Saturday 26 May 2007

Atlantis Rising by Alyssa Day


Conlan is the high prince of Atlantis. After being captured and tortured by Anubisa the vampire queen for seven years he has finally returned home. Only to find that Poseidon's Trident has been stolen and he must reclaim it. Riley Dawson (an empathic social worker) gets caught in between the vampires and Conlan's Atlantean Warriors. She and Conlan are drawn towards one another, but Conlan must remain loyal to Atlantis and Riley is human.

Hmmmm. I made a big slip up with this book. I believed all the hype that was going round various message boards about it and didn't do my usual amount of research.

It's bad.

If you're buying this from a book shop I urge you to read the first few pages and you should know instantly whether or not it's your sort of thing. It's generally not a good sign when within the first two pages I am already editing the text - and unfortunately this continues throughout the book. Example - in Atlantis Rising no-one gets angry, or mad, or upset, they always 'feel fury'.

Riley is another TSTL heroine. Always speaking before she thinks, and worse sometimes acting before her brain is out of park. The two examples that stick most firmly in my mind are when on p66 she's musing about how she and her sister Quinn are like twins - "ten months apart was close enough to be almost twins". Well no it's not, not unless your mother had the longest pregnancy on record. And once we meet Quinn it quickly becomes clear that Riley doesn't know her sister at all, which makes her 'twins' statement even more ridiculous.

And later when she and her guards are hiding in a safe house from the bad guys she insists on opening the door - because it's only the pizza delivery guy. Duh!

Both she and Conlan are so two-dimensional, that you just don't care about them at all. Conlan has been viciously tortured for seven years by the vampire queen. The only reason you're aware it's happened is because every so often he either tells someone, or somebody else mentions it.

To go with our two-dimensional hero and heroine we have a 2-d villain. Anubisa chews the scenery, kills her minions and is appalling. But I don't care because I don't understand why she is that way - she just is.

The first hundred pages or so are all about Conlan and Riley and they are really hard to get through. Conlan has a tendency to go on about Riley's purity. Because there is little emotional connection to these characters when horrific things happen to them it doesn't horrify. At one point Riley says she feels like she is trapped in a B-movie, and that's a pretty good summation of the book.

After the other Warriors turn up there is an improvement in the storyline, mainly because the other Warriors are far more interesting than either Conlan or Riley. How I wish the book had been about them, with Riley and Conlan as a sub-plot.

During the final confrontation when I have forgiven some of this (because the other characters are written quite well) - Riley yelling "Stay away from my boyfriend!" along with Conlan's "Die you foul hellspawn!" Just makes me want to throw the book at the wall.

I'd read on Amazon that this was an original approach. It isn't. I'm not saying it isn't coming at the Warrior mythology from another angle because I think different writers tackle things in a variety of ways. But does this sound familiar - there are seven warriors, one has been horrifically tortured for many years and is scarred, one is good with computers, one has no emotions? Though it does make a change for the badass warrior to have a name beginning with A rather than Z.

The frustrating thing is that it isn't all bad. There are flashes of humour between the characters that made me smile. And some of the interactions between the Warriors are very well written - especially Denal, Bastien and Brennan. The problem is that Conlan and Riley should be the most interesting thing in the story and they aren't. There is a good story here, but it's too much hard work to find it. Atlantis Rising could have done with being gutted and re-edited before release.

Thursday 24 May 2007

Reviewing Books

Up until now, I've been pretty lucky with the books I have read recently. I think I've got to the point where I'm pretty savvy with my book buying. I only make a slip every so often.

The reason I'm writing this post, is that I may have given the impression that I love every book I read, or I'm only blogging about books that I love. The books I'm writing about are the ones I'm reading. If I pick up a book that I don't like, I'm gonna write about it. And I've just read one I didn't really get on with.

Saying that, I hope by now people have got an idea of the books I like. If you like the books I like you may want to bear my opinion in mind, more than if you don't. So when you read my review of a book I don't like - that's my personal taste. You may love the author, or the style. But, for whatever reason it just didn't work for me.

So brace yourselves. :)

Sunday 20 May 2007

If Angels Burn by Lynn Viehl


Yes I know the last review had this warning, but I'm being honest here. :)

If Angels Burn is the first of Lynn Viehl's Darkyn series. It tells the story of Alexandra Keller a reconstructive surgeon who is kidnapped and forced to repair the face of Michael Cyprien - reclusive millionaire and member of the Darkyn. Unbeknownst to Alexandra once she has entered the world of the Darkyn it's going to be much harder to leave. For as well as secrets, the Darkyn have enemies - the Brethren.

I love how Lynn Viehl writes her characters. I get an immediate sense of who Alexandra Keller is - the fact that she is far from perfect and makes mistakes. It's how she deals with those mistakes and their consequences that make her such a ballsy character. She is constantly re-evaluating whatever situation she finds herself in and acting in accordance with that information. A heroine that thinks.

This book is marketed as a paranormal romance and I think some readers will be disappointed by the lack of romantic romance in the story. It's much more a story of relationships - the ones we choose, the families we make, the families/friends we are given. And it's not just the relationship between the protagonists. Alex has a dysfunctional relationship with her brother John - one of the main subplots. From reading other reviews I know some readers would prefer less time be spent with John. But I think there is definitely more going on there than we are aware of, apparent when you go back and read about the things he goes through and what he does.

As this is a re-read for me and I've read the following books I was able to count out the various plot threads that started in book 1 - I counted nine and could have missed some :) . Some of them are only hints but it's fascinating to look back and see where the seed of a plot was first planted. One of the things I love is not being able to predict where the story is going, and also not knowing which parts of the story are going to have greater relevance later in the series.

Readers should be aware that Michael and Alex's continuing story is one of the main plot threads throughout the series. The story of their relationship does not end here. And as such the ending is not a nice, neat conclusion.

This first book in the series is not the start of one story but of many stories, only some of which are resolved ( or apparently resolved) here. If you prefer a story where everything is neatly wrapped up at the end, then perhaps this is not for you. If however you prefer a more complex story, with interweaving plotlines, where characters make the best of the bad situations in which they find themselves and don't always behave in an honourable manner. Then it's well worth checking out.

Thursday 17 May 2007

No Humans Involved by Kelley Armstrong


Okay, I thought I should make it clear that I have a little bias here. So for anyone who may be reading these reviews with the view to getting an objective opinion. This one might not be as objective as usual - though reading through it just before posting, I think it is. :) (Note to self I must find another word to use instead of love - LOL)

A quick summary of the plot - Jaime Vegas (necromancer) hopes taking part in a television programme which intends to raise the ghost of Marilyn Monroe will lead to her being offered a show of her own. However, before that can happen she finds out the gardens of the house she is staying in hold a far nastier secret. Jaime calls on her fellow supernaturals for help – Jeremy Danvers the alpha werewolf and Eve Levine her 'ghostly' contact on the other side. It quickly becomes apparent that something evil is at work and Jaime may need to push herself and her powers farther than she’s dared to before.

I loved this book. Jaime is one of my favourite Otherworld characters, maybe because with her insecurities she is the most human of the supernaturals we have met. And I think of all the characters she is the one I can relate to. I think the scene I love most in Haunted (Book #5) is when she's on the phone to Jeremy wincing at the words coming out of her mouth yet unable to stop herself talking. And here we have a whole book of her. :)

Her relationship with Jeremy is touching and believable and takes a big step forward. He, the alpha werewolf who gives no outward signs of his feelings and Jaime who almost seems to overflow with emotion at times. I have been looking forward to them appearing in a book together ever since it became apparent how she felt about him and I think the relationship works beautifully. I always find it a worry when I really love a character and I know they're getting their own book. I have a tendency to be disappointed because I've built my expectations up so high, but that didn't happen here.

Kelley Armstrong’s characters are always a delight to read, every one an individual with their own motivations, quirks, fears and desires. As a bonus they also talk like real people – not just like characters in a book. (My favourite one-liner being Eve’s sock puppet reference towards the end of the story.) We also get a sneak peek at how Marsten and Hope’s relationship has been developing, which makes me look forward even more to the next book. (My second favourite line being Marsten's comment to Hope about checking her security.)

Some readers may question the presence of Lucas and Paige as they do seem slightly superfluous to the storyline. However, Savannah is necessary to the plot and without her adoptive parents it would be harder to explain why she suddenly appeared. So I can understand why they are included, though they don’t appear to contribute much to the story. For the first time I almost like Savannah, I think partly because of the way she doesn't insult Jaime. Maybe she's slowly growing out of that horrible teenage brat phase she was in. Though I still don't think I'm quite ready to read a book about her yet.

I can't end this review without mentioning Jaime's other relationship - the working relationship she now has with Eve. The final scene of them together I loved - LOL it made me think of Cagney and Lacey, or Charlie's Angels (except there are only two of them.) Although I guess it won't happen for a while (we have Hope and Cassandra's stories to come first) I very much look forward to the next time we catch up with Eve and Jaime.

If you’ve not read the previous six books of The Otherworld series and don't want to start at the beginning this is a pretty accessible entry. (Though I would really recommend checking out the other books, especially Bitten.) There are references to characters and events from previous books but the main plotline is pretty much standalone. Bitten remains my favourite Otherworld book, but No Humans Involved definitely makes my top three. And I’m already looking forward to Book 8.

Thursday 3 May 2007

Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey

Hmmm, I think I mentioned briefly a few weeks ago about the problems I had with this book. Anyway with the imminent release of Kushiel's Scion in paperback I decided it was time to revisit the first trilogy.

At over 900 pages a concise summary of the plot is probably beyond me, :), but I'll give it a go - with a lot of help from the blurb on the back cover.

Phedre no Delaunay is sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond purchased by Anafiel Delauney (aka The Whoremaster of Spies), who recognises that the spot of blood in her eye marks her as one who is pricked by Kushiel's Dart (she experiences pain and pleasure as one - a masochist). She's trained as a courtesan, but is also taught how to observe and analyse what she sees - the tools of a spy. As Phedre's homeland of Terre d'Ange is drawn ever closer to conflict through treachery and betrayal, it will be up to Phedre to use all of the talents at her disposal to save what she holds dear.

I've said it before but I'll repeat it. This book has one of the worst beginnings I have ever read. The first time I read it (when it was the Kelley Armstrong book of the month), I think it took me over thirty starts before I managed to get past the first page - it's completely yawn-inducing. This time I was ready for it and still struggled through those first few pages. I have pin-pointed the spot where I was drawn into the story - page 11 where Phedre finally stops talking about herself. And by page 343 I am totally absorbed in the cruelty and beauty of Terre d'Ange, just in time for Jacqueline Carey to rip my heart out via my throat - metaphorically speaking.

I guess my main problem with the book is that I don't particularly like Phedre as a character. She has a severe case of Buffyitis only instead of 'I'm the slayer', it's 'I'm the anguisette'. Get over yourself already!

If you haven't read the book you may want to know that most of the love scenes are of a sado-masochistic nature, so if that's not your sort of thing perhaps you should give this one a miss. Though in my opinion these scenes are beautifully written. This brings me to another point that popped into my head whilst reading. Although Phedre is trained as a courtesan there is no mention of sexually transmitted diseases. Maybe this is because there are no such things in Terre d'Ange. There is also no mention of pregnancy prevention either, which I think would have been a concern at the pseudo-medieval time that the story appears to be set.

This book has taught me that it isn't necessary to love the protagonist in order to fall in love with the world she inhabits and the story she tells. Jacqueline Carey's worldbuilding is immaculate. Not only does she bring the myths, culture and beauty of Terre d'Ange to life. She takes us to the wild northern lands of Skaldia with a struggle for survival, and over the sea to the barbarian land of Alba and the battle for a stolen throne. This is an epic tale.

But more than anything it is the characters surrounding Phedre that fascinate me - Alcuin, Delaunay, Joscelin, Melisande and Hyacinthe. And the history of the land that she is witness to and part of. Jacqueline Carey draws us into this world and makes it real, her storytelling has a depth and lushness that pulls you in. The next two books in the trilogy (Kushiel's Chosen and Kushiel's Avatar) are also available. And I hope to review them in the future. :)