Friday 31 December 2010

DIK Challenge - Death of a Pirate King by Josh Lanyon

So we come to my final review of the year - just squeezing in there. It's the fourth in the Adrien English series by Josh Lanyon - Death of a Pirate King. Two years have passed since the end of The Hell You Say. Adrien hasn't seen Jake, (though Jake has seen Adrien) and he is now involved in a relationship with Guy Snowden. Adrien's first book has been optioned for a movie and during a Hollywood party one of the guests is murdered. Adrien's life being what it is, of course Jake is one of the police officers called to the scene. And when producer Paul Kane asks Adrien to unofficially look into the case, Adrien finds he cannot refuse, even if it means being thrown back into proximity with Jake...

I now have to reorder my favourite Adrien English books. This still doesn't top A Dangerous Thing for me, which remains my favourite book of the series. But I think this comes in a close second. (Followed by Fatal Shadows and then The Hell You Say).

Adrien - his usual sarky, snippy self (I love how the opening paragraph gets you straight back into Adrien's head) - is a little more petulant in this one. Possibly because he's recovering from pneumonia and his heart is causing him more trouble than usual. I think on a re-read you'd definitely pick up on what's being said between the lines when Jake and Adrien are talking. In some cases it felt like Jake was saying one thing and Adrien was hearing what he wanted to hear. But considering how they left things two years ago, you can't really blame Adrien for the assumptions he's making.

Two years have passed and I think Jake has changed (I am kind of rooting for him, I know not everybody does). For instance he does say this (one of my favourite lines)
"Listen, I know you think I'm an asshole - I am an asshole..."
And I don't think he would have said that before.

Previously I think they had great chemistry but were not at the right places in their lives to meet up relationship-wise. Now although things have obviously changed in Jake's life, Adrien is not at the right place, I don't think he's forgiven Jake for what he did. He still thinks he's dealing with the 'old' Jake.
I wasn't in the mood for chitchat - and I didn't remember it being Jake's style either. At this rate he'd be asking about my mother and I'd bounce my juice glass off his head.
I think because of the way Paul Kane manipulates Adrien, he is more susceptible to making assumptions. Jake is in a way to blame as well because he chooses not to explain himself. Which is his right, he and Adrien aren't together, but I think if you hadn't read the previous three books it may leave you a little frustrated thinking - just talk to each other. Whereas being aware of their previous history you know where the attitudes are coming from.

I love how the Adrien's relationships with his now extended family are developing, and especially like the newest member of the group - the Book Store cat. (And Adrien's impromptu Dr. Seuss impression).

I thought towards the end, we slipped a little towards melodrama. But hey, a little melodrama never hurt anyone. And I think at the end the stakes needed to be raised really high. One of my favourite endings to a story this year. Kind of cliffhangery but also perfect.

Thursday 30 December 2010

Book of 2010 and Challenge Review

I read my book of 2010 way back in January. And it is...

Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger

And looking back on my review, it makes me want to grab my copy and read it again. I think this was one of the best things about taking part in the DIK challenge, the opportunity to read books that might otherwise have passed me by.

On the challenge front, I haven't done so well.

DIK Challenge - 11/12 - currently reading my twelfth book for the challenge, review to be posted before the end of the year.

M/M Challenge - 15/20+ I think I was overambitious on my target for this one. (Have one more to add as my last DIK book is m/m but I'm not going to make this challenge.

52 Books in 52 Weeks - 35/52 - Again one more book to add, but I'm nowhere near hitting the 52 mark.

Will be doing the 52 book challenge again next year, hopefully will at least get more than 36 books.

Monday 27 December 2010

M/M Challenge, Lord of the White Hell (Book 2) - Ginn Hale

So Book 2 pretty much picks up from where Book 1 ended. Kiram and Javier resolve their differences and Kiram continues his efforts to discover a way to break the curse that pursues Javier's family. But 'the man on the hill' is not going to sit idly by whilst that happens, and soon Kiram's friends and family are put in danger, as Kiram and Javier make a final desperate bid to set things right.

Book 2 is quite unusual in a way, in its formatting. For quite a bit of the book we come away from the Academy and the need to free the Tornesal line from the curse, as Kiram's first year at the Academy comes to an end and he returns to his home. The pacing slows down as we learn more about Kiram's family and culture, and in some ways we lose sight a little of the evil forces acting outside the Anacleto district. It's almost like it's a little cocoon of safety, a brief respite from the evil. But that's all it can be, as the 'man on the hill' will not be satisfied until he's taken the white hill from Javier.

I think it would have been harder to make this work as one book (putting Books 1 and 2 together). The increase in tension in Book 1 is steady, then in Book 2 it drops away, only in the last part to come flooding back as events take on a momentum of their own.

One thing we do get here, because we are away from the Academy for a lot of the book is a deeper insight into Kiram as a person. Partly because we see him away from Javier, and also because we see him through the eyes of his family. I think in particular it is his older brother Majdi who sees Kiram most clearly.
Majdi sighed heavily. "Sometimes you're so smart that it makes you stupid."
Though Kiram may be able to fool the other members of his family for a while, Majdi sees straight through to what Kiram is trying to hide. I also thought it illustrated very well how young Kiram still is, even through all he's experienced. He's grown up a lot, but he's still a little too cocky at times and fond of making assumptions. I especially liked how Ginn Hale shows us that family dynamics can have the effect of reducing you to behaving like a child.

This could have been quite a dark book, which I think maybe is another reason we have the interlude in Anacleto (the Haldiim district). It gives us not only the opportunity to see how different Haldiim culture is to Cadeleonian culture. But also gives us some moments of humour and my favourite exchange between Javier and Kiram in the book.
"...ask him why he didn't leave anything for me." There was only a trace of hurt in Javier's tone but Kiram responded to it immediately.
"What? But I did - " Kiram stopped as he caught Javier's smug expression. He scowled at Javier. "I left a fart on your pillow."
In a way the relationship between Javier and Kiram doesn't feel as much the focus here. They are both going through their own crises, it would be nice to be able to see where they go from the end of the story. I have a feeling that both they and their relationship is going to have to mature very quickly. I wonder if we have Rafie and Alizadeh as a kind of example as to where Kiram and Javier will end up.

I must briefly mention the character of Elezar - one of the Hellions and Nestor's older brother. (Nestor being Kiram's best friend). He's quite a sad character. And Ginn Hale doesn't give us an awful lot about him, just these tiny little insights, for example when Kiram sneaks into his room to leave a Solstice present and we discover his secret. Elezar is not a subtle character, he is not a subtle man, but Ginn Hale is subtle in the way she reveals his feelings. And I do find myself wondering if Nestor knows, just something he said about his brother towards the end.

I think Lord of the White Hell (Book 1 & 2) is one of my favourite stories of the year. I love how Ginn Hale (in her writing) is able to make the story complete in itself and leave you satisfied with what happened, but she also leaves you ready to learn more. She leaves you knowing that there are other stories to be told, which I think is an incredible gift for any writer to give a reader. And I look forward to seeing what she will be doing in 2011.

Saturday 18 December 2010

Reading Challenges for 2011

There's still a few days of 2010 left so I'm not going to blog about my success (or lack of) with my 2010 challenges just yet. But I am thinking about the reading challenges I'm going to tackle for 2011.

I'm definitely going to try the 52 books in 52 weeks again. I think the chances of me getting there this year are slim, though I won't stop trying until December 31st. And it is a challenge I'd like to win at least once. If for no other reason than to get tackle my TBR pile.

Also if there's a DIK challenge for next year I'll be giving that one a go as well.

But the following are going to be new challenges for 2011.

Banned Books Challenge

I'm going to make a concerted effort to read more books from the banned books list next year. I say I'll do this every year and never do, so it's making the reading challenge list for next year. I'm doing it from the 2000-2009 top 100 most challenged list.

So far from that list I have read:-

Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
The Color Purple - Alice Walker
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

Not exactly a flying start. If I can get my total into double figures I'll be very pleased.

Series Completion Challenge

I'm not going to do a list here - I'm saving that for January - but my other big challenge for 2011 is to catch up with as many series as possible. This should certainly help with my 2011 52 books in 52 weeks challenge.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

M/M Challenge Review, Lord of the White Hell (Book One) - Ginn Hale

Blurb - Kiram Kir-Zaki may be considered a mechanist prodigy among his own people, but when he becomes the first Haldiim ever admitted to the prestigious Sagrada Academy, he is thrown into a world where power, superstition and swordplay outweigh even the most scholarly of achievements.

It's there that he meets Javier Tornesal, Duke of Rauma, the leader of a group who call themselves The Hellions. But Javier is no ordinary student. He wields a power known as the White Hell, and his family line is pursued by a curse that cannot be beaten. Kiram is drawn to Javier but a relationship between them is forbidden by Cadeleonian law. However, there are some things that are worth the risk.

I really like the way that Ginn Hale writes. Her worldbuilding is particularly beautiful, she has a way of making people and places come alive on the page. And I think she balances very well, the small touches of humour against other serious or saddening situations.

Kiram is interesting as a protagonist. He's seventeen years old, so especially at the beginning of the story, he still reads as a little young, a little immature, he's quite rigid in his beliefs.
"So long as he wasn't insane or sick with black pox I wouldn't be afraid to sleep in a room with any man," Kiram replied. It wasn't entirely true - certainly he wouldn't want to sleep in a room with a thief or murderer or, honestly, a man who stank terribly..."
He has these statements of certainty which he then is almost immediately qualifying in his own head.

It's very interesting to see how his character grows over the course of the book, how he moves from the certainty of innocence towards experience. I think he still has very strong beliefs but comes to see that there has to be some flexibility.

Javier on the other hand is almost a force of nature. A very nice contrast to the more reserved Kiram. Kiram tells it like it is, whilst Javier I think is a little more manipulative and he can get under Kiram's skin.
Kiram tried to sound firm despite his embarrassment. "I'm not one of the whores at the Goldenrod whose body you can buy with a few pennies."
"No, you charge much more and put out far less."
If Javier tells the truth it might not be the whole truth. And he can cut with his words.

I think one of the main reasons the book works so well is because Kiram and Javier don't exist in a vaccuum. The world feels real because all the characters feel like real people. Kiram's family - his uncle Rafie and his uncle's partner Alizadeh who represent the Haldiim way of life that Kiram has kind of become separated from. (I would love to read about their early experiences, I think there are lots of stories there).

Kiram's best friend Nestor - who might not be the best Cadeleonian student at the Academy, but he is a good and loyal friend to Kiram. The Hellions who hang about with Javier, and Javier's cousin Fedeles who suffers under the family curse. The relationship between Javier and Kiram develops with these internal pressures, both Kiram and Javier are cautious about the relationship in their own way and for their own reasons. Whilst Javier can be demonstrative when the two of them are alone, when they are out in public he cannot do that. But there are also external pressures, from society, family and friends. And Book One ends with these pressures having reached an almost inevitable crisis point. So I highly recommend, that, like me, you have Book 2 ready to go.

If I had any complaints it would be that in a few places the editing slips up a little. But that is such a minor complaint in the face of the overall story being so good.

I very much look forward to reading what Ginn Hale writes next, whether that's more from the world of Wicked Gentlemen or from the world of the White Hell.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

I Could Care Less

Just finished Lord of the White Hell Book One, which I loved. I'll be posting a review - hopefully tomorrow. However, on the last page there's a phrase that makes me wince a little. I guess it's a UK thing. Javier says
"You could give a shit about the academy."
Which immediately makes me think about a certain David Mitchell Soapbox episode which for your viewing pleasure I've attached below. :)

Sunday 12 December 2010

To Be Spoiled or To Not Be Spoiled?

Usually that would be a simple question for me to answer. I'd choose 90% of the time not to be spoiled. So 9 out of 10 times I choose to remain in blissful or not so blissful ignorance.

However I've just read the Dear Author review of the next Black Jewel's book by Anne Bishop - Twilight's Dawn.

Dear Author - Twilight's Dawn Review

And I think on the whole I'm glad I read it, I'm glad I got the heads up.

(I interrupt myself to add here that I enjoyed the recent novels that featured Lady Cassidy and I think I'd hoped there would be more books set in that situation, with maybe less focus on the main Black Jewel characters and more on the Shalador characters.)

Twilight's Dawn is an anthology along the lines of Dreams Made Flesh - one of my favourite comfort reads. But I don't think I'll be picking TD up. It sounds a little to me like the Black Jewels books have jumped the shark. I could be wrong, it's only one review and the book isn't released until March. Maybe I'll wait and see what other review sites have to say before picking up a copy.

But I'm glad that I haven't gone my usual route of pre-ordering the hardback.

Be warned if you read the review it contains MAJOR spoilers.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

A Local Habitation - Seanan McGuire

October (Toby) Daye is the only Changeling to earn a knighthood. Now her Duke (Sylvester) has asked her to go and check on his niece - Countess January O'Leary - who he has lost contact with. It seems like an easy enough job, but someone is killing the inhabitants of January's County. Getting into the County of Tamed Lightning is going to be much easier than getting out.

I loved this. Not quite as much as the first in the series, but it's definitely one of my favourite books of the year. October is an imperfect heroine. She makes mistakes, she's obtuse about some things. I think she wants to do the right thing, though, but she knows that that can come with a heavy price.

I don't think there are many books where you'll read the sentence.
California banned all smoking in bars while I was still busy being a fish.
So many things I love about the way this series is written. The unique setup, the way the Shakespearean elements are woven into the plot. Also this time a Wizard of Oz quote as well (I think).

Plus the relationship between Tybalt and October.
"You're drunk, October."
"And you're wearing really tight pants." I paused. That hadn't come out right.
Tybalt shipper here, I so hope that October and Tybalt are going to end up as one of my favourite UF couples. He is SO much smarter than Connor.

What I particularly liked about this book is how the world of Faerie is fleshed out more. We got a lot about October's personal circumstances in the first book. And I think here we pull back a little, but see the world through the particular microcosm of Tamed Lightning. There are rules for almost every situation e.g. if you name something it's yours, not saying thank you. We also see how the Fae don't think in the same way as humans.
"Where did you find her body?"
"In the cafeteria."
"The cafeteria. The cafeteria where you left us alone?"
And I think towards the end October comments how although the Fae are immortal, they are like children, always looking for the next game. That they never quite learn to be adults.

The mystery itself was intriguing. You want to know why these things are happening and why they're happening to these people. Plus I think it will hold up very well on a re-read, perhaps be even better on a second read through, because you'll pick up on the relevance of certain things that may not have initially seemed important. For example, the Luidaeg's warning at the beginning will make more sense and I think play more in the back of your mind.

Fair warning, have some tissues ready for the ending. It had me sniffling twice, both instances involving January's adopted daughter April.

I had a couple of little problems - and I'm probably going to be overly vague here but I don't want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn't read the book - they're really minor so feel free to skip this paragraph if you want. I felt that there was a question that October should have asked almost as soon as people started dying. But she didn't ask it until over half way through the book. Now I'm not sure if this was a politics thing - in that October couldn't ask the question until she did - but it seemed like an obvious investigative thing to do and she didn't do it. The other thing was to do with Colin the Selkie, it felt like there was a plot (not hole it wasn't that deep) depression and it just niggled at me whilst I was reading, I kept thinking but...but...but.

I already have An Artifical Night on my TBR pile. October Daye is one of my favourite urban fantasy series and I hope there are many more books to come.

Thursday 2 December 2010

Underground by Kat Richardson

Third in the Greywalker series by Kat Richardson, Underground finds PI Harper Blaine trying to find out why Pioneer Square's homeless are turning up dead. Or worse, why they are turning up as zombies. The deaths are not random, and finding the pattern that links them will lead Harper to a confrontation with an ancient monster that may be too much for her to handle on her own.

I think if this story had a theme it would be the difference between belief and appearances. It kind of runs all the way through the story. Not just the monster, but Harper, Quinton, the homeless people that Harper is trying to help, Albert the Ghost. They can all appear to be one thing but are something else.

I have to admit it's been a while since I read Poltergeist (Greywalker #2) but I do remember that I liked Quinton and hoped he would make a more significant appearance in future stories, and it seems I got my wish. And luckily for me the prologue pretty much takes care of the backstory. It's probably been even longer since I read a UF/PI book, so this makes a more than refreshing change.

Two things to mention here before I get on with the review.

  • This book has a Ferret score of 1

  • This book has one of the most frustrating (for me) things. And it seems trivial to mention it but it gets under my skin whilst I'm reading and annoys like a very annoying thing. Every time a character says 'Okay', it is typed OK. Maybe I find it annoying because capitalisation is associated with shouting?

Okay :), niggle over.

The Greywalker series is a little heavier than most of the urban fantasy I read. There's a distinct lack of light moments to balance the dark. It's quite melancholy storytelling and as a heroine, Harper comes across as a little cold, or maybe it's just that she sees the world in a completely different way to everybody else. This difference bleeds through in her attitude towards other people and Will her previous boyfriend isn't capable of handling it.

In fact she doesn't have the most welcoming of attitudes, so it helps that Harper is quite the sarcastic heroine and that Quinton (unlike Will) is not scared off by the appearance of zombies.
"I admit I hesitated. Once again, I'd have to deconstruct a zombie in front of a man I liked. The last one hadn't handled it very well..."
It's intelligent UF which I like but I don't think it's for everyone. If you like your heroines kickass and wisecracking every other paragraph you may not get on too well with the Greywalker series. Harper is more quietly caustic and she has a bum knee. That doesn't mean that she is in anyway a walkover, but she figures things out in her own way.

The mystery I think I would appreciate more on a second read-through. I think it would help to have a better idea of what was going on. To be more aware of the motivations of certain characters. This isn't a book I would recommend if you haven't read the previous two, I personally wish I had read it closer to finishing Poltergeist. It isn't my favourite of the Greywalker series, but it also hasn't put my off either. It's not so common to find a UF/PI story where the two genres are as well balanced as here. So this will definitely be on my Series Challenge list for next year.

Tuesday 30 November 2010

DIK Challenge Review, M/M Challenge Review, The Hell You Say by Josh Lanyon

This is the third book in the Adrien English series and is my DIK pick for November (chosen by JesseWave and Lisabea). In this installment Adrien must contend with a mysterious Satanic cult who have their hooks into his bookstore assistant Angus. And his relationship with cop Jake Riordan is once more on the rocks. On a more positive note, Christmas is coming (so it's kind of an appropriate book for the time of year), his mother is getting married again and he's gaining three stepsisters. Life is never boring for Adrien.

I really like the Adrien English mysteries but this is not my favourite of the series so far - that's number two. Maybe it's the lack of Jake (please don't gang up on me, any Jake haters out there).

Whilst I found the mystery interesting, what I liked most about the story is how Adrien is thrust into his new family dynamic. He's now got three stepsisters who are something of a (telepathic) force of nature. Adrien is quietly overwhelmed. He's suffering through family get-together's and Christmas day with them, having to make the awkward transition from only child to sibling. They just won't take no for an answer.

Meanwhile his relationship with Jake slowly disintegrates, which is quite painful to read about. It has an almost unstoppable quality. There are little signs, little niggles leading up to the inevitable conclusion. The strain of being out whilst Jake is firmly in the closet.
...he asked, "What did you tell them?
"I told them we were friends. I lied. That's what you want, right?"
It's a book where things fall apart, whilst other things come together. Very good subjects for a middle book to tackle.

The main thing that keeps me reading this series is Adrien, possibly one of my favourite characters. He's sarcastic, speaks when he shouldn't, is vulnerable yet stands up for himself.
..."I'm not involved in a serious monogamous relationship."
I was, but it was apparently a solo effort.
He has a way of putting things, that cuts straight to the heart of them.

This is one series that I'm not waiting until next year to finish. DIK Challenge book for December will be another Adrien English mystery. :)

Wednesday 17 November 2010

M/M Challenge - Maiden Rose Volume 1 - Fusanosuke Inariya

I think Maiden Rose is possibly my favourite Yaoi series. I wouldn't recommend it for everybody due to the slightly disturbing nature of one of the sex scenes (basically a violation), so probably not recommended for your first yaoi. But I love the complex nature of the relationship between Taki and Claus, and the way it makes you think about the power differences in relationships.

Taki Reizen is a young aristocrat - the Maiden Rose of the title - in command of the 15th Army Division, Rozen Maiden. Whilst Claus von Wolfstadt was born into one of the nations that Taki's country is fighting against. But instead of fighting for his own country, Claus chooses to become Taki's knight and Taki's secret lover.

It's a multi-linear story, with at least three stories being told simulataneously. We have the events that are happening in the present which is probably the majority of the story. And then events which occur in Claus's memory - when he thinks back to his first meeting with Taki which occurred when Taki was much younger, and then Taki's days at the military academy where he meets up with Claus again. When Taki has to leave the military academy at the start of the war (because he is deported), it would mean leaving Claus behind. But Claus knows there is a way for him to go with Taki - if Taki makes him his knight.

Although knight sounds like an honoured position, most of the men refer to Claus as being a 'dog'. And to become a knight means...
One must give up his citizenship and renounce all rights...take a master, and become his property.
So Taki essentially owns Claus, the older man has nothing other than what Taki gives him. Whilst Claus thinks of Taki as being his flower.
There are people who're like flowers; We cannot defy their sweetness.
It's just a very complex relationship.

Indeed, what I find most interesting about the story are the power dynamics between Claus and Taki. Claus is older, physically stronger and the sexually dominant of the two. However, he is in enemy territory fighting on the side of an army that is not his own. In every real sense his safety is only guaranteed by Taki's patronage. At a word from Taki any member of the division would not hesitate to execute Claus. They would not ask for a reason they would just follow the command. So it's not as simple to say that Claus overpowers Taki and takes what he wants.

Taki is by no means a weak character. He's an incredibly eloquent speaker who inspires his men to fight. He has a quiet dignity but is very stubborn. To his men he's an ideal, 'a man who stands above others' that's a hard image to maintain. (It's explained later in the story that the reason Taki (who is barely twenty) is able to command 20,000 men is because he is a symbol of purity.) Being with Claus relieves him of that burden of expectation but it also means he's betraying the beliefs of the people he represents. And although he may want to be with Claus, he can never totally let himself relinquish his responsibilities.

Claus want him to be Taki; he wants him for himself, but there's also a feeling when you're reading the story that he could consume Taki. So in a way Taki's aloofness prevents that from happening. But it also means that Claus's desire is never fully satisfied. Claus 'speaks' through his actions. When he fights, he fights for Taki.
"Let me hear your voice. I'll turn it into a blade and repel all who stand in your way."
So there's a sense that somehow their communication with each other isn't working. Claus wants Taki to speak, but Taki cannot articulate what feelings he may have. It's like that's the one part of him that he can't let go of.

It is quite angsty and heavy. So it's nice that at the end there's a little 'cat's paws' story which reimagines the story with Taki (and the 15th division) as cats and Claus (and the opposing army as dogs (sorry Claus would say he's a wolf).

This is a book I can read over and over again. If the non-consent issue is not a problem for you, this is a yaoi that I highly recommend.

Sunday 7 November 2010

Winner of the...

...Where Did That Book Come From? Giveaway is


She posted the second comment and the number chosen at was 2.

Thursday 4 November 2010

Fallen From Grace by Laura Leone

It's not often that I read m/f contemporary romance these days, (sweeping generalisation coming up) I don't have the patience for it.

So I was pleasantly surprised by Fallen From Grace. Writer Sara Diamond moves into her new apartment and one of the first thing she does is befriend her new next-door neighbour - Ryan Kinsmore. Friendship leads to deeper feelings but Ryan is living a double life. When he's at work he's known as Kevin and he's a prostitute. He knows that once he tells Sara the truth he runs the risk of losing her, but he doesn't want to begin their relationship with a lie. However, leaving the past behind is not as easy as confessing the truth and starting anew.

For the most part I enjoyed this book, I wish there was more m/f of this standard and tackling these sort of stories. Neither Sara nor Ryan are perfect, they both have their unattractive qualities, but this doesn't make them unlikeable as characters.

Sarah is not as liberal as she thinks she is. She can deal with certain issues (don't want to spoil things) as long as they happen in other peoples families. This is something she has to deal with through the course of the book. She has this very secure world view - this is the way things are - but her perception is flawed. She's also a little obtuse, but as a reader I can't help but wonder if that's because she doesn't want to see what's in front of her. And as well as Ryan's occupation, he's also nine years younger than Sara, which is another area of insecurity for her.

Ryan on the other hand is more open...about some things. But not so much when it comes to asking for help. He has had to rely on himself for a long time. And he does patronise Sara a little, but she's quick to put him right.
"Oh, good grief, Ryan! You don't know nearly as much about women as you think you do."
I think that's possibly my favourite line from the book. Mainly because I can imagine so clearly the tone of voice Sara is saying it in.

They both have to make themselves vulnerable to the other, a difficult thing to do, and Laura Leone conveys this beautifully. It's the contrasts between them that makes them work together so well as a couple. They are both wiser about some things than others.

Of the supporting characters I think Miriam - Sara's sister - deserves a special mention.
"Don't try to look on the bright side. There is no bright side."
She's pragmatic but wary too. Very well drawn sibling relationship.

If anything spoiled the book for me, in a bizarre way it was the epilogue. Yes I liked knowing what happened after. But I felt a little like I'd gone from something original to romance novel 101, everything tied up at the end with no loose threads and a super happy ending. It was a little too neat, a little too rose-coloured glasses. (Yes, I feel a little weird about complaining that the ending was too happy).

Having said that, if you like m/f and you've been feeling that it's got generic and tired. I recommend that you check this one out. It's a pity that Laura Leone is not currently writing romance. (Though she is writing urban fantasy as Laura Resnick - hmmm, I think I see a future addition to my wishlist. :) )

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Where Did That Book Come From?

On Monday I was looking at my TBR bookshelf* trying to decide what to read next. When I came across a book that I have no memory of buying and I don't have the faintest idea of when it turned up. The book in question is The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay. The cover is urban fantasy, whilst the blurb suggests a sci-fi twist. Now as no-one buys books for me, I must have bought it. I just don't know when. (If anyone has read it and would like to give me a better idea of what it's about, please do.)

It may have been during the Borders closing down sale...or not.

The majority of the other books on the TBR bookshelf are either from series that I'm reading but haven't got round to finishing or I can definitely link them to a blog review.

Though I must admit I'm also a little vague on exactly when I bought Night Life by Caitlin Kittredge too.

What about you? Do you know exactly what books you have, are you organised or are you like me and not entirely sure what you've got where? I have a copy of Dhampir by Barb & J.C. Hendee to give away to one person who comments on this post. Winner to be chosen at random on Sunday by random number at

* - yes I have a TBR book shelf - books double shelved and stacked, piled up on top and piled up in front . And even so it is still not enough space to contain it. I have got to learn to read faster. :)

Sunday 31 October 2010

DIK Challenge Review, M/M Challenge Review - Tigers and Devils by Sean Kennedy

My DIK book for October is Tigers and Devils by Sean Kennedy. It's one of Jenre's picks and I enjoyed it very much. Set in the world of Australian Rules football, Tigers and Devils tells the story of how Simon Murray football fan and film festival organiser finds himself in a relationship with star forward Declan Tyler. It's not the most straightforward relationship, Simon is out whilst Declan is not. And trying to build a relationship whilst avoiding the speculation of the media is not the easiest thing to do. Will the increasing pressure make or break them?

First off don't worry if you know very little about Australian Rules Football - to be honest I'm not that interested in sport in general - but an extensive knowledge of the game isn't necessary to enjoy the book. And Sean Kennedy makes it so that doesn't matter anyway, he's able to sum up an entire family's feelings about the game on page 1. He lets you know everything you need to know right at the beginning and to be honest it's much more about individual character's feelings towards the game. I'm sure most of us are fanatical about something, so it's easy to understand the attitudes of the various characters.

The whole thing is told in first person from Simon's point of view, in chapter one we find out everything we need to know about him up to the point just before he meets Declan. I like his voice, he's snarky, sarcastic and self-depracating (three of my favourite s-words). He's not the most perfect hero you'll read, but again I like that, it makes him seem more real. He has a tendency to assume he knows what people mean and does behave like a brat on more than one occasion. (Something which Declan calls him out on).

We're also introduced to Simon's friends and family, especially the close relationship he has with his best friend Roger. And the more problematical realtionship he has with his mother and father. In some ways I think Simon is a little too hard on his parents, it's easy to see why he feels the way he does but I was also left thinking just give them a little bit of a break, they are trying. You see that although Simon is very intellectual, he is also judgmental, but I think (maybe assume) that this is a product of his experiences. When Declan says to him (paraphrasing) 'you have to learn to read around what your dad/mum mean'. It does make Simon think.
I thought that was a nice way of putting it and remembered how my mum had claimed my father worried about me. Maybe Declan was a lot wiser than I was.
I enjoyed the way the relationship developed between them. Declan doesn't let Simon get away with stuff.
"...I don't like looking like a dickhead in front of you."
"Really? Then you should stop being one."
The story also illustrates very well the pressure of being in a relationship which has to be hidden, and then dealing with the different pressures once that relationship has been revealed by the media.

I wish that all the m/m I read was this well written. The characters were engaging and people that I wanted to get to know. I cared about what happened to them.

This is a first novel so I don't want to be overly picky but I'm going to be honest, there were a couple of things I had issues with. There was a little bit of phrase repetition and in some ways I felt it could have ended about 80 pages before it did. I felt like we came to a conclusion and then started again, maybe this could have been solved by some rejigging of events? Maybe this was also because the last section started several weeks after the conclusion of the previous section.

Apart from those two points, if you like m/m and haven't read this one yet I do recommend you check it out. It will be getting a place on my keeper shelf and I will be looking forward to reading more books by Sean Kennedy in the future.

Winner of the...

Neat or Messy? giveaway is


I have a copy of On the Edge waiting to be posted to you. Valerie posted the first comment and the number chosen at was 1.

Apologies for not posting yesterday I got sucked into a game of Assassin's Creed (which like all games I play badly, though I'm great at running round in circles like a headless chicken).

Thursday 28 October 2010

Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews

Magic Bleeds is the fourh book in the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. And I would suggest starting at the beginning of the series and reading the previous books before you check this one out (if you haven't done so already). Mainly because so much of what is here builds on what has happened before. And whilst you could probably work out what's happening from the backstory I really think you'd be missing out on so many layers and subtle little things.

Book 4 could be subtitled - Magic Bleeds - The Book Where the Shit Really Hits the Fan and Everything Changes. In some ways it's a bridging book because at the end of this one Kate's situation is totally different from what it was at page 1. But it's such a well written story as well, not always the case with a bridging book. Some major plot threads are tied up, whilst at the same time a whole new bag of worms is opened. (lol sorry for the mixed metaphors).

It starts off simply enough, Kate goes to investigate a fight at a bar and things rapidly spiral into chaos from there. Kate will be up against the biggest bad she's had to face yet and if that weren't enough her relationship with Curran has hit breaking point.

If you like urban fantasy and you're not reading this series, I urge you to give it a try. It's definitely in my top five favourites and Kate Daniel's is in my top five UF heroines. It's all to do with the character of Kate. At turns vulnerable, tough, sarcastic, best friend and worst enemy.

I think one of the things I like most about this book is that so many things are resolved. Often when you read series, you can end up feeling like things are being dragged out for the sake of it. But that is not the case here. Two major plot arcs are - resolved is perhaps the wrong word - dealt with, but both of them will have repercussions.

The dialogue as always is brilliantly written and incredibly quotable. Most especially the banter between Curran and Kate. Their courtship has to be read to be believed.
His face was peaceful. I've never seen him so relaxed. It was as if someone had lifted a huge weight off those muscled shoulders.
And dumped all of it on me.
I made a comment in my review of the first book in the series about Curran being a bit of a git. He blamed Kate for something that in fact he had done. And this - I'm never wrong - attitude of his is actually addressed in this book. I really liked that. I like it when authors can keep all of their metaphorical balls in the air and know exactly where they are. I like it when things are not forgotten.

Speaking of which p.126 Saiman's comment to Kate. I can't wait to find out what that means. It's almost like it's mentioned in passing. But it feels important and hopefully will be cropping up in a future book.

There is one more character introduced here - the attack poodle. Usually (as you know) I'm not a huge fan of animal companions in urban fantasy. But the poodle has a couple of things going for him - 1) he's not a ferret 2) he's not anthropomorphized but still has a character all of his own 3) he reminds me a little bit of my dog (the attack shih tzu).

Kate Daniel's fans probably already have this one on their book shelves. But for anyone who hasn't read the series and who likes urban fantasy with a kick ass heroine, I highly recommend starting with Magic Bites and not stopping until you've caught up with the rest of us.

Monday 25 October 2010

Do You Like Neat or Messy?

Storylines that is.

I've been thinking about that this week after reading Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews and Fallen From Grace by Laura Leone.

Do you like everything tied up at the end of a story with a nice little bow on top or do you like a little bit of mystery left at the end. Something for you to think about after you've closed the book.

Personally, I like my stories to be a little messy - not too messy, I like to have an understanding of what's going on - but I don't need to have everything spelled out for me. I think it makes things a little more real, it also engages your brain with what you're reading.

In my review of the first in the Kate Daniels series, I made a comment about Curran being a bit of a wanker - he blames Kate for misidentifying the bad guy when in fact it was he who made the suggestion. So...a little bit messy. Did he have to be such a git? lol. But having just finished book 4 in the series - Magic Bleeds - I absolutely LOVE the fact that it acknowledges that Curran does make bad decisions but cannot take it back if he does and no one is in a position to contradict him either or say - "you're being a git". It helps make the characters feel so much more real.

Fallen From Grace is the first m/f in a long time that I've really enjoyed but I wish that something that happened at the end, hadn't happened - this is a really personal thing, so for most readers I doubt it would bother them, especially if they're reading a lot of m/f contemporary anyway. But it was like - here's your happy ending and now I'm going to put a bow on it. (One of the main reasons why I've come to prefer m/m over m/f).

This type of thing always makes me think of the Amazon review of one of my favourite urban fantasy's, which complained about the hero and heroine having sex. The fact that the hero couldn't wait to get his hands on the heroine, that they didn't make love, but rather went at it like two rabbits hopped up on viagra. But I like the fact that the sex was a little messy, that they couldn't wait 'til they had access to a bedroom.

So do you like your stories all wrapped up at the end, or do you like them to be a little messy? I have a copy of On the Edge by Lynn Erickson to give away to one posted to this thread. Winner to be chosen by random number at on Saturday.

Sunday 10 October 2010

Winner of the Prologues Yay or Nay Giveaway is...



She posted the first comment and the number at was 1. So I have a copy of the Cravings anthology waiting for you.

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Prologues - Yay or Nay?

I started a book last week and my mum looked over my shoulder and the following conversation went something like :-

(Mum) "You're not reading the prologue, are you?"

(Me) "Yes."

(Mum) "I never read the prologue. Why are you reading the prologue?"

(Me) "Because it's part of the story." ??!?

Which got me to wondering - surely most readers read the prologue don't they?

Maybe it's because I read a lot of murder mystery and urban fantasy, and you generally find that if there's a prologue it's important and usually three-quarters of the way through the actual book there's a big reveal and suddenly everything that happened in the prologue makes sense.

I'm sure there have been cases where I haven't wanted to read a prologue, where I've been put off a story by a badly written / boring one.

I have a vague memory of books where the prologue seems to have been a very dry recounting of either a world's history or a character's genealogy. And I admit I probably skipped those. But in general, at least these days I read the prologue. (If anything I'm more likely to skip the epilogue, especially those that seem to consist of a single page at the end - they got married and had children.)

What about you? Do you read the prologue or skip it? I have a copy of the Cravings anthology to give away to one poster to this thread. Winner to be chosen on Sunday by random number at

Friday 1 October 2010

If it's Friday it must be Ferrets

funny pictures of cats with captions

I've decided that from now on I shall be employing a fictional ferret grading system (1-5) as follows:-

1 Ferret - the ferret in question is a perfectly normal ferret.

2 Ferrets - the ferret in question is normal but there's something slightly "off" (air quotes) about it. (If it's the first book in the series, the ferret grade may be rising in future books).

3 Ferrets - the ferret in question has some supernatural attributes but they are not annoying and contribute in a useful way to the story.

4 Ferrets - the ferret in question is obviously supernatural. And its talents are more annoying than useful (though it does have its cute moments). It doesn't save the day but without its contribution the hero/heroine would have hit a brick wall.

5 Ferrets - the ferret in question is actually a disguised prince/magician/genie, travelling under a curse/spell. Without him the heroine would never have solved the problem / won the war. It puts the ferret in ferret ex machina.

Thursday 30 September 2010

DIK Reading Challenge - The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

My DIK reading challenge pick for September is The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt. This was one of Sula's books at DIK. I'd already read the previous two books in the trilogy - The Raven Prince and The Leopard Prince - with the second being my favourite. And I now know that the third book is my least favourite of the three.

The Serpent Prince tells the tale of Viscount Simon Iddesleigh, discovered by Lucy Craddock Hayes after he has been nearly beaten to death, robbed, stripped naked and left to die in a ditch. Whilst he recuperates from his ordeal the two of them become close and eventually marry. But Simon has a dark side and is on a quest for vengeance that will put Lucy in danger.

The main problem I had with the story is the character of Lucy. She was just too perfect. She didn't seem to have any flaws and everybody loved her. I thought the angel (Lucy) and devil (Simon) imagery was slightly overdone. It was really hammered home that she is this angelic paragon.

I think perhaps my favourite scene featuring Lucy is one where she's visiting her friend Patricia. And unfortunately it's her friend that has the best lines.
"Why don't you do what I do and think about hats or shoes while he talks?"
I found myself wishing that we could slip into Patricia's head for part of the story instead of Lucy's, which is perhaps not what you should be thinking about the heroine. I don't really have too much else to say about Lucy.

Simon on the other hand was a fascinating character. It would have been easy for Elizabeth Hoyt to have him give up his quest for vengeance once he was married. But she doesn't do that. It said so much about the character. He wants to be the man that Lucy wants him to be, but he cannot let go of the need to duel the men who brought about his brothers death. Even as he knows it is destroying him, he carries on the path he has set for himself.

He also has one of my favourite qualities in a protagonist.
"I see." Simon knew he sounded irritated. It was becoming a habit with Christian to show up unexpectedly, rather like a case of the clap.
Yes he is incredibly sarcastic.

I must mention briefly one of my favourite scenes which takes place in a coffee shop where Simon has met up with Edward (Raven) and Harry (Leopard) from the previous books in the series. It has an almost farcical quality about it, just a nice change of pace.

I do like how in each of the stories the fairytale informs the reader on a different level about what the story is telling us. Simon is telling the tale of The Serpent Prince to Lucy, she suspects that he is making it up as he goes along and in a way it's like he's trying to tell her about the man he is inside. It was also nice how a variation of the scorpion and the fox tale was incorporated into the story - this time with a frog and a snake. It gives the story added depth.

I think if I had read this story first instead of The Raven Prince it wouldn't have made me want to read the rest of the trilogy. So I'm glad that this is the third book and not the first. I would recommend the trilogy as a whole, though the books are more loosely connected by theme rather than by an over-riding story arc. And I would recommend reading this book to read Simon's story.

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Jennifer Rardin

I'm shocked and saddened to have found out that Jennifer Rardin passed away last week.

I'm not on Twitter and I tend not to surf the internet as much as I used to. So I guess I'm about a week behind compared to everyone else.

The Jaz and Vayl series is one that I've been following. To read my reviews of the first four books of the series you should be able to click on the Jaz and Vayl link in the sidebar. After my first review I received an e-mail from Jennifer to thank me for reading her book. I'm always surprised to receive an e-mail from an author and she commented that she was glad I picked up her book even if the cover was white. (I think I commented around that time about the majority of Urban Fantasy covers being black).

I'm including a link here to Renee's blog. Several blogs are posting tributes to Jennifer and are giving away copies of her books - all details are available on Renee's blog. If you've never read the Jaz and Vayl series I recommend it - well you can read my reviews to find out what I think in more detail.

Renee's Book Addiction - Thank you Ms. Rardin

The final book in the Jaz and Vayl series will be published next year.

Monday 27 September 2010

Chimera by Rob Thurman

Chimera tells the story of Stefan and his younger brother Lukas Korsak. Ten years ago Lukas was kidnapped and Stefan never knew why, but he never gave up looking for his younger sibling. And then almost by chance he finds him. But the young man (renamed Michael) that Stefan rescues is not the brother he remembers - he's been genetically transformed into the perfect assassin and the people who took him will do anything to get him back.

I really enjoyed this, though it took a little while for me to get into it. It's kind of ironic in a way that last week I was talking on the blog about protagonists that don't listen to other characters and Stefan spends a great deal of the book not listening to what Michael is telling him. But...and there is a big but, there's always an exception that proves the rule and Chimera (and Stefan) is that exception.

Without doubt Rob Thurman knows how to write relationships between male characters. From the instant that Stefan and Michael meet there is an wonderul snarkiness between them. Michael initially thinks this is some kind of test set by his captors, whilst Stefan is almost unable to believe that his hopes and dreams of finding his brother have finally been realised.

Written in the first person from Stefan's point of view this allows us an insight into how the loss of his brother has completely shaped his life. He goes into the family business (Russian mafia) so he can earn the money to search for his brother. He holds up the hope of finding his brother almost like a light to keep him going through the darkness of his life. Lukas is the only good thing he has to hold onto.
Lukas wouldn't have gone this way - never; not even if things had been reversed and something had happened to me.
Then when he finds him the thought that immediately goes through his mind is...
He looked - my God - he looked like salvation.
That's quite a lot for someone to live up to. And Michael is old beyond his years, he's not the innocent child that Stefan remembers. His experiences with his captors mean he doesn't relate to people. His captors took him out on field trips to study human behaviour but there's a difference between observing and interacting.

Gradually they settle into this sibling relationship whilst being on the run from the bad guys. It's something that Stefan desperately wants and needs,
I'd always known that saving Lukas would be saving myself..
Michael on the other hand is more reluctant. Initially he thinks it's a test, he gradually comes to realize that Stefan is for real but he also knows how desperate his captors will be to get him back. He's painfully realistic about the situation that they're in. This is very well illustrated when Michael asks Stefan if he's ever killed anyone and Stefan responds with 'no' even though he's not sure whether he has or not. Michael on the other hand responds to Stefan's denial with the words 'I have'.

At one point Stefan says to Michael - It's not what you can do, it's what you choose to do. I think if the book had a theme this would be it and I think it's ultimately how the two brothers work through their situation. Stefan chose to do terrible things in order to be able to save his brother. Michael fears what he is capable of doing, what the scientists have turned him into. And Stefan tries to make him see that he can choose not to be that person - just because he can doesn't mean he will.

I must just mention here that this book has a ferret in it. Now if this were urban fantasy I'd probably be tearing my hair out at this point. However, this ferret is in no way magical and is called Godzilla (aka several other names in the book not all of them polite) so for once we'll live with there being a ferret.

And perhaps my favourite scene, which I think is the excerpt on Rob Thurman's site.
"Stefan, I was wondering." He paused casually. "Have you ever had sex?"
"Yeah. When I was twenty-one, just like the law says."
This could have been quite a dark and depressing tale. But the relationship between the brothers stops that from happening. There are moments of joy, happiness, relief, fear and redemption. One of my favourite books of this year.

Banned Books Week September 25th - October 2nd 2010

It's that time of year again - Banned Books week. And as always I'm kind of left wishing that I'd read more of the books that are or have been banned. The 2009 top ten list of frequently challenged books on the ALA website can be found here. And the top 100 most frequently challenged books from 2000 - 2009 can be found on the ALA website here. I have only read a few of the books on these lists, to give me a wider range of banned books that I've read I have to look back to the top 100 of 1990 - 1999, and to the banned and challenged classics list . Ironically when I read these lists most of the banned books I've read, I read whilst I was at school as part of my English lessons - 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, Animal Farm, The Pigman. And more recently as part of my English Lit. course - The Color Purple. Others are books that I just loved from my childhood - Charlotte's Web, The Wind in the Willows, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Lord of the Rings, Winnie the Pooh. And from my teen years when I was a bit of a Stephen King fan - Cujo, The Dead Zone, Christine. I find it almost amusing in a way that the list has changed over the past two decades from challenging Stephen King to challengine Stephenie Meyer. It's also interesting when you look at the most frequently challenged authors lists by year to see both P.C.Cast and Richelle Mead there for 2009. Presumably both for their young adult urban fantasy series. To try and rectify what I feel is a lack in my reading repertoire next year one of my challenges is going to be to read 12 banned books. I think I should be able to manage at least one a month. 

Saturday 25 September 2010

Winner of the What Turns You Off in a Protagonist Giveaway...



I have a copy of Finders Keepers by Linnea Sinclair waiting to be posted to you. Send me your snail mail addy to

lesley7312 at yahoo dot com

(replacing the words with symbols)

Number chosen at was 5 and SarahM posted the 5th comment from people who wanted to join in.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

A Big Thank You

Last week I posted on DIK about unforgettable scenes and mentioned a scene that was stuck in my head but I couldn't remember which book it came from.

On Saturday, Hasard posted that the scene might be from Fantasy Lover by Sherrilyn Kenyon.

And IT IS! From page 210 of Fantasy Lover
He tilted the oyster to slide into her mouth. As the oyster slid down her throat, he ran his tongue up her neck in the opposite direction.
Yay I can finally stop frantically trying to match that scene to the book it comes from.

A big thanks to Hasard. :)

Monday 20 September 2010

What Turns You Off in a Protagonist

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about what turns me on in a protagonist, so it seems only fair to write about what turns me off.


This probably ranks as number one for a lot of readers. So hardly surprising that it makes the top of the list. I think you can forgive a protagonist a lot, but stupidity is a hard one to let go. Characters should be allowed to make mistakes it's one way in which they grow and develop. But there does come a point when (if the character is constantly making mistakes and not learning from them) you begin to question if they don't deserve all the grief they attract. At that point it's usually difficult to regain any empathy you might have had for them at the beginning of the story.

Not Listening

In a way this is linked to stupidity. But when a character doesn't listen to what another character is telling them, or interprets what they are being told in a completely bizarre way it can become annoying - to put it mildly. As the reader you can 'hear' what the other character is saying. And if the character is being told something logical and interpreting it in an illogical way - it's patently obvious. If I as a reader can work out what's happening, then I think the hero/heroine should be able to as well.

I think the stupidity thing and the not listening, mainly happen because the author needs the plot to go in a certain way, so the characters serve the plot rather than the plot serving the characters.

My last turn off is a little hard to describe. But another annoying trait is if a character is 'up themselves'. Lol, I'm not sure that this translates very well. But it's almost a kind of smug vanity - a sense of superiority that isn't justified.

So these are my protagonist turn-offs. What about yours? Is there anything a hero or heroine does that really annoys you? I have a copy of Finders Keepers by Linnea Sinclair to give to one commenter on this thread. Winner to be chosen by random number at on SAturday.

Thursday 16 September 2010

Hostage to Pleasure - Nalini Singh

Hostage to Pleasure is #5 in the Psy-Changeling series. It ties up some of the plot ends left dangling at the end of Mine to Possess. Ashaya Aleine is a Psy who is desperate to save her son and escape the PsyNet. Dorian Christensen is a DarkRiver Sentinel who hates the Psi. His sister was killed by a Psy sociopath and he hungers for vengeance. Yet when Ashaya makes her break for freedom it is Dorian who helps her. But getting free of the Psynet is not an easy thing and the Psy Council are never more dangerous than when they feel they are losing control.

It's been a while since I read a Psy/Changeling book, for some reason I stalled out on the series. I don't know why because I love Nalini Singh's writing. Maybe part of the reason is that I didn't feel drawn to Dorian as a character. Having finished the book I admit that I didn't quite like it as much as the previous books in the series, but I am sorry that I waited so long to read it.

I don't think this is a story that you can come to without having read the previous books in the series first. The overall arc of the Psy/Changeling series is getting more complex - there are Psy machinations within machinations. Of particular interest to me is how Kaleb Krychek's story moves forward here. I love how even though Nalini Singh reveals more about him, he is still so mysterious. We're not 100% sure whose side he's on - other than his own. My other favourite inscrutable Psy - Vasic - also makes an appearance here. I hope that one day he will have a story of his own.

The story is multi-plotted, alongside the main story there are several other stories ticking along. I wonder if Keenan's comments about who he's going to marry will come true. I find this one of the most rewarding aspects of the Psy-Changeling series the sense that each story takes place in a much larger world.

It would be so easy to unintentionally spoil this book so this review is a little shorter than usual and a little more general.

Of the two main characters I found Ashaya the harder to connect with - though as she's Psy perhaps that's not surprising. What I think will become clearer on a second reading is how fractured her conditioning is. Something which I don't think you're immediately aware of on a first read through. I love books which have high readability.

It's Dorian (I think) who goes on the larger journey. He's at war with himself, drawn to Ashaya but repulsed by the Psy.
Attracted to one of the Silent?
His mouth set in a grim line. He'd cut off his own balls before he accepted that.
Hopefully I'm not giving too much away when I say that he doesn't have to resort to such a drastic option. :) But at the end it's Ashaya who makes the leap of faith to save them both.

I don't think it will be too long before I read the next Psy/Changeling book on my TBR pile. There are some series you shouldn't let stall.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Words, Words, Words

I admit I have started watching Spartacus : Blood and Sand and am quite enjoying it. And when I was reading historicals - several years ago now - one of my favourite eras was Roman Britain. I still have Defy the Eagle by Lynn Bartlett on my bookshelf, not that I read it that often, 'cause it's over 600 pages long and my pback copy is looking a little tatty. And one of my favourite series are the Marcus Falco books by Lindsey Davis.

With 300, Spartacus, Centurion - that time period is obviously coming back into fashion. So when I saw a new romance book set in Roman times I admit I was overcome with a little nostalgia and thought I'd check it out.

I'm not buying books at the moment having made the decision to tackle my TBR pile. But I am adding books to my wishlist after careful research.

So I search out an excerpt and within the first few paragraphs the heroine is talking about her pussy. Now I'm not a prude, I read a hell of a lot of erotic romance both m/m and f/m and probably know more words for genitalia than the average person. But this completely put me off the idea of buying the book.


Because it knocked me out of the time period. I cannot believe that this is set in Roman Britain. If you check the etymology of the word pussy most sources say it wasn't used to describe female genitalia until the mid 19th century. So I get pushed from Roman to Victorian.

I don't think you even need to know that. It just sounds wrong. (Maybe after reading the Falco novels I've been spoiled.)

Does this matter? Well it does to me. If you're going to set your book in a certain period surely you want to make it authentic on at least some level. If not, why bother writing an historical?

What does everyone else think?

Tuesday 31 August 2010

DIK Challenge/ M/M Challenge - Camp Hell by Jordan Castillo Price (Psycop 5)

My DIK pick for August is Camp Hell by Jordan Castillo Price, one of Jenre's picks. I think I just made it under the wire.

Camp Hell picks up immediately where Psycop 4 ends. Victor has decided to take the plunge and investigate exactly why Heliotrope Station (Camp Hell) and all mention of its residents has been erased. But when someone has gone to a great deal of trouble to bury the past, is it really safe for him to be poking around?


My favourite of the series. I think perhaps because the characters are so settled in. Both mysteries (Victor's investigation into the La Salle hospital and his investigation into Camp Hell) are completely interwoven into the story.

I very much appreciated Vic's sarcastic humor here, as it balanced out some of the tragic and sad history of Heliotrope Station which we experience firsthand as Vic undergoes hypnotic regression.

If possible the paranoia quotient gets even higher, mainly because it permeates the whole book this time rather than just being a part of it.
"I have to tell you something. But I think they're listening." Which sounded incredibly paranoid, I realized, but only after I'd said it.
And there's also the sense of a conspiracy of silence. It's not 100% clear who the bad guys and good guys are. I'm very, very interested to see where the story goes from here. I don't think we've heard the last of Heliotrope station and the FPMP (Federal Psychic Monitoring Program) it feels like there's more to come.

Victor and Jacob's relationship gets stronger here, but they're still working on it. :) JCP manages to get across in a couple of sentences what takes other authors pages and it makes the story so much stronger.
"...We're both on the same side, right?"
Jacob's gaze had moved from the wall to my eyes. I wanted to squirm. "You've got to start acting like it," he said.
They're still not quite as honest with each other as they could be. As Crash puts it:-
"...You guys think you're so virtuous because you both fall into the same bed every night, but I'll bet you haven't had a single conversation that was a hundred percent honest..."
I think Crash knows exactly how to hit a nerve, but Jacob's and Victor's lies seem mainly to be each of them trying to protect the other. But it's still lying.

Crash makes another welcome appearance. I like how he rubs Victor up the wrong way. (Loved his comment about the fight with a lamprey). In a way it's like they're - Jacob, Victor, Carolyn, Lisa, Crash - this very dysfunctional family.

There's a nice balance of humor and suspense. The pacing of the story is excellent, Jordan Castillo Price knows exactly when to ramp it up and when to tone it down. And the story doesn't exist in a vacuum, their day to day lives and jobs carry on. Even though Vic is trying to find out about Heliotrope Station, he still has a day job and also a life outside that job that he has to deal with.

In Camp Hell a lot of questions have been answered. But I think there are some things that have only just had the surface scratched. (I hope the alcohol being/not being a psyactive is cleared up at some point). I am now in the unfortunate position of having to wait for book 6. :(

Edited to Add, Afterthought - One of the reasons I think I like this one the most is that in a way for me it feels that Jacob and Victor's relationship is the only normality in an increasingly hostile world. Thinking of the other m/m books I've really enoyed - A Strong and Sudden Thaw, Wicked Gentlemen, The Administration series - it's how these relationships develop, survive and grow stronger, even though it seems that the odds are stacked against them. Camp Hell (especially the scenes between Stefan and Victor) had that dystopian feel. I will definitely be re-reading this series again.

M/M Challenge - Secrets by Jordan Castillo Price (Psycop 4)

In Secrets Victor becomes aware that perhaps some of his paranoia is justified. Heliotrope Station (Camp Hell) where he spent two years being 'trained' in his psychic abilities isn't mentioned anywhere on the internet, come to that neither are any of the former inmates...including himself. At the same time Jacob is dealing with a particularly unpleasant case involving sexual abuse at a retirement home, a case he doesn't want to talk about with Victor. Things are starting to unravel.

After the previous book I was a little worried that maybe I was overglomming Psycop in my attempt to get to Camp Hell before the end of August. (Hey there are still a few hours left). But I needn't have worried, Secrets is back on form with a vengeance.

The story opens with a wonderfully domestic scene, Victor and Jacob are moving in together. Which of course involves a little moving day nookie.
"You left a bite mark!"
..."Good thing you don't have to work tomorrow."
"You shit."
Of course everything is down hill from there. Jacob gets called away to deal with a case. And Victor (currently on medical leave) is left trying (and failing) to sort out their new living quarters. The case weighs heavily on Jacob but he doesn't want to talk about it with Victor. And Victor having recently found out about the complete lack of information on Heliotrope Station begins to feel (not unjustifiably) that everyone is keeping secrets from him.

I thought the mystery in this one was much more integrated into the story. Although the mystery itself is a separate thing, it impacts on Jacob and Victor's relationship. Jacob doesn't want to talk to Victor about it because he doesn't want to burden him. But he does feel able to talk to someone else about it - which doesn't really do much for Victor. Victor realizes that Jacob is keeping secrets from him, but doesn't know if that's the only secret he's keeping. And it seems that everybody (bar Victor) knows about the lack of information on Heliotrope Station and doesn't see anything strange about it. Especially towards the beginning of the story you can almost feel Vic's paranoia coming off the page. Everyone (with the possible exception of Carolyn who can't lie) is keeping secrets. And it's only when these secrets come out and are revealed that they can move on. Though as Victor says at the end
"I'm not so sure I like the new, improved, honest you. Let's go back to pretending everything's fine the way it is."
There was a lot more of Crash (Jacob's ex, the empath) in this one, which immediately ramps up the sarcasm quotient. Crash is one of those characters who can't resist metaphorically poking at the sore spot with a stick. He's an empath, so even though Victor doesn't want Crash to know he's attracted to him, Crash knows anyway and takes full advantage. I love Victor's justification to himself that it's Crash's green hair that does it.

I think this is the first time that Victor and Jacob's relationship is put to the test. Which makes for a very realistic read. You don't just ride off into the sunset together and everything's fine from then on. Relationships take work. It's working through the problems that makes them stronger and is far more interesting to read about.

One other thing that's explored here is Jacob's almost fetishistic attraction to Victor's ability. As Carolyn says in her blunt way.
"Victor, you've got to get out of here...Whenever you're in the room, Jacob turns into a walking hard-on. I haven't got the time for it..."
Victor starts to think that maybe they are like opposite ends of a magnet and that's why the attraction is so intence. I wonder if this is a thread that JCP will pursue?

A definite recommendation from me for anyone who hasn't yet read it. Onward and upward to Camp Hell.

Sunday 29 August 2010

M/M Challenge, Body and Soul by Jordan Castillo Price (Psycop 3)

Psycop 3 continues the story of Victor and Jacob. This time in between looking for a new house or apartment where the two of them can live together, sans ghosts. Victor is involved in a case of three missing people. Unfortunately unlike the previous case (in Criss Cross Psycop 2) where he couldn't seem to get away from the dead, this time they are proving very difficult to locate.

I have to be honest I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as the previous story. Saying that, this is still some of the best m/m I have read recently. So I almost feel overly picky even mentioning it.

Unlike the previous story which integrated the mystery with the relationship stuff. This one is more of a story of two parts. The mystery (for me) was not as interesting as the interaction between Jacob and Victor. Though it is interesting seeing how Victor handles himself in his job when he's not working with Jacob (as he did in Psycop 1, and in Psycop 2 Jacob was kind of involved as well, where here the two are separate).

What we do get here is a lot of insight into Victor. He's almost painfully honest with himself to the point where he over analyzes, which kind of leads him into assuming what people are either thinking or are going to say or how they'll react and then he bases his responses on these assumptions. It's no wonder he sometimes struggles with what he's going to say.
"I could feel him staring at the side of my face, waiting for me to have a coherent thought and speak it out loud. He'd gotten eerily adept at not filling in any awkward silences with my over the last couple of months. Damn him."
It's these little touches that let you see how their relationship has developed. Jacob doesn't rush Victor to speak, he waits for the words to come.

Ironically you would think that Jacob would be the one who was most secure in himself and the relationship. He's out at work and with his family, whereas every time Victor gets a new partner he struggles with telling them that he's gay. But here I think we see that Jacob is not maybe as sure of Victor's feelings. You could take this back to the first story when you think about what both of them saw the murder suspect as. (Don't want to give away spoilers for book 1)

I like stories which take protagonists out of their comfort zones. And this story opens with Victor and Jacob at Thanksgiving with Jacob's family. And the presence of children is great because it means the protagonists get asked socially inappropriate questions. Which they then have to decide how or if they're going to answer. Something of a minefield for Victor.

I think when I go back to re-read this one, it will be the domestic and house-hunting scenes that draw me. For me the mystery in this one came second place (apart from how it served to see more of Victor) to the developments in the relationship between Jacob and Victor. I think in this story they have moved to a new level. I still think maybe Victor is a little unsure of himself, which leads to Jacob feeling a little unsure of the relationship as well. But that's what makes it interesting.

Onto Psycop 4.

Saturday 28 August 2010

Winner of...

the What Turns You On giveaway is


She posted the first comment and the number chosen at was one. I have a copy of Phenomenal Girl 5 waiting for you.

Friday 27 August 2010

M/M Challenge Criss Cross (Psycop 2) - Jordan Castillo Price

Criss Cross is the second in the Psycop series by Jordan Castillo Price. And I must admit that I like this one even more than the first. The ghosts that surround Victor are getting pushier than usual and it seems that his medication is now causing more problems than it solves. He has a new partner and following the events of the first story, Jacob is now living with him. Things are getting a little out of control. Victor really needs to work out what is going on, before it's too late.

Because of the circumstances of the previous story, Jacob has now moved in with Victor. This has pushed them into a domestic arrangement sooner rather than later. I love how this keeps Victor off balance. He has this way of dealing with his life - everything a certain way - his white appartment, his drugs and Jacob pushes his way in there - not in an aggressive way, but he's just there.
"He (Jacob) had this way of lying diagonally on the bed so that when I got up and looked back at him, I wondered how the hell I'd even fit in there."
Sometimes it's like Victor doesn't quite know how to deal with him. It's this awkwardness that makes him endearing, that balances out the sarcasm.

I think my favourite thing is the contrasts between them. How Jacob likes to talk dirty during sex and is very vocal, whereas Victor is more cerebral and can never think of anything to say.
"Speaking of dirty: Jacob's a talker...Not that the words aren't sexy as hell - I just worry that I'll sound like an idiot if I'm the one saying them."
Jordan Castillo Price gets you straight into how their relationship works. Jacob is so sexual and overt and Victor is slightly more repressed.
"No wonder I worried about talking dirty; talking in general seemed to escape me."
I liked the mystery in this one as well. Especially the more paranoid aspects in the first half of the story. Even when Victor doesn't seem to be aware that something is wrong. I think that you as the reader are aware that there's something not quite right - a creeping suspicion that tickles the back of your head as you're reading.

This one gets another big recommendation from me. And I'm looking forward to reading the remaining books in the series.

Monday 23 August 2010

What Turns You On in a Protagonist...

...this post is not going to be as provocative as the subject makes it sound. :)

After reading Psycop 1 last week I've been thinking about what really makes me like and root for a protagonist. Looking at my favourite heroes and heroines - Marcus Falco, Miles Vorkosigan, Kate Daniels, Elena Danvers, Nadia Stafford, Adrien English, Jaz Parks, Gen (from The Thief) - there is some common ground there.

So without further ado - my three favourite things to find in a hero/heroine.

Sarcasm, Painful Honesty, and not Shutting Up

Lol - I love me a sarcastic hero. Someone who has a withering put down always ready on the edge of their tongue. Someone who has a clever comment to deliver at a moment's notice.
...Jack said, "You saw my note, right? It said 'wait'."
"That was a note? I thought it was a haiku."(Made to be Broken - Kelley Armstrong)
Someone who doesn't always keep quiet when perhaps they should because they just have to push it that bit further.
"I pointed out that he'd been no help at the ford. He pointed out that I had climbed a tree. I pointed out that I had no sword. He offered to give me his, point first." (The Thief - Megan Whalen Turner)
Someone who doesn't always understand the meaning of too much information.
"...I can't think with my underwear stuck up my crack. I know it's a weakness, but it's just one of those things." (Bitten to Death - Jennifer Rardin)
And if in doubt you can always state the truth.
"...Now she believes I'm a liar. Probably because I lied to her." (A Hunger Like No Other - Kresley Cole)

Keeping the Brain Switched On

One of the other attributes that I rank highly in a protagonist is whether or not they think. I hate when I read a book and start wondering at what point the hero put their brain into neutral. (Usually this happens to serve a particularly unbelievable plot point.) Smart people are sexy. People who keep their brain ticking over no matter the situation are fun to read about.
"I could tie you to the bed, you know."
"No, you can't. It's round and you don't have any rope." (Twilight Fall by Lynn Viehl)
(Hmmm, perhaps this is a little linked to the previous point).

One of the things I most love about characters such as Miles Vorkosigan, Kate Daniels and Marcus Falco is that even when the situation is turning to complete shit all around them, their brains are still constantly churning over the possibilities.
"Hello, dove." He grinned at me. "Look at that: you don't have your pretty knife and I've got your hands. What are you gonna do now?"
I rammed my head into his nose.' (Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews)
They can be saying one thing, doing something else and thinking something else entirely. It makes for an exciting and thrilling read.


Again this kind of links to the previous post in some ways - the character having their brain switched on- but it's also to do with the character behaving organically. I think it's important that if an author establishes a character will behave in a certain way that they are true to that. Put your character in the most awful situation imaginable but have them behave in a way that is true to them.

A brilliant example of this (and I'm going to write about it without spoilers because it just shouldn't be spoiled) is what happens to Miles Vorkosigan in Memory. Something awful happens. But it's been established since the beginning of the series that he follows this strategy of 'forward momentum' (keep going, just keep going). And up until this point it's worked pretty well for him. But in this case things just get worse and worse. He should stop...but he can't. As a reader you can see the inevitable disaster of the situation, but you also understand that Miles is behaving like Miles would.

So what are the attribues you most like your heroes/heroines to have? I have a copy of Phenomenal Girl 5 to give away to one poster to this thread. Winner to be chosen by random number at on Saturday.

Saturday 21 August 2010

Winner of the...

...Stalling out on a series giveaway is :-


whose comment was the 6th on the thread by someone who wanted to take part in the draw. Number chosen at was 6.

Donna - keep an eye out for my e-mail. :)

Tuesday 17 August 2010

M/M Challenge, Among the Living by Jordan Castillo Price (Psycop 1)

As I'm intending to read Camp Hell (Psycop 5) for my August DIK book, I thought I better get my finger out and read the previous 4 books in the series. Also this will make a serious dent in my m/m challenge .

I'd heard only good things about the Psycop series so I was looking forward to reading it and wasn't disappointed.

Among the Living introduces us to Victor Bayne - the psychic half of a Psycop team. Victor's psychic talent is that of a medium - he can talk to the dead, specifically for his job victims of crime, murder victims. The book opens with him hooking up with Jacob Marks (a non-psychic(Stiff) from an adjacent precinct) at the retirement do for Victor's current partner. Victor (who's in the closet) has the idea that this will probably be a one time thing. Then a serial killer strikes and suddenly Victor finds himself working with Jacob. The only problem is this killer isn't leaving any ghosts behind, and any living witnesses can't seem to agree on what the suspect looks like.

I loved this story and highly recommend it to anyone who likes m/m who hasn't read it already.

Written in the first person this gets you straight into Victor's head; to my delight he has an incredibly sarcastic inner voice. I have a weakness for saracastic protagonists anyway, but his comments were especially entertaining.
I'd always thought that rules were just for people who tended to get caught.
Hmmm. Maybe right up until the moment you get caught.

There is a chemistry between Victor and Jacob from the start, which is slightly combative in a way.
"What's in your mouth?" he said, and his voice was a sexy, low purr.
Not physically as such but there is a friction between them. This is a good contrast, it kind of knocks Victor off stride.

One of the things I thought was very interesting was how Jacob and Victor see the suspect. (The suspect's appearance can vary.) Especially because it lets the story end on such a cracking last line (Jacob gets the last word) and you can almost imagine the non-plussed look on Victor's face.

We're also introduced to a couple of other psychics. Jacob's partner Carolyn who Victor refers to as 'the human polygraph'. And another who has the ability to give the correct answer to yes/no questions - which sounds a very simplistic talent in a way but for police work could be very useful.

In short, this is a brilliant introduction to the Psycop world and makes me very glad I have the next four stories ready to go.

Monday 16 August 2010

Stalling out on a Series

I started reading Hostage to Pleasure by Nalini Singh this week - for the second time. For some reason I never made it past the first 50 pages on my first attempt. I'm not sure why because I love Singh's writing. I kind of noticed that I'm falling behind on the Changeling/Psy series and decided it was time I caught up before I got so far behind that I couldn't catch up.

This got me to thinking about the other series I no longer read - why did I stop reading them? Okay, some of them it was because they changed radically from the original concept but for some of them it seems I just stalled and never started reading them again. Are there any similarities between the series I've abandoned or is it just that I spend a lot less time reading now that I have in previous years. (Two or three years ago I'd manage at least three books a week, now if I manage one I'm doing well.)

So anyway I thought I'd look at a few of the series I'd stopped reading.

Changeling/Psy series by Nalini Singh. I have to admit this one is a bit of a mystery. (Not a good start to the post - sorry about that). I have the next two books in the series following Hostage to Pleasure on my TBR pile. But for some reason after I gave up on HtP the first time I just never got round to it again.

The Stardoc series by S. L. Viehl. Another series I love and stopped reading at Rebel Ice. Now I think I know the reason for this one. I seriously overglommed - I went into Cherijo overload. I think I read from Stardoc to Eternity Row in the course of two weeks. I need to go back and read the series from the beginning taking everything in properly. The thing I like about this series is that it has an end point. The last book (I think) has just been released. So now would be a good time to get back to it.

Stephanie Plum series. I stopped reading at book 8, possible earlier. This is the first series mentioned that I don't really have any interest in getting back to. Even though I have books 9 and 10 on my TBR pile. I think I realized I was reading the same book over and over. I also don't think it helped that at the time I was reading some fantastic fanfiction that dealt with Stephanie and Ranger in a much more interesting way than the series. I have the idea that the book that put me off is the one where Ranger and Stephanie finally got together (half a page IIRC) and after several books building up to a firework display complete with shooting was more of a damp squib really.

The Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R.Ward. Now I'm very naughty with this series and I admit it. The main character I'm interested in is John Matthew and because of the way the books are structured you can flick through and read one character's arc and find out what happened to them first. However in Lover Avenged he turned into a bit of a wanker which kind of put me off reading the rest of the book properly.

I never got past the first book in Meljean Brook's brilliant Guardian series I think because they're just so darn long and I feel the need to have a large chunk of time available to sit down and read them. I read the first book on an 8 hour train journey. And I just haven't have any long train journey's since then. This is definitely another series I want to get caught up on. Love her writing and The Iron Duke is possibly the book I have most looked forward to in the second half of this year.


If nothing else this has helped me decide that my reading challenge for next year will be to catch up on as many series as possible.

So do you have any series that you've abandoned that you want to get back into? Or once you've given up do you never go back? I have a copy of Sexiest Man Alive by Diana Holquist to give away to one poster to this post. Winner to be chosen by random number at on Saturday.