Saturday, 29 September 2007

Dark Need by Lynn Viehl


Have to apologize I thought I'd posted this review of Dark Need ages ago, but was adding series labels to my posts and realized either a) I'd never posted it or b) it had mysteriously disappeared. So here's the review.

In Dark Need we catch up with Lucan the Darkyn assassin who we first met in If Angels Burn. Homicide detective Samantha Brown crosses paths with Lucan during the course of her investigation into a bizarre drowning. As the number of killings increases Samantha becomes even more deeply drawn into the world of the Darkyn and their enemies - the Brethren. But she also has enemies of her own.

I've never been able to pick a favourite from the first three books, because it's always been something different in each story that has appealed to me. In Book 1 it was Alex's spunkiness and strength, in Book 2 it was Jaus, and in book 3 I love Lucan's amorality.

Lucan is perhaps the most overtly sexual of the Darkyn we have encountered so far. His relationship with Samantha is complicated, in that as much as he wants her, he tries to push her away with equal intensity. The reason for this becomes clear at the end of the book, but it makes for a strange courtship. I’m aware from reading other reviews that some readers found this unsatisfying, but I think it’s a case of having to look at the reasons for a characters actions, rather than just the actions themselves.

Another relationship worth mentioning is that between Lucan and his tresora Burke. Lucan has a darkly wicked sense of humor and spends much of his time threatening Burke with a variety of dire fates often leaving his tresora non-plussed but persevering to please his master anyway.

One thing I did find confusing was how Alex knew about the bad guy. At the climax of the story she calls out his name but I’m not clear on how she knew who he was.

There is a continuation of plot threads from the two previous books including Michael and Alex, Alex's research and John Keller's quest. Indeed the more John tries to escape from the Darkyn/Brethren conflict the further he seems to entrench himself in it. Having said that I think this is more of an individual story than Private Demon (book 2), though reading the previous books will help you get more out of the story.

There are also new plotlines started in Dark Need - we learn more about Tremayne's condition, the changelings are introduced, and some new characters are mentioned. Notably Locksley (who has been mentioned several times but as yet hasn't made an appearance), and we first meet Jayr and Byrne. (Evermore Book 5).

I would warn that whilst the main story of this book is concluded, there is quite a plot twist at the end. So if you're a fan of the series I'd have book 4 (Night Lost) on hand.

Also available
Book 1 - If Angels Burn
Book 2 - Private Demon
Book 4 - Night Lost
Book 5 - Evermore (current release date January 2008)

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Touch the Dark by Karen Chance


Three years ago Cassandra Palmer betrayed the vampire mafioso who killed her parents, to the human authorities. But according to a cryptic computer message her past has finally caught up with her and it's time to run again. However, when escaping is no longer an option, she has to turn to the Vampire Senate for protection, but their help doesn't come for free.

This has been on my TBR pile for ages, and if it wasn't for two things it would probably still be there. But 1) I'm bookfasting this month, so no new books for me and 2) I'd just read the Karen Chance short story in the On the Prowl anthology, which intrigued me enough to dig Touch the Dark out of the pile. And I'm glad I did.

Okay good stuff or bad stuff first?

Let's go with the good stuff. Karen Chance can tell a rollicking good story. Her characters are fantastic, her dialogue is witty. And she is very good at building up sexual tension.

1) Nice first line:-

"I knew I was in trouble as soon as I saw the obituary. The fact that it had my name on it was sort of a clue."

This is the kind of beginning that makes you want to keep on reading.

2) The idea of The Oracle and Crystal Gazing, that this otherworld has its own newspapers.
There are lots of little touches like this throughout the story that really help bring it to life. Example - when they pass Sebastian the werewolf on the staircase. It's just something that happens.

3) Some of it is hysterically funny - well I thought so anyway. Possibly my favourite section of the book is when they're trying to get Jimmy out of the cage. It's like a textbook example of things rapidly going from bad to worse, to absolute goatf**k territory.

And when Cassie initially possesses Tomas and is telling Louis-Cesare to shut up, and LC thinks it's Tomas (not understanding it's Cassie in there), is just hilarious. And Karen Chance pulls this three-way conversation off brilliantly.

4) I love how all her characters are individuals with their own little quirks. Pritkin in particular. It's a great name and fits him to a tee. He reminded me of a banty rooster with apoplexy whenever he came on-page.

And also Billy Joe who has a fantastic sense of timing - NOT!

The bad stuff. Now it may seem like I'm complaining about a lot here. But the book's got a B, I loved it, I've added Karen Chance's website to my favourites and I'm buying the next one in the series. :)

1) - What's with Cassie deciding she'll make her getaway whilst wearing high heels? Does she secretly want to get caught?

2) - The author often stops in the middle of the action to infodump - whether it's on wards during the first fight scene (p22), why people become ghosts, or magical theory. It's annoying. Yes, I'm interested in this stuff if it's going to be important to the story, but not halfway through some major action.

3) The number of times that other characters say to Cassie either that she belongs to the Silver Circle (p59), or that she is Pythia (p124) or a sybil. And she just ignores them. It doesn't get through her thick skull. Whilst we the reader have clearly heard the comments. Somehow they pass Cassie by. This happens not once, but on several occasions. She doesn't question this 'til page 223.

4) Things happen and I wasn't always clear about what's going on or who's present. Cassie needs to pay better attention to her surroundings so it's not so confusing for the reader.

And two personal issue things

5) Again with the not breathing vamps, what's up with that?

6) And p21. One use of 'literally'. But we'll let that go. :)

Finally the ending. I think in another story it might have annoyed me. There isn't really a conclusion as such. We assume that the good guys won the day, but Cassie left Mircea in the past, we never come back to the future, so we don't know for sure what happened. As an aside - How did he get back? But somehow this ending fits with the rest of the story. I wasn't disappointed I just wanted to get onto the next book.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Unshapely Things by Mark del Franco

Set in an alternative history timeline following the convergence of human and Fey worlds, Unshapely Things follows the magically crippled druid Connor Grey as he investigates a series of murders. The victims were all fairy prostitutes and the Guild - kind of like the fey police - has more important things to do, so the investigation is handed over to human law enforcement and Connor is called in to help.

This is the Kelley Armstrong bookclub book for September, and if I'm honest I probably wouldn't have picked it up otherwise. Which is the great thing about being in a bookclub, you get to try out authors you'd otherwise miss. (Okay sometimes it's the not so great thing about being in a bookclub, but that doesn't apply this time).

For me - it had a very slow start and I admit up 'til about page 180, I was thinking of it being okay, a nice way to fill the time. Then on page 174 I got hooked - admittedly longer than I would usually give a book to hook me, but hook me it did.

"I need to see your pass," said the receptionist.

Meryl turned slowly. "On average, I pass you four times a day. I think you're a twit. You think I'm a bitch. Ring a bell?"

I'd just like to say on the record that Meryl is my favourite character. And twice MDF made me think she wasn't going to make it to the end of the book!

Maybe I've got too used to reading urban fantasy which starts out with a (figurative) explosion and then proceeds with the speed of a Hollywood car chase, with no let up til the end. This has a much slower pace, with the story slowly unfolding before the reader as the case comes together for Connor. That doesn't mean it proceeds all the way through at this pace. Towards the end the clues add up to one giant mess for Connor and anyone else who wants to live through midsummer - and in the last twenty or thirty pages all hell breaks loose.

Even though it's written in first person I didn't really connect with Connor til much later in the book. In the earlier parts it's the other characters that kept me reading. First Joe (the flit) - who has all the best lines (until Meryl comes along later). The scene between him, Tansy and Connor was my first clue that there were parts of this book I was going to love. Through the other characters - Joe, Briallen, Meryl, Murdock, Keeva and Gillen - we experience different aspects of Connor's personality. And I think it's only after we've met these other characters that we begin to know Connor.

I did like how Connor is now on the side of the people he used to treat as if they were invisible. And it's a good lesson on being nice to the people on your way up, 'cause they're the same people you'll be meeting on your way down.

There were a couple of things I got slightly confused over. I wasn't 100% sure on how the convergence worked - if there were still some fey trapped in Faerie, or if they'd all been brought through to this side when the worlds merged.

I would probably have given this a B, but MDF uses Yeats The Second Coming very subtly which I liked. The title of the book itself is taken from a Yeats quote. And then on page 25 Shay quotes The Second Coming. Which at the end of the book you realize is virtually a smack in the face with a brick over what was about to happen - if you're familiar with the poem. Hopefully there will be another book in this series and yep I will be getting it.

To sum up it's an urban fantasy with a strong PI twist that should appeal to fans of Jim Butcher (Harry Dresden series), Kat Richardson (Greywalker and Poltergeist) and Charlaine Harris (Grave series). Well worth checking out, especially if you need a break from the more frenetic pace of other urban fantasy that's out at the moment

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Ill Wind by Rachel Caine


Ill Wind follows Weather Warden Joanne Baldwin as she races against time and across country in an effort to find a cure for the infection that is consuming her. Pursued by the Warden police and a rogue weather system, Joanne needs to stay one step ahead if she's going to find the most powerful Weather Warden - Lewis Levander Orwell - and his Djinn, and hopefully save her life.

It's been quite a while since I've read the first book in the Weather Warden series. I think I've currently got book 5 on my TBR pile, but I've kind of lost track of where the story is going, so decided to go back to the beginning. (Something I have to do with most of the series I follow at some point).

I do like to re-read books, especially when they're part of a series. There are things you don't always appreciate on a first read through that make more sense on a second read, either after you've finished the book or read more books in the series.

I will mention briefly that there are two uses of literally (teeth gnash), which follow on consecutive pages, but if you read fast you can pretend you've missed them. :)

I love this book. I'd forgotten how much. It was completely different to any urban fantasy I'd read before. It starts with a bang, Joanne is on the run, and the story maintains that pace throughout. You truly get the feeling of being pursued and that if Joanne stops for a moment she'll be caught. Chapters are long though. The book is 337 pages but only five chapters. So I tend to stop at scene breaks rather than wait for chapter ends. LOL just a heads up if you haven't read this one yet.

The joy (for me) in this book is Joanne's voice - the way she tells her story. The book is packed full of great lines. Far too many to write here - Rachel Caine writes brilliant dialogue.

Okay one of my favourites:-

'I tried a hint. "Any preference? Trashy decor? Adult channels?"
He turned a page. "Indoor plumbing's a plus."
Bigger hint. "Two rooms or one?"
..."Kind of takes the mystery out of it if you ask," he said.'

Joanne and David are perhaps one of my favourite urban fantasy couples. I love the way they spar with one another, and the fact that they are as stubborn as each other. Though on a re-read there is also the dread of knowing what's coming.

Joanne calls what happened to her a rape, a rape which a Djinn takes part in. He holds her down whilst a demon is forced inside her against her will. Although he had no choice in the act and although he ultimately saves her, there is still a terrible sense of betrayal. And I think that is the hardest thing for me to get my head round in this book. It illustrates how powerful and powerless the Djinn are. The fact that if they are ordered to do terrible things by their masters they have to.

At the end I'm reading faster and faster as everything goes to hell. And at the conclusion I realize this could easily have been a standalone. But I'm glad I've got the next book to look forward to re-reading.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

On the Prowl - Anthology


The problem I find with anthologies is you tend to buy them for one (or maybe two) stories. Which almost predisposes you to like one more than the others. Therefore I shall admit my bias straight off and say I bought On the Prowl for the Patricia Briggs story.

I also feel strongly that even if a story is set in an ongoing series that it should be able to stand on its own.

I'll grade each of the stories individually and then the grade at the end will be for the book as a whole.

First up we have Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs. Set in the Mercy Thompson universe (Moon Called, Blood Bound). It follows Charles (the son of werewolf king Bran) when he comes to Chicago to deal with unrest in the Chicago pack. Although this story takes place during Moon Called I don't think it's necessary to have read Moon Called to enjoy the story.

Not surprisingly I really liked this. It's also a story I've dipped back into whilst reading the other three. My favourite part being when Anna initially calls Bran for help. In a way this serves as an introduction to Anna and Charles who will be getting their own series of books in 2008, so there is something of a feeling that there is more to come. If I had any quibbles it would be that on p69 Anna smells Boyd's blood but Boyd wasn't involved in the fighting. So surely it should be Justin's blood? It's possible I missed something here, though having gone back and read it a couple of times I don't think I have. I'm torn between giving this an A-, a B+ or no grade because I'm too much of a fan to be objective.

Inhuman by Eileen Wilks.
As I'm not familiar with the Universe this is set in, I found it unsatisfying. I felt like I'd come in part way through the story, the characters were talking about things I knew nothing about. Also the situation is resolved by magical means so I didn't feel like it had really been dealt with. Terrible things happened but it felt like the perpetrator got away with it because they were misunderstood. The heroine wasn't that interesting, but Nathan (the hero) was well written, I could have read more about him and how he saw the world. Grade C.

Buying Trouble by Karen Chance.
This was my second favourite. I thought the story had real humour and the characters were well written. It had a bit of a slow start, but once the gamelan (favourite bit) got loose, the story had much more pace. Claire's transformation scene was very well done, and Heidar has a way with the witty remark. Claire had an engaging voice and I could happily read more about her. (I'm not certain but I think I started to read a Karen Chance book before, and got annoyed because she 'pulled out' of a love scene before it was completed. She was all build up and no follow through. In a way this happens again here, but it's more forgivable in this story because there's a very good reason for it. Based on this short story I'm going to dig out that book and give it another go.) Grade B+

Mona Lisa Betwining by Sunny
Okay, I probably have to issue a warning here. I may go into a bit of a rant. Sunny fans may want to skip this.

First of all, the word 'literally/literal' is used four times. FOUR TIMES! That's three times too many for a novel, let alone a short story.

Deep breath.

Now, I have only read Book 1 of the Mona Lisa series. And if you're in the same position you may want to give this story a miss. Because it's got huge spoilers in it regarding the death of a character.

This isn't a short story, there is very little plot here. There's quite a bit of exposition bringing you up to date with what's happened - kind of like a 'Previously in the Mona Lisa Universe...'. It's more of a filler between books and is probably only interesting if you're a fan of the series. Nothing really happens, and it happens for about 60 pages.

It's also slightly (okay, a lot) like reading the bastard child of Anita Blake (my beast moved inside of me), Merry Gentry (sleeping with multiple partners), and the Black Jewels Trilogy (Demon Dead, High lord of Hell).

Not one I shall be re-reading. Ungraded because I obviously lost my objectivity along the way. :)

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Caressed by Ice - Nalini Singh



In Caressed by Ice we catch up with characters first introduced in Slave to Sensation - the first book in the Psy/Changeling series. Brenna Kincaid is still feeling the aftershocks of her abduction and fears the full extent of what Enrique Santano's abuse and torture may have done to her. She becomes increasingly drawn to Judd Lauren one of the Psy taking refuge with the Wolves. But he cannot feel emotion and she cannot contain hers. Will they be able to find a way to make a future together.

Okay. That summary sucks. LOL. But it seems the more I enjoy a book the harder I find it to encapsulate it in a paragraph.

This is my favourite book in the series so far. Having looked at a few other reviews I know that while everyone (I've seen) has enjoyed the story, some people prefer the Changeling hero. This is not the case for me. (As could probably have been guessed, when Judd came up as the result in the Psy hero quiz.)

I initially noted I thought this was a more standalone story and could be appreciated without having read the other two books in the series. However, having finished the book I no longer think this is the case. Although CBI takes place away from the leopards, at the Snow Dancer wolf pack. The overall arc of the Psy/Changeling story has some major developments here which I think are best appreciated having read Slave to Sensation and Visions of Heat. Plus both sets of protagonists from those books appear here, so I think it's beneficial to know the backstory.

We learn much more about the Psy in this book. Including some of their history. I thought Zaid the first Martial Arrow sounded like an interesting (if remorseless) character. See I said I had a fascination for the Psy hero. As an aside I also wondered if perhaps a future story might be set during the 18th Century (Changeling) Territorial Wars.

I found Judd fascinating. And thought he gave a much clearer impression of what it means to be Psy. He has so much control, and underneath he's not bubbling like a volcano, he doesn't feel rage, there's just more control. It's mentioned it's significant that the first two Psy to publicly drop out of the Psynet are women, which I think is an interesting point. I always felt that both Sascha and Faith had access to some emotion, whilst with Judd you realize what Silence truly is, from someone who embraces it because they have to.

Brenna is a curious mixture of vulnerability and intense anger. Her relationship with her brothers - I loved. I thought Nalini Singh captured the sibling capacity for annoyance and affection perfectly. When things in the Changeling world start to fall apart and everyone's loyalty comes under question (leopard to wolf, Changeling to Changeling) this family strength almost becomes a double edged sword. And you stand with Brenna questioning exactly what her brothers are capable of.

I loved that Brenna and Judd's mating wasn't as smooth or immediate as in the previous two books. That would have been unrealistic. This was something the two of the them had to puzzle out between themselves. I liked the slow intensity of it. And I look forward to catching up with them in later books.

There was a lot of other stuff happening as well, this book was packed with information. We learn more about the wolf pack structure, and I like that the maternal females can order Hawke to think about what he's doing. The Psy council take their machinations to a higher level of brutality, and new alliances are formed. We get quite a lot of Kaleb, so I was happy, including some tidbits about his past. Nalini Singh has managed to maintain his ambiguity. He could be a good guy, or he could be very bad. I'm hoping he turns up again in Book 4.

Other new characters are hinted at - Ashaya Aleine and Zie Zen. My gut says they'll be playing a bigger part in the series. As will The Ghost I think. :) And we find out a little more about Walker Lauren, Sienna Lauren and Hawke - whose story I'm patiently waiting for, one of his conversations with Brenna is short, beautiful and heartbreaking.

Although the next book Mine to Possess isn't out 'til February. Nate and Tamsyn's story will be available as a short story in the October anthology An Enchanted Season. Which is good 'cause patience isn't really one of my virtues. :)

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Resolution for September

In an effort to get through some of the books on my TBR pile I'm not going to buy any books in September. :shock: I can feel withdrawal starting now.

(This of course doesn't include Caressed by Ice and Lover Unbound which were pre-ordered months ago.) Hey, you didn't expect me to get through September without getting my hands on them.

I'm going to see if I can hold out for the thirty days. I anticipate - 1) turning into a raving lunatic well before the end of the month, 2) that I'll crack and go on a mad book buying frenzy around the 20th and/or 3) come the first of October I'll be putting the most enormous order into Amazon as I sink gratefull back into my habit.

If it gets to the point where I'm snapping at friends and family 'cause I haven't had a brown parcel fix. Then of course I reserve the right to fall off the wagon. :)

Today is Day 1.