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.