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)