Monday 26 January 2009

The Leopard Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

Second in the Princes series by Elizabeth Hoyt, The Leopard Prince follows the developing relationship between Lady Georgina Maitland and her land steward Harry Pye. Their relationship across the social divide would be complicated enough, but it's set against a background of suspicion, poisoned sheep and murder. Events which the locals blame Harry for. If Lady Georgina is going to get her man, she'll have to keep his head out of the noose first.

I liked this one more than the Raven Prince, maybe because the relationship between Harry and Georgina is more earthy, more sensual? I don't know. Maybe because there is more of the forbidden about their relationship? I love how Elizabeth Hoyt makes the characters come alive on the page, how she makes us care about them, how she makes them so real. Harry and Georgina are so right for each other but there is so much between them that they have to overcome. There is a strong chemistry between them from the outset. Lady Georgina says at the beginning of chapter 5
"Do you know that when I first met you I didn't like you?"
Harry has the last word at the end of the section.
"I never disliked you, my lady."
Almost like Scherezade, Georgina tells the tale of the Leopard Prince to Harry. Starting when they first spend the night together in the shepherds hut and continuing over their subsequent meetings. It almost serves as an analogy for their relationship, 'til at the end Georgina sets her own leopard free. They are caught in a cage of circumstance. As Harry ponders -
If she were a different woman, if this were a different place, if he were a different man...
Georgina is a strong heroine, sometimes a little snippy, but on the whole softly spoken with a spine of steel. She also has a slight tendency to voice whatever's on her mind whether it's relevant to the conversation at hand or not.
"Someday I'd like to see a man nude," she said.
Harry froze.
This keeps the more reserved and quiet Harry on his toes.

One of my favourite things about Elizabeth Hoyt's writing is how she shows situations that happen to characters when they are apart, influence their behaviour to each other when next they meet. As a reader we understand the change in attitudes of both characters but the characters themselves do not. Very clever writing. She's able to take this and write these wonderful arguments which are layered with double meanings.

The secondary characters are equally well written - Georgina's brothers and sister, Harry's brother. A shame we will never get to know more about them as EH has said on her website she's moved on to other stories.

I think that this may be the favourite of the trilogy for me. I liked it more than the Raven Prince, and I'm thinking Harry and Georgina may end up being my favourite couple. Elizabeth Hoyt is one of the few historical romance authors I read and I'm looking forward to completing the trilogy and getting started on the next series.

Thursday 22 January 2009

Raintree: Inferno by Linda Howard

This review is part of the 2009 TBR challenge, and the option for January was to read a category. Now I'm not a big category romance reader, haven't really read them since my teens / early twenties. But luckily I do like Linda Howard and a while ago she wrote a Silhouette Nocturne called Raintree:Inferno the first in a trilogy of books about the Raintree/Ansara feud.

Having read this I kind of remember why I stopped reading categories, it's a bit like eating candy floss you can stuff yourself silly at the time but it doesn't really fill you up. The tendency toward melodrama got a little wearing, but they do have to pack a lot of plot into a smaller number of pages. Having said that, whilst I struggled to get into it, something about it kept me compulsively reading to the end.

The basics of the story are this. Two hundred years ago the Raintree clan nearly wiped out the Ansara clan because of their treachery. Now it's payback time and the Ansara's first target is Dranir of the Raintree clan - Dante Raintree. Trapped in a fire with Lorna Clay and unsure of whether or not she is who she claims to be, when they survive he takes her with him rather than risk having a possible Ansara assassin on the loose. Lorna knows nothing of the Ansara and the Raintree, but she's about to get a crash course introduction.

It's an interesting premise but there is a heck of a lot of info-dumping in the beginning. Whilst I can accept that this book doesn't just have to set itself up but also the next two books in the trilogy, I would have liked this to be a little more seamless than it was.

Like I said once I'd got into this I wanted to know how it ended and Linda Howard can write some of the hottest love scenes around. This is one of the reasons that of all the categories I read, the one's that I've kept have been Linda Howard's.

However I had some problems.

Longterm readers of the blog may remember the problem I have with the word 'literally'. It's something of a bugbear of mine. I think the last time I had a severe complaining session about it was after reading one of the Sunny novels. Well 'literally' crops up nine times in this story, which is about eight times too many for me. :Sigh:

Also to begin with Dante uses mind control on Lorna. If he tells her she can't move or speak then she can do neither until he gives her permission to do so again. This goes on for a good portion of the book and whilst it's a beyond alpha thing to do - along the lines of I'm only doing it for your own good and I know better - it was also creepy. (Anyone seen the latest season of Heroes - yep I'm thinking of the Puppet Master). It's just not a very attractive quality in a hero.

I liked that sunshine gives him an almost sexual high. (Being a Farscape fan, this reminded me slightly of Zhaan's photogasms.)

Lorna is a much better heroine, sparky and not afraid to stand up for herself, even in the bizarre circumstances she finds herself. They are something of a stereotype - he the 'uncivilized warlord' and she the 'victorian maiden'.

Unfortunately the story ends on a cliffhanger, and the relationship between them felt a little rushed. It's clear that the story overall will be resolved in the subsequent books of the trilogy. While Raintree: Inferno hasn't convinced me that I'm missing anything by not reading categories, I am going to finish the three books because it's left me wanting to know what happens next.

Tuesday 20 January 2009

From Smart Bitches

I'm sure everyone's read this already, (I followed the link at Smart Bitches but this review had me laughing out loud this morning before I went to work.

Not work safe, and probably not for you if you're (very) easily offended.

Chris's Invincible Superblog - Review of Taror #53

Saturday 17 January 2009

Fatal Shadows by Josh Lanyon

I'm on a little bit of an Adrien English kick at the moment, as you can probably tell from the sidebar (currently reading Book 2) :)

This is the first in the series and introduces us to Adrien English bookseller and author, who, following the murder of his friend and employee finds he may be next on the killer's list. Subsequent events bring suspicious cop Jake Riordan into his world. And so begins their on again, off again, never actually started relationship. One of the best character dynamics I've read in a long while.

"I re-revised my original opinion. Riordan was indeed an asshole."
Catching up with Adrien is something of a comfort read, even though he's usually up to his ears in murder. He's witty, sarcastic and self-depracating, one of my favourite characters. And the fact is, there is an almost palpable chemistry between Jake and Adrien from their first meeting, even though very little happens between them in this book you are aware of the potential.
"You seem obsessed with my sexuality, Detective."
Something dark and shadowy slid across his eyes. I decided I didn't want to piss him off too much.
The focus in this book is very much on Adrien and the mystery of who killed Robert and why. This gives us the chance to get to know Adrien as a character, the way he thinks, his quirks, his family and his problems.

It's not just Adrien and Jake though, the other secondary characters in the story are equally well written. I particularly like Angus, Adrien's strange new assistant at the book shop.

If I had any complaints at all it would be that at just over 200 pages the story is over far too quickly, but perhaps it is better to be left wanting more?

You may wonder given that I like the series and the characters so much why I've only given this book a B+. It's actually very difficult for me to judge this book on its own without thinking of the other books in the series - perhaps I should have written reviews after each book. Too late now though. As such it is possible I'm being overly harsh in wanting to be fair.

You have to like a first person protagonist, or at least want to know more about them and their world. I love reading about Adrien and can't wait to read the next book in the series. Hopefully there will be many more books to come. :)

Tuesday 13 January 2009

TBR Challenge 2009

There are many reader challenges around but I shall only be taking part in one. :) Avidbookreader's TBR Wednesday Challenge - details can be found here.

This year is slightly different to last with specific challenges for each month being an option. So looking ahead through the year.

January - Category Romances
Oh dear. lol. I do have some category romances in my TBR pile somewhere. Actually tonight I got one down and started reading it (then put it down after reading three pages :sigh:) as I think the first TBR day is next Wednesday. So should have something to post, and I have to face it, if it wasn't for the challenge that book may remain on my TBR pile for a lot longer.

February - A book based on a DIK review at AAR
Never been to AAR. So I shall probably just pick a book from my pile for this month.

March - Historical Romance
Now I actually think I've got a couple on my TBR pile. Maybe I'll finally get round to reading Passion by Lisa Valdez.

April - Urban Fantasy/paranormal/fantasy etc.
Lol - don't think I'll have a problem with this one.

May - Friends to lovers/unrequited love
Not really my sort of thing, but there may be something hiding in the pile. If not this month will just be a TBR book of my choice.

June - Tortured hero/heroine
This one may require me to actually look through my TBR pile. I have to be honest it's that big that I'm not that sure what's in it.

July - Wrongfully accused/just released from jail.
Another one where I'm going to have to look through and see what I've got.

August and September - New author or author you haven't read in a long time
Of the suggested authors I probably have more from September in my pile - Linda Howard, Lois Bujold, Meljean Brook. Maybe I'll finally read Demon Moon in August/September and get to carry on with the rest of the series.

October - Horror/Suspense
Think I can come up with something for this one. Maybe something urban fantasy/suspense. :)

November/December - Holiday Theme
This is the one I'll definitely be passing on, I am not a fan of holiday themed books. So will just be picking something from my TBR pile.

Friday 9 January 2009

Tearing my Hair Out - aka UK vs US release dates

So I've just been at Lynn Viehl's Pback Writer Blog. And YAY! Stay the Night is out, and somehow I'd managed to forget this crucial fact but never mind I'll just pop along to Amazon UK and order it - right?

Right? I ask plaintively. once again there is a disparity between the US and UK release date. We in the UK are going to have to wait until March. Now whilst this coincides nicely with my birthday I can't help feeling a little p'd off. This is not the worst release date wait. I think when Gollancz in the UK got the Charlaine Harris Sookie series they decided to release all the books in the series first. Fine for those people who hadn't been faithfully following the series, but over a twelve month wait for faithful fans when then latest book in the series was already available in the US?

But Stay the Night is not alone, I'm currently waiting to get my hands on Devil's Due by Jenna Black not available in the UK until 15th January.

I am addicted to books and I don't use that word lightly. This means that for certain series I am not prepared to wait three months, four months, whatever, for a book to be released when I can already get my hands on it, either by ordering direct from the US or from booksellers in the UK who import. I would guess that the fans who realize books are already available in the US are perhaps in the minority and therefore UK publishers aren't bothered by a few lost sales.

But in some cases this has been the tipping point that has stopped me following a series. When the following authors books were taken up by a UK publisher I stopped buying them because it became such a faff to get hold of them. Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris. I'm sure there are others but these are the first three that spring to mind. Where is the logic in having such a large gap between release dates?

And while I'm having a rant. What on Earth is happening to Amazon UK? Books which should be available just aren't. I mentioned Jackie Kessler's Hotter Than Hell in a previous post.

But these books from my wishlist are also showing as not available - surely they aren't out of print already. The Darkest Pleasure by Gena Showalter, Hands of Flame by C.E.Murphy, Black Magic Woman by Justin Gustainis. This situation sometimes occurs when UK publishers acquire the rights and the US version is no longer available. But that doesn't seem to apply in these cases.

Lol - anyway thanks for 'listening', and I will be getting Stay the Night before March, even though it would have been a great birthday present.

Thursday 8 January 2009

Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs

At the end of Moon Called (first book in the series), Mercy Thompson the shapeshifting mechanic, owed the local vampires a favour, and in Blood Bound they want paying back. A visiting vampire is causing problems and Stefan, (Mercy's vampire friend) wants her help whilst he tries to sort it out.

In my opinion Blood Bound is a much more tightly written story than Moon Called. We already know about the relationships, pack-conflicts and back story, so here we are able to get stuck in to the meat of the story straight away. Although I do think it's possible to read Blood Bound as a standalone, it would be much better to read Moon Called first so you've got all this rich background information in your head. Plus we find out even more in Blood Bound so it’s nice to have the layering of information, it adds even more depth to Mercy’s world.

The relationships within the werewolf pack continue to evolve and I think this is far and away my favourite part of the story. Each werewolf is such an individual character and to see how they are located within the hierarchy and how they struggle or accept that, gives the story a depth it might not otherwise have had. In Blood Bound this pack structure is held in direct comparison with the more clinical vampire society, which makes for fascinating reading.

This is the book where we start to get to know Ben - one of the more complex characters in the werewolf pack - better. And it’s interesting to see here Mercy’s initial attitude towards him and his attitude to the pack that he finds himself in. Also how her attitude to other werewolves in Adam's pack, (Honey for example) evolves over the books.

If I had a concern at all, it would be the fact that Mercy picks up another admirer and I think this has the potential to take away from the tension in her relationships with the two werewolves already vying for her attention. I admit here to being torn between who I would like her to end up with, though I do have my favourite. (Lol – you can tell I wrote this review before reading Iron Kissed).

It’s interesting in this book that Mercy is more honest with herself
“Falling in love with a werewolf is not a safe thing to do – but falling in love with an Alpha is worse.”
But this is in keeping with her character. It’s not until Iron Kissed that she really understands her situation, I think. And when you suddenly realize you may be out of your depth you can’t always be expected to act rationally. I find myself very much looking forward to seeing where Bone Crossed (Book #4 takes us).

Blood Bound is resolved very nicely, but there are enough plot threads left dangling to leave me desperately looking forward to the next book in the series - especially the new werewolf who only appears off-page here. (I think this is a plot thread that’s still currently dangling, however maybe there’s a chance this one will be picked up in the Charles and Anna series?)

Moon Called (Book 1)
Iron Kissed (Book 3)
Bone Crossed (Book 4 Feb 2009 Hardcover)

Friday 2 January 2009

Twilight Movie Review

As one of my aims for 2009 is to get to the cinema more often I'm including a little (kind of) review for Twilight, which I went to see with my niece on New Year's Eve.

First a little background.

I have read Twilight, but for some reason, other than the baseball game and the fact that Edward is a vampire I can't really remember anything else about the story. Usually it takes a few weeks, a month or so for this to happen, my short term memory is quite appalling, but for Twilight it happened almost as soon as I closed the cover on finishing the book. So I went into the film with something of an open mind.

My niece along with a fairly large chunk of the teenage girl population is somewhat obsessed with Edward Cullen. Lol. And I was under strict instructions once we got into the theatre and the lights went down not to speak to her, ask questions, or otherwise interrupt her viewing pleasure. I agreed. Though within fifteen minutes (maybe less) of the movie starting, she leaned over to inform me that THIS hadn't happened in the book. We did have a little discussion before leaving for the cinema about how the film wouldn't be exactly like the book.

I admit after reading Christine's Review over at The Happily Ever After. I was a little worried that my niece would be put off the series. But luckily for me that wasn't the case. My niece hasn't yet read the whole series and because she's borrowed the books from friends hasn't been able to re-read them. So maybe the storylines aren't as firmly entrenched in her mind as with some other fans.

The bits I liked.

The baseball game - loved this, it was exactly like I'd imagined it.

I loved The Cullens as a family group. They were just the right side of weird - the actor playing Jasper was particularly fascinating whenever he came on screen. I really felt there was the potential that he could just lose it. And I love that they all got together to make a meal for Bella, probably my favourite scene in the book. I think this is why I liked the second half of the film more, because we got to see more of the Cullens.

I did have a problem with the movie but I'm not sure I can quite put my finger on what it is. Something wasn't working for me. I didn't have the invisible remote control thing*, though in a couple of places it was close. When Bella and Edward are in biology looking at the onion cells I slightly wanted to tear my hair out and scream 'get on with it'. But managed to restrain myself.

I did find Bella a little po-faced and superior, but I have a sneaking suspicion I felt like that about her in the book. (Would have to re-read to be sure). So if the actress is working to the source material then that can't really be laid at her door. I did think especially in the early part of the movie that the chemistry between Edward and Bella was somewhat lacking.

I came out of the movie and didn't feel like I'd wasted my money. And my niece was raving about how she wanted to see New Moon when it came out and how she had to get the other books in the series. So not a wasted trip. :)

* I'm so used to watching stuff either on DVD or hard drive that I've become used to fast forwarding through the boring bits. So I can tell in the cinema if a film isn't working because I automatically reach for a remote that isn't there to ff to something happening.