Saturday 20 December 2008

Breakout Author for 2008

So it's coming up to that time of year again, and as I don't think I'll be finishing any more books before 2009, I'm going to post my 2008 breakout author(s).

For anyone new to the blog here's a little reminder of the breakout authors from previous years.

2005 - Elizabeth Vaughan for Warprize and J.R. Ward for Dark Lover.

2006 - Nalini Singh for Slave to Sensation.

2007 - Ilona Andrews for Magic Bites, Jeri Smith-Ready for Eyes of Crow and Jennifer Rardin for Once Bitten, Twice Shy

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. They weren't necessarily new authors, just new to me.

2008 has been a tricky year. Nothing has stood out amazingly for me in Urban Fantasy, there have been books I've really enjoyed but they didn't quite make me go wow!

So my breakout authors for 2008 both wrote m/m and they are R.W.Day for A Strong and Sudden Thaw (republished January 2009) and Ginn Hale for Wicked Gentlemen.

Just bubbling under were Elizabeth Hoyt for The Raven Prince - I have finally found a historical romance author that I can read! And Larissa Ione for Pleasure Unbound, I think my favourite new urban fantasy author of the year.

Thursday 18 December 2008

TBR Wednesday 2008 in Review

So way back in March I took up the TBR Wednesday challenge as set up by Avidbookreader. To read and review a book that had been on my TBR pile for the third Wednesday in every month. Books had to be published in 2007 or earlier. And I did it! Even managed it the month I got my third Wednesday's muddled up...just.

March - Bloodring by Faith Hunger - B-
April - Lady of Mercy by Michelle Sagara West - A
May - Poison Study - Maria V. Snyder - B+
June - No Rest for the Wicked - Kresley Cole - B+
July - Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night - Kresley Cole - A-
August - The Raven Prince - Elizabeth Hoyt - A
September - Claimed by Shadow - Karen Chance - A
October - The Road to Hell - Jackie Kessler - A-
November - The Taste of Night - Vicki Pettersson - B+
December - Voice of Crow - Jeri Smith-Ready - A

What if anything have I learnt from this challenge?

That I am trying to follow waaaayyyyy too many series? That I get easily sidetracked by new stuff, and occasionally forget what's on my TBR pile because the pile of books is that massive. Well...yes.

But I've also learnt that I have some hidden gems in there. I wasn't disappointed by any of the books I picked and I gave over half of them A grades. I finally found an hisotrical romance author I can read - Elizabeth Hoyt - and managed to get two books closer to catching up on the Immortals After Dark series. I'm not saying I'll ever overcome the lure of the new book - maybe that's the fear I'll be missing out on something - but I do need to take a much better look at my TBR pile and what's hiding there.

I'm not reading as much as I used to, but I'm going to try and make a better effort at keeping up with the series I'm following. I know if I get too far behind it can be difficult to work up the momentum to catch up again.

Anybody else pulled a great TBR book out of the pile this year and wondered why they hadn't read it sooner?

Wednesday 17 December 2008

Voice of Crow - Jeri Smith-Ready

Voice of Crow by Jeri Smith-Ready

This was published in October 2007 and is the second in the Aspect of Crow series. I absolutely loved the first book in the trilogy so I'm not really sure why I didn't get onto this one straight away. I think it just ended up slipping down my TBR pile by accident. Also I was quite affected by the first book and I sometimes find when this happens that I need a little space before continuing on with an author or series.

Voice of Crow picks up where Book 1 Eyes of Crow ends. The reprieve from the onslaught of the Descendents begun in Book 1 is only temporary. They return with a vengeance here, striking at the heart of the Kalindon and Asermon communities. Separated by the conflict Marek and Rhia pay a high price to keep their son safe. And at the end of the book, more than ever, it's clear that this is not a conflict that will be easily won, that in the future further sacrifices are waiting to be made.

The story doesn't suffer from middle book syndrome, that sense that some second books have of being nothing more than a bridge. Although Voice of Crow moves the reader from point A (the end of book 1) to point B (the start of book 3), it's very much about the journey and not the destination.

There are two stories told here. One is the continuing story of Marek and Rhia and I do like that we get to follow their relationship beyond the intial get together. We follow Rhia's pregnancy, the birth of her son and the separation of the family following the Descendent insurgency. This is quite a bleak part of the story, and what happens to Marek is heartbreaking, it's almost like it kills something inside of him. Indeed for a time it seems it has. Beautifully written, don't get me wrong, but when you are so involved with the characters and their some places it becomes difficult to read.

So in a way, thank goodness we have a slightly lighter storyline to follow as well.The developing relationship between Alanka the Kalindon wolf and Filip the Descendent prisoner of war. They are able to confide in each other in a way that is impossible for them with anyone else.

I love that they initially come together whilst both suffering from foot in mouth disease. Theirs is an unlikely relationship and it's thanks to the brilliant story telling of Jeri Smith-Ready that you wholeheartedly believe and root for them as a couple. And it also serves to illustrate the guilt that comes with finding happiness when all around you is sorrow.
He stroked her hair, wondering how, at a moment like this, he could dare to feel so happy.
But it is mainly I think through Filip's eventual acceptance of the Asermon and Kalindon culture that we find hope, that maybe all the people of this world can be reconciled. His acceptance of his Guardian Spirit's (Horse) gift - the ability to hear animals speak - makes him a bridge between the two peoples. He is part of the hope for the future - the possibility realized.

I must quickly mention the animal's voices. I always find it a worry when there are talking animals in a story, it can completely pull you out of the world you're trying to get into.
"This place smells strange," the mare thought. "The grass itches, and my feet are sinking."
But JSR pulls it off. She makes each animals voice unique and doesn't credit them with more intelligence than seems feasible.

There is a lot about acceptance in this story, and this is not always a benevolent thing. Sometimes it's more an acknowledgement of the reality you find yourself in. Filip accepting that his Guardian spirit is the Horse. The dead accepting that it is their time to leave and let go. Rhia accepting the burden that knowledge of the future brings. Marek accepting that in order to survive he has to do whatever it takes.

Jeri Smith Ready was one of my breakout authors for 2007 and I can't believe I waited this long to read this book. I won't be waiting as long to read the final book in the trilogy.

Book 1 - Eyes of Crow
Book 3 - The Reawakened

Sunday 14 December 2008

Urban Fantasy - UK vs US Book Covers

Or - why are some UK covers so darn ugly? And I know it's not all of them. It just seems that a lot of the series I like that end up getting published in the UK then end up with some of the most awful covers, to the point where if I'm iffy about continuing with a series it can be the final nail in the coffin.

Some evidence below. In all cases the US cover is on the left, UK cover on the right.

The US covers for the Mercy Thompson series are gorgeous. I know there are people who like the UK covers, but to me when compared to the stunning US ones they are kind of yuck. As I love the series I have to find the US covers. Some of the UK urban fantasy covers are just so ugly and rather generic.

For the Kim Harrison series when the books started being published in the UK I kind of stopped getting them. Seriously, I think if I'd still been able to get hold of the US covers easily I would probably have continued with the series. As it is I think I stalled out at book 4. That book is still on my TBR pile, but I've kind of never got round to reading it and book 5 languishes on my Amazon wishlist.

This doesn't just have to do with the book covers, though when they are that yellow it doesn't help. When you're in the UK and are into a US series, when a UK publisher comes along and buys the series you're happy that it's good news for the author. But in general the publisher then f*cks up the relationship the reader has with the series. The number of series I have stopped reading because a UK publisher gained the rights - Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series, Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse, the above mentioned Kim Harrison's series. :sigh: but I guess that's a post for another day. Back to the yucky covers.

The Working for the Devil cover illustrates what I mean by generic. If you removed the author's name from the cover, this could easily be a UK cover for a Kim Harrison book.

And, okay, I get it, they've given urban fantasy an identity on the bookshelf at Borders. But it's such an ugly one.

Compare the three US covers, they are all unique. And whilst the Working for the Devil cover is not one of my favourites, I'd take it over the blah blah look of the three UK covers any day.

But, I admit, there are always exceptions to any sweeping generalizations I may make. :) I love Kelley Armstrongs UK covers. They've given the series a strong identity, but are individual to each book and not blah.

And for gorgeous painted covers, you can't get much better than the UK Gollancz covers for the Warprize series by Elizabeth Vaughan. I do like the US cover but the UK one is just beautiful.

Anyone have any others they'd like to share?

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Angel of Mercy by Toni Andrews

Angel of Mercy is the second in the Mercy Hollings series by Toni Andrews. Picking up from where Beg for Mercy ended, it finds Mercy trying to resume her life following the traumatic events of the previous book. It's slightly difficult to summarize the plot of this one - more of that later - but a lot of the story is concerned with Mercy trying to help out at a battered woman's refuge and how once again her use of the 'press' has unforeseen consequences.

I didn't like this book quite as much as the first for some reasons and slightly more than the first for other reasons. I know that doesn't make much sense now, but hopefully I'll explain myself during the review and by the end it will.

On the liking of the book first. I think Mercy is one of the few UF heroines who has a normal human friend. Someone who's there to slap her upside the head when she's doing something stupid. It makes a refreshing change. This is one of the things that raises this series for me, the fact that Mercy has relationships with people - not just people who want to have sex with her, or who want to control her power or use her, but actual relationships. I like that she has a rottweiler called Cupcake which she owns on a part-time basis with Sukey her best friend.

Sukey really starts to come into her own in this book. She acts as a foil to Mercy, her cheerful and sunny personality contrasting with Mercy's more dark and sombre one. Their experience with Dominic has left them with a telepathic connection which Sukey thinks is cool, but Mercy isn't so sure.
Sukey grinned like a happy six-year old. "Can we do an experiment? I have some ideas."
I'd bet she had.
Sukey gives Mercy a link to her humanity and keeps her grounded. I love that she spends most of this book teaching herself how to be a detective from a book titled - The Exciting World of Private Investigation.

Meanwhile, Mercy's relationship with Sam comes under strain.
Something in his tone made me look at him - really look at him. Wow, he's really pissed.
She is unable to tell him her secret and discovers that he has also been keeping secrets from her. You slightly want to scream at them to 'talk to each other!'. You understand her reasons for behaving the way she does, but she could handle it better.

Having seen off Dominic in the previous book she is the only supernatural creature about. I count this as another plus. Rather than having a story over-run with every creature going - and there's nothing wrong with that - we have a very tight focus on Mercy, her relationships and her problems both with her powers and with her life. It makes for a very different UF read. (Slightly bummed that Dominic won't be coming back by the way, he was one of the best bad guys I'd read in a while).

Toni Andrews makes it clear that the power of the press - the ability to force someone to do something - is both a blessing and a curse. The wrong words said in haste can have terrible repercussions, but Mercy is only human - she gets angry, she gets upset, she reacts without thinking and then tells herself she's never going to do it again. (Yes, if you haven't guessed, she suffers from the traditional UF heroine fault of not listening to her inner voice, even when it's screaming at her not to do something.)

Bearing all that in mind, the main problem I had with this book is the plot structure. If you read the blurb it sounds like Mercy's intervention at the battered women's refuge will be the main focus of the plot, but this storyline is wrapped up with about 50 pages to go. We then end the book with Mercy (with encouragement from Sukey and help from The Exciting World of Prifvate Detection) pursuing information that may shed light onto Mercy's past - who she is, what she is. That is maybe Mercy's main goal in this book, trying to answer the question of whether she's human. But because that story is running parallel to the story about Anna and Grace, the ending is a little bit mishmashy, and kind of just peters out.

I'm going to stick with this series as it is different to the other UF stuff out there. But I hope there's a little more focus on the plot in the next one.

Book 1 - Beg for Mercy
Book 3 - Cry Mercy (June 2009)

Wednesday 3 December 2008

10 Things Every Potential UF Heroine Needs to Know

So this post comes with thanks to KMont over at Lurvalamode who told me I should write it. :) It's slightly tongue in cheek and based on sweeping generalizations. So here are 10 things every potential urban fantasy heroine needs to know.

1) Make sure you have good posture, as it's most likely your back that will be gracing your book cover. Tattoos would be a nice touch.

2) If you are beaten, mugged, murdered or otherwise assaulted do not be surprised if you wake up in the hospital with hitherto unrealized supernatural powers.

3) You will have no girlfriends. All the women you meet will either be a) passing acquaintances, b) bitter enemies or c) so powerful, you have no common point of reference. If you do have a girlfriend, she'll shortly be leaving to start a UF series of her own or worse see #10.

4) Do not be judgmental about the sexual practices of others. Chances are that at some point you'll find yourself:- a) with a harem or b) engaging in sado-masochistic acts with a demon. And no one likes to hear the words - "I told you so."

5) That vampire/werewolf/weird creature that you can't stand, but are strangely attracted to in Book 1 will be your husband/partner/significant other by Book 3.

6) You are not always right. You do not always know what is best for others. Decisions made when you think these thoughts are almost always destined to end badly. (This also includes the times you tell your allies that you aren't going to do anything, but are secretly planning to follow your own ideas anyway.)

7) If your vampire/werewolf/weird creature (see #5) has an ex-wife, either deceased or just out of the picture. He will NOT have gotten over her. Even if he says he has, there will be some sort of unresolved issue.

8) Be prepared because said wife will undoubtedly make a reappearance at some point in the series, and it won't be to wish you joy in your new relationship.

9) If you have not developed supernatural powers by your 24th birthday. Do not worry. Bestowal of said gifts often coincides with your 25th year and may not necessarily involve being beaten, mugged or murdered. (Though that isn't guaranteed.)

10) If you have a human boyfriend in Book 1. He will probably end up resenting you and running off with the woman you thought was your best friend. (see #3). Or become suspicious and resentful because you never tell him the truth and keep secrets. He'll decide to give you some space and you'll never see him again. Though he may miraculously reappear at the same time as the ex-wife (see #8).

Anyone got any others to add?

Monday 1 December 2008

Possession by Jennifer Armintrout


Have you ever bought a book, wondered why on Earth you bought it, put it on your TBR pile, forgotten about it, then finally read it and wondered why on Earth you'd waited so long to read it?

Or does that just happen to me?

Don't get me wrong I really liked the first book in the Blood Ties series. I think one of the things I liked most about it, was that Jennifer Armintrout's vampires are predators. Too often it seems that vampires end up being watered down to the point of being completely unscary.

I like the second book even more. Mainly because parts of it were very funny - usually the parts involving Max, who I think is now my favourite character. But there's a balance here, terrible things are still happening, there's angst and heartbreak, but there are also moments of joy and happiness in the sorrow. A little slow in the beginning, so probably why I kept picking it up and putting it down, by the time you get to the middle the story is fairly racing along.

Possession picks up not long after the end of The Turning. Just as things seem to be returning to normal, things go to hell - as they often seem to in UF. Carrie's second sire Nathan is possessed (hence the title) and he kills an innocent human being. A big no-no for the Voluntary Vampire Execution Movement, who promptly send out an assassin to kill him. But Nathan is being tormented by the Soul Eater who it seems has plans to become a God. Carrie has got an awful lot to do, if she intends to sort this mess out and stay alive (undead) whilst doing it.

Okay, up til now it's been spoiler free. So you can still turn away at this point.

Still here? Don't say you weren't warned.

Cyrus is back. Now this isn't really too big a spoiler as such, because he's back by page 8, possibly as far as you'd get if you browsed in a book store. I mention it now, because I don't think I can get through the whole review without letting it slip, one way or another. (Just want to say that he now reminds me slightly of Sylar in Heroes Season 3). He is somewhat redeemed here, for his actions in the previous book. Or at least you appreciate, that in different circumstances, he would have been a different man.

Will quickly mention here the character of the Oracle, I thought she was a great character (slightly reminiscent of the precogs in Minority Report only a lot older, a lot scarier and with a lot more blood) and even though she only made a brief appearance, it was a powerful one.

There are initially two stories here - the resurrection of Cyrus and the possession of Nathan and what Carrie intends to do about it. Later on we have a third subplot added where Max gets a point of view. All these story threads eventually intersect, as our good guys do their best to save Nathan.

Carrie is not a perfect heroine. She makes mistakes. Some of her mistakes end in tragedy. She also has the UF heroine flaw of thinking she knows what's best/what's right/what needs to be done. But her intentions are usually in the right place. She's reliant on herself for a lot of this book. Nathan has gone awol, the VVEM is baying for blood and if her instincts get her into unusual situations, she's usually able to get herself out of them. The scene in the brothel is one of my favourites.
"...I've been doing some research," I explained, feeling like a hopeless dork. Then I wondered why I cared if some random male prostitute thought I was a nerd.
My favourite plot of the book without doubt though, is the developing relationship between Max the vampire, and Bella the werewolf. It provides a lot of the humor in the book as we get to see Max going from a werewolf despising vampire to one who thinks this particular werewolf is pretty okay. What makes it even better is that we get to hear his internal monologue, as what he says to Bella and what he thinks (as he gets to know her) bears little resemblance.
Shaking his head, Max groaned. She was not beautiful. He was just horny. He'd find a way to make that her fault - not in the obvious way, because bestiality wasn't his thing - later.
Anyone who dislikes Bella as much as Max does, has to be a little attracted too. It's like he has to continually reinforce why he doesn't like her, otherwise he just might succumb to her werewolfy charms. I could quote and quote his dialogue and fill up the review. He probably has most of the best lines, and he's not afraid to say what he thinks.

So I have to get the next books in the series now. Though my fingers are triple crossed (not really, that's just an expression) that Max makes a big appearance in the upcoming books. He made this book for me and while I want to know what's going to happen next with Carrie and how she intends to ultimately sort out the situation with Nathan and the Soul Eater. I want to know what's going to happen with Max as well.

The Turning - Book 1
Ashes to Ashes - Book 3
All Souls' Night - Book 4

Wednesday 19 November 2008

The Taste of Night - Vicki Pettersson

The Taste of Night by Vicki Pettersson (published April 2007)

Why was this still on my TBR pile? I think I'd read the first book and kind of been blown away by it, but for some reason the second book just fell by the wayside as I got hooked on other series. I don't remember the specifics of Book 1, but managed to pick up the gist through reading book 2.

Joanna Archer is the Kairos - equal parts light and shadow, she currently fights as the Archer (sagittarius) for the Zodiac of Light in Las Vegas. As the Agents of Dark release a terrifying epidemic on the city that will kill both Agents of Light and innocent humans, it will be up to her to put things right and by doing so fulfil the second half of the Kairos prophecy.

I enjoyed this book very much, but I didn't like it as much as the first book - hope that makes sense. More about my quibbles and niggles later in the review. First the stuff I liked.

This book like the first is full of quotable dialogue, snappy banter and backtalk. Regular readers of the blog will know this is one of the things I love about UF. And Joanna is another UF heroine who has a fine line in the bitchy comment department.
Troy was full of shit, but I wasn't going to say that to Suzanne. I made it a rule to never say anything bad about my friend's boyfriends until I was sure they were well and truly out of the picture - preferably dead.
This is also probably the only UF you'll read which features the pencil test. :)

Joanna is so sure of herself and her beliefs, she gets very tunnel-visioned. This kind of application of self can be both constructive and destructive. It's ultimately only the fact the she's able to pull herself out of this focus that saves her. And will probably save her future as well, at the end of the book, she's no longer the same person she was at the beginning. I'm hoping this character growth is carried on into the next story.

She's not a heroine that you instantly warm to, probably why book 2 has been on my TBR pile for a while. She's ambiguous and I actually quite like not knowing which way she may go. It's quite clever that Vicki Pettersson leaves us with the possibility she may join the Agents of Darkness and you believe it could be possible.

It's the other characters that fall into Joanna's sphere and humanize her, that help you root for her. Hunter mentioned later on, and Cher (Olivia's friend) who while apparently ditzy comes out with some great lines.
"Olivia's trying to decide if she wants to munch rug, but first she's looking for cheap sex with a stranger and no strings attached, just to make sure."
The sort of character who'll be quite happily talking along and then all of a sudden will say something that makes you double take. :)

Just like the previous book I think most of my favourite bits happen in the comic store. I just love the whole idea of the manuals and the light and dark comics. And ordinary people reading them - including Olivia's best friend - without knowing what it is that they're reading.


This second book took a little getting into, it didn't hook me from the start. It wasn't until around page 67 that I'm completely 'into' the story.

Hunter and Joanna have great light the page up chemistry, you can practically feel the hormones coming off the page. But she is still hung up on Ben, the boyfriend from her past life. My problem is when she's not with Ben (which is the vast majority of the book as he believes she's dead) I want her to be with Hunter. But when she is with Ben I can see it's kind of sweet and then I'm just left wanting her to make a decision. Because it feels obvious to me that she cannot be with Ben. Then I'm left feeling frustrated, which might be the effect the author is going for? But I hope this issue is going to be resolved soon.

I am still confused about Joanna's secret identity and who does and doesn't know who she actually is. This is something I have to try and forget about as I'm reading, as thinking about it too much causes my brain to turn to mush. Speaking of being confused - the original manual - one master copy, or one copy per city? I get the feeling at some point Joanna is going to be looking for this important book but I didn't quite grasp how many there are. Although I think the worldbuilding is fascinating and original, some of it just goes straight over my head.

Even given the men in her life and the fact that she's had to take on her sister's friendships to maintain her secret identity. I felt for a lot of this that Joanna is quite isolated as a character, now my feelings on this did change slightly, I feel maybe she is making a place for herself. At the end of the book I think I am quite hopeful about the next installment, which I've already ordered. :)

Book 1 - The Scent of Shadows
Book 3 - The Touch of Twilight
Book 4 - City of Souls (Jul 2009)

Monday 3 November 2008

Broken Wing by Judith Jones

I am going to say it again - I am not really an historicals reader. Which is perhaps why this book didn't grab me in the same way it's caught the imagination of so many others. Now there were parts of it I really enjoyed, but on the whole this wasn't for me. Which I am disappointed about, as there's nothing like being caught up by a really great book.

Broken Wing tells the story of Gabriel St. Croix, raised in a brothel, he worked as a prostitute servicing both male and female clients. For the past five years he has protected a young boy - Jamie Munroe - from suffering the same fate as him. And when the boy’s family comes to claim him, they also rescue the man who protected him.

Returning to England with Sarah Munroe and her half brother Russ Monroe, Gabriel’s eyes are opened to a world previously denied to him, and gradually he falls in love with Sarah. He wants to be worthy of her love and determines to earn his fortune and prove himself. But the best laid plans often go awry and Gabriel will have to revisit his darkest nightmares before he can finally have a home of his own.

I know I said it at the beginning but I really wanted to like this book. The girls at Ramblings on Romance were so infectious in their enthusiasm that it was heady to be caught up in it. But it didn’t quite work for me. This is a promising debut and I do think Judith Jones is an author to watch out for.

Gabriel is a fascinating hero and the best drawn character in the story.
“He realized he had no secrets left from her. She’d taken them from him, claiming them one by one, and then she’d claimed him…”
With the other characters being slightly more two-dimensional, acting as foils for his development. It is his progression that keeps you interested in the story. He’s complex, pushes away what he desperately wants and provokes those who mean him no harm. Through the Munroes a new world is opened up for him. A world so unlike his, that it takes him a while to believe that he is really being given this opportunity.

In a way Sarah, (who is slightly Mary Sue) is the perfect heroine for him. Her love makes no demands of him, other than what he’s willing to give. And there are some beautiful scenes between the two of them.
“Cry, my sweet angel,” she murmured, soft, in his ear. “It’s all right, it’s over now. You’re here with me and I’ll never let go of you.”
I did have some problems with the story.

There is a tendency for characters to talk in exclamation marks. (This is a real bugbear of mine.) I have visions of them walking around with eyebrows permanently raised in incredulity. With Sarah Munroe being the worst offender.
“Good God, Ross! That was cruel and uncalled for! You might be speaking of Jamie, if not for him!”
There is a lot of head hopping between characters. But I felt with the exception of Gabriel that we never really got to know anyone. There are also jumps in time, sometimes combined with the head hopping.

I hope I haven't made it sound like I disliked the story because that wasn't the case, it just didn't completely work for me. Part of me wonders if this story would have been better told over more than one book - a la the Outlander Saga - allowing us the time to get to know all of the characters and enjoy more detail of events. Towards the end it felt like we were racing through one situation after another and I wanted things to slow down so we could go deeper into what was happening.

For a debut novel I think there is much to enjoy here, and someone who is perhaps more appreciative of the genre would get more out of the story.

Giveaway Closed.

Saturday 1 November 2008

A Strong and Sudden Thaw by R.W.Day

In a sentence this is a cross between The Day (After the Day) After Tomorrow and Reign of Fire with a m/m romance.

Set nearly a hundred years after an apparently worldwide apocalyptic event, A Strong and Sudden Thaw follows the developing relationship between David Anderson a farmer’s son and Callan Landers the new assistant healer in the town of Moline. In a world where homosexuality is a criminal offence, every meeting and encounter is filled with the risk of discovery. It’s through Callan being discovered in the arms of another man that David finally acknowledges the truth about himself. And also how he learns what price he may have to pay as Callan suffers the punishment for his ‘crime’.

But the town of Moline is also under threat from an unexpected source. When livestock and children are attacked by dragons and the government representatives do nothing. It will be up to David and Callan to save the town .

One of my top three favourite books of the year. I loved this book!

Just to address first of all a couple of comments I read on some of the Amazon reviews. (Wanted to check these comments but looks like the book is being re-released at the end of December so the reviews have been pulled. Hope my faulty memory is remembering these comments reasonably okay).

Some reviews state they think it’s unrealistic that the world would regress so quickly following the Ice Age. Having seen a documentary about what would happen if human beings left the world I’m not so sure. Taking into account the huge death toll that’s likely to occur during such events and the fact that I (and I suspect the vast majority of people) don’t know how to fix a generator let alone run a nuclear power station, I don’t find it difficult to believe that the majority of the human race quickly finds itself back in a pre-industrial revolution state. (I’m sure there’s a significant minority that land in roses rather than shit, but this book isn’t about them).

Other comments reference the poor grammar. This I’m sure is intentional, the story is told from David’s point of view. He has common sense but not book learning and therefore doesn’t always use the correct verb or turn of phrase, but I liked this, it kept us firmly inside his head and his feelings. So I'm assuming any comments about the book being poorly edited reference this, and that the reviewers kind of missed the point.

One of the early analogies in the book is about the similarities between a human mob and a flock of sheep. And that sheep are essentially stupid animals. When the chips are down, humans have a tendency to behave like sheep, it takes people/characters with strong conviction to be able to stand against a crowd, even if they know that the crowd is wrong.
"(Pa) says sheep and people are alike, mostly. I don’t know that I agree, but he says I just haven’t lived long enough yet."
I love the way the characters are drawn in the book. You get a very real sense of the individuals and the community in which they live. And I loved the relationship between David and the members of his family. Just from the first few pages you are immediately drawn into the town of Moline. Which although it has a future post-apocalyptic setting, reminded me of the old west.

The thread that holds the story together is the relationship between David and Callan. David who at the beginning doesn’t even know what homosexual (or sodomite) means. But from his first meeting with Callan, he is drawn to the new healer in a way he has never been with anyone else.
"His hair reminded me of sunlight and shadow dancing over a field of wheat, dark in places, light in others, and his eyes were the almost invisible blue of the spring sky."
I love that they come together through books - Huckleberry Finn, Ivanhoe, Lord of the Flies. And how David comes to take what he learns from these books and apply it to the world around him. The loss of individuality and identity that comes from the mob - Lord of the Flies, doing the right thing even if it isn’t the legal thing - Huckleberry Finn. The books and Callan, open him up, start him thinking for himself. He no longer relies on what his elders tell him to be true, he wants to discover his own truth.

If you have never read a m/m book before and want to know a good place to start. I would recommend this book. The love scenes are beautifully written and erotic but not graphic.
"Please. That’s the most erotic word in the English language, you know."
Their relationship progresses slowly and there is a wonderful sense of falling in love for the first time - right before everything goes to shit because of course in this time a man falling in love with another man is a criminal offence and in certain circumstances punishable by death.

You’re aware as you read that something terrible happened to Callan before he came to Moline. Little hints that slip from him. And when we eventually find out what happened - it’s awful and terrible but at the same time it allows him to understand the sacrifices human beings are capable of to save the ones they love.

And then there are the dragons. Someone wants the town of Moline to die and they aren’t too concerned about who gets hurt in the process. Although a lot of the questions raised early in the book are answered by the end and there is a satisfactory conclusion to David and Callan’s story. There’s the feeling that there is more to come. That the story is being told by a much older David. I hope at some point in the future to be able to read the sequel to ASAST, as I don‘t think David and Callan‘s story is quite finished yet. Highly recommended.

Monday 20 October 2008

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

Aside - I had a choice here of either using the gorgeous US cover, or the horrible UK one. I've chosen the gorgeous US one. One of the reasons I stopped reading Kim Harrison's series was because the UK covers are frankly awful. Hmmm I may blog post about this issue separately. On with the review.

Set in a world where the minor fae have 'come out' to humans, whilst the more powerful fae, and supernaturals such as werewolves and vampires keep themselves hidden from human eyes. Moon Called is an impressive start to a new werewolf / shapeshifter series. When a newbie werewolf arrives at Mercy Thompson's garage looking for work, it sets a chain of events in motion that will bring her past and present together, and have repercussions for all those around her.

(It's interesting to note here that this is also in a way, where the Charles and Anna series (Alpha & Omega, Cry Wolf) begins. Page 108 of the US copy is where Charles is sent to Chicago. If you haven't read Moon Called but have read Cry Wolf I'd strongly suggest you read the Mercy Thompson series as well. As this is where we're first introduced to Bran and his sons.

Mercy makes an appealing heroine, not least because as a skin-walker she changes into a coyote (much weaker than a werewolf); meaning she has to rely on her brains and cunning to get her out of trouble. And sometimes she just has to deal with the consequences of her actions. She isn't perfect, she makes mistakes, and I think this more than anything is why she's one of my favourite UF heroines. She may be a skin-walker but she's also very human. She's incredibly loyal to her friends and family even when that puts her in danger.
Okay. He was scary. Really scary. He'd probably have been scary even when he was just a human. But it wouldn't do to let him know he intimidated me.
She tries to do the right thing.

This is a wonderful story, populated with well-drawn and interesting characters. One of the things that makes it so fascinating is the detail in the complex relationships between the members of the various werewolf packs and how Mercy fits into that equation. Also the influence she has within the pack structure as someone brought up with werewolves but not a werewolf herself. This gives her some leeway with the strict social rules that govern werewolf society and allows her to intervene in situations where the hands of the Alpha are tied.
"You manipulative bastard," I said, with a tinge of awe.
A fact that some of the werewolves aren't too proud to use to their advantage.

We're introduced to the Marrok's (Bran's) pack in Montana, and the Colombia Basin Pack (Adam's) in the Tri-Cities area. In this book we also find out about the slightly confrontational relationship between Adam and Mercy, with chemistry just simmering under the surface. And the older relationship she has with Samuel (Bran's son). The triangle starts here.

The only problem I had with this book, was that the vampire section seemed a little superfluous to the plot. (As the second book deals more with them, this was probably to serve as an introduction, but I thought it took the action away from the werewolves and wasn't strictly necessary.)

Although the werewolf hierarchy that Patricia Briggs writes about is familiar, she manages to make the world Mercy lives in, unique. Partly I think because she doesn't shortchange the complexities of the relationships between characters. Not everything is resolved here. Moon Called reaches a satisfying conclusion but we are left with enough dangling plot threads to make us look forward to the next book. If you like Kelley Armstrong and Ilona Andrews, I think this is another series that you'll love.

Also Available
Book 2 - Blood Bound
Book 3 - Iron Kissed

Coming February 2009 Book 4 - Bone Crossed Hardcover

Wednesday 15 October 2008

The Road to Hell - Jackie Kessler

WARNING - this review contains spoilers for Hell's Belles.

The Road to Hell by Jackie Kessler. Published November 2007

Darn it I thought TBR Wednesday was next week. I was being all clever and organized. :sigh: So apologies for any typos and YAY you get two reviews today instead of one.

Reason for this being in the TBR pile - I'm not sure really. It's just one of those books that never quite made it to the top of the pile.

The Road to Hell continues Jesse Harris's story begun in Hell's Belles (see review below). Although Jesse is no longer a succubus, she won the right to have a soul at the end of the previous book. Now mortal she is trying to enjoy the life she has with Paul, her boyfriend. Unfortunately Hell doesn't want to let her go that easily. And they're willing to use Paul's immortal soul to get her back.

I enjoyed this slightly more than Hell's Belles. Maybe I've settled into the characters more, but I really enjoyed Jesse's voice here, she's even more sarcastic, sardonic and wickedly witty than she was in the previous book. I'm sure her mental note count has increased.
Mental note: Finish planning the rescue before executing it.
This series is still being marketed as Parnormal Romance - so wrong. Jesse is a great heroine, one of my favourites in UF, but I just don't see her as PNR material, and I think this is why the book has so many problem reviews on Amazon. Jesse seduces a female angel (not her girlfriend), has sex with an incubus (not her boyfriend) and and the book starts with her doing a lap dance. Definitely not your typical PNR heroine, she's rude, crude and probably socially unacceptable - and I absolutely love her.

The beginning of the book is absolutely full of stuff that I want to quote here. I think I got to page 23 and realized I wanted to quote most of it because it was so funny. But I'll have to restrict myself.
"You can't claim me for Hell. My soul's clean." Benefit of being only thirty days old in mortal years: that's not a lot of time to wreak havoc.
I love that even when everything in her life is going down the toilet she can still pull out a fast one liner.

One of my favourite things about Jesse is that she doesn't try to be anything other than what she is. Though admittedly she is trying to do her best with the whole human having a soul thing. But even though she has all the tact of a brick in the face, she still manages to pick up friends and seduce angels.

If I had to sum up what The Road to Hell was for me - it's a kind of Urban Fantasy Orpheus and Eurydice tale but with demons, sex and a reversal of gender roles. The book is in two halves - the first part dealing with Hell doing its utmost to get Jesse back, and the second part as Jesse descends back into Hell having been left with no other choice but to return. It has to be said there are a lot less jokes in the second half of the book, but the stakes are a lot higher, so there's less to be witty about.

Even so Jesse proves to be handy with the smart comment
I pressed the staple gun against his mouth and pulled the trigger. SNIKT!...
"I warned you, you little fuck."
and the staple gun. Okay, maybe it's not the wittiest remark ever but it's direct and to the point.

The second half didn't work quite as well for me. Maybe because I'm not completely sure where the story is going, so I'm finding the whole Angels take over Hell thing a little bit difficult to get my head round. At the end it feels like Jesse's story is complete - if only for the moment. But the overall arc of what's happening between Heaven, Hell and Earth is still unresolved. I'm hoping we get more answers in Book 3 Hotter than Hell (Daun's story)which fingers crossed I'll get hold of soon. Amazon UK don't have it as available but I'm hoping that's a temporary problem.

Also available.
Book 1 - Hell's Belles (First part of Jesse's story)
Book 3 - Hotter than Hell (Daun's story)

Hell's Belles by Jackie Kessler

As I'm going to be reviewing The Road to Hell (Hell on Earth Book 2) next Wednesday as my TBR review of the month, I thought I'd finally add this review to the blog.

Jezebel the succubus has run away from hell. Taking a job as an exotic dancer, she thinks she's made a fresh start. However, shedding her demon skin and hiding out as a human comes with complications of its own - like friends and falling in love and responsibility. But it's not that easy to put her past behind her, especially when it doesn't want to let her go.

It's so refreshing to read about a heroine who is completely comfortable in her own skin. Jezebel/Jesse has a sharp wit and a deliciously wicked sense of humour. She's an incredibly sexual creature and revels in being a succubus, so her new career choice of stripping is a natural one for her to make.
The cover story promised to teach me "ten tantalizing tips" guaranteed to drive my partner wild. I had no idea what passed for "tantalizing" these days. I was willing to bet it didn't include snakes and honey.
Initially it's hard to work out how we can have sympathy for her, she's such a selfish creature of instinct and need. However, once she takes human form, her newfound mortality begins to change her and she begins a slow almost unnoticeable transition from amoral demon to something else. The first experiences that Jesse has as a human are incredibly well written and make you realise how strange it must be to see the world for the first time. And her almost orgasmic reaction to muffins and coffee will have you craving baked goods. :)

I also loved her mental notes. All the way through the story it's like she has to stop and specifically make these points to herself - I'm not a demon, I'm a human and this is what humans do. Alternatively she also uses them when she screws up.
Mental note: Watch more television.
Mental note: Don't do my legs and bikini area when I'm in a hurry.
Her none stop mental commentary on her experiences and the people she meets, makes for a fast paced and enjoyable read.

I did have a slight problem with the use of flashbacks in the story. There are really two stories being told here; the first is Jesse's flight from hell and how she copes with being a mortal; the second is about the events leading up to her decision to flee hell. Unfortunately the flashbacks (of which there are several) are intercut with the main story and aren't signposted that well (the first happens in Chapter 6). Leaving the reader confused about what it happening, until you get used to the style.

For people who like to know: - this is written in first person, and there is some strong swearing, but this is in context and (as I'm just about to point out in the paragraph below) this isn't PNR.

I'll end by saying I think it's misleading that this has been marketed as a romance, I believe it's urban fantasy. The romantic subplot definitely takes second place to Jesse's story. Jesse is/was a succubus, she's not ashamed of who or what she is. This is quite a few steps over from PNR. But this shouldn't put readers off - Jezebel is such a rare outspoken heroine, it's worth taking the time to get to know her.

Also available
The Road to Hell (Book 2)
Hotter than Hell (Book 3)

Friday 10 October 2008

I Love Your Blog Award

I have been given an I Love Your Blog award from
Lurv a la Mode and Scooper Speaks. Thanks Guys. :)

So the rules for the award are as follows:-

1) Add the logo of the award to your blog
2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you
3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs
4) Add links to those blogs on your blog
5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs!

This is great as it gives me an opportunity to do something that I was meaning to do during the Book Blogging week that I didn't get round to. Which is share with you some of my favourite book review blogs. As well as Lurv a la Mode and Scooper Speaks - who nominated me. Some of my favourite blogs are:-

1 - Bark Like a Fish, Damnit! (Okay not a book review blog, but the blog of artist Ursula Vernon, whose lj I love.

2 - DIK - The Desert Island Keepers blog

3 - Reviews by Jessewave My favourite m/m romance review blog.

4 - The Ginger Kid's Den of Iniquity

5 - Bookwyrm Knits

6 - The Thrillionth Page

7 - Me and my Books

Monday 6 October 2008

A Rush of Wings by Adrian Phoenix

This is the Kelley Armstrong bookclub book for October. The thread is well worth checking out this month as the author is answering questions, so if you've read the book and have a burning question you need to get off you chest you can find the thread here. If you're not a member of the board you might have to join, but it's free!

A Rush of Wings follows F.B.I. special agent Heather Wallace as she pursues a serial killer across the country. The trail has brought her to New Orleans, Club Hell and the rock musician Dante - a man who claimes to be a vampire. Heather believes Dante to be the killer's next victim, but the situation is so much more complicated than she could have imagined. As she tries to unravel the truth about Dante, she comes to realize she's just one small pawn in a much bigger game. Dante's past holds the key to everything, but the cost of him remembering may be more than she wants to pay.

I'm glad this was chosen as a bookclub book, it's one that I came very close to buying last December, even picked it up in the bookshop but in the end didn't buy.

A Rush of Wings is very much urban fantasy, if you prefer fluffier PNR, you're probably not going to like this one. It has vampires that are vampires, not angsty, sighing by the moonlit window guys and gals, these are the real, rip your throat out without breaking a sweat, deal.

Overall I very much enjoyed it. It has a multi-stranded plot which slowly comes together as the destinies of all the characters start to collide. Heather is torn between wanting to protect Dante - who in a nice change from the usual vampire novel is only 23 and several years younger than her - and acknowledging that she may need protecting from him. Heather is a strong heroine, she doesn't fall apart when she finds out about this other world that lives alongside our own, but neither does she meekly accept it either, which I thought was realistically done.

As well as vampires, the other main species introduced here are the Fallen (angels/Elohim). I don't want to give too much away, but the Fallen Lucien has chosen to set his path with that of Dante. I'm very much interested to see where this goes in future books as their relationship was somewhat unresolved at the end of the story. Lucien I think was the character who most left me wanting to know more.

Dante himself is a tortured hero. A victim of horrific abuse, he has a past he can't remember, and unfortunately seems to bring pain to those closest to him. Only half-vampire he has a power that he can't control and which, if he's not careful will bring him even more unwanted attention.

And I want to mention here that Adrian Phoenix has a wonderful way of describing her characters using scent which is very evocative.
His scent was frosty and clear, the first chilly breath of autumn.
There are also a couple of recurring motifs - the rush of wings, and references to the reshaper, the unmaker, which are worked throughout the story.

I loved the contrast and similarity between Heather and Dante. Heather who believes promises are made to be kept, not broken, but she knows that sometimes that's not possible. And Dante who never lies, and who can't forgive those who lie to him. As you read the story, it's almost inevitable that they'll come together, but the question of whether they'll be able to stay together has yet to be answered.

A couple of nitpicky problems. To begin with I was having a slight problem keeping track of who was doing what among the large cast of characters, but that's probably because the last few books I've read have either been first person or very tight third, so I'm a bit out of the habit of keeping track. After I got into the rhythm of the book and finally got Simone and Silver straight in my head, I was okay. What made it easier was the fact that the major characters are so well drawn.

The cover - I'm not sure if at any point Heather wears a leather bustier and mini-skirt. In fact her default mode of dress seemed to be trench coat. (I know authors have little control over their covers but it's a niggle and I'm mentioning it, just in case anyone was put off by the chick on the cover.)

And I didn't immediately cotton onto the fact that this is set slightly in the future. There are a couple of technological things that went over my head because I assumed that the book was set in the present. Chapter 4:-
The bartender swiped the debit spike...
So colour me a little slow when I'm trying to work out why the bartender wants a spike of metal. It's not until near the end of the book that credit/debit spikes are explained a little more, that I finally put two and two together and work out we're not quite in Kansas any more.

However, this is another series that I will be following, and I think this is perhaps one of the first books to bring in Angels to UF. A trend which I'm seeing more in current and upcoming books.

Book 2 - In The Blood (Jan 2009)

Monday 29 September 2008

Mind the Gap by Christopher Golden & Tim Lebbon

Now for something a little different. Mind the Gap was the Kelley Armstrong book club book for August, however I got a little behind and ended up reading it in September. One of the things I most enjoy about the bookclub is the potential to expand your reading horizons, reading books you wouldn't normally read.

Mind the Gap follows Jasmine Towne, who following her mothers murder by the mysterious Uncles, hides in the forgotten tunnels of London's underground system. Here she meets a group of children - the United Kingdom - looked after by an old man called Harry. With nowhere else to go she joins them - but the Uncles haven't stopped looking for her.

I'm not sure this is a book I could recommend to others. I would say it's a Young Adult book, except for the use of the f-word throughout, and I'm not sure what adult market it's aimed at. But as I said at the beginning this isn't the type of book I usually read so I'm not going to know...I guess.

It's also somewhat depressing, painted in monochrome rather than colour. Pardon the pun - but there's little light at the end of the tunnel. It seems whenever Jaz thinks she's found a place or a person for herself something goes wrong. Don't get too fond of any endearing character.

Jaz as a heroine, didn't always ring true to me. In the flashbacks she doesn't always sound like a teenager. Her response when her mother wants to warn her about men.
"A Dali would woo me with his intellect, a Picasso would make me see things in a different way, and a Warhol would just show me his dick."
My niece and her friends are 14, and I don't think any of them know who Warhol is, let alone Picasso and Dali. And even if they had heard of them, I'm not sure they'd construct such an argument.

However, there was a lot here I enjoyed.

I felt like there were many Londons being woven into this story. Quite a lot of it had a Dickensian feel, the United Kingdom gang is reminiscent of Fagin and his boys from Oliver Twist. The use of the passage from Great Expectations towards the end of the book I thought worked really well.

There's also a slight fairy tale feel. Jaz likens herself to Wendy Darling (Peter Pan) and when she first descends into the Underground there is an atmosphere of Alice going down the rabbit hole.

The descriptions are wonderful and drew me into the book. When Jaz first flees into the Underground we're there on the Tube station with her, feeling the trains screaming past and seeing the unwelcome darkness of the tunnels. On the first burglary I was with Jaz as she entered the house, I felt her exhilaration and fear as she realizes there is another burglar in the house with her, and could almost taste the adrenaline rush as she decides to go ahead with her own robbery anyway.

It may seem from some of the above that there wasn't as much about the book that I enjoyed as I didn't. However, although this book isn't a keeper for me, I am glad I read it, after all you shouldn't get too stuck in your reading comfort zone.

Wednesday 17 September 2008

Claimed by Shadow - Karen Chance

Claimed by Shadow - Karen Chance (Published April 2007)

Why was this on my TBR pile? WHY!!! Apologies for any SHOUTING in this review and the overuse of the word love.

Well I seem to remember the first book finishing on something of a cliffhanger and I also have book 3 in my TBR pile so I was probably not wanting to get caught in the same cliffhanger twice. (Well different cliffhanger but same problem). Books like this are what TBR Wednesday is all about - finding that hidden gem you've somehow forgotten about.

I have to admit here to only having a vague memory of Book 1 when I started Claimed by Shadow, though having read Book 2 most of it has come back to me. I do remember having a problem with some infodumping in Touch the Dark (Bk1) and that Karen Chance is very good at writing first lines.

The first line situation is still the same
Any day that starts off in a demon-filled bar in a casino designed to look like Hell isn't likely to turn out well.
But the info-dumping? Gone. Or at least become so much smoother and integrated into the plot that I didn't notice it. If Karen Chance wasn't already an author I knew, I would add her to my breakout author list for 2008. This book was that good. Even though I spent a fair bit of time confused about what the hell was going on, especially at the beginning. Mainly because Claimed by Shadow does not pick up smoothly from the end of Touch the Dark, as you may have gathered from the first line. However, I do think on a second read through things will gel together more, and I'm a big fan of books with high re-readability.

I can't really think of anything I didn't like about the book. (Except maybe another cliff hangery ending :(, but HAH! I have learnt my lesson on that score and Book 3 is ready on the TBR pile).

So quickly onto the things I loved.

PRITKIN! OMG I love Pritkin even more after this book. He and Cassie have such chemistry and mutual dislike and secret unspoken (probably never to be acted on) attraction.
I couldn't recall Pritkin ever believing anything I said; it kind of made me wonder why he bothered talking to me at all.
Methinks they both protest too much. I love the way his temper explodes at inopportune moments and narks Cassie off. And he gets his shirt off and gets a tattoo in this book...

Mircea. Now I love me some vamps. And in any other story (that didn't feature Pritkin) Mircea would be far and away my favourite character. He has such a dark sensual presence, :sigh: if only I weren't such a Pritkin fan. I very much like that the relationship between Mircea and Cassie is an ongoing thing, rather than it being easily resolved.

There is a little Macbeth theme going on here as well. I love Shakespeare, so this appealed to me. I don't know how much of it was intentional and how much happy accident. But in a couple of places I picked out quotes from the play. They also visit a performace of Macbeth and the Graeae are referred to as the weird sisters. Makes me wish I was more familiar with the play, in case it was intentional.

The plot itself, starts with a bang and doesn't let go. This does mean that moments of internal reflection are few and far between. Some terrible things happen and Cassie doesn't really get a chance to process them, she just has to cope with each impending crisis as it looms. So this is something of a rollercoaster ride, leaving you frantically turning the pages wanting to know what happens next. But it works. Cassie is a character (not dissimilar to Kate Daniels) who things just happen to. She's almost like a magnet for bad karma.

The book is chock full of snappy banter and quotable dialogue. And though some characters only appear briefly they have a big impact on the storyline. Claimed by Shadow made me smile, made me teary and made me hungry for the next book. Highly recommended (I think Ilona Andrews fans would like this series, if they aren't reading it already).

Book 1 - Touch the Dark
Book 3 - Embrace the Night
Book 4 - Curse the Dawn (April 2009)

Arrggghhh April is too far away and I may crack and read Book 3 sooner than that.

But, looks like Karen Chance has a new series set in the same Universe.

Midnight's Daughter (Dorina Basarab #1) October 2008. :)

Monday 15 September 2008

Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

Cry Wolf continues the story of Charles and Anna begun in the short story Alpha and Omega (from the On the Prowl Anthology). Following the incident in OTP Anna is moving to Montana to live with Charles, and take her place in the Marrok's pack. However, when you live as long as werewolves do you can make a lot of enemies. Before they have time to resolve the issues between them Charles and Anna are on the hunt for a rogue werewolf and a whole lot of history is about to smack them in the face.

I love Patricia Briggs. So this is going to be an ungraded review as I am not completely objective. :) I think Cry Wolf works best if you've read Alpha and Omega first, there is a little bit of a catch up at the beginning of Cry Wolf but I think you'd get more out of the story if you read about Charles and Anna's first meeting and how Anna became a werewolf. You only really get the bare bones in Cry Wolf. This book also slots into the Mercy Thompson Universe following up some events that happened after Mercedes returned to the Tri-Cities.

One slight niggle before the gushing, because if I gush first (LOL) I may forget to niggle later. Cry Wolf was a little slow in the middle for me, but I think that's more to do with the fact that I wanted more of the werewolf interaction stuff. I shouldn't be greedy.

I love Patricia Brigg's heroines. They're not superwomen, they're doing the best they can in difficult situations.And she has these one line quotes that can almost sum up a heroine at a particular time.
She wondered that hope was so much harder than despair.
(In Iron Kissed, Mercy's was - it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission.) Her characters have little quirks - Anna has a fondness for quoting phrases in Latin. Which I love and it made me want to get a t-shirt with Interdum feror cupidine partium magnarum europe vincendarum on. I hesitate to think what that says about me. :)

Anna is an Omega wolf. She's previously been told she's a submissive, the lowest of the low, but that just isn't the case. What we experience in Cry Wolf is Anna starting to learn exactly what it means to be an Omega. Charles and Bran will only help her so far, part of being in a werewolf pack means she has to find her own place.

Charles and Anna's relationship as humans is much more wary than their relationship as wolves. Their wolves have already decided they are mates, however their human halves have not. Kind of a unique situation in werewolf society as it usually happens the other way round, with the wolf being more wary.

This is what I liked most about Cry Wolf, how Patricia Briggs fleshed out the relationships between the various members of the Montana pack, not only Charles and Anna, but how they work together as a unit, as a dysfunctional family. It's interesting that Anna thinks of the pack as a bunch of psychotics, in a way the Montana pack is a pack for werewolves who can't fit in anywhere else - they're too damaged, too set in their ways, too broken, but very interesting to read about. The stand out characters for me (not including C&A) are Bran the Marrok (of course :) ), Asil and Sage. And I really like how we finally get an insight into the relationship between Bran and Leah. Patricia Briggs pulls off the tricky thing of getting me to dislike Leah but also feel kind of bad about the situation she's in.

Because Cry Wolf is written in third person rather than first. It also gives us the opportunity to see situations from more than one point of view. So it's nice to be able to see what both Charles and Anna are thinking, and also being given the opportunity to see the way Bran thinks and to learn more of his history. So there are more complex relationships being explored here rather than just that between Charles and Anna. We also have Bran & the pack, Asil & Bran, Asil & Sage. Each one unique and revealing something different.

With only book being released for this series a year, I'm certainly learning about patience. :( And if anyone out there knows anything about the next book please feel free to share. :)

Giveaway Closed

Monday 1 September 2008

Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione

This is the first in a new series - Demonica. I'm not sure where I first heard about this one, though I'm almost certain it was on a review blog.


Pleasure Unbound introduces us to the Demonica world. In the good guys corner we have Tayla Mancuso - Aegis Demon Slayer. In the bad guys corner we have Eidolon - Seminus Demon and emergency room surgeon. Hmmm...maybe he's not such a bad guy after all. Unfortunately Tayla isn't as easily convinced and she soon finds herself torn between the world she depends on and the world that Eidolon could show her if only she'd believe in him. To make matters more complicated a group of bodysnatchers known as Ghouls (not the restless undead it's more of a derogatory term) are kidnapping demons and harvesting them for bodyparts. The Ghouls are playing the Aegi and the Demons off against each other and it's going to be down to Tayla, Eidolon and their friends to sort the mess out.

I really enjoyed this. And I think this is the first book this year by a new author (to me) that has got me interested in following a new series. It's not perfect but I'll start with the good stuff.

I admit I have a weakness for a book with a glossary. Preferably short with some interesting terms that make you want to read to see how it's all going to fit together. I especially like how the author has incorporated a taxonomic classification for the demon species with the Seminus demon as an example.

I like the setting, the idea of a demon hospital - Underground General - I thought was original and not something I'd seen before. I also liked the fact that there are demonic demons . They aren't all good and misunderstood, but they aren't all bad flesh eaters either.
A female Umber demon...had caught the patient sneaking into her nursery, and had somehow impaled him - several times - with a toilet brush.
There are shades of grey, which I always find more interesting to read about. I was also interested later on when Eidolon is explaining about how there are exceptions in every species and how a Cruenti demon had wanted to train to work in the hospital. That would have been a fascinating story unfortunately he was ripped to shreds by his less empathetic family members.

It is a very real book in that respect. Larissa Ione doesn't flinch away from the realities of the world she has set up. Eidolon has to make difficult decisions and he's one of these characters that does the right thing, even when it's the harder thing to do.

I'm not as keen on the character of Tayla, I just didn't feel her as much. She felt a little immature to me but you could also attribute that to how she was raised, and essentially the Aegi do seem a little cult-like. So far though I'm liking the male characters more than the female.

The relationship between the brothers is very interesting. Shade and Wraith obviously have a much closer relationship. But Eidolon is prepared to make a huge sacrifice on behalf of his younger brother, though he acknowledges his brothers at best are morally grey.

This book is hot - quite a lot of sex, though I think this is mainly organic to the storyline. It didn't feel overly gratuitous, after all, Eidolon is an incubus. As are his two brothers - Shade and Wraith - looking forward to their books.

I like how Larissa Ione has managed to capture the feel of the world. She has multiple characters but they all interact believably with each other and leave me wanting to read their stories not just the other two brothers, but also Gem and Kynan, and the werewolf Luc. I think Kynan will probably get lots of votes for a story of his own. He may only be a human in a world of demons but he is one tough bloke.

On the quibble front.

Eidolon has a dog. It's mentioned on page 6. But even though Tayla goes to his appartment - no dog. Apparently the dog has gone away for a few days. But in the epilogue - still no dog. I'm just left with the wish that the dog had never been mentioned. As I was looking forward to seeing how Eidolon and the dog interacted. Why mention the dog if we're never going to get to meet it?

There is a slight tendency to melodrama at some points. Tayla in particular is a bit of a drama queen. Now there's nothing wrong with a bit of the dramatics, but it's very easy to do too much and get a little silly.

My quibbles aside, this has been one of my favourite books of the year. And Larissa Ione is currently my only nominee for breakout author of 2008. Can't wait to read Shade's book.

Monday 25 August 2008

Slave to Sensation - Nalini Singh

So you may remember a few weeks ago I found out I hadn't posted quite as many reviews as I thought I had. As it was the Psy/Changeling reviews that were noticeable by their absence and as Hostage to Pleasure is to be imminently released I thought we'd start with them.

Slave to Sensation is an alternative history paranormal, set in the year 2079 on an Earth populated by three races: the Psy - emotionless and cold, the shapeshifting Changelings who rely on their animal instincts, and humans. Although technically it is alternative history it has a very urban fantasy feel. I think the AH allows certain things to happen that might have been constrained by straight UF.

From the moment that Lucas Hunter (Changeling) and Sascha Duncan (Psy) meet there is a chemistry between them that fairly leaps off the page. This causes conflict as Lucas is a creature of instinct and sensation, whilst Sascha must maintain a facade of logic and efficiency at all costs.

Although it is the love story between Lucas and Sascha that is the driving force behind the narrative. The reason this book works so well is because you can immerse yourself in the world that Nalini Singh has created. The dynamics of both pack (Changeling) and Psy life are well-explained and the book is populated with interesting characters that give the story an added depth. And at the same time leave you wanting to know more about them. :)

One of the things I like is that it's made clear that both species are equally capable of brutality. Psy who don't conform to the acceptable standards of the Silence live with the constant threat of rehabilitation (mind-wiping) at the Center. Whilst the Changelings live under a territorial law that can erupt into violence. However, the reader does come down on the side of the Changeling way of life with its emphasis on family and pack.

Slave to Sensation illustrates not only the division between Psy and Changeling but also the divisions within those communities as well. Different Changeling groups have to fight against their need to dominate in order to work together. Something the Psy have taken advantage of in the past. And the Psy need for perfection, for conformity is equally divisive in its own way.

Looking back on the series five books in, I find I'm preferring the stories with a Psy hero/heroine. Much as some people prefer werewolves over vampires. That's not to say I don't enjoy the other stories, I think Nalini Singh is a great storyteller and I have yet to not be completely pulled into the Psy/Changeling world. But there's something about the Psy falling in love that works for me.

There are one or two slips in Slave to Sensation, but when the standard of storytelling is this high, they are easily forgiven. This is one of the best paranormals I've read and I would rank it along with Kelley Armstrong's Otherworld series and Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson. With each book the strength of the worldbuilding grows and I think a lot of that is down to the foundation laid in this book.

Also available:-
Visions of Heat
Caressed by Ice
Mine to Possess
Hostage to Pleasure

Wednesday 20 August 2008

The Raven Prince - Elizabeth Hoyt

The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt (Published November 2006)

The reason for this being on my TBR pile is that it's a historical. When I was a teenager I think I read every Zebra Heartfire to the point of getting completely sick of the genre. So it's very rare for me to pick up one now. I think I have one more in the TBR which I may read for next month.

The Raven Prince follows the developing relationship of Mrs Anna Wren and the Earl of Swartingham (Edward). Anna becomes the Earl's secretary to earn the money her household needs to stay solvent. However, when she learns the Earl intends to visit a brothel in London, she decides to take matters into her own hands and rendezvous with him there as a mystery woman rather than have him satisfy his desires with anyone else.

I loved this and have already put the next two books on my wishlist. The excerpt at the back for The Leopard Prince definitely caught my interest.

What makes the story for me, are the characters of Anna and Edward. They come alive on the page and you're completely pulled into their world. They are well-matched, (which I really like) Edward has a formidable temper to put it mildly - no china ornament is safe when he's around - but Anna is more than capable of standing up for herself.
He hesitated. "I wouldn't want to intimidate you, Mrs. Wren."
"You don't."
There's also a thread of humour that runs through the book, moreso in the early part before everything goes wrong, though it also pops its head up again towards the end. Edward is very sharp. And I could quote and quote from their snappy exchanges but I'll limit myself and let you enjoy them when you read the book if you haven't already.
"Do you think 'Duke' is a good name?" she asked.
His face blanked for a second before it cleared. He glanced at the dog in consideration. "I don't think so. He would outrank me."
I also love the way that Elizabeth Hoyt manages to make you 'hear' how gorgeous Edward's voice is - usually when he's talking to a horse, even if he's being rude to it. And Coral's dessert description of him, is spot on.

The story is beautifully constructed. I don't want to give anything away, but there are small incidents or things that are mentioned in passing that have greater relevance later in the story. So it's well worth taking the time to savour the story rather than rush through it. The secondary characters are also well written - whether villain or friend, and I think I've picked out the heroes of the following books.

The love scenes are incredibly sensual but it is the relationship between the characters that I love, the little details that have raised this to a keeper for me. I can't say that The Raven Prince has converted me back to historicals, but I'll definitely be picking up the rest of Elizabeth Hoyt's backlist.

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale

And now for something a little different. I read Wicked Gentlemen during my 9 hour train journey back from Scotland and I loved it. Thanks go out to JenB and MaryM who let me know I could buy the book directly from the publisher - Blind Eye Books.

Wicked Gentlemen takes the form of two novellas. The first - Mr. Sykes and the Firefly - is told from the (first person) point of view of Belimai Sykes. Belimai is a Prodigal, a descendent of demons. A drug addict and investigator who is hired by Captain Harper (an Inquisitor) to help in the investigation of several murders.

The second novella - Captain Harper and the Sixty Second Circle - virtually carries on from where the first leaves off, but is told in third person point of view mainly from Captain Harper's perspective. And I love how little incidents from the first novella, haven't been forgotten in the second.

It would initially seem that these men have nothing in common with each other. Essentially they are on opposite sides of the law, and it would also appear that their beliefs and values are polar opposites. However, despite this, a relationship develops between the pair, and throughout the course of the two novellas they learn to trust each other when all their other beliefs and desires fall away. Belimai is not so far gone that he won't reach out for hope, and Harper isn't quite the perfect Inquisitor he first appears.

Belimai is one of the most intriguing and fascinating characters I have read about in a long time. He's been tortured by the Inquisition, left a drug addict and has an almost palpable air of melancholy. He knows himself well.
I am not a good person. I am naturally inclined to lie. Even my mother had thought so.
But is also possible to see yourself too clearly and be blinded.

From the moment Belimai and Captain Harper meet there is a chemistry between the two of them. The love scenes when they take place on page are brief but beautifully written. Rather it is when the two of them are talking or verbally sparring together that you experience the attraction between them.
"Are you still drunk from last night?" I asked.
"No." Harper smiled. "Having my life threatened always makes me a little giddy."
"I have to find my pleasures where I can."

Although I enjoyed both stories almost(!) equally well. I think the first story I liked slightly more. Maybe it's the metaphor of the firefly at the beginning and how that plays through the story. And how we come to understand what's happened to Joan. Also I have a fondness for stories where on a second read through you get something completely different out of the book, because of how your perceptions have changed knowing what's going to happen. Saying that the experiences between Belimai and Harper in the second novella are almost more enjoyable because they know each other so much better. Hmmm. Tough call.

I picked up Wicked Gentlemen after reading several reviews - some on reader blogs, one I think on Dear Author. And I was still slightly preparing myself in case I was disappointed. Instead I've read a book which I know I'll be able to read again and again, and each time be drawn back into the dark world of the Prodigals and the Inquisition. At the end of the two stories, they are complete, you feel satisfied. But I would be more than happy to read more about Belimai, Harper and their friends again, so I hope there are more stories to come.

Wednesday 23 July 2008

Mine to Possess by Nalini Singh


As I'm a Nalini Singh fangirl, this will be an ungraded review. :)

Mine to Possess is book 4 in the Changeling/Psy series. For the best reading of this book you really do need to have read the first three books in the series. As well as Clay and Talin's story which I think it's perfectly possible to enjoy as a standalone, there is also a major arc being played out over the course of the series, which you really need to have read from the beginning.

Clay Bennett is the half human/half Changeling sentinel of the DarkRiver leopard clan. Growing up he had to repress his animal nature, but one day it erupted in an act of violence which ended with him in jail and his best friend Talin deciding it would be better off if he thought she were dead. The years go by and now Talin is in trouble, and needs Clays help. But he's still walking the fine edge of violence, so as well as making a future together, they also have to resolve the troubles of their past.

I'm not sure why this has sat on my TBR pile for so long. I love the Psy/Changeling series and now I've read it, I love Mine to Possess. Maybe I just needed the break.

Let's deal with Talin and Clay first. The thing that's different between this book and the others in the series is that Talin and Clay already have a relationship. What they are doing here is forgiving the mistakes of the past and learning to move on. But because of this the relationship at the beginning is somewhat combative. Clay pushes and Talin stands her ground, and they have a lot that they need to resolve.
"What happened to you, Tally?"
..."I broke."
Clay is a very solitary and brooding character and he knows it's possible he could turn rogue if he gives in to the violence inside of him. Faith (from Visions of Heat) is particularly protective of him, and is more than a little questioning of Talin's motives. Talin in turn can't help but feel jealous of Faith and the perceived place she has in Clay's life.

To begin with there are quite a few misunderstandings between our hero and heroine, and usually I'd be tempted to say they just need to talk. But in this case they both have so much baggage from the past and a major crisis to deal with in the present that it takes a lot for them to make it over that first barrier. But it makes it all the more worth it when they do. :)

We learn more about Changeling society. This is one of the best things about the series, the fact that Nalini Singh makes it clear that neither the Changeling, Psy or human way is perfect. For example the rats of Down Below are given the stark choice of either allying with Dark River or being made to leave the city. Each species has it's flaws and talents, which makes Sascha's conclusions at the end of the story very interesting. We also find out about more Changeling species, and some very intriguing hints are dropped about the snakes.

The major arc of the story continues. The Psy are forging ahead with their plan to create a hive mind and are coming scarily close to achieving their goal. Luckily the unknown saboteur The Ghost is continuing to be a thorn in their side. New characters I want to know more about - Devraj Santos and the rat leader Teijan. And must just mention we get a brief glimpse of a shirtless Kaleb. LOL

There are multiple points of view, but they are skillfully woven into the fabric of the story, so they neither feel intrusive or surplus to the plot. Everything here serves to push the story forward, and we have plenty of time with Talin and Clay to appreciate how their relationship develops. We also have a nice catch-up with the other Dark River couples mainly through Talin's interactions with Faith, Tamsyn and Sascha, this is beautifully organic to the plot. Highly recommend series.

One good thing about waiting so long before reading this book, is that the wait for the next one is that much shorter. :) Hostage to Pleasure is out in September.

(Giveaway Closed)

Wednesday 16 July 2008

Wicked Deeds on a Winters Night by Kresley Cole

Number 4 in the Immortals After Dark series published in 2007. WDOAWN got stuck on my TBR pile because I never seemed to get around to reading book 2.

WDOAWN is Bowen and Mariketa's story and partly takes place at the same time as NRFTW (Are you following these acronyms?) during the Talisman's Hie, so I think it would be helpful if you're familiar with that book. Bowen if you remember was after the prize so he could go back in time and save his mate. During the Hie he trapped Mariketa and several other supernaturals. Unfortunately this has upset (to put it mildly) their supernatural races and is threatening to start a major interspecies incident. So it falls to Bowen to go and rescue Mariketa. But that's just the beginning.

With every book in this series I'm hooked more. They just seem to keep getting better and better, which is great if a little worrying.

The glue that holds this whole story together is Bowen and Mariketa's relationship. There's quite a bit of other external stuff going on - The Talisman's Hie, interfering Valkyries, lots more intriguing hints dropped about other characters - mainly the proper introduction of Rydstrom and Cade (they have a younger sister) and who exactly is stalking Regin? (Aside - so glad that Cade has got his own book.)

Their relationship basically starts off as a confrontation and though they have a chemistry between them Bowen is far too caught up in the need to win the Hie and save his mate. So he betrays Mariketa and traps her to prevent her continuing with the Hie. Not the best way to start a courtship. It's only after he goes back to rescue her and they have to work together to escape the jungle that the spark between them becomes something more. But the course of their love isn't going to run smoothly, just when it seems everything has come into place for them the past rises up to bite Bowen on the ass, and he has to decide who and what he really wants.

So let's start with the hero. I like Bowen (more than Mariketa). I liked him in the previous books and I like him here. He's one of those characters who doesn't really have a filter between his brain and his mouth. Maybe this is a Lykae trait as I seem to remember Lachlain from AHLNO being similar. When he feels it is deeply and completely. Even when he loses the Hie, he still asks Wroth if he used the key both times. He never gives up. And he also knows himself very well.
Today he'd learned that she didn't proffer blood sacrifices at an altar - always a gratifying detail to learn about a potential mate.
Mariketa, she's young and in some ways immature. She lies to Bowen about how often she's using her powers even though it's dangerous for her to do so. Some of her behaviour is understandable. He wants her to contain an essential part of herself - akin to her asking him to give up his animal instinct. But sometimes in romances you feel like shouting at the protagonists - just talk to one another damnit!
"Just give me five minutes to get dressed...Five goddamned minutes, Mariketa!"
"Toxic goddamned relationship, Bowen!"
Yep, Bowen makes perhaps one of the biggest mistakes it's possible for a man to make. Despite all the confrontations in their relationship, there's something warm and fuzzy about it too.

But eventually (as with Lachlain) Bowen comes to a realisation of what he has in Mariketa. Though it takes nearly losing her to open his eyes and his heart. Certain scenes Kresley Cole writes so well, she puts you through the wringer. Then just when you think they've finally got it together she takes it away from you, and makes the protagonists work even harder for their happy ending.

And she never lets her protagonists say I love you before time. Even though there are confusions, eventually her characters talk to one another and when they finally open up it feels real and it works.

This is one of my favourite series and even though the next one has a ghost for a heroine :sigh: (I don't really do ghost stories). I'm cautiously looking forward to it.