Buy Link: Snakeskin Boots
Author: Xara X. Xanakas
Publisher: Dreamspinnter Press
Length: Novel

Rating: 3.75

I won Snakeskin Boots at a blog giveaway not knowing much about it. But after flipping through (scrolling through?), the book’s light and easy tone seemed exactly what I needed after reading several heavy things in a row so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Jeff Cordata is a wereboa with a bit of a dislike for werewolves.  Not only does he think they are jealous and territorial, but many of the local wolves are at odds with the rest of the area shifters.  His opinion quickly changes when he meets sexy wolf Brad Cannidy — tall, muscular, and according to Jeff, hung like he is smuggling an eggplant in his pants.

Jeff is worried at first about the reactions of his nest and the other weres to him taking up with a wolf.  But he can’t stop his attraction and growing feelings for Brad.  However, just as things are moving along between them, Jeff’s ex suddenly appears in the form of some snakeskin boots worn by one of Brad’s wolf friends.  Everyone goes on high alert to figure out who killed Jeff’s ex and what kind of threat is looming against the nest.

There were things about this book that worked for me and others that didn’t quite come together. First, I really enjoyed the humorous tone and Jeff’s inner voice.  There is definitely a bit of a tongue-in-cheek feel to a lot of the story that kept me amused.  For example, Jeff’s initial thoughts on werewolves:

“ISN’T Edward dreamy?”

I’m starting to get a migraine from rolling my eyes so much. Maybe I should work on that. I know she’s just yanking my chain. She’s tired of the hype too.

“Or Jacob? Werewolves are so sexy!

Really? Think so? Know any? ’Cause all the ones I know are assholes. Everybody wants the werewolf. “Ooh, they’re so protective and nurturing.” No—that’s called “possessive” and “controlling.” They’re jealous and territorial, and they think they’re the gods’ gift to shifters. They look down their snouts at the rest of us. Granted, I may be a bit bitter, but the wolves just make me want to shed a skin. No one ever says, “Wereboas are so sexy.” I’m not even poisonous, but they’d still rather cuddle with a wolf, with his big eyes and teeth.

There were some occasions, however, when the humor went a bit over the edge for me. Referring to Brad’s cock as “the eggplant” was funny the first few times but got a little much after too many repetitions. (“I can feel the eggplant ripening.”) And Brad naming Jeff’s dual penises “Abbot and Costello” was a bit too cute, especially when they were in the middle of hot and heavy sex.  And I definitely didn’t need the mental image of Brad “hung like a baby boy.”

I did like Jeff and Brad together though and thought they were a very hot couple.  I worried going in that I would have trouble with a romantic hero that was a snake, but I think Xanakas made it work quite well.  Brad is golden and lean, sinuous and slinky.  His snake traits are incorporated well into his human form — basking in the sun, flicking his tongue to smell, feeling vibrations through his body (which is a great trait to have around a growly wolf!).

A few things were a bit uneven for me in the story.  First, I found myself confused about the politics of the were structure.  There were a variety of were creatures – elephants, monkeys, chickens, etc.  They seemed to meet together to address the problem of the wolf threat, but I wasn’t completely clear if they were all part of the same political body and whether Jeff’s dad was in charge of it all or just the snakes.  And I was confused where exactly the wolves fit into it.  I also got thrown by what was going on with Tucker. I feel like the idea of his resentment and anger is introduced, but I never really understood why he was picking fights and it seemed there was more to the story that was left unexplained.

I was also confused about the discussion of candles that came up throughout the book– “Mental note–light a black and white candle later” — as well as the healing herbs that are used to cure Jeff’s panic attack, as well as treat injuries.  I wasn’t clear if this was some sort of religious thing common to the weres, or confined to Jeff and the healer specifically, or something else entirely.  I could never follow what the different candles were supposed to mean.

I’d also have liked to have a bit more showing than telling. We hear the story from Jeff’s point of view and in some cases I felt like he was narrating too much rather than letting us see what was happening and how he was feeling.

My last issue was the uneven tone.  Most of the book is very light and humorous, which I quite enjoyed. But as we start to learn about the nature of the crimes against the snakes that have been going on (and continue to occur during the book) they are quite horrific and one scene in particular is quite gruesome.  I don’t really have a problem with a darker turn, but it felt so at odds in a story where someone names his partners penises after a comedy troop.

Looking through my review, I actually enjoyed the book a lot more than it probably sounds like I did.  I really liked the author’s voice and I was entertained by the idea of more than the usual werewolf shifter.  I really liked Jeff and Brad and many of the secondary characters.  It appears that Xanakas has more were-menagerie books planned with other animals that I would definitely be interested in reading despite my problems with this story.  Overall I think it was a really good first novel and one that has the potential to grow into a really interesting and fun series with a little bit of fine tuning.

Cover Review: 
I hate to say this because I actually think it is a pretty good looking cover. Modern, picture looks like how I would imagine Jeff (presumably it’s Jeff versus dark, hairy, Brad).  But the guy is wearing snakeskin boots in the picture!  There is no way that would ever happen. It is like a human wearing boots made out of people skin! A major plot point of the book involves the horror of finding out one of the wolves was wearing snakeskin boots. It is not only out of character, it is completely inconceivable that either of the main characters would EVER wear these shoes.  Grrrr