Monday, 29 September 2008

Mind the Gap by Christopher Golden & Tim Lebbon

Now for something a little different. Mind the Gap was the Kelley Armstrong book club book for August, however I got a little behind and ended up reading it in September. One of the things I most enjoy about the bookclub is the potential to expand your reading horizons, reading books you wouldn't normally read.

Mind the Gap follows Jasmine Towne, who following her mothers murder by the mysterious Uncles, hides in the forgotten tunnels of London's underground system. Here she meets a group of children - the United Kingdom - looked after by an old man called Harry. With nowhere else to go she joins them - but the Uncles haven't stopped looking for her.

I'm not sure this is a book I could recommend to others. I would say it's a Young Adult book, except for the use of the f-word throughout, and I'm not sure what adult market it's aimed at. But as I said at the beginning this isn't the type of book I usually read so I'm not going to know...I guess.

It's also somewhat depressing, painted in monochrome rather than colour. Pardon the pun - but there's little light at the end of the tunnel. It seems whenever Jaz thinks she's found a place or a person for herself something goes wrong. Don't get too fond of any endearing character.

Jaz as a heroine, didn't always ring true to me. In the flashbacks she doesn't always sound like a teenager. Her response when her mother wants to warn her about men.
"A Dali would woo me with his intellect, a Picasso would make me see things in a different way, and a Warhol would just show me his dick."
My niece and her friends are 14, and I don't think any of them know who Warhol is, let alone Picasso and Dali. And even if they had heard of them, I'm not sure they'd construct such an argument.

However, there was a lot here I enjoyed.

I felt like there were many Londons being woven into this story. Quite a lot of it had a Dickensian feel, the United Kingdom gang is reminiscent of Fagin and his boys from Oliver Twist. The use of the passage from Great Expectations towards the end of the book I thought worked really well.

There's also a slight fairy tale feel. Jaz likens herself to Wendy Darling (Peter Pan) and when she first descends into the Underground there is an atmosphere of Alice going down the rabbit hole.

The descriptions are wonderful and drew me into the book. When Jaz first flees into the Underground we're there on the Tube station with her, feeling the trains screaming past and seeing the unwelcome darkness of the tunnels. On the first burglary I was with Jaz as she entered the house, I felt her exhilaration and fear as she realizes there is another burglar in the house with her, and could almost taste the adrenaline rush as she decides to go ahead with her own robbery anyway.

It may seem from some of the above that there wasn't as much about the book that I enjoyed as I didn't. However, although this book isn't a keeper for me, I am glad I read it, after all you shouldn't get too stuck in your reading comfort zone.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Claimed by Shadow - Karen Chance

Claimed by Shadow - Karen Chance (Published April 2007)

Why was this on my TBR pile? WHY!!! Apologies for any SHOUTING in this review and the overuse of the word love.

Well I seem to remember the first book finishing on something of a cliffhanger and I also have book 3 in my TBR pile so I was probably not wanting to get caught in the same cliffhanger twice. (Well different cliffhanger but same problem). Books like this are what TBR Wednesday is all about - finding that hidden gem you've somehow forgotten about.

I have to admit here to only having a vague memory of Book 1 when I started Claimed by Shadow, though having read Book 2 most of it has come back to me. I do remember having a problem with some infodumping in Touch the Dark (Bk1) and that Karen Chance is very good at writing first lines.

The first line situation is still the same
Any day that starts off in a demon-filled bar in a casino designed to look like Hell isn't likely to turn out well.
But the info-dumping? Gone. Or at least become so much smoother and integrated into the plot that I didn't notice it. If Karen Chance wasn't already an author I knew, I would add her to my breakout author list for 2008. This book was that good. Even though I spent a fair bit of time confused about what the hell was going on, especially at the beginning. Mainly because Claimed by Shadow does not pick up smoothly from the end of Touch the Dark, as you may have gathered from the first line. However, I do think on a second read through things will gel together more, and I'm a big fan of books with high re-readability.

I can't really think of anything I didn't like about the book. (Except maybe another cliff hangery ending :(, but HAH! I have learnt my lesson on that score and Book 3 is ready on the TBR pile).

So quickly onto the things I loved.

PRITKIN! OMG I love Pritkin even more after this book. He and Cassie have such chemistry and mutual dislike and secret unspoken (probably never to be acted on) attraction.
I couldn't recall Pritkin ever believing anything I said; it kind of made me wonder why he bothered talking to me at all.
Methinks they both protest too much. I love the way his temper explodes at inopportune moments and narks Cassie off. And he gets his shirt off and gets a tattoo in this book...

Mircea. Now I love me some vamps. And in any other story (that didn't feature Pritkin) Mircea would be far and away my favourite character. He has such a dark sensual presence, :sigh: if only I weren't such a Pritkin fan. I very much like that the relationship between Mircea and Cassie is an ongoing thing, rather than it being easily resolved.

There is a little Macbeth theme going on here as well. I love Shakespeare, so this appealed to me. I don't know how much of it was intentional and how much happy accident. But in a couple of places I picked out quotes from the play. They also visit a performace of Macbeth and the Graeae are referred to as the weird sisters. Makes me wish I was more familiar with the play, in case it was intentional.

The plot itself, starts with a bang and doesn't let go. This does mean that moments of internal reflection are few and far between. Some terrible things happen and Cassie doesn't really get a chance to process them, she just has to cope with each impending crisis as it looms. So this is something of a rollercoaster ride, leaving you frantically turning the pages wanting to know what happens next. But it works. Cassie is a character (not dissimilar to Kate Daniels) who things just happen to. She's almost like a magnet for bad karma.

The book is chock full of snappy banter and quotable dialogue. And though some characters only appear briefly they have a big impact on the storyline. Claimed by Shadow made me smile, made me teary and made me hungry for the next book. Highly recommended (I think Ilona Andrews fans would like this series, if they aren't reading it already).

Book 1 - Touch the Dark
Book 3 - Embrace the Night
Book 4 - Curse the Dawn (April 2009)

Arrggghhh April is too far away and I may crack and read Book 3 sooner than that.

But, looks like Karen Chance has a new series set in the same Universe.

Midnight's Daughter (Dorina Basarab #1) October 2008. :)

Monday, 15 September 2008

Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

Cry Wolf continues the story of Charles and Anna begun in the short story Alpha and Omega (from the On the Prowl Anthology). Following the incident in OTP Anna is moving to Montana to live with Charles, and take her place in the Marrok's pack. However, when you live as long as werewolves do you can make a lot of enemies. Before they have time to resolve the issues between them Charles and Anna are on the hunt for a rogue werewolf and a whole lot of history is about to smack them in the face.

I love Patricia Briggs. So this is going to be an ungraded review as I am not completely objective. :) I think Cry Wolf works best if you've read Alpha and Omega first, there is a little bit of a catch up at the beginning of Cry Wolf but I think you'd get more out of the story if you read about Charles and Anna's first meeting and how Anna became a werewolf. You only really get the bare bones in Cry Wolf. This book also slots into the Mercy Thompson Universe following up some events that happened after Mercedes returned to the Tri-Cities.

One slight niggle before the gushing, because if I gush first (LOL) I may forget to niggle later. Cry Wolf was a little slow in the middle for me, but I think that's more to do with the fact that I wanted more of the werewolf interaction stuff. I shouldn't be greedy.

I love Patricia Brigg's heroines. They're not superwomen, they're doing the best they can in difficult situations.And she has these one line quotes that can almost sum up a heroine at a particular time.
She wondered that hope was so much harder than despair.
(In Iron Kissed, Mercy's was - it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission.) Her characters have little quirks - Anna has a fondness for quoting phrases in Latin. Which I love and it made me want to get a t-shirt with Interdum feror cupidine partium magnarum europe vincendarum on. I hesitate to think what that says about me. :)

Anna is an Omega wolf. She's previously been told she's a submissive, the lowest of the low, but that just isn't the case. What we experience in Cry Wolf is Anna starting to learn exactly what it means to be an Omega. Charles and Bran will only help her so far, part of being in a werewolf pack means she has to find her own place.

Charles and Anna's relationship as humans is much more wary than their relationship as wolves. Their wolves have already decided they are mates, however their human halves have not. Kind of a unique situation in werewolf society as it usually happens the other way round, with the wolf being more wary.

This is what I liked most about Cry Wolf, how Patricia Briggs fleshed out the relationships between the various members of the Montana pack, not only Charles and Anna, but how they work together as a unit, as a dysfunctional family. It's interesting that Anna thinks of the pack as a bunch of psychotics, in a way the Montana pack is a pack for werewolves who can't fit in anywhere else - they're too damaged, too set in their ways, too broken, but very interesting to read about. The stand out characters for me (not including C&A) are Bran the Marrok (of course :) ), Asil and Sage. And I really like how we finally get an insight into the relationship between Bran and Leah. Patricia Briggs pulls off the tricky thing of getting me to dislike Leah but also feel kind of bad about the situation she's in.

Because Cry Wolf is written in third person rather than first. It also gives us the opportunity to see situations from more than one point of view. So it's nice to be able to see what both Charles and Anna are thinking, and also being given the opportunity to see the way Bran thinks and to learn more of his history. So there are more complex relationships being explored here rather than just that between Charles and Anna. We also have Bran & the pack, Asil & Bran, Asil & Sage. Each one unique and revealing something different.

With only book being released for this series a year, I'm certainly learning about patience. :( And if anyone out there knows anything about the next book please feel free to share. :)

Giveaway Closed

Monday, 1 September 2008

Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione

This is the first in a new series - Demonica. I'm not sure where I first heard about this one, though I'm almost certain it was on a review blog.


Pleasure Unbound introduces us to the Demonica world. In the good guys corner we have Tayla Mancuso - Aegis Demon Slayer. In the bad guys corner we have Eidolon - Seminus Demon and emergency room surgeon. Hmmm...maybe he's not such a bad guy after all. Unfortunately Tayla isn't as easily convinced and she soon finds herself torn between the world she depends on and the world that Eidolon could show her if only she'd believe in him. To make matters more complicated a group of bodysnatchers known as Ghouls (not the restless undead it's more of a derogatory term) are kidnapping demons and harvesting them for bodyparts. The Ghouls are playing the Aegi and the Demons off against each other and it's going to be down to Tayla, Eidolon and their friends to sort the mess out.

I really enjoyed this. And I think this is the first book this year by a new author (to me) that has got me interested in following a new series. It's not perfect but I'll start with the good stuff.

I admit I have a weakness for a book with a glossary. Preferably short with some interesting terms that make you want to read to see how it's all going to fit together. I especially like how the author has incorporated a taxonomic classification for the demon species with the Seminus demon as an example.

I like the setting, the idea of a demon hospital - Underground General - I thought was original and not something I'd seen before. I also liked the fact that there are demonic demons . They aren't all good and misunderstood, but they aren't all bad flesh eaters either.
A female Umber demon...had caught the patient sneaking into her nursery, and had somehow impaled him - several times - with a toilet brush.
There are shades of grey, which I always find more interesting to read about. I was also interested later on when Eidolon is explaining about how there are exceptions in every species and how a Cruenti demon had wanted to train to work in the hospital. That would have been a fascinating story unfortunately he was ripped to shreds by his less empathetic family members.

It is a very real book in that respect. Larissa Ione doesn't flinch away from the realities of the world she has set up. Eidolon has to make difficult decisions and he's one of these characters that does the right thing, even when it's the harder thing to do.

I'm not as keen on the character of Tayla, I just didn't feel her as much. She felt a little immature to me but you could also attribute that to how she was raised, and essentially the Aegi do seem a little cult-like. So far though I'm liking the male characters more than the female.

The relationship between the brothers is very interesting. Shade and Wraith obviously have a much closer relationship. But Eidolon is prepared to make a huge sacrifice on behalf of his younger brother, though he acknowledges his brothers at best are morally grey.

This book is hot - quite a lot of sex, though I think this is mainly organic to the storyline. It didn't feel overly gratuitous, after all, Eidolon is an incubus. As are his two brothers - Shade and Wraith - looking forward to their books.

I like how Larissa Ione has managed to capture the feel of the world. She has multiple characters but they all interact believably with each other and leave me wanting to read their stories not just the other two brothers, but also Gem and Kynan, and the werewolf Luc. I think Kynan will probably get lots of votes for a story of his own. He may only be a human in a world of demons but he is one tough bloke.

On the quibble front.

Eidolon has a dog. It's mentioned on page 6. But even though Tayla goes to his appartment - no dog. Apparently the dog has gone away for a few days. But in the epilogue - still no dog. I'm just left with the wish that the dog had never been mentioned. As I was looking forward to seeing how Eidolon and the dog interacted. Why mention the dog if we're never going to get to meet it?

There is a slight tendency to melodrama at some points. Tayla in particular is a bit of a drama queen. Now there's nothing wrong with a bit of the dramatics, but it's very easy to do too much and get a little silly.

My quibbles aside, this has been one of my favourite books of the year. And Larissa Ione is currently my only nominee for breakout author of 2008. Can't wait to read Shade's book.