Monday 31 December 2007

Booksigning & Giveaway

So yesterday I went to Murder One in London for the Sherrilyn Kenyon booksigning. This is only the third signing I've attended (the others were for Janet Evanovich, and Lindsey Davis), but it was great fun.

The folks at Murder One were fantastic, bringing mulled wine to the people standing outside in the queue. There is nothing like drinking warm spiced wine, when you're in the cold. I loved the store, and know if I lived in (or closer to)London, I would probably be spending lots of money there. As well as the signing I was able to pick up a copy of Evermore with its gorgeous purple cover. And did see a few other books I would have liked to get, if only it wasn't a few days after Christmas with my credit card still feeling the strain. I will definitely be keeping an eye open for any future book signings taking place there, and would pop in for a browse if I visit London again.

Sherrilyn Kenyon was really nice, talking to everyone, having her photo taken. And if I could remember what on earth I said to the poor woman I'd relay it here. LOL - Unfortunately my mind went blank, my mouth went into overdrive and although my brain was going 'Shut up, Shut up', I ignored it. Ah well, I'm sure she's used to that.

I also met up with Has from Kelley Armstrong's board. And after the signing, we went and had hot chocolate and pancakes and discussed urban fantasy til our ears bled. :)Spookily (as Has mentioned in the comments to Once Bitten, Twice Shy) after I'd told Has she had to read OBTW by Jennifer Rardin, it turned out to be a freebie book she got in her bag from the signing.

So, I have an unsigned copy of Upon the Midnight Clear by Sherrilyn Kenyon to give away. Just post in the comments about a booksigning you've been to, or one you'd like to attend, or if you're like me and can never think of what to write for these giveaways, just put your name in the hat. Giveaway done.

Saturday 29 December 2007

Once Bitten, Twice Shy by Jennifer Rardin

Jaz Parks works for the CIA as a partner to Vayl - CIA assassin and vampire. A supposedly straightforward assignment becomes complicated by the threatened release of a deadly virus. But it's even more complicated than straightforward terrorism, and with the end of the world looming, time is running out for Jaz and Vayl.

This is one of those books that ended up on my Amazon wishlist with me not quite being aware of it. But I am so glad I bought it! When it arrived with a Patricia Briggs quote on the cover, I thought hmmm, maybe I did know what I was doing.

Jaz is a female character who knows (relatively speaking) her own mind. She knows what her capabilities are and isn't afraid to stand up for herself, or for others. Written in first person point of view, this allows us to see that as well as a sarcastic outer voice, she has a sarcastic inner voice too. Which I love.

This is not a romance, though there is a strong chemistry between Jaz and Vayl, and their partnership is the central relationship of the story. In some ways it is like a marriage, their lives depend on one another, and they each have to know how the other thinks. I also have the feeling that their relationship will deepen over time. There is an emotional centre to the book, it's not all about killing things and saving the world.

Vayl is written extremely well. Unlike a lot of modern vampires, you believe he's been alive for nearly three centuries. There's a wonderful contrast between them - Jaz, so modern and now, Vayl a product of his long life and the experiences he's lived through. He has a delightful tendency to take Jaz literally ( a la Anya, my favourite Buffy character).
"If he's going to put some poor kid's face back on straight tonight I'll do the hula."
"Lovely dance, that. The story is all in the hands. I did not know you knew-"
"Vayl, I was kidding."
I don't think since I reviewed Magic Bites have I wanted to quote so much dialogue and share how good I think it is.

It's not all quips and banter though. There is an edge of darkness that runs through the story. Jennifer Rardin has written one of the most brutal, horrific and real vampire attacks I can remember reading for quite a while. It's clear that they are voracious predators, and it's only an individual's personal integrity that prevents them from becoming a monster.

You're also aware whilst reading that something very bad and very significant has happened to Jaz in the not so distant past. She's missing parts of herself, she'll have flashes of memory or something will happen and she'll be remembering an incident from her childhood. This gives the first person point of view an added depth, taking us further into her experiences. Even when we initially find out what happened to her, it still isn't the whole story.

In places I did feel the pacing was a little off. Kind of like when you want to fast forward through a movie to get to the good stuff. But this definitely makes it into my top five books of the year.

We're left at the end with the battle won, but the war still being fought. Luckily book 2 is already available so I don't have to wait to find out what happens next.

Also available
Another One Bites the Dust - Bk 2

Coming Soon
Biting the Bullet - Bk 3 - Feb 2008

Wednesday 26 December 2007

Breakout Author for 2007

For the past two years, and I'm not sure how this started, I've ended up picking the best (new to me) author of the year. Which for some reason best known to myself I dubbed the Breakout author.

In 2005 it was Elizabeth Vaughan for Warprize and J.R. Ward for Dark Lover.

In 2006 it was Nalini Singh for Slave to Sensation.

These are authors that caught my imagination and pulled me into the world they created. They wrote books that I didn't want to end, and left me desperate to read more.

So for 2007 it's Ilona Andrews for Magic Bites.

At least up until December. When I was lucky enough to read two new authors Jennifer Rardin and Jeri Smith-Ready who just brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye, with their books Once Bitten, Twice Shy and Eyes of Crow.

Breakout authors for 2007 - Ilona Andrews, Jennifer Rardin and Jeri Smith-Ready.

Are there any new authors that anyone else wants to recommend? Either new to you, or first time published.

Thursday 20 December 2007

Heart of Stone by C.E.Murphy

Heart of Stone is the first book in the Negotiator Trilogy by C.E.Murphy. An urban fantasy, it begins with legal aid lawyer, Margrit Knight speaking to mystery man, (Alban), late at night in Central Park. She later learns a murder took place in the park, and he's the main suspect. Problem is, he's a gargoyle and can't afford to be questioned by the authorities - there's that pesky problem of turning to stone in daylight. He needs Margrit's help, and before long she's drawn into the world of the Old Races, negotiating with dragons, bargaining with vampires, and trying to prove Alban's innocence.

When I started reading this I was unsure of how I was going to describe it. At the beginning of the story (with the exception of Alban) everything is very normal - almost too normal. We are pulled into Alban's world slowly, it unfurls before the reader as Margrit is drawn into the conflict and tensions between the races. So for readers who prefer their urban fantasy to open with an attack of zombies, a mob of rabid vampires or a big explosion, this may not be one for you.

Having said that I thought the story was incredibly well constructed. It's 'bookended' with similar scenes between Alban and Margrit, they've come full circle, but everything in Margrit's life has changed. We experience both Margrit and Alban's point of view, and his view of humans and the world around him helps solidify in your mind that he is something other than human. It's also very important to pay attention to what's going on in the background. A couple of times a character said something along the lines of - we saw that the other day when we were at the office - and I was thinking 'did we?' and lo and behold when I skipped back (rewound :) ), we had.

As a relationship builds between Alban and Margrit, they go from caution, to comrades, and towards the end they have a wonderfully subtle eroticism that was first hinted at during their meeting as strangers on a dancefloor. I'm very interested to see how their relationship evolves, as a romantic involvement with a human is considered taboo.

I like the set-up of the world. The five remaining Old Races - dragon (fire), djinn(air), selkies (water), gargoyles (stone) and vampires (other). Plus there are a couple of oddballs in there, who I hope will be making appearances in the next books. All the races have their own secrets, and as Margrit is pulled further into the world of the Old Races, we come to see that everyone has at least one ulterior motive, and some characters seem to have several.

I did have a couple of problems. I felt Margrit changed about 90 pages in, and that the character I'd initially been introduced to wasn't quite the same person. There are also three 'literally's', but I admit this is the first story I've read this year where it didn't bother me too much.

In Heart of Stone we learn about the world of the Old Races as Margrit learns, but at the end of the story, so much still remains a mystery, leaving you hungry to find out more. Why is Alban referred to as 'The Breach', and what favours is Janx going to ask Margrit for? In Margrit's conversation with Alban at the end of the book, she sets out her mission statement.
"Laws, Alban," Margrit said clearly, "are for reinterpreting, rebuilding, negotiating and discarding when they no longer make sense within the confines of a society. I'm not quitting just because the going's getting tough."
The story continues in House of Cards (March 2008).

Saturday 8 December 2007

Evermore by Lynn Viehl


I was very lucky and appreciative to be sent an ARC of Evermore by Lynn Viehl. A book I have been desperately looking forward to, since I read what had to be the best teaser ever in the back of Night Lost.

Okay, anyone who's read my reviews of the other Darkyn books, knows that I love Lynn Viehl. So you've been warned, I will however, try to keep this as objective as possible and the gushing to a minimum. :) And hopefully spoiler free.

I have never been able to choose a favourite Darkyn book before. To me there was always something unique about each one - Alex's spunky personality, Thierry's torment, Jema's fragility, Valentin's nobility, Lucan's amorality - that left me unable to decide between them. Evermore, I simply loved.

Evermore tells the story of Jayr and Byrne who we first met in Dark Need (Bk 3). Byrne is the suzerain of Knight's Realm - a castle complete with moat, where tourists visit to experience medieval life. Jayr is unique among the Darkyn as she is the only female seneschal. We join them during a winter tournament, when humans are banished from the castle and Kyn from all over the country and from Europe, test themselves against one another in sword fighting, jousting and archery. Byrne has made the decision to step down as suzerain, a fact which he keeps from Jayr. As their relationship strains against the conventions that keep them apart, an unknown enemy will use the tournament to seek revenge.

For anyone unfamiliar with the Kyn series, whilst each book follows one couple, there is also an ongoing arc between Michael and Alexandra (the couple from If Angels Burn Bk1). The Brethren (the Kyn's enemy) and John Keller are only mentioned briefly, but I think significantly. We also have new plot threads, notably the proper introduction of Robin of Locksley as a member of the Kyn. (I'd just like to say - YAY!) We also find out a lot more about the Jardin Wars when Kyn fought against Kyn.

I think Evermore is a pretty accessible entry in the series, as a major plotline was concluded in the previous book Night Lost. The plotline of Evermore is perhaps the most linear so far, and even though there are still multiple storylines, they take place in one location - Knight's Realm. However, there is also some fallout from Night Lost, as Alex deals with the consequences of her kidnap by Richard, so familiarity with the previous books is helpful.

There is a wonderful parallel in this book, between the relationships of Michael and Alex, and Jayr and Byrne. Jayr and Alex turned into Kyn under similar circumstances, trapped with a starving male Kyn. But the way Byrne and Michael handled the situation, completely different. Alex becomes Michael's sygkenis, Jayr becomes Byrne's seneschal. And the contrast between the two relationships is just wonderful to read. There is a point early in the story where Michael confesses his guilt over turning Alex to Jayr, and it's eerie, I felt like it could be Byrne speaking.

For me this is the most darkly erotic of the Darkyn books so far. Maybe because the feelings between Jayr and Byrne have to be repressed. The relationship between them is totally suzerain and seneschal, but underneath you are aware of this passionate intensity between the two of them that they deny. Partly I think because they have to work together, partly because of Byrne's guilt, and also because Jayr has not gone through puberty (a condition caused by severe malnutrition, not dissimilar to that of Jema Shaw from Book 2 though hers was caused by drugs). (This matter is resolved, and gives me hope that one day Jamys will have his own book.) This tension builds and builds until it HAS to be consummated. But the Kyn who seeks vengeance won't be denied.

Also worth mentioning again, is Robin of Locksley - whose past has come back to haunt him. Indeed that could be the other theme of this book - as both Robin, Byrne, Alex, Vivianna and Rainer deal with the consequences of their past. Robin's story entwines with that of Jayr and Byrne, this is definitely a book where a re-read helps clarify motivation. Just rereading the ending again whilst I write this review, makes me appreciate anew how well the story is put together. I think Robin Hood fans are going to find lots to sink their teeth into. I have my fingers crossed that there will be a continuation of Robin's story in a future book. As I'm sure there's much more for us to learn.

Jayr and Byrne's story reaches a happy conclusion. However, Evermore ends on a bittersweet note, and leaves me looking forward to finding out, more than ever, where the story goes from here.

Evermore is released on January 2nd. Highly recommended.

Sunday 2 December 2007

Children of the Blood - Michelle Sagara West


Second in the Sundered Quadrology, Children of the Blood Begins three hundred years after the events of Into the Dark Lands (Book 1). The last fortress of the Light - Dagothrin - is about to fall. And as Dagothrin falls, Sara lies sleeping, waiting to be wakened.

We see the events of Children of the Blood mainly through the eyes of Darin, the last survivor of the line of Culverne. Stefanos was present at the fall of Dagothrin but he couldn't bring himself to kill Darin, seeing something in him that reminded him of Sara. We first meet Darin as a very young child, living a relatively carefree life in Dagothrin. Through him we experience the life of the newly enslaved. MSW does not sugar coat his suffering or that of the other slaves. One scene in particular is quite distressing and had me in tears. This part is heartbreaking, bleak and difficult to read. But I think it is important because it illustrates how quickly the Dark can break not only an individual but also a people.

Ultimately Darvin is saved when he comes to work at the castle of Lord Darclan (Stefanos). He is put in charge of the care of a young noblewoman who lies sleeping in the castle (Sara).

Again I found I delineated the book into sections. With the first part being Darin's slavery, the second being his time with Stefanos and Sara, and the third part being when time finally runs out and the High Priest and Servants of the Dark come for Sara.

Sara is perhaps the weaker of the three main characters in this story. She believes through much of Children of the Blood, that she is a noblewoman who lost her memory during a boating accident. It's interesting to see the aspects of her character that remain true even though she doesn't know who she is.And to see the spell that Stefanos risked everything to perform slowly unravel.

Stefanos I found fascinating. In the three hundred years he has changed. He is melancholy in that he realizes despite all his machinations his time with Sara is running out. And that perhaps he made a mistake, instead of sharing a mortal life with his beloved, he has had no life with her at all. He still has the arrogance all the Servants and Priests of the Dark seem to have - I can't help wondering if that will be their downfall, because they can't conceive they will be defeated.

Ironically after the confrontation between Stefanos and the Lady of Elliath at the end of the last book when he swore to himself he would never do as she had done, he chooses to pierce the veil of the future as she did. I believe he has come to a better understanding of what love is and the sacrifices you sometimes have to make.

Although I didn't find Darin quite as engaging a protagonist as Sara I warmed to him throughout the story. Through him we learn how hard it is, when you have lost all hope and had trust stripped away from you, to risk yourself again.

I think this is definitely a book that would improve with a re-read. The first part is very powerful, and as a consequence the middle part where Darin is getting to know about Sara and about who he is - he comes into his powers as a Priest of Lernan - is much slower. I think during a re-read I would appreciate much more the sense of time running out in the middle section, the feeling that this is a respite for Sara, for Stefanos and for Darin, because as long as Sara and Darin survive, the Dark hasn't completely won. As we come towards the end the pace of the story accelerates, you can feel the time running out and how Stefanos and Sara are holding onto individual moments.
Together, by mutual silent consent, they walked toward Sara's chambers. There, in the curtained light, they held each other against the coming of the night.

At the end of the story Stefanos believeing Sargoth's (Second of the Dark Sundered) lie retreats from the world. Sara and Darvin have left and the battle between Light and Dark will continue in the next book.

Friday 23 November 2007

Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

Catherine Crawfield kills vampires. Half vampire herself, she is trying (in a way) to pacify her mother, who was raped by a vampire and subsequently became pregnant with Cat. At the beginning of the book we join Cat on one of her hunts, which doesn't go as smoothly as she might have hoped. And instead of being the one doing the staking, Cat finds herself at the mercy of Bones the vampire. Deciding to work together instead of killing each other, they join forces and pursue Hennessey a vampire who definitely deserves killing. Their feelings for one another deepen, but Cat will eventually have to make a choice between her own happiness, and the safety of those she cares about.

I had been looking forward to this book for months and whilst I was slightly dismayed at reading the Dear Author review, as I have a high regard for their opinion. I also knew I had loved the excerpt I'd read on JF's site, fairly whipped through it, and was left wanting more. So I tried not to be too influenced.

I don't think Halfway to the Grave is helped by being labelled a paranormal romance - this is something I suspect is out of an author's hands. But I think maybe if the romance had been allowed to develop more slowly over the course of the series and the urban fantasy pushed harder the book overall would have been stronger. As it is I believe that Bones and Cat have deep feelings for one another, but on page 196 when they say I love you, it feels false to me...too soon. Also romance readers who prefer their endings to be tied up neatly need to be aware this is the beginning of a series.

My main problem was with the beginning of the book, and I just want to reiterate here that overall I loved the book and will definitely be following this series.

Three things.

1 - Typos. I refuse to believe that Vicki Pettersson can't spell intrigue. (Check out her cover quote). There are also a couple of other typos in the text itself.

2 - Pet peeves. Vampires that don't breathe - but they're talking! And two uses of the word literally.

3 - Catherine's character doesn't really settle down for the first 15-20% of the story. And as she's a first person protagonist the story doesn't really settle down until then either. She's very much a contradiction, and I think some of this is down to inconsistency.

I find it very hard to believe that Cat at age 22 has never said 'fuck'. So on p5 my suspension of disbelief went out of the window. Also p12 the dirtiest name she can think to call Bones is 'bastard'. (LOL - at this point I was tempted to write the dirtiest name that immediately popped into my head and then thought I'd better not.) This woman has been to school, presumably been to the movies, she hangs out in bars trying to pick up vampires, but she's never said fuck and the dirtiest word she can think of is bastard. Now I realize her mother is over protective to say the least, as are her grandparents but this didn't quite gel for me.

I also find it hard to believe that at 22 she's never masturbated but she's had sex. And I think this is what they were getting at in the Dear Author review. The incongruity of her physical age when compared to her thought processes. The beginning of the story does have more of a young adult feel but with swearing and more sexual references than you get in Stephanie Meyer's Twilight.

Cat's vampire killing rate felt a little off as well. She's been killing vampires since the age of 16. Her total kill amount she tells Bones is 16 vampires. In 6 years she's killed 16 vampires. But in the first few pages of the book she's killed 2, and she's going out every night, or at least on the weekends, trolling the bars looking for the unsuspecting undead.

One other thing I'll quickly mention is Bone's accent. I love him, I do. But if there's a swear word that begins with b, he'll use it - blimey, bleeding, blooming. He's a little bit cock-er-nee. I have Buffy in my head, lecturing vampires about their dress sense, and how they need to move with the times. That said, I did get used to his voice and I don't think JF should change it, tone it down a little maybe, sometimes it felt like he was channelling Spike.

I found the style at the beginning hard to get into - quite a lot of adverbs, and at one point Cat starts speaking in exclamation marks. Luckily once we get past p40 the plot takes off and you are sucked into Cat's world.

Overall though I loved it, the middle 75-80% was brilliant and had me racing through the pages to find out what happened next. The relationship between Bones and Catherine, their banter, their chemistry, the rapport between them, how they spark off one another - these are the things that makes this book come alive and raise it from being just another vampire book.

There are also nice little touches that flesh the world out - the vampire club, their visit to the cemetary, hiding out with a ghoul. Cat having to rethink her prejudices against the undead, working out how to deal with her mother - the woman could have started a cult she's got so much righteous venom.

And we're also given lots of little things that aren't resolved. Who is Cat's father? Will we be finding out more about Ian (Bone's sire)? What are the consequences of Cat's decision going to be?

The end goes a little Buffy Season 4, but I wasn't too bothered by that. What concerned me more here was Cat's seeming invincibility. Regular readers of the blog will know I have a problem with protagonists that can't be beaten. But hopefully this will be addressed in the next book, and we'll be seeing a more realistic and mature heroine. And more from Bones.

Book 2 One Foot in the Grave (May 2008)

Wednesday 14 November 2007

Into the Dark Lands by Michelle Sagara West

Into the Dark Lands is the first in the Sundered Quadrology. It begins the story of Erin of Elliath, Warrior of the Light, and Stefanos, First Servant of the Dark. Erin is born into a time of constant conflict, the Servants of the Bright Heart and the Servants of the Dark Heart have been locked in a war for millenia. Although Erin is born a healer, scarred by personal loss, she chooses instead to wield a sword and fight the enemy on the battlefield. But Erin's greatest struggle will happen after she is captured by Stefanos and taken to the Dark Heart's stronghold. The First Servant of the Light has gambled everything on the hope that Erin might be the one to pull from the darkness a lasting light.

The version I read was the 2005 reissue which includes an introduction from Michelle Sagara that is well worth reading. She explains how the book came about, and why she decided not to rewrite it for reissue, as other authors have done when their first novels are re-released. She refers to ITDL as her dark romance, and it is essentially a version of Beauty and the Beast.

The story itself begins with a prologue - do not skip this - which explains the origins of conflict. To sum up here originally there was the Light (Lernan) and the Dark (Malthan), each thought they were perfect and didn't know of the existence of the other. One day they touched and when they did, parts of them fragmented - these became the Sundered (the servants of Light and Dark). The two sides fight one another, eventually Light and Dark lock together and sleep (removing the greatest power from the conflict), leaving their children behind to fight. Some of the Sundered mated with mortals creating half breeds - the Lernari and the Malanthi. But Gods don't sleep forever, and when Lernan reawakens, Malthan is not far behind.

As we join the main story, the Lady of Elliath (First Servant Bright Heart) has returned from traversing various futures, trying to find the one that will end the war. She has found only one slim hope that her grandaughter Erin will be able to pull a lasting light from the darkness. The course she chooses for her people is one full of sacrifice and pain, risking everything for just the possibility of success.

I loved this story. It's not one I'd recommend if you prefer a lighter romantic tale. This is dark and powerful. The character description is sparse, MSW mentions in her introduction that she added ten thousand words of description as part of her first set of revisions and even so I think the only physical thing we learn about Erin is that her hair is auburn, and then not until well into the story. I didn't mind about this. I often find myself imagining characters differently to how authors describe them, so this was quite freeing. Instead we know what's in her heart, what she fears and hopes, which I think is far more important than what colour her eyes are and how tall she is.

The story is essentially in two parts. The first part deals with Erin's childhood, her training and how she becomes a warrior. There are scenes here that are absolutely heartbreaking. When Erin attends her father's funeral as a young child. MSW absolutely captures the loss of childhood innocence.

Eventually Erin is chosen to be Sarillorn of the Line, a member of the Lernari who contains a portion of the Lady's power, and carries it onto the battlefield. And it is through her exploits as Sarillorn that she captures the interest of the First Servant of the Dark. As a healer, at the end of battles Erin heals both her own side and that of the enemy, causing some of the mortal members of the Malanthi army to change sides. She becomes a great threat. When she is eventually captured by Stefanos, she offers herself in exchange for the other hostages.

So begins the second part of the story - the development of a relationship between Erin and Stefanos. He agrees to her bargain, because there is something in her that draws him, and he wants to take her apart over and over again, until he can understand what it is. Make no mistake Stefanos is not misunderstood, he's empty of all save his purpose - he isn't even human and MSW just makes this so clear. I can't think of another anti-hero that comes close. He reminds me of a shark, how they learn what things are by biting them. What he forgets however, is that when the darkness touches the light, the light also touches the darkness. By torturing Erin, he is also changed.

Towards the end of the story Erin realizes the path she is on, (to paraphrase Tolkien) to be a light in the darkness when all other lights go out. In the empire that Stefanos is building, the majority of people become slaves to the Malthan nobles. Tortured and offered in blood sacrifice to the Dark God. Their languages and history become illegal, to speak your own name is a death sentence. The only mercy to be found is any that Erin (now called Lady Sara) can persuade the First Servant to give.

Stefanos who has never loved anyone realizes that unlike him, eventually Erin will grow old and die. In the final pages of the book, true to his nature, he commits an act of horror to keep her with him. Betrayed by the priest of Malthan, Erin witnesses it, and Stefanos has to take drastic action to keep her with him.

This story is so much about choice - what would you give up, what would you sacrifice for a lasting peace, for love when you never understood what love was. It's also about the nature of things. Stefanos is like the scorpion in the tale, he is what he is. He remains true to his nature, even as he is able to offer concessions to Erin. But Erin expects / hopes for more from him. In the end would you choose to be true to yourself, or to the one you've given yourself to. How far would you bend for that person, before you break completely.

I don't like to give A grades to the first in a series. But this story is so darkly powerful, it deserves an A.

Saturday 10 November 2007

Kiss of Crimson by Lara Adrian

This is book 2 of the Midnight Breed series. Which started with Kiss of Midnight. Carrying on from where the first book left off. Kiss of Crimson follows Dante, as he and his fellow Breed Warriors search for the suppliers of a drug called Crimson. This drug has the unfortunate effect of triggering the users change into a Rogue vampire. During the course of the investigation Dante is injured and takes blood from Tess, who unbeknownst to him is a Breedmate. Having started the blood bond, he now finds himself drawn to her. But Tess is more closely linked to the distribution of Crimson than she knows, putting both herself, her friends and Dante in danger.

Tess is a strong heroine, who even when she's in trouble, never stops thinking. She's got a mind of her own and she isn't afraid to stand up for herself, which is good, else Dante would walk all over her, and this relationship wouldn't be lasting very long.

I like that even though Dante and Tess are essentially fated to mate once he's fed from her, that they both don't immediately succumb to it. He fights it, knowing he's fed from a Breedmate, and she fights it because she doesn't understand it. Initially neither of them are particularly thrilled about the situation. It's handled in a very realistic way. There's no immediate jumping into bed together - though that does happen, and yes he has a huge penis LOL - they test the ground with each other first. Tess is understandably wary having just come out of a bad relationship with her ex-boyfriend Ben.

Ben I couldn't help but feel sorry for in a way. He's almost a perfect illustration for the road to hell being paved with good intentions. He desperately wants to do the right thing, but he's weak. His jealousy becomes like a cancer inside him, and eventually he's eaten away.

The subplot of both the Crimson dealing, and new guy Chase and his unrequited love for Elise are smoothly intertwined into the main story. His longing comes across powerfully on the page and she is oblivious to it. All she wants is for her son to come home safely, and Chase wants to be the one to give that to her. I find myself hoping that Chase will be getting his own story, as he's by far the most complex character introduced so far. He says he doesn't give into his urges, but when he gives into them, it's almost with a sense of self-loathing and it happens in public with Tegan (Breed Warrior) watching - Ouch! He intially joined the Warriors with his own motives, he fucks up and then has to help put things right. But because of his error in judgment it's too late to rescue two people who might otherwise have been saved.

I also think in Kiss of Crimson we get a better idea of what it means to go from being human to being a minion. How someone's humanity is stripped away until all that's left is the will of their master. Very well done.

My favourite bit of the story, is when Dante tells Tess he has a dog - which he doesn't - which he then spontaneously names Harvard - his nickname for Chase. Of course now he's told her he's got a dog, he has to get one. This so humanized him for me, the fact that this lie came out of his mouth, probably whilst his brain was going WHAT ARE YOU SAYING? Then when he rings up the animal shelter to get a dog.
"I need one of your animals," Dante told her.
"Excuse me?"
"The dog from your website, the old one. I want it."

He does slightly come across like he's planning an animal sacrifice. LOL

There are other nice touches. When Dante and Tess are discussing the myth of Endymion and Selene at the museum, there's the whole other subtextual conversation going on. The dead pool the other Breed Warriors have going on how long it's going to take Dante before he cracks and kills Chase. It's these little things that raise this story above other vampire novels around at the moment. It's things like this that make the Midnight Breed world real.

I am picking up on some inconsistencies. Bloodlust is apparently a one way street, but I thought in book 1 it was said they managed to bring Tegan back from it. Maybe the cost to benefit ratio is too high for this to be practical for everyone? Also when Dante first meets Tess his mind control doesn't work on her, and then she's suddenly susceptible? Maybe he was too injured when they first met for it to be effective?

I'm still seeing similarities here between the Black Dagger Brotherhood and Ukiah Oregon series. Rio - horrifically scarred and misogynistic confronts Tess (Z confronting Beth), and the Ukiah Oregon series has a drug called Invisible Red. Having said that I think the Midnight Breed series is slowly coming into its own. And I hope that by book 3 - Tegan's story, I'll be able to completely immerse myself in the Midnight Breed world without being distracted.

Sunday 4 November 2007

The Crossroads Cafe by Deborah Smith

The Crossroads Cafe follows the lives of two strangers, Cathryn Deen and Thomas Mitternich as they first become friends and then something more. Both have been scarred by life - Cathryn is physcially scarred when she is horrifically burnt in a car accident, and Thomas is mentally scarred by guilt and depression following the death of his wife and son in the World Trade Center on September 11th.

I read a review of The Crossroads Cafe on I Just Finished Reading. I then checked out Deborah Smith's site, and read the excerpts of the book that are available there. And when, at the end of the excerpt I wanted to read more, I bought the book. The excerpt reminded me a little of Susan Elizabeth Phillips whose books I enjoy.

Before I talk about the story, I'll just mention that as a reading experience it's an incredibly well-constructed book. Split into seven parts each section is introduced with various quotes applicable to that part of the story. At the end there's a reading guide of 12 questions to spark discussion for anyone who's reading it as part of a bookclub. Plus three recipes for biscuits if you're taken with the urge to try baking some yourself after reading about them in the book.

The book alternates between Cathy and Thomas's point of view, we get to experience the events that unfold through both of them. This lends itself very well to the story and I'm glad we got to see inside both of their heads.

Following the accident, Thomas is persuaded by Cathryn's cousin (Delta, owner of The Crossroads Cafe) to phone the hospital posing as Cathryn's husband so they can find out what's happening to her. Unbeknownst to them, Cathryn's husband has already distanced himself from her and isn't visiting her. It is the phone calls and packages from Delta that give Cathryn the strength to keep going, even when she's reached rock bottom.

Meanwhile, Thomas has problems of his own. An alcoholic, he hasn't come to terms with the death of his wife and child, holding himself responsible for their loss.

When Cathryn returns to her grandmother's North Carolina home to make a new life for herself, she gradually begins a relationship with Thomas, that will eventually heal them both.

How to describe this book. In some ways it reminds me of Brothers & Sisters (a programme I swore I wouldn't get addicted to, but did. And I apologize if I seem to be comparing books more and more often to tv shows. LOL). The book deals with a difficult subject matter for both Thomas and Cathryn, but it is full of witty, wry, self-depracating dialogue that brings a smile to your face, whilst at the same time taking you into the hearts of the characters and their community.
"Ravel...was...approximately seven hundred feet above sea level. I was at 4,000 feet. I needed to know she had to look up to me."

The car accident is horrific and hearbreaking, and did have me in tears. Then, the way we hear Cathryn's thoughts when she's in the burn ward, as the doctor explains her situation is very realistic. How she just isn't taking the comments in. How her internal commentary doesn't match up to what people are telling her.

In a way the relationship between Cathy and Thomas starts before either of them have ever met. Thomas writes to her, filling her in on the things that are happening in the North Carolina community. He names a cow after her. It gives her something to hold onto, when she feels like she has nothing left.

Although the initial scenes of the accident are intense, for the most part the book has a slow pace that draws you into the world of The Crossroads Cafe. You follow the burgeoning relationship between Cathy and Thomas, their progression from friends, to lovers, to family. Towards the end I felt like the plot had lost it's way a little bit, and maybe it was slightly longer than it needed to be, but this is a book that I would come back to re-read again and again. Just like catching up with an old friend.

Wednesday 24 October 2007

Beg for Mercy - Toni Andrews


Don't know if anyone remembers but this was the book I had on my wishlist that I couldn't remember why I'd put it on there. I am SO glad I bought it.

Mercy Hollings is a pretty ordinary person, but she has an extraordinary gift. She has the power to make people do what she wants. She calls this power 'the press'. Mercy's friend Sukey has appalling taste in men, when her latest boyfriend (Rocko) slips her heroin and causes her to overdose, Mercy takes matters into her own hands to ensure it will never happen again. Unfortunately in getting rid of the sleazy boyfriend, Mercy manages to draw the attention of Dominic, drug dealer and Rocko's boss. Dominic wants his heroin back.

One of the things I love about this book is that Toni Andrews does not insult her reader's intelligence / literary knowledge. I read the back cover of BFM and thought Aha! this sounds like 'the push' from Firestarter. Chapter 2 begins :-
"When I was fourteen, I read a book by Stephen King called Firestarter."

Mercy then explains why her power is different to that of the push. I thought this was a nice little touch. (In a way her power is similar to that of Eden from Heroes Season 1, the character who ended up shooting herself rather than giving up her power to Sylar).

I think that comparison to Heroes is relevant because in a lot of ways Beg For Mercy follows the same line. Mercy is not a cop / private detective / lost fairy princess / super hero, she's trying to live an ordinary life without hurting people. She has four rules for when she can and cannot use her power. The most important being - Do No Harm. But when a word spoken in haste or anger can do irreperable damage it's easy to understand why she's chosen to try and isolate herself. However, she's made friends in this community and when she puts those people in danger, she sorts her mess out and ultimately has to break her rules. (Though it has to be said, she sometimes seems to have a pretty flexible approach to most of them.)

Mercy does let her emotions over-ride her judgement, which considering the power she has isn't a good thing. She initially pursues Rocko without being certain of his guilt. She makes a big assumption because of her own self-recrimination. And when she uses the press on him, she sets in motion a chain of events that ultimately put Sukey, and Mercy's other friends in even more danger. I very much liked this ripple effect. Nearly everything that happens can be traced back to that initial press on Rocko. And as Mercy tries to put things right, she ends up having to use the press even more. It shows how easily she could become corrupted by her power.

There is the beginning of a romantic relationship between Mercy and Sam, but this story mainly focuses on Mercy, so if you prefer the romantic relationship to be the central thrust of the story this one may not be for you. But you'd be missing out on a great tale.

Aside - There are a couple of scenes reminiscent of Obi Wan Kenobi from Star Wars. And I so wanted Mercy to say - "These are not the droids you are looking for." But obviously that didn't happen. LOL

Mercy has a power that can't be topped. These are tricky heroes to write about and initially I was a little concerned. This is why Superman has kryptonite. There has to be something for the bad guy to exploit. But I needn't have worried because Mercy has her weak points.

She knows that the consequences of using the press can be catastrophic, but even knowing this, she still uses it. She tries to take care, but she's still sometimes careless, and even when she's being cautious, the results are unpredictable, because it's impossible for her to foresee all the consequences of her actions. She's also without realising it come to care for her friends - always a liability in fiction. And finally she meets someone on whom the press doesn't work - Dominic.

Dominic, Dominic, Dominic. An absolutely delicious bad guy. There's quite a few of them around at the moment. He's not a nice man. He's very, very bad. But Toni Andrews writes him as charmingly evil. He knows (or says he knows) much more about Mercy than she knows about herself. I can't help but hope we haven't seen the last of him.

Beg for Mercy makes a refreshing change from vampires, werewolves, elves and the end of the world. Recommended.

Angel of Mercy Book 2 - May 2008

P.S. I'm going to make a quick comment about the cover - my copy was really annoying, the front and back covers curled away from the spine, even before I'd read it. I don't know if this is something to do with some kind of coating the publisher has put on there to make parts of it shiny but I hope it's a one off. The cover's primary job is to protect the story inside, prettyifying it should come a distant second. I want to be able to read this book in ten years, not have to replace it.

Sunday 21 October 2007

Kiss of Midnight by Lara Adrian


After Gabrielle Maxwell witnesses a brutal attack by a pack of Rogue Vampires outside a nightclub, she is plunged into a war that most humans don't realize is happening. A war where Breed Warriors fight to keep the world safe from vampires who have succumbed to the lure of bloodlust and turned rogue. Little does she know, this is a world that has touched her before, and this time it's a world she won't be able to leave.

I've had Kiss of Midnight in my TBR pile for a while, as well as the next book in the Midnight Breed series (Kiss of Crimson), but just haven't got round to reading it. I think partly because word of mouth said that Book 1 wasn't as strong as Book 2, but I didn't want to start Bk2 without being properly introduced to the series.

If you've ever wondered what kind of story you'd get if you crossed J.R.Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood with Wen Spencer's Ukiah Oregon, and kept it firmly on the side of paranormal romance - then wonder no more. Lara Adrian's vampires are the progeny of aliens who crash landed on Earth centuries ago. The original aliens were voracious predators, eventually wiped out by their children. But something of the monster still lurks within, and the vampires fight against a bloodlust which if they give into, will see them marked for death by the Breed Warriors.

Kiss of Midnight introduces us to this world through the eyes of Gabrielle Maxwell and Lucan Thorne. Unbeknownst to Gabrielle she is a Breedmate - a human female genetically compatible with the Breed (all vampire children are male). Lucan Thorne is a Gen 1, (the first generation of alien children who rose up to kill their fathers) as such, he struggles harder against the bloodlust than his compatriots. But that doesn't stop him from being drawn to Gabrielle, even though he feels she would be better suited to a pairing with another vampire.

I really enjoyed this story. Maybe because I went into it with the expectation of being underwhelmed. Instead I was racing through it wanting to know what happened next. After a slightly slow first few pages, the plot moves along nicely, characters are well drawn and believable. And I ended this story happy I could move onto book 2 straight away, and disappointed that I was going to have to wait a couple of months before I got my hands on book 3.

Lara Adrian's world is well thought out. There are a couple of very nice touches, not necessarily part of the main storyline, but they serve to make the world more real. For instance, I like that Dante has to wait for Lucan to finish before he can feed - it illustrates the animalistic hierarchical nature of the vampires without beating us over the head with it.

I also thought the funeral ceremony was well thought out and movingly written.

And although most of her bad guys are rogues, consumed with the need for blood, sex and death. The head guy is a very well written anti-hero. I'm interested to see where Lara Adrian goes with him. She leaves you with the feeling that though he's committed heinous acts, there's a possibility he could go either way. He could be redeemed. It's the fact that there's thought and calculation behind his every action, and we don't yet know if there's only cold intellect there, or something more.

Her love scenes are hot. :)

Is it perfect? No

It's almost bound to be compared to Dark Lover. There are a couple of scenes reminiscent of that book - when Lucan breaks into Gabrielle's apartment for example. And Lara Adrian does use what readers might have come to consider as the vampire group sterotypes. Lucan - the oldest and in charge, Gideon - the computer expert, Tegan - the loner, and later in the story one of the warriors is horrifically scarred. Oh, and in case I forget to mention it Lucan has a huge penis. LOL

I find myself very much liking the character of Savannah (Gideon's mate). And hope she isn't going to get killed off (a la Wellsie).

There are a couple of slips, or maybe I just misinterpreted.

Exactly what colour is Gabrielle's hair. For the most part it's described as ginger, but it's once described as burnt gold. To me, ginger and burnt gold just ain't the same thing.

And we never see K***** die. Or did I miss it? I don't know if this is intentional or not. She's told to jump off the roof after the vampire master leaves. But the vampire master and Gabrielle go up to the roof and whilst they're fighting in the helicopter we never see K***** take her leap. I don't know if we're meant to assume she jumped from a different part of the roof or that she got away?

Despite these minor niggles, this is a fantastic start to a new vampire urban fantasy series. And I think if the stories remain this strong any comparisons between Lara Adrian's series and others will pretty soon be inconsequential. I'm hooked.

Tuesday 16 October 2007

Poltergeist by Kat Richardson

Poltergeist picks up a few months after the end of Greywalker. Harper is now more in control of her ability to see into the Grey, but she still hasn't perfected it. With no other Greywalkers to talk to she has to rely on the advice of her friend Mara, and more riskily, the knowledge of Carlos the vampire. Her latest case sees her investigating a University research group who have created an artificial poltergeist. When one of the group is murdered Harper decides to find out who is responsible.

I do wish I'd re-read Greywalker before reading Poltergeist. Although I managed to follow the story, there were a couple of things I didn't quite remember. I think if I were reading them directly one after the other it would have been better.

One of the things I like about the Greywalker series is that it isn't obvious where the story is going. I've watched that many episodes of CSI that it's rare for something to surprise me. But Kat Richardson manages to keep her plots intriguing. In the end, the mystery wasn't that mysterious, but all the other stuff that happened along the way, more than made up for it. The fact that while you're reading the story you're completely immersed in Harper's world.

Harper's life doesn't just stop because she has a case. She's also trying to maintain a long-distance relationship with Will Novak (the auctioneer from Greywalker) who has moved to London. Mara and Ben are still on hand to offer assistance, with their resident ghost Albert seemingly encouraging their toddler's bad behaviour. Strange ghosts are accosting Harper in public toilets, vampires are ringing at 5 am asking for favours and she's still not completely sure how her power works. Even with this large cast of characters, you can keep everyone straight in your head because they are each written as individuals. And none of these incidents detracts from the main story, they just flesh out Harper's world, making it real.

Quinton remains something of a mystery. I'm still sure there is more to him than meets the eye and I'm sure it's significant the ball of energy in the seance room shied away from him...maybe. LOL. I also love the fact that Chaos (the ferret) loves him. He's very perceptive:-
"...Working for jerks costs extra and working for jerks on short notice is even more,"

And he's ultimately the one who comes up with the solution to the problem. Even though 'magic makes his head ache'.

On page 198 when we have the seance from hell, I'm reminded of the scene in Greywalker when Harper is beaten. Kat Richardson has a way of writing action that draws you into the scene. Her descriptions are so accurate, she just takes you into the moment.

The ending sees Harper having to ask Carlos the vampire for help. Which she already knows is something of a double-edged sword and he remains true to form. KR's vampire's are disturbingly creepy and I look forward to seeing how Carlos and Harper's relationship develops in upcoming books.

For anyone who read my review of Greywalker. Yes I am still annoyed by the OK's, though I am learning to mentally edit them out as I go along. I counted 78 which doesn't seem that many, so I feel really picky. Though they do tend to turn up in groups.

Apart from that minor quibble on my part. I enjoyed Poltergeist as much as I did Greywalker, and this is definitely a series I plan to follow.

According to Kat Richardson's website Book 3 Underground will be a Summer 2008 release.

Thursday 11 October 2007

Lover Unbound by J.R.Ward


Lover Unbound is the fifth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R.Ward. It follows Vishous who ends up in a human hospital following a Lesser attack. Instantly attracted to his surgeon, when the other members of the Brotherhood turn up to rescue him, he kidnaps her even though he knows he's commited to a future without her.

I was in two minds whether or not to review this book. So much has been said more eloquently elsewhere (and sometimes in a much funnier manner), and I'm afraid what follows may turn into an essay.

However, I will give it a bash. These are my thoughts following a couple of weeks musing over the story.


I loved the introduction to Jane in the prologue, especially the part where she uses the Ouija board. I thought it was a very strong beginning.

The training stuff and everything to do with the pre-trans. The new troika of Blay, Qhuinn and John Matthew. Just fantastic.

JM's transition and the aftermath and following from that - the relationship that is developing between JM and Zsadist. The fact that Zsadist knows about what happened to JM and was able to deal with it in a way that was comfortable for JM.

The fact that we're finding out more about Darius, and the overall history of the Brotherhood.

The relationship between V and the Scribe Virgin. Finally there is someone who has taken her down off that pedestal.

JM and Xhex, so looking forward to seeing where that goes.

I liked the Primale thing, and Phury's fall from grace.

Cormia and the rest of the Chosen. I'm looking forward to seeing them all come out of their shells. And my fingers are crossed that Phury can't just give up the Primale thing. There should be some consequences for accepting the responsibility.


I hate to say this, but when I think back about the story. V and Jane's relationship doesn't pop out at me at all. It's all the other stuff I remember. I also think that if you removed Jane from the story and substituted Butch that the whole thing would still work. This disappointed me, because as a character she had such a strong beginning and somewhere along the way she disappeared. I liked her interactions whilst I was reading them, but they just haven't stuck in my head.(LOL - though I would have been happy to read about V and Butch)

For the most part, the character of V felt off to me. Even the interactions with Butch didn't seem to hit the same note as in previous books.


The ending. For a couple of reasons. I don't like the Casper situation. This is a personal thing, I feel it goes against the natural order. And I also feel like we're retreading a story that's already been told in a much more satisfying way - Lover Eternal. Jane is essentially taken out of the continuum of her fate. We've already been here. And whilst we're on the subject, I didn't find Rhage standing in her amusing.

V's rape confession. Mainly because it seemed gratuitous. And working it out, it means the majority of the men at the camp must have been rape victims. Darius was at the same camp, did he rape anyone? Or did he leave before he was required to do that? This is important because it impacts John Matthew's story. How is he going to feel if his former incarnation was a rapist, when he's a rape victim.

Some of Bella's comments to Phury, especially those said in front of Cormia. Is insensitivity a side effect of vampire pregnancy?

I missed the Lesser POV. This was one of the things that made the books unique, the fact that we understood what motivated the bad guys. The fact that sometimes we knew more about the Lessers than the vampires did. I do think LU would have benefitted from a certain Lesser's point of view.

So I really enjoyed the book (even given the above problems) right up until page 484. Yes, that's after Jane left the stage. At that point the book lost me, I felt like we'd hit a point where there HAD to be a happy ending and V and Jane HAD to be together forever. It's a personal thing for me - I don't like ghosts. I don't believe the living and the dead belong together.

I would have been more interested in seeing V and Jane having to deal with the consequences of her humanity. Or V having to deal with a life that no longer included Jane, after she had opened him up emotionally.

It's interesting that Lover Unbound is the first BDB novel not to have paranormal romance on the spine. But I didn't really feel like we'd crossed over into another genre. I felt like LU didn't know what it was. There wasn't enough of a romantic plot for it to be PNR, and I don't think it went hard enough to be classed as urban fantasy. As someone who reads a lot of UF, I think Jane would have remained human, or dead if there was a big push in that direction, because those are more difficult scenarios to deal with.

I also think if LU signals a shift into urban fantasy proper, then the worldbuilding needs to be tighter. I think romance fans will forgive a lot if the central relationship between the hero and heroine is strong and believable. When that's no longer the focus of the book, the rules that govern the way the world works need to be consistent and strong.

So, what is the BDB? I once read a post from someone who classified it as a Family Saga (wish I could remember where). I think this is the closest description to what the BDB books are. Where they work best is focusing on the relationships between the central family unit, which is the Brotherhood. For me Lover Eternal and Lover Awakened remained the strongest of the series.

Have I given up on the series - NO! There's stil a lot I'm looking forward to - JM's continuing story, the introduction of Payne and seeing more of Xhex. JRW excels at writing a believable male point of view. So I'm hoping these more masculine females will have a bigger presence in the stories. And Lover Unbound is not my least favourite.

I think a lot of people are waiting for Phury's book - not because they're addicted to the BDB, but because it's going to be the make or break book as people make the decision whether or not to follow the series to hardcover. Personally I'm glad that for whatever reason it's been pushed back. I would be happy to wait 12 months in between books if it meant they made me feel like LE and LA. I would be happy if they were 800 pages long (a la Diana Gabaldon) if it meant that the whole story J.R.Ward wanted to tell was in there.

Sunday 7 October 2007

Ivy Cole & the Moon by Gina Farago

Ivy Cole has returned to Doe Springs bringing her secret with her. But something else has also come to Doe Springs. Unlike Ivy who only stalks the guilty, this something else is much less discriminating.

One of the things I love about reading is being able to share a story you love with other people. I know that Naomi loves this book, so I really wanted to enjoy it too, but it didn't quite work for me. It's published under the Berkley Horror imprint so maybe it was just not close enough to the urban fantasy style I prefer. Saying that there was a lot about the story that I liked and appreciated. So I hope that comes across in the review.

I always love it when an author includes clues which get the reader thinking. The sentence in German from the platter (which even with my limited knowledge of the language I knew Ivy didn't translate correctly), the story written by IV in the back of Lykanthrop. How all these individual threads come together to reveal the mystery at the end. Also the fact that Ivy is a pale wolf whilst the other is dark, brought to mind the story about how we're all born with two wolves inside us fighting for dominance and the one who wins is the one we feed.

Some of the dialogue is incredibly clever and witty. Well worth concentrating on what's happening so you can appreciate these little gems.

p54 - "Good, strong backup with no interference. Gloria liked that in a deputy."

p55 - "He was turned out, professional, but not fussy. Ivy liked that in a deputy."

The scene with the kids in the woods looking for a werewolf is straight out of horror movie central. Full of atmosphere and tension, and from the moment things go pear-shaped you are waiting for at least one of them to get picked off.

I much preferred the second half of the book. The pace of the story builds up and we actually start to find out things about Ivy. Not only about her past, but also how she actually feels about things, as the world she's built for herself in Doe Springs comes under threat.

There seemed to be quite a bit of point of view head hopping, which I noticed more in the first part of the book. I'm not a big fan of this as I prefer to stay with one person and get to know them well. I think this is one device that limited my getting into the story.

All the way through I was trying to work out why I wasn't connecting with the characters. I felt like (especially in the first half of the book) I had a pane of glass in between me and what was happening on the page. It was a couple of days after I finished reading that I realized everyone in this story is alone. Ivy, Melvin, Gloria, Tee, Meeks, Ava. Sure, Ivy has her dogs, her pack, but apart from Doc's family there are no human connections in the book. Melvin desperately wants to make a connection, he wants a wife and family, but he's thwarted. I guess one of the things I like to see in a story is the emotional growth of the characters in some way, and I felt that was missing. The characters all start out alone, and at the conclusion most of them are even more alone than before.

At the end of the book I don't feel I ever got to know Ivy. I appreciated the story, and at the end it's satisfying how everything comes together. I just wish I'd enjoyed it more.

I'd recommend this one for werewolf fans looking for something more realistic and gritty.

Monday 1 October 2007

Blood Drive by Jeanne C. Stein


Blood Drive continues from where The Becoming left off. We join Anna Strong at Culebra's hideout as she is about to return to the normal world. She's determined to fit being a vampire in with her previous life. But things are about to get more complicated when Trisha, a girl who may be her long-dead brother's child, goes missing.

Weirdly I started this book sure that I wasn't going to like it. Which was fine, 'cause I'd run out of space on my bookshelves and needed to make some room. Instead I found myself really enjoying this one, much more than book 1 of the series.

The dialogue is witty and the friction between Anna and some of the other characters makes for a story that you want to keep reading.

"Ah you're talking to me. Good. I thought you'd called me here to impress me with your digs. Or the speed at which you shuffle papers. And, I must say, both are impressive."

The thing I like about Anna is that she is flawed and makes mistakes. Something I don't think we see enough of in protagonists. She still relies too much on her gut to get her out of situations - but that is who she is. It's interesting that she had this bad instinct thing going before she became a vampire - it's how she ended up as one in the first place. By the end of the book she realizes that though her vampire instincts are good, in some situations she must over-ride them. This makes for one of the most powerful scenes in the story when she finally understands what being a vampire means. All the way through she's been told that she has to make a choice, but it's only at that moment that she gets it.

I love the relationship between Anna and Frey and think they make a much better partnership than either Anna and Max, or Anna and David. Frey won't let her get away with anything, unlike the other men in her life who she has a tendency to walk over. In a way this book is Anna coming to terms with what she'll have to let go of, if she's going to survive. She can't maintain her human relationships indefinitely, her family and friends are going to age and die. And it's through the search for Trish that she finally comes to understand this. I think as we move away from Anna the bounty hunter and come to know Anna the vampire that the strength in storytelling evident here, will shine through. It's almost as if the restraint of being human was holding the character back.

Casper makes an all too brief appearance. My fingers are still crossed that we'll find out who he is in a future book. Perhaps Book 3 the aptly titled The Watcher?

I still don't like the 'no reflection' and 'no breathing' which seem to me two of the silliest vampire conventions to follow. But this is something you can pretty much ignore unless it's brought up by the characters so doesn't detract from the story that much.

If I had any niggles it was that I'm not sure I understand the point of Max as a character, he seems pretty superfluous to the plot. On p35 Anna notes "I'd actually forgotten for a moment that he's in the room." Which kind of sums up their relationship perfectly. The way she treats Max is appalling though he doesn't seem to care, in fact his emotional investment in their relationship seems to increase in direct proportion to the amount hers decreases. I hope we find out soon why he hasn't been written out of the plot yet.

The Watcher (Book 3) is released Dec. 2007

Saturday 29 September 2007

Dark Need by Lynn Viehl


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday 23 September 2007

Touch the Dark by Karen Chance


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

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

Okay good stuff or bad stuff first?

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

1) Nice first line:-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And two personal issue things

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

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

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

Monday 17 September 2007

Unshapely Things by Mark del Franco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 13 September 2007

Ill Wind by Rachel Caine


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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay one of my favourites:-

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

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

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

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

Saturday 8 September 2007

On the Prowl - Anthology


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deep breath.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 4 September 2007

Caressed by Ice - Nalini Singh



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 1 September 2007

Resolution for September

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

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

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

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

Today is Day 1.

Monday 27 August 2007

Pet Peeves

Do you have any pet peeves whilst reading.

Not those that make you want to throw a book against a wall. But those that just niggle. I have a couple, but there's one that's getting on my nerves at the moment.

I have a problem with the word 'literally'. Actually it was one particular author who gave me a dislike for this word because she used it so much. To the point where now I think it should be banned. LOL. Well maybe that's a bit extreme. But I think 99% of the time it's used when it doesn't need to be. It's the verbal equivalent of an exclamation mark. And it seems to crop up a lot on consecutive pages. It's got to the point where I may have to start mentioning this in reviews - just to get it off my chest.

It's used a lot for emphasis - "His head literally exploded."

Ouch that's got to hurt. But did his head actually explode? If it did, why not just say "His head exploded." If it didn't explode, why are you telling us it did?

"His blood literally burned."

Oh my God! He's on fire. Or did you mean he was losing his temper?

I think one 'literally' per book is enough. Thank you for listening. :)

Tuesday 14 August 2007

Dirty by Megan Hart

And now for something completely different. :)Dirty is not urban fantasy, it's a contemporary erotic tale. Thought I better just put that note there, as I think this will be the first non UF I've reviewed.

Dirty tells the story of Elle and Dan. It's told from Elle's point of view and she initially appears quite a cold and hard person. She doesn't want a relationship, she doesn't want to date. She has sex and then leaves. But then she meets Dan and things begin to change.

Often when I read erotic fiction I find myself comparing it to candyfloss. It's nice to have every so often, and whilst satisfying at the time, you realize afterwards it had very little substance and didn't fill you up. Sometimes you read a book subconsciously aware it feels like the author had a checklist to complete - oral sex (tick), anal sex (tick), menage a trois (tick), bondage (tick). Now there's nothing wrong with this, sometimes it's nice to have a break from emotional intensity. But it's also great to read an erotic novel that isn't just about a ticklist of sexual positions.

Dirty follows the development of a relationship, not a romance. Things don't go perfectly smoothly, mistakes are made, words are said that can't be taken back. Through the course of the story we find out why Elle is the way she is, this is a major plot point so I don't want to give it away.

Dan looks at Elle and SEES her. Her, not the person she pretends to be,not the person she wants people to think she is. And through this 'relationship' she slowly begins to open up, because of her circumstances it's slightly two steps forward one step back, but she makes progress.

I also enjoyed how Megan Hart had the tale of The Little Prince woven through the story. (Most UF/PNR readers are probably familiar with this through Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dance With the Devil). If you've never read TLP I do recommend it, even if you only read the first two pages which illustrate how easy it is for adults to stamp on the dreams of children. But it also has some lines of wisdom very applicable to Dan and Elle's tale. Notably - "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." and paraphrasing "The heart sees what is essential, and invisible to the eye."

In a way Elle reminded me slightly of Zoe from Wraith, another first person protagonist with a terrible incident in her past. And even though Dirty is told in first person, just like Zoe, there are things that Elle doesn't think about, things that we as readers find out about gradually, things that we piece together.

In places Dirty is not an easy tale to read, it deals with a difficult subject matter. But Megan Hart's characters come alive on the page, and the ending whilst not a traditional happy ever after, is hopeful and full of possibility.

Friday 10 August 2007

Books and Songs and Other Stuff

In my review of Bareback I commented that it really brought the song Hello by Evanescence to mind.

This isn't the only book where this has happened.

Brace yourselves 'cause I'm going to mention that book again. :) When I was reading The Time Traveler's Wife, I had Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol playing in my head.

I've seen a few authors do soundtracks for their books - Rachel Caine springs immediately to mind. Sherrilyn Kenyon has posted on her site about Acheron's favourite tunes. And J.R.Ward's BDB have a rap soundtrack.

So are there any songs that come to mind whilst you've read certain books? Not necessarily that the characters were singing along to, but maybe something happened in the storyline that brought a song to mind?

I have a copy of Demon Angel by Meljean Brook to give away. LOL - hopefully you haven't all read it. I was going to save it for when I reviewed Demon Moon but at the rate I'm reading at the moment, book 3 will be out before that happens. So next Friday (17th August) I'll pick one random commenter to this post and they'll get the book. If you can't think of a song just put your name in the hat, or comment on the other stuff below :).

Some book news - the title of Elizabeth Vaughan's next book will be Dagger-Star with a proposed release date of April 2008. I loved the Warprize trilogy so I'm looking forward to reading this.

And I have a confession to make. Despite swearing that I wouldn't buy another Sherrilyn Kenyon hardcover after Dark Side of the Moon. I've been swayed by the opinion that Devil May Cry is back up to the standard of Night Play and Dance with the Devil and I've ordered it from Amazon.

Tuesday 7 August 2007

Bareback by Kit Whitfield


NOTE - this was released as Benighted in the US.

Lola Galley lives in a world where over 99% of the population are lycanthropes. As a 'bareback' for the one night a month of the full moon she patrols the town searching for transformed citizens breaking curfew, taking them into custody and prosecuting them. We follow her life over the course of one investigation.

This book is going to be pretty difficult to review, hence the vague summary above. And I apologize if I go stream of conciousness here.

First off, I wouldn't class this as urban fantasy. For me, urban fantasy transports you to another world, this is more like being smacked in the face with a reality shaped brick. I'd classify it as alternative history, set in a world where there are no simple answers, only difficult choices. I wouldn't recommend reading this book if you are feeling depressed.

Lola works for DORLA (Department for the Ongoing Regulation of Lycanthropic Activity). Everyone who works for DORLA is anmorphic - barebacks. They are the minority of the population put in charge of the majority when that majority cannot be responsible for their own behaviour - on the night of the full moon. DORLA have a separate legal system, they arrest without trial, interrogate, disappear people. But they do it within the framework the majority have given them. From the moment they are born a bareback's life course is already set, they will go to work for DORLA, there is no other choice for them.

Lola is not an easy character to like. It's written in very tight first person. So we experience the moments where she thinks one thing about a person but manages to say the right thing. Also where she argues with someone to inflict hurt - it doesn't make you feel better just temporarily superior and then leaves you empty. I jotted down whilst reading that she wasn't sympathetic but I feel this is wrong. It's only by reading the whole book that you understand her. Particularly her confrontation with SPOILER at the end, as she is trying to explain to a lyco what being a bareback is actually like. Her story is heartbreaking because she is caught in a hard and brutal life that she cannot escape from.

I don't want to make it sound like a complete downer.

'Evening,' he says.
'Yes, it is.'
'What are you drinking?'
'Alcohol. It makes me drunk. You can get it almost anywhere.'

One of the review quotes on the cover of my copy said it echoes 1984, and I can see that. I'd also compare it to the film Equilibrium. In the film John lives in a world where emotion is suppressed, he is opened up to there being something more through Mary. In a similar way through Paul and Leo, Lola's life is opened to something new but it's such a fragile delicate thing. At the end of the book I was hopeful but I prefer happy endings. Some people may find the ending unsatisfying, but I think it fits with the tone of the rest of the book and is realistic to the world in which Lola lives.

There is a passage on page 251 which I think is the heart of the book.

"He didn't know this was the end of his life. If nobody warned him, he couldn't have known that he should have loved those last hundred yards, that they weren't just an obstacle to getting to where he planned, that the sounds of his feet on the pavement and the wind in the branches were all he was ever going to have."

You could take those words and apply them to most of the characters we meet - Lola, Paul, Johnny, Marty, Nate. I think on a re-read, I'd be mentally saying to the characters these are the moments you need to hold onto.

The story is beautifully crafted and I was tempted to give this an A. I don't think my review has done it justice. The reason I've dropped a grade, is that I'm not sure it's a book I would read again. It's made me think, still a couple of days after I've finished it I'm thinking about it. But I don't want to revisit Lola's world any time soon.

Every so often I'll come to associate a book with a song. In future if that happens I'll include the song at the end of the review. So for Bareback:-

Hello by Evanescence