Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year!


HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Still a couple of hours to go in my little corner of the world. But in some places it's been 2010 for a while now.

I wish everyone the best for the coming year and hope it will include lots of reading and good books.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Reading Challenges for 2010

So after failing at the TBR challenge in 2009. In 2010 I'm going to take part in the DIK reading challenge. Details on DIK here. Basically you have the choice of the 188 books on the DIK island. There is an incredibly wide range from the classics, to romance, to sci-fi, so should definitely be something there to interest me every month.

Also as Nicole suggested I'm going to try and read 52 books in 52 weeks. Which should make a little dent (at least) in my TBR pile.

Edited to Add - I've also joined the m/m reading challenge for 2010. Aiming to read 20+ stories. (If anyone knows how to make the button in my sidebar completely viewable please let me know. I suck at the tech stuff.)

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Book of the Year, Breakout Author, Series of the Year

It's only when I came to look back through the books I'd read that I was able to pick out my top choice. And an author I am definitely looking forward to following in the future. My favourite book of 2009 and break out author - Zero at the Bone by Jane Seville. She brought two distinctly different characters to life in Jack and D, and I hope to read more of their adventures soon.

In December I started to read manga for the first time. And my series of the year and books I haven't been able to put down since I got them are the Loveless volumes by Yun Kouga. Look for my reviews of the remaining volumes in 2010.

All that remains to say is Happy Christmas. May Santa bring you lots of books. :)

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Favourite Books of 2009

When I look back on my reading of 2009 I realise a couple of things. 1) Most of my favourite books have been m/m. 2) I think this may be the year that I became disenchanted with the UF genre. Something I didn't think I'd ever say. Maybe I've overglommed and just need a break. (At the moment I feel very drawn to steampunk)

So Favourite books of the year:-

M/M

Fatal Shadows by Josh Lanyon
A Dangerous Thing by Josh Lanyon
Hero by Perry Moore
Zero at the Bone by Jane Seville
Mind Fuck by Manna Francis
Hemovore by Jordan Castillo Price


Of Urban Fantasy I have most enjoyed:-
Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews
In the Blood by Adrian Phoenix
Stay the Night by Lynn Viehl


Crime/Thriller
Made to be Broken by Kelley Armstrong - And if I could have one reading wish it would be that there is going to be another Nadia Stafford book

Comfort Read of 2009
I have just noticed that I never wrote a review of this book - how remiss of me - but my comfort read of 2009 is The Shadow Queen by Anne Bishop. I wish we could have left the older characters behind to concentrate on the new, but it's a book I love to dip into. It's the one that I keep next to my computer so when I'm waiting for things to load or the internet to come back up, I fetch it off the shelf and have a little read.

Looking back at 2009 I definitely didn't read as many books as I have in previous years. It been a busy year what with one thing and another. Hopefully 2010 will have better things (and more reading) in store.

So, were there any breakout authors for me this year? Tune in tomorrow to find out.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Oh Dear

Looking back through my posts as I prepare my 'best books of the year', I found my reading resolutions post for 2009.

Eek!

I managed only one out of the four.

I did finally manage to finish the Sundered Quadrology by Michelle Sagara West.

But I still haven't:-

  • Read the Twilight Saga - maybe I'll wait for the films.
  • I didn't complete the 2009 TBR challenge - having to give up a few months in - maybe I'll do better in 2010 with the DIK reading challenge. My TBR pile could definitely do with the help.
  • And I never did get caught up with The Weather Warden series. This is one resolution that's definitely making it onto the 2010 list. Which I have a feeling will be 'series catching up' oriented.

Tomorrow - I'll post my books of the year.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Make a Snowflake

I was just going through my e-mail deleting stuff and I found this link from a couple of years ago.Make a Snowflake.

Be warned it's quite addictive.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Hemovore by Jordan Castillo Price

This is a story I probably wouldn't have picked up if it hadn't been chosen as a pick for the m/m book group. And I am so glad it was chosen otherwise I would have missed out on a real treat.

Blurb.
Ten years ago, the Human Hemovore Virus blazed through the world, and left the few victims who survived unable to eat, allergic to sunlight and craving the taste of blood.

Mark Jensen used to think V-positives were incredibly sexy with their pale, flawless skin and taut, lean bodies. Not anymore. Not since he’s been stuck procuring under-the-counter feline blood for his control-freak boss, Jonathan Varga. Why cat blood? Mark has never dared to ask.

It’s not as if he’s usually at a loss for words. He can dish an insult and follow it with a snap as quick as you can say “Miss Thang”. But one look at Jonathan’s black-as-sin gypsy eyes, and Mark’s objections drain away.

So he endures their strange, endless routine: Jonathan hiding in his studio, painting solid black canvases. Mark hurling insults as he buffs the office to a shine with antiviral wipes and maps out the mysterious “routes” he’s required to drive.

Then a blurb in Art in America unleashes a chain of events neither of them saw coming. As secrets of Jonathan’s past come to light, it becomes clear all his precautions weren’t nearly enough.
This story is set in an alternate universe where sufferers of the HHV virus (yes I know that's virus virus) who survive the four stages of the disease become technically what we'd call vampires. They live a very long time and have to drink blood (and lots of oil) to survive.

The story is told from Mark's point of view and I loved him. As a character he reminded me somewhat of Adrien English though more solid (I always imagine Adrien as being quite slight physically). He has a very snarky inner voice and a self-deprecating sense of a humour, a combination which I am a complete sucker for.
Damn it. Where had I been while my body was hurtling towards forty?
Possibly my favourite line in the book. :)

Jonathan remains something of an enigma, which for me worked very well. We only know as much as Mark knows, and Jonathan especially for the first part of the book keeps part of himself back from Mark.

I thought the world-building was incredibly well-realized. You got a real sense that HHV was a terrible disease, that only a lucky few were able to 'survive', and once they became vampires they carried the continual possibility of infecting someone else. Someone else who may not be as 'lucky' to turn into a vampire. The day-to-day practicalities of caring for and being a vampire were an integral part of the story - getting blood, being careful not to pass the disease on, staying out of the sunlight. And not in a cheesy vampire movie way, but a mundane 'this is something I'd have to do for the rest of my immortal life way'. Immortality may sound like an attractive option but when your bagged blood supply fills with clots are you still going to think it's romantic?

If I had any quibbles it would be that I wished we'd had a strong sexual scene between Mark and Jonathan, something more than what happens at the end. All the way through I felt like we were building to a climax but that we never quite reached a peak. (Thanks must go here to Diane who pointed me in the direction of.Jordan Castillo Price's website where there is an alternate sexy ending. Please read Hemovore first as the alt-ending has spoilers).

I am so glad I picked this story up. And I will definitely be checking out Jordan Castillo Price's backlist. I hope at some point in the future there might be another visit to the Hemovore universe.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Present Tense Problems

I was over at the Rain on the Roof blog checking out Sarah's latest m/m recommendations and was intrigued by The Strongest Shape, so decided to go check out the excerpt. (Something I always try to do when it's a new author to me unless I've agreed to read a book for the bookclub).

The excerpt begins
Caleb doesn't actually remember how he ended up coming home with Jason. He remembers going to Jason's concert alone after Damian broke up with him.
I continue reading, I don't know what the problem is, but for some reason it's the reading equivalent of trying to swim through treacle. Then I realize - this is written in the present tense.

I don't know why but I struggle to read present tense. I find it hard going.

Maybe, it's because growing up all the stories you hear as a child are past tense - "Once upon a time there was a..." Maybe it's the difficulty of getting your brain to assimilate a story that is happening THIS INSTANT.

I've found I can take it in very small doses where it's used mainly for effect, for example in the prologue of Bitten by Kelley Armstrong. For me as far as present tense is concerned it's a question of less is more.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Falling Out of the Story

Whenever I read a story I like to lose myself in it. One of the things that I really don't like is when something says in big quote marks:-

"You're reading a story!"

This is usually caused by info-dumping. I think the last time it happened was when I read Karen Chance's first Cassie Palmer story. And it happened again this week when I started reading Mark of the Demon by Diana Rowland.

Right at the beginning of the story the heroine Kara has summmoned a demon...
He towered over me, his head topping mine by several feet...
Erm...hold on a moment did you say several feet? Exactly how high are the ceilings in your house anyway? But luckily the heroine can take a few moments away from worrying about the demon in her house to inform the reader
Fortunately for him, my Acadian style house had the traditional fifteen foot ceilings designed for the subtropical climate of south Louisiana where high ceilings helped keep houses cool.
Great. Good to know. But between those two sentences you've knocked me completely out of the story. If the heroine can take time aaway from the demon in her living room to inform me about the intricacies of Acadian architecture why should I be bothered about the freakishly tall other planar being?

I'm hoping this is a one-off as I've heard really good things about this book and at some point this year I would like to find a new UF author to follow. I've been kind of underwhelmed with the UF I've read this year.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Loveless Volume 1

And now for something completely different. My first manga. I picked this up after watching the Loveless anime and admit I have glommed the entire series (up to volume 8 so far).

So the blurb.
When 12-year old Ritsuka discovers a posthumous message from his brother Seimi indicating that he was murdered, he becomes involved in a shadowy world of spell battles and secret names. Together with the mysterious Soubi, the search to find Seimi's killer and uncover the truth begins! But in a world where mere words have unbelievable power, how can you find true friendship and happiness when your very name is Loveless?
One Amazon review compared Loveless to marmite - you either love it or hate it. From the glomming you can probably tell I'm in the former category.

The story begins with Ritsuka having just transferred to a new school. He's introduced to his new classmates and despite being somewhat aloof, one of the girls in the class - Yuiko - decides she's going to be his friend. Soubi is waiting for him outside of school. Soubi - we find out is a fighter unit - and Ritsuka is a sacrifice. The pair of them are to battle other fighter and sacrifice pairs through wordspell. Basically the fighter units battle using words but it is the sacrifices who receive the damage in the form of restrictions. The battle ends when the sacrifice is completely restricted.

Because of this emphasis on the power of words, names are very important. Fighter and sacrifice usually share the same (real) name. For example there is a unit called Breathless, both fighter and sacrifice sharing the same name, which is found somewhere on their bodies. Here Soubi and Ritsuka are something of an anomaly, they don't share a name.

We learn things as Ritsuka learns them so as yet it is unclear why the battles are taking place. There's also a mystery regarding Ritsuka himself, something happened two years ago and now his mother no longer thinks he's the 'real' Ritsuka. Part of her 'illness' involves testing him - giving him food which the 'real' Ritsuka didn't like and when he likes it, she hits him. A fact he is keeping secret from his friends and teacher. Ritsuka knows he has changed and worries about changing back to the Ritsuka of before, in a way he feels like for that to happen the Ritsuka he is now would have to (figuratively) die.

In the Loveless universe all children are born with cat ears and a tail, these features are lost when the individual loses their virginity. This allows an immediate distinction between who is considered an adult and who is considered a child. And also places further definition on what is innocence and experience. (Example Ritsuka's teacher is 23 but still has her ears, which is something of a talking point!) The child characters have a much greater emotional expressiveness through these additional ears. Whereas the adult characters - notably Soubi - are harder to read.

Some readers may find Soubi's attachment to Ritsuka a little disturbing - after all Soubi is an adult and Ritsuka still a child. But for me, it is more to do with the fact that Soubi - as a fighter unit - has no place without his sacrifice. He is incomplete. (His friend Kio repeatedly calls him a pervert, an accusation Soubi denies every time).

The other notable character in this volume is Yuiko - the annoying girl character. She eventually becomes a) much less annoying and b) Ritsuka's friend, and does provide some of the more comic moments which help relieve the tension.
Ritsuka - And also, you need to be smarter. I hate idiots.
Yuiko - Am I stupid?
Ritsuka - You are. Read more books! Read! I thought you were illiterate!
Yuiko - You want me to read?
Ritsuka - That's right.
Okay, this seems a little harsh, but Yuiko is one of those people that doesn't do subtle, unless you hit her over the head with a metaphorical brick she isn't going to get it. Once Ritsuka persuades her to stop referring to herself in the third person she immediately becomes 90% less annoying.

I love the little snarky asides you get in the manga which were missing from the anime.

Because spells rely on wordplay the language during the spell battles is very precise. Beautifully written and illustrated, I'm impatiently awaiting the arrival of volume 2, which for some reason was harder to get hold of then 3,4,5,6,7 and 8.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Coming Up on the Blog this Week

I'm going to have my first review of some Manga - Loveless Volume 1.

And I'm also going to start a couple of posts - these will probably be occasional things - one on my favourite animals in fiction, which will no doubt be a short list as I'm not a huge fan of animals in fiction*, and another on unlikely heroes, which may also be a short list. :) Mainly because it's taking me a lot longer to read books at the moment.

There will also be a review of Quid Pro Quo by Manna Francis, which I'm probably going to do as a series of reviews as the book itself is a novella and several short stories.

And finally, I couldn't resist and nipped into Borders again today. I picked up:-

Vanished by Kat Richardson
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell


* - People will probably get a very good idea from the posts that I have a little bit of a warped idea of what makes a good animal character.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Mind Fuck by Manna Francis

Mind Fuck is the first book in the Administration Series by Manna Francis. Set in the future dystopia of New London it concerns the investigation into a series of suspicious deaths that might be corporate sabotage. It's also follows the developing 'relationship' between Val Toreth, interrogator for the Administration and sadist, and Keir Warrick, corporate executive and masochist.

As the tagline says - "There are no bad guys or good guys. There are only better guys and worse guys." Warrick being one of the better guys and Toreth being one of the worse guys. It's a world where dissent is dealt with through 're-education' and those lucky enough to have corporate status can live a relatively nice life as long as they keep the party line.

Told mainly from the point of view of Toreth, this allows us an incredible insight into his perspective. What you don't appreciate here (until you've read the later stories and then come back and re-read this one) is how multilayered the characters are. As readers we really only scratch the surface here, each book, each story takes you deeper into the world.

Manna Francis is a brilliant writer (excuse the bias) she makes you side with Toreth, appreciate how compelling he is as a character, yet at the same time she doesn't hide what he is. He's a sociopath (this is explored in more detail in later books), he interrogates people for a living (including torture), he'll virtually screw anything with a pulse, he uses people unapologetically but there is something about him that fascinates. Toreth is perhaps not as clever as Warrick on an intellectual level (Warrick is a genius after all) but he has a survival instinct that rivals a cornered wolf.

Keir Warrick is less well defined. We learn he is calm, self-controlled and precise and perhaps prefers to play the game with the deck stacked in his favour. One of the things that maybe pulls Toreth towards Warrick is that occasionally the other man surprises him. That he is unpredictable.

Mind Fuck might at first seem quite a provocative title. But it actually has multiple meanings. As well as being slang for the psychoprogramming department (the department responsible for reeducation), it sums up the initial relationship between Warrick and Toreth. And Toreth says to Warrick in their first conversation together.
"I fuck minds."
Warrick however is not easily intimidated - perhaps part of what attracts Toreth - and his corporation is developing a form of virtual reality known as the Sim, so he later responds:-
"Come and experience the future of mind fucking..."
This continues...
"...you told me you rape minds."
"I said, 'I fuck minds,' I think you'll find."
Warrick shrugged. "It's all in the inflection, really."
This is quite a good example of how their relationship is one of shifting power dynamics and oneupmanship. Toreth himself doesn't see, or doesn't want to see how attached (not the right word but I can't think of a better one) he is to Warrick. As readers we see this more through the eyes of other characters - Marian
Toreth was manipulative and dangerous, and Warrick understood him perfectly.
and Toreth's admin Sara.

This is not a romance. It is erotic. It is the story of the beginnings of a relationship between two people. By relationship I mean an interaction which has the potential to become something more. It's probably the best book I've read this year and I fear my review has not done it justice. I love the Administration Series and hope there will be many more books to come.

* I think this has to be the most times I've used the word fuck in a review.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Borders UK Closing

So I made my usual Sunday trip to the shopping centre to get the weeks groceries, intending to nip into Borders for a little browse - as I like to do. To find out that Borders UK is in administration and the store is closing down. :( I'm pretty sure I heard rumours about this a while ago, but as it all seemed to come to nothing I kind of thought it had gone away.

Sadly today they are selling off the stock, everything seems to have at least 20% off, some stuff had 50%. I shall miss the place.

I tried to buy books that I definitely knew I hadn't got on my TBR pile, though since I've got back and added them to Goodreads it looks like I may have slipped on the Carrie Vaughn.

So I picked up:-

The Thorn Queen - Richelle Mead
Succubus Dreams - Richelle Mead
Succubus Heat - Richelle Mead (I'll add here that I haven't yet bought book 2 of the Georgina Kincaid series but they didn't have that on the shelves)
Demon Bound - Meljean Brook
The Darkest Pleasure - Gena Showalter
Kitty & the Silver Bullet - Carrie Vaughn (I was sure I hadn't got this one but apparently I have, lol so look for a free book giveaway when I get round to reviewing it.)
Quilting, Needlework and Embroidery - Not fiction but it had a great section on knitting and crochet so that went into the basket as well


Also if anyone knows how to break a pair of 8-hole Dr. Marten's in I'd be grateful for suggestions. I've had these for a few months now and the leather doesn't seem to be giving at all. I virtually rubbed my left calf raw whilst shopping.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

I was at Borders...

...on Sunday, doing a little book browsing to cheer myself up. I picked up Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick as a Christmas present, it's hardback so I may have a little read before it gets wrapped up. Beautiful cover which is what made me pick it up and read the blurb.

I also picked up Covet by J.R.Ward. Now, I didn't plan on following this series but I felt like I deserved something as a treat (besides the vanilla and cinnamon candle I picked up near the checkout - my favourite scents) and as usual when I'm Borders the 80 books on my wishlist just vanish from my brain.

Tonight I decide to have a little flick through at the best bits - :) - as you do. Two words kept popping out at me 'As' (As he.., As she.., As they..,) and 'And'. There seem to be a disproportionately high number of them. It will probably be a while before I get round to reading this but I have the bad feeling that my internal editor is going to get a little hair trigger on this one.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Mind F*ck by Manna Francis - So Far

.
There are no bad guys or good guys.
There are only better guys and worse guys

This will be the second time I've read this book, but the first where I'm reading it with an eye to writing a review.

This was just one of those books that I never thought I'd be able to write a review that would justify what a great book I think it is. (Did that make sense?) Anyway I'm going to give it a go.

Manna Francis has written an amazingly detailed story set in a future dystopia. With one of the most fascinating characters I've read about - Val Toreth, he being one of the 'worse guys' from the tagline.

I picked this book up again after it was mentioned on Wave's blog, so expect the review at some point this week. Anyone have any objections to me not asterisking out the 'u'? Only I think I'll probably slip up at some point anyway.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Bitten to Death by Jennifer Rardin

The fourth book in the Jaz Parks series follows our heroine to Greece. Where she, Vayl and her brother Dave, infiltrate a vampire Trust. Edward Samos (The Raptor) is trying to take over the Trust that Vayl used to belong to. Jaz is going to do her best to stop that and at the same time she's going to have to save Vayl from the new leader of The Trust who has her own plans for Vayl's future.

This is not my favourite of the series. I think the first two books set such a high standard and books three and four (for me) haven't quite measured up. However, that's not to say that they aren't great reads and I'd still read a Jaz Parks book over a lot of the other urban fantasy and vampire books out there.

Partly I don't think this book (plotwise) hangs together quite a well as previous books. It's quite possible that I haven't been able to concentrate as well as with previous books and I struggled somewhat picking up on the plot after putting the book down.

The other niggle I had with this book is that we have a lot more internal dialogue from Jaz - not a problem in itself as I love Jaz's snark. The problem I have is that different facets of her personality are now appearing as different characters inside her own head, arguing with each other. I think this works well if not overused, unfortunately I think it was. I wanted to get away from her overly analysed introspection and back to the action and character devlopment in the 'real' world.

Okay, niggles aside.

Quite a lot happens in this book. Despite saying he'd deal with it in the previous book, Vayl still hasn't come to terms with the loss of his sons. And it remains a weak point that his enemies are able to manipulate.

Jaz and Vayl still don't get together - how much longer can they stay apart?!!!

There are some genuinely creepy and disgusting scenes. The attack of the grall made me feel like I'd got lice crawling over my body.
"Check my back! My back!"
Possibly one of the most bizarre recommendations for a book you're ever going to read. :)

Despite my problems with the book. Jaz remains one of my favourite UF heroines. There aren't too many protagonists out there who could get away with this line.
"...I can't think with my underwear stuck up my crack. I know it's a weakness, but it's just one of those things."
She has such a lovely turn of phrase.

This book wraps up some plot points - Edward Samos is finally dealt with. But it also raises more questions. My biggest one being - Who was the Evie lookalike fighting in the Daemon Wars? And are Jaz and Vayl ever going to get together? It has to happen soon, right? I have the next book on order so will hopefully find out the answer to that one. This is one series I'm not ready to give up on.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

19th Century Novels

So after taking the literature course this year (and enjoying it - almost surprisingly). I'm thinking of taking another lit. course next year. It's looking like a choice between the 19th Century novel and 20th Century lit. I'm kind of pulled towards the 19th century for a couple of reasons. 1) It's before the 20th (lol) so there may be some kind of progression reason for doing 20th century lit. second. 2) If I don't do it first I may decide to skip it and just do Shakespeare.

So in the spirit of getting ahead and knowing what doorsteps some of the 19th Century novels are, I'm trying to decide which texts to read first.

So if anyone has any opinions on the following novels - which to read first, which to get out of the way, which to put off as long as possible, let me know in the comments.

Far From the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
Madame Bovary - G. Flaubert
Germinal - E. Zola
Dombey & Son - Charles Dickens
Jane Eyre - Bronte
The Awakening - Kate Chopin
Middlemarch - George Eliot
The Portrait of a Lady - Henry James
Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen
Heart of Darkness - J. Conrad
Dracula - Bram Stoker

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The Nines

I recorded The Nines last week and finally got round to watching it Sunday night. This is where I admit that I did chop off the first ten minutes so I hope there wasn't anything crucial mentioned there. Hopefully some of that time was the ad break.

Anyway, it was just one line (in the whole film) that really caught my interest, in a conversation between Margaret and Gary:-
Margaret: If God is a ten, a theoretical ultimate, that-which-no-greater-can-be-imagined, you're more of a nine.
Gary: So what are you?
Margaret: Humans are sevens. Monkeys are sixes.
Gary: What are the eights?
Margaret: Koalas. They're telepathic. Plus, they control the weather.

I just LOVE that. lol

From now on, everytime I see a koala on the tv, I just know that that line is going to pop into my head. (Plus you have to admit they look like they could be telepathic) :)

(Koala image from - http://www.australian-wildlife.com/Koalas-information.html )

Monday, 5 October 2009

Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs

Whilst I would really like to start this review by once again stating how much I hate the UK cover, I'll try and restrain myself...whoops.

I found this one slightly worrying whilst I was reading it. Mainly because it seemed to be going off in two different directions at once. Worrying is not exactly the right word but I wasn't sure how Patricia Briggs was going to resolve the two stories and have it feel like a coherent whole. I think that was the point though. In the end everything came together but maybe more than usual seemed to rely on coincidence and certain characters behaving to type.

Bone Crossed picks up virtually where Iron Kissed left off. And also puts to rest some plot threads from Blood Bound as well. The vampire queen, Marsilia has found out what Mercy did at the end of the book and is not happy. And whilst Mercy has some protection from the vampires because of Adam and the werewolf pack, this doesn't mean that she is safe. Leaving for a little while seems the smart thing to do, but somehow even doing the smart thing gets Mercy into trouble.

There are two things I really liked about this book. Firstly, it really did tie up some loose ends from previous books in a way that didn't feel rushed or just put there for the sake of it. It was a necessary part of the plot and gave a greater insight into the actions of the characters - especially Stefan and Marsilia.

Secondly, I loved how Adam and Mercy's relationship is developing - and it takes a big leap forward during this story. Though despite appearances at the end of the last book, they aren't rushing into a physical relationship. Apart from anything else, it's patently obvious that Mercy isn't ready- she's now suffering from debilitating panic attacks. Mercy is still 'managing' Adam. After the events of Iron Kissed this is a little concerning. But I guess there isn't exactly another way to handle an alpha werewolf. And at least Adam should be more aware of her tactics now.

One of the things I love most about Patricia Briggs is how she can say so much about a character in such a short space of text. When Mercy stops one of the pack (who doesn't like her) from making a mistake, there isn't an outpouring of effusive thanks. Instead...
He looked at my feet. "You shouldn't be out here barefoot," he told the ground. Then he shut the car door, turned the key as he turned on the lights, and left.
"He meant thank you," said Adam.
Bone Crossed has left me yearning for a couple of standalone stories. Specifically I'd love to know if anything's going to happen between Ben and Mary Jo, and it really feels like Sam could hold a novel/novella of his own. And while I'm having a wishlist Stefan as well. The relationships between the vampires are explored much more throroughly in Bone Crossed and their politics and machinations are fascinating, if a little (a lot) cut-throat and ruthless.

The ending when all the plot threads are brought together is intense and I particularly loved Stefan and Mercy's Last of the Mohican's moment.

For me Iron Kissed was always going to be a hard act to follow. That book was so well written and had such a strong central theme - it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. However, at the end of Bone Crossed I can safely say that Patricia Briggs has done it again and I'm counting down the days til I get my hands on Silver Borne.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Bought in September

For someone who's trying to shrink their TBR pile I'm still buying books. This is what I've picked up in September:-


Frostbitten by Kelley Armstrong (not sure I like the change to the UK covers)

Every Good Thing by M. Jules Aedin (bought after reading Jenre's review)

Branded by Fire - Nalini Singh (even though I'm a few books behind on this series, still buying the current books)

Wicked Game - Jeri Smith-Ready

Hominids - Robert J. Sawyer (impulse buy in Borders)

Monday, 28 September 2009

Biting the Bullet by Jennifer Rardin

As I'm trying to make an effort to catch up on the series that I've been neglecting I thought I'd make a start with one of my favourites - the Jaz Parks series by Jennifer Rardin. This is book #3 and finds Jaz and her vampire boss Vayl, undercover in Iran looking to take out a terrorist known as the Wizard. Vayl and Jaz are working with Jaz's brother Dave and his unit on this assignment, but unbeknownst to Dave there is a mole on his team feeding information back to the Wizard.

I love the excerpt used at the very front of the book, the one used to get browsing shoppers to buy.
"Watch out! Watch out! The dead are rising!"
Now if that doesn't get you to take a second look I don't know what will.

I have to admit that unlike the previous two books in the series I didn't settle into this one straight away. It took until page 17. :) Okay, maybe just before that on page 15, when Jaz makes this comment about her father.
...I want to thump our father over the head with a large blunt object. Like his ego.
Whether or not you love this series will depend on a large part on whether or not you love the protagonist. And Jaz can sometimes be a bit annoying, but what saves her (for me) is the fact that she has this incredibly snarky voice (inner and outer) and that if you're willing to understand her point of view (and make allowances for when you don't) it's one hell of a ride.

Of the three books I've read so far this is probably my least favourite. But that's not really a detrimental comment as such, just an observation. Though I do have some concerns. (And this somewhat ties into what's happening in Book 4 which I'm reading at the moment, but I'll mention that in the book 4 review) I'm hoping that Jaz isn't turning into one of those UF heroines that all the male characters want to get into the sack. She seems to be getting a little too invincible and everyone thinks she is amazing. At the moment what stops that from being completely annoying is that as the reader we have the luxury of seeing inside her head and knowing how insecure she is at times.

What does happen here is that along with the Wizard plotline, we have some previous plot threads tied up - we find out how Jaz's gun/crossbow came to be named. If this was mentioned in one of the previous books I don't remember it. Also, to some extent the situation over Vayl's sons is dealt with (he's waiting for them to be reincarnated and whenever there's a possibility they may have turned up his priorities become skewed.)

If this book had a theme it would be - Nothing is as it seems. Jaz has to hide the fact that she knows there's a mole from her brother, Vayl conceals the fact he is still searching for his sons from Jaz - putting the mission in danger. Jaz takes a trip to Hell and has to come to terms with some of the things she sees there, though ultimately that journey will save them all.

The banter between the characters is as good as ever. And this wouldn't be a Jaz and Vayl review if I didn't include a favourite snippet from them.
"Bub? Is that my new nickname?"
"Sure."
"I hate it," Vayl said decisively."Give me another."
I still say that Jennifer Rardin has one of the best grips on how to write a vampire character than most other authors.

This is one series I don't see me giving up any time soon.

(For Xena fans who've read the book - is it just me or on page 303 does Jaz start channeling Lucy Lawless from The Furies episode. One minute I was in Iran, the next moment I was in a Fury temple in Greece. Though I guess that's a question that only the author could answer.)

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Been Away for a While

Hope there are still people out there reading this. :)

Didn't realise it had been quite so long. Some things have been happening away from the internet, which means I haven't been able to spend so much time surfing and my reading has gone drastically downhill as well. Hopefully over the next couple of weeks after I have got through my english lit. exam (October 14th :grits teeth:) I'll be back to posting more regularly.

When I have been online I've got terribly addicted to the German soap opera Alles Was Zahlt. Gee hope I've remembered that right and haven't just insulted everyone. Just off to check my spelling is reasonably okay...and it is...lol.

I first got pulled in through eskimokissproject on Youtube, but am now watching the full episodes on the RTL website as well. Even though these are in German (as is the website) and I haven't spoken the language since high school - it's amazing how much is coming back.

There's a clip below from one of my favourite eps, which isn't the famous shower scene. But I think is one of the funniest moments. Yes, I am trying to addict as many other people as possible too. :)

Friday, 11 September 2009

Last Assignment...

...submitted.

Yay! and Phew! Thank goodness for that. All over bar the revision and the exam. :(

Normal service to resume shortly.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs - So Far

I've said it before, but boy do I hate the UK covers.* Anyway it's the story inside that's important. And so far I'm loving this, my favourite aspect of the Mercy Thompson universe is the exploration of relationships between characters.

Also big cyber hugs and kisses across the internet to Patricia Briggs.

"He wasn't breathing, but vampires didn't, not unless they needed to talk or pass for human."
One of my top two vampire peeves dealt with in a sentence. :)

* Have seen the UK covers for the Charles and Anna (Alpha and Omega) series and my honest opinion is that they're not too bad for an urban fantasy cover. But I think they are misleading, seeming to show Anna more as a gun toting bog-standard UF heroine, rather than a peacemaker who uses her influence to calm psychopathic alpha wolves.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

When Do You Give Up On a Series?

Ever since I realized how far behind I was getting on the series I follow, it's crossed my mind that maybe I should drop a few, even though I'm reluctant to do so. Some of these stories I've been following for years. Reading KMont's blog When Your Favorite Fails You made the question pop back into my mind.

Truth be told I've only given up completely on one series - Anita Blake Vampire Hunter - I'm more of a straight urban fantasy fan and I love the PI twist. But when the style of the stories changed I stopped following the series.

Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series I've kind of fallen into an apathy with. I've got To The Nines and Ten Big Ones on my TBR pile but I don't feel any kind of desire to put them on the top. And currently I have no intention of buying any more books in the series. Maybe it's because the storyline seems to be ongoing with no destination.

Anyone who read my TBR post knows I love my series books but at some point do you just give up?

If a series changes drastically from book 1 to book 7, how long do you give the author the benefit of the doubt that they know what they're doing. I know of readers who have got rid of all but the first three of their Black Dagger Brotherhood books. I'm hanging in there at the moment, but I have gone from inhaling the latest book as soon as I've got it, to abandoning it on my TBR pile. I still haven't read Lover Avenged.

When Lynn Viehl announced that Stay the Night would be the last of the Darkyn series, part of me was disappointed. It was a ride that I didn't want to end. But having finished the series (which I think will carry on in some form in the new Kyndred series) I can't help thinking that in some ways she had the right idea. Having a strong over-riding story arc kept the story fresh and vital.

I don't think that's a method that would work for every writer, and nobody wants to read books that are cookie cutter. But I think staying on target, staying on plot, staying on mission (call it what you will) is important not only to readers but also to the coherent development of characters within a story or series.

Another good example of this is Kelley Armstrong's Otherworld series. Her books standalone (or in pairs) but are filled with characters whose lives overlap with each other and plots which continue from book to book. The style of writing stays fresh and so does the story.

Are there any series that you've just lost the will to follow? Or are there any new series that I shouldn't miss out on? Yes, I am always looking for more. lol

Series I have no intention of giving up on - Mercedes Thompson by Patricia Briggs, The Otherworld by Kelley Armstrong, Jaz Parks by Jennifer Rardin, Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Biting the Bullet by Jennifer Rardin, So Far

Absolutely bombing through this one. It took me a little longer to get into that the previous books - I wasn't hooked til page 17! lol

I have got to pick up the next couple of books in this series. I've got Bitten to Death but think a couple more have been released.

Complete review will be up in the next couple of days.

One of my favourite lines, mainly because I'm just sooooo not a patient person. I try to be, I really try but I suck at it.
I'm sure the cosmos has a greater purpose for surrounding me with patient people. But mostly it just makes me want to scream.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Stupid Heroines

My character might be wrong. My character is allowed to be wrong, she is not allowed to be stupid. (Lucy Lawless on Xena)
“…some stupid killer stalking some big-breasted girl who can't act who is always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door, it's insulting.” (Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott in Scream (1996))
How many times is it acceptable for a heroine to do something stupid in the course of a book?

For me personally - like the use of the word literally and the big misunderstanding plot device - I'd say a heroine can be stupid once. After that it's a problem.

Ever since reading the Lucy Lawless quote, (which I think she may have used a few times in different interviews as I've seen different versions), I've always kind of measured my heroines by that. I think it's a good yardstick.

And I think the important word is choice. A heroine needs to decide what she is going to do, have a plan of action that she is able to adapt to changing circumstances - is she going to run up the stairs or out the front door?

It can be a subtle thing. If before she accepts a drink from a stranger she thinks - this is not a smart thing to do - then she should listen to that voice. There is something telling her that there is something wrong with the situation. If she ignores the voice and accepts the drink she is being stupid. If she listens to the voice and accepts the drink, she may or may not be making a mistake, but she is making a choice. She is not letting life or - in the case of fiction - plot just happen to her. (Of course if she repeatedly ignores the voice she's got some kind of problem).

And that's where I think it causes a major problem in fiction. If the plot is just something that happens to characters, rather than being something that they engage in and are affected by, and which they in turn affect, then it isn't going to work as well as it should. Even if, as a reader, you can't always explain it or put your finger on it and instead you end up saying 'Oh that heroine was TSTL'.

I'm lucky in that most of the books I read I've not been left with the feeling that the heroine is stupid. A heroine can be wrong. A heroine is allowed to make mistakes. But she shouldn't be stupid. Being stupid once is a mistake, being stupid repeatedly is a lifestyle choice.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Goodreads

Check out my new widget in the siderbar. lol (I shall just add here that these aren't my favourite books they are the ones I've finished reading recently. But being technically illiterate I have no idea how to change it).

I have now finished getting my TBR pile up onto Goodreads and currently it stands at 185. (This is probably minus a few books that I have somehow missed). Kinda interesting, I thought it was larger than that, though having nearly two hundred unread books in the house probably suggests that I should leave off the buying of new books for a while - if only that were possible. :)

I shall add here that I also sorted out a load of books to go whilst I was doing this. So at least I now have a little bookshelf space free.

I've just been catching up with a few blogs and can empathise with Kris over at Kris 'n' Good Books. Who has also just gone through the process of uploading books and been blogging about it too.

I have not as yet uploaded all my 'read' books. I think that's a process that's going to take a while, putting a few books up a day.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Fallen by Claire Delacroix

When Lilia Desjardin's estranged husband's death is declared an accident, she knows that it will be up to her to discover the truth. Life in the Republic is lived under a cloud of suspicion and fear - a future dystopia where those unaffected by the radiation from multiple nuclear strikes live at the expense of those who were mutated and scarred (shades). The former angel Adam Montgomery sacrifices his wings in order to complete an earthly mission. His path will intersect with Lilia's and the two of the them will work together to find out exactly what is being kept hidden.

I think the last time a book had me this conflicted was Ghostland by Jory Strong. This is quite a long review and has some slight spoilers in it.

Things I liked.

The cover. :)

Adam's story was by far the stronger of the two. From the moment his wings are amputated, he is a character that you want to know more about. As is Raphael the second angel to come to Earth during the course of the story.

The majority of the worldbuilding (with one exception, see below). I thought the future dystopia was an absorbing and fascinating world. How the author had set up a unique class system based on mutancy and gender. And how the angels infiltrated the system, as shade, as cop.

The mystery was well thought out and multi-layered, revealing a corruption that will require heavenly intervention to overcome.


Things I didn't like

Whilst these are personal dislikes and it's a much longer list than the likes, I stress here that the likes and dislikes ended up balancing each other out. Which should give you an idea of how much I liked the worldbuilding and mystery aspects of the book.

We're back to genre labelling again. This is not (for me) paranormal romance. The hero and heroine spend the majority of the book apart. So when they suddenly decide they are in love it doesn't feel organic. It feels more like it's happening to serve the plot rather than because the characters feel an emotional attachment. At the beginning when they first meet Adam thinks :-
More than her physical assets, he liked the spark of her intellect.
He's only just met the woman. I wish that the author had felt able to let the relationship develop over the course of the trilogy - if that were possible, obviously I don't know what is intended to happen in future books, but this felt rushed.

I liked their relationship at the end.
Montgomery couldn't be dead, not when she was starting to count on him.
But it feels like we skipped an awful lot of steps to get to that point. Also the blurb for the next book seems to suggest that Raphael has got his own designs on Lilia, I'd be interested to see just how far the 'paranormal romance' label is going to be stretched.

Initially I did have a problem with the city being called Gotham. Mainly because for me that name is synonymous with Batman.

The Sumptuary & Decency laws - whereby women are not allowed to cut their hair, have to be covered up when they are out in public and have to wear corsets. This narked me for a couple of reasons. At a couple of points in the story Lilia runs about both to lose Adam, and to chase after a Shade, all whilst wearing a corset which didn't seem to cause her any problems. Women not being able to cut their hair just seems silly to me. I think there are other ways to show the subjugation of women. (I also wonder about the gender ratios? Women being built for survival and already being the majority gender on the planet. It seems to me that there would be an even greater disparity following an apocalyptic event - leaving women in the vast majority.)

The story took a long time for me to get into. At page 118 the story settles into itself as Lilia comes into her own as a character. But I didn't really get absorbed into the world until page 216. This is a long time to wait to get pulled into a story.

I felt that there were gaps in plot logic, especially in the first half of the book. The angel shades don't talk so how does everyone know their names - did they write them down? If so, why don't they write down what else they want to say. Adam thinks he recognizes Lilia because it was her face on her husbands tattoo p.53, which he saw on the body. But it was mentioned that Adam was on the team that informed Lilia of her husband's death p.22.

Maybe my main problem was that for most of the book I didn't like Lilia. The reason for this being that she keeps doing stupid things. She doesn't get the relevance of the ugly necklace - this is supposed to be a reasonably intelligent woman. She drinks with people she suspects of being involved with her husband's death. For the first half of the book she keeps assuming that the things that keep happening to her are Montgomery's fault.

If this were the first in an openended series I don't think I'd pursue it any further. However, according to the author's website this is the first in a trilogy, and I am intrigued enough by the mystery, by what Raphael's mission may be, by what Adam and Lilia may do next to want to check out the next book. I hope with the worldbuilding set-up out of the way, that the next book takes a lot less than 200 pages to pull me in.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

Magic Strikes is the third Kate Daniel's novel. When Kate's werewolf friend, Derek, is discovered nearly beaten to death she determines to find who did this to him and make them pay. However, this means going against the law of Curran, the Beast Lord of Atlanta and takes her undercover into the world of the Midnight Games. This time she'll be at greater risk than ever before and the reader will finally have her secret confirmed. (Did anyone else wonder why Kate has got such a nasty bruise on her arm on the cover?)

I admit this one took me a while to get round to - which I'm sure amazes a lot of people. It's just underground fighting rings - not really my cup of tea. I still don't think I'm wrong about that, lol, but I do think I made a mistake leaving it so long to pick this up. Mainly because the Midnight Games are more of a backdrop allowing the plot to happen rather than taking over the book. What's more interesting is the interaction between the characters and how relationships develop here as Kate and friends have to fight in the games to find not only Derek's killer but also to prevent a catastrophic shift in power in Atlanta.

As always the banter between Kate and Curran is worth the price of the book alone. I love how their relationship develops here. Particularly further evidence of Curran's courting technique.
"I thought you were some sort of maniac!" I growled.
"I am."
If I had to single out a favourite scene it would be the discussion between Raphael and Kate about different alphas courting rituals. Robert the rat alpha and the M&M's, the courtship of the Hyena alpha and the incident with the cat. It's these little titbits that make the Kate Daniel's books required reading for the urban fantasy fan. It's what makes the characters come alive and the worldbuilding seem so real.

We finally get confirmation of what Kate's secret is. I say it this way because I'd pretty much guessed what it was - mainly to do with the ritualistic way she disposes of any bandages she has to use. It makes me very interested in the next book in the series - Magic Bleeds.

I like the individual development of Kate and Curran here. We find out much more about their back story (and also Saiman's). And it's interesting what Kate says about how she puts her friends into danger
"Everyone I dared to care about died, violently and in pain."
(also thinking back to the first book when she was something of a loner), and now she seems to have an expanding circle of people that she cares about. Which makes her life more complicated and makes her personally more vulnerable.

Favourite new character is Dali. The description of her - the vegetarian, cross-eyed were-tiger - is so endearing. And am I alone in sensing chemistry between her and Jim?

In a way I'm glad I left it so long before picking this one up, because it means the interminable wait until the next book will be that much shorter. And predict I'll be tearing into that one rather than let it linger on the shelf.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Fallen (So Far), Updates and other Stuff

I am stuggling with Fallen by Claire Delacroix, for a number of reasons. At least one of them is probably trivial and stupid, but there you go.

  • It's set in (New) Gotham City, so I keep expecting Batman to show up. I don't care if Gotham is a real city in the US. If you are writing an original story don't set it in a place so synonymous with such a famous urban fantasy character.
  • In the frontispiece there's a quote from another author which describes the book as 'perfect'. Being a glass half full kind of person I guess this immediately puts me on the defensive as a reader. I think even if someone does describe your book as perfect - don't put it in there.
  • There's conflicting stuff going on - by that I mean the plot is contradicting itself. And the prose is quite heavy.
  • It's labelled on the spine as paranormal romance. Now from what I've read so far, that's incorrect genre labelling. I'd say this is urban fantasy, verging on (future dystopia) science fiction.

I'm not even on p.100 yet and I am struggling. I don't like to write a review if I haven't finished the book so I am going to persevere for the moment.

I will add that the hero is interesting. His part of the story is more engaging, the first scene where his wings are amputated is harrowing. The heroine is more two-dimensional, hopefully she'll improve. And the intercuts of newspaper articles and legal pronouncements - I like, it fleshes the worldbuilding out. The story I think though is somewhat reminiscent of Lyda Morehouse's (hope I've remembered her name right) Archangel series. Will keep going for the moment.

Magic Strikes review will be up at the weekend. :) Loved it!

I am now on Goodreads. As soon as I work out how to put the widget on my sidebar I will be doing that.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

TBR 2009 Challenge

I'm going to withdraw gracefully I think.

There is just no way at the moment I can keep up with the challenge. Not at specified times. So if a book has come from my TBR pile and has been there for a while I'll tag it as such, but otherwise I'm going to just try and get through the mountain one book at a time.

Speaking of the mountain - I am still cataloging it. When I have a definitive number I'll post it here. On the plus side, I don't think it's as big as I thought it was, but on the minus side it's still more books than I could possibly read in a year, if I read continuously!

Monday, 3 August 2009

Magic Strikes - So Far

I'm currently about a third of the way through and very much enjoying it.

I do remember why I didn't pick this one up straight away though. I am not really a fan of the whole underground supernatural fighting ring as a plot device. It's one that has been done over and over* and has never really appealed to me.

But I had forgotten how much I love the characters of this series, and so far it's much more about them. I am so glad that Ilona Andrews has a new series coming out shortly so I don't have to wait too long before getting my hands on another of her books.


* - Star Trek, Angel, Sanctuary, Torchwood. I'm sure there are others.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Book Sorting Complete...

...well half complete*.

I have sorted through the books currently on my keeper shelves to determine which series I have lost track of.

I am currently following over 40 series!** Yes, I know, I never thought it would be that many either. Maybe that's why I'm struggling to keep up? List is at the end of the post. Currently I'm managing to keep up to date with 6. There are also a few series I haven't included because I haven't read the first book yet.

Of those, I think there are at least two I'm not that interested in pursuing further. Which still leaves me over 40 series to catch up on. Guess I better get reading.

* - TBR pile still to be done. But that is going to be an absolutely massive job. Will probably take me a couple of weeks.

**
Lara Adrian - Midnight Breed
Ann Aguirre - Sirantha Jax
Ilona Andrews - Kate Daniels (will have caught up when I've read Magic Strikes which is my current read)
Jennifer Armintrout - Blood Ties
Kelley Armstrong - Otherworld
Kelley Armstrong - Nadia Stafford (Up to date)
Anne Bishop - The Dark Jewels Books (Up to date)
Jenna Black - Morgan Kingsley
Patricia Briggs - Mercedes Thompson
Patricia Briggs - Alpha and Omega (Up to date)
Suzanne Brockmann - (Team 16)
Meljean Brook - Guardian
Lois McMaster Bujold - Vorkosigan (Up to date)
Lois McMaster Bujold - Chalion
Jim Butcher - Harry Dresden
Rachel Caine - Weather Warden
Jacqueline Carey - Kushiel
Karen Chance - Cassandra Palmer
Karen Chance - Dorina Basarab
Kresley Cole - Immortals After Dark
Lindsey Davis - Falco
Janet Evanovich - Stephanie Plum
Jasper Fforde - Thursday Next
Diana Gabaldon - Outlander
Charlaine Harris - Sookie Stackhouse
Charlaine Harris - Grave series
Kim Harrison - The Hollows
Elizabeth Hoyt - Prince series
Faith Hunter - Rogue Mage
Larissa Ione - Demonica
Stacia Kane - Megan Chase
Sherrilyn Kenyon - Dark Hunters
Angela Knight - Mageverse
Katie MacAlister - Green Dragons (Aisling Grey)
Richelle Mead - Succubus
C.E.Murphy - Walker Papers
C.E.Murphy - Negiotiator Trilogy
Vicki Pettersson - Zodiac
Adrian Phoenix - Maker's Song (Up to date)
T.A.Pratt - Marla Mason
Jennifer Rardin - Jaz Parks
D.B.Reynolds - Vampires in America (Up to Date)
Kat Richardson - Greywalker
Nalini Singh - Psy/Changeling
Elizabeth Vaughan - Red Gloves Universe
Carrie Vaughn - Kitty Walker
S.L.Viehl - Stardoc
J.R.Ward - Black Dagger Brotherhood

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Chains of Darkness, Chains of Light by Michelle Sagara West

The fourth and final book in the Sundered Quadrology, Chains of Darkness, Chains of Light concludes the story of Stefanos the Servant of the Dark Lord and Erin of Elliath. It seems that finally the Dark will succeed as the power of the Light fades. But Erin is determined to free the light whatever the cost. This will be the last confrontation between the Light and the Dark.

I don't know if it's because I've left it so long between book 3 and book 4 but I found it harder to get into this one. The story also starts slowly as the various players move into position for the final battle. There's quite a lot of politicking going on and I was really struggling to keep all the council members, priests and lords straight in my head. And I admit here to not understanding everything that was going on. Saying that, I greatly admire how Michelle Sagara West is able to slot everything together, there is the ultimate confrontation between dark and light, but within that individuals manipulate situations to their own advantage and pursue their own ends.

Perhaps the most fascinating and tragic character introduced here is that of Amalayna. And I feel that Chains of Darkness,... is worth reading if only to read her story. Michelle Sagara West captures perfectly the conflict that Amalayna feels - the need for vengeance balanced against the decision to take it. Her need is so powerful but not without doubt and uncertainty, very well written scenes.

Maybe the main problem I have is that as with the previous book Erin and Stefanos are separated. (Right until the end). There isn't the quest plot here to sustain the interest as there was in Lady of Mercy (the third book) and it makes for much harder going.

Erin is an emotionally distant heroine - completely in keeping with all that has happened to her, but a little frustrating at times. Bethany perhaps best explains the situation when she explains to Darin what will happen when Erin and Stefanos meet:-
...the Sarillorn of Elliath must carry the battle to its logical end. What she brings is war and death. Could you face him easily, with only that to offer? Could you face him so, knowing that he would not lift hand against you?
Erin doesn't really grasp until she is told that she is the last hope of a desperate people. And the scene of her torture at the end was I think just one too much for me. (It took me back to the scenes in Book 2 which were also very disturbing).

Stefanos on the other hand has maintained my interest perhaps more than any other character. This is one of the few series I've read with a true anti-hero - a protagonist who stands opposed to everything a hero should be. (Urban fantasy writers currently writing about demon heroes should take note). Even in this last book when we anticipate that he will somehow be redeemed he is still sacrificing and murdering people. But, importantly his motivation has changed, he has changed. His, has been the journey that kept me reading the books.

Would I recommend the series? Yes. The first book I still feel is one of the best introductions to a series I have read, and Stefanos is one of the most interesting and disturbing (anti-)heroes. I believe this is the first series Michelle Sagara West wrote and whilst (for me) the ending has let it down slightly, I cannot imagine any other ending than the one I have read. I think for anyone who loves dark fantasy, this is a series they should read.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Currently Up to 'B'

Following the unsuccessful visit to Borders. I have determined to sort out my books once and for all.

It is taking forever and is not the most thrilling thing I've ever done. However, I'm discovering that I am way behind on a lot of series.

I have just completed the letter B. And the only authors whose series I have managed to keep up to date with so far are - Kelley Armstrong (though not her YA series) and Anne Bishop.

All the others I've either not got the books or they are currently lost somewhere in the TBR pile or on various other bookshelves. A job to be tackled after this one.

So currently behind on the following authors:-

Lara Adrian, Ann Aguirre, Ilona Andrews, Jennifer Armintrout, Jenna Black, Patricia Briggs*, Suzanne Brockmann, Lois McMaster Bujold (Chalion), Meljean Brook**, Jim Butcher***

This is only up to B, and whilst I'd console myself with the fact that perhaps most of the authors whose series I like to follow have names beginning with A or B, I know that the first author in C is Rachel Caine.


* - I blame this on the fact that I bought the fug ugly UK cover and just can't bring myself to open it.

** - Not sure I have the strength to catch up on this one. I really enjoyed the first book, but it was very long. The second book is in my TBR pile I'm sure and I seem to remember it being quite thick as well.

*** - I fell behind on this one when the publisher changed from US to UK and it was a real pain in the ass to get hold of the books. I seem to remember this is also why I intially stopped reading Kim Harrison and Charlaine Harris as well.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Yay, made it to another film. I think this is either the third or fourth one of the year.

The cinema was packed. For the first time in ever, they'd sold out of the showing we wanted to see ( we wanted four seats together, there were still a few odd seats left though the show sold out a few minutes later) so we got seats in the next showing.

Just to illustrate how slightly odd I am and the way my mind works. When someone started sneezing during the trailers I did think what a bummer it would be to catch swine flu at a Harry Potter screening. And how perhaps coming to a packed cinema during a flu pandemic was not perhaps a smart thing to do.

Trailers - I'm hopeless at remembering these. I get out of the cinema and have already forgotten them. But here are the ones I remember. The Proposal, not a huge Sandra Bullock fan but I'm tempted by this because I love Ryan Reynolds when he's snarky. Up - the trailer had me laughing my head off. New Moon - was the last trailer and my niece sat up and had a great big grin on her face (lol) We will be coming to see this in November, I'm sure. I'm sure there was at least one other but I cannot remember what it was. (Edited to Add - it was GI Joe).

Here I admit to not reading the Harry Potter books. I have tried several times to read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and have never got past the first few pages. I do like the films and therefore my main hope is that I'll be able to follow what's going on without having to ask someone who's read the books. So far with the exception of Goblet of Fire (I found the film very confusing and thought they relied to much on the assumption that the audience would have read the books) it's been okay.

I liked this one. I liked it more for the comedy - the scenes with Ron and Hermione, Ron and Harry, Harry and Hermione. Favourite scene in the movie is when Hermione smacks Harry (I AM the chosen one) on the back of the head with the book. I'm not sure the balance between light and dark moments was right, but having not read the book I don't know how true they're being to the source material. It could be that this is the last opportunity for a little humour before everything goes down the pan and becomes unremittingly grim.

Looking forward to seeing the last two films in the franchise. :)

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Chains of Darkness, Chains of Light - so far

So I'm struggling a little with this one. It's the fourth in the Sundered quadrology by Michelle Sagara West, and when I started reading I found one of my notes/bookmarks which indicated I'd already read to page 58 once. (I make little notes on scraps of paper as I go along and use them as bookmarks).

It took a littl getting into, but I'm now well over halfway. More thoughts on why I struggled at the beginning in the main review. But I am still impressed by the skillful (skilfull? skillfull?) way Michelle West weaves her story together. At the moment the reader is in the privileged position of witnessing the machinations of every character, whilst the characters remain unaware. Very much along the lines of the reader knowing something terrible is going to happen and being unable to stop it.

Hopefully will have it finished by the weekend.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Hero by Perry Moore

Hero tells the story of Thom, a secret teenage superhero, as he struggles to grow up, deal with his powers, his relationship with his father and find out who he really is and what he stands for.

This has been one of my favourite books of the year so far. Fast paced and emotional the story pulls you in from the first page. And whilst the character types will be familiar to anyone with only the barest familiarity with the superhero genre - healer, precog, strongman etc. - seeing the story through Thom's eyes shows it to us from a different perspective.

Now I think this is YA, but I am not 100% positive, maybe the older end of YA? My copy has 'not suitable for younger readers' printed on the back. There is strong swearing and sexual situations though nothing overtly graphic.

Anyhoo. I picked this up after it was recommended on several blogs, I believe it was Kris who described it as fan-fucking-tastic. Told in the first person, from Thom's point of view, for me the story works best when it deals with the relationships he has with those close to him - his father, Goran, Ruth. Initially the style is very stream of conciousness and backtracks when Thom realizes he has left an important part of the story out. It's realistically written and we share Thom's experiences with him. Some of them absolutely cringeworthy and probably familiar to most of us who hated high school.

He and his father seem to communicate on different wavelengths, no one understands him, and on top of everything he likes guys rather than girls.

Thom is finding his place in the world and finding out that having super powers doesn't necessarily make it any easier. He's finding out you have to make your own place and be prepared to fight for it - and not necessarily with your fists. He has to 'wake up' and realize that life is something to be lived and that not everything can be achieved without experiencing pain. Okay, I don't mean to make it sound completely angst-ridden because actually a lot of it is very funny, Thom has a very self-depracating sense of humor. Possibly my favourite line:-
"Aim for his nads!" Ruth screamed. Aim for his nads with what? My strong sense of integrity?
What I like most about the story is the relationship between Thom and his father. Maybe because my own dad died very recently but some of this hit close to home. Thom has to deal with the fact that his father is somewhat homophobic, but Thom is not (initially) in a position to know the problems and prejudices that his father has to deal with on a day to day basis.

One of the most interesting things about the book for me - was how it highlights how our parents can live separate lives that we aren't even aware of. How the biggest thing they may have to deal with in a day is not that we pranged the car or broke the home computer but that they lost their job or that their best friend died. I think this will be a future comfort read for me and a book that I highly recommend.

I'm not sure Perry Moore will make it as my breakout author for 2009 after all there are still six months to go, but Hero will definitely be ranking in my top 5 books of the year.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Made to be Broken by Kelley Armstrong

The second in the Nadia Stafford series, Made to be Broken follows ex-cop Nadia Stafford as she investigates the disappearance of a teenage mother and her baby. With support from her hitman mentor Jack, and Quinn another hitman, she pursues a quest for justice for a girl that no one misses.

If you like your heroes and heroines to be morally superior then this might not be the story for you. But if the morally grey area between right and wrong intrigues you I'd recommend this series.

Whilst the main plot fills in more details about Nadia's past - as her desire to find out what happened to Sammi (the teenage mother) becomes an obsession - it is the interactions between Nadia and Jack that had me compulsively turning the pages. However, Kelley Armstrong makes it clear that Nadia's past is still a huge influence on her current life, her current thought processes and how she deals with the situations she finds herself.

I'm a huge Kelley Armstrong fan. I love the way she can get you into a character's head with just a few lines. And what I love most about the Nadia Stafford series is the relationship between Jack and Nadia. In a way I find them a more interesting couple that Clay and Elena. Maybe because a lot of 'stuff' between the werewolves comes down to instinct. Jack and Nadia don't have that, they have to rely on talking to each other. And as Jack doesn't really...talk.

I'll briefly mention here that there is also a subplot about Nadia's continuing relationship with Quinn. But back to the good stuff. :)

Jack and Nadia. Their conversations in some ways remind me of those e-mail meme's - what people say and what they mean. Nadia is very visual and logical in her responses to Jack, she has a tendency to take what he says literally and doesn't read between the lines. Jack then cues his responses from Nadia's response to him.
"You don't need to be sarcastic."
"And you don't need to be stupid."
It would be frustrating if you didn't know that somewhere subconsciously Nadia knows what her feelings for Jack are. And I think part of the reason she responds the way she does is because the strength of her feelings is almost overwhelming. So she represses them.

As a reader you see different things to the characters. You have the luxury of being objective. Jack offers to get Nadia a corner gun and I'm put in mind of the courtship rituals of birds. "Look at what I can get you...Look at what I can provide." But obviously he doesn't say that. And Nadia chooses to assume that he's only getting her the gun so she can test it out and then teach him how to use it. (Which okay, I could be reading too much between the lines here, but it almost seems like it's screaming out.)That's not to say he doesn't respect her skills as a hitman.
"...Were you going to shout after me, 'Oh, by the way, this could be a trap'?"
"Nah. Hate shouting."
At the moment it seems to be unclear whether there will be any more books in the series and I think it would be a damn shame if there weren't. Jack and Nadia are one of my favourite couples. They are unconventional, have sexual chemistry that virtually scorches the page even though they haven't even kissed and I WANT to know what's going to happen to them next.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Hero by Perry Moore - thoughts so far

OMG Loving This!

So glad I picked this to read next.

So far just one unfortunate phrase:-
He had impressive nipples spread across his perfectly built, massive chest.
Which kind of leaves me with the image of a guy with nipples studded straight across his chest.

Other than that absolutely loving it!

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Made to be Broken - The Older Hero

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At the moment I'm reading Made to be Broken by Kelley Armstrong (loving it). But there's one little niggle. Nadia seems content to settle for Quinn - he's the hitman cum government agent (or should that be government agent cum hitman?) - he's in his 30's (I think) charming, witty and knows how to show a lady a good time. :)

So why does it nark me? Why am I not happy that Nadia (seems) to be with Quinn.

Because of Jack - mid-to-late forties, possibly pushing fifty, never met a pronoun he liked. Look up taciturn in the dictionary you'll find a picture of him there. He says one of my favourite lines ever.
...Jack said, "You saw my note, right? It said 'wait'."
"That was a note? I thought it was a haiku."
And he and Nadia have this amazing chemistry on the page that leaves you asking 'Quinn who?'

They are nowhere near having sex, I don't think they've even kissed but it doesn't matter. To me, they just fit as a couple. There's a spark between them that's missing between Nadia and Quinn (IMO :) )

Are there any other older heroes out there? Off the top of my head I'm struggling to come up with any - no guys that aren't vampires or werewolves anyway. :)

Full review of Made to be Broken coming next week. With more thoughts about Jack and Nadia to come.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Zero at the Bone - Jane Seville

When Jack Francisco returns to his safe house to find a hitman waiting for him, the last thing he expects is that the man won't go ahead with his assignment. But that's exactly what the man known as D proceeds to do. Instead the two of them end up on the run together, pursued by killers hired by the men who want Jack dead and other unknown enemies. Against the odds the two of them build a relationship, but what will happen when the danger is over and they then have to return to their lives.

I'd been loking forward to reading this ever since I read the review on Wave's site, I think I also caught a review on either Kris's or Jenre's blog as well.

D is something of an anti-hero, at least at the beginning of the book. He's a man who lives to his own set of rules. One of the things I liked most about this book was that we (as readers) get to meet both of the protagonists before they meet each other. And we also appreciate more (I think) the moment when their lives collide.
There was a man sitting in his living room, looking at him.
What I loved most about this scene was how we get into Jack's mind and how he starts channelling the film 2001. :)And I love the banter between them.
...He sighed. "I'm starting to see words like 'accessory' and 'accomplice' floating around my head."
D barely reacted. "How about 'dead on arrival'? Ya like that better?"
This is a real opposites attract story. Each man fulfills in the other something that is missing in himself. I've read in a couple of places that readers didn't like D, that they found him remote. But one of the things I liked was seeing Jack break through D's reserve. How D changes Jack, but also how Jack changes D.

So much of this story would be spoiled if I gave details. But D's relationship with X, left me hoping that X will make appearances in future books, or maybe in a book of their own.

As regards the epilogue. Much has been written about whether or not to read it and before I started reading the book I had kind of decided that I wouldn't. But having got to the end I couldn't resist. I appreciate the comments about multiple endings as I thought there were two places where the story could have ended before it did and that it would have felt resolved. The epilogue itself does feel like an excerpt for the next book, rather than wrapping up this story. It feels more like a pause before the next story starts. However, having said that, I did enjoy the sneak peek into Jack and D's life in the future.

And if like me you can't resist the sneak peek, there are some short Jack and D stories available on Jane Seville's website that are well worth checking out whilst we wait for the next book. I hope we don't have too long to wait.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Zero at the Bone - Jane Seville, Story so Far

So it's taking me a little longer than usual to get through this one, nothing to do with the book, just other life stuff getting in the way. Yes it's essay writing time again. :)

So far I am really enjoying the story. Though I'm still torn (after reading other reviews) on whether or not I'm going to read the epilogue. I said that I wouldn't, but I don't think it would be fair to write a review and not read it. Anyway here's the blurb. Review coming soon.

"After witnessing a mob hit, surgeon Jack Francisco is put into protective custody to keep him safe until he can testify. A hitman known only as D is blackmailed into killing Jack, but when he tracks him down, his weary conscience won't allow him to murder an innocent man. Finding in each other an unlikely ally, Jack and D are soon on the run from shadowy enemies.

Forced to work together to survive, the two men forge a bond that ripens into unexpected passion. Jack sees the wounded soul beneath D's cold, detached exterior, and D finds in Jack the person who can help him reclaim the man he once was. As the day of Jack's testimony approaches, he and D find themselves not only fighting for their lives...but also fighting for their future. A future together."

Monday, 1 June 2009

Interview with D.B.Reynolds

So something of a landmark today, my first interview on the blog. If anyone has any questions they'd like to ask D.B., she should be dropping by the blog so please put them in the comments thread and hopefully she'll be along to answer them.

For anyone who hasn't seen it, my review of Raphael, the first in the Vampire in America series can be found here.

Without further ado, the interview.

1 - For anyone who hasn't heard of the Vampires of America series can you tell us a little bit about it, where the idea came from...


Hmm. Well, the first idea was for the first book, RAPHAEL. And when I started thinking about the scene where we first see the character of Raphael, I pictured this big, brightly lit room, with the vamps all wearing sunglasses and sitting around this huge table, but there's only a few of them. And why only a few? Because these are the guys who rule every vampire in the country. And the concept of Vampire Lords and their territories flowed from that. Also, I figured if the series really took off, I could move on to Vampires in Europe, which would be a great reason to take a tax deductible trip to Europe, right? Research, people, research!

2 - I reviewed Raphael a few days ago - loved it - Jabril will be coming out in July, followed by Rajmund. Are there any hints that you are willing to drop about books 2 and 3? Okay - just book 2.

Hints. Hmm. Well, I'll tell you that the title character JABRIL--his full name is Jabril Karim--is the Southern Vampire Lord and a really bad guy. Also, I've heard from a lot of readers hoping Cyn and Raphael will get back together, and I think those readers will be happy with this book. Let's face it, those two are meant for each other, they're just too stubborn to do it the easy way. And believe me, they definitely don't have it easy in JABRIL. Book 3 actually introduces a whole new set of characters. Raphael and Cyn have cameos at the beginning and end, but the book itself is about a new Vampire Lord named RAJMUND. He's totally different from Raphael, in that he's younger, still new to his power, although he's definitely very powerful.

3 - Apart from the ViA do you have anything else on the horizon?

I'm writing a Science Fiction Shapeshifter story, with a strong relationship at the center, just like in Raphael. I'm hoping to find a home for that one in the next few months, and I have notes for a second book in that universe, as well. Also, I've written a Werewolf novella that could easily become the first tale in a much larger story. I love the characters from that one and would really like to write more about them.

4 - Every few months or so they'll be a blog post or an article somewhere saying the vampire genre is dead. Does that make you think Pffftt, No way or do you think there's something in it? (Hoping you'll go for option 1 or 2)

I don't pay any attention to those articles. I think the people who write them just don't understand the appeal of vampires and so can't imagine it being as popular as it is. The vampire genre is definitely NOT dead. There are a lot of us out here who LOVE to read good vampire tales and have been doing it for decades. We're not going to stop no matter how many articles tell us we are.

5 - Leading on from that, what is it about vampires that made you want to write about them? Personally I love reading about vampires.

For female readers,I think it goes back to the whole "why do we love bad boys" question. Vampires, and maybe werewolves too, are the ultimate bad boys,aren't they? Incredibly strong, powerful, don't play by the rules because they don't have to, immortal--which means always young and good looking. I personally love the idea of bringing that much testosterone to heel, having that much muscle wanting only ME. Yum. But male readers like vampire stories too. I've heard from plenty of male readers saying they were surprised at how much they liked RAPHAEL, and lots of female readers who've reported their husbands and sons loving the book. I suspect they're drawn more to the action, conflict and more violent aspect of vampires, but not being of the male persuasion, I can't really speak for them.

6 - Apart from vampires are there any other supernatural creatures you'd like to write about? Zombies, werewolves, fairies...ghosts?

I mentioned my werewolves earlier. I'd really like to write more about them and shapeshifters in general. The shifters in my Science Fiction manuscript are big hunting cats, by the way. Big, beautiful, sleek and very dangerous hunting cats. Zombies don't interest me as a writer--you can't really do much with them if you stick to the true Zombie myth. I mean, they're literally the walking dead, so I would think the whole relationship angle is pretty much out. I I don't think I've ever written anything with fairies or ghosts, but I do love epic sword and sorcery tales and, like so many others, I have a fantasy manuscript of my very own sitting on the back burner.

7 - You've blogged about Cyn's sexuality elsewhere (Bad Boys/ Good Girls blog by D.B.Reynolds at The Romance Book Club) do you think there is still this negative perception about female protagonists who are sexually active before meeting the hero - a kind of virgin or whore attitude, with no middle ground. Offhand I think the only other heroine I can think of who slept/lived with someone (in the same book) before meeting the hero is Elena from Kelley Armstrong's Otherworld series.

Yeah, that's kind of a pet peeve of mine. I think it's unrealistic and unreal to have a contemporary, professional woman, in her late twenties or even thirties and pretend she's never had sex before. It depends on the story, of course, but especially for the character Cyn, it just didn't fit. Cyn's a very sensuous woman, very sure of her own femininity and aware of her sexual appeal. She doesn't flaunt it, but it's there and it's part of what draws Raphael to her.

8 - The other thing I liked about Cyn was that she changes out of her 4-inch heels before going into a bad situation - she has common sense. I was curious about your writing of this scene - if you can remember - did you 'see' her going into the party and think "hang on a minute this isn't going to work?"

Not consciously. When I'm writing, I'm totally inside my character's head and that's just what Cyn would have done. She's a very confident person and doesn't worry too much about what other people might think. In JABRIL she puts on some very sexy shoes for a purpose, but at heart Cyn's a very practical woman. In the scene you mention, she's walking into a situation that suddenly doesn't feel right, so she grabs her gun and changes her shoes into something she can fight in, just in case. She couldn't care less if the boots don't match the dress, it's all about surviving.

9 - Do you have a favourite line from any of your books? Lol, yep still angling for a tidbit.

My favorite line from RAPHAEL is still the one where Cyn is asking Lonnie about vampires getting married and when Lonnie says they don't usually, Cyn says, "Not up to eternal fidelity?" And Lonnie shakes his head and says, "No nutritional value." From JABRIL, let me think ... okay, there's a line where Cyn gets exasperated with Duncan and says, "Will you answer the [effing] question or not? There's more at stake here than Raphael's dick!" I'll leave you to figure out the context. (Just wanted to add here that Duncan is one of my favourite characters, LesleyW:) )

10 - If you still have time to read, what are you reading at the moment? And what releases are you looking forward to in the latter half of 2009, going into 2010?

I do have some time to read, although not much right now, because I'm racing to finish the third Vampires in America book, which is RAJMUND. I just finished a new Urban Fantasy by Mark del Franco called "Unshapely Things." It's the first book in his Connor Grey series and I thought it was great. Books 2 and 3 are both out already, so they're definitely on my TBR list. And right now I'm reading the latest Black Dagger Brotherhood book by J. R. Ward. This one's really big, so it might take me awhile to get through it in the little time I have to read.

11 - Where can readers contact you, find out more about your upcoming releases?

I have a blog at http://dbreynolds.wordpress.com that includes all the latest release info, as well as weird things I discover on the Internet, and what's going on in my life, especially with writing. I also have contests with book giveaways and other stuff. Right now, I'm running a trivia contest for those who've read RAPHAEL, with a $25 Amazon gift certificate as the prize. And I'm always happy to hear from readers. There's an email contact where anyone can reach me to ask questions or just let me know how much they LOVED the books! LOL