Saturday, 30 May 2009

I won an Award!

I won a little CJ award - thanks Jenre. I'm not sure whether to be flattered or terrified. Lol

I'm going to pass this one on to KMont at Lurv a la Mode.

In other exciting news. My interview with author D.B.Reynolds will be up on Monday. Hope you'll all be popping by to read my first interview. :)

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Stay the Night by Lynn Viehl

The seventh and final book in the Darkyn series, I feel like I have been waiting for this one forever. Mainly, because for some bizarre reason the UK release date kept being put back! Or was that only happening to me?

Anyway, as always we have a multi-stranded plot here, the three main plots are the Kyn Lord Robin of Locksley's romance with Chris Renshaw, a fiendish plot to assassinate the high lords of the Darkyn and the culmination of Michael and Alex's story. As always the story is packed with plot and nothing is superfluous. One thing I've learnt from reading Lynn Viehl's stories is that even things which might not seem important at the time may come to have greater relevance later. I'd never dismiss anything as irrelevant.

Now for anyone who hasn't yet read the book or read any reviews, there may be slight spoilers below.

I admit before I started reading I was curious as to how Lynn Viehl was going to wrap up the Darkyn series in this book. There was one plot point in particular I was really interested in seeing developed. The answer (for me) was that she didn't wrap up the series (as such). What she did was bring Michael and Alex's story to a satisfying conclusion. I think you can tell here, that I found Robin's story slightly overshadowed. As for the plot point I wanted, it was only hinted at. My hope is that the story of the shadow prince will continue in the new Kyndred series. As well as the ongoing war with the Brethren, and perhaps some more information on the jardin wars.

Unlike many authors whose stories I'm often able to anticipate, Lynn Viehl always seem to take the story in a direction I wouldn't have thought of. Here it's through the continuation of Luisa's storyline. Finally we're getting a clearer idea of how she fits into the Darkyn world. But such a brief glimpse. :sigh:

Just in case I've made it sound like Chris and Robin were more of a subplot. I did enjoy the development of their relationship. Robin's Kyn power is the ability to charm any human he touches, unfortunately it's a talent that Chris is immune to. Which leades to some incredibly snappy, sarcastic banter between the two of them. Robin has to learn to rely on his natural charisma to get what he wants, rather than his supernatural ability.
Do you bring all your women here?
Only you. I keep my other women in the harem on the third floor.
I love how Rob is bewildered by the fact that Chris isn't in awe of him and doesn't worship at the altar of his masculinity. He can't help but respond to her pricks and snipes, and because of this it makes it so easy for Chris to manipulate him.
If he left this room without throttling her, Robin thought, it would be a miracle.
A little more on my thoughts about the conclusion to Michael and Alex's story. We've followed this relationship over the course of seven books. But this is where Alex finally acknowledges and accepts her place among the Darkyn.
The Darkyn were her people now, and she had to start taking care of them.
Alex finally reveals to Richard how the American Darkyn have been able to turn humans into Darkyn after centuries of the Kyn being unable to - and so the Kyndred story begins.

One other thing I must mention is how we find out more about Phillipe in this book. And Lynn Viehl shows how to weave a m/m subplot into a story. It doesn't have to be a big production and drama, it can just be what it is.

This story was very much like catching up with a large dysfunctional family you are particularly fond of. It doesn't seem to matter which Lynn Viehl story I read I am always left wanting more. And I look forward to the new series with great anticipation.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

The Lily Brand by Sandra Schwab

I'm a couple of days late with this one, so this is my TBR book for May, published in July 2005.

Troy Sacheverell is captured in France - a prisoner of war - he is sold to an evil woman to be a toy for her stepdaughter. Lillian wishes to escape her stepmother's clutches but it will not be so easy to get away from the twisted woman. Lillian ends up in England and through a twist of fate ends up married to Troy but their relationship is far from smooth and Camille - Lillian's stepmother - isn't finished with either of them.

Hmmm. I picked this up a while ago after reading a couple of favourable reviews. I've said it before, but will say it again, I'm not a big historicals fan and this one really didn't work for me.

At the beginning of the story, Troy is terribly abused by Lillian's stepmother and by association (for him) Lillian herself. I found the abuse disturbing - which I guess is the point.

Lillian takes refuge in stock phrases during times of stress - "What do you want of me?", "He's my responsibility". She is emotionally distant, in contrast Troy is full of anger that he vents in her direction. This doesn't seem to make him feel any better and he punches things a lot. Hence one of my problems with the story - it is very melodramatic.

My other problem - I know in an historical you have to allow for the traditions and etiquette of the time, but if at any point Lilly and Troy had just talked to each other...I guess it would have been a much shorter story. It's only towards the end when Troy and Lilly finally talk to one another that Troy is able to acknowledge Lilly was as much a victim as he was.
I think this is one of the shortest reviews I've written, but there isn't really much more I want to say, other than to mention the part of the book I enjoyed. I've ungraded this review because the book hasn't really convinced me to start reading historicals again.

I did however like the introduction of Drake and Justin, Troy's friends who are in a relationship. Troy tries to protect them and gives them a haven at his home where they can be together without fear of discovery. The two of them add a much needed humanizing touch to the story and it's Lilly's discovery of them in an embrace that is my favourite scene in the book. She finally realizes there is such a thing as love.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Star Trek - thoughts

So...went to see Star Trek last night and I liked it a lot. I thought it could have been cut in a couple of places (notably the water pipe scene), some of the silliness felt a little out of place, but apart from that I think it worked really well as a reimagining of the series.

Favourite things.

Spock both the elder and the younger. I loved the little scene at the end.

The little nods to the series and previous films. Red shirt on the away team, and I think that was the worm from Wrath of Khan. (I am by no means a Star Trek buff).

I was a little worried after reading a couple of reviews that I wouldn't like Simon Pegg as Scotty but it was a case of expecting the worst and being pleasantly surprised I didn't think he did that bad.

And I didn't have a problem with elder Spock speaking the famous lines at the end of the movie I thought it was appropriate and fit in with the changed timeline.

I hope there will be future films featuring this cast and if I had a wishlist would like to see more banter between Spock and McCoy.

(Aside - I have finished The Lily Brand so will be posting my TBR review soon).

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

A Couple of Things

Not going to be able to post my TBR review as I haven't yet finished the book and I'm imminently off to see Star Trek and won't have time to write it up anyway. Sorry...but at least I'm getting a TBR review done this month, will just be a couple of days late.

Heads up - North and South - starring Richard Armitage. For anyone in the UK - like me - who didn't see this when it was first on. It's being repeated on Sundays (I think) on BBC4 at 7pm.

And finally a word about robin's/robin egg blue. Just 'cause this is niggling me at the moment. Normally when I'm reading a historical I don't let the fine details bother me too much, I never took history so most of them pass me by.

However, I like bird watching and for anyone not familiar with the European robin so often seen on Christmas cards with his bright red breast - they do not lay blue eggs. The eggs of the European robin are cream, buff or white and speckled or blotched with reddish brown. Therefore I'm pretty certain your english heroine (who has never been to America) cannot compare anything that's that particular shade of blue with the egg of a robin.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Raphael by D.B.Reynolds

So I'm kind of biased on this one, I was lucky enough to read an early version of it and loved it then. :)

Raphael is the first in the Vampires in America trilogy (series?). It introduces us to Cynthia Leighton a private investigator, former cop and kick-ass chick. When a female vampire is kidnapped, the Vampire Lord Raphael charges Cynthia with the task of finding out what happened.

Why I like Cynthia.

When she gets that feeling that something bad is going to happen she changes out of her four inch heels and puts boots on.(I'd like to interrupt this review to say YES! I don't care how much practice you've had, you cannot possibly chase a vampire/werewolf/whatever, down in four inch heels over uneven ground. Whenever this happens in a book it's a definite wallbanging moment.)She's a likeable no-nonsense heroine. She hears that little voice in her head that tells her something is wrong and listens to it! Her response to one of Raphael's guards who wants to confirm that she'll be coming back to the Vampire Lord's lair.
..."You'll be coming back?"
"Of course." Eventually. Someday
Why I like Raphael.

Look up the word arrogant in the dictionary and you'll find a picture of the Vampire Lord Raphael there.
"...No one takes what is mine and lives."
He is ruthless, takes what he wants and rules with an iron hand. In other words you believe that he is a vampire, that he is something other than human. He is a creature who sees things in black and white and he doesn't tolerate fools or sloppiness. His opinion of humans is low, so it's fascinating to watch Cyn get under his skin. I think he sees in her something he doesn't expect to see in a human - a loyalty, a belief, an idealism.

This is not a modern day vampire. Raphael could be a feudal lord from the medieval era. The vampires under his rule are his to command and they obey him without question. One of the things that makes the story for me is the contrast between them, Cyn is an independent woman drawn to Raphael almost despite herself. Raphael has little time for humans but finds Cynthia fascinating. It's a classic irresistible force and immovable object scenario. :)

The other character worth mentioning is Duncan - Raphael's leuitenant(:sigh: I cannot spell). Who I hear with an english accent despite the fact he's from the southern US. Maybe because he's so pissy and sounds like he's got a stick up his ass.

At the beginning of the story their lives are separate, so you get to see the moment their paths intersect and how it changes things for both of them. It's interesting to see their lives before and at the end of the story see how things have developed. I should add here that Raphael is an urban fantasy, not a romance. Raphael follows the development of their relationship, but at the end of the book the story is far from over. It will continue in Jabril the second book in the series - to be released in July.

And if ever I get my finger out I'll be doing my first interview on the blog with D.B.Reynolds.

Monday, 11 May 2009

A Note in the Margin by Isabelle Rowan

John McCann has been told by his doctor that he needs to have a 'sea change' in his life, if he ever wants to get rid of his migraines. So John decides to take a year out from the rat race to manage a bookstore - Margins. Whilst there, he meets David - a homeless man - who comes in to the store to read the second hand books. John's initial prejudices are eroded away as he comes to know David and he has to question exactly what he wants out of his life and who he wants to share it with.

As mentioned in the preview review :), I found this a little difficult to get into. I didn't settle into the story straight away. However, this is one of those storys that draws you in without you realizing it and I predict this may be one of my future comfort reads. Before you know it (well p52) you are pulled into the world of the Margins book shop and the characters there. (This is where I admit I'm a sucker for stories set in bookshops, lol.)

At the start of the story, John is almost an everyman character, he represents the majority of people and their attitudes to the homeless. However, in coming in to contact with David, John has to deal with things he might otherwise not have had to and also he has to confront a lot of things about himself that he might not have wished to acknowledge.

David is understandably not as easy a character to get to know. We learn about him as John does, and at the end of the story John knows there is still much that he doesn't know about the man he's fallen in love with, but he knows he's got the time to find it all out. Unlike John we have the luxury of being able to see into David's head and hear his thoughts.
Maybe some lessons can be unlearned and survival is more than staying warm?
I love the way Isabelle Rowan develops her characters gradually and with lots of subtle touches.
He didn't open his eyes when Jamie asked him if he was okay and flinched away from Jamie's hand on his hair.
I like that the author took her time in developing the relationship between John and David and didn't rush it. She makes it clear that it's two steps forward and one step (or in some instances two or three steps) back. John and the reader learn that it's not just going to be a case of giving David food and a warm place to stay, the baggage he comes with is more complex than that.

Although there are other characters in the story, notably Jamie the bookshop assistant and Barbara who volunteers at the homeless shelter. This story is very much focused on David and John.

There is lots of other stuff that happens here, but I don't want to go into too much detail and spoil the story. If I had a problem at all it was the point of view shifts. I personally prefer to stick with one character for a large chunk of time. Whereas Isabelle Rowan seems to favour a constantly shifting point of view which is sometimes dizzying.

There's a sense at the end that John and David still have a long way to go, but you also feel that they'll get there. This is only the end of the beginning.

I just want to add that if this is the quality of material that Dreamspinner Press are publishing I will definitely be looking for more from them in the future.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

A Note in the Margin by Isabelle Rowan - Story so Far

Currently on page 118/263. First the blurb:-
John McCann, a man who judges life by the tally of an accounts ledger, has a supreme goal in life: To achieve, live, and enjoy the rarified executive lifestyle. But he's encountered one problem:

The migraines are going to continue to get worse unless you make some major changes in your lifestyle. What you need is a 'sea change'… Perhaps buy a nice little business in the country, settle down, something easier to occupy your time…

While John knows the doctor is right, he just can't resign from the job he's fought so hard for. He decides the sacrifice of taking a year's leave of absence won't interfere too much with his plans, and so he finds himself running Margins, a cozy little bookstore, with the help of the former owner's son, Jamie. John expects to put in his year, get his stress under control, and then get back to business.

What John doesn't expect is how Margins and its denizens draw him in, particularly the quiet, disheveled man who takes refuge in the old leather chair in the second-hand book section. John's plans for an unattached year of simple business crumble when he meets David and is forced to reevaluate life, love and what he really wants from both. John and David are forced to come to terms with their pasts as they struggle to determine what possible future they might build together.

I've read reviews for this book in a couple of places (Wave's Blog) and was really looking forward to reading it. Especially as I've discovered that Dreamspinner press titles are available in the UK from the Book Depository.

So I was initially a little disappointed that the story didn't grab me from page 1 and have me wanting to devour it. However, my faith in Wave was not misplaced :). For me this was a story that I had to settle into, it pulls you in to the world gradually and by page 50 I can see what the other reviewers loved about the story. I'm now halfway through and very much looking forward to finding out how the story ends and if David and John can have some kind of happy ending.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Ghostland by Jory Strong

Ghostland tells the story of shamaness Aisling McConaughey. Taken from her home, she saves the life of a wealthy man's mistress, but this will just be the beginning of her troubles. Forced to call on the Djinn prince Zurael for help, the two of them will be pulled deeper into a complex situation that was set in motion long before either of them met.

I've kept this as an ungraded review mainly because of my strong views on the amount of sex in the book. Aside from that I think this book is well worth checking out, so please bear that in mind when reading the review.

Let's get the niggles out of the way. This story (for me) has far too much sex, too much swelling, hardening and engorging. As mentioned in the short review the hero seems to have a permanent erection, to the point it's a wonder he can get anything accomplished. Despite the incredible amount of sex they have I didn't really get a good connection between the two of them - Zurael and Aisling. This is one of the problems of urban fantasy romance over urban fantasy. In UF there would be time to build a relationship between the characters where in UFR there is an expectation that the relationship will be nicely resolved by the end of the story.

Also there's an anal sex scene which seems completely unnecessary. Aisling's apparently submissive nature is glibly pronounced by another character but this feels forced rather than organic. I would have loved to read a lot less of that and a lot more of the interaction between Aisling and other supernatural characters, and more details on the plot.

Having said that there are little moments between the two of them that shine. When they get into trouble at a nightclub, Aisling feels terrible guilt because of what happened to other people who were there. Zurael responds
"You were the only human in the club worth saving..."
Yes! Just that one line and it says so much more about where their relationship is going than five sex scenes. Hopefully there will be more of that sort of thing in the books to come.

Complaints aside, there is much to recommend here. Following on from my short review. This story has some of the most interesting worldbuilding I have read in a while. Set in a post-apocalyptic world where supernaturals no longer hide and different groups hold control of different areas, Aisling and Zurael have to walk a tightrope through religious, political and supernatural factions.

I love how every little thing that happens is woven into the story. Jory Strong never loses the thread of her plot and things which didn't seem important at the beginning are revealed to have greater significance later.

For me the last third of the book is the strongest, we get into the meat of the story, the plot threads are brought together and you are left wanting to know what's going to happen next.

Aisling is an appealing heroine, maybe a little too trusting but that seems to be inherent in her nature and will probably be something that is worn from her by the life she has to lead. Especially if the quote from another character in regard to her is anything to go by.
Death drapes you like a billowing cloak...It writhes at your feet and twines around you like a nest of serpents, so your touch becomes its harbinger.
Perhaps my favourite part of the book was when she travelled to vampire controlled San Francisco and assisted in the turning of a new vampire. I hope that the vampires will be making an appearance in a future book as I would love to learn more about them. (There were also a couple of other plot threads - the child witch, the fate of the Ifrit - that whilst not left dangling are definitely a possibility to be explored further in upcoming stories.)

I loved how Aisling's compassion is apparent in everything she does. For a character whose power means dealing with death and the bereaved it would have been easy to make her cold and distant. Instead it's her warmth and understanding which gets her through and you can see why Zurael is drawn to her vulnerability.

All of the species featured have their own societies and etiquette - Djinn, vampire, shaman, witch, all incredibly well-realized. I also very much liked the protrayal of angels, there was an otherness about them which I thought worked well. There are also rules to this world.
An answer given freely was lost forever.
Rules serve to give a solid framework to the world in which the characters live. There have to be consequences for actions especially in a rigid society such as the one in which Aisling lives.

It took me the whole book to decide whether or not I would follow this series, I changed my mind several times whilst reading. But I am at least going to pick up the second book in the series because I want to know where this story is going.