Friday, 30 March 2007

Warsworn by Elizabeth Vaughn

Warsworn is the second book of the trilogy that began with Warprize. Starting a few days after the first book finished, it continues the story of Lara and Keir as they journey towards the Plains; where Lara will hopefully be confirmed as the Warprize. Unfortunately before they can get there, events take an unexpected turn and they are delayed near the town of Wellspring.

Warsworn is very much the middle book of a trilogy and I would definitely recommend you read Warprize first. If the first book was a coming together, then Warsworn is where everything falls apart. Your enjoyment of the story will depend on your opinion of Lara's actions and attitude. Is she selfish or just mistaken in her beliefs? Would the situation have occurred anyway or did she precipitate it? Elizabeth Vaughn leaves the decisions up to the reader. Lara, herself, questions her actions, but given the person she is I think if she had the choice to make again she would have made the same decision. She remains true to her beliefs, though it's slightly annoying that she HAS to be right.

As part of this she lies to Keir, which is like a big no-no in Firelander culture. And one of the interesting things in this book is how the decisions that an individual makes impact on others. Lara's decision to heal no matter the cost, Isdra/Keir's decision to ignore Lara...

I admit I struggled on my first read of this book (the review was written after my second read through) and I couldn't finish it. Having read it a second time, I do feel I didn't do it justice on my first read. It may be that I just wasn't in the right frame of mind to read it because the story is completely heartbreaking in parts - have tissues handy. This is one author who is not afraid to let her characters suffer. Thank goodness for Simus's letters which help lighten some of the darker moments.

There are threads here leading back to the first book - Lara is still trying to find out what an ehat is. :) And there are threads waiting for the third book to resolve them, I'll mention those in my review of Warlord.

The beauty of this story remains in the depth of the world building and the attention to detail of the Firelander/Plains culture. And also in the relationships between characters (Epor and Isdra, Keir and Lara, Keir and Marcus, Marcus and Lara, Lara and Gils), who are so well written they seem real.

Monday, 26 March 2007

Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughn

Finally got round to posting this review. :)

Xylara (Lara) is a healer as well as being the King of Xy's half-sister. The kingdom is currently at war with the barbarian Firelanders, but Lara refuses to take sides, treating the injured of both armies. Terms of surrender are agreed and they are fair, but for the peace to hold Lara must go to the Firelander's Warlord and be his Warprize.

I first read this story in 2005, when it was my joint favourite book of the year (The other being Dark Lover by J.R.Ward). I think it is possibly the best fantasy romance I've read and it definitely ranks as one of the best first books in a trilogy. So please excuse me if I gush slightly here, it's a bad habit I have when I've really enjoyed a book. LOL - I want everyone else to like it too.

The reason it works so well for me is because of the heroine - Lara. The story is told from her point of view and she makes us experience her world through her eyes - we know her hopes, confusions, fears and desires. She is not a perfect heroine; she is stubborn, opinionated and occasionally acts without thinking.

What raises Warprize above other similar books is the depth of the storytelling. Elizabeth Vaughn virtually paints a picture with words allowing the reader to fully experience the world she has created. There is a huge cultural difference between Lara, daughter of Xy and the Warlord of the plains who claims her which leads to misunderstandings. But these are not two-dimensional conveniences; there is a feeling of a vast Firelander culture that gives them substance and meaning.

There is also an intense chemistry between the Warlord and his Warprize, apparent whenever they are together. Whilst the relationship between Lara and the Warlord is at the heart of the book, it is everything that surrounds it that makes this such a satisfying read. The secondary characters are well-written - each an individual with their own story to tell, the cultural differences between the two peoples, the vivid descriptions of the world and the machinations of various characters who oppose the tenuous peace - these all add layers to Keir and Lara's world.

If you come to this book just wanting to read a romance you will be disappointed or perhaps pleasantly surprised :) . Although Lara is always on page as the story is told from her point of view, she is often separated from Keir. And the story is as much about how difficult it can be to adapt to a new culture. For me this was the most fascinating part of the book, learning about the Firelanders through Lara's experiences. The revelation of what a Warprize truly is may require some readers to suspend their disbelief, after all Lara is an intelligent woman - why didn't she question her position sooner? I however was more than willing to go with it, being completely drawn into the story by this point.

Sharp eyed readers may spot that the spelling of Keir's name changes from Kier to Keir in this book. This was true of the original US paperback and the UK hardback. I don't know if it has been corrected in the reissue which for some reason is being marketed as a paranormal romance!

Elizabeth Vaughn has written a book where you care what happens to the characters. Highly recommended.

Warsworn (Book2)
Warlord (Book3)

Thursday, 22 March 2007

First Pages

I was going to start a re-read of Dark Lover today (another book that had a squeee!!! See below), but yesterday I received Twilight by Stephenie Meyer in the post. A book I've been waiting for. I decided to just have a quick look at the first page and that was it. Within a couple of pages I was hooked and I haven't put it down since. And there go all my well made plans to re-read the Black Dagger Brotherhood series before April. And to write my review of the Chronicles of the Warlands trilogy.

It's funny how sometimes by the end of the first page you just know you're reading a book that you're going to love. It's one of the best feelings in the world, puts a great big grin on my face and makes me feel all squeee!!! inside. LOL - there's a possibility that only other bibliophiles will understand that comment. It's the knowledge you're about to be taken on an exciting adventure, somewhere you've never been before.

This is the second book in less than a month I've had this reaction to. Reading the first two lines of Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead put a great big smile on my face too. I'm obviously on something of a roll. And yet if you asked me to define exactly what it is that engenders this reaction, what's the formula. I couldn't explain it.

But I know it when it isn't there.

I loved Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey. But Gods that book had one of the worst first lines / first pages I have ever read. I think I must have read the first page over thirty times before I managed to get past it. LOL - thanks to everyone who kept telling me what a good book it was and to persevere. Though even now if I want to feel sleepy I can read that page.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Nightlife by Rob Thurman

I have a confession to make, I got my copy of Nightlife in January after reading Donna's recommendation on Kelley Armstrong's message board. I read two chapters and promptly put it somewhere in the middle of my primary TBR pile and kind of forgot about it. (Sorry Donna.)

Anyhoo it was then nominated as the bookclub book for March on KA's site, which was great because I already had a copy and usually (being in the UK) I find myself weeks behind everyone else's comments. (A quick aside here I highly recommend Kelley Armstrong's site both as a resource for her own writing if you're a fan, and if you're a genre fan in particular. The books recommendation section of the forum is well worth checking out if ever you're stuck for something to read.)

Back to the review.

Nightlife tells the story of two brothers: Cal, the younger brother who is half human / half 'monster' and Niko who will do whatever it takes to protect his sibling. Currently residing in New York and trying to keep a low profile, we join them as their pursuers finally catch up.

Two chapters in and I'm having the same problem as I did back in January, only this time I'm reading it for the bookclub which means I always make a real effort to finish the book. So I struggle on.

I'm not sure at what point I got sucked into the story, I think it started to happen around Chapter 4 and by the time Robin Goodfellow turned up in Chapter 5 I didn't want to put the book down. (The Wizard of Oz reference on page 66 helped. :) )

The major focus of the story for me was the relationship between the two brothers, they are siblings who've had to learn how to get along and depend on one another. But I don't think it would have worked as well if it hadn't been for the secondary characters - Georgina, Promise, Robin, Boggy. There isn't a character here that doesn't have a part to play, which makes me very intrigued about Rafferty and Catcher who only appear briefly at the end (and win the prize for most mysterious characters). I liked how it was made clear that these creatures / people have their own agendas and problems to deal with and might not necessarily have the welfare of the brothers at heart. And because we only see them through Cal's eyes we can never 100% know what their motivations are.

Sometimes when a story is written in a very tight point of view either the author will feel the need to intrude and explain why the other character's are behaving this way, or another character will explain. Thankfully this didn't happen here; and at least for the first part of the book, we are as much in the dark about what's happening as Cal is.

As a protagonist, Cal is a cynic with a cutting sense of humour; about halfway through the story, he undergoes a major transformation, and this is where the story lost it a little for me. Because he retreats from his brother and their companions, we no longer have the interaction that I loved during the first half of the book. In some places I felt like I was being told what was happening instead of experiencing it through Cal. Having said that, the change was a necessary part of the plot, and even though it is dealt with here I still wonder if there will be repercussions in future books.

There were a couple of things I liked about the change though. Firstly, Cal's sense of humour remained the same but it got much nastier, kind of giving you the twisted hope that something of him still remained. Secondly although there were overt changes to his character there were also subtle (blink and you'll miss them) ones as well, the changed Cal has absolutely no problem with going into an elevator whilst the pre-change Cal had made it perfectly clear they were too dangerous for him to use.

Favourite character - Robin Goodfellow, it's a close call but I think he had the best lines.

I can't think of anything else I've read that I can compare it directly to (LOL maybe I need to read more), but the relationship between the brothers did make me think of the relationship between Ukiah and Max from Wen Spencer's Ukiah Oregon series.

I've already bought the sequel Moonshine and am looking forward to finding out what trouble Cal and Niko got into next.

Monday, 5 March 2007

Visions of Heat by Nalini Singh

I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of Visions of Heat (VoH) by Nalini Singh, and I am pleased to say the second book in the series is another fascinating peek into the Psy/Changeling Universe.

For anyone who hasn't read the first book (Slave to Sensation (StS)) VoH is set on an alternative history Earth, where the planet is populated by three races :- Changelings - shapeshifters who rely on their animal instincts, The Psy who are emotionless and cold, and human beings. I would recommend you read Slave to Sensation first if possible, as there are plotlines started there that continue into VoH.

Blurb from the back cover:-

Used to cold silence, Faith NightStar is suddenly being tormented by dark visions of blood and murder. A bad sign for anyone, but worse for Faith, an F-Psy with the highly sought after ability to predict the future. Then the visions show her something even more dangerous-aching need...exquisite pleasure. But so powerful is her sight, so fragile the state of her mind, that the very emotions she yearns to embrace could be the end of her.

Changeling Vaughn D'Angelo can take either man or jaguar form, but it is his animal side that is overwhelmingly drawn to Faith. The jaguar's instinct is to claim this woman it finds so utterly fascinating and the man has no argument. But while Vaughn craves sensation and hungers to pleasure Faith in every way, desire is a danger that could snap the last threads of her sanity. And there are Psy who need Faith's sight for their own purposes. They must keep her silenced-and keep her from Vaughn...

I'm going to try and be really careful here as I don't want to give away too much of the plot.

Vaughn is incredibly alpha - almost to the point where you'd like to smack him in the face with a brick. Initially leaving me wondering why he didn't have more problems with Lucas (Slave to Sensation) who is the actual alpha of the Dark-River clan. Vaughn is more directly dominant, he's focused on what he wants. Very much the image of a predator that once it locks onto it's prey doesn't allow itself to be distracted by anything. Whilst Lucas is more subtle and manipulative, and as a consequence could be underestimated. (I'd read StS just before VoH, which was why this contrast was so at the forefront of my mind.)

I've read on some reviews that there is a preference for Sascha (the heroine of StS) over Faith. I however, like Faith, she's a contradiction - she's incredibly fragile, but at the same time so single-minded she manages to push herself farther than she thinks she can go. Even more than Sascha, I think Faith illustrates the dichotomy of the Psy - the fact that they have all of this power, and yet it's a brittle thing, and (so far) it's only when they let go, that they become truly strong.

Possibly my favourite part was Faith's initial decision to leave the compound and her escape, because she made the choice to do this before she met Vaughn. And I think he pushes her so hard later on in the story that it's important for this to be here. I accepted Vaughn's dominance because it was always in the back of my mind that Faith would have eventually got to where he's pushing her, by herself.

It almost seems like the relationship between the two of them shouldn't work. Vaughn the irresistible force urging Faith to take on more. Faith the immovable object giving in. And yet they fit, in a way I don't think either of them would be able to with anybody else. (For instance I couldn't imagine Vaughn with Sascha.) Eventually I think they'll find a balance with each other and within the pack. I wish the book had been longer so we could see this relationship evolve even further.

I'm not 100% sure about the Netmind/Psynet, but this is a new development, so I'll wait and see how it...develops. :)

There is a continuance of plot threads from StS woven into VoH - we meet up with Sascha and Lucas again, and it's interesting to see how much Sascha has changed between books. I felt she was much more accepting of herself here. There has also been fallout from the incident at the end of StS and this is still being dealt with by the Psy Council, who, if possible, got scarier. (Please share if you found Kaleb disturbingly attractive in a disturbing kind of way.) There are wheels within wheels at work and I very much like how the overall arc is developing. Nalini Singh starts to increase the tension in Visions of Heat and I think the days of Psy perfection in Silence are numbered.

Other Psy/Changeling books:-

Slave to Sensation (Book 1) - 2006 available now
Caressed by Ice (Book 3) - Sept 2007

Saturday, 3 March 2007


Okay, I guess I better introduce myself.

My name is Lesley, and I post quite a bit on various author message boards and blogs - J.R.Ward, Nalini Singh and Kelley Armstrong. I usually go by LesleyW.

I absolutely adore reading, and am completely serious when I confess to being a book addict. So I guess that is what this blog will primarily be about.

I had some misgivings about calling this blog - the Book Nook. As in book nook rhymes with...

But I love the definitions of nook:-
  1. a corner or narrow recess, as in a room (brings to mind being in a library)
  2. a secluded or sheltered place; a retreat (makes me think of reading and escaping)

So I guess nook is what it will be.