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