Thursday, 30 September 2010

DIK Reading Challenge - The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

My DIK reading challenge pick for September is The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt. This was one of Sula's books at DIK. I'd already read the previous two books in the trilogy - The Raven Prince and The Leopard Prince - with the second being my favourite. And I now know that the third book is my least favourite of the three.

The Serpent Prince tells the tale of Viscount Simon Iddesleigh, discovered by Lucy Craddock Hayes after he has been nearly beaten to death, robbed, stripped naked and left to die in a ditch. Whilst he recuperates from his ordeal the two of them become close and eventually marry. But Simon has a dark side and is on a quest for vengeance that will put Lucy in danger.

The main problem I had with the story is the character of Lucy. She was just too perfect. She didn't seem to have any flaws and everybody loved her. I thought the angel (Lucy) and devil (Simon) imagery was slightly overdone. It was really hammered home that she is this angelic paragon.

I think perhaps my favourite scene featuring Lucy is one where she's visiting her friend Patricia. And unfortunately it's her friend that has the best lines.
"Why don't you do what I do and think about hats or shoes while he talks?"
I found myself wishing that we could slip into Patricia's head for part of the story instead of Lucy's, which is perhaps not what you should be thinking about the heroine. I don't really have too much else to say about Lucy.

Simon on the other hand was a fascinating character. It would have been easy for Elizabeth Hoyt to have him give up his quest for vengeance once he was married. But she doesn't do that. It said so much about the character. He wants to be the man that Lucy wants him to be, but he cannot let go of the need to duel the men who brought about his brothers death. Even as he knows it is destroying him, he carries on the path he has set for himself.

He also has one of my favourite qualities in a protagonist.
"I see." Simon knew he sounded irritated. It was becoming a habit with Christian to show up unexpectedly, rather like a case of the clap.
Yes he is incredibly sarcastic.

I must mention briefly one of my favourite scenes which takes place in a coffee shop where Simon has met up with Edward (Raven) and Harry (Leopard) from the previous books in the series. It has an almost farcical quality about it, just a nice change of pace.

I do like how in each of the stories the fairytale informs the reader on a different level about what the story is telling us. Simon is telling the tale of The Serpent Prince to Lucy, she suspects that he is making it up as he goes along and in a way it's like he's trying to tell her about the man he is inside. It was also nice how a variation of the scorpion and the fox tale was incorporated into the story - this time with a frog and a snake. It gives the story added depth.

I think if I had read this story first instead of The Raven Prince it wouldn't have made me want to read the rest of the trilogy. So I'm glad that this is the third book and not the first. I would recommend the trilogy as a whole, though the books are more loosely connected by theme rather than by an over-riding story arc. And I would recommend reading this book to read Simon's story.

Calling SarahM

I haven't heard from SarahM. If anyone knows which blogs she posts on and gives her the heads up I would be grateful.

Thanks to Chris, got in touch with Sarah.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Jennifer Rardin

I'm shocked and saddened to have found out that Jennifer Rardin passed away last week.

I'm not on Twitter and I tend not to surf the internet as much as I used to. So I guess I'm about a week behind compared to everyone else.

The Jaz and Vayl series is one that I've been following. To read my reviews of the first four books of the series you should be able to click on the Jaz and Vayl link in the sidebar. After my first review I received an e-mail from Jennifer to thank me for reading her book. I'm always surprised to receive an e-mail from an author and she commented that she was glad I picked up her book even if the cover was white. (I think I commented around that time about the majority of Urban Fantasy covers being black).

I'm including a link here to Renee's blog. Several blogs are posting tributes to Jennifer and are giving away copies of her books - all details are available on Renee's blog. If you've never read the Jaz and Vayl series I recommend it - well you can read my reviews to find out what I think in more detail.

Renee's Book Addiction - Thank you Ms. Rardin

The final book in the Jaz and Vayl series will be published next year.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Chimera by Rob Thurman

Chimera tells the story of Stefan and his younger brother Lukas Korsak. Ten years ago Lukas was kidnapped and Stefan never knew why, but he never gave up looking for his younger sibling. And then almost by chance he finds him. But the young man (renamed Michael) that Stefan rescues is not the brother he remembers - he's been genetically transformed into the perfect assassin and the people who took him will do anything to get him back.

I really enjoyed this, though it took a little while for me to get into it. It's kind of ironic in a way that last week I was talking on the blog about protagonists that don't listen to other characters and Stefan spends a great deal of the book not listening to what Michael is telling him. But...and there is a big but, there's always an exception that proves the rule and Chimera (and Stefan) is that exception.

Without doubt Rob Thurman knows how to write relationships between male characters. From the instant that Stefan and Michael meet there is an wonderul snarkiness between them. Michael initially thinks this is some kind of test set by his captors, whilst Stefan is almost unable to believe that his hopes and dreams of finding his brother have finally been realised.

Written in the first person from Stefan's point of view this allows us an insight into how the loss of his brother has completely shaped his life. He goes into the family business (Russian mafia) so he can earn the money to search for his brother. He holds up the hope of finding his brother almost like a light to keep him going through the darkness of his life. Lukas is the only good thing he has to hold onto.
Lukas wouldn't have gone this way - never; not even if things had been reversed and something had happened to me.
Then when he finds him the thought that immediately goes through his mind is...
He looked - my God - he looked like salvation.
That's quite a lot for someone to live up to. And Michael is old beyond his years, he's not the innocent child that Stefan remembers. His experiences with his captors mean he doesn't relate to people. His captors took him out on field trips to study human behaviour but there's a difference between observing and interacting.

Gradually they settle into this sibling relationship whilst being on the run from the bad guys. It's something that Stefan desperately wants and needs,
I'd always known that saving Lukas would be saving myself..
Michael on the other hand is more reluctant. Initially he thinks it's a test, he gradually comes to realize that Stefan is for real but he also knows how desperate his captors will be to get him back. He's painfully realistic about the situation that they're in. This is very well illustrated when Michael asks Stefan if he's ever killed anyone and Stefan responds with 'no' even though he's not sure whether he has or not. Michael on the other hand responds to Stefan's denial with the words 'I have'.

At one point Stefan says to Michael - It's not what you can do, it's what you choose to do. I think if the book had a theme this would be it and I think it's ultimately how the two brothers work through their situation. Stefan chose to do terrible things in order to be able to save his brother. Michael fears what he is capable of doing, what the scientists have turned him into. And Stefan tries to make him see that he can choose not to be that person - just because he can doesn't mean he will.

I must just mention here that this book has a ferret in it. Now if this were urban fantasy I'd probably be tearing my hair out at this point. However, this ferret is in no way magical and is called Godzilla (aka several other names in the book not all of them polite) so for once we'll live with there being a ferret.

And perhaps my favourite scene, which I think is the excerpt on Rob Thurman's site.
"Stefan, I was wondering." He paused casually. "Have you ever had sex?"
...
"Yes,"...
"Really?"...
"Yeah. When I was twenty-one, just like the law says."
This could have been quite a dark and depressing tale. But the relationship between the brothers stops that from happening. There are moments of joy, happiness, relief, fear and redemption. One of my favourite books of this year.

Banned Books Week September 25th - October 2nd 2010

It's that time of year again - Banned Books week.

And as always I'm kind of left wishing that I'd read more of the books that are or have been banned.

The 2009 top ten list of frequently challenged books on the ALA website can be found here.

And the top 100 most frequently challenged books from 2000 - 2009 can be found on the ALA website here.

I have only read a few of the books on these lists, to give me a wider range of banned books that I've read I have to look back to the top 100 of 1990 - 1999, and to the banned and challenged classics list .

Ironically when I read these lists most of the banned books I've read, I read whilst I was at school as part of my English lessons - 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, Animal Farm, The Pigman. And more recently as part of my English Lit. course - The Color Purple.

Others are books that I just loved from my childhood - Charlotte's Web, The Wind in the Willows, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Lord of the Rings, Winnie the Pooh.

And from my teen years when I was a bit of a Stephen King fan - Cujo, The Dead Zone, Christine. I find it almost amusing in a way that the list has changed over the past two decades from challenging Stephen King to challengine Stephenie Meyer. It's also interesting when you look at the most frequently challenged authors lists by year to see both P.C.Cast and Richelle Mead there for 2009. Presumably both for their young adult urban fantasy series.

To try and rectify what I feel is a lack in my reading repertoire next year one of my challenges is going to be to read 12 banned books. I think I should be able to manage at least one a month.

So have you read any banned books this year? Or do you have a favourite book that is on a banned books list? I have a copy of the Anthology Love at First Bite to give away to one poster to this thread. Not a banned book but I'm afraid I don't have any banned books to give away. Winner to be picked by random number at random.org next Saturday.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Winner of the What Turns You Off in a Protagonist Giveaway...

is

SarahM

I have a copy of Finders Keepers by Linnea Sinclair waiting to be posted to you. Send me your snail mail addy to

lesley7312 at yahoo dot com

(replacing the words with symbols)

Number chosen at random.org was 5 and SarahM posted the 5th comment from people who wanted to join in.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

A Big Thank You

Last week I posted on DIK about unforgettable scenes and mentioned a scene that was stuck in my head but I couldn't remember which book it came from.

On Saturday, Hasard posted that the scene might be from Fantasy Lover by Sherrilyn Kenyon.

And IT IS! From page 210 of Fantasy Lover
He tilted the oyster to slide into her mouth. As the oyster slid down her throat, he ran his tongue up her neck in the opposite direction.
Yay I can finally stop frantically trying to match that scene to the book it comes from.

A big thanks to Hasard. :)

Monday, 20 September 2010

What Turns You Off in a Protagonist

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about what turns me on in a protagonist, so it seems only fair to write about what turns me off.

Stupidity

This probably ranks as number one for a lot of readers. So hardly surprising that it makes the top of the list. I think you can forgive a protagonist a lot, but stupidity is a hard one to let go. Characters should be allowed to make mistakes it's one way in which they grow and develop. But there does come a point when (if the character is constantly making mistakes and not learning from them) you begin to question if they don't deserve all the grief they attract. At that point it's usually difficult to regain any empathy you might have had for them at the beginning of the story.


Not Listening

In a way this is linked to stupidity. But when a character doesn't listen to what another character is telling them, or interprets what they are being told in a completely bizarre way it can become annoying - to put it mildly. As the reader you can 'hear' what the other character is saying. And if the character is being told something logical and interpreting it in an illogical way - it's patently obvious. If I as a reader can work out what's happening, then I think the hero/heroine should be able to as well.


I think the stupidity thing and the not listening, mainly happen because the author needs the plot to go in a certain way, so the characters serve the plot rather than the plot serving the characters.


My last turn off is a little hard to describe. But another annoying trait is if a character is 'up themselves'. Lol, I'm not sure that this translates very well. But it's almost a kind of smug vanity - a sense of superiority that isn't justified.

So these are my protagonist turn-offs. What about yours? Is there anything a hero or heroine does that really annoys you? I have a copy of Finders Keepers by Linnea Sinclair to give to one commenter on this thread. Winner to be chosen by random number at random.org on SAturday.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Hostage to Pleasure - Nalini Singh

Hostage to Pleasure is #5 in the Psy-Changeling series. It ties up some of the plot ends left dangling at the end of Mine to Possess. Ashaya Aleine is a Psy who is desperate to save her son and escape the PsyNet. Dorian Christensen is a DarkRiver Sentinel who hates the Psi. His sister was killed by a Psy sociopath and he hungers for vengeance. Yet when Ashaya makes her break for freedom it is Dorian who helps her. But getting free of the Psynet is not an easy thing and the Psy Council are never more dangerous than when they feel they are losing control.

It's been a while since I read a Psy/Changeling book, for some reason I stalled out on the series. I don't know why because I love Nalini Singh's writing. Maybe part of the reason is that I didn't feel drawn to Dorian as a character. Having finished the book I admit that I didn't quite like it as much as the previous books in the series, but I am sorry that I waited so long to read it.

I don't think this is a story that you can come to without having read the previous books in the series first. The overall arc of the Psy/Changeling series is getting more complex - there are Psy machinations within machinations. Of particular interest to me is how Kaleb Krychek's story moves forward here. I love how even though Nalini Singh reveals more about him, he is still so mysterious. We're not 100% sure whose side he's on - other than his own. My other favourite inscrutable Psy - Vasic - also makes an appearance here. I hope that one day he will have a story of his own.

The story is multi-plotted, alongside the main story there are several other stories ticking along. I wonder if Keenan's comments about who he's going to marry will come true. I find this one of the most rewarding aspects of the Psy-Changeling series the sense that each story takes place in a much larger world.

It would be so easy to unintentionally spoil this book so this review is a little shorter than usual and a little more general.

Of the two main characters I found Ashaya the harder to connect with - though as she's Psy perhaps that's not surprising. What I think will become clearer on a second reading is how fractured her conditioning is. Something which I don't think you're immediately aware of on a first read through. I love books which have high readability.

It's Dorian (I think) who goes on the larger journey. He's at war with himself, drawn to Ashaya but repulsed by the Psy.
Attracted to one of the Silent?
His mouth set in a grim line. He'd cut off his own balls before he accepted that.
Hopefully I'm not giving too much away when I say that he doesn't have to resort to such a drastic option. :) But at the end it's Ashaya who makes the leap of faith to save them both.

I don't think it will be too long before I read the next Psy/Changeling book on my TBR pile. There are some series you shouldn't let stall.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Posting at DIK today

About Unforgettable Scenes.

Hope you'll pop over and join me.

DIK Blog

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Words, Words, Words

I admit I have started watching Spartacus : Blood and Sand and am quite enjoying it. And when I was reading historicals - several years ago now - one of my favourite eras was Roman Britain. I still have Defy the Eagle by Lynn Bartlett on my bookshelf, not that I read it that often, 'cause it's over 600 pages long and my pback copy is looking a little tatty. And one of my favourite series are the Marcus Falco books by Lindsey Davis.

With 300, Spartacus, Centurion - that time period is obviously coming back into fashion. So when I saw a new romance book set in Roman times I admit I was overcome with a little nostalgia and thought I'd check it out.

I'm not buying books at the moment having made the decision to tackle my TBR pile. But I am adding books to my wishlist after careful research.

So I search out an excerpt and within the first few paragraphs the heroine is talking about her pussy. Now I'm not a prude, I read a hell of a lot of erotic romance both m/m and f/m and probably know more words for genitalia than the average person. But this completely put me off the idea of buying the book.

Why?

Because it knocked me out of the time period. I cannot believe that this is set in Roman Britain. If you check the etymology of the word pussy most sources say it wasn't used to describe female genitalia until the mid 19th century. So I get pushed from Roman to Victorian.

I don't think you even need to know that. It just sounds wrong. (Maybe after reading the Falco novels I've been spoiled.)

Does this matter? Well it does to me. If you're going to set your book in a certain period surely you want to make it authentic on at least some level. If not, why bother writing an historical?

What does everyone else think?