I felt like something was missing with information on Stephen).
What can I say without giving away spoilers…
I guess I’ll begin with…
Just like the word itself, I don’t think my love affair with vampires will ever end. Vampires are immortal and my love for them will never die.
Anna is Vampire. On top of that, she’s unapologetic for who and what she is. Her becoming wasn’t a choice nor is it an easy read to swallow why and how it happened to her.  But I like her. Of course she’s a hard ass, bad ass, loyal to the end kind of gal. She is also a girl who loves men and sex. And this is UF. But there are elements of romance but not like PNR. Romance is there because it’s a part of Anna’s story but not the story itself.
For the most part, sex in this series is fade to black. And to make it worse, it’s the kind that teases then leaves you hanging. The worst kind, but somehow it works for this series and doesn’t annoy me. See, never say never.
However, even if Anna isn’t the kind of heroine that falls in love with the guy in the first book and sticks with him throughout, I think it’s more realistic the way it happens. Now, for spoilers sake, don’t assume that the guy in the first book isn’t the guy she ends up with. I’ll just say that Anna is finding out who she is a person (human/vampire) and as a person in a relationship. And with that, there are ups and downs.
One thing that I do appreciate is that although realistic, this author, unlike others, isn’t a man hater. (*coughs Kim Harrison and Faith Hunter). Every man in the book doesn’t end up being a villain or someone with a secret agenda that is contrary to the heroine.  There are good men in this series. Good men who are good from the first and all the way to the end. Are there people whom she trusts that let her down, yes. But it isn’t every man in the story.
So let’s talk men. I love each and every man that makes an appearance in Anna’s love life. They all aren’t good. Some let her down and become assholes or even douche bags, but they are all redeemable in their own way in varying degrees. Yes, there are several men in Anna’s life (not the numbers of Anita Blake). But enough, that over the two or so odd years in the series covers, it makes sense especially when one was in her life prior to her becoming vampire.
One thing I love about this series is one man, David. I’ll just spoil this for you because it never comes up as an issue, so overall it’s not a spoiler. David is Anna’s best friend. He’s is extremely good looking and they genuinely love each other. Yet, never once do either of them suggest, try or tempt each other by words or actions that they are anything but friends. Wow, isn’t that a first. There is never jealousy because one is secretly in love with the other. YAY! (And I will say there were a few times, I wished she and David would end up together).
Although Anna makes a lot of mistakes, and she does, this is what makes the story interesting. There are plenty of times I want to smack her or have her make other choices, especially telling people certain truths. Still, I never get too frustrated where I couldn’t continue the series.
This story however isn’t perfect. There are plot holes a plenty.
·         David starts off as a former Raiders football player. Somewhere in the middle, he’s a Broncos. But by the end, instead of saying that he played for both teams, which is plausibly, she reverts David back to Raiders (and ignores the elephant in the room that she said he was ever on the Broncos).
·         There is a time when Anna goes into a garage and someone she’s looking for car isn’t there. However, she finds the person in the house. They never leave the house and no one else would be driving the car. Yet in the morning, the car is in the garage with no mention of how it got there.
·         In book two, we learn that shifters while not necessarily moon called, are forced to shift during the full moon. This is how one relationship in my mind begins as that shifter is forced to change in front of her. In the last book, a shifter and Anna are standing outside with the full moon and the shifter doesn’t change??? What happened to shifters being forced to changed?
There are others. But those stick in my head. For that, I can’t give the series perfect marks. But this series made me laugh, cry really hard and times, feel the love and feel the pain. For that, it will forever be one of my favorites I’ve ever read.
I do have to mention that this series seems to have a recurring theme of rape. It’s tastefully but emotionally and thought provokingly done. So if you have a trigger for rape, you may not want to read this book/series. I feel like the author must have either first hand or very close third person experience with this topic as much as it comes up. And no, Anna is not rape repeatedly in this series. And I also should note, that it’s not there for shock value. It’s appropriately in the story based on the plot arc of whatever book it’s brought up in. And it’s there for a reason.
I will miss Anna Strong and David, Max, Lance, Stephen, Daniel, and Culebra.
Audio Review
Dina Pearlman does a really good job. Her voices inflections are limited to the point I’m not always sure whose speaking without dialogue tags at times. But she still manages to hit most of the major players with their own voice. (some of those voices are reused with other characters in other books in the series) but overall, I enjoyed the narration.
My book boyfriend Daniel.